Introduction : The Spiritual War Of Christians

This was a notes from a sermon I heard recently, which I also shared with my friends

“For though we walk in the flesh, 
  we do not war according to the flesh. 
  
For the weapons of our warfare are not
  carnal but mighty in God for pulling
  down strongholds, casting down arguments
  and every high thing that exalts itself
  against the knowledge of God, bringing
  every thought into captivity to the
  obedience of Christ,” – Paul (2 Cor 10:3-5)

Here Paul was talking about a spiritual war that all believers of Christ must fight. It is a war against falsehood, between God and the Devil. The weapons used in this war is not of this world.

During the time of the apostles, war is fought on land, soldier against soldier. It was fought using spears , bows and arrows, and in order to protect themselves, soldier put on armor to protect themselves. So as Paul talks about the spiritual war, he exhort everyone to put on the armor of God.

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood,
  but against principalities, against powers,
  against the rulers of the darkness of this age,
  against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the
  heavenly places. Therefore take up the 
  whole armor of God, that you may be
  able to withstand in the evil day, and having
  done all, to stand.” – Paul (Eph 6:12-13)

Here Paul talks about our enemy, as well as how the war would be fought. He reminded the believers to put on the armor of God, for it is a spiritual better. In Eph 6:10, he reminded believers to be strong in the Lord and to rely on his might.

Introduction : The Strategies Used, And The Battle Plan

Indeed, we cannot rely on ourselves and our human strategy to win, for our enemy is not flesh and blood. That is why we need the armor of God, and it could help us withstand the wiles of the devil.

The devil is always cunning, he lured Eve to sin in the beginning, she was unaware of her own temptation and she believed in the words of Satan, she did all that the devils instructed her. It serves as a reminder to us that the Devil can disguise himself as an angel before us, he may even take the form of the person we like, he will speak the words we like to hear, for he knows our weakness. That is how he overcame many carnally minded Christians.

We know of good Christian who were strong in faith initially, they appear as if they are willing to suffer and die for Christ. they believed in the truth of God but were unable to persist to the very end. They fell, becoming covetous and sexually immoral, some became arrogant and were unable to stay in the grace of God.  

This is why it is important for Christians to put on this armor and fight this battle. Eph 6:14-18 describes the individual items in the armor or God.  It also reminds us to pray earnestly in the spirit. Prayer here does not refers simply to praying for ourselves, we must pray for all the saints and the church. For only by having spiritual wisdom and strength can one put on the armor of God.

Only by putting on the armor can we withstand the attacks from the devil, and remain in the grace of God. Let us look at the components of this armor

To Grid The Waist With Truth

The first piece of the armor of God is to gird the waist with truth. The truth here is more than just the words of God. The Truth here also refers to how sincere we are and how truthful we are towards ourselves, and to others.

It also encompass how sincere and truthful we are to God himself. For this would determine if we have the strength to continue fighting this war. In the past, there are many who followed Christ after they witness his miracles, but these people did not remain in the Lord, for they lack sincerity and truthfulness in their faith.

they have not girded their waist with truth, even though they heard the teaching of Jesus, they were unable to fully learn the words of truth. They were more interested in seeing whether Jesus  had spoken against God. As the result Jesus rebuke them saying

“You are of your father the devil,
  and the desires of your father you
  want to do. He was a murderer from
  the beginning, and does not stand in
  the truth, because there is no truth
  in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks
  from his own resources, for he is a liar
  and the father of it.”- Jesus (Jn 8:44)

These Jews are people who followed and believed in Jesus, yet there are some who had the devil as their father. Jesus spoke harshly to them, for they lack the truth girded on their waist. This entire transcript is recorded in Jn 8:37-41

Jesus : “I know that you are Abraham’s descendants,
               but you seek to kill Me, because My word has
               no place in you. I speak what I have seen with
               My Father, and you do what you have seen
              with your father.”
People:“Abraham is our father.”
Jesus :“If you were Abraham’s children, you would 
               do the works of Abraham.  But now you seek to 
               kill Me, a Man who has told you the truth
               which I heard from God. Abraham did not do
               this. You do the deeds of your father.”

From here we see that these people were not sincere in their belief in God, though they appear to be devoted outwardly, they do not have the words of God within them. They did not have the truth girded on their waist 

The Example Of Judas Iscariot

Another example of someone not having truth girded on the waste is Judas the betrayer of Jesus. Have we wondered how did the Devil gain a foothold in his heart? that was because he did not have truth girded on is waist. This is evidently seen in last supper.

During the last supper, (Jn 13:26-27) John records

“Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give
  a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And
  having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas
  Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece
  of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him,
  “What you do, do quickly.””- John (Jn 13:26-27)

Over here Jesus had already indicated Judas intention to betray him, the reason for Jesus actions is so that Judas will repent and turn back. In fact Jesus even washed the feet of Judas. But sadly Judas was being deceitful, and he did not grid his waist with truth. In a parallel record (Matt 26:20-25)

“Then Judas, who was betraying Him,
  answered and said, “Rabbi, is it I?”He
  said to him, “You have said it.””- Matthew (Matt 26:25)

Judas heard the words of Jesus, and yet he continues in his hypocrisy and asked Jesus even though he knew the answer clearly.  Since there is no truth and sincerity found within him, it is not surprising that he was the one who betrayed Jesus.

