The ESSENCE of WORSHIP

Many years ago, I moved, and began to visit a few churches in the neighborhood to find one my family could settle in.  We ended up in a Pentecostal church just 4 blocks from our home. The only reason we chose this fellowship was the exuberance of worship which I was seeking. Why was worship the criteria rather than the doctrinal, ministry and teaching aspects? Somehow, worship is something I value and relish.  Not endowed with a wide vocabulary, my personal worship in prayer is so limited and short. Whereas worshiping in the church with the lyrics flowing on helped me to see God in his Glory and Greatness. One of the churches we visited was definitely sound and solid in the bible.  But when I thumbed through the church hymnal, I could literally count about 25 hymns / songs devoted entirely to the worship of God out of 600 songs in the hymnal! The other songs were all about our Christian lives – e.g. Onward Christian Soldier etc etc.

John Philips observed that Worship takes precedence over our walk and work before the Lord, as recounted in Hebrews 11!

Heb 11:4  Abel          Worship

Heb 11:5  Enoch       Walk

Heb 11:7  Noah         Work

Wanting to really worship and enjoy my Lord,  I listed down passages (25 years ago) on worship with the help of a concordance; and read books on the subject.  And the outcome is an outline which can be read in its entirety here.

Outline of The Essence of Worship with scriptural references

I read books which describe the worship services of various denominations, complete with the liturgy; while others speak of the value of worship.  I realized that believers expressed their worship in diverse ways, according to their culture, denominational creed and the conditioning (influence) of the group they identify and grow up with. Regardless of the outward expression of the worship, the experience of God is always personal; having been touched by His Holy Spirit and responding with awe and amazement.  And before I can even experience and express my worship, I believe I need to be convicted of what the Almighty God has to say about worship ie. The Essence of Worship.  Knowing the essence would definitely help me to come to Him, in season and out of season.

And the experience of worship flows from us in expressions and forms consistent with our conviction, our culture, the circumstances and context of the gathering, our exposure and upbringing (conditioning) and our character and temperament.  The various expressions of worship as in the various churches and cultures must be seen in this light.  We do not have to be twins to be brothers and sisters. We only need to love, adore and worship our Heavenly Father to be brothers and sisters

 

“Where was Moses bringing the children of Israel when they left Egypt?”  The normal response is “the promised land.”  Yet that’s not true.  He was headed for Mount Horeb, or Sinai.  Remember God’s words to Pharaoh, through Moses, “let my people go, so that they may worship me in the desert.”  (Ex 7:16)  John Bevere in ‘Drawing Near’

Worship 1

THE ESSENCE OF WORSHIP

  1. THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DESERVES
    1. He is the Sovereign   – worship Him for Who He Is
    2. He is my Saviour    –     worship Him for what He has done

     2.  THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DESIRES

      3.  THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DELIGHTS

      4.  THE WORSHIP WHICH GOD DEMANDS

“Worship is to be exercised now or it will be enforced later”

“In commanding us to worship Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”

 

Worship 2

THE EXPERIENCE OF WORSHIP

My soul yearns, even faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God…”  Ps 84

  1. OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SPIRITUAL
  2. OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SCRIPTURAL

“… the context of our worship is the doctrinal system of the Bible.  Whether in preaching or praise or prayer, every activity will be governed by the truths of the Bible.  The first question to be asked is not whether some aspect of our worship is helpful or stimulating or enjoyable, but whether it is true. … It is the ultimate criterion, namely the self-disclosure of God who has spoken clearly and decisively to men.”   (in ‘Christian Worship’ by Herbert M. Carson.)

  1. OUR WORSHIP MUST BE SINCERE

Hos 6:6      “I desired mercy, and not sacrifice.”

Matt 9:13

Matt 12:1-8        (What our Lord emphasized here was that the act of sacrificing and offering must ever be accompanied by the consistent life and sincere attitude of the offerer, if his worship is to be acceptable.  If the choice is between strict observance of ritual, and goodness and sincerity of life; then the latter must always take the precedence.)

