Monday, April 30, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Conclusion


The Christian Life is a life that begins with Christ and His Gospel, and ends with Christ and His Gospel. We are saved from our sins by Christ, and saved from our sins to Christ. It is a life that is joyful, full of gratefulness and love for our Savior.

Nevertheless, Christians do get sidetracked. We lost sight of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. We get distracted by the glamorous things of Vanity Fair, the world. We tremble as we face trials. We are misled by false shepherds promoting another gospel. We turn to the glitter of carnal and false spirituality with gold dust and gold teeth and glory clouds. We grow sick of the foolishness of the Cross it seems.

There is only one way forward: Turn back to God and His Word. Find a true church that truly loves God and loves His Word, so that you can be fed by Christ's word (both through preaching and Sacrament). Do not compromise even when God seems far away. Read Psalms 88 when you feel down, for trials and tribulations are the norm for believers now.

The way of the Cross is foolishness not only to the world, but to large tracts of supposed evangelicalism. Do not think yourself wiser than God, as if your gimmicks are more likely to convert people rather than the Word of God preached. You, and every other person, are not the Holy Spirit! Whoever thinks he is wise, let him become a fool for Christ.

Turn back to Christ and the simplicity of the Cross. Turn back to the simple means of grace which God has called us to. Do not add to His Word, as if the multiplication of spiritual disciplines will make you more spiritual. Such are a stench to God, and those engage in them will face the judgment of God just like Nadab and Abihu had (Lev. 10:1-2).

Let us recover the simplicity of Christian living, according to His Word. And may the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be us all. Amen.

Living the Christian Life: Hope for the future

Hope for the Future

Having gone through the manner of the Christian life, we would now look into its goal. What is the hope of believers?

Many believers will mention that our hope is eternal life, to be with God forever. This is most certainly true (Jn. 3: 16; 1 Jn. 5:12). But what exactly does this mean?

First of all, the Gospel is not hell insurance. Professing faith in Christ is not a "Get out of hell free" card. Rather, the Gospel brings Christ to us in the here and now. We are united with Christ through true faith now.

All of the Christian life is therefore with an eye to the end times, which in theological terms is called eschatological. In Christ, we are no more to see things as we used to do so. Rather, everything has to be colored by the hope of Christ's second coming.

We believers are now pilgrims on this earth just like Abraham (Heb. 11: 8-10). This world is not our home. We are not to lose sight of this truth. Yes, as those who are younger grow up, find a career, get married and so on, it is easy to be distracted. It is easy to focus on the things of this world. That is another reason why of course you should be attending a true church of Christ.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and he who has no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. (Is. 55:1)

Come to the weekly gathering of God's people to be fed. Come to hear God speak through the preaching of His Word. Come to be fed through the Supper of our Lord, for it is the table of feasting and partaking of the body and blood of our Lord through faith.

Just like Abraham, we travel in this world. We have careers, spouses and so on. Yet we must always keep in mind that this world is not our home. Like Abraham, we look forward to the city whose designer and builder is God. Here we can have no lasting city, but our bodies age and even our names and reputations and legacies disappear in the sands of time.

The issue is one of faith. It is not about idealism or supposed maturity in realism. The key question is this: Where is your faith? It is not idealist to hold to our blessed hope and order our lives accordingly. To think of this view as being naive and out of touch with basic living in this world is a mark of unbelief. Jaded cynicism is a spiritual disease. Is God a god of your inner emotions only? Your "god" is too small. Is he only an old grandfather who has warm affections of love towards you? Your "god" is also too small. Is he a god who dies only to make sure you wouldn't face God's wrath and therefore go to heaven? Your "god" is too small.

The Christian God is the God of this whole universe. The nations are as nothing to him. He mocks at the bravado of those who deny Him ad ridicule His Name. He sees the scheming of the wicked and notes them in His record book, to pour out on them His wrath and judgment at the appointed time.

