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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Motivation to Do Right

In almost everything we do, we do it out of motivation. We might not be aware of it all the time, but motivation is there at the back of our actions. Take for example, the sensation of hunger motivates us to eat, and thirst motivates us to drink.

What about snacking? Oftentimes when we snack, it is not out of hunger but more of pleasure. In fact, pleasure and pain are widely recognised as the two prime motivations. Now let’s consider our motivation to do right.

In the final week of His ministry here, the Lord publicly condemned the Pharisees and scribes for their hypocrisy. Among the harsh words used by the Lord, He said to them:

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Mat 23:14-15).

What evangelistic zeal these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They would travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte. Thatputs us in an embarrassing spot, doesn’t it? Why, we might not go over to our next door neighbour to invite him/her to church.

What spiritual maturity these scribes and Pharisees displayed! They could make long prayers! Isn’t this a way we gauge a brother’s spiritual maturity, by how long or eloquently he can pray? Have we ever asked: is an acceptable prayer necessarily a long prayer, and is a long prayer necessarily an acceptable prayer?

The problem with the scribes and Pharisees was their motivation. Their starting point was all wrong. They were not doing these things in service and devotion to God, but to self.

Paul points out the motivation of Demas for abandoning the apostle and the work of the Lord. “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica” (2Ti 4:10).

So let’s consider our motivation to do right.Do we reason with ourselves sometimes that we will serve only when we have the opportunity, or when it is convenient for us to do so?

There is so much going on in our lives right now. Making time and opportunity to serve the Lord is getting increasingly more challenging. So much is in competition with God, demanding our time.

Obeying God does not wait for a convenient moment. Remember Felix, the Roman procurator?

“And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, which was a Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ. And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee” (Acts 24:24-25).

The word preached by Paul shook Felix; but the latter made the excuse that when he had a more convenient time, he would continue the discussion with Paul. Do we wait for a “convenient season” before we obey the Lord?

Paul writes to the Colossians: “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col 3:9-10 ESV).

It is important for us to know that we may be motivated by zeal, but zeal must be informed by right knowledge. Paul was driven by zeal but without right knowledge. His zeal led him to persecute the church (cf. Acts 26:9-11).

We are new creatures in Christ (cf. 2Co 5:17), and therefore we must be transformed by the renewal of our mind (cf. Rom 12:2).

How do we do that? As Paul says, we are renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator, that is, by the word of the Lord. In the very same context, Paul further says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col 3:17).

Obedience is not a one-time act; it is the definitive lifestyle of the Christian. The Galatians present us a negative example. After obeying the gospel, which Paul preached to them, they were influenced by Judaizers who told them that in addition to the gospel, they had to follow the Mosaic Law.

In a letter filled with tough love, Paul asked them: “You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth” (Gal 5:7)? The Christian life is likened to running a race. As in any long distance race, endurance is indispensable(cf. Heb 12:1-2).

If we lost our motivation to endure, to continue to increase in knowledge, and to keep obeying the will of God, we will become the most miserable of creatures. Remember the children of Israel in the wilderness.

“For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness” (Heb 3:16-17)?

Let us keep the solemn words of the Lord in mind: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62).



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The Usurper

We are faced with an ancient problem. The origin of this problem goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden when our common ancestors made the conscious choice to defy the Creator as their God and instead install themselves as their own little gods.

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen 3:4-6).

Since that day the self has never stopped attempting to usurp God’s rightful place in human lives. Selfishness, self-centredness, conceit—call it by any name, it remains the foremost enemy that robs us of the purpose and meaning of our existence.

We are created by God for a purpose. The wise man puts it in the clearest way possible that anyone of us can understand.

“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecc 12:13-14).

Like Adam and Eve, we so often choose to listen to and gratify our desires rather than bow in submission to the will of God. Take sexual immorality, for example. Fornication seems to be more rampant today with Hollywood and the media touting it as ‘normal’ behaviour.

It is impossible to count the number of people engaging in pre-marital sexual behaviour. Does God ever mean for men and women never to enjoy sexual pleasure? Certainly not. But He never means for creatures created in His image to indulge in what He has confined to marriage.

Like some of the children in the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, so many people are unwilling to delay gratifying their desires till marriage, and choose to place self before God.

A look back at history will reveal that this ancient problem is still very much active today; it does not go extinct with time and improvements in standards of living. In fact, it seems to have become more creative with time in marketing.

