Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Reserve glory and worship for God, practise honor, and grow in favor with God

This is article is not meant to be an exhaustive study of glory, worship, honor and favor. I have tended to write on topics I felt led to write. I was really on another topic, but somehow felt led to dwell on this, so this became an article by its own.

Glory and worship
A simple definition of glory -
Glory of something/someone – great brightness, splendor, magnificence, majesty, beauty, renown of the something/someone
To give one glory – to give him very great praise (incl. adoring praise or worshipful thanksgiving)
To glory in something/someone – rejoice proudly, rejoice triumphantly, exult with triumph

Glory and worship are big words and intertwined. Worship is reserved for God alone (Ex 20:5, 34:14, Rev 22:8-9). Particularly, I wish to point out that even angels are careful not to take any of the worship away from God. We read this in Rev 22:8-9 -

8I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things [things in Revelation]. And when I had heard and seen them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them to me. 9But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers the prophets and of all who keep the words of this book. Worship God!"

Likewise, glory should be confined to God. In Isaiah 42:8 we read this:

I am the LORD;
that is my name!
I will not give my glory to another
or my praise to idols.

I know the Apostle Paul talked about sharing God’s glory in the Bible but I believe he was referring to the future glory. This future glory is only relevant to us after we pass on -

17Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. (Romans 8:17-18)

[In this respect, we should imitate Jesus' attitude:
I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge (John 8:50). ..."If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me" (John 8:54). Jesus, too was looking at his future glory at that point in time (before crucifixion). The glorification came when He died and was resurrected; meanwhile He only wanted to glorify the Father. -inserted on 24/11/09]

The kind of glory that is ascribed to God must not be appropriated, even partially, by anyone, i.e. you cannot take any of such glory for yourself.

For example, a person prayed for a crippled man to be healed, and God answered the prayer and the crippled man is instantly healed; God performed a miracle. The glory to be given as a result, must be ascribed to God, the person who prayed for the healing cannot take any of it.

While I fully subscribed to the fact that we, as Christians, are princes and princesses, co-heirs with Jesus, in the Kingdom of God, and God is our Father, we are not god (H426). You and I are not Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Only members of the Triune God share each other’s glory. I know there are many mighty servants of God now doing great supernatural works for God after gaining insight of their kingdom identities – royal priesthood, princes and princesses. While I am sure many of them understood such requirements as practicing repentance and holiness, and humility before God and are themselves observing these requirements, there are those, because of their eagerness to share the insights that God had shown them, had in their over-emphasis in their identity-power teachings, and extreme under-emphasis in the fundamental aspects such as the requirements of repentance, holiness and humility, (some even, suggest repentance and holiness as not being required for such things as return of backslidden Christians/prodigal sons and high worships, respectively) caused lopsidedness in spiritual diet of saints. I have an uneasiness over this development, feeling that if it is unchecked or not balanced out, it may stumble other saints. Some of these great servants are also not very careful with the concept of pre-destination (especially general pre-destination of personal salvation). While signs and wonders and miracles do empower the Gospel, inappropriate word droppings of pre-destination can stumble people.

For the healing example above, we should not go round suggesting/insinuating that the person used by God to pray for the crippled man was not doing the right thing in ascribing all the glory to God, or that he was not right to always quickly ascribe every credit/praise back to God.

One may glory in the things that God has done (say a miraculous healing), if to glory is to rejoice proudly or triumphantly. Yes, we rejoice when people are ministered to/healed/blessed, but we do not take any of the glory for ourselves. When we see people got healed/ministered to, we rejoice with them and give glory to God by thanking God, praising Him with adoring praise or give worshipful thanksgiving to Him. When we rejoice, it means we share the joy of another (in this case, the healed man). It can even include the sharing of God’s joy (if you are like me, believe God is joyous, on healing a man) – this I can accept. This is the correct attitude of heart followed by our manifestation thereof.

Honor is different from glory
Honor, on the other hand, I believe is different from glory. The Bible does talk about God honoring man, and it is right for man to honor man. [Added: 03/01/2011 - I am aware that KJV and NKJV translations used "honor" in place of "glory" {used by NIV and many other translations} for such verses as in John 8:54; however, present day use of "honor" is more in line with Greek word, "timaō" (G5091) as in John 12:26 (below). "Doxa" (G1391), the Greek word in John 8:54, should be rendered as "glory" and not "honor" to avoid confusion with "timaō". Honor is also used for timē (G5092), as in say, 1 Tim 5:17 {which we will touch on later in the article}.]

Jesus before his going to His death on the cross, said these words, “26Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26).

