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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Peter: From Ordinary to Extraordinary

 

Peter was an ordinary human being. He was just another face lost in the multitudes, eking out a living by the sweat of his brow and the ache in his body. Perhaps, like many of us, he once had a dream when he was a young boy. Whatever happened to that dream, if there ever was one, was forever lost to us. By the time we meet him, he was a weathered, tough fisherman; a veteran of the trade he had probably known since birth and had learned from his father.

 

One day his brother, Andrew, came running to him in excitement. “We have found the Messiah (John 1:41)!” Peter followed his brother to meet this man, who “looked upon him, and said, Thou art Simon the son of John: thou shalt be called Cephas (which is by interpretation, Peter).”

 

Together with others, Peter followed Jesus to a wedding at Cana. Whatever thoughts he had of this possible Messiah up to that point was quickly challenged when he witnessed the water turned to wine. Now, he believed (John 2:1-11). Not many days later, at the Passover, Peter watched as Jesus drove the merchants and animals out of the temple in a display of pious fury. He heard the words from Jesus’ lips: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up (John 2:13-19)!” What did Peter make of this man now?

 

It seemed that soon after the Passover, Jesus dismissed the band. Peter went back to his fishing. After a few weeks of excitement, it was back to a mundane existence – work, worry and weary – fretting over bread & butter issues.

 

One morning by the lake of Gennesaret, Peter and his fellows were washing their nets after a night of fishless toil. Hungry. Exhausted. Frustrated. No fish, no income. A familiar face stepped into his boat. It was Jesus, the miracle worker. He asked Peter to put his boat out “a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the multitudes out of the boat (Lu 5:3).”

 

After he was done teaching, Jesus turned to Peter with a strange request. “Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught (Lu 5:4).” Jesus, a carpenter, a landlubber, telling him, Peter the fisherman, to fish? Although he was tired, Peter “answered and said, Master, we toiled all night, and took nothing: but at thy word I will let down the nets (Lu 5:5).”

 

What happened next was beyond Peter’s expectation. The catch was so large he had to call in help from James and John, his partners in the fishing industry. The sheer weight of the catch was tearing the nets and sinking the boats (cf. Lu 5:6-7). Was Jesus smiling as he watched the astonished fishermen yelling and straining at the nets?

 

A realisation dawned on Peter. This was no mere itinerant preacher in his boat. This was a holy man. This was, as Andrew had told him, the Messiah – the Anointed One of God. Peter had previously believed at Cana. This was not the first miracle he had seen Jesus performed. But this was the first performed for him. This was personal. God had taken notice of a poor, ordinary fisherman.

 

He sank to his knees. In a tremulous voice, he said to Jesus, “Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord (Lu 5:8).” He realised his unworthiness to be in the presence of Jesus. His divine power and force of personality had arrested Peter. The burden on his heart far outweighed the fish in the boats. His heart was broken.

 

Jesus looked upon Peter with what must have been compassion. In a gentle yet authoritative voice, he said to the trembling fisherman, “Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men (Luke 5:10).”

 

Peter, the ordinary fisherman, from that moment began his training to become an extraordinary fisher of men. On the day of Pentecost in Acts 2, Peter once again let down his net. This time, though, the net was the gospel of Christ and the catch was not an abundance of fish but an abundance of souls. Peter was no longer fishing for fish to feed his family, but fishing for souls to the glory of God.

 

The Son of God took notice of an ordinary fisherman, looked beyond his uncouth exterior and transformed him into an extraordinary soul-winner. Peter was a man entangled in weaknesses. He was impulsive, bullish. But his encounter with Jesus broke him.

 

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit (Psa 34:18).” The Lord can make us useful servants too when we surrender to His will. The question is: are you willing for your heart, hardened by sin and pride, to be broken? You decide.

 

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do (Heb 4:12-13).”

 

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Repent or Perish

 

When we consider the sins so prevalent and common today, we are reminded of the urgent call to repentance – a change of mind leading to a change in life. Some people seem recklessly stubborn and persistent in wrong-doing no matter what the social consequences, while some toe the line between decent and deviant behaviours.

“I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).” What Christ is stating here is of more dire consequence. He was not talking about serving time in a man-made prison for violating the law of the land. He was talking about eternal punishment for transgressing the divine law of God.

Calamities are not a measure of men’s spiritual conditions.

In the opening verse of Luke 13, some people reported to Jesus of Pilate’s massacre of the Galileans. “There were present at that season some that told him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1).” Jesus understood the implication of their words and corrected their erroneous conclusion that the Galileans must therefore be great sinners to suffer such a fate.

“And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things (Luke 13:2)?”

He explained that there was no difference between those who suffer disasters and those who don’t – they all need to repent or perish. “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).” To further drive home the pertinent point, Jesus reminded them of another calamity. “Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem (Luke 13:4)?”

