Monday, December 28, 2009

Galatians 1 Paul's True Gospel and His Life Testimony

Paul Answering His Critics
As Paul's authority as an apostle was being challenged, Paul had to testified of his direct revelation from Jesus Christ and his verifications with and endorsements by the other Original Apostles such as Peter and Leaders of the Jerusalem Church such as James (brother of Jesus). The verification and endorsement is important. Most people can claim that God or other spiritual beings spoke to them but their encounters and messages has no other means for verfication.  Paul recorded two validations and one unchallenged rebuke on the authencity and authority.

From God and Not Man
Paul pointed the message he received was directly from God and not through man. The gospel is simply Christ gave Himself for our sins according to the will of the Father in 1:4. With the Grace of God comes the Peace that we have through being recounciled with God. Grace comes before, and gives us Peace with God and within and through our living out the Grace within, peace with other men.

Rebuke against False Teaching and His Own Transformation
Paul was very strong against any distortion of the gospel. Any distortion is lie. Lie is the method of the enemy - Devil. Lies bring bondage whereas Truth set people free. Seeking God's approval will bring forth persecution and attack from people that are trapped in lies. They are blinded by the devils and they will attack the righteous and doing them in name of God. That was exactly what Paul did in his earlier days. He persecuted the Christ believers at first. His transformation from persecutor of Jesus to a believer of Jesus was his first proof of the authencity of his gospel.

Paul life in Arabia - 3 Years
We tend to think that thing happened in an instant. Paul the persecutor became the apostle in an instant. In someway it is true - conversion or salvation takes place in an instant of time. But the work and life of a new believer is a process and a journey over time.  After conversion, Pual spent 3 years in the wilderness of Arabia, away from the other apostles, the main stream and most likely with Jesus in the wilderness. Paul spend 3 years in training and preparation before he can boldly and rightly preach the true Gospel. Paul had a lot of old-beliefs and misunderstanding to off-load. He was one of the top scholar in Jewish Laws and traditions then. How much time do we spend in learning our new belief, the Bible? It should take more than just saying the sinners' prayer; if we ever wonder why our faith is so weak and we are so easily deceived?

1st Verification with Peter - 15 Days
Paul make a trip to Jerusalem to see Peter and James(Jesus' brother). He spent 15 days with Peter. That was quite a duration for discussion. The short courses I teach are usually 2 full-day only.

The 2nd trip to Jerusalem occured 14 years later and is coverd in Chapter 2. Chapter 1 ended with "and they glorified God because of me". God is glorified through us. We are the glory of God. Are we? Are we the salt and light of the earth?

Questions for Review
  Q1 What was the issue with the Galatians?
    What is the distortion of the gospel?
    Write down in your own word, the gospel that you believe.
    Is there any distortion?

  Q2 How do we know Paul's gospel was the true one?

  Q3 Write a short bio on Paul based on this chapter. What can we learn?

Next --- Galatians 2 Validation of Paul's Gospel

Monday, December 21, 2009

Bible Study - Book of Galatians

The Book of Ephesians is a positive statement on the doctrines and practices of a believer. This book of Galatians is a correction to the distortions of the doctrine of the gospel. This book is one of the earlier, if not the earliest, of Paul's letters. There were challenges to Paul's authority and his messages since he was not one of the Jesus' original 12 disciples.

The Gospel message is simply God's acceptance of man through faith in Jesus Christ's atonement. That is all and no more is needed on man's part. 

Yet man are very uncomfortable with the simple grace of by faith alone.

Firstly, Man's pride find it too ridiculous to accept. There must be something else I must do to 'earn' or 'justify' my salvation. There must be some effort on my part to gain my salvation. He felt the formula for salvation must be Faith-in-Christ + Good-Work of the Law.

True Gospel of Grace = Faith in Christ

Distorted Gospel = Faith in Christ + Work of the Law

[Generalized Form] Distorted Gospel = Faith in Christ + any extra

The most obvious sign of the work of the Law is by circumcision of the flesh and hence the early believers are asked to follow the past Jewish practices.

