“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17)
“God is love.” Though short, this sentence is a statement of eternal magnitude and significance. Never was more meaning encapsulated in so few words than in this short sentence – “God is love.” The Apostle John stated this truth twice in his first epistle (cf. 1 John 4:8, 16). The message of this short verse reverberates throughout the Bible!
Some clarifications, though, are necessary before any further elaboration of this glorious statement is attempted. When John wrote that “God is love”, he was not saying that “love” is the complete revelation of God. In fact, he has already written in the same epistle that “God is light” (1 John 1:5), which refers to God’s holy nature (cf. John 3:18–21; 1 John 1:5–10). So, love is not the only attribute that adequately describes God. God cannot be fully explained by one of His attributes alone. Love is not the only perception we ought to have of Him. Neither was the Apostle John implying that “love is God”. The emphasis of the saying, “God is love”, is that in God alone can one fully view what true love is, and only by His enablement can one have the power to express true love.
The declaration that “God is love” not only reveals God as a loving God, but also portrays love as natural and essential to His divine glory. All of God’s will and all of His works are draped in His glorious love. In nature and essence, He is “God of love” (2 Corinthians 13:11).
God is perfect, and His love is perfect too. God is unfathomable, and hence His love is beyond our full grasp. But the knowledge that God is full of perfect and infinite love enables us to draw near to Him with full assurance of faith for pardon and redemption.
In this dark world of hatred, sin and sorrows, we have the assurance that a God of infinite love rules over all. Though we may not be able to reconcile all the cruelty and tragedies that occur around us, yet by exercising faith on this marvellous declaration, we can find consolation. In fact, amidst all the sadness, sin and sorrow, there is abundant evidence that God is love. Among all the manifestations of His love in this dark world, the gift of a Saviour is the greatest of all.
We can know God because His great love is manifested unto us. Immediately after making the assertion that “God is love”, the Apostle John wrote, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God’s love has sent the Son of God to bear all our sins so that we may know Him intimately.
How amazing it is that God should love vile mortals like us. Who can fully comprehend that the holy, eternal God would love ungrateful rebels such as we? What a great mystery and a grand miracle that divine love would send His only begotten Son into the world for us! If this is not love, what is then?
John says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God’s sending of His Son is so unusual and such an unprecedented expression of love that the apostle says, “Herein is love”. God loved the world so wonderfully, so amazingly and so incredibly that He sacrificed His only begotten Son as the ransom for the redemption of sinners. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Being moved by the love of God manifested through Christ, the Apostle John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1a). John encourages us to contemplate the greatness of God’s love. He points us to God’s love as peculiar. It is an “out-of-this-world” kind of love. There is no act of love in this world that can ever be compared to God’s love that received us as His children, though we were once His enemies.
The apostle was so astonished at the greatness of God’s love that he wrote, “What manner of love”. The Greek words potapên agape, used by the apostle, point to both the quantity and quality of God’s love. Its length, breadth, depth and height are beyond description!
How can we ever describe the love of God that allows us to call Him, “Father!” There can be no higher expression of love than His adopting of us, reckless children as we are, as His own, now and forever. There can never be any greater act of love – even from God – than that which He has manifested through the sacrifice of His Son, so that we may be reconciled to Him as His children! “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” (John 3:16).
He loved us, when we had no love for Him. He lovingly came to us, even when we had wandered away from Him. When we laid down in our sin, guilt and misery, His tender love sought to redeem us. When we were undeserving, ill-deserving, polluted and unclean, He stooped down in love to wash us from our sins with His sacred blood. While we were dead in trespasses, His love for us affixed Him on the cross to die that we might live forever through Him. He loved us, wretched sinful mortals, that we might live in heaven, live with God and live in eternal glory and blessedness with Him and through Him: O, what love has reached us here on earth!
All those who have tasted His love, in receiving the salvation by faith in Christ, must praise Him for His eternal love. When we remember how insignificant we are as creatures, and how ungrateful, rebellious and vile we have been as sinners, we may well be full of adoration and worship at His love which had adopted us into the holy family of God, so that we may be regarded and treated as the children of the Most High. The love of God that surpasses all finite conception will be the theme of adoring praises from multitudes that no man can number, for ever and ever. Moreover, we should declare His love to every creature, that others may also come to Him and rejoice in His love.
Even in this world of animosity, bitterness, violence and suffering, we have sufficient evidence to prove that He is benevolent. Let us always behold the cross where the love of God shines through the injustice, travesty and violence of human sin. The gruesome experiences of this earth tend to mask our perception that God is love. The full glory and meaning of His infinite love will be fully understood only when we reach heaven. In the meantime, let us hold on to the truth that God is love. Let us believe that He sincerely desires our good, and that what seems dark to us is designed for our welfare. Amidst all the sorrows and disappointments of the present life, let us be rest assured that our interests and our destiny are in the hands of the God of love.
There is none who is infinitely perfect in love as God. O, what astonishing goodness and condescension from the Almighty God towards us who believe on His Son. Indeed, God is love!
Indeed, the stones did ‘cry out’ unto us, like witnesses, when we visited the Holy Land from 1st to 10th Dec 2014. weere were stones galore at the southern part of the Holy Land. No wonder stones featured prominently throughout the Bible. In Bethel, Jacob used them as his pillows to sleep (Gen 28:11), whereupon he dreamt of the ladder reaching to heaven and heard God promising to give him the land. throughout the O.T., stones were heaped together to bear witness to commemorate important events (Gen 31:46, Jos 4:7, 1 Sam 7:12). Furthermore, those who are “biblically instructed” were also grimly reminded that stoning to death was a way of punishment. The land was dry and thirsty, full of stones and difficult to tread upon. In that kind of environment, we armed ourselves with hats/caps/umbrellas, shoes with good grip and kept drinking to hydrate ourselves. If we had been travelling with Moses then, wearing robes and sandals, having no food or drink in that dry, stony terrain, we would for sure have murmured and complained like the Israelites over food and creature comforts. Really, the stones literally cried out against us as we pondered over what the Israelites had to go through and how we could have easily sinned like them!
The Bible says there is “a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together” (Ecc 3:5). The building of the great temple and the destruction of it, the building of strong cities and the destruction and ruins of them, cry out to us too. While we admired the magnificent remains of Jerash and Capernaum, and the intricate carvings on each piece of the remains, fear and awe of God struck us because these are reminders and evidence that He alone has the power to set up and put down “whom he would” (Dan 5:19, Matt 11:23). e stones are warning us – which side are we on? Better be safe – choose the LORD’s side!
