Monday, December 11, 2006

Claiming the Promises of God

Text: 2 Peter 1:3-4
2PE 1:3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. (NIV)

God’s divine power enables us to know Him. Knowledge of God means knowledge of His promises given to us. By claiming these promises, we are led into the path of Godliness and better able to withstand the temptations of the world and of our own sinful nature.

I. Introduction
Jesus told Peter that he would make Peter, the fisherman, a “fisher of man”. That he did. In Acts 2, when Peter preached 3,000 people accepted Christ. In Acts 4, when Peter preached 5,000 people believed. Jesus always keep His promise.

There had been a remarkable transformation in Peter. From a brash young man, we followed his character transformation in the gospels, the Acts of the Apostles and later in the epistles. 1 Peter and 2 Peter are often attributed to him. These two epistles revealed the pastoral heart of Peter-how he cared for his flocks or people under his care. However, unlike the epistles written by Paul, Peter’s epistles are not so well organized and logical in its structure. Nevertheless, it revealed the spiritual wisdom Peter has acquired in his long life. Like Paul, Peter acknowledges the spiritual life as consisting of two parts: Knowing God and Becoming like God.

II. Knowledge of God
a. Given by divine power (v.3a)
Eph. 1: 18-21
18 I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20 which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come

The knowledge of God is not something we can study for. There is not a course in any school or seminary that will help you to know God. These courses can help you to know about God. We can only know God if God reveals Himself to us by His divine power. Otherwise it is all head knowledge. The divine power is the power that raised Jesus from the dead and in time will redeem the whole of creation.

b. Everything we need for life and godliness (v.3b)

This knowledge of God will give us everything we need for life and godliness. In the Christian faith, we start with knowledge, then experience. That is why the Paul taught us to renew our minds in Rom 2:28 first before we renew our spiritual life. It is dangerous to start with experiences, especially spiritual experiences. Experiences are subjective and are often vulnerable to manipulation.

We should always test our spiritual experiences by the Word of God and not the Word of God by our experiences.

c. To those who are called by His own glory and goodness (v.3c)

True knowledge of God is only available to those who are called by God. Only those who are called by God will be able to know Him. Why? That is because he or she will have the Holy Spirit to guide and teach.

What is more important is that knowledge of God will reveal the promises of God in the Bible. Without the knowledge of God, you will not know about the very great and precious promises God has given us and is waiting for us to claim.

III. Promises of God
a. Very great and precious promises (v.4a)

What are some of the very great and precious promises that God has given us?

i. Jesus Christ
1 Cor.1:20
20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God.

All of God’s promises can be summarized in one Person- Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfilled of all the promises God has made in the Old and New Testament. We are currently in the Christian calendar of Advent. Advent is the time when we look forward to the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. It is in these two comings that all God’s promises to us are and will be fulfilled. God promised that He will become man-an incarnation. An obscure event when God came as a helpless baby boy. That is the first coming that happened two thousand years ago. The second coming is yet to be. This time, Jesus will come in power and glory and all the world will know.

ii. Forgiveness
Heb. 10:15-17
HEB 10:15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
HEB 10:16 "This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds."
HEB 10:17 Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."

Another promise we can claim is forgiveness from God. As the Holy Spirit has testified, God has forgiven us and will remember our sins no more. This is true forgiveness.

iii. Become children of God

Gal. 3:22
22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

This promise of God is a wonderful promise. Not only do God love us but also he wants to adopt us! He wants us to be His sons and daughters. It is common in many cultures to have godchildren. These means we accept these children into our families. Yet, they do not enjoy the same status as our own children. Here God adopt us as His children. This means we are all co-heirs of His kingdom.

iv. Gift of the Holy Spirit
14 He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Eph.1 13
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession--to the praise of his glory.

One of the incredible promises of God is that the Holy Spirit is given to us. He indwells us. Imagine God Himself coming to stay in your body! I remember when I was young; my mother will spend a lot of time cleaning up the room whenever any of my relatives will come for a visit. When I was young, my family was very poor so the whole family will stay in a rented room on top of a shop house in Brickfield, KL. Yet, whenever we have visitors, my mother will spend hours cleaning up the small room. God promise that He will come and stay with us. I wonder whether we can really understand such a privilege.

v. Guidance of the Holy Spirit
John 14:26
26 But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

If we are ever worried about living a Christian life, don’t. God’s promise of the Holy Spirit who is also a mentor to us. He will lead us into a life of godliness.

vi. Power of the Holy Spirit
Acts 1:8
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The Holy Spirit will empower us. He will also give us spiritual gifts. These spiritual gifts are to help us in our own internal growth and to build up the body of Christ or the church. God promised us power. It is up to us to claim this power.

vii. The Blessed Hope
Heb. 9:15
HEB 9:15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.

The Blessed Hope is that we shall all enjoy eternal life in New Jerusalem in the new heaven and earth.

This is not a comprehensive list and there are more in the Bible. This list highlights the important promises of God.

b. Participation in divine nature (v.4b)

The very great and precious promises of God will help us to participate in the divine nature. Participation in the divine nature does not mean we become gods. What it means is that we become like God or like Christ. We do not become the fourth member of the Trinity. It means we become godly, restoring the original image of God that we have inside of us.

c. Escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (v.4c)

2 Cor. 7:1
2CO 7:1 Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

This promises also help us to resist the temptations of the world and to fight our old nature that tempts us to sin.

IV. Claiming the Promises of God

These promises are given to us and we have a right to claim them. Claiming these promises is easy. Just pray to God and say, “Thank you, Lord. I claim these promises you made given me.” That’s all. There are no ritual formula words that you have to day. No special deeds you must perform to prove yourself worthy.

However, there are a few comments I want to make about claiming promises.

a. Claim only promises made to you

This may sound funny but sometimes it may cause confusion in a church.
Judges 6:36-40
JDG 6:36 Gideon said to God, "If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised-- 37 look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said." 38 And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew--a bowlful of water.

JDG 6:39 Then Gideon said to God, "Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew." 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Is this promise made to Gideon or to all of us? Yet how many of us use this method for decision-making? Anyone for drawing lots to select elders?

b. Claim to get what is already here and not those whose time is not yet
Heb. 11:13
HEB 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.

What the writer of Hebrews is saying is that some of God promises have already being fulfilled but some is yet to be. Hence, when we claim God’s promises, God will not give us what is yet to be fulfilled. Hence, you cannot claim to be in be in New Jerusalem now, even though God has promised it to you.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her children about heaven. “How do you get to heaven?” she asked. “By bus?” “No!” the children shouted. “By train?” “No!”. Expecting the answer, “Jesus’, she asked a young boy. “How do you get to heaven?” “You have to die first,” came a quiet reply.

c. Claim only what God has promised

We can only claim what God has promised, not what He has not promised. Hence, no matter how much we want to, Jesus Christ remains the only way between man and God. We cannot claim the love of love and say that everyone will be saved.

d. Follow God

Heb 10:36
36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

One of the most important preconditions of claiming God’s promise is that you must be a child of God. And then these promises will help you to grow in your spiritual life.

V. Lessons for us: Promises and Requests

God have given us these promises and He will not take it back. God is fully able to honor His promises. This is where the Knowledge of God and the knowledge of the Bible come in. Study the Bible to discover the promises made to you. Then claim it, it is yours.

However, what about these areas, which He did not cover in His promises, like our health, work, family or church. This is where prayers come in. Where God does not promise, He leaves it to us to request and ask Him. Hence we can ask Him for healing of our sicknesses, our family problems, our workplace problems, our financial problems and even our lack of faith.

For what He has promised, there is not need to ask. For what He has not promised, we are to ask. And I believe, He wants us to ask. When Jesus was asked to teach people how to pray, He taught them to ask, “…give us this day our daily bread..” And God does answer prayers.

VI. Conclusion

God’s divine power enables us to know Him. Knowledge of God means knowledge of His promises given to us. By claiming these promises, we are led into the path of Godliness and better able to withstand the temptations of the world and of our own sinful nature.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Does God Want You to be Healthy, Wealthy and Wise

A. Introduction: The Word-Faith Movement
Recently TIME magazine Sep.18, 2006 in the United States ran an article, Does God Want You to Be Rich? Subtitled: A growing number of Protestant evangelists raise a joyful Yes! But the idea is poison to other, more mainstream pastors. The picture on the front cover shows a Rolls Royce with a cross on it! Health and wealth are two major concerns of many people. Therefore anyone who offers a guaranteed package of health and wealth will attract many people. Three of the four megachurches in the United States belong to the Word-Faith movement. These churches are Osteen’s Lakewood in Houston, Creflo’s Dollar World Changers near Atlanta and T.D.Jakes’ Potter House in south Dallas. Prosperity gospel also known as the Word-Faith movement. It is also called the Positive Confession movement because of the importance it placed on the spoken Word of God and God Faith. Others call it the “Name It and Claim It” movement or Health and Wealth theology. It came into being about the time that the Pentecostal movement became a worldwide phenomenon but it is not associated with the Pentecostals.

