“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)
Is your mind made up before getting any counsel? Christians who are young in the faith may lack the necessary biblical knowledge to make certain decisions in life. This may be due to their lack of understanding concerning some biblical doctrines. When certain situations arise, they do not know what to do. They would usually ask more spiritually mature Christians for advice, as they genuinely want to know and do God’s will.
However, there are those who ask for counsel for the wrong reasons. Some, being driven by personal lusts, seek God’s help to gratify their desires. When they ask for counsel, they ask with the hope that the counsel they receive will be in line with their intentions. In other words, they have already decided on their course of action even though the counsel they seek might be different!
This all-too-familiar scenario in the church also happened during the time of the prophet Jeremiah. Certain individuals went to Jeremiah to seek counsel concerning God’s will but only to act contrariwise.
Judah was in ruins in the year 586 BC. The “terrible and dreadful” Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:7) destroyed the city of Jerusalem and burned down the Temple and all the houses of Jerusalem. They also carried off many people and the treasures of the Temple, leaving behind the poor ones (2 Kings 25:9-13). In the chaos that ensued, a man named Johanan took some of the Jews and “dwelt in the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem, to go to enter into Egypt” (Jeremiah 41:17).
He was already on the move to go into Egypt for fear of the Babylonians (Jeremiah 41:18). However, Johanan and the people still asked Jeremiah to show them God’s will concerning them so that they might act accordingly (Jeremiah 42:1-3).
Sadly, even today, there are some who seek counsel only after having taken steps towards a particular direction. Though such an action seems to be irrational, many are found making this mistake. For example, some, having established relationships with unbelievers, approach their preachers or elders to ascertain whether such relationships are okay. Some others proceed to make investments before praying earnestly about those matters. There are others who apply for jobs without considering whether those professions are God-honouring or not. They act before asking for or finding out God’s will. If a Christian is sincere in seeking spiritual counsel, he should not act before getting an answer from God.
Another characteristic of people who have made up their minds before asking for counsel is that their decisions are based on what is most pleasing to themselves. Such people tend to give only lip service to God. Johanan and the people professed that they would do all that the Lord said, whether they liked it or not (Jeremiah 42:5,6). Yet, Johanan and the people had already presumed that which would please them the most would be the best. They claimed that they would obey God so that His favour would be upon them. But in reality, they only wanted God to approve what they had decided beforehand as the best course of action. Being overwhelmed by fear of Nebuchadnezzar, they were only concerned about their own survival and safety, rather than doing God’s will.
When a person has decided on his own what pleases him the most, he will be very hesitant to obey God’s will. Although God’s will may at times not make sense to us, we just have to trust it to be our perfect guide. We just need to do what God requires of us. Our heavenly Father always knows what is the best for us. Therefore, it is better to pursue His will than follow what we think to be the best.
Jeremiah gathered Johanan and the people after receiving an answer from God. He then made known to them that God wanted them to stay back in the land that God might build them up. God also encouraged them not to be afraid of King Nebuchadnezzar, as He had promised to be with them. A warning was also issued against Johanan and the people that if they were to flee to Egypt, they would die in Egypt and none of them would escape (Jeremiah 42:7-22).
When they realized that Jeremiah’s counsel was not in line with their plan, they turned against Jeremiah. They accused Jeremiah of lying. They also disputed that Jeremiah was sent by God to give such a message. They even charged Jeremiah for being involved in a conspiracy to deliver them into the hands of the Babylonians. Thereafter, Johanan and the rest of the people acted against “the voice of the LORD” (Jeremiah 43:1-4). Their self-pleasing attitude emboldened them to blatantly accuse God’s appointed servant.
Pastors and preachers are often attacked by self-seeking, disobedient people. Such people have no regard for God’s messengers. Neither do they reverence God’s Word. Oh, what tragic errors are found in those who made up their minds even before seeking spiritual counsel!
Both in the Old and New Testaments, obedience of His commandments proved a person’s love for God (cf. Exodus 20:6; Deuteronomy 10:12, 13; Daniel 9:4; John 15:10, 14; 2 John 6). Jesus says to His followers, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
It must be emphasised that Jesus’ commandments did not exclude the Ten Commandments, for He said that He did not come to destroy but to fulfil the Law (cf. Matthew 5:17). The Lord Jesus Christ has taught us more than just the Ten Commandments, and not once did He refute or set it aside. Neither did Jesus teach His followers that it is alright to ignore or disobey the Decalogue. Instead, He taught them how to obey the Ten Commandments – by loving God with all their heart and strength, and by loving their neighbours as themselves.
In Matthew 22:36-40, Jesus firmly asserted the importance of the Law when He was asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” His answer was not that the Law would be irrelevant from then onwards, but that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Thus, Jesus taught us that we can fulfil the Moral Law by loving God and loving our neighbour.
Now ask yourself, in the light of the above teaching of Christ, whether a man can justly claim that he truly loves God and his fellow brethren, when he refuses to obey even one of the Ten Commandments.
The Apostle John reminds us, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (vv. 8-10).
Christ and the apostles clearly upheld the Decalogue as an expression of love for God and man. Hence, the commandments of God serve as a guide by which our love for God is given rich expression. They do not grant us salvation, but they provide those who are already saved by faith in Christ, the proper expression of a life that is filled with love for God and fellow men.
The Law of God is not antithetical to the love of God. God’s Law and His love are not opposing or conflicting spiritual realities. Instead, there is an immutable and unbreakable bond between them. The Law and love are two spiritual realities that God has joined, which no man should put asunder. True love does not promote lawlessness, but it promotes the fulfilling of His Law. James, in his epistle, explains this truth: “If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty” (James 2:8-12).
The Apostle Paul says, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12), and further asserts, “For we know that the law is spiritual” (Romans 7:14). Every one of the Ten Commandments is holy, just like its Giver, the Lord Himself. God gave them to command and to encourage holiness in His people.
The Decalogue is the holy will of God. It is spiritual, for it forbids spiritual wickedness (such as heart-murder and heart-adultery), and it commands spiritual service. It requires the heart to render worship to God with total devotion. It is God’s spiritual Law for all His people.
In Romans 7 and 8, Paul shows the importance of the Law in fighting off the onslaught of the flesh. In Romans 8:7, he mentioned that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God”. In fact, he had already explained in Romans 7 that the sinful or fleshly nature within him is overcome by his inward commitment to the Law of God. He said, “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man” (Romans 7:22). He also “thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord” in Romans 7:25, that “with the mind I myself serve the law of God” as he faced the temptation of the flesh to serve “the law of sin”.
