Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Sanctification: A New Look

Throughout my Christian life, I had had an understanding of sanctification as was taught and as best I understood it from the Bible. Recently, however, I have come to see sanctification in a new light that has, for me, been quite helpful and illuminating.

It is quite normal to start out with one understanding and then to become quite accustomed to it. However, I think that God teaches us layer by layer, precept by precept. Here a little, there a little. I don't fancy getting new Revelations apart of Scripture in a gnostic or mystical way, but in my eyes being opened to what's already in Scripture by the Holy Spirit.

It is amusing that I grew up a Methodist and in many ways have adopted a Wesleyan way of thinking - arminianism, for example. John Wesley believed that God's grace can be described as threefold - prevenient grace, justifying grace and sanctifying grace. Justifying grace, from what I understand, is the grace God gives us when we come to Him in repentance. We have forgiven and justified because of what Christ did on the cross. Sanctifying grace is God's continuing work of perfecting us, making us more like Him. The work of sanctification is really on-going and is completed when our mortal bodies pass and we are taken into glory, so to speak. "Work out your salvation," says Scripture.

I remember, as a child, attending Bible studies on the books of Nehemiah, Romans and the like. These were not children's Bible studies but the same studies given to adults. We learned passages like Romans 6 and 8 by heart and all in all were given a good scriptural foundation.

However, I had always thought that justification and sanctification were individual processes, meant to make us perfect, meant to save us as individuals. I never thought about it in a wider context, so to speak. What if justified and sanctified was more than just about God purifying me, doing a good work in me... Ephesians 5 talks about Christ purifying the Church by the "washing of water by the word", to present to Himself a glorious bride "without spot or wrinkle".

But there's more. There's always more - when you go back to Scripture you can never say you "already know it all".

Let's go back to the word sanctify - it means to "set-apart", "make holy". God is Holy or "Wholly Other" from us. Set-apart. To be made holy is to be made like God, in His image. For His use.

I think of the vessels and tools used in the temple, as described in the Torah. They were set apart, consecrated, dedicated to be used in worship and offerings and the like. In the same way, I quite suddenly have realised, we are like instruments and tools. God sanctifies us not to be simply "polished trophies" but so that we are fit to be used. Sanctification is not some end-goal to be fulfilled upon our deaths. It is a continuous process of being sanctified and then being "put into action", being privileged to be part of God's plan.

Sanctification, therefore, also has immediate and practical use.  It's not about me eventually being sinless, without flaws and failings.

All of the sudden, Scriptures sprung to mind that corroborated this.

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master's use, and prepared unto every good work.
(2 Timothy 2:20-21)

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

These are verses that I had known and studied for a long time, and yet now they are linked and I understand them a little more clearly.

I love seeing the word "good works" in Scripture. There's a sense of joy and hope, and I cannot help but ask God what works He would have me do, how he would have to cleanse me by trials and fires in order to make an unworthy, carnal vessel a useful one.

The verse that sparked all of this was one that was one in James. It's been awhile since I have revisited James, one that is like the book of Proverbs to me because of it's meaningful practicality. James launches into talking about "divers temptations", which I feel is best translated to the modern tongue by the word "difficulty". He's not talking about temptation in the sense of later verses, but in trials. Situations that aren't easy for us. Challenges.

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
(James 1:2-4)

Another similar verse is in Romans 5:

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
(Romans 5:3-5)

 If a beloved brother and sister in Christ is going through seemingly pointless hardship and great difficulty, and if we go through such trials ourselves, there is a "silver lining". It's not that we are masochists and enjoy tormenting ourselves - God is not like that either. It is that life's difficulties -and life in this earth because of man's sin is one fraught with difficulty and sorrow - can bear good fruit, and work out for good rather than evil.

Take Joseph's life - his brothers meant evil, but God caused good to come out of it. It is not that the brothers were right and justified in their actions. They were not. They had to repent of their sin and hatred, the heart of murder that is evil in God's sight (Matthew 5). However, pointless and irredeemable circumstances in the world's view are not pointless and irredeemable in God's view. Even being sold into slavery was not just a "crime", "waste" or "injustice" to Joseph. Those years he spent in prison for a crime he did not commit were not meaningless.

To the Christian, it is not that suffering is any less of a sufferance. It is because we know that it is not in vain, that God makes all things "work out for good to them that love Him" (Romans 8). We also have hope beyond this life.

Think about people who are suffering in the world because of the cruelty and wickedness of others. Yes, it is wrong to do those things and we must do what we can out of love of our neighbour to prevent and stop any such thing. But to a person going through such a situation, Christ offers hope and redemption beyond what any human being can.

But I digress. To return to the thesis of this post, I would like to highly this passage from Second Timothy, a verse learned by heart as a child that I have thought back to several times for different reasons.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
(2 Timothy 3:15-17)

And there it now as clear as day: perfection is not just about perfection in the sense of achievement or having something to admire or enjoy. It is linked to the good works God intends to do.

Holiness is not self-centred. To be over-occupied with cleansing and purifying ourselves, with making rules and achieving personal right-ness is to veer off-course from the center of our Christian faith. I've seen and have been guilty of the tendency of become self-righteous in pursuit of this version of holiness, which is not altogether long but very lacking and a kind of deviance we need to guard against. A righteous person, I have realised, is not a person who "does all the right things" and "avoid doing all the wrong things". Sacrifice is not only about how many things I can give up "for God" but, just as importantly, the things God asks me to give up for others. It's about "laying down" our lives for our friends, it's about loving our neighbour, it's about serving and ministering and doing things for the "least" of Christ's brethren. It's about being used by God as a vessel of love.

The testimony of Scripture as a whole shows us that we are not being to be "so heavenly minded as to be of no earthly use". To be heavenly minded, it can be argued, is to be of great earthly use (according to God's will and ways, not our own).

Monday, September 14, 2015


Servanthood is something difficult to understand, a Christian principle that is often misunderstand by the world as being warped, cruel or abusive. It is contrary to human nature, because we by nature are intemperate, selfish, and self-serving. Obedience, submission, and sacrifice are difficult, painful, hard to swallow, and inpalatable. What is being required is indeed the highest and most difficult price - a price that is as good as death.

When we are called to follow Jesus, we are called to lay down everything - our lives, our ambitions, our rights, our previous existences... Such a calling is anthetical, but we have a precedent for this and that is the example of Jesus Himself. If Jesus did not do what He did, He could not have preached what He did.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Php 2:5-11 KJV)

We do not need to learn to be leaders, but to be servants. It is far more important to be under the authority and leadership of God That is why the only Christian leaders are servant leaders.

Wash one anothers' feet, Jesus commanded. He emphasized that He came not to be served and ministered to but to minister.

The last shall be the first, the greatest least and the least greatest.

Again and again, Jesus lambasted religious hierachies, decimating the pedestrals that religious people tried to create for themselves. He scorned those who dictated "laws" and "regulations" and who put burdens on others' shoulders that they themselves could not carry. 

The teachings of Jesus call us to ultimate servanthood, to meekness, to humility, to brokenness, to the laying down of our lives and surender of our rights. To those who want to borrow from us, we cannot turn away. We are to turn the other cheek when struck, even. We lose our rights to self-defense, in deed and word.

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
(Mat 5:43-45 KJV)

Indeed, in God's eyes, observance and worship (religion) is found in serving the poorest and weakest in society.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
(Jas 1:27 KJV)

Let us not forget that in serving the people we come across who are in need, we are serving Jesus. Jesus was truly a "man for others" as Dietrich Bonhoeffer put in. Indeed, he would not have been became a man it is was not for the Father.

Serving God essentially serving other people, because that's where God's love, grace and mercy extends.

We know that God's ways are in all ways superior to our ways. It is by being faithful in little, by serving the least and the lowest, that we are serving Him. In addition, Jesus in Matthew 6 commands us to pray, do charity, and fast in secrecy, away from the people we might be tempted to impress, even the religious and pious we wish to have of ourselves. What matters is what God sees, not from outward appearances, but from the heart.

