A Difficult Way

Dear readers, what first comes to your mind when you saw the title of this article: “A Difficult Way”? I am quite certain that some of you would be thinking that this article is probably going to tell you how difficult the way of being a Christian is, and perhaps give you some encouragement to help you along the way. This is quite understandable, because from an earthly point of view, living the Christian life often means that you cannot do as the world does, and you will be made to suffer for it.

For this article, I want to call your attention to the words of Proverbs 13:15, “Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of transgressors is hard”. Now read that again. The way of transgressors is hard! Not the way of the righteous? Is that shocking to you? Did I type that wrongly? Indeed, the text makes it plain that the way of the evil is the difficult way. Let us examine why this is so.

If you look around at the unbelievers in your life, you would probably find it difficult to believe that their life is hard. Perhaps even, they live lives that appear to be far more comfortable and enjoyable than yours. Think of your classmates, for example, having a day of fun at the water park, while you have to sit in church – twice! Think of your colleagues, who earn more than you do because they get paid more to work Sunday shifts, which you cannot do. The Psalmist in Psalm 73 had these thoughts too, as he envied the prosperity of the wicked, until he realized that these riches were not blessings, but “slippery places” that would culminate in the destruction of the wicked (v.18).

In addition, we are also told that the way of sinners is the way of slavery – not the way of blessing! Romans 6, in explaining our redemption by grace, also establishes that we were redeemed from being servants of sin (v.6, v.20). It therefore follows that the unrighteous, having not been redeemed unto Christ, remain the servants – or slaves – of sin and the devil. In John 8:34, Jesus tells the Jews that “whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin”, and the only way to be freed from serving sin is the truth (Jn. 8:32).

And at the end of a life of service to sin comes something even more terrible. The wages of sin is death, as we recall in Romans 6:23. And this death is not merely the end of human life, when one closes his eyes one last time. When God cursed Adam and Eve (and therefore mankind) with the punishment of death for their sin, it was not only a temporal, but also an eternal death (HC LD4, Q&A10). Revelation 21:8 outlines the terrible judgment that awaits the transgressor: “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

The way of transgressors is hard indeed! What is there to envy about the life of a transgressor? A life of slavery, that ends in death, is certainly not an enviable life! Shall we then, as children of God, sin like the transgressors, that grace may abound (Rom. 6:1)?

I think not! Rather, as elect people of God, having been freed from the slavery of sin, we now live to be the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:18). This we do, not because our works of righteousness can earn us merit for our salvation – for salvation is already given, freely – but out of thankfulness to God for redeeming us unto righteousness (HC LD32, Q&A 86).

The way of transgressors is hard, but the way of obedience is blessed. According to our text, the godly, who understand the requirements of God’s law and perform their Christian duties out of both discipline and joy, are given favour. This is not favour that results in salvation, but rather, that their works of righteousness, performed after salvation has been gifted, are “accepted of God, and approved of men” (Rom. 14:18). Matthew Henry calls this favor one that makes the saint “pleasant and agreeable”.

Scripture lists many examples of the favour which our text speaks of. This was the sort of favor that Joseph obtained, when he served in Potiphar’s house (Gen. 39:6). This was the favor that David gained when he “behaved himself wisely” before the nation of Israel when he was made one of Saul’s captains (1 Sam. 18:15-16). This was also the favour that Daniel gained in the sight of his Babylonian masters (Dan. 1:9), so that when he requested not to partake of the king’s meat, his superiors were pleased to consider his request. Finally, our Lord Jesus Christ himself experienced that favour, as Luke 2:52 describes: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man”.

Our good works, performed out of obedience to God’s law, also have the effect of gaining others to Christ (HC LD32, Q&A 86). If you looked again at the examples given earlier, you would notice that in at least two instances, ungodly men – Potiphar and the Babylonians – were so impressed by the godly conduct of the Christian men under their charge. Although we do not know if they were converted themselves, we do know that it was the Christian testimony that they witnessed that led them to take a favourable attitude toward the lowly captives and slaves under their rule. If even a Babylonian – an enemy of the Israelite – could see the Israelite favourably because of his godly conduct, how much more so could those around us also be impressed by our godly conduct, and give God the glory (Matt. 5:16)!

Finally, the catechism also teaches us that obedience and the performance of good works serves to assure us of our salvation. Q&A 86 draws reference to 2 Peter 1:10 “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall.” What assurance and blessing! Beloved brethren, why would you choose the difficult way? Choose the way of obedience, for it is the easy way. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:30).

Written by: Daniel Tang | Issue 46

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Some Thoughts on Dating and Courtship

The Word of God according to Genesis is a revelation about the creation of God, and its focus is about what it was in the beginning or the origins of things. In Genesis 1, we hear the melodious music of how the heavens and the earth were framed by the LORD. When it came to man, man can only in awesome wonder sing, “All that I am I owe to thee, thy wisdom, Lord, hath fashioned me…” (Psalms 139).

As we look at Genesis 2:22, the LORD gave us a first glimpse of how Adam and Eve met. It was not a careless or chance meetup, nor was it an unintelligent or miscalculated move that ended with the meetup. In truth, it had its beginning with the LORD. It is the LORD’s will, ways and thoughts that took a personal interest to consider, and took possession and ownership of the man’s and woman’s needs and relationships in life (Gen. 2:18-25). Therefore, it was by God’s appointment, very objective and purpose driven, and it was the LORD who made the woman, and brought her to the man. It was a match made in heaven and realised in the person of Adam and Eve coming together through the creation and for the institution of marriage.

However, Genesis 2 :22 does not tell us a rich account of their life in courtship, nor is there a clear word about whether they have dated or courted. It is in Genesis 4:1 that we find that their relationship   has   reached   the   point that is reserved for man and woman as spoken of in Genesis 2:24. It is in the bond of marriage that they enjoyed the highest form of intimacy , and we are told that Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived, and bore Cain.

Having said the above, the idea of betrothal or espousal (engagement for marriage) seemed to be a practice of the OT day. In most biblical examples, parental involvement, care, concern and love are expressed for the good of their children. We have examples in Eve when the LORD created her, brought her, and gave her to Adam. Along the line, we have Isaac with Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, and Joseph and Mary. Through these biblical examples, betrothal is taken as a commitment to marry (though sometimes it may change according to the Lord’s will) and often it was with parental blessings in the Lord.

This is where young people who are called to be Christ’s disciples must learn to walk with Christ and in the light of His word. They must wait with prayers upon the LORD to lead and to provide. They must not run before the LORD, and they must consult and communicate their innermost desires with their parents for spiritual instruction and directions in the paths of righteousness for God’s glory.

