The BIG Difference: Righteousness by the Law or Relationship

The Uniqueness of Christianity is God's Righteousness by mere acceptance and not by effort of following the Laws. It is our choice to choose to be adopted and be re-birthed into the Family of God. But it is just the start of our new journey to fulfill the original purpose of God's creation of uniquely us.

Php 3:9 BBE  And be seen in him, not having my righteousness which is of the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

We can rephrase the above to give clearer comparison:

... not having    my righteousness     which is   of the law,
          but      God's righteousness    through    faith in Christ.

Th BIG Differences between Religions and Christianity

1. By Effort: My trying vs My Acceptance of Christ.
    i.e. To Do vs Done; Stress vs Peace; Insecure vs Secure Eternally

All religions, except Christianity, preaches salvation by following a set of laws to be good and righteous. If one generation can't do it, then take several generations until one makes it say some religions. 

There is nothing wrong and there it is correct to try to be righteous and good. 

But to attain complete righteousness is an impossible thing. We could not even be sure that my one sin can be paid back by my other good work as some religion would like to have. The one hurt by my sin is usually not the one who benefited from my good work as some religions also encouraged. 

2. By Kind:  Man's righteousness vs God's righteousness
Even if ever, one makes it, it will only be one man's righteousness, the righteousness of the man type. So, where will it lead that one man? Will that solve the problem of death? It may stop the re-incarnation of just that one man. Will that qualifies that man to enter heaven? Will heaven be a lonely place of just a few? 

So we find that our righteousness by performance of following the law is either near impossibility or of no use because it is only man's kind. 

Paul considered his righteousness through the law as a Pharisee is not any worth at all when compare to the other kind of righteousness, the righteousness of God.

Righteousness of God's kind qualifies us into heaven to be with God and God's kind of people. Because we need to change man's kind into God's kind, man is re-birthed, born again, in the spirit, to become a new creation of God's kind. This rebirth takes place when we believe and receive Christ as Son of God and His death payment for our sins. It is not our effort and there is nothing to boast unlike the by law way. 

Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV)
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

From Performance to Relationship
Righteousness of God kind is by relationship and not by works. A child is automatically love by his/her parents. The new babe did nothing but cry. The parents give him/her all the tender care willingly. If you say the child earns it, he/she earns it by being born, even without his/her choice, into the family of relationship. But now, whether we want to be in God's family and be adopted as His child is our choice.

What then is the Law for?
Paul tells us that the Laws is for us to know our sins and our needs for God. The Laws also reflect God's character. Hence, Jesus did not come to do away with the Laws but to uphold and fulfill it by taking of His righteousness and giving to men. Anyone that is born of God will, by the new birth, automatically want to do things that not only fulfill but surpass the Laws. Love is more than not harming. 

But Salvation is Just the Start and not the End
However, salvation is just the first step to complete the original plan of God for man. Most people like to quote Eph 2:8-9 and forget about v10. 

10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

We are saved for good works!

That is also why Php 2:12-13 tells us to work out the moving of the God within. God got within by our salvation and we need to respond to the new birth by living out what is of the inside. 

Philippians (NIV)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling 
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

People Changed because of Hope - Force will only cause temporary adherence
The good news of the gospel is then you get a better righteousness, the God's kind rather than man's kind, and without your stress and hard work but by just believing in Christ.

We can change the behavior of some one by force or by triggering a change of heart.

You will find people usually change because of a better hope.

The best example found in the Bible is the Story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-9. His repentance comes when Jesus told him to come down from the tree because he was going to stay at his house. Acceptance and Hope work better than threats. This is the good news that we have.

Your Choice
Which do you choose, your own man type of righteousness by effort or God's righteousness by faith in Christ?
Do you want to try or to be sure ?
Do you want to hold on to God's hand or let God holds on to yours?
Do you want to be adopted into God's family?

Lim Liat (C) 26 Sep 2012


Feet Washing is not about Washing Feet

Jesus set the example of washing feet and now people are encouraged to wash feet to show humility and servant-hood not knowing humility is not about showing and washing feet in today environment has no meaning. So 'feet washing' is not about 'washing feet' but about not associating tasks with honor or glamour but with needs and doing the needful things even as a leader.
Jesus set the example for washing his disciples feet in John 13:1-7 (See Bible Study John 13:1-17 Servant Leadership - Real Meaning of Feet Washing.).Now people, especially the Chinese Church (Chinese culture has a big emphasis on 礼仪, the right manners) are encouraged to wash one another feet to show humility or servant-hood.

