What Are Your Core Convictions?

When I set up One Day At A Time back in 2007, I felt it necessary to include a page where I shared My Core Convictions. For churches or para-church ministries, it would be a page detailing their Statements of Faith. But for a personal blog, it’s just a broad overview of what I believe in and what guides my spiritual walk.

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Over the years, this list has not only served as good reminders, but also a great source of encouragement to me. It points me back to what I regarded as foundational (still do), and helps me in my own alignment check. And especially in trying and difficult seasons, these simple lines anchor and hold me steady through challenges.

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Reviewing them again, I am thankful I made the effort to craft these ten statements then. I know that these pale in comparison with Jonathan Edwards’ 70 Resolutions. But then again, it was never meant to be too academic a piece or to sound overly theological. My Core Convictions simply detail what I believe about God, His Purpose, salvation, faith, obedience, the Word, provision, ministry, the Holy Spirit, God’s will and grace (supported by Scripture, of course).

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What are your core convictions? Do you have core convictions? If not, I highly recommend that you take some time to ponder and to write them down. It is a worthy exercise as it will bring clarity to your walk with the Lord, strengthen your resolve as you serve Him, and also provide focus as you navigate through life’s many distractions and uncertainties.

If The Apostles Had Posted Their Writings On Facebook

St Paul Writing Epistles

Over breakfast, I quipped, “If you want more visits to your website, just blog about hyper grace or simply point out an erroneous interpretation of the Word of God.” Really. Just try it. What have you got to lose? Just a few friends, perhaps (if these were even real friends in the first place).

That got me wondering a little: If the apostles had posted some of their writings on social media, what might be some of the responses they would receive from today’s postmodern, tolerant Christian?

Hmmm … (wavy daydream screen with harp arpeggio) …

Paul: For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
@blessed2bits: How dare you touch the Lord’s anointed! No wonder you are cursed and have so many sufferings, trials and tribulations.

Peter: But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.
@sbjacktif: How can these be bad or wrong? I have learnt and grown so much from their teaching and ministry. I am not questioning your hermeneutical accuracy. So you shouldn’t question my experience.

Paul: For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
@lurveawww: All I know is that you are not very inclusive nor tolerant. Bigot!

James: Cleanse your hands, you sinners!
@saintifide: Who are you calling a sinner? My sins have all been forgiven – past, present and future!

John: If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
@knowway: Way to go, John! Tell it to the gnostics! Small typo error you may like to correct … you wrote “we” but you actually meant “them”, right? And while you are at it, can you make it clearer which part of the letter is for “them” and which is for “us”?

Paul: Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
@peaceman: Aw, c’mon, Paul! Stop pitting one man’s opinion against another. You are dividing the body of Christ. Don’t be so hung up about the truth. It’s more important to have peace and unity.

… (wavy daydream screen with harp arpeggio) …

I am, of course, just having some fun. But on a more serious note, as much as I would like this to be purely imaginative and make-believe, these are not entirely original for such comments have been posted in response to well meaning articles that seek to present and point out the truth. I will also not be surprised that some will find this tongue-in-cheek article offensive and ungracious. I can only appeal to Paul, the one who declared the gospel of grace, who, when needed, also employed sanctified sarcasm that his point might be pointedly made with full effect (cf 1 Cor 4:6-13).

Like it or not, this is the postmodern environment we operate in these days. Still, we are to preach the Word and to declare the Truth, with boldness and without compromise. The apostles did that in times past and were ready for all opposition and any eventuality. For the sake of Jesus, many lost much, including their lives. It’s ok to lose a few friends on Facebook.

Note: If the above statements by Paul, Peter, James and John look or sound familiar, it’s because they are direct quotations from the Bible: 2 Cor 11:13; 2 Peter 2:1-2; Eph 5:5; James 4:8; 1 John 1:8-9; 2 Tim 2:15. #justsaying #cantpresumeanythingthesedays

How Dangerous is the Error of Hyper Grace?

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Although much has been said and written about Hyper Grace, I readily accepted an invitation to attend a talk by Dr Roland Chia on 2 May 2016, organised by the Chinese Annual Conference of the Methodist Church in Singapore.

Dr Roland Chia is the Chew Hock Hin Professor of Christian Doctrine of Trinity Theological College and the Theological and Research Advisor of the Ethos Institute of Public Christianity. Yet, credentials aside, it was the opportunity to hear a local critique and perspective of Hyper Grace that drew me to the talk. After all, Singapore is one of the main exporters of this doctrine through Joseph Prince of New Creation Church. It is only appropriate that one of our own presents a point of view.