It is here also that parents must also see the design and calling God has given us in relation to our children’s desires for a helpmeet in life. Parents must urge and encourage their children with biblical perspectives, taking great efforts to impress and to imprint upon them the importance of acting according to the Christian faith, and to look for a helpmeet from within the household of faith.

While the Bible does not speak expressly on the matter of dating or courtship, we find many biblical principles on dating and courtship by way of implication throughout the Bible. Some passages for consideration are: 1 Corinthians 6 & 7, 1 Thessalonians 4:1-10, Romans 13:8-10, John 14:15.

Also, as parents and young people, we sometimes ask:

How must our young people get to the point of engagement and be married?

Is dating or courtship biblical – a stepping stone or a stumbling block? What should be the Christian view on dating and courtship?

What are the duties and responsibilities of young people who are dating or courting?

Let us begin by looking objectively at dating, courtship and marriage and liken it to the life of a man. It begins with the LORD who is the Giver of Life, and he has a small beginning. For he is to grow and to develop into maturity, be spiritually strong, be spiritually rational, and be spiritually sensible – there is the need to nurture and nourish him with much care to ensure a healthy and strong growth from strength to strength through time. So it is with dating, courtship and marriage.

It is with the above understanding that we may relate dating and courtship to the development of a covenantal married life and the family. Therefore, taking away the vain teachings and sensual expressions of the world on dating and courtship, we may talk about the antithetical Christian approach to dating and courtship so that our covenantal young people may learn, embrace, and practice it in their dating or courtship life.

Dating is said to be the coming together of a young man and a young woman for the purpose of exploring the possibility of courtship. It is like the first step in a flight of steps leading to marriage and the family. And the young are those whose age range from as early as sixteen years to their late thirties. One example would be Josiah who is said to be young at sixteen years (2 Chron. 34:3) and Joseph at seventeen and thirty years (Gen. 37:2, 41:12).

Having said the above, it does not mean that young people are encouraged or can rush into a date as soon as they reach the age of sixteen years. At this age, it is more important for them to grow in their faith and to serve the Lord, so that they can be shaped and formed as a vessel that is fitted for God’s glory, and be made ready in later years for dating, courtship and marriage in the Lord. However, if young people should be dating, they must take it as from the hands of God to know how dating must be characterised:

Devotion towards God, a Delight in the eyes of God, and a demonstration of God’s grace and mercy (Rom. 12:1).

All activities and actions in dating must be in grace with obedience to biblical principles, reflecting the relationship between Christ and His church. (1 Cor. 10:31).

Transforming the heart, souls, and mind of the young (Rom. 12:2).

Into the newness of life in Christ (Rom. 6:4).

Nurturing and nourishing.

Godliness or a godly living in Christ’s likeness towards His church. (1 Tim. 4:8).

Now, as we take a step away from dating, we may see that the life in courtship takes a different form as it comes close to a confirmation in marriage, and the establishment of a Christian home. This is where the young Christian couple must act to:

Seek God’s approval and blessings according to the promise of His Word. Seek parental approval, instructions, directions, and blessings.

Hold fast to the Word of God to lay foundations in their home.

Talk about marriage plans, the husband and wife relationships, sex in marriage, children and the bringing up of children, etc.

It is with the above-mentioned that young people who are in courtship need to add grace upon grace to the beauty of courtship, season it with divine loving kindnesses and tender mercies, and as they draw close to take on the realisation of Genesis 2:24 in their life, they must begin to practice good housekeeping behaviours and attitudes towards courtship, marriage and the family. They must now act to:

C- Communicate about the many spiritual needs and support in courtship, marriage and the family; Commit to be equally yoked together as one in the Lord, and consider one another as we are all sinners saved by the grace of God (Heb. 13:16, Eph. 4:32).

O- set in Orderliness the things according to God’s Word from courtship to marriage life (so that sex does not come before marriage) and they must watch and pray against the attacks of temptations or youthful lusts (Matt.26:41, Luke 21:36). That is because God is a God of order and the life of courtship is to follow the order of God’s design.

U- talk about the exercise of Unity of the Christian faith in courtship, in the worship of God, family and family worship, and many other aspects of the life in courtship and thereafter.

R- Relate the courtship to the LORD, and allow Him who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, to Regulate the courtship through unto marriage (Ps. 119:105).

T–    spend much Time together in courtship to perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor. 7:1).

I- Instruct and Interest one another with the love relationship between

Christ and the church (Songs of Solomon) to draw Inspiration to express love in spirit and in truth for one another.

N- Nurture the spirit of Gal. 2:20, “…I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me:’’ so that there can be the exercise of humility, patience, endurance, faith, love and hope, and a readiness to sacrifice for the spiritual well-being of each other nd the good of the relationship.

G- finally, God-centeredness must take centre stage and have the pre-eminence over all things in courtship, marriage, and the family.

In conclusion, whether we take reference from the old testament practice of betrothal, or take on the practice of dating and courtship before marriage, we must know that the chief end of man in life and in death is to glorify the LORD our God. It would cover every aspect of our life and that would include the life of dating and courtship that is given to us by the LORD our God.

So, biblical principles must be applied without reservation to ourselves, so that grace, gratitude, and thankfulness may go up to the LORD our God, as a sweet smelling savour of life unto life through Christ who is the one Mediator between God and men.

Written by: Samuel Wee | Issue 46

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (IX): David

Scripture does not give us more information on any one person in the history of the nation of Israel than it gives to David, the son of Jesse. He occupies a central place in sacred history for he is a special type of Christ. Christ is the Son of David and the fulfillment of David as a type. David points to Christ more directly and clearly than almost anyone else.

Many books have been written about David; many sermons preached on the life of David and many covenant children have been taught the dramatic victory of David over Goliath when these children were barely able to understand the language of their birth. In spite of his sins of adultery, murder and numbering the people, he is called “the servant of the Lord”, “the beloved of the Lord”, “a man after God’s own heart”. He is given a central place in the revelation of Jesus Christ contained in the Scriptures.

It is not our intent in these articles to write a sort of biography of David: that would require many pages to explain his life in the light of the pre-eminent place the Scriptures give him. I will concentrate on David’s youth as a keeper of his father’s sheep and on the thrilling story of David’s battle with Goliath when still a youth, for in it are to be found many reasons why David is a powerful example to the covenant youth of the church in all ages.

