Features, Highlights

There may be wrong interpretations, but … ‘Do not deny the truth of biblical doctrines’

ALDERSGATE CONVENTION SPEAKER Rev Duleep Fernando has reminded Methodists that they cannot deny the truth of biblical doctrines just because there are wrong interpretations.

Sometimes mainline church Christians speak disparagingly of those who claim to be “born again” Christians, he said. is is partly because of the shallow meaning those people give to being “born again”.

He said: “If you ask some of them what it means to be ‘born again’, they will say ‘You have to be born of water – which means being baptised by immersion – and ‘born of the Spirit’ – which means speaking in tongues. is is a totally distorted interpretation.

“Now just because there are wrong interpretations you cannot deny the truth of this biblical doctrine. Jesus said, ‘Unless a man is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.’”

The Rev Fernando said that water is a symbol of cleansing. To be born of water is to be cleansed of sin, to enter God’s kingdom.

“To see God’s power at work and his rule active in human life, you have to be forgiven of your sin. Jesus Christ died on the cross to forgive and His blood can cleanse us from all sin.

“To be born of the Spirit is to be baptised by the Spirit. It is God’s Spirit entering the life of a believer and taking control of it – changing his sinful nature and bringing it under the control of Jesus.

“This is repentance – to turn away from sin and self and to come under the control of God’s spirit. is is not cheap grace. You have to turn from sin and submit your life to the Lordship of Christ.

“There can be no rebels in the Kingdom of God, only those who bend their knees to the King and do His will. When the Spirit is in our life, we become new people with new attitudes, new desires and a new power to overcome sin.”

To reinforce this point, he quoted Scripture: “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things are passed away. Behold all things have become new.”

The Rev Fernando, a past President of the Methodist Church in Sri Lanka, was delivering his sermon at the Aldersgate Service at Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church 2 (TA 2) on May 24. Entitled

“A Heart Strangely Warmed – e Regenerating Spirit”, it was based on the text from John 16: 5-16.

The service marked the start of Aldersgate Convention 2012, an annual event for Methodists to affirm their unity in Christ as they gather to explore their Wesleyan heritage. In addition, there were two rallies, a pastors’ fellowship and a hymn festival which wrapped up the convention on May 27. The theme for this year’s four-day event was “ The Spirit-Filled Life”.

As in previous years, the Aldersgate Service began with a colourful procession of the bearers of the Cross, the Bible, banners of the Methodist Church in Singapore, the three Annual Conferences and General Conference Women’s Society of Christian Service, and the pastors with the Convention speaker and Bishop Dr Robert Solomon forming the rear.

As they made their way into the sanctuary, the congregation sang hymns and choruses to the rich accompaniment of Wesley Combined Choir and Wesley Soli Deo Ensemble.

In his sermon, the Rev Fernando spoke passionately about the meaning of the Cross. For many years, he said, John Wesley knew the meaning of the Cross and that Jesus had died for mankind. On Aldersgate Day, he applied this meaning to his own life, and was able to say, “ e Son of God loved me and gave Himself for me.” At the heart of this experience was the activity of the Holy Spirit.

“God, through the Holy Spirit, seeks us before we even seek Him. e Holy Spirit stirs us up to repent and accept God’s grace,” said the Convention speaker, adding: “ e Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, shows us true repentance and convicts us of judgment.”

He said “the Spirit opens our eyes to our sin. We see ourselves as we truly are in the sight of God.

“In the life of Christ, we see true righteousness and the Spirit reveals His glory. On the Cross, Jesus took our sin so that we might be made righteous. e great exchange was made. Our sin was taken by Christ on the Cross and His righteousness was imparted to us.

“The Cross shows that God does not ignore sin. He judges it. e sin of the world was punished as the Eternal Son of God died on the Cross. God’s demand for justice was satisfied, yet God also shows His love and mercy. He takes the punishment for sin on Himself.

“John Wesley often used the word ‘Justification’. We are justified by God – treated just as if we have not sinned. It’s a legal term – the judge finds the accused guilty and convicts him. en the judge removes his robes and goes to the prisoner’s bench and wears the prison clothes. He says, ‘I will take your place, I will bear your punishment, I will die your death. You can now go free.’ at was what Jesus did on that Cross.”

The Rev Fernando spoke at two rallies on the following two evenings – on “Scriptural Holiness – The Sanctifying Spirit” on May 25 and on “The World is My Parish – The Missionary Spirit” on May 26 (see Centrespread).

The Aldersgate Convention ended on a high note with many Methodists coming forward to enjoy an evening of lovely Wesleyan hymns at the Hymn Festival at TA 2 on May 27. Organised by the Methodist School of Music (MSM), the

Hymn Festival had wide participation from MSM staff, MSM Ringers (Handbell group), Paya Lebar Chinese Methodist Church Children’s Choir, Praise Choristers, Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church Children’s Choir and Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church Combined Choirs. Ms Judith Mosomos, Lecturer in Church Music at MSM, was the Festival Director.

After a warm Welcome Address by the MSM Chairman, Mr Chow Kok Fong, and Greetings and Prayer by Bishop Dr Solomon, the Hymn Festival began with the sombre music of Taize. ree girls, each holding a candle, then walked in from the two sides of the sanctuary and the central aisle.

Suddenly, the sombre mood gave way to a rousing rendition of Charles Wesley’s “Come, ou Everlasting Spirit” by the two Children’s Choirs to the lively accompaniment of the lilting piano and throbbing drums.

In keeping with the Aldersgate Convention’s theme, the festival provided reflections on “A Spirit-Filled Life” with Scripture reading, prayers, handbell ringing, congregational singing and presentations by the various choirs and musicians.

The congregation was totally taken aback when Mr Yeo Teck Beng, of Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church, recited three portions of Scripture without the aid of a Bible. First, he read from Ephesians 3:14-19, then Ephesians 4:3-5, and finally Ephesians 5:1-20.

This element of surprise brought added joy to the attendees as they talked about it during fellowship time at TA 2’s social hall after the festival ended.

Peter Teo is the Editor of Methodist Message.

Story: Peter Teo ■ Methodist Message pictures: Daniel Lie