In just over one hour, Dr Chia delivered his presentation very clearly and precisely. We were given a quick introduction, followed by a broad overview of what Hyper Grace Teachers understand about Scripture, God’s Moral Law, Sin & Repentance and the Cross of Christ, and how their interpretations are erroneous. Dr Chia quoted from Hyper Grace proponents like Clark Whitten, Paul Ellis, Steve McVey, and of course, Joseph Prince (Destined to Reign & Unmerited Favour).

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For the benefit of those who are still uncertain about the error of Hyper Grace, here are summary statements of the distortions of Hyper Grace Teachers, reproduced from Dr Chia’s notes:

  1. They have dismissed the whole of the OT. Narratives in the OT are merely used as examples or illustrations.
  2. They have dismissed the relevance of the Ten Commandments and God’s moral laws for Christians.
  3. Their theology (i.e. doctrine of God) is erroneous because they have emphasised only certain aspects of God’s character and only some of His attributes (like love) while neglecting others.
  4. Their Christology is defective. For them salvation is centred only on the death of Christ. In the NT, the whole incarnate life of the Son is salvific.
  5. Their understanding of the ministry and teachings of Jesus is erroneous because they consider the teachings of Jesus before Calvary as irrelevant for Christians (this includes the Sermon on the Mount, the parables and the Lord’s Prayer).
  6. Their pneumatology is erroneous because they teach that the Holy Spirit does not convict believers of sin. This is instead attributed to the work of the devil.
  7. Their understanding of the writings of Paul is erroneous. Paul always balances the indicative and the imperative (you are such and such, therefore, you should do such and such). But the new antinomians only emphasise the indicative and entirely omit the imperatives.
  8. Their soteriology is erroneous because they teach that it is impossible for Christians to lose their salvation.
  9. Their eschatology is erroneous because they present an over-realised eschatology when they insist that Christians are already perfect.
  10. Needless to say, their entire theology of the Christian life and discipleship is erroneous.
  11. The Hyper Grace Teachers are also promoters of the health and wealth Gospel. They incorporate this quite easily in their theology of grace.

Indeed, it was time well spent on the morning of a public holiday. I definitely appreciate Dr Chia’s ability and willingness to say what needs to be said. As far as he is concerned, the doctrine of Hyper Grace is heretical and as such, harmful to the Body of Christ.

Of the hundreds who attended the talk, I don’t think anyone would dispute this at all. However, as intellectually and theologically stimulating as the talk was, it would be a great waste if it remained just that. And yet, for it to have traction, for pastors to be willing to preach it, for leaders to teach it, for members to run with it, I feel we need to be even more precise with the consequences of one who embraces such teachings.

For this, we must be willing and daring to define ‘harmful’ and what that entails. Really, how dangerous is the heresy of Hyper Grace? More pointedly, we must ask, “What are the eternal consequences, if any?” Is it dangerous enough for church leaders to collectively issue a statement against Joseph Prince? Is it dangerous enough for pastors to be equipped and to boldly preach this over their pulpits? Is it dangerous enough for cell leaders to be trained to address this at ground level? Would this be a priority? Is there an urgency? Should evangelistic efforts be redirected to winning back the many souls who think they are secured by grace but are not?

If we are not willing to grapple with these, then perhaps, all we have is mental assent that Hyper Grace is erroneous but are not adequately convicted that it is dangerous or serious enough to warrant any action on our part. In other words, let’s just ignore the elephant in the room. Wait. What elephant?

Once again, it was a great talk and I learnt a lot from Dr Roland Chia. I am looking forward to another session with him where Dr Chia will answer questions about another controversial movement, the New Apostolic Reformation – that’s another can of worms.

Read more:
Got Questions: What is Hyper Grace?
Bill Muehlenberg: Antinomianism and the Hyper Grace Error
Michael Brown: Confronting the Error of Hyper Grace
Lim Poh Ann: Hyper-Grace: Jesus’ Pre-Calvary Teachings Irrelevant
Andrew Wilson: The “Grace Revolution”, Hyper-Grace, and the Humility of Orthodoxy

Author’s Note: This post drew quite a few comments and statements in defence of Joseph Prince and New Creation Church, and understandably so. The arguments are not new at all, mostly disputing Dr Chia’s summary statements as untrue or inaccurate. In fairness, these were not at the talk  to benefit from Dr Chia’s explanation, supported by proper quotations and citations. Even so, I suspect this would mean little as positive personal experience appears to be of greater value and importance. I have learnt much from this little exercise, and I am grateful to all who have contributed. Praying for all to have wisdom and discernment, and the Lord’s amazing grace, of course.