Nevertheless many proponents of the Word-Faith movement such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn had some Pentecostal or Charismatic background. What was impressive is the tremendous growth in their ministries.

B. Roots of the Word-Faith Movement

a. Kenneth Hagin (1917-2003)
Kenneth Hagin is considered by some as the one who started the Word-Faith movement. However that are some who considered E.W. Kenyon as founder and that Hagin has copied most of the teaching from him.

Hagin was born premature and has a deformed heart. He was sickly when he was young and became an invalid when he was 15 years old. He said that his heart stopped three times during a 10 minute period and each time he saw the horrors of hell. This resulted in his conversion in 1933 and he went into ministry as a lay preacher for the Southern Baptists in Texas. In 1937 he received Baptism of the Holy Spirit and because a Pentecostal pastor. Hagin became an evangelist in 1949 and in the 14 years period after Hagin reported he had a series of eight visions of Jesus Christ. As a result of his last vision, he set up his own ministry in 1963 which in 1978 became the Rhema Bible Church aka Kenneth Hagin Ministries in Broken Arrow, Tulsa, Oklahoma. He started Rhema Bible Training Center in 1974, a syndicated radio show, Faith Seminar of the Air which is carried by about 250 radio stations; his own magazine, The Word of Faith and is authors of more than 125 books and pamphlets.

Kenneth Hagin’s theological roots seem to come from his personal spiritual experiences and from his Baptist and the Pentecostal background. He did not receive any formal theological training. Though he was a prolific writer and speaker, he did not acknowledge the work of E.W. Kenyon from whom some scholars suspected he plagiarized his writings.

Kenneth Hagin writes "I am fully convinced - I would die saying it is so - that it is the plan of Our Father God, in His great love and in His great mercy, that no believer should ever be sick; that every believer should live his full life span down here on this earth; and that every believer should finally just fall asleep in Jesus" ( Seven Things You Should Know about Divine Healing, p. 21).

b. E.W. Kenyon (1860-1948)
Born in 1860, E. W. Kenyon is generally recognised by some as the real founding father of the modern Word-Faith Movement. Beginning as a Methodist, he became quite ecumenical, associating with the Baptists. Some of his work even resulted in the founding of a few Primitive Baptist Churches. Late in life, Kenyon moved into Pentecostalism. At the same time, he combined elements of the metaphysic cults, such as Christian Science, New Thought theology, and Unity School of Christianity. New Thought theology can be traced to Phineas Quimby (1802-1866). Quimby studied spiritism, occultism, witchcraft and many other aspects of parapsychology. He tried to make witchcraft credible by using scientific language. It was Quimby who influenced Mary Baker Patterson Eddy who went on to found Christian Science, a cult. Quimby also had a profound influence on Kenyon who borrowed heavily from his work.

Obviously Kenyon had his theological roots both from his Christian background and from the occult. It is significant that Hagin borrowed “heavily” from his writings. Kenyon’s writing also influenced the “Oneness” Pentecostals.

c. Kenneth Copeland
Copeland has a similar history as Hagin. He is not as prolific a writer as Hagin. Most of the information about his teachings comes from his seminars, cassette recordings and radio/television telecasts. He is a televangelist and faith healer. Copeland is also heavily influenced by Kenyon’s teaching.

d. Benny Hinn
Benny Hinn was often put forward as a successor for Kenneth Hagin for the Word-Faith movement. The other contender was Kenneth Copeland. Unlike Hagin and Copeland, Hinn came from an Anglican background. However he was strongly influenced by the faith healing ministry of Kathryn Kullman. After she died, he worked with her ministry for 5 years. Then he started his own healing ministry based on Kullman’s style of ministry. Benny Hinn is famous for ‘slaining people in the Spirit” by a wave of his coat or his hands. He was the pastor of Orlando Christian Center in Orlando, Florida. In the 1980s, he was influenced by the Word-Faith teachings of Hagin and Copeland. However, he was challenged by two Christian cult watch group, Christian Research Institute and the Watchman Fellowship which were unhappy with his Word-Faith theology and his healing practices. In 1993, Hinn renounced Word-Faith theology and became affiliated with the Assemblies of God (Pentecostal). Presently he resides in Dallas and runs World Outreach Center Benny Hinn Ministries which include a Signs and Wonder Bible School. He reaches the world through his evangelistic rallies, television shows and books. His main ministry is miracle and faith healing. It is interesting to note that even though Benny Hinn has distanced himself from the Word-Faith movement, the movement still regards him as one of their own.

e. Paul/David Cho Yonggi
David Cho Yonggi is the pastor of Full Gospel Yoido Church in Seoul, Korea. He was Paul Cho Yonggi until recently when he said Jesus said he has died and am now raised as David Cho Yonggi. He declared that he received his power from a demon in the fourth dimension. The first three dimensions are physical and are controlled by the spiritual which is the fourth dimension. He taught this concept as the “Fourth Dimension”. If a person (Christian or non-Christian) follow the formula of positive confession (more about this later), visualization, they “incubate” and eventually give rise to their desires. Cho Yonggi is aware that these are occultic methods but believe that Christians are allowed to use occultic methods to achieve their ends.

The proponents of the Word-Faith movement have colorful and interesting life experiences. However, it is obvious from this brief review is that we can trace their teaching back through Copeland and Hagin to Kenyon. And from Kenyon to Quimby who was involved with the occult and metaphysics. David Cho seems to be the exception in that he approaches the occult directly. However, it must be said that not all followers of Hagin, Copeland or Hinn buy totally into the theology of Word-Faith.

C. Five Doctrines of Health and Wealth

a. The Power of Positive Confession
This is the most well known distinctive of the Word-Faith theology. Proponents recognize that words are important, so important that coupled with faith it can create. This means if we confess or proclaim positive things, it will be created for us. The reverse is also true. If we proclaim in faith negative things, these negative things will be created for us. That is why Word-Faith theology is also known as “Name it and Claim it” theology. This doctrine is based on the teaching that God has faith, a sort of God-faith. God used His faith to create the universe. God has to speak His word to create. Kenyon wrote, “Faith is the creative force in man. Faith is the creative force in the Creator. God simply said, ‘Let there be.’” Hagin continued, “The God kind of faith…is the kind of faith that spoke the world into existence…God created the universe with words. Words filled with faith are the most powerful things in all the world.” And Copeland adds, “God is a faith being…God does not do anything outside of faith.”

God faith is a creative force. Anyone can use this force if he or she has this God faith. By speaking out using this God faith, we can claim anything we want.

The basis for this doctrine is based on Mark 11:22 and Hebrews 11:3

Mark 11:22
MK 11:22 "Have faith in God," Jesus answered. 23 "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.

Teachers of Word-Faith theology interpreted Jesus’ saying “Have faith in God” to mean “Have the God type of faith”. This is based on the grammatical distinctive of the Greek text echet pistin theou. This was taken to mean that (1) God has faith (God faith), (2) it is possible for us to have God faith, and (3) we can use the God faith to move mountains. So the question we need to ask is, “Does God has faith?” The answer is no. Faith is to believe in someone or something. God does not have to believe because He knows! God does not have to believe in Himself. This will throw into doubt the existence of such a force as God faith.

Hebrews 11:3
HEB 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Kenyon and the Word-Faith teachers interpret this to mean that God created the universe by speaking the word in faith. Again it is playing with the Greek syntax. In Greek, the sentence reads as
Pistei nooumen katērthisthai tous aiōnas rhēmati theou
(by) faith we understand were made worlds (by) word of God

Traditional interpretation will be:
we understand (by faith) were made worlds (by the word of God)

Word-Faith teaches
we understand were made worlds (by faith, by the word of God)
Hence the interpretation becomes God made the worlds by the word of God faith.

Hagin's theme, as found in his booklet How to Write Your Own Ticket with God, can be summarized as follows (Christianity in Crisis, pp. 74-75): The formula is simply: "Say it, Do it, Receive it, and Tell it."
1. Step number one is "Say it." "Positive or negative, it is up to the individual. According to what the individual says, that shall he receive."
2. Step number two is "Do it." "Your action defeats you or puts you over. According to your action, you receive or you are kept from receiving."
3. Step number three is "Receive it." We are to plug into the "powerhouse of heaven." "Faith is the plug, praise God! Just plug in."
4. Step number four is "Tell it so others may believe." This final step might be considered the Faith movement's outreach program.

b. The Lifting of the Curse
One of the persuasive arguments of the word-faith proponents is that Jesus has lifted the curse of the law from us.

