Jurong Outreach

"whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ."


Leave a comment

Blessed are the Poor in Spirit

In the Beatitudes the Lord Jesus paints for us a picture of a Christian as a person distinctly different from a worldly person. He is not describing an elite class of Christians; Here He is describing for us how the Christian ought to be.

The Lord begins with this statement: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven(Mat 5:3).”

The Beatitudes are not a set of haphazard, random sayings. There is a proper system, a pattern which follows logically. Spiritual poverty is indeed the foundation upon which all the other Beatitudes are built.

There is a fundamental principle we observe in scriptures: conviction before conversion. When we pay careful attention to every conversion account in the book of Acts, we will realise that this principle holds true.

The Jews on Pentecost were convicted by the gospel. “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do(Acts 2:37)?”

When a person comes to the realisation that he is truly a spiritual pauper, he will see His need of the grace of God offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican…And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner(Luke 18:10, 13).”

David in his penitential Psalm acknowledged:

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psa 51:16-17).”

This is just the attitude of the heart the transcendent, almighty King of heaven and earth finds acceptable. He is above all, and we must know our place—we are beneath Him, mere creatures completely dependent upon His good grace.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones (Isa 57:15).”

Immediately we are aware that this attitude of being poor in spirit runs against the grain of the world’s philosophy. The world despises it. The world promotes self-reliance, self-confidence and self-expression.

The tentacles of these worldly ideas have crept insidiously into the church, entrapping many well-meaning brethren with its sweet, deceptive philosophy. In the place of humility we have men and women demanding their ‘rights’.

We judge as a worthy leader a brother who is self-assertive and confident. We appraise a preacher not so much by the soundness of his sermons but by his style. The apostle Paul would have been roundly criticised by us today. Paul went to Corinth “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling” and preached “not ourselves but Christ” (cf. 1Co 2:3; 2Co 4:5).

To be poor in spirit does not mean we are diffident, nervous, distressed or lacking in courage. It certainly does not mean that we are to ‘play humble’ and try to drum up the ‘fact’ that we are meek and lowly.

We sometimes make ourselves out to be worse than we are (“Oh I’m nobody; I’m never going to be good enough, etc.”), hoping perhaps at the back of our minds that a friend may come along and affirm us, telling us we are not quite as bad.

But the truth is we are far worse than we could ever make ourselves out to be. That is why we need the gospel. A person who needs to remindothers in some ways that he is ‘poor in spirit’ is surely anything but that.

To be poor in spirit is to be painfully aware of our condition without the mercies of God in Christ. It is to have the veil removed from before our very eyes and see that wehave all sinned, and come short of the glory of God (cf. Rom 3:23; 1Jo 1:8).

It is to know that even after we have been added to Christ, we are still completely dependent upon Him; that we are nothing without Him. There is no room for boasting, no ambition to impress God or anyone; no climbing up the ladder for preeminence in the church (cf. 3Jo 9-10).

There is nothing in us—not our social status, not our talents, skills, intelligence and good behaviour that will stand us in good stead before God. It is all by His grace.

The poor in spirit are stripped of pride and self-reliance. They do not try to negotiate terms with God. They look to God in utter submission for His grace and mercy. These are the ones the Lord calls blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Leave a comment

The Beatitudes—What We are to Be

“And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying(Mat 5:1-2)…”

And thus began what became known as Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the most famous and quoted from sermon ever.

The Lord launched into His sermon by introducing a series of pithy sayings—brief, forceful, and meaningful in expression; full of vigour and substance. These sayings are widely known today as the Beatitudes.

The Beatitudes means “the blessings.” They are called such because the first word of each of these sayings is “blessed.”

The Greek word makarios, translated into our English Bible as “blessed”, means in its simplest definition “happy.” What the Lord introduces here in the Beatitudes are the keys to true happiness.

Happiness is the pursuit of every man and woman. Much of what we do is because of pleasant results we hope to attain. We work hard for the paycheck because we can then provide for our families. It brings us happiness when our loved ones are provided for.

