Three Attitudes Towards The Law

Dr John Stott, in his exposition on the book of Romans, gave 3 attitudes to the Law.

1. Legalists. They are under the Law and are bound by it. Their relationship to God depends on their obedience to the Law seeking both justification and sanctification by it. Crushed by the inability of the Law to save them, they fear the Law.

2. Antinomians. Blame the law for all their problems so they reject it altogether and claim to be rid of all obligations to the demands of the Law. So they hate the Law and repudiate it.

3. Law-Fulfilling Free Believers. Have this balanced attitude in rejoicing both in their freedom from the law for justification and sanctification, and freedom to fulfill the Law. They delight in the Law as the revelation of God’s will (Rom 7:22), but recognize that the power to fulfill it is not in the Law itself but in the Spirit. So they love the Law and fulfill it.

So what Paul meant when he said believers are no longer under the law, he was saying true believers are free from the law for justification and sanctification. And is now under grace with the power to fulfill it through the Spirit. Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18.

That is,
For Justification, we are not under law but under grace.
For Sanctification, we are not under law but led by the Spirit.

Journey Mercies (V)

My wife and I worshiped in a denominational church from 2001 to 2007.  We once planned a free-and-easy 4 day holiday in Ho Chi Minh City.   When some members of this denominational church came to know of our travel plan,  they wanted to join us as well.  In the end, I had to book a land package tour for 22 persons.  As the tour would start on a Sunday, the church lay leader was upset enough to curse us that God would judge us for skipping Sunday service.  We did attend the Sunday morning worship service before going to the airport.  I had booked a bus to ferry all of us from the church to the airport after the service.  I cast all my anxieties to God that morning  – the unease of bringing so many elderly folk and the unexpected curse – and also prayed for journey mercies.

On that very Sunday morning,  an elderly lady joining us for the tour received news of her brother-n-law’s death and she decided not to fly with us.  2 days later,  she had a heart attack.   If she had joined us and had the heart attack in Ho Chi Minh City,  it would prove the curse of the lay leader to be true and the entire blame would be upon me.   Given the incredibly slim odds of this incident, I knew God had delivered me yet again.

When we reached the airport, my eldest son was denied travel as his passport had validity of less than 6 months.  Again I prayed for God’s journey mercy.   After much negotiation and promising the airline staff that if my son was to be denied entry into Ho Chi Minh City,  I would return with him.  The customs officer over at Ho Chi Minh City smiled at my young son and allowed us to clear and enter.  Hallelujah !

All thanks and glory be to God our Father and Jesus our Lord for His journey mercy.

Journey Mercies (IV)

Having lived all my life in a cosmopolitan city,  I must confess that I cannot handle the rigors of life of the very poor living in harsh condition when I visit and minister to them. I often prayed and confessed my weakness, and asked for God’s protection against possible illness due to poor sanitation, food hygiene and virus or bacterial infection.  As not to embarrass the hosting village, I would try to take some of the food being served but with much fear in my heart.

Once I went to a slum in Bogor, Indonesia, with a missionary partner to give the children stationery and exercise books for the new school semester. Later the locals would serve us lunch.  I watched how they washed the rice at a canal in which they would do their laundry, bathing and even excretion.

When the trail from Yunnan province to Kachin state, Myanmar, opened a few years ago, I visited the Lisu tribe living in the border villages.  I worried much about the sanitation, food hygiene and the “exotic” meat they would serve.  I was delighted to be served a fish for both lunch and dinner.  Later I learned that a villager had caught this fish in the morning and offered to the church.  They had this custom to offer to any visiting missionary whatever they caught.  But I realized that I was the second missionary to visit since 1989. Reflecting on the incredible odds of catching a relatively large fish in a river with hardly any fish, being the second missionary to come in 27 years and the timely catch, I gave thanks to God knowing that He had answered my prayer and provided.  All glory to God in the highest !

The Probable Reason For Social Unrest Around The World

The following article probably explained why the masses are not enjoying more jobs and higher wages despite the bull run of stock markets.  We are now seeing the social unrest in several countries around the world –  France, Lebanon, Chile, Hong Kong and Spain.