This is not something only a select few Christians are called to do. It is the same calling and requirement that Jesus has upon all His disciples, something that can be applied even in daily life.

It is only from this perspective that we can view submission to authority, whether governments or otherwise. The epistles of Paul often speak of slaves' obedience to masters or wives' obedience to husbands. Indeed, Christians are called to "submit to one another", and we are reminded of our inherent and inherited equality in God where there is no distinction by gender, race, or hierachy - all have sinned, and the same God is rich upon all who call upon him. However, we are called to serve one another, love one another, to be humble and meek and lowly, and to lay down our lives for one another because Christ has done so for us.

Separation From The World

Humanity is sinful. Society is sinful. The world is sinful and corrupt.

Man's solution is often this: Let Christians live apart from the world in a parallel culture. Let Christians strive to cleanse ourselves and remove any worldly influences. Let us shun the people of the world and live holy and separate lives.

To put it simply, we often think that the best solution is to build a wall to shut the world and its sinfulness out.   However, that is the antithesis of the gospel, because the Messiah Jesus came to 
to be the reconciliation between humankind and God.

What is God's solution to sin?

 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14 KJV)

What then is the role of the body of Christ, the church, in our world today? We are to go out into all the world,  proclaim Jesus and preach the good news of the Kingdom of Heaven. We are to point men to the reconciliation of Jesus' blood. How can we do this if we barricade ourselves in Christendom, if we live in isolation?

For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
(Col 1:19-22 KJV)

The word "holy" often brings to mind "piety" or "religiousity". Another synonymous phrase, "set-apart", is also a good translation. Unfortunately, that again conveys the impression that we are to be "separated" from humanity. While God is indeed high and lofty and set-apart, He came and dwelt amongst men, He took on the corruptible and mortal human flesh, and yet without sin and was not corrupted.

We are not to withdraw from the world. We are not to be quarantined in a sterile environment as perfect Christians. being preserved or pickled until the Kingdom of Heaven is revealed.

Under the previous covenant, God INDEED called for his people to be separated from the sinful society of world. That is because they were living by the flesh had inherited the sin of Adam. However, in the Messiah, we have now been redeemed and made a new creation. What separated God's chosen people from the Gentiles who were without hope has now been abolished through Jesus Christ's death and resurrection.

And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
(Mat 27:51 KJV)

That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
(Eph 2:12-18 KJV)

What then is our answer? As Christ has saved us, so He has called us to proclaim His salvation to all people, and to overcome the world.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
(John 16:33 KJV)

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
(1 John 4:4 KJV)

God does not call us to hide from sin, but to overcome it, which is of course not only far more difficult, but humanly impossible. Only by a supernatural work, the miracle of the cross, can sin be overcome and slain, the devil vanquished and rendered powerless, impotent.

For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
(Rom 10:12-15 KJV)

However, let us not forget to keep ourselves unspotted from the world, to serve God singleminded and not mammon. Let us remember that this battle is not one that we fight externally, but that worldliness is essence self-service, indulgence, pride and lustfulness. Indeed the battle within us the fight that we must overcome.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
(Jas 1:27 KJV)


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Courage or Compromise

It's one thing to be a narrow-minded, self-righteous delusionary and quite another to be a coward. To be clear, I cannot support compromise in theology. The minute we try and "water down" the Bible to make it acceptable to the world, we have lost our witness, our testimony, our "light"!

There are reports of Christians, so-called Christians who are nothing but vile hypocrites, who make racist, completely bigoteous, or statements and who are so repulsive to the world that many turn away from God altogether. Such people are those who are concerned and obsessed with being "right", in drawing lines and closing themselves in from all the pollution and corruption in the world, but whose doctrines are poison and whose gods are themselves.

On the other hand, there are so-called Christians who cannot be distinguished from the world altogether, who think the Bible must reflect the changing times and who think it is their place to "accept" and "celebrate" what God calls abominations and wickedness, who rewrite the Bible under the slightest of pressure so that they may be lauded by men.

It all boils down to two things - do we love God and love our neighbour, even when those two commandments are in seeming opposition?

I'd completely recommend the following article:

Unless we struggle with the issues ourselves, unless we are confronted by conflict, our words are empty. We must overcome these struggles so that we walk can in the grace, mercy and love of God and yet not compromise even a foothold to worldly deception.

For Judgment Begins in the House of God

For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?
(1Pe 4:17-18 KJV)

 I'm not saying that the world won't be judged, but I've been reading many articles of Christian after Christian condemning the world, which is odd, to say the least. "God will judge society for allowing such-and-such a perverse, immoral practice," they say, but we forget that sin in the why is precisely why the gospel is needed, and, furthermore, it what is far more abhorent is the corruption, greed, immorality and licentiousness in the church. 
1) Jesus told us to look at the planks in our eyes before pointing out the speck in others' eyes.
2) Paul said that we do not judge those who are outside, but those who are inside (believers).

Yes, it's to easy to point out everything that's wrong with the world. We should, however, be quicker to examine ourselves. 

It is no point being shocked at "sin" and "degeneration". It is no point taking the moral highground.

3) Jesus said  He did not come to condemn the world.

We don't need to say, "Society is doomed", because it is. We don't even need the Bible to condemn the world, as its standards are already clear. People do not need us to feel "judged", we are all judged self-condemned because of our sins. We don't need to preach the law in a sense, for the law and our consciences are innate in nature and human nature.

If anything, it should be clearer than anything that we are be lights in the world. We don't need to point out that the world is sinful and unsaved and dark, but we need to make sure that we are witnesses.

I would point out that Christians are in general so quick to impose their standards on society, but are reluctant (read: self-preserving) when it comes to condemning sin in Christian leaders, especially leaders they idolize.

We aren't supposed to be perfect, in a way, to cultivate a perfect church in which the impure and imperfect cannot enter. Jesus, after all, attracted the most sinful in society, the most condemned, not the righteous.

In fact, the way our Messiah came was through an unwed, virgin mother, a "smack-in-the-face" of the godly, the conservative, the "righteous". Jesus said that the sick need a doctor, the sinful need forgiveness, etc. etc.

The new developments in the definition of marriage should teach us that WE as disciples of Jesus need to (more than ever before, perhaps) uphold amongst ourselves the sanctity of Biblical message. We shouldn't be shocked by the polygamy, adultery, fornication, licentiousness and sodomy of the world. We are all capable of the same sin because we all have the same tendencies and the same sinful nature. We shouldn't fight to make the world "Christian", but should strive to be lights in the darkness, the salt of the earth.

After all, judgment begins in the House of God. We must live by the Word if we indeed want to judge the world by it! How can we overcome challenges and live peaceful and godly lives? How can we cease from immorality. After all, the same God who abhors immorality abhors divorce, fornication, lies, hypocrisy, etc. 

More than ever before, we need to realize that humanity needs Jesus, salvation, and everything he has done for us. 

More than anything, we need to love God with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves. This includes loving those who do not "deserve" it. How many of us can love prostitutes, tax collectors, even religious Pharisees the way Jesus did, and how many of us would lay down our lives for them? How many of us would carry our cross? That is the question.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

In our weaknesses

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
(2Co 12:9-10 KJV)

As Christians, we often have the convoluted idea that we need to present ourselves to the world as "perfect", that we need to hide our blemishes behind smiles and our struggles behind praise songs. We have to have an impeccable testimony, we have to do what is absolutely right and show how our Christian lifestyles are full of joy.

It isn't like that. We don't need to make ourselves into saint or portray ourselves as "enhanced beings". The fact is, as Christians, we were sinners and He saved us. We remain "sinners saved by grace," transformed each day by His power. The sins and struggles, the difficulties and distresses are inalienable parts of our testimony, for when we are truly honest and we cry out to God and God alone to deliver us, can be have the testimonies of overcomers.

