Saturday, March 19, 2011

Bible Study 1Peter Chapter 4 Discussion

The following additional points were raised:
  • End-time living should not be different from normal living of a good believers except for greater urgency and increased opposition.
  • Be ready for Christ to come any time, yet be ready to wait for a long time, and being faithful and optimize the opportunity in the mean time.
  • Be sober = know the will of God. see Eph 5:16-17 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
  • Have self-control, being busy in the carrying out the will of God so that there is no time for sins
  • Be prepare to suffer and persecuted by the world, but be not suffering our own wrong doing.
    • There is a particular and peculiar kind of persecutions suffered by believers - doing the wrong things for the right reasons. e.g. spending too much time on church activities and neglect office work and hence resulting in scolding by boss for poor performance and despised by colleagues. Believers should know how to lead a balanced life, not in moderation, but in optimal performance for family, career, ministry and community.
  • Optimize, develop, and use our God given gifts and particular grace to serve one another and to accomplish the the will of God.
  • Loving one another, covering the hurts, strife and damages caused by sins. Don't let the devils create problems in our midst by our love for one another. Be hospital to others,
  • When under persecution, don't take things into your own hands. Trust God to execute justice for you.
  • God will judge his people first and then the world.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bible Study 2 Peter 3 Living in End-Times

The 8.9 Rated earth quake, the subsequent tsunami and the nuclear reactors incidences in Japan make the study of end-time and living in the end-time a pressing and a very real topic.

There are two key things that Peter wanted to remind us of (2Pet 3:2):
  1. The Prophecies of the prophets and
  2. The Commandments of the Lord by the apostles (telling us how shall we live).
The End-Time Prophecies - The Scoffers - Day of the Lord - New Heaven & Earth
In the last days, there will be many scoffers (3:3). The scoffers are the same as the False teachers in the previous chapter. Peter wanted to highlight their erroneous thinking of there is no God or that God is asleep. God is just being patient can kind to have as many people saved as possible (3:9). There will surely be a day of judgment, known as the Day of the Lord, where the heaven and earth will be burnt up, dissolved and the ungodly exposed and destroyed (3:7,10, 12).

The Scoffers are characterized by:
  1. Following their own sinful lusts (3:3)
  2. Claimed that there is no 2nd coming of Jesus Christ the Lord (3:4).
  3. Claimed that there is no God or if there is, He is asleep or does not care. (implied from Peter argument in 3:6-10)
  4. This is the life there is and hence just enjoy, be merry, indulge in your lusts and that there will be no accountability. 
  5. They twisted the truth to their own destruction due to their ignorance v16. 
Peter's Worldview:
  1. God created everything a long time ago by His word (3:5-7).
  2. The earth was formed out of water (major elements of the earth).
  3. God judges right and wrong and hold man accountable. 
  4. He destroyed the ancient world once by flood. v6.
  5. He will do it again, this time by fire, to destroy the ungodly v7.
  6. That day of judgment is known as 'the day of the Lord' v10,12.
  7. A new heaven and earth will be created where righteousness dwells v13.
The Day of the Lord:
  1. It will come like a thief - i.e. surprise many (but not the believers).
  2. The heaven and the bodies there in will be burnt up and dissolved.
  3. The work of man are to be exposed. v10,12.
  4. The ungodly will be destroyed v7.
  5. Then a new heaven and earth created for the righteous.v13.
How Shall We Live in the Meantime?
  1. With Expectation of the Coming of the Day of the Lord and the New Heaven and Earth. v12
  2. Wait with Patience - be ready for the Lord to come anytime and yet be ready to wait for a long time. Counting on the Lord's patience to give us time to share the gospel so that as many people as possible could be saved before the Day. v8,9,15
  3. Be Diligent in living lives of holiness and godliness v11,14.
  4. Be careful not to commit the error of the lawless scoffers v17.
  5. Grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ v18.
Questions for Discussion and Application:
  1. What is the correct worldview  that one should have?
  2. What is the worldview of the scoffers? What are their errors?
  3. How shall we live in this end-time?
  4. What do you understand by growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ v8? How do we live such life?
See also Preparing for Christ 2nd Coming

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Bible Study 2Peter 2 False Teachers

    This chapter is a warning for believers about
    1. the false teachers among us, 
    2. their false teachings and 
    3. their final outcome. 
    This chapter is very similar to the Letter of Jude. Reading them together gives us more details and we can better understand Peter's message.

    This chapter applies well to our present context. Many of the teachings we are hearing now, within and without the Christian community, are very similar to the false teachings present there. Can you discern them?

