Monday, 2 September 2019

OUR CORRUPT HEART


The first step to victorious Christian living is to understand the fact that we are sinful creatures, rotten through and through, and in constant need of God’s forgiveness.



Recently, I came across an article in CHARISMAMAG.COM about a prominent leader, Jim Bakker, who has apparently turned over a new leaf after falling from grace: https://bit.ly/2lqagGd

After browsing through it, I decided that it would be an interesting post to share with others on Facebook since it is a great story on God’s mercy and restoration. After all, when a leader falls, it's not necessarily the end of the story. Like the apostle Peter, he can make a comeback.

That was when I received a slew of responses from my Facebook friends, some calling into question Bakker’s repentance.

Now I am not here to debate on whether this leader has truly repented or not. I am not here to judge the validity of his repentance.

Whether a believer has truly repented is something unclear to man. But the Judge knows our heart ... and no one can fool Him.


No one needed to tell Christ about human nature for He knew what was in each person's heart (John 2:25).

And what is the state of the human heart? It is deceitful above all things and desperately corrupt (Jeremiah 17:9).

Who are the ones most acutely aware of sin in their lives? Answer: Those who are most holy and spiritually sensitive.

God’s holiness reveals our sin and corruption:

Remember what the apostle Paul said: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all (1 Timothy 1:15).

And, lest we forget, the prophet Isaiah cried out when he saw a vision of God sitting on His throne, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5).

Referring to the ugliness of our sinful nature, the well-respected John R. W. Stott states: “Indeed, an honest and humble acknowledgment of the hopeless evil of our flesh, even after the new birth, is the first step to holiness. To speak quite plainly, some of us are not leading holy lives for the simple reason that we have too high an opinion of ourselves.” John R. W. Stott, Men Made New (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1966), p. 74.

In contrast, hyper-grace teaches that God has already forgiven all the past, present and future sins of believers and, as such, we should put the ‘sin issue’ behind us and banish ‘sin consciousness’ from our lives. https://bit.ly/2lPnYm5

Furthermore, hyper-grace asserts that we no longer need to confess our sins. When God looks at us, all He is going to see is Christ’s blood, not our sins. We merely rest in the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’.

If we deny the reality of sin in the lives of believers, we are not only deceived but make God a liar. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). “If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:10).

Failure to understand the seriousness of sin in our lives has dire consequences. Didn’t Jesus tell us that unless we repent we will perish (Luke 13:5)? Let’s learn something which has largely been neglected over the pulpit today: Fear of God and holiness, without which no one can see God.

Didn’t Christ teach on the need to watch and pray so that we will not fall into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41)?

Let’s recognise the fact we are sinful and corrupt and that we need to seek His forgiveness as and when the Holy Spirit convicts us of sin.

Even the apostle Paul did not dare make the claim that he had arrived, spiritually speaking (Philippians 3:13).

     
Finally, who do you think found favour in God’s eyes in the Parable of the Pharisee and the publican (Luke 18:10-14)? The former knew all about the law but was self-righteous. The latter, a tax collector, humbled himself and cried, “God, be merciful to me a sinner!” The answer is obvious.

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”
(Luke 18:10-14)

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Once we commit our lives to Christ, our sins are forgiven. We who have been set free from the power of sin should no longer feel condemned. Having said that, should believers banish (completely get rid of) sin consciousness in our lives?

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

BITTER MEDICINE



No one fancies bitter herbs or medicine. When I was a child, my mother forced me to take them when I fell sick. Though yucky to me as a child then, the concoction helped me to quickly recover from illness.

The writer of the Gospel of Luke, a physician, prescribed some bitter medicine for us in chapter 13, which many find harsh and repulsive. But taking this medicine has tremendous benefits. It is important not for our physical health but eternal well-being.

There are three points highlighted in Luke 13 which are like bitter medicine to many:
  • The call to repentance (verses 1-5)
  • Bear fruit in keeping with repentance (verses 6-9)
  • Strive to enter through the narrow door (verses 22-30)
Let’s deal with each section in turn.

Repent and live!

The crowd mentioned to Jesus that there were certain Galileans whose blood was mixed with the sacrifices at the altar of the temple (after they were slain by Pilate’s soldiers), implying that they deserved a horrible death because they were evil.

Jesus corrected their self-righteous attitude, emphasising that these Galileans were no greater sinners than them. He warned them, “Unless you repent, you will likewise perish (Luke 3:3, Luke 3:5).

Now we will all have to die one day. That is an unchangeable fact. What is more important is where we land up after death. Where will we be spending eternity?

