Grasping The Wind?

Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! So cried the writer of Ecclesiastes in the Bible.  He was beyond frustrated by the meaningless of life. There seemed to be no lasting satisfaction. What appeared to give happiness lasted only a fleeting moment. Labour was burdensome, and life had become like the grasping of the wind (Ecclesiastes 1:14). If we live long enough, inevitably, we will at some point share Solomon’s desperation over life!

Dating as far back as Aristotle and Plato, philosophers considered that there were two types of happiness. One termed hedonic happiness is found in the pursuit of pleasure and avoidance of pain. The other known as eudaemonic happiness is achieved by living virtuously, achieving inner harmony, and self-actualisation. Enough research has now been done to recognise that while the second type of happiness is linked to well-being, the first type is momentary and insatiable. Unfortunately, we often fail to differentiate between them.

So Solomon found himself lamenting. Everything was meaningless and he was insatiable. Riches, advancement, and pleasures left him empty. It so exasperated Solomon that he even came to hate life (Ecclesiastes. 2:17)! But by the goodness of God, wisdom prevailed over desperation and eventually, Solomon concluded that the best way to live is to rejoice, to do good, and enjoy the fruits of one’s labour. 

Life gets to all of us at some point like it got to Solomon. On such days, instead of grasping at the wind and spiralling down the dark tunnel of desperation, we need to keep our eyes on God and remember that life is a gift that is best enjoyed virtuously, and rejoicing is a choice. 

I remember a dear friend of mine when I was a young believer. Her eldest son was autistic. While it was extremely difficult for her, she constantly chose rejoicing over lamenting. She taught me the tenacity of faith. One day when she was recovering from an emotional breakdown, she said to me, “It is incredibly painful. It is not easy at all but I choose faith.” Those words of wisdom that I too will have to choose faith come what may is strongly etched in my heart. 

Rejoicing is even more precious when we are facing tough situations.

The prophet Habakkuk declared, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour” (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

There are some of us who so desperately want to make sense of our life that our world has shrunk to the size of our desperation. Our pain causes us to retreat to our inner world of turmoil. And these days, many suffer from mental distress and emotional exhaustion. 

Over-analysing, over-reflecting, over-thinking, over-controlling all lead to exhaustion and we are no wiser about life. 

Do good, Solomon counselled us. Expand your world to include others. Happiness finds those who live beyond their desperation to do good for others. In healing others, we find our healing. In helping others, we are helped. In giving happiness, we receive happiness. 

It is wisdom to get out of that bad space in our head that drives us insane with insatiable drive and endless plotting for more pleasure, more possession, more fame, more wealth, more security. Why grasp at the wind? It is an exercise in futility that leaves us frustrated and empty.

If we have worked hard, then let’s rejoice over the fruits of our labour. Cease judging ourselves and stop beating ourselves down. Don’t set ourselves up for misery with comparison and hush the noisy inner talk that tears us down. Thus says the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: “In returning and rest you shall be saved; In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (Isaiah 30:15). 

fruits

Life is a gift to be unwrapped with God and not a prize to grasp at. Rejoice, do good, and enjoy the gift of God!

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The Magnitude of Self-Control

Self-control has now become a popular subject as social psychologists and behavioural scientists try to understand human behaviour and help people live healthier lives. There is increasing recognition among the experts that most of the problems that plagued us have to do to some degree with the failure in self-control. Research indicates that the average person spends three to four hours a day resisting unhealthy desires! The result of this resistance struggle has a shocking correlation to a person’s success in life. 

The Dunedin Study is a 40-year investigation into the health and behaviour of just over 1,000 individuals born between April 1972 and March 1973 in Dunedin, New Zealand. It discovers that irrespective of the social background and IQ of individuals, childhood self-control strongly predicts adult success. Childhood self-control significantly predicted health issues, substance dependence, financial problems and criminal activities in adulthood. Children with weaker self-control suffer from worse health, less wealth, less parenting ability, and more crime as adults than those with stronger self-control. Furthermore, that pattern held at every point along the gradient of self-control. More devastatingly, the findings also reveal that one generation’s low self-control causes disadvantages to the next generation. 

