What happens when we become believers? Simply this – we must change the way we live our lives.
John 14:15 says, ‘If you love me, you will keep my (Jesus’) commandments.’
But what are these commandments? And how do we obey them?
This section focuses on the application of the instructions given in the New Testament as laid out by Jesus and his disciples. We have, to date, discovered 420 instructional statements.
It answers some popular questions such as:
- Should Christians be involved in civil disorder?
- What does the Bible say about divorces?
- Will there be poor Christians?
- What does the Bible say about pets?
- Are Christians required to tithe ten percent of their earnings?
- How should Christians react to offences?
- Should women take leadership roles in Church?
B1 - Love God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind
Luke 10:27; Mark 12:30; Matt 22:37; John 15:13; Rev 12:11
‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’
Jesus made it very clear that the first commandment is that we should love our God with everything that we have (our heart, soul, strength, and mind). How does one do that? To love with such intensity? How does one demonstrate such passionate love on this earth?
Jesus gave us this response:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” (John 15:13-14).
To be prepared to pay the ultimate price through death for someone else would be a true demonstration of love.
Rev 12:11 talks about a group of end-times’ believers that will be living through the Great Tribulation with these words, ‘And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives unto death.’
How do we know that we love God?
See B2, Love God, keep his word.
B2 - Love God, keep his word (commandments)
Matt 13:23; John 8:31; John 15:10, 14; John 21:15-17; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 John 5:3; 2 John 6; Rev 22:14;
‘When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.’
The Apostle John was more explicit in 1 John 2:4,
‘Whoever says, ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected.’
If we love God, we will naturally keep his words as found in the Bible. We will do what he asks us to do.
1 John 5:3 says
‘For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.’
B3 - Submit to God
James 4:7-10; 1 Peter 2:13; Gal 6:3; Eph 4:1-2;
James 4:7 says,
“Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
But the word, ‘submit’, is so very difficult when it comes to each of us. We have been created with a will to decide. We are all like wild horses. We enjoy our freedom. Yet, to be used by the Master, we have to learn to submit to God and his will.
The Greek word is hupotasso, and it means ‘to place or rank under, to subject, to obey’.
Nevertheless, to submit, we have to know who and what we are submitting to. This topic has become significant in the light Islam as a religion as ‘Islam’ also means ‘voluntary submission to God’. But Islam is not Christianity.
How do we hear God and understand his will for us?
Please see B164, Once hear God’s word, trust in him.
B4 - Do not take God's patience for granted
‘Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?’
We are not to take God’s kindness and patience for granted but our hearts should always be thankful to him for granting us time to repent.
B5 - Observe our actions as they reflect our heart
‘A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?’
Proverbs 16:2 tells us,
‘All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.’
The scary thing is – we may not even know ourselves. But our actions provide a window to show who we are and what we love.
What wakes us up early without the need of an alarm clock? For some people, it is ‘live’ football.
We have to observe our actions and see what it means in our relationship with God.
Our action always speaks louder than our confession.
B6 - Worship God in spirit and truth
We are to worship God in spirit and in truth as in John 4:23-24.
But what does that mean?
The Greek word for ‘spirit’ and ‘truth’ are pneuma and aletheia. They are translated appropriately although there is more to ‘truth’ as in sincerity, reality, and straightforwardness (no agenda).
Our spirit has to fellowship with his Spirit.
See also B13, Do not quench the Holy Spirit, and B16, Pray in the Holy Spirit.
B7 - Honor the Son, honor the Father
‘For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.’
Our role is to ‘honor the Son’, that is, Jesus Christ.
How do we honor the Son?
By believing in Jesus Christ. John 12:44,
‘And Jesus cried out and said, “Whoever believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me.”‘
Please refer to B2, Relationship with God/ Love God, keep his word.
We have to obey the commandments laid down by Jesus.
B8 - Abide in Jesus
John 15:4-8; 1 John 2:28; 1 John 3:6
John 15:4-5 says,
‘Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.’
Our role is to ‘abide in Christ’, that is, stay attached to him.
How do we abide in Christ?
The secret lies in the next few verses also in John 15:
- Allow God’s words to abide in us (John 15:7),
- Keep the commandments that Christ have given to us (John 15:10), and
- Love one another (John 15:12).
Bearing fruit will come naturally.
B9 - Obtain (inner) peace by staying in Christ
John 14:27; John 16:33; Phil 4:7; Gal 5:22;
‘Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.’
The Lord promised us peace, but a different sort of peace from that propagated by the world.
Then, in John 16:33, Jesus explained a bit more by saying that it was in him that we ‘may have peace’.
It is an inner peace. It is, as how Phil 4:7 explains, ‘a peace that surpasses all understanding’; a peace that remains while the world is in chaos and upheaval.
To get that peace, the Lord’s mandate for us is to remain in Christ or to stay close to Christ.
B10 - Pursue Christ
‘When the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days’ – John 4:40.
This was after the woman who had five husbands testified to her people what Jesus told her through a word of knowledge.
This was completely different from Mark 5:1-20 when Jesus cast out many demons out of one man. During that moment, Jesus allowed these demons to enter a herd of around two thousand pigs in the vicinity. Even though the man was made well, the town came out and begged Jesus to depart from the region.
Jesus Christ needs to be pursued. He comes and invites us to fellowship with him. But ultimately, it is for us whether to accept or not. And then it is up to us to pursue him – to search for him with our heart.
Jeremiah 29:13 explains,
‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’
B11 - Listen and be guided by the Holy Spirit
Matt 4:1; Luke 4:1; John 14:26; John 16:13; Gal 5:16-18;
Under the section on ‘Doctrines’, you will discover that the Holy Spirit is a person and not a force (D75 – Holy Spirit – The Holy Spirit is a person and not a force).
The Holy Spirit guides us as a teacher. (John 14:26). He prompts us. We can listen to the whisper of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, for example, was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (Matt 4:1). We can be guided by the Holy Spirit through his prompting.
The challenge for all of us is to learn how to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. See also B164, Once hear God’s word, trust in him.
B12 - Do not lie to the Holy Spirit
Firstly, don’t lie (S110 -Lie and deceive). Lying is a sin.
In Acts 5:3, we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira. The couple wanted to look good among other people. So, they sold a piece of property (a good thing) but kept part of it back.
Based on Peter’s reprimand, we speculate they must have told others or even the entire church that they had given the full amount to the church.
According to the Apostle Peter, that was lying to the Holy Spirit and it was a grave sin. Both of them were judged by God and died on the spot, one after the other at separate time.
The bottom line is – ‘Don’t lie’, whether it is in the ministry or outside.
If we want the blessings of God, speak the truth. Then, we would not be caught out, whether by others or by the Holy Spirit.
B13 - Do not quench (suppress or grieve) the Holy Spirit
This is a most important and underestimated element in our walk with God – the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Our maturity as Christians depends on how well we listen to the Holy Spirit. And that in turn is related to whether we ‘quench the Holy Spirit.’
1 Thes 5:19 says,
‘Do not quench the Holy Spirit’.
The other translations use slightly different word – NLT calls it ‘stifle’, Berean uses the word, ‘extinguish’ and the Good News Translation says ‘restrain’.
The Greek word is sbennumi or ‘suppress’, ‘extinguish’.
Later, in Eph 4:30, Paul used the word, ‘Grieve’; NLT calls it, ‘bring sorrow’ while the GNT says ‘make God’s Spirit sad.’ The concept is still the same except a degree worse.
Eph 4:31 went further to say believers should ‘get rid of all bitterness, rage, and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice.’ Will such behavioral traits represent ‘grieving’ of the Holy Spirit?
Unforgiveness, bitterness, rage and anger are some elements that can hinder our relationship with the Holy Spirit and our ability to hear God audibly.
How does one ‘quench’, ‘extinguish’ and ‘suppress’ a fire?
If we pour sand or water over it? If we starve the fire off oxygen? Here are some possibilities:
- Choosing to ignore the inner prompting voice of the Holy Spirit,
- Engaging in sinful activities that we sense the Holy Spirit is not in favor of,
- Continuing in sin and deciding not to repent,
- Not spending time in prayer,
- Not reading the Word of God,
- Remaining in unforgiveness and bitterness, as well as dwelling in rage and anger.
(See B16 – Relationship with the Holy Spirit/ Edify yourself by praying in the Spirit)
B14 - Be full of the Holy Spirit
Eph 5:18b, Acts 4:8; Acts 6:3; Luke 4:1
Eph 5:18 says
‘Be filled with the Spirit’.
The Bible mentioned about some believers who were ‘full of the Holy Spirit’.
There was Peter who ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, answered the rulers and elders gathered together in Jerusalem. He spoke clearly and authoritatively.
There were the brethrens tasked to be overseers of the early church –
‘Select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom’ – Acts 6:3.
There was Stephen who was described as a ‘man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit’ – Acts 6:5. And there was Jesus who was full of the Holy Spirit when he was led around the wilderness and withstood Satan’s temptation – Luke 4:1.
A person, like Stephen, did many miracles but others, like Peter, was bold in the face of attack from people. We also know that Stephen was very forgiving and brave even in the face of his own cruel death (Acts 7).
To be ‘full of the Spirit’ will firstly required us to be ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (See also B178, Be baptized with the Holy Spirit).
B15 - Be filled (baptized) with the Holy Spirit
Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4-5; Acts 8:17; Acts 10:44-46; 1 Cor 12:8-10
Both parents of John the Baptist prophesied even as they were filled with the Holy Spirit . As described in Luke 1:41, Elizabeth was ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’. So, was Zechariah as in Luke 1:67.
John the Baptist himself was described as being
‘filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb’ (Luke 1:15).
When Jesus was resurrected, he appeared to his disciples and left a specific instruction at the last verse of the Book of Luke, Luke 24:49,
‘And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
And Luke continued in the Book of Acts clarifying what that promise was in Acts 1:4-5:
“You heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
In Acts 8:17, Peter went to Samaria to pray for the new converts to receive the Holy Spirit
‘for he had not yet fallen on any of them’ … ‘ Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.’
So, it looks like a separate experience.
In Acts 10:44, Peter witnessed the amazing event as the first Gentile converts, Cornelius and his household, experienced the Holy Spirit. It says, ‘While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised (that is, Jews) who had come with Peter were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.’ By v46, it expands to ‘for they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.’
What is this ‘manifested gift’?
1 Cor 12:8-10 tells us the various gifts of the Spirit as follows: utterance of wisdom, utterance of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working or miracles, ability to distinguish spirits, various kinds of tongues, and the interpretation of tongues. So, can we identify among these gifts what was that ‘manifested gift’?
The secret lies in the word, ‘another’. Two Greek words were used in these verses to describe ‘another’ – ‘Heteros’ and ‘Allos’. ‘Heteros’ was used for both faith and various kinds of tongues while ‘Allos’ was used for all the rest.
‘Allos’ means ‘another of the same kind’ while ‘Heteros’ means ‘another of a different kind’, that is, it is ‘qualitatively different from its counterpart.’ It implies that these elements of ‘faith’ and ‘tongues’ described here were a ‘different kinds’, that is, these were ‘supernatural faith’ and ‘supernatural tongues’.
If that is the case, then it makes sense as to why ‘heteros’ is used for ‘various kinds of tongues’ in 1 Cor 12:10.
This is what we know:
- The Holy Spirit comes as a separate experience after a believer’s conversion,
- The believer has a visible and recognizable experience as seen by others,
- The experience is manifested with the outpouring of the gift of the Holy Spirit,
- The specific gift is the speaking in tongues,
- The Holy Spirit is received either directly (‘fell upon them’) or through the laying of hands.
A necessary action for a believer is to be ‘filled (or baptized) with the Holy Spirit’.
B16 - Pray in the Holy Spirit to edify yourself
1 Cor 14:4 says,
‘For the one who speaks in tongue builds up (edifies) himself.’
Rom 8:26 also says,
‘The Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.’
It is a personal tool whereby a believer can pray and intercede using the power of the Holy Spirit in us. It strengthens our own spirit man.
For personal edification, believers ought to pray in the spirit regularly.
B17 - Speak in tongues but practice orderliness
1 Cor 14 talks about the need for orderliness when speaking in tongues while at church.
- In v 23, it says, ‘If therefore the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds?’
- Then v 33 explains, ‘For God is not a God of confusion (or disorder) but of peace’ and
- It concludes in v 40 as ‘But let all things be done properly and with order.’
The main principle is that God is not a God of disorder. Jesus loved order and that can be found under D57, Jesus the Son/ Order. And God the Father is also orderly.
Hence, while we can use tongues to edify ourselves in private, believers must be careful when speaking in tongues in a church setting.
B18 - Avoid speaking in tongues in a public setting
1 Cor 14:13-18 suggests that when we are in a public setting, we must observe orderliness. It is fine to sing praises with our minds and with understanding but believers should avoid speaking in tongues in a public setting.
B19 - Ask for interpretation of tongues
‘If one who speaks in tongue should pray that he may interpret.’
When speaking in tongues in the public, the interpretation is important. Whatever it is, believers must exercise care when speaking in tongues in a public setting. Instead ask for interpretation.
B20 - Practice prophesying
‘But if all prophesy and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.’
In the Old Testament, a school of prophets was mentioned in 1 Sam 19:18-24 and 2 Kings 4:38-44. In 1 Sam 19, King Saul’s men met a group of prophets who were with Samuel and the king’s men prophesied. It was a supernatural manifestation of the Spirit’s power.
In Acts 2:17, the Apostle Peter used the words of Joel to proclaim,
‘And in the last days, it shall be, God declares that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.’
We understand that there are schools of prophets training Christians who are eager to experience more of God in their lives. May we see the unleashing of prophets and prophecies in our time among believers.
Nevertheless, aspiring prophets can practice prophesying within a nurturing environment, while at the same time, be mindful of what they are saying to the person receiving the word; a careless word can truly mislead the latter.
To the person receiving the word, remember to always test all prophecies.
B21 - Exercise (and do not neglect) our spiritual gifts
1 Tim 4:14-16 says,
‘Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them so that all may see your progress. …. Persist in this.’
We are to exercise our spiritual (and natural) gifts. Paul asked his spiritual son not to neglect the gift(s) given to him through the laying of hands by the elders.
In an environment of true prophets, and within the confines of a spiritual coach, believers must be encouraged to exercise their giftings although without doubt, some giftings, like word of knowledge, may have to be carefully administered. It is interesting to see more of these spiritual gifts being utilized because the church will be stronger for it.
Please also see S81, Fail to use our gifts and practice wastefulness, as failure to use our giftings is considered a waste and wastefulness is a sin.
Hence, do not neglect utilizing our spiritual gifts.
B22 - Love one another fervently
Mark 12:31; Luke 10:25-37; John 13:34-35; John 15:12-13, 17; Rom 12:10; 1 Cor 13; Gal 5:14; 1 Thes 3:12; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17, 4:8; 1 John 3:23; 1 John 4:7-8
Love is what distinguishes us as Christians. Jesus said,
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you.’ (John 13:34).
It was love that brought him to the cross; it was selfless love (John 15:13).
Jesus went on to say that
‘by this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another’ (John 13:35).
Love is powerful.
The message of Christ is one of love, not one of revenge or hate, and also one of forgiveness because as 1 Peter 4:8 says,
‘Love covers a multitude of sins.’
1 Peter 1:22 says to
‘love one another earnestly from a pure heart (that is, without ulterior motive or agenda).’
1 Cor 13 says that if we do great and even charitable things and do not have love, we are nothing.
The Greek uses four words to describe love – agape, phileo, eros, and storge; three of them appear in the Bible. The Greek word for love in 1 Cor 13 is agape.
Agape love is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional. We cannot love God without loving our fellowmen. And we demonstrate our love for God by obeying his commandments.
The second commandment in the New Testament reads,
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:31).
In this era of hate placed upon believers by Liberals, we have to relearn the lesson from the parable of the good Samaritan.
The Samaritan chose to demonstrate a charitable act to a Jew, a hated enemy of his people. He helped the injured man, asked no questions but yet paid for the expenses to care for him. He showed mercy before judgment.
As believers, we must seek God to refresh our love for everyone – our neighbors and our fellow believers. As believers, we must be careful not to end up being ‘tribal’.
How can we demonstrate our love to those who hate us – Muslims and Liberals – individually and corporately?
Jesus loved almost everyone except the Pharisees and Sadducees who misled the commoners, were judgmental and more interested in money than the people;
NB: Jesus did not even criticized the Roman soldiers.
We should love one another fervently – even those who hate us. How can we live the love of Jesus in this time of growing persecutions and intense attacks?
It is easy to react by hating but God’s mandate to Christians is still to love.
Let us love one another even more, starting with our fellow believers and then beyond our own comfort zones.
See also B285, Love Ourselves.
B23 - Love sacrificially
1 John 3:16 says,
‘We ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.’
The love that Christians should possess is a sacrificial one, with Christ demonstrating to us his willingness to lay down his life so that we may live with him forever.
Back in January 1999, an Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons were torched and killed by a well-armed mob even as they laid asleep in their station wagon, following their visit to a jungle camp. Members of the mob accused Staines of proselytizing and even coercing many Hindus into believing in the Christian faith although subsequent investigations proved this to be false.
The Staines had indeed given up much of their creature comforts in Australia in order to live and minister among a group of abjectly poor, outcast leprosy sufferers in a remote part of India. They have decided to demonstrate the love of Christ in a very real way. In the end, they also showed us what it meant to love sacrificially.
In early 2020, we saw the same sacrifice that Francis Chan, founder of a mega Cornerstone Community Church in California and author of the book, The Crazy Love, demonstrated when he moved to Hongkong so that he could become international missionaries. In one of his ministries in Myanmar, Chan testified that he saw the wonderful workings of healing of two deaf children. For more, please click HERE.
In our own situation, how can we demonstrate that we love sacrificially?
B24 - Be hospitable
Rom 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9; Heb 13:1-2
1 Peter 4:9 says,
‘Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.’
Believers are asked to show hospitality to others. It means opening up our home (church) to others simply because we can. It means inviting someone new out for a meal. It might also means having a visiting missionary staying in our home for a short period of time (Acts 9:43).
A practical suggestion in demonstrating hospitality is to avoid furnishing our homes with ornate decors, just in case they might make visitors feel uneasy or we might be constantly wary of possible damages to our highly valued furniture.
Simply, be hospitable because you can. Let your act of generosity demonstrates the love of Jesus without the need to preach (NB: Remember, if your invited guest is a non-Christian, he/ she is NOT your project).
B25 - Support a believer who might not be the same as you
Rom 14:1 says,
‘As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.’
Romans 14 describes a person who is ‘weak in faith’ as someone who might only eat vegetables. Paul’s counsel to us is not to pass judgment but welcome him.
Acts 20:35 also mentions Jesus’ words,
‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
Again, regardless of who our brothers and sisters are, we are to practice hospitality even to someone who might be different from us.
Receive and support another believer who might be weak in faith.
B26 - Minister to backsliders to bring them back
2 Cor 2:3-8; Gal 6:1; James 5:19-20
James 5:19-20 says,
‘My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.’
Gal 6:1 asks believers to ‘restore him in a spirit of gentleness (NB: Not in judgment)’ while 2 Cor 2:8 says, we must reaffirm our love for him.
As believers, some might even want to start small groups catering to just these brothers and sisters who have left the Lord.
Bring home the backsliders.
B27 - Share the joy of return of backsliders
When backsliders return to the fold, believers should welcome them with an open arm, just like the father who threw a big party for the prodigal son who returned home (Luke 15:31-32).
Share with them the joy of their return.
B28 - Meet habitually and regularly with fellow believers
‘Do not neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day (Day of the Lord) drawing near.’
Churches use this verse to justify why believers should come together once a week to worship and fellowship.
Why do we meet?
Because Christians are not to live independent lives but to be with others in genuine fellowship.
Loneliness is the toughest thing to face for anyone. We are not designed for loneliness but relationships. That is why right from the beginning, God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’ (Genesis 2:18). God created animals to be his companions, until God said, ‘But for Adam, there was not found a helper fit for him’ (Genesis 2:20).
Meanwhile, Jesus never married and yet committed himself to close and authentic relationships with his disciples. Why? Because we will always need the support of each other, especially in difficult situations; at his final and most intense hours of testing, Jesus, the Son of God, required his closest disciples, and even angels, to surround him.
We can accomplish so much more by being together. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 reads,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”
Christians have to fight the counter-culture of stoicism – of self-made, self-determination, and self-dependence – because those are not from God. Indeed, it was Satan who uttered these words of self-determination in Isaiah 14:13-14 –
“I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”
What did these believers do when they meet?
They devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles as well as to fellowship (Acts 2:42).
Notice that the Bible does not mention a church in the way that we know a church to be in terms of its physical form but rather it is about the gathering of believers. Hence, if we make it a habit to meet once a week in someone’s house to do precisely that, for learning as well as fellowship, then we are a church.
The key point is we cannot be associated with Christ and stay away from interacting with other believers. It is a required behavior of a believer. It is difficult to imagine a believer isolating himself/ herself as a hermit in heaven.
Consider the words of Ps Nicky Gumbel, the developer of the Alpha Course and the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton in London,
“Church is NOT an organization you join; it is a family where you belong, a home where you are loved, and a hospital where you find healing.”
Therefore, meet regularly with fellow believers as a habit to do the following – learn, exhort, stir up love, and do good works.
See also B29, Cultivate a few close (Christian) friends, as well as B30 to B36.
B29 - Cultivate a few close (Christian) friends
Matt 17:1; Matt 26:37; Mark 9:2; Mark 14:32; Luke 9:28; 2 Tim 1:16-17
We all need friends. Jesus had twelve disciples but he had an inner circle of close friends consisting of Peter, James, and John.
They were with him at his most critical events –
- When Jesus was resurrecting a 12-year old girl (Mark 5:37),
- At the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2), as well as
- At the Garden of Gethsemane praying (Matt 26:37) .
Believers ought to follow our Lord’s example and cultivate a few close Christian friends whom we can confide and share our lives with.
Prov 27:17 says,
‘Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.’
Have a few close (Christian) friends. See also B34 and B306 regarding depression.
Click HERE for an excellent article on spiritual friendship (suggested by PL Chew 16 Jun 2020).
B30 - Confess our sins to one another (among close friends)
James 5:16 explains,
‘Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.’
Protestants, that is probably you and I, don’t really do confessions. We have been taught that ‘there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Tim 2:5).
Catholics, on the other hand, are taught to confess their sins to a priest. They reason that ‘confession’ forces a person to face up to our sins and feel a greater sense of remorse.
According to CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church – effectively, the doctrines of the Catholic faithful) 1455-1456 (Section 2, Chapter 2, Article 4, #7) –
“The confession (or disclosure) of sins, even from a simply human point of view, frees us and facilitates our reconciliation with others. Through such an admission, man looks squarely at the sins he is guilty of, takes responsibility for them, and thereby opens himself again to God and to the communion of the Church to make a new future possible. Confession to a priest is an essential part of the sacrament of Penance.”
The context to James 5:16 had to do with illnesses as they were some that were associated with sins.
John Piper, a well respected man of the word and publisher of the website – www.desiringgod.org, suggested that ‘in the normal life of the Christian, honesty and truthfulness and purity of heart involve continual admission and confession of sin to appropriate people in our lives. The result of this will be greater than physical. It will include spiritual health as well.’
Ps 32:3 says,
‘For when I kept silent (about my sins), my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.’
Piper said that by confessing our sins to God and to one another, God will spare us the agony of ‘dishonesty, hiddenness, and privateness about our sins’ that can ultimately bring about both spiritual and physical misery.’
Hidden sins gnaw away our vitality and effectiveness as Christians.
Who is this person that we confess to?
Is it not a close friend because the person is also someone whom you can pray with and pray for? It is not as Catholics understand it to be – the confession of our sins to a priest in a booth out of sight of people.
What Jesus modeled is for each of us to have our own ‘inner circle of friends’, people whom we can rely on. Even Jesus, when he was on earth, needed to fellowship with other disciples, and shared with them his innermost thoughts including his impending death and resurrection,
He was especially close to Peter, James, and John, whom he brought along to special occasions like the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2) and the resurrection of a twelve-year old girl (Mark 5:37).
Hence, build a few good, mature Christian friends whom you can have an honest conversation and prayer with. it is a confession among equals. It is free, scriptural and more effective than visiting a shrink.
By sharing ourselves with another person, it helps to make our burden lighter. Also, wise counsels can be obtained and received. Confession of our sins helps us to overcome being too inward looking. It reduces the possibility of depression.
Of course, wisdom is needed to ensure that such trust is not abused.
PS: Other than your spouse, it is wise to have a group of best buddies of the same sex so as not to fall into possible sexual temptation.
B31 - Be of one mind (united as one people)
Mark 3:25; Luke 11:17-18; John 17:11, 21-23; Acts 1:14; Acts 4:32; Rom 16:17; 1 Cor 1:10; Gal 5:20; Eph 4:3; Phil 2:2; Titus 3:10; Jude 19;
Jesus’ single emphasis for the church had always been that of unity.
He explained when he cast a mute demon from a person.
‘Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste and a divided household falls’ ( Luke 11:17).
Then, just before he went to the Garden of Gethsemane, he prayed an intense prayer, emphasizing once again the significance of being united.
‘I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name which you have given me that THEY MAY BE ONE, EVEN AS WE ARE ONE’ (John 17:11).
He repeated these words a bit further down when he said,
‘That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, SO THAT THE WORLD MAY BELIEVE THAT YOU HAVE SENT ME’ (John 17:20).
Oneness or Unity was his single most consuming desire. Oneness is what will bring people to know him.
In Acts, the disciples lived it out –
‘All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer’ (Acts 1:14).
These disciples were prepared to give up everything for each other so that in Acts 4:32, it says,
‘Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own but THEY HAD EVERYTHING IN COMMON.’
On the other hand, a divisive person is considered a person to avoid (Rom 16:17, Jude 1:19).
Paul even went so far as to say that someone who divides ‘will not inherit the kingdom of God’ (Gal 5:20-21).
Paul underscored the importance with the Corinth church by reminding them not to be divided but ‘be united in the same mind and the same judgment’ (1 Cor 1:10). In Ephesians, Paul spoke about the same theme, asking the church there ‘to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’ (Eph 4:3)
Notice something interesting – Jesus did not say miracle-performing is that which draws others to him although it was true that miracles generated lots of interest from others about who he was and helped spread his fame (Mark 1:28).
John 6:2 says,
‘a large crowd was following him because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.’
His disciples were amazed when he could walk on water and calm the raging sea. No doubt, it established his divinity and proof of being the Messiah when he told John’s disciples to go back and report that
‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and good news is preached to the poor’ (Matt 11:4).
But Jesus NEVER emphasized miracles as the reason for drawing people to him.
In fact, in D254 – Not all great men of God performed signs and wonders, quoting from Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28, Jesus commended a person who did no miracles (John 10:41) with the following: ‘among those born of women, there is no one greater than John (the Baptist)’.
Also, refer to D276 – Satan’s demonstration of power will be imposing – because in it, you will see that in the last days, many believers will be deceived by Satan’s own supernatural acts; Satan has an array of supernatural miracles too.
Or consider the power of united prayer – in Matt 18:19, Jesus said,
‘If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you.’
Whoa – there is more power in agreed prayer than praying alone.
According to Jesus, unity is the single most important reason for the world to know that God has sent his Son. Pray for the unity not just for the church that you and I belong to but for the wider national and global unity of the church of Jesus Christ.
B32 - Submit to one another
1 Peter 5:5; Eph 5:21; Phil 2:3;
‘Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.’
The Greek word is hupotasso or ‘be place under’ or ‘put yourself into subjection’.
In Phil 2:3, Paul asked the Philippians to –
‘count others more significant than yourselves.’
In the modern-day context, it is ‘following the leadership of’.
The word, ‘submission’, does have a negative connotation of ‘non-thinking’. Ephesians carries on by using the context of a marriage where a wife is to submit to her husband while the husband is to love his wife.
‘Submission’ is a big thing in being a Christian – We are told to submit to the following:
- Our employers (B95),
- The government (B107),
- Younger men are instructed to submit to their elders (B394), and
- Women are asked to submit to their husbands (B85).
Jesus, God’s co-equal, began his life by submitting to his earthly parents (Luke 2:51); imagine God, the Son, submitting to his earthly parents. Jesus also submitted to God, the Father, when he said,
‘Not my will but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).
He always did the will of the Father. John 5:19 (NLT) –
‘He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.’ He made it clear in John 6:38,
‘I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.’
Yet, submission does not mean that we cannot offer our opinions. Consider Jesus talking with God when the going got really tough like just before the crucifixion.
In Matt 26:39, Jesus asked God,
‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Yet not as I will but as You will.’
Still focused on the Father’s will but one which he could have a conversation with God regarding the tremendous stress that he was going through. Jesus was not the only one who had a conversation with God to influence him. So did Moses in Exodus 32:11.
John 19:11, Jesus told Pilate,
‘You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above.’
He was prepared to be crucified and be subjected under the Roman law.
The Apostles were submitted to each other. God did not institute a top-down model whereby he decided everything and we just followed. That way, God must as well create robots.
God handed some critical decisions to men. Like when a dispute occurred as a result of the Greek-speaking Jews (Hellenists), they discussed and submitted their proposal to the other brothers. It was also at the Council of Jerusalem that they decided on critical issue relating to circumcision and Gentile Christians (Acts 15).
Here is what we can learn –
- There was much debate,
- Someone summarized,
- A senior member made a decision, and
- An agreement was confirmed.
We learn here that submission does not mean that people ought to stop thinking; there should be interactions, the group makes a decision, and everyone follows.
Again, with the Apostle Paul, he was in Jerusalem to reconcile certain issues with the Council and he submitted himself to their decisions. While there, he recognized that the three main persons that ran the Council, what Paul termed as ‘seemed to be pillars’ were James (the brother of Jesus), Peter and John.
Nevertheless, subsequently, this did not stopped Paul from confronting Peter, a pillar no doubt, at Antioch when the latter ‘acted hypocritically’ choosing not to eat with the Gentiles on seeing his fellow Jews arriving from Jerusalem (Gal 2:11-14).
By studying the responses of Biblical characters, we can learn what submission is not:
- It is NOT handing in our brains. We are to raise issues and debate. Just look at the case of the disciples who had to ‘debate’ the issue of circumcision in Acts 15:7,
- It is NOT agreeing on everything coming from the leader. Remember, Paul confronted Peter in Gal 2,
- It is NOT stopping to influence. Even Jesus had a conversation with his Father regarding the need to go to the cross.
- Knowing that there is a will above our own,
- Subordinating ourselves to the will of God,
- Allowing for someone (possibly even ourselves) to make the decision and abiding by that decision after discussing the issues and coming to a consensus.
Unity is the purpose of submission, the Scripture provides the guidelines, and love is the glue that holds everyone together.
Submit to one another.