If the Law of God had been Paul’s help in the fight against the flesh, we should also adhere to the Law with the help of the Holy Spirit to fight against the fleshly desires of our body. “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:4).
The Moral Law, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, gives evidence to our conscience and the actual nature of our sanctification. When the Spirit helps us to compare our thoughts and actions with the Law, we will be able to discern whether we are growing towards the perfection that God requires in our practical living. Hence as a standard of holiness set by God, the Law, in the hand of the Holy Spirit, functions as an unerring guide in our pursuit of holiness.
The Law of God is relevant and important to Christians. In fact, God’s people of the new covenant will have the Law written in their hearts. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” (Hebrews 8:10). Though the new covenant is specifically focused on Israel (cf. Jeremiah 31:31), it is clear that Christians of the present time also stand under its blessings (cf. Romans 11:13-27). Assuredly, this perception does not lead to confusion between Israel and the Church, for under the new covenant, all believers are promised that God will “write” His “laws” in their hearts and minds. For all who know Jesus Christ as their Saviour and Lord, and have become partakers in this new covenant, the Law is not just something external (written on two stone tablets placed in the Ark of the Covenant), but an internal truth written in their hearts!
Matthew Henry rightly said, “The Law is still of use to convince us of what is past, and to direct us for the future; though we cannot be saved by it as a covenant, yet we own it, and submit to it, as a rule in the hand of the Mediator, subordinate to the Law of grace; and so, are so far from overthrowing that we establish the Law. Let those who deny the obligation of the Moral Law on believers consider this.”
So, are the Ten Commandments relevant today? Let us consider the words of Jesus Himself: “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19). Nothing can be clearer than that!
The ACM for the Financial Year 2014/2015 will be held today at 1.30pm.
The Annual Congregational Meeting (ACM) of Gethsemane B-P Church is held every year in the month of September. All Communicant Members are required to attend this meeting. The quorum needed for the ACM is one third of the total Communicant Members. During the ACM, the office-bearers of the Church Session shall report on the spiritual and temporal matters of the church, and also inform the church of the plans for the coming year…
Just as in all our meetings, let us also during the ACM conduct ourselves in an orderly and honourable manner worthy of a church that is called in Christ Jesus our Lord. Let us also pray for the office-bearers who will give reports of the church ministries and accounts.
Remember the following Scriptural advice on our conduct in the church.
As we listen to the reports, we should not only examine whether the work of the church has been carried out faithfully, but also praise God for all things that have been done faithfully and effectively. Since we will also consider our plans for the coming year, let us also take this time to dedicate ourselves to serve Him as good stewards of His house.
The northern part of the Philippines, including Manila and Pangasinan, experienced two typhoons in one week. Together with the typhoons were heavy rains. Last Friday (2am onwards), the rain kept pouring non-stop for 30 hours. Most parts of northern Luzon, which include Pangasinan, were flooded. School and work were suspended. Some districts, including Dagupan City, have declared a state of calamity. But the Lord has preserved us in our mission station. We thank the Lord for sparing us the flood, though we experienced strong winds.
The church brethren have also experienced the loving Hand of God. They were very worried that their crops would be destroyed by the strong winds and possible flood. Now they are very thankful that the Lord has kept their rice fields intact. The river beside their houses and fields almost burst its banks. Thank God that they did not experience flooding. The weather for this week is very sunny which is favourable for the harvest season. God willing, the brethren will start to harvest from late this week until next week.
We thank God for safety, especially while I drove to fetch the brethren to and fro in the midst of heavy rain and typhoon last Sunday. Last Sunday’s worship service was attended by 14 adults and 8 children. Please pray that the worshippers in Pangasinan will consecrate their lives and follow God’s will. Please pray also for the Friday Bible Study and all our evangelistic efforts.
This Lord’s day, the children will have Scripture Memorization test. To encourage them to take it seriously, we have prepared token rewards for those who are outstanding students. We pray that our children and adults will strive to put Scripture in their heart.
Pr Donald dela Cruz
Greetings in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ!
I apologise for not sending you an email earlier. Upon my return after the Missionary Conference in Singapore, I had tried twice to send an email to you but for some reason they bounced back. However, I would like you to know that we keep you always in our prayers.
I also would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude to all who have made it possible for us to purchase the two vans for our church ministries here in Ethiopia. Because of the van, I can now go from Addis Ababa to Alem Gena without all the problems that I used to face. It has helped me to avail myself to teach and preach even in Alem Gena. It gives us much relief from the long and wearisome journeying that we had to endure over the last three years. I cannot thank you all enough for your generous giving to the van fund, as well as for all your prayers and support. ALL GLORY BE TO OUR ALMIGHTY GOD!
Truly, even as we continue to reach out to the unsaved ones with the Gospel, God has been using you, brethren, in many ways to sustain the Gospel work here in Ethiopia.
Thank you also for the support extended to my family. God bless you and keep you for His glory. Amen.
Pr Engida Tefera
We are left with no room to debate or doubt the relevance of the Moral Law (i.e. the Ten Commandments or Decalogue) in the daily life of all who trust in Christ for salvation. We are clearly taught in the New Testament that faith in Christ does not nullify the relevance of the Law in the lives of Christians; rather, Christians are to give the Law the uncompromising place God has always intended and demanded in their lives.
While discussing the Law and justification, the Apostle Paul declared in Romans 3:31, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.” Though the Law cannot justify us before God (cf. Romans 3:28) – for we are justified by faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the Law is still very relevant to our Christian walk. Faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ does not negate the relevance of the Law.
The following teachings of the New Testament further explain the perennial significance of the Ten Commandments in a Christian’s life.
Romans 3:20 says, “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” When we bring our thoughts, words and actions under the light of the Law of God, it will show up our transgressions of His holy Law. The Apostle John teaches that “whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4).
Without the Law, man will remain unaware of his sins. In Romans 7:7, Paul elaborates this truth even further – “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Furthermore, “without the law sin was dead” (Romans 7:8), and “where no law is, there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15). The Law awakens our souls to the presence of sin within us. In other words, without the light of the Law, the ugliness of the stains of sins will remain unnoticed in the darkened souls of men.
If the Law of God is not preached and applied in the lives of the people, sins will abound even in Christian congregations. Antinomian (doing away with the law) tendencies will take deep root in individuals, families and communities. Where the Law of God is not preached, there will be no conviction of sins and no crying out, “Who shall save me from this life of sin?”
Romans 3:19 says, “Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.”
The ministry of the Law is to stop anyone who dares to speak of himself as righteous by holding him guilty before the holiness of God. No one can argue in his own defence that he is not under sin and God’s wrath. As the Law holds up God’s holy standards, it also shows that the whole world is guilty before God.