Although many people constantly struggle with exercising healthy self-control, experts considered self-control a basic human faculty. 

The inability to exercise this fundamental capacity effectively in our fast-paced world today has disastrous consequences. Self-control is necessary not just for resisting negative behaviours but also in controlling thoughts, managing emotions, regulating performance and making decisions. The list of ills that befalls us from failure in self-control are substantial and ranges from addictions, overeating, crime, domestic violence, sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancy, debt to underperformance at school and work

Hence, we should take seriously the biblical injunction to exercise self-control. All believers irrespective of age, gender, position and status are to exercise self-control  (1 Corinthians 7:5, 1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 2:2, 5-6). Scripture likens a person who lacks self-control to a city whose walls are broken through (Proverbs 25:28). In fact, a person with self-control is to be esteemed more than a person who conquers a city (Proverbs 16:32)!

It can be challenging to excel in self-control in today’s world of endless possibility, distraction, and temptation. How can we as believers practice better self-control? The Bible tells us that we need to yield to the grace of God. 

God knows that it is difficult for us as fallen humanity to choose self-control when we are constantly given the opportunities, and even the encouragement to choose self-gratification and indulgence. God has made his grace, his supernatural enabling available to us to resist that which would lead us down the path of regret, pain, and failure in life. 

Furthermore, self-control is part of the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). This means that as we walk in fellowship with the Spirit of God, self-control becomes a part of our daily lives. We are enabled to make the right decisions, focus on the right priorities and find joy in righteous and wise living. 

Experts tell us that the power of self-control is found in conscientiousness, self-discipline, and perseverance. Practising these over time improves self-control. Social psychologists have found that self-control is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger our self-control becomes. 

As believers, God has not left us to marshal our will and self-discipline alone. Rather in his tremendous kindness and love, he comes alongside us and aids us through his supernatural power. As we yield to the Holy Spirit and lay hold of God’s grace, we will be better able to exercise self-control and live the successful life God wants for us! 

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The Attitude of Gratitude

One of the first things that we are taught as children is to say ‘thank you.’ But as we grow into adulthood, this practice often becomes a formality. It is a social norm to say thank you. We say it without much thought or even without feeling thankful. In the Bible, however, thanksgiving is not just a polite gesture but a command of God. 

… give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 

I Thessalonians 5:18, NIV 

Give thanks in all circumstances! Does this mean that we are expected to give thanks even when we are in unhappy circumstances? Do we give thanks when we are sick, or when we lose our job, or when we are in financial need, or when we can’t see eye to eye with our spouse or our boss? Does God really expect us to be thankful during such exasperating situations? 

The answer is yes! God expects us to give thanks not for trying situations but in trying situations. Perhaps it doesn’t make sense to us. But you see, God isn’t responsible for our bad situation. God didn’t “make it happen” to us. God isn’t punishing us. God didn’t cause our suffering. A thousand things may have caused our bad situation but it isn’t God. 

Where is God in all our circumstances? He is where he always is. He is Immanuel — God with us! And that is why God expects us to give thanks in all circumstances. 

God is Immanuel

He is trying to get us to work with him so that he can work out all things for our good (Romans 8:28). He is trying to get us into the right attitude, to receive the solution for our bad situation. He is trying to get us to the right position to fulfil his good plan for us. 

Now just because God wants to work out everything for our good, doesn’t mean that we can receive the good that God has for us. We need to have the right attitude to receive the blessings of God. Gratitude gets us into the right frame of mind to receive from God. That is the power of gratitude! 

