BIBLICAL SEPARATION


8 Spiritual Blessings of

SEPARATION

Every biblical doctrine is a blessing to those who believe and apply it fully in their lives and ministries. Our Lord Jesus said, “Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it” (Luke 11:28). God’s truth profits everyone who believes and obeys. Isaiah the prophet said, “Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit… O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18). God’s truth, regardless of differing opinions, if adhered to passionately, will provide great blessings to the soul. They who believe and obey the truth of God’s Word can be expectant of glorious eternal blessings – “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24).

Every doctrine of the Scriptures is to be received and practised. So, the doctrine of separation, being a clear teaching of God’s Word, must be upheld. Nonetheless, many reject it as an unpleasant, burdensome, useless doctrine. Some refer to it as a “minor doctrine” or “non-essential doctrine”. However, this doctrine is the very channel of divine blessings. Furthermore, it also acts as a shield against errors. To practise the doctrine of separation is to secure the pure and glorious divine blessings for our souls and for our churches.

The Bible records very vividly the blessings that God promised to those who separate themselves from sin, worldliness, false doctrines, false teachers and disobedient Christians.

  1. Separation keeps our souls and congregations from the filthiness of sin. When we practise biblical separation against the sinful pleasures of the world, we will be able to purify and protect ourselves from all the sins of the world. In Ezra 6:21, we have a great example of this – “And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel.” The same truth is found in Revelation 18:4, where a call to separate is given – “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins.”
  2. Separation helps us to be like Christ. In Hebrews 7:26, we are told that Jesus Christ is “such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners”. All Christians are to be like Christ; and to be like Christ, they should separate themselves from sin and sinners, just as Jesus did. Of course, this does not mean we should avoid befriending sinners to share the Gospel. Rather, the practice of biblical separation is calling us not to partake in their sinful activities. To be like Christ in this world, separation is necessary.
  3. Separation from ungodly people and their activities helps us to delight in God’s Word. This is the message that we read in Psalm 1:1-3, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” Ungodly friends can often be a distraction and hindrance to a Christian’s obedient life. So separation from close affiliation with ungodly people will rid us of distractions from God’s Word.
  4. Separation helps us to be worthy servants of God. To be a faithful and good minister of God’s Word, we must refuse tolerating erroneous doctrines and philosophies. The apostle Paul’s words to Timothy prove this truth – “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness” (1 Timothy 4:6-7).
  5. Separation helps us to be delivered from God’s wrath against unrepentant sinners. Revelation 18:4 affirms that separation will deliver us from sin and also its aftermath – “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
  6. Separation assures us that God will receive us. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). Though the world and compromising Christians may reject us, the Lord will receive us. Romans 15:7 teaches us that whomsoever Christ receives, He receives them to the glory of God. What a blessing it is for those who are separated from sin and false doctrines to know that they are vessels of God’s glory!
  7. Separation guarantees the presence and fellowship of God. To those who will not be unequally yoked with unbelief and sin, the Lord promises that “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Corinthians 6:16).
  8. Separation guarantees the abiding love and care of God. To the separated Christians, the Word of God promises in 2 Corinthians 6:17b-18 that “I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”. Those who will separate themselves for the glory of God are promised His unceasing fatherly love and care.

Wisdom Decries Pride – II

Mighty fallenWisdom’s reason for hating pride

Why does true wisdom command us to hate or chase away pride (cf. Proverbs 8:13)? Because God warns against it.

Pride is ‘an abomination to the LORD’

Proverbs 16:5 cautions us that “every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD”. The word “abomination” means a thing that is strongly disliked or hated. God’s wrath kindles against every abominable thing. Pride is an evil thing that the Lord hates. In Proverbs 6:16-19, we see a list of things that are abominable to God, and pride stands first on that list. Proverbs 21:4 identifies pride as a sin, “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin.”

Pride leads to shame and destruction

In Proverbs 11:2, we read, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame.” The Hebrew word for “shame” (salon) denotes a lowering of state from what he presently occupies (See Proverbs 29:23a). This shame is something that a person brings upon himself. Because of pride, he would find it difficult to remain at his current place of work or social activity. It is very likely that he himself would leave the place because of the shame that he had brought on himself.

Proverbs 16:18 warns that “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall”. Again, it is said, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty” (Proverbs 18:12). Some put on a humble appearance before others while prideful thoughts and ambitions fill their hearts. Even to them, the Scripture warns, “An haughty spirit” is “before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Pride-filled thoughts will only lead them to destruction.

