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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Meant for Joy

Search deep into our hearts and we will find a desire for joy. Advertisers know it and expertly exploit it. Whatever we do, we ultimately seek satisfaction, pleasure, and happiness.

God has created us for joy; He doesn’t create anyone for misery. If God has made us for joy, then we need to understand what true joy really is. How we can fully enjoy and appreciate something which we do not understand?

Joy is part of God’s original design for us from the start. The earthly home He gave to Adam and Eve was a garden.

“And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it (Gen 2:15).”

God Himself walked there in the garden in the cool of day (cf. Gen 3:8). Creator and creatures communed together in the garden He has made. This must have been such a joyful fellowship!

Even though Eden was lost to us, God still has lovingly provided for our enjoyment the good things He has made.

“Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (1Ti 6:17).”

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning (Jas 1:17).”

God has designed ours to be a life of joy. He has provided what we need to live in joy. There is another important fact about true joy that we must realise if we are to be joyful Christians.

When Asaph was almost driven to despair by how the wicked seemingly prospered, he readjusted his focus and declared:

“Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever…it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord GOD, that I may declare all thy works (Psa 73:23-27).”

Another psalmist reminded himself in downtimes:

“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God (Psa 43:5).”

We see then that according to God’s original design, true joy is inseparable from Himself. God is the Source of joy in its purest sense. Sin separates us from the joy of God and exposes us to eternal damnation (cf. John 3:16-21; Rom 1:18-2:16; Rev 22:11-15).

Man has lost the joy God has bestowed him by foolishly turning away from God. When we look around us at this world—with its misery and meaninglessness—we are looking at the result of man’s rejection of true joy.

Man has since been trying to be his own provider, seeking desperately to satisfy the longing for joy but finding himself only drifting further away from the joy which seems so elusive.

When Christ redeemed us and gave us life in Him, He reversed damnation and sin (cf. Rom 5:12-19). The goodness of God is further evidence that God intends joy for us and through His goodness He calls us to respond to His Gospel.

“Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness (Acts 14:17).”

“Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance (Rom 2:4)?”

The Gospel of Christ proclaiming deliverance from sin is the invitation to enter the joy God has prepared for mankind.

Through the plan of salvation God has restored and fulfilled His original intention of joy for us. True joy for the human soul is to be rightly related to God in Jesus Christ.

Joy is not measured by the material possessions we have or the level of success we attain in this world. Joy is the inevitable result of throwing ourselves upon the love of God, trusting in Him whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

The Gospel is for all. Every man and woman must make the choice between Christ and self, between true joy and eternal misery. If by choosing to sin we miss the joy God has meant for us, the fault will all be ours.

The apostle says, “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost (Rom 14:17).”

A faith without joy is a contradiction to what the New Testament reveals. The joyful Christianity we read about in the NT turned the world upside down.

May the Lord revive true joy in His church today that we may once more turn this world upside down for His glory.

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What Hardships Can Teach Us (II)

Hardships can teach us valuable lessons to help us in our quest for maturity. Previously we discussed two hardships and what we can learn from them: physical illnesses and material needs.

Let’s look at two more hardships we can draw lessons from.

Bereavement Tells us Life is Uncertain

If you haven’t lost a loved one, it’s only a matter of time before you do. The closer the departed is to you, the more it will hurt.King David wrote this psalm a long time ago:

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children (Psa 103:13-17).”

James understood the truth of David’s words. He wrote in his epistle:

“Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that (Jas 4:13-15).”

Losing a loved one to death is painful, but even in such pain we are reminded of how short and uncertain life really is.It is wise to keep in mind:“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment (Heb 9:27).”

Chastisement is Good for Our Souls

We all have our fair share of discipline and punishments from our parents and caregivers when we were growing up.Looking back, we can be thankful for these life lessons because they prepared us for lives as adults.

Our heavenly Father takes a keen interest in our spiritual development. Whenever we stray, He will pull us back by chastising us.

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby (Heb 12:7-11).”

The wise man said: “A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool (Pro 17:10).” Shall we be wise or foolish? That depends on how we respond to God’s chastisement.

Persecution Teaches Us Endurance

Suffering for the sake of Christ should not take any of us by surprise. Paul had said: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2Ti 3:12).” John added to that with this statement: “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you (1Jn 3:13).”

