Thursday, 29 December 2016
A person’s Christology, what he thinks concerning Christ’s identity and work, reveals whether his faith is genuine or not—and more.
Jesus is the name given by his parents whereas Christ (Messiah) is a title, meaning anointed or chosen one. Jesus Christ is the perfect God-man. He is 100% God and 100 % man. Any teaching that deviates from this central bedrock truth is suspect.
According to the Bible, Jesus Christ is both fully human and fully divine.
Firstly, He had to be a man because He had to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins so that the demands of God’s righteousness and justice can be satisfied (Colossians 2:13-14). Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22).
Secondly, He had to be a man in order to be identified with man’s vulnerability to temptations—yet without falling into sin (Hebrews 4:15). Christ came to show us that He could fulfil all the demands of the law as a perfect man (Matthew 5:17, 1 Peter 2:22).
Next, He has to be divine, spotless and untainted by sin, so that the ‘once and for all’ sacrifice of His life (Hebrews 9: 11-14) is counted as worthy to redeem man from the penalty of sin—spiritual death or eternal separation from God.
If Christ is not divine, how could He forgive sins in the course of His ministry on earth? A man filled with the power of the Holy Spirit can perform miracles. But can a mere man forgive sins? Before healing the paralytic who was brought to Him on a stretcher from the roof, Jesus demonstrated His authority and ability to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-11). Jesus also forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:10-11). http://bit.ly/1vnWGyq
A person’s theology about Christ’s identity and work (Christology) is one of the ways by which we evaluate whether a believer’s faith is genuine or not. It also helps us determine whether a teacher is of God or not.
One day, Jesus posed this crucial question to his disciples: “Who do you think Jesus is?” Notice Peter’s reply and its significance.
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
Is it possible for a born again believer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to say that Christ is merely a great man or miracle worker?
A person’s Christology, what he thinks concerning Christ’s identity and work, has important implications regarding the genuineness of his faith. It is God the Father who reveals to Peter that Christ is divine. Isn't it logical to infer that whoever who fails to see Christ as divine but merely as a great man, teacher or prophet does not have God's revelation and therefore does not belong to God?
If he belongs to God, and the Holy Spirit is in him, he would have been enlightened about His divinity (Matthew 16:13-17).
Just as no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), no one can say Jesus is divine except by the Holy Spirit. Conversely, no one with the Holy Spirit would say that Jesus is merely a great man, teacher or prophet.
Anyone who teaches that Christ has come in the flesh is from God. That means God has become incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already” (1 John 4: 2-3).
“And the Word became 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).
Teachers who profess to be believers but fail to see Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) but view Him as merely a holy man or great teacher do not know God. This is because enlightenment about Christ’s God-man uniqueness is not based on one’s intellect but through the revelation of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 16:13-17).
“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2: 22). So whoever denies Christ’s deity is condemned.
What will be your response as a believer if a so-called Christian leader comes and shows you that he is able to perform miraculous acts—great signs and wonders—but does not believe that Christ is fully man and fully divine? http://bit.ly/1vnWGyq
Here are the answers:
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 7-9).
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23).
From the above two passages in 2 John and Matthew 7, we realise that it is possible for believers to be deceived by those who can perform signs and wonders but do not genuinely know Christ—God who became incarnate, fully divine and fully man.
One of the purposes of sound doctrine is that it warns us about deception; it keeps us from being deceived. Doctrine can be likened to road signs that help us travel safely, stay on course, without crashing out. It is easy to be mesmerised by miracle workers but if we would just pause to examine their Christology, we would have been sufficiently warned about the danger of deception. http://bit.ly/1vnWGyq
What a person thinks concerning Christ’s identity and work (Christology) has important implications. A person’s Christology reveals to us whether his faith is genuine or not and also tells us whether he is a teacher come from God or not.
Failure to see Christ as fully God and fully man is not merely something academic. It shows that the person’s faith is not genuine or that he is not a teacher come from God.
DID JESUS SET ASIDE HIS DIVINITY?
Is it biblical for a Christian leader to teach that Jesus set aside his divinity and performed miracles as a MAN empowered by the Holy Spirit?
