Saturday, December 29, 2007

Are Babies and Children Saved?

Are Babies and Children Saved?
Spiritual Formation of Children
Text: Mk.10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17; Matt. 19:13-15

Children are born into the kingdom of God but as they grow into the age of accountability, they will be required to choose to follow Jesus or not. It is the responsibility of parents, other caretakers and the Church to nurture their spiritual formation to make the right decision.

Ron Buckland, former National Director of Scripture Union in Australia wrote in his book, Children and Gospel, that he once conducted a survey, approaching a variety if Christian men and women from different denominations, both clergy and layman. He outlined the following scenario:
“Imagine there are two families, living on either side of you. Each has a two-year-old child. One set of parents are atheists; the other set are committed Christians. Now imagine that in tragic circumstances both children were killed on the same day and you are to visit each home. What would you say to their child’s destiny and on what grounds would you say it?”
All but one person he interviewed said they would want to say to both sets of parents that their children are with God. One person wants to tell the atheist parents that their child is in hell and it was their fault!

Are babies and children saved? If they die now, are they going to hell or to heaven? What we believe influence the way we do children ministry. It will also affect the way we bring up our children.

Let us consider the various possible scenarios:
1.All children start life outside the kingdom of God.
2.The presence of a Christian parent establishes right standing before God.
3.The experience of baptism establishes right standing before God.
4.All children belong to God.
5.All children start life in the kingdom of God until they reach the age of accountability.

1. All children start life outside the kingdom of God.
This assumes that babies and children are in the same category as adults, even though they are too young to be able to exercise repentance and faith. To ‘make a decision for Christ’ means repentance and faith. What does a baby know of repentance? What does a baby have to repent for? Roman 3:23 states ‘that all have sin and fall short of the glory of God.’ Does this means babies and children too?

This comes back to this discussion of the original sin. Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden, sin has entered the world. And with sin comes death. Now there are two theological way of looking at this original sin:

(i) It is inherent in our nature. It is inherited. This is like a genetic disease where it passes from one generation. In this thinking, we have no choice at all. We are condemned to hell at the moment of conception or whenever the time human life begins.
(ii) It is a change in the makeup of our nature that makes us want to sin, to turn away from God. Until we make a choice, we have not sinned. For this way, there is a choice on whether one want to sin or not.

In this first option, babies have already sinned at birth. Hence there is an urgency to ‘convert’ children as soon as possible. Our entire parenting efforts and children ministry has an urgency to help children make a decision for Christ. Unfortunately, we manipulate children to ‘make decisions for Christ’. Many children do things to please the adults. So many children have made ‘decisions’ for Christ repeatedly until they became confused.

2. The presence of a Christian parent establishes right standing before God.
The basis for this thinking is based on biblical teaching about covenant. The presence of at least one Christian parent covers the child from the consequences of the original sin until he or she comes of age. Covenants like God with Moses (Ge.17), with the people of Israel (Deu.29) and the Christian church (1 Peter 2:9-10) makes participants people of God. Children born into this covenant automatically enjoys the benefits of it. Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:14
14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

3. The experience of baptism establishes right standing before God.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches believe that the sacrament of baptism has the ability to wash away all sins and to claim the forgiveness of the Cross. Hence there is an emphasis on infant baptism. There is also an interesting tradition. During infant baptism, aside from parents, certain older members of the congregation are appointed as sponsors or god parents to help the parents in the spiritual growth of the baby. In the reformed tradition, infant baptism is done more on a basis of the covenant as stated above.

4. All children belong to God.
This is a nice option. Jesus taught about this when he spoke about children and the kingdom of God. Let us look at what the synoptic gospels teach. (The synoptic gospels are Mark, Matthew and Luke).

What Jesus said about children (synoptic gospels)

MK 10:13 People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.

Lk. 18:15-17. Gk. Babies instead of child.
LK 18:15 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 17 I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Matt. 19:13-15 cf 18:1-5
MT 19:13 Then little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked those who brought them. MT 19:14 Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." 15 When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there.

MT 18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" MT 18:2 He called a little child and had him stand among them. 3 And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. MT 18:5 "And whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me.

Jesus said the kingdom of God belongs to the children. Children are already there where adults may end up if they become like children or by an act of ill become childlike. All three follow Jesus meeting with the children with their version of the rich, young man (Mk.10:17-27; Lk.18:18-27; Matt. 19:16-26). He cannot give up all and be helpless. Utter helplessness is the basis of Jesus speaking about the kingdom of God belonging to children.

This is nice and good. All children are already in the kingdom of God. But what happens when they grew up and did not become Christians? Did they drop out of the kingdom of God? This is the problem with this option that all children are already in the kingdom of God.

5. All children start life in the kingdom of God until they reach the age of accountability.
In this option, children start off in the kingdom but as they grow, their sinful nature (original sin) began to manifest itself. They began to realise that they can choose. There are two biblical texts that mention a period before and a period after which a child can choose.

Deu. 1:39
39 And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad--they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.

Isaiah 7:13-16
ISA 7:13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. 16 But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

We call this age the age of accountability. Is this a sudden moment or a slow gradual wakening? It may be both or either. Some children sudden come to a point when they realise their sinfulness and their need for forgiveness. Such children have reached a conversion experience. Others, especially those who grew up in Christian families may gradually grow into this age of accountability and became Christians without them knowing it. Hence some period has a specific time for their ‘conversion’ while others do not.

It is my personal conviction that ‘All children start life in the kingdom of God until they reach the age of accountability’. It makes senses to me in view of what Jesus teaches about children and the kingdom of God and other verses about the ability to make decisions.
W.H.Griffith Thomas, an Anglican theologian argued, ‘all children are included in the great atoning sacrifice, and belong to Jesus Christ until they deliberately refuse him’.
This also means that it is our responsibilities: father, mother, brothers, sisters, grandparents, uncles and aunties that we help in the spiritual formation of the child so that he or she grows into the age of accountability with the ability to make the right choice for Christ. This is where parenting plays a large role. The church complement parenting with the community, mentoring and teachings as these children matures.

The Spiritual Formation of Children
(1) GENIUS parenting.
GENIUS parenting is based on Luke 2:52 in which 14 words covers the whole concept of parenting. GENIUS is an acronym for
Emotional Quotient (EQ)
Intelligence Quotient (IQ)
Utmost to Potential (Potential Quotient)
Spiritual Quotient.
It is the duty of all parents to ensure our children grows in all these 6 areas.

(2) Basis of GENIUS parenting.
The basis of GENIUS parenting is a balance between behavior and being. Generally, there are two approaches to parenting which starts from the 18th century. One approach is ‘to break the will of the child’. The child is to be forced, seduced into conformation to acceptable social practices. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism is an advocate for this. This approach emphasis the child’s capacity for evil. The emphasis is on behavior. For most of the late 19th century and all of the 20th century, our parenting has been greatly influenced by the behavioural sciences. Techniques of behavioural modification were introduced into parenting.
The other approach is to emphasis the child’s capacity for good. The advocate for this is Jean-Jacques Rousseau. He believed that children are basically good until they were influenced by adult. This ‘romantic’ approach gives more freedom for children believing that in some ways, children are wiser than adults. The emphasis is more on the being.
I think both approach are correct but I believe that they must be balanced. There should be behavioural modification but there should also be inner growth and maturity as a person.

(2) Components of GENIUS parenting.
To achieve this balance, there should be 2 components in GENIUS parenting:
(a) Relationship to maturity.
(b) Empowerment to maturity.
Relationship is important in parenting. Relationship is to each individual child in the 6 areas of development. It is much easier to work with the child when there is a good healthy relationship. But relationship is not enough. There must be empowerment. The child must be allowed to try things out and to fail if necessary.

(3) Objectives of Spiritual Quotient in GENIUS parenting.
(a) Children who are Christians are able to call God ‘Abba/Father’ through the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells in them (Rom.8:15)
(b) Children who are Christians will have assurance of their salvation through the inner testimony of the Holy Spirit (Rom.8:16)
(c) The desires of children to call Jesus ‘Lord’ is the outcome of the work of the Holy Spirit in them (1 Corinthians 12:3)
(d) Children who are Christians are candidates for the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22)
(e) Children who are Christians are candidates for the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:4-11)

Closing Remarks
Children are born into the kingdom of God but as they grow into the age of accountability, they will be required to choose to follow Jesus or not. It is the responsibility of parents, other caretakers and the Church to nurture their spiritual formation to make the right decision.

