Cancer

It would not be an understatement to describe cancer as the disease of our time. In his thoroughly insightful book, author and physician Siddhartha Mukherjee had even gone to the extent of christening it as the “Emperor of All Maladies”. With an estimated 1 in 4 risk of a person developing cancer, it would be surprising to find an individual who has been spared from the reaches of cancer in some form or another; whether it be a relative or friend who is stricken, or oneself being a victim of the disease. In this exposition, we will explore the basis of cancer from a Christian perspective and examine what it means for a believer to live with cancer.

The term ‘cancer’ is derived from the Greek word ‘karcinos’ which in fact refers to a crab or crayfish. It was first coined by Hippocrates, having described the appearance of a cut tumour as appearing crab-like. In essence, all cancerous lesions begin with a single cell division that has gone awry, a result of genetic mutations which may be inherited or induced by external agents such as cigarette smoke. Normal cell division is in fact a very tightly controlled and well-oiled process in our body. There are multiple checkpoints and safety mechanisms to prevent mutations from occurring. To put things in perspective, the development of a foetus also begins with the division of a single cell and these divisions continue till the day we die. Yet, what is frightening about cancer is its ability to mimic normal cells, dodge termination by our immunity’s gatekeepers and take over cellular mechanisms of division for its own survivability, and growing at exponential rates to quickly overwhelm the body.

As Christians, we believe that all diseases are a consequence of the fall of man into sin and it is no different for cancer. Romans 5:12 states, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Yet what does set cancer apart from other diseases is the striking spiritual symbolism that can be found in its unique characteristics.

First, the development of cancer in an individual parallels the fall of man into sin. Like man, whom God had created in “His own image” (Genesis 1:27), cancer cells begin as copies of our very own cells, identical down to the molecule. Then, just as Adam and Eve fell into temptation by way of the serpent and desired to take God’s place, cancer cells mimic the functions of normal cells, rising in rebellion to war against and seek to overwhelm their origin.

Second,   fallen   man   is   obsessed with self—self-preservation, self- gratification, and self-fulfilment—and this is similarly a key feature in the behaviour of cancer cells. Cancer cells deprive neighbouring normal cells of their blood supply and oxygen by invading them with its own network of blood vessels, literally suffocating normal cells as they themselves grow, divide, and conquer.

Last, like sin, cancer cells are aggressive, pervasive and devious. Just as sin and temptation have spread to the ends of the world, through the works of depraved man, cancer cells are able to pass through blood vessels and lymphatic fluid to settle in distant organs, forming satellite sites for further growth and devastation. Additionally, just as sin develops over time in order to appear acceptable and even beneficial to mankind (consider the sinfulness of modern media), cancer cells are able to mutate and adapt to evade our body’s own immune system and develop resistance to medical drugs. Cancer cells are also able to lie dormant and undetectable for years, just as the seed of sin can be planted without suspicion.

In many ways, cancer as a disease appears to have a mind of its own, a sinister mind that parallels that of the devil, as he seeks to spread sin throughout the world and destroy God’s people, much like a vile tumour that grows and spirals beyond control. It is this remarkable parallelism that draws one to believe that God’s purpose in allowing cancer to exist in this world is not simply a punishment for our sinful nature but also a revelation to His people. Patients and their loved ones face immense sorrow and wrath upon knowing that they are stricken by cancer, as their own body-cells rise in rebellion, drawing away their strength and vitality day by day. With that in mind, consider how much deeper God’s grief and sorrow must be, having witnessed His own creation rise in rebellion, and spread and grow in unrighteousness, disobedience, and sin? Yet, God continues to love His people and desires for our salvation; a love with such limitless boundaries that it is beyond our understanding (Ephesians 3:18); a love so great that He had cast all His wrath upon Jesus Christ in order to spare us. Imagine a patient with advanced cancer looking upon his own disease and saying “I love you”—impossible, but that is exactly what God has done for us (Romans 5:8,10).

