Sunday, November 30, 2008

Law & Order (Episode 1)

One of my favourite crime drama series is "Law & Order". Usually a crime drama series focuses only on how the perpetrator of the crime was identified and captured by the police but "Law & Order" differentiates itself by devoting only half an episode on that, and devoting the other half on the prosecution process of the perpetrator who was caught .

What keeps the show exciting is that due to the complexities of the law and legal process, sometimes the perpetrator gets away with committing the crime through some legal technicalities or loopholes. As far as the perpetrator of the crime is concerned, the particular law he was charged under is as good as non-existent since he was not punished despite breaking that law in reality.

Therefore, I have come to this conclusion: the very nature of how the law works dictates that punishment must be very much part of the law. If a law does not include a punishment component or a punishment that is enforceable, then that law is in actual fact no law at all!

Let me illustrate with a simple analogy:

The speed limit for Singapore's expressways is 90km/h. Imagine the government announced that in honour of a Singaporean race driver winning the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, any speeding offences committed on 31/12/2008 will be exempted from any penalties that are normally imposed.

How many people, do you think, will keep to the speed limit of 90km/h on 31/12/2008? My guess is not many because for all intents and purposes, that law has been suspended for that day. Where there is no punishment, there is no law.

Look at Romans 5:13 (HSCB)
In fact, sin was in the world before the law, but sin is not charged to one's account when there is no law.

The verse says that when there is no law, sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin since you are not breaking any law.

However, from another angle you can also say that when sin is not charged to one's account i.e. you don't have to pay any penalty for sin, there is in reality no law at all.

(to be continued ...)

Law & Order (Episode 2)

In episode 1, I submitted that where there is no punishment, there is no law.

Now, let me submit that the Ten Commandments (i.e. the Law) is no longer relevant to us.

God did not institute the Law to be just a code of conduct. Punishment is part and parcel of the Law.

Deuteronomy 28:15 says "But if you refuse to listen to the Lord your God and do not obey all the commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come and overwhelm you:"

The penalties for breaking the Law are listed in Deuteronomy 28:16-68. Those who embrace the Law today betray a lack of understanding of the Law - its unattainable perfect standards and the severe penalties for breaking it.

In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus illuminated for us the perfectness of the standard that the Law demands:
27 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Then in Matthew 5:29-30, Jesus says analogically that if you break the Law, the penalty is so severe that it is better for you to remove the body part which may cause you to sin than to face the consequences when you do sin.
So if your eye—even your good eye[l]—causes you to lust, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your hand—even your stronger hand[m]—causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.

That is why God also instituted blood sacrifices from animals to cover those sins; God knows that it is impossible to keep His Law. Note that the blood from the animals only COVER SIN, they CANNOT TAKE AWAY SIN.

Hebrews 10: 1, 4 (NLT)
1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.
4 For it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Only Jesus, the perfect sacrifice, can take and took away sin.

(to be continued ...)

Law & Order (Episode 3)

In episode 2, I submitted that the Ten Commandments (i.e. the Law) is no longer relevant to us.

Why? Because there is now no longer any punishment for breaking the Law. Jesus, through his finished work on the cross, has borne all the punishment for all our sins.

In Matthew 5: 17 Jesus says, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them."

How did Jesus fulfill the Law? He not only kept the perfect standard of God, He also paid the full penalty on our behalf because we cannot keep the Law.

In Matthew 5:18, Jesus further says "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

The smallest letter, the least stroke of a pen includes all the penalties for breaking the Law and even these were accomplished by Jesus' work on the cross. Hallelujah!

Galatians 3:13 says "But Christ has rescued us from the curse pronounced by the law. When he was hung on the cross, he took upon himself the curse for our wrongdoing. For it is written in the Scriptures, “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”"

The Ten Commandments cannot be separated from the penalties of breaking them, for together they form the Law. Since Jesus has borne all the penalties upon Himself, He has fulfilled the Law, and therefore the Law is no longer relevant.

Romans 10:4 (NIV)
Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says? (Gal 4:21, NLT)

(to be continued ...)

Law & Order (Episode 4)

Tell me, you who want to live under the law, do you know what the law actually says?
Gal 4:21 (NLT)

In Gal 4:22-31, Paul uses Abraham's 2 wives, Sarah and Hagar to illustrate God's two covenants.

Sarah the heavenly Jerusalem versus Hagar the earthly Jerusalem akin to Mount Sinai, where the Israelites received the Law that enslaved them.

Sarah the free woman versus Hagar the slave woman. Gal 4:31 says that we are children of the free woman, not the slave woman.

Since the Law is no longer relevant, how do we maintain order in our lives?

