Thursday, April 30, 2009

Don't Be Afraid Of The Piggy

Two days ago, a reader "lostnomore" asked me for the title of a sermon that Pastor Prince preached this year which (s)he felt is appropriate to listen to deal with the swine flu crisis that is threatening to sweep across the world.

I actually couldn't recall which sermon but "lostnomore" came back later and told me that the sermon (s)he was referring to was "God’s Protection Plan Against The Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse". I have the DVD and watched it yesterday.

In the sermon, Pastor Prince taught from the book of Revelations and explained how the Four Horsemen is going to attack the world and how we, Christians, can repel their attacks because we are in Christ.

It's a pretty long sermon and I am not here to preach it but I want to discuss the horseman who's attacking us right now with the swine flu:

Rev 6:8 (Amplifed Bible)
8So I looked, and behold, an ashy pale horse [black and blue as if made so by bruising], and its rider's name was Death, and Hades (the realm of the dead) followed him closely. And they were given authority and power over a fourth part of the earth to kill with the sword and with famine and with plague (pestilence, disease) and with wild beasts of the earth.

If you had not listened to the sermon or watched the DVD, it is not easy to visualize what I am going to say but please bear with me. Pastor Prince also taught on how Israel's tribes set up camp. The Israelites camped around the tabernacle with three tribes in each direction (north, south, east and west) and from a bird's eye view, the Israelite camp looks like a cross with the tabernacle in the centre of it.

On the east side are Judah, followed by Issachar and Zebulun, and they are under the banner of Judah which is the Lion. On the south side are Reuben, followed by Simeon and Gad, and they are under the banner of Reuben which is the Man.

On the west side are Ephraim, followed by Manasseh and Benjamin, and they are under the banner of Ephraim which is the Ox. On the north side are Dan, followed by Asher and Naphtali, and they are under the banner of Dan which is the Eagle.
(for the details please read Numbers 2, for a diagram of the camp layout, please see here)

This picture of the four banners surrounding the tabernacle is paralleled in Ezekiel 1:10 (Amplified Bible) - "10As for the likeness of their faces, they each had the face of a man [in front], and each had the face of a lion on the right side and the face of an ox on the left side; the four also had the face of an eagle [at the back of their heads]."

This is also paralleled in Rev 4:6-7 (Amplified Bible) - "6And in front of the throne there was also what looked like a transparent glassy sea, as if of crystal. And around the throne, in the center at each side of the throne, were four living creatures (beings) who were full of eyes in front and behind [with intelligence as to what is before and at the rear of them].
7The first living creature (being) was like a lion, the second living creature like an ox, the third living creature had the face of a man, and the fourth living creature [was] like a flying eagle. "

The four gospels recorded in the New Testament are also typified by the four living creatures: Matthew - the Lion, Mark - the Ox, Luke - the Man, John - the Eagle (for a detailed explanation, please listen to the sermon).

So far, I am just laying the groundwork of what I actually want to say. Let's take a look at Zech 6:5,6 - "5 The angel replied, “These are the four spirits of heaven who stand before the Lord of all the earth. They are going out to do his work. 6 The chariot with black horses is going north, the chariot with white horses is going west, and the chariot with dappled-gray horses is going south.”"

This passage in the book of Zechariah also talks about the same four colours of horses mentioned in Rev 6. Take note that the pale colour horse is going south ie. it is proceeding from the north and travelling to the south. In Rev 6, the rider on the pale horse is Death, and he is attacking with plague ie. pestilence and disease and he is attacking from the north.

Interestingly, the source of the swine flu epidemic is Mexico which is in North America. Which is the banner that is guarding the north side? It is the Eagle which represents the gospel of John. In his sermon, Pastor Prince suggested that we should read the book of John and chances are we will be strong and healthy. That got me thinking - what is the "ingredient" that makes the book of John special and distinguishes it from the other gospels?

There are of course quite a few unique "ingredients" that only appears in the book of John eg. the recording of Jesus' very first miracle (turning water into wine - John 2) and Jesus' dialogue with Nicodemus (John 3). However, in the context of dealing with swine flu, I want to discuss the greatest miracle (from a human point of view) that Jesus performed and which is recorded only in the book of John - the raising of Lazarus from the dead four days after his death.

