Jurong Outreach

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


Leave a comment

Rich Through the Poverty of Jesus

2 Corinthians 8:9 reads, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.”What a compelling message! Let us examine this great verse together.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This statement is in a context that deals with the apostle Paul exhorting the saints in Corinth to get moving and prepare their promised contribution. The churches of Macedonia, which were made up of brethren in “deep poverty” (8:2), had given liberally (8:1-5). Now, Paul by the Holy Spirit uses another wonderful example to spur the Corinthian Christians on to action: the example of Jesus. By His grace – His kindness or favor that humanity did not deserve and could never earn, Jesus made an amazing sacrifice so that all people could become rich. While we may often think of the grace of our heavenly Father, the New Testament also speaks of the grace of the Christ, as we again read in 2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”

“He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” Do you see the two facts contained in this statement?

Fact #1: Jesus “was rich.” When was that? Not when He lived in the home of Joseph and Mary. Every indication is that they were not people of great wealth in terms of material riches. When they dedicated Jesus to the Lord, they offered birds instead of a lamb (Luke 2:22-24; Leviticus 12:6-8).

Those that could afford it would offer a lamb. Those that could not, offered fowl like Joseph and Mary did. When was the Christ rich? Not during the years of His preaching. Jesus Himself said,“Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:58). Before He began His public ministry, He worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3), and during His short ministry He was dependent upon those that loved Him and “provided for Him from their substance” (Luke 8:3). So, when was our Lord rich? He was wealthy before He came into the world in terms of the relationship that He enjoyed in heaven with the Father.

Fact #2: “He became poor.” When? When He came to this world of sorrow and sin, humbling Himself and taking on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7,8). By coming to this earth, He willingly took a position in the flesh that made Him temporarily lower than the angels (Hebrews 2:9). While in the flesh, He went through every form of temptation (Hebrews 4:14,15) and, as all people must, passed through physical death (Hebrews 9:27). Did Jesus do all of this for Self? Did He come to earth for His own personal glory? Absolutely not. Our text indicates that He did it for someone else. He had others in mind when He forfeited temporarily the glory and riches of heaven and intentionally became poor instead. Just for whom would He take such a great step? Answer: For you and me, but not for us only. Yea, “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

“That you through His poverty might be rich.” Here again we see the motivation for our Lord’s coming to earth and offering Himself as a sacrifice. All that He did, He did for us. Why? Because He wants us to be rich! The Rich One became the Poor One in order that poor ones might become rich ones. Let that thought sink deep down in your heart. The Rich One became the Poor One, that poor ones (spiritually bankrupt people – that describes you and me without Jesus!) might be blessed in a spiritual sense. And, what blessings we have in and through our Redeemer!

Each of us that is in the Lord should count himself as rich. Why? Because through Him we receive the benefits of God’s rich love (Ephesians 2:4; 1:3). In Him we are part of the wonderful family of God (1 Timothy 3:15), the great brotherhood of God’s people (1 Peter 2:17). And, through Him we are people of hope, anticipating the inheritance that the Lord has reserved in heaven for us (1 Peter 1:3,4).

In the first century, the church in the city of Smyrna faced some tough times. However, Jesus’ words of comfort must have meant a lot to them: “I know your works, tribulation, and poverty (but you are rich) . . .” (Revelation 2:9). So, which were the saints in Smyrna: poor, or wealthy? From a financial standpoint, they were poor; but from a spiritual point of view, they were wealthy beyond measure. Why? Because they had all spiritual blessings in the Lord! Brothers and sisters, from time to time we may wonder how we are going to have enough money to pay our bills and provide for our loved ones. There may never come a time in our whole lives that we will count ourselves as being rich in this world’s goods. But, if we walk faithfully with the Lord and have Him as our advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1), we are rich indeed!

Thanks be to the Godhead for the wonderful scheme of redemption. Thanks be to the Father for sending His Son to die for our sins. Thanks be to the Son for His willingness to give up His wealthy state in order to make us rich. Thanks be to the Spirit for revealing the gospel of our salvation (Ephesians 1:13). We are so blessed! And not because we deserve it or because God is in debt to us. It is by God’s grace we are rich through the poverty of Jesus. May we never take for granted all that had to be done and sacrificed in order to make possible our spiritual wealth in the Christ.

~ Roger D. Campbell ~

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector

Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men – extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’. And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Luke 18:10-13).

Our Lord was the Master Teacher. One of His most noted forms of teaching was His use of parables. A parable was a story, but more than “just” a story, it was a story about earthly events that contained within it a spiritual truth that Jesus wanted to get across. Jesus would tell a story and “throw alongside it” a spiritual truth. What memorable teaching tools they were! What about the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector? Let us break it down and search for some lessons.

