“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)
In the last week’s article, we have learned that being born again or regenerated is entirely a divine work. You can do nothing to be born again. Jesus did not ask Nicodemus to do certain things to be born again. He simply declared, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7). Jesus did not command Nicodemus, “Born yourself again.” It is only when the Holy Spirit awakens (quickens or makes alive) our spiritually dead souls through the Word of God that we can perceive the spiritual blessings of the salvation in Christ. Regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit that brings us to the kingdom of God. It is not the fruit of human efforts to reform or improve themselves.
Now, let me ask you whether you know that you are truly born again? For many people, to be born again is to utter a sinner’s prayer, or to make a decision in a Gospel meeting, or to make a profession of faith in Christ. However, these actions do not necessarily indicate that one is truly born again. Many who have taken such steps woefully live with no evidence of being born again! Many churchgoers of our time are merely nominal Christians who show no biblical signs of being born again.
The Bible teaches us what happens if one is born again. Below are some of the spiritual proofs given in the Bible. J.C. Ryle’s article, “Are you born-again?” provides six biblical evidence of being born again – printed below for your benefit.
“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin (i.e. continue to sin)” (1 John 3:9). “We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (1 John 5:18). A person who has been born again, or regenerated, does not habitually commit sin. He no longer sins with his heart and will and whole inclination. There was probably a time when he did not think about whether his actions were sinful or not, and he did not always feel grieved after doing evil. There was no quarrel between him and sin; they were friends. But the true Christian – hates sin, flees from it, fights against it, considers it his greatest plague, resents the burden of its presence, mourns when he falls under its influence, and longs to be completely delivered from it. Sin no longer pleases him, nor is it even a matter of indifference to him; it has become a horrible thing which he hates. However, he cannot eliminate its presence within him.
If he said that he had no sin, he would be lying (1 John 1:8). But he can say that he hates sin – and that the great desire of his soul is not to commit sin at all. He cannot prevent bad thoughts from entering his mind, or shortcomings, omissions, and defects from appealing in both his words and his actions. He knows that “in many things we offend all” (James 3:2). But he can truly say, in the sight of God, that these things cause him grief and sorrow, and that his whole nature does not consent to them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
“Whoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (1 John 5:1). A man who is born again, or regenerated, believes that Jesus Christ is the only Savior who can pardon his soul – that He is the divine Person appointed by God the Father for this very purpose – and besides Him, there is no Savior at all. In himself, he sees nothing but unworthiness. But he has full confidence in Christ, and trusting in Him, he believes that his sins are all forgiven. He believes that, because he has accepted Christ’s finished work and death on the cross, he is considered righteous in God’s sight, and he may look forward to death and judgment without alarm.
He may have fears and doubts. He may sometimes tell you that he feels as if he had no faith at all. But ask him if he is willing to trust in anything instead of Christ – and see what he will say. Ask him if he will rest his hope of eternal life on his own goodness – his own works, his prayers, his minister, or his church – and listen to his reply. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
“Everyone that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 John 2:29b). The man who is born again, or regenerated, is a holy man. He endeavors to live according to God’s will – to do the things that please God – and to avoid the things that God hates. He wishes to continually look to Christ as his example, as well as his Savior – and to prove himself to be Christ’s friend, by doing whatever He commands. He knows he is not perfect. He is painfully aware of his indwelling corruption. He finds an evil principle within himself, which is constantly warring against grace and trying to draw him away from God. But he does not consent to it, though he cannot prevent its presence.
Though he may sometimes feel so low that he questions whether or not he is a Christian at all, he will be able to say with John Newton, “I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in the eternal world. But still – I am not what I once used to be! By the grace of God I am what I am.” What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (1 John 3:14). A man who is born again has a special love for all true disciples of Christ. Like his Father in heaven, he loves all men with a great general love; but he has a special love for those who share his faith in Christ. Like his Lord and Savior, he loves the worst of sinners and could weep over them; but he has a peculiar love for those who are believers. He is never so much at home, as when he is in their company.
He feels they are all members of the same family. They are his fellow soldiers, fighting against the same enemy. They are his fellow travellers, journeying along the same road. He understands them, and they understand him. They may be very different from himself in many ways – in rank, station and wealth. But that does not matter. They are his Father’s sons and daughters – and he cannot help loving them. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world” (1 John 5:4). A man who is born again, does not use the world’s opinion as his standard of right and wrong. He does not mind going against the world’s ways, ideas and customs. What men think or say no longer concerns him. He overcomes the love of the world. He finds no pleasure in things which seem to bring happiness to most people. To him, they seem foolish and unworthy of an immortal being!
He loves God’s praise more than man’s praise. He fears offending God more than offending man. It is unimportant to him whether he is blamed or praised; his first aim is to please God. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
“He who is begotten of God keeps himself’ (1 John 5:18b). A man who is born again is careful of his own soul. He tries not only to avoid sin – but also to avoid everything which may lead to it. He is careful about the company he keeps. He knows that “bad company corrupts good morals” and that evil is more contagious than good, just as disease is more infectious than health. He is careful about the use of his time; his chief desire is to spend it profitably.
He desires to live like a soldier in an enemy country – to wear his armour continually and to be prepared against temptation. He is diligent to be a watchful, humble, prayerful man. What would the apostle say about you? Are you born again?
These are the six great marks of a born again Christian. There is a vast difference in the depth and distinctiveness of these marks in different people. In some, they are faint and hardly noticeable. In others, they are bold, plain and unmistakable, so anyone may read them. Some of these marks are more visible than others in each individual. Seldom are all equally evident in any one person. But still, after every allowance, here we find boldly painted – six marks of being born of God.
How should we react to these things? We can logically come to only one conclusion – only those who are born again have these six characteristics, and those who do not have these marks are not born again. This seems to be the conclusion to which the apostle intended us to come. Do you have these characteristics? Are you born again?
Do you know what it is to be born again? Much confusion remains on this vital subject. It is important that we understand what it is to be born again.
Various biblical and theological words have been synonymously used with the word “born again” (John 3:3). Knowing those equivalent terms would help to gain clarity on the word “born again”. They are regeneration (cf. Titus 3:5), spiritual quickening [spiritual resurrection/being spiritually made alive (cf. Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13)], new birth, etc.