 

Worship 3

THE EXPRESSION OF WORSHIP

” … Declare the praise of Him who called you …”  I Pet 2:9

  1. WORSHIP IS VERBAL

            In Praise

   In Songs 

  1. WORSHIP IS VISIBLE

Gen 24:26         “Then the man bowed down and worshipped the LORD,”

From the book “Worship” by R. Allen pg 132 :-

“We are not simply spirit beings.  We are more that hearts or souls or ‘inner beings.’  We are persons possessing an intricate complex or physical and spiritual realities.  We who worship God truly with the heart, do so with our physical bodies as well.

We err if we think that by merely doing an act we will necessarily be different, posture being a means to the end or worship.  We may often find that the outward act might well lead to an inward reality.  Eugene H. Peterson explains this in commenting on Psalm 134 with its command to lift up one’s hands.

We are invited to bless the Lord; we are commanded to bless the Lord.  And then someone say, “But I don’t feel like it.  And I won’t be a hypocrite.  I can’t bless the Lord if I don’t feel like blessing the Lord.  It wouldn’t be honest.”

The biblical response to that is, “Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the Lord!”  You can lift up your hands regardless of how you feel; it is a simple motor movement.  You may not be able to command your heart, but you can command your arms.  Lift your arms in blessing, just maybe your heart will get the message and be lifted up also in praise.  We are psychosomatic beings; body and spirit are intricately interrelated.  Go through the motions of blessing God and your spirit will pick up the cue and follow along.  “For why do men lift their hands when they pray?  Is it not that their hearts may be raised at the same time to God?”

If we always waited until we felt like worshipping, we might not worship at all.  We simply do not jump out of bed every Sunday morning shouting “Hallelujah, today we get to worship the living God!”  There are likely some Sunday mornings in which we barely make it to church at all.  But there are times among those “down” mornings when we are surprised by the grace of God and we find ourselves worshipping in spirit in truth.  That would not have happened if we had not first got our bodies (to church) in motion.

“Heart worship and body worship are not mutually exclusive, they complement each other.  “To tie it all together – we simply can’t be spiritual without being physical.  For man was never created to be either just a soul or just a body.  We are not one or the other, but both.”  -Peter E. Gillquist in ‘The Physical Side of Being Spiritual’

 

  1. WORSHIP IS VIBRANT

“The person and nature of God can be seen by the worship displayed by His people.”

Christianity Today ran a splendid article by J. Daniel Baumann on the importance of true worship.  Baumann argued in the article that “biblical worship … is celebration” … insisting that “the characteristic note of Old Testament worship is exhilaration.  He explains  ‘That is not to say we are to be flippant or careless (see Ps 89:7), nor that we gather in order to exchange emotional highs and get spiritual goose pimples.  When I was a child, I was given to occasional restlessness during church services.  I was admonished to “sit still, you’re in church.”  Somehow I got the wrong message.  My folks never intended it – but I was getting the impression that God was a grouch; I wasn’t convinced I could even enjoy him.  I’ve changed my mind, or, better yet, the Bible is changing my mind.’

Charles H. Spurgeon wrote :  “There are no people in the world who have such a right to be happy, nor have such cause to be joyful as the saints of the living God …  Why, brethren, true praise sets the heart ringing its bells, and hanging out its streamers.  Never hang your flag at half-mast when you praise God; no, run up every colour, let every banner wave in the breeze, and let all the powers and passions of your spirit exult and rejoice in God your Saviour.”

Herbert M. Carson in ‘Christian Worship’ :

“A healthy stirring of the emotions is produced by the truth of God applied by the Holy Spirit to the mind and conscience and will.  It is from that impact of the Word that the deepest emotional experiences emerge, and it is here that we find the secret of the depth of feeling associated in Scripture with true worship.  It was this appreciation of the truth which led the psalmist to tears of repentance.  It was truth also which stirred him to joy and gladness, and at times to exaltation of spirit.  A false emotionalism acts like a drug which dulls the sensitivities even while it seems to stimulate, so that the addict needs more frequent and stronger doses.  A true emotional stirring is one that not only stimulates us to worship, but deepens our spiritual zest and gives us a capacity as well as a passionate desire for deeper experiences of the fullness of God.

