Monday 28 September 2015


Which is a more accurate representation of a believer’s journey in life? Sit back and relax till we attain eternal bliss OR press on and persevere till the end? 

Having bought a new car, don’t we regularly send it to the authorised service centre so that it will serve us well without a hitch?

Try skipping regular maintenance and we may experience permanent irreversible damage to the car engine or suffer disastrous consequences due to faulty brakes.

What makes us think everything is plain sailing once we receive Christ? What makes us think we don’t need regular “servicing and maintenance”? By “servicing and maintenance”, I mean that if we sin—and I’m sure all of us do—we need to confess our sins, repent and get back on the right track again.

For believers, there are several reasons why we need to press on, why we need to “maintain” our salvation. Some may immediately protest against this “maintenance” aspect but please be patient as I explain. **

Why does our faith need to endure?

Hebrews chapter 10 highlights the fact that our faith needs to endure in order that we may remain saved:
But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And I take no pleasure
    in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.
(Hebrews 10:38-39). 

Jude reinforces the truth that persevering faith is needed:
“I wish to remind you, as you all know, that God, when once he had brought the people out from Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 1:5). Instead of taking possession of the Promised Land after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, God’s chosen people fell.

Paul reinforces Jude, outlining in greater detail, the events leading to their fall from God’s favour:
“For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.
“Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things 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 got up to indulge in revelry.” We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. We should not test Christ, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel.
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:1-11).

 Peter exhorts believers to be all the more diligent to confirm our calling and election for if we practice ‘these qualities’ we will never fall (2 Peter 1:10). And what are ‘these qualities’? They are spelled out in the preceding verses: “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).

Peter issues a solemn warning to believers who willfully choose to live in sin: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21). This passage on apostasy refutes the premise that those who indulge in wanton living were never really converted in the first place.

Those of us who have placed our trust in Christ need to realise that our final destination—whether we land up in heaven or hell—isn’t solely decided at the “point of entry” when we accept Christ.

A man of God who performs great signs and wonders but commits adultery and apostasy at the last lap of life’s journey stands condemned whereas a dying thief who has faith and commits himself to Christ during life’s final moments passes into heaven with rejoicing. Our fate is NOT decided merely at the point of entry (conversion).

It's our current spiritual state which matters. “When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. Because he considered and turned away from all the transgressions that he had committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ O house of Israel, are my ways not just? Is it not your ways that are not just?” (Ezekiel 18:26-29).

Our fate in eternity is based on our spiritual state just before we expire or when Christ returns (whichever comes first). So where we are going to spend eternity isn’t decided at the time of conversion but how we cross the “finishing line” in the "marathon" spiritual race.

On that day of reckoning when we face the Judge, some who think they are ‘in’ may actually be  ‘out’. Some may think God sees them as sheep but they are, in fact, goats.

Some of those who had it so good while on earth may be in for a big surprise. Some who are rich, famous and perform great miracles—who believe God’s favour is upon them—may be in for a rude shock.  There will be major upsets. The first may be last, and the last may be first. There will be much weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Will we be found wanting when we expire like the man who expanded his barns to hoard grain to ensure his own security (Luke 12:16-21)?

Will we be found wanting when Jesus returns like the unfaithful servant who failed to look after the master’s household (Matthew 24: 45-51)?

No wonder Jesus warned repeatedly to be WATCHFUL (be vigilant, be on our toes, spiritually speaking) so that we will not be complacent and caught off guard when He returns (Matthew 24: 42, 44; Matthew 25: 13).

“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.” 
Michael L. Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message


**  Despite the fact we need to press on and persevere in the Christian “marathon race”, we also need to remember that:

  • God empowers us in times of difficulty (2 Corinthians 12: 9)

  • God who began a good work in us helps us complete the race (Philippians 1:8)

  • He is not asking for sinless perfection (Philippians 3:12)

  • He invites us to rest and rejuvenate ourselves in His presence (Matthew 11:28) 


What does it take to be a winner in the most important race of all?

They all started out well, eagerly expecting the bridegroom. How did the wedding ceremony end? Revisiting the Parable of the Ten Virgins.

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

Friday 25 September 2015


Do we downplay obedience and works once we have been saved by grace?

Jesus applied the perfect balance between grace and truth when he dealt with the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-11). After all, He is the personification of grace and truth (John 1:14,17).

Grace was seen in His act of forgiving this woman: “ I do not condemn you.” Truth was upheld when He charged her: “Go and sin no more.”

In short, Jesus told her: “I forgive you but make sure you obey God’s law by forsaking your adulterous lifestyle.

