Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Honor of Humanity Part 15 - Life (Last Session)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on The Honor of Humanity Part 15 on 19th November 2006. Note that this is the last session of the series.

When we truly know the love of Christ, we will have life relationship with one another and the world will begin to see that we are Christ’s disciples. When John was old, he did not preach anything, except “Little children, love one another.”

The love of Christ is not just based any human emotion, but is founded in the truth. “I love you because of the truth.” Emotion that is based on truth is true. A lot of times, the motivation of human love is not the kind of love others need, but the foundation comes for selfishness. This is not the case with the love of God. The motivation of God’s love is for the good of others and the foundation is in the truth.

God is Life. He made us in His image and likeness. In English, all light, love and life start with the letter l. God is Light, God is Love and God is Life.

God is Life and gives life to His creation. When God created the world, He creates beings that have life. There are many types of life. There are plants and animals. And in animal kingdoms there are also lower and higher forms of life. Finally, there’s human life. Human life is higher than all other created lives because man is made in the image of God.

This created life form is in a created, temporal world. But the ultimate promise of God is eternal life. The final purpose of God is that we transcend the discussion of good and evil to the essence of life. When God made man in His image and likeness, He put eternity in our lives which enable us to transcend the constraint of time and history.

Ephesians 2:10 say we are the workmanship of God who are created in Christ Jesus.

When Jesus Christ came to the world, He expressed 7 main purposes:
To seek the lost
To call the sinners to repentance
To serve others and to give his life as a ransom to many
To be king
To bear testimony for the truth
To do the will of the Father
To fulfill the law

These are all great declarations of Jesus Christ on His purposes in coming to the world.

In John 10:10, Jesus declared something even higher: I come that they might have life. This transcends the purposes of science, religion, culture and philosophy. Religion is about good and evil, philosophy is about wisdom, and science is about knowledge. Jesus Christ comes to talk about life and death.

When God created man, God forbade man to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is a restriction. Is this a mark of love? Is this a respect towards freedom?

The Bible says the summary of the law is love. In this summary, there are only two directions: to love God and to love our neighbor. What is the relationship between the law and love? The summary of the commandments is love. Why should there be constraint in the law? This is the profound mystery of the Old Testament. It is the secret that links the Old to the New Testament.
If the Lord has given me freedom, why is this freedom constrained? If God loves me, I should be truly free. This kind of conclusion comes from fallen reason. Our fallenness influences our logical thinking and we often use this as our standard for the truth. When we do that, we cannot understand the meaning of freedom in the truth.

The Bible says that the truth sets you free and that the summary of the law is love. These two principles show us how we can break through.

We must understand the motivation of love. Love is not willing to constrain us on one hand, but is not willing to see us fall on the other hand. So there is a tension between love and freedom. Just like a mother who is not willing to see the son facing danger, so give all kinds of constraints because of love. The summary of the law is love.

When the general principle of the law is given, Moses said, “Israel, hear, O Israel, Your God is One. You must love Him with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” When God commands man not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, it is a warning towards the freedom. He has given us freedom as basis for ethics. He gives us freedom because of love.

It is a question relating to freedom and death. All who commit suicide misuse their freedom. Misuse of freedom based on self-centeredness leads to death. So when we are unwilling to obey God, we leave God and kill ourselves. The entire Bible surrounds this teaching regarding life and death.

As God made us in His image and likeness, He gives us the function of life. We have been created with a life that surpasses all other creatures. But due to this special privilege, there is a crisis. In this dignified life, we cannot avoid responsibility.

Since we are given freedom, responsibility comes with it naturally. And as human life has beginning but no end, the consequence of our actions extends to eternity.
We cannot just accept the blessings without accepting the responsibility. Grace is linked to responsibility. If we abuse our freedom, we will be judged by God. Hence our life is a frightening one. But its potential is glorious. This crisis is therefore proportionate to glory in eternity.

Intelligence is valuable. But this valuable intelligence can become horrifying when misused. The severity of judgment that results from the negative use of grace is proportional to the potential of that grace. Our life is a created life, but it is not disposable because it will exist to eternity. It is tagged with morality and responsibility. It is also tagged with the potential for eternal salvation.

When the Bible talks about how valuable our life is, there’s one promise that becomes its foundation, i.e. God’s promise of eternal life. This is expressed as a singular term. There are thousands of promises of God, but the summary of all His promises is eternal life.

When Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17, He said that knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ is eternal life. When created life is joined to the salvation in Christ, we are admitted into eternal life. Then we will be in eternity with the eternal God, joint forever with our Eternal Creator. What is more honorable and glorious than this?

The world and its desires will pass away. Heaven and earth will disappear. But those who do the will of God will live forever. United with His love, righteousness and love, we will enjoy God forever. The achievement of life cannot be higher than this. All the goodness the moralists seek throughout history, the wisdom the philosophers pursue through the ages, and the truth great men seek all their lives, will all be realized when we are one in eternity with God.

There’s great constraint of words to express this profound truth. The Scriptures say that the letters kill but the spirit gives life. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth.

Genesis 1 says that trees come from the ground that bear fruits, and fruits have seed that produce more life. This is the difference between life form and non-life form. Life is passed down from life. Things that are dead cannot be the source of life.

God is the Source of Life. All life comes from God. God create life form that it may grow. This is the principle of growth in all life. By His grace we have existed, but by His grace we must also continue to grow. After salvation, we should continue growing.

However, this is not the case in many churches today. Many people who hear sermons for many years still remain stagnant. The worse thing is when the preachers themselves never improve. And the worst situation is when the congregation grows and need more solid food but the preachers never grow so cause people to leave church later on. This is the conflict when a growing life meets with a stagnant life. But every saved believer must continue to grow.

When do we stop growing? Paul says his goal is Jesus Christ. So there should not be a single day where we remain stagnant. In thinking, in ministry and in life we must keep growing.

A stone is always a stone. But a seed can keep growing. This is the principle of life. But how do we grow in our life? By what power do we grow? What do we rely on to live abundant life? This is our homework that we must work on in life.

Not only should we receive life, but we should also give out life through self-sacrifice. Just as Jesus said, a grain of wheat that fall to the ground and dies will produce many lives. Such should be the fruitful life of a Christian.


At 1:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to forgive.

Mathew 8:21-22
21Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

But how do we grow in our life? By what power do we grow? What do we rely on to live abundant life?

- By stay connected to Jesus (illustration of branch and vine). Christian live is not saved by faith and then grow by our own will power.

John 15:3-5
3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.


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