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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A Balanced Love

We find a beautiful prayer Paul prayed for the church in his epistle to the Philippians. It is found in the first chapter, verses 9 to 11.

“And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (Php 1:9-11).”

There is a proper balance in this prayer. Paul did not only ask that their love may abound more and more, but that their love is informed by knowledge and discernment. It is important that the church has a balance of all three.

Love

Love is central to the faith of Christ. The greatest commandment involves love for God, our brethren and our fellow man (Mar 12:30-31; John 13:34-35). Without love, everything else we do is pointless (1Co 13:1-3). So it is right that the love of the church must abound, that is, to overflow.

Knowledge

But just having love is never enough. The apostle’s prayer is not only that the church will abound in love. “…that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge…” Love is not ignorant; it must be balanced with sound knowledge. What happens when people seek love without knowledge? Anything goes as long as the feelings of love are strong or sincere.

The most common excuse for immorality is because people are ‘in love’. A husband abandons his wife and children for another woman because he is ‘in love’ with her. Two unmarried persons commit the sin of fornication because they are ‘in love’. Two persons of the same gender are in an abominable relationship because they are ‘in love’.

With knowledge comes responsibility. When men want love without responsibility, it can lead to all sorts of errors.

The church should have an increasing knowledge of our Saviour. Our love is based on God. The church ought to ‘grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18).’ Where can we find this knowledge? Only in the inspired Scriptures.

“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2Ti 3:16-17).”

Judgment

“…that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment.” Judgment means discernment, the ability to tell right from wrong, good from bad; to make decisions wisely.

One may increase in knowledge by reading or study but it does not necessarily mean one has discernment. The difference lies in having only head knowledge and actually applying what you know.

Although we may have knowledge without discernment, we cannot have discernment without sound knowledge. Sound discernment is built on sound knowledge. Discernment is cultivated through consistent application of sound knowledge.

“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Heb 5:13-14).”

Why We Need a Balanced Love

With our love informed by knowledge and discernment, we have balance and ‘may approve things that are excellent (v. 10).’ ‘Approve’ means to ‘recognise as genuine after careful examination.’ We need all three in balance to be able to test and know what would really be pleasing to God in any given situation.

With that, we ‘may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.’ Sincere’ means pure and unstained when examined. The picture here is of a person holding up an object to the light to check for flaws and finding none. The day of Christ is coming and we should be ready for it, doing our utmost to be found ‘unspotted from the world (Jas 1:27).’

Saints of God strive to be ‘filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God (v. 11).’ People of the world should be able to see from our godly example what the power of the gospel can do to change lives.

Our Lord says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Mat 5:16).”

May we overflow with love balanced by the knowledge of Christ and sound discernment, that we may be ready for His return and be found holy and acceptable.

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 A Right Concept of Worship

   

Previously we discussed why it is important to have a right concept of God, for a wrong concept of Him can easily waylay our efforts to be pleasing unto Him, and in fact place us in jeopardy of sin.

This week I would like to bring our consideration a little closer to home. Let me begin with a series of questions.

What do you observe is the general atmosphere in the auditorium before every worship service? How do you contribute to that atmosphere? Do you observe anyone late or in a hurry? Or busy grabbing a bite or coffee before service begins, or caught up in conversation with brethren they have not met in a week? Are you perhaps that person?

Or do you come with expectation to enter into God’s holy presence and so prepare your heart and mind accordingly? Do you take a moment to pray, to reflect, to ensure that you are ready to enter into His presence with nothing – unconfessed sins or cares – weighing on your conscience and mind?

How we prepare – or fail to prepare – for worship reveals to a degree the esteem we have for God and His worship.

I remember many years ago attending a function where the guest-of-honour was an eminent public servant. While waiting for his arrival, everyone was sitting in quiet expectation. No one was busy chatting. Certainly no one was eating and drinking in the event room.

We may say that was only a protocol, but then again such protocols are put in place as a mark of respect, not only for the guest-of-honour but also all present, and the gravity of the event itself.