Thank God for making us “as lively stones, … built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet 2:5). This is an apt description of our group when we worshipped and prayed together, edified and took care of one another. Love, unity and patience were displayed abundantly throughout the trip. We, like little children, curiously explored the sights, sounds and smells of the Land of the Bible, and learnt geography together. Every difficulty was conquered by faith and love the Christian way, no less. We have enjoyed the trip very much, and this sentiment was shared by many others, including those who have travelled to the Holy Land several times before.
This trip has created new meanings for us when we now read the Bible. We pray that we shall be steadfast and unmoveable in our faith, lest we should be a “castaway” (1 Cor 9:27b). We pray that we can be “lively stones”, to be a good testimony for our Lord Jesus Christ.
Wai Mun and Jolyne Cho
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore” (Ps 121:1, 2, 8).
Truly, the LORD our God has been our help, and has blessed us with a safe travel and good health in our Holy Land Bible Study Tour. From soaring into the sky in modern aircraft to the ancient mode of commute on horses and camels along the sandy paths in Petra, from floating on the Dead Sea to gliding in the cable cars in the ancient fortress of Masada, from tracing the footsteps on the land which our Lord Jesus Christ literally walked on to sitting in the comfort of the airconditioned coach, the modes of travel on this Holy Land Study Tour has for sure been like no other. Barren, sandy plains and fruitful green terrain are often just minutes apart in our journey. Though some skirmishes could sometimes be heard, we echoed with praise and thanks to God the words of the psalmist: the Lord has preserved our going out and coming in. From commute to food, from culture to politics, from history to geography, the Lord has blessed our group of 48 in many ways. Our thanks go to Pastor Koshy, Dn Lok and the team for organizing this study tour.
More importantly, our LORD has blessed us with a deeper yearning to learn and consider meditatively His working and dealings with His prophets and people of old in the Bible, and also His patient dealings with us individually today. Ps 121, commonly called the “traveller’s or pilgrim’s song”, was the passage of our devotion and meditation on 10 Dec, Day 10 of our 11-day tour. Several times during our travel, the Lord impressed upon our hearts that we are not just tourists, but pilgrims on a journey. A journey, though covering just 11 days on our itinerary, is a journey that has transcended thousands of years of the rich and significant Christian heritage. Each of the sights and experiences which we took in was overwhelmingly educational and enriching to our Christian faith – from visiting the shore of the Dead Sea (the lowest point on Earth’s surface) to standing on top of Mount Nebo (where God showed Moses the horizon of the promised land of Canaan); from walking the town of Jerusalem to silently reflecting Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane; from admiring the calm and peace as we sailed the Sea of Galilee to standing on Megiddo with the sudden solemn reminder of the reality of the Armageddon battle to be fought in the future; from the meditation of the Cross on Golgotha (where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was crucified) to the empty tomb (reassuring us of His triumph over sin and death); etc. We were further blessed with the delightful sighting of a beautiful rainbow on Day 9!
Even observing the orthodox Jews’ prayer practices at the Wailing Wall and how they observed their Sabbath Day brought about a humble gratitude to God for His mercy, stirring us to see how we too were once lost and blind, but now by His amazing grace, we see the light of His salvation. The devout steadfastness and the intensity of the people in the Holy Land in holding on to their respective beliefs and convictions, whether they are religious or political in nature, were evident in their tones, conversations and practices.
The irony of it all is that though the sights and visits have been tremendously helpful and enriching, how is it that people who are now living in the Holy Land could not see the His light? I am reminded that we are to walk by faith and not by sight. Regardless of the ongoing land disputes and anticipated future archaeological discoveries, we are to walk by faith in the promises of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the faithful, unchanging God – resting assuredly and walking daily in obedience to the veracity of the Word which He has preserved for us.
Though we reached the end of our study tour itinerary and returned safely on 11 December, the blessed learning from this study tour will be an abiding education each time we read the Bible and listen to His Word being expounded. Israel today (with a population not much more than Singapore and a land area proportionally smaller than the share of the world news / attention it receives) will continue to be a place that is closely watched for its greatness and blessings, only because this is the sovereign selection and promise of God in His eternal covenant with His chosen people (Gen 12:2).
There remain many more lessons and meditations to understand and absorb. At the end of the day, we are to trust and obey – trusting in the faithful, unchanging God, seeing how Scriptural prophecies have been fulfilled in the places we visited, and obeying His Word and trusting in His promises. Like the psalmist, may we say “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law, yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.” May we continue to cast our eyes on God, who is “our help in ages past, and hope for years to come”!
Ricky and Stella Yang
Since we are commanded to love without dissimulation, should we love all and sundry indiscriminately? Does love demand that we need to accept all without discretion? Can a loving person refuse to accept another in view of sin, falsehood and unrepentance?
In the name of love, Christians are increasingly developing close friendships with unbelieving and ungodly people, while also unabashedly embracing their unscriptural ideas and worldly ways. This is totally contrary to the biblical counsel of Romans 12:9b, “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”
Concerning charity, Paul declared in 1 Corinthians 13:5-6 that it “Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth”. Clearly, Scripture teaches us that true love not only recognises the difference between truth and falsehood, good and evil, sin and righteousness, but it also clearly discriminates against and rejects those that are false, evil and sinful.
We are instructed to “Abhor that which is evil”. The word “abhor” means to hate, to turn from, or to avoid. The word “evil” here refers to malicious, ungodly belief and conduct. We must hate sin, no matter in what form it appears. Whether it is in thought or in action, be it trivial or great, personal or public, covert or overt, we must hate sin. No matter how sin may appear, we should not tolerate it.
It is not only unwise, but is also incongruent with Christian charity, to even wish to accommodate sin. We are told to “Depart from evil, and do good” (Psalm 34:14). In Psalm 97:10, Scripture commands us, “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil”. Let us not condone sin in our thought, word or action. If we ever fall into sin, let us repent as soon as we realise the evil in our ways, and depart from it.
On the other hand, we are exhorted to “cleave to that which is good”. The word “cleave” denotes the act of attaching or uniting firmly to something or someone. It indicates active partaking and participation. We ought to adhere to all that God’s Word reveals as truth. We should love to cleave to all things that are good in the sight of God. We must relentlessly pursue truth and righteousness with increasing fondness. Steadfast, constant pursuit of truth and holiness must characterise every Christian. May our hearts and hands be always devoted to propagating His truth and doing His righteousness. Let us walk “in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75).
We praise the Lord for continuously sending people to hear His Word at the mission station here in Dagupan. Over these past weeks, we have seen three families consistently attending our worship service. We are praying that they will serve the Lord together with us.
