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 !

Praise God Through Singing

Why singing matters in praising God ?

Eph 5:18-19

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…

Col 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Acts 16:25

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them…

Singing and making melody to the Lord with our hearts is evidence of a Spirit-filled life.

Singing helps to imbibe the word of Christ in our hearts as it is easily memorized.

Singing praises to God corporately helps to build up one another as we are hearing confession of faith from one another.  And also witness to the unbelievers when they realize how joyful we are in the Lord in our exuberant singing of praises and confession of faith.

Singing strengthens our faith in the midst of trials and suffering.

(Thanks be to God for giving me another ACRONYM to remember to sing praises exuberantly to Him every time.)

Love – The Virtue Of All Virtues

To love God and one another perfectly in a perfect world – Love or Christlikeness – is the ultimate meaning of human existence.

Love is the virtue of all virtues for God is Love.  It is patient, kind, temperate and rejoices with truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  1 Cor 13:4-7.

As I was meditating on this virtue this morning, I thanked the Lord for the illuminating work of His Spirit again in giving me an acronym in which I could remind myself every day to live out all virtues of love for all eternity.

All glory to our Lord and God.

What To Pray ?

When I was younger in faith, I was taught to pray according to the acronym ACTS – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication – which is a very good gist of the things that should go into a prayer which was taught by our Lord in Matt 6:9-13.

As I was meditating on what could bring me to pour my heart before God without drawing a blank in my mind with an even easier acronym,  suddenly the acronym PRAY came to my mind.

All thanks and glory to our Lord for another testimony of the illuminating work of the Holy Spirit.

Open Letter To Dr John MacArthur On His Book “Strange Fire”

Based on what you have written in the book,  I agree TOTALLY with your arguments that essentially the miraculous gifts of the apostles have ceased and the special revelation given to the apostles has also ceased. You have also shown conclusively that cessationism was not a product of the Enlightenment and that prominent church leaders throughout history – Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin,  Matthew Henry, John Owen, Thomas Watson, Jonathan Edwards, James Buchanan, Charles Spurgeon, Arthur Pink and D Martyn Lloyd-Jones – believed the same.

So I will be more of a cessationist than a continualist according to your definition based on your arguments.  But I hope that you will also give careful thought to my argument for the exception that some gifts in the lesser sense may still be given.

The Gift Of Tongues.

I agreed with your argument that the intelligible tongues (such as those spoken at Pentecost) has ceased but I believe the unintelligible tongues has not. (1 Cor 13:1 makes mention of the tongues of angels – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. This is not to be confused with the gibberish tongues spoken at will by the Charismatic Movement.)

There are 8 diametrically opposite differences between the tongues spoken at Pentecost and at Corinth in the chart shown below (with information gleaned from J Oswald Sanders, Spiritual Maturity) which seem to suggest that intelligible and unintelligible tongues were spoken at Pentecost and at Corinth respectively, and if it is true, there will be no contradiction in all the Scriptural references.

As such, I will not discount the possibility of the continuation of the unintelligible tongues.  And I believe it is only given during times when the gospel is hard pressed today and I quote the champion of Sola Scriptura, Martin Luther.

“The signs here spoken of (Mark 16:17-18) are to be used according to need.  When the need arises, and the gospel is hard pressed, then we must definitely do these signs, before we allow the gospel to be maligned and knocked down.”  – Believer’s Bible Commentary.

(Mark 16:17-18.  And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with NEW tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

I noticed an interesting detail in Mark 16:17-18.  Do the NEW tongues refer to the believers speaking unlearned tongues, i.e. known without being learned;  or an unknown tongue altogether ? )

There is further similar argument for the possibility of unintelligible tongues continuing in the following link :  https://www.gotquestions.org/continuationism.html

Continuationists suggest that part of the confusion over this topic is that there may be two kinds of “tongues” spoken of in Acts and the letters to the Corinthians. The gift that came on the day of Pentecost enabled the apostles to speak in the languages of those in attendance. This allowed the gospel to spread rapidly throughout the region (Acts 2:6-8). However, in 1 Cor 14, Paul seems to be speaking about a different purpose for tongues. The entire fourteenth chapter is an instruction to the church about the purposes and use of this gift, one of which may be for worshiping God (14:2, 14–16, 28).