To the guilty world, it proclaims God’s just wrath. In Romans 4:15, Paul wrote that “the law worketh wrath”. The same truth is also found in 1 Corinthians 15:56 – “The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” The righteous Law of God declares to every man not only his sin, but also his condemnation, even eternal death. Thus the Law urges sinners to run to the Saviour for eternal life.
The Moral Law not only convicts sinners of their sins and warns about their eternal condemnation; it also points them to Christ, the Saviour. Galatians 3:24 declares, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Law never distracts us from Christ, it only leads us to Him. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4).
The Law clearly tells every man that he cannot be justified through the Law. While talking about our justification before God, the Apostle Paul said, “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Galatians 2:16). Paul then continued, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God” (Galatians 2:19). In other words, when a man seeks to be justified through the Law, he finds himself under death, being condemned by the Law for his many transgressions. He is then led to believe on Christ, that he might live unto God. The Law points mankind to Christ, because He alone has fulfilled all the righteousness of the Law (cf. Matthew 5:17), that we might be imputed with His righteousness. Moreover, Christ also has borne the curse of the Law for our sin and died on the cross. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Galatians 3:13).
Jesus did not come to this world apart from the Law, but fully in submission to all its requirements. This is so that He might fulfil not only all its righteousness on our behalf, but also to take away its curse that was upon us. Paul wrote, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4- 5). In Romans 8, Paul reiterated, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (vv. 3-4). Therefore, we can most assuredly say that the Law does not divert us from Christ, for it draws us inexorably towards Him. Neither does Christ do away with the Law, for He has affirmed and fulfilled the righteousness of the Law.
(to be continued next week)
The topic for this Saturday’s Bible seminar, “A Prayer for Revival”, is a subject that we can no longer ignore or neglect. Christians and churches everywhere are slipping into dangerous spiritual slumber. Many are under the narcotizing effects of false doctrines, selflove, materialism and carnality. Frighteningly, the spiritual battle may be lost even without a fight! Unfortunately, our church is not spared from this spiritual malady. Unless the Spirit of God awakens us out of our spiritual slumber, I fear that many Christian homes and churches of our time will soon be swallowed up by the fast spreading spiritual delusion of our time!
It is high time for all of us to watch unto prayer that our lives may be renewed and revived to passionately live godly and consecrated lives. Lack of spiritual discernment is causing many to think that there is no need for a revival. Many are much like the church of Sardis to which Christ has written: “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” (Revelation 3:1). He has no pleasure in such a state of affairs in the church. So He calls them to be awakened unto renewal – “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God” (Revelation 3:2).
The Lord not only calls us to a renewed and revived life, but also sternly warns us of dire consequences if it goes unheeded. “Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Revelation 3:3).
Will the Lord’s warning and call to be revived go unheeded? All genuine churches and Christians will take heed to their Lord’s call. The Lord says, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 3:6).
How would we respond to the Lord’s call to be revived? We must respond with ardent pleading and prayer, and with willing submission to His Word. There should be no place for spiritual apathy and prayerlessness in our church, homes and lives.
We must plead for a greater work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts that we may love Him fervently and relentlessly. We must pray for holiness and zeal to declare His saving name everywhere. There must be ceaseless prayers, individually and corporately as a church, for the refreshing mercies of God to fall upon us.
Let us pray like the prophet Habakkuk, “O LORD, I have heard thy speech, and was afraid: O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy” (Habakkuk 3:2).
The Lord will revive us if we humbly seek Him, for He has promised so. “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15). Jesus said, “If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13).
So I call every worshipper to come this Saturday to learn from the example of the psalmist, who prayed for revival – “Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? Shew us thy mercy, O LORD, and grant us thy salvation” (Psalm 85:6,7).
Dear Pastor Koshy,
We are so blessed to be able to attend the Wednesday Lunchtime Bible Study at the Bible Witness Bookroom. We have learnt so much in just a few lessons. We pray to be able to continue to study with you and the class.
Thank you for your unambiguous affirmation that God’s Word is holy and infallible, and that it is to be accepted by faith. Certainly, man’s scientific observations are imperfect and even flawed, at best. We are truly edified.
Our friend, Bro Yee, wishes to attend your church service this Sun; we will accompany him. We pray that he will find GBPC the church for him and his family.
Rob (a recent regular worshipper)
Thank you very much for your prayers and your words of encouragement. I have been meditating on the Word of God, especially on the sermon you preached last evening (Tuesday night prayer meeting), which has greatly encouraged me to love my Lord more fervently. I praise the Lord for impressing on your heart to teach us on the “Names of Christ”. I am very excited and am looking forward to this new series of messages, where we can learn and appreciate all the Names of Jesus. Surely, this will help us to worship Him better, for many a times our words are too weak and faint to express the magnificence and glory of His name.
I know my Saviour, the great Physician, will undertake to see me through. We will be praying for you as you labour hard to prepare all the messages. I always thank God for such spiritual nourishment He has blessed us with through you.
I pray that the Lord will grant me my heart’s desire to go to His house to worship Him this Lord’s Day.
Youths encouraging their peers through GYBH WHATSAPP
Having listened to Pastor’s daily devotions yesterday and today (10th and 11th Sept), I am most comforted by the exhortations from Revelation 12:11. It tells us about the Christians going through persecution, who “overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto death.”
I felt greatly moved when the realisation dawned upon me that in the midst of our trials, we have Christ who will look after us and give us boldness to live a faithful and fervent life for Him.
Hi Bro, Thank you for sharing :-). May God help us to live selflessly and bear His name fearlessly.
Much patience is needed among the church members so that we may continue to flourish as a loving, united and God-honouring church family. Without patience towards one another, we will not be able to handle weaknesses, shortcomings and even hurts that might occur within our church family. A happy and effective church is a household of believers who bear with one another with longsuffering.
The Apostle James advises Christians, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:19, 20). This prudent counsel of James is of particular help to us, that we may be a people who give opportunity for everyone to grow unto maturity. Let us now carefully consider these words of James.
This passage begins with the connective particle “wherefore”, which refers us to James’ discussion in the preceding verse that God begat Christians according to His will by the truth of His Word. All genuine Christians are the children of His family. In this regard, James addressed fellow believers as “my beloved brethren”. Then he exhorted them as to how they should conduct themselves as children of God’s family.
The first conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to “be swift to hear”. The primary emphasis of this advice is that every Christian ought to be eager and ready to hear God’s Word. Listening attentively to the instructions of the divine truth, by which every Christian is begotten, is crucial in the life of God’s child. His foremost calling is to be a student, rather than a teacher, of God’s Word. He must be teachable and have a great appetite to feed on God’s truth. A holy curiosity and a receptive spirit are paramount if he is to grow in the knowledge of God.