The truth is in our natural state we are better at grumbling than thanksgiving! We often think it’s justifiable for us to complain when we don’t like something. Complaining is actually an attitude of the heart.  It speaks of what is inside us and we have to be careful that our complaints are not merely a reflection of our self-centredness and arrogance. If we think, I deserve better, I deserve more and if I don’t get it, I am going to complain. I am important and if I am treated like I am not, I am going to complain, then we are in a bad place with God. 

The truth is grumbling rarely makes life better for anyone. Grumbling can cause us to forfeit the blessings of God. Often God will not act on our behalf if we are grumbling. In fact, grumbling can arouse the anger of God (Numbers 11:1). 

Gratitude shows humility and faith.

Thanksgiving says I am undeserving, but God has treated me better than I deserve. This attitude moves us forward to receive what God is doing on our behalf. But gratitude is not just an emotion. In fact, if you ask people if they are thankful, most people will say yes. But often their behaviour and their words say otherwise. We can’t justify our bad behaviour by our “correct feeling.” Saying we feel grateful but behaving like we are not is a mockery. Correct feeling and good intention are not thanksgiving. 

Thanksgiving has to be acted out

A key expression of thanksgiving in Scripture is through praise and worship. We sing to God, we raise our hands in worship, we jump in praise to express our gratitude to God! If you are grateful to God, then ‘make yourself’ act out your gratitude by worshipping from the depths of that gratitude. Stop fretting about the music or song, but focus on giving thanks to God. 

Another central theme of thanksgiving in the Bible is to give thanks for people. The apostle Paul exemplifies this for us. Find ways to say thank you meaningfully to people who have been a blessing to you. Another powerful way gratitude is expressed is through giving. There are many kinds of giving in the Bible.  There is giving to God. There is giving to people who love us and have done us good. There is giving to the needy and the poor.  In the Bible, every celebration of victory or any kind of festival required the people of God to give to those in need. 

As we embrace the attitude of gratitude and practice the behaviour of thanksgiving, our lives will be happier. We will be working with God to move out of trying circumstances to better ones. We can be sure that we will experience God’s pleasure when we have the attitude of gratitude!

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts

Colossians 3:16, NIV
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Godliness With Contentment

Scripture tells us that “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). In other words, if we are willing to pursue the character of God and at the same allow ourselves to experience a deep sense of meaning in our life, we will be greatly blessed.  

At its core, contentment is actually psychological well-being. It is knowing that it is well with our soul. The state or sense of contentment arises from finding meaning in life. People are not contented because they have an easy life. On the contrary, many people who are not facing challenges or stress in their lives are often the least contented. 

Contentment has to do with our perception of being engaged in our lives and managing it in a meaningful way. A contented person is not someone who is experiencing fewer challenges than others. Rather the contented person is someone who is living up to their own expectations, their internal moral values, accomplishing important goals, and doing their work well and properly. 

Contentment also has very little to do with material possessions or the accolades of man. In fact, experts believe that social systems can interfere with contentment by trying to replace natural internal contentment with prizes and praises that come from outside. By influencing us and even persuading us to look externally for affirmation and meaning, we lose the ability to focus on what is inherently important to us.

Natural contentment arises from personal judgment and values.

It is our soul knowing that we are living according to who God has called us to be and doing what God has called us to do. This I believe is what Jesus means when he tells us to take his yoke upon us so that we will find rest. His yoke is his divine design for us. His rest is the state of contentment we find ourselves in when we carry his yoke and walk in steps with him. 

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30, NIV

If we have been weary, tired, and struggling, it is often because we have been living according to the standard and expectations of the world. If we carry the yoke the world put upon us, we will find ourselves bent out of shape. Life can eventually lose its meaning if we are careless with the yoke we are carrying. 

On the other hand, to take the yoke of Jesus and to learn from him is to grow in godliness and contentment. Because Jesus is gentle and humble, his yoke is perfectly shaped for us. He knows us and understands us intimately. Taking the yoke of Jesus leads to us recognising our purpose and place in the world. It is living our life well. We will not have to fear missing out on anything. 

