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Jesus the High Priest - Part 1

clock October 7, 2011 02:00 by author wtsang

Key Verses:

Hebrews 8:1-2 1 Now the main point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, 2 and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by a mere human being.

What is a High Priest

Originally, the first humans Adam and Eve have a close relationship with God who created them. After Adam and Eve sinned by choosing to follow the tempting suggestion of Satan and disobeying God’s command of not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, sin entered the world. The relationship between men and God was broken. No longer might Adam and Eve communicate with God directly as children talking to their father. Adam and Eve were cast out from the garden of Eden where they lived a serene life and enjoyed the beautiful creation of God and His abundant provision. Now, the ground was cursed because of their sin and men have to toil painfully in order to live while facing the bleak outcome of physical death (Genesis 3:17, Psalms 90:5-6). But God is merciful and provided a way men may escape the eternal condemnation but turn to life. However, justice which is an attribute of God demands that the penalty of sin must be paid for. God provided sacrifice or substitutional death as a way for us to escape the judgment of sin. God revealed His mercy and grace right after Adam and Even sinned in the garden of Eden by providing clothes made with animal skin for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). The process of getting the skin to make clothes involved the killing and shedding of blood of animals. This is the picture of substitutional death such that the shame and condemnation of sin could be covered. Please note that Adam and Eve had previously made clothes for themselves using leaves which looked shabby and were not durable. There homemade clothes represent means of salvation invented by sinners for themselves such as religious rituals and intents to do good works and they are not acceptable to God. Salvation is provided by God Himself and is effective to save all who accept it with faith (Romans 1:16). This is the image of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus Christ to save sinners. Later when the Israelites were led by God out of Egypt the land of slavery, the laws were given to the Israelites. Priesthood was established with Aaron be the high priest and his sons be priests (Exodus 28:1). This is called the Levitical priesthood and was carried on by the descendants of Aaron. The high priest represented the whole congregation of Israel and offered atoning sacrifice with animal blood once a year in the most holy place of the tabernacle and later in the temple. Apart from the yearly atoning sacrifice, the high priest had other duties such as daily burning of incense, lighting of sacred lamps, appointment and administration of other priests. The Levitical priesthood and its history and activities were the most well known and described in the Scriptures. But the Levitical priesthood was not the only priesthood. The other priesthood was the Melchizedek priesthood. Jesus Christ was appointed by God to be a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6).

Genesis 3:17

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.

Psalms 90:5-6

5 Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death— they are like the new grass of the morning:

Genesis 3:21

21 The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

Romans 1:16

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

Exodus 28:1

“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.

Hebrews 5:6

And he says in another place, “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

Comparing Melchizedek and Levitical Priesthoods

1. Melchizedek Priesthood Predated Levitical Priesthood

Melchizedek was the king of Salem, the ancient Jerusalem. He was also called priest of God Most High (Genesis 14:18-20). On the victorious return from a battle against the four kings: Kedorlaomer king of Elam, Tidal king of Goyim, Amraphel king of Shinar and Arioch king of Ellasar who took the nephew of Abraham, Melchizedek greeted Abraham and blessed him. In response, Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils to Melchizedek. Aaron and Moses who are descendants of Abraham, were not born yet. Obviously, Melchizedek Priesthood predated Levitical Priesthood.

Genesis 14:18-20

18 Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High, 19 and he blessed Abram, saying, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth. 20 And praise be to God Most High, who delivered your enemies into your hand.” Then Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

2. Levitical Priesthood was Human while Melchizedek Priesthood was both Human and Divine by Nature

Aaron was the first Levitical high priest and his sons were the first priests (Exodus 28:1). Their descendants continued to hold the positions of priests and high priests in generations. Therefore, Levitical priesthood was human by nature and appointment to offices was based on heredity. The Melchizedek priesthood is unique and its position is designated by God directly. There is only one true high priest in Melchizedek priesthood. Even the person Melchizedek, the king of Salem, was only the image of the permanent high priest to come. Appointed directly by God, the high priest in the order of Melchizedek is Jesus Christ who is both divine and human (Psalm 110:1, 4; Hebrews 7:16; Philippians 2:5-8). During His earthly ministry, Jesus asked a very educational and revealing question abut His deity based on Psalm 110:1: why did David call the coming Messiah ‘Lord’ given the teaching that the Messiah would be a descendant of David himself (Mark 12:36-37)? The answer to the question was that the coming of the Messiah was the truth: Word became flesh living in the human world (John 1:14). Notice that the word ‘Word’ is capitalized indicating that it is a noun referring to a person namely Jesus who is the essence of God in human form manifesting God’s glory, grace and truth to mankind. As prophet Isaiah prophesied the coming of Jesus would be a miraculous sign namely a son given birth by a virgin and the son’s name is Immanuel meaning ‘God with us’ (Isaiah 7:14). The teachers of the law seemed right when they taught that the Messiah would be a descendant of David ( 1 Chronicles 17:13-14 ). However, many of them failed to recognize the Messiah even though the prophets had prophesied His coming and even from where He would come (Micah 5:2). Surely, Jesus came as a baby born in Bethlehem as announced by an angel, witnessed by a group of shepherds watching their flocks by night (Luke 2:10-12). Jesus grew up and proved Himself was the Messiah by His authoritative teachings, power to prophesy and perform miraculous signs, and by His death and resurrection fulfilling what were written in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, many recognized Jesus merely as a carpenter, son of Mary (Mark 6:3). But, even a blind beggar realized that Jesus was the Son of David and had faith in Jesus to give him eyesight (Mark 10:47, 51 ).

Exodus 28:1

“Have Aaron your brother brought to you from among the Israelites, along with his sons Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar, so they may serve me as priests.

Psalm 110:1, 4

1 The LORD says to my lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek."

Hebrews 7:16

16 one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.

Philippians 2:5-8

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Mark 12:36-37

36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet."’ 37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?" The large crowd listened to him with delight.

John 1:14

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Revelation 19:13, 16

13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

1 Chronicles 17:13-14

13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’"

Micah 5:2 (King James Translation)

2But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.

Luke 2:10-12

10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Mark 6:3

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.

Mark 10:47, 51

47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 51 “What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see."

3. Levitical Priesthood is National While Melchizedek Priesthood is International

Levitical priesthood was established to serve only the Israelite community (Numbers 15:25). However, God always has the whole world in His mind for His love is too deep and wide to be constricted in a single community (Isaiah 45:22, John 3:16, Romans 3:29). The Son of God became the high priest in the order of Melchizedek such that all, Jews and Gentile alike, may reconcile with God through Him (Hebrews 5:8-10). Notice that Hebrews 5:9 says that the Son of God is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him. On the other hand, John 3:16, says that all who believes in the Son of God will not perish but have eternal life. Therefore, reading the two verses together, believing in Jesus Christ will result in a new life which walks in the words of God. In the past, the unsaved life was wrapped up, enslaved by sin and lived as enemy of God. Now, the redeemed life pursues goodness, righteousness and truth pleasing to God (Ephesians 5:8-10). This is the work of the Holy Spirit that makes the believer a new creation (John 3:5, 2 Corinthians 5:17). In contrast, demons also believe God but they are agonistic to God and are awaiting punishment (James 2:19).

Numbers 15:25

25 The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have presented to the LORD for their wrong a food offering and a sin offering.

Isaiah 45:22

Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Romans 3:29

Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too,

Hebrews 5:8-10

8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him 10 and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Ephesians 5:8-10

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord.

John 3:5

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

James 2:19

19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

4. Levitical Priesthood was Temporary while Melchizedek Priesthood is Permanent

The temporal nature of Levitical Priesthood is inherently determined for two reasons. Firstly, Levitical priests are human, therefore all Levitical offices are temporary because of death (Hebrews 7:23). Secondly, Levitical priesthood was never established as a permanent institution in the Kingdom of God. The establishment of Levitical institution served merely as a shadow of the true institution to come (Hebrews 10:1) although the Levitical sacrifices did serve the useful purpose as the reminders of sins (Hebrews 10:3). On the other hand, the Melchizedek Priesthood is permanent. Firstly, Jesus lives forever and therefore death cannot cause the termination of His office (Hebrews 7:24). Secondly, the appointment of the Son of God as the priest in the order of Melchizedek was expressly declared permanent in Scriptures (Psalm 110:4). With the coming of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the temporal Levitical Priesthood was terminated. In fact, when Jesus the High Priest in the order of Melchizedek died on the cross as a redeeming sacrifice of all who believe in Him, He said, “It is finished." declaring the work of redemption and atonement was complete (John 19:30). And the curtain separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:37-38). The Holy of Holies in the temple represented the presence of God and even the Levitical high priest might be allow to enter it only once a year to offer sacrifices for himself and then the people he represented. The tearing of the curtain reveals that sinful people can now be justified and may approach God because of the sacrifice of the Melchizedek High Priest. Moreover, the Herod Temple where Levitical sacrifices were conducted was totally destroyed in A.D. 70.

Exodus 40:15

15 Anoint them just as you anointed their father, so they may serve me as priests. Their anointing will be to a priesthood that will continue throughout their generations."

Hebrews 7:23

23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office;

Hebrews 10:1

1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Hebrews 10:3

3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.

Hebrews 7:24

24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood.

John 19:30

30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Mark 15:37-38

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

5. Levitical Priesthood Served Subordinate to Kingship while Melchizedek Priesthood Connotes Kingship

Levitical priests never took up rulership duty of the nation Israel. In contrast, the offices of both Priest and King will be combined in the millennial kingdom (Zechariah 6:12-13). The High Priest in the order of Melchizedek will build the millennial temple and sits on the throne fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah will rule in the throne of King David forever as reported by prophet Nathan ( 1 Chronicles 17:11-14 ). Verse 12 says, “He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever.“ David also relayed this message as an instruction to Solomon to build a temple and observed the decrees and the laws of the Lord (1 Chronicles 22:10). Although Solomon did take up the throne of David and build a temple for God fulfilling the wish of David, he is not the main subject of the prophecy for two reasons. Firstly, this offspring of David would have a Father and Son relationship with God implying that this descendant of David had both deity and human nature (1 Chronicles 17:13). Secondly, this descendant of David will be set by God over His house and Kingdom and His throne will last forever (1 Chronicles 17:14). This particular descendant must be the Messiah as witnessed by John the Baptist, Peter, James and John who were the disciples of Jesus. In two separate occasions, they heard a voice from heaven and from the cloud saying that Jesus was the Son and they were commanded to listen to Him (Matthew 3:17, Matthew 17:5). The building of the historic temple by king Solomon and the growth of Israel into a strong and prosperous nation should not be taken as the fulfillment of 1 Chronicles 17:12 but complimentary to the prophecy declared by prophet Zechariah in which the Messiah is called the Branch who will build the temple of God and hold the offices of both Priest and King (Zechariah 6:12-13). Certainly, no other king in Israel was allowed to hold both offices. Consider king Saul who committed a serious error by making burnt offering which should only be done by a priest and was dethroned by God (1 Samuel 13:13). God accepted the offer of David out of his love of God to build a temple by his son Solomon for sacrifices and worship. But, as the Levitical priesthood was the image of the permanent Melchizedek priesthood, so was the Solomon temple an image of the real temple built by the Messiah Himself. After all, the Solomon temple was destroyed and the nation of Israel was broken in history. Not until 1947, Israel was approved by the United Nations to become an independent nation fulfilling other prophecies in the Scriptures. The nation of Israel is facing increasing anti-Semitic pressure from its neighboring countries. One day, the anti-Christ will appear to make a false peace treaty with Israel. At the end of the rope, the Messiah Jesus Christ will return for the second time to save Israel from the turmoil called the Great Tribulation and establish the Millennium Kingdom.

Zechariah 6:12-13

12 Tell him this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the LORD, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’

1 Chronicles 17:11-14

11 When your days are over and you go to be with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. 12 He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. 13 I will be his father, and he will be my son. I will never take my love away from him, as I took it away from your predecessor. 14 I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.’"

1 Chronicles 22:10

10 He is the one who will build a house for my Name. He will be my son, and I will be his father. And I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel forever.’

Matthew 3:17

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

Matthew 17:5

While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!"

1 Samuel 13:13

13 “You have done a foolish thing," Samuel said. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you; if you had, he would have established your kingdom over Israel for all time.

Psalm 110:2,4-6

2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of your enemies!" 4 The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind: “You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

Revelation 19:13, 16

13 He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

6. Levitical Priesthood was Imperfect While Melchizedek Priesthood is Perfect

Levitical Priesthood is provisional and symbolic by nature. This can be understood by observing the performance of its main mission: sanctifying and bringing sinful people to God. As we know, the Levitical high priest himself was a sinful person while carrying the responsibility to bring sinful people to God. The question is how did the high priest who himself was a sinner approach God in the first place to perform sin sacrifice for others. The answer was that the high priest had to sanctify himself first. This very act of sanctification was clearly provisional and symbolic because a sinful person should never be able to stand before the Holy God let alone sanctifying himself. Moreover, the blood used in sacrifices was only animal blood. Since these Levitical ceremonies were symbolic by nature, they were performed year after year. The Levitical sacrifices served only as a model of the real sacrifice and redemption performed by the Melchizedek High Priest (Hebrews 10:1). However, Levitical sacrifices did served the useful purpose to remind worshippers of sin (Hebrews 10:2-4). When Jesus came to fulfill God’s salvation plan for mankind, the sacrifice of the Melchizedek Priesthood is real because the body of the Messiah was sacrificed satisfying the requirement of God such that sinners may now be justified (Hebrews 10:10). Sinners who trust in Jesus Christ and their penalties of sins will be paid in full satisfying the justice demanded by God and are declared righteous before Him (Romans 3:22-24). The redemption, forgiveness and justification brought by Jesus are not symbolic but real accepted and backed up by the faithfulness of God.

Hebrews 10:1

1 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.

Hebrews 10:2-4

2 Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

Hebrews 10:10

10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Romans 3:22-24

22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.



Jesus the Rabbi From God - Part 6

clock May 31, 2011 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:13

13 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man.

This is the sixth and the last article of the discussion on the differences between Judaism and Christianity. The sixth difference as shown in the paragraph printed in bold fonts is extracted from an article published in a Judaism website. As you read about this difference on the topic of hell, I recommend your asking the question what is the origin of the information the teaching is based on. This topic about hell is about time and space beyond human observation and experience and is critically important for it concerns your eternal destination. It is logical to lean not our trust on merely human thoughts and postulations but on the words of God who lives beyond human space and time limitation. Like Nicodemus, a leading and reputable rabbi in his time, we should all come to Jesus the Rabbi from heaven for information about eternity for He is not bound by mere human existence and is therefore authoritative and trustworthy on this important topic (key verse: John 3:13).

As a side note, there are stories about people who had out of body experience and told stories about their brief experience in heaven. But, these are subjective events and are difficult to verify. Although apostle Paul told that he had been caught up to the third heaven and saw and heard inexpressible things (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), these were only glimpses of heaven. Therefore, even apostle Paul did not come from heaven. Only Jesus did. For the discussion on the authenticity of the claims of Jesus, please refer to the article Jesus the faithful and true witness.

2 Corinthians 12:2-4

2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Judaism teaches that Hell (for lack of a better term) is finite – its equivalent (the word Hell is not accurate here) is just a process of refinement. When the soul is ready to enter the World to come, the refinement process is finished, and one goes on to eternity. If one is entirely evil and cannot be refined, they are destroyed. In Judaism, God is just, but never vengeful. Christianity teaches that Hell is a place where nonbelievers descend forever to be punished through burning in fire eternally. In Christianity, either one merits Heaven or Hell. That’s it. And according to most sects of Christianity, that merit is based solely on whether or not one believes in Jesus. Period, end of subject. In Christianity, God heaps punishment on those who don’t believe in Jesus for eternity. Rather than the Justice of Judaism, Christianity paints God as Sadistic and vengeful.

The Unpleasant But Critically Important Subject

This subject of judgment, punishment and hell is unpleasant. But, it is unwise to avoid the subject because it concerns all mankind and the relationship with God in light of His characters: righteousness, justice, and love. To understand judgment, reward and punishment, we must see it as part of the notion of justice.

