Monday 14 December 2009

What Child Is This?

Recorded after service at the Chinese Church on Sunday 13 December 2009.

Text taken from Matthew 1:18-23

Thursday 10 December 2009

Coming Home (Christmas Promo)

Had some fun recording my journey back from work today. The words are taken from John Chapter 1. Looking forward to working with the gang to produce the full videos this coming weekend.

Friday 4 December 2009

Christmas Impossible (Luke 1:26-38)

For many the Christmas story is simply impossible. How can you believe in something as nonsensical as a virgin birth?

This isn’t just a problem today. It was a problem two thousand years ago. Look with me to verse 34.

“How will this be… since I am a virgin?”

And who is it who says this? It is Mary. The virgin herself knows it is impossible to get pregnant if she has not had any physical relations with a man.

Her doubt; her sceptical response is here recorded for us to read in the bible.

That is, the bible does not leave out the difficult bits. When people in the bible came into contact with the fantastic, even miraculous claims of God, they often reacted with fear, confusion and doubt.

In fact, when you read the gospels which record the life of Jesus, doubt is a major theme. It was often the ones closest to Jesus who were confused by what he did and who he was.

The question we need to answer today is: How does the bible deal with these problems?

This passage offers us three steps:

o The bible opens our eyes to the bigger picture

o To see a bigger problem

o So that we can have a better perspective

The bigger problem

You see, the problem isn’t just that Mary, a virgin, would give birth to a son. She would give birth to the Son – the Son of God.

In our day and age, it is no big deal for a woman to get pregnant without a father. Science has given us IVF – In Vitro Fertilisation.

But how do you give birth to the Son of God? Mary would give birth, in effect, to God.

And what does the angel tell us about this Son of God? In verse 31 he says he will have the name Jesus.

Jesus is a Greek name – a Greek translation of what was probably the Hebrew name, Joshua. But both of them – Jesus and Joshua – mean the same thing: God will save.

God will save his people through this man, Jesus.

All through this Son would come the Kingdom of God. He will be a King. Or using another bible word – the Christ.

This Son of God is Jesus Christ. Christ is not his last name. Not like Jackie Chan – whose initials are also J.C.). Christ means King.

This will be Jesus Christ – the Son of God who will save and the one who will rule as King.

We are stuck at the problem of the virgin birth. But the bible says there is a bigger purpose, a bigger picture and an even bigger promise beyond that. The virgin will give birth to Jesus Christ who will save us and who will rule as King.

Nothing is impossible with God

So what is the angel’s answer to this bigger problem? He gives Mary a bigger perspective.

Verse 37: “…Nothing is impossible with God.”

You and I: when we encounter a claim in the bible, our first instinct is to ask “How can this be?” “How is this possible?”

But questions like these reveal more about who we are than who God is. Here the bible challenges us to consider who we are dealing with.

We are man – finite creatures with limited abilities and hence, limited possibilities. But this is God our creator who has no limitations and unlimited possibilities. Otherwise he would not be God.

Now I know some of us are thinking, “What a cop-out answer! Nothing is impossible with God? That is just a statement – it does not give a satisfactory answer at all!”

But consider for a moment what is purpose of this answer? Is God saying, “I am God! You are not! Please stop asking me silly questions!”

Or is he rather saying, “I am God – know who I am – so that you can trust me.”

Do you notice what God through his angel has been doing all this while for Mary? He has been reassuring her.

“Greeting! You who are highly favoured. The Lord is with you.” (Verse 28)

Again in verse 30: “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God.”

This isn’t an announcement; a declaration of God’s power. This is an assurance of God’s faithfulness – that he will do what he has promised. So you, Mary, can trust him.

What about us?

Well, what does this passage have to say to us today?

Two applications for two different groups here this evening.

The first group: you look at the world in terms of possibilities and impossibilities. You are searching for truth. You want evidence that supports that truth – evidence that will point you in the direction of truth.

The bible says: keep looking and keep investigating!

The bible is encouraging you to keep asking questions and keep using your mind to evaluate the evidence. Especially, the evidence in the bible.

But don’t just stop at the impossibility of the virgin birth. Consider the bigger claims, the even more impossible statements the bible makes.

It is impossible for a man to be born again; it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God. Yet Jesus has come precisely to make this happen.

The bible says no man can forgive sin – only God can. Yet Jesus dares to say he has the authority to do this.

Or consider the biggest impossible claim of all. Isn’t it impossible for a man to rise from the dead?

That is what a man named Thomas thought.

He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

Jesus appeared to him. “Put you finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

To which Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.”

Not – “Now I know there is a God, that Jesus is Lord.”

But that Jesus is his God, Jesus is his Lord and Saviour.

A second group

But there is also a second group here today who are perhaps all too familiar with the Christmas story.

For you the Christian faith – Christianity – is all about Christmas.

Christmas is an end in itself. After all, it is the end of term and the end of the year.

The bible says to you: there is much, much more! Christmas is only the beginning.

In the comedy Talladega Nights, Will Ferrel plays race car driver Ricky Bobby. In it, Ricky Bobby constantly prays to Baby Jesus. Specifically he prays to 8 pounds 6 ounces Baby Jesus – wearing a golden fleece with chubby little fingers. He even prays that he will use his Baby Jesus powers to heal him of sickness and to help him win that next race.

Like Ricky Bobby, we would rather have Baby Jesus in the manger.

But the bible points to Christ on the cross.

Jesus didn’t become a baby to save us. He became a baby in order to become a man – so that he could die a man’s death – and be raised fully man and fully God.

It is very possible to be so familiar with the biblical account of Jesus’ birth that we think – “This is not for me. I know this, already. It’s for someone else - for those who are new to the Christmas story.”

Today we read of the angel of God approaching Mary and saying “You…”

These are wonderful words, friends. “You are highly favoured! The Lord is with you!”

You know, for Mary she had to wait for the promises to come true. The angel says, “He will be great…. He will reign.”

