Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Jews' Response to Christ's Testimony (Jn. 5:30-47)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 13 June 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

John 5:30-47

Hardened hearts cannot see the glory of God. Jesus healed a man who was paralysed for 38 years. Instead of seeing the glory of God, this incident marked the beginning of the Jews’ plot to kill Him. All they knew was that Jesus violated the Sabbath law. They could not see the power of God. The miracle did not bring about faith. Instead, because they have no faith they could not see God’s glory.

The true emphasis on the Sabbath is not the “day” but the “rest”. God said the Israelites tested Him for 40 years, so He swore they would never enter into His rest. Through the prophet Isaiah, God revealed that He was sick of their Sabbath observations. They offered a lot of sacrifices but God was not pleased.

The wrong tradition lasted until the day of Jesus. Jesus purposefully healed on the Sabbath to expose the error of the Jews. He would eventually be killed by them. But His death and resurrection is God’s eternal plan.

Christ gave us an important principle about how truth is verified. The central focus of entire Hebrew culture is truth. It is about the true God who reveal the truth so that the people can have the true faith and truly return to Him in repentance. When truth departs from Jewish culture, the entire religious rituals become meaningless. In such falsehood God cannot be found. God hates hypocrisy. Jesus condemned all the hypocritical religious leaders. They do not understand the true meaning of Sabbath so they have not in truth observed the Sabbath.

In the fallen world, the court which is supposed to establish justice, is the place where the most injustice happens. Many governments make use of the court system to find ‘legitimate’ ways to fix those who rebel against them. The church is supposed to preach the truth and become the conscience of the society. In the past the sinners seek absolution from the Church. Now the church is seeking absolution from the public. The power to rebuke is gone because the church has done many unrighteous things. The pulpit ministry loses its power.

The living God has the authority to judge and has given the authority to the Son of Man. In the most corrupt times, Jesus came. The Son of Man who is supposed to judge the entire world came and was judged by sinners. When God wants to reject man, He will allow us to think it is us who reject Him. Sinners do not think they are in pathetic state. When grace comes upon you, it is the wisdom of God. When grace does not come to you, it is also the wisdom of God. God is always the Active One.

Truth is not dependent on people’s reaction and will not change with time. Falsehood cannot stand the test of time. God’s existence is not dependent on our belief. Often we think God can change because we ourselves are changeable.

Christianity denies sole testimony. When God wants to give us the truth, the truth will prove itself by all kinds of tests. The truth will come by multiple witnesses. It cannot stand on just a single testimony.

Yet millions of people listen to people who come in singular testimony, like Sakyamuni. But Jesus said if I testify of Myself, My testimony is not valid. Although Jesus did testify of Himself, His testimony is confirmed by multiple witnesses. This is the foundation of the completeness of Christianity. John the Baptist testified of Jesus Christ (Jn 5:32), His own works testified of Him (Jn. 5:36), God the Father who sent Him testified of Him (Jn. 5:37) and the written Scripture bears testimony of Christ (Jn. 5:39).

The Jews still did not accept Jesus despite all these testimonies. Apologetics do not bring people to Christ. Jesus said to the Jews, “You diligently search the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life” (Jn. 5:39-40). This is most horrifying. Some people study all the time without wanting to know the truth.

Jesus said they do not have the love of God in their hearts. He came in His Father’s name and they did not accept Him but they accepted many who came in their own name. They are blinded by the concepts in their hearts so they would not come to Christ despite all the evidences. Because they do not have the word of God in their hearts, so when the true Word come, you could not receive Him.

If you have the love of God in your heart, you will love Christ as He is sent by God. If you have the truth in your heart you will come to Christ as He is the Truth. Jesus is the stumbling stone. How do you know this man without a comely appearance is really the Son of God? People with true authority often do not have that appearance. Some people deceive others by having that appearance of authority but not truly have it.

The Jews rejected Jesus. How do you respond to Jesus?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Validity of Jesus' Testimony (Jn. 5:26-36)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 6 June 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 5:26-36

If Jesus was not God, He cannot give life and cannot judge. Yet the Bible says God gives Him the authority to judge ecause He was the Son of Man. Since only God has the authority to judge, why was the authority given to the Son of Man? This Son of Man is God in the flesh. He was unjustly treated when He came on earth. The most ironical thing about the court system on earth is that Christ in the flesh was judged by sinners who thought of themselves as righteous and treated the Righteous One as the sinner. The sinners were so bold that they judged the One who will one day judge the world.

