Thursday, January 1, 2009

FREE GIFT + string

In today's Straits Times (page B1), there is a report on religious groups and ethnic groups in Singapore increasing their budgets for education bursaries to meet increasing demand due to the current economic downturn.

It is heartening that these organisations are doing much to help the needy. One of them, a very large church in Singapore (not NCC) is offering to pay for its members' school fees as well as textbooks and, for some, computers. I must say that this is very generous but what caught my eye was the catch: "Successful applicants will have to fulfill four hours of community work a month, as well as attend church services".

I am not coming against this church per se but rather I question the necessity to attach a string to their "free" gift. It is well and good to perform community service and attend church service but attaching them as conditions for receiving a free gift may cause the successful applicants to now treat that as a price to pay for their "free" gift.

Since the recipients of the free gifts are already members of the church, why is it necessary to insist that they attend church services? Shouldn't they be glad to come to church after having seen the love of God shared through the education grant they are receiving? Shouldn't they be glad to come to church even if they are not recipients of education grants? Shouldn't they be glad to come to church because they look forward to receiving God's Word through anointed preaching?

Performing community service should come from the heart, out of love and not obligation. Otherwise, the recipients' service will stop as soon as the grants stop. Shouldn't they be encouraged to join on their own free will, to freely give just as they have freely received?

Perhaps this is symptomatic of the type of gospel being preached in many churches today. They preach that God's love is unconditional when you are still a sinner. However, after you have become a Christian, God's love is conditional upon you living a holy life. Some call it "practical righteousness". Some call it "you can lose your salvation".

What kind of nonsense is that? Jesus cried out on the cross, "It is finished." ALL our sins past, present and future have been forgiven and we are made holy before God in Christ.

We try to live holy lives because we ARE holy, not to BECOME holy. We live a life worthy of our calling because we HAVE BEEN CALLED (not in order to be called) by God (Ephesians 4:1).

It is time to repent, change the way we see God. God FREEly gives, we just FREEly receive.
Stop looking for that string.

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