Whatever we may think our purpose and meaning in life may be, we can be sure that we are not created for prizes and praises. The pursuit of material possessions and the accolades of man are not our goals in life. Rather, they are the byproducts of a life well lived. To make these the goals of our life is not only to forfeit true contentment but to risk ending up empty, desperate, and lost. Sadly, the emptiness and desperation set in late in the journey. We often discover we are on the wrong path when we are already deep in the forest. 

Another flawed understanding of contentment is that it results in complacency. While contentment is the satisfaction of doing our best in living our lives meaningfully, complacency is being so satisfied with our abilities or situations that we believe we do not need to do better. It is the value that we place on growth and improvement that differentiates between contentment and complacency. Being content does not mean not desiring to do better. It means that while we seek growth, we are at peace instead of feeling harassed. 

Contentment is birthed from doing our best wherever we find ourselves in life. It is the inner knowledge of fulfilling our purpose. Complacency is almost the direct opposite of that. It is settling for the less and not caring if we have missed our divine purpose. Where complacency exists, contentment is hard to come by. And where contentment is, complacency is unwelcome.

It is easy to be restless and harassed by all that is happening within us and around us. God, however, delights in the contentment of his people. He would that we find our rest and satisfaction in obeying him. As his beloved, let us then pursue godliness with contentment!

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Pursuing Wisdom

Prior to my conversion, I had never given wisdom a second thought. But once I started reading the Bible, I became very intrigued and interested in wisdom. This is because it is mentioned often in the Bible. 

In fact, the five books right in the middle of the Bible comprising Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs are known collectively as Wisdom Literature. The Book of Proverbs especially has a lot to say about this attribute, and in reading Proverbs, one cannot help but to covert wisdom. 

After all, the blessings of wisdom are bountiful — everything in fact that one would need and want in life! Among the rewards of wisdom are “riches and honor, enduring wealth and prosperity” (Proverbs 8:18), and life and favour from God (Proverbs 8:35-36, 9:11).

But what exactly is wisdom? A common definition for it is the ability to use knowledge and experience properly to make sound judgments and good decisions. But wisdom is actually much richer than just the proper application of knowledge and experience. 

According to the Bible, wisdom gives us proper insights into life (Proverbs 9:6). It is associated with attributes such as prudence, discernment, unbiased judgment, self-knowledge, diligence, self-control, humility and benevolence. 

Instead of being anxious over many things in life, a better occupation of our mind is to pursue wisdom. If we were to seek to live our lives with wisdom instead of worrying about what tomorrow holds or what could go wrong, we will not only be rewarded with a happier and more successful life but we will also be a greater blessing to the world. 

How can we grow in wisdom? The Bible says, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of God is understanding (Proverbs 1:7, 9:10). Wisdom, then, begins with a reverent relationship with God. As we get to know God more and honour him, our wisdom increases. In fact, wisdom is an attribute of the Spirit of the Lord. Hence, to be led by his Spirit is to walk in wisdom. 

The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:2-3, NIV

Wisdom is also a gift of God. God wants to give us wisdom (James 1:5). But in order to receive it, we must desire it. Our attitude is an important key to our ability to receive wisdom. It is likely to elude us if we are double-minded for it cannot be possessed by those who do not count it precious. Unfortunately, we often undervalue this critical virtue, and hence, fail to avail ourselves to it, albeit perhaps unintentionally.

Mockers and the wicked, the Bible tells us, forfeit wisdom, while the discerning and righteous add to their wisdom. If we price wisdom highly, we will prioritise it over our many distracting pursuits and misplaced commitments.

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her.

Proverbs 8:10-11, NIV

There is also a tendency for us to confuse knowledge with wisdom. One can be knowledgeable without being wise. And this has indeed become the agony of our current world. The internet has opened up a world of knowledge, and many now consider themselves knowledgeable and qualified way beyond their education, training or experience in life. Potentially, an abundance of knowledge could lead to the demise of wisdom, if we can’t differentiate between them. 

