THE ANCIENT PATH

By Pr Chris Kam, Senior Pastor of Damansara Utama Methodist Church

In today’s great cry for meaning and importance in our lives, are we walking in the right paths? Are we defining significance in the right way?

I believe the greatest cry of people today is for significance in their lives; for having the integrity to honestly live out their lives in alignment with what they think is good and meaningful. There is an old English idiom that says that “an Englishman’s home is his castle.” It suggests that people are free to do whatever they want to in their own home, and no one should tell them what to do there. The question I am asking is, are we the same man at home compared with the one outside? This is an issue of integrity and someone defined integrity as what you do when no one is watching. Imagine stopping at a red traffic light at five in the morning with no one watching and no car in sight. What would you do? Imagine now what you are at home, with no one watching. The opposite of integrity is hypocrisy.

Jesus has called us to a higher standard of integrity and if you have been reading the Gospels, you would realise by now He had some really strong words to say about hypocrisy. He rebuked the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, the religious leaders who seemed to hold such a moral high ground. Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs, beautiful on the outside but on the inside full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.”  (Matthew 23:27). What a rebuke!

This pandemic has allowed us much more time to be at home and there may be a lot more quieter moments for introspection. This is an opportune time to look deeper into ourselves. We need to allow the Word of God to change us every day as it is key to growth and maturity.

“1 Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:1–3)

Jesus says here that as followers of Christ, be on your guard, watch out, that hypocrisy will not be like the yeast that spreads within and corrupts not only you, but others around you as well. Hypocrisy is living a double life and the warning is that you will be exposed one day. We will be held accountable for all that has happened in our lives, including those things done in the dark and in secret. Hence, we are called to live a life of integrity, not that we are perfect, but we are real and humble enough to admit and repent when we are wrong. That is the heart God is looking for. A true life of freedom is when we have nothing to hide, nothing to fear, nothing to lose and nothing to prove. 

Apostle Luke recorded this story of Jesus: When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’” (Luke 19:45–46)

Jesus was incredibly angry at the misuse of His Father’s house for the purpose of business. People were driven by greed and the poor were exploited. The religious leaders were making money off the system by buying and selling animals for sacrifice, thus making the temple a den of robbers. This was religious hypocrisy at its worst.

It was about losing the spirit of what it was meant to be. How easy it is for us to fall into a man-made system and act out of dubious motivation. We may even look religious on the outside, but powerless on the inside (2 Timothy 3:5).

Jesus in His anger quoted from two ancient texts: Isaiah 56:7 and Jeremiah 7:11. This is a call to return to the basics and in this pandemic, God is calling us to return, to re-align and to re-calibrate our lives to Him.

The call of the Prophet Jeremiah was the same – to return to the ancient path.

“This is what the Lord says: ‘Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (Jeremiah 6:16)

There are three lessons or paths here.

  1. The Reflection Path

Stand at the crossroads and look

Any one of us who has gone on a hiking trip would have come to a crossroad and we would look for a well-worn path, showing that many had gone through that and it is a safe path. Often to be sure, the park rangers would even put a sign to tell us which way to take.

When we come to such a path, we are told to look.  We could either turn towards God or to the path of self-destruction. Perhaps you are at a crossroad in your marriage, your business, your moral convictions, your career, or a critical decision. Churches are at a crossroad. Our nation is at a crossroad. What are these ancient paths? They are the path of righteousness.

  1. The Ancient Path

…ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is…

Our post-modern world offers lots of new paths. It tends to imply that old is bad. Old does not mean outdated or irrelevant. Prophet Jeremiah told us to stick to the old ancient paths, to the paths and choices outlined by our Creator-God and in His Word. There is a tendency for us to look for something new, something more convenient, easier, when what is needed is the timeless truth that works. What is that old way? It is the way of the Lord in the Scriptures and not some feel-good, convenient and watered-down motivational preaching. It may not be an easier way and will require absolute commitment.

When we move away from the ancient paths, we move at our peril and God will often stumble us to bring us back. What are these biblical ancient paths? If we were to strip everything down to the basic essentials of what we need to do as Christians and as a church, it can be summed up in two simple mandates.

And this is the third path.

  1. The Obedience Path

…and walk in it…

The first mandate is “The Great Commandment”.

“’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” (Mark 12:30-31)

The second mandate is “The Great Commission”.

“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, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19–20)

Anything that does not contribute to these is not worth doing. When we walk in these ancient paths, we will find rest for our souls. Will you take this season to look deep inside yourself to see whether or not you are on the right path? 

 

About Damansara Utama Methodist Church

Damansara Utama Methodist Church (DUMC) is widely respected as a church for all generations—an exciting community of families, senior citizens, young adults, teenagers, and young children, doing life together. Its primary purpose is to build passionate disciples of Jesus Christ, summed up in their tagline ‘Love God, Serve People, Make Disciples’. To find out more about them, visit their website at http://dumc.my/.