The Setting of the Parable – When we study the Bible, it is often the case that just prior to the beginning of a parable we find a thought or statement that helps us understand what point the Christ was seeking to emphasize in that particular story. That is definitely true in this instance. Why did Jesus tell this parable in that place at that time to that group of hearers?

Here is the Bible’s clear answer: “Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). That declaration helps prepare our minds to see the spiritual truth which Jesus wanted His audience to see and accept. His listeners on this occasion included self-righteous people who looked down their noses at others.

The People of the Parable – There are only two: a Pharisee and a tax collector. In this case, both of them believed in God, both went to the temple, both prayed, and both evidently believed in God’s power and willingness to hear prayers. In general terms, our Lord described the Pharisees as “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14). Jesus warned His disciples and others to beware of the Pharisees’ hypocrisy (Luke 12:1; Matthew 23:2,3). What about first-century tax collectors? In general, the Jews strongly disliked those who worked as tax collectors for the Roman government, considering them as corrupt, dishonest, and traitors to the Jewish cause.

The Prayers of the Parable – The first prayer was the Pharisee’s. He went to the temple to pray, so he was a religious man. If his words about himself were true, then from a moral standpoint he was a decent man (18:11). Furthermore, he fasted regularly and gave tithes of all that he had (18:12). He is not to be faulted for any of those habits.

Notice how the Pharisee’s prayer began: “God, I thank You that I am not like other men”(18:11). In reality, he did not have a heart of appreciation for what God had done for him. Instead, he talks about how great he is! When the Pharisee thought he had done something good, his words were “I,” “I,” “I,” “I.” His prayer manifests the attitude of self-righteousness (18:9). The Pharisee makes the mistake of boasting about what he feels he has done right, but fails to mention his sins. Could it be that he does not see himself as a sinner, while at the same time he easily sees the sins of others? 

The Pharisee also makes the mistake of comparing himself to others in order that he might look good and make others look bad (2 Corinthians 10:12). Brothers and sisters, we need to evaluate ourselves each day (2 Corinthians 13:5). Remember, faithfulness in God’s sight is not based on comparison with other humans. We will be judged by God’s standard, His word (John 12:48).

What a refreshing contrast we see in the prayer of the tax collector. The man’s prayer consisted of a mere seven words, but the Christ praised him. He was an example of a person that is “poor in spirit” (Matthew 5:3). Instead of boasting about his good qualities, he labeled himself as “a sinner” (18:13; Romans 3:23). He confessed his need for God, pleading for God’s mercy (18:13). After He finished telling the story, Jesus said that this tax collector was justified, whereas the Pharisee was not (18:14).

The Main Lesson of the Parable – We have no trouble identifying the main point of this story. Jesus declared that the tax collector was justified “for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (18:14). The main lesson of the parable isthe need to be humble. Humble people recognize their weaknesses and strive to do better. They count others better than themselves (Philippians 3:13,14; 2:3,4). The humble do not seek after man’s glory and praise, but God’s. Indeed, the truly humble will humble themselves before the Lord and obey Him, being His servant rather than the servant of self: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” (James 4:10).

The church needs humble servants, not self-righteous boasters. Let us look to Jesus as the supreme model of humility (Philippians 2:5-8).

~ Roger D. Campbell ~


Leave a comment

What’s Your Life?

No doubt you heard about the passing of Steve Jobs, the iconic co-founder of Apple who is credited with recent innovation of many technology gadgets and tools. His is a more recent example of one whose life is defined and often measured by the legacy he leaves behind. But what is far more important to Steve, and all of us, is whether our deeds in this life will benefit us when we leave this temporary dwelling.

One of the best definitions and guides that we can use to understand what can benefit us in the life to come is one that Paul gave through inspiration; “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2Cor 4:18). This passage clearly explains that anything physical (things that are seen) is not going to last through eternity and Peter goes on to say that the world and all the works in it are going to be burned up (2Pet 3:10).

It was for good reason that Paul told those in Colossae to, “set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col 3:2). And Jesus said, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Mtt 6:19-21). In verse 24, Jesus went on to say that we cannot serve both God and material. We’re warned in 1Jn 2:15 that if we love the world and the things in the world then the love of the Father is not in us. So we need to consider where we want our affection and spiritual heart to be focused and invested –in the things of this life, or the life to come. And that choice, and our faithfulness to God (as demonstrated by our obedience), will dictate our eternal destination.