We seek your prayers for a lady named Rhona, who had previously attended the church for many Sundays. She was very blessed by our ministry, but was forbidden by the husband and mother-in-law to come. After meeting in their home for our Friday Bible Study on one occasion, the mother-in-law warned her not to do it again. This family is very poor and their house is very small with no water and electricity. To have light in the night, they have to tap electricity from a nearby house which belongs to their relative. But the relative was not happy and so cut off the supply for their light. As a result, her family had to use candles for their lighting for many nights. Thank God that we have solar-charged lights in the mission station. Without further delay, I gave her two lights so that she can use one to prepare dinner for the family and another to “see them through” the night. In this way, they can also save up whatever little they have to fork out to pay for their light consumption. We see God’s providence at play here. Praise the Lord that the husband now allows her and their three-year-old daughter (by the name of Tracy May) to attend the church. We are praying that the Lord will also move the husband to come together with them. Truly, “Man’s extremities are God’s opportunities”!
We thank the Lord for blessing our mid-week activities. Every Tuesday night, both Sejin and I take time to study God’s Word together and pray for the needs of the mission station here, as well as those of the other Gethsemane B-P churches. We are praying that more will be able to pray together with us. Incidentally, we had our first Tagalog lessons a couple of weeks ago. I praise the Lord for enabling me to teach Sejin our local language. May the Lord help her to learn quickly and be able to speak the language. Also, we download the Sunday messages from Gethsemane B-P Church in Singapore and listen to them during Monday nights. We praise the Lord for the Internet ministry, enabling even those miles away to be ministered by the messages.
Meanwhile, Sejin would have to go to Korea alone to visit her parents. The Korean Embassy did not honour my Employment Certificate; my application was denied, in spite of my attempts in appealing three times, as they are strict in their “no work, no visa” policy. I could only send her to the airport on Monday before immediately returning to Dagupan. May the Lord strengthen Sejin in her travelling alone.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4a).
First of all, we have here an invitation to come to the place of God’s worship. Secondly, we also have here an instruction on how we should come to His place of worship.
The verb “enter” is a strong imperative, commanding all His people to be in the place of worship. It is not merely a suggestion that it is good to be in the church, though that statement is wholly true. The divine intention of this command, unquestionably, is that every believer ought to gather together in the appointed place of worship to praise Him.
The words “gates” and “courts” evoke strong memories of the temple of the LORD. While “gates” denote the entrances to the compound of the LORD’s temple, “courts” refer to the open spaces which surrounded the temple, where the people of God would gather to worship God. Only the priests were allowed to enter the temple proper; thus the “courts” denote the places around the temple marked out for the gathering worshippers. The courts of the tabernacle and the temple were the most yearned after place of the saints. In Psalm 84:2, the saint of God says, “My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.” Similarly in another place, a saint of the LORD says, “I will pay my vows unto the LORD now in the presence of all his people, In the courts of the LORD’S house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the LORD” (Psalm 116:18-19). They knew that there are special blessings attached to those who delight in the public worship of God in the courts of His house. Psalm 92:13 declares, “Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.”
Attached to the LORD’s invitation to His house of worship is the clear instruction to come with “thanksgiving” and “praise”. No other disposition of heart is better suited for His worship than thanksgiving. The praise of the LORD proceeds from thankful people. The offer of praise is the most befitting thanksgiving to God. Let us be eager to enter His house to praise Him with songs and prayers of thanksgiving. Let His praise fill your heart and be upon your tongue. It is the common heritage of God’s people to praise Him in His house. May it be our greatest pleasure to be found in His presence with God’s people. Let us also encourage others and be an example in the matter of public worship of our thrice-holy God.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
This is my testimony of how I have been blessed by our church’s Tuesday night prayer meeting. When I first heard of the Tuesday prayer meeting, I thought it must be a meeting where brethren would pray for more than one hour, which would not suit me as I wouldn’t have many things to pray. In those days, I could only think of praying for my studies, my family, but not about others. Thinking that church prayer meeting is optional, I even convinced myself that it is better to spend time studying than going for prayer meeting. After all, I gave myself the excuse that prayer without hard work cannot give me good grades.
My thinking changed after attending classes at FEBC last year in my intent to acquire more knowledge about God. During the semestral break, a close sister-in-Christ asked me to think about going to prayer meeting on Tuesday nights. My reply was “Yes”. Since then, I never looked back. I would learn that it is God’s appointed meeting for me. Today, my boss knows that every Tuesday I need to go off from work on time. I am amazed at the way God beckons and leads me into His will and service. I pray that l would not esteem it lightly. Thank God for using the right people at the right time to “guide” my steps.
After attending my first Tuesday prayer meeting, my whole concept of a prayer meeting was “turned upside down”. Prayer meeting comprises a time of singing of hymns, followed by a message from Pastor, and then prayer time in small groups or amidst the whole congregation. The choice of hymns by brethren is a spiritual exercise which I can joyfully identify with. Some choose a song because it has been recently sung on the Lord’s Day or in their family worship. Others choose a song because it is their favourite hymn. Yet others choose to learn a relatively unfamiliar song, or a song which reflects the thought of Pastor’s Bible-study topic, or one that encourages someone in the congregation. Whatever be their reasons, I benefit from learning lots of hymns which are very dear to me, some of which will certainly stay with me, even till my deathbed!
God’s messages through Pastor have played an important role in shaping my understanding about prayer. Praise God that He not only calls me to communicate with Him in prayer, but also clearly tells me in His Word how I ought to pray in an acceptable and pleasing manner. This gives me the assurance that all my prayers shall be answered. The ongoing topic on “The Names of Christ”, which Pastor is teaching, is very enlightening. In the Bible, every name that God has revealed about Himself is meant to help us know His character, will and greatness. As the whole duty of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever, learning about His names and His character is a most blessed privilege a child of God can be granted!
Moreover, the time of prayer with my prayer-partners also helps instil in me the right choice of words in prayer. Even though God looks at the heart of the praying saint and not his choice of words, I cannot “put up with” myself when I find myself struggling to express my thoughts to God and the prayer becomes rather “stunted”. (I do not want my prayer to be unedifying to my prayer-partners.) I am also amazed that God sometimes answers my inner concerns through the words that my partners utter in prayer. God uses their words to comfort me in my struggles and remind me of certain passages in Scripture. Prayer time is indeed a learning time for me!