“The one constant across the media-political spectrum is an unblinking focus on the stock market as a barometer of the national economy: every major media outlet from the New York Times to Fox News prominently displays stock market action, and TV news anchors’ expressions reflect the media’s emotional promotion of the market as the end all to be all: if stocks rose, the anchors are smiling and chirpy, and if the market fell then their expressions are downcast and dour.

This cheerleading of the stock market is based on an implicit assumption that the rising stock market raises all boats: a rising market is assumed to reflect an expansion of sales and profits that trickle down to the masses in higher wages, more jobs and rising 401K retirement accounts.

The reality is starkly different: the vast majority of the gains generated by a rising stock market flow to the top 10% households who own 93% of all financial assets, and the gains within the top 10% are highly concentrated in the top .01% of financiers, super-wealthy families and corporate managers who have reaped the vast majority of the past decade of stock market gains. The 1% grabbed 82% of all wealth created in 2017 and 2018 and 2019.  America’s richest 1% now own as much wealth as the middle and lower classes combined…As my friend Adam T recently observed : when we cheer the rising stock market, we’re celebrating the super-rich getting even richer. Why are we celebrating an unprecedented widening of wealth inequality that erodes democracy (because the super-wealthy buy political influence) and the social contract (as the vast majority of wealth and power flow to the top .01%)?

Soaring wealth inequality is extremely destabilizing politically, socially and economically : much of the social unrest breaking out around the world can be traced to the political, social and financial disenfranchisement of the masses by super-wealthy elites.

Economically, soaring inequality concentrates and capital and power in the hands of the few, creating fertile ground for cartels and monopolies which raise costs without generating better services or more jobs. This dynamic is easily visible in the US.

The US only pretends to have free markets :  From plane tickets to cellphone bills, monopoly power costs American consumers billions of dollars a year. Politically, the 90% who are losing ground seek political redress, generating tension in a political system dominated by the super-wealthy. Since the political machinery is controlled by the elite, the bottom 90%’s efforts to gain political redress will fail: Medicare for All (to take one example of many) is just an expansion of rapacious sickcare cartels that further concentrate wealth and power in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.”

– Charles Hugh Smith.

http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com/2019/11/stock-market-cheerleading-why-do-we.html

In James 5:1-5,  it is mentioned that God will make right this injustice of exploiting the poor workers by the wealthy in the last days.  Will this development be a sign of the coming economic collapse ?  Hong Kong, being one of the world’s major seaports cum financial centers, will be among those who make their living by the sea and will weep when the Babylonian system is destroyed and all wealth is destroyed.  Rev 18:17.

The Hyper Grace Church

Rev 3:14-22

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.  15 “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. 21 The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Rev 3:20 is often taken out of context to be the evangelistic test to invite Jesus into one’s heart.

The context was actually Jesus talking about the church at Laodicea.  It was a wealthy and “successful” church (in her own eyes), but only Jesus was not attending it.   Rather Jesus saw her as poor, wretched and pitiable.  Today,  she represents the cheap or hyper grace church all over the world.  She fits exactly the description of the Laodicean church.  Jesus called the Laodicean church then to be zealous and repent, and is doing likewise to the hyper grace church today.

Our Lord is calling such a church to repent so it is not surprising that the hyper grace false teachers preached against repentance and told their followers not to confess their sins.  So if anyone in that church is willing to hear the voice of our Lord Jesus pleading for him or her to repent and open the door to welcome Him, He will come and dine with him or her just like He did with Zacchaeus.  Rev 3:20.

Wonderful Are Your Works

Psalms 139:13-14

(Lord), You formed my inward parts,

You knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

(Lord) I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

(Lord, Your works are wonderful)

My soul knows it very well.

(Lord, Your works are wonderful)

My soul knows it very well.

The False Hyper Grace Teaching On The Lord’s Supper

It is terribly sad to note that the false hyper grace teachers are teaching this heresy of the Lord’s Supper being a delivery system of good health. And worse of all,  they added this heresy that confession of sins will be tantamount to taking the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner and in danger of being judged.  (This teaching is diametrically opposite to the exhortation of our Lord Jesus in His Prayer in Matt 6:9-13 that we ought to pray for the forgiveness of our debts.)

Numbers 21:4-9

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

In Numbers 21, we read that the Israelites grumbled against God and Moses for bringing them out to die in the wilderness. They did not realize that it was their sin which brought them to wander in the wilderness. God sent poisonous snakes to judge them. Later they confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray for deliverance. God then instructed Moses to make a bronze serpent and put it on a pole so that those who were bitten could be healed by gazing on it.

