Thursday, 28 October 2021

THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY

How to gain an eternal inheritance by avoiding the mistakes made by the wayward wilderness wanderers. Lessons from Hebrews chapter 3.

When our life on earth ends where do we go? What is the secret of gaining eternal life? Many know that Jesus is the Way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

But how many believers are aware of the fact that trusting Christ is merely the start of a journey on the road to heaven? It’s going to be an incredible journey where not all arrive safely.

Along the way in our earthly pilgrimage many trials, temptations, distractions and diversions await believers which may cause some to miss the intended destinationheaven and a share of Christ’s inheritance and rewards.

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:34-36).

The above is a stern warning by Jesus not to get carried away by merry making and the pleasures of life or get caught up in the concerns and worries of life that we fail to prepare ourselves for His return.

The wandering of the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years is highly instructive. For it highlights what we need to avoid if we desire to reach the Promised Land, a place of blessing and rest, which is a type of heaven.

In this regard, we need to turn to Hebrews chapter 3:12-15 which sheds light on the unbelief and sins of these wayward wilderness wanderers:

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

 

The moment we harden our heartwhen we stop believing in God and live in sin, like the wayward wilderness wandererswe lose our inheritance in Christ (verse 12, 14). Hence the exhortation "do not harden your heart" is repeated in verses 8 and 15 of the same chapter.

If we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. For Christ says: If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. He who endures till the end will be saved.

Obedience till the end is the key if we want a share in Christ’s inheritance - Heb.3:14, John 8:31, Matt. 24:13

You may wonder why I take the time to write this post. I feel many believers start well in their journey of faith but along the way they may fall away like the Israelites long agothe wayward wilderness wanderers. Only those who remain faithful till the end, namely Joshua and Caleb, were able to enter and take possession of the Promised Land.      

In conclusion, only believers who continue to study and obey the teachings of scriptures and whose faith in God remain as strong as when it first began will get to share in Christ’s inheritance.

POSTSCRIPT

Doesn’t John 10:27-29 teach that no one can pluck believers out of the Fathers hand?

Isn’t there eternal security for believers once and for all when they place their faith in Christ?

 27 My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

(John 10:27-29)

Let’s examine the above passage more closely. People forget that this comforting promise found in verses 28 and 29 is preceded by verse 27 where Jesus sets out a condition: sheep (believers) must be obedient to the shepherd (Jesus) ie. know Him, listen to His voice and follow Him.

Thus the promise that God will hold on to believers’ hands (without letting them go) does not apply to backsliders, those who willfully choose to live in sin or depart from the faith (commit apostasy).

To make a claim of eternal security for all believers is too far fetched. The verse John 10:27 tells us God is faithful in keeping believers eternally secure only if they keep their side of the bargain ie. continue to be obedient and follow Him.

Being fixated on the promise of eternal security in John 10:28-29 without considering the preceding verse, John 10:27, is committing a grave error of interpretation.

Tuesday, 5 October 2021

THE BLESSEDNESS OF SPIRITUAL POVERTY

 What does Jesus really mean when He taught that it is blessed to be spiritually poor?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

Indeed, great blessings belong to those who realise:

  • They are spiritually poor.
  • They need to change for the better.
  • They need God’s mercy and forgiveness.
  • They need to depend on Him for strength to change for the better.

In other words, they are willing to humble themselves before God.

This theme is further amplified in the Parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18:9-14):

Jesus told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up 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, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

We would have thought that the former with his good deeds would be approved by God. But he was proud and self-righteous, treating the latter with contempt. It was the humble tax collector who found favour in God’s eyes. He realised he was spiritually poor—could not measure up to God’s standards of morality—and needed His mercy and forgiveness.

On the other hand, the spiritual state of the Pharisee above can be compared to the members of the church of Laodicea, who were lukewarm and did not realise they were spiritually bankrupt.

“I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realising that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” (Revelation 3:15-18).

Indeed, it is better and more blessed to acknowledge our spiritual poverty and seek God’s mercy than to think we is spiritually rich but, in God’s eyes, we are not.

Even Paul, the apostle, proclaimed: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15).

To reiterate, the way to blessedness is to humble ourselves before God and acknowledge our spiritual poverty. And unless the Holy Spirit through God’s word convicts us of our soul's corruption, we won't be changed from shame to glory & from glory to glory.