The Experience & Joy of Being on Kingdom Assignment

IMG_5266I just returned last evening from Batam where I spoke at Bartley Christian Church’s Zone Camp. This was the second camp engagement in June, the first being Shekinah AG Church Camp. Next Monday, I will leave for Bintan to speak at Hakka Methodist Church’s Camp. To me, three camps in June is already quite a stretch to me (this is the first time I’ve ever committed to three camps!). Interestingly, I bumped into Pastor Benny Ho in Batam (he was the speaker for Jurong Christian Church Camp) and discovered he would be speaking at five camps this year! (No, I am not trying to compete with him at all – haha!)

Although the work of the ministry is demanding, as I move about my kingdom assignment through Archippus Awakening, I am discovering a very precious truth all over again. It’s not that this is new to me but I have come into a deeper appreciation of it. There are many Christian concepts and principles that sound good. When shared, many of us would very likely and readily nod and agree. But it is one thing to express intellectual assent with a particular truth and yet totally another to experience it first hand! And this is what I am experiencing afresh as I seek to faithfully fulfil this assignment which I have received in the Lord.

I have taught over and over about the grace of God, the favour and blessing of God, the power of God and the love of God. These are great truths! We would say AMEN and AMEN and AMEN! But in the past year of stepping out into the unknown, in the recent months of venturing into things that my little finite mind cannot grasp, I have experienced the depth of my heavenly Father’s love in new dimensions! In times of wrestling with weakness and even fatigue, I have experienced the sustaining power of His grace! In moments of doubt and anguish, I have experienced His presence, His comfort and His favour!

Not to appear facetious, but is it not accurate that many may declare a statement of truth and yet not perceive it to be true? That’s because for many it has remained largely cognitive and not experiential. How then can this be resolved? Quite simply, you can’t experience anything until you get to experience it! For this reason, the Lord invites us to participate in what He is doing. He knows that until we jump into something larger than ourselves, we will never come to an understanding or have a revelation of who our God is and what He is absolutely capable of!

Dear friends, I exhort and encourage you: Get aligned with the Lord and be on assignment for Him! It is when you take that first step of obedience that you begin to experience a deeper fullness of what it means to trust the Lord. Make no mistake! The assignments are not to show or prove how capable we are. On the contrary, God’s kingdom assignments will often expose how weak and how frail we are, yet at the same time reveal how good and how great our God is! This is the paradox of kingdom dynamics and living! Oh, how we love to think it is all about us when it is always about Him and Him alone! That said, kingdom purposes notwithstanding, the Lord in His sovereignty will use every kingdom endeavour to work a deeper work of transformation in each of us.

To this end, I’m beginning to understand, a little bit more, the words of Jesus, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt 16:25) If I only serve that I may derive a sense of achievement, importance or belonging, my Christian activity, however sacrificial, is largely self-serving. But if I am willing to lose myself to the purposes of the kingdom, dare I say in total abandonment, I begin to receive the greatest joy and satisfaction beyond what I can ask or imagine! This is because in relying wholly upon Him who has given the task that I may be enabled to complete the task, I get to discover that truly everything that I am and ought to be is found only in Him who is Life!

Truly, there is no greater joy than to be serving the Lord, to be on assignment with and for Him! I am just so thankful that He has made me worthy in Christ to participate in what He is doing in these final hours. May this humble reflection bring much encouragement!

When God Calls: Here I am. Who am I?

Silent Retreat Desk_Fotor

This Silent Retreat, 18-19 Nov 2013, I didn’t have to wait too long for God to speak.

After morning devotions, we entered silence and I made my way back to my room. Wanting to reflect on the passage a little bit more, I opened my bible to Exodus 3 again. I read of how God got Moses’ attention, called him and he answered, “Here I am.” Then God gave Moses his assignment, to which he responded with the words, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children out of Egypt?”

I thought to myself, “Hey! That just described me!”

