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「另一個心志」講道系列

只有當神親自和我們同去(Only If God Is With Us)

「我們要以神的方式來踐行神對香港的旨意。」

二〇一九年初,我的父親診斷患上肝癌後不久便離世。當時我有點掙扎,一方面要面對失去父親的傷痛,另一方面卻要相信神是美善和慈愛的。我很努力建立這間教會,為了當個好牧者,亦犧牲了不少時間,甚至一些親密的關係。正如浪子比喻裡的大兒子那樣(路十五章),我有點氣憤。苦幹了那麼多年,父親為何不給我祝福?為甚麼神沒有站在我這邊?

像那些將要進入應許之地的以色列人那樣,我發現自己也被巨人擊倒──我的巨人就是疾病和突如其來的死亡。我本來可以為自己的小信而悔改,可以伸手去抓住神應許的葡萄。然而,我沒有面對自己的恐懼。我只是愈發努力地成為一個好的牧者,希望沒有人留意到我內心的悸動。我的心碎了,但我卻因此更努力工作。

在約但河的那邊,以色列人很憤怒,幻想亦破滅了。他們不願意面對地上的巨人,也不願意面對自己內心恐懼的巨人。他們差點就想反抗,想殺死摩西,然後回到埃及做奴隷。

神也差點想擊殺這群以色列人,然後重新建立一個群體,裡面全是像摩西、迦勒和約書亞那樣的人(民十四12)。摩西卻求神饒恕以色列民的叛逆。「埃及人會怎麼說呢?祢曾施展大能,領百姓從他們中間出來。祢領他們走過曠野,使他們戰勝敵人。但祢卻不帶他們進應許之地!」(參民十四13-19)

神照摩西的話赦免了以色列人,但那十個報惡信的探子都因遭瘟疫,死在耶和華面前。以色列人聽見這事,又再次恐懼起來。他們自知犯罪,為了想挽回,便決定擅自闖進應許之地。「我們有罪了;情願上耶和華所應許的地方去。」(民十四40)他們以為能用這「正確」的行動來修補他們錯誤的心志。他們以為能用自己的力量來達到那應該用謙卑來做到的事情。他們幼稚地以為,只要所行的符合神的旨意,那麼他們與神的關係便得以復和。

那是我在幾年前父親離世後的生活寫照。我加倍努力成為一個好牧者,雖然我對神失去盼望,但我比以往更勤力工作。我講更好的道,成為更好的牧者,要向神證明我仍然可以做那些他指派我做的事。既然神沒有打倒癌症的巨人,我惟有自己在生活上努力一點。雖然我無法處理內心恐懼的巨人,但起碼能面對外面的巨人。我希望自己的基督徒行為能帶來拯救,因為我已經無法相信神是我的救主。

走在神前面注定讓自己失敗

摩西知道百姓沒有面對他們的恐懼和不順服,如今還想擅自闖進應許之地,不聽神和摩西的吩咐。「你們為何違背耶和華的命令呢?這事不能順利了。不要上去;因為耶和華不在你們中間,恐怕你們被仇敵殺敗了。」(民十四41-42)神還沒有讓百姓準備好去攻打他們在迦南地的敵人。若以色列人與神有好的關係,理應知道這事。

他們自知得罪了神,出於內疚,希望能透過踐行神的旨意,而挽回神的喜悅。他們以為,只要行了神的旨意,神就會很高興,讓他們成功。他們想透過自己的行動來換取神的喜愛。然而,他們卻輸得一敗塗地(民十四44-45)。他們還沒有從自我中心的背叛中徹底悔改,他們仍想做自己想做的事,不聽從神,也不聽從摩西。

我們與神的關係,並不是靠我們的行動來定義的;我們與神的關係是我們行動的方向和力量的來源。我們不要讓我們為神所做的事,破壞我們與神的關係;否則,我們就會像以色列人一樣,走在神的前面,注定令自己和群體失敗。

我們不可能以自己的方法來行神的旨意,然後還期望得到祂的祝福。行神的旨意,就要用神的方法。我們若與神有好的關係,我們不單會明白祂的旨意,亦會明白祂想要成就這件事的方法。這樣,我們就能回應神,以祂的方法祂的旨意,與祂同工。否則,我們便會被打敗。確實,若我們在信心上拒絕祂,以肉身做的一切都是徒勞,無論如何都只會失敗。