Humanism celebrates mankind and places him at the highest places of honour. Countless interviews are being conducted with celebrities (or anyone who fancies himself/herself as one) where they are given almost free rein to talk about themselves.

Books with titles such as Looking Out for Number One (Robert J. Ringer), Awaken the Giant Within (Anthony Robbins), Good to Great (Jim Collins), See You at the Top (Zig Ziglar) and Feeling Good (David D. Burns), The 48 Laws of Power (Robert Greene) etc. are bestsellers.

Social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram, are used as avenues to promote the self. The English language has churned out terms such as ‘self-fulfillment’, ‘self-enhancement’, and ‘self-expression’, etc.

These are signs that the great usurper, Self, is alive and well and active. We live in a world where men and women are preoccupied with the self. Stripped bare of its eye-pleasing marketing, it is no more than narcissism—an inordinate fascination with oneself; vanity.

We may argue that things are not as bleak as painted above; most of us are not at the point where we are so absorbed with self that we become blind to everything and everyone else around us.

We may also argue that paying attention to self is not all that bad. After all, aren’t we to pursue improvements? Besides, it’s not as if we have forgotten or neglected God. We still read the Bible and attend worship every first day of the week. So what seems to be the problem?

Well, what is the essence of idolatry? In other words, what is at the root of idolatry?

Paul says, “Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col 3:5).

Idolatry is anything which seeks to usurp the place of God in our lives. ‘Anything’ means not only what we generally agree as evil, but even good things can become idolatrous if we are not careful.

With that understanding, let’s ask the question: What is the biggest idol of them all? It is the self. When we regard the self higher than it deserves, it becomes an obstacle between God and us.

We are disciples of Jesus when we follow Him and His word. What does He say to us?

“And he said unto all, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it. For what is a man profited, if he gain the whole world, and lose or forfeit his own self” (Luke 9:23-25)?

Deny self. Take up the cross daily. Follow Him. Remove self from the throne. Die to self and sin every day. Obey the Master. This is the true description of a disciple.

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Reading and Our Spiritual Growth

The letters of the apostle Paul, besides revealing to us the divine will of God, serve also as windows for us to peek into the apostle’s fascinating life. He comes across to us in his letters as a man of flesh and blood, one with whom we can certainly relate.

One of the snippets we pick up on Paul’s life is his love of reading. Near the end of his life, while he was languishing in a cold dungeon awaiting his possible execution, he wrote to his friend Timothy, giving him instructions and encouragement to continue in the work of the Lord.

He also asked Timothy for some personal favours, among which was this:

“The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments” (2Ti 4:13).

There are speculations as to what these books and parchments were. It is widely agreed that the parchments would include the Hebrew Scriptures, what we today call the ‘Old Testament’.

The books might include secular writings and commentaries of the Scriptures by the rabbis. Paul was not averse to non-Jewish writings and Gentile cultures. In Acts 17 he appealed to a common understanding with his Greek audience when he paraphrased a Greek poet.

“For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28).

Some might think it strange that Paul would need copies of the Scriptures. He was trained from young in the tradition of the Pharisees and had displayed a remarkable memory in quoting Scriptures both in his preaching and writings.As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was guided by the Spirit.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

Furthermore, books would be quite useless to a man near death.

Here we see Paul, the reader. Anyone who loves to read will easily relatethat when a person is bitten by the reading bug, he/she will remain a reader. Paul was also consistent in his study habits. He never ceased to learn and improve.

The advantages of reading are many. Reading is the best way to gain knowledge. Today we have access to instructional videos, but reading remains the best way to gain knowledge as books are still the preferred vehicles of information.

Reading, when done actively, improves our critical thinking and communication skills. Critical thinking is crucial for Christians because of the myriads of ideas disseminated through books and the media. Better communication skills are a boon not only in our interaction with others but also in sharing the Good News with them.

Attention span seems to have deteriorated ever since the day every household began to own a TV set and later on a computer. Mindless staring into a screen is numbing to the brain. Active reading forces us to engage our attention if we are to benefit from a book.

Reading also allows us to learn at our own pace. As a person who is rather ‘slow’ and finds it hard to keep up with a lecturer, reading not only affords me the advantage of learning at my own pace but also gives me countless hours of pleasure.

Reading has another advantage. It allows us to experience vicariously through others what we probably will not have the opportunity to experience: an adventurous trip, a debate with someone of a different religious persuasion, etc. Reading is truly a learning experience.

In his request to Timothy, Paul was setting an example to his protégé (and to us) that Christians ought to constantly seek to improve ourselves though learning. Unlike the apostles, we do not have the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and to bring all things to remembrance.