The second conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to be “slow to speak”. This is certainly not an advice to promote some kind of unsociable reserve. There is no virtue in being uncommunicative. We are not forbidden from speaking altogether. We are not taught to abstain from speaking entirely, but to be slow to speak. The admonition is against talkativeness and hastiness to be a teacher. Such restraint in speech has been taught in the wisdom books of the Bible. Proverbs 10:19 reminds us, “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise.” Proverbs 17:27 says, “He that hath knowledge spareth his words.” In Ecclesiastes 5:2, we are warned: “Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God.”
The third conduct of a child of God that James teaches, is that he ought to be “slow to wrath”. Quicktemperedness and fiery outbursts will lead to many great and heinous offences and sins. So we are to control our temper. Moreover, to be a good learner of God’s Word, one needs to be patient in spirit. Let us not be angry, especially when we are rebuked and corrected by His Word. Proverbs 14:29 reminds us, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding.” He who is slow to anger shall attain wisdom and honour, but the wrathful man, only foolishness and shame.
In verse 20, we are given the reason for James’ earlier admonition that every Christian ought to be slow to wrath. “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
A great number of Christians are in need of this reminder, for many seem to be ignorant of this truth or have conveniently forgotten about it. Christians so often foolishly burst into wrath without having full understanding of a matter, or worse, after having misunderstood or misjudged a matter. One’s impatience and ungoverned temper often numb his mind from exercising proper reasoning and righteous judgment. A volatile temperament will also certainly hinder one from exercising Christian graces such as patience, mercy and forgiveness.
Every Christian ought to take seriously the caution that “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”. Scripture does teach us abundantly how the wrath of man works against the righteousness of God. Proverbs 27:4 warns us that “wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous”. When anger is unchecked, it produces merciless and hurtful conduct. The anger kept within the heart will soon become uncontrollable, suddenly ventilating itself by yelling at others, shouting insults and vulgarities, hurting and injuring others, throwing things around and destroying them, etc.
Proverbs 15:18 states, “A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.” A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension and easily picks up a fight. In this proverb, he is set against the peacemaker, which demonstrates how quarrelsome an angry person could be. Anger and hatred will cause strife in the family or at the workplace or in the church (cf. Proverbs 10:12; 29:22).
Proverbs 29:22b points out that “a furious man aboundeth in transgression”. There is no stopping the offences by an angry person. Mischief will flow from an angry, passionate, furious disposition. Furthermore, “He that is soon angry”, warns Proverbs 14:17, “dealeth foolishly”. Verse 29 of Proverbs 14 affirms this fact by pointedly declaring that “he that is hasty of spirit (i.e. to anger) exalteth folly”. So let us restrain our wrath at once, and refrain from sin.
Jesus repeatedly tells us that terror and fear will increasingly grip the hearts of the people in the days that lead to the end of the world. “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by. Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and great earthquakes shall be in divers places, and famines, and pestilences; and fearful sights and great signs shall there be from heaven” (Luke 21:9-11). He also said, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:26).
A former US President, F.D. Roosevelt, in an address to Congress in 1941, said that one of our essential human freedoms is the freedom from fear. Since then, much is said and done to get fear out of human minds. Though this is a good and just cause, it is an utter impossibility. The events of our times only aggravate the sense of fear in human hearts. Whether it be terrorism, wars, pestilences or natural calamities, people everywhere live in fear. Just as Jesus said, “Men’s hearts are failing them for fear.”
The root cause of troubles and fears is sin and rebellion against God. As long as sin increases, there is no hope for calm and tranquillity. The Lord God Almighty says, “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21).
No man can fully free himself from fear until he is “born again” through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the Prince of Peace, and He alone will be responsible for peace on earth. Man is absolutely powerless to rid the world of fear, as evidenced by the long history of wars and rumours of wars that have afflicted the globe to this day. According to the unfailing Biblical prophecy, this world is not heading towards a man-made utopia but towards the Great Tribulation, the time of greatest suffering the earth has ever known (Revelation 6:15-17).
Of all the hundreds of things that men fear, the greatest is undeniably the “fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). Anyone who has never been saved by the grace of God and washed in the blood of Christ has every reason to fear death and to die in his sins. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31; cf. 9:27). Death is not the end for man. God’s Word says that after death, each of us will forever be either in the torment and punishment of hell, or in the joyful bliss of heaven (Luke 12:4-5; John 14:1-3). At the moment of physical death, one’s eternal destiny is forever sealed. The greatest fear anyone could ever have is an eternity in hell!
Jesus died on Calvary’s cross for our sins, bearing all the judgment that we deserve. Now He offers salvation to everyone who will confess his sins to God, and trust Christ as his Saviour, believing that He died for him. You cannot be free from fear until all your sins are forgiven. Believe on Christ “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7).
Once we are cleansed of our sins and are delivered from eternal damnation, we can be sure that the Lord will be with us, even in death. Jesus also assures us, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18). If at anytime you feel afraid in the face of the encroaching and increasing terrors of the end-time, pray to the Lord for His peace. He promises, “My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
We have desired to have a Gospel outreach ministry to students in tertiary education. Through Bro Andrew Koh, who now serves with Gethsemane Youth Fellowship, a Bible study for students in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) has been started. Below is Bro Andrew’s brief report on the first session:
“O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8:1).
Thank God for every opportunity to speak forth His excellent name wherever He sends us. It pleases God to use even man to make His great name known. The psalmist said, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?” (Psalm 8:4).
By God’s providence, the first Bible study was conducted at NAFA on 27th August (Wednesday) evening at 7.30pm, on Campus 1 Wing B. By word of mouth, 4 people attended this Bible study to learn from God’s Word. Currently, we endeavour to do a systematic book study of 1 Thessalonians. We also took time to pray for one another. Through the sharing of prayer items and fellowship, the participants were encouraged to remain steadfast in their Christian walk and be faithful to God even amidst an ungodly environment. It was a blessed time of fellowship.
We pray that the group will “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18), and that more will come to learn God’s Word weekly. We also hope to hold evangelistic meetings to reach out to non-Christian students with the Gospel. May God open more doors for us to speak forth His excellent name!
If you know of any NAFA student who is interested to join our Bible study, please introduce him or her to me. My contact number is 9862 3403.
The Bible and prayer are closely bound together; they are two integral parts of Christian life and ministry. God communicates to His children by His Word, and they communicate to Him by prayer. Believers ‘inhale’ the words of God, and ‘exhale’ prayers unto God. So both the Bible and prayer are indispensable in maintaining a faithful and fruitful Christian life. While a lack of God’s Word and prayer will lead to spiritual calamities, an abundance of them will result in much spiritual success.