But if we wash feet to show humility then it is really an act, a real wayang(wayang is a Malay term for a show, now popularly used in Singapore English) show of false humility because humility is not in showing off! Humility is power packaged in gentleness. It is having ability or resources but not showing off, serving without claiming credit, giving without advertising, or quietly contributing. For more on humility, see Christianity Rediscovered: Kingdom Discussion 12 Law of Humility ... and Christianity Rediscovered: Humility is Forceful Too.

'Feet washing' is then not about washing feet,  but about 
"doing the needful but lowly, non-glamorous task that no one want to do". 
Task has no Glamour or Honor Associated - Only with People who want to Show-off
Needful Task has not honor or dishonor associated with it.

A truly humble leader will do it because it is needful and not because it is honorable (which will have lots of people running for it).

We can find such behavior of people in church rushing to serve for the on-stage tasks, the speaking, the chairing, the singing, the music playing. Much less people wanting to do the back-stage unnoticeable tasks.

If we have such a honor and no-honor classification of task, it is only natural that the non-honor tasks that got neglected and no one want to do it. Jesus was trying to break such a worldly mindset from being served to serving others. The greatest is the one who serve. In serving, there is only right and needful things to do and not honor or no-honor things to do.

So, "Feet Washing" is not about "Washing of Feet" but about doing the needful things even as leaders quietly.


Similar Verses in Bible and Chinese Classics 13 Shame & Boldness

Knowing Shame is Close to Boldness?

Confucius has the following sayings, 子曰:
  1. “好学近乎知,like to learn is close to wisdom/knowledge,
  2.  力行近乎仁,diligent in doing is close to love,
  3.   知耻近乎勇   knowing shame is close to boldness    
A main question that I had with point 3 is "What has shame got to do with boldness"?
The answer can be found by looking up the saying Mencius.

The Confucian School (Ru Jia 儒家) have two main gurus. Besides the founder Confucius, there is Mencius. A key teaching of Mencius is in "Mencius Four sprouts(beginnings)".

Actually in the original Chinese, it is 四端  Four Extreme Points. The extreme can be the beginning or the end. Hence, it is better to translate it as key points.

孟子四端 Mencius Four Key Points:
  1. 恻隐之心,仁之端也;compassion/kindness is the key of love       
  2. 羞恶之心,义之端也;shame of evil is the key of righteousness      
  3. 辞让之心,礼之端也;giving way is the key of good manners (proprietary)  
  4. 是非之心,智之端也。discerning of right and wrong, true of false is the key of wisdom
We can easily find many verses from the Bible that are similar to the teaching of Mencius. We can take the famous quote from Paul on Love in

1Co 13:4-7  Love is patient and kind(point 1); love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant  5  or rude. It does not insist on its own way(point 3); it is not irritable or resentful;  6  it does not rejoice at wrongdoing(point 2), but rejoices with the truth(point 4).  7  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

In this post, I will just address "Shame and Boldness". For a more in depth study of Shame please see Sense of Shame is Good but Staying in Shame is Bad.

Back to How is Knowing Shame Bold?
The answer is given in Mencius' 2nd point, knowing shame is the key of righteousness.
If we join the two together, by replacing shame with righteousness in Confucius' saying, we get righteousness is close to boldness. Or a righteous person is bold.

The Righteous is Bold
There is famous Chinese saying related to this. It is "平生不做亏心事,半夜敲门心不惊", those that do no evil and have a clear conscience will not be afraid of the knocking at mid-night.

In the Bible, we get exactly the same saying as the righteous is bold. It is Proverbs 28:1 The wicked man flees though no one pursues, but the righteous are as bold as a lion.

I hope you can see from this post that Chinese Classics and the Bible are alike and knowing Chinese Classics help us get a better grasp of the Bible and vice versa.

For more related posts see Chinese Classics & The Bible

Lim Liat (C) 19 Sep 2012


The "Older Son Syndrome" from the Prodigal Son Story

Most normal people will side with the Older Son of the Prodigal Son Story and think that the Father is unfair. That is because we subscribe to the same philosophy of life as the Older Son. That philosophy is "Everything must be earned". The value of a person is in how much he can contribute. If we fully subscribed to this and this only then while we may be very hardworking, setting high standards and successful, we actually live a very stressful life. We tend to be very critical, unforgiving, self-righteous and proud. Our critical and forgiving attitudes apply not only to others but also to ourselves making us internally very insecure, unhappy, worry and grumpy!

The Prodigal Son Story can be found in Luke 15:11-32. Much have been said about the Prodigal Son and the forgiving and loving father. Some new insights can be found in New Insights From the Prodigal Son Story - Comfort to Parent with Wayward Child. In this post, we shall be looking at the Older Son.

