Friday, December 29, 2006

Humanity in Sin Part 2 - The Absolute Necessity of Trials

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on his apologetics series on the The Fall of Man on 3rd December 2006. This is his last sermon for the year. The next one will come in January 2007.

God is the God of self-control. The Triune God is a self-limiting God. God the Father willingly subjects His own freedom under the constraint of His morality. God the Son constrains Himself as God-Incarnate. God the Holy Spirit constrains Himself in revealing the truth through the Holy Scriptures.

We often ask why our freedom is constrained but we forget that God constrains His own freedom. He is worthy to demand us to constrain ourselves. Paul constrained himself by imitating Jesus Christ. He said the life he lived in the flesh, he lived by faith in the Son of God who loved him and died for him.

The self-limiting God is the true God. The self-constraint within righteousness guarantees that the freedom is eternal. The last fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control.

When God gives Adam freedom, it comes with a constraint. This constraint is an extension of the nature of God and is also His demand towards man as His creature. This is the real foundation why our freedom is constrained.

Next, when God create us, God allows us to go through a process where we can be made perfect through trials. He made us in original created perfection, but it is not the ultimate perfection. There is a need to go through a process of trials and temptation to attain ultimate perfection.

The qualitative perfection attained in salvation is also a process that grows quantitatively through sanctification. The perfection of a child is original, but the perfection of an old man is the perfection that has gone through trials. Trials are absolute necessity for ultimate perfection.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represents morality. The tree of life represents life in the spirit. God does not mean to stop us from knowing good and evil, but He means that we cannot acquire the knowledge of good and evil in haphazard manner. If God really did not want us to know good and evil, why would He fill the Bible with a lot of such knowledge?

He does not want man to know things at the wrong time and from the wrong authority. The first one is the issue of order, the other one is the issue of authority. We should know and we can know good and evil, but the question is how we can know this at the right time and from what sort of authority we know good and evil.

For instance, can we know the knowledge of sex? If we cannot know, how can we be married? If we can know, why would parents keep this knowledge from the children while they are young? This is an issue of order and authority. Sexual immorality we see today is because the timing of the knowledge is wrong. And the knowledge is acquired from wrong authority.

All religion talks about good and evil. Only Christianity talks about life and death. In Genesis 3, this is clearly reflected. Men cannot live without religion and morality. How then do we know what is good and evil? What is the right timing for us to know?

When the right order is followed, a lot of problems are solved. We need to seek life from God first and then we can have the knowledge of good and evil. It is not the other way round. Yet all religions are within this sphere. They keep talking about good and evil, but not life and death. When we have the life of God in us, we will know what God is pleased with and what God is not pleased with.

Genesis 3 reveals to us all the wrongs that mankind commit to the end of the world. We should talk about morality after we receive the life of God. Knowledge will come from the source of wisdom. Knowledge comes because we have life. When we get this order right, we have true knowledge and true knowledge has great power. But wrong knowledge has the greatest destructive power.

We need to receive the wisdom of God. It is not that God does not want us to have knowledge. He gives us reason that we might discover and understand the mystery of His creation. But is it enough for reason to discover true natural knowledge? It is not enough. Other than reason, God has given us His revelation so that we can understand His will.

Trial is absolute necessity. Satan’s existence is part of the good plan of God. It is something nobody in history can escape. God gives us the answer why when He sent Jesus Christ to earth.

Jesus did not have special privileges when He came in the flesh. He was constrained in time and space just like us and received temptations. So we all likewise have no exception.

Jesus Christ suffered trials and temptations, overcame and entered into perfection. God led us this way to show how human history would unfold. Every human being in history will have to go through this process of trial. When we can understand this, we will not complain, grumble or give up. We will face all the things that would come in the process of our life.

Before God, we are given freedom. With this freedom, we can fall into sin. But it is not for the purpose of sin that He gives us freedom. And it is certainly not to treat us like toys, as God Himself too, from eternity to eternity, constrains Himself. As man is made in the image of likeness and given freedom, he could use it correctly or incorrectly.

Jesus suffered a lot more temptations than Adam. Adam was tempted in paradise. But Jesus was tempted in empty wilderness. Before Adam was tempted, he was not hungry. When Jesus was tempted, he had fasted for 40 days and was hungry. When Adam was tempted, the environment was beautiful. But Jesus was tempted in a horrifying situation where sin has reigned for thousands of years.