Any extra could be baptism, holy living, observing quiet time, prayers, etc. It is not that baptism, holy living etc are not important. It is that such activities are not the pre-requisites of salvation (or acceptance by God) and they should be the consequences of salvation. Baptism is a public proclaim of one's belief in Jesus Christ. Holy living naturally follows when one is truly associated with Christ as John explained in 1 John 1:6-7, the one with the light does not walk in darkness.

Secondly, if grace alone is sufficient and following the laws is done away, will it not encourage man to sin?  Is the Gospel of Grace a license to sin?

I struggled with this for a year or two. True acceptance of the Gospel of Grace will produce good work beyond the requirement of the Law. The grace of love exceeds the 'shall not do harm' requirements of the Law. The methods are different. Before salvation, we try to be good through our own effort. After salvation, we learn (it is a process of growth) to follow after the new identity created by the Holy Spirit, to live out the new nature within, and will new-naturally leads to fruit of the spirit. If we are still following after the old-nature, then we are most likely not salved or ignorant of the true meaning of salvation.

Thirdly, does the Gospel of Grace do away with man doing good work?
This is answered in Eph 2:8-10 - We are saved for good work. In Galatians, we are to bear the good fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-24. In fact, it is the grace of God that enables us to bear the good fruit or good work. Let's study Galatians carefully.

The first part of Galatians, Chapter 1 to 4,  Paul first established the source of his gospel, the authority, and the validation with the other Apostles like Peter and leaders in Jerusalem. He explained the purpose of the Law is to guide and show us the need for Christ. Chapter 5-6 shows us how to live out the new creation nature.

Key Themes
  1. Paul's apostleship - message was directly from Jesus Christ and validated with the other apostles and leaders.
  2. The just shall live by faith in Jesus' completed work
  3. Christ's Atonement is Sufficient - No need to add any more work of law to it
  4. Circumcision is of the Heart and not of the flesh.
  5. The Right Living - A Journey of Faith
    The Life I now live, I live by faith in Christ Jesus, who love me and gave Himself for me.
  6. Right Life produces the right kind of fruit.
    • don't worry if we forget the law
    • the new nature exceeds the standards of law
    • follow the new nature of the spirit and you will shine forth with God's glory
The Outlines
  1. Gal 1 Paul's True Gospel & His Life
  2. Gal 2 Validation of Paul's Gospel
  3. Gal 3 Faith Alone - Not work of Law 
  4. Gal 4 Son vs Slave
  5. Gal 5 Freedom & Fruit
  6. Gal 6 New Creation Living 
Next ---Galatians 1 Paul's True Gospel and His Life Testim...

    Tuesday, December 15, 2009

    Ephesians - Conclusions: Visualize Your Learnings

    Real learning occurs when we can express what we have learned in another way, such as, writing a short summary of it or even better, visualize it with a map or picture. You do not need to be an artist to visualize concepts that you have learned. There is a large collections of icons and cliparts that are easily available on the net that you can use. You can have 3 cliparts of Sit-Walk-Stand as the base to show main themes of Ephesians. We can use the grow of a seed to a fruit-bearing tree to show how the Christ within us is show externally to the world.

    Here are some visualization on Ephesians ....

    Please go through the items of the map slowly and I hope you benefit much from our study on Ephesians. Please share your insights with me too.... put in your comment.

    Friday, December 11, 2009

    Ephesians Chapter 6 Overcoming Life

    We are in the War Zone
    The section covers Eph 6:10-24.

    The enemy, the devils, have invaded our territories, the earth that was given to us by God, and conquered it. Humans are under their deception and control. Humans are slaves thinking that they are free. But praise be to God and Jesus Christ who came to free us and empower us. Believers are people who broken free from their slavery and become free in Christ. Believers are given the responsibility of going back to free their fellow men. They are in war and under the attack of the enemy. But the enemy is spiritual operating through men. So it is very easy for us to get confused and attach the men instead of real enemy behind the scenes.

    Eph 6:10 begins with "Be strong in Christ & in His Might" . Why? Because we are at war and is in the war zone. We are under attack.