But for Christians who know the bigger picture of Jesus Christ on the cross, we can say, “He does reign, He does rule! For he has died for my sins on the cross.”

What is the true meaning of Christmas?

I would put it this way:
that God, for whom nothing is impossible,
makes it possible for us
to trust fully in his Son Jesus
as our Saviour and as our King.

Monday 30 November 2009

Temptation of the Son of God - Matthew 4:1-11

Yesterday we looked at Jesus' temptation in the desert by the devil in Matthew 4. Here are some of the concluding thoughts I wanted us to reflect on as we considered how the experience of Christ connects with us in our struggles with temptations:

1. Jesus' temptation is a picture of Satan's temptation over humanity
Remembering the first temptation of man in the garden, the serpent seduces Adam with the offer he seemingly could not resist: Take and eat of the of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil - and man will be like God.

The only power of the devil is in his lies yet we empower him as we believe in his lies. He appeals to Adam's desire, ambition and identity to lead him into rebellion against his creator and God. Adam is taken in by empty words, yet dangerous words - and his sin results in the expulsion of the man and the woman from the garden and the introduction of death intro the created order.

Here Jesus is portrayed as the Second Adam who resists the temptation of the evil one, spurning his words and denying the opportunity to fill his own needs, instead relying solely on the promises of the word of God. Man does not live on bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

Christ thereby reverses the curse of death bringing about life that is full and everlasting.

2. Jesus' testing in the desert is representative of the trials of the people of God
As the nation of Israel spends 40 years wandering in the wilderness, so Jesus experiences hunger and thirst during his 40 days of testing in the desert.

Israel, addressed by the LORD as his first-born son, fails in their obedience to God - complaining bitterly against the One who delivers them from slavery in Egypt. The 40 years is a result of God's judgement over a generation of God's people who reject his inheritance of the Promised Land, and question his goodness displayed daily in the LORD's protection and provision in the wilderness. A whole generation is wiped out, never gaining entry into the land prepared for them by God himself.

But Jesus the true Son, continually submits to the will of his Heavenly Father. He learns obedience through his suffering and temptation, thereby displaying his status not simply as the Son who receives all authority and power promised him by God in fulfilment of Psalm 2, but also his willingness to be the Servant King and Suffering Christ.

Jesus is the true Israel who stands at the entry point into the true land of promise, heaven itself. And he opens the way for us so that together with him we might have access into the very presence of God.

3. And yet Jesus' experience is the historical record of the unique temptation of the true Son of God

That is, this passage is not primarily there to teach us how to face temptation. The moral of the story is not how we can deal with the devil (Step 1: Bring lots of snacks; Step 2: Wear a parachute; Step 3: Watch the Prince of Egypt on DVD).

The Bible is not a "How-To" book. How to face temptation. Much less, how we can save ourselves. We would be foolish to think that we can take on the devil on our own - for we are weak-willed creatures, easily seduced through our passions and worldly desires.

Rather, the account of the experiences of Christ in the wilderness is there to tell us how Jesus faced temptation on our behalf. The gospel tells of how Christ took our sins upon himself.

What we have here is not a three-stage attack by the devil. Satan has but one purpose in tempting Christ - to turn Jesus away from the cross.

And we are not to think that this is the only encounter between Jesus and Satan. The conflict stretches all through Jesus' days on earth, right up to the cross. For Luke's gospel tells us the devil left Jesus "until an opportune time". That is, Jesus was in battle with the Tempter every step of his journey to his death.

The constant pressure to prove his authority by performing yet another miracle. The egging by his own family to "go public", motivated not by love, but as John tells us in chapter 7, by their disbelief. The bold confession of Peter that Jesus is indeed the Christ - You are the Son of the Living God! - only to be followed immediately by Peter scolding Jesus for explaining how the Christ must suffer and die in Jerusalem.

Jesus' reply? Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

Jesus detects the words of the Tempter. The Devil's scheme to lead him away from the cross. The words of Satan himself found on the lips of his family, his followers. Even his closest friends.

4. He was tempted like us. Yet without sin
But what good does it do us if Christ was tempted on our behalf? It makes sense to say that Jesus took my sins on the cross. He removes God's righteous judgement over my rebellion and I receive his righteousness. But how does his temptation help mine?

Christ enters the world as God the eternal to be declared eternally as the obedient and faithful Son of God. At the cross, he breaks the power of the evil one over this world. In his conflict with the devil he triumphs over the temptations of Satan by trusting in his Father's will and rejecting the lies of the Tempter. He removes the blindness on our minds, opening our hearts to the light of the glory of the gospel displayed on the cross; displayed through his shameful death. The Son of Man must die in order for us to live.

Yet rather than just show you how, I want to end by telling you why. Why you and I should go to him in our weakness. Turn with me to Hebrews 4:

14Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.

You see friends, Jesus has been tempted in every way like we are. We can go to him in our weakness, because he understands. With our temptations that we struggle with, even those we are too ashamed to talk about - we can go to him. Like us, he has been tempted. In every way.

And yet unlike us, in that he did not sin. And because he did not sin, he could take our sin on himself. Because he did not sin, he can be our High Priest, the one at the right hand of the Father, interceding for us, even now.

It means that we can come to God and be totally and confidently accepted. It means he not only understands our need, he can help us in our need. It means God looks at us and he sees Jesus, perfect in his obedience and love.

It means God looks at us and he calls us "sons". Sons of God.

Friday 6 November 2009

Sundays at the Chinese Church

Gathering as God's People
around God's Word

Thursday 22 October 2009

Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 13:44-52)

"The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.
"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked.
"Yes," they replied.

He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

The Kingdom of Heaven is near

Jesus has one thing on his mind. In this chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus is speaking about the same thing, again and again. Whether it is to a huge crowd in verse 1, or to just to his followers in verse 36 onwards, Jesus hammers home to all of them the same subject. He is speaking about the Kingdom of Heaven.

"Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!" These are the words of John the Baptist in chapter 3. These are the exact same words of Jesus in Chapter 4. And in chapter 10, Jesus sends out his 12 disciples. He gives them authority to heal the sick, to perform miracles but also gives specific instructions to preach these words - The Kingdom of Heaven is near.

Meaning: as you read through this book, you should get a sense that the Heaven is coming closer and closer to you. That God's presence has come down to be closer with us.

This is very different from how we commonly perceive Heaven. For us, Heaven is up there. It is a goal to be attained; a height to be achieved. Within religious circles, heaven becomes a standard of holiness and perfection we need to be worthy of.

But what is interesting to consider is how heaven is to go outside of religion to see how heaven is portrayed.
  • You can buy a chocolate bar named Heaven.
  • For some years now, if you typed in the word "heaven" into Google, the first result you get is link to series of nightclubs and discos in London

It all has to do with satisfaction, fulfilment and happiness. Go to any magazine store, say Borders bookshop right at the end on the ground floor where you will find a huge magazine section. I put it to you, that what you have there is a selection of different Heavens. Rows and rows of Heavens. Each a different version. Each promising aspects of a better life, a more exciting experience of life, a higher quality of life.

  • fitness heaven
  • food heaven
  • Fashion heaven
  • computer gaming heaven
  • even a pet heaven

Very little to do with God or the bible. That's because we want a heaven we can
  • buy with our money,
  • get to through dieting and exercise
  • Work towards in our careers
  • A heaven we get on a plane and escape to

We went heaven to be a place of fulfilment, happiness that everyone can afford and everyone can access.

And the amazing thing is, Jesus seems to agree. It seems like Jesus is using the same words, the same categories to point to heaven. He talks about a man full of joy. Who uses his money to buy something that will give him extreme satisfaction. There is talk of risk but also of great reward. Jesus even talks about wealth and treasure.

On the surface Jesus seems to be talking about the same heaven as the magazines, movies and pop culture.

Notice that there is no religious language. No mention of a temples or priests. Instead, he talks about farming and fishing. And I guess that makes a lot of sense because the people around him are farmers and fishermen.

Here is an accessible heaven, an understandable heaven. Not up there, but near you. Not far away, but right here right now. It is almost as if Jesus is not so much denying our pursuits of heaven - reflected through our ambitions, our holiday plans, our desire for a lasting and meaningful relationship - but he almost seems to be saying, all these desires are reflections of our true innermost desire for heaven itself.

And yet what we are going to see today is that Jesus is saying much more. He is saying something radically different from both the advertisers and the religions of today.

He doesn't just use earthly examples to point upwards to heaven. Jesus is using heaven to point to himself. This is the Kingdom of Heaven. This is the Kingdom of God. God's rule, God's kingdom, God's presence has now come near to dwell with man.

Jesus has come to reveal himself as the true King of Heaven and the true source of our identity, satisfaction and happiness.

We will see this in 4 points that Jesus makes in his 4 parables about the Kingdom of Heaven:
  1. The Kingdom is treasured in joyful response
  2. The Kingdom is valued through willing sacrifice
  3. The Kingdom points forward to redemption and judgement
  4. The Kingdom is revealed in word and witness

1. The Kingdom is treasured in joyful response

So firstly, the Kingdom is treasured in joyful response.

And the big point to get across is simply this: It is obvious!

  • You can tell without a doubt when someone gets it.
  • You see it in his face - his excitement.
  • You see it in his actions and reactions - he immediately goes out and something about it.
  • You see it in his joy - verse 44 - in his joy (he) went and sold all he had and bought that field.

And what has given him so much joy and excitement? Jesus tells us. It is treasure. It is extreme wealth. But it is hidden wealth. No one knows that it is there.

But he does. He stumbled upon it. The passage says he found it. This is an ancient equivalent of someone today winning the lottery! I checked it up this morning - it's 2.4 million pounds. Can you imagine winning 2.4 million pounds! Wow!

This guy has stumbled upon a huge source of blessing and wealth that no one else sees or knows about.

But what we can see clearly is this man's action and reaction. He sells everything he has. He house, his car, his TV, his sofa. All his clothes, all the stuff he has lying around the house. Every CD he owns, his DVD collection. Everything goes up for sale. If it were today he would put it up on eBay he needs the money quick and fast. He needs every penny to make sure he gets that land.

Now people who do such things are normally fellas who have gotten themselves into trouble! They need to pay off a huge debt. You sometimes see this on eBay; some guy just wants to get rid of this bunch of stuff. There might be a description about a recent tragedy in his life, some trouble he is facing that he needs the money to resolve. And you would expect someone in this situation to be really depressed and desperate.

But this man is the exact opposite! He is joyful. He can't wait to get rid of all his stuff. Because he knows, the moment he buys that field, when the land is rightfully his, there is a treasure just waiting for him.

People might be laughing at him now. Taking advantage of the fire sale. Buying all his stuff on the cheap.

But he's the one who has the winning lottery number. All they see is his sacrifice. What he sees and knows is the location of the treasure.

And Jesus points to this man and says that's what Heaven is like. It is a treasure that is supremely valuable, yes, but it is a treasure that is hidden from sight. You don't see the treasure - the parable doesn't even tell us what the treasure is - is it money, gold, jewels? What we see is a man. A man who is exceedingly joyful!

It is a joy that comes not after he buys the land. Not after he gets rich. It is a joy that comes the moment he knows he will be rich. It is the knowledge of the treasure. That certainty.

A joy that is willing to sacrifice everything else to obtain that treasure.

He will be rich, we will own the land, he will have that treasure in the end. But that's not what Jesus focuses on. Not his wealth. But his joy.
The Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus says, is treasured in joyful response.

That's my first point.

