Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."


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Opposing The Usurper

Self is the great usurper of God’s place within our hearts. When the self becomes an idol, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

The Lord is clear in His demands that all who would be His followers—no exception—must deny self, take up the cross daily, and follow Him (cf. Luke 9:23-26). There can be no misunderstanding; we are meant to put to death all selfishness.

Opposing the self from once again usurping God’s place is a work we must engage in for the remainder of our lives here on this plane of existence. Self will not die quite so easily; it refuses to roll over and play dead. It will persistently fight to be our god.

Humanism is the philosophy that puts Man at the center. Self-worship is the final objective of this ungodly philosophy. It denies God His rightful place as sovereign and the sole authority.

Of course, humanism employs respectable and harmless sounding jargon. It promises much but delivers little. Creeping its way into the church, it coaxes Christians to talk about their ‘achievements’ for God; to talk about what makes us proud that we have done in His name.

Talking about ‘achievements for God’ in humble tones is no less boasting in light of what the Lord says.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'” (Luke 17:7-10 ESV).

With self at the centre, not only does our relationship with God suffers as a result but our relationships with our fellow-man suffer as well. Selfishness is more than a vice; it is a manifestation of the sin of usurping the Lord’s place.

Think about a marriage. When both spouses are selfish and cares only about his/her own interests, will the marriage be happy? It is hard to imagine that it will be blissful and fulfilling.

The Bible speaks of the opposing attitude to selfishness. Paul says: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Php 2:3-4).

Jesus our Lord demonstrates to us the very spirit of selflessness.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Php 2:5-8).

When we are added to the Lord’s body, we have in fact declared that all idols—the greatest of which is the self—are now dead to us and no longer own us. We are the Lord’s, and to His sovereignty only do we bow in submission.

 

 

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Motivation to Do Right

In almost everything we do, we do it out of motivation. We might not be aware of it all the time, but motivation is there at the back of our actions. Take for example, the sensation of hunger motivates us to eat, and thirst motivates us to drink.

What about snacking? Oftentimes when we snack, it is not out of hunger but more of pleasure. In fact, pleasure and pain are widely recognised as the two prime motivations. Now let’s consider our motivation to do right.

In the final week of His ministry here, the Lord publicly condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. Among the harsh words used by the Lord, He said to them:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mat 23:14-15).

What evangelistic zeal these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They would travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte. Thatputs us in an embarrassing spot, doesn’t it? Why, we might not go over to our next door neighbour to invite him/her to church.

What spiritual maturity these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They could make long prayers! Isn’t this a way we gauge a brother’s spiritual maturity, by how long or eloquently he can pray? Have we ever asked: is an acceptable prayer necessarily a long prayer, and is a long prayer necessarily an acceptable prayer?

The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was their motivation. Their starting point was all wrong. They were not doing these things in service and devotion to God, but to self.

Paul points out the motivation of Demas for abandoning the apostle and the work of the Lord. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2Ti 4:10).

So let’s consider our motivation to do right.Do we reason with ourselves sometimes that we will serve only when we have the opportunity, or when it is convenient for us to do so?

There is so much going on in our lives right now. Making time and opportunity to serve the Lord is getting increasingly more challenging. So much is in competition with God, demanding our time.

Obeying God does not wait for a convenient moment. Remember Felix, the Roman procurator?

“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25).

The word preached by Paul shook Felix; but the latter made the excuse that when he had a more convenient time, he would continue the discussion with Paul. Do we wait for a “convenient season” before we obey the Lord?

Paul writes to the Colossians: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10 ESV).

It is important for us to know that we may be motivated by zeal, but zeal must be informed by right knowledge. Paul was driven by zeal but without right knowledge. His zeal led him to persecute the church (cf. Acts 26:9-11).

We are new creatures in Christ (cf. 2Co 5:17), and therefore we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom 12:2).

How do we do that? As Paul says, we are renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, that is, by the word of the Lord. In the very same context, Paul further says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:17).

Obedience is not a one-time act; it is the definitive lifestyle of the Christian. The Galatians present us a negative example. After obeying the gospel, which Paul preached to them, they were influenced by Judaizers who told them that in addition to the gospel, they had to follow the Mosaic Law.

In a letter filled with tough love, Paul asked them: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Gal 5:7)? The Christian life is likened to running a race. As in any long distance race, endurance is indispensable(cf. Heb 12:1-2).

If we lost our motivation to endure, to continue to increase in knowledge, and to keep obeying the will of God, we will become the most miserable of creatures. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness.

“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness” (Heb 3:16-17)?

Let us keep the solemn words of the Lord in mind: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).

 

 


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The Usurper

We are faced with an ancient problem. The origin of this problem goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when our common ancestors made the conscious choice to defy the Creator as their God and instead install themselves as their own little gods.