    The Enemy is Spiritual
    Eph 6:12 tells us that we are fighting not against our fellow human beings, though it may appear that way, but against the spiritual forces in the sky. The enemy is well organized with different roles and areas of operation. They have special attack forces that work on governments and individuals. But one thing is clear, they work through human beings. Jesus rebuked the devil behind Peter's saying of asking Jesus not to go to the cross. So we should not be upset and unforgiving to those that hurts us. We need to wise as surpent so that we may not be easy victims of the enemy and at the same time we ourselves must take care not be used by the enemy to harm others (harmless as doves). Always remember that evil power working behind those friends and colleagues and even our loveed ones. How we can stand and be victorious in the midst of all these.

    The True Meaning of Putting on the Whole Armor of God
    The answer is to put on the whole armor of God. The armor of God is just a symbollic to aids our memory and it is not for us to really put the physical armor.

    1. Belt of Truth: The foundation is Truth which holds the other together. We must know the Truth and the Truth is and in Christ. Bible is our absolote reference point and standards for our conduct and values and judgment. Knowing the truth set us free. Believing in ungodly lies kept us in bondage and depression. Talk to people who are depressed and bitterness, you will find that they believe and hold on to lies.
    2. Breastplate of Righteousness: We must guard our hearts. A righteous heart, a renewed conscience is a guiding light. We must keep our hearts and motivation pure. Peace is the means where the Holy Spirit guides us. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit by hardening our hearts and be deaf to His promptiing. Do not indugle in sins and be short in hearing.
    3. Shoes of Gospels: We are not just to stand to withhold the devils attack. We should match forth to recover stolen territorities. We conquer and bring deliverance through the Gospels of the Kindgom of God - deliverances to the captive, new life in Christ for everyone who receives.
    4. Shield of faith: The 2nd area (1st is Truth vs Lies) of attack is our faith or trust in truth of the Bible. "Did God say?". These are other darts - accusations, persecutions, slanders, temptations, etc....
    5. Helmet of Salvation for the mind. A truth renewed and clear mind will make the right decisions. We must know that we are saved forever, rebirthed with the mind of Christ. Think like, feel like and decides like Christ. A condemned mindset will paralyze us for actions It will kept us in sins instead of repentance and breaking free. We can be knocked down, but be sure of our salvation and Christ's forgiveness, we will not be knocked out. We will rise up again from the mud and shine forth in Christ.
    6. Sword of the Spirit: Our weapon against the enemy is the Word of God - Bible. We can use it as defense - to cast off all the curses and all the evil reports. We are use it as offensive to command the promised Will of God to be done on earth as it is in heaven, to proclaim healing for the sick, deliverance for those in bondage of addictions, peace for those in strife, and the good news of Christ's salvation and the empowering grace of God for godly living.
    7. Praying: Praying is another weapon we are to use. For those who speak in tongues, this is a frequent reference for exhortation to pray all the time. Praying - connecting and commuication, especially the listening part, keep us alert to the real spiritual situation (manifested in the natural world) happening all the time. People who persecute you think that they are following God's will. We need discernment and we need to intercede for all. The key things to pray for - powerful and relevant Words of Wisdom for the situations and boldness (in face of the persecutions) to go forth to proclaim them. Boldness does not mean rashness and insensitivity and lack of respect. Listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit - the right word for the right time and the right situation will bring forth fruit.
    Our Beloved Brother Tychicus
    The Bible is not just about doctrines but real life living relationships. Here we have Tychicus as a faithful minister bringing them the latest updates about Paul. Keep your community alive and do not live a lonely Christian life. Join one or start a small group with the Christian brothers or sisters you can get along with.

    Farewell Blessings
    The farewell words are most important. These are the last words. What did Paul want us to be and have :
    1. peace - individual and community peace. (Not peace of inactivity or uniformity but harmony of differences. Lots of interactivities of building up the community of God to Christ likeness as per Eph 4-5 Chinise have a powerful word of this harmony 和 called 泰 - community abundance in peace ).
    2. love with faith - love is a will and a follow-on action. It takes great faith in the Word of God to love the unlovables. Nevertheless, do it because of Christ.
    3. grace - power of God for godly living. Grace comes from those who truly love Jesus. True love is a willingness, unconditional and of pure motive.
    Questions for Reflections
    1. Who are our real enemies?  Who are not?  What are they doing?
    2. How do we fight this Spiritual Battle?
    3. How and What should we pray?
    4. What are the key blessings for our brothers?