    Watch Out - They are among us!
    Peter begins with warning of 'False Prophets' among the people (i.e. the public) and the 'false teachers' in our community. False teachers among us is more difficult to identify because they are among us. They secretly introduce their destructive heresies (2:1) and exploit us with deceptive words(2:3). Jude 1:4 summarized well by saying they slipped in unnoticed and turn the grace of God into uncontrollable lust and deny Jesus Christ.

    The False Teachers - Living like Animals - by instinct and no control.
    1. They are with us and have many followers v2
    2. They practice immorality v3 but claimed it as freedom v18.
    3. They are greedy v3, and expert in greed 14.
    4. They go after money no matter what (doing the wrong things) like Balaam v15
    5. They go feed on their lusts like animals v10, 18. They have wild parties in broad daylight v12. There is no control.
    6. They despise authority v10
    7. They are arrogant and slander and insult glorious beings and things they don't understand.
    8. They seduce others to follow them.
    9. They promise freedom but are themselves enslaved in sins v18-19.
    10. They were once with us v15.
    11. They are dirt (stains and blemishes), full of adultery and cannot get enough of sin v13.
    12. They are dried up springs v17. They look good on the outside but are actually useless and pitiful.
    Their False Teachings - Do what you feel like to do. Be the natural you.
    1. Whatever you are born with is right. (Peter describe them as irrational animals v2:12.)
    2. Hence, just follow your natural instinct and passions.
    3. Cast off any restraint or control. They are artificial and unnatural.
    4. Feed the lusts and passions, go to the extreme, that is the way of discovering your natural self. Let your natural self come out!
    5. Do whatever you feel you like to do. 
    6. You are you own god. You are the authority. You don't have to obey any authority. They are just trying to stop you from growing.
    7. There is no judgment, no god or god is asleep, no right or wrong.
    8. There is nothing wrong to be the natural you. 
    The Truth is
    It is good to develop on your strength and do the things that you like and are capable to. Live life to the fullest extent. Sexual pleasure is good within the husband-wife relationship but is bad outside the relationship. We, the created beings, are not the judge of right and wrong.

    Let God the creator tell us and let us live by what He tells us is good or bad. Not everything we are born with is good. Some people are unfortunately born blind. That does not make blindness good. If so, Jesus should not heal the blind men.

    There are goodness and badness in what we are born with. We need to develop the good and be watchful for the bad tendency. We ask God to help and transform us through Jesus Christ, who set us free from the bondage of sins.
      Their Outcome - Enslaved and Condemned
      1. They are like animals born to be caught, killed and destroyed v2:12
        (Animal goes by their appetite and there is no restrain or sense for right or wrong)
      2. They are suffering and will be punished v2:13
      3. They are doomed to a curse v2:14
      4. Gloomy darkness is reserved for them v2:17
      The Eternal Truth of Condemnation for Sins and Salvation for the Righteous

      The truth of judgment and condemnation for the sinners does not change. God is alive and He is the Lord.  2Pet 2:9 clearly state "the Lord knows how to rescue godly people from their trials and to hold unrighteous people for punishment on the day of judgment".

      Paul tells us in Gal 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

      Jude 1:15 says,  He will execute judgment on all people and convict everyone of all the ungodly things that they have done in such an ungodly way, including all the harsh things that these ungodly sinners have said about him.

      Peter cited 3 examples of the past sins to show God's judgment for the evils.
      1. The angels that sinned were chained and awaiting judgment. v4
      2. The ancient world of Noah's time. They were destroyed by flood except Noah and his family were saved. v5
      3. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were burnt except Lot was saved. Jude 1:7 gave more details of sins.
      4. Similarly, the present generation of immoral people will be judged as well.
      The Sensitive Issue - Eternal Security of Salvation.
      These verses here, especially v2:20-21, tell us that these false teachers were once enlightened with the truth of salvation through Jesus Christ. They have turned their backs on the holy commandment that was committed to them. These verses are used to tell us that Christians could loose their salvation and hence they need to be watchful.

      Those who hold the eternal security view will say that these people are not saved in the first place, they know in the mind but not with the heart, lacking the grace empowerment of God, they find it easier to go back and follow their un-regenerated state of lusts, trapped in sins, they create new false doctrine to justify like sinful living. They distorted the grace of God to become a license for sin.

      Which ever view you take, the teaching is for us to be watchful for such teachings and not be misled. Don't go back to our old ways of self-indulgence in lusts, money-seeking and sinful living.

      Questions for Discussions and Applications

      Q1 What are we, believers to watch out for?

      Q2 What are the deceptive teachings? Are we deceived by any particular one of the teaching?