The condition of Israel at the time David was born was sad. He was born at the end of the doleful history of the judges when in Israel “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes”. Again and again the nations that Israel did not destroy during the conquest of Canaan under Joshua gained dominance over parts of the nation. These terrible times were sent by God because of the nation’s sin of worshipping the idols of the heathen. After each judge died, Israel returned to the wicked ways of the heathen.

When Israel asked, at last, for a king, they demanded a king like the other nations had. God gave them Saul, but Saul did little that helped Israel escape the horrors of having wicked nations rule over them.

Toward the end of the period of the judges, God sent the Philistines against Israel, a nation that plagued Israel for over a century. The Philistines, at the time of David’s birth had made inroads into Israel’s possession in Canaan and had made the life of the people in the south-western part of the nation miserable.

God had given Samson to the nation. He killed thousands of Philistines, but he could not defeat the enemy alone. It showed the sad state of affairs in the nation of Israel that not only would any in Israel, including his own countrymen, help him, but treacherously they were willing to tie him up and hand him over to the Philistines as a prisoner to do to him what they wanted.

Samson himself was a wicked man who cared for unbelieving women from Israel’s worst enemy rather than faithfulness to God. Yet, the amazing part of it all is that he was still a man of faith and is listed among the heroes of faith.

The Scriptures remind us again and again that there was no king in Israel and every man did that which was right in their own eyes.

Israel was the church of the old dispensation. God gave the church a king of God’s choice even though they were an unworthy people; a king who was a type of the church’s true king, our Lord Jesus Christ. He gave the church David, a man after His own heart.

While we cannot be like David as a type of Christ, we, in the new dispensation, have Christ as our king. We can and must learn that David is our example as well for we live in the end of the ages and are specifically admonished by Paul to follow the examples of Old Testament saints (1 Cor. 10:6).

David was a type of Christ because David was God’s warrior who fought against all Israel’s enemies and defeated them. It was not Joshua who was the full type of Christ to destroy Israel’s enemies; it was David. Under his rule the nation finally, after almost 500 years, extended the boundaries of the promised land to the boundaries promised to Abraham.

Euphrates on the north to the Nile River on the south; from the Mediterranean Sea on the west to the great desert on the east. However, not even David could be the real king the church needs, nor could he even be a full type, for, though he wanted to build the temple, he was not permitted to do this because of his bloody hands (2 Sam. 7:1-17, 1 Chron. 17:4).

There is one point that needs to be made: Because David was the type of Christ, Christ is the true king of the church. He is given authority to rule over all God’s creation in heaven and on earth, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. But Christ rules over all in two different ‘ways. Usually these two ways are designated as “the rule of Christ’s power” and “the rule of Christ’s grace”.

The rule of Christ’s power is over all the wicked on earth, but also all the devils in hell (Ps. 2). The rule of Christ’s grace is His rule over His church by means of them willing citizens of His kingdom, the kingdom of heaven.

Those who believe in the heresy of common grace confuse this matter: they claim that Christ rules in grace over every man so that He gives every man a chance to be saved. He also gives the grace to them that is necessary to make the right choice. And He rules over every man in His grace so that every man can do good that pleases God.

I have talked about the whole of David’s life, rather than about his youth only. But it is my judgment that we cannot understand how David can be an example to us without understanding the circumstances of his life. Bear with me and we shall come to the latter in our next article, God willing.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 46

Boldness in Social Settings

Mary pushes “Send” and leans back contentedly in her computer chair. She has made all the necessary plans, the invites have been sent out on Facebook messenger, and the only thing left now is to prepare the food for the social gathering on Sunday evening. She is excited about the young adults coming over; she enjoys hosting and is comfortable conversing with people. If Mary were to complain, which she is very hesitant to do, it would be that she can feel overwhelmed at times. It seems like she always must do all the work for social settings. If she does not do the work of hosting, then who will? But she keeps these thoughts to herself and consoles herself with the fact that she is doing a good work, promoting unity and fellowship among the young adults of the church. Someday, perhaps, someone else will take over the work of inviting others to social settings.

What has been described in the above paragraph is a hypothetical scenario, not intended to call out any specific “Marys”, but to call to mind the idea of “social settings”. What are social settings? Who is to set them up? Should Christian young people feel obligated to RSVP positively to invitations to social gatherings? And finally, how can Christians be biblically bold in social settings?

A social setting is a gathering of people who   interact   with   each   other   with the purpose of enjoying each other’s company. They are not gathered with any explicit religious, political, or financial motivation. In other words, Mary is not having people to her home to worship God, nor to select the next ruler of their nation, nor to make money by working. Instead, Mary has arranged this social gathering in order that she might enjoy the fellowship and company of other people.

We who are Christians have an important motivation to be active in Christian social settings, because we believe God is a covenantal God who is jealous for fellowship with His people. The primary way God fellowships with His people is on the Sabbath day, in the official act of worship. But God’s fellowship with people is not limited to the Sabbath day; He lives in and with His people at all times.   2 Cor. 6:16, “Ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people”. Immediately after giving the covenant formula, God gives a command that has important application for social settings: “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord” (2 Cor. 6:17a).

We see that God’s word has important commands regarding fellowship with Him and with His people. But we also know that the devil goes forth as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. The devil will use any tool he can to prevent God’s people from speaking and fellowshipping with each other and with their heavenly Father. In the beginning, the devil used a lowly serpent as the means by which he pitted husband against wife and mankind against God. Let us examine several ways we can be biblically bold in social settings.

The first way we can be bold is by taking the initiative to host, or at least contribute to, a social event. Especially the young men do well to remember this. If Singapore is similar to America in this regard, then it is generally the young women who take the initiative in setting up social events. I am thankful for the young women’s willingness to do this. But young men, I encourage you, step forward. Prepare to be a leader both in marriage and in the church by being a leader now, taking a role in organising social events. Do not be not like Barak, who hid behind the skirt of Deborah while she led the men of Israel into battle.

Another way in which we can be biblically bold is by putting forth effort to attend the good social events which have been planned. If a man wants to have godly friends, then he must show himself friendly to godly people. Proverbs   17:18,   “A   man   that   has friends must show himself friendly”. The individual who lives on the edge of the church, rarely attending social functions with other church people, may not expect in return that the people of the church will go out of the way to be kind to him. If you want friends and the benefits of friendship, then show yourself friendly.

