Friday, November 28, 2014

When We Are Confronted With God's Holiness (Isaiah 6:1-8): Tinubos blog's 6th anniversary post

ISAIAH 6:1-8 (NIV 1984)
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. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
  "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
    the whole earth is full of his glory."

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

    "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty."

    Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, "See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for."

    Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?"
    And I said, "Here am I. Send me!"
Photo credit: David A Ziser at Digital ProTalk

Unlike all other elective positions, the Constitution makes no provision for the reelection of the nation's chief executive. That means as long as this Constitution is in effect, we will have a new president every six years, except in cases where a person who has succeeded as President has only served for less than four years and decides to run for the same office just like Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who served for a total of more than nine years.

We also know that whenever a new president is elected, there will be changes. For no two presidents are exactly alike; each one will have his own personality and leadership style. Each one will also have different sets of friends and preferences so the cabinet will not remain the same.

In chapter 6, Isaiah tells his story on how he was called to be a prophet. He was called in a year of impending change, for it was in the year King Uzziah died. This king's reign lasted 52 years. To put that into perspective, that is one and a half years longer than the periods of Marcos, Cory, Ramos, Erap, GMA and Pnoy combined (assuming Pnoy would finish his term and step down in 2016).

We could imagine the prevailing uncertainty in the hearts and minds of the Israelites in the year he died because this king managed the nation well. The account of his reign in 2 Chronicles shows he was a good administrator. During his reign, the water supply was improved, agriculture flourished, and the national defense was fortified. He even spearheaded a research project for the innovation of their weapons. Imagine a king who would deliver an impressive State of the Nation Address(SONA) year after year for five straight decades!

In the later part of his life, he took a spiritually fatal step. Because of his accomplishments, pride was conceived in his heart. He disregarded the law by doing the work of the priests. And when confronted with his sin, he responded in anger. As a consequence, he was struck by the Lord with leprosy and lived in isolation. Yet, still nothing changed the fact that he was a good administrator, and his death is a big change in the lives of the people.

Isaiah tells his story that in the year the great earthy king died, he saw the greater King in heaven. In the year that the life of the mortal king ended, Isaiah saw the immortal King whose reign will never end. Kings and kingdoms; emperors and empires will all pass away. But as for the one enthroned in heaven, he will go on reigning forever and ever. Psalm 90:2 says "From everlasting to everlasting, you are God". There is a King in heaven-- greater than those who are currently reigning here on earth so we have a reason to hope whatever takes place here on earth.

Isaiah's experience here was similar to John in Patmos whose eyes and senses were suddenly opened to witness what the normal eyes and senses could not see and perceive (Rev. 1:10, 4:2)

“I saw the LORD!”, Isaiah claimed. But when he described what he saw, these are all he could describe:
  • the position of the throne
  • the hem of the robe
  • the seraphims surrounding him

Suppose a friend told you that the reigning Miss Universe visited his baranggay and that there was a point when she was only a few steps away from him. Of course your curiosity was awakened so you asked your friend, “How does the reigning Miss Universe look like?” To your disappointment, all your friend describes are the following:

  • her yellow skirt
  • her floral headband
  • her personal assistants

I myself would be frustrated with your friend. I don't care about the skirt color. I don't care about the floral headband. I don't care about her personal assistants. All I want to know is what the beauty queen looks like in person!

As for Isaiah however, we must remember that the Lord's prophet is not stupid. We could assume that he was trying to give the best description of the things he saw. But what more could he do when what he saw were beyond words? That's why we sing:

You are beautiful beyond description
Too marvelous for words
Too wonderful for comprehension
Like nothing ever seen or heard

Let us therefore get the most out of the descriptions he gave us.

The position of his throne (seated on a throne, high and exalted) and the hem of his robe (the train of his robe filled the temple) is about his unequaled majesty and authority by any other power (Rev. 19:16; Psalm 2:2-4). As for the seraphims around him who each had six pair of wings, we must remember that God wisely designs his creatures for their habitat and their survival. Fins and gills for the fish, shell for the turtle, strength for the bear, speed for the cat, etc. The seraphims were given different sets of wings to cover themselves because they are moment by moment exposed to the majesty and holiness of God. They needed that to survive!

More than their appearance, we should pay attention to what they are saying. They call out to each other:

"Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory."

The word “Holy” is mentioned three times for emphasis and intensity. It indicates how awed they are. One aspect of holiness is morally purity-- freedom from sin and unrighteousness. But that could not be the message the angels are emphasizing here; for they themselves are holy inhabitants of heaven. They are also morally pure

I think what's being emphasized here is another aspect of holiness which is solitariness. He is separate. He is totally of a different class; he is not like us or any other thing in existence.

There is a category for angels.
There is a category for men.
There is another category for eagles; and another for worms.

Yet angels, men, eagles and worms are all mere creatures. Only one is separate as the Creator. He is matchless. He is without peer. He is holy, holy, holy.

His perfections in all his character and attributes convey his matchless beauty and splendor, so we are told by the psalmist:

“Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.” (Psalm 29:2)

The seraphims also declare that “The whole earth is filled with his glory.”

Earthly kings extend their glory by conquering other territories. The bigger the area, the greater glory for the king. The angels declare that there is no portion of the earth where the glory of the Lord is not present. He does whatever pleases him in Asia, Europe, North and South America, Africa and the whole universe (Psalm 135:6).

The purpose by which he created this world is for his glory. And there is no part of this world which is not for this purpose even the place you call your home or your personal and private room. Are you glorifying him in these places? Or are you in rebellion? Submit now or pay the consequence later! Are you in submission to the King?

What Isaiah saw was a frightening scene. The place was shaking as if there is an earthquake. Smoke filled the place as if a volcano erupted. By this time Isaiah can't take it anymore. He cried “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5)

Let us enumerate three things that happened when we are confronted with God's holiness.

1. When we are confronted with God's Holiness, we see the depths of our sin.
Isaiah saw the filthiness of his lips. Filthy lips indicate a filthy heart.

Luke 6:43 -45 ”No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”

It's not just the mouth, but all our body parts are dirty because we all use them in our enjoyment of sin. When confronted with God's holiness, you will be grieved by all the unholy things you did by which you involved your eyes, your hands, your feet, your brain and the rest of your body parts.

Notice also that it breaks spiritual pride in Isaiah for he put himself on equal footing as the rest – to the people he lives among with.

