Monday, September 23, 2013

Last Supper – when did Jesus’ symbolisms start?

The Holy Communion is “fashioned” after the Last Supper; it is NOT referencing just any supper Jesus had with His disciples while He, Jesus, lived on earth, and so, it is the Last Supper that is in focus when we talk about Holy Communion.

The Holy Communion is a sacrament, and it is a symbolism.  Symbolism is meant to symbolise something or to say something.  Jesus was apt in using everyday situations to symbolise.  Coming to the time of the Last Supper, the Lord realised He has reached the critical milestone near to the end of His ministry and life (John 13:1), and He seized the opportunity to symbolise.  When did Jesus’ symbolism begin; at which point, I mean?

In other words, at which point was Jesus beginning to, by symbolism(s), told what was on His heart for the Disciples in that hour/season? Is it at the point as depicted by the Corinthians text, 1 Corinthians 11:23-30, when Jesus started to make a prayer/speech about the bread and the wine as His body and blood, broken and shed for us?  The Supper might have begun there, but the thing that Jesus had wanted to say, begun earlier!

It began at Jesus’ washing of the Disciples’ feet.  In other words, there were 2 symbolisms within the entire symbolism. The common everyday thing that Jesus used then, as the first symbolism, was this: Commonly, people including guests got their feet washed, that they (in those days, and place) had come from the outside, feet covered with dust and dirt (wore sandals, NOT shoes), before starting to eat from the table; and this washing of feet was a humbling task, commonly assigned to lowly servants.  This we can see from what Jesus said, in the account of the sinful woman using her tears and hair to wipe Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:44-48):

44 Then he {Jesus} 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—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Now – this is revelation: Even as Abraham did what the Father God, would do, of the giving of His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be sacrificed (Abraham was sacrificing his son, Isaac {although stopped just in time, by God}), this sinful woman did what the Lord would do, of washing the feet of disciples, to forgive them.  What Abraham did was prophetic, and so, too, was what the sinful woman did.  Abraham's act was prophetic of God's sacrificial love for us, through the giving of His Son, Jesus, to die; and the woman's act, of Jesus' forgiveness for us, through the washing of the feet of the disciples.

So, the message of Jesus started from the feet-washing symbolism, carried through to the symbolism of the supper (which in itself, had multiple symbolisms, like the bread symbolised the body of Christ, and the wine, the blood of Christ).  Looking at the symbolism of the supper, leaving out the feet-washing symbolism, is actually looking at Jesus’ message for the hour, NOT from the beginning or page 1! 

For the entire symbolism, I believe Jesus was NOT just wanting to say, “Remember, I shed my blood, and had my body broken; I died that you may live.”  Yes, that was part of the message, but that was NOT quite the complete message.  The entire symbolism was like an Initiation.

Recently, I went to a “White Gown” Ceremony.  What is this White Gown Ceremony?  No, I did NOT go to Heaven, witnessed or was adorned of the white gown, and came back!  It would be a great privilege, honour and favour of God, if it happens.  Still, I was very happy and thankful to God for the experience of witnessing my daughter got initiated into Medical School at the National University of Singapore. 

Only for the Medical School, the university does that, before the students even start lessons, they were initiated into the medical profession with a ceremony where the faculty doctors (lecturers, etc) took turn to put the new doctor’s white gown on each of the medical students witnessed by their parents and invited guests.  As part of the ceremony the significance of the initiation was explained.

Jesus’ washing of the feet of disciples and then the partaking of the bread and wine was like an initiation.  When we understand the dual symbolisms like a composite initiation, Jesus’ message was NOT merely “Remember, I die that you may live”.  It is that and more, and the more is “You will now on, do what I have been doing, and carry on doing”.  Remember the Apostle Peter’s initial refusal, and Jesus’ reply to him; Jesus said, "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."  As a whole, we could really view the entire symbolism like an initiation into the service of God; and this “initiation” is NOT just for the full-time clergy, but is for all, for all are disciples of Jesus Christ.  Having said that, the feet-washing symbolism has a particular significance, which I will elaborate more, in a while.

My daughter could NOT say she would NOT go through the “White Gown” Ceremony, if she would want to be a doctor (remember now, it was NOT graduation).  The white gown was a symbol, and it was a symbol for being a doctor.  What did the entire symbolism mean?  Initiation into the service of God (Here, I called it, Servanthood).  Unless the Disciples were initiated into Servanthood, by Jesus’ reply to Peter, they could do NOT, what Jesus had been doing or would like to do – “no part with me”, said Jesus.  What had Jesus been doing?  Service unto God the Father and service unto one another; men.  So, the Disciples were initiated into Servanthood unto God, and unto one another (John 13:14 – Jesus said to wash each other’s feet).

