Posts Tagged ‘Christ’

How can we have free will if God is Soverign?

If God is Soverign, how can we have free will?  If God is in control of everything, doesn’t that mean we really don’t have free will? How do we answer to that? God is Soverign and He is in control of everything.  At the same time, we all have free will and we can make our own decision whether to follow Him or not. Does it sound irrational?  Doesn’t make sense?  Or even a bit absurd? A few weeks ago, when Wai Jia and I was doing our devotions (if you’ve been following my blog posts, you will know that we are going through this book, Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God.) This is how Oswald tackled this question:

When we are born from above we understand what is incomprehensible to human reason – that the predestination of God and our infinitesimal lives are made one and the same by Him. From the standpoint of rationalism that is nonsense; but it is revelation fact. The connection between the election of God and human free will is confusing to our Gentile type of mind, but the connection was an essential element underlying all Hebrew thought. The predestination of God cannot be experienced by individuals of their own free choice; but when we are born again the fact that we do choose what has been predestined of God comes to us as a revelation.

The rationalist says it is absurd to imagine that the purposes of Almighty God are furthered by an individual life, but it is true. God’s predestinations are the voluntary choosing of the sanctified soul.Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God

God’s predestinations are the voluntary choosing of the sanctified soul. This means that when we are born again, our thoughts are the thoughts of Christ. Our decisions, in free will, will choose what God desires. We no longer have the heartbeat of ourselves. God’s heartbeat is in us! When we read that, both Wai Jia and I were in awe. To see that we have an opportunity, a chance, not just partnering up with the Lord but our spirit is so close with the Lord that His desire and our desires join together. Looking back, it is true. Everything about following Jesus. Everything about mission. This is not just the work or the mind of Cliff. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. A few years ago, when I was still in triathlon all my passion, aspiration and desire was to do more races. Train harder. Get faster. It was after laying it all down in a written contract to God that every decision I make I will seek Him first, that the thought of sharing the Gospel become a desire. It started out small. But the desire for mission grew and grew. It grew to a point where I have to make a decision between triathlon or doing mission. Have I looked back and wonder what life would be like if I stick with triathlon?  Sometimes.  But more often than not, I am amaze that by following God and doing His Will I will be in Uganda serving with a Singaporean wife.  That would never cross my mind.  AMEN :)

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

How to go

This is taken from Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God.

How to go – Acts 1:8

There is always the danger of starting up false enthusiasm in missionary work. “Oh yes, I will go; where shall I go?” That is like making a false start in a race and having to go back to the starting point. Our Lord’s word go simply means live, and Acts 1:8 describes the going. Jesus did not say to the disciples, go to Jerusalem, go to Judea, go to Samaria, go to the end of the earth, but “You shall be witnesses to Me” in all these places. He undertakes to establish the goings. So many people are obesessed with this idea, “What are you going to do?” I hope none of us are going to do anything; I hope we are going to be what He wants us to be.

In Matthew 28:19, our Lord does not say go into all the world, but “Go therefore and make disciples.” He does the engineering. In Acts 1:8, He does not say you shall receive power, and you shall go into Jerusalem, but “You shall be witnesses to Me.” How the disciples went is described later in the Acts of the Apostles. They went at the point of the sword; persecution arose and scattered them by the providence of God. How to go refers to the personal spiritual character of the missionary, not to the feet of the missionary.Oswald Chambers’ So I send You & Workmen of God

A few questions I am asking myself:

  • what does it mean to be His Witness?
  • What does He wants me to be?

Do you agree with Oswald Chambers’ writing?  Disagree?

As Wai Jia and I read this this morning, she mentioned many asked us why Uganda and what are we going to be doing there.  Perhaps, the better question is what does Jesus wants us to be.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

Preaching

The first time I preached was last Dec when we went to India to visit a missionary couple.  Before that, I always had the desire to preach.  Maybe this is part of my own imagination and maybe also part of the Holy Spirit.

The first time I preached, I preached on the Fear of the Lord is the Beginning to Wisdom (Proverbs 9:10).  This was never the topic I thought to preach on. As I was praying, I felt the prompting of the Holy Spirit that this was the right topic.  Little did I know, on the platform where I first preach, their banner was Proverbs 9:10.  I believed I listened correctly to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.  My joy wasn’t because my message was elegant or witty or people listened to me.  My joy was simply I spoke the words God wanted me to speak to the church.

