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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Antidote for a Fretful Heart


“Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1).

Sometimes, life can be quite frustrating. Have you ever encountered situations where just as you are about to drive off for an important meeting, your car broke down; or when you urgently needed to print your report, your printer malfunction? How would you feel when faced with such trying circumstances? And when we look to the world today, it seems that God is not in control. There is much unfairness in the world, with the believers receiving the bad end of it. Why is it that most of time, it seems that those who gossip and back-stab others are the ones who get the promotion as compared to the honest and hard-working employee? Why does God allow the wicked to prosper while the righteous have to suffer through life? And the more you ponder over such issues, the more likely you are to be frustrated and fret over them. You know that it is wrong to envy others but at the same time you cannot help feeling so. What should you do?

The psalmist encourages us with these words: “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity” (Ps. 37:1). He did not deny that he himself felt like us too at a certain point of his life. He lamented: “For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked” (Ps. 73:3). Yes, the psalmist too was frustrated and envious when he saw the prosperity of the wicked. But how did he overcome it? He said: “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end” (Ps. 73:17). My friends, if you have been frustrated with life, then perhaps today, when you come to the sanctuary of God to seek God, you will find the answer to overcome your frustration and fretfulness.

The word “fret” is often associated with the word “fire”. It has a lively imagery to it. It is like starting a fire for the BBQ where the initial coals will glow after a hard time of fanning them. Thus, “fret” in its raw sense means “to glow, or to kindle”. It signifies the beginning of a strong fire. Applying it to our emotion, to fret over something means we are starting to glow with the fire of anger. And if our fretfulness is left unchecked, it will turn into a huge fire that will not only destroy others but also ourselves. When we fret within ourselves over the wicked, we will feel annoyed and agitated. We may do that which is not advisable. Our joy and peace will be taken away from us.

Psalm 37 is the antidote for a fretful heart. The psalmist begins by saying: “1Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. 2For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb” (Ps. 37:1-2). The psalmist tells us that it is a waste of time for us to wring our hands in fretfulness and frustration over the work and prosperity of the wicked. Their success and boastings are merely temporal and worthless. Very soon, they will fall and will be cut off. One day, they will have to meet God face to face and have to answer for their actions. God will judge them according to their evil deeds. Billionaire Forbes will say “He who dies with the most toys wins” to express the world’s mantra on capital greed to enrich one at all cost. But, let this be clear, he who dies with the most toys is dead and in judgment and his toys become meaningless to him: “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).

Instead of following the ways of the world, the psalmist urges us to follow the ways of the Lord: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed” (Ps. 37:3). To trust in the Lord means to have faith and confidence in God. To trust God is to have confidence in God’s sovereignty and God’s wisdom in the affairs of this world and in our lives. We can only trust God when we have a strong personal relationship with God and have faith in Him. It would be awful hard to trust God if you do not believe in Him in the first place. We have been taught from young never to trust a stranger. The same truth applies. In order to be able to trust God, we must first know Him and know His ways. The more we comprehend God, the easier it is for us to trust Him. Trusting God requires faith.

Second, the psalmist also urges us to “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart” (Ps. 37:4). To delight ourselves in the Lord means to take pleasure in and to enjoy God. We are not merely to acknowledge God’s presence, but rather, we are urged to take pleasure in Him. When we delight ourselves in the Lord, He will give us the desires of our heart. It is not the other way round – God gives us our desire and hence we delight in Him. No! The “desires” are granted only after we “delight” in Him. When we delight in God, there is a change in us. We no longer see the world as a fulfilment of his pleasure and rewards. The pursuit of the material things of this world will fade in the light of the brightness of the glory of God. The aim to please God and to do His will becomes our desire. Surely God will be glad to grant unto us such a holy desire!

Third, the psalmist urges us to “Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass” (Ps. 37:5). In the Hebrew, “to commit” means “to roll over.” It means that we are to surrender ourselves unto the Lord and to transfer over our burdens of our work unto Him. My friends, are you encumbered with a heavy burden in your life today? Then, be not fretful but learn to cast your burden unto the Lord: “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved” (Ps. 55:22). Jesus promises us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). How wonderful it is to have a Saviour who cares for us!

Finally, the psalmist urges us to “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass” (Ps. 37:7). It is interesting to note that the word “rest” in this verse means “to be silent”. What does this tell you? To be silent in the Lord implies that we should not complain and blame God for things in life. We should be willing to accept whatever the lot God has for us.