Through the Holy Spirit! Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.

For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters but don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love, for the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. The Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions but when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.

The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

(btw, the above paragraphs in blue is lifted almost word for word from Gal 5:1,13-18,22-25 NLT because I couldn't have said it any better myself)

We believers should live by the Spirit because when we believed in Christ, we have been stamped by the seal of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14).

The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Godhead but many believers under-estimate or are sceptical of the power of the Holy Spirit to transform their lives. They do not see the Holy Spirit as a person unlike the way they see the Heavenly Father and Jesus, the Son.

The Holy Spirit is often perceived as an invisible spiritual force. Since the Holy Spirit is viewed as intangible, many Christians want the Ten Commandments, which is tangible, to be the guideline in their daily walk. But as I have submitted through these four episodes of Law & Order, the Ten Commandments are no longer relevant.

Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. (Ephesians 4:23, NLT)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

“No man ever spoke like this Man!”

Thanks to Malcolm for his comment on yesterday's post where he reminded me that in John 3:17 Jesus was actually speaking to Nicodemus who was a Pharisee.

John 3:1-21 records Jesus' conversation with Nicodemus who came to him under the cover of night for fear of being discovered by other Pharisees (just like how some leaders from traditional churches attended NCC's midweek services incognito to listen to Pastor Prince's preaching) .

In John 7:32, we read that the Pharisee leaders and chief priests ordered the temple guards to arrest Jesus but they came back empty handed. The leaders asked them why and they answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46)

The leaders were of course very angry:
47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? 48 Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? 49 But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed.

Like the temple guards, Nicodemus also must have been deeply impacted by Jesus' preaching for he tried to defend Jesus, saying “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?”

Did you notice that Nicodemus defended Jesus by asking a question? Remember Jesus as a 12-year-old asking questions at the temple? This shows that Nicodemus is actually a highly-learned Pharisee.

The leaders claimed that the crowd believed Jesus because they were uneducated and did not know the Law. However Nicodemus, in just one question, exposed their hypocrisy and contradiction. In essence, he was saying that the leaders who prided themselves in knowing the law were breaking the law themselves when they judged Jesus without hearing him and knowing what he was doing.

Do you see a pattern here? There are also many Pharisees ... i mean critics (some of whom are church leaders or claim to be theologically trained) who dismiss NCC's teachings i.e. Pastor's Prince's preaching as wrong or even heretical without really listening to the sermons.

Some even insinuate that the estimated 20,000 strong congregation are deceived by and blindly follow Pastor Prince without searching the scriptures for themselves, just as what the Pharisees insinuated in John 7:52, “Search the Scriptures and see for yourself—no prophet ever comes from Galilee!”

Is it true that the scriptures say that no prophet ever comes from Galilee?

Isaiah 9:1-2 (Amplified Bible)
1BUT [in the midst of judgment there is the promise and the certainty of the Lord's deliverance and] there shall be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time [the Lord] brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time He will make it glorious, by the way of the Sea [of Galilee, the land] beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great Light; those who dwelt in the land of intense darkness and the shadow of death, upon them has the Light shined.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Ever Heard Of John 3:17?

I stumbled on this website cool4christ and it has for sale a really cool T-shirt with a design that spoofs the TV series Heroes (picture left). 

What attracted me initially was the spoof of the Heroes logo but as I examined the design closely, I was drawn to the scripture verse at the bottom:
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. - John 3:17

In the very first post of my blog, I mentioned that one of the first verses we memorized in Sunday School was John 3:16. I still remember John 3:16 till this day but I don't recall ever being asked to memorize John 3:17 .

As I saw the John 3:17 verse on the T-shirt, my heart was deeply stirred because a lot of Christians (including me as recently as 5 years ago) are going about their Christian walk under a cloud of condemnation, as if God sent his Son to condemn the world!

Look at John 3:17 again! God did NOT send his Son to condemn the world. This is confirmed by Romans 8:1 - Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Even when we fail now and then, we must know that God does not condemn us. He sent Jesus to take care of that failure and "we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus." (Heb 10:19)

God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn but to SAVE the world. We usually think of "save" here as in being rescued from the fires of hell. "SAVE" transliterated as sōzō in Greek means much more than that.

Thayer Definition:
1) to save, keep safe and sound, to rescue from danger or destruction
1a) one (from injury or peril)
1a1) to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health
1b1) to preserve one who is in danger of destruction, to save or rescue
1b) to save in the technical biblical sense
1b1) negatively
1b1a) to deliver from the penalties of the Messianic judgment
1b1b) to save from the evils which obstruct the reception of the Messianic deliverance

As you can see, through Jesus we also have protection, health and healing. Even before Jesus was born, his destiny was already established by God:

Luke 1:31 (NKJV)
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

God revealed his will for Jesus through the very name that he gave: JESUS which in Hebrew is YESHUA - He Will Save.

