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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Does it Really Matter That Much?

We are spoilt for choices. Advances in technology have ironically made our lives more complicated. Technology makes things more convenient, but not simpler. Now we are bombarded with choices across almost every spectrum of our lives—ranging from education, recreation, lifestyle, fashion, entertainment…and the list goes on.

We are also awash with choices of religion. There is almost countless number of religions to choose from and sections within a religion add only to the number.

While it may at times be advantageous to have more choices, in the midst of them let us remember to consider the consequences that may follow our decisions. Choices in the matter of religion have direct effect upon our soul. I hope we are aware of that.

As long as the Lord delays His return, I suppose there will still be people enthusiastically sharing their opinion that ‘one church is as good as another’.

This sentiment is of course understandable. At least, if it were true, it would make things so much more convenient for church-goers. However, we must respectfully disagree, for the assertion that ‘one church is as good as another’ really is without any substantiation. The most common attempt at reason—“we all believe in Jesus”—simply doesn’t measure up.

The Bible says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble (Jas 2:19).” It is more than simply believing in Jesus as the Son of God who died for our sins, was buried, and was resurrected the third day (1Co 15:3-4).

When we consider the following texts, I hope we can see the clear implications that as far as the inspired apostles are concerned—and the Holy Spirit who inspired them—‘one church is as good as another’ is not supported by scriptures.

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Mat 7:21-23).”

“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gal 1:6-8).”

If it were true that one church is as good as another, then the apostle Paul and the Lord Jesus are petty and most uncharitable.

Were the many in Matthew 7:22 insincere and dishonest in their service? There was no indication of that. Were they unfairly dealt with? Certainly not. What was the problem? They did not do the will of God.

How many today profess to do exactly what these many people were doing: prophesying in Jesus’ name, casting out evil spirits in Jesus’ name, doing many ‘wonderful works’—miracles—all in Jesus’ name?

What about the Galatians who decided to not be Christians only but Jews as well? What was so bad about the message of the Judaizers, who told the Gentile Christians to observe the Law of Moses and be Christians at the same time? After all, didn’t they all still believe in Jesus?

The problem was that the message of the Judaizers was not the gospel the apostles preached! It was a perversion. Why? Because there is only one gospel.

How many versions of the ‘gospel’ are there today? Plenty. One version says you need to say the ‘sinners’ prayer’, another claims you must be baptised in the Holy Spirit and speak in ‘tongues’. Still others demand that you must have a ‘spiritual experience’—God talking to you, a vision or dream, a warm, fuzzy feeling, etc.

Or take the celebration of certain religious festivals or ‘holy days’. Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, Lent, etc., none of which Christians are commanded in the New Testament to observe.

Some might say, “Does it really matter that much? We love Jesus! We are sincere believers!” Or words to similar effect.

Yes, it does matter very much. It is all about authority, really. What we believe and practice in religion must have the authority of the Word of God at the back of it. “Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar (Pro 30:6).”

Counterfeit is redundant if the real thing never existed. The fact that we can tell if a certain item, say, a $10 note, is a counterfeit is because we have the authentic item. We can tell the counterfeit from the real.

The church of Jesus Christ was established in Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. We read about its establishment in Acts 2. The Bible, beginning from the Old Testament, tells us much of the prophecies and events leading up to that most momentous event. Obedience to the one gospel of Jesus Christ is the way to be added to the church (cf. Rom 1:16; Acts 2:38, 47).

In today’s world, where men and women are bombarded with choices of so many organisations claiming to be the church yet teaching mutually exclusive doctrines and practicing mutually exclusive practices, how do we know if any of them is the real deal?

We do that in the same way we tell a counterfeit: by holding it up against the authentic item.

We must turn to the New Testament scriptures and examine it carefully and diligently, holding every religious teaching and practice up to the light of God’s truth. Then and only then can we tell the counterfeit from the real. We should certainly do so for too much is at stake.

Let’s come back to considering the consequences. What happened to the sincere but sincerely mistaken people of Matthew 7:21-23? They were expelled from the presence of the Lord. What was the dire consequence Paul pronounced on those who preached anything different from what the apostles preached? They are accursed.

We can certainly agree that this is a very serious consequence. We do not want to be cursed and cast out from the Lord’s presence. We want to do His will and have our sins forgiven; we want to be in His glorious presence for eternity.

The true church is the one the Lord has built and we can find its description only in the New Testament. To identify the church, we must search the New Testament. While we respect those who hold differing opinions, we stress that the things of God are not matters of opinion and preference. We recognise and abide only by the authority of God’s Word.