Consider your life – has the Lord ever short-changed you? Has not the Lord often showered His grace on you in times of need in the past? Let us not take God for granted but learn to rest in the Lord. We have to learn to wait with patience for the Lord to fulfil His purpose in our life. He is not done with His work in your life yet. Truly, the Lord is good unto all who seek Him and wait upon Him: “25The LORD is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him. 26It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD” (Lam. 3:25-26). My friends, there is no point feeling frustrated in life. The antidote for our fretful heart is to be found in the Lord – put your trust in Him, delight in Him, commit your ways unto Him and rest and wait upon Him. Have you?

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The Believer is Saved and Sound in God’s Hands


The church in the Midst of Apostasy

In both of the Apostle Paul’s letters to Timothy, there are strong warnings against the dangers of the apostasy which was already appearing in the Church, and which would increase, especially in the last days. When Paul wrote this letter, there were plenty of false teachers in the professing Church, and as we look around today we see that on every hand this same condition exists. It is an alarming situation and it threatens to bring discouragement to God’s people.

A good example is the controversy generated by the book written by Dan Brown called The Da Vinci Code. The author claims to have uncovered the “truth” that Christianity has been hiding for 2,000 years: Jesus and Mary had married and had children and that their bloodline continues to exist today. The sensational claims of the book raised a lot of questions from people who were not aware of what Christianity actually teaches. Many people believed in Brown’s assertions without bothering to check the validity of those claims.

The people is in the State of Apathy

Paul warns Timothy later in the epistle that people will have itching ears and will not want to hear the truth (2 Tim. 4:4). People do not like the truth and so they settle for half-truths and untruths, things which will tickle their imagination and liking.

God’s workmen need to stand up for the Truth. They must not sway from the truth and end up teaching errors and heresies. In some countries where the pastors and leaders have no formal Bible training, they often end up teaching heretical doctrines. This is true in many house churches where their leaders are ill-equipped and lack proper training. In spite of this, we can be very optimistic, for our key verse assures us that there is no need for alarm and certainly no need for discouragement.

God gives the Word of Assurance

Despite many false teachings and teachers, and the worldliness that is in the church, Paul said in 2 Timothy 2:19: “Nevertheless, the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity.

The Lord knows those who are His. True believers are those whom God alone knows and He will keep them safe forever. What Paul is saying here is that God alone knows and recognizes His own people, and He alone can tell the genuine from the false believers.

Jesus says in John 10:27-30, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.” If we examine other translations, we again see the emphasis of this passage. For example, The Amplified Bible renders John 10:28: “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never lose it or perish throughout the ages. (To all eternity they shall never by any means be destroyed). And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand”. Wuest translation renders it, “And they shall positively not perish, never”.

But what about those who fall away? They are not in the true church; they have faith in their heads but not saving faith in their hearts; they hold the lamp of testimony, but there is no oil in their lamps; they are tares and not wheat. All who fall away were never really of the true foundation: they were never born again and never really saved. As the Lord looks at the congregation, He knows who His people are.

The Bible teaches the absolute security of God’s people, of those whom He has made His own by election, by His holy calling, by the miracle of the new birth, by the blood-washing of the Lord Jesus and by the operation of the Holy Spirit by whom they have been built into the building of God, the body of Christ. The true believers are those who have possessed their faith in Christ and lived in holiness.

The believers Act of Accountability

“Let everyone that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. If we are really the Lord’s people, we shall depart from iniquity. We are to depart from every thought, word and deed which is contrary to the moral law of God, and in particular we are to depart from worldliness, impurity and pride. These three sins are mentioned in 2 Timothy chapter two. We are to depart from worldliness, impurity and pride.

The believer is saved from his sins so that he should no longer live in them. The apostle Paul puts the question, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” Paul exclaims, “God forbid” (Rom. 6:1, 2). The true believer is accountable to God to live unto sanctification. He is to put away evil. He is to “abhor that which is evil” (Rom. 12:9). and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:14).God did not cover up the flaws of His chosen people. He didn’t excuse their bad behaviour, or minimize their failures. He judged their sins and measured out the consequences.

God knows the heart of everyone. You cannot hide your sins from Him. He knows what is in your heart. Jesus warned His disciples and us that secret sins will someday be exposed to full disclosure. He said, “There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known”. Because of this, we are to reverentially fear God, to ask for His grace to forsake any sin, and to grow as true believers.

