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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The Judgment of God (27 August 2017)

Danny Leong

The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes paints us a very clear picture concerning the judgment of God. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Our Almighty God has given us His Word, the Bible, so as to enable His children to learn from the mistakes committed by other people in times past as well as to warn us of impending judgment should we fail to take heed to His warnings and change our sinful way of life.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

Hence, as we consider the judgment of God, we can benefit much from considering the example of the nation of Israel during the period of Jewish history recorded in the Old Testament.

Following the death of King Solomon, we would remember that the kingdom was divided into two separate kingdoms in 931 B.C with King Jeroboam ruling the northern kingdom of Israel while King Rehoboam was appointed as the ruler of the southern kingdom of Judah.

From the beginning of history, the northern kingdom of Israel practiced idolatrous worship and never even had one good king. It is sad to know that all the twenty kings that made up the nine different dynasties of the northern kingdom of Israel were evil and unrighteous in the sight of God.

Despite receiving messages of warnings after warnings from the prophets sent by God, the northern kingdom of Israel was unrepentant and it was eventually overthrown by the nation of Assyria in 722 B.C. God had used the nation of Assyria as His rod of wrath to execute judgment against His own people (Isaiah 10:5-6). The people were carried away captive to Assyria where they were subsequently scattered among the other nations of the world (2 Kgs 17:5-6).

As we ponder on the sad state of the northern kingdom of Israel, we ought to pause for a while and consider this question: “Would the southern kingdom of Judah also suffer the same fate as that experienced by the northern kingdom of Israel?

Judah had some good kings along with the bad ones who had ruled her. Although idolatry was introduced to Judah, there were many good kings who reversed that trend during their reigns, thus saving Judah from being invaded by the Assyrian army. They attempted to destroy idolatry and restore the worship God had commanded. When Assyria tried to overthrow Judah, God spared her because of the righteousness of King Hezekiah and King Josiah, and the good influence of prominent prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

Sadly, even though the good kings destroyed the pagan gods, they could not take idolatry out of the people’s hearts and the southern kingdom of Judah was eventually taken captive by the Babylonians with the destruction of the temple of God in 586 B.C (2 Chronicles 36:14-16; 2 Kings 24:3-4).

Certainly, the Old Testament have given us many historical records pertaining to the pronouncement of God’s judgment against His own people due to their disobedience and sinful way of life. Moreover, God has also given mankind many warnings in the New Testament concerning His final judgment on the whole earth. Consider the following Scriptures….

Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:30-31)

He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:48)

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” (Hebrews 9:27)

Brethren, as we ponder on the above-mentioned passages of Scriptures, we can know for sure that there is a Day of Judgment coming and God will pronounce His judgment on the entire world through His Word.

The Word of God in Romans 3:23 clearly states that every individual person have sinned against God. As the family of God at Jurong, let us always recognise that Christians still do commit sin in the sight of God even though we have been converted, but we have the assurance of eternity in heaven if we continue to remain faithful to God till our lives on this earth is over (Revelation 2:10).

Let us, therefore, not take our salvation in Christ for granted as the Bible says that God will hold us accountable for how we live our lives on the earth (Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5).

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‘Esteem Them Very Highly in Love’

The apostle in his first epistle to the Thessalonians wrote:

“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves (1Th 5:12-13).”

Paul instructs us that we are to esteem our elders, who labour among us and are over us in the Lord and admonish us, very highly in love. This simply means to respect them highly.

“Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine (1Ti 5:17).”

What are some simple and practical ways the church can show our love and esteem for our elders? Here are a few suggestions. Let’s try to implement some of them throughout the weeks ahead.

Speaking Up for Them in the Face of Unfair Criticism

Among the Lord’s servants, elders and preachers are most often the target of criticism. If the criticism is just and fair, these mature brothers in the faith will no doubt humbly accept and strive to improve.

But sometimes the criticism is unfair and even overly harsh. Do we have a habit of launching into criticism without the full picture or enough information? Do we expect elders to be sinless and perfect, while at the same time we are quick to excuse our own faults?

Whenever we hear a brother or sister criticizing an elder unfairly (it usually happens in the absence of the elder under verbal attack), we can gently and lovingly remind the critic not to be too quick to judge.

If there was genuine grievance, we ought to handle it the way prescribed in Matthew 18:15-17. Let us do so in a spirit of Christian love (1Co 13:4-8), and heed the warning of Galatians 5:15, “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.”

Trust Them to Lead with Wisdom

Relatedly to the above, we ought to learn to trust in the eldership to lead the church in wisdom and godly fear. Unfair criticism is a sign of distrust. The brothers appointed as overseers possess the qualities required by God to serve in that capacity.

God trusts them. Shall we do any less? Do we suppose we know better than the Lord, or even the men serving as elders? Like us, they are constantly learning and improving in their service. Would we like others to be patient with us? Then let us do so unto our elders (cf. Mat 7:12).

Pray for Them

Pray for our elders. I mean, seriously pray for them. They need our prayers. Paul writes, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men (1Ti 2:1).” This must certainly include the men who labour among us, and are over us in the Lord, and admonish us.

Love Their Families

Any elder will tell us that it is well-nigh impossible for them to perform their duties without the support and help of their wives and children. The families of elders are themselves faithful Christians and our brethren.

They experience similar struggles as we do. They need love and support like we do. It is surely a grave misunderstanding to assume that the families of elders are some sort of spiritual elite who are above common faith trials.

Loving our elders and their families really isn’t very hard. It doesn’t take too much of a creative imagination to come up with ideas how we can do it.

Write them cards with words of encouragement and appreciation. Remember their birthdays and send them well-wishes. Ask them how we can pray for them, and actually do pray for them. Join them for visitations. It’s really no different from loving brethren who aren’t serving as elders.

Letting Them Know You Appreciate Their Sacrifice

Telling our elders that we appreciate the fact that they are making sacrifices especially with their time to serve the church, even though we may not always understand the details, can be a form of encouragement.

The hours spent in meetings to discuss church matters, the time spent in visitations, etc. may easily escape our notice. They are sacrificing time they could spend on rest, with families, for recreation, etc.

As leaders, elders have the duty to make unpopular and difficult decisions. It’s never pleasant but it’s necessary. These men have the integrity and gumption to do so, knowing they might be misunderstood and criticized.

It is not easy to serve as elders of the church. It is a glorious and honourable duty, but not one for the faint-hearted. As shepherds under the Chief Shepherd, they tend to our spiritual welfare with much labour.

So let us esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake.

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Christian Grit

In recent years the word ‘grit’ has resurfaced on the public mainstream, thanks in part to the bestseller, Grit, (Ebury Publishing) by psychologist Angela Duckworth. The author made the statement, “Learning to stick to something is a life skill that we all have to develop.”

Grit, also known as persistence, perseverance, and stick-to-it-tiveness, is a quality widely recognised and acknowledged as fundamental to achievement. Talents may or may not stack the advantages on one’s side, but grit is indispensable to grind out the desired results, especially when the going gets tough.

What does this have to do with Christians anyway? Grit is not a novel or unusual idea. Long before psychologists did any formal study on grit, the Bible has already given us plentiful examples of men and women who exercised this quality. Grit is, in fact, a necessary discipline in the Christian life.

In writing to his protégé Timothy, the apostle Paul counseled him, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ (2Ti 2:3).” He repeated the advice near the close of his letter. “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry (2Ti 4:5).”

In the same letter the apostle declared, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2Ti 3:12).” To endure, we need to be gritty.

The apostle understood full well the necessary quality of grit in the Christian life. He was himself an excellent example of grit. We read of the hardships he endured in 2 Corinthians 11. These are hardships that would make many weak in the knees and faint of heart.

“…in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches (2Co 11:23-28).”

Passion is a key ingredient of grit. We find that in abundance in the apostle’s ministry.

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified (1Co 2:2).”

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel (1Co 9:16)!”

Here we may ask ourselves: are we passionate about the Lord Jesus and His gospel? There are many things we can be passionate about. Whatever it may be, let us ‘seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness (Mat 6:33).’

Deliberate practice is another key ingredient in grit. To learn anything well beyond the rudimentary requires spending time in focused practice. Let’s remove all distraction and strive to ‘grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2Pe 3:18).’

“Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth (2Ti 2:15).”

A third ingredient of grit is purpose. Interestingly, studies have shown that purpose is more often other-centred than self-centred. A desire to serve and contribute to the wellbeing of others is a powerful motivation to press on.