The one true gospel that the apostles preached is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who will obey it (Rom 1:16). There are no updated versions. There will never be any updated version. It is “the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints (Jude 3).”

Any message claiming to be from God but which contradicts the clear teachings of the New Testament is not the true gospel but a perversion. Yes, the messenger may be sincere and trying to do the right thing. But one can be sincere and yet be sincerely mistaken. To such people we extend our love in the name of Christ. We pray they will come to the true knowledge of the faith.

One church is not as good as another. One so-called gospel is not as good as another. We can all know and understand the truth if we would humble ourselves, leave our ego at the door, lay aside our biases and prejudices, and come to the Word of God. There we will find and identify the authentic church that the Lord built.

Bible passages for further thought:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).”

“These were more noble in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so (Acts 17:11).”

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”

“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son (2 John 9).”

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The Three Basic Parts of a Covenant—Commandments

There are three basic parts of a covenant, namely, facts, commandments and promises. Facts are either to be accepted or rejected. Commandments must be obeyed. Promises are for those who are faithful to God in keeping covenant with Him.

We have mentioned the facts of the new covenant of Christ last week (1 Corinthians 15:2-4). Now let us discuss the commandments. Generally there are two kinds of commandments. The first has to do with how one can enter into this covenant with God. It answers the important question: what must I do to be saved? (cf. Acts 2:37; 16:30).

The second type of commandments has to do with how one remains in a covenantal relationship with God.

The first commandment one must obey to enter into this new covenant is to believe the facts of the covenant.  How can one believe if one is unaware of the facts? So it is important to know what the facts are. “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).”

Merely believing the facts is not all of the commandments. Following from believing, one must realise that one has sinned against almighty God and resolve to no longer continue in sin. This is called repentance.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30).”

The next thing one must do is to verbally proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God.

“That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).”

Why is it important to do that? Can’t one just confess in his heart? No, for Jesus has said:

“Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 10:32-33).”

At this point one is still not in the new covenant of Christ. There is a crucial commandment often disputed by many but the Lord Jesus is clear that it is absolutely essential. He says:

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:16).”

Can one argue that Jesus does not say, “…but he that believeth not and is not baptized shall be damned?” Let’s consider the common sense approach to this question. Will one confess sincerely that Jesus Christ is the Lord without first believing with all honesty? Hardly, if impossible.

It is the same when we consider repentance. How would one repent if one refused to believe? In the same sense, when one reuses to believe, one will refuse to repent, confess and be baptized.

What has being baptized anything to do with entering into covenant with God? Consider this text:

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).”

By baptism we enter into Christ. By baptism we are identified with His death, burial and resurrection. Coming out of the water of baptism we are raised to newness of life in Christ, just as He was raised three days after His death. We are then 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 (2 Corinthians 5:17).”

“Then and only then we become the children of God. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).”

Only by obeying these commandments can one enter into this new covenant established by Christ with His blood.

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The Three Basic Parts of a Covenant—Facts

The God of heaven and earth is a ‘people-Person’. He wants to be in a relationship with us and He wants us to be in a relationship with Him. The Bible tells us how God does that.

God put in motion a plan to get mankind back on His side after the tragic event in the Garden of Eden, when Adam opened the floodgates and allowed sin into the world (Genesis 3). The plan was to send His only begotten Son into the world to take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

“And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1John 2:2).”

As the plan unfolded, God sent Moses to deliver the descendants of Abraham, called Israel, out of slavery in Egypt and lead them to Mount Sinai. There God instituted a covenant with them. It was through Abraham’s lineage that the Son of God would come (Matthew 1:1).

In instituting a covenant with Israel, God entered into a special relationship with them. He would be their God and they would be His people (Leviticus 26:12; cf. Deuteronomy 29:12-13).

There are three basic parts to the covenant that God made with Israel.

Firstly, there are the facts that God revealed to them. In this covenant God made with Israel, He declared Himself as “I AM THAT I AM (Exodus 3:14)” and “the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:15).”

Another important fact was this statement: “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage (Exodus 20:2).”

The second part of a covenant is commandments. God gave Israel the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20). These were further elaborated in the other books of Moses, especially Leviticus.

The third basic part of a covenant consists of promises of blessings for keeping the covenant, and punishment and curses for breaking the covenant (cf. Deuteronomy 29:16-28).

“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. (Exodus 19:5-6).”

“Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you, for to do them, that ye may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers giveth you (Deuteronomy 4:1).”

“Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do (Deuteronomy 29:9).”