He who delivers the Jews from their oppressors is the same God who rules even now. O you of little faith, why do you doubt God? Why are you cynical? Trials and tribulations you may face now, and probably are facing now (Jas 1: 2). But why compromise instead of accepting hardship? Where is your light in this world?

Behold, these are the wicked;
always at ease, they increase in riches.
All in vain have I kept my heart clean
and washed my hands in innocence.
For all the day long I have been stricken
and rebuked every morning.
If I had said, “I will speak thus,”
I would have betrayed the generation of your children.

But when I thought how to understand this,
it seemed to me a wearisome task,
until I went into the sanctuary of God;
then I discerned their end.

Truly you set them in slippery places;
you make them fall to ruin.
How they are destroyed in a moment,
swept away utterly by terrors!
Like a dream when one awakes,
O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
When my soul was embittered,
when I was pricked in heart,
I was brutish and ignorant;
I was like a beast toward you.

Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Ps. 73:12-26)

Let us stand firm in our faith, seeing ourselves as pilgrims in this land, and put our hope and trust in Christ our savior.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Living the Christian Life: The Church

The Church

As we have mentioned earlier, we are saved into the community of believers, the Church, through baptism. Once foreigners to God and to God's people, we are now brought into communion with God and with the people of God.

This community of believers, the Church, certainly consists of all believers everywhere. It is therefore true that whoever believes the Gospel is already part of the church. However, this universal Church is expressed in physical assemblies of believers for the purpose of worshiping God and hearing the proclamation of God's Word.

Faith in Christ is expressed in joy, gratitude and desire to please God. Likewise, being now in communion with God and with God's people will be expressed in the desire to physically be a member in a local Church. Therefore, anyone who believes in God will naturally desire to join his new brothers and sisters to worship God, to hear His Word, and to support each other in their journey of faith.

Just as faith without works is shown to be dead or not a true faith (Jas. 2: 18-20), therefore anyone who has no desire to join a local Church is not part of the universal Church. The evidence of being part of the universal Church is shown in the desire and the act of joining a local Church and being a member in it. This is what we have interpreted the Church Father Cyprian to mean when he says, "Outside the Church there is no salvation." (Extra Ecclesium Nula Salus Est).

Since joining a church is necessary, we must find out which church to join. There are countless buildings and assemblies of people calling themselves churches, but does having the name "church" necessarily mean that these are true churches believers should join? Most certainly not!

Joining a church is supposed to be the expression of our membership in the universal Church. Therefore, all assemblies of people if they are to be true churches must be an expression of the universal Church. If any assembly of people do not exhibit the signs of a true church, they are not an expression of the universal Church and we should not join them.

The marks of a true church are: the proper proclamation of God's Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the right exercise of church discipline. By the proper proclamation of God's Word, we mean that the preacher preaches God's Word and explain the text of Scripture to us. If the preacher goes up and uses the Word of God as a launchpad to lecture on something that interests him but is not taught in the text of Scripture, that is not a proper proclamation of God's Word.

The sacraments are Baptism and the Lord's Supper. If any assembly that calls itself a church does not do these sacraments and them only, they are not properly administering the sacraments. Therefore, both the Roman Catholic church (with its 7 sacraments) and the Salvation Army (which do not administer any sacrament) are not true churches.

The third sign is the right exercise of church discipline. Positively, church discipline is exercised in discipleship of believers in the faith. Negatively, church discipline is exercised in rebuke, censor and as a last resort, excommunication of any unrepentant member who commits grievous sin. Many churches are liable to be disqualified on the basis of this third sign as they do not discipline members who commit grievous sin.

God calls us into the Church, and therefore we should seek out a true church and join it. In the church, we are in a place to be cared for and nourished by the Word of God, for the glory of God.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Love for the brethren

Love for the Brethren

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 Jn. 4:20-21)

The Scriptures are clear that we are to love our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith. The problem comes however as to what this love means.