Jesus shed some light on our inner man when he rebuked the Pharisees and told them, “Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also” (Mtt 23:26). He could see that the internal qualities of the heart were defiling them. And so we know what will abide, and it is those qualities of our heart. Paul said, “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” (1Cor 13:13). Paul said, “…the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is (1Cor 3:13b). The spiritual will remain, the earthly will be burned up.

Steve, like many others, was successful in this life by any number of measures but his eternal success, like everyone’s, will not be measured by his riches or fame, it will be measured by his obedience to God as revealed by his heart.

~ Matt Johnson ~


Leave a comment

Lessons from the Lives of Joseph’s Brothers

Jacob was blessed with twelve sons, through whom came the twelve tribes of Israel. In order, Joseph was the eleventh of Jacob’s sons. Much of the history recorded in Genesis 37-50 is connected with the life of Joseph and his ultimate role in Egypt. However, the divine record also allows us to see a number of things in the lives of his brothers. As we think about them, not one by one, but as a group, what lessons can modern-day Christians learn from their lives?

When we observe the older brothers of Joseph, we see a family with serious internal issues. When people deal with people, even when they are close relatives, at times there will be tension, conflict, and disruption of harmony. Jesus spoke about what happens when a house is divided against itself (Mark 3:24). We certainly observe a divisive spirit in Joseph’s older brothers. Oh, they were often united in their plans and deeds, but their actions caused division in the family. Satan must be happy to see such happen.

For sure, Jacob’s partial treatment of son number eleven was a key factor in producing the turmoil which wrecked his home. Here is the blunt truth: “Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children . . . Also he made him a tunic of many colors” (Genesis 37:3). How did Joseph’s brothers respond to that situation? “But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him” (Genesis 37:4).

Notice the change in verbs from verse three to verse four: Jacob loved, but his ten oldest sonshated. After that, at least two times the Bible text tells us that Joseph’s brothers “hated him even more” (37:5,8). Their hatred was growing.

We again see Joseph’s brothers’ displeasure with him when we read that “his brothers envied him” (37:11).What can you expect to see when hearts are filled with hatred and envy? “For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing will be there” (James 3:16). The resentment that Joseph’s brothers felt for him led them to make every effort to get rid of him. At first, “. . . they conspired against him to kill him” (37:18). Due to the pleading of Reuben and Judah not to kill him, they instead sold Joseph into slavery (37:28). Make no mistake about it. The fruits of hatred and envy are 100% wicked. Surely we can see that in the case of the brothers of Joseph.

When people do not really care about others, they are capable of doing horrible, unthinkable things. How do people turn against their own loved ones or former closest friends? How can people intentionally sell their own family members, as Joseph’s brothers did with him? How can people kill their own flesh and blood, as evil Athaliah did her grandsons? (2 Kings 11). Such action is ungodly through and through, but it happens. It is repeated in modern times when parents sell their daughters into prostitution or do other self-serving, loveless things.

Have you ever considered the calloused attitude that the brothers of Joseph showed toward their father? They took Joseph’s tunic and dipped it in the blood of a goat. Then they brought that tunic to Jacob, saying, “We have found this. Do you know whether it is your son’s tunic or not?”(37:32). Their deception was despicable. They knew exactly what had become of their brother and his gorgeous tunic. When Jacob saw the tunic, what did he conclude? “A wild beast has devoured him. Without doubt Joseph is torn to pieces. Then Jacob tore his clothes . . . and mourned for his son many days” (37:33,34). How cold-hearted were Joseph’s older brothers? Cold-hearted enough to sell him, and cold-hearted enough to allow their father to believe and cling to the falsehood that Joseph was no longer alive. Do you know how long Joseph’s brothers concealed the truth about Joseph from their father? For twenty-two years they allowed their father to suffer the mental anguish of thinking that his son was dead! Loving children do not inflict such torment on a parent.

When love – genuine care and concern for others, is missing, every sort of evil deed can be found. Let us not deceive ourselves. It happened in the case of Joseph’s older brothers, and it can happen in modern day families as well, even good ones. Not only that, it can happen among the members of local churches. In the ancient church in Corinth, there were envy, strife, and division. The presence of such revealed that they were carnal (1 Corinthians 3:3). Let us not allow the devil to erect such walls between us or among us.

