Saturday, April 30, 2016

Paul who was sent away by Jesus

1 Timothy 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, according to the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. 

Paul was clear about his identity as a person who was sent away by Jesus the Messiah, according to God who saved Paul. 

Paul introduces himself as an apostle (apostolos in Greek) which derives from apostello. It consists of apo and stello. Apo means "away from" and stello means "send."

Therefore, apostello or apostle means someone who has been sent away (by someone). In his case, as in the case of all the other apostles, he was sent by Jesus Christ.

Matthew 28:19
  • Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Great Commission could also be called "the Great Apostello." An apostle is a commissioned person who is sent on a mission by God.

It is important to note that the Great Commission was not only for the apostle Paul, and the eleven disciples but also for all of us.

Remember what Jesus said, following the Great Commission in Matthew 28:20.
  • "teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

This commandment of Jesus includes the Great Commission itself!

Jesus also prayed this way in John 17:15-21
  • 15 I do not ask that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from evil. 
  • 16 They are not of the world, as I am not of the world. 
  • 17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. 
  • 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also sent them into the world; 
  • 19 and for them I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
  • 20 But I do not ask for these only, but also for those believing in Me through their word, 
  • 21 that all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

God the Father sent Jesus into the world. Jesus also sent his disciples into the world. This prayer of Jesus was not for his disciples only but for us as well who believed in Jesus through the word of the disciples of Jesus who descended from the disciples of Jesus before them throughout the centuries.

Jesus also prayed for more workers into his mission of salvation.

Luke 10:2
  • And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Matthew 9:37, 38
  • Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

I do not mean that we all have to go somewhere as missionaries (apostles in a more literal sense), for we know that 1 Corinthians 12:29 says,
  • Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles?

Not all of us are sent away somewhere else in a geographically different location physically. However, we have all been called by God to be his witnesses whether it be through our love, word, deed and motive. In that sense, we have been sent away by Jesus to be his witnesses. We are, in a spiritual sense, apostles. We are Jesus' witnesses wherever we live, because the Holy Spirit lives in us.

Peter said in Acts 2:38, 39
  • And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off (Gentiles, us), everyone whom the Lord our God calls to Himself.”

And we know what happened when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus' disciples in Acts 1:8.
  • But you will receive power, the Holy Spirit having come upon you, and you will be my witnesses, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth."

We are like Paul in that God called us to Himself to be Jesus' witnesses. The Holy Spirit has come upon us, just as He did on Jesus' disciples, when we believed in Jesus. We are Jesus' witnesses wherever we live and wherever God leads us to.

We are the apostles (sent away by God, whether it be in a spiritual sense, or more literal physical sense) like Paul, called by God to be Jesus' witnesses, and we have had the Holy Spirit come upon us, helping us to be the witnesses of God.

Notice how frequently Paul uses the title, "apostle," in his letters when he introduces himself to his congregations in different parts of the world. His other favourite titles to designate himself were "a servant and prisoner for Christ." These titles were used in all his letters except, the Thessalonians which were his early letters.

Romans 1:1
  • Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,

1 Corinthians 1:1
  • Paul, a called apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes, our brother.

2 Corinthians 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother

Galatians 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead

Ephesians 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1:1
  • Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons.

Colossians 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother.

1 Thessalonians 1:1
  • Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.

2 Thessalonians 1:1
  • Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Timothy 1:1
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus, according to the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope. 

2 Timothy
  • Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus.

Titus
  • Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness.

Philemon
  • Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus, and Timothy our brother, To Philemon our beloved fellow worker.

Additional resource: What is an apostle?

1 Timothy

1 Timothy 1:1  Paul was sent away by Jesus

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Luke

Mark

Malachi

Zechariah

Haggai

Zephaniah

Habakkuk

Nahum

Micah

Jonah

Amos

Obadiah

Joel

Hosea

Daniel

Ezekiel

Lamentations

Jeremiah

Jeremiah 1:19  God's Presence

Isaiah

Isaiah 26:9 My soul yearns for you

Song of Solomon

Ecclesiastes

Proverbs

Job

Esther

Nehemiah

Ezra

2 Chronicles

1 Chronicles

2 Kings

1 Kings

2 Samuel

1 Samuel

Ruth

Judges

Joshua

Numbers

Leviticus

Exodus

Genesis

Monday, April 18, 2016

Humble

Deuteronomy 8:2
  • And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

עָנָה – anah, put down (humble)

If we break this word into each letter with their respective meanings. We have something like the following meaning.