But there is another important aspect regarding the RSVP to social functions, and that is the ability to say “No” to ungodly invites. There are certain times when the child of God must be bold to decline an invite, because he knows that being in that social setting will tempt him to sin. When your secular work colleague invites you to come to the bar with him after work hours, ask yourself, “Is this something that the antithetical child of God should attend? Will it build me up in holiness? Will my eyes be tempted to lust after that which God has not given me? Will my hands be tempted to touch things that should not be touched?” The same questions must be asked as you consider joining online social gatherings. In today’s world, one does not even need to leave the bedroom to attend a social gathering; they can join groups and communities and games right on their smart phone. Say “No” to online invites that will tempt you to disobey God’s holy law.

But now you are at the social gathering, and the environment is a good one. Mary has sent out the invitation, the date has come, and the people have arrived. What does the Bible say about boldness at the event itself?

First, pray that the Lord give you boldness to set a watch on your mouth. Psalm 141:3, “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips”. The tongue is a little member, but it can work so great an evil. One particular way the lips can work a great evil is by being continually argumentative and schismatic at social gatherings. The cantankerous individual ceases not to complain, whether it be about politics, the weather, the minister, personal difficulties, or family struggles. Proverbs 18:17 calls such a man a fool: “A fool’s lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes”. Before you go to the social setting, pray that God will give you boldness not to speak about contentious matters which only stir up strife and controversy.

Another way in which the lips can work a great evil is by gossiping. The gossiping individual is generally insecure in himself, so he consoles himself by degrading others. Sometimes he tells the truth, other times he does not, but always his stories have this intended effect: make the other person look worse, while making himself look better. The biblically bold Christian who is making plans to attend a social gathering must pray for boldness not to gossip or slander, but instead to speak the truth in love, to defend and promote the honour and good character of his neighbour, as much as he is able (H.C., L.D. 43).

If the thought of attending a Christian social function fills you fear and anxiety, then remember that true, biblical boldness is not natural to fallen man. Feelings of anxiousness at the thought of attending or hosting a Christian social function is quite normal. But what must not be normal is how you respond to the anxiety. Instead of responding by clamming up and refusing always to attend, respond by lifting up your supplications to God in prayer. Ask Him for a rich measure of the Holy Spirit, who is able to empower and comfort His people.

For those who tend to be more outgoing but who struggle to control their impulsive tongue, continue to seek the forgiving grace of Jesus Christ. We all are sinners, and we all behave at times like the impetuous Peter, who, in light of social pressure “began… to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man [Jesus Christ]” (Matt. 26:74). When we deny Christ with our words or our actions at social settings, and consequently we feel shame for our sinfulness, then be bold to go to God’s throne of grace. And as you confess your sins to God, be assured that He is faithful and just to forgive you your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Written by: Stephan Regnerus | Issue 45

Public School Christian Organisations

While walking around my university campus recently, I noticed many posters promoting various events of campus para-church organizations (CPOs), such as teas, talks, and Bible studies. These posters flash titles like “God is Calling You”, “Permission to Dream”, and “Celebrate Christ”, with the hopes of attracting Christians from all denominations to their events. This situation is not unique to my university. Most of these CPOs operate branches in the other tertiary institutions in Singapore, and organise similar programmes for the students of those institutions.

If you are a student, you too may have been approached to attend a CPO activity, or even to join the CPO itself. Or perhaps you may one day be approached by a CPO. As Reformed Christians, what should be our view of these fellowships? Should we join them? Before we answer these questions, we must understand the missions and purposes of these CPOs.

Their Mission

For this section, we will examine the stated missions of some prominent CPOs in Singapore, including the Navigators, Cru (previously called Campus Crusade), and Varsity Christian Fellowship. While the precise missions will differ among individual CPOs, and we cannot analyse every single CPO’s mission here for lack of time and space, we can notice that at least among the few prominent CPOs, there are certain similar overarching messages that they wish to bring forth through their activities.

The one most similar goal among all CPOs is evangelism. Their goal of evangelism is advertised through statements such as “to know Christ and make Him known” and “reach, build, and send Christ-centred multiplying disciples who launch spiritual movements”. The CPOs hope to achieve this through events such as tea sessions, summer camps, and talks. Some also organize campus evangelism efforts like giving out snacks and offering to pray for other students. Some even try to be “a blessing beyond borders” by participating in overseas social mission trips.

At first glance, this may sound like an excellent way of fulfilling the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19, where Jesus commands “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations”. However, we must understand these CPOs’ bases for their evangelism efforts. For example, The Navigators quote 2 Corinthians 5:14 as their motivation, stating that “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that Christ died for all” (emphasis mine). This is a clear expression of the Arminian doctrine of universal atonement, in contradiction to the Reformed and biblical truth of limited atonement. While this does not necessarily mean that everyone in the CPO holds to an Arminian viewpoint, from the organization’s own statements, it   is   clear   that   the   organization’s efforts are founded on false Arminian teachings.

To be in a supposedly “Christian” organization that holds to doctrines contrary to the Reformed faith, especially contrary to a doctrine that is a cornerstone of the Reformation, is extremely dangerous for a Reformed young person, especially in his youthful years when he can be easily swayed by compelling mentors who disagree with the Reformed viewpoint.

In addition, one must ask if he can truly support the activities of an organization when they are clearly grounded on a basis that we cannot agree with. An evangelism effort grounded in Arminianism fails to give God the glory that is due, since it now shifts the emphasis to man’s work. If we were to join such an effort, would we not be – at least implicitly – supportive of this false basis?

Furthermore, let us not be tempted to forget the rest of Matthew 28:19. After “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations” comes “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost”. This demonstrates that the calling to evangelise is given to the church, because after preaching the Word comes baptism, and from there, church   membership.   An   individual can share the gospel, but he may not preach, and neither can he baptize. In their evangelism efforts, CPOs neglect the importance of church membership, choosing to focus only on the process of individual conversions, with no thought for what happens afterward. In addition, when CPOs think to convert men through their personal evangelistic efforts, they go against God’s will for man to be saved through the preaching of His Word in the worship service, through the ordained minister.

Another common mission of these CPOs is to foster growth and maturity among their existing members. They seek to “help believers mature in their relationship with God so that they can in turn reach the lost and help others mature in Christ”. Bible studies, quiet time sharings, prayer meetings, and testimonial sharings characterise the weekly sessions among the disciple groups (DGs) of the CPOs. Fellowship and fun are also encouraged through sports activities, potluck dinners, camps, and vacation training programs.

Once again, this sounds exactly like what is taught in Scripture. Does not Proverbs 27:17 say that “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend”? Surely, this must mean that we must help our fellow believers along in their walk with God. In fact, even our own CK/CKS constitution states a similar purpose: “To assist the young people as they grow in the knowledge of Christ to be godly, Reformed men and women, integrated into the organic life of the church.”