Wisdom’s advice on overcoming pride

Mighty fallenSince the LORD hates pride, we must learn to subdue and eradicate the pride within our hearts. Otherwise, it will destroy our lives. To keep pride out of our hearts, the wisdom of Proverbs gives us the following instructions:

Cultivate “the fear of the LORD” in your hearts

Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy . . .” According to this verse, every heart that fears the Lord will not entertain any prideful thought or attitude. Whereas pride teaches one to take glory for himself, the fear of the Lord instructs us to give due honour to the LORD. To avoid any prideful behaviour, we must give glory to God for every progress and achievement in our lives. It is an absurd thing to rob God of His glory.

Cultivate humility in your hearts

Often the book of Proverbs places the spirit of pride antithetically to the spirit of humility. For instance, Proverbs 18:12 says, “Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility.” To be “haughty” is to be proud or to behave in a puffed-up manner. A haughty person thinks that he is better than others, and tries to show off his abilities for self-glory. On the other hand, a humble person will behave in a non-self-promoting manner, and be submissive to God and others.

When a person is not self-centred, pride will not be able to take root in his heart. Likewise, when a person is submissive in his attitude towards others, he will not speak arrogantly or attempt to promote himself.

Cultivate friendship with humble people

Walking with the lowly in heart is far better than sharing the wealth or fame of the proud. In other words, friendship with the lowly is to be desired above friendship with the proud ones. Proverbs 16:19 says, “Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.”

When your friends are humble people, you will learn to behave like them. But if your close friends are those who deal arrogantly, you will soon learn their proud ways and behave like them. When you keep company with the proud ones, you will be compelled to adjust your language, mannerism and actions to suit theirs, lest you become a misfit in their company. So you must not develop friendships with proud people. Instead, you must choose humble people as your friends. Then you will be encouraged to behave like them. It may look fascinating to talk and act like the arrogant ones because it may make you feel that you are better than others. But remember that the proud ones will be brought low by God.

Wisdom Decries Pride – I

The Tower of Babel - Dionysius Padtbrugge

The Tower of Babel - Dionysius Padtbrugge

In chapter 8 of Proverbs, wisdom is personified as a lady who gives wise counsel to those who seek her. In verse 13, she lists those things which she hates, and one of them is pride. The Hebrew word for “hate” expresses a strong feeling of revulsion that is determined to exterminate. Why does wisdom chase away pride? To understand the reason for wisdom’s hatred for pride, we will pursue wisdom’s perspective and handling of pride.

Wisdom views pride as evil

In the list of evils mentioned in Proverbs 8:13, the first is “pride”. A study of various Hebrew words, translated as “pride” in the book of Proverbs, provides us with the following understanding of pride.

The evil nature of pride

  • Pride is a preoccupation with self-glory. It turns one’s heart away from giving glory to God. In a prideful heart, self-pleasure and self-glory take precedence over God’s glory (cf. Psalm 10:4).
  • Pride thrives on the idea of self-importance. A proud man will be so preoccupied with himself that he would not be concerned about others and their needs (cf. Proverbs 21:4).
  • Pride also entails self-confidence that is unwilling to submit to the good counsel of God and man. Pride is unyielding (cf. Hosea 7:10). For his own satisfaction and glory, a proud person will not hesitate to pursue evil ways.
  • Pride seeks to promote an exalted view of self at the expense of proper and moral conduct. Such an inflated view deceives a man into expressing defiance and rebellion unashamedly.
  • Pride may also take the ugly form of contemptible treatment of others. Inconsiderate, unkind, intimidating and cruel words will flow out of a proud person’s mouth.
  • Pride involves a “high look” or a haughty appearance and attitude (cf. Proverbs 21:4). Pride rejoices in an inflated opinion of oneself. An inflated view of one’s own opinion cannot help but causes trouble.
  • Pride also involves boasting. Psalm 73:8-9 casts some light on the words of the proud – “They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth.” He has a “tongue that speaketh proud things” (Psalm 12:3).

The evil outcome of pride

A prideful person will lay bare the ugliness of pride in his attitude, words and actions. Three evils are mentioned in Proverbs 8:13 as following pride: arrogancy, the evil way and the froward mouth. Certainly, a conceited heart will be full of such evil. Seldom will a prideful man repent of his stubbornness, cruelty and evil ways.

Being quarrelsome is one of the evil fruits of pride. Proverbs 13:10 states, “Only by pride cometh contention.” Proverbs 28:25 affirms this fact when it says, “He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife.” A proud person’s desire for prominence would make him a quarrelsome person. He would revolt against authority either to assert his own ideas or to gain material prosperity, position or popularity (cf. James 4:1). Pride also makes one impatient of competition and rivalry, impatient of contempt, or anything that looks like a slight. Prideful men will not forgive but take revenge.