It is possible to err in this matter is different ways.  There are congregations where the stress is all on objective truth.   There is little scope for emotional release and the result is a people who are strong in doctrinal knowledge, but apparently dull in spirit.  The service of worship in such a situation can become frigid and lifeless.  At the other extreme are those who live in a state of constantly induced excitement.  The subjective element has taken over as the objective has receded.  The result is a sorry condition of superficiality where all too often people are ready to grasp at any new novelty, and to be led astray by all kinds of doctrinal aberrations.

 

Worship 4

Worship is far more rooted deep within our heart, mind and spirit than we can ever imagine.  It emanates from our knowledge of God, of Who He Is, What He Is to us, and what He has done in our lives.

Knowing His demand for our worship, His desire for our worship, His delight in our worship and His worthiness of our worship propels us to acknowledge His Supremacy and Lordship, adore His Highness and Majesty and appreciate His Mercy, Grace and Peace.  This conviction drives us to exalt His glory and to enjoy His greatness.

This experience of worship flows from us in expressions and forms consistent with our conviction, our culture, the circumstances and context of the gathering, our exposure and upbringing (conditioning) and our character and temperament.  The various expressions of worship as in the various churches and cultures must be seen in this light.  We do not have to be twins to be brothers and sisters. We only need to love, adore and worship our Heavenly Father to be brothers and sisters.

 

Living Sacrifices
The believer’s worship can now be found in Rom 12:1-2 – that which is spiritual, sincere and sanctified by obedience to scriptural truth.

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

 

REPENTANCE – the Hebraic Mindset

Having gain wide acceptance and appreciation for his Gospel of Grace messages through hundreds of TV broadcasts per week, and through his books, J Prince might feel undaunted by the negative comments towards his teachings. Staff might also have insulated him from being affected by blocking others from accessing his facebook pages etc so that he could focus on ministry matters.

Prayerfully, there would not be the boldness and brashness in attempting clever interpretations now that recognition has been attained.

Could this have been the case for his interpretation of Repentance as being a “change of mind“?  So many might be justified in observing that Prince’s understanding might be inadequate and incomplete, but still not false, and not flawed – only feeble (weak).

Prince is absolutely correct, as the original word for repentance is the Greek word “metanoia“. (What about the Hebraic equivalent?) This has brought much disquiet from detractors, whether theological academia or pastoral.

Personally I believe the understanding of scriptures is not just knowing what the single word means. Words have meanings only in the context of phrases and sentences, and in the milieu of the society and culture of the people. Or to put it in the context of Hermeneutics, the historical, grammatical, chronological, cultural, anthropological and EMOTIONAL context.

“Metanoia” cannot be explained in isolation.  The concept, not just the word is enveloped in a relational face-off with the Almighty Holy God, and a personal self-realization that one is wrong, and need changing.  This change would include many many dimensions, and is not limited to mental assent or agreement to fresh input or knowledge.  When I know I am lost, and am standing in the wrong spot, I don’t just turn my head, I change real-estate, and I move, or revamp and remove and overhaul any encumbrance that caused me to be lost!

So I believe the response and reactions generated from Prince’s teaching on “metanoia” is warranted.  Perhaps Prince should re-view this and examined how the people of the Bible understand the issue of repentance.

John Parsons have written extensively about Hebrew For Christians.  He wrote many articles on Teshuvah, the OT act of repenting and returning to Jehovah. Perhaps we may have a more comprehensive and complete teaching from the Hebraic perspective on Repentance. (I am appending snapshots of the article too, in case some cannot access the link)

Teshuvah, Metanoia and Strepho by John Parsons

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Confession of SIN 1 John 1:9

Confession of SIN, confession of sins.

NCC’s pastor KM was on the phone.  He told me that J Prince had a new book and would like to send one to me, though it was yet to be released officially.  But he cautioned that there might be some stuff difficult to comprehend and accept, and that JP was apprehensive whether it would go down well.  I asked what was the issue, and he said it was about confession of sins.

“Oh” I rejoined – “it’s not an issue with me.  Prince’s conviction is correct.”  And I went on to offer to send him a few articles from my personal reading and study.  I am not sure about how those articles had helped KM.  Much later, when Prince was preaching on this topic, he shared that he was aware of the ripples – no – more like tidal waves it would cause.  But something that he came across spurred him on.  And there is now no turning back!