God’s own elect are not spared from cancer, just as we each struggle with our old man of sin (Romans 7:15) and remain in our worldly and fallen bodies. It is a natural response for believers to question, “Why me?” upon knowledge of their diagnosis. Some may even feel angry with God for giving cancer as an affliction despite their faith and good works. As Reformed Christians, we are convicted by the words of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Even through the pain and suffering, an elect child of God may take great comfort in this truth that God is sovereign over all things and has a perfect plan for His people.

God is glorified in the life of an elect stricken with cancer, not because God assures a worldly cure for all believers, but because a child of God looks forward to a heavenly home and has complete faith in Christ’s power over sin and death. A child of God knows that faith cannot be kept in the medications of this world, but only in God; through which neither cancer nor any other guiles of the devil may follow us into our heavenly bodies. Such a constant and abiding faith even through times of suffering is like a shining light that bears testimony to others of God’s glory and might. How encouraging it is to a young believer, to see a fellow believer bear a smile through his afflictions, having the hope of eternal life beyond this earth.

In conclusion, Siddhartha Mukherjee was not mistaken to name cancer as the “emperor of all maladies” for it is in God’s sovereign will the fruit of the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2 , 2 Corinthians 4:4), being an almost perfect representation of the sin that wages war in this world, displayed within our human bodies. However, we can have complete faith in the conquering power of Christ who is the “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16).

Written by: Koh Zong Jie | Issue 38

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The Chief of Sinners

“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1 Tim 1:15

INTRODUCTION

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; ..” (Rom. 3:23) All men, with the exception of our Lord Jesus Christ, are sinners according to the Word of God. So, it is interesting to know who among them is chief, and the implications of that.

WHAT

You must be careful if you plan to go up to someone, call him a sinner and ask him to repent of his sins for the sake of the salvation of his soul. This is because he might be greatly offended and beat you up before you know what has happened. Without the consciousness of God’s presence listening to them at all times, most people “consider not that they do evil.” (Ecc. 5:1) Most people think that they are doing their best and should not be considered a sinner who needs to repent of any sin.

But God’s Word in Rom. 3:23 says that “all have sinned”. To sin is to miss the mark, to miss the target of life. It means to live aimlessly like an arrow flying to anywhere but its target. In a competition, such a shot cannot be awarded with any merit points. Illegally moving the target to be hit by the stray arrow will not help to score points. Such despicable behaviour renders total disqualification from the competition. The target is where it should be by the design of the organiser and not of anybody, or of the participants. A sinner is one who misses the target of life, set by his Creator and not by himself.

God created man after His own image and likeness, and expected him to reflect His glory in all their thoughts, words and actions. All men, including women and children, are by nature so totally ignorant of God (not to say of what constitutes His glory) that they are unable to live sinless lives for God’s glory. They are all become guilty sinners before God, their consciences meanwhile accusing or else excusing them of all their wrong doings.

Sin entered the whole human race when the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, chose to rebel against God’s Word forbidding them to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since that dreadful day, all men set up their own targets of life while ignoring the target set by God for them. Everyone is doing what appears right in his own eyes. They care not what God thinks of them. At the final Day of Judgment, it would be a fearful thing to hear the Judge of judges condemning those who are disqualified. It will not be just a “game over”. It will be our eternal destiny.

What does Scripture mean when it speaks of “chief” of sinners? Here in our text, the King James Version of the Bible translates the Greek word, “proton”, as “chief.” This word occurs 100 times in the New Testament. 83 times it was translated as “first” and 10 times as “chief”. The rest as “before”, “former”, “beginning”, “best” and “chiefest.” It’s obvious that the idea of being in the first position of a series is the basic meaning.

So, the chief of sinners means that of all the sinners considered, here is the number one. If we are considering the sinfulness of these sinners, then this one is the number one. In the group, there is none more sinful than him.

Now, who can that chief of sinners be in the text we are considering?

WHO

It is clear that 1 Timothy was written by the Apostle Paul to his spiritual son, Timothy. So, naturally we are to take ‘I’ as referring to Paul himself.