WHAT IS CHRISTOLOGY?
Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ.https://www.gotquestions.org/Christology.html
Wednesday, 21 December 2016
Thinking of pursuing theological studies? Here are five noble objectives to consider.
If our goal of pursuing theological studies is to merely satisfy our intellectual curiosity or expand our intellectual capacity, then we have misplaced priorities.
What are some noble objectives to consider before embarking on formal theological education?
Firstly, it is to know what God considers good and desirable so that we are able to please Him and glorify His name (Ezra 7:10).
Secondly, it is to impact the world around us, whether in a small way through our social circle or in a wider context. This can take the form of witnessing, loving deeds or written works.
Thirdly, it is to apply theology to practical, down to earth issues such as career, marriage, family life, personal finance, inter-personal relationship and balanced wholesome living (Luke 2:52).
Fourthly, it is to help us to be more confident and better prepared in giving an answer to anyone who asks us what is the reason for our hope (1 Peter 3:15).
Fifthly, it is to help us maintain a steady course in our spiritual journey so that we can obtain the ultimate reward of salvation, eternal life. Otherwise, we may start well but fail to end up in paradise due to various factors such as failure to overcome sin, deception and persecution (Matthew 24: 9-13).
Similarly, the purpose of this blog is to help believers fulfil all the above goals:
- Studying the Bible first-hand, like the Bereans, scrutinising any teaching against scripture (Acts 17:11).
- Making the truth simple and easily understood for believers.
- Helping people in their day-to-day living by showing the relevance of ancient scripture.
- Developing confidence in sharing and defending the faith when approached by pre-believers.
- Helping people cultivate perseverance in their spiritual journey. In particular, strong emphasis has been laid on recognising deception and discerning false teachings and false supernatural manifestations that mimic the works of the Holy Spirit.
Whilst renewing the mind is an important key to spiritual transformation, we must not put intellectual pursuit on a pedestal and neglect other key areas like love, obedience and the role of the Holy Spirit.
George Verwer of Operation Mobilisation recalled the time when he went with someone to the office of Billy Graham. None of the office staff noticed them except the receptionist. They were too pre-occupied with an evangelistic campaign to pay attention to outsiders. Then Graham walked in and started shaking hands with everybody. He went over to greet both Verwer and his friend. Though much busier than the office staff, he had time to spare for others. He was full of warmth and love. Similarly, ministers and theologians must remain down-to-earth and be able to connect with ordinary folks.
For all his scholarship (he wrote most of the books in the New Testament), Paul was neither cold nor aloof. He demonstrated unconditional love for the believers at Corinth: “I will gladly spend myself and all I have for you, even though it seems that the more I love you, the less you love me” (2 Corinthians 12:15).
Jesus was equally at home whether he was preaching, attending a wedding, dining with sinners or blessing the children—equally spiritual and human. He had no difficulty connecting with people from different social strata. Even so, we must not allow intellectual superiority or prowess to create a barrier between us and ordinary folks.
Recognising the role of the Holy Spirit and being able to sense His leading are just as important as renewing our minds with the Word. Someone rightly puts it: “Too much Word and you dry up, too much Spirit and you blow up, the Word and the Spirit and you grow up”.
We need to check ourselves if we have been long on doctrine and short on practice. At the end of the day, head knowledge must grow in tandem with loving acts and practical ministry.
Ivory tower mentality
If we merely stay in our ivory tower of intellectual excellence—not allowing scripture to touch or change us and the people around us for the better—we have wasted the years we have arduously spent pursuing formal theological studies.
In itself, the pursuit of knowledge—even formal theological education—cannot be seen as a believer’s highest and most desirable goal but only as a means to an end. Man’s chief goals in life are to know God, enjoy His presence, make an impact in the world and glorify His name.
Caveat: We should love God not only with all our heart and strength but our mind as well. As such, this post is not to discourage those who aspire to improve their understanding of the Bible through pursuing formal theological studies. Rather, it is an attempt to help them think through their goals and what they hope to achieve—armed with a theological degree.