      Q3 What are the behavior of such false teachers? How can we discern them? (Watch-out for taking this thing to the extreme. Don't go around suspecting or accusing people to be false teachers.)

      Q4 What is the eternal truth that we learned here? What are we going to do about it?

      Thursday, March 10, 2011

      Bible Study 2Peter 1 Growth that Never Fail

      The Last Exhortation from Peter - The Secret of Success
      Members requested that we finish 1Pet and 2Pet together. Hence, I am back to a study of 2 Peter. 2 Peter is the parting letter of Peter (like 2 Timothy of Paul). In 2Pe 1:14, Peter shared that Christ had told him his time on earth is up soon and hence he wanted to leave us with a message that will establish us in the truth. He used v12-v15 to tell his desire showing the importance of his message. We can be assured also that God will tell us when is our time.

      To Us - Believers that Shared the Same Precious Faith
      The letter was addressed to us (unlike 1Pet, which was to a particular region). How do we know? Those who shared in the faith of righteousness of God by our Savior Jesus Christ our Lord.

      What do we need? Intimacy & Knowledge of Jesus & Father
      We need to know experimentally and intimately the knowledge of God and Jesus our Lord. From experiencing our Father God and Jesus Christ, we receive the grace (power) and the peace (confidence and not panic, joy and not worry, a sound mind to make right decisions).

      Know Our Calling & Our Empowerment
      We are called by Jesus to glory and virtue (v3). He who called us also empowered us by
      1. Given ALL things that pertain to life and godliness v3.
      2. Given the great promise of taking on DIVINE nature, freed from corruption and lust v4. 
      As Paul said in 2 Cor 5:17, we are a new creation, old things had passed away. We are first transformed with new nature and then given the power (all things of life and godliness) to work out from the Christ within to glory of Christ without. Peter used promise showing that our partaking of Divine nature is yet to be completed and will be completed fully one day. Paul in Eph tells us that we sealed with the Holy Spirit as a guarantee first.

      The Secret of Never-Fail Success - DO THESE THINGS
      The then is the key to Peter swan song -
      We are to be diligent in doing the following 8 things.
      1. faith
      2. virtue
      3. knowledge - wisdom
      4. temperance - self-control - moderateness - balanced
      5. patience - steadfastness - perseverance
      6. godliness - god-likeness - reverence of God - the presence of God
      7. brotherly kindness - love for one another (brother added to differentiate from the love of between husband and wife)
      8. charity - true love - unconditional and more than overcoming.
      It begins with our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. But don't stop there at the base level, move up, with the development of Character, the virtue, the qualities of Jesus Christ. Add greater knowledge and experience of Jesus Christ (Eph 3:16-20). That will bring us up to temperance - some version translated by self-control. With that add on top patience and perseverance. Then we can grow up further to be like God, a reverence and presence of God. Then we can move closer to others with true-love God expressed first as kindness and later more than overcoming kind of love.

      see Key Words of the Bible and The Meaning of "More than Conquerors"
      and True Love For Successful Marriage.

      The Benefits for Such Living
      1. Make us fruitful v8.
      2. Not blind or short-sighted v9. This is the way to overcome sin. Focus on growth in virtue and godliness in the knowledge of our Lord.
      3. Shall never fail v10
      4. Assurance of our calling and election v10.
      5. Enter into the Abundance of the everlasting kingdom of Christ v11. i.e. building up treasures in heaven.
      This is for REAL - It is of God and Peter was a witness
      Peter cited his supernatural encountered with Jesus and God in the mount of transfiguration to assure us that the teaching and prophecy were for real.v19.
      The teaching and prophecy of God are not of man but of God through the Holy Spirit v20,2. Its purpose is to be a light to guide us to grow in Christ that we may see and others may see the Christ, the day star that arises, in our heart. People see the glory of God through us.

      Questions for Discussion & Application
      1. What is our calling?
      2. How are we able to live up to the calling?
      3. What are the steps of growth taught by Peter?
      4. How do you know it is the right one?
      See the discussion on Bible Study 2Peter Chapter 1 Discussion.

        Sunday, March 6, 2011

        Bible Study Chapter 17 Jesus' Prayer for You

        If there is only chapter of the Bible that you can keep with you, which chapter will it be? For me, it will be this chapter 17 of Gospel of John. It is the prayer of Jesus to His Father God. But the content is all about us and for us. It explains to us the origin and identity of Jesus and the purpose of His coming to earth. It explains to us who we are in the eyes of God, what we shall we be facing in this world and how to overcome them and with who. It is very personal because not just because it is between Jesus and His Father but it is very personal because we are mentioned explicitly in the prayer ... also for those who will believe in me through their word, John 17:20. We are the ones who believe in the apostles' words about Jesus.

