What is Christmas really about? For many people, it is merely a holiday. For many others, it is about Santa and presents. For those of us who are Christians or are quite familiar with Christianity, we know that it is about the birth of Jesus Christ. But dare I say it is more than just that. Now, before you raise your voice and complain, please let me explain. Yes, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ. Spot on. However, if we don’t recapture the true meaning of the birth of Christ, the phrase “Jesus was born” might become simply a nice phrase to say without any deep meaning. Christmas carols would become simply nice tunes to be sung during this festive season. The name of Jesus Christ might be overused that we either ignore or depreciate its meaning.
I grew up in a traditional church with organ and piano, no-clapping during the church service, and hymns where the songs are known by the number and not the title. So, when I had the chance to visit another church that is very different it could range from refreshing, interesting, and at times shocking.
I still remember the time I went to a church and the pastor said something along this line, “I was meditating on this last week, and then God spoke to me that … ” OR “I was praying earnestly about this issue and then the Holy Spirit gave me this impression that …” I have to admit that as a young Christian, this kind of statement was not just interesting. It was cool. I wanted it. I wanted to have that experience. I wanted to have the kind of relationship that the pastor had with God. I wanted to reach that stage of spirituality where I could converse with God like that. Furthermore, some well-intentioned Christians described prayer as chatting with friends (which I think a misrepresentation of what prayer is about) whereas my prayers were at best second-rate monologues that I was not even sure I myself wanted to listen to.
In the past few weeks, we have looked a bit closer at the dreaded doctrine of predestination. The first post gives a quick survey on biblical witness for this doctrine. In the second post, we see that predestination, understood correctly, will not produce Christians who take salvation for granted. The third post convinces us that predestination and evangelism are compatible, that in fact predestination should fuel our evangelism. In the fourth post, we discuss the inevitable question of the fairness of God. This post will conclude our discussion on this topic, but not because there is no more to discuss. Rather, it is because there is so much to discuss that we have to put an end to this series, at least for now. This post looks at some implications of this doctrine to our life.
Firstly, Predestination will produce humble Christians.
Human beings, in our pride, will brag about almost anything that can be credited to us, no matter how puny our contribution might be. We even brag about ourselves when our soccer team wins the world cup when we don’t do anything at all. It’s ironic, but it’s true.
Predestination destroys any opportunity for us to brag about ourselves when it comes to our salvation. When salvation depends on God and God alone, when the ultimate factor to our new birth is only the Spirit alone, then we have no basis to boast whatsoever other than boasting in what God did through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.
In the last post, we look at three things that we should consider (or question) when we are going through suffering, or when we know someone who is: that (1) Some sufferings are caused by our sin, (2) Some sufferings are caused by other people’s sin, and (3) All sufferings are because of sin. We looked at the cause for our sufferings. In this post, we shall look at two other points that will help us understand the purpose of sufferings, that (4) Christians will suffer, and (5) Our sufferings are ultimately for God’s glory. Continue reading
If you have been a Christian for some time, you are more than familiar with the story of the encounter of Jesus with the Samaritan woman near Jacob’s well. Preachers after preachers have exhausted all the lessons that we can learn from the passage of John 4:1-45. Lessons such as steps for evangelism, cross-cultural humility, intentional relationship, meeting people where they are, how to create opportunity for spiritual conversation, confronting sins without condemning, worshipping in spirit and truth, Jesus the living water, and even the secret to having five husbands and a boyfriend are among the many angles theologians have taken in unfolding this passage… well, except for the last one (don’t get too excited about it).
Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe starred in a movie titled ‘Proof of Life’ released in 2000. The movie tells about an engineer who has been kidnapped in South America. A negotiator was called to help release the engineer from the band of anti-government guerrillas. The first thing that the negotiator asked was what is commonly known as ‘proof of life’ – a recent picture, a voice, a token, whatever that proves that the kidnapped is still alive – because there would be no reason to negotiate if he were already dead.
Last Sunday, John chapter 3 was preached at CrossCulture. The term ‘born again’ is explained. I am not going to explain what ‘born again’ or ‘born of water and Spirit’ means. Suffice to say that ‘born of water’ does not refer to water baptism, and ‘born of Spirit’ does not refer to Baptism in Spirit that the Pentecostal circles commonly claim. Rather, they refer to the Old Testament prophecy by prophet Ezekiel chapter 36 verses 24 to 30. The term ‘born of water’ refers to God cleansing us from all our idols and uncleannesses and the term ‘born of Spirit’ refers to God giving us a new spirit – His Spirit – within us. Didn’t I say I was not planning to explain… well, I did already… never mind…
However, there is one phrase in John 3 that Jesus gave to Nicodemus that is rather interesting. When Nicodemus asked Jesus how this ‘born again’ works, Jesus answered in verse 7 and 8:
“Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Jesus is basically saying to Nicodemus that Nicodemus would not know how it works or when it is going to happen; but when it happens, he would know that it has happened. God is sovereign, and His Spirit is the one who will give birth to the new spirit in us. However, this is not something that we, human beings, can engineer or provoke. This is something that we simply receive and/or notice when it happens in a person’s life. In other words, we would not know when or how a spiritually dead person would be brought to life spiritually, but when he or she is, we will know because it will be clear that the ‘wind has blown.’
Are you sure, Sandy? Well, yes and no. An American talent manager Scooter Braun came across Bieber’s videos on YouTube and later became his manager. Braun spotted him, saw his potential, and empower him to be what he is today. I use the title above not to specifically talk about Justin Bieber, but rather it is because, if I am not wrong, Justin Bieber began his stardom when he was still a teenager. No, I am not a Bieber’s fan. Don’t worry.
Talking about being a teenager, yesterday, at CrossCulture service, Pastor Lou talked about the birth of Jesus. At one point in the service, he emphasised the fact that God used two teenagers (arguably – or at least two very young people), Mary and Joseph (primarily Mary), as vessels to bring Jesus into this world and to raise Jesus on earth. Can you imagine the sheer responsibility of giving birth and raising God on earth? Can you imagine the pressure they must have? Pastor Lou then exhorted all the young people to not let others make them believe that God cannot use them. We are young (yes, although I am way past teenage years, I am still young too) and despite our lack of experience and lack of maturity, don’t allow yourself to believe that God cannot use you to be His vessels for His glory.
In a previous post, we see that God exists in relationship, therefore, we are also created for relationship. Sin caused the image of God in us ruined. Instead of worshiping God, we end up worshiping created things to give us identity (image). When Jesus came to save us, He reconciled us to God and restored our identity. As we draw our identity from God, we are free again to worship (not rebel against) God and love (not worship) others.