We are called to be diligent students of the Bible, and to train to be able to handle it correctly (cf. 2Ti 2:15). Good books are the best supplements to our learning. While none of these books are inspired and therefore infallible, through them we can tap into the writers’ minds and allow them to share with us their thoughts and discoveries.

Reading good books train us to exercise discernment. We cannot accept wholesale anything we read, even from writers reputed to be sound in doctrine. So how do we exercise discernment? Be like the Bereans.

“These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

A Christian who studies the Bible diligently is a Christian who grows. A Christian who also follows Paul’s example and learns constantly from reading good books are better placed than one who deprives himself of the riches of sharing in the learning of others.

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Sowing to Our Character and Destiny

The American philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson, purportedly said: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit; reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

Whatever the original context of Emerson’s statement, the logic behind it makes good sense. An action is often the fruit of a thought, an idea. We may do many things on autopilot, seemingly without much consideration but these are actions that have become ingrained by practice. We call these actions ‘habits’.

Our habits—of thoughts and behaviour—determine our character. A person who constantly places his self-interests above that of others will develop a character lacking in altruism. It is hard for him to be unselfish or be concerned for the welfare of others.

Ever since the day when our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, violated God’s law by eating the forbidden fruit, man has been experts at playing the blame game. We blame circumstances and other people for ourunhappyexperiences. It is always easier, and even comforting to our pride, to point the finger at someone or something else.

The truth is we are all given limited free will by the God who created us all. It takes a sovereign God to bestow on mortal man a degree of free will. It is impossible for a God who isn’t omnipotent and omniscient to do so.

What we need to remember is that with the limited free will comes responsibility. We are responsible for the thoughts we entertain and the actions borne out of these thoughts. These thoughts and actions mold our character, and we will be called upon to give an account.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2Co 5:10).

Things happen to us beyond our control. It is how we respond to these things that builds our character, one brick at a time. The tragic story of Saul remains a sober reminder for God’s people across time.

Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, was elected by God to be the first king of Israel. Saul was not a man without qualities. At the very least, he had the physical attributes of a man who draw attention. The Bible says there was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than Saul. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people (1Sa 9:2).

In the early days of his reign he also proved to be a fierce warrior king who united the people against their enemies (1Sa 11).

Yet in other moments of crisis Saul caved in to his fear. He offered burnt sacrifice, which he was not authorized to do, after he ran out of patience waiting for Samuel. For his careless act, Saul was told he would forfeit his kingdom.

“But now thy kingdom shall not continue: the LORD hath sought him a man after his own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be captain over his people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee” (1Sa 13:14).

Saul failed to learn his painful lesson. On another occasion he was commanded to destroy utterly all that belonged to the enemy, but for fear of losing his army’s support, he held back from full obedience. The prophet Samuel brought the fearsome judgment of God upon the feckless king.

“And Samuel said unto him, The LORD hath rent the kingdom of Israel from thee this day, and hath given it to a neighbour of thine, that is better than thou. And also the Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for he is not a man, that he should repent” (1Sa 15:28-29).

We can be quite certain that Saul’s tragic end began with a thought. In the first incident, when his soldiers began to desert him, Saul admitted fear into his mind and entertained the thought that Samuel had failed him.

In the second incident, he considered his circumstances without God in mind. It was God who gave Saul great victory over Amalek yet Saul feared the people more than he did God. He believed his men would turn against him. He should have known that with God by his side, he would have overcome any adversity.

We look back on Saul and shake our heads at his lack of faith, his fear of men more than of God, and his disobedience. We might even feel some sympathy for a man in his position as leader of an army made up of men more loyal to their tribes than to him.

Yet like Saul, we must realise we are ultimately responsible for what becomes of our character. The thoughts we entertain, the decisions we make, no matter how small; how we respond to our circumstances and people around us, all these go a long way toward what we become.

Paul writes, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal 6:7). We either sow to eternal glory in the presence of God or we sow to an eternity of anguish away from His presence.

The counsel of the apostle rings loud and true for us today:

“This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Eph 4:17-18).

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Guilt Leading to Repentance

When the subject of guilt is raised, we normally have in mind the feelings of guilt. It can be understood in 2 ways: objective feeling and subjective feeling. Objective guilt is when a person experiences a feeling of remorse for having done something wrong—he/she has violated a certain code of conduct or ethics. Subjective guilt happens when a person believes that he/she is personally responsible, directly or indirectly, for something that had gone wrong.