The lack of wisdom is disastrous for our lives. Foolishness harms us and the hatred of wisdom results in death (Proverbs 8:35-36, 9:18). Knowledge puffs up and folly is often loud and showy, and both can tragically be mistaken for wisdom. 

True wisdom is gaining God’s insights into life and diligently applying them. Therefore, studying and meditating on God’s Word is a great way to get more wisdom (Psalm 19:7). The counsel of the wise also adds wisdom to us. This, in fact, is the very thesis of the Book of Proverbs (Proverbs 1:1-6). 

Valuing wisdom, praying for it, walking in the Holy Spirit and Scripture, being teachable and most of all, revering God are sure ways to multiplying wisdom in our lives. We are purposed as God’s beloved to grow in wisdom. It is a noble desire and a great pursuit to grow in this godly attribute!

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:52, NIV
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Carried By Grace

In a stunning summary of his life’s mantra, the great Apostle Paul says, “ … I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength(Philippians 4:11-13).

Contented whatever the circumstances, contented whether his stomach was full or empty, contented whether in want or having an abundance! In other words, whatever life might visit upon him, it was well with Paul.

What could be Paul’s secret to this unshakeable contentment that could not be assailed by life’s circumstances? It was because Paul was the beneficiary of the supernatural grace of God.

This would mean that when Paul couldn’t do it on his own anymore that God’s power was all the more manifested. Indeed, the grace of God was more than sufficient for Paul (2 Corinthians 12:9). It had often carried him through intense sufferings as he served God.

In a poignant testimony, Paul summarised what divine grace had brought him through, “I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches” ( 2 Corinthians 11:23-28).

Paul’s resume is not one that any one of us can copy! But the divine grace that carried him through is as available to us as it was to Paul.

We too are the beneficiaries of the supernatural grace of God.

However, we may not know how to avail ourselves to it. I often suspect that maybe we are just too strong for God’s power to work on our behalf. Possibly we are unaware of our need for it. Or perhaps we have no true need for supernatural grace since we hardly venture out of our comfort zone.

When Jesus went through the countryside of Judea, hundreds, perhaps thousands desperately needing the grace of God thronged him. Tailing him, sometimes begging to touch even the hem of his garment, often listening for hours as he preached, these were aware that they were not sufficient for the challenges of life. Hungry for truth and divine intervention, desperate for strength,  healing, provision, and transformation, they humbled themselves before Christ.

How about us? Are we sufficient for the call of life? Probably yes if we were to stay in our comfort zone. And we so desperately want to be strong and sufficient that we would rarely risk our comfort zone for God. 

But only when we are insufficient do we experience the power of God.

If we were to be all that God purposed us to be, if we were to get to where God calls us, we will need to let go and fall into the net of divine grace. Only from there can we soar on the wings of eagles. And learn that contentment is possible because it is a divine gift wrought by grace.

God invites us into a life greater than the circumstances that would hem us in. He calls us to a greater dream for his glory. He nudges us out of our comfort zone to make a difference so that we could truly be ‘salt and light,’ promising us that his grace is sufficient and his power will accomplish what we can’t!

Let’s take the hand of our Lord and obey his leading. Be assured that he will never cease to carry us by his grace when it becomes too much for us!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV
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The Second Coming of Jesus

The one eschatological doctrine that orthodox Christianity most agrees on is that of the Second Coming of Jesus. The ancient Nicene Creed states, “He will come again in his glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. ..” Likewise, at Audacity Malaysia, we believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as he promised.

The Second Coming also known as the “Second Advent” or by the Greek word “parousia” meaning “presence” is clearly and emphatically asserted in Scripture. It was part of the apostolic message and one of the most widely taught doctrines in the New Testament (Acts 3:19-21, 1 Thessalonians 4:15-16, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 10, Titus 2:13, Hebrews 9:28, James 5:7-8, 2 Peter 1:16, 3:12). Jesus himself promises that he will come again (Matthew 24-25, Matthew 26:64, John 14:3).