Religion not only talks about morality, but also about afterlife and worship, or relationship with the Creator. Religion is a system of morality and worship. A religious system without one of these is incomplete. Confucius and Sakyamuni taught about morality but did nnot teach how to worship God. As a result, many people worship Confucius and Sakyamuni instead. Sakyamuni’s teaching is higher than Confucianism because Buddhism teaches about afterlife. Confucianism only teaches about this life.

Every religion takes some relative things and make them absolute truth. In all their claims, they lack the proper methodology. They never tell us how they arrive at the truth.

Jesus said, “If testify about Myself, My testimony is not valid.” Jesus implicitly meant that we can choose not to believe Him if his testimony is not valid, but if it is truth we have no excuse but to believe. Other than the truthfulness, the Bible also tell about what is valid with regard to testimony.

If you ask Socrates where he gets the truth, he would say it is universal. It means it is self-evident and everyone should know. In saying this, he separates himself from with subjective ideas who are self-absorbed and rely on their feelings.

Is the truth subjective or objective? Is it absolute or relative? Is it for one generation or for eternity? Will truth change because of cultural differences? If there are subjective things that cannot pass test of time and are produced by one culture but not other civilisation, it cannot be the truth.

If you ask Sakyamuni where he gets his teaching from, he will say he found it myself. He achieved enlightenment when meditating under the Bodhi tree. This implies that if I achieve a different enlightenment then I will be of a different camp. This cannot explain truth.

Confucius will say he does not know where truth comes from but he only passed down the wisdom from the ancients who are all dead. He genuinely seek the wisdom of the wise. He admitted he obtained his understanding from the ancient sages. He acknowledged his sources.

Socrates said it is self-evident. Plato said it is the result of one’s thinking. But we cannot just accept something as truth without knowing the source.

If you ask Mohamed, he will say that his teaching comes from revelation. This is similar to the Hebrew religion. This is where prophets are different from the religious leaders. There are over 4800 references in the Bible “Thus saith the Lord,…”. The prophets are not the truth, but they receive revelation from God. The content of their message is the truth and their method is by revelation. They speak because because they receive it from God. This is different from Plato (he thinks it out himself), or Laozi (he figures out Dao by himself). The things written by the prophets are all revelation from God.

You must know why you believe in Jesus. The Bible is built on revelation. The God of truth reveal the truth to men, therefore it stands the test of time and will not be afraid of philosophies of the world because they are the words of truth from God itself.

What about Quran? Mohamed said he received it through the angel Gabriel. This is different from the Old Testament. God use sinners to bear witness, not angel. Angels minister to Jesus but never preach the gospel. In the Old Testament God spoke directly to the prophets. Moses said, “Thus saith the Lord…”.

If you ask Jesus Christ where the truth comes from, He said if He testifies of Himself, His testimony is not valid. Christianity will not accept sole testimony. The Bible say not to entertain an accusation against an elder without testimony of two or three witnesses. From this angle you can see that all the cults come from singular testimony. All the founders are the sole testifiers. The Bible denies this method. God Himself never uses only one witness. He used four gospels, not one. The Son of God was not even an exception. As an example, He taught us not to accept a sole declaration.

His method was unusual. He declared that if He testified of Himself it is not valid. He did testify of Himself, but there are many other testimonies, and they are consistent with his testimony. So it has strong foundation.

He followed by saying there is another who testify of Him, John the Baptist. He did not preach arrogantly as a singular testimony. Since God denied the validity of one witness, even God’s Son would not use this method. There is one man who bear testimony of the light, he is not the light himself, but came to bear testimony of the truth. He was filled with the spirit of God in the womb. Apart from Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, he is the only one in the history of mankind filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb to death. John was a witness sent by God.

With what authority did Jesus tell the truth? He is the Truth in person. Christ is the God of truth appearing on earth, living among us, the Creator entering His created world to dwell with us. This paradoxical Jesus living on earth is a stumbling block to many, despised by many.