The Disciples were NOT initiated into just any servanthood or that they were free to choose how and who they would serve.  They were initiated into the Servanthood Jesus established.  This Servanthood that Jesus established is NOT just for this life.  He establishes it for beyond this life, and He did it with His giving of His body and blood; He died for it.  Actually, Jesus came to RE-establish it; Man was originally created to serve God.  The Supper symbolism came in to complete the picture or message, of how Jesus re-established this servanthood. 

Before we move to the Supper symbolism, what is the particular significance of the feet-washing by Jesus that I was referring to, earlier?  It is this:

Jesus was showing to us, that He, even though, was their Lord and Teacher (given us in Apostle John’s account, in John 13), He subjected Himself to confront that which was filthy and offensive to Him, to cleanse the unrighteousness of men from sins.  Graphically, this was depicted by Jesus bending over to wash the feet of the Disciples.  Was the act referring to the very first cleansing of us of all our unrighteousness from sins, when we entered into salvation?  No, it was NOT!  If you read the account given us in John 13, carefully, you will find that Jesus talked about body being cleaned, and feet still filthy.  Body cleansing was referring to the “first cleansing”, and feet-washing, the on-going cleansing of us, as we continue to be in contact with the “filthy world” (the world is still in a fallen state, under the dominion of Satan; it is still the domain where Satan perpetuates his unrighteous ways, in an attempt to have men counted with him, away from God).

There has been much argument of at which point in time that a person is saved.  Is a person saved when he is “converted” (say, by saying the Sinner’s Prayer) or when he has been water-baptised?  In other words, there are those who argued that unless you underwent water baptism, you are NOT saved.  One argument is based on this thing that Jesus said about the body needed be cleaned, first of all.  Jesus actually said that among the 13 Disciples, one was NOT cleaned of the body; and we know from elsewhere in Scripture, the Disciple referred to, was Judas Iscariot.  You know, people argued about if Judas Iscariot was indeed saved (or converted); now one support to say that he was NOT, can be cited as from this text of John’s depiction of the Last Supper – Judas Iscariot was NOT of cleaned-body.  We will NOT go into any deeper discussion of the question raised at the start of this paragraph, but it suffices to say that body-cleaning and the feet-washing were NOT referring to the same thing; and the time that Jesus was walking on the earth, such thing as to how one was converted, needed to be looked at, as the “interim period scenario”, as Jesus then, was NOT dead and resurrected.  Just think about it: what or how the other 12 Disciples were cleaned of their body; Jesus NOT dead yet?!  They were cleaned as a result of their positive response to Jesus calling them to come to become His Disciples?  If it were so, how do we explain the case of Judas Iscariot?  As a result of baptism by John the Baptist?  If so, are we to say that Judas Iscariot did NOT go for that, but the rest did?  Or was it the words and teachings of Jesus when received in, that did the “trick”? The last one, the words and teachings of Jesus, was the answer. This is gleaned from John 15:3.

2 key significances in this portion of the “initiation”- feet-washing:

(1) Jesus was saying we would get “dirty” from our continual contact with the world, even as we serve Him and God, but He would cleanse us.  The point to note is that the Disciples did NOT have to do anything to merit Jesus’ washing of their feet, and so, in spiritual significance, Jesus’ forgiveness and so, the attending cleansing thereof, was continued on a grace basis (by grace, the Disciples were called {to be His followers}).  In other words, Jesus was alluding to 1 John 1:9 - when we confess our sins, God is just and faithful to forgive us, and cleanse us of all our unrighteousness. The feet-washing was speaking about forgiveness.  The Lord forgives us, and when Jesus instructed the Disciples to do the same, with one another, we are to forgive, too, one another; and it is to be in like manner, by grace (so, please you and I have to forgive another, by grace, just as God forgave us – Col 3:13).

(2) If we do NOT seek the Lord’s forgiveness and cleansing of our unrighteousness from sins we committed while in the world (after we have been body-cleaned – imputed of righteousness on conversion or entry into salvation), we will have no part with the Lord.  In other words, we will be unable to function in the service unto God (or here, I called Servanthood).  The works (and life) of the Lord, we cannot come into – no part with me {John 13:8).   Many people argued that Matt 6:9-15  (referring to the Lord’s Prayer) that said (in v15) that we have to forgive one another, before God will forgive us, as an “isolated verse”.  No, if we are right that the feet-washing was alluding to “to forgive”, here is the exhortation again by the Lord, by the feet-washing, that we have to forgive one another.

