Holiness as Young Adults (III)

Financial independence and the power of money

The taste of financial independence is a sheer joy and pleasure to many young adults.  Once they were strapped with limited financial resources and have to depend on their parents for sustenance. Now being able to work and gain financial freedom has empowered young adults to get what they have always wanted. As one literally experiences the power of money and what it can do, one can be affected by it in many ways.

First, the young adult’s calling as a good steward is challenged. They may be tempted to only spend what they have earned on themselves. It may affect their desire to give cheerfully to support the work of the Lord in the church as they realize the opportunity costs of having to give up a certain lifestyle or to forgo buying a certain item that they crave for. The desire to contribute to the church’s needs is frequently challenged by one’s own desire for more earthly things, pleasures and pursuits. Unwittingly, young Christian adults can get caught up in the pursuits of material and worldly gains. The temptation to accumulate more wealth can cause the young Christian adult to work hard at the job in order to be able to afford the things that one desires after. This is particularly true in an age of materialism and self-gratification. It will start to blur one’s Christian’s perspective and calling as a pilgrim and stranger in this world. This is a great danger young Christian adults must be wary of and seek to avoid. “Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:24, Luke 16:13).

As Singles

One aspect of holiness for the singles has to do with how one deals with loneliness. Loneliness can have a debilitating effect on young Christian adults who are trying to cope with singlehood. Loneliness can drive young adults to be involved in all sorts of activities to fill up the voids in their lives. They can end up indulging in work or pleasures; or drowning their feeling of loneliness in unending activities, videos/TV/movies watching, attending courses, etc.  The more sociable ones may seek companionships and find solace in their friends through clubbing, drinking, pleasures, fun, etc. However, if young single Christian adults could devote more of their life and time in the church and God’s work, they could divert their energies to the service of God’s people and be more involved in the life of the church.

One significant and constant challenge of young Christian adults is to know the Lord’s will regarding their calling to be single. As one sees more of their peers getting married and having covenant children, one becomes more and more concerned of being ‘unmarriageable’. The temptation to compromise grows stronger as one pines for companionship or longs to be married. One has to remain steadfast, be very prayerful, constantly seek the Lord’s will and wait upon the Lord to provide; and not to ‘take things into our own hands’ and be unequally yoked (2 Cor. 6:14).

One other challenge of young single Christians is the tendency to have wrong motivations to remain as singles. One possible reason could be that to stay single, one could have more free time for oneself without having to think about the spouse’s or child’s needs. Furthermore, one could use all the monies earned entirely on one’s wants and needs without reservation or inhibition.

Young single Christians need to be reminded that as the bride of Christ, married to the Lord, they are to be wholly consecrated to Him too. They also have a role to play in the church as they are more likely to have more time to participate in church activities or to serve the church. Like what Paul says in 1 Cor. 7:32-34, singles need not be cumbered with the affairs of married life and upbringing of children. They have more time to engage in the Lord’s work. They can also spend a good part of their time growing in the faith and knowledge of God’s word through reading good Christian books, listening to good sermons online, attending Bible studies, etc.

As a Married Couple

Young married Christian couples also have their fair share of challenges in their marriages.  They have to struggle to fulfil their new roles in their marriage: the young husband learns to exercise his headship responsibly and lovingly, loves his wife, provides for the family, leads in family devotions, etc., while the young wife learns willing and loving submission to her husband, loves her husband, be a keeper at home, cares for the family’s needs, etc.

When the first child arrives, besides adjusting to the new arrival, the challenge is to learn how not to allow the baby to dictate the couple’s lives. While it is true that in the initial months after birth, the disorientated baby will soon follow a certain schedule, do not be afraid to upset the schedule some of the time so that as young couples you are not cut off from fellowship with others. The addition of a newborn should not prevent you from serving in the church either.

One of the challenges faced by young Christian couples is managing time for one another and yet be able to maintain their own personal space. They have to be careful that their earthly cares do not take precedence over the spiritual demands of the family and yet be able balance their time to be involved in the church. They have to prioritise their time so that they do not forego spending personal time with one another as well as spending time together learning God’s word and encouraging one another as couples.

Another challenge faced by young Christian couples is in the area of finances. The couple has to agree on how the finances are managed and what they spend on. The husband ought to consult his wife on their expenditures especially on big ticket items before making any decisions.  Decision should be properly made after having discussed thoroughly with his wife. The young husband will soon learn that it is better to have the blessings of his wife than to deal with a fallout.

‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ can be a temptation to young Christian couples. Relying only on one breadwinner will take its toll inevitably on what kind of house one stays in, whether to buy a car, whether to eat in some fancy restaurant, or where to go for holidays, etc. One has to learn to be content (Phi. 4:11; 1 Tim. 6:8; Heb 13:5a) with what God has provided and not compare themselves with what other families have or can do. One has to learn to live within the means God has provided the family.

What we have seen above are challenges and temptations that constantly affect you as young Christian adults as you struggle to live a holy life. Whether as singles or as married couples, you realise that it is an uphill battle you have to fight each day with the three-fold enemy of self, Satan and the world. It is not easy. You are constantly reminded of your depravity and weaknesses each time you fall into temptations.  However, do not be discouraged. The path you are taking is one trodden by many fellow Christians before you. The circumstances may be different, but the challenges and temptations remain very much the same. Seek the older brothers and sisters for their godly advice and encouragement. One has to be constantly reminded that our Christian life is that of a pilgrim and stranger on this earth. We have no abiding place here. We are to “lay up treasures in heaven, where neither moth and rust doth corrupt … for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:20-21). God, through our pilgrimage, is preparing us for the life above. By the power of His grace, cleave unto the LORD your God (Josh. 23:8) and turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left (Josh. 23:6). He will surely bring you through your life’s journey till you reach the heavenly shores.

