Good Friday Reflections: God Is In Control. He Really Is!

Jesus and Pilate

Then Pilate said to Him, “Are you not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11

Spending some quiet time this Good Friday morning, I read this passage and these verses caught my attention.

This was the moment of reckoning. Pilate had already declared that he found no fault in Jesus – three times (John 18:38; 19:4, 6)! And yet, the Jews were adamant, insisting that Jesus be crucified. Everything laid in the hands of Pilate.

Or so it seemed.

All power belongs to God. This means that the power that Pilate had, was given by God. In other words, God allowed Pilate the power. Could God have withdrawn it at that moment? Of course. Did He? No. Instead, He allowed Pilate to wrestle with how he would use his power, or abuse it.

Power comes with accountability. Although Pilate sought to release Jesus (John 19:12), he bowed to public pressure. Although he sought to remove himself from the responsibility of crucifying an innocent man, it did not remove the fact that he did not judge justly. That is sin.

There is sin, and there is greater sin. It may have ended with Pilate, but it began with someone else. Who was Jesus referring to? Judas? The religious leaders? The people who demanded his crucifixion? Think about it. Have we all not been guilty of this? One wrong word. One careless act. One piece of juicy gossip. And how that has sparked a chain reaction of consequences. Not only is that sin, it is the greater sin.

Silence and submission. After these verses, Jesus spoke no more. He had made His point and He demonstrated it through silence and submission. To argue with Pilate would be to argue with God. To appeal for clemency would be to oppose the Father’s will. The Lamb of God went silent, ready to be led to its slaughter.

God achieves His purpose. How bizarre does it get? God seemed to have left it to the choices and decisions of men and yet, His purposes were accomplished through them. Instinctively, we would want to jump in, to save the situation, to restore order. But God remained totally in control and achieved His purpose amidst the shouts of “Crucify Him!” and the declarations of “We have no king but Caesar!” (John 19:15) How do we understand this? The free will of Man and yet, the sovereignty of God. Wow!

Upon reflection, I find these points oddly comforting, but also extremely challenging.

The power play in the world increases with each passing day. I am reminded that these have no power if it had not been first granted to them by God. For sure, power in the wrong hands would be bad news for everyone. And yet, through the hand of Pilate, God brought good news! Clearly, I must learn to see that ultimately, all power belongs to God and He is still in total control. In this, I am comforted.

But this comfort does not come without a challenge.

For me, the question is, “How can I remain silent and submitted to the will of God amidst the chaos and confusion in our world today?” When does a Christian make a stand and when does he suffer in silence? Do we fight for our convictions? And if so, how should we fight, remembering the words of Jesus to Pilate in John 18:36, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” How do we apply this as people of His kingdom?

I wish I had a ready answer for this, but I don’t.

And so, my Good Friday reflections continue, as I ponder again the example of Jesus, the One “who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth, who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:22-23) and how I am to follow in my Master’s steps.

 

 

 

The Baptism of Mdm Goh: When Simple Faith in Jesus is More Than Enough!

Mdm Goh BaptismI just returned from baptising an elderly lady, the mother of one of our members. From what I know, Mdm Goh Ah Lan was a very staunch Buddhist. At 82 years old, she was recently hospitalised for a weak heart and failing kidneys. Her condition was serious enough for her to be put into ICU twice! The Discipleship Group visited and prayed for her and I was told there was a presence of God in the room. Soon after, she gave her a life to Jesus. Don’t ask me what language she declared her faith in Jesus in; but she did. Don’t ask me how either. She just did! Two days ago, another pastor visited her and returned to share how sprightly and joyful she is. Chatting with her – she understands a little English – his conclusion was, “There is no doubt she is soundly saved!” Then came the request for baptism – that’s where I got involved.

Asked to perform the baptism in Changi General Hospital, I dutifully made my way there this afternoon. I really didn’t know what to expect, nor how I would communicate with her. I don’t speak Hainanese and she understands only a little English. That said, I had all my questions lined up in mind to ensure she understood what salvation and baptism meant. I was, as you would expect, in teacher mode 🙂

When I arrived, however, things didn’t go the way I expected. I found myself struggling with Hokkien and Mandarin, trying to communicate through her daughter, not a believer, as interpreter. All my well-crafted theological questions went out the door! I simplified everything to one question, “Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins?” And even that sounded too much of a mouthful! But the dear lady gamely nodded her head and said, “Yes!” That’s good enough for me, I thought to myself, and proceeded to baptise her in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit! I can’t explain it, but there was such joy and peace on her face. She was visibly excited and thrilled that she was getting baptised, that she was proclaiming her faith in Jesus for all to see.

