Thoughts about Christian Love and Freedom

What should life look like for the committed Christian? Should life merely be a list of rules and regulations? Should we wage war and force others to submit to Jesus’ way? Is that how God works? Is God a faceless, war-waging legalistic deity of “Dos” and “Don’ts”?

Well, I don’t think so.

According to my Bible, God is a Father. And Jesus, his Son, said: “My kingdom is not of this world; if it were my people would fight… [M]y kingdom is from another place” (John 18:36.)

Jesus taught that his kingdom — the Kingdom of Heaven — should conquer the world, but not by the physical sword. Heaven should conquer spiritually — not by cleaving open men’s flesh with physical blades and blows, but by slicing through men’s hearts and souls by the sword of the Holy Spirit — that is, the Word of God — by the grace and love of God, making alive the conscience, and turning dead men away from sin, Satan and darkness back to follow Christ’s light, walking closely with God.

Consider what the apostle Paul said: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. ” (Ephesians 6:12.)

Paul believed the Christian’s fight in this world — our purpose — was to strive, not with people, but with Satan (the Enemy of mankind) and his evil spiritual kingdom. Our weapon? The Good News (or Gospel) message about Jesus: that because of what Christ has done in dying for us and rising again, we can be completely forgiven of all our sins and enter back into a living, loving relationship with God our Father forever and ever, if only we trust in, follow and obey him.

Satan hates this message because it alone gives people hope to escape death and hell. The Gospel causes people to turn from their evil ways to live a life of love for God and their neighbour. Satan hates love, because “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16), and Satan hates God. In fact, Satan hates all that God loves, and God loves the whole world — every man, woman and child: “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made” (Psalms 145:9).

Indeed, love is the highest rule of the Christian’s battle: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2.)

And again: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. ” (1 Corinthians 13:13.)

What is love? The biblical word I am thinking of is agapethe total sacrifice of one’s whole self for the good of the other person. According to Jesus, the greatest commandment is to love — first for God and then for neighbour — as the Bible says: “‘Love [agapao] the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” (Luke 10:27)

In contrast to the Christian God, the God of Islam — Allah — provides a helpful comparison and contrast. According to the founder of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad, Allah (God) is not a God of love. According to the Qur’an (Koran), Allah does not love non-Muslims (a.k.a. “infidels” or “unbelievers”). (See Qur’an 3:31-32 and 30:43-45.) Of all the names of Allah in the Qur’an — Most Merciful, All-Seeing, Wise, etc. — not one of them is “Love.” Allah is called “Loving” (that is, toward the Muslim people alone). But Allah is never called “Love” itself. Should we really be surprised, then, that 10-15% of Muslims in the world (about 100 million people) are radical terrorist Jihadists (jihad means “holy war”), who will fight in Allah’s name to spread their religion forcefully and violently, without mercy, slaying all those who might resist them? Corresponding to the unloving nature of God in Islam, God is actually quite non-relational towards puny creatures like us humans. For Allah, we humans are like tiny ants, and who could ever have real affections for ants? And Islam as a religion is extremely legalistic and good-works orientated. Islam is all about rules.

In contrast, the God of the Bible became an ant. More exactly, God became human and was made flesh to dwell among us and show us the way back to himself: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14). Why? Because he loves us. Indeed, “God is Love” (1 John 4:8, 16). According to the Bible, God himself stepped into our world in the person of Jesus to express his love for us by dying for us and rising again, simply to save us: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” (1 John 3:16.)

God’s love sets us free to die to self and to live a life of love to him and others to the fullest extent possible. We love God and others not to earn God’s favour, but because we are his children, and we want to be like him, knowing that our purpose and being is bound up in God’s purpose to make us children of light and full of love, just as God is. As Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10.)

God has made us free always to enjoy what life gives us. But we always have to remember to put God first. For instance, we need to know that physical training (sport, exercise, diet, etc.) is of some value, but godliness of character (“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” — Galatians 5:22-23) is even better (1 Timothy 4:8). Similarly, money is good. But we must keep out lives free from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:6-10; Hebrews 13:5-6) knowing that we cannot serve both God and riches (Matthew 6:24).

According to the Bible, life and enjoyment are not bad things. What is bad is merely snatching them from the Father’s hand without any thanks to or regard for him who has given them all to you, and without any interest as to what he might want you to do with them.

The Book of Ecclesiastes 11:9, which was probably written by King Solomon (Israel’s most wealthy and successful King), puts it this way:

“You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.”

