2009-01-29

Grace Based Doctrines

It is good to reflect what we have learned after some years. My growth in Christ go through several stages. Firstly, I got to know Jesus as my personal savior and then I try to please Him by trying to be a good Christian and follows the Bible as much as I can. Then I discovered the spiritual gift of tongues and experienced the miracles working God of the Bible. After which I discovered that it was God within me, Christ in Me, that empowered me to be the Christian that Jesus wanted me to be. It used to be 'have-do-be'. Now it is 'Be-Do-Have' (see Be-Do-Have Repeat and Grow). I started this blog showing the great love and empowerment of Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just saved us but gave us His zoe life that we are empowered to live out  His glory. It helped me through my desert time of betrayals , disappointments and attacks. It enables us to come through all the more confidence of His love and empowerment for us. This is know commonly known as the grace-based doctrine.

What are then the essential believes of the Grace Based Doctrines?
Below is the mind-map showing the key beliefs.
I wish to quote John Piper's "God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him."
Know for yourself that God is delighted in you - just as you are. But He loves you too much to leave you at your present state. He will bring you to greater height to show forth His glory through you.

What about work?
It is about obedience to the general and unique calling of our lives. Our work of obedience is not for gaining salvation for we have already been saved, but for extending God's Kingdom and God's glory from and through us from within. Our obedience brings for the blessings that God has appropriated for us and show forth His glory to others that others may be drawn toward him. (updated on 19 Aug 2009)

2009-01-13

KP#20 Focus & Priority - Building Strengths more than Overcoming Weaknesses

Parables of "The Hidden Treasures" and "The Pearl of Great Price"
Everyone has limited time and limited resources. The key to effectiveness and productivity is knowing what are the important ones and then concentrating effort and time on doing them. Life is much simplified, stressed free when we identify the things of utmost of values. Jesus taught this principle of "finding the treasure and giving all to get it" in the parables of "The Hidden Treasures Mat 13:44" and "The Pearl of Great Price Mat 13:45-46". It is so important that Jesus uses two illustrations. This principle is put into practice by Paul in Php 3:8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.

1st Find the Treasure
What is the Treasure? What are things that are of importance and value? This is found in our mission statement for the corporation and in our calling for our personal life. The mission gives us the purpose and meaning of existent. We need to spend time to search for it and to craft it. It is the most important thing to do. Do it first. Find the mission.

2nd Give All to Get It
The follow on step is to spend all the effort and time to realize the found mission. To Paul, it is Jesus Christ. He spent his all to get to know Christ in an intimate way and to grow up to be like Him. All others are considered less valueable than that. Knowing our mission and meaning of life, an individual or in a corporation, enables us to work out a priority list. We should use the things of lower value to get the things of higher value.

Core & Context - Work on Building Up Strength more than Overcoming Weaknesses
This concept is well illustrated by Geoffrey Moore in his books when he speak of core and context. He suggested we should spend time in enhancing and building the core of differentiation from the markets and outsourcing our context. In the book "7 Practices of Effective Ministry", Andy Stanley et al use the Baseball game as illustration - a pitcher (his mission) is to spend effort in improving his pitching rather than spend effort in improving his batting. For me, we need to spend effort in improving our weakness to an acceptable level and spend more efforts in improving our strengths. This pre-supposes that we have found a role than utilizes our strengths.

Not all activities are of equal important. Activities that help you move in the direction of your mission and vision are needful. The others are just distortion. Find your treasure first and spend all to get it.

Next: Watch and Ride the Trend

2009-01-01

Knowledge Tree of Good and Evil

The two famous trees in the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:9) are tree of Life and tree of Knowledge of good and evil.

There are people who shorten the description and call it the Tree of Knowledge. The result of eating from the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was sin and death. Hence, they claimed Knowledge is bad and should not be pursued. They also cited 1 Co 8:1 knowledge puffs up to support their case.

Let take a closer look at the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What is the key word here ? Knowledge or Good and Evil? Knowledge is the higher qualifier and Good and Evil is the finer descriptor. Knowledge covers much greater scope than "Good" & "Evil". Or to put it another way, "Good & Evil", Moral, is only a small part albeit a very important part, of knowledge. We cannot drop the finer descriptor of "Good and Evil" and just talk about knowledge. Just talking about Knowledge would be wrong - it is too generalized. The key descriptor is about a specific kind of knowledge of "good and evil".

A better descriptor for the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, given by others, include "Tree of Laws ", "Tree of Knowledge of Sin" or "Tree of Moral". Tree of Life is compared against Tree of Laws as "Grace" vs "Laws" for salvation.

Some preacher remarked that man, after eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, got to know that there are good and evil things, but they lack the discernment to tell the good from the evil. God gave the Laws later to reveal the sins. But in Romans 2, we know the sense of right and wrong is built into our conscience and man can't argue that they don't know.

