Friday, May 29, 2009

The Beauty of "Right Place, Right Time"


A beautiful picture of a beautiful little lamb happily playing in the field.

Richard Peters, the photographer who shot the picture, is very good with the camera but it is simply impossible for him to get the lamb to pose for him, isn't it? He had to be at the right place, at the right time to capture that perfect shot. You can read about how he managed to "shoot" the lamb at his website .

A few weeks ago, my mum also happened to be at the right place, at the right time:

One afternoon, my mum was sitting at a table outside the pastries shop, Bengawan Solo in West Mall when two ladies asked if they could share the table with her. My mum agreed and they sat down and started talking. Somehow, my mum got involved in their conversation.

One lady was saying that she felt spiritually dry and thought of leaving her current Presbyterian church and returning to her previous church. Guess what? Her previous church is my previous church too! My mum suggested to her, "Why don't you come to New Creation Church?"

The lady replied that she had heard rumours (mostly negative) about Pastor Prince and his teachings. My mum told her not to judge based on hearsay but to first listen to Pastor Prince's sermons for herself. My mum told her to come to my stall to borrow some sermon CDs and she did that a few days later. About two weeks after that, she came back again to borrow some more CDs!

Praise God that He placed my mum at the right place, at the right time to introduce the grace gospel to someone who was hungry for Him :-)


The race is not to the swift,
Nor the battle to the strong,
Nor bread to the wise,
Nor riches to men of understanding,
Nor favor to men of skill;
But time and chance happen to them all.

Ecclesiastes 9:11


(Note: I first came across Richard Peters' picture of the lamb on King David's blog)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Grace Roots - Online Community For Grace Believers

I have just joined an online community "Grace Roots" started by Joel Brueseke (his blog is also named "Grace Roots"). I think it is a great vision of his to establish a community so that grace believers from all over the world can "connect with one another as our hearts become established in grace and grow in grace."

Here in Singapore, we also have our own little community that grew naturally out of our common belief in the grace gospel. Jeffrey called it the "tao suan fellowship" as our first meeting was at the hawker centre where my dessert stall is situated (for our overseas friends, "tao suan" is a dessert made from green beans).

By the way, we'll be meeting again on Wednesday, 3 June around noon at the hawker centre (Bukit Timah Market & Food Centre, next to Pei Hwa Presbyterian Primary School) . You are welcome to join us.

Thank God for the technology given to us so that the grace gospel can be easily shared. I encourage you to join the Grace Roots community to share with, learn from and encourage one another as our hearts become established in grace.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings"

Pastor Kong Hee in his article, "Balance Is The Key Of Life (Part 3)", which was published in ChristianPost Singapore, discussed some "questionable teachings" which he claims are being taught in many churches. 

However, I really question whether those teachings which he claims as questionable are truly questionable. The following links are my rebuttals to his article: 


Questionable Teaching #1: You Don't Have To Confess Your Sins To Be Forgiven!


Questionable Teaching #2: Being Taught The 10 Commandments Is Like Taking Poison! 
(Part 1)


Questionable Teaching #2: Being Taught The 10 Commandments Is Like Taking Poison!
(Part 2)


Questionable Teaching #3: Sin Will Never Break Your Fellowship With God!


Questionable Teaching #4: Your Sin Is Drawing You Closer To God!


Questionable Teaching #5: God Will Always Hear You, Even If You Regard Sin In Your Heart!


Questionable Teaching #6: Under Grace, Holiness Is Transferable Through Personal Contacts! 


Questionable Teaching #7: The Only Sin The Holy Spirit Would Ever Convict Is Unbelief!


Questionable Teaching #8: Faith Is Just Believing, Nothing Else!

Questionable Teaching #9: By Just Having Faith, All Your Bad Habits Would Disappear Effortlessly!


Questionable Teaching #10: A Christian Can Never Be In The Flesh!


Questionable Teaching #11: The Moment You Receive Christ, You Immediately Achieve Perfection!

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (11)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.


Questionable Teaching #11: The Moment You Receive Christ, You Immediately Achieve Perfection!

This teaching first surfaced in Singapore in the mid 1990s from the same fallen preacher that taught the need to commune with dead saints. Are born again Christians already made perfect? Legally yes, practically no. The moment they are saved, they are just babes in Christ. There is a need for us all to grow into spiritual maturity.