Yes, that’s where I am right now. I know what I am to do for the Lord has spoken very clearly — more than once. It sounds really exciting but more recently I’ve been getting the jitters, asking and asking again, “Are you sure, Lord? Did you really say that?” Like the call of Moses, I quickly moved from “Here I am.” to “Who am I?”, this overwhelming sense of inadequacy 😦

God, in His grace, assured Moses that He would most certainly be with him (Exodus 3:12). And when asked who is the sending authority, Moses was to reply that I AM THAT I AM had sent him (Exodus 3:14). And if that was not enough, there would be accompanying signs and wonders through the rod of God (Exodus 4:17). God told Moses not to worry about what to say for “I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” (Exodus 4:12) God even acceded to Moses’ request for another to take his place by bringing Aaron, his brother, to be his spokesman (Exodus 4:16)! From this, you really get the feeling that God was not going take “no” for an answer. It was as if God was telling Moses, “Hey, Moses, you want assurance? I’ll give you assurance! Now, stop giving excuses and get going!”

Well, I got what I asked for too. God knows exactly how I am feeling, how much I need His assurance and He sure gave it to me. The question I need to answer really isn’t “Who am I?” but “Who is my God?” To every concern and question Moses posed, the reply was always about God, who He is and how powerful He is. From the start, it would always be a God-thing. All God needed from Moses was his obedience and submission.

The Lord has called and I have answered, “Here I am.” He has promised to be with me and to enable me. My part is to respond in obedience and to rely on Him completely. In some sense, this feeling of inadequacy is good as it drives me to my knees to seek Him more. In that position, I acknowledge that it is not who I am but who He is that truly matters.

So, here goes … in the words of John Bradford, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”

The Age of Itching Ears

If you have not read Charisma Magazine’s article, Is Joseph Princes Radical Grace Teaching Biblical?, you should.

As I read it, the first thought that came into my mind was, “I really should learn how to write like this.” The author was gracious both in his agreement as well as his disagreement with certain points. To address the points he took issue with, I felt that he laid it out very clearly, and biblically, encouraging the reader to consider what may have been left out in Prince’s teaching, whether intentionally or not.

That said, you should also read the comments at the end of the article. I glanced it yesterday and was very surprised at how some had responded. This prompted me to post on my Facebook wall, “I am totally convinced that you can be as hermeneutically accurate and people will still hear and believe what they want to hear and believe.”

This is really unfortunate given the great honour we have as God’s people to have the Holy Scriptures as our guide and standard. It is appalling to note how many totally disregard the authority of Scriptures whilst claiming to live by it. Certain doctrines are just so way out and yet no one seems to be bothered by that as long as “it works for me” or “I have been blessed”. And don’t even try to mention the four-letter word … HELL (what were you thinking of?). Anyway, I should not be at all surprised for this condition has already been prophesied in 2 Tim 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”

Finally, as much as I appreciated the writer’s diplomacy, there is one point I am not in agreement with. Despite the challenges and inconsistencies pointed out, he suggests that “Destined to Reign” would be good for the new believer. I beg to differ. Simply, new believers are totally unable to discern what is right and what is not! They can’t tell what to take in and what to throw out. To this end, although it does contain certain foundational aspects, it can also contribute to a very weak foundation that will in turn affect the believer’s theological perspective and spiritual walk. And especially in the urgency of the times and the seasons, coupled with the environment and worldviews we have today, it would not be right to expose new believers to such teachings.

In conclusion, I am fully aware that no one person has the full revelation of Scriptures. This is why we must guard against spiritual pride and be humble and open to always learn from others. This does not mean we simply accept the parts the we like and discard those that do not sit well with us. Nor am I suggesting that we go all spiritual and irresponsibly use the highly-abused phrase “as the Spirit leads”. Instead, we must, as Paul exhorts young Timothy in 2 Tim 2:15, learn to rightly divide the word of truth that we may be found approved by God.

Am I A Pastor Or A Teacher?

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists,
and some pastors and teachers” Eph 4:11

Does Ephesians 4:11 describe a five-fold or a four-fold ministry? Without having to conduct a survey, we can safely assume that the five-fold ministry is the more popular and accepted notion. That was my understanding and position too — until more recently.

There is little argument concerning the separate offices of apostle, prophet and evangelist. However, it is not nearly as clear when it comes to the terms of pastor and teacher. Depending how you read it, it can very well go either way. To this end, I have no intention of getting into a hermeneutical discourse nor debate. That said, I would go as far as to point out that the structure does suggest the twinning of pastor and teacher, thereby making the four-fold ministry position a very plausible consideration.

