2017-07-31

Godliness is Not in the Mind Only - Romans 2

Godliness is not in the mind only. Knowledge of the Laws without following actions still brings condemnation. There is nothing to be proud of if we just have the knowledge without action. We are just hypocrites. The best is to internalize the Laws within our heart and acting out in our bodies. True Godliness must be in our heart, mind, and body.
Romans 2 Mindmap:


Judging Fairly - Judging Others begins with ourselves
  • Pointing at others sins does not save us from our sins. We can distract and fool men but not God.

    • Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because of you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2:1Condemning Others does not excuse our sins.
      Others wrongful acts do not justify our wrongs.
    • We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 2:2God punishes the unfair judges
      • Do you suppose, O man--you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself--that you will escape the judgment of God? 2:3
    • Mat 7:5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.
Delayed Judgement - Repent now before it is too late
  • Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 2:4God's delayed judgment does not mean God is not going to judge nor God is ignoring our sins. But rather, it is to give time for us to realize our sins.
  • But because of your hard and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 2:5Continuing in our sinful acts will just add up to God's wrath.
God's Judgment - Life for righteous and Wrath for evil
  • He will render to each one according to his works 2:6 impartially 2:11Galatians 6:7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
  • Eternal life; 2:7
    • to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality,
  • Wrath and fury. 2:8
    • those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness,
  • Tribulation and distress
    • for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 2:9
  • Glory, honor, and peace
    • for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 2:10
How of Judgment - By the Disclosed Laws or Conscience
  • For God shows no partiality. 2:11
  • For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law,
    • Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves 2:14The moral sense of right and wrong is built in.
    • They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 2:15
  • all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 2:12
  • not the hearers of the law who are righteous but the doers of the law who will be justified. 2:13
Jesus Christ the Judge
  • on that day, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 2:16
The Benefits of Jews - Knowledge of Laws & Wisdom
  • But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 2:17
  • know His will & approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 2:18
  • If you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 2:19
  • an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth-- 2:20
Justification is by Actions -Not by talking or teaching.
  • you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 2:21
  • You say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 2:22
  • You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 2:23
  • For, as it is written, "The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you." 2:24
Circumcision is of the Heart - Outward ceremonious action is useless
  • For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. 2:25
  • So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 2:26
  • Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 2:27
  • For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 2:28
  • But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. 2:29
Summary
  • Knowing God's Laws is Good
    • It is wisdom to teach and guide us
    • But knowing is not a basis for righteousness. Nothing to boast about
    • Judging & teaching others the Laws begins with ourselves first
    • The Laws must be internalized in our heart with corresponding actions
    • Knowledge without Following Actions is useless; it brings shame instead.

Lim Liat (c) 31 July 2017

2017-07-29

The Gospel for Fixing the Sin of Man - Romans 1

The essence and the purpose of the gospel are given in Romans Chapter 1. The righteous shall live by faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. Pauls shared his desires and purpose of his visit to the Romans believer community and in the process explained the sin and the salvation of man through Jesus Christ.
The Essence of the Gospel


Looking at the mind-map above, we can ask and answer many questions that relate to us:

  1. Who is Paul, the author of this letter?
    Paul said he was the servant of Jesus Christ, an Apostle, essentially the sent one, with a very specific message, which is the gospel of God. Paul is very clear about his mission in life. Knowing one's mission enables him to prioritize, the important from the unnecessary. His life has focus and meaning. What about your life? Do you know your calling from God? The general ones for all believers and the particular ones unique to you.

  2. What is the Gospel?
    It is about Jesus Christ and us. It is promised by God all the way from the time God decided to create men. It is not an afterthought but a part of the original design. God knows men will fail Him and hence He already provided the Way to save men and bring men back to Him. The gospel is the good news that men can become saints again. Going down to v16 & 17, it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.  The righteous shall live by faith in the gospel of God.  

  3. Who is Jesus Christ?
    He was a descendant of King David, a man in the flesh just like anyone of us. But He is actually the Son of God. The uniqueness of Jesus is that He died and was resurrected by the Holy Spirit. He is the One that conquers death.