We don't need to boast of our strength, our humility, our sinlessness. Let our boast be Jesus and Him alone. Let our weaknesses be testimonies to the undeserved grace and resurrection, redeeming power of Christ.

Let us show God strong when we are weak. 

There needs to be bluntness, honesty and candour, rather than the all-too-common unreality, false hype and facades we feel we need to put up.

The world doesn't need Christ because Christians are an elite breed of superhumans, the world needs Christ because we are all born sinners, weak, fallible and all too human. We are just like everyone else, have the same struggles as all men. Hey, even Jesus was tempted on all points like we are!

We need to be real about temptations, about struggles, whether it is in Christian leadership or amongst Christians. We need authenticity and this kind of relevance and practicality in the church, an openness about individual struggles.

Furthermore, we need to witness the salvation of Christ by showing who we are and were, and who He supernaturally made us be. If we were not sick, then we cannot have been healed by Him. If we were not sinners, then we have no need of redemption.

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
(Mar 2:17 KJV)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Seat of Sinners

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
(Psa 1:1-6 KJV)

Psalm 1 speaks of the righteous man, one who studies the word of God day and night and shuns sinners. This is a very commonly cited Psalm by Christians, but we must not forget that our first and primary focus should be following Jesus, not living a "righteous" life and being "righteous".

It just isn't that simple. I don't believe that God is calling us to do nothing by study the Bible all day and to live a life separate from sinners. We must hold all truths in balance, after all.

The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.
(Mat 11:19 KJV)

Now, I don't believe in holding a black-and-white view of the Pharisees, but from what I understand about religion during that time was that the Pharisees were very devout. They absolutely gave their life to the study God's law and they sought to follow the principles of Psalms 1 - live a righteous life, study the Law of the Lord day and night, and avoid the company of sinners. If I were to judge them by Psalms 1, from a human perspective, they would pass with flying colours.

But what I recently realized is that Jesus wouldn't. I'm not saying that Jesus wasn't meditating on the word of God but rather that He was the living word of God and did not deviate an iota from the will and purpose of God. However, He did spend time in the company of "sinners", people that Psalms 1 calls us to avoid. 

And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners? But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
(Mat 9:10-13 KJV)

This should raise questions about our attitude as Christians and the way we live our lives. Simply put, we are called to follow Jesus. How can we understand how Psalms 1 applies to us from Jesus' example?

I'm not saying that we are to live hedonistic lives and accept the ways of the world, but it is clear that the common, pietistic and religious interpretation of Psalms 1:1 just doesn't line up with Jesus' example.

I believe, in a way, that the contrast between Jesus and the Pharisees is meant to show us, in a way, how we are to approach the Hebrew Scriptures.

My understanding the issue is that Jesus was amongst sinners yet He was not contaminated by sin. He didn't follow after the way of the unrighteous or seek to "fit in" by And yet, the sinners did not reject Him either. He came to seek and save the lost and the sinners.

What are we called to do? Hide away from the world and read our Bibles or to be the living word and testimony of the gospel by being "lights in the midst of darkness".

I believe fully in the entirety of Scripture, that we cannot have one verse without another holding it in balance. I also believe that we need the inspiration of the Holy Spirit without which we cannot have understanding or know how the Word of God is to be applied in our individual situations and to the choices we have ot make.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ultimate Freedom

Where can we find the greatest liberty as Christians?How can we be set free from the bonds and chains of legalism and man-made doctrines?

Only in one place, at the cross of Jesus Christ. The words and calling of Jesus are the only things that can set us free from the bonds of "law".


Only by the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus, can we escape the guilt and condemnation of the law, not by removing the law but by removing the sin that is in us.

As Christians, we might find ourselves "detoxing" from religious legalism, from rules and regulations, doctrines and formulas. We might be tempted to run away from God and everything to do with Jesus, but the solution is entirely the opposite.

We will never find peace and victory in being liberal, being worldly or being immoral, even. It is simply another side of the same coin. Legalism and licensiousness are two, fleshly and imperfect ways of dealing with sin, one by fighting it and one by making peace with it. Neither can overcome it.

Our freedom, our liberty, can only be found in Jesus, in His law of liberty, love and mercy.

"Come to me," He says to those who are weary and heavy-leaden, "And you will find rest."

"Follow me," He says to us, "And I will make your fishers of men."

"Take up your cross," He said, "Deny yourself, and follow me."

"Go into the World," Jesus says, "And make disciples of all nations."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Can you be a born a Christian?

Firstly, what is a Christian? Someone who is a disciple of and follows Jesus. It doesn't matter if they don't use the title, "Christian", because the disciples were first called Christianos at Antioch. You can called yourself a follower of Jesus of Nazereth, a follower of the Messiah, a follower of the Way, etc. it means the same time.

If you follow Jesus, if means that Jesus is alive to you today, that He is real and living and speaks to you, that He delivers you and heals you and gives you new life, etc.

Can you be born a Christian? No. It is not like a religion or a way of life based on lifestyle of rules, it is simply obeying and following the living Messiah.

"Christianity", or discipleship, is all about choice. It cannot be forced on anybody. We cannot compel a person to follow Jesus - they have to meet Him and respond to His invitation.

Discipleship is not inherited. It can be taught, "discipled", but it is not an inherent state one inherits at birth. Belonging to a race, or having a father or mother who is a Christian does not make you a nothing. Nothing will make you a Christian except your own free choice to follow Jesus. 

Following Jesus is not about rules, steps or even a system. The world is crazy, and no system, even the best system delivered by God Himself on the Mount of Sinai, will not save us. Only Jesus can save us. Outward obedience cannot save us. Good deeds cannot save us, because good deeds will never be good or perfect enough. We can't think in terms of a formula when it comes to discipleship.

Except that a man be born again, He cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That is something Jesus told Nicodemus, that is recorded in the third chapter of the gospel of John.

We are born unsaved. We born in need of salvation. Rather than being born Christians, it is quite the opposite. We are born apart from God, alienated from Him because we are Flesh and He is Spirit. That is why He came in the flesh, that we might be born in the Spirit, that we might have a new birth and be "born again".

Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. (Joh 3:5-6 KJV)

He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
(Joh 1:11-14 KJV)

The way of salvation is open to all, to anyone regardless of birth or deeds. It is without discrimination, but, it is for us to choose it or reject it. To choose it, and few will choose this narrow (literally troublesome) course, is to choose eternal life. To reject it is to reject the one chance God gives to escape our certain fate of destruction and doom.

He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
(Joh 3:36 KJV)

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world;
but that the world through him might be saved.
 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already,
because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
(Joh 3:14-21 KJV)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Let Us Not Bury Our Heads in the Sand

As Christians, we must be mature and realistic enough to cope with the real world, to work with people who we disagree with and to be lights in the darkness, the salt of the earth.

Often, we are not realistic or mature. We don't want to have to deal with problems within our own spheres and we definitely fear encountering opposition from the world. That is cowardice.

Social and moral problems are pervasive today. Christian morality and beliefs are not the dominant beliefs any more. So what? Does the Bible tell us how to live in a sinful world? Does it tell us to hide, or does it tell us to go right out there and save souls.

We are here not to only work with and interact with those we like or whom we agree with. We are on this earth to be salt and light. If we marginalize, avoid or do not know how to interact with people whose choices and lifestyles differ from us, then we have a lot to learn from Jesus, who was God and came down to live amongst stinking, dirty, and sinful mortals.

Are we as Christians allowed to choose whom to serve and who not to serve? Jesus came to be a servant to all, especially and only to those who did not deserve it.

What should we do when encountering sin? Resist it, overcome it, and grieve for those caught in it. We should be taking opportunity God gives us to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit to witness to and have interactions with unbelievers.

If I am a Christian, I have to treat every person like I treat Jesus, and like how Jesus would treat every person.

We don't force our beliefs on people; we point them to Jesus who offers the supernatural solution to our dire, natural state.