Jesus was telling them that all have sinned and unless they repent (acknowledge their sins before God, believe in the forgiveness Christ offers, and turn from their wicked ways), they will all perish (spend eternity in hell with weeping and gnashing of teeth).

Only Christ can offer us eternal bliss in heaven after we die. And the only way we can get to enjoy this privilege in future is that we must repent … while we can, when we are still alive.
Like bitter herbs, this is the blunt, harsh truth that many cannot accept: Repent and live

“Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live” (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

Bear fruits of repentance

As if to amplify his teaching on repentance using imagery, Jesus told his disciples the parable of the barren fig tree (Luke 13: 6-9). 

A man who planted a fig tree was disappointed that it failed to bear fruit even after a period of three years. So he suggested to the vinedresser, “Cut it down.” But the latter told him to wait; he will give it second chance by putting manure over it. If it fails to bear fruit after a year, then it should be cut down.

This parable had primary reference to the nation of Israel. For centuries God had expected His chosen people to bear fruits in keeping with repentance but they failed to do so. When Christ came, He was rejected by His own people. But God is long-suffering. He will give more time for His people to repent. If they remain stubborn, and refuse to turn to Him, they will be cut off.

This theme of God’s rejection of Israel is explored further in Romans chapter 11. Because of Israel’s rejection of Christ, the gospel of the kingdom is extended to the Gentiles. But God is an impartial God, being equally kind and severe towards both Jews and Gentiles. Unless Gentiles remain in His love, they too will be cut off, like the Jews: “Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off” (Romans 11:22). 

In the same vein, Jesus addressed believers: “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (John 15:6).

The same agricultural analogy appears elsewhere in the Gospels. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree, therefore, that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10).

Repentance must be evidenced by fruit (changed lifestyle, obedience, manifestation of the fruit of the Holy Spirit).

Strive to enter through the narrow door

One day, Jesus was asked: “Lord, will those who are saved be few” (Luke 13: 23)?
He did not give a clear cut ‘Yes or No’ answer. How then did He answer? “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).

The word ‘strive’ implies effort is required. This does not mean we can save ourselves by good works. Rather, it means we have to be disciplined in working out our salvation as God is at work within us through the Holy Spirit (Philippians 2:12-13). Though we are saved by faith, our lives must be characterised by good works, which God has prepared beforehand for us to do (Ephesians 2:8-10).

                                                                          
Jesus went on to impress upon them the fact that when the door to heaven is shut, it is final and cannot be revoked. “When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from’” (Luke 13:25). “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil” (Luke 13:27).

Even if people were to plead for mercy, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets” (Luke 13:26), the door might just be shut in their faces. These pleas for mercy could mean in our modern-day context: “We are church members, we attend church regularly.” Superficial acquaintance with God, mere usage of spiritual lingo (like Lord, Lord), complacency and reliance on external symbols of inclusion in God’s kingdom may be dangerous to one’s soul.

What are some reasons for exclusion from heaven? Though people may claim to follow Christ, they do not cultivate a personal relationship with Him, do not seek to do His will and do not seek to live a righteous life. They might know a lot about Him through sermons but, truly, they do not know Him (Matthew 7:21-23).

Indeed, the door (gate) to heaven is narrow and the route (way) to heaven is difficult. Yet today’s false gospel of easy believism, hyper-grace and the prosperity gospel all sing a different tune.

It is truly difficult to inherit eternal life: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

So both these passages in Luke 13:24 and Matthew 7:13-14 concur: The way to heaven is difficult and few will get there.

To recapitulate, are we willing to take Dr Luke’s three types of bitter medicine found in Luke chapter 13?
  • Repent and live!

  • Bear fruit in keeping with repentance

  • Strive to enter through the narrow door

Or do we dismiss the above and choose to go our own merry way, taking the path of least resistance, like the majority?

Sunday, 12 May 2019

TRUTH WILL TRIUMPH


Psalm 11 sheds light on the fact that God will not let evil prevail indefinitely. His justice means that, one day, He will surely intervene and judge evil.

In these dark days, when evil abounds, we tend to be overwhelmed by a sense of despair and hopelessness.

Like the psalmist, we cry out in dismay, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do (Psalm 11: 3)?” If the “limits” and “props” in life have being removed, and freedom becomes licentiousness, what can the faithful do?

But let’s be encouraged by the fact that truth will ultimately triumph over evil. God, who is sovereign, is still in control of everything. He is seated on His heavenly throne, watching good and evil over all the earth (Psalm 11: 4-5).