In most of popular Christianity, love is defined by being warm and affirmative of the other. Over potlucks and celebrations, being open in sharing one's personal struggles, praying and offering support both material and/or emotional is seen as vital to loving others. However, is that what the Scriptures call us to?

Love is defined by God who is love (1 Jn. 4:16). Love therefore is whatever that is done for the good of the other as defined by what the Scriptures call good, not what we think is good.

It is certainly nice, warm and fuzzy to have "fellowship" with one another. But this by itself is mere socializing. Even prayer support does not necessarily mean anything truly spiritual.

Love desires that we want the growth of the other in Christ. Therefore, it is intricately tied up with the issue of growth in knowledge, affection and being/doing. In the area of knowledge, love means that one should seek for the other to grow towards greater knowledge of God and an embrace of the doctrines taught by Scripture. In the area of affection, love means that one should seek for the other to grow to love and honor the God of the Scriptures, and not the "god" created by one's own mind. In the area of being/ doing, it means that one should seek for the other to know and trust in Christ, in their identity in union with Him. From there, love seeks for the other to produce good works issuing from the gratitude that one is already saved by faith in Christ.

Love does not rejoice in what is wrong. It is not loving to tolerate serious errors of doctrine and life in another. It is not loving to celebrate their errors. It desires the godliness of our fellow saints, and as Christians, we should be thus loving to them.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Orthodoxy and Heresy

Orthodoxy and Heresy

If indeed growing in knowing doctrine is important, if indeed growing in the knowledge of God is growing in knowing doctrine, then wrong doctrine is very serious. Heresy and wrong doctrine basically is a distortion of the true knowledge of God. Instead of having our minds transformed by the renewing of our minds (c.f. Rom. 12:2), heresy and wrong doctrine distorts our perception of God and of the faith.

Now, the first thing we note is that in the Scriptures, there is present one deposit of truths about God. The most common objection normally to sound doctrine is the relativization of all interpretations of all Scripture, and thus making Scripture wholly subjective. In the minds of such people, you have "your interpretation" and I have "my interpretation" and who are you or anyone else to say who's right and who's wrong?

The problem with this objection is that it denies what Scripture teaches. Scripture is not clay to be molded into anything anyone wants. For example, does anyone want to claim that "Jesus did not die on the cross" is a valid interpretation of Scripture at all? I certainly hope not.

The Scriptures speak of "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3). It speaks of the pattern of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13). It speaks of the tradition handed down by the apostles (2 Thess. 3:6). There is therefore such a thing as a body of fixed truths handed down to us, and these objective truths are for us to discover and understand and mine for. We are not to ignore them or relativize them.

Since there is such a thing as a fixed pattern of sound words, therefore, there is such a thing as orthodoxy (right teaching). Anything that contradicts this orthodoxy is either heresy or wrong teaching, depending on the nature of the truth that it contradicts.

What does all this have to do with us? If we call ourselves Christians therefore, we are to love God and His Word and the doctrines of Scripture. Therefore, we are to hate heresy and false teaching because they contradict God's truth. We are to hate it because heresy and false teaching destroys souls. It causes professing believers to fall away, and ruins their spiritual lives and witness for Christ.

If we detest rapists and murderers because they hurt or ruin others, why then do we not detest the spiritual rapists and murderers? Our priorities seemed to be way off when we regard the former as worse than the latter. The first can only destroy the body; the second destroy both the body and the soul. As Jesus said,

And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Mt. 10:28)

Let us therefore learn to hate heresy and wrong teaching at least just as much if not more than physical rapists and murderers. Let us treasure sound doctrine and hate false ones.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Doctrine and the Word of God

Doctrine and the Word of God

The next application for us has to do with how we read the Word of God.