Judas led a life of deceit and guile, and he lack truthfulness in all that he said, recall an incident where Mary anointed Jesus with the ointment, he instigated the disciples saying

“Why was this fragrant oil not sold
   for three hundred denarii and given 
   to the poor?” – Judas (Jn 12:5)

John explained that Judas did not care for the poor, but he is in fact a thief who stole from the money box.

Very much latter he betrayed Jesus with a kiss in Matt 26:48-49. A kiss was suppose to be a beautiful display of love yet Judas decide to use it as a sign to arrest Jesus. The Lord tried very hard to call him back but he refuses to repent.

When Jesus gave him the bread, he is giving him up to Satan, he could do whatever he wants with him, for Judas had left a foothold for the devil to work, he does not have truth girded to his waist

The Importance Of Truthfulness

The above examples tells us the importance of having sincerity in our faith, for it determines how much we believe in the Lord. Our sincerity to our faith also determines the amount of effort we take to build up our faith. We need to have truthfulness girded around our waist.

Sometimes when we read of disciples who could sacrifice for the Lord to the end, some of them are even willing to be crucified as a martyr for their belief, and we wonder what is the secret of their strength? Their secret lies in the fact that they are true to their faith, that is why they could endure to the end.

Today as Christian, the difficulty we encounter are much lesser compared to the saints in the past, yet many of us find it hard to remain in the grace of God. If we want to remain faithful in our heavenly journey, we need to rely on the Holy Spirit

Let us continue to have the truth girded on our waist.

I would be sharing about the other items in the next entry.

I shared in the previous post stating that even though many people in the world are asking “What is the truth?” They were still unable to find it. Many claims to believe in Jesus, we will find that their faith is different from what the scriptures preached

Indeed, there will be many who hear the word of God but yet they cannot understand. Having lots of knowledge doesn’t guaranty understanding of the scriptures.

I have shared that the word of God is the truth, and now here are the other 2 points.

Jesus Is The Truth

John once describes the Lord Jesus himself as the truth. He called him, “The Word Becoming Flesh”  and he called that word God.

Jesus testify of these words as he said the famous verse

“I am the way the truth and the life,
  no one go to the father except through me.” – Jesus (Jn 14:6)

Indeed, on his life on earth, Jesus manifested God to the people, and he manifested the power of God before the world

The Lord Jesus himself is the truth. Elder John wrote that Jesus was the word becoming flesh. He performed many miracles, healed the sick, brought the dead to life. He also turned 5 loaves and 2 fishes to feed 5000 man, healed the blind and walked on water. 

Most importantly, he forgave man of their sins. Many had witness his miracles, but not all believe. Today we know that Jesus is true because of our experiences in faith. There are times when we pray, and God answered our prayers directly. There are time we hear Gods reply through the words of the scriptures through the sermons we hear.   These are all testimonies of how Jesus had indeed resurrected and is now interceding for us in heaven.

That is why the Author of Hebrews  reminds us

“ Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has
   passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let 
   us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High
   Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but 
   was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
   
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,
   that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in 
   time of need.” –Author Of Hebrews (Heb 4:16-16)

Indeed, we thank God for his grace, but we need to ask ourslves, do we believe that Jesus is the truth? If yes, are we willing to receive him as our savior? Are we willing to be obedient to all that he had commanded?  

 The Holy Spirit Is The Truth

Elder John once said this

“But the anointing which you have
  received from Him abides in you, 
  and you do not need that anyone
  teach you; but as the same anointing
  teaches you concerning all things, 
  and is true, and is not a lie, and just as
  it has taught you, you will abide in
  Him.” – John (1 Jn 2:27)

He talk of the anointing, he is talking about the Holy Spirit of the Lord, which God has granted to all his believers. He is our counselor and he dwells with us. He guides us to the knowledge of the truth and there is no lie in him.

Believers can experience his presence and feel him working in them. If one choose to disobey, we will grieve the spirit. That is what most Christian call “Quenching the work of the spirit”.

John continues to tell us saying

Now he who keeps His commandments
  abides in Him, and He in him. And by
  this we know that He abides in us, by
  the Spirit whom He has given us.” – John (1 Jn 3:24)

Here it reminds us that God abides with us through his spirit.  It bear witness to God that we are his. John continues to explain saying

“This is He who came by water and
  blood—Jesus Christ; not only by water,
  but by water and blood. And it is the
  Spirit who bears witness, because the
  Spirit is truth.” – John (1 Jn 5:6)

He reminds us that it is the Holy Spirit that bear witness for us. We often esteem the witness of man, especially when they testify that we are good people. But the witness from God is far greater. This witness is given to testify of his son,and whoever who believes will have a witness for himself.

When the Holy Spirit abides in us, he bears witness that we are indeed the children of God

In Acts 10 we read of a man called Cornelius, he is a centurion of the Italian Regiment. He is a devote man, and once in his praters, an angel appeared to him. The angel said

“Your prayers and your alms have
  come up for a memorial before God” – angel (Acts 10:4)

God knew that he is a devote man, that is why he sent his angel to him. God knew that Cornelius did not believe in Jesus and he did not have salvation. Therefore God instructed Cornelius to send man to Joppa to get Apostle Peter

Peter usually does not enter the house of a non Jew to preach and eat, but when he spoke to Cornelius and when he told Peter his experiences. Peter understood the vision he received from God in Acts 10:9-16. He knew that God has sent him to preach the gospel to them. Therefore Peter began preaching the gospel.