Proverbs 21:24 describes a proud man as a scorner – “Proud and haughty scorner is his name.” A proud man is a mocker. Proverbs 9:7-8 describes how an arrogant scoffer will behave. Even those who lovingly correct him will be scorned. “He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee” (cf. Proverbs 13:1; 15:12; 19:25).

God is Love!

God is LOveGod is love.” Though short, it is a statement of eternal magnitude and significance. Never was more meaning encapsulated in so few words as in this short sentence – “God is love.” The Apostle John stated this truth twice in his first epistle (cf. 1 John 4:8, 16). The message of this short verse is splashed across the Bible.

Some clarifications are necessary before any further elaboration of this glorious statement is attempted. When John wrote that “God is love”, he was not saying that “love” is the complete revelation of God. In fact, he has already written in the same epistle that “God is light” (1 John 1:5); and that refers to God’s holy nature (cf. John 3:18–21; 1 John 1:5–10). So love is not the only attribute that adequately describes God. God cannot be fully explained by one of His attributes alone. Love is not the only perception we ought to have of Him. Neither was the Apostle John implying that “love is God”. The emphasis of the saying, “God is love”, is that in God alone can one fully view what true love is; and only by His enablement that one can have the power to express true love.

God is essential boundless love

The declaration that “God is love” not only reveals God as a loving God, but also portrays love as natural and essential to His divine glory. All of God’s will and all of His works are draped in His glorious love. In nature and essence, He is “God of love” (2 Corinthians 13:11).

God is perfect, and His love is perfect too. God is unfathomable, and hence His love is beyond our full grasp. But the knowledge that God is full of perfect and infinite love enables us to draw near to Him with full assurance of faith for pardon and redemption.

In this dark world of hatred, sin and sorrows, we have the assurance that a God of infinite love rules over all. Though we may not be able to reconcile all the cruelty and tragedies that occur around us, yet by exercising faith on this marvellous declaration, we can find consolation. In fact, amidst all the sadness, sin and sorrow, there is abundant evidence that God is love. Among all the manifestations of His love in this dark world, the gift of a Saviour is the greatest of all.

God manifested His love through His Son

We can know God because His great love is manifested unto us. Immediately after making the assertion that “God is love”, the Apostle John wrote, “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). God’s love has sent the Son of God to bear all our sins so that we may know Him intimately.

How amazing it is that God should love vile mortals like us. Who can fully comprehend that the eternal God, who is holy, would love ungrateful rebels such as we? What a great mystery and a grand miracle that the divine love would send His only begotten Son into the world for us! If this is not love, what then is love?

John says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). God’s sending of His Son is so unusual and such an unprecedented expression of love that the apostle says, “Herein is love”. God loved the world so wonderfully, so amazingly and so incredibly that He sacrificed His only begotten Son as the ransom for the redemption of sinners. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God’s matchless love

Being moved by the love of God manifested through Christ, the Apostle John exclaimed, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God” (1 John 3:1a). John encourages us to contemplate the greatness of God’s love. He points us to God’s love as peculiar. It is out-of-this-world kind of love. There is no act of love in this world that can ever be compared to God’s love that received us as His children, though we were once His enemies.

The apostle was so astonished at the greatness of God’s love that he wrote, “What manner of love”. The Greek words potapên agape, used by the apostle, point to both the quantity and quality of God’s love. Its length, breadth, depth and height are beyond description.

How can we ever describe the love of God that allows us to call Him, “Father!” There can be no higher expression of love than His adopting of us, reckless children as we are, as His own, now and forever. There can never be any greater act of love, even from God, than that which He manifested through the sacrifice of His Son so that we may be reconciled to Him as His children. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

He loved us, when we had no love for Him. He lovingly came to us, even when we had wandered away from Him. When we laid down in our sin, guilt and misery, His tender love sought to redeem us. When we were undeserving, ill-deserving, polluted and unclean, in love He stooped down to wash us from our sins with His sacred blood. While we were dead in trespasses, His love for us affixed Him on the cross to die that we might live forever through Him. He loved us, the wretched sinful mortals, that we might live in heaven, live with God and live in eternal glory and blessedness with Him and through Him: O what love has reached us here on earth!

Conclusion

All those who have tasted His love, in receiving the salvation by faith in Christ, must praise Him for His eternal love. When we remember how insignificant we are as creatures, and how ungrateful, rebellious and vile we have been as sinners, we may well be full of adoration and worship at His love which had adopted us into the holy family of God, so that we may be regarded and treated as the children of the Most High. The love of God that surpasses all finite conception will be the theme of adoring praises from multitudes that no man can number, for ever and ever. Moreover, we should declare His love to every creature that others may also come to Him and rejoice in His love.

