Sharing The Main Facts Of The Gospel

On the day of Pentecost, St Peter shared the gospel and 3000 Jews believed.  Only a short message comprising of 23 verses from Acts 2:14 to 2:36 and the listeners were cut to the heart. This first sermon of Peter clearly demonstrated the power of God in the gospel for salvation to everyone who believes.  What are the essential facts in this gospel sermon ?  Four major facts could be gleaned from it.

  1. That Jesus Is Both God And Man.

In Acts 2:22,  Peter attested to the fact that the Jewish listeners had seen or known all the miracles, wonders and signs of Jesus, whom God worked through Him, when He came as a man among them.  And in Acts 2:34-36, fully aware that the Jews were familiar with OT Scripture, Peter mentioned that King David proclaimed the Messiah to be equal to God by quoting from Psalms.  And he ended the sermon by declaring that Jesus is both Lord and Messiah.

  1. That Jesus Died On The Cross According To God’s Sovereign Plan.

In Acts 2:23, Peter said that Jesus was handed over by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge and was put to death by nailing Him to the cross with the help of wicked men.

  1. That God Raised Jesus On The Third Day.

From Acts 2:24 to 33, Peter quoted Psalms 16 and explained that King David was speaking of the Resurrection of the Messiah whose body would not see corruption beyond 3 days.  And he and the other apostles were witnesses of His Resurrection and Ascension.

  1. That Jesus Is Now In Heaven And The Holy Spirit Had Come As Promised.

In Acts 2:33,  Peter said this,”…exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.”  The Jews would know of the prophecy of Joel, mentioned in Acts 2:16-21, after the Messiah had come.

The Coming Millennium

Why does Christ our Lord want to reign on earth for one thousand years and not simply usher in the new heaven and new earth straightaway when He returns ?  It is to reveal that even with a perfect government of peace, justice and prosperity under His reign in person, fallen men may not necessarily choose to put their faith in Him. Most still revolt with the devil against Him when the devil is released after being bound for the entire period of the Millennium.

Many do not want to read or hear from the book of Revelation for two reasons despite God’s blessing for doing so : the devil does not want all to know his demise, and also most do not want to hear adverse news of God’s judgments judging humanity after all.

During the Millennium, there will be no more budget spending on defense. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. Isaiah 2:4. And all the economic decisions for the nations will yield prosperity for all then.

Yet we learn that all such desires of prosperity and peace are not really what most men want ultimately when they still revolt at the end of the Millennium. What they really want is still freedom from the reign of God in their lives ! So believing in Christ and salvation can only mean one thing – that we really want to be in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the King of Kings, and His rule in His kingdom over us. We cannot have it both ways – that we want to be saved but not His Lordship in our lives.

Another main reason why there will be a millennium reign of our Lord is His promise to reward His disciples. They will be rewarded for faithful service during their lifetime. Matt16:27; Matt 25:34; Rev 22:12. Sadly today, many believers still desire to gain the whole world and may end up forfeiting their souls at worst or losing all rewards at best.  Our Lord will appoint the faithful servants to govern all nations during the Millennium. And imagine how gladly surprised we are to see the most humble servants of our Lord, brothers in our midst today, become the greatest government officials on that day. Matt 18:4; Matt 23:11-12.

Imagine living then in our glorified bodies with no illness. There will be perfect justice, no war and no death for us. The sea is still around that we can have the opportunity to explore the depths, and the travel around the world that we always want to do. We will be able to keep the tiger, the lion and the panda as pets.

Rev ‪20:11-15‬
I saw the dead, both great and small, standing before God’s throne. And the books were opened, including the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to what they had done, as recorded in the books. The sea gave up its dead, and death and the grave gave up their dead. This lake of fire is the second death. And anyone whose name was not found recorded in the Book of Life was thrown into the lake of fire.

Everyone, who had ever lived, will be standing before God’s throne in our resurrected bodies and be judged. John 5:27-29. Imagine seeing all the great people like the Chinese emperors, Julius Caesar and all our country past leaders and the small insignificant people as well. I will be seeing all my forefathers.
God is not going to weigh our good deeds with the bad deeds. He is only looking at the bad deeds of breaking the law – every secret, every thought and every action throughout our lives. God will be very fair and He will only judge based on evil thoughts and action that we knowingly commit. Our conscience will either accuse or excuse us. Rom 2:12-16. The redeemed will have all their sins blotted out. Heb 10:14-18.

Hosanna in the highest !

The Church That Our Lord Desires

Reading the commendation and rebuke of the 7 churches in Rev 2 and 3,  I come away with these observations that these are the seven characteristics of a church that our Lord desires.