For he[Jesus] received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice …..(2 Pet 1:17-18a)

Jesus went before us, He is the firstfruit. He is the model, He is the pattern. He received honor while serving the Father God on earth [One may think that Jesus hadn’t even started His Ministry at the time of his water baptism. That may be correct but He started serving the Father on the earth the moment He was born on earth.]. The same could be ours, the honor in serving on earth. That is why Jesus said those words, “My Father will honor the one who serves me.” in John 12:26 above.

Ah, you may say, 2 Pet 1:17 says, “he received honor and glory”. The glory here is referring to the manifested presence of God – in the light which shone around Jesus. This glory, manifested presence, is different from the glory we are talking about above, and is not uncommon even today, and it can take various forms.

Where is the honor in 2 Pet 1:17-18a, you may ask. The honor is in the words, the declaration itself, given in the presence of multitude. Often overlooked, I believe manifested presence also can be an act of honoring. This is especially so if the manifested presence takes forms that do not “serve any purpose except drawing awe” from the multitude. Let me explain,

For example, it is not uncommon that we hear of certain minister or preacher having glisters or gold dust forming on him or around him when he was before the multitude doing the work of God. Apart from indicating His presence, I believe God was honoring such servants of his. The glisters or gold dust does not serve any practical purpose but it does draw awe from the multitude. Miracles on the other hand, are different, they serve certain purposes, for example, to heal, to deliver or to meet a need or minister to someone.

I also believe that His doing of the very thing you ask of Him when you are ministering to people can also be an act of God honoring you. Of course, God can do a thing for any number of reasons.

In the light of what has been said above, I believe there is nothing wrong with asking God to honor us as we honor God (e.g. by doing a piece of work of God, by obeying a difficult command in a given circumstance, etc). I prayed that way often.

[added: 03/01/2011 - In connection to the last 2 paragraphs above, particularly in relation to our prayering for another in person, despite, preference by some, saying that we should not "tell God what to do", we should not hesitate to ask God to act on our requests, if indeed our requests are in line with Who He is. We should not tell God what to do, only to the extent that we must understand that our requests must be in alignment with Who God is; we must not hold God out to be our genie in a bottle, to do as we request (we, indeed do not tell God what to do, it is God who tells us what to do); and we do not try to "limit" God with our request (eg. suggesting that God should only act in a particular fashion).]

The Word of God exhorts us to honor one another. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10). Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:7). The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. (1 Timothy 5:17).

While we say the person God used (say, for praying for the sick) must be quick to ascribe all glory back to God, there is nothing wrong for us to affirm the person, give him a pat on the back, thank him for taking the time and making sacrifices to minister to the sick. This is part of honoring a servant of God. And do not be taken aback or feel offended if he said something like, “Oh, it is God, not me.” I am sure he did not mean you were a busybody or that you did not know better – that it was God who did the work. I bet you he appreciated your gesture and it would spur him on.

What about favor of God?
Serve God well, serve him rightly, and grow in his favor is the way to go.

Deu 10:12 -
And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul,

Romans 14:17-18 –
17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.

The Bible records that Jesus, over time, grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men –

And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52).

It is understandable that Jesus would grow in wisdom and stature but it says Jesus also grew in favor with God and men. If Jesus needed to grow in favor with God and men, how much more do we also need to grow in favor with God and men. I believe when we have the favor (or continuing favor) of God, we would be able to do great exploits. The Bible recorded that, among others, the following people have found favor in the eyes of God:

Gen 39:4 - Joseph found favor in his [Potiphar] eyes and became his attendant [after Potiphar bought him from the slave market. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers]. Potiphar put him in charge of his household, and he entrusted to his care everything he owned. [Potiphar is one of Pharaoh’s official]

Gen 39:21 - God showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden. [Joseph was thrown into prison when falsely accused of having an affair with his master (Potiphar)’s wife.]

Joseph went on to interpret Pharaoh’s dream of 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine; made 2nd most powerful man in Egypt, next only to Pharaoh; given the wisdom to store up food for the 7 years of drought, saving not only Egyptians and Canaanites but also his original family – his father, Israel (aka Jacob) and all his brothers. Joseph and his brothers are the fathers of the 12 Tribes of Israel. Joseph was instrumental for the continuity of the 12 Tribes of Israel, even as they were started off.

Ex 33:12-14 - 12 Moses said to the LORD After the Golden Calf incident and the LORD’s instruction to march on to the promised land. Because of the Calf incident the LORD had declined to accompany the Israelites on the journey. This was Moses’ plea, "You have been telling me, 'Lead these people,' but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' 13 If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people." 14 The LORD replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."

Ex 34:9 - Moses repeated his plea before the LORD on Mt Sinai. The LORD had instructed Moses to chisel out another 2 stone tablets for the LORD to rewrite the Ten Commandments on, and to go up to the Mount again] 9 "O LORD, if I have found favor in your eyes," he said, "then let the LORD go with us. Although this is a stiff-necked people, forgive our wickedness and our sin, and take us as your inheritance."

Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, from the hands of Pharaoh, to the edge of the Promised Land, with great signs and wonders and miracles, including the parting and crossing of the Red Sea) – you can read Moses’ exploits in the Old Testament. Exodus is one of the books you can read.

She prevented the annihilation of all the Jews in the kingdom of King Xerxes, which stretched from India to Cush [Upper Nile region](127 provinces). There was no mention of her favor with the LORD (but surely she was not without great favor from the LORD, she could have died for entering the inner court without being summoned by the King, but did not – Es 4:10-16. For the full story, read the Book of Esther, a short book) but there were ample recordings of her favor with everyone. She won the favor of Hegai who was in charge of the harem (Es 2:9a), She won the favor of everyone who saw her before she went before the King for the first time (Es 2:15), She won the favor and approval of the King, King Xerxes and was made Queen (Es 2:17))

Lastly, not forgetting our Lord, Jesus
Luke 2:52 - And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. The exploits of Jesus for Father God, of course, cannot be adequately dwelt with, here.

Anthony Chia – Lord, let not pride be found in me. Lord, I worship you alone. Help me not to take any of your glory but be quick to ascribe them all to you. Lord, teach me your ways that I may continue to find favor in your eyes. Above all, help me to be holy as you are holy.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Psalm 42 – What to do when discouraged

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note".
{For full listing of all articles in this Psalms exposition series, click here}

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.

2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?

3 My tears have been my food
day and night,
while men say to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

[Where are you, God, my soul longs for you just like the deer pants for water? My soul cried day and night while my enemy mocked at me saying, “Where is your God?”]

4 These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.

[God, I remember I used to lead multitude in procession to your house with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive crowd.]

5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and 6 my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

[Oh my soul, do not be discouraged, put your hope in God, my Savior and my God. Praise Him still. God, in my discouragement, I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the height of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.]

7 Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

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

[Afflictions have come so thick upon me that I felt overwhelmed. Yet in my prayer, I will declare the Lord will send your mercy in the daytime, and in the night His song will be with me.]

9 I say to God my Rock,
"Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?"

10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
"Where is your God?"

[God, have you forgotten me? I am oppressed by my enemy, I am in grief. I am in agony as my enemy continues with the attack. ]

11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

[Oh my soul, do not be discouraged, put your hope in God, my Savior and my God, whom I will yet praise.]

[When we are discouraged what do we do? What should we do? This is what the psalmist in Psalm 42 did:

The psalmist went before God, told God how his soul longed for Him, how he cried day and night while his enemy mocked at him, saying “Where is your God”. The psalmist reminded God that he used to lead in worship, giving shouts of joy and thanksgiving to Him. Even as the psalmist reminded God how he used to be joyful, he told himself not to be discouraged, to put hope in God our Savior and our God. He told himself that he still had to praise God.

The psalmist told God that in his discouragement, he would remember God. He told God that afflictions had come so thick upon him that he felt overwhelmed. Yet in his prayer he declared that the Lord would send His mercy in the daytime for him, and His song, in the night. He pleaded with God, saying “God, have you forgotten me?” He told God his condition – being oppressed, in grief and in pain as his enemy continued with the attack.

The psalmist ended by reminding himself again not to be discouraged, to put hope in God our Savior and our God. He told himself that he still had to praise God despite it all.]

What we should have learnt:

1. Never forget you have a God you can turn to.
If you are a Christian, never forget you have a God, your Savior and your God that you can turn to. The Christian God is a reliable and dependable God. If you are not yet a Christian, approach a Christian to find out how you too can have this Savior God.

2. Know your God well.
I believe the psalmist knew his God well. He probably knew that his God was a great and mighty God, capable of delivering him from the thick afflictions that he faced. Why did I say that? You can see he did not express any doubts at all about his God’s capacity to deliver him. He was only pleading for God to act. We have to get to know our God well. We should never doubt God’s capacity to deliver us from whatever afflictions that we may face. Make efforts to know your God before afflictions strike you.

3. Cry out to God.
Do not listen to people who suggest that we should just take all the afflictions “lying down”, that God had welcome the afflictions since they happened; that God would not do anything until they are all over. Do not listen to people who suggest that God would have given (gifts, help, etc) if He wanted to, that we do not need to ask. God does wait for people to cry out to Him, and men, big and small, in the Bible, cried out to God when they were faced with afflictions of all sorts. He knows everything, so what, it does not mean He is not waiting for you to talk to him or ask for his help.

4. Tell God you want to repossess the condition before discouragement.
Tell God you remember you used to be joyful and full of thanksgiving towards Him, and you want to repossess that joyfulness and thankfulness towards Him, and that you want to still praise Him. Tell God that in your affliction, you remember Him.