But, there are always those who think differently. Whenever ‘I’ is found within quotation marks, it can legitimately refer to someone else other than the one introducing the quotation. If this be indeed the case, then Paul was merely quoting some well-known saying floating around in those days among the people of God, and the ‘I’ can refer to anyone who spread this saying around. The implication is that the messenger is personally involved in the message as well.

Could readers of God’s Word be allowed to choose their own interpretations of It? In transition, for the time being, I suppose this is unavoidable. Faithful dealings with God’s Word require the seeking of the only one meaning of that Word. The application of that one Word of God may have many legitimate outcomes, but to have multiple meanings is confusing.

When we consider the context, we are convinced that Paul was referring to himself as the chief of sinners.

In verse 11, the Apostle wrote of how the Gospel was committed to him by Christ. He was very conscious of his own unworthiness for this divine call to the ministry. He wrote of how he “… was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: …” to the beloved people of God. It was of the Lord’s mercy that he was called to preach the Gospel.

The Gospel, preached so enthusiastically by Paul, is the faithful saying of our text: “that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

Like many of us today, there were people in Paul’s day who found it hard to believe that the admirable Apostle called himself the chief of sinners in his preaching. Paul wrote to Timothy to confirm that this saying is “faithful” and “worthy of all acceptation.

WHY

When we compare our Christian walk with Paul’s, we cannot help but feel very small and impoverished in spiritual things. How can anyone consider the Apostle as “the chief of sinners”? The Holy Spirit Who inspired the Word must have something wonderful to teach us as we consider the Holy Text carefully.

Though, indeed a very great man, the Apostle Paul was indeed a humbled man having being chastened of the Lord when he was struck blind and sent into oblivion for a few years. He must have been shown something of how much he owed the Lord to have become such a man of love.

Here in Paul we see an effective Minister of the Gospel of Christ with passion and feeling of a personal experience of God’s grace and mercy. If aware that his statement was less than absolutely correct, he was certainly not ashamed of it calling it “faithful” and “worthy of all acceptation”.

In passing, we may learn that our imperfect messages to each other, spoken in good faith to edify, may not be as worthless as Satan always makes them out to be. If not for the cleansing, burning coal taken out of the altar to touch his filthy lips, Isaiah could not have ministered the Gospel to the “people of unclean lips”. (Isa. 6)

Paul wanted Pastor Timothy to know that sensing one’s own unworthiness was no excuse for not preaching the Gospel. In fact, therein lay the power of an effective message. Elsewhere he wrote that when he was weak, God’s strength was made perfect in him. Timid Timothy needed that encouragement.

Ministering the Gospel with the hypocritical Jews around was not an easy task for young Timothy, a half-Jew. If the Gospel can give hope to the chief of sinners, no humble preacher of It need be ashamed to declare It loud and clear. All sinners must be called to repentance of sins and to seek salvation in Christ alone.

Our own personal experience of God’s saving grace should motivate us to greater zeal for Christ’s Kingdom and the spread of the Gospel. Gospel-bearers must deal with the sins in their lives faithfully and regularly with thanksgiving if they want to be effective witnesses. In this way they keep the Gospel relevant and exciting to themselves personally. Otherwise, how can the hearers be convicted by a message which is not real to the messengers themselves?

CONCLUSION

In our text, the personal reference was to the Apostle Paul himself. Our Lord Jesus opened Paul’s eyes to see that he was indeed such a great sinner even though he was proudly imagining that he was serving God. He had missed the mark set by God for him in his life. Can you imagine Paul’s biography without the Gospel of Christ? Maybe it would be like that of his great teacher, Gamaliel. The biblical Paul shines brightly for the glory of God. What will your life story be like?

The faithful preaching of the simple Gospel is never in vain as there is no sinner so great that it cannot save. Preachers are encouraged to preach to any sinner who cares to hear.

The Gospel is to be declared authoritatively by great sinners saved by the Sovereign will of God, in the death of Jesus Christ, for their miserable sins, on the Cross.