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, December 17, 2007

Heaven Came Down

Heaven Came Down
Text: John 1:14

Sermon statement (big picture)
Christmas, by tradition is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Who is this Jesus? What are our different perceptions of him: “Santa Claus’ Jesus; “Buddy” Jesus; “Judgmental” Jesus; “Idealised” Jesus and “Incarnation” Jesus? Our perceptions of who Jesus is, is often defined by what He did rather than who He is.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (KJV)

14 So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. (NLT)

14Kai; oJ lovgo" sa;rx ejgevneto kai; ejskhvnwsen ejn hJmi`n, kai; ejqeasavmeqa th;n dovxan aujtou`, dovxan wJ" monogenou`" para; patrov", plhvrh" cavrito" kai; ajlhqeiva".(NA25)

14The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (NIV)


It’s the Advent season again. Advent is the time of the year we are reminded of the coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Advent ends at Christmas. Christmas Day is the day we traditionally celebrate the birth of Jesus. It does not matter whether He was really born on 25th December or not. What is important that Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manger in Bethlehem.

John the Evangelist describes this event as when the “Word becomes flesh.” What does he mean by that? And why does we Christians, allow Christmas to by hijacked by the world so that
-Christmas is consumerism at its worst- buy, buy, buy
-Christmas is Christmas tree and Christmas log cakes
-Christmas is a holiday. First they remove Christ from Christmas (it is now X-mas) and then they want to remove the Christmas tree from Time Square, New York because they want it to be a secular/non religious holiday.
-Christmas is Christmas card of a baby in a barn with animals and snow outside with shepherds hanging around.

Does our perception of Christmas affect what we believe about Jesus? Christmas is about Jesus. Who is this Jesus and why should we celebrate his birth? I believe that we have allowed Christmas to be hijacked because of our perceptions of Jesus. Our perceptions lead us to behave differently.

The move Hoodwinked illustrates wonderfully how our perceptions can deceive us. It is an animated movie about the children tale of little Red Riding Hood, bringing food to her grandmother. She was stalked by a big bad wolf. The wolf went ahead of her to her grandmother’s house and pretended to be her grandmother. She was saved by a woodcutter. Our perceptions of the tale is that Red Riding Hood-innocent, wolf-bad, grandma-victim, and wood cutter-hero. However the movie gave us a different perspective:
-The wolf is an investigative reporter looking for the Cookie Recipe Bandit
-Red Riding Hood is Kung Fu expert
-Grandma is an extreme sports participant
-The woodcutter is an out of work actor who fell down the slope into grandma’s living room at the right time
-The innocent bunny is the Cookie Recipe Bandit.

So things are really not all they seem. The Word becoming flesh is when heaven came down to earth.


(1) The Word became flesh

The Word (Logos v. 1) became flesh. “Flesh” in this verse means a human nature, not sinfulness or weakness. Christ, the eternal Logos, who is God, came to earth as man. Yet in doing so, he did not merely “appear” like a man. Humanity, in other words, was added to Christ’s deity. And yet Christ, in becoming “flesh,” did not change; so perhaps the word “became” (egeneto) should be understood as “took to himself” or “arrived on the scene as.” I like Eugene Peterson’s translation of the passage in The Message, “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.

As far back as man can think, in the beginning . . . the Word was existing. The term “Word” is the common Greek word logos, which meant “speaking, a message, or words.” “Logos” was widely used in Greek philosophical teaching as well as in Jewish wisdom literature and philosophy. John chose this term because it was familiar to his readers, but he invested it with his own meaning, which becomes evident in the prologue.

The Word was with God in a special relationship of eternal fellowship in the Trinity. The word “with” translates the Greek pros, which here suggests “in company with” (the same use of pros in 1:2; 1 Thes. 3:4; 1 John 1:2). John then added that the Word was God. Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this clause, “The Word was a god.” This is incorrect and logically is polytheism. Others have translated it “the Word was divine,” but this is ambiguous and could lead to a faulty view of Jesus. If this verse is correctly understood, it helps clarify the doctrine of the Trinity. The Word is eternal; the Word is in relationship to God (the Father); and the Word is God.

1:2. The Word has always been in a relationship with God the Father. Christ did not at some point in time come into existence or begins a relationship with the Father. In eternity past the Father (God) and the Son (the Word) have always been in a loving communion with each other.

(2) made his dwelling among us.

In the Greek the words lived for a while among us recall God’s dwelling with Israel in the Old Testament. The word “lived” is eskeµnoµsen, from skeµneµ (“tabernacle”). Thus, the tabernacle becomes the site of God's localized presence here on earth. Much as God’s presence was in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34), so Jesus dwelt among people.

Ezekiel has a vision recorded in chapters 43 and 44. This time Ezekiel sees that the temple is going to be restored. At that time, the glory of the Lord will fill the temple; the Lord will dwell with his people; and his people will come and worship him. At this time in the future, the Lord will live among his people forever. I believe that the temple that Ezekiel 44:4 is speaking about is none other than the person and work of our Lord, Jesus Christ! John 1:14 speaks of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the future temple.

The Lord himself now comes to dwell (to tabernacle) among his people. But he does not come in tabernacles or temples constructed with human hands; rather he comes with our flesh, so that in his work we can behold his glory–the glory of the signs and wonders that he does for the salvation of man.

(3) We have seen his glory,

We have seen most naturally implies that the author was an eyewitness. The greatest testimony is a reliable eyewitness. John was among some of his disciples who beheld the revelation of his glory in a very realistic way when Jesus was transfigured before them. Christ appeared before them with "divine honor, divine splendor, divine power, and as the divine radiance of God himself." Indeed, the glory of God is fully revealed in his Son.

(4) the glory of the One and Only,

His glory refers to the unique splendor and honor seen in Jesus’ life, miracles, death, and resurrection. The one and only Son (monogenous; John 1:18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) means that Jesus is the Son of God in a sense totally different from a human who believes and becomes a child of God.

(5) who came from the Father,

Jesus’ sonship is unique for He is eternal and is of the same essence as the Father.

(6) full of grace and truth.

The glorious revelation of God which the Logos displayed was full of grace and truth, that is, it was a gracious and truthful revelation (cf. John 1:17).

Lessons for Us
How do we see Jesus Christ? How do we regard Jesus Christ? Especially in this Christmas season when we remember baby Jesus.

1. The “Santa Claus” Jesus

Many of us see God as the giver and Jesus the gift. There is nothing wrong with this. The problem arises when we see ourselves as only the receivers. In seeing ourselves as the receivers of God’s grace only, we fall into the trap of become self centered and demanding. “Give me, give me, give me” becomes our motto. We see God as a giant credit card with no spending limit and no need for repayment. We define Jesus for what he does rather than who he is. Jesus is a giver like Santa Claus. A person bearing presents or gifts free of charge with not strings attached. This leads to a Christmas n which the highpoint is PRESENTS. It’s the gifts. “Gimme, gimme, gimme” is what Christmas has became nowadays.

2. The “Buddy” Jesus

Another perception of Jesus is that he is our buddy. After all we are all children of God and co-heirs of the Kingdom. This means Jesus is our big brother. And a kindly big brother at that, like Santa Claus. Who is afraid of the jolly fat man in red? So we sit on his lap and tell him what we want for Christmas. What’s wrong with this picture?

It bothers me with the “Buddy” Jesus is that he is more than our brother. Yes, he is human. He is also God. And God is not our brother. He is our God. James, half brother of Jesus began his Epistle as “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).[1] He did not say, “This is my older brother, Jesus, with whom we wrestle and play in the mud together when we were young.” James recognizes Jesus is also God.

The problem with the “Buddy” Christ is that we lost our reverence and awe of God. The Bible teaches about the ‘fear of the Lord’. It also documents that whenever anyone meets an angel of God, they fall on their faces and prostrate themselves. Do we recognize Jesus’ awesomeness? Or do we say, “Hey big brother. What’s happening? Can you get me a new computer, a PDA phone, a PS3 and while you are at it, fix my relationship with my boss so I will get my promotion?”

3. The “Judgmental” Jesus

Some of us make decisions following the formula, What Will Jesus Do (WWJD)? What we do not realize is that this also implies What Will Jesus Not Do (WWJND). Most of us think of Jesus and associate him with grace and forgiveness. Some of us associate Jesus as a judge watching us and waiting for us to make a mistake so that he can pounce on us and condemns us. This Jesus makes us feel guilty. He is like a strict disciplinarian father, demanding strict obedience from us. This is the opposite of the “Buddy” Jesus.

