Sunday, February 21, 2010

Galatians 6 New Creation Living

This chapter can be divided into the following:
  1.   Care for One Another 6:1-6
  2.   Sowing & Reaping - Do Good Always 6:7-10
  3.   Boast in the Cross not Circumcision - Dead to World & New Life in Christ 6:11-15
  4.   Farewell 6:15-18
Care for One Another 6:1-6
We have responsibilities to care for our brothers and be ready to help them in gentleness when they are trapped in sins.

But first, we ourselves, must be spiritual. We must be able to bear our own loads first before we can help carry others loads. Our estimation of ourselves should be based on evidences not self-evaluation, be compared with our own calling, measuring against the goals God set for us, making progress, and not comparing against our neighbors.  When we compare with those neighbor weaker, we will feel proud. When we compare against those better than us, we may be depressed or give up.

Confucius has a teaching on this ...《论语 雍也-29》己欲立而立人,己欲达而达人 - We must be able to stand on our own in order to help others to stand. We must reach our goals so that we can help others reach theirs. Love requires us to be others-centric and not just self-centric.

Paul added another responsibility, which is to support our teachers. Believers frequently ask me who should they give their tithes to? The answer is provided here - give to where you received your teaching and development, usually, it will be your local church.

Sowing & Reaping - Do Good Always 6:7-10
Sometimes I received sharing that they were cheated by certain ones and the ones seem to prosper even more. They have doubts about the working of God - the evil ones seem to get away. Here in Gal 6:7, Paul stresses that God is not mocked and we be not deceived. We will get what we sow. The law of sowing and reaping works for good and evil. Our sins will find or expose us. It is a matter of time. Our good work will bring great rewards. So, continue to do good to everyone, starting from those near us, and not to give up even if the going is tough. Because, it due season, we shall reap the harvests of our good work.

Boast in the Cross not Circumcision - Dead to World & New Life in Christ 6:11-15
Boasting can only be seen in the outward bodily signs. Internal strength is not so obvious. Instead of building up our internal strength, we tend to go for the faster and more obvious signs of doing something with our body so that we can show off. But God is not deceived. Circumcision is of the heart and not of the body. Our boasting is not about accomplishments but about our dead and the life in Christ. In Philippians, Paul said he counted all his past accomplishments as garbage in order to gain Christ.

The key of the Gospel message is repeated here, it not about following a set of rules or work, it is about new life in Christ received by faith. Focusing on the New Life, living in relationship to Christ, will surpass the requirements of the laws.

Farewell 6:15-18
Ephesian tells us salvation is by faith in Christ (Eph 2:8-10). Galatians added faith in Christ only is sufficient. There is nothing else to add. All additions are distortions of the Gospel. Yet, how often we find them in churches.  New life will and must produce the new fruit of the Spirit which Paul had much to show. What about us?

  1. What are our responsibilities towards others? How to do them?
  2. What is the Law of Sowing and Reaping? What should we do then?
  3. What is the summary verse for Galatian? What does it mean?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Galatians 5 Freedom & Fruit

We find 3 main ideas in Chapter 5.

1. Freedom in Christ Gal 5:1-10

When we think of man as made up of 3 parts of Spirit, Soul and Body or roughly Heart, Mind and Body, we can understand things better. The circumcision was given by God to the Jews was an outward body sign of their covenant with God. Their will and heart comes first and then the external sign follows. Baptism is the outward testimony of our inward faith in Christ. Without the inward heart, external sign has no true effect. There are people who go through the salvation prayer and baptism in order to marry the Christian girl friends that they like. Subsequently, they broke off and they also left the faith. So Paul said earlier that circumcision should be of the heart and not of the body only.

Christ came to set us free from having to follow the law to gain righteousness (Gal 5:5). If we accept circumcision as the way to salvation instead of Christ's redemptive work, we have to go back to follow all the law and have left the grace of God. The consequence of such act is fatal (eternal death) and Paul in Gal 5:10 said he has confidence that the Galatians has no such intention. They were just confused by others to add unnecessary burden on them.

The key first is Gal 5:6, the thing that count in Christ is "Faith working through love". If we are looking for an outward sign of our salvation, then it is found in "love" out of faith in Christ. John 13:35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

2. Love Exceeds the Law Gal 5:13-15
Our freedom is not a license to sin freely but freed to serve and love others freely. With the confidence of our new life in Christ, we can change from being self-centered to others-centered. Those who sin deliberately are condemned Gal 5:21. 5:14 said that the whole law is summarized in one word "love" - loving others as yourself.