5. Pour out to God your condition now
– how badly you are afflicted, how oppressed you feel, your pain, your weariness, etc. Men may have problem taking your pouring-out but not God.

6. Ask God for His grace and mercy for your situation.
The psalmist asked for God’s mercy to sustain him in the day, and God’s comfort for the nights. God may or may not take you out of your situation, but be sure that his grace and mercy are sufficient to see you through.

7. “Get your hope up”.
This is very important, the psalmist repeated it. We should repeatedly tell ourselves not to be discouraged, and that God is working in our situation. Yes, tell our souls, speak to our souls. One indicator that your soul has listened to you is that you are able to praise God despite your afflictions. Whatever happens thereafter, be confident that in all things, your God will work for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This is a powerful verse in the Bible. To be sure I am always included, I constantly remind myself to love Him, and try to understand what He wants me to do (do not wait until you are afflicted to love Him or to find out what He wants you to do!).

If you are facing trials and temptations, you might want to read another article of mine, James 1:2-18 (Handling Trials and Temptations).

Anthony Chia – I must always keep my head up. The Lord my God is with me, he is mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17a).

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adoption Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

When does a Christian first receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Firstly, we have to ask ourselves whether there is a passage in the Bible that clearly spelt out the correct position of the topic. If not, then we have to subject relevant passages to interpretations. Therefore, the conclusion I reached is also one of interpretation, and one of call based on a degree of sensing of the anointing of the Spirit as I dwell on this topic. For those not already know, sometimes, when I write for this blog I will have heat coming on, on my back – an indication of anointing/presence of the Spirit around me. I dare not say all my writings are inspired by the Holy Spirit but I believe some are.

Many believe that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is received by Christians upon conversion. I have come to the conclusion that it is correct. Although originally I thought it would be difficult to find scriptures to directly support it, I have managed to find a few key texts that when taken together would suggest that the position taken is correct. The expositions of the texts/verses are found in the article - No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

In here, I just want to address the reasonableness of associating the first indwelling of the Holy Spirit to the time of conversion. From the article just mentioned, we can conclude that to be born again is to be born of water and the Spirit and by that it means that (1) a person accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour and is cleansed by His Blood (essentially a conversion event, a saying of the Sinner’s Prayer), and (2) God puts His Holy Spirit into the person and adopts him as son and quickens the spirit of the man (essentially the event of receiving of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit).

But are the two events happening at one go? That is the question? If they are, then we can say that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is received on conversion. For clarity and easy reference, I reproduce the relevant passages here:

John 3:4-7
4"How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"
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. 7You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.'

From these verses, it is reasonable to conclude that to be born again, one has to be born of water and the Spirit. What is not clear is that whether the two “births” (born of water and born of the Spirit) need necessarily be at one go. Not really clear, I think. What do you think?

Let’s look at another passage:
Ezekiel 36:24-27:
24 " 'For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. 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.

You would realize in the article, I said the 2 passages are of the same “type” and therefore I read them together. I find that verses 25-27 of Ezekiel 36 are about things in one sitting/in one go. As such, when you take verses 5-7 of John 3 together with these Ezekiel verses (25-27), we can conclude that the “two births” (born of water and born of the Spirit) in the John passage happen at one go/one sitting.

So, it is true that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is received at the time that one accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour. When one accepts Jesus as the Lord and Saviour, the Holy Spirit adopts the spirit of man, as son. I called this first indwelling of the Holy Spirit in a person as a Christian, the Adoption Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In this particular experience, the adoption, there is NOT the necessity of speaking in tongue as an evidence of receipt of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The passages above clearly did not mention the speaking of a new tongue. Having said these, I want to state that I did NOT say post-adoption, you do not need further times of “coming on”/infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Other verses commonly referred to by other people, in support of the position that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is received on conversion/salvation/born again, include those below. But I must say, taken by themselves, each does not conclusively support the position.

Eph 1:13-14 -
13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

Remark: “Having believed, you were marked……” How long after that before you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit? Time not known, cannot presume to know and say it was at the time of salvation.

1 Cor 12:13 -
“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.”

Remark: No connection was really made between the timing of conversion/salvation/born again and the receipt of Spirit. Also, the context is somewhat off the issue on hand.

Romans 8:9 –
“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”

Remark: With the understanding gained from the article on “No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit”, it would be easy for one to accept that this verse implies receipt of the Holy Spirit on conversion/salvation/born again. Without that understanding, doubts still feature because timing is not easily discernible here. (To more tightly relate the various truths and revelations, I would separately write on Romans 8:1-18 which is commonly titled in the NIV Bible as Life Through the Spirit – watch out for it.)

Anthony Chia – Yes, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is first received on salvation/conversion/born again. Yet, further times of “coming on” of the Holy Spirit are recommended.

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