Today’s scripture is taken from Luke 4:16-21.
“When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
This is the word of the Lord.
We are studying Galatians on Fridays and also Tuesday, and we’ll start a Wednesday Bible study too. And also since we’re at the end of the year, we are busy planning for 2017, next year. It is our 20th anniversary for this church and we need to think about what ministry is all about. And actually, what life is all about, because ministry and life, they are not separate. What life is all about and what ministry is all about.
Vision is very important. Without vision, we are dead. Vision shows where we need to go. It shows us clear direction of where our life needs to go. That’s what vision is. Whatever we do, wherever we go, we must do it with vision. In our scripture passage today, Jesus, before he did any of his ministry, he laid down his vision. He did not come up with his own vision, he took it from the scripture, Isaiah, and then he took the vision for his life and for his ministry. And this is what he said, “He has come to bring good news to the poor. He was sent to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.” That was Jesus’ vision for ministry and that was Jesus’ vision for His life. Think about it. Meditate upon that. That was what Jesus Christ came to do, and that was what his life was all about.
I’d like to talk about vision today with you. What is the church’s vision? What does the church need to do? What is the church’s mission on about? In this day and age, I admit, that church is not a place where people love to gather together. There are not many people who say, “I love to go to church.” Or, “Church is a place that I love to be.” You know, we get 50,000 people. I had Roger Center, but not at the church all the time. Even people who are going to church are kind of confused about what the church is all about. Why do I go there every Sunday? What is church all about?
It is very important for us to know what Jesus came to do, and the church needs to continue what Jesus came to do. If the church does that, then I believe that the church is relevant to people’s lives, and I do believe that church is relevant to people’s lives. Even though Roger Center may be gone, but the church cannot be gone. That’s what I believe, because the church is a very relevant, very important place. It doesn’t matter how many people gathered together. Jesus was the one who established the church and the church is going to continue with the vision of Jesus Christ. And we’re going to carry out what Jesus wants to do in our lives. In today’s scripture, Jesus said he came to bring good news to the poor, to release the captives, to recover the sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free and to proclaim jubilee.
Look at it… When you look at this vision statement, one word comes to my mind? What is that one word? It is freedom. That’s one word that comes to my mind. Freedom. At the end, the year of the Lord’s favour, that is called ‘jubilee’. Jubilee comes every 50 years, and on jubilee, they let the slaves go free. So even the jubilee is about freedom, and I do believe that Jesus came to bring freedom from suffering.
What Does Freedom Mean?
When we studied Galatians, we heard Paul’s interpretation of what Jesus came to do. Oh, I’m reading a book right now, Paul – was he a follower of Jesus or was he the founder of Christianity? It’s a very interesting book because Paul never met Jesus and then Paul never quotes Jesus in his letter, and yet Paul captured the essence of Jesus so well. He never met Jesus, but he captured who Jesus was so clearly. All other disciples could not do it. He was able to summarize what Jesus came to do, what Jesus’ ministry was all about. And this was what is what Paul said about the coming of Jesus. Paul said, “Grace to you and peace from God, our father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself for our sins to set us free. ”
Freedom to set us free from the present evil age according to the will of our God and father. Freedom. You know, freedom to the powerful and the privileged is to be free to do whatever they want. Because they have the power to do whatever they want, so for them, freedom is to do whatever I want. That’s what freedom is to them. To me, that’s a corrupted understanding of freedom. Freedom is not to do whatever you want to do. Freedom means to be liberated from what enslaves them, what oppresses them, and what makes them not to be who they are meant to be. That’s freedom. Whatever enslaves you within you, if you are free from that, that is freedom.
God wants all of God’s creation, every single one of us, to live abundantly. Abundant life, that’s what God wants from all of us. God doesn’t want us to live a miserable life. God wants us to live an abundant life. John captured that very well in Chapter 10. This is what Jesus said, “I came, that they may have life and have it abundantly.” That’s why Jesus came. To give us the abundant life. My friend, money does not give the abundance of life. Don’t be fooled. Money does not give the abundance of life. “Oh, money will give me the abundance of life!” That is a slogan of capitalism. Don’t be fooled by the propaganda of the system of capitalism. “Money will give me abundance!” Lie. That is a lie. Deception. Sometimes money can even enslave you rather than giving you freedom and abundance. I don’t believe in that. I don’t believe in that slogan. Money may give me convenience, but not abundance. What gives the abundance of life, I believe, is freedom. Only freedom can give you abundance. Jesus came not to give us money, he never said that. Jesus did not come to give us money. Jesus came to give us the freedom that makes our life abundant. You know, people work and work and work, and they make money… but when they go to a restaurant or when they see people around them who need their help and all that, they don’t give any. You know? They all always think about getting it rather than paying for it. They have lots of money. Can we say that that person is abundant? That that person’s life is an abundant life? Can we say that? Even though they have lots of money, they never pay, they never give for people around them. What do we call them? Cheap. We don’t call them abundant, we call them cheap. They only think about themselves. They never share to give to other people. Abundance does not come from having money. Abundance comes from sharing the money. When you share more money with others, then you are abundant.
