Victory Conference - the Crown of Victory
Victory Conference - the Crown of Victory

 

The Victory 2011 Conference was held on 16 to 17 July 2011. In the Sunday service at the Victory Conference in Taipei, Pastor Chang, a retired mainline church pastor preached about being a disciple of Christ, and running the good race, enduring to the end.

1 Cor 9:20 To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those under the law, as under the Law though not being myself under the law, so that I might win those under the law

1 Cor 9:23 I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.

1 Cor 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

1 Cor 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable

 We are all Disciples of Christ, learning to have the discipline to train hard to reach the crown of glory. Pastor Chang Snr mentioned that the Crown of victory is not about salvation or eternal life.

There are two crowns of Glory:

1)      Eternal life Crown

2)      Victorious Crown

The Eternal Crown belongs to Jesus alone. Pastor Chang talked about the

a)      The Tests of accusations

b)      The Tests of comparisons

In our race for a victorious Crown, we are to closely follow Jesus, for the disciples were known to be often with Jesus. We are to be willing to give up our rights and our freedom just as Paul gave up His right and honour to be regarded and treated well as an Apostle to labour for the Gospel sake including his mission work where he had suffered much.

Our primary goal remains to go to the world to make disciples, the baptise them, teach them to accept the commandments of Jesus, remembering that Christ is with us till the end. What are we to give up to achieve this Victorious Crown?

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A personal reflection of the sermon

The witness of the Gospel message constraints us, so that we will not take the grace of God for granted in all our activities but to do good and not to cause harm or to stumble the weak, and worst still to cause others to sin against God. Our liberty is not the license to stumble the faith of others but to put priority the message of the Gospel. We get disqualified from the race by rejecting the Gospel message.

The Corinthian Church was inclusive ofgentiles who were not particularly adamant of following the Jewish Law’s strictly. By God’s grace, the laws pertaining from eating food from idols need not be followed. Paul was emphasising that our grace in God must always be restrained from doing harm, from causing the faith of others to be shipwrecked. He was willing to adhere even to the strict religious laws in 1 Cor 9:20, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ being preached into the lives of the Jews.

In Singapore most churches condemns the GLBT Community and insisting on the religious law thus putting the requirement of heterosexuality for being a Christian. As a result many Gay Christians have been stumbled and fall at the wayside in this journey of faith. We should not go beyond the Gospel of grace.

In the midst of our faith challenges and temptations, we are responsible for our own race of faith – to keep in the race, and to finish the race of faith that we may still continue to have faith in Jesus Christ at the finish line. Are we stumbled by those whose religious behaviour and theology have discouraged us? Are we impacted when they condemned us as sinners because of our innate sexual orientation?We should be running the race in a manner as to keep the faith despite all..

We all run in a race of faith, the race to be above water to sustain our faith in spite of the challenges, and persecutions! We run the race in a manner to reach the finishing line to receive the crown of eternal life, not that it is by works that we are saved, but to run this race to sustain our faith.

Corinth was a city that was famous for the worship of the god Aphrodite where thousands of prostitutes would serve the visiting sailors in the name of worshipping the god. The men would even have sex with the temple priests in order to join themselves with the deity behind the gods. There was a demonic portal in Corinth with powerful satanic demonstration.

Paul didn’t ask the church members to flee from sin, to flee from Corinth, but to run the good race when there were hurdles and obstacles in the path of the race. When they joined in the city to worship the idols, their faith will be shipwrecked and drawn away from God in the long run.

At the end of our faith journey, will we still be faithful to God’s calling and will for our lives? Will our passion for God be strong? Will we still even attend church? Or depart from the faith? Many have returned to worshipping the pagan idols. For many gay Christians, it is difficult to run a long race faced with so much condemnation from the church, family, and state.The strength and journey of faith is not only an intellectual religious affirmation, but a spiritual walk, a closeness and fellowship with Jesus that is tangible. We run the race, just to survive and no more.