 

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An Urgent Appeal for Holy Living


The appeal to live a holy life runs right through the Bible. “Be ye holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). Here the Apostle Peter was re-stating God’s command in Leviticus 11:44, a command that was repeated in the Psalms and in the prophecies of the Old Testament. Phillips translates it this way, “You are to be holy in every department of your lives”. We live in an evil world, surrounded by ungodly influences. How is this possible?

Enoch lived in the days before the flood, a time when “the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). Yet the Bible tells us that “Enoch walked with God three hundred years” ( Gen. 5:22).

As God’s children, we should live holy lives. We are “partakers of the divine nature (1 Peter 1:4) and ought to reveal the nature in godly living. We should pursue holiness in every aspect of our life because our God is holy. Henceforth, let us walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” Let us walk in holiness of life because we are created “in righteous and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:17, 24). What are the marks of a holy life?

 

Guard Your Speech

Knowing that God is holy and He is everywhere we should follow David’s prayer in Psalm 141:3 Set a watch (guard), O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”. Lies, gossip, unkind remarks, off-colour jokes, angry words, vulgar comments, and disrespectful use of the Lord’s name should never come from our lips. If we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that some of our conversation is nothing more than careless talk. The Lord Jesus warned, “That every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment” (Matthew 12:36). Remember, God is listening.

Our tongues need to be under the control of the Holy Spirit. When Isaiah saw God’s holiness, he was convicted chiefly of the way he had been using his. The prophet could not afford to be careless about the way he used his tongue, or he would have forfeited the privilege of being God’s spokesman.

Watchman Nee has said in The Normal Christian Worker, “If a Christian worker talks inadvisably about all sorts of thing, how can he expect to be used of the Lord in the utterance of His Word? If God has ever put His Word on our lips, then a solemn obligation is upon us to guard these lips for His service alone. We cannot offer a member of our body for His use one day and the next day take it back for use at our own discretion. Whatever is once presented to Him is eternally His”.

 

Protect Your Sight

There is nothing that can escape God’s eyes. Hebrews 4:13 says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight; but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do”. Our eyes need to be disciplined in what they are permitted to look at and read – especially in these days. Many servants of God have fallen into immorality because they did not habitually control their eyes. Our constant prayer should be “turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way” ( Psa. 119:37). The godly man looks to God for direction and service. His desire is to glorify God in all that he does. Let us remember that the greatness in man’s eyes does not always mean greatness in God’s eyes.

A.W. Tozer once said that after thirty years of observing the religious scene, he had been forced to conclude that saintliness and church leadership were not often synonymous. The greatest saints are found in many unknown congregations. May God grant us the spiritual insight to have the holy desire of our hearts to be like John the Baptist. There was a reason why John the Baptist was great in God’s eyes. John’s passion in life as he expressed it himself, was that Christ might increase and that he himself might decrease (Jn. 3:30). He constantly sought to fade into the background so that Jesus might have the prominence.

 

Watch Your Step

We are being watched all the time by strangers, acquaintances, friends and family members. What is the impression we make upon others? Do they consider us as merely smart, witty and eloquent or perhaps as having dynamic personalities? These qualities are essential and excellent when found in salesmen, but we are not called to be salesmen. We are called to be primarily holy men and women of God.

Although people may look on the outward appearance, God looks into the hearts of men. Jesus condemned the Pharisees in Matthew 23:27-28, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” In Jesus’ day, the scribes and Pharisees were hypocrites who concentrated on the appearance of holiness while neglecting heart-holiness (Matthew 23:25). When the light of Jesus shone on them, He revealed the truth about their outwardly religious life. He didn’t say these external acts were necessarily wrong, but they were wrongfully used as a cover-up for wickedness.

Keeping up the appearance of what is holy is right but pretending our hearts are clean is hypocrisy. Paul prayed that the Thessalonian believers would be blameless and live in a way that pleases God ( 1 Th. 3:13; 4:1). He didn’t mean that believers should be perfect – we can’t be. But when we become aware that we have sinned, we must confess it, ask God’s forgiveness, and forsake it – even a little sin. With God’s help we can live blameless in holiness before our God.