As they listened, the Holy Spirit came upon them and they spoke in tongues and praised God. The Jews who are with Peter were amazed that the gentiles received the Holy Spirit.  This resulted to Peter baptizing Cornelius and his household. 

When Peter return to Jerusalem, he was questioned by the church regarding why he entered the house of a gentile and ate with them. That is when Peter testify of Cornelius’s vision as well as his vision . He told them how the Holy Spirit instructed him to enter the house, and how they all received the Holy Spirit.

There were some Jews who initially opposed to Peter entering Cornelius house, but eventually they too praised God, for God has given his salvation grace to the gentiles as well.

When the Holy Spirit descended on them, it became a testimony that they are accepted by God.  When Peter recalled this incident in the council of Jerusalem he said

“So God, who knows the heart,
  acknowledged them by giving
  them the Holy Spirit, just as
  He did to us,   and made no
  distinction between us and them,
  purifying  their hearts by faith.”- Peter (Acts 15:8-9)

God knew the heart of the people, and he acknowledged them, when the Holy Spirit was given to them, there is no more distinction between Jews and gentiles. For God has purified their heart by faith.

Today if our faith is true, if we believe with a pure heart, if we allow our lives to live according to the word of God and the truth, The Holy Spirit will gladly testify for us as well.

For he is the truth, he dwells in mans heart and he confirms the words of God. He confirms that there are salvation for those who believe in the Lord. That is an important testimony and the reason why we believe that our faith in Christ is true. For it has the witness of the Holy spirit

Conclusion

For this article, I have shared about 3 truths, the fact that Jesus, the word of God and the Holy Spirit they are all true. They are all graces given to us by God.

God has prepared them a long time ago, for the salvation of mankind.

So what must we do after receiving this truth? We must learn to bear fruits worthy of salvation. Just like what Paul said

But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;  but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,” –Paul.  (Rom 2:6-8)

He is talking about how people reacts upon hearing the truth.  He warns us not to be hard and impenitent. For by so doing we are storing up wrath for ourselves. for God will render to us according to our deed.

At the same time God will grant eternal life to those who try hard to do good and to seek immortality.

But to those who disobey the truth, and does unrighteousness, there will be punishment waiting.

Therefore let us respond positively to the love of God and let us allow the Holy Spirit to work within us to complete the work of salvation. But if Christians continue to be hard and unrepentant. Or we will be like people who did not know Christ, for in the last days we would be excluded from the kingdom of God.

Knowing the truth is important and bearing fruit in faith is necessary and a natural result. May we all have the strength to do so.

In our previous post, we have shared that King Hezekiah made a resolve to lead the children of Israel back to God.

This resolve is important, as it was the reason why God blessed Hezekiah later on in his life. We have discuss the fact that God is often waiting for his child to turn back to him and he would never turn his back to his children.

We had also discussed the need to hold on to God and to grab hold of him. Hezekiah did so by cleansing the temple.

We had discussed that our bodies is the temple of the Holy Spirit. The temple that we must clean is none other than our own body. Now let us look at how do we cleanse our temple.

The Example of Peter, James and John

When Jesus performed a miracle before Peter, James and John  in Lk 5:1-11. We can see 2 groups of people with 2 different reaction to that same miracle.

Many were astonish at the fact that initially the fisherman toiled all night and caught nothing and now their catch is so huge that they need more than 1 boat to haul in the catch.

At the same time, we see Peter having a different reaction, he fell onto his knees before Jesus said said

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – Peter (Lk 5:8 )

His reactions would have leave us baffled. For shouldn’t he be happy that he is enjoying blessings given to him by Jesus? Why isn’t he glad that his boat was used by Jesus? Why wasn’t he rejoicing for he had followed Jesus who is so powerful?  Why is he so afraid?

In fact Lk 5:10 tells us that James and John were afraid as well. At this time, Jesus said to them

“Do not be afraid, from now on you will catch men” – Jesus (Lk 5:10)

From then on the disciples made a resolve, left their nets and followed Jesus .

Let us consider the reason they ask Jesus to depart from them.

Most probably when they first saw Jesus, they regarded him as a typical Rabbi, they did not believe that he is the Messiah until they see his power. That is when they realize that they have transgressed against Jesus. They realize their sin so they find themselves unworthy before his presence.

But despite their unworthiness, Jesus told them not to be afraid and to follow him. This is why they are grateful. They are people who see their own imperfections. 

To Cleanse The Temple Is To Realize Your Own Sin

Today if we encounter the same miracle, we will likewise be astonished. Imagine if now Jesus bless us and we no longer need to worry for our livelihood anymore.  Yet how many of us would be like Peter, James and John to recognized their own sin?

Indeed if God wanted to judge us for our sins , our weakness, as well as our coldness towards him. If God wanted to judge us by the things we say and the things we do, how many of us could stand before him blameless?

Yet God gave us year and after year, so what would our response be?

Will we choose to sin more, or will we try to lead a life worthy of Gods calling?