It was a lesson from God on faith. It took faith to believe that healing from the snake bite came by gazing, and the serpent was a reminder of their sin. In John 3:14-15, our Lord told us that the serpent was the foreshadow of Himself. He would be made a curse for our sins and be hanged on a tree, just like the serpent which was a symbol of sin. Gal 3:13.

God did not take away the poisonous snakes but provide an antidote for the Israelites instead. The Lord’s Supper was instituted to make us remember the Lord’s death till He comes again.  God wants us to remember His abhorrence of sin and its consequence whenever we are bitten by sin, and His provision of the cure for our sin sick condition, just like how the Israelites were taught on this lesson. Whenever we sin, we should confess our sins like what the Israelites did, and know we can have His forgiveness by the curse that our Lord bore on our behalf. 1 John 1:9.

 

Guidance, Calling And Ministry

We will have forsaken the world to follow our Lord Jesus if we are genuine believers. And surely we will want to find out the purpose of life that God has for us.  Eph 2:10 tells us that when we are created in Christ Jesus, God has prepared beforehand we shall walk in good works which we will surely want to discover.

Whenever we talk about God’s will, we are actually talking about His guidance, or calling or ministry for us.  The three distinct initiatives of God refer to His directing of our faith journey, His calling, and the service He places us in His Kingdom respectively.

(The material is gleaned from the book, The Disciple, by John Stott with Tim Chester and I took the liberty to paraphrase it.)

Guidance

It is essential to differentiate between God’s general and particular will first.  God’s general will for all believers is Christlikeness.  Rom 8:28-29.  Particular will concerns decisions such as finding life-work or spouse.  Though there are general guidelines or principles laid out in Scripture, specific answers are not given. Take the example of marriage.  There are principles concerning marriage, yet Scripture will not tell us whether you should get married or remain single, or which man or woman you should marry.

How can we discover God’s particular will ?

  1. Yield.  Without surrendering our will to God,  how is God going to reveal to us ?   God will only guide the humble.
  2. Pray.  How bad we really want to know ?  Only persistent and sincere prayer reveals our desire to seek His will.  And God grants us wisdom generously when we ask for it. James 1:5.
  3. Seek.  Wisdom can come from God through godly counsel :  parents or brothers and sisters in God’s family.
  4. Weigh.  Although we yield, pray and seek advice,  we must ultimately make the decision ourselves. God does not want us to be like horses or mules without understanding,  that is, without exercising our rational minds as we weigh the pros and cons.
  5. Wait.  From Scripture, we learned that most heroes of faith got their guidance after a lengthy period of time.  From experience, more mistakes are made in haste or rather than in delay.

Calling

God called us according to His purpose. Rom 8:28.  It is a more of a calling to a Person rather than to do something.  It is a wonderful fact that God cares enough to call us personally and individually. We are called to belong to Jesus Christ and to embrace and enjoy all blessings in our Lord Jesus. Like guidance, we have to differentiate between general calling and particular calling.

What is God’s general calling ?

  1. We are called to fellowship with Jesus Christ. Rom 1:6.  Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ.  God calls us to know and enjoy Him and Jesus Christ.
  2. We are called to freedom. Gal 5:13.  We are free from the condemnation of the law through God’s forgiveness and acceptance into Christ our Lord.  We are free from guilt, or a guilty conscience.  However it is not freedom to sin or freedom from social responsibilities. It is such a paradox that it is only through serving that we become free.
  3. We are called to peace. Col 3:15.  Scripture is not referring to peace of mind but to peace (shalom) of reconciliation with one another in the one Body of Christ. We are not only called to belong to Jesus our Lord but also to God’s people.
  4. We are called to holiness. Since God is holy, He also call us to be holy.  Holiness is not a false image of detached spiritual piety, but a lively Christlikeness lived out in the world.
  5. We are called to witness. We are all called to be missionaries.  Matt 28:19-20.  We have obtained mercy through the gospel of our Lord Jesus and we ought to share this blessing with the unsaved.
  6. We are called to suffering. Because we are called out of the world by our Lord, the world will hate us. John 15:18-19.  The world hates our Lord because He had testified against her evil works.  John 7:7.  We are called to share in the suffering of our Lord.  Rom 8:16-18.
  7. We are called to glory. It was through suffering that our Lord entered into glory and it will be the same for us.  If we share in our Lord’s suffering,  we will also share in His glory.  God is not calling us for this life only, but also for all eternity in the new universe to come.