B33 - Love one another
Eph 4:31-32; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 John 2:9-11;
The Apostle John made it clear – Christians do not hate other Christians (1 John 2:9). We are to be kind to one another (Eph 4:32) – which means that we must forgive one another if we are ever offended. We are to possess ‘brotherly affection with love.’ (2 Peter 1:7). We are to love God’s people.
Love is the language of Christians. We are also to love non-Christians.
But it begins at home among fellow believers; love God’s people.
B34 - Share one another's burden and look after each other's interest
Rom 12:15; Gal 6:2; Col 3:13; Eph 4:2;
This is an important element. We have seen that even Christians and Christian leaders go through depression and some have, unfortunately, taken their own lives.
Gal 6:2 says,
‘Bear one another’s burdens’
and it is the same with Col 3:13, although it added another element,
‘Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Eph 4:2
included love – ‘bearing with one another in love.’
Rom 12:15 simply says,
‘Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.’ It indicates that life on earth is definitely not ‘happy, happy, fun, fun’ as there will be times when we have to ‘weep with those who weep.’
The Bible is a practical handbook for Christians and it understands that we are but humans. In the Western society, people with problems tend to pay money to see a professional shrink. Or Catholics might unburden their sins with their priests.
Some end up seeing psychiatrists who may recommend prescribed drugs as a solution. Even someone as prominent as Pastor Brian Houston, founder and now ex-Senior Pastor of super megachurch, Hillsong, accepted anti-anxiety prescription. Unfortunately, such drugs can result in a person developing a dependency syndrome. Please see S155, Sorceries, for more information.
The solution is for us not to remain stoic because stoicism is about looking inwards and depending on oneself.
The Lord knows our weaknesses and has given us an approach in the form of other brothers and sisters who can help to share our load. It is simple and yet difficult as it means we have to unburden ourselves to someone close to us, making ourselves vulnerable.
We must, therefore, find a handful of people to share each other’s burden and people whom we can be honest and direct with and who will not abuse that trust. With the internet, the person might even be across the oceans.
See also B29, Cultivate a few close Christian friends, and B30, Confess our sins to one another.
Share one another’s burdens and look after each other’s interest.
B35 - Serve each other
Matt 20:27; Rom 12:10, 16; Eph 4:11-12; Ph 2:4
The body of Christ is about how we relate to each other.
‘We are to ‘love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor’.
Eph 4:12 explains that the purpose is to
‘equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.’
And Phil 2:4 reminds us to be selfless.
We are born differently and blessed with different gifting. We are to serve the body of Christ by serving each other selflessly with our unique abilities.
Together, we build each other and the church.
B36 - Esteem others better than ourselves
B37 - Associate with the lowly
In Rom 12:!6, we are told specifically to associate with the lowly. The Greek word is tapeinos and it means lowly in position or spirit. NIV says, ‘people of low position’ while NLT uses the term ‘ordinary people’. KJV calls them as ‘men of low estate’.
In other words, not the rich folks.
Believers are to be humble and be able to move across different economic strata with no airs about their positions.
Do not remove yourself from people who are of lower economic status but instead associate with them.
See also B145, Do not despise the poor.
B38 - Work within a church structure
1 Cor 14:33, 40; Eph 1:22, 4:11-12; 1 Tim 3:1-12
Christ is the head of the church (Eph 1:22).
1 Tim 3:1-12 describes a church structure consisting of elders and deacons.
And 1 Cor 14:33 explains the why – that ‘God is not a God of confusion but of peace’; just think how meticulous God is in terms of the creation of our human body, where everything is in its place for a reason.
Not everyone may like this but as imperfect as the church is, believers must still acknowledge a structure within a church for accountability and management and therefore work within it. God is a God of order.
See also D57 – Jesus loved order.
B39 - Receive a little child always
Matt 19:13-15; Mark 10:15; Luke 9:48; Luke 18:16-17
Believers are told to receive a little child in his name and never to hinder them from coming to Jesus (Matt 19:14). When he met them,
‘he laid his hands on them and went away’ (Matt 19:15).
Jesus always received a little child with love and compassion.
Love all little children (including those pre-born babies too).
B40 - Do not place unnecessary and unscriptural rules on believers (for leaders)
Matt 12:10-12; Matt 15:2-6; Matt 23:4; Luke 6:7-11; Acts 15:10; Mark 7:1-23; John 9:16;
The Pharisees added their own understanding and interpretation about the general guidelines given in the Bible. They got into the specifics of behaviors relating to the Sabbath, what it meant to ‘honor your father and mother’ and the rituals relating to washing hands.
In Mark 7:1-23, Jesus highlighted how the Pharisees had augmented Biblical laws, found in the first five books of Moses, with more specific details based on their understanding. In so doing, these Pharisees went beyond Scripture.
In Acts 15, however, when the disciples met together to decide whether circumcision should be included for a Gentile, instead of adding rules, they simplified them to just four basic ‘not-to’ –
Not to eat food offered to idols, not to eat food with blood in it or had been strangled, and not to practice sexual immorality (Acts 15:20).
As can be seen here, less rules are, in fact, better.
As humans, most of us enjoy creating rules, especially in societies where people are highly regimented. Rules provide clarity. Over time, leaders in all denominations amass their own ‘rules’ or ‘practices’.
This project does not provide rules. What you find here are guidelines for good Christian living. Use them with wisdom and do not consider them as a checklist of behaviors.
See also S134 and S135, Traditions of men (Leaders) Rule-creator and Enforcer. Also, see D249 – Church traditions maybe special ….
As leaders, be careful not to place unnecessary behavioral constraints/ rules on fellow believers.
B41 - Do not burden others (for leaders)
2 Cor 11:9; 1 Thes 2:9; 2 Thes 3:8
When Paul was a missionary, he made it a point never to burden that church (2 Cor 11:9) whether it was in Corinth or Thessalonica.
Leaders, especially full-time staff, must never burden their church members by always asking for money over and beyond what the members can afford. This is not the kind of fruit that our Lord Jesus explained in Matt 7:20.
See also S24, Become a burden to the congregation.
Leaders must not burden others but should consider working as tentmakers to support the ministry, if necessary.
B42 - Lead by serving (for leaders)
Matt 23:11-12; John 13:15-17; Phil 2:7-8
Christian leaders are servant leaders. They are firstly followers before they become leaders; Jesus’ disciples showed that.
‘The greatest among you shall be your servant’ – Matt 23:11.
Just before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus got down and began to wash his disciples’ feet, explaining that
‘For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you (that is, to wash each other’s feet)’ – John 13:14.
It was a powerful imagery of humility.
Who is a Servant Leader? What did Jesus do?
- He was God’s Son but yet a servant.
- He chose to take on the form of a man to be with us.
- He went where the people were and brought us back to him.
- He did not stay in an ivory tower.
- He humbled himself to dwell among men and was born in a stable, not the most pleasant of places, while living the bulk of his life as a blue-collar worker, a carpenter.
- He made time to connect and disciple, especially his inner circle of twelve. It took him a good part of 3.5 years to do so.
- He did not keep a distance from the people; he was always reaching out.
- He was loving and his compassion came through; he did not even hide his tears from his followers – he wept at Lazarus’ tomb.
- Finally, his death on the cross was about reconciling us back to God the Father.
It was never about his own will. He was selfless.
For more information, you might like to read books from John Maxwell, a Christian management consultant who is a well recognized expert on Servant Leadership.
Christian leaders must lead through transparency and by serving and interacting in the frontline with fellow believers.
B43 - Guard our actions never to be a stumbling block to others
Christians have to be aware of sins so that they do not cause another believer to stumble. People are always watching.
Paul reminded Christians that if food was to cause another person to sin, and that it could
‘somehow become a stumbling block to the weak’ (1 Cor 8:9),
then we must not consume it.
When he shared that he was referring to food offered to idols. Just as well, it might be drinking alcohol. While it is fine to drink beer for one believer, it might cause another believer who has a weakness for alcoholic drink to end up drunk. As a result, it might be better for the believer who does not have a drinking problem to avoid drinking in front of someone who has a weakness for alcohol.
Christians must be alert not to stumble another believer.
To start, do not sin and guard our actions so that we are not a stumbling block to others.
See B62, Don’t harm the body of Christ.
B44 - Do not choose the best seats or titles
Jesus related how the Pharisees
‘love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues’ (Matt 23:5).
These seats were obviously a symbol of pride and status. Jesus reminded his audience to remain humble in making choices as our outward action is a symptom of our inward condition.
How can we demonstrate humility? Refer to B42 on Lead by serving.
Start by not choosing the best seats or titles in the synagogue.
B45 - Do not judge others (as in condemning others)
Matthew 1:18-19; Rom 14:13; Luke 6:37-42; Matt 7:1-4
In Matthew 1:18-19, we read that Joseph became aware of Mary’s pregnancy and he was obviously not the father. According to the Jewish Law, ‘both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death’ (Leviticus 20:10).
That was the ‘rightful’ thing to do at that time; to report Mary to the relevant religious authority. Yet, Matthew 1:19 says:
‘Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.’
The Greek word for ‘just’ was dikaios or ‘just especially in the eyes of God’/ righteous.
Joseph chose mercy rather than judgment.
Matt 7:1 says,
‘Judge not that you be not judged.’
In Rom 14:13, Paul said to believers to ‘stop passing judgement on others’ but instead that we should personally not stumble others. The counsel is to watch our own lives as against watching our neighbor’s because we are all vulnerable to sins. To pass judgement may even elevate our own pride. Instead, the word to believers is to continue loving others.
But Paul did call out some people by names. Consider these:
- Demas – Who was mentioned as someone who forsook Paul ‘having loved this present world’ (2 Tim 4:10),
- Hymenaeus and Alexander – ‘whom I (Paul) have delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme’ (1 Tim 1:20),
- Alexander, the coppersmith – ‘did me (Paul) great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deed’ (2 Tim 4:14).
Even the Apostle John, credited with being the epitome of love, mentioned a person named Diotrephes as someone ‘who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority’ (3 John 9).
We are told in Eph 5:11 to ‘expose evil’.
There is a fine line between exposing evil and judgment, and between mercy and judgment.
If we are too judgmental, may we learn from Joseph and show mercy. Yet, may the Holy Spirit provide us the discernment to know which is which.
B46 - Be steadfast in doctrine and fellowship
Acts 2:42, 46 speaks about the disciples fellowshipping with new believers;
‘they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching (doctrines) and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers.’
They were together:
- Learning the Scripture (Strengthening their understanding of doctrines),
- Praying, and
- Having holy communion together.
See also B28, Meet regularly with fellow believers.
Be steadfast in doctrine and fellowship.
B47 - Do not discriminate because of race or wealth
Acts 6:1 talks about discrimination felt by the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jews who felt that they were discriminated.
Believers do not discriminate because of race or wealth. For more information, please also see:
- B352, Do not be partial to the wealthy, and
- S47, Show partiality in church.
Be careful if we become discriminatory based on race and wealth.
B48 - Do not go to the court with a believer but settle privately
Severe disagreement can sometimes happen even between believers especially in business. Paul’s counsel to believers in such situation is to seek out other wise believers to settle the dispute.
It is a shame for believers to end up in a civilian court which might be presided by a non-believing judge(s) 1 Cor 6:1-7.
What does it mean to our business people who have disagreements with other believers? Where can Christian business people go if they have a dispute with another Christian?
Avoid going to courts with another believer but settle disputes privately through arbitration of wise Christians.
B49 - Act dumb and use questions for people to discover things themselves
Luke 24:19 showed how Jesus acted dumb and used questions so as to allow people to discover things themselves. A couple of disciples were on their way to Emmaus, a short walk out of Jerusalem. They were joined by a man who struck up a conversation with them.
However, the man pretended not to know about the crucifixion of Jesus, which from these verses showed that it was big news then. Instead, he got them to explain everything to him. After that, he started teaching and only later, did they discovered that it was in fact Jesus who interacted with them.
Sometimes, it is worthwhile to use ‘self-discovery’ questions for others to open up to us. This method can also be applied to evangelism or parenting.
We can all learn from our Master – act dumb and use questions to get people to discover things themselves.
B50 - Pray life for a fellow believer who is sinning
1 John 5:16 does imply that sinning can lead to early death. It is a difficult topic to nail down. Believers are asked to pray for sinning Christian friends so that ‘God (can) give him life to those who commit this kind of sin.’
Pray for life in regard to a brother who is sinning.
B51 - Pray for destruction of a fellow believer who is engaged in terrible sins
1 Cor 5:1-5 speaks about a man who had an affair with his father’s wife. Paul said that he was praying for
‘the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.’
When Christians see other Christian friends whom we know are atrociously sinning openly, do we raise our voice and talk to this person? Do we pray for this person? Or do we just adopt the polite and politically correct thing – look the other way?
And if the going gets tough, do we pray tough and uncomfortable prayers? How does this compare to B45, Non-Judgmental?
Biblical teaching is usually about drawing a balance, except when it comes to God or money (B343 – Serve God and not money). Then, it is a choice.
See also B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B52 - Do not associate with a sexually immoral believer
There are certain believers that we are reminded not to ‘associate with’ in 1 Cor 5:11.
The KJV used the phrase, ‘not to keep company with’. The Greek word is rather long, sunanamignumi, and it means ‘not to mix up together with’, ‘mingle together with’, or ‘keep company’.
B52 to B59 highlight believers we should not mingle with. We begin with B53, ‘sexuality immoral’ or the Greek pornos. It refers to believers who are engaged in consensual sex but who are not married to each other.
See also B365, Handling Offences/ Offended-Confront.
B53 - Do not associate with a believer who is greedy (NB: It is not only food)
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
In Greek, it is pleonektes or an avaricious person – or a person who is pathologically (excessively) greedy for money or other valuables. Do not keep company with such believer too.
NB: It is not only about food.
Look at B52, Sexuality immoral for more information.
B54 - Do not associate with a believer who swindles
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
The Greek word is harpax and it means ravenous or a robber or an extortioner. The NLT uses the words, ‘cheats people’ while the GNT says, ‘thief.’
Do not associate with a believer that swindles.
Look at B52, Sexuality immoral for information.
B55 - Do not associate with a believer who is a drunk
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
All translations use ‘drunk’ or ‘drunken’. The Greek word is methusos or, you guess it, a drunkard – someone who has a habitual excessive use of alcohol and result in intoxication. The person is usually unsteady.
Christians are told specifically not to associate with a drunken.
Look at B52, Sexuality immorality for related comments.
B56 - Do not associate with a believer who is an idolater
1 Cor 5:11 says,
‘But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one.’
Parallel translations use the word, ‘idolater’ or ‘someone who worships idols’. The Greek word is eidololatres or a worshiper of an image (an idol).
An idol may take many forms other than a physical stature. An idol is any ‘object of worship’ which we ‘excessively admired’. It could be a movie or football star. Or it could even be a politician.
See also B52, Sexuality immorality and S9, Worship Idols, for related comments.
B57 - Do not associate with a believer who is lazy
2 Thes 3:2 says,
‘Keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness.’
The various versions use the word, ‘undisciplined’ (Berean), unruly life (NASB), ‘loaf around (Contemporary), and ‘lazy’ (GNT).
The Greek words are peripateo meaning conducting one’s life or living, and ataktos meaning either disorderly or irregularly or lacking proper order. So, we are talking about someone who is walking in an undisciplined manner.
Paul admonished in v10,
‘If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.’
It means, keep away from someone who is lazy.
‘We command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living (NB: Not handouts).’
See also S146, Choose not to work/ Not to use our talents – Slothful and Lazy.
B58 - Do not associate with a believer who is a busybody
2 Thes 3:11 warns us about ‘busybodies’ or people who ‘interfere in other people’s lives.’ Paul also told the Thessalonians not to associate with such a person.
However, you might like to note that in the case of a lazy, busybody believer, Christians are encouraged in 2 Thes 3:15
‘not to regard him as an enemy but warn him as a brother.’
B59 - Do not associate with a believer who is a divider
Titus 3:10 says,
‘As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him.’
In other words, three strikes and a divisive or factious person should be disassociated with.
The Greek word for ‘divisive’ is hairetikos or ‘disposed to form sects’ or sectarian.
NB: The sins highlighted from B52 to B59 are externally visible sins. What about those internal invisible ones, like pride, and unforgiveness which can be even more serious?
It is also useful to read this portion alongside with S139 – Wilfully continue to sin.
B60 - Do not lie to each other
John 8:44; Acts 5:3; Col 3:9; Rev 12:9
Jesus called Satan, ‘the father of lies’ in John 8:44. The Apostle Paul simply said,
‘Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices.’
Believers do not lie to each other as lying belongs to the old self. The problem with lying is that we end up telling a second lie to hide the first lie and it perpetuals from there.
Deception (the act of tricking a person) is also unacceptable as the devil is also called the ‘Deceiver of the whole world’ (Rev 12:9) and, of course, deception can be worse than an outright lie.
Yet, at times, God needs us to be wise. Jesus said in Luke 16:8,
‘For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.’
In the Old Testament, when Samuel was told to anoint David as king, he exclaimed to God, ‘How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me’ (1 Sam 16:2). The Lord then gave Samuel a strategy to go forward. He suggested the use of a sacrificial ceremony as an excuse to anoint David as king (1 Sam 16:2-4).
Again, in Jer 38:24-27, Jeremiah had just pronounced a prophecy to King Zedekiah. But if he was to reveal to the officials what he said to the King, he could jeopardize his own life. Hence, King Zedekiah told Jeremiah to say to them, ‘I made a humble plea to the king that he would not send me back to the house of Jonathan to die there’ (Jer 38:26).
It does appear in both circumstances that they were not completely honest with their responses. In both incidents, their lives were compromised.
The principle that we can take from here is perhaps that if lives are involved, then a ‘white lie’ works better. To insist that you must tell the truth at all times in trying circumstances will be the same as telling a French Christian living in the 1940s to always tell the truth when the Nazis asked if there were Jews hiding in their house.
Christians, therefore, have to be wise. If we are not asked a direct question, we may not need to provide a direct response. Technically, we did not lie. And if lives are involved, then we may have to dish out a lie.
It is a challenging issue that Christians should struggle within themselves. The broad guidance is, ‘Do not lie to each other.’
See also B12, Don’t lie to the Holy Spirit.
B61 - Beware of false teachers who teach things counter to the Bible
‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.’
Believers are not to accept everything that is being preached to them but to ‘test the spirit’. In order to do that, believers must be strong in the Word. Hence, it is imperative that we read and digest our Bible daily and understand what is inside.
Jesus referred to believers as sheep and that is not exactly a compliment (John 10). Here is a short description:
- Sheep are not exactly intelligent. They tend to wander away from the protection of the shepherd. Sheep gets lost easily,
- Sheep must be led to grass,
- Sheep cannot survive in the wild where there are predators,
- Sheep are weak and need a shepherd to care and protect them,
- Sheep become restless when food is scarce or they have been attacked by bugs,
- Sheep needs plenty of water on a regular basis,
- Sheep follows the voice of the shepherd.
We must develop our spiritual eyes so as to sense wrong teachings. Paul called out some of these false teachers as ‘dogs‘ and ‘mutilators of the flesh‘ (Phil 3:2).
The purpose of this project is to provide resources so that believers can review and be in a position to counter any false teachings.
Every statement relating to ‘sins’, ‘behaviors’, and ‘doctrines’ is supported by the relevant scriptural references and numbered so that they can be easily cross-referenced. A short explanation is also given to provide teaching and clarity to all believers who are interested in the Word.
See also B373, Test every spirit.
B62 - Do not harm the body of Christ
1 Cor 10:23 says,
‘All things are lawful but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful but not all things build up.’
Christians should avoid things that don’t build up or that may even harm the body of Christ.
Subsequently, Paul mentioned about the issues of drinking alcohol and eating food offered to idols. In truth, Christians can do both, that is, as long as it does not result in drunkenness. But Paul had suggested that if it could impact on someone else’s conscience, then Christians should avoid it altogether (1 Cor 10:29).
In other words, we must always be sensitive to people around us and serve others before we serve ourselves.
What can we think of in our modern-day setting?
See also B43, Guard our actions so that we are not a stumbling block to others.
B63 - Be angry but do not take any action into our own hands
‘Be angry and sin not’ –
Eph 4:26. The problem with anger is that it offends and creates deep rooted issues later. On the extreme, anger can result in murder like the case of Cain and Abel.
James 1:20 says that
‘human anger does not produce the righteousness of God.’
Eph 4:26, nonetheless, continues and suggests a way out –
‘do not let the sun go down on your anger.’
Some of us gets angry easier than others. In our anger, we might offend others. And if we do, we have to learn to seek forgiveness from the other party.
Some might even thought about revenge. See B138, Do not seek vengeance, for more information.
Or others might just endure and resent. Whatever it is, it is not good for any of us.
See also the section on offences, where the Lord taught us how to handle offences one-on-one without getting angry or losing the fellowship – B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B64 - Deal with issues directly, with integrity and honesty
Philemon 1:12-14 – Paul wrote to Philemon because Onesimus, one of Philemon’s slaves who ran away, had become a Christian. Paul was returning Onesimus back to Philemon as the rightful thing to do.
What you will recognize here is that Paul was upfront with the conversation and handled it with integrity.
As believers, we must avoid pussyfooting around issues as many cultures do. The Bible always encourage direct, honest conversations and even healthy debates (Acts 15).
- B32, Submit to one another, and
- B364, If offended, then confront, rebuke, and forgive.
B65 - Honor church elders
The word, ‘honor’, as found in 1 Tim 5:17 is interesting. Firstly, it is given to the elder who works hard at preaching and teaching, or an elder that is good at his role.
Secondly, most versions listed the word as ‘honor’ or ‘double honor’ but NLT and GNT used the term, ‘worthy of receiving double pay’.
The Greek explains that it is given to a presbuteros or an elder of a Christian assembly. The word for ‘honor’ is the Greek time which is translated as ‘price’, ‘honor’, or a ‘value’.
If we carry on reading 1 Tim 5, we will realize that the ‘double honor’ might refer to money since v18 reads,
“For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and “The laborer deserves his wages.'”
Effectively, it recognizes that this elder (or, in our modern-day terminology, possibly a pastor) who excels in both preaching and teaching should be rewarded financially.
Here are the principles:
- All preachers of the word must be paid, and
- Good preachers and teachers should be recognized and rewarded financially.
Nonetheless, it is important that B65, Honor church elders is balanced alongside with S21 – Profit from preaching the Gospel, and S22 – Profit from leading a group of believers.
See also B356, Pay church staff on time and fairly.
B66 - Do not rebuke an older man (person)
1 Tim 5:1. Never speak harshly, that is what it means.
We must respect age and be mindful of an older person’s life experiences.
If we feel that the older person may have sinned or done something wrong, do not speak harshly with the person. But rather, approach the person one-on-one as in B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B67 - Exhort an older men as a father
‘But encourage him as you would a father.’
NLT says, ‘appeal to him respectfully as you would to your own father.’
No older person likes to be rebuked in front of an audience. If you feel that the older person may have sinned or have done something wrong, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B68 - Exhort an older women as a mother
The same goes for an older woman.
If you feel that the older person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B69 - Exhort a younger man as a brother
‘Encourage younger men as brothers.’
NIV uses the word, ‘exhort’. It is an encouraging word. We are not to berate or bully younger men.
If you feel that the younger person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one..
B70 - Exhort a younger woman as a sister
‘Encourage younger women as sisters with all purity’ – 1 Tim 5:2.
It is a reminder to men to treat ‘younger women’ as sisters and in purity of thoughts. The Greek word for ‘purity’ is hagneia or chastity. That is, in decency and not with sexual intentions.
If you feel that the younger person may have sinned or you have been offended by that person, then follow the process laid out under B364 if offended then confront … and B365 If someone offended you, handle this one-on-one.
B71 - Honor widows (and believers who are in need)
1 Tim 5:3 – NLT reads,
‘Take care of any widow who has no one else to care for her.’
Or ‘Support the widows who are truly in need.’
The word, ‘Honor’, is the Greek word, timao or honor reverentially or esteem. Historically, there was no insurance to take care of widows. So, in a practical sense, believers were being asked to ‘honor’ them, probably with money.
In other words, helped them in a practical sense.
Read also Acts 6:1 when these widows were given a distribution of food to help them.
There will always be poor people on earth and there will always be believers that may be in need. Christians are not immune to sufferings. Hence, Gal 2:10 reminds Christians to remember the poor.
A church must never forget to look after fellow believers who require our assistance. Social work is a natural extension of how we can demonstrate God’s love as a family.
See also B266, Personal values – Do practical social works.
B72 - Get married if we are tempted in a relationship (Boy/ Girl Relationship)
1 Tim 5:14 – Paul’s advice to
‘younger widows is to get married, have children and manage their homes.’
In 1 Cor 7:36, Paul’s counsel for a man who is ‘acting inappropriately toward his betrothed’ to get married. He made it clear that it was not a sin to do so.
Sexual temptation is real and has been around since the time of creation. Currently, of course it is worse with easy access to sexual and pornographic materials on the web.
If we find that we are in fact tempted, it just makes sense to get married.
For many people, that might be effective. For others who may be addicted to pornography, the approach might have to be adjusted.
B73 - Do not forbid marriages but marry someone within the family of God
1 Tim 4:3 makes it clear that we are not to
If a certain sect teaches that it is wrong to be married, then it is a cult. It is fine to marry.
Paul only reminded his audience
‘Not be unequally yoked with unbelievers’ (2 Cor 6:14),
explaining the contradiction and challenges between a believer and an unbeliever.
In addition, the concept of yoking also implies that a believer should find a spouse that shares a similar vision and worldviews. Otherwise, we might have two oxen going in different directions.
B74 - Love all children
Matt 18:10, 14; Mark 9:36-37; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17
‘See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven, their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.’
Always love those little ones.
In Mark 9:36-37, ‘Jesus took a child and put him in the midst of them and taking him in his arms …’
Jesus treasured little children.
Hence, even as we are instructing and disciplining, love must permeate through everything we do. Whether it be our own children or children of others. And whether it is a child or a pre-born baby.
B75 - Honor the structure in a family
‘The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God’ – 1 Cor 11:3.
God is a God of order as seen in 1 Cor 14:33.
He has laid down the order – God at the top, followed by Christ, then man, and lastly the woman.
The Greek word, ‘head’, is kephale. It is used to represent cornerstone head, ruler, or lord. The Greek word, ‘man’, is aner and indicate a male human being, a man or a husband.
In 1 Tim 5:14, Paul counselled a woman to ‘manage their households.’ It is as if the woman is the Chief Operating Officer while the man is the Chief Executive Officer.
Even Jesus (Yes, the Son of God) learned to submit to his earthly parents while he was on earth. Luke 2:51 says,
‘And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.’
The Greek word is hupotasso and it means subject to, submit, or put oneself into subjection. If the Son of God could do that, what does it tell us about ourselves?
In Western societies, we might see this model being challenged. Yet, this is the model prescribed in Scripture by God.
It may be politically incorrect but within a household, the man is the person responsible for the well-being and the final decision making of the family. Nonetheless, it does not afford a license for the man to be domineering, unkind and dogmatic.
It is also not a situation for uncalled-for, mean conversations too.
If a man loves his wife and a wife submits to her husband, there would be perfect harmony.
On a practical level, in a modern society where both husband and wife might be working in order to maintain a household, if a man loves his wife, then it will be a natural thing to assist in housework. Even if a wife does not work but is, for example, looking after the children, then love must compel a husband to be involved in keeping the house.
Please also see B32 – Submit to one another. See also B4o2 and B403 – A woman.
B76 - Keep sex sacrosanct
1 Cor 7:2; 1 Thes 4:3-4; Heb 13:4
Heb 13:4 makes it quite clear,
‘Let marriage be held in honor among all and let the marriage bed be undefiled.’
Sex is solely between a man and his wife; adultery is a sin and a no-go zone.
In the Old Testament, Mal 2:15, it reads in the NLT version –
‘Didn’t the LORD make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth’
This is reiterated in 1 Cor 7:2 and 1 Thes 4:3. Sex is sacrosanct and it is only between a man and his wife.
Please also see S126, Engage in unnatural sex.
B77 - Do not use sex deprivation as a weapon (for married couples)
The Apostle Paul was never married but in 1 Cor 7:4-5 says,
‘For the wife does not have authority over her own body but the husband does. Likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self control.’
What was Paul saying? The Apostle Paul was telling his readers that a wife and husband should never use ‘deprivation of sex’ as a weapon and that ‘deprivation’ should only be for a short time and with good reasons too.
To married couples – sex is often a powerful healer.
B78 - Honor a man as the head of a woman (within a household)
Within a household, a man is the head of a woman. We have decided to make this more explicit in the context of a politically correct world.
For more information, please refer to B75, Honor the structure in a family.
B79- - Do not divorce unless (for married couples)
Mark 10:9; Matt 19:8; 1 Cor 7:10; Eph 5:21-33
Jesus said in Mark 10:9,
‘What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.’
In Matt 19:8, Jesus explained that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of heart. It is never God’s plans for married people to divorce except in the case of marital infidelity.
In the Old Testament, Mal 2:16 (NLT) reads –
‘“For I hate divorce!” says the LORD, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.”’
In fact, the Apostle Paul used the marital relationship to show the sacrificial love of Christ to His church in Eph 5:21-33.
And in 1 Cor 7:10, Paul spelled out clearly the Lord’s intention:
‘To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord); the wife should not separate from her husband.’
The key principles are as follows:
- Marriage is sacrosanct,
- God hates divorces,
- The Bible only lists TWO reasons for divorce as seen below,
- Marital infidelity is a justified reason for divorce,
- The second justifiable reason is if one spouse becomes a Christian and the other party decides to leave the marriage despite the former trying his/ her best to preserve the marriage (1 Cor 7:15).
To believers who are thinking of divorce, Christian legal experts have suggested a separation first to give each other time to consider the issue. Christian counselling, through the help of a relevant third party, will always be useful.
B79 – Do not divorce unless … should be read alongside with B357 to B368 – Handling Offences.
A lot of issues in our lives comes out of our inability to handle offences even in a marriage situation.
B80 - If you have divorced and remarried (for married couples)
Recognize that divorce has been permitted by Moses because of the ‘hardness of hearts’ (Matt 19:8).
GNT uses the term, ‘so hard to teach’ or ‘stubbornness’. The Greek word is sklerokardia and can be translated as obstinacy or as someone who refuses to be receptive to God’s inworking of faith.
The latter does, indeed, sound very serious – ‘someone who refuses to be receptive to God’s inworking of faith.’ And it is serious as it impacts our spiritual walk including grieving of the Holy Spirit (B13 – Don’t quench the Spirit).
To believers who are divorced and possibly remarried, divorce is not an unpardonable sin but one that has consequences. God continues to love but we must understand that divorce is never his intended choice.
B81 - Separate if you have to but remain unmarried or be reconciled (for married couples)
This is the case of a decision by both parties to separate possibly because of ‘irreconcilable differences’. Please refer to B79 and B80 – Divorce, to get a complete picture.