MAKING TRUTH SIMPLE, RELEVANT AND PRACTICAL
“People are not quite interested in the amount of theological knowledge we may have. They want to see to what extent our lives have been transformed by the knowledge we have in your head. They want to know how that knowledge can be applied to practical issues everyone faces in everyday life such as crisis, finances, broken relationships, worry, anxiety and depression. They need to understand how theology can help them overcome temptation, deception and the wiles of the devil. They want to learn how to persevere and finish well in their spiritual race. They want to be better equipped in sharing their faith. And, finally, they want to see how well we can communicate deep theological issues and concepts in simple terms that even the layperson can understand. It is inconceivable and illogical that we should keep theology within the classroom, away from the issues of everyday life, and keep it so high up in the “spiritual stratosphere” that a layperson can never hope to access, let alone grasp.”- Porridge for the Soul
MORE THEOLOGY, MORE IMPACT?
Is the impact we make in this world directly proportional to the number of theological degrees we have under our belt?
STUDY BY YOURSELF OR LEARN FROM OTHERS?
Serious personal Bible study a la the Bereans is needed so that we will not be deceived or put to shame. However, there is no harm learning from others who are gifted in teaching.
CAN WE SURPASS TEACHERS IN UNDERSTANDING?
Teachers are specially gifted in the study and exposition of scriptures. That said, is it possible to have understanding that surpasses that of teachers?
EIGHT WAYS TO FIGHT FALSE TEACHING
How to develop discernment and escape the clutches of destructive heresies.
SCIENCE AND FAITH
We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart. Man cannot know God through the rational process—no matter how great his intellect. Faith, the means by which man comes to know God, is not against reason; it transcends reason. Reason may help to build faith but it (reason) can never ultimately bring a person to know God.
WHAT BEING OPEN-MINDED MEANS
More than ever before we need to be like the Bereans in our approach to understanding the truthhttp://bit.ly/1KeKVRU
Thursday, 15 December 2016
Christians are all sinners saved by God’s grace. This happens when we put our faith in Christ, whose blood cleanses us from our sins (Ephesians 2:8-9).
However, faith is not merely intellectual assent. We must act out our faith. Faith has to be matched by action.
Would Abraham be deemed a man of great faith if he had not responded to God’s call to leave the comfort of his home to go to a promised land of abundant blessings (Genesis 12:1-2)? By the way, he did not even know where he was supposed to go (Hebrews 11:8).
In another instance, Abraham’s faith shone when he obeyed God's command to sacrifice Isaac. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works” (James 2:21-22).
How could he possibly obey such a difficult command? Abraham had incredible faith that God was able to miraculously raise his son from the dead in order to fulfil the divine promise that many descendants will arise through Isaac (Hebrews 11: 17-19).
When confronted with God’s promise and command, which seemed to contradict each other, Abraham went ahead to obey the command (sacrifice Isaac), leaving God to take care of His promise (descendants through Isaac).
“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised” (Romans 4:20-21).
Similarly, Noah was a man of great faith. Would he have pleased God if he had not built the ark according to God’s instructions?
“By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
Next, let’s move on to the New Testament, which further reinforces the fact that faith is not merely intellectual assent but action.
In Ephesians, we are saved (forgiven and made righteous in God’s sight) by faith. But what comes next? We have to live a life evidenced by good works.
- God’s part: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8,9).
- Our part: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).
In Philippians, we also see a parallel to the foregoing passage in Ephesians. God works in us, helping us to obey Him. But we too have to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
- Our part: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
- God’s part: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Thus, when we embrace God’s grace and mercy, we have to live out our faith with a sense of personal responsibility.
Let’s examine now another account where Jesus expected a forgiven sinner to turn over a new leaf.
Most believers are familiar with the account of the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). The crowd gathered around her and wanted to stone her.
But Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.”
Finally, when the crowd dispersed, Jesus asked her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”
She said, “No one, Lord.”
And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
While the adulterous lady was forgiven, she was also told to repent of her sinful lifestyle.
This short account has deep theological implications. The recipient of God’s love and mercy ought to show evidence of change in thought and behaviour. In other words, the sinner has to repent.
