Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Simple Truths To Live By (2)

Continuing from my previous post, let me share with you another simple truth which I live by and which I stubbornly refuse to be shaken from after learning and studying through these last seven years of NCC's ministry:

Simple Truth No.2 - God has forgiven ALL (past, present and future) of my sins

Among us Christians, one of the most basic truths of our Christian faith - God's forgiveness - has always generated great debate because we still cannot agree with one another on what kind of forgiveness we receive from God.

Some Christians believe that God forgave all of their sins from birth up to the point of their rebirth i.e. up to the point in time when they received Christ as their saviour and became Christians but after they became Christians, God forgives only the sins which they confess to Him. These Christians usually base this piece of "theology" on 1 John 1:9 - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.". 

Mis-interpretation of 1 John 1:9

However, I do not subscribe to this belief as I have learnt that their interpretation of 1 John 1:9 is flawed.  1 John 1:9 should be read in context of the whole chapter of 1 John 1 and not as a standalone verse.  I have written several posts on this misinterpretation of 1 John 1:9 and basically, the point is that the first chapter of 1 John was not directed at Christians but rather Gnostics who 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."(source: http://www.realanswers.net/realaudio/forgiveness.htm)

Now that we can see that 1 John 1 is not directed at Christians, let's take a look at 1 John 1:9 together with verses 5-8 to see the full context:

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.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

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 not deceive themselves but to acknowledge that they have sin by confessing and God is faithful to forgive them of all their sins. 
Looking at verses 8 and 9 in tandem, I submit that John is actually painting a scenario of 2 choices available to a non-believer: 
1) v8 - 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; 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.

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?

The Timelessness of the Cross
Now if all this examination of the verses is giving you a headache, then let's look at this forgiveness issue from the point of view of the Cross.  When Christ paid the penalty for sin on the cross, was it for only those who were alive on earth at the point of His death? Of course not!  Christ paid the penalty for every single person who ever lived or will live on this earth.  Now, we know Christ died on the cross more than 2,000 years ago, therefore at the point of our salvation, even those sins which we consider as past, i.e. from our birth up to the point of our salvation, were in actual fact "future sins" when viewed from the time of Christ's death on the cross.
Christ's sacrifice on the cross is good for ALL time - past, present and future.  Christ wiped the slate clean once and for ALL and what Christ has cleaned will remain clean for ALL time:
Hebrews 10:10-14 (Amplified Bible)
10And in accordance with this will [of God], we have been made holy (consecrated and sanctified) through the offering made once for all of the body of Jesus Christ (the Anointed One).
    11Furthermore, every [human] priest stands [at his altar of service] ministering daily, offering the same sacrifices over and over again, which never are able to strip [from every side of us] the sins [that envelop us] and take them away--
    12Whereas this One [Christ], after He had offered a single sacrifice for our sins [that shall avail] for all time, sat down at the right hand of God,
    13Then to wait until His enemies should be made a stool beneath His feet.
    14For by a single offering He has forever completely cleansed and perfected those who are consecrated and made holy.

What happens when you sin? Do you need to confess to God your sin?  For me, when I sin, I don't bother to confess my sin to God because firstly, God already knows about it and has already forgiven me through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, and secondly, God says He won't remember my sins anymore, and thirdly, God is not angry with me anymore. I just thank God for his grace and ask Him for wisdom to learn from my mistake.

If you need more assurance about God's forgiveness of your sins, then check out the following verses:

Heb 10:17 - "He then goes on to say, And their sins and their lawbreaking I will remember no more."

Col 2:13-14 - "13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross."

Isaiah 54:9 - "For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you."
Jeremiah 31:34 - "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more."

Yes, there will be people who abuse this truth, treating it as a license to sin and therefore have no desire to live out a life worthy of their calling as a child of God BUT this is still the truth, and holding on to this simple truth has saved me (and will save you) from living a life under condemnation and guilt.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Simple Truths To Live By (1)

I am not a theologian.  In fact, I get a headache trying to understand all those big words spouted by theologians (or theologian wannabes) and what the theologians are really trying to say with those big words.