However, we must note that the attendees of the CPOs’ activities include Christians from any church and denomination. Unlike in CK/ CKS, where we have a common doctrinal ground, in the CPO there will be those who hold to erroneous teachings including common grace, universal atonement, the conditional covenant, pre- and post- millennialism, or even charismaticism and tongue- speaking. When people from such diverse backgrounds come together for a Bible study, it is inevitable that differences in scriptural interpretation will surface. Who, then, has the right interpretation? Is it not very confusing for a young man or lady to come to a Bible study and hear several different explanations of the same text, and leave without knowing which is the right one? Or worse, adopting the wrong explanation? This is no help at all to the growth of a fellow believer.

The other alternative, as some might advocate, would be to go the way of   having   “no   creed   but   Christ”, an attractive proposition that in reality preaches tolerance rather than the defence of the truth. To avoid confrontations   with   others   in   the group who hold to different beliefs, a Reformed Christian in a CPO may be tempted to keep silent in the face of incorrect doctrines, choosing simply to bury the differences and enjoy the company of fellow Christians, rather than incur the ire of the group by speaking out.

Our Differences

These organizations proudly announce that they are inter-denominational. They welcome Christian youth from all churches, all distinctives, and all beliefs. They encourage each other with their mutual love for Christ and evangelism.

Here is where we ought to be careful of the dangers of a false ecumenism. In our earlier discussion about the Bible study sessions organised by CPOs, we have highlighted how the differences in our doctrines could make it difficult for us to have truly fruitful meetings. By welcoming Christians of every background into one big fellowship, despite the differences, CPOs really leave no choice except to send out this message: it does not matter if we differ on doctrine. As long as we love Christ, let’s come together and do things together.

This is in contradiction to Scripture, which asks the question: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). What basis is there for unity if we cannot agree, especially on such important things as doctrines? If we choose to persist in remaining in a CPO, chances are we will choose to remain silent, rather than defend our faith and offend.

While unity is important, the basis for unity is founded solely on the truth – the truth taught in Scripture and expressed in our confessions. We do not seek unity at the expense of the truth, covering it up and smoothing out the sharp edges so that it will not offend.

To join or not to join?

So, should I join my campus’ Cru or Nav? While there are no hard and fast rules, perhaps a young person should consider some of these factors when deciding whether to join a CPO.

Firstly, what is your purpose for wanting to join a CPO? Are you joining to make friends? If you are, then remember the words of Amos 3:3. It is not wrong to be friendly to people, including those who participate in CPOs, but there is no true unity if you cannot be agreed. Are you joining to share the Reformed truth?

While that may be a noble motive, you would do well to reflect if that is the best way to do so, considering you will be severely outnumbered by those who do not share the same views. Perhaps it would be more fruitful to use your time to privately share the Reformed faith with those who show interest, rather than attempting to fight for change in an entire organization.

Secondly, consider that our time and energies are limited. While we are called to serve God and His kingdom, this is primarily through membership and service in the local church. Will your participation in a CPO cause you to become so busy that you no longer have time to attend CK/CKS or other church programs? Will you be so burdened with your duties in a CPO that you cannot serve on committees in the church? Or will you end up with no time even to meet and commune with the saints in CERC? If your membership and participation in a CPO is causing you to neglect your church, then you should seriously reconsider if you should be devoting that much time to the CPO over the church.

Finally, while we may generally disagree with the purpose of CPOs, there are nevertheless lessons which we can learn from them. For example, their zeal for evangelism is one trait that we can emulate, albeit in the correct, biblical manner. God is pleased to use His church as the means to call His people to Him, and as a church we would do well to be zealous in promoting the gospel. We may also learn from how the members in the CPOs take great interest in communing with and encouraging   their   fellow   members. As brethren, we too would do well to remember that our Christian walk is not done alone, but that we ought to lead each other along, because “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend” (Prov. 27:17).

Written by: Isa Tang | Issue 45

CKCKS Retreat: The God of Zion’s Youth

The annual CK/CKS Retreat was held this year from Thursday to Saturday, 22-24 June, at the newly renovated Changi Cottage. The theme of the retreat was “The God of Zion’s Youth”. It was a bit of an extension on this year’s church camp’s theme, but focused mainly on the youth of the church. The theme verse was Psalm 48:14: “For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death”. The theme song, Psalter #134, was a versification of that psalm.

The committee who organized the camp consisted of Joseph, the camp master, as well as Yang Zhi, Deuel, and Nichelle. I thought that it was encouraging to see some of the youth step up and do things for their first time. It was the first time Joseph and Deuel were on a camp committee. Deuel and I led discussions, and Nathaniel and I chaired speeches for the first time.

There were two speeches, one on “The Joy of Zion’s Youth” and the other on “The Security of Zion’s Youth”. Rev. Lanning was the speaker, speaking to us via video from Michigan, where he was attending the PRC’s Synod. The first speech showed us how God is our guide, what is true joy, and the judgments of God. The second speech was about the defences of Zion and the next generation. We were edified by the messages, and afterwards we had fruitful times of discussion related to the speeches.

For the final night we had a steamboat dinner. We also had a special night that included a prayer meeting. We split into our devotions groups, small groups of seven or eight people. We shared a little bit about ourselves and then prayed for each other. It was nice to learn about each other and be able to pray for each other. I thought it was a good way to end the camp.

The retreat was well planned and had a good mix of spiritual activities, physical activities, and free time. We could tell the committee had worked hard to make it a good retreat. We had a blessed time at the camp, fellowshipping and learning about Zion and her youth, and we are thankful to God for the time we could spend there.

Written by: Eric Lanning | Issue 45

Scripture’s Covenant Youth (VIII): Samuel

In our last article I introduced you to the family into which Samuel was born. It was not really such a strange family as it would be nowadays, for it was on the whole a godly family which went, in obedience to the law, once a year to worship God in the tabernacle. By today’s standards, it had several weaknesses,   however:   Elkanah   had two wives, which was rather common in the Old Testament but forbidden in the New. One wife, Peninnah, had children, but did not seem to be a very godly woman, for she is called in Scripture the adversary of Hannah, who was the other wife of Elkanah, but who had no children (1 Sam. 1:6). Hannah was a truly God-fearing wife and bore the taunting of Peninnah patiently. But it was difficult for her because her husband did not understand why she was sad. He thought that if he loved her more than Peninnah and gave Hannah more presents than he gave Peninnah, she would be sad no more. Elkanah didn’t understand that Hannah wanted nothing so much as children, because she wanted to be a mother in Israel and having children gave her a part in the coming of Christ. She longed for Christ, and that was her sorrow.