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Thursday, 12 August 2021

COVID: DEVELOPING A POSITIVE MINDSET

Living positively in a difficult season of doom and gloom

In the current pandemic, fear and uncertainty abound. We are gripped by a sense of helplessnessand even hopelessness. Now, one and the half years on, the contagion continues to rage all over the world, one wave after another. With viral mutation and emergence of new variants, it seems as if there is no end in sight.       

The pandemic is part of the end-time cluster of earth-shaking calamities and trends which include pestilences, famines, earthquakes, wars, persecution, false prophets, deception, moral decadence, apostasy and man’s love of self, pleasure and money ... all of which are recorded in the Bible. And all this SHAKING is meant to wake us up spiritually. https://bit.ly/37evv2A

As believers, we pray that God will keep us safe. We commit to Him all the days of our livesthat we will continue to serve, honour and glorify Him.

While we hold on to His promise in Psalm 91that He will protect us from the viruswe are not so foolhardy as to neglect safety measures (wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated enclosed places). https://bit.ly/3isX6Ds

Firstly, we have to set our minds on things abovelive purposefully and intentionallymaking the best use of our limited time. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we know His will for our lives–what He wants us to do. Those who are led by the Spirit are children of God (Romans 8: 14).

Two things can derail our plans to live for God:

On one hand, we can indulge in wasteful living and the pleasures of the world. Since life can be so transient and uncertain, we might reason to ourselves: “Let’s eat, drink and be merry while we can.” Actually there is nothing wrong with enjoying God’s blessings provided  we are grateful to God and do not get carried away in the process.  All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient. All things are lawful; but not all things edify (1 Corinthians 10:23).

On the other hand, we can be consumed by worries and concerns that we become distracted from God’s calling for our lives. Everyone faces problems in life. That's not the issue. More importantly, how do we respond and who carries the burden? The trouble with us is, in our finite minds, God is too small. We can't let go and let God take over, can't cast our cares and concerns on Him.

Like wise stewards (Matt 25:14-30), we have to utilise our God-given talents and resources before it is too late. Some faithful believers have died, their lives cut short by the virus. However, they have gone home to a well-deserved place of rest and reward. Their lives reflect Paul’s motto in life: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

Our lives need to be characterised by sobriety and self-control, not drunkenness, carousing and careless living. And that can only happen when we allow the Holy Spirit to take control of us.

When we realise we are spiritually weak, we are blessed in God’s eyes (Matthew 5:3). As such, we need to pray so that the things of the world and our fleshly desires will not prevail over our good intentions. The spirit may be willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41).

As we seek to live meaningful lives in this pandemic, may we reflect on the positive and negative themes found in the following passages. And may the Lord grant us wisdom and understanding (1 Corinthians 2:15-16).

Positive theme

So be very careful how you live. Do not live like people who aren’t wise. Live like people who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity. The days are evil. So don’t be foolish. Instead, understand what the Lord wants. Don’t fill yourself up with wine. Getting drunk will lead to wild living. Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:15-18).

The end of all things is near. So be watchful and control yourselves. Then you may pray. Most of all, love one another deeply. Love erases many sins by forgiving them. Welcome others into your homes without complaining. God’s gifts of grace come in many forms. Each of you has received a gift in order to serve others. You should use it faithfully (1 Peter 4:7-10).

Negative theme

Be careful. If you aren’t, your hearts will be loaded down with wasteful living, drunkenness and the worries of life. Then the day the Son of Man returns will close on you like a trap. You will not be expecting it (Luke 21:34)

The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear the message. But as they go on their way, they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures (Luke 8:14).

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If we believers hold on to the promise in Psalm 91that God will absolutely protect us from the virusand neglect safety measures (wearing masks, social distancing, avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated enclosed places), we are only being foolhardy.

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Sunday, 1 August 2021

NONE CAN SNATCH BELIEVERS OUT FROM GOD’S HAND?

It seems there is a comforting passage for believersthat none can snatch them out from God's hand (ie. they get to enjoy eternal security). Let's examine whether this is true or not. 