To understand the importance of justice, consider what life will be like living in a country without law or with laws but without enforcement to establish justice. This country will be in constant turmoil. The evil desires of people will be realized unchecked: thefts, robberies, rapes, deceits, murders. Nobody can live a peaceful life and no business transactions can be conducted with fidelity and trust. This country will crumble from within eventually. The necessity of justice is not an unrealistic postulation because crimes do occur everyday even in societies with law and order. We must also note that justice in human societies is dependent on the laws of the societies which are predicated on the fundamental beliefs and values of the judicial bodies in power. Therefore, justice in certain societies actually mean oppression and injustice when even basic human rights are not guaranteed. On the other hand, the interpretation of the fundamental beliefs and values can be tweeted by popular demands and political clout in countries with liberty. For instance, the Declaration of Independence of the United States wrote:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

However, abortion is considered legal and abortion rights of the mothers are guaranteed. The human lives in development are too young to voice out their opinions, to have financial resources to pay off the abortion practitioners, or to cast political votes for the law makers. Therefore, their bodies in development are labelled simply as fetuses such that not even the most basic unalienable right, that is Life, may apply to them. In fact, these so called “fetuses" are human lives and have the potential to grow up to be good citizens and glorify their Creator as illustrated in the article The Survivors of Abortion (Psalm 139:13).

Psalm 139:13

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Justice seems cold, and unkind. However, justice is beautiful when you look at the ugliness of sin. A news story reported recently serves a good illustration. A few people involved with a network of Latino human trafficking were arrested in the United States. The victims were young women and children lured into United States from Latino countries such as Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala with a promise of job opportunities and a better life. They were then locked into a house and were forced into prostitution making money for their oppressors by engaging in sex trade as much as 40 times a day by each victim. To avoid being noticed and arrested, sex trade operations were conducted in different places in short duration and in secret by private invitation only among Latino male population in various US cities. According to investigation, this kind of human trafficking networks are very active in the US and certainly in other countries of the world. It is not hard to understand that the world without justice will be turned into “hell" by wicked people if you think a little carefully the ordeals these victims have been going through. In fact, the Scripture teaches that a symptom of a corrupted nation is the lack of justice which is associated with rampant display of unrighteousness and dishonesty (Isaiah 59:14). No one determines to abide to the truth may survive in such corrupted community (Isaiah 59:15).

Isaiah 59:14-15

14 So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. 15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

True Justice

True justice is based on the words of God who is perfectly righteous. Justice is not really justice if there is no judgment and the consequence of punishment. For judgment and punishment serve not only as a reprisal for the illegal conduct of the offenders educating on the seriousness and consequence of the offense, but also as a means to console and compensate the victims. Everyone should praise God for He loves righteousness and justice and the world is full of his unfailing love (Psalm 33:5). We should also take note that the world is imperfect, wicked people seem to have their ways somehow to cause harms and hardships to many including people who love God. Justice as established and maintained by humans will not be able to catch up and stop all wickedness. But God’s perfect justice will be established and unrighteousness will be completely eradicated in the new heaven and new earth (Psalm 1:6, Psalm 37:38, Revelation 21:8). God will be the King of all who are saved by His grace in both the Old and New Testament times. All who have received salvation will naturally look forward to the Kingdom of God because His justice is fulfilled and righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13). There will be no more pain, mourning, death or crying which are caused by sins in addition to the sicknesses and calamities in the present world (Revelation 21:4). Everyone in the Kingdom of God will live in His glory and blessings forever (Revelation 22:5).

Psalm 33:5

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Psalm 1:6

6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads to destruction.

Psalm 37:38

38 But all sinners will be destroyed; there will be no future for the wicked.

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

2 Peter 3:13

But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

Revelation 21:4

4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

Revelation 22:5

There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

The Refinement of Mankind

Mankind is in a sinful state living in a fallen world. Refinement is a process to remove sins and impurities through hardships, trials and tribulations. Refinement is given out of the love of God to preserve and save people from destruction because of sins (Psalm 66:8-10). Refinement brings people to humility and to seek God for mercy, forgiveness and renewal. To illustrate, consider the failure of David. After committing adultery with Bathsheba and murdering her husband Uriah in order to cover up his sins, the spiritual condition of David was full of darkness. Yet God sent prophet Nathan to expose David’s sins and announced the punishments he would receive. David repented with a contrite heart and cried for the mercy of God (Psalm 51:2). The outcome of refinement God desires is that sinners repent of their sins and walk in His words like David did. However, not all people will turn to God and be saved but continue their wicked way (Daniel 12:10).

Psalm 66:8-10

8 Praise our God, all peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; 9 he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping. 10 For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver.

Psalm 51:2

Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Daniel 12:10

10 Many will be purified, made spotless and refined, but the wicked will continue to be wicked. None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand.

God Himself Involves in the Refinement of Mankind

In addition to adverse circumstances, God prepares ways for people to repent and come to Him. He sent prophets to warn sinners on the consequence of sins, admonish sinners to turn away from sins, invite sinners to turn to Him for forgiveness and salvation. In the old covenant, Leviticus system was established to offer animals as the symbolic means to sacrifice for the redemption of sinners. In the new covenant, the Messiah Himself came and offer Himself as the true sacrifice for all sinners (Zechariah 13:1) --- once and for all. The Holy Spirit will dwell in the new lives of believers to guide them to walk in the words of God (Jeremiah 31:33, Ezekiel 36:25-27). Therefore, God always involve Himself closely in the refinement of mankind. This shows how much God loves and cares for mankind. Therefore, the Scriptures teach that refinement is done on living persons with the presence and power of God. No where in the Scriptures teaches that refinement is done in hell which is the place of separation from God.

Zechariah 13:1

“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.

Jeremiah 31:33

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Ezekiel 36:25-27

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

The Permanency of Hell

There will be people who perish and permanently not see the light of life (Psalm 49:19). The permanency of new heavens and new earth along with the permanency of hell fire and worms are prophesied together as a direct contrast to each other in the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 66:22, 24). The permanency of hell fire and worms mentioned by prophet Isaiah are confirmed by Jesus as He taught us about the serious consequence of sin and that we should avoid it at all cost (Mark 9:47-48). These dark and tragic conditions about the future of the wicked coincide to what prophet Daniel says about everlasting contempt (Daniel 12:2). Therefore, based on the revelations in the Scriptures, it is unwise to expect and look for the refinement in hell or the non-existence of hell as some religions or thinkers believe. While there is light, it is the best time to return to the Lord, love and serve Him only (Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13). We turn to the Lord not merely out of fear of punishment but the Lord is good, full of mercy, grace, righteousness and justice. His words are true and beautiful: more precious than pure gold. While we live, we should all praise Him (Psalm 146:2).

Psalm 49:19

19 they will join those who have gone before them, who will never again see the light of life.

Isaiah 66:22

22 “As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me," declares the LORD, “so will your name and descendants endure.

Isaiah 66:24

24 “And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

Mark 9:47-48

47And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Daniel 12:2

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Deuteronomy 6:13

13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name.

Psalm 146:2

I will praise the LORD all my life; I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

The Execution of Justice by God

God is the God of justice and love. To save people from sin, He even sent His one and only Son to suffer the tortures, insult and painful death for us such that we may escape the condemnation by God. To say God is sadistic and vengeful is a complete misnomer when God administers justice which rightfully implies judgment and punishment for evils. Some may think that the punishment by consignment to hell is cruelty. But, I think this criticism is not valid. Firstly, we do not really know the situation in hell in great details. The Bible does reveal that hell is an unpleasant and dreadful place and it is a dwelling place for sinners separate from God (Isaiah 66:24, Mark 9:48). Secondly, the punishments in hell will vary. For instance, a story told by Jesus about an ungodly rich man who died and lived in hell but he was able to engage in conversation and even showed cares for his brothers still living (Luke 16:28). Apparently, the rich man received a body suitable for living in the conditions of hell. Thirdly, the Scriptures teach that cruelty is an attribute of wicked people and certainly not the attribute of the righteous (Proverbs 12:10). I think that God’s means of punishment are appropriate without resort to method of cruelty that violates His character of righteousness. On the other hand, the tortures and crucification that Christ suffered in the hands of wicked persons were cruelty. In addition, these were the sins we could identify in the suffering of Christ: false accusation, false witness, betrayal of innocent for personal gain, hypocrisy, false judgment for political expediency, All these sins were committed in order to create a facade of legitimacy for a treacherous murder of a righteous person. When Christ resurrected, the sins of deception, giving and receiving bribes were committed to cover up the truth. These are the sins that happen frequently throughout ages of all mankind. It is relevant to say that our sins cause the death of Christ who knew it in advance but gladly take up the penalities of sins out of His love of the world. As light and darkness are mutually exclusive to each other, so are righteousness and sin. Sinners are literally enemies of God because He is holy and righteous. Yet, God loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son Jesus Christ to die for the sins of even His enemies (Romans 5:10) such that they might be forgiven and reconciled to Him by faith in accepting this precious gift of salvation. Therefore, it is a complete misnomer to say that God is sadistic and vengeful. In fact, God’s love is deep and wide and has been truly demonstrated by both His words and deeds: while we are sinners He died for us (Romans 5:8). However, let us not forget that God loves justice. He will take vengeance in the prerogative sense to satisfy justice according to the times He deems appropriate (Deuteronomy 32:35, 41). Justice will have to be satisfied: either by God’s Son or by ourselves. I honestly do not see why we should reject God’s grace and the blessings of a new life while continue living as adversaries to the God of holiness and righteousness.

Isaiah 66:24

“And they will go out and look on the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; the worms that eat them will not die, the fire that burns them will not be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind."

Mark 9:48

where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Luke 16:28

for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’

Proverbs 12:10

10 The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.

Romans 5:10

10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Romans 5:8

8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Deuteronomy 32:35

35 It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."

Deuteronomy 32:41

41 when I sharpen my flashing sword and my hand grasps it in judgment, I will take vengeance on my adversaries and repay those who hate me.

Focus on the Bright Future

Why do we focus on the subject of punishment and hell instead of the love and blessings of God? Hell is only a place for the condemned sinners. But, all sinners who go to God for the gift of salvation can be justified by the grace of God who paid for the terrible consequence of sin. Sinners who accept God’s grace of salvation by faith will be justified and do not need to worry about the subject of hell. We should worry about hell for people who have not been justified by God and go on their own way until the end of their lives. As ambassadors of Christ, Christians should preach the good news of salvation to people who are not yet reconciled with God. Human beings are created in the image of God and human lives mean to live in the glory and blessings of God forever (Psalm 36:9). The very fact of separation from God, the author of life, even for a short duration is a tragic and gloomy situation let alone consignment in hell forever.

Psalm 36:9

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

Conclusion

Judgment by God is the event everyone must face after life on earth (Psalm 9:7-8, Psalm 105:7, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Hebrews 9:27). The outcome of the judgment is the everlasting life for the righteous and everlasting contempt for the unrighteous (Daniel 12:2). No one is righteous before God (Psalm 143:2) and is destined to be separated from God’s glory and blessings forever. The solution to this critical problem is not religion, heritage nor effort to do well. The solution is the grace of God who Himself is our Redeemer (Isaiah 63:16). Of course we now know that God saves sinners by His Son Jesus Christ who was Word that became flesh living among us (Micah 5:2) and offered His body nailed to the cross as the redemption price of all sinners (Isaiah 53:5). We obtain salvation by faith in accepting this priceless, precious gift of redemption. There are two kinds of information about hell: information originated from men or information revealed to mankind by God. I rather listen and believe the information revealed by the One who came from heaven. His mission in the world was to save sinners from sin.

Psalm 9:7

The LORD reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment. 8 He rules the world in righteousness and judges the peoples with equity.

Psalm 105:7

He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth.

Ecclesiastes 12:14

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.

Hebrews 9:27

Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Daniel 12:2

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Psalm 143:2

2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.

Isaiah 63:16

But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.

Micah 5:2

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."

Isaiah 53:5

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.



Jesus the Rabbi from God - Part 5

clock April 2, 2011 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:5

5 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.

This is the fifth article of the discussion on the differences between Judaism and Christianity. The fifth difference as shown in the next paragraph is extracted from an article published in a Judaism website. If you read carefully, you will see that Judaism stresses that human effort and mental determination are the keys to a relationship with God and rewards. Again, a deeper answer to the quest of building a good relationship with God and blessings can be found in the conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus who said that spiritual cleansing and rebirth by the power of God is the only answer (John 3:5).

Judaism teaches that the righteous of all the nations will have a place in the World to Come. That means that all people who try to have a relationship with God, and to serve him and live rightly go to “heaven" (to use a Christian concept). Whereas, Christianity teaches that ONLY those who believe in Jesus will go to Heaven, no one can have a relationship with God without Jesus, no matter how much they love God and try to serve Him.

Common Human Frailty

It is a very noble goal to pursue righteousness and have a good relationship with God. In reality, this good and ideal goal has failed to realize for all people of the world. This includes even the elect nation Israel which experienced the special guidance of God: liberation with the strike of ten plagues in Egypt, crossing the Red Sea, feeding of manna in the desert, leading with pillar of fire and pillar of cloud and more. Israel was also blessed with great leaders and prophets who led and spoke according to the words of God. Moreover, Israel received the written laws of God. Yet, the nation failed to have a good relationship with God. Therefore, the warning given through Moses came true (Deuteronomy 30:15-18), the nation of Israel was conquered and its people scattered throughout the world. It is purely the faithfulness and grace of God that Israel returned to its own land to re-establish as a nation on May 14th, 1948 (see article the Valley of Dry Bones for more details).

What about the Gentile world? Do the gentile nations fare better than Israel in terms of seeking God and His righteousness? I invite you to look for the answer in multiple levels: international level, national level, community level, and individual level. Look at these levels with reference to historical books and documents, news from newspapers, radio, television and the Internet. Verify these information with your own personal contacts, experience and evaluate these findings fairly with critical thinking. You will see that world history is knitted together with wars, violence, injustices of nations against nations and people against people. Most people we encounter do not know God or superficially possess certain deity concepts obtained from different cultural religious practices, let alone pursue a rightful relationship with Him. Individual morality and values are shaped by the world views and peer pressures rather than the words of God. Therefore, it is not surprising to see struggles and violence in the macro levels which are simply a reflection of the lower component levels of groups of individuals representing their own selfish interests rather than the teachings of God. On the other hand, although we may not be the causes of these injustices and violence directly, it does not mean that we are good by our non-participation in evil acts. It is good to shun evils according to the Scriptures. But, the Scriptures also teach us actively to take action to do right, seek justice and defend the oppressed (Isaiah 1:16-17; James 4:17). To illustrate this point, a young and religious man went to see Jesus with a very humble heart and asked what good things that should be done to obtain eternal life (Matthew 19:16). Since the religious person asked what good things to do to exchange for eternal life, Jesus told him to keep the commandments. The young man asked what commandments to observe. Jesus listed a few commandments dealing with interpersonal relationship: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother, love your neighbor as yourself. The young man was so confident about his own righteousness, he answered that he kept all these commandments. Jesus then asked him to sell his wealth, give it to the poor and follow Him. The young man realized that he could not do this for he was a very rich man and went away sad (Matthew 19:22). This story illustrates that even a diligent, religious person could not fulfill all the requirements of the laws when examined closely. Can anyone say that he or she is righteous before God in light of the essence of the laws: love God and love your neighbours to the maximum extent without reservation (Deuteronomy 8:5, Leviticus 19:18)?