Strong's Concordance:
For H3091; he will save; Jeshua, the name of two Israelites, also of a place in Palestine: - Jeshua.

It is God's will that He will save the world through His Son, Jesus and that is why on the night he was betrayed, Jesus prayed:

“Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Luke 22:42 (NLT)

So the next time you feel condemned for whatever reason, remember John 3:17. Memorize it!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Daddy God Has Your Best Interest At Heart

As you all know, my second son received his PSLE results last Thursday.

For the last few days, my wife and I have been deliberating over which secondary schools to apply for admission for him. We are allowed 6 choices (ranked in order of preference) and have to submit the application by Wednesday.

My son has already set his mind on one particular school (let's call it XYZ school). We asked him why he wanted to study there. He said a few of his friends are choosing XYZ, and he also liked XYZ's school and PE (i.e. physical exercise) uniforms.

Last Saturday, we accompanied him to visit XYZ using public transport and the journey took us about 45 minutes during off-peak hours. When we reached there, we saw quite a bit of construction activity going on. The school is building a new multi-storey hall and renovating a classroom block.

We walked around for a while but couldn't locate the school field. We asked one student and he told us that the temporary classrooms and canteen are sitting on it. You can tell by now that my wife and I are not too keen on XYZ, can't you?

Anyway, we brought our son to visit 2 other schools nearer our home (less than 25 minutes' journey by public transport). Both schools were relatively new (less than 10 years) with lots of open spaces and well-maintained facilities. Both schools happened to be hosting open house visits that day and we were impressed by the students who were running the show.

Before the school visits, as recognition of my son's hard work in preparing for his PSLE, I had wanted to let him name XYZ as his first choice while we will choose the rest. However, after the visits, we decided not to allow him the choice of XYZ because of the long distance and travelling time, and all the construction activity going on.

We managed to convince him to give up on XYZ as he could see for himself the difference between XYZ and the other 2 schools. He wasn't enthused by the uniforms of the other 2 schools though, but we explained to him that it was not as important a consideration compared to the school environment and travel time.

What's the whole point of telling you all this? Well, this episode shows you that we, as parents, want what is best for our child. Our considerations are also different from our child's since we are more mature than him. Sometimes, we cannot give him what he wants because we feel that it is not good for him.

Similarly, when we do not get what we want from Daddy God, do not think bad of Him. Know that Daddy God always has your best interest at heart. Sometimes, it could take quite a while before we understand the rationale or maybe we never understand why but know that He loves you and wants you well.

Jeremiah 29:11 (Amplified Bible)
11For I know the thoughts and plans that I have for you, says the Lord, thoughts and plans for welfare and peace and not for evil, to give you hope in your final outcome.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Question Is The Answer

I love to watch "Whose Line Is It Anyway?", a hilarious improvisational comedy TV series hosted by Drew Carey (see picture).

The show consisted of a panel of four performers who create characters, scenes and songs on the spot, in the style of short-form improvisation games. Topics for the games were based on either audience suggestions or predetermined prompts from the host.

One of my favourite games is where the performers are given a scenario e.g. on an international flight, and each performer has to play a different character and the trigger for all the hilarity that follows is this: ALL the dialogue must be in the form of a QUESTION.

What's so funny about that? Why don't you try holding a conversation with someone for 5 minutes with both of you speaking in questions only? Still don't know what I'm talking about? Why don't you watch the video?

(In case you are unable to open the video, please click here to watch it on youtube)

OK, are you done laughing yet?

Are you ready for this?
Ready for what?
Do you know that Jesus did the same thing?
You gotta be kidding, right?
Do I sound like I'm joking?
You are angry with me, aren't you?
Why do you keep answering me with a question?
Isn't that the rule of the game?
Who's playing games?
You mean you're not?

Arrrrrrrgh! Stop! Game over! Let's get serious.

Look at the passage of Luke 2:41-52.
Jesus was in Jerusalem with his family and relatives to celebrate the Passover. When it was time to go home, Jesus did not follow his family but stayed at the temple. After searching for three days, Jesus' parents finally discovered him at the temple sitting among the religious teachers, listening to them and asking questions. All who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. (vv46-47)

Read Luke 2:46-47 again. Jesus was asking questions but the teachers were amazed at his answers! If we read this passage through our modern day eyes, we will be confused; Jesus was asking questions, not giving answers. Our modern day understanding is that we ask questions because we don't know the answer.