3. Spirit vs Flesh Gal 5:16-26
The secret to true life and victory is not about following the law but about living in the Spirit - being led and walking in the Spirit. We have to die to the idea that we can fulfill the demand of the law by ourselves. Because, unless we die to our flesh, the desires of the flesh will cause us to sin. By following the Spirit, we bear the good fruit of the Spirit - the fruit is more than the requirements of the law. We can make a list of comparions about the two fruits - of the flesh and of the Spirit. In v26, Paul pointed out the root cause of our sins - our pride. We need to step down on our throne and let Christ sits on it. Christ has shared His throne with us.

  1. What does freedom in Christ mean?
  2. What does "faith working through love" mean to you?
  3. Contrast the Work of Flesh vs Fruit of the Spirit.
  4. How should one live ? 
Next -- Galatians 6 New Creation Living

    Friday, February 12, 2010

    Galatians 4 Sons vs Slaves

    This chapter can be divided into 3 main parts.

    Sons vs Slaves Gal 4:1-11
    We got adopted as sons of God through Jesus Christ who was born under Law at the right time. In the past, we did not know God and were enslaved by false gods and adopted practices such as observing the seasons and times to do certain things. A typical Chinese in the past will consult the "Calendar" to see what could and could not be done on a particular day.

    How can we be sure that we are true sons of God? If we can call God, our Father, we have His Spirit and we know we are saved for sure Gal 4:8.

    We then don't go back to the past of slavery and should live in the freedom and rights of sons. We note however the exhortation given by Paul in 1Co 6:12  "All things are lawful for me," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful for me," but I will not be enslaved by anything and 1Co 10:23  "All things are lawful," but not all things are helpful. "All things are lawful," but not all things build up. We don't let our freedom be a stumbling block for the baby in faith yet we should not live our lives by the 'baby' standards. We should help the baby to grow-up as well.

    Love Needs Truth Gal 4:12-20
    Paul have to bear the risk of becoming the Galatians enemy by telling the truth because of his love for them. Love is not about covering up and letting the person we love continue their lives in illusions and suffering for it. However, telling the truth may incur wrath from the very friend you love. It needs to be done with much wisdom and caring love. What can we learn from Paul in this book of Galatians about correcting the error of the Galatians? We should bear this mind as we study this book and hopefully we can summarize the lessons at the conclusion of this study. So far we learned we need to love them first as Paul did, then show them the truth - define our identity, support it with evidences, get agreement which those in authority(get the consultants in the typical company) and use illustrations (as Son vs Slaves in the next paragraph; as Nathan did with David 2Sa 12:1-7.)

    The Two Covenants illustrated in Hagar and Sarah Gal 4:21-30
    The Covenant of Law of Performance is illustrated by Hagar the slave woman - we have to perform in order to be accepted. The Covenant of Grace of Promise of God is seen in Sarah. It is received by willing acceptance and not through performance. We are freed from performance to get accepted and we are energized to perform to show God's glory. We are freed from the bondage of sin-nature which performance by the law could not remove. The new nature of God empowers us to excel in life. From performance for acceptance to performance from acceptance. We are saved for good work and not work to be saved.

    Questions for Reflection
    1. What is the difference between Heir and Slave?
    2. What is the difference between the two covenants?
    3. What are the responsibilities of being a true friend?
    Next Galatians 5 Freedom & Fruit

      Monday, February 8, 2010

      Reflection on Rev Sia's sermon for lunar new year at Petra Church 7-2-10

      note:  This is a post by Pam on last Sunday's Sermon:
      Hi all
      I attended Rev Samuel Sia's service this morning. He quoted some OT scriptures relating to 1st day of the 1st month [just like our Chinese New Year 正月初一].  As I am not very familiar with OT, I found them very interesting and would like to share with you all.
      (1) Genesis 7:11-12, Genesis 8:13-16  
       Gen 7: 11In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. 12And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
      Gen 8: 13In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and behold, the face of the ground was dry. 14In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth had dried out. 15Then God said to Noah, 16"Go out from the ark,you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.

      Points noted down:
      • Noah & family were saved [from the flood] but they had to live in the ark for about 200days.  The environment within the ark could be quite unbearable, stuffy stinky with all the animals poop etc....(definitely no Star Cruise).  We can relate to the fact that for many of us, our circumstances remain the same when we get saved (stuck in the same rut).
      • On the first day of the first month, Noah opened the cover the ark and saw that the ground that God has prepared for him.
      (2) Exodus 40:1-2, Exodus 40:17
      The Tabernacle Erected
       1The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2"On the first day of the first month you shall erect the tabernacle of the tent of meeting.
      17In the first month in the second year, on the first day of the month,the tabernacle was erected.

      Points noted:
      • The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. They know only know hardship, nothing about worship.  But they cried out to the Lord & he brought them out.
      • The Lord needed to change them and teach them worship. The Lord gave them many instructions on setting up the tarbenacle and finally on the first day of the first month, the Lord told Mosses to set up the tarbenacle.  It took a year.
      • It takes time to set up the tent of worship.  For us, it should be taking time to read His word, equipping ourselves, serving. In one year, the tent is set up.
      (3) 2 Chronicles 29:2-3, 29:17
      2And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done.
      Hezekiah Cleanses the Temple
       3In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the LORD and repaired them.
      17They began to consecrate on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the LORD. Then for eight days they consecrated the house of the LORD, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.

