Corner of Crown & Albion Streets, Surry Hills, NSW, Australia
Photo by Albert Chiu



The stained glass windows of CPC's auditorium.

Pastoral Letter 21st February 2021

牧聲 二零二一年二月二十一日
Rev. Christopher Chan

“Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! …do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to Him as an instrument of righteousness.” Rm 6:1-2;12-13

After explaining that salvation has been made possible through Christ, Paul anticipates a thought that would have entered the mind of the Christian, both in his day and today: If salvation is by God’s grace through faith, why worry too much about sinning in satisfying our fleshly desires? Our sins would be forgiven and this would even make God’s grace appear more abundant? The apostle’s answer is most emphatic: “By no means!”. The reasoning that follows is in the context of master-slave relationship which was prevalent in Paul’s days. If I could take the liberty to paraphrase Paul, it is as if he is saying “Who do you think you are?”, (as I asked on Vision Sunday), “don’t you know that if you yield to sin, it will reign in your life and capture you as it’s slave? You have been redeemed by Christ, so, know who you are and offer yourselves to serve God and His righteousness.”

COVID is a virus. A virus can invade a host’s cell by injecting its viral DNA into the latter, and alter the cell chemistry completely to reproduce the virus instead of the host’s protein. The infected cell, full of virus cells, will subsequently burst and release them to invade other cells of the host. The host is subdued to serve the virus, in effect, becoming a slave of the virus until the host eventually dies. That is a good illustration for how sin works in our lives. If not confessed and dealt with by repentance, sin progressively takes control of our lives and multiply inside us, like a virus. This is seen in King David’s situation. He did not deal with his adultery with Bathsheba, pretending it did not exist. This sin caused him to commit the greater sins of treachery and murder. Until he confessed and repented, he was a total slave to sin.

Australia and New Zealand have been doing exceptionally well compared to many other countries in controlling COVID. Much of this achievement can be attributed to the quick and decisive action taken to manage even minor outbreaks, such as what has been happening in Melbourne this past week – total lockdown of the city on account of 13 cases of infection. The virus is just not given the opportunity to spread. Otherwise, what has been happening in the US can occur here, the infection growing quickly to an extent that it dominates us totally.

Rightly so, we place great emphasis on the doctrine of Justification by Faith – a central doctrine of the Gospel. However, the evil one could use this to make us think that, under grace, sin is no big deal, and we can become blasé about repeated sinning and routine confession. The broken spirit and contrite heart (Ps 51:17) that mark true repentance are growing progressively insensitive.

The vaccine for the COVID of sin is not a once-for-all jab, but constant abidance in Christ, as if we are now God’s slave, always ready to do His will for the love of Him because of what Christ has done for us by grace.

I pray that we all have the fear and precautionary attitude towards sin as we do COVID, and desire the vaccine that only the Lord can give.

『這樣,怎麼說呢?我們可以仍在罪中、叫恩典顯多嗎? 斷乎不可!……不要容罪在你們必死的身上作王,使你們順從身子的私慾。也不要將你們的肢體獻給罪作不義的器具;倒要像從死裡復活的人,將自己獻給神,並將肢體作義的器具獻給神。』羅馬書 6:1-2;12-13

保羅解釋了基督怎樣為人類成全救恩後,他預料到不論是在當日或至今天的基督徒的心裡面都會有這樣的想法:既然得救是本乎神的恩典, 並憑着信心而得著,那我們為何要太憂慮為着滿足私慾而犯罪呢?我們的罪豈不是到頭來都會得赦免,而也可能因此讓神的恩典更加顯得豐盛?使徒的答案是斬釘截鐵的:「斷乎不可!」接下去解釋的原因,就引用保羅當時社會裡很普遍的主人與奴僕的關係。如果我可以大膽的把保羅所說的詮釋,他好像就是說:「你以為你是誰呀?(就是我在異象主日所問大家的),你豈不知道你若對罪屈服,它便會主宰你的一生,把你俘虜成為奴隸嗎?你已被基督救贖了,所以你要知道你是誰,也要把自己獻上,服侍主和祂的義。」

新冠肺炎是一種病毒所引至的疾病。病毒能夠把其 DNA注入宿主(人的)細胞裡,完全改變細胞的化學進程,使宿主不再製造自己身體的蛋白質,而變成製造更多的病毒。被感染的細胞,充滿著病毒,有朝一日會爆裂,排出多倍的病毒入侵宿主身體其他的細胞。宿主現受了控制不能不效勞病毒,就好像成了它的奴隸一樣,直到宿主死亡為止。這是一個解釋罪如何把持我們的生命之好例子。倘若我們不認罪悔改,罪就會一步一步掌控我們的生命,也會在我們裡面發大,好像病毒一般。這在大衛王的情況中清楚可見。他沒有對付與拔示巴行淫的罪,反而裝作沒有發生一樣。這罪導致他犯更嚴重的罪,就是背信棄義和謀殺。直至他認罪悔改,他完完全全是一個罪的奴隸。

在控制疫情方面,澳洲和新西蘭比較很多其他國家都做得出色。這個成功不少可歸功於快而果斷的管制決定,即或是很小規模的爆發— 像過去這個星期墨爾本只有十三個染疫個案,便引至全面封城,一點也不容許病毒有機會傳播。否則,在美國發生的染疫情況,就很有機會在這裡發生,感染的情況會全面操控我們。

理所當然,我們常常都很著重因信稱義的教義 — 福音的核心教義。不過,魔鬼卻可以利用這個教義,讓我們誤以為在恩典之下,罪沒有甚麼大不了,以致我們容易不斷犯罪,又例行公事地認罪,漸漸地,真悔改所須有那憂傷的靈和痛悔的心(詩51:17)也變得毫無感覺了。


我祈禱神讓我們都有如對疫症一樣,對罪有著懼怕和警覺的態度, 並渴慕着唯主能賜的疫苗。

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