However if we read this passage using Jewish spectacles, then everything becomes clear. You see, in bible times the rabbi engages his students in sophisticated discussion about the Torah by first asking a question.

The student then attempts to answer the question by asking a question in return. The student's question reflects how well he has understood the rabbi's question in the first place. Thus the student's question is actually his answer!

This is like a verbal tennis match with a question returned with another question. As you can see from the game above, it is very tough to keep the rally going. This requires both the student and rabbi to know the Torah inside out from memory. That was why the teachers were amazed at Jesus' answers/questions.

Now look at Luke 2:48-49 (NLT)
48 His parents didn’t know what to think. “Son,” his mother said to him, “why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been frantic, searching for you everywhere.” 49 “But why did you need to search?” he asked. “Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus answered his mother's question with 2 questions! To our modern day eyes, it looks like 12-year old Jesus was being rude to his mother but if we see this in the Jewish setting, we see Jesus showing incredible wisdom.

In essence, Jesus was saying to Mary (in not quite so many words),"Mum, I understand that you are worried over your 12-year old son but if you had remembered whose son I truly am and what I must accomplish, you should have come looking for me at the temple, my Father's house."

This is one of the lessons I learnt from the "Behold the Man" dvd series. Even though the New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic, it is so important to filter it through Jewish lenses so that the fullness of the scripture can be appreciated.

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Friday, November 21, 2008

Simple Words Deep Truths

Last month, I watched a very enjoyable Japanese drama series called "Change". The story revolves around the trials and tribulations of an elementary school teacher, Asakura Keita (played by popular Japanese actor Kimura Takuya) who reluctantly took over the mantle of his politician father after he died in an accident.

Although Asakura managed to win the by-election by a narrow margin, he really had absolutely no knowledge of the inner workings of the political system. His political secretary, a lady with many years of political experience, tried to explain to him how the system works using all the technical and political jargon that she is so familiar with.

Naturally, Asakura could not understand a single word she said and stopping her in mid-sentence said,"Could you please treat me like an elementary school 5th grader and explain everything all over again?" She used a different approach and explained the workings of parliament using the elementary school system, which Asakura was familiar with, as analogy.

Similarly, there are many "theologians" in the blogosphere spewing out comments saturated with theological jargon - big words that the ordinary Christian doesn't really understand. The ordinary Christian who is searching for answers end up getting choked by these "pearls of wisdom"; confused rather than enlightened.

Jesus, during his ministry on earth, spoke deep truths using simple language that the multitudes (many of whom are just ordinary peasants) understood.

I am not saying that there is no place for theologians or religious scholars. I am saying that they have to realize that theological tools and study are a means to an end. They help to uncover deeper truths in the bible, and such truths have to be shared in a manner that can be easily understood.

However, if they treat theological tools and study as an end in itself, they will succeed in only puffing themselves up just like the Pharisees during Jesus' ministry on earth. The religious scholars of the day studied the Tanakh since young but still they could not see the Messiah in the Tanakh. For if they had seen Jesus in the Tanakh, how could they have rejected Jesus in the flesh?

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations)

Today, my second son received his PSLE result.

My wife called me on the mobile and said,"Your son's score is the same as our block number ..." My first thought was: "Dxxx! I should have moved to Block 240 instead of Block 204 ten years ago!" No lah, just kidding ....

In fact, I was not too concerned about his score (fyi, the top student in Singapore scored 287) as I had seen how hard he had worked for the last 2 months on his own initiative. He has tried his best and that is good enough for me :-)

Anyway, my wife continued,"... and guess what, he scored an A in Chinese!" Whoa, my son scored an A in Chinese! Hallelujah!! It must be God!!!

You see, my son (actually, all my 3 sons) has always been poor in the subject of Chinese since Primary 1, mainly because we speak English at home and he doesn't get much practice. We sent him for Chinese tuition but it seems to be of little help as he was still getting Cs most of the time. At one point, my wife wanted to stop the tuition lessons as she felt it was a waste of money with little hope of improvement but my sister persuaded her to let him continue until the PSLE was over.

So I say it is by God's grace that my son got an A for Chinese. Those of you out there who are working hard and persevering but see no improvement in your situation, take heart! For it is when you are weak, then are you strong!

2 Cor 12:9-10 (NLT)
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

God loves to manifest His glory in precisely the area where you are weakest.

1 Cor 1:26-27 (NIV)
26Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.

Don't give up!

Samson lost his superhuman strength and blinded by the Philistines but it was precisely when Samson was at his weakest that he achieved his greatest victory.

Judges 16:30 (NKJV)
30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.

My third son will be sitting for his PSLE in two years' time. Maybe it's still not to late to move to Block 240 ....