We also enjoy the (licit) pleasures of life. Recreation—sports; reading, etc.—are pleasurable activities. We can read in the American Declaration of Independence that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human right.

In other words, we are free to live howsoever we choose to make us happy as long as we keep the law and respect the rights of others.All these are fair and good. But it is also right here in the pursuit of that fleeting sense of pleasure that man has bought into the ancient lie that sin will bring happiness.

We are meant for so much more than the pleasures of this earthly life. The Lord Jesus gives us the keys to true blessedness—true happiness—in the Beatitudes. He is saying to us, in effect, that if we want to be truly happy, we must do it His way.

A read-through of these sayings will immediately impress upon us the stark contrast between the world’s understandingof true happiness and the Lord’s definition of it. What could possibly be the rationale behind the connection between spiritual poverty, mourning and persecution with true happiness? Whatever could Jesus mean by that?

In the Beatitudes the Lord is describing for us the character of the Christian. The rest of the sermon deals basically with the Christian manner of life. But conduct is an outpouring of character, and so it is here at the Beatitudes that our Lord begins His great sermon.

What can we draw from this? First of all, since the Lord is describingthe Christiancharacter, it dawns on us that every Christian ought to develop the character set forth here.

No, he is not describing an elite class of Christians. There is no such class. Every Christian is a saint (Rom 1:7, 1Co 1:2, Eph 1:1, et al.), called out of the world and sin by the gospel (2Th 2:14) for God’s holy purpose and service.

Secondly, every Christian ought to exemplify by daily living every one of these character traits.

Jesus does not mean for us to exhibit some and not the rest of these characteristics. We are not to choose which of these Beatitudes is more suitable to our temperament or disposition and focus on them to the neglect of others.

The Beatitudes are not personality traits, where the melancholic are more likely to mourn whereas the sanguine are cheerfully optimistic, spared from mourning and the comfort which the Lord says will follow.

Each one of us, whatever our personality may be, is to manifest the Beatitudes in our lives.

These Beatitudes are not disjointed, stand-alone sayings. It is a system of traits closely linked with each leading necessarily to the next. It is a progression; we develop our Christian character beginning with the first.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit (Mat 5:3).” It leads on to the next, “Blessed are they that mourn (Mat 5:4).” It is those who are aware of their spiritual poverty who will mourn for their condition.

And such grief for one’s spiritual poverty makes no room or allowance for pride. The worldly idea of self-confidence (or confidence in one’s abilities or sense of identity without consideration of God), is set aside. Instead we find meekness. “Blessed are the meek (Mat 5:5).”

Jesus paints for us a picture of a Christian as a person distinctly different from a worldly person. We are meant to show the world the difference between them and us. In the same sermon the Lord says that we are to be salt of the earth and light of the world (cf. Mat 5:13-16).

We need not fret ourselves too much with how we could attract more visitors to our worship services, or how we could interest a friend to study the Bible with us. When the world sees the difference, their interest will be piqued.

They will respond generally in two ways: they will either become curious to know more, or they will resent our difference from them and hold us in contempt. The Lord does not shield us from the very real possibility of suffering persecution for His sake (cf. Mat 5:12).

The power of the gospel, not only to save us but to change us, is real and in the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount we see how the change is to be manifested in our lives.

True blessedness is the saints’ glorious heritage.


Leave a comment

A New Year of Spiritual Journey

We are given 52 weeks in a year and now we have 51 left to go. How has it been for us thus far into 2019? It is good and appropriate that we begin the year with God, and press on with Him.

The Book of Proverbs has some wise words for us on our spiritual journey into this year.

“My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man” (Pro 3:1-4).

The New Year brings with it various challenges, excitements and mundaneness. Yet through it all, we are exhorted to remember the law of the Lord and to do His commandments.Solomon urges us to keep the word of God close to our hearts, like engravings that cannot be erased.

“Let not mercy and truth forsake thee.” Mercy can be understood in its widest sense: the mercy and kindness of God toward us and the mercy and kindness of man toward one another.