We don't go against our consciences,  but we should be virtuous and strong to overcome the world, not quick to run away from anything that doesn't fit into our comfort zone. The world is uncomfortable. It is often disgusting and filthy and definitely unclean. But we if do not go out into the world and reach people, who will?

What would Jesus do when faced with sin? Jesus would be grieved. He would weep, he would pray, he would love anyone and lay down His life for them.

Are we grieved and distressed by the state of the world and the hearts of men, or are we disgusted and righteously outraged.

Grief, I believe, is the answer. We should not praise sin; we should not run away from it either. We should grieve because of it and overcome it with the blood of Jesus.

Grief comes from love, love comes from God. Condemnation does not come from love, but conviction does. We can pour condemnation on the world but it will not convict anyone. People are convicted by their God-given consciences and by sincere love. They are condemned by their own natural states; that is why they need Jesus to heal and deliver them.

God has a better way, but that way is paved with blood and tears. The Christian life is marked by suffering and sacrifice, not by prosperity and ease.We have to honest firstly about what walking on the narrow way and following Jesus means for us, and we have to be real about our faith and living it out in this world.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

It's Not About Right and Wrong, It's About Jesus

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
(John 3:17-18 KJV)

Today, my Facebook page has been invaded. I am being bombarded. My feed is awash with thousands (I'm exaggerating) of articles proclaiming why Fifty Shades of Gray is SO SO Wrong.

Wrong. Abortion is wrong. This is wrong. That is wrong. So and so people are evil and perverted.

It would seem that condemnation pours continually from Christians, at least those who haven't compromised on the Bible.

It's not that I condone such things, but I fail to see the point in heaping condemnation for something that is by nature already condemned. Of course, we must be the voices of morality and truth. Of course someone needs to speak up to give people an alternative to what they are hearing, but...

What do we really want to accomplish by telling society that everything it does is wrong? We pose problems, but are we emphasizing enough on the solutions and answers to those problems?

The problem is human answers will never suffice. If we want to promote the Bible's morality we must promote the Bible's solution, a spiritual solution and not a human answer. 

We Christians have a lot to say on social morality. Many oppose abortion, but many also oppose contraception. If we really want people to stop aborting babies, maybe we should be stopping conceptions in the first place, right? Safe sex and all that... No, no, no. We don't want people to be promiscuous either; we want to enforce our traditional model of marriage, a model that also can be perverted in the form of all kinds of wrong things, like domestic abuse, child neglect, etc. etc. Families fall apart. People get divorced. People experience hardship. Even if you follow the Biblical pattern 100%, regardless of whether you are a Christian or not, things can go wrong for you.

We have such a narrow vision of what is right, and we want to fight against everything that goes against it. But can we really control people? Can we stop people from engaging in things that we don't agree with? Do we really to keep telling what we do is wrong? Can we control society and force everybody to follow the rule of law of the Puritans?

I think we should take a moment to realize that EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS WRONG AND HAS ALWAYS BEEN SINCE ADAM'S FALL. This world is f*cked up, to put it crudely in modern terms.

Everything, even good things can be abused. Everything that happens, harms people. Even the very best things like our Christian religion and our moral convictions.

Either we're telling the world that it is wrong to justify and elevate ourselves, OR we are living as lights in the darkness, quietly and meekly walking in God's ways without blowing our trumpets. We make choices that glorify God and avoid things that don't edify other people.

People have consciences, and deep in our hearts God has put a moral compass in us that is very difficult to ignore. We don't always have bombard people with 10 or 20 reasons why whatever it is they practice or enjoy is wrong - if they feel the emptiness and the guilt and the pain, then they will seek the healing and cleansing Jesus can give.

What we can do is stop preaching "This is Wrong" or "That is Wrong" as our main message, because pointing out these things doesn't automatically give people the answer. If abortion is wrong, then shouldn't we encourage safe sex? If promiscuity is wrong, then what in the world do we expect hormone-ravaged teenagers to do? Do we really expect everyone to be abstinent until marriage? What do you expect people to do who struggle with same-sex attractions? What do we expect people to do who feel alienated from their bodies and who are driven to depression and self-harm?  Can we make them conform to our standards? No. We can't provide people with solutions, we can only point them to the one who can change them. It's not wrong deeds that needs to be purged, but the states of our hearts.

We need to start pointing people to Jesus. If they say, "I'm born like this, I can't help it." but they are looking for a solution, we can't possibly find a human way to deal with that. All our best efforts will backfire.

There is only one person who can really help them, and that's Jesus.

Jesus is alive. Jesus is living.

He can speak to people.

He won't turn people away because of who they are and what they've done.

He will accept everyone as sinners.

And then He will be able to give them the power no one else can give, the healing no one else can offer.

Jesus can change lives.

Jesus can tell people, "Go and sin no more."

Jesus can convict people and change their hearts without a single word (like the woman who wept at his feet).

If a people who identifies as such-and-such comes to Jesus, Jesus can do what we can't do for them despite our best efforts. And He will do it. 

The gospel of Jesus Christ is transformative. We aren't meant to change society, we're meant to bring people to Jesus to have their lives changed.

The thing is, Jesus doesn't force Himself on people. But those who seek Him (and, mercifully, even those who don't) will find and encounter Him.

A untransformed society cannot be expected to conform to Biblical morality. The world will always be sinful and full of sin until Jesus returns. We will always be the minority in this world. We will always be going against the grain. We will always be the ones left out, misunderstood, marginalized, even persecuted for our faith in Jesus and the way we live. That shouldn't affect us in the slightest or detract us from our ultimate goal of proclaiming Jesus as ultimate answer. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Anabaptist Vision

I set out to study the principles of catechism in order to write one out for myself clearly, and then started reading Anabaptist cathechism which led me to this:


I was touched immediately by the strength of the living faith of the historical Anabaptists... more on that later.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Good works = wrong??

A little theological ranting.

Okay, so you know when you start talking about the importance of good works, the first reaction you get from other Christians is that "Good works are filthy rags, our righteousness cannot save us."

Actually there are two kinds of works in the Bible.

One are religious works. Just things we do to save ourselves, things we perform to earn merit. These are self-directed, pious works meant to earn God's favour. It's obvious that Jesus already threw those out of the window, so to speak. We don't need to earn salvation.

But NOWHERE, absolutely nowhere in the Bible does Jesus condemn or tell us NOT to do good works  ie. help others, be kind, be loving, etc. etc. No where.

what DOES the Bible say?

Faith without works is dead (James). Also, pure religion means visiting widows and orphans (a.k.a. people in need).

We are supposed to be lights in the world, which means doing works before others so that God is glorified.

Time and time again, in Romans 2:6 and Matthew 16:27 amongst other places, God/Jesus is said to judge every man according to their WORKS. (Oy, you might say, isn't it all about faith now?)

There is a difference between working for salvation and doing good works. A huge difference.

BTW, Jesus separates the righteous and the unrighteous in Matthew 7 and Matthew 24. What does he say?
1) In Matthew 7, he accuses those of performing "powerful" works of being unrighteous workers of INIQUITY
2) He accuses those who neglected to do simple things like feed the hungry, visit the imprisoned and give water to the thirsty... According to Jesus, the things that you do for the least of men, you do it to Him.

So if anyone tells you that doing good has nothing to do with faith, the the Bible says your faith is useless, to put it bluntly. "Good works" are not  "works of the law" or "righteous works".

There verses are amongst many, but serve to hammer home to the point. Basically, they reiterate that we are created FOR good works, that we must be ZEALOUS to do them, and careful to maintain them.

Ephesians 2:10
1 Timothy 2:10
1 Timothy 5:25
1 Timothy 6:18
2 Timothy 3:17
Titus 2:7
Titus 3:14
Titus 3:8

There are conditions/qualified to good works
1) Must be according to the commandments of Jesus and the will of the Father
2) Must be done secretly and humbly without the intention of seeking praise from other people or earthly rewards.
3) Genuine and sincere
4) Not things that we force others to do but fail to do ourselves

Time and time again in the NT, we see God noticing people who are kind, loving and charitable. These are virtues that come from God and are demonstrated by God. People like Dorcas and Cornelius were noticed and praised for their charitable works.