      Tuesday, December 8, 2009

      Ephesians Chapter 5 Walk in the New Life Part 3 Roles in Life

      This section,  from Eph 5:21 to Eph 6:9, tell us how a reborn Christian will live out the 'Christ in us' in the various roles of our life, such as husband or wife, as parents and children, as bosses and employees, and so forth.

      There is a very wrong teaching that classifies vocations into spiritual and secular. The spiritual ones means those in full time church ministry and the secular ones are those outside. There is no such thing as a spiritual or seculara vocation. The 'spirituality' of our vocation lies in how we do it. A pastor could be very secular in his job as a pastor if he is more concern about his reputation and achieving his own freshly objectives than the people under his charge. A waitress on the other hand can be very spiritual in her work if she does it well to serve the customers for the Lord. This is what Paul is teahing us here. As salt and light of the world, how is Christian different from the other.

      The Principle - Submitting One to Another in Respect of God

      The underlining principle for all relationships is given in Eph 5:21 (GNB)  Submit yourselves to one another because of your reverence for Christ. We must first submit to Christ and then we can submit one to anther. Wife to submit to husband as unto the Lord. Husband to love wife as Christ loved the Christ. Christ is 1st and the reference point. If there be any problem, it is lack of commitment to Christ as the root. Submitting is discussed in detail in Submitting - Biblical vs Secular View . The posting also cover the roles and relationships and is not repeated.

      Wife - Husband Roles & Relationship
      Wives are always mentioned first in the Bible to submit to their husbands. In most area, man takes the lead, but in this area, wife taks the lead! The submission should be in everything. It is a matter of attitude and heart tha wife does so naturally. Submission is shown in respect first. Without respect, it is difficult to submit. Husband will value wife's opinions and respect most as she is the closest person to him. Wife holds the key to her husband's confidence and self-respect. Wife holds the success of her husband in her hand! Wife can and should, even if she is more capable (in certain areas and never all), to help and to encourage and to promote her husband. She can help make a husband wiser and more confidence in making decisions and taking the lead in home and then his career and life in general. I think I agree with the statement behind every successful man lies a great wife. A man becomes more capable when her wife gives him the respect due. Wife should participate in helping her husband make good decisions by giving additional view points and scenarios for the different choices.

      In a similar vein, husband holds the secret to the beauty, both internally and externally, of his wife! He does so by loving his wife as Christ loved the Church (Eph 5:25-27 no spot, wrinke, holy, no blemish!) A loved wife will show forth joy and beauty from within. 

      Other references to wife-husband relationship can be seen in Col 3:18, Titus 2:5, 1 Peter 3:1-6.
      Wife submission brings blessings to her too.

      Children-Parents Roles & Relationship
      Here again, the 'obeyee' has the initiative and should take the initiative. Love cannot be forced. Christ can and have offer His love to us. It is up to us to take the action to receive His love. Instruction has been given, the child can response with obedient action. The parents cannot force it out of them - that will not be willingness and will resulted in rebellion later when the child has more independence. Honoring parents can only be encouraged and cannot be forced too. Here is a wonderful promise of blessings for Children that honor their Parents - all will go well and live a long life on earth.

      The right way to bring up Children is given in 6:4, not provoke them to wrath (to anger and then rebellion later), but in nurturing and admonition of the Lord.

      There are two points:
      • A DO NOT - provoke the children.
      • A MUST DO - nurture them in the biblical values.
      How do parents provoke their children?

      Here are a few examples:
      • Breaking promises made.
      • Being a hypocrite. Not walking their talk. They say one thing and do another.
      • Being a tyrant - must do exactly as I say or else. Not showing love and concern. Not explaining the reasons for demanding such behavior.
      • Not showing care, giving respect to the children opinions and wishes. Not really listening to the children.
      • Not showing love for one another. Quarrel and fight in front of children.
      • ... can you add some more into the list?