One of the favourite passages of many believers is found in John 10: 28-29 where Jesus says no one will be able to snatch believers out from the hand of God. The comforting thought, it seems, is that the eternal destiny of believers is secure because God is holding on to them so tightly that they can never fall away. Safe and secure always in the grip of God’s hand, you might say.

27 My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give them eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

(John 10:27-29)

Let’s examine the above passage more closely. People forget that this comforting promise found in verses 28 and 29 is preceded by verse 27 where Jesus sets out a condition: sheep (believers) must be obedient to the shepherd (Jesus) ie. know Him, listen to His voice and follow Him.

Thus the promise that God will hold on to believers’ hands (without letting them go) does not apply to backsliders, those who willfully choose to live in sin or depart from the faith (commit apostasy).

To make a claim of eternal security for all believers is too far fetched. The verse John 10:27 tells us God is faithful in keeping believers eternally secure only if they keep their side of the bargain ie. continue to be obedient and follow Him.

Being fixated on the promise of eternal security in John 10:28-29 without considering the preceding verse, John 10:27, is commiting a grave error of interpretation.

A similar error in interpretation is found in another passage, John 6:37-40:

37 Everything that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I certainly will not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing, but will raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”  

(John 6:37-40)

The presumption about eternal security is found in John 6:39 where Jesus says that He will raise all those whom His Father has given to Him on the last day when He (Christ) returns.

But before we quickly jump to such a conclusion, we should also consider John 6:37—the one who comes to Me I will not cast out. (This means those who choose to depart from the faith are excluded from the blessing of being raised in future). We should also consider John 6:40 where Jesus says He will raise up on the last day those who believe in Him.   

Thus, only those who would come to God and believe in Him will  get to enjoy the privilege of being saved (raised up in glory on the last day). 

Notice that there are at least three different types of responses by people:

  • Those who believe and know that Christ is the Holy One of God ie. genuine believers (John 6:69).
  • Those men, like Nicodemus, who has great interest in the kingdom but are held back by their will. They seem so close to the kingdom, yet are so far from it (John 3: 5-10).
  • Those who have been called once upon a time but later betray or renounce God, like Judas (John 6:64; John 6:71).

Judas was chosen by God to be one of the 12 disciples. Will he be raised on the last day according to John 6:39? By no means! He sold his soul for money and he will go to the place of eternal torment, showing the fallacy of the principle that God's choosing is all that matters. The human will plays a most important part in determining our eternal destiny apart from the fact that it is God who initially chooses man. God predestines believers to be saved but He alone does not predetermine the outcome. Man is a free moral agent.  ** He can decide to go to heaven or hell, even after having being chosen by God. 

Also people like to welcome the promise of eternal life is found in John 3:16 but tend to forget the warning found in John 3:36. Anyway, it isn't strange that believers love promises but like to downplay warnings. 

God is sovereign in that He not only chose men that they might be saved but He also gave them a free will to accept or reject His offer of forgiveness. **

In the three instances above—John chapter 10, John chapter 6 and John chapter 3 —we realise that, once we have already decided that eternal security is the truth, it is so easy to pick one verse or two verses to support this erroneous doctrine (eisegesis) without considering the relevant passage from which these isolated verses are plucked out. It is so easy to jump to wrong conclusions without studying the verse or verses in its proper context. Indeed, great is the need to see how isolated verses fit into the bigger scheme of things in a particular passage.

Just as a few swallows do not make a summer, a few isolated verses do not make a doctrine.

The purposes of this post are manifold:

  • 1.    For proper interpretation of scriptures, we must study the verses in the context of the relevant passage.
  • 2.    The practice of using  isolated verses to support our preconceived ideas or premises (eisegesis) is dangerous.
  • 3.    Eternal security, upheld by many illustrious personalities with a string of theological degrees under their belt, is a heresy. Apart from being erroneous, it is also dangerous as it breeds complacency.
  • 4.    You are invited to study the three passages for yourself, like a Berean, to determine whether my assertions above is true or not. I welcome you to do so and correct me if I am wrong. The passages are found in John 10:27-29; John 6:37-40; John 3:16 and John 3:36

5.    From the three passages, the conclusions are as follows: 1. God only promises to tenaciously hold on to the hand of obedient followers who listen to His commands. 2. Jesus will only raise up on the last day (when He returns) those who come to Him and believe in Him. 3. Those who profess to be believers but do not obey God will be condemned.

