Saturday, February 28, 2009
Friday, February 27, 2009
You posted the following comment under my post entitled "New Garment + New Wine = Grace":
"So does it mean that Grace and Law are in conflict ?"
Before I answer your question, let me first request that you at least use a pseudonym, if not your real name, to sign off your comment in future.
With regards to Grace and Law, let me say that they are not in conflict with each other but are two SEPARATE covenants designed for different purposes.
The first covenant, Law is meant to show us what sin is and that we are sinners - Rom 3:20 "Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin."
The law shows us that no matter how well intentioned we are and no matter how hard we try, we are not able to meet God's standards. That is why 2 Cor 3:7 calls it the ministry of death, and 2 Cor 3:9 calls it the ministry of condemnation.
The law shows us that we need a Saviour, it will lead us as Paul was, to ask "Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Rom 7:24) Grace came through Christ (John 1:17) to impart to us righteousness which we cannot attain through the law (Rom 3:21-22).
Grace and Law serve two different purposes and in fact complement each other in that the Law leads us to Grace - "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Gal 3:24)
Paul says in Gal 2:20-21 "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Under Grace, we are in Christ and Christ is in us. Christ in us will be the guide in our daily living. Thus, Grace and Law are not in conflict with each other BUT when you mix Grace and Law in your life, you will create conflict within yourself.
Let me give an analogy:
A few days ago, there was something wrong with my computer. I could access websites to read articles but I just could not log on to my own site or msn or gmail. I could not figure out what was wrong and asked God for wisdom.
Finally, God showed me that the computer was behaving this way because the default firewall in Windows Vista plus the firewall of my anti-virus software were both turned on. I turned off the Windows firewall and everything worked fine from then on.
We should not mix Grace and Law in our lives for Romans 7:4 and 6 say "you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God.", "But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code."
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Well, I don't think Sly intentionally preached a Christian message but I managed to see it. There was one scene where Rocky was confiding in a lady friend on not being sure whether his decision to come out of retirement to box again was a right one. She told him,"Fighters fight."
What's so Christian about this? Well, whether we like it or not, we Christians are all fighters for we are called to fight "the good fight of faith" (1 Tim 6:12). May we be like Paul who says,"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing." (1 Tim 4:7-8)
How do we fight this fight of faith? "We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments." (2 Cor 10:4) The fight of faith is fought in the mind; we have to renew our minds, leaning not on our own human reasoning and rejecting erroneous teaching, and we fight by listening for "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (Rom 10:17).
We need to listen to the message that glorifies Christ and His finished work on the cross. We need to listen to the message that helps us to "grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge" (Eph 3:18-19). We need to listen to messages such as the following:
1. Christ — The Power And Wisdom Of God
2. He Who Gets Jesus Gets Everything
3. Neither Adversary Nor Evil Occurrence When You Rest In Christ
4. You Are A New Creation In Christ — Old Things Have Passed Away!
5. Being Christ-Occupied And Not Self-Occupied
6. Living Under The Protection Of The Blood Of Christ
7. As Christ Is, So Are We In This World
(Those who are interested in the above sermons by Pastor Prince may wish to take up Malcolm's offer and borrow the cds from him as 22 Media has already clarified that borrowing the physical cd is considered fair use)
Another lesson I saw in the dvd was from the penultimate fight between Rocky and the reigning undefeated heavyweight champion. During the fight, you see Rocky being knocked down time and again by the champion but he gets up and charges on and gets in a few punches of his own ... which is exactly like what Paul says in 2 Cor 4:
1 Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up. 2 We reject all shameful deeds and underhanded methods. We don’t try to trick anyone or distort the word of God. We tell the truth before God, and all who are honest know this.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.
17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
Every time life's troubles come at us and tries to knock out our faith, let us be like Rocky, not backing down and keep charging on and "walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor 5:7). I was most inspired by this scene of Rocky in the dressing room before he stepped into the boxing arena. His ex-opponent-turned-friend reading from the bible said to him, "Zechariah 4:6 says it is not by strength, not by might but by His spirit we have already claimed the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ."
"But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor 15:57) Yes, even before we step out into the boxing arena, we already have the victory in Christ! Can you see the slogan in the picture? It says, "Never give up. And never stop believing."