Speaking FGAOver the years in ministry, it has become very apparent that my gift is teaching. This has been affirmed over and over again by different people from different churches. For me, the conclusion is very straightforward — in the context of the five-fold ministry, I am thus called to be a teacher. I may at times display certain apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic and pastoral traits (and anointing). But I am primarily a teacher.

I was very comfortable with this until I was commissioned as a pastor of a local church. Not only am I a teacher by giftingI am also now a pastor by appointment. It didn’t take very long for me to realise that these two roles are quite different. And the members made it a point to let me know that too 🙂 Over time, I started receiving feedback like “Rev Henson is a good teacher but not really a good pastor.” or “I agree that Rev Henson’s teaching is biblical, but his standards are so high that I feel I cannot attain it.” As a teacher, I am used to presenting concepts and principles clearly and precisely – in black & white. As a pastor, however, I quickly learned that there are so many shades of gray! And whilst the flock may agree with me in principle, they did not necessarily desire the same in practice! Trust me, I learned this – and am still learning – the hard way.

Holding to the five-fold ministry position, I have the perfect answer (excuse?) to this conundrum: “I am called to be a teacher, not a pastor.” In other words, pastor is merely a title given to me to fulfil a function in the local church, since there is no such title as teacher. Unfortunately, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t allow me to get away with it so easily; hence His prompting for me to ponder more deeply the possibility of the four-fold ministry position.

As I did that, taking my own experience into consideration and that of others, I am personally coming to a conclusion that it is not pastor or teacher, but pastor and teacher; not two offices, but one that embraces the dual roles of pastoring and teaching. Simply, a pastor must teach, and a teacher must pastor. You just cannot divorce one from the other.

Speaking ASPCConsider this: How does one pastor [shepherd] if he does not first teach? What parameters or boundaries does one govern by or within? In the absence of proper teaching, pastoring becomes extremely subjective if left to merely broad-stroke Christian terms like love, grace and forgiveness. Things get even messier when a pastor hopes to shepherd according to another’s teaching!  If Paul had to teach and straighten out theology and doctrines for the churches then, this is even more critical today when so much teaching is available everywhere. Clearly, pastoring involves teaching.

Conversely, teaching involves pastoring too. I must admit that since becoming a pastor, it has broadened and deepened my perspectives and ministry as a teacher. Without the practical experience, dealing with church leadership, administration and people, much of what is taught can largely remain academic and theoretical. This can easily result in spiritual pride and self-righteousness, as in the case of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They prided themselves as the best teachers but Jesus labelled them as hirelings when they should have been shepherds [pastors], clearly demonstrating the need for these two critical roles to function together when ministering to people.

So, am I a pastor or a teacher? The answer is “yes” because I now see it is one office with two roles that are critical and inseparable. Admittedly, for me, the more dominant trait is still that of teaching at the moment. But embracing the four-fold ministry position helps me remain open to develop and grow in the pastoral aspects. This is not necessarily easy for me, nor does it come naturally to me given my personality and inclinations (besides, it’s easier to deal with books than with people – haha!)

Even so, I am reminded that God didn’t merely issue rules and regulations but also desired relationship with His people. For this reason, Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us. As such, my eyes are fixed on Jesus, pastor-teacher par excellence, that in time, I too may grow to minister as He did, “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

As with all aspects of transformation, this will not happen overnight nor by my own strength but only by His grace and the power of the Holy Spirit. In the meantime, all prayers (and encouragements) are appreciated that I may be faithful to fulfil my ministry as pastor-teacher alongside apostles, prophets and evangelists —

“[to equip] the saints for the work of ministry, [and to edify] the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Eph 4:12-13

Related Post: Being a Pastor

Beware the Message of Hyped Up Grace

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Nancy & David Ravenhill (picture from Charisma Magazine Website)

Really appreciate this article The Deception of Hyper Grace by David and Nancy Ravenhill on the website of Charisma Magazine. I agree with their points totally and have at times used the same arguments in my sharing and teaching. I wish I had written this article myself 🙂

“I can only plead with those who are caught up in this false teaching to re-examine their beliefs in the light of God’s Word rather than get carried along by the latest trend being taught by a few popular and flamboyant pied pipers. If the fruit of this teaching does not produce a longing after God and a desire to be like Him, then we should avoid it like the plague. Grace enables us to live and walk in victory over sin, the flesh and the devil. Anything less is not the true grace of God.”