我懇請大家小心留意,這可能是香港教會在這個關鍵時刻的重大危機。香港是神的應許之地,是流奶與蜜之地,即使面對著極大的巨人,這地仍然極其美好。我們必須要有另一個心志,在這個時候站出來,也要堅持,帶著勇氣和忠信傳揚福音。但要這樣做,我們必須先將自己與神的關係置於首位。我們要以神的方式來踐行神對香港的旨意。而我們要知道祂的旨意,就必須與祂有更緊密的關係。我們的權柄來自與基督那持續進深的關係。用摩西在起程前往應許之地的說話,就是「只有當祢親自和我們同去!」(參出卅三15)

擁有像迦勒的心志

兩年前我心中掙扎,經歷著對神的苦澀。雖然我與神距離很遠,但我仍然扮演著一個基督徒。在一次幾個月的安息期中,我與神搏鬥。我參與了不同教會的聚會,但沒有多少與神連結的渴望。然而,神透過大大小小的方式與我相遇。或許影響我最深的,是祂透過美國一位老牧場主的分享觸摸我,這位老牧場主告訴我,他在人生最痛苦的經歷──他妻子的自殺裡,如何尋得到神的恩典。

我也記起離開香港前一位導師仁慈的話。「你知道聖經以甚麼話結束嗎?」他問。知道的,我說:「主耶穌啊,我願你來!」(啟廿二20)聖經以一句邀請作總結:「主耶穌啊,我願你來!」邀請我們與神建立一段改變生命的關係,祂是那位擁抱我們的罪與痛苦、我們的暴力與不公義的神。「主耶穌啊,我願你來!」

在我的掙扎中,那個簡單的邀請為我帶來了醫治和更新,讓我在這刻的香港能擁有像迦勒那樣的心志。我面對了自己的恐懼和罪。我最後說:「主耶穌啊,我願你來!」然後祂來了,帶著豐足的恩典與能力,原諒我的叛逆,將我由內至外更新。我不再恐懼,且滿有盼望,因為耶穌與我同在,與我們同在。

以色列人衝進戰場之前並沒有聽從神的吩咐,因此就在神所賜給他們那應許之地上被打敗了。神沒有與他們同在,因為他們沒有與神同工。願我們都不要在神所賜我們的地上犯下同一個錯誤。讓我們重新點燃與神的關係,求祂臨在於我們當中、我們的教會當中、我們的城巿當中。

主耶穌啊,我願你來!願我們的心像摩西那樣呼喊:「只有當祢親自和我們同去!」

「另一個心志」講道系列文章。分題為編者所擬。)


英文原文:

Only If God Is With Us


“We must embrace God’s will for Hong Kong through God’s way.”

In early 2019 my father passed away after a short and sudden battle with liver cancer. I struggled to reconcile my pain in losing my father with my faith in a good and caring God. I had worked hard to build his church. I had sacrificed time and even some close relationships to be a pastor. Like the older brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15), I was filled with resentment. I had slaved away all these years. Where now was the father’s blessing? Why wasn’t God on my side?

Like the Israelites ready to enter the Promised Land, I found myself defeated by giants—in my case the giants of disease and premature death. I could have repented for my lack of faith. I could have reached for the grapes of God’s promise. I didn’t face my fears. I just worked harder to be a good pastor, and hoped no one would notice that I was just going through the motions. My heart was broken, but I would just work that much harder.

On the far side of Jordan, the Israelites are angry and disillusioned. They are unwilling to face the giants in the land and the giant of fear inside themselves. On the verge of mutiny, they are ready to kill Moses and go back to slavery in Egypt.

God is ready to destroy these people and build a new nation with people like Moses, Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 14:12). Moses begs God to forgive the people for their rebellion. “What will the Egyptians say? With signs and wonders you delivered your people from slavery. You took them through the wilderness, defeating their enemies along the way. But you were unable to bring them to the Promised Land!”