        Q1 How is God glorified in Jesus? How is Jesus glorified?
        Jesus knew his hour has come (v1). We know from subsequent chapters that this hour is the hour on the cross - where Jesus would be crucified for the sins of world. To human mind, the cross is a symbol of shame. It indeed is true. Yet, it is THE milestone that spelled the victory of God and man over sins. It accomplishes the salvation of man where the debt of sin is paid in full by Jesus.  Associated with the Cross is of course the resurrection of Jesus Christ 3 days later clearly demonstrating the victory over death. Hence, we can say that the cross is the beginning stage of the glory of God that continued with the resurrection of Christ and end with the 2nd coming of Christ where the entire universe will be transformed and we part-take the new eternal body.

        The power and glory of the cross is echoed by Paul in:
        • 1Co 1:18  For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God
        • Gal 6:14  But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.
        • Col 1:20  And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself;
        • Heb 12:2  Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
        Q2 What is eternal life ? How do you get it?
        John 17:2 tells that it was the Father' will to give eternal to all - whoever want to receive it. John 17:3 make explicit that eternal life is know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.

        Eternal life is more than just ever lasting life. Even the unbelievers have ever lasting life since man is a tripartite of spirit, soul and body. When this physical body dies, the man's spirit and soul live on.

        So here tells us that eternal life is about intimate knowledge and relationship with God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ.  Know is more than just head knowledge. It includes experiential knowing - seeing, tasting, touching, feeling kind of knowing.

        We know the Father God through Jesus the Son. Salvation is more than just reciting the sinner's prayer. That is too narrow and shallow. Salvation of receiving eternal life is to enter into a relationship with Jesus. It begins by knowing who Jesus is - the Son of God sent to bring us back to His Father God. One is saved not by reciting the sinner's prayer, but by knowing knowing and acknowledging Jesus as Son of God. John 3:16 is the starting base. Paul emphasized in word confessed out of the belief in the heart in Rom 10:9  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom 10:10  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

        Q3 How can one glorify God on earth?
        Jesus tell and give us the example in John 17:4 I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. We glorify God by doing and completing God's will for us. See Our Calling of Life.

        Q4 Make a list of Jesus' work on earth?
        1. Make Father God know to the world - the disciples believed. 17:6-7,26
        2. Teach them the Words that Father God gave. 17:8,14. We are to do likewise. Not our own thinking but of God. Keep the Gospel pure. Don't subtract or add to it.
        3. Prayed for those of His v9. We can see that while God love all, God need to take special care of His because they are accomplishing His work on earth against the persecutions(v15). v14 "the world hated us because we are not of the world".
          1. v11 show Jesus asking the Father to protect us and
          2. more specifically to keep us ONE. The infighting of brothers and sisters are common temptations. Yet Jesus is to be known by our love and oneness (v23). We are to pray for one another. We are to ONE with the Father and the Son Jesus through His power and love  v21-24, 26.
          3. v13 we may have the Joy of Jesus in us. or more accurately, be filled with His joy to the fullest; which shows that we can have different degree of joy. We have greater joy by knowing His words v17. It is with joy that we can overcome. See Joy - Biblical View
          4. v15 we are to remain on earth but God will keep us from the evil one.
          5. v17,19 we are to be sanctified by the Word=Truth of God.
        4. Jesus is most happy with what God has given Him v10. John Piper said that God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.
        5. Jesus send us out to the world v18
        6. Jesus gave the glory he received to us v22 that we may be one as him and the Father.
        7. Jesus loves us and the Father love us as much as he loves Jesus v23.
        Q5 What are the key truths that you learned in this chapter? How can you put them into practice?

        Here is my list in mind-map format. They are grouped by color - purple is foundational truth, blue is about us, yellow is Jesus and us.