We need the mercy of God every moment of our lives. If it wasn’t for the mercy of God so generously poured out on Calvary, the word ‘hope’ would cease to have any meaning for us.

Everything is built upon the atonement of Christ on the cross: our peace with God, our relationship with Him, our hope of eternal salvation and our destiny of heaven. Well may we cry out with Paul in adoration unto God:

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out” (Rom 11:33)!

The word of God is not only for intellectual stimulation. They encourage us; even provoke us, unto good works. True faith is active, never passive. We may recall the words of James on this score:

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (Jas 1:22).

As we have obtained mercy from God, we ought also to be merciful unto others. The Lord says, “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Mat 5:7). If we withhold mercy, how can we reasonably expect God to be merciful toward us?

These are wise words indeed to anchor our souls that we may not be “tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph 4:14).

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Pro 3:5-8).

Trust is at once both an easy and difficult thing to do. Whenever we trust a person, there might be at the back of our minds the lurking thought that he/she might let us down.

Trust is a commitment. It is not offered lightly; it is earned by being trustworthy. Our Lord wants us to trust Him wholeheartedly. He is most definitely worthy of trust. In fact, He is the only one worthy of complete trust.

Unlike our fellow man, the Lord is infallible. He is morally perfect; He cannot do anything against His own holy nature (cf. Titus 1:2). He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mat 5:45).

Our God richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1Ti 6:17). Above all that, He exhibits His forbearance by sending His only begotten Son as a propitiation for our sins by His blood.

“It was to show His righteousness at the present time, so that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom 3:26).

Everything that God has done and does tell us of His trustworthiness and faithfulness. Friends and loved ones may let us down in spite of best intentions. We fail those whom we love because we are fallible creatures. But not God; He cannot fail.

Man has turned his back on God and has been leaning upon his own understanding since the Garden of Eden. Where has that led us? Nothing butmore pain and misery.

The history of mankind is a testimony of man’s futile attempt to be his own little god. It is the story of creatures created in the image of God, creatures meant for so much more but settled for so much less.

Our Lord calls us to rest our full confidence in Him. Trust Him, live the way He has designed for us to live. Put Him in the preeminent place, reverence Him, have nothing to do with evil. The test of our trust is in braving the storms of life with our eyes fixed upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Heb 12:2).

May the Lord watch over us and bless us in the New Year as we press on with Himfor the joy that is set before us.


Leave a comment

We Need Godly Leadership

The most common understanding of the definition of leadership is the word ‘influence’. By this definition, everyone is involved in leadership at some point and to some degree, whether as parents or older sibling at home, teachers at school or management at work.

Asfundamentally influence, leaders can influence others for either or bad. In this sense, church leadership and secular leadership are similar.

The world looks at what a person does in determining his leadership quality. God, in choosing leaders, looks at what the person is on the inside. God is interested in who we are.

The emphasis is on character. Church leadership is not a popularity contest. Elders are recognised and appointed because they exhibit the qualities spelt out in the scriptures. An elder, then, is an elder in character before he is an elder in office.

The world looks for successful men to lead; the church looks for spiritual men to lead. Successful business leadership does not necessarily translate into spiritual leadership.

One definition of character says it is doing what is right when no one is watching.Others say character involves compassion and courage and the ability to meet the demands of reality. Still others say character is the fruit of difficult life experiences. To have character, one must be ready to pay the price.

We learn in the Scriptures of only one type of character God looks for in His children. It is called ‘godliness’.

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness. For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (1Ti 4:7-8).

“In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works” (1Ti 2:9-10).

Godliness is for every Christian, not only leaders. But as the ones who exercise major influence over God’s people, it is imperative that leaders must be godly.Leaders with godly character are vital for the church. We want politicians, teachers, doctors, public servants, etc. with character. It is even more so in the church.

Competenceis of course important as well.God wants competent men to serve as elders.