      Points noted:
      • King Hezekiah cleanses the temple, removing everything unclean from the temple of the Lord.
      • Similar to our spring cleaning.  It takes determination, effort and labour to clear away unwanted stuff.
      • Remember to spring clean our hearts, clearing away whatever is not of the Lord - worries, regrets, unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred, disappointments etc etc. Then we can sing praises and worship.
      Ezra 7:9-10, 10:17
      9For on the first day of the first month he began to go up from Babylonia, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, for the good hand of his God was on him. 10For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

      17and by the first day of the first month they had come to the end of all the men who had married foreign women.

      Points noted:
      • It was an ardous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem.  Most experts had estimated it would take 6 months but Ezra completed it in four months, because the hand of God was with him.
      • He found that many have disobeyed God and married foreign wives.
      • He set about solving the problem and by the second year, the problem was solved.
      • Set our heart to do something great for the Lord. His hand is with us.
      In summary, first day of the first month:
      1. Open our hearts to receive his love, and see what the Lord has prepared
      2. Set up the tent of worship
      3. Purify our hearts of all the uncleaness
      4. Set our hearts to do something great
      Deut 11:12 "It is a land that the Lord your God cares for; the eyes of the Lord your God are continually on it from the beginning of the year to its end."

      May the good Lord bless all of you with an abundant lunar New Year.


      Friday, February 5, 2010

      Ephesians Chatper 5 Walk in the New Life Part 3 Roles in Life - Discussion

      Reference: Eph 5:21-6:9

      The Hebrew word for Worship and Work is the same word Avodah
      Our work is our worship to God. Our worship to God is much much more than the singing of worship songs in Sunday services or even attending Sunday Worship services. True worship to God is expressed in the way we lead our lives on earth.

      The are three main relationships in our lives where we expressed our worship to God where others could clearly see our true worship. Anyone can act holy and worshipful in Sunday Worship singing. But our spouses, our parents or children, and our bosses or colleagues are the ones that can see our true colors - what God really means to us.

      Here Paul clearly lay down the ways of worship to God in our these 3 relationships. Interesting, first 2 relates to family and the third relates to our career or work life. The order is also interesting. You must first have husband and wife, then you have parents and children. After family then comes your career. Chinese has a saying, "成家立业" , we start a family and then build your career. Becoming a parent has a important influence in the way you build your career.

      All the relationship principles come under the greater will of God (Eph 5:21 in the fear of God, 5:22, 6:7 as unto the Lord). So a wife need not submit to her husband's command to do things against the will of God. However, a wife cannot use the husband failure in one area, e.g getting drunk, and not fulfill her duty like cooking a dinner for him. Under abuse, the wife has the right to report the police and seek protection. Nevertheless, it is important that the wife must help her husband to make wise decisions, giving him the possible scenarios and factors that her husband did not consider. A wise wife respects and help build her husband to be a confident and successful decision maker.

      The key tag-lines for the relationships are:
      • wife respects and husband loves.
        All doing their part concurrently. It is 100% covenant. Each part do 100% irrespective of whether the other does his/her part.
        2Ti 2:13  if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself. 
      • children honor and parent nurture.
        Children honor their parents by being obedient and respectful. Parent nurture by guiding and helping their children to make wise decisions - internalizing the values of God. Parent provoke children by forcing them do their parent's will against the theirs without explaining and gaining their children understanding of the parent's will. The parent must be able get the child willing submission, at least, if the child could not understand fully, has the trust in his/her parent decision that it is good for him/her.
      • employees and bosses serves one another with their hearts.
        Employees works from the hearts as unto Christ. Bosses lead by serving them as unto the Christ too. Leader leads for the goodness of the body. Followers obeyed willingly for the interests of the body. Leaders take the initiatives to resolve problems of insubmissiveness by extending his service. This servant leadership is explained well by Jesus in the gospels.

      Wednesday, February 3, 2010

      Galatians 3 Faith in Christ Alone - Not works of Law

      Back to the Beginning 3:1-5
      When we have lost our ways or are confused, we should go back to beginning or the starting point. We need to recall our original mission and purpose. In the business of daily activities, a life without constant reflection, we will be slowly led away from our original mission. Here Paul reminded the Galatians to reflect on their initial experience. How have they receive the Spirit and the Miracles? It was simply by faith and not of work to earn them. As typical error of Christians is to trying to live the life of sanctification by our own effort and then complaining that it is too difficult. It is pointed out in Gal 3:3. Grace is for our salvation and our sanctification. If we could have sanctification by our own effort, i.e. righteousness by work of the laws, we would not have needed Jesus Christ.