According to the Scriptures, every soul is spiritually dead – “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). There are two major aspects to the spiritual deadness of mankind. Firstly, every child, no matter how physically healthy, is born as spiritually dead. This is because the fall (disobedience) of the first man, Adam, brought the whole human race under sin. “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Adam was the representative head of mankind; and when he sinned, “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned”. This is why David said, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Every descendant of Adam is therefore spiritually ‘stillborn’, and eventually, his physical death will follow.
Furthermore, Scripture tells us that every man under the influence of the fallen (sinful) nature, Satan and the sinful world, live in disobedience to God. While explaining the spiritual deadness in Ephesians, the apostle Paul wrote, “Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others” (Ephesians 2:2-3).
So, every man, in his natural state, is not just spiritually sick, but spiritually dead! Man is “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18; cf. Colossians 1:21). Spiritually dead persons cannot enter into God’s kingdom, unless they are spiritually made alive (or regenerated or born again) by God’s Spirit. Those who are dead in sins are estranged from God and godliness. That’s why Jesus said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Without being born again, one cannot enter God’s kingdom; he remains outside God.
Regeneration is not a sinful man’s personal efforts to make spiritual improvement or progress. The Scriptures insist: “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). It is not by one’s own effort to be righteous that one is born again, but by the work of the Holy Spirit. If it were a natural, human work, it would not require the intervention of God the Holy Spirit.
This is the reason for Jesus’ words to Nicodemus – “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:5-6). Here, Jesus completely rules out any notion of human or physical (“flesh”) involvement in the regeneration of a soul.
But some would ask, “What about Jesus’ mentioning of being born of water? Doesn’t it mean that water baptism is necessary for regeneration or new birth?” Here, Jesus was certainly not talking about water baptism. If baptism were essential for regeneration, Jesus would have baptised those who had come to Him, but “Jesus himself baptised not” (John 4:2). Jesus was using a familiar Old Testament symbolic usage of water and Spirit for spiritual renewal and cleansing (cf. Numbers 19:17-19; Isa. 4:4; 32:15; 44:3; 55:1; Joel 2:28-29; Zechariah 13:1). Jesus’ words in John 3:5 was evocative of the Old Testament teaching concerning regeneration in passages such as Ezekiel 36:25-27, where water and Spirit are mentioned together to represent God’s work of regeneration.
Ezekiel 36:25-27 – “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”
Jesus expected Nicodemus to know the Old Testament teaching on being born again, so He asked him, “Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:10). Nicodemus’ ignorance concerning regeneration in the Old Testament was so apparent when he asked Jesus in bewilderment, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
Even today, many, like Nicodemus, miss the point of Jesus’ words, “ye must be born again”. Spiritual birth is not something that one produces or attains by human effort or action, but what he is subjected to by the sovereign work of God through His Spirit and the Word (cf. Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:23). Just as our birth had nothing to do with our effort, in the spiritual realm, regeneration or being born again is not a work of ours.
But when the Holy Spirit regenerates sinners, they are liberated from their bondage to sin and made alive from their spiritual deadness. Consequently, they become alive towards the spiritual realities that God has prepared in Christ Jesus. As the Spirit of God quickens or makes alive their spiritually dead soul, they become capable of repentance of their sins and putting their faith in Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls.
So, regeneration (or new birth) is the gracious sovereign action of the Holy Spirit through His Word that changes the inner man. Regeneration extends to the whole nature of man, transforming his sinful disposition, illuminating his mind, freeing his will enslaved by sin, and renewing his nature.
The Reformed theologian, B. B. Warfield defines regeneration as “a radical and complete transformation wrought in the soul (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23) by God the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5; Ephesians 4:24), by virtue of which we become ‘new men’ (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10), no longer conformed to this world (Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9), but in knowledge and holiness of the truth created after the image of God (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10; Romans 12:2)” (Biblical and Theological Studies, p. 351).
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).
Prayer is a ministry in which the bond of Christian fellowship is strengthened as mutual needs and burdens are presented before the Lord. Incessant prayers for one another are taught in the Scriptures (Hebrews 13:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:25) with regard to physical (James 5:16) as well as spiritual (Colossians 1:9) blessings. As such, it is expected of every Christian to pray one for another. An Old Testament prophet even declared that it is a sin to cease praying for the people of God (1 Samuel 12:23).
Jesus prayed for His disciples and all believers (John 17:9, 20). Thus, the habit of intercession was highly regarded and zealously practised by His apostles and prophets of old, for it was the very trait that made them more like the Lord. Scripture is, in fact, replete with many exhortations on prayer. It is without doubt a solemn duty for Christians to pray for one another.
While it is important for Christians to intercede one for another continually, there are situations in which prayer is more urgently needed. Surprisingly, there are also situations when we do not pray for a person. This teaching can be found in 1 John 5:16-17.
In verse 16, John presents a situation when earnest prayer is required from the brethren. “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death” (v. 16a).
When we see a brother living in sin, and being afflicted with and suffering its consequences, we must pray for him that he will repent lest he be destroyed. Prayer should be the believer’s first response on behalf of the errant brother instead of reacting in disgust towards him.
Sins of Christians may result in sickness. The apostle Paul mentioned in his first epistle to the Corinthians that some of them were sick and even dead because they partook of the Lord’s Supper while sinning without repentance (1 Corinthians 11:28-30). Weakness, sickness and death were the three forms of chastisement with which the Corinthian church was visited. Even today, these can be the experiences of sinning Christians.
So the sick brother must examine himself as to whether there is any sin in him, for some sickness may not necessarily mean the presence of sin in his life but only a trial or test of faith. Nevertheless, if sin indeed is present, immediate confession is required. When there is an offended party, he must seek reconciliation. This then is where prayer comes in for the repentance, forgiveness and healing of the offender. “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 5:16).
Church leaders should also be called upon to intercede for that ailing brother, praying not only for his healing, but more so for his spiritual restoration (James 5:14-15). If we pray in such scenarios and if the brother, who has sinned and is afflicted, is willing to repent, God will deliver him. Because of his repentance, his sins will not work out to his death. Thus John says, “… he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death.”