4. The “Idealised” Jesus

The “idealized” Jesus is the most dangerous wrong perception of Jesus. We have always seen pictures of Jesus- a handsome bearded white man with clean cut features, calm, serene and wearing a white robe. Isaiah tells us that the Messiah will be a man of sorrows and ugly to look at. I guess it will not do to have an ugly looking saviour. So we have a beautiful picture. The danger of this idealized Jesus is a form of idolatry. We are creating a Jesus in our own image. Instead of looking for the historical Jesus in the Gospels- a carpenter’s son, a peasant from the rural areas, itinerant preachers, strong enough to drive out the money changers from the Temple outer courtyards, we have an effeminate portrait to which some of us pray to!

5. The “Incarnation” Jesus

In the exegesis of John 1:14, we seen the real “incarnation” Jesus. He is the Logos, the word made flesh. He is fully human, yet fully God. He is God, of the Trinity and became human. Conceived in Mary’s womb by the Holy Spirit, he grew as we did and was delivered into the world, the normal way- natural childbirth. John wrote that he was full of grace and truth.

The Magi knew who Jesus is. They traveled a long way from Persia to pay their respects.
Gifts by the three Magi
i. Gold (for the King)
ii. Incense (for the God)
iii. Myrrh (for his death on the Cross)
They knew what his coming is all about. It is to fulfil God’s mission of redemption. It is also to show us who God is in a way we can understand.

Philip Yancey in his book, The Jesus I Never Knew, gives an illustration in his taking care of his aquarium. Even though he feeds and takes care of his fishes, they are afraid of him. The only way, he concludes, to make his fishes trust him and assure them of his good intention is that he himself becomes one of them. Jesus is God incarnate. We cannot see God who is spirit. We only see his handiwork. God loves us so much that he literally gave up all to become one of us. The most powerful Being in existence, because of love, became the most powerless being on earth - a human baby.

Eugene Peterson in translating John 1:14 wrote,
The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish. (The Message)


Our perceptions of who Jesus is, is very important. Perceptions can change us and dictate our actions.

The leadership guru, Stephen Covey, illustrates how acquaintance with people’s pain, often provides the catalyst for service. He was travelling on a train one Sunday morning in New York. People were sitting quietly and it was calm when suddenly a man and his children got on board. The children were loud and they instantly shattered the peace. The man sat down next to Covey and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation. Covey could not believe the man could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild so finally he lent across and said: “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people. I wonder if you couldn't control them a little more?” The man lifted his gaze and said: “Oh you are right. I guess I should do something about it. We have just come from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don't know what to think and I guess they don't know how to handle it either.” Covey suddenly saw things differently, he thought differently, he felt differently and he behaved differently. His irritation vanished and his heart was filled with the man's pain. “Your wife's just died?” he said, “Oh I'm sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Understanding the man’s pain resulted in a desire to come to his aid.[2]

Christmas, by tradition is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. Who is this Jesus? What are our different perceptions of him: “Santa Claus’ Jesus; “Buddy” Jesus; “Judgmental” Jesus; “Idealised” Jesus and “Incarnation” Jesus? Often our perceptions of who Jesus is, is defined by what He did rather than who He is.

What actually happened during Christmas day, 2000 years ago was Heaven came down.

Heaven came down[3]

O what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget;
After I'd wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend, He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God's family divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary's love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer, of grace He did proffer, He saved me, O praise His dear name!

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

Now I've a hope that will surely endure after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure there in those mansions sublime.
And it's because of that wonderful day, when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal, from His precious hand I received.

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul, (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole; (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul! (filled my soul)

[1] There is still some dispute on who is this James. It may be (1) James, son of Zebedee (Mk.1:19), (2) James, son of Alphaeus or James the younger (Mk 15:40; Mt. 27:56), (3) James the father of Judas, not Judas Iscariot (Lk.6;16) and (4) James, “the Lord’s brother” (Gal.1:19). Douglas Moo believed that it is James, the Lord’s brother who wrote the epistle. Moo, Douglas (1985), James, Grand rapids. MI: Eerdmans. p.19
[2] Stephen R Covey, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, London: Simon & Schuster, 1989; this edition Pocket Books 2004, an imprint of Simon and Schuster UK Ltd; London, 30-31.

[3] Heaven Came Down, Words and music by John W. Peterson © 1961

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The SPIRIT in SPIRITual Gifts

The SPIRIT in SPIRITual Gifts
Text: 1 Cor.12:1-11

Sermon statement (big idea)

The Holy Spirit is builder of the church. He is the giver of spiritual gifts and he gives them to whom he chooses. The spiritual gifts are for the building up of the church and not for personal gain. Most teaching on spiritual gifts place more emphasis on the spiritual gifts rather than the giver. We must not miss the SPIRIT in SPIRITual gifts.

Text (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)

1CO 12:1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus be cursed," and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

1CO 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.

1CO 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.


The World Soccer Cup is becoming exciting as the various teams via for supremacy and to enter into the finals in 2008. Arsenal currently leads Manchester United in the United Kingdom division. The other divisions are Italy, Germany and Spain.

Football or soccer is a game with 11 players on each side (including the goalkeeper). The idea is to score as many goals as possible within two halves of 45 minutes each of play. Different players have different positions. Basically they can be divided into goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and forward/strikers.

Defenders or backs play behind the midfielders and their primary responsibility is to provide support to the goalkeeper, and to prevent the opposition from scoring a goal. They usually remain in the half of the field that contains the goal they are defending.

Midfielders are players whose position of play is midway between the attacking strikers and the defenders. Their main duties are to maintain possession of the ball, taking the ball from defenders and feeding it to the strikers, as well as taking the ball from opposing players.

Strikers or forwards are the players on a team in the row nearest to the opposing team's goal (note: the term attacker is also sometimes used to describe strikers/forwards but is now more commonly used to describe any player on the team currently in possession of the ball). The primary responsibility of strikers/forwards is to score goals.

Basically a good team depends on team work and the individual player’s football skills. A goalkeeper’s skill is different from a striker’s skills. Because the strikers score more goals than other players, forwards are often among the best-known and most expensive players on their teams. Yet in the team, not everybody can be a striker. You will get confusion when that happens.

Football skills are like spiritual gifts. Each spiritual gift is for a specific position or function in the church. Confusion will occurs if everyone wants to be prominent or a ‘striker.’ That’s what happens in the church in Corinth. In the area of spiritual gifts, there were selfishness and disunity (12:7, 25; 14:4) and apparent chaos in the assembly (14:23, 33, 40). Paul dealt with the problem by describing the nature and purpose of gifts (12:1-30), the superiority of love (12:31-13:13), and the regulating of the exercise of gifts by love (chap. 14). As in other areas, so in using gifts in the church, believers should promote the glory of God and the good of others instead of self-satisfaction.


1. The Spirit and false teachings (12:1-3)
v.1 Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
v.2 You know that when you were pagans,
somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols.
v.3 Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God
says, "Jesus be cursed," and
no one can say, "Jesus is Lord,"
[The Greek word for “Lord” here is used in the pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT (the Septuagint) to translate the Hebrew name Yahweh (“the LORD”)].
except by the Holy Spirit.

Paul apparently believed that some of the Corinthians’ problems were due not entirely to their worldly attitudes (3:3) but also to the presence of false teachers who preyed on their spiritual immaturity and exacerbated the problems. The pagan background out of which many had come did not help them ascertain the presence of false prophets. When they were pagans, they had been influenced and led astray to dumb idols (12:2). Certainly lifeless idols are totally helpless in such matters!

Paul therefore laid down a simple test related to the person of Christ. The false teachers obviously claimed that their visions, revelations, and messages were from God, but they apparently denied the humanity of Christ, as expressed by the words Jesus be cursed. This may have been a factor in the Corinthians’ aversion to Paul’s “message of the Cross” (1 Cor. 1:10-4:13). It may be surprising today to realize that the earliest Christological heresy (Docetism) denied Jesus’ humanity, not His deity.