 

Written by: Wee Gim Theng | Issue 50

 

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Holiness as Young Adults (II)

In the last article we have established that the reason and motivation for one to live a life of holiness is primarily from the admonition given by the Apostle Peter in 1 Pet. 1:15 and 16.  It is because God is holy that we are called to be holy. As obedient children, we are therefore expected to live a holy life as unto the Lord. However, we realize that we are unable of ourselves to live a holy life. We need the power of His grace alone to live such a life.

In this article, we shall discuss some of the challenges faced by young Christian adults today in living a life of holiness. What I am going to discuss is by no means an exhaustive list of challenges which I had gathered from some young adults in our church.

Social media / e-commerce/ computer gaming / digital marketing

Social media is ubiquitously used by young adults these days to socialise and keep up with their friends. Many young adults spend quite a sizeable proportion of their time socialising on various social media platforms. Much time is spent each day reading posts, posting and commenting, liking, meeting people, or just saying “haha” or “lol”.

Young adults also spend much time browsing and shopping for items on the e-commerce websites. Online shopping is the rave of the time, spurred on by easy connectivity, convenience, cheap delivery charges and same-day or next-day delivery promises. Some, who are more entrepreneurial and internet savvy, would even set up their own e-commerce websites to earn a few bucks through sale of their own crafts and trinkets, etc.

Computer gaming has been a bane to many parents of school-going children. It can be a big problem for some young adults who spend much time playing computer games. The problem is not in playing some innocent games for relaxation. Some experts have blamed computer gaming to gender violent behaviours in some young adults. These people say that some games, where the gamer literally chooses the weapon and prowls from room to room seeking to ‘kill’ the enemies, have violent effects on the mind, especially when the actions of killing are done repeatedly. The portrayal of the gory scenes, through the animated killing scenes with blood splattering upon impact of shooting, can desensitise and embolden the gamers to commit physical violence in real life! Besides the potential problem of committing violence, there is the problem of ‘not properly redeeming’ one’s time. Gamers usually spent much time playing with other cyber players over the internet. Given the nature of the game, there is always an ever growing challenge to ‘better’ the previous scores, thus spurring the gamer to keep practicing until a state of near perfection is attained. To attain this state, many hours have to be poured in to achieve gaming mastery.

Be it socialising on social media, browsing on the e-commerce websites or computer gaming, young Christian adults who spent  a great amount of time on these activities would very often have a sense of guilt for not spending time wisely, especially when there are deadlines to meet or at the expense of reading the Bible, preparing for Bible studies or for a church meeting. There may be other areas that you have been spending much of your time . As a general guide, even though the activity is a neutral one, spending inordinate amounts of time on an activity on a regular basis without self-control would usually render the activity to be an idol, replacing God as the centre of your life. You could be so absorbed by the activity that your first waking thoughts would be to participate in that activity. Or sometimes, the thought of doing the activity keeps plaguing your mind until you lay hands on it … such is the strong magnetic pulling power that one may succumb to. Young people, beware of Satan’s ploy to distract you (especially the young men) to get you so engaged in gaming or some other activities, so much so that you can become enslaved to them and do not have much time for the Lord or to grow spiritually! Satan’s strategy is very simple … it is not to distract you entirely from your calling to live a life of holiness, to grow spiritually and to serve God. His ploy is to render you ineffective in your Christian life and service so that what you do for the Lord is done with minuscule effort and not to the best of your ability. As a result, the Lord’s work inevitably suffers. Is this happening to you?

Through the world of the internet, social media and digital marketing, where one is constantly bombarded by its worldly philosophies and sexual content, young adults are not only challenged to re-examine their Christian values, but are tempted to become promiscuous. The generally tolerated soft pornographic content portrayed in articles and pictures depicting the opposite sex in sexually-charged and lurid poses would tempt young adults to fall into the sins of the lusts of the eyes and flesh; and commit adultery  in their hearts, breaking the 7th commandment.

Conformance to peer pressures

Young Christian adults also face with a lot of peer pressures to conform to the lifestyle of the world, such as clubbing, worldly entertainment (watching movies and TV, dancing, listening to worldly music), worldly pleasures, etc. The acceptance of clubbing and a worldly lifestyle as a social norm amongst many young Christian adults has become a source of pressure for conformance. Through relentless bombardment of the social media and internet, young Christian adults are also tempted not only to conform to the values and lifestyles of their friends but also to pursue worldly things and pleasures at the expense of spiritual things. It is good to take heed to Rom. 12:2 which tells us “not to conform to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind …”, and 2 Cor. 6:17 exhorts us to “come out from among them, and be ye separate”.

Working life

Eking out a living is by no means easy as young adults find out when they step into the working world. Besides the pressures of work, there are many challenges faced by young working Christian adults.

Work can become an obsession, especially when one is very career-minded and aspires to climb the corporate ladder. Sometimes it is difficult for one to ‘turn down’ the bosses’ demands so as to be seen in a good light. This can become one’s preoccupation. As a result, it can become a temptation to want to please the boss at the expense of one’s Christian principles in order to get better bonuses or have better promotion prospects. At times, there are tempting career development offers to work in another country where there is no Reformed Church. To succumb to the company’s pressure to take up the offer would have detrimental consequences on one’s spiritual and family well-being. There are also pressures to break the Sabbath day and work on Sundays to please the bosses or to advance in one’s career.