Our Lord Jesus had vividly stated the importance of God’s Word and prayer in John 15:7 – “If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.” A full measure of the Word and prayer each day will ensure a powerful and victorious Christian life.
Even for the ministry of the church, the Word of God and prayer are vital. Their pre-eminent place in the ministry has been affirmed by the apostles when they said, “But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4). Christian ministry ought to be defined as the ministry of the Word and prayer. When Paul wrote about the ministry of Epaphras, a servant of Christ from Colosse, he reported about Epaphras “labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).
Both the Word of God and prayer must be pursued with great enthusiasm. If prayer is pursued without the guidance of God’s Word, the result will be a mystical religion. Conversely, much learning of the Bible without prayer will effect a mere mechanical, academic pursuit of the Scriptures without the beauty of faith, submission and the power of godliness.
The following biblical facts demonstrate to us the relationship that exists between the Bible and prayer.
All we need to know about prayer is found in the Bible. The infallible truths about God to whom we pray can only be found in the Bible (Hosea 4:1; Jeremiah 8:9; Matthew 22:29; John 5:39). The perfect knowledge of God, which the Bible provides, is vital to a proper vibrant and effective prayer life (John 15:7; Psalm 119:58, 76, 170). Scripture shows that those who are mighty in prayer are those who know God intimately through His Word.
Prayers ought to be consistent with God’s truths in the Bible. Prayers which are contrary to the Word will not be answered by God. Acceptable prayers flow out of the sound doctrines of the Bible. In fact, it is warned that the prayers of those who are disinterested in the Bible are an abomination to the Lord. Proverbs 28:9 tells us, “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination.”
Not only does the Bible direct Christians to pray, it also provides the divine principles and patterns of prayers that are acceptable to God. The principles of prayer are taught both by direct commands and through prayers of godly men, which are a pattern for all those who delight in coming to God in prayer.
It teaches us various kinds of prayer such as petitions (1 John 5:15), supplications (1 Timothy 2:1; 5:5), intercessions (1 Timothy 2:1), thanksgiving (Colossians 4:2) and confession (Daniel 9:20; Psalm 51).
Reasons for unanswered prayers are clearly taught in Scripture so that Christians may correct their errors and cultivate an effective prayer life. It admonishes us against sin harboured in one’s heart (Psalm 66:17): whether it be lack of mercy (Proverbs 21:13), hatred and violence (Isaiah 1:15), greed and lust (James 4:3), an unforgiving spirit (Matthew 5:23-24), marital infidelity (1 Peter 3:7), hypocrisy (Matthew 6:5-6), vain repetition (Matthew 6:7-8), or doubt (1 Timothy 2:8).
The Bible excites us to a life of prayer with wonderful promises of God’s answers to our prayers. “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3; cf. Psalms 50:15; 91:15; 145:18; Matthew 6:6; 7:7-11; 21:22; Mark 11:24; 1 John 3:20-22).
We are also given examples of lives blessed through prayers, e.g. those of Moses, Hannah, Samuel, David, Esther and Paul. In the Bible, the greatest of all men of prayer is the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 14:23, 26:36; Luke 6:12; 9:18, 28; 11:1). If we would truly accept Him as Lord and Master, we also ought to yield ourselves to be like Him in our exercise of prayer.
We ought to pray for an understanding of the Word of God (see Psalm 119:18, 34; Ephesians 1:17-23). When we learn the truths of the Bible, we must rejoice and turn to God in prayer to give thanks (Psalm 119:7, 164, 171, 175). We are to seek God’s blessings that are promised in the Bible (Acts 2:39; 2 Corinthians 1:20; Psalm 119:173; 2 Chronicles 1:9). We are to study the instructions and exhortations of the Bible and pray that they will be fulfilled in our lives (Psalm 119:5, 35-36; Hebrews 13:21). Upon the study of the Word, we ought to pray “Lord, may Thy will be done in me.”
It is every Christian’s God-given duty to pray for the propagation of His Word. In this regard, Christians are also instructed to pray for those who preach the Word. Paul urged his first readers in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, “Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you.” To the Colossians, Paul wrote, “Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds” (Colossians 4:3).
A constant study of the Bible is essential for the nurture of our prayer life (Luke 11:1-13; Jude 20), and a consistent prayer life is essential for the right understanding of and obedient response to the Bible (Psalms 25:4-5; 86:11; 119:12, 26, 33-35, 64, 66, 68, 124, 135, 169; 143:10; Colossians 1:9-10). A biblical prayer life is most necessary for a closer walk with God.
On 20th January 2013, I wrote at the end of my pastoral exhortation in the church bulletin: “Our need for more space is acute. So we must pray for God’s provision to acquire a larger space for our increasing ministries. I call on the church to pray for and work towards a Building Fund of 5 million dollars by 2015. ‘The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want’ (Psalm 23:1).”
Though all of us have become aware of our need for a more spacious Church Resource Centre and consequently the Building Fund, our giving has been simultaneously directed to several other urgent fundraising to which we have already been committed, such as Missionary Conference Fund (S$45,993.15), Ethiopian Van Fund (S$101,122.90), Ethiopian Borewell Fund (S$22,300), The Philippines Relief Fund – Typhoon Haiyan (S$59,429.43), etc. Nonetheless, by the grace of God, through the generous giving of our people, the Church Building Fund has been slowly but steadily growing.
The present Church Building Fund of S$353, 837.50 is only about 7 percent of the target sum. In about 16 months, we must pray that the LORD will multiply this sum a hundredfold. The LORD, who has helped us hitherto in exceedingly abundant and wondrous ways, shall be our Help.
It is very encouraging that many of you have been writing notes of thanksgiving, faith and encouragement, coupled with your love-gifts. I am profoundly thankful that you have taken time to write edifying notes (though I would also like you to exercise caution to avoid biblically unsound quotes).
Recently, I heard testimonies of children, youths and adults who have been working extra hard to earn some “income”and give to the Building Fund. Some have given substantial portions of their savings. Some others are attempting to sell some of their collections, handcrafts, self-made outfit, accessories, bags, used goods, etc. via the Internet. They are giving all their profits to the LORD. No matter how small the sum they earn, because they have gladly and willingly dedicated all or most of their earnings to the LORD, He will certainly honour their giving. They give because they are assured of the worthiness of the cause to which they give, as well as the honour that they have in “co-labouring” with the LORD. We praise the LORD that He will not despise His people’s sincere and obedient acts of faith and love.