Communion was next. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, I took my time to explain to her family members (non-believers) what the communion meal was all about. I made it a special point to share the gospel as I presented the significance of the elements. I believe it was especially meaningful to watch their mother partake of communion for the very first time. In the conversation that followed, the daughters commented how their mother had become more cheerful and energetic after turning to Jesus.

Sometimes I wonder if being too theological and doctrinal can be detrimental and unproductive when it comes to reaching the lost for Jesus? Quite clearly, Mdm Goh doesn’t understand everything about the Christian faith, much less theological and doctrinal positions of sin and righteousness. Yet, her simple declaration of faith in Jesus was enough. This shows that when the Holy Spirit draws a person to Jesus, there is no need for any argument or discourse at all. He does all the work and we get to participate in the joy of reaping the harvest!

In no way am I saying that there is no longer a need to present salvation accurately. What I am advocating is that we do not fall into a rigidity of a one-method mode of evangelism. Whether reaching out to someone like Mdm Goh or a college professor, we must always remain open to the leading of the Holy Spirit, that through a heart of love and compassion, we may rightly direct them towards reconciliation through Jesus Christ.

Making Sense of the Boston Marathon Bombing

Source: http://www.indiatimes.com/news/americas/boston-marathon-bombing-3-killed-140-injured-72305.html
Source: http://www.indiatimes.com/news/americas/boston-marathon-bombing-3-killed-140-injured-72305.html

Here I am, sitting at my computer, trying to provide a pastoral response and perspective to the mindless bombing at the Boston Marathon. It’s tough – trying to craft this post – when I myself have so many questions running through my head:

Why would anyone stoop so low to do something like this? Why did security not detect anything? Did they not learn anything from 9/11 or have we forgotten that all too quickly? Why should an eight-year old lose his life when he was only there to cheer runners crossing the finish line? Why? Why? Why?

Like I said, it’s tough. I could try to sound theological or philosophical but that’s not going to help at all. And yet, without such a foundation, one can be easily tossed towards dismay and discouragement that we live in such a terrible world. That said, any answer will only be met by another question begging for a more satisfactory explanation. It just won’t end. As such, it’s best to steer clear away from such an exercise.

So what am I feeling right now? And how will I respond to unfolding news reports that provide more and more details of the bombing?

I am grieving with those who are grieving. Yes. My heart is breaking for those who have lost lives, lost limbs, lost loved ones and friends. Each time I read a Facebook post or a tweet, each time I watch the news, my heart aches. Across the next few days (or weeks), that’s how it’s going to be. And all I can do is to lift up a prayer for all affected in one way or another.

I am angry with sin. Very possibly, the question on everyone’s mind is, “Who’s responsible for the bombing?” Whoever it is, whichever agency, I am clear about one thing – it’s sin. You can try to pin the blame on someone, but the reality is that humanity is depraved because of sin. And the Bible is so clear that the fruit or result of sin is death. Just look around – why do we need an explosion to be awoken to the presence and power of sin?! Whilst I utterly detest the cowardly works of such acts of terrorism, I know it’s pointless being angry with these who are merely deceived and being used as instruments of sin. It’s not whether one is educated or uneducated, rich or poor, it’s sin! And it irks me big time!

I am thankful for salvation through Jesus. I may not go around blowing people or myself up, but I fully acknowledge that I too was born in sin. And because of that, I have every capacity to be a terrorist too. Who knows? I may have already blown a few people away with my pride, hypocrisy and insensitivity! That’s why I am so thankful for salvation from sin, and its curse, through the work of Jesus on the Cross. To this end, everyone who has suffered the devastating effects of sin resulting in physical death, if these know Jesus as Saviour, it is not the end for them. In Him, they have eternal life and they are safe in the arms of Jesus now.

My friends, these may not be the answers you are looking for. Like I mentioned above, I wasn’t trying to provide any. These are my personal ramblings, getting thoughts off my chest and aligning my own perspectives with what I understand from my journey with Jesus. For sure, bombings like these make absolutely no sense at all. Don’t try to get into the sinful minds of the bombers for you may just end up making excuses for them. Instead, feel free to grieve, it’s good for you. Sure, be angry, but make sure it’s rightly directed at sin. And as a believer in Jesus Christ, rejoice in the hope that we have in Him, and be thankful for those who have entered fully into salvation through Him and Him alone.