Isaiah's account also gives us an idea of what it fells to be truly blessed. Without being confronted with God's holiness, one may think he is blessed when in reality he is not.

Social Media give you an idea of what people are doing daily: the restaurant they recently visited, the wedding ceremony they attended, what they sketched on paper when bored at work, etc. On a particular Sunday, one professing Christian posted a status at 12 noon. He informed everyone that he was present at this particular church, and that he was "feeling blessed". If that is true, then well and good! Praise the Lord!

Yet at 1pm, he posted another status. He's watching a Sunday noontime show and proudly told the whole world that he was enjoying a sensual dance number by a well-known sexy actress. I doubt the truthfulness of his claim 60 minutes earlier that he was blessed.

I would tell you what a blessed man looks like upon attending a worship service. (see 1 Corinthians 14:24-25). He comes in with sins he secretly nourishes. But in the community of saints, by the ministry of the word, the secret issues of his heart are addressed. He will fall down in humility and worship God. He then concludes that God is present in the assembly. That's what a blessed man looks like.

If secret sins are not dealt with; if after attending a worship service, you did not feel the holiness of God confronting your sin, I doubt if you were really blessed. Perhaps you enjoyed the music in the same way you enjoy the FM radio. Perhaps you enjoyed the pretty faces and friendly smiles of those in attendance. Perhaps you enjoyed the preacher's punchlines. Well the best way to describe what you have just experienced is that you have been entertained. It is one thing to be blessed and another thing to be entertained. They are not the same.

2. When we are confronted with God's Holiness, we realize that we are deserving of punishment and in need of salvation.
“Woe is me” is the opposite of blessing. It was used by Isaiah in this book at least 20 times to indicate that the Lord is about to repay evil deeds. It is fair to say that it's a well-used part of Isaiah's prophetic vocabulary. But before he ever uttered a woe upon others, he first issued the woe upon himself. Recognizing God as holy, holy, holy means acknowledging he has every right and authority to inflict punishment upon us.

One of the principles I use when sharing the good news is this: Bad news before the good news.

One must first be confronted with who God is and what he demands. Then show the prospect how he failed, and that he cannot save himself. It must be clear before him that he is in trouble before the holy God, unless God himself provides the remedy. Only after hearing the bad news will he be ready for the good news of forgiveness and cleansing.

Such is the case of Isaiah. God did not immediately cleanse his dirty lips. He first showed him his holiness so that Isaiah might see his sinfulness and realize the bad news. When Isaiah understood the bad news, then he was ready for the good news: God's provision of cleansing and forgiveness.

In verse 6, one of the seraphims flew toward Isaiah with a burning coal with him. As he came nearer and nearer, Isaiah might have had thought this is punishment for him. The seraphim would harm him with the burning coal. The seraphim finally came close enough to Isaiah and with the coal, he touched Isaiah's lips, one of the most sensitive of our external parts. To Isaiah's surprise, the coal did not harm him. On the contrary, it did him good. His iniquity was taken away and impurity cleansed.

To whoever is broken by God's holiness, he is ready for the next step. The forgiveness and cleansing through the blood of God's son (Ephesians 1:7)

3. When we are confronted with God's holiness, we are convicted that the majestic King must be served
So far the one who sits on the throne hasn't spoken yet. Now he does. He announces a job vacancy in his Kingdom. He was looking for a prophet. God announced this vacancy to a sinner named Isaiah. That's grace. In fact all the workers the Lord has ever hired were all sinners.

Having been cleansed, Isaiah did not hesitate to join the King's work force. He replied, "Here am I. Send me."

Up to this day, there are vacancies in the Lord's field:
"The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." (Luke 10:2)

In whatever capacity the Lord has gifted and equipped us, let us serve him. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the blood of Christ cleansed us that we may serve the living God (Hebrews 9:14). Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10) and that for the praise of God through Jesus Christ (1 Peter 4:11).

Serving God would not be easy. Isaiah's task was hard for he was sent to a people who would not receive the word. There rarely was a “prayed to receive Christ” (PRC) check mark on his evangelism blitz report sheets. Yet Isaiah persevered. It was in the year of Uzziah's death when he was called, and he lived and served in the times of three more kings: Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah-- 53 years of faithfulness in a ministry full of heartbreak. Yet it is all worth it when you think about the privilege of serving the holy, holy, holy God.

My final word for all of us--- for us who have unclean mouths, hands, feet, hearts and minds. Let us continue exposing ourselves to the word of God. For in it the holiness of God is revealed. It is the only hope for morally corrupt men and women.


Works consulted:
  • Raymond Ortlund, Jr.; Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preaching the Word Series; Crossway Books 2005
  • R. C. Sproul; The Holiness of God (Tyndale House Publishers 1985, 1998)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

We Shall Be With the Glorious Christ (John 17:24)

I was very much blessed with my study of Isaiah 6. Since November is Tinubos blog's anniversary month, I'm planning to post that material later this month. If the Lord wills, it will be posted on the 28th, the very day Tinubos was born way back in 2008. For the meantime, I'm posting this material which is really a spillover from my study of Isaiah 6.

This is also to grant the request of She Yap and Chewvy Orlanes. They graciously visited Guiding Light Dagupan and heard me preach this material on the afternoon of August 3. Thank you dear friends; I'm sorry for the delay. Though slightly modified, this is essentially the same message given to us on that blessed afternoon.

There is a verse in the New Testament that links Jesus Christ to the high and lofty vision of God's glory in Isaiah 6; that verse is John 12:42 where it is written:"Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him." John identified Jesus as the one whom Isaiah saw; the YHWH whose glory fills the whole earth.

Yet that was far from obvious on Jesus' days here on earth. While the king in Isaiah's vision possessed a blazing glory that even angels must cover their eyes, the carpenter  from Nazareth looked so ordinary. People saw no beauty, no majesty in him. The Pharisees and the Sadducees saw nothing special in him. Pilate and Herod saw him as a powerless suspect on trial. The crowd mocked him. The soldiers scourged. They spit on him, probably on his face.