Let us continually pray for His enabling grace to give our best with a cheerful spirit towards the Church Building Fund. For the last four years, our present Church Resource Centre has been fully utilized. By end 2015, we need to have larger premises to accommodate our growing ministries and the increasing number of members, preachers, staff, etc. Let us pray in faith for God’s leading and provision in this area of our need.
“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).
The Bible speaks of wrong motives for giving and the following are some of these in the light of the Biblical instructions. In order that our giving might be acceptable to God, we must eradicate all of these from our heart.
This is one of the worst motives for giving – the desire to be seen by other people. Jesus warns us not to seek recognition from man for our giving because it forfeits any reward that we would receive from God. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus said, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore, when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.”
Some greedy people want others to think of them as generous people. In order to achieve this end, they deliberately create a facade of sacrificial giving. God hates this heinous plot. His hatred for such giving is clearly demonstrated when He killed Ananias and Sapphira for lying to the apostles and the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 5:1-11).
God disapproves of any effort to glorify the giver rather than God Himself. Gifts that function as personal advertising are contrary to the will of God. It is especially so when giving is used as a cover-up for one’s greed.
Lastly, some people give with the hope of earning forgiveness, salvation, etc. The Bible is very clear that salvation and all its accompanying blessings cannot be earned with money or corruptible things. According to Psalm 49:7-8, “None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him: (For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever).” Wealth forever comes short of the power necessary to accomplish eternal spiritual blessings. It has always been insufficient, and it will always be. There is no hope that it will ever be sufficient; that by any increase in the amount, man can obtain spiritual blessings.
In 1 Peter 1:18, we are told that “…ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold …”. We can never pay God enough to purchase our salvation. It is audacious and odious to think that we can bargain with God over the price for His salvation and blessings.
Here is a final warning from Job 36:18-19 – “Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke: then a great ransom cannot deliver thee. Will He esteem thy riches? no, not gold, nor all the forces of strength.”
It is not uncommon today that people give for purely selfish reasons. They give in the hope of getting more from God in return. It is true that God promises to bless those who give sincerely and obediently (Proverbs 3:9-10), but it does not teach us to treat the ministry as a profitable “financial investment programme”. Today, covetous men turn the solemn act of giving to glorify God into a “get-rich-quick” scam. May we keep ourselves from every materialistic notion that is being propagated as a legitimate form of worship. In 1 Timothy 6:5, we are warned to stay away from such men and their schemes. Paul cautions, “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.”
In James 5:16, we read, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” The words “effectual fervent” are translated from one Greek word (energoumenē) from which we get the English word “energy”. Here it denotes an energetic, operative prayer.
As God’s children, we must not be contented with weak prayers. We must desire to have an enthusiastic, effective prayer life. The church, being known as “the house of prayer”, must be exuding with effective prayer of God’s saints. We may be short on financial resources, or weak in our physical strength, or despised and ridiculed by those who are hostile toward the biblical doctrines that we hold on to, but the power of prayer belongs to us.
The key to effective prayers is not that very large group of people get together to pray or that a particular pattern or style of prayer meeting is followed, or that we hold very lengthy prayer meetings. Though some of those aspects of prayer are good and desirable, the effectiveness of our prayer is connected to the sanctity of our lives.
According to James 5:16, the energetic, effective prayer comes from “a righteous man”. In the context of our verse, the righteous man is the one who confesses his sins to the one whom he has offended in order that they may be reconciled and pray together. He is a man who seeks to live a life of purity, peace and prayer. It is to such who are dedicated to living a holy, amicable and prayerful life that effectual prayer belongs.
Weak, ineffectual prayers proceed from spiritually and morally weak people. As Christians, we must seek to possess a life of effective prayers. If we would pursue holiness, fellowship and joint-prayers with God’s people, we will soon be heirs of a powerful life of prayer. If we were to be blessed with a powerful prayer life, we must cease from all sins and offences, and live a devout and dedicated life of Christian fellowship.
The success of prayer is intimately connected with our Christian character. The prayer of the righteous is sincere; it does not proceed from insincere lips nor a hypocritical heart. The Lord is pleased to hear those who obey His Word sincerely and hence, He will answer their prayers.
Proverbs 15:8 tells us that “the prayer of the upright is his delight”. Proverbs 15:29 says, “The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” Psalm 34:15-17 reminds us that “The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry. The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth. The righteous cry, and the LORD heareth, and delivereth them out of all their troubles”. Likewise, Jesus said in John 9:31, “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
Hence, prayer is more than a mere good spiritual discipline; it moves the Hand of the Almighty to bless the praying man with His most wonderful providence. Let us therefore pursue a life of purity, peace and prayer, and be blessed with a life of effectual fervent prayer that availeth much.
After finishing my National Service, I had a 6-month break before I start my university studies. I tried to look for a job but to no avail. Disappointed and bored, I spent most of my time playing computer games and going out with friends. My mother could not bear to see me waste my time; so she approached Pastor Koshy to encourage me to help out at the Church Resource Centre in any area that is needful. Pastor then contacted me and I agreed without much hesitation, as I felt I should not waste any more time.
Under the instruction of Dn Lok, I helped to “archive” the Bible Witness magazines by packing, labelling and placing them in assigned bookshelves. This was no mean task as it took altogether two weeks to complete. I was also given the task of getting the Bible Witness Retreat files ready. Needless to say, I took the opportunity to attend the retreat.
During the retreat, Pastor preached on the topic: “I Have Somewhat Against Thee”, taken from Revelation 2:1- 7. I realized that eventually everyone must stand before Christ to give an account of what he has done in his life. I understood that Christ my Saviour will not be happy if I while away my time by just playing or getting involved in worldly things. I resolved in my heart to be more active in our church activities and fellowship meetings, and to render my help in the church as the Lord gives me opportunity and ability. Serving the Lord is the best way to spend my time and avoid worldly stuff and temptations that are not beneficial to my spiritual life.
Subsequently, Pastor asked if I could try transcribing some of his preached messages, which would help him in publishing them as articles and Bible-study notes. To begin with, I transcribed Pastor’s closing prayers at the end of each of his “Daily Devotions” through our church website. In the process, I became curious as to how Pastor produced the daily devotions. Pastor explained that he would write the article a few days in advance, then wake up every morning around 5 a.m. to record the devotion. He would then send the sound clip to Bro Eric who would upload it to the church website promptly. This would ensure that hearers can either read or listen in to the devotions daily. After knowing all the hard work that had gone into producing these devotions, I felt pricked in my conscience and decided to make an effort myself to read the devotions every day.
