Volume. XXX, No. 41
Sunday, 03 April 2016


From The Pastors Heart: The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind (6


I ended my previous article with a cautionary thought: even some sincerely serious friends in the Lord Jesus might put their own thoughts into the name of Jesus and accuse everyone else but themselves because of their unique practices or beliefs.  There is no intention in my mind to accuse them at all.   In fact, I do honor and respect them for their desire to serve the Lord with a clean conscience based on their biblical convictions.  However, their sincere religious practice and convictions are not without shortfalls.  

There are two problematic areas I cannot but deal with.  One, we must consider the matter of a clean conscience.  This morning while I was driving to come to my office, I listened to the radio news.  I do not recall the names of both the interviewer and the interviewee.  They were talking about homosexual marriage issues and a possibility for the parliamentarians to cast their conscience votes, not bound by party policies.  My general understanding is that homosexual marriage will be legalized by conscience votes, though rejected by the party-lined votes.  In such a case, conscience votes do not seem to be desirable to me.  Then, am I an oppressor of the freedom of conscience?  Don’t I believe in the freedom of conscience?  Am I not thankful for the freedom of conscience?  Wow, what kind of questions are they?  Of course, I am a firm believer of the freedom of conscience.  Then, what am I saying here?  Am I contradicting myself over this issue of freedom?  No, the actual problem is not whether I believe in the freedom of conscience but the kind of conscience we have to have and talk about.  There are serial killers who have never repented but are proud of their murders.  There are despots and dictators and their accomplices who do unspeakable atrocities with supposedly clean conscience.  There are even people who have devised the ways to hurt, harm, and kill people to please their impeccable, perfect, loving, and holy god or gods.  They had done these acts of terror with clean conscience.  Thus, conscience is not the same to all mankind.  A significant problem related to conscience (I mean, religious conscience, in particular, Christian conscience) is that even the professing believers (who are sincere and faithful) may have consciences which are not perfect but twisted and perverted in some areas.  

1 Corinthians 1:10-13 could offer us a few thinking points: “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. 11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. 13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?”  Paul rebukes the Corinthians over their unnecessary divisions which have brought ill-will, no-affection, disunity, and conflicts.  Let us look into their divisions.  (1) They were all genuine believers of Jesus Christ.  There is no indication whatsoever that they were not the true believers.  Paul appealed to them to look unto Jesus.  (2) Their leaders themselves were all sincere and faithful ministers of the Lord.  Think about Paul, Peter, or Apollos.  All of them were approved servants of the Lord.  (3) However, there were contentions amongst the Corinthian believers.  By now we know that their problems were not Christology or soteriology.  We may not know the exact nature of their contentions.  However, they must be about certain convictions, practices, or human networks of different groups.  Whatever their problems were, Paul did not condemn them as liars, non-Christians, deceivers, or heretics.  It is very impressive for us to see how Paul rebuked and fixed the problems.  Instead of bringing any particular issue out, he brought their attention to Christ who was crucified for them.  He did not mention the problematic private practices and convictions that the Peter-group or the Apollos-group uniquely had.  Maybe such individual groups were allowed to keep their own convictions, as long as they were able to see Christ correctly and biblically.  Probably, Paul wanted to correct the Paul-group (appearing that this group was talking about baptisms by Paul himself) that they must not claim him by claiming his baptisms.  Though there are certain things we cannot fully know about, it seems that even spiritual and godly believers may differ in some practices and personal convictions, as long as they are not in contradiction to the teachings of the Bible.  All I am trying to say is that we should not condemn others because of our conscience, as long as both groups are sincere and faithful believers of Christ, but leave room for disagreement.  However, such disagreement should not harm any degree of cooperative work and unity in the body of believers.  

Two, now I must say one more thing, which is probably an extension of the previous point.  It is about the privatization and fragmentation of the Christian faith amongst the believers of Christ.  Probably all of us know the story of Martin Luther who rejected papal authority and had to stand before the Pope and the Holy Roman Emperor.  He left a famous remark, “Here I stand.”  It was a battle cry to defend his biblical truth against man-made religious teachings and practices.  However, today there are so many people who use the same statement simply to opt out of any belief or practice that does not suit their petulant preferences.  They have read books and spent lots of time for self-studies.  They come to their own conclusions, which will bring more and more chain reactions in their belief system.  In Luther’s days, the reformers had to fight to gain and secure their freedom of worship and faith against false teachings of Rome.  However, contemporary Christians use this battle cry to privatize their faith and religion.  They believe what they like to believe, and they do not recognize any authority over them.  Thus, they are used to circular reasoning beginning with A, moving to B, C, and D, but later coming back to A anyway.  There is no end of such circular reasoning, which prevents them from learning.  They have lost a teachable spirit.  This privatized Christianity has produced lots of undesirable problems.