        Saturday, March 5, 2011

        Bible Study 1Peter Chapter 3 Discussion

        We had our discussion on Bible Study 1Peter Chapter 3 Husband & Wife.
        The following additional points were raised.
        1. On Husband & Wife. 
          1. Why there are 6 verses on wife and only 1 on husband? The key is "Likewise". Husband had to do what the wife does in v1-6! In the Bible, submitting is one to another and not one dominating another (see  Submitting - Biblical vs Secular View). In certain area, the husband takes the lead (for Chinese, external affairs is husband is main responsibility) and for other area, the wife takes the lead(Chinese lady takes the lead in internal affairs), but both should come to mutual agreement. When there is disagreement, then postpone the decision, unless one party willingly submit to the other.
          2. The keys for God's precious conduct are gentleness(meekness) and a quiet spirit. It applies to both husband and wife (Likewise, the husband...). 
          3. The hindering of prayer can be due to 
            1. unsettled issue between husband and wife causes one not to pray.
            2. God does not listen to prayer of people that harbored sins see "1Pe 3:12  For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil."
              Mat 5:23-24  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
              Mar 11:25  And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
        2. Suffering for Righteousness Sake
          1. Repay evil with blessings result in one getting a blessing! 1Pet 3:9
          2. Those who slander you for your good behavior will be put to shame at their very act.
        3. Baptism is not just an external washing of dirt from the body but a cleaned and clear conscious freed of sins by the resurrection, completed payment of sins, and conquering of death due to sin, of Jesus Christ who now seats at the right hand of God far above all principals and authorities ... Eph 1:21 equivalent of 1Pe 3:22.

        Thursday, March 3, 2011

        Bible Study John 16 The Comforter & Overcoming the World

        John 16:1-5 should have been classified into John 15 and have been discussed there.

        Q1 Where was Jesus going? What would happen to the disciples?
        Jesus was once again telling the disciples that he was going away, what would happen, and how they would overcome.
        1. Jesus told them that he was going back to His Heavenly Father who sent him v5. But he seemed to miss the detail that the way to go back was through the cross of crucification.
        2. They would be sad. They would be scattered v32 and left Jesus to be alone.
        3. Even so, they need not worry for him because Heavenly Father would be with him.
        4. He would only leave for a short while and will come back again. v19
        5. Their sorrow will be painful but short. It would be turned to a big joy v22. Jesus used the the birth pains as illustration v21. (Jesus left them to be crucified on the cross. But 3 days latter, Jesus was resurrected and appeared to them).
        Q2  How can they overcome the challenges to be faced?
        1. In Jesus' absence, the Father will send the Comforter to them to help them 16:5
        2. Jesus also gave them the promise that "ask and you shall receive" see Q4.
        3. Jesus gave them His peace. see Q6.
        Q3 Who is the Comforter? What is His work?
        The Comforter is the Holy Spirit. We discussed His work in Chapter 14. Here it a consolidated list:
        1. The Holy Spirit is known as the Comforter 14:16.
        2. The Spirit of Truth - Only believers can receive Him. 14:17. 16:13
        3. The Holy Spirit dwells in us 14:17.
        4. The Holy Spirit will be sent by the Father when Jesus is taken away 14:26, 16:7
        5. He shall teach us all things 14:26
        6. He shall remind us of Jesus' teachings 14:26;16:13-14
        7. He will bear witness of Jesus John 15:26
        8. glorify Jesus 16:14
        9. He will reprove the world of ... (John 16:8)
          1. sin (not believe in Jesus) John 16:9,
          2. righteousness (given by Jesus when He went back to the His Father) 16:10
          3. judgment of the prince of world 16:11 and found him guilty and condemned him.
        10. He will show you things to come 16:13 
        Q4 What promise did Jesus gave to the disciples in time of needs?
        Jesus gave them a powerful promise of "ask and receive that you joy may be full" 16:24 when they got into troubles. It is almost an open check - whatsoever ye shall ask 16:23! Here is the pattern of asking:
        1. whatsoever
        2. ask the Father (the Father love you because you believe in Jesus and love Jesus)
        3. in Jesus name ( this is the only qualification for the whatsoever - it is as if Jesus would have asked)
        4. The Father will give to you. (The Father is the highest power there is)
        5. We are to receive it (by faith - sometime immediate, sometime we wait)
        6. So that our joy may be full. (Father God want us to be joyful and not sad. He want us to be overcomer and not be in defeat and depressed mode.)
        Q5 What was the disciples' answer?
        Promises must be acknowledged with our confessions. Our confessions show forth our faith and our acceptance. The disciples said that they understand (v29), that they were sure that Jesus knew all things and that He was from God. This should be the starting point of our Asking and Receiving. Ask and receive in faith first and joy will come even before the full manifestation of the answer. Heb 11:1  Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. When you paid for a purchase of a sofa set, you just happily go home to wait for the delivery of the sofa set.

        Q6 What do we have in the world? How should we overcome that?
        Jesus plainly told us in v33 that in this world we shall have tribulation (troubles and stressed). Believing Jesus does not mean all troubles will be gone. Rather, Jesus said that He has overcome the world and hence we can be good cheer. We should view troubles as opportunities for growth and joy. Playing basketball or football is very strenuous, and very stressful in competitions, but who ever complain? We them hobby and not persecutions. With Jesus, the troubles in the world should be view as hobby for the world to see how Jesus overcome them through us. On what reasons? See answers in Q2.