Matthew 19:16

16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"

Matthew 19:22

22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Deuteronomy 6:5

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Leviticus 19:18

18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

Disqualification to a Good Relationship

No one should disagree to the fact that we have done wrong in thoughts and behaviours in light of the holiness of God who created us in His image. The very fact of committing a single sin disqualifies us to approach God to build up a good relationship with Him even we may have a good intention. To help us to understand our disqualification, let us consider the ceremonial laws which emphasize and teach the holiness of God and the separation of man and God because of sin. For example, in order to eat the Passover meal, the participants have to be ceremonially clean (Numbers 9:6-7). Conversely, being ceremonially unclean signifies the state of sinfulness: a disqualification to approach God. In other words, the participants are acceptable to God because they are ceremonially clean which symbolizes their state of righteousness and are therefore justified before God. Of course, we are not talking about the face value of ceremonial cleanliness but the significant meaning it represents that is the acceptance by the God of holiness. The fact that the participants may enjoy the Passover meal teaches that the participants are deemed righteous and accepted by God. The question is how do the participants become qualified to eat the Passover meals? To answer the question, we should look at the very first Passover which took place in Egypt when the Israelites were under the bondage of slavery and oppression. In addition to following the instructions given by God of how to prepare and eat the Passover lamb, the key to the answer is the blood of the lamb which God commanded the people to put on the top and sides of doorframes (Exodus 12:7). When God saw the blood, the people inside the houses were spared from destruction (Exodus 12:13) where they could eat the Passover meat. Therefore, it is not the righteous things the participants have done that earn them the merit of acceptance but the shedding of the blood of the sacrificial lambs. Moreover, the animals used in Passover should be without defect (Exodus 12:5). A defective animal would also be disqualified to be used in the Passover because defect signifies the state of sinfulness. This is a significant teaching that the Messiah who is without sin became the sacrificial lamb for us, the sinners who become justified because of His shedding of blood and death (Isaiah 53:4-5). It is the sacrifice of the Messiah that removes our disqualification to approach God. We should take note carefully also the importance for the Israelites in following the instructions revealed by God to Moses and Aaron to put some blood of the Passover lambs on the sides and tops of the doorframes in order to escape God’s judgment. The Israelites in Egypt would not be saved from the plague had they prepared the Passover in their own creative way. By the same token, we cannot obtain salvation today by our own inventive ways no matter how excellent we thought our ways are sincerely, but to trust and obey God’s way: the sacrifice of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:7-8).

Numbers 9:6-7

6 But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day 7 and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the LORD’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?"

Exodus 12:7

7 Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs.

Exodus 12:13

13 The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

Exodus 12:5

5 The animals you choose must be year-old males without defect, and you may take them from the sheep or the goats.

Isaiah 53:4-5

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Isaiah 53:7-8

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

The Futility and Deceit of Religions

According to statistical surveys, atheism is of minority in the world population (see Demographics of atheism). In other words, most people have religious beliefs or some awareness of deity and spirituality. If the world is so religious, why is the world filled with all kinds of evils. The answer is quite obvious: most people are not worshipping the true God truthfully and spiritually. In other words, there are many people worshipping false gods and there are people apparently worshiping the true God but not in a truthful way. To illustrate the first case, the Bible has records of people being lured into worshipping false gods by their lusts for sex and food (Exodus 34:15). Some people were so deceived that they even sacrificed their children to idols (Ezekiel 3:37). These false gods worshippers were motivated by illicit lusts and fell into the trap of deception. Nowadays, human sacrifices to false gods are not common or at least not openly practised in the more civilized societies, but the fact that many people are attracted to religious practices that provide satisfaction of self-seeking desires, pleasures and lusts is still true today. For example, there are gangsters who are religious and worship regularly and even offer significant amount of money in temples for their gods. The reasons they worship because their businesses and lifestyles are acceptable to those gods and they may pray for their selfish success and security for themselves for their engagement in illicit operations. There are also religions that teach nice social codes of conducts or morality, but lack of power to actually change human behaviours because the gods and teachings of these religions are merely created objects of human thoughts.

Exodus 34:15

15 “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.

Ezekiel 16:20

“‘And you took your sons and daughters whom you bore to me and sacrificed them as food to the idols. Was your prostitution not enough?

Religious Camouflage

Perhaps the most deceiving situation about religions is when people are worshipping in disguise. There are countless number of people past and present wearing religious clothes, doing religious rituals, and speaking about Scriptures but inside their hearts are far from God they claim they worship (Isaiah 29:13). They approach God without a true heart of worship and sometimes even with hidden agenda of various types: social, business, or political motivations. These worshippers do not have a true personal relationship with God let alone obey the words of God (2 Timothy 3:5). Some of these people possess special charisma and energy such that they become ringleaders and establish organizations or even new religions to deceive others in followings their invented ideas. Usually, they themselves are deceived and become the instruments of Satan (2 Timothy 3:13). Many people join these organizations or religions because their ideas are appealing to their values and thoughts. Some join these organizations or religions simply for the benefits these religious systems provide: economical, social, political. They engage in the religious activities because of the requirements of the religious systems not because of their personal commitment and love of God and His words. As a contrast to these religious followers, the Bible commends a group of people who lived in Berea during the early church history who would not blindly accept religious teachings even though they were taught by the great and well-known apostle Paul. But they would examine the Scriptures, the written revelation of God, to see if Paul was communicating the truth (Acts 17:11). For they knew that God would not contradict Himself by communicating inconsistencies with new messages conflicting the writings of the prophets. They knew that God would not lie and would not make mistake when He revealed the truth to the prophets. Therefore, any new messages were false if they were inconsistent with the Scriptures already revealed to the prophets.

Isaiah 29:13

The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

2 Timothy 3:5

5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

2 Timothy 3:13

13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

Acts 17:11

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

Examples of Religious Deception

To be more deceiving, these religious systems may say and do things that are legitimate and commendable from the outside such that they look more attractive and real. Praise be to God, that our great teacher Jesus Christ has taught us a simple way to discern the truth and falsehood: by looking at the fruits (Matthew 7:17). If a tree is really a good tree, it will bear good fruit and cannot bear bad fruit. If a tree is really bad, it will bear bad fruit and cannot bear good fruit. A classic illustration is the People’s Temple which appears to be a Christian church with a heart for the society. They even set up soup kitchen, provided housing, food, and job assistance to the needy people in the 1960. Eventually, the real hidden agenda of the leader Jim Jones was revealed especially after the murder of an American Congressman Leo Ryan and the church members committed mass suicide by drinking poison (and some members were coerced to do so). Their leader was actually an atheist used the church as a platform to push his political agenda (please refer to the Wikipedia article “Peoples Temple" for details).

Matthew 7:17

18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Another classic example of religious deception is Adolf Hitler. Some people think that Hitler was a Christian. In fact, I came across a web site which posts a collection of many writings, speeches and photographs of Hitler appearing in churches and shaking hands with church leaders as evidence to support the view that Hitler was a Christian. However, there is a fundamental fault of the whole argument that this web site represents: the conclusion is drawn without reference to the fruits that Hitler actually produced to see if his actions were compatible to the teachings of Jesus Christ. As we know we cannot tell a person purely by his talks and even writings because many people do fall into the category of liars and hypocrites for various reasons. According to the Scriptures, the essence of all the laws may be distilled into two statements: 1) love God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, 2) love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:25-28). As we know, when Hitler was in power from January of 1933 to May of 1945, it is estimated that 11 millions people were murdered because they were deemed undesirable in the eyes of Hitler and the Nazi party. Of the 11 millions, 6 millions were killed simply because they were Jewish. The persecution and killings were carried out systematically and deliberately in the forms of unjust laws, tortures, inhuman concentration camps, and dead camps over a period of more than12 years. Anyone with a fair mind and conscience should see that these were not acts of a person loving God and his neighbors. What does Jesus really teach? Jesus teaches that we should not be hostile even to people who do not accept you or accept the Gospel (Luke 9:52-55, Matthew 10:14). In fact, Jesus demonstrated His love and forgiveness on the cross even to people who falsely accused Him, insulted and tormented Him (Luke 23:34, Acts 13:26-28). It is God who will exercise judgment on all people at a proper time in a fair manner. Therefore, Hitler’s acts were sufficient evidence to the conclude that he was not a Christian. In fact, Hitler’s murderous acts and phony words tell that he was more of an instrument of the devil who is a murderer and liar (John 8:44). If anyone thinks that Hitler is a Christian, then he or she is deceived like many Germans living under Hitler’s reign and political manipulation of the Nazi Party. By the way, to see this deception of Hitler and the Nazi Party from the perspective of a true Christian living in this particular era, I recommend reading the article about Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Luke 10:25-28

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher," he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 26 “What is written in the Law?" he replied. “How do you read it?" 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’" 28 “You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live."

Luke 9:52-56

52 And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; 53 but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. 54 When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them.

Matthew 10:14

14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet.

Luke 23:34

34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.

Acts 13:26-28

26 “Fellow children of Abraham and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. 27 The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. 28 Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed.

John 8:44

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Analysis of Religious Camouflage

Religious systems appearing as Bible believing are deceptive when the religious leaders twist the true meanings of the Bible in order to mislead and manipulate the audience such that they become supportive to their cultic ideologies. Many people are deceived because they do not study and critically evaluate the messages communicated to them in light of the Scriptures. Do you know that even the devil knows the Scriptures but applies it in a deceptive way? Before commencement of His earthly ministry, Jesus was tempted by the devil in various ways. One temptation was the quote of Psalm 91:11-12 by the devil to support its suggestion to Jesus to jump down from the pinnacle of the Herod’s temple in Jerusalem as a test of the special protection and caring of God (Luke 4:9-12). Correctly using the words of God, Jesus answered the temptation of the devil by pointing out that testing God was an violation of the basic truth of trusting God (Deuteronomy 6:16).

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Luke 4:9-12

9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God," he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 11 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’" 12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’"

Deuteronomy 6:16

16 Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.

To illustrate this type of deception using Hitler again as a modern day example, let us review an extract of a speech that Hitler made in Munich on April 12th, 1922:

“In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison."
Adolf Hitler, April 12, 1922

Hitler quoted the Biblical stories of temple cleansing by Jesus (John 2:13-16, Luke 19:45-46 ) as a support to his action of oppressing the Jews to the extent of eliminating the Jewish race under his power. Let us analyze how Hitler twisted the true meanings of the Scriptures:

1. Jesus did not address the whole Jewish population as brood of vipers, adders or poison but a specific group of religious hypocrites who were willing to unjustly persecute the righteous, in this case Jesus Himself, in order to protect their positions and religious systems (Matthew 23:33-34). In fact, Jesus showed tremendous compassion to the general Jewish population by teaching them the words of God such that they might receive blessings (Mark 6:34). Moreover, Jesus did not eliminate even the religious hypocrites plotting against Him by His divine power which He could certainly be capable (Matthew 26:53). But instead, Jesus gave them a sharp reproach in words for their good. Had they repent, they too would receive forgiveness and salvation from God.

2. Temple cleansing was an assertive action to stop the trading activities in the temple. Merchants and animals were driven out. The terms “vipers and adders" were not used in the story but in a different scenario (see 1. above). The people that were driven out of the temple were not targeted because they were Jews but because of their engagement in trading activities inside the temple regardless of their races. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech clearly targeted against the Jews.

3. Although Jesus used a whip in temple cleansing, the Bible did not mention that He used the whip to scourge people as Hitler suggested in his speech. The whip was used as a visible tool to establish authority and drive out sheep and cattle. Jesus used only verbal communication to people in the story. For example, Jesus ordered the people selling doves to take the doves out of the temple with a clear reason (John 2:16). The merchants could certainly come back to the temple for normal worship had they want to. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech was to justify his crime of genocide of the Jewish race.

4. The reasons of temple cleansing were absolutely right because the merchants had no regard to the place of worship and prayers and they turned the temple court into a market place — imagine the noises, wastes, smell and congestion that these selling activities created in the temple. Moreover, merchants engaged in unfair and greedy business tactics to take advantage of worshippers especially those who came from afar. Jesus’ action was to preserve the reverence of the temple which represented the holy presence of God. Jesus’ action pointed out the merchants’ indifference to the holiness of God and their practice of greed blatantly in the temple. On the other hand, Hitler’s speech reflected only his hatred towards the Jewish race and had nothing to do with teaching people to honor and revere the holiness of God.

John 2:13-16

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!"

Luke 19:45-46

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written," he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’"

Luke 19:45-46

45 When Jesus entered the temple courts, he began to drive out those who were selling. 46 “It is written," he said to them, “‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’"

Matthew 23:33-34

33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.

Matthew 26:53

53 Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?

Mark 6:34

When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Psalm 91:11-12

11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

Deuteronomy 6:16

16 Do not put the LORD your God to the test as you did at Massah.

Seeking and Knowing the One True God

People are deceived by cults when they do not evaluate messages received in light of the Scriptures but are attracted to the charisma of the cult leaders, their claims and offers. On the other hand, God will reveal Himself to those who earnestly seek Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). An illustration is the story of an Ethiopian eunuch who was an important official in charge of the treasury in Ethiopia. He went to Jerusalem to worship. On his return trip, he was reading a passage in the book of Isaiah about the prophecy of the Messiah being offered as a sacrifice for the sins of all people (Isaiah 53:7-8 see above) but did not understand it. God honored the eunuch’s heart in seeking the truth and sent Phillip, one of the twelve apostles, to explain the passage to him (Acts 8:34-35). The eunuch not only understood the prophecy about the Messiah he was reading, but believed the gospel with great joy. The story of the Ethiopian eunuch teaches three things that God values: a heart to seek and come near to God, an interest to know Him through His words and the faith in response to His words. We all face problems and dissatisfaction in life. The correct reaction for all of us is to seek and come to God for His help and salvation, know Him through His words and respond to His words with faith. God is faithful, merciful and graceful, He is inviting us to come to Him: the source of salvation, living water and life (John 7:37, Matthew 11:28). God’s bona fide invitation written in the Scriptures is meant to be extended to all people: first to Israel then to all nations.

Deuteronomy 4:29

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Acts 8:34-35

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?" 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

John 7:37

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink.

Matthew 11:28

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Seeking God Should Mean Seeking God

As king David says in Psalm 24:3-6 and Psalm 119:105, we should seek God according to His words with a pure heart. To illustrate this important point but in a negative sense, consider the familiar story of Jesus’ performance of the miraculous sign to feed more than five thousand people with five barley loaves and two small fish. After this multitude of people enjoyed a delightful dinner, they looked for Jesus the next day. However, the reason they looked for Jesus was not because they realized that Jesus was the Messiah who would give salvation and eternal life, but merely for food itself (John 6:26). Sadly many had listened to the words of God and seen the miraculous sign which substantiated who Jesus really was yet could not find the Messiah and went away empty (John 6:66). If people with impure objectives could not find God and receive His blessings even when the Messiah was right in front of them, then it should not be difficult to understand that many people do not know the one true God today. Some are downright atheists, many are religious merely for different reasons: cultural, social, business, or political.

Psalm 24:3-6

3 Who may ascend the mountain of the LORD? Who may stand in his holy place? 4 The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. 5 They will receive blessing from the LORD and vindication from God their Savior. 6 Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek your face, God of Jacob.

Psalm 119:105

105 Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.

John 6:26

26 Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

John 6:66

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

But How Can We Start?

Now the question is since we do not have a pure heart to begin with (Proverbs 20:9), how do we even start to seek God in a right way, know Him and have a relationship with Him? If you know that you do not have a pure heart, congratulations! For you are already on the right track. People who really seek God will cry out to God for mercy and help to have a pure heart (Psalm 51:10). For we know that we have failed and we are not worthy to have a good relationship with God and need God to heal us and to create a pure heart in us (Psalm 51:1-2, 10). Therefore, the prerequisite to approach God is to realize our spiritual corruptness and be sorrowful for our iniquities and ask God for forgiveness and cleansing. Do not try to approach God merely with religious rituals which are meaningless and are not genuine worship. True worship should originate from and reflect our broken spirit and contrite heart which are acceptable to God (Psalm 51:16-17) for God desires a genuine heart of repentance. God is faithful and will honor His promise and gives us salvation through the Redeemer and a new heart through washing and rebirth of the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 59:20-21, Ezekiel 36:25-26, Titus 3:5, Ephesians 5:26, 1 Peter 1:23 ). Then we may have a good relationship with God — the relationship God originally desires when He created us.

Proverbs 20:9

9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"?

Psalm 51:10

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:1-2

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:16-17

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17 My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

Isaiah 59:20-21

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD. 21 “As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips, on the lips of your children and on the lips of their descendants—from this time on and forever," says the LORD.