Work can also affect young Christian women especially if they are career-minded and have the capacity for career advancement. It can be difficult for her to quit her job when her first child comes along. It is especially so if she likes her job. When the reality of having to change diapers, put up with the physical demands of a helpless baby, care for the family, loss of income, etc., start to sink, she can be tempted to disobey God’s word to be a keeper at home (Tit. 2:5). Without her husband’s active support and affirmation, she can easily compromise her calling and remain in the workforce.

In some instances, your colleagues or even bosses may ask you to lie to get out of a certain sticky situation. This can be very challenging for a Christian worker, especially when you are the most junior in the team/office. The situation is made worse if there are Christian colleagues who are willing to compromise their Christian principles. The temptation is to take the easy way out and break the 9th commandment so as to be seen to support the team.

Sometimes, the work culture in the office is to take shortcuts and do the minimum to get by. As Christians, it is not right to follow this kind of work culture, and yet there is the pressure to conform or be left out of the group or be ostracised. The Christian worker finds it difficult to live antithetically in the midst of ungodly company at work where people backbite, gossip, refuse to submit or are disrespectful to authority.

As Christians, our calling as workers in our workplace is to be good employees, always subjecting to our employers with all fear, not only to the good and gentle but also to the froward (1 Pet. 2:18). We are to serve our employers as obedient servants, as unto Christ (Eph. 6:5). We are to exert ourselves to work and always do our best as unto the Lord. In no circumstance should we be blamed for slothfulness or cheating our employers of their resource, money or time. This is not only sinful, but it also tarnishes the name of our God. But giving in to the afore-mentioned pressures or temptations in order to be in the bosses’ good books is certainly not our calling as Christians. We must always do what is right and pleasing in God’s sight. As we advance in our career, we must not forget that we are first the servants of the most high God and then servants to our bosses. We are to please God rather than men. At any point in time when our bosses’ demands go against the grain of our calling/conviction, we must re-examine our situations and seek to obey God. Never should we allow our calling at work to override our fundamental calling as Christians.

To be continued…

 

Written by: Wee Gim Theng | Issue 49

 

An Example of Holiness

I am writing this for a youth magazine. Yet this article has special reference for those who are older in the church. These are those who are mature in the faith. They have learned much by experience and by trials which God has led them through in their lives.  They also have been given an opportunity to show themselves steadfast in the faith through continuing for a number of years in the faith.

The book of Titus in the Bible has much to say about the subject of this article. “The aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity and patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women (Tit. 2:2-4).

The children of the church are watching us. They must not only be instructed by the words of their teachers but also by their example of godliness and holiness. This is especially true of our life in the covenant home. These children are often our own covenant children in our own homes.  Besides our spouses in marriage and of course most of all, besides God who knows our hearts, our children know us better than anyone else. From day to day they live with us in our home. They soon will detect the sincerity of our godliness and whether our daily walk is truly holy as it should be as saints of God.

Aged saints of God in the church have a tremendous calling to the youthful members of the church. Inevitably, young and new members of the church will learn from the more senior members of the church. If the aged in the church are worldly and ungodly in their daily lives the young will (though wrongly) make excuses for their own personal sin and compromises in Christian living.

Holiness is one of the greatest virtues of God Himself. He has chosen us to be His people that we should be holy before Him. When we live a holy life, we glorify God and our Lord who has saved us at the great cost of His great sacrifice on the cross.  In our life of holiness, we reflect the virtues of Christ in  us.

When we think of holiness, we think first of all of perfection and goodness. No man can ever be holy except by the grace and Spirit of God. Holiness is love for God. Holiness is consecration and devotion to God. Holiness is separation from sin and worldliness. The apostle John writes, “Love not the world neither the things in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in Him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 Jn. 2:15-16). These are strong but absolutely true words, the judgment of God Himself who is the holy one.

Love for God arises from true godly humility in regards to the attitude we have concerning ourselves. This attitude is shown in that we hate and flee from sin. This will be evident in our personal and especially our home life. It will be obvious. Our children will see us regularly reading and studying the Word of God and taking the time to meditate on it. By the time we are mature saints of God we should have an established order in our life to make room for times of studying the word of God. Our children will see us often on our knees. In times of trials and sorrows they hear us crying earnestly to the Lord for help and hope and comfort. This is true holiness.

Holiness must be manifest in many ways in our lives. If we love God, we will also love His truth. We will then constantly be engaged in learning more and more of the truth of God through reading the Word of God, meditating on its truth, and striving to live according to it. Holiness is a principled life of godliness.

Holiness certainly includes love for the church. Aged saints have a profound love for the church. They know that the church is the house of God. They have learned what fountains of blessing are opened in the house of God through the preaching of the gospel. They yearn for the house of God as also the aged Psalmist did for the house of God. “One thing have I desired of the Lord that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to enquire in His temple” (Ps. 27:4).  Likewise the aged saint Anna, mentioned in Luke 2 at the time of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. It is said concerning her that she departed not from the temple, serving the Lord day and night. What devotion to God!

The aged saints reveal their holiness and godliness by demonstrating what is the absolutely most important thing in their lives.  They are not part of a sad group of confessing Christians in Singapore who have devoted themselves to pursuing careers, success and riches in this world as the most important thing in their lives. All they talk about is nice cars, beautiful apartments, well furnished, making more and more money and sacrificing even time for the study of God’s word and worship in the house of God and the exercise of works of Christian charity.