Astounding as it may be, Christians should also be aware that there is an occasion where it will not be prudent to pray for the healing of others. John wrote, “There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it” (v. 16b). A sin unto death can be any particular sin in one’s life. It can be as simple as lying, gruesome as murder, or complex as teaching false doctrines. What makes that particular sin deadly is the attitude in taking it lightly and refusing to repent from it. This presents us with a case of an unreasonable and unrepentant individual in the church. Thus, there is no point in praying for this person. His cries unto God and even those that might be uttered on his behalf will most certainly be in vain (cf. Jeremiah 14:10-12).
God, in His grace, does not always immediately punish us for our sins. However, there comes a point when God will no longer allow the unrepentant person to continue in his sin (Acts 5:1-10 and 1 Corinthians 11:28-32). At the final stage of divine discipline, God will put an end to his life. It is His prerogative, as the Sovereign Judge, to decide when to remove the person by death.
John mentions some wicked characters found in the early church in the second chapter of this epistle. They are referred to by the phrase “he that hateth his brother” (1 John 2:11). A hateful, unforgiving and implacable spirit towards others describes such a one. Another group of evildoers are named “antichrists” who “went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us” (vv. 18-19), and “a liar … that denieth that Jesus is the Christ …” (v. 22). They are not of us, in the sense that they twist and deny the fundamental truths about Christ and His words. They lie through their teeth in denying the Person, work and words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There are sins that may or may not result in physical death, but engaging in sin without repentance does indicate one’s spiritual death (cf. 1 John 3:9; Matthew 7:18). A person may continue to live; yet spiritually he is dead already. Let it be a warning to us that every sin is deadly and no sin should be cherished in our lives. “All unrighteousness is sin” (v. 17). And though “there is a sin not unto death”, we should not take the presence of sin lightly in our lives. Frequent and ceaseless intrusions of sin can be a mark of one’s spiritual deadness!
It must be reiterated that it is not for us to judge that whenever someone falls sick or even dies, it happened because of that person’s sin. Christians must therefore be very careful in deliberating matters like these. Such problems in the church must be approached with much humility, love and truthfulness.
It is a given that brotherly love ought to be a trait characterising Christian fellowship. Yet we cannot hide from the fact that there are unloving people lurking within such circles. Especially in these last days when people are increasingly “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, …disobedient to parents… trucebreakers, false accusers, …fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded…” (2 Timothy 3:1-4), the Holy Spirit’s exhortation to love one another as a brotherhood and fellowship of Christians is a very important message to us. The apostle John, under the inspiration of God, wrote about this topic of brotherly love in 1 John 3:14-19. The truths gleaned from this passage will greatly help us to appreciate and demonstrate brotherly love in our practice of Christian fellowship.
Three specific actions prove the presence of true love among the fellowship of believers.
Firstly, it is when we love the brethren. Loving the brethren is a sure mark of our salvation. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren…” (v. 14).
The grammatical form of the verb “love” (the Present, Active, Indicative) denotes both deliberate and continuous expression of love towards fellow believers. It portrays the vibrancy and vitality of divine love which we ought to express to fellow brethren.
Secondly, it is when we sacrifice ourselves in order to alleviate the plight of the needy brethren. “…we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (v. 16b-17).
This means a readiness to sacrificially help a needy brother with our resources. True love is not about self-pleasure or self-enrichment, but self-sacrifice. When we deny help to a destitute brother, it is doubtful whether the love of God truly dwells in our hearts (v. 17).
Thirdly, it is when this love is manifested not just in our speech but also in our deeds and in truth. “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (v. 18).
Only actions done in sincerity qualify as genuine expressions of love. In other words, true affections should translate into action. Words of apparent concern spoken to cover up one’s disgust or unwillingness to help are plain hypocrisy. Such speech should be eradicated from our lips.
Three reasons underscore the importance of brotherly love in our fellowship as Christians.
Firstly, it proves that we have received eternal life. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (vv. 14-15).
While persistent hatred confirms our spiritual deadness, love for the brethren proves our spiritual regeneration. The expression of brotherly love is a manifestation of the assurance of eternal life. But it must be stressed here that it is not the means for obtaining it. Salvation unto eternity still is, and will always be, by grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8). Our love for the brethren is only an affirmation of that faith. Thus, brotherly love ought to be a characteristic of forgiven, regenerate sinners bound for eternity.
Secondly, it proves that we have appreciated God’s love in Christ’s atoning sacrifice. “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (v. 16).
The term “laid down” involves a deliberate, wilful act that demonstrated Christ’s love “for us” in His sacrifice on the cross. His death was not one of mere martyrdom but an atonement and a propitiation (1 John 2:2). It is a designed self-sacrifice on behalf of others. The preposition “for” (huper in Greek) is often used to denote the substitutionary nature of the atonement (cf. John 11:50; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13). Thus, Christ gave His very life “for us”, for our own benefit.
John’s primary concern is to stress the exemplary aspect of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. Christians have an obligation to be self-denying like their Lord if such an occasion presents itself in the service of love. Christian love does not originate from within one’s own heart, but from the sacrificial love of Christ which he has tasted.
The mutual love of Christians must be patterned after Jesus’ sacrificial love on Calvary. There can be no greater expression of love than the sacrifice of one’s life, which is the greatest possession an individual can ever have (cf. John 15:13). Christ did just that, and He demands that we do the same. “When the honour of God’s name, the advancement of his church, and the need of his people demand that we love our brothers, we ought to show our love at all cost—even to the point of risking and losing our lives,” Kistemaker wrote.
Thirdly, it assures our hearts that we live by His truth in His presence. “And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (v. 19). The knowledge that “we are of the truth” stands opposed to all false notions of one’s spirituality. The presence of brotherly love in our fellowship only affirms that we are true Christians and that we are not deceived in professing to be Christians.
For such indeed is the mark of a true disciple of Christ, as summed up by Jesus’ own words: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
Christian fellowship is one of the greatest blessings that will emerge from knowing Jesus Christ as the Lord and Saviour of our life. There is nothing like it on earth as far as close and affectionate relationships are concerned. We all enter into relationships whether by affinity or consanguinity, but when such relationships are not based on Jesus Christ and His truth, they tend to have great problems. Only the fellowship that comes out of the gospel of salvation carries a very special blessing.