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Oh my God! Jesus was a Jew?

In case you have forgotten or really don't know: YES, Jesus was born into this world as a Jew.

He was circumcised as a Jew and was brought up as a Jew.

Luke 2:21-24, 41-42 (NKJV)
21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the Child, His name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”),[f] 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”

41 His parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast.

"So what's the big deal about Jesus being a Jew?", you ask.  

It is important to acknowledge the Jewishness of Jesus because when you place what Jesus did and what Jesus said as recorded in the four gospels in the Jewish context, you will begin to understand why Jesus did what he did and said what he said. 

When we see Jesus in the gospels through the eyes of our own culture, we risk misunderstanding the scripture resulting in errors in our bible teaching.

There is this kid (I don't know his age but I call him a kid in reference to the way he reacts to comments on his blog which are contrary to his personal "theology") who wrote an article on his blog entitled Joseph Prince the heretic.  Lest I be accused of misquoting him, I append below an excerpt of his article which I will discuss.

All Christians are advised to stay away from Joseph Prince, New Creation Church, and their doctrines. Prince is preaching a false gospel and a fase 'Christ'; a god who functions more like a heavenly Santa Claus rather than the true God who demands our total surrender to Him. Prince, repent of your heresies while there is time, before you face the wrath of God against you for distorting His truth and sending souls to hell who are all the while thinking that they are going to heaven because of you!

P.S.: With regards to Prince's use of the Greek word eirenen (ειρηνην) in Jn. 14:26-27, it is hermeneutically fallacious to claim that we should use the Hebrew/Aramaic equivalent of shalom to interpret it to include full material well-being. Firstly, the CONTEXTdetermines the meaning, not the mere usage of a word, as if we can just import the whole semantic range of any particular word into any particular sentence. This commits the fallacy of lexicography, or unwarranted expansion of a semantic field. As an example of how nonsensical this fallacy is, consider juxtaposing Jn.3 :16 with 1 Jn 2:15, which states

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn. 3:16)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him (1 Jn. 2:15)

The word used in both verses is the Greek word 
kosmos (κοσμος). If one were to use the Greek word with its full semantic range, and thus they are exactly identical in meaning, then does that mean that God, because he loves the world as stated in Jn. 3:16, is violating his own commandment in 1 Jn.n 2:15 who says that it is a sin to love the world? This is plainly absurd!

The second error of this line of reasoning is that it disregards the language God uses in making the verse God-breathed ortheopneustos (θεοπνευστος). The New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic. It is thus totally irrelevant whether Jesus was speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic when he preached during the OT times. Therefore, we should look to the word as used in Greek instead of as it is used in Hebrew/ Aramaic.

Pastor Prince preached a sermon on John 14:26-27 (NKJV)
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Pastor Prince said that as Jesus was a Jew, he would be speaking to his disciples who are also Jews in Hebrew or Aramaic. Hence, when Jesus said "My peace I give to you" to his disciples, he was in reality speaking in Hebrew/Aramaic: "My shâlôm I give to you".  

Pastor Prince submitted that the word "peace" is not just the peace of mind that our modern English implies but rather Jesus was referring to the all encompassing peace (see BDB definition below) embodied in the hebrew shâlôm.
BDB Definition:
1) completeness, soundness, welfare, peace
1a) completeness (in number)
1b) safety, soundness (in body)
1c) welfare, health, prosperity
1d) peace, quiet, tranquillity, contentment
1e) peace, friendship
1e1) of human relationships
1e2) with God especially in covenant relationship
1f) peace (from war)
1g) peace (as adjective)

Basically, this kid, whom I shall henceforth refer to as "astroboy" instead of by his real name lest he accuse me of character assassination, is saying that Pastor Prince is wrong to use the hebrew shâlôm interchangeably with the greek eirēnē   because of  firstly "lexicography, or unwarranted expansion of a semantic field" (I still don't really understand what this term mean despite astroboy's explanation) and secondly, "The New Testament is inspired in the Greek, NOT Hebrew or Aramaic. It is thus totally irrelevant whether Jesus was speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic when he preached during the OT times".

I submit that astroboy is typical of the Christian who belittles or ignores or is ignorant of the significance of the Jewishness of Jesus and hence miss out on the full blessing of Jesus' words and actions.

Clinging steadfastly to the knowledge he gleaned from theology textbooks, astroboy totally disregards the context in which Jesus spoke those words and hence misses out on the full blessings embodied in shâlôm.

Theological knowledge is a useful tool; just like a scalpel.  However, a scalpel in the hands of a skilful surgeon will produce very different results from a scalpel in the hands of a butcher.