Balance is the key of life. Positional sanctification must be balanced by practical sanctification. It is true that the moment we become a Christian, we are made a saint. But we need the process of practical sanctification throughout our lives to make us more saintly in character and conduct.

Hebrews 6:1 challenges us to "on to perfection" now that we are saved. Ephesians 4:11-13 says that Jesus Christ gave the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and pastors to equip the believers, until 'we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man." That wouldn't be necessary if we are all already perfect!

Paul wrote to the Colossians that Epaphras their minister was laboring fervently for them "that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God" (Col. 4:2). Now, if the Colossians were already perfect and complete from the moment they were born again, then Epaphras would have wasted his time on doing something that was totally unnecessary!

As such, the positional must always be balanced by the practical. Otherwise, a Christian would embrace a very lopsided understanding of Scripture that would stunt his own spiritual growth and development.


I agree with Rev Kong Hee that when we become Christians, we are not perfect in our walk with God and we need time and effort to grow and mature spiritually. However, the bible does say that we are perfect even though our walk is not perfect.

Hebrews 10:14
For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (NKJV)

For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy. (NLT)


Take note that the verse clearly distinguishes between our standing before God and our walking with God. In terms of our standing, He HAS PERFECTED FOREVER - past tense, ie. it is already finished and lasts forever. In terms of our walking, we are BEING SANCTIFIED - present continuous tense, ie. it is not finished but a ongoing process.

Let's take a closer look at the word "perfected" in the Greek:

τελειόω
teleioō
Thayer Definition:
1) to make perfect, complete
1a) to carry through completely, to accomplish, finish, bring to an end
2) to complete (perfect)
2a) add what is yet wanting in order to render a thing full
2b) to be found perfect
3) to bring to the end (goal) proposed
4) to accomplish
4a) bring to a close or fulfilment by event
4a1) of the prophecies of the scriptures


Do you know that this same word in the Greek "
teleioō" also appears in another verse BUT it is not rendered as "perfected" in the English?

John 17:4 (NKJV)
I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.

The same word in Greek is translated as "finished" in John 17:4 and what is the work which God gave Jesus that He "finished" or "perfected"? John 6:28-29 gives us a clue: "Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent. "

Jesus' work is to reconcile man to God through his sacrifice on the cross ie. as Heb 10:14 says Jesus is that "one offering". When we believe in Christ Jesus, we are forever reconciled to God. When we say we are perfect before God, we are not saying we don't commit sinful acts anymore but rather, we are saying we have been perfectly redeemed by the offering of Christ, for "
you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Pet 1:18-19), and "if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9)

Because of that one offering of Christ, sin is no longer imputed to us and therefore God always sees us perfect in Christ. Our continuing process of being made holy is not for God's benefit but our own, so that we do not bring harm upon ourselves and others through our sinful deeds and so that we can bring benefits to ourselves and others through our good deeds:

Job 35:6-8 (The Message)
If you sin, what difference could that make to God?
No matter how much you sin, will it matter to him?

Even if you're good, what would God get out of that?
Do you think he's dependent on your accomplishments?

The only ones who care whether you're good or bad are your family and friends and neighbors.
God's not dependent on your behavior.



Do you see the difference now? The moment you receive Christ, you immediately RECEIVE (NOT achieve) perfection! Christ Jesus has perfectly redeemed us from the penalty of sin but not from the commission of sinful acts.

Heb 10:14 says we are being sanctified and we go through this process when "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor 3:18)
(please read Questionable QT8&9 for a detailed explanation of the sanctification process)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (10)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #10: A Christian Can Never Be In The Flesh!

Those who propagate extreme grace make a distinction between "
in the flesh" and "after the flesh." They claim that while a Christian can walk "after the flesh," it is impossible for him to be "in the flesh," since he is already born again. Again, this goes contrary to 2,000 years of basic Christian theology. If it is true that we have no more fleshly nature within us in this present dispensation, why do we need the resurrection of the dead, why do we need a new spiritual body at the Second Coming of Christ? Does Paul still struggle with the flesh? Of course, he does!


