Make Disciples – but who am I?

 

To begin, an excerpt from Bob Diffinbaugh

“Apart from His sacrificial work on the cross, the most significant thing our Lord did upon the earth was to make disciples. Our Lord had written no books, He had built no organization; there were no physical structures or monuments left to commemorate Him. He had placed the future of His earthly work entirely in the hands of His disciples. Had they failed their task, humanly speaking, the church of Jesus Christ would not exist today.

In the last decade, discipleship has become a popular subject in Christian circles. The great difficulty is that when we use this term we frequently mean something entirely different from that denoted by the biblical term. For instance, we hear much talk about discipling others or being discipled. Being in close proximity to a great seminary, I have seen many young and enthusiastic theologs come and go …..

We almost completely fail to grasp the biblical concept of discipleship. It is interesting that we never find the term ‘disciple’ used with reference to the relationship between Paul and Timothy. As a matter of fact, we find the two primary terms for discipleship employed very frequently in the Gospels, sporadically in the book of Acts, and almost never in the rest of the New Testament. …… What was so important in the life and ministry of our Lord should be very clear to us today who wish to be known as His disciples.”

 

To repeat the quote above – “ What was so important in the life and ministry of our Lord should be very clear to us today who wish to be known as His disciples.”

 

But Who Am I?

How would I like to be defined?

A Disciple , a Christian, a Believer in Christ, or a Saint?

Which identity describes my blessedness?  How would God name me?

whoami

 

Does the term disciple best describe me? Does it allude to my intention or does it characterize my faith?

Does the term disciple suggest or hint of my noble pursuits?

Should my identity point to my intents and integrity as one who follows and learns from Jesus or should it point to my God Who set me apart, cleanse me, sanctified me and qualified me to be His ?

If the apostles were to write to a group of us, how would they address us?

Or does the term “saint” best describe the love of God and His sole initiative and awesome and amazing grace to set me apart and give me the gift of repentance and gift of faith to be incorporated into His glorious kingdom?

 

 

“Personal Commitment to Jesus. During Jesus’ earthly ministry the disciple was to “follow” Jesus, an allegiance to his person regarded as the decisive act, whether a literal or figurative attachment. Jewish disciples would follow their master around, often literally imitating him. The goal of Jewish disciples was someday to become masters, or rabbis, themselves, and to have their own disciples who would follow them. But Jesus’ disciples were to remain disciples of their Master and Teacher, Jesus, and to follow him only. Following Jesus means togetherness with him and service to him while traveling on the Way.”

(Michael J. Wilkins)

 

And lastly to quote Jerry Bridges again –

I believe grace motivates a person to obedience. I use Isaiah’s experience – the vision in Isaiah 6 – as a paradigm. At the conclusion of my sermon on Isaiah 6, I said that passage can be summed up in four words: God, guilt, grace, and gratitude. God’s holiness, our guilt, the gospel of God’s grace, and Isaiah’s gratitude is expressed. When God said, “Who shall I send?” Isaiah didn’t ask where he would go and what he would do. Instead, he answered, “Here am I.” And I believe that when we read of Jesus’ experience with the sinful women in Luke 7, we are seeing only the tail end of the story. The only way we can understand that story is to assume she had a prior encounter with Jesus and had become acutely aware of her sin and received his forgiveness. So now she comes out of gratitude to wash his feet. The parable of the debtor brings that out, of course. I define grace these days not just as unmerited favor. I say without guilt there’s no grace. So I define grace in this fashion: it is God’s blessings through Christ to the people who deserved his curse.

 

Thank you Heavenly Father for calling me and saving me, cleaning me up so that Your Holy Spirit can indwell me, and sealing Him in me, never to leave, and making me Your child – yes a saint, called, set-apart and sanctified.  Indeed You are Great, Good, full and overflowing with Grace to me!

Disciples are made, not born (according to a bestselling author.)