2. The Kingdom is valued through willing sacrifice

Next, The Kingdom is valued through willing sacrifice

Now on the surface, this second parable seems like a repeat. Let me read it for you, verse 45:

"Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Same story! A guy who finds a treasure, this time it is an expensive pearl; he sells everything just to obtain this treasure. It's just a sequel and if we're honest, it looks like a bad sequel - Like Spiderman 3 - What a disappointment.

There's nothing new, we've seen it all before and on top of that, the hero is a RICH GUY. It's like Star Wars with Jar Jar Binks. Jesus should have just stopped while he was ahead.

You don't make the hero of the story your boss! He's a merchant, a rich businessman. He's already rich!

OK, OK - if you really want to get theological and deep about it, where is this man's joy?

Ah, but that's the question Jesus wants us to ask! Where is this man's joy? What is his treasure?

He starts out looking for many pearls. Fine pearls. But pearls are really small things. If he was searching for gold, jewels, art, sportscars, houses, land - we can understand that. We can even understand if he was looking for an investment, something that will increase his wealth.

But when you are talking about one single pearl, you are talking about refinement not quantity.
Beauty and elegance not majestic opulence. Something that is precious. That's what the Greek word actually means when it says "When he found one of great value" - it literally says, he found a "precious one".

Think Lord of the Rings. Think Gollum and the one Ring. What does he say? My Precious!

And if you are familiar with the movie or the book, you know that the whole story revolves around the one ring. Whole kingdoms are lost, battles are fought, lives are sacrificed - just to obtain this one precious ring.

That is, Jesus is talking about more than just wealth. It's not just about making a quick profit. Getting a big return for your effort. Here is something that speaks to our inner desires, our passions, our obsessions. In a word, it is love. It's love.

If you have ever been in love, you know what I mean. No one else can see your love, your emotions, your rationality. But to the one in love, it makes perfect sense. To be in love is to be consumed by love. That's because love is costly. There is a high price for love. And those in love willing pay that price.

That's the point of the merchant. You see, you look at first guy and he starts out poor but ends up wealthy. But this guy here starts out wealthy but ends up with nothing but his pearl. He has more to sacrifice. And he willing sells it all, every single bit, to obtain this one single treasure. The fact that the bible describes the pearl as precious might even indicate that it really is only truly valuable in his own eyes. Were he to sell the pearl he might not get back all that he put in. Beauty in the eye of the beholder.

It is parable about priorities. What is number one. If you are in love, of course you'll say: he is, or she is - number one in my heart. But how do you know? How can you tell? Let me just ask the girls - How do you know that in his eyes, you are his precious, his true love, his ultimate priority.

Most of the time guy's will express their love through their promises. I will do this. I promise to be like this. I will do everything in my power to make this happen just for you, because I love you, because that is how much you mean to me.

Let me tell you a secret. You can tell what a person's priorities are not by what they do. Even less by what they promise to do. That's because the answer is always the same - I'll do everything for you! Guys will promise the world if they could.

No, you tell a person's priorities not by what they say they will do, but simply by looking at what they are choosing not to do. You looking at what they willingly put aside and sacrifice.

Because that thing they have put aside is what you are being measured against. Watching TV. Playing football. Food. What is the thing he is willing to do without, what is he sacrificing even now just so that he can be with you.

And conversely, what is he sacrificing you for? Maybe that's an easier question to answer.

Honey, I can't come home today I'm busy at the office. It's just so expensive to go out for dates - why don't you just get something from Tesco - from the expiring section. That shows his priorities too.

Be careful of the kind of guy who wants it all! Because he is the kind of guy who doesn't know what he wants at all. He isn't clear whether its a marriage, a house, an xbox, a lifestyle, an image - it's rarely ever children. And it's just a matter of time before something goes.

True value is seen in sacrifice. What does it cost?

The merchant sells all he has so that at the end of the day, he has nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except the one thing that means everything to him. It's a very unrealistic story, I know. What is he going to live on? He'll have to sell it eventually - to buy food, to survive.

But at some level, don't you envy him? Here is a guy who knows what he wants and he finds it! Many of us go through life, shifting from desire to desire. From one priority to another. From this place to that place. This job to that job. This relationship to another.

And we don't dare do what this guy did. We don't dare risk it all, because we don't even know what it is. It's like going to a restaurant, a really fancy one, where you can't really decide what you want because you can really only afford one thing. So you walk out hungry. You still have your money. But you have nothing you can really spend it on.

Jesus says, the Kingdom of Heaven is like knowing that one thing. Knowing your true desire of desires. And when you find it, you too will say, My precious!

The Kingdom is valued through willing sacrifice.

3. The Kingdom points forward to redemption and judgement

Next, The Kingdom points forward to redemption and judgement.

So far, we have been looking at things that we can see: the joy of the kingdom, the priorities of the kingdom, the sacrifice of the kingdom. But in this next parable, Jesus will show us something we do not see, we will not see, and many of us refuse to see. He reveals what will happen at the end of the age.

Verse 47:
"Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Here's the bad news. I know some of us are surprised. But yes, there is bad news in the bible. That's just how the gospel works. The bad news is what makes the good news good. The bad news is what makes the good news urgent.

We have learned that heaven is joyful. Heaven is worthwhile. But if there is a heaven to be gained, the reality is there is also a hell to be shunned.

There are two points I want to make. The first is very very bad. But the second is very very good.

The first point is this: No one escapes judgement. No one escapes God's judgement.

A huge net is let down and it catches all kinds of fish. Both the good fish and the bad fish, all are caught in the net. The fishermen wait until the net is full. Both the righteous and the wicked will be gathered by God's angels. No one escapes.

This will happen. God's judgement is certain and it is final. If we reject the joy of the Kingdom we face the justice of God.

Hell is separation from God's presence, his life and his blessing. In the parable, we see it symbolised as rejection symbolising judgement. It is the fiery furnace symbolising God's anger. It is weeping and gnashing of teeth which is a dual picture of extreme sorrow, and yet continual rejection of God, continual unrepentance before God.