Either the waves of this teaching has washed away the debris from the ‘sacred cows’ and Confirmation Bias in thousands of believers (like the washing of feet caked with dust, or the washing of the Word [Eph 5:26] or the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit [Tit 3:5] ) and illuminated our hearts and liberated us from legalistic shackles, OR the waves have crash against the bedrocks of various denominational creeds and convictions. The latter has been real and relentless. Collateral damage to holding on and handing on a truth that liberates and anchor us in our liberty and life of Christ! Romans 10:17 tells me that when Christ speaks, His Word to me engenders faith, not fear. Faith in believing when He says “I do not condemn you, you are forgiven  for I have justified you, redeemed you, and imputed to you My Righteousness. I will contend for your freedom, for I am your Advocate”  (1 John 2:1-2; 2:12)

 

When I was first exposed to Prince’s version of 1 John 1:9, I was skeptical and doubtful.  I had to check up for myself. And the delightful outcome were the following :-

 

1)  Total Forgiveness and the Confession of Sin, a study and message by John MacArthur on 1 John 1:8-10

https://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/62-8/total-forgiveness-and-the-confession-of-sin

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxRHN6ZjV6WFB4UzQ

2)   Confession – Truth or Chains, a study by James R Owen 2004.  (I can no longer find the original link, which seemed to have disappeared from cyber space, or trace this James Owen.  Let me know if anyone out there has the link.  Thank you.  However, if anyone care to read, one can read it from Pilgrim Sojourner’s Google Drive –

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxSlJlQV9HWkphOTA

3) “Should Christians Confess Their Sins” – a study by Dr Christian Pope of Sanctification.com.  I corresponded with him briefly years ago, and he said, yes, his name is really Christian Pope!  But his website has been revamped as he is now very much into the Hebraic Root of our Faith, and that study is no longer on his website.  However, I just wrote to him asking about it. Again, its on my Google Drive –

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6GA4nPW4QDxSkVvZWp5aTdGbVU

 

I am more of an Ethiopian first, then a Berean.  Read and listen to what others have to teach, then study and verify.  I put on my parachute which only works when it is open, and hold my Confirmation Bias in abeyance.

 

In my own journey and pilgrimage of faith, I am learning along the way. A lifelong journey!

Acts 8: 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 

I invite you to come into my life and teach me, for how can I understand unless someone guides me

 

 

Denominational loyalties and Confirmation Bias

Many years ago, I read a sermon by a relative who was also a pastor in a local church.  Somehow, the message drifted into the scenario concerning mega-churches and charismatic pastors in Singapore.  He said that many pastors in mega churches were not accredited or ordained, and as such has no real legitimacy in teaching the scriptures, unlike his denomination, and obviously hinting that he was ordained, with a Rev. to his name.

And recently I read something similar in a blog on Ecclesiology and the lack of it.

…. A group of Christians coming together at a member’s home for worship and bible study, is not a Church. A group of Christians coming together to have a memorial “Lord’s Supper” is not a Church. A Church is where God rules and reigns through the ordained ministers, elders and deacons He gave to His Church! No ordination, no Church! God may be present of course, since God is always present where two or three Christians come together for prayer (Mt. 18:20), but that is not the Church. God after all is omnipresent, so just because God works salvation through sharing of testimony does not make the gathering where the testimony is shared is the Church.

….. They have no real offices and no ordained ministers, thus they are not real churches. Since they are not churches, their baptisms are invalid and their “Lord’s Supper” sacrilegious, a mockery of the true sacrament instituted by Christ. To partake in such “Lord’s Suppers” therefore is sin.

(http://puritanreformed.blogspot.sg/2016/04/ecclesiology-and-lack-of-it.html)

 Wow! Wait a minute!  Sacrilegious?  Mockery?  Sin? Am I reading correctly from the last para above?

The above do not sync with my own Confirmation Bias, but definitely are minor issues that do not  disturb or distract me, even when it involves people I know.  Only when issues are critical or essential would I examine the different views against orthodoxy, my own interpretation of scriptures and deliberate which is more convincing, defensible and sound. Denominational or institutional bias related to interpretations of scriptures, and unconscious and subconscious opinions which bothers on preferences for certain principles, and practices, could lead to prejudgment towards alternatives which might even be more substantiated and demonstrated.