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.”

Matthew 24:30, NIV

The Second Coming of Jesus is THE event that will usher in the beginning of the end. When Jesus comes again, he will come in power and great glory. He will judge the nations and will divide the righteous from the wicked (Matthew 25:31-36). At that time, the wicked and all that are corrupt will be destroyed. The Second Coming will also usher in the Millennium, which is the thousand-year reign of Jesus on earth.  

Believers who have died in Christ will be resurrected while believers living at the time of the Second Coming will be transformed into their gloried body ( 1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, 1 Thessalonians 4:14). Our physical imperfections will disappear and our everlasting bodies will know no pain, illness or death.

Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, he will descend personally and visibly into the earth (Acts 1:11). His Second Coming will be a sharp contrast to the lowly and humble circumstances of his first coming. He will come on the cloud with great power and great glory accompanied by his angels and heralded by the archangel (Mark 13:26, Luke 21:27, 1 Thessalonians 4:16).

For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.

1 Thessalonians 4:16, NIV 

When Jesus was born, very few people knew that the Saviour of the world had come. He was born in a lowly stable and laid in a manger of hay. He was rejected and crucified. But when he comes again, there will be no doubt who he is! He will be acknowledged as the “Lord of Lords and King of Kings” (Revelation 17:14). 

Although God has set a definite time for the Second Coming, that time has not been revealed to us. It is important to understand that the Bible states clearly that no man knows the day or the hour when the Second Coming will take place (Matthew 24:36). Jesus, however, indicated that his return will be preceded by several signs such as desolation and the darkening of the sun (Matthew 24:21, 29). Yet for many believers, it would be unexpected because the long delay has lulled many into inattention.

The impending Second Coming of Christ is a motivation for us to live in obedience to God. It is also a source of comfort for us because history will not simply run its course. Rather it is marching toward the consummation when God’s purpose will be fully realised.  While wickedness may run rampant on earth now, a time is surely coming when evil will be punished and faithfulness will be rewarded. 

 When parousia finally occurs, it will happen so quickly that there will be no time to prepare (Matthew 25:8-10). As believers, we should watch for and live in anticipation of the sure return of our Lord. 

When we are walking faithfully with God, we can look forward to the Second Coming of Jesus with confidence, joy and excitement!

And now, dear children, continue in him, so that when he appears we may be confident and unashamed before him at his coming.

1 John 2:28, NIV

References:

  1. Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1997).
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The Church of God

It is my conviction that the church is the most important institution in the world. This conviction has helped me serve it wholeheartedly for over 30 years through varied seasons. Yet after more than 30 years, I still often feel that I have not done enough for the church of God.

But why is the church so important or significant that it would demand the unwavering service and commitment of the followers of Christ? 

The short answer is that it is the Body of Christ, it is the family of God, it is the kingdom of God on earth, it is the bride of Christ. The church is not a social phenomenon. It is not a man’s idea or a good idea. It is much more than a human institution. It is a divine movement. 

Ultimately the true significance of the church lies in its relationship with the Triune God. Born out of the death and resurrection of Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, it is the body through which God currently works in the world. 

The NT Greek word for the church is “ekklesia” which means “assembly.” In essence, it is the gathering of God’s people called out to do God’s will on earth.

Audacity Church

That the church constitutes the people of God has important implications. Firstly, there is a mutual belonging between God and his people. God’s people belong to him and God, in turn, belongs to his people. Secondly, God’s people belong together. It is only when believers are together that they constitute the church. 

This ‘belonging to God and to each other’ means God expects his people to assemble to worship him and to pray together. Furthermore, Jesus expects his people to observe his commandment to partake the Lord’s Supper together (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). God also expects his people to fellowship with each other. He expects them to obey his many commandments to serve one another, to encourage one another, and to love one another.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25, NIV

The most extended image of the church in the Bible is that it is the body of Christ. The body is to be connected by genuine fellowship and care. The church in the Book of Acts even shared material possessions with one another (Acts 4:32-36)!