You don't have to confess your sins to be forgiven
QT #2 - Part 1 / Part 2
Being taught the 10 commandments is like taking poison
Sin will never break your fellowship with God
Your sin is drawing you closer to God
God will always hear you,even if you regard sin in your heart
Under grace, holiness is transferable through personal contacts
The only sin the Holy Spirit would ever convict is Unbelief
QT #8 & #9
# Faith is just believing, nothing else
# By just having Faith, all your bad habits would disappear effortlessly
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Persons No.1 and 2 - Jesus and the rich young man
17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.
What do we mean when we say "Good People"? Are Christians considered "Good People" just because they are Christians? How about Christians whom you know are not living holy lives? How about non-Christians who are moral and upright?
Rev Kong Hee, in his article, tries to explain why bad things happen to Christians i.e. good people as implied by the title of his article. The term "Good People" brings to fore the subconscious belief that many of us Christians have: we deserve to have good things happen to us because we are "good". When "bad things" happen to us, we subconsciously question God why it is happening since we have been "good" - we attend church faithfully, serve in the church, tithe faithfully, pray regularly, etc or conversely, we rationalise that the bad is happening because we have not been "good".
This is the belief that is no different from other religions i.e. good begets good rewards and bad begets bad rewards. There is a Chinese saying for this: 善有善报 恶有恶报
However, Jesus in Mark 10:18 says that no one is good except God, hence we should always remember that God IS good, and we are "God's People" rather than "Good People", therefore we can expect good because God is good, and not because we are good. But if God is good, then why are bad things happening to God's people? This brings me to persons number 3 and 4.
Persons No.3 and 4 - Master Oogway and Master Shifu
Master who? Well, if you need to ask, then obviously you have not watched the animated movie "Kung Fu Panda". Master Oogway is the grand master of martial art and Master Shifu is his student.
Master Shifu was rushing in panic to report to Master Oogway the "bad news" that Tai Lung (the very highly skilled bad guy) had escaped from prison and coming to attack them. However, Master Oogway very calmly replied,"It is bad news ... if you do not believe that the Dragon Warrior can defeat Tai Lung." (the as yet untrained Kung Fu Panda is supposed to be the Dragon Warrior)
Similarly, when "bad things" happen, they are "bad things" only if we do not believe that God is good and will take care of those "bad things" for us. "Bad things" may look bad to us at first but God will turn around those "bad things" for our good - "And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them." (Rom 8:28)
Consider the case of Joseph who was sold as a slave by his own brothers and later thrown into prison in Egypt. These were really "bad things" that happened to him but everything was turned around when he was promoted straight from prison into the palace to be the second-in-command of the whole of Egypt because "the LORD was with Joseph" (Gen 39:2).
When you know deep down in your heart that God is with you and for you, then you know that the "bad things" are not from God but are attacks from the evil one. However, God will turn these "bad things" into instruments for Him to bring about good in your life - "You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people." (Gen 50:20)
This leads me to person number 5.
Person No.5 - Pastor Joseph Prince
How do we transfer this head knowledge of "God so loves us" into heart knowledge? We have to keep listening and listening to preaching that confirms to us from the bible of how much God loves us and therefore we can expect good from God, for "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ". (Rom 10:17)
I recommend the following sermons preached by Pastor Prince:
1. God Will Turn Your Evil Day Into Good Days - 08/10/2004
2. Why You Can Expect Good Things To Happen To You - 29/5/2005
3. Good Things Happen To People Who Believe God Loves Them (CD Album)
I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19, NLT)
Sunday, February 22, 2009
In my previous two posts, I examined the parable of the old and new garment, and old and new wine which Jesus told in Luke 5:36-39. Jesus tells us through the parable that He has come to establish the new covenant, and that the old covenant and new covenant cannot be mixed together i.e. law and grace are separate and cannot be mixed together.
The law is old and now made obsolete by the new covenant of grace - "In that He says, “A new covenant, ” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." (Heb 8:13)
What was the function of the law then? "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith." (Gal 3:24) The law was meant to bring us to the end of ourselves, to show us that despite our best intentions and efforts, it is impossible for us to keep it. The law is supposed to lead us to what Paul said in Romans 7:24, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?"; the law is supposed to lead us to this "Who", i.e. Christ.
I have said it in my previous post and I shall say it again: those who embrace the gospel of grace truly uphold the law because they let the law be the law (Rom 3:31). The problem with churches today is not that they preach only the law for if they did, their people will eventually be led to Christ and be justified by faith.