Holy Spirit ------à Jesus is Lord/Yahweh

2. The Spiritual Gifts and the Trinity (12:4-6)
v.4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. [Gifts of grace produced by the indwelling Holy Spirit].
v.5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. [The Greek word in its various forms is used to indicate service to the Christian community, such as serving tables (Ac 6:2–3); it is also the word used in the early church for the office of deacon (Phil 1:1)].
v.6 There are different kinds of working, but the same God [The Greek word indicates power in operation that produces obvious results].
works all of them in all men.


many spiritual gifts -----à service ----àworking/power

3. The Spirit in Spiritual Gifts (12:7-11)
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
To one there is given through the Spirit
the message of wisdom,
to another the message of knowledge
by means of the same Spirit,
to another faith
by the same Spirit,
to another gifts of healing
by that one Spirit,
to another miraculous powers,
to another prophecy,
to another distinguishing between spirits,
to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and
to still another the interpretation of tongues.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit,
and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

(1) Message of wisdom
A Word refers to "a supernaturally imparted fragment," while wisdom, which generally means prudence, decision making.

(2) Message of knowledge
A supernaturally inspired utterance of facts.

(3) Faith
A supernatural impartation of assurance in God.

(4) Gifts of healing
Supernaturally ministering health to the sick.

(5) Miraculous powers
A supernatural intervention of natural laws. The Greek describes it as "works of power" and implies instantaneous results.

(6) Prophecy
A supernaturally inspired utterance from God. A genuine prophetic utterance never contradicts, neither is equal to, the written Word of God. To forthtell or foretell. To speak from the mind of God. Prophecies are to be judged (1 Cor. 14:29, 1 Thes. 5:20-21).

(7) Distinguishing between spirits
This is a supernatural ability to discern a person's spiritual character and the source of his actions and messages, such as from the Holy Spirit, demon spirits, the human spirit or from the flesh.

(8) Different kinds of tongues
A supernaturally imparted utterance in an unlearned language which is interpreted as a prophecy to the body for their edification. (This is distinguished from "praying" in tongues, which is intended to edify one's own spirit -- 1 Cor. 14:14.) A message in tongues to the body is always to be interpreted (by another gift), and is limited to three within a gathering (1 Cor. 14:27).

(9) Interpretation of tongues
This is the supernatural interpretation of a message in tongues into the understandable language of the hearers. It is not a "translation" but an interpretation.

This list is not comprehensive. Other gifts are given in 1 Corinthians 12:28-31; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11

Diagram: Four groupings of spiritual gifts[1]

Diversity and unity of spiritual gifts
Giver of spiritual gifts: The Holy Spirit
Aim of spiritual gifts: common good
Distributors of spiritual gifts: gives them to each one, just as he determines.

Lessons for us

(1) The Holy Spirit is the builder of the Church
(2) The Church is the body of Christ which to carry out the mission of God, the Father
(3) Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit (He decides who gets what)
(4) Spiritual gifts are to be used to build the church
(5) All spiritual gifts have the same status
(6) Spiritual gifts are different from Fruit of the Spirit

There is a difference between spiritual gifts and fruit. Gifts are the Spirit's manifestation through a person, but fruit is the product of one's spiritual character. Spirituality cannot be measured by gifts, but by fruit (Gal. 5:22-24). Love is the predominate feature of spirituality (1 Cor. 13:13), without which, charismatic gifts cannot function effectively (1 Cor. 13:1-2). Paul expressed that the church should have a desire for spiritual gifts, but it should follow the foremost pursuit of love. "Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts," (1 Cor. 14:1).

(7) What is your spiritual gift?
a. Ask the Holy Spirit
b. What is your passion?
c. What do you do well?
d. What produces lasting fruits?

Recommended reading: Wagner, Peter.1979. Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow. Ventura, CA: Regal. Lists 27 different types of gifts. Also includes a Spiritual Gifts Questionaire.

Websites offering online spiritual gifts questionnaires (Church Growth Institute) (Elmer Towns’ Questionaires) (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)


The Holy Spirit is builder of the church. He is the giver of spiritual gifts and he gives them to whom he chooses. The spiritual gifts are for the building up of the church and not for personal gain. Most teaching on spiritual gifts place more emphasis on the spiritual gifts rather than the giver. We must not miss the SPIRIT in SPIRITual gifts.

soli deo gloria

[1] House, H. Wayne.1992. Charts of Christian Theology & Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. P.70

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Deepening your spiritual walk with God (Part 1)

Deepening Our Spiritual Walk with God: The 8 ‘B’ssentials (Part 1)
Text: Colossians 3:1-24


Recently I was a speaker at a student conference organized by the Fellowship of Evangelical Students (FES) on Professionals of Tomorrow (POT). It involves about 200 university students studying healthcare (HOTs), law (LOTs) and teaching (TOTs). I have had an enjoyable time speaking, teaching and sharing with the group of young energetic, idealistic, and committed young adults. They are concerned about their studies and their future. Some of the questions they asked me are:

-How to study well?
-Why is there more girl Christians than boy Christians?
-How do I know my boy/girl friend is the correct one?
-Will I be a good doctor/pharmacist/lawyer/teacher?
-What will Malaysia like in the future?
-How do I know I am in God’s will?
-How do I serve God when I graduate?
-Where did you meet your wife?
-How do I continue and finish well as a Christian and not fall away?
-How do I deepen my spiritual walk with God?

I have been thinking and processing their questions since I came back. Basically they are asking, “How can we deepen our walk with the Lord?” I believe that Col 3:1-24 gives us the answer to that.

The theme of Colossians is the complete adequacy of Christ as contrasted with the emptiness of mere human philosophy. Colossians is a genuine letter of Paul (1:1) is usually not disputed. In the early church, all who speak on the subject of authorship ascribe it to Paul. Instead, it is to be dated during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome, where he spent at least two years under house arrest (see Ac 28:16–31). Some have argued that Paul wrote Colossians from Ephesus or Caesarea, but most of the evidence favors Rome as the place where Paul penned all the Prison Letters (Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians and Philemon). Colossians should be dated c. A.D. 60, in the same year as Ephesians and Philemon. Paul’s purpose is to refute the Colossian heresy. To accomplish this goal, he exalts Christ as the very image of God (1:15), the Creator (1:16), the preexistent sustainer of all things (1:17), the head of the church (1:18), the first to be resurrected (1:18), the fullness of deity in bodily form (1:19; 2:9) and the reconciler (1:20–22). Thus Christ is completely adequate. We “have been given fullness in Christ” (2:10). On the other hand, the Colossian heresy was altogether inadequate. It was a hollow and deceptive philosophy (2:8), lacking any ability to restrain the old sinful nature (2:23).

Here are eight ‘B’ssentials

(1) Be Aware of Your Calling/Vocation
COL 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Os Guinness in his book, The Call, notes
“Calling (or vocation) is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service…

Our primary calling as followers of Christ is by him, to him, and for him.

Our secondary calling, considering God who is as sovereign, is that everyone, everywhere, and in everything should think, speak, live, and act entirely for him… we can therefore properly say that as a matter of secondary calling that we are called to homemaking or to the practice of law or to art history.

The Catholic Distortion
Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, Demonstration of the Gospel argues that Christ gave ‘two ways of life’ to the church. One is the ‘perfect life’ and the other is the ‘permitted life.’
Augustine and Thomas Aquinas elevated the contemplative life (vita contemplative) over the active life (vita active)

The Protestant Distortion
Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church recommends the abolition of all religious orders- one level of vocation.
Elevating the secular at the expense of the spiritual.
At its extreme vocation is an alternative word for job.
Secular-clergy gap

We are not primary called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to someone. We are not called first to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself.

(2) Be a Person of Integrity
COL 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6 Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7 You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived.

“Everyone is doing it, so why shouldn’t I?” This is the argument from democracy: numbers define what is right

“It’s not illegal.” True but is it right?

“They did it to me, so I’m going to do it to them.” There is a very seductive logic in that tit-for-tat rationalization.

“If I don’t do it, somebody else will.” But sometimes, they don’t.

“Why follow standard operating protocols? Others don’t” They are there for a reason.
Patient confidentiality

CA Carson, Sermon on the Mount
“It (the sermon on the mount) portrays the pattern of conduct under kingdom authority, a pattern that demands conformity now, even if perfection will not be achieved until the kingdom’s consummation”

“Not only are we in the process of becoming; we are becoming what we love. We are to a large degree the sum of our loves and we will of moral necessity grow into the image of what we love most; for love is among other things a creative affinity; it changes and molds and shapes and transform. It is without doubt the most powerful agent affecting human nature next to direct action of the Holy Spirit of God within the soul.”

(3) Be Growing into Christlikeness
8 But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

-Self discipline
-Spiritual discipline

Dallas Willard
“spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner self of Christ himself.”