Kenneth Hagin writes,
What is the curse of the law? The only way to find out is to go back to the law. The expression “the law” as found in the New Testament usually refers to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible. As we go back to these books-or the law- we find that the curse, or punishment, for breaking God’s laws is threefold: poverty, sickness, and spiritual death.

What follows from this argument is that since the curse have been lifted from us, poverty, sickness and spiritual death has also been lifted from us. The primary text is Deuteronomy 28.

Kenneth Copeland said,
Remember what was listed under the curse in Deuteronomy 28? Poverty of every kind, political failure, drought, war, every calamity known to mankind; and Jesus has redeemed us from it all. ALL sickness and ALL disease, even those not mentioned here, come under the curse. Therefore, we are redeemed from all sickness and all disease. You need to fight the temptation to be sick just as you would fight the temptation to lie or steal.

Deuteronomy 28 was directed to the covenant nation of Israelite. God covenant to bless the Israelites with good health, wealth and safety if they will forsake all gods, worship Him and be His people (Deu. 28:1-14). If they fail and follow other gods, then God will punish them. However, there are no indications that Deuteronomy 28 apply to us who are not of the nation God made the covenant with. We cannot appropriate or individualise promises that are not made to us.

Aside from Deuteronomy 28, there are other Scriptures used to support their teachings.

c. Healing in the Atonement
Most word-faith proponents will focus on health with regards to the atonement though some will also include wealth.

Benny Hinn in explaining about healing as part of the atonement writes in his book, Rise and Be Healed, writes, "The Bible declares that the work was done 2,000 years ago. God is not going to heal you now -- he healed you 2,000 years ago. All you have to do today is receive your healing by faith".

The inference that Hinn have drawn is that healing has already occurred. It is now up to us whether we claim it or not. Scriptures commonly used in support are:

Isaiah 53:4, 5

ISA 53:4 Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.

ISA 53:5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
(emphasis added)

If we are to read Isaiah 53 in context, it is about a suffering servant who was ugly and sick. It is a poem and so must be interpreted as such. Any reader of Isaiah at that time will begin to think, “What has this man done to deserve such punishment from God?” In that time, diseases/infirmities are often regarded as punishment from God. Verse 4a has the synonyms “infirmities” and “sorrows” and v.4b “stricken” and “afflicted”. Here the reader was brought to the realization that this man was actually suffering for them when all along they thought he was being punished by God for his own sin. In v.5a, there is a pair of synonyms, “transgressions” and “iniquities”. In the next part there is another pair “peace/shalom” and “healed”. If we taken into the genre of the passage which is prophetic poetry, then it is possible to understand v.4 being used to contrast with v.5: which is about the deliverance from sin. Oswalt notes that this passage make us ask the question, “Here God has made this person suffer for the iniquity of “all of us”. Who can this person be?” Hence the passage does not deal specifically with physical healing.

d. The King’s Kids Rule
As we are God’s “sons and daughters”, we should act accordingly. According to word-faith teaching, we were under Satan’s domain that is why we were poor and sick. That is no longer the case. Jesus has set us free by His death on the cross. Hence, we are no longer the ruled but the ruler of Satan’s domain. This means we should now be rich and healthy.

Kenneth Copeland writes in Healed ? to Be or Not to Be:

"The first step to spiritual maturity is to realize your position before God. You are a child of God and a joint-heir with Jesus. Consequently, you are entitled to all the rights and privileges in the kingdom of God, and one of their rights is health and healing" (p. 25).

Hagin and other teachers of word-faith understand Paul in Romans 5:17 as saying that Christians are to “reign” in life now. After all, Christians are free from Satan’s domain.

17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

It must be pointed out that Paul is saying, we “will reign”, not we “are reigning” in this life. Later in the letter Paul instructed the Christians not to let sin reign in our bodies, a warning he would not have given if we are already reigning over sin.

e. Health and Wealth as God’s Will
One of the attractions of the faith-word teaching is that God wants us to be healthy and wealthy. Who can resist such a statement!

Gloria Copeland (Kenneth's wife) in her book God's Will Is Prosperity: "Give $10 and receive $1000; Give $1000 and receive $100,000? give one house and receive one hundred houses or a house worth one hundred times as much. Give one airplane and receive one hundred times the value of the airplane. ? In short, Mark 10:30 is a very good deal" (p. 54).

Mark 10:29-30
MK 10:29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.

This text is often used by word-faith teachers to teach that if you give, God will bless you in return a hundred times. So, one ringgit becomes 100 ringgit. If you take the verse literally, you will be receiving a hundred homes, a hundred brothers, a hundred sisters, a hundred mothers, a hundred children, a hundred fields and a hundred persecutions! What Jesus really meant what that if it become necessary for you to leave your immediate family for His sake; you will become part of a bigger family (which is the church) and in the future eternal life.

We have seen how the doctrines about health and wealth of the Word-Faith movement come from erroneous hermeneutics. Sentences are either taken out of context or misinterpreted so as to lead to faulty reasoning and conclusions. What they have to offer are attractive: positive confession using God faith to get what we want; the lifting of the curse guarantee us health, wealth and eternal life; we are the King’s kids so we should act accordingly; there is complete healing in the atonement; and God wants us to be healthy and wealthy. What’s not to like? Now that we have examined the beautiful furnishing of the mansion, let us go down to the basement and look at the foundation.

D. The Underlying Theology of the Word-Faith Movement
What is not obvious to many people who are attracted by goodness of the Word-Faith movement is their foundational theological construct.

a. God and Faith
As we have discussed, God does not have faith. And there is no such force as God faith. There are no grounds in Reformed/Presbyterian theology to even consider God faith. God is the creator. Our faith is in Him. God is God and we do not have the God power to create no matter how much faith we have. It is good to have positive thoughts and that is healthy for the body. However, there is no theological basis for positive confession. We can ask God in faith, trusting in His goodness but we cannot force God.

b. Adam, Satan and Dominion
Adam did not have a nature when God created him. According to Word-Faith theology, God created Adam to be the god of this world. When Adam was tempted by Satan, he gave up his godhood to Satan and took on Satan’s nature. Satan became the owner of this creation. Apparently there was a “lease” and God is powerless to take the creation back from Satan.

This is in direct contradiction to Reformed/Presbyterian theology. The Bible taught that Adam was created in the image of God. Hence he has a nature, a perfect human nature. He was tempted by Satan and sinned by disobeying God. Adam was banished from the Garden of Eden because of this sin. Adam was never a god and Satan did not become a god of this world. Though Adam has fallen, he never took on Satan’s nature. He retains a distorted image of God which Paul called our old man or old nature. God is always more powerful than Satan and there is no grounds to assume that God is powerless before Satan. God has a plan for the redemption of man and of this creation but God’s plan depends on the partnership of man. That is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to earth.

c. Atonement

There are a few points here about Word-Faith theology atonement we must take note:

· Jesus came to save mankind. To do that, He became fully human and left His divine self behind
· To atone for Adam’s sin, Jesus has to die twice: one spiritually and one physically
· Jesus died spiritually (first death- but not specific when he died spiritually. Some taught at the Garden of Gethsemane and some taught on the cross).
· Jesus when he died took on Satan’s nature
· Jesus died on the cross after being crucified (second death-physical death)
· Jesus was brought down to hell and was tortured by Satan and his demons
· After 3 days, Jesus found a way to be born again (Jesus was innocent and Satan had wrongly imprisoned an innocent man. God has tricked Satan)
· Jesus was resurrected with God’s nature
· Because of the atonement of Jesus, we Christians have God’s nature
· We are equal with Jesus

"Do you think that the punishment for our sin was to die on a cross? If that were the case, the two thieves could have paid our price. No, the punishment was to go into hell itself and to serve time in hell separated from God" (Frederick K.C. Price, Ever Increasing Faith Messenger, June 1990, p. 7).

There is no support in the Bible that Jesus left his divine self behind (where?). Jesus has always been fully God and fully human at all times. He may put aside his divine attributes but he was never separated from them. Jesus died for our sin but Jesus did not become sin. Jesus never put on the nature of Satan. And Jesus was not tortured in hell. In 1 Peter 3:19, Jesus descended to “prison” often translated as Hades or hell. Some commentator said Jesus went to hell to preach to the dead and offer them a second chance for salvation. However the textual support for this is weak. The textual support is stronger that Jesus went to hell to proclaim His victory over death. There were never any indications that Jesus was captured or tortured by Satan.