The Behavior of Older Son
The mind-map below captured the acts and sayings of the Older Son.

It tells us much about his philosophy of life. To be honest, when I first read this story, I actually sided with the Older Son. Their Father while loving and forgiving was overdoing his forgiveness of the younger son. The Older Son has been faithful and hardworking whereas the younger one has been wasteful. He should have very rights to be angry. In the eyes of the Older Son, the Father was really not fair to him and seem to be very strict and over demanding on his children. That was because I also subscribed to the philosophy of the Older Son.

The Older Son Syndrome - "You Must Earn It - Your Value is dependent on Your Performance"
The mind-map below show the philosophy of the Older Son.

It should be familiar to us. We use terms like "There is no free lunch", "Meritocracy", "I earn it", "I am a self-made person" etc. Not that performance by itself is no good. On the contrary, performance is good and desirable. But life does not consist of performance, or self-independent performance alone.

True Life is not just about self but about relationship of love, joy and togetherness with others and with God. We are created to have fellowship with God and others. Thereby we must have love and harmony with others.

Hence, while the world may teach us that, acceptance=performance= must earn it or else,
In God's view, acceptance comes not from performance but from relationship, as between God and man, Parent and Children, and among Friends. True Love, the foundation of relationship, is unconditional and you do not need to perform to earn it. You just have it and you will not loose it by your lack of performance. That's the kind of love that God has for us. Rom 3:20 while we were yet sinners (very very bad performance of disobedience and rebellion), Christ died for us to save us. God want us believers who received this unconditional true love to extend to others too and break free for gaining acceptance by performance (1 John 3:23).

If we believe in Acceptance or Value = Performance, then our starting state is 0, no acceptance and we work hard to gain it. This is what the Older Son fell for. He thought he needed to earn his father love by being obedient and hard working. Starting at zero acceptance, he is insecure and dare not ask for goat to celebrate with his friends in case his father disapprove. It is not that his Father is not loving, it is only that he believes wrongly. His younger brother has no worry about his father love. The younger son boldly ask his father to give him the money prepared for him. The younger son does not at first believe in performance. He only believes in it after he has lost the fortune that his father has given him. Then he revert back to worldly logic for working as a servant. But this wrong belief was blown away by his Father upon his return. His father makes it doubly clear by giving him Ring (besides the cloths and shoes) and have a big installation as son party. The emphasis is , relationship of acceptance comes not by any performance but by the love of the greater one.

When we truly know that we are loved and fully accepted before any of our performance, then we are secure and we can do even better. We do it with joy and excellence. We are not jealous of other or of their performance. In fact, we will even help them to perform better than us. We are loving, forgiving and encouraging and in short, we are joy filled.

Here is a 2x2 Matrix on Acceptance vs Performance that summarize the different worldviews. Choose the worldview you want to operate in:

Let start and live life this way --- from the position of acceptance and we perform to bring joy and glory to God and others. We will be happier and a nicer person to be with. May God bless you with this understanding of His love for you.

Lim Liat(C) 18 Sep 2012


Sense of Shame is Good but Staying in Shame is Bad

Sense of Shame is a God given voice of our conscience. The voice of right or wrong. It is meant for us to know our wrong doing and to repent immediately. However, staying in shame is bad. Jesus bore our sins and shames that we may be without shame. God's forgiveness removes our shames. Our sense of shame is for us to steer clear of shames. Do not use the shaming technique on our children because it will damage their self-worth and identity. Using it on adult seems ok but prolonged use looses its shaming effect. Be aware also that people may falsely accuse us to shame us. Bible tells us that when are wrongly persecuted for doing the right thing then there is no shame. 
What is, & More Importantly the Why of Shame
If we just look up the definition of shame. We will get the definition that shame is a painful emotion caused by strong sense of guilt or embarrassment. It is telling us the what of shame. Like Science, it does not tell us the 'why', i.e. the purpose. For the purpose, we need to check up the Bible. The shame feeling comes after Adam's sin and not before. Shame is the feeling one gets when we commit a wrong or we fail to live up to standards.
The Purpose of Shame is for us to Know we have done Wrong and that we may repent.
The Ancient Chinese Philosopher Mencius said that "Shame of Evil is the beginning and ending of Righteousness".  See also  Chinese Classics & The Bible

To know more about shame, I have the Mind-Map below. Please go through the map in details and hope you benefit from it.
God does not want us to stay in shame. He sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay for our sins that we may not longer be in shame and be tormented by shame. Remember that we always have a loving God that we could approach for mercy of forgiveness and grace of empowerment to live a shame free life (Heb 4:16).