עָ (eye) - ayin, watch

נָ (seed, heir) - nun, son

ה (man with arms raised)- hey, reveal

Watch the son with his arms raised. It is the picture of a son with his arms raised like a little child holding his arms up, wanting his father's embrace.

Matthew 18:3-5 (BLB)
  • “Truly I say to you, if you are not converted and become as the little children, you shall never enter into the kingdom of the heavens. Therefore whoever will humble himself as this little child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of the heavens. And whoever shall receive one such little child in My name, receives Me.

Of course, Jesus, the Son of God, was crucified on the cross where his arms were raised. Humility is exemplified by our Lord Jesus on the cross.

עָנָה means to put down or humble. The ultimate, true humility was displayed by our Lord Jesus who was humbled on the cross. God in human flesh was put down and humbled to the despicableness of the Roman cross for our sins.

If we seek humility, we need to watch the Son with his arms raised on the cross.

Deuteronomy 8:2

Deuteronomy 8:2

And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not.

וְזָכַרְתָּ֣ אֶת־כָּל־הַדֶּ֗רֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֨ר הֹלִֽיכֲךָ֜ יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ זֶ֛ה אַרְבָּעִ֥ים שָׁנָ֖ה בַּמִּדְבָּ֑ר לְמַ֨עַן עַנֹּֽתְךָ֜ לְנַסֹּֽתְךָ֗ לָדַ֜עַת אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֧ר  בִּֽלְבָבְךָ֛ הֲתִשְׁמֹ֥ר [מִצְוֹתֹו כ] (מִצְוֹתָ֖יו ק) אִם־לֹֽא׃

וְזָכַרְתָּ֣ - zakar, remember

כָּל־ - kol, all

דְּרָכַ֫יִם - derek, way

הָלַך - halak, go

יְהוָ֧ה - yhvh, God

אֱלֹהִים - elohim, God

אַרְבָּעִים - arbaim, forty

מִדְבָּר - midbar, desert

עָנָה - anah, put down (hubmle)

נָסָה - nasah, test, try

יָדַע - yada, know

לֵבָב - lebab, heart

שָׁמַר - shamar, keep

מִצְוָה - mitsvah, commandments

אּם - im, if (or)

לֹא - lo, not

Deuteronomy

Deuteronomy  8:2
Deuteronomy  8:2 Humble
Deuteronomy  16:1

Deuteronomy 16:1

“Observe the month of Abib and keep the Passover to the LORD your God, for in the month of Abib the LORD your God brought you out of Egypt by night.

שָׁמֹור֙ אֶת־חֹ֣דֶשׁ הָאָבִ֔יב וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ פֶּ֔סַח לַיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כִּ֞י בְּחֹ֣דֶשׁ הָֽאָבִ֗יב הֹוצִ֨יאֲךָ֜ יְהוָ֧ה אֱלֹהֶ֛יךָ מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם לָֽיְלָה׃

שָׁמוֹר֙ - shamar, keep

חֹ֣דֶשׁ - chodesh, month

הָאָבִ֔יב - abib, Abib (month of Exodus and passover; fresh, young ears of barley)

וְעָשִׂ֣יתָ - asah, accomplish (do)

פֶּ֔סַח - pesach, passover

הוֹצִ֨יאֲךָ֜ - yatsa, go or come out

מִמִּצְרַ֖יִם - Mitsrayim, Egypt

לָֽיְלָה׃ - layil, night

Power

1 Corinthians 4:20

οὐ γὰρ ἐν λόγῳ ἡ βασιλεία τοῦ Θεοῦ, ἀλλ’ ἐν δυνάμει.

ou gar en logō hē basileia tou Theou all' en dunamei

Not indeed, in word the kingdom of God (is), but in power.

