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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Growing in Christian Fellowship

Danny Leong

The word ‘fellowship’ originates from the Greek word ‘koinonia’, which describes the close relationship that members of the Lord’s church can have with God through Jesus Christ. In 1 John 1:7, the apostle John mentioned very clearly that the basis of true communion with God can only be made possible when His children are walking in the light of God. In essence, walking in the light enables Christians to enjoy a “vertical” fellowship with God as well as “horizontal” fellowship with one another in the church.

Indeed, as members of God’s family in Jurong, we do understand the importance of developing a right relationship with God through meditating on His Word and allowing it to touch our hearts and guide us in our daily Christian living (Psalms 119:105). However, let us also be mindful that we may be tempted sometimes to believe that having only a “vertical” relationship with God alone is sufficient. Viewed in this sense, Christians who harbor such a mistaken attitude may believe that fellowship with other brethren is not important to their personal salvation. But is that really the case?

Perhaps it is timely for us to check our own attitudes by reflecting on the following questions: “How do we relate to one another when we meet for worship? Do we look forward to seeing one another, or do we find ourselves being distanced from one another in the church? Do we know one another well? Would we be interested to get to know one another’s lives? Are we concerned about the spiritual well-being of other brethren? Would we be willing to support one another in time of need, or would we somehow neglect the needs of other brethren who require our support and encouragement?” Our personal responses to the above-mentioned questions would help us to determine our attitudes concerning fellowship in God’s family.

Now, having spent some time to reflect on our individual beliefs and attitudes towards Christian fellowship, there is also a need to take some time to ponder on this significant question: “Why is growing in fellowship amongst brethren so important to God?” To put it very simply, let us always remember that God earnestly desires His church to grow in Christian love. Specifically, God wants His children to be strong in heart and spirit, and such growth in the body of Christ can only be realized when individual brethren understand and believe that they have an important responsibility to strengthen one another spiritually through fellowship in the Lord’s church.

But what would be the potential consequences when members of God’s family do not grow in Christian fellowship? It would be an obvious observation that the lack of mutual encouragement and support amongst God’s family would eventually affect the overall growth of the church. This is a real problem happening in the Lord’s church in today’s context, which is contrary to the will of God. A growing church is a healthy church. God desires us not only to have fellowship with Him, but also to have fellowship with one another in His church (1 John 1:3). In essence, both “vertical” and “horizontal” fellowships are important to God.

The church consists of those who love both God and their brethren (Mark 12:29-31). Hence, what can be done to build up the family of God in Jurong? Survey results by the ministry of parakaleo, which was officially established in March 2015, reveal that the majority of brethren perceive support groups to be a viable platform for building up God’s family in Jurong. In particular, brethren felt that smaller support groups can help to foster more personal sharing of the challenges and issues that they encounter in their daily Christian living as well as help to promote closer and deeper relationship bonds with one another.

In light of the survey results, the church leaders at Jurong believe that there is an important need in the congregation regarding fellowship and the Care Group Ministry has been established to address these spiritual needs of brethren. In the preparation phase of this congregational initiative, the committee members have met up on a regular basis during the past couple of months to discuss how best to implement this initiative. Publicity plans have also been rolled out to heighten the awareness of the Care Group Ministry. Sermons have also been shared in an effort to emphasise the importance of this ministry.

 

Truly, this is an important ministry that would enable us to take care of our own spiritual needs as well as enable the members of God’s family to help each other to grow. Through this ministry, we hope to encourage more in-depth sharing of members’ life experiences and work together as a small team to be more spiritually-minded and God-centred. The support group will also aspire to develop deeper trust and stronger bond amongst brethren through their personal sharing and reflections.

We have often heard of this saying, “No one individual is an island”, but it applies so much the more especially to the family of God at Jurong. We need the mutual support and encouragement of brethren during both good times and during times when we encounter difficulties, struggles and disappointments in our daily walk with God (Galatians 6:2). As Christians, we want to go to heaven when our time in this earthly world is over, but wouldn’t it be a more fulfilling and joyous experience when we are able to lend a hand to encourage our brethren to go to heaven together?

As members of God’s family in Jurong, let us always remember that God views both “vertical” and “horizontal” fellowship to be very important. And let us determine to be active participants in the Care Group Ministry, which will commence in January 2017.

