Monday, March 13, 2006

What Do We Fight For?

This is my personal summary of exposirory preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on James 4:1-6 on 12th March 2006

James was describing the situations that often happen in the church. He traced the reasons to the root. Where do all the quarrels and fights come from?

Fighting spirit is something we ought to have. Put in the right place, it causes progress in humanity. Put in the wrong place, it causes a lot of destruction. This is true for an individual, for a church, for a family and for a nation.

James says that selfish desire is the root of all strife. The book of Ephesians says that our selfish desires are in battle with the Holy Spirit.

When we are still living in sin, Satan does not look at us as his enemies because we are under his control. God also does not look at us as His enemies because He uses His love to bring us back to Him. Therefore, our lives as human beings can be quite peaceful in this sense. We can live as we like without strict constraints.

However, when we are saved, the real battle begins within us. It becomes a very difficult life. We are constrained in whatever we do. When we follows our selfish desires, the Holy Spirit within will rebuke us. When we follow God, our flesh will resist. So, true Christians live in this tension as long as they are still in this world.

God gave Israelites the promised land but He did not drive out all the Canaanites and left the land empty for the Israelites to take possession. Implicitly this gives us a very important Christian principle which is often neglected by Christian leaders and parents today. If we do not understand the necessity to fight and always want to have things easy and smooth, we will lose all our fighting spirit and cannot progress. When Joshua was old, God still told him that a lot of land was yet to be conquered. Here we can see that God is never satisfied with our fighting spirit. Yet few churches talk about what they have not done, but often talk a lot about what they have done. If we keep looking forward and want to do the things we have not done, we have a young fighting spirit. But if we keep looking backward and talk about the things we have done, we have a very old spirit, ready to move to the grave.

Hence, there is no question that fighting spirit is a necessity. The question is more on the issue of what we are fighting for. Today, the problem is we do not define our battle properly. We fight against our own brothers because we cannot tell the difference between brothers and enemies. We cannot tell because we do not treat the absolute as absolute and the relative as relative. This is especially the problem with postmodern world we live in which always uses a relative spirit to respond to the absolute, and absolute spirit to respond to the relative. This results in confusion in a lot of the movements today.

James shows how a lot of our fights arise from selfish desires. This brings us to a serious issue that we are not willing to fight for important things but are always eager to fight for our personal things. It shows that our lives are still very centered on self. In chapter 1 James has said that self-centeredness would give birth to sin which results in death. If our lives are really so self-centered, then all our fights and prayers are useless. Achievement of our selfish needs is not relevant to God's eternal will. The prayer the Lord Jesus taught us is the true content of prayer. Surely God knows our need and will provide for us. If we still keep asking God for our personal needs instead of seeking His kingdom when God has provided for our basic needs, it is a sign of greed. Prayer is a very sacred exercise. Yet we would use the most precious religious tool for our selfish ends. Do we not express our selfishness, jealousy, hatred and doubts in our prayers instead of praying in line with God's will?

Christians have the habit of putting their theology in the fridge. When Mohamed was made fun of, Muslims produced social upheaval in many countries around the world. When Jesus Christ is made fun of, Christians produced another book. When we lose our fighting spirit, all knowledge becomes cold. We need to defreeze it and be set on fire again. Reformed theology is reformed theology. Movement is movement. Yet now churches only fight among themselves and do not declare war against Satan.

What is the most important content of your prayer? That is the reflection of your spirituality. If your prayer is the will of God, you are standing right in the battlefield with God and are walking with God.

We need not fight those battles we do not need to fight. But we must fight those battles we need to fight. If we do not fight the battle that we should, we are compromising. If we fight the battle we do not need to fight, we are impulsive. In the same way, we do not need to try to get the things we do not need to have. But we need to get the things we need to have. If we try to possess the things we do not need, we are greedy. If we do not try to get the things we need to have, we are stupid.

God is a jealous God. He is jealous of evil, not of good. God Himself is the Truth, Righteousness, Goodness and Holiness. So if you become more holy, God will not be jealous. If you become more righteous, more truthful, God is not jealous. If we are friends with the world, we are enemies with God.

Peter talks about being partakers of divine nature. It means to escape the corruption of the world so that we can have a part in God's holiness, love and righteousness. The starting point we see in 1 Cor.1:30 that say Christ has become our salvation, wisdom, righteousness and holiness. After we are saved, we can partake in divine nature.