Suffering for the sake of Christ is nothing to be ashamed of; in fact, it is a matter for rejoicing. The Lord said:

“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you (Mat 5:11-12).”

The apostles, instead of becoming demoralised, rejoiced because they suffered for the Lord’s sake. “…when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name (Acts 5:40-41).”

Peter wrote his first epistle to encourage the church to endure in suffering for the Lord.

“Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ (1Pe 1:6-7).”

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy…Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator (1Pe 4:12-13, 19).”

In this world, it is inevitable that we will suffer some hardships. Paul expressed in these powerful words:

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal (2Co 4:16-18).”

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us (Rom 8:18).”

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What Hardships Can Teach Us (I)

It is not far-fetched to say that Christians are truly a different breed. Much of our beliefs seem paradoxical in the eyes of the world. Take for example this statement from James.

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing (Jas 1:2-4).”

Who enjoys trials and difficulties? Rightly, no one does. But Christians are encouraged not only to be positive but to rejoice. This is not a defense mechanism; the Christian is not retreating into denial.

Trials and hardships, when handled correctly, produce the fruit of patience and maturity. We will undergo some hardships in life. It is inevitable. Let us, then, learn what these experiences can teach us.

Spiritual Health More Important than Physical Health

Poor health is a burden none of us appreciate, yet even in poor physical health we can be reminded of something even more important—our spiritual health. In Matthew 9 we read of a man suffering from palsy.

“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee (Mat 9:2).”

Of all the things the Lord could have said to him, the Lord, “Thy sins be forgiven thee.” The man’s sins were worse than palsy and the Lord was more concerned about the man’s spiritual wellbeing.

By all means, please take good care of your physical health. Our bodies are given to us by our Creator. It is through the physical body that we serve Him in this world. While we take care of our physical and mental wellbeing, let’s keep in mind our spiritual wellbeing.

Our relationship with our Lord is the most important relationship we have, above that even of the closest familial ties. Our Lord does His part in maintaining this relationship. Let us do ours in cultivating this relationship.

This physical body we have now is only temporary. The Lord has promised us immortality.

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven: If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked. For we that are in this tabernacle do groan, being burdened: not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up of life (2Co 5:1-4).”

Material Needs Teach Us to Rely on God

We have everything we need. But there are people so poor they do not know when their next meal may be. Whenever we learn of people in need, let us be ready and willing to lend a helping hand like the Macedonian churches.

“Moreover, brethren, we make known to you the grace of God which hath been given in the churches of Macedonia; how that in much proof of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For according to their power, I bear witness, yea and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, beseeching us with much entreaty in regard of this grace and the fellowship in the ministering to the saints: and this, not as we had hoped, but first they gave their own selves to the Lord, and to us through the will of God (2Co 8:1-5).”

What if we should suffer material needs? Remember the lesson the Lord was teaching Israel in the wilderness.

“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live (Deu 8:2-3).”

Paul learned contentment and dependence on God through his own sufferings.

“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Php 4:11-13).”

There is no reason for Christians to be envious of what others have. We have all that we need and more. We have God who provides all our needs.

Trials and hardships can range from irritations to full-fledged struggles. In these situations when our faith is put to the test, let’s dig in, trust in the Lord and press on with resolve. The Lord will carry us through to greater maturity.

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Forgiveness is Conditional

Is forgiveness of sins conditional or unconditional? It’s become rather common to hear the statements, “God sees my heart,” “God understands,” “God is love,” “God is not petty,” etc. as an excuse for self-justification.

On the contrary, precisely because God does see into every person’s heart, we should sit up and take notice. Do we have any justification at all from the scriptures that because God is love, He will pass over our sins as if they did not matter?

Peter says, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2Pe 3:9).”

The Lord has a heart of forgiveness; He is ever ready and willing to forgive. Even so, let us not forget that it is His will “that all should come to repentance.”

Repentance is a command God has decreed unto all mankind.

“And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).”

Impenitence can lead to chastisement. Our heavenly Father does not sit idly by while His children go astray. As a loving Father, He reaches out to pull us back to the right path.

David committed the abominable sins of adultery and murder. “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD (2Sam 11:27).”

Imagine the Lord pardoned David unconditionally because He is love, and because He understood that David was only a fallible man, susceptible to temptations and unholy desires. What would have happened to David thereafter? He might have become numb to sin.

