Volume. XXX, No. 50
Sunday, 05 June 2016

From The Pastors Heart: The Gospel, the Hope of Mankind (11)

When we think about Christianity and culture, we cannot but consider a very unique position of Biblical understanding of the world.  C. S. Lewis argues in his essay “Some Thoughts,” that the Christian faith is highly distinctive among religions and worldviews for being both “world-affirming” and “world-denying” at the same time. At the heart of the Christian faith, he writes, is the “undying paradox” of its “blessedly two-edged character” (Renaissance, Kindle 998).  For example, the worldview of Buddhism begins with the view that all life is suffering.  Everyone is subject to the traumas of birth, sickness, decrepitude, and death.  It teaches that the cause of suffering is desire - specifically the desire of the body and the desire for personal fulfillment.  It says that happiness can be achieved only if these desires are overcome, and this requires following the “eight-fold path,” which I will not elaborate  on here.  By following this path the Buddhist aims to attain nirvana, a condition beyond the limits of mind and feelings, a state of bliss.  Thus, the goal of this religion is to achieve total and absolute detachment from everything.  As long as we are attached to this world, we cannot but be unhappy.  In a way, some Christian sects seem to promote fundamentally the same thoughts as Buddhism.  For example, Gnosticism, Ebionism, or Docetism, have denied the two natures of Jesus Christ.  One common reason behind these sects is that the world is only evil and material is bad.  If material is bad, how could the innocent Savior come into this world in the flesh?  Flesh is of material!  Platonism is not too far away from this same thought.  

Contrary to such thoughts, the apostle John says in 1 John 4:2a, “And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist . . . .”  It is true that the Bible is against the flesh as Romans 8:8, “So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”  However, we ought to know the difference between the body as flesh and the sinful nature as flesh.  What is condemned is not the physical body but the sinful nature.  In fact, we are encouraged not to yield our bodies to sin but unto God as instruments of righteousness unto Him (Romans 6:12-13).  A most striking evidence that there is a high degree of sanctity in human beings even after the Fall of Adam is found in the prohibition of murder in Genesis 9:6, which says, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  Though man experiences his inner corruption and outer limitations (in terms of life spans), he is a being with the image of God.  His body is not to be harmed because of the image of God in him.  

1 Timothy 4:1-5 says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; 3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.”  First, there is a caution against the end time apostasy in verse 1.  Second, in particular, there are two things mentioned related to our bodies: marriage and food.  There were some heretics in early churches teaching that marriage was evil and certain foods were bad.  Third, Paul made rebuttals to such heretical claims in verses 3b-4, by saying that it was God who created them all, thus the believers of God ought to receive them with thanksgiving, and every creature was good because it was God who created them all.  I am not talking about all these matters from the pre-Fall worldview but the post-Fall (even New Testament era, post-crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension) worldview.  Whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do (in and with our bodies), we ought to do all things to the glory of God.  

This thought must lead us to the Lord’s high priestly prayer in John 17.  In particular, Jesus prayed in verse 15, “I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of this world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.”  In other words, the Lord does not see the world as an object to be detached from the believers but to be rescued.  Though they ought not to love the world in such a way that their heart and love must be given up for it at the expense of the foremost important commandment of the Lord, they can be this-worldly without being worldly.  The Lord exhorts His disciples to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  It is their duty to shine their light before men, so that they may glorify their Father in heaven.  

Christians have been shuttling between two extreme views of their relationship with the world.  One extreme view argues that they ought to be identified with the world in order to make changes and to deliver the world to God.  It may even argue that they should not be afraid of being worldly.  Thus, they should use the same philosophies, strategies, means and instruments that the world uses for their church ministries and their own lives.  Another extreme view argues that they ought to avoid any possible contact with the world.  Thus, they prefer a more isolated and separated life to a more involved and contactable life with the world.  The monastery movement may be a part of this practice - there have been lots of Christian hermits living in the wilderness.  One group becomes a friend of the world, while the other has contempt and disdain for the world.  One group equates modernity with the decline of the church, while the other group disagrees with this.  