It happens all the time. And Confirmation Bias within institutions with the GroupThink consensus and coherence phenomena prevents us from fidelity and adherence to truth.

My senior pastor Joseph Prince openly acknowledged his indebtedness to Hagins and the WOF teachings – which many evangelicals would raise alarm bells. Yet his signature emphasis on the Gospel of Grace is refreshing and radical.

While Prince’s adoption and adherence to the WOF aspect of prosperity is devoid of guile and / for gain (attributing it to be part of our legacy and inheritance in Christ to be blessed), very few outside NCC perceive and discern the distinction and difference.  With a broad brush, NCC and Prince has been painted as “birds of the same feather” with the shady aspects of the WOF.  This unfortunate Collateral Damage brings unwanted and unwarranted discredit to Prince’s Gospel of Radical Grace!  I suppose his Confirmation Bias along denominational loyalties and legacy has blindsided Prince to some degree, or he is just echoing the cultural societal preference of American believers towards wealth and health.

Even though Prince’s version of prosperity is not out of guile or gain, his teaching is flawed, in my opinion.  This is where my own Confirmation Bias pops up, and prompted me to dig further and deeper into the scriptures and the experience of the body of Christ. Hence, my blogs on the matter to share my own opinions. My profile picture is a call to discernment against distortion from the pulpit.

One Sunday, Pastor Prince spoke on tithing, which was a position the church used to hold.  I was prompted to write to him via another pastor about Prince’s incomplete treatment of a passage which was used to imply that God has a high regard for tithing. A few weeks later, he alluded to giving, in two separate sessions in New York and Dallas; and in both occasions, appeared to have come round that tithing is not mandatory. Initially I had wrestled much whether I should write.  So it appeared that indeed, it was a prompting from the Holy Spirit.  Since then, the term tithing is absent whenever the offering bag is passed around, though there were attempts to be creative in the use of phrases lest members are tempted to license in not honoring God with our substance! Salute to my church for using their parachutes! And for tweaking and rebooting this confirmation bias!

At least NCC is bold to change when faced with strong scriptural exposition and explanation. (NCC also instituted weekly Communion in accordance with NT evidences, from monthly routines.) Someone had commented that I am a rare breed, to comment on NCC’s sermons. And I hope I can continue to do so. As a son of my heavenly Father, I’ve become a brother to His other children, and I am also my brother’s keeper.

It is daunting and unpleasant, and could be misunderstood and misinterpreted as being disloyal. But I love my Lord more, and the unchanging truth of His Word! Once, Pastor Prince spoke out to the bible policeman and fault finders in the church, telling them (me?) that the pew is not meant for such people! (see my blog titled Bible Policeman). And once, Pastor admitted that the pulpit is not always right, and there are specks and spots (was it in acknowledgement and response to people holding up the mirror of the Word?)

Indeed, the Word is a mirror to each of us. And the Body of Believers can also hold up the mirror FOR each other, and especially for the church workers, lest we miss or misinterpret His purpose, plan, precepts and program for us all.

So I need to check whether my Confirmation Bias squares and sync with scriptural truth and teachings, and are not according to denominational traditions or mere opinions.

Confirmation Bias, and Blunder

It’s a long time since I learnt something as fresh, insightful and illuminating as Confirmation Bias – from the link below, and the appended YT’s that accompany it.  I showed it to my wife to cross-check whether there’s merit in this phenomena as described.  She said ‘definitely’ – the article has put a handle to this unconscious and insidious predisposition that prevent us from learning.

“Confirmation bias” is the name for a very common trait that all human beings share. When we favor information that validates our pre-existing beliefs but refuse to consider information that threatens our pre-existing beliefs, we are demonstrating confirmation bias; other names are confirmatory bias, my side bias or subjective validation. 

Confirmation Bias – Pirate Christian

Video – Confirmation Bias

One of the enduring tags I treasure was from a YFC A5 calendar? (if I remember correctly) with a page showing a man on a parachute, with the caption “Our mind is like a parachute, it only works when it is open”.  I suppose this was an antidote for Confirmation Bias.