In 1 Cor 7:11, the Apostle Paul made it clear,
‘But if she does (separate from her husband), she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband, and her husband should not divorce his wife.’
(PS: Vice versa is also true).
This might be tough to a lot of couples who have been separated but if you are asking for Scriptural guidance, then we have to abide by these words.
The message of faithfulness is a critical one as God has always used the analogy of a marriage to his relationship with Israel. God has, and will always, remained faithful to Israel despite her unfaithfulness.
2 Tim 2:11-13 reads,
‘If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful for he cannot deny himself.’
One of the world’s greatest evangelists, the late Kathryn Kuhlman, a lady who moved in the supernatural of healing, was one such person. She divorced her husband and yet ministered powerfully in healing crusades. But she never remarried.
We are not endorsing divorce but we are showing how one godly woman lived out the truth established in 1 Cor 7:11.
Please also read B13 – Don’t quench the Spirit.
B82 - Separate but decide to remarry someone else (for married couples)
Mark 10:11 – Jesus said,
‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’
Matt 19:9 explains that if it is a case of infidelity, then divorce is an acceptable option. Otherwise, in the context of the Bible, it is the same as adultery.
The language is plain for a believer who is marrying a divorced believer.
Read B79 to B81, Divorce and Separation, to get a complete picture.
Obviously, adultery is not an unpardonable sin if repentance is involved. But there are always consequences.
B83 - Stay married to a non-believing spouse (for married couples)
There are non-Christians who become Christians later in their lives. Then, what do they do with their spouses? Do they stay married to them or can they annul their marriages?
1 Cor 7:12-16 provides a guideline that a Christian should stay married to his/ her unbelieving spouse UNLESS the latter chooses to depart.
- v14 – For the believing wife brings holiness to her marriage, and the believing husband brings holiness to his marriage. Otherwise, your children (and that is the key), would not be holy and now they are holy.
- In addition, v15 suggests that the believing spouse might end up saving the non-believing ones.
We have seen the positive impact a Christian has on being faithful in such a marriage despite having an unbelieving spouse. We encourage these believers to stay faithful in their marriages and trust God.
God always honors faithfulness because God is faithful (2 Tim 2:13).
B84 - Remarry is permitted for widows and widowers (for married couples)
1 Cor 7:39 provides an explicit guideline that
‘a wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.’
If a spouse dies, then the other person is allowed to remarry but only to another Christian.
B85 - Submit to your husbands (for wives' only)
1 Peter 3:1, 5-6; Eph 5:21-22; Col 3:18
‘Likewise, wives be subject to your own husbands so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.’
It is backed up by Eph 5:21-22 and Col 3:18.
It is a form of lifestyle evangelism through submission, where our lives show forth who we are as Christians. Read B32 – Submit to one another.
In a perfect scenario, the wife submits to her husband while the husband loves his wife. The Apostle Peter acknowledged that a perfect scenario might not happen at first. Hence, Peter suggested that the wife should initiate the process by ‘submitting to her husband (NB: Not any man)’ in order to win him over.
Submission does seem like a negative word in the modern-day context. NLT uses the word, ‘accept the authority of your husbands.’ The Greek word is hupotasso and it means placing oneself into subjection. It is a voluntary thing and requires humility, a decision that acknowledges the final decision might not come from oneself. It is a giving up of oneself.
Jesus repeated the concept of marriage as
‘the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh’ – Mark 10:8.
A preacher cheekily said that most people understand the concept of ‘two being one flesh’ but the question that they post is, ‘Which one?’
In submission, we are not to rebel nor even quietly acquiesced. We are to recognize that God has placed a structure, B75, Honor the structure of a family, and there is order in the kingdom.
If a wife struggles to submit, it might be worthwhile to go to God in prayer and read the Scripture. It might also be worthwhile to find a godly Christian mentor (an older woman who walks close with God) to discuss these issues further.
B86 - Respect your husbands (for wives' only)
‘Let the wife see that she respects her husband.’
Some translations use the words ‘reverence’ (KJV) and ‘fear’ (ISV). The Greek word is phobeo and it means ‘dread’, ‘fear’, or even ‘terrified’. It is in recognition of the position of authority held by the husband in a God-ordained structure.
Again, it is a Biblical model and may not match with what the media preach. What does ‘respect’ mean? Consider these:
- A wife respects the leadership of her husband,
- She respects his maleness, and respects him that he is a man,
- She respects his provision; it is true that in a modern society, sometimes a woman earns more than a man. In those cases, continue to respect him in other areas.
- She respects his name and helps him to gain a good reputation.
- She respects his parenting and disciplining of children.
- She respects his accomplishment; to a man, accomplishments are big things. She soothes him when he is not doing well.
- Finally, she respects his home – A man’s home is his castle.
B87- Honor your wife (for husbands' only)
1 Peter 3:7 reminds husbands to
‘live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel …. So that your prayers may not be hindered.’
This is one area that impacts on the prayers of husbands; that is, if husbands fail to honor their wives.
The Greek word, ‘honor’, is that of time, that is, what has value in the eyes of the beholder. It is effectively telling husbands to treat their wives as valued partners in the marriage.
All good men will consult their wives before they make decisions, especially major ones, and all good men do not ignore the counsels that wives give liberally. Wives always bring up different angles as compared to their husbands simply because women in general are more intuitive by nature.
The word, ‘weaker’ probably refers to physical rather than mental strengths. It is the Greek word, asthenes, and it means without adequate strength, possibly frail or feeble. Of course, there are always exceptions when a woman might be stronger than a man.
B88 - Love your wives and give yourself to her (for husbands' only)
Eph 5:25 says,
‘Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up to her.’
It is not a one-way street of submission. It requires love and what greater love than this when Christ gave up his life for the church.
It means a willingness of a husband to drop his own agenda because he loves his wife. While ‘submission’ could be construed as a negative word, it is counteracted by love of the husbands.
In a loving relationship, no husband who loves his wife will insist on unreasonable and negative submission but will rather actively consult with their wives to find common solutions.
B89 - Do not be bitter towards your wife (for husbands' only)
Col 3:19 says,
‘Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.’
That is, ‘do not be harsh’, ‘do not be embittered’ (NASB), ‘do not abuse her’ (CEV), or ‘do not be bitter’ (KJV).
The Greek word is pikraino, and it means make bitter or grow angry and harsh. What does it tell us? A husband should never be bitter to his wife to the extent of being angry and possibly abusive.
If love rules the life of a good husband to his wife, he will and can never be harsh to his wife. It might be for a careless (and sinful) moment and that will require repentance. Yet, the overall relationship should be one of love.
1 Cor 13:6-8 teaches us what love is. And if husbands ever forget what love is, it is well worth to read it over again or paste it in the bedroom.
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.
Let husbands never forget to love because when they love, ‘submission’ by their wives will be seen in the context of unity – of the ‘two becoming one’ working together in perfect harmony, just like the Trinity.
B90 - Discipline and instruct them in the Lord (for fathers' only)
Eph 6:4 says,
‘Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger; instead, bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.’
The responsibilities of bringing up children fall squarely on the shoulders of fathers. The two things are ‘discipline’, and ‘instruction’.
The Greek word for ‘discipline’, is paideia and can be used as chastisement, correction, and instruction, that is, the instruction to train someone to reach full maturity.
The Greek word for ‘instruction’, is nouthesia and it means warning, admonition, and counsel.
A father is expected to be instructional and guide his child while at the appropriate time to also include warning and admonition. The objective is to bring up the child to fulfill his/ her full potential.
NB: The word, ‘discipline’, does not necessary imply the use of physical force like caning. There are other strategies to consider.
Almost all males can father a child; that is the easy part. But bringing up a child in the fear of God, that can be a real challenge. It is, therefore, always useful to sit at the feet of someone who has done fathering well and to learn from them.
B91 - Do not provoke our children to anger (for fathers' only)
Col 3:21 reads,
‘Fathers, do not make your children resentful. Otherwise, they will become discouraged.’
Eph 6:4 uses ‘provoke’.
The focus is on fathers. It is not the mother’s responsibilities when it comes to bringing up children. The word used is ‘provoke’ and ‘resent’.
Col 3:21 refers to erethizo or ‘arouse to anger’, ‘provoke’ or ‘incite’ while Eph 6:4 is the word parorgizo or provoke to anger and even exasperate.
Obviously, the disciples recognized that fathers can reach extremes in ‘provoking’ and therefore end up ‘discouraging’ their children.
Like marriages where there is a balance between ‘submission’ and ‘love’, in bringing up children, there is also a fine balance between ‘instruction’ and ‘discipline’.
B92 - When of age, children must decide for themselves
The story of the prodigal son is a powerful example of what we do as parents. Beyond a certain age, parents must release their children for them to ‘fly’ on their own.
Notice that in Luke 15, the father did not hold back his son but even let him squandered his money.
When children are of age, they must decide for themselves.
NB: But it does not mean that parents are helpless. As parents, we can and must continue to pray and trust God for their direction. Prayer is the one powerful thing that we can still guide ‘unseen’ events in our lives.
B93 - Be obedient to your parents (for children only)
Luke 2:51; Rom 1:30; Eph 6:1; Col 3:20;
Luke 2:41-52 denotes the story of Jesus when he was a young boy. Notice v 51
‘And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them.’
We must all remember that his earthly parents were nothing more than a conduit for the Son of God to come to be with us. They were not supernatural although they were obviously God-fearing.
Yet, Jesus chose to be submissive to them. Can you imagine that? What does it teach us?
The Greek word is hupotasso, and is found in B32 Submit to one another, and B85 Be submissive to your husband. It is ‘putting myself into subjection.’
Eph 6:1 says,
‘Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.’
The same goes for Col 3:20 which says,
‘Obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.’
The Greek word for ‘obedience’ in both verses is hupakouo or hearken to/ obey (what is heard)/ answer.
To obey, one must be prepared to submit. Obedience pleases the Lord.
Parents are not co-equals with their children. They have been assigned a task as found in B91, Discipline and instruct their children in the Lord.
B94 - Honor our parents (for children only)
Eph 6:2 says,
‘Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment of a promise).’
That promise is found in v 3 which is taken from Deut 5:16, ‘so that your days may be long and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is giving.’.
It does imply that dishonor may shorten our lives and bring destruction to the land; sin always brings destruction to the land.
Notice that here it goes beyond young children. And notice that it goes beyond whether they deserve honor or not.
The Greek word is timao and a value at a price is placed on it.
What does it mean to honor them?
Here are some practical suggestions from the Billy Graham Organization:
- Bring them to the Lord if they are not Christians,
- Pray for your parents,
- Love them,
- Help them through their difficult times,
- Exercise restraint in front of them,
- Value their world,
- Respect their age. Don’t mock their limitations and inabilities,
- Protect their individual dignity,
- Fulfill their essential joy. Find out what makes them happy and do it,
- Provide their basic needs. Don’t feast while they suffer,
- Forgive them.
NB: In the context of the Chinese culture, is ancestral worshiping the same as ‘honoring our parents’? Please see S9, Worship idols, for more information.
B95 - Please God by working heartily on your assignment (for employees' only)
Luke 19:13; 1 Peter 2:18-24; Eph 6:5; Col 3:22
1 Peter 2:18-19 says,
‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.’
Eph 6:5 says,
‘Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling with a sincere heart, as you would Christ …. Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man.’
If we read further on in Eph 6, Paul wrote a balancing piece to the Masters as well. Col 3:22 basically repeats the words of Eph 6:5.
The world during Biblical times is very different from ours. There were no unions to protect the workers and slavery was acceptable. The Roman Empire was in charge and democracy was nowhere to be found. Job hopping was an unknown.
The Greek word, ‘Servants’, in 1 Peter is oiketes or a household servant while Eph 6:5 refers to doulos or a slave.
Interesting thing in 1 Peter 2 is that believers are told to be ‘subject to your masters …. Also to the unjust.’ Christians are reminded not to rebel or to lose their cool.
In B93, Obey your parents in the Lord, we saw how Jesus himself, despite being the Son of God, was ‘submissive’ to his parents. So, submission is not a negative thing.
But what about ‘suffering unjustly’? Is the passage from 1 Peter historical or just as relevant to our present-day?
One issue we face in our era is negative connotation associated with trials caused possibly by our years of comfort. Hence, a new millennium term has been coined – ‘snowflakes’.
When do we suffer, and when do we quit? Here are our thoughts:
If a believer is certain the job that they are doing has been assigned by the Lord, then endurance, despite the ‘suffering’, should be a natural progression. And if a believer is uncertain, then there is nothing to show that he/she should not look for a new job.
The last thing a believer should do is to murmur and complain (Please see in ‘Sins’, S112 – Grumble, murmur and complain at God). It is never edifying to grumble and complain.
B96 - Please your employer (for employees' only)
‘Bondservants …. Be well-pleasing.’
The Greek word is euarestos or well-pleasing (especially to God) and grateful. Serve your employer by doing a great job with integrity.
Murmuring and complaining is not a sign of being well pleasing. See S112 – Grumble, murmur and complain at God.
B97 - Do not pilfer (for employees' only)
Titus 2:10 simply says, ‘not pilfering’ – . The Greek word is nosphizo or appropriate for one’s own benefit/ rob.
What can one ‘benefit’ (pilfer) from an employer? Time? Things? Money?
Work with integrity.
B98 - Do not be argumentative (for employees' only)
Bondservants are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative
The Greek word for ‘argumentative’ is antilego, that is speak or say in opposition/ contradict especially in a hostile way.
We must be prepared to discuss and debate our issue, like when Moses implored God not to destroy the children of Israel in Ex 32:11.
But do not be hostile. Instead, present your case in a manner to be heard.
B99 - Do our job heartily for the Lord (for employees' only)
Col 3:23 says,
‘Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.’
The Greek word, ‘heartily’, is the word, psuche, or from the human soul or breath of life. The parallel translation uses the term, ‘with all your heart’ (NIV), or ‘with your whole being’ (Berean). The CSB uses ‘do it FROM your heart.’ That is, do it because you want to do it.
Everyone loves a cheerful worker, even for someone who is volunteering. Hence, find a reason for going to work and do our job with all our heart. Again, you will realize that this is really the opposite of murmuring and complaining.
It is good to remember who and why we are doing in whatever things that we are doing. Have a good attitude.
B100 - Honor our employer (for employees' only)
‘Regard their own masters as worthy of all honor.’
The Greek word ‘honor’ is time – that is, there is value in the eyes of the beholder.
That ‘God’s name and the teaching may not be reviled.’
Of course, here we are referring to bondslaves or slaves at a time when slavery was acceptable. But how does an employee honor an employer? Here are some suggestions:
- Act with integrity,
- Be on time,
- Be respectful even when we disagree,
- Don’t pilfer,
- Don’t gossip,
- Don’t lie,
- Work as hard as you can.
These are general guidelines. Please feel free to suggest others.
Then, there is the issue of dealing with Christian employers.
1 Tim 6:2 says, that ‘If the masters are believers, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. (Instead) those slaves should work all the harder because their efforts are helping other believers who are well loved.’
B101 - Ensure that we have an agreement with the employer (for employees' only)
Jesus was explaining in a parable about how all laborers were paid exactly the same amount regardless of when they started work. Those who started earlier were aggrieved that they were paid the same.
But Jesus’ reply was ‘I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius?’ (Matt 20:13).
What is our relationship with our employer?
As an employee in the 21st century, it is important that we know what we have agreed with our employer, even verbal ones. In fact, always request for a written contract in order to manage expectations for both parties, even in a church setting.
B102 - Do not threaten an employee (for employers' only)
Eph 6:9 says,
‘Masters, do the same to them (that is, influence them by love rather than fear), and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him.’
Do not be a tyrant. When a person is in a position of power, how often is it possible to exert that power on someone who is in a lesser position? Yet, Apostle Paul reminded these slave owners not to threaten their slaves. The word is apeile and it means simply ‘threatening’ or a ‘threat’.
In B103, Be fair and just to an employee, Masters are reminded to be fair and just to the staff. It is a privilege to be an employer and it must not be abused.
B103 - Be fair and just to an employee (for employers' only)
‘Masters, treat your bondservants justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a Master in heaven.’
This scenario relates to slaves. Slaves don’t have much choices; for one, they cannot resign.
Philemon, to whom the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to and which subsequently was adopted as one of Paul’s Epistles, was a slave owner. From the Bible, it does not seem that it is a sin to be a slave owner.
The Greek word is isotes and it refers to fairness and equality of treatment. It does mean fair compensation, performance recognition, training and development, and career development for the staff. It also means integrity (fulfilling what has been agreed) and walking the talk of being a believer.
It is, therefore, always helpful to have a written contract so expectations of both sides are managed.
Working under a Christian employer may result in raised expectations regarding conduct for both parties. It might be useful for the employer to clarify the ‘offence’ process within the context found in B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B104 - Show compassion before judgment (for employers' only)
In Luke 13:6-8, Jesus spoke a parable of the barren and unproductive fig tree. Yet, the vinedresser pleaded its case to ask for more time before taking action.
James 2:13 simply says,
‘For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.’
Longsuffering and patience are important traits of God that flow out of compassion. When dealing with employees, it must also be within Christian employers to be compassionate and patient. While judgment is still present, it is important for an employer to provide avenues so that the staff can demonstrate improvement.
Among the stories of the Gospel is one that demonstrated compassion and love – that of the Centurion who pleaded with Jesus to heal his servant (Matt 8:7).
As believers, we must practice love, appreciation and compassion for our employees because those are the exact values that our Lord showed us when we came to him.
Practice compassi0n before judgement.
B105 - Have a written contract before start of work (for employers' only)
In Matt 20:13-15, Jesus spoke about the parable of hiring laborers to work in the vineyard. The vineyard owner went out to the marketplace to hire workers at different time. Yet, each time, he would promise the same reward – one denarius; it did not matter if the worker worked a full-day or just an hour – the pay was the same.
At the end of the day, the obvious occurred; those who started work earlier complained and were unhappy with their wages. Of which, the owner responded,
‘Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’
With an employee, it is important to spell out expectations on both sides and a written contract of employment is always useful.
Hence, as a Christian employer, manage the expectations of your staff to reduce confusion and misunderstanding; it is also important to have a fair and just contract (Please see B103, Be fair and just to an employee, for more information).
B106 - Do not withhold wages (payment) through fraud (for employers and businesses only)
‘Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.’
It probably does not only include wages but how businesses deal with their suppliers and contractors.
Workers and the family of workers need to be fed. It is therefore imperative for a Christian employer (and business) not to hold back the wages of his/ her staff (including suppliers and contractors), especially through fraud.
In the context of accounting, delay payment might be one way of maintaining a good cash flow but it is fraudulent and not God-glorifying.
Relationship with governments
This is a really tough topic to navigate. Many countries in the world practice democracy which was not the form of government during Biblical days. Hence, how should Christians respond in our current era?
We don’t promise that we have all the answers that will satisfy everyone but will attempt to draw principles from what we learn in the New Testament.
We ask you to be magnanimous with us. If you think we have missed the mark. please give us your feedback. Thank you.
B107 - Obey those who rule over us (except when they force us to disobey God)
Acts 5:29; Acts 4:19; Rom 13:1; Heb 11:23, 27; 1 Peter 5:5, Titus 3:1;
“But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men.’”
That was the breaking point for the apostles. The apostles were eye-witnessed to the account of the resurrection of Jesus.
In Acts 4:19, Peter and John said,
‘Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.’
In another earlier incident, Heb 11:23 reported how Moses’ parents broke the law by hiding Moses.
The Prophet Daniel did not submit to the pagan government of his days on two occasions – once when he was asked to eat food from the king’s table (Dan 1:12) and again when he was asked not to pray (Dan 6). In both times, Daniel refused to compromise his conscience.
The same can be said of John the Baptist, who spoke against Herod’s adultery and for that he was imprisoned and subsequently beheaded. Yet, Herod was fascinated by the good conscience of John the Baptist (Mark 6:20).
The general guideline for believers is submission to the authority. Rom 13:1 says,
‘Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.’
In Titus 3:1, Paul again reminded believers ‘to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient’ because even those authorities are ‘instituted by God’ (Rom 13:1).
In Rom 13:2-5, Paul expanded on the two reasons for submission –
We need an internal moral compass of our conscience which is grounded in the Word of God. Titus 3:1 says the same thing,
‘Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work.’
Jesus himself submitted to authority. At the Garden of Gethsemane when he was betrayed by Judas, Simon Peter drew out his sword and cut off the right ear of the High Priest’s servant (John 18:10). Jesus intervened and explained,
‘Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels.’ (Matt 26:53)
The general guideline for believers is to obey the authority UNLESS THEY FORCE US TO DISOBEY GOD. We will examine the role of civil uprising as we progress through this section.
B108 - Obey a policy even if it does not make sense (generally)
Matt 17:24-27; 1 Peter 2:13-17
The general principle is to honor the king (government) and fear God (as seen in 1 Peter 2:13-17).
Jesus demonstrated that even if some policies did not make sense, if they did not involved believers to disobey God, it is alright to abide.
In Matt 17:24-27, Jesus asked Peter who the authority should be collecting its poll tax from – foreigners or locals. Peter’s reply was that poll tax should be collected from foreigners. Jesus, while agreeing with Peter, replied:
‘However, not to give offense to them … (let us pay our taxes).’ (Matt 17:27).
The poll tax policy did not make sense to Jesus. Yet, he chose to pay.
However, there was another incident when a set of parents decided NOT to obey their ruler. Heb 11:23 says –
‘By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and THEY WERE NOT AFRAID OF THE KING’S EDICT.’
It is at times like this that we need to be guided by the inner voice of the Holy Spirit.
See B107, Obey those who rule over us.
B109 - Honor the king
1 Peter 2:17 says,
‘Honor the emperor.’
The Greek word is timao or value at a price, honor, esteem. In fact, the verse says honor everyone.
A kingship is established by God – even one which we do not like (Rom 13:1).
Peter might have singled out the king as Nero, the most heinous king who subjected Christians to all kinds of sinister tortures including burning them alive as torches for his night parties. Amazingly, Peter’s counsel was to honor the position, even if the person is very anti-Christian.
How do we ‘honor the king’?
- We should speak of the person respectfully.
- We should pray and bless the person.
- We should engage the political process in a non-violent way (more on that later).
- We should obey the government as much as it does not contravene our Christian core beliefs as defined in B107, Obey those who rule over us.
But it does not mean that we cannot speak out for truth and righteousness. It does not prevent us from challenging the person within legal jurisdiction to change policies that we don’t believe are righteous, especially in a democracy. It also does not also mean that we cannot express where we feel he might have done wrong. Finally, it is not an excuse for believers to leave their brains behind in order to follow the king blindly with unquestioning obedience.
Christians must speak up especially if, as in Acts 18:10,
‘there are many believers in the city’
and if it forces us to contravene God’s word.
B110 - Be peaceable and gentle
Rom 12:18; Heb 12:14; Titus 3:2; 1 Tim 2:2
Rom 12:18 says,
‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.’ Christians are called to be peacemakers and to be gentle.
Heb 12:14 says the same,
‘Strive for peace with everyone’
and Titus 3:2 reiterates,
‘to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.’
So does 1 Tim 2:2 which adds,
‘(Pray) for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’
The Greek word in Rom 12:18 is eireneuo and it is used to for peaceful, or keeper of peace. ‘If possible’ implies that at times, it will be difficult. Then, Christians will act but never in the scenario of ‘an eye for an eye’.
Christians are peacemakers and violence is not within our DNA.
Christians can, however, choose to run away from persecution as in the Book of Acts (Acts 11:19) when the church of Jerusalem came under persecution. See B380, If we can run, then run (from persecution).
And Jesus, in Matt 24:15-16, told end-times’ Jewish believers that if they saw the Anti-Christ standing in the Holy Place, then, they were to ‘flee to the hills.’
B111 - Pray for kings and those in authority
1 Tim 2:2 reads,
‘(Pray) for kings and all who are in high positions that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’
So, what do we pray for?
For a peaceful and quiet existence to live life in a godly manner.
We must always pray for our government and, in a democracy, good and righteous government to rule over us so that ‘we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’
B112 - Do not resist government. Do not be involved in civil unrest
Rom 13:2 reads,
‘Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed and those who resist will incur judgment.’
Believers accept the authority of a government even if they have to suffer for doing good. Believers do not physically fight back.
In B107, Obey those who rule over us, we mention even Jesus submitted to authority and chose non-violence.
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus said,
‘For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels.’ (Matt 26:53)
Throughout the Book of Acts, when the Apostles were confronted by the authority, they did not suggest violence but chose submission. They might have argued their case strongly before the rulers and elders (Acts 4:8-12, Acts 7), end up in prison (Acts 5:18), gotten killed (Acts 12:2), and the church might have continued praying (Acts 12:12) but they never championed violence as a solution.
Of course, it was not a democracy during the days of the Apostles. And we have different forms of government at the moment.
Just to be crystal clear, democracy is not Christianity. It is but just one form of government. Christianity is all about kingdom ruling, with the King as the final authoritative figure.
In a democracy, we are allowed to persuade others in regard to our course and to remain silent may NOT result in the best outcome for believers. Citizens are, in fact, encouraged to stand up and speak out for their rights.
In America, for example, women’s groups organize themselves into a movement, simply termed as the ‘Women’s March‘, and once a year, they parade in major cities. Their goal? To gather the political power of diverse women and their communities to create a change in the society. They also believe that a woman’s body is hers and therefore she has every right to abort a fetus (NB: Interestingly, it is addressed as a fetus and not as a pre-born baby. It is a fetus when a woman does not want a baby but it is a baby if a woman wants to prevent a natural or forced abortion).
Meanwhile, around the same time, another group of conservatives also come together and make their voices heard through the ‘March for life’. Their stand? To defend the lives of pre-born babies and to march against abortion in every state.
Should Christians take a passive view of pre-born babies based on Scripture guidelines or should we be involved? Refer to B116, Expose the works of darkness, for more information.
Additionally, Christians can be elected to be part of the government and therefore influence policies favorable to the kingdom.
In a democracy, Christians can speak up and present their ‘biblical’ views to the voting public. If there are ‘many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 18:10), then with the Lord’s guidance, we can indeed win souls and be the ‘salt of the earth’.
Within a democracy, here are some principles that believers can abide by:
- Christians are aliens and pilgrims passing through this world (1 Peter 2:11),
- Christians are peacemakers (Matt 5:9),
- Christians represent love (1 Cor 13:2),
- Christians must be prepared to expose evil (Eph 5:11) – See B116. Expose the works of darkness,
- Christians are not rebellious and, hence, do not exact civil unrest (Gal 5:20),
- Christians should follow the laws of the nation as long as we are not asked to contravene our beliefs (Acts 5:29),
- Christians should not resist arrest if confronted (Acts 23:3-5),
- Christians should be respectful regarding the decisions (even anti-Christian ones) of legitimate authorities, e.g. courts (Acts 4),
- Christians can be assertive without being disrespectful before the authorities (Acts 26),
- Christians should be prepared to suffer for doing good (1 Peter 3:17).
Look at the full section around ‘Relationship with governments’ to get a complete picture on how the New Testament views our relationship with governments. Pay particular attention to B116. Expose the works of darkness.
There is always a fine balance and we might not get it right all the time. Hence, we will require the constant guidance of the Holy Spirit.
PS: This is particular to those who believe in the values of Americans.
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution states:
‘A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.’
The Amendment is controversial and protects the individual right of Americans to keep and bear arms. It came from the values endorsed by America’s founding fathers.
But does it contravene the teachings of the apostles and Jesus? After all, Americanism may not necessarily be Christian although much values of America is derived from within the Bible. The official motto of the US dollar, for example, reads – ‘In God we trust.’
Yet, we have just highlighted that civil unrest does not seem to be supported in the Bible. 1 Peter 2:18-23 said,
‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.’
We suspect this may mess with the thinking of our fellow American Christians and their sympathizers but we must equally be mindful to separate Americanism and Christ-likeness. There are parts within them that are mutually exclusive.
B113 - Be bold but yet polite to confront authorities when it relates to our God
Acts 4:17-20; Acts 5:29; Heb 11:27
Twice in the Book of Acts, both Peter and John were adamant that they would ‘obey God rather than men’ (Acts 4:17-20 and Acts 5:29).
The disciples had given believers a model on when a choice would have to be made:
The TIPPING POINT – when a government FORBIDS believers from teaching and sharing the Gospel (Acts 5:28).
See also B116, Expose the works of darkness.
B114 - Pay our taxes
‘Pay to all what is owed to them; taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.’
Christians are not tax evaders. Neither are they bad debtors. See B106, Do not withhold wages through fraud.
B115 - Do not follow the bad examples of some government officials
What if the ruling government demonstrates bad examples, e.g. corruption?
Jesus shared about the bad examples that the scribes and Pharisees were showing to the people; the scribes and Pharisees were leaders of the Jews even as the Roman Empire was running the country.
Jesus was obviously irked by their behaviors and exclaimed,
‘Do and observe whatever they tell you but not the works they do. For they preach but do not practice’ (Matt 23:3).
It is for believers to follow and maintain the integrity and behaviors as defined in the Bible and not follow the crowd.
B116 - Expose the works of darkness
Eph 5:11; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:46
‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.’
What strong words.
John the Baptist (Luke 3:19) spoke out against Herod’s adultery and for that he was imprisoned and subsequently beheaded. But could John the Baptist had chosen not to speak about the adultery and spared himself from being beheaded?
Could Jesus have kept quiet about the behaviors of the scribes and Pharisees but instead poured scorn on them knowing full well that the latter hated him? (Mark 12:38-40). And he continued on despite being told by one of the scribes,
‘Teacher, in saying these things you insult us also’ (Luke 11:45-52).
For Christians, there is a time to speak up and another to keep quiet. Jesus spoke up against the religious leaders of his days who were misleading the people.
John the Baptist spoke up against the king because of a moral issue.
How will we react if we see similar occurrences at our time?
We will, of course, need to pray and be guided by the Holy Spirit, especially in such matters but if our spirit is right (without being judgmental), will we have the courage to speak up?
How do we know we are doing the right thing? Did John the Baptist ever realize what he had done was ‘the right thing’?
Christians are the salt of the earth and if we lose our saltiness, then we are no longer ‘good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless’ (Matt 5:13).
Eccl 3:7 says,
‘(There is) a time to keep silence, and a time to speak.’
We may even have Christians (even our closest friends) disagreeing with us but if after prayer and we still feel that it is the Holy Spirit moving us, we must respond based on what we sense is the guiding hands of the Spirit.
The rise of Hitler is a reflection of Christian passivism and an unquestioning obedience to those in authority. For further information, please click HERE.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler was able to manipulate the Protestant Church to his favor. Through a pro-Nazi sub-group of Christians calling themselves ‘the German Christians’, Hitler was successful in gaining the appointment of Ludwig Muller, his personal adviser on religious matters, to the position of Reichsbischof (Imperial Bishop) in the national church called the German Evangelical Church.
