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FIRST POSTED ON 1 MARCH 2020.


Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

In our last session, we saw how no one could enter the Kingdom of God unless they were born again in the Spirit. On the night before He was to be crucified, Jesus prepared His disciples for His soon departure, promising them that He would not leave them as orphans but would send them “another advocate … the Spirit of truth.” Jesus reassured them that He would come to them - because the Holy Spirit is none other than the Spirit of Christ Himself.

The Holy Spirit - from the Hebrew words Ruakh (meaning breath/wind/spirit) and Hakodesh (meaning Holy) or the Greek word Pneuma (which also means breath/wind/spirit) - is the third person of the Holy Trinity after God the Father and Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the very breath or spirit of God.

Now, the Holy Spirit is not new or the result of Jesus’ finished work on the Cross. He is mentioned in the Old Testament and is the channel through whom God most often worked in history. In His Spirit, God initiates and accomplishes His will through men. In fact, we cannot please God apart from His Spirit working in us to do so.

Jesus was conceived, baptised and ministered in the Holy Spirit (References). In Jesus, the Holy Spirit accomplished God’s divine will where Israel had earlier failed (References).

And now, through Jesus, we receive the Holy Spirit and are born again into the new life as promised by God in the Old Testament (Ezek 36:25-27). This new life marks the start of the Fifth Day of Creation.

It is worth noting that the Fifth Day of the original Creation Account concerned new life in the water and sky. Throughout the Bible, we see the Holy Spirit described in relation to these two elements - as living waters (here, we have the words baptism/cleansing/pouring out of the Spirit), wine (to contrast against the infilling of the Spirit), or oil (symbolic of the anointing of the Spirit), and as wind or breath (making up forty percent of all Old Testament references to the Holy Spirit; being born again from above, the wind in Pentecost), tongues of fire or dove. It is only on the Sixth Day of Creation that we speak about life on earth - the earthly rule of Man (being literally formed from dust) in contrast to the divine rule of the Spirit.

As mentioned earlier, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ in us, through whom we are born again into the new life. We receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit usually at the point of conversion when we are convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, repent and receive Jesus as Lord and Saviour (References).

Thereafter, as we grow in our spiritual walk with God, we continually experience the Infilling of the Holy Spirit as He cleanses, transforms and empowers us for His work and purposes (References). The Holy Spirit is our Comforter/Helper/Counsellor who leads us into all truth - teaching, bringing to remembrance Jesus’ words and glorifying/testifying of Him; who intercedes for us; who adopts us into God’s family - restoring our true identity; and who guards our salvation until the day of redemption (References).

But beyond being just individuals, we are also joined with the larger Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, to be used by Him to bring the Body to maturity with the fullness of the Gentiles. I want to stress this very important point - our new life in Jesus’ Spirit cannot be separated from our new life in His Body the Church, regardless of its imperfections, challenges and failures, especially as Christ’s return draws nearer.

As we turn next to study the book of Acts, we will see how the Holy Spirit grew the early Church as He empowered both the Apostles and ordinary believers, baptising them into the Body of Christ and equipping them for service, building up the Church to be a fitting dwelling place for God, bringing about true unity, raising up leaders and commissioning and making competent those to be sent out (References).

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FIRST POSTED ON 15 FEBRUARY 2020.


Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

Previously, we listed some of the key characteristics of the Kingdom of God as described by Jesus in His parables - how it is an unworldly Kingdom and not according to man’s wisdom and ways. In light of this, Jesus taught that those who followed Him would need to be:

Firstly, receptive in thought to His Word in order to be fruitful and a light for the Kingdom. We see this in the Parable of the Sower (References). Jesus also spoke of the need to have childlike faith, humility and persistence as seen in the Parable of the Persistent Widow (References A B C).

Next, repentant in deed - meaning to turn away from the world and follow Jesus, seeking first His Kingdom and righteousness. This involved handling wealth correctly, an important matter that Jesus stressed through several parables, and also understanding the very real cost of discipleship.

It also meant submission to God’s Kingdom rule and values in our lives as seen in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and various parables. This can be summarised in terms of demonstrating love, forgiveness and faithfulness/readiness (References A B C D E).

Lastly, reborn in spirit - that is, to be born again in the Holy Spirit, without which we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Jesus promised that those who believed in Him would receive the Holy Spirit and be fruitful (References). Through the Spirit, God “circumcises” our hearts, cutting off the hardened and sinful parts in us.

Coming back to our earlier discussion about the Gospel message, we see that the Good News of Jesus Christ is an “un-we” message - not so much about our personal salvation and God’s plan for our lives. It was, is, and will always be about JESUS and His Kingdom rule over all of Creation and Eternity.

As we close this section on the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I wonder if the Apostle John was aware of how prophetic his above words were, when we consider the numerous books, sermons etc - both good and bad - that have been written about Jesus since John’s Gospel. If we dare to be brutally honest about it, God’s Rhema in the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is in danger of being drowned by all these human voices and noises, especially in this era of the information age and rise of fake news. We see, hear, and read more about God and His Word (Bible and Jesus) than we see God Himself, hear directly His Rhema voice and read from His sacred word. If you ask any genuine, God-seeking Christian out there, many will admit that they are lost and perplexed as to where to begin in their quest to know God in a more truthful and personal way.