No. Good works are imperative upon us. They are required of us. We are follow God's model, the ultimate finished work of Jesus on the cross. Why? Because in that he poured everything of himself. It was the ultimate act of love. It was the ultimate sacrifice. It was the ultimate unselfish, charitable act.

Jesus is our role model, the cross our example. Go forth, He says, and be LIGHTS.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Christian, Christian

(Disclaimer: I don't have all the answers, but I believe that God does, if only we would actually listen to him and be willing to accept the answer even if it is what we do not want to hear.)

Christians either try to blend seamlessly into society, willing to put aside principles of the Bible and sacrifice them in order to be relevant (assimilation) OR try to create a segregated counter-culture based on some past romantic ideal of “Christian government” (isolation, utopian ideals) or “Christian society” (Dominion-ism, fundamentalism, etc.) Both assimilation and isolation are evasions of the question, “How can I be a Christian in the world I live in today?”. Some try to live in the world as the world, and simply be a part of it, worldly in all ideals and unwilling to be different. They simply accept society and culture. Others, fundamentalists, attempt to seclude themselves from “secular society”. They attempt to create a perfect society, a perfect society with a perfect system, perfect government, and perfect way of life. They want to make everything “Christian”. They want Christianity and Western, Christian culture to dominate and subjugate all opposition. People are tired of Christianity. They are tired of being preached to and sanctimoniously told that they are going to hell. They are tired of the rhetoric, they are tired of the hypocrisy and two-facedness. They are willing to accept anything, anything other than the so-called “Christianity” of the Western World. They are willing to accommodate Islam, atheism, anything that allows for a plural and open society. They want two sides. They want fairness and equality. They want the freedom to think and act outside of so many pointless constraints.

The world struggled under the burden of Western Christianity. It cried out to be free from the religion that had been manipulated for the self-serving purposes time and time again, from unscrupulous and self-serving church leaders, to the dictatorial popes of the past, to the monarchs of Europe, even in the extreme figure of Adolf Hitler.

Yes, there are honestly genuine and kind people who call themselves Christians but Christianity itself has become insufferable to modern society. Christianity pisses people off. It is an affront to people today in Western countries to read the Bible and to pray and to be in any way Christian because to them, you are being a self-righteous "assh*le" ready to force them to mold them to your form of religion.

Let's put aside our pride and self-righteousness for just a second, or long enough for me to plead the case that it is, most of the time, not Jesus or the Bible or the true faith of Christianity that people hate so much, it is us. Christians – haters, bigots, bullies. It's not because of Jesus that we are hated, its because of us that Jesus is hated.

Of course, I'm being very general, but I believe we only have ourselves to blame for half the “persecution” we believe happens to us. So often, is not “persecution” in Western society actually simply the loss of power and influence (which hurts our egos and makes us feel insecure) than the real persecution. We are suffering the whips that we laid upon other's backs – they are now lashing us back in the face.

We have a persecution complex, feeling every bit of opposition to our precepts a violation of our religious rights.

We complain about our religious rights being trampled upon while we do and build towering buildings and monuments that Jesus never told us to be, hold religious services that Jesus never prescribed..... we want to parade our religion on the streets and scream it from every rooftop. We want every billboard plastered with Christian threats of eternal punishment. We want the world to belong to us, and not to Jesus. We want people to cower in fear when we instruct them in the way they should go.. We are like spoiled children, grabbing toys for ourselves and crying “foul play” when the other children we bullied unite together and take them away.

We are called to be humble. We are called to be disciples, and naively put, sacrificial do-gooders. We are not to become religious police, or institute religious government. “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus said, and He is always right. Jesus' kingdom, Jesus' temple, is built in the hearts of men, men and women and children from all around the world. He wasn't looking to restore a Davidic monarchy (yet) or to take over the Roman government and use it for Christian ends.

We are called to be lights in darkness. Stand out, and stand alone. We are called to be the unpopular ones, the poor ones, the humble ones, the meek ones, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit... not the dominating, authoritative ones. Not the ones that push our weight around (Jesus never did). We are not called to take dominion – All power already belongs to Jesus.

Humble, penniless, property-less, stateless, poor in everything, despised for our insignificance and overlooked for our obsequity... and yet rich and powerful in all the ways that count.

First of all, we have to acknowledge our attitude to problem. Then we have a huge public-image problem to deal with, which we can only do by being a witness in little ways. Maybe we have to prove to the world, not by big events and showy dramatics, but in our every-day life, in our attitudes and in our dealing with others,
who Jesus really was and is and always will be.

Glory be to Jesus alone! Power belongs to Him alone!

Saturday, August 9, 2014


What is supernatural?

Love is supernatural. Laying down one's life, going out of your way to give help to someone underserving - that's supernatural. That's amazing. That's what shakes principalities and powers.

What is supernatural? Jesus coming down to earth, humbling Himself and taking on human form. That is supernatural obedience, coming from the supernatural grace of God.

God's love is supernatural. It is supernatural to be unselfish, supernatural to forgive despite being wronged, supernatural to stick out your neck for someone else, someone you

It is supernatural to admit you made a mistake and ask for forgiveness.

It is supernatural to be kind to the least estimable, to the weak, to the undeserving, to the downtrodden.

It is supernatural to cling to faith and continue to hope in the face of the greatest despair.

Those things are some of what the Bible teaches us is "supernatural", beyond what we naturally are as humans - at best complacent, at the least actively destructive. I know there are many things about the "spirit world" that I do not understand, and beyond what the Bible explicitly teaches, I feel I do not need to - the great, awesome, physics-defying feats I believe to be God's business and God's prerogative, not gimmicks for me to employ.

 I feel what I should focus on is what the Bible reiterates again and again, because I believe in the love, mercy, forgiveness, and kindness of God, and I believe that when we are His instruments in these, we are privileged to be engaging in the "supernatural".

Ramblings on "Rewards"

Humans are made with an innate sense of justice. We want right to be repaid with right, wrong with wrong. This is common in all religions and is the basis of ethics. It is natural to want to right to be rewarded, wrongs to be punished. Whether it is the concept of "operant conditioning" or "karma", this is a basic belief that almost everybody shares.

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
(Rom 2:5-8)

I believe in that - we all should believe in that. No matter what we believe about salvation, we know that God does not reward evil, that our actions have consequences, that true good works are, after all product of faith. I don't believe that spirituality means anything that deviates from spiritual behaviour, the qualities and "fruits of the Holy Spirit" such as love, joy, peace, patience, etc. etc.

We cannot promote a warped view common in Christianity that tries to undo this basic, fundamental, principle of right and wrong. It is not by negating this idea that we come to the miracle of salvation, but rather building upon it.

Salvation from this viewpoint is this: We all have sinned and deserve to be punished. Sin = evil. Evil = punishment. Why? Because we do harm to this earth and we do harm to others. Even if we are good, we cannot be perfect. Humanity is a hopeless case in that our good deeds can never outweigh or negate our bad deeds, because deep inside, we are all filthy and selfish and despicable. We have evil thoughts, evil desires, and every day of our lives as humans we do harm. Thus, all we deserve is eternal punishment.

However, God chose to do something miraculous, something outside of the bounds of duty or reward. He chose to do the extraordinary, to show incredible favour, he chose to save us. God rescuing and saving the sinner does not validate the sinner's evil but rather serves to emphasize the forbearance of God.

We like to think salvation removes the principle of justice completely. To me it does not - the works of a believer are the most telling, and wrong is wrong whether it is committed by a so-called Christian or a person who does not subscribe to the Christian religion.

And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.
(Rev 22:12)

"Boo hoo," you might say, "How can the Bible say something so unjust and legalistic as to  say hat God rewards people according to their works? Does He not save by grace and cease to judge?"

