If you were passing by Town Hall last Saturday, you might have glimpsed some bright orange shirts and a big sign with the words – Rev. Dr. Stephen Tong Gospel Rally 2024. 

Just last week, we at IREC Sydney were blessed to receive God’s Word from Dr. Stephen Tong who is currently touring Australia in what might be his last gospel rally. Dr Stephen Tong is a servant of the Lord who has been greatly used in a variety of fields, from the ministry to promoting the quality of culture in Indonesia and China. Today’s article is a reflection on what I’ve learnt from his sermon, and I hope it can bless you as it blessed me. 

All that aside, back to the topic of signs.  

There are some things in life that are simply universal. Try picturing this: a red background, with a bright yellow M on top. It’s pretty easy to guess what brand this sign belongs to. 

Almost everywhere we go, we’re confronted with signs that let us recognize what lies inside. From that bright yellow M that sits on red, to those red and white stripes featuring a very familiar old man (you can tell I’m feeling a bit peckish), it’s easy to see how important signs are. 

So, what are the signs of a Christian? 

1. Love

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-34)

Love. It’s one of those words that have been used so many times that its meaning has almost been lost along the way. Every song, book, movie, and even person has their own definition of love – how do we even begin to navigate them all? 

The Greeks had eight words to categorize the different loves we experience. We won’t go through them all in today’s article, but there’s one love they identify that’s the most special and unique of them all. Agape: 

Unconditional. That’s what really sets this love apart. 

Usually, we love based on the merit of the objects of our affection. We love to lavish our love on things we see as cute, beautiful, perfect, awe-inspiring, extraordinary; things that are ‘love-worthy’ and that are better than us. When we see these – a favorite movie, an idol, a crush – we’re filled with joy and affection, and we’d do almost anything for it. After all, they deserve our love. 

But the unique thing about agape – God’s love – is that it’s wholly underserved. No one is higher than God, and He is perfectly content in the holy love of the Triune God. He doesn’t need to love us. But He chooses to love us – those who are far lower than Him, and who don’t deserve His love. In fact, we reject it and throw it away for what we think can bring us happiness, trading the grandest castle for sandcastles that are so easily washed away in the rain. 

And even so, His love pursues us, even to the point of the cross. Giving up His Father’s love in exchange for His wrath, all that we may receive true underserved mercy and love from Him. 

Undeserved love. 

Unconditional love. 

And it is this love that Christ teaches us to love others with. If we loved others according to how much we love God, it wouldn’t be a very consistent standard – oftentimes, our fervor for God depends on our mood or the trials we face. Many times, the length of our mealtime prayers fluctuate depending on how hungry we are! 

But that’s not what God teaches us. Rather, he tells us to love others just like how He loved us first. Forigiving others just like how He forgave us first. Serving others just like He served us first. 

This principle is aptly expressed in the following verses of Matthew 25:30-40. I won’t be going through these verses extensively in today’s article, but I truly hope you can take the time to read these verses for yourself. May we, along with His disciples, be able to hear these words from the One who loved us first – ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

The first sign of a Christian is love. 

Unconditional love for the undeserving. 

2. Eager witness

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

Say there was this amazing restaurant that had just opened in your neighborhood – not only does it serve the most delicious food you’d ever tasted, but it does so at an impossibly low price! You wouldn’t keep this great news all to yourself, right? It’s much more likely we’d be posting all about it and sharing the news with as many people as we know. Sharing our joy with others, that others may enjoy it too 

Why is it that we often do not have this same attitude towards the Good News? 

The Good News is more than good: it’s the best news in the world for broken sinners! The Good News promises unconditional and unlimited peace and joy – all for free. 

Why then do we keep it to ourselves? In the Bible, there are countless examples of eager witnesses who unashamedly seek to share the good news they recieve. Take the Samaritan woman in John 4 as an example. As soon as she experiences the life-giving water that Jesus offers, she immediately rushes into her town and shouts, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” See the transformation in this woman’s life? Before, she was trapped under the shame of her sinful life, hiding away and avoiding others, and even willing to come to the well for water in the sweltering noontime heat if only to avoid the scorn of the other woman. But now, look at her. Never mind any embarrassment. Never mind other people’s scorn. 

May we have the same energy and passion to bring others to taste the same grace and life and joy we enjoy. 

I won’t pretend that evangelizing is going to be easy, or that those you evangelize to will accept your message. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be counter-cultural. There will be sacrifices. There will be scorn. 

This is why we must hold on tightly to these two things: the grace of the Holy Spirit, and a firm foundation in God’s Word. The only way we can have culture-defying courage is through the power of the Holy Spirit – and the only way we can tell others about His Word is by knowing His Word in the first place. 

But, I pray that through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may be able to say with Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16) 

3. Fruitful

“For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit.” (Luke 6:43-44). 

From a young age, we’ve been taught to name a tree based on the fruit it produces. A tree with apples is an apple tree, a tree with oranges is an orange tree, and so on. And, in the same way, others know us through the fruits that we produce. 

Try reflecting back on the past week, or even just yesterday. Was the fruit of your life – something that others keep coming back to enjoy? Could your family, friends, peers, community taste the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in your life? Or was the fruit bitter or prickly to taste instead? 

When a tree bears fruit, not only do we know what kind of tree it is, but we also know that the tree is alive. It’s healthy – its roots dig deep into the water that is its source of life. So, as Christians, how can we grow, let alone bear fruit, if we are not rooted in God’s Word? Grow strong and daring, and healthy. Then, when others see the tree that flourishes and stands tall through winds and storms, they’ll start to look for the source of water that sustains you so. 

Even as I write these final words, there’s this one song from Sunday School that comes to mind. It’s a hymn by Baylus B. McKinney, called “Let Others See Jesus in You”, and I feel its words are a fitting encouragement and reminder. 

Let others see Jesus in you,

Let others see Jesus in you;

Keep telling the story, be faithful and true,

Let others see Jesus in you.

Can others see Jesus in me? 

Do others see Jesus in you?

I truly pray that it may be so. 

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