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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Peoples’ Motives for Asking Questions

The Bible indicates that all Christians “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12). We may not all be public teachers, but in some fashion each one of us needs to make an effort to help others learn the word of God. As we communicate the gospel to people, asking questions can be an effective way of helping them to see the truth. We might ask a question to see how much one understands, to see what one thinks or believes, or to emphasize a particular point. Jesus was the Master at using questions to communicate the will of God, and we should imitate Him in this regard.

Not only do we frequently use questions in the teaching process, but as we conduct Bible studies or discuss religious matters, other people often will ask us questions as well. The more that we have contact with and teach people, the more questions we will be asked. But why do people ask questions? What is their motive? From what is recorded in the New Testament and from our personal experience in teaching others, we have observed that folks ask questions for various reasons.

Sometimes people ask questions just out of curiosity. They perhaps have heard something about the Lord’s church and just want to know if the “strange” thing that they heard is true. When Paul preached in Athens, certain philosophers heard his message about Jesus and His resurrection. They wanted to hear more about this doctrine, not because they thought Paul’s message was from the one true God of heaven, but because they found it interesting or curious. They said to Paul, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears . . .” (Acts 17:19,20). The Holy Spirit explained that the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either telling or hearing some new thing (17:21).

Some ask questions in order to criticize or attack God and His word. Surely that is what Satan was doing when he asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). “Why did God tell the Israelites to kill innocent people?” “Why would God punish someone eternally in hell?” Such questions are often asked with such an attitude that it is obvious that those who ask them are not really searching for the truth, but rather want to attack the Creator or His holy instructions.

A third group of people ask questions in order to try and justify themselves. Once when Jesus told a man to love the Lord and his neighbor as himself, the man asked Jesus a question: “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29). What was his motive for asking that question? He desired to “justify himself” (10:29). Today those who consider themselves as good moral people often ask why they need God or need to be born again. Why ask such questions? In order to justify themselves, that is, to show that they are good enough as they are now.

Be on guard against those who ask good questions but do not really want to learn the truth; they simply want to argue. To continue to study with such a person is almost always in vain. Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine . . .” (Matthew 7:6). Our Lord’s idea is that we should not continue to use our time in giving the good things of the gospel to those who have proven by their attitude that they do not intend to receive it. With such people, sooner or later we just have to dust off our feet and move on and try to find an honest person who wants to hear God’s truth.

Yet others ask questions in order to test or tempt us. The Bible often says that the Pharisees asked Jesus questions in order to test/tempt Him (Matthew 19:3). Yes, there were occasions when Jesus’ adversaries “plotted how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15-18). People may want to see if by their questions they can cause us to get angry and say or do something that would be out of place. They may ask us tricky questions that are not at all connected with the salvation of man’s soul. They simply want to try to get us to say something wrong, or want to hear us admit that we cannot answer their questions.

In contrast to those whom we have discussed thus far, there are those people with whom we come in contact that sincerely desire to know the truth. Thank God for them! The questions that they ask come from a good and honest heart (Luke 8:15), and we always welcome such questions. On the Day of Pentecost, the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon were pricked in their heart and because of that, asked what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37). A eunuch truly desired to know whether Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else when he wrote Isaiah 53, so he asked Philip about it. That eunuch’s interest and question gave Philip an opportunity to preach Jesus unto him (Acts 8:31-35).

Let us not try to avoid people who have questions about the Bible, but continue to seek out those who are really interested in learning the truth. Remember, our Lord said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).

~ Roger D. Campbell ~

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Israel Was Joined to Baal of Peor

In your mind, try to picture the situation. The Israelites were in the last year of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They had conquered mighty nations east of the Jordan River and were now peacefully camped on that side of the river. God’s people were now so close to entering the land which He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sadly, at this late stage of their journey out of Egypt, thousands of them chose a path of rebellious behavior. They paid a huge price. Here is a portion of the record of this event that is found in Numbers 25:

       (1) Then Israel remained in Shittim, and the people began to commit
             prostitution with the women of Moab.
       (2) They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the
             people ate and bowed down to their gods.
       (3) So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord
             was aroused against Israel.
       (4) Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people
             and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun,
             that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel’ …
       (9) And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.

So, there you have it. God’s people committed fornication and worshipped idols. Israel, what were you thinking?! There are numerous lessons that we can learn from these matters. Be sure of this: God wants us to know about and learn from the Israelites’ transgression at Baal of Peor. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write about it to the church in Corinth, including it with a list of Old Testament events about which he said, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition . . .” (1 Corinthians 10:8,11).