The idea may have been derived from the “ransom” theory of atonement where 1 Tim 2:6 is taken literally and Jesus Christ had to pay a ransom to the Satan for the release of mankind. This was strongly held by an early church father, Gregory of Nyssa. However, it was later abandoned because it did not fully explain the complexity of the atonement. Lim liken the ransom theory to Aslan dying for Edmund in the C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series.

d. Born Again Jesus

In Word-Faith theology, Jesus has to die and be born again. That is why, they taught, that Paul considers Jesus the second Adam. Again this does not fit into Reformed/Presbyterian theology as Jesus could never be born again. Born again is a term applied to sinful man who is redeemed by Jesus’ atonement. Being born again means getting a new human nature and the Holy Spirit. Jesus does not need both of this. Jesus died for our sin, a penal substitution death to satisfy the justice of God. He did not acquire a human fallen nature. He also does not need to receive the Holy Spirit because He and the Holy Spirit are one in the Trinity. Hence we who are born again are not equal to Jesus. Though in God’s grace, He allows us to partake of the divine nature but that does not make us gods. There is only one God. We are not little gods and never will be. The Word-Faith theology makes Jesus so human that we become more powerful than Him!

E. Perspective from Reformed/Presbyterian Theology
I believe this balanced view to be a Reformed/Presbyterian theological viewpoint.

No healing in the atonement
God wants Christians to be poor
God does not do miracles today
Sickness has no relation to sin or unbelief

Balance Theological View

Healing in the atonement realized in part now, in full in the resurrection
God wants Christians to be faithful; in some cases this means rich, in some cases poor
God does miracles today, but they cannot be predicted and should not be expected.
Some sickness is related to sin or unbelief

Word-Faith Theology
Healing in full now guaranteed by the atonement
God wants Christians to be rich
Miracles should be a regular part of the Christian experience today
All sickness is related to sin and unbelief.

An important point Word-Faith teachers tend to miss is the “already and not yet” concept of Jesus and Paul. Their eschatology is immediate while Jesus and Paul teach an eschatology that has been fulfilled and yet still awaits fulfillment. This is where the confusion arises. God does want us to be healed but our complete healing will only come when we received our imperishable bodies during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Until then, we are still subject to the normal wear and tear of living in the natural world.

Reformed/Presbyterian theology has always been faithful to the Word of God. Though challenged from time to time, it has always been able to weather the challenges and become stronger as a result. As we have examined earlier, the whole theology of Word-Faith teaching is incompatible with Reformed/Presbyterian theology. The theology of Word-Faith teaching is also incompatible with Pentecostalism and the Assemblies of God have taken steps to distant themselves from it.

Reformed/Presbyterian theology has always upheld God as a supreme being and that Jesus’ death on the cross as complete and total for our salvation. It teaches that Satan is a fallen angel, therefore less than God the creator. Reformed/Presbyterian theology also have a correct view of man who are not “little gods”. It has room for a theology of suffering and of redemption.

F. Conclusion
We have seen how the major Word-Faith teachers derived their theology from Quimby who is known to be involved in New Thought metaphysics and occultism. The roots of these teachings have reached upwards into the Word-Faith theology to humanized God and Jesus Christ and deitified man. The five prominent doctrines with regards to Word-Faith were found to be based on faulty hermeneutics or interpretation of the Bible. We have also seen how the foundational theology of Word-Faith is incompatible with Reformed/Presbyterian theology.

For a more complete review please read my position paper, Examining the Theology of the Word-Faith Movement at

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Discovering Christ and Assurance of Salvation


Who is Christ?

Jesus is a Teacher
Most if not all people regard Jesus as a great teacher. Mahatma Gandhi regards Jesus as one of the greatest teacher who ever lived and the Sermon on the Mount as the greatest sermon ever preached. He studied the New Testament in South Africa and when he went back to India to lead the Indian Independence movement. Unfortunately, he was unable to see Jesus as more than a man.

Teaches about God (John 14:6,7)
JN 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

If you read through the Gospel accounts, you will notice that Jesus has always been teaching the people about God. He understands that it is difficult for people to relate to a God who is invisible. That is why He often points to Himself as the incarnation of an invisible God.

Teaches about God’s love (John 3:16)
JN 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The other emphasis about Jesus’ teaching about a God is who is not only our creator but a God who loves us, His creation. God loves us so much that He is willing to sacrifice His only Son for us. That is another difficult lesson to learn. For example, you have a really good friend. So good that you love each other very much. Then one day, you discovered that you have cystic fibrosis. This is a disease that eats up and destroys your lung tissues. The doctors tell you that the only way you will survive is if you receive a heart-lung transplant. And your friend came up to you and said, “Here take the lungs and heart of my only son so that you can live, the son I love very much.” I know it is not a likely scenario but that is what the love of God can be compared to in our present setting.

Teaches about God’s plan of Redemption (2 Cor. 5:18,91)
2 Cor 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

This world is not what God made it to be. God created a perfect world which He said was good. This world is broken. God wants to fix this world, this creation that He has made. Therefore He has a plan which involves His Son. Jesus coming to this world is part of this plan. The other part of the plan is what Jesus has been teaching: calling people to turn back to worship God and training the disciples to be the people of God-the Church.

Jesus is a Man

The Gnostics do not believe that Jesus is a man. If you have read the book or watch the movie, The Da Vinci Code, you would have been exposed to some of the Gnostic gospels; the Gospel of Barnabas; Gospel of Mary etc. Some Gnostic teaches that Jesus is not a man but something that looks like a man. Others teach that Jesus was the first created creature of God. The biblical accounts was very clear that Jesus is a flesh and blood man.

He is the son of Joseph and Mary (Matt 13:35)
MT 13:55 "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

Even though He was conceived by the Holy Spirit while Mary is still a virgin, yet He was born normally like any other child. He has a childhood and was accepted by other children as one of them. In fact, he was accepted by his community as one of them. That is why they were so surprised to find Him different. Isn’t he so and so’s son? Even though Jesus has a divine nature and a human nature, His human nature was so prominent during His time on earth that He was accepted as one of the community.

He struggled with decision making (John 12:27,28)
JN 12:27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!"
If Jesus is purely God, then there is not need to struggle. After all, God is omniscience and omnipotence. The fact that Jesus struggled with His decision making indicates that He is like us. He is a human male. For his time on earth, He has put aside His divine nature so that he is human. Like us, he felt stress, pain and the uncertainty of decision making.

He was thirsty (John 19:28)
JN 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."
For me, this is the strongest proof that He was human as He hung on the cross. It was midday, the sun was beating down mercilessly and He felt thirsty. God does not feel thirsty. A human being does.

Jesus is God

Jesus is a great teacher and a man. If that is what He is, then He would have just started an effective philosophical school and we are still in our sins. Jesus is fully man. He is also fully God. That is what is so amazing about Jesus.

He is called by Divine Names (Rev.22:12,13)
REV 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Names are very important. It is not just a label to identity you but denotes who you are. Those of you who have children will be aware of how difficult it is to find names for your children. Will they grow into their names? In Revelations, Jesus is uses a name the Alpha and the Omega. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and omega, the last. It means completeness or perfection. The only one who can bear such a name is God. Jesus uses names reserved for God such as the “I am”. That is why the Jewish people wanted to kill Him. He was using the name of God and to them that is taboo; taking the name of God in vain.

He is called by Thomas his God (John 20:28)
JN 20:28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

The apostle Thomas, often called Doubting Thomas because he said he would only believe if he can see and touch the risen Christ. Actually I would consider him an empirical scientist because he wants to be sure in his own belief. Jesus knew that. That’s why He allowed Thomas to touch His wounds. Thomas burst out in amazement acknowledging that He is God. Legend has it that Thomas traveled to southern India. Here he came into contact with an ancient civilization and Hinduism. That he was able to have converts and started the Mar Thomas Church was an indication of how strong was his conviction that Jesus Christ is God.

He is referred to as God (Heb.1:8)
HEB 1:8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.

God Himself referred to Jesus as God. We believe that God is Trinity: God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit. We do not have three Gods. We have one God who is three. Hence the doctrine of the Trinity. God is omnipresent. When Jesus was on earth, His divine essence is still part of the Trinity. One must not have the misconception that when Jesus was walking the earth, there is only two of the Godhead up there. There are always three who are one.

Jesus is Savior

Savior because of His completed work on the cross (Col 1:20)

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

When Jesus died on the cross, it was all part of God’s plan of redemption. The world was broken. It was corrupted by human sin. Sin is defined as disobedience to God. The punishment for sin is death. That is justice. Since we have all sinned, we can die only for our own sin. We need someone who does not have sin to die for us. Then we can be free. This person is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ being God is sinless. Hence He can die for our sin. Thus justice is fulfilled. The theological term for this is penal substitution atonement.