Yet there will come a day when Jesus will be revealed in his full glory. When he comes, people would rather wish to be buried alive than to face the Wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16)

This glory was the first concern of Jesus when he opened his prayer at Gethsemane (John 17:1-5). He wants it back-- that blinding splendor which was veiled when he took the form of a servant. After praying for other matters (verses 6-23), he returns to the first concern in verse 24, so that his disciples would see that glory when they shall finally be reunited in the end. His specific prayer was:

NIV 1984

I would like to share three things we are assured of based on this short prayer item of the Lord:

First, this assures us that we ain't seen nothing yet.
Yes the disciples saw glimpses of his glory. They witnessed him turn water into wine. They heard him command the winds and the winds obeyed. Demons trembled before him. He made the sick well. He made the lame walk. He made the blind see. He raised the dead back to life and other things too many to mention.

And you my friend, if you have been a Christian long enough, there is no doubt that you have your own experiences of answered prayers and other wonderful things. Yet we have not yet seen the best of who Jesus is. We have not yet experienced the best of what Jesus has prepared for us. We will be with him and see his unveiled glory. We will be awed by his infinite majesty moment by moment and it will be unending. It will be an eternity of pleasures and joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11)

Second, this assures us that all our present troubles will soon melt away in the presence of Christ.
When the disciples began to understand that Jesus would soon leave them, their hearts were immediately filled with grief. As early as in chapter 14, Jesus has already presented the cure to that grief-- that is the promise of reunion with him (John 14:1-3).

Jesus' request in John 17:24 for his followers to be with him shows that he wants eternal comforts for us. We could then look beyond our present sufferings; they are not worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed in us (Rom. 8:18). "Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all" (2 Cor. 4:17). Our Shepherd will lead us to the springs of living water, and there God will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 7:17).

Third, this assures us that we will be changed into a people that fully enjoys God's glory.
From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible's testimony is consistent: Sinners don't enjoy the glory of God:
  • After eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve hid themselves among the trees upon hearing that the Lord is approaching (Gen. 3:8).
  • After hearing God spoke the ten commandments, the Israelites saw a frightening sight. The mountain was covered with smoke. Lightning flashed followed by the deafening sound of thunder. They trembled in fear. So they ask Moses, "Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die." (Exodus 20:18-19)
  • Isaiah saw God's glory and his conclusion was, "Woe to me... I am ruined!"
  • Earlier we saw that people would prefer being buried alive than face the Glorious Lamb (Rev. 6:16)
The presence of a holy and glorious God is a threat to sinners. But with Jesus' request in John 17:24, we are assured that someday we would be transformed into beings fully capable of enjoying God's glory. Facing God will no longer be a threat but a blessing (Matt. 5:8). Through the process of sanctification, the transformation has already began and it shall be completed when we are finally reunited with our Lord (1 John 3:2)

You may ask, "Will I ever arrive at that?"
Well, who doubts the potency of Jesus' prayer?  If you have put your trust solely on the Lord Jesus Christ for your eternal destiny, then this prayer is for you.

James picked Elijah as an example of a righteous man whose prayer is powerful and effective (James 5:16b-18). If a mere mortal's prayer is powerful and effective, how much more with the sinless Jesus Christ who has been in indescribable intimacy with his Father before the world began. "YES" we shall be with the glorious Christ and shall enjoy him forever.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Cause of Fights and Quarrels (James 4:1-6)

The death of Andres Bonifacio at the hands not of foreign enemies but of fellow revolutionaries remind us that even in an organization which is supposed to be working towards a common goal, serious internal disputes may arise.

There are conflicts in the home.
There are conflicts in the workplace.
There are conflicts in the classroom.
There are conflicts in the Senate.
There are conflicts baranggays.
There are conflicts in sports teams.

There are conflicts in a band.
There are conflicts business partnerships.

If the Overseas Workers' Association of Luzon (OWAL) will be organized abroad this year, don't be surprised if in the following year there will be a splinter group to be called Overseas Workers' Association of Pangasinan (OWAP). Out of the smaller group, an even smaller group may form the Overseas Workers' Association of Central Pangasinan (OWACenPang), and out OWACenPang, no one could stop a member from forming OWAM- the Overseas Workers' Association of Malasiqui.

Fights and quarrels are everywhere; from the the smallest organizations to the gigantic ones. This is consistent with the Scripture's testimony: before regeneration, "We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another." (Titus 3:3b)

How about the church? Ideally, she should be different compared to other earthly communities. After all, when the church was newly born, the believers were described as having “one in heart and mind” (Acts 4:32). She received a direct command from her Lord that her members should love one another (John 13:34-35) Yet the church is a work in progress; her members are still far from the ideal of perfect love towards each other. We have had witnessed several church splits. We know about Christians who are not in good terms with each other. We will to go James 4:1-61 that we may further understand this problem and what we can do about it.

If we think this is the problem of the modern church only, our text indicates that this was a problem in the early church as well. James was addressing the problem of fights and quarrels within the assembly of believers. In James 4:1-2, James identifies the immediate cause of fights and quarrels and expands to the broader cause in verses 3-6

Ask Ernie what started the fight between him and Bert. He tells you, “It's Bert's fault! He took away my loaf of bread.” 

Turning to Bert, he counters “It's Ernie's fault! The loaf of bread was too large for him yet he didn't want to share some to a starving man.”

We however must dig deeper to identify the cause of the strife. In the Scripture before us, James started by asking a rhetorical question expecting his readers to agree with his analysis.

James 4:1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? 

The word translated as “desire” in the NIV is hedone in the original Greek. It means that which produces enjoyment”. It's what makes you feel good.2 

We enjoy ice cream; we enjoy music; we enjoy nature; we enjoy humor. But it is more than those. The verse further says “it battles within you”. John MacArthur describes this as "… the war of the unbeliever’s flesh with his soul and conscience, which, despite the corruption of the Fall, has enough awareness of God and His truth to be disturbed when he sins.”3 

I'll point out where I agree with MacArthur and where I disagree. I agree that when men are so committed to their desires, they suppress their awareness of God's standard just to fulfill their desires. I disagree with MacArthur when he limits this propensity to unbelievers. Conflicts within the church may be at times caused by unregenerate men and women infiltrating the body. Yet conflicts may also be caused by genuine born again believers. There are times when true yet imperfect Christians may suppress the truth in the name of gratifying fleshly desires.

These desires not only suppress internal restraints like consience and knowledge of truth. They also suppress outward restraints. It is committed to remove all the barriers to his happiness, even it means resorting to the most drastic measure of all, namely murder. 

James 4:2a-- You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.