How easy it is for elderly saints to teach the younger by the daily example of their lives to be carnal and worldly and materialistic. The scriptures warn that the love of money is the root of all evil. How sad when those who have been Christians for many years of their life already, by the grace of God, and contrary to this show the younger members of the church that money means everything in life and all kinds of compromises of Christian living and time for active involvement in the church have to be sacrificed for the pursuit of riches and glory in this life.  They will sadly by their example teach the younger members of the church and even their own children what is most important in life.

We have seen young people joining the church in the days of their youth in America and well as in Singapore.  They are full of enthusiasm and excitement because of confessed love for the Lord and for His truth. They seem to show the beauty of holiness in their lives. But in the course of the years of their life when they get older, the pursuit of the riches and glory and glorious careers in their lives takes over, and their love for God grows dim. And if there are children around and young people in the church that see them, they will because of the sinful nature of these young people be tempted to follow their example.

In Ephesians 5, Paul warns us that covetousness is a form of idolatry. We have seen older Christians who by the wonderful grace of God were delivered from the folly and darkness of pagan idolatry.  These in later life have forgotten the blessedness and glory of their salvation and have returned to an idolatry of a different sort, the idolatry of covetousness. How said this is. Sometimes the greatest motivators which drive the trend to this kind of idolatry are parents of covenant children who are teaching their children perhaps not by words but definitely by their example to be materialistic and covetous in the whole of their life.

Sometimes God by His grace gives the children an understanding of the vanity and hypocrisy of the lifestyles of their own parents. May God forbid that this kind of thing should happen in our own families. What an awful judgment of God follows this when children leave the church and the Lord Himself in the days of their youth.

Holiness is manifesting the virtues of God of love and goodness and mercy and kindness and compassion and self-sacrifice in our daily lives. Do we show these in our attitude to our spouses and children in our homes? What an influence the daily display of fervent and sincere Christian love and good works can be in our homes on our children by the grace of God.  What powerful affects can such life styles be on the youth in the church especially when they are going through trials and confused in their own lives.

May God help us to remain steadfast in His truth and in a life of holiness. And may our life of godliness be used in our homes and in the church for a mighty influence on new and young and dear saints of God.

 

Written by: Rev. Arie Den Hartog | Issue 49

Called to Be Saints

Dear brethren in Christ, our Christian life is a calling, a high calling of God. As we walk our earthly lives, we must continually press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:14).

During my daily devotions, as I meditate on the Word of God, I am intrigued by the constant occurrence of the words “called” and “calling”, revealing that in all of our Christian walk of life, our sovereign God is continually working out all circumstances of our lives, preparing and sanctifying us, until He leads us to His eternal kingdom and glory.

In this article, I would like to share my musings and understanding of our Christian calling.

Calling of election (2 Pet. 1:10)

We are Christians in the first place because it is God who has called us before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). From eternity, God foreknew and predestinated us; in due time, He called and justified us; and in eternity, we shall be glorified by Him (Rom. 8:28-30). What a wonder!

Called out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Pet. 2:9)

Without Christ, we were in bondage to sin, Satan, and self. We were children of   disobedience,   under   the   wrath and condemnation of God. We were inclined to the lust of our eyes, the lust of our flesh, and the pride of life. But, praise to be to God, through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, He redeems us out of our slavery and adopts us as His covenant children. He gives us the dominion over sin by the power of His Holy Spirit, who dwells within us. We can begin to live the new spiritual life, walking in His light. We learn more and more to walk in truth, in love, in wisdom – walking in His Spirit at all times.

Called to fellowship with God in Christ (1 Cor. 1:9)

What a privilege! We, earthly beings, can have the privilege to commune with our living God! We can partake of Him. He dwells in us and we in Him. He is our bread of life, our living water, our light in this world, our good shepherd, our resurrection and our life (John 4-15). We abide in Him when His words abide in us. If we keep His commandments, we abide in His love. We can pray to Him without ceasing. We commit all our ways and cares of life to Him. We delight ourselves in Him.

Called to walk worthy (Eph. 4:1)

As a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, and a peculiar people of God, we need to walk worthy of His calling moment by moment, day by day. To do so, we pray that God will strengthen us with might by His Spirit in the inner man. We pray that we will be filled with all His fulness. God is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Eph. 3:16-20). We are sustained by faith, love, and hope. Faith is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). Love is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14). Knowing the hope of His calling and the glory of His inheritance in the saints should motivate us to walk worthy of Him in all aspects of our life.

Called to holiness (1 Thess. 4:7)

We are exhorted to be holy, even as our God is holy (1 Pet. 1:16). We are to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1). To be holy is to turn away from all unrighteousness and sin and to be wholly consecrated and devoted to God. We count ourselves as being dead to sin and alive unto God. We yield the members of our body as instruments of righteousness unto God. We are not under the law, but under grace. Therefore we yield our members servants to righteousness unto holiness (Rom. 6:13-19). We abound in our love towards God and towards one another. We conform to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ to reflect our God of truth, righteousness, and holiness.

Called to press toward the mark of His high calling (Phil. 3:14)

The Christian life is a life of trials, afflictions, sufferings, and all kinds of pressures. The world under Satan hates Christ because their lives are full of darkness, while Christ is the light and exposes the darkness. Satan knows that his time is short and is determined to flood the world with temptations of wealth, honour, pleasures, etc. When Christians do not love the world and the kingdom of Satan, Satan seeks to tempt and persecute her in various forms. Thus, as God’s people, we are to endure hardness as soldiers of the cross (2 Tim. 2:3). We are to fight the good fight of faith (2 Tim. 4:7). We are to resist the devil, and he will flee from us (James 4:7). The Word of God is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17). Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4). In this world we shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33).