“One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1Ti 3:4-5)

A godly person may not necessarily be competent for a work that needs to be done. For example, if the church assigns a brother to take care of maintenance matters but he knows next to nothing about how to carry his duties,it is not fair to him and the church. The same goes for other areas of service.

Now look at the flip side. If the church appoints as leaders men of dubious character, we might have a problem. Competence does not equate character. Let’s say this person struggles with honesty or covetousness. It will not be wise to involve him in the church treasury.

A leader who is both godly and competent can be trusted and relied upon to carry out the work of a shepherd of God’s people.

We can work on growing in godliness; we can grow in family likeness with our heavenly Father.Begin with the Word of God. God has given us all things to live a godly life through the knowledge of Christ(cf. 2Pe 1:3).

From the moment of our spiritual rebirth we must begin the cultivation of godliness.

“Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1Pe 2:1-2).

The Bible uses the term ‘give diligent’ to instruct us in our attitude and approach to the Word of God.

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

We do not rest content only on the fundamentals of God’s truth, but we continue in diligent study, increasing in the knowledge of Christ.

“For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb 5:13-14).

Growth in knowledge is indispensable and the first step in cultivating godliness. But with every bit of knowledge we accumulate, we live it and make it a vital part of our lives.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen” (2Pe 3:18).

We need godly leaders, men who love God with their whole heart, mind, soul and strength. Let’s help one another grow toward that.


Leave a comment

Christian Interaction

“Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing. For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1Pe 3:8-12).

Peter is here laying out for the church practical pointers for how we can show the world the distinction between them and us by how we treat one another. We exist in a community of faith. In this community we learn to love, encourage and support one another as our Lord would have us to.

The apostle exhorts the saints to begin with unity of mind. This is foundational. We who made up the church are traveling on the appointed way to heaven, and unity in mind, in doctrine and practice is paramount.

Saints recognise and acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters in Christ. We share in the common salvation (Jude 3); we have obtained a faith of equal standing with the apostles by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2Pe 1:1).

Divisions will destroy any congregation. Paul beseeched the church at Corinth to be united.

“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).

Unity is what the Lord would have for all who are called by His name.

“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21).

With unity in place compassion naturally follows. We are aware that we were not always saints. There was a time when we were sinners, enemies of God and His Christ, men and women under the wrath of God. But the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people (Tit 2:11), and we are saved by the power of the gospel of Christ (Rom 1:16).

Even now, as we make our way back to our home with the Lord, we sometimes stagger and stumble along. When we see brethren sin, instead of ostracizing them and adopt an attitude of condemnation, we ought to extend compassion to the weak and seek to restore them to the faith, all the while taking heed that we do not ourselves give in to temptations.

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-2).

“Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jas 5:19-20).

Love is what binds us together. This is holy love, not love without a divine standard. We are made holy and set apart by the word of God (John 17:17). love, in other words, is based upon the firm foundation of the word.

“Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that lovethanother hath fulfilled the law” (Rom 13:8). We love one another as brethren because the Lord loves us and has redeemed us (Tit 2:14). The Father has adopted us into His family as His children (Eph 1:5).

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Gal 3:26-27).

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. But let this not be so in the church of the firstborn (Heb 12:23). Peter wants us to be “tenderhearted, humble-minded”; to be friendly and kind.

Even when a brother or sister should offend or hurt us, we must not seek retribution. “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing.” this is the very opposite of compassion and brotherly love. Instead of getting back at the offender, we are to bless that we may obtain a blessing.

James says that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell” (Jas 3:6).Let us then take special care to keep our tongue from evil and our lips from speaking deceit.

Paul instructs us: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col 4:6 ESV).

Saints are peace makers and do-gooders. We are to actively pursue peace. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18 ESV). Likewise, we seek opportunities to administer benevolence on those in need.

“As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10).

May God help us as His children to make a distinction in this sinful world, to shed the light of God in darkness.


Leave a comment

Looking Beyond the Cares of This Life

Life is hard, so the popular saying goes. We toil hard, either under the sun or in an air-conditioned environment, and it wears us down. Go to the Central Business District in Singapore and we see working men and women walking at an increased pace.