Donald Burdick comments: 
"James pictures these pleasures as residing within his readers, there carrying on a bitter campaign to gain satisfaction. Pleasure is the overriding desire of their lives. Nothing will be allowed to stand in the way of its realization."4 

By God's common grace, crime investigators know this very well. In identifying suspects, they always look for the possible motives behind the crime.
  • It could be a political rivalry: A politician's burning desire is to be the mayor of a city, yet the polls show that his rival will win by a wide margin. So he resorts to hiring an assassin to get rid of that man who is the hindrance to his happiness.
  • It could be a love triangle: One's burning desire is for a certain woman to reciprocate his affections. Yet the woman chooses a 3rd party (karibal sa pag-ibig). So the suspect repeatedly hammered the victim's head because he was an obstacle to his happiness.
Murders or attempted murders recorded in the Bible follow the same pattern

  • Saul's thoughts of killing David started when he realized that the young man is more popular that him, thus a threat to his throne (1 Samuel 18:6-11).
  • David himself was guilty of murder when he planned for the death of Uriah. The cause? Because he wants to avoid the explosion of the scandal between him and Bathsheba, Uriah's wife (2 Samuel 11).
  • King Ahab badly wants Naboth's piece of land so much that he offers to buy it or exchange it in a barter for a better vineyard. Yet Naboth refused because he inherited it from his ancestors. So Jezebel, Ahab's queen plotted the murder (1 Kings 21:1-16)
They are all the same. Someone is a hindrance to your happiness, so he must vanish. “This life in my womb shall ruin my career plans,” says a young woman. “I must go to an abortion clinic.” 

Remember also that murder is not just taking out the life of a person; it also includes bitter anger against him (Matthew 5:21-22). A son says in his heart “I want to inherit that lot near the road,” yet the parents gave him the lot behind it and gave his desired lot to a younger sibling. So he resolves, “I'm gonna hate my brother with all my heart for all the days of our lives.”. He did not shed the blood of his brother as Cain did, but in his heart, he murders his brother daily.

There is a righteous way by which we may obtain the things we desire. That is through prayer-- expressing our desires before God without hating anyone. Yet oftentimes we don't pray. 

James 4:2c “You do not have, because you do not ask God. 

Prayer springs from the conviction that we are powerless to acquire lasting happiness for ourselves and that only God is able to satisfy the deepest longings of our souls. If you don't have that conviction, of course, you will not pray.

In verse 6 of Hebrews 11, a chapter about men of faith, we find that
  1. Men of faith come to God
  2. Men of faith believe that the God of the Bible exists
  3. Men of faith believe God rewards those who earnestly seek him
Without these, it is “impossible to please God”, and a conclusive manifestation that you are indeed a man of faith is that you pray and submit your desires before God. A man of faith takes God at his word when he reads from his Bible. Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)

A man of uncontrollable evil desires has no interest in submitting himself to God. What's on his mind is “I want this. I will get it. And I will do it my way.” 

The Broader Cause Identified: WORLDLINESS (4:3-6) 

James 4:3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.” 

Some do pray yet still don't receive. The reason is because they pray a wordly man's prayer. The chief end of these prayers is not the glory of God but the glory of the self. “Hallowed by thy name” may proceed from their mouths but in reality, the exaltation of God is far from their hearts.

In an older post titled “The Love That Must be Stopped”, I wrote a three-point guide to diagnose if you are falling into worldliness:
You might be a world-lover if...
  1. You want to fulfill your desires outside of God's revealed will
  2. Visual delights arouse your desire for sinful acts
  3. You measure the worth of yourself and the worth of others by possessions and accomplishments
If your prayer is driven by any of these three elements, then God will not honor your prayers. Why? Simon Kistemaker explains:

“Greed is idolatry (Colossians 3:5) and that is an abomination in the sight of God. God does not listen to prayers that come from a heart filled with selfish motives. Covetousness and selfishness are insults to God.”5 

James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. “ 

In verse 4, there are two things about worldliness that make it dangerous to our souls
  1. It is spiritual adultery. It is no different from the Old Testament's depiction of Israel's unfaitfulness as harlotry (see the book of Hosea and his relationship with Gomer). But there is hope (See this older post titled “In Cash and in Kind”)
  2. It is enmity with God. Worldliness is opposed to God. You can love God and hate the world. Or love the world and hate God. But you cannot love both. There is no middle ground. If you love the world, you remain at enmity with God 

    The Holy Spirit Demands Total Allegiance
James 4:5 “Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely?”

We have a little problem with regards to verse 5. Bible translators don't agree on how to translate it. Translators don't agree on how to translate it. I may sound authoritative if I preach as if I am certain about it, and may even impress some. But I would feel like an arrogant man if I'll do. I'll just present two plausible options and indicate my preference.

1st, The “spirit” the human spirit. When it says, “The spirit yearns jealousy”, it refers to the sinful human nature's uncontrollable lust, which is connected to verse 1.

2nd, The spirit is not human spirit but the Holy Spirit yearning jealousy when we engage in worldliness, when we engage in spiritual adultery.
This 2nd option is my preference. It calls to mind Exodus 34:14, Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” He is the God who demands total allegiance; if we are into worldliness, then we are no longer true to our calling to be wholly dedicated to God.

Such is the high standard God sets for those who would serve him: total allegiance. Who is sufficient for all these things. I know I don't have that level of commitment. I know I have my selfish desires and I am powerless to subdue them. 

The God Who Gives Grace 
 At this point, verse 6 offers comfort: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: 
"God opposes the proud
but gives grace to the humble." 
Though he has set a high standard for us to follow him (total allegiance), he did not leave us on our own to fulfill his requirements. We are too poor spiritually for that.

God has set a high standard for wholehearted love and devotion on the part of his people, but he gives grace that is greater than the rigorous demand he has made.”6 

God's grace is sufficient to enable us to serve him in an undivided way. And in times we fail, his grace is sufficient to forgive and cover our sins. But he requires one thing for you to be receive that grace: Humility. James then quotes a God-inspired proverb: “ God opposes the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Proverbs 3:34)

You can stay in your pride devising schemes on how to get want you want, even at the expense of hating people whom you perceive as hindrances to your dreams. Sure you can persist in that way. But remember, God's favor is not with you. The proverb says God is against you; he opposes you; he resists you.

Why not go the other way. Choose the path of humility. Humbling your self before him. Bowing down the knee to his sovereign control. Entrusting your desires in the hand of the Lord through prayer.

You may ask, “How about my desires? How about my dreams? How about my happiness?” Well, the proverb says, that if you will humble yourself before the Lord, there is grace-- more grace reserved for you. Draw near to God in prayer and believe that he rewards those who diligently seek him.