Called to His kingdom and glory (1 Thess. 2:12)

What great glory! We must reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed (Rom. 8:18). The world shall pass away, but only those who abide by the will of God will abide forever (1 John 2:17). God has prepared for His people an everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:11). In His kingdom, God shall create a new heaven and a new earth. There shall be no more death, sorrow, or pain. We are the bride of our Lord Jesus Christ. He shall dwell with His people forever (Rev. 21).

Wherefore, my holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, let us consider our Great Apostle and High Priest, our Lord Jesus Christ (Heb. 3:1). Let us walk in all holy conversation and godliness, looking for the coming of the day of God (2 Pet. 3:11-12). Let us build up ourselves on our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and keep ourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life (Jude 20-21).

Written by: Daisy Lim | Issue 48

Holiness as Young Adults (I)

Dear young people, as serious young Christian adults who love the Lord, I am quite sure you are desirous to live a holy Christian life, pleasing to Him. Since Elder Lee Kong Wee in his previous article ‘Holiness: A conscious Choice’ had already addressed what holiness is and what it means to live a holy life, I shall not repeat what had been written. However, before we examine the challenges young adults face in living a holy life unto the Lord, it would be good for us to understand the reason and the motivation for one to live such a life.

The reason and the motivation to live a holy life is primarily from the admonition given by the Apostle Peter in 1 Pet 1:15 and16, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy”. 1 Pet 1:16 is a quotation from the book of Leviticus (Lev. 11:44, 45; 19:2; 20:7), thus emphasizing the important and fundamental calling of God’s people to be holy, in both the old and the new dispensations. The people of God of all ages are called to holy living! You and I must desire to live a holy life because it is God who has called us to live such a life. And God who has called us to be holy is Himself holy! Isaiah 6 gives us a glimpse of God’s glory and holiness. Even the seraphims had to cover their faces with their wings and cried, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.” (Isa. 6:2 and 3). Immediately, the prophet Isaiah reacted with the exclamation acknowledging his sinfulness: “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” (Isa. 6:5).

The Apostle Peter exhorts us, as pilgrims and strangers on our journey of life, to live with the hope for the glorious fulfillment of the perfect salvation to be revealed at the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are to gird up the loins of our mind as obedient children, not fashioning ourselves according to the former lusts in our ignorance but be holy in all manner of conversation (1 Pet. 1:13-14). We should, therefore, have the mindset of pilgrims and strangers living on this earth making our way to the eternal home reserved for us. Our permanent home is in heaven where our holy God dwells. We are to be obedient children, obeying God as a child ought his/her father, to flee from the former lusts we once indulged in or were enslaved to and be holy like our Father in heaven. Our pilgrimage is really to prepare us to be a holy people fit for heaven, though we will never attain perfect holiness on this side of the grave. Hence living a holy life is NOT an option but an expected obligation for all Christians!

The whole of our life must be characterized by holiness not only in our outward day-to-day living but also inwardly, in our hearts and minds. In principle, as regenerated Christians, we are a holy people since our sins have been forgiven and our guilt purged through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, by the imputation of His righteousness on us. We are, as what the Apostle Peter says in 1 Pet 2:9 and 10, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy”. This is what we are by the grace of God, chosen of God to live in covenant fellowship with Him. A people of His possession, called to offer spiritual sacrifices of thanksgiving and to show forth the praises of Him who has called us out our darkness into the marvelous light of His Kingdom. We were once not a people, but now a people of God. We were once without mercy but have now obtained mercy in His Son Jesus Christ. Let us then, with the small beginning of this new obedience, strive to live a life of holiness as unto the Lord, not as a basis of our salvation, but as fruits of gratitude and of a new life.

While we recognize that we have been called out to be a special people sanctified by God and consecrated for holy use, we are nevertheless encumbered with the reality of the ever present depraved nature clinging to us. We continue to fall into sin each and every day. We struggle daily in the body of this death and acknowledge with the Apostle Paul in Rom. 7:19, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do”. However, we are not only faced with the enemy within, we have to deal with the temptations posed by the world, its lusts and its philosophy as well as the prowling and roaring lion, the Evil One. Such are the challenges we have to deal with as God’s people in this world. Young Christian adults are not spared. In fact, young Christian adults will have a more difficult calling to live a holy life as wickedness abounds more and more as the coming of our Lord draws near.

The immediate challenge for young Christian adults in this life is how to rein in the youthful exuberance that you have and have victory over the three-fold enemy of self, the world and Satan; and at the same time fulfill the obligation of holy living. As young adults you have boundless energy and youthful ideals. The question is how can you direct your youthful energy and ideals to the service of God, as unto holiness and not be made used of by the three-fold enemy? How can young adults properly make use of the time and opportunities presented to them each day for the glory of God, for the edification of His Church, for the furtherance of His Kingdom and for the preparation of their souls for the life to come? How can one balance one’s studies/work, social life, social and family obligations, church calling, service, etc. with the important calling to be holy in every aspect of one’s life? There are no easy answers as we grapple with the sins that often beset us.