 

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Holiness in Every Aspect of Life


We often judge people by what they do: their jobs, their achievements or even what kind of school they went to or make assumptions about them by what they have: wealth, looks, friends or possessions. Jesus in the Beatitudes says that what matters most in life is not what we have or what we do, but who we are. What sort of people should we be? God has called all believers to “Be ye holy, because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The fact that our God is an infinitely holy God should be the greatest incentive for holiness in our lives. Holiness is not an option but a must for every Christian. “Sow holiness”, comments George Swinnock, “and reap happiness”. But, as has often been pointed out, if we seek happiness we shall get neither that nor holiness.

Paul told the Ephesian Christians the importance to pursue holiness in every aspect of life. He said, “This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind.” (4:17). He insisted on holiness, and he did so with the Lord’s authority. Paul dealt with three general areas of morality – honesty, peace and purity (4:17-5:4).

Honesty – a refusal to lie, steal or deceive in any way. Honesty and purity are no longer essential elements of our culture. Lying, cheating and stealing have become commonplace in business, education and sports. When we truly seek after holiness we will repent of our sin. We will want to make things right, both with God and man, and commit our sin no more. This is seen in the ministry of John Sung. “Stolen sums of money were publicly returned to the Lord. Feuding elders and deacons of the same church made up with one another. An outstanding example of repentance came from a brother of a Brethren Church who claimed he was following Jacob’s example by marrying two sisters. Having seen the light by Dr Sung’s sermons, he made proper settlement for this double involvement. Mr. George A. Birch wrote gloriously of the things he had seen and experienced. Of the hundreds of converts he saw two men who destroyed, one his mahjong set costing $20 and the other his cigarette – making machine. A gambler who had won $87 surrendered this sum to the Methodist Church.

Peace – freedom from bitterness, anger or strife of any kind. The hallmark of a godly man is peace. We are to love our enemies by words. “Bless them that curse you” (Lk. 6:28). We are to reply to insults with compliments. “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). A gracious reply to a rude and aggressive comment can turn a potential enemy into lifelong friend. We are to love our enemies by our deeds. “Do good to them which hate you” (Lk. 6:27). This begins first and foremost with forgiveness, but it also involves positive action. “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.” (Prov. 25:21).

Purity –not even a hint of sexual immorality in word, look, thought, or act. Today, many have rejected the authority and relevance of the Bible, claiming that it is outdated. They have their own authority on what is right and wrong. And they call that freedom. As a result many young people believe that extramarital sex, abortion on demand, homosexual practices and cohabitation are acceptable. Those who are thinking of getting married should not stay together until they are husband and wife. In Galatians 5:15-26, Paul talked about true

freedom. It is not a matter of living any way we want to, but living within Christ’s laws. We are set free to live according to the Spirit and not the flesh (Rom. 8:4).

Jesus set a high stand for sexual morality. He said “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” and that in the marriage, husband and wife are no longer two but one. “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mk.10:9). The fundamental rule is that marriage is permanent and divorce should be ruled out. Anyone who thinks of marrying a divorced person ought to realize that one who has failed once in the marriage relationship is a poor risk. Those who have had one divorce are likely to have another. Only after prayer and resolution, and perhaps repentance, should a divorced person enter marriage.

Resolutions to Holy Living

We all acknowledge the need for Christians to walk circumspectly in each of these areas. At the same time, we recognize how increasingly difficult it is to do so. We should clearly uphold God’s standards of sexual morality, no matter how “old-fashioned’ they appear to the world. Homosexuality and lesbianism must continue to be viewed in Pauline terms as “vile affections”. We should promote a healthy, Biblical view of marriage and human sexuality, especially ensuring that our children are not conditioned by the new morality so prevalent today.

In our Bible-Presbyterian Churches we have trained preachers, pastors, theologians and church administrators. Thank God for every one of them. But do we have holy men of God? This is the important question. Only when we get holy men and women will we have any real revival or else all our efforts to reach out for Christ will be in vain. If we strive for holiness merely because we want God to use us, our motive is selfish. We should desire to be holy because our God is Holy, quite regardless of whether He uses us or not.

The fact that God uses a man in His service is no indication that the man is holy or that his life is well-pleasing to God. God used an ass once to deliver His message. He used the ass’s master, Balaam too, to prophesy, even though the man himself was corrupt. If God uses a man to minister His Word, it is often because of His mercy and because He loves the people to whom the man ministers, not necessarily because He is happy with the man’s life. Let us yield ourselves to Paul’s plead by presenting “our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.” (Rom.12:1-2).

 

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