18 July 2013 by Adeline Lum CM-
On July 14, Neal Patterson was the speaker for New Life Restoration Centre in Petaling Jaya led by Senior Pastor Ron Hee.
With 48 years in ministry, Neal and his wife have pioneered and became pastors of several churches in New Zealand, and also established many Bible schools in Singapore and Indonesia. A gifted lecturer, he also served in the Tung Ling Bible School Singapore for seven years, in which he was the Principal for four years.
In this sermon, Neal talked about what we can learn to love from Jesus Christ; He who loves His enemies, He who denies Himself, and He who chooses love over anger.
LOVE is when You Love your Enemies
“What do you think is the most difficult command that God give to man?” asked Neal.
The most difficult command is to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
“You see… they are the ones who are hard to love. Why is that? It is because of the knowledge of who they are, what they’ve said to us, what they’ve done to us, and how they were spiteful, mean, vicious, and vindictive to us,” said Neal.
Every time when Paul wrote an epistle, he would include a prayer. Hence, in a letter to the Ephesians, he prayed that they would grasp how wide, long, high, and deep is the love of Christ (Ephesians 3:18). But often, this verse is preached as God’s lovebeing so great that no humans can comprehend.
“If we said that God’s love is incomprehensible to the human mind, then why Paul pray for the Ephesians to comprehend it?” said Neal explaining its contradiction.
In other words, we are able to comprehend the love of God… but how? First, let us look at how Christ loves His enemies.
To illustrate God’s love, let us imagine and place ourselves in the body of Jesus Christ when He was crucified. As He was hanging on the cross, imagine what he saw before Him.
First, His bloodstained eyes were set on the man who whipped Him with 39 stripes. Then, He saw the man who jammed the thorn crown on His head. And then, there was the man who drove the nails through His hands and legs. And finally, He saw the crowd who shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!’ gathering at a distance from Him.
Jesus had full knowledge of the people who hated and persecuted Him. Yet, what did He respond?
He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Apparently, Jesus still loves them. Vice versa, in spite of our complete knowledge of those who hated and persecuted us, choose to go beyond that knowledge and love them anyway. Now, that is divine.
“Why must we believe so? This is because of the times that are coming upon us, because we are approaching the soon coming of Jesus Christ,” said Neal.
One of the most difficult messages preached by Jesus was to prepare His disciples for His departure.
They had been hoping that Jesus would establish the Kingdom of Heaven, and they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the Kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). But Jesus comforted them that He would send them the Holy Spirit for them, while he physically departs (Acts 1:7).
So, while we wait for His second coming, we as His disciples have the responsibility to do His Will on earth, like how the tenants of the vineyards were given responsibilities to produce fruits before the landowner return (Luke 20:9-19). But the Bible also said that although many are invited to the Kingdom of God, only a few will respond and be chosen (Matthew 22:14).
LOVE is when You Deny Yourself
“One of the difficulties of preachers today is also to prepare people for Jesus to come! Churches are complacent, half-hearted, contented, comfortable and lukewarm. But in the heat of persecution, God would purify us, where the wheat will be separated from the shaft,” said Neal citing Luke 22:31.
31 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him due to the spirit of self-preservation. And He said:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).”
“We are saved by the power of the cross. And the cross means self-denial. Hence, let every man not look out for his or her needs but the needs of other people,” said Neal.
For the Bible also said:
‘The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor 1:18).’
“Jesus did not like the cross but He endured it. We see that the temptation of self-preservation was also there before Jesus was crucified. The agony was so huge that His sweat became blood. But Jesus did not succumb to the spirit; He said, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done (Luke 22:42),’” said Neal.
When Jesus returned to his disciples, He saw that they were sleeping although they were warned to pray lest they should enter into temptation. This temptation is to resort to the spirit of self-preservation.
“This line of thinking is in everyone of us. We like to live and none of us want to die,” said Neal.
LOVE is when You Choose Love over Anger
In Luke 22:35-36, Jesus asked his disciples to buy a purse or a bag if they lack one. Yet, a curious command from Jesus was also to sell their cloaks to buy swords. Why did Jesus who preached about love to the point of having both of our cheeks slapped by an evil person (Matthew 5:39) would asked his disciples to buy a sword?
“We must always question why something is said or done in the Bible. Why is it enough? Do you think the two swords were enough to defend against the Roman soldiers who were great swordsman? No… but Jesus said ‘enough’ for what?” said Neal.
Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?”
“Nothing,” they answered.
He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.”
The disciples said, “See, Lord, here are two swords.”
“That’s enough!” he replied.
The disciples were asked to carry nothing in their journey, yet they have hidden two swords under their cloak, due to their lack of faith that God would protect them. In other words, the spirit of self-preservation and also violence tempted them to keep the swords. But nothing could be hidden from the spiritual gaze of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, Jesus gave that command in order to reveal the swords hidden in their hands and heart.
“You might think I don’t have a sword with me. But the external nature of the hands is the sword nature of the heart, which is the nature of aggression,” said Neal.
Aggression can be expressed with a small dagger or whatever weapons. In fact, we are born with a kind of weapon such as a fist, a slap, satirical words, sarcastic words, and injurious words, which are all natures of the sword.
“The sword nature lies in the heart, motivated by the heart of those who falsely accuse us, annoys us and gives us trouble,” said Neal.
In Genesis, Abel and Cain both bought offerings to God but God only had respect for Abel and rejected Cain’s offering. This made Cain very angry, so much so that it necessitated a visit from God who asked him:
“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it (Genesis 4:7).”
“The sin is anger and anger is the doorway to murder in Cain. Get the anger out of your spirit before it gets you,” said Neal.
“We say that God is holy and righteous and we throw them out like Siamese twins. But holiness is what God is, which is His character. And righteousness is what God does, which is His conduct. Many Christians are not victorious and fall into habitual sins because we try to be righteous before being holy,” said Neal.
What Jesus requires to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is even higher than the laws in the Old Testament. The laws focused on conduct, instead of character. In other words, as long we do not act on our emotions or desires, we do not sin.
But Jesus focuses not only on the conduct, but the character. He said that even if we were angry with our brother in our heart, we have already sinned (Matthew 5:22). God demands a high level of not only conduct but also character that comes from our heart.
“That is why love is therefore the fulfillment of the law,” said Neal. Jesus’ love for us is the model of how we should love people.
“The sword nature in the spirit and the sword in hand is a recipe for disaster. Peter drew out his sword and struck the ear of a high priest’s slave. But Jesus rebuked Peter saying, ‘Put your sword back in its place for all who draw the sword will die by the sword,’” he added.
We live in an angry society, against our husbands, wives, children, parents, governments, and injustice. The fact is that we would never know if we could live up to the standard of having our left cheek slapped if our right cheek is slapped. This is because we were never tested.
“God will test us. God’s people were driven into the wilderness at the desert for 40 years to test their heart and characters. But blessed is the man who endures temptation, so that the genuineness of your faith is tested. And the biggest target is the church. You’re going to see trials and persecutions you have never seen before in the end times,” said Neal.
And when those times come, can you love your enemy or resolve to the sword? Man can be forewarned. Endure with the LOVE of Jesus Christ and you will have the promises of eternal life.
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