One of the main reasons why I started writing this blog is to help lay Christians like myself understand better what our Christian faith is all about, in simple language.  Hence, this blog is not trying to prove the Christian faith, and therefore is not meant to convert non-Christians; non-Christians, like "the logical mouse" who visit this blog to challenge the Christian faith are barking up the wrong tree.

Among us Christians, there are many little details of our Christian faith which we do not agree with one another eg. confession and forgiveness of sins, the 10 commandments, prosperity, healing, the Holy Spirit, etc.  When we read so many different arguments regarding these issues, mixed with theological or religious jargon, we may get confused and lose our focus, which is Christ.  It can get tiring, trying to make sense of all the varying views, sorting out the truth from error.  Therefore, it is important to hold on to some rock solid simple truths in order to stand firm in our Christian faith.

I intend to share with you some of these truths which I live by and which I stubbornly refuse to be shaken from after learning and studying through these last seven years of NCC's ministry:

Simple Truth No.1 - God is Good.

What? Do we need to even discuss this basic truth? You might be surprised but there are (I suspect, many) Christians who find it hard to believe that God is good full stop.  They can believe that "God is good BUT ...", not "God is good full stop".  Many Christians believe that God's goodness to us is not unconditional but is dispensed based on our own "goodness" i.e. we have to earn God's goodness.

However, it is ironic that the same Christians who believe that God's goodness to us is not unconditional do not find it contradictory that their very own salvation comes from the unconditional redemption plan of God -   "But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.ows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us." (Rom 5:8)

God initiated and executed his redemption plan while we were still sinners; that is unconditional, He did not wait for us to be of acceptable standard to him.  Many Christians believe this, that our redemption is unconditional BUT they also believe that after they have accepted God's unconditional redemption plan, God then deals with them conditionally i.e.God will be good to them only if they live up to God's standards.

However, this is illogical since if God can give us His greatest gift, Christ, unconditionally, then how can all the other lesser gifts like health, prosperity, good relationships, etc not be also unconditional?  In fact, Paul addresses this issue in Rom 8:32 - "He who did not withhold or spare [even] His own Son but gave Him up for us all, will He not also with Him freely and graciously give us all [other] things?"

But you ask: "Don't bad things happen to Christians too?"  Yes, they do and there are Christians who believe that God is the one who caused the bad things to happen but I am not among them.  I choose to believe and stubbornly hold on to the belief that God is good full stop. He will not cause anything bad to happen to me.

Then you ask: "Then why do bad things happen to Christians too?"  My short answer:  I don't know.  However, I do know that "the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour", and I have to be "well balanced (temperate, sober of mind), be vigilant and cautious at all times" (1 Pet 5:8).

There are Christians who believe that God causes bad things to happen to them to teach them a lesson.  I do not believe that.  You ask: "Then what about Job? God caused so many bad things to happen to him."  Well, if you read carefully, the devil was the one who caused all those bad things to happen to Job, not God.  In fact, God was the one protecting and blessing Job all the while as we can see when the devil said "Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land." (Job 1:10)

You ask again: "Then why did God allow the devil to attack Job?" My short answer: I don't know.  But I do know that Job's time was when there was no mediator, which we now do have in Christ, between him and God:
Job 33:23-28
23 "Yet if there is an angel on his side
       as a mediator, one out of a thousand,
       to tell a man what is right for him,
 24 to be gracious to him and say,
       'Spare him from going down to the pit;
       I have found a ransom for him'-
 25 then his flesh is renewed like a child's;
       it is restored as in the days of his youth.
 26 He prays to God and finds favor with him,
       he sees God's face and shouts for joy;
       he is restored by God to his righteous state.
 27 Then he comes to men and says,
       'I sinned, and perverted what was right,
       but I did not get what I deserved.
 28 He redeemed my soul from going down to the pit,
       and I will live to enjoy the light.'