Or, Indeed the kingdom of God (does) not (consist) in word(talk) but in power.

δυνάμει - dunamei, power

δύναμις (dunamis) translated as power occurs 120 times in the New Testament. It means "able, having ability" or "ability to perform" and for the believer, more properly, "power through God's ability" as per the HELPS Word-studies definition. It is also translated as "miracles" or "miraculous power."

For example, "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles(dunamis; power)?'" in Matthew 7:22 (NIV).

And "And he did not do many miracles (dunamis; power) there because of their lack of faith." in Matthew 13:58 (NIV).

When Paul talks about dunamis or power, it is almost always in reference to the power of God, not the power of men. That is whether it be physical power or spiritual power, i.e. physical power in reference to miracles, or spiritual power in reference to saving power of God.

1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) talks about God's power to save us, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power (dunamis) of God."

Also, we should note that the "power" of God is the "word of the cross."

In 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, "But we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God."

Jesus Himself is also the power of God.

We also need to note in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5, Paul goes on to say "and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

Paul contrasts the two opposing ideas or concepts, namely, plausible words of wisdom of men versus the power of God. And we have, from the previous verses, concluded that the power of God that Paul talks about in this letter is "the word of the cross" and "Jesus Christ Himself."

Therefore if we go back to our initial verse at the beginning of this entry.

Indeed the kingdom of God (does) not (consist) in (plausible) word(s of wisdom of men) but in power (of God, our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, the word of the cross).

I Stand At the Door and Knock

Revelation 3:20
  • Ἰδοὺ ἕστηκα ἐπὶ τὴν θύραν καὶ κρούω· ἐάν τις ἀκούσῃ τῆς φωνῆς μου καὶ ἀνοίξῃ τὴν θύραν, εἰσελεύσομαι πρὸς αὐτὸν καὶ δειπνήσω μετ’ αὐτοῦ καὶ αὐτὸς μετ’ ἐμοῦ.
  • Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (ESV)

Luke 12:35-38

35 Be dressed in readiness, and keep your lamps lit.

36 "Be like men who are waiting for their master when he returns from the wedding feast, so that they may immediately open the door to him when he comes and knocks.

37 "Blessed are those slaves whom the master will find on the alert when he comes; truly I say to you, that he will gird himself to serve, and have them recline at the table, and will come up and wait on them.

38 "Whether he comes in the second watch, or even in the third, and finds them so, blessed are those slaves.

Sin and Grace

Romans 6:1
  • What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?

Many of us who claim to be Christians live this life as if there is no God. We live according to what we think is right rather than what God says is right.

Many of us still live in sin, envy, hatred, unforgiveness, lust, adultery, fornication, idolatry, love of money, greed, dishonouring parents, stealing what is copyrighted, lying and neglect.

We think and naively believe that God will, of course, forgive me for all the evil that I continue to do and practice.

Paul asks us this question in Romans, "what shall we say after God has forgiven us of all our sins listed above as examples? Shall we continue to sin as grace will abound as God forgives us our evil thoughts, words, deeds and motives for the rest of our lives?"

Paul says in the next verse, "By no means we should live in sin for the rest of our lives! How can we who died to sin still live in these horrible sins that resulted in crucifixion of the Son of God?"

Paul's answer is clear. No, we cannot live in sin because we have died to sin. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, we died on the same cross in Jesus. When He rose from the dead, we rose with Him.

Romans 8:10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Our bodies are dead because of sin if Christ is in us.

We must not be deceived. God says in 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."

And Revelation 22:15, "Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and the sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."

And Galatians 5:19-21 "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God."

And Ephesians 5:5, "For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God."

And 1 Timothy 1:9-11, "understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted."

Hebrews 12:14-17, "Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears."

Let us examine ourselves. Philippians 2:12-13, "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Sin has no dominion over me

Romans 6:12-14
  • Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

We note that Paul is urging us to not let sin reign in our mortal bodies to make us obey sin's passions. He also tells us to not present our eyes, mouth, ears, hands and legs as instruments for unrighteousness.