Once more the Lord delivered the pithy statement: “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:5).” When we behold disasters that befall others, we must recognise the warning call for man to consider the fickleness of life and the call to repent. Disasters befall the righteous and unrighteous alike.

The impenitent shall surely perish.

The Lord’s statements made in verses 3 and 5 leave no room for argument – repent or perish. Not perish the same way as the Galileans and the eighteen did, but perish in a state of sin, unsaved.

‘All’ – there is no exception. Jesus’ warning applies to every person. ‘I tell you’ – it comes from the mouth of the Lord Himself. This certifies the authority and truthfulness behind the statement. This leaves men with no excuse arguing that it is the mere opinion of Jesus. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day (John 12:48).”

False repentance.

As impenitence leads to destruction, so conversely, true repentance leads to life. “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death (2Co 7:10).” Here a clear distinction is made between true and false repentance.

Esau is an example of worldly sorrow. “And when Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with a great and exceeding bitter cry, and said unto his father, Bless me, even me also, O my father (Gen 27:34).” The writer to Hebrews has this to comment on Esau: “For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears (Heb 12:17).”

How repentance is produced in the soul.
Let it be known that true repentance can only be the fruit of receiving the word of God in all humility. “Is not my word like as a fire? saith the LORD; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces (Jer 23:29)?”

The Jews on Pentecost were clearly affected by the preaching of the gospel. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do (Act 2:37)?”

True repentance comes by the power of the gospel. Therefore, we must more earnestly preach the gospel to the lost. At the same time, we must search our hearts carefully against sins unrepentant of and seek God’s mercy.

 


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Bearding Lions and Slaying Giants

I love King David. What a hero! He was certainly one of the most beloved characters in the Bible. I mean, here was a man after God’s own heart yet his imperfection was blindingly glaring just like any of us. But his greatness, more than his leadership and bravery, was his humility to repent and confess when his sin found him out.

Let us revisit an episode in the life of this extraordinary yet very human king and learn the faithfulness of the Lord toward His own. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).”

David had earlier spared Saul’s life for the second time (1 Samuel 26:1-12). Who would blame David if he had killed Saul? After all, Saul was the aggressor here. David, though, chose to conduct himself with honour yet again. But in spite of Saul’s repentance (1 Samuel 26:21, 25), David pondered the possibility that one day he might die by the hands of the mad king (1 Samuel 27:1).

What? He who slain ten thousands thought that he who slain thousands (cf. 1Sa 18:7) would eventually get him? Put yourself in David’s sandals. If you were him, what would be your response? Would you pack up and run?

God delivered David from wild animals.
Imagine facing up to some of the most fearsome beasts. No, not in the protection of a zoo. If your instinct is like mine, you too would scream in terror and run as fast as your human legs and adrenaline could carry you. Usain Bolt couldn’t run fast enough to catch me! David, however, fronted up to these animals. Step aside, Bear Grylls.

“And David said unto Saul, Thy servant kept his father’s sheep, and there came a lion, and a bear, and took a lamb out of the flock: And I went out after him, and smote him, and delivered it out of his mouth: and when he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and smote him, and slew him (1 Samuel 17:34-35).”

God delivered David from Goliath.
Goliath needs no introduction. Neither does Shaquille O’Neal to NBA fans. Now get this: Goliath is bigger than Shaq. That’s right. Shaq measures 2.16m in height. Goliath? A whopping 2.74m. Not even Andre the Giant (the late pro wrestler) at 2.24m could match Big G. Shaq would look up at Goliath (Andre, too), never mind puny shepherd boy David. No wonder the Bible tells us that “when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance (1 Samuel 17:34).”

And what did this rosy-cheeked, handsome boy say? “The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine (1 Samuel 17:37).” In what must be the greatest upset in history, “David put his hand in his bag, and took thence a stone, and slang it, and smote the Philistine in his forehead, that the stone sunk into his forehead; and he fell upon his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine, and slew him (1 Samuel 17:49-50).”

‘Beasts’ and ‘giants’ in our life.
Certainly God delivered David out of insurmountable odds many times. What we see here is more than heroism and human high drama. We see the faithfulness of God in action. When he was on the run from Saul, David looked back over his life and took comfort that his God was mighty to save. Psalm 54 is proof of his dependence on the faithfulness of God.

We face our own ‘beasts’ and ‘giants’ in the forms of trials and temptations. At times they might appear as frightening as lions, bears and behemoths that could easily slam-dunk us through a basketball hoop, but they will work to our advantage. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (James 1:2-4).”

We can be assured that God will keep us when we remain faithful to His word. “But the Lord is faithful, who shall establish you, and keep you from evil. And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God, and into the patient waiting for Christ (2 Thessalonians 3:3-5).”