One year in their annual visit to the tabernacle, Hannah took the opportunity to pour out her heart to God. She cried with such fervour and anxiety that Eli, the high priest, thought she was drunk and he sharply reprimanded her (1 Sam. 1:10-14).

In Hannah’s prayer, she vowed to the Lord that if God would give her a son, she would return him to the Lord all his life as a Nazarite (1 Sam. 1:11). And when Eli heard from her that she had prayed in the anguish of her soul for a son, he blessed her. God heard Hannah’s cry and vow and also heard the blessing of Eli, and he answered her prayer: he gave her a child.1

Eli’s blessing was not the mere expression of Eli’s wish that Hannah would have a child, but the blessing of the high priest who stood in the place of Christ Himself who earns all blessings for his people.

Hannah’s vow is the striking event in this narrative. That vow God heard and that vow Hannah kept. She named him “Samuel”, which means “asked of God”. And so after she weaned him (probably sometime between Samuel’s 2nd and 4th birthday), she returned him to the Lord. She did this by bringing him to the tabernacle where she “lent” him to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:28). This passage is a crucial one. The word “lent” does not mean, “give him to the Lord for a little while and then demand his return”; it could more accurately be translated “granted” or “returned”. She received him from the Lord; she returned him to the Lord. She considered him as belonging to the Lord and to be the Lord’s possession and not her own.

I already said that Samuel came the closest of any other person in the whole of the Old Testament to hold three offices: prophet, priest and king. And therein lies the importance for us.

Samuel was a prophet because God spoke to him when he was still a child and he brought the word of God to Israel.2 He was a priest because he brought many sacrifices. In fact, he made a circuit of Israel frequently to make sacrifices in different places. Samuel was not, strictly speaking, a king. But he was considered a judge along with all the other judges. He did rule over the people when they brought him their disputes for settlement and when he anointed both Saul and David to be king.

After him, there were prophets who were also priests, and there were prophets who were also kings.3 But there were no men who were both priests and kings. Samuel was in this unique position as a child when he first brought God’s word of judgment to Eli (1 Sam. 3:11-21).

Only after Christ completed his work here on earth, went to heaven and poured out his Spirit on his church, were there people who held all three offices. These people are you and I – and all the saints in the new dispensation. We all are prophets, priests and kings (See Lord’s Day 12, Q&A 32). Samuel was such from childhood on; so are we.

It is true that our childhood and youth are times of spiritual preparation for the day when we make confession of faith and assume full responsibilities in Christ’s church. Samuel did have such preparation; so ought we. We are prepared mostly in the home. Our parents are given God’s children for we are given to our parents. They always belong to God not to us.

The second reason why Samuel is important as an example to us is the fact that his mother, when asking the Lord for a male child, made a vow that she would consecrate him to the Lord. To consecrate to the Lord means to set aside for the service of God in one’s entire life. Hannah did this in a very literal way by putting him in the tabernacle to do the work of a priest. This was Samuel’s time of preparation for his greater work in Israel.

When our parents answer the questions asked of them at the time of our baptism, our parents do the same thing Hannah did. They consecrate us to the Lord. This does not mean that parents give their children to the Lord by giving them as ministers, elders, deacons and Christian school teachers. But it does mean that our parents give us to the church as Hannah gave Samuel to the service of God in the tabernacle. It means that from the time of our baptism to our confession of faith we are being prepared by the home, the church, and, God willing, by the school for full service in the church.

The church must be the centre of our lives, the most important institution in which we live. All we do is, in all our life, for the benefit of the church and for the glory of God. We love the church; we will do anything to advance the cause of the church; we will sacrifice for the church; we will be faithful to the church. It is the only institution in our lives that will last forever and ever, for it is the very body of our ascended Lord.

We are consecrated to the Lord and prepared in our early years to fulfil that calling. It is the essence of all our calling in this life.

 

1 It is interesting and important to note that Hannah specifically asked for a son (1 Sam 1:11). If she had no more children after her first child, a son alone could preserve the family name in the coming generations.

2 This was a very interesting event in Samuel’s life. We are told (1 Sam. 8:1) that the word of God was precious in those days. The meaning is that the Word of God was scarce in these days. God did not speak to Israel, neither through dreams or visions, nor through prophets, nor through angels. God was silent. It was a bad time in Israel’s history. When God spoke to Samuel, he did not even recognize it as the voice of God. And when the high priest, Eli, told Samuel to say in answer to God’s voice, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:9). Samuel did answer, but he omitted the word “Lord:’ “Speak, for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:10).

3 David, for example, was a king who also wrote many of the Psalms.

Written by: Prof. Herman Hanko | Issue 45

Working Smart and Working Hard

Preamble

Students need to manage their school work ever more these days as compared to the past. The ever piling up of work from school does not seem to end. The student cries out for more time to finish his work. How about their other responsibilities to church and family? How about time for themselves? School work has become an albatross round your neck that almost consumes your time, leaving little time for other commitments.

It is prudent to consider making your life simple by taking note of how you do things. You can come up with a plan or system to make things more manageable, and therefore not be stunned by all the tasks needed to be completed each day. With time management you can do more even with hectic schedules. By working smart you can get more things done within the allocated time frame or even with less time, and working hard sees you through what you have planned, never to give up quickly in the face of obstacles like hardships, frustrations and failures.

Your role as a covenant student is not merely studying for your own sake, because you are aware that you have to walk worthy of your calling (Eph.4:1), doing it heartily as unto God (1 Cor. 10:31). For you are accountable to God on the day of Judgment (Rev. 20:12).

Working Smart:

God has given man 24 hours a day. He has designated everything with a season, time and purpose (Ecc. 3:1). And He makes time fluid such that when it is passed, it is gone. There is no way to rewind the clock. Thus, it is necessary that you manage your time well.

Managing   time   well   is   working smart because you get the important things done. This is the key to time management. The benefit of managing time effectively helps to reduce stress and you could do more things each day.

Time management is essentially how you plan and organise your time for the tasks. The emphasis is on quality rather than quantity. It does not mean getting more things done quickly.

Here are some suggestions to help you develop good time management skills.