Discipline is having a goal to achieve in our lives, so that we will not waste our effort and time on activities that does not support this goal. Our goal is the Crown of Heaven not that it is by works by which we are saved, but for gay Christians whether our faith in Christ can tarry till the end. Many have strayed away from the calling of God in their lives. They continue to believe, but neither attends church nor have much to do with the Christian faith/church. Though hanging on to their faith, they will receive the Crown of Glory because they have not rejected Christ. Yet, great ministries have been lost.

Paul called us to run with discipline not just to survive but with the victory in mind. Will we last the distance? The race of faith is about

a)      Giving up our rights and privileges. Often as GLBT Christians, we wanted to stay on in the comforts of the mainstream/mega churches, with friends and people of similar theological backgrounds.  Are we prepared to venture out from the likes of City Harvest and New Creation, to setup our own Rainbow family of a few dozens as compared to being part of a fellowship of ten’s of thousand.  It is a hard and missional works that takes sacrifices of our time and strength. Are we willing like Paul to step out from our comfort zone, to be a seed of grain, for the Rainbow Harvest?

 

b)      Redeeming the time. We are to use our time, effort and resources wisely as to focus on the Gospel message. So much of our time is spent in eating, drinking, holiday, dating, and shopping. For many, our daily activities are driven by relationship with our partner and family matters. There is nothing wrong with this, yet the Gospel message should have a priority.

 

c) Able to withstand accusations. Paul was constantly criticised by the Jews of not insisting that the gentiles follow the Jewish laws. Yet he kept on preaching the Gospel of Grace and not by works or through the law. He preached in Romans, that the Law did nothing to change the hearts of the Jews for God.  Paul had a mission to the Gentiles, and preaching the law would have hindered it. Each one of us has a special calling and ministry and despite all the criticism must find the necesarry strength from God to remain faithful to race of victory.

 

d)       To avoid non-profitable tasks. Not to do worthless activities which do not contribute to the Gospel message or the furtherance of our spiritual walk and calling in Christ Jesus. Many of our activities make us fat instead of fit for the work of Christ.

e)      To avoid Gospel blocking activities. The Gentile Jews were careless to offend the Christian Jews. Yet, we do it all the time. Christian Churches have been excommunicating gays, and in Nigeria even insisting that they be put to death. In New York, we see thousands of Christians protesting the first day of day marriage. How does that lift up the Gospel message? We use our liberty and grace in Christ, to block the Gospel message of God’s love and grace. This is a real tragedy.

 

f)      To be constrained In our religious acts vary of the impact. In the context, discipline means restraining our liberty in order not to cause any harm to the furtherance of the Gospel message. Here the Gentiles had every right to eat the food offered to idols, yet by their liberty, they stumbled the Jewish Christians who wanted to hold on to the religious Jewish laws.

 

g)       To be in Self Control as not to stumble others. Be mindful and self-controlled of what we say, and do, and be restrained in all that we do as a good testimony for Jesus Christ, for the sake of the Gospel. A wrong harsh word may set back our destiny.

 

h)      To chose our friends carefully. Be mindful of who we are together with, choosing those who can build up and encourage our faith and focus on Christ. Our friends are our influence.

 

i)      To be prepared for an answer. To build up our spiritual strength, understandingand knowledge to overcome the challenges when they do come including answering to the flaming arrows fired by Satan. Gay Christians should engage themselves to study the bible as to engage with those who condemned us.

 

j)        Spiritually in communion with the Holy Spirit.In a daily communion with God, so that when challenges’ do come, we have sufficient “oil” to last the days of adversity. When we are under spiritual attack, do we have the oil of anointing to stand up against our foes.

 

k)        Know yourself. In knowing and understanding ourselves, our weaknesses and strengths and the baggage we carry. An athlete may have to go through different types of races – track, field, swimming, etc. Are we weak in swimming that we will drown? Build it up! Our weaknesses may shipwreck our destiny and ministry.

 

For many of us in the GLBT Christian community, the baggage of deep hurt, rejection and condemnation by the churches and our families can be quite debilitating.