For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. (Rom. 7:18)

The books of Romans and Colossians say we have the flesh (the sin nature) within us. And as long as we are alive, we will struggle with the flesh. But the good news is that by walking in the Spirit, by applying the Word, by disciplining our body, by choosing not to yield to wrong drives, and by renewing our mind, we can render the flesh powerless!

To deny that we have no more fleshly nature within us once we are born again is to indulge in self-righteous pride. It is also saying that we are already sinlessly perfect, and by doing that, you are deceiving yourself big time! To say that "we no longer have the desire in us," and that "all we have are merely fleshly tendencies," is nothing more than just delving in confusing self-contradictions!


Firstly, I agree with Rev Kong Hee that the book of Romans says we have the flesh within us. However, this is not the same as "we are in the flesh". Let me illustrate with this example:

A Singaporean who has been living in Singapore for the past 50 years migrated to New Zealand for retirement. He is now officially a New Zealander BUT when you talk to him, you can still hear the typical Singaporean "lah" or "lor" coming out of his mouth.

You see, this man is now a citizen of New Zealand, living in New Zealand and no longer a Singaporean BUT it will take time for the "Singaporeaness" in him to disappear. Similarly, a Christian is no longer "in the flesh" BUT the fleshly nature still dwells within.

Isn't it interesting that Rev Kong Hee quoted only ONE verse (Rom 7:18) for this QT10 compared to the other QTs where he throws in many scripture references? Let me quote TWO scripture references (for "Every matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." - Deut 19:15, 2 Cor 13:1) which clearly shows us that Christians are no longer in the flesh:

Romans 7:5 (NKJV)
For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.

Romans 8:8-9 (NKJV)
So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.


Paul says clearly in Rom 7:5 that we "WERE" in the flesh - past tense, ie. in the time before we became Christians. To re-emphasize that point, Paul again says clearly that we "ARE NOT" in the flesh but that we "ARE" in the Spirit - present tense, ie. in the here and now. A Christian is "in the Spirit"; he is "in Christ" and therefore cannot be in the flesh, for "those who are in the flesh cannot please God".

However, as I've illustrated earlier, the fleshly nature still remains in us and therefore sometimes we walk "according to the flesh". Paul tells us that no good thing dwells in the flesh (Rom 7:18) and encourages us to "put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts." (Rom 13:14)

We can overcome the fleshly desires in us only by focusing on the Lord Jesus Christ (regularly listening to anointed preaching on the finished work of Christ on the cross is a good start), and as "we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Cor 3:18)

This transformation is a process; as we, who are in the Spirit ie. in Christ, walk according to the Spirit, we will sometimes stumble and walk according to the flesh but don't be discouraged and condemn yourself because God does not condemn you - "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:1).


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (8 & 9)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

I shall deal with QT8 and QT9 together as both are related (actually, I think both are making the same point!).

Questionable Teaching #8: Faith Is Just Believing, Nothing Else!

Those who promote unbalanced grace teach that there is no need to say No! to sin or to ever discipline the flesh. To be transformed into Christ's image, all we need is "just believe" and do nothing else! There is no need to take personal responsibility, no need for self-denial. Well, guess what? Demons "just believe" too!

You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! (Jas. 2:19)

Believing is only part of the story. The other part is repentance. Five times in Revelations 2-3, Jesus expected the Christians in Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea to repent (Rev. 2:5,16,21-22; 3:3,19). For example, to the Church in Thyatira, Jesus commended them for their faith,

I know your works, love, service, faith ... (Rev. 2:19)

The members of Thyatira were already true believers in the Lord but their lifestyles were defiled by sin and sexual immorality. Jesus didn't just exhort them to only "just believe" and then rest to do nothing else. He warned them of facing dire consequences "unless they repent of their deeds (v. 22)." Without repentance —a change of mind and action—there can be no true victory in the Lord.

Questionable Teaching #9: By Just Having Faith, All Your Bad Habits Would Disappear Effortlessly!

The teaching basically goes like this: the best way to overcome bad habits is by praising God and claiming your position in Christ. Simply by doing that and nothing else, all your bad habits would eventually disappear effortlessly!

Is it true that when we fail, our part in overcoming temptations is just praising God and doing nothing else? Does it mean that if a drug addict wants to kick his bad abusive habit, all he needs to do is just thank God and do nothing else? Does it mean that if you struggle with a violent temper problem, all you need to do is just praise God and do nothing else? Of course, not!