I also know that in the end, Job received from God double what he lost through the devil's attacks - "the LORD made him prosperous again and gave him twice as much as he had before" (Job 42:10)

There were times I got into trouble because I ignored or was not alert to the Holy Spirit's soft prompting and took a certain course of action which turned out badly.  There were also times when I did things without thinking through the possible consequences.  Nevertheless, I now do not attribute or blame God for bad things that happen to me; what I do now is to look to God to turn things around for me, even though sometimes the bad things are due to my own fault.  I now believe that God is the answer to, not the the cause of, my problems.  I now "know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose" (Rom 8:28)

This is the fundamental truth that I now live by.  I refuse to be moved from this position even when I see Christians quote verses trying to prove that "God is good BUT ...".  This is a paradox because those Christians who believe that "God is good BUT ..." read the bible through that light and therefore interpret scripture verses to see God in that light.  However, I interpret those same verses quoted in a different light because I see God in a different light: God is goodOnce I saw that God is good. , the rest of the simple truths which I live by fell naturally into place.  I will share with you in another post.

Shalom, God is Good.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Did Jesus Live In Poverty At Nazareth?

A brother-in-Christ put up a link to Charles Spurgeon's sermon, "Christ's Poverty, Our Riches" (http://www.spurgeongems.org/vols46-48/chs2716.pdf) and CS said "Being born, our blessed Lord lived, for many years, a life of poverty at Nazareth. Enough is recorded for us to see that He remained in poverty and obscurity at Nazareth for our sakes, because, dear Brothers and Sisters, during those 30 years He was preparing for His public work."

What was actually recorded in the bible "for us to see that He remained in poverty and obscurity at Nazareth" ? Let's see:

Luke 2:21-23
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”), 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.”

What is "the days of her purification"? According to Lev 12:2-4, that is 41 days after the birth - "‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. 3 And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. 4 She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled."

Thus, from Lev 12:2-4, we can see that Jesus was presented at the temple when he was just a one-month plus old baby, and his parents offered a sacrifice of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons. Were a pair of turtledoves or pigeons the standard offering? No, the standard is a lamb and a turtledove or pigeon BUT if one cannot afford a lamb, then a pair of turtledoves or pigeons will suffice - Lev 2:8 - "If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering."

Looking at the account of Luke 2, we can deduce that Jesus' parents were indeed poor at the time when he was born as they could not afford a lamb for the burnt offering. Yes, Jesus was born into a poor family but they did not remain poor for very long, probably less than 2 years. Let's see:

Matt 2: 1-2, 7-11
1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

 7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

During Christmas time, it is common to see children's plays re-enacting the scene of the wise men from the East bowing down in front of baby Jesus in the manger.  However, when you analyze the above scripture passage carefully, you will realize that Jesus was NOT a baby when the wise men found him. Matt 2:11 says very clearly that when they entered the house (not stable), they saw the young Child (not baby).

In Matt 2:7, King Herod asked the wise men at what time they saw the star, and based on the time they saw the star and taking into account the amount of time the wise men traveled to arrive in Jerusalem, King Herod deduced that Jesus, at that time, was a young Child, not a baby (Matt 2:8).  This is confirmed in Matt 2:16 when King Herod ordered the massacre of children aged 2 and below in Bethlehem after the wise men departed without telling him the exact location of Jesus. However, Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt before the massacre happened.

Hence, from the passages in Matthew 2, we can deduce that Jesus was probably about 2 years old when the wise men presented him with their treasures - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Have you wondered why the gifts were mentioned in that order i.e. gold, frankincense and myrrh?  Yes, they were listed in ascending order of value.

I'm sure you know that gold is very valuable but do you know that frankincense is even more valuable than gold during ancient times and that myrrh is five times more valuable than frankincense? (source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myrrh#History)  Do you think that the wise men traveled over such a long distance over such a long time just to bring a tiny amount of gold, frankincense and myrrh to worship Jesus, whom they believe to be the "King of the Jews"?  I don't think so.  

These wise men must have been very rich and powerful people, otherwise how could they, being foreigners, be granted a personal audience with King Herod himself?  Hence, they must have brought a fairly large amount; large enough to make poor Joseph and Mary suddenly very rich, large enough to finance Joseph and Mary's immediate escape to Egypt with Jesus, large enough to pay for their living expenses there until King Herod's death, large enough to finance their journey back to Nazareth where they eventually settled.