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Remembering God in the New Year

It is that time of the year again when we look back and marvel over how swiftly time flies by with us hardly noticing it. It is not very long ago when we were celebrating the end of a year and the coming of a new one. Now we are repeating it.

This is also the time of the year when many of us might be engaged in a certain activity: planning our New Year resolutions. The one thing common about New Year resolutions is that they tend to gradually fade into memory before half the year has gone by.

Whether we have the habit of making New Year resolutions or not, one thing we Christians ought to do is to remember the Lord in the coming New Year.

There is a trend in the church we can observe today if we would look closely enough. In seeking after godliness, we show little direct interest in God Himself.

When we study the Scriptures, we are more concerned about extracting the principles for daily living; God hardly receives any attention at all other than an ‘honourable’ mention. This leads to a weak Christianity.

We tick items off on a religious checklist, thinking that if we get such and such done, we are doing fine spiritually. It is like concentrating on the dynamics of marriage but failing to spend time with the spouse.

Marriage is primarily a relationship between the man and woman bound to each other by marriage vows. It would not do for a husband/wife to neglect the spouse they have promised to love, cherish and honour for concerns over the household.

The church is the bride of Christ. Marriage is used as a picture of the holy relationship between the Lord and the church He has redeemed with His blood.

It would not do for the church to care more for our religion than for the God we are called to praise and please every day of our lives.

We can know a great deal about God without knowing Him. Reading books about God and enjoying the fellowship of the saints are not the same as being in a right relationship with Him.

It is good and imperative to participate in church activities; they are for the edifying of the people of God. But let’s bear in mind it is not a substitute for knowing God.

There are four truths to help us remember God in the coming year and for the remainder of our earthly life.

First, God has spoken to man through the Bible, given to us to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3:15-17). How serious are we taking the Bible?

Second, God is Lord and King over His creation; He rules all things for His own glory. His creatures must worship and adore Him (Psa 47:6-7; 57:11; Rev 15:3). Do we know the fear of the Lord?

Third, God is Saviour, active in sovereign love through the Lord Jesus Christ to rescue believers from the guilt and power of sin, to adopt them as His children and to bless them (Luke 1:47; Tit 3:5-6; 2Co 6:18; Eph 1:3). How grateful are we to Him?

Fourth, godliness is responding to God’s revelation in trust and obedience, faith and worship, prayer and praise, submission and service. Life must be seen and lived in the light of God’s Word. Are we living for Him?

Those who know God have great energy for God; they understand the meaning of true strength in the face of adversities (cf. Dan 11:32). They have great thoughts of God. Read the psalms and immerse in the beautiful expressions of God’s awesomeness.

Those who know God show great boldness for God. We are familiar with the stories of Daniel and his three friends, David standing up to Goliath, and the apostles braving persecution to preach the gospel.

Do not our hearts also yearn for the same soaring confidence and joy in God as did these ancient saints?

Those who know God stand with assurance before Him in Jesus Christ. We have true peace (Rom 5:1), we no longer cower under condemnation (Rom 8:1), we can be sure God knows best and He is taking care of us (Rom 8:28) and that we are safe in His hands (Rom 8:35).

If, by the grace of God, we have another year to serve and grow in Christ, let us remember the Lord in all that we do. The exhortation for the young to remember the Creator is wise counsel for Christians of all ages (cf. Ecc 12:1).

To God be the glory.

 


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Faith in God or an Idea of God?

Much of what we see in the religious world today is a multi-billion-dollar enterprise. Men and women have become rich by reason of promoting (or selling) religions. Places of worship are built to out-do one another in aestheticism, facilities, sitting capacity and costs.

To keep consumers happy and to draw more potential consumers, increasingly spectacular forms of entertainment are offered. Concerts with musicians and dancers imitating their bawdy counterparts in the entertainment industry – minus most of the sleaze, of course – and dramas, magic shows, etc. are quite the staple.

The core message espoused usually runs along the line of attaining salvation and happiness, with the former ‘evidenced’ by emotions ranging from warm, fuzzy feelings to outbursts of ecstasy and the latter measured by material success.

These can be readily attained if one is willing to reach into the wallet. No amount of salvation or happiness is out of the reach of anyone with the necessary financial resources.

Texts like Micah 3:10 and Matthew 10:8 are quite virtually ripped out of their proper contexts in support of their mode of operation.