... Faith without works is dead. (Jas. 2:20)

By faith, we are indeed made more than conquerors in Christ positionally and we should stand upon this promise of God, even when we fail. However, the Bible does require decisive actions from us. Merely claiming our legal positions in Christ is only part of the solution, not the entire solution! We have a responsibility of disciplining our flesh and renewing our mind.

And do not he conformed to this world, but he transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. (Rom. 12:2)

Is discipline needed for the victorious Christian life? Yes, in fact, the word "disciple" comes from the word "discipline!"

But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified. (1 Cor. 9:27)



I think Rev Kong Hee is trying to make the point that to be transformed into Christ's image, we must have repentance (ie. by his definition, a change of mind and action); we need to take personal responsibility and discipline the flesh, and that those who promote "unbalanced grace" teach that we can be transformed simply by faith, which Rev Kong Hee claims is taught as "just believe".

Firstly, let me say that I don't believe there is such a thing as "unbalanced grace" or conversely, "balanced grace". The bible only contrasts grace with works, never as balanced versus unbalanced - "And if by grace, then it is no longer of works; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But if it is of works, it is no longer grace; otherwise work is no longer work." (Rom 11:6, NKJV)

So then, how are we transformed into the image of Christ? By grace or by works ie. taking personal responsibility and disciplining your flesh? In QT9, Rev Kong Hee asks whether it's true that "our part in overcoming temptations is just praising God and doing nothing else?" He says "Of course, not!". I ask, "Why not?!"


TRANSFORMING BY BEHOLDING

2 Cor 3:18 (NKJV)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.

2 Cor 3:18 shows us exactly how we are being transformed into the image of Christ from glory to glory. Take note that the transformation is an ongoing process - we are BEING transformed - and the verse tells us that:

1. We must have an unveiled face.

2. We must keep beholding (an ongoing process) the glory of the Lord.

3. When we keep beholding the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed by the Holy Spirit.


Does the verse say we are being transformed by repentance? Or disciplining our flesh? Or saying no to sin? NO! We are being transformed by beholding the glory of the Lord! And how are we to behold the glory of the Lord? Let's take a look at the verse again - "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord". Can you see it? No? Let me show you one more time - "beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord". Can you see it now?


WHAT DO YOU SEE IN THE MIRROR?


What do you see when you look in a mirror? YOU! But what is the "YOU" that you see? A sinner who needs to keep confessing his sins to God? A forgiven sinner who needs to keep repenting? A sincere Christian who needs to discipline his flesh? Then you will NOT be transformed!


What do you need to see in order to be transformed? The glory of the Lord! More accurately, you need to see, in the mirror, that YOU are the glory of the Lord! You must be thinking, "How can I? I still have many bad habits! I still sin very often!" That, my friend, is not YOU; that is your flesh but that is definitely not YOU.


YOU are a new creation, the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor 5:17, 21) for YOU are now in Christ (Rom 6:11), and Christ is now in YOU, the hope of glory (Col 1:27). The reason why you can't see the glory of the Lord reflected in YOU is that your face is still veiled.


Paul explains what the veil is in 2 Cor 3:

5 It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. 6 He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. This is a covenant not of written laws, but of the Spirit. The old written covenant ends in death; but under the new covenant, the Spirit gives life.

7 The old way, with laws etched in stone, led to death, though it began with such glory that the people of Israel could not bear to look at Moses’ face. For his face shone with the glory of God, even though the brightness was already fading away. 8 Shouldn’t we expect far greater glory under the new way, now that the Holy Spirit is giving life? 9 If the old way, which brings condemnation, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new way, which makes us right with God! 10 In fact, that first glory was not glorious at all compared with the overwhelming glory of the new way. 11 So if the old way, which has been replaced, was glorious, how much more glorious is the new, which remains forever!

12 Since this new way gives us such confidence, we can be very bold. 13 We are not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so the people of Israel would not see the glory, even though it was destined to fade away. 14 But the people’s minds were hardened, and to this day whenever the old covenant is being read, the same veil covers their minds so they cannot understand the truth. And this veil can be removed only by believing in Christ. 15 Yes, even today when they read Moses’ writings, their hearts are covered with that veil, and they do not understand.