In the next article, the Lord wiling, we shall examine the challenges faced by young Christian adults in this day and age. We shall list out the difficulties faced by young adults as they grapple with living a life of holiness unto God in the cyber world of internet, social media, gaming, eCommerce, etc. Topics such as pressures young Christian adults face to conform to the worldly lifestyle, how financial independence affect their outlook and service to the Lord, challenges in working life and living as young singles adults and married couples shall be examined in the light of scripture.

Written by: Wee Gim Theng | Issue 48

Holiness: A Conscious Choice

Introduction

Dear young people, what comes to your mind when you think about a holy life? Do you imagine a priest in religious garb, a monk in his robe chanting, or an ascetic sitting atop a pole meditating? Or perhaps you think a holy life means abstaining from drinking alcohol, smoking, and partying. No swearing, no drugs, and no sex. People who are holy seem to take religion pretty seriously – they go regularly to church, the temple or mosque, and faithfully perform the required rituals and prayers.

It is crucial that we understand what holiness is, and what it means to live a holy life. For without holiness, no man shall see God (Heb. 12:14).

Its Real

The idea of holiness is essentially separation, or consecration. When something is holy, it is set apart and distinct from the ordinary and common. The concept of holiness is first and foremost applied to God. He is the Holy One – separate and distinct from all His creation. He is God, and there is none else (Isa. 45:22). He is separate from all sin and wholly consecrated to Himself and His glory. Because God is holy, He calls His people to be holy (1 Pet. 1:16). That means we are called to be separate from sin (to hate and forsake it) and consecrated to God (to love and serve Him whole-heartedly). To be holy is therefore to become more and more like God Himself. But all of us are by nature unholy. We were ugly sinners, spiritually dead and delighting in our sins, and wholly incapable of doing anything to makes ourselves holy. Neither do we desire to be holy.

Left to ourselves, we only become more and more unholy, falling deeper and deeper into the snare of our own sins, until we finally perish. We may live an outwardly moral life. We may observe a certain code of conduct and abstain from societal vices. We may not have broken any law of the land and are free from gross sins such as adultery and murder. But for all that, in our unregenerate state, dead in sin and without spiritual life, we are unholy.

If we are to become holy, God must accomplish the work. This work of making us holy, or sanctification, the Westminster Larger Catechism defines as a ‘work of God’s grace’ (Q&A 75). It is therefore not a work that we deserve, or that we could accomplish on our own, or in any way dependent on us. But it is wholly attributed to God. Our entire salvation, including sanctification, is of the Lord. It is of His sovereign grace and mercy. We were dead in trespasses and sins, but God Who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, has made us spiritually alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1,4,5). And the life of faith we now live is a holy life. As children of God, chosen, regenerated, justified, a holy life is not a mere possibility. It is a present reality. It is the fruit of regeneration and justification that must happen in the chain of salvation. For we have been chosen in Christ that we should be holy (Eph. 1:4).

Live it!

But that does not mean that we just passively sit around and expect God to zap us with holiness instantly. We are called to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phi. 2:12). Paul exhorts Timothy to ‘flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure hear’ (2 Tim. 2:22). We are called to mortify the old man and quicken the new man in us (Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:5). We are to ‘abstain from all appearance of evil’ (1 Thess. 5:22). We must walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8). The Captain of our salvation summons us to ‘put on the whole armour of God and wrestle against principalities, powers,…against spiritual wickedess in high places, that we may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand’ (Eph. 6:11-13). We are to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 3:18).

The life of holiness is marked by two outstanding characteristics: struggle against sin, and faith in Jesus Christ.

Struggle against sin? It seems to us that godly men are hardly troubled by sin. They seem to be above the temptations of the flesh and are not attracted by the world. Aren’t they always on the mountain-top of faith, near to God and far from sin and wickedness? But regardless of how God-fearing and sinless they may appear to be, we can be certain that they do struggle with sin in their lives. The Word of God is crystal clear that sin dwells in every human heart, and there is none righteous, no not one (Rom. 3:10) (except Jesus, of course). When we were born again, we died to sin (Rom. 6:2). But sin is not dead to us. The guilt of sin is removed and the dominion of sin is broken in us, but sin is still very much alive in us, i.e. in our old man. Just read Romans 7. Yes, it is the great apostle of the New Testament who wrote that chapter, in which he speaks of the titanic struggle between the old and new man in him. We are called to mortify the old man (HC Q&A 89). We are called ‘Christians’ because we fight against sin and Satan in this life (HC Q&A 32). The very struggle against sin is evidence that we are spiritually alive and striving to live a holy life. The more we grow in grace and godliness, the more we struggle with sin, because we become more conscious of the heinousness of our sins, and how much we have offended God. Even the holiest man in this life has only a small beginning of obedience. A large part of his life involves great struggles against sin.

But the life of holiness is also marked by faith in Jesus Christ. Our very bitter struggle against sin daily drives us to the cross. We realise increasingly our utter inability to fight against sin and walk in obedience. The good that I would I do not. The evil that I would not, that I do. Our only hope is in the ONE power that is greater than the power of indwelling sin in us. When we look by faith to the cross, we know sin has no dominion over us (Rom. 6:14) – that’s the motivation to fight till our last breath! Faith that all, ALL, my sins are forgiven me and not one is counted against me to my condemnation. Faith that I shall at last have complete victory over sin and the grave when Jesus comes for me either at my death, or else at His second coming. This life of faith is sustained and strengthened as we attend to the means of grace that God has graciously given to us – worship, prayer, reading and meditating on the Word.

