..........Myspace Codes An Extraordinary Life: February 2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

1 Timothy 3:14-16 ~ Christianity isn't a Cult

I had the immense privilege to join the brothers and sisters at FOCUS Mandarin for their first ever Mandarin sermon by Tim Hu this morning. And Tim certainly had a knack for kicking it off with the right foot - a gospel-centred sermon on what distinguishes Christianity from cults and religions, based on just 3 verses from 1 Timothy 3:14-16.

Verse 15 tells us how one ought to behave in the household of God. This bears the connotation that we are not merely guests in God's household but members. This sense of belonging to such a household is further affirmed by the address of God being God the Father in 1 Timothy 1:2. We also need to remember that it is not only when we gather as Christians that we are members of God's household but all the time regardless of the place. That said, it is when we are gathered together as His people that His household is better "visualized".

In this letter, Paul instructed Timothy to charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3) and that prayers be made (1 Timothy 2:1). Men are also told not to quarrel while women are to adorn themselves respectably (1 Timothy 2:8-9). An overseer is also to manage his own household well (1 Timothy 3:2-5) for if he cannot do this, how then can he tend to God's household?

God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). God is a real God who does not take delight in the false. Similarly, He desires a real response from us. As members of God's household, the real response involves being a pillar and buttress of truth (verse 15). The gospel is to be defended and the church's faith will not be shaken but be strengthened instead. It is everyone's responsibility to ensure that the truth is upheld. And this truth is not secret but visible. Truth needs not fear to be compared for only the truth will remain standing in the end.

If Christianity is just a cult or another religion that teaches people to do good, the mystery of godliness mentioned in verse 16 will then be one of strict rules and regulations. This mystery, however, has got nothing to do with such rules and regulations but rather reveals the identity of Christ. He is the Word that was God (John 1:1), who became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Romans 1:1-3 tells us that Christ was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God. At the crucifixion, the different parties of crowd present refused to believe that God's King should be crucified, but this is precisely how the Messiah operates: by dying on the cross as the ultimate sacrifice, as proof that He is the Son of God and the promised Messiah.

As such, it is only right that this mystery of godliness be proclaimed among the nations from Israel to the rest of the world, so as to be believed on in the world, taken up in glory since Christ's identity is now revealed (verse 16). A real response is demanded of us who have been saved. And what may this response be? To believe and to live a life reflecting this faith.

Do you have this real response?

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Colossians 4:7-18 ~ Paul's Partnerships in Proclamation

The final greetings in Colossians list several different names of Paul's various gospel partners. Let us first understand the backgrounds of these partners...

Acts 13 and 15 help shine a light on the character or John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas. He was one of the partners who followed Paul on his first missionary journey but not being able to withstand the hardship, left for his mother's house in Jerusalem. Yet in Colossians, Paul asked that Mark be welcomed, implying that Mark has proven himself a worthy partner despite his initial act of deserting Paul.

Aristarchus and Jesus called Justus, being men of the circumcision (verse 11), were Jews. Acts 19:29 tells us that during Paul's third missionary journey, Aristarchus was Paul's companion. Being a Thessalonian himself, Aristarchus must have followed Paul when he was in Macedonia, in the region of Thessalonica.

Luke, a physician, would turn out to be the author of one of the four gospels. Being a Gentile himself, his style of writing would be influenced by his non-Jewish background. This was demonstrated by the way he traced Jesus' genealogy all the way beyond Abraham to Adam himself, showing God's plans from the very beginning of mankind and not just starting from the promised Jewish kindred descending from Abraham.

The story of Demas, however, is an unpleasant tale of how he fled Paul and headed towards Thessalonica due to his love with this present world (2 Timothy 4:10). This is sad, considering how Demas was Paul's partner at the times when Colossians and Philemon were written.

Nympha hosted a church in her house while Archippus was also a partner mentioned in Philemon. As Paul never visited Colossae in person, it was Epaphras who brought the Word to the Colossians and who was a fellow prisoner in Christ with Paul (Colossians 1:7, Philemon 23).