To abide in the Lord, what this feet-washing symbolism is telling us is that, we have to be forgiven by the Lord, and be cleansed, on-going; failing which we abide NOT in the Lord, and the Lord, in us. When we abide NOT, how can we be in agreement with the Lord and be doing His works, and so, share His life, as to His on-going works on earth.

As said, the Supper symbolism came in to complete the picture or message, of how Jesus re-established this servanthood.  Jesus’ giving of Himself, as symbolised in the elements of the Eucharist, made it possible for men to serve God and serve one another while living the mortal life, and  it made it possible for the service or servanthood to extend beyond our mortal life (into life after life; to be still serving God, i.e. for eternity). 
Brother Anthony, wait a minute, are you saying the feet-washing was symbolic of forgiveness or servanthood?  The “initiation” was into servanthood, the specific symbolism of the feet-washing was forgiveness. And what it means is that unless the Lord forgives you and I, we cannot serve Him, and likewise, if we forgive NOT, another, that person could NOT really serve us, too.  Is it NOT true, if you NOT forgive a person, what that person does, you are likely to reject it, even when it is good thing he/she is wanting to do.

I don’t like to hear people speaking out generally that all the works of believers are filthy rags (quoting Isaiah 64:6); it is incorrect, if the intent is to say that no matter what good works believers do, they are as filthy rags to God.  No, without Jesus’ giving of Himself, it was true, all the works were as filthy rags to God, because from the Fall of Adam and Eve, servanthood was wrecked. Jesus (His forgiveness) made it possible that our good works are no longer necessarily as filthy rags to God.
Yes, we are to serve one another, but the feet-washing symbolism was NOT specifically pointing to the Lord is to serve you and I (like genie in a bottle!), or that we are to serve one another, although rendering forgiveness is a service.

The complete message of Jesus for the occasion of that Day is this: I will be re-establishing the Servanthood; I will accomplish it by giving of my body and shedding of my blood; I will die to establish it (remember this), NOT just that you can once again serve God and serve one another, but also that the Servanthood of which I have initiated you (the Disciples) into (Of which I am the Firstfruit), it would survive mortal death, into eternity. 

I have still chosen to use servanthood and servant, even though, in John 15:15, the Lord said that for those who know the Master’s business, He no longer call them servants but friends; it is a posture of humility to remember we are servants of the Lord and God, in the first place (Generally, you get to know the Master’s business when you are abiding in Him).

Now, I know some may object to me, alluding the entire symbolism to “initiation”; one ground is that Jesus mentioned “covenant” in the supper symbolism and that we do take Communion regularly (purportedly, initiation only happens once).  Firstly, many initiation rites are covenants, blood covenants, actually, binding the persons in the whatever-hood that they commit or have committed themselves into.  Although it is true that generally, between men, initiation rite is done once, but the spirit of it is always to remember what they have committed themselves into.  Because the Lord used the common daily event, and the common Eucharist elements, of bread and wine, and so, it can be easily forgotten (if you have to do some dramatic feat, perhaps you would remember it always, for, perhaps, you would have been boasting about it, every so often!), His way was that we are to remember whenever we do it, eat of the bread and drink of the wine, that we are in this servanthood He has re-established. 

In case people say that I have NOT done justice to the Supper symbolism, and the Gospel too, let me say that the Supper symbolism is (1) God so loved that world that He gave His one and only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to die on the Cross, so that whoever believe in Him, may have eternal life; and (2) the Lord, Jesus’ service unto God, in love and obedience, to give up His glory in Heaven before God, to come down to be born of man, and to die on the Cross, so that He, though sinless, could be ransom for our lives, freeing us from the curse of death (2nd death – Hell) from our past sins, including that of the Original Sin, coming through to us, from the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.  By His (Jesus) giving of Himself, be broken of body, shed of blood, and dying on the Cross, crucified, NOT only the everlasting life is now possible for us, men, again, His sacrifice has also re-established the works dimension of our lives, from Creation; God created Man to serve Him and please Him.  The Eucharist elements are to remind us of the redemptive works of our Lord.  By the way, those interested to have a fuller understanding of the redemptive works of the Lord, can go read this: Works of Redemption by Our Lord.
We can see how shallow the message the Last Supper had become.  If you are insistent that the feet-washing and the supper are two distinct items that ought NOT be looked together, read John 13 carefully, and you will see that the meal was being served (v2), Jesus was already seated at the table, and He got up (v4 said He got up from the meal), and He then started the feet-washing.  (It is, however, NOT after the meal, for v26 {...”I will give”...}, indicated so).  It was NOT a picture of before they were ready to eat, say, they had all just come into the hall, and Jesus wanted to wash their feet; they were all ready to eat.

Today’s typical Eucharist message: Remember Jesus died for you that you may have eternal life.  That is a far cry from the complete message Jesus was trying to give on that Last Supper occasion.  It is more of Jesus has put us back into active service. 