This covenant is called the Law of Moses. It was never meant to be permanent. It pointed to the coming of a new and better covenant, established upon better promises, mediated by God’s Son, Jesus Christ (Hebrews 8:6; 12:24). This is the covenant now by which we must enter into a relationship with God.

Likewise, in this new covenant, we find the three basic parts of facts, commandments and promises of blessings of blessings for keeping the covenant, and punishment and curses for breaking the covenant.

The facts are stated clearly in 1 Corinthians 15:2-4.

“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures (1Corinthians 15:3-4).”

An important thing to note about facts is that we can do nothing about them other than to accept or reject them. This is the case with the old covenant, the Law of Moses, as well as the new, the Law of Christ (cf. Galatians 6:1).

The second part, commandments, on the other hand requires us to do something. We are required to obey them. It is not enough to merely accept them; we will only be fooling ourselves to think that we are in a relationship with God when we have not done according to all that God requires.

The promises follow our acceptance of the facts and obedience to the commandments. Again, we will only be fooling ourselves to think that we will receive the promises and blessings of the covenant if we have not done according to all that God requires.

Now, what are the commandments we must obey if we are to enter into a relationship with God? And what are the promises and blessings God has reserved for those who submit to His arrangement? We shall discuss that in a future write-up, Lord willing.

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An Analysis of Unbelief

Danny Leong

This is a two-part article and the topic of doubt was addressed in the article published last week.

There is a need to discern between doubt and unbelief as the meaning of these two ideas are similar, but they are yet not the same thing. In view of last week’s article, we would remember that doubts about a biblical teaching or about God happen when people experience an intellectual or emotional barrier. These barriers, if they are not properly dealt with, can prevent Christians from having a more solid faith in a biblical teaching or deeper faith in God.

Unbelief, on the other hand, is defined as the state of not believing, especially in matters pertaining to doctrine or religious faith. Another definition of unbelief is the act of withholding belief in the divine power. In essence, having a heart of unbelief means that an individual has intentionally made the decision not to believe in God at all. Such a person will refuse to obey what the Bible teaches and/or withhold his or her trust in God. The apostle John wrote that the people still did not believe in Jesus even though He had done so many miraculous signs in their presence (John 12:37).

As Christians, we understand that we sin against God when we choose to commit wrongdoings and/or harbour unrighteous thoughts in our hearts or minds. As we examine the topic of unbelief, it is of great importance that we recognise that unbelief is a sin condemned by God. The Hebrew writer has given us an account of the sin of unbelief depicted in the lives of the nation of Israel during the time of Moses.

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, in the day of trial in the wilderness, where your fathers tested Me, tried Me, and saw My works forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ” (Hebrews 3:7-11)

Upon reflection of the above-mentioned passage of Scriptures, it is evident that the people whom Moses led did not have a sincere attitude. They did not want to have a relationship with God. However, we need to recognise that the problem encountered by the children of Israel was not really about doubt because they knew about God. Their main problem was the decisions that they had chosen to make concerning God. Specifically, the nation of Israel refused to accept God’s authority over their lives. They did not want to put their trust in God, and so they would not obey His commandments.

Moreover, we can also learn from the Scriptures that the consequences of unbelief are very serious. In this respect, we remember that the people whom Moses led could not enter the Promised Land of Canaan because of their sin of unbelief (Hebrews 3:19; 4:11). Just as the children of Israel were denied entry by God into Canaan, let us also always take heed and be reminded that the outcome of the sin of unbelief is still very serious for people living in our modern societies today. Hence, it is a timely moment for us to reflect on what the Word of God says in John 3:18, “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”

Unbelief is one of the most terrible sins in the entire world in today’s context and multitudes of people are guilty of this sin. Brethren, where there is unbelief in our hearts it would be difficult to expect God to forgive us of our transgressions unless we approach Him with a sincere and contrite heart. Unbelief will destroy an individual’s relationship with God, and since our God is the living God, there is nothing more important than to ensure that we have a right relationship with Him (Hebrews 3:12-13).

The Word of God contains many warnings against unbelief and apostasy, and it cautions Christians that many people will move further away from sound biblical doctrine as time continues to move forward.

“But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1)

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

The sad truth is that the majority of people in the modern society in which we live in no longer view the Bible as the absolute authority with regards to religious matters. As such, unbelief will continue to increase its influence in the minds of many people and spread over the world as God’s Word continues to be marginalised.

Therefore, as the family of God at Jurong, let us take heed seriously to the many warnings concerning unbelief as recorded in the Scriptures, and let us also continue to study the Bible diligently as it is through the regular feeding on God’s Word that helps to build and strengthen our faith in God (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11; Psalm 119:11).