Sometimes, we think that Christianity is just about believing the right things which, of course, is very important. But more than that, we need to obey God's word and follow Him, taking our cross daily walking with God.

God has decreed what He has decreed as above. And we are to follow Him exactly as he told us as above. This is obedience and there is power in God's word that makes us obedient. We obey God when we realise that our bodies are not ours but God's. When we also realise that our old body is dead to sin through Jesus' death, we have the right to not obey sin's passions. Instead we follow and obey God's passions.

God wants the best for us.

1 John 5:3 "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome."

Loving God leads to obedience to God. When we love God, his commandments are not burdensome.

Romans

Romans 6:1  Sin and Grace
Romans 6:5  Union with Christ
Romans 6:12-14  Sin has no dominion over me

Union with Christ

Romans 6:5
  • "If we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his."

Paul talks about our union with Christ in this verse. Those of us who believe in Jesus have died with him when he died on the cross 2000 years ago. Just as we have died with him in his death, we shall also be resurrected just like he was resurrected on the third day 2000 years ago.

Even though our life course contains many different events, trials and joys. All of us who belong to Christ have the same beginning and end. First, death and then resurrection.

By faith, when we believe in Jesus, we are freed from dominion of sin as we have died in Jesus' death on the cross. We were on that cross in Jesus 2000 years ago. Since we died in Jesus on the cross and have been freed from dominion of sin, we live and walk in the new state of life. This new life is different to the life we lived before we became convinced of our death in Jesus. This new life we live, we live to God, just as Jesus died to free us from sin, and resurrected to live the new life to God without the dominion of death over him.

Jesus is the true pattern for us. Our death and our resurrection are typified in Jesus' death and resurrection.

We died when Jesus died and we will be resurrected just as Jesus rose from the dead on the third day so that sin and death would lose all their power over us completely, just as Jesus' death and resurrection were complete for our salvation and resurrection.

The dog returns to its own vomit

2 Peter 2:20
  • For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first.

This is what should never happen to us who have come to know Christ. A lot of churchgoers fall into this category. Many who walk on the broad road belong to this category.

Many of us who have come to know Christ have also escaped the defilements of the world. Our way of thinking and our desire have accordingly changed to that pleases God. However, many of us do fall back into our old habits, and some do repent and return back to the narrow road and follow their cross daily. However, on the other hand, some people do go back to their old way of life and get entangled in the defilement of the world again.

1 John 2:16 says, "For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world."

Many of us do yield to our flesh and desires of our eyes, coveting something we don't have and striving to get that which we believe would satisfy us, rather than relying on God to satisfy us. We strive to excel in what we do, and beat others in this competition of life, so that we would feel proud of our achievements and feel superior to others who did not do as well as we did. We seek pride just as Satan did.

The prime example of someone who did get entangled in the defilements of the world again was Demas. "For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica," 2 Timothy 4:10.

The world offers so much and it is alluring. However, we know that, "the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." according to 1 John 2:17. Even the sinful desires are passing away with this current world.

But some of us do change our minds again, i.e. repent, and come back to the Lord, and kneel before him and ask for forgiveness. 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

2 Peter 2:21, "For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them."

Hebrews 10:26, 27, "for if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries."

Hebrews 10:29, "How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?"

2 Peter 2:22, "what the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”"

Proverbs 26:11, "Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly."

So this is a saying for unbelievers who are in the guise of believers. Am I like what is described above? We need to fear and take heed of the Paul's admonition. "Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" 2 Corinthians 13:5.

2 Peter

2 Peter 1:5-7  Sure way to the entrace to Heaven
2 Peter 2:20  The dog returns to its own vomit

Sure way to the entrace to Heaven

2 Peter 1:5-7
  • For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.

These verses in 2 Peter chapter 1 list qualities that should be evident in ourselves. The verse 5 starts off saying "For this very reason." It refers to the verses that preceded, namely, verses 3 and 4. In summary, through God's precious and great (mega) promises, we become partners like Peter, the apostle, taking after our God.