Specifically, I want to focus on what Jesus said before the actual raising of Lazarus for the miracle serves only to confirm His word.

John 11:25-26 (KJV)
25Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. We, who believe in Christ Jesus, were once dead in our sin BUT NOW we are made alive in Him and He lives in us, so therefore we have the resurrection life in us. We, who are now alive and believe in Christ Jesus shall never die - believest thou this?

Don't be afraid of the piggy ... I mean swine flu. We shall never die because we are in Christ. If you are still not convinced by what Jesus said before the cross, don't worry because Jesus also confirmed His word after the cross through the apostle Paul:

Romans 8:10-11 (NLT)
10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Love Letter or Warning Letter - A Reader's Questions

A reader, "Hisdisciple" responded to my article "Love Letter or Warning Letter" and shared with us his perception of JP Ministries. He also asked two questions which I think deserve to be answered and shared in a separate post rather than in the comments box:

Joseph Prince’s ministry finds its roots in what many people have referred to as the Word Faith Movement. Proponents of this movement include E W Kenyon(whose writings gave rise to most of the radical ideas that inform the movement), Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer et al. They teach a collective theology which propounds that God has promised to bless His people based on His finished work on the cross, as well as the believer’s positive confession of faith (in other words, if you speak forth your need, and lay hold of it by faith, the spoken need will in due time come to pass. Put simply, if I desire a car, I claim it in Jesus’ name, and the car will come my way).

Critics have written quite extensively on Word Faith teachings, so i will not talk further about it here. What I do want to highlight is that JP’s teaching over the last ten years has not moved beyond the whole theme of justification by faith. In fact, there has been no mention of the sanctification process or the need for it. In his teachings, believers become righteous from appropriating the finished work on the cross. There is no need to work out one’s salvation, one simply needs to “rest”.

JP’s teaching on Grace suggests a lack of basic understanding of God’s redemptive work. The Martin Luthers and Calvinists will tell you the only time a believer ever takes a rest in his walk with God is when he is getting saved through the finished work of Christ. One can’t earn salvation through his own good work, but he can by His grace and mercy as demonstrated by His outstretched arms on the cross. This is the turning point in a sinner’s life, when the sinner decides to take up the cross and follow Jesus, so that more and more he can be called to be in His image.

Positionally, the believer is forever saved, but the old man in him still needs to be transformed. Now, this walk of sanctification, JP Ministry completely ignores. It is interesting that JP perceives any effort on the believer’s part to act out God’s imperatives as the believer’s attempt to keep the law. He teaches that under the New Convenant, one does not keep the Law, but lives only by God’s grace. So, according to him, God has not only rescinded the need to keep the ceremonial laws, He has categorically abolished all laws, including the Decalogue!

My questions for all to consider:

1. If God has truly abolished the Decalogue, which reveals His moral character and absolute standards for human decency, then what should a believer hold fast to in order to live out his faith in a corrupt and decadent world? “We are in the world, but not of the world.” God also calls us “the salt of the earth”. What keeps us salty if God removes His standards/values for us? What is Grace? Is it a form of moral standard by which we can define and govern our thought life and behaviour?

2. If,according to JP’s theology, those of us who are trying to work out our salvation with fear and trembling are guilty of earning our salvation through our own “stinking efforts”, then what is the Holy Spirit for in our lives?

I shall not argue over what the Word of Faith preaches because I have not sat under that ministry but I have sat under Pastor Prince's ministry for more than five years and therefore would like to clear up the misconception of Hisdisciple regarding Pastor Prince's (JP) teaching.

Hisdisciple said "In his teachings, believers become righteous from appropriating the finished work on the cross. There is no need to work out one’s salvation, one simply needs to “rest”". Hisdisciple is correct in his perception that JP teaches that we are righteous when we appropriate Christ's finished work on the cross. However, he is sadly mistaken (as are many others too) when he thinks that JP teaches us that there is no need to work out one's salvation. This is because many like Hisdisciple have misunderstood working OUT one's salvation as working FOR one's salvation.