Ezekiel 36:25-26

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. 26 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

Titus 3:5

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Ephesians 5:26

26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word,

1 Peter 1:23

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

After All It Is God Who Seeks the Lost Sheep

When we come to God, we should understand that while the response to come to God is absolutely right and wise, it is the grace of God that He prepares salvation and sends mankind the invitation and enable them to come to Him. For by sinful nature, all humans are like lost sheep that have gone astray and do not know God (Isaiah 53:6). Salvation is God’s grace that He uses various means to draw us to Him to have life (John 6:44). The negative aspect of hardship in life and its short duration that we all experience reflect our iniquities and the wrath of God. But, the positive aspect reflects the loving will of God for they motivate us to seek Him for salvation and satisfying life (Psalm 90:9-10, Psalm 90:13-14). Moreover, God even uses supernatural means to draw people to Him. The conversion of the Pharisee Saul who became apostle Paul is a good example. Before conversion, Paul was a devoted Jew who was so confident in the flesh that he called himself a Hebrew of Hebrews. From his birth to adulthood, he followed the law faultlessly and he was so zealous for God that he persecuted Christians thinking that he was serving God (Philippians 3:3-6). On his way to obtain letters from the high priest and Council in order to arrest Christians for punishment, the resurrected Jesus appeared to Paul near Damascus and he became blinded. Paul was then instructed to go to Damascus. A believer sent by God to open the eyes of Paul and told him that he was chosen by God to witness to the unbelievers (Acts 22:14-15). Indeed, Paul repented and became a great apostle in the early church.

Paul was so antagonistic to the early Christians and yet God showed mercy in a miraculous way to give him salvation. A question may arise concerning the impartiality of God. How about the religious leaders who persecuted Jesus to death? Did God show mercy miraculously to save them? To answer the question, it is best to study the Bible a little more.

1. The religious leaders persecuted Jesus unjustly based on falsehood. They attempted to look for false evidence and false witnesses in order to put a righteous person even to death (Matthew 26:59). This collaborative act of false persecution reflected their lawlessness in the core covered with a facade of religious righteousness. In comparison, Paul did not resort to this kind of illegal means but legally followed the rules of a faulty system.

2, In fact, the religious leaders were also given the opportunity to witness an even bigger miracle: resurrection. Moreover, the resurrection was foretold by Jesus and specifically when it would happen. Well aware of this prediction, the religious leaders asked Pilate, the appointed Roman Governor, for help to seal and guard the tomb with Roman soldiers to make sure no one might steal the body of Jesus away lest the disciples might spread the “lie” that Jesus was resurrected (Matthew 27:62-64).

3. After learning the fact that Jesus did resurrect as He foretold, they decided to cover the fact up by giving money to the soldiers and asking them to spread the lie that the body was stolen by the disciples while they were asleep. In other words, they decided to exchange falsehood with truth. In comparison, upon knowing the fact, Paul repented sincerely and embraced the truth wholeheartedly.

Isaiah 53:6

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

John 6:44

44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Psalm 90:9-10

9 All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. 10 Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Psalm 90:13-14

13 Relent, LORD! How long will it be? Have compassion on your servants. 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

Philippians 3:3-6

3 For it is we who are the circumcision, we who serve God by his Spirit, who boast in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.

Acts 22:14-15

14 “Then he said: ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. 15 You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard.

Could these be the reasons that Paul was saved by God while those religious leaders were not? The facts seem to suggest that those religious leaders were victims of their own mind and decision: the love of falsehood rather than truth. We should say for sure that God is sovereign and He made decisions according to His own accord. By the way, when we study Matthew 11:23, Jesus delivered a judgment on Capernaum for people living there rejected Jesus’ message even many miracles had been performed there. The judgment hints that Sodom , a wicked city destroyed by God with fire, might be saved had the miracles performed in Capernaum were performed there (Matthew 11:23). We know that Sodom was destroyed rather than saved by God. Therefore, the judgment of Sodom illustrates the sovereignty of God and even the opportunity of repentance is a gift of God. We must admit the limitation of human mind and we do not fully understand all the biology, physiology, biochemistry, and physics of even a single cell of our own body, do not expect we fully understand the thought and wisdom of God who created all things. But, we can trust that whatever He does is right and good for He is a God of righteousness, justice, faithfulness and love (Psalm 89:14).

Matthew 11:23

23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day.

Psalm 89:14

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

Conclusion

We know that the world is under the influence of Satan while humans are susceptible to temptations and falling into sin. Therefore evils abound everywhere with varying degrees in different nations and communities including the land of the elects, Israel. As prophet Isaiah says that truth is nowhere to be found and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey of evil people. In other words, the world system is corrupted and broken. Mankind cannot save themselves and survive from this corrupted system and no one may intervene the situation (Isaiah 59:15). Although a noble goal, it is hopeless to expect anyone to live a godly life and establish a good relationship with the God of holiness by one’s own efforts. Many religions have been established to address the spirituality problem and answer the question of life destiny. Unfortunately, religions are man-made institutions and are deceptive under the influence of Satan and are mixed with human thoughts and impure agenda. They give a false sense of security and will not help us to build a good relationship with the one true God. To make mattes worse, religions have been used as vehicles to assert human manipulation and control.

We should all be grateful to the only one true God for He has prepared salvation to save people from sin in the beginning according to His foreknowledge and grace. God Himself accomplished salvation by His power and righteousness (Isaiah 59:15-16). God came to Israel as a person called the Redeemer (Isaiah 59:20) to bring salvation first to Israel and then to other nations (Genesis 22:18). The blessings of forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God is too costly to be earned by anyone but are given as a gift to anyone who will answer His invitation to come to the Redeemer. Only by God’s power, Israel and the whole world can be saved. Salvation and reconciliation with God are not our efforts but God’s work and power to redeem and transform sinners by His Son and the Holy Spirit respectively. The way of salvation prepared by God Himself is the only way (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Isaiah 59:15-16

15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him.

Isaiah 59:20

20 “The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins," declares the LORD.

Genesis 22:18

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me."

1 Corinthians 1:18

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

As a note to this article, we also know that the majority of Israel as a nation is not willing to accept Christ as the Redeemer and Messiah (Isaiah 49:7). But, the Scriptures have prophesied that there will be a time when Israel will come to the end of the rope and the Messiah will come for the second time to save Israel from her many enemies (see Time of Trouble for Jacob). It is the second advent when Israel will receive Christ as the Messiah and the whole house of Israel is saved (Jeremiah 31:33-34). As I am writing this article, the world is like setting the stage for Israel to be surrounded by unfriendly nations and left alone. However, God said through prophet Jeremiah that Israel will never cease to be a nation (Jeremiah 31:35-36). But friends, do not waste one more minute without a good relationship with God. Now is the opportunity, do not delay in accepting God’s grace of salvation.

Isaiah 49:7

This is what the LORD says— the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel— to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."

Jeremiah 31:33-34

33 “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest," declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more."

Jeremiah 31:35-36

35 This is what the LORD says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— the LORD Almighty is his name: 36 “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight," declares the LORD, “will Israel ever cease being a nation before me."



Jesus the Rabbi From God - Part 4

clock February 8, 2011 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:7

7 You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’

This is the fourth article on the discussion on the difference between Judaism and Christianity. The fourth difference is extracted from an article published in a Judaism website as follows. This article addresses the comments on Christian teachings about sin, responsibility, and salvation. A deeper answer to these comments can actually be found in the conversation between a Pharisee named Nicodemus and Jesus who said that spiritual rebirth was required to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:7).

Judaism teaches that man has to take personal responsibility for the choices he makes, and that those choices carry with them consequences. Some of these consequences are meted out on earth, and some after death. Christianity teaches that it is not man’s fault that he is a sinner – he was born that way. There is no personal responsibility related to salvation – it is taught in most churches that one can do nothing at all to merit this relationship with God, it is entirely a “gift” given only to those who believe in Jesus. The rest of the world goes to Hell.

Human Accountability to the Creator

Actually, Christianity does teach that we all have to take personal responsibility for the choices we make. It is a man’s fault to be a sinner when he or she chooses to do evil. On the other hand, he or she will be rewarded by God when he or she does good. In fact, sin is so ubiquitous and carries its serious consequences that the Book of Hebrews in the New Testament emphasizes that no one may escape judgement (Hebrews 9:27). Judgment implies the appraisal of things that have been done of both good resulting in rewards and evil resulting in punishment according to the responsibilities and opportunities God has given. To teach this important point, Jesus made it clear with the parable of a master and three servants. The master gave bags of gold to the servants for management according to their abilities. The first servant was given ten bags of gold, the second five bags and the third one bag. The master went away in a journey for a long time and returned and asked the servants to give an account of the gold that they were responsible for. The first servant used the ten bags of gold and earned ten more bags. Similarly, the second servants earned five more bags with the five bags he was given. These two servants were appraised as good and faithful servants and received their rewards. But, the third servant did nothing but dug a hole in the ground and hid the gold he was given. He then reported to the master saying that he was afraid of losing it as a justification of his lack of act of responsibility. The master told him that he should have simply used the gold as money and deposited it in the bank and earned its interest. (To digress a little bit, in modern financial terms, one possible way this servant might do is to sell the gold and used the proceeds to buy a Call Option of the same amount of gold and deposited the balance to a bank. Given a long period of time, interest income will offset the premium of the Call Option. In fact, there are bankers accepting gold instead of cash as deposit and pay interest on the gold deposit. ) This servant was rebuked as wicked and lazy and was thrown into darkness where there were weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:30). This parable illustrates that we are endowed with time, talents and opportunities in various degrees by God. We will be held accountable to God on how we make good use of these endowments. Jesus plainly stated that the people in their graves would rise to face judgment according to the works they had done in their lifetime. Those who has done good will resurrect to live but those who has done evil will be condemned (John 5:28-29). Therefore, Christianity does teach that humans are responsible for their choices and their sins in life. Moreover, Christianity uses the Scriptures, the revelation of God, as the ultimate authority in determining what is right or wrong. Since humans are accountable to God, it is perfectly reasonable to use His words and not our thoughts as the frame of reference to evaluate what is right or wrong. According to the Scriptures, humans are expected to live a life glorying God and will be judged accordingly.

Hebrews 9:27

27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment,

Matthew 25:30

30 And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

John 5:28-29

28 “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.

Falling Short of the Glory of God

Having said that all humans are responsible for living a life glorying God, the Scriptures declare that all have failed and fall short of the glory of God (Isaiah 53:6a; Romans 3:23). The ease and disposition for humans to sin and the prevalence of sinners in the world make some people think that it is not a man’s fault to sin because he is born that way. Some suggest the term “human nature” to embrace and accept such common phenomena. The Scriptures do not teach that humans are not responsible for sinning because they are born that way. After all, Adam and Eve were not born but were made by God directly. They lived in the garden of Eden without the prevalence of sinners living among them and the exposure to corrupted, violent practices and media to influence their minds and behaviours. They failed because they simply did not obey God’s word but listened to the temptation of the devil. If Adam and Eve could failed even in such ideal conditions, it should not be too surprising that we who are born in this imperfect world could fall into sin even more easily. Some may complain that we sin because of the circumstances that we are born into. Well, this is a common human nature of pointing fingers and making excuses when we do wrongs. Did not Adam point the finger to Eve when he ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Did not Eve point the finger to the devil? Although their finger pointing excuses were not unfounded, the fact was they all failed to obey the word of God and were held accountable to it.

Isaiah 53:6a

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way;

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

The Dire Future Versus the Bright Future of Mankind

According to God’s justice, the consequence of sin is death. The situation is like humans are born only to fall into sin and die as a consequence. Moreover, death according to the Scriptures does not mean the death of the body only but also the second death after resurrection and judgment of God. This seems to suggest that a dire future for life is a sure thing. This is true only if we view life without a good relation with God. I view life as a glass half empty and half filled. Life without God is in the empty half of the glass and the glass will be draining to emptiness completely. The dire future will surely set in eventually. But, life never means to be lived without God from its inception when God created humans in the garden of Eden. Humans are created in the image of God. Life in essence needs God in order to flourish, be satisfied and to last forever. Human life is designed this way by God and never means to live without a good relationship with Him. It is like fish living in water which provides the proper environmental conditions and nutrients for the fish to grow and live. It is true that we are born in an environment full of difficulties, temptations and we are too weak to overcome all these challenges. If we have a good relationship with God, we can overcome them. These challenges become training exercises that help us to grow in characters and faith in God. We may then know God and His words are trustworthy and are more precious than gold as we walk closely with Him in the world journey of life, rely on His guidance, strength and provision in all of our works and needs. It is a sure thing that we can live an abundant life and claim victory for the glory of God. A life having a good relationship with God is like in the half filled portion of the glass and it will be filled more and more with the grace and blessings of God until overflowing. As King David said that even in the threat and challenge of the enemies, he could still enjoy peace and security because God was with him and was under His protection and provision. And God’s goodness and love in his life would be with him now on earth and forever in His Kingdom (Psalm 23:5-6).

Psalm 23:5-6

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. 6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Gift of Salvation

However, Jesus was not teaching to obtain salvation by good works. Rather, in His conversation with the Pharisee Nicodemus, Jesus taught that we sinners need to be born again to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:7). Notice that born is in passive voice meaning that no one can give birth to oneself. Just as physical birth is given to a child by the mother and father, spiritual birth is given by God. Therefore, being born again is perfectly consistently with the fact that salvation which results in spiritual rebirth is a gift for no one can give birth to himself or herself. Consider human life is a gift of the parents in the sense that they not only give birth to their children but usually love and nurture them from infants to adolescents and even beyond their adulthood. The children start in a stage of helplessness but through the sacrificial gifts of time, energy and money of the parents, the infants may grow up to maturity. Similarly, sinners are in a stage of spiritual helplessness ready to be condemned and die. It is purely out of the mercy and the sacrificial love of God (John 3:16) that we may escape judgment and even receive a new life of bright and eternal future. Jesus says that human parents who are not perfect know how to give good gifts of their children, how much more the holy and loving heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those who simply ask (Luke 11:3). He also warns that anyone who does not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (Mark 10:15). Therefore do not think that we may enter the Kingdom of God by our good deeds. Rather we should ask for the gift of salvation from God with humility. Let us recall the time of Israelites when they were under the oppression and bondage of slavery in Egypt. They lived under the oppressive power of Pharaoh and were powerless to save themselves. They cried out to God for mercy and God answered them and sent Moses to lead them out of Egypt to freedom. This event also illustrates that salvation is indeed a gift to the helpless out of God’s faithfulness, mercy and love (Isaiah 63:9). Now, let us repent of our own way and turn to the Lord who is full of mercy and love and He will forgive and redeem us freely (Isaiah 55:7).

John 3:16

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Luke 11:13

If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Mark 10:15

15 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Isaiah 55:7

Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

Isaiah 63:9

In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

The Truthfulness of Salvation

God is faithful and just. When He says He saves sinners from sins, He means it. His salvation means redemption and forgiveness of committed sins by paying for the penalty of sins by the Messiah, His Son. His salvation means the blessings of the Holy Spirit indwelling in believers and renewing them such that they abhor sins while restoring to His image which has been lost before salvation. Salvation, according to the Scriptures, never means to be established by God such that sinners may stay in sins continually while enjoying the redemption and protection of God. Otherwise, salvation becomes a license of unrighteousness issued by God which is completely contradictory to the characters of God who is just and upright in whatever He does (Deuteronomy 32:3-4). In fact, the teaching of salvation has been misunderstood by some people who do not study the Scriptures and call salvation “cheap grace” especially because it is given as a free gift. In reality, salvation entails a spiritual revolution happening inside a believer’s life: the struggling and conquering of the old sinful nature who is still present. Sinful nature is universally present in all mankind. But, those who have received salvation have the power to overcome the sinful nature by obeying the law of the Holy Spirit rather than the law of the sinful nature. Those who have not received salvation might not even be aware of the presence of the sinful nature which is so ingrained they simply accept it as part of the human nature and live accordingly (Romans 8:5). This spiritual revolution inside will turn a believer into a different person, so different as if he or she is born a different person (2 Corinthians 5:17). Before receiving salvation, the mind and body of the unsaved person offers himself or herself to the control of sin as a slave to impurity and wickedness. After receiving salvation, with the renewal of the Holy Spirit, the believer comes to understand and appreciate the truth and beauty of the teachings of God in contrast to the corruption and ugliness of sin. The believer will obey with a truthful heart the words of God which has claimed his or her allegiance (Romans 6:17-19). Therefore, salvation is not the consequence of performing works the sinner deems good, but rather the consequence of salvation is the redemption of the sinner by the Son of God, the renewal of heart and mind of the sinner by the Holy Spirit resulting in performance of good works (Ephesians 2:10).