POSTSCRIPT

FREE WILL   **

The ability to choose is God’s precious and gracious gift to us. Even after we have become believers, we can choose between pleasing self or obeying God. We can choose between good and evil. Thus, all believers are free moral agents.

Freedom of choice is something that remains with us even after we have become believers. God does not turn us into robots or automatons.

To reiterate, though our ‘spirit man’ has been made new at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17), our will remains neutral. Whether they are men or angels, all of God’s creation can choose to obey Him or rebel against Him. This freedom of choice comes with a catch. Those who rebel against His authority will be held accountable. They will have to face judgment eventually (Jude 1:5-7).

Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus, who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire (Jude 1:5-7).

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Wednesday, 21 July 2021

HOW DO WE OVERCOME THE WORLD'S TRIBULATION?

Amid the many challenges posed to believers during this global pandemic, how do we remain strong and resilient, instead of sinking into despair?



Christ: I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. And whoever is born of God overcomes the world, and the victory that overcomes the world is our faith.

Who is it that overcomes the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  

Conclusion: Those who BELIEVE in CHRIST are able to overcome the world’s tribulation.

(John 16:33, 1 John 5: 1, 4-5)

Let's spend some time meditating on these deep truths.

If we believe in Christ, no matter what happens to us on earth:

1. God's presence is with us.

2. God's grace will sustain and empower us.

3. God will supply all our needs.

And even if we should pass through the valley of the shadow of death, we need not fear for we will soon pass into the afterlife to spend time with God in eternity.    

Our body and soul may be decaying and degenerating. But our spirit is safe in the arms of God. 

Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ, provided we keep ourselves in the love of God, continue to abide in Christ and obey His commandments.   

However, if we are still attached to the world's trappings and accoutrements, instead of being centered in Christ, the believer's hope and victory will not be our portion.   




Monday, 19 July 2021

TWISTING THE TRUTH

 

 


When we say ‘God is a consuming fire’, does it mean that God will burn away our confusion and fear?

In trying times, like in this pandemic season, it is understandable that many believers need comfort and encouragement. In this respect, “Grace for Purpose”, a motivational Christian portal with its own Youtube channel, is highly relevant and often meets their needs.

But one of its videos on prayer has some serious issues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r8mrfq6SNIU

The video clip at 9.05 minute states that ‘God is a consuming fire’ (Hebrews 12: 29), meaning that He is powerful and holy. That is true. I agree with it.

However, it goes on to say this means God will burn away the confusion and fear in our lives. This is not what this verse, Hebrews 12: 29, says.

To understand the ‘God is a consuming fire’ verse better, we have to view it in its proper context—from the passage where it was taken:

“See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shakenthat is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

(Hebrews 12: 25-29).

But, alas, this is what you would expect from a site called “Grace for Purpose” that twists God’s word (in this case Hebrews 12:29) to offer a soft, ear-tickling brand of Christianity that treats God as our servant who exists to serve us. Undoubtedly, this type of ‘seeker sensitive’ message of God’s favour and blessing attracts many. It does not spell out what we need to do if we have sinned and need to repent. It downplays God’s holiness and judgment while it elevates His grace, love and mercy, much to the delight of many believers.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

So what is the correct interpretation of ‘God is a consuming fire’?

Fire is a metaphor for God’s anger and righteous judgment on humanity.

In Deuteronomy 4:24, we read about God’s intolerance of false gods (idols): “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”  He won’t tolerate rivals who compete for man’s worship and allegiance.

In the New Testament, the concept of fire being linked to judgment is seen in John chapter 15. Christ warned that believers (branches) who fail to abide in Him (Vine) will be burned—that is come under judgment: "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).

What does abide in Christ mean? Put simply, it means to obey His commandments: "Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us" (1 John 3:24).

Furthermore, “whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36).

Juxtaposing these three verses (John 15:6, 1 John 3:24 and John 3:36), we come to the conclusion that if we fail to abide in Christ—willfully choose to disobey His commandments—we will be burnt (face God’s judgment).

In conclusion, ‘God is a consuming fire’ does not mean that He will burn away believers’ fear and confusion—a promise—as this “Grace for Purpose” video seems to suggest.