"No," I say, "Somehow, the same Bible that proclaims that we are saved despite our works, also tells us that without good works our beliefs are invalid, and that God will eventually reward each man according to his deeds. And, unless we can reconcile those truths of Scripture, navigating the narrow path that avoids the pitfalls of oversimplification or mindless rhetoric, we do not truly know what the Bible is saying."

Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
(Rev 22:14-15)

My  belief is that the New Covenant is not so very radical, so very unlike the "old" as to be completely estranged from it. What changes in the New Covenant is not God's righteousness, justice, or nature. It is we who are altered, not God. It is upon our hearts that God has written the law, that we might for the first time be able to walk in accordance to His plan. It is the weaknesses of humanity that is abolished and removed, not the perfect law of God, the law of liberty. The Law of God will never be abolished, for that would be akin to destroying the nature of God. It is not God who relaxes His standards but we who are, beyond the highest of our capabilities, transformed into new creatures and endowed with the perfection of Christ.

And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.
(Rev 19:8)

To me, right-being cannot be divorced from right-doing. A good tree produces good fruit, the Bible teaches. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit nor a bad tree good fruit. 'Nuf said.

One truth I hold to strongly concerning the nature of our lives on this earth as followers of the Messiah (Christians) is that is imperative that we observe Jesus' commands and example, and live according to it, that it is highly important that we are generous, loving, kind, peaceful, merciful, long-suffering, self-sacrificing, gentle, etc. etc. This is reiterated so many times throughout Scripture that we cannot ignore it.

The first thing people look to us as "Christians" should not be our religious knowledge or religious observance. It should we our love for others, the "light" and "joy" and "hope" we bring just as the Messiah did when he was born on this earth.

Our lives must reflect both the birth of Christ and His death, his entire living - his graciousness, his obedience, his complete lack of selfishness, etc. etc.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Grace and Obedience

Grace is God granting us a favor. Imagine if we were formerly in debt, and now God just comes along and pays our debt freely for us. And then He gives us a fresh start and a large deposit tha we can spend as we wish.... or is that really true? No, the last part isn't.

I like to think of grace as the "spending  money" God gives us, and obedience is what He wants us to spent it on, not sin, not wickedness. He's not giving us the license to sin, He's giving us the power that can never have, to obey.

I'm just saying that God will never ask anything of us that He doesn't give us the strength and power to do. Everything we do, every good work, every act of obedience - its He who has given us the grace to do what we cannot do on our own.

He gave us the "dollar bill" and he sent us to the store to buy the "newspaper".

Some people say that grace means we are no longer obligated in any way, that God will never ask anything of us. No, I say, He asks only what is barely required of us, and even so, we cannot fulfill it. We are using His "credit", every time. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Individual Faith

The Bible is given to each and every Christian. That means that our faith is in a way between us and God. No other person should dictate to us what we should do and the decisions we should make, though of course our shepherds and fellow disciples will counsel us. But it is not for them to tell us what the Bible says or dictate to us things beyond the Bible that have to do with the decisions of our life.

The church consists of individual disciples and individual families who are given the Bible. The Bible can speak to every one of them, and they must come to know it for themselves and not depend on teaching from the pulpit.

Our faith hinges upon a personal relationship with Jesus, not on denominational dogmas. Through this relationship we come into fellowship with the Body, the assembly, universal. We can call our brother or sister anyone who is a disciple and calls on Jesus, and shares our faith in Him, not just in our own "church group" or "membership".

It is imperative that every Christian knows the Bible and understands the commands of Christ and His teachings for himself. It is not for another to teach him, tell him what he must do, how he must live the Bible.

The Bible alone is sufficient, Protestants say, "Sola Scriptura is our creed".If that is so, then every Christian must have a Bible, read it, and understand it too. He must test and question the Word that is preached, and never fail to be discerning.

That is not to say every Christian "believes what is right in his own eyes", inventing doctrines to suit himself, believing only what he finds convenient. No, it is the word of Jesus that must come and rest in his heart.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
(1Jn 4:1-2)

These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you. But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
(1Jn 2:26-27)

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:
(Deu 6:6)

Brethren, be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men. (1Co 14:20)
This verse is essential. We cannot simplify the truth. We cannot treat fellow disciples like novice believers, but we have to, each of us, know the word for ourselves and be mature in understanding.  We cannot be "simple-minded" simpletons. We cannot be expected to always behave as children and ignorant babes - we have to mature, we have to grow up!

Yes, we seek simplicity. Yes, we value the simple truths above the towering philosophies of men and the world. But we also distrust simplicity - simplicity that means foolishness, ignorance, and an extended state of childhood.

And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
(Jer 31:34)

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
(1Co 14:29)

I believe that the Bible gives us reason to  believe  that every believer is given the Holy Spirit to teach them, and that the spirit of discernment and truth, so as to judge the words that are taught, prophesied and spoken in the church.

Never at any point are we to be passive when it comes to our faith, in the assembly of believers. We are ask questions, for questions show where we are. The purpose in teaching and discussion in the body of believers is not to achieve a perfect teaching session, but so that every one understands and receives the Word. We are to be constantly sober (not carried away by euphoria, but in a sensible and clear state of mind).

When it comes to our faith, never does the Bible say, "Just accept what the leader says. Just obey. Just follow." Authority is never given to a man, to a leader, to a shepherd or bishop.

Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
(1Pe 5:2-3)

All power in heaven and on earth is given to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is given to each one of us. There is no Anointed One but our Christ, our Messiah Jesus. We are all filled with the Spirit to minister to each other and go out to preach the gospel.

When we say this or that leader or speaker, or this or that man is anointed, what we really mean sometimes is that he has become so compelling, so attractive, so awe-inspiring, so charismatic, so charming, so appealing that we are in awe of him instead of Jesus.

Truth is so great, so vast, that the words we speak can never fully represent it - our words, our teachings need to be constantly refined, defined and clarified lest it veer in the slightest off-course, and deviate an iota from what is the truth.

No one is the leader, the "fuhrer", the unassaillable, perfect, flawless disciple who is above all the rest. There is no hierachy, no pushing to be the "top" or "first" in the Kingdom of God. God values meekness, and promotes the humble, elevating the lowly.

The body of Christ consists of honest disciples. It is a body of believers who confess their sins to one another, renders their own judgments amongst themselves (1 Cor 5), and
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
(Mat 18:15-17)
The apostles plead with us again and again their epistles to be SOBER - vigilant, watchful, discreet. This is beyond underlining emphasis. We cannot be "carried away" or tossed too and fro in euphoria or excitement, but we must be still, quiet, serious, so that we may truly hear the Holy Spirit speak.

We think that it is the "Holy Spirit" who speaks when we are excited. When we are elated. When our emotions are running faster than a flooding creek in a thunderstorm. Whatever happened to the still, small voice? Whatever happened to the power of the Word, the Word that is the same yesterday, today and forever, that doesn't strike us one way and then blast us in the different direction from one high spiritual plane to another.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
(Jas 1:6)

I feel that we must be careful what emotions we operate under. Are we sober? Have we come to discern carefully and with much trepidation what the truth is, the truth that does not change, but is a constant. God's eternal principles are God's eternal principles and they are the same throughout all time, for all people.
That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
(Eph 4:14-15)
Ha! So we aren't supposed to believe everything we hear, but to test where it is truly from God. Furthermore, we must be vigilant against any attack, for men constantly either actively seek to or unwittingly are used to, deceive us and draw us away from the truth.

Accuracy when it comes to be Bible is not about being rigid, but about being honest, having integrity, and being truly faithful. It all boils down to our faithfulness to God and our steadfast faith in Him. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Intergrated into the World?

We're not meant to be like the world, to become a part of it in mind, thought and action, to accept everything of the world without questioning it. No, we are to be fundamentally different from it in all ways.

One (very un-)Christian approach is to isolate ourselves from the world and keep hammering on about the world's deception, another approach is to simply blend in with society and just keep up with the mainstream. If society starts to go in one direction, just follow along. That's just to be taken in with deception.