Written by: Pastor Lau Chin Kwee | Issue 7

Cleaning Corner

Introduction

The Lord willing, I will write regularly in this youth magazine, “The Salt Shaker”, under the section entitled, “CLEANING CORNER”.

Recently, there have been announcements in our Church regarding young people helping to clean up the dishes after lunch. We should try to finish our food and hand in the dishes to the “cleaning corner” by 1 p.m. for cleaning up. Regular cleaning up is good to maintain a clean and healthy environment, especially for further and better use in the future.

So our effort in producing the “Salt Shaker” shall not be in vain when we have such a “CLEANING CORNER” to clean up any ‘contamination’.

Please pray that I may be enabled to keep up writing here in this corner and that the readers may be blessed from reading it prayerfully.

The Inevitable Contamination

The word, “contamination” suggests a stage of change from something better to something worse. So excessive CO2 emission resulting in climate change and other worldwide, evil consequences contaminates our atmosphere. We do not like contamination. We must try to avoid it as much as possible. But, alas, more often than not, a little contamination is inevitable, if we are to remain active and useful.

This is also true in spiritual matters. A so-called Christian can be totally uninterested in spiritual things. He only goes to church because he has to according to home rules, not because of the love for the Lord. There is no concern that the Church should preach the right doctrines nor that her members should live according to those teachings for their own well-being! They just live and let live – each according to what is right in his own eyes. There is no fear of God or reverence for His Word. Such a person may imagine himself to be morally clean and does not need any cleansing of any kind. But, the truth is, as the Word of God states, there is none righteous, no, not one.

We all become inevitably unclean through contamination whether we like it or not, aware of it or not. We become more aware of this contamination in the service of the Lord. So the most active Apostle wrote that he was the chief of all sinners.

So, are you now afraid to serve the Lord because you rather not know that you are contaminated and need cleansing? We are in deep trouble when we cannot face the truth of our contamination and keep deceiving ourselves thinking that we’re alright and doing ne. It is better to serve the Lord, know the truth and experience His cleansing Power, than to live unthankful lives.

The Need For Cleansing

If contamination with sins is inevitable as we live in this life, cleansing must be a matter of necessity.

We are spiritually alive only because our sins are forgiven us. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, Who died for our sins. A Christian life that does not touch on our sinful, sensitive self cannot be genuine. True religion deals with the matter of sins and guilt, as God would want us to. It is the mishandling of such matters with false teachings that leads to all kinds of psychological problems in life. True religion teaches doctrines that are most healthy in all aspects of life, including our mental health. Psychiatrists who advise patients against Christianity are sinning against God greatly.

The bottom line in dealing with sins is that they must be identi ed, confessed and removed as soon as possible and as long as necessary. Something is radically wrong when a pilgrim becomes weary and tired of, and ready to give up on, dealing with his sins. If proper dealing of sins leads to greater and more love for Jesus, a believer cannot be tired of dealing with sins in his life.

The Importance Of This Corner

As we serve the Lord whom we love for loving us in producing this magazine, we become dirty because we are imperfect and do sin while trying to do good. Through the blood of Christ we experience His cleansing power to the great delight of our soul. This is God’s plan for our sanctification which we must not resist.

Reading this magazine, it is our prayer that we may be cleansed spiritually to the good health of our souls. Thus the importance of this Cleansing Corners department, where our sins and infirmities in service will be dealt with. So we are encouraged not to miss this section of the magazine when reading it.

As our Lord and Saviour gave His life for our sins, we should never treat sin lightly whenever it rears its ugly head. We must deal with them faithfully if we do not want to displease the Lord. In fact such humble attitude glorifies Christ.

When we deal with sin as we serve, there is no occasion for pride and that enhances the effectiveness of the service, for ourselves as well as for others. Finally, we must say that ‘Salt Shaker’ is meant to dispense that which is useful for the preservation and tastefulness of God’s people in this world. Cleansing keeps us healthy and appetizing.

Conclusion:

Read this corner. Pray for it to be faithful in writing. Help out by asking and suggesting.

God bless.