But Saints are Born, nod made!

 

Make Disciples (6) – who is the disciple

So Jerry Bridges emphasized that the imperatives for our sanctification follows our conviction of the indicatives of our salvation – to daily preach the Gospel to ourselves. I have shared often how every church should spend six months in a year to teach what it means to be saved; and we are saved by Grace, and sanctified by Grace.

 

“Performance is the default mode of every human”

We are ever so eager to prove ourselves, to show our commitment to obey, especially the great commission, and to recruit others (teaching them) to obey.  Even before the ten commandments were given to Moses, the Israelites committed to be obedient

Exodus 19: 8 “All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do.” And Moses reported the words of the people to the Lord.”

Or in the NT,

Matthew 26:35 “Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.”

 

We are ever so eager to please our Lord! But can we truly please Him Who said all our good deeds are as filthy rags.

 

The Jewish people have categorized 613 commandments of God in the first five books of the Old Testament .  ((http://www.covenantpeaceministries.com/resources/Article+-+1050+New+Testament+Commands.pdf). )

And when I googled on indicatives and imperatives, the findings include “1050 New Testament Commands”    ( https://www.cai.org/bible-studies/1050-new-testament-commands  )

 

But I couldn’t find any literature of ‘indicatives in the NT’ (not that I know of)

We are drawn to the imperatives – as performance is the default mode of every human!

 

To contrast how vital it is to be a “disciple”, we highlight the 260 occasions the term is used in the NT (ESV) (72 in Matthew, 44x in Mark, 40x in Luke, 76x in John, 28x in Acts), compared to the 17 times the word “Christian” is assigned in Acts to followers of Christ, while the term  ‘believers’ is used  (18x)  and saints (61x) in the NT.

Surely it becomes persuasive and convincing to declare that God is looking for disciples as the term is so frequently used, rather than the term Christians or believers!

But then, if that is the case, had the apostles failed in making disciples since not many disciples were mentioned in the later period of the NT church?  Had disciples and discipleship faded away and groups are now trying to complete what the apostles failed to do?

 

So who is the disciple?  Continuing on my reading, I found the following resources helpful

 

“One of the best axioms in teaching can be expressed in this way,

Define your terms, then stick to your definitions.”

In considering the subject DISCIPLESHIP AND ITS DANGERS IN THE LAST DAYS, we must first define the term “discipleship”. What do we mean by discipleship? Here we are faced with a problem inasmuch as the term is not employed in any of the epistles of the New Testament.”

(The whole article can be found here    http://www.lifehouse.org/tracts/hgmdisipleshipanditsdangers.htm  )

 

And from  https://bible.org/seriespage/15-discipleship-its-definitions-and-dangers-matthew-231-12

The New Testament Definition of a Disciple

In the New Testament, the picture of a disciple is not as clear or simplistic as one might wish, for the terms, mathetes (disciple, learner) and akoloutheo(to follow) are used in a variety of ways.204

Not only did Jesus have His disciples, but so did John the Baptist (Matthew 9:14; 11:2; John 1:35,37, etc.), the Pharisees (Matthew 22:16; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33), and even Moses (John 9:28).

There is great diversity among those who are identified as the disciples of Jesus in the Scriptures. John (John 6:60,66) uses the term ‘disciple’ to refer to those who are uncommitted, unbelieving followers of Jesus, motivated mainly by curiosity or impure desires. The masses who have come to faith and trusted in Jesus as their Messiah were also called disciples (John 8:30,31). Then, of course, the term was used particularly and most frequently of the twelve disciples (Matthew 10:1, etc.) one of whom was His betrayer (John 6:70,71). Within the circle of the twelve was an inner circle of three: Peter, James and John (Luke 9:28). In the book of Acts, the word ‘disciple’ seems to be used synonymously with the term ‘believer’ (cf. Acts 6:1,2,7).