Last but not least, another blessing I have received is that I get to know more about the joys as well as struggles of other brethren. Of course, I do not mean being a busybody, but fulfilling God’s commandment to love my brothers and sisters. Truly, when I pray for them, my love for them also grows, no matter what the level of closeness of our friendship. I trust that God is pleased when His children love one another openly or “upon every remembrance” through prayer.
Undeniably, one of the purposes of my testimony is to encourage more brethren to come and join our Tuesday Prayer Meeting and Bible Study. If you haven’t been attending, I would like to encourage you to come as often as possible, that you may be blessed. Truly, I realise that man’s invitation can serve as a timely trigger for God’s effectual calling. I hope I can be that “trigger” in someone’s life, as my close sister-in-Christ had been to me last May.
Have you ever considered what would become of a flock of sheep in the field which do not recognise nor follow its shepherd? Surely, many perils await those foolish and wretched creatures. So is a church that does not acknowledge and follow her divine Shepherd. Hence the biblical admonition, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3).
Biblical religion is knowledge-based; it is based on the knowledge of the living and true God. True worship never occurs without the knowledge that the LORD is God. False ideas of God lead to idolatry and superstitions. Hence, the admonition to all is “Know ye that the LORD he is God”. The name “the LORD” in Hebrew is “Yehowah”, which is transliterated in English as Jehovah. This name of God appears 6,518 times in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. In the King James Bible, “Yehowah” is translated as “LORD” 6,510 times, “GOD” four times, and “JEHOVAH” four times. It has never been used to refer to any other god or person in the Bible. The LORD is God in the fullest, most absolute and most exclusive sense.
“Yehowah” denotes the self-existence of God (cf. Exodus 3:13-15). The LORD is the eternal God. He is without beginning and end. He is also our Creator. It is the LORD who made us, and not we ourselves. Hence, we must know that there is no God beside the LORD. Unto Israel, it was declared through Moses, “Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him. . . Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the LORD he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39). Likewise, Jeremiah the prophet declared, “But the LORD is the true God, he is the living God, and an everlasting king” (Jeremiah 10:10). It is repeatedly asserted that the LORD of Israel, Who revealed Himself in the Holy Scriptures, alone is God (Cf. Josh 22:30; 1 Ki. 8:60; 18:39; 2 Ki. 19:19; Isaiah 44:6, 8, 24; 45:5-6, 22; Hosea 13:4; Joel 2:27; John 17:3; Acts 17:23-24).
Every worshipper must acknowledge and confess that the LORD alone is God. Furthermore, they must seek to know Him more and more with great wonder, thankfulness and reverence. God’s people have always been instructed, “Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations” (Deuteronomy 7:9). Through the prophet Hosea, the LORD said that He desired “the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6). We must know the LORD and prove our knowledge of Him by faith, obedience, zeal and love towards Him.
Israel was called by God to be “His people”. All genuine Israelites can say, “We are His people”. God has so often referred to Israel as “My people” (cf. Exodus 3:7, 10; 5:1; 2 Samuel 3:18; Psalm 81:8). Likewise, in these days, God has called us who were not of Israel, through the Lord Jesus Christ, to be His people. In 2 Corinthians 6:16, we read, “For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Again in Titus 2:14, we read that Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
How great is God’s grace towards us that we can say “we are His people”! Though we were once alienated from God, His grace has received us as “His people”. 1 Peter 2:9-10 declares, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” It is indeed a very great honour God has bestowed upon us, that we can boldly say “we are His people.”
Because He has received us as His people, He also cares for us as “the sheep of his pasture”. Psalm 95:7 records, “For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand”. The LORD will take care of His people as tenderly as a shepherd cares for his sheep. “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). The LORD will take care of all our needs and guide us every step of the way.
God’s people must acknowledge that they are not self-made individuals, but rather God has created and redeemed them, and now nourishes and nurtures them daily. We are what we are because of the LORD’s gracious provisions and guidance. So, like the sheep that gather around their shepherd, let us with grateful hearts avow to the LORD, even our gracious and loving Shepherd: “So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee thanks for ever” (Psalm 79:13a).
All glory be to God who has graciously paved the way for a Holy Land Bible Study Tour under Bible Witness Media Ministry! It will certainly be an enriching experience to walk in the land where Biblical heroes of faith and our Lord Jesus Christ had lived and ministered. We hope that all the participants of this trip will gain a deeper understanding of the Biblical history, geography, culture, etc.
The itinerary has been carefully put together with the help of our tour agent, Guiding Star Ltd. of Jerusalem, who has an excellent working relationship with FEBC and many of the Bible-Presbyterian churches in Singapore. They have been operating tours in the Middle East since 1961.
I am very thankful to the Lord for Dn Lok Kwok Wah, who has co-laboured with me as the Tour Co-ordinator. There are altogether 48 participants in this tour. I praise the Lord for every one of you whom the Lord has led to join this tour. Please take time to get to know one another and rejoice in sweet Christian fellowship. Let us pray earnestly that His mercy and goodness shall guide, keep and bless us.
Heartily in Christ,
Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33b).
No Christian is fully shielded from troubles. Jesus says plainly, “In the world ye shall have tribulation”. Jesus has not promised His followers a life totally free from sorrows, poverty, toil, sickness, slander, persecution or any of the common ills of mankind. Instead, He promises every follower a “cross”.
You are not promised the admiration of the unbelieving world. In fact, you should not expect or accept much favour from the world. Worldly people will not gather around to admire our piety or our devotion to the Lord. They may like a Christian in return for some favours from him, but they cannot love him for being a Christian. If the world does end up admiring and supporting a Christian, it may be either because it has made a mistake about him or the Christian has compromised!
Beware of the “kiss of Judas” with which Christ was betrayed, and with which you will be betrayed, unless you are well on your guard. In and from the world, ye shall have tribulation. When the world appears to love you, understand that it is in effect “hating” you more cordially than ever, but is carefully baiting its trap to catch you and ruin you. John cautioned us, “Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you” (1 John 3:13). It is no surprise that the world hates Christians because it hates their Master. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil” (John 7:7); “If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The world’s hatred for and opposition to Christians are a reflection of its prince’s hatred for Christ and His beloved ones. The enmity between the “seed of the serpent” and the “seed of the woman” still continues. Make no mistake, the serpent’s nature has not changed. He is a vile deceiver and destroyer still. As soon as he sees in you a devotion to Christ and His truth, he hates you passionately.
We are all born into a measure of troubles. Now after being born again, we are introduced to a second set of tribulations. From the kingdom of this world whereof Satan is lord, Christ tells us we must expect fierce opposition and contend against it victoriously if we are to enter into everlasting rest.