      The nurturing takes more effort and time than just "Father say so". It is a process of training and discipline. It is about telling the child in advance of the various consequences of possible choices and then letting the child make the choice, and then, very important, follow-up on the consequences of the decision. e.g. telling the child to come to eat at dinner time and taking away the food if the child did not come to eat by certain time should be executed faithfully. If the child did not show up for dinner and get hungry by 9pm asking for food, the parent should tell the child to go hungry till next morning for breakfast. Most parent just give in to child and prepare food for the child if he or she is hungry. The parents just teach the child that what the parents have said earlier are not true. The rules are not for real. Parents can forgive but Society at large does not.

      Employees-Bosses Roles & Relationship
      Worldly view sees employees and bosses as dividing the pie of revenues. Less to the Employees means more for the Bosses. Biblical view shows that any business is one - employees+bosses. They shared the common objective of giving values to the customers and revenue to their business. Employees are to work for the Lord, giving their best in serving the customers, and not under compulsion of fears and threats and monitoring. Bosses should see the value of their employees and seek to take care of their welfare as all belong to Christ. For employees, we worked for Christ heartily, irrespectively of the good or bad bosses. There is great promise here. Eph 6:8, we will receive the good thing done from the Lord! If your boss is not paying you the right salary you deserve, someone else is likely to offer you more to take you away. But in the meantime, give of your best as to the Lord.

      Questions for Reflection
        1. What is the Principle on Submission?
        2. How should one behave, the spiritual behavior, in the roles of Husband-wife, Parent-Children, Bosses-Staff?

      Monday, December 7, 2009

      Ephesians Chapter 4 & 5 Walk in the New Life Part 2

      This personal walk in the New Life (in Christ) covers from Eph 4:17 to Eph 5:21.
      It can be divided into two main parts
      1. Put OFF the Old Self
      2. Put ON the New Life
      1 Put OFF the Old Self
      The Old-Self consists of the old worldly mindset and the bodily desires. The spirit part of man has been rebirth anew in Christ. But the old mindset and body remains. They are to be consecrated and sanctified. This is the journey of growth - transforming mind and body for the glory of God.
      What are the old things, old beliefs, old passions to be put OFF?
      1. Old worldview of without God Eph 4:17-18
      2. Hardness of heart to refuse to accept and acknowledge God.
      3. The sinful desires of lust, greed, impurity (Eph 4:19) and so forth....
      This reminds me of the frequently mentioned "Seven Deadly Sins" and prompted me to a mapping. Here is result:
      The original sin is 'Pride' - I know what is good and bad for me. There is no need for me to listen to any others to tell me that I'm wrong. I am my own judge. A sign of this sin is disobedience especially to God (since I am God myself). The subsequent sin is Envy - I must be like or better than anyone since I think I am the best. If I cannot, I will use other means, such as lies, slander, malice, strife and eventually even murder (like Cain on Abel) to remove those better than me.

      The detail list of 'put away' is shown below for completeless:

      2 Put ON the New Life
      How does a Christian with a New Life behave? It should start from the inside with the mind. The mind is to be renewed with the truth that is revealed and taught in Jesus Eph 4:21-23. The method is to be filled with Spirit (Eph 5:18). We be, like Christ in us, holy and righteous, tenderhearted, kind, forgiving (as Christ has forgave us) and be wise in using our time by knowing the will of God for the present time. Knowing God's will save us the wasted effort of chasing things that are futile.

      Then we go on with the outside - our mouth - our speech. Our speech are to be fitting to the occasion, for building up, giving grace and giving thanks. We are to celebrate with and to the Lord with singing, speech and music.

      Then comes the tougher one, exposing and reproving the wrongs and deeds of darkness. Most people do not want to expose or correct others for fear of the wrath and bad reactions. Most of us would like to keep quiet in the name of maintaining peace and unity and let the disease remains like leprosy until the body is eaten up without any feelings. Exposing and Correcting need to be done in love and with care. We must be able to gain the trust first else any correction will be seen as an attack and will not result in true repentance and change.