Besides understanding guilt as a feeling we must also realize that guilt is a state; a condition of heart and mind a person is in. Guilt, the feeling, is usually the result of being in a guilty state.

But a person can be a state of guilt without experiencing the feelings of guilt. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” There are plenty of people out there who are out of Christ, and as such, are the children of wrath (Eph 2:3); but they do not experience feelings of guilt.

The Lord in Luke 17:26-28 drew a parallel betweenthe people of his days with those in the days of Noah, and noted that they were all alike—guilty without experiencing the feelings of guilt.

“And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded” (Luke 17:26-28).

We have all experienced guilt. For a non-Christian who is suffering from guilt, or has come to a realization of his/her guilt from the Scriptures, the same Scriptures offer the only solution—the gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).

What about a Christian? Christians can experience guilt as well. Woe to us if our conscience is hardened by sin to the point where we can hardly experience guilt, or that we deny and suppress the sense of guilt whenever we sinned!

The Bible deals with the reality that even Christians may sin. John makes sure no one is fooled. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1Jn 1:8).

But the apostle does not leave us hanging. By inspiration of God, he tells us what we must do. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1Jn 1:9).

Let us be clear that the sense of guilt itself, no matter how intense, is not repentance. Guilt is part of the godly sorrow that comes from realizing and acknowledging that we have sinned against the holiness and majesty of God.

Paul tells us that repentance must follow godly sorrow, without which our sense of guilt would be in vain.Without godly sorrow, of which guilt is a part, there is no repentance; without repentance, there can be no salvation.

“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death” (2Co 7:10).

From the preaching of God’s wordon the day of Pentecost, many Jews realised with shock that they had murdered the Messiah whom they had been waiting for so long.

They were cut to the heart and asked, “What shall we do” (Acts 2:37)?Peter told them they needed to repent and be immersed for the forgiveness of sins. Their guilt was not enough to save them; it was not even repentance.

Three thousand of the Jews went on to obey the gospel. Contrast this with the Jews struck by guilt when they heard Stephen’s preaching.

“When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth…Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him…” (Acts 7:54, 57-58).

Our conscience is a good servant to give us a kick when we need it, but it can be suppressed and silenced. It can be hardened as well—“seared with a hot iron”, in the words of the Paul in 1 Timothy 4:2.

When we experienced guilt, do not ignore it. Stop, listen and ponder. Do some soul-searching. Turn to the Lord in prayer. If there is any area in our lives where we need to repent and seek forgiveness, do not delay in doing so.

We can learn from the example of David after his sin with Bathsheba how he did overcome guilt.Read carefully Psalm 51 for the record of David’s confession. Psalm 32:1-5 is David’s beautiful account of the joy of having his sins forgiven. It dovetails perfectly with 1 John 1:9.

“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin” (Psalm 32:1-5).



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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.”

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Christian Unity 

The topic of Christian unity is an important matter that deserves the serious attention of every member of the Lord’s church. Our Lord Jesus Himself emphasized the importance of having His disciples being united in the faith through His prayer.

I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me”(John 17:20-21).

In view of the above passage, we need to understand that the mission of Christ is divine in that He has come to this world to preach the gospel message of salvation so that those who obey Him would have the hope of eternal life in heaven.Hence, the world would be convicted by the good news of Christ and believe that Christianity is divine when they are able to witness for themselves the strong unity amongst Christ’s disciples.

As we flip through the pages of the Holy Scriptures, we will also read of several other passages that emphasise the importance of unity amongst the believers of Christ. Consider what the apostle Paul has written.

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

Here, in this passage, the apostle Paul was addressing the church at Corinth pertaining to matters on unity as it was observed that there were contentions amongst the Corinthian brethren. In particular, the congregation at Corinth was not divided on matters of sound doctrine.

In this regard, we can observe that the teaching of Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ was one and the same thing.However, the rebuke of Paul was concerned with the opinions of individual brethren because they have caused divisions amongst themselves by choosing to follow various teachers (1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

So, what important lesson can we learn from the example of the church at Corinth? As members of the Lord’s church at Jurong, let us always take heed that having uncontrolled pride concerning one’s opinion about spiritual matters could result in divisions within the body of Christ.

When there are contentions within the church, it will be difficult for brethren to speak the same thing and be joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. The outcome will be disunity within the members of the Lord’s church and this is what Satan ultimately desires to see happening to the church.