Some Christians may have been enjoying a life of comfort and prosperity. Like Job, they may also have been increasing in riches and dwelling at ease with a “hedge” about them. They may be thinking that they have no tribulation to bear. But may such Christians be forewarned that when the devil turns against them, great may be their trials!
Unfortunately, many a Christian has grown very fond of the world. If we have no troubles in this world, we would become too comfortable with this world of sin. So through trials, the Lord “stirs up” our worldly tabernacle, that we may remember this world is not our eternal home. He allows trials to come our way that we may realise we are not of this world, but pilgrims here on earth. Soon we must be up and away to that “glorious land”. When tribulations in this world arrive, let our thoughts and desires be turned towards the heavenly city of our God. Thanks be to God for the tribulation which shakes our thoughts out of things on the earth and directs them towards things above!
To comfort all His beloved ones who are troubled in this world, the great Conqueror of the world says, “but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Remembering Jesus as the overcomer of the world will help us to be cheerful even in afflictions.
Our Lord was an overcomer both in life and death. No adversity was strong enough to distract Him from accomplishing all that His Father had appointed Him to do. Nothing could overcome Him, but He overcame them all.
If you take time to study our Lord’s life while He was on this earth, you will see that He was a victor in all circumstances. A deep calm always pervaded His spirit, whether it was in the face of men’s approbation or censure. He never lost His self-control. Nothing could frustrate Him that He might fail to perform His assignments perfectly to His Father‘s pleasure. He conquered all circumstances and did everything perfectly. To hold Him in our view through our life’s journey is indeed a wonderful experience.
Our Lord also overcame the world by His fearlessness of the world’s elite men. When the Pharisees, who had no regard for Him, confronted Him with sneer and disgust, He declared God’s truth, rebuking and refuting them. Like a true Master, He outwitted them with His wise answers and actions. Their opposition could only prove that He is all-powerful and all-wise. Even the threats of Pilate the governor, could not intimidate Him. He remained calm and unperturbed when He was tried by Pilate. Even in death, He was a victor, for He ministered divine comfort and hope to the repenting criminal who was crucified beside Him. Finally, He overcame death and grave in His resurrection. Thus, He has defeated our last enemy, even death!
Since the Lord Jesus has tasted the severity of earthly tribulations and also the exultation of victory, we can trust Him to give us cheer in this hostile world. He understands the agony of our sufferings. He knows what it means to be rejected by people. He empathises with all our problems, because He has experienced them. Now as an overcomer of every tribulation that He has faced, He assures us that if we follow His Word, we can “be of good cheer”.
Jesus wants us not to give up our resolve to live for God’s glory. Even as He had not neglected the work that His Father had given Him to do while He was on earth, despite being rejected and afflicted, we should also press forward. He wants us to set our eyes upon Him and follow His example.
We must look to Him not only as an example in overcoming our trials, but also as our strength and help to overcome our afflictions. He is able to see us through, for He is our victorious Captain. So, by trusting in Him, let’s persevere; He will see us through.
If we lose sight of our victorious Lord in our tribulations, we will lose heart. We need to remember that it is His desire that we have joy even in our tribulations. He is neither ignorant nor inactive in our problems. He is with us, and He is actively at work through our afflictions and problems in making us better and happier Christians.
So let’s persevere, and don’t let our hearts be invaded by sorrows and fears. The problems are there to test our mettle and spirit in following Jesus. Fear not the troubles, for our Lord has walked that way ahead of us. Keep your steps behind Him, trusting and obeying Jesus through your troubles. Remember that as you endure, you are following the One who has overcome the tribulation of this world. If you keep your trust in Him, you can be of good cheer, because victory through Christ is in sight.
“Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Greetings to you and the whole congregation in our Lord’s blessed name!
It has been quite some time since I last communicated. The past four months have been both trying and enriching. Despite the various challenges we have been experiencing, God’s mercy has been sufficiently bestowed upon us and His work that is committed to our trust. We are aware of and thankful for your constant prayers. I want to share some of the major blessings God has poured upon His work these past months.
By God’s blessing and guidance, fifteen new full-time students (13 men and 2 ladies) joined GBI when the new year’s term commenced on September 22, 2014. Now we are conducting three classes: one for the new students (15), one for the seniors (3), and one for the part-time students (4) coming in the evening. By God’s enabling grace, we are able to take the additional workload. What a joy to see young men and women from different parts of Ethiopia coming to study His Word and receive sound biblical training for the work of the ministry! Nothing is as rewarding as investing our lives in the training of these called ones. Praise God for the great part that you have in this work! Pray that this “mustard seed” will grow to bring mighty spiritual blessings to our land.
Out of the 18 full-time students, 15 are supported by our church. Each month, we spend about USD350 for their support. The trainees are very thankful to God for the golden opportunity they got in receiving biblically sound instruction and training in GBI. Pray that God may add more called ones in the years to come, and also mightily provide for the needs of His work.
God has strengthened us to start Gethsemane Children’s Ministry to reach out to children of the poor and disadvantaged in the community around our church at Alem Gena. We now have 13 such children coming to learn how to read and write. Sister Gete is carrying the full load of the teaching work. She is being assisted by a volunteer named Sisay. We are praying that God may provide more godly men and women to help in this ministry.
Executing the drilling project has been a trying one. The first round of bidding, done in mid-July, was fraught with problems. The contractor who initially won the bid could not take the job because of some issues with the renewal of his permit. We then started to negotiate with the contractor of the next best bid in line. After a month of negotiations, however, when that contractor was not willing to reduce the price, we decided to call for a second round of bidding. This time, by God’s mercy, we obtained a reasonable quotation of Ethiopian Birr 449,981.25 for drilling a borehole to a depth of 150 metres. We hired a qualified geologist to supervise the work at Birr 20,000. The contractor has begun the work on Thursday, and the work is progressing well. God willing, the work will be completed in one month’s time. Praise God for His mercy and provision!
The Lord has been sustaining and blessing His work both in Addis Ababa and Alem Gena. Attendance in both congregations is slowly growing through new people who confess their faith in Christ. All those who serve are committed to give their best to the service of the LORD. God willing, we are praying to start one mission station in the suburb of Addis Ababa, through one of our students who will finish his studies in March 2015.
The vehicles which the Lord has provided are working well and in good condition. We bless the Lord for all His benefits. Thank God for enabling me to pass both the theory and practical exams for my driving licence. Although I failed the practical exam in the first round, God helped me in the second round which I took just last Saturday. Now, I am waiting for the issue of the licence. Incidentally, Dn Imane Dola has also started to take driving lessons. Pray that God will prosper his efforts too.