Jesus said he has testimony weightier than John’s. He said His works testified of Him. It is not just about saying it. Many people can only criticise others’ works but cannot do it themselves. However great a person is, is not dependent on what he says, but what he has done.

There are still more testimonies of Jesus Christ in the Scripture. In fact, there are 7 of them. Everyone testifies of themselves, whether cults or other religions. Only Jesus Christ did not testify of Himself alone. Here we can see the difference between singular and multiple testimonies.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Judge of the Whole World (Jn. 5:19-30)

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev Dr Stephen Tong on 30 May 2010 in True Way Presbyterian Church. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

John 5:19-30

Jesus received the special status to be the Judge of the world. Here we see the completeness and uniqueness of Christ that cannot be seen from other religions. Nobody and none of the great teachers ever declared to be the judge of the world. No great teach has ever demanded worship. But we see the uniqueness of Christ in His divinity. He accepts human worship. He is clear that He is God in the flesh. He is also clear that He is God in human form. He could feel tired as a human being but He has the power over nature. As a human being, He executed the power from God. He is the Son of God and the Son of Man.

He is the God that has given us life. He declares Himself to be the life and the resurrection. He said the Father has given him the authority to judge because He is the Son of Man (Jn. 5:27). Those who hear the voice of the Son of God will live (Jn. 5:26). All who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out to be judged (Jn. 5:28). It is the work of God to resurrect all to face judgement. Yet Christ is given the authority to judge because He is the Son of Man (v.27) – rather than the Son of God. This sounds very paradoxical.

Those who have done good will rise to live and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. The purpose of resurrection is for judgement and God has given the authority to Jesus. (v.28-29). This is sure to happen. All wrongs will be fixed. This Jesus who resurrects everyone is also the One who will judge. When the Son of God calls out His voice, everyone will be resurrected. The Judge will be Jesus the Son of Man.

This is because as the Son of Man, He once received the most unjust judgement. So in the future He will be the just Judge. He was unjustly treated, but now He will solve the injustice of the whole world. God give the authority to Him because He is the Son of Man. What does it mean the Son of Man and the authority to judge? If Jesus was not judged before, He does not have the privilege to judge the world. God exalts Him because He humbled Himself. The difference between Satan and Jesus is that Satan is not God but wanted to be God. As creature he wanted the status of the Creator. But Christ is God and He humbled Himself by becoming a man. When we sing we want to be like the Lord, it is not to be God, but to be like our Lord who humbled Himself and was obedient unto death on the cross. He was the Creator when the world was created but He was willing to come into the world He had created. This is the key of spirituality.

God the Father saw how He was unjustly treated and gave Him the highest authority to judge the world. Many people who know theology are not spiritual. Many intellectuals have an empty heart. Few are willing to sacrifice themselves to preach the gospel. Being an evangelical is not just an intellectual pursuit but it is a lifestyle. Many Christians know this but they are just not willing to obey. They do not want to be disciples and follow Christ’s footsteps.

When Jesus was judged and punished, he kept quiet. He did not retaliate. Like a lamb to be slaughtered, He prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” When God say, “rise and be judged!” we will be resurrected for judgement, but behold, we will see that it is not God, but it is the Son of Man, a man, who will judge us by the authority God gives Him.

At the height of His trial, Christ remembered His noble status. He told Pilate that without power from above Pilate had no power over him. He was silent before Caiaphas the high priest. (Matt 26:63-64) Eventually Caiaphas asked one question, “Are you the Son of God?” This question is not to understand the truth but to trap Jesus because Caiaphas already made up his mind in unbelief. Jesus affirmed He was the Son of God and was accused of blasphemy. But immediately after that Jesus said, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coinging on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). He said “the Son of Man” because they did not believe the Son of Man is the son of God. How could the One coming from heaven be the son of man, not the son of God? But indeed they will see that this Son of Man they did not believe in and judged unjustly, will one day judge them.

When God is judged and condemned by sinners, God is silent. The moment God keeps silent is very frightening. Jesus was silent. Why is it that Caiaphas and Pilate are not afraid? Because they are most arrogant. They are judging the Judge of the world. But Jesus told Pilate that without the power from above, he would have no power over Him. The person who was being judged now challenged the judge. He will one day judge all the judges in the world.