Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where Is Your Fruit?

"Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing."

John 15:4-5

As Jesus puts it, the rule is very simple: Abide in Him and bear fruit, or take the other way around. Don't push yourself to bear fruit on your own, it just wont happen. Jesus said, "...apart from me you can do nothing." That statement should stop all our vain efforts and our useless attempts to do things in on our lives, ministry, relationship, plans, dreams, decisions and everything else around us on our own and start admitting in ourselves that we are hopeless apart from Christ. Because even if we think we are bearing fruit somehow on our own and apart from Christ, it is guaranteed that it will not last. God has chosen us and appointed us to bear fruit, and our fruit should abide (John 15:16), and this will only be achieved if we remain in the Vine.

There is no effort for a tree or a vine to bear fruit as long as it it is exposed to its needed substances. If we abide in Christ, then bearing fruit should be natural for us. Everything else will follow. Our problem sometimes, whether we admit it or not, is that we want to do things on our own.

What does it mean to abide?
The word "abide" means to stay or remain. The fruit or evidence of salvation is continuance in service to Christ and His teaching (John 8:31; Colossians 1:23).

What does it mean to bear fruit?
Now let us take a look what it means to bear fruit. Sometimes this is where a lot of Christians have misconceptions. I do not have my own opinion or conception about it, but I believe what the Bible shows us about it. The New Testament describes fruit as:

  • Godly Attitudes (Galatians 5:22-23)
  • Righteous Behavior (Philippians 1:11)
  • Praise (Heb 13:15)
  • Leading others to faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 1:13-16)

Now, let us examine ourselves in the light of this truth and see if this matter is a reality in our lives.

Abiding in Christ along with you,
Pastor Jho

Friday, July 29, 2011

Watch Your Eyes!

"Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied, and never satisfied are the eyes of man."
Proverbs 27:20

Truly this passage shows us a profound reality when it comes to man's sinful nature and it's lust. All of us have experienced the cravings of the flesh, and it's demand for more. But one thing that we should know and understand about lust is that it promises satisfaction but it's reward is emptiness - only a hunger for more. It is never, ever satisfied.

There is lust for power, some lust for blood. Most lust after money, prestige, and sex which is very rampant nowadays, so I want to deal in one area of lust that cannot be easily traced yet prone to everyone: "Lust of the eye". Yes, everyone is prone to the lust of the eye whether you're a christian or not, whatever status you're in. You are in this battle whether you like it or not - young and old, men and women alike - we all face this problem and we must admit it. Well it is another problem if you are not aware of this dilemma, then it is another matter to deal with. But I want to concentrate here, and expose the risk of breeding this kind of lust in our hearts. 

We are in a generation which promotes sex almost everywhere - fashion, songs, movies, commercials, magazine, TV shows, billboards, etc. In our daily lives we must admit that we are bombarded with sexually inspired images which stimulates our mind and encourages it to go beyond what we normally think about and entertain those images in our minds, until our eyes seek for something more, it hungers for something new. 

The Lord Jesus Himself taught us in Matt. 5:28 that if we look at a woman with lustful intent, we have already committed adultery in our hearts. The major problem with lust of the eye is it obviously lead us to sin in our hearts and take us away from God's will in our lives.

When we look at something, our minds will chew the information and flash those images in our mind. And if our minds find those images appealing it will automatically be stored in our memories. That is the problem with pornography for example. It feeds the lust of the eye. And even after repenting of that sin, those images are stored in your memory and it can be pulled out anytime and anywhere, and once we cherish it at the moment in our hearts, we commit the same sin all over again. Our purity is at stake. That is why I believe Job made a covenant with his eyes not to look at a virgin, and I believe that is not with lustful intent (Job 31:1). And these are not restricted only to men, but women are also prone to this danger, so we all should take extra precaution. 

Our eyes are never satisfied with lust once it starts, so we should take steps on how to mortify the flesh in this area, and not forget that it should be through the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13). We should make it our aim to please God than to please ourselves and our flesh. Let us push ourselves not to linger on things where we shouldn't look at. And so, purify our minds and renew it, and not follow the pattern of this world (Romans 12:2). Therefore, we put away thoughts which is not pleasing to God, and replace it with pure thoughts which is good before the Lord, and strive and fight for the purity of our hearts, mind, and our eyes. 

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Faith or Positive Thinking?

Faith is so much different from positive thinking although many people are confused by the two. Faith is not merely a positive confession in a negative situation. In positive thinking, we declare positively the things which we think we need and deny the fact that we lack it. Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." In faith, we do have conviction of the things "which we do not see", yet we are fully assured that God will provide for it. In positive thinking, we make ourselves believe we have the things which we do not see and refuse the fact that we lack it. For example (this is even taught in the church), don't say "I don't have money" (although it's a fact), instead say, "I do have money" even if you lack it.

