Monday, August 29, 2016

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 Choosing the Lord is Choosing His Life and Law

KEY TEXT: Deuteronomy 30:19-20 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." 

KEY THOT: To choose the Lord is to choose life: “I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life…loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life.” But choosing the Lord has to be more than just "accepting" Him. It implies a commitment to love, obey, hold fast to him. To have God's life means possessing His moral character ("good”), receiving his spiritual/material benefits (“blessing”) and being sustained by his eternal life (“lengths of day”). However, we cannot choose life and ignore his law. To choose life implies “walking in his ways” as described by “his commandments and his statutes and his rules” (v.16). In other words, to choose life, we have to first choose the Lord. But to choose the Lord implies that we choose to walk according to His law. Only then will we receive the promise of character transformation (goodness), divine favour (blessing) and a long life (length of days). 

Moses laid before Israel the two choices they have to make under the old covenant. Paul laid before the Church similar choices under the new covenant: if we want life, we must choose the Lord Jesus Christ and His Law as embedded in the Holy Spirit. What is the law of God but an outward expression of his inward moral character? We cannot reject the Law without also rejecting the Lord who is the embodiment of the holy attributes expressed in the Law. The only difference for NT believers is that the Law is no longer some external rules and regulations, but the Spirit of God indwelling every believer: "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" (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

So Paul does not disagree with Moses: there is a choice to make even as NT believers. If they want life, they must reject the sinful desires of the flesh because the flesh does not submit to God’s law: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:7-8). For NT believers, the choice is now between walking by the sinful desires of the flesh or walking by holy desires of God’s Spirit: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Rom 8:9). The choice is no longer about about outward rules and regulations but about inward desires of the flesh and the Spirit. 

So, we have two choices everyday: to choose life or death. To choose life means we walk by the Spirit, aligning our desires with the Spirit's desires. The Spirit's desires are consistent with God’s law, for God cannot contradict himself. If we reject the Spirit (and so the law of God), we are rejecting the Lord and therefore have chosen death, not life. With death comes moral corruption, curse and sicknesses. For when we choose to obey the flesh, we are no longer operating by God's grace and have reverted back to works of the flesh.

Even though we have the Spirit of God within us as believers, we still have a choice to make everyday--whether to work with God or work against God. So God's salvation given to us needs to be worked out daily, so that we can enjoy its full benefits in this life—righteousness, blessing and long life. 

Father God, thank You that You have given us the Spirit when we chose Christ. Help us choose life daily by walking by Your Spirit so that we may submit ourselves to the law of God. Amen.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Luke 14: 1, 7-14 Choose the Lowest Position to Guarantee Promotion

KEY TEXT: Luke 14:10-11 “But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, 'Friend, move up higher.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

KEY THOT: Jesus gives us an unusual way to get promoted: shoot for the lowest position, then there will be only one way to go—UP! But if we fight for the highest position (a.k.a. power struggle or office politics), we may be asked to move aside, which means down or sometime out! So, to ensure that we are always promoted and never demoted, in every social, church and work situation, go for the lowest place where no one wants. There is no office politics there because no one is fighting for that position. Instead, we will have peace and security: “And do you seek great things for yourself? Seek them not…” (Jeremiah 45:5).

If we seek great things for ourselves by engaging in office politics or power struggles, we will either be humiliated (if we lose) or be hated by others (if we win). Disciples and citizens of the kingdom do not seek to promote themselves—they let God promote them. They seek the humble position of a servant and a slave of all. Jesus himself has modeled such attitude for us: “But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Let’s give up fighting for position, power and promotion. Instead, let's fight for God's glory and His kingdom and let Him promote us as He has promised: "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things (promotion) will be added to you" (Matthew 6:33).

Father, may You grant us the grace to obey Your command to be servant and slave of all. We surrender promotion, power and position into Your hand, for they are Yours to give. Amen.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Hebrews 13: 1-8 Am I Worth Remembering?

KEY TEXT: Hebrews 13:7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

KEY THOT: The word of God commands believers to “remember your leaders”. But the critical issue is: are we worth remembering? Most of us have forgotten the "leaders" who have come and gone because we cannot recall anything worth remembering. But there are also leaders that have made an impact in our lives that we can never forget. These are leaders that are worth recalling for there are things in their lives that have made a deep impression in us that have changed us radically. 

But what kind of leaders are these who have made us remember them for life? The writer of Hebrews give us some clues:
  1. “who spoke to you the word of God”: In secular leadership literature, there is a new realization that leadership goes beyond good management. Leadership must incorporate teachership. A true leader is firstly a great teacher. Consider our Lord Jesus Christ who spent a major portion of his life teaching God’s word. All great leaders (secular or spiritual) who have left a permanent legacy do so by teaching, both through their writing but often through their speaking. It’s no difference for spiritual leaders. It is through our teaching (for better or worse) that our followers adopt our ideas, our convictions and our worldviews to follow them. Great leaders are great teachers. 
  2. “consider the outcome of their life”: However, teaching is not just telling but living. It is the "outcome (outflow) of their life". Teaching that is impactful must flow out of our life, not our library. Real leaders walk their talk and then they talk about their walk. The depth of a leader’s teaching flows out of the breadth of his life experiences, not from the breadth of his library shelves. That means we must only preach what we have practiced. Ezra in the OT is a great example of a leader who practiced before he preached: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (Ezra 7:10). So a great leader is one who teaches what is first tested in his life.
  3. “imitate their faith”: Leaders are to model a life of faith—of trusting in God for everything in their lives, not just in ministry but also in more "secular" and mundane affairs like his home, his marriage, his professional and his social life. Faith is not something for the weekend when we are in church. Faith ought to be the basic attitude of life for the spiritual leader—whether the leader is a home-maker, a retiree, a business-person, an employee or employer or a civil servant or governmental minister. We need more Christian models in the marketplace who have learned to put faith to work. It is no good to wear the “spiritual” hat for weekend/church and then replace it with the "secular” hat for the homes, offices and factories. We ought to wear the same hat everywhere we go. Our hat must have the words on it which says: “Ambassador of Christ”. We must not be schizophrenic Christians, living “by faith” on weekend but “by sight” on weekdays.
It is only when the above are true in our lives that we become leaders worth remembering. Young people and young believers in the faith are looking for true leaders who walk their talk before they talk about their walk. If we do not walk our talk but only talk about a walk that we have not lived, then we are best forgotten for we have nothing in our lives that will inspire our mentees.

Heavenly Father, help us be the kind of leaders who are worth remembering because we walk our talk and talk about our walk. In Jesus’ name, Amen.