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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Doing God’s Will from the Heart

Imagine you are driving in your vehicle and you approach a school zone. You spot a police officer on duty nearby and slow down the speed, as you should while driving within a school zone. You respect the officer’s power to fine you if you drive above the speed limit, and you most certainly do not appreciate a fine.

Now imagine the next day you drive into the same school zone. This time there is no police officer in sight. You think to yourself, why not? Let’s just get through this area quickly.

You step on the pedal. Suddenly, a little girl appears within your peripheral vision and you slam on the brakes. A fraction of a second too late and tragedy could have occurred. You are shaken up.

The third day you drive into the school zone again. As with the previous day, there is no police officer in sight. Nonetheless, you slow down. Your heart has been affected by the near accident the day before.

Now, regardless of whether you suffer the consequence if you were caught speeding, you observe the law willingly, even happily.

The above little imaginary exercise is to illustrate that our Lord wants willing, cheerful adherents to His law. Fear of eternal punishment is a motivation for us to walk uprightly, and rightly so, but there is a better way.

Love is a better motivation than fear. The Lord Jesus says, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). You cheerfully serve the ones you love, don’t you? It is a joyful thing to see smiles on your loved ones’ faces. We keep the Law of Christ (Gal 6:2) because we love and appreciate what He has done for us on the cross.

The apostle John writes, “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1Jn 5:2-3).

Any married person knows that if his/her spouse does something as an automaton, without the heart, it really quite defeats the purpose. Likewise, acceptable service to God is from the heart. Paul writes to the Ephesians:

“Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart” (Eph 6:6).

Our worship and service to the Lord cannot be separated from our sincerity and heartfelt gratitude. Service and worship are not dour, joyless affairs. Our Lord says that our worship of God must be in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

We usually get the truth part down to a pat, but the spirit part is sometimes lacking. What does He mean by the spirit? Joshua, by inspiration, exhorts the same attitude in worship and service. “Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth” (Jos 24:14).

Service and worship is a joy, not a burden. The psalmist says, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1).

Doing the Lord’s will, i.e. obedience, is not something that is coerced. Obedience is an act of the will. God did not create us to be robots—without thoughts, emotions and a measure of free will. He wants His people to obey from the heart. Such is the kind of obedience which truly pleases Him.

“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” (Rom 6:17).

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A Conversation on Instrumental Music

The following conversation between three friends (A, B and C) was overheard one day somewhere on the sunny island of Singapore…

A: Hey man, we had an awesome worship yesterday. The band was great as usual.

  1. So you believe in the use of instrumental music(IM) in worship?

A: Of course. Everyone does.

B: I tried looking in the New Testament (NT) where it expressly says we can use IM in worship. I couldn’t find it. Maybe you can show me?

A: Does it matter? What’s important is we are into it, man. The music is awesome!

B: So you’re saying you can’t find it either?

A: The use of IM is an aid. It helps to build up ambience and feelings in worship.

B: Do I understand correctly then that there is no express command to use IM in worship?

A: It does not say we cannot use it. Like I said, it’s an aid.

B: How about this? The use of Ecstasy and other hallucinogen is an aid. It helps to build up ambience and feelings in worship.

A: No, that’s wrong. You cannot understand it this way.

B: Is there another way? I thought the point is using aids to build up ambience and feelings?

A: Look at it like this. We use song books and song leaders. They are not expressly commanded in the NT but we can use them. Same thing for IM.

B: So it should be the same for hallucinogen, isn’t it? Let me see if I understand you:

  1. IM is not expressly commanded or forbidden.
  2. IM helps in building up feelings for worship.
  3. Therefore, it is OK to use IM.

B: I can simply replace IM in the argument and still retain the same logic, can’t I?

A: I don’t think you get it. Using hallucinogen is substance abuse. It is wrong.

B: Where does it expressly say hallucinogen or other forms of drugs cannot be used in worship?

A: You cannot look at it like that.

B: Why not? IM is neither expressly commanded nor forbidden, but you say we can use it. Hallucinogen is neither expressly commanded nor forbidden, but you say we can’t use it. Laying aside the legality of hallucinogen, I still fail to see the consistency in your logic. Let me try something else. How about using Coke in place of grape juice in the Lord’s Supper? Or durian in place of the unleavened bread?

A: We are talking about music in worship.

B: We are talking about what God approves in worship.

A: We are not getting anywhere. You’re impossible to talk to.

B: Educate me, then. What makes you decide that you can use certain aid such as IM in worship but not others, like hallucinogen? What are the rules you apply?

A: Common sense!

B: So common sense says you can use IM, even though it is not expressly commanded nor forbidden, because it helps?

A: Yes!

B: But hallucinogen doesn’t apply, even though it is also not expressly commanded nor forbidden, because it is illegal?

A: Yes. Now you get it. You are not hopeless after all.

B: Thank you. But suppose we use something else instead? Say, breakdancing? How about HIIT? Maybe we can try playing ‘fetch’ with my dog. Going by your rationale, I can do all that as long as they help build up my feelings?

A: You are trying to cause trouble, aren’t you?