Paul has this to say. “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee (1Ti 4:16).” In other words, we want to go to heaven and we want to help others to get there as well.

A fourth ingredient of grit is hope. Psychologists are interested in the kind of hope that with sustained effort, we can improve. It is true that with sustained effort, our understanding of the Bible will improve, and also our song-leading and preaching, etc.

But we have a greater hope, which is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col 1:27).’

Peter adds, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1Pe 1:3).”

God has given us the promise of eternal life (Tit 1:2). We are justified by His grace and made heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Tit 3:7). This hope we have in Christ is “an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast (Heb 6:19).”

What are we to do with this hope we have? “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end (Heb 6:11).”

This is Christian grit. Our Lord commands us to exercise grit in our faith if we are to receive the crown of victory. “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life (Rev 2:10).”

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Upholding the Authority of Scriptures

The Bible is the inspired Word of God and the sole authority for the church. The doctrines and practices of the church must have divine authority at the back of it.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him (Col 3:17).”

Though this much is widely acknowledged, there exists a subtle danger of compromising the authority of scriptures with worldliness. This danger is very real. We are beset from all sides by the lure of ungodly worldviews, made all the more accessible through mass media.

Awareness of the existence of a problem, or the onset of a problem, is a good start to nipping it in the bud. There are a number of ways the authority of the scriptures can be neglected. Here we shall look briefly at two of the most common.

Avoiding ‘controversial’ topics

Sadly, there are certain topics that seem to have been placed in cold storage. We hardly hear any preaching on them, at least not as often as we do about certain other topics.

Topics like homosexuality, Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage, giving, hell, and women in the ministry are some examples. There are others, depending upon the culture and geopolitical environments where the congregations are situated.

Although some churches may think it is safer to avoid these topics for fear of stirring the proverbial hornets’ nest, it is even more dangerous to remain silent. Christianity is a ‘taught’ religion. The faith is perpetuated through faithful teaching.

“Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen (Mat 28:20).”

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2Ti 2:2).”

If we avoid teaching certain topics because they could be potentially upsetting, we are certainly failing to declare all the counsel of God (cf. Acts 20:27). This could lead to devastating results.

For example, moral relativists are working hard to push through their agenda to have homosexuality accepted as a mainstream lifestyle, equal to any heterosexual relationship. The younger generations may be brainwashed into thinking that homosexuality is not sinful, although many of them may not be homosexuals themselves.

It will then be only a matter of time before worldly values and cultures creep into the church. We are to be the salt and light of the world (cf. Mat 5:13-14). If worldliness took a foothold in the church, what difference is there between us and this crooked generation (cf. Acts 2:40)?

The only way to combat this rising trend of moral relativism, secularism and outright immorality is to teach the whole counsel of God fearlessly. The church must stand up for the authority of God’s Word.

‘Agree to disagree’ on matters of faith

No, we are not talking about charity in matters of opinion.

This is another area where the integrity of inspired scriptures may be compromised. The common argument runs along this line: “Well, no one can know 100% exactly the mind of God, so how can we determine who’s right or wrong? You are just being dogmatic.”

God in His infinite wisdom gave us His inspired word in human language. To understand the mind of God revealed in the Book, we must apply the laws of human languages, just as we do to understand the minds of any human author.

The Bible is clear on all matters of the faith, that is, matters that determine our salvation and eternal standing with God. Any argument that doctrines such as baptism is vague or open to too many disputed arguments is a weak attempt to prevent the Bible from ‘telling it as it is’.

As long as one is willing to be diligent, one can learn to rightly handle the word of truth (cf. 2Ti 2:15). We have the assurance from Paul that when we read (that is, study diligently), we can also understand his knowledge in the mystery of Christ (cf. Eph 3:3-4).

So there is no excuse to hide behind the lame statement that ‘we can never know for sure’. It is nothing more than a sinister cover up of an attempt to claim any doctrinal position that suits one’s fancy.

This is the problem we are witnessing throughout the religious world. Instead of allowing the Bible to speak for itself, men in serving their own private agendas try to fit the Bible into their own ‘theological mold’ by taking a text out of its context and making it a pretext for their own traditions and ideas.

The church must not stand to allow these blatant attempts to disregard the authority of the Word of God to go unchallenged and unanswered. We must continue to be faithful to the truth, to be diligent students of God’s word, to proclaim without fear of men the truth of God.