No, the problem is that many churches today preach a mixture of law and grace, and in the process they are in fact preaching neither the law nor grace - they have ruined both the old and new garments, spilt the new wine and burst the old wineskins. They are afraid to let go of the law because they think that the gospel of grace only preaches forgiveness of all our sins which will encourage us to sin more. They think that we need the law to control the way we live so that we do not sin.
However, 1 Cor 15:56 says that "the strength of sin is the law"! Is it logical to control sin by using something which in fact strengthens sin? Of course not! God has already given us the perfect plan for righteousness - Christ!
Jesus himself told us how the plan works - "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5) This is also what Jesus is saying in the parable of the garments and wine (Luke 5:36-39).
When we wear the new garment, the garment of righteousness by faith, we are IN CHRIST. We must always bear in mind that we stand righteous at all times before God because we are IN CHRIST and God always sees us IN CHRIST.
Since we are always righteous before God, does that mean we can sin all we want and still remain righteous? YES! But let me ask you, when you are IN CHRIST, do you still WANT to sin? NO! Why? Because CHRIST IS ALSO IN YOU!
The new wine in the new wineskin is not meant to be kept there - you are supposed to drink it. Do you see the picture now? The new garment covers you - you are inside the new garment i.e. IN CHRIST. When you drink the new wine, the wine is inside you i.e. CHRIST IS IN YOU - "For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory." (Col 1:27, NLT)
Friday, February 20, 2009
37And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.
Take note that this is a continuation of the parable of the old garment and new garment, hence Jesus is trying to say the same thing but this time using the analogy of old wine and new wine, and old wineskins and new wineskins.
What is the meaning of the wine and wineskins? Jesus referred to wine as blood in Luke 22:17-20 :
17After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."20In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
This new wine is meant for everyone to receive righteousness through faith in Jesus' blood sacrifice; it is a separate path to God, a separate path from the law - "But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe." (Romans 3:21-22) - this is a totally new covenant, therefore this new wine cannot be poured into old wineskins i.e. the law.
Those who believe in the gospel of grace (i.e. pour the new wine in new wineskin) truly uphold the law because they let the law be the law. That is why Romans 3:31 says "Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law."
If we insist on pouring the new wine into old wineskins i.e. mixing grace with the law, then the old wineskin will burst and the new wine spilled onto the ground. Both are ruined, the law is no more the law and grace is no more grace, as Romans 11:6 says "And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace."
Christians have no problem believing in the new wine, they just cannot believe in the new wineskin, which is why Jesus didn't bother to warn us not to pour old wine into new wineskins. However, Jesus commented in Luke 5:39 "And no one after drinking old wine wants the new, for he says, 'The old is better.' " because the Jews in Jesus' time on earth still believe in the old wine i.e. the blood of bulls and goats. They cannot see or taste the new wine that Jesus will bring until after the cross. Even today, after the cross, many Israelis still say the old wine is better.
But Jesus, right at the start of his earthly ministry, has already declared to the world that the new wine tastes better, nay, the best! John 2:1-11 records the very first miracle by Jesus at a wedding feast where he turned six stone water jars filled with water into wine!
How did this brand new wine taste? "and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now." " (John 2:9-10)
Friends, don't waste this best wine by pouring it into old wineskins!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
In other words, Rev Seaward is saying that the truth is found in a mixture of law and grace, or as some people might say, a balance between law and grace.
I respectfully disagree with such a view. When you try to mix/balance law and grace, the end result is you get neither the law nor grace. It's like this - when you mix red paint and blue paint, the end result is purple paint which is neither red nor blue.
Consider this parable which Jesus told in Luke 5:36 - "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."
Jesus was saying that in the natural, no one will tear off a patch from a new garment to mend an old one. Yet in the spiritual, many are doing just that, even now in our present day. Let me explain:
In the bible, garment speaks of righteousness - Isaiah 61:10 (NKJV):
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
The old garment in the parable represents the old covenant - righteousness through the law - and it is torn. Why is it torn? The garment cannot tear itself, so obviously the tear is caused by the wearer of the garment - man - which is why Romans 7:12 says "Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good." but Romans 8:3 says the law "was weak through the flesh".
Our flesh or sinful nature is the weak link of the old covenant i.e. righteousness through the law. The law was never meant to make us righteous, it was meant to make us conscious of sin and realize what sinners we were and lead us to Christ, as Paul says in Romans 7:24 "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?".