Biblical support for this position is found in Acts 10:45-46  when Cornelius received the Holy Spirit. He began praising God in tongues, even though there was no one present who needed to hear the gospel in other languages. Another example is in Acts 19:6-7. Twelve men from Ephesus received the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues, although there was no one present who needed to hear it. The Corinthian church regularly included tongues in their worship services, with no indication that there were always those present who needed to hear a message in their language.

John Piper calls this form of tongues “one particular way of releasing the heart of praise.” In 1 Cor 14:28, Paul continues his instruction on the use of tongues in corporate worship: “If there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God.” This seems to imply that tongues can also be a means for praying “in the spirit,” which lends another perspective to passages such as 1  Cor 14:14-15 and 28, Rom 8:26, Eph 6:18, and Jude 1:20. Paul never chastised the Corinthians for using this gift (1 Cor 14:39) but only for misusing it and creating chaos (verses 23 and 39). He ends the fourteenth chapter by instructing them not to “forbid speaking in tongues” verse 39.

The Gift Of Prophecy.

Again, I believe the special revelation given to the apostles had ceased while the gift in the lesser sense can still continue.  You have mentioned the principle of probability can be used to verify prophecy so all these prophecies in the lesser sense should not be despised but tested according to this principle of probability.  Both Dr John Stott and Dr JI Packer did not discount the possibility.   Again, this gift of prophecy concerning knowledge of coming calamities should not be confused with that practiced by the Charismatic Movement today which resembles individual and corporate fortune telling.

“God on occasion in Bible times communicated with some people by supernaturally telling them what to do, and He has not said He will never do so again.  Some at least of the glowing stories that are told about guidance of this kind can hardly be doubted.  Some see reason to deny that God ever did, or will communicate this way now that the canon of Scripture is complete, but that view seems to us to go beyond what is written and to fly in the face of credible testimony.  It is not for us to place restrictions on God that He has not placed on Himself ! Certainly, no messages from God of this kind could be regarded as canonical in the sense of carrying authority for universal faith and life in the way Scripture does.  This, however, is not to deny that “private revelations” as the Puritans used to call them, ever take place nowadays.  On that question we keep an open mind.  Though we know that self-deception here is very easy, we would not short-circuit claims to have received words from God; we would instead test them, as objectively and open-mindedly as we can, in light of the teaching Scripture itself. Scripture teaches the principle of testing in such passages as Deuteronomy 18:22 where God’s people are told to listen to supposed prophets with discernment: “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord,  if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.  You need not be afraid of him.”  Similarly Paul instructs the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 5:20-21, “Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.”  – Dr JI Packer, “The JI Packer Classic Collections”

“…in the primary sense of prophets, as vehicles of direct and fresh revelation, it seems we must say that this charisma is no longer given. There is no longer anyone in the church who may dare to say, “The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” or “Thus says the Lord.” It has been argued, however, that prophets may be used in other and lesser senses. Some think there may be men today like the prophet Agabus (Acts 11:28; 21-10-11) whose function is not to add to revelation but to foretell some future event. This is possible. But both church history and personal experience make me cautious…”  – John Stott, Baptism and Fullness.

 

 

The Internal Testimony And Illumination Of The Holy Spirit

First Chapter Of Westminster Confession Of Faith

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.

We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man’s salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.”

Over the years, I have studied on the amazing fulfillment of prophecies, the correlation of science with the content and doctrine of Scripture, and the astonishing unity and consistency of Scripture.  Though all these had helped me to a higher and more reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture, I have noticed that all such knowledge do not necessarily lead one to believe the Holy Scripture to be the infallible Word of God. Unless God the Spirit helps to bear witness to one’s spirit that it is God Himself speaking through the Word.

As we live out our faith,  we will surely notice that the faith of those with tremendous knowledge on apologetics does not necessarily tower over those who do not know much persuasive arguments. That is amazing grace.  The Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that the Holy Scripture is the infallible Word of God and will also illuminate it for our understanding. 1 Cor 2:9-11.  If my dad called me over the phone and said,”Hi, son…”, I could immediately recognize his voice though anyone could have said such on the other line.  The sheep of our Lord Jesus will surely recognize the voice of their Master and have no doubt their Master is the One speaking.

He will help us to understand the Bible as some passages are difficult and to apply the contained truths in our lives.