Here is the mystery, God promised that we will take after our God. However, we must also strive for these qualities listed above as well.

The Greek translated as "Make every effort" can also be more literally translated as "personally carry through with your speedy diligence."

And "supplement" can be more literally translated as "lavishly supply." Therefore, we are to lavishly supply to our faith (God's persuasion), virtue (lit. moral excellence).

And lavishly supply to moral excellence, knowledge (of God through the word of God in Christ Jesus through the Holy Spirit).

Moreover, to knowledge, self-control (lit. mastery within; or Spirit-control or Spirit's work in us).

Moreover, to "mastery within," steadfastness (lit. remaining under; enduring or remaining under the challenges and trials that God allows in our lives).

Moreover, to "remaining under," godliness (lit. reverence/devotion to God, which are outwardly expressed as a result of our heart-response to all that who God is and what God has done, is doing and will do.)

Moreover, to "godliness," brotherly affection (lit. philadelphia; philos+adelphos= love for fellow believers/siblings/brothers and sisters in God).

Moreover, to "love for our brothers and sisters in God," love (agape) which, of course, is used commonly in the Bible, especially when referring to God's love for us.

Agape in Greek also has the connotation of preference. God prefers us. We prefer God over idols. Also, in the Christian sense, it connotes choice/decision to focus on, pay attention to, and choose to give myself to someone for their benefit. Of course, agape was most amazingly displayed by our Lord Jesus and pictured unmistakably on the cross where Jesus gave Himself for us because He preferred to give Himself up for us rather than preferring to stay and withhold Himself from us.

The qualities listed above, I believe, in one sense among others, display our spiritual journey or growth or sanctification.
  1. Firstly, we become convinced of Jesus' death for our sins and persuaded by His divine love -> Faith
  2. Secondly, with faith, we repent and do the things that God wants and likes, and do not do the things that God hates -> moral excellence
  3. Thirdly, with moral excellence, we learn more about God, His word, His promises and also learn more about the gospel of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. -> Knowledge
  4. Fourthly, with knowledge, we still sin, and then we cry and repent and do these things over and over again each day or each week or each year. Some people take many years before they reach the stage of self-control. We realise that we have been living this life mostly according to what we think is right, rather than according to God's word and commandments. Then, we finally become alarmed that we cannot live like this any longer. Even if one has all the knowledge of the Bible, if one has no self-control, they are on their way to destruction because "1 John" is clear, "no one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him." One asks oneself, "have I really been saved?" Then, we read the Bible again (knowledge), and we learn that we must submit ourselves to the Lord's will, and hate the world. Therefore, we cut ourselves from the world and it hurts. So much entertainment and fun from the world beckon and allure us to its enticing pleasure. However, we know, there is no fun in that for true Christians because God has really changed our hearts from the heart of stone to a heart that really pumps and responds to God (Ezekiel 36:26). Now, I am increasingly in full measure exposed to the Holy Spirit's control. -> self-control / mastery within through the Spirit. (I believe I am at this stage where I am still struggling a lot, yielding and submiting myself to the Spirit's control)
  5. Fifthly, with Spirit's control, God can more readily allow trials and suffering in our lives. We endure and remain under the trials and challenges that God allows in our lives. We do not leave God because we know that we have no other hope apart from the hope of God. We get no comfort from the world. We get comfort from God, and we are comforted by God and in God. Through suffering, Jesus is more gloriously manifested in our lives. Jesus displayed Himself through many martyrs and suffering saints of His.
    1. Acts 14:22 "through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
    2. 1 Thessalonians 3:3 "that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this."
    3. Philippians 1:29 "For it has been granted to you for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also suffer for his sake"
  6. Sixthly, with steadfastness in Christ under suffering, we display our brotherly affection. In the times of trials, we show our affection in deeper and personal ways. We understand what our fellow believers are going through. And this love is seen by non-believers who not only are surprised by our hope and joy in the midst of trials but also get drawn to what or who our hope and joy is, namely, our Lord Jesus.
  7. Seventhly, with affection among brothers and sisters in Christ, we also learn to display agape, our God's sacrificial love. Jesus' love is more readily displayed by us who love each other in the midst of trials and suffering in tribulation. 1 John 4:12 says, "no one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us."