Whether a person is a Bible believer or not, he/she can intuitively agree with the writerof the Book of Ecclesiastes.

“I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit (Ecc 1:14).”

Many Christians seem to be sucked into the same whirlpool of mindless toiling. We work for a paycheck, we work to pay the bills, but we have lost a sense of higher meaning. We work for the sake of working, bowed down by the cares of this life.

Like Martha. The Lord said to her in a gentle rebuke, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

In our fast-paced, hectic society, Christians understand only too well the condition of the seeds that fell among thorns.

“And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature” (Luke 8:14).

The children of God ought to be able to look above and beyond the mere toils of this life. We should see beyond the horizon and see that “There’s a beautiful place called heaven, it is hidden above the bright blue, where the good, who from earth-ties are riven, live and love an eternity through.”

This earthly existence is not all there is. We have a hope that transcends all the riches of this world.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1Pe 1:3).

This is a hope that calls us to action. A living hope is lively and active, never passive.

“Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pe 1:13).

“…knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ…you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1Pe 1:18-21).

Our faith and hope are in God. Is this a reality in our lives?

Are we, like Martha, anxious and troubled about many things? So much of our anxiety and troubles are caused by carnal concerns in this temporal world. If this world is all there is, then we have nothing but the cares and concerns of this world.

The apostle says to us, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Php 3:20). As citizens of heaven, this world is not our home. We are pilgrims passing through to our home in “glory land that outshines the sun.”

Since this is the case, is it worth it to allow the cares of this world to overwhelm and choke us, robbing us of our sense of peace and meaning? Yes, we do have to make a living. “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat” (2Th 3:10).

Take time to meditate on what really matters. Take time to ponder about the first things.

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mat 6:31, 33)

 

 


Leave a comment

Sexuality in Scripture and Nature

God reveals His truth in us in two great books—the Holy Book and the Book of Nature. The former is His special revelation and the latter, His general revelation.

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works” (2Ti 3:16-17).

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day utterethspeech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge” (Psa 19:1-2).

We can learn much from observing this material universe in which we exist; we can see beyond all reasonable doubt some of the attributes of the Creator. But as Christians, the Word of God is our sole authority and the basis for our understanding of reality.

Turning to the Bible, we find that nature and revelation, instead of contradicting each other as some skeptics claim, actually harmonise beautifully. Take the creation account in the book of Genesis, for instance. Scientific observations and philosophical thinking have only backed the prima facie case for God’s special revelation.

On the matter of human sexuality, both the Word of God and the creation of God reiterate His design and original order. The dignity of human sexuality is very well defined for us in both the Holy Book and the Book of Nature.

Among the lessons we learn from the creation account in Genesis is that God created human beings as social creatures. We are individuals, yes; but we are not meant to exist in isolation. We are meant to exist in societies, and the most basic of societies is the family.

Genesis reveals that heterosexual marriage is the foundation and basic nature of family relationships.This is a fact we observe from nature as well since the beginning of human history.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen 1:27).

“And Adam said, Thisis now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:23-24).

The Lord Jesus affirms this divine pattern.

“And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mat 19:4-6).

Heterosexual union is also the natural means by which new life is formed. God told the man and the woman to ‘Be fruitful, and multiply” (Gen 1:28).This fact is undeniable. For anyone who rejects the Holy Book, the Book of Nature proves this beyond all contention.

Two males can never produce offspring, just as two females cannot. It is so with every species of animals. Human beings too are created male and female for the purpose of procreation. This is a simple, scientifically observable biological fact.

Sex is created by God not only for procreation but also for pleasure.Song of Solomon 4-5 reveals that sexual pleasure is part of God’s design for marriage. But sexual activity is not a free-for-all;it is conditional. Sex, as God designs it, is allowable only in a monogamous, heterosexual marriage.

Christians need not be priggish about the pleasure of sex. It is a gift of God for a man and woman married to each other to enjoy. We either teach our children God’s design for sexuality from the Bible, or they will learn from the lies generated by Hollywood and the mass media.