      1.   Create a Put-Off and Put-On list of behavior that reflect our New life in Christ
      2.   What are the seven deadly sins? Is this a complete list of sins? If not, what are missing?
      3.   How are we to overcome the deadly sins?
      4.   Is anger a sin? How should we handle anger?
      5.   How can one be freed from bondage of any kind?

      Friday, December 4, 2009

      Ephesians - Chapter 3 Mystery Exposed & Abundant Life Q&A

      Additional Revelations
      In our discussion on Chapter 3, we discovered additional key points that we want to be recorded for our recall and encouragement.
      They are:
      1. You cannot imprison a person's spirit & influence.
      2. Paul's imprisonment did not restrict the spreading of the gospels. Paul brought the gospel into the prison (or where-ever he was). Phil 1:12-14 gives the answers to why Paul's imprisonment is for our glory... the gospels spread and brothers become more bold in sharing!
      3. Our attitude to life should be - no matter what, I win (from God's perspective) see John 16:33 world-tribulation-be of good cheer-Christ have overcome -> we overcome through Christ.
      4. There is no condemnation for suffering - even Paul is imprisoned. Do not despise those who are undergoing their challenges of life. Encourage them to win for Christ.
      5. Each of us has our own calling. There is no need to mimic or be envious of others lives and calling. Discover our own and live out the life. We will find the greatest satisfaction and fun inspite of the challenges.
      For a concept map showing the principles, see Secret of Victorious Christian Living

      The Questions for our review and some possible answers are given below:

      Q1 What is the Mystery and what does it disclose?
      Gentiles is Partakers of God's Blessings as well when God created the universe. The New Man in Union with Christ. To show the Rulers in Heavens the Wisdom of God.

      Q2 What was Paul's calling and how he was progressing?What can we learn from him?
      Paul's Calling was to preach the gospel to the gentiles. Even in prison for the preaching. For their glory=goodness. Recognize the purpose of God in the various stages of our life in Christ.
      1. what is God's purpose in this?
      2. learn the lessons quicky and move on to the next stage
      3. don't be too fast to accuse God, yourself, others and get angry.
      Q3 What does Fullness of God mean? How do you get it?
      It is a process of increasing degree in filling from 0% to 100%.
      The method is: By Faith & Experience in Christ's Love enpowered by the Holy Spirit.
            1. By Faith in Christ with obedient action
            2. Holy Spirit gives power
            3. Experience the Change
            4. Know Christ's Love more
            5. Grow in Faith
            6. Fullness of God
      It is increasing Power by the Holy Spirit for doing things beyond the worldly expectation & standards. e.g. Going Extra Mile, Love instead of Revenge, Breakthrough ideas.

      Q4 Explain the Struggle of Old vs New and how to gain victory for the New.
      Man is a tripartite being of Spirit, Soul and Body. It is about Inner Man(Spirit) vs Outer Man (Mind & Body). Inner Man new birth - connected to God; outer man was unchanged. Hence the battle.
      The secret of victory is to be filled Fullness of God see Q3.
      Our focus is then on Christ within - knowing His love, his will, his feeling and following Him in our daily walk in life.
      • The way to overcome sins is not be focus on sins but focus on the One with life and power. Arrange our life so that sin no longer looks good to us. 
      • Joy is our strength (Ps 68:3, Rom 15:13).
        • 1 Thes 5:16-18 show us that joy is a command. Joy can be learned. God does not give a command and not empower us to do it. Ps 118:24 We must take responsibility for joy. 
        • Learn to Celebrate: Ps 100 - eat, drink, sing, dance with a grateful heart to the Lord
        • don't wait for event to be joyful :until i graduate, until I got promoted, or until ....
        • joy is now - every moment of life is a gift of God
        • The surest mark of a Christian is Joy, not faith or love which takes time to be seen.
      The principle is to work from the inner man outwards - from relying on the Christ within to sanctify the soul and body.