First, although God has always wanted His people to show honorable conduct (1 Peter 2:12), it does not always happen. That truth does not in any sense prove that God is weak, nor does it mean that God’s people are without proper education about how to conduct themselves or lack adequate means to deal with and overcome temptation. Israel knew God’s will concerning fornication and idolatry. Their “wisdom” in the eyes of the world was to obey God (Deuteronomy 4:6). Unfortunately, in this case they chose to be foolish, and as always, God did not step in to override their freedom of choice.

Second, the Israelites accepted an invitation that they should have refused. Yes, the text says that the Moabites “invited” the Israelites to participate in sin, and they did just that. The devil will always try to make sin look appealing. We must learn to say, “No,” even as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tempted him on a daily basis (Genesis 37). Here is something to consider. Repeatedly in epistles that were written to Christians, New Testament writers taught and warned about the very sins that Israel committed in this instance, idolatry and fornication. Christians sometimes feel pressured to participate in these or others sins, but we must remain strong and not compromise with evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22).

Third, choices have consequences. The decision of some Israelites to worship idols and commit harlotry aroused God’s anger and brought about a plague which resulted in the death of 24,000 people (Numbers 25:3-9). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and people reap corruption when they sow to the flesh (Galatians 6:8). For those in any generation who survive physically following their immoral practice of idolatry, fornication, or other sins, there is still this reality to face: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). On the other hand, the plague at Peor ceased when Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, showed a righteous zeal that caused the Lord not to consume the people and God blessed Phinehas and his descendants (read about it in Numbers 25:7-13). Yes, choices have consequences.

Fourth, there was a Balaam connection going on behind the scenes at Peor. Balaam was a prophet that the king of Moab had summoned to curse the children of Israel. Balaam instead pronounced blessings on God’s people, but in the end gave counsel to Moab’s king that helped to drag the Israelites into the dirt of sin. Numbers 31:16 reveals Balaam’s role, stating that certain women “caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor . . .” The New Testament message is that Balaam “taught Balak [king of Moab, rdc] to put a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).

Balaam’s action was a factor in corrupting the children of Israel. The biblical text does not say that he himself committed fornication or worshipped idols at Peor. Nor did he directly encourage the Israelites to have a part in such deeds. What he did was suggest to a third party what he could do in order to bring about the downfall of Israel. It is wrong to do anything, either directly or indirectly, that encourages people to violate the will of God (Luke 17:1,2). Do not be a Balaam, who sold his soul because he “loved the wages of unrighteousness” ( 2 Peter 2:15).

Fifth, was there any good or encouraging news that came out of Israel’s sin with Baal of Peor? Thankfully, not everyone in the camp of Israel participated in those sins (Deuteronomy 4:3,4). This fact reminds us that it is possible to resist Satan and overcome the attraction to do what is wrong, even when those who surround us choose a course of sin.

~ Roger D. Campbell ~

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Doing “Good” and Doing “Evil”

According to the Scriptures, “good” and “evil” really do exist in the world. Not every activity is good in the Lord’s sight, but it is equally true that not every activity is evil, either. Jesus said that a good man brings forth good from a good heart, while an evil man brings forth evil out of theevil treasure of his heart (Luke 6:45).

As we discuss religious matters with others, it is quite common to hear people express the idea that all people who “do good” [行善] will go to heaven. There is a widespread notion that any man or woman that has done any type of kind deed for another human qualifies as one that does good, while the term “do evil” [作惡] is often assigned to those who are in prison because they have broken civil law. The problem, though, is these concepts are subjective and do not harmonize with the Bible.

Christians are told, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Again, God says, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). In both of these passages, we see (1) “evil” put in contrast to “good,” (2) “evil” is something that we are to avoid, and (3) “good” is that to which we are to hold on. Here is a key question: “Good” and “evil” in whose sight, according to what standard? Listen to God’s statement to ancient Israel in Moses’ day: “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you . . .” (Deuteronomy 6:18). In this verse, the phrase “in the sight of the LORD” is mighty important! God, and God alone, has the right to determine what is good and what is evil. Today the New Testament sets forth the universal, unchanging, objective standard of what is good and what is evil in God’s eyes.

When the Christ spoke about raising the dead, He said that all that are in the graves will hear His voice “and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). Some people have heard these words and jumped to a false conclusion, giving themselves the false comfort that, as long as they do some deeds of kindness or charity, then they are certainly going to make it to heaven. Why? Because they “have done good,” and the Master said that those who “have done good” will be raised to enjoy life, that is, eternal life.