Written by: Pastor Lau Chin Kwee | Issue 3

Biblical Reconciliation

Congratulations to the young people on starting a new magazine for the covenant youth. It is certainly a very worthwhile venture. May God put His blessing on this venture and use it for building up the young people and strengthening the bonds of the communion of saints.

The subject of reconciliation between those who have been alienated from each other is an important one. We are, after all, a part of the church of Christ; and we live together in the communion of saints. If some in the communion we enjoy are angry with each other, will not speak to each other, and avoid fellowship with others, the communion of the saints suffers. It suffers because the communion of the saints is possible only where there is love for God and love for each other.

The Lord demands of us that we live in peace with each other. He demands of us that we bear each others burdens (Gal. 6:1, 2; 5:13, 14), enjoy each other’s fellowship and seek each other’s good. If we do not do what he demands of us, we sin. And sin is always the one thing that breaks up communion and fellowship. The communion of the saints means that we live in peace with each other (Psalm 122:6-9).

But in the communion of the saints we are all sinners. And it is a fact, as we all know, that we sin all the time. Not every sin requires reconciliation to restore fellowship. It may be, for example, that a group of people are together, and one of those present says something unkind about another person. Most of the time we can let these things be as they are with perhaps a short reprimand. We assume of each other that we are all children of God, and that we confess our sins to God. We do not make a big issue out of every sin that our fellow believers or fellow young people commit. There would be no end to that, and it would be very foolish.

But there are other kinds of sins that cannot simply be overlooked. Maybe someone is our group and fellowship has gone to a movie and is now bragging about it; we are offended by that, because we believe that movie attendance is not pleasing to God; and we especially are troubled by the fact that one of our fellow saints brags about it or talks about it as if he or she has done something that others ought to do as well.Such a sin is, of course a public sin, and the whole group has heard what was said. There are others in the group who are also offended. All are witnesses to a sin in one of our fellow saints. What now must be done?

Or maybe someone has committed a sin of which one of us is the only one who knows it. Supposing, for example, we see someone entering a movie house, although this person does not know that we have seen it. It is a secret sin, for nobody knows except the person sinning and the one who saw that person enter a theater. What must be done?

But maybe someone has said or done something to us personally so that we are badly hurt. Maybe someone has called us a liar; or maybe someone has poked fun of something we did. Maybe it was done when others were present; or maybe it was done when we were alone with that person. The one was a public sin, for others witnessed it; the other was a secret sin, for only I and one other person know. What Ephesians 4:26 says is important. When someone sins against us, it angers us. But we must not remain angry, We must cease being angry before the end of the day. What must be done?

These questions need answering.First of all, there is one principle that is so important that we must know it and observe it. In all matters of sin that require reconciliation, the fewer who know about the sin, the better. It is easier to be reconciled when only two are involved than when 13 or 14 are involved. It is easier to be reconciled when only some of the saints are involved than when the consistory must get involved. It is easier for reconciliation to be accomplished when only some in the congregation know about the sin rather than when the sin becomes public knowledge.

This principle is so important that we must all do everything we can to carry it out. I have found, in my own ministry how true this is. I have found this principle to hold for any sin. I have learned this when only two people were involved and when people and a consistory were involved.

I have found it to be true when and if the whole matter finally goes to a classis or even to a synod. There is almost no hope of reconciliation when other ecclesiastical

bodies become involved – even though sometimes they must become involved, for that is the only way to settle a problem.

And so: Keep sins of others secret! Do not get on your hand phone to text messages to others about it; or talk to others: “Do you know what so-and-so did?” We are always eager to tell others about somebody’s sin because by telling someone else what so-and-so did, we mean also to say, “We are not that kind of sinner; we would never do that. Look how holy we are.” That is exactly the way not to reconcile. That makes all problems of sin worse than they ever were.

Another point is that we must be very sure a sin has actually been committed. I recall once that someone said to me, “So-and- so was very cruel to me. I wanted to greet her cheerfully and she would not even talk with me. What must I do?” Obviously the answer was: “Go to her and ask her about it.” This was done, and it turned out that the other person was preoccupied by problems at home, did not mean to be curt and cruel, and felt very sad about it that she had left that impression.

We must be careful in this matter of reconciliation that our concern with sin and the breach it causes in the church of Christ is not concern for ourselves. We do not see another’s sin as a splendid occasion to parade before others our own holiness, but we seek the welfare of the church. So often when someone hurts me, my concern is my feelings, my hurt, my reputation, my honor. If we seek reconciliation for our own sakes, we might

just as well not seek it at all. We are only trying to salvage our own pride, regain our own reputation and shown how pious we are. This is damnable in the sight of God. We want our fellow saints to be saved and will do anything to save them

How then are we commanded to seek reconciliation?

Let us look at it from our own individual viewpoints. That is, I am going to speak in the rst person; if I try to keep all the “hes” and “shes” straight and try to explain what happens under different circumstances, I will get hopelessly tangled up in pronouns, and so will you.

If I am witness to a sin of one of my fellow saints, I must go to that person to admonish him/her to repent. This is my solemn obligation before God. To fail is to make myself guilty of sin, for the one who sinned is my fellow saints and has threatened his salvation bu his sin.

I must be sure, however, that the person I saw was indeed guilty of a sin. And I can be certain only by talking with the person who, I think, sinned. I recall that two men once came to me for advice. They had been fishing in Lake Michigan and were on shore in a town quite a bit south of where they lived. They had seen one of their fellow saints in town with a strange woman, and were certain that their fellow saint was guilty of adultery. They went to this man and told him what they had seen and called him to repentance. But the man said that he had a boat docked in the marina of that town and was talking to a lady about selling it to her. They could not prove that he was lying, although they were sure he was. They wanted to go to the consistory and charge the man with adultery.

I told them they must not do that, because they had no certain proof, but that if what they suspected was true, sooner or later the sin would come out, as it did. It is easy to misinterpret someone else’s actions and we must be careful that we do not charge anyone falsely or unheard (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 43, 112).

The reaction of the person we go to see may be either that he claims what he did is no sin, or that he did not do what I am claiming he did, or that, although he did what I claim he did, he is not sorry for his actions. Whatever the reason, he refuses to confess the wrong of what he did.

In the case he refuses to repent and confess his sin, I must go a second time, but this time with a witness. This witness need not be a witness to the sin; if the sin is secret, most likely there is no one else who witnessed the sin. But a witness must go along in order to be able to testify that I truly did go to my brother and seek his repentance.

This is what Jesus meant when He outlined the procedure we are to follow in reconciliation (Matthew 18:15-21).

It is clear from Jesus’ words that the same procedure must be followed if someone sins against me. Jesus particularly refers to this: “If thy brother shall trespass against thee . . .” (verse 15). In a way, any sin of my brother, even if I am only a witness to it, is “against me,” for it is against the communion of the saints, and I am a part of the communion of the saints. Yet there are times when no others are aware of the sin, but only I know.

How we go makes all the difference in the world. I must not go in a better-than–thou spirit, and leave the impression with my brother that I would never do anything like that. I must not go to my brother with a whip to lash him with my tongue and angrily tell him how devilishly wrong he is. I must go in a spirit of meekness, showing a true heart-felt desire that he repent, and, if he does repent, not send him to the cross, but to kneel there with him and confess my own sins as he confesses his.

But if the one I go to see will not confess his sins even after going with a witness, then I must report it to the consistory, and they must make the matter a matter of discipline. Even when this happens, the sin must be kept as secret as possible. I must tell no one, not even my own wife. The witness must speak of it to no one, not even his closest friend. The consistory must tell it to no one, not even the wives of the elders. If a sin becomes public knowledge, reconciliation is all the more dif cult and the congregation is guilty of violating the ninth commandment, that is, guilty of backbiting and/or slander.

But there is another side to this matter. Jesus speaks of it in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23, 24). This is an important text and is often forgotten.

Jesus is talking here in the context of a serious warning not to be angry with our brother under any circumstances, nor to speak evil of him – even if we think he deserves it (Eph. 4:26). Let me go back to the use of first person pronouns. I may be angry with my brother because he has said to others that my preaching was lousy, or too doctrinal, or always talking about how great are our sins. Or he may write in “Facebook” (a blog I refuse to go to, read or use: it is only a good excuse for some people to pour out their venom against others) that I do not do myself what I say in my preaching. All this comes to my attention. And I become very angry with the one who wrote it. I say to myself or to others, “That rascal; he doesn’t know what he is talking about. He ought to mind his own business and look at his own faults. I won’t have anything to do with him until he comes to me to apologize.” If that is what I do, I sin as much as he does.

So on Sunday I go to church to worship God with my other fellow saints. This is what Jesus means by bringing our gift to the altar. In the old dispensation the saints came to worship God with a gift – a cow or sheep or dove, to be sacrificed. While I am in church I am still thinking about what so-and-so said or wrote about me; and maybe I even see him sitting six rows ahead of me.

As long as there is this problem, I cannot worship. There is disharmony, anger, and trouble between me and a brother. The communion of the saints is broken. Something must be done. Reconciliation must take place. And so Jesus instructs me to go to my brother and be reconciled with him. Now I have an obligation placed on me, and I may not simply sit back and wait for my brother to come to me. I may not tell someone else about what my brother has done to me. I may not ask someone else to go to this brother and tell him how angry I am. I must go to him. Jesus puts the obligation on me.

And once again, I may not go in a spirit of anger. I must not come to him and start raving to him about my hurt and about how dreadfully wicked he acted. I seek his salvation, and I desire reconciliation. Maybe I was partly to fault; and I ought to be ready to admit it. But in any case, we are both sinners.

Troubles among young people are probably the most common problems among young people. They say or do things that hurt others. And sooner or later, if they are true covenant young people, they will want reconciliation. If I have hurt someone, I ought to go to confess to the other my wrong. If I do not go to the one whom I hurt but that person comes to me, I ought to confess my wrong with sorrow. If I hurt someone in the presence of other young people, I ought to confess to them all and tell them all that I have been reconciled to the one I hurt. If confession is made, the sin is forgiven by God and He will once again bless the communion of the saints. If God forgives, we must also forgive each other. How could we do any different?

It is very difficult for any of us to express sorrow for our sins. I have said it a dozen times and now I say it again: The two hardest words in any language to say are, “I’m sorry.” We are too proud, too ready to condemn our brother, too insistent on our own position and reputation. Yet it must be done. James is very specificc about it: “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (James 5:16). And by “healed” James means reconciled to each other and the spiritual wound healed.Sometimes, for one reason or another, we do not want to go to our brother when we remember he has something against us.In case we do not want to go to see our brother, there is only one course of action to follow: Forget it! We must forget it completely. We must not hold what our brother has done against him. We must so completely forget it that we do not even remember what our brother has done. If we do not do this, there is a wound in the body of Christ, a breach in the communion of the saints. Such terrible things must not happen in the church.

Paul admonishes us to think others to be better than ourselves (Phil 2:3). The whole passage is worth reading at least once a month. When we live in the church by these principles we follow Christ who was our Servant that He might save us. And the result is peace and unity in the church.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 1

Overcoming the World

“For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God” – I John 5:4, 5

As young people, life presents to you many excitements, thrills and at the same time challenges. Right now many of you are still schooling and you have great hopes of doing well in your studies, and getting yourself an exciting career with great prospects of career advancements. But, at the same time, this world is a dangerous place spiritually. There are temptations to sin, evil companions and worldly philosophies that lead us away from God. And we experience that this evil world with its lusts is so strong that we might just be swept along like the Tsunamis that swept many away. What spiritual help is there for us?

We thank God that He knows our spiritual struggles and He has a comforting Word for us. The text begins with the word, “for”. Here the apostle John gives the reason that having the love of God we will obey His commandments and at the same time we do not consider keeping His commandments grievous. This is because we have been born again and at the same time we have been given faith by God. This faith causes us to overcome the world. This is the faith of the work of the Son of God on the cross which He accomplished for us on the cross.

 

The world to be overcome

What is the world? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and when it was all created, God declared that it was very good (Genesis 1.31). And everything was created according to the will of God and Adam and Eve knew God and God’s will so that they understood the will of God perfectly. This can be seen in that Adam could name the animals in creation because he understood God’s will for that animal as it stands before God and God’s will of that animal in relation to the animal world. Man and animal experienced this peace and harmony between themselves without devouring one another.

God also created the angels, of whom Lucifer was one of the most beautiful angels. And because Lucifer was lifted with pride who wanted to usurp God’s unique place in creation, God drove Him and those angels who fell with him out of heaven, the abode of God. And the fall of Lucifer has a direct impact upon the first man, Adam. And by the temptation of the devil, our first parents, Adam and Eve fell into sin when they took the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which was forbidden for them to eat, according to the command of God.

Before the fall of the angels and of the first parents, the whole world knew God as the only power and the creatures lived according to God’s will. But now with the fall, this world has another power that rivals God, that is the power of the devil. And thus the “world” of this text refers to the world that is utterly opposed to God. And this is the sinful world where

the Scripture says that the devil is the god of this world. And the devil together with the principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world and spiritual wickedness in high places controls this world and seeks the ruin of the child of God. And as such this is the world that prevents the child of God from glorifying the Father, which is the goal of the Christian (the Shorter Westminster Confession of Faith, question and answer 1, what is the chief end of man? Answer: man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever). And in the words of the apostle John, the evil world, of which he commands the Christian, not to love, consists of the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life.

And let me apply this word to you, young people. This evil world often is represented in two ways: firstly, you are bombarded by the philosophies of this world. One of the important evil philosophies of the world is that life if short, so enjoy while you can. Anyway, everybody is doing it, so there are no such things as right or wrong. This explains why sexual sins like pre-marital sex, adultery, HIV are on the rise. And another area which touches you is the world of music, whether it is pop, rock, or hiphop and drama. And at this stage of your development, these are so appealing to you because it appeals to the old man of sin and so sometimes you give yourself to it. And you sometimes feel guilty when you indulge yourself in all these and how you wish you could somehow overcome it.

And we thank God that the child of God is not left without any help in overcoming this evil world.

Overcoming the world

It is clear from the words of the text that it is only the child of God who overcomes this evil world. He is one who is born of God that is a new heavenly life has been implanted in his heart so that he has a new spiritual nature to love God, to worship Him and lay down his life for his service. He is also one who has faith which is given to him by God at the moment of regeneration, and as such he embraces Christ as the Son of God with all his heart.

What is it that overcomes the world? The apostle John says, it is our faith that gives us the victory over this evil world. First, this refers to what God has accomplished for us on the cross through our Lord Jesus Christ. This evil world is under the power of the devil because of sin for he who commits sin is the servant of sin. And so, Christ, the fulfillment of the Seed of the woman came in the fullness of time, born of a woman and made under the law, was slain on the cross for our sins. So that by his death on the cross, He inflicted a fatal wound upon the devil and all principalities and powers and thus sin and death has lost its sting on the believer. And so the apostle Paul exclaims, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law”.

Secondly, this victory becomes ours through faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And this is why the apostle Paul could say, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”. And thus through our Lord Jesus Christ who have the victory over the devil, sin and all temptations.

Practically, when we (I include myself here) face the temptations to sin and tempted to be drawn away from God unto the world, what must be our response? That we must encourage ourselves of the truth that we are already dead to sin in Christ and we are victorious over sin through our Lord Jesus Christ and therefore we should not yield ourselves to commit sin, whether in entertaining evil thoughts or by carrying out that sin. Instead, we must use the members of our own body to serve God and the body of Christ. With our mouths, we can speak forth the grace and glory of God. With our voices, we can sing forth praises of God and with our conduct we can be a example of the believers.

Thanks be to God for our God-given faith that overcomes this evil world. Amen.

Written by: Paul Goh | Issue 1