Generosity & Greed
Today and tomorrow we are going to collect offering for Haiti. I hope that you give generously. There are people who are suffering tremendous human suffering. I think that it is right, just simply right, for us to share our resources with them. Don’t just give 10, 20 dollars. We’re talking about people who are suffering or dying. When we are able to share freely with those who suffer around us, I do believe that that life is an abundant life. I think that that definition is a much better definition and understanding than the slogan of capitalism, that money will make you abundant. Don’t be a slave and fool of capitalism.
You have to have a philosophy of life. People who are the powerful and the privileged, they need to be free from the greed and selfishness. And that applies to most of us. To us, freedom is to be free from the greed and selfishness. As they share freely with those who are suffering around them, they shall be able to enjoy the abundance of life, and also help the poor and free the captives from their suffering. That should be our humanity. That is simply the right thing to do as a human being.
You know, I’m envious of Jews, Jewish people, because they have wisdom for thousands of years. It is recorded in their document and then they lived with that wisdom of life from generation to generation. I mean, these documents gave them – “This is what good life is supposed to be” – so I’m really envious of them. Our Christian history is very short, a few decades or a few hundred years, but they have thousands of years. They have this wisdom in that book, and that wisdom taught them how to let live their lives. This is what it said, “When you read the harvest of your land, you shall not reap the very edges of your field or gather their cleanings of your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the alien. I’m the Lord, your God.” How wise that is. Don’t be aggressive for your own profit and benefit. Don’t like deals so much. Don’t like sales so much.
Don’t be so aggressive for your own profit and benefit. “Oh, $1000 TV? I got it for $200! I’m so smart.” Be generous. That generous spirit is the abundance. Generous spirit. Having money is not the measure of abundance. Sharing money is the measure of your abundance. Saving money for yourself is not the best life philosophy or policy. Sharing the money with those who suffer around you is the best philosophy and policy. That is a principle of blessing. Again, I’m envious of Jewish people because they have all these things in their scripture. This is what God said to Abraham, listen, “When he first called Abraham, He said, ‘I’ll bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing.'” Blessing to who? To others. I’ll bless you so much that you’ll be a blessing to other people. You will be the source of blessing. That’s what blessings are like. Blessing is a flow from me to others to others and to others. It’s a flow. If you’re stingy, if you’re greedy, you block that flow of blessing. My friends, please don’t be a slave of capitalism. Please don’t. Money doesn’t make you abundance. Don’t be a fool believing that!
It’s A Trap
You will be destroyed. Your soul will be destroyed if you keep going that way. Share what you have with others. That is the purpose of life, not making money. Truly your soul will die if you keep doing that. Joy will be gone, peace will be gone. And then we don’t even know what the purpose of life is all about after all. Blessing is a flow. Don’t break – don’t block that flow. Break it open, so that this flow really smoothly goes from one to another. Jesus came to break open this flow. Jesus shared everything he had – his time, his talents, his love, his gift. I see so much of enslavement in this day and age. People are dying. In the modern world, in the name of false abundance, so many people have become enslaved in their own greed and unhappiness. Why do you think people are so unhappy? Because they don’t have money? No, because they have money.
They don’t experience the freedom of life, and they don’t experience the abundance of life. You know, you cannot enjoy the abundance alone. You can only enjoy the abundance with others, together. So in that sense, abundance is like a party. You cannot enjoy the party alone. “Oh, let’s have party!” But you’re all alone… How can you have a party? Abundance, same thing. You can only have abundance with others, together.
Let us not be fooled by the false teachings of this world. It’s enough. We are being fooled enough, it’s time to wake up. It’s time to say, “Enough is enough.” It’s time to say “No. I’m not going to be fooled by that anymore. Because my life is very short. I’m not going to live for the rest of my life chasing after the money.” Let us learn from God. The way to be free and abundant. You have enough material to enjoy the abundance of life, but only one thing that you need right now. That one thing is freedom. Freedom to share. Won’t you join me doing that? Try it. Have freedom to share. You will see more abundance in your life. That’s what a blessed life is like, and I do believe this philosophy much more than any other teaching.