 

In a religiously bound closet our very faith in God is used by others to bind us and our innate sexuality can deconstruct and destroy the core of our being and our true self. The shame, deep loss of self-confidence comes from self-denial.

 

The measure we are able to rise above our past, and enter into the presence of God especially when we have gone through much will often determine how we walk our Christian faith. When we know our weakness, we can stand guard lest the enemy makes use to enter into our lives. In giving grace and forgiveness to others, we counter the harm done to us with the grace of Jesus Christ.

Loving and accepting ourselves can be difficult in a world where we have been the object of scorn and rejection since young. Letting go is often God's answer.

 

We do all things for the Gospel sake so that we can be in turn be partakers of it. ie if the Gospel message of salvation in Christ is not central to our lives and our ministry, and it doesn’t become the driving force in our lives, soon we may lack the discipline and the Christ centred focus. Without discipline especially with such temptation to worship other gods in Corinth, the Corinthian Christians were on the slippery slope to perdition.

Our lives may be swayed by other spiritual beliefs, worldly thoughts and self-centredbeliefs. If Christ and the Gospel is not central to our lives, then other religious influence and beliefs comes in, until we no longer believe in Jesus Christ and ending our race of life not partaking in the hope of glory, Jesus Christ. For Gay Christians, this is a major risk as the condemnation by the church have resulting in many falling away from the Christian faith and rejecting Christ Himself thus not receiving the Crown of Glory.

It is not God who rejects us, but we who reject Christ, hence not receiving the crown of Glory at the end of our faith journey. It is the Crown of eternal life to be with Christ. We are to plan our journey so that we can run this race of life knowing that we will reach the goal of spending eternity with Jesus Christ and not finding ourselves departing through life’s challenges.

For Paul, when we start of taking the “sake of the Gospel” lightly in our lives, our passion and focus will soon be apart from the ministry of Christ here on earth, and in the long run succumbing to the attractions of the other faiths prevailing at Corinth where they have all the fanfare and attraction, we end further and further away from Jesus, until we lose the race of faith which we are called to be disciplined for.It is a discipline to stay connected with Christ, to be passionate for the Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the Amazing good news that it is by grace that we are saved and not by works. We enter into this race not by works but by decision by faith that Jesus died for us and is resurrected, His payment for our sins complete. It is His grace and not by our works. This is a race of faith that we do not disqualify ourselves from the Crown of Glory by rejecting Jesus Christ and worshipping our gods. If we end our race by changing allegiance then we will not partake in the Crown of glory. Nothing can separate us from the Love of Jesus Christ and the Hope of Glory, even wilful sin, except when we deliberately and wilfully reject the Gospel of Grace.

There is an incredible call and ministry of GLBT churches to come along side GLBT Christians to support and encourage them to run the good race of faith that all may finish the race set before us to receive the crown of glory to be with Christ Jesus our Lord in heaven.I have seen to many good Christians too overwhelmed by shame and rejection that they are no longer in this journey of faith. Entire cell groups could disappear. The ministry of GLBT Christian organization is one of mission to retain and keep the rainbow harvest from being devoured by the birds of the air.

 The heart of God cries out tonight for the grave harm caused to the GLBT Christians due to the condemnation and rejection by the church, state, and family. As a result, gays even suffer from self hatred and self rejection, feeling that Jesus Christ had rejected them. Many have fallen in the wayside rejecting the Christ for the church has taught that Jesus had rejected them. They did not finish the race of faith. And just like Paul, God will show us His way to bring the Truth and the Life - of God's love and acceptance of their innate sexuality that Your glory and grace may shine through the nations.

Let us run the God race, to know the heart of God, to walk in His ways, and to see His glorious power and miracles through our ministries, and at the end of our days to receive the Victorious Crown when God would say, "Welcome Home, well done my child" and wipe our tears away. Let us run the race not only just to survive but to be victorious.

Let us run the race to wear the Victory Crown and not just the Crown of eternal life.

  

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