The old garment is torn and our nakedness below is exposed, just like Adam and Eve's were. The old torn garment makes us conscious of our nakedness; the law exposes our sin and makes us conscious of sin.
What is the solution? Throw away the old garment and PUT ON THE NEW GARMENT! It's obvious, isn't it?
Through the cross, we have all been given the new garment i.e. the new covenant - righteousness by grace through faith in Christ Jesus. However, many Christians, even preachers feel so comfortable in the old garment that they refuse to throw it away. Instead of wearing the new garment, they would rather tear a patch from it to mend the old garment!
They patch up the old garment by saying that Christ's sacrifice on the cross replaces only the ceremonial sacrifices of the law ("ceremonial law") and therefore the law remains and the Ten Commandments have to be obeyed.
Hebrews 8:7-8 says that God himself found fault with the old covenant and decided to make a brand new covenant. God is not like Microsoft -He does not ask you to download patches to a buggy software program! Instead, God gives you a brand new bug-free software program!
What is the consequence of mixing grace into the law? "If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old."
Those who wear the patched up old garment think that the patch has covered up their nakedness; they think that Christ has taken away the consequences of breaking the law and thus they can attempt to live by the law without fear of consequences but the law without punishments is no longer the law! (I have dealt with this in detail here)
Moreover, the old garment now looks funny because the patch from the new garment does not match the old. The new patch only serves to draw attention to the tear underneath it, and thus the nakedness underneath the tear. In the end, when you wear the old garment with the new patch, you remain conscious of your sin instead of righteousness.
The new garment which is torn is now ruined. Instead of believing that all our sins – past, present, future – are forgiven and we are no longer conscious of sin (Heb 10:2), the tear in the new garment has exposed our nakedness and made us conscious of sin. So we have preachers telling us to keep confessing our sins to God and ask for forgiveness, even though we are already forgiven! Thus, grace is no longer grace!
When we don't tear the new garment but simply wear it as it is, we discover that we are in Christ and in him we become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).
This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
1 Corinthians 1:30
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.
8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.
I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"
Steve McVey in his blog dated 11 Feb 09 says "You can’t go too far with grace. That’s like saying, “don’t go too far with Jesus.” Paul wrote in Romans 5:17 that it is by the abundance of grace that we learn how to reign in life. The real threat to the church isn’t that we will go too far with grace, but that we won’t go far enough."
Paraphrasing Steve McVey, I say the real threat to the church is that there are not enough preachers today who have the guts to tell the people to throw away the old garment and put on the new garment!
Let the law be the law, and grace be grace!
Revelation 3:15-16 (NLT)15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth!
Monday, February 16, 2009
In my earlier post "Can Grace Be Cheap", I have explained that there is no such thing as "Cheap Grace", there is only "Free Grace". Those who subscribe to this concept of "Cheap Grace" say that it is "the justification of the sinner without the fruit and works that should accompany the new birth" (quoting from Rev Kong Hee's Resisting Cheap Grace article).
Are we justified by grace or works? Let's look at Romans 3:21-26.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
We are justified when we have faith in Jesus (v26), that's it. We are justified FREELY by God's grace (v24) - we don't deserve it, and there is NOTHING we can do to deserve it or pay for it.
Rev Kong Hee, in his article, quotes from Bonhoeffer : "Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate."
I totally don't understand how grace can be without the cross, without Jesus Christ because Romans 3:26 clearly says we are justified through faith in Jesus.
"Cheap grace is grace without discipleship" - does that mean that grace with discipleship is expensive? Are we justified by grace or "grace with discipleship"?
Consider the thief hanging on the cross beside Jesus. Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." Did the thief receive grace or "Cheap Grace"?
Does anyone have the "fruit and works that should accompany the new birth" at the point when they first received Christ? Of course not! Babies need time to grow - have you ever seen a newborn baby wave at you and say hi? What does the baby do? The baby just feeds and sleeps and in time grows up and will be able to talk and walk and run.
After you are justified by grace through faith in Christ, even if you never ever show "the fruit and works that should accompany the new birth", are you still justified? or have you lost your justification?
