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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Labouring in the Lord’s Church

Danny Leong

God’s expectation for His children to be involved in the life of His body, the church, is an important theme that deserves our utmost concern and attention. As we seek to delve deeper into this critical biblical theme, an important question that we all need to reflect upon is this: “What would be in the mind of God for His children upon their conversion?” Pondering on what the apostle Paul has written to the church at Corinth in 1 Corinthians 15:58 would shed some light regarding this discussion: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

As members of God’s family at Jurong, we do understand from the Scriptures concerning God’s expectation of His children to be ever abounding in the work of the church, and we are given the blessed assurance that our efforts will be recognised by God. Such an assurance from God ought to propel us to remain steadfast in our various areas of service at Jurong. Moreover, there is also a need to consider God’s expectation of His children to grow and mature spiritually in the light of recognising and accepting our Christian responsibilities to labour in the Lord’s church. Consider what the apostle Peter has written in 2 Peter 3:18, “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

Hence, when we examine both 1 Corinthians 15:58 and 2 Peter 3:18 together, we can infer that one of the ways Christians can grow to maturity in Christ is when we purposefully apply the biblical knowledge and principles that we have gleaned from God’s Word by being actively involved in the work of the church. In this regard, we need to realise and understand that God has left certain instructions for His children of what he or she is to do until His second coming. Specifically, the mission of the church is to bring the gospel message to those people who are still lost in sin (Matthew 28:18-20); to strengthen the faith of brethren through edification initiatives (Hebrew 10:24-26); to be benevolent to those people who are in need (Galatians 6:9-10; James 1:27); and to worship God in His prescribed manner (John 4:23-24). Labouring actively in the Lord’s church would help to promote individual spiritual growth as well as enabling a congregation to experience spiritual growth in a collective manner.

As we consider God’s commandments for His children to continue in the works of the church in the areas of evangelism, edification, benevolence and glorification, it is also a timely reminder for us to reflect upon what the apostle Matthew has written in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the labourers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into His harvest.” Our Lord Jesus has encountered during His earthly ministry a shortage of workers who were able and willing to serve and contribute to the work of the church, and the congregation that meets at Jurong may also encounter similar situations.

 

In this regard, there seems to be a sense of disconnect between knowing what God expects of His children to do and the actual application of that body of biblical knowledge in our Christian living. Specifically, members of the church may often give excuses of various kind for not being able to do the will of God. Examples of excuses may pertain to reasons related to career, physical possessions, family relationships, recreation, age, and physical health etc. The list of excuses given could go on and on, but let us seriously take heed to what the Scriptures has to say concerning our responsibilities as Christians in James 1:22-25.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving ourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”

Moreover, it is also wise to consider another two passages of Scriptures in this discussion:

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)

But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46)

Truly, the Word of God has much to say with regard to our duties as Christians to labour in His vineyard, and let us constantly remind ourselves of the importance to set our priorities right in our daily walk with our Lord. When we establish the right priorities as Christians we will be able to devote our time, effort, and talents in our service to God rather than allowing our worldly pursuits and the cares of this world to “smokescreen” us from doing the work of the Lord’s church (1 John 2:15-17).

There is much work to be done and God is counting on His children to continue to carry out the mission of His church. Therefore, as members of God’s family at Jurong, every one of us are valuable in the sight of God and we can play our part – no matter what role it may be – to labour for the cause of the Lord. We are labourers together in the kingdom of God and let us work together as a closely-knitted team so as to accomplish more for our Lord.

And as we strive to embark on the work of the church, there may be certain times and situations which may cause us to feel disheartened, discouraged or disappointed, but let us hold fast to the promises of God in Hebrews 6:10 during those difficult and challenging periods in our walk with God: “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labour of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.”

 

 

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Written for Our Admonition

One theme we constantly find in the reading of the scriptures rings so loud we cannot possibly miss it: the sin of unbelief prevents the entrance into God’s wonderful store of blessings.

The book of Numbers emphasises this truth, yet it remains a notoriously neglected book. Paul appeals to us not to simply pass over the history of ancient Israel. There is much we can learn.

“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).

Numbers begins where Leviticus leaves off. The law had been given, the Tabernacle had been built and the priests had been assigned to their service. God numbered and arranged the tribes in preparation for the coming war.

We see former slaves transformed into the army of God. Before our redemption, we were all slaves to sin. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:17).

Now that we have been redeemed by Christ, we are enlisted in His army; no longer slaves to sin but soldiers of Christ. (Philippians 2:25; Philemon 2).

“Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier” (2Ti 2:3-4).

