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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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.

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God Demands Obedience (24 June 2018)

This article contains my reflection on the sermon shared by brother John Grubb on 10 June 2018. As we begin to read through the pages of the Holy Scriptures we will clearly understand that obedience is one of the central themes that God wants His creation to uphold. Let us take some time to ponder on the following two passages of Scriptures found in the Old Testament:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jeremiah 10:23)

The book of Proverbs deals with the practical affairs of life. In Proverbs 14:12, the author, King Solomon, cautions mankind on the dreaded spiritual consequences regarding the worldly attitudes, behaviours and actions that we might embrace in our daily living.

In essence, God warns that mankind will suffer eternal separation from Him if they purposefully choose to follow their sinful self-will and rebel against His commandments. Moreover, the prophet Jeremiah also tells mankind that it is important for us to rely on God’s wisdom as revealed in His Word to direct our paths.

Hence, making a conscientious decision to allow the Word of God to influence and direct our thoughts, behaviours and actions is the hallmark of true obedience to God.

At this juncture, we have thus far established the fact that the issue of rendering our obedience to God is essentially a matter of our choices. To put it simply, mankind can either choose to obey God or to go against His commandments.

Our Lord Jesus has also given us clear instructions in the Bible that there are only two paths in which we can choose to travel. We can either choose to travel through the broad way which would eventually lead numerous number of souls to be lost in destruction in hell fire, or we can choose to travel through the narrow road that leads us to everlasting life in heaven (Matthew 7:13-14).

Furthermore, we can also appreciate that there are three important biblical principles as revealed in the Bible concerning the matter of true obedience. First of all, God does not want excuses when mankind fails to obey His commandments. Consider the example of how Adam and Eve dealt with the situation after they sinned against God in the Garden of Eden by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-13).

In Genesis 2:16-17, the Bible tells us that God commanded Adam not to eat of the forbidden fruit, and that the severe consequences of doing so will be spiritual death. When we take a closer look at Genesis 3:12, however, we can observe that Adam pushed the blame to God for what happened.

How did Adam push the blame to God? By saying that the woman whom God has given to Adam has caused him to sin. In a similar manner, when Eve was questioned by God she also pushed the blame to the serpent for causing her to sin (Genesis 3:13). Hence, let us always remember that mankind has to take personal responsibility for our failings towards God, and that we are required to give Him an account of how we live our lives on this earth (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

Second, God does not accept substitution to His commandments. In Leviticus 10:1, we read of Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, offering strange fire before the Lord that was not commanded by Him.

God had already specified the kind of fire that must be used for the burnt offerings. However, both Nadab and Abihu decided to take matters into their own hands when they thought that it did not really matter what kind of fire would be used as the Lord would still accept their burnt offerings.

The following verse tells us that both Nadab and Abihu were punished by the Lord and they died before His sight (Leviticus 10:2). The disobedience of Nadab and Abihu has cost them their lives and their sad plight clearly serves as a good reminder for mankind not to add unto, subtract from, or change what God has commanded us to do. In this regard, we need to be always mindful of the will of God as revealed in the Bible and to obey His commandments for to do so otherwise will be to provoke His fury (Hebrews 12:28-29).

Last of all, God does not accept partial obedience as it is really not obedience at all in the sight of our Lord. In 1 Samuel 15:2-3, we read of Saul being commanded by God to attack the Amalekites and utterly destroy all of the people and their animals. Saul did utterly destroy all of the people as God has commanded him to do.

However, Saul and his people spared Agag, the king of the Amalekites, as well as the best of the flock as they were unwilling to utterly destroy them (1 Samuel 15:8-9). Saul claimed that he had performed the commandment of the Lord and had spared the best of the flock in order to sacrifice to God (1 Samuel 15:13-15).

But we read in 1 Samuel 15:22-24 that Saul was rebuked by Samuel for disobeying the Lord, and the Lord subsequently rejected Saul from being king of the Israelites. The sad plight of Saul clearly highlights to us the fact that partial obedience is actually rebellion against God.

Brethren, as we examine the Word of God, let us also take the time to reflect on these three important biblical principles pertaining to true obedience so that we would not find our spiritual souls wanting in the sight of God. Let us nurture a sincere heart of humility and seek forgiveness from God when we realise that we have disobeyed His commandments and sinned against Him (1 John 1:6-10).

Danny Leong

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Receive the Word with Meekness

Paul declared a glorious truth in the book of Romans:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith (Rom 1:16-17).”

Indeed, the gospel of Christ is the power of God to save all who will believe it, regardless of race, language, or demographics. It, and none other, is the source of true faith.