Even in this world of animosity, bitterness, violence and suffering, we have sufficient evidence to prove that He is benevolent. Let us always behold the cross where the love of God shines through the injustice, travesty and violence of human sin. The gruesome experiences of this earth tend to mask our perception that God is love. The full glory and meaning of His infinite love will be fully understood only when we reach heaven. In the meantime, let us hold on to the truth that God is love. Let us believe that He sincerely desires our good, and that what seems dark to us may be designed for our welfare; and amidst all the sorrows and disappointments of the present life, let us be rest assured that our interests and our destiny are in the hands of the God of love.

There is none who is infinitely perfect in love as God. O what astonishing goodness and condescension from the Almighty God towards us who believe on His Son. God is love!

Practical Suggestions For Family Worship

My desire and prayer is that this article will provide all readers with practical advice on conducting family worship daily.family worship

I am absolutely convinced that family worship is invaluable. My spiritual life was tremendously moulded, nurtured and strengthened through family devotions that my parents conducted every day in the morning and in the evening. Being convinced of the blessings of family worship, I have constantly strived to maintain family worship in my own family since my marriage. I can sincerely and assuredly say that the morning family worship is the principal thing in our home. As the head of my family, my greatest priority is to lead my wife and children in early morning worship of God, and I believe that is the best contribution in nurturing my family and guiding everyone into the Lord’s blessings.

In a world of terrible moral corruption and religious deterioration, having daily family worship is the best protection against the sins that are rampant in our society. It is also the best aid in nurturing the fear of God in our children’s heart. May our families seek the Lord that we may escape the corruption and tragedies that are predicted concerning those who do not seek the Lord – “Pour out thy fury upon the heathen that know thee not, and upon the families that call not on thy name” (Jeremiah 10:25). O, may we not be weary of calling upon the Lord!

Preparation for Family Worship

Family worship requires some planning and preparation.

  • Decide on the best time that your family can come together to worship the Lord. It will require some effort and even sacrifice during certain periods. (Plan to meet at least once a day. Certainly, it is most desirable to have it in the morning and in the evening. It can be just before your breakfast or evening meal – whatever time that is most appropriate for your family.)
  • Be prepared to spend about 20 minutes for family worship.
  • Have your hymnals or songbooks ready. (It is good to have a copy for everyone.)
  • Have your Bibles ready, if necessary, a devotional book too. (Devotions can be found at www. gethsemanebpc.com/resources/daily-devotion.)
  • Wake up early and refresh yourselves so that you call everyone to gather for worship. If you are unwell and therefore unable to lead in the family worship, assign your wife or one of your older children to take the lead.
  • If an unpleasant situation has occurred or if you have lost your temper before your family worship time, make every effort to quickly resolve the matter in your own heart. Pray in your heart for peace, gentleness and the right spirit to sit with all in the family and worship the Lord. In such circumstances, if you acknowledge your sins and seek peace, family worship will become a very meaningful spiritual exercise.family devotion 2

Programme for Family Worship

Determine what you should do when your family meets for worship. Once decided, as much as possible, keep to your plan. In this way, you can avoid disorderliness and wasting of time.

I would suggest “an order of family worship” below, but you may have a different order that suits your situation. Be alert and watchful so that whatever you plan to do, it would be God-honouring and biblical.

  • Sing a psalm or hymn. Choose one that all can sing together. If you have young children, you may choose children’s songs or short choruses or Scripture in song. If time permits, you can even teach a new hymn or song. (Allocate about 3-5 minutes.)
  • Read a portion of the Scriptures, give a brief exposition and then apply it for the benefit of your family. You may choose to read through the entire Bible or certain books of the Bible by apportioning a section of few verses each day. Or you may choose to follow the portion of the Scriptures suggested in a devotional resource that you are using. (Allocate about 10-15 minutes.) When you have more time during weekends or holidays, you can even have a serious Bible Study on a topic or a portion of the Scriptures.
  • Offer prayer to praise God for His salvation and goodness, and to pray for His forgiveness, sanctification, guidance, provision and protection. Apart from praying on behalf of the family, prayers must also be offered for your church, missionaries and others whom you know. The head of the family may ask other members of the family to pray on certain occasions. (Allocate 5-10 minutes.)

Protect Family Worship

There are many hindrances that are perilous to family worship. We must always be alert to avoid them. It is impossible to discuss all possible problems and obstacles in this article. I would just discuss a few of these possible hindrances here. Let us be watchful so that we will not succumb to these perils. Take whatever precautions needed to prevent the failure of family worship in your homes.