As we fight against our sins and walk by faith, the Lord conforms us more and more to the image of our Lord Jesus Christ. That is the ultimate goal of growing in holiness. To be conformed to Jesus Christ, the perfection of holiness, for He is God.

Blessed!

It seems that living the holy life is no easy thing to do. Indeed it is. For it is nothing less than fighting a lifelong battle against our sinful flesh. But the blessing is unspeakable. For to live a life of holiness is to live the reality of the covenant of grace: a life of covenant fellowship with the Triune God. In other words, eternal life, which is nothing but the glorious, overwhelming blessing of God Himself as our God in Jesus Christ! Life with God! (Gen. 15:1; Rev. 21:3) What can be more thrilling and blessed than that? Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God! (Matt. 5:8).

The holy life is the only life worth living. For it is life with the Holy One. Now and forever. Do we live holy lives?

Written by: Elder Lee Kong Wee | Issue 47

Perfecting Holiness

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” II Corinthians 7:1

The apostle Paul has exhorted the Corinthian saints not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. To be unequally yoked with unbelievers is to become spiritually one with them through close association and common cause. This was being done by some in the Corinthian church through mixed marriages as well as by attending the idolatrous feasts of the heathen community. Hence they are exhorted, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers”. Continuing in the same vein, the apostle exhorts the Corinthian saints to separate themselves spiritually. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing.” To this the apostle even attaches a promise. God promises to those who separate themselves from the uncleanness of this world that He will be as a Father to them, living with them and walking with them.

The apostle now brings these thoughts to a conclusion. “Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” We are called to perfect holiness. The viewpoint here is that we are holy in Jesus Christ. This holiness implies separation from sin as well as consecration to the living God.

Let us investigate this holiness a little further. We live in a world corrupted by sin. This is due to the fall of mankind into sin at the beginning of history. This original sin has rendered the human race totally depraved, incapable of doing any good, inclined to all evil. We can see this evil on TV, hear it on radio, read of it in the newspaper, witness it daily as we rub elbows with the world. By reason of our natural birth we are spiritually no different from the world – corrupt, evil, abominable before God. By a great work of grace in Jesus Christ, however, God has wonderfully transformed us. He has given us a new heart to love Him and not hate Him. He has enlightened our mind so that we believe in Him and in His Son, Jesus Christ. He has softened our obstinate will so that we yield to His will instead of resisting. He has broken the stranglehold that sin had upon us so that we are free to serve God.

And so we are holy – saints of God. We have been separated by grace from the corruption of this world and are consecrated to the service of God. This holiness we must perfect, i.e., bring to completion. We must understand that although we have been made holy in Jesus Christ, we are only partially holy. As already noted, we have been delivered from the power of sin in Jesus Christ and renewed in heart, mind, soul, and strength. But this glorious transformation is not yet complete. There still remains within us much that is sinful and corrupt. The Bible calls this our flesh or sinful nature. The result of all this is that the basic direction of our life is toward God. In our deepest heart we hate sin and love God, so that daily we turn away from the evil of this world and press on in the service of our God. But there is something in us that still yearns for the corruption of this world. This evil tendency yet within us daily hinders our service of the Lord, leading us to stumble into sin again and again.

In this context the Word of God speaks of perfecting holiness. To perfect holiness is to complete holiness. One perfects holiness when he fills in that which is lacking, so that he turns from all sin and lives completely in the service of God.

 

We must understand that holiness will not be perfected in this sense until we reach heavenly glory. For as long as we live on earth below, we will be plagued with our sinful nature which will render our holy living far from perfect. Nevertheless, we must daily strive for the perfect holiness that we will enjoy one day in heavenly glory. Daily we must strive to put away the sins that so easily beset us, so that more and more our lives are consecrated to the service of the God of our salvation.

In this sense the Word of God speaks of perfecting holiness. This must be the concern of every true child of God.

Perfecting holiness requires that we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. This is evident from the main exhortation of God before us: “let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness”. Obviously we perfect holiness only when we cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

By the flesh is meant, not our sinful flesh, but our physical flesh, our body. The term “spirit” in the Scriptures is often used interchangeably with the term “soul,” as it is here. The spirit or soul is comprised of our mind, will, and emotions. With the flesh and spirit we have the whole being of man. We have corrupted our flesh and spirit with sin. We do this when we use them as instruments to sin. By our evil thoughts, desires, and feelings we corrupt our spirit, rendering it spiritually filthy. With our evil words and actions we corrupt our physical flesh. The Word of God calls us to cleanse ourselves of all this filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

We cleanse ourselves when we rid our lives of the sins that corrupt us before God. This spiritual cleansing involves cleaning up our lives by turning away from the sins that defile us. It implies that we cease using our flesh and spirit as instruments to sin and use them instead as instruments to serve God. This is done, of course, not in our own strength, but only in the power of the blood of Jesus Christ. Christ’s blood alone washes away our sins. Consequently, he who will cleanse himself of the filthiness of the flesh and spirit must daily fall to his knees in prayer to seek from the hand of God the cleansing power of the cross. In this way of cleansing ourselves we also perfect holiness.

“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness.”

The fear of God is set before us as the motive to do this. The work of cleansing ourselves from all spiritual filthiness and thus perfecting holiness is not ultimately our work but God’s work in us. However, when God cleanses us He deals with us not as robots but as the thinking, willing creatures He has made us to be. Hence, He motivates us so that we desire to be cleansed. He places within us such a desire for holy living that we daily flee to the cross to find the power of Christ’s blood to cleanse ourselves. That which God uses to motivate us is the fear of Him.