Where is the flaw in the reasoning noted above? It assumes that to “do good” is limited to helping others or doing kind deeds. Without doubt, to “do good” involves helping the poor and others who stand in need (Mark 14:7). But, when we compare John 5:29 with a couple of other New Testament passages, we quickly see that in God’s sight, to “do good” includes more than showing courtesy and compassion. Consider these truths which Jesus stated: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46), and, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Let us make a brief comparison:

Passage Man’s Action Result / Blessing
John 5:29 Do good Raised to life
Matt. 7:21 Do the Father’s will Enter kingdom
Matt. 25:46 (Be) righteous Eternal life

What should we conclude? Answer: In the sight of God, a person who truly does “good” is one that is righteous, that is, he does the Father’s will. To be righteous means to practice righteousness – do what is right in God’s sight (1 John 3:7; Psalm 119:172).

The message of 1 Peter 3:11,12 reinforces the idea that, before our Creator, “good” people are “the righteous,” and not just those who lend a helping hand to others in their time of need. Hear this: “(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. (12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” [underlining mine, rdc]. There is a distinct contrast between those who “do evil” and those who “do good.” But note further that, while “evil” is used in both verse 11 and verse 12, those who “do good” (verse 11) are then re-identified as “the righteous” in verse 12. Again, those who are categorized as people that “do good” are only those that live a righteous life. They do more than kind deeds – they live in harmony with the will of God.

In view of what we have seen, it is not enough to tell children to “be good little boys and girls.” And, it is not enough to tell adults to “be good people.” Every person needs to hear and accept the truth that, according to the Bible, “do good” includes doing what God wants us to do – it means to do His will.

~ Roger D. Campbell ~

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Four Dangers to Watch Out for in the New Year

A new year is upon us. By the bountiful grace of our heavenly Father, we have completed another year and have entered upon a new. While many of us would have set resolutions for the New Year or are still in the process of doing so, let us not neglect to reflect on the year that has just passed and ponder upon the goodness of our God. Reflection can do us much good, when we approach it with honesty and humility. We normally flinch from examining the areas of our lives where we have not done well, for fear of embarrassment; however the benefits far outweigh the sense of embarrassment, even shame. After all, it is the poor in spirit who shall enter the kingdom of heaven.

Resolutions set for the New Year usually go along the more common vein of “losing weight”, “further our studies”, “improve our character”, etc. These are good in and of themselves. The children of God, though in this world, are not of this world. Whatever it is that we have resolved to do this year, we bear in mind that we live for God’s glory. The twenty-four elders before the heavenly throne fell upon their faces and cried, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created (Revelation 4:11).”

In launching forward into a year with its excitement, potentials and challenges, the saints of God remember the pitfalls strewn along our way, placed there by the enemy to trip us up in our pilgrimage to our eternal home in heaven. There are four dangers that we will do well to keep constant awareness of. These are common but effective dangers that could jeopardize our souls if we take them lightly.

The first of these dangers is ignorance. Ignorance of what it means to live for Christ, ignorance of the motivation to live for Christ; and ignorance that to be a Christian is to live for Christ (cf. Galatians 2:20). The devil comes with his lies that we can choose to live as a Christian in varying degrees. The so-called ‘deeper’ or ‘higher’ Christian life is for the ‘elite’ – elders, deacons, evangelists. As for the rest of us, we should be content that we are decent folks not given to overly outrageous manifestations of sin. Beloved, this is a lie! The gospel is not given to only a special class of men, but to all. You and I are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).”

The second danger is forgetfulness. As we go along in our living and the Lord takes care of us and prospers us, we sometimes forget about things we must never forget. It is God’s wisdom that we remind ourselves weekly in the Lord’s Supper of what He has done for us. The children of Israel were constantly reminded not to forget, and Old Testament history shows us the tragic outcome of their forgetfulness. “Beware that thou forget not the LORD thy God, in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statutes, which I command thee this day: Lestwhen thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; And when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; Then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget the LORD thy God, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage (Deuteronomy 8:11-14).” It is said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it (Santayana, George; The Life of Reason, Volume I chapter 12).” Take heed, church of Christ, lest we forget!

The third danger is dullness of heart. Over the years, our senses become dulled by constant battering from the cares of this world. Making a living is a must, but God wants us to trust Him even in that. Matthew 6:24-34 is a major text that comes readily to mind on this very important teaching. The third kind of ground in the Parable of the Sower is the thorny ground, and the Lord has this to say about it. “And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection (Luke 8:14).” We can be members of the Lord’s church for any given number of years, but that is no assurance that we will not fall within this category of unfruitfulness. Beloved, have your hearts been dulled by the cares of this world? Meditate on Matthew 6:24-3. Draw comfort, hope and strength from the gentle words of the Saviour.

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).”