Romans 3:10-12 - 10 As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one."

Isaiah 64:6 - All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

Romans 3:23-26 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- 26 he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

Eph 2:10 -  For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Isaiah 64:8 -  Yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
Jeremiah 18:1-6 - 1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: 2 "Go down to the potter's house, and there I will give you my message." 3 So I went down to the potter's house, and I saw him working at the wheel. 4 But the pot he was shaping from the clay was marred in his hands; so the potter formed it into another pot, shaping it as seemed best to him. 5 Then the word of the LORD came to me: 6 "O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter does?" declares the LORD. "Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Who goes to Heaven? Matt 7:19-23 – 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. 21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

Salvations by works?!  No. But by his fruit, and so, his works (for fruit is from his works), it is clear if one is saved.  No matter how we “slice it”, like we love God, etc., we cannot run away from “mere words are NOT enough”, we got to have fruit (from works) to show it.  I believe God employs, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”.  In the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30), it is clear that one of the servants did nothing with the talent, and we can read what happened to him.  Yes, nowhere in Scripture is it quantified as to how much fruit/works is sufficient, but what happens to the idle servant, will serve as the base scenario, from which we are to improve upon.  The Lord knows what is do-able for you and I, and He deserves our best effort; He alone judges (including how much), and we should profane NOT, His grace.  Be aware and be warned; you are in servanthood unto the Lord and God.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

PS: Although it is NOT uncommon that the washing of feet be expounded to illustrate we need to be humble (humility); in view of the context of Jesus making reference to body-cleaning, it was NOT the central theme of Jesus then.  Humility is of course, an integral part of servanthood, and the theme there was about servanthood, and so, when we pluck humility into the equation so to speak, it does NOT appear out of place, at all.  For example, it is fine to say "Without humility, Peter, you will have no part in me", when as I believe, Jesus' true intent was to say, "Without being forgiven by me, you will have no apart in me".  Is it wrong to teach humility using this feet-washing text?  No, but like I say, it was NOT the central theme.  The on-going need to be cleansed, was.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

How do we fend off anxiety?

Preamble:  This entry is adapted from a comment I made on a US pastor’s blog entry.

In a matter of degree, perhaps, all of us exhibit it, anxiety.  Scripture paints for us, for our lives, a picture of growth and development, a picture of on-going overcoming on our part, and lastly, a picture of dependant on God even as we are NOT to be complacent, presumptuous, prideful, and unteachable.  And so, it is NOT surprising that almost all, if NOT all of us, do exhibit some degree of anxiety, although the goal is to be devoid of anxiety, as far as possible or be of peace {and joy} (we are still growing; NOT arrived).

The overly grace’s perspective
Be careful of preachers and teachers (overly grace ones, mostly) who hold out to you that you should believe that the works of the Lord on the Cross got to be perfect, and so, once “you are saved”, you too, are perfect – new creation, perfect in righteousness. The correct theology should be along the line that we are saved, being saved, and hope to be saved, eventually.  No, the phrase in Scripture, “He who overcomes” is NOT simply another way of saying a believer.  It is you and I are believers, and we still need to live an overcoming life.  Such lingos as “we are just to bask in grace” are ridiculous.   

The warning is this: if you go with such doctrine, my belief, keeping to the topic, is that you run the risk that such indoctrination prepare you NOT, to deal with more challenging troubles that will inevitably come your way (troubles do come our way – John 16:33 – quoted below).

Perfection is referred to intent
I am NOT saying the works of the Lord on the Cross is NOT perfect; it is, but perfection has to be measured against what were the intents (of God), in the first place.  Not every aspect of the redemptive works of Jesus is completed in us the moment we are saved (converted).  The entire salvation is a process, a journey of being refined by God, so that, at end of it all, we be Christ-like, and so, are able to stay and live in the presence of God in Heaven.  Through it all, there necessarily be responsibility and accountability on our part, man, even as God knows how and when to do His part.