Onesimus, on the other hand, ran away as a slave of Philemon to Paul. Paul's letter to Philemon was then to ask him to release and free Onesimus, treating him as a fellow brother-in-Christ. Onesimus would then be the one who traveled with Tychicus, carrying all three letters to the Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon.

Now that we know these ten partners of Paul a little better, how is all these knowledge relevant to us? Firstly, we may emulate Tychicus' example (verses 7-9). Although the proclamation of the gospel may be difficult and challenging, we can be encouraged by Tychicus' fervent passion for the gospel to further encourage and spur others on. We can also take note of Epaphras' struggle and prayers in verse 12. Prayer acknowledges the sovereignty of God and helps us to be united in this gospel partnership. To stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God (verse 12) is to put on the new self (Colossians 3:12-17) in the way we live our lives, opening doors to proclaim the gospel. And just as how Archippus was reminded to fulfill the ministry that he has received in the Lord (verse 17), we need to remind each other of what we are supposed to be doing, that is, to proclaim the gospel. It is not uncommon for us to get distracted from this primary purpose every now and then but this is where such reminders will help bring us back on track.

Last but not least, how wonderful it is for us to have Paul's example to follow: the example of the proclamation of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ through partnership with fellow believers!!

Ps. Blessed birthday to my dearest daddy... =)

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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Colossians 4:2-6 ~ Our Prayer, Conduct, and Speech

In this opening of Colossians 4, Paul instructed the Colossians not just to pray but to continue steadfastly in prayer (verse 2). In Colossians 1:9-12, Paul emphasized the importance of prayer and the contents of his prayer, that we may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, amongst other things. Verse 3 reaffirms the stewardship given to Paul to declare the Word (Colossians 1:25) - it is prayer that helped Paul understand that this is what God wanted him to do.

In the process of declaring the mystery of Christ (verse 3), Paul asked the Colossians to pray for him that he may make it clear (verse 4). Such clarity of speech is not to be confused with effective communication. Rather, Ephesians 6:18-20 helps paint the context that this clarity of speech is itself the boldness to preach the gospel without fearing persecution or imprisonment.

One should also be watchful in prayer (verse 2). James 4:3-4 warns us of unanswered prayers stemming from our own selfish desire, which is not God's will for us. Hope that is seen is not hope (Romans 8:24-25) but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:17-18). We may not see God's glory physically but should know it is within God's good will (for us as well). Therefore, let us pray according to God's gracious will.

When Paul told the Colossians to conduct themselves wisely (verse 5), a parallel can be drawn to Ephesians 5 (whereby Ephesians was a letter written close at the time when Colossians was written). Walking wisely is not to walk like the Gentiles in darkness, indulging in sexual immorality, lies, thefts or corrupting talk. It is not getting drunk but being filled with the Spirit instead. The phrase "making the best use of time" in verse 5 is not necessarily asking the reader to make the most of opportunities in being evangelistic to outsiders but more likely, it is the framework of Ephesians 5 in asking the reader to walk wisely, different from the outsiders.

1 Peter 3:15 tells us to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks, setting the context for the gracious speech that is seasoned with salt in verse 6 that we may know how we ought to answer each person in defending the gospel. As such, we need to remember that evangelism is not to be limited to the most opportune time or be reduced merely to wise conduct or gracious speech.

Do we resort to passive evangelism to just merely resort to living rightly to convince others of their sins? Are we removing the less pleasant details when evangelizing (e.g. hell, God's judgment) to reach out to others? Paul did not have to wait for opportunity or favourable condition / time to preach (e.g. he was still actively preaching the gospel while imprisoned in Philippi) and neither should we.

In conclusion, Colossians 4:2-6 gives us 3 main instructions:

  1. Reflect on our own conduct and speech, not merely for evangelism alone. Our speech should be gracious, showing God's common grace for everyone revealed in the gospel, and seasoned with salt, that we may build others up and care for them.
  2. We need to see evangelism as an active task. It is essential for us to constantly read God's Word and reflect upon it while realizing that we are indeed living in these evil last days.
  3. Last but not least, we should continue steadfastly in prayer and understand God's will through His Word. We should pray for Him to change us to become children of light, pleasing Him in the way we live our lives.

How's your prayer, conduct and speech lately?

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