In other words, God forgives us but we need to show personal responsibility. We too need to keep our end of the bargain.

This is in direct contrast with the teachings of hyper-grace that states, when believers embrace grace, they do not have to be subject to the law. Obedience to the law is seen as something negative—an attempt to earn God’s blessings apart from grace.

The following (IN BLUE) is the stance taken by hyper-grace:

“While most people have no problem with agreeing that we have been saved by grace, they are nevertheless still subjecting themselves to the law. They are depending on the “works of the law” or their obedience to the law to earn, merit and deserve God’s blessings.”

“Grace is the undeserved, unmerited and unearned favor of God—the moment you try to merit the free favors of God, His grace is nullified.”

(Page 262, Destined to Reign)

In other words, hyper-grace states that obedience is unnecessary and negative in the life of a believer—that we should not nullify God’s grace through obedience or “works of the law”.

Let us examine some passages in the Bible to see whether obedience nullifies God’s grace.

Firstly, Jesus states clearly that obedience or keeping His laws is evidence that we love Him. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Secondly, Jesus told his disciples not only to think about satisfying their hunger but be focused on doing God’s willobedience. He set the example. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work (John 4:34). Needless to say, we first need to determine God’s will for our lives before we can carry it out. He also emphasised the urgency of bringing in a harvest of souls into His kingdom (John 4:35-36).

Thirdly, though Paul put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3) and trusted in Christ’s righteousness—not try to gain it by obeying God’s law (Philippians 3:9), he did not rest on his laurels after being saved by faith.

On the contrary, his life was marked by obedience and good works:

  • He worked out his faith with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

  • He pressed on toward the goal for the heavenly rewards that await him (Philippians 3:14).

  • He warned and taught men so that they will become mature in Christ (Colossians 1:28).

  • And he strives with great effort, inspired by what Christ has done for him (Colossians 1:29).

  • He was careful to discipline his body like an athlete so that he might win the spiritual race and not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9: 24-27).

  • As the apostle to the Gentiles, he was not disobedient to the heavenly vision God gave him (Acts 26:19).
From the above, we can conclude from the life and teachings of Jesus and Paul—the two main protagonists in the New Testament—that though we are saved by grace, we still need to obey God’s laws, do His will and work out our salvation.

Obedience does not nullify grace, unlike what hyper-grace asserts.

Believers, saved by grace, need to obey God’s laws, work out our salvation and live out His specific will for our livesall done out of gratitude for what Christ has done; not in the flesh but through the empowering of the Holy Spirit.

Obedience, the spontaneous response of believers to God’s grace, must not be downplayed in the lives of believers. And we do not dump works just because we are saved by grace.

Obedience must be reflected in the lives of believers in the following ways:

  • BEING—Moral uprightness so that God’s laws are not violated

  • DOING—Living out God’s specific will for our lives

Jesus’ idea of discipleship and obedience involves self-denial: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10: 38).

Has obedience being downplayed because it is too unsettling to the ‘feel good’ message of hyper-grace?

This errant teaching that obedience nullifies God’s grace will cause church fathers to turn over in their graves like the other hyper-grace teaching that the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sins and never points out their faults.

“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.” ― Michael L. Brown, Hyper-Grace: Exposing the Dangers of the Modern Grace Message

Referring once again to the above hyper-grace premise (IN BLUE),
“While most people have no problem with agreeing that we have been saved by grace, they are nevertheless still subjecting themselves to the law. They are depending on the “works of the law” or their obedience to the law to earn, merit and deserve God’s blessings.”
“Grace is the undeserved, unmerited and unearned favor of God—the moment you try to merit the free favors of God, His grace is nullified.”

  • Does it mean that we can break God’s law once we are under grace?

  • Does it mean we can steal or cheat (etc) once we are under grace?

  • Doesn’t it make more sense that our moral standards are raised to a higher level once we come under the New Covenant of grace (Matthew 5: 21-22; Matthew 5:27-28)?

  • Does it mean we are above the law once we are under grace (Matthew 5:17-18)?

It’s great to experience God’s unmerited favour. But we must not stop there. Have we come to a point in our faith walk when we say to ourselves, “Thank you God for taking me as I am,” and then happily go on our way? After all, as some teachers say, believers always enjoy God’s unmerited favour—grace beyond measure—whatever we do or don't do.

Some say that believers only need to change their mind (correct their past erroneous thinking) when they repent. Is this what the Bible teaches?