Christian fellowship is filled with the splendour of heavenly realities and experiences. In a sense, it is really an “out-of-the-earth” experience reserved by God only for His children. It is a God-given and God-sustained fellowship designed to prepare believers for the fuller heavenly joys that await them beyond this life on earth.
It cannot be denied that some may have had encountered unpleasant experiences in pursuit of Christian fellowship. Nevertheless, a blessed Christian fellowship is something possible and workable, which Christians should desire and exercise. Thus believers should know it, experience it, and never be a cause for its hindrance.
Since Christian fellowship is a relationship that God has begun with us, how then is it to be expressed in the believers’ relationships with one another? Biblically, Christian fellowship is characterized by three important expressions. Several passages from the New Testament offer us valuable insights.
Togetherness, unity and cooperation: Those who are knit together in the bond of the Spirit as members of one body, under one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, must express these qualities. “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Philippians 2:1-2). Here, believers are encouraged by the apostle Paul to express their fellowship through “like-mindedness”, “love”, “one accord” and “one mind”.
If fellowship is to flourish, there must be unity and harmony among believers. So the apostle wrote about the secrets of unity and harmony in the Christian fellowship namely self-renunciation, humility and mutual respect. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
A wonderful personal testimony of the beauty and blessing of unity and co-operation of Christian fellowship is narrated by Paul in Galatians 2:9, “And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” As soon as the early apostles recognized the grace of God that converted the apostle Paul, they immediately extended their hands of fellowship to him and Barnabas that they may be united in Christ and for the cause of the Gospel. Thus, Christian fellowship is characterized here by a welcoming spirit of togetherness and cooperation. So, by the maintenance of brotherly esteem and love, and by provoking fellow brethren to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24), Christian fellowship is best demonstrated.
Participation in doctrine, prayer and sacraments: Christian fellowship was maintained by the early church in Jerusalem by gathering together often for instruction, prayer and sacraments. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
The early Christians, having heard the Gospel through the preaching of the apostle Peter, received the word, were baptized, and immediately participated in the doctrine of the apostles. They did not dispute or criticise the apostles’ teachings, but accepted and learned from them. Together, they observed the sacraments and joined their hearts in prayer. With joy and gladness, they declared these doctrines to others.
These are the biblical prescriptions for Christian fellowship: the coming together for worship, partaking of the Lord’s Supper, prayer, Bible study and visitations. When it comes to these activities of the church, let us take heed to the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”
Sharing, communicating of spiritual and material gifts: The sincerity and strength of the fellowship in the early church were demonstrated by the sacrificial giving to the needy among them. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44-45; cf. Acts 4:34-37). The early church in Jerusalem, which was a paragon of Christian fellowship, was driven by mutual love, care and self-abasement.
Likewise, the church in Philippi demonstrated to Paul their bond of fellowship through their gifts for him. “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only” (Philippians 4:15). The word “communicated” here is translated from the same Greek word for “fellowship”. This verse outlines the giving and receiving of support between the apostle Paul and the Philippian brethren. They had been mutual in supplying one another’s needs. Believers need to share their resources for the promotion of the Gospel work as well as to help needy brethren. The writer of Hebrews issues the same exhortation while pointing out its proper motivation: “But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased” (Hebrews 13:16).
Paul likewise exhorted the Galatian brethren to practise such generosity, especially to those that minister the Word. “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things” (Galatians 6:6). When men who are endued with the gift of teaching bless us with spiritual wisdom and guidance, we must provide for them with the material blessings which God has bestowed upon us.
These are wonderful and important expressions of Christian fellowship that the church should manifest for the glory of God. As can be seen, it is more than just an expression of companionship. It fosters the idea of one’s partnership in the work of the Gospel and the practice of responsible stewardship in advancing it.
Tomorrow, God willing, about 245 of us will meet together for this year’s Church Camp at Holiday Inn Resort, Batam, Indonesia. Much work has been done by Pr Jeremiah Sim, the Camp Master, and the Camp Committee members and helpers. We thank God for all of their labours in organising this year’s camp. Let us earnestly pray for the Lord’s blessings upon the camp.
All camp participants are advised to fully cooperate and co-labour with your group ICs so that our journeys, meetings, fellowship and all other activities will be a pleasant, safe and peaceful experience for all. Let us also be courteous, patient, helpful and fervent. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord” (Romans 12:10-11).
Our camp theme, “Our Inexhaustible God”, will be studied in the morning sessions. Please pray for me as I expound the theme from the Scriptures. We are also grateful to the Lord for the availability of Rev Paul Cheng (Pastor of Bethel B-P Church, Melbourne, Australia) and Pr Edsel Locot (Preacher of Gethsemane B-P Mission Church, Bohol, the Philippines) to co-labour with me in the teaching of God’s Word in this year’s camp. Rev Cheng will expound Romans 12 through the night messages, while Pr Edsel will minister God’s Word during the morning devotions.
The children will have their special programme and will be supervised by Pr Kelvin Lim. The Lord has provided three experienced and efficient sisters – Sis. Ho Xiao Wei, Sis. Ng Boon Choo, Sis. Karen Lee – to minister God’s Word to our children. They are all members of Truth B-P Church and serve the Lord full-time (Sis. Xiao Wei in Calvary Pandan BPC; Sis. Boon Choo and Sis. Karen in Truth BPC).
I would like to exhort the parents to prepare their children early and bring them to their classrooms 10 minutes before the start of each programme, so that neither the children nor the parents will be late for their respective programmes.
Let us maintain a prayerful, holy and loving atmosphere throughout the camp. All campers are expected to attend all meetings with a spirit of reverence and holy curiosity to learn God’s Word. Please come for meetings with proper attire suited for worship. In all the activities, be modestly attired.
If any campers have to go out of the resort during the free time in the afternoon, please follow the advice that will be given to you, and make sure that you will be back early enough to prepare and attend the programme.