We don't need to keep preaching how wrong the world is, but neither do we need to swallow everything hook, line and sinker. Neither are right - we are to preach and live the truth, even if everything is society is in opposition to it.

Hello? Isn't God eternal? The world and its wisdom may be wishy-washy, but we're to hold fast to what is eternal and unchanging, not to fads.

We sometimes take the world's system for granted, and just believe and live the way others do rather than take a discerning, cautious and enlightened approach to life - everything from lifestyle, to education, to work, to health, to finances, etc.

I mean, it's a normal thing to take loans in the world, but do we Christians realize that the Bible warns us that is unwise? It's a normal thing to get divorced, get abortions, and engage in sexual immorality in the world, and those activities are just as much a part of the mainstream church as they are a part of the world. 

We are to be lights in darkness. We will stand out. We will be different. We don't need to be ostentatious about, or go around slapping people in the face with the Bible, but we aren't supposed to just become darkness because we are surrounded by it.

We don't need to go around being the opposite of the world. Simply by being who we are as followers of Jesus - pure, meek, humble, lowly peacemakers, we will be the light. Simply by showing love, being kind, being who we essentially are as the saints of God, we will be the light. We don't need to be false, superficial or legalistic. Nor are we supposed to blend in with the world - if so, what would the point be of being a disciple of Jesus?

Isolated from the world?

Jesus never lived in isolation. He was right in the "thick" of society, and He mixed with "low-lifes", criminals, "criminal syndicates", prostitute and the like. He never shied away from evil, because the evil could not touch Him. He was holy and separate, yes, but He was God amongst men. He didn't need to create artificial barriers, and determine by rules and laws who could or couldn't be included into His utopian Kingdom. It wasn't like that.

Jesus never calls us to be isolated. If we Christians become isolated, and shut ourselves off from the world, from sin and from temptation, it only shows how we have been overcome by it. If a single bilboard or a magazine cover can cause us to lust, then we have not overcome sin, but are merely seeking to run away from it, to hide from sin, rather than living amongst sinners, yet not being tempted or moved by sin.

The world laughs at us Christians sometimes, because we are so afraid, so cowardly, so lacking in spiritual authority and boldness to not only overcome sin but to save sinners, plucking them out of the fires of hell. If we are shielding ourselves from being sucked into the world, the problem is not with the world but with us? How can we be testimonies of the truth if we refuse to confront lies?

Light is only light when it is in the midst of darkness. I speak of a type of "conditioning" we should experience, not to be shocked by the world and the immorality around. Not to be shocked when people fall, not to be scandalized by immorality.

Yes, we live by the standards of the Word, radically different from the world, but we do not need to fear sin and temptation. We can walk amongst corruption, the abuse of drugs, sexual immorality, and idolatry, and yet not be moved by it. Rather, we transform our surroundings. We bring light into darkness.

Jesus never came to establish a religion of forms, of outward conformity. He never established a parallel culture, an isolationist cult. He sent His disciples out into the world, not to create a culture, not to transform culture, but to bring the kingdom of God, not a culture, not a society, not a religion, but a transformation of hearts.

The Kingdom of God in the midst of the Kingdom of the World is a great threat to the world. Yes, the world will hate it and oppose it. Yes, the world will find us fundamentally different, and will disagree with us. Why should we fear opposition or disagreement? This is part of Christianity. This was a part of the early church. If we want to live in a society that we dictate, that we rule, that we determine and that conforms to our rules, then we should just be a part of the mainstream.

I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
(1Co 5:9-13)

 If holiness means to hide, then Jesus would never have come to earth to tabernacle amongst us. He would have never bothered to die for a world of sinners. What concerns me is that Christianity sometimes says, "We need to get away from this world of sin".  I say no. We must go out into this world to save sinners. We need to be out there, helping the sick, reaching out to the lost, the needy, the destitute, the unrepentant, the hardened sinners. We need to get on our knees and wash feet, serve tables, meet needs. We need to be God's arm of compassion.

If we shut ourselves away from sin and suffering, we will never get to preach and live the gospel. We would never see needs nor know the heart of God. We would be content that "I, me and myself" are saved. We would be trampling on the promises and desires of God.

Do you want to find Jesus? Do you want to seclude yourself to seek God's face? Jesus tells us where to find Him and meet with Him - out there. He's there, with the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the imprisoned. 

The pinnacle of spirituality is not isolation. The pinnacle of godliness, of holiness, of spirituality is the cross where the son of God came down and laid down His life, not for Himself but for others. True spirituality, true religion is to visit orphans and widows and keep oneself unspotted from the world. (Be right in the midst of the world, yet untouched by it, but impacting it in humble, meek and lowly ways).

True spirituality is other-centeredness, a compassion and love for humanity. (Not a sentimental humanism, but the heart of God.) It is true charity, charity that consists in sacrifice for others and surrender to God. Edify others, glorify God.

God doesn't need our sacrifices. You know who does? Our hungry, thirsty, naked, imprisoned neighbors.

  • Do we fast to enhance our own spirituality or because it is part of a sacrificial life that considers the needs of those suffering from famine above our own?
  • Do we pray and operate in the Spirit so that we can be spiritually enhanced and empowered or so that we are anointed to go and preach the gospel, heal the sick, and set the captives free. 
  • Do we offer sacrifices to God so that He can enjoy the smoke, or so that the poor can eat? 
  • Do we pray so that we are sufficiently spiritual or so that the lost are saved and the Kingdom of God will come to men?
Of course, we are reminded of the incident of Mary's sacrifice. Judas believed that it was a waste, because the money from the expensive, wasted, perfume could have been used to feed the poor, a.k.a. pad Judas's pocket. Of course Judas's motivation was not out of charity, and Jesus did not rebuke the idea of charity and said that the poor would always be with us. Mary's sacrifice was the sacrifice of the heart, poured out in love towards Jesus. I believe that Mary's position and the circumstances of her sacrifice were unique.

Today, Jesus is not physically here for us express our affection and gratefulness too, but the poor - they are with us. Jesus is not here for us to physically feed, clothe or visit, to lavish with our love, but yet, the poor are with us, and whatever we do to the least of men, we do to Jesus.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


I don't believe the Bible asks us never to speak again of our former lives, of our sin. Sure, He casts it in the depths of the sea, but the fact is,

Firstly, we are thankful towards Him for saving us from our sin. We must never stop being thankful.

Secondly, it is our testimony - what He has done for us, where He has brought us from, what He has saved us from, and then where He has brought us to and saved us for. This was Paul's testimony - read his many accounts of his salvation. Paul basically says, "Look at how He has saved me - the chief of sinners!"

Thirdly, it is a mark of maturity and security when we are not "superstitious" about our "Word of Faith" or confession of sin/salvation. The contrast between light and darkness should be clear.

We must first confess our sins and ask for salvation to be saved from them, isn't it? We must first admit that we're sick and ask for healing before we can be healed, isn't it? How can Jesus heal us or forgive our sins if we don't think we need to be forgiven or healed in the first place, if we're proud or if we think we're perfectly fine without Him?

It's not fundamentally doctrinally wrong to say it differently, it's just that the attitude of the statement just doesn't match up to Scripture.

Therefore, in summary, I don't believe that I shouldn't talk about my old man, my former sin. It is a vital part of my testimony of God's goodness. I am not ashamed to confess the fact that without God, I am a hopeless sinner, that without His mercy, I would be a completely different person today.The two - sin and salvation - "go hand in hand" in that sense. I don't think I'll "tempt the evil eye" or "lose my salvation" by proclaiming facts - that I was sick, that I was a sinner, and therefore I needed Him, and therefore, He saved me.

"I am weak, but He is strong."

I don't believe in superficial and flimsy "positivity", burying my head in the sand, or repeating mantras to myself and convincing myself that they are true, as if my emotions were some kind of positive force, or that I can force things into being. (Yucks).