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen 3:4-6).

Since that day the self has never stopped attempting to usurp God’s rightful place in human lives. Selfishness, self-centredness, conceit—call it by any name, it remains the foremost enemy that robs us of the purpose and meaning of our existence.

We are created by God for a purpose. The wise man puts it in the clearest way possible that anyone of us can understand.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:13-14).

Like Adam and Eve, we so often choose to listen to and gratify our desires rather than bow in submission to the will of God. Take sexual immorality, for example. Fornication seems to be more rampant today with Hollywood and the media touting it as ‘normal’ behaviour.

It is impossible to count the number of people engaging in pre-marital sexual behaviour. Does God ever mean for men and women never to enjoy sexual pleasure? Certainly not. But He never means for creatures created in His image to indulge in what He has confined to marriage.

Like some of the children in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, so many people are unwilling to delay gratifying their desires till marriage, and choose to place self before God.

A look back at history will reveal that this ancient problem is still very much active today; it does not go extinct with time and improvements in standards of living. In fact, it seems to have become more creative with time in marketing.

Humanism celebrates mankind and places him at the highest places of honour. Countless interviews are being conducted with celebrities (or anyone who fancies himself/herself as one) where they are given almost free rein to talk about themselves.

Books with titles such as Looking Out for Number One (Robert J. Ringer), Awaken the Giant Within (Anthony Robbins), Good to Great (Jim Collins), See You at the Top (Zig Ziglar) and Feeling Good (David D. Burns), The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene) etc. are bestsellers.

Social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, are used as avenues to promote the self. The English language has churned out terms such as ‘self-fulfillment’, ‘self-enhancement’, and ‘self-expression’, etc.

These are signs that the great usurper, Self, is alive and well and active. We live in a world where men and women are preoccupied with the self. Stripped bare of its eye-pleasing marketing, it is no more than narcissism—an inordinate fascination with oneself; vanity.

We may argue that things are not as bleak as painted above; most of us are not at the point where we are so absorbed with self that we become blind to everything and everyone else around us.

We may also argue that paying attention to self is not all that bad. After all, aren’t we to pursue improvements? Besides, it’s not as if we have forgotten or neglected God. We still read the Bible and attend worship every first day of the week. So what seems to be the problem?

Well, what is the essence of idolatry? In other words, what is at the root of idolatry?

Paul says, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

Idolatry is anything which seeks to usurp the place of God in our lives. ‘Anything’ means not only what we generally agree as evil, but even good things can become idolatrous if we are not careful.

With that understanding, let’s ask the question: What is the biggest idol of them all? It is the self. When we regard the self higher than it deserves, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

We are disciples of Jesus when we follow Him and His word. What does He say to us?

“And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self” (Luke 9:23-25)?

Deny self. Take up the cross daily. Follow Him. Remove self from the throne. Die to self and sin every day. Obey the Master. This is the true description of a disciple.


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Reading and Our Spiritual Growth

The letters of the apostle Paul, besides revealing to us the divine will of God, serve also as windows for us to peek into the apostle’s fascinating life. He comes across to us in his letters as a man of flesh and blood, one with whom we can certainly relate.

One of the snippets we pick up on Paul’s life is his love of reading. Near the end of his life, while he was languishing in a cold dungeon awaiting his possible execution, he wrote to his friend Timothy, giving him instructions and encouragement to continue in the work of the Lord.

He also asked Timothy for some personal favours, among which was this:

“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2Ti 4:13).

There are speculations as to what these books and parchments were. It is widely agreed that the parchments would include the Hebrew Scriptures, what we today call the ‘Old Testament’.

The books might include secular writings and commentaries of the Scriptures by the rabbis. Paul was not averse to non-Jewish writings and Gentile cultures. In Acts 17 he appealed to a common understanding with his Greek audience when he paraphrased a Greek poet.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

Some might think it strange that Paul would need copies of the Scriptures. He was trained from young in the tradition of the Pharisees and had displayed a remarkable memory in quoting Scriptures both in his preaching and writings.As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was guided by the Spirit.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

Furthermore, books would be quite useless to a man near death.

Here we see Paul, the reader. Anyone who loves to read will easily relatethat when a person is bitten by the reading bug, he/she will remain a reader. Paul was also consistent in his study habits. He never ceased to learn and improve.

The advantages of reading are many. Reading is the best way to gain knowledge. Today we have access to instructional videos, but reading remains the best way to gain knowledge as books are still the preferred vehicles of information.

Reading, when done actively, improves our critical thinking and communication skills. Critical thinking is crucial for Christians because of the myriads of ideas disseminated through books and the media. Better communication skills are a boon not only in our interaction with others but also in sharing the Good News with them.

Attention span seems to have deteriorated ever since the day every household began to own a TV set and later on a computer. Mindless staring into a screen is numbing to the brain. Active reading forces us to engage our attention if we are to benefit from a book.

