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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Changed by the Love of Christ

The apostle Paul is a fascinating character. He exemplifies for us the zeal and passion of one who is so ‘arrested’ by the love of Christ that he couldn’t help but serve God with all commitment and zeal (cf. 2Co 5:14; Php 3:12). Yet he is not a superman, immune to the failures, pain, sufferings, and moments of doubt and loneliness that beset all of us along life’s way. We learned that Paul does not give up in spite of all that. Can we do the same?

Paul’s transformation, as laid out for us in the New Testament, tells us what the love of Christ can do for every man and woman. The gospel of Jesus Christ, which is God’s power to save anyone who will humble his heart and obey, is also the power to change our lives. Paul is only one of many examples in the New Testament of how the love of Christ can bring about radical changes in a person’s life.

Acts 9:1-22 recount for us the turning point in Paul’s life. He was a persecutor of the church. But on the way to Damascus, the Lord Jesus confronted him. From that encounter, Paul was shaken to the core. Everything he believed in, everything he held dear, were torn down.

It wasn’t easy for him; he struggled against surrendering. The Lord showed his understanding for Paul’s struggle when He said, “…it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks (Acts 9:5).” But Paul could not continue in stubbornness; he humbly stepped out of his comfort zone and obeyed the gospel. From that point on, the champion persecutor became a champion herald of the gospel.

Previously the Ephesians lived by their sinful and satanic passions. They were dead in trespasses and sins, living according to the lusts of their flesh and fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind. They were the children of wrath (cf. Eph 2:1-3).

But all that changed when the merciful God made them alive in Christ because of His great love. Their hearts, which were previously geared toward sin, were now turned toward God.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7).”

The Corinthians, too, had their hearts changed by the love of Christ through the gospel. The city of Corinth was steeped in sin and vice. Some of the Corinthians were fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, thieves; covetous, drunkards, revilers, and swindlers (cf. 1Co 6:9-10). What happened when the gospel was preached to them and they obeyed? “But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God (1Co 6:11).”

Brethren, let each of look deep within to see if indeed the love of Christ has brought about a change in us. Perhaps some time has passed and some of us have shifted gear into autopilot, and the flame of our love and zeal for the Lord is burning low. If so, then it is time to trim the wick and add oil to our lamps.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2Co 13:5)?”

It is good for us to measure the level of our gratitude to God by our daily living. Our service to God is out of devotion and gratitude, never self-aggrandisement. We do not preach or lead songs or serve the Lord’s Table, etc. in order to earn men’s applause. No, we serve because we want to show our appreciation to our Saviour.

It is also good for us to measure our change of heart by our hatred of sins. Do we hate the sins we used to love and indulge in? Do we condone sins because it is convenient for the situation? Are we striving to mortify sins in our lives (cf. Col 3:5-8)? Are we walking in the light, as our Lord is in the light (1John 1:7)?

The love of Jesus Christ can change us. On our part, let us be humble and not struggle against the Lord. As Paul said in 2Cor 5:14, “For the love of Christ constraineth us”, let us also be held together and controlled by His love. Life will bring challenges and difficulties. The children of God are not insulated against them. But we can endure; we can overcome, because the love of Christ constrains us.

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Advancing the Gospel

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace (Php 1:6-7).”

Advancing the Gospel is Everyone’s Work

As partakers of God’s grace, the church is also partakers of God’s work. The Philippians had all been participating with Paul in the work of spreading the gospel. Even though Paul was arrested and imprisoned, the church was not frightened into hiding. Instead they were motivated to preach without fear. “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear (Php 1:14).”

Paul pointed out that “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel (Php 1:15-17).”

Nonetheless he rejoiced that the gospel was preached. “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice (Php 1:18).”

It is always about the faith of the gospel. Paul took it for granted that it is the work of every Christian to spread the word; not only verbally but also by our manner of life. “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ (Php 1:27)…”

The Church in the Midst of Errors

The church exists in a world that in many ways can be harmful. The early Christians were attacked for preaching the faith. Judaizers tried to undo Paul’s work by telling the Gentile Christians they must keep the Law of Moses. Many inside the church accepted false teachings. The faith was attacked not only from the outside but the inside as well. The church from the beginning has to contend earnestly for the faith.

Two Important Tasks in Advancing the Gospel

The church must advance the gospel of Christ in a world full of falsehoods and errors. Paul said that Christians are called upon to do two main things: the defence and the confirmation of the gospel. Paul appealed to the church in verse 27 to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

The world is not usually kind to the church. There have always been attacks on the Lord, His gospel and His church. Living in a world like this, no wonder Peter tells us to “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (1Pe 3:15).”

Defence and Confirmation

As the world attacks the gospel, we should be able to meet their objections and give our reply. We do so reasonably and with good sense, even though some of the attacks thrown at us may be unkind and unreasonable.

In Acts 17 we have two examples of Paul doing just that. In verse 2 we read, “And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and three sabbath days reasoned with them out of the scriptures (Act 17:2).”

Paul would go to the synagogues first wherever he traveled to seek out the Jews and discuss the Scriptures with them. The Jews believed the Scriptures although they did not understand about the promised Christ. He preached Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God, and proving that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ.