The works of Christ Jesus on the Cross was prefect, but God did NOT intend that on entry into salvation, we are to be for the rest of our lives, free from troubles.  In the words of the Lord, Himself:

John 16:33 – "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Fallen world; troubles inevitable
We are in this world, a fallen world in a fallen state; how can we be of no troubles or challenges? (rhetorical!)  We are still in the domain of Satan; this fallen world is the domain where Satan perpetuates his evil intent to get men counted with him, away from God.  So, we are NOT only facing challenges thrown at us by flesh and blood, but by the snares of evil principalities.  Putting it in a metaphorical manner, God has given you and I, access to Him and His invincibility to be overcomers, but has NOT made us invincible of ourselves - to everything, including anxieties.  We still need to be properly hooked up to the Grand Master and tap from him. As a side, “given us by God” does NOT necessarily mean “you have it in your hand; there, you can see it and touch it”. The Lord is the Grand Master; we, the disciples, and we have to learn from and be discipled by the Master.  No one instantly, becomes as nearly good as the Grand Master.  Jesus Himself when He walked as a man, Scripture recorded this for us, that He too needed to grow:

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

How big and good is your God?
Who do you want to follow, holding him as your Grand Master?  Any men worthy of that place for you?  Any deities?  Any forces?  Who would you follow unquestioned?  One who is completely trustworthy to be righteous, and completely capable.  Now if you have identified and believed God is the one, don’t waiver. Rather, taste and see that God is good; NOT testing, but tasting.

Ps 34:8 (NIV) - Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Ps 34:8 (KJV) - O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.

The Hebrew word, chacah (H2620), from the Strong’s Lexicon can mean take refuge or trusting or having hope.  If we look at the KJV count of how it was used, 35 times it was used as trust, 1 time as taking refuge, and 1 time as having hope. 

Grow your faith and so, trust, in God
Trusting God is so very important. Heb 11:6 said that without faith, it is impossible to please God.  In the exercise of faith, we necessarily need to trust God.  Just as for faith, that we need to grow it over time, our trust in God needs to be developed over time.  Some people progress faster, some slower, but all have to progress; and in it all, we need to be subject to God’s direction by His Spirit, and His timing, working with God and NOT against God; and His Word is the base we work from.  This is why, I discourage preachers to teach that general faith comes from God (supernatural or extraordinary faith as in the gift of faith, may come from God, but we are to grow in faith, generally).

One simple rule of thumb of interpreting Bible for me is this:  God does NOT ask of you to be possessed of a thing, if you have no part to play, and it is that He has to give it to you.  God’s prescriptions exhort men, NOT Himself.  So, simply, it is NOT you just sit there in the chair on the beach and bask, and God is to give you the faith or trust He ask of you. Imagine, if it were so, you are perfectly right to tell God in His face, “NOT my fault-what, you did NOT give-what, so, I don’t have-what; your fault-what, God!” I am NOT saying it is impossible that God gives while you do nothing, but we must understand we are still needing growing and developing, and overall, God is working towards that end, that we grow and develop (if you are of the doctrine that once saved, you are arrived, there is no meeting possible, of our views).

Faith and trust grow from a relationship & personal experiences
Christianity is relationship-based thing; when Jesus said (John 10:14), “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep knows me”, the “know” there, the Greek word is “ginosko”, and it is one of the several “know” words of the Greek.  It has the connotation of knowing from PERSONAL experience, implicitly meaning there is a relationship.

The shepherd and sheep metaphor
Although everyone’s journey may be different, there is no short-cut; each needs to walk with the Lord to know (ginosko) the Lord.  The picture of the shepherd and sheep is a good one; the sheep got to be led by the shepherd; move with the shepherd, learning to trust and trust, the shepherd. 

For one thing, the sheep needs necessarily be where the shepherd is.  It is the same with us; we need to be where the Lord is found.  Strange thing to say (God is everywhere!)?  No, for example, the Lord is NOT found in evil; so, don’t go there.  Putting it in another way, don’t expect God to be with you in your evil; you cannot expect Him to join you or help you in your evil, can you!  The theological jargon is: we are to abide in the Lord, and the Lord in us.  When we abide in the Lord, we are where the Lord is, and we are in agreement with the Lord. 

Trouble, trouble, …
When the sheep is with the shepherd and a big bad wolf comes to harm the sheep, what would a good and able shepherd do?  Yes, he will fend off the enemy.  But before that, it is possible, the shepherd noted the particular sheep strayed, and let the coming of the enemy to teach the sheep before he would fend off the enemy.  If the sheep does NOT learn, in one time, the shepherd may teach again with another incident.  That too, can be how, we are refined by God; we keep straying, and the Lord keeps having to teach us, over and over again, and rescuing us again and again, until we know how to stay within the confine of His righteousness. 

In the whole process, we learn to accept and trust the Lord’s ways for us.

Situations of anxiety
Why do people get anxious?  Here are some of the common reasons:
1.      They have done wrong and they are mindful of there are consequences against them, already arrived or are coming.
2.      They are facing unknown(s). 
3.      They are mindful of their capacity and resource inadequacy to confront.
4.      They cannot depend on another or anyone.
5.      They have developed a “kiasu” mentality.
6.      They are attacked directly, spiritually (by demonic spirit).