On the contrary, ‘God is a consuming fire’ is a serious warning against falling away. If believers reject or disobey God, they will face His wrath and judgment; they will be burnt as that is what fire does best. The righteous judgment of God is not something to be trifled with. In fact, the main theme of Hebrews is this: Warning new believers against apostasy.

In trying times, like in this pandemic season, it is understandable that many believers need comfort and encouragement. In this respect, sites like “Grace for Purpose” excels and often meets their needs.

However, “Grace for Purpose” should not stoop to the level where it twists scriptures, throws out basic rules of exegesis, treats God like a servant and turns a grave warning into a soothing promise. That would mean turning the gospel into sanctified, motivational messages.

The gospel is not merely about encouragement and motivation but also about self-discipline, correction, rebuke and self-denial:

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

POSTSCRIPT

This passage in Hebrews chapter 12 above is based on Exodus chapter 19 when God came down to Mount Sinai while Moses went up the mountain to meet Him in order to receive the Ten Commandments. The warning God issued to Moses is not to let the priests and people to come up the mountain for God is holy and they will be consumed by fire. God is holy and man is sinful. If they attempt to approach God, without being sanctified, they will be consumed in His presence. For God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12: 29).

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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 also a Holy God, a consuming fire, to be feared and revered (Hebrews 12:29).

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Whole truth: The Law came through Moses but grace AND truth came through Jesus.

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GRACE AND LAW

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Friday, 2 July 2021

CREATOR AND FRIEND

The Creator of the universe is almighty. Yet, He is also a personal God who cares for man.       


The circled, tiny white dot in the picture above is earth—taken by the Voyager spacecraft in the vicinity of the distant planet, Saturn.


When I consider the heavens, the work of Thy hands, what is man that you are mindful of him and care for him (Psalm 8:3-4)?

  

The almighty God created the vast universe with all the mind-blowing collection of planets, stars, galaxies and constellations. Yet He has an interest in the affairs of man.

Two thousand years ago, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to die on the cross for the sins of man. Christ took the punishment in man’s place when He died on the cross. He became the scapegoat for man, bearing the punishment for sins which man rightly deserves.

Why did God do this? The purpose is to reconcile sinful man to Him.

  • "For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19a).

  • “To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Those who believe in Christ will have their sins forgiven, will be able to connect with God and be assured of a place in heaven in future—provided they remain faithful.  https://bit.ly/3hdS3pZ

Such an amazing Godso mighty that He created the universe—yet so personal in His love and care for man ... that He longs to relate to man.

Though Christ had no sin, our sins were attributed to Him when we believed in Him. Our sins were imputed to Christ—He took the penalty that our sins deserved.

“For our sake God made Christ to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Christ we might become the righteousness of God”  (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This is called imputed righteousness—ie. we take on Christ’s righteousness when we believe that He died for our sins at the cross.

The invitation is open. Anyone who believes in Christ will be saved from future judgment because Christ has paid the price, bearing the punishment for sins which man rightly deserves.

Would you accept God's offer of reconciliation?

“For God loved the world so much that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

“To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).    

Isn’t it mind-boggling that the Creator of the universe can be our friend?

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends” (John 15:15a).

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Friday, 18 June 2021

GOOD FATHERS, GOOD KIDS?

 Do good fathers invariably produce good kids?

 Do rebellious, disobedient kids invariably reflect poor upbringing by their fathers?

As Father’s Day approaches, fathers feel honoured that their children take time off to remember and honour them for the role they have played in bringing them up. On the flip side, it is also a opportune moment for fathers to pause and reflect—whether they have played their part well in nurturing their children.

Though formal education hardly prepares men to be good fathers, there are various injunctions in scripture that guide fathers in the arduous task of raising children.  

  • “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7).
  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
  • “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them” (Proverbs 13:24).
  • “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Apart from guidance, training and instruction, it is important to note the father-and-son relationship is based on the twin pillars of love and discipline.

The passage in Luke 11: 11-13 shows us how much an earthly father, out of love, longs to give good gifts to his children though he himself is evil.

The passage in Hebrews 12:7-8 reminds us that an earthly father is bound to discipline his children because they are his legitimate offspring (by extension, that is how God treats us who are His children).