“Many, O LORD my God, are thy wonderful works which thou hast done, and thy thoughts which are to us-ward: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered” (Psalm 40:5).
Once again, I would like to praise God and express my deepest gratitude for all the works of love you have been doing in supporting God’s work here in Ethiopia. May the LORD bless you mightily! Please convey our greetings and gratitude to God’s people.
Yours in Christ,
Rev Ephrem Chiracho
On behalf of Gethsemane BPC and GBI Ethiopia
Last Thursday, there was a news report regarding the “killing of a Christian couple who were beaten and pushed into a burning kiln in eastern Pakistan.”(http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/06/world/asia/pakistan-couple-slain/index.html). The following day, CNN reported such comments as: “It is an indescribable tragedy that Christianity is now under such threat in the Middle East, an area where Christians have lived for 2,000 years. . .” Yet another report says: “(Christianity) remains the most persecuted faith in the world.” (http://edition.cnn.com/2014/11/05/world/europe/uk-prince-charlesreligion/index.html).
Upon reading such reports of unrelenting persecutions and killings of Christians around the world, my mind was filled with the words of Paul in Romans 8:35-37: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
Indeed, Christians are conquerors. In fact, v.37 declares that Christians are “more than conquerors”. This is truly a comforting message to Christians, for they live in a hostile world. Though they would face extreme hostilities, their faith shall not be quenched because the Word of God assures them that they shall be “more than conquerors”!
Paul has in vv.35-36 written about the steadfastness of God’s love for believers in the face of hostility: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter”. Yet, Christians will be enabled to overcome sin, Satan, the world, temptations, reproaches, afflictions, persecutions, and thereby continue in their faith. The devil will trouble their souls with temptations and trials. Many Christians will suffer great afflictions. But they shall abide in their faith, love and service through thick and thin. In fact, they shall be “more than conquerors”.
Just what did the apostle mean when he referred to Christians as “more than conquerors”? He meant that they are winning a sweeping, overwhelming victory. The emphasis made here by the apostle is that in the midst of all the myriads of hostile experiences – yes, even by means of them and with their “help” – Christians shall show that they are more than conquerors!
They overcome their innumerable troubles, not by their own strength, but through the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them. The ability to triumph over all adversity does not arise from any inherent superiority of believers, but rather, by the might of their loving Saviour, they will overcome their adversities. His love for them is the pledge of His help for them to be great overcomers.
Christ’s steadfast love will strengthen and enable us to endure affliction. Special favour of His love will strengthen us. We shall overcome all our afflictions, not by our natural powers, but by the special blessings of our Saviour’s love.
Yet another familiar verse comes to my mind that encourages every afflicted Christian: “ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Corinthians 12:9b).
Paul was buffeted by the messenger of Satan and afflicted with what he referred to as “a thorn in the flesh”. The Lord, who found it necessary that the trouble should remain in Paul’s life, assured him of His grace which was sufficient to strengthen and equip him to serve the Lord effectively. The Lord’s assurance that His grace was sufficient to support and strengthen Paul in his trial, made
him a happy minister of the Gospel. So he joyfully confessed, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
Because of the glorious promise of the Lord’s sufficient and strengthening grace, Paul refused to be perturbed by his trial. Instead of being preoccupied with the trial, he committed himself to delight in the grace of the Lord that was made available to him. He was in effect saying, “I count it my joy to be afflicted, if my trial will be the means to know the power of my great Redeemer.” Paul rejoiced that his weakness became the vehicle by which the Lord’s grace and power were most fully manifested to himself and to others. When the devil inflicted him with weakness and pain, the Lord “perfected his strength” in the midst of his weakness. It seems that Paul was saying that his weakness plus Christ’s power equals perfect power. Paul was not relying on his own strength, for he was full of weakness. He was most powerful when he was least reliant on his own resources and most reliant on the Lord’s grace and power.
Self-reliance, which is the result of pride, is detrimental to our spiritual joy. So it is to prevent the possibility of pride in Paul that the Lord permitted his trial. We should not, therefore, be bitter when afflictions are permitted in our lives. Only when we are totally emptied of ourselves, will our strength be perfected with Christ’s glorious power. Very often, the continuing weakness in Christians is necessary so that they might not confuse the power of God with their own power, and lose God’s power by attempting to rely on themselves.
Like Paul, in order that you may be vessels of Christ’s glorious power, be glad to suffer the trials He would permit. If you are in the midst of trials, rejoice that His power shall rest (pitch a tent) in you. His power will keep your faith intact, and let you magnify Him against Satan’s evil devices.
God calls all His elect unto salvation, and so we can say that every Christian is called of God. This we read in Romans 8:30 – “Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” This call of God comes to God’s elect through the preaching of the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit works in their hearts to convict and convert – “Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:14; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5).
Besides, every Christian also has a calling from the Lord to serve Him (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:22; Romans 6:28; 12:11). For this purpose, the Lord has equipped every Christian with at least one spiritual gift (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7- 11; Romans 12:6-8). Hence, all Christians are urged to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58b).
Though all Christians are called to serve the Lord, some Christians are specially called by the Lord to serve as pastors, teachers, missionaries or other full-time workers of the church. This calling into the full-time ministry is also referred to by some as God’s call unto vocational ministry.
The Scriptures teach us through the life and ministry of God’s servants that an absolute conviction of a divine call into the ministry is a necessity for those who serve Him in various ministries of the church. To help us understand God’s call into the ministry, the Spirit of God scrupulously recorded in the Scriptures, the Apostle Paul’s deep conviction of his divine calling to be an apostle and preacher of the Gospel.
Paul wrote: “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). The words, “called to be an apostle”, are very significant because they affirm Paul’s apostleship as divinely ordained. He did not take it up himself but he was called and appointed by God to that office.
In his epistles, Paul asserted his calling in various ways. He insisted unashamedly that it is “by the will of God” or “by the commandment of God” that he is an apostle of Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; I Timothy 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1). There was not a tinge of doubt in his heart that his ministry as an apostle of the church was commissioned by the Lord. So, he wrote in Galatians 1:1 – “Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)”.
Even the designations that he used for himself in his customary introductions were a further proof of his deep sense of the divine call he had received to serve God full-time. Consider these designations: “Apostle of Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:1; 2 Cor. 1:1; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:1; I Tim. 1:1; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:1); “Minister of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 15:16); “Servant of Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:1; Phil. 1:1). Truly, Paul saw himself as a man appointed by Christ to do His work. He understood that his commitment was, first and foremost, to Christ, and thus always acted in obedience to the One who had called him into the ministry.