Let us close on a high note. From the lives of Joseph’s brothers, we learn the truth that people can learn from their past mistakes, mature, and do better. Long after Joseph was sold by his brothers, when a famine struck the land of Canaan and it became necessary to take Benjamin, the beloved youngest son of Jacob, to Egypt, Judah interceded. Out of concern for his father’s peace of mind, he pledged that he would take care of Benjamin (43:8,9). When Benjamin received special, partial treatment from Joseph (he got five times more food than his brothers), the elder brothers did not hate or resent him (43:34). What a change that was from how they treated Joseph!

Again, when Joseph threatened to imprison Benjamin (which would have meant separating him from his father, Jacob), Judah pleaded with Joseph to free Benjamin and imprison him (Judah) instead. With Joseph, the brothers’ attitude was, “Who cares what happens to him?” By the time they face the prospect of losing Benjamin for the rest of his life, their heart has changed. Where brotherly love had been lacking, it is now present. Where concern for their father’s feelings and happiness had been absent, it is now shown in a moving way. Yes, in the case of Joseph’s brothers we learn that people really can stop being “hateful and hating one another”(Titus 3:3). Like all of us, Joseph’s brothers made mistakes. At least in some instances, though, they showed that they learned from their wrongs, matured, and made better choices in the future.

~ Roger D. Campbell ~


Leave a comment

Is the Holy Spirit A Person, or Just A Force?

We first read about the Holy Spirit in the Bible in Genesis 1:2, where He is identified as “the Spirit of God.” He is further known as “the Spirit of the LORD” or “the Spirit of Jehovah” (2 Samuel 23:2, ASV), “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17), and “the Helper” or “the Comforter” (John 14:26, KJV). Without question, the Holy Spirit is the “one Spirit” about Whom we read in Ephesians 4:4.

Should we describe the Spirit of God as a person, or simply as a force? We are not asking if He is a human being – we know that the Holy Spirit is not a human and does not take on the form of a man. But, we ask again, is God’s Spirit a person, or a thing? Should we say “He” or “It” when we speak about the Holy Spirit and His activities?

A person possesses intelligence, will/desire/purpose, moral consciousness, and individual existence. Since the Holy Spirit meets such criteria, then He is a person. Consider the message of Acts 13:2, where it is written, “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, Now separate for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them”(Acts 13:2; emphasis here and elsewhere mine, rdc). In this verse, the use of the personal pronouns “me” and “I” to refer to the Spirit clearly show that He is a person.

Some in the religious world, however, do not accept this conclusion. For example, those that call themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses” do not believe that the Holy Spirit is God. In their publications, they continuously write “holy spirit” (with small letters). The following three quotes from the writings of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society clearly show what they think of God’s Spirit:

“While men were used to write the Bible, they did so under the direction of God’s powerful active force or holy spirit . . . so God’s invisible active force directed the writers of the Bible . . .” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, page 8].

“He accomplished the creation . . . by means of his holy spirit, which is his invisible active force” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, page 20].

“As for the ‘Holy Spirit,’ the so-called ‘third Person of the Trinity,’ we have already seen that it is not a person, but God’s active force (Judges 14:6)” [The Truth That Leads To Eternal Life, p. 24].

Per their doctrine, He is not a person, but simply a force. Their claims do not harmonize with the teaching of the Bible. Numerous attributes and actions of the Holy Spirit are mentioned in the New Testament, and these help us to see that He is, indeed, a person. The Spirit of God has the capacity both to teach and remind: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit… he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit also has the power to testify, guide, and speak: “. . . the Spirit of truth . . . he will testify of me . . . when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth: for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak: and he will tell you things to come”(John 15:26; 16:13).

We further read that the Holy Spirit was to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). That does not sound like something that a mere force could do, does it? As we already noticed, the Holy Spirit gave the charge for Saul and Barnabas to leave Antioch and go on a mission which He had for them (Acts 13:2). A force of some sort might influence, but no mere force can give commands as the Spirit did.

In Romans 8:27, we read about “the mind of the Spirit,” and 1 Corinthians 12:11 declares that the Holy Spirit worked as He “wills.” With His mind, the Spirit searches and knows “all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10,11). This truth helps us understand that not only is it the case that the Holy Spirit is a person, but it is accurate to refer to Him as a divineperson, seeing that He knows all things and possesses the qualities of God. The Holy Spirit is not God the Father, just as the Father is not the Son, but each of them possesses the unique qualities of God, and together they constitute what the Bible calls “the Godhead” (Acts 17:29).

In view of all the facts that we have observed from the New Testament, we properly conclude that the Holy Spirit is a person and not merely a force or influence. The Holy Spirit is not a thing. Thus, we do not ask, “What is the Holy Spirit?”, but rather, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” We do not talk about what “It” is or does, but what “He” is or does.

~ Roger D. Campbell ~