If you say you have lost your justification, then I say you, who were justified by grace, are trying to justify your grace! You who were so undeserving of God's grace, having received God's grace, are now trying to show that you deserve it! How can we ever be deserving of God's grace, for "while we were still sinners, Christ died for us"! (Romans 5:8)
Shouldn't we bear fruit after we are justified by grace? Yes we should, and we do but fruit takes time to grow, and we should be patient when we don't see the fruit yet. I checked out some gardening tips from a website and it says "Generally, plants grown from seed can take the longest time to produce fruit; plants purchased in five-gallon containers will take less. Pineapple guava, for example, can take 10 years from seed to produce its first fruit."
However, whether we bear fruit or not is not a condition for our justification. Let me give an analogy:
You received a macbook as a birthday present. Whether you use the macbook to do research for a school project or use it to search for porn, the macbook is yours and remains yours. Whatever you do with the macbook does not make you deserve it. You received the macbook as a gift and you received it simply because you were born!
Am I encouraging you to surf for porn? NO! I am saying that you don't have to use the macbook for the greatest good to prove that you deserve it. It is a gift.
God's grace is a gift and if you have to prove that you deserve it, then it is no longer a gift but a bribe or reward or wages as it says in Romans 4:3-6:
3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 4 Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.5 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works:
Consider the parable of the workers in the vineyard - Matthew 20:1-16. Philip Yancey in his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?" says "Significantly, many Christians who study this parable identify with the employees who put in a full day's work, rather than the add-ons at the end of the day. We like to think of ourselves as responsible workers, and the employer's strange behaviour baffles us as it did the original hearers. We risk missing the story's point: that God dispenses gifts, not wages. None of us gets paid according to merit, for none of us comes close to satisfying God's requirements for a perfect life. If paid on the basis of fairness, we would all end up in hell."
Do you want God's gift or wages? Not sure? Consider Romans 6:23 - "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Saturday, February 14, 2009
It should be noted that the church leader started his affair in Church of Christ, NOT NCC. It is safe to say that Church of Christ does not preach the same grace message as NCC, and yet its church leader committed adultery and refused to repent with confronted.
To be fair, Pastor Kenny did say that no matter what the preacher is preaching, someone living in sin will just "hear what he wants to hear" to rationalize his sin. I have uploaded the portion of Pastor Kenny's sermon about that errant church leader below:
Although it is not the intention of Pastor Kenny, the conversation about the errant church leader "escaping" to NCC may have given the wrong impression that the message of grace condones living in sin and that NCC does nothing about such situations.
I was listening to Pastor Prince's sermon series "The Secret of Moses' 40 days" which he preached years ago (I think at least 8 years ago) and I was delighted to hear Pastor Prince expressly say that NCC does confront those who continue to live in sin, and admonish them for hiding behind the grace message and giving grace a bad name.
I have uploaded the relevant portions of his sermons below:
1. The Secret of Moses' 40 days - Disc 3, Track 6
2. The Secret of Moses' 40 days - Disc 5, Track 2
Thursday, February 12, 2009
I append below his reaction to my "Can Grace Be Cheap?" article and my response:
There is a good summary of what is "Cheap Grace" hereby John MacArthur : What Is Grace?
Cheap grace is in reality a self-imparted grace, a pseudo-grace, and in the end the consequences of living by it are very, very costly. "Cheap grace is not at all a reference to God's grace; it's a contemptible counterfeit. It's a grace that is "cheap" in value, not cost. It is a bargain-basement, damaged-goods, washed-out, moth-eaten, second-hand grace. It is a man-made grace reminiscent of the indulgences Rome was peddling in Martin Luther's day. Cheap? The cost is actually far more than the buyer could possibly realize, though the "grace" is absolutely worthless."
"Many professing Christians today utterly ignore the biblical truth that grace "instruct[s] us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously, and godly in the present age" (Titus 2:12). Instead, they live as if grace were a supernatural "Get Out of Jail FREE" ticket-a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and self-awarded privilege divorced from any moral demands."
The Gospel According to the Apostles © 2000 by John MacArthur
Grace is truly "a supernatural "Get Out of Jail FREE" ticket-a no-strings-attached, open-ended package of amnesty, beneficence, indulgence, forbearance, charity, leniency, immunity, approval, tolerance, and privilege divorced from any moral demands" ... take note that I removed the phrase "self-awarded" because all this has been awarded to us through Jesus' sacrifice.