Deuteronomy 32:3-4

3 I will proclaim the name of the LORD. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! 4 He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

Romans 8:5

5 Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.

2 Corinthians 5:17

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

Romans 6:17-19

17 But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. 18 You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. 19 I am using an example from everyday life because of your human limitations. Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness.

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

The Tragedy of Rejecting the Gift of Salvation

It is quite difficult for me to understand the deep and inner thoughts of human beings for many seem to have made up the mind to reject the truth of salvation and go on their own ways. It is not the lack of grace or generosity of God that He does not extend the blessings of salvation to all people. In fact, He reveals to us in the Scriptures that God loves the whole world. In the Book of Genesis, He said that Abraham would be the father of all nations and all nations receive blessings through Him. It is quite obvious that blessings of God should be predicated on salvation for without salvation, no blessing can be meaningful. Try to think of all the blessings you can imagine even including the capacity to live forever, but they also come with the condemnation of God. All the thinkable blessings will become impossible or even negative. In the New Testament, God expressly says that He loves the whole world (John 3:16) and He desires all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4). God loves people so much that He came to the world as a human being, endured insults, betrayal and sufferings for mankind and even died a painful death on the cross in the hands of sinful men. The prophets, His deeds, death and resurrection have testified that Jesus is indeed the Messiah (Please see the article Jesus the faithful and true witness). Therefore, we are not being judgemental but have to accept the statement in Thessalonians 2:10 that people refused to love the truth and so be saved.

1 Timothy 2:3-4

3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Thessalonians 2:10

10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.



Jesus the Rabbi from God - Part 3

clock January 13, 2011 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:3

3 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”

This is a continuation of the discussion on the difference between Judaism and Christianity. The key verse of this article is also based on the conversation of Nicodemus, a pharisee, a religious and political leader in the Jewish community, and Jesus. An eye witness of Jesus ministry, Nicodemus knew that Jesus was sure to be a teacher sent by God as evidenced by the miraculous signs that Jesus performed. Nicodemus had a sincere heart to know the truth. Knowing that most of his counterparts were against Jesus, he was willing to take the risk to see Jesus, but at night time. This article discusses the following difference that I found in a Judaism web site:

Judaism teaches that God does not change and that the way man has always accomplished a relationship with God is through sincerity and humility of heart, approaching God in repentance and love. Christianity teaches that God has changed and that the original method of relating to God was through the sacrifices, but now Jesus was the final sacrifice and one must claim his blood in order to establish that relationship.

Actually, Christianity teaches that God is unchanged. To see this important point, we can study Hebrew 13:8 which says that Jesus Christ, who is God incarnate, is the same in the past, now and forever in the future. In fact, the immutability attribute of God is important for us to establish faith in Him and His word. For we can trust that God is absolutely reliable and He will hold true His gifts and promises (James 1:17). Therefore, God’s word is synonymous with truth (John 17:17). Truth is true always and will not change with reference to time and circumstances. In fact, Jesus emphasizes that the word of God as revealed in the Law through the prophets will not change even for a tiny little bit (Matthew 5:18).

Hebrews 13:8

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

James 1:17

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

John 17:17

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.

Matthew 5:18

18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.

It is good to approach God with a humble, repentant and sincere heart. But, we should also know that human feelings are subjective and affected by emotions and should not be taken as a reliable standard to approve our thoughts and behaviours that we think acceptable to God. As prophet Isaiah says that the righteous acts in our eyes are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). After all, it is illogical to expect people in sinful state by transforming themselves by living a holy life no matter how sincere they are because their thoughts and instincts are sinful in the first place. Even prophet Isaiah called himself a sinner when he saw the vision of the presence of the holy God. Isaiah exclaimed with helplessness as a sinful and broken person before God and needed His help to save him from sin. An angel cleansed him in the vision by touching his lips with a live coal (Isaiah 6:5-7). Therefore, we should not approach God merely according to our own thoughts, traditions, feelings, or emotions, no matter how sincere they are. Rather we need to approach God in His terms as revealed through the prophets and written in the Scripture. A commonsense example to illustrate this important point is that we need the tickets issued by the United Airlines to go on board of an United Airlines plane. We will not be admitted according to our own terms and enthusiastic motive to go on board no matter how sincere they are. We cannot certainly make our own tickets to go on board. God’s terms of salvation is the Law. The Law is given through the prophets as a measuring yardstick such that sinful thoughts and behaviours are made clear to us. In other words, the Law makes us conscious of sin and realized the need of salvation from sin. The Law also prescribes sacrifice as the means to receive God’s mercy of forgiveness. In the past, sacrifices with animals are prescribed and performed in the Levitical system. However, we should understand that these sacrifices are only images of the one and only true sacrifice acceptable to God as performed by the Messiah. When Jesus was dying on the cross, He announced, “It is finished. (John 19:30) which signified the completion of His atonement work. Therefore, there is no need of performing any more sacrifices with animals. However, according to Judaism, the teaching of cessation of animal sacrifice but trusting in Jesus is unacceptable for it implies the inconsistency and the change in mind of God about salvation of mankind.

Actually, God has not changed the way of salvation. His way of salvation has been declared right in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve sinned by listening to the temptation of Satan rather than the words of God. God declared that Satan would cause the offspring of the woman to suffer (bruise His heel), but the offspring of the woman would destroy Satan (bruise the serpent’s head). This was the prophecy of the coming of the Messiah who came as a man, born of a virgin as prophesied in more details by prophet Isaiah (Genesis 3:15, Isaiah 7:14). Satan continues to tempt the descendants of Adam and Eve into sin and blind them lest them see the truth and receive salvation. This results in death for the wages of sin is death. The only possibility of victory against Satan is the grace of God bestowed to mankind by the Messiah Jesus Christ. As apostle Paul said that by the grace and power of God, we can claim victory over the devil (Romans 16:20). As we all know, the Messiah did not come on day one when Adam and Even sinned. According to the plan of God, the Messiah came as a descendant of Abraham who is the father of the nation Israel. Abraham was not born when declares His way of salvation. As recorded in Chapter one of the book of 1 Chronicles, Abraham was born many generations later after Adam. The relevant question to ask is how did the people who lived before the coming of Messiah obtain salvation? By the grace of God, these generations of people were not written off from salvation completely. God always save people by His grace and by faith. To understand this important point, consider Abraham who was a good and decent person in our human standard, but not before the holy, perfect standard of God. Therefore, we can say that Abraham did not obtain salvation by doing good works or living a moral life according to his own conscience or any rules or laws at that time. For no matter how good his works were, they could not stand the holy standard of God. Rather, Abraham was saved by faith in God who accepted Abraham by His grace (Genesis 15:6). How do we know Abraham was a person of faith? The Scriptures record about the acts of obedience of Abraham out his faith in God. Abraham left his familiar home to a strange place which God promised to give to him as inheritance. By faith, Abraham was willing to sacrifice his beloved one and only son Isaac. This inconceivable command made Abraham very sad but he trusted that God was gracious and good and understood that God’s power could overcome even death and He could resurrect Isaac to life somehow. For Abraham trusted God’s former promise that He would establish an everlasting covenant with Isaac and his descendants (Genesis 17:19) and Isaac would surely not die at such a young age without any child of his own. Abraham trusted that God was faithful and He would not contradict Himself. Indeed, we know by studying Genesis that God had prepared a ram in place of Isaac for sacrifice (Genesis 22:13). This story illustrates the importance of faith and the gracious provision of substitutionary death by God (Genesis 22:18). According to God’s holiness and justice, we are all sinners and will have to perish. But, by His grace, He provided sacrifice of atonement such that our sins are forgiven. This grace was first shown to Abraham when He had faith in God. This grace is extended to all nations such that all mankind may receive God’s blessings with faith through Abraham’s offspring whom we know is the Messiah when we study the Scriptures (Genesis 22:18, Romans 4:16). The sacrifice of atonement was performed with animals because the Messiah, who was the offspring of Abraham was not born yet. To use the analogy of Airlines tickets again, the tickets issued by the Airlines company are required to go on board a plane. Then all the sacrifices performed before the coming of the Messiah were like coupons or gift certificates issued by the Airlines company which could not be used directly to go on board a plane but can be exchanged for tickets that are acceptable. This is reasonable for animals and their blood had no value in payment for sin for animals have no intrinsic attribute of righteousness and cannot be used to settle the payment for unrighteousness. Animal sacrifices were symbols of the real sacrifice of the Messiah in which the righteous was punished for the unrighteous. As prophet Isaiah said that we are forgiven and healed by the substitutionary suffering of the Messiah (Isaiah 53:4-5). The sacrifices performed with animals had their merit as a form of worship acceptable to God. Also they had instructional and prophetic significance pointing to the one sacrifice of atonement performed by the Messiah. On the other hand, God points out that the core substance of animal sacrifices per se are not relevant (Psalm 50:13). Therefore, God has not changed His salvation plan. His salvation plan was revealed to the prophets in various times before the coming of the Messiah. In Genesis, we learned the coming of the Messiah (woman’s seed) who would destroy Satan although the Messiah would be afflicted with sufferings by Satan. As time progressed, God revealed more about His salvation plan that the whole world would receive His blessings through the offspring of Abraham. Certainly, the greatest blessing that mankind may have is the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. For without the blessing of forgiveness by God, there will be judgement and death. All the other blessings would be impossible and meaningless.

In the book of Isaiah, God revealed the details of the sufferings of the Messiah. He would be pierced and marred beyond human likeness (Isaiah 52:14, 53:5) i.e. tortures, beatings, and crucification for our sins (sacrifice of atonement). However, the Messiah would not be kept in the grave for long, but arose with power and glory i.e. resurrection, and exalted as King of kings, Lord of lords (Isaiah 52:13, 15; Psalm 16:10). Jesus Christ has indeed come and fulfilled His mission of salvation of sinners such that the requirements of the Law are settled and sinners may be set free from sins and be justified by God (Matthew 5:17). There is nothing we can do to redeem our lives: not works performed out of our good intention nor sacrifices of animals. For our righteous acts cannot measure up the holiness of our God. Moreover, the redemption price of a life is too costly and we cannot afford to pay for it by any means (Psalm 49:8). But, God is gracious and He knows that nothing we cannot do to earn salvation nor afford to pay for it. He gives salvation and a new, meaningful and satisfying life acceptable to the Kingdom of God for free (Isaiah 55:1; John 3:3). No one should hesitate to come to Jesus and accept Him as the Saviour and Lord. We really do not know how much time we have or how long we may live. As prophet Isaiah admonishes us that we should value this gracious opportunity that God gives us. While the time of grace has not expired, we should turn to the Lord, the source of living water, with a repentant, and humble heart. He will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7).

Genesis 3:15

15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Roman 16:20

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Genesis 15:6

6 Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.

Genesis 17:19

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.

Genesis 22:13

13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son.

Genesis 22:18

18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

Romans 4:16

Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring—not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all.

Isaiah 53:4-5

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Psalm 50:13

13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

Isaiah 52:14

14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—

Psalm 16:10

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

Isaiah 52:13

13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Matthew 5:17

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

Psalm 49:8

the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough—

Isaiah 55:1

“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

Isaiah 55:6-7

6 Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.



Jesus the Rabbi From God - Part 2

clock December 24, 2010 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:14-15

14 Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

This is a continuation of discussion on the differences between Judaism and Christianity. Part 1 of this blog article discusses why Jesus came in the flesh which is hard to be understood by Judaism believers. Part 2 looks at the teaching that Judaism believers can come to God directly while Christianity teaches not. The original statement being discussed here is extracted from an article written by a person of Judaism faith as follows.

“Judaism teaches that man can have a direct and intimate relationship with God. Christianity teaches that man must go through an intermediary because he is unable to have a relationship with God in his sinful state.”

The Original Relationship with God

Frankly, I was a little surprised to realize that there is such a difference from the Judaism perspective by reading the above statement. First off, Christianity teaches us that the original and normal relationship with God is and should be direct and intimate. Mankind are created in the image of God who is the source as well as the power, substance and meaning of our life - the eternal and abundantly blessed life (Psalm 36:9, John 1:4). Without a close relationship of God, our life will be meaningless, gloomy and withers eventually - a tragedy. The Scripture which is God’s inspired word, presents the close relationship between God and man in various ways such as shepherd and sheep relationship (Psalm 23:1, John 10:11), counselor and counselee relationship (Isaiah 9:6, John 14:16-17), teacher and student relationship (Job 36:22, Matthew 11:29, Matthew 28:19), father and child relationship (Isaiah 9:6, Psalm 68:5, Romans 8:15), husband and wife relationship (Isaiah 54:5, 2 Corinthians 11:2), king and subject relationship (Psalm 74:12), and friendship (Isaiah 41:8, John 15:15). As we see, the attributes of an intimate relationship with God are beneficial as well as caring and loving. We see that God is ready to give us good things, guidance, care and love that transcend both our physical and spiritual dimensions of life. God’s deeds, words, love, and care make us satisfied and sing with joy (Psalm 119:103, Psalm 42:8, Psalm 92:4).

Psalm 36:9

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.

John 1:4

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

Psalm 23:1

1 The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing.

John 10:11

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Job 36:22

22 “God is exalted in his power. Who is a teacher like him?

Matthew 11:29

29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew 28:19

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

John 14:16-17

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

Psalm 68:5

5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Romans 8:15

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”

Isaiah 54:5

5 For your Maker is your husband— the LORD Almighty is his name— the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.

2 Corinthians 11:2

I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.

Psalm 74:12

But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth.

Isaiah 41:8

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend,

John 15:15

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

Psalm 42:8

By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.

Psalm 92:4

For you make me glad by your deeds, LORD; I sing for joy at what your hands have done.

Psalm 119:103

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

The Broken Relationship with God

Having studied that the Scripture teaches that man should have a direct and intimate relationship with God in order to live a wonderful and meaningful life God intends all to live, we may ask the question why there are not many people living the life that God intends. To answer the question, let us look for an answer from the very beginning of humanity. When we study Genesis, Adam and Eve indeed had a direct and intimate relationship with God in the garden of Eden. When they disobeyed God by eating the fruits of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they were cast out from the garden. Sin entered the world. Relationship between man and God was broken. Man could only approach God through offerings as Abel’s offering with animals as recorded in Genesis 4:4. In later time, the Levitical system was established in which a priest was selected to represent many people to offer sacrifices before God for the remission of sins. Since the priest was a human being and was sinful and could not approach God, he had to offer sacrifice for himself first before he could represent the people in offering sacrifice (Leviticus 9:7). The system emphasizes that sinful persons cannot approach God. The sacrifices that involve killing and shedding of blood of animals are the images of the one true and effective sacrifice that would be fulfilled by Jesus Christ who would come to the world as the Passover Lamb to save people from sins.

Genesis 4:4

And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering,

Leviticus 9:7

7 Moses said to Aaron, “Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and the people; sacrifice the offering that is for the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.”