16 But whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.


Many Christians today still do not understand that they are now under the new covenant mediated by Christ. They still have their faces covered in a veil, trying to see the glory of the Lord through old covenant ie. the Law which glory has faded away. They still think that they have to live a holy life in order to be holy, so that God will be pleased with them. That is so wrong, my friend! You live a holy life because Christ lives in you. You live a holy life not by trusting yourself, thinking that you can discipline your flesh, but by trusting in Christ (Gal 2:20):


Gal 2:19-21 (NLT)

19 For when I tried to keep the law, it condemned me. So I died to the law—I stopped trying to meet all its requirements—so that I might live for God. 20 My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.


REPENTANCE = CHANGING THE WAY YOU THINK


In the book of Romans chapter 12 verse 2, Paul says “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think”. That is true repentance! In the same book of Romans, Paul sets out for us right in the very first chapter how we are to change the way we think: that we are no longer righteous by following the Law; by trying to do good but we are now righteous by faith - “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith."” (v17). This is the GOSPEL!


We, the righteous, are to live by faith. What kind of faith? Faith in Christ's blood - “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.” (Rom 3:25) The new Living Translation has a clearer explanation:


Rom 3: 23-26 (NLT)

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.


Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins.


For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.


We all fall short of God's glorious standard. Whatever we do is not going to meet His standard for “all our righteous acts are like filthy rags” (Isa 64:6). We are acceptable to God only through the blood of Christ for “he declares sinners to be right in his sight when they believe in Jesus”.


Now that we are MADE holy before God in Christ, we now live OUT this holiness through Christ in us. We do not live holy lives to BECOME HOLY; we live holy lives because we ARE HOLY. Would you agree that living a holy life would mean that we triumph over sin? Would you like to know how to triumph over sin? Once again, Paul shows us how in the book of Romans:


For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:17)


We will triumph over sin and death when we receive God's wonderful grace and His gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ! Can you see it now? All this about getting rid of bad habits, overcoming temptations, violent tempers etc has got nothing to with our own efforts or our self discipline! It is all about Christ! It is all about we being in Christ and Christ in us!


If we can achieve all that transformation through our own efforts, why is there a need for Christ? We are making the grace of God meaningless! (Gal 2:21) Getting rid of all sorts of bad habits through self-discipline is just behaviour modification; you still want to do them but you control yourself not to do them.


God wants true transformation and He does that when He puts His laws in our minds and write them on our hearts (Heb 8:10). We will naturally NOT WANT to do those bad habits anymore because God has replaced our old wants with HIS wants.


HOLY LIVING IS A FRUIT OF SALVATION


Holy living is a fruit OF our salvation, not a requisite FOR salvation. Jesus himself said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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 15:3-5)


How do you abide in Jesus? John 6:53-56 (NKJV) - “Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.


Instead of focusing on ourselves, on disciplining our flesh, we should focus on eating Jesus' flesh and drinking His blood. What does that mean? In order to carry on living our earthly lives, all of us have to eat food and drink water. When we eat and drink Jesus' flesh and blood, we are living an eternal life, not just an earthly life. What is eternal life? “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” (John 17:3)


The Corinthian church was involved in sexual immorality and Paul wrote a letter to correct them by telling them:

Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, "The two will become one flesh." But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20, NIV)


Paul did not rebuke them by saying they lacked self discipline. Paul rebuked them for their lack of knowledge of who they are in Christ! Essentially, Paul was saying that if they knew what they should have known, then they would not be involved in sexual immorality:

  1. Their bodies are members of Christ himself.

  2. Their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.

  3. They were bought at a price.


Do you know that in the book of 1 Corinthians, the word “repent” does NOT appear at all? NOT EVEN ONCE! Yet, the Corinthian church repented! In 2 Corinthians 7:8-10, Paul says, “I am not sorry that I sent that severe letter to you, though I was sorry at first, for I know it was painful to you for a little while. Now I am glad I sent it, not because it hurt you, but because the pain caused you to repent and change your ways. It was the kind of sorrow God wants his people to have, so you were not harmed by us in any way. For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.


KNOW THE LORD


The Corinthian church repented ie. they had a change in their thinking. They came to know who they really were in Christ, and as a result, they changed their ways. True transformation comes when you focus on getting to know God and His only Son, Jesus Christ.