Reading also allows us to learn at our own pace. As a person who is rather ‘slow’ and finds it hard to keep up with a lecturer, reading not only affords me the advantage of learning at my own pace but also gives me countless hours of pleasure.

Reading has another advantage. It allows us to experience vicariously through others what we probably will not have the opportunity to experience: an adventurous trip, a debate with someone of a different religious persuasion, etc. Reading is truly a learning experience.

In his request to Timothy, Paul was setting an example to his protégé (and to us) that Christians ought to constantly seek to improve ourselves though learning. Unlike the apostles, we do not have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and to bring all things to remembrance.

We are called to be diligent students of the Bible, and to train to be able to handle it correctly (cf. 2Ti 2:15). Good books are the best supplements to our learning. While none of these books are inspired and therefore infallible, through them we can tap into the writers’ minds and allow them to share with us their thoughts and discoveries.

Reading good books train us to exercise discernment. We cannot accept wholesale anything we read, even from writers reputed to be sound in doctrine. So how do we exercise discernment? Be like the Bereans.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

A Christian who studies the Bible diligently is a Christian who grows. A Christian who also follows Paul’s example and learns constantly from reading good books are better placed than one who deprives himself of the riches of sharing in the learning of others.


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Sowing to Our Character and Destiny

The American philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, purportedly said: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Whatever the original context of Emerson’s statement, the logic behind it makes good sense. An action is often the fruit of a thought, an idea. We may do many things on autopilot, seemingly without much consideration but these are actions that have become ingrained by practice. We call these actions ‘habits’.

Our habits—of thoughts and behaviour—determine our character. A person who constantly places his self-interests above that of others will develop a character lacking in altruism. It is hard for him to be unselfish or be concerned for the welfare of others.

Ever since the day when our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, violated God’s law by eating the forbidden fruit, man has been experts at playing the blame game. We blame circumstances and other people for ourunhappyexperiences. It is always easier, and even comforting to our pride, to point the finger at someone or something else.

The truth is we are all given limited free will by the God who created us all. It takes a sovereign God to bestow on mortal man a degree of free will. It is impossible for a God who isn’t omnipotent and omniscient to do so.

What we need to remember is that with the limited free will comes responsibility. We are responsible for the thoughts we entertain and the actions borne out of these thoughts. These thoughts and actions mold our character, and we will be called upon to give an account.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Co 5:10).

Things happen to us beyond our control. It is how we respond to these things that builds our character, one brick at a time. The tragic story of Saul remains a sober reminder for God’s people across time.

Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was elected by God to be the first king of Israel. Saul was not a man without qualities. At the very least, he had the physical attributes of a man who draw attention. The Bible says there was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than Saul. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people (1Sa 9:2).

In the early days of his reign he also proved to be a fierce warrior king who united the people against their enemies (1Sa 11).

Yet in other moments of crisis Saul caved in to his fear. He offered burnt sacrifice, which he was not authorized to do, after he ran out of patience waiting for Samuel. For his careless act, Saul was told he would forfeit his kingdom.

“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee” (1Sa 13:14).

Saul failed to learn his painful lesson. On another occasion he was commanded to destroy utterly all that belonged to the enemy, but for fear of losing his army’s support, he held back from full obedience. The prophet Samuel brought the fearsome judgment of God upon the feckless king.

“And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (1Sa 15:28-29).

We can be quite certain that Saul’s tragic end began with a thought. In the first incident, when his soldiers began to desert him, Saul admitted fear into his mind and entertained the thought that Samuel had failed him.

In the second incident, he considered his circumstances without God in mind. It was God who gave Saul great victory over Amalek yet Saul feared the people more than he did God. He believed his men would turn against him. He should have known that with God by his side, he would have overcome any adversity.

We look back on Saul and shake our heads at his lack of faith, his fear of men more than of God, and his disobedience. We might even feel some sympathy for a man in his position as leader of an army made up of men more loyal to their tribes than to him.

Yet like Saul, we must realise we are ultimately responsible for what becomes of our character. The thoughts we entertain, the decisions we make, no matter how small; how we respond to our circumstances and people around us, all these go a long way toward what we become.

Paul writes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7). We either sow to eternal glory in the presence of God or we sow to an eternity of anguish away from His presence.

The counsel of the apostle rings loud and true for us today:

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:17-18).


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Guilt Leading to Repentance

When the subject of guilt is raised, we normally have in mind the feelings of guilt. It can be understood in 2 ways: objective feeling and subjective feeling. Objective guilt is when a person experiences a feeling of remorse for having done something wrong—he/she has violated a certain code of conduct or ethics. Subjective guilt happens when a person believes that he/she is personally responsible, directly or indirectly, for something that had gone wrong.