Who are we worshiping on Sundays? It is our Heavenly Father. We are summoned into His holy presence to worship Him for who He is and what He has done and is doing for us. We assemble for His praise and pleasure, and to exhort one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

We gather to remember the Lord Jesus and His great sacrifice on our behalf. We study His word, learn His will, and begin the new week with a refreshed resolve to walk the narrow road and honour our God in daily holiness.

David says, “I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name (Psa 138:1-2).”

Let’s come back to the general atmosphere we have in the auditorium before and during worship. As mentioned, how we prepare – or fail to prepare – for worship reveals to a degree the esteem we have for God and His worship. It reveals if we are holding a right concept of our God with regards to His worship.

Worship is about God. He is the centre of our worship. Since that is so, let us then conduct ourselves appropriately before and during worship. We have time and opportunities to mingle and fellowship with one another. But let us take time to prepare our hearts and minds to meet with our great God.

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth (Psa 46:10).”

Yes, take time and be still. Ponder over His goodness and blessings of the past week. Bask in awe before our all-powerful and loving God. Then, after this quiet moment alone with Him, we will be ready with our brethren to worship Him in spirit and in truth.

Many of us use Bible apps on our mobile devices or tablets. These are wonderful tools to aid us. But if it becomes too much of a distraction, with calls, text messages, emails, news and whatnots demanding our attention, I respectfully suggest we can turn off these devices and use a good old hard copy of the Bible instead. At the very least, it requires a little more attention to turn the pages to the given references!

Let us all do a part in making the atmosphere in our auditorium a more conducive one for worship. After all, worship is about our God.

“Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all ye lands. Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations (Psa 100).”


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Having a Right Concept of God

We must want to want God. If we are to take our relationship with Him – the relationship made possible only by the blood of the Son of God – we must want to know Him, not merely about Him. Why is it so essential that we do? We may draw a lesson from Adam and Eve, mankind’s first parents.

Adam and Eve enjoyed a wonderful relationship with their Maker. I suppose it isn’t too far-fetched to imagine God walked and communed with them in the Garden in the cool of the day. One day the devil, in the form of a serpent, enticed Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit. She did, and gave it to her husband. He ate with full knowledge so no excuse for him there.

We talk often of how the serpent appealed to their lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life (cf. 1John 2:16). That is certainly so. But we can go a step further back and see how the devil succeeded in tempting them so. It was because they had a false concept of God.

They would not have entertained the serpent’s lie if they had not allowed the erroneous thought that God was selfish and unfair to make inroads into their minds. Many Christians, sadly, still think this way. “Why place the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden if man was not meant to eat from it? It’s a cruel joke!”

When we fail to hold a right concept of God, we can easily be “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive (Ephesians 4:14).” This will become a hindrance to us to get to know God.

A false concept of God as a kind of Santa Claus figure is a prevalent one. He is viewed as an ever cheerful, grandfatherly type dispensing gifts liberally to all men without discrimination or favour. Anyone can ask Him for anything, and with enough sweet words to ‘butter’ Him up, He will relent to any request, however outrageous.

Proponents of this false concept will often quote James 1:17. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”

Thus we see entertainers at glittery ceremonies, receiving awards to the hysterical screams of their fans, ‘thanking’ God for ‘making their dreams come true’. And these are mostly the same entertainers living lives in contradiction to the statutes of God, with their sexual promiscuity, “lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries (1Peter 4:3).”

There is another false concept of God prevalent in the world for a long time, which is wreaking greater damage than the first. John tells us that God is love (cf. 1John 4:8, 16). But the world has ripped this verse out of its context and twisted it into a monstrosity unrecognizable by all who truly seek God with humility in His Word.

“Because God is love, He will never allow anyone to go to hell!” “Because God is love, He will not bind rules on people!” “Because God is love, He endorses same-sex relationships when both parties are truly in love!” “Because God is love, He will take all good folks to heaven even if they are not Christians!” “Because God is love, we must never judge anyone on anything!”

Having a right concept of God is vital to our spiritual growth and building a loving, meaningful relationship with Him. Just as we do with anyone we love – our spouses, children, friends – we want to know only the truth about them, and we rejoice in the truth that enhances the relationship. It is the same with our God.

