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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Will Ye Also Go Away?

The sixth chapter of John relates one of the most somber and thought-provoking incidents in the public ministry of our Lord. It is somber because we find no cheer in it; only what seems like defeat. It is thought-provoking because it remains relevant still after two millennia.

A large crowd was following Jesus because they saw the signs that He was doing. Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were like sheep without a shepherd. He began to teach them many things and healed their sick.

When evening drew near and the people were hungry, Jesus miraculously fed them with only five barley loaves and two fish.

The next day, the relentless multitude pursued Jesus across the sea. The Lord knew their hearts; He knew that many of them came with ulterior motives, not because they thirst for the truth.

“Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled (John 6:26).”

They were looking for a free lunch! They had been fed the previous day and were looking for more. Were they embarrassed to be called out for their true motive?

The Lord went on to say to them: “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed (John 6:27).”

When the Lord told them that they must believe in Him, their true colours showed.

“They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat (John 6:30-31).”

They were looking for a sign! Had they not already seen plenty of signs the day before? They were among the thousands Jesus fed. Some of them perhaps had their sicknesses healed. Yet they were not content.

In making reference to the manna their forefathers received in the wilderness, they betrayed their motive for another free meal. The irony escaped them—their forefathers, who ate the manna, disbelieved and perished in the wilderness.

Clearly these were not truth-seekers; they were thrill-hunters. Even so, the Lord patiently instructed them. He directed their attention to the true bread from heaven.

“Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. (John 6:32-33, 35).”

The Jews grumbled about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” The Lord dropped the hammer on them with these words:

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you (John 6:51, 53).”

The apostle John, by inspiration, made one of the saddest statements in Scriptures: “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him (John 6:66).”

Turning to the twelve, the Lord asked them pointedly: “Will ye also go away (John 6:67)?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

What are our motives when we come before the Lord, whether in prayer or in the assembly? Do we come with ulterior motives, hoping to gratify certain misplaced desires?

Wrong motives can come in many shapes and forms. We must examine ourselves to ensure that our hearts are right before the Lord. The Jews in this account did not want Jesus; they only wanted Him to gratify their desires.

Their carnal minds were exposed when all they could think of was actual food and drink. They missed the truth which the Lord was telling them. How tragic if our minds are likewise befuddled by the cares of this world.

They went back, and walked no more with Him. They could not stomach His hard teachings, though they could stomach the bread and fish He gave them.

The Lord’s question to the twelve is, in a sense, directed to all of us. Will we also go away when we find it hard to accept some of His teachings? Will we also go away if loving one another as He has loved us proves to be too tough?

Will we also go away if doing good to those who hate us, or laying down our pride in repentance, or severing relationships that hurt us spiritually seem to be asking too much of us?

Each of us must answer the Lord this piercing question: will ye also go away?

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Scattering and Withholding

It doesn’t require a keen eye for detail on the part of the Bible reader to see that there are quite a number of paradoxes contained in the Great Book. What is a paradox? It is “a seemingly absurd or contradictory statement or proposition which when investigated may prove to be well founded or true.”

Some of the more provocative paradoxical statements are made by the Lord Jesus. For example:

“If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all (Mark 9:35).”

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it (Mar 8:35).”

Paradoxical statements, when used and understood correctly in context, are thought-provoking and effective to hit home salient points.

We find in the book of Proverbs two such paradoxical statements that still ring loud and true in our times.

“There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself (Pro 11:24-25).”

Many of us are taught from young to imbibe the values of a culture that seeks to gain more and own more. After all, isn’t success most easily measured by materialism (or higher scores in tests, for that matter)?

A side effect of this is the breeding of a scarcity mentality—more for you means less for me. It also feeds selfishness, an unwillingness to give of one’s possessions (usually in the form of money) in aid of others.

Most of us likely have no problem giving when we have plenty to spare and might feel an obligation to do so. But we are just as quick to justify refraining from giving whenever we feel we have a right to first take care of our own “needs”.

Yes, we ought to take care of our own needs. “…this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat (2Th 3:10).” True, we ought to provide for our families. “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel (1Ti 5:8).”

Yet how often have we withheld from giving, not because we have needs of our own or loved ones to provide for and none to spare but because we simply are unwilling?

This attitude of selfishness can creep into the church in our giving and benevolent work, if it isn’t already wreaking its nefarious influence.

Solomon tells us of one who gives freely yet grows all the richer, and the other withholds what he should give, and only suffers poverty. Such is the paradox. Withholding what we should give doesn’t build up our wealth. In fact, it makes us poorer.

It doesn’t mean that the ‘Scrooge’ will wake up one day to find his investments down the drain and his bank accounts emptied by fraud. But think about this: will a miserly person have the love, respect and gratitude of others?

