Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

~ Matthew 5:13-16 ~

In this passage, Jesus tells us two things about how important our Christian testimony is. Both emphasize the importance of maintaining a good testimony. One emphasizes the tragedy of a broken testimony, while the other emphasizes the triumph of a good testimony.

1. A Broken Testimony Affects Your Effectiveness for God
Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth. It is not something that we will someday become. It is something that we are - now. We are salt, and salt is supposed to be salty. Similarly, Christians are made to give flavour to a lost and dying world. However, if a Christian loses his testimony, he becomes like salt losing its flavour; and salt that has lost its flavour is nothing better than the dirt on the ground. That is why people who have been stumbled by Christians say Christians are hypocrites, because they behave and live in a way that is no better than sinners and unbelievers. Once our testimony is broken, how can it be recovered? It's been done and the memory of it will stay, and your effectiveness and usefulness for God will be diminished. Jesus described it as being "trampled underfoot by men".

We must guard our testimony to the world, for a broken testimony can be a stumbling block, and not only affect our ministry, but the ministry of other Christians as unbelievers who are stumbled will be closed up to Christ and Christianity as a whole.

2. A Good Testimony Glorifies God in the Eyes of Others
Jesus uses the example of light to tell us the effects of a good testimony. Light can't help shining, and shouldn't be hidden. Since we are saved, we should let the world know we are saved by the way we live. Our lives should reflect a difference in this world from the lives of unbelievers. They should be lives that tell others about God in deed and in word. A good testimony leads others to acknowledge God and His work in our lives, and glorify Him.

Do not hide your faith. Let it shine in the open and lead people to Jesus. There is nothing better than to know that people have seen Christ in us, and have come to know that He has made a difference in our lives. On the other hand, there is nothing more tragic than to have a broken testimony that leads the unsaved further from the Saviour than they already are.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Fishers of Men - Matthew 4:19

Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men."

After Jesus' baptism and being filled with the Holy Spirit, and after He had been tempted in every way, He began His ministry by calling men to join Him - men He would disciple and who would later shake the world for God. Jesus' call is simple and applicable to every Christian today.

1. Jesus calls us to follow Him
"Follow Me," were His words. We are to follow Christ, and follow Him exclusively. That means we are not to follow other men or our own inclinations. Neither are we to follow the lure of comfort, wealth and position. We are to follow Him and Him alone.

2. Jesus makes us fishers of men
Jesus said, "I will make you..." That means it is not us who make ourselves fishers of men. We don't become evangelists by studying or getting a certificate, nor do we do so by undergoing a course or by practice. It is Jesus and Jesus alone who makes us fishers of man. The only personal effort required on our part is to "follow Him". When we do, He will make us fishers of men.

3. Following Jesus means being fishers of men
Jesus' command to follow Him is a command, not an option. All Christians are called to follow our Lord. If we are following Christ, and if He is the one who makes us fishers of men as we follow Him, the question for us is naturally: "Are we being fishers of men?" Because we cannot say we are followers of Christ if we are not fishers of men, since that is what He makes His followers into. May the Lord help us to see that our priority is to follow Him, and that to follow Him is to be fishers of men.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Victory Over Temptation - Matthew 4

We all face temptation from time to time. Even Christians are not free from it. Even Christ Himself was not free from it. The Bible tells us that He was tempted in every way, that is, in every possible way, yet without sin. How did Jesus resist temptation and gain the victory? Matthew 4 tells that story.

1. Jesus Memorized God's Word
Having God's Word in our hearts is the first step to gaining victory over temptation. Psalm 119:11 says, "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You." God's Word in our heart guards us from sin. If we do not read our Bibles regularly or do not take it seriously, we will fall into sin when temptations come.

2. Jesus Submitted to God's Word
Knowing God's Word is not enough if we do not obey it. God's blessings are always promised to those that not only know God's Word, but to those who do it. In the same way, we are told in James 4:7, "Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you." When faced with temptation, we need to know God's will as revealed in His Word, and then we need to choose God's will by submitting to Him.

3. Jesus Resisted the Devil
Finally, as James wrote, we need to resist the devil. When faced with temptation, we must know God's Word and submit to God, and recognize the source of temptation and resist it. No temptation comes from God. Temptation is only from Satan in order to draw us away from God, even though God allows us to be tempted in order to test us. Temptation is not to be toyed with. When tempted, the Christian must follow the Lord's example to resist it and the tempter immediately.