The first time I preached, it was on Proverbs 9:10.  The banner on the church has the exact same verse!

Since being in Uganda for a month, I had the privilege to preach in various churches.  I like to jot down some of my thoughts when it comes to preaching.

Preaching is to speak God’s Word to the church.

The preacher is like the prophets in the Old Testaments.  A preacher’s job is to become God’s mouthpiece.  The message can be an exhortation, encouragement and also a rebuke. The message might not be good to the ears to hear if the heart of the hearer is not right in God.

Preaching is not a performance. Rather, the preacher’s heart is so attune to God’s heart that the message flows out.  Technique is almost not relevant.  A few years ago I was among discussions about doing a three point sermon or how long should a sermon be before the audience got bored. These should not be the focus of how to preach.  The first and last question is, did I serve the Lord by preaching the Word which He wanted the church to hear?  If the answer to the question is not a yes, then the sermon is garbage.

The success of a preacher is not how polish the message is delivered.  It is not the skillful elegance of the presentation.  Rather it is to speak as accurate as what God wants to speak to the church.  In Paul’s eyes, to preach is to show the power of the cross and the demonstration of the Spirit and of power (1 Corinthians 2:1-4).

A preacher can deliver a polish message without God. But a preacher, filled with the Holy Spirit, will always cut to the heart of the hearer.  A message inspired by the Holy Spirit will ALWAYS be relevant and ALWAYS bring glory to God.  Paul even said that he didn’t use fancy words to convince the Corinthians.  He used simple words and power through the Holy Spirit to share Jesus Christ and His crucifixion.  We need that.  If our presentation skills are too good, people will draw to the message by us and not of Christ.  This is not an excuse to not prepare.  We need to focus on the right things to prepare.  Thus, technique is not the right things to focus on.

The response of the hearer does not measure the success of a preacher.  If the hearer’s heart is not right with the Lord, a message of rebuke might turn them against the preacher (look at Stephen from Acts 6:8-7:60).  But this has nothing to do with whether the preacher is good or not.  If the hearer rejects a message from the Lord, it is the hearer’s responsibility (and possible judgement and condemnation from the Lord).  When Paul preached, he didn’t always get a positive response.  In fact, he get more negative and hostile responses from the Jews (Acts 9:20-24, 13:45-52, 14:3-7, 14:19-20, 17:5-9, 17:12-13).  But this doesn’t deter Paul from preaching nor was his preaching ineffective as many Gentiles and some Jews believed.

My goal for every time I preach is to be in a position where I, the Lord’s servant, become His mouth piece.  This requires the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit only comes to those whose hearts are pure.  It is the Holy Spirit which gives us access to God’s heart.  This is the only formula.  If there are sins in my life, I will not be effective in preaching.  Notice Isaiah only become God’s prophet after his sin (his mouth) is cleansed.  When filled with the Holy Spirit, we can be imparted with wisdom and understanding of the Bible.  When Peter and John were before the Sanhedrin in Acts 4:13, the Sadducees were astonished that they were not train nor educated.  Yet they preach with such boldness, conviction and wisdom.  In our church when our preachers are highly educated and highly skilled, does that hinder the gospel rather than promoting it?  Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 stated that he came to Corinth church not with excellent speech or persuasive words of human wisdom.  But he came in demonstration of the Spirit and of power so his hearer will put their faith in the power of God and not in the wisdom of men.

My preparation as a preacher has two folds. First, I need to know the Bible.  Such that when Holy Spirit prompts me I can pull passages easily. The more Bible I know, the more effective I will be in speaking in Truth and in Love.  The second is to abide in Him.   For me, that’s to be filled with the Holy Spirit and walk with the Spirit.  In Acts, we see Holy Spirit is the one who directs the steps of all the disciples.  Only after the Day of Pentacost, then the disciples preach Jesus and the Cross with boldness.  This is the KEY.  We need to walk with the Spirit that we know where He is moving.   The Holy Spirit is like the wind.  He knows what each church needs to hear.  We need to hear from Him to deliver the right message.  We might not know why the Holy Spirit is prompting us to preach a certain topic or use a certain Bible verse.  We might think we are foolish to do so. But we must trust.  We must learn to trust.  We must learn to listen.  We must learn to discern.

I make it habit to not use the same sermon I used before.  I might use the same illustrations and testimonies.  It doesn’t mean every time I preach has to be new and novel thoughts or interpretation.  It means that after I prepared my sermon, I always give the room for the Holy Spirit to discard the message or change any of its content.