Nevertheless, in this world there are evil. The evil will want to falsely accuse us and will want to shame us to prevent us for doing the right things that glorify God. The Bible assured us that there is no shame to be suffering for Christ and for righteousness sake. May God deliver us from all such wrongful accusations and vindicate us. He will trust in the Lord will not be put to shame. His enemies will be put to shame.

May God bless and lead you into a victorious and shame free life.

Lim Liat (C) 11 Sep 2012


New Insights From the Prodigal Son Story - Comfort to Parent with Wayward Child

What makes a good parent? He must love and train his children. Was the Prodigal Son's father such a good parent? Yes. Besides the love that we see clearly, his training had kept the prodigal son to work for living despite the lack rather than be a cheat or a thief. He also done other good things that we could learn as parents. Parents who love and train their children should not condemn themselves if their child should one day become rebellious. Pray and trust that God's words taught to them will bring them back one day as the Prodigal Son. 
The story of the Prodigal Son(Luke 15:11-32) is probably the most well know. Many sermons have been preached from it. It is the story of the great love and forgiveness of the Father. The greatest joy for a loving father is the return of his way-ward son. "My son was lost but is found, was dead but is alive!". The preceding parables of the lost sheep, and the loss coin are about "be more joy over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. Luk 15:7" and "there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luk 15:10.

Besides the loving father and the repentant son, some preach about the self-righteous elder brother. Some even preached about the third son, the one who told the story. He is the perfect Son of the Father who came to die save sinners like the brothers. 

Was the Loving Father is Good Father? How do we know?
There was no doubt about the love of the Father. But was he a good father? How can a good father raise prodigal son? 

What is a Good Father? He must provide and train his children.
For a Chinese, a good father must "教养", i.e. teach and provide for his children. Chinese Classic used for teaching the children, known as the "Three Words Bible" (see Understanding The Chinese Mindset in One Minute (Based on Sang Zi Jing)), has the following saying:

Just feed and not teach is the wrong doing of the father.

Teaching without discipline is the laziness of the teacher.

In the Bible, we have the need for training and discipline children as a father. Heb 12:6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

Proverb 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Did the Father trained his sons?
The elder son certainly showed that he was well trained. He was hardworking and was obedient to his father (Luke 15:29).

What about the younger son? Did his father train him?

My answer is a positively yes.

Why? He did not cheat but to work for his survival.

Big Reason 1: Because despite his hunger, he never thought of stealing but only thought of working to earn his foods even as a pigs-keeper!

Reason 2: He ventured out to try on his own. May be a bit too early.
Unlike his elder brother who stayed at home to work for his father, this younger son has the guts to venture out and try to make it on his own. This shows three things the father has done for him.

One is to provide a secured and loving environment so that his son has confidence.

Two, the father must have been encouraging him to try out if he wish. The father is willing to let him go.

Thirdly, the father provided funds for them.

Even in today modern world, parents save to prepare a college funds for their children. In the Jewish traditions, parents also prepare funds for their children to start out on their own. I think this is the fund that the younger son asked for and not what some commentators claimed that the money asked for was the inheritance and said the younger son was very hurtful to wish his father earlier death. I offered two reasons that it was not the estate. Firstly, the estate of the father included much land since the father had many servants working for him. The music and dancing for the celebration were quite loud (Luke 15:25) that the elder son asked what was it about before he even joined in. It would take many days to sell the lands and cattle to raise the money. But in Luke 15:13, "not many days later", the son went off. Secondly, the father claimed in v31 that what the father's was his. If the father had given to the son, he could not claimed ownership. Knowing that the elder son was a calculative fellow, I am sure when the younger brother took his portion, the elder son would also had taken his. Furthermore, it was his, the elder son would not complained that his father never gave him a goat for celebration.

What was the sin of the Prodigal son? 
He squandered his wealth recklessly (15:13). He grew up in a good environment and did not understand the cunning world outside. He probably ventured out too early, when he was not fully ready and mature, against his father advice. It was likely that his father offer him to have some master servant to help him along. But he rejected. He was too eager and to proud to go off. He was not wise and did not do proper risk management. It was most likely that his wealth was cheated away and very quickly too. The money squandered on prostitutes was an accusation of his older brother. This claim was not substantiated. It may or may not be true. He was too ashamed to go back to his father after he had lost it all.