God invites us all to live a life that is truly life — a life in full communion or relationship with him. We as Christians can take God’s blessings and enjoy them in full freedom. But our freedom cannot become a license to sin. We must always be humble and give God the glory for everything that he has given us, because — as Jacob (translated “James”), Jesus’ own brother, said almost two thousand years ago: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James [Jacob] 1:17).

For the Christian, it is not hypocrisy to enjoy life. God intends for us to live that way. But because sin is so deceptive and all-consuming in our world, we must walk in wisdom. ust becasue God wants us to be free and enjoy life doesn’t mean we can just go out, get blind drunk and have heaps of non-marital sex. (Actually, sinning in such ways will always invariably lead to greater unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. It’s little wonder, then, why God would teach us to avoid them in the first place: — they will ultimately harm and destroy us.) Rather, as Paul says: “For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the chains of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1.) God has freed us to live as God intended: not in bondage to sin, but in the liberty of the Spirit: “For where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). Therefore, true life and enjoyment both can and must be found outside of sin and in keeping in step with the Spirit of God, and living how God wants you to (Galatians 5:25).

So what about those “Christians” who would physically wage war with the sword or with fists or with cruel words in Jesus’ name? What about those who turn Christian religion into a list of “Dos” and “Don’ts”? Well, I’d point them back to the Bible. Those persons are simply not living consistently “CHRIST-IAN” (= “Christ-like”) lives. They’re blind to the reality taught and modeled by Jesus and his earliest followers. Having true faith means living a vibrant life of love walking with God and each other. It is our highest joy and strength to walk as the Lord wants us to walk. Would not “the Author of Life” (a reference to Jesus in Acts 3:15) know how to live life well? People who fail to see this are living against Christ and his plain teaching, ad contrary to all reason and good sense.

We all need to judge Christianity (or any religion for that matter) on the teaching and example set by its founder. How did Jesus himself live? Or… “What Would Jesus Do?” Can we find any fault in him? If you strive to live as Jesus lived, putting God first, others second, and yourself last, then in such godliness you will have contentment, find true freedom and real inexpressible joy serving God as a disciple of his Son.

May God richly bless you.


[Words = 1631.]

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A Note on Singleness and Searching

I think our worldly culture glorifies human dating and sex to such an extent that we who are single feel inadequate because we do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend. But the Apostle Paul saw things quite differently. Paul believed that we can glorify God in whatever situation He has placed us in — if we trust Him. Indeed, Paul even believed that being single is in some sense better than being married or betrothed, since the single man has more time to devote himself to the things of God. Paul should know; he was, after all, single his whole life. But he used that time to devote it to the ministry with which he had been entrusted. (See 1 Corinthians 7:25-40.)

If you’re a Christian struggling with singleness, be mindful of (at least) three things:

(1) God speaks and galaxies come into existence. Do you really think, then, that the God of heaven is unable to bring a godly man or woman into your life at the right time? God is in control, and we need to trust in his perfect timing.

(2) Be mindful of the fact that it may not be the will of God for you to have a boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband right now. When Israel rebelled in the desert, God sent her into wandering for forty years so that she could learn her own heart before entering into the Promised Land. Even Jesus waited thirty years before beginning his public ministry; in the meantime, he surely devoted all his time learning from his Father. So, God probably makes us wait so that He can prepare our hearts and shape our character for the right person at the right time: the man or woman of His own choosing after His own heart.

(3) Pray in faith, and if it is God’s will, He will do it! If you desire something, ask God, and wait on him. Pray into the will of God concerning your future wife or husband. Actually pray for him or her, that God might give you wisdom into looking for and finding a godly person to be with. But don’t pray with wrong motives. Keep God’s glory and His will the root and foundation of your whole search. Otherwise, the search might become idolatry. For you will begin seeking after the gift (i.e. the boyfriend or the girlfriend) over and above the gift-Giver — God, the LORD, who has said, “Have no other gods before me.”

Finally, remember that God loves you, and will always give you your daily bread (your needs) so that you will not become fat and forget Him. God has given you a place in his family, His own Spirit, and He has also given you your brothers and sisters in the church to lean on, share concerns with and to pray with and for. Keeping seeking God’s will, and in His timing, He who “works all things for the good of those who love Him” (Rom 8:28) will bring about a godly result.

Purging the Church: Is the Rise in Religious Disaffiliation Necessarily a Bad Thing?

I read an old 2012 news article today which made me consider the secular situation the church finds herself in today.

According to this article, Protestant Christianity in America and Great Britain is decreasing, Catholicism has been flatlining, and “Nones” (those who indicate as having no religion at all) are on the increase.