What JP is saying is that Christ's work on the cross is finished; we can never lose our salvation once we receive it. Therefore we live a holy life because we ARE holy, and not in order to BECOME holy. As we live a holy life, we are in fact working OUT our salvation - it is a life of rest because we ARE the righteousness of God in Christ. On the other hand, there are preachers who preach that we can lose our salvation if we "sin wilfully" and do not live a holy life, and those who subscribe to this teaching are not at rest for they live a holy life working FOR their salvation, rather than working OUT their salvation.

We rest also because it is God working in us, giving us the desire and the power to do what pleases him (Phil 2:13). This is also the answer to Hisdisciple's question 2 - in fact, by the grace of God, Geri "happened" to also touch on Hisdisciple's question on "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" when she commented on another article of mine "Questionable 'Questionable Teachings' (4)".

She said (emphasis in bold and large lettering mine): "A similar case to look at is this one other commonly misquoted quotation that mixed grace/ legalistic pastors love to abuse is found in Phil 2:12...

"12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Pastors love to misquote this to promote works and that we need to work out our salvation still.

BUT Notice the comma behind?? This is NOT a full quote... you must also add in verse 13 which says -
13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
And we know this point when quoted in FULL is accurate because Scripture confirms Scripture... Let's take a look at some scriptures that confirm the FULL quote from Phil 2:12-13

1 Corinthians 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.

And another one that confirms that the FULL quotation is right, not the half quote that pastors often misquote is found in
Hebrews 13:20-21 -
20 Now may the God of peace
who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
the great Shepherd of the sheep,
and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
21 may he equip you with all you need
for doing his will.
May he produce in you,[e]
through the power of Jesus Christ,

every good thing that is pleasing to him.
All glory to him forever and ever! Amen. "

Hisdisciple asked in Q2 "what is the Holy Spirit for in our lives?" For us believers, the Holy Spirit is in our lives to convict us of God's righteousness which we have (John 16:8-10). We are able to rest knowing that we stand righteous before God because we are in Christ and whatever good that we do is not meant to score brownie points with God, and whatever good that we do is because of Christ in us (Phil 2:13, 1 Cor 15:10, Heb 13:21).

This brings us to Q1 - "What keeps us salty if God removes His standards/values for us? What is Grace? Is it a form of moral standard by which we can define and govern our thought life and behaviour? "

Grace is not a concept or a moral standard. Grace is the undeserved favour that we receive from God, and Jesus is the embodiment of God's grace - "For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him." (John 1:17-18). God sent Jesus to pay the penalty for man's sins. We did not do anything to deserve God sending Jesus to die for us, it was totally undeserved and entirely because of God's grace:

Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)
6 When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. 7 Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Grace is not what we can do or have done for God BUT WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US. Through the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Jesus, we who accept Christ as Lord and Saviour receive the Grace of God, we too died, were buried and rose up with Him. We are now born again as a new creation with a new heart, a responsive heart and a new spirit as our old self with a heart of stone also died (Eze 36:26-27).

God does not remove His standards/values for us. Under the old covenant, God shows us those standards/values externally on tablets of stone BUT now in the new covenant, God gives us a new heart of flesh through Christ, and writes those standards/values on our hearts (Heb 8:10).

Ezekiel 36:22-27 (NLT)
22 “Therefore, give the people of Israel this message from the Sovereign Lord: I am bringing you back, but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. 23 I will show how holy my great name is—the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the Sovereign Lord, then the nations will know that I am the Lord. 24 For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.
25 “Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols.26 And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations.

Hebrews 8:10-12 (NLT)
10 But this is the new covenant I will make
with the people of Israel on that day, says the L
I will put my laws in their minds,
and I will write them on their hearts
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 And they will not need to teach their neighbors,
nor will they need to teach their relatives,
saying, ‘You should know the L
For everyone, from the least to the greatest,
will know me already
12 And I will forgive their wickedness,
and I will never again remember their sins.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (4)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again, I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #4: Your Sin Is Drawing You Closer To God!