Many believers focus on the privileges of being a Christian and forget that there are conditions attached to the blessings. In short, blessings come with responsibilities.

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.

by Bob Williams

Saving Faith Has Works
If we are in Christ, then such will be evidenced by good works. Good works are the evidence of our justification and right relationship with God. In 1 Corinthians 15:10, Paul spoke of his abundant work for the Lord; he said, "But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me." 

Paul did not do the many good works that he did in an effort to gain salvation; rather it was the grace of God and salvation itself that led Paul to do what he did.

We are indeed to do good works, but it is God (through His Holy Spirit) who enables us to do these good works. Ephesians 2:10 says, "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." 

Acts 26:20 speaks of "performing deeds appropriate to repentance." In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptism similarly said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance." Galatians 5:6 speaks of "faith working through love."

Paul said in Romans 4 that Abraham was not saved by works of the Law. But Jesus said in John 8:39, "If you are Abraham's children, do the deeds of Abraham." If indeed they were his sons, then they would produce the natural fruits of sonship. Those who are sons of God will produce fruits of evidence showing that they do indeed belong to Him.

Thus, in James 2:14ff, it is shown that Abraham's faith was evidenced by his works. Furthermore, without such works, he would not be justified. A faith that does not have such works is not a true saving faith (v14). As Jesus said in John 14:15, "If you love me, [you will] keep my commandments."

Surely the Bible shows that genuine faith in Jesus Christ will exhibit itself in genuine acts of good deeds, godliness, and righteous living.

Judged by Our Works
Since genuine saving faith produces genuine good works, we are therefore justified, not only by faith, but by our works. And thus, in a sense, we are judged by our deeds. Numerous passages of Scripture refer to this (in the apparent context of salvation in general).

Romans 14:12 "So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God."

Matthew 25:31-46 Those who have fed, clothed, etc. will "inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Those who failed to do so "will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

John 5:28-29 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment."

Romans 2:6-7 "[God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life."

2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one of us may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." Later Paul referred to false apostles, "whose end shall be according to their deeds" (11:15).

2 Timothy 4:14 Paul said, "Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm; the Lord will repay (KJV: reward) him according to his deeds."

1 Peter 1:17 "[God] impartially judges according to each man's work."

Revelation 20:11-15 "...And they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds."

Monday 21 September 2015


The fact Jesus is the personification of grace and truth—not grace alone—has practical implications in the life of believers

A Facebook friend shared a testimony of dramatic breakthrough in the life of someone who was once living in sin and addicted to drugs, attributing the miracle to the liberating influence of the gospel that emphasises grace. 

He seems to be saying that is positive to embrace a gospel that emphasises grace. After all, what can be wrong about focusing on the fact that we are the righteousness of God? Don't you think it's better than being sin conscious and fearful about judgment? 


Here is my response:

It is true that the gospel of grace has enabled sinners to be set free from guilt and despair, thus setting them on a journey of hope and transformation. In particular, those who come from legalistic church backgrounds will find the gospel that emphasises grace extremely liberating.

However, there are others who take God’s grace to the extreme—thinking that God will never reprove or judge them  for sins—and consequently live a life of complacency and indifference to sin.

The believers in Laodicea thought they enjoyed God’s favour but in reality they were wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. In God’s eyes, they were spiritually poor and in danger of being judged—unless they took heed of the Spirit's warning and repented   (Revelation 3:17).

Grace is not a license or excuse to continue living in sin. “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

As usual any good thing, even grace, can be perverted. Jude vehemently condemned false teachers and warned against believing their lies:

“I say this because some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives. The condemnation of such people was recorded long ago, for they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
(Jude 4, NLT)

“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(Jude 4, NKJV)

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. The essence of idolatry is to entertain thoughts about God that misrepresent Him. 

Furthermore, though the above testimony is good, we cannot let experience supercede or replace doctrine when it comes to right living. Experience helps us to understand our faith journey better, but it cannot be used as our primary guide in matters of faith and doctrine.  

No one denies the power of God’s grace to transform lives as is evident in so many testimonies. But grace can be abused when we go overboard on grace, thinking that God will never get angry with us and will never point out our sins or faults.

A believer who willfully lives in sin, and comes under the deception that the Holy Spirit never convicts a believer of sin and that God never finds fault with him, will face damnation on judgment day.

The respected theologian A. W. Tozer says: "Much of our difficulty as seeking Christians stems from our unwillingness to take God as He is and adjust our lives accordingly. We insist on trying to modify Him and bring Him nearer to our own image.”