Having considered all of such complicated thoughts, internal conflicts, and confusion, I would not say that all of our critical thoughts on secularization of Christian churches, worldly culture, and decline of Christian churches, have produced only negative and ill results.  One of the great secrets that Christian truth has, or rather the Gospel has, is none other than offering opportunities to the believers to examine what they are doing, even to being very critical of themselves, and to turn around
(or to repent of) from their wrongs and to make needed changes and corrections.  When they come back from their unbelief and unspiritual life with the help of the Spirit of God, they can understand their problems and turn around from their wrong doings and failures.  In history, when the churches were affluent, they became worldlier than other times.  When they suffered, they were inclined to come to God with repentant heart and were restored.  The same things happened during the time of the Judges.  

The reason that the Gospel is the hope of mankind is that it offers countless opportunities to men and women (both inside and outside of Christian churches) to repent.  The beauty of the Gospel not only lies in the blessed hope of eternal life and heaven but also in the initial condemnation of sins.  There is no way that the Gospel condones sin as if it were a matter of no concern.  The Gospel cannot ignore and evade the presence of sin in the hearts of mankind.  The Gospel lets them see the records of their own sins.  It is no wonder that the first message from our loving Lord was to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand.  The whole world, including  believers, has seen the depravity and corruption of Christian churches for a very long time, even to the extent that there is sentiment in the world that religions are evil.  The Gospel is not needed only for our salvation and justification but also for our sanctification.  As we look at this evil and darkened world, we must see our own darkened hearts.  The world cannot but be dark, because of  ignorance of the Gospel.  But, how about us and our Christian churches and their culture?  We need the Gospel light for sure.  We need to be restored from spiritual imbalance between faith and life, or between church and the world.  I’ll continue . . . .

Your Pastor

More Lively Hope



Kitchen Roster - Helpers this week: Bro Sung Hyun Ma; & Sisters Seong Yeng Chu & Megan Lim. Helpers next week:  Bro William Song; Sisters Ashley Chia & Amy Han.
*Congratulations: Holy Matrimony of Bro Lucas & Sis Grace Yiew yesterday in Singapore.
*30th Anniversary Magazine is available. Please help yourself to a copy.
*Basic Bible Knowledge Class starts on 19 June.
*Amendment to Clause 16.1 of the Church Constitution was passed unanimously at ECM last Lord’s Day. A second vote at another ECM is required to confirm this amendment.
*ACM Reports: All leaders of fellowship, ministry & Bible Study groups please submit your reports by 17 July to Dn Colin Gan.
*Please note: Vacation Bible School is now called Holiday Bible Camp.

Praise & Thanksgiving
Journey mercies: Rev Edward & Sis Lehia Paauwe; Elder David Yeo; & others arriving safely at their destinations.
Visitors & new worshippers.
God’s daily mercy, guidance & blessings.
Church activities in past week.
Healing: Sis Alice Graham, Tristan Chong & Faith Ng.
Those with new jobs recently.
Safe delivery of son for Sis Connie Lee (nee Mak) in Canada (17 May)

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.
Special Prayer:For those in affliction.
iSketch & Tell Ministry: Pr Hai Seng Lim’s ministry in Melbourne.
Cambodia Missions
IBPFM: Rev Keith Coleman, Board & missionaries.
Cambodia Missions: Khmer pastors & families.  
Batam Missions: Sis Ang Liang Phoa & Ministry; Filadefia BPC; orphanage, kindergarten & school.
New Life BPC (London) - Dr Carl Martin; God’s guidance & encouragement for congregation.
Future ministry at Hope BPC: Bro Kevin Low & family.
Youth & Assistant Pastor for Hope B-P Church.
Providence B-P Church, Mawson Lakes - Ps David & Sis Susan Weng, & congregation.
Journey mercies: Elder David Yeo; & all those who are travelling.
Safety & health in pregnancy: Sis Emily Zhang.
God’s guidance for Bro Lucas & Sis Grace Yiew.
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.
Persecuted believers in Islamic & Communist countries.



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