I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,

may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know

what is the hope of His calling,

what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe,

according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. (Ephesians 1:17-21)


Friday, May 15, 2009

"Jeffrey-ism" (1) - Christianity Is Not About ... But ...

It's going to take me a while more to tackle QT8 and QT9 (I'm doing both together as both points are related or rather essentially the same) but meanwhile, I would like to introduce to you some wise observations from my dear friend, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey likes to sms me every once in a while with his observations regarding the gospel (that is his way of "blogging" ;-)), and I really like them because they tend to be short and sharp and hit the nail on the head or as in a Chinese idiom - "一针见血" (drawing blood with just one poke of a needle).

Enjoy Jeffrey-ism (1) (with a little bit of editing and one addition on my part):


Christianity is not about doctrine BUT relationship.

Christianity is not about something we do BUT Someone we know.

Christianity is not about following guidelines BUT following our Guide.

Christianity is not about bearing fruit BUT abiding in the vine.

Christianity is not about dying to self BUT self having died with Christ on the cross.

Christianity is not about doing God's will BUT God's will, Jesus, living in us.

Christianity is not about eternal life after we die BUT living the eternal life now.


"And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (John 17:3, NKJV)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (7)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #7: The Only Sin The Holy Spirit Would Ever Convict Is Unbelief!

The concept goes like this: based on John 16:8, the Holy Spirit only convicts the world of one sin, the unbelief in Christ. Once a person is saved and becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit doesn't bring any further conviction of sins in his life!

Again, this runs contrary to all mainstream Rheumatology (the study of the Holy Spirit). Sanctification is progressive transformation and that is what the Holy Spirit does (2 Cor 3:18). The whole of Romans 6-8 challenge us to live a life in the Holy Spirit simply because He is going to bring about this change in us. The Holy Spirit prompts, instructs and disciplines ( Rom. 8:2-4; Gal. 5:16,22-23; Eph. 5:9).

Therefore, is it true that the Holy Spirit only convicts the world of one sin —its unbelief in God? Well, to the seven churches in Revelations 2-3, Jesus exhorts them to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit. In speaking to the Church of Laodicea, He says,

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and, opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me ... He who lias an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev. 3:19-20,22)

Now, these words are directed to the Christians in the church. Even though Jesus loves them, He is going to rebuke and chasten them into repentance through the Holy Spirit (v.22). The word "rebuke" (v. 19) is the same Greek word elegcho as Jn. 16:8's "convict." It is therefore reasonable to say that tire Holy Spirit doesn't just bring conviction to the sinners once at the moment of salvation, but He also brings conviction of sins in our lives that are stubborn, unknown to us or that we have forgotten (Ps. 139:23-24). In mainstream theology, the former is called "the regeneration of the Spirit," the latter is known as "sanctification work of the Spirit."


Again, there are many verses quoted here which were not properly explained in context but first let's deal with the key verse(s) in which Jesus explains what the Holy Spirit does, and contrary to what Rev Kong Hee said, it is not just John 16:8 but rather John 16:8-11:

8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:
9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me;
10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;
11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Jesus himself explains that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of 3 things:

1. Sin - because they do not believe in Me ie. Christ (John 16:9).

Take note that Jesus said "sin" and NOT "sins". The Holy Spirit does not convict you of sins ie. sinful acts. You don't need the Holy Spirit for that! Your own conscience will convict you of sins! This is what happens from the moment you are born because you have Adam's DNA which had been forever contaminated by the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

Rom 2:14-15 (NLT) - "Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right."

God is not concerned about sins because He has taken care of that; God has forgiven us of ALL our sins through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. God's only concern is for us to appropriate His forgiveness by accepting Christ and therefore the Holy Spirit is needed to convict non-believers of their sin of unbelief in Christ. We do not come to God on our own accord for we are the ones who are lost, not God; God chose us and called us to come to Him through the Holy Spirit.

Rom 8:29-30 (NLT) - "For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory."

The Holy Spirit convicts the non-believer of the sin of unbelief in Christ, calling the non-believer to come to God through Christ. After the non-believer becomes a believer, the Holy Spirit convicts him of righteousness ie. God "gave them right standing with himself " which leads us to point 2.