When you truly understand God's Word, you will taste how His wisdom is far above all the philosophies of the world. The worldly philosophies do have their values you can learn from, but when you truly understand God's Word, you will see all their limitation and you will see how glorious His wisdom is above all.

James 4:6 has a sudden twist after he talked about God's jealousy. He said God gives more grace, and He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Who are the proud? Satan and all that follow him. Who are the humble? They are those who submit to God and His eternal will. They are those who are always teachable and in infinite search for the Truth of God. The moment we stop looking for teachers (anyone who has something good we do not have regardless of their status and age), we start to fail.

15 Comments:

At 3:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hai My name is desy, may I know on which date is this sermon? was it the sermon in Trueway church at evening services (near MRT queenstown). I really happy when I knew that somebody is making the summary of Rev. Tong's sermons. This is really helpful. This is the first time I see your blog. May God Bless you.

 
At 3:41 AM, Anonymous Desy said...

BTW, may I ask your permission for copying this summary so I can distribute it to my friend.

Thank you

 
At 11:37 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Desy,

It was preached at 730 pm (12th March 06) in Newton Life church in Mandarin, with English translation. True Way church has a similar preaching in Indonesian at 5 pm.

Yes, this summary is meant for public. You may distribute as many as you want, but I only request that you acknowledge the source, and state the disclaimer which I put at the top of this blog. This is to encourage writers to take both ownership and responsibility for their materials. Thanks & God bless you.

 
At 3:51 PM, Anonymous Desy said...

Hai..I'll take note for that...thank you very much...I will copy some of your past summary too...Thanks for all the help, I can't wait too wait for your summary again next week...I will visit your your blog regulary...God Bless you.

 
At 5:54 AM, Anonymous Wismin Effendi said...

Hi Mejlina,
Thank you so much for the sermon summary.
What a blessing.
I've been looking for something like this for years. Just found your blog couple days back (from google).
I used to visit GRII while I was working in Jakarta mid 1998 - first half 1999.
Moved to US (South Florida) since mid 2000, then to Philadelphia (about 2 years now). Couldn't really find a good/suitable church, but Philly is better, at least the Korean church (English congregation) I joined now share the same doctrine. Eventhough it's rarely preached in the church. And most members and visitors don't care of doctrine at all.

So your summary really blessed me. Esp. this one.
I always thought that God wanted me in US to fight a good fight, but can't find in my church people with same passion. They care more on the poor (social justice) or mission outside US.
While I think the battle field should be in US itself (school system, law, culture, political system,etc).

Please keep up the good work.

thanks,
wismin

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Effendi,

Glad to know that the summary I put up has been beneficial to many people.

It is a great privilege if God grants us people likeminded and it gives great encouragement in ministry. Often times, in the midst of Christian crowd we still feel very alone in battles because we do not seem to be burdened by the same thing as people are at different level of growth in their lives.

But what I have learnt recently is that the call to follow Christ is a personal call, which I have to respond alone, whether or not there are people going with me. But we can never forget that there is great power in God's Word & if He wills, souls can respond to His honorable call into His eternal will. While surrendering ourselves first, pray then, that the Father will send more workers into His harvest field.

For your information, you might want to check out www.theagorasg.blogspot.com and if you like, I can add you to our mailing list discussion. My email is mejlinachua@gmail.com

God bless you!

 
At 3:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You wrote: “When we are saved, the real battle begins… In chapter 1 James has said that self-centeredness would give birth to sin which results in death.” After being saved, we faced the real battle of self-centeredness. Now my question is: will this battle have effect on our salvation? What about those who lose to this battle? Isn’t Israel the chosen (“saved”) nation? When they lose to the “battle” & God let them wander in the dessert for 40 years and not letting them enter the promised land, does it mean their salvation are taken away because of their sins after being saved?

 
At 11:37 AM, Anonymous wismin said...

Dear anonymous,
Jesus paid the penalty of sin (present and future) for those who're predestined to be saved.
It's a limited attointment.
For those God will also preserved them.

But all sin has it's consequences.
take Samson for example.
Even though he failed, I believe he was saved.
And God still use him at the end of his life (he killed more Philistine in that arena, more than the totals of those he killed before he was blind).

The question is: Does anybody want to be like Samson ?

About the chosen nation, I don't think it meant all Israeli will be saved.
Not all Israeli are predestined to be saved.

I think Mejlina would write a better answer for you.