I submit that astroboy's above-mentioned theological reasoning is not logical.

Let me use the analogy of Hongkong TV dramas to illustrate:

HK dramas are filmed in the Cantonese dialect.  However, the dramas are dubbed in Mandarin before they are broadcast here in Singapore's free-to-air TV channel (because of government regulations against the use of dialects in broadcast media).

While the dialogue in Mandarin is supposed to have the same meaning as the Cantonese version, often it is not as enjoyable to watch in Mandarin because the subtle nuances, puns and cheeky idioms in the Cantonese dialect are usually lost in translation.  In order to enjoy the drama in its full glory, we usually resort to renting the dvds and watching them in the original language of Cantonese.

Similarly, while the NT was written in Greek, we have to bear in mind that most of the NT was written by Jews and hence it is important to acknowledge the Jewish context of the passages.  Therefore, it is perfectly reasonable for Pastor Prince to say that Jesus said,"My shâlôm I give to you".
I have just received a dvd set (which I ordered last month) entitled "Behold the Man! Discovering our Hebrew Lord, the Historical Jesus of Nazareth" by Dwight A. Pryor which is an in-depth study of Jesus, the Jew.

I hope to share what I learn in due course (but please be patient as it could take me quite some time to digest the extensive materials).


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sin All You Want

Many Christians cannot accept that ALL of our sins (past, present, future in terms of our own life time) are forgiven.

Their favourite argument is this: "If all your sins are already forgiven, does that mean you can sin all you want? You can kill somebody and still go to heaven?"

The short answer to that: YES!!!

In fact, you get to heaven FASTER after you get caught by the police and receive the death sentence from the High Court judge (we have the death sentence in Singapore for the information of readers outside Singapore).

I am not being flippant here. I repeat: You Can Sin All You Want!

The key word here is WANT. After you receive the gift of forgiveness from and reconciliation with Daddy God, do you still WANT to sin?

You say, "But even after becoming a Christian, we still sin." Of course we do, because the flesh is still with us. Paul talks about his struggle with sin in Romans 7.

Rom 7:18-21 (NLT)
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.

Notice that Paul WANTS to do what is good and right. Although you can sin all you want because you are eternally forgiven, I submit that if you are truly a Christian, you will be just like Paul; you will WANT to do what is good and right.

Since the church is depicted as the bride of Christ, let me use the analogy of a wedding ceremony to illustrate:

The bridegroom and the bride are standing before the pastor, facing each other and preparing for their marriage vows.

The bridegroom says to the bride," I will love you with all my heart, my soul and my strength. I will never be angry with you. I will forgive you of whatever wrongs you do to me, even adultery!"

Upon hearing this, the bride smiles happily, pumps her fist and shouts, "YES!!!" Then she turns her head towards to the best man and winks at him.

Is that what you expect the bride to do? You will question whether the bride truly loves the bridegroom in the first place.

When the bride appreciates how much she is loved by the bridegroom, she will love him back and will want to do what is pleasing to him.

1John 4:19 (KJV)
19We love him, because he first loved us.

Similarly, when you truly appreciate how much God loves you, you will not want to sin but rather you will want to do what is good and right. You may fail now and then but not because you want to.

When you do fail, know that you are already forgiven. Pick yourself up, slap the dust off your body and start afresh.

You are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus!

Confess Your Sins To Be Forgiven (1) - The Mis-interpretation of 1 John 1:9

1 John 1:9 (NKJV)
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

What happens to our sins at the point of our salvation?

Many of us have been taught before that at the moment of our salvation, all of our past sins up to that moment in time have been forgiven. What about the future sins which we can expect that we will commit after our salvation? Well, you have to confess those sins in order to be forgiven - 1 John 1:9 says so.

Is that true? Let's lay aside any scriptural interpretation and arguments first (we'll deal with that later), and just look at the logic of this "theology".

Is it at all possible to confess all our sins? There are so many things which we do during the day that are not right in God's eyes; is it possible to list all of them?

What if you forgot to confess one sin? That one unconfessed sin will hang over your head for the rest of your life! When you finally fall asleep, will you be denied entry at the gate of Heaven because of that one unconfessed and hence unforgiven sin?

Okay, let's solve the above problem by having a "motherhood" confession before we go to bed: "Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive me of ALL the sins that I committed today. Amen." That will work!(?)

What happens if just before you can say that little prayer, you suffer a heart attack and lose consciousness and then die? Will you be denied entry at the gate of Heaven because of your unconfessed and hence unforgiven sins?

Is that fair? Is it logical that our Daddy God operates like that?