By April 1938, at the height of Hitler’s popularity, Muller secured an oath of obedience to Adolf Hitler from every single pastor in Germany. Those who were not prepared had to go into hiding or be imprisoned.
The late German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller, who spent seven years imprisoned in a concentration camp (termed as ‘protective custody’) for opposing Hitler, penned this poignant poem to reflect on those passive German Christian leaders who did not speak out during the Nazis’ rise to power and their planned ethnic cleansing:
First they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me
Christians have a call from God to defend the weak and those who are vulnerable. Ps 82:3-4 reads,
Vindicate the weak and fatherless; Do justice to the afflicted and destitute. Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.
Here is an example of how one church leader at the start of the church age ‘exposed the works of darkness’ and ‘reprimanded’ an emperor of the Roman Empire.
In AD 388, when Ambrose was a senior bishop as well as the bishop of Milan, a pious Christian Roman emperor, Theodosius, the most powerful person in the Roman empire, massacred several thousand citizens of Thessalonica in order to punish them for murdering one of his commanders.
Ambrose was at a council of bishops when this news came through to him. In the eyes of bishops, mass murder was a grave sin and the emperor must do penance for his deed.
Instead of direct reprimand, Ambrose wrote and delivered a personal letter to the emperor, spelling out that he would ‘not to put you to shame … but to put this sin away from your kingdom.’ He did not wish to humiliate Theodosius nor to diminish his authority.
Although Theodosius was the emperor, Ambrose insisted that he was not above the discipline of the Church. At a time when the Christian faith could have become a department of the imperial administration, Ambrose was courageous enough to draw clear boundaries around the church and took up the charge to ‘expose evil’ even at the highest level.
- Wilken, Robert Louis, The First Thousand Years, London: Yale University Press, 2012, page 127-135.
See also B263 – Have the courage to challenge and point out the wrong.
B117 - Love our neighbor as ourselves
Mark 12:31; Matt 22:39; Luke 10:27; John 13:34-35; 1 Cor 16:14
‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
In John 13:34-35, Jesus said,
‘A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’
Who is our neighbor? Our neighbor is someone who is close by and who requires assistance. It does not matter who the person’s background, religion or potential reciprocal benefit is to us.
Christians are recognized by our love for each other.
- It was love that compelled Jesus to come to earth and go to the cross.
- It was love that led missionary Jim Elliot into the jungle of the Amazon where he was killed by the Waodani tribe in Ecuador.
- It was the same love that inspired Mother Teresa to work among the poor on the streets of Calcutta.
In the present era, Christians have been inundated by liberal thinking of hate and bigotry so much so that it has driven many Christians to be more tribal and defensive. Yet, the bottom line condoned by our Lord is still for believers to love.
We have to ask ourselves once again – How can we demonstrate love in a very hate-filled environment where Christians are targeted? Here are some suggestions:
- Seek out our neighbors and love them,
- Bless those who persecute us,
- Be compassionate and genuine,
- Do not get personal in our disagreements,
- Choose to act against our feelings of displeasure,
- Be ready to sacrifice – potentially our time, money and energy.
See also B22, Love one another fervently.
B118 - Show love to the person we come in contact with
Matt 22:39; Matt 5:43-48; Mark 12:33; Luke 10:27; Luke 10:30-37; Rom 13:9-10; Rom 15:2;
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’ – Matt 5:44.
Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. The Jews and Samaritans were enemies. Jews knew ‘love’ only in the context of their own kind. But Jesus related the story of the Good Samaritan. There was a man who was beaten by robbers and left for dead. Along the way, a priest and a Levite saw the dying man but both avoided doing anything to help. But when a Samaritan saw the victim, he responded and came to the rescue of this injured man.
The Samaritan did not regard the man’s background, religion or even a potential benefit to himself. He assisted because he was there on the spot and he was compassionate. He showed kindness to the person he came in contact with. He did not avoid doing good.
Our action as Christians is to show love to any person that we come in contact with, either in showing hospitality or just in doing good.
B119 - Shine our light that others may know and glorify God
Matt 5:16; John 4:39; Rev 12:11
Always be prepared with a testimony regarding the goodness of God on you personally.
Rev 12:11 explains that believers overcame the devil
‘by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.’
Matt 5:16 says,
‘Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven’
while John 4:28-29 had the Samaritan woman going out to the neighborhood to testify of Jesus.
Believers are to be pro-active in doing social work in their neighborhood, as part and parcel of who they are (i.e. doing it with our heart) and not just to show-off our status of wealth.
Let our good works testify of who we are. Our testimonies are powerful and even the devil is afraid of them (see Rev 12:11).
B120 - Give no opportunity to the devil to speak evil of us
‘Give the adversary no occasion to slander.’
The context of the verse revolves around younger widows whom Paul suggested should marry again.
But the principle of ‘giving the adversary no occasion to slander’ applies. In 1 Cor 6:1-8, the Apostle Paul did not want a believer to go to court with another believer and get their dirty linens aired out in the process.
Christians should be known for doing good. Going to court because of wrongdoings will bring disrepute to the church. Hence, Paul said that Christians should give no opportunity to the devil to speak evil of us.
B121 - Pursue peace with all people (if possible)
Christians are about love and peace. Heb 12:14 says,
‘Strive for peace with everyone.’
The same is found in Rom 12:18.
In terms of behaviors, Christians are not a belligerent people but are responsible –
- Hardworking (2 Thes 3:10, B57 – Do not associate with a lazy believer),
- Peace-loving, and keepers of our words (B114 – Pay taxes).
- Active in social work (B119 – Shine your light).
B122 - Honor all people
1 Peter 2:17 says,
‘Honor all people.’ The Greek word is timao or value at a price, honor, esteem. We do so regardless of language, religion or ethnicity. Here are some ways to do so:
- Giving a genuine compliment,
- Helping them with a problem,
- Praying for them,
- Making them food on certain occasions,
- Giving them a present,
- Being kind.
Christians do not practice a caste system.
B123 - Be compassionate, sympathetic and tenderhearted
1 Peter 3:8 says,
‘Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.’
‘Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’
The Greek word for tenderhearted in both verses is eusplagochnos or merciful and compassionate. Repeatedly in the Bible, you will find Jesus demonstrating compassion.
The Greek word of sympathetic is sumpathes. It means compassionate and sympathizing or feeling sorry for someone or something.
Jesus was compassionate and it flowed out from his sympathy. He always had sympathy for the common people but hardly any when it came to the Pharisees and scribes who prescribed religions and rules to bind the people.
It was compassion that drove Jesus to perform the miracle in feeding the four thousand (Matt 15:32). He resurrected a young man because he felt compassion on the mother (Luke 7:13). And again he sensed a compassion on the crowd and said to his disciples,
‘The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into the harvest’ (Matt 9:37).
Compassion flows out of love and we know how God views love as in 1 Cor 13. Our relationship with people must be one that flows out of compassion and it is compassion that drives our lives.
When it is between compassion and judgment, compassion must come before judgment although judgment may come forth but only after much longsuffering (2 Peter 3:9, Rom 2:3-4).
B124 - Do not be ashamed of Jesus (Identify with him openly)
Rom 1:16; Mark 8:35-38; Luke 9:26; Dan 6:10
The Apostle Paul said in Rom 1:16,
‘I am not ashamed of the Gospel.’
Everywhere he went, he declared openly that he was a Christian. And for that, he was persecuted.
Jesus made it clear that
‘whoever is ashamed of me (Jesus), and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when he comes in the glory of his father with the holy angels’ (Mark 8:35-38).
In the Old Testament, Daniel was not ashamed of his God. When Daniel knew that King Darius had signed an ordinance barring anyone from praying to their gods or man for thirty days except to the King alone, instead of cowering, Daniel declared his faith by opening his windows and praying toward Jerusalem; he wanted everyone to know who he was not ashamed of. For that, we read about the famous story of Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:1-28),
As Christians, we must never be ashamed of our faith and love for Jesus to identify with him openly. It is especially so if we are persecuted for our faith. Jesus expected us to be faithful unto death (Rev 2:10).
See B385, Be prepared to pay with our lives.
B125 - Do not owe anyone anything except to love one another
‘Owe no one anything except to love each other.’
If we borrow, we must return quickly.
It is also not a Christian trait to owe and withhold money that belongs to other people. Rom 13:7 says,
‘Pay to all what is owed to them; taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.’
It is true that we may have a house mortgage or car to pay off. Our role as Christians is always to fulfill our financial obligations, and not to stretch our creditors.
B126 - Be prepared to mix with people of the world (Don't be a hermit)
Mark 2:15-16; 1 Cor 5:10; Heb 2:17
Heb 2:17 explains,
‘Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.’
Why is Jesus qualified as a high priest? Because he was made as one of us.
When Jesus was here, he was always ‘eating with sinners and tax collectors’ (Mark 2:16). His explanation was simple,
‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous but sinners.’
Jesus never lived the life of a recluse. Neither should Christians. Hence, be prepared to mix with people of the world to win some over but yet know that as Christians we are merely pilgrims on earth.
B127 - Defend the weak against leaders (especially religious leaders) who take advantage of them
Matt 23:14, 23; Mark 12:40; Luke 11:42
Jesus was always ready to defend the weak especially against the Pharisees and scribes, religious leaders of his days. He called them out saying that they ‘devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers’ (Mark 12:40).
Social justice is a tough call for Christians to choose because it requires judgment (our interpretation of the Bible on what is right and wrong) and courage. Social justice is about defending the weak when leaders (especially religious leaders) abuse them; it is not just about any form of protests.
An example on social justice is the ‘March for Life’, where Christians are standing up for pre-born babies who cannot defend themselves.
See also B116, Expose the works of darkness.
B128 - Do not harm our neighbor
‘Love does no wrong to a neighbor.’
The parallel words for ‘wrong’ include harm, evil, and ill. The Greek word is kakos or bad, evil, in the widest sense.
Christians are to love and not do (or even wish) any form of evil deeds to their neighbors (colleagues, schoolmates, neighbors, politicians).
Sometimes to do that, it is useful to pray for people who are very different to us and others whom we may not favor.
Prayer helps to change our perspective of the world.
B129 - Don't be unequally yoked with unbelievers
‘Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.’
This verse deals with the struggle of a believer with an unbelieving partner.
The Apostle Paul asked,
‘What accord has Christ with Belial (Belial being a biblical name of the devil or one of the fiends)? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God (believers) with idols (unbelievers)’ (2 Cor 6:15-16).
The Greek word for ‘not to be unequally yoked’ is heterozugeo – heteros being ‘another of a different kind’, and zygos being ‘a yoke’.
It means that a believer should not be yoked together with someone who is of a different kind. It reflects on a Christian wrongly committing to a partner who holds very different values (priorities) to him/ her.
‘Yoking’ is a powerful imagery. It means ‘coming together’. For both to work effectively, they cannot go in different directions. But if a believer and an unbeliever come together in a marriage, we have some practical issues – e.g. methods on bringing up children, decisions on expenditure, what movies are acceptable, church attendance, and general worldviews. The yoke is actually not light but quite heavy, as you can imagine.
Marriage is an obvious case of ‘yoking’ but it could go further.
B130 - Do not join in the sins of the world
Rom 12:2 reads,
‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind’
and Eph 5:11 says,
‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.’
Christians are not to be involved in sinful acts of the world.
What does it mean in a practical sense? What are some sinful acts? See under the section on ‘Sins’.
If our conscience does not feel comfortable, that is the best time to check with ourselves whether it is wise to be involved in it. In addition, it is worthwhile to seek out godly men to hear it from them.
Read also B120, Give no opportunity to the devil.
B131 - Go to court for sharing Jesus (Righteous acts)
Matt 5:11-12; Luke 12:11-12; John 12:25-26; Acts 4:3; Acts 4:19; Acts 5:17, 29, 33, 40
Matt 5:11 says,
‘Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.’
Here is a case when people start accusing believers because they serve Jesus. That is when Jesus used the word ‘Blessed’.
PS: We are beginning to see more of such incidents happening. And there seem to be no logic to it other than because believers serve Jesus.
The Book of Acts has many accounts when the disciples were arrested by the authorities.
- In Act 4:3, both Peter and John were arrested because ‘they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead’.
- In Acts 5:17, it was the same thing. They were again arrested because they were teaching about Jesus.
Paul had no problems with Christians going to jail for sharing Jesus; that is a righteous act.
Christians must be prepared for more of such occurrences.
B132 - Go not to court for unrighteous acts
‘But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler.’
If a Christian commits a righteous act as described in B131, Righteous Acts, then there is no problem in going to court.
Not so if it is for an unrighteous case. If a Christian commits such a thing, then it is important that the person repents.
Christians – Do not go to jail for criminal acts and bring the name of Jesus into disrepute.
B133 - Go not to court with anyone, if possible
‘To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you.’
It is important for a Christian to avoid a lawsuit. It does not bring glory to God.
Relationship with enemies
Who are our enemies? Where do they appear?
For most of us who are working, the most likely enemies are found at the workplace. Or it could even be our extended family. But they will be around.
We have witnessed the inability of Christians to handle difficult situations with their enemies, resulting in the building up of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Some even went on to pursue vengeance.
For people who have guns, should we even return fire?
What does the Bible has to say about this?
B134 - Love our enemies
Matt 5:44; Luke 6:27; Rom 12:2–21
‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’
In Luke 6:28, it goes further with these words,
‘Bless those who curse you; pray for those who abuse you.’
The Greek word for ‘love’ is agapao which means ‘a discriminating affection which involves choice and selection’; it is what God prefers as he is love.
Christians are told to specifically ‘love our enemies’.
Who are our enemies?
Are they not those who mock us, persecute us, lie about us, or simply take advantage of us?
It must be one of the hardest things to love our enemies. The devil in fact wants to perpetual hate and discord even among Christians.
‘For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? … You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect’ (Matt 5:46-48).
It is counter intuitive. It is a sacrificial form of love that brought Jesus to earth.
See also B135 to B140, Relationship with enemies.
B135 - Do good to them that hate us
Rom 12:20-21; Luke 6:27; Matt 5:43-48
‘Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.’
Rom 12:20 has some practical suggestions –
‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.’
When we have people that hate us, what practical things can we do to demonstrate our love for them? Here are some to consider:
- Help them when they are in a tight spot,
- Bless them (Rom 12:14),
- Pray for them,
- Rejoice and mourn with them (Rom 12:15),
- Serve them,
- Meet their physical needs,
- Forgive them if they have offended you.
We are to choose love rather than hate.
B136 - Lend and hope for nothing in return
Luke 6:35 reads,
‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.’
It suggests that we should lend and not expect to receive back. In other words, do practical things to demonstrate love that is counter-intuitive to our human nature.
Allow the Holy Spirit to direct our actions. Just do not hate them.
B137 - Do the opposite of what our enemies expect us to do
Matt 5:38-41; Matt 27:27-31; Luke 6:29-31; 1 Peter 3:9;
Even as Jesus was crucified, he could have called for his heavenly army to retaliate. But the Lord chose the way of the cross.
Luke 6:30 says,
‘Give to everyone who begs from you and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.’
It is an attitude of not fighting back even if it is within our rights to do so.
‘Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called.’
Do the opposite of what our enemies anticipate us to do.
B138 - Do not seek vengeance but let God act on our behalf
How tempting it is to seek revenge. Many Hollywood movies have used ‘revenge’ as a theme. It is a natural outflow of anger and bitterness but Jesus’ way is not the way of the world.
Rom 12:19 says,
‘Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’’
The Lord is our redeemer.
In 2 Thes 1:6, God promises us that he will repay those who trouble us.
Hence, never take our own action because someone has wronged us but leave that to God to act. Our action is still to bless our enemies.
That is why violent protests and civil disobedience are not something that Christians should get involved in.
Matt 5:39 says, ‘Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’
NB: These teachings represent a personal response. It maybe different for nations as wars may result under very difficult and different situations.
B139 - Pray for those who spite us
In the Beatitudes, Jesus reminded believers to
‘Bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you’ (Luke 6:27-28).
Prayer is powerful. Prayer helps to rid us off our own bitterness and increases our ability to forgive. It changes our inside and our spirit. When we face people we consider as enemies, we usually have four options:
- Exact revenge – where the enemy also suffers while we gloat over their mishaps. It does nothing good to our embittered spirit as we go about scheming and planning against our enemy.
- Hate them with absolute hatred – at which point it achieved nothing for us but the bitterness may cause hardship within ourselves and our family members,
- Struggle to hold back our anger – which then exhaust us emotionally, or
- Pray for God to bless them – which opens the door for God to bless us too because God promises us rewards (Luke 6:35) – ‘But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.’
What do we pray for? We pray for the Lord to bless them.
B140 - Be prepared to be killed by the enemies for the Gospel
The ultimate situation is when the enemy kills a believer. Jesus promised believers in John 15:18 that
‘If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore, the world hates you.’
The bottom line is that as the world draws towards the end of times, hatred for Christians will grow more and more.
The enemy will try to kill some of us. James, the brother of John the disciple and one of the three closest disciples of Jesus, became the first Christian martyr in Acts 12:2. He fulfilled Jesus’ words that
‘They (the enemies of Jesus) will put you (believers) out of the synagogues. Indeed the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God’ (John 16:2).
Even then, as believers, we must remember both the words of Jesus and that of Stephen the martyr. As Stephen laid there dying and witnessed no doubt by Paul before his conversion, his final words were,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them (his enemies)’ (Acts 7:60); he was still praying for his enemies despite what they had done to him.
Relationship with other elements
How do Christians relate to – the sick, the poor, Jews, animals, the Bible, cults, and Satan?
B141 - Do not blame sickness on person or their parents (relationship with the sick)
Jesus said in John 9:3,
‘It was not that this man sinned or his parents.’
It is unwise to blame a sickness on the sick person or his/ her parents.
We do not know the beginning from the end. The story for that person has not been completed. And there could always be beauty out of a bad situation.
The Book of Job shares about just one man, Job, who lost so much – his wealth, his home, and then his entire family. Yet, the Lord made him good later in his life. But while Job was going through those suffering, would it not look like there was no light at the end of the tunnel?
What did Samson see when he was returning home from Timnah? A swarm of bees nesting in the carcass of a lion.
‘So he scraped it (honey) out into his hands and went on, eating as he went’ (Judges 14:9).
Who would have thought that there was fresh honey in the carcass of a lion?
Joni Eareckson Tada was one such story, honey in the carcass of a lion. When a diving accident left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair in 1967, instead of moaning and groaning, today she stands out as an internationally known mouth artist, a talented vocalist, a radio host, an author of seventeen books and an advocate for disabled persons worldwide.
Then, there is Nick Vijicic, a man born without limbs, who inspires millions through his ministry entitled appropriately, Life Without Limbs. Incidentally, both Joni and Nick are believers.
We might even know someone who has been sick and instead of them being a burden, their attitude has turned around to be an inspiration to us.
When it comes to sickness, always show compassion before judgment. Jesus healed out of compassion and not so much as to prove who he was. See also B216, Be driven by compassion for souls.
Hence, do not blame a sickness on the sick person or his/ her parents. We do not know the end from the beginning and we do not know enough.
B142 - Do not despise (relationship with the sick)
2 Cor 12:7-10; Gal 4:12-14; 1 Tim 5:23
In 2 Cor 12:7-10 and Gal 4:12-14, Paul explained that he had a sickness. He simply called it a thorn in the flesh. When he wrote a letter to the Galatians, he indicated his ‘bodily ailment’. Yet, Paul was thankful that the Galatians did not ‘scorn or despise’ him but instead received him as ‘an angel of God’.
In 1 Tim 5:23, Paul wrote to Timothy to take a little wine for the sake of his stomach and frequent ailments. So was Trophimus whom Paul left in Miletus because he was unwell (2 Tim 4:20) and Epaphroditus who almost died because of his sickness (Ph 2:27).
Christians are not immune to illnesses. We are not super humans. We can never know why God heals some and not others.
Just look at the two sons of Zebedee – James, the brother of John and one of three closest disciples of Jesus, was killed at the founding of the church (Acts 12:2) while John survived up to a ripe old age and died a natural death in Ephesus although he was exiled on the island of Patmos for a considerable amount of time.
‘The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord’ – Job 1:21.
Hence, do not despise believers (and non-believers) who are sick. We don’t know the end from the beginning.
B143 - Contribute to those who are in need (relationship with the poor)
Matt 11:5; Rom 15:26; Gal 2:10
The early church contributed to the poor who were in need.
Rom 15:26 says,
‘For Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to make some contribution for the poor among the saints at Jerusalem.’
Notice that these were believers who were poor and the Apostle Paul never belittled them.
In Gal 2:10, the Apostle Paul testified how the pillars of the early church, Peter, John, and James (not the brother of John) saw the grace that was resting on him and sought him not to neglect the poor.
There is a role for the church to contribute to those who are poor, even within the church.
Contribute to the poor who are in church.
B144 - Help the sick/ those in prison/ the poor in a practical way (relationship with the poor)
In Matt 19:21, Jesus asked the young man who sought him regarding the issue of eternal life to
‘go, sell what you possess and give to the poor.’
And in Matt 25:37-40, Jesus commended the righteous who went ahead to clothe those who were naked, feed the hungry, and visit prisoners. Jesus said,
‘As you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Jesus expected believers to do good social work, and to assist those who for one reason or another, have fallen on hard times.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be practical – help those who are poor, whether they are inside or outside the church, in practical ways.
See B420, Evangelism – Befriend and love the outcasts.
B145 - Do not despise the poor (relationship with the poor)
In Matt 11:5, Jesus testified to John the Baptist that the
‘Good News is being preached to the poor.’
In the New Testament, the disciples talked about poverty as a matter of fact. But in the Old Testament, there is a clear message that poverty is a curse, the result of disobedience of a nation.
Deut 28:15-68 spells out these curses on the children of Israel, including sicknesses, diseases, and poverty, in a colorful language. The children of Israel were meant to be God’s shining light on earth (and we believe they still are, seeing how the 21st century Israel is being blessed in terms of talents, skills, as well her land).
‘If you are not careful to observe all the words of this law which are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and awesome name—the LORD your God— He will bring upon you and your descendants extraordinary disasters, severe and lasting plagues, and terrible and chronic sicknesses. He will afflict you again with all the diseases you dreaded in Egypt, and they will cling to you. The LORD will also bring upon you every sickness and plague not recorded in this Book of the Law, until you are destroyed. You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left few in number, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God. Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and to multiply you, so also it will please Him to exterminate you and destroy you. And you will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.’ – Deut 28:58-63.
Nobody likes to be poor (or sick). Prov 10:15 says,
‘A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, the poverty of the poor is their ruin.’
There will always be poor Christians. Hence, the Apostles reminded Paul to always ‘remember the poor’ (Gal 2:10).
It was James, the brother of our Lord, who said in James 2:5,
‘Has not God CHOSEN those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith.’
James challenged the church not to be prejudicial and to neglect the poor while in church.
And it was Jesus who said,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3).
It takes someone who recognizes his own poverty (although s/he might be financially rich) to actually come and seek out the Lord.
In Matt 19:24, relating to the rich man who was asked by Jesus to give up his wealth and follow him, Jesus said, ‘Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’
Prov 17:5 says,
‘Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.’
Poverty is, therefore, not a bad word although it is not a good thing either.
We do not consider financial poverty as a curse because it could result in believers adopting a demeaning and condescending attitude towards people who are not well off and we could end up despising their status. Moreover, the New Testament never pronounces it as a curse.
Again, we do not know the end from the beginning. Our role as believers is to serve the poor and contribute to those in need.
B146 - Love the Jews (relationship with Jews)
‘If some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.’
Paul reminded Gentile believers that they should not be ‘arrogant toward the branches (Jews)’.
There is a partial hardening of the Jews at the moment but at the ‘fullness of the Gentiles’, ‘all Israel will be saved’ (Rom 11:25-26).
Our role as Gentile Christians is to love the Jews. They have been broken off so that we can be grafted into the tree. Gentile Christians should never be arrogant in regard to our status in the Lord.
B147 - Love our animals (relationship with animals)
When God created man, he observed that man needed a suitable helper (Gen 2:18). So, he created animals and birds to be his helpmate. Only that it was not sufficient because ‘for Adam, no suitable helper was found’ (Gen 2:20).
Animals were man’s first companions. As imperfect as they are, animals continue to be good companions to many of us.
When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees because he healed on a Sabbath, Jesus asked,
‘Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?’ (Luke 14:5).
It is a natural thing to look after our children and animals.
In another verse, Jesus told us that God was even interested in ordinary sparrows (Matt 10:29).
Animals co-exist with us and were there at the very beginning. Hence, we have to look after our animals.
B148 - Do not invite false teachers into our house (relationship with cults/ false religions)
Paul said, ‘(whoever) preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed’ (Gal 1:8). And he repeated the same sentence in v 9 in order to emphasize his point.
There are many false teachers especially in our days.
2 John 10 helps us to respond to such a person at our door,
‘If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting.’
If a believer wants to discuss with this person, let the believer does it outside his home or at a neutral spot.
Do not invite them into your house.
B149 - Resist the devil (relationship with the devil)
1 Peter 5:8-9 says,
‘Be sober minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith.’
Believers have to beware of the devil’s intention, which is to devour the vulnerables. And the way to do that with us is to resist him.
Other versions used the word, ‘Stay strong’ (CEV), and ‘Withstand him’ (NHEB). The Greek word is anthistemi or oppose, resist, and withstand. It means ‘never to give up’ and ‘holding one’s ground’.
Heb 12:4 says, we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding (our) blood.
A believer has to be pro-active and disciplined in order to ‘resist’. It means intentionally avoiding places of one’s own weaknesses. It means not going alongside with friends that can cause one to sin. It means sometimes we have to learn how to say ‘no’.
Once we become passive, the devil will lay hold on us.
James 4:7 went further to ask Christians to submit ourselves to God and resist the devil so that he will flee from us.
In Ephesians, Paul asked Christians to put on the ‘whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil’ (Eph 6:11). In other words, put on the armor and resist. And the whole armor is found in Eph 6:14-18 as follows:
- Belt of truth,
- Breastplate of righteousness,
- Shoes for the feet to share the gospel of peace,
- Shield of faith,
- Helmet of salvation,
- Sword of the Spirit (Word of God), and
- Prayer at all times in the Spirit.
After that, stand against the devil.
B150 - Study and search the Scripture daily to confirm the truth (relationship with the Bible)
Matt 22:29; Mark 12:24; John 5:39; Acts 17:11; Rom 10:2; Col 3:16; 2 Tim 2:15;
Study and search out the Scripture daily. Jesus encouraged his followers to search out the Scripture. He reprimanded the Pharisees for their lack of understanding on the resurrection in Mark 12:24; they read the Scripture but had no revelation of it.
Meanwhile, the Jews in Berea in the Book of Acts were switched on when Paul shared with them; they examined the Scriptures daily to confirm the word and as a result many believed. They were not people who had ‘a zeal for God but not according to knowledge’ (Rom 10:2).
As believers, we must ‘rightly handle the word of truth’ (2 Tim 2:15) because the Bible is the word of truth. It is that which guides us in our daily living. One of the reasons why we put this project together is to provide believers who are hungry for the word an easier and more systematic way to learn.
Someone once said, ‘If a believer has Spirit (with zeal) without the Word, s/he will blow up. If a believer has the Word without the Spirit (with zeal), s/he will dry up. But if a believer has both the Spirit (with zeal) and the Word, s/he will grow up.’
There is no excuse – We need to be strong in the Word because it is ‘a light to guide our feet and a light for our path’ (Psalm 119:105). Otherwise, we can be manipulated by false teachings. We will also flounder when we are questioned and challenged.
B151 - Do not add or remove any biblical verses (relationship with the Bible)
Rev 22:18-19 says,
‘If anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life.’
This verse, no doubt, refers more specifically to the Book of Revelation.
However, in Prov 20:6, it says,
‘Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.’
We have chosen in the project to adhere to the Bible used by evangelical Christians. We believe the Bible to be the infallible Word of God, having been tested over time, more so when the revealed prophecies continue to show the accuracy of the Bible.
As a matter of established truths, believers do not add or remove any biblical verses for their conveniences.
B152 - Obey everything that is found in the Scripture (relationship with the Bible)
Matt 28:20; Luke 9:35; John 8:51; John 14:15; Eph 6:17
‘Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.’
Matt 28 is the Great Commission and it instructs the apostles to go out into the word to make disciples of all nations. More than that, the apostles are to teach them to observe all the commandments.
The original Greek for ‘observe’ is tereo or keep guard/ watchover/ keep intact. Most other versions translate the word to be ‘obey’.
The Apostle Paul made it clear that for us to ‘resist the devil’, we need to have the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God (Eph 6:17). There is no shortcut.
Jesus put it succinctly when he said,
‘If you love me, you will keep (obey) my commandments’ (John 14:15).
And his commandments is in the Scripture or the Word. The Bible is meaningful to a Christian and it should be. It is our guide and companion. It is the GPS (Global Positioning System) of our lives. Without it, we would indeed be lost.
Obey everything that is found in the Scripture.
Foundation – Repentance
The foundational elements are found in Heb 6:1-2. The focus is on repentance, faith toward God, baptisms and laying of hands. The other elements -resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment are found under ‘Doctrines.’
B153 - Repent and have faith in Jesus (Both must be present)
Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19; Acts 20:21; Gal 3:26; Heb 6:1-2;
Heb 6:1 says,
‘Let us leave the ELEMENTARY DOCTRINE of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a FOUNDATION of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, and of instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.’
The writer of Hebrews listed down these elements as FOUNDATIONAL, starting out with repentance and faith towards God.
Jesus began his ministry with these words, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 1:15). Throughout the Gospels, you will hear the same theme from Jesus.
His disciples carried from where he left.
In Acts 3:19, Peter addressed an audience and said,
‘Repent therefore and turn back that your sins may be blotted out’
and when Paul testified before the Ephesian elders, he share that his message covered both the elements of
‘repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Acts 20:21).
The first sentence a believer should share with a new convert involves the elements of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and repentance. The Greek translations are as follows:
- ‘Faith in our Lord Jesus Christ’ – The word for ‘faith’ is pistis and it means trust, belief, and confidence. It is the word, pisteuo, in Mark 1:15 which means ‘have faith in’/ ‘trust in’,
- ‘Repentance’ – The word is metanoeo and it means changing of one’s mind, and thinking differently after. It is the changing of one’s mind for the better and heartily amending with abhorrence of one’s past sins. It is the equivalent of a mental decision to ‘go (and from now on), sin no more’.
There are TWO NECESSARY STEPS to be a convert of Jesus Christ and these are:
- Put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the only solution to restore our relationship with God, and
- Repent and leave our past life of sins behind, that is the same as saying, ‘Sin no more’.
B154 - Sin no more
Luke 24:47; John 8:11; 1 John 2:1; 1 John 3:9
1 John 2:1 says it simply,
‘I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin’
and John repeated it in 1 John 3:9,
‘No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.’