2. Righteousness - because I go to My Father, and you see Me no more (John 16:10)

Jesus was telling his disciples that he was going to be resurrected and after that, return to his Father. Jesus' resurrection is proof of our right standing with God for "He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God." (Rom 4:25, NLT)

However, since Jesus was going (or has gone, from our present point of view) back to his Father, Jesus cannot be down here with us as a walking living proof of our righteousness. Hence, the Holy Spirit is sent to convince us of our righteousness, ie. our right standing with God, in Christ "For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children." (Rom 8:16, NLT)


3. Judgment - because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:11)

Please read carefully, the Holy Spirit is not convicting us of our own judgment but that of the ruler of this world ie. the devil.
The Holy Spirit is telling us that the devil is already defeated; he has been judged and therefore "overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us" and "nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Rom 8:36-39, NLT)
In case you still insist that the Holy Spirit is judging us, let's go back a few verses and read what the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to say in Rom 8:33-34 - "Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us."

Jesus himself explained John 16:8 very clearly through John 16:9-11, and I believe I have also shown you clearly that the Holy Spirit convicts us of "sin" and not "sins", and that the sin referred to John 16:8 is the sin of unbelief in Christ.
(As for the other verses quoted in Rev Kong Hee's writing, I won't be commenting on them as it is too tedious to explain all of them in their proper context. I believe John 16:8-11 are clear verses that explain the role of the Holy Spirit, and it is important not to let obscure or less clear verses rob you of the blessing from the clear verses.)

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (6)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #6: Under Grace, Holiness Is Transferable Through Personal Contacts!
The adherents of this brand of extreme grace believe that holiness is transferable through personal contacts. That under grace, those who are clean can pass on their holiness to those who are unclean. Christians should therefore pass on their holiness by touching the personal artifacts of sinners. As such, believers are strongly urged to touch the sinners' pillows, plates, pens, shirts etc., because as they do so, they would inadvertently cause the sinners to catch their holiness!

Is holiness instantaneous? Is holiness transferable by touch and contacts? If a Christian shakes hands with a family member, does that gesture instantly makes tire family member holy?

Those in the unbalanced grace camp definitely think so. They believe that holiness can be imparted through personal contacts and that this is taught in both in the Old and New Testament.

In page 88 of Renewal Theology (Volume 2) by J. Rodman Williams, Dr. Williams writes the following: "Under the old covenant it was not enough for Israel to be claimed as a holy people by virtue of their calling; Israel was called to holiness. Thus the Lord said to Moses, 'Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, you shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy' (Lev. 19:2). Then follows a number of divine prescriptions — the 10 Commandments and various ordinances— by which this holiness is to be manifested. To be a holy people, therefore, is to walk according to God's command. In the New Testament the people of God are called to an even more extensive holiness: 'Like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, You shall be holy, for I am holy'(I Pet. 1:15-16)."

The source of holiness or sanctification is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). It is erroneous to believe that Christians can go around imparting and transferring holiness to others around. Besides, holiness is not a one-time separation unto the Lord, it is a continuing process of purification and perfection.

Addressing the Corinthians, Paul says Christians are those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus (1 Cor. 1:2 KJV). However, shortly after that, he urges them to "flee sexual immorality" (1 Cor. 6:18). Hence there is an additional call for continuing sanctification or holiness. In his second letter to the same people, he writes,

Therefore "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you"... Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God. (2 Cor. 6:17-7:1)

These words were written to believers — including Paul—when he says, "Let us cleanse ourselves!" Hence, although they, and Paul, were saved, there is the call to continuing sanctification. There is simply no short cut to holiness. To teach you can transfer holiness through personal contacts "under grace" is not only unscriptural, it is grossly wrong and irresponsible.


I agree with Rev Kong Hee that the teaching that "holiness is transferable by touch and contact" is incorrect. If holiness can indeed be transferable in such a manner, then there is no need for preachers to preach the Word; we can just go around touching people and the whole world will be saved.

No, the Word of God says, "for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?" (Rom 10:13-14)

However, I must stress that I have never heard this questionable teaching before, either in my previous church or NCC. I am speculating that this questionable teaching is a misunderstanding of Jesus' ministry on earth. You see, under the old covenant or the Law, if you touch something/someone which/who is unclean, you become unclean (Lev 5:2-3, Num 19:22). However, Jesus showed that He had come to be the mediator of the New Covenant, making obsolete the old covenant or the Law by making the unclean become clean after they touched Him or He touched them.