In the first place, the idea that we are only forgiven of our past sins up to the point of salvation when we prayed the sinner's prayer is flawed. Our so-called past sins are not really past sins because Jesus died for them 2,000 years ago. As far as Jesus is concerned, ALL our sins are future sins at the moment He died for them.

Heb 10 reveals the truth of Jesus being the sacrifice for ALL SIN for ALL TIME. At the point of our salvation, ALL our sins are forgiven ONCE and for all.

Heb 10: 10, 12, 14 (NLT)
10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

14 For by that one offering he forever made perfect those who are being made holy.

Why is there a need to keep confessing sins in order to be forgiven when God says He has canceled your "criminal" record and will not remember them anymore?

Heb 10:17 (NLT)
17 Then he says, “I will never again remember their sins and lawless deeds.”

Col 2:12-14 (NLT)
For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. 13 You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.

14 He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.

So if there is no need to confess our sins in order to be forgiven, why is 1 John 1:9 in the bible?

(I will talk about that in Part 2 ...)

Confess Your Sins To Be Forgiven (2) - The Mis-interpretation of 1 John 1:9

If we don't need to keep confessing our sins in order to be forgiven, why is 1 John 1:9 in the bible?

To put the verse in context, let's look at 1 John 1: 8-9 (Amplified Bible)
8If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude and lead ourselves astray, and the Truth [which the Gospel presents] is not in us [does not dwell in our hearts].

9If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].

Some (or perhaps many) Christians believe that 1 John 1:9 is addressed to believers but I disagree.

Looking at verses 8 and 9 in tandem, I submit that Paul is actually painting a scenario of 2 choices available to a non-believer:

1) Say that you have no sin i.e. refusing to admit that you are a sinner and therefore not accepting the truth of the Gospel i.e. you don't need the Saviour because there is nothing to be saved from.


2) Confess your sins i.e. admitting you are a sinner and therefore needing and receiving God's forgiveness of all your sins and made righteous before God i.e. cleansed from all unrighteousness.

I submit that 1John 1:9 is describing what happens at the point of salvation for an unbeliever. When the unbeliever confesses before God that he is a sinner and in need of the Saviour, his sins are all forgiven and he is cleansed from ALL unrighteousness, thereby making him fully righteous. I use the word fully to emphasize the absence of any unrighteousness because strictly speaking, righteousness is a state of being so you are either righteous or unrighteous.

When you become a believer, you are made righteous before God; you have been cleansed from ALL unrighteousness, so how can there be any unrighteousness left in you for God to cleanse again and again?

For an in depth understanding of 1 John 1:9, I recommend the following two articles:


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Conned To Be A Christian By John 3:16 (Part 1)

When I was a kid attending Sunday School, every week the SS teacher would give a memory verse for the class to memorize. The kids would be tested on it the next week, and the one with the highest score at the end of the year would receive a prize.

One of the first verses (if not the first) would be John 3:16. Somehow, I feel that the Holy Spirit really loves this verse, and up to this day I can still recite this verse word for word in the KJV (that was the "favourite" version during my time then).

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Beautiful verse, isn't it? In fact, this is the "must quote" verse whenever we do witnessing.

However, after becoming a Christian, you find that the verse isn't so beautiful after all. Why? Because you discover from the pastor, the SS teacher, cell group leader or your discipler that when they quoted you that beautiful verse, they actually missed out a tiny little asterisk at the end:

* Terms & Conditions Apply

You can't see it? Let me help you.

* Terms & Conditions Apply

What terms and conditions? I thought I just believe in His only begotten Son aka Jesus and I do not perish and have everlasting life?

No, not according to some preachers. Turns out that everlasting is not that lasting after all: you have to live a holy life, you cannot "sin wilfully" otherwise you will lose your salvation.

But ... but ... but ... that's not written in John 3:16! Of course not, silly! Don't you know that the terms and conditions are always listed in super fine print at the bottom of the main advertisement? Please refer to Hebrews 10:26-27.

Hey, this is not fair! I have been conned by John 3:16.

Let me give an analogy:

You are walking along Orchard Road when you are approached by a sweet young thing.

"Excuse me sir, are you a customer of ABC Bank?"

"You are? Congratulations! ABC Bank has paid for you a one-time lump sum membership fee to join our Fitness Club for life! You can come to the club to enjoy the facilities for free anytime 24/7 365 days a year, just sign here."

So you happily signed on the dotted line and the next day, you turn up at the Fitness Club to try out the treadmill. At the reception counter, you meet another SYT.

"I am sorry sir, but you have to pay a monthly subscription fee to maintain your life membership."

Your face grow red: "But you said ABC Bank already paid a one-time lump sum fee for me! Why do I need to pay some more?"