Restoring the Relationship with God

In Old Testament time, only the high priest representing the people may enter the the Most Holy Place which signified the presence of God (Leviticus 16:16-17). This clearly teaches that sinful man cannot come close to God let alone having a direct and intimate relationship of Him. In other word, sin need to be atoned and cleansed before man may restore the good relationship with God. This sacrifices of animals were only images of the true offering acceptable to God. Although the acts of sacrifices were acceptable to God in terms of humility, worship and prayers before Him (Psalm 50:8), the animals being offered were not really something God wanted (Psalm 50:13). After all, God owns everything in the universe which of course, includes all the animals in it. However, using animals for sacrifices taught us that there was a price to pay for redemption of sin. On the other hand, sacrifices involved shedding of blood and killing of innocent animals who had nothing to do with our sin were symbolized by their physically unblemished condition, while the sinners enjoyed the benefit of redemption. We should know that animal sacrifices were the images of the one true sacrifice of the Messiah. First, animals such as cattle and goats could be costly,but they are worth far less than human beings. It would be fair to say that the sacrifices of animals come far short as a redemption price for human lives. Second, sacrifices with animals are ceremonial and instructional in nature and had to be repeated again and again by the worshippers. Despite of these shortcomings, the ceremonial sacrifices were used temporarily until the one true sacrifice performed by the Messiah. Ceremonial sacrifices was terminated de jure by God when the Messiah died and the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom such that man may approach and reconcile with God not by the blood of animals but Jesus Christ (Mark 15:37-38). Unfortunately, not all people accept the sacrifice of Jesus such that they may receive the grace of redemption as God promised. Moreover, ceremonial sacrifices were terminated de facto when the Jerusalem temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. and along with it the termination of the Levitical system. One may argue that the temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem some day and the ceremonial sacrifices will be resumed. But, the question is why God allowed the temple be destroyed if it is the place of worship and performance of sacrifices for redemption. Assuming the temple could be rebuilt someday, there is still a question for people who lived in the period from 70 A.D. to the day the temple is rebuilt: where do they receive redemption and forgiveness of sins according to the ceremonial laws of Moses which required an establishment of the Levitical system? The answer is clear that it is the plan of God to replace the temporary Levitical system with one real and for all sacrifice of the Messiah who served as the High Priest and performed the sacrifice with His own body. Therefore, people of all nations, Israel and the gentiles, may approach God through faith in the Messiah fulfilling the promise of God to Abraham who will become the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5). The glory, power, and scope of influence of the sacrifice of the Messiah was beyond comprehension and difficult to foresee. A Jewish person was tortured and crucified (Isaiah 52:14) like a criminal by the Roman soldiers and was expected to be forgotten after his death. However, the good news of salvation spread from Palestine to Asia Minor, Europe, Asia, Africa and around the world. Today, using the radio signals, countries and areas that could not be reached easily could listen to the good news of salvation. The gospel of redemption and reconciliation with God has indeed won the heart and mind of many people, nobles, and even kings around the world (Isaiah 52:15): United States, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, China, Germany, Philippines, United Kingdom, Italy, France and Nigeria to name but a few. These countries did not have the advantage of teachings and prophetic revelation from the Old Testament prophets such as Moses and Isaiah. Yet, they were included in God’s salvation plan by God’s grace. God’s grace of salvation first came to Israel, then to the whole world (Isaiah 52:9-10). Why would prophet Isaiah tell Israel be joyful when Jerusalem at that time was still under the control of the foreign empire. Although Israel was still under the reign and oppression of foreign power, physical freedom and prosperity are not the ultimate, real blessings from God who would take them away for the sake of discipline and correction. Israel should be joyful because redemption has come to Israel when the Messiah was born and saved people from sin such that people can be forgiven and approach God and receive His great richness of blessings. These blessings certainly include physical freedom and prosperity, but they are not the most important and do not necessarily come first. The most precious blessings are the acceptance by God, the consolation and the privilege to walk with Him in this life and forever. This wonderful gift of redemption started in Jerusalem will reach the whole world. As the psalmist says that God brings salvation to the earth (Psalm 74:12). Therefore, it is quite relevant for the whole world to celebrate Christmas joyfully for the gift of salvation. The materialistic and other aspects of celebration should be secondary if they are helpful in bringing out the meanings of Christmas - the grace and love of God.

Leviticus 16:16-17

16 In this way he will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the Most Holy Place until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

Psalm 50:8

I bring no charges against you concerning your sacrifices or concerning your burnt offerings, which are ever before me.

Psalm 50:13

13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats?

Mark 15:37-38

37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. 38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

Genesis 17:5

5 No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

Isaiah 52:9-10

9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the LORD has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem. 10 The LORD will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

Isaiah 52:13-15

13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him— his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness— 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.

Psalm 74:12

But God is my King from long ago; he brings salvation on the earth.

Evidence of Good Relationship with God

We should take note that God’s grace of redemption of the world is not reflected merely by the quantity of believers and the popularity of brand names of religion, but also by the quality of changed lives of the redeemed as manifested by good fruits in life. The fruits of redeemed lives are good evidence of the restoration of intimate and direct relationship with God. The Scripture reveals that God is holy, just, merciful, full of love and expect His people to pursue and live out such characters (Zechariah 7:9-10). We should expect the redeemed possess these characters. Being declared righteous because of the redemptive work of Jesus, the redeemed will not be happy to stay and live in sin because of the indwelling Holy Spirit’s conviction. Being grateful to the redemption, the redeemed will pursuit mercy and love in their new lives in Christ. Numerous people who have been bonded by sins, additions are set free and live new lives as good citizens in their neighborhoods, works and societies to reflect God’s glory. Many organizations have been established in the name of Christ to promote meeting the needs and well being of many people: hospitals, schools, universities, charities, and even organizations that bring justice to victims of crimes, and prevent further injustices in the world. Many Christians left the comfort and safety in their home countries and live their lives as missionaries in foreign countries in order to share the good news of salvation. Some of them even risk their lives to share the good news of salvation while making good contributions to the societies of tribes and nations where Christians are mistaken as enemies. In other words, they are lovingly willing to do good to others including those that are hostile to them. Humans by nature are usually nice only to their loved ones such as their children or others who are nice to them. Being born again by the Holy Spirit, Christians can love and sacrifice themselves. This is possible only because they are empowered by God - a solid evidence of close relationship with God. Is not God showing mercy and love to the world who live in sin and hostile to Him? Of course, He is. As apostle Paul, who was once a devoted Pharisee, said that while we were still sinners, Christ who was God incarnate, died for us (Romans 5:8). But, one day God will execute judgment on unrighteousness when the time of grace expires. Friends, while we still have the precious opportunity, the utmost important opportunity in life, do not let it slip away.

Zechariah 7:9-10

9 “This is what the LORD Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Once and For All Atonement

The ceremonial laws were established to teach exactly the concept of sin versus the holiness of God, His reproach and judgment of sin, His provision of a temporary system of atonement of sin based on His grace and mercy. Even in the Old Testament time, there are laws forbidding unclean things and unclean people to participate in ceremonies of offering and sacrifices and the fellowship with people who could participate in such ceremonies (Leviticus 7:21). But, the real essence of sin and holiness are not about physical cleanliness of food and people nor about the correct protocols in running the ceremonies. Jesus teaches what really defiles a person is internal and invisible which will manifest outwardly into sin (Matthew 15:17-20). Therefore, merely following ceremonial laws from the outside is futile without a repentant heart to walk in righteousness inside (Micah 6:7-8). The true way of worship that is acceptable to God is a truthful heart from the inside which is guided and encouraged by the Holy Spirit (John 4:23-24). Of course, sinful man cannot approach God directly as people in the tabernacle or temple could not enter the Holy of Holies which represented the presence of God and had to be represented by a priest in offering sacrifices. Jesus who has no sin came as the high priest and sacrificed Himself by shedding the blood on the cross so that every one who trusts in Him will be forgiven and is justified on the basis of Jesus’ sacrifice as clean and righteous before God (Hebrews 2:17; Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24). Unlike the ceremonies held in the Old Testament time, the atonement and cleansing of sin are now real and practical. The atonement is real because the sacrifice is not performed with animals by shedding their blood which was only symbolic and had to be repeated periodically. The sacrifice of Jesus is real and infinitely costly for God Himself bears the cost of redemption by sending Jesus His Only Son to become a man, suffered and died on the cross. The cleansing of sin is effective because sin is not only paid for in full by Jesus’ sacrifice, but the Holy Spirit will dwell in a believer’s heart and guide the believer to walk in the right way according to the words of God (Jeremiah 31:33). As King David said that he would do what God desired because God’s laws were in his heart (Psalm 40:8). Moreover, Jesus’ atonement is effective in scope for one sacrifice is performed and all mankind may received the benefit by simply receiving it with faith as a gift. As Jesus taught that Moses lifted up a snake made of bronze such that sinners might look at the snake and be healed and forgiven, He Himself would be lifted up on the cross such that whoever believes in Him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15).

Leviticus 7:21

Anyone who touches something unclean—whether human uncleanness or an unclean animal or any unclean creature that moves along the ground —and then eats any of the meat of the fellowship offering belonging to the LORD must be cut off from their people.’”

Matthew 15:17-20

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”

Micah 6:7-8

7 Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? 8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

John 4:23-24

23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Hebrews 2:17

For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Isaiah 53:5

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

1 Peter 2:24

“He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.”

Jeremiah 31:33

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.

Psalm 40:8

I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.”

In conclusion, Christianity also teaches that man may have a direct and intimate relationship with God. As a matter of fact, this is the will of God that man should have a direct and intimate relationship with Him. However, man in a sinful state cannot have this relationship with God who is holy and righteous. Jesus taught that He was lifted up i.e. crucified such that people who believe in Him will not perish but have eternal life. This wonderful grace of God has been demonstrated and prophesied in the desert when the Israelites sinned and were destined to die of judgment (John 3:14-15). But, out of God’s mercy, God told Moses to construct a bronze snake that whoever looked at the bronze snake would live (Numbers 21:7-9). This is the image of the salvation fulfilled by Jesus Christ that whoever believes in Him may approach God, the source of eternal life. After all, without redemption and forgiveness of sin, a sinner will be a sinner forever. Judgment of sin by God is death and separation from God for eternity let alone to have an intimate relationship with Him. Therefore, God’s grace of redemption is a great blessing that no one can afford to ignore. Life without a close relationship with God is not worth living at all. By the grace and wonderful blessings of God, a person in Christ Jesus indeed has a direct and intimate relationship with God for the Holy Spirit dwells in his or her body which now may be called a temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). Man may literally walk with and worship God daily now and forever. This is the direct and intimate relationship that God wants all to have.



Jesus the Rabbi From God - Part 1

clock November 14, 2010 02:00 by author wtsang

John 3:2

2He came to Jesus at night and said, "Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him."

Nicodemus, a member of the Pharisees and the Jewish ruling council came to see Jesus at night to learn the word of God. Nicodemus was a very religious person and occupied a prominent status in the Jewish community for he was a member of the ruling council. In addition he served as a teacher of Israel (rabbi) and therefore a religious leader of the community. Nicodemus was very wise too for unlike his counterparts, he observed and understood that Jesus should have come from God because of the miraculous signs that Jesus performed to prove His identity. As Nicodemus said that no one could do these miraculous signs if God was not with him. He came to see Jesus at night perhaps because of his position as a Pharisee for the Pharisees mostly did not accept the identity of Jesus. Therefore, he came to see Jesus in secret to seek the truth. Jesus accepted Nicodemus’s humility and his willingness even to take the risk in seeking the truth. Jesus taught him the essence of the good news of salvation that one should be born again by the Holy Spirit and not by religious rituals in order to see the kingdom of God (John 3:3) and salvation is initiated by God out of His great love of the whole world not Israel only. Salvation is made possible by his Son Jesus Christ who died for the sin of the world such that the world will not be condemned. Salvation can be obtained by believing in Jesus Christ (John 3:16-17).

John 3:3

3In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

John 3:16-17

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Judaism is the major religion in Israel even of today. The beliefs and teachings of the Pharisees are still retained after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 A.D. and become the basis of mainstream modern day Judaism. On browsing the Internet recently, I came across a question someone asked about the differences between Judaism and Christianity in a web site representing Judaism. The question is answered in a short article presumably by someone who knows Judaism to some extent, but may not be viewed as the authoritative view of Judaism. The answers given in the article are quite interesting and I would like to study those answers in a few blogs in light of the Scripture. When we study the Scripture which is the revelation of God we receive blessings as we receive His words and obey them. I will be using mainly the books common to both Christianity and Judaism namely the Torah in the sense of the Law, Prophets and the Writings. I will refer to the New Testament only to articulate Christian views in this discussion. However, the New Testament will not contradict the Torah if we study it carefully. Actually, the New Testament harmonizes with and fulfills the Old Testament and reveals God’s love, His righteousness, justice and His salvation to mankind. This is the first difference presented in the article and my comments in light of the Scripture follows.

“Judaism believes that God is Spirit, that He has no form, no likeness that could be fashioned. Christianity teaches that God put some of his essence into a human body, in the form of Jesus.”


Actually, Christians believe that God is invisible (1 Timothy 1:17) and is not limited by a physical body. But, we should not limit the power and flexibility of God by our limited human mindset and understandings. After all, we know that God is almighty and nothing is too difficult to Him. God is so wise, resourceful, flexible and agile (Ezekiel 1:16) that He can accomplish His purpose in the most wonderful way beyond our imagination. Yet, every thing that God does reflects His righteousness, justice and love (Psalm 11:7, Psalm 33:5). A simple principle of communication that we should also practice is to communicate in terms of the audience such as their language, background knowledge and their perception capability and preferences in order to get their attention, interest and comprehension of the message. God, the creator of mankind, whose wisdom cannot be fathomed surely knows how to communicate with mankind. A good illustration is how God communicated to Moses with the burning bush in which an angel appeared as a flame burning but without burning up the bush. This drew Moses’ attention and curiosity and he came near the burning bush. Then God talked to Moses in a voice about His salvation plan of the Israelites suffering in Egypt (Exodus 3:2,6).

1 Timothy 1:17

17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Ezekiel 1:16

16 This was the appearance and structure of the wheels: They sparkled like chrysolite, and all four looked alike. Each appeared to be made like a wheel intersecting a wheel.

Psalm 11:7

For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.

Psalm 33:5

The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of his unfailing love.

Exodus 3:2, 6

2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 6 Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Another example is when king Uzziah who was a very good king of Judah, died. Unfortunately, he became proud and sinned against the Lord by burning incense in the temple which only priests were allowed to do such that God caused him to die of leprosy. The death of king Uzziah was like a terrible blow to the nation for Uzziah had been a king of 52 years leading Judah to become a strong nation. The prophet Isaiah was saddened with the feeling of hopelessness by the death of king Uzziah. But God revealed Himself in a vision sitting on the throne in heaven (Isaiah 6:1). This is a good illustration that God being invisible could somehow communicated Himself in a visible manner. Another illustration, taken from the New Testament, is that God’s Spirit by nature is invisible but appeared like tongues of fire and came to rest on the early disciples such that they could know and remembered Jesus’ promise coming and indwelling of the Holy Spirit to all who believe Him after His ascent to heaven (Acts 2:3-4). Again, God used visible means to communicate the invisible in order to get the message across effectively.

Hebrews 1:1-2

1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.

Isaiah 6:1

1 In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.

Acts 2:3-4

3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

When it comes to salvation of mankind from sin, what means can be better for God to send His one and only Son in the form of man to communicate to mankind directly this very important message - the good news of redemption? This is the manifestation of the righteousness, justice, love, mercy, and glory of God to the world that Jesus came as a child born by the virgin Mary. This is in fact the ultimate salvation plan of God prophesied by prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 9:6-7). God even sent the prophet John the Baptist with the mission to prepare the hearts of people to repent from sins, and to serve as the witness of Jesus as the Messiah and the Lamb of God (Mark 1:1-4;John 1:29-30). Jesus came as the Word that became flesh dwelling among us full of grace and truth (John 1:14). Jesus’ birth by itself is a miracle for Jesus was conceived by the invisible Holy Spirit and in the virgin Mary’s womb. Amazingly, this event was recorded in Isaiah 7:14. Notice that Isaiah prophesied that the child name is Immanuel which means “God with us”. Therefore, the notion that God’s essence in the form of human body is not invented by Christianity, but prophesied by the prophets and fulfilled by the coming of Jesus. The reason Jesus was called the Word because He was the express image of God and communicated to mankind the invisible God’s glory, power, love, wisdom, and the revelation of the Father’s plan of salvation and judgment. Jesus communicated to us by both words and action which also served as an example of life to all mankind as created in the image of God (1 Corinthians 11:1). We know that a personal demonstration and example is important for the parents to teach their children about values and many other things. By the same token, we should understand that one reason why Jesus, who is God by nature, came in the flesh was simply to demonstrate and teach the way of life to the redeemed people who become God’s children. Of course there is also an important reason of God’s love which is beyond our understanding. For God is so big and magnificent that He would care for mankind especially when they had gone astray in sin. As the Psalmist wonders, “..what is mankind that you are mindful of them?” (Psalm 8:3-4). In fact, Jesus came and identified with mankind that He called us like family members: brothers, sisters, mothers if we walk in the word of God (Mark 3:34). On another occasion while Jesus was preaching, a woman in the audience shouted saying that it was a great blessing for the woman (i.e. virgin Mary) who gave birth to Jesus and nursed Him. But, Jesus said that it was rather the obedience of God’s word that brought us blessings not even of the fact of relating to Him by heredity in the flesh (Luke 11:27-28).