Finally, in tune with our theme, I exhort all the campers that you come to pursue the knowledge of our great God. May this camp be a gateway into God – to learn from His Word great and wonderful things concerning our Eternal God. Would you not come with a prepared heart to seek, know and rejoice in Him? If all of us would seek and receive the blessings of meditating on the greatness of our God, surely we will come out of our spiritual doldrums.
The infinite Godhead invites us to come and taste His greatness and goodness. We are assured in 1 Corinthians 2:12, “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” He also promises, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9). The Lord wants us to not only know Him but also enjoy Him in ways that we have not yet experienced. So let us come together, praying, “O Lord, through this camp, may Thy saints delight in Thy goodness and greatness, and be wonderfully satisfied in Thee.”
The LORD’s instruction to Moses and the Israelites concerning the building of the tabernacle is recorded in Exodus 25:1–9. It was one of the passages for my family’s devotion last week. Some significant lessons that I have learned are shared in this article for the benefit of our congregation in our effort to complete the renovations of the newly purchased Gethsemane Media Centre at 33 Ubi Crescent.
First, please read the record of the Scripture—”And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering. And this is the offering which ye shall take of them; gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine linen, and goats’ hair, and rams’ skins dyed red, and badgers’ skins, and shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil, and for sweet incense, onyx stones, and stones to be set in the ephod, and in the breastplate. And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it” (Exodus 25:1–9).
The LORD, who made the entire universe and all that are therein out of nothing (ex nihilo), commanded His people, the children of Israel: “bring me an offering: of every man that giveth it willingly with his heart ye shall take my offering… And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.”
Does the One who says that “the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 50:12; cf. 24:1-2) need any man’s contribution to build His house? Why would He ask His people for their offerings to build His house? Why wouldn’t He perform a miracle, just as He had made the world out of nothing?
Scripture provides an answer through King David’s response to God upon his son Solomon being chosen to build the temple. 1 Chronicles 29 provides us with the answers – “Thine, O LORD, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom, O LORD, and thou art exalted as head above all. Both riches and honour come of thee, and thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. Now therefore, our God, we thank thee, and praise thy glorious name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort? for all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee” (vv. 11-14).
To be given the responsibility to participate in the building of God’s house is a splendid opportunity to express our gratitude for all good things He has provided. We possess nothing that God has not provided. All that we have in our possession is not ours, but God’s – “for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine… Both riches and honour come of thee… and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all… for all things come of thee…” As the apostle Paul asked, “what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). This humbling question teaches us that when we can give anything to God’s work, we are just giving Him what is already truly His. We are just custodians of His things, that we may return to Him when He commands. We are just like a child who says to his father, “Dad, may I take ten dollars from your wallet to buy you a birthday gift?” When the father permits and the child brings the birthday present to him, both rejoice and the father is pleased with the child’s present.
When David collected all the offerings which the people willingly gave, he said, “O LORD our God, all this store that we have prepared to build thee an house for thine holy name cometh of thine hand, and is all thine own” (1 Chronicles 29:16). Oh, how true are the following lines from George Matheson’s hymn, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”!
I give Thee back the life I owe,
That in Thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be!
When we consider the things that God, through Moses, had commanded the Israelites to give, we will marvel at how God had made them wealthy though they were slaves for 400 years in Egypt. The list of things God asked of them to offer include gold, silver, brass, blue, purple, scarlet fine linen, goats’ hair, rams’ skins dyed red, badgers’ skins, shittim wood, oil for the light, spices for anointing oil and for sweet incense, onyx stones, stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate of the priests, etc. God first enriched them with these things, and only then, did He command them to give.
What great honour God bestows upon His people, that they may be builders of His house! We are unworthy to be enlisted for such a glorious task for His praise and purposes – “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly after this sort?”
When we give to the LORD’s work, we have nothing to congratulate ourselves. We give only because God has filled us with things that we could not have made on our own. If God has not graciously guided us in His work and blessed us with things for His use, we could not have given.
About 15 years ago, the Lord moved us to give willingly for the Church Resource Centre (02-08, 510 Geylang). Then the Lord directed us to raise funds for the church and Bible Institute buildings in Alem Gena, Ethiopia. Now again, the Lord has given our congregation the honour of giving for Gethsemane Media Centre at 33 Ubi Crescent. The more we give, the more humbled we should become, knowing that it is His gracious provision that enables us to give. Let us give willingly as God commands in His Word, saying: “Of Thine own, of the fullness that Thine own hand has provided, we now give to Thy house. Let us praise God for the honourable task of contributing to the building of His house! Every opportunity that the LORD gives to His people to participate by giving willingly to His work, is a task we must gladly welcome.”
Dear Pastor Koshy,
Greetings in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
We thank God for His help in enabling us to finish another semester of teaching and learning in GBI, India. Exams are scheduled for the last week of this month and students are currently preparing for it. Last semester, two full-time students and two part-time students took classes. We offered courses on Theism, Bibliology, Zechariah, Westminster Standards and Theology of Prayer. Most of the students had difficulty in following the lessons and doing the assignments, as they are not proficient in English. But they are trying their best to do well for the upcoming exams.
Through contacts of the current students, some new students have shown interest in joining GBI for next semester, starting in July 2019. May God guide them as they plan to study God’s Word.
Recently, we started a Bible Study cum prayer gathering in Gethsemane Bookroom on Monday evenings. GBI students and some friends have been joining the meetings. We are going through the Book of Ephesians and spending time for prayer during those meetings.
God willing, we are planning to have a Sunday English Worship service in the Bookroom premises from first week of June onwards. Please pray that the Lord will bring His children to sit under His feet to learn and grow in Him.
We are thankful for the prayers and support extended for the work here. May the Lord richly bless the church with all spiritual blessings and physical provisions. We are praying for God’s continued provisions for the urgent needs of the church in Singapore, especially for the funds needed for the renovation works of the new premises.
Our church’s ministry has always been filled with many needs and struggles. But we have been driven by those dire situations to seek God in prayer and declare our confidence in the counsels and promises of His Word. Exodus 15:22-27 shows us, through the experiences of Israel and Moses, that our extreme experiences of awful anxiety, terrible bitterness, as well as deadly gloom will be opportunities for God to cheer us and show His magnanimous provisions for our delight.