  • Don’t make excuses to avoid family worship. Fight off tiredness and sleepiness. Lethargy and indifference are common enemies of family worship.
  • Lead with a firm, fatherly hand and yet be gracious and tender-hearted. Require everyone to pay attention. As loving as you are, never give allowance for bad attitude and misbehaviour.
  • Don’t allow interruptions. TV shows, phone calls and all such distractions must be avoided. The worship of God requires wholeheartedness and solemnity.
  • Be careful to teach the Word accurately, aptly and affectionately. Don’t be vague when you explain the Word. It is very important that your instruction is doctrinally pure and relevant in application. Explain how a text has affected you, or your family life or church or other great men of God in history. This would help the family members to see the relevance of the Bible. Prepare early to teach. If you are incapable of expounding, obtain a good devotional guide with the help of your church leaders.
  • When the children are young, let your teaching be within their grasp. Your prayers must be simple without being shallow. Keep the length of your teaching and prayer according to the abilities of your children.
  • Inconsiderate leading of family worship can be detrimental to family worship. Don’t let family worship drag on. Be mindful of the capabilities of your young children.
  • Be mindful during worship that your attitude and words will not frustrate and provoke other family members. Even though we must rebuke and correct while applying the Word of God, we must take heed not to turn the times of worship into occasions to lash out at others and to nag at them for their mistakes. I have heard of family worship turning into a time of arguments and quarrels so much so that family members refuse to gather together.
  • From time to time, remind the family members of the significance of good attitude in family worship. Tell them that all must participate reverentially and joyfully. Remind them that your family owes God gratitude and allegiance for His mercies and faithfulness.
  • If you have lost your temper, and find yourself having no mood to participate, do not abandon worship altogether. If you have made a mistake, apologise and move on in worship. If others have made a mistake, correct them with love, and quickly move on in worship.
  • If you ever become weary of leading the family worship, encourage yourselves by recollecting the blessings of family worship. Caution yourselves against the spiritual maladies that can trouble your family if you fail in providing spiritual leadership to the family.
  • Remember to pray on your own for the protection and blessing of your family worship.

Manifold Purposes of Christians’ Divine Call – IV

good shepherd-1In this fourth and final article on Christians’ divine call, we will consider three more purposes of our calling. The Bible describes our calling from God in wondrous terms. In Hebrew 3:1, it is described as “heavenly calling”. In 2 Timothy 2:9, Paul describes it as “holy calling”. Philippians 3:14 refers to it as “high calling”. Such glowing descriptions of our calling impress upon us the need to understand and appreciate the call of God that we have received through Christ. That is why Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:18, “The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of His calling.”

10. The Call to Peace

When a person responds to the call of God by the Gospel, he may experience conflict at home. His closest and dearest ones may oppose and reject his faith in the Lord. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, the apostle Paul portrayed a scenario of a believer being abandoned by his unbelieving spouse. In such a case, we are told, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.”

Scripture teaches us that Christians ought to be peaceful. We must always prevent contentions and violence. This is to be our grand principle. When Paul suggested letting the unbelieving depart, he was not suggesting that the Christian initiates a separation from the spouse. But if the unbelieving spouse becomes agitated and threatens to part with the believer, the believer is advised to let the unbeliever leave peaceably. If peace cannot be maintained by living together, there should be a peaceful separation. If the unbelieving departs, he should be permitted to do so peaceably without contention and strife, for God has called us to a life of peace.

In Colossians 3:15, we are exhorted to pursue peace in the church, for thereunto are we called. “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

11. The Call to Liberty

Christians are reminded in Galatians 5:13 – “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

Firstly, the apostle Paul was referring to the freedom that Christians have from the Jewish rites and ceremonies. The Galatian church was infiltrated by some false Jewish teachers who urged them to go back to the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament. Such adherence to the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament was unnecessary and destructive because Jesus has already accomplished a perfect sacrifice for our freedom from sin. The Old Testament ceremonies were only a figure of what Christ would accomplish for us. Since Christ has fulfilled all that the old ceremonies have pre-figured, it was an entanglement to yield to those ceremonies again. So Paul insisted that true Christians have been called unto liberty, and they are not to limit and destroy that liberty. They are never to be in subjection to all the ceremonies of the law of Moses.

Secondly, this liberty from Jewish rites also indicates our freedom from sin. Now through Christ’s work on the cross, we are free, free from the servitude to sin as much as we are free from the burdensome rites and customs. Christians should remember this as a great and settled principle. “Liberty in Christ” is our motto of life.