This paragraph in particular stuck out at me, and I’d like to share it with you:


Those youngsters [the ‘Nones’] who once went to church out of obligation are now spending Sunday mornings in the supermarket or the gym (body worship is a flourishing faith). That means that the only young people in the pews are true believers who really want to be there.


Due to the rise of religious disaffiliation (the act of ceasing to identify oneself with and participate in a religious group), more and more people are leaving church who do not actually want to go to church This largely leaves the true believers remaining.

Now, on one level, this is clearly  bad thing, Of course it’s terrible that less young people are going to church.

But there seems to be something good about it as well. For when people leave church who do not actually want to be there, it seems that all you’re left with is the real deal. If a person visits a church, they can be more likely to expect real born-again believers indwelt and empowered by the Spirit of God.

There is nothing sadder in the world than Christian religious nominalism — being Christian in name only, and not in actuality. The nominally religious are spiritually dead reprobates with a false assurance that is leading them to hell.

Nominal church cultures breed fake Christians with false professions of faith. There’s probably nothing more harmful to a true believer than seeking holiness in a large, spiritually dead church full of nominal Christians.

I have a friend who lives in Houston, Texas, in the so-called Bible-belt. He finds it so frustrating to try and be truly holy and encouraged in a context where everyone just goes to church because that’s just what people do.

So maybe the secularisation of society has just drawn the battle-lines clearer. The church has always flourished the most under opposition. It’s only when she has become comfortable that she has become fat, lazy and unfruitful.

We can even see this in the history of Israel, in the Bible. Whenever Israel rested secure, she sinned, and drove the LORD away. But God was with his true believers like Isaiah, Jeremiah and Elijah in the midst of nation-wide backsliddenness.

Perhaps, then, an increase in religious disaffiliation within Christianity will wake us believers up to run the race with perseverance, prepare, and do the good Gospel work God has called us to do. Perhaps God will have compassion, and once again work this evil out for the good of his people.

Falling Away and Carrying On

Tonight, after church, a whole bunch of young believers got together at a believer’s house just to hang out. (I love that about true Christian life — we the family of God are the best friends there could be!)

But as we were having a great time chatting, eating, drinking, laughing, and playing games, I could not help but to notice the notable absence of two people.

You see, in my church, two believers fell away from Christ and became unbelievers. Both are very good friends, and each decided, together, to leave the faith. How devastating.

Incidentally, another person whom I know also just gave it up. No explanation whatsoever. He just seems to have lost sight of the meaning and point of it all. Bizarre!

So this got me thinking. We believers share in the joy of the Lord. And so we should! It is right and just to express our joy. But shouldn’t we also share in sorrow for the fallen?

Think of what it means to fall. It means to be cut off from Christ. To leave one’s family. It means that after having been washed from one’s filth — having removed one’s ripped rags, having been clothed with pure garments — to jump back into the slime-filled mud-pit full of stinking feces that God dragged you out off originally. It is moving from a state of peace with and life in God, back into an original state of death and condemnation before Him.

In other words, to fall away is to be is danger of the fires of eternal hell.

So I find it quite distressing when somebody falls. They have left their love of and inheritance in the Eternal God of glory for what is foolish, fleshly, and fleeting.

Apostasy is offensive and grievous to us as Christians. Of course it is. It is so much so that we shy away from it. Surely not, O Lord! Some people even resort to a false doctrine of “eternal security” or “once saved always saved” asserting that we cannot fall, or that if we do that God will most assuredly bring us back in his timing. God is faithful to us, after all. Well of course. But that is to miss the point. When a man casts Christ from himself, Christ has not been unfaithful to him; he has been unfaithful to Christ. Eternal security or once saved always saved is a false doctrine with false security and false assurance. It denies the reality of the dangers of turning back to the world and perishing, like the Bible warns us about. And our just shielding our eyes from it simply will not equip us to deal with it properly when it comes to our doorstep and someone we know decisively walks away from a vibrant faith they once had.

The proper response to apostasy should be a deep-seated grief and mourning on behalf of us all. Cutting oneself off from Christ is literally spiritual suicide. We would be crazy not to prepare ourselves to respond to it in the right way.

Furthermore, I think we need to be watching out especially for those in our churches who put on a façade of going well but are actually slowly slipping away.