The Example Of Isaiah

Isaiah was a man who regard himself as a pure and holy man. He rebuke Israel of their sins. He felt that he was righteous until the day when God appeared to him.

When he saw the angels of the Lord calling out “Holy Holy Holy” That is when he realized his sin, and he exclaimed

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
  because I am a man of unclean lips,
  And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
  For my eyes have seen the King,
  The Lord of hosts.” – Isaiah (Is 6:5)

He saw his own sin and that he had fallen short of the standard of God, therefore he made a resolve to return to God and to ask him for forgiveness.  As the result, God sent an angel with a live coal to touch the mouth of Isaiah.  His sin was forgiven.

It was only after that  God sent him to preach to Israel and to lead them back .

To Cleanse the temple is to see your own fault before others

In order for a prophet to cleanse another, he must himself be cleanse. Very often we complain of how we are mistreated by others, and we often push the blame to others.

But are we not partially responsible for the conflict? why are we the angels when everyone else the devil?

This is why Jesus once ask

“ Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, 
   but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 
   Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove t
   he speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own
   eye?  Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own
   eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck
   from your brother’s eye.”  – Jesus (Matt 7:3-5)

We have often considered the fault of others, but have we considered the fault that lies within us?

People who cleanse their temple consider their own weakness first. Peter, James, John and Isaiah are examples of people who seek God with their heart. They saw their own unrighteousness and weakness, and they cleanse themselves

Today if we desire blessings from the Lord, let us learn to cleanse ourselves. Let us refrain from complaining about others, and pushing the blame to them. Let us consider ourselves for we too need to bear a responsibility.

If others do not repent, why don’t we repent first? If they do not give in, why don’t we give in to them first? If they do not repent, why don’t we take the first step? If they do not love, why don’t we start by showing love first?

Sadly not everyone is willing to listen, to obey and to repent.

Cleansing The Temple Involves a Personal Repentance

2 Chron 30:10-12 Tells us how King Hezekiah ordered everyone in Judah to repent, at the same time, he sent messengers to Ephraim, Manasseh and Zebulun as well. But there are some who mocked at the messengers.

Interestingly, verse 11 tells us of the fact that there are people who indeed humbled themselves and came to Jerusalem. God did move people from their stubbornness and they obeyed King Hezekiah. As the result, they received revival of faith and they regained the blessing of the Lord.

Indeed, today when one try to repent, there will be mockers who will question “what’s the use of all this?” . They claimed that it would be status quo and what is the point of speaking against sin?”

Sometimes we are discouraged with their words but we ought to remember one thing

While others may choose to mock us, but our choice is our responsibility. Disobeying God is easy when we feel that there are no consequences. We feel that we can live a life of freedom without rebuke, with no requirements to pray and serve God. It gives us a false impression that we could lead a life like that without consequences.

But We have not considered the dearer price that awaits in the future. Just like what the Author of Hebrew tells us

 And as it is appointed for men to
   die once, but after this the judgment” – Author of Hebrews (Heb 9:27)

The Example Of The Rich man and Lazarus

We all remember the parable of the rich man and Lazarus  (Lk 16:19-31) . We have a rich man, even though he is a descendant of Abraham, he hardly does the work of Abraham. He failed to love God and to love man, and he loved himself and wanted to enjoy everything that he had in his life.

He is a man who does not want to pay the price for faith. He regretted at the end of the day. Do we remember what Abraham said to him?

“ Son, remember that in your lifetime
   you received your good things, and likewise
   Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted
  and you are tormented.” – Abraham (Lk 16:25)

This is a simple illustration, and it leaves a deep impression. It remind us, even though we have the freedom to choose, but there is a price for our choice.

Let us not be like the rich man, let us be humble and come before God. Let us ask for his forgiveness and to seek his blessing let us once again choose to be obedient to the words of God.

For that will bring us peace, and when death comes there is no fear. For we know we tried our very best to walk in the way of the Lord. Even though we failed often, but we know that God will save us to the very end.

However, if we do not fear God, even when others tells us not to be afraid we would be afraid to meet him.

The Result Of Hezekiah’s Work

2 Chron 30:26-27 tells us the conclusion of the work of King Hezekiah. There was a great joy in Jerusalem, and since the time of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel, there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem.

Those who gathered in Jerusalem repented, and God forgave their sin. He heard the prayers of Hezekiah and he healed the people. He gave them this joy in their heart.  That joy is comparable to the times when Solomon dedicated the temple to the Lord.

If we recall the time when King Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The nation of Israel was strong, rich and powerful. God was abiding with them .They experienced peace from the Lord and those were the golden age.

Strangely, when they experience the joy once again, their situation was very much different.

Judah was surrounded by enemies, we know that not long after Assyria destroyed Israel and laid a siege on Judah. Life within the Kingdom of Judah was difficult and harsh. This time they did not see the glory of the God filled the temple, nor did they witness any miracles.

All they had was a heart to repent, a heart to cleanse themselves and a resolve to return to the Lord.

Yet they received great joy, knowing that God had forgiven them, and they knew that God will bless them and they could start a new once again.

The book of chronicles, ended the episode with the following words

“Then the priests, the Levites, arose and blessed the people,
  and their voice was heard; and their prayer came up to His
  holy dwelling place, to heaven.”

May we all experience this blessing for the new year as well.