In the second example in Acts 17, we see Paul speaking with another group of people – Greek philosophers. This time he used a different approach. He did not open the Scriptures to show them passages; they didn’t believe the Scriptures. He reasoned with them using their belief in the unknown God and His general revelation in creation.

In both instances we see Paul using good sense, engaging the naysayers in reasonable discussion instead of trying to shout over their heads.

Defending and confirming the gospel means studying and familiarising ourselves with the Scriptures and with Christian evidences.This obviously requires diligence in study on our part, but the Lord expects no less from us. And we will do no less if we are to be approved unto Him.

Manner of Life Worthy of the Gospel

Another way of confirming the power of the gospel is by our lives and daily living. Our manner of life is an indispensable part of taking the gospel to the lost. Let the world see the power of the gospel to save and change lives. Again, Paul said in v.27: “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ…”

It is so important that our manner of life is worthy of the gospel of Christ. Actions often speak louder than words. And when our words and actions harmonise, we can be better workers for the Lord.

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Embrace the Difference

Curious friends have asked me questions along this line before, “What’s the point of being a Christian? I don’t see any difference between someone who goes to church and someone who doesn’t.”

Questions like these reveal more about professed Christians than they do about non-believers. If the world could not see the difference between them and us, we ought to ask why. Christianity is a form of counter-culture to the culture of this world. The first century saints turned the world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6). There is no reason why we should do any less.

I would like to revisit with my fellow Christians how we who wear the name of Christ are different. Every one of us needs a reminder now and then, lest complacency and forgetfulness catch us unawares.

To begin with, Christians are new creatures in Christ. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2Co 5:17).” Our minds – paradigms, attitudes, and worldview – are radically changed and the conduct which follows is changed too as a consequence.

The mind of a Christian is no longer geared toward this world but toward heaven. “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Col 3:1-3).”

Along the same vein, the Christian strives for higher things. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye 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 (Rom 12:1-2).”

The Christian has discovered meaning for his existence. Previously he lived for himself and those whom he loved. Now he lives for Christ. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).” In living for Christ, his love for family and friends does not lessen but finds greater meaning and fulfillment.

There is also no longer any fear of death. Death is not an unknown mystery; it is merely a gateway to greater glory. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 1:21).”

You see how Christianity runs against the grain of the world and is, in fact, a counter to the culture of worldliness? A Christian, more so than anyone, understands that without God, nothing ultimately matters. While the world continues to pursue that which eventually must perish and be forgotten, Christians pursue eternal life and glory in Christ.

So why does the world hardly see any difference between them and professed Christians? When the church begins to imitate the world in her values, thinking and ways of doing things, we have begun the downward spiral into worldliness. The church would have become just another worldly institution, perhaps more moral in its outlook, nonetheless she would be as carnal as a goat.

We can discover many reasons why Christians can be tempted to snuff out the light we are called to shine forth (cf. Mat 5:14-16). One surely must be a love for the world that still remains. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world (1Jn 2:15-16).”

Another common reason would be the fear of what others would think of us, or the fear of ridicule and of being ostracized. All of us want to love and be loved, don’t we? But at what costs? Certainly our Lord and His apostles were rejected by many but they remained true. At one point Peter did compromise but at Paul’s rebuke he repented (cf. Gal 2:11-14).

The Lord lists the ‘fearful’ or the cowardly among those who shall ‘have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone (Rev 21:8).’ Let us rather take the words of the Lord to heart. “And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him (Luke 12:4-5).”

Christians, embrace the difference between you and the world. It is a glorious difference that sets the saints of God apart from the world. Wear it as a badge of honour. It is a reminder of who you are in Christ and the promise of salvation that awaits you in heaven.

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A Lesson in Prayer by David

“Unto thee will I cry, O LORD my rock; be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit. Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle (Psa 28:1-2).”

Psalm 28 was written at a time when David was in fear for his life. We cannot be sure now what the background story was but we can look inside the heart of a man who was after God’s heart and learn something about prayer from him.

Turning to God

 David turned to the Lord for help in his time of trouble. Troubled times are usually good motivation to turn to God. But it should not only be during troubles when we remember God. We must always be ready to turn to Him.

David shows us in his psalms that he was a man who was always ready to turn to God, in good times and bad. But who do we turn to first in our distress? God is often remembered as a last resort when all else fails, even by His people. We must realise who it is we are turning to. He is the almighty God who is worthy of all praise.

Christians find joy and comfort in knowing who to turn to; in knowing the One whom we turn to.

Expecting an Answer

David pleaded with God to hear and answer him. Whenever we present our requests and supplications to God, do we actually expect God to hear us and answer? The way David prayed may sound very daring to us today. This was a cry from David’s heart.

When we pray, we do not want to be just saying words without really meaning them. That would be vain repetitions. Don’t say it if you don’t mean it. God is not mocked. Every week we hear the same prayers in almost the same words, just like reading from a template. Before we present our requests and supplications to God, perhaps we should ask ourselves: Do we really mean it? How badly do we want it?