Since Israel left Egypt to follow Moses, they were brought into one trouble after another. As soon as they reached the Red Sea, they were entrapped by the chasing Egyptian army of Pharaoh between the mountain ranges and the sea. The people were perturbed and murmured. But the Lord delivered them by parting the Red Sea and then drowning the Egyptian army by bring the waters upon them. After that nerve-racking situation, “Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water” (v. 22).
Moses was leading the people through a path ridden with problems, which neither the people nor he could resolve or overcome. They trekked three days through the arid wilderness of Shur with no water to quench their thirst. At last, they found water in a place called Marah, but even then “they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter” (v. 23). Apparently, the water they drank was not only distasteful but also deleterious, for later we read of the LORD’s promised healing to the people who drank the water of Marah (cf. v. 26). What a predicament it was that the thirsty ones could only find unsavoury and unhealthy water for consumption!
As a leader, Moses could not have done any better in leading the people. He did exactly what the LORD had directed. Those puzzling predicaments they faced along the way were all ordained of the LORD. Moses’ greatest concern was to be faithful to God’s directions, rather than making people happy and comfortable. He led the people according to God’s instructions, though unpleasant and unacceptable to the people. God’s voice was greater in his soul than the protests of His people.
A true spiritual leader is first and foremost a servant to God. He obeys the will of His God, and not the people’s. His greatest concern is God’s instructions and not people’s likes and comforts. In God’s kingdom, the government is not by the people. Instead, people yield themselves to be governed by God’s will. A leadership totally given to God’s authority is, to so many people, unsuitable, unpragmatic and unbearable. Like Moses, all spiritual leaders (be they husbands, fathers or church leaders) must take their stand with God who ordains them in their leadership role, and then exhort and guide the people by His Word. People’s unhappiness or objection should not deter them from their insistence in going forward as the Lord commands. Patient endurance of trials and forfeiture of comfort, pleasure and even our very life are expected as we follow the LORD’s will. Remember Jesus words – “Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
People’s protests got louder and louder. “And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink?” (v. 24). They were not just expressing their grievances to Moses, but were murmuring against Moses. It must have been very disheartening for Moses. Even though the predicament they faced was not due to Moses’ mistake or misjudgment, they were angry with him.
Moses responded to the crisis with prayer. “And he cried unto the LORD” (v. 25a). Prayer was Moses’ only solution to the people’s tumultuous rising against his leadership over the lack of drinkable water. He must have prayed not only that God will help to calm the people’s revolt, but also provide for their thirst. The great masses of Israelites appear to have forgotten to pray in their need. Instead of praying, they foolishly murmured in protest. But Moses was wise; he waxed strong in prayer and overcame both their need and revolt through prayer. He trusted the Lord in this time of need and distress.
Brethren, the right response in the hour of great need and trouble is fervent prayer. Let us not be weary to pray. How happy should we be to have a God to go to in time of trouble! His ears are not heavy that He cannot hear, nor His hands shortened that He cannot deliver us! Like Moses, we must be confident in the grace, power and faithfulness of God to make good the promises He has made to us.
The Lord heard Moses’ prayer and pointed out to him a particular tree that was to be cast into the bitter water in order to sweeten it. “The LORD shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet” (v. 25b). A question has been asked as to whether the tree inherently possessed a sweetening property. As it is, we have no information about the tree possessing such a natural property. The most significant fact is the miraculous change of taste and quality of water. Just think of how much water was purified to speedily provide for 600,000 thirsty men, their wives, children and cattle. It must have been a large collection of water for so many. What an abundant, astounding provision!
The Israelites, even with Moses as their leader, had no skill to meet their necessities of the hour. But “the Lord showed … a tree” to turn the bitter water into a sweet, refreshing spring. A great trial was thus transformed into a great blessing. The bitter water was converted into sweet water, which was a divine work of provision. Brethren, human wisdom, earthly philosophies and the world’s resources are all unsuited and useless in the midst of our desperate needs in the service of God. God can make the grievous situation that we face into a gracious opportunity for His wonderful provisions. If we patiently wait in faith and prayer, He will change our burdens into blessings.
Moreover, there at Marah, God “made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them” (v. 25c). After trying His people with the lack of water, He admonished them by His word, that hereafter they should submit themselves more obediently to His commands. If they obediently hearken to His commandments, it would be well with them. If not, they must expect to be chastised and afflicted by Him, as it was mentioned in v. 26: “If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee”. With these words, the Lord confirmed His purpose in their predicament, which was to test and teach them, that they must not be disobedient or rebellious but be submissive followers of His will.
A still greater provision awaited them. When they moved forward as the LORD required them through Moses, He provided for them even greater joy and blessing: “And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” (v. 27). Indeed, Egypt’s bondage was heavy, but the Red Sea victory made them glad. Marah’s waters were bitter, but the Lord’s miraculous provision of sweet, refreshing water strengthened them. Then He led them to beautiful Elim, with its springs and palm trees, providing them rest and rejuvenation for the rest of the journey.
Brethren, let us look to our God from whom come all our blessings for both the present and future. Let us remain faithful in trusting, praying and availing ourselves as obedient servants of His will. It shall still be better further on!
To His disciples who failed to heal the lunatic boy, Jesus Christ said, “Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
Those words followed His sharp rebuke to the defeated disciples. Earlier He chided them saying, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me” (v. 17).
Like the disciples, we too will be rebuked sharply by the Lord, if we be defeated because of littleness of faith.
The disciples were already commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ – “And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:7-8). According to the Gospel of Mark, they were immensely successful in their apostolic work of preaching and performing miracles – “And they went out, and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many devils, and anointed with oil many that were sick, and healed them” (Mark 6:12-13).
How could such a successful group of disciples fail so miserably in repeating their earlier feat? How did they fail to help a distressed father who could not any more bear the torment of his child who was pushed into fire and water by the demon who possessed him? When it was most needed, they miserably failed to exercise their apostolic power to deliver the boy from his lunacy.