Here Jesus is explaining a parable with a parable. When it comes to hell, no words can describe how awful it will be. This is how it will be, Jesus says.

But point two: we are God's treasure. That's the good news. We are God's treasure.

It is very tempting to just stick to the first two "nice" parables. But you know, for some people even the parables about the treasure and the pearl may not sound all that good. In fact, I wonder if we hear stories about extreme joy and supreme sacrifice, and it just sounds so unreal. It seems so burdensome!

Just another list of things we need to do in order to get into heaven:
  • Be joyful - don't be sad
  • Rejoice and don't complain.
  • Give everything, don't expect anything

What if I'm finding it really hard right now to be joyful. What if there is nothing I can think of that I can call my treasure. What if there is no one in my life who treasures me?

And now you come and tell me this horrible story? About hell? You don't have to describe it to me? My life is hell!

People rarely say these things out loud. But you can hear it in their responses. You need to hear the way they live their lives. It's in the way they walk. Even now, it's in the way some of you are looking at me thinking - So what is it? What are you trying to sell me this week? I've heard it all.

How do you speak to someone like that? You tell them the gospel.

Look again at the parable. Who is doing the gathering? Who is doing the work? It is the angels of God - God is the subject of the parable.

It is God who judges. And it is God who treasures. If you are in the kingdom, it means that you are his treasure. God treasures you!

Verse 48: (The fishermen) sat down and collected the good fish. That word "good" is the same word Matthew uses in the previous parable to describe the "fine" pearls. It means valuable. It means treasured.

Do you see? All this while we have been reading these words of Jesus from our perspective. How we see heaven. How we experience Heaven.

But here is Jesus clarifying to us, that it's the other way around. This is how God sees you. You are his treasure. And if you realise this, then the parables of the kingdom take on a whole new meaning.

The parable of the hidden treasure means that you, YOU are God's joy. Heaven rejoices over you!
The parable of the pearl means that God is the one who has sacrificed everything to make you his treasure. He has held absolutely nothing back. He sees you the way no one else does. Beautiful. He holds you in his arms and calls YOU, his precious. His beloved.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. That's one of the most famous verses in all the bible - John 3:16.

But if I were to ask you - Which word is the most important in that verse? What would be your answer?

God. loved. the world. one and only Son. Eternal life?

For those who truly understand the parables of the Kingdom of Heaven, the most important word there is "so" - For God so loved the world. How much does God love us. So much.

At the cross, he gave his Son. At the cross we see how much God hates sin. He pours out his judgement and condemnation.
At the cross we see how much God loves us. He pours his judgement on him. He gave all that he could give: Jesus offered his life, his dignity, his rights so that we could be in his eyes precious. He did this willingly, sacrificially, joyfully.

The Kingdom points forward to redemption and judgement.

4. The Kingdom is revealed in word and witness

But finally, the Kingdom is revealed in word and witness. Jesus asks a question in verse 51:

"Have you understood all these things?" Jesus asked.
"Yes," they replied.

He said to them, "Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old."

Many get confused by this last statement of Jesus. He refers to "every teacher of the law" - "every teacher" - The word there "scribe". Scribes who were the intellectuals of the day. These were the PhDs, scholars, the Cambridge professors who were educated, intelligent and articulate.

But as far as we can tell, the people around him were not intellectuals. These were the crowds, the disciples. Most of them were blue-collar workers: labourers, slaves, fishermen and farmers. They weren't educated. Most couldn't read or write. So who is he talking about? The Pharisees? They aren't even mentioned.

Jesus is talking about you. If you are a follower, a disciple of Jesus, he looks right at you and says you are the scribes. You are the new teachers of the law. Because you have been instructed of the Kingdom of Heaven. You have received the treasure of the gospel.

But there's a big difference between you and the religious teachers. It is not just because you have what they don't but you give what they won't.

You have received the treasures of the Kingdom. So now, you have to bring it out. Don't hoard it. Don't put it away. You have to share this treasure with others.

The owner of the house brings out everything, not just the old stuff, the new stuff. The good and the bad. Everything. He holds nothing back. He keeps nothing to himself.

And here is Jesus looking for a response: A response of faith,(Do you understand this? "yes" they say) but more so a response of faithfulness. It's not just trusting in the treasure I will receive but being entrusted with a treasure I will be faithful with.

Have you understood these things? Have you?

Is Jesus your ultimate joy and priority? Your true treasure. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus "who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame". If we look to the cross, there God gives his all - not withholding his only Son; and there Jesus willingly, joyfully endures the cross to make us his treasure.

We close with a song of response:

You are my strength when I am weak
You are the treasure that I seek
You are my all in all
Seeking You as a precious jewel
Lord, to give up I'd be a fool
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Taking my sin, my cross, my shame
Rising up again I bless Your name
You are my all in all
When I fall down You pick me up
When I am dry You fill my cup
You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name
Jesus, Lamb of God
Worthy is Your name

Monday 14 September 2009

Bad Unity - Genesis 11:1-9

What was the sin of Babel? It must have been serious – God himself came down and brought judgement. The people of Babel were scattered, dispersed, spread out over the entire earth. This was a punishment that affected every nation, every culture, the whole world.

What did they do? Some say they were trying to rebel against God. Others say it was pride, their selfish ambition.

And yet the obvious reason is given to us, right there in the passage. It is not hard to see, but it is very hard to accept. In fact, some of us probably did see this but immediate went, “That can’t be right. There must be a mistake.”

I am talking about verse 6, where God, the LORD himself says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”

Judgement has come on the people of Babel because of their unity. God has punished men for being united, for working together.

Doesn’t that sound strange – Doesn’t it even seem wrong of God to do this?

And listening again to God’s words in verse 6, doesn’t he seem just a little concerned?

If they have begun to do this… then nothing will be impossible for them?

What is God so worried about?

Let’s find out.