God listened to Moses and forgave Israel, but the 10 spies who returned with a bad report are struck down with a plague and die. When Israel hears of this a new fear sweeps over them. They understand they have sinned, and in the hopes of winning God back to their side they decide to take matters into their own hands and enter the Promised Land. “We sinned, but now we’re ready” (v 40). They think that their right actions will repair their wrong hearts. They think they can achieve with their strength what could only be achieved through their humility. They naively assume that as long as they act in the will of God then their relationship with God will be repaired.

That was me a couple of years ago after my father died. I redoubled my efforts as a pastor. Even though I was disillusioned with God, I would work even harder. I would preach better sermons. I would be a better pastor. I would prove to God that I could still do the things he had anointed me to do. Since God didn’t defeat the giant of cancer, I would just have to power ahead on my own. Even though I couldn’t tackle the giant of fear inside me, I would face the giants outside. My Christian activity would have to bring my deliverance since I couldn’t trust God to be my saviour.

Moses knows the people have not faced their fear and disobedience. And now they want to enter the land on their own, without listening to God or to Moses. “Why are you disobeying the LORD’S command? This will not succeed! Do not go up, because the LORD is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies.” (vs 41-42). God was not ready for the people to attack their enemies in Canaan. And the Israelites would have known this if they had been in right relationship with God.

They know they have upset God, and in their guilt they try to win back God’s favour by acting on what they know is God’s will. They think that if they just do God’s will, God will be happy with them and grant them success. They are trying to buy God’s favour through their actions. But instead they encountered great defeat (vs 44-45). They had not fully repented from their self-centred rebellion. They still wanted to do their own thing, independent of God and Moses.

It is not our activity that creates our relationship with God. It is our relationship with God that directs and empowers our activity. We must not allow our activity for God to undermine our relationship with God. If it does, like Israel, we will run ahead of God and position ourselves and our community for defeat.

We cannot do God’s will our way and hope to have God’s blessing. It is God’s will in God’s way. It is in relationship with God that we come to understand not just his will but also the way in which he is working to accomplish this will amongst us. And when we see that, we respond by partnering with God in his will, his way. If we don’t, we will be defeated. Indeed, when we make a futile attempt in the flesh to accomplish what we have already rejected by faith, it will always end in defeat.

May I humbly suggest that this is the great danger for the church in Hong Kong in this important time. Hong Kong is God’s promised land, flowing with milk and honey. Even in the midst of some massive giants, the land is still exceedingly good. We must have a different spirit to stand up and stand out in this time, offering the gospel with courage and faithfulness. But this will only happen if we make our relationship with God more central than ever before. We must embrace God’s will for Hong Kong through God’s way. And we will only come to know this way if we are tied closer and closer in intimacy with him. Our authority comes from an always deepening relationship with Christ. In the words Moses said to God near the beginning of the journey to the Promised Land, “Only if you are with us!” (Exodus 33:15)

Two years ago I was struggling with bitterness toward God. I was acting like a Christian even though I was distant from God. During the months of a sabbatical I wrestled with God. I attended different churches but had little desire to connect with God. But then God began meeting me in smaller and larger ways. Perhaps most dramatically he touched me through an old rancher in the United States who told me how he had found God’s grace in the midst of the most devastating experience of his life—his wife’s suicide.

And I remembered the gracious words of a mentor as I was leaving Hong Kong. “Do you know how the Bible ends?” he asked. Yes, I replied, “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!” The Bible concludes with an invitation: ‘Come, Lord Jesus’. An invitation to a life changing relationship with the one who embraced our sin and suffering, our violence and injustice. “Maranatha, come Lord Jesus!”

Out of my struggle and that simple invitation came a healing and transformation that has given me a Caleb spirit for Hong Kong in this hour. I faced my fear and my sin. I finally said, “Come Lord Jesus!” And he came with incredible grace and power to forgive my rebellion and transform me from the inside out. I am no longer afraid. I am full of hope. Because Jesus is with me, with us.

The Israelites failed to listen to God before marching into battle, and they were defeated in the very land God was gifting to them. God was not with them, because they were not with God. May we not make the same mistake in the land God is gifting to us. Let us rekindle our relationship with God, embracing his presence in ourselves, in our churches and in our city.

Come Lord Jesus! May our heart’s cry be like Moses, “Only if God is with us!”

 

作者為The Vine主任牧師。


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