Keyboard and Mouse



Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

In our last two sessions, we saw how we are to stand in Faith in what Christ has done for us, and to walk in Hope thru the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

But more than that, we are to walk with God in Love for the Body.

When Jesus was with us, He had repeatedly stressed the heart/spirit of the Law - which is Love. This was why He rebuked the religious leaders in His time for their hypocrisy in following the letter but not the spirit of the Law. This was also why Jesus died for our sins - out of love for us. Now, in His final words to His disciples before He was to be crucified (Jn 13-17), Jesus called on them to remain in Him in love and obedience, giving them a new commandment - “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (Jn 13:34-35). Jesus then prayed for unity not just among the disciples then but for all who would hear and believe in Him in the years to come.

This bond of love uniting all believers was a key teaching of the Apostles. In his letter to the Galatians, Paul spoke of the unity of all believers in Christ and how they should use their freedom in Christ not to continue sinning but to serve one another in love. He rebuked the Corinthians for the quarrels and divisions within the church when it came to matters that required love and unity, dismayed that they were only “united” when it came to tolerating sin.

It was Paul who first coined the term “Body of Christ” to describe this unity bringing together Jew and Gentile, male and female,slave and free, all as equal children of God although different people might have different spiritual giftings and callings, just as a human body had many different parts with their own roles and functions. God’s purpose was that, by serving one another in love and humility, the Body “may be built up … and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13).

However, the Church’s record on this has been far from perfect. Like Israel, the history of the Church has been marked by divisions and internal conflicts and all sorts of other weaknesses and failings from the very beginning. The Protestant Reformation, while restoring key biblical truths to the Body of Christ, created 40 major denominations and over 40,000 independent churches worldwide. We are far from the love and unity that Jesus commanded and prayed for.

Does this mean that God’s purpose for the Church has failed? By no means! What appears to be failure in our eyes is precisely God’s way to bring about His miraculous plan, just as Israel’s apparent failure and rejection of Jesus was according to the very will and mystery of God in Christ. We saw this happening to the early Church where, through developments that were entirely unplanned by men, the Gospel was brought to Judea, Samaria and beyond. The same can be said of the Church the past 2,000 years as it brings the Gospel throughout the world. God’s ways are never our ways.

With this in mind, let us persevere in obeying Christ’s command to love His Body, while resting in Him that the Holy Spirit would rule over the Church. Let us stop acting like the Corinthians, who took pride in arguing among themselves about useless spiritual-sounding topics but behaving as one when it came to matters of the flesh. In particular, let us look beyond our own local church or denomination to embrace God’s people everywhere. I believe that as the Church enters into the Tribulation in the end times, this will be the “finest hour” for the Body of Christ - united not by our human plans or organisation but by the Spirit to walk the way of persecution and the Cross.

One major obstacle to greater Church unity today is the divide between what we call charismatic and non-charismatic churches, between churches that believe in tongues, visions, prophecies, healings and other supernatural works of the Holy Spirit, and those that don’t. Charismatics point to the “dead” faith of the non-charismatic churches and argue that they had abandoned the Spirit behind the Word of God. Non-charismatics, meanwhile, point to the false teachings and practices common among charismatic churches and accuse them of abandoning the Word in favour of the so-called “Spirit”.

By pointing only to the extremes, each side risked throwing away what is of God along with what is not. The reality is that the Spirit and Word are one, just as Jesus and the Word are one. The Spirit speaks to us mainly through the Word and the Word can only be understood and bring forth fruit in our lives through the Spirit. The key therefore is not to reject the things of the Spirit but to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 Jn 4:1), and not to worship the spiritual gifts themselves but understand that these are given to serve the higher purpose of building the Body of Christ, just as the Spirit is given not to draw attention to Himself but to give glory to Christ (Jn 16:13-15).