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17).”

By the grace of God and His Son, we have the gospel given unto us. The man and woman who hear the gospel message have the obligation to respond to God’s calling through the gospel. What is the kind of person who will make the right response?

The Lord Jesus explains in one of His parables. “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience (Luke 8:15).”

This highlights the human responsibility in God’s plan of salvation. Never will God ever alter the heart of anyone against the person’s will. God has given to every one of us the capacity to respond. We can either respond in obedience or in rejection.

To be saved, we need to respond in obedience, humbly believing and doing what God requires of us without arguing, modifying or changing in any way the divine decree.

The Christian who has obeyed the gospel and added to the body of the Lord must keep constantly in mind that obedience is not a one-time act; it is a continuous act of conforming to the word of God. Obedience is the lifestyle of a child of God.

James in his letter gives us the attitude Christians ought to have of the Bible, and how we ought to approach it.

“Ye know this, my beloved brethren. But let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls (Jas 1:19-21).”

Let’s consider the first one: swift to hear.

Many of us during our schooldays have some teachers we appreciate more than others. We are usually more ready to listen to the teachers we appreciate more than those we do not quite appreciate as much.

This is not a good attitude to have toward our earthly teachers, so all the more we ought to be appreciative of the word of God. When we are appreciative of the inspired word given to make us complete (cf. 2Tim 3:16-17), we quick and ready to hear what God has to say to us.

Not only are we swift to hear, but we desire the word above all. The Lord said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Mat 4:4).” He also said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled (Mat 5:6).”

Children of God desire to be filled with His word. “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 second is: slow to speak.

The wise man said, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him (Pro 29:20).” It is not good to be hasty to declare our opinions of the Bible without a careful study and consideration of it.

Many false doctrines today are the results of hasty conclusions reached without a deeper study of the word in its scriptural context.

The third is: slow to wrath.

James explains that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.” A quick temper will easily set our efforts in Bible study back. An angry word or an impatient remark is contrary to a spirit of humility so vital to be receptive of the word of God.

Building these traits will require our effort to put “away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness” and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”

Sin is the major obstacle to meekness. Sin is rebellion against the authority of God; whereas meekness is surrender to the authority of God. The two cannot be reconciled in any seeker of God.

Without meekness, any act of obedience is merely a show. Without meekness, there is no true submission to the oracles of God. Without meekness, we cannot truly receive the word of God and allow it to fill our hearts.

An honest and good heart is a heart of meekness. Only with meekness will we, “having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”

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Four Tactics of the Devil

Do you know the devil, or Satan, as he is also known? You know, the funny guy in the red costume with horns, long tail and a pitchfork? No, that’s not the devil; but he sure doesn’t mind us thinking so.

Why? Because then we will not take him seriously. And that’s just the way he likes it. When we do not take the devil seriously, it becomes easier for him to use his cunning arts, deceit, craft, and trickery on us.

Peter says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour (1Pe 5:8).”

Paul adds, “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Eph 6:13).”

The enemy wants to see us fail. Nothing pleases him more than to see a child of God make shipwreck of his or her faith.

Sunzi’s Art of War has a famous line—“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.” There are four common but effective tactics the devil uses to try to pull us down. If we are aware of them and exercise vigilance, we will guard ourselves from becoming his next meal.

The first of these dangers is ignorance. Ignorance of the Word of God, ignorance of our identity in Christ; and ignorance that to be a Christian is to live for Christ.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal 2:20).”

The devil comes with his lies that we can choose to live at different levels of holiness; that a life of godliness is reserved for the few—elders and their wives, preachers, and Bible class teachers.

The gospel is not given to only a special class of Christians, but to all. You and I are to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).”

Stagnating in our knowledge of God’s Word is a surefire way to allow the devil to get at us. The Lord wielded the sword of the Spirit masterfully in the wilderness when the devil tempted Him (cf. Mat 4:1-11).

The sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, is an indispensable piece in the armour we must put on to fend against the wiles of the devil (cf. Eph 6:11, 17).

The second danger is forgetfulness. As we go along in our living and the Lord takes care of us and prospers us, we sometimes forget about things we must never forget.

It is God’s wisdom that we remind ourselves weekly in the Lord’s Supper of what He has done for us. The children of Israel were constantly reminded not to forget (cf. Deu 8:11-14), and OT history shows us the tragic outcome of their forgetfulness.

The third danger is dullness of heart. Over the years, our senses become dulled by the cares of this world. Making a living is a must, but God wants us to trust Him even in that. Matthew 6:24-34 give us this very important teaching.