Did Jesus, like what Charles Spurgeon said, remain in poverty at Nazareth? Based on the evidence in the account of Matthew 2, I cannot agree with Charles.  


Monday, March 8, 2010

Draining Away The Power Of God's Word

My recent post, "Christian Or Non-Christian, Same Difference?", generated quite an exchange of opinion on facebook with two brothers-in-Christ.  However, in the process, I came away with the feeling that there are (I suspect, many) Christians like these two brothers-in-Christ who consciously or unconsciously delight in draining away the power of God's Word.

Somehow, the exchange led to me quoting 2 Cor 8:9:
"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich."

One brother-in-Christ said that I interpreted 2 Cor 8:9 out of context, that the verse does not mean that Christ will make us financially rich. The word "rich" in the verse refers "largely, to the richness in giving. Being "poor" in the Bible does not mean money only. It also refers to being deprived politically, socially, etc."

I checked out the words "poor" and "rich" in the original Greek:
Poor - πτωχεύω (transliterated as ptōcheuō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be a beggar, that is, (by implication) to become indigent (figuratively): - become poor." 

Rich - πλουτέω (transliterated as plouteō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be (or become) wealthy (literally or figuratively): - be increased with goods, (be made, wax) rich."

I don't see how I interpreted 2 Cor 8:9 out of context. The words "poor" and "rich" appears in the SAME verse and are in direct contrast to each other i.e. "beggarly" vs "wealthy", "no money" vs "have money".

The same brother also said that 3 John 2 - "Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers." - is merely "a matter of hermeneutics", just a "standard greeting in a Greek letter for that era!".  Well, this brother can choose to drain away the power of 3 John 2 by treating it as mere hermeneutics but as for me, I choose to believe that it is God's Word, not mere hermeneutics, and I choose to believe that God wants me to prosper in ALL things (which includes but is not limited to the financial aspect) and be in health, and God will see to it that I shall prosper in ALL things and be in health, just as my soul prospers!

I append below our exchange of views to allow you to see the context of our discussion:  

BIC 1:
The world can expect a "sudden death without any warning" BUT we can expect a long good life because God says through the Psalmist in Psalm 91: 16 - "With long life I will satisfy him". The world can expect a "sudden life changing and debilitating experience which may drag on for many years" BUT we can expect to be protected from harm because God says in Psalm 91:10-11 that "No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; For He shall give His angels charge over you, ."

Does that mean that if a Christian suffers sudden death, something is wrong with his faith?

A matter of hermeneutics, my dear Watson, a matter of hermeneutics! For e.g., how does one interpret John 3's "Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul." (3Jo 1:2)? Well, that is the standard greeting in a Greek letter for that era! (ref: Gordon Fee in "The Disease of the Health & Wealth Gospel". Gordon Fee is from AOG, btw)

I don't claim to know the reason why a certain Christian suffers sudden death nor do I claim that it is because of something wrong with his faith.

However, every Christian has to walk his own faith walk, so for me, I choose to believe what the bible says about me; I choose to believe Psalm 91:16, that God will satisfy me with a long good life.

You may choose to believe that 3 John 2 is mere hermeneutics and just a standard greeting but I choose to believe that by Jesus' stripes I am healed (Isaiah 53:5) and continue to be in good health.

I choose to believe that God wants me to be in health and wealth because He takes pleasure in the prosperity of His servant (Psalm 35:27).

I choose to believe that God does make a difference between His people and the world but sadly, as you have demonstrated, there are Christians who do not believe, just like the disciples who were in the boat with Jesus when they encountered a huge storm.

Jesus was in the boat with them but they were still terrified of dying in the storm. They did not believe that with Christ in the boat together with them, the outcome will be different from what they normally can expect i.e. death.

Jesus said to His disciples: "Why are you timid and afraid, O you of little faith?" (Matt 8:26a), and I think He is saying the same thing to us today.

By the way, in case you haven't read the story, the final outcome was perfect peace - "Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great and wonderful calm (a perfect peaceableness)" (Matt 8:26b)

BIC 1:
Some matters are worth thinking about. For e.g. ( 1)Jeremiah had a ministry that, to many a modern believer, was a ministry of 'failure', in man's eyes that is. He died in Egypt against his will, was thrown into a hole by his jewish brethren when the Babylonians came to invade, etc. (2) Job, though became rich in the end, lost all his children. (3) All the apostles except for John (who was exiled in Patmos) died martyrr's deaths. (4) Heb 11 showed that God promised vindication but seldom promised immediate vindication. e.g Hebrews 11:32-39. Some great victories, some destitute but all were commended. (5) Rom 8:23 says that we'll suffer till “the redemption of our bodies” take place
(6) In Acts 12, James was martyred but Peter was delivered (Peter’s deliverance nothing to do with his or church’s faith)
(7) 2Cor 12:12; Rom 15:9 Paul’ mentioned “signs, wonders & miracles” but he & companions were sick. Their sicknesses never attributed to lack of faith or recovery to great faith. Epaphroditus nearly died, etc.

One of our Methodist pastors, a Godly man, was killed by a truck after he has changed his car's tyres. His son, a seminary student, disappeared while tracking alone near a glacier of sorts. The pastor's wife, who lost both husband & son, is still a picture of God's grace & strength. That........is the power of the gospel. The world cannot offer such peace in the midst of adversity. What a testimony! Praise God!

BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, Yes you can choose to believe what you want to believe and choose to interpret Scriptures according to what you choose to believe.

However, we affirm the absolute authority of the Scriptures over our lives and thought. We too affirm the church history of exegesis and the interpretive tradition of the church on the issues of health and wealth.

The Church at large, whether orthodox, Charismatic or otherwise especially in its earliest years never validate the "prosperity teachings".

To borrow the words of John Piper, we are against the "prosperity teaching" that emphasizes God's aim to make believers healthy and wealthy in this life, while it overlooks or minimizes the dangers of wealth, the biblical call to a wartime mindset,and the necessity and purposes of suffering.

For the love of money is a root of kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some HAVE WANDERED away from the faith...( 1 Tim 6:9-10)

Keep your life free from the love of money, and BE CONTENT WITH WHAT YOU HAVE, FOR HE HAS SAID, " I WILL NEVER LEAVE YOU NOR FORSAKE YOU." ( Heb 13:5)

Hi BIC 2,
Yes, you are right that as 1 Tim 6:9-10 says, the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil BUT the love of money is not dependent on whether one has money or not. A poor man can be obsessed with money while a rich man can be cool about it.

I believe in being blessed to be a blessing, in being made rich to help the poor, in having money but not money having me - "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." (2 Cor 8:9)

BIC 1:
To interpret 2Cor8:9 to mean that God wants us to be financially rich is not only against the context of the passage but also is espousing a view that is not taught anywhere in the NT. It also avoids hundreds of texts that are directly in opposition to it. "Poor" & "rich" does not mean the way it means to fallen man. The church in Smyrna Rev2:9 was very poor but "I know your poverty...BUT you are rich!". The church in Laodicea was materially rich "BUT you do not realize that you are..poor.."(Rev3:17).

In 2Cor8, the Macedonians were in "extreme poverty"(NIV 8:2). Nowhere were they chided for not having faith to be rich. They were commended for giving out of their extreme poverty. They were rich IN GIVING. So, Jesus, having everything, gave it up so that we might receive. Prosperity preachers say that we should sow $ so that we may reap $. In 2Cor 9:10, the context is "he who supplies seed to the sower...will enlarge the harvest of your RIGHTEOUSNESS". The richness refers, largely, to the richness in giving. Being "poor" in the Bible does not mean money only. It also refers to being deprived politically, socially, etc.

Prosperity gospel, in my opinion, is a sub-gospel & a twisting of scripture. Jim Baker realized this when he was in prison (read his "I was wrong"). He felt so nauseated by the fact that he was teaching against the teachings of the Lord Jesus to maintain his lifestyle & to lead so many others astray.

BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, you wrote "I believe in being blessed to be a blessing, in being made rich to help the poor, in having money but not money having me ..."

I got news for you, Stanley. You DONT have to be made rich to help the poor. Mother Theresa is a good example. The early missionaries who pioneered church work as well as schools and hospitals are another example.

Greg Mortenson, a non Christian who has built over 500 schools for the poor children in remote areas of Pakistan in an effort to promote peace and well being is NOT rich. He by his own admission ( His book " Three cups of Tea" ) is relatively poor.

The World ( led by a number of self help Gurus) is constantly screaming that God or the Supreme Being wants to make people rich. And which non-believer do not want to be rich? And if the Church preaches the same message, are we not following the World?

And what does Jesus and the Scriptures say about Money and riches? The following are examples of verses in the Bible that warns about the dangers of wealth. Regarding your questions on consensual tradition of Christian exegesis and theology and others, I will reply later.

I'll say it again, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God! ( Matt 19:24)

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.
( Matt 6:24)

The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the DECEITFULNESS of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. ( Matt 13: 32)

But those who DESIRE to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. (1 Tim 6: 9)

The word "poor" in 2 Cor 8:9 in the original Greek is πτωχεύω
(transliterated as ptōcheuō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be a beggar, that is, (by implication) to become indigent (figuratively): - become poor."

The word "rich" in 2 Cor 8:9 in the original Greek is πλουτέω
(transliterated as plouteō) - Strong's definition says it means "to be (or become) wealthy (literally or figuratively): - be increased with goods, (be made, wax) rich."

Yes, the Macedonians are to be commended for their "richness in giving", for giving out of their extreme poverty. However, I believe that as 2 Cor 8:9 says, Christ became a beggar ie. "ptōcheuō" so that I can become rich i.e. "plouteō" and my richness in giving will be out of my extreme prosperity rather than poverty.

If this is considered as twisting 2 Cor 8:9, I think this is a very straight(forward) "twist".

Hi BIC 2,
Yes, I agree that one does not have to be rich to help the poor BUT I've got news for you Charles, it is so much more difficult for the poor to help the poor.

You look at the poor countries in the world who are receiving foreign aid. Let me ask you, where does this aid come from? Yes, from the rich countries like the US, Japan and the European Union.

A report by guardian.co.uk listed the donors of aid for the Haiti earthquake disaster and the top 10 countries are:
1. United States
2. Canada
3. Japan
4. Saudi Arabia
5. Spain
6. France
7. United Kingdom
8. Norway
9. Sweden
10. Germany
(source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/jan/14/haiti-quake-aid-pledges-country-donations)

Like I said earlier in my comment to BIC 1, I believe that as 2 Cor 8:9 says, Christ became a beggar ie. "ptōcheuō" so that I can become rich i.e. "plouteō" and my richness in giving will be out of my extreme prosperity rather than poverty.

BIC 2:
Hi Stanley, your exegesis on 2 Cor 8:9 seems to imply that Jesus died so that those who believe in him might become rich with money.

Clearly as Sir Daniel pointed out, Paul exhorts the Corinthians to be like the Macedonians and abound in this grace. The Macedonians were poor monetarily and yet gave out of their poverty.

To understand 2 Cor 8:9, we must read it with reference to Philippians 2: 6-9 "Who, being in very nature[a] God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.

When Paul says Jesus became poor, and by his poverty we become rich, he is talking not about poverty in terms of money, but about his incarnation and death on the cross.

So what kind of riches does Jesus gain for us through his poverty? The answer is in Romans 11:12-15 "Now if the trespass [of the Jews] means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean! . . . 15 For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world."

To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable RICHES of Christ. (Ephesians 3:8)

The riches of Christ! Once again, Paul here is not talking about money; he is not talking about health; he is not talking about wealth but about knowing Christ Himself!

BIC 1:
Sometimes God thinks differently from us.When we think that we have given more to the poor by giving RM50,000 compared to someone else's RM5, Jesus has this to say "And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins.. And he called his disciples to him and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more.." (Mark 12:42,43). But, won't RM50K be more useful? Well, God's notion of "more" may be different from mine. Just like the case with Smyrna & Laodicea.

Of course "poor" means 'miskin' or 'boh looi' or 'kasi eelek' but to say that Jesus became poor so that we can be rich financially goes against the context, the NT teachings & historical teachings of the Church for the 1st 1,900 years.

Anway, Stanley, you sound like a brother in the Lord who loves God & who wants to serve Him in the way you think is best & I will agree to dissagree & pray that God will continue to bless you & your ministry.

(emphasis in bold mine, not BIC 1)

Hi BIC 1,
I don't see how you have shown that my interpretation of 2 Cor 8:9 is out of context. You agree that "Of course "poor" means 'miskin' or 'boh looi' or 'kasi eelek'" (which literally in English means "no money") BUT you refuse to acknowledge that the word "rich" in the SAME verse means "have money". This verse uses the words "poor" and "rich" to directly contrast each other i.e. Christ became "no money" in order that we "have money".

To further see the CONTEXT, let us examine the passage of 2 Cor 8:1-14:
vv1-5 Paul was commending the Macedonians' heart of generosity, who gave despite their poverty:

"For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will." (v3)

vv6-14 Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to fulfill completely their earlier pledge of giving. Paul reminded them that their riches was because of the grace of Christ (v9) and that he was not trying to make life hard for them by giving away everything but if the poor Macedonians who have little can give, how much more they, the rich Corinthians, who have plenty can give:

"11b Give in proportion to what you have.
12 Whatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.
13 Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality.
14 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What You Do Is Anchored On Who You Are In Christ

I read a post by stillhaventfound which reproduced a passage from Elyse Fitzpatrick’s Because He Loves Me (p. 110-111) which explains very clearly the relationship between the indicative and imperative (huh? don't worry, the passage also explains very clearly what is meant by indicative and imperative) and how the imperative is anchored on the indicative.

I love the passage so much that I'm going to share it with you as well:

[The relationship between the indicative and the imperative can be] summarized in the simple phrase ‘Be who you are.’ When theologians talk about the two categories we’re about to discuss, sometimes they use these words: the indicative and the imperative… When I use the term indicative I’m talking about what has already been indicated or declared about you. The indicative informs us of an accomplished fact. Here’s an indicative statement: “God in Christ has forgiven you.”

On the other hand, the imperative comes to us in the form of a command or direction. In Ephesians 4:32, Paul gives us this command: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another.” The New Testament is filled with the imperative: we’re commanded to live changed lives.

The beautiful balance between the indicative (who you are in Christ) and the imperative (who you’re becoming in Christ) is perfectly demonstrated in the verse we’ve been considering. The entire verse reads, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Can you see how the imperative, “Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving,” is firmly anchored in the indicative, “you’re forgiven in Christ”? This verse demonstrates a beautiful synergy that not only tells us what to do, but also plants within our souls the only motive that will empower God-pleasing compliance: what God has already done. We’ve already been forgiven in Christ. So many of us cavalierly gloss over what he has done and zero in on what we’re to do, and that shift, though it might seem slight, makes all the difference in the world. Our obedience has its origin in God’s prior action, and forgetting that truth results in self-righteousness, pride, and despair.
In some cases, the New Testament writers couple indicative statements with both negative and positive imperatives, in other words, commands to stop doing one thing and to start doing another. For instance, we might read this kind of a statement: Because such-and-such is true about you (the indicative), you should put off this kind of behavior (the negative imperative) and put on this kind of behavior in its place (the positive imperative). Let me give you an example of this from Colossians 3:
If then you have been raised with Christ [the indicative], seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above [a positive imperative], not on things that are on earth [a negative imperative]. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory [the indicative]. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you [a negative imperative]. . . .Put on then [a positive imperative], as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved [the indicative], compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other [a positive imperative]; as the Lord has forgiven you [the indicative], so you also must forgive [a positive imperative]. (vv. 1—5, 12—13)
Through the use of this indicative/imperative paradigm, I trust that the relationship between who you already are and how he has called you to live has become clearer to you and that it will be a tool you’ll be able to use as you study Scripture in the future.