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

Don’t keep blaming the devil if it’s sin you’re struggling with

Well, Eve did it when confronted by God and so, I suppose we’ve been doing it ever since. In case you’re wondering what this is all about, I am referring to the blame game. Not just the blaming of others, but more specifically, that of the dark side.

“… the woman said, ‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.'” Gen 3:13

Today, it’s still happening although in a slightly different form. Thanks to the deliverance ministry, we have a better understanding of demonic operations and how evil spirits (fallen angels) oppress and attack people. Also, in the gospel accounts, we read of Jesus casting out a deaf and dumb spirit (Mark 9:25) and a spirit of infirmity (Luke 13:11). However, extending from these teachings, we have conveniently named spirits after every sickness or weakness.

Whilst it is good to be very aware of the spiritual battle we are engaged in, we must also be careful not to swing to an extreme (which we are all prone to do) and ascribe every weakness we struggle with to demonic activity and influence! For example, if you are plain greedy and can’t control your food intake, don’t blame the spirit of gluttony. Or if you can’t get off the computer, casting out the spirit of facebook will do you no good. Similarly, binding the spirit of drama serials won’t stop you from watching episode 318 of your favourite programme.

Forgive my overly dramatic examples, but I’m just trying to make a point and I hope you are getting it. Yes, the spiritual dimension is very real but you cannot pin everything on the imaginary demon you think is hovering over yourself. To do that would be far too easy, too convenient. And yet, we all love to do that because it gets us away from acknowledging personal sin and responsibility! And we hate to admit that because it means owning up to our own faults and weaknesses. More accurately, we don’t like coming to terms with how devastatingly and hopelessly sinful we are! Because if we do, we have to deal with it and it takes too much trouble, too much sacrifice, too much effort, and we’d lose too much face. And so, it’s easier to keep pointing the finger at some spirit which we cannot see. Honestly, if it were that straightforward, I would have cast out the spirit of laziness and the spirit of disobedience from my children long ago.

In majoring in naming and casting out these fancy spirits, we have forgotten about the reality of the power and dominion of sin that operates through our Adamic nature. Make no mistake! Often, the so-called spirit of anger or spirit of lust is nothing but a manifestation of the work of the flesh in your life that you have not dealt with. And before you respond too quickly to blame your fallen sinful state and use that as another cop out, let us not forget that it was precisely for this reason that Christ came to set us free (Rom 6:18), that sin shall no longer have dominion over us (Rom 6:14)! And to deal with the evil spirits, 1 John 3:8 says, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” That is why we strive to walk in the Spirit that we give no place to the flesh! For in the Spirit is where the victory is and where we will experience true liberty in Christ!

My dear friends in Christ, whatever you are struggling with, Jesus has done and taken it all at the Cross, disarming all power and principalities (Col 2:15) and securing a decisive victory for us who believe. When Jesus said, “It is finished!”, that was exactly what He meant. It is time you walk in that truth and stop passing the buck, giving demons credit when absolutely none is due to them. Instead, take personal responsibility for your walk as you lay hold of the promises you have in Christ. And to do that means to acknowledge your areas of weakness and failings, repenting and confessing that you may always walk in the light, giving the enemy no ground at all. To do that also means holding yourself accountable to others that they may help you in your times of possible compromise. This is what God’s community is about and it would do you well to get into a church that really means business.

Please, let’s stop this blame game. It’s time to wise up and grow up!

A Personal Response to the City Harvest Case

“Ever since sharing the following pointers to a closed group at an Archippus Awakening KINGDOM101 meeting on 21 Oct 2015, this post has garnered quite a few views and its fair share of comments. I feel it necessary to point out and remind all readers that this post was written more than three years ago, posted on 27 Jun 2012. Even so, these personal – and I stress, personal – convictions remain the same and the points, relevant. This post is not a commentary of what has taken place nor does it seek to provide my views, opinion or evaluation of the verdict, or the persons involved. As clearly expressed, the social media is not the place for such discourses. To this end, whilst I welcome and respect everyone’s inputs and comments, in the spirit of what has been shared, contributions will be accordingly moderated. Thank you and may you be blessed and encouraged as you read this post and others on One Day At A Time.” Henson, 23 Oct 2015

This is not the first blog post about what has happened to Pastor Kong Hee and the leaders of City Harvest Church and it definitely will not be the last. In this day and age of the internet, everyone can share their opinion over cyberspace and I suppose that is also what I am doing here. Even so, I am mindful that I cannot control who reads this and how they will respond. As such, I will endeavour to be as careful and as responsible as I possibly can, so help me God 🙂

Also, I am fully aware that I am writing as one in fulltime ministry, as a dean of a school of ministry and as a pastor of a local congregation. In these capacities, I have already received questions from those I lead and I hope this post will provide a consistent response. My desire is thus to share my personal perspective and the lessons I am learning; that through this, others who are in agreement may know how to respond accordingly.