In short, the Christian calling is to be called to belong to Christ in this life and beyond, to love one another in the peace of his new community, and to serve, witness and suffer in the world.

If God’s general calling is to be free, holy and Christlike, God’s particular calling relates to our individual different vocation.  1 Cor 7:20 and 24 tell us that we should remain in the condition in which we are called.   In the context of 1 Corinthian epistle,  Paul gave 3 examples of remaining in our domestic situation, whether married or single, in our cultural situation, whether Jewish or Gentile, and in our social situation, whether slaves or free.  Paul had to remind the Corinthian converts then because they believed they ought to change their situation since nothing in their old life could be retained after becoming a new creation in Christ.

Martin Luther said,”Those who are now called ‘spiritual’, that is, priests, bishops or popes, are neither different from other Christians nor superior to them, except that they are charged with the administration of the word of God and the sacraments, which is their work and office.”

Every believer must benefit and serve every other by means of his own work or office, so that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community.  1 Cor 12:14-26.

William Perkins, a Puritan, said,”The action of a shepherd in keeping sheep…is as good a work before God as is the action of a judge in giving sentence, or of a magistrate in ruling, or a minister in preaching.  Thus then we see there is good reason why we would search how every man is rightly to use his particular calling.”

These 2 callings should be pursued in balance to serve our Lord Jesus and to serve others.  We must bear in mind that God does not work in us only after conversion, but He is at work in us even before our birth in our genetic inheritance, and then later in our temperament, personality, education and skills.  God’s sovereignty over us is not only on our spirituality, but also over all sections of our lives.

Ministry

Discipleship is never an option.  We are all called to be disciples of Jesus our Lord.  As disciples, surely we will want to know how best we can serve in the Kingdom of our Lord.  Like guidance and vocation,  we need to distinguish between a general and a particular ministry.

  1. We are all called to ministry. That is, we are all called to serve.  It is the privilege of every disciple.  Due to the unbiblical clergy-laity divide,  it is sad that many believe ministry only belongs to the pastors and fulltime church workers.
  2. There is a wide variety of ministries. That is, there are many ways we can serve God and people.  In Acts 6:1-4, we learned that both distribution of food and teaching of word were considered as ministry.   Even for the distribution of food, we learned that 7 Spirit-filled persons were chosen for that responsibility.  There should be no distinction in all ministries whether one is spiritual or secular, superior or inferior, pastoral or social.  All believers need to see their daily work as their primary ministry in penetrating secular environment for Christ and glorifying Him in the process.
  3. The particular ministry to which we are called is likely to be determined by our given gifts. God is not a random Creator; He has not given us natural and spiritual gifts only to be wasted.  God has created us as individual unique persons.  So each one of us should ask ourselves how best we can serve Christ and others with the present gifts we have without them going to be wasted.

Cast The First Stone

John 8:1-11
but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

The scribes and the Pharisees should know the Jewish law and the Roman law very well :

  1. There should be at least 2 witnesses to bring a charge.
  2. The adulterous man should be tried as well.
  3. The witnesses should not bear false witness or they would face the same punishment.
  4. The capital offense could only be enforced by the Roman authorities.

So they were not really seeking the execution of the adulterous woman but was doing so to trap Jesus.  When the Lord Jesus said the one without sin could cast the first stone,  He was reminding these law experts, especially the witnesses, that they could do so if they had not flouted the Jewish Law.  Deut 17:7.

They were already bent on trapping and killing Jesus.  So when they went away, they were not feeling remorse because they realized they were sinners too,  but because they knew they had flouted the law.  A trap had turned into an embarrassing expose for them who were supposed to be experts of the law.

Jesus would not condemn the woman as He was not a witness either.  But He reminded her not to sin the same anymore.

The misuse of this passage to deride judgment of sin will contradict the direct command of judging serious sins in 1 Cor 5:9-13.  Most of the times, it is used to justify unrestrained sin and it is a terrible wrong in itself.