One last thing to note is that resisting temptation is not just a one-time event in the Christian's life. The Bible tells us that after Jesus' temptation, the Devil left Him 'until an opportune time', which means he did come back and try to stumble Jesus again. That's why we need to be constantly feeding on God's Word, submitting to Him, and resisting the Devil when he comes.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

The Message of Repentance - Matthew 3

In order to prepare hearts for the coming Christ, God sent His messenger - John the Baptist. John's message was a message of repentance: "Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand!" This is the exact same message that Jesus later preached (Matt 4:17). Likewise the Apostles preached repentance on the day of Pentecost:
Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Brethren, what shall we do?"

And Peter said to them, "Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

Even the work of the Holy Spirit is to convict people of sin.

From the third chapter of Matthew, we can learn a few lessons on repentance:

1. Repentance comes before Forgiveness (v. 2,3)
Repentance involves the changing of one's mind about sin and turning to God. God sent forth a message of repentance so that people will be ready to receive His Son. Before we can come to receive Jesus as our Saviour, we must first realise why we need Him to save us, and that is because we are sinners who deserve only God's wrath.

John, Jesus and the apostles all preached repentance. So must we. Preaching against sin might seem hard but it is necessary because if a person does not realise his need for forgiveness, he is not going to seek it and be saved.

2. Repentance comes with Confession (v. 6)
Confession is simply agreeing with God about our sin - that it is wrong and that it goes against all that God is. God takes a very serious view of sin. So must we. And the expression of it on our part is confession.

Confession comes with forgiveness (1 Jn 1:9). God has promised the Christian that if we confess our sins to Him, He will surely forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. The failure to confess is evidence of the presence of pride, and "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble."

3. Repentance must be Evident (v. 8)
Whether a person is truly repentant or not is evidenced by the way he or she lives. We can come and be baptised, and even confess our sins publicly, and yet still be unrepentant. Repentance is a heart attitude that is expressed through one's deeds. It is not the deed. We need to examine ourselves if we are truly penitent people by the way we live our lives.

4. Repentance is required of Everyone (v. 9)
John destroyed all thoughts that the Pharisees might have had that they have certain rights before God because they were "children of Abraham". God is not a respecter of persons. Everyone is a sinner, therefore everyone has to repent. Whether we are Jews or Gentiles, young or old, born into Christian homes and brought up in church or not, we all need to repent before we can come and receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord.

Has God revealed to you any need to repent and confess a particular sin? Wait no more, and make no more excuses. God's forgiveness is free to those with a penitent heart, and He forgives instantly to those who confess their sins to Him (1 Jn 1:9).

Friday, September 03, 2004

Three Responses to Christ - Matthew 2

The thing that stands out most in the second chapter of Matthew is the three different responses given by three different groups of people to the news of His birth. Oddly enough, though the Jews were in expectation of His coming, and though they had all the prophecies, and though the shepherds had announced His birth, it was the Gentiles who told them that He had come! That goes to show that much knowledge about God does not necessarily mean much love for God.

Three responses to Christ:
  1. Those who received Christ - the Magi
  2. Those who rejected Christ - King Herod
  3. Those who could not care less - the religious leaders

Those Who Received Christ - The Magi
The Magi arrived at Jerusalem after the shepherds had visited baby Jesus and spread the news about him. Somehow they knew from what little revelation God had given them that the King of the Jews was born, and they came from afar to worship Him. Imagine their surprise when they found out that the Jews themselves did not know anything about His birth. Strange that these foreigners were more interested in seeking out the Christ child and worshipping Him than God's own people, and this child was not even their own king, nor had He grown or had he any army, power or fame. They had no reason to be interested in this child at all.

These men travelled great distances facing much danger just to worship a king who was not theirs, and who was only an infant. Their devotion and enthusiasm is commendable: They sought Him diligently, they rejoiced exceedingly to find Him, and they worshipped Him humbly.

What a sight it must have been to Mary and Joseph, that powerful rulers were bowing down to a baby. Even though Jesus was "King of the Jews", they treated Him as their own king. Though they knew little about Him, they sought Him and worshipped Him and received Him. Lord, help us follow their example and seek You as they did. Let position and pride be put aside when we come into Your presence to worship You.

Those Who Rejected Christ - Herod
Herod was the first persecutor of Jesus Christ. The reason he reacted so violently to the news of the birth of the King of the Jews is very simple: He saw Jesus as a threat to him. Herod is known in history as a wicked and murderous king who killed even his own family because he was afraid they would have his throne. When he heard that the King of the Jews was born, he knew that this was the One prophesied about. To Herod, this newborn babe would one day replace himself as king, and he loathed the thought of it. He wanted the kingdom to himself, and did not want to give up his position, possessions and power.