Monday 31 August 2009

2008 Reflections - Of First Importance

A report of the previous year in the English Ministry at the Chinese Church submitted for our annual review of 2008.

Remembering God’s grace

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance…

Every opportunity to recount God’s grace and God’s goodness leads us to praise God for His goodness. We are reminded to do this frequently. At times we are even commanded to do so.

This is not for the sake of nostalgia. In part it reflects how easily we forget. We often forget God’s mercies in history and in our lives. Forgetfulness leads to doubt which in turn leads to grumbling – an indication of ungratefulness and lack of faith.

But the Scriptures call us to remember not simply what, but who – who God is. His works reveal Himself – His character, His love and His grace. As with Abram in Genesis 12, God reveals himself, “I am the LORD…” and immediately reminds his servant of what he has done, “… who has brought you out… to give you this land.”

God reminds us of who he is – that we might know him better and trust him more fully. It is with joy in my heart and for the assurance of all our hopes in Christ that we now come to reflect and remember God’s goodness in 2008 – a year of God’s grace for God’s glory through God’s gospel.

Videos from Solid Rock 2009 Music Event

Tuesday 25 August 2009

Genesis 8: Total Recall

It was dark and frankly quite smelly. Everyone was shivering from the cold and damp. But no one dared complain. No one was thinking about themselves.

Everyone’s attention was drawn outside – outside the ark. Above us was the heavy splatter of rain on the roof. But all around us were the awful cries of people - men and women screaming for help. Some were pounding on the walls begging to be let in. Others were violent in their threats.

But God had shut us in. Just the eight of us; and the animals. We held on to each other tightly in the pitch darkness.

Water was lapping against the side of the hull. The wood creaked under the rising pressure. Before long the whole ark was shaking as waves began to crash against the thick walls of gopher wood.

Suddenly everything jerked forward. That last wave dislodged the ark from a fixed position it had held for 120 years. We were now swaying back and forth at the mercy of the increasing waters.

We could feel ourselves being lifted up higher and higher above the ground. The sound of pelting rain echoed through every level of the ark like a deafening roar. Even so, in the far distance, we could still make out shrieks and cries –younger men and women had fled to the mountains, though there were far fewer voices now. The sounds were all we had to go on. All we could see was darkness.

It was probably the second or third day when we realised that all we could hear was the rain. No more cries for help. No more pounding on the walls. Not even a bird in the sky. No more life. Just rain – constant rain. We knew we ought to be thankful to still be alive, to still have one another. But being inside the ark, here in the darkness – it felt more like being in a tomb than a lifeboat.

How do live through a tragedy? How do you make sense of life when you have been through a calamity that has caused so many deaths? What would you say to a survivor of a war, an earthquake or a tsunami?

Thursday 20 August 2009

Solid Rock T-shirts

We had T-Shirts made for the Solid Rock youth concert coming up next week and they arrived just this morning. Really excited getting them to the team this Sunday.

The words on the tees are taken from an old English hymn, "My Hope Is Built". The first verse goes like this:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus' blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus' name.

On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand;
all other ground is sinking sand.

Hallelujah! A song we just have to play standing up

God's grief, God's judgement, God's grace (Genesis 7)

The Flood

Taiwan sees a dozen typhoons this time of the year, but a recent tropical storm that hit the southern region last week on August the 4th caught everyone by surprise. Yesterday’s news report estimates the death toll at 500 due to extreme flooding and mudslides burying whole villages. The international media refer to the storm as “Typhoon Morakot”, but the locals in Taiwan know it by another name. They call it “Devil Typhoon”[1].

What was unusual about Typhoon Marakot was not the intensity of the rain, but its length. Three to four days of sustained rainfall resulted in flood levels reaching 2.5 meters. Worldwide, the typhoon affected tens of thousands in Japan and the Philippines, 1.5 million in Taiwan and 11 million people in eastern China.

Today we read the biblical account of a deluge that lasted not 4 days but 40 days and 40 nights. It was a flood which waters reached not roof tops but mountain peaks. In Genesis 7 we read the account of the flood and Noah’s ark.

In case you think this is just a story or a myth. Let me start by saying that accounts of the flood exist in just about every single culture, nation and religion. In India, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia, in China, Europe and the Americas[2] – civilizations the world over have some form of a great flood recorded in legend, scripture and history.

Sunday 2 August 2009

Solid Rock 2009

Monday 13 July 2009

Jesus, You are my Everything

God says I should not be afraid
He knows the things I like and hate
It's hard but it's not up to me
God says he's won the victory

Jesus, you are my everything
you are the Christ: the king!
to you this song I sing
Saviour, you paid the sacrifice
Upon the cross you died
To bring eternal life

Don't be afraid of what they say
Just live according to God's way
I know he hears me when I pray
I know God loves me every day


Sometimes when I am very bad
Sometimes when I am feeling sad
God's word reminds me of his love
His Son who came down from above


I won't be afraid no more
God is good and God is great

Jesus is my saviour
God is heavenly Papa!

Trust in God, don't disobey
Otherwise he'll kick your butt


Friday 3 July 2009

The Shame of God

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Philippians 1:20

Tuesday 30 June 2009

Who wants to live forever? (Genesis 3:14-24)

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned

Romans 5:12

What Paul is saying in this verse from Romans is simply this: All of us will die.

All men will die, because all men sin.

And yet, he says something very curious at the beginning. He says that before death came to us, it came to one man.

Because this one man sinned, death came through that sin, to all of us.

Paul is referring, of course, to the passage we read today. Genesis 3 speaks of this one man, Adam. It tells us of the first sin that resulted in the first judgement of death.

And yet, if you look at our passage today, death is not mentioned. True: death was promised by God back in Chapter 2 verse 17 as punishment for breaking his command. “You will surely die” says the LORD God.

But Adam and his wife, didn’t die. They were driven out of the garden, life was more difficult from that day onwards. But they continued to live and have children.