1. Cultivate good study habits

a. Set aside time to study or do homework each day so it becomes a habit. Turn off your phone and do not respond to calls or texts when you work. Do not check your email or surf the net unless you need them for work.

b. Find a good study area where it is quiet and free from distractions.

c. Be mindful of pockets of time. Your time spent waiting for appointment, taking the train or bus could be the extra time. You could take advantage of that time to review your work or get something done.

d. Find a productive time of day when you would be more efficient in your work.

e. Mark down in your yearly calendar the important fixed dates like scheduled exams, school breaks, holidays, projects, and meetings.

2. Make a to-do list everyday

List out the tasks you want to do for the day. It could include your routines, assignments, errands and study time. Flag the important ones which you need to do first.

3. Don’t be afraid to say NO!

It is OK to say ‘No’ to your friend who asks you out when you have an important task to do. Postpone it to another time when available.

4. Set priorities

a. Budget your time since there is a constraint. Tasks or activities with high priority should be allotted time, such as family, church, spiritual and personal life.

b. You have to determine how much time you have before you add any commitments.

5. Overcome procrastination

Procrastination is one that is difficult to overcome. You may justify yourself by saying: “I work better under pressure.” Usually this is an excuse to put off the task. Beat procrastination with effort and start achieving.

6. Study methodology

a) It is necessary to adopt a method of study that is most helpful to you since every student has different leaning styles.

b) Understanding is the key to study (Pro.4:5). It enables you to apply, analyse, synthesize, and evaluate facts and When learning is enhanced, it becomes meaningful, the information committed to memory will be retained for a longer time. Understanding makes learning stick.

 

Working Hard:

As you will discover, the easy part is learning the skills but the hard part is doing them.

Working hard is to ensure that you follow through with the plan. You would set out to do what you have planned even when there are setbacks. Managing time can be a grind, becoming tedious, stressful to a point of being discouraging.

Let me share some facts about ants (Pro.6:6-8). We can see many parallels in the ants to draw inspirations.

1. Proactive

Ants live in colonies consisting of millions of individuals. They do not have leaders, moms or dads. Although there is a queen ant which does tell the other ants what to do, every ant knows its own roles and carries out its tasks faithfully.

2. Self-motivated

Ants are able to work together effectively because they all have the same goal. They work for the good and unity of the colony. Although most of the time the larger ants will do the work of a worker ant, they are more effective for fighting. They are self-motivated and purpose-driven. They never quit.

3. Diligent

Ants are industrious – they spent their entire life working. They are always on the move. They take on different roles. A new worker ant spends the first few days of its adult life caring for the then move on to digging and other nest work, and later to defending the nest and foraging. When under attack, more soldiers will be summoned to the defence, leaving their worker roles for the more urgent task.

4. Planners

Ants plan for the future. In summer time they gather food, bring it back to the nest and use it for daily meals. They make sure to store food for winter also.

5. Team spirit

Ants work in teams to move extremely heavy things and to capture prey. Ants can lift 20 times their own body weight. If a worker ant finds a good food source, it leaves a scented trail so that other ants in the colony can locate the food.

Encouragement

To walk worthy is to walk circumspectly, redeeming the time (Eph. 5:15-16). To redeem the time is to walk in Christ. Walking in Christ certainly impacts everything you do – your motivation is Christ, you see your goal in Him, use your gifts and abilities for His glory, and your relationships with others demonstrate empathy, understanding, meekness, and care.

God not only calls, but He also strengthens you and supplies all your needs so that you can fulfil His calling (Phi. 4). Do not fret about the tall order because God through Jesus Christ will see you through until the end of life (Isa. 43:2). He will strengthen you with all might according to His glorious power unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:10-11).

Written by: Patricia Wee | Issue 44

Media Addiction

History of Media

Media (noun) – A way to communicate information from person to person.

Media is a tool to communicate information from person to person. It can come in many different forms in our day and age. In this article, we shall limit media to the press, audio, and video.

Media with storage and transmission began   many   years   ago:   from   the carving of God’s ten commandments on stone tablets to the invention of the Gutenberg Press in 1450, which God was pleased to use to aid the Protestant reformers in the spread of God’s truth when Luther’s ninety-five theses were copied   and   circulated   in   Europe. The arrival of the Gutenberg Press introduced the era of printed mass media communication that we have today. Unlike the press, television and radios did not begin their development until the 1800s. Radios and televisions enabled audio and video information to be transferred far and wide. The early use of the radio was mainly to maintain contact between ships out at sea in Morse code transmission. However, in 1920, the first public radio broadcast took place. And just two months after the first   public broadcast, KDKA aired the first religious service in the history of radio. They also continued with regular Sunday evening service broadcasts through 1962.

The Danger of Media

Media is a tool. And when tools fall into the wrong hands, there can be devastating results. Media is engaging and appealing to our human senses. To top it all off, it has pleasures that please our old man of sin. Satan knows of this great tool, a perfect weapon that can be used against Christians. He has been using this tool to attack and tempt Christians. He holds this weapon in his hand, prowling around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8b). An example would be the release of the novel and film Fifty Shades of Grey in recent years. This novel/film is notable for its explicit erotic scenes. Despite the nature of the novel and film, the books have been sold in family-oriented bookstores. The movie posters were widely distributed and could be seen from the many bus stops and malls in Singapore. This is but one of the many attacks of Satan.

Media Addiction

Addiction (noun) – The state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

Satan does not just stop at empowering the media with attractive sins that appeal to the lust of the flesh. He also lures unsuspecting victims into media addiction so that the user will forsake his Lord and be a slave to sin.

To be addicted to the media means to be enslaved by it. The addicted person spends a large amount of time with the media at the expense of other callings in life. The user takes pleasure in it, and he cannot do without the media despite the disruptiveness of what excessive media can do.

Media addiction is a serious problem, because usually the users are addicted to media that are sinful in nature, ranging from dramas that are filled with violence and sexual scenes to secular music that promotes immorality.

Those who are addicted spend their days on earth indulging in these media, and they find it hard to stop. They are not able to redeem the time that God has given to them because they are bound by the shackles of the media. Their worldview is shaped by the ungodly media and not by the word of God. They will not be good friends, as they care only for their own pleasure. They cannot fulfil their callings as fathers and mothers because they care more about their TV shows than spending time with their children. And their children will care for the things of the world rather than things that are in heaven.

Social Media Addiction

In recent years, a new form of media addiction has surfaced due to the prevalence   of   mobile   devices   and the ability to connect to the internet wherever we are. That is social media addiction. Social media has become increasingly popular among children, youth, and even adults. Many are caught spending their free time browsing through the different social media platforms that are offered on the web instead of doing something else productive. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,   Instagram,   and   Snapchat are some of the popular social media networks in Singapore.