This privilege is free from any moral demands because God does not demand from us righteous living, but rather He imparts to us the desire to live right - as I have quoted in my article from Galatians 5:16-18:
16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
Verse 17 says that the Spirit and the sinful nature are two forces that are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. This means that we who are under grace have good intentions because of the Spirit but sometimes we do fail to carry them out because of our sinful nature. However, under grace, we have this "Get Out of Jail FREE" card that allows us not to feel condemned before God but to pick ourselves up and continue on our Spirit-led journey.
Although this "Get Out of Jail FREE" card can be abused by some people, it does not mean that it should be denied to the majority who treasure it and will not abuse it. Paul himself is aware of the possibility of abuse and he addresses this issue in Galatians 5:13 - "For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love."
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
I have reproduced the article entitled "Resisting 'Cheap Grace'" below:
Resisting “Cheap Grace”
And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
In the end times, the greatest hindrance to the work of God among believers will not be the legalism of contemporary religious Pharisees. Jesus says that the one weapon Satan will unleash upon the Church in the last days is lawlessness. It is designed to kill the love and passion Christians have for God. In fact, the Antichrist is called the “lawless one” (2 Thess. 2:8-9).
The concept of lawlessness is encapsulated in a heretical belief system called antinomianism. The Oxford Dictionary defines antinomianism as “a belief that Christians are released by grace from obeying moral laws.” Antinomians outrightly renounce the Ten Commandments. They reject the process of continuing sanctification in a believer’s life.
One of the greatest heroes of faith of the 20th century was Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945). He was a German theologian, pastor, preacher, radio broadcaster and author. Bonhoeffer’s most famous work is The Cost of Discipleship, first published in 1939. This work is an exposition of The Sermon on the Mount and it calls for radical living if a Christian is to be an authentic disciple of Christ.
Bonhoeffer’s major concern was the concept of “cheap grace,” a phrase he coined. To him, this is grace that has become so watered down that it no longer resembles the grace of the New Testament. Cheap grace doesn’t transform a sinner but instead brings chaos and destruction to his
life. It is the justifi cation of the sinner without the fruit and works that should accompany the new
Bonhoeffer says of cheap grace: “It is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”
Cheap grace arises when a sinner desires to be saved but doesn’t want to become a disciple.
Can you remember your fi rst conviction at the moment of your conversion? Can you recall your fi rst response to Christ? It was to see a change, wasn’t it? You longed to have righteousness, purity and holiness in your life. If you wanted to remain in sin, you would have remained as an unbeliever and stayed outside the bounds of God’s kingdom.
Resist antinomianism today. Warn those who are seduced by it. Don’t ever lose your first love for Jesus.
Several years ago, Rev Kong preached a sermon series on antinomianism (which I had downloaded from their church website and listened to) and the above article merely reiterated a few key points that he made in the sermon series.
I have recently written several posts discussing antinomianism based on an article by P. G. Mathew, M.A., M.Div., Th.M, and I shall not repeat my comments here but I would like to discuss the term that Dietrich Bonhoeffer coined: "Cheap Grace".
The term "Cheap Grace" gives an implication of Grace that was paid for at a price below fair value. It is like those advertisements you see in the newspapers on Boxing Day - "Post-Christmas Sale! Up to 70% off!". Therein lies the flaw in logic of the term "Cheap Grace".
Firstly, "Cheap Grace" implies that we the receivers of Grace have to pay a price for it and those who are under "Cheap Grace" are paying an unacceptably low price (according to Bonhoeffer and supporters like Rev Kong).
Let me SHOUT it out loud and clear: GRACE IS FREE!!!
John 3:16 (NKJV)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
1 Corinthians 2:12 (NKJV)
We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us.
Matthew 10:8 (NKJV)
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.
Ephesians 1:5-6 (NIV)
5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Romans 8:32 (NASB)
He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
We the believers have received from God the FREE gift of GRACE but this does not mean that Grace costs nothing, it just means that WE PAY NOTHING! God the Father paid for the free gift and it cost him His son, His only son, whom He loved!
Secondly, if you have to pay a price for Grace, there is no price in this world that you can pay that does not make Grace look cheap. You think too highly of yourself!
Let me give an analogy:
You go to an auction to bid for a Picasso painting that was put on the market. The price keeps going up and up until it finally hits US$104.1 million, the highest price ever for a Picasso painting. You bite your lip, and then decide to bite the bullet and raise your bid to US$105 million, a new record!