(1) Privatized Christianity is not accountable to anyone.  Though a person is wrong in faith, theology, or life, he is not accountable to anyone, because only he has authority over himself.  There is neither church (to which they belong as members of that body) nor overseers to whom he is accountable.  Only he is the one who knows what is right and wrong.  He is answerable only to himself!  Christianity should not be privatized because there are supposed to be Christian communities called the “church.”  We must understand that local churches are in the will of God.  Local church organizations are also instructed by the Lord Himself.  Man’s wrong doings in local churches should not be a cause of our deviation from the biblical norm of belonging to a body of believers.  (2) Privatized Christianity has produced pluralized Christian religion.  If individuals are claiming to have their own brands of Christianity because of privatization, then it is inevitable that we cannot but have pluralized Christianity.  By not belonging to any body, we are multiplied parts of the Supposed One Body, which are literally and effectually dead parts.  (3) This problem of privatized Christianity effectively fragments Christianity.  Everyone believes what he feels and thinks is right, and this practice is claimed as an individuals’ right.  Thus, everyone interprets and applies the Bible according to his or her own ways.  We say about the Lord, the Bible, the church, or the will of God, and it is more than possible that we are talking about them in different planes.  Fragmentation is a real issue to many sincere believers of Christ.  Thus, they rather worship alone at home by listening to messages either from TV, internet, or CDs.  As for them, it is a perfect worship because they cannot agree 100% with any church community in the world.  Thus, they become “ex-Church” people, while believing in the Lord of the Bible sincerely.  They say to themselves that their brand of Christianity  is uniquely biblical and should not be compromised.  They may think that they are the last Christians on the Planet Earth.  O hoi, and Aha . . . .  I’ll continue . . . .

Lovingly,
Your Pastor

More Lively Hope

 

Announcements

*Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bro Sung Hyun Ma; & Sisters Natalie Cheng & Kristy Low.  Helpers next week: Bro Phil Surman; & Sisters Seong Yeng Chu & Natalie Gan.
*All members are required to attend the ECM after service today.
*Please note: 2016 Church Camp Debrief will be postponed to next Lord’s Day due to the ECM.
*30th Anniversary Thanksgiving Dinner will be held at Park Lok Restaurant: 130 Grote St, Adelaide. Prices for members & regular worshippers: Adults- $20; Seniors, Students & Non-working Adults- $15;  Children (Junior-Senior Sunday School)- $10; SS Toddlers: free. Friends of members & regular worshippers: $35. Coupons available for purchase from Sis Serene Wong at the Bookshop area from today.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Bro Raymond & Sis Swee Yee Chia (S’pore); Bro Joshua & Sis Pamela Lim & family (Adl); Bro John Wong (Perth); Sisters Yashu Qin’s mother (Adl), Agnes See (Adl/Tas), & Iris Surman (Syd); Campers (Adl); & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.
Easter Family Bible Camp: For safety and spiritual refreshment.

Prayer Items
Health & God’s healing - Pastor Ki; Dr Gary Cohen (USA), Dr SH Tow (S’pore); Rev Patrick Tan (S’pore) & Rev George van Buuren; Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; & others in affliction.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions: Rev Stephen Choi & Ministry; Rev Sun Sokha (Phnom Penh).  
Other missions: Bro Surish Dharmalingam & Ministry (Laos).
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Journey mercies: all those who are travelling.
Interpreters of sermon into Mandarin.
Jobs: Those seeking for jobs in Adelaide.
God’s guidance & provision of new church property for worship, office & fellowship activities.
Hopefuls working away
Comfort & healing for victims and families who have lost loved ones or have been affected by the Brussels bombing.

 

 

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PO Box 398, Fullarton, Adelaide, South Australia 5063