The question is: “Why?” Jesus told them forthrightly, “Because of your unbelief”! They failed because of the littleness of their faith. Jesus even addressed them as “faithless”. It was not to say that they did not believe Jesus Christ, but that they had not fully exercised their faith to cast out the demon. They had saving faith, which they could not lose. Certainly they had trusted Christ to some degree, or they would not have attempted to heal the boy. But they did not exercise faith, as the Lord expected of them, in employing the power Jesus had given to them.
Brethren, in the service of our God to which He has called us, He expects us not to fail. What matters is not how well we begin a work, but how well we complete it. Over the past three decades, God has guided us in many aspects of the ministry of the church with great success; we are profoundly grateful to Him for all those joyful triumphs He has provided in our ministries. However, if we do not act in faith in the face of present challenges and difficulties in accomplishing the task which the Lord has called us to fulfil, irrespective of all the past triumphs, we too can be a failure. Just as His disciples were, we too will be fit for our Lord’s ire and reprimand.
Remember how disgustingly the Lord responded to the report of His disciples’ failure to heal the child with lunacy. The Lord’s displeasure was obvious when He addressed the father of the sick child and the crowd around Him, including the disciples – “O faithless and perverse generation”! He expressed His disgust again by saying, “how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me” (v. 17b).
The entire generation of Jews were faithless, represented on this occasion by the multitude, together with the self-righteous scribes and Pharisees, the disciples, etc. Even the father’s faith was not complete for he himself confessed, “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (cf. Mark 9:24).
The people were not only unbelieving, but perverse. The word “perverse” (Greek, diastréphō) has the basic idea of being twisted or bent out of shape. It is used to denote persons who turn aside from divine truths and purposes. When people fail to exercise faith in the Lord and His power, they are led away from His truth and work, and thus become perverted.
If we are to do the Lord’s work – and to do it successfully, we must have faith in Him, in His Word and in His power. We must look beyond the struggles, opposition and needs. We must remain focused on what we need to accomplish according to His commission. We must look for a present anointing by the Holy Spirit to overcome our fears and to do whatever our faith in the Lord would demand of us. We must yield daily to the Lord and refuse to turn aside.
Brethren, we have a task at hand. The Lord wants us to accomplish our building project and be adequately equipped to take this ministry with His help to a new level of effectiveness and fruitfulness. If we do not act in faith, we will turn aside from the work. If we will not yield ourselves to God in faith, we shall turn aside to look for help from forbidden places. Then we ourselves become a perverse people, whom the Lord will reprimand! God forbid that we ever fall into that sort of failure.
When the Lord revealed the reason for the disciples’ failure, He also advised them how to be strong in faith in order to triumph in their duties over obstacles and opposition. He said, “… for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20-21).
The reason for the failure of His disciples was obvious to Jesus. He told them that it was “because of your unbelief” (v. 20a). The word “unbelief” (Greek, apistía) denotes faithlessness, uncertainty and distrust. So, they failed because they did not exercise their faith in the face of the boy’s desperate need of healing and the obstacle mounted by the demonic possession. It is not that the disciples were unbelievers, but rather they did not fully exercise their faith by refusing to give up the task before them. They had saving faith, but they did not fully employ their faith to fulfil the task for which Christ has ordained them.
Though they felt powerless, they should have persevered in prayer, believing that the Lord’s power is able to grant healing and triumph over the devil. On several occasions prior to this, the Lord had chided them for not exercising their faith in the Lord (cf. Matthew 6:25-34; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8). In all those instances, the Lord taught them that their faith must rise if they desire to prevail over the mountainous obstacles before them.
First and foremost, our faith must not wither. It must persevere by fasting and prayer. Only then can we overcome our sense of inability, helplessness and fear of failure. We must overcome the mountain of unbelief that leads to disengagement of ourselves from the work that the Lord has entrusted us with. When things are not going well, when the situation seems to be out of our control, we must strive forward with total trust in the Lord. Then “nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
We thank the Lord that the renovation work has begun at Gethsemane Media Centre (GMC). We covet your prayers that the place will be ready by the end of July/August.
First two images: demolition works on the level 4 office.
Third image: levelling of the flooring on level 3 (studio level).
“I waited patiently for the LORD; and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Psalm 40:1-2).
What an inspiring testimony David bears here! He tells us how he handled his dilemma. He responded to his peculiar trouble by waiting patiently for the LORD.
He was in a very distressing situation. He described his situation in verse 2 as “an horrible pit of miry clay”. It was a picture of helplessness and despondence that David painted with those words. He was sunken in deep and dark depression. No one could deliver him, not even he himself.
But he knew that there is help with the LORD. So he cast himself and his situation completely upon the LORD as the only possible way out. He cried out to Him in prayer. It is all that he could do, and he did it with utmost earnestness and eagerness.
When David “waited patiently for the LORD”, he was not passively sitting down and muttering fatalistically, “Oh, the LORD has deserted me. There is no one to deliver me.” Instead, his patient waiting for the LORD consisted of crying to the LORD. Prayer is the channel that God has ordained for His afflicted people to receive His deliverance and help in times of distressing situations.
David had always been a man of action, especially in the midst of adversities. He was not one who feared adversity. In his youthful days, he had bravely acted to deliver lambs from the mouth of a lion and of a bear (1 Samuel 17:34-36). Who does not know of David’s exploits such as his victory over Goliath, who had struck paralysing fear into the army of Israel (1 Samuel 17:39-51)? However, in this particular situation, he who had previously overcome many an adversity found himself buried under insurmountable problems.
Still, David believed that the LORD would deliver him. So he prayed unto the LORD as he waited patiently for His deliverance. He waited on the LORD patiently because He had confidence in the LORD. Great heroes of faith are men who, amidst their troubles, wait with unwavering faith and hope in the LORD. They wait on the LORD even when there is no man to help. They never quit their faith and duty while in trouble, but remain steadfast in faith.
In the next verse, David gratefully says, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” Are you mindful to remember and praise God for the deliverance He has given to you in your life? What has the LORD done for you? Recount the recent deliverance that God has granted you in answer to your prayers. Mention them before the LORD and praise Him for those answered prayers.
When one makes it a habit to recollect the goodness of the LORD that one has received, one’s deep affection for the LORD will also grow. On the contrary, when the LORD’s goodness is disregarded, one’s devotion and spiritual enthusiasm will also be adversely affected. This is especially so when one is going through sore distress.
