On Sunday, January 10, Ps. Andrew Tan spoke at Whispering Hope Methodist Church with a challenging sermon to set the tone for the new year. “Our TRAC theme for this year is A Voice To The Nation,” he said. TRAC is the English Speaking Congregations of the Methodist Church in West Malaysia. In light of the theme, Ps. Andrew talked about how we are to make our voice heard as a church and as a conference.
“As the local church, we have the responsibility to make our voice heard. What we’re going to do this morning is look at the prophet Jeremiah. He lived in a very difficult time, but he made his voice heard.”
The nation of Judah had forsaken God, and God’s judgment was near. Jeremiah preached for 42 years under the last 5 kings of Judah. Unfortunately, his message was not received and Judah did not repent. He was treated as a traitor, misunderstood, persecuted, arrested, and imprisoned.
So what did Jeremiah achieve? He faithfully delivered God’s Word for 42 years, but nothing happened. Instead, Judah fell into the hands of the Babylonians just as he had said.
Well, the people were spiritually awakened after the exile when they realized that God had been speaking to them all along. They repented and preserved the writings of Jeremiah’s prophecies. Jeremiah’s prophetic ministry turned the remnant around and brought them back to God. What can we learn from Jeremiah about being a voice to our nation?
1. We are chosen by God to be a prophetic voice
The Church in general is a prophetic community. We have the Bible, which is our prophetic book, and we have been called to bear witness to the nation. Depending on the situation, our ministry as the church is to give warning or encouragement.
Just as Jeremiah indicted his own nation for their sins, the church is to be a voice of conscience to the nation. When the nation goes wrong, it is the church’s responsibility to speak up.
From our youth shameful gods have consumed
the fruits of our ancestors’ labor—
their flocks and herds,
their sons and daughters.
Let us lie down in our shame,
and let our disgrace cover us.
We have sinned against the Lord our God,
both we and our ancestors;
from our youth till this day
we have not obeyed the Lord our God.
(Jeremiah 3: 25-25)
Whenever a society departs from God’s Word, all moral restraints begin to fall away. This is what we see happening in our world today. Moral corruption abounds on every front. Dishonesty is everywhere. That is why we need to be awakened, and the church must make her voice heard.
There are many issues we can speak up about:
- Violence prevails throughout the country. It is our responsibility to be concerned and speak against issues involving violence.
- Corruption is everywhere, and the church must not only denounce it, but also refuse to participate in any part of it.
- Racism is poisoning many minds in our communities and we, the church, must be careful not to harbor any racist thoughts in our hearts and minds.
- Injustice is rampant, and the church must be involved in standing up for justice and righteousness while remaining non-partisan. Speaking against injustice should not be misconstrued as interference in politics.
- Poverty abounds more than we may realize. The poor are the most oppressed and least voiced. We often do not realize that many of our actions in our day-to-day dealings ultimately affect those whose livelihoods depend on the very things we take for granted.
- Environmental matters affect us greatly and are also affected by us. We have the responsibility to be educated consumers so that we can share what we know with our community and preserve our environment.
Speaking up may seem daunting if we are only a small local church, but we do have representative bodies in Malaysia that would speak on our behalf. We can help and participate by supporting them and standing behind them.
We can also participate in nation building by involving ourselves in the 7 mountains of social influence:
- Arts and Entertainment
As individuals, whether in our schools, universities, offices, etc., we need to speak up whenever there is injustice and right the wrongs. We may not always see the outcome, and change may not come within our lifetime, but we must continue to do the right thing. It has to be a life commitment—a broad based commitment. If we give up, we lose our voice.
We also need to be the voice that calls people back to God. In Jeremiah chapter 5, God points out to the people of Judah that they have seen His creation. They have seen the oceans and the land. They have understood the seasons and the rain that together produce food and sustain life.
They have seen the consistent endurance of God’s power and provision. Their hearts should be stirred to worship the Almighty. Yet, the people refused to repent. Jeremiah’s message is that ignoring, denying God, and unbelief in God is a big sin of rebellion.
Hear this, you foolish and senseless people,
who have eyes but do not see,
who have ears but do not hear:
Should you not fear me?” declares the Lord.
“Should you not tremble in my presence?”
(Jeremiah 5: 21-22)
Most Malaysians acknowledge the existence of God, but many are anxious to deny the existence of the biblical God because He demands moral obedience. The prophetic church needs to call rebellious people to repentance. That means turning away from all idolatry, worshipping the only living God, and obeying His Word.
To believe in Christ means to worship God and submit our lives to Him. Otherwise, there is no meaning in saying, “I believe.” We need a passion for missions—to reach out to our friends and tell them about Jesus. As a church, we must understand, believe, and participate in God’s divine mission.
If we meet just for fellowship, singing carols, makan (food), and doing the occasional good works, there are other organizations out there that can do a better job. But if as God’s people, we stand by God’s Word and live by it, we will stand out and make a difference.
2. We are empowered by God to be a prophetic voice
When God chooses us for His work, He also empowers us. Jeremiah protested as soon as God spoke to him, but God did not excuse him for his youth or inadequacy.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
(Jeremiah 1: 4-10)
Similarly, we are not excused, because God will give us the words to speak. We cannot keep quiet because we have a message. When we have something important to say, we are unlikely to remain silent. Ps. Andrew gave this scenario as an example:
Imagine you are driving on a bridge, and in front of you, the bridge collapses. You manage to brake in time and you’re safe. But then, what will you do? Will you wonder what to say, decide it’s too difficult, and then just turn around and drive home? Of course not. You will probably get out of your car and warn all the other cars behind you of the danger ahead!
When there is an urgency about something, you don’t have to worry what to say. You will know what to say. Does the prophetic church have the urgency to voice out God’s message?
God will also protect the church that speaks His word. God told Jeremiah not to be afraid, for He was with him, and He protected him. Again, in Matthew 18 when Jesus gives us the Great Commission to go into all the world, He gives us that same promise: “I am with you.” When we are in the center of God’s will, doing His work, we can rest assured that He is with us.
Finally, God’s power is in the very words we speak. Kings, nations, and empires boast of power, but the powers of this world are only temporary. God’s power affects all of eternity.
We have a divine message to speak to the nation. The longer we deny God, the closer we are to His judgment. That is why we, His representatives, must understand our purpose and be a voice to our nation.
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