A desire to know Him should lead us to a careful study of His Word that He may reveal Himself to us of His character and attributes, His marvelous works and His perfect will for us. Further on our part, we must approach His Word with humility and reverence, always ready to submit and obey.

We ought to also cultivate a habit of questioning what we hear and read instead of accepting it on face value or because it ‘sounds just about right’. The devil and the sons of darkness never cease from their attempts to deceive the sons of light. Be like the Bereans, who searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (cf. Acts 17:11).

Our heavenly Father wants us to get to know Him, not merely about Him. “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29:13).” He is waiting with loving arms. Are you ready?


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We Must Want to Want God!

The psalms record for us the heart and experience of men in the midst of their spiritual pilgrimage. Much of what we read in these poems are the soulful vent of joy, suffering, perplexity, fear, courage, triumph and praise.

The psalms express what we sometimes feel deep within our own souls but somehow are unable to articulate. Meditating on the psalms is an excellent way to enrich our spiritual lives, draw closer to our Father and realise that in our journey of faith, we are not alone. We have brethren who have traveled the old path millennia before us.

David was called the ‘sweet psalmist of Israel (2Sam 23:1).’ In one of his psalms, he revealed his heart’s longing. “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me (Psa 63:8).” This is the reason why David was known as a man after God’s heart. He was not satisfied with merely knowing that God exists. It was not enough for him that God is all powerful.

He wanted to know this God. He craved for a deeper understanding of God. He was a man head over heels in love, not with a woman, but with God. He desired to be in a deep, meaningful relationship with God.

Does this sound strange to our 21st century ears? Compare our own spirituality with that of a David or a Moses, whose desire drove him to ask: “Now therefore, I pray thee, if I have found grace in thy sight, shew me now thy way, that I may know thee, that I may find grace in thy sight: and consider that this nation is thy people…I beseech thee, shew me thy glory (Ex 33:13, 18).”

The apostle Paul teaches us, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content (1Ti 6:8).” He learned this from personal experience. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content (Php 4:11).” Let us be clear that this exhortation pertains only to our material goods. Covetousness is idolatry (Col 3:5). But the Scriptures nowhere tell us to be content with only a superficial spirituality.

What does Paul say in relation to that? “For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1Co 2:2).” This man was called to be an apostle, he was personally taught the gospel by the Lord Himself.

“But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Gal 1:11-12).”

Yet Paul, like Moses and David before him, had his heart firmly fixed on pursuing God. Review again David’s words in Psalm 63. “My soul followeth hard after thee…” The ESV reads, “My soul clings to you.” The Hebrew word also denotes ‘to pursue hard.’ It takes another inspired psalmist to express this desire perfectly.

As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God (Psalm 42:1-2)?”

Allow me to ask again: does this sound strange to our 21st century ears? Does all this mean nothing more than just pious platitudes that sound like the right thing to say but in reality we hardly know about this spiritual thirst and longing?

Brethren, if we are caught in the unexciting daily grind of making do with existence, without the joy that comes from a relationship with our Creator and Heavenly Father, may I suggest that we return to the Bible and walk among God’s giants? Learn from them. We must want to want God if we are indeed serious about the relationship we share with Him. Remember, this relationship costs nothing less than the blood of the Lord.

Our Father speaks to us through His word. This is where we must begin. Cultivate a love for the Word of God. Make no mistake about it, it takes disciplined effort and planning. Searching the Scriptures is not a haphazard exercise where we read any random passage or follow through with a reading program and assume we are done for the day.

Do not assume to merely humour or patronise God. He expects us not to pay lip-service but to offer heart-service in obedience.

Plan time with your Father. Speak to Him as you would someone you love and trust. Confide in Him. He cares for you (1Peter 5:7). As David put it so well, “Thy right hand upholdeth me (Psalm 63:8).” We enjoy spending time with loved ones; we look forward to every opportunity to be with them. Should our Father be made to stand outside the door of our hearts while we give the time of day in pursuit of something or someone else?

We must want to want God. If, while we are still sojourning in this temporary earth, our hearts are far from desiring sweet communion with Him, how shall we expect to spend an eternity with Him in glory?