What is a disciple? I suspect that Mark summarizes it best in his gospel: “And He went up to the mountain and summoned those whom He Himself wanted, and they came to Him. And He appointed the twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out demons” (Mark 3:13-15).

Who is a disciple of our Lord? Anyone who is deeply and personally committed to Jesus Christ by faith, who manifests the power and authority of our Lord, and who continues and extends His work.”

 

And from   https://bible.org/seriespage/2-understanding-meaning-term-disciple

 

DISCIPLESHIP AS A CALL TO FOLLOW JESUS

Discipleship is a call to be with, know and enjoy the Master. In this sense, the call to Biblical discipleship presupposes salvation, i.e., that a person has believed in Christ as Lord and Savior and continues to believe in Him. But discipleship is also a summons to follow Jesus and this is, at times, no easy matter. He demands exclusive, complete, and unflinching obedience to Himself. This is where his summons to discipleship is so radically different from Plato who stressed the freedom of the student from the teacher or even the Jewish religious leaders who focused more on the Torah and steered their disciples away from themselves. Jesus, on the other hand, pointed people to himself9 (and still does) and calls them to radical commitment to him. Jesus’ call to discipleship is a call to Christlikeness which includes at least three related facts: (1) the demand; (2) the added promise; and (3) the grace.

 

THE DEMAND

Jesus’ call to discipleship is an all-or-nothing summons, reaching into every area of our lives. It involves giving him preeminence over the closest of our human relationships and over the desires we have for our lives. In short, it involves becoming his servant in the world and giving your life to that end. Paradoxically we give up that which we cannot keep to gain that which we cannot lose. If we don’t, we lose all in the end (cf. Matt 16:25).

The cross was an instrument of death and well known to the Jews. The suffering was intolerable. But Jesus says we are to take it up and follow him. This will, in the nature of the case, involve self-denial. The one who picked up the cross-beam of his cross was headed down a one-way street, never to return.

The GRACE

The demand of Jesus’ call to discipleship is impossible for a human being, unaided, to fulfill. We must have resources to accomplish this kind of life. Those resources come directly from Christ and are promised to us if we abide in him. This is the point of Jesus’ teaching in John 15:1-11ff. He told his disciples that even though he was departing the world, he would nonetheless carry on his life and ministry through them, his chosen ones (15:16). From John 14:26, 15:26 and 16:13-14 we know that his life would be lived in and through the disciples via the indwelling Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 8:9; 1 Cor 3:16).”

 

 

 

 

 

Make Disciples (5) – more of Jerry Bridges

Kristen Wetherell, reporting on an interview with Jerry Bridges in 2016 wrote :-

If you’ve become discouraged by your Christian life; if you often feel the weight of condemnation; if you think God has a low opinion of you or is often frustrated by your efforts; if you believe your good works get you higher marks on his judgment scale, you need to preach the gospel to yourself!

Performance is the default mode of every human: thinking we have to do good works to please God (and even other people). Our identities have become wrapped up in our own accomplishments, the opinions of others, and even the spiritual disciplines we practice, rather than the once-for-all saving work of Jesus Christ.

Author Jerry Bridges wants us to remember the gospel by preaching it to ourselves on a daily basis.”

http://unlockingthebible.org/how-to-preach-the-gospel-to-yourself-an-interview-with-jerry-bridges/

 

So I need to preach the Gospel to myself everyday!  I must return to the Gospel of Grace, the power of God to sozo me totally.  My identity is not wrapped up in my performance and discipleship, not even my spiritual disciplines and service to make disciples!   (more of this in the next post – what does it really mean?)