Savior that brings the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38)
AC 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

We receive this justice when we believe that Jesus die on the cross for our sins. We have received the forgiveness of sin because of what Christ has done. And what is more, God gives us a sign of our forgiveness. He gives us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is given to us when we accept Jesus Christ’s completed work on the cross.

Savior bringing eternal life and assurance of salvation (John 10:28-30)
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

God has given us his assurance that what He has given us is eternal. God however respects our freedom. We are all given the freedom to accept or reject Him. That is the wonder of God. Only a loving and supreme God will allow His creature to choose to accept Him or reject Him. If we accept Him, we move from the kingdom of this broken world to the kingdom of God. Once we are there, as long as we remain faithful, we will never fall out of the grace of His Hands.

Conclusion: Making Friends with Jesus (John 15: 5-8)
JN 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

If Jesus is who He is: fully God and fully man, then what He has done on the cross are true and we have been freed from our sins. He has taken our sins upon Him. We have received forgiveness. All that He has taught us about God is true. God loves us and wants us to be part of His plan for the redemption of this creation. No only people but the environment as well. Jesus Christ is God incarnate. He is the invisible God making Himself visible. So our role now is to follow Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sermon Handout
Discovering Christ and Assurance

Introduction: Who is Christ?

Jesus is a Teacher
Teaches ___________________________________(John 14:6,7)

JN 14:6 Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

Teaches ___________________________________ (John 3:16)
JN 3:16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Teaches ___________________________________ (2 Cor. 5:18,91)
2 Cor 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

Jesus is a Man
He _____________________________________________(Matt 13:35)

MT 13:55 "Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?

He ___________________________________________ (John 12:27,28)
JN 12:27 "Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify your name!"

He ___________________________________________ (John 19:28)
JN 19:28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty."

Jesus is God
He is _______________________________________ (Rev.22:12,13)
REV 22:12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

He is _______________________________________ (John 20:28)
JN 20:28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"

He is _______________________________________ (Heb.1:8)
HEB 1:8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.

Jesus is Savior
Savior _________________________________________ (Col 1:20)

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Savior _________________________________________ (Acts 2:38)
AC 2:38 Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

Savior ________________________________________(John 10:28-30)
28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one."

Conclusion: Making _____________________________________Jesus (John 15: 5-8)
JN 15:5 "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Discovering Christ and Assurance
Bible Study

Why do you think most people regards Jesus as a great teacher?

What does Jesus teach about God’s Plan of Redemption?

Do you think Jesus Christ is a human person like us? If yes, why? If no, why?

Why do you think it is important that Jesus be human?

Do you think Jesus Christ is God? If yes, why? If no, why?

How does Jesus Christ being fully God, fully human helps us?

What did Jesus Christ achieved by dying on the cross?

Can we lose our salvation?

Discuss some of the ways we can get to know Jesus Christ better.

Write down 3 applications from this study that you will apply this week.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Trust and Obey

Boys’ Brigade Founder’s Day Service 2006
Holy Light Church (English), Johor Bahru, Malaysia

Text: Genesis 22


One of the pillars of the building of Christian character is obedience. We are to obey God, our parents, our leaders and the government.

William Alexander Smith was born in Thurso, Scotland in 1854. He moved to Glasgow in his teens and became involved in church activities. William was also a lieutenant in the 1st Lanarkshire Rifle Volunteers in 1883 while he was teaching in the North Woodside Mission Sunday School. While working with the children in church, he discovered the need for wholesome activities for children outside school hours. William Smith shared his ideas with his two friends, which later invited boys from North Woodside Mission Sabbath School and formed the first company of The Boys' Brigade, 1st Glasgow Company on 4th of October 1883. It is the world's first uniform organization, even before the Scouts.

William was the first Brigade Secretary in 1887 where he worked towards spreading the Brigade across the world. In 1909, King Edward VII knighted William Smith for his contribution towards youth development. Five years later, Sir William Alexander Smith passed away. Throughout his lifetime, Sir William A. Smith poured out everything he has into BB and he is best remembered as the man who spells Boy with a capital 'B'.

The original object of the Boys' Brigade is the advancement of Christ's Kingdom among Boys and the promotion of habits of obedience, reverence, discipline, self-respect and all that tend towards a true Christian manliness. Christian “manliness” was developed by the use of a semi-military discipline and order, gymnastics, summer camps and religious classes.

SURE & STEDFAST (taken from Hebrews 6:19). The original Old English (King James Version) spelling of "Stedfast" has been retained.

The emblem is original an anchor. Like the motto it stems from the verse "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure" (Hebrews 6:19)

The Advancement of Christ's Kingdom among members and the promotion of habits of Obedience, Reverence, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian Character.

Imagine a table. A table has four legs. Each of these legs needs to be of equal length or the table may not be stable. So it is like for a Christian character. It has four pillars: obedience, reverence, discipline and self-respect. The BB will teach you how to build these pillars.

Today we shall teach you about developing one good habits of the Boys’ Brigade- Obedience.

Text: Genesis 22
GE 22:1 Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, "Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

GE 22:2 Then God said, "Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about."

GE 22:3 Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 4 On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. 5 He said to his servants, "Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you."

GE 22:6 Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, 7 Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, "Father?"
"Yes, my son?" Abraham replied.
"The fire and wood are here," Isaac said, "but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?"

GE 22:8 Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

GE 22:9 When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, "Abraham! Abraham!"
"Here I am," he replied.

GE 22:12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son."

GE 22:13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided."

GE 22:15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

GE 22:19 Then Abraham returned to his servants, and they set off together for Beersheba. And Abraham stayed in Beersheba.

The story is given to us in the Old Testament of the Bible as a lesson in obedience.

Whom should we obey?

Example of Abraham (obey God)

What did God tell Abraham to do? (v.22:2)

God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Notice Abraham’s immediate respond to God’s call- “Here I am”. Abraham is always listening to God’s voice and when God speaks, he responded immediately. There were no arguments, no bargaining and no temper tantrums. Abraham just got everything ready and set out the next day to the mountains of Moriah.

Why? I believe that Abraham trust God. And with that trust came total obedience. Sometimes we have to obey God when we do not have all the facts. God knows. He is omniscience. He knows everything. And He is good. So why do we not trust Him and obey what He has directed us to do?

Do you think it is easy for Abraham?
I do not believe so. I am sure Abraham was not able to sleep that night. He must have been tossing and turning in his bed. Foremost in his thoughts must be a “why?” Why did God wanted him to sacrifice Isaac? Did God not promise him a son for his inheritance? Was Isaac not the promised son? Did God not said He abhor human sacrifice? What shall he tell Sarah? Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen 21: 5). What a struggle it must have been for Abraham the father that night. Yet, the next morning, Abraham proceeded to obey God

We should obey God
God knows everything. If God knows everything, then we should have not problem trusting in Him and obeying Him. God is invisible. We know God by reading the Bible, praying and knowing Jesus Christ. We learn to hear His voice.

A young man was walking along a mountain path on a dark, moonless night when he suddenly stepped off a cliff. On his way down, he encountered a tree which he managed to hold onto some branches. So there he was hanging in mid air. “Help!” he cried into the dark, “Help me. I cannot hold on much longer”. A voice came from above. “I am God, how may I help you?” “God, could you pull me up? I am hanging here and I cannot hold long much longer. I shall fall to my death.” “Don’t worry,” said God, “Trust me and let go.” “What!” exclaimed the young man, “I cannot let go. I shall fall to my death!” “Trust me and let go” repeated God. “No, I can’t” said the young man. So he hung from the tree until morning when the sun comes out. The young man looked down and saw he was only 2 feet from the ground. If he had listened to God and let go, he would not have to suffer the whole night through. The Christian life is like that. We have to learn to trust God and obey Him because He knows everything.

Example of Isaac (obey his father)

What did Abraham tell Isaac to do? (v.22:6-9)

Abraham told Isaac that they are going to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. Isaac is to come along. So Isaac came along carrying the wood to burn for the sacrifice. In the desert country, wood are hard to come by. Isaac must have suspected something is wrong when they did not bring along a lamb for the sacrifice. His suspicions were confirmed when Abraham bound him and laid him on the altar. Yet, he went along willingly. Why? Isaac trusted his father.

Do you think it is easy for Isaac?
No, I do not think it was easy for Isaac. Who wants to die? These thoughts must have gone though Isaac’s mind; “I want to live, I do not want to die”; “I am too young to die”; “I want to experience more of life”.

When I was young I think my parents are stupid. Now my children think that I am stupid. Now I have children of my own. I now understand how my parents must have felt. And they are not stupid. They worry about us, about our safety, our future and our well-being. Being kids, we do not see what they see. We only understand that we cannot do that or cannot do that.