When my daughter followed her friends and started attending NCC, I had to visit and see for myself whether the teachings of NCC were sound.  I even wrote to their leadership twice when my daughter narrated what she had been hearing from the youth leaders! And there were a few heated exchanges with my daughter regarding her convictions based on NCC teachings! She chose to be baptized there instead of the church she grew up with. I concluded then that services at NCC was God’s hip way of reaching the MTV generation, with their smooth, swinging worship music and the smart and groovy ‘uniforms’ of the ushers and leaders. (NCC has since discarded such adornments)

I had the personal preference to attend churches in neighbourhoods I stayed, seeing how the NT believers were always identified by the location they resided.  As I had moved a couple of times, I changed membership, just to be identified with the Christian community where I lived, without much concern for the denominational legacy.  I thought my ‘grounding’ in scriptures would insulate and immunize me from doctrinal inadequacies and anomalies, while giving credence to Christian love and brotherhood.

I stayed on and identified and immersed myself in my previous church for more than 10 years, even when I was ever mistreated, not to mention the many precepts and practices there were contrary to my convictions. Yes, I did write to leadership on occasions. None of my outside brethren asked why I attended a Pentecostal church that is deficient in sound doctrine and majored on soliciting money for missions. Often, after Sunday services, I would have mental sword-fighting with the content of the sermons. It wasn’t as what Jeremiah experienced -“Thy words were found, and thy words became to me the joy and delight of my heart”. Sometimes it would be finding sand in your mouth when you try to digest the sermons.  Sometimes it would be smoke that brought tears, and smarting pain in the eyes, rather than tears of fear and trembling; joy and worship.

I had started visiting Queenstown Remand Prison as a counsellor, then went on to the high security Tanah Merah Prison and the Changi Prison, conducting Sunday services and administering the Memorial emblems of the Bread and Wine. As those visits were on Sunday mornings, I didn’t want to miss church. So I looked for churches with afternoon services and weekly remembrance of Jesus’ finished work. So that was how I began to attend NCC as a visitor.  My daughter was no longer there, having gone overseas.

And was I surprised. The unveiling of Jesus in the pages of the OT really was a joy and delight. Having begun and baptized with the open Brethren, the weekly search light beamed upon Jesus during each memorial communion was honoring to my Lord, and inspiring to me. So I continued there, as a guest.  To be a Berean, I had to be a parachutist with an open mind! I read widely and searched deeply on this Gospel of Grace as preached by NCC. Finally, I told my wife, let’s go to a church that preaches the Word that engenders faith (Rom 10:17), and not fear, as in many groups advocating the imperatives. My wife later recounted – “it is finding our first love, falling in love with Jesus again”

Some were surprised that I moved to NCC; probably due to their understanding of my doctrinal convictions and the notoriety of Joseph Prince and NCC. But none raised an eyebrow when I attended the previous Pentecostal church! Two of my dear brothers, serving the Lord overseas were watchful over me. One of them, who had lived with Roy Robertson, stayed with Walt Henricksen (author – Disciples Are Made, Not Born), studied at Dallas Theological Seminary, came to Singapore with his wife and met my wife and me and asked (cautioned) about my association with NCC. I am deeply grateful for their concern and covering.

I am ever asking the Lord to be my Captain, Covering, Companionship, Comfort and Counsel.  Yes His counsel, to teach me in my pilgrimage as I make my way home to dwell with Him! And before I could receive His counsel, from Himself, as a Berean, or as a Ethiopian, I must make sure that my beliefs, concepts, even convictions are not burned as ROM in my heart and mind, but remain as volatile RAM, easily erased by my Counsellor, replaced with the Words of Life, and then imprinted deeply, that I may know Him accurately and truly, see Him clearly, hear Him soundly, love Him dearly, walk with Him closely, serve Him faithfully and treasure His family intently.

To do this, I must watch out for “Confirmation Bias, and Blunder”, ever validating my loyalties to any denominational or creedal conclusions and convictions upon my understanding of scriptures.

 

 

What is the Full Counsel of God?