1. Unless otherwise indicated, scripture quotations are from the NIV 1984
2.  J. P. Louw & Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (United Bible Societies, 1999)
3. John Macarthur, James (MNTC series; Moody Publishers 1998)
4. Donald Burdick (Expositor's Bible Commentary, 1st edition, Volume 12; Zondervan 1982)
5. Simon Kistemaker, Exposition of James (New Testament Commentary; Baker Books, 1986)
6. Donald Burdick (EBC)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj is no Agabus

Abdul's comment is just one of the many this blog received a few hours after ABS-CBN's late night news program Bandila aired that shameful hoax. Though I have already posted about my general feeling about these comments, I decided to write a separate post on this one.

Abdul asserts that if I were present in the early church, I would brand Agabus as a false teacher just as I have done to Selvaraj. He claims that Agabus uttered two prophecies that did not came to pass:
i. that there would be a famine in the Roman world (Acts 11:28)
ii. that Paul would be bound and turned over to the Gentiles (Acts 21:10-11)

But is Abdul correct?

I. The Predicted Famine
"One of them named Agabus stood up and began to indicate by the Spirit that there would certainly be a great famine all over the world. And this took place in the reign of Claudius." (Acts 11:28 NASB)

There are records written by ancient historians of a series of bad harvests during the reign of Claudius that resulted in famine conditions:
  • Suetonius (Vita Claudius)
  • Tacitus (Annales)
  • Dio Cassius (History of Rome)
  • Orosius (History)

In addition to the historians mentioned above, there is a reference to a famine in Josephus' account of Queen Helena's conversion to Judaism. Josephus records that Helena's pilgrimage to Jerusalem at around 46 A.D. was advantageous to the people because:
"at that time the city was hard pressed by famine and many were perishing from want of money to purchase what they needed. Queen Helena sent some of her attendants to Alexandria to buy grain for large sums and others to Cyprus to bring back a cargo of dried figs. Her attendants speedily returned with these provisions, which she thereupon distributed among the needy. She has thus left a very great name that will be famous forever among our whole people for her benefaction." (Antiq. XX, 51-52 [ii.5]).
II. The Predicted Arrest of Paul
"As we were staying there for some days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. And coming to us, he took Paul's belt and bound his own feet and hands, and said, "This is what the Holy Spirit says: 'In this way the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" (Acts 21:10-11 NASB)

This one makes me scratch my head. How could Abdul miss this? Unlike the first prophecy, one does not need to consult extra-bibical sources on this one. The fulfillment of the prophecy is indicated clearly in the text itself! (see verses 27-33)

Agabus and Sevaraj belong to two different categories. The former is a genuine prophet affirmed by Luke's account and secular historians while the former is a false prophet by the standards of Deuteronomy 18:20-22 for serious blemishes in his recent track record (click HERE)

Works consulted:
1. John Macarthur, The Macarthur Study Bible
2. Richard Longenecker, Acts in the Expositor's Bible Commentary (1st edition)

Facebook Public Posts (March, 2014)

Monday, March 31, 2014

Comments received a few hours after Bandila aired that irresponsible "special report"

It's been more than a month now since ABS-CBN broadcasted that irresponsible special report on a "flesh-eating" skin disease "gradually spreading" in Pangasinan through it's late evening newscast Bandila. The 2nd part of the report was never shown on TV for in less than 24 hours, other media organizations and government authorities have conclusively shown that the report from the giant network was a hoax. The matter is now in the hands of the network's internal Ombudsman for investigation. For how long will this investigation process last? I have no idea.

The intent of this post however is not add more criticism to ABS-CBN for they received many already except from loyal fantards who would sing praises to the the network no matter what. This post is a personal lament. Though I'm glad and thankful that the Lord speedily exposed the falsehood of the report, I'm lamenting the fact that the incident manifested the gross lack of discernment in a large portion of the Filipino evangelical community. When I say "discernment", I simply mean the ability to distinguish what is right from what is wrong, the ability to identify the gem of truth from a pile falsehoods.

The Spirit of truth resides in us, right? The Spirit guides us, right? But why is it that within the hours immediately following the report of Bandila, the most vocal accessories in spreading the falsehood in social media are professing Christians? They are quick to tell the world, "See? We told you our prophets are for real!" They were also quick to confront fellow believers who questioned the credibility of their Indian prophets. Some of them found their way to my November 28 post Should Pangasinan Fear the Skin Disease Prophecy?: an Examination of Sadhu Sundar Selvaraj's Recent Track Record.

I've created a Facebook photo album of the comments I received the hours immediately following Bandila's special report. Click HERE

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Purpose of Peace

China's constant acts of bullying within our seas energized intercessions for peace. That is of course the right thing to do; we should ask for God's intervention. No one wants war; no one wants bloodshed especially if your nation's armed forces are weaker compared to the bully nation. But perhaps we should go deeper than just praying for peace. We should ask ourselves "What is the purpose of peace?" Without a proper answer to this question, we may be praying for purely selfish reasons.

Living in London at the onset of the Second World War, Martyn Lloyd-Jones was a witness of how men and women crowded places of worship to pray for peace during those troubled times. Here's an excerpt from one of his sermons. The principles were drawn from Acts 9:31 and 1 Timothy 2:1-2.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
It is not enough that we should desire peace merely that we avoid the horror and suffering of war, and all the dislocations and hardships and interference with ordinary life that are consequent upon it. Our real desire for peace should be based upon the further desire to have the fullest opportunity to live the godly and the holy life, and to have the maximum amount of time in which to build ourselves up in the faith. Man's chief business in life is to serve and to glorify God. That is why we are here on earth; all other things are subservient to this-- all the gifts and the pleasures which God gives us so freely. That is the chief end and object of man's life; and consequently he should desire peace because it enables him to do that more freely and fully than he can during a state of war.

But is that our reason for desiring peace? Is that the real motive in our prayers for peace? It is not for me to judge, but one cannot be blind to facts. Far too often, I fear, the motive has been purely selfish-- merely the avoidance of the consequences of war. Indeed, it has frequently failed to rise even to that level, and one has felt that many have desired peace merely in order to avoid a disturbance of the kind of life which they were living and enjoying so heartily.

