17 September 2014 by Donna Uning CM –
“What does it mean to know God’s presence in our midst?” asked Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung at the leaders’ retreat at Barbara Mendu Bay Auditorium, Kuching here recently. He was speaking at the two-day retreat on ‘Let your light shine.’
“Let your light shine on others,” he said adding, “Jesus began with ‘you are the salt of the earth’.” He explained, in the Asian context, how salt gives taste to food. We are to give taste to society, to be useful, blissful, and joyful. Salt is also used to preserve food. “You and I are to live in such a way to stop moral rot in society,” he said.
“We live in the times when things are not the best. How can we live in this world and make it more beautiful and prevent it from rotting morally?” he asked. How can saltiness be restored? The remnants of an impure salt are usually left as rubbish, he explained.
Jesus said we are to be light of the world. “We are to bring the gospel truth into the world that needs to know right or wrong,” he said. We are in a city or town, not to be hidden but to give light to all.
“You and I are light so others may see our good works,” he continued saying, “And give glory to our Father in heaven.”
“If we are to shine God’s light, you must know God first,” he said. “When there is no presence of God, you can’t shine. We need to know God personally in our lives.” Without God’s presence, there is no genuine work of God. When a church is dead or half dead; whenever the spirit of God comes, He brings new life. Nations can transform, there are signs and wonders.
“But without God’s presence, nothing will happen,” he said. It is ninety percent possible for the church to go on merrily without the Holy Spirit; just like a nice plot with activities and more activities. “But where is God? Where is the fruit? Where is the transformation?”
“Unless God builds the house, the builders build the house in vain, however impressive it is,” he said. He talked about some of the beautiful churches built in the 70s to the 90s which have since closed down.
Exodus 33: 1-3,
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”
“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”
“If you want God to be with us, we must strive to live holy,” he said. He will not fight us; He will just leave. In Exodus 33, God delivered His people miracle after miracle. At Mount Sinai, the people rebel and asked Aaron to make them a God. The way they worship their new god, it was a wild party. But because of Moses’ appeal, God relented.
“For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”
“God says He cannot go with you,” he explained telling, “If you sin again, My Holiness will burst.” God’s holiness in relation to sin is like fire to petrol. It will burst forth to flame.
“The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. Then Moses would return to the camp, but his young aide Joshua son of Nun did not leave the tent.”
“The presence of God was absolutely essential. Moses speaks with God face to face. It was not something that is denied to you,” he said. The Bible says you have the right to go into God’s presence in Jesus’ name.
“Each person who tries to seek God will be able to see Him face to face,” he said. “It is possible for us to speak to God face to face, not just Moses.” Spend time in prayer. “You will find God meeting you in an intimate way. You will find yourself transformed and meeting God, using you in ways you can’t imagine,” he said.
“What is the point of going to church without meeting the King of kings and Lord of lords?” he asked, referring to the saying, what’s the point of going to London without meeting the queen?
Moses was used to speaking with God face to face and he would not go if God was not with him. He pleaded, ‘if these are your people, You must come with us. Without You, we are not saved.’
“Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.
Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.”
Do you argue with God, telling Him how much you want Him? “Do church activities still go forth when we are sure God is with us?” he asked. Is God in our midst tonight, in our church services? “Our spiritual life can dry out and become empty when we sin or neglect God,” he said. Samson had a powerful anointing and through carelessness and sin, he lost it. Saul rejected God and God rejected him.
1 Samuel 10:6,
“The Spirit of the Lord will come powerfully upon you, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person.”
“In each case, when God left, they did not realize it,” he added telling, “Individuals and nations can lose the presence of God. It can happen to individuals and to our church.” The center of gravity of God’s church has moved out of the US and Europe to Africa, Asia and South America, to the non-Western world.
In the 50s, the Anglicans, Methodists were the big players. In the 70s to the 90s, other churches grew much faster. “We lost our people because we allow the presence of God to leave. Don’t let it happen to you; don’t let it happen to the church,” he said.
The bishop continued the talk in a 2-day seminar covering topics which include what is holy living, repentance in our lives and revival in the Malaysian context.
Bishop Emeritus Dr Hwa Yung retired as the fourth bishop of the Methodist Church in Malaysia. He served as pastor of the Grace Methodist Church, Kuala Lumpur and was appointed a Lecturer in Christian Theology at the Seminari Theoloji Malaysia (STM) in 1982. He was the Principal of STM from July 1986 to June 2001. In July 2001, he was appointed the first Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity in Asia (CSCA), Trinity Theological College, Singapore.
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