Some preachers are teaching that sinning could even be good for a person since it might draw him closer to God. When that happens, his sinning is actually helping him to realize God's love and grace toward him. As such, sinning might even be a good thing.

Is this what the Scripture teaches? Quite the opposite,

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? ( Rom. 6:1-2)

Romans 2:4 says that "the goodness of God leads us to repentance." Sin certainly doesn't play a part in drawing us closer to Him; on the contrary, sin separates us from God.

I totally agree with Rev Kong Hee that this teaching that sinning in order to draw closer to God is wrong. However, I want to say that some preachers' preaching have been misunderstood to promote this teaching when in fact they have not done so. They were misunderstood just as Paul was:

Romans 3:5-8 (NKJV)
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.

The reason why these preachers were misunderstood is because they preached on the verses just before Rom 6:1-2 (which Rev Kong Hee quoted) which is where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Let's take a look at the verses in context:

Rom 5:20-21 to Rom 6:1-4 (NKJV)
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

When Paul preached that where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, he knew that people may misunderstand him to be promoting sin in order to receive grace (Rom 6:1), that is why in Rom 6:2, he says unequivocally "Certainly not!". This is also what these preachers preach but still they have been misunderstood.

One preacher who has been misunderstood by other Christians including fellow preachers is NCC's Pastor Joseph Prince. Those who wonder whether he is really preaching this questionable teaching #4 will do well to listen for themselves:

There Is Superabounding Favour To Lift You Up When You Fall (CD Sermon)
E-mail this product to a friend

God’s favour flows in your life, especially when you fail. “How can that be?” you ask. “Aren’t I most undeserving when I fail?” No, the Bible clearly shows that where sin abounds, grace, God’s undeserved, unmerited favour, superabounds. Listen to this message, and see the evidence for yourself in the life stories of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. In spite of their failings, they emerged richly blessed! So don’t throw in the towel when you fail. Learn to reach out for God’s grace, and come out even more blessed!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (3)

I shall continue with my discussion on "questionable teachings" listed in Rev Kong Hee's article "Balance is the key of life (Part 3)". Again,I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

Questionable Teaching #3: Sin Will Never Break Your Fellowship With God!

Again, this goes contrary to 2,000 years of mainstream Evangelical, Reformed, Renewed and Pentecostal theologies for practically every Church denomination. Every textbook in Bible seminaries and Christian bookstores would say that even for the born again believer, continued sinning would damage his relationship with God.

If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and. the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 Jn. 1:7)

Yes, we can have fellowship with God, but only as we walk in the light as He is in the light! Of course, if a Christian gets defiled in sin again, the Holy Spirit may not immediately leave him. However, if a believer walks in darkness, without genuine repentance, his fellowship with God would be damaged. Thereafter, if he persists in rebellious, willful sinning, without demonstrating any godly sorrow toward his sins, that fellowship with God would eventually be broken (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-27). As such, it is extremely presumptuous to think that sin would not break your fellowship or destroy your relationship with God.

Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear. (Isa. 59:1-2)

Again, Rev Kong Hee is saying that this goes against 2,000 years of mainstream theologies but I say this argument should not be used ever again because knowledge is built upon more knowledge, and sometimes this will lead us to the conclusion that what we knew previously as true is now no longer true eg. geocentrism vs heliocentrism which I mentioned in a previous post. Instead, let us examine the scriptures and see whether this teaching is really questionable.

Rev Kong Hee quoted 1 John 1:7, Heb 6:4-6 and Heb 10:26-27 and says that if one "gets defiled in sin", the Holy Spirit may not immediately leave him but if he "persists in rebellious, wilful sinning", then "that fellowship with God would eventually be broken".

Let's tackle his argument by first examining the verses quoted:

1 John 1:1-7 (actually, Rev Kong Hee quoted 1 John 1:6-7 but I included vv 1-5 for context)
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

I have said before that John in 1 John 1 is addressing Gnostics and not Christians:

Let's read the first chapter of 1 John, and keep in mind two important questions: "Who was John's audience?" and 'What was he trying to accomplish in this letter?"