The third kind of ground in the Parable of the Sower is the thorny ground, and the Lord has this to say about it.

“And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection (Luke 8:14).”

Dullness can also happen when we are not serving the Lord. In the church, are we ‘pew warmers’? We won’t miss worship or Bible classes, but we think we are too busy to serve.

The problem is that some treat the church as a social club! “It’s a nice place to socialize and participate in activities that suit my fancy, but please don’t ask me to commit!”

The fourth danger is complacency, a feeling of calm satisfaction with our current state and level of Bible knowledge.

A complacent spirit assumes we have nothing new to learn, or that surely, the Lord is pleased with us for whatever reason we can imagine. It is a feeling of self-satisfaction; it is not to be confused with godly contentment!

The Lord tells us to “Take heed what ye hear (Mark 4:24)”; and He also tells us to “Take heed therefore how ye hear (Luke 8:18).”

If we approach worship, Bible study and serving the church as if they are not all that important, we can be sure that complacency lurks within our hearts.

Ignorance, forgetfulness, dullness and complacency. These are four tactics the devil uses to plot our downfall. We must be ever vigilant to guard our hearts against them. We consistently remind ourselves to strive for what Paul strove for:

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Php 1:20-21).”

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Misplaced Devotion and Loyalty

Peter was a devoted disciple of Jesus. He had no doubt in his mind that the rabbi from Nazareth was different from all the other itinerant teachers in those days. His brother, Andrew, introduced him to Jesus and from that day on, Peter’s life was no longer the same (cf. John 1:40-42).

For the next three years, Peter followed Jesus, learning from Him, becoming more and more convinced that this carpenter was not an ordinary man. His confidence came to a point one day at the coasts of Caesarea Philippi.

Jesus had asked His disciples: “But whom say ye that I am (Mat 16:15)?” Without a hint of hesitation, Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God (Mat 16:16).”

On the night He was to be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and Pharisees, Jesus said to all His disciples:

“All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad. But after I am risen again, I will go before you into Galilee. Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples (Matthew 26:31-35).”

John further revealed these other words which Peter spoke: “Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake (John 13:37).” And Luke added these words uttered by Peter: “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death (Luke 22:33).”

We can see both Peter’s devotion and confidence, but something was out of place.

Peter’s devotion was to an ideal he had of the Messiah. One of the beliefs the Jews held of the coming Messiah was that he would be an all-conquering hero like his ancestor, David. Peter was more likely devoted to this ideal than to Christ.

Peter’s confidence was also in himself, not in Christ. He trusted in his own sense of loyalty. He believed that he was a braver, more devoted disciple even than the rest of the disciples. He was ready to prove his worth by going to the death for Jesus.

Peter is someone we can relate to. He stumbled and fumbled like the best of us. We love and appreciate this apostle because we can find so much of our own struggles reflected in his.

Like Peter, we feel an earnest sincerity in our declaration of devotion and loyalty to the Lord. We, too, want to prove ourselves in service.

Here we can draw a lesson from Peter. Is our devotion to an ideal we have in our minds or to the person of the Lord? He wants our devotion to be for Him, not for a concept or ideal of Him. Think of your spouse. Do you want him/her to love you for you, or for an idea or belief he/she might have of you?

Without meaning to, we can easily make this mistake of holding in higher regard what we think of the Lord than the Lord Himself. What a terror if Matthew 7:21-23 should happen to us!

“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).”

In like manner, does our confidence rest in the Lord or in ourselves? The apostle Paul warned us: “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1Co 10:12).”

Sadly, even in the church we have this phenomenon known widely as the ‘armchair critic’. This is the person who has a habit of criticising things and persons in the church. He criticises the elders’ management, the deacons’ work, the preacher’s sermons, the Bible lessons, etc. Yet we find him hardly doing anything remarkable for the Lord.

Yes, the armchair critic may be regular in his attendance. Perhaps he likes to remind others of just how wonderful a person he really is. But these are mere displays of confidence in self, not in the Lord.

Thankfully, most of the saints are not armchair critics. Still, we must have a care. We can lull ourselves into a false sense of security by telling ourselves that we are faithful simply because we turn up on most Sundays and mid-week Bible studies.

The ancient Israelites had full confidence in their loyalty too.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD (Jos 24:19-21).”

But it didn’t get them very far.

“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger (Jdg 2:11-12).”

Devotion and loyalty are two things which can be easily misplaced. Peter made the mistake but he learned; his faith was strengthened. What’s the prevention of misplaced devotion and loyalty? It is still the same old exhortation by the apostle Paul.

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates (2Co 13:5)?”