Comfort for the Parents - Trained them well and let them go.
While parents provide and train their children, there was no guarantee that the children will always be good all the time. Some children may want to venture out like this prodigal son too early against parents' advices and get into all types of troubles. It was no fault of the parents if they had done their part. They have to trust the Lord's word in Prov 22:6 that when he is old he will not depart from it. The prodigal son will one day come to his senses and return home. Parents can pray for them and just be ready to welcome them back when they return. God's words instill in the children heart will guide them and guard them.

Lim Liat (C) 4 Sep 2012


Happiness and the Temptation of Jesus

The Temptation of Jesus teaches us to accept what God's Words say about us and not let ourselves be defined by external happenings and people. We are beloved child of God and need not seek happiness outside. We dare to explore and compare with others, to discover, to learn and to help, making it a better place for all. But that must begin with our acceptance by God inwardly and then we express outwardly. Happiness that depends on external is very unstable.

The Crux is "What defines your identity and worth?"
There are many useful lessons for life in the temptation of Jesus. See The Temptations of Jesus for some of the details. This crux of the matter is where is the source of your faith. To put it in another way, who or what define who you are.

The Devil Wants You To Rely on External Happenings
The Devil want you to use the external events to define who you are. He wanted Jesus to change the stone to bread, to jump from a height to prove that Jesus was the Son of God. A unenlightened mind will say, what's is wrong with that, just do it and we shall know.

Jesus Wants You to Trust and Accept What God Says about You.
Jesus, instead, wants us to know who we are by the Word of God. We are what God say we are. There is no need to prove from external events. Once we have faith in God's Word, the evidence will come naturally. The importance is the sequence of thing. God's Word first or the people, devil or external happenings. Jesus knows that He is the Son of God. There is no need to change the stone into bread and then realize that He is indeed the Son of God. He is the Son before the miracle. There is no need for Jesus to prove His identity or worth. He is fully established in the Word of God. Jesus in fact, did much greater work that just changing a stone into bread. With two fish and five loafs of bread, He fed five thousands men. On another occasion, He fed four thousands men with some fish and bread. When the need arises, Jesus shows the people that He is Son of God. He is the Son first and then the miracle come. In term of protection, He calmed the storm and He just walk away when people tried to stone Him (Luke 4:30). In terms of glory, He healed the sicks and raise the dead. He died on the cross that the whole world can be saved. He was resurrected and conquered the devils and death. He is seated at the right hand of God above everything. He is the King of Knigs and Lord of Lords. There is no name higher than Jesus whether in Heaven or Earth (See Ephesian 1).

In a Godless Worldview You Get Your ID from External Happenings as the Devil's Wish.
If your world view does allow the existence of God, then what are the possible sources available to you to define what and who you are? You have to follow what the Devil wanted .... be defined by external happenings.

Sociology 101 tells us, "I am what I think you say I am"! We get our identity and our worth from what others say about us. It is therefore not unusual that we become people pleasers. We buy into the 'Performance Trap'.  We must perform to earn acceptance. If performance is a requirement, then there is the possibility of failure. Hence, we fear that we could not do a good enough job to be accepted. We will try to cover-up and if not successful, we do the blaming act.

"Happiness is Don't Compare with Others" - Said the World without God
Because our worth is defined by external things, our well being comes from what happens to us. Our well being is therefore very unstable.

If you read books on happiness, one of key tip is "don't compare yourself with others".   When you compare yourself with others, you will tend to compare with those doing than you. You look at external things of more wealth, bigger cars, bigger house, better clubs etc. What make us more frustrated is when we see those less capable than us doing better than us. Some are born with silver spoons. Some are born prettier and so forth. The Chinese has a popular saying, "人比人气死人", "Comparing one another will make one so angry to cause one death". Comparison makes us angry or jealous. So the advise is not to compare.

In Christian Worldview - Your ID and Worth Secured & You have Joy within
However, if you have the Christian Worldview, then you have a God that loves you. You have Jesus who dies for you and give you the right to become a child of God. You identity is God's child. Your worth is the love of God and the price of God's only Son. You are eternally secured. No one can take away your identity and the love of God for you. You don't have to depend on external events to make you happy. You are already happy because you are loved and accepted.

We Compare to Discover, Learn and Help others
We are freed to compare with others. We are grateful and happy for those who are better than us. We can learn from them. We can discover the strengths of others. We are not jealous of them because we are uniquely created and loved by God. We may also find that there are people not doing as well as us. For them, we can help them.

Conclusions - Be Secured Internally and You are Eternally at Peace
If you are ever tempted to get your worth and happiness from external things and people, please remember the temptation of Jesus.  Place your faith on His Words and not on the eternal events and people.

Lim Liat (C) 3 Sep 2012