John 1:14

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Isaiah 7:14

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.

Mark 1:1-4

1 The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, 2 as it is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way”— 3 “a voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” 4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

John 1:29-30

29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’

1 Corinthians 11:1

1 Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

Psalm 8:3-4

3 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?

Mark 3:34

34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

Luke 11:27-28

27 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” 28 He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

By the way, I would like to comment on the statement: “Christianity teaches that God put some of his essence into a human body, in the form of Jesus.” Actually, the Scripture teaches that human body is created by God with dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7). In today’s terms, they are materials composed of common elements we can found on earth such as carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, calcium, iron, copper, zinc. We all know that God is invisible and His essence cannot simply be put in physical matter. Therefore, we should rather say that Jesus came in the flesh means that He took a human body and expressed God’s essence in the human body i.e. the body was simply an instrument to express God’s characters and plan. In fact, Jesus does not emphasize the value of flesh, but the Spirit which is closely associated with the connotation of essence of life (John 6:63). The Scripture does teach about resurrection and eternal life for those who trust God and are redeemed by God Himself into His Kingdom (Psalm 49:13-15; Daniel 12:2). Jesus who is God by nature has come in the flesh, died as a redemption sacrifice and resurrected as prophesied by king David (Psalm 16:10 ). Jesus’ resurrection demonstrated God is life and whoever trust in Him will see no death but have eternal life. Although our present bodies will decay in their perishable and weak form when we die, God has promised a glorious resurrection bodies that will last eternally for all who trust in Jesus for He has paid the redemption price with His sufferings in the flesh. All in all, Jesus came in the flesh to identify and communicate with mankind, to show His love and mercy by His sufferings, to demonstrate and give us the glorious hope of resurrection and eternal life. How marvelous is His wisdom and how wonderful is His work.

Genesis 2:7

7 Then the LORD God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.

John 6:63

63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

Daniel 12:2

Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.

Psalm 49:13-15

13 This is the fate of those who trust in themselves, and of their followers, who approve their sayings. 14 They are like sheep and are destined to die; death will be their shepherd (but the upright will prevail over them in the morning). Their forms will decay in the grave, far from their princely mansions. 15 But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.

Psalm 16:10

10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.



Jesus the True Vine

clock October 18, 2010 02:00 by author wtsang

John 15:1

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

The fruits of vine are used symbolically to represent the characters and behaviours God desired for His children. Israel is called the vineyard of God planted with choicest vines because Israel as a nation has the advantage of being formed, protected and guided by God. Unfortunately, Israel failed to bear fruits to God’s glory (Isaiah 5:1-2, 7). Although Israel has a strong religious system throughout history, many practise religious rituals out of man-made tradition without a genuine love and relationship with God. In other words, the outward performance of worshipping God is not consistent with the heart within (Isaiah 29:13). Being invisible, the heart is what God looks at because the heart reflects true love of God and obedience to His word (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). A genuine heart will bear good fruits that God desires. A hypocritical heart will bear bad fruits (Matthew 7:17-18). The failure of Israel to be a holy nation for God does not mean that the gentile nations are righteous and pleasing to God. Therefore the possession and knowledge of laws as revealed by God and the institution of a strong religious system cannot make people righteous. On the other hand, one cannot argue that people who do not possess the revealed laws of God are not guilty because they are also created in the image of God and by nature have unwritten laws in their heart called conscience (Romans 2:14-15). After Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the fruits of the tree of knowledge of Good and Evil, all people in the world, as descendants of Adam and Eve, know good and evil in their heart (Genesis 3:22). People will think and act against the conscience which is sin (James 4:17). Indeed, the whole world is full of sins in the past, present and future (Romans 3:9-10, 23) until God’s kingdom come when God will transform everything new after purging all the impure and corrupted things (Revelation 21:4-5).

Isaiah 5:1-2, 7

1 I will sing for the one I love a song about his vineyard: My loved one had a vineyard on a fertile hillside. 2 He dug it up and cleared it of stones and planted it with the choicest vines. He built a watchtower in it and cut out a winepress as well. Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit. 7 The vineyard of the LORD Almighty is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are the garden of his delight. And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.

Isaiah 29:13

13 The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5

4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.

Matthew 7:17-18

17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.

Genesis 3:22

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

Romans 2:14-15

(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

James 4:17

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

Romans 3:9-10, 23

9What shall we conclude then? Are we any better? Not at all! We have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. 10As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Revelation 21:4-5

4He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true."

The Key of Success

Jesus says that He is the true vine and we are the branches. Jesus means that He is the key in the success of bearing fruits in life. As a branch cannot bear fruit by itself without the water and nutrients supplied by the vine, we cannot bear good fruits in life by ourselves. As we know, our human nature is weak and tend to bear bad fruits rather than good fruits in life. But, if we are connected to Jesus as branches connected to the vine then we can bear good fruits by the power of God (John 15:5). If we are not connected to Jesus, we cannot bear good fruits.

John 15:5

5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

Connecting to the True Vine

t is not hard to understand that a branch not connecting to the vine will wither and die. While a branch connecting to the vine will receive water and nourishment to grow and bear fruits. The question is what we should do in order to connect to the True Vine. Actually, there is nothing for us to do in order to connect to the True Vine but to believe (John 6:29, John 3:16) and accept this free offer of blessing with faith in Jesus Christ (Isaiah 55:1, John 7:37-39). When we believe in Jesus, we will receive the promise of the Holy Spirit who will make the withering life flourish such that we may know to praise the Lord (Isaiah 12:2-3. Isaiah 43:20-21). This grace of salvation to the whole world was promised by God to Abraham (Genesis 18:18, Galatians 3:14) who was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel in which the Messiah Jesus came. Jesus is the Lord and Savior of Israel and the Gentiles. Therefore Abraham was prophesied as the father of many nations (Genesis 17:5) for Jesus, the Messiah was the Word became flesh, born of virgin Mary who was the descendant of king David who in turn was the descendant of Abraham (John 1:14).

John 6:29

29Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

John 3:16

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Isaiah 55:1

1 "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.

John 7:37-39

37On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. 38Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." 39By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

Isaiah 12:2-3

2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation." 3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

Isaiah 43:20-21

20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21 the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.

Genesis 18:18

18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.

Galatians 3:14

He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

Genesis 17:5

No longer will you be called Abram ; your name will be Abraham, for I have made you a father of many nations.

John 1:14

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When we received Jesus as the Savior, we will be very grateful to the forgiveness and new life that God gives us. This gratefulness, if genuine, will also comes with repentance and love of God in light of God’s words. The reason is that a new believer realizes he or she has been set free from the bondage of sin and its dark and tragic consequence and is given the privilege to enter the kingdom of light and becomes a child of God and receives His abundant blessings (Ephesians 5:8). Definitely the believer will be grateful and loves the one who makes all this possible. This is best illustrated by the act of a woman well known to be sinful in her own town when Jesus was attending a dinner invitation in a Pharisee’s house as recorded in the Luke gospel. One could imagine the degree of her sinfulness when even unrighteous people thought she was sinful. The woman brought a jar of expensive perfume and poured it to Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair in the dinner party at the Pharisee’s house (Luke 7:37-38). Her act was to show her gratefulness and love to Jesus by honoring Him in public. Her weeping reflected her repentance and mourning of her sins (Luke 7:47). Her act upon Jesus was, of course, predicated on her belief in Jesus’ teachings and His authority to forgive sins. Therefore Jesus said that it was her faith that saved her (Luke 7:50). This was in contrast to most of the people present in the dinner party who were questioning the authority of Jesus to forgive sins (Luke 7:49) for they did not believe in Jesus’ teachings and His offer of salvation. The host of the party did not even show common courtesy by giving water to Jesus as his guest to wash his feet (Luke 7:44). In Jesus’ time people commonly wore sandals walking on dusty and dirty road, therefore, it was common courtesy to offer water to guests for feet washing. Otherwise it was considered an insult. Perhaps this was also the reason the woman had to use her tears as water to wash Jesus’ feet. Therefore, it was obvious that the host, Simon, did not show any respect to Jesus let alone gratefulness and love of Jesus. Simon’s lack of gratefulness and love of Jesus was the evidence of his lack of faith (Luke 7:47). In general, non-believers do not know who Jesus is and some may even show no respect to Jesus. True believers know who Jesus is and what He has done to them and helped them to escape the tragic, destructive and eternal sufferings of sins. In other words, non-believers do not connect to the vine only true believers do.

Ephesians 5:8

8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light

Luke 7:37-38

37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Luke 7:44

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

Luke 7:47

47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Luke 7:50

50Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

Luke 7:49

49The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?"

Luke 7:47

47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

The Effect of the Holy Spirit

When we connect to Christ, the words of God will be be the center of our life (John 15:7-8) and we have a close communication with God through prayers and we may receive the power to bear fruits for God’s glory. Having the words of God in a believer’s life cannot be overemphasized. The Scripture is truth and is given to us by God. Unlike the teachings of humans, God's word is perfect, authoritative and effective in accomplishing His purpose of sending it (Isaiah 55:10-11). God's word will give comfort, and guidance to all believers as they grow in the relationship with God. In fact, the word of God is like the essential nutrients while the Holy Spirit is the power for the growth and bearing of fruits of the new lives in Christ (1 Peter 1:23, Titus 3:5). It must be emphasized that if the word of God is truly in the center of a believer’s life, the word of God will be put into action. As the book of James says that it is futile for someone merely hearing the word of God without putting it into action (James 1:22-24). Only doers of the word of God will bear fruits in his or her life. It must also be emphasized that the Holy Spirit dwelling in a believer’s life reminds and empowers a believer to put God’s word into action. It is important for a believer to walk in step or be attentive and obedient with the Holy Spirit in order to bear much fruits for God’s glory (Galatians 5:25).

John 15:7-8

7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Isaiah 55:10-11

10 As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

1 Peter 1:23

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

Titus 3:5

he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

James 1:22-24

22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

Galatians 5:25

25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

The powerful effect of the Holy Spirit on a believer’s life is taught by Jesus. A devoted religious person named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council came to Jesus in secret to ask for the way of eternal life. Jesus taught him the essential condition of entering the Kingdom of God. The condition to enter the Kingdom of God is being born again, not physically but spiritually. Notice that “being born again” is a passive voice because the action is accomplished by a third party due to the simple fact that a person cannot give birth to himself or herself. Being born again is accomplished by the Holy Spirit who will make a person who trusts in Christ a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) bearing good fruits for the glory of God. Holy Spirit is invisible but effective in actions in bringing changes on a believer as wind is invisible but its effect can be seen clearly. A simple example is when the wind blows, leaves will be swaying in a tree (John 3:8). When the Holy Spirit works on a believer’s life, we will see the effect on the believer’s life. There are many life changing stories of people who lived a very destructive lifestyle but were turned around and lived a fruitful life when they accepted Christ into their lives. They might be drug addicts, alcoholics, gangsters, sexually immoral addicts and criminals, but they were set free when they came to Jesus and lived a new abundant life free from the destructive bondage. We may not be all live under such terribly destructive bondage, but according to the Scripture, are all enslaved by the bondage of sins and fall short of the glory of God. We all need to trust in Jesus such that we may receive the Holy Spirit who will make us a new creation bearing good fruits in life based on the word of God (John 14:26, Galatians 5:22, James 1:18).

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!

John 3:8

8The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."

John 14:26

26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

Galatians 5:22

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

James 1:18

18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

The Process of Fruit Bearing

Bearing fruits is usually a process that takes time for believers. Some believers may bear more abundant fruits and more quickly than others (Mark 4:20). As branches connected to the vine takes time to grow and bear fruits, so is a believer takes time to be mature and bears spiritual fruits. We should be thankful for God’s grace of patience that allow us to develop from spiritual infancy into spiritual maturity like Christ. I have known for years that John Newton who was a slave trader wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace”. But, one thing I did not know was that when John Newton accepted Jesus as his savior, he did not stop engaging in slave trade immediately. The world view on slave trade at the time of John Newton was morally acceptable and legal and John Newton did not have the spiritual maturity and discernment to see the evil of slave trade and to abandon the money making business. Not until many years later after he became a Christian did he break the silence and published a confessing and powerful pamphlet Thoughts Upon the African Slave Trade. John Newton then joined force with the English abolitionist William Wilberforce to abolish slave trade. Finally, in 1807, slave trade was outlawed in Britain and later by many European countries as well. This story is a great illustration of the growing process of a believer. When John Newton first became a Christian, he repented of his sins and accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. However, he was not perfect and his thoughts and values were still somehow affected by the world view such as the legal practice of slave trade. However, the Holy Spirit would continue to work on him such that he could grow in faith and discernment of truth and falsity. Eventually, John Newton realized and confessed his hidden sin and committed to the word of God such that he would write down and committed to the teaching of Matthew 7:12 as the key verse of his publication “Thoughts on African Slave Trade”. Because John Newton realized that the world view of slave trade was in violation of the teaching of the scripture of loving others as loving yourself. The story also illustrats that the authority and power of the word of God in a believer’s fruit bearing process. With spiritual maturity, John Newton not only forfeited slave trade but acted as a confronting force against the world view of slave trade fulfilling the command of the Lord as the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-14). This work of faith could not be handled by a spiritual infant but a mature Christian soldier. The word of God is like spiritual milk for a spiritual infant essential to spiritual growth. As milk provides nutrients and energy for an infant to grow, the word of God would provide the guidance and values of a believer such that he or she will bear fruits for the glory of God. A good evidence of true faith of a believer is the urge in studying and walking in the word of God (1 Peter 2:1-2).

Mark 4:20

20Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown."

Matthew 7:12

12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 5:13-14

13"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.

1 Peter 2:1-2

1Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,

The heavenly Father is involved with the process of fruit bearing (John 15:1-2). He will prune every branch that bear fruits such that it will bear more abundant fruits. Pruning is no fun and could be painful in a believer’s life. But, it is part of the fruit bearing process for cleansing our impurities and growing in maturity. This is all done for our good with the love of God (Hebrews 12:10-11).

In sum, spiritual fruit bearing is incidental to salvation and salvation is not given to a person such that he or she is covered up to live a sinful life. Rather, salvation is forgiveness of sin and God Himself satisfied the demand of penalty of sin by the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ such that sinners are justified by God’s grace with the imputed righteousness due to the work of Jesus Christ. The saved person will not be perfect on day one of salvation but the indwelling Holy Spirit will help him or her to grow spiritually and bear fruits based on God’s word for His glory. We also see that God plays an active role in the salvation of a sinner and the subsequent process of fruit bearing. True believer have faith in Jesus and true faith implies obedience to the word of God with the motivation and help of the Holy Spirit. Obedience to the word of God results in bearing of spiritual fruits in a believer’s life (Philippians 2:12-13).