  1. A loving church (Ephesus). A church that continues to love the Lord and loving one another.  Rev 2:4-5
  2. A suffering church (Smyrna). A church that is prepared to suffer ostracism, tribulation and poverty.   Rev 2:9.
  3. An externally-uncompromising church (Pergamum). A church that will not yield and compromise with the excesses of the outside world.  Rev 2:14-16.
  4. An internally-uncompromising church (Thyatira). A church that will not tolerate false teaching within.  Rev 2:20-21.
  5. An unpretentious church (Sardis). A church that will actually complete her works instead of putting up enough just for her image.  Rev 3:1-2.
  6. A faithful church (Philadelphia). A church that stays the course despite having little power.   Rev 3:8.
  7. A humble church (Laodicea). A church that is not proud and living in prosperous and care-less ease.  Rev 3:17-18.

The Purpose Of God’s Warning About The End Times

According to David Pawson,  27% of the verses of the Bible contained a prediction about future events.  737 different future events were predicted in detail of which 80% have been fulfilled.   The balance 20% concerned events still in the future yet to be fulfilled.

We cannot come away after reading the Bible without seeing that God knew and planned the future events.  He alone decides the destiny of the world and the nations.  He decides the rise and fall of nations.

What is the purpose of God telling us what is about to happen ?   God wants to help us to meet the future and He aims to strengthen His people.

David Pawson gave us 6 reasons in his commentary on the book of Daniel and I took the liberty to para-phrase them with my own observation :

  1. God’s people will stand firm.   When the world is shaking, God’s people will stand firm.  Such times will differentiate the wheat from the tares, and the sheep from the goats.  The Christians will expect the Return of our Lord eagerly and they also know that hard times will precede His Return.
  2. God’s people will do exploits. God graciously allows His people to be His co-workers.  His people will want to do something to hasten His Return rather than be passive.  They will be up and running to obey God’s exhortation to care for His people as exhorted in the 4 parables in Matt 24 and 25.  They will be the wise servants who expect their Lord to return soon and invest in the talents given, the wise virgins who carry enough oil, and the sheep who care for the least of the brothers.
  3. God’s people will bring understanding. They will have a great ministry of teaching when the disturbances come. When the disturbances come, we can teach people who is in charge, why these events are happening, and where all these events are heading.  (Personally I am surprised how God has called me to galvanize the churches in the region to prepare to care for God’s people when the hard times hit, given the fact that I was not part of any ministry in any church from the start, and I have no seminary or church network to call upon.)
  4. God’s people will endure suffering. In the Book of Daniel, God mentioned about the coming persecution of the Jewish people and the desecration of the Temple by Antiochus IV Epiphanes, the Seleucid monarch, before Judas Maccabee liberated them.
  5. God’s people will be refined. Suffering always bring the peaceful fruit of righteousness.  It will smelt and sift.  Dross will be smelted away and the true will be sifted from the false.  God’s people will be purged and purified.  Though one may find the church congregation halved,  take heart that those who are left will be the strong and faithful.
  6. God’s people will find rest. Knowing that redemption draws near,  God’s people know that their days of suffering will be over soon.  But sadly for those who do not believe or have fallen, their days of suffering will actually begin for all eternity, after all these tribulations have come to an end.

Practising Double Standards

It is sad to note that certain evangelical denominations practise double standards in opposing one issue while approving or condoning another when the reason given in the Scripture for the commands concerning the two issues is the same or is very straightforward and clear.

In this article, I am not arguing for or against the issues per-se but I am saddened by the double standards practised at such respectable evangelical denominations. Such practice of double standards will rubbish their moral authority of upholding truth.  It may also convey the wrong message that their own upheld biblical views on the side of pragmatism take precedence over the obedience of straightforward commands of Scripture.

Here are 2 examples.

1. The reason Scripture gave for opposing homosexuality as sin, and forbidding women to teach or have spiritual authority over men,  is the same –  it is simply God’s designed order.  1 Tim 2:12-14.  Scripture is not implying that one gender or one type of relationship is considered more superior than the other.   All men and women are created equal and all the saved men and women will be like angels in eternity. We have several examples of the excellent ministry of women in Scripture such as how Timothy was brought up in godliness by his godly mother and grandmother.  So we cannot trivialize the excellent and necessary ministry of godly women in the kingdom of God other than teaching and exercising authority over men.  (Scripture gives the qualification of overseer and deacon starting with the criterion of being husband of one wife.  If it applies to both gender,  such qualification ought to be specific knowing the confusion will happen in the future.)  On the other hand regarding homosexuality, I am sure it can be argued that homosexual relationship can also exercise fidelity and faithfulness in the union.  So I see no reason to continue to debate the merit of any held position;  since it is simply God’s designed order which should settle such issues.