Besides understanding guilt as a feeling we must also realize that guilt is a state; a condition of heart and mind a person is in. Guilt, the feeling, is usually the result of being in a guilty state.

But a person can be a state of guilt without experiencing the feelings of guilt. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” There are plenty of people out there who are out of Christ, and as such, are the children of wrath (Eph 2:3); but they do not experience feelings of guilt.

The Lord in Luke 17:26-28 drew a parallel betweenthe people of his days with those in the days of Noah, and noted that they were all alike—guilty without experiencing the feelings of guilt.

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded” (Luke 17:26-28).

We have all experienced guilt. For a non-Christian who is suffering from guilt, or has come to a realization of his/her guilt from the Scriptures, the same Scriptures offer the only solution—the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).

What about a Christian? Christians can experience guilt as well. Woe to us if our conscience is hardened by sin to the point where we can hardly experience guilt, or that we deny and suppress the sense of guilt whenever we sinned!

The Bible deals with the reality that even Christians may sin. John makes sure no one is fooled. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1Jn 1:8).

But the apostle does not leave us hanging. By inspiration of God, he tells us what we must do. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:9).

Let us be clear that the sense of guilt itself, no matter how intense, is not repentance. Guilt is part of the godly sorrow that comes from realizing and acknowledging that we have sinned against the holiness and majesty of God.

Paul tells us that repentance must follow godly sorrow, without which our sense of guilt would be in vain.Without godly sorrow, of which guilt is a part, there is no repentance; without repentance, there can be no salvation.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2Co 7:10).

From the preaching of God’s wordon the day of Pentecost, many Jews realised with shock that they had murdered the Messiah whom they had been waiting for so long.

They were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do” (Acts 2:37)?Peter told them they needed to repent and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. Their guilt was not enough to save them; it was not even repentance.

Three thousand of the Jews went on to obey the gospel. Contrast this with the Jews struck by guilt when they heard Stephen’s preaching.

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth…Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…” (Acts 7:54, 57-58).

Our conscience is a good servant to give us a kick when we need it, but it can be suppressed and silenced. It can be hardened as well—“seared with a hot iron”, in the words of the Paul in 1 Timothy 4:2.

When we experienced guilt, do not ignore it. Stop, listen and ponder. Do some soul-searching. Turn to the Lord in prayer. If there is any area in our lives where we need to repent and seek forgiveness, do not delay in doing so.

We can learn from the example of David after his sin with Bathsheba how he did overcome guilt.Read carefully Psalm 51 for the record of David’s confession. Psalm 32:1-5 is David’s beautiful account of the joy of having his sins forgiven. It dovetails perfectly with 1 John 1:9.

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5).

 

 


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Doing God’s Will from the Heart

Imagine you are driving in your vehicle and you approach a school zone. You spot a police officer on duty nearby and slow down the speed, as you should while driving within a school zone. You respect the officer’s power to fine you if you drive above the speed limit, and you most certainly do not appreciate a fine.

Now imagine the next day you drive into the same school zone. This time there is no police officer in sight. You think to yourself, why not? Let’s just get through this area quickly.

You step on the pedal. Suddenly, a little girl appears within your peripheral vision and you slam on the brakes. A fraction of a second too late and tragedy could have occurred. You are shaken up.

The third day you drive into the school zone again. As with the previous day, there is no police officer in sight. Nonetheless, you slow down. Your heart has been affected by the near accident the day before.

Now, regardless of whether you suffer the consequence if you were caught speeding, you observe the law willingly, even happily.

The above little imaginary exercise is to illustrate that our Lord wants willing, cheerful adherents to His law. Fear of eternal punishment is a motivation for us to walk uprightly, and rightly so, but there is a better way.

Love is a better motivation than fear. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). You cheerfully serve the ones you love, don’t you? It is a joyful thing to see smiles on your loved ones’ faces. We keep the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2) because we love and appreciate what He has done for us on the cross.

The apostle John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1Jn 5:2-3).

Any married person knows that if his/her spouse does something as an automaton, without the heart, it really quite defeats the purpose. Likewise, acceptable service to God is from the heart. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).

Our worship and service to the Lord cannot be separated from our sincerity and heartfelt gratitude. Service and worship are not dour, joyless affairs. Our Lord says that our worship of God must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

We usually get the truth part down to a pat, but the spirit part is sometimes lacking. What does He mean by the spirit? Joshua, by inspiration, exhorts the same attitude in worship and service. “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Jos 24:14).

Service and worship is a joy, not a burden. The psalmist says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1).

Doing the Lord’s will, i.e. obedience, is not something that is coerced. Obedience is an act of the will. God did not create us to be robots—without thoughts, emotions and a measure of free will. He wants His people to obey from the heart. Such is the kind of obedience which truly pleases Him.

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Rom 6:17).