People everywhere today still reject Christ for the same reason. They do not want to give Jesus His rightful place - they do not want Him as their Lord and ruler of their lives. Are we like Herod today? Is there anything that we refuse to surrender to the Lord? May we truly and honestly with all our hearts accept Him as our Master and Lord.

Those Who Couldn't Care Less - The Religious Leaders
Here lies a great irony: Those who knew the most about the coming Christ were the ones who were most apathetic about Him. They knew all the scriptures and were even able to pinpoint where He would be born. And yet when they heard that He had come, they did not seek Him out.

These were no ordinary laymen. These were the chief priests and experts of the Mosaic Law! They were charged with the responsibility to lead people to God. They were to study the scriptures day and night in order to seek God and His purposes, and lead the nation in His way. And yet this was the very thing they failed at, and the very thing they failed to do themselves. Religion for them had become little more than an academic pursuit. May God save us from such a disease! What use is it to us if we know so much about the Bible and yet fail to live it out and let it make a difference in our lives? What use is so much knowledge if it does not draw us any closer to God?

It is such a shame and tragedy when we know so much about God and yet are so lukewarm. It is embarrassing that people who know much less than us are much more zealous for God. We criticize the Charismatics for their lack of doctrine, but how zealous are we for the Lord when compared to them? Can we not have both knowledge and zeal? And yet so many of us are content to learn more and more, yet remain doing so little for the Lord. Lord, let us see how we grieve You, and how much like the religious leaders we are - people who know much, but care little for You. For apathy towards You is worse than rejecting You.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Who is Jesus? - Matthew 1

In the very first book of the New Testament, the first of the Gospels, and in the first chapter, we are introduced to Jesus and told who He is. Matthew, the disciple of Jesus tells us four things about Him:
  • The Position of Jesus (v. 1)
  • The Promise of Jesus (v. 16)
  • The Purpose of Jesus (v. 21)
  • The Person of Jesus (v.23)

1) The Position of Jesus - The King of the Jews
Matthew begins his Gospel with the words: "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham." David was the king, and Abraham was the father of the Jewish race. In saying that Jesus was the son of David, the son of Abraham, Matthew sets forth Jesus' royal lineage. He is the "Son of David", a term familiar to the Jews; and not just a son of David, but the son of David. Every Jew who read these words were to know that this Jesus is their rightful king, and they must acknowledge Him as King.

But Jesus, of course, is not just King of the Jews, but King of All. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as we sing, but the question is: Is He our King? And is He our Lord whom we worship and obey?

2) The Promise of Jesus - The Christ
Jesus is the Promised One from of old. All the Old Testament tells of Him from Genesis to Malachi. The Jewish word is actually "Messiah", which means "Anointed One". In the Jewish culture back then, two types of people were anointed - kings and priests. Apart from being King, Jesus is our Great High Priest who lives forever to make intercession for us, and who came down to earth to make atonement for our sins by giving Himself up to die on the cross.

The priest is a mediator between man and God, and Jesus is the perfect Priest who made the perfect sacrifice which, once made, is enough and does not need to be made again. Because He lives, we can be assured that our salvation is sure and secure.

3) The Purpose of Jesus - Saviour
The name Jesus itself is significant. It is actually Yeshua, which is also rendered as Joshua. It was a common name, but it was loaded with meaning. "Jesus" actually means "Jehovah saves", or "Saviour"; and that is what Jesus came to be - our Saviour from sin, death and hell. Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

The angel said, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins." Are you saved from your sin? If not, wait no longer! If yes, then you are free and do not have to live in sin any more! Those who believe in Him have been saved from the power and consequence of sin. They have stepped over from death to life, and sin shall no longer have dominion over them.

4) The Person of Jesus - The God-Man
Finally, and most wonderfully, we are told who Jesus really is - He is God incarnate, meaning, God taking the form of a human being. He is 100% God and 100% man. He is "God with us". He walks with us and talks with us. He took on the form of man to experience everything we experience, that He may understand and empathize with us and help us in our time of need.

Jesus understands. He understands us more than we could ever realise - not only because He made us, but also because He was made to be like us in every way but without sin. There's no temptation or trial that we can ever go through that He has not been through Himself. And because He was victorious in them all and He now lives in us, He can give us the victory in everything we face. If God be for us, who can be against us?