Of late, I have been pondering the meaning and significance of the full counsel of God that many allude to when discussing or deliberating on the primary mission and message of churches.  Would those who postulate this know for certainty?  I searched, and the closest was from John Piper (still incomplete, in my opinion) The scant reference in Acts 20 can be rather vague and hard to pin down.  It was an issue I had to settle for myself.  And then the impression came, Jesus would have definitely revealed the full counsel of God.  But did He do so during His 3 years of teaching ministry?  It was a daunting task, as His ministry, messages and manifestations of power and authority in towns and shores of Judea and Galilee, and in Jerusalem do not hint of a coherent full central counsel or plan and purpose for His kingdom!

But what about His teachings after His death, in the short span of 40 days?  Like Paul, I pray that the Lord will open my heart and mind by giving me a spirit of wisdom and revelation – to know Him (Eph 1:17-21)

 

Luke 24 13 Now behold, two of them were traveling that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.

17 And He said to them, “What kind of conversation is this that you have with one another as you walk and are sad?”

18 Then the one whose name was Cleopas answered and said to Him, “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”

19 And He said to them, “What things?”

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

28 Then they drew near to the village where they were going, and He indicated that He would have gone farther. 29 But they constrained Him, saying, “Abide with us, for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent.” And He went in to stay with them.

30 Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.

 

Cleopas and his companion were deep in discussion about the One who died. (some suggest that the companion was his wife – man and woman – a pattern of Adam and Eve  – whose eyes were also opened to see and know and choose the new creation in the True Tree of Life). They thought they knew the One whom they were talking about, and even asked Jesus – “Huh, everyone knows what happened, are you the only one who is ignorant?”

18 “Are You the only stranger in Jerusalem, and have You not known the things which happened there in these days?”

19 And He said to them, “What things?”

So they said to Him, “The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, who was a Prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to be condemned to death, and crucified Him. 21 But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, today is the third day since these things happened. 22 Yes, and certain women of our company, who arrived at the tomb early, astonished us. 23 When they did not find His body, they came saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said He was alive. 24 And certain of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but Him they did not see.”

 

So Cleopas and wife appear to know about Jesus, His Words, His Works, His Death, and even His Resurrection!  No no, they did not and could not recognize or know Him (v16)

25 Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” 27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

 

With their natural spirit and sight, they could not accept, appreciate or adore Jesus. So Jesus in this short passing encounter, unveiled Himself from the scriptures, beginning with Moses, and all the Prophets; and their spiritual eyes were opened and they knew Him.  Jesus had to chide them for their ignorance of the scriptures and the slowness of heart to believe (for faith comes from hearing the Word of Christ – Rom 10:17).

At Emmaus, Jesus only had time to unveil the books of Moses and the Prophets – and that was sufficient at that moment to open their spiritual eyes of faith to know Him.  But it would get better.  When He met the rest, He continued where he left off and opened their minds to understand and believe the whole counsel in Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms (writings)

 

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations

 

So I believe that the teachings and clarifications and exposition of Jesus after His resurrection give us a clue to the central focus and the core foundation of God’s plan, purpose and program – for the very reason the scriptures are “written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations …”.

The central focus and the core foundation of God’s plan, purpose and program is Jesus, Who came Grace upon Grace so that men may repent, and be forgiven of their sins.  It’s all about Jesus and His message and His mission.

 IT IS THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL OF GRACE!   Romans 1:16,17

IT IS THE INDICATIVES and INHERITANCE OF our LIFE AND LEGACY IN CHRIST!

Acts 10:43

So Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20

26 “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all , 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”

 

He only spent 3 years with the Ephesian believers.  He would not be guilty if he could not complete instructions for the Levitical feasts and festivals, or the wanderings and wars of the Davidic and Divided kings, or the poetry and prose of the writings.  But Paul would not be innocent of the blood of all if he did not preach Christ and His redemptive plan, purpose and program as typified in all the scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi, and from the accounts of those who were with Jesus, and from what Jesus taught him personally!

Ezekiel 33:6-9  – not innocent of blood!

Paul told the Colossians

 

“I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.”