Let us make a resolve to come before God and to receive his blessings, let us resolve to remain within his grace. Let us resolve to turn back to God and to be blessed by him.

In our previous blogpost, we talked about the difference between Law and Grace.

We shared about the how the Law killed 3000 Israelites on the very first day of implementation and how 3000 souls were added to the church on the first day where grace arrived.

We compared the treatment of the rebellious son under the curse of the Law and its treatment under the grace of God

Lets continue to consider one more difference.

Sabbath Keeping Under The Law and Under Grace

Under the law, if a man forgets the Sabbath and work, what would  happen to him?   Num 15:32-35 tells us of a case like this

“The man must surely be put to death;
  all the congregation shall stone him
  with stones outside the camp.” – YHWH (Num 15:35)

The bible did not explain why the man was gathering wood on that Sabbath. But  under the law he was killed regardless of his intention.

This was a contrary to the teaching of Jesus with regards to Sabbath keeping

Matt 12:1-8 : Records of a time where the disciples were hungry and the pluck the head of grains and eat. When the Pharisees accused them of violating the Sabbath

Jesus defended them saying

“Have you not read what David did when he was hungry,
  he and those who were with him:  how he entered the
  house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful 
  for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only
  for the priests?  Or have you not read in the law that on 
  the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath,
  and are blameless?” Jesus (Matt 12:3-5)

He concluded saying “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

In Matt 12:9-14 he was asked a question “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”

Jesus replied saying

“What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it
  falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift
  it out?   Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep? 
  Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” Jesus (Matt 12:11-12)

Similarly, both law and grace emphasized the importance of Sabbath, but they took a different approach to keeping the Sabbath, the law emphasized on punishment for sin, but grace considered

The Spirit Of Slavery Vs The Spirit Of Sonship

Despite its blessing found in the Mosaic Law, the curse of the law is also terrifying. But under grace, God poured out his spirit as a counselor and we are comforted by it. When Jesus was nailed on the cross, he took away the curse of the law. In fact the teaching of Jesus in the new testament made the law deeper and harder to keep. For in the New Testament, Adultery and murder begins with thoughts (Matt 5). During the time of Moses, punishment is accorded only when the physical actions is performed.

Christians today must adhere to the same standard of Morality given in the Old and New Testament. For the definition  of sins and morality had not change between the testaments. It was in fact deepened and made harder to keep.

God did not give us grace to “facilitate” sinning, but instead, it is given so that man could come to him for forgiveness. Therefore,grace is given so that we could uphold the law of God without the fear of the curse of the Law.

This is why the main difference in keeping the law under grace lies in the spirit in which we keep the law of God.  Just like what Paul says

“For you did not receive the spirit of bondage 
  again to fear, but you received the Spirit of
  adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” – Paul Rom 8:15

Paul reminds us that we do not receive a spirit of slavery and we received a spirit of adoption as sons. The spirit of a slave is different from the spirit of sonship,

The spirit of slavery enslaves us, even though we work, we would not be free. A spirit of sonship is one that receive freedom. Even though we are free, we choose to do a slave work as our choice.

This concept can be seen in the customary foot washing during the time of the Law. This culture can be seen in Gen 18:4.

During that time, Abraham welcome a group of travellers and in those days, washing of feet is a work that is done for the guest of the house. This work is done by the slave. Other form of foot washing could be done from a disciple for his master.

At that time, when the guest comes in, it is the job of the slave to wash the feet of the guest and the master. The slave had no right to refuse, and he could only do the work.

But under grace, the situation is completely different.

Jn 13 records the time before Jesus was betrayed, and he washed his disciples feet. After he washed the feet, he said

“You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well,
  for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have
  washed your feet, you also ought to wash one
  another’s feet.” – Jesus (Jn 13-14)

Under the law of grace, the higher status must serve the lower, and this is not done in the spirit of slavery, but rather in a spirit of sonship. If we were to consider this from the perspective of love, we will know that grace was build on a foundation of love.

On the contrary the focus of the law was to punish the sin.

Conclusion

In the law of Moses, the lamb was sacrificed for the sin of the master. If one sins and he need to put his hands on the lamb, and kill it, Offered it up as a burnt offering so that sin can be atoned.

But under grace the master died for his lambs, Jesus is our Lord, and he became an offering for sins, and through his blood, he forgives us of our sin. This is the biggest contrast between law and grace and the most important thing we ought to understand.

I hope that at the end of the exercise, we would reach a conclusion to understand that the standard of morality between right and wrong remain constant in the old testament and the new testament.

The law was given to define sin and prevent people from sinning against God. It uses the festivals and sacrifices to remind the people about God’s morality standards and their sin.  The law is given by God to Moses to teach man his standards, and to prevent man from sinning against him.  When man went against Gods standard, he would be judged immediately and death reigned in that law.

This law doesn’t justify man before God, sacrifices can can only atone for the sins and trespasses committed by the individual but it does not reconcile God and man. Sacrifices only serves as a reminder of sins, but it does not forgive sins thus man continues to stand guilty before God as a sinner.

Throughout the period of the Law, sin continues to hold dominion over man. Man was unable to adhere  to the standards of God.  The entire old testament is a testimony of man’s repeated failure in  trying to match the basic standards of God.