When does a Christian continue to sin? There can only be THREE possibilities:
- The Christian is unaware of it but if s/he is aware of that condition, then s/he should repent of it,
- The Christian is aware of the sin and is trying to overcome it but may not have been successful. God promises that each time the believer repents, He will always forgive (Matt 18:22); some sins and habits are harder to break than others, and finally
- The Christian is aware of the sin but takes it likely and chooses to brush it off. There are potentially grave dangers associated with this believer. Please see S139, Unpardonable sins/ Continue sinning deliberately and willfully even after knowing Jesus.
B155 - Acknowledge the condition of our heart with godly sorrows
Repentance is about the condition of our heart and it is not a checklist of dos and don’ts.
Jesus told the story of two men going up to the temple to pray – one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.
While the Pharisee recited openly a checklist of what he had achieved in terms of his moral well-being, the tax collector simply cried out for mercy from God. Jesus commended the tax collector, an abhorrent profession of his time, relative to the Pharisee, the face of piousness and religiosity (Luke 18:9-14).
It is what Paul equated as ‘godly grief’ in 2 Cor 7:10, and one that produced repentance.
B156 - Go and bear fruit once repented
Matt 3:7-10; Matt 7:15-20; Matt 13:23; Matt 21:18-20; Luke 3:9; Luke 6:43-45; Luke 13:6-9; Luke 14:34-35; John 15:1-6, 8, Acts 26:20; Rev 2:5
Repentance must be followed by action to demonstrate a repented heart.
John the Baptist was the first person to mention,
‘Bear fruit in keeping with repentance’ (Matt 3:8).
The concept of fruit bearing had been used repeatedly by Jesus. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke about a fruitful tree that produced yields of up to a hundred-fold (Matt 13:23). And when Jesus encountered a fig tree that bore no fruit, he cursed it (Matt 21:19).
In John 15:8, Jesus explained, ‘By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples’; notice that the proof of discipleship is ‘much fruit’.
Paul confirmed the concept of fruit in Acts 26:20 when he was before King Agrippa –
‘that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.’
Nonetheless, our good works are not for the purposes of showing off. In fact, Jesus warned us in Matt 6:1 to
‘take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them.’
In v2, he said,
‘do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory from men.’
Here is what we know about repentance:
- We do not do good works to earn our way to heaven,
- The first step is to place our faith in Jesus Christ,
- Repentance follows after our faith is placed in Jesus,
- Our repentance must come from our heart,
- Good works follow after our salvation,
- We are not to do these good works as a matter of showing off but as a natural outflow of who we are as born-again believers.
B157 - Be a doer of the Word
Matt 21:28-31; Matt 24:45; Luke 6:46; Luke 8:18; Luke 12:43; 2 Thes 3:13; Gal 6:9-10; 2 Tim 3:7; James 1:22; 1 John 3:18; James 4:17
Jesus related a story of two sons, one who promised that he would work in the vineyard but did not, and another who said he would not but actually went to do so. Jesus commended the second son, the one who said he would not but actually did (Matt 21:28-32).
Again, in the story of the faithful and wise servant in Matt 24:46, Jesus praised the servant
‘whom his master find so doing when he comes.’
Paul encouraged the Thessalonians ‘not to grow weary in doing good’ (2 Thes 3:13).
Repeatedly, you will find stories and themes in regard to the importance of ‘doing good’ until the Master returns.
That is our role on earth – doing good while fulfilling his will.
B158 - Judge ourselves in regard to sin
1 Cor 11:31; 2 Cor 13:5; Gal 6:1
Paul spoke about the Holy Communion and reminded his audience to ‘judge ourselves truly’ (1 Cor 11:31) and again in 2 Cor 13:5, ‘Examine yourselves.’
We need to self-check to ensure that we are not sinning against God.
Paul said that it was important because if believers had partaken communion while sinning (even if it was not known), then this may result in them being weak, ill, and even dead (1 Cor 11:30).
B159 - Possess a soft heart that repents of sins when they are revealed
Mark 3:5; Luke 22:62; Matt 6:12; Gal 6:1; Heb 3:7-11; James 5:16;
In Hebrews, the writer related the story of how the children of Israel ‘hardened their hearts’ rather than listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit (Heb 3:7-11). As a result, the Lord ‘swore in his wrath’ that ‘they shall not enter his rest’.
Continuous non-repentance leads to a grave consequences. The flipside of that is really continuous repentance every time a sin is revealed to us. Instead of having a hardened heart, we must possess a soft heart, one that listens and obeys the Holy Spirit.
What does the Lord require from us?
David, after his adulterous activity was made known, said,
‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise’ (Ps 51:17).
Prov 24:16 (NLT) says,
‘The godly may trip seven times but they will get up again.’
Continuous repentance is the hallmark of a believer and that is reflected in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘Forgive us our debts (sins/ offenses) as we also have forgiven our debtors‘ (Matt 6:12).
Foundation – Faith
Based on 1 Cor 12:7-10, ‘faith’ may be divided as follows:
- Natural faith – which consists of a. Salvation faith, and b. Ongoing (Maturing) faith, and
- Supernatural faith.
Our degree of maturity as Christians is directly dependent on our ability to walk in the Holy Spirit. Our maturing faith moves beyond the faith we had when we first came to know the Lord. We learn to be guided by the Holy Spirit.
B160 - Believe in our Lord Jesus (Salvation faith)
Acts 15:11; Acts 16:31; Acts 20:21; Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:2-4
When the Philippian jailer asked Paul what he needed to do to be saved, Paul exclaimed,
‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’ (Acts 16:31).
Repentance and faith towards God are really one and the same action – like the two sides of a coin; we must, firstly, believe in the Lord Jesus and then we must repent of our sins. It is a foundational doctrine.
‘Believing in Jesus’ requires the element of faith as we need to step into a zone of trust but it is not blind faith (more on that later).
Just like love, faith in Jesus is tough to explain. Can we prove ‘love’ in a laboratory? We can dissect a body but we will never be able to find this element called ‘love’ within. But we know what love feels like because we have all experienced it one way or another.
To become Christians, all we need to do is to demonstrate our faith in Jesus Christ by:
- Confessing with our lips that Jesus is Lord, and
- Believing in our heart that he has risen from the dead (Rom 10:9-10).
Why is it not blind faith?
Here is one good reason: Because of all religious leaders through the ages, Jesus proved that he was the only one to conquer death. His resurrection became the single most important event that changed the world.
In fact, Paul said it succinctly in 1 Cor 15:13-14,
‘But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.’
Throughout the generations, many have attempted to prove that Jesus Christ is dead. If they did, then they would have become very famous and Christianity would be forever dispelled. Here are some authors who had tried to do just that:
- Lee Strobel – The Case for Christ. Lee Strobel was a top journalist with a degree in journalism and a Master of Studies in Law from Yale Law School. He started out investigating the resurrection as an atheist and became a Christian simply because the evidence presented to him was too overwhelming,
- Frank Morrison – Who moved the stone? This is an old classic and started out as a challenge to destroy the basis of Christianity. According to the author, ‘his history rested on very insecure foundations’ and he wanted to demonstrate that the resurrection was a myth. But his investigation led him to a very different conclusion.
Then there was Professor Simon Greenleaf (1783-1853), an acclaimed Professor of Law at Harvard University. who started out as a skeptic and ended up a believer. Professor Greenleaf used his legal expertise to try and disproof the resurrection. He ended up writing a book called ‘Testimony of the Evangelists‘ in which he detailed his findings which changed him into a Christian.
‘Believe in our Lord Jesus’ goes hand-in-hand with ‘repentance.’
B161 - Receive faith like a child (Salvation faith)
Jesus asked us to ‘become like children’ in order to ‘enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 18:3).
What does it mean to be like children? Is it not because children trust naturally especially with their mothers? But as children grow up, they become less reliant on their parents. With their own life experience and education, they may even differ their views with their parents.
Matthew Henry’s commentary has this to say, ‘children, when very young, do not desire authority, do not regard outward distinctions, are free from malice, are teachable, and willingly dependent on their parents.’ Henry encouraged us to ‘renew in the spirit of our minds that we may become simple and humble, as little children.’
When Jesus asked us to become like children, he was asking us to depend and trust him entirely.
B162 - Live by faith in the Son of God (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Gal 2:20, 3:1-29; Heb 10:38; Heb 11:6
‘And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.’
Believers live by faith (Heb 10:38). The Greek word is pistis and it is about belief, trust, confidence, faithfulness.
It is the same as saying that ‘we live by confidence or trust in the Son of God. Faith in Jesus Christ is God’s warranty for us that we are truly the sons of God.
Believers are no more reliant on the ‘works of the law’ because in Christ, ‘the righteous shall live by faith’.
Believers do not attain salvation by doing good works but rather good works is the direct result of our repentance and follows on after we have placed our complete faith in Jesus Christ.
As Heb 11:6 says,
‘For without faith, it is impossible to please God.’
Live by faith in the Son of God.
B163 - Ask for a clear (spoken) word of God (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Matt 1:20; Matt 2:12; Matt 8:8; Matt 14:28-29; Luke 7:7; John 4:50;
Ask for a clear word from God because God can speak to us directly. God spoke supernaturally to Joseph through a dream to take Mary as his wife (Matt 1:20). And then in the case of the wise men who visited baby Jesus, God spoke to them in a dream to ‘depart to their own country by another way’ (Matt 2:12).
Then, we had the case of the centurion whose servant was sick. He approached Jesus and asked him to heal the servant (Matt 8:7) but not by physically going to the servant. Instead, he asked for a word of healing from Jesus and that word brought about instant healing (Matt 8:13).
We will discover that repeatedly in the Bible, God spoke to man supernaturally whether in a dream or through an incident.
The Greek uses two words to describe the word, ‘Word’, namely rhema and logos.
Rhema is usually equated as the spoken word of God while Logos refers to the written word, often associated with the Bible.
Believers will understand the logos as it is published and we can read or listen to it; what you read on our site is logos.
But we are referring here to the rhema word; that is one uttered by God directly to us.
God does want his children to know him personally and what more to know him by listening to his voice. John 10:27 says,
‘My sheep listen to my voice.’
Once we experience the rhema word, we can never be the same again.
In Mark 5:19, Jesus told the man who had been healed from demon possession to
‘Go home …. and tell them how much the Lord has done for you ….’
Yet, in Mark 8:26, Jesus healed a blind man and told him,
‘Do not enter the village.’
Two quite similar healing events but a completely different instruction (rhema).
Following and maturing in Jesus is not a formula but a constant need to listen to his direction.
We pray that you experience the goodness of God personally so that you can declare you know that you know. Otherwise, without this personal encounter with God, Christians may end up being quite ‘tribal’ and Christianity might feel like just another religion.
The good thing about Jesus is that he speaks to us directly, not by proxy, but with him personally.
NB: The rhema word will never overrule the logos. Hence, if the rhema does not line up with the logos, then a believer should not proceed with that word.
Please also visit the section on Decision-Making, B244 to B252.
B164 - Once hear God's word (rhema/ logos), trust in him (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Matt 7:24-25; Matt 10:1-15; Matt 14:29-31; Mark 1:18; Mark 6:7-13; Mark 10:21; Luke 1:38; Luke 5:4-9; Luke 6:47; Luke 9:3; Luke 18:22; Acts 8:27; Acts 9:10-17; Acts 10:14-21, 28-29; Acts 13:2-3; Acts 11:1-18; Acts 22:17-18;
‘Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock’ Matt 7:24.
Jesus was saying that those who acted on his words would be considered wise.
Once we hear God’s word, whether it is the written (logos) or the spoken word (rhema), we must obey (even if it is non-logical).
Peter had a non-logical experience in Matt 14:25-33. Jesus was walking on the sea (of Galilee) when Peter requested,
‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ And Jesus said, ‘Come’. What did Peter do? He obeyed.
‘So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.’
Never mind that in the end, he had to cry out to God for help but his initial action was of faith and courage – He stepped out of the boat.
It is non-logical because walking on water is not possible for humans. But it is also not illogical because we know who Jesus is – The Son of God; the one who can command the winds to stop and who can raise the dead.
There are three issues with believers:
- How do we hear the voice of God?
- If we feel that we have heard the voice of God, how do we react?
- What if the vision that we believe we have heard is taking forever to materialize?
Answering Question #1 –
B164, Ask for a clear word of God, did share some possibilities – like dreams, vision (Acts 16:9-10) and coincidences (Acts 16:6-10). But there are yet more avenues that God can transmit messages to us although most might be too busy to tune in to his voice.
Answering Question #2: How do we react if we do hear the voice of God?
We can either reject or accept that word. When Jesus told the rich young ruler to ‘Distribute to the poor (his wealth) …. And come, follow me’ (Luke 18:22), the ruler went away very sad; he could not bring himself to obey the rhema word of God. On the other hand, Peter replied, ‘See, we have left our homes and followed you.’
Of course, it is a struggle to ‘hear God’ and we might end up asking whether that was indeed the voice of God. If we did indeed hear a voice, we could, like Gideon of the Old Testament, place a challenge before the Lord with a supernatural request so we know for sure that God is in it (Judges 6:36-40); and many Christians have done just that.
It is a difficult topic that Christians should learn from although it is enough said for now.
We will address the question relating to ‘taking a long time to materialize’ in another point. Nonetheless, once we are quite certain that it is the voice of God, we must act in obedience.
Paul explained it in this way when he was presenting himself to King Agrippa, ‘Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision’ (Acts 26:19).
Please also visit the section on Decision-Making, B244 to B252.
B165 - Pray in faith and according to his will (Ongoing faith)
Matt 21:22; Acts 26:19; James 1:6; 1 John 5:14-15
‘And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith’
and 1 John 5:14 says,
‘This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him’.
Faith and prayer work together. Ask in prayer, in faith, and according to his will. See also B197, Pray and persist always.
Most of our struggles probably revolve around faith and trust in God to fulfill what he promises. Many of us may also lose heart while praying.
Reading (or listening to) the Bible, praying with other people, also hearing people who have had their amazing answers to prayers can help keep our faith strong.
‘Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the Word of Christ’ – Rom 10:17.
B166 - Be prepared to act against conventional logic when we hear from God (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Faith is non-logical. Hence, be prepared to act against conventional logic and lifestyles in the face of a word from God.
It is very difficult for us to get out of conventional logic even in our day-to-day living.
The Apostle Peter, having been brought up as a devout Jew, followed a Jewish diet which classified some food as ‘unclean’. Hence, when he was shown a vision to eat of food abominable to his culture, he did not follow the voice. And he had to be shown three times with the voice coming to him on the second occasion, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common’ (Acts 10:15). Only later did he realize the reason for that vision.
It is easier to follow the crowd rather than to go against the flow. In Heb 11:25, we learn that Moses went against the flow when he chose to be ‘mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.’ The amazing thing here was, he did not really have a supernatural word from God but rather followed the integrity of his heart in doing the right thing. And God honored that (Okay, it took another forty years before he actually heard from God).
Faith is non-logical in our actions but it is logical in our beliefs of our God who can do all things.
B167 - Do not be anxious but rest in God (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Matt 11:28-29; Luke 12:27-31; Luke 22:35; Heb 4:1-11
Many of us are anxious when we are not working. Equally, others are uptight when they are at work. Yet, the word of God tells us not to be anxious but to rest in God.
The ‘rest’ is an important element in being a Christian. In Heb 4:3, the Lord explained that the children of Israel whom Moses brought out of Egypt, ‘shall not enter my rest.’
In Matt 11:28-29, Jesus said, ‘Come to me (Jesus), all who labor and are heavy laden (carrying heavy burden), and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and LEARN FROM ME, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.’
The Greek word for ‘rest’ in Matthew is anapauo or give intermission from labor/ refresh. It is ‘to cause or permit one to cease from any movement or labor in order to recover and collect his strength.’ It relates to being ‘stressed free’.
Interesting, the word ‘yoke’ in Greek is zugos and it is not exactly light. Strong’s concordance said that it is comparable to the heavy yokes resting on the bullocks’ necks in order to move (work) together as one. It is replacing a ‘heavy burden’ with a yoke (another heavy burden) but one that we can learn from the Lord. The ‘rest’ seems to be around the fact that the ‘yoke’ belongs to the Lord.
In Luke 22:35, the Lord asked his disciples whether they lacked anything despite the fact that they were sent out with no money bag or knapsack, and their answer was ‘nothing’. When we ‘learn from Jesus’, we will ‘rest (trust) in him’.
When we trust in God for all our needs (that is, putting our faith in him), he provides that ‘rest’ for us; it is as if when we let go and let God, God takes over the worries for us.
B168 - Surrender everything and follow Jesus totally (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Matt 4:20; Matt 19:27; Mark 1:20; Luke 5:8, 11; Luke 5:28; Luke 9:61-62; Luke 14:25-26, 33; Luke 18:29-30; John 10:17;
Jesus told Peter and Andrew his brother,
‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ in Matt 4:18
and in an instance, ‘they left their nets and followed him.’ By Matt 19:27, Peter exclaimed, ‘See we have left everything and followed you.’
It was a case of total surrender. So did Levi, the tax collector who ‘leaving everything, he rose and followed him’ (Luke 5:28).
Jesus’ words were very strong when people started offering excuses as to why they should delay in following him even when he told them directly. He said, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God’ (Luke 9:62).
And he used himself as the benchmark in John 10:17 when he said, ‘For this reason, the Father loves me because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.’
We know, in history, that out of all his twelve disciples, eleven were martyred for the Gospel including Peter who was hung upside down (John 21:18). The only one who survived was the Apostle John not because they did not try killing him but that he just could not die. As a result, he was exiled to the island of Patmos.
To have faith in Jesus 100% is for us to give up everything, our own agenda, and to hand it over to him. Jesus’ message to us is still relevant today.
B168 – Surrender everything and follow Jesus totally is related to B167 – Do not be anxious but rest in God.
B169 - Do not use our salvation to sin (Salvation faith)
‘For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’
Nonetheless, in 1 Corinthians 5, it mentioned about a man who slept with his father’s wife, an abhorrent thing even by current morality standard. Paul directed the church to ‘hand this man (a believer, no doubt) over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord’ (1 Cor 5:5).
You will realize Paul did not mention that the man would lose his salvation, only that he would be handed to Satan for destruction. In any sin, there will always be earthly consequences.
Nonetheless, our salvation is not an opportunity to sin in the flesh.
See also S139 – Continue sinning deliberately and willfully even after knowing Jesus.
B170 - Build up our faith through listening/ reading the Word (Ongoing faith)
In Luke 10:38-42, Dr Luke shared about the story of Mary and Martha. Jesus was in town and Martha was busying herself in getting the place organized. Mary, meanwhile, was sitting at the feet of Jesus, listening to his teaching. When Martha complained and told the Lord to ask Mary to help, Jesus replied,
‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion which will not be taken away from her.’
Rom 10:17 reads,
‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.’
The GWT reads, ‘Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message that is heard is what Christ spoke.’ We can build our faith (in Christ) through listening and reading the Bible.
That is why it is important that we read and reflect on the Word of God on a daily basis so that our faith is built up.
B171 - Be careful; do not presume (Ongoing faith)
‘And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.’
This was Moses when he first started. He thought that he was the chosen one (the super-hero) and took action into his own hands. He figured the children of Israel would appreciate and understand; and they did not.
In modern-day lingo, he thought that he was there to save the world (or the world of the Israelites). He presumed. So do many of us; we presume (in terms of timing and of action) and we run ahead of God.
The flipside of faith is presumption – going ahead without the mandate of God. The ability to judge which is presumption and which is not will require wisdom.
Some seek for the rhema word of confirmation. The most obvious is the story of Gideon who sought God’s confirmation despite the fact that he was visited by an angel of the Lord; he used the ‘fleece of wool’ test. He told God, ‘Do not be angry with me’ and requested God to show him via signs. And God did.
When we are unsure about our call to action by God, sometimes it may be worthwhile to be patient and seek God for a confirmation; the sin of presumption could often hurt some people (if it involves others), like the case of praying and insisting someone is healed and it did not happen.
Of course, it is not possible to seek God for all things. Like the disciples in the Book of Acts, sometimes we will have to be guided by our internal compass; the disciples had to decide whether circumcision was a requirement for Gentile Christians (Acts 15). That is where after prayer, faith has to come in too. Look also at the section on Decision-Making, B244 to B252.
B172 - Wait on God before acting (Ongoing MATURING faith)
Luke 24:49; John 11:6; Acts 1:4; Acts 7:34-35; 1 Cor 13;4;
We often relate ‘doing’ to ‘work’. But Jesus taught us that there is a ‘waiting’ before ‘doing’.
Before the disciples went out and preached a storm in the Book of Acts, Jesus instructions to them were to wait. Luke 24:49 reads, ‘Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
The same thing happened to Moses. When Moses tried to hasten the process and took action into his own hand by killing an Egyptian, God did not act there. Instead, it was only after a forty-year season in the desert before God appeared to Moses (Acts 7:34).
When we have an idea, we have a tendency to move ahead without asking for God for his timing. Everything has to fit into God’s schedule.
Abraham was given a promise in Gen 12:1-3,
‘Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’
At that time, he didn’t even have a son.
The promise did take a VERY LONG time (twenty-five long years) in being fulfilled and because of this, Sarai, Abraham’s wife, took her Egyptian slave, Hagar, and gave her to Abraham to be his second wife (Gen 16:3).
From that, we had Ishmael and his descendants and the rest is, as we would say, history. Sarai and Abraham failed to wait on God’s timing but what if we were in their shoes (twenty-five years is a long, long time even in the context of those days when Abraham lived for a total of 175 years). It is all in God’s plans (Gen 25:7)).
Waiting is maturing faith. If we are unsure, it is always best to commit it to God and wait on him for a response before acting.
B173 - Seek God diligently because we will be rewarded (Ongoing faith)
‘And without faith, it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him’ (Heb 11:6).
It is our faith in God that will bring about our rewards. Hence, seek God diligently because we will be rewarded.
B174 - Persevere in our faith in God (Ongoing faith)
Faith requires us to persevere, sometimes through trials and tribulation like that of the early disciples. A Christian walk is not necessarily a ‘happy’ walk.
Matt 24:13 reads,
‘He who endures to the end will be saved.’
Rev 2:26 says,
‘The one who conquers (overcomes), and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations.’
See also B324 to B331, Trials and Temptations, and D156, Persecution-Refinement.
B175 - Be steadfast and grounded in faith (Ongoing MATURING faith)
1 Peter 5:9; 1 Cor 15:58; Rom 4:20; Col 1:23; Col 2:6-7; 1 Thes 1:8-9; Rev 21:8;
‘Be firm in your faith’.
Parallel translations use the words ‘steadfast’, and ‘strong’.
Paul’s encouragement in 1 Cor 15:58 is the same: ‘Be steadfast, immovable (in your faith).’ And in Rom 4:20, Paul used Abraham as an example; he explained, ‘No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God.’
This ‘faith’ refers to our trust and belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. To be steadfast, we have to know what we believe is the truth. And that can be done through ‘hearing’ the word of God regularly (Rom 10:17), being discipled, and experiencing the love and miracle of God by ourselves personally.
It is the ‘I know that I know‘ kind of faith that is anchored firmly in our Lord Jesus.
Let our faith be steadfast and grounded in faith.
B176 - Seek a commissioning faith (Ongoing to Supernatural faith)
Matt 10:1-5; Luke 9:1-3; Luke 10:1-20;
In Matt 10:1-5, Jesus commissioned his disciples and ‘gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.’ It is reported again in Luke 9:1-3.
Then, in Luke 10:1, the Lord went further and appointed seventy-two others, sending them on ahead of him, ‘two by two, into every town, and place where he himself was about to go.’ These seventy-two were expected to ‘heal the sick’ and proclaim the arrival of God’s kingdom. And if the town did not receive them, they were to declare a warning to them.
What did the seventy-two learn from hands-on lessons?
They came back with joy, declaring,
‘Lord, even the demons (Yes, they were casting out demons) are subject to us in your name!’ (Luke 10:17).
The best lesson for any person is to practice what they have learned. Jesus was a master-teacher. He discipled his followers through teaching the word, and then he would send them out ‘two-by-two’ to practice their ‘trade’. That was why his disciples (not including Judas Ischariot) were prepared to give up their lives for the cause; they knew that they knew.
Heb 13:8 declares,
‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today and forever.’
May God grant the desires of the hearts of full-on Christians to see these gifts being manifested even now.
May the Lord teach and commission us to be sent out to heal, cast out demons and preach the good news.
May this not be the sin of ‘presumption’ but the true manifestation of the Holy Spirit in this age.
B177 - Be baptized in water
Acts 2:38; Acts 8:36; Matt 28:19
Baptism is a foundational doctrine as found in Heb 6:1-2.
In Acts 2:38, Peter preached,
‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.’
The same thing happened immediately after the conversion of an Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36,
‘See, here is water. What prevents me from being baptized.’
It was the mandate given by Jesus when he said in Matt 28:19,
‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit …..’
The Greek word for ‘baptism’ is baptismo and is used to indicate dip or submerge. Hence, that was why the Ethiopian official had an eye for the water; otherwise, if it was sprinkling, it would have been easy for him.
Baptism is an outward demonstration of an inward action relating to the person’s repentance from their sins. It is a non-compulsory requirement for salvation but it fulfills Jesus’ commandments of Matt 28:19.
Hence, be baptized in water after accepting our salvation.
B178 - Be baptized with the Holy Spirit
Acts 11:16; Acts 2:38; Acts 10:44-47; Acts 19:2-6
Baptism is a foundational doctrine as found in Heb 6:1-2.
‘And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’
So, there is such a thing as baptism with the Holy Spirit.
The Books of Luke and Acts were written by one man, Dr Luke; it was he who accompanied the Apostle Paul on some of Paul’s missionary journeys.
Dr Luke was a particularly meticulous man who recorded precise information like the name of the centurion (Julius of the Augustan Cohort – Acts 27:1) and the various ports that they were traveling along to Rome (Acts 27).
Effectively, we can read the Books of Luke and Acts as two parts of the same book in chronological order.
In Luke 24:49, Luke concluded the book with the words of Jesus to his disciples to wait,
‘I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’
And the book of Acts start off with these words from Jesus being repeated in Acts 1:4,
‘You heard from me ; for John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.’
In Acts 2:4, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in unknown tongues, just like it was promised by Jesus.
Point #1 – Baptism with the Holy Spirit is a SEPARATE experience from conversion.
In Acts 10, Peter went to a Gentile centurion after being instructed supernaturally by God. While Peter was still sharing,
‘the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. …. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.’ (Acts 10:44-47).
Point #2 – Is tongues a sign of the baptism with the Holy Spirit?
For an answer, please turn to B15, Be filled with the Holy Spirit.
NB: Being filled with the Spirit is the same as being baptized with the Holy Spirit.
After salvation, a believer should seek for the baptism with the Holy Spirit. Again, it does not seem to be a compulsory requirement for salvation but it fulfills Jesus’ promise to us – that we will be ‘clothed with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49).
B179 - Confess our sins to God for forgiveness
‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.’
Every time our sins are revealed to us (by the Holy Spirit no doubt), we must return to God by confessing and seeking God for forgiveness, just like King David in Psalm 51 after his adultery was revealed to him.
Seeking forgiveness is a continuous affair and it is written into the Lord’s prayer:
‘Forgive us our sins as we have forgiven those who sin against us’ (Matt 6:12, NLT).
Keep short account with God at all times.
B180 - Forgive others because we have been forgiven
Jesus told a parable about a servant who could not repay what he owed the master. His master was about to sell off his wife and children but the servant pleaded with him. On account of his plead, the master showed compassion and forgave his debt. Yet, when this servant went out, he found another fellow-servant who owed him some money. But while his fellow-servant pleaded with him, the servant was unyielding and put his fellow-servant into prison.
When this was reported back to the master, the master became enraged and severely punished the servant Matt 18:23-34.
Jesus showed us by the parable that it was important for Christians to forgive others simply because God had forgiven so much of our own sins.
We forgive because we have first been forgiven; ‘forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you’ (Eph 4:32).
B181 - Forgive as often as it happens
Matt 18:22; Luke 17:4; Luke 23:34; Eph 4:32; 1 Peter 3:9
How often must we forgive? Jesus said in Matt 18:22,
‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.’
In other words, all the time when we are being approached to forgive.
Jesus did not just say it; he acted on it on the cross when he said,
‘Father, forgive them (those who crucified him, including the High Priest, soldiers and people who mocked him), for they know not what they do’ (Luke 22:34).
So did Stephen even while he was dying from stoning. Stephen said,
‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them (those who stoned him)’ (Acts 7:60).
In recent times, we have the civil war in Rwanda as an example. In a 100-day period of 1994, almost one million Rwandans representing 70 percent of the Tutsi population, were killed by their rival tribe, the Hutu. In addition, sexual violence was rife and up to 500,000 women were raped during the genocide.
Today, Rwanda has two public holidays to mourn the genocide and denial or historic revisionism of the genocide is forbidden and considered a criminal offence.
Yet, Rwanda is a shining economy of Africa where both tribes have learned to live side-by-side.
President Kagame, a Tutsi no doubt and an instigator of forgiveness, shared his experience with the New Times, Rwanda’s Leading Daily:
“…a huge puzzle after the genocide was, how do you pursue justice when the crime is so great? You can’t lose one million people in one hundred days without an equal number of perpetrators. But we also can’t imprison an entire nation. So, forgiveness was the our only path forward. Survivors were asked to forgive and forget. The death penalty was abolished. We focused our justice on the organizers of the Genocide. Hundreds of thousands of perpetrators were rehabilitated and released back into the communities. These decisions were agonizing…”
When challenged by a Genocide Tutsi survivor why it was necessary to forgive, President Kagame replied,
“I am very sorry. I am asking too much of you. But I don’t know what to ask of the perpetrators. Only forgiveness can heal this nation. The burden rests with the survivors because they are the only ones with something to give.”
Rwanda’s Tutsi people responded with forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. Such stories can be witnessed on numerous heart wrenching and yet inspirational videos such as these:
- BBC Africa – ‘Why I forgave the man who killed my children’
- Rwandan Tutsi forgives, and
- Rwandan genocide attackers ask their victims for forgiveness.
The willingness to forgive even in the toughest of situations is a Christian trait.
B182 - Forgive even as we are forgiven by our heavenly Father
Matt 6:14-15; Mark 11:25; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13
Why do we forgive?
We forgive because we have been forgiven by our heavenly Father. We forgive because only then will our heavenly Father forgives us.
‘For if you forgive others their trepasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.’
‘Forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.’
We extend to the other person the same GRACE that God has extended to us. Remember, we are all broken in certain areas, and we need to accept that and help others who are broken too.
Jesus extended his grace to Peter when he promised to pray for him despite Jesus’ prediction that Peter would deny him in his greatest hour of needs (Luke 22:32, 54-61).
We forgive because we have first been forgiven.