And should anyone choose to share this on Facebook or Twitter, my prayer is that it does not contribute to any controversy, but that it offers help and clarity to those trying to make some sense of the situation. There is definitely no intention on my part to speak ill of Pastor Kong Hee or any CHC leader for I do not know them personally nor is it my place to do so at all. To this end, the general observations presented hereunder apply to anyone who serves in ministry and any case that involves such a one who might have walked in error.

So here goes…

1. I am exercising restraint in my thoughts and my words. At this point, it is very easy to be caught up with what is right or wrong, whether the use or misuse of funds is justified, if it was to support a personal ambition or was it truly a ministry to reach the lost for Jesus. Tempting as it is to be drawn into such discussions, I keep reminding myself to hold back, even in my own thoughts and imaginations. No, I am not in denial at all and I most certainly have a point of view. I am merely exercising restraint, knowing how quickly I too can end up being self-righteous, prideful and judgmental. Without conscious restraint, I could be like some on the social media, openly airing my views and feelings. We are all entitled to say something and it has been interesting to read some of the comments posted so far. But I question the necessity of some, however scriptural it may sound.

2. I am hurting because the Body of Christ has been hurt. Without doubt, I am deeply saddened and troubled by what has taken place. But say what you like, these arrested and charged, and those belonging to CHC, are all brothers and sisters in Christ. It’s not “them” and “us” but we all belong to one body. What they are going through now is pain, anxiety and very possibly confusion. And when one part of the body hurts, the rest of the body is affected. I don’t really want to think about it, but I can’t help it. Since reading the first posting yesterday, the matter has not ceased to be on my mind and in my heart. And it has been painful for me as it is also for every believer who understands what community is all about.

3. I am thankful that the power of the Word of God is not constrained by the weakness of Man. I have heard many good things about Pastor Kong Hee and how he preached hard and without compromise. I believe the Word of God has gone forth and has blessed and built many at CHC. These all love and serve Jesus from the bottom of their hearts. That’s because biblical truths and principles still stand, even if the one who brings the message falls. God works through and is not at all constrained by Man’s imperfections. The power is in His Word not in Man. That is why, always, God receives all glory!

4. I am challenged to always check out the teaching of the Word. Understandably, some may be concerned and are questioning if they should listen to CHC messages anymore, especially those about money, tithing and giving. That is a valid concern, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. By this, I am not advocating that we accept every teaching blindly. Instead, we are to always check and test out the teaching of the Word. Do we accept the teaching because it appeals to our sinful nature? Oddly, the good news is good news because it offends our sinful nature that we may be convicted to give these up for what truly matters in the Kingdom of God!

5. I am duly cautioned that we are all one step away from falling. How did it happen? When did it start? These are just some of the questions on everyone’s minds. I don’t have the answers, nor should I even hazard a guess. All I know is that no one is exempt from the lures and temptations of this world. And the more I am blessed with, the easier it is for me to rationalize and justify why I do what I do. I could be fervent and zealous for the Lord, but I am just one step from compromising and falling. It happened to King David, a man after God’s own heart, and it could happen to any one of us.

6. I am convinced God is bigger than the situation and He does not need us to defend Him. Some years back, when charities first came into the spotlight and certain churches’ policies were being investigated, the prayer leader asked a believer to pray for the situation. This person prayed in the following manner … “Lord, please blind the eyes of the authorities to anything that is not right so that Your Name will not be tarnished.” Do we need to ask God to cover our wrongdoings so that He won’t look bad? The last I read in my Bible, God covers sin so He won’t have to strike us dead! In all other instances, God is in the business of exposing sin. Truly, God is not afraid of revealing weakness in His people. He has done that with Israel and He will do it with the Church. In that, He displays His righteousness and His holiness even as He demands the same in our lives.

7. I am certain many will be shaken through this episode and it’s ok. In fact, we are to brace ourselves for even more to come as the Bible warns that there will be a great falling away. Those who have a right relationship with God and His people, who are growing and maturing spiritually, will be further strengthened through such difficult and uncomfortable incidents. On the contrary, those who have put their trust and faith in man-made systems and structures will be sorely disappointed and disillusioned. Yes, God is shaking, but God is also building up His Church.