"Yes sir, I understand but if you look at the form that you signed, please note the terms and conditions listed behind the page."

Don't you feel cheated?!

Is it logical that our God operates like that?

Conned To Be A Christian By John 3:16 (Part 2)

John 3:16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

The Not-So-Everlasting Life

Earlier, I said that we were taught by pastors, SS teachers, CG teachers or disciplers that the everlasting life that we received after we accepted Christ is dependent on our living a holy life. If we keep on sinning and sinning, we can lose our salvation; life everlasting is not that lasting after all.

One of the favourite verses that they use to support this theology is Heb 10:26-27:

26For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
27But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.

What is meant by sinning wilfully? Most people define it as doing a sinful deed again and again despite knowing that it is a sinful deed. I guess that includes most of us because let's face it, we commit sins everyday.

No, not you? Are you sure? You don't tell a single lie? Not even when your wife asks you how she looks in that very expensive dress? How many times have we gotten worried during the day, gotten angry with someone, snapped at the waiter, gossiped about somebody?

The point I'm making is that in the flesh we all sin, and every time we sin, it is wilful because we know it is a sin. If this "losing your salvation theology" is correct, then there is no hope for us because we do "sin wilfully" everyday.

But wait, I hear some voices saying there is an escape clause: 1 John 1:9

9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Every time we sin, we just confess it and we'll be safe (i.e. forgiven); we still qualify for everlasting life.

(Another angle to this verse is that some people say we have to confess our sins in order to be forgiven but I will talk about this later in another post)

Let me put aside my disagreement with the interpretation and use of Heb 10:26-27 and 1John 1:9 first, and deal with the logic of the above "theology":

If we sin wilfully, we lose our everlasting life. However, if we confess our wilful sins, we get it back. What if you confessed all the sins of your entire life (which i don't believe we are able to but for the sake of argument let's say we can) except for one which you forgot.

Do you think that you are still able to get to heaven and enjoy everlasting life? I would say no because there is no room for sin in heaven.

Is that fair? Is it logical that our Daddy God operates like that?

I submit that the "losing your salvation theology" is wrong.

What is the real meaning of "sinning wilfully"?

Let's look at Heb 10:26-27 again in the proper context.

The book of Hebrews was written by Paul to the Hebrews (i.e. Jews) who follow the Law of Moses (i.e. under Judaism) to reveal to them the truth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah.

Heb 1: 1-4 (NLT)

1Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. 2 And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 3 The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 4 This shows that the Son is far greater than the angels, just as the name God gave him is greater than their names.

Paul is a Jew and when he says in Heb 1:1 that God to spoke to our ancestors, that means he is speaking to his fellow Jews.

In Heb 10, Paul was revealing to his fellow Jews that Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for sins once for all; the blood of Jesus removes sin which the animal sacrifices by the Jews under the Law of Moses cannot do:

Heb 10 :1, 8-10

1 The old system under the law of Moses was only a shadow, a dim preview of the good things to come, not the good things themselves. The sacrifices under that system were repeated again and again, year after year, but they were never able to provide perfect cleansing for those who came to worship.

8 First, Christ said, “You did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings or burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, nor were you pleased with them” (though they are required by the law of Moses). 9 Then he said, “Look, I have come to do your will.” He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. 10 For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.

In Heb 10:26-27 Paul is telling the Jews that if they reject the truth of Christ being the ultimate sacrifice for sins once for all, there remains no more sacrifice for sins. The animal sacrifices that they repeat year after year under the Law of Moses can no longer save them because that covenant of the Law has been cancelled and replaced by the covenant of Jesus Christ.

Now that the Jews know,
through Paul, the truth of Jesus' sacrifice and yet they still reject Jesus, preferring to cling on to the blood of bulls and goats, they are actually "sinning wilfully". What sin? The sin of refusing to believe in Christ Jesus.

John 16:7-9 (NLT)

But in fact, it is best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Advocate[a] won’t come. If I do go away, then I will send him to you. 8 And when he comes, he will convict the world of its sin, and of God’s righteousness, and of the coming judgment. 9 The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me.

Will we ever lose our salvation?


Heb 10:11-12, 17 (NLT)
11 Under the old covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins. 12 But our High Priest offered himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then he sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

17 Then he says, “I will never again remember
their sins and lawless deeds.”

Our Daddy God doesn't, nay, cannot contradict Himself.

Our Daddy God says what He means and means what He says.

He says we receive everlasting life; that means it lasts forever.

He says Jesus offered himself as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time; that means our sins have been forgiven forever.

He says He forgives our sins based on His estimation of our sins, not our own estimation i.e. confession.