The creation account provides important truths for sexuality and sexual behaviour because it reveals nature’s original order before sin entered the picture. “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it wasvery good” (Gen 1:31).

But beyond the physical aspect, marriage is symbolic of something more significant. In the Old Testament, God used unfaithfulness in marriage as an analogy to describe Israel. “Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the LORD” (Jer 3:20).

In the New Testament, the husband-wife relationship is again used to illustrate the relationship between Christ and His church.

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body…Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph 5:22-23, 25, 31-33).

Both the Holy Book and the Book of Nature define what human sexuality is—its nature, purposes and confines. Man cannot break God’s law as revealed in Scripture and nature. Man will only break ourselves if we attempt to do so.


Leave a comment

Jesus Christ the Son of God

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mark 1:1-3).

Mark begins his gospel account by declaring to his readers whose good news this is. This is the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Who is this Jesus Christ that we should know about Him? What is so remarkable about this Man?

Mark quotes from two an ancient prophecies with regards to his subject matter.

“The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa 40:3).

“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts” (Mal 3:1).

Mark makes doubly sure his readers are left in no doubt who this JesusChrist, the Son of God, is. The prophet Isaiah said, “Prepare ye the way of the LORD.” The word, LORD, stands for Yahweh, the name of God.

In quoting this prophecy as fulfilled in the one he is writing about, Mark is declaring to his readers that this Jesus Christ is Yahweh Himself!

The prophecy of Malachi reads, “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me.” The messenger whom God would send was to prepare the way for none other than God Himself.

It is Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of these prophecies.

Critics of the Bible claim that the gospel writers never meant to assert that Jesus is deity. Jehovah’s Witnesses, too, deny the deity of Jesus. Mark wants his readers to know that Jesus Christ is truly the Son of God, not merely in the metaphorical sense of being a holy man, but as God Himself, sharing the divine essence as the Father.

This is an astounding truth. God, who is a Spirit (John 4:24), has become flesh and blood. “No man hath seen God at any time” (1Jo 4:12) but Jesus says, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).

John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Paul also affirms the divine identity of Jesus Christ.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Php 2:5-7).

In addressing Jesus Christ as the Son of God, Mark is using a term every Jew will understand to have a deep, profound meaning.

“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

When we turn to the pages of the gospel accounts—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—let us do so with reverence, for what we do read in them is not the story of a mythical figure or a great man of history.

We are reading about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He is the One of whom it is written: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).

He is the One who says of His work: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).He is the One who says of Himself: “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).

The deity of Christ is the very foundation truth of the Christian faith. If He were any less than God, then “we are of all men most miserable” (1Co 15:19). Why? Because by His resurrection His divine nature is once for all declared in all creation.

“Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:3-4).

Who is it we read of in the pages of scriptures? It is the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ! It is He of whom the scriptures testify (cf. John 5:39). It is He before whom all creation must bow and pay homage.

“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Php 2:10-11).


Leave a comment

Cleansing the Temple

“And the Jews’passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise. And his disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up (John 2:13-17).”

Jesus’ action has been criticised as overreaction to activities that were at least harmless and at most expedient.

Money-changers provided an important service for worshipers who came from abroad. Those who sold animals made it so much more convenient; worshipers did not have to bring along animals during a time when transportation was nowhere near as efficient and comfortable as today.

So was the Lord being narrow-minded and overly harsh? The text provides us with the answer. The Lord said, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise.”

The money-changers and merchants were mostly motivated by profit. They saw there was a need for such services and exploited the situation to make a quick buck. It mattered not to them that the temple was holy ground; that reverence for God must be top priority.

The chief priests who allowed such travesty were even guiltier than the merchants, for they of all people were responsible for keeping the sanctity of the temple. It was quite possible that they lined their pockets either from rent or kickbacks from the merchants.

Such contempt for the holiness and glory of God provoked the Lord into a display of fierce anger. His behaviour would be constituted today as vandalism and hooliganism, and chances are He would be arrested for disturbance of publicpeace.