2. Some of these churches may judge the sin of non Christians in the world by taking up action such as organizing political protest petition or event, but not judge the sin of believers in the church.   And end up violating God’s direct command in 1 Cor 5:9-13.

1 Cor 5:9-13

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

 

The Armor Of God

The Christian life is no longer a bondage to sin, but it is still a constant struggle against sin.  Even after believing in Christ, the Christian will still face 3 enemies till our Lord returns – the world, the flesh and the enemy.  Sadly today with rampant false teaching, we tend to underestimate these enemies of our souls.  It will make no sense for Scripture to warn us incessantly of these dangers and the necessity to ward off such dangers if we cannot fall away.

The Christian is exhorted not to love the world, the outer foe, for loving the world is putting one at enmity with God.  James 4:4.   The principles of the world are power, greed, selfishness, ambition and pleasure and they appeal to 3 vulnerable spots of the old man in us  – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life.   1 John 2:15-17.

The lust of the flesh is sensualism.  It is the obsessive craving and gratification of our senses such as gluttony or sex.

The lust of the eyes is materialism.  It is the covetous desire to own what we see, though not necessarily needful.

The pride of life is egotism.  It is desire to be better than others and the vain elevation and display of one’s reputation over another.

The Christian also has to contend against his own flesh, the inner foe, as well.  It is our fallen human nature with the propensity to sin.  We are born with this sinful nature.  The deeds of the flesh are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these.  Gal 5:19-21.

Lastly we have to contend against the devil, the cunning enemy, who will tempt us in all possible ways to succumb to our outer and inner foes through moral failure.  And his stratagems also include causing us discouragement, frustration, confusion and doctrinal error.

Scripture exhorts us to put on the WHOLE armor of God so that we can withstand the schemes of the devil.   We need to be disciplined to put on ALL elements of the armor and not be complacent by doing without one or more elements of it.

Eph 6:11-18

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,  praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints

The armor of God consists of :

  1. The belt of truth.
  2. The breastplate of righteousness.
  3. The shoes of the gospel of peace.
  4. The shield of faith.
  5. The helmet of salvation.
  6. The sword of the Spirit.

By using the imagery of armor, Scripture wants us to know we are constantly in a war, albeit a spiritual war, and we are actually soldiers fighting every day of our lives for our souls.  We need the whole armor and not just one or two of the elements as we are contending against demonic forces who wield tremendous power.

The first element is the belt of truth.  The belt also carries the sword which is the Word of God.  We must equip ourselves with the truth in the Word of God for the enemy is the father of all lies and we should expect deceptive lies at every turn.  The sword is an offensive weapon unlike all the other defensive elements of the armor.  Each time, we face doubt or deception concerning truth, we must quote Scripture to repulse them.

The breastplate protects our bodies.  We must put on the righteousness of Christ imputed when we believe to ward off the accusations of the enemy that we are not worthy.  We must rest in the finished work of Christ without feeling depressed by the lie of the enemy that we must work for our salvation.  And we have to clothe ourselves with practical righteousness in our lives  through the training by the Spirit of our Lord as well, so that the devil really has nothing to shoot at.

The combat shoes have spikes to help the soldier stand firm in the fighting.  We must be assured by the gospel of peace of our position in Christ that is not based on our worthiness but on the faithfulness of God.  God also expect us to move in the combat shoes and go on the offensive taking the gospel into enemy territory to as many people as possible.

The shield protects the soldier from flaming arrows of doubt from the enemy. The enemy will sow doubt of the faithfulness of God and His promises when the going gets tough.  Let the Lord strengthen and perfect our faith as we follow His example of patient endurance.  Heb 12:1-2.

The helmet protects the head, the seat of our mind.  By holding onto the plain gospel truth for salvation, our minds are protected from false gospels and false Christology.  And knowing our ultimate victory of salvation is sure (Rom 8:28-35),  our minds are prevented from being crushed by trials knowing no suffering can compare to the coming glory.

The Meaning Of Christmas

I thanked God for giving me an acronym this Christmas Eve to help us always to remember the meaning of Christmas as not to be lost in the midst of all kinds of secular celebration.

Gal 4:4-5

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

The Characteristics Of Self Deception

In Matt 7:21-27, our Lord mentioned 2 group of people who are deceived – those who made mere verbal profession (Matt 7:21-23) and those who have mere intellectual knowledge (Matt 7:24-27).  John Stott said that mere verbal profession and intellectual knowledge are “a camouflage for disobedience”.

We should note that our Lord was not speaking to anti-God people, or heretics, or atheists but to religious people who were obsessed with religious activity.  They were damned because they were self-deluded and on the wrong path.

They are excluded from heaven by self deception.  They have no intention to obey God’s commands.