B183 - Be thankful in our heart expressed outwardly in praises
Luke 17:15; Eph 5:4; Col 3:15; 1 Thes 5:18; Eph 5:19-20
In Luke 17, Jesus was passing along between Samaria and Galilee on the way to Jerusalem when he was met by ten lepers who asked for healing. Of the ten, only one leper, a Samaritan (a race hated by Jews because of historical past) returned to praise God with a loud voice.
1 Thes 5:18 says,
‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.’
Believers live lives of gratitude, always counting their blessings.
Because being grateful is the will of God. Being thankful also means we put our faith in God.
B184 - Praise God all the time (including tough times)
Be thankful even in bad times. Believers are people who do not just live for the good times because persecution for being associated with Christ has been assured by Jesus himself.
While Jesus was praising and reassuring his disciples that serving him would bring about great joy and benefits – like ‘a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands’, in the same sentence, he included ‘with persecutions’ (Mark 10:29-30) – See D138 to D146 Persecution, for more information.
Paul and Silas were in prison for the cause of Christ. But they rose to the occasion and praised God with hymns and spiritual songs, loud enough for other prisoners to hear (Acts 16:25). Paul explained in 2 Cor 1:3-4 that the comfort came from God.
Jesus assured us that the peace given would be different from that perceived by the world (John 14:27).
Praise God everywhere including bad times.
B185 - Pray the Lord's Prayer
‘And when you pray …. Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven …’
Jesus taught us to pray in the Lord’s prayer. Let us see what it means using the commentaries obtained from www.livinghour.org and www.beinspiredeveryday.com :
Our Father who art in heaven – It is ‘Our Father’ – Not mine. It is a personal relationship to the living God. God owns the heavens.
Hallowed be thy name – The name of God is to be honored and respected. It is not for us to use God’s name in vain.
Thy kingdom come – Christians are waiting for the coming of the everlasting kingdom. The message of Christ is that of our King and his kingdom.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven – It is not only ‘thy will be done’ but that it be done ‘on earth as it is in heaven’.
Give us this day our daily bread – By ‘bread’, we cover off all things needful including what are required for our souls and bodies. We cannot take for granted that which has been given to us.
And forgive us our trespasses – Like the tax collector whom Jesus mentioned, we humbly seek God to forgive our sins every time they are revealed.
As we forgive those who trespass against us – God forgives if we forgive others of their sins against us. This is critical.
And lead us not into temptation – John Wesley explained that the word ‘temptation’ is the Greek word, ‘peirasmos’ which can also mean trial and testing. Not many of us enjoy trials. So it is fair to ask God to lead us not into trials and testing and our prayers can be answered.
But deliver us from evil – The ruler of this world is still satan (D92, Satan/ King of this world). We can pray to God to deliver us from evil and we must walk away from evil.
For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever – It is a doxology, a prayer that ends with thanksgiving and an acknowledgement of the attributes and works of God.
‘Pray in this manner’ – and pray the Lord’s prayer.
B186 - Ask in prayer (for a greater cause)
James 4:3 says,
‘You do not have because you do not ask’.
Of course, in the next sentence, it says that we should not ask with wrong motives.
Jesus also taught us to ask and said,
‘Ask in my name and you will receive that your joy may be full’ (John 16:24).
God wants us to be joyful and hence has welcomed us to ask him. The GNT has translated ‘joyful’ to ‘happiness’.
The Greek word is chara or gladness, joy, and delight.
If Christ said ‘Ask’, then surely the mandate had been given to ‘ask in prayer’. Prayer changes things.
What do we ask for? B187 to B194, as well as B419 Prayer – provides us with some leads.
B187 - Pray for boldness to share the gospel
Acts 4:29; Eph 6:19; Col 4:4; 2 Thes 3:1;
‘Finally brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored.’
Repeatedly, whether it is in Col 4:4 or Eph 6:19, Paul requested for prayers so that the word ‘may be given to him in opening his mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel.’
B187 to B195 Prayer – talks about what we can pray for.
It is still the prayer of our generation. Pray for boldness to share the gospel of Jesus.
B188 - Pray for signs and wonders
Acts 4:29-30; Acts 9:41; Act 14:3; Acts 19:11; Acts 20:12; Acts 28:3; Mark 3:14; John 2:23; John 6:2
Acts 4:30 was a prayer of the believers even as John and Peter were released from prison. It continued with these words:
‘While you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. And when they had prayed …’
In Acts 4:23-31, the disciples prayed for supernatural signs to follow them in their evangelistic outreaches. And the Book of Acts is full of that and include:
- Peter raised Tabitha from the dead (Acts 9:36-41),
- Paul healed a man who was crippled at birth (Acts 14:10),
- Paul’s handkerchiefs or aprons were healing and casting out demons (Acts 19:12),
- Paul raised Eutychus from the dead (Acts 20:12),
- Paul was not killed by a viper which attached itself to his hand (Acts 28:5-6).
John 2:23 explains that
‘many believed in his (Jesus) name when they saw the signs that he was doing.’
Signs and wonders follow an apostle (2 Cor 12:12).
‘And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.’
Signs and wonders, as you can imagine, are powerful to draw people in for the Gospel.
While signs and wonders are not everyday events, they do happen.
In 2011, Craig Keener, a Professor of Biblical Studies in Asbury University in Kentucky, USA, as well as a well regarded author, published a book entitled, ‘Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts’. Keener had also provided us, stories relating to modern-day healing. However, being an academic, Keener had taken special interest in offering evidence and proofs to back up his writing.
One such incident involved Ed Wilkinson, who was trained in neuropsychology which is the study of the structure and function of the brain as they relate to specific psychological processes and behaviors.
Wilkerson was a doubter who felt that those seeking healing were doing so to use it as a neurosis to avoid dealing with reality. Everything changed in 1984 when his own son, Brad, was diagnosed with atrial septal defect, with two holes in the heart. The condition impaired his lungs and heart.
His pastor informed Wilkerson that a visiting minister was planning a healing service in their church. At the session, the minister, Wesley Steelberg invited those who wanted prayer for physical healing to go forward. Brad went forward to Steelberg asked him a simple question, ‘Do you believe that Jesus can heal you?’ Once Brad answered affirmatively, Steelberg offered a simple prayer.
The family did not, however, missed their surgical appointment as the hope of a miraculous healing had subsided. However, after about an hour of the scheduled six-hour surgery, the pediatric cardiac surgeon came out of the operating theater and summoned Wilkerson into a room where they displayed films posted on the wall taken the day before the surgery as well as those taken just before the surgery.
It was clear from the films that something had happened between the two days – Brad’s heart and lungs were now normal. The surgeon explained, ‘You can count this as a miracle’ and the hospital risk manager added, ‘You can see from the films that this was not a misdiagnosis.’
Today, Brad Wilkerson is alive and well, running a business and having children of his own.
Then, there is the amazing story of John Smith, the adopted son of Brian and Joyce Smith, who, when he was fourteen, slipped into an icy lake in Jan 2015 and was underwater for fifteen minutes before resuscitative efforts were started. With no pulse or breath for almost an hour, the attending physician Dr Sutterer suggested Joyce a chance to say her final goodbye.
Instead, a weeping Joyce cradled her son in her arms and pleaded with the Holy Spirit to not let John die, at which point, a faint pulse was registered. Attending doctors were not so positive and suspected that John would likely live out his life in a vegetative state.
Against all odds, John recovered and demonstrated his full cognitive ability. His inspirational story about the power of a desperate prayer has been made into a movie, Breakthrough, by 20th Century Fox.
God still works his miracles. Of course, we must pray for more signs and wonders so that the name of Jesus can be proclaimed powerfully.
B189 - Pray and be thankful for the food placed before us
This was Apostle Paul encouraged the sailors to eat after a really rough fortnight at sea but he started the proceeding by giving thanks to God for the provision of food.
‘And when he had said these things (of encouragement), he took bread and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat’ – Acts 27:35.
Jesus did the same in John 6:11 even as he was organizing a meal for a huge crowd of five thousand –
‘Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks.’
It is a heart of gratitude from us not to take every given meal for granted but to always thank God for his provision.
Hence, always pray and be thankful for the food placed before us.
B190 - Pray for a quiet and peaceful life
1 Tim 2:2; Phil 3:20; 1 Peter 2:11;
Believers are not a belligerent people. We do not yearn for warfare and political superiority. Our kingdom is not of this world; we are but pilgrims on earth (1 Peter 2:11, Phil 3:20).
1 Tim 2:2 says,
‘(Pray) for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.’
Hence, we pray for a quiet and peaceful life so that we can live in a dignified manner.
B191 - Pray for wellness and health
‘Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.’
This is also a typical greeting of people across the world. The Chinese has a similar greeting as well. It is a natural wish for goodness for the other person.
Pray for the well being of others.
B192 - Pray not to enter into temptation
Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40; Matt 26:40
At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asked his disciples,
‘Pray that you may not enter into temptation’ (Luke 22:40).
It was the same message in Matt 26:40 when he found his disciples sleeping just before his arrest.
What does ‘not enter into temptation’ mean?
Some situations are so tough – like the assignment that Jesus had to fulfill at the cross. Jesus did no harm and it was a political decision that resulted in him going to the cross. He could have gotten himself rescued but, for our sake, he chose the narrow road (Matt 26:53).
The Greek word is peirasmos or trial, probation, testing, calamity and affliction. The Lord’s prayer reads,
‘Lead us not into temptation’
but why so?
Many of us are like the Apostle Peter who promised the Lord that he would never betrayed Jesus. And we know how that went when the rooster crowed. Instead, the Lord’s counsel to us is to pray that we do not enter into temptation.
If we only require one driving test to get a result, why would we choose to take several driving tests in order to achieve the same result?
As believers, let us pray that we do not enter into temptation for some of them can be quite intense not only to us but possibly to our family too.
B193 - Pray for delivery from evil men
2 Thes 3:2 reads –
‘(Pray for us) that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men.’
It is not only trials and temptations that we can pray against. We can also pray to be delivered from ‘wicked people’.
In Christian ministries, we have to be wise and request from God to open doors while limit the impact of wicked people.
Prayer can change our circumstances.
B194 - Pray that our faith will not fail
‘I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.’
The Lord prayed for Peter because Jesus knew that at times we could fail.
We should pray for the same for ourselves, for our children, and for our friends because none of us can say for certain that our faith will remain as we all have weaknesses.
This prayer has become so critical when we see the number of next generation that are around us. Pray that our children’s faith may not fail.
Surely, we do not want them to be missing from heaven because we have been unfaithful in our prayers.
B195 - Pray for provision of (church) laborers
The Lord told his disciples,
‘Pray EARNESTLY to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’
The harvest is truly plentiful across the whole world. And there is much to be done to expand the kingdom of God. Hence, the prayer of Jesus is as appropriate now as it was back then.
Let us not only pray but if we, let us obey and go.
B421 - Pray to be kept from the evil one
In John 17:15, Jesus prayed to God the Father,
‘I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one.’
Jesus’ prayer is for Christians to remain on earth even if the going gets tough. Nonetheless, he prayed to the Father that Christians would be protected from the evil one (or Satan).
In Luke 22:32, Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. Apparently, Satan was also making his request to the Father to ‘sift each of you like wheat’ (Luke 22:31).
We should pray the same things for people that we love. See also D50, Jesus intercedes on our behalf to God.
B196 - Always give thanks when praying
B197 - Pray unceasingly
Luke 18:1-8; 1 Thes 5:17; Eph 6:18; 1 Tim 2:8; Rom 12:12b; Ph 4:6-7
‘Pray without ceasing.’
and Eph 6:18,
‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.’
Prayer is vital. Jesus said in Luke 18:1,
‘Man always ought to pray and never lose heart.’
He followed that with the story of a persistent widow who appealed relentlessly for justice from the judge so much so that the judge finally gave in to hear her case.
Prayer is so important that Apostle Paul asked we ‘pray without ceasing’. And when we run out of words, we can pray in the Spirit. The key thing is to pray unceasingly.
Keep praying and do not be anxious because while anxiety is natural, it is putting our faith in the wrong place.
Phil 4:6-7 reads,
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
In prayer, we find solace. And we can move God’s hands supernaturally and powerfully.
B198 - Pray and persist always
Matt 7:7-8; Luke 8:49; Luke 11:5-10; Luke 18:1-6;
Jesus shared the story of the persistent widow who went to a judge to plead her case; she ‘kept coming to him’ (Luke 18:3). It exhausted him and the judge concluded, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, i will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’
In Luke 8:50, Jesus reassured a man whose daughter had died with these words,
‘Do not fear; only believe and she will be well.’
In the Old Testament, Gen 32:22-32, we have the experience of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob and a man (whom we recognized later to be God), were engaged in a wrestle. But Jacob could not be overpowered. When the man sought to be realized, Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ (Gen 32:26).
Persistence in wrestling through prayer is a demonstration of our faith in the Lord. If we want God’s blessings, be bold and persist.
In difficult situations, persist and persevere in asking during prayers. Sometimes, it might take decades.
Never give up hope.
B199 - Pray for each other
The writer of Hebrews requested prayer in Heb 13:18,
‘Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things’
while in James 5:16, James simply said,
‘Pray for one another.’
And the Apostle Paul prayed for the various Gentile churches – Phil 1:3-4; Col 1:3; 1 Thes 1:2-3.
In his hour of greatest need, Jesus sought for the prayers of his disciples. In Matt 26:41, Jesus asked his disciples to ‘keep watch and pray’ with him.
We pray for each other.
B200 - Pray together and in agreement
Matt 18:19-21; Acts 1:14; Acts 2:1
‘Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.’
‘All these with ONE ACCORD were devoting themselves to prayer …’ – Acts 1:14.
There is power in praying together and in agreement.
Find a (few) prayer partner(s) and pray together. Unity is powerful.
B201 - Pray simply and truthfully
‘But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’
In Matt 6:6, Jesus asked his audience to
‘go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.’
What does it mean to us?
We are to pray simply, truthfully, and with all sincerity. We do not need bombastic words or dance around the court to impress or awake God because it does not bug God.
What matters is our humility and what is in our hearts.
B202 - Pray (always) in the Spirit
Rom 8:26-27; Eph 6:18; Jude 20
‘For we do not know what to pray for as we ought but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words’
and Eph 6:18,
‘Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.’
Someone once shared that praying in the Spirit strengthens our spirit-men.
Eph 6:18 says, ‘Praying at ALL TIMES in the Spirit’.
B203 - Pray explicitly
Mark 10:51; Luke 18:41; John 14:13; Acts 16:25;
In Mark 10:51, Jesus asked blind Bartimaeus, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Now, is not that obvious? Yet, why did Jesus ask? Jesus again asked the same question to a blind man near Jericho in Luke 18:41.
In John 14:13, Jesus said,
‘Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do that the Father may be glorified in the Son.’
God expects us to ASK HIM explicitly (that is, we must open our mouths and VERBALIZE what is in our hearts), not through our thoughts, even in obvious cases.
You get what you ask for; not only to ask but to persevere and even to travail.
B204 - Pray desperately (to get God's attention)
‘Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months, it did not rain on the earth.’
Jesus responded well to desperate cries. He heard the cries of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-48) even when others admonished him to keep quiet. Thankfully, Bartimaeus refused to listen.
He tested the degree of desperation with a racist remark (using a proverb to equate Samaritans as dogs) on a Canaanite woman to see her response regarding her demonically possessed daughter (Matt 15:27).
And he went to Zacchaeus’ house because Zacchaeus was desperate enough to climb a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:5).
In the Old Testament, a common theme is the importance of ‘crying out’ (appealing desperately) to the Lord. In Ex 3:7, the Lord said –
‘I have surely heard the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry …..’
We see the same importance of ‘crying out’ in Judges 3:9, Judges 6:6, and Judges 10:10. Every time the children of Israel repented and ‘cried out’ to the Lord, he acted on their behalf.
A desperate prayer and plea get the attention of God. Pray powerful heartfelt prayers.
B205 - Pray in Jesus' name
‘Whatever you ask in my name ….. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.’
Believers finish their prayers in Jesus’ name because the Lord promises us that if we do, He will do it.
How do Christians pray? In summary, Christians pray:
Christians pray – in the Spirit, in Jesus’ name, and in faith (B165 – Ask in prayer and in faith).
Christians pray – with other Christians, together, and in unity.
B206 - Ask prayers from righteous men
‘The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.’
It is reinforced by 1 Peter 3:12 which said that the Lord is open to the prayer of righteous people.
Hence, fellowship with righteous believers and seek them to pray for you.
B207 - Honor our wives for our prayers to be answered
‘Husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way …. So that your prayers may not be hindered.’
The Apostle Peter is saying that a man’s prayers may be hindered if a man fails to honor his wife.
B208 - Be aware that our prayers may have 'no' as an answer
‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.’
This was a prayer of Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane just before he went to the cross. Even Jesus had a prayer that God, the Father, did not answer.
Jesus knew the end goal but we believe he was struggling with the process.
The same went for Paul who had a
‘thorn in his flesh. Paul pleaded with God three times but was told to him that ‘My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness’ (2 Cor 12:9).
We have to balance the teaching regarding prayers because sometimes in the sovereignty of God, he may choose not to grant us our prayer request. But that does not mean that we cannot keep seeking.
One great story remains of David who had a child out of his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, wife of Uriah; David subsequently placed Uriah in a frontline battle so as to enhance the possibility of his death which did eventuate.
David’s child was pronounced a death sentence by God through the prophet Nathan but David chose to battle God in prayer (2 Sam 12:16). In the end, it was to no avail but it showed David’s heart as someone who knew how to plead with God.
In God’s will, we must take it as far as is humanly possible and yet be prepared for God to say ‘no’ to our prayers.
We will never have the complete picture on this side of heaven.
B209 - Pray early in the day (or just allocate time to pray)
Mark 1:35; Luke 6:12; Acts 3:1; Mark 6:49
‘Rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.’
Luke 6:12 says that just before he appointed his twelve disciples, he went out to the mountain and prayed throughout the night. In Acts 3:1, the disciples went to pray in the temple at 3 pm.
Jesus liked the pre-dawn time to pray. Others might yet spend the afternoon praying. Regardless, the important time is to allocate time to pray.
Time alone with God helps us to focus our attention on what is important.
B210 - Seek a private place to pray alone
Matt 6:5-7; Matt 14:23; Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46; Luke 4:42; Luke 5:16;
Mark 1:35 says that he ‘went out to a desolate place’ to pray.
In Matt 6:6, Jesus suggested praying in the privacy of a room while in Matt 14:23 and Mark 6:46, it was the mountain where he prayed.
When Jesus prayed alone, he prayed in isolation, away from distractions. He went to the ‘mountain’; one has to note that a ‘mountain’ in Israel is not exactly as we know it but more like a mount, a high place or you might say, a park, garden or even among the woods.
When praying, it is for us to seek a private place to pray alone.
B211 - Pray often and be steadfast
Luke 5:16; Luke 9:18; Rom 12:12
Rom 12:12, ‘Be constant in prayer.’ If we follow Jesus, we will realize that he prayed often. Whenever he could squeeze some time in his busy itinerary, he would pray.
Actually, it is amazing just to read the Gospel and be so inspired by Jesus that despite his busyness, he never neglected prayer. What does it tell us about ourselves?
Pray often and be steadfast. Pray in our cars, in the bathrooms, in the privacy of our rooms, or at a church.
B212 - Pray lifting up holy hands
B213 - Pray and fast
Matt 6:16-18; Mark 9:29; Acts 13:3, Acts 14:23; Luke 2:37
Jesus expected believers to fast.
In Matt 6:16, he said,
‘When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.’
In Luke 2:37, it mentioned about a prophetess, Anna, who was given an opportunity to live and proclaim the redemption of Jerusalem, she was known to have been in the temple ‘worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.’
In Mark 9:29, when confronted with an unclean spirit that his disciples could not cast out, he explained to them, ‘This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer and fasting’ although the Greek word is proseuche and is the same as prayer.
Acts 13:3 also showed that in important events, like in this case the calling out of Saul and Barnabas to go on a mission trip, the Antioch church fasted and prayed for them before laying their hands on them and sending them away.
Again, at every church, when the disciples were appointing elders, they did it with ‘prayer and fasting’ (Acts 14:23).
Fasting and prayer seem to operate symbiotically and without much fanfare. It can offer special breakthroughs.
Practice prayer with fasting.
See B250, Pray and fast and seek the Holy Spirit as well as B323, Fast and pray for healing.
B422 - Pray for discernment (for others)
Philippians 1:9, 1 John 4:1, John 16:13, Hebrews 5:14, John 14:16-18
Philippians 1:9 – ‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.’
1 John 4:1 reads, ‘Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.’
Finally, John 16:13 says, ‘When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’Spiritual discernment is extremely important for Christians, especially in this time of many voices. So important that the Bible says we should desire it. Yearn for it. Pray for more.What is ‘Spiritual Discernment’?It is the ability to analyze, understand, and judge from an enlightened perspective what is and is not from God.Because the Lord knew how confused we can get when we’re inundated with things and teachings not from God in the course of our every day, He had sent the Holy Spirit to enable us to distinguish the difference.When the Holy Spirit empowers us with proper discernment, He pulls back the curtains, exposes lies. And when worldly truth masquerading as God’s truth is uncovered, it is hideous to those who practice discernment lead by the Spirit.In modern vernacular, the Holy Spirit is our spiritual search engine. Our supernatural google. Because our own judgement isn’t trustworthy, we must tap into His database of truth versus clever lies in order to practice good and proper spiritual discernment.Please also see B373 – Test every spirit (heresies) for more information.– Modified from Lin Landrum’s Facebook posting in ‘Christian Support & Bible Discussion‘ on 22 Jan 2022.
B423 - Pray for wisdom/ understanding/ revelation (for others)
James 1:5 says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him up.’
Similarly, Ephesians 1:8 reads, ‘which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight’, and in v 17, it says, ‘that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom, and of revelation in the knowledge of him.’
As we progress over time, we realize that some of our brothers and sisters (or even our own children) may have stopped going to church or associating themselves with other Christians. Life is a marathon and not a sprint and it is such times that we are to remind ourselves to pray for them.
What can we do? Do we intervene? Or do we pray for them?
In these verses of James and Ephesians, both Paul and James prayed for revelation, wisdom, and understanding for their fellow believers.
We all require revelation, wisdom, and understanding to stay the course as Christians. Revelation can only take place by the Holy Spirit because it involves the heart and it is beyond a mental solution.
B214 - Act as an ambassador for Christ
In 2 Cor 5:20, believers are called ‘ambassadors for Christ’. As ambassadors, we are our country’s exemplary representative in the foreign land.
We do not belong to this world; we are, like our forefathers as described in Heb 11:13, just pilgrims. Jesus was really an ‘ambassador’ for the Father, howbeit bearing the highest credential as that of the only son of the Father.
Jesus, however, gave specific instructions to his disciple-ambassadors.
‘Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town’ – Matt 10:9-14.
Jesus’ guideline to his ambassadors was to travel light, live a simple life, and spread the good news.
As ambassadors, we are to go and share the Gospel to places where we are welcomed.
B215 - Do the work of an evangelist; the 'fields are ripe for harvest'
‘Lift up your eyes and see that the fields are white for harvest.’
In Matt 9:37-38, it extrapolates,
‘The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few; therefore, pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’
There are lots to be done in reaching out the world for the Lord. Christian workers are effectively going into ‘enemy territory’ to pluck people out of the world as we are considered by the world to be ‘aliens’ (D177 – When we become Christians, we become aliens to the world).
To reach out to others may require us to get out of our comfort zones. Most of us are perhaps too comfortable to do so. But there are many means to engage non-believers.
There is without doubt an even greater urgency to reach out to others for the Lord as we move towards his second coming.
See also B195, Pray for provision of (church) laborers.
Perhaps this short note might trigger new ideas to reach others for Jesus?
B216 - Be driven by compassion for souls
Matt 14:14; Matt 15:32; Mark 6:34
‘When he went ashore, he saw a large crowd, and felt compassion for them and healed their sick’ and
‘I feel compassion for the people because they have remained with me now three days and have nothing to eat.’
Why did Jesus reached out to us? It is always about compassion (agape – godly love); the sort of love that is selfless, sacrificial, and unconditional.
Reaching out to others is not a job but a calling of love. How do we look at people in a crowd? Can we feel the love that Jesus would have for them?
B217 - Be a peacemaker
Matt 5:9; John 5:14; John 8:2-11
In the Beatitudes, we are reminded by our Lord that we are ‘peacemakers’ (Matt 5:9).
At the Mount of Olives when Jesus defused the situation involving an adulteress caught in the act, his final advice to the woman was
‘Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more’ (John 8:11).
Jesus never condemned. Neither should we. Condemnation comes from the devil and Pharisees.
Jesus’ counsel to sinners had always been the same,
‘Go (and from now on), sin no more.’
Any sinner is welcome into church because that is what a church is for. But after knowing the Lord, our counsel should be the same,
‘From now on, sin no more.’
We should never expect people to start off as ‘ideal’ church goers when they arrive at a church. Believers should be reminded to be wary of having the wrong attitude.
B218 - Be not ashamed of the Gospel
1 Thes 2:2; 2 Tim 1:12; 2 Tim 4:2; Acts 4:13; Luke 9:26; Mark 8:38
In 2 Tim 1:12, Paul declared,
‘But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me.’
We are not to be ashamed of the fact that we are Christians when meeting up with other people. In fact, the Apostle Peter and John were bold when they declared Jesus (Acts 4:13).
Jesus gave a more ominous warning when he said,
‘For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory (that is, his second coming), and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’ – Luke 9:26.
Hence, do not be ashamed of the Gospel but go out and share.
B219 - Share our testimonies
Luke 8:39; Acts 7; Acts 26; Rev 12:11
Jesus had just healed a person of demons. The man wanted to follow him. Instead, Jesus told him to go back to his family and tell them everything God had done for him (Luke 8:39).
Rev 12:11 shares that believers overcome the evil ones through the ‘blood of the lamb and the testimonies of the saints.’
And in both Acts 7 and 26, it showed that both Stephen and Paul openly testified of their faith.
Our testimonies are powerful.
Consider Paul’s defence in front of King Agrippa to learn how he used his testimony to influence King Agrippa. Here are the steps:
- Paul started by acknowledging King Agrippa (Acts 26:2-3),
- Paul went on to share who he was before his conversion (Acts 26:4-11),
- Paul proceeded to explain what happened to him and how he became a Christian (Acts 26:12-23),
- Paul completed the cycle with an invitation to King Agrippa to join him (Acts 26:27).
People love stories and none more so than our own stories on how we became Christians. We can start by preparing our own testimony.
Always be thankful and be prepared to share the goodness of God to each of us.
B220 - Use stories
Jesus used a lot of stories (or parables) to get his messages across in a simple manner. Mark 4:2 says,
‘He was teaching them many things in parables and in his teaching.’
Jesus was a master teacher and utilized stories extensively. People love a good story.
We do probably require some degree of training and natural inclination to tell parables but the easiest story that we have is probably our own testimonies.
B221 - Be ready at all times
B222 - Witness to everyone
‘Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.’
The mandate for Christians is to witness to everyone in the world.
With B221, Be ready at all times – it implies witnessing to anyone at anytime that has been presented to us and who are prepared to hear our testimonies.
B223 - Invite people to just 'come and see'
In John 1:45, it shared the moment when Philip invited Nathanael to meet Jesus. Then, there was the time when Andrew invited Simon Peter to come and see when he said, ‘We have found the Messiah’ in John 1:41.
Not all of us are adept in sharing the Gospel but one way that we can do is to invite others to evangelistic outreaches when a preacher can put the message of Christ across in a more succinct and relatable manner.
Invite others to ‘come and see’ for themselves.
B224 - Preach repentance and move in the supernatural
Mark 6:13; Matt 10:7-10; Acts 5:15-16; Acts 8:6-7, 13; Acts 9:32-34, 40-41; Acts 19:11-17; Acts 28:4-6; 1 Cor 12:9;
‘And they cast out many demons and anointed with oil many who were sick and healed them.’
Jesus sent out his disciples and they were able to perform the same supernatural acts of healing and demon-casting. Meanwhile, we find copious demonstrations of God’s miracles among early Christians in the Book of Acts..
In Acts 5:15-16, while in Jerusalem, the hotbed of Jesus’ crucifixion, even the shadow of the Apostle Peter could result in healing. In Acts 8:6, Philip, not one of the disciples, could exercise healing on the lame and paralyzed. In Acts 9:34, Peter healed a man who had been bedridden for eight years.
In recent times, we see the works of an 81 year old evangelist Gim Hock Thio, a Singaporean CEO of a real estate company. Thio was imparted the gift of healing by the hands of the late Reinhard Bonnke, the great German evangelist.
Subsequently, Thio held his first rally in India where on the first night, a boy with polio was healed miraculously. Word got around and the crowd swelled from 3,000 on the previous night to 20,000 during the second night. Miracles continued to follow Thio as he ministers in countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, and Russia (Siberian).
Miracles still exist and the impact of supernatural healing can be a most powerful companion for evangelism.
It involves prayer and seeking the Lord in order for Christians to move in the supernatural. Evangelists must preach repentance and move in the supernatural. Please also reflect on B188, Pray for signs and wonders.
B225 - Move on if we are rejected
Matt 10:14; Luke 9:5; Luke 10:10
In Matt 10:14, Jesus told his disciples when doing evangelism,
‘If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake the dust from your feet as you leave.’
The same was his instruction in Luke 9:5, and Luke 10:10.
Effectively, his disciples were his ambassadors. If his ambassadors were not welcomed, they were to move on and go to another place that welcomed them (NB: It was not just a person, it was an entire town). We are not to waste our time around toxic situations; Jesus did not (Mark 5:17).
If our sharing is rejected (and/ or the demonstration of healing and casting out of demons), we should go to the next town or person.
In fact, to reject God’s truth as an entire town/ city did during the days of Jesus, can result in severe judgement for the town/ city.
Luke 10:12 says,
‘I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.’
B226 - Adjust culturally to win souls
‘For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jews, in order to win Jews. To those under the law, I became as one under the law that I might win those under the law. ….. To the weak, I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.’
Paul adapted in order to win people for the Gospel.
Hence, he was quite upset in Gal 2 when the Apostle Peter started separating himself at the Galatia church when the Jews arrived so much so that he recorded his thoughts in his epistle (Gal 2:11-14).
It is not easy to adjust culturally. For example, many churches offer a monolingual service even though the environment has become more multilingual. The potential to win souls by adding just another service with a different language (or even just by offering translation services) is often overlooked in order to stay in a comfortable space for their current attendees.
To all believers, Paul would say
‘Be prepared to adjust culturally in order to win souls.’
B227 - Go and seek out lost souls
Matt 18:10-14 shares a parable about a man going out to find one single lost sheep among his herd of one hundred. The man left the ninety-nine and ventured afar in order to seek out the ‘one that went astray.’