Anxiety because of trouble from wrongdoing/sin
If you and I don’t want to be anxious, firstly, we have to try NOT to do wrong or sin.  For example, if you are got caught on camera bribing a government official; you did wrong, and you could be persecuted.  Now that can cause you to be anxious.  Don’t listen to people who tell you that if you try or effort, that is works and is frowned by God, they are WRONG; you and I have to try NOT to sin (Bondages need God’s coming in, but it does NOT necessarily mean you have no part to play).

But we do sin, of course!  Still we have to try NOT to; and when we do sin, we (1) may have to face the consequence, unless you are let off, and (2) we need to repent and ask for forgiveness, from (a) God, and (b) men, if possible. 

It is still possible to get peace back, even if you still need to face the consequence.  Peace comes back when you get back in agreement with God, and for that, the repenting, confession and asking for forgiveness from God are a MUST.  We need to acknowledge we have been wrong and ask God to help us to face the consequence when we have to face it.  Of course, you cannot undo what has been done, although restitution is possible in some cases, but peace can come back to you when you get back right and in agreement with God, to handle the aftermath.  Commonly, we do sin again and again, but we should be improving, and our recovery of peace, more expedient.  When we sin again and again, yes, anxiety does get repeated again and again, until we have learnt how NOT to let sin take a hold on us.  These words from the Cain and Abel story come to mind, and are to be borne in mind:

But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it." (Gen 4:7b)

Anxiety from unknowns and uncertainties
I will talk about points 2-4, together; we face unknowns, some common to all, some specific to us, but may NOT be applicable or less severe, to others.  The “trick” to this is to catch hold of how big our God is, that He is the Omni-God, knows all, can do all, love us NOT with a haphazard love but a predictable love of “love unto righteousness”.  Nothing can surprise God, nothing can overwhelm God, and nothing can stump God; and if God is with you, who or what can be against you, and prevail still, ultimately?  A rhetorical question, of course.

Anxiety from kiasu-ness
The “kiasu” mentality – This is a colloquial word used in Singapore; it means “fear of losing {out}”. In Singapore, meritocracy is overwhelmingly embraced; people are drummed to be highly competitive from infancy, even!  Many people do this - always compare, and compare with those having more, more successful, higher in status and prestige.  When we do that often, we are welcoming anxiety!  No, I am suggesting people be like an ostrich, hide the head in the sand, oblivious to what goes on, including how well or unwell people are doing materially or otherwise.  We are NOT converted to be Robinson Crusoe – live like him, alone on an island.  But the Word does teach us to embrace godliness with contentment (1 Tim 6:6-11).  This does NOT mean that people have to be mediocre in what they do, and we do have to embrace the text – 1 Tim 6:6-11.

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. (1 Tim 6:6-11)

Anxiety from direct demonic oppression
The last point above, about being attacked spiritually by demonic spirit – this is NOT fictional.  Anxiety is common for people demonised or demon-possessed.  The understanding is simple:  Jesus, the Prince of Peace, comes to give peace.  This peace is had when we are in agreement with God.  When you are in agreement with God, you are in agreement with the Spirit of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and the peace (and joy) in and of the Spirit who indwells every believer, will be felt by you.  Satan comes to do the contrary; John 10:10 said that Satan comes to steal, kill and destroy.  One of the prime things he steals is men’s peace, or we say he gives you anxiety, the opposite of what Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, gives (peace).  How to prevent this?  In short, staying in the Word and living righteous, is the best prevention.

Anxiety is like a friend, just walk right in!
My US pastor friend, in his blog, said that the anxieties, "they are like friends who come over to your house without ever knocking on the door. They just walk in knowing they will be welcomed." Do you welcome them? If you don't welcome them, will they still just walk right in? Is there a way to keep them off?

I know the Word, but they still walk right in!
I also infer that he meant, "I know the Lord's words on this, but they still walk right in!" Without knowledge we will perish (Hosea 4:6); ignorant is not necessarily bliss! But mere knowledge also does not necessarily mean we won't perish. 

For example, we know dengue can kill, and mosquitoes are carriers; that is knowledge, but if we are living in a dengue zone, and we do nothing to rid of, stagnant waters in our home, that knowledge does not help. The mosquitoes that breed in the stagnant waters in your home would sting you and you could contract dengue fever, and you could suffer tremendously, if not death. Well, you may not deliberately welcome the mosquitoes or dengue, but you did not say no to them either.  Only when we apply the knowledge by getting rid of the stagnant waters, do we actually make an attempt to fend off dengue. So, you want to fend off anxiety? You have to apply the knowledge from the Word, in your life, in order that you can be of peace most of the time, if not all the time, or fend off, anxiety.