God is Our Rock

David addressed God as ‘my rock’. Rock gives the idea of strength, of a firm foundation to stand on. Three times in Psalm 18 David addressed the Lord as his rock.

The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower…For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?…The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted (Psa 18:2, 31, 46).”

David declared his dependence on God and His power; his faith and hope were built on the firm foundation. We have the same firm foundation of faith and hope in Christ. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1Co 3:11).”

How do we make sure we are standing on this firm foundation? The key is obedience. Jesus says: “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock (Mat 7:24-25).”

We put our trust in Christ for our salvation. If we truly trust in Him, we will obey Him. If we have been disobedient, can we reasonably expect to be standing on firm foundation when we turn to God for help? Effective prayers demand obedient lives. Sins not repented of are barriers to God giving us a favourable answer (cf. Psa 66:18; Isa 59:1-2).

Pleading for God’s Attention

 “…be not silent to me: lest, if thou be silent to me, I become like them that go down into the pit.” David pleaded for God not to leave him alone. His argument was that if God ignored him, he would be without hope.

It is easy to fall into the trap of praying just as a formality and not be concerned whether God really hears. The one assigned to pray must not do so just because he was assigned, or worse, trying to impress the brethren with his eloquence without really caring if God hears him.

Remember the blind beggar in Luke 18:38-39. He begged for no other reason than for relief from the pain of his condition. He was not ashamed to beg. David was not ashamed to beg as well. He said in verse 2, “Hear the voice of my supplications, when I cry unto thee, when I lift up my hands toward thy holy oracle.”

We must be shamelessly persistent in prayer. Half-heartedness will not do. God wants His children to trust Him and ask without doubt.

When we come before God, don’t come with any reservation. Don’t ask thinking maybe He’s not listening. Don’t ask if you’re unclear or not serious about what you are asking. Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit’ (Mat.5:3). If we are still in some way trusting in our abilities alone and not relying on God to bless us, we cannot seriously expect God answer to us favourably.

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Stand Up and Be Counted

The Bible uses the great analogy of a soldier to describe the Christian.

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses (1Timothy 6:12).”

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2Timothy 2:3).”

“And to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house (Philemon 1:2).”

And of course, we are called upon to don the armour of God (cf. Ephesians 6:11). Every good soldier needs to have the following qualities. He must obey orders, trains hard, be courageous, holds his position even when the fighting is at its most intense, and be fiercely loyal even to the point of death.

We look at ourselves as Christian soldiers. How well do we obey orders from Christ our Commander-in-chief? A soldier needs to train hard and be so familiar with his weapon that it seems to become an extension of his body. Likewise we need to be well-drilled in the use of the word of God. When the going gets tough; when trials or even persecution come, we need to stand our ground and hold our position.

There is always the danger of merely paying lip-service and not really standing up for the truth. For as long as anyone can remember, there has always been persons who claim defy the Bible. This world believes in humanism, psychology, philosophy, and evolution but not the Bible. How do we respond to that?

We read of holy men like Paul who was stoned, beaten, thrown into prisons, and whipped. Stephen was stoned to death; James was the first apostle to be executed. They all bled and died for the love of Christ and His truth.

We may not be asked to go to similar extremes but still we need to stand up for the Lord and His truth. Probably here in sunny Singapore, no one will threaten our lives but they may ridicule us, try to embarrass us, and call us names like old-fashioned thinkers.

Take for instance the element of entertainment in religion. To attract bigger attendance many religious groups have for years been using entertainment as a main draw. Yes, it is true they are rather successful in drawing the crowds. But to what end? When we examine the teachings and practices of many of these religious groups, can we honestly say that they measure up to the Word of God? again, how do we respond to that?

If it were God’s express will that a church should be measured by its numbers in attendance and the figure in their bank accounts, then no doubt we can be quite sure they are approved by God. But let us be sure about this: God wants us to do His will and worship according to His word and in sincerity of heart (cf. John 4:24).

There is a world of difference between feeding sheep and amusing goats.

Jesus says we are the salt of the earth, not ice-cream or candy (cf. Matthew 5:13). In John 6, when the people left because of Jesus’ hard sayings, He didn’t tell any of the apostles to go after them, humour them a bit, entertain them a little and try to win them back. Every man and woman must make their choice.

We need to stand up for Jesus and His gospel even if that means we cannot avoid stepping on toes and egos. Yes, we must speak the truth in love (cf. Ephesians 4:15) and always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks us for a reason for the hope that is in us, yet do it with gentleness and respect (cf. 1Peter 3:15).

The training of a soldier is tough; and likewise the training of a Christian soldier is tough. We are given the honour to suffer for His sake. At times we feel the pressure, but we know it can be done. And it must be done because we want to be good soldiers of the Lord and serve Him fervently.

All in the rank and file of the Lord’s army must stand up and be counted. This world continues to be unfriendly to those who are determined to live for God’s glory. Many will continue to deceive and be deceived. False teachers will continue to operate as wolves in sheepskins.

Let the loyal soldiers of Christ stand firm and hold up the banner of truth.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us (Romans 8:35-37).”