In the same way, believers might have to go to far out places to seek the lost sheep of Jesus.
How prepared are we to leave our comfort zone for the purposes of winning souls?
See also B226, Adjust culturally to win souls.
B228 - Teach new converts to observe the things of the Bible
Matt 28:19 tells us to
‘Make disciples of all nations’.
In 2 Tim 2:2, Paul explained to Timothy,
‘What you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.’
Both verses are about discipleship.
Discipleship is a vital piece of glue for Christians and it is an under-emphasized and lost art.
Jesus was the best disciple-maker; he had twelve disciples minus one who betrayed him; later, in the Book of Acts, another person, Matthias, took the place of Judas Ischariot and was recognized as one of the twelve (Acts 1:26).
Jesus spent three and a half years with them. Through them, he built Christianity to what it is today. Out of his twelve disciples, based on church tradition and historical records, eleven of them gave up their lives for advancing the Gospel while the twelfth, the Apostle John, only survived because he somehow could not die despite being boiled alive.
Amazingly, Jesus never asked us to plant churches. Rather, his mandate was to make disciples and to ‘teach them to observe the things of the Bible.’
How did Jesus disciple them? Consider this limited list below and add your own:
- He spent time with them as one of them (They gave up everything to follow him),
- He taught them (The Lord’s Prayer, Forgiveness, Don’t be like the Pharisees),
- He modeled relevant behaviors (Compassion, Servanthood, Prayer, Commitment, Self-Control),
- He challenged them (He got Peter to walk on water),
- He gave them hands-on, practical assignments by sending them out two-by-two (Luke 9:3, Luke 10:3).
For people who have been given the joy of parenthood, perhaps the best place to start discipling is at home beginning with our children. For others who are older in the faith, it might be refreshing to ask ourselves how we can fulfill the Great Commission.
The Gosinnomore’s website is also intended to teach believers (old and new) how to ‘observe the things of the Bible.’
B229 - Be prepared for affliction in sharing the gospel
In 2 Tim 4:5, the Apostle Paul advised Timothy to ‘be sober minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.’
Many evangelists suffer because of their pioneering work among unreached people. We can think no further than all the disciples who went to strange countries and were killed for their role.
Closer to our days, in 1999, the Australian Graham Staines and his two young sons were killed in India while the family was doing outreach in a group of remote villages.
All of us are called to do the work of evangelists but there will be some who have a calling to be evangelists in tough places. For those who know, Paul’s words are still the same, ‘Fulfill your ministry.’
We cannot help but speak of the goodness of God because God has been good to us. It flows naturally from our spirit to reach out.
Hence, be prepared for affliction that may come our way even as we reach out.
B230 - Work in pairs (generally) when doing outreach
Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1, Acts 15:39-40
Throughout the Bible, Jesus always encouraged his disciples to go out in pairs when doing ministry.
In Mark 6:7, he commissioned them
‘two by two and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.’
Same in Luke 10:1. Even in the Book of Acts, they went out in pairs like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15).
Maybe that is why Christians are encouraged to pray as a pair. Matt 18:19 says,
‘Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.’
Christians generally do not operate alone. In evangelistic work, the suggested mode of operation is a pair; of course, there are exceptions like the case of Philip the evangelist (Acts 8:5). Christians are not hermits.
Jesus discipled a group, and sent his disciples into the community as pairs when they went to do outreach.
B420 - Befriend and love the 'outcasts'
Matt 9:9-13; Mark 1:40-45; Mark 2:13-17; Luke 5:25-32; Luke 10:25-37; Luke 14:13-14; John 4:27;
‘Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick.’
Hence, Jesus associated himself with many who were considered outcast in his days – tax collectors and sinners.
He did not ignore a leper (someone who is sick and in need of help) – Mark 1:40-45. He spoke about the story of the good Samaritan who went to help a total stranger (Luke 10:30-37).
He traveled in an entourage. Yet, he would get down to the lowest sinners and reach out to them; he went to the house of Zacchaeus, a chief tax-collector at Jericho, and probably considered a hated figure in the Jewish community (Luke 19:1-10).
When it came to evangelism, Jesus went to the outcasts; those whom the religious people would not touch.
What does it tell us about ourselves? How can we befriend and love the ‘outcasts’?
No one is beyond his reach.
B231- Forsake all to follow Jesus
Luke 14:25-33; Luke 18:18-29; Matt 10:37-38; Matt 19:21
The cost of true discipleship is heavy. The love for our Lord should be so extreme that it would be likened to hating our own father and mother and wife and children …. (Luke 14:26). In the words of the GNT,
‘unless they love me more than the love (their) father and mother, wife and children ….’
Jesus carried on in Luke 18:29 when he said,
‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive many times more in this time and in the age to come eternal life.’
It even sounds unreasonable by Christian standards to be prepared to walk away from the family to do that which God calls. But that is exactly what Jesus said.
To love God 100% is to be prepared to forsake everything else to follow him; in other words, we must be ready even to go against the words of our closest family members if they do not align with that coming from God.
In fact, many of his initial disciples found Jesus’ teaching too challenging and were offended; some even left him.
When Jesus asked Simon Peter, whether he was thinking of leaving him too, Peter replied,
‘Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God’ (John 6:68).
Forsake all others and follow Jesus. It is one of total surrender.
B232 - Hunger for God
Matt 14:13; Mark 7:27-29; Mark 10:51; Luke 8:49; Luke 18:37-43; Luke 24:28-29; Matt 9:27; Matt 15:27; Matt 20:31; Phil 3:9-10
In Matt 14:13, Jesus went to a desolate place to rest. Yet, the crowd, when they heard where he was, followed him on foot. They were hungry.
In Mark 7:24, Jesus was approached by a Syrophoenician woman who wanted Jesus to cast out a demon from her daughter. Jesus’ reply could be interpreted as racist when he said,
‘Let the children be fed first (that is the Jews), for it is not right to take the children’s bread and thrown it to the dogs (that is, to the non-Jews).’
He equated Syrophoenicians to dogs.
It might have been acceptable conversation during those days but those were strong words. Astonishingly, the woman responded,
‘Yes Lord, yet even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’
She chose to ignore the racist’s remark but focused on her desperate need for her daughter to be freed. She chose faith because she was hungry for release. And for that, Jesus healed her daughter.
Jesus responded well to desperate cries. He heard the cries of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:47-48) even when others admonished him to keep quiet. Thankfully, Bartimaeus refused to listen.
And he went to Zacchaeus’ house because Zacchaeus was desperate enough to climb a sycamore tree just to get a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:5).
Jesus loved people who were hungry for him, who were prepared to forgo racial differences and who desperately cried out to him. With those people, Jesus would respond.
Jesus always gives us the freedom to choose but those who hunger and cry out after him desperately, he will not pass them by.
Our heart’s condition determines the Lord’s responses to us.
B233 - Seek God's glory
John 5:44; John 7:17-18; Luke 9:46-48; 1 Cor 1:31; 1 Cor 3:19-21
‘How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?’
‘The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true and in him there is no falsehood.’
We struggle with is ‘self-glorification’; we seek our own glory. In fact, many of us find a job with a great job title in order to define who we are. Without one, we are lost.
How often do we enjoy praises? People-oriented persons may be more vulnerable to such praises more than others but all of us love to be loved. It is inherent in us to seek recognition from our peers. That is why we have awards being given out in organizations and t even in churches.
Men’s adulation can only be valid for a certain period – on earth; God’s adulation endures forever. In order to seek God’s honor, sometimes we must be prepared to go against the world’s common standards.
Jesus said that ‘he who is least among you all is the one who is great’ (Luke 9:48) and in 1 Cor 1:31, it says, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
As believers, our goal is not self-glorification. If we should glory, let us glory in the Lord.
‘We’ is not important.
B234 - Seek for the knowledge of God's will (perfection)
Matt 6:33; Matt 7:21-27; Matt 12:50; Matt 19:21; Mark 3:35; Mark 14:36; Luke 8:21; Luke 12:47; Luke 17:10; Luke 22:42; John 4:34; John 5:30; John 6:40; 1 Cor 3:12-14; Eph 5:17; Col 1:9; 1 Peter 4:1-3; 1 John 2:17;
‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you’ (Matt 6:33).
In Col 1:9, Paul prayed that the Colossians’ Christians would
‘be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.’
In 1 Peter 4:2, Peter said that it was important not to live ‘for human passions but for the will of God’ while in 1 John 2:17, John said ‘whoever does the will of God abides forever.’
In Matt 7:21, Jesus made it more stringent by saying, ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.’ At another time, Jesus told his disciples, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work’ – (John 4:34).
Jesus clarified that doing the will of the Father is the call for every Christian.
In John 6:40, Jesus himself expanded what the will of the Father was;
‘This is the will of the Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.’
The generic will of the Father is to accept his Son.
When we were saved, our generic salvation prayer echoed the sentiments of inviting Jesus into our lives. But it should really be one where we surrender our lives totally to him. The true gospel simply says Jesus died so that he could give it all back to us and now we must die (to ourselves and our will) so that we can give it all for him. It is, in essence, the call of Jesus to die to self as seen in Matt 16:24 –
‘Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him DENY HIMSELF, and TAKE UP THE CROSS, and FOLLOW ME.”‘
John 12:24 says,
‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.’
On a daily and ongoing basis, ‘he (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).
In 1 Cor 3:10-15, the Apostle Paul explained what happens on judgment day:
‘If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved but only as through fire.’
Our works on earth will be subject to fire.
John the Baptist knew his calling as seen in John 1:23. But, even so, toward the end of his life, he was probably still struggling to come to grip as to whether he had completed his designated task, that of preparing the way for the arrival of Jesus. That was the reason why he sent his disciples to search out Jesus (Luke 7:22).
Let us summarize:
- The generic will of God begins when we believe in Jesus (John 6:40; 1 Cor 3:15),Following that, we are to stop our sinful ways (John 8:11) and ‘produce fruit worthy of our repentance’ (Matt 12:33, John 15:16); of course, if we do sin, we can return to God again (Matt 18:22).
- Each of us has our place in God’s plan (Col 1:9; Eph 5:15-17),
- Believers who want to be perfect, will search out God’s plans for them even as we live out our lives (Matt 7:21; Matt 12:50; 1 Peter 4:2).
- Our talents have been given to us to fulfill his plans (Matt 25:14-30); discovering our talents is an important part of our journey,
- In order to follow the ‘perfect’ will of God, we must be prepared to surrender our lives for the kingdom. It is about dying to self and being alive to him (John 12:24),
- Our ‘rewards’ at the end of life is based on how we have used our talents to fulfil the plans he has for us (1 Cor 3:11-15),
The perfect will of the Father is to seek out God’s plan for each of us through forsaking one’s own agenda and following after his direction on a daily basis.
B235 - Stay focus on our calling (do not be distracted)
Matt 6:19; Matt 8:22; Mark 8:35-36; Mark 10:28; Luke 5:27-32; Luke 9:57-62, 39-40; Luke 12:37; John 21:21;
In Matt 8:22, Jesus said,
‘Follow me and leave the dead to bury their own dead’.
In Mark 8:34, Jesus spelled out the cost of following him,
‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me …’
and in Mark 10:29, Jesus praised his disciples who
‘left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, brothers, and sisters, and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’
In Luke 9:52, Jesus said,
‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God.’
Jesus’ disciples left everything. Peter was lauded above but so was Levi in Luke 5:28.
Later, after the resurrection, when Jesus was with John and Peter, Peter got curious and asked Jesus what was John going to do to which Jesus replied, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me’ (John 2:22).
Effectively, Jesus was saying to Peter, ‘Don’t be a busybody and worry about others. You just stay focus on that which I have called you to do.’
Following Jesus can be demanding. It may require an intense focus and perseverance on our part.
‘Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper.’
How true is that statement.
The discipline is to stay focused (and not be distracted) on that which we are called to do; we have to be as determined as Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor, who spent fifteen years until his death, curving out the faces of four US Presidents on Mt Rushmore.
It was the same discipline that allowed Nehemiah to complete building the wall of Jerusalem in fifty-two days (Neh 6:15) despite the taunting and challenges directed at him by his enemies.
We must stay focus on our calling.
B236 - Labor for that which endures forever
Luke 12:31; John 6:27; Heb 10:36; Matt 13:43-46
The words of Jesus in Luke 12:31 says,
‘Seek his kingdom and these things will be added to you’
while John 6:27 reads,
‘Do not work for the food that perishes but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.’
The writer of Hebrews encourages us to ‘endure’ even as we go about fulfilling the will of God (Heb 10:36).
Fervent disciples ‘labor for that which endures forever’, the most important word being ‘forever’.
Be inspired by The Rope Illustration.
B237 - Exercise towards godliness/ holiness
In 1 Tim 4:7, Paul explained, ‘Train yourself for godliness’ and in Titus 2:12, it says we ought to live ‘godly lives in the present age.’
The Greek word, ‘godliness’ is eusebeia or piety towards God or a life devoted to God.
Yes, indeed it is ‘a life devoted to God’. It is the same as found in the word ‘holy’ as in 1 Peter 1:15 and Heb 12:14. 1 Peter 1:15 says, ‘You also be holy in all your conduct.’
The Greek word is hagios or ‘set apart for God’. It can also be translated as ‘consecrated.’
It is true that most of us are far from perfect but Jesus never dropped his standard. He said in Matt 5:48 (NLT) that we ‘are to be perfect even as (our) Father in heaven is perfect.’
B238 - Reach perfection by following the clear voice of God
‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven and come, follow me.’
That was a rhema word to the rich, young ruler. That was perfection.
The disciples were ‘perfect’ because, as Peter said,
‘We have left everything and followed you’ (Matt 19:27).
If we want to be perfect, then we have to follow the clear voice of God.
See also B234, Seek for the knowledge of God’s will and to do it.
B239 - Set boundaries
Matt 5:29-30 says,
‘If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.’
What Jesus proposed are extreme measures but the principle of boundaries applies. If we drink alcohol excessively, then we have to avoid opportunities when we may be tempted, like binge parties or even the nearby liquor stores. We might even have to ditch some friends.
If we are tempted by pornography, then we should put in place a web protector to act as our first line of defense. There are other internet options to consider in order to protect both ourselves and our family against the dangers of easily accessed pornographic materials. We can place our computers in the family room so that everyone in the family can see what we are accessing on the computers.
Whatever it is, we have to understand that at times, we might need to take extreme initiatives and we are living in dangerous times when the devil is playing with our minds when information and images are freely accessible.
To follow Jesus as a disciple, we have to be strict with ourselves and set boundaries.
NB: There will be times when we fall. That is when we need to repent and return to the Lord. Look under the section, ‘Forgiveness‘, found in B179 to B182.
B240 - Meditate on good things
Phil 4:8 says,
‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’
Most versions use the word, ‘think about’.
Before we take any action, we have to spend time ‘thinking about’ things. That ‘thinking about’ phase is a critical step if we want to contain our actions.
Hence, meditate on good things. Input right thoughts into our minds.
B241 - Disciple others
In John 21:15-19, Jesus reminded Peter to feed his lambs, tend his sheep, and finally, feed his sheep. The Greek word, ‘tend’ is poimaino or ‘tend’, ‘herd’, ‘govern’ while the word, ‘feed’ is booke or ‘feed’, ‘pasture’.
Jesus wanted Peter to firstly feed his lambs or the little ones; those new to the faith, and then to ‘tend’ and ‘feed’ his sheep.
Discipleship requires us to get involved in strengthening the flock of Jesus through either teaching those new to the faith or herding them in the right direction. It is a very important role.
Believers are not called to be just leaders. Rather, believers are called to be disciple-makers. Christians do not recruit members. Christians go about making disciples of Jesus Christ.
Everywhere that Paul went, he was mindful of discipling. In Acts 14:22, when Paul recovered from being stoned by a crowd in Lystra, he went back to the various cities to ‘strengthen the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith.’
Discipling was the matter chosen by Jesus to deliver his message to the world. See B228, Evangelism – Develop others and pass on the role of discipling, for more information.
We must shepherd and strengthen the flock of Jesus Christ through discipling.
B242 - Do not engage in actions that might stumble a new or non-believer
1 Cor 10:31-33; Rom 14:14-15, 21-23; 1 Cor 8:8-13; Acts 16:3
Rom 14:14-15 says,
‘I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean is unclean in itself but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died’
and Paul concluded in v21 that
‘it is good not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that causes your brother to stumble.’
The guideline from early disciples is not to engage in behavioral actions that might stumble a new believer or a non-believer. Paul related in the Book of Romans regarding food and how he would rather not eat it if another brother was not comfortable about it.
In 1 Cor 8, Paul explained why he did not eat certain food when it was suspected to have been offered to idols so as not to stumble another believer. To him, it was a non-issue but he did not want that to be a hindrance in ministering Christ to these people.
In another incident, Paul chose to circumcise Timothy, who was part Jews because of his mother, in order not to cause controversies among the Jewish congregation (Acts 16:3).
Paul’s choice provided believers with a model of behavior on how to handle cultural and religious sensitive issues relating to Christians who might have slightly unusual non-critical practices.
B243 - Do not argue over non-essential doctrines (what to eat/ when to worship)
Rom 14; Acts 15; Col 2:16-23; Titus 3:9
Throughout the early church years, there had been contentious issues that needed resolution. Some of these non-essentials include the following:
- Food – what is acceptable (Rom 14:2, Col 2:16),
- Day of the week – which day is more important than another (Rom 14:5-6) – Is the Sabbath more important than other days?,
- Circumcision (Acts 15:5),
- Celebration of certain festivals like new moon or Sabbaths (Col 2:16-17),
- Discussion about Moses’ Law (Titus 3:9).
The counsel from Paul is not to argue over these which he considered as ‘non-essentials’ or ‘minor issues’ although they may have the ‘appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion’ (Col 2:23).
Jesus, for example, challenged the notion of the Sabbath as defined by men of those days as a ‘no-no’ day. Instead, on the Sabbath, he would heal and teach openly (Mark 6:2, Luke 4:16, Luke 13:10).
The Pharisees and Sadducees chose to allow a person to suffer rather than violate their traditions of no work on the Sabbath. They were more interested in meeting the law than in showing compassion on their fellow-men. They would show compassion to an animal and leave a man to suffer (Matt 12:10-12).
Christians must major in the majors, for example, the foundation truths as found in Heb 6:1-2.
In Phil 3:10, Paul reiterated the essentials as that of
- know Christ,
- experience the resurrection power of Christ, and
- suffer with him, and share in his death.
B244 - Be sensitive to the Holy Spirit
Acts 16:6; Acts 19:21; Acts 21:4-9, Acts 27:9-37;
‘Next Paul and Silas traveled through the area of Phrygia and Galatia, because the Holy Spirit had prevented them from preaching the word in the province of Asia at that time.’
In Acts 19:21, it says, ‘Afterward Paul felt compelled by the Spirit to go over to Macedonia and Achaia before going to Jerusalem.’ The Greek word for ‘compelled’ is tithemi or fix, establish, set.
Parallel translations use the phrase, ‘resolved in the Spirit’ (ESV) or ‘purposed in the Spirit’ (NASB). The original Greek had the word ‘Spirit’.
Throughout Paul’s missionary journeys, he was guided by the Holy Spirit in deciding where he should proceed. In Acts 16:6, Paul went to Galatia because of a closed door to Asia.
In walking with the Lord, we have to sense the direction given by the Holy Spirit when making decisions. When it comes to major decisions, we must seek God.
It is important to walk close to the Lord to be open to his direction and be guided by our sensing of the Holy Spirit.
B245 - Be alert to dreams, trance, and visions from God
Matt 1:20, Matt 2:12-22; Acts 9:10-17; Acts 10; Acts 16:9; Acts 18:9-10; Acts 22:17; Acts 23:11; Acts 27:23;
The Gospel started with the announcement of the birth of Jesus by the angel Gabriel to a virgin named Mary in Nazareth (Luke 1:26). In Matt 1:20, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to instruct him to take Mary as his betrothed despite the fact that she was pregnant.
In the case of the wise men who visited baby Jesus, they were also warned in a dream not to return to Herod (Matt 2:12) while for Ananias, who was called to lay hands on the then Saul for his healing, he was approached in a vision by none other than the Lord himself (Acts 9:10).
Repeatedly, you sense the Lord appearing in supernatural elements. We know from reading that the Lord had appeared to Muslims through dreams. As believers, we are stronger for the experience when we hear from God directly rather than to know a theoretical Jesus.
It is consistent with the two Greek word for ‘word’ – Logos and Rhema where
- Logos is the written word of God (that is, the Bible), and
- Rhema is the spoken word of God (through the Holy Spirit’s direction).
As believers, do not despise or belittle the non-rational (Rhema) but be alert to dreams, trance, and visions from God.
B246 - Hear God's non-logic voice but follow logical actions
The Apostle Paul had a supernatural encounter with the Lord while he was in jail in Jerusalem indicating that he would be in Rome to be Jesus’ witness (Acts 23:11). Yet, the next morning, when he realized through his nephew that there was a group of Jews determined to kill him, he did not sit around and expected a supernatural intervention but chose the logical way of informing the commander of the Roman guards.
We might have a supernatural word but it does not mean that we ignore the logical way in resolving our issues.
We can apply this truth, for example, in a health scenario.
We may hear God supernaturally about a healing but there is no reason why we cannot follow logical actions in seeing a doctor or getting an operation.
Here is a nice story to follow on:
A believer was caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed up to the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a kayak and shouted out to him, “Hop in and join me.”
The believer replied, “No thanks, I have prayed to God and he will save me.”
A short while later, the police came in a boat. “The water will soon be above your house. Come and let us go now,” said the police.
The believer replied, “No thanks, I have prayed to God and he will save me.”
Yet a little while later, a rescue helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder. The rescuer shouted, “The water is still rising. Come quickly and climb up the ladder. We will fly you out of here.”
The believer replied, “No thanks, I have prayed to God and he will save me.”
All this time, the water kept rising. Eventually, the man drowned and went to heaven. When he arrived, he sought an audience with God – “Lord, did I not pray to you to save me. Why didn’t you show up?”
The Lord replied, “Yes, I did. I came in a kayak, a boat and a helicopter. But you did not want to use any of them.”
Sometimes, the answer is in the natural too.
B247 - Take practical steps
Jesus may perform miraculous miracles like raising someone from the dead or healing a blind man. Nonetheless, when it comes to daily affairs, Jesus was practical and real.
In Mark 3:9, Jesus was concerned that he would be crushed. Hence, he asked his disciples to have a boat ready for him.
In Mark 5:43, after he had resurrected a young twelve years old girl, he ‘told them to give her something to eat.’
If Jesus was practical, what does it tell us about ourselves?
In the Old Testament, as Nehemiah was building the wall of Jerusalem, he was being confronted by the enemies of the Jews, Sanballat and Tobiah.
Neh 4:9 reads,
‘But we prayed to our God and guarded the city day and night to protect ourselves.’
Nehemiah prayed and stood on guard.
In everything that we do, even in evangelistic outreaches, it is normal and perfectly fine to follow logical actions even as we hold beliefs in the supernatural intervention from God.
B248 - Cast lots
In Acts 1:23-26, following the demise of Judas Ischariot, the disciples felt it was necessary to nominate another person to take his place. Two names were put forward and lots were cast with it. As a result, Matthias was chosen to take the place of Judas.
The disciples cast lots.
Many churches would find that despicable as casting lots is non-logical. But it is in the Bible and you will find more than a few occasions when lots were cast in the Old Testament. Consider the sailors on Jonah’s ship (Jonah 1:7) who cast lots to determine who had brought about the storm that created havoc for their ship. Or the division of land under Joshua.
After intense prayer and seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is fine to cast lots.
B249 - Decide through prayer, logic and laying of hands
In Acts 6, the Jerusalem council of disciples met and discussed regarding the complaint laid out by the Hellenistic (Greek speaking) Jews because their widows were neglected. Following that meeting, it was decided to appoint seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom to perform the operational work. When they have chosen these people, the disciples ‘prayed and laid their hands on them’ (Acts 6:6).
Decision-making may include non-logical actions like casting of lots but it can equally be logical like the way that these seven were appointed by the Apostles.
After the decision, the leaders then laid their hands on them.
B250 - Pray and fast
Luke 6:12-13 says,
‘In these days, he (Jesus) went out to the mountain to pray and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.’
In Acts 23:2, it reported that while
‘they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”’
How did they know the Holy Spirit spoke?
We suspect that it probably came from someone with a gift of the word of knowledge. That is, the Holy Spirit had to speak through someone within the group.
We can learn much from these incidents when it comes to critical decision-making. Both Jesus and the disciples prayed for a long while and in addition, the disciples also fasted.
Before any major decision, it is more than worthwhile to pray, fast, and seek the Lord for guidance.
B251 - Weigh the issues of coincidence and the voice of the Spirit
In Acts 10:11-15, the Apostle Peter was first shown a vision about eating all kinds of animals including reptiles and birds. When Peter resisted, he was told by a voice,
‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’
Then, almost at the same time, even as Peter was struggling with the vision, Cornelius’ men arrived seeking for him.
‘And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation for I have sent them”’ (Acts 10:19-20).
In listening to the voice of God, we must not exclude the issue of coincidence and the voice of the Spirit. Coincidences are nothing more than God’s appointments at the precise moment.
The Greek uses two words to describe time – Kairos and ‘Chronos’.
While Chronos represents time the way we know, since it is from this word that we have ‘chronological time’, Kairos is quite different. Kairos denotes the ‘right, critical, or opportune moment.’
Coincidences can be viewed as Kairos moments or as, some may term them, ‘divine appointments.’
Specific divine appointments may change things in an instance.
B252 - Seek God's confirmation
Acts 10:15 says,
‘And the voice came to Peter again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.’
Peter needed three reminders. If you know Peter’s background, you would appreciate why the Lord did it three times.
In Galatians 2, the Apostle Paul chided Peter for segregating himself away from the Gentile when the Jews arrived from Antioch to Galatia (Gal 2:11-14). Peter was a Jew of Jews and he found it very difficult to break out of that mold. That was probably why the Apostle Paul was designated by the Lord as the voice to the Gentiles.
It is perfectly fine to ask the Lord for a confirmation. Peter asked it three times.
In the Old Testament, Gideon did exactly that (Judges 6:36-40).
If we are unsure regarding a decision, ask God for a confirmation.
B253 - Declare things into being
Jesus said in Mark 11:23,
‘I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, “May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea” and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.’
In Rom 4:17, it explains that God can ‘bring the dead back to life’ and can create ‘new things out of nothing.’
Two things are involved: Faith (and one that has no doubts) as well as Verbalization.
In Genesis 1:3, God created the various elements of the earth by speaking (calling them out into existence). Our speeches are powerful because they can create.
Hence, Christians are encouraged to declare into the atmosphere in order to call things into being.
B254 - Control what comes out of the mouth
Matt 12:34-37; Matt 15:18-20; James 1:19, 26; James 3:2-8
James 1:26 explains,
‘If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.’
In James 3:5, James, the brother of Jesus, explained,
‘The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life and se on fire by hell.’
Jesus said in Matt 15:18,
‘But the words you speak come from the heart – that is what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander.’
The tongue is indeed powerful. From our mouths, we can utter both blessings and cursing. There are many advice regarding the tongue in the Book of Proverbs, most of which suggest that we should keep the tongue in check.
If we can call things into existence through our speech, we can also place constraints on our lives based on what we say. Hence, while for some of us it is not easy, it is wise to control what comes out of our mouths.
B255 - Do not have evil speeches of other believers
1 Peter 2:1; James 4:11; 2 Tim 3:2; Titus 3:2
In 1 Peter 2:1, Peter asked believers not to slander while in James 4:11, it simply says,
‘Don’t speak evil against one another.’
If we have issues with another brother/ sister, Jesus had instituted a method to handle that. Slandering is a sin.
For more information, see
- S108, Slanderer, and
- B357 to B368, Handling Offences.
B256 - Do not grumble or complain
Phil 2:14 says,
‘Do all things without grumbling or disputing.’
In 1 Cor 10:10, Paul shared what the children of Israel did after they had crossed the Red Sea; they grumbled. As a result, they were destroyed by ‘the angel of death.’
The Apostle Paul was a model for withholding complaints. Despite his sufferings as detailed in 2 Cor 11:23-33, there was not a hint of complaining against God.
He explained in Phil 4:11-13 how he had learned to be content.
‘I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, i have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’
Grumbling or complaining is a sure sign of showing a lack of faith in God. As believers, we must bridle our tongue from moaning.
For more information, see S112, Grumble, Murmur and Complain at God.
B257 - Do not carry on an unedifying (empty) conversation
2 Tim 2:16; Eph 5:4; 1 Tim 1:4
2 Tim 2:16 says, ‘Avoid worthless, foolish talk’ (NLT) with Eph 5:4 calling it ‘foolish talk’.
The Greek word found in 2 Tim 2:16 is kenophonia or empty disputing/ worthless babbling while the Greek word in Eph 5:4 is morologia or foolish talking, even crude jokes.
Even discussions around myths and anything relating to controversial speculations should be discouraged.
Foolish talks and gossips are sins (See S107, Gossip).
Hence, do not carry on an unedifying, empty conversation.
B258 - Do not boast
2 Tim 3 calls out ‘difficult times’ when people will be ‘boastful and proud’ and Rom 1:30 reported those words. People who are ‘boastful and proud’ will show both by their actions and speeches. It is a sin to be boastful and arrogant (S114, Boast).
Hence, choose to remain humble. It is a counter culture to our current society where people are expected to boast – of their credentials, and of their connections. Even in social media like Facebook, people brat.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus said,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth’ (Matt 5:3-5).
People of the kingdom of heaven are mindful of their own spiritual conditions.
The Apostle Paul, for example, chose to boast only in his infirmities in 2 Cor 11:30 when he said,
‘If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.’
The Greek word for ‘weakness’ is astheneia and it means want of strength/ weakness/ illness/ suffering/ calamity/ frailty.
Paul repeated in 2 Cor 12:5 and again in 2 Cor 12:10 that he would only boast in his infirmities (same original Greek word); NB: Not wealth, success, or the size of one’s congregation.
It is, of course, an irony that we can boast in our infirmities. Indeed, Christianity is a study in ironies –
- That Christians can rejoice in the mist of tribulation (Acts 5:41; Col 1:24),
- That the Messiah must suffer in his first coming (Luke 17:25) before he can return as the Conquering King, and finally
- That those who are last will be the first and those who are first will be the last (Matt 20:16).
What do we choose to boast in?
B259 - Avoid disputes and quarrels (avoid unteachable people)
2 Tim 2:23 says,
‘Don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights.’
In other words, avoid quarrels as it leads to no good.
See S105, Engage in factious, antagonistic, and quarrelsome behavior.
B260 - Engage in graceful conversation
Col 4:6 says,
‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.’
The word ‘gracious’ is charis and it means kindness and a freely given favor.