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An Analysis of Doubt

Danny Leong

This is a two-part article and the topic of unbelief will be addressed in greater details in the article which will be published in the following week.

Doubt and unbelief are the two primary things that rob us of the spiritual blessings that can be found in our Lord, Jesus Christ (John 3:18, 36). As Christians, we are aware of the fact that we are fighting a spiritual warfare each day of our lives (Ephesians 6:12), and Satan knows very well that implanting doubts and unbelief in the minds and hearts of God’s people is an extremely effective way to destroy our faith in God. Therefore, it is of great importance that we seek to understand what the Word of God says about doubt and unbelief because our spiritual salvation is at stake.

The definition of the word ‘doubt’ is as followed: to be uncertain about; to consider questionable or unlikely; to lack confidence; to hesitate to believe. In essence, the word ‘doubt’ means a feeling of uncertainty about the truth, reality or nature of something.

Keeping in view of the definition of ‘doubt’, it is also important that we are cognizant of the two basic reasons why people doubt – intellectual or emotional reasons. First of all, our doubts about God or about what the Bible teaches can be intellectual in nature. By “intellectual”, it means that an individual may have doubts that the Bible is really the inspired Word of God, or that the Bible originates from God. Those individuals who hold on to such views may also think that the Bible is an ancient book which is out-dated whereby its content doesn’t have any real-life applications in the modern world in which we live in.

Moreover, there are also some groups of people in the Christian world today who doubts that the contents in the Bible is complete and they believe that God is still at the present moment continuing to directly transmit messages of spiritual revelation to them through dreams, voices, signs, or through direct operation of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, there is another group of individuals who may hold on strongly to the rationalistic method of interpreting the Bible whereby they believe that human reasoning is the supreme authority in all judgments pertaining to interpretation of the Scriptures. Hence, such individuals accepts only those portions of Scripture which human reasoning says is possible and they will consider the “unreasonable” parts of the Scriptures such as the virgin birth of Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus to be mythical.

Secondly, our doubts can also be emotional in nature. In this case, the origin of such doubts often come from hurt or grief that we experience in our lives. Christians might begin to doubt the goodness, love, and care of their heavenly Father when they experience great sorrow or disappointment, such as the loss of a job, a difficult marriage relationship, or the death of a loved one. Oftentimes, the occurrence of such challenging life events may cause people to harbour negative emotions in their hearts and eventually lead them to question God. “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” “Why does God allow such hurtful situations to happen in my life?” “How could a loving God condemn a good person to suffer in hell for not being a Christian?” These questions come about from the wounded feelings people have experienced and it may cause them to believe that God doesn’t really care about what has happened in their lives.

In light of the two different aspects of doubt, it is important for us to be mindful that doubts about a biblical teaching or about God happen when people experience an intellectual or emotional barrier. Our doubts about spiritual matters come from listening to and feeding on the beliefs that originate from the world, which has the effect of creating barriers that hinder us from having a more solid faith in a biblical teaching or deeper faith in God. Therefore, let us take heed to what the Scriptures has to say in 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12….

And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thessalonians 2:11-12)

As members of the Lord’s church at Jurong, let us realise that our doubts – whether intellectual or emotional – would eventually cause us to have no faith in God, or to eliminate what faith that we may already have had. Doubt is an effective tool that Satan uses to make us lack confidence in God’s Word and consider His judgment to be unlikely. At any point in time when we allow human reasoning or our emotions to overshadow our faith in God, sinful doubt is the end result and we would be drawn further and further away from our God.

However, let us always remember that the remedy to the problem of spiritual doubt is the Word of God (2 Tim 3:16-17; Psalm 119:105). The Scriptures make it abundantly clear that God is faithful, trustworthy and good, and our faith in God can be strengthened when we devote time on a regular basis to search the Scriptures and understand God’s will for our lives (2 Tim 2:15; Acts 17:11; Psalm 119:11). The apostle Paul describes the word of God as the “sword of the spirit” in Ephesians 6:17 and it is our great responsibility as Christians to understand how to effectively use God’s Word to deal with the doubts that we may come across in our spiritual walk with God.

To this end, it is important for us as Christians to be mindful that God doesn’t want His people to doubt Him (James 1:5-8). In fact, God desires His people to develop their faith and confidence in His love and protection. Therefore, let us continue to lean on God for wisdom to guide us each day and share with Him through prayer the struggles and doubts that we encounter in our lives. We have the blessed assurance that God would help us pull through those challenging life situations when we put our trust and faith in Him (Proverbs 3:5-6).