The kind of faith that truly saves must involve repentance—a change in thought, behaviour, goals, aspirations and lifestyle as well.
Just as the adulterous lady had to stop sinning and seek restoration with her husband, the thief should stop stealing and find honest work (Ephesians 4:28). Those who love to lie and gossip must stop their negative behaviour. Those who make idols should start looking for alternative jobs or businesses.
Sometimes, repentance involves a drastic change at great personal cost: “Many who became believers confessed their sinful practices. A number of them who had been practicing sorcery brought their incantation books and burned them at a public bonfire. The value of the books was several million dollars” (Acts 19:18-19).
Mr. Practical, the apostle James, underscores for us the fact that genuine faith has to be evidenced by good works.
- “Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17).
- “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).
Finally, we need to be reminded of the words of John the Baptist: “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (Matthew 3:8). “Bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8).
Sometimes, we think that there is a serious contradiction between Paul’s teaching that we are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) and James’ teaching that genuine faith must be evidenced by works (James 2:17, 26). In fact, Martin Luther once had a low view of the book of James, calling it an “epistle of straw”.
However, this is only an apparent contradiction. Paul also taught that we have to work out our salvation in fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). His fellow apostle, Peter reaffirmed the truth: “Dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away” (2 Peter 1:10).
To embrace the truth, we have to imbibe the whole counsel of God, not just gravitate towards likeable portions of scripture. We have to embrace the whole Bible—and that means, in this context, not only the teachings of Paul but James as well.
Another common misunderstanding is that Jesus is merely the personification of grace. So does it mean we need not worry at all as God’s grace “settles everything” in our favour when we sin?
The fact is Jesus is the personification of both grace and truth (John 1: 14,17). The ‘truth attribute’ of Jesus means that He requires believers to be holy and righteous. As such, when we sin, we need to confess our sins and forsake our sinful ways, even though we have been saved by grace through faith.
In conclusion, we cannot claim to have genuine faith if we do not obey God or fail to repent— turn away from our sins and seek to live according to God’s ways. Faith without works is dead.
Faith: Active, Not Passive
“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”
― Dr Michael L. Brown
GRACE AND TRUTH
The only way to know God and relate to Him is to embrace Him as He truly is—a God of grace, love and mercy AND a God of justice, righteousness and truth. To just know Him as either the former or latter is to live in complacency and indifference to sin OR guilt and despair over sin.
FAITHFUL TO OUR CALLING
Knowing that God keeps us faithful till the end is not enough. We have to seek to understand His will for our lives and then live it out. In these end times when evil abounds, it is all the more important that we live intentionally and purposefully.
A WALK IN THE PARK
Some compare the Christian life to a walk in the park. They say everything is by faith. You just have to believe in what Jesus has done for you at the cross. Anything more than that smacks of self-effort, pride and legalism.http://bit.ly/1i4ec6W
Monday, 5 December 2016
How we can develop inner strength amid adversity
Our moods rise and fall like the ocean waves. We can be happy but, the next moment, we can quickly sink into depression.
Happiness is unpredictable as it depends on favourable circumstances. Joy, on the other hand, is constant as it looks towards a faithful, unchanging God.
Though the harvest failed and the farm animals died, Habakkuk could still rejoice in God.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom,
nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
and there be no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Why? Because he knew that God is trustworthy and He will prove His faithfulness once again.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.”
Writing from prison where he was incarcerated, Paul encouraged believers with a triumphant message: “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).
Why was Paul joyful despite being trapped in a prison cell? He had a personal relationship with the living God and knew that he was fulfilling God’s purpose for his life. Even the dark and musty surroundings did not make him lose hope in God. As he looked forward to the eternal rewards that awaited him, his spirit was uplifted.
When trials and tribulations hit us, we should focus on Jesus’ example to gain inner strength and joy.
The writer of Hebrews reminds us to look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Jesus was able to endure the suffering because of the joyful prospect of seeing man reconciled to God. Out of the anguish of His soul, He shall be satisfied for many are made righteous (Isaiah 53:11).