For example, Jesus healed a leper (who is considered unclean under the Law - Lev 13:45) when He touched him:
Matthew 8:1-3 (NKJV)
1 When He had come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him. 2And behold, a leper came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.
3 Then Jesus put out His hand and touched him, saying, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed.


In another case, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years (who is considered unclean under the Law - Lev 15:25) touched the hem of Jesus' garment and was immediately healed. She did not make Jesus unclean but was instead made clean by Jesus:
Luke 8:43-44 (NKJV)
43 Now a woman, having a flow of blood for twelve years, who had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any, 44 came from behind and touched the border of His garment. And immediately her flow of blood stopped.

Although Jesus is now not on earth to physically touch us, we are now made clean when we receive Christ as our Lord and Saviour, for Christ has cleansed us from our sins with His own blood (Rev 1:5). We, who have been made clean under the New Covenant, can no longer be made unclean when we touch the unclean or the unclean touch us.

However, this is NOT the same as saying we can now touch the unclean to make them clean (which is what questionable teaching #6 essentially teaches). NO, ONLY the blood of Christ cleanses. We cannot do the cleansing by touching the unclean but we can preach to them that the blood of Christ washes their sins away and makes them clean (Rom 10:14).

Since we, who have been cleansed, cannot be made unclean by the unclean, why does 1 Cor 6:18 tell us to "flee sexual immorality" and 2 Cor 6:17 says "Therefore “ Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.”" ?

Firstly, let us put what Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in context. The old city of Corinth was burned down in 146 B.C. and the Corinth of Paul's day was rebuilt in 46 B.C. by Julius Caesar, and became a prominent centre of commerce in the Mediterranean world and also a place for all sorts of vice. (source: http://executableoutlines.com/1co/1co_sg.pdf)

As the church in Corinth was situated in such an immoral environment, it was eventually infiltrated by sinful practices (including sexual immorality) and false doctrines. Paul wrote the first epistle to the Corinthians to correct sinful practices and refute false doctrine.

However, this brings us back to the question of why the Corinthian church was affected by all the unclean things surrounding it since the clean cannot be made unclean by the unclean. I think Jesus gave us a clue to the answer when He was preparing to wash Peter's feet and Peter refused to allow it.

John 13:8-10 (NKJV)
8 Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”
9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”
10 Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.”


Jesus said in John 13:10 that he who is bathed still needs to wash his feet BUT he is completely clean. The key word here is "feet" which speaks of our walk. We, who have been bathed in Jesus' blood are completely clean. The unclean cannot make us unclean but it can still dirty our feet ie. affect our walk with Christ and Jesus says He needs to wash our feet with water in order to walk with Him. Notice that Jesus said in verse 8 "you have no part with Me"; he did not say "in Me" because once we have been cleansed, we are forever in Him.

How do you wash with water? Through the Word of God:
Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV)
25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her26to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

The sinful practices and false doctrines creeping into the Corinthian church did not make the church unclean but its feet were dirty, so Paul wrote to the church to wash its feet "with water through the word". Speaking of word, what does the word "holy" mean?

According to Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions:
קדשׁ / קדושׁ
qâdôsh
BDB Definition:
1) sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart

To be holy also means to be set apart. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 6:17 telling the Corinthian church to "come out from among them and be separate." In fact, Paul had already essentially told them the same thing in his first epistle - "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." (1 Cor 2:12) Paul is merely reminding the church that they are holy ie. set apart and to be conscious of this holiness by separating themselves from the surrounding immoral environment with its sinful practices.

Holiness or being set apart for God cannot be imparted or transferred. We are set apart only by the blood of the Lamb, just as the Israelites were set apart from the Egyptians on the night of the Passover by the blood of the lamb on their doorposts.

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afternote: I just read a sermon "Re-defining Holiness" by Ryan Rufus. He says:
Holiness has got NOTHING to do with sinning or not sinning! If that is what we think, then we think WE are the cause of our holiness and I am telling you there is only ONE Person who is the cause of our holiness and His Name is Jesus Christ!

If you are in Him, then YOU ARE HOLY! You don't have to try and be holy or get holy - you ARE holy!

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