8. I am standing for the restoration of all affected. Our God is all for restoration. And by His grace, we know there will be another chance for those who might have erred in their weakness. Yes, we are to hold to His truth for we are called to be the pillar and the ground of truth. But as His people, and agents of His amazing grace, the Church is to provide an environment where restoration is possible. Not that we overlook the sins committed, but that we help one another overcome through love, through fellowship and in mutual accountability.

Indeed, there is much to be learnt from all that is happening. Over the next days and weeks, months perhaps, there will be a lot more talk and a lot more details that will be presented. We could join in the fray and contribute to the chatter. Or we could join our hearts in prayer … not just for Pastor Kong Hee and City Harvest Church, but for the entire household of faith in Singapore. On a personal note, I will be guided by what I have shared in this post. May the Lord Jesus lead and enable us by His Holy Spirit to stand as one that the world may know that we are truly His disciples.

A Provoking Two Hours With Paul Washer

Some weeks ago, a dear sister sent me a link to a message by Paul Washer.  Deep in my spirit, I had a notion that this would not be an ordinary message but one the Lord would have me listen to.  Being a two-hour message, I knew I had to have the time and space to fully concentrate on the contents.  Most certainly, I wouldn’t want to be flippant to gloss over a sermon entitled “Ten Indictments Against the Modern Church”.

This afternoon, the opportunity presented itself.  There was work to be done, but I didn’t have the mind nor heart to do anything.  This message came to mind so I retrieved the email, clicked on the link and listened to the entire two-hour discourse by Paul Washer.  I was deeply challenged and provoked by each of the ten indictments.  Without doubt, I have been guilty of many of the points Washer raised.  That said, I also found many answers to the issues I had been wrestling with; issues which many like myself have taken for granted having grown up in the church but no less clear about certain critical doctrines and beliefs.

I love the way Washer challenged with the statement, “It’s one thing to believe the Bible is inspired and inerrant, but another to believe it is sufficient.”  His declaration that Christians are totally ignorant of God and His attributes struck such a chord in my heart, for of late, I have been crying out to understand and grow “in the knowledge of God”.  And because there is no knowledge of who God is, there is no fear of Him.  How true!

I also fully agree that there is such a failure today to address the depravity of humanity and sin.  Washer states, and rightly, that without a true awareness of self, there can be no repentance and no desire to be saved.  We have treated sin superficially and blocked the work of the Holy Spirit who comes to convict the world of sin!

Washer went on to contend that we have misrepresented the gospel of Jesus Christ, replacing regeneration for decisionism!  Without a clear understanding of the doctrine of regeneration, we have reduced salvation to a decision rather than a sovereign work of God.  No wonder there is no evidence of the supernatural re-creative work of the Holy Spirit in lives!  What’s more, for many, the motive for salvation is to get to heaven where there are no more problems. That sounds like a great deal but is unbiblical.  As mentioned earlier, it is our recognition of our hopelessness and depravity that renders salvation necessary.

According to Washer, there is no remnant in the Church.  Instead, the Church is the remnant!  Depending on how we see regeneration and salvation, our definition of the Church will also be affected.  Following his argument, only those who are truly saved and regenerated are the Church.  These are the ones who truly love the Lord and are being changed into the image of His Son, and being prepared as His Bride.  Makes you think harder about the parables about the tares and the goats, doesn’t it?

At the same time, I thank God for affirming me in how I have been preaching and teaching.  Issues like church discipline, holiness and godliness are all topics I challenge myself and my students with.  It’s encouraging to hear someone else stand on the same points.  Yet, it is sad to also note that he also observes the same thing across churches – that church discipline is not administered, that holiness is something frowned upon and that godliness is not being pursued.

Finally, as a husband and a father, I really appreciated Washer’s challenge to Christian families.  Instead of standing on God’s principles, we have resorted to worldly advice and perspectives where marriages and families are concerned.  No wonder then that we are seeing so many problems in our relationships.  He issued the same challenge as I have been raising … that effort should be put into raising and teaching fathers and men!  Instead, we see the reverse in our churches.  More time, money and effort is being put into our Sunday School programmes than in the lives of our fathers and men.

What a provoking two hours.  But time well spent, I must say.  It’s been a long while since I heard strong and solid preaching.  Dear Lord, enable me by the power of Your Holy Spirit to respond in the way I must.  Forgive me for where I have also gone off-track.  That said, thank You for stirring in my heart, the same issues and convictions.  Draw me deeper and bring my closer in my walk with You.  Help me to preach and teach without compromise so that others too can enjoy the relationship I have with you.  Amen!