This image does not only emphasise the close connectivity of the church but also reveals the church as the focal point of Christ’s activity on earth.  As the body of Christ, the church is the continuation of Christ’s presence and the extension of his ministry. 

While the church is a divine creation, it is made of imperfect human beings. It will not reach perfect sanctification or glorification until the Lord’s return. Nonetheless, its significance and importance as the assembly of God’s people called out to worship God and extend Christ’s work on earth cannot be overstated. God takes pride in his church. He provides for it and protects it. Therefore, nothing — no power on earth or in hell — can overcome the church of God (Matthew 16:18). 

While the church gathers and serves God on earth today, in the future the church will gather and serve God in heaven. 

Jesus will return for his church and the wedding of Christ and His bride will take place at the end of the age. Until that time arrives, all true followers of Christ ought to cherish and love the church as God does. God expects us to fully embrace our identity as his church on earth and to wholeheartedly serve him as his gathered people. 

References:

  1. Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1997).
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Final State

One of the soberest contemplations of a human being must be where we spend eternity. What is the final state of a human soul when life on earth is done? Where do we go from here when we breathe our last breath? Needless to say, our answers to these questions have tremendous implications on how we live on earth. 

If we believe in universalism that every human being will end up in the better place called heaven, then how we live on earth is hardly that important. And if we believe in annihilation that our soul ceases to exist after physical death, then let’s live it up before we cease to be. 

The Bible is clear that the soul of man is everlasting. Furthermore, it teaches that whether we find ourselves in bliss in our eternal state depends on whether we believe in Jesus. 

Throughout its two thousand years of history, the church has overwhelmingly held to the biblical understanding that those who believe in Jesus live in eternity in the presence of God, while those who don’t believe in Jesus suffer eternal punishment. In Audacity Malaysia, we likewise, believe in eternal life for believers and eternal punishment for unbelievers. 

True knowledge of God is what results in eternal life. But this “knowing God” is not mere intellectual assent to what the Word of God says. It is a personal relationship with God and Jesus Christ. 

Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

John 17:3, NIV

As the abode of God, heaven is where believers will spend eternity in the presence of God. Jesus himself asks his followers to prepare for life in heaven by “storing up treasure” there ahead of their entry (Matthew 6:19-20). 

While few will contend the final state of believers, the future state of unbelievers has created a considerable amount of uneasiness with some arguing that the doctrine of eternal punishment is outmoded. Part of the problem stems from what appears to be a tension between the love of God and his judgment. 

Among the images the Bible uses to depict the final state of unbelievers are “eternal punishment” (Matthew 25: 41, 46), “outer darkness” (Matthew 8:12), “torment” (Revelation 14:10-11), “the wrath of God” (Romans 2:5), the “second death” (Revelation 21:8) and “exclusion from the face of God” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Whether it involves physical suffering or mental distress or both, it is obviously an experience of intense anguish. 

The one basic characteristic of these images is the absence of God or banishment from the presence of God.  We should, however, note that God does not send anyone to eternal punishment for he does not want anyone to perish but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). But endowed with free will, humans will have to choose for themselves the bliss of heaven or the agony of hell. As C.S. Lewis has put it, sin is a person’s saying to God throughout life, “Go away and leave me alone.” Hell is God finally saying to that individual, “You may have what you wish.”

No matter how comforting the concept of universalism is, it is not tenable scripturally. Some have even contended that those who reject the offer of salvation in this life, will after death and Christ’s second coming repent and be reconciled to Christ. The problem is there is simply nowhere in the Bible that indicates even the slightest possibility of a second chance. What we find instead are definite statements to the contrary. 

Another school of thought, annihilationism maintains that although only believers will spend eternity with God, unbelievers will be eliminated or annihilated. Hence none will be subjected to eternal punishment since unbelievers will simply cease to exist. Annihilation appears to be a great proposition except that it contradicts the teaching of the Bible!