Thirdly, Christian liberty is not a licence to sin. It is not freedom to do anything that our lusts would have us to do. So Paul said, “Only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” We are not freed to serve sin. Our liberty is freedom from sin unto the service of fellow brethren and our Lord. Christian freedom is not lawless behaviour but joyful service to the praise of our great Liberator, Jesus Christ.

12. The Call to His Kingdom and Glory

Our calling from God is for the purpose that we may be granted the inheritance of His kingdom and glory. Many portions of the Scriptures testify to this glorious truth. The following are some of these Scriptural attestations of our calling unto His kingdom and glory.

2 Thessalonians 2:14 – “Whereunto He called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 2:12 – “That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.”

1 Peter 5:10 – “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

2 Peter 1:3 – “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.”

By the gracious and efficacious call of God, we are transferred out of corruption and misery of sin into the glories of Christ. We are also no more under the servitude of Satan’s kingdom of darkness. We are called to the hope of the heavenly city that the Lord is preparing for His people. We have now come, because of His gracious call, into the participation of the glory which God has prepared for His redeemed people.

Nothing in this world can stop us from partaking in the glorious eternity in His celestial kingdom. We shall soon be in that eternal glory. While we are in this world of corruption, we can look forward to inheriting a glory that fades not away. It will not be like the glory of this world which is transient, and soon passes away. The glory that awaits us will abide for ever. The saints of Christ are called to obtain a glorious, eternal kingdom that shall not perish.

Manifold Purposes Of Christians’ Divine Call – III

Follow the Shepherd's VoiceWe will consider four more purposes of Christians’ divine calling. Thus far, we have learned six purposes of our calling – (1) “The call to salvation”, (2) “The call to sanctification”, (3) “The call to separation” and (4) “The call to fellowship”, (5) “The call to sonship” and (6) “The call to eternal life and inheritance”.

7. The Call to His Marvellous Light

Scripture declares unto us in 1 Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” We are God’s very special people on earth by virtue of the fact that He has called us out of darkness into His marvellous light.

Jesus came to this world “to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:79). He came and called the people who were groping in the blackness of sin and shame. So Matthew 4:16-17 says, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Scripture continues to call God’s people, saying, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14). Christians are also admonished, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).

His marvellous light denotes all His goodness, truth and holiness. God’s purpose of calling Christians is that He may communicate to us His marvellous light and that we might abide always in that light. Now, this is no small favour shown to us in that we are called to walk in God’s glorious light, when many people are left in darkness and in the shadow of death. Because His people are called into His marvellous light, Jesus said to them, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

8. The Call to Suffering

Many Christians of our time will be startled to know that they are called by God to suffer because today’s popular “health-wealth gospel”, propagated by the charismatics, declares that God does not want any Christian to suffer. But the Word of God teaches: “When ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:20b-21).

Even though we have lived righteously and are undeserving of cruel treatment, yet we are reminded that we should be willing to suffer injustice done to us, simply because we are called to suffer. Jesus is our example who quietly suffered all hurts and pains.

Jesus declared, “And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). In Matthew 16:24, Jesus repeated the call of His disciples to be ready to suffer – “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

Christians must expect and accept suffering as it is their calling from God. Jesus reminded His disciples in John 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” Likewise the early Christians were exhorted by the apostles, “that [they] must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

Similar exhortations to endure suffering are found in many places in Scripture. Consider Paul’s words to the Philippians: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Philippians 1:29). Again, 1 Thessalonians 3:3 exhorts, “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” That we should suffer affliction is God’s immutable decree. So let us be patient in suffering. It is our inevitable lot.

Suffering for Christ’s glory confirms our faith, proves our devotion to God, arouses prayers in our hearts and strengthens our desire to be in heaven’s glory.

9. The Call to Inherit a Blessing

The apostle Peter teaches Christians that we are called to bless that we may inherit a blessing. He wrote, “Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9). We are called both to inherit and dispense blessings.

We should be ready to bless even those who malign, curse and persecute us. Even in hostile situations, we ought to be ready to bless others, be it in words or deeds. We should be ready to bear all their reproaches and even wish them well. Our awareness and assurance of eternal life should make our minds calm, even in adversity. Our prospect of being so exalted in heaven should fill our hearts with compassion and love towards others. To bless is every Christian’s duty, for thereunto is he called.

Manifold Purposes of Christians’ Divine Call – II

gethsemane congregation 1When Scripture says that Christians are “the called”, it is not merely an indication that they are given an invitation or an offer to enter spiritual life and blessings. More importantly, it also denotes that they have been effectually drawn to inherit and experience the spiritual life and blessings which have been promised to them in the Gospel.