  4. Who is the Holy Spirit?
    The Holy Spirit is the One that resurrected Jesus Christ the man from death. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit all play a part in the gospel.

  5. Who is God?
    God is the One who loves us and call us to be saints. His plan was not spoiled neither by the sin of men nor the evil of Satan. He sent His son to die for us that we may be saved. John 3:16. God gives us grace and peace.
The Purpose of Visit


Paul shows us how we could relate to other believers. Here are some key points:

  1. To bless them with Grace and Peace from God.
  2. To keep track of their work and be thankful to God.
  3. To pray for them unceasingly.
  4. To pray for the opportunity to meet face to face so that
    1. impart spiritual gifts to strengthen them
    2. to be mutually encouraged
    3. to reap some harvest of souls in reaching out to others in their community
    4. to be impartial in our sharing of the gospel, regardless of races, and social classes.
    5. to be confident in the power of the gospel and share boldly. Salvation is by faith and not by work. So we may feel inadequate but let us not be fearful and leave the result to God.

The Sin of Man and the Judgement from God


We learn the following points:

  1. There will be a judgment against all unrighteousness of men.
  2. Men unrighteousness is suppression of the truth.
  3. The truth, within the context, is the existence of God.
  4. The existence of the invisible God is clearly seen in the things created by Him. So men have no excuse for not knowing God.
  5.  Instead, men foolishly make the created thing their god! In the past, we found men worshipping trees, animals, the sun, the moon, etc. Some even make idols from woods and metals resulting in men worshipping their own created idols!
  6. At present time, any thing that replaces God in heart, such as wealth, reputation, children or spouse, could become our idols. We should not put anything higher than God.
  7. The worst is that men make their own desires above God. They corrupt the original purposes of bodies and dishonor their bodies in their lusts and committing all kinds of evil acts.
  8. The sins of men include covetousness, malice, envy, murder, strife, deceit, gossips, slanderers, haters of God, etc.
  9.  Internally though men know such acts are wrong, they nevertheless do them and even encourage others to them. Men think they can make immoral acts moral by either legalizing them or getting more people to do. Their justification will simply be, "All others are doing them and so it must be OK."
  10. God allows them to do whatever they like but will judgment one day for their sins.
  11. There is only one way out, which is to acknowledge our sins, and believe in the gospel by faith. We are so enslaved by sins that only Jesus Christ can free us through his death and resurrection.
Lim Liat (c) 29-7-17





2017-07-22

Sin, The Alien and How to Kill it - Romans 7

Sin is the alien, the foreign body, that invaded into our flesh and caused us to do what the very thing that we hate. Romans 7 explains how sin works and gives us the answer to kill it. 
What is Sin?
Most people will tell you about wrong acts. Some theologians will tell us about the original sin that it from Adam and Eve and that we all have it. All men are born sinful they say. But if you read Romans Chapter 7 carefully, you will find a different answer. Sin is not from us. Sin is the alien, the foreign body that invaded into our body and takes hold of us. Paul repeated twice, 7v17,20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. We are born good and we know God's laws are good and want to follow them. Paul again repeated twice, in verse 16 "Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good." and verse 22 "For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being".

Romans 7 gives us the full story of God's law/commandments, sin and its working, and most importantly how are we saved from the power of sin through Christ and how we are to live in this new life through the Spirit. Here is my mind-map with some rephrasing of the biblical text to make it clearer to you. Please read the original text at the same time as you go through the mind-map.



Sin is: (from the Star in the above mind-map)

Sin is
  • Sin is the alien virus that invades us that kills us.Rom 7:9,11
  • Sin bind us through deceptions (just like the Devil from whom the sin came).
    • It lies that the Law is the demanding bad guy that condemn us.Rom 7:8
    • It twisted the effect of the Law from life to death Rom 7:10
    • It is the external intruder that cheated us that it is us and not an alien.Rom 7:17,20
    • We can be our own god and be rejecting a relationship with God.
  • Through Bondage
    • I know what is Good 7:16,22
    • BUT I could not do it 7:18, 23
  • Law is God's righteousness. It takes God to be like-God. So we are the rebirth in the Holy Spirit as Children of God.
The Victory over Sin