Moreover, let us also take heed to the warning mentioned by the apostle Paul in Romans 16:17, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”

As God’s people, we will not deny that the church should be united. However, it is a very different thing to propose that anything unscriptural should be tolerated in order to promote unity amongst brethren. In the light of this argument, we need to recognise that any form of unity taken at the expense of accepting doctrines or practices not authorised in the New Testament is clearly not the kind of unity that Jesus prayed for in John 17.

Hence, it shouldn’t surprise that the introduction of unscriptural teachings and practices over time since the establishment of the Lord’s church is responsible for the birth of denominationalism.

There are currently so many thousands of denominations and the denominational world is making an effort to arrive at some type of union among themselves, which has resulted in the ‘unity in diversity movement’, known as the Ecumenical Movement.

In essence, the main thrust of this movement recognises that there are indeed many differences in the teachings of various denominations, but this would not be a major issue as they still can extend fellowship amongst one anotherand be united as the family of God.

Brethren, as we examine the Word of God, let us remember that Jesus must be honoured as our King and His New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice.

In Ephesians 1:22-23, the Scripture reads: “And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”

This passage of Scriptures tells us that Christ is the head of His church and all of His disciples are expected to be in submission to His will.

Furthermore, the apostle Paul also tells us in Philippians 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Thus, we can understand that the only scriptural basis for unity will be for members of the Lord’s church to have the mind of Christ, which can only happen when we accept what He says and do as He requires. To this end, the Word of God is the basis for scriptural unity.

Danny Leong

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Rejoice Evermore

Paul instructs us to “Rejoice in the Lord always (Php 4:4)” and “Rejoice evermore (1The 5:16).” How can we do that? Allow me to suggest four ways we can do that.

The first is to be constantly aware that we are loved. We know that the Father loves us so much that He gave us Jesus so that in Him we can have eternal life (cf. John 3:16). Paul states in Gal 2:20, “the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

How can we measure the love of God? We cannot. The love of God is so great it transcends our mind. It takes the special revelation of God through His Son and Word for us to even realise its magnitude.

Think about the greatness of this gift. Think about the cost of this gift. Let the beautiful truth fill us with awe, gratitude and humility. It is wonderful to love and be loved. We bask in the love of family and friends. There is One who loves us beyond the love of family and friends. It is the Lord, our Father who is in heaven.

The second way we can rejoice evermore in the Lord is to realise that God is using our circumstances and situations to train us in godliness.Paul says in Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

What is that ‘good’ that is working out for those who love God? Paul tells us in the next verse: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to beconformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren(Rom 8:29).”

Our Father is working through our situations to make us more and more like Jesus. So no matter how tough things get, we can rejoice and let God do His work as we put His precepts into practice.

Peter comforts us with these words:

“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously (1Pe 2:21-23).”

The third way is to value above all things the relationship we have with the Lord. Paul, in comparing everything he had achieved before he was a Christian, declared:

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Php 3:8-9).”

Paul lost a lot but he gained much more. What he gained is supremely worth having—a relationship with Christ, which would last for eternity. The more of it he had, the more he wanted.

This is what every Christian has; this is what you and I have in Christ. What is it worth to you? What are you willing to let go for it?

The fourth way to rejoice in the Lord always is to freely give what we have freely received (Mat 10:8).The Lord wants us to preach the gospel and to share the knowledge of Christ with others. When we do that, we know we are giving the world what it desperately needs. David says:

“I have not hid thy righteousness within my heart; I have declared thy faithfulness and thy salvation: I have not concealed thy lovingkindness and thy truth from the great congregation (Psa 40:10).”

It is a joy to be given the privilege to share Christ with others, to give to them what we have also received.The gospel is worth proclaiming, even when people are sometimes hostile toward the messengers. Christians can experience joy and sadness at the same time.

There is joy in sharing the gospel, even when there is sadness when the gospel is rejected. But the joy that comes when someone obeys the gospel! Some of you know what that feels like: leading someone to Christ by the gospel.

“The Lord says that “there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10).”

The Lord sent our seventy missionaries in pairs to preach the Good News. Upon their return and report of success, Luke says of the Lord, “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit (Lu 10:21).”

What was the cause of our Lord’s joy? It was the conversion of souls; the receptive hearts of the humble toward the message of the kingdom, even though the proud and conceited reject the message.

Looking around the world today, what do we see? Many are walking in the broad way that leads to destruction, facing an eternity without God. What could be more important and worth doing than sharing the Good News about Jesus and the salvation He brings?

Dear saints of God, let us rejoice evermore in the Lord. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost (Rom 15:13).”