To my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, please read and hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. Without doubt, the grace of God is indeed amazing and attractive. But understand what true grace is all about, and do not be deceived by the enemy that the grace of God might be received in vain.

The Good News of Salvation is still about Sin and Righteousness

The issue of salvation has been on my mind of late. What does the average Christian understand about salvation? What is the good news, really? What are we believing in? What have we been teaching?

Given post-modern thinking, there appears (more and more) to be a move towards universalism, in varying degrees and definitions. At the extreme, we have certain preachers declaring that ALL will be saved, regardless religion or means. This is because God is love and thus will never send anyone to hell. Then, there’s the milder variation. These proponents hold to the name of Jesus as the means by which one is saved. However, if a person has not had the chance to hear the good news of Jesus, God has a different benchmark for these. And since He is all gracious and loving, it is His prerogative to save these if He so chooses to, Jesus not withstanding. When the consistency of God is raised as a point of challenge to this position, the sovereignty of God is used as a blanket rebuttal. After all, He is God and He can do what He wants. Ultimately, “salvation belongs to the Lord.” Honestly, I wonder how anyone can trust a sovereign but inconsistent God like that?! He is no better than those of Greek mythologies where they either wake up happy or upset and then take it out on helpless earthlings.

Then, there’s our consumer culture of advertising and media that has affected the way we “sell” Jesus and “position” the good news. In marketing, we must understand that the consumer is not interested with too much as long as the product works. And this has been the strategy [or trick] of mass marketing. Marketing and advertising teams brainstorm for hours to determine a product’s unique selling proposition (USP), then design campaigns and pour dollars to promote this USP. Simply, give the consumer what he wants! Unfortunately, this strategy [trick] works and has been adopted by the church at large. We must be careful to notice how it has been applied to salvation. Depending on the type of “gospel” meeting, a USP is identified and heavily promoted. For example, at a healing service, the call is for one to believe in Jesus and be healed. At a faith meeting, the challenge is for one to believe in Jesus in order to receive – usually material gains and breakthroughs. When people respond to the altar call, a sinner’s prayer is conveniently tagged on for all to recite. And voila! they are saved! But are they, really? Remember, the consumer only wants what he wants. So, as long as he gets that, whether healing or provision, who cares about salvation?

I must confess that I too have been blinded by the numbers game. When people respond to an altar call, when tears flow freely, I presume these are genuinely moved by the Holy Spirit. And if that is the case, then who am I to begrudge anyone salvation? And especially if I am the one making the altar call, why would I want to question anything? Hey, it looks good for my track record and newsletters.

So, why the concern and burden suddenly?

In the past months, I believe the Lord has been causing me to ponder the real issue behind salvation, or the need for salvation. Thinking more deeply as I considered the various Scriptures brought to mind, I began to see [again] that the key issue is that of righteousness, or the lack of. It’s that simple and straightforward. It has always been and it will always be about God’s righteousness and His holiness! The problem of humanity is sin and the death sentence that hangs over each and every person born in sin. If not addressed, the result is eternal separation from God in a place of eternal torment. That’s really bad news! In His mercy, God can forgive. But in His righteousness, the penalty must still be paid. Knowing that man can never achieve righteousness on his own, God sent Jesus to pay for our sins and to die in our place. When one believes in Jesus (and His salvific work), he is made righteous, reconciled with God and saved from eternal damnation. We give Him our sin and death, and He gives us His righteousness and lifeThat’s why it’s called good news.

I know this may sound like sunday school stuff to some of you. But today, I can no longer assume that Christians understand this. Or if they know this, that they fully believe in it. As mentioned above, there are those who can quote John 14:6 that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” but still contend that He is not the only way to the Father! Quite clearly, these overly focus on God’s love and grace, but downplay His righteousness. As for the USP proponents, these tend to equate healing, prosperity and blessing with salvation. Now, salvation [sozo] may include physical healing and material provision; but the reverse is not always true! One may be healed from an ailment and still die in his sin. Allow me to challenge your thinking a bit more: Jesus may have healed many but we really don’t know if these finally believed in Him for salvation. But we do presume that, don’t we? As we understand today, the healing miracles were merely signs that pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, the King of Righteousness, that they may believe and be found righteous in Him. Make no mistake! Believing in Jesus for physical healing or your dream house is not the same as believing in Him for salvation from the penalty and power of sin.