The Scriptures is revelation from God, of God, for us. The Scriptures is God's story of the world and of the Gospel to the world. It is not a story primarily about Man although Man is in the story. It begins with God in Gen. 1:1 when Man is not present. It is a story of God creating Man, Man's fell into sin (Gen. 3), God's providence and kindness in preserving Man on the earth despite the multiplication of sin (e.g. Gen. 6-9), and of God working out salvation for His people culminating in the sending of God's Son into the world to die for our sins (the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), and then the proclamation of that Gospel to the rest of mankind (Acts).

Since that is what Scripture is about, Scripture is not about us. It is not about our personal wants and desires, although it does answer our deepest needs. It is not an encyclopedia or dictionary for us to look up for answers to every question we might have including what to eat for breakfast. It is not a book of motivational quotes to cheer up our day, not a book of incantations to be said so as to change reality, and not a book of mantras to be said to make us more spiritual (i.e. lectio divina). The Scriptures is all about God and His Gospel message, not about our perceived needs on this earth.

To read and understand Scripture therefore is to know more about God and His Gospel. That is the center of God's revelation, and therefore is the center of our understanding of Scripture. To treat Scripture in any other way is to distort God and His Word. If one reads Scripture for inspirational quotes, for practical wisdom or any other side issue even for "Christian philosophy" apart from the center of who God is and what He has done through the Gospel, one has distorted the actual teachings of Scripture. It matters little how much you were motivated or inspired; what matters is whether whatever understanding you have gained is grounded on and gives you a deeper knowledge and love for Christ and His Gospel.

Doctrine properly defined is the teaching of Scripture in what it says. Therefore, understanding more of who God is and His Gospel is to grow in the knowledge of Christian biblical doctrine. True growth in the knowledge of God's Word therefore is growth in knowing doctrine. From this doctrine grows deeper love for God and a deeper understanding of who He is and what He has done for us. All of these helps us to love, honor and glorify God more and more in our lives (growth in affection), and helps us to obey the commands of God for us (doing) because of what He has already done for us (being).

Since this is what the Word of God is, therefore anyone who approaches the Word of God differently is in error. Those who denigrate doctrine have attacked the Word of God. Those who denigrate those who desire more doctrine likewise. Those who do not approach the Word of God to know more about God and His Gospel are in error. Those who approach the Scriptures apart from Christ are not living the Christian life. Those who treats the Scriptures as merely a simple devotional guide have missed the forest for the trees. Those who treat the Scriptures as a witness of God's working have denied the forest and the trees for the ideal of Nature.

Reading God's Word is to read with a view to understand and embrace what the Scripture teaches pertaining to God and His Gospel, i.e. doctrine. To do otherwise is sin and contrary to the authorial intent of the Holy Spirit in giving us the Scriptures.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Implications - Life goals and purposes

Part 2: Implications

The basics of the Christian Life having been described, let us proceed onto various implications it has on specific topics of Christian living.

Life goals and purposes

If living the Christian Life is to submit to Christ as our Lord who has saved us, then it implies that everything in our life should be lived under Christ's lordship. This does not just translate into vague principles of professing that Jesus is Lord, but to practical realities of life.

A major implication this has is our life goals and purposes. A Christian is to order their lives according to the reality of their status as children of God. As Paul famously remarked in Gal. 2: 20, "I have been co-crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me" (own translation). Our lives are not our own, but are to be lived for Christ.

Does this mean that every Christian should be a missionary or serve full-time in church or a Christian organization? No. There is in fact no superiority of full-time service over so-called "secular" work. God is God of the world, and He does not need our service, so why do we think that one job is more spiritual than another?

The issue therefore is not about the type of things we do (assuming that it's not sinful), but the principles with which we approach it. Our life goals and purposes should reflect the change. Perhaps formerly we were only interested in being rich and enjoying life. But Christ came, and we see that our lives are not to be lived for ourselves but for Him. Therefore, we might now see that we should now earn money [fairly of course] so as to be able to give generously to the Lord's works. Perhaps previously we desire to climb up the social ladder and make a name for ourselves. Now however, we see that we should be making Christ's name and honor known, not ours. Therefore, we may still climb up the social ladder, but the goal is not to make a name for ourselves but to reach those in high society with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. [And contrary to some popular conceptions of the Gospel, the rich and famous NEED the Gospel too].