 

And again from the previous post –

http://www.signetringministries.org/2009/10/25/breakfast-with-mr-bridges/

Bridges preaches and teaches Gospel-driven sanctification. The call of conformity to the image of Christ is given throughout the Scriptures. However, it becomes easy for us to become, in Bridge’s words, “duty-driven” rather than “gospel-driven.” To further define, we often see the pursuit of sanctification as something we must do to earn or remain in God’s favor. This thought may be a subtle thought in the believer’s mind. Yet, we still can fall into this erroneous way of thinking. Bridges clearly and boldly established that we are called to pursue conformity to the image of Christ because we are saved. We are totally pure in the eyes of God because what Christ has done on the cross. We are totally secure in the love of God because of what Christ is doing right now—interceding for us at God right hand. We are destined for the resurrection because of His promise to raise us up with Christ when He returns. These are the truths that should be spurring us on to good works, and causing us to pursue holiness.”   

 

Jerry Bridges influenced and impacted many – notable is his call to return to the Gospel of Grace.  Appended are articles and interviews by various people –

 

http://www.booksataglance.com/author-interviews/interview-with-jerry-bridges-on-his-autobiography-god-took-me-by-the-hand-part-2/

“Shortly after The Pursuit of Holiness was published a large evangelical church in our city asked me to teach it as one of the electives in a 10-week Bible study program. Preparing for these lectures forced me to go back to the book. Toward the end of the 10-week series I thought to myself, “There is not enough gospel in this book. ……. I spent the next 10 years thinking about the role of the gospel in the pursuit of holiness. Finally, in 1991, what began as the chapter I wish I had written became a full-fledged book entitled Transforming Grace. This was followed in subsequent years by two other books The Discipline of Grace and The Transforming Power of the Gospel.

 

with C.J. Mahaney

(http://www.cjmahaney.com/blog/an-interview-with-jerry-bridges/)

Jerry: Well, I preached the gospel to myself in light of the fact that I was coming here to teach and one of my favorite phrases, which is not a biblical phrase, but it is based on the Bible, is from the old hymn “Christ the Solid Rock.” This says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” And I just said to the Lord, “Lord, my hope for any blessing on my ministry today at The Pastors College is based on Jesus’ blood and righteousness. His death to pay for my sin, his righteousness imputed to me.”

CJ: Well, let me add my own recommendation. The Discipline of Grace is, I think, a must read and I recommend and have recommended for years that individuals read, in particular the first three chapters, although I commend the entire book, but the first three chapters every day for the rest of your life.

 

And from the Spurgeon Fellowship Journal

(http://www.thespurgeonfellowship.org/journal/int_sp09.pdf)

JB: So there was this barrenness, and I suspect it was due to the modernist/fundamentalist debate. They lost sight of the gospel and the fundamentalists took the theological and moral high ground, becoming very self-righteous. Of course, when you’re self-righteous, you don’t need the gospel because the gospel is only for sinners. Even though I’m a saved sinner, I am still a practicing sinner which means I must preach the gospel to myself everyday. But if you’re looking down your nose at other people then you don’t recognize your own need for the gospel. So that’s my suspicion; that is where it started. I was born in 1929 so I grew up in that era. The first 15 years of my ministry could be described as an “ought-to” ministry. I was always saying, “you ought-to do this.” Thankfully, by God’s grace, I recognized the error of my ways. Now I would like to describe it as a “want-to” ministry. I hope people “want-to” to obey because they have been motivated by the gospel.  

JB: I believe grace motivates a person to obedience. I use Isaiah’s experience – the vision in Isaiah 6 – as a paradigm. At the conclusion of my sermon on Isaiah 6, I said that passage can be summed up in four words: God, guilt, grace, and gratitude. God’s holiness, our guilt, the gospel of God’s grace, and Isaiah’s gratitude is expressed. When God said, “Who shall I send?” Isaiah didn’t ask where he would go and what he would do. Instead, he answered, “Here am I.” And I believe that when we read of Jesus’ experience with the sinful women in Luke 7, we are seeing only the tail end of the story. The only way we can understand that story is to assume she had a prior encounter with Jesus and had become acutely aware of her sin and received his forgiveness. So now she comes out of gratitude to wash his feet. The parable of the debtor brings that out, of course. I define grace these days not just as unmerited favor. I say without guilt there’s no grace. So I define grace in this fashion: it is God’s blessings through Christ to the people who deserved his curse.