This process of spiritual formation is enhanced by the spiritual disciplines of bible study, prayer, fellowship, liturgy, worship, solitude and decision making.

Willow Creek Repents?
Why the most influential church in America now says "We made a mistake."

"Few would disagree that Willow Creek Community Church has been one of the most influential churches in America over the last thirty years. Willow, through its association, has promoted a vision of church that is big, programmatic, and comprehensive. This vision has been heavily influenced by the methods of secular business. James Twitchell, in his new book Shopping for God, reports that outside Bill Hybels’ office hangs a poster that says: “What is our business? Who is our customer? What does the customer consider value?” Directly or indirectly, this philosophy of ministry—church should be a big box with programs for people at every level of spiritual maturity to consume and engage—has impacted every evangelical church in the country.

So what happens when leaders of Willow Creek stand up and say, “We made a mistake”?
Not long ago Willow released its findings from a multiple year qualitative study of its ministry. Basically, they wanted to know what programs and activities of the church were actually helping people mature spiritually and which were not. The results were published in a book, Reveal: Where Are You?, co-authored by Greg Hawkins, executive pastor of Willow Creek. Hybels called the findings “earth shaking,” “ground breaking,” and “mind blowing.”

If you’d like to get a synopsis of the research you can watch a video with Greg Hawkins here. And Bill Hybels’ reactions, recorded at last summer’s Leadership Summit, below are few highlights.

In the Hawkins’ video he says, “Participation is a big deal. We believe the more people participating in these sets of activities, with higher levels of frequency, it will produce disciples of Christ.” This has been Willow’s philosophy of ministry in a nutshell. The church creates programs/activities. People participate in these activities. The outcome is spiritual maturity. In a moment of stinging honesty Hawkins says, “I know it might sound crazy but that’s how we do it in churches. We measure levels of participation.”

Having put all of their eggs into the program-driven church basket you can understand their shock when the research revealed that “Increasing levels of participation in these sets of activities does NOT predict whether someone’s becoming more of a disciple of Christ. It does NOT predict whether they love God more or they love people more.”

Speaking at the Leadership Summit, Hybels summarized the findings this way:

Some of the stuff that we have put millions of dollars into thinking it would really help our people grow and develop spiritually, when the data actually came back it wasn’t helping people that much. Other things that we didn’t put that much money into and didn’t put much staff against is stuff our people are crying out for.

Having spent thirty years creating and promoting a multi-million dollar organization driven by programs and measuring participation, and convincing other church leaders to do the same, you can see why Hybels called this research “the wake up call” of his adult life.

Hybels confesses:
We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.

In other words, spiritual growth doesn’t happen best by becoming dependent on elaborate church programs but through the age old spiritual practices of prayer, bible reading, and relationships. And, ironically, these basic disciplines do not require multi-million dollar facilities and hundreds of staff to manage.

Does this mark the end of Willow’s thirty years of influence over the American church? Not according to Hawkins:
Our dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church. That we take out a clean sheet of paper and we rethink all of our old assumptions. Replace it with new insights. Insights that are informed by research and rooted in Scripture. Our dream is really to discover what God is doing and how he’s asking us to transform this planet."

To be continued…

Deepening your spiritual walk with God (part 2)

Deepening Our Spiritual Walk with God: The 8 ‘B’ssentials (Part 2)
Text: Colossians 3:1-24

Last week, we were talking about the importance of deepening our spiritual walk with God. The Economist ran an 18 page special report on God and religions. This is particularly significant because in the early part of the 20th century there is a general consensus that with reason, socialism and science, religion is on the way out. In 1966, Time magazine even ran a cover with the question, “Is God dead?” The recent resurgence of interest in the four major religions of the world: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism bears testimony to the fact that God is not dead but interest in him is increasing. As Christians, we know that out God lives. And because He lives, we too need to live in such a way that we please Him. Hence there is this need to deepen our walk with God: The eight ‘B’ssentials.

The first three are
(1) Be aware of your calling/vocation
(2) Be a person of integrity
(3) Be growing in Christ-likeness.

We shall continue in the other ‘B’ssentials.

(4) Be Different
COL 3:12 Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Christianity is counter-cultural. It is meant to be different. Someone once said that Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship. This is so true. Christianity s a relationship with God. If our relationship with God is correct, it will reflect in the way we live our lives. And it will also be apparent that we are different.

-Work ethics (marketplace spirituality)
-Relationship with other workers

Eugene Peterson in his book, The Resurrected Life, comments,
“The resurrection life is a practice…we engage in a life that is permeable by the presence and companionship of the resurrected Jesus in the company of friends.”
What he meant was that we are actually living the resurrection life now as Jesus is living in us and he has been resurrected. The resurrected life will involve;

(1) Resurrection wonder as we perceive the world through our sixth sense- the spiritual sense. We can see the reality of God presence in the cosmos and in our lives.
(2) Sabbath keeping is not a concept or something we want to do but have not got around to. Living a resurrected life means keeping the Sabbath.
(3) Resurrection meals or Eucharist will be a special time of remembering and being with Christ.
(4) Resurrection Friends are being one with the cloud of witnesses- Christians from the past, present and future.

(5) Be Part of a Community of Faith
COL 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

Dan Kimball (2007), They Like Jesus But Not The Church: Insights from Emerging Generations (Grand rapids, MI: Zondervan). In this book, Kimball went around the United States and interviews hundreds of young people especially those who have left the institutional church. He came up with some interesting views. One of the questions he asked them was:
What they wish the church were like
I wish the church were not just a sermon or a lecture but a discussion
I wish the church would respect my intelligence
I wish the church weren’t about the church building
I wish the church were less programmed and allowed time to think and pray
I wish the church were a loving place
I wished the church card for the poor and for the environment
I wish the church taught more about Jesus

Looking at the state of our own churches, we need to buck up too.

(6) Be Grateful
17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

We must be a grateful people. Gratefulness is a powerful battery for our spiritual energy. It is also a powerful motivator. Just imagine that out of millions of people, God chose us to be His people! That is a mind boggling thought.

(7) Be Building a Godly Marriage
COL 3:18 Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.20 Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.

Godly marriage starts with two people.

Trobisch, a missionary in Africa, wrote in his book, I Married You,
“It is the statement about marriage that is repeated four times in the Bible. The Bible does not speak very often about marriage. Therefore it is the more striking that this statement appears four times in very decisive places. First, it sums up the story of creation in the second chapter of Genesis. Then, Jesus quotes this statement in Matthew 19:5 and Mark 10:7, after He is asked about divorce. Finally the apostle Paul relates directly to Jesus in Ephesians 5:31”

Genesis 2:24
GE 2:24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

“This verse has three parts. It mentions three things which are essential to marriage: to leave, to cleave, and to become one flesh.”

Children are a blessings and addition to a Godly marriage but it must first starts with two persons.

(8) Be Excellent
COL 3:22 Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. 23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, 24 since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

As Christians we need to have a start of excellence in all that we do.
-Professionalism in our jobs
-Standard of excellence
-Excellence in our churches


The eight ‘B’ssentials are

(1) Be aware of your calling/vocation
(2) Be a person of integrity
(3) Be growing in Christ-likeness
(4) Be different
(5) Be part of a community of faith
(6) Be grateful
(7) Be building a Godly marriage
(8) Be excellent.

soli deo gloria

Monday, September 24, 2007

Persecution, Proclaimation, Profession, Power

Persecution, Proclamation, Profession, Power
Text: Acts 8:1- 25

Sermon Statement (Big idea)

God uses all types of circumstances as opportunities for his people to share the gospel so that others may be saved. There will be true and false professions of the faith. To all true believers there is only one church. Power is a powerful attraction for some, even within the church.


Adverse events in our lives may lead to better things. In the Bible, Joseph was betrayed and sold into slavery by his brothers. Yet, it turn into an opportunity for him to become the right hand man of Pharaoh and saved his family from starvation.

A. Persecution

AC 8:1 And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.
On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.

Persecution started the first missionary expansion

Paul started the missionary expansion. As the ringleader of the opposition to the gospel and the persecution of the church in Jerusalem, Saul was instrumental in the first “missions thrust” of the church. Granted, this was not his intent, but it was the result. God uses the “wrath of men to praise Him”.

We often think of the evangelization of the world of that day as the result of Paul’s “preaching,” rather than as a result of Saul’s “persecution.” Both are true. The sovereign God can just as easily employ the intense opposition of an unbeliever to spread the gospel as He can the faithful preaching of one of His saints. A sovereign God does not need the obedience of men to achieve His purposes, but how blessed it is when men obey, becoming a willing participant in God’s plans and purposes!