But all the sacrifices, feasts and festivals prophesied about Jesus. When Jesus was born into the world, he fulfilled all the sacrificial requirement of the law. As the result, we have grace today, Jesus came give grace to man.

It is because of this grace, now man could stand justified before God, as baptism washes away sins. The blood of Jesus continually washes away sin as long as one is willing to repent before God. Man could now use this grace in their daily lives and to keep the standards of God written in the Law without the curses of the Law.

Let us not mistake grace as a “free pass” given by God to allow man to continually sin against God. But let us understand it as a  help given by God to help man to adhere to Gods standards.

I would be taking some time to study into the Mosaic law to better understand how the law relates to Christians of today. But as it would be a long study. I am not sure when I could write more regarding this topic.

Once I was having a discussion with a close family members, and the topic of Old Testament and its role in the New Testament became a point of contention. In his opinion, the beliefs of my church and my brethren is one based on the New Testament and we  failed to consider the Old Testament.

To deal with this mis-conception I wanted to highlight the difference between the Old and The New Testament. This difference was actually pointed out by Apostle John in the gospel of John.

For the law was given through Moses,
  but grace and truth came through
  Jesus Christ.”  – John (Jn 1:17)

The main difference between our time in the last days and the time of Abraham , David, Prophet Malachi  is this, we are no longer under the law, but we are under grace. Just like how Paul tells us us

For sin shall not have dominion over you,
for you are not under law but under grace.” Paul (Rom 6:14)

Since the time of Abraham to Prophet Malachi sin have had dominion over everyone, including the saints of the Lord. When God gave the law through Moses, his purpose was meant to teach the world what sin is (Rom 7:7). The law today serves to teach the Christians the definition of sin. The purpose of the law is to punish sin, and the method of remission of sin is through sacrifice and burnt offerings.

By sinning here I refer to falling short of the standards of God. Since the time of Moses until now, the basic standard of morality given by God was inscribed with the finger of God onto the the stone tablets containing the 10 commandments. 

Those who lived under the law  lived in fear. Due to sins dominion over the people of God there is this constant fear as one would sin against God. In order to remind the Israelites of the law , a constant system of feast and festivals was given. On that day, sacrifices were offered for the forgiveness of sins, and the law would be read to the people. The sacrificial system of the old testament serves as a constant reminder of sin (Heb 10:3-4).

When one keeps the law, there would be blessings from God given to him, but those who failed to keep the law falls under the curse of the law. They died in their sins 

Paul describes it like this

“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse;
  for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in
  all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”” –Paul (Gal 3:10)

This is the reason why the law is not a blessing, but a good chain that teaches what is sin. Those who lived under it will never be free, they will be trapped by those law, like a bird trap in a cage. Interesting, when the apostles describes the law they called it “yoke  the neck that neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10)

In the new testament, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law by sacrificing himself as the sacrifice of sin. By doing so Christ had released us from this curse of the law.

As Paul describes 3 verses later

“ Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law,
   having become a curse for us (for it is written,
  “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”)” – Paul (Gal 3:13)

At this point of time, most people would have a very negative impression of the Law of God. Now the question is, why then a good God created such a law that appears bad?

Why Did a Good God Created A Law That Curse People?

In fact, the law was given by God during the time where sin holds a dominion in the world.  The curses of the Mosaic law was given because God knows that man are stubborn and prone to sin. If there is no law to restraint man, law and order will be in disarray.

Imagine a world where there is no law to keep criminals at bay and everyone could do what they want. What would most people choose to do?

Every race and countries had rules and regulation set so that there are law and order. For example, in order to protect road users, we set up traffic lights, speed limits and highway codes. If one abides by the law, there will be road safety.

Similarly God created laws that are good, for when human are allowed to do what they want, they will often choose sin and be in conflict with God . This is why mankind needs to receive the law of God as a way of life, for without it  there will be be nor fairness, law and order.

The Beginning Of Law And The Beginning Of Grace

Yet, whenever I think about the day in which the law was instituted verses the day Gods grace began. I cant help noticing a big contrast.

When Moses took the stone tablet down with him, the Israelites had already began sinning, they created a golden calf, calling it “The Lord Whom Brought You Out Of Egypt”. At that point Moses gave a command to the Levites.

“Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.’” – Moses (Ex 32:27)

On that day, the Levites killed 3000 of the Israelites (Ex 32:28) and those people died because of their sin against God .

On the contrary, when grace came on the day of Pentecost, a contrast can be seen 

After Peter spoke the first sermon on the day of Pentecost, he  exhorted the people saying “Be saved from this perverse generation.”. Luke the Physicians describe it like this

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” – Luke (Acts 2:41)

From here the curse of the law and the benefit of grace can be seen clearly.

Treatment Of A Rebellious Son

The approaches to sin and the treatment of sin is different under the law and under grace. Lets take for example, a rebellious son. The law of Moses Deut 21:18-21 stated

If a man had a stubborn and rebellious son, who disobey them even when chastened, he will be brought to the elders of the city, and they will stone him to death with stones. This is done so they will put away evil from among you and for all to hear and fear

The law of Moses does not leave compromise, whenever a person sins, he will be punished accordingly.