Our life goals and purposes must be shaped by the truths of Scripture. There is nothing wrong with earning money or achieving high social or political status, but all things must be done for the main purpose of witnessing for Christ. In this light, knowing the Scripture is vital so that we may shape our life goals and purposes according to what Scripture actually says, not what we think Scripture say.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Being/ Doing

Being/ Doing

The last aspect that most people focus on is the aspect of being and doing. In fact, the idea of doing or good works is so prominent among many believers that it is deliberately discussed last of all.

The Scriptures when it exhorts us to do certain things always based the imperatives upon the indicatives. In other words, what we are commanded to do (imperatives) is based upon who we are (indicative). Put it in another way, we do (doing) because we are (being).

A look at all the New Testament epistles will show us that the beginning part is always about doctrine. Many people who want to be practical prefer to skip straight to the "applicational section" in the second half of the epistles, sometimes even citing verses out of context. Yet, have they thought why God would give the first half of the epistles to us? Why does God not begin Roman for example with Romans chapter 12 instead of Romans chapter 1?

We see in Romans 12:1 the word "therefore," which links the beginning of this practical half with what is said in the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans. This pattern can be seen throughout the epistles, with another example being the "therefore" of Eph. 4:1. This shows us that it is who we are and who God is and has revealed for us that is to form the basis of what we do.

Living the Christ life no doubt requires us to obey God's commands. But to go straight to obeying commands as a duty is to miss the whole point of Christianity at all, which is about grace. Rather, what we do must be grounded on who we are in Christ (being) and all the truths that God has revealed to us. In other words, to grow in the area of doing requires growth in the area of knowing and in the area of affection. To truly obey God's commands correctly, not out of moralism (sense of duty or desire to be good), requires a progressive growth in knowing and affection. Since such is the case, one cannot truly obey God's commands if one is not growing in the aspects of knowing and affection.

We obey, because we are already righteous. We love, because we are already loved. We are graceful, because we are given much grace. To reverse the order is to destroy the Christian life, something which many people sadly are doing. Those who continue this deviant path will face the judgment of Christ himself when he said,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ (Mt. 7:21-23)

Note that these people did many works for God, and even called him "Lord" two times, but this is not enough, because they are not of God. Whatever is not done of faith is sin (Rom. 14: 23b), so regardless of how much external righteousness one has, it is still considered "lawlessness" apart from Christ who calls his people righteous.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Affection


God commands us to love Him (Deut. 6:5; Mt. 22:37; Mk. 12:30; Lk. 10:27). Such is part of our spiritual act of worship. How does this love express itself in our affection? What are we to feel for?

If we are to love God, it means that we love God as He is. Having known from Scripture who God is, we are to treasure all of God's attributes. What God loves, we love. What God hates, we hate.

For my name's sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. (Is. 48:9-11)

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”(Rev. 4:11)

There are many things which God loves and many things which God hates. Injustice is one such thing which God hates (e.g. Deut. 16:19-20). We are thus to similarly hate injustice and love justice. But here we will focus on a more fundamental issue with regards to God Himself.

What is the fundamental affections of God? It is for the glory and honor of His Name. God hates injustice, but yet He uses them for His own purposes (e.g. Gen. 50:20). When it comes to God's glory and honor however, that IS the goal to which God works towards.

As we see in Is. 48: 9-11, God's glory and His Name is what God treasures. God's glory is identified with His Name. God's name cannot be profaned, and God's glory will not be given to another. In the context of this passage, it is speaking of God's dealing with Israel. God does whatever He does because to not do so would lead to a profanation of His Name and the lessening of His glory.