We should obey our parents
Our parents love us. We are their children. Sometimes our parents quarrel or work too long hours and do not have time for us. Remember that they love us. And it is for our good that they give us rules.
i. No ‘pak tor’. Try group dating instead of one-to-one dating. There will be time for that when you have finished school.
ii. No smoking
iii. No drugs
iv. No premarital sex
v. No gambling
vi. Study and get a diploma or a degree. That is your primary job at this moment.

Example of the Servants (obey those in authorities over them) (v.22: 5)

What did Abraham tell the servants to do?

Abraham’s instruction was very clear. Stay here and wait for us. Stay with the donkey.

Do you think it is easy for the servants?
No, I do not think it will be easy in the desert. The sun is hot. The servants will also wonder. What if Abraham did not return? What if Abraham commits murder? It is their duty to obey.
We should obey those who have authority over us

Like the servants, all of us have people who have authority over us. It is our duty to obey them.
i. BB officers (role models)
The BB officers are to be obeyed. They have your best interest at heart. Go to them if you have any trouble and I am sure they will be glad to help you.
ii. Teachers in school
iii. Government

Jesus Christ also taught his disciples to obey the government. At that time, they have to pay taxes to the Roman government. So Jesus took out a coin. “Whose face do you see on this coin,” Jesus asked His disciples. “Caesar’s face” they answered. “Then give to Caesar what is Caesar and to God what is God’s” answered Jesus. We have to obey those who have authority over us.

Why Should We Obey?

God will Provide (v.22:13-14)

God will provide all that we needs. That’s why we obey. In the story God provide the ram for the sacrifice. That’s why Abraham called the place, Jehovah Jireh (God provides). As you learn to trust and obey God, you will discover that He will provide for you.

Blessings of God (v. 22:15)
In obeying God, Abraham received a blessing. The blessing is that his descendents will be so numerous that it cannot be counted and it will consists of all nations. That is because Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. The descendents of Abraham also includes us because we are the spiritual descendents of Abraham.

Pillars of Christian Character
Obedience is part of the building of Christian character. Remember the four pillars of Christian character.

Boys and girls of the 1st Johor Bahru Company. This year you celebrate the 50th anniversary of your company. Remember those who have played such an important role in this company. Remember your captains such as Paul Juby and Michael Moorthy. These people are obedient to God and to their calling. That’s how you are here now. Trust and obey.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Let's Talk about God-sized Projects

Text: Gen 6:11-14, 18-20; Exo 3:10-14; Matt 1:21-23; Luke 4:18-21

Throughout history, God has commissioned certain people with God-sized projects, projects that can only be accomplished with His help. Noah has been tasked to save all living creatures from the flood, Moses in emancipating God’s people from slavery in Egypt and Jesus from saving the spiritually and physically lost.

About 20 years ago, I was a member of the Rotary Club of Johor Bahru. Every year, the club will organise an Installation night dinner. That is to for the outgoing office bearers to step down and to install the incoming board. In Rotary, the term of office is one year. The Sultan of Johor is the patron so he was invited and he always came for all the Installation dinners. I remember one dinner in particular. The Club was reporting on what they have done that year which is in building a bus shelter for Fong You (Two) school. Suddenly during the report, Tuanku indicated he wanted to stay something. This was unprecedented because he usually attends but do not make a speech. Tuanku said, “You are a Rotary Club. Do not be so proud that you have built a bus stop shelter. That’s ‘chicken feed’. Do some bigger projects. Don’t do anymore ‘chicken feed projects’.” I remembered it created a commotion among the members. After that, our projects were bigger and more ambitious- a dialysis centre, a hospice and medical projects overseas. We did not do any ‘chicken feed’ projects anymore.

In 2001, our church has spent many months studying Experiencing God: Knowing and Doing the Will of God by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. It has been a powerful experience on our church. We learnt that there are 7 realities of experiencing God:

(1) God’s work
(2) Relationship
(3) Invitation
(4) God speaks
(5) Crisis of belief
(6) Adjust
(7) Obey and experience

Henry Blackaby wrote, “Some people say, “God will never ask me to do something I can’t do.” I have come to the place in my life that, if the assignment that I sense God is giving me is something I know I can handle, I know it is probably not from God. The kind of assignments God gives in the Bible is always God-sized. They are always beyond what people can do, because he wants to demonstrate His nature, His strength, His provision, and His kindness to His people and to a watching world. That is the only way the world will come to know Him.”(p.116)

Let we talk about three God-sized assignment or projects from the Bible and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1. Saving all living creatures (Noah)
Genesis 6:11-14, 18-20
GE 6:11 Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight and was full of violence. 12 God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. 13 So God said to Noah, "I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth. 14 So make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in it and coat it with pitch inside and out.
18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark--you and your sons and your wife and your sons' wives with you. 19 You are to bring into the ark two of all living creatures, male and female, to keep them alive with you. 20 Two of every kind of bird, of every kind of animal and of every kind of creature that moves along the ground will come to you to be kept alive.

The people and the land was so corrupted that God has decided to destroy it and start again with Noah. In fact, if Noah was not around, God would have destroyed everything and restart again. Noah was around and the Bible said he was a righteous man (Gen 6:9). So God gave Noah a God sized project. Noah’s project was to save all living creatures! That was a massive project. God will destroy the world and its people by a Great Flood. Noah was to build an ark, a floating rescue ship. He was to put into the ark, a pair of all living creatures and keep them alive so that they can repopulate the earth after flood water receded. He was also to bring his own extended family on board and they will repopulate the human race.

God’s purpose: God’s judgment was to destroy all living creatures (including man) by a great flood.
Noah’s God-sized project: Save all living creatures.
Method: build an ark.

From Experiencing God we learn that:
1. God speaks when He is about to accomplish His purposes.
2. What God initiates, He completes. Isa 46:11

I did not know how Noah built the ark on dry land. The ark is a massive ship with three decks. It must have taken a long time and much effort. The narrative in Genesis did not give much detail of Noah’s ship building activities. It did record that he finished in time before the great flood came.

Noah was six hundred years old when the flood came. It rained for forty days and forty nights. The flood water rose and covered the mountain tops by more than twenty feet (Gen 7:20). The earth was flooded for 150 days. It took another 150 days for the water to recede. Then 70 days for the drying out of the earth. Here are some interesting statistics

One month equals 30 days.
Time lapsed in the ark = 1 year, 17 days = 360 + 17 = 377 days
Time waiting to go on land= 7 (days waiting) +150 (days of flood) +150 (days of water receding) + 70 days (earth drying) = 377 days
(Walton, John. Chronological and Background Charts of the Old Testament)

2. Saving God’s chosen people (Moses)
Exodus 3:10-14
10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt."

EX 3:11 But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"

EX 3:12 And God said, "I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain."

EX 3:13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, `The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, `What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?"

EX 3:14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: `I AM has sent me to you.' "

The second God-sized project was Moses’. As you remember, Moses was a Hebrew child who was brought up and trained as a prince in Pharaoh’s court. The Hebrew people were enslaved by the Egyptian. One day, Moses tried to lead the Hebrew people in a rebellion by killing an Egyptian overseer/slave driver. The Hebrews refused to follow him so he was forced to flee into the Midian desert. There he became a shepherd for forty years. Read Exodus 2. After that you may want to watch the movie, The Ten Commandments starring Charlton Heston or you may read the comic.

God’s purpose: To save His chosen people from slavery in Egypt
Moses’ God-sized project: To get Pharaoh to free his people
Method: Power encounter

Moses was understandably reluctant to go against the world’s only superpower at that time. Not only the Pharaoh was a political ruler, he was also worshipped as a god! It is interesting to that God sent Moses to Pharaoh with only His name, “I AM WHO I AM”. Names are powerful in those days because names reveal who you are. That’s why powerful magicians and sorcerers do not reveal their names. In Chinese tradition, one will name their children after animals to avoid the attention of their gods. Notice the number of children named ‘Ah Kow’ (dog) or “Ah Ngaw” (cattle). When God said “I AM WHO I AM”, He is revealing his name. He is the almighty God.

Moses’ God-sized project was basically a power encounter between “I Am” and the gods of Egypt. The 10 plagues were spiritual warfare. Moses would never have been able to defeat them on his own. It was only with God’s help that he prevailed.