 
At 2:20 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Thanks Wismin for responding to the question. This is related to predestination, as you have shared well. :)

Hi Anonymous, I suppose your question is whether once saved, always saved. If we can lose our salvation, then how can we be confident to fight our battles at all? But if we cannot lose our salvation, would this cause many people to lax and waste God's grace since they will be saved anyway?

To answer this question, first we have to understand what "salvation" means. What are we saved from? Romans 6:23 says the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. Essentially, salvation is a status change from death to life. So His gift of salvation is ETERNAL life. If truly we have received eternal life, then it must last forever. If it fails to last, it means we have not received eternal life in the first place, which also means we have not been saved.

Now we can talk about battles. The salvation of Jesus Christ comes in totality which includes our justification, our sanctification and our glorification. Justification means we are saved from the penalty of sin, which is eternal death. So status wise, God no longers sees us as sinners, but as His children. It is absurd to think that our status keep switching from heaven to hell to heaven to hell, depending on our daily performance on earth, because then the sacrifice of Jesus Christ means nothing as we are still dependent on ourselves to be saved ultimately. The biblical teaching is that our failures will not affect our status before God, which is totally dependent on the achievement of Jesus Christ.

But the gift of sanctification is included in salvation, which means, when God saves you, He gives the Holy Spirit in you that would grant you both the desire and the power to keep fighting to the end. If truly we are the children of God, we will eventually win the battles.

Coming to Israel, we have 2 kinds, the physical Israel and the spiritual Israel. The physical Israel is the chosen Israel nation in Old Testament. But as Paul said, not all Israel are true Israel. This means that although the nation is chosen physically, they might or might not be the chosen ones in spiritual sense. The true Israel is the Church, which includes both the Jews and the Gentiles. In that sense, not all the Israelites who were led out of Egypt were saved eternally.

Similarly, not all who are part of the church congregation are the true Church. The true Church, which is the true Christians, will battle and will win. So we cannot really use our physical eyes to see and judge.

So there are those who think they are saved but they are not. And there are those who are not sure they are saved, but they are. How can we know then or can we know at all? We cannot tell for others, but the Scriptures give promises that it IS possible for us to be assured of our eternal salvation, if we truly desire and seek the true assurance from God Himself.

Is it absolutely necessary for a Christian to understand that absolute assurance based on God's predestination? What I can say is that a saved Christian is a saved Christian, whether or not he understands predestination. But without this assurance, it is difficult for him to fight with full confidence. But if he knows, he will find amazing power to fight his battles because he knows he will surely win.

Feel free to continue posting or email me (mejlinachua@gmail.com) if you still want to ask further.

 
At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So there are those who think they are saved but they are not." How can I know whether I'm among these people or not? Personally, how do you know for yourselves whether you are saved or not?

 
At 2:15 AM, Blogger Adi said...

Hi, anonymous,

I would like to say that I myself have asked your question before. I knew that those who are saved will not lose their salvation. But then I said, “Ok, fine. But how can I know that I am even saved in the first place? How can I know that I am one of the elects?” It was a difficult struggle for me.

Not that the doubts are completely gone now, but one thing which I came to realise was that if I believe that salvation is by grace alone, how can I doubt even my faith? Grace deserves no doubt.

I believe that God may allow Christians to doubt at times to test and sharpen us. Never doubting our salvation does not guarantee that we are saved. On the contrary, it may well be that those who have never doubted are the ones who are unsaved.

I have found an article in www.challies.com, which I found very helpful in understanding the assurance of salvation. In fact, I could identify myself with what is discussed there. Below are the points that I took from there (I heartily recommend you for a complete reading of the 3-series articles):

1) It is possible and even normal for the Christian to experience assurance of salvation.
Romans 8:16
"The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God..."
1 John 5:13
"I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life."
2 Peter 1:10
"Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall."

2) It is possible and even normal for the non-Christian to experience a false assurance of salvation.
Those who have false assurance have placed their hope in themselves and in their own efforts. They appeal to their own work rather than Christ's.

3) It is possible and even normal for Christians to have doubts about their salvation
Causes of doubt: attacks of Satan, trials or difficult circumstances, sin in our lives, mental or physical condition, spiritual immaturity, sensitivity to sin, comparisons with other believers, childhood conversion.

1) Assurance of salvation rests on God's character
2 Timothy 1:12
"I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me."

2) Assurance of salvation rests on God's promises

3) Assurance of salvation rests on the completed work of Jesus Christ

Our assurance must not rest on ourselves.