Finally, with agape, 2 Peter 1:10 and 11 say,

  • Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Cursed are those who rely on works of the law

Galatians 3:10
  • “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.””

We need to watch out for two false tendencies we may be inclined to follow in our Christian walk. These are legalism and antinomianism.

Through legalism, we may falsely believe, we’ll only be saved if we follow the law of God really well.

Through legalism, we may falsely believe that by doing good works and avoiding and not doing any bad, evil works, we hope and think that God would somehow judge my good works against my bad, evil works, and decide to let me in to the heaven, because of the fact that I did more good works than bad, evil works and my heart was sincere in doing these good works as opposed to doing many bad, evil works.

This is legalism. Legalism cannot save us. Only FAITH in Jesus can.

On the other hand, we may falsely believe that since good works cannot save us and we have been freed from the law by death of Jesus on the cross, we may become careless about what we think, say and do everyday.

We may falsely believe, through antinomianism, carelessly think, say and do evils things, believing that good works cannot save us anyway.

This is antinomianism which proves that we are not following the desires of the Holy Spirit but rather following the desires of the flesh. And Galatians 5:21 states,
  • “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

There is a danger of believing that as long as I believe in Jesus, doing the works of the flesh listed above is not serious. However, it is, in fact, a very serious matter. If you do these things, the Bible is very clear about what happens to you. If you do these things, you will not inherit the kingdom of God. Instead, you will face the judgment of God and consequently, damnation.

It is important to remember that we are not saved, by God, by not doing those things listed above.

Galatians 3:10 “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.””
But rather, Galatians 3:11 says, “Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Galatians 2:16
  • “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.“

Throw away legalism and antinomianism.

The righteous shall live by faith.

John

John 3:36  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life
John 14:18  We're not orphans

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life

John 3:36
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

This is an important verse in regards to the question of salvation. I have talked about this in my previous post that we must guard ourselves against antinomianism while shunning legalism.

In this verse in John’s gospel, Jesus first mentions that we must believe in the Son to have eternal life. There is no question about how we are saved. We are saved by believing in Jesus. Now, faith in Greek is pistis. It means “to be persuaded.” Therefore, faith for us is God’s work. It is God’s divine persuasion for us. God inbirths faith in us through his persuasion.

Now, what are we persuaded of? We are persuaded of Jesus’ saving work on the cross for our sins and His lordship over us.

On the other hand, “whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

In this verse, the phrase translated as “does not obey” in Greek is apeitheó which means “refuse to be persuaded.”

Therefore, whoever refuses to be persuaded by God will not see life but the wrath of God remains on them. The wrath of God refers to his constant, fixed disposition against someone or something considered by God as unjust, and evil.

We, sometimes, think that evil means being someone like “Hitler” or someone who commits a heinous crime. However, the Bible’s definition of evil is much more broad. Unbelief itself is sin, therefore evil. Romans 14:23 says, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This means anything we do that does not proceed from His persuasion(faith) is sin. Consequently, this also means if we are not careful to listen to God’s voice, or hear from God’s word, we may be doing things in our own ways which, of course, is sin and evil.

Therefore, faith and obedience are very closely linked. Faith inevitably leads to obedience. This is why you cannot be a believer and antinomian at the same time because a true believer will obey the commandments of the Lord.

Believers are people who have been divinely persuaded (therefore through the Bible or God’s word) to follow God’s commandments. Therefore, pistis (faith, God’s persuasion) leads to obedience. Inversely, if we see someone who pays careful attention to God’s word and follows His teaching as written in the Bible, we can see that that person is divinely persuaded by God or has faith.

Faith can only come from hearing (therefore, being persuaded by God).

Romans 10:17
  • “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

On the other hand, someone who does not read the word of God nor pays any careful attention to His teaching, therefore does things according to what they think is right rather than what God says is right but claim to believe in Jesus, what are we to say about this? They refuse to be persuaded by God because they refuse to read or hear from God’s word. As we learned above, those who refuse to be persuaded by God will not see life but the wrath of God remains on them.