                  
Persecuted saints almost cannot bear the long wait for God to intervene, crying out, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 6:10)?” But Christ will return at His appointed time to judge evil, as we read later in same chapter.

Those who choose to willfully live in sin will be judged. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

False teachers and prophets have a great time now, reaping ample material rewards and enjoying man's acclaim. But when Christ returns, they will have to face His judgment. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23).

The Antichrist will be given a free hand to wage war against the saints and commit evil deeds during the Great Tribulation ... until the day Christ returns and destroys him. “And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2: 8).

The Psalmist ends by stating that God is a God of justice. He will destroy evil doers and vindicate the righteous:
He will rain burning coals and sulfur on the wicked;
a scorching wind will be their portion.
For the Lord is righteous; He loves righteous deeds.
The upright will see His face.
(Psalm 11: 6-7)

But we, as believers, become partners of Christ and receive eternal rewards only if we persevere and prove to be faithful till the end (Hebrews 3:14, Colossians 1:21-23).

TRUTH
What is truth? The Bible clearly states it:
Thy word is truth (John 17:17)
Jesus is the personification of truth (John 1:14, 17).


Thursday, 21 March 2019

IMPLICATIONS THAT WE CAN’T AFFORD TO IGNORE



Many believers cruise along in life, happy in the knowledge that they are saved by grace. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of thinking.

However, we often fail to see the many obstacles and pitfalls we will inevitably encounter in our faith journey, which is by no means an effortless cruise because temptation, deception, spiritual warfare and complacency will inevitably present challenges.

Many are unaware of these threats to their spiritual well-being. Perhaps they hold a very positive outlook—that believers saved by grace will serve God free from various temptations and struggles, ride away into the sunset and thence into a blissful eternity. Or they may be too na├»ve or stubborn to heed the many warnings in scripture about the dangers posed by the world, flesh and the devil. Probably, they do not study God’s word in depth and, even if they do, they do not meditate on it and consider some of its serious implications.

What are some of these shocking implications (which we hardly hear over the pulpit as it often dishes out seeker sensitive, motivational, entertaining or ear-tickling material)?

“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). And if we don't work hard and do these things, does this not suggest that we might just fall away?



He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels (Revelation 3:5). Does this not suggest that believers who fail to overcome will be blotted out from the Book of Life?

Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.  Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved (Matthew 24:9-13). Does this not suggest that he who fails to endure amid end-time persecution, lawlessness and deception will not be saved?

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sightif indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister (Colossians 1:21-23). Does this not suggest that unless believers continue to be steadfast in the faith, we will not be ushered into God’s presence one day?


Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9-10). Does this not suggest we have to repent and be made righteous first before we can step foot into God’s holy presence (one-off sinner's prayer won’t avail)?


For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. Or, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” (Hebrews 10: 26-27, Hebrews 10: 36-38). Does this not suggest that it is not enough for believers to start well but finish well, that God will judge His people if they shrink back and choose to willfully live in sin?


For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:1-12). Does this not tell us one thing—that Paul was using the failure on the part of the wilderness wayfarers to enter the Promised Land as an object lesson to believers today that if we practise idolatry and immorality and persist in unbelief, like them, we will miss out on heaven (even if we are genuine believers)? Notice the last verse: “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partners of Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:12-14). Does this not suggest that in order to receive God’s promise of eternal rest, we need to endure till the end and remain faithful?


The trouble is when we study or read God’s word, we are often in a rush and miss out on these harsh implications. Even if we would for a moment consider them, we will try to explain it away, a process called rationalisation. For example, if you warn someone about the dangers of smoking as it might increase a person’s likelihood of getting heart disease or lung cancer, he might rationalise his behaviour by saying that no one in his family has a history of heart disease or that George Burns puffed away till he was 100.

I hope that, as a believer who studies God’s Word, meditates upon it and desires to follow God, you will take some time to consider some of these serious implications. And, as a result, take action. May you draw strength as you pray and rely on the Holy Spirit.

Postscript

Never be lulled into a false sense of eternal security by the premise, “Once Saved, Always Saved”, which tends to promote complacency.

On one hand, there are professing believers, who have the form of religion but not the substance, the reality of God within their souls. The many warnings in scripture about falling away are not primarily directed at them. You see, you can’t “unsave” a person who is not saved in the first place.

On the other hand, there are countless warnings by Jesus, Paul, Peter and the writer of Hebrews about the real danger of GENUINE BELIEVERS falling away, which we easily brush off because we hold the view that genuine believers will definitely be saved eventually because of the work of the Holy Spirit—a position which is unrealistic as man is basically evil and has a will (volition) which he can exercise to willfully sin or deny God, a factor which Calvinism ignores completely. When we discount man’s corruption and the operation of his will (volition), we will be led to embrace the lie of “Once Saved, Always Saved”.