(1) Nile turned to blood (Exo 7:14-25) against Khnum (guardian of the Nile; Hapi (spirit of the Nile); Osiris (Nile was bloodstream)
(2) Plague of Frogs (Exo 8:1-15) against Heqt (god of restoration)
(3) Plague of Gnats (Exo 8:16-19)
(4) Plague of Flies (Exo 8:20-32)
(5) Plague on Cattle (Exo 9:1-7) against Hathor (mother-goddess); Apis (bull of god Ptah-symbol of fertility); Mnevis (sacred bull of Heliopolis)
(6) Plague of boils (Exo 9:8-12) against Imhotep (god of medicine)
(7) Hail (Exo 9:13-35) against Nut (sky goddess); Isis (goddess of life); Seth (protector of crops)
(8) Locusts (Exo 10:1-20) against Isis (goddess of life); Seth (protector of crops)
(9) Darkness (Exo 10:21-29) against Re, Aten, Atum, Horus (all sun gods)
(10) Death of Firstborn (Exo 11:1-12:36) against Pharaoh; Osiris (giver of life)

In each encounter, “I Am” won. That is why the Pharaoh let the Hebrew people leave. Moses has a God-sized project in saving God’s chosen people. However, he can only do it with God’s help.

3. Saving the lost (Jesus)
Matthews 1: 21-23; Luke 4:18-21
21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

MT 1:22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

Luke 4:18-21

LK 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,

LK 4:19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

LK 4:20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, 21 and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

Jesus came to earth with a God-sized project too. It is to save the lost, to bring salvation to all people, not only the Jews.

By quoting Isaiah, Jesus was very focused on what His God-sized project is:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me (empowerment)
because he has anointed me (action)
to preach good news to the poor.(poverty)
He has sent me to proclaim (action)
freedom for the prisoners (spiritual bondage)
and recovery of sight for the blind (spiritual blindness)
to release the oppressed, (political oppression)
to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (action)

Notice in these verses that Jesus’ project has a spiritual component and a physical component. Jesus is here to save the spiritual lost but also to help the poor and politically oppressed. In other words, spiritual ministry and community/compassion service.

God’s Purpose: To save those who are going to hell
Jesus’ God-sized project: To save the lost (spiritually and physically)
Method: Dying on the cross and obeying His Father.

Jesus has completed the first part of His project. He has died on the cross for our sins. Jesus is still continuing on the second part- freeing people from spiritual bondage and from poverty and oppression. You may argue that Jesus is not here, He is in heaven, beside God the Father. Jesus is still here. The Church is His body. The Church still carries on the work of freeing spiritual prisoners and community work. We are the church. That is also our project.

Lessons for us: our God-sized projects
God has been giving God-sized projects to His people- projects that are often so big that they can only do it with His help. Otherwise there is no way they can succeed. We have looked at the examples of Noah, Moses and Jesus. Now we shall look at some present day examples.

Rick Warren started Saddleback Valley Community Church also called Saddleback Church in Lake Forest in 1980. He has a God-sized project. He felt called to start a church for people who have never been to church and people who are not comfortable in traditional churches. He wanted to start a church for seekers- people who are searching for God. So without money, position or prospect but with faith in God, he drove with his wife to California in 1979. He settled in Lake Forest and started a seeker church.

In his first sermon on 30th March, 1980, Rick Warren shared his dreams for his church:
It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the depressed, the frustrated, and the confused can find love, acceptance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance, and encouragement.
It is the dream of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with the hundreds of thousands of residents in south Orange County.
It is the dream of welcoming 20,000 members into the fellowship of our church family --- loving, learning, laughing, and living in harmony together.
It is the dream of developing people to spiritual maturity through Bible studies, small groups, seminars, retreats, and a Bible school for our members.
It is the dream of equipping every believer for a significant ministry by helping them discover the gifts and talents God gave them.
It is the dream of sending out hundreds of career missionaries and church workers all around the world, and empowering every member for a personal life mission in the world. It is the dream of sending our members by the thousands on short-term mission projects to every continent. It is the dream of starting at least one new daughter church every year.
It is the dream of at least fifty acres of land, on which will be built a regional church for south Orange County --- with beautiful, yet simple, facilities including a worship center seating thousands, a counseling and prayer center, classrooms for Bible studies and training lay ministers, and a recreation area. All of this will be designed to minister to the total person --- spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially --- and set in a peaceful, inspiring garden landscape.
I stand before you today and state in confident assurance that these dreams will become reality. Why? Because they are inspired by God!

The church grew and grew and became a megachurch. It is a ‘purpose driven church’. They spent 15 years growing their church and another 10 years teaching other churches about being a ‘purpose driven church’. Thousands have come to know Jesus through their ministries. In their 25th anniversary Easter celebration, there were 45,000 people in attendance. Warren always felt that they were fulfilling only part of Jesus’ project, that of taking care of the breaking spiritual bondage of people. He felt they also need to meet their physical needs.

In 2004, Saddleback Church embark on a new phase of their ministry- to championing the eradication of AIDS, illiteracy and poverty with an ambitious project by defeating what Rick Warren calls the five “global giants”. These giants are spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease, and illiteracy.

The goal of his project is PEACE.
Plant (or partner with) churches
Equip leaders
Assist the poor
Care for the sick
Educate the next generation

Warren launched the project in Rwanda in 2004. The challenges are staggering. reported there are more than 40.3 million Africans suffering from AIDS. 4.9 million new HIV cases were reported in 2005. Since 2003, 13 million children had lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS.

Bill Hybels and his Willow Creek Community Church (20,000 members) and more than 100 Willow Creek Association churches has embarked on a racial reconciliation project. Willow Creek Community Church is in a mainly all white suburbs. It has reached across to the south side of Chicago to partner with James Meek and Salem Baptist Church. Salem Baptist is a mainly an African-American congregation. This first project was to co-organise a pilgrimage. A bus tour of key leaders were organised to revisit all the famous sites of the civil rights movement. They called it the Justice Journey.

Eric Reed and Tim Morgan, writing in Leadership Journal, Summer 2006 notes that, “Perhaps most important, these efforts are evidence that megachurches, the driving force in redefining worship and evangelism in the late 20th century, are reaching beyond unchurched Harry and Mary to redefine missions, urging churches of all sizes to get involved in causes larger than themselves.”

How about us here in Holy Light? Has God given us a God-sized project? I believe that He has. The project is not Hisland. The project is what you do with Hisland. That’s our God-sized project. Our God-sized project is to discern what God wants us to do with Hisland. Do we follow Jesus as His body to deliver people from spiritual bondage and bring them to know Jesus and also to help the poor and oppressed through community outreach?

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, August 14, 2006

Let's Talk about Commitment to God

Text: Numbers 13:26-32; 14:5-9; 14:20-24; Joshua 14:6-13; 15:13-19

Commitment to God is commitment to a Person. A person who is totally committed to God have a perspective of events from God’s viewpoint, is secure in his/her confidence in God’s promise, has a different spirit in following God and God alone, has a grounded faith in God’s providence and is very generous with God’s gifts given to them.

Dogs are known as man’s best friend. I assume they are also woman’s best friend too. I love dogs. My favourite breed is Alsatian or German Shepherd followed by Rottweiller. I had an Alsatian called Dickie. He was a big gentle dog. He used to look after my daughter’s smaller dogs. All my dogs have different personalities. My present Alsatian is named Schartzsky. He is intellectually challenged, that is, he is a stupid dog. One of the benefits of owning a dog is that they are totally devoted to you. To them, you are the centre of the universe. They love to be in your presence and are totally committed to you.

In Edinburgh, there is a famous story of Greyfriars Bobby. John Gray joined the Edinburgh Police Force. To keep him company John had a dog, a Skye Terrier, called Bobby. John died of tuberculosis in1858 and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. Bobby soon touched the hearts of the local residents when he refused to leave his master's grave, even in the worst weather conditions. For fourteen years the dead man's faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the grave until his own death in 1872. Bobby became Scotland's most famous and faithful dog. Bobby's headstone reads "Greyfriars Bobby - died 14th January 1872 - aged 16 years - Let his loyalty and devotion be a lesson to us all".

In the Old Testament, Caleb, son of Jephunneh was one of those whom Moses sent to search the land in the second year after the Exodus. He was one of the family chiefs of the tribe of Judah. He and Joshua the son of Nun were the only two of the whole number who encouraged the people to go up and possess the land, and they alone were spared when a plague broke out in which the other ten spies perished. All the people that had been numbered, from twenty years old and upward, perished in the wilderness except these two. Caleb means a dog.

Caleb is totally committed to God. We shall do a short character study of Caleb to discover what are some of the characteristics of a man who is totally committed to God. We shall see what lessons we can learn from him.

Characteristics #1: A Perspective from God’s viewpoint.

Numbers 13:26-33
NU 13:26 They came back to Moses and Aaron and the whole Israelite community at Kadesh in the Desert of Paran. There they reported to them and to the whole assembly and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 They gave Moses this account: "We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. 28 But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. 29 The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan."