How can we develop inner strength and joy despite the circumstances? Here are eight ways to help us:
- Be positive about trials as they produce steadfastness (James 1:2-3)
- Don’t be anxious or fearful because God’s presence is always with us (Romans 8:38-39)
- Have faith in God and He will give us wisdom and strength (James 1:5, 2 Corinthians 12:9)
- Affirm that the battle is God’s, not ours (2 Chronicles 20:12)
- Worship God as if victory has already been secured (2 Chronicles 20:21)
- With thanksgiving, prayerfully commit our anxieties to God (Philippians 4:6)
- Believe that God’s power can do far more than what we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20)
- Recalling God’s past faithfulness and mercies (Psalm 77:11)
As we seek God, we will be well watered—even as we pass through a dry valley, like that of Baca.
Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.
As they go through the Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the early rain also covers it with pools.
After all, God promises to deliver those who know Him and depend on Him.
“Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
Finding inner strength and joy under adverse circumstances may be extremely difficult. But it is not impossible. If we meditate on the three examples above—lessons from the lives of Habakkuk, Paul and Jesus—things might be much easier to bear.
Thanks be to God who always causes us to triumph in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14)!
PURPOSE IN PAIN
Trials and tribulations can teach us a lot, especially in the areas of character and personal growth. Clearly, God has a purpose when He puts us through painful experiences.
DON'T TRY TO FIGURE IT OUT
When believers go through trials and tribulations, it is natural to ask God, “Why? Why does this have to happen to me?” In some instances, God remains silent and fails to grant us relief from our suffering.
STAR OR SCAR
God’s vision for our lives often revolves around our gifts—areas in which we shine like a star. Sometimes, this vision is birthed out of a scar, after we have gone through painful struggles.
WHY PERSEVERANCE IS NEEDED
Why we have to be steadfast in our journey of faith. What are the possible consequences if we fail to persevere?
Monday, 21 November 2016
Comparing the problems in churches today to that found in the ancient churches of Laodicea and Ephesus
The modern-day church is plagued by many ills. The pursuit of money, fame, power, signs and wonders edges God out from our focus. Worship is more about entertainment and immersion in a highly emotionally-charged experience. Marketplace techniques are used to create an attractive, seeker-sensitive environment for churchgoers. Diluted, “feel good” messages are concocted to draw the masses into massive auditoriums as church coffers continue to balloon.
Meanwhile, the central message of the cross and its demands on the believer—self-denial, repentance, obedience and fruitfulness—are downplayed or sidelined whereas external symbols of success are worshipped. Wealth, health, personal well-being and fulfillment have gained wide acceptance as the mantras of today. God is often seen as an “errand boy”, compelled to do our bidding when we ‘name it, claim it’ by faith. If we are not healthy or wealthy, we are told, something must be seriously wrong with our relationship with God. But this is a false premise.
Believers may get so enchanted by the glitz and glitter in church—soothing music, rousing worship, imposing architecture, luxurious ambience, eloquence of the preacher—that they fail to distinguish between the form (externals, frills) and the substance (core values, essentials).
Now there is nothing wrong with having all the nice things in life—the music, ambience and eloquent preaching. But the substance, too, must be there.
- Is God’s presence truly in the church?
- Is the doctrine well-balanced and sound?
- Are the church funds well accounted for?
- Does absolute power reside in one person only?
- Are there sufficient checks and balances to prevent abuse of funds and the emergence of “mini-dictatorship”?
- Has there been too much ‘hero worshipping’ that the leader is seen as someone who can do no wrong?
- Has ‘touch not God’s anointed’ being used to deflect leadership accountability?
- Has he been idolised to the extent that his wrongdoings must be covered up for the sake of maintaining the status quo?
- Has there been an inordinate emphasis on building an elaborate sanctuary—incurring massive debts in the process—at the expense of less tangible priorities such as missions and social work?
- Has the church been too inward-looking, rather than being kingdom-minded?
- Having started out well, has the church allowed a different kind of gospel to seep into it along the way —a “health and wealth” gospel?
- How much of the cross is featured in the church’s idea of the gospel?