AA: So we’re not un-meriting; rather, we are ill-meriting.

JB: Yes; we are ill-meriting and ill-worthy.

AA: Right!

AA: If you were asked to address a group of pastors in a conference setting and given complete freedom to preach your passions, what subjects would you address and why?

JB: Living by the gospel. I would eventually get into progressive sanctification but I would start with the gospel. At Sinclair Ferguson’s church I am going to preach on 2 Corinthians 5:14-15. We are constrained by the love of Christ. I spent too many years preaching “ought-to” and that’s the way I lived. And I can recall one day when I was going through 2 Corinthians and the Holy Spirit arrested me with the phrase “Christ’s love compels me.” I asked myself, “What compels me?” And my answer was “duty.” Duty is a high virtue for me. I realized, however, that my sense of duty would not last a lifetime. I prayed, “God, will you begin to compel me by your love?” He led me back to the gospel. AA: It’s the performance treadmill you talk about in Transforming Grace, right? JB: Yes. But you see, the way to the cross is through our sin. We don’t need the cross until we see our sin. The gospel frees you up to be honest about your sin. Without the gospel you have to live in denial. Otherwise, you can’t take it. AA: You mean, as a self-righteous person? JB: Yes, as a self-righteous person you live in denial. But when you see the gospel and when you see that Christ really has died for your sin and you really have been forgiven, then it’s okay to be honest. When the Holy Spirit convicts of sin you don’t fight with it; rather, you say, “Okay Lord, that’s true. That’s the way I am. But thanks be to God for the gospel.

 

 

In March 2016, the Logos Bible Software blog put up a “in memory of Jerry Bridges – with a roundup of articles and quotes” –

https://blog.logos.com/2016/03/in-memory-of-jerry-bridges-a-roundup-of-articles-and-quotes/

The fourth great truth that I learned was the necessity of preaching the gospel to myself every day. I learned to look to Christ as my righteousness rather than to my own performance. Early in my Christian life, I had gone from one extreme, what I call self-effort — this is what the Bible says, so just obey it — to the opposite extreme — you can’t do anything, just trust Jesus to live his life through you. . . . I am responsible to deal with sin, I am responsible to grow in the fruit of the Spirit, but I am dependent on the enabling power of Christ through the Holy Spirit to enable me to do that.”

 

(Next – what does it mean to be a disciple)

Make Disciples (4) – Breakfast with Jerry Bridges

Jerry Bridges went to be with his savior in 2016, after working for nearly 60 years with the Navigators – THE disciple-making ministry.  In his lifetime, a few of his books became classics – The Pursuit of Holiness, The Practice of Godliness.  Less well-known are his other powerful books which steers readers back to the indicatives of the Gospel of Grace – Transforming Grace, The Discipline of Grace and The Gospel for Real Life. (I’ve highly given and recommended these 3 books to others to remind ourselves that it is all by HIS Grace, and not be MY discipleship.)

Jerry Bridges reminds me of the Navigators with the mission to “spread the Good News of Jesus Christ by establishing life-on-life mentoring—or discipling—relationships with people, equipping them to make an impact on those around them for God’s glory.”

Indeed not only a prolific writer, but one who is profound and perceptive – in the ways and workings of God! I am grateful and glad that the Lord has raised him to remind ‘disciples’ and ‘disciple-makers’ that we must anchor our efforts and energy on Jesus, and the Holy Spirit Whom He sent, lest we lose sight of Jesus and His good news of grace, the power to sozo us in all ways, always.

 

Appended below is a Ryan Habbena‘s account of his breakfast with Jerry Bridges, followed by excerpts from J Bridges’ books.