Sin's Destruction

Jesus overcomes sin for us.
  • Rom 7:24
    • Wretched man that I am!
    • Who will deliver me from this body of death?
  • Rom 7:25
    • Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
    • Before
      • I myself serve the law of God with my mind,
      • but with my flesh(invaded by sin) I serve the law of sin.
  • But now
    • Rom 8:2  For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 
    • We are saved, belong to Christ, to glorify God
      • Rom 7:4 - Purpose
        • You have died to the law through the body of Christ,
        • so that you may belong to Christ
          • who has been raised from the dead,
        • that we may bear fruit for God.
      • Rom 7:6 -Method
        • But now we are freed from the law,
          • having died to that captor
        • We serve in the new way of the Spirit
          • Not in the old way of the written code.
        • Spirit Led vs Law Enforcement
        • Internal vs External
Lim Liat (c) 22 Jul 2017


2017-07-19

Making My Cross easier to bear

Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

So far all preachers that I heard on this topic stressed on denying themselves in order to follow Jesus. They painted a story of the needs of suffering for Christ.

Actually, the ability to bear the burden depends not on how great and able are we to suffer for Him but on knowing how good Christ is. The more we know His goodness and love, deserving all we can do and have for Him, the easier it is for us to deny ourselves. The more we preached on His goodness and less on our sufferings and the burden, the more we don't feel we are denying ourselves of anything; because knowing and experiencing Him is worth so much more. Hence Paul can boldly proclaim in Philippians 3:8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

To gain Christ, I am willing to forgo all. Please note that, what Paul counted as losses were not his weaknesses nor sins, but rather his position as a Pharisee of Pharisees, the protegee, his zeals for God etc. Things that the world and us will value highly.

So Paul says again, 2 Corinthians 4:17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

We should not just preach denying ourselves as if we are suffering for Christ and hence claiming credits that God owe us. But rather, as Paul, we forgo whatever, be it riches, comfort, honors, pleasures, that stop us from gaining Christ. We willing forgo such. The exchange is worth it, many times more. Do we know Jesus as good as that?

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he can never lose. – Jim Elliot.

Am I missing anything? Am I suffering without purpose? Consider what you are gaining.

Lim Liat (c) 19-7-17

2017-07-07

An In-Depth Look at the Fruit of the Spirit - The 9 Nine Habits of Attractive Believers

Four key areas are discussed. What is the fruit of the Spirit? How to grow the fruit? How some believers behave at times worse than non-believers? How does it compare with the virtues of the Chinese philosophies? The answers help us to effective believers.
I. What is the fruit of the Spirit?

A fruit is an outcome.You can see, touch and taste a fruit. It is a brand that characterizes. A brand is not what the seller claims but is what customers say about the product over a long time of use. A fruit is then a habit. As Stephen Covey wrote the best-seller "The Seven Habits of Effective People", the fruit of the spirit can be rephrased as, "The 9 Attractive Habits of Spirit-filled Believers".  The fruit is the characters or virtues of believers. They can be compared against the virtues of other religions and philosophies as well. 

Multi-faceted Fruit
All the nine attributes to be described are of the same fruit. Consider the king of the fruits, durian. It has many very distinctive attributes such as the pungent smell, the thorny and hard outer crust, the smooth, creamy, sweet and bitter taste of the flesh of the seeds. They tell quickly it is a durian. Some, what characteristics, what smell and taste, do believers have that we can tell them apart at a distance or in a close range?

The Nine Attributes of the Fruit of the Spirit
Because the nine attributes such as love, joy, peace etc are commonly used terms, we are tempted to use our own understanding of the terms to explain them. Because they came from the same fruit, we will find many similar characteristics among the nine. For example, kindness and goodness sound like the same. Self-control and patience are needed in the handling of anger. In explaining the nine attributes, I will still to the following guides:
  • to highlight the differences and not to confuse with their similarity. Paul wouldn't have given us the list of nine if they are all similar. He gave us to show us nine different aspects of the same fruit. So we must be very discerning.
  • to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Every term should be explained within its context and if not, the other part of the Bible where the same term is used.
  • what a term 'is' and what a term 'is not' helps us understand the term better. For example, a four legs furniture could be a table or a chair. We can tell table a furniture with four legs to put things on and not for sitting upon. 
We are blessed that the fruit listed in Gal 5:22-23 has a set negative attributes listed earlier in Gal 5:19-21. Then there is a corresponding list of meanings in 1 Cor 13:4-8 when Paul explained what love is in details. We can use two lists, and references to verses in other parts of the Bible, to define the clearer meaning of the various attributes. Below is mind-map to make for clarity.