In the last article, we have considered the first two of the manifold purposes of Christians’ calling, (1) “The Call to Salvation” and (2) “The Call to Sanctification”. In this article, we will consider four more purposes of divine calling that believers received from God.

3. The Call to Separation

God calls all His people to come out of every form of false belief and ungodliness. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17). In the verses prior to this call to be separate from everything impure, the word of God expressly tells believers, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (vv. 14-16).

A similar call is given in Revelation 18:4, “And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” This is a call to the people of the last days to separate themselves from the great spiritual harlot (“The Great Babylon”), which is the syncretic religion of the last days.

Those who continue in close fellowship with those who are in error will be partakers of their sins. As a people redeemed by the grace of God, it is most fitting that we keep ourselves undefiled from all uncleanness. We must be unpolluted temples of our holy God. So every Christian is called to separate himself that he may be pure from the corruptions of unbiblical belief and practice. A solemn call is issued by God to all genuine believers to leave every form of unbelief and ungodliness.

4. The Call to Fellowship

According to 1 Corinthians 1:9, God has given a distinctive call to Christians to have fellowship with Christ – “God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.” Christians are marked out by their distinctive partnership with the Son of God.

“We are made partakers of Christ” (Hebrews 3:14), even, “partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). This is the design of the gospel call, that Christ may become ours, and that we may become His. We abide in Him and He abides in us, that we may be partakers of all His grace, wisdom, power and goodness (cf. John 15:4-9).

In Christ, we are called to partake of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:4), holiness (Hebrews 12:10), suffering, glory and joy (1 Peter 4:13; 5:1).

Now when the Father gives His Son to us as our possession, He also communicates Himself to us without reservation. As John had written, “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3).

5. The Call to Sonship

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us,” declares 1 John 3:1, “that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. It is all because of God’s love in Christ that we have the right to be called children of God.”

We were naturally rebels and enemies of God. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name” (John 1:12). It is His singular love that calls us to His sonship and not any merit in us. His great love is declared in His Word to assure all true Christians that “ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

To affirm His calling of us unto sonship, God also gave us His Spirit who teaches us to lay claim to our position as children of God by addressing God in the most endearing manner. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:14-16). This joyful truth is repeated in Galatians 4:6, “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.”

6. The Call to Eternal Life and Inheritance

God calls His people unto a higher and nobler inheritance than all that this world can offer. Some people speak of God’s call for them as a call unto gaining earthly riches and fame, and they struggle to lay hold on the material wealth and comfort. But in 1 Timothy 6:12, Paul reminded Timothy to “lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called.” The call of God makes us heirs of eternal life, God’s most wondrous gift. Eternal life is deliverance from eternal death, the doom of a burning hell. It is the blessing of a spiritual, abundant and heavenly life that God gives to His people through Jesus Christ. It also guarantees the pardon for the guilt of sin, and freedom from its tyrannous power. O how we should cherish this gift of God!

We are also told in Hebrews 9:15 that we are called to receive an eternal inheritance through Jesus Christ – “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” The curse of the law (the first testament) is taken away by Christ through His blood which He shed on the cross on our behalf. Now by His new covenant, we are called to receive an eternal inheritance instead of eternal damnation.

Eternal inheritance refers to all the eternal blessings that every Christian is promised in the Bible. It includes such promises as eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9; 9:12), eternal life, eternal home (2 Corinthians 5:1), eternal joy (Matthew 25:21,23; 1 Peter 4:13; Jude 1:24), eternal rewards (Matthew 5:12; 1 Corinthians 3:8; Colossians 3:23-24) and eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 1 Peter 5:10). Peter explains the eternal inheritance that we are called to receive as “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:4-5).

Manifold Purposes of Christians’ Divine Call – I

called of GodGod’s Word speaks of Christians as “them who are the called” (Romans 8:28). Every Christian is called of the Lord; he hears and follows His voice. As Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27; cf. vv. 4, 16). So Paul reminded the Roman believers that “Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:6). Every sheep in His flock responds to His call by following Him.

God’s call to Christians is not based on the merit of their works, but based on His grace and His own purpose – “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Timothy 1:9). The source of both our calling and our salvation is His gracious purpose. Romans 8:28 also reminds us that we are “the called according to his purpose”.

His Word also teaches us that God’s call to Christians is unto several divine purposes. Without any distinction, every Christian is called to manifest the purposes of His call. “And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:23–24). The purpose of God’s gracious call is not only confined to the Jews, but it is also opened to non-Jews, that all believers without discrimination may become vessels of His glorious purposes.

In the next few posts, I shall endeavour to explain to my readers, the manifold purposes of His call. May the Lord renew your hearts by the knowledge of the truth of His call to you.