In our text, God’s delivering grace is gratefully reminisced in the most apt and beautiful emblematic language. The psalmist says that the Lord has lifted him up out of a “horrible pit” into which he has fallen, and has set him upon a “rock”! What a vivid and moving depictions of God’s deliverance! How would you describe God’s deliverance in your life?
The psalmist’s description here sets forth the phenomenal change that the Lord has granted him in response to his penitent prayers. He was being weighed down by his sins and their consequences. This, he alluded to in verse 12: “For innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me.” So he cried unto God, saying, “Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me: O LORD, make haste to help me” (v. 13). Also in the midst of this psalm, with eyes of faith, he spoke prophetically concerning Christ the Saviour (vv. 7-10). The New Testament cited these words as a predictive reference to Christ’s obedience to the Father in becoming a sacrifice for our sins (cf. Hebrews 10:5-10). The repentant sinner is thus made to stand firmly on the Rock of Ages, even our Lord Jesus! If you are sinking in your sin, cry out to Christ at once with absolute faith; He will surely deliver and sanctify you by His blood.
Dear Pastor Koshy,
We thank God for another opportunity to give to our church building project. God has given us a church with a faithful pastor, faithful elders and fellow brethren. We as a family are greatly blessed by the many fellowship meetings and spiritual feedings. God does not need us to provide for His needs, or to help Him in any way, as He is all-sufficient and needs nothing at all; the whole world is His and the fullness thereof (Psalm 50:12). Yet, it is our great joy that our God has enabled us to give to this important project of our church (cf. 1 Chronicles 29:9). Our Lord deserves our very best, and it is our privilege to be able to offer to God, who is the great Creator and the Lord of the universe. We continue to pray to our Father in heaven for the building project, that the remaining funds will be collected as soon as possible. We also pray that God will give wisdom to our leaders so that all the remaining works will be completed in time, and this new facility (together with its resources) will be a great blessing to the generations to come.
Praise ye the Lord—Hallelujah!
A Gethsemane family
27th April 2019
With God’s help, we have purchased a four-storey building (11,200 sq. ft.) at 33 Ubi Crescent for the price of S$4.3 million (including GST), which is owned by Gethsemane Bible Witness Limited (GBWL) – a company limited by guarantee – that our church has set up mainly for the management of the building, as well as for the support of the church’s commercial and industrial activities. On 4th March 2019, Elder Mah Chin Kwang (secretary of GBWL) collected the Title Deed. Last week, Elder Alan Choy (treasurer of GBWL) informed us that the GST (of S$287,000) paid for the building has been returned to GBWL by IRAS. We thank God for all those answered prayers.
Our elders (who form both the church’s BOE and GBWL’s BOD) have decided that the premises at 33 Ubi Crescent will be known as Gethsemane Media Centre, as it will house the operational activities of Bible Witness Media Ministry and The Gethsemane Care Ministry. Its first floor (ground level) will have the reception area, together with the office and workspace of TGCM. The second floor will have a large meeting room. The third level is dedicated to house the studios (both audio and video) for the recording of Christian programmes for BWMM, Bible Witness Web Radio (and a Web TV, God willing), GBI, etc. The fourth level will be the ‘nerve centre’ of Gethsemane Media Centre, where the planning, preparations all will take place.
The BOD have worked together with a team of Gethsemaneans to determine the scope of the renovation works. Elder Francis Lee has coordinated and led the team efficiently. By last week, all the Letters of Acceptance were awarded to contractors selected by BOD. We have much to praise the Lord for the arduous labour of all our brethren who have helped to set forward the building project.
The renovation of the building, and the installation of studio and equipment will begin this week. In fact, some of the studio equipment that have been ordered have arrived. God willing, the completion of all the works are expected to come to pass by the end of July 2019, with the operations at Gethsemane Media Centre to begin in August 2019.
According to the consolidated project costs, we have at present a shortfall of S$540,000/- This fund is needed urgently to pay for the renovation of Gethsemane Media Centre, setting up of the studio, purchase of audio/video equipment, computers, servers, software, furniture, appliances, etc.
We also need to pray for the BOD and the Building Project Committee (comprising Chong Shu Mun, Emilie Tanlapco, Anthony Evangelista, Lijoy K George, Melissa Mah, Matthew Peh), who will supervise the renovations and installations. Dn Lok Kwok Wah will serve as the Operations Manager.
The amount of S$540,000/- needed in a short period of three months has placed upon us a very great burden. How will we achieve this in a short time?
Jesus assured His followers, “…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him” (Matthew 6:8). A little later, He again said, “…your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32). These and more assurances of the Bible are a great comfort to all Gethsemaneans – both leaders, members and friends – who are deeply concerned about our urgent need.
As Christians, we cannot worry, for Jesus said, “(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Matthew 6:32). Worry belongs to the unbelieving. It is inconsistent with our faith in God. Worrying about the basic necessities of life, such as daily food, drink, and clothing, characterises the Gentiles, and not true believers. Those who have no God to supply their physical or their spiritual needs, will certainly worry about their lack. They are ignorant of God’s supply and have no claim on it. The trusting ones can “be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6).
We can be confident of the provision for our need, as Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). The expression “my God” conveys Paul’s confidence in God as his unfailing Provider in all of his life’s needs. God was his most benevolent benefactor. The sentiment conveyed here by Paul is very much like that of David who said, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Because God had been wholly in charge of all of his life’s needs, he was also assured that God will attend to the needs of his fellow Christians.
Let us be assured of God’s ability and willingness to supply all our need, as well as His commitment to do so as our covenant God. God undertakes to meet all our needs. Yes, our needs (both temporal and spiritual) are many, but the extent of His supply is “according to his riches in glory”. God gives unto His children, not as a poor man who struggles to provide in the face of scarcity, nor as a rich man who gives grudgingly. He supplies according to His boundless riches in glory! He will look after us till we get to the glorious celestial home which He has prepared for us.
It is God’s inexhaustible supply that is promised to us and which will be channelled to us by Christ Jesus. Christ is the Guarantee of the divine supply – “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).