 

Bridges preaches and teaches Gospel-driven sanctification. The call of conformity to the image of Christ is given throughout the Scriptures. However, it becomes easy for us to become, in Bridge’s words, “duty-driven” rather than “gospel-driven.” To further define, we often see the pursuit of sanctification as something we must do to earn or remain in God’s favor. This thought may be a subtle thought in the believer’s mind. Yet, we still can fall into this erroneous way of thinking. Bridges clearly and boldly established that we are called to pursue conformity to the image of Christ because we are saved. We are totally pure in the eyes of God because what Christ has done on the cross. We are totally secure in the love of God because of what Christ is doing right now—interceding for us at God right hand. 

http://www.signetringministries.org/2009/10/25/breakfast-with-mr-bridges/

 

From “Transforming Grace”

The grace of God is one of the most important subjects in all of Scripture. At the same time it is probably one of the least understood.

The realization that my daily relationship with God is based on the infinite merit of Christ instead of on my own performance is a very freeing and joyous experience. But it is not meant to be a one-time experience; the truth needs to be reaffirmed daily.

My observation of Christendom is that most of us tend to base our personal relationship with God on our performance instead of on His grace. If we’ve performed well—whatever “well” is in our opinion—then we expect God to bless us. If we haven’t done so well, our expectations are reduced accordingly. In this sense, we live by works rather than by grace. We are saved by grace, but we are living by the “sweat” of our own performance.

Moreover, we are always challenging ourselves and one another to “try harder.” We seem to believe success in the Christian life (however we define success) is basically up to us: our commitment, our discipline, and our zeal, with some help from God along the way.

Here is a spiritual principle regarding the grace of God: To the extent you are clinging to any vestiges of self-righteousness or are putting any confidence in your own spiritual attainments, to that degree you are not living by the grace of God in your life.

 

From “The Discipline of Grace”

.. the day when your spiritual disciplines are all in place and you are reasonably satisfied with your Christian performance. Have you thereby earned God’s blessing that day? Will God be pleased to bless you because you’ve been good? You are probably thinking, Well, when you put it like that, the answer is no. But doesn’t God only work through clean vessels? To which I reply, “Let’s assume that is true. How good then do you have to be to be a clean vessel? How good is good enough?”

When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus, “‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matthew 2236-39).

Using Jesus’ response to the Pharisee as a standard, how good has your good day been? Have you perfectly kept those two commandments? If not, does God grade on a curve? Is 90 percent a passing grade with God? We know the answers to those questions, don’t we? We know that Jesus said, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). And we remember that James wrote, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10).

The point of this good-day-bad-day comparison is this: Regardless of our performance, we are always dependent on God’s grace, His undeserved favor to those who deserve His wrath.

 

(I am like the Ethiopian –  Acts 8 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him”

Jerry Bridges is my Philip!

The Red Apple Syndrome

Andrew Goh is more than wise, and witty.  He is also a wordsmith!  His editorial is always my first read whenever the Impact Magazine comes in the mail. In the latest edition, (https://www.impact.com.sg/single-post/2017/01/23/Words-And-Even-More-Words)  he quoted M. Slozberg, and added on with his usual uncanny insights –

 Miriam Slozberg cautions: “We know that the benefits of using Social Media are profound. Through social networking, many businesses have grown, and individual users have blossomed many great friendships and found support when needed. Social Media can be a huge blessing. However, at the same time, if you are not careful with how you use it, Social Media can be a huge curse.”

Apparently what we post on Social Media is never lost (shades of “once saved, always saved”?) She adds: “What you put out in your social networks is out there forever. Just imagine a potential employer or collaborator reading a Facebook post of you ranting about how you hate life or using every curse word in the book – you can kiss your opportunity goodbye.”

The “Delete” button is misleading once “Send” has been pressed.

Truly, here’s the gift that keeps on giving … even when we don’t want any more of it, thank you. But as the British say so well, “in for a penny, in for a pound”. And what a pounding it has been.