Mental knowledge isn’t enough
Most of us don't get beyond the possessing of mental knowledge of the Word; this just isn't enough.  We go back to the dengue case, many of us simply push the buck back to the authority, the municipal services; this authority has to see to it, we need not lift a finger, to fend off anxiety, oop, I mean, dengue!  Isn't it true, many of us do the same to God, passing the buck to God, absolving ourselves of responsibility and accountability, not recognizing there is the "our part" that we must play. 

If I am NOT wrong, many of us, in Singapore, hop from conferences to conferences, lapping it up, whatever that were dished out, but alas, how many of us, actually apply what we have gleaned from conferences and seminars.  Obedience is better than sacrifice applies here too – yah, you made those sacrifices to attend the conferences, but do you obey (put into practice) what you already know of the Word?

Agreement with God NOT just mental assent
I know I talked, above, about agreement with God, and so, it is appropriate, again, to stress that agreement with God that I am talking about is not mental assent.  At the perfect end, it is doing what God wants done, and at the time God has wanted. 

Many believers know Matt 6:33 and can recite it from memory, mentally agreeing with it, but how many actually apply it in their lives? How many actually seek first, the Kingdom of God? Or is it believers (overly grace ones) think that, that they have entered into salvation means they have sought the Kingdom, and so, it is job done, job completed, nothing more to seek!  What about the righteousness bit? I have come across believers who, under the influence of overly grace teaching, said that this verse, Matt 6:33, applies to non-believers, and NOT to believers, on their purported (but wrong) understanding that they are already righteous, max., and forever max., and so, no seeking possible! 

To set the record straight, this text (Matt 6:33) is referring to believers (Want to read a good exposition of Matt 6:33, read this: But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness ...).  Do you practice it, Matt 6:33, or try your best to do so? You and I, have to, you know.

NOT necessarily overnight-lah
What does that verse, verse 34, following it, mean? Verse 34 - “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." The way to look at it, is to read it with v33.   When we actually practise v33, seek His Kingdom and His righteousness, we are in agreement with God, and all we need, God would see to it that we would have them; and when we would do that everyday, we can expect God to do the same - see to it that we will have our needs met each day.  That is why it said there, NOT to be anxious about the next day.  I know some would say, "But I am still anxious about tomorrow, despite trying (not to)!"

A baby does not suddenly able to run; he first goes on four, crawls around, following by standing up, to falling back down, and getting up again, and falling down again, and getting up again, and again and again, and then, taking his first steps, and then falling down and then getting up, and try again, and again, and then, he walks, and then finally, he is able to run. What picture do you get? When it is the right thing to do, bit by bit, we still do, despite setbacks; perseverance and endurance are needed and developed.  Now, if it is the right thing to be done, the babe's father would keep watch with a protective heart, but he may not disrupt the learning process; in fact, he is waiting to see the babe manages walking and then running.  Our God, too, does not want us to give up on doing the right things.  So, don't give up.

Scriptures interprets scripture
1 Pet 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Rest assured, as said in 1 Pet 5:7 above, God cares for you, but the "cast all your anxiety on Him" is less straightforward in that it needs to be interpreted with other scriptures, like these two texts - Matt 6:33-34 and Phil 4:6-7.   What I discern is that we shouldn't be thinking that we could get ourselves carelessly into anxiety, repeatedly, and then each time, could simply claim, "I now cast all my anxiety on the Lord", and expect anxiety is gone, and peace be had.  Yes, it may be possible, the grace of God is at work, but God looks at our heart, and we, ultimately, must come back to be right and in agreement with God. Self-examination is necessary, we must want to come back to wanting to seek His Kingdom and His righteousness; and we got to be practicing Phil 4:6.  What is Phil 4:6?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

Even Phil 4:6 must be understood in the proper light.  The “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.", must be qualified with "they are to be in agreement with God".  It is NOT anything and everything you ask without anxiousness, God must necessarily grant, or His peace would come so that you once again be possessing of peace (and joy) in and of the Spirit.

How do we fend off anxiety or how do we NOT lose peace? Always be in agreement with God.  If we fail, we come back, get back right and in agreement with God. Persist in doing so – the “be in agreement with God”, and “get back right {1 John 1:9}”.  Remember, it is NOT enough, just to be employing mental assent; you and I need to be applying them, practising them, for only in so doing, can we grow, consistent with what is entailed in salvation, which is a process.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions – There is no short-cut; keep doing right, and it will get better.

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Monday, September 2, 2013

'ahab love – love unto righteousness

Instead of going straight into saying what is 'ahab love, let me say what I mean by love unto righteousness, which from time to time, readers would come across in my articles on my blog or my comments on blogs I follow.