Let me conclude with Rom 1:16-17 in which Paul declared, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes … For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” In case you missed it, Paul said that God’s righteousness is revealed in the gospel of Christ. In other words, the good news (gospel) is not the revelation of healing, prosperity, love, grace, nor universal salvation. Not at all! It is God’s righteousness that is revealed, against which one acknowledges his sinfulness and responds through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross! There we have it again – the good news of salvation is all about sin and righteousness! It is such faith in such a gospel that invokes the power of God that brings one towards true salvation! My deep concern is that there might be too many who have believed in a gospel that reveals anything and everything BUT the righteousness of God. Is there then the power of God to salvation? From the text, plainly, NO. If not, then are these saved in the first place? Could this explain why there are still so many in the church who struggle with sin and have no desire to bear fruits worthy of repentance much less that of righteousness?

Indeed, such a short post cannot possibly address everything about soteriology, the doctrine of salvation. Through the centuries, this has been debated by accomplished scholars and theologians. It is not my intention to present anything new nor complicate this subject further. Much the opposite, I am proposing we re-visit the gospel of salvation again, grounded upon Scriptures and not some fancy humanistic desire for all to hold hands and live happily ever after. In today’s age of sound-bites and slogans, I fear we may have diluted the understanding of the gospel and of salvation a little too much to our own detriment and that of others in dire need of God’s saving grace through Jesus Christ. For an issue of eternal significance and consequence, surely we are treating it too lightly and way too flippantly.

Related Post: David Pawson: The True God and the True Gospel

18th Wedding Anniversary: Music & Dance Wedding Video

Serene and I met in December 1989 on the set of My Country My Singapore at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Four years later, in December 1993, on Christmas eve, I proposed to her and she said ‘yes’. Once we settled on the date of 11 March 1995 for our wedding, we began preparations.

I was a backslidden Christian in those days and had not attended church for about 11 years. Going back to the church I grew up and served in as a teenager, I found that it was scheduled for a major building project in the same period we were to have our wedding. To have my bride walk down the aisle of a school hall was not an option for me at all. And so, we went church hunting.

Interestingly, Serene was bridesmaid to her ballet friend who held the wedding at Wesley Methodist Church. The sanctuary was nice and the “Methodist” label provided some assurance for me. The only hurdle was that it was only open to church members. That problem was easily solved. Quite quickly, we signed up for the Membership Class as well as the mandatory Pre-Marital Counselling Course. Mind you, at that time, Serene was not a Christian but simply played along for the sake of securing a venue.

When we arrived for the very first session, we discovered that it was not just a membership class but a membership and baptism class. The facilitator announced that at the end of the 12 weeks (or was it 13?), there would be baptism. That didn’t go well with Serene at all! I assured her that she was under no obligation to be a Christian, much less be baptised. To her credit, she didn’t back out but continued to attend the sessions with me. Somewhere in the middle of the course, the Holy Spirit convicted her and she accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour! At about the same time, the Lord kindled a fresh fire in me and drew me back to Himself! In November 1994, Serene was baptised and we were both confirmed together one week later.

By the Lord’s grace, although we went to church for all the wrong reasons, He turned everything around for His glory. We were married on 11 March 1995 as true believers of Jesus Christ. From that point forward, a deep hunger for God stirred in our hearts. The rest, as they say, is history. So much has taken place in our lives and we continue to experience the Lord’s faithfulness and guidance. Today, we celebrate our 18th Anniversary and my heart brims with love and gratitude for the one whom God has led into my life. 18 years later, Serene is not just my wife but also mother to the seven children God has blessed us with.

Words cannot express how much I love Serene. I am just so thankful and I praise the Lord for my wife! We share so many things in common and yet we acknowledge how different we are in many aspects too. Perhaps, the theme song of our wedding album, Music & Dance, illustrates this best. Although different expressions of art, when put together, music and dance complement each other, bringing both audio and visual experiences to a different dimension! I believe that’s how our relationship has been and our prayer is that God will continue to use us in ways that we will always be a blessing to all around us.

Thank you, Lord, for blessing me with Serene and 18 wonderful years! Thank you, Serene, for your love, support and patience all these years! I love you so very much! Blessed 18th Anniversary!!!