This is a big contrast when we compare to the parable of the prodigal son spoken by Jesus in Lk 15:11-31

The prodigal son demanded his inheritance from his father, and squandered it all.  It was difficult for him to return to his father. But in that parable, when he return home,  his father was there to welcome him back.  The fathers reaction is different from the Law.

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring
  
out the best robe and put it on him, and put 
  a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet.
  And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and
  let us eat and be merry; for this my son was dead
  and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And
  they began to be merry.” – Jesus (Lk 15:23-24 )

This story doesn’t change the fact that both the law and grace regarded the rebellious son as a sinner, but its treatment to the problem is very different. Under the curse of the law, the rebellious son would have been killed long before he can repent.

The Conclusion So Far

So far we have merely scratched the surface of contrasting between the law of God and the grace of God.  On the next post entry, we would talk about even more contrast between law and grace.

Year 2014 have finally came, and 14 days have passed since the new year day. So have we made our resolutions?

2 Chron 29:3-8 Records the things King Hezekiah did during his new year. Although the Jewish new year is of a different day than our calendar, but what he did is worthy of our consideration.

Then he opened the doors of the temple and to clean the temple. They took out the debris that are within the temple, and the process took around 16-17 days to complete. From here we can see that the Israelites had closed the temple for a long time, they have stopped offering sacrifices and they no longer served the LORD.

Hezekiah understood the reasons for all the trouble that Judah encountered was due to their disobedience with God, for the Jews no longer offered incense or burnt offerings to the God of Israel. In the end the Wrath of the Lord fell upon them.

Therefore King Hezekiah exhorted them saying

“ Now do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were, 
  but
yield yourselves to the Lord; and enter His
  sanctuary, which He has sanctified forever, and
  serve the Lord your God, that the fierceness of His
  wrath may turn away from you. 

  For if you return to the Lord, your brethren and 
your children will be treated with compassion by those 
who lead them captive, so that they may come back to 
this land; for the Lord your God is gracious and merciful,
and will not turn His face from you if you 
return to Him.” – King Hezekiah (2 Chon 30:8-9)

Sometimes, when we sin against God, we find it hard to face him. We often feel embarrassed to return, but King Hezekiah tells us that God is gracious and merciful.  He will never turn his back to whomever who comes to him for mercy.

Sometimes we feel that God doesn’t care about us and he said that he turned his back at us. But in fact, it is we who had turn our backs towards God. We cannot see him because our backs are facing him, if we turn around and look, we will always find God looking at our direction, waiting for his child to turn back.

Considering The Example Of Jacob and Hagar

Let us consider the story of Jacob, we knew that he used deception to trick Isaac to bless him. As the result , Esau wanted to kill him and he must flee from his house alone.

We can imagine how he felt as he lay down at Bethel, lonely, unsure of his future. He must have lots of thoughts and fears, he must have regretted much.

For he feels that he is no longer pleasing to God, and he would imagine God had ignored him. But yet God was there, telling him that HE is with Jacob, no matter where he goes. When Jacob woke up he exclaimed

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  – Jacob (Gen 28:16)

Therefore, he made a vow to return to Bethel and worship the Lord if he returns safely. He wasn’t aware that God was taking care of him even as he escape.

Let us consider Hagar, when she angered Sarai her mistress. As the result of her pride, she was chased out of the house, and she was unsure of her future, as she had lost her only reliance. As she regretted and cried, God appeared to her, telling her to go home, be subjected to Sarai. Hagar exclaimed

“Have I also here seen Him who sees me?” – Hagar (Gen 16:13)

These two stories reminds us that our God is a God of grace, if we turn back to him, he will never ignore us. Very often it is we who turn our backs towards God. If we are willing to return to him, his grace will be with us.

The Need For Resolve To Return To The Lord

When Hezekiah led the people to return to God, he led them to make a resolve. I am sure we follow the yearly tradition to make resolutions to ourselves (though I seriously wonder if we ever achieved all of them)

I am sure everyone would have set targets with regards to career, life and ideals. But have we made a resolve to turn back and receive blessings from the Lord?

It would be sad if we do not, for our lives are constantly changing, and only the promise of the Lord is steadfast, if we are able to receive his blessing, we would be able to weather through all obstacles in life.

Perhaps we may have a easy year ahead, perhaps we may face tribulation. But with Gods guidance we could sail through the problems in life. We know the global outlook is usually bleak, and the divide between the rich and the poor gets larger and larger.

As life grows harder, we need God to be with us even more.

When Jacob is younger, he used all his means and deception to grab on to everything his hands could gather. But eventually he realized that only by holding on to God he could receive security.

Therefore as he wrestled with God , he held on to him shouting

“I will not let You go unless You bless me!” –Jacob (Gen 32:26)

As the result, God blessed him and change his name, he was no longer Jacob, but he became Israel. Likewise, this same change need to happen in our life, we need to change from being Jacob to Israel

Jacob mean “Supplanter”. Very often in life, we too supplanted and held on to many things in the world. But yet we must learn to hold on to God, for he is worthy of our grasp.

In life, we do encounter failures, we do have our fears and sometimes we murmur against God. But if we are able to hold on to him, we will have peace and hope in him.

When the peace of God rules in us, we can be like Hezekiah, so let us make a resolve to cleanse the temple. Only by so doing can we  receive the blessing of the Lord.

Where is the Temple of God today?