You bite your lip again, waiting and looking around anxiously to see if anyone else would outbid you ... after 5 minutes, there's only silence and the auctioneer finally brings the hammer down! Yes, you have won the bid, paying the highest ever price but wait ... you hear the auctioneer say something ... "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sorry to announce that there is no successful bid for this Picasso painting as the highest bid so far is still below the reserve price set by the owner."
How can this be? US$105 million is a world record price! Well, this just shows that you have not valued the painting (Grace) as highly as the owner (God) does. When you think that you have to and can pay a price for Grace, you have greatly, grossly, manifestly under-estimated the value of Jesus!
What then do we do with this free grace that we have received?
Galatians 5:4-6, 16-26 (NLT)
4 For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
5 But we who live by the Spirit eagerly wait to receive by faith the righteousness God has promised to us. 6 For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love.16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. 18 But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.
19 When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. 25 Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. 26 Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another.
In his book "What's So Amazing About Grace?", Philip Yancey said this:
"Grace means there is nothing I can do to make God love me more, and nothing I can do to make God love me less."
Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound ...
Monday, February 9, 2009
One reason I didn't watch the dvd was that the film was rather long but once I started watching, I couldn't stop. One scene that really moved me was the flogging of Jesus by the Roman soldiers. Jesus was chained to a binding post and a few soldiers took turns flogging Jesus, starting with a thin cane and then moving on to the "cat-o-nine-tails" which tears flesh out when it hits the body and then gets pulled back.
Jesus' back was a bloodied mess and he was whipped until he could no longer stand and collapsed to the ground. The commander of the Roman soldiers then stood up from his chair and did a "Hail Hitler" salute, i.e. he stretched out his right arm with his palm facing down. I was wondering what that sign meant when he turned his palm up. One of the soldiers then proceeded to unlock the chain on Jesus' left hand,and I thought they were going to release Jesus from the binding post.
But what happened next was that the soldiers flipped Jesus, who had collapsed to the ground, over so that Jesus was now facing up and then they continued whipping him on the front! I couldn't bear to watch the scene.
This got me thinking about Isaiah 53:5 -
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
I have read the verse many times but I have not appreciated how much Jesus suffered for me until I revisited "The Passion" and watched the flogging scene. This is because I see the words "wounded" and "bruised" which do not adequately describe how severe and brutal a beating that Jesus received. In the movie, the soldiers were panting heavily and catching their breath from their exertions in whipping Jesus!
During Holy Communion, it is common for the scripture passage of 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 to be read: 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
Again, the words don't really stir up any deep feelings because they are so understated - "this is my body which is broken for you". From the movie, you can really see how Jesus' body was truly broken with blood and flesh flying in every direction but Mel Gibson said that he actually toned down the scene, the real thing would be much worse.
Some Christians criticize Pastor Prince's teaching on health and wholeness through the Holy Communion but I say these critics are the ones who do not fully understand and appreciate the suffering that Jesus went through to secure for us health and wholeness.
The next time you are attacked by lying symptoms of illness, take the Holy Communion and remember Jesus, remember the brutal punishment that Jesus endured so that you can boldly and confidently declare "by His stripes, we are healed"!
Do not let Jesus suffer in vain.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Saturday, February 7, 2009
I append John Piper's article below and shall highlight in red those arguments or statements I do not think is correct.
Pondering the Difference Between Judicial Wrath and Fatherly Displeasure
Pastor John Piper
How can we be justified by faith, once for all, and yet need to go on confessing our daily sins so that we will be forgiven!
On the one hand, the New Testament teaches that, when we trust Christ, our faith is reckoned to us as righteousness (Romans 4:3, 5-6) the righteousness of God is imputed to us (Philippians 3:9). We stand before God "in Christ" as righteous and accepted~ yes, even "forgiven," as Paul says, "David [in Psalm 32:1] pronounces a blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered" (Romans 4:6-7, RSV). Thus justification, in Paul's mind, embraces the reality of forgiveness.
But, on the other hand, the New Testament also teaches that our ongoing forgiveness depends on confession of sins. "If we confess our sins, he i5 faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9, RSV). Confessing sins is part of "walking in the light" which is what we must do if the blood of Jesus is to go on cleansing us from our sins: "lf we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light...the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7, emphasis added). And Jesus taught us to pray daily, "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors" (Matthew 6:12).