Ultimately, the love and unity of the Body must bring back together Israel and the Church. The union of Jews and Gentiles as one Body of Christ was the single most important issue in the closing days of Israel and birth of the Church. If I could use an analogy from farming, the seed of the Gospel first sprouted among the Jews 2,000 years ago. However, it would not have made it past the nursery of Israel - which would soon be trampled by the Romans in 70 AD - to bring about the current worldwide harvest of souls had it not been for those Jewish believers then who overcame their own racial and religious prejudices to recognise how God was moving beyond their people and nation.

Today, this bringing together of Gentiles and Jews is again the single most important issue in the closing days of the Church and rebirth of Israel as God’s Millennial Kingdom. We know that the harvest is quickly coming to an end with the fullness of the Gentiles. However, it will not be gathered out of the fields of the Church - which will soon be trampled by the Antichrist - and be brought back into the storehouse of Israel to await the return of our King until we overcome our own spiritual prejudices to recognise the hand of God beyond what we know as the Body of Christ.

Some commentators believe that the Church will be raptured first, leaving behind Israel and the wicked world to suffer during the Tribulation. This perspective goes against the bulk of what the Bible teaches us and more importantly, the very nature of God. It denies the unity of Jews and Gentiles, and the prophetic bond between Israel and the Church that points more to the rupture and exile rather than the rapture and homecoming of the Church. It holds a flawed one-sided view of God and plays down His divine, good and perfect purposes in refining His people through suffering and persecution and the Way of the Cross.

Now, may our Lord who loves us enable us to love Him and our brothers and sisters above all things and even life itself.

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Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

In our last session, we looked at the Rhema of the Holy Spirit as spoken through the Apostles, beginning with the foundation of our Christian faith - Faith in Christ alone. This forms the solid rock on which we stand. But we are to do more than just stand still -

We are to walk with God in Hope thru the Spirit. Here, the Gospel is not only simple but is God’s wisdom and power enabling us to lead holy lives with the Holy Spirit’s help. The Spirit is “Christ in you, the HOPE of glory” (References).

We saw earlier how Jesus promised His disciples and those who believed in Him that He would not leave them alone but would send another Helper and Comforter to be with them. Ever since the day of Pentecost, believers had been baptised and infilled with the Holy Spirit to empower them in their lifelong journey with God even as God set them apart for His Kingdom work and purposes.

Now, the simple message of salvation by grace through faith alone had led some to mistakenly believe that they were “free” to live as they wished since they were already saved no matter what they did. This was the case with the Corinthian Church in Paul’s time and among Churches today that preach what we call the “hyper grace” gospel. Against this, James warned that faith without works was dead while Paul urged believers “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and not use their freedom in Christ to become slaves to the flesh and sin again.

At the other extreme, there were those who insisted on the need to continue to follow the Law of Moses or to engage in some other forms of holy works or else risk losing their salvation. Paul made clear that such fleshly efforts would ultimately fail, or else Christ would have died for nothing.

So what is it? Do we or do we not work out our faith?

The solution to this apparent paradox of faith vs works can be found in Paul’s call for believers to walk in the Spirit so as not to gratify the desires of the flesh. It is true that faith without works is dead. But it is equally true that works without faith are bound to fail, because apart from the Spirit, we will not succeed. As Paul put it in Rom 7:21-25, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Now, many of us will probably want to know how we are to walk in the Spirit and in so doing have a faith that really works.

If I could sum it up in one sentence, we have to continually strive against our flesh and turn away from the things of this world; saturate our mind with God’s Word, which is the sword of the Spirit to tear down our mental strongholds; and rest our spirit in God’s Spirit, learning to move according to His rhythm of grace and allowing our inner man to be ministered by Him, especially through praying in tongues.

The truth is, we are dependent on God to work in us through His Spirit, but we are still expected to do our part. God supplies, but we must still labour. Peter put it this way - God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life; yet, and in fact for this very reason, we are to make every effort to live out this godly life (2 Pet 1:3-7). We can square this circle by heeding this simple rule of thumb - work as though everything depended on us, but rest and trust in God as everything ultimately depended on Him. It has to be 100% God and 100% man.