God therefore treasures His glory/Name greatly. Closely related to this is the idea of honor, as we see in Rev. 4:11. God is to receive "glory, honor and power," not that He does not have those already, but to be acknowledged as such. God is infinitely glorious, but out of Himself, He does receive the praise of His glory from creatures. The expansion of the list in Rev. 5: 12-13 to include power, wealth, wisdom and might similarly rebounds to the praise of God who owns them. Loving His own glory and honor therefore is the primary affection which God has.

Glory has to do with worth, while honor deals with esteem. To love God with our hearts therefore includes treasuring His glory and His honor above all, as that is what God Himself treasures. It means to consider Christ as infinitely worthy, to magnify His worth in every aspect, and to esteem and elevate God as being supreme.

The Scriptures do say that God is love (1 Jn. 4:8), and the revelation of His back to Moses results in the revelation of God's graciousness and mercy (Ex. 33:17-23). How does this relate to what we have said? God's love, grace and mercy is the primary way God's glory is expressed. God shows us the main way His glory and honor will be served, which is the showing of love, grace and mercy to all who believe. This is seen especially in the practical manifestation of God's glory, in the person of Jesus Christ (Jn. 1:14).

Practically, what all this means is that we must change our affections to reflect God's priority in loving what He loves and hating what He hates. God's glory and honor must be first and foremost in our mind and should be something we feel for. From there, we are to grow in loving God in His love, grace and mercy towards us, and not only for us, but all who will believe.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Knowing


We are to grow in knowledge of God through His Word. With Scripture as our ultimate authority, this means that we are to transform our thinking according to Scripture. Whatever Scripture says is true, whatever that Scripture refutes is false even if we in our human thinking think it is reasonable. This transformation of our mind is the submission of our mind to the lordship of Christ. We are after all to love God with our mind (Mt. 22:37).

How does this look like in practice? Scripture for example teaches creation. Man was created not from animals but from the personal shaping from dust followed by God breathing life into Man (Gen. 2: 7). Since Scripture teaches this truth, it means that evolution and descent from animal ancestry must be rejected as false. It matters little that the scientific community believes in evolution and animal ancestry. A mind submitted to Christ's lordship must obey God rather than Man.

Such submission holds true for every area of thought. Where Scripture speaks, all contrary "facts" are to be rejected. It matters little that the "fact" opposing Scripture has the backing of scientists, PhDs, teachers, even theologians, or any other authority.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Cor. 1:20)

In its context, 1 Cor. 1:20 is speaking of salvation. Yet the broader principle seen here is that God only is wise. True knowledge resides with God, not the fallible opinions of men who do change their theories.

In submitting to God and Scripture therefore, we are not saying that we do that in spite of the real world truths. Rather, God is the only wise One and the only perfect interpreter of all facts. As postmodernism has alerted us, there are no such things as brute facts. All facts are interpreted.

The issue therefore is not some kind of blind faith which disregards real world facts altogether. Rather, the issue is who do we trust as the perfect interpreter of facts. Do we trust God, or do we trust scientists and other human authorities? If we believe in God who created this world, then all real world facts will when rightly interpreted match with what the Scriptures teach. If they do not seem to at the moment, can we admit our finitude and ignorance and continue to trust God, knowing that in the end every real world fact will match the Scriptures?

On things Scripture does not speak about, one is free to hold any position (that does not contradict Scripture) as long as one attempts to think it through using principles taught in Scripture.

Growth in knowing God and His Word therefore implies that we should transform our minds to embrace all that Scripture teaches, and rejecting all that contradicts Scripture. This is the manner in which we are to grow in the area of knowing.

To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Is. 8: 20)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Knowing, Affection and Being- Introduction

Knowing, Affection and Being - Introduction

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12: 1-2)

Christians submit to Christ as He is revealed in the Holy Scriptures. What does the Bible say about the areas where we are to submit to Christ and grow in our faith?