How then shall we see ourselves in relation to God! Are all our sins already forgiven, or are they forgiven day by day as we confess them! Does justification mean that all sins are forgiven past, present, and future--for those who are justified! Or is there another way to see our sin in relation to God?
Let's listen first to a pastor and theologian from 350 years ago, Thomas Watson.
When I say God forgives all sins, I understand it of sins past, for sins to come are not forgiven till they are repented of. Indeed God has decreed to pardon them; and when he forgives one sin, he will in time forgive all; but sins future are not actually pardoned till they are repented of. It is absurd to think sin should be forgiven before it is committed....
Is Watson right!
It depends. Yes, I think one can talk this way about forgiveness if one keeps firmly in mind that the purchase and ground and securing of a2I (past, present, and future) was the death of Jesus, once for all. The ambiguity comes in the question, When do we obtain forgiveness for all the sins we will ever commit'? Does this question mean, When was our forgiveness purchased and secured for us! Or does it mean, When will our forgiveness be applied to each transgression so as to remove God's displeasure for it! The answer to the first question would be, at the death of Christ. And the answer to the second question would be, at the renewal of our repentance.
Which raises another question: Does God feel displeasure toward his justified children! If so, what kind of displeasure is this! Is it the same kind of displeasure he has toward the sins of unbelievers? How does God see our daily sins! He sees them as breaches of his will that grieve him and anger him. This grief and anger, however, while prompted by real blameworthiness and real guilt, is not 'Judicial wrath," to use Thomas Watson's phrase. "Though a child of God, after pardon, may incur his fatherly displeasure, yet his judicial wrath is removed. Though he may lay on the rod, yet he has taken away the curse. Corrections may befall the saints, but not destruction" (Body of Divinity, 556).
God also sees our sins as "covered" and "not reckoned" because of the blood of Christ (Romans 4:7-8).Thus, paradoxically, he sees our sins as both guilt-bringing (and thus producing grief and anger) and guaranteed-of-pardon (though not yet pardoned in the sense of his response to confession and the actual removal of his fatherly displeasure). What is it that distinguishes God's judicial wrath toward the unbeliever's unconfessed sin from God's father~ displeasure toward the believer's unconfessed sin! The difference is that the believer is united to God in Christ by a new covenant. The promise of this covenant is that God will never turn away from doing good to us and will never let us turn away from him, but will always bring us back to confession and repentance. "I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them; and I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me" Jeremiah 32:40, Rsv, emphasis added).
This new covenant commitment was purchased by Christ for us (Luke 22:20) and applied to us through faith so that, though we incur our Father's displeasure, we, who are justified believers, never incur the judicial wrath of God to all eternity. Or to put it another way, since the forgiveness of all our sins is purchased and secured by the death of Christ, therefore God is totally committed to bring us back to confession and repentance as often as necessary so that we may receive and enjoy that forgiveness in the removal of his fatherly displeasure. It is our Father's pleasure to restore us to his pleasure until such restoring are needed no more.
Do you see a similarity between John MacArthur's and John Piper's articles? Basically, the whole concept of Judicial Forgiveness and Parental Forgiveness (JFPF for short) hinges on only 3 things:
1. 1 John 1:9
2. Only our "past" sins up to the point of salvation are forgiven.
3. God is angry or displeased at us when we sin.
I have dealt with all these points in detail in parts 1 to 4 and will not repeat my arguments here. Briefly, let me say that:
1) 1 John 1:9 is not directed at believers,
2) ALL our sins - past, present and future - have been forgiven, and
3) God has sworn that He will never be angry with us again (Isaiah 54:9).
This whole concept of JFPF is conjured up by man (learned men notwithstanding) to satisfy his own need to justify himself, to indulge his own self-righteousness.
When you offend someone, the criteria for forgiveness is NOT set by you but by the person who was offended by you. If the person whom you offended tells you that he just needs to hear you say sorry to him only once and he will forgive any wrong you do against him from then onwards, just accept it! How can that be? Where do you find such a person?
Of course no human being can be that kind of person! Maybe that's why it is so difficult for us to accept that God can be like that person. We are projecting our own human inadequacy or smallness onto the Almighty God. God can be like that person, nay, God IS that person! If you cannot accept this truth, it means that you have not understood and appreciated God's love!
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)
And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. (Ephesians 5:18)