B: No, on the contrary I’m trying to apply your logic. Besides common sense (which doesn’t sound very ‘common’) what other rules do you apply?

A: The Bible doesn’t say we can’t use it! And there are so many people who can testify that music is great for ambience and lifting up feelings. Don’t tell me you don’t agree with that?

B: If you mean music uplifting emotions, yes. But we have seen how it is uncommon sense to simply say the Bible doesn’t say we can’t. There’s a lot the Bible doesn’t say, like hallucinogen. Surely there must be more to it than that?

A: For example?

B: For example, God told Noah to build an ark (Gen 6:14). God didn’t mention using or not using tools. But Noah must have used tools, don’t you agree?

A: Of course.

B: Why?

A: Why? It is common sense!

B: Right. Using tools was an aid to carry out the command, wasn’t it? Do you agree that it’s because it doesn’t interfere with the command to build an ark?

A: Fair enough. But using IM does not interfere with singing.

B: Let’s come back to Noah again. God expresslytold Noah to build an ark of gopher wood, right? Do you think that Noah would be obedient if he had used other wood?

A: It’s not the same case.

B: Let’s think about it further. God told Noah to use gopher wood. That excludes other wood, doesn’t it?That’s what the logical Law of Inference indicates. Don’t you think using other material would have interfered with the command to build an ark of gopher wood? Noah might still have built an ark, but if it wasn’t gopher wood, it wouldn’t be what God had wanted, would it?

A (fidgeting): It’s still not the same.

B: Let’s see. God tells us to sing (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16). That’s vocal music. God had expressly identified the music he wants. The same Law of Inference excludes the other type of music, which is instrumental. By the way, doesn’t 2Co 5:7 say “For we walk by faith, not by sight”?

A: What’s your point?

B: Indulge me. And Heb 11:6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please him”? And Rom 10:17 says “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”? So we are supposed to live by faith, for without faith we can’t please God. And the source of faith is the word of God.

A: Yes. But I still don’t see your point. We are talking about music in worship.

B: We are talking about what God approves in worship. Now let’s see what the word of God says, shall we? After all, it is the source of faith, and we need faith to…

A: Yes, I know. Just get on with it.

  1. Nice. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph 5:19). Let’s consider this. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.” Can the human voice do this?

A: Duh, it’s common sense!

B: Yes, it’s common sense. Now, how aboutinstruments? Can instruments speak, literally?

  1. I know what you are trying to get at, but I disagree with your point.

B: Hold your disagreement for a second. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col 3:16). The human voice can teach and admonish and sing; the instruments can’t. Again, common sense. Now, what is your disagreement?

A:It doesn’t say we cannot use IM!

B: Does it have to, since God has told us he wants vocal music, which is able to speak, teach and admonish? Again, the Bible doesn’t tell us a lot of things. It doesn’t tell us we can’t gamble or husbands can’t beat their wives, etc.

A: IM merely helps to build up ambience! It doesn’t replace singing!

B: Of course it doesn’t. But it adds another type of music besides singing, doesn’t it?

A: It does no harm but lots of good.

B: Doesn’t the Bible say we are not to add or take away or edit the word of God? Check it out. I believe it’s in Proverbs 30:6 and Revelation 22:18-19.

C: What are you two going on about? Whoa, A, look at the humongous pout on your face…

B: We are discussing what God approves in worship. A here says we can use IM. I was trying to understand his logic in light of what the Bible says.

C: Isn’t it obvious? Of course we can use IM in worship. The Bible says so.

B: Really? I was just asking B to show me where in the NT it says so. Do tell!

C: Read the Old Testament (OT). Just Psalm 150 will suffice.

B: How does that tell us we can use it in the NT?

C: OT, NT, what’s the difference? It’s still the Bible.

B: So, going by that rationale, we can offer animal sacrifice in worship then?

C: Bro, you’re sick. What are you talking about?

B: Just trying to understand your rationale. If the OT is no different from the NT, and we can use IM because it’s mentioned in the OT, then logically we can offer animal sacrifices and burn incense, can’t we?

C: It doesn’t work like that, bro…

A: That’s what I have been trying to tell our hero here.

B: Paul said to the Galatians who wanted to do some of the stuff in the OT: “For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law” (Gal 5:3). Follow one article, obligated to follow them all. So, let’s come back to the rationale you just used. Logically, we should be able to offer animal sacrifices and burn incense, can’t we?

C: Well, we don’t have to offer animal sacrifice, but we can still use IM.

B: In spite of Gal 5:3?

C: Gal 5:3 is only talking about circumcision, not the whole Law of Moses.

B: Well, there’s Gal 5:4…

C: What? What does it say?

B: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). You see, Paul was talking about the whole Law of Moses.

A: He was talking about Eph 5:19 and Col 3:16 when you came along. He’s saying these verses only mean vocal music, not IM.

C: That’s easy. It DOES say IM. The phrase “making melody” means you can use IM.

B: Making melody where?

C: What you talking about, bro?

B: It says “making melody in your heart to the Lord”, doesn’t it? Not, “making melody on an instrument.”