What kind of life was that? In a word, it was almost the exact opposite of that described in our two passages of Scripture (Acts 9:31; 1 Timothy 2:1-2). Under the blessing of peace, men and women, in constantly increasing numbers, have forsaken God and religion and have settled down to a life which is essentially materialistic and sinful.

Why Does God Allow War?
p.91-92; Crossway Books

Thursday, March 6, 2014

He Has More Insight Than His Bishop

Sa kalagitnaan ng takot at pagkalito ng publiko nang nakaraang linggo bunga ng iresponsableng pag-uulat ng Bandila (late night newscast ng ABS-CBN), nag-tweet si Bishop Eddie Villanueva ng JIL:

Haynaku! ang Intercessors for the Philippines (IFP) nga naman. Mag-iimport ng mga Propeta na mananakot sa mga tao. Kapag tsumatsamba, "Ang galing ng mga propeta namin!" Kapag naman hindi natutupad ang mga hula, "Ang galing namin mag-intercede". Win-win situation palagi.

"Palakpakan! Na may kasamang hiyawan!"

Ganyan din ang pangangatuwiran na nasa likod ng tweet na iyan ng Obispo ng JIL. Samantala, isang karaniwang bahagi ng Pastoral staff ng JIL U-Belt na nagngangalang Jade Angelo Gascon ang nagpahayag ng ganitong puna:
As I have observed from conversations surrounding Sadhu Selvaraj’s prophecies, it is always a dead end: “If they come true, he’s a true prophet. If they don’t come true, it’s because the people repented.” Whatever happens, he’s always right. Although I disagree with that line of reasoning (on the basis of Deuteronomy 18:21-22 and 13:1-4), I will not dispute it for now because it would seem to be an effort in futility to do so.

Thus, this post is not intended to examine his or Bro. Selvakumar’s prophecies bit by bit. Instead, I would like to turn your attention to a doctrine taught by Sadhu Selvaraj which, in my opinion, should be a major reason for all Christians to genuinely reconsider whether or not his prophetic statements are of any value. The doctrine is that dead Biblical prophets or saints can and actually do help Christians achieve God’s purposes on Earth.

I was present in one of his gatherings in Manila a few years ago (I’ve forgotten the exact year) when, much to my surprise, he claimed that the prophet Joel was in our midst, imparting to him revelations he was supposed to tell the people. No, it wasn’t Joel Houston or Joel Osteen or Joel Lamangan. It was the prophet Joel son of Pethuel of the Bible he was talking about. It was the first time I heard someone claim that a Biblical prophet is personally and spiritually coming down from heaven to deliver a message through him.

Basahin ang kabuuan ng kanyang blog post DITO.

Nang mabasa ko ang magkasalungat na posisyon ng isang Obispo at isang mas nakababatang bahagi ng pastoral staff , ang unang pumasok sa aking isip ay ang awit ng Salmista:

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Dungog ug Himaya (with an English translation)

Dungog ug himaya sa langit ug sa yuta
(Honor and glory in heaven and on earth)

Ang tanan, O Dios, Kanimo lamang
(Everything, O God, is Yours alone)

puno sa gugma nga walay katapusan
(You are filled with love that's without end)

O Dios, awiton ko ang gugma Mo.
(O God, I will sing of Your love)

Ginoong Diyos mahigugmaon sa tanan
(Lord God loving to all)

Takos Kang daygon ug simbahon ug halaran
(Worthy are You to be praised and worshipped and offered unto)

Ang tanan kong gugma ginatugyan ko Kanimo
(All my love i am entrusting to You)

Ang kinabuhi ko, O Dios, Kanimo lamang.
(My life, O God is Yours alone).

English Translation by Sheryll O. Yap

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Fellowship of Men Sandwiched Between the First and Last Adams

This is essentially the same message I delivered
at the launching of GLCC-Dagupan's Men's Fellowship
(January 19, 2014)

We are all descended from Adam. His fall brought upon us all perishability, dishonor and weakness. Yet because of God's grace, we who put our faith in Christ were united to him. According to 1 Cor. 15:42-45, Christ shall reverse our perishability into imperishability; our dishonor into glory; and our weakness into power.

Surely, it is still a future event. While waiting for it, our bodies will still be subjected to sickness, death and decay. We are still facing varied miseries here on earth. We still manifest our dishonor by sinning daily. Yet we should not despair, for our union with Christ is not without effect in our present life. If we are indeed new creatures in Christ, his victory on the cross will be made manifest in out lives (2 Cor. 5:17). One of the benefits we get from the work of the Last Adam is the abundant provision of grace (Romans 5:17). And what does grace do? It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and wordly passions. This abundant provision of grace enables us to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age. (Titus 2:12)

We formed this fellowship to help men sandwiched between the First Adam and the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45). Just like any other fellowship of Christians, we assemble so together we may avoid being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Hebrews 3:13). As a start, here I offer specific areas of concern all drawn from the life of the first man ever created, namely Adam. All points I listed are lessons about leadership. As you may remember, God took Adam and put him in the garden of Eden to manage it. He was the first ever apointed manager of God's property here on earth. He was a steward. (Genesis 2:15).

Later, God said "It is not good for man to be alone. I will make him a helper fit for him." (Gen. 1:18). After a whole day's work of naming the animals, God caused Adam to sleep deeply. When he woke up, he has to name one more creature. Adam's overflowing joy was expressed in poetry:

    "This is now bone of my bones
      and flesh of my flesh;
    she shall be called `woman,'
      for she was taken out of man."

Take note that no suitable helper was found among the animals, ruling out bestiality. Also, God did not make another man as a partner ruling out homosexuality. Finally, only one rib was taken out of Adam ruling out polygamy.

No question the appearance of the woman in the garden brought so much joy to Adam, yet the roles have never been changed. Adam is primarily responsible for keeping the garden and Eve was given to him as a helper.

1. Men sandwiched between the First Adam and the Last Adam must help each other in the area spiritual leadership.

Eve has just been deceived by the serpent. She ate the fruit and gave some to Adam too. Both of them sinned, and each of them were held responsible for their sins. But I would like you to notice something. After sinning, they hid themselves from the presence of the Lord. Whom did God call? He called the man (Gen. 3:9). He questioned him if he had eaten the forbidden fruit. (3:11). In fact, that prohibition was given even before Eve's existence (1:17). As God held Adam responsible, so he will also hold us responsible. We are to keep watch not only of our spiritual condition but also over the spiritual condition of our wives and children. In addition for our task of spiritually leading our families, the New Testament reveals that we also are to spiritually lead in the local churches where we belong (1 Tim. 2:11-13).