God’s plan. Philip’s arrival in the city of Samaria was but a part of a much larger program, whereby the persecution of the church scattered saints. Notice that this scattering occurs in such a way as to exactly follow the order of Acts 1:8:

“… and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

And so the church was born in Jerusalem (Acts 1-7), it spread through persecution to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1, in that order), and then abroad (cf. Acts 11:19-21; 13:1ff.).

Jerusalem ----- Judea ------ Samaria (Philip in 8:5) ------abroad (Philip and the Ethiopian 8:26)

Not organised by man

Left on their own, the Jewish Christians will not go the Samaritans. They hate the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated them. The Jews considered the Samaritans as half-cast, impure because they were the descendants of those who were left behind when the Assyrians and the Babylonians carried off the population to exile.

Sometimes I think that God will have to do this in our day before people will begin to believe that they have spiritual gifts and put them to work. He may have to bring persecution upon us so that there cannot be dependence upon a central ministry, but each one will begin to utilize the gifts that God has given him.

Are you going through some kind of pressure today? Well, it may not be punishment for sins. The pressure, the trials, and the problems that come are by no means always the result of sin in our lives. Sometimes they are, but it may be God's way of moving you, of pressuring you into a new experience, into a new understanding of his truth and of his equipment in your life, and giving you a new opportunity to put it to work.

B. Proclamation

Sharing their life and beliefs wherever they go (8:4,5)

AC 8:4 Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went. 5 Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

Here is the ministry of a layman, Philip. Yet it is a ministry of power, the power of the Holy Spirit.

accompanied by signs and wonders (8:6,7)

6 When the crowds heard Philip and saw the miraculous signs he did, they all paid close attention to what he said. 7 With shrieks, evil spirits came out of many, and many paralytics and cripples were healed.

salvation (8:8)

8 So there was great joy in that city.

When people are set free it always fills them full of joy. What other agency in our day can do this? Our cities are, for the most part, seething pools of human misery. You drive around them and see people, millions of them, living in squalor and poverty, in filth and degradation. And you know also that within them there is loneliness, emptiness, and depression of spirit. Life looks gray and dull, drab and uninteresting to them. What can set them free? What can fill them with joy? The glory of the gospel is always that, wherever it goes, even though it may not immediately change their outward circumstance, it does fill people with joy. And soon the circumstance begins to change as well. This has been the story throughout history. As people are filled with joy by the power of the Word, they begin to change for the better. The gospel gives us joy.

C. Professions

There are three professions in this section:

Profession as Philip the evangelist and Simon the magician (8:9-12)

Simon the Magician
AC 8:9 Now for some time a man named Simon had practiced sorcery in the city and amazed all the people of Samaria. He boasted that he was someone great, 10 and all the people, both high and low, gave him their attention and exclaimed, "This man is the divine power known as the Great Power." 11 They followed him because he had amazed them for a long time with his magic. 12 But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Many traditions revolve around Simon the sorcerer. It is alleged: (a) that he was the founder of the Gnostic heresies, (b) that he went to Rome and perverted Christian doctrine there, and (c) that he became involved in a miracle contest with Peter and lost.

Magic (the Gr. words for “practiced sorcery” and “magic” are related) is contrary to Christianity, and yet it is often confused or combined with it. Luke deals with magic in the Book of Acts three times: here, in chapter 13, and once again in chapter 19. In all three instances, the “magic” which is exposed has a religious flavor. Here, the magic of Simon merits him the title, “the Great Power of God” (8:10). In chapter 13, Bar-Jesus, the magician, who attempted to keep the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, from turning to faith in Jesus, was a “false prophet” (13:6). Finally, in chapter 19, the beating which the exorcists (the sons of Sceva) received from the demonized man, caused many to turn to Christ and to renounce their magic practices (19:11-20). In chapters 13 and 19, the magicians were Jews.

In magic, God becomes man’s servant (the magic genie, who does man’s bidding). In Christianity, men become God’s servants. The difference is the sovereignty of God. God is not manipulated by men, for men have no claim on Him, on His grace, or on His power. God owes men nothing, and nothing men do can merit or cause God’s blessings.

Philip the Evangelist

Philip is a layman. He is a deacon, a Hellenist Jew. Philip was one of the ‘Seven’ who were chosen as deacons of the church at Jerusalem (Acts 6:5). On the persecution of the church following the martyrdom of Stephen he took the gospel to Samaria, where his ministry was much blessed (Acts 8:5-13), and subsequently he was sent to the Jerusalem-Gaza road to lead the Ethiopian eunuch to Christ (Acts 8:26-38). After this incident he was ‘Spirited’ away to Azotus, the Philistine Ashdod, and from there conducted an itinerant ministry until he reached the port of Caesarea (Acts 8:39-40), where he appears to have settled (Acts 21:8). He was known as ‘the evangelist’, presumably to distinguish him from the apostle (3, above), and had four daughters who were prophetesses (Acts 21:9). Luke is here at great pains to distinguish the evangelist from the apostle.

Profession as followers of Christ (8:13, 18-24)

13 Simon himself believed and was baptized. And he followed Philip everywhere, astonished by the great signs and miracles he saw.

AC 8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19 and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

AC 8:20 Peter answered: "May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! 21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps he will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart. 23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin."

AC 8:24 Then Simon answered, "Pray to the Lord for me so that nothing you have said may happen to me."

True profession of Faith

Becoming a Christian or professing faith is accompanied by joy, not desire for power

False profession of Faith

We know who we are by the fruits we bear. True conversion brings joy and bear fruit of the Holy Spirit (joy is part of the fruit). Those not converted show their true colour sooner or later. For Simon it is a desire for power.

Was Simon saved? Luke did not specify this clearly, so it is difficult to be dogmatic. But seven facts suggest that Simon probably was not born again:
(1) The verb “believe” (pisteuoµ) does not always refer to saving faith. Simon’s faith could have been like that of the demons in James 2:19, merely intellectual assent.
(2) Furthermore, faith based on signs is not a trustworthy faith (cf. John 2:23-25; 4:48). (3) In addition, Luke never stated that Simon received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17-18).
(4) Simon continued to have a self-centered interest in the display of miraculous power (vv. 18-19).
(5) The verb “repent” (metanoeoµ) used in verse 22 is normally addressed to lost people. (6) The word “perish” (eis apoµleian) employed in verse 20 is strong. It is related to the word “perish” in John 3:16.
(7) The description of Simon in Acts 8:23 is a better description of a lost man than of one who is saved (cf. Deut. 29:18).
Still one cannot be dogmatic on this point.[1]

The focus of this account is not to emphasize the reception of the Holy Spirit, but rather the undue attraction which this power to bestow the Holy Spirit has for Simon.

Profession of unity of the church (8: 14-17, 25)

AC 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them. 15 When they arrived, they prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them; they had simply been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

AC 8:25 When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages.

The Apostles stayed in Jerusalem

The apostle is now the highest authority in the church. During the persecution and the martyrdom of Stephen, they were in Jerusalem and they stayed on when the persecution started. This time they did not run.

Laying on Hands for the Holy Spirit

We must be very careful in reading this to see exactly what they had, and what they did not have. They did have power. Manifest in their midst was the operation of the Holy Spirit, in power, to set them free from the illnesses and depressions that had been besetting them. And they had joy. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, and this kind of joy can never be produced except by the indwelling Spirit. Power is an outward sign; joy is inward. Both outwardly and inwardly they were demonstrating the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They had the Holy Spirit. They were saved (regenerate). They had been baptized in water as a testimony to that very regeneration which had occurred within their hearts and which manifested itself in the joy that was there.

So we would make a great mistake if we said that the Holy Spirit was not yet in Samaria. He was. But, what the account specifically says is that they did not yet have the Holy Spirit fallen upon them. You see, there are various terms for the ministry of the Holy Spirit used in Scripture. The Holy Spirit does a great variety of different things, yet he is behind all of them. This account makes clear that they had not yet received a certain manifestation of the Spirit. What was it? They had not yet been baptized by the Spirit into the one body. They were still separate, individual, regenerated Christians, just as the apostles themselves had been before the Day of Pentecost. The apostles had been born again; they had been regenerated by the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit had not yet fallen on them. On the Day of Pentecost he did, and they were then baptized into a body and made members of one another, members of one body in Jesus Christ. They also received the gifts of the Holy Spirit. What the Christians in Samaria had not yet received was this baptism into the one body, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

When Peter and John came down they first prayed for the church. Then they laid hands on them and the Samaritans, too, received the baptism of the Spirit, making them one body in Jesus Christ. (No signs accompanied that, at all.) They also received the gifts of the Spirit, among which was probably the gift of tongues. Because it was probably by that sign that Simon and others recognized that the Holy Spirit had been given to them.