Whatever one’s spiritual condition is at the end of life is one’s permanent condition that will continue for all eternity.

Both the OT and NT refer to the unquenchable fire of hell. Furthermore, Jesus’ teaching suggests that there are degrees of punishment in hell. The cities which had witnessed the miracles of Jesus but failed to repent will face more severe punishment (Matthew 11:21-24). There is a similar hint in the parable of the faithful and faithless stewards (Luke 12:47-48). The principle seems to be the greater the knowledge and responsibility, the greater the punishment. The varying degree of punishment in hell parallels the varying degree of reward in heaven. 

In the light of the teaching of Scripture about the final state of unbelievers, the command of God to preach the gospel cannot be trifled with. It is the expressed desire of God that all should come to faith in Christ and believers must do their part to lead as many as possible to righteousness.

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.

Daniel 12:2-3, NIV

References:

  1. Erickson, Millard J. Introducing Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Baker Book, 1997). 
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I AM Changing Lives

We believe that God wants to heal and transform us so that we can live healthy and blessed lives in order to help others more effectively. This statement of belief is the heartbeat of Audacity Malaysia. This is why we are who we are. This gets us up in the morning and this gets us burning the midnight oil. 

Right at the birth of the church, we heard God said, The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). The abundant life that Christ came to give us has been our focus for the last 16 years. 

We understand that a genuine encounter with the living Christ leaves us transformed for the better. Whether it is from flakiness to stability as we see in the apostle Peter or from doubt to faith in Thomas or from greed to generosity in Zacchaeus, the consistent testimony of Scriptures is that knowing Jesus is a journey to a better us.

It is a journey that every member at Audacity Malaysia is invited and enabled to take. For us, Jesus is alive and the Holy Spirit is actively at work to transform the people of God. The church is the community where personal growth takes place. 

It is not possible to follow Jesus without being deeply impacted and undeniably transformed. 

Hence, every believer must have a story of the changes that God wrought in him. The transformed life is the loudest testimony that God is more than a knowledge to be gained, that Scriptures are more than words to be memorised and the Cross is more than history. 

My personal story has been that of rejection, insecurity and performance orientation to that of peace and freedom. For the longest time, I feared the judgment of man and struggled with comparison. Much of my earlier journey comprised hours of personal prayer and Bible reading, sometimes late into the night or rather early morning where I deeply encountered Jesus. It has been a long journey of inner healing and renewal of the mind but one that leaves me deeply grateful for the love and keenly aware of the power of God. Without such transformation, it is not possible to do the ministry that God called me to for the last 25 years. 

I am continually amazed by the relentless faithfulness and grace of God that continually pursue us. It is not that we are worthy and it certainly not because we are smart. We are often too ignorant and sometimes too proud to understand the bondages in our hearts and the foolishness of our minds. Still, Jesus is determined to set us free from the effects of sins and to turn our curses into blessings. 

The grace of God compels our transformation, the shedding of our old man. The love of God insists on blessing us, clothing us with acceptance and authority (Luke 11:22). We are thus re-created in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). 

In transforming us for the better, we are made ‘transformers’ for others. In blessing us, God turns us into ‘blessors’ to others. Through us, our families and friends are to be blessed. From the very beginning, this has been the intention of God, that his people will be a blessing.

“I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing”.

Genesis 12:2, NIV

The church is the heir of the Abrahamic blessing. God still blesses his people to be a blessing. No follower of Jesus should miss out on the tangible power of the Cross to transform, heal and bless. Unless we have thus experienced God, our religion is but a form of godliness with no power (2 Timothy 3:5).  

With our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus, let us continue to look to all that God has for us! Our relationship with God may have a beginning but it has no end. We are not seeking to arrive. Rather we are seeking continuous growth. In God, there is more than we can ever fathom. The depths of God can’t be exhausted. He is still doing more than we can ever ask or think!

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

Ephesians 3:20-21, NKJV
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