C: Dude, my pastor said that phrase was from the Greek word, psallo. Psallo means we can use IM. Get it? You can’t argue with the Greek word. And you can’t argue with my pastor!

B: I don’t know if your pastor is a Greek expert, but Thayer is certainly acknowledged as one of the best Greek lexicons available. Let’s see(taking out his mobile device). Thayer says:

Thayer Definition:

1) to pluck off, pull out

2) to cause to vibrate by touching, to twang

2a) to touch or strike the chord, to twang the strings of a musical instrument so that they gently vibrate

2b) to play on a stringed instrument, to play, the harp, etc.

2c) to sing to the music of the harp

2d) in the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song

B: Sure, he does give definitions for IM usage. But pay attention to what he says in 2d). “In the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song.” Look, I appreciate you bringing out psallo, but we know how words change meanings over the years. What comes to mind when we hear the word ‘gay’?

A & C: Well, homosexual…

B: Yet less than a hundred years ago it meant happy and cheerful.

A & C: What’s your point?

B: The point is this. The word psallo also has evolved its meaning over centuries. As a lexicon, Thayer gives us all the meanings across the word’s etymology. But true to its scholarship, Thayer tells us the contemporary meaning when it is used in Eph 5:19. “In the NT to sing a hymn, to celebrate the praises of God in song.” No IM expressed or implied. It’s not only Thayer. Other renowned lexicographers point out the same thing.

C: I still don’t like what you say about the OT. It is the word of God.

B: Of course it is, but the question is: are we still obligated to keep the OT? Or, does the OT still apply to us in the practice of Christianity? Remember what we have just heard in Galatians?

A & C: Of course it still applies! Don’t you keep the 10 Commandments?

B: I understand you conduct services on Sundays, right? Since you keep the 10 Commandments, why don’t you keep the Sabbath? It’s Saturday, you know.

C: Christ was resurrected on a Sunday, that’s why we worship on Sundays.

B: The Bible says, “For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb 9:16-17).

A: What’s your point?

B: Christ shed His blood to put into effect the New Testament; the old covenant is no longer in effect. The Bible also says, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col 2:14).

A & C: …

B: Look, guys, there is much we can discover in the Bible. Why don’t we find a nice place, get some coffee, and look further? Sounds good?

A: Fine. I’m cool with that.

C: You got me curious. OK, let’s do that.

 

P.S. A, B and C are currently on a regular, weekly study of the Bible together. Besides the topic of authorized music in worship, B is also helping his friends discover what the Bible says on a host of things.

 

P.P.S. On a Wednesday evening, after another session of searching the Scriptures, A decided to obey the gospel. C is struggling, meanwhile…

 

 


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Unprofitable Servants

Our Lord teaches in Luke 17:7-10 the true attitude of a servant.

“But which of you, having a servant plowing or feeding cattle, will say unto him by and by, when he is come from the field, Go and sit down to meat? And will not rather say unto him, Make ready wherewith I may sup, and gird thyself, and serve me, till I have eaten and drunken; and afterward thou shalt eat and drink? Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Luke 17:7-10).

Perhaps you have come across some well-meaning folks, in a display of piety, quoting the final two lines whenever they are praised or complimented for some good service they have performed.

“We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

Perhaps we have ourselves quoted these lines.

While we ought not to bear evil suspicions of anyone’s intentions (cf. 1 Timothy 6:4), it is good for our souls to check our own intentions whenever we use these oft quoted lines from the Lord Jesus. Let others take care of their motives; we shall care for our own.

However long or short the number of years we have been members of the Lord’s body, the church, we could at times pause and ask ourselves: what have I achieved all these years as a Christian?

Surely, we know brethren who have an impressive ‘curriculum vitae’ as far as their areas of service go, and it is right to appreciate these brethren and remind ourselves that we too can contribute more in our service to the Lord.

But what makes for an achievement? Dictionary.com defines it as 1) “something accomplished, especially by superior ability, special effort, great courage, etc.; a great or heroic deed; 2) the act of achieving; attainment or accomplishment.

Take a moment and consider these definitions with the words of the Lord, “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.”

The Lord uses the word “unprofitable.” This is an interesting word for Him to choose. The Greek word, achreios, means “useless, good for nothing.” The word “unworthy” better expresses the meaning of the word in our modern English than “unprofitable.”

This is a rather strong expression for the Lord to use in describing the servant’s attitude, don’t you think?

Faithful, obedient service is no less than what our Lord deserves from us. We score no points with Him; we merit no credit whatsoever for rendering service we owe to our Lord and Master.

“We have done that which was our duty to do.” What have we done for the Lord and His church in the years, however long or short, as a Christian? Have we actually ‘achieved’ anything, in the sense of the word as popularly understood today?

Whatever “superior ability” we might imagine we possess, whatever special effort and great courage we might display; whatever we think we have attained or accomplished—what are these but “that which was our duty to do”?

If we should ever feel tempted to pat ourselves on the back whenever we are tempted to think of our “achievements” in the Lord, take a moment to ponder: “We are useless, good for nothing, unworthy servants: we have only done that which was our duty to do.”