- Has there been a healthy balance between the Word and Holy Spirit in the body life and ministry of the church?
Once again, we need to be reminded of our core values. We need to renew our minds by going deep into scripture, allowing it to impact and shape our worldview.
“Do not conform yourselves to the standards of this world, but let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind. Then you will be able to know the will of God—what is good and is pleasing to him and is perfect” (Romans 12:2).
May we heed the warning to the church at Laodicea so that we will be cured of spiritual blindness:
“I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realise that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see”
How much has the love for worldly things seeped into the church?
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Next, let’s consider the church at Ephesus. They passed with flying colours in three P’s:
1. Performance—excelled in good works.
2. Purity of doctrine—being discerning, they managed to fend off false doctrine.
3. Perseverance—able to endure hardship.
But they failed in one area: First Love.
So it’s PASS for three P’s but FAIL for one F.
“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.
Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
Now what exactly is ‘first love’? It is the glow, excitement and enthusiasm that we had when we first believed in Christ. We could serve God and testify for Him with great joy.
But down the road in our spiritual walk, things have turned dull and monotonous. We no longer seek him as earnestly as before or spontaneously burst out in worship.
Peak performance and statistics have always been the name of the game in business and corporate circles. It is the method by which we monitor success. Sadly, this kind of thinking has also been creeping into church circles.
Undeniably, good response is often a sign of God’s presence. It tells us God is moving as is evident during Pentecost when Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, preached the first sermon and thousands were saved.
Yet, playing the numbers game alone without “quality control” is dangerous. Did Jesus emphasise having a huge following at the expense of quality of believers? Would Jesus lower discipleship standards so that more people can come under His wings? (Luke 9:23, John 6:60-66). No, Christ did not play to the gallery. He maintained high “admission standards” for those who desired to follow Him (Luke 9:62).
Having a big church, in itself, without the spiritual reality (2 Timothy 3:5) is not commendable. What is the point of great numbers if truth is not upheld? The danger of performance without ‘first love’ (intimate relationship with Christ) is that our ability to witness or impact those around us will be taken away—when our lampstand is removed from us.
A rethink is sorely needed today.
Taking the warning from the church at Laodicea, the modern-day church needs to shifts its focus away from form (external symbols of success) to substance (core values such as love, discipleship and faithfulness).
Heeding the warning from the church at Ephesus, today’s church also needs a shift in its emphasis—from performance to rekindling its first love.
Worship and Entertainment
“It is now common practice in most evangelical churches to offer the people, especially the young people, a maximum of entertainment and a minimum of serious instruction. It is scarcely possible in most places to get anyone to attend a meeting where the only attraction is God. One can only conclude that God’s professed children are bored with Him, for they must be wooed to attend a meeting with a stick of striped candy in the form of religious movies, games and refreshments.”– A. W. Tozer
Being Seeker Sensitive
"I would say the greatest failure of the Church today is its unwillingness to say and do the unpopular thing. Too many Christians busy themselves these days trying to come up with new ways of being admired and desired by the world rather than simply being obedient to the Lord they claim to love. With a self-sustaining focus on acquiring evermore results and relationships (i.e. “church growth”) by way of pragmatism and consensus, none of which is biblical, today’s Christians are, by and large, being persuaded and trained week after week to embrace surveys, marketing principles, public relations programs and people skills as their new commandments with dialectically-trained consultants and facilitators posing as prophets and preachers – people pleasers who know how to work the crowd and steer the herd while selectively applying the scriptures as needed to maintain a biblical appearance of righteousness and religiosity."
– Paul Proctor in “What's Wrong With A More Social Gospel?”
CONSUMER-ORIENTED APPROACH VS HARSH TRUTH
If Jesus were preaching today, would He place consumer expectation and drawing a crowd as top priorities? Or would He value truth above all?
IS THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL VALID?
FIVE MARKS OF AN AUTHENTIC DISCIPLE
BALAAM: PROPHET OF COMPROMISE
What relevance has the life of this Old Testament prophet to believers today? A lot. Mentioned three times in the New Testament, Balaam and his errant ways still speak to us today.