David was brought to his senses when the prophet Nathan confronted him of his sins. “And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man (2Sam 12:7)!” David acknowledged his sins; he made no attempt at self-justification.

“And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die (2Sa 12:13).”

David was pardoned only when he repented of his sins, not before. The Lord was willing that David should come to repentance, but He would not be untrue to Himself and forgave without David repenting.

The Lord Jesus, in His model prayer, taught His disciples to pray: “And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors (Mat 6:12).” Our Lord wants His disciples to have a heart of forgiveness like the Father. But this in no way removes the condition of repentance.

If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that the gospel would be redundant. Why reason “of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come (Acts 24:25)” when the Lord has already turned a blind eye to sins?

If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that the Lord Jesus was contradicting Himself when he declared, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish (Luke 13:3).”

If it was true that we can obtain forgiveness of sins without the condition of repentance, it follows logically that John the Immerser was preaching false doctrine when he said, “Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance (Luke 3:8)…”

The apostle John wrote in his first epistle:

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1Jn 1:8-10).”

Confessing or acknowledging our sins and guilt before the Lord is an act of repentance. It is a fruit of repentance the apostle’s namesake was preaching about so many years before (cf. Lu 3:8). When a Christian with contrite heart seeks forgiveness in humble repentance, our Father is faithful and just to forgive, and to cleanse His erring child from all unrighteousness.

There is no reason for the children of God to continue in sin. In fact, we cannot. Paul put forth the argument:

“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. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness (Rom 6:16-18).”

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Wisdom from Above

Man has always been seeking wisdom. The word ‘philosophy’ comes from the Greek, ‘love of wisdom’; and a philosopher is a ‘lover of wisdom’. Not only philosophers but the common man on the street has asked questions about the meaning of life or why we exist.

It is almost instinctive for us to want to know answers to some of life’s profoundest questions. This is good, for it sets us on the path of seeking for the truth.

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her (Pro 3:13-15).”

The ancient Greeks, especially the Athenians, were known to be seekers of wisdom. Western philosophy was said to be born in Athens. They were curious about ideas and spent their time discovering and arguing over them.

Luke reveals a particular habit of the Athenians: “For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing (Acts 17:21).”

What is wisdom? Is it only profound knowledge? James asks the question in a slightly different, more practical way in his epistle.

“Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom (Jas 3:13).”

Knowledge is necessary to wisdom, nonetheless knowledge alone does not make one wise. Wisdom involves right behaviour borne of sound knowledge. James draws a difference two kinds of wisdom: earthly and heavenly.

“But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work (Jas 3:14-16).”

One may be knowledgeable yet overcome by pride, envy and contentiousness. History has known men and women who used their knowledge to manipulate others and destroy their enemies. Such is not wisdom.

Heavenly wisdom, on the other hand, is manifested through certain qualities.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace (Jas 3:17-18).”

It is pure, untainted by pride, envy and contentiousness. It is gentle, not quarrelsome. It is open to reason, not bigoted. It is full of mercy and good fruits, not mean and unsympathetic. It is without partiality and hypocrisy, not deceitful and two-faced. It is peace-loving, a characteristic of the Prince of Peace.

This is the wisdom we are to seek. As it is wisdom that is from above, it can be discovered in the word that came to us from above—the inspired word of God. Paul commended Timothy for obtaining true wisdom by such means.

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2Ti 3:15).”

The truly wise person is one who diligently seeks God’s will in His word and lives a godly life, according to God’s word. Degrees, diplomas and certificates are not the measure of wisdom. Sound knowledge and godliness is the yardstick.

The wise person is God-fearing. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (Pro 9:10).” He/she hears the words of Christ and is always ready and humble to obey.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it (Mat 7:24-27).”

What a vivid picture of a wise person in contrast to the foolish!

The Bible gives us so many descriptions of a wise person. For example, he is careful with his choice of words and when to speak. “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise (Pro 10:19).”

The wise person is a soul-winner for Christ. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise (Pro 11:30).”

He/she is attentive and self-controlled, not easily given over to outbursts of anger, nor too quick to offer an opinion on anything he might not actually know enough about. In other words, a wise person is not a smart aleck.

“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God (Jas 1:19-20).”

Are we seeking the wisdom from above, or merely making a show of being wise? May our ‘houses’ stand in the midst of the storms of life because we have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise.