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Pastoral 2016

Do not Come Under the Power of Any

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Whether it be a custom, habit or game, Christians must “not be brought under the power of any” (1 Corinthians 6:12b). We should be cautious to avoid being enslaved by anything, even if it seems lawful. As Christians, we must ask ourselves: “Will this enslave me? Will this hinder or profit my spiritual life?”

With Pokemon Go’s arrival in Singapore, I must warn our children, youths and adults against being brought under its spell. Pokemon (originated in Japan) was introduced to the rest of the world in the mid- 1990’s. Its new version, Pokemon Go is an “augmented reality” game. Players would chase Pokemon cartoon characters in real world environments using their smartphone camera and a phone app. Reports show that some churches in the US have become ‘Pokemon Go gym’ locations, where players (known as trainers in the game) gather to battle against one other. It would not be too long for such things to happen in Singapore churches too!

Why should we dissociate ourselves from this fantasy game? Firstly, it is not all that innocuous as it is made out to be. Christian writers have warned about its troubling similarities with some occult practices. (By the way, “Pokemon” is short for “pocket monster”!) Its hundreds of cartoon characters depict demonic creatures - including a fictitious creature (Gengar) displaying power to curse Pokemon players, thus teaching children that cursing through magic is OK. Though promoted as an amusement, in reality, it is a promoter of occultism - clairvoyance, summoning of spirits, practice of mind-control, dabbling in magical arts, etc. It also promotes ungodly activities like gambling. The more immersed you are in the game, the more severe the spiritual maladies! Secondly, though there is no official report of Pokemon players becoming demon-possessed or witchcraft practitioners, it is not a harmless game. There is much evidence that it affects the mood and behaviour of those given to it. Moreover, it can also cause not a few physical dangers! Just last week, media reports highlighted some bad, dangerous behaviour of these gamers.

There is nothing wrong with having some fun using our imagination. But when it involves characters and activities of occult themes, our minds will be gradually influenced to ignore Scripture’s prohibitions and be open to spiritual dangers. Due to its subtle power to negatively affect our behaviour and spiritual integrity, we must dissuade our children and youths from playing Pokemon Go. What we and our children need is not fun with the occult, but godly discipline that turns us from worldliness to Christ. Brethren, avoid all things that are not spiritually expedient. ■

 

The Gethsemane Care Ministry (TGCM) –
stark illustration of the power of the gospel

 

We are all sinners. The problem is that not all of us think so. Worse, some even think themselves to be less a sinner than others. Without the problem (i.e. sin), scarcely would the cure be appreciated.

TGCM is a ministry that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ to ex-offenders. Upon their salvation, TGCM is the platform which nurtures these men in the knowledge of God’s will, and works out the transformation in their lives. The TGCM brothers were those with a bad past. Vice, wickedness and sin ruled their lives in a more manifested way than most of ours. Some bad things we thought of, these brothers did. Some evil things we cursed, these brothers performed. Some things so blatantly horrible that we shun, these brothers embraced. These are the men whose “sinsickness” had plagued them so sore that the efficacy of the cure is most appreciated.

Truly, the Bible did not make any unwarranted claim when it said that the Gospel of Jesus Christ – of His substitutionary, atoning work which He did by coming to be born a man, to live, die, and ultimately rise again – is the power of God to save all. There is no sinner whom the blood of Christ cannot cleanse if only the sinner genuinely repents. Believe in your heart what Christ has done to pay for the sins on your behalf, confess the Lord, and forsake your sins - that is the repentance of the Bible. TGCM brothers are testament of that promise.

There is nothing that can pick a poor lost sinner, change his heart, and turn his life around the way the Gospel of Jesus Christ can. Those tender words of Jesus, “Follow me” will resound into an irresistible call for sinners to forsake all the sins of the world and come to a Saviour. The call to leave sin and death, and to plead before a furious and all-righteous Judge is also an appeal before the most merciful and loving God. The ways of darkness that once gave joy now lose their glamour, relative to the joy of being reconciled with God! Oh, peace with God the Judge! Free from the guilt of sin, and free from its bondage! There is nothing other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ that may impart such elation to those who receive its cure. Upon salvation, living is now for Christ, according to the Bible. There is no stronger motivation.

Other modes of “restoration” or rehabilitation without the Gospel may change the manifestation of sin. One wrong is substituted with other less severe wrongs. Illegal wrongs are replaced with “legal” wrongs. Or perhaps wrong is momentarily avoided, in the light of punishment if committed. But the heart is not changed; the root issue is not addressed; there is still no purpose in life. Some may retort that many have since found families or businesses which now provide meaning and purpose to live changed lives. Yet, if these are removed (which are easily lost), the sinner is reverted to his former state. But the joys of salvation and peace with God, none shall ever take away! Even in death, nothing can change God’s love towards us, and His forgiveness of our sins. Truly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the power to change lives. God Himself works within the hearts of the TGCM brothers, sanctifying them day by day for His purpose.

There is no news as beautiful to great sinners than that there is a great Saviour. And who are great sinners? The TGCM brothers undoubtedly are. But so are we, and so am I. Just because we haven’t done what (or as blatantly as) they did, doesn’t make us any less a sinner in the sight of God. All have come short, as the allrighteous and holy Lord accepts nothing but perfection. We do right indeed to praise and glorify God for the greatness of His Gospel to change the lives of such great sinners as these ex-offenders. But equally praise God for the greatness of His Gospel to save us, who are just as great sinners too!

Sometimes, because we think of our sins as less severe than they are, we appreciate the cure less than we ought to. But by God’s grace, He sends a stark contrast for our contemplation. By almost all definitions, TGCM brothers have been great sinners in need of the powerful and most precious Gospel. This contrast allows us to fully appreciate the greatness of God’s gift of salvation, and the efficacy of His saving grace. But in God’s sight, we are as great sinners as they. So, this same Gospel saves us too, if only we believe.

“All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Sinner, repent and find mercy in the Lord!

(A youth who attended the TGCM 11th Thanksgiving Anniversary Service)

 

 

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