We can enter from original created perfection into the ultimate perfection God wills us to reach. With this understanding, we can save a lot of troubles and complaints in life. We will realize this is the way life should be.

We will understand that trials and temptations are absolute necessity. The existence of Satan is all right with me. The existence of trials is for my good. The tree of knowledge of good and evil is natural to me. In this environment, I learn to obey God and constrain myself by imitating Jesus Christ.

A lot of Christians today are afraid of trials and temptations and Satan. But they are already in the world, so they have no choice but to live on. So while living day by that, they walk in fear.

The courage to be is derived from being in Jesus Christ. Within us there is already a hope for victory. Jesus Christ is our example and our goal. We should have the courage to overcome and reject temptations, the courage to be and the courage to live in this crucial existence.

But we frequently rather pray that God would take away this tree. Or plead Him to take away the serpent.

Many parents want to create a garden of Eden for their kids where there is no tree and no serpent. However, these kids do not only live at home but will receive influence from the outside. Frequently, children of elders and deacons become those that oppose God the most, because their parents frequently think they are smarter than God in preparing good environment for their children.

Those who have never been tempted should not be proud because they may be the weakest one. Those who have received a lot of trials should not be discouraged as they would have been strengthened through trials.

We should not be afraid. We should understand that we are created to walk in such an environment and be sanctified through the process of trials.


At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the continuous year long sermon summary.

Best wishes for the New Year.

At 9:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some finer points I do not fully agree :

1. As far as I know, most children from elders/preachers/deacons rebel not because of they are smarter than God in preparing good environment for their children - I believe the root cause is many of them NOT having the life of Jesus is their lives, and yet always presenting a holier than thou attitude - it is their hypocrisy which turned the children away. To the youth, truth is of primary importance.

2."He was constrained in time and space just like us" - He is God and man at the same time, He can walk on water, He can feed 4/5000 people, He can heal the sick and raise the dead, He was NOT contrained like us.

3."There is a need to go through a process of trials and temptation to attain ultimate perfection." - humanly speak, yes, God's solution was Christ to live in us.

4. "Sexual immorality we see today is because the timing of the knowledge is wrong." - to think like this is like claiming without TV or Internet - there is no sexual crimes. STD appeared in all culture and civilization throughout the history. So are other crimes/sins. Sex may be more obvious because it has a higher profile - thus a Christian will be despised if he commits a sexual sin, but if he is proud, or lies, he is accepted as having a “weakness”. It has a higher profile, because believe it or not, sex sells. It is our own value of judgement.

I do not believe it has anything to do with timing – it is worse today because we are given the opportunity – our lives are too comfortable. When we are poor, we cannot attain wealth, so we go for sex. To the rich, sex is not a problem, so they go for drugs. The problem is emptiness in our heart. Yes, even the priests and nuns still violate the sexual sin, to them, it is not due to lack of knowledge or the timing is wrong, it is a matter of satisfying their inner emptiness.

At 2:11 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Thanks for your input.

1. Agree that protectionism is not the only reason, there can be other reasons kids rebel. What you bring up is one main reason.

2. In that sense, yes. Just like the way God used other prophets to do miraculous things to accomplish His specific purpose at specific time. But what Rev.Tong meant is that Jesus experienced hunger, thirst, tiredness and trials as a human beings like all of us.

3. Trials is God's ordained path for us to go through, and as you said, Christ is our assurance of victory over trials.

4. Agree that exposure is necessary, but in the right way and at the right time.

At 12:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

4. Do not think exposure in the right wasy and at the right time is the root cause - root cause is emptiness/hopelessness - and sex is the quickest (and may be cheapest they can afford) self gratification to the "average" person (that is why sex sells)

At 3:34 PM, Blogger deb said...

Dear Mejlina,

Thank you for sharing this post - even a year later (Dec 2007) it is still a blessing to us (3 of us reading here!).

May I also reply to anonymous' comments that "sex" is not the matter of principle here, but that of knowledge and timing. If we find specific examples as a retort to general principles, the point is greatly missed.

At 5:33 PM, Blogger Mejlina Tjoa said...

Hi Deb,

Thanks for dropping by my blog. Glad to know it is a blessing to many readers like you. Happy New Year 2008! =)


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