John 15:1-2

1"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Hebrews 12:10-11

10Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Philippians 2:12-13

12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Fruitlessness and Judgment of God

On the other hand, fruitlessness in a person’s life could mean that he or she has no relationship with God and is a dangerous unsaved situation. As a matter of fact, the heavenly Father will cut off branches that bear no fruit. The act of cutting off is the act of judgment by God. The fact that the unfruitful branches are connected to the vine could represent people who have some sorts of religious association with God in appearance but not so in reality within and are awaiting for God’s judgment in the appropriate time (Matthew 13:30). On studying Luke 13, Jesus taught about the consequence of fruitlessness upon hearing a report by some people who were with Him about a calamity of Galileans being slaughtered by the Roman soldiers in the Jewish temple. Apparently, the Galileans were religious persons for they went to the temple in Jerusalem but were killed due to a clash with the Roman government under the reign of Pontius Pilate, and the victims’ blood were said to mix with their sacrifices. Jesus told them that these victims were not worse sinners than other Galileans who did not fall victims to this tragedy. They were all sinners and unless they repent they too would perish. Jesus then emphasised the point by telling them another calamity in which a tower in Siloam collapsed and killed eighteen people. Jesus told the people who brought up the Galilean tragic story that these eighteen victims suffered such tragic death not because they were more sinful than the other people living in Jerusalem. Then Jesus warned them that unless they repent from their sins, they too would perish. In other words, sinfulness would bring death and death could come sooner or later. While we have the opportunity today, we need to address to the problem of sin in order to escape its tragic consequence of death. When Jesus refers to “perish”, He transcends the meaning to the second death in the lake of fire which will come as a judgment of God (Revelation 21:8) as Jesus seems to tell us that the first death is immaterial in compare to the second death as He teaches (Luke 12:4-5). As a matter of fact, the bodies of people of faith in Jesus will die also, but it is referred to as sleep (Acts 7:59-60) for there is resurrection and life in Jesus Christ (John 11:25). The Scripture teaches that the only way to escape the second death is through Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of the world (Romans 6:23).

Mankind unlike plants and animals are created in the image of God and are expected by the Creator to reflect His glory. Sin brings about the fall of mankind such that no one will reflect the glory of God by nature (Romans 3:23). Bearing fruits will glorify God and not bearing fruits will not glorify God and will see judgment. Mankind are created for the glory of God as fruit trees are planted for fruits. Fruit trees that bear no fruits will be cut down. Jesus has taught in parable that a man planted a fig tree in his vineyard for fruits. However, the owner of the vineyard was disappointed for three years he came for fruits but found nothing. He was about to cut down the tree such that it would not use up the soil. But a servant asked the owner for more time such that he would dig around the tree and fertilize the soil, hopefully it would bear fruits next year otherwise it should be cut down ( Luke 13:9). In addition, Jesus performed a miracle by cursing a fig tree near Jerusalem which He found no fruit as an object lesson teaching the disciples the importance of bearing fruits for the glory of God. The disciples found the fig tree withered from the root the next day demonstrating the judgment of death executed by God Himself (Mark 11:20). Therefore, a truly repentant believer will seek to live a life glorifying God rather than continue to live a life falling short of the glory of God. Please see the next section “Effectiveness of Faith”.

Matthew 13:30

30Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.' "

Luke 13:3, 5

3I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 5I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.

Revelation 21:8

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."

Luke 12:4-5

4"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

Acts 7:59-60

59While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Luke 13:9

9If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.' "

Mark11:20

20In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"

The Effectiveness of Faith

The scripture does not teach salvation by works. Salvation is a gift of God to everyone who believe in Jesus Christ His one and only Son and there is no other way of salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Therefore, the precedence of salvation is the atonement work of Jesus Christ and the believers’ repentance and faith in Jesus as the Savior and Lord. The consequence of salvation is a new life in Christ made possible by the indwelling Holy Spirit (John 3:5-6). A new life in Christ will bear fruits for the glory of God. As a new born infant takes time to grow into an adult, the process of growth into spiritual maturity takes time. Therefore, Ephesians 2:10 states that people that are saved are the workmanship of God created in Christ Jesus to do good works for God’s glory. Performance of good works is the manifestation of a redeemed life and is a consequence of the gift of salvation stated in Ephesians 2:8-9. Performance of good works is part and partial of a fruitful life of a spiritually mature person in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:10). To reiterate, salvation is not gained by performing good works, but a gift of God when we trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Performance of Good works is an outward manifestation of the inward born again life qualities (Galatians 5:22-23) of the redeemed person who has been made a new creation and is empowered by the Holy Spirit according to the word of God. Performance of good works cannot be underemphasized because the Scripture teaches that it is a practical way to show the presence of faith (James 2:17-18). In fact, absence of good work is considered sin if we know it is good but do not do it (James 4:17). Therefore, apostle Paul admonishes us in 2 Corinthians 13:5 that we should examine ourselves if Jesus Christ is within our lives as the evidence of true faith. We know we have the Father and Christ in our lives if Christ’s word is in our heart and becomes our values and guidance in our everyday walk with the Holy Spirit (John 14:23-25). Then we may no longer be enslaved by sins and the image of God is restored in our lives and we are truly called the children of God and we may live a fruitful life for God’s glory even in the corrupted world (1 John 5:3-5).

Ephesians 2:8-9

8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

John 3:5-6

5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. 6Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Ephesians 2:10

10For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Colossians 1:10

10And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

Galatians 5:22-23

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

James 2:17-18

17In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

James 4:17

17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.

2 Corinthians 13:5

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?

John 14:23-25

23Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. 24He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me. 25"All this I have spoken while still with you. 26But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

1 John 5:3-5

3This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, 4for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.



Jesus the Alpha and the Omega

clock October 8, 2010 02:00 by author wtsang

Revelation 22:13

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.

Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabets. When Jesus says that He is the Alpha and the Omega. What meanings does the statement imply.

Implying the Deity of Jesus Christ

Jesus’ presence transcends the limit of time. In other words, Jesus existence spans infinitely in both directions of past and future. In other words, there is nothing visible or invisible in existence before or after Jesus because He is always the Beginning and the End. Let us on a mathematical thinking cap for a moment. If there is anything including time itself which was in existence before Jesus, then Jesus cannot be the Alpha (the beginning) because there is something happening before Him. Likewise, if there is anything more persistent than Jesus, then Jesus’ claim of being the Omega (the end) is not valid because there is something happening after Him. Therefore, it is illogical to say that Jesus exists at a certain beginning point of time in the past, or there is a certain time limit for Jesus’ existence. In other words, Jesus’ existence spans infinitely in both directions of past and future. It is perfectly meaningful when Jesus says that before Abraham was born, He is (John 8:58), and He is alive forever and ever (Revelation 1:18).

John 8:58

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Revelation 1:18

18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

If Jesus’ existence is from the beginning, it will be illogical to say that Jesus was created. The logic is simple. If a thing Y is created by another thing X, then X must exist before Y. Since Y exists before anything else, then Y cannot be created by something. Y must exist as is. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense when God says “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Moreover, it is logical to say that Y is the first cause, the creator of everything. In fact, the very first chapter of the John gospel clearly states that through Jesus all things were made and without Jesus nothing was made that has been made (John 1:3).

Exodus 3:14

God said to Moses, "I am who I am . This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' "

John 1:3

3Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.

I once shared the gospel to someone who turned out to belong to a religious organization that holds the view that Jesus was not God but a created being. I remember that he did not believe in the teaching of Trinity and asserted that this concept was not in the Bible but was invented after the Bible was written. Although the word Trinity is not found in the Bible, but the revelation of God as the Trinity has always been in the Bible. The word Trinity is invented simply to describe and articulate the fact. This is like the word “water” which is an invented language artifact meaning a compound of one atom of hydrogen and two atoms of oxygen that is essential to living things. We cannot say that the concept of “water” is wrong because it was invented and added to the human vocabulary later than the fact that hydrogen dioxide has already existed for a long long time. Trinity means that God is of three persons and yet the three persons are one. The revelation of Trinity can be found in various passages of the Bible. For examples, Genesis 1:2 reveals the presence of the Holy Spirit of God in the beginning. Genesis 3:22 reveals that God is referred to with a plural pronoun “us”. John 1:1 reveals that the Word of God was with God in the beginning and the Word of God was also referred to as God. The Word of God is Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:13) who is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16; 1 Timothy 6:14-15). Matthew 28:19 expressly presents the three persons of God: Father, Son and the Holy Spirit but with the singular noun “name”.

Genesis 1:2

2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Genesis 3:22

22 And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever."

John 1:1

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Revelation 19:13, 16

13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

1 Timothy 6:14-15

14to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords,

Matthew 28:19

19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Another time I was visited by someone who belonged to the same religious organization which does not believe in the Trinity. This time the visitor quoted Colossians 1:15 to support her view that Jesus was a created being which says that Jesus is the “firstborn”. However, firstborn in Greek could mean a person who is born first chronologically or a person preeminent in position. Therefore, we need to study other parts of the Scripture in order to gain a proper perspective of its meanings. The theme of the Bible is redemption and salvation of mankind by Jesus Christ who is God became flesh and fulfilled redemption on the cross (Philippians 2:5-8, Isaiah 7:14). Jesus’ was called Immanuel because Immanuel means “God with us” and Jesus literally fulfilled the prophecy given in Isaiah 7:14. Then Jesus was exalted the preeminent position of all creation (Philippians 2:9-11). One may ask that why was it a need to exalt Jesus if He was God? Is it not God holds the preeminent position already. Well, we should understand that Jesus had humbled Himself as a human servant and even died on the cross for sinners in order to accomplish the mission of salvation. Jesus would not stay as a dead person in the grave forever, but was resurrected on the third day after death on the cross and exalted sitting at the right hand of God (Acts 2:32-33; Hebrews 10:12).

Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

Philippians 2:5-8

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!

Isaiah 7:14

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Philippians 2:9-11

9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Acts 2:32-33

32God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. 33Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear.

Hebrews 10:12

But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.

Implying the Existence of Eternal Life

The notion of eternal life is abstract to most people because we all live in bodily form and we see lives born and die but no one has seen eternal life. After all we are all limited by a time constraint in the body, and no one can live long enough to see the existence of eternal life even though it may exist. However, Jesus who is by nature God lived in a human body form before, has demonstrated that death of the body is not the termination of life. Jesus demonstrated that death itself has been conquered by His resurrection. Jesus was resurrected with a glorious body and sits on the right hand of God. There are various religions in the world trying to teach the way of eternal life, but the remains of the dead bodies of their teachers are still in their graves although their unverified teachings are still circulating in the world. However, Jesus’ grave is empty because He has been resurrected. Therefore, Jesus’ promise of eternal life is valid and trustworthy (Revelation 1:17-18) and eternal life is not something we can buy or work for. Eternal life is given to all sinners as a gift who believe in Jesus (John 11:25, John 3:16). In fact, there is no other source of eternal life. Our lives in the world are like cut flowers in a vase displaying life for a moment and die. Jesus is gracious and pleased to offer a new and eternal life which is abundant and free from the sickness of sin to everyone who asks Him (Revelation 21:6).

Revelation 1:17-18

17When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

John 11:25

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies;

John 3:16

16"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Revelation 21:6

He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.

Eternal life is an attribute of God which only God may bestows on humans and we may only accept it by faith in Jesus according to the promise of God. By the way, I once heard from the radio someone criticizing many churches teaching the way of salvation by believing in Jesus. This radio teacher said that “believe” was a verb and we could not be saved by “work” because “work” was something that we did in order to obtain salvation. I think this is a miscommunication of the teaching of the Scripture. Firstly, it is God’s grace and permission that we, sinners, may take another breath and live for a moment longer and have the opportunity to listen to the gospel. Otherwise, no one may even have the chance to hear the good news of salvation let alone to believe in Jesus. Humans are saved purely by the grace and through faith in God (Ephesians 2:8). The point is that even a simple thing we take for granted like taking another breath depends on God’s provision and permission, how will a Bible believing church teach that we can obtain eternal life by our own work. In other words, it is absurd to judge churches which teach believing in Jesus as work. Secondly, when someone hears the gospel and accepts Jesus as the Saviour, it is the work of the Holy Spirit that inspires and convicts sinners to believe in Jesus (1 Thessalonians 1:5). It is too presumptuous and wrongly judgemental on a repentant sinner that it is his or her own work to believe. Thirdly, the Scripture clearly says the way of salvation is to believe in Jesus, for example, the confession of apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 1:16. In fact, Jesus Himself teaches that the way of salvation is to believe in Him which is the answer that He gave to people who thought that salvation could be earned by work (John 6:27-29). Remember, God who promises eternal life can and will be able to fulfill His promise for He is faithful (Hebrews 10:22-23). There are different religions and thoughts offering solution to the fundamental question about life, its well being and destiny. However, the Scripture teaches that there is one and only one way of life. All the other ways will lead to destruction. For a more detailed study on this question, please refer to Jesus the faithful and true witness.

1 Thessalonians 1:5

because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake.

Ephesians 2:8

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—

1 Timothy 1:16

But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

John 6:27-29

27Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval." 28Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?" Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

Hebrews 10:22-23

22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.



We Should All Be Grateful

clock October 2, 2010 02:00 by author wtsang

On one Sabbath day, Jesus went into a synagogue in Nazareth and read a prophecy in the book of Isaiah concerning His coming to the world to give hope and salvation from darkness and bondage of sins (Luke 4:17-19). This is the grace of God for we can all be free from sins and reconciled to the holy God and even call Him Father when we believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, who came to the world to save sinners.

Luke 4:17-19

17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

Please note that the good news is preached to the poor as Jesus told us in the sermon of the mount. The poor does not mean people who live in materialistic poverty but people who are humble before God because they realised and confessed their spiritual bankcruptcy and are sorrowful of their sins and ask God for forgiveness. Jesus says that they will receive the kingdom of God (Matthew 5:3). Conversely, people who are complacent and proud and think that they are righteous by their own standard will not be grateful for the salvation grace of God (Matthew 9:12). When we have Jesus, we will know the truth for His words are in our heart such that we will not be enslaved by sins anymore (John 8:32). Jesus came not to recover sight for a few blind persons physically, but to heal the spiritual blindnesss for all who trust in Him (John 9:39) such that they see the power of the gospel which save them from the enslavery and destruction of sins. They will be very grateful to Jesus' salvation who sacrificed His own body to save us from the wages of sins. Mary Magdelene who had been possessed by evil spirits. Out of her great gratitude for Jesus' forgiveness of her sins and setting her free from the oppression of evil spirits, She broke a jar of very expensive perfume which could be her most precisous possession and poured it to Jesus to prepare for His burial (John 12:3; Mark 14:7-9). Similarly, on a different occasion which happened earlier than Mary's annointing of Jesus, a woman who was a well-known sinner probably a prostitue, in her hometown honored Jesus in public by pouring an alabaster jar of perfume on Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair and tears (Luke 7:36-38). In contrast, Simon the Pharisee who invited Jesus for dinner, showed not even a common courtesy by offering water for feet washing to his guest. Rather, he was self-righteous and judged the woman as a sinner (Luke 7:44-47). Simon was blinded by his self-righteousness and could not see the grace of salvation and therefore could not understand the acts of the sinful woman who was expressing her great gratitude to Jesus.

When we believe in Jesus, it is natural for us to be grateful to Him also for we realized that our sins have been forgiven and paid for by Jesus in full. Therefore, gratitude is a good sign or evidence of faith in Jesus. Therefore, Jesus explained plainly to Simon the Pharisee the motive of Mary Magdalene's act of gratitude which was the evidence of her faith (Luke 7:44 -50).

Matthew 5:3

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 9:12

On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

John 8:32

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

John 9:39

Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind."

Luke 7:36-38

36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

Luke 7:39

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is?that she is a sinner."

Luke 8:2

and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out;

John 12:3

3 Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.

Mark 14:7-9

7 The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. 9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her."

Luke 7:44-50

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven?for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." 48 Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven." 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this who even forgives sins?" 50 Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace."

By the way, as of today, we are still living in the year of the Lord's favor. We may receive Jesus' salvation and our debts of sins will be forgiven by God Himself and be reconciled with Him such that we may enter His kingdom with our faith in Jesus Christ. Note that Jesus stopped after reading the year of the Lord's favor at the verse in the book of Isaiah. The later part of the same verse mentions the day of vengeance of God which will be fulfilled when Jesus came again in judgement of all nations (Isaiah 61:2). Friends, let us take this precious opportunity to receive Jesus as the Lord and spread out the good news to all who still do not.

Isaiah 61:2

to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn,



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