NU 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

NU 13:31 But the men who had gone up with him said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are." 32 And they spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they had explored. They said, "The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. 33 We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

Where others see obstacles, Caleb sees fulfillment of God’s promises

What the other 10 spies saw:
1.People are powerful
2.Cities are large and fortified
4.Amalekites, Hittites, Jebusites, Amorites, Canaanites
5.The land devours people
v. 33b We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them."

This is the perspective of the other 10 spies, they saw the obstacles and they saw themselves as grasshoppers. What is more, they think the people living in the land saw them as grasshoppers. No only did they think themselves weak, they thought other people think them weak. They have already lost the war before it started. In their mind they have already lost. That is why they were so keen to convince their people that the land is not worth having. Losing a war in ancient times means being killed and their wives and children being sold into slavery.

What Caleb saw:
1.God’s promise of the land
2.Land flowing with milk and honey
3.Fruitful land

NU 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it."

Caleb must have been fully aware of the obstacles since he spent 40 days spying the land. He must have seen what the others seen. However he also saw how good a land it is and that it is possible to conquer the land. That is because he is not looking to themselves- a weak, untrained nation of former slaves. He is looking at someone else. Someone who is bigger that all these obstacles. Caleb’s perspective came from looking at God. God has promised them the land. So it is up to God to deliver the land. How he does it is none of Caleb’s concern. That’s a God given perspective on events.

Characteristics #2: Secure Confidence in God’s Promises

Numbers 14:5-9
NU 14:5 Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there. 6 Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes 7 and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. 8 If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. 9 Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."

What Caleb believes:
1.God promises to give them a land that is exceedingly good
2.God will lead them into land
3.God is with them, the enemy’s protection is gone
4.God is with them, do not be afraid

Caleb commitment to God means that he believed God’s promises. God had promised them the land. God does not break his promises. So the land was already theirs, even thought at that moment it was occupied by the Anakites, the Hittites, the Jebusites, the Canaanites, the Amalekites and the Amorites. God is stronger than their gods. They are no longer protected by their gods. So why should they be afraid to go in?

Characteristics #3: A Different Spirit in following God alone and God alone

Numbers 14:20-24

NU 14:20 The LORD replied, "I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, 22 not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it

Spirit in the Greek ruwach { roo’-akh} which means moral seat or seat of mental acts.
Basically it meant what Caleb has chosen for himself; which was to commit himself to God irrespective of what the other people were doing.

Caleb’s spirit:
1.Is committed to God and God alone
2.Not to the promised land
3.Not to the general consensus of the people

Caleb had chosen to commit to a person. Hence though he valued the Promised Land, he knew that it was not important. What was important is his relationship with his God. Have you even imagined how much courage it takes to stand against the general consensus of your community? Here you have three persons versus the rest of Israel. Everyone was saying, “It is too difficult”; “The land is not worth the sacrifice” and “I wish we never left Egypt”. Caleb must have his self doubts too. However, he was committed to God and he knew that what God have promised he will deliver. Nothing is impossible for God.

Characteristics #4: Grounded Faith in God’s Providence

Joshua 14:6-15

JOS 14:6 Now the men of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, "You know what the LORD said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, 8 but my brothers who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt with fear. I, however, followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly. 9 So on that day Moses swore to me, `The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God wholeheartedly.'

JOS 14:10 "Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! 11 I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. 12 Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said."

JOS 14:13 Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. 14 So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. 15 (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war.

Caleb’s faith:
1.Strengthened by his lived experience
2.At 85 years old, believes he will receive the land God has promised him
3.Wants to be tested further by choosing the most difficult territory to conquer

Caleb’s faith was not in his own strength but in God’s strength. He knew that there is no way an 85 years old man can fight to claim what God had given him. And what is more interesting is that he did not choose the fertile valley near the Jordon. He chose the hill country which it is difficult to fight. He also chose a territory where the warriors were fierce and big. Caleb was not getting senile in his old age. I believe that his faith has been strengthened by his 40 years of wandering in the desert with his people. He knew the limitation of his own strength but he also knew the strength of his God.

Characteristics #5: Very Generous with God’s gifts

Joshua 15:13-19

JOS 15:13 In accordance with the LORD's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah--Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) 14 From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites--Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai--descendants of Anak. 15 From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher). 16 And Caleb said, "I will give my daughter Acsah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher." 17 Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Acsah to him in marriage.

JOS 15:18 One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her, "What can I do for you?"

JOS 15:19 She replied, "Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water." So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.

Caleb’s response to God’s gift
1.Did not hang on to it as his own
2.Willing to share God’s gift
3.Generous to give away water rights

One of the tests we can use to see if we are committed to God or his gift is to see whether we are generous with God has given us. If it is easy to give away what he has given us, then we are committed to the giver and not the gift. If we find it difficult to give up what we have, then we are committed to the gift, not the giver.

In the desert, one of the most precious possessions is water rights. Whatever controls the water is right. Without water, no one can survive in the desert. Hence it was wonderful to note that Caleb gave his daughter, Acsah the upper and lower springs. It was a very generous gift.

Lessons for us

The characteristics of a person committed to God are:
1. A Perspective from God’s viewpoint
2. Secure Confidence in God’s promise
3. Different Spirit in following God and God alone
4. Grounded Faith in God’s providence
5. Very Generous with God’s gifts

It is important to emphasis that we are committed to a Person, not
· God’s promises
· Promised land
· God’s gifts
· Our mission
· Our community consensus

Our commitment to God comes before our commitment to the other items listed above. Otherwise we will fail and fail badly. The Israelite was focused and committed to God’s promise; the Promised Land, rather than to God. That’s why, when obstacles occurs, they crumbles. When you are committed to a Person, then things are different. This is especially if you know who that Person is.

Parker Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach and A Hidden Wholeness, spoke at the Michael Keenan Memorial Lecture in Berea College in Kentucky in 1993. His topic was “The Violence of Our Knowledge: Towards a Spirituality of Higher Education”. In his lecture, Palmer said there are 4 features of truth in learning:

1. Truth is personal
“In contrast to modern objectivism, the wisdom traditions say truth is personal, not propositional. The modem academy is very hung up on the notion that truth is to be found in our propositions about things. But the spiritual traditions drive our understanding of knowing to a deeper level where it is said, "Truth is personal and, yes, we need propositions to share our person hood with each other, but unless it is incarnate, unless it is embodied, unless we are attempting to 'walk the talk' or 'talk the walk', it cannot be truth."”

2. Truth is communal
“It means that our movement toward truth is a corporate movement in which we must wrestle with each other, we must have conflict with each other, we must reach consensus with each other - and then we must break that consensus because some new observation has been made or some more powerful interpretation has been offered. Truth emerges between us and among us and through us as we wrestle together with the great and small questions of life.”

3. Truth is reciprocal
“There is something powerful about the spiritual understanding that we are not only seeking truth, but truth is seeking us…At the heart of all great knowing is a sense that the "object" of knowledge isn't an object at all. It has some kind of personal quality to it that speaks to the knower, that reaches for the knower; great knowing is always involved in that mutuality, that reciprocal dance between the knower and the knowing.”

4. Truth is transformational

“I will be changed by truth, and there is no way to evade that. It will be a daily struggle with what I know, to live my life more fully and more deeply. Knowing, teaching and learning will transform me if my knowing, teaching and learning are guided by the images and norms that I have just been trying to articulate.”

Again our commitment is to a Person who is truth. It is not to an object or a program.

Another person, I would like to introduce is John Piper, author of Desiring God and preaching pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis. You can download his sermons or join his mailing list where the last Sunday’s sermon will be emailed to you on Wednesday. You can also download and listen to his sermon on mp3. His website is I have been learning from Piper for many years because his teaching is Biblical and insightful. I studied his sermons every week.

He has just returned to his church from an 8 months sabbatical in UK which he spent in Tyndale house studying the doctrine of the justification by faith. Last week, he preached on “This Man went down to His House Justified” Luke 18:9-14. Using the observation of the Pharisee and the sinner, he brought across an important point. We should focus on God as the sinner did rather than the Pharisee who focused on what God has given him: his righteousness which is moral, religious and a gift of God. The Pharisee knew that his righteousness is from God. We often think of the Pharisees as legalist. This Pharisee was not. He knew his righteousness was from God. Yet, he was not the one who went home justified. He failed because he focussed on God’s gift rather than God. The sinner focussed on God and went home justified. Similarly, we must commit ourselves to God and not to his gifts.

In summary, commitment to God is commitment to a Person. A person who is totally committed to God have a perspective of events from God’s viewpoint, is secure in his/her confidence in God’s promise, has a different spirit in following God and God alone, has a grounded faith in God’s providence and is very generous with God’s gifts given to them.

Soli Deo Gloria