The fourth danger is complacency, a feeling of calm satisfaction with our intelligence, abilities, talents, etc. A complacent spirit assumes we have nothing new to learn or that we already know it and therefore do not have to bother much with it. It is a feeling of self-satisfaction not to be mistaken for godly contentment. It is our honour and privilege to be called the children of God, to read and study His Word, to worship Him and to do His will. The Lord tells us to “Take heed what ye hear (Mark 4:24)”; and He also tells us to “Take heed therefore how ye hear (Luke 8:18).” If we approach worship and Bible class with a sense of the mundane, we can be sure that complacency lurks within our hearts. 

Every New Year begins with a sense of hope. 2012 is no different. For the saints of God, this is a year full of the promise that we shall grow more and more in family likeness with our Father. May we say with Paul, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).”

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Let Us Show Respect for God in Our Worship Assemblies

Following the death of Abihu and Nadab, two sons of Aaron who were killed for offering fire which the Lord had not commanded them, God said, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified…” (Lev. 10:1-3). That whole scenario convinces me that worshipping the God of heaven is a serious activity that requires each worshipper to be holy and prepared to glorify Him properly. Do you not agree? Surely no child of God doubts the fact that He is worthy to be praised. The throne-scene in Revelation 4 shows elders praising God Almighty with these words: “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created” (4:11).

In the Book of Psalms, we also read, “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker” (Psalm 95:6). In this article, we want to offer some practical observations and reminders about our worship assemblies. God wants us to be true worshippers, that is, those who offer true worship to Him (John 4:23). One aspect of God-pleasing worship is that it is offered “in spirit” (John 4:23,24). When worship is offered “in spirit,” it is presented with a proper attitude, a proper focus, a proper motive, and comes sincerely from the heart. The Master spoke of those who honor God with their lips, but their heart is far from Him (Mark 7:6). If you and I have proper reverence for God, then when we praise Him with spiritual songs, speak to Him in prayers, or take part in any other act of worship, we focus on what we are thinking, saying, and doing — it comes from the heart. Another manner in which we show our respect for God in a worship gathering is by showing respect for His word. Show me a person that does not respect what God says, and I’ll show you a person (that same one!) that really does not respect God (Luke 6:46).

How is reverence for God’s word connected with worship?

1) We must have respect for the Bible’s instructions about worship itself. Since true worship is offered “in truth,” it is in harmony with what God’s truth says (John 4:24; 17:17). That means I ought to care about what the Bible says about worship. Only that which is authorized by the Lord is allowed in worship (Col. 3:17). Making additions to the God designated worship revealed in the New Testament brings condemnation on those who do the adding.

2) We must show respect for God’s word by listening reverently when it is proclaimed faithfully. When Ezra opened and read from God’s word, the Jews that were assembled with him stood up and remained standing and listening for hours (Ezra 8:1-9:3). What respect!

3) We must show reverence for God in worship by trying to maintain a serious, reverent atmosphere. I do not mean that we ought to refrain from smiling or act like lifeless robots. But, we should care about proper “worship decorum.” Such calls on each member of the Lord’s body to help create and maintain an atmosphere in which every single one of us can focus on the worship that we are offering. We must do everything within our power to keep distractions at a minimum. Why? Because they hinder us from keeping our attention on praising, honoring, and glorifying Jehovah.

What sort of distractions commonly plague modern-day assemblies? One is playing with or making faces at babies or small children that are seated close to us. Those who do that are certainly not focused on the One on the throne in heaven, and their immature gesturing adversely affects others that observe them.

A second form of distraction is carrying on conversations with those sitting near us. Brothers and sisters, this has to cease! From the first words spoken in a worship assembly to the end of the closing prayer, there is no place for you or me to “chat” with another person in the assembly. Those who do so are coming before the throne of the Almighty with a flippant, irreverent attitude. How can a brother in the Lord be joking around with others during the sermon or singing, then afterwards come forward to lead the Lord’s supper or a prayer?! Before God it must be an abomination.

Now we come to a 21st-century distraction in worship that our brethren of past generations did not have to face. What is it? It is the “all-important” cell phone. You know, the device that even a 13-year old cannot seem to do without for two hours of Bible class and worship! I would like to go through at least one Bible class or worship assembly this year without having someone’s cell phone ring. Can we accomplish that this year, brethren? Is it asking too much to be focusedon the God of heaven?! Know this: if your phone rings during an assembly, it is not the Lord calling you! Because God does not call on cell phones, then whoever wants to contact me can just wait until after services are over.

I recall one worship assembly in which I watched in horror as the teenage child of a deacon played on her cell phone and sent messages on it. Where were her proud parents? Sitting right beside her. Please, leave the thing outside the building or else turn it to a setting where it makes no noise and does not distract you.

As for me and my house, when we go to worship, we plan to be there and ready to praise God before the first word of the assembly is spoken. And, we intend to stay through the final “Amen.” At our house we call that respect for God — giving Him our heart for the whole assembly and not just part of it.