In fact, chapter 5 verse 4 tells us that Adam lived till he was 800 years old. So I guess, he did eventually, knock off. But that was 800 years; a whole chapter after Genesis 3.

So what does Paul mean when he says death came through Adam? What does the bible mean what when it speaks of our death?

We usually think of death as something in the future. But the bible speaks about death very frequently, very honestly – as a reality we live with every day.

So as we come to our study of Genesis 3 on the topic of “true death”, we approach it under 3 headings:

o Living with death

o Living in death

o Living through death

Living with death

So firstly: living with death.

What do I mean? Well, what is first of all evident as you read today’s passage, is how we see the effects of death in every day life. We see it in pain and suffering.

And that says to us, that even though death might seem distant and far away; for all of us pain and suffering is very near, very real and very personal.

For the woman, she experiences judgement through her pain in childbirth. Verse 16 tells us it is God who inflicts this pain on her – twice in fact the text says this.

Almost to drive home the point to the woman: for you, pregnancy will equate with pain. In her highest moment of joy and fulfilment – as a woman and a mother – she will experience her deepest struggle of agony.

Scholars tell us the words used here for “pain” is unique. In Hebrew, the word for “pain” sounds similar to the word for “tree”.

And God is saying to the woman, because of the “tree”, you will experience “trauma”. Because you “ate” from the tree I forbid you from eating, you will suffer “agony”.

We are meant to see that there is a reason for the particular punishment God delivers to the man and the woman. Pain is not an end, in and of itself. It points to something else. It points forward to God’s judgement: death, and it points back to the reason for that judgement: which is sin.

That is, we live with death when we live in pain. Pain is a daily reminder our impending death. We can try to ignore death, deny it, forget it, delay it; but pain and suffering will always serve as a spiritual alarm clock – waking us up to the reality of judgement.

It was true of the woman in child-bearing. At it is true of the man in his work.

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

Through painful toil you will eat of it

All the days of your life” (verse 17b)

For man, his work which he was created to do as a sign of his worship is now transformed into painful toil – a sign of his hardship.

Notice the reason why work will be hard for the man. The ground is cursed. It will produce (verse 18) thorns and thistles. Meaning: the creation will rebel against you.

In the same way that the man turned against God, so now the earth will turn against man.

The very thing man will spend his entire life doing, his job, his profession, his career – the very thing that defines so much of who we are; when we greet one another the first thing we ask is, “What do you do?”; “What’s your job?”

This very identity and purpose in man will riddled with hardship, stress and frustration.

And yet, man has no choice. Verse 17: you will eat of it all the days of your life. We have to work, because we have to eat, and we have to eat in order to live.

5 times in these 4 verses, the words “eat” or “ate” is used. Like the woman, the punishment fits the crime and serves as a reminder of the crime.

Every meal will remind the man of the mistake he made.

Sweat on his brow will remind him of his sin.

He used to be free to eat from any tree in the garden. Any tree except the one, and because he took from that one, now every tree is cursed.

Pain and hardship reminds us that we live with death every day.

Living in death

But secondly, we don’t just live with death; this passage teaches us that we live in death.

That is, pain is just a pointer to the true meaning of death, which is separation.

Firstly, the man and the woman are now separated from one another.

God says to the woman in verse 16:

“Your desire will be for your husband
and he will rule over you.”

At first glance, this does not look anything like separation. The woman will desire her husband. What is so bad about that?

Here the text is not talking about love. That word “desire” is found in 2 places in the bible, here is chapter 3; and only one other time in Chapter 4 verse 7.

There, God speaks to Cain and tells him, “Sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

It is the exact same expression found here in Genesis 3. The woman will desire to have her husband. She will covet not his love and affection, but his position, his honour and his status.

Like sin crouching at the door, she will want to control him; looking out for the right opportunity to strike.

But in the end, the man will win. He will “rule” over her. Using his strength, his intimidation: using fear and manipulation

This is the battle of the sexes. This is the beginning of marital strife.[1]

This is: wives all over the world saying of their husbands, “That idiot!”

“He can’t do a single thing right!”

“Useless, lazy man!”

“What does he know; doesn’t he realise that I am right and he is wrong?”

“I can do a better job than him

And this is husbands retaliating without having to say a single word. Instead, he just has to raise his voice; to raise his hand.

It is the stare and the pointed finger that sends the message, “Just try it. Go ahead. Don’t test my patience.”

This is marriage after the fall. Held together not by love, but lust, and separated by selfish desire and ambition.

Now, I just want to take a moment to address the few of us who are saying to themselves, “But that’s not me? That’s not my girlfriend/boyfriend, my wife/my husband?”

Friends, don’t kid yourselves. We only want to read Genesis 2 – the best marriage; but we ignore Genesis 3 – the rest of our marriages.

The rest of the bible, whenever it refers to Genesis 2 – whether it is Malachi 2, or 1 Cor 7 or Matthew 19 has God condemning man; rebuking men for their broken marriages.

Don’t be deceived. There is no way back to innocence. There is only a way forward to redemption – One way forward to the cross.[2]

We’ll come back to this later…

Living in denial

Secondly, the man and the woman are separated from life itself. We see this in verse 22:

And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

The man is separated from the means to eternal life. Kicked out of the garden and barred from re-entry.

But why? Why does God deny him this fruit?

Because we live in death. Death is not an end to our existence – death is separation.

Human beings do everything in their power to prolong their existence. And in many respects, we have been successful. More people live longer, more people live better.

At yet, more people die. More people kill one another. More marriages break up. More live in poverty, in war, in depression, sickness, oppression and strife.

We live in death. And all our efforts of prolonging our lives, through Pilates and pills, through cosmetics and cryogenics – prolong our experience of death. That’s all.

If anything, what we have been getting better at, is denying death.

Living in lies

And that’s the strategy of the serpent, isn’t it?

“You will not surely die!”

It’s not so bad. Don’t worry, be happy.