Signs of the Universal/catholic church

That is what the Spirit of God is doing here. If he had come upon these Samaritan disciples when they first believed in Jesus, there could easily have developed a church of the Samaritans, apart from the church of the Jews. There was already existing at that time a wall of partition dividing the Jews from the Samaritans. The Jews had no dealings with the Samaritans, nor the Samaritans with the Jews. Had the Spirit of God come upon this church when Philip first went down there, it could easily have produced two separate churches. But, by tying it all together with these apostles who came down from Jerusalem, the Spirit of God was saying, "There is one body; not two. There are no great distinctions in the church; there is only one church, and that is all. The Samaritans belong to it equally as much as the Jews." Thus he was teaching these early Christians the great truth that there is one catholic church.

D. Power (8:18)

AC 8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles' hands, he offered them money 19 and said, "Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit."

Simon was amazed by the power of God at work through Philip, but he did not offer Philip money to have such power. Once the apostles arrived, it would seem that Simon quickly transferred his fixation on them, and on their power, rather than on Philip. To Simon, if their power was not greater than Philip’s, it was at least more desirable.

Some points of observation of the text

Persecution: Saul and persecution started the first missionary movement
Proclamation: Philip shared his life and belief as he goes
Profession (1): People from all walks of life believed. Even magicians.
Profession (2): Some believed, some pretend to believe
Profession (3):There is only one church
Power: Spiritual gifts may be a source of power struggle

Lessons for us

Circumstances will give us opportunities to share our faith
Evangelism is the responsibility of every Christian, not just the pastors
The message of the gospel breaks through ethnic, racial, tribal barriers, hatred and rivalries
Believers must be aware of false believers
Influence and power in the church is not for sale.


God uses all types of circumstances as opportunities for his people to share the gospel so that others can be saved. There will be true and false profession of the faith. To all true believers there is only one church.

[1]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

soli deo gloria

Monday, September 10, 2007

Confession and Commitment

Confession and Commitment
Renewal in Christian Service

Text: Nehemiah 9:1- 11:2

Sermon statement (Big idea)

Repentance and confession, commitment and recommitment are part of the Christian process of becoming, especially in Christian service


An overview of the book of Nehemiah shows that Nehemiah wanted to restore not only the walls but also the people. The book is equally divided in two: chapters’ 1-7 concerns the walls and chapters’ 8-13 concerns the people.

Dr Rick Griffins of Singapore Bible College summarise the book thus:
The restoration of the walls and people in the land under Nehemiah record God’s faithfulness to His promise of restoration to encourage the remnant in covenant obedience rooted in temple worship in Jerusalem. (italics his)

Exposition of Text:

A. A Renewal (9:1-5a)
NE 9:1 On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and having dust on their heads. 2 Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the wickedness of their fathers. 3 They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the LORD their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the LORD their God. 4 Standing on the stairs were the Levites--Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani and Kenani--who called with loud voices to the LORD their God. 5a And the Levites--Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah and Pethahiah--said: "Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. "

1. Chapter 8 deals with conviction. Ezra’s reading of the Law of Moses and the Levites’ exposition urges the nation to celebrate the feast of the tabernacles and begin a revival based on the word of God. They celebrated the feast of the tabernacle is to be celebrated from the 2nd to the 9th day of Nissan. Apparently the people have forgotten that. Actually according to Leviticus 23:35-44, the feast of the tabernacle is to be celebrated on the 15th day of the seventh month (Nissan) for 8 days from one Sabbath to another. On the 8th day there is to be assembly. The reason is given in Lev 23:42-44

42Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are Israelites born shall dwell in booths: 43That your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. 44And Moses declared unto the children of Israel the feasts of the LORD.

2. Repentance
The Law must be working on their conscience because on the 22nd day the gathered together repentant.
a. Fasting
b. Sackcloth and ashes
c. Put away foreigners
3. Confession
a. Their sins
b. Sins of their fathers
4. They spent a quarter of the day standing listening to the Book of the Law of the Lord being read and another quarter of the day confessing and worshipping the Lord. 6 hours of Bible study and 6 hours of confession and worship.
5. They prayed a prayer of repentance (9:5b-37)

B. A Mighty God and a Sinful People (9:5b-37)
5b "Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.

NE 9:7 "You are the LORD God, who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and named him Abraham. 8 You found his heart faithful to you, and you made a covenant with him to give to his descendants the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Jebusites and Girgashites. You have kept your promise because you are righteous.

NE 9:9 "You saw the suffering of our forefathers in Egypt; you heard their cry at the Red Sea. 10 You sent miraculous signs and wonders against Pharaoh, against all his officials and all the people of his land, for you knew how arrogantly the Egyptians treated them. You made a name for yourself, which remains to this day. 11 You divided the sea before them, so that they passed through it on dry ground, but you hurled their pursuers into the depths, like a stone into mighty waters. 12 By day you led them with a pillar of cloud, and by night with a pillar of fire to give them light on the way they were to take.

NE 9:13 "You came down on Mount Sinai; you spoke to them from heaven. You gave them regulations and laws that are just and right, and decrees and commands that are good. 14 You made known to them your holy Sabbath and gave them commands, decrees and laws through your servant Moses. 15 In their hunger you gave them bread from heaven and in their thirst you brought them water from the rock; you told them to go in and take possession of the land you had sworn with uplifted hand to give them.

NE 9:16 "But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, `This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,' or when they committed awful blasphemies.

NE 9:19 "Because of your great compassion you did not abandon them in the desert. By day the pillar of cloud did not cease to guide them on their path, nor the pillar of fire by night to shine on the way they were to take. 20 You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. You did not withhold your manna from their mouths, and you gave them water for their thirst. 21 For forty years you sustained them in the desert; they lacked nothing, their clothes did not wear out nor did their feet become swollen.

NE 9:22 "You gave them kingdoms and nations, allotting to them even the remotest frontiers. They took over the country of Sihon king of Heshbon and the country of Og king of Bashan. 23 You made their sons as numerous as the stars in the sky, and you brought them into the land that you told their fathers to enter and possess. 24 Their sons went in and took possession of the land. You subdued before them the Canaanites, who lived in the land; you handed the Canaanites over to them, along with their kings and the peoples of the land, to deal with them as they pleased. 25 They captured fortified cities and fertile land; they took possession of houses filled with all kinds of good things, wells already dug, vineyards, olive groves and fruit trees in abundance. They ate to the full and were well-nourished; they reveled in your great goodness.

NE 9:26 "But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they put your law behind their backs. They killed your prophets, who had admonished them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 27 So you handed them over to their enemies, who oppressed them. But when they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them, and in your great compassion you gave them deliverers, who rescued them from the hand of their enemies.

NE 9:28 "But as soon as they were at rest, they again did what was evil in your sight. Then you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies so that they ruled over them. And when they cried out to you again, you heard from heaven, and in your compassion you delivered them time after time.

NE 9:29 "You warned them to return to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, by which a man will live if he obeys them. Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen. 30 For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples. 31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.

NE 9:32 "Now therefore, O our God, the great, mighty and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love, do not let all this hardship seem trifling in your eyes--the hardship that has come upon us, upon our kings and leaders, upon our priests and prophets, upon our fathers and all your people, from the days of the kings of Assyria until today. 33 In all that has happened to us, you have been just; you have acted faithfully, while we did wrong. 34 Our kings, our leaders, our priests and our fathers did not follow your law; they did not pay attention to your commands or the warnings you gave them. 35 Even while they were in their kingdom, enjoying your great goodness to them in the spacious and fertile land you gave them, they did not serve you or turn from their evil ways.

NE 9:36 "But see, we are slaves today, slaves in the land you gave our forefathers so they could eat its fruit and the other good things it produces. 37 Because of our sins, its abundant harvest goes to the kings you have placed over us. They rule over our bodies and our cattle as they please. We are in great distress.
• This prayer is comparable to Ezra 9 and Daniel 9
• It is one of the two longest prayers in the Old Testament. The other is Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8. It length signifies it significance.
• This prayer or hymn is the heart of the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah is not just concerned about the walls. The walls of Jerusalem did have a role in protecting Jerusalem but this prayer shows that Nehemiah’s main agenda is to restore temple worship in Jerusalem and to restore his people as God’s chosen people.