It’s only natural for Christian fathers to expect that once they have discharged their responsibilities well, according to scriptures, their children will turn out to be God-fearing, obedient and productive adults, ready to take on various roles and responsibilities in society.

As responsible fathers, we tend to think that good fathers will produce good kids. After all, we reason to ourselves, if we follow God’s commandments, how can we ever go wrong?  Is it, therefore, correct to assume that good fathers will invariably produce good kids?

If you live long enough, and have seen enough, you know what this means: “Good parenting does not guarantee good kids because the will of a child is also a major determinant of character and behaviour, apart from nurturing.” 

 

As a father and grandfather, I have seen several real life examples that illustrate the fact that good fathers do not necessarily produce good kids. Conversely, rebellious and disobedient kids do not invariably reflect poor upbringing on the part of their fathers.

We need to revise our simplistic assumption that good parents will surely produce good kids just as bad parents produce bad kids.

"We are more than the quality of our nutrition. We are more than our genetic heritage. We are more than our biochemistry. And certainly, we are more than our parents' influence. God has created us as unique individuals, capable of independent and rational thought that is not attributable to any source. That is what makes the task of parenting so challenging and rewarding. Just when you think you have your kids figured out, you had better brace yourself! Something new is coming your way." - Dr James Dobson.

For the full article by Dr James Dobson: https://bit.ly/2HY3YmE

Good parenting doesn’t guarantee good children. It only assures that our children will have the tremendous advantage of having had a good parent.” -  Mart De Haan

For the full article by Mart De Haan : https://bit.ly/3q5P1Xk

Many years ago, in a parenting workshop conducted by the late Anthony Yeo, a well-known Singaporean counsellor, he said something to this effect: Parenting is like cooking. You can follow the best recipe but the dish might not turn out the way you expect.

 

So those are the views of different experts and my personal viewpoint based on my journey as a father and grandfather. All these observations are agreed on one thing—good fathers do not necessarily produce good kids.

Ironically, I have observed children of church leaders who have turned “bad” (disobedient and rebellious) despite their fathers’ positive influence. Is it because of a lack of love coupled with too much regimentation, rules and enforced discipline on the part of the father? Or is it related to the father’s excessive devotion to church activities with neglect of family life?

In the vast majority of cases, good fathers will produce good kids, especially those fathers who follow the biblical injunctions above. However, we cannot conclude that good fathers will invariably produce good kids in every case.

Every child is a unique individual with the ability to think and make decisions. For God has given everyone a free will (volition) that enables him or her to make moral choices in life—obey or reject God’s laws.

That is why moral responsibility is an individual matter. The ancient prophet Ezekiel reminds us that a good father can produce a child who turns out bad. He also reminds us that a bad father can bring forth a child who turns out good. As such, God is going to hold a person individually accountable for his or her sin (Ezekiel 18:1–28).

“The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Ezekiel 18:20).

So if good fathers do not invariably produce good kids, should fathers assume a passive role in raising children? No. Such a laissez-faire attitude isn’t constructive; in fact, it’s unbiblical.

As believing fathers, we have to play our part in raising children as enjoined in scriptures and then leave the results to God. If a child is strong-willed, difficult and rebellious, we can commit him or her to God in prayer. There is little we can do to change a person, especially if the child is an adult and chooses to remain headstrong and intransigent. Hopefully, with the passage of time, through painful experiences in life, he or she will repent and be restored as in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Do good fathers invariably produce good kids? Do rebellious, disobedient kids invariably reflect poor upbringing by their fathers? The answer is ‘No’ to both these questions.

Postscript—an analogy

It is simplistic to presume that, if we play our role well as fathers, our children will definitely turn out wellas obedient, God-fearing and responsible individuals. Such thinking fails to take into account that each child is unique, bears the mark of Adam’s sin and has the ability to make choices on account of his or her God-given free will (volition).

Extrapolating the argument, God the Father reaches out to man with love by sending Jesus to die at the cross for our sins. Christ took the punishment due to us on account of our sins. Yet not every man responds to God’s act of love. Man, being a volitional being, can decide whether to respond to God’s love or reject His offer of forgiveness.

Herein lies an analogy in relationships—one that exists between the father and child and another that exists between God the Father and the believer.  

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GOOD FATHERS, GOOD KIDS?  

Do good fathers invariably produce good kids?

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