Well, lets apply this principle in our salvation. In Ephesians 2:8-9, we are saved by faith and not by works (nor by positive thinking). Now if we are going to apply positive thinking here, it would look like this; a lost soul applying faith through positive thinking keep saying to himself, "I'm saved, I'm saved!" without the gospel which is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16) and make himself believe he is. Genuine faith is different from positive thinking, instead of refusing to acknowledge the things he lack, a person would come to the point of admission that there is nothing in his hands that he can offer for salvation, and believe in the Gospel and put his faith in Christ. A person do not get saved by a mere profession or by the power of his mind. Faith isn't about what you say, it is about what God says. Faith is looking through God's word and not a positive mantra that you invite through your positive incantations. God is sovereign above all things, he doesn't bend to our wills unless, it is his will to happen.

Acknowledging the fact in our everyday lives that we lack something isn't doubt. It is just plainly, a fact. Doubt comes when we start to waver in our trust that God can do something about the fact that we do lack something, for example, in our finances. But faith comes when, despite the reality that there is nothing in our hands right now, God is sovereign and is in control of all things. He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. We will be rest assured to trust God that he can do something for His glory to be revealed, and in every circumstances God has a plan to get glory for Himself.

By the way, I am not against positive thinking. I agree that it is good for a person to be optimistic. There is nothing wrong with positive thinking, but it is wrong to take positive thinking as faith.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Love or Duty?

"I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name's sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first."
Revelations 2:2-4

Reading this passages shows us that it is possible to almost do every good thing a christian could do, and end up not loving the Lord. We could say that the first part of message given to the Church in Ephesus was a commendation. Yet, it was followed by a strong rebuke "But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first".  What I could see sometimes in here is myself. When I feel my love for the Lord being dampened by the things of this world, I go back to these verses and meditate on it.  Then I see myself as a man so busy in the ministry, having a reputation of being alive from the outside yet dead inside (Rev. 3:1). We all know that the Lord looks at the heart, and He is much interested on who we are than on what we do. A church, like the one in Ephesus, could have every external marks of a healthy church: they endured patiently, they cannot bear those who are evil, they tested those who claim to be from God and proved them to be false. They even endured for the sake of the Name of their Lord Jesus Christ and they didn't grow weary. We might ask, what else could be done? That's exactly what we need in our churches today right? If we see a church like that today we would no less commend it. Yet, the Lord rebuked them. He could see their hearts. He could see straight in our hearts. His sight penetrates through our dead works no matter how much we hide our cold hearts with activities, good works, busyness in our ministries, bible studies or any form of religious act. He could see it all...

How much do you love Christ? We all love Christ from a degree. Does your heart burn for Him? Does the service you render to Him a form of love, or a form of duty? What is your motivation? Do you look constantly upon the cross? When you go to church, is it about you being blessed? Or you go to church so that you might bless God with your life? What is it all about? Is it about Him being sovereign in your life? Or being only a "part" of your life. Christ is never a part of your life. He is your life (Colossians 3:4).

See, the point being made in here is that we, as fallible creatures could easily be unaware of our standing before God, and mistake our love for Him with the things that we do for Him. Altogether, let us all savor His grace. Look back to the Cross. Do not be content. Challenge the love you have for Him. Test yourselves (II Corinthians 13:5). One thing that amazes me about Mary, the brother of Lazarus,  is that each time she appears in the gospel she was at the feet of Jesus Christ. Can we do that? To sit at the feet of our Maker and to see His glory and splendor. To love Him for who He is above all things. And so, perform our duties out of love and not out of responsibilities.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength..." 
Luke 10:27

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Purity: Does it matter?

''And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure."
I  John 3:3

I thank God for the conviction, and for pressing into my heart the importance of purity. Being fruitful yet impure can be compared to an apple which is rotten inside. Apostle Paul commanded Timothy to keep himself pure (I Tim. 5:22). He also admonished him, and this admonition goes to all young believers too, "to set the believers and example in...purity..." (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul knows that God wants us to be pure in His sight.

"Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands, and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully"
Psalms 24:35
Not only in our lifestyle God wants us to be pure, but also He wants us to have a pure heart. Pure conduct springs from a pure heart. The Lord Jesus Himself said in Matt. 5:8 that "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." It was a promise to those who keep their hearts pure.

"Finally brothers... whatever is pure... think about these things"
Philippians 4:8

Here, Apostle Paul mentioned a list of good things by which we must set our minds upon. It includes purity. god does not want us to walk in the futility of our minds. In our darkened understanding, the way we used to think in our old life (Eph. 4:17-18). He wants us to have a pure mindset for it pleases and glorify Him. A pure mind affects the way we see things which is around us, " to the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled" (Titus 1:15).
A pure mind is a healthy mind which delight in the Word of the God, for it is pure (Ps. 12:6).