Matthew 12:36 (KJV): “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.”

Idle words? Hmmm. Hitting the nail, right on the head. No exaggeration. Enough said.

 

Indeed, “what we post on Social Media is never lost” and how it reminds me of timeless words of James Chapter 3

“Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. 3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. 4 Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs. 5 So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! 6 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 set on fire by hell. 7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. 11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”

 

Social norms and civility has probably curbed gossips uttered or passed on to the few we come in contact.  But words, through social media as comments, critiques, criticisms, opinions, observations – has a life of its own, far beyond the reaches of our tongues – reaching to people and groups we hardly envisage or imagine!

So what do people blog or babble about?  Anything and everything!

And it is becoming a syndrome (google – a characteristic combination of opinions, emotions, or behaviour)

 

THE RED APPLE

There was a group a boys, wandering, – and wondering, at an apple tree, with one red apple and ninety nine green apples. One of them challenged – yes you guessed it – ‘who can bring down the red apple with a stone’.

Why the red apple? Why did the world’s press and news columns pick on LKY or Singapore?  You get the idea.  There’s more glory and glee than hitting a green apple

Many years ago, I hosted two Swiss scientists at the China Town Hawker Center.  One of them said, “Oh, where are the policemen?”  He had read that Singapore was a police state.  I teased in return “Not so loud, they are all around us, in plain clothes”.  Or the occasion when my UBC professors who came here twenty years ago realised that what they read in Canada about Singapore were not factual, but fabricated!  (e.g. http://honestreporting.com/)

Comments are free.  But they must be factual and fair.

Why do so many blog about my pastor Joseph Prince? Because he’s like the red apple – too prominent and prodigious.  The film star / celebrity portrait on his bestselling books. The outstanding (architecturally I mean or is it outlandish?) church he pastors. The thousands (millions via TV) who eagerly and enthusiastically watch and listen to him. The testimonies that extol the impact and influence of his Grace sermons.

 

No it can’t be.  How can a tiny nation Singapore pull off so many achievements that elude even Western (better?) countries? How can an Asian LKY be respected and consulted even by world (western) statesman?  No, it can’t be – and so those who hold the pen would bring forth their searchlights and scour all that comes forth from LKY, and even resort to tarnish our beloved founder statesman and our nation. There’s glory and glee in blogging about a red apple.

 

W Safire definitely wasn’t a fan, and writing about Singapore and LKY probably garnered more mileage than writing about a green apple.

I found a transcript of a 1999 interview – LKY faced off with Safire, – speechwriter for US president, NYT renowned columnist. His views and writings were as free as the US could be, and LKY was more than a match when giving him an audience. And in his usual style, LKY was sharper, faster. Factual, fair-handed. In comparison, WS was out of his depth.

 

LKY to William Safire : [Laughs] I am not saying that. You are reducing it. You are caricaturing what I am saying.

WS: Here comes a prickly question. You mentioned corruption and nepotism earlier today. What about Singapore? Would your son be Deputy Prime Minister if he were not your son?

LKY: If he were not my son, he would be the Prime Minister. I’ll tell you honestly, I stopped him, because he can run faster than any of the others. But I told him it would do him no good. Just stay out of this race. And his generation, his peers, know that I am not boasting when I tell you this.

WS: So you don’t foresee a dynasty?

LKY: I am not that bereft of satisfaction with my life that I need to live vicariously through him. In fact, if he doesn’t measure up, it is better that he does not show up, because he’ll just besmirch the family reputation.

WS: About your book. You just wrote a book; I bought the book.

LKY: Where did you buy the book?

WS: In Washington, D.C. It wasn’t easy, but I found it. Have there been any negative reviews of your book in Singapore?

LKY: A few. Not written by Singaporeans.

WS: But published in Singapore?

A: Oh, yes. By xxxxxxx. Condemning it day by day. It’s dutifully published. It gives me publicity. [Laughs] Look. I can stand that. Not to worry.