John MacArthur gave these indicators for one to examine himself as well as spot one self-deceived person:

“How can a person know if he is deceiving himself?  How can we spot a self-deceived person?  Let me give you a list of things to look for.  However, just because a person fits the description of one item on the list doesn’t necessarily mean he is deceived.  However, the things mentioned here are good indicators to go by.

Is the person seeking feelings, blessings, experiences, healings and miracles?  This person is probably more interested in the byproducts of the faith than the faith itself.  He seeks what he can get, not what he can glorify God for.  He is more interested in pampering himself than in exalting Christ.

Is the person more committed to a denomination, church, or organization than he is to the Word of God?  That person’s Christianity may be purely social.  He’s the kind who says, “I’ve been a Lutheran all my life”, or “I’m a Presbyterian,” or “I belong to that church.”  He’s more committed to the organization than the Word of God.

Is the person involved in theology merely out of academic interest?  You’ll find this kind of person in colleges and seminaries.  He studies theology, and writes books about it.  Theology for him is an intellectual activity.  His life is void of the righteousness of Christ.

Does the person seem stuck over one particular point of theology?  This is the person who bangs the proverbial drum for his favorite topic.  Sometimes the area he emphasizes isn’t that profound.  He thinks he is close to God and has great divine insight that no one else has.  All of his activity is devoted to seeking attention to feed his ego.  Watch out for a person that has a lack of balance in his theology.

Is the person over-indulgent in the name of grace?  A person who lacks penitence and a contrite heart is self-deceived.”

 

Kingdom Of God

The Kingdom of God has several meaning according to different Scriptural passages.

In one sense, since God is the Creator of the whole universe, the Kingdom of God is His rule over all the whole universe.

In another sense, it is the rule over the hearts and minds of believers who submit to God’s authority. Those who defy are simply not of this Kingdom. And it can only be entered into by being born again.

Yet another, it can refer to the millennium rule of Christ when He returns.

Christ’s present hidden spiritual reign in our hearts and minds, the Kingdom of grace, will culminate in His future physical reign, the Kingdom of glory, when He returns.

The 7 mountain mandate popularized by the NAR is an unbiblical movement to re-define the Kingdom of God. It preaches that all Christians are required to create a worldwide kingdom for the glory of Christ through dominating education, religion, family, business, government & military, arts & entertainment, and media.

Our Lord did not come to overthrow the Roman empire. He made it clear that His kingdom was not of this world at that time but in the hearts and minds of those who would follow Him. He will rule the whole world when He returns.

In Luke 19:11-12,  when Jesus was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the Kingdom of Israel would be restored, He answered with a parable that the nobleman would go away to a distant country to be appointed king first and then return.  In Acts 1:3-8, He appeared over 40 days to the apostles and spoke about the kingdom of God.  The apostles also asked the same question as to when the kingdom of Israel would be restored.  He replied that only God the Father set the date and time by His own authority.

Meanwhile, He warned that we will be hated because the world hated Him first and we will have persecution and a great falling away instead. Luke 21;  2 Thess 2:1-3;  John 15:18-21.

 

Worship – The Ultimate Priority

It is the believer’s ultimate priority to give the Lord the glory due His name and worship Him in the beauty of His holiness.  Ps 29:2.  Music is just one medium of worship and so it is not limited to just singing praises on Sunday.

Worship is THE way of life and it should touch all areas of our lives.  We are saved to worship.  John 4:23-24.

Only the Word of God can tell us exactly how to worship God acceptably and please Him.

Worship. God is seeking the true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We can only worship God when we have true and accurate knowledge of God from His Word.  We must also worship Him in spirit.  It is not about physical posture but require something in our innermost being.  We must be born again and be given the Holy Spirit to energize our new spirit to glorify Him.   John 4:23-24

Obedience.  Scripture clearly says if we love God, we will obey His commandments.  If we do not obey His commandments, we cannot claim to love Him.  And how can we worship Him if we do not love Him ?  John 14:15, 24

Reverence. We must worship God with reverence and awe. Our God is a jealous God and His righteous anger demands that He destroys all idolatry as He will not share His glory with idols. Heb 12:28.

Service.  We must do good to others.  It is a pleasing worship sacrifice to God.   Heb 13:16.

Holy Living. We must present our bodies as a holy living sacrifice. Rom 12:1.

Inward Transformation. We worship God with our renewed and cleansed minds, not with our emotions.  Rom 12:2

Praise. We should always offer up sacrifice of praise with our lips that acknowledge His name for that is pleasing to God.   Heb 13:15.

All thanks be to God for giving me the worship acronym to remind me of the true meaning of worship.  All honor and glory to the Lord of Lords !