Lastly, the book of James 4:8 tells us to purify ourselves as we draw near to god. How do we do that? It is important for us to realize that in our sinfulness, we cannot purify ourselves on our own. The book of Proverbs 20:9 asks, "Who can say 'I have made myself heart pure; I am clean from sin?'" So, if that is what the Word of God says, what is all these talk about purity of lifestyle, heart, and mind? These things will bring us to the sacrifice done by the Lord Jesus Christ, His redemption for us at the cross of Calvary. "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the Eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God" (Heb. (9:14) .

Only through the cross of Christ will we find our purification from sins. As I John 3:3 says, " And everyone who thus hopes in Him purifies himself as He is pure". Put your hope in Him.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Obeying God: Burdensome?

"For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome."
I John 5:3

His commandments are not burdensome. The Greek word used here for burdensome is "barus" which means "heavy in weight, severe, stern or weighty". At times we may find ourselves falling into a particular sin and from there, how does this passage apply to us? How can we say with Apostle John that God's commandment is truly not burdensome?

Yes we fail from God's commandments, and no one can keep it perfectly. "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (I John 1:8). Yet, despite the fact of our weaknesses and failures, it doesn't create a burdensome heart regarding our imperfect obedience toward His commandments. Yes we become frustrated, disappointed or even discouraged at times because we fail from following Him, but this is out of a heart that hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matt. 5:6) and we groan for the full redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:22). I could say that this is the godly sorrow which Apostle Paul mentioned in II Cor. 7:10, and this is healthy for our souls for it brings forth genuine repentance. And this, is very far from a heart who look at His commandments with contempt but has no choice but to obey it in fear of consequence.

A man truly born of God "will want to obey God" because his heart was regenerated (see Doctrine of Regeneration). His stubborn heart was replaced with a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36 verses 26-27 shows us a vivid picture of regeneration: "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules (emphasis mine)." If we are going to notice the last part of the verse, we will see that it is God who cause us to walk in His statutes and for us to be careful in obeying His rules. So again, a man truly born of God will want to obey God because he is regenerated. He will not feel being pushed to obey it. He will desire it and it will be a passion for him.

The Lord Jesus Christ Himself exclaimed in John 14:15, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments". So, we obey God primarily because God has changed our hearts and enable us to obey Him and moreover, to love Him. We obey Him out of love not duty, so it is never a burdensome task. Obeying God is more than a responsibility, it is to show our affection for Him. "For this is the love of God..."

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ashes from Yesterday's Revival

"O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy."

Habakkuk 3:2

We don't expect revival nowadays. We love to talk about it, yes; we sing about it, we are interested in it, but we do not long for it. We do not labor for it in prayer. We live in the ashes of yesterdays revival. That's the truth whether we like it or not. Think of a church you personally know, which is having a revival. Can you name it? If yes, praise God.

We go to church, and we expect to get out of it before lunch. We don't expect revival to happen. We don't wait on God anymore. Waiting is no longer applicable in our busy schedules for we all have other things to do. So we improvise waiting upon the Lord with different kinds of program that will trigger emotion and send thrills within us, and so create a substitute for the fire of God.

Revival is a sovereign act of God in view of His mercy. It is not produced by human means. When genuine revival breaks out, all the conventional program of man will be overthrown. No flesh will be able to glory in God's presence (I Corinthians 1:29). It will all be pointed to God, all glory directed straight to Him.

We don't expect revival. Yes we want it, but if we don't get it its okay, because we have a bunch of substitute for it. If one day, the Lord will remove His Holy Spirit in the churches today, it will function just the same, and few will notice the Spirit's absence. And if it will be noticed, the question is will they be grieved for it? Will they weep and wrestle in prayer to get it back? Will they long for the fire of the Holy Spirit to return?

We have lost the fire. Some might say "Oh no! We're doing just fine!" That's what you think. If that's true, why is there such carnality in the church? Why are they so concerned about prosperity and wealth instead of holiness and righteousness? Why are they so intoxicated with the things that will fulfill their carnal appetite using the Word of God to justify their deeds?

We need revival. Yes. We need the fire of the Holy Ghost again. And I'm not talking about a bunch of congregation jumping up and down while singing then go home and they call it revival. No. I'm talking about something so much beyond that. I'm talking about a group of people who are sensitive about their sin and iniquities that they decided to humble themselves and seek the Lord in holiness and righteousness no matter what the cost. They are a people committed to the cause of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These group of people will have a passion to glorify God and no other, and their passion has utterly consumed them that it becomes so contagious that it will spread like wildfire, until no one is left unaffected by it.

God, we need revival...