An abiding conviction about his call to the ministry filled Paul’s heart, and it is seen in all his epistles. Paul’s preaching was always characterized by a fresh awareness of the divine call he had received.
Such unswerving conviction about his call to the ministry fashioned him to be a single-minded, devoted, enthusiastic minister of the Gospel. In all circumstances, whether convivial or hostile, preaching the Gospel was Paul’s singular passion. Even when he was bound in chains, he looked for opportunities to preach the Word. So, in Ephesians 6:19-20, he wrote, “And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.”
From Paul, we must learn that the work of the ministry is too difficult and too demanding for any man to enter without a deep sense of divine calling and appointment. Only a man with an unshakeable persuasion that God has called and commissioned him for a task, can be successful in the ministry. Such an understanding of God’s call into the ministry rejects any notion of a self-assumed office in the work of the church. It also prohibits Christians from appointing those who are not called by God into the ministry of the church.
Let us also take note that it is those who are unsure of a definite call from God who leave the ministry, whereas those who are fully persuaded of their divine call and appointment will remain responsible and effective, even in the midst of many adversities.
Has God called you into the ministry? If you are called, your answers to the following questions will be “yes!”
Proverbs 10:2a cautions us that “treasures of wickedness profit nothing”. This warning is more pertinent than ever before. Countries, organizations and individuals who once advocated and promoted a morally upright way of life and who also flourished economically, today appear to have lost their determination and mettle to continue in the same perspective about life. In the name of economic security and progress, immorality and destructive lifestyles are accommodated everywhere. This tolerance of an immoral lifestyle for economic reasons will not bring any true gain, according to the Bible.
The Hebrew word for “treasures” (owtsar) refers to wealth and possessions. “Treasures” are often mentioned as God’s gift and as His reward to His servants. The Bible promises “treasures” to those who will love God and live by His Word. Proverbs 15:6a says, “In the house of the righteous is much treasure.” Likewise, Proverbs 21:20 affirms that “there is treasure to be desired and oil in the dwelling of the wise”. Therefore, treasure or wealth is not evil in itself.
However, if wealth is regarded above all other matters of life, especially spiritual and moral principles and duties, it becomes an evil thing. So Scripture says, “Labour not to be rich” (Proverbs 23:4). It is a great evil to give pre-eminence to affluence and prosperity. Scripture also warns, “He that hasteth to be rich hath an evil eye, and considereth not that poverty shall come upon him” (Proverbs 28:22). So let it be our conviction that “Better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Proverbs 28:6)!
“Treasures of wickedness” refers to ill-gotten wealth. Greed and covetousness lead man to earn money through all kinds of unjust, deceptive, violent, sensual and cruel methods. “Treasures of wickedness” are the fruits of selfish desires.
That kind of wealth which men get unjustly will do them no good, because God will blast it. Proverbs 22:16 says that there is one that “oppresseth the poor to increase his riches”. There are also those who borrow much to appear rich (cf. Proverbs 13:7a), thus making themselves enslaved to worry and work.
Proverbs 13:11 talks about “wealth gotten by vanity”. It is referring to wealth gotten through greedy and wicked means; such will prove to be of no lasting value. James 5:1-5 speaks of such wealth gained through vain means — “Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.”
“Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.” This rancid wealth rots the heart of the one who gets it and it cannot save him from his ultimate demise. Righteousness, however, is a far more precious treasure. This righteousness of the Eternal God, this gift given to us by grace through faith, is greater than the limits of our mortality and powerful enough to redeem our souls from death.
“Treasures of wickedness” may dazzle, and may furnish a greedy heart with gratification. The treasures of wicked people – even the treasures which they have acquired through wicked or ungodly means – will profit nothing, no matter how safely they are laid up. They will neither profit the soul nor the body. They will not secure any true comfort or happiness. Instead, such treasures, gained through wicked means, will bring much trouble and sorrow!
Dear readers, keep yourselves away from every ungodly and filthy place set up to provide jobs and businesses. The money they offer may be huge and very attractive, but do not forget the warnings of God’s Word. Working in such places can destroy yourselves, your families, friends and even others in the society. It is better to be poor and pure than wealthy and filthy.
In last Sunday’s pastoral exhortation, I have briefly discussed the prevailing sexual immorality of our modern-day society. I would like to continue with the article by presenting to you some of the important Scriptural reasons and advice for avoiding sexual sins.
Sexual sins distort the purpose of God concerning Christians’ bodies: 1 Corinthians 6:13-14 says, “Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord, and will also raise up us by his own power.”
Believers’ bodies, according to God’s design and purposes, are not just for biological functions. It is also for the Lord (cf. verse 13). Verse 14 reminds us that our bodies are not only for the service of the Lord in this world, but also for the heaven to come. God will raise our bodies one day as glorified or heavenly bodies to serve Him for ever and ever in that sinless world. Since our bodies are for the Lord forever, we must not pervert their purpose by polluting them with sexual sins.
Sexual sins desecrate the spiritual body of the Lord: 1 Corinthians 6:15- 17 records, “Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
Believers’ bodies are not only for the Lord’s service, but are also inseparable members of His own body. Romans 12:5 says, “So we, being many, are one body in Christ.” So, for Christians to commit sexual sins is to use a part of Christ’s body to commit immorality. Because sexual relationship involves a union, the Christian who commits adultery or fornication joins Christ’s members with the members of a harlot. What an abomination to corrupt the Lord’s holiness by such association!
Sexual sins damage Christians’ bodies: 1 Corinthians 6:18 warns, “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.” Paul is saying that sexual sins are more destructive to the body than any other sin. From the experiences of many, we know that sexual immorality not only brings horrendous diseases, but also can drive one to suicide.
Sexual sins desecrate the temple of the Spirit: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 admonishes, “What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” The bodies of Christians have been made the temple of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit rejoices in indwelling and sanctifying our bodies to be a glorious temple for Him. But sexual sins will instead desecrate the bodies that are consecrated. Sexual sins, in other words, are sacrilegious!
Refrain from flirtatious comments and gestures: Godly wisdom advises us to be kept and delivered “from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead” (Proverbs 2:16-18; cf. Proverbs 7:5, 21), as well as “from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids” (Proverbs 6:24-25).