As my transcribing skills “improved”, I took on the challenge to transcribe Pastor’s Tuesday night prayer meeting devotions on “Mary’s Magnificat” (Luke 1:38- 52). I would get the recording from Bro Arnold and then transcribe “from scratch”. Although it was tedious work, I felt privileged because I could understand the content more clearly as I typed. It reminded me afresh of things that I have learned in the prayer meetings, especially the great importance of seeking and doing God’s will, as well as keeping ourselves humble before God.
I praise God for helping me to complete transcribing the series of messages on “Mary’s Magnificat”. I am also thankful that I could help out in several other areas, such as folding church bulletins and prayer lists, packing Gospel tracts for evangelism, collating and binding the church directories, etc.
Above all, I praise God for the fellowship I had with Pastor, preachers and the church staff. During this period, the Lord has drawn me to a closer walk with Him. However, the battle with sin has not ended and I continue to pray that the Lord will protect me from sin and its temptations, until he calls me home.
Some are prone to point the finger at others and even at God when they fall into temptation and commit sins. So the apostle James cautions us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God” (James 1:13a). Blaming others for one’s own sin started in the Garden of Eden. Adam said to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). Adam blamed his wife, and he extended the blame to God as well! He seemed to imply that he would not have sinned if God had not put Eve in the garden with him.
It is important that we take note of James’ caution: “Let no man say …I am tempted of God”. Some believers tend to misinterpret Godsend trials as God tempting them with opportunities to sin. Such a notion is far from the truth. So James gives a stern warning to those who may pin the blame on God with responsibility for their temptation to sin. James is very concerned about such an idea of God, and desires that his readers will reject the suggestion that God has a hand in inducing people to sin.
One’s thoughts about God affect one’s decisions and responses to life’s experiences. If one presumes that the temptations of sin that he experiences are from God, he will then have an ill-conceived excuse for the sins he would commit. As James noted, he would then say impious and despicable things, such as “God tempted me with sins.”
To say that “I am tempted of God” is, first of all, to make a false claim about God. It is a heresy to say that God tempts us with sin. Any thought or statement that depicts God as the author of sin is contrary to the unmistakable teaching of the Holy Scriptures that all of God’s works are holy. Moses avows in Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Psalm 145:17 declares, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Likewise, Psalm 92:15 affirms, “To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (cf. 1 Sam. 2:2; Ps. 111:3; 119:137; Zeph. 3:5; Rev. 4:8).
Secondly, such a statement deceives the heart to consider sin as an unavoidable matter that God has laid on him. Such a belief stands contrary to all the counsels and admonitions of God in His Word. God commands us to depart and be separate from everything unholy. For instance, 2 Corinthians 6:17 admonishes us, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”. The Lord God would have nothing to do with those who follow the way of sin. He calls all His people to “come out” from all sorts of unclean and false people and their ways.
How scandalous and diabolical it is then to say, “I am tempted of God”!
Though our trials are permitted by God, He is not the author of the temptation of sin that befalls us simultaneously with those trials. No temptation of sin is designed or discharged by God. As James says, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”
God will never cajole and coax us to sin. God will never influence us to sin by infusing evil thoughts, inclinations, or desires. Nothing that God does is evil; His ways with His people will never lead them to sin. The tempter is the devil (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:3, 13-15; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). God is holy and He leads only into the paths of righteousness. As David confesses, “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).
Let no one think that God lays upon him, through his trials, an unavoidable compulsion to sin. The trials that God permits in one’s life are never to compel one to sin, but to sanctify and strengthen him. All that God does is good and perfect (cf. James 1:16, 17). Therefore, do not yield to the temptations of sin, saying, “God has tempted me!” It is very impious of anyone to make such a dreadful assertion.
God influences us only unto righteousness while Satan, the world and our own lust tempt us with sin unto unrighteousness. The Lord never tempts us with sin. On the contrary, He is ever ready to protect and deliver us from sin’s temptation. So the Lord taught us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). God will aid every one of His children who yearns to be delivered from evil temptations. Did not Jesus say, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38; cf. Matt. 26:41)?
Some may not blame God, but they point at the devil, the world, friends, parents, siblings, church members, church leaders, etc. Though some of these are common sources of evil temptations, the above Scripture points out that there is a more subtle and dangerous fountain-head. It lies within every one and is identified as “his own lust”.
The word “lust” (epithumía) indicates “strong desire” or “longing” in a bad sense. It depicts man’s inordinate and impure desire or appetite. King James Bible has translated it also as “concupiscence”. It is often used with words that connote materialism and sensuality. The New Testament usages of the word are instructive: “evil concupiscence” (Col. 3:5), “deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22), “foolish and hurtful lusts” (1 Tim. 6:9), “youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22), “worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12), “fleshly lusts” (1 Pet. 2:11), “ungodly lusts” (Jude 1:18), etc. Hence, “lust” represents the corrupt inclinations of the human heart.
“Lust” is not a dormant, harmless curiosity or idea of the heart. Quite the reverse; it is a very powerful feeling that can numb one’s moral and spiritual senses, and draw one to corrupt and damaging activities. James reveals to us lust’s powerful ploy with the two verbs he used in the above verse. The first verb translated “drawn away” (exélkō) conveys the idea of being “dragged out” or “forcibly hauled or compelled”. The second verb translated “enticed” (deleázō) comes from a root word (délear) that means “bait”; it signifies being beguiled and lured into a trap or snare. Powerful enticements and deceptions are at play when lust is at work in our hearts. Our thinking and feelings will be so desensitised that we can be wheedled into destructive conduct. Like the bait on the fisherman’s hook that entices the fish, lust also would entice a man into sin’s temptations; and once hooked, he, like the fish, would be dragged away!
Beloved church, there is a great need for us to realize that our own lust is a great danger to us. We must recognize and act against our own lust, lest it may soon drag us into shameful and hurtful mischief of sin. Our temptations are often self-inflicted perils. So let us be vigilant against ourselves. Peter cautions, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).
One of the major reasons why Satan easily entraps many Christians in sin is because they are ignorant of the nature of his person and works. Insufficient understanding of the enemy will definitely lead to a lack of proper preparation in facing him. On the other hand, misinformation about the enemy’s character will also lead to an underestimation or overestimation of his capabilities, both of which are detrimental to one’s success in winning the spiritual battle. While underestimation will lead to complacency, overestimation can lead to fear, discouragement and eventual defeat.
Many grotesque myths and bizarre practices exist today in connection with Satan and demons. Christians should not heed these superstitions, for the Bible provides us with the truth about Satan. It teaches us all there is to know about this evil creature who opposes us. We should not allow our minds to think more or less about him than what God has revealed to us.