Love unto righteousness
Love unto righteousness is referring to a party loving another in such a way, where there is no unrighteous element whatsoever in that love.  In such a love, righteousness is either fostered or maintained. 

The love of God for men is first of all, that way – love unto righteousness.  Meaning, God cannot love you and I, unrighteously or unto unrighteousness.  In fact, NOT only God cannot love you and I unrighteously, He must foster or maintain righteousness in (the party of) His love.  The fostering or maintaining of righteousness is with reference to men, for God Himself is holy and righteous, and God cannot act against His own nature, ultimately. 

In His love for us, He behooves us to righteousness or maintenance of righteousness.  In other words, you can’t, for example, expect God to accede to this request of yours, in the name of love, His love for you: “Lord, the sight of him irks me, if you love me, why don’t you cause him to fall into the dirty drain over there!”

Just because the sight of someone irks you, it is NOT righteous, is it, for you to get him to fall into the dirty drain!  When it is unrighteous, God cannot do it, and God cannot foster unrighteousness in you; He can only foster righteousness in you.  His love for you has to be loving you unto righteousness.  Why is this paramount?  Because that is the only way we can be with God in a love relation, for God is holy and righteous.

What is 'ahab love?
Yes, generally, you see me equating “love unto righteousness” to 'ahab love; what is 'ahab love?

'ahab (H157) is an Hebrew word for love.  This Hebrew word for love is found extensively in the OT (The OT was written in Hebrew, almost entirely; and the NT, in ancient Greek, mostly).  The Hebrew language is a rich language, and the way it was and is, is that a Hebrew word can have multiple meanings, NOT to mention the varying degrees of shade of a meaning.  'ahab is one such word, and in it, is the concept of love unto righteousness.  You can see it in the short-form Strong’s Lexicon, I am giving below:

'ahab (H157) – either love or like, and for love, it is broken down to:
human love for another, includes family, and sexual;
human appetite for objects such as food, drink, sleep, wisdom;
human love for or to God;
act of being a friend: lover (participle), friend (participle);
God's love toward man: to individual men, to people Israel, to righteousness;
lovely (participle), loveable (participle);
friends, lovers (fig. of adulterers).

From the underlined portion, you can see it – the love unto righteousness; God’s love for men is love unto righteousness; and men, to love God back, are also to love Him, righteously.

The direct linking of love unto righteousness by me to 'ahab love is solely because the Greek love word, agape, the equivalent love word used extensively in the NT (written in Greek), does NOT have the meaning of love unto righteousness, traditionally.

Why this righteousness element is missing from agape?
Why is it (this righteousness element) missing, or missed out in the Greek word, agape?  The ancient Greek language was of course from the Greek people, although in those times of writing, it was the scholarship language of even the Jews, meaning the authors themselves, not Greek, but they wrote in Greek. 

I submit to you this reason: The Greek (people)’s ancient cultural and historical religious beliefs background had NOT, that idea (love unto righteousness) comprised in love words.  In other words, it was one of the occasions of, “it was NOT the word to use, but the best (Greek) word to use”, when the non-Greek authors were writing in Greek. 

I argue for love unto righteousness to be imputed into “agape”, just as “sacrificial” and even “unconditional” were imputed into it, subsequent to the writing of the biblical books of the Bible, in this article: Agape’s meanings need to be expanded.

Until, it is widely accepted, love unto righteousness as part of agape love, I will still be referencing love unto righteousness as 'ahab love. 

It is NOT plucked from the air!
I do encourage you to read the article given above arguing for the imputing of “love unto righteousness” into agape. Just in case, people think I pluck this whole thing out of the air, I will give you the “pillars of love” found in both the OT and NT, and you can see for yourself if I am justified to build a case for the need to impute “love unto righteousness” as embodied in the Hebrew love word,'ahab, into the Greek love word, agape, before I end this article.

The love pillars:
OT:   Deu 6:5 - Love ('ahab) the LORD your God with all your heart and with 
        all your soul and with all your strength.

Lev 19:18 - " 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love ('ahab) your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.

NT:   Mark 12:30 - Love (agape/agapao) the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

         Mark 12:31 - The second is this: 'Love (agape/agapao) your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

Whether it is called 'ahab or agape, my revelation is that God’s kinda of love is firstly, love unto righteousness, and then, charitable, sacrificial, selfless, and to a good extent, unconditional.

It helps understanding, in knowing this
It, love unto righteousness ('ahab love) should help you, a bit more, in your understanding of God’s actions when you view them or the absence of them (actions by God), under the lens of love.  God’s love is sacrificial, but it is NOT unconditional all the time, for He can only love you and I, unto righteousness, ultimately.

Anthony Chia, high.expressions

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