In Romans 12:1-2, we can see the various areas highlighted that Christians are to grow, in gratitude to God's grace. They are the area of knowing, the area of affection (or emotions), and the area of being, in no particular order of importance.

We are asked to grow in the area of knowing. In the words of our passage, we are commanded, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind." We are therefore to renew our minds by accepting what Scripture says as true. We are not to conform to the world, which is to say that we are to reject anything and everything that the world says that contradicts what is written in Scripture. In rejecting what the world says, we accept what Scriptures says.

We are to grow in the area of our affections. We are to do what we are commanded to do as our "spiritual worship." Worship has reference to many things, but one thing that Christian worship has in mind is our affections. We are called to love God (Deut. 6:5, Mt. 22:37) with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength. Worship is to be done "in spirit and truth" (Jn. 4 :24). Our affections or emotions are to be oriented towards God. In this sense, we are to learn to love what God loves, and to hate what God hates.

Lastly, we are to grow in the area of being, and consequently doing. We are called here to be a "living sacrifice." A sacrifice is something placed on the alter devoted for the worship of God. From our affections we are to desire to be what God wants us to be, and devote ourselves fully to God.

[to be continued]

Monday, January 2, 2012

Living the Christian Life: Our Submission to God's Authority

Our Submission to God's Authority

Having shown that we are to submit to the lordship of Christ, how can we do so in practice? After all, Christ is not present on this earth, and the next time He will come again is in the Second Judgment (Mt. 26:29, Mk. 14:25, Acts 1:11, Rev. 19:11). Whoever claims direct visitation by Jesus Christ today is a liar. The Apostle John was the last to have something like a visitation (Rev. 1:12-17), but this was for the purpose of New Testament revelation which is now complete.

How then can we submit to the lordship of Christ, since Christ is not here? God in his grace has given us a way to do so, through the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle John in his inspired writing tells us that the Word of revelation is shown in the person of Jesus Christ, who came down and was born into the world for us (Jn. 1:1-14). The Word of God's revelation therefore lies in Jesus Christ, and to know Jesus Christ is to know God's Word (Heb. 1:1-2).

Jesus Christ ↔ Word of God = Scripture

Conversely, to truly know God's Word is to know Jesus Christ. Therefore, to submit to Christ means to submit to what is taught in the Scriptures.

In order to further prove the point, 2 Tim. 3:16 shows us that all of the Scriptures are indeed meant to help us to live the Christian life. The Scriptures are said to be breathed out by God, which means that the Holy Spirit is the one who inspires them. The eternal truths of God shown in the person of Jesus Christ are now taken by the Holy Spirit, who uses human language to express these truths.

Therefore for us today, to submit to the lordship of Christ is to submit to all the truths taught in Holy Scripture.

But what about the Holy Spirit, it is asked? Well, 2 Peter 1:19-21 answers the question by telling us that the Scriptures are not of anyone's interpretation, but of the Holy Spirit who supervises its writing. As we have seen in 2 Tim. 3:16, the Scriptures are the breathed out product of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is the person who authors the Scripture and interprets it to us.

The Holy Spirit being the author of all of Scripture means that we have an objective revelation of Jesus Christ. By following it, we come to know God and are then able to submit to Christ's lordship. Submission to all of Scripture therefore is what Christians should do.

The Holy Spirit as the interpreter of Scripture means that our subjective understanding of the meaning of Scripture is given by the Holy Spirit. It is not that the Scriptures cannot be understood by itself, but that we as sinful human beings are unable to accept what they teach. Thus, we naturally distort the meaning of Scripture, even without realizing we have done so (1 Cor. 1:18-25, 2:14) The Holy Spirit comes to us and gives us light to understand the true meaning of Scripture.

The Holy Spirit does not speak apart from the Scriptures which He breathes out. Our submission to God's authority therefore is indeed a submission to all of Scripture in all that it teaches, and this is what all Christians are called to do.