Is it surprising at all that they can draw in the crowds, like Peter’s net drawing in the fish, when they appeal to man’s innate desire for security and happiness, as well as greed for more material gain?

Then there are the sincere souls searching for God through religions. They are fervent, honest and humble. They desire to get closer to God and to live for His glory and pleasure.

But tragedies strike them, as they do almost everyone else. Things do not go according to plan. They search for answers through prayer and meditation and for some, counseling, but all to no avail. The pain remains awfully real.

By and by these poor souls lose their grip on their faith. Someone has to be responsible for their pains and losses and who is in better position than God? After all, is He not all-powerful and can do anything? Does not the Bible say, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible”? (Mark 10:27)

So they point the finger at God and blame Him. They become angry with Him. Some refuse to acknowledge their anger, perhaps for fear of sounding ‘blasphemous’.  After all, they still believe in His existence. But now they are estranged from Him.

Job’s three friends failed in their attempts to comfort and reason with him because they had a wrong idea of God. Their faith was not in God but in their own concept of who He is.

God did not answer Job’s many questions. Rather, He revealed Himself to Job by asking him a series of searching questions.

Behind these questions is a more urgent one: Where do we place our faith? Is our faith in Him as He reveals Himself in His Word or have we misplaced our faith in concepts of God, either formulated in our minds or taught us by others?

This appears to be a common denominator underlying the examples of the above two classes of men trying to find their way in religion, and many others not mentioned here.

For many, they place their faith in the idea that God surely must bless them because of their regular contribution to the church’s coffers, for their many good deeds or their passionate zeal. For others, God is obligated to spare them from major pains because they believe in Him.

When our world falls apart due to whatever reason and we are tempted to blame God, do we ever pause long enough to consider: Has God let me down, or have I let myself down because of a false concept of God?

Any seeker of God, who thinks he/she has found Him in a particular religious organisation other than the church that Jesus built, have you diligently search the Scriptures to find out, or do you assume based on your preferences, feelings and what you imagine God to be?

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart (Jer 29:13).” This is a faithful promise. But let no one be mistaken. God will be sought only in the way He has prescribed: through His Word.

Any concept we might have of Him must scrupulously align with His revelations. This is most serious, for at the heart of idolatry is a false concept of God. We cannot risk that.

God has revealed Himself to us in His Word. Put your faith in the God of the Bible, not in some ideas about Him, however well-intentioned. At the very least, we owe Him the courtesy to let the Bible speak for itself.


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Our Assurance in Christ

Calvinism teaches “Once saved, always saved.” This is the doctrine which brings them a sense of security, that no matter what happens, God is on their side and will eventually take them to heaven.

A common retort Calvinists throw at us is that we have no assurance; we can never know for certain if we were saved. As a result, we have no security.

But is it really the case that we have no assurance? We are happy to learn from the New Testament that assurance abounds. What we need to realise is that assurance is conditional. We do have the responsibility to do as God commands.

We have assurance of faith to draw near to God.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus…Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised)” (Heb 10:19, 22-23).

It is the blood of Jesus that opens the way for us to draw near to the Father. When we draw near to God we do so in full assurance of faith. We do not doubt that God loves us and wants us to draw near to Him.

We have assurance that we can know the Lord.

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments…But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked (1Jn 2:3, 5-6).”

How can we have the assurance that we know the Lord? By keeping His commandments and living as He has shown by His example.

We have assurance of eternal life.

“And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1Jn 5:11-13).”

We have assurance that God is with us.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things (Rom 8:31-32)?”

Assurance is conditional upon obedience

A Christian can fall from grace. The Scriptures are so abundantly clear of this fact it is sheer foolishness to deny it.

Paul says to the Galatians who had turned away from the gospel to the Mosaic Law. “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace (Gal 5:4).”

Simon the sorcerer was roundly rebuked by Peter. Pay attention to what the apostle said: “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God (Act 8:20-21).”

Faithfulness is indispensable to assurance. To enjoy assurance in Christ, we must continue in a life of obedience.

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin…If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:7, 9).”

“Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev 2:10).”

The Word of God has given us the assurance we need that all that are obedient to God, in spite of difficulties, are the ones who will be saved ultimately.

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved (Mat 10:22)”

An assurance that does not require responsibility on the part of the recipients is worthless. We would rather have the assurance given by the authority of the Scriptures.

There is no assurance other than that.

“For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day (2Ti 1:12).”