Finally, we are refined through trials and persecutions, for it is often only then that we experience how real and powerful the Holy Spirit is. When it comes to physical exercise, we have heard the phrase - “no pain, no gain.” If we don’t sweat it, we won’t get it. It is the same with our inner spiritual man - we only grow spiritually when the going gets tough, not when we are comfortable and complacent. James touched on this when he encouraged the early Jewish believers to boldly live out their faith despite the persecution taking place then. Paul explained how true spirituality and godliness was measured not by spiritual gifts and talents but a life that displayed God’s power amidst suffering and weakness. Peter, addressing Christians during the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero, spoke of how suffering was a part of God’s will to purify their faith for His glory.

Now may our Lord create in us a clean heart and renew in us a right spirit - His Spirit - (Ps 51:10) until we meet again in our next session, and until He returns to bring us home.

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Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!

We saw previously the acts of the Holy Spirit, as He directed the growth and development of the early Church. In the next three sessions, we will look at the Rhema of the Holy Spirit as He spoke through the Apostles, especially Paul.

In terms of God’s unfolding Rhema, we saw earlier the message of the Old Testament Prophets as summarised above. These Prophets ultimately pointed us to the Messiah and His Kingdom rule.

In God’s Kairos, Jesus came to partially fulfill this Old Testament promise. Coming as Messiah ben Joseph, the Lamb of God and Saviour of the World, Jesus revealed that His Kingdom was not of this world - it would be like a hidden treasure, a narrow door, where the last would be first and the least would be greatest. While the Kingdom would experience extraordinary growth, Jesus warned that it would comprise those who truly belonged to Him and those who didn’t. The Kingdom would only be made perfect when Jesus returned on the Day of the Lord which, though a long time in coming, would suddenly appear at God’s appointed time. Until then, believers were called to receive His Word, repent and be reborn in the Holy Spirit in order to enter this Kingdom. Jesus also prayed for his disciples to be united in His Spirit as one Body of Christ.

In the New Testament Letters, the Apostles built upon this progressive revelation of God’s Rhema found in the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus’ words. If we could summarise their Apostolic message, it was about living in the Spirit and Body of Christ in Faith, Hope and Love until Jesus returned.

First, Faith in Christ - this is the foundation of our Christian faith.

We saw earlier the demands made by the Judaizers on Gentile believers and how Christianity might have remained a Jewish faith that would live or die along with the nation of Israel. Against this, the New Testament writers - especially Paul in his letters to the Galatians, Romans and Ephesians - as well as the Jerusalem Council affirmed this simple yet central truth that we were saved by grace through faith in Christ alone. This freed Christianity from the clutches of Judaism just in time before Israel was wiped out for the next 2,000 years. However, when Rome became a Christian empire two centuries later in 312 AD, the Church became more and more “of this world” as Church and State, religion and politics, got entangled. The Church started to exert power and political influence over believers and the State by imposing all sorts of unbiblical religious demands, until the Protestant Reformation set Christianity free from these chains.

Today, this important truth of the Gospel continues to be attacked both from inside and outside the Church. In response, we need to remember that the Gospel of Christ is simple, sufficient and supreme.

Our Christian Faith is simple - let us not be caught up in endless futile intellectual arguments that take us away from the plain message of the Gospel, or go in pursuit of some special knowledge or revelation like the Gnostics of John’s day. It is not the increase of “knowledge” but knowing Jesus through a personal and intimate encounter and relationship with Him that matters.

Our Christ is sufficient - Jesus has done all that is necessary for our salvation. There is nothing we can do that will make God value us more than He already does, and no sin that we can commit that will make Him love us less. Our identity and worth is found in being His child by faith alone. Jesus is also more than enough for every situation we face - wisdom for understanding and discernment, grace and strength during trials and temptations, and courage, peace and joy under persecution.

Our Christ is supreme - Jesus is ruler over all and therefore victorious in all our battles and deserving of our wholehearted devotion.

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