The one who gives liberally is rich in the affections and respect of his neighbours while everybody dislikes and distrusts Scrooge and shuns him.

The wise king further tells us: “He that hath pity upon the poor lendeth unto the LORD; and that which he hath given will he pay him again (Pro 19:17).”

What will we do with the blessings we have if we realised that they all come from Him? What will we do with the blessings we have if we realised that by giving liberally we are only returning to Him what belong to Him in the first place? And on top of that, He will add to our blessings?

The one who refuses to share his blessings cannot reasonably expect further such blessings from the Lord, can he? He should realise that God has the prerogative to take back His blessings from those too miserly to share.

Solomon says, in today’s expression: “Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.”

No one remains on the mountain top forever. One day he might be the king of the hill, the next he might be the pauper on the street. Perhaps things will not be so drastic but all of us experience times in life when we need a helping hand.

The need may not be monetary. It may be mental or emotional support we need. If we have been liberal in watering, when the times come and we need watering, there will be no lack of water-givers.

Lest anyone should suppose that this is some form of perverse, twisted and despicable ‘prosperity gospel’ which deceive the simple, let it be known that as our God is a liberal, compassionate Giver, so He expects His children to be liberal, compassionate givers.

“But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver (2Co 9:6-7).”

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A pacemaker is a tiny electronic device that is surgically inserted in a patient’s chest to deal with symptoms of abnormal heart rhythms. The pacemaker’s job is to help the heart to beat at a normal rate.

Amazing technology—this tiny device helps the heart to beat at a normal rate. Now, what would help the heart of the church to beat at a normal rate? For that, we need peacemakers, not pacemakers.

The Lord Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God (Mat 5:9).”

We have obtained peace with God through the preaching and hearing of His word. Our souls have been purified from sin by means of obeying His word.

“…Christ…loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish (Eph 5:25-27).”

“Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Rom 5:1).” Now that we have peace with God, we have been given a new identity as peacemakers in Christ.

Peace is a principle that binds the saints of God together. The inspired writers are careful to emphasise this truth. Paul, who wrote more epistles than others, is particularly insistent on peace among the brotherhood.

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph 4:1-3).”

We are exhorted to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The word ‘bond’ comes from the Greek sundesmos, which means “that which binds together; a uniting principle.”

Elsewhere the apostle teaches and instructs us “…and be at peace among yourselves (1The 5:13)”; “…God hath called us to peace (1Co 7:15).” This is all in line with the teaching of our Lord. “…have peace one with another (Mark 9:50).”

God the Father is called “the God of peace” (Heb. 13:20). God the Son is called “the Prince of peace” (Isa. 9:6). He is the Mediator of peace between God and man. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1Ti 2:5).”

As the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus (Gal 3:26), a peaceable spirit is family likeness with our heavenly Father. A peaceable spirit is honourable and approved by God.

It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling (Pro 20:3).”

A meddlesome attitude creates strife. Busybodies are not pleasing to God. “For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies (2Th 3:11).”

Gossip is usually started by busybodies. They whisper and backbite others who are not present to defend themselves. Scriptures denounce “whisperers” and “backbiters (cf. Rom 1:29, 30).” Even in the Old Testament, tale-bearing was lawlessness.

“Thou shalt not go up and down as a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I am the LORD (Lev 19:16).”

Peacemakers are active in pursuing peace by taking every opportunity to maintain peace. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men (Rom 12:18).”

Instead of strife and contention, we are commanded to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works (Heb 10:24).”

Frictions, dissensions and conflicts are almost inevitable because none of us are infallible. All the more so we must be doubly diligent to keep the peace in the family of God. The apostle warns: “But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another (Gal 5:15).”

Paul gives us the key to maintaining peace in the church of our Lord and Saviour.

“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 (1Co 1:10).”

John, called the apostle of love because of his emphasis on love in his epistles, adds: “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another…Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God (1Jn 3:11; 4:7).”

We are peacemakers. We are the ones our Father has given the privilege to keep the heart of the church beating at a normal rate. Let us keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. The psalmist says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity (Ps 133:1)!”

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The Great Gathering

The Bible promises a great gathering of insurmountable joy and no regrets.

It shall take place when Christ returns.

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord (1Th 4:16-17).”

Christ shall return in the manner He left.

“And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:10-11).”

The faithful will be rewarded.

“And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away (1Pe 5:4).”

“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).”

We shall see the Lord.

“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure (1Jn 3:2-3).”

We shall worship the Lord.

“And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever (Rev 5:11-14).”

Christ shall present the kingdom to the Father.

“Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power (1Co 15:24).”

All the faithful shall be present.

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it (1Th 5:23-24).”

We shall be in the presence of God forever in beautiful heaven.

“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever (Rev 22:1-5).”

Will you be there at the Great Gathering?