 

Ephesians 1

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons  to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His willby Jesus Christ to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself,10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

Matthew 21:42; 26:56;

Mark 14:49b

John 5:

… the works that the Father has given me to accomplish, the very works that I am doing, bear witness about me that the Father has sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

 

 

#Emphasis in bold in scriptural passages is by this blogger

 

 

 

 

Indicatives and Imperatives

Pillar of truth

 

A popular Christian pastor and blogger recently commented about my blogs –

“Hi friend, it strikes me you’re a rare breed … someone who attends NCC yet actively critiques the sermons….”

I responded in order to correct any perception that I might be unhappy with NCC and JP –

“Oh, you noticed. But I really do thank God for J Prince, whom God raised for the need of the hour to re-package the Glorious Gospel of Grace to many within God’s kingdom who have been hurt and harmed by the mixture of the truth of Grace and the teaching of the Law from the pulpit and the printers! And if only pastors and leaders fully grasp that all of us have our own VANTAGE POINTS when championing or advocating issues of sanctification (discipleship) “against” amazing and awesome Grace. As one local ‘theologian’ recently puts it – there are ‘indicatives’ and ‘imperatives’ in our legacy, BUT I notice that the imperatives of sanctification and discipleship tend to be raised by theologians, pastors; (understandably the burden of such roles to exhort believers and fill their church with quality Christians) while the thousands of testimonies for the lasting deep impact and influence of Grace are from the believers who realise our indicatives, and the power of God’s grace (vantage point of a sinner!); which I believe is the great need of the hour…..”

I mentioned INDICATIVES and IMPERATIVES because of late, some have been referring to a local theologian who cautioned and hinted that the hyper-Grace gospel is dangerous, erroneous and even heretical!  I quote from one point in the summary of the talk: (https://brohenson.wordpress.com/2016/05/03/how-dangerous-is-the-heresy-of-hyper-grace/)

“Their understanding of the writings of Paul is erroneous. Paul always balances the indicative and the imperative (you are such and such, therefore, you should do such and such). But the new antinomians only emphasise the indicative and entirely omit the imperatives.”

The pastor and blogger wrote back

“Great that you mentioned the indicative and the imperative. Both are needed and must be taught from the pulpits.”

I had already said that more often than not, it is the pastors and workers who pitch for the imperatives when confronting the Grace teachers (and labelling with a broad brush – hyper Grace).  Since Joseph Prince is notorious for advocating and preaching radical Grace, many would caution that we must not neglect the imperatives.

Yes, they are right.  Prince need to address issues of the imperatives. And other pastors and ministries must also preach and teach the indicatives.  So I asked myself, what do the Navigators, Campus Crusade and most pastors major in their teachings?  Do they give equal time to the indicatives?  I wonder and conclude “hardly”. (I was a leader for many years in a disciple-making-ministry).  What would my findings be if I do an audit of the Sunday sermon topics over one year in one hundred churches?  Would there be a balance of indicatives and imperatives?

BUT the issue is not balance!  This term sounds so mature, even-handed, impartial, unprejudiced, wise, astute, judicious, responsible etc. But this can color and cloud my discernment of the Gospel of Grace.

Indicatives and Imperatives are not the two ends of doctrinal truth!  They are not two sets of truth on the ends of a balance scale / see-saw.  Sadly upholding balance seemed to have the last say and closing curtain call in this issue of Grace and discipleship!

It is not balancing on a pivot!  It is not balancing on a fulcrum! The imperatives are not equal and opposite ends of our Legacy and Life in Christ.  It might appear so when the indicatives in the first chapters of Ephesians, Colossians, Galatians, Romans are followed by the imperatives.  The truth is the imperatives are built up ON the foundational indicatives!  The Liberty in the Spirit supports and sustains the Fruit of the Spirit (not even the fruits of work and disciplines).

Can we balance the Vine and the branches?  Can we put the Root and fruit side by side and balance them? Can we put the Cornerstone on the same importance with the many living stones that make up the house?

Our works of righteousness are built solely on the foundation and righteousness of Christ!

1 Timothy 3:15 describes the church of the living God as the pillar and foundation of the truth,  and our foundation is Jesus Himself, our Cornerstone and our Capstone.