For me, I prefer to name the tree, the "Tree of Knowing Good and Evil", to prevent it from being just shortened to knowledge. The Chinese version of the Bible has, I think, a better translation, as the "Tree of Discernment of Good and Evil"(分别善恶的树). Eating the fruit of this Tree shows that man want to be the judge of good and evil. Man want to be his own judge of what is good and what is evil. God is kept out of the picture. This, to me, is the greatest rebellion against God. The true judge of all, should be God and not man. The created being, man, cannot be the judge. Only the Creator, God, can be the judge.

Is Knowledge Good or Evil?
Knowledge should be judged good or evil by the content. Any knowledge that excludes God or exalts against God is bad, worldly and even demonic. Knowledge that originated from God (e.g. Bible ) and Truth are good and Godly. Jesus tells us that we must know the truth and the truth will set us free. Knowledge from the Devil is bad and evil. Knowledge from man cannot be judged that way but must be by content.

Back to 1 Co 8:1 "knowledge puffs up". If you read accurately, and from the context, you will realize that not all knowledge puffs up but only a particular kind of knowledge. Which kind ? It is explained in the next verse 1 Cor 8:2, the kind that thinks he knows everything. The ESV translation qualifies with "This 'knowledge' puffs up". ALT also qualified with 'such knowledge'. Knowledge does not puffs up. It is the person who think he knows all gets puffed up.

The foundation of knowledge, or true knowledge, begins with acknowledgment of God.
  • Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.
  • Isa 33:6 And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.
Knowledge should be Judged by Context not just the Source
Knowledge that comes from God - Bible is good. There is not much argument against it. But if the knowledge comes from man, can we, conclude from its origin, that it is therefore no good and worldly? I don't think so. The existence and nature of God can be seen from His creation. Man in pursuing the truth, will be able to discover portion of the truths of God. The golden rule of love, taught by Jesus, can be found in many cultures. We can find many teachings of Lao Tze and Confucianism that agrees with the Bible. Putting in another way, Biblical Knowledge extends the teachings of Lao Tze and Confucianism. The Lao Tze' and Confucianism discover the laws or way of the universe and human behavior but did not discover the giver of the order and the personification of the dao (The Way) in Jesus Christ. They will be thrilled to have know Jesus. Pursue Knowledge and learn to discern the good and evil. This is maturity.

See also Knowledge Tree of Good and Evil - Looking from Tree of Life

Yin Yang and the Bible

A typical difference between Eastern and Modern Western thinking is about options.

Modern Western thinking believes in choosing either Option A or Option B depending on an evaluation function.

Eastern thinking believes in holding both options in balance - the concept of Yin and Yang.

In Confucius teaching, holding both in balanced, is called the dao of the middle 中庸之道 or Golden Mean - the course between two extremes.

Boldness is the middle between cowardice and violence.
Love is the middle between hatred and pampering.
Faith is between unbelief and presumption.

Christian living is holding balance between relying on God and man's effort.
We have
  • Option A: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" Phi 2:12
  • Option B: "For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Phi 2:13
Option A - we do the work. Option B: Let go and Let God.

While God does the initiating, we have the responsibility of listening to God and being obedient.
If we don't spend time studying the bible and praying (talking with God), we can't hear God too clearly.
Our sensitivity to God comes from time spent in talking and studying His Word and our obedience to what we heard.

Revelation of God comes easily and frequently when we study the Bible. Revelation also comes in our worship and prayer. Take away our effort in pursuing God, and God will seem far away. On the other hand, it is always God who initiate the communication with us. Without God's initiation, no matter how hard we try, we will not hear God.

So while we need to understand the extremes, we maintain our walk in the middle. On one hand, we let God lead us and on the other hand we strife to accomplish what God has revealed and instructed us to do. Grace - God's empower only comes when we initiate actions. It takes two to accomplish the work and word of God.

Other points of balance include :
Denying oneself to follow Christ vs Prosperity & Health as one soul prosper
Salvation by Grace and Faith only vs God's workmanship created for Good-Work. see James 2:17-18 faith without work is dead.

Another point of view is "Both sides of the Same Coin".

A key point in maintaining balance is get the boot sequence right - God is 1st, Jesus is the Source and end-point and man just follows and then spiraling to greater and greater height. Yin-Yang is the 2D view of 3D spiral of growth into the image of Christ.

This duality or dichotomy can be seen in Ecclesiastes 3
 1 There is a time for everything,
   and a season for every activity under the heavens:  2 a time to be born and a time to die,
   a time to plant and a time to uproot,
 3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
   a time to tear down and a time to build,
 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
   a time to mourn and a time to dance,
 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
   a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
 6 a time to search and a time to give up,
   a time to keep and a time to throw away,
 7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
   a time to be silent and a time to speak,
 8 a time to love and a time to hate,
   a time for war and a time for peace.

For related, see Chinese Classics & The Bible.