But we somehow inherited this problem of passivity in the area of spiritual things. In Gen. 3:6, we see that Adam was there all the while when Eve was talking to the serpent and he did nothing. Instead of protecting Eve from the deceitfulness of the enemy, he participated in the evil act. When sin threatens our wives and children, we have protect them from the evil one. We can't just stand there and do nothing. We have to protect the ones we love from Satan's works.

Same passivity by men may be in the church. While the women in our church are busy in spiritual activities, we are content watching boxing matches on Sunday afternoons. Men, we have to step up especially because  our church holds to the complementarian view of church leadership. That is we believe that even though men and women are in equal standing before God, they were given different roles. We believe in an all male eldership in the church. Aspiring to be an elder is a noble thing according to Paul. But we have to pay the price of higher standards of discipline (1 Tim. 3:1-7). May the Lord use this Men's fellowship to prepare men for such a high call.

Aside from the problem of passivity, we also have this problem of excusing ourselves from responsibility. When God questioned Adam of eating the forbidden fruit, what did Adam do? She blames Eve (3:12). He was seeking his self-preservation even at the expense of his partner. And so we must understand this problem of ours. God gave us responsibilities to fulfill, and yet when we fail, we tend to excuse our selves and blame others. We are more interested in self-justification than in repentance.

2. Men sandwiched between the First Adam and the Last Adam must help each other in the area of stewardship.

Stewardship is the proper management of resources entrusted to us. Adam was entrusted with a garden to manage (Gen. 1:26-30). We may not be entrusted with a garden, but we must remember that everything we have are all possessions of the Creator. They are not our possessions; we are just stewards. As Adam was appointed to manage the garden, you are appointed by God to manage whatever you have. When the true owner returns, he expects to see at least two things:

1st, ORDER - God will not be pleased with a garden filled with weeds. If the Lord has entrusted you with a business, or to lead an institution, he put you there to bring order. By managing your resources well, you imitate God. Why? Because as you get rid of disorder, you reflect God's nature who dislikes disorder (1 Cor. 14:33). Unfortunately, it is expected and accepted by the prevailing culture that a boy's room shall be less orderly than a girl's room. Much of this disorder arises out of our laziness, a sinful condition repeatedly condemned in the book of Proverbs. In manifests itself very early in a boy's life such as not passing his homework on time or spending 150 minutes playing video games while leaving mere 15 minutes to put things in order.

2nd, PRODUCTIVITY -- The problem with our society is we just follow half of the command in Genesis 1:28 "Be fruitful and multiply..." People justify population explosion with this verse, yet they disregard the other half of the command--- that is to be fruitful. The command was preceeded by a blessing, then followed by the instruction to rule over the animal kind. Then followed again by the giving of seed-bearing plant.
1. Blessing---> 2. Command to be fruitful and multiply ---> 3. Entrusting of the animals and plants.
The implication of course is that as the Lord has blessed Adam, he must then be productive in livestock, fishery, poulty and agriculture.Our problem is our tendency to do nothing with the things God has entrusted us (Matt. 25:24)

Yet there are also times when you are not lazy; you may even work-work-work with all your might nonstop, yet you will only produce little. This is one of the effects of the fall: the difficulty of earning as indicated by the cursing of the ground and the emergence of thorns and thistles from them (Genesis 3:17-18). There will be countless frustrations in this fallen world, and so we need a fellowship where we could carry each other's burdens and ease each other's pain.

3. Men sandwiched between the First Adam and the Last Adam must together seek to bring men outside of Christ to be in Him.

Brothers, we are between two men. First, we are in Adam with all the miseries associated with his sin. We are also in Christ with all the hope of glory in eternity. Yet outside of Christ there are men who are associated with Adam only. If the imagery may help, they are not sandwiched between two Adams. There is only one slice of bread in their life, and that is their participation in Adam's sin. Though they may not know it, they are in serious trouble. Why? Because the Bible says "For as in Adam all die... " (1 Cor. 15:22). They need to experience the other half of the verse "... so in Christ all will be made alive. You have to belong to Christ to be resurrected and enjoy eternal life.

One of main missions of the church aside from worshiping God, and building up the brethren is to seek the lost. Let us go out in the world and introduce Jesus to a dying world that they too may experience the new life in Christ.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tinubos TV: Deepak Chopra vs. Greg Koukl on Lee Strobel's "Faith Under Fire" TV Program

WHEN I hosted a national television program called Faith Under Fire, which featured short debates on spiritual topics, I decided to invite best-selling New Age author Deepak Chopra to be a guest. The topic would be the future of faith. To offer a different perspective, I asked my friend Greg Koukl to represent Christianity. The idea was to tape them as they interacted for about fifteen minutes via satellite, the typical format for a segment of the show.

That plan quickly went out the window.

Greg was simply so engaging and so effective in poking holes in Chopra’s worldview that I had to keep the cameras running. Time after time, Greg was able to expose the faulty thinking underlying Chopra’s amorphous theology and correct his inaccurate claims about Jesus and the Bible. Before I knew it, we had consumed the entire hour of the show. Chopra — who was accustomed to spouting his opinions unchallenged on television and radio — was left thoroughly defeated and deflated.

As soon as the taping was over, I turned to my producer. “That,” I said, “was a textbook example of how to defend Christianity.”

~ LEE STROBEL, foreword to the book "Tactics: a Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions"

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Scriptures and the Resolute Man

 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. (James 1:22-25, NIV 1984)

"Starting January 1, I will..."
  • “... eat healthy foods”
  • “... exercise regularly”
  • “... lose weight”
  • “... quit smoking”
  • “... spend money wisely”
  • “... start saving for the future”
  • “... spend less time on video games and more on studying
  • “... I will spend more time with my wife and kids”
These are just some of the most common resolutions people make every New Year. If the one making the resolutions is a Christian with sound theology, he would add one phrase in his resolution: "for the glory of God" . He might also include other spiritual activities:
  • I will spend more time in prayer
  • I will read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation
  • I will memorize more Bible verses
  • I will share the gospel to at least one soul every week
  • I will seek opportunities to use my spiritual gifts
  • I will keep a daily journal of my quiet time
But here's the problem. Richard Wiseman, a professor at the University of Bristol conducted a study in 2007. The study says that 88% of those who set New Year's resolution fail. That only shows that though people may desire self-improvement, they lack the resoluteness to fulfill their resolutions. To be resolute is to be "characterized by firmness and determination". Some may exhibit some resoluteness for the first month, or even the first quarter, but eventually give up on their good resolutions.

James wrote his letter to a group that needed lots of improvement. Those areas of improvement are implied by the items addressed by James in this epistle.
  • In chapter 2, he addressed the issue of favoritism; also the problem of professed faith yet not evidenced by works
  • chapter 3-- misuse of the tongue
  • chapter 3-- false wisdom by self-seeking people that disrupts peace in the churches
  • chapter 4-- fights and quarrels caused by uncontrolled desires
  • chapter 5-- the rich and the powerful exploiting the poor and weak
But before giving the Lord' word to address all those problem areas, he first exhorted them to be doers of the word  and not hearers only. That makes a lot of sense for what use it is for him to give instructions in the chapters that follow if there is no determination on the part of his audience to obey? So he must first build a case for resoluteness in obeying the word. He issues a command: "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only"

"Hearers", doesn't exclude other means of Scripture intake. It is just that it was the primary means of Scripture intake during their time. The first printing press won't be in operation until 1450. The mimeograph won't be patented until 1876. And the Xerox machine won't be introduced until 1959. Also consider the fact that the literacy rate during that time in the roman Empire could not have exceeded 20 percent according to separate studies by William Harris, Catherine Hezser, Harry Gamble.

Given that circumstances, hearing was the primary means of Scripture intake way back then. In our time, much has changed. The old primary means of hearing is still here with us. But in addition to that, copies of the Bible abound. There is rarely a home without a copy of the Bible. Cheap editions are available at the bookstore. You can even download them for free at the Google Playstore. By extension of application: We could also hear the command from above--
"Be doers of the word, and not readers only"
"Be doers of the word, and not memorizers only"
“Be doers of the word, not students only”
1. The Danger of Self-Deception
How are we self-deceived? We are deceived when we think we are okay in the eyes of God just because we are hearing, reading, memorizing, studying the Bible. The Greek word translated as “deceiving” could also be translated as  "miscalculate"-- a mathematical error. You think you are in good standing before God because you are spending time in the word of God-- yet in reality you are in a bad condition because you are not doing what it says.

Donald Burdick wrote "In reality, the responsibility of those who hear is far greater than that of those who have never heard. If they do not combine doing with hearing, they put themselves in a most vulnerable position." (Expositor's Bible Commentary, 1st edition)

Luke 12:47-48 teaches that the one who knew and the one who knew not the Master's will would be both punished but the one who knew the Master's will would receive more blows.

2. The Danger of Unlearning the Things You Know
We must close a cultural gap here. For we live in an age when we have a pretty good idea of how we look like. We have good mirrors in our houses, so we see our selves daily. We could take portraits of ourselves with phones we bought for more or less a thousand pesos. We even coined a word so our narcissism would not sound so blatant. Do you remember Narcissus of Greek mythology.? He was the one who fell in love with his self upon seeing his image on the pool. If only Narcissus is not a fictional character, and if only he is living with us today, all he would upload on Facebook would be selfie photos. That is the coined word I'm referring to: Selfie.

The point is, in our time, we are well informed of how we look like. That is not so in the time of James. There were no cameras way back then. Perhaps mirrors were costly, and the mirrors that they had were not of the same quality as we have today.  The Macarthur Study Bible informs us: "First century mirrors were not glass, but metallic". People then may have some idea of how they look like but not as informed about it as we are today. That is the background of this imagery from James. A person who comes to hear the word without the resoluteness to obey it is like a person who comes into a first century mirror. He observes his face. He learns something about himself. But as soon as he walks away from the mirror, he forgets the image.

We come to hear God's word, and like a mirror it shows us our true condition. It also shows us the remedy to our condition. Yet because we are not resolute in obeying the word, as soon as we walk out of this building, we forget what we have learned.

As James was encouraging them to be resolute doers of the word, he tells some things about God's Word. If James found these truths helpful in building resoluteness, then these are the same truths that will help us.

1. The Word of God is Perfect
In verse 25, James used the term “perfect law” to refer to the word of God. In Psalm 19:7-8, we see synonyms for God's word (law; testimony; statutes; commandment). Psalm 19:7 is of course parallel to our text in James. Both verses describe the word of God as perfect. After the description, the Psalmist tells us what it does to us. The Perfect Law of God converts the soul.  It transforms our passions. It reverses our bad dispositions. The word of God not only changes our deeds outwardly; it also changes us inside. Paul David Tripp explains the need to be changed inwardly:
"A person who does not have biblical convictions does not have an internal restraint system. This person will do right when under a watchful eye, or when under external pressure. However, when these external motivators are removed, this person will behave very differently." (Age of Opportunity)
So to become a doer of the Word, there must be a change in our inward convictions or else, we would return again and again to worldliness. Praise God the word of God is perfect, and because it is perfect, it convert the soul. In penetrates deep inside. It is the Holy Spirit's scalpel for spiritual surgery.

2. The Word of God Liberates
James refers to the word of God as "perfect law of liberty". In the Bible, the person who lives in sin is the one who is really in bondage. He may think he is free, but in reality he is a slave to sin. Describing our condition before conversion, the Apostle Paul wrote "... at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures" (Titus 3:3 NIV). When you have all the opportunity to satisfy your lusts, that is not freedom. You are like an animal falling into a trap. You enjoy sin now and at the very next minute, you are caught to be butchered (James 1:14) For the wages of sin is death.

Why not resolve to obey what the word says? True freedom is found in it. For when we are freed from the enslavement of sin, we will then be free to serve our Only Worthy Master. And hasn't the Lord said,  "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32 NIV). Freedom is found in holding on to Jesus' teaching; freedom is found in pursuing biblical truth.

3. The Word of God is the key to blessing
 James ends verse 25 with the assurance that he who continues to be a doer of the word "will be blessed in what he does." The constant testimony of the Bible is that blessing is for those who treasure God's word.

  • we see it in the lives of the Old Testament saints
  • we see it in the Psalms (chapter 1)
  • we see it in Jesus' teaching (Matthew 7:24-27)
  • we see in Apostolic teaching (1 Peter 4:14)
  • we see in in the last canonical book (Rev. 2:11)

Brethren, do you want to be blessed? If you do, then be resolute in obeying the word.