“Do you not know that you are the temple of
  God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will 
destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, 
which temple you are.” Paul (1 Cor 3:16-17)

Over here Paul tells us that our bodies is the temple of God. We are the temple of God because the Holy Spirit Of God dwells within us. If we regard our bodies as a temple, our attitude in life would be different.

We would not choose to destroy or defile it for we know it is a glorious temple. For we know that our God is holy and we are his temple. Unfortunately, not everyone agrees with this point, and the church of Corinth is one example.

The church in Corinth regarded their body as a tool to satisfy their lust and their heart desires. They take care of their bodies, simply because if it is not done, they will not be able to enjoy their lust. They do not regard their bodies and the temple of the Holy Spirit nor do they consider God who dwells together with the.

Indeed, the church in Corinth failed at that time, but what about us today? Do we still regard our bodies as the body of God? Do we still preserve our holiness and purity within us? Do we allow evil to exist in our hearts?

Since we have the understanding that our bodies is the temple of God, I would share with everyone how does one cleanse his own temple in the next post.

This scene taken from the Passion Of Christ left a deep impression in me. It is taken from Jn 18:37-39 .

Jesus was brought from the house of the high priest to meet Pilate,

Pilate : “Are You a king then?”

Jesus : “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, 
                and for this cause I have come into the world, that I 
                should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of
                the truth hears My voice.”

Pilate : “What is truth?”

( He went out and face the Jews)

Pilate : “I find no fault in Him at all.But you have a custom that I 
                should release someone to you at the Passover. Do you
                therefore want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”

It was Judas who brought soldiers to capture Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. We knew from the record of John that he was brought to Annas, the father in law of Caiaphas the high priest. Then they were handed over to Pontius Pilate the governor. Pilate did not want to judge the case so he sent Jesus to King Herod, who later push him back to Pilate.

That is when the conversation between Jesus and Pilate took place. Whenever I try to picture Pilate asking the question “What is the truth?” I would often picture him asking that in a tone of mockery. For now the Jesus who claims to be a king is at  his mercy. He could execute him anytime.

Of course Pilate never got an answer for Jesus did not explain to him what is the truth.

Similarly in our present world, there are many people asking “What Is the Truth?” just like Pilate. Although many claims to believe in Jesus, but when we examine the content of their faith,  one would notice that they believe in something not found in the bible, nor was it spoken by Jesus. Indeed, many believe in the teaching of man and not the truth from God.

Who can know the Truth?

A true believer is  given the grace to know the truth.  With the knowledge of truth, they will be able to grow in the Lord, into the salvation grace of Jesus. This truth can only be received by people blessed by God. The Truth is received by those whom are blessed by God

For Jesus once said

“But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear;
  for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men
  desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you
  hear, and did not hear it.” – Jesus (Matt 13:16-17)

We know that Jesus often uses Parables as illustration, although they are simple stories, but within them contains the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven. Jesus once explained why he uses parables

“Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries 
  of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”

Indeed, many will hear the word of God and cannot understand. Have we ever wonder what’s the reason behind it? On one hand there are great religious leaders and scribes who studied the scriptures and yet cannot understand it. Whiles on the other hands we have the disciples.  They are not highly educated and are not deserving of the truth, However God allow them to hear and understand.

They can see the fact that Jesus was the Christ. while Pilate in all his high standing, never got to know the truth.

Therefore everyone who received the grace of God, must know the truth. Within our hearts and soul we must speak this truth of  GOd. It concern salvation and eternal life in heaven.

There are 3 points that I would like to share concerning truth.

The Word of God Is The Truth

Jesus once said this

“Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” – Jesus (Jn 17:17)

He was praying to the father, to sanctify his disciples. He said that the word of God is truth, and the world Jesus was referring to was the Old testament that was written before the birth of Christ. It was given so that Jesus could fulfill them in the New Testament. Indeed as Jesus was living  on earth, he taught the truth to his disciples so that they could  understand the power of his Word and how it could bring us to salvation.

The Psalmist describes the power of the Word of God in his psalms

“For the word of the Lord is right,
And all His work is done in truth.
……
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made,
And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
…..
Let all the earth fear the Lord;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.” – Psalmist (Ps 33:4,6,8)

In fact when God has spoken, it was done, by his word the heavens are made. That is how powerful his words really are, yet we have people who claimed that the 6 days in Genesis are 6000 years. They failed to see how powerful his words really are.

We can see his wonderful creation , our planet is suspended in vacuum with 365 1/4 turns in a year, and 24 hours in a day. We have the right amount of oxygen to survive, any higher would have clause fire. All these happened by the word of God.

The word of God also teaches us salvation, how we could be forgiven of sin and to inherit heaven. Those who believe in it will receive this grace. There are many who were skeptical of it in the beginning, but when they come to church and receive his word, their doubts are removed. Therefore, those who believe, will be saved.

The fact is, Christians who received the grace of Christ were born of the word, and that is the truth. Elder James describes it so

“Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.” –James (Jas 1:18)

In fact God wanted Christians to be the first fruit of his creations, but to achieve that we need to be brought forth in the truth. We need to search for the truth in the bible, receive them in our hearts. We need to live a life according to it, only then it can be a seed of life within us. Christians who does that becomes the first fruit of his creation

I would continue sharing more in the next post