The audience was a confused church in Asia. The pastor there asked John to write a letter to help clear up some major doctrinal heresy called "Gnosticism." Gnosticism comes from the Greek word " gnosis", which means knowledge. The Gnostics were a group of people who believed they possessed superior spiritual knowledge. They believed that all flesh is evil and that only spirit is good. Because they believed that, they didn't believe that Jesus really came in the flesh - they believed He was an illusion. They also believed that because sin had to do with our flesh, there really wasn't sin - sin was also just an Illusion. (That's similar to people today who believe sickness is an illusion.) The church in Ephesus was filled with people who not only didn't believe Christ came in the flesh, they didn't believe sin was real.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of Life" (I John 1:1). In other words, John is establishing that he was an eyewitness to the fact that Jesus truly did come in the flesh. He did this to convince the Gnostics that Jesus was not an illusion.

"We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ" (verse 3). This verse says two things. First, John repeats the fact that he, the rest of the apostles and other people saw Christ in the flesh. He wanted the Gnostics to realize that there were many people who could testify to the reality of Christ. Second, he is saying that there are some people in the audience who were not in the fellowship with Christ.


John is telling the Gnostics in 1 John 1:5-7 that sin is real and they are living a lie when they sin and yet deny they have sin by claiming that only the body is sinning but the spirit remains pure and can never sin. Hence, John says they are not true Christians since they do not acknowledge that they are sinners BUT if they acknowledge that they are sinners, then the blood of Jesus will take care of the sin problem by cleansing them from all sin.

This line of argument by John is continued into 1 John 1:8-9 where he encourages them to acknowledge they have sin by confessing and God is faithful to forgive them of all their sins.

Hebrews 6:4-6 (NLT)
4 For it is impossible to bring back to repentance those who were once enlightened—those who have experienced the good things of heaven and shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the power of the age to come—6 and who then turn away from God. It is impossible to bring such people back to repentance; by rejecting the Son of God, they themselves are nailing him to the cross once again and holding him up to public shame.

Hebrews 10:26-27 (NKJV)
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

The two Hebrew passages quoted are talking about the same thing ie. the rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah, God's ultimate sacrifice for our sins. For a proper context of reading the book of Hebrews, take note that it is a letter written by Paul addressed to his fellow Jews as Paul used the words "our ancestors" in Heb 1:1 - "Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets."

In Hebrews 6:4-6, Paul is talking about those Jews who became Christians but later went back to Judaism. That is why he said they were once enlightened, having shared in the Holy Spirit and tasted the goodness of the word of God BUT they turned away from God by rejecting the Son of God.

When we sin, are we rejecting the Son of God? Of course not! This rejecting of the Son of God mentioned in Heb 6 is talking about the Jews returning to Judaism. Similarly, in Heb 10 Paul is talking about those Jews who refuse to accept Christ at all even after receiving "the knowledge of the truth" ie. the preaching of the gospel of Christ as the ultimate sacrifice, and wants to continue in Judaism.

Since those Jews have rejected Christ as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins, Paul said "there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins" ie. even though those Jews continue in Judaism, continue in their sacrifices of bulls and goats, those sacrifices are no longer acceptable to God because God now accepts ONLY Christ as the sacrifice.

But what does Paul mean by "if we sin wilfully"? In the context of Heb 10, Paul is talking about the sin of unbelief in Christ by the Jews. Paul is saying that he has told them clearly the truth about Christ and yet they still refused to believe, therefore they are sinning wilfully.

When Rev Kong Hee says "fellowship with God is broken", I think he is implying that God leaves us alone or does not want to be close to us (judging from his words "the Holy Spirit may not immediately leave him" which implies that the Holy Spirit eventually will leave). However, I believe that the reverse is true. When we persistently commit sinful acts, we want to run away from God, we don't want to be close to Him because we feel dirty and unworthy. We feel this way because we have been traditionally taught that God is angry or unhappy with us when we sin.

What does God himself say He will do when we sin?

Jeremiah 31:34
And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”

Jeremiah 31:37
This is what the Lord says:
“Just as the heavens cannot be measured
and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored,
so I will not consider casting them away
for the evil they have done.