The composition of the hymn is as follows
v.6 the praising of God as creator
v.7-8 the covenant with Abraham
v.9-11 the wonderful acts of God in Egypt
v.12 the care of God in the desert
v.13-21 Mount Sinai and the desert wandering
v.22-25 the conquering of the Holy Land
v.26-31 the unfaithfulness of Israel and God’s patience in the Holy Land
v.32-37 the confession of sin

You will notice that in the Old Testament, God always reminds the people of the Israelite narrative. In fact you will be able to notice that there are more than7 times this is repeated. The idea is that this narrative reminds the Israelite of their identity: who they are and what is their special destiny.

C. A Separated People (9:38-10:1-29)
NE 9:38 "In view of all this, we are making a binding agreement, putting it in writing, and our leaders, our Levites and our priests are affixing their seals to it."

NE 10:1 Those who sealed it were:

Nehemiah the governor, the son of Hacaliah.

Zedekiah, 2 Seraiah, Azariah, Jeremiah,

NE 10:3 Pashhur, Amariah, Malkijah,

NE 10:4 Hattush, Shebaniah, Malluch,

NE 10:5 Harim, Meremoth, Obadiah,

NE 10:6 Daniel, Ginnethon, Baruch,

NE 10:7 Meshullam, Abijah, Mijamin,

NE 10:8 Maaziah, Bilgai and Shemaiah.
These were the priests.

NE 10:9 The Levites:

Jeshua son of Azaniah, Binnui of the sons of Henadad, Kadmiel,

NE 10:10 and their associates: Shebaniah,
Hodiah, Kelita, Pelaiah, Hanan,

NE 10:11 Mica, Rehob, Hashabiah,

NE 10:12 Zaccur, Sherebiah, Shebaniah,

NE 10:13 Hodiah, Bani and Beninu.

NE 10:14 The leaders of the people:

Parosh, Pahath-Moab, Elam, Zattu, Bani,

NE 10:15 Bunni, Azgad, Bebai,

NE 10:16 Adonijah, Bigvai, Adin,

NE 10:17 Ater, Hezekiah, Azzur,

NE 10:18 Hodiah, Hashum, Bezai,

NE 10:19 Hariph, Anathoth, Nebai,

NE 10:20 Magpiash, Meshullam, Hezir,

NE 10:21 Meshezabel, Zadok, Jaddua,

NE 10:22 Pelatiah, Hanan, Anaiah,

NE 10:23 Hoshea, Hananiah, Hasshub,

NE 10:24 Hallohesh, Pilha, Shobek,

NE 10:25 Rehum, Hashabnah, Maaseiah,

NE 10:26 Ahiah, Hanan, Anan,

NE 10:27 Malluch, Harim and Baanah.

NE 10:28 "The rest of the people--priests, Levites, gatekeepers, singers, temple servants and all who separated themselves from the neighboring peoples for the sake of the Law of God, together with their wives and all their sons and daughters who are able to understand-- 29 all these now join their brothers the nobles, and bind themselves with a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God given through Moses the servant of God and to obey carefully all the commands, regulations and decrees of the LORD our Lord.

The people response is to confess their sins and to sign a new covenant with God. Notice that this is a one sided covenant. This is from the people to God. Previously it is from God to the people.

The signatory of the covenant
1. Officials (10:1)
2. Priests (10:2-8)
3. Levites (10:9-13)
4. Leaders (10:14-27)
5. Rest of the People (10:28-29)

D. A Committed People (10:30-11:2)
NE 10:30 "We promise not to give our daughters in marriage to the peoples around us or take their daughters for our sons.

NE 10:31 "When the neighboring peoples bring merchandise or grain to sell on the Sabbath, we will not buy from them on the Sabbath or on any holy day. Every seventh year we will forgo working the land and will cancel all debts.

NE 10:32 "We assume the responsibility for carrying out the commands to give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God: 33 for the bread set out on the table; for the regular grain offerings and burnt offerings; for the offerings on the Sabbaths, New Moon festivals and appointed feasts; for the holy offerings; for sin offerings to make atonement for Israel; and for all the duties of the house of our God.

NE 10:34 "We--the priests, the Levites and the people--have cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar of the LORD our God, as it is written in the Law.

NE 10:35 "We also assume responsibility for bringing to the house of the LORD each year the firstfruits of our crops and of every fruit tree.

NE 10:36 "As it is also written in the Law, we will bring the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God, to the priests ministering there.

NE 10:37 "Moreover, we will bring to the storerooms of the house of our God, to the priests, the first of our ground meal, of our grain offerings, of the fruit of all our trees and of our new wine and oil. And we will bring a tithe of our crops to the Levites, for it is the Levites who collect the tithes in all the towns where we work. 38 A priest descended from Aaron is to accompany the Levites when they receive the tithes, and the Levites are to bring a tenth of the tithes up to the house of our God, to the storerooms of the treasury. 39 The people of Israel, including the Levites, are to bring their contributions of grain, new wine and oil to the storerooms where the articles for the sanctuary are kept and where the ministering priests, the gatekeepers and the singers stay.
"We will not neglect the house of our God."

NE 11:1 Now the leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem, the holy city, while the remaining nine were to stay in their own towns. 2 The people commended all the men who volunteered to live in Jerusalem.

Conditions of the covenant
1. No intermarrying (10:30)
2. Keeping the Sabbath holy (10:31)
3. give a third of a shekel each year for the service of the house of our God (10:32)
4. cast lots to determine when each of our families is to bring to the house of our God at set times each year a contribution of wood to burn on the altar (10:34)
5. the first fruits (10:35)
6. the firstborn of our sons and of our cattle, of our herds and of our flocks to the house of our God (10:36)
7. storerooms of the house of our God (10:37)
8. leaders of the people settled in Jerusalem, and the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of every ten to live in Jerusalem (11:1,2)

Observations of the section
1. Joy and Mourning occurs because of a mighty God and a sinful people
2. Mourning leads to repentance and confession
3. Repentance and confession must lead to recommitment
4. Recommitment leads to a new covenant with God
5. Recommitment is led by the leaders and supported by all the people
6. New covenant supports the Temple worship

Lessons for us

1. Does a Christian need to mourn, repent and confess of his/her sins?
Since we have all being forgiven of all our sins, so why is there a need to confess our sins? Why talk about sin anymore? God said He has forgiven and forgotten our sins.
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."

HEB 10:18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.

Does this mean as Christians cannot (not capable of) sin?
And if we sinned, we do not have to confess. After all we already have a blank cheque for forgiveness.
I believe James 5:16 has something to say about this:
16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

James is writing to Christians and he instructs them to confess their sins. This means that (1) Christians can sin, and (2) Christians need to confess their sins.

I have this mental picture of a large haversack full of stones which I have to carry on my back.. On the haversack is written “Alex’s sins” and across the letters is a label “Forgiven and forgotten, signed GOD.” These stones represent the sins of the past, present and the future. There great big ones and little ones. That means there are stones of future sins I have not committed yet. Everything I repent and confess a sin, I get to remove the stone of that sin from the haversack. And the load gets lighter. By the time I reach heaven, the haversack will be empty.

2. What is your commitment to God as a Christian?

1) To become in character like Jesus Christ (Gal.4:19; Rom.8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18)
19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you,

Rom. 8:29.

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

2) To be followers of Jesus Christ (Matt 28:18,19)

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

To become a missional people.

3. What is your commitment as a church?

1) A commitment to Bible exposition (Acts 2:42)
2) A commitment to prayer (Matt 7:7-11, Phil 4:6, Isa 56:7)
3) A commitment to awe-inspiring worship (Acts 2:42-43)
4) A commitment to seeking and saving the lost (Mark 10:45)
5) A commitment to building everyone to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ (Col 1:28)
6) A commitment to caring and authentic relationship (Acts 2:42; 45-47)
7) A commitment to a well mobilized laity (Eph 4:11-12)
8) A commitment to unity of body and teamwork (Rom 12:5, 1 Cor 12:27)
9) A commitment to building strong Christian families (Jos 24:15, Ps 128)
10) A commitment to excellence (Phil 4:4, 8-9)

The mission of Holy Light Church (English) is to develop people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ.

Repentance and confession, commitment and recommitment are part of the Christian process of becoming.