1. The call to salvation

God, who has elected us before the foundation of the world, calls us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul mentions our calling unto salvation by the Gospel in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, “…God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The Gospel preaching is a call of God to sinners to come to salvation He has prepared in Christ Jesus. So all of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ unto salvation are the called of God.

The truth of God’s call unto salvation is also expressed clearly in Romans 8:28-30, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose… Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” The election of God is effected in our hearts when He calls us by the Gospel of Christ, hence it is said, “whom he did predestinate, them he also called.” When we respond to that call by faith, we are justified – i.e. we are declared not guilty – for Christ has cancelled our sins and guilt by His suffering and death on our behalf.

2.   The call to sanctification

In Romans 1:7, the apostle Paul reminded the believers in Rome that they were “called to be saints”. In fact, Paul has reminded believers in other places too that they are called to be saints (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2). God’s people are those whom God has called out of their sinful lives to live as saints of God. So God’s call to Christians is to live a sanctified life. “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thessalonians 4:3). “For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:7).

Have you been yielding to the temptations of sin? Are you cultivating a close relationship or friendship with the ungodly? Do you go to places of sinful temptations? How sad it is that many church-goers have yielded themselves to the allurement of sins. Worldliness and carnality are seen even in the church leaders. Fornication, immodesty, enjoyment of pornography and sensual movies, pubbing and clubbing, covetousness, self-prominence, selfishness, being unforgiving, jealousy, deceitfulness, hypocrisy and many more such sins are rampant in the lives of many who attend churches today. They seem to be at complete ease with sin and worldliness. Many seem to adhere to the notion that God has given them grace to continue in sin. What a malady! What a tragedy!

Dear reader, if you are a Christian, then know this: that God has not called you to an unsanctified life, but to a saintly life. You must repent and turn away from your sins at once. Linger no more in sin. Pull away from your sins, and pray for God’s forgiveness and for His strength and wisdom to live a sanctified life. “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1–2).

The Lord who has called you is also a holy God. Therefore, His calling to you is to live a holy life. Peter clearly declared this truth about our calling unto holiness in his first epistle – “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:15–16). Our God is thrice holy. Isaiah 6:3 says of our Lord, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts.” Revelation 4:7 says, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.” How can you praise Him if you live an unholy life?

The Lord who has called you unto sanctification is also a faithful God. If you have heard His Gospel call, you can now fully trust Him for the help you need to live a holy life. “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23–24).

Likewise, in 2 Peter 1:3–4, the Lord promises His divine power to overcome the corruption of lust that is within us and to live unto glory and virtue. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”

Turn a deaf ear to the temptations of sins, lest you neglect the call of God unto holiness. But open your ears and hearts to take heed to His voice that calls you through His Word and His Spirit. If you obey His voice, you shall be holy.

Why Memorise the Bible Verses?

be mighty in the Word t-shirt

Why should we go to the trouble of memorizing the Bible? Here are some reasons:

1. God has commanded us to memorize His Word – “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart” (Deuteronomy 6:6). Likewise, God says in Deuteronomy 11:18: “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul . . .” Memorizing God’s Word is our God-given duty. Therefore, every obedient child of God should engage in learning and remembering God’s Word.

2. The habit of remembering and meditating on the Word of God in our minds helps us to obey it. Deuteronomy 30:14 says: “But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.”

3. The memorization of God’s Word would prevent us from sinning against God. Psalm 119:11 declares: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” Likewise, Psalm 37:31 promises that the keeping of God’s Word in our hearts will prevent us from backsliding from God – “The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.”

4. Learning God’s Word by heart has the promise of great blessings, even spiritual and physical prosperity. Joshua wrote: “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success” (Joshua 1:8).

5. It prevents our mind from vain and sinful thoughts by filling it with the truth of His Word. Since memorizing and recollecting the Scripture would require much exercising of the mind on the Word of God, it will crowd out less edifying thoughts. Through Scripture memorization, one can easily obey Paul’s exhortation: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8).

6. It equips us to fight off the temptations that the devil would bring to us. Christ is our example on this point. In Matthew 4 and Luke 4, He resisted Satan’s temptations each time by citing Scripture. Paul states that the Word of God is a weapon in spiritual warfare: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17).

7. It increases our understanding of the verses that are memorized. To memorize, one must know every single word and dwell on every single word. While doing this, one naturally asks oneself, “Why this word?” Meditation on each word will, through the Spirit, give one a deep understanding of the verse and reveal meanings that are hidden in a cursory reading. Psalm 119:99 affirms this spiritual benefit, when it says: “I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation.”

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