Chapters 3 to 9 of Numbers contain a visitation once more of the Levitical laws. This concerned the Israelites’ relationship with their God; they were to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (cf. Exodus 19:6). The church today is the kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1Pe 2:9).

The New Testament records on what happened in the wilderness, found in 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 and Hebrews 3:7-19, is a throwback to the events of Numbers 11.

Israel grumbled about the path they were to travel, incurring God’s wrath by fire from heaven. Next they complained about the food. They were sick of manna and craved for the dainties of Egypt.

Moses was frustrated and discouraged with this bunch of whiners who complained rather than offer praise and gratitude. God gave them their hearts’ desire, but sent judgment along with it.

“And while the flesh was yet between their teeth, ere it was chewed, the wrath of the LORD was kindled against the people, and the LORD smote the people with a very great plague” (Num 11:33).

What about us in the modern context? Jesus in John 6:32-35 says He is the Bread of Life. Are we bored with Jesus as they were sick of manna? And as they craved for the good stuff of the land of their bondage, do we look back at the world at what we are “missing”? Recall 1 John 2:15-16.

“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” (1 John 2:15-16).

Even Aaron and Miriam turned against Moses and were overcome by the sin of envy.

“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the LORD indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the LORD heard it.” (Numbers 12:1-2).

The Lord justified Moses in their presence and punished them for speaking against the Lord’s appointed (Numbers 12:6-10). This episode warns us to beware of envy against one another. We are all servants of the Lord.

History is a wonderful teacher. We let ourselves down if we failed to learn from it, especially the history of the people of God in the Bible. That first generation was barred from the Promised Land because of unbelief.

Unbelief, likewise, can bar us from entering into the eternal rest the Lord has prepared for His faithful. Let us remain vigilant, humble and faithful. And let us help each other along in this journey home.


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Jesus is the Lord of Our Lives

John was shown a vision on the isle of Patmos, where he saw an awesome and frightful scene of an army of horsemen led by One who “on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).

Jesus of Nazareth, while He walked the earth, was known to be a meek teacher who nonetheless taught with authority unlike the religious teachers of His days. He also worked undeniable signs of power, verifying His message to all whose hearts were open and honest to receive the truth.

He came with a mission—to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10). It is the will of His Father (Hebrews 10:7). He willingly left His glory behind, came to this world wrecked by sin, and took Him the sin of the world (John 1:29).

“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11).

The humble carpenter from Nazareth is now exalted as King of kings and Lord of lords. As such, He has dominion over all things – in heaven, on earth and under the earth. Everyone will acknowledge His Lordship, even those who refuse to do so now.

No Longer Slaves to Sin

Jesus is our Lord! We are no longer slaves to sin and ought no longer to continue living under its bondage. “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

The apostle’s reasoning runs thus: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you” (Romans 6:16-17).

Just as remarkable as that is our new identity as servants of righteousness. “Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:18).

Our Lord Deserves Our Full Loyalty

The King of kings and Lord of lords will not suffer to be put in an inferior place in our lives. He deserves our utmost loyalty. Our bodies and minds are the instruments we use to serve Him.

“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” (Romans 12:1-2).

As we are His property, we must live to His glory. To the proud, this is a truth hard to swallow. A proud person will not easily surrender his rights to himself. He demands to be his own ruler. A Christian, however, recognises that there is only one ruler—Jesus the Christ.

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Lord came to earth for us. He died for us, taking our place on the cross, so that we might be reconciled to the Father. “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10).

Is it then too much to ask that we live for Him and even die for Him, if need be?

“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:8-9).

Jesus, Son of God, Lord of lords and King of kings! Let us remain faithful in love and service. This is our duty as the redeemed of the Lord. We can never do more; we should never wish to do less.


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Together as Heavenly Citizens

“Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God” (Philippians 1:27-28).

The church is made up of citizens from various countries. But overwhelmingly more significant is the fact that we are all citizens of the heavenly country.

Christians are in the world but not of the world; we are citizens of heaven. Therefore, Paul says, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.”

The American Standard Version renders the verse as, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.”

The phrase “let your conversation be” is one word in Greek, politeuomai, which means “to behave as a citizen.”

A secondary meaning is “to conduct oneself as pledged to some law of life.” Our conduct is to be governed and determined by the Law of Jesus Christ. It ought to be worthy, or measure up to, the gospel of Christ.

The New Testament is the standard of authority for us. It provides the pattern for how we should worship God, love Him, His church and our fellow men and women.