I am just so impressed by so many young men and women in my church — late teens and early 20s and such. But in light of those their age who have fallen away, whom I thought were going strong, I want to commit myself to their service all the more, and enact a ministry of prayer and more purposeful engagement and encouragement of them. I want to be a big brother to those in my church. I want to lead them into everlasting life. To this end I want to lead by example, and to be holy and Spirit-filled. I want to be peaceful, patient, kind, faithful, loving, gentle and all other virtues of the Lord. I want to be wise for their sake. I want to live so as to make Christ beautiful to them, and to fan into a roaring flame the spark the Holy Spirit has placed in their hearts!

Blessed be the name of the Lord. I pray the Church would stand against the Gates of Hell by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us, that by Her example many would continue on in Christ, and perhaps those who have fallen may return.

Prayer Journal Devotional Idea

I’ve been listening to Leonard Ravenhill for some time now and his exhortation to pray has convicted me about my inconsistent and irregular prayer life. So I have started a journal. Each day I add an entry that is short and sweet. This helps me to focus my thoughts in on one particular thing I feel I should pray for that day.

So far I have written entries about:
– keeping a consistent prayer-life;
– thanks for a couple of good Christian brothers;
– fear for a friend who has fallen (or is close to falling) from the faith; and
– purification from foul speech and being quick-to-judge.

I find this to be a really helpful way to focus prayer and to be mindful of the need for God’s help everyday.

So I’d encourage you to pick up a blank book from the shop and try starting a daily prayer journal. It may help you like it is helping me.

* * *

a page from my prayer journal

a page from my prayer journal

 

The Insanity of Sin

Sin is insanity.

I am very blessed to have a lot of access to Christian material. A great church, great Christian friends, lectures on all kids of topics across the internet.

But I also have a problem. I am still under the oppression of Satan’s tyranny and my sin.

Get this, right. For about three hours today — three hours — I was hooked on pornography. Three hours. What! I did get 1&1/2 hours break in between. But after that session I backed to it again — back to being enslaved by sin. I willingly caused myself to walk in darkness.

Here’s the thing. Interspersed throughout this dark period — even in the darkness — I felt the Spirit’s whisper. And I had to crush His voice so I could continue in it. I willingly disobeyed the Holy Spirit.

Isn’t that insanity? Isn’t that the height of arrogance? Is that not beyond ludicrous?

But here’s the rub. Immediately following this darkness — when Satan and my own illicit desires into which I had freely given myself had brought me so low — a friend reached out to me in need.

In ministerial need.

I’m not writing this so you can feel sorry for me. I’m not writing it to justify myself. If you think that, that’s your problem.

I’m simply writing to say this: When God would have had me prepare for the ministry, Satan and my own devices had tempted me to stray and fall away from God.

I can’t imagine something more insidious. I cannot think of something more insane at the moment than what has just happened. In my own hypocrisy I had becomes disarmed and deluded into thinking that this was harmless fun.

Harmless fun? How far do our actions reach? How deeply-veined are the consequences of our choices?

So here I stand in shock and terror. Why do I write this? I cannot but say something. I just need all you readers to pray for me. Ask the Lord to restore me, and to give me that contrite heart I need, that I may resist the Devil, and he might flee from me. Pray for my sanctification. Pray for my cleansing. Pray for assurance. Pray for peace.

And pray for my friend whom I have failed.

Walk in the Light of the Lord!

I have been at both ends of the spectrum.

I have wallowed in the darkness of sin.

I have walked in the light of the Lord.

These are so distinct. They feel different. They end up different. They are different. Let me then say simply a few things about them in contrast.

First, the darkness of sin offers an easy, immediate release. Whatever the situation — be it pornographic lust, a fit of anger, or taking vengeance on another person — just sinning is an easy (and cowardly) way out. The light of the Lord, on the other hand, requires boldness, patience and perseverance, and is often difficult, and not-obviously immediately satisfying in all cases. But it is ultimately the most satisfying of all.

Second, the darkness of sin strips you of joy and peace as it destroys you. Its sweetness may last for a season. But the person who indulges in sin always disintegrate. The light of the Lord, however, slowly builds you up, giving you what you really need, and forming you in upstanding character, and grants enduring happiness to the believer.

Third and last, the darkness of sin kills. But the light of the Lord brings life. God is Love; God is Life; God is Light — and in Him there is no darkness at all. God’s agenda for us is a life-agenda. The Devil is a murderer. He brings only death. If we follow the Lord we will live. If we follow the Satan, we will die. It’s that simple. So let us walk in the light of the Lord, and live.

May the grace of God’s light that is brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ so illuminate our hearts that we may follow Him wholeheartedly and with boldness on this slow and oftentimes difficult journey with the zeal of the holy fire burning within us, toward maturity, making as pure and acceptable burnt sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord! 
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