Guard your eyes and ways: Scripture, in no uncertain terms, warns us in Proverbs 7:6-21 of the ruin that befalls an unrestrained man who allows himself to sink deep into sexual immorality. This description is given that we may avoid such situation at all costs. “For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, and beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, in the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night: and, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.) So she caught him, and kissed him, and with an impudent face said unto him, I have peace offerings with me; this day have I payed my vows. Therefore came I forth to meet thee, diligently to seek thy face, and I have found thee. I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love until the morning: let us solace ourselves with loves. For the goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: he hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the day appointed. With her much fair speech she caused him to yield, with the flattering of her lips she forced him.”
Avoid places of temptation. During courtship, young couples must not be alone in quiet places whereby they may be tempted to sin. Married people must be deliberate in not developing close or intimate friendships with people of the opposite sex.
Remind yourself of severe consequences: Scripture further warns us in Proverbs 7:22-23 of the serious consequences of sexual sins. “He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.” Finally, do not ever forget Scripture’s unequivocal warning against the unrepentant of eternal judgment (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; cf. Galatians 5:19-21)!
Dear Bible Witness team,
We have been richly blessed by the articles in the Bible Witness magazine, and we wish to express our heartfelt and sincere thanks with a small love gift (enclosed in this letter).
The Bible Witness magazine is a rare find. There are not many periodicals/magazines that we know of which provide readers with good, sound doctrine, based on fundamental interpretation of the Bible. The Bible Witness magazine is one of them – and it is our hope that this work will go on from strength to strength. I hope that my children will be able to also enjoy and benefit from reading it (when they grow up in about 10 years’ time), so it is my prayer that the Lord will sustain and prosper your ministry in the years ahead.
May the Lord bless you all!
Adrian & Carolyn Ho
Dear Pastor Koshy,
We must inform you that we are so thrilled to read the section devoted to children in your church weekly.
In the previous churches that we attended and visited, including our own church, this does not even exist. The emphasis on dedicating a section on Scripture for children could not be more important, for each child is as important and valuable as each adult member. We are sure the children in GBPC look forward to their Scripture section of your weekly. Like parents in GBPC, we are glad to see that children are not left out. Praise GOD.
We have decided to collect a year’s issues to bind into a booklet form, to present to our 2 grandchildren in Hong Kong. We are certain they will love to read and learn from your GBPC weeklies.
Thank you for your devotion to all the children.
With joy in Christ,
Blatant promotion of immodesty and open display of carnal affection in public are increasing day by day. In these days, pornographic images and movies are made available with little resistance; and even children view them with ease. Sexually explicit music is also common. Extramarital sexual activity is regarded as normal. Sexual immorality is like an unstoppable plague of our time, corrupting and destroying individuals and families.
A recent report in our country’s leading newspaper, The Straits Times, is appalling:
“One in two teenagers here has watched or read sexually explicit materials, a poll has found, with some as young as seven when they were first exposed to it. And one in three admitted viewing pornography in the past year, whether intentional or accidental. The first large-scale survey here to examine children’s exposure to pornography, which polled 836 students aged 13 to 15, was conducted by Touch Cyber Wellness, the main agency that gives online safety talks in schools here. Experts say the findings are worrying as such content affects young people’s attitudes and behaviour towards love and sex, and may lead to sexual crimes.” (See more at: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/half-teens-singapore-exposed-pornographysurvey-20140906#sthash.vEtap2VS.dpuf)
With such reports, we can easily discern the severity of the moral decay of our society. You do not have to be an expert to know how accepting our society is when it comes to promiscuity, both in thought and deed.
However, the Bible teaches us the avoidance of sexual sins. There is nothing better than prevention when it comes to sexual sins. If sexual sins occur, there can be severe consequences of various kinds. Most certainly, God will forgive those who repent of such sins. Nonetheless, the consequences of such an action can linger on for a long time. So the best is prevention.
One of the sad things about those who commit sexual sins is that they often live in serious denial about their sin. They believe that they will never get caught and somehow, life will continue to move towards a happily-ever-after ending. But let us take heed to the old saying, “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).
Our attitude towards scriptural admonitions and counsel should not be “when all else fail, read instructions”. Many often try to assemble or operate things that they buy even without taking a look at the manufacturer’s instruction manual. They only refer to it when they are in trouble. If we take such an attitude towards the biblical instructions given to us by our Great Creator, we will not be able to prevent many tragic and disastrous events. This is especially so with regard to sexual sins.
If you have carefully read the Scriptures to find out what God says about sexual sins, you will certainly realise that nowhere does He counsel us to try it once and then think of how to get out of it. On the contrary, the Scriptures repeatedly warn us not to engage in any sexual conduct outside marriage. It calls for total abstinence from sexual activities outside marriage.
“Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body” (1 Corinthians 6:13).
“Flee fornication” (1 Corinthians 6:18). “Flee also youthful lusts” (2 Timothy 2:22).
“. . . they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, . . .” (Acts 15:20).
“But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints” (Ephesians 5:3).
“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, . . .” (Colossians 3:5).
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).
“Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).
“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
“For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3).
“Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; cf. Galatians 5:19-21).
The Scriptures’ clear message to the unmarried is “Wait till you get married”; and to the married, “Don’t – with anyone other than your spouse.”
Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof (Matthew 13:31, 32).
Thank God for another campus outreach which started on the 26th of September at the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). Its purpose is twofold: to preach the Gospel to students studying at SUTD and to minister to the Christians there. Currently, there is a systematic study of the book of 1 Thessalonians every Friday evening starting at 7.45pm.
When this campus outreach began its first meeting, God brought 1 SUTD student, Bro Chris, to join the Bible study. We prayed for other SUTD students to join us so that more people can listen to God’s Word. During one Bible study session, we saw one of Chris’ friends, Yuliana Harijanto, sitting just outside the classroom where we were seated. She went there to find a quiet place to pray! It was indeed God’s providence at work. Seeing her outside the classroom, Chris invited her to join us and she agreed. Though we had just one more addition, thank God for a new participant!
There is another campus near SUTD where we hope to reach out to its students too. It is the campus of INSEAD, a business school. Both are within walking distance of each other. By God’s wonderful working, He has brought a Christian sister, Echo, who is currently studying at INSEAD to join our Bible study. In the days to come, may God be pleased to work through her to bring more students from INSEAD to join us.
The campus ministry at SUTD may have started small, like a mustard seed, but God can definitely give the increase. We just need to be faithful and recognize that this is the work of God. Do continue to pray for this ministry at SUTD. Thank God also for some of the youths from Gethsemane Youth Fellowship who came to encourage the Bible study on campuses of SUTD (Fridays @ 7.45pm) and NAFA (Wednesdays @ 6.30pm).