The Fruit of the Spirit Defined in Context



The Catholic 12 Fruits of the Spirit
The Catholic has a list of 12 instead of the 9. I think that is because some of the attributes are contained in the other and but they feel it is important enough to separate them out. I will try to put refer back to the 9-item list earlier.

1) Charity. - 1 love
2) Joy. - 2 joy
3) Peace. - 3 peace
4) Patience. - 4 patience
5) Benignity. - 5 kindness
6) Goodness. - 6 goodness
7) Longanimity. - an attribute that is in 4 Patience.
8) Mildness. - 8 gentleness
9) Faith. - 7 faithfulness
10) Modesty. - an attribute that that is related to 8 Gentleness/Meekness
11) Continency.- 9 self-control
12) Chastity.- related to 7 faithfulness to one spouse.

A Shorter List Please - Only 3

Eph 5:9 Fruit Of The Spirit Is In All
  1. Goodness
    Exo 33:19 And He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Hence, Goodness includes Grace and Mercy
  2. Righteousness
    This is hidden in kindness and also the goodness of the Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness and goodness have an implied standards of what is right or wrong.
  3. Truth
    This is in the joy attribute of the fruit of the Spirt where it rejoices in the truth.
II. How to grow the fruit?

The answer is given by Jesus in John 15:1-2. However, most of the Bible translations got it wrong by translation the Greek airo G142 as take-away or cut-off. But looking up the Thayer's Concordance, we get the following definition:

Thayer Definition:
1) to raise up, elevate, lift up
2) to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear
3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off

Note that of the 3 meanings, the first two are about raise-up and bearing it and only the third is about removal. The context of the passage will show us which is the right definition to use. So far, the Companion Bible Revised, 1909 by E.W. Bullinger got it right. It is quoted below:

I Am the True Vine Joh 15
  1. I Am the real vine, and My Father is the husbandman.
    (Jesus is the vine and the believers are the branches)
  2. a. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He raiseth [from groveling on the ground] and
    (Note that this non-fruit-bearing branch in already in Jesus. Verse 4-6 tells us that only those not abiding Jesus can bear fruit and those that abide not will be cast out. So this in Jesus branch should not be cast out but be cared for and raised up. There were external conditions that cause it not to bear fruit.)

    b. every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, in order that it may bear more fruit.
    (This branch got it right but has the potential to have more fruits. He is wasting energy on non-strategic things and hence those activities should be trimmed off and the energy channeled to growing fruit. In business, we call this Lean Manufacturing)
  3. Already ye are clean on account of the word which I have spoken unto you.
    (How do we get cleaned? By His Words)
  4. Abide in Me, I also abide in you, for As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if not it abide in the vine; even so neither can ye, if not ye abide in Me.
    (Abide in Jesus to bear fruit)
  5. I Am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for apart from Me ye can do nothing.
  6. If a man abides not in Me, he was cast forth as the branch, and was withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
  7. If ye abide in Me, and My sayings abide in you, ask what ye desire, and it shall come to pass to you.
    (You get what God says – our will get changed by His words so that we ask and receive according to God’s heart and will)
There are other growth models. Peter gave us an 8-stage model in 2Pet 1:5-7. John gave us the children- young man - father 3-stage model in 1 John 2. In Roman 5, Paul gave us another one. I compiled a unified growth model here.

III Understand why believers at times behave worse than non-believers

The Parable of the Sower gives us the reasons - stolen, pressured, lured away and only the fourth one remains to produce fruits. If we follow the vine-model above, then the lag of fruit is could be due to the first 3 reasons of the sower parable. They are not to be cast out but rather be cared for, taught and corrected that they grow. Fruit takes some time. going through different stages, to grow. So those in the early stages of growth may show no signs of a fruit. Maybe just some small flower buds for others to see.