We must remember Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount. Matthew 7:16-23:
  • You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.

  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh

Let's read Matthew chapter 2.

We find several people in this chapter, namely, Herod the king, Wise-men, High-priests, baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph and Children in Bethlehem who die by the order of Herod.

I would like to focus first on the wise-men. They first come to see Herod the king, to inquire and find out where the True King of the Jews (Jesus) is to be born.

The wise-men then bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the baby Jesus.

Gold was used for the tent/tabernacle/temple of God and the king's throne.
  • Exodus 25:10, 11 They shall make an ark of acacia wood. You shall overlay it with pure gold, inside and outside shall you overlay it, and you shall make on it a molding of gold around it.
  • Exodus 25:17 You shall make a mercy seat of pure gold. 
  • Exodus 25:23, 24 You shall make a table of acacia wood. You shall overlay it with pure gold and make a molding of gold around it.
  • 1 King 10:18 The king also made a great ivory throne and overlaid it with the finest gold.
The images of the Tabernacle on Google.
The images of the Temple on Google.

As you can see in these images, many of the objects used in the tabernacle and temple were overlaid with gold.

We can see that the wise-men recognised Jesus' kingship and divinity. And we are like the wise-men who visited both Herod the king and the true king Jesus. But the gold was given to Jesus who is the true king and true God.

The wise-men also brought frankincense which was used only for God in the temple service.
  • Exodus 30:34 The LORD said to Moses, “Take sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum, sweet spices with pure frankincense (of each shall there be an equal part), and make an incense blended as by the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy. You shall beat some of it very small, and put part of it before the testimony in the tent of meeting where I shall meet with you. It shall be most holy for you. And the incense that you shall make according to its composition, you shall not make for yourselves. It shall be for you holy to the LORD. Whoever makes any like it to use as perfume shall be cut off from his people.”

As you can see, the Israelites were not allowed to use the frankincense for themselves but it was to be used only for God. The offering of frankincense by the wise-men to Jesus shows the fact that they recognised that Jesus is the God to whom the Israelites offered the incense.

Not only that Jesus is the true High Priest who can offer the frankincense to God. All the high-priests were gathered together with Herod as we read in the verse 2:4 but it was Jesus to whom the wise-men gave the frankincense, showing that Jesus is both the true High Priest and true God.

Lastly, the wise-men gave myrrh to Jesus. Myrrh was used for embalming a dead person.
  • John 19:39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds (about 34 kg)in weight.

Myrrh was also used as a stupefying potion,
  • Mark 15:23 And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.

Myrrh sympbolises suffering and death. The wise-men gave myrrh to Jesus and this gesture shows that Jesus indeed came to the earth to die, even for our sins. 

Many babies and children died at the hands of Herod but the Bible gives clues that the children will be alive in the heaven if they die prematurely. This is, precisely because Jesus who alone was alive from Bethlehem as a baby under two years of age at the time actually truly died on the cross later for forgiveness of our sins, and that the sins of the babies and children would also covered by the blood of Jesus on the cross. 
  • Matthew 18:3 “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
  • Matthew 19:14 but Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
  • 2 Samuel 12:23 But now he is dead. Why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he will not return to me. (After David's child died)

We, like the wise-men, worship the true king and God who died for our sins on the cross by confessing that we are like the wise-men who gave gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus. 

Discussion questions
  1. Who is the King Herod figure in your life? (Who or what do you fear the most? Who or what leads your life the most? Who or what is the most dominant person or thing in your life?) 
  2. Who is the high priest figure in your life? (Who or what do you rely on the most? When you need help or are in desperate need of something, who or what do you turn to the most?)
  3. Rachel wept for her children. Losing who or what would cause you to weep and have great mourning, and refuse to be comforted?
  4. To whom do you bow down and worship? (Who or what do you love, treasure and cherish above anyone or anything else?)
  5. To whom do you give your gift/offering of gold, incense and myrrh? (Who or what do you consider as someone or something that can give you guidance, help and happiness?)