In all the sermons that Luke recorded in Acts (Peter’s sermons in Acts 2:14-39, 3:11-26, 10:34-43, Paul in Acts 13:16-41, 17:22-31, 26:1-23), there’s a common thread between all of them.  They always preach on Christ, the Cross, and Resurrection.  The exception is Acts 22:1-21 when Paul was addressing to the Jerusalem mob.  It looks like the mob cut Paul off in verse 22 before he preached on Jesus.

I believed that preaching, my preaching should stay consistent with what was preached in Acts.  To some, this might seem irrelevant as the cross is already preached and the listeners need to hear something different.  I beg to differ.  To preach anything else other than Jesus and the Cross reduces the centrality of Christ in Christianity.  We need to not be afraid by public opinions to preach sin as it leads to death.  We need not be afraid to offend others that there’s no salvation found other than Christ alone.  Lastly, Jesus overcame death by resurrection in the third day.  This is the victory which we hold on to.  This is why we preach.  There’s power, a demonstration of God’s power in preaching Jesus, the Cross and the Resurrection.  This is the Good News.  I hope I will never get tired or stray from preaching this.

 

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.1 Corinthians 1:17-18

…but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.1 Corinthians 1:23-24

We preach not to draw others to us.  We preach to draw others to Jesus.  This is the goal.  Just as John the Baptist said, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).

Preaching is not a profession.  It is not a job.  It is a calling from God.  It is appointed by God (1 Timothy 2:7).  Paul was created in his mother’s womb to preach.  That was God’s purpose for Paul’s life.  When he was born again and he discovered God’s purpose for his life, Paul made it his only goal to pursuit this purpose.  Woe to me if I don’t preach the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16).  These are the words of a man who is filled with the Holy Spirit and recognized the purpose God placed him on earth.  If we are to be effective in preaching, we need to be like Paul.  Man (and woman) so filled with the Spirit, a clean heart, and a single purpose to do His Will.

Being In Christ

I wrote this post a few weeks ago.  It just took some time to publish it.

Today’s morning prayer we studied Colossians 2:6-7.   Our homework from yesterday was to bring an object that symbolize this passage.  As each of us brought different items and explain to others what they stand for, someone brought this model to represent our walk with Christ.

 

In Christ model

 So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.Colossians 2:6-7

As I looked at the model, I realize we can actually do Christian work without the need of Christ.

You can use your skills without being in Christ.

You can learn language and culture without being in Christ.

You can have Biblical knowledge without being in Christ.

You can even have bits of Christlikeness without being in Christ.

 

In the past few months as Wai Jia and I are exploring where to serve after OMF next April, we met up with missionaries from various mission organizations.  It seemed that the first question they ask is not about our walk in Christ.  Rather all the questions related to the outer most circles, what can we do.

What can we do on the field?  What ‘practical’ skills can we help the field?  Wai Jia can do medical work.  I can do IT work.  Everyone assumed that we are in Christ.  I think this is a dangerous assumption.  I realized that this is a period for me to draw closer in God.  To commune with Him.  To be able to discern His voice.   To walk with Him.  We need to go back to the way how the Gospel is shared in the New Testament.  That is, to be led by the Holy Spirit.

It is tempting to focus mission as mainly a ‘practical’ activity where we can plan and dictate our steps without following the Holy Spirit.  It maybe because this is not commonly what we do.   It maybe because we love to take control of our future (even when we say we follow the Lord, we are really following the plans we want to make for the Lord).  It maybe because we are scared where the Holy Spirit will bring us.

What I learnt and still learning is that when I speak with a brother or a sister in Christ, I don’t want to assume the inner circle is there.  I don’t want to assume someone who profess they are Christian and want to do missions when they are struggling to walk with Him.  Rather than focusing on what skills they can bring to the field, I rather ask them how are they walking in Christ.  When we are in Christ, the other circles will overflow. But without Christ, what we are doing, even in our most sincere acts for Christ, is hollow.

The key to the missionary problem is in the hand of God, and that key is prayer not work, that is, not work as the word is popularly understood to-day because that may mean the evasion of concentration on God. The key to the missionary problem is not the key of common sense, nor the medical key, nor the key of civilization or education or even evangelization. The key is prayer. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest.” Naturally, prayer is not practical, it is absurd; we have to realize that prayer is stupid from the ordinary common-sense point of view.Utmost.org