Knowing our enemy’s character and strength is a very important requirement in gearing up for the spiritual battle that faces us. So as in any battle, we should strive to have a proper knowledge and assessment of the opposition. This will adequately prepare us to defend ourselves and to eventually triumph, no matter how fierce the attacks.
Scripture is replete with evidence of Satan’s existence. To doubt his existence is to deny the biblical affirmation of his existence. Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible testify that Satan is real, and not an imaginary foe of Christians.
Right at the beginning of the Old Testament in Genesis 3, we see the first appearance of Satan shortly after mankind was created. This wicked being showed up in the garden of Eden under the guise of a serpent (Genesis 3:1; cf. Ezekiel 28:13). Then in the book of Job, we read how Satan sought to trouble a God-fearing man that he might deny God (Job 1:6-12). During the time of king David, Satan provoked David to commit sin which resulted in the death of seventy thousand men (1 Chronicles 21:1-14).
In the New Testament, every writer makes mention of Satan (though not in every book). 19 out of 27 books of the New Testament give credence to his existence. Yet, even those eight books that do not specifically mention him, four of them imply his existence in the form of demons or evil angels.1
In the four Gospel books of the New Testament alone, our Lord Jesus made reference to Satan at least 25 times. We can also read about the person-to-person encounter between the Lord and Satan in the parallel passages of Matthew 4:1- 11 and Luke 4:1-13.2
We have further proof that Satan is a genuine person and not, as some have suggested, just a personification of evil by a hallucinating mind. The Scriptural records of Satan show him as being able to exercise his intellect, emotions, will, etc., thus proving his personality. Consider the following facts about him that give evidence to his personality:
His intellectual nature: His intellect is evident because God asked him, “Hast thou considered my servant Job?” Furthermore, he schemed to deceive Eve through his subtlety (2 Corinthians 11:3). His craftiness is most evident in his temptation of Christ when he manipulated Scripture to try and deceive Christ (Luke 4:1-12). Another proof of his intellect is his fluency and persuasiveness of speech. How he entices men to follow his will!
His emotional nature: He has emotions too, particularly that of pride. In fact, it fuelled his rebellious desire to oppose and exalt himself above God (Isaiah 14:12-17). In Peter’s description of Satan as a “roaring lion”, Satan appears to be so full of fury and rage. He is also able to affect the emotions of people. Just consider how he tormented Job with constant afflictions.
His moral nature: Since God will judge Satan (Revelation 20:10), we know that he is a moral being. He and his demons are also known as “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1; Acts 8:7; Revelation 16:13); and they would seduce men and women to live ungodly lives (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
All of the above aspects of his nature prove that Satan is very different from impersonal beings (like animals) or impersonal forces (like the wind) or impersonal things (like rocks). Moreover, Scripture uses personal pronouns when referring to Satan. He was addressed as “thou” in Ezekiel 28:14, 16; and “he / his / himself ” in James 4:7 and 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 respectively. We therefore conclude that Satan is a person and so are each of his demons.
Satan is, in essence, an incorporeal and invisible spirit being like all the angels and is thus more powerful than man (Psalm 8:5). He was among the “cherubim class” of the angels (Ezekiel 28:14, 16). In fact, he was ranked very high among the cherubim, for he was referred to as “the anointed cherub” and “covering cherub”.
Even though he is now a fallen angel, the Bible does portray him as a creature with tremendous power. In Jude’s epistle, we read, “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee” (v. 9). Furthermore, Jesus’ reference to him as the “prince of this world” (John 12:31) gives credence to the power he wields. Paul called him the “god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
While he is thus portrayed in the Bible as a very powerful and dangerous adversary of God’s people, Satan is never depicted as equal to God. In fact, Scripture clearly teaches that Satan is far weaker than God, and an enemy doomed for eternal destruction. We must remember that Satan is only a creature, whereas God is the omnipotent Creator. Satan is finite and limited. He can operate only when and where he is allowed to by God (Job 1:10-12).
These images of Satan’s character as vividly painted in Scripture are more than enough for Christians to realise that we are not up against an ordinary opposition. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
Having to fight a constant spiritual battle against a powerful foe, God’s people are not destined to journey ever so smoothly in this life. Remembering this will keep us from becoming lax and complacent. It will also help us to be all the more sober and vigilant.
At the same time, we also need not be overcome by fear in facing our adversary, for Scripture did say, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). If we abide in the Lord, Satan will have no control over us whatsoever. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). Indeed, with God’s help, we will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
God’s Word holds out to the church many great and precious promises of God. We must be very thankful that we, as a church, are heirs of those divine promises of inestimable value. In the past, we have constantly relied on God’s promises to stand firmly against all tides of false doctrines and ungodliness of our time. We also found God’s promises to be totally dependable, a solid foundation and resource, for all the great and mighty works that the Lord has entrusted us with. As we look forward to bear faithful witness to Christ our Lord and His infallible Word, to thrust forward in building up the congregation in the most holy faith, and to enthusiastically engage in the extension of His kingdom everywhere, His promises are our trusty resource.
In our church, everything we attempt to do is solidly founded on God’s infallible Word. We have always believed that we should attempt to do only that which is sanctioned by the Word of God, and which has the full support of His gracious and precious promises. Our continual reliance on God’s promises has enabled us to overcome many hindrances and trials we had faced in the work of the Lord. May we continue to highly esteem His promises in our hearts, and boldly press forward to carry out everything He has called us to do.
Here are some of the great divine promises for the church, upon which I, as a preacher of the church, have stood all these years. It is with great joy I am publishing them today for your empowerment in the work of the LORD. Please take time to meditate upon them and to see how those promises can embolden and strengthen you as a member of His church to do all His good, and acceptable, and perfect will.
“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).
“Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
“For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
“And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all”(Ephesians 1:22-23).
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
“To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him” (Ephesians 3:10-12).
“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).
“Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23).
“Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:25-27).
“…but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church” (Ephesians 5:29).
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
“…the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).
“Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:13-16).
Oh, what great prospect of blessing is laid out for the church in these great promises of God! Oh, what a trusty charter God has penned for the triumph of the church in her battles on earth! Now, dear church, by the power of the truth of His Word and by the power of the presence of the Holy Ghost, let us assuredly march forward with a growing zeal to abound in the work of the Lord. Amen.
Ipraise and thank the Lord for the great opportunity to attend the 4th Missionary Conference of Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church held in Singapore. Having attended all the previous missionary conferences – the very first, held in Malaysia (2005), the second in Cebu City (2007), and the third in Ethiopia (2011), it is one event that I look forward to – for the following reasons:
By God’s grace, Elders Richard and Eli, Preacher Edsel, and I have safely returned. All praise and glory be unto God for the manifold blessings.