      Example of Abraham-Man of Faith
      Abraham is used as the example, since they all claimed to be children of Abraham, of righteousness through faith alone. All by faith, not of works, are true spiritual children of Abraham and receive his blessings.

      The Just Shall Live by Faith in Christ 3:10-14
      The key verse is Gal 3:10 "The righteous shall live by faith" in Jesus Christ who redeemed us from the curse of the law 3:13.

      Promise before Law 3:15-21
      The promise of faith that came before the Law is not nullified by the Law.  The Offspring that will bring the blessing is Jesus Christ. What is the promise? It is the promised Spirit v14, leading to new life v21 and righteousness v21.

      Purpose of Law - As Guardian
      The Law is given as guardian and has an expiry period - it expired when Christ came. With our new birth by the Spirit in Christ, we don't follow the law but follow the Spirit that is within us. 

      Faith Come Already - All Under Christ 3:26-29
      We are always tempted, as believers, to add additional touches to the master painting completed by Christ, to make it more beautiful. Such additional touches by us do not add beauty, for it is already perfected by Christ, but create distortion and ugliness. It amazed me that believers go through great length to argue about the right bread and wine for the Holy Communion. We try to get physical to show off. But God want us to be of the heart. Do we need to follow the law anymore? No and Yes. No because Christ has fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us and make us righteous. Yes, in the spirit of the Law, because that is perfectly naturally for our rebirth spirit. Our rebirth spirit is a righteous spirit and will lead us to things naturally that surpass the requirements of the Law. The Law becomes a minimum checklist for us. The love of Christ that is in us will exceeds the requirement of the laws. To love or simply to forgive is not even stated in the Law. But if we bear bitterness in our heart, then we know we have not allow the love of Christ to fill us completely yet. Seek Christ for the power to forgive.

      Questions for Reflections
      1. When we have lost our ways, what is a good advice to follow?
      2. Which comes first, promise or law?
      3. What is the promise? 
      4. What is the purpose of the Law? Do we still need to follow the Law?
        Will following Jewish practices make you a better Christian?  DIscuss. 
      Next Galatians 4 Sons vs Slaves

        Monday, February 1, 2010

        Galatians 2 Validation of Paul's Gospel

        2nd Validation Gal 2:1-10
        I am not sure the reference starting point of the 'after 14 years' - was it from Paul's conversion or after the 3 year in Arabia. Nevertheless, it was a long time. Because of the proximity of verses, we tend to read Bible events as if they happen instantly or quickly. We need to remind ourselves that events may take place over a long time. The waiting period for God to answer us may be over years rather than days. Pual had been preaching the gospels for 14 years. He did not see the need for the 2nd validation until God told him.

        Paul pointed out a few things about the authenticity of his gospels:
        1. the Jerusalem leaders added nothing.
        2. Titus a Greek was not asked to be circumcised proving there is no need for circumcision for salvation.
        3. the Jerusalem leaders endorsed Paul's mission to the non-Jews. (with Barnabas 2:9)
        4. It is the same God that worked through Peter and Paul (2:8)

        The Open Correction 2:11-14
        Paul openly corrected Peter's hypocrisy. There is no issue with pointing out the error. But there are issues raised about the manner of correction.  Perhaps Paul should do it with more love and do it in private. See A Good Teacher, Paul & Peter. Did Paul do the right thing here? Who else are being corrected as well? If we are committed to friend we will defend him. Truth that is distorted just a little bit will not be the truth. Hence Paul took much effort in defending, not yielding to error, that resulted in him suffering much persecutions. At present, in the name of peace and unity (it is more uniformity than true unity) we are pressured or asked to conform and compromise. That is not the way of Paul. True unity is actually unity of differences in harmonious interactions. We can respect others viewpoints but we cannot compromise our own viewpoints.

        Justification by Faith & Not By Work of  the Law 2:15-19
        We are justified by believing in Jesus Christ and not by work of the law ( repeated 3 times in v16!). Then the typcial question arises - If it is not by work, then how can we stop people from sinning? May be we should ask the other way round. Has knowing the laws stop people from sinning? The answer is obvous - we know the laws and yet we still break it. Knowing the laws has not much impact in stopping us from breaking it. Paul said it well in v19, we just have to give up the idea of following the laws will make us ok. There should be another way, the way of God's empowerment. We die to the idea of trying to live by laws but instead to live by the grace of God. Paul gives the secret of victorious living in v20.

        The Right Christian Living 2:20-21

        This is the key verse of the book. It should be broken down and studied. Here is mind map.

        1. What was the outcome of Paul's Jerusalme visit?
        2. How should we defend the gospel?
        3. Is grace not a license to sin? Explain.
        4. What is the key for right Christian living?

        Next Galatians 3 Faith in Christ Alone - Not works of L...