 
At 2:45 AM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Anonymous,

Before we talk about the issue of assurance, firstly we need to realize that no man is seeking after God. So if we are concerned about our status before God and finds ourselves desiring this assurance, it is the grace of God.

If truly in your heart you desire (this only God knows and you know, I can't tell) to find the true assurance of salvation that is not based on self-deception or people's assurance, but on God's Word alone, then you have great reason to rejoice because God has mercy on you, & you have good reason to hope that such assurance will be given to you in His own time & ways. What He initiates, He will complete.

Having said that, we can talk about the nature of assurance now.

Firstly, ultimately it is the Holy Spirit that will witness to you that you are a child of God. So it is not your power to believe, nor men's persuasion, but His convicting power that brings you to that understanding to SEE that you are saved. Because of that, it is possible for a saved person to be fully assured he is saved, but he cannot convince others that he is saved. So I can tell you I know I am saved and describe to you how I come to know, but still I cannot convince you... because this assurance is given to me for myself. I battle with the issue of salvation assurance for 17 years until God's Word finally overcame me and open my eyes to see His eternal glory in Jesus Christ. I am fully convinced now because He has given me the faith to see and understand His Word.

Secondly, while submitting to God's time & ways, on your part, you need to be studying the Word and be praying to God to open your eyes and understanding. God has ordained His Revelation in such a way that unless we are wholehearted we can never understand... and if we are wholehearted, there is implicit promise that it will be given to us.

People might question why make things so difficult, but I think eternal Life is of utmost importance which is worthwhile seeking the assurance till we are sure it is God, not ourselves or others who declares we are saved. The true faith that saves come from hearing the Word of God, not from hearing human voices. That is why you need to have the heart of seeking while studying the Word. In His time He will open your eyes to see & respond to His Word.

It might take time but this journey is extremely rewarding & the breakthrough later will empower you to set your direction very firmly and clearly for the rest of your life.

But having shared all that, I agree with Adi that we are assured at different levels and can fall into doubt every now and then, and it is a journey of understanding for the chosen ones. As true Christians grow, they will naturally find that assurance becoming firmer.

But my sharing above is an encouragement to seek this assurance and be firmly grounded to the level we no longer sway easily, because God desires us to have this assurance, and so long as we still question our salvation frequently, it is extremely hard to progress.

If you need help with some helpful materials for thinking and meditation, let me know & I'll see what I can provide for you. Again, I'm open for email if you like(mejlinachua@gmail.com).

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you have times when you look back to your past, you regret your decisions? At the time you made it, you were sure the decision was right, it was not against the Bible. But forward to few years later, although it was not against the Bible, it now seems it was not the road God wants. Why was I "blind" at that time & not realize it? Am I still "blind" too today & not realize it? Will I make decisions today that I will regret few years later from now? That's how I wonder & come to this doubt... Anyhow thank you for all. For Mejlina, thanks for providing a "meeting place" here. For Adi, thanks, I'll check the website you give me

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Anonymous,

It all sounds too familiar for me. I have travelled that road you mentioned at least 10 years of my life, until I almost lost the hope of ever to knowing God at all. I blamed my lack of faith when I made a decision in doubt, buth when I did make it 'in faith', later on I found out that it had no clear foundation whatsover. My faith life was characterized by a series of banging from one extreme to another, yet after 10 years of all such knocks, of consistent heavy involvement in ministries and tight personal disciplines, I was never assured & I was still haunted by the question of whether I was saved. One time I felt so sure of something, the next day I felt it was completely stupid & I was so wrong. So every now and then I exploded because I was wholehearted in all the wrong things.

After some time I just doubted myself, my faith, my feelings, my understanding, everything… till I lost all confidence to pray & read the Scriptures, as I thought I was so trapped in myself that I could only offend & misinterpret Him. Yet I had no measure to check how do I know if I was right or wrong. It was extremely draining & tiring when you fight so hard & at the back of your mind you are not even sure if you are walking with God. I just got more and more tired year after year.

It is quite a long story if you would want me to share how God delivered me from it completely. Not very convenient to put long stories in blog comments lah. You cannot get out of it until your faith is founded in solid rock of His Eternal Word that is not dependent on your experiences. My direction has not changed ever since, but only gets firmer & stronger… because I've found the solid Rock to stand, not only for my personal life, but it is able to hold the whole world with all its complexities together.

 
At 5:25 PM, Blogger The Hedonese said...

Hey! Great to see this blog becomes a blessing to more and more people! :)

Our efforts are never in vain, keep blogging for the Lord

 

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