 

“It gives me publicity”!  Yes that’s something.  I found out one local blogger having 19 postings on Joseph Prince. (I’ve yet to find out how many postings he made on those in his fellowships. OK, I understand, they have to be red apples).

Indeed comments on social media are free.  But are they factual and fair-handed?  I do my due diligence – for myself. Its life and death!  Have I been listening to a false teacher? Well, I always tell myself, my mind and senses must be like a parachute – it only works when it is open.  And I don’t think I am superficial.  I too scour words and precepts that are preached and proclaimed, “in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain” (Galatians 2)  But my conclusions are definitely not final and conclusive.  As Paul wrote “I know whom I believe” (2 Tim 1) and “the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3).  So I rather spend my time truly knowing Him, and making Him known, rather than spend my time focusing on things, ideas, concepts, opinions, people   –  writing about what and where I ate for breakfast, or my observation and opinion on this and that, and who and who. Oops sorry, I am now guilty of being free with my opinions.  I better watch out, or I end up having policemen, psychiatrists and social workers (from Andrew Goh’s editorial mentioned earlier) ticking to follow me in my blogs  .  If anyone, I rather that I’m being followed by the Companion, the Comforter, the Covering, the Captain, the Counsellor Whom my Lord Jesus sent to guide my in my pilgrimage.

If you came this far reading, thank you for reading. My opinions, observations, conclusions are far from final.  Only Jesus is real and true.  May you know HIM, for this is eternal life, that you know HIM.

Preach the Gospel to myself

Sunday 09 June 2013 – The spirit and sound of thanksgiving, praise and joy was full, filling the Star theatre.  It was announced that Joseph Prince was the rated top of the ITunes podcasts under the Religion and Spirituality category, together with Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer. Incidentally, these three proclaim Jesus, Who is our all in all.   

JP’s ministry and message of the Gospel of Grace has indeed restored many believers to the basic truth of Jesus being our Redeemer and Righteousness. 

JP’s consistent and continuous proclamation of Jesus Who came in His fullness, with grace upon grace (John 1:16) resonates with the need to be affirmed and assured of Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  There is the need to be reminded, refreshed and renewed by the gospel every day.  Jerry Bridges has a chapter “Preach the Gospel to Yourself” in is book “The Discipline of Grace”

http://kerdos.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/where-did-the-phrase-preach-the-gospel-to-yourself-come-from/

http://www.challies.com/reading-classics-together/preach-the-gospel-to-yourself.’

The validity and value of returning to Jesus’ finished work on the cross can never be overstated. This can be easily seen by the Jesus’ instruction to us – in the epistles.  We know that the direct words of Jesus are quoted in the gospels, but do not realise that Jesus’ words are also quoted in the epistles.  It must be of supreme importance and significance that Jesus directly spoke and refered to Himself in the memorial feast –  to remember, to relish, to be refreshed, to be reminded, to be renewed of and by our Redeemer and Righteousness (1 Corinthians 11:23-25).

So I share the delight of the many who tune in to ITunes to listen to J Prince unveiling Jesus, Who is Grace upon Grace. When men are hungry, they will eat almost anything.  Here we have a pastor who preaches Jesus in all His beauty, and His body is bread for life for all. And we have man like Jerry Bridges who further remind us on working out our salvation by Grace and allow Jesus to sanctify us (read his books “The Discipline of Grace” and “Transform Grace”) –  “Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

While we have been exhorted often (constantly?) to a life of discipleship, it is exhilarating, revitalising and energizing to be brought back to the truth of just trusting in Jesus only, in His Grace and in His saving and sanctifying power instead of trying in my strength. For I am saved by grace (Eph 2:8,9), and hence stand securely in His grace (Rom 5:1,2), and need to remain strong in grace (2 Tim 2:1; Heb 13:9) and not in myself.