Not only genuine believers may fall away and lose their salvation but many will do so in these last days. And this falling away in scriptures does not refer to professing believers.

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Sunday, 3 February 2019

PROFESSING VS TRUE BELIEVERS



When life as we know it ends one day, and we meet our Creator, He will ask us one question: “Do I know you?”

As the story goes, there are two groups of believers, those who profess to know God and those who really know and obey Him. Thus we have professing and true believers.

Let us turn to two passages in scriptures, both from the book of Matthew.

False prophets who move in signs and wonders but do not know God:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
(Matthew 7: 21-23)

Foolish virgins (careless, complacent believers) who called out in vain, “Lord, Lord” but were shut out from the marriage feast (heaven) in the Parable of the Ten Virgins:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
(Matthew 25:1-13)

Here we see two groups of believers, those who profess and possess the real thing (intimate knowledge of God). What is this knowing or rather intimate knowledge of God?

To find out, let’s now turn to the passage about believers as sheep and Jesus as the good shepherd:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me,[a] is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.
(John 10:27-29)

As we can see, true believers have a relationship with God. God knows them and they, in turn, can hear His voice and follow Him. So we can say, God and true believers have an intimate relationship.

If you are a believer, ask yourself:
Do I seek to know God better every day?

Do I pray, read and study His word?

Do I seek to know His will for my life and then do it?

“You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

“Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4).

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32).

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:15-18).

Don’t be like the careless and complacent, foolish virgins or the false prophets who have all the bells and whistles of God’s approval but do not have a relationship with God.

Many, desperate to enter heaven, will cry out on judgment day, “Lord, Lord, let me enter” but hear God’s voice of rejection, “I do not know you.”

To have the form of religion without the substance, to profess but not possess the real thing is the greatest tragedy in church today.



Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24).

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matthew 7:13-14).

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

HAPPY NEW YEAR


When you greet someone Happy New Year, what do you really wish for them?
What does Happy New Year mean to you?

“Happy New Year” greeting is usually associated with health and wealth. We wish others happiness, health and wealth. How many of us view this greeting as a state of blessedness when we come into a right relationship with God?
                                                                                   

Prosperity gospel and the doctrine of Bill Johnson (pastor of Bethel church, Redding, California) emphasise a lot the former—that we have the right to be healthy and wealthy as children of God. Their premise is that if we are living righteously, health and wealth should also be ours.

But, in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 1-12), did Jesus mention about health and wealth as something associated with a state of blessedness in God’s eyes? Answer: No.

In contrast, Jesus teaches that blessed are those who are meek, merciful, pure in heart, poor in spirit, mourn, hunger and thirst for righteousness, make peace and remain strong amid persecution. Nothing related to health and wealth, legitimate though these earthly concerns may be.


Happiness, health & wealth are overrated 
What, then, is that state of blessedness which we must strive to attain as we enter the New Year?

First, we must get back to God. We need to confess our sins and repent. For blessed are they whose sins are forgiven (Psalm 32:1). Unless we repent, we will also perish like other sinners (Luke 13: 5).

Second, we must live intentionally and seek God to determine what His specific will is for us (Ephesians 5:15-17). We need to acknowledge that God’s wisdom is far above our human understanding and commit our ways to Him (Proverbs 3:5-6, James 4:13-15).

Third, we must be good servants who look after the master’s household well (Matthew 24: 45-51). We need to emulate the good stewards who utilise and/or invest our God-given gifts, talents and resources (Matthew 25: 14-30), unlike the one-talent man who buried his talent.

Fourth, we need to be watchful (not complacent) and make sure our lamps are filled with sufficient oil, which a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 25: 1-13). This means we need to be continually filled with the Spirit and choose to walk in the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh (Ephesians 5:18, Galatians 5:16).

Well, not to sound too preachy and serious at the beginning of the year, I would hasten to add that there is nothing wrong in greeting one another “Happy New Year”—even if we mean that we wish them the traditional things like health, wealth, happiness and success.

After all, we are all part of a community and “Happy New Year” is a socially acceptable greeting akin to what the apostle John wrote: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers” (3 John 2).

While we greet our friends and relatives Happy New Year, we must not lose our focus concerning that which is of paramount importance: Seek first His kingdom, seek the things that are above.

“Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
(Colossians 3:1-3)

Have a Happy and Blessed New Year! Shalom.

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