God puts to shame the words of the wicked. No matter what they speak, it will come to nothing. I believe that the verse in Proverbs (18:21 to be exact) has been taken grossly out of proportion, misunderstand, and falsely taught. Our words can be destructive and negative, therefore we shouldn't speak "lashon hara" (with an evil tongue). I'd rather see it as a warning against false speech, false witness, lies and gossip more than anything else. We should not slander and defame, speaking words of destruction. We also should not be like the ubiquitous "contentious woman" of Proverbs.

The warning can be applied as such, for example:

  1. Don't speak gossip
  2. Don't slander
  3. Don't bear false witness
  4. Don't speak in anger
  5. Don't speak to cause contention

Isn't that simple and practical, rather than superstitious and pseudo-positive/pseudo-spiritual?

Quick and Easy Salvation

Is salvation quick and easy that we don't have to do anything?

No, that isn't the right question. 

Do we have to do anything to be saved?

That isn't the right question either. The fact is, salvation is costly. Yes, it costs a lot. But God paid the hefty price. He sent His son to die on the cross, to be punished for our sins. And He, out of no obligation, freely saved us.

It's not like we can ever talk about salvation as if were cheap and easy, as it its effortless and costs nothing. Because it cost God a lot. Just because it cost you nothing in a sense doesn't it costs God nothing, and that anything can talk about it like that. It costs God, and it should cut us to the heart when we think about how much it cost Him, and make us grateful and willing to do anything for Him.

It cost God, there it is costly. Therefore it costs us, in a way, because it puts us greatly in debt to God, with a debt we can never repay.

We should never speak lightly of salvation. We should realize how much it costs God, and thus, because of how priceless it is.

Salvation causes us to follow after Christ. We who have been bought at a high price now belong to God and not to ourselves and our sin. We live as debtors to God and His grace. His demands of discipleship will cost of our lives, our lives which are worth far less that His, which He deemed worthy of His sacrifice.

"We don't have to do anything to be saved". Here's my second point. It is so quick and easy to be saved, if it requires not even a molecule of effort, or desire, or repentance, or confession on our part, how come the whole world isn't saved, at the blink of an eye? If there's no difference between the life and attitude and action of the saved and unsaved, then why isn't everyone saved? And why does anybody need to be saved?

If salvation is such a free gift, given to us indiscriminately, that we don't even have to ask for, simply receive (and even receiving musn't be considered something so heretical as an action), if salvation is so passive a state, then why isn't everybody in this whole world already saved? 

The fact is, this has a lot to do with Calvinism, or more likely, misinterpretation of Calvinistic principles, because the logical answer would then be, "because not everybody is predestined."

I believe in active salvation, not passive. I believe God didn't just randomly choose some to be saved and others not, regardless of action. That will result in the following:

Firstly, if you're chosen to be saved, no matter what you, no matter how sinfully you live, you will be saved. Secondly, if you're not chosen to be saved, no matter how righteously you live, no matter how much you seek God and etc., you will not be saved.

I believe that anybody who calls on God shall be saved, because the Bible uses the word "whosoever" or "whoever" a whole lot, and "whoever" means "anybody"

(Rom 3:22)  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
(Rom 10:13)  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

(Mat 7:7)  Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
(Mat 7:8)  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

That being said, of course nothing that we can do can save us, that's why we need salvation. That's why we need God. We cannot save ourselves. I'm simply saying that grace is costly, and those who have truly received cannot speak of it in a disrespectful way, and that salvation is active, meaning, it translates to action. It's not something we just passively "get". God saves us beyond and in spite of our actions, that is true. God saved Saul, who was not seeking Him, that is also true. But salvation does not make us inactive and lazy. And God does honor those who call upon Him, who ask, who seek, who knock, who show mercy, who are humble, who are meek, who are poor in spirit, who are weak, while at the same time regarding all men as fallen, all as undeserving, all as unworthy.

How can we understand all this? How can it make sense to us, who want to seek everything in black and white, when God is so far beyond comprehension? One thing I know, truth can never be known apart from God. If we want to know the truth, if we want to understand, we must know Him. He is above and beyond us in every way, and yet, makes Himself accessible.

O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.
(Rom 11:33-36)

Repentance - Turning to God or Turning from Sin?

Repentance is turning from our ways to God's way, from ourselves to Him.

Repentance does involve turning from sin because sin is "my way, my choice, my actions, my path and my decision." Can repentance ever not involve turning from sin? Of course not - that is immoral and absurd. Repentance has always been, throughout the entirety of God's dealings with the human race, turning from sin to God. Can repentance simply be "turning from sin", turning from ourselves? To what? To self-improvement?

It is twofold, as 1 Chronicles expresses so eloquently, turning from our wicked ways and seeking His face".

Seeking His face involves admitting that "my ways" are inadequate. That I need Him.

We need Him, because our sin and our actions cannot be dealt with by us. We need His intervention. If there was not problem with our actions, if we were perfect, we would not be needing His salvation in the first place.

He saves us from sin.

He makes us a new creation, removing the body of sin, the person who has sinned and will continue to sin, from us. He has done this. He is doing this each day. And, His work in us will be finished when we see His face.

God's Love and Tolerance - of Mercy and Punishment

We are fallen, corrupted beings who wish to ascribe to God the same shallow, weak affection we call love. God's love is not love in the way we understand.

God does not love us, and therefore leaves us as we are. He loves us, and He sees the devastating consequences and end-results of our sin. He does not deflect from us the end-result of our wrong-doings and spare us from the bed we make for ourselves. That would make us weak, and being excused from the punishment of lesser sins, we would be emboldened to further destroy our souls with far greater trangressions and more rebellion. 

Rather, He turns us from our wicked ways. He "slaps" us with a dose of reality - the realization of the self-destruction, selfishness and corruption within us, in order that we may may turn from our wickedness to seek the way of righteousness.

God is never is an "easy way out of hell". He doesn't save us from the consequence of sin, He saves us from sin by removing sin from us.

If we have no realization of gravity of sin, if we have not suffered the harsh lessons of the law, our schoolmaster, we would have no gratitude towards God, and thus take salvation as a mere license, a covering for all future transgressions.

God is not One who saves us in order that we can continue to live in sin, to freely sin without consequence, to destroy and corrupt our souls -  He saves us to walk by liberty, the true liberty of freedom from sin.

Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (Luke 7:47)

He shows us grace in the moment of utter desperation. He showers forgiveness on us after our eyes have to be opened - when we are completely without hope, absolutely crushed by the weight of our misdeeds and corruption, when we realize how impossible it is for us to be saved, when we realize we have no more options, in our despair, when we are overwhelmed, when we are faced with certain death.

That is ultimate grace.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

What do we do in a world that knows the gospel?

We Christians often think that we need to propagate the gospel more, that we need to get it out there, we need to write more books, put up more advertisements, hand out more tracks, talk to more people, rent bigger stadiums, and go put the gospel in the public eye.

The problem is, in the world today, almost everybody knows that "Jesus Christ died on the cross to save us from our sins". I think we ought to realize that the world knows the gospel very well. They have heard it a thousand times over. But it isn't make a dint of a difference. So what's new?

The Kingdom of Christianity is like a farmer who has a plot of land. Every year, he tears open a packet of seed, broadcasts it on the field, and returns to his house. Sometimes the ground is soft and ready. Sometimes, the rain comes and waters the seed. But other times, the environmental factors just aren't right. Out of, say, a hundred seeds the farmer sows each year, he can get a minimally got response of a harvest of two, three, maybe even twenty stalks of wheat.

The field is the world. The farmer is Christians and his sowing technique is evangelism today. We just keep "doing evangelism". We do it over and over again.

The problem is that we are sowing the seeds, but we aren't preparing the soil. We aren't tilling the ground. We're waiting for the harvest, that's for sure, we aren't willing to put our backs to it. And if we do put some effect, it's mostly ineffective, because there's only one way to do it right - by doing it according to the Book. Notice that the farmer did not read the instructions on the packet of seeds!

The solution: Do it according to the book - live from the other side of the cross.