You can do it, you deserve it. You know you want it.

So just do it.

You will not surely die.

Jesus calls the devil the Father of lies. For he has been lying since the beginning, and he continues to lie to us even today

Revelation 12:9 talks of the ancient serpent, called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.

2 Cor 4:4 calls him the god of this age who has blinded the minds of unbelievers

1 John 5:19 says the whole world is under the power of the evil one

That is, the devil has no power except for his lies. And yet, we give him power, but believing his lies.

The lie that there is no death

The lie that there is no judgement

Or the greatest lie of all, there is no God

That is the essence of Romans 1, where Paul says that God’s anger and wrath are clearly seen. God has made it known, there is nothing hidden in terms of death, pain, sin and judgement. So that, verse 20: men are without excuse.

And yet, verse 28: since they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind.

The worst thing God can do to us, friends, is to let us go.

“Leave me alone! Don’t bother me!”

Say that loud enough, often enough. And God might just give you what you want.

We are separated from life, friends, because we are separated from God.

Living through death

What then is the solution?

The solution is there in Genesis 3, and I think it might surprise you when you read it.

Because: the solution is not outside of death. Life does not come to us, instead of death. According to Genesis 3, true life comes through death.

So, we read verse 15

“’And I will put enmity between you and the woman,

And between your offspring and hers;

He will crush your head,

And you will strike his heel.’”

Here we have here is the “proto-evangelium”. It is what theologians call, the first proclamation of the gospel. This is the first time, the gospel is found in the bible.

Notice: who is the first preacher of the gospel?
It is God!

And curiously enough, who does God preach the gospel to? He tells it to the serpent!

That is, the first proclamation of the good news is a picture of God pronouncing judgement.

Now, this is very different from what we think of the gospel today. We have gospel services, where we invite our friends and families. We have food, we put on a show so that everyone enjoys themselves, in hope that they come again. We tell them how wonderful it is to come into the Kingdom of God, where there is life, blessing and fulfilment.

But here we see that the first gospel is not about life. It speaks of death.

The first gospel is not given as a blessing, but a curse.

Firstly, God promises the destruction on Satan. He curses the serpent above the animals (verse 14). This is a reflection of verse 1, where the serpent is introduced as “more crafty” than all the animals. Now, God says if the serpent is to be more of anything – he is to be more damned!

But notice what this curse entails. “You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life.” Now, we are not meant to read this as a children’s story – this is not an etiological narrative – meaning: how the snake lost his legs. The Hebrew readers have never saw it that way – and neither should we.

Rather, the punishment is symbolic of utter humiliation and degradation. For all his days, the serpent will be lowly, never rising above anything or anyone else. More significantly, it reveals to us, the true nature of the devil’s sin. It is pride.

It reveals the true nature of our sin; the temptation from the devil to be proud – To want to be like God. To be looked at with honour and respect, to call the shots, to look down on others.

And God’s judgement awaits all those who oppose him in verse 15: He will crush your head.

But who is this “he”? Verse 15 tells us as well: it is the offspring of the woman.

That is why the woman is called Eve. Verse 20: says she would be the “mother of all the living”.

God promises that one of the descendants of Eve will reverse the judgement: One of her seed.

In the same way that the serpent caused judgement to come on man, so a man, a Son of Man will bring about the destruction of Satan.

So firstly, God promises the destruction of Satan, and all who oppose him. God promises the death of sin.

But secondly, God promises the death of God.

Verse 22:

And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us

But many years later, the bible will go on to tell us of the day when God became one of man; A day when God walked amongst man, as a human being.

Jesus Christ came as the God the Son, but would commonly be known amongst his followers as the Son of Man.

And when he was on earth, it seemed like he brought Heaven with him: Matthew describes him as preaching the gospel: the coming kingdom of God, he heals the sick – reversing the power of death; he speaks and the wind and the waves obey him – he has authority over creation.

But the real reason why we know the Jesus is the one promised by God in verse 15, in the “proto-evangelium”; why he is the serpent crusher; is because the bible speaks on the day when he himself was crushed.

What does verse 15 say?

He will crush your head

And you will strike his heel.

On the cross of Jesus Christ, God pronounces judgement on his Son. God forsakes God. Judgement comes on the earth, but it is poured out on him.

Jesus dies on the cross. Isaiah the prophet says of him,

But he was pierced for our transgressions,

he was crushed for our iniquities;

the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Friends, the gospel is not the gospel without judgement. Jesus says (Matt 9:12) it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Unless people see their sickness, until they are faced with the reality of judgement and death, they will not ask for forgiveness and eternal life.

And similarly for those of us who are Christians, when we forget the reality of death; when we leave it out of the gospel; we forget the preciousness of the life be paid for us.

Last week, when we took communion, 1 Cor 11 was read for us: it is always the same verse, for it is the same message. Why not take the time to reflect on what it actually says,

For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.

Or next week, when we come together to celebrate the baptism of our brothers and sisters in Christ. What will we see?

Changed lives? Better people?

Above the testimony of their lives – as wonderful as this is – but above the testimony of their lives, is the testimony of death: the death of Christ.

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Romans 6:3-4

What Paul says in Romans; what God says in Genesis 3 is simple and clear. Unless you are in the death of Christ, you will not have the life of Christ.

What is death? Well, Genesis 3 says you have a choice.

You can live now and die later. That’s the essence of Genesis 3. Living in death: separation from man; Living under death: separation from God.

But even this points to a greater and final death, at the judgement of Christ when he returns – The final death that awaits the serpent and all those who oppose God.

Or, you can die now in Christ, and live for God.

Acknowledging him as your Saviour, the one who was crushed for my sins and transgressions, and receiving new life through his resurrection.

Either way, the gospel speaks of both life and death. The only difference is whose life will you live, and whose death will you die.

Is it yours, or Christ’s?

[1] PD Jensen – “The promise of death”

[2] DA Carson – “Sin and the Fall”