IV How Does it Compares with Chinese Virtues?

Confucius School has a popular list of 5 and a more complete list of 10.
1. 仁、love, charity.
2. 义、righteousness
3. 礼、proper conduct, good manners
4. 智、wisdom
5. 信、integrity, trustworthiness
6. 忠、faithfulness
7. 孝、filial piety - Elders loves younger, younger respect elders.
8. 节、self-control
9. 勇、boldness, decisiveness
10. 和. Harmony and Peace.

Lao Zi teaches 3 Treasures.
The three are love, thriftiness and not to fight for first. See Three Treasures for Your Greatness - DaoDeJing 67

You can see that the Chinese virtues lists match well with the Fruit of the Spirit list and expand our mind to learn of more virtues that complement our understanding.

The Purpose of Our Salvation is to Bear Fruit!

We are saved to bear fruit: salvation is the beginning & fruit is the destination

(Rom 7:4) Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

(Phil 1:11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

(Col 1:10) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

(Heb 12:11) For the moment all discipline(the way and the process to bear fruit) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Prayer for All Believers:
May we all abide in Christ, in his Word, and in Communion with Him through the Holy Spirit and be filled with the Spirit in all that we do as we grow the fruit of the Spirit to be effective and attractive ambassadors of Him.

Lim Liat (c) 7-7-17

2017-07-04

Christian Truth In The Chinese Characters

Many years ago before the rise of blogging and social media, I have written about how the Genesis story was captured in Chinese Characters. You can find such articles easily now by googling. But this is my arrangement for your consideration:
Introduction: Chinese characters are forms from three sources:

1. By sound: 爸 BA: 妈 MA;
2. Most commonly by Picture: 口 : mouth; 大 : big
3. By grouping of existing words to form a new word:
木 : wood, tree; 林 : forest; 森 林 : jungle.
天 : sky: = 一 + 大 the largest one.  Representing God or Heaven.

The Four Beginnings:
  1. First Man: 先 (first):= / (alive) + 土(earth) + 儿 (son)
    Gen 2:7 God created man from the earth. 
  2. First Family: 元 (beginning, first) = 二 (two) + 儿 (child)
    Gen 2:22 God created Eve from Adam to have the first family.
    肉 (flesh) = 人 (person) + 门 (shape of a body) + 人 (person) 
  3. Beginning of Sin:
    Gen 3:6 始 (beginning) = 女 (girl) + 口 (mouth) + (shape of fruit)
    Note: use of girl, not man (男 ).
    禁 (forbidden) = 林 (garden) + 示 (notice)
    婪 (covet) = 林 (garden) + 女 (girl)
    豸 = an animal without legs(snake) = head with two eyes + feather + standing body
    (本指长脊兽,如猫、虎之类。引申为无脚的虫,体多长,如蚯蚓之类;有足谓之虫,无足谓之豸。——《尔雅》 ;大虫,即老虎。《水浒传》武松打虎中曾经提到。)
    裸 (naked) = 衣 (clothes) + 果 (fruit) 
  4. Beginning of Salvation:
    初 (first) = 衣 (clothes) + 刀 knife;
    God kill an animal and make clothes of skin for them. 
The most meaningful word that captures the essence of Christianity is the word Righteousness.

義 = 羊 over 我
when there is a sacrificial lamb covering me, I am righteous.
John 1:29 "behold, the lamb that takes away the sins of man ..."

Miraculously, the simplified stroke of the same character is written as:
义 which is clearly is Cross and a dot (head &#xNAN;).

The death of Christ on the cross gives us justification and righteousness.
活 (alive) = 水 water + 舌 tongue. As we confess our sins, and Jesus as our Saviour,
Jesus cleanses us and gives us eternal life.

Story of Noah
船 ship = 舟 boat + 八 eight + 口 month
The Big Ship is about having 8 people in a boat. Noah + Wife + 3 sons and 3 daughters-in-laws

Lim Liat(c) 4 Jul 2017