How then do the citizens of heaven conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel? The apostle points out in this brief passage some vital lessons for us, “…stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

Standing Together

The first thing: stand fast in one spirit. Standing strong in the faith is a quality the citizens of heaven must cultivate and exercise. Merely talking about strength does not make us strong. Strength comes from exercise.

Paul says in Colossians 1:23, “…continue in the faith, grounded and stedfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel which ye heard…”

The church must “stand fast in one spirit”. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

This is a most important point to remember: if our manner of life is to be worthy of the gospel of Christ and if we are to strive for the faith of the gospel, the citizens of heaven must stand together.

In unity is strength. Jesus says in Mark 3:25, “And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” If the citizens of heaven are not helping one another to stand fast, we are doomed to fail.

If we allow gossip, pettiness, unkindness, selfishness, etc. to affect our relationship with one another, then we have given given an opportunity to the devil to wreck us (cf. Ephesians 4:27).

Striving Together

Now the second thing. Paul said, “…with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” No citizen is exempted from the duty to strive for the faith.

If we take a poll today in the church I wonder how many Christians actually think that striving for the faith is the job of elders and ministers.

The church must stand for the faith as one body. It is not the fight of the few but the fight of everyone. ‘Striving’ immediately brings to mind the concept of struggle and effort.

To strive for the truth, we must know the truth. The New Testament constantly exhorts us to study, to add to our knowledge the things of Christ (2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Peter 3:18).

Part of the prayer of the apostle for the church is “that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment (Philippians 1:9).” Love without proper knowledge and discernment leads to and multiple grief.

We cannot be “ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you (1 Peter 3:15)” if we do not know what we believe and why we believe.

Braving Adversity Together

The third thing: braving adversity together. “And in nothing terrified by your adversaries… (Philippians 1:28).” Standing for the truth requires courage. Anyone of us who have tried to share the gospel with anyone knows the experience!

Christians don’t deliberately go looking for trouble but sometimes trouble come looking for us. There has always been sceptics who are bold and who take pleasure in challenging Christians or making things difficult for us; it’s nothing new.

Remember who your God and Saviour is and remember who you are in Christ. We have no need to be terrified by those who oppose God and His church.

Together as citizens of heaven, let us stand fast and strive manfully for the glory of God and the gospel of Christ.

 


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Discord and its Cure

Discord and quarrels in the church is a fact. There is no use pretending that is not the case. But why are there discord and quarrels? Paul identifies the problem for us.

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:2-5).

In verse 3 we find two words that encapsulate the cause of discord in the church. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.”

Strife and Vainglory

The first word is strife, which means “a desire to put one’s self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit; quarrelsome”.

Have you heard of the saying, “Birds of a feather flock together”? You see this in almost every level of society. When people band together because of common interests, they can potentially see those outside of their groups as different or even inferior.

This was one of the problems with the church at Corinth. Paul said:

“For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:11-12)

Can this happen here? In a congregation consisting of multiple ethnicities, it is possible. Cliques can be formed among members of the same age groups or interests. This is not necessarily bad. We do have to keep a lookout, however.

The second thing Paul points out is ‘vainglory.’ It is ‘empty pride, vain opinion, error.’  It is an excessively high opinion of oneself. Sometimes you can be unaware of it, especially when you try to point out the faults of others or tell them what they should or shouldn’t do.

Paul points out both the cure and prevention of discord.

Unity of mind

The New Testament says that before we can get real unity and peace, there must be like-mindedness, a common loyalty to Jesus Christ.

“Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:2).

Recognise the Lord Jesus as the Head of the church and that we all belong to Him, instead of just saying it. Realise that His cause is greater than your personal interests. Align your interests to His cause.

Much discord is created because we are too quick to assert our ‘rights’ or to assume our opinions are best. When we put Christ and His cause above ourselves, we keep things in proper perspective.

Lowliness of mind

The second is lowliness of mind.

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Of course we are to “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (Matthew 7:24). With lowliness of mind, we will not be too quick to ‘put others in their place’ and tell them how they ought to know better, as if we know better ourselves.

Keep others in mind

Furthermore, we are not to think only of ourselves but also of others.

“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:4).

I am not merely to ask, “What’s best for me?” But also, “What is best for everybody? What about the other person?”

If we stop and think of others and their positions before we assert our ‘rights’, it would help open up communication and prevent misunderstandings and quarrels. Let’s try to put ourselves in their shoes before assuming we are superior or wiser.

The Mind of Christ

Our example is the Lord Jesus Himself. He looked not only on His own interests but our interests. We are to emulate His example of meekness and obedience to the Father.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).