We are all gifted with different personalities; some of us are more forthright than others. Nevertheless, we have to learn to be gracious in our conversations and knowing how to be magnanimous in our actions.
In Phil 2:3, Paul reminded us not to do anything ‘from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.’
Be magnanimous and forgiving..
B261 - Be thankful in our conversations
Eph 5:4 says,
‘Let there be thankfulness to God.’
Thankfulness is a powerful ally. Phil 4:6 reiterated that even as believers pray, they must do so with ‘thanksgiving’ in their hearts.
The Book of Proverbs is full of the virtue of thankfulness.
Prov 17:22 says, ‘A joyful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.’ Prov 15:13 says, ‘A glad heart makes a cheerful face but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.’
Psalm 100:4 has the same thing,
‘Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name.’
Always be thankful to God and counting our blessings is one way to remind ourselves regarding what to be thankful for. There are always things to be thankful for even in the most dire of circumstances.
Counting our blessings lift our own level of faith.
See also B183, Be thankful in our heart expressed outwardly in praises.
B262 - Make a promise, keep a promise (Let your yes be yes)
Matt 5:36-37 says,
‘And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.’
Jesus’ teaching is in fact more stringent. He asked us to keep all our promises, and it does not matter that they are not made under oath or simply spoken about.
Jesus taught us the importance of honoring our words even though it might appear to be unfair. Jesus spoke about a parable when the owner of the vineyard decided to hire a bunch of workers to work. The agreement was that they would be paid a denarius. He continued to hire workers all the way until the last hour. When it came to paying them their wages, the owner paid everyone as per agreement – one denarius – disregarding the number of hours’ worked.
Obviously, these workers grumbled but he replied, ‘Friend, I have not been unfair. Didn’t you agree to work all day for the usual wage? Take your money and go.’ (Matt 20:14).
In the Old Testament, we have the story of Joshua and the Gibeonites.
Joshua had just taken out two major cities as the Israelites advanced into Canaan to take down the occupants. The Israelites were relentless and their fame in conquest had gone before them. The Gibeonites knew it would be a matter of time before they would become one of their victims.
So, they craftily endeavored to make a treaty with Joshua and the children of Israel. They loaded ‘their donkeys with weathered saddlebags and old, patched wineskins. They put on worn-out, patched sandals and ragged clothes. And the bread they took with them was dry and moldy.’ (Josh 9:4-5).
They told the Israelites that they came from a far off place and offered themselves to be servants. As a result of the deception, ‘Joshua made a peace treaty with them and guaranteed their safety, and the leaders of the community ratified their agreement with a binding oath.’ (Josh 9:15).
Subsequently, Joshua discovered that the Gibeonites indeed lived nearby; the children of Israel had been tricked. But the leaders decided that they had to honor the treaty since they had made an oath with them.
The same can be seen when King Saul made a rash oath that prevented his soldiers from consuming any food even while they were in an intense battle with the Philistines; the soldiers did not dare to dishonor that oath even though they were exhausted (1 Sam 14:24-31).
In Titus 2:7, Paul reminded Titus to ‘show integrity’ in his teaching.
Believers are people of our words – we make a promise and we keep a promise, and that includes the marital vow of married people.
Why do we need to keep our words?
Consider these passages from the Old Testament relating to keeping one’s words. There are earthly consequences for not keeping a vow.
King Saul (1 Samuel 14) who was so frustrated with his battle against the Philistines that he sent out the order: “Cursed be the man who eats food before evening, and until I have avenged myself on my enemies.”
Besides giving a really foolish command, Saul didn’t realize that his son, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s armor-bearer had slipped away to attack the garrison on their own. Israel’s main army saw the commotion and joined the fight. Meanwhile, Jonathan was hungry. He found a bee hive on the battlefield and ate a little honey. GOD WITHDREW HIS COUNSEL FROM SAUL.
Again, in 2 Sam 21, we discovered how a famine came about because ‘Saul put the Gibeonites to death’. And seven sons of Saul had to be sacrificed as a result of their death (Please do not ask us why God allowed that to happen as we also struggle to understand that too).
We believe that failure to keep our promises in the New Testament is the equivalent of ‘grieving the Holy Spirit’ in Eph 4:30 and God’s presence is lost.
‘And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.’
We need God’s presence and direction all the time.
- S104, Fail to keep our word(s) and
- B79 to B82 relating to divorce and separation.
B263 - Have the courage to challenge and point out the wrong
Matt 23:1-36; Mark 11:27-12:17; Eph 5:11
If we follow the example of Jesus, we will recognize that Jesus loved to confront (shall we say, criticize) the Pharisees and Sadducees.
In Matt 15:12, he was told by his disciples that the Pharisees were offended by what he said. Yet, in Matt 23:1-36, he called them out in the harshest tone. He called them ‘blind guides’ (v18) and ‘whitewashed tombs’ (v27), not exactly complimentary although not profane. Again, in v33, he used the term, ‘serpents’, describing them as a ‘brood of vipers.’
NB: Remember, the Pharisees were the equivalent of local political leaders or religious elites of their days under the Roman Empire.
Most of us are reminded that as Christians, we have to be gracious. But when do we confront and get some fire in our belly to speak out? Eph 5:11 says, ‘Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness but instead expose them.’
Jesus exposed the Pharisees.
Prov 24:25 says,
‘Those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.’
As the world progresses toward evilness as we are seeing in our days, we will require a heavy dose of prayer and wisdom to know when to ‘expose’ and when to be ‘gracious’. The last thing we need is to play the role of being a self-righteous Pharisee or the other extreme of remaining a coward.
As Christians, we must have the courage to confront, challenge and judge while pointing out the rights and wrongs. It is never an easy task because every confrontation will also have an impact on the people associated with us, for example if a pastor confronts the powers that be, then there might be implications on his/ her congregation and ministry. Every confrontation could also impact on one’s own family and of course the person concerned.
Of course, there are also internal struggles of self-righteousness that a person has to overcome before any confrontation.
In a ‘true’ democracy, peaceful confrontation might change the views of a government or, in some cases, change the government completely especially if it is one that is veering toward evilness.
It might be a calling for some Christians to get into politics or government or just be an activist. What we do know is that in a democracy, the squeaky wheel always gets the grease (attention). If we choose to sit back and be apathetic about our surroundings, we will be ignored and may even be discounted.
Who are the Pharisees of our days? Government leaders? Community leaders? Church leaders?
How can we respond gracefully but yet rightfully instead of through a spirit of self-righteousness? Will it be misinterpreted as being unloving?
We do not have a yes/ no solution here. Just that we suggest the believer soaks in loads of prayer alongside with consulting other godly Christians so as to check one’s own motives.
And if we are confident that is what the Lord wants (Did you hear from the Holy Spirit?), we must be prepared to ignore the negative noises that are around us (including from other well meaning believers). We might be misunderstood but so was Jesus.
Having said that, any protest should never be violent. Jesus was never violent.
Some interesting articles relating to confrontation with governments:
The Hongkong extradition law protest in June 2019 seemed to show that it can be done responsibly. Despite a march involving two million people and the place was occupied all night, the protesters returned in the middle of the night and cleaned up the streets. Someone even said, ‘There isn’t a scrap of rubbish on the road.’. Read here.
However, subsequent protests seemed to degenerate into violence. We do not think that our Lord would have endorsed violence.
For more information, please also see B107 to B116, Relationship with Government.
B264 - Answer a threatening and sensitive question indirectly
There is much we can learn from Jesus.
Jesus tended not to answer a question directly but rather he would use the question to reply with ‘You say that I am’ (Matt 26:64, Luke 22:70, John 18:37).
On a whole, when responding to questions from his enemies, Jesus favored answering a question with a question; like when he was asked whether he should pay taxes. Jesus simply requested for a coin and said, ‘Whose image and inscription are on it?’ Using that, he continued, ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.’ (Luke 20:25).
Or when he was asked whether the adulteress caught in the very act had committed a sin worthy of being stoned (John 8:1-11). He did not answer their question but used his subsequent ‘passive’ action to defuse the tense situation.
And who could forget the time when the leading priests demanded to know by what authority Jesus was doing all these teachings and miracles. Jesus once again answered the question with another of his own, ‘Let me ask you a question first. Did John’s authority to baptize come from heaven or was it merely human?’ (Luke 20:3-4).
It was as if Jesus was asking, ‘Answer me this, did the chicken come first or was it the egg?’ When the priests failed to answer him, Jesus responded, ‘Then I won’t tell you by what authority I do these things’ (Luke 20:8).
In a changing hostile world, where being a Christian is becoming more challenging, how can Christians respond to those very sensitive questions thrown to trap us?
Here is one that we found quite useful in a democracy when the interviewer becomes aggressive in labeling a Christian as a bigot:
‘Do we live in a nation where we can agree to disagree with people and still be civil about it?’
That statement was made by a Christian politician and it silenced an incessant provocative interviewer from persisting in getting the former to recant his conservative views.
Let us know if there are other possible responses and we will publish them.
Here are other possible answers to questions relating to LGBTQ if you are caught on a spot to respond:
- Do bulls ask to be cows or hens to be roosters? – It goes to show that sex change is possible with us because we are not animals. It shows that we have the privilege of being created beings with intelligence.
- Do you think that we have a gender unequal pay disparity? (For people who believe that we have several genders) – If you answer ‘yes’, then you’re agreeing to the fact that there are only two genders. If you answer ‘no’, then you are going against all those gender rights advocates who claim that there is in fact gender inequality.
- How many genders are there in dogs and cats? If they said two, then ask them why it is not consistent for humans to also be two. If they say ‘multiple’, then ask them whether they have seen owners doing sex change for their pets?
May we learn from Jesus to answer these questions with wisdom from above. Prov 26:5 says, ‘Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.’
Share with us your gems so that we can include here. Believers have to be wise especially now when traps are being set up to catch us in a bad light.
See also ‘Discipleship’.
B265 - Be compassionate (merciful) before judgment
Matt 1:19; Matt 9:36; Matt 15:32; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34; Mark 8:2; Luke 7:13; James 2:13; Col 3:12;
Throughout the Gospel, you will find Jesus demonstrating compassion above all else. The only people that Jesus was tough on were the religious people, namely the Pharisees and Sadducees.
When Jesus saw the crowds, as in Matt 9:36,
‘he had compassion for them … (seeing them) like sheep without a shepherd.’
In Matt 15:32, Jesus let it be known to his disciples when he looked at the crowd and exclaimed,
‘I have compassion on the crowd ….’
When Jesus healed, he healed out of compassion too. Mark 1:41 says,
‘Moved with pity (compassion), he stretched out his hand and touched him (a leper) and said to him, ‘I will; be clean.’’
When he was at a town called Nain, he saw a funeral procession. Again, he showed compassion and resurrected the son of a widow right there and then, sending shockwaves to everyone who saw the incident (Luke 7:11-17).
Joseph demonstrated compassion towards Mary. After discovering Mary’s unplanned pregnancy, Joseph considered putting ‘her away secretly’ (Matt 1:19) rather than doing the ‘right’ thing by reporting her to the Pharisees (NB: According to the customs of the day, a woman with a child out of wedlock would have been stoned). He chose compassion before judgment.
In James 2:13, James explained that
‘mercy (always) triumphs over judgment.’
The Greek word for ‘compassion’ is splagchnizomai or ‘I feel compassion and I am moved in the inward parts.’
In everything that we do, believers are reminded to show compassion before judgement or a task. We are thankfully saved by God because of his grace and mercy and not that we deserve it. See B276, Show our emotions.
Jesus’ teaching is not about judgment but one of compassion to sinners with words like, ‘Go, (and from now on), sin no more.’
Believers must not forget to be compassionate before judgment, sacrifice and work. Otherwise, we might end up inadvertently elevating ourselves to the role of Pharisees and Sadducees, mere religious policemen.
B266 - Do practical social works
Matt 25:35-40; Acts 6:1; Eph 2:10; Heb 13:15; Titus 2:7; Titus 3:8; James 1:27
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. I was naked and you clothed me. I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me’ – Matt 25:35-36.
During the early church, one of those things that they did was not to neglect the poor. In Acts 6:1, the disciples made it a point that food was distributed to all. When the Greek-speaking Jewish widows were neglected, they acted by putting in place a group of seven men to assist.
There is a constant reminder to the early churches to do good.
The writer of Hebrews said in Heb 13:16,
‘Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’
In Titus 3:8, it asks that we ‘devote (ourselves) to good works’ and James 1:27 emphasizes that true religion requires us to ‘visit orphans and widows in their affliction.’
In the Book of Acts, Cornelius was commended by the angel because of his ‘prayers and gifts to the poor’ (Acts 10:4).
Christianity is always practical. Doing good work is a natural outflow of who we are – feeding the poor, welcoming the stranger, and visiting the sick and imprisoned.
One of the world’s most recognized organizations for good work is the Salvation Army. Its founder, William Booth, knew the importance of good works and salvation and he said,
‘You cannot warm the hearts of people with God’s love if they have an empty stomach and cold feet.’
Read also B265, Be compassionate.
The two, Compassion, and B266, Good Works, go hand-in-hand.
B267 - Don't listen to fables and genealogies
1 Tim 1:4; 4:7; Titus 1:14; Titus 3:9
In 1 Tim 1:4, Paul reminded his audience not to spend time discussing myths (legends) and genealogies (long lists of ancestors).
He repeated the same warning in 1 Tim 4:7 and Titus 1:14 on the theme of ‘myths’.
In other words, do not engage in non-essential conversations. Instead, be proactive in doing good works. See B266, Do practical social works.
Please see B243, Do not argue over non essential doctrines, for more information.
B268 - May dress unconventionally (grooming)
How should one dress in church? Matt 3:4 relates what John the Baptist worn – His clothes were ‘made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. He ate locusts and wild honey.’
It is a good reminder for us not to judge Christians who wear unusual clothing.
Of course, it is important for believers not to dress provocatively or clothing that serves to demonstrate one’s wealth or status.
B269 - Consider the length of our hair
Paul’s counsel to members of the Corinth church involved a man ‘not to cover his head’ and for a woman not to ‘have her hair cut or shaved off’ (1 Cor 11:6-7). It confronts current trends and fashion where the opposite might apply – that is, men having long hair and women keeping crew cut.
Is the issue of hair discussed here a historical reference or is it still relevant in our current age? Is it a guideline or a command?
Is it like a non-essential as in B243, Do not argue over non-essential doctrines?
Does it upset many if we ask women to have long(er) hair and men to keep theirs short? We hope not.
B270 - Look after our body because it is not our own (Exercise)
1 Cor 3:17 says,
‘Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy and you are that temple.’
And again in 1 Cor 6:15, Paul reminded us that ‘our bodies are members of Christ.’
If Paul argued that the person who destroys God’s temple (and we are God’s temple) should be destroyed’, then the counter-argument probably holds true; that is, we are under godly obligation to keep our body in good condition as much as is possible without being narcissistic (that is, an excessive preoccupation with or admiration of oneself).
Look after our body and do not abuse it either with a lack of exercise or subject it to destruction via drugs or alcohol.
See also B285 – Love Ourselves.
B271 - Cast our cares to God in the face of worries and concerns
1 Peter 5:7; Mark 4:19; Luke 12:22-28, Matt 6:25-34
1 Peter 5:7 says,
‘Casting all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.’
The cares of this world can make believers to be unfruitful (Mark 4:19) and it can choke us (Luke 8:14).
Jesus encouraged us not to worry about everyday life – like whether we have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear’ but to put our faith in God (Luke 12:22-31).
He explained that it was natural for people to be anxious about these things but as believers, we are different – we have God. And we have the assurance to know that God already knows what we need. Instead, he encouraged believers to seek God’s kingdom first and all these things (clothes, food) would be returned to us in sufficient amount.
The opposite of faith is not necessarily fear but anxieties or worries.
The influential 1800s’ preacher, Charles Spurgeon, said,
‘Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its trials but empties today of its joy.’
See also S25, Choke by the worries and cares of the world as well as B197, Pray unceasingly.
B272 - Be humble and have poverty in spirit
Matt 5:3; Matt 15:21-28; Matt 18:4-5; Mark 7:28; Luke 6:20-21; Luke 14:11; Phil 2:7-8; James 4:10
How do we know God? The first verse in the Beatitudes reads,
‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 5:3).
It is about poverty of spirit. A proud person does not see a need for God. Nor does someone who lives life flippantly.
Matt 5:3 is best amplified in the story of the Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus. The woman had a daughter who was oppressed by a demon and she was desperately seeking help. When she came to Jesus, Jesus threw her a curveball with a rather racist remark when he said,
‘It is not right to take the children’s bread (Israelites) and throw it to the dogs (Canaanites)’ (Matt 15:26).
Yet, she chose humility over pride when she replied, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.’ Because of her humility, Jesus healed her daughter instantly.
Humility was what brought Jesus to earth because Jesus was determined to ‘empty himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.’ (Phil 2:7,8).
Because of the humility of Christ, God exalted him so that every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil 2:9-11). In the same way, James 4:10 says, ‘Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will exalt you.’
Humility is a hallmark of believers.
B273 - Be sober-minded
1 Peter 4:7; Mark 13:33; 1 Thes 5:6
1 Peter 4:7 says,
‘Be sober minded for the sake of your prayers’
while Mark 13:33 says, ‘Be on guard, keep awake.’
1 Thes 5:6 summarizes it well when it said,
‘Let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober.’
The Greek word, ‘sober’, is nepho and is the same as one that abstains from wine or not intoxicated (even from the influence of sin). A sober person has self-control and clear judgment and does not live flippant lives.
Please see S83, Unprepared and sleeping believers for additional information.
Be sober minded.
B274 - Be disciplined
2 Tim 3:3-4 says,
‘They will have no self-control …. And they will love pleasure rather than God.’
while 1 Cor 9:27 talks about the need to discipline our body and keep it under control.
2 Tim talks about a lack of self control and pleasure loving as a sin and it obviously contrasts with 1 Cor 9:27 which is about disciplining our body. There is always a balance being a Christian but the issue of self-control obviously requires ‘discipline’.
In any sport, ‘discipline’ is the key to maintaining peak performance. Talent can only get us that far. Beyond that, it is training and discipline.
The key thing with a Christian is not to love pleasure and self (hedonism) but to
‘lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal’ (Matt 6:20).’
It is also about the discipline to hear and act on what the Holy Spirit has told us to do.
B275 - Go beyond our expected tasks
Matt 5:41-42 says,
‘If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.’
In customer-service training, we are often taught to surprise our customers; that is, to go beyond their expectations to do something special. It is the same with being a Christian – to always do beyond what is expected of us.
How can we surprise someone who is in need? How can we do extraordinary good works?
B276 - Show our emotions
Matt 17:22-23; Matt 26:39; John 6:67; John 11:35
The shortest verse in the Bible is found in John 11:35. It reads, ‘Jesus wept.’
When Jesus was with his disciples, he did not show himself to be a stoic person. Instead, he was open with his emotions. He spoke of his impending death candidly (Matt 17:22); not once but several times.
When his teachings became ‘too tough’,
‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him (John 6:67).
And he was distressed enough to exclaim to his twelve,
‘Do you want to go away as well?’
He revealed his own personal struggle; he knew the cross was before him but he still sought his Father and cried out,
‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’ (Matt 26:39).
In that one sentence, it presented his humanity despite his divinity; he knew the goal but Jesus was struggling with the process.
Here is a thought –
If Jesus was open about his emotions, should we bottled up ours? After all, bottled-up emotions can oftentimes be dangerous.
It was emotion, a sense of being in awe, that brought Simon Peter to the feet of Jesus when he exclaimed, following the miracle of the catch,
‘Go away from me , Lord, for I am a sinful man’ (Luke 5:8).
And we know that ‘love’ also is a powerful emotion.
Believers should never encourage the bottling up of their own or their children’s emotions. Of course, this must be balanced with self-control –
of lust (Matt 5:28), fear and worry (Matt 6:34), envy (Luke 12:15), greed (Luke 12:16-21), pride (Luke 20:45-47) and anger (Matt 5:22).
See B294, Exercise self-control.
B277 - Hunger and thirst after righteousness
Matt 5:6; 1 Tim 6:11; 1 Peter 3:12
Matt 5:6 says,
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied’
and 1 Tim 6:11 reiterates with the same thing, ‘O man of God, ….. Pursue righteousness ….’
The initiative to pursue righteousness has to be ours; it is self-generated. Why do we want to do that? Because in 1 Peter 3:12, it promises us that
‘the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his (the Lord’s) ears are open to their prayer.’
Of course, who could forget Cornelius whose prayer was heard because of his gifts to the poor? (Acts 10:31).
God answers the prayers of righteous people. Hunger and thirst after righteousness.
B278 - Be prepared to be killed to fulfill God's will (martyrdom)
Luke 9:23-25; John 6:38; John 13:38; Rom 12:1;
Luke 9:23 says,
‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me’
and Rom 12:1 asks us to ‘present (our) bodies as a living sacrifice.’
We are made for self-preservation. Most of us would rather watch a movie about self-sacrifice than be in an actual real-life scenario.
Perhaps even Jesus struggled through that when he cried out just before his journey to the crucifix,
‘My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine’ (Matt 26:39) –
It maybe because for him, it was more than an issue of death but the separation of fellowship with his Father.
At Capernaum, Jesus said,
‘For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.’
So it should be the same with us. We are here to do the will of the Father. We must be prepared to lay down our lives (more than just the physical death) in order to fulfill the will of the Lord.
Please see D145, Believers must be ready to lay down their lives.
B280 - Be patient and don't rush God's timing
Luke 8:15; Rom 2:7; 2 Cor 6:4-6; 2 Cor 12:12; 1 Thes 5:14; 2 Tim 4:2
‘And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.’
2 Tim 4:2 says,
‘Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with COMPLETE PATIENCE and teaching.’
We live in a microwave-era world. We have instant noodles, instant coffee and of course fastfood. If we want hot air, we turn on our heat pump to receive instant heat.
Character building, on the other hand, is far from instant. It is a marathon rather than a sprint. We have to be patient with ourselves and with other people. As long as we are alive, we are still learning.
Patience must be supplemented with prayer. We grow as a person in character just like a small plant grows quietly and without fanfare to be a great tree.
Some things just cannot be rushed as God shows up at different defining moments in our lives to recalibrate who we are – as long as our hearts are soft and tender to allow him to do his work in us.
B281 - Pursue (agape) love
John 3:16; 1 Cor 13; 1 Cor 14:1; 1 Cor 16:14
This next few ‘values’ are devoted to love.
1 Cor 14:1 says it explicitly,
‘Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts’
and 1 Cor 16:14 reiterates,
‘Let all that you do be done in love.’
Christians are known for their love of people.
1 Cor 13 is all about love and Paul made it clear that without love, Christians are nothing. 1 Cor 13:2 –
‘If I have all faith so as to remove mountains (Now, that is really something), but have not love, I am nothing.’
The Greeks have four words for ‘love’ and ‘agape love’ relates to the highest form of love. Agape love is ‘divine love’ and it is not a romantic or sexual sort of love nor is it a brotherly love. Agape love is an act of the will and not a feeling. It is faithful, and committed. Agape love is sacrificial. It is prepared to suffer inconvenience, discomfort and possibly death for the benefit of another without expecting anything in return.
We are called to pursue this sort of love. Agape love was what compelled Jesus to the cross as in John 3:16.
Agape love was what brought missionary Graham Staines to rural India as a missionary among leprosy patients, forsaking the comfort of his home in Australia. It was the same love that led American Jim Elliot to the unreached Huaorani Indians of Ecuador and ultimately to his martyrdom in the jungles of South America.
Jim Elliot wrote these beautiful words:
‘He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’
The call of the Lord is to pursue agape love, the sort that may involve inconveniencing our routine, like the Samaritan who decided to help the injured man despite the fact that he was not part of his intended chores; there was a need and so the Samaritan decided to solve that problem.
Read also B117, Love our neighbors as ourselves.
B282 - Love in purity (no agenda, good conscience and sincere faith)
Rom 12:9; 1 Cor 13:4-8; Eph 5:2; 1 Tim 1:5; 1 Tim 6:11; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 2:10
‘Let love be genuine.’
Many times, people become our friends because we can benefit them. But love that is genuine and pure does not have an agenda. It is a love that is prepared for a person to sacrifice much – Eph 5:2,
‘As Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’ –
our time, money, and possibly lives.
A parent never feels inconvenienced by the needs of their child especially when they are babies – like waking up in the middle of the night in order to feed a hungry baby or changing a soiled diaper.
1 Tim 1:5 describes it best, calling this love to be one that comes from ‘a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.’ this is genuine agape love.
B283 - Love in deeds
1 John 3:18, ‘Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.’ Love is practical.
Love impels us to do good works with our neighbors. See B266, Do practical social works.
B284 - Love sacrificially
In the letter from the Apostle John to the church of Ephesus in Rev 2:4, he said,
‘But I have this against you: You have abandoned (lost) your first love).’
The word for love is agape.
That is, you are not prepared for inconvenience, discomfort, and sacrifice in order to demonstrate your love to your ‘neighbors’.
Read Eph 5:2 and understand that ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.’
Our idea of ‘love’ will be tested; how prepared are we for sacrificial love?
Be very mindful of how we love by looking at what we are not ready to do as well as what we are prepared to do for the cause of Christ.
B285 - Love ourselves
Matthew 22:37-39; Mark 12:30-31; Luke 10:27; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
When Jesus was approached by someone to ask which was the greatest commandment in the Bible, he mentioned two instead of one. The first is obvious – to love our God with our everything. But he quickly continued on to the second which is to love our neighbors.
Matthew 22:37-39 reads,
“And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Within this second commandment, there are actually two elements – loving our neighbor and LOVING OURSELVES. In fact, you could imply that we cannot love our neighbor unless we know how to love ourselves. Most of us forget the element of ‘ourselves’.
The question: Do we love ourselves? And how do we know we love ourselves?
We are, of course, not talking about a narcissistic form of love – a love that is excessive and egotistical.
But do we, for example, take care of our bodies? Does it also not mean that we should not look at ourselves with disdain?
Many issues arise out of the fact that we do not love ourselves and how God has created us. We know for sure that we are our only copy; if you are unsure, just check your thumbprint and DNA. Here are three important points:
- We ought to love God.
- We must love others.
- But must not forget to love ourselves and be content with how God has made us.
Of course, we may have a most imperfect body and that is where our faith in him has to come in. If we have an issue with our bodies, let’s bring it to God in prayer and supplication.
If we learn to love ourselves, we will have less issues relating to mental struggles like trying to be another person that we are not.
But let’s not beat ourselves up or be who we are not meant to be.
See also B270, Look after our body.
B286 - Stay strong in the Lord
‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.’
The Greek word for ‘strong’ is the word endunamoo or fill with power, strengthen, and make strong. It indicates ‘being empowered’ or increase in strength.
Paul said these words as an encouragement and it could possibly be a prayer itself.
Who wouldn’t need to be prayed for to be strong in the Lord?
B287 - Put on the whole armor of God
Eph 6:11-17 talks about the need to put on the whole armor of God in order to withstand the evil days – Belt of truth/ Breastplate of righteousness/ Shoes for the gospel of peace/ Shield of faith/ Helmet of salvation/ Sword of the Spirit (Word of God).
It is a necessary defensive strategy for all Christians. It is total defense and it tells you how a perfect Christian life can be lived out.
- The belt is the first piece of equipment and it secures all other pieces. We remove our belt when we are not working. We need to know God’s truth in order to fend off the devil’s lies.
- The next item is the breastplate of righteousness. If we remove righteousness from ourselves and engage in sins or live a life without repentance, we open ourselves up to be attacked by the devil.
- Shoes indicate the geographical distance that we cover. It shows that everywhere we go, we carry the gospel with us.
- Our faith is a shield and it protects us; our firm belief helps us to stay focused on doing God’s work. If we have watched movies on the Roman soldiers, you will realize that the soldiers defend themselves from arrows by joining their shields together.
- The helmet protects another vulnerable human part – the head/ brain. Our conviction about our salvation protects us from our minds being weakened through discouragement.
- With the sword of the Spirit and the Word of God, we can confront the enemy just as Jesus did by using the Word of God to defeat the devil; each time, Christ quoted the Bible. To stay sharp for our own protection, we have to input the Word of God into our spirit.
Put on the whole armor of God.
B288 - Always rejoice and count our blessings
Ph 3:1 says,
‘Finally, my brothers (and sisters), rejoice in the Lord.’
The Greek word for ‘rejoice’ is chairo or make glad, be glad, hail. The GNT uses the term, ‘be joyful’. Others use ‘be glad’. Could it also be happy?
Gal 5:22 says that the Holy Spirit produces ‘joy’ within our lives.
Amazingly, we don’t need comedians or movies to make us happy or joyful. We need the Holy Spirit. Every time we count our blessings, we bring joy to our spirit.
Believers do not just react to feeling but respond to truths and possess inner joy; just like the inner peace that the Lord assured us even when the world is in turmoil (John 16:33).
Believers ought to count our blessings and rejoice in the Lord.
B289 - Be kind to people
Kindness is identified as part of the fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22. The Greek word for ‘kindness’ is chrestotes or goodness, uprightness, kindness and gentleness.
Kindness is a behavior and is associated with someone who is pleasant and who shows genuine concern and consideration for other people.
Kindness does not mean that we give in to the request of a person in need all the time. For example, if a person is a drug addict and wants money, it might sometimes be kinder not to provide money but to seek for alternatives to resolve the issue of drug.
Kindness is a universal virtue understood by all humankind. Even basic things like please and thank you, giving a hug, sharing a laugh or just telling someone your appreciation of them, are acts of kindness.
Hence, be kind to people.
See also B260 – Engage in graceful conversation.
B290 - Be upright (intrinsic goodness)
‘Goodness’ is another virtue relating to the fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word is agathosune or intrinsically good with a stress on the kindly side of goodness. Goodness is a virtue.
Goodness includes acts like
- visiting the sick,
- volunteering in the community,
- praying for an enemy, and
- helping the homeless.
It reflects our selfless act (agape love) on behalf of others, especially if they cannot help themselves. It might even involve confronting a friend out of concern relating to his/ her sin.
B291 - Be patient with everyone and make allowance for each other's faults
Gal 5:22, Eph 4:2; Col 3:12;1 Tim 6:11
The word ‘longsuffering’ may also be translated into ‘patience’. The Greek word is makrothumia or patience/ forbearance/ longsuffering. It talks about embracing steadfastness and staying-power. When used against our temperament, it is ‘long tempered’ as against ‘short tempered’ and considered a quality of God.
Eph 4:2 speaks about the need to be
‘humble, gentle, and patient, bearing with one another in love.’
It is about how we deal with other people and why we should be patient with everyone – ‘long tempered’. NLT translates it as being ‘patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of (our) your love.’
If you realize, it is not ‘no temper’. We should be glad that our God is a longsuffering one.
Be patient with everyone and ‘make allowance for each other’s faults’ because we are far from perfect. Have a long temper.
B292 - Be faithful and trustworthy