On no other occasion do the gospel accounts record such violent behaviour from Jesus. The general impression of Jesus (no doubt furthered by images of a long-haired, effeminate, smiling Jesus) is that of a gentle and meek person, a lover of children, helper of the poor and weak but hardly more.

Yes, our Lord Jesus is gentle and meek. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for His sheep. But we ought not to forget that He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Revelation 5:5). The Lord made a whip of cords and drove out the merchants and their animals. He overturned the money changers’ tables and scattered their money.

This wouldn’t be the first time He had observed such activities going on in the temple. Every year since He was twelve he would have followed Joseph to Jerusalem for the annual feasts. He would have witnessed such goings-on for years but remained silent until now.

Why? Quite likely it was because His time was not yet come. Now that He had begun His public ministry, the time was ripe for Him to declare His arrival and defend the honour of His Father.

The temple of the Lord must be kept holy, free from pollution. Love of money had corrupted the chief priests, merchants and money-changers. Now, the question we ought to ask ourselves is this: how are we keeping our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit?

“What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1Co 6:19-20).

Consider our motives when we assemble on the Lord’s Day. David wrote: “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD” (Psa 122:1). Do we assemble with gladness to worship the Father, or are we chained to all the worries and affairs of this life, unable and unwilling to let them go?

Do we summon our bodies to the place of assembly but leave our hearts and minds far off, wherever they may wander? One simple thought experiment may reveal more about us than we care to admit.

How do you like it if a loved one keeps getting interrupted by phone calls and text messages during the time you are together? He pays more attention to his phone than to you. His mind is elsewhere but present with you. It seems he prefers to be someplace else, with someone else. He cannot wait for the time with you to be over so he can attend to whatever else he has in mind.

You might be forgiven for thinking that such a person is unworthy of your time and friendship. But then, are you treating your heavenly Father in the same contemptuous way?

Do we carry in our hearts any secret, unrepentant, unconfessed sin? Is there resentment we harbour against someone, or perhaps we have sinned against another but have yet to make restitution? The Lord says:

“Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Mat 5:23-24).

The Lord Jesus is fiercely jealous of His Father’s honour. So should we be, who are called the children of God. “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:26).


Leave a comment

Opposing The Usurper

Self is the great usurper of God’s place within our hearts. When the self becomes an idol, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

The Lord is clear in His demands that all who would be His followers—no exception—must deny self, take up the cross daily, and follow Him (cf. Luke 9:23-26). There can be no misunderstanding; we are meant to put to death all selfishness.

Opposing the self from once again usurping God’s place is a work we must engage in for the remainder of our lives here on this plane of existence. Self will not die quite so easily; it refuses to roll over and play dead. It will persistently fight to be our god.

Humanism is the philosophy that puts Man at the center. Self-worship is the final objective of this ungodly philosophy. It denies God His rightful place as sovereign and the sole authority.

Of course, humanism employs respectable and harmless sounding jargon. It promises much but delivers little. Creeping its way into the church, it coaxes Christians to talk about their ‘achievements’ for God; to talk about what makes us proud that we have done in His name.

Talking about ‘achievements for God’ in humble tones is no less boasting in light of what the Lord says.

“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty'” (Luke 17:7-10 ESV).

With self at the centre, not only does our relationship with God suffers as a result but our relationships with our fellow-man suffer as well. Selfishness is more than a vice; it is a manifestation of the sin of usurping the Lord’s place.

Think about a marriage. When both spouses are selfish and cares only about his/her own interests, will the marriage be happy? It is hard to imagine that it will be blissful and fulfilling.

The Bible speaks of the opposing attitude to selfishness. Paul says: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Php 2:3-4).

Jesus our Lord demonstrates to us the very spirit of selflessness.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Php 2:5-8).

When we are added to the Lord’s body, we have in fact declared that all idols—the greatest of which is the self—are now dead to us and no longer own us. We are the Lord’s, and to His sovereignty only do we bow in submission.