But don’t be dismayed. God is certainly aware of this situation and remains in full control. As Jesus told Nicodemus in Jn 3:8, the Holy Spirit moves as it pleases and we neither know where it came from nor where it would go to. I am sure that much of what has been written, said or shown are truly driven by God’s Spirit and for His glory, and even those that are not are permitted by God according to His will. As we had learnt a few sessions earlier, God had already warned us beforehand through the Creation Account that even as the Holy Spirit brings forth New Life characteristic of the Fifth Day of Creation, this will be quickly overtaken by the the opposing spirit of the Antichrist characteristic of the Sixth Day that we are living in today. This unholy spirit manifests itself in the rule/kingdom of man that is opposed to God’s kingdom, even within the Church. We saw how Jesus warned us of this earlier when He described the Kingdom of God on earth as comprising both good and bad, true and counterfeit.

But how then should we proceed? How do we discern?

The answer, as you might expect, can only be found in His Word. As we move on to study the New Testament Letters, let us re-discover through our examination of the early Church what it means to live the New Life in the Spirit and Body of Christ. Let us get back to the basics - to the simplicity of the Gospel preached by the Apostles, which we should not confuse with the simplistic Gospel mentioned at the start.

Most of all, let us get back to the “Word made flesh” - Jesus Himself. When we not only know the Word of God but the God of the Word, when we not only know of or about Him but have a personal and living relationship with Him, His Spirit - the Holy Spirit - lives in us. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus the Greater Light illuminates our minds to His Truth and opens our ears to His Rhema voice. May we know that man’s wisdom is foolishness to God and our many words are fruitless and futile. Only God’s word never returns to Him empty but accomplishes His desire and purpose.

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FIRST POSTED ON 1 FEBRUARY 2020.


Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

Previously, we saw how Jesus’ message would eventually be unwelcomed by the Jews because of their misplaced expectations, values, allegiance and focus. It comes as no surprise then that when Jesus started describing the coming Messianic Kingdom, His message was unexpected, a far cry from what everyone thought it would be, including John the Baptist and Jesus’ own disciples. They did not understand that the Messiah had to suffer first as the Lamb of God before returning in glory as the Lion of Judah; that His Kingdom was unworldly - not of this world nor according to its standards or ways; nor were His Kingdom subjects to behave like those of this world. Instead, the people wanted to make Jesus king by force and so subject the Kingdom to the violent ways of this world (References).

Because their eyes and ears were closed and their hearts hardened toward God, the people could not accept Jesus’ Kingdom message. From then on, Jesus taught in parables so that “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand” (Mt 13:13). The true nature of God’s Kingdom would remain a “mystery/secret” to these people and revealed only to Jesus’ disciples.

Let us now go through the attributes of the Messianic Kingdom as taught by Jesus through His parables:

First, unlike earthly kingdoms that were visible to all, Jesus said the Kingdom of God was like a hidden treasure that only a few would discover, a narrow door that not many would enter. One could only see it by faith and through the help of the Holy Spirit. One had to be called by God and born again in the spirit in order to hear Jesus our Good Shepherd’s voice. But once we found God’s Kingdom and realised its true value, we would gladly sacrifice and give up all we had to possess and enter it (References).

Next, although the nations of the world were also meant to benefit from God’s covenant blessings given to Abraham, Jesus had purposely reached out to only the Jews as they were God’s chosen people. He already knew that they would reject His message and crucify Him as part of God’s divine plan of salvation but nonetheless, they remained responsible for their choices and actions. Through these series of parables, Jesus delivered God’s judgment on His existing Kingdom subjects - the lost sheep of Israel - for their unbelief and rejection, opening the way for sinners, outcasts and ultimately Gentiles to enter into His Kingdom first before God turns His attention back to Israel again. In this way, the first (Israel) shall be last and the last (Gentiles) first (References).

Again, contrary to the values of this world that defined success in terms of results, accomplishments and numbers, Jesus emphasised the value of the least over the greatest, of the one over the many, and how the lowly and humble would be exalted in the Kingdom of God (References).

Moving on, Jesus devoted the most number of parables to explain that while the Kingdom of God would experience extraordinary growth, it would be a mixed group comprising those who belonged to Him and those who did not. The extraordinary growth itself was something that was not only unnatural but ungodly, as seen in the Parables of the Mustard Seed and Yeast (because mustard does not usually grow into large trees but become bushes, while yeast is associated with sin in the Bible). All this, however, should come as no surprise - we had already seen earlier that both Israel and the Church are imperfect vessels for God; also, we just saw how God’s ways are different from the ways of this world (References) - what appears good to us may not be good to God, and what is not good can yet be good in God’s hands.

Lastly, we will consider in future the end-time Bible passages where Jesus spoke of His return to bring to completion His Kingdom. What we want to highlight here are Jesus’ words that it would be a long time in coming - again, contrary to our human expectations and impatient desire to have things according to our times and ways. But when it was time, His return would be sudden, at a day and hour that was unknown - again, when we least expect and are least prepared for Him (References).

These are the messages of our Lord - may we see, hear and understand what is being spoken to us today.

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