We all love a God whose image fits our expectation of a benevolent being. We prefer preachers who portray God as loving and forgiving, patient with our sins and deficiencies—rather than those who dwell on judgment (2 Timothy 4:3).

We need to be reminded that Jesus is a reflection of both grace and truth (John 1: 14, 17). Truth requires that we live according to His laws for all time, the Ten Commandments.

Love and mercy are important attributes of God. He is slow to anger, quick to forgive and chose us while we were yet sinners. He loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

But He is also a God of justice and righteousness. “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you(Psalm 89:14). He is the Lamb of God and the Lion of Judah as well. He who once rode on a colt as a man is now ensconced on His heavenly throne as the King of Kings.

He may be a tender daddy (Romans 8: 15) and a close friend (John 15: 15). But He is also a Holy God, a consuming fire, to be feared and revered (Hebrews 12:29).

Aren’t believers free from the law? In a sense, the answer is ‘yes’ in that we need not arduously keep the law in order to earn our ticket to heaven. As Scripture says, "You are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:14).

However, that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we like. We are still held accountable under moral law as revealed in the Ten Commandments. Jesus puts it succinctly: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

Most of us 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.

Whereas the crowd wanted to judge her, Jesus demonstrated grace and mercy and forgave her. But He did not stop there. He told her in no uncertain terms, “Go and sin no more.”

We tend to emphasise God’s love and mercy towards sinners. The need for sinners to bear fruits that befit repentance—personal responsibility—is often not emphasised to the same degree.

If we live only to please ourselves, believing that an “indulgent” God will constantly bless and forgive us, we are deceiving ourselves.

If we think that the Holy Spirit will not convict us of sin, reprove us for sin or point out our sin, we have come under deception. 

Thinking erroneously that He is always meek and mild may prove disastrous when we’re confronted by God the judge at the end of our life journey or when Christ returns (Hebrews 9:27, 1 Peter 4:7, 17).

Some people think that the God will never judge believers for sin as we are under the new covenant of grace. They think that God is angry only in the Old Testament. But has God changed through the years? No. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

  • God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

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

  • The apostle Peter warns us that judgment will begin with the household of God (1 Peter 4:17).

  • The apostle Paul warns: “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).

We read in the New Testament that many Israelites were destroyed after their exodus from Egypt because they did not believe in God and sinned (idolatry and sexual immorality). This falling away, according to the apostle Paul, serves as a warning to believers TODAY that they need to persevere in their faith in order that they might not be destroyed (Jude 1:5, 1 Corinthians 10:1-12).

Believers can fall away spiritually and fall out of favour with God even though they have been saved.

Believers who think they can willfully live in sin with impunity on account of the ‘imputed righteousness of Christ’ are sadly mistaken. They will discover to their chagrin on judgment day that they have to face God’s wrath.

Pic above: An explanation of John 1:17 - For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

To recapitulate:
The God in the New Testament, as is clear from the above references, is not only filled with grace, love and mercy towards man. He is also true to His name as the God of justice, righteousness and wrath. 

Jesus is the personification of both grace and truth. The latter means that He requires holiness from believerswithout which no man can come into His presence.

The foregoing is the full gospel, unlike the half-truth of hyper-grace that tells you what believers would like to hear‘feel good’, sugar-coated messages such as the Holy Spirit never convicts believers of sin and God never finds fault with believers.

By avoiding harsh and unpopular passages found in Revelation and Hebrews (Revelation 3:19, Revelation 3:22; Revelation 3:15-17; Hebrews 12:29; Hebrews 10:26-27), hyper-grace presents a message to soothe and tickle itching ears (2 Timothy 4:3).

Though A. W. Tozer lived long before hyper-grace became popular, he made an extremely astute and relevant observation: "Heresy is not so much rejecting as selecting.” False teachers select pleasant, palatable and agreeable passages to attract the masses.

But we can only come to the knowledge of the truth when we consider the whole counsel of God—the whole Bible (Acts 20:27).

"Faith is good only when it engages truth; when it is made to rest upon falsehood it can and often does lead to eternal tragedy."  – A. W. Tozer.


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. To continue to dwell on our past sin would nullify Christ’s work at the cross because God has already declared us righteous in His eyes.
That said, should believers completely get rid of sin consciousness in our lives? 

No right thinking believer says grace is unimportant. But when it is carried to the extreme …

False grace was exposed in a video in which Dr Michael Brown was being interviewed by Sid Roth. It's a clear, compelling, well-balanced, Word-based presentation.

The basics about grace and hyper-grace