“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

By “the fear of God” is not meant the dread of God. Sometimes the Bible speaks of fear in the sense of dread. Many are well filled with this kind of fear of God, for they have trampled underfoot God’s will. They despise God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Unless they repent, they will fall one day into the hands of an angry God. However, it is not fear in this sense – fear of judgment. Nor must we ever be motivated (or try to motivate our children) to be holy by this kind of fear. Most often the Bible speaks of the fear of God in the sense of deep reverence for and loving adoration of God. This fear fills the heart of every child of God who has tasted the salvation of God in Jesus Christ. To fear God requires that you have come to the true knowledge of your sin. You are a miserable sinner, worthy of God’s judgment, without any means of turning away God’s wrath, hopelessly lost. But now, God has come to you in your desperate situation with His free salvation. To your great delight, He has freely forgiven you all your sins in Jesus Christ. He embraces you, He cares for you. He has reserved a place for you in heaven! Those who have tasted these great mercies of God can only be filled with deep awe and reverence for God. They are overwhelmed with loving adoration. They fear God!

It is this fear that motivates every true saint to live a holy life in the service of God. Moved by that holy zeal they fall to their knees in prayer to find the cleansing power of the cross of their Savior, Jesus Christ.

“Let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Another incentive to do so is the promises   of   God.   “Having   therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness . . . perfecting holiness.”

The apostle has set before the saints of the church wonderful promises. God will be their Father. As their Father He will receive them, He will live in them and dwell in them. What beautiful promises these are! They speak of God’s fellowship with His people. This fellowship is the true joy of man. This promised fellowship can be realized only in the way of holiness. The apostle has already made that very clear. It was only in connection with the call to spiritual separation from the world that the apostle spoke of God receiving and living with them as a father does with his children. God Himself is a holy God. He cannot receive anyone who is not holy as He is holy. He certainly will not live with those who trample His holy things under their feet. These promises of God’s fellowship with those who are holy, are set before us as incentives to perfect holiness.

Already now we, as saints of God, enjoy this promised fellowship. This fellowship is the joy of our lives. However, this fellowship is marred by our sins, as we daily defile ourselves before God. How much richer this fellowship becomes as we more and more learn to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

“Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”

Written by: Pastor James D. Slopsema | Issue 10

Remembering the Lord’s Day

On 11 May 2010, the Reformed Reading Book Club met to review and discuss the pamphlet on ‘Remembering the Lord’s Day’ written by Prof Engelsma of the Protestant Reformed Churches in America. Though this is only a ten page pamphlet, Prof Engelsma has concisely pointed out the essence of keeping or remembering the Lord’s Day.

In his introduction, Prof Engelsma equated the Lord’s Day to the dikes in Netherlands that keep back the threatening seas and preserve the Hollanders from destruction by the seas. In his analogy, he explained that the Lord’s Day holds back the raging waves of materialism, earthy mindedness and pleasure-madness that threaten to engulf the Church and the Christian.

In the subsequent three sections, Prof Engelsma stressed and elaborated the one and fundamental truth of Sabbath- observance – As of today, or in the present time, and according to the Fourth Commandment, Jehovah God still sets apart one day of the week as a special day and requires His people to remember this day by ceasing from their secular work and play, in order to devote themselves to worship Him. He also gave both the Biblical and confessional proof to show that remembering the Lord’s Day is the will of God.

In the last three sections of the pamphlet, Prof Engelsma gave some ideas on how we can go about remembering the Lord’s Day.

Prof Engelsma emphasised the urgency of remembering the Lord’s Day and he gave three reasons for his emphasis:

•First, keeping the Lord’s Day is a commandment that belongs to the first table of the Law.
•Second, the ‘Lord’s day’ belongs to the risen, glorious Lord Jesus Christ. It is not our day.
•Third, by the Lord’s grace, we receive the greatest benefit of rest, by remembering the Lord’s Day, because the Sabbath was made for man.

In our discussions, we asked ourselves these questions:
•What does the Lord’s Day mean to you and me?
•Does keeping the Lord’s Day still apply to Christians today or is it only valid in Old Testament times?
•Does keeping the Lord’s Day require Christians to cease from work and play on that day?

We concurred with Prof Engelsma that the Lord’s Day is still applicable to Christians today, and of the importance and urgency of keeping the Lord’s Day. The Lord’s Day is a sacred day, out of the seven days of the week, set aside for God and for our spiritual rest.

The Lord’s Day is a day where we come to meet God, worship Him, sing praises to Him and enjoy fellowship with the saints. The Lord’s Day is a time when we hear the preaching of the Word of God as we have been hearing the preaching of the world and the lies of the devil for most of time during the week. As faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Rom 10:17), we come to receive the Word of God on the Lord’s Day. Through receiving the word of God, we will learn more of God, understand more of His will for us and be reminded of the blessing of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord’s Day is a place where we can have a foretaste of heaven; entering into the heavenly kingdom and having a glimpse of heavenly worship. While most of the time in the week, we are subject to the unrest in the world, the Lord’s Day brings us into His sanctuary where we can find peace and rest in the presence of God.

As those in the office of believers, we are always on the receiving end on the Lord’s Day; however, for the office of the pastor, instead of receiving, he gives the word of God to the people through the preaching from the pulpit.

Lastly, we all recognised that to be in church the whole day on the Lord’s Day takes effort. We can do our part by encouraging each other, out of love one for another and love for God, to keep the Lord’s Day holy, as a whole day.

Written by: Lim Seow Thong | Issue 4