I, the L
ord, have spoken!

Number 1, God says He forgives our sins and will NEVER remember them. Number 2, God says He will NOT forsake us when we sin. Therefore, SIN WILL NEVER BREAK YOUR FELLOWSHIP WITH GOD!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Questionable "Questionable Teachings" (2-2)

I shall continue from my previous post on QT2 and deal with the first verse quoted by Rev Kong Hee. Again, I want to emphatically say that I have no intention whatsoever to discredit the ministry of Rev Kong Hee or City Harvest Church. I believe they are working for the kingdom of God but here I want to question whether those teachings that Rev Kong Hee deem questionable are really questionable.

- Jesus Himself taught on the first commandment of putting God first in Mt. 22:37-38.

While Rev Kong Hee quoted Matthew 22:37-38, I believe we need to start reading from verse 34 and end at verse 40 for a proper context of verses 37-38.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

The context of what Jesus said in verses 37-38 was not about teaching the 10 commandments but rather He was answering a direct question from the Pharisees who were trying to challenge His authority as a rabbi.

The question was "
Which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?" Actually, this question betrays the Pharisees lack of understanding of the law as well as their own perversion of the law. There is no such thing as the most important commandment "for whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all". (James 2:10)

As an analogy, just suppose a pilot has to do 10 procedures before taking off, and if any one of the 10 procedures is not done or not done properly, then the plane will crash. Now tell me, which is the most important procedure? ALL of them of course, because missing out just one, any one procedure is going to crash the plane!

Similarly, ALL the commandments in the law are equally important because James 2:10 says that breaking any one is equivalent to breaking them ALL. Then why did Jesus say "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ "

Strictly speaking, "you must love the Lord your God ..." was not written on the stone tablets listing the 10 commandments - let's take a look at Deut 5:1-22:

1 Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, O Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today. Learn them and be sure to follow them. 2 The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. 3 It was not with our fathers that the LORD made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today. 4 The LORD spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. 5 (At that time I stood between the LORD and you to declare to you the word of the LORD, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain.) And he said:

6 "I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

7 "You shall have no other gods before me.

8 "You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

11 "You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

12 "Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the LORD your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor the alien within your gates, so that your manservant and maidservant may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the LORD your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the LORD your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

16 "Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

17 "You shall not murder.

18 "You shall not commit adultery.

19 "You shall not steal.

20 "You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

21 "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. You shall not set your desire on your neighbor's house or land, his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor."

22 These are the commandments the LORD proclaimed in a loud voice to your whole assembly there on the mountain from out of the fire, the cloud and the deep darkness; and he added nothing more. Then he wrote them on two stone tablets and gave them to me.

What Jesus said was a quotation of Deut 6:5 where Moses was teaching the law to the Israelites. Jesus was telling the Pharisees (as well as many Christians today, including Rev Kong Hee and me) that the whole essence of the law is to love God and love your neighbour - "The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments" (Matt 22:40).

Have you noticed that the law is phrased in such a way that every single one of them is an action? This is the language of doing, the language which the Israelites spoke and the language which many Christians still speak today - "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17, Luke 10:25). Today, when we insist on following the 10 commandments and argue for keeping the 10 commandments, we have missed the mark. This is because Jesus was telling us that God is looking at your heart, and when your heart is right, right actions will naturally follow in good time.

When you love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind, would you have any other gods before you? Would you make or buy yourself an idol and worship it?

When you love your neighbour as yourself, would you give false witness against him? Would you murder? Would you steal? Would you commit adultery? Would you covet your neighbour's things?

Those who fight for keeping the 10 commandments are putting the cart before the horse:
1 Cor 13:1-3 (NKJV)
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.

GOD IS LOVE and Jesus is teaching us to be like God; Jesus is teaching us to love. However, on our own, it is hard for us to love because of our flesh and selfishness. How can we be like God if we are spiritually dead? That's why God sent Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice to cut for us a new covenant, a new life in the spirit - we in Christ and Christ in us. Now, the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit (Rom 8:4).

Was Jesus teaching about the 10 commandments? NO, Jesus was teaching about LOVE.