I vividly remember a scene when I was out for dinner with some of my colleagues after a long day of work. After making our way to the eatery, we settled down into our seats around the table, and almost immediately all of my colleagues started to whip out their mobile phones. They were all engaged on social media; they were either tweeting, Facebooking or VLOG- ing on Instagram. Unfortunately, no conversations were made around a table of eight people, and we had dinner quietly for the rest of the night with everyone’s eyes glued to their phones.

The Cure to Addiction and how to Prevent it

The effects of media and social media addiction can be very detrimental to the church. Addiction is like a poison that enslaves us, and only our Lord Jesus Christ, the Great Physician, has the cure. In order to free ourselves from addiction, we have to forsake our pleasures and acknowledge that Christ is our only Lord and we will serve only Him. We were in bondage under the elements of the world, and God has redeemed us (Gal. 4:3). “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Gal. 4:7). In addition, 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us to be sober and to be vigilant. To be sober means that we have to be conscious of the different media that are exposed to our lives. With a clear and sober mind, we discern the good and the ungodly media with the word of God. When we come across ungodly media, we have to say in our hearts and minds that it is wrong. Not only do we have to say that it is wrong, we have to stay away from it too. This is what it means to be a vigilant Christian –   always keeping a careful watch for possible dangers. Fellowshipping together with your church friends can help in dealing with media addiction as well, for they can watch over you. There is strength in a multitude of godly counsel. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise” (Prov. 13:20a).

Dear friends, let us pray for God’s grace to help us to manage media in our lives. Remember, every day requires prayer! (ERP!)

Written by: Paul Ong | Issue 44

Conflicts in Friendship

This string of articles on friendships is about to reach its end—but not without one final word. One young reader, keeping up with the previous articles, suggested the title that you see above this paragraph. So, we will say a few things under this title.

All of us have had conflicts in our friendships. They do not all start the same way—a harsh criticism of your error, or an indifferent response to your sorrow. Neither have they all lasted the same time—some, less than twenty- four hours; others, for days; still others, left unresolved.

However they start, however long they are, conflicts are always ugly. Knowing how ugly they are, we want to resolve them—or do we?

Whether we want resolution or not, God calls us to end all conflicts with our friends in the church we belong to. The church, God through Paul says, must “keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1). Conflict is opposite of unity and peace. Letting conflicts with our friends continue breaks the unity and disturbs the church’s peace. Letting a conflict go on, fester, and deepen, then, is disobedience to God.

Briefly consider, then, the matter of conflicts in friendships: their Triggers, Purpose, and Resolutions.

Triggers

In a sense, there are many things that can trigger conflicts between friends. All of us can easily remember words spoken or actions done by our friends that have ticked us off. Perhaps it was a time, when you casually shared a thought with your friend, but that friend, without letting you finish, jumped in with what he thought— well, he sure wanted to listen to what you had to say! Perhaps it was a time when you confided in your friend about a certain problem, but your friend…first laughed. She probably did not laugh to mock you—oh, but it sure felt that way! Or perhaps, you and your friend have grown up, but now he has a girlfriend, or she has a boyfriend; and you see him lesser during the week, or you find that she spends less time with you. The friendship grows cold; both of you talk less to each other; and soon the blame goes to…

In our experience, many things can be an occasion for conflicts.

Yet, the Bible does not first of all pay attention   to   these   “many   things”. The Bible pays attention, firstly, to the heart—no, the evil of our hearts. And so, when we want to know from Scripture what starts a conflict between friends, we will find that it is sin.

Turn nowhere else but to Proverbs, first. Hatred stirreth up strifes: (10:12a). When your friend steps on your toe, and you bear a grudge against him for that one action, you have stirred up strife. He that is of a proud heart stirreth up strife (28:25). When a friend comes to us with problems, but we brush them aside because we think they are weird and the problems are small, we are stirring up strife. When God calls us to love our neighbour as ourselves, but there is hatred and pride, there will be conflict.

Then turn to the conflicts Scripture records. The very first conflict between two   humans   was   Adam and   Eve. When God confronted Adam with disobedience, Adam said proudly, “It was not my fault; my wife at the fruit first! It’s her fault!” Adam was too aloof to admit he was at fault; and there, he set a conflict with his wife. There was Abram and Lot, too. Lot, jealous of Abram’s riches, brought his conflict between his herdsmen and his uncle’s. Eventually, Lot chose a greener pasture and separated himself from Abram. His jealousy started a conflict between Abram and Lot.

The one trigger to all conflicts between friends is sin.

Worse still, sin not only triggers conflicts, but it also prolongs them. Hebrews 12:15 speaks of bitterness— hatred that is kept in our hearts. When I am angry with my friend, and I do not get rid of that anger; that anger, like roots gripping the soil of the ground, grips my heart, so that I will not stop thinking of that anger when I look at my friend. Or look back to the times when we had conflicts with others: Were we the first one to say, “Let’s talk about this”? Or were we too proud, thinking that he should have made the first move? Or when the words “I’m sorry” had been spoken to us: Did we still bear that anger in our hearts? How pride—how sin—triggers and prolongs conflicts!

Purpose

Horrific as it may be, conflicts have a purpose, as God is in control of the conflicts in our friendships.

Briefly, God ordains conflicts to sanctify us and our friends. Think back to the conflict between Euodias and Syntyche: The Lord ordained that quarrel, so that he may teach the church of Philippi—including Euodias and Syntyche—to “be of the same mind in the Lord” (Phil. 4:2). Likewise, as sin sows discord in our friendships, the Lord uses it to teach us how we ought to live together as friends in the church. How the Lord does so is by showing us from His Word how to resolve those conflicts.

Resolutions

How does God want us to resolve conflicts?

There is our attitude, firstly. Do we want to resolve the conflict? However, realise with me that we are wrong to start with that question. When are we to think first of what we want; is not what God wants more important? Does God want you to resolve the conflict? God declares the ceasing of strife to be honourable (Pro. 20:3). Let us, then, desire resolution.

There are also certain actions that can help us when there are conflicts. Let us list a few here (in no particular order):

1)       Listen. Be ready to hear what your friend has to say about the conflict. Maybe there are some things you did not know you have done that hurt your friend. Often, you will not know these things until you stop talking and let your friend share his part. After all, doesn’t God listen to us when we speak to Him in prayer?

2)       Examine     yourself.     Ask yourself: “Have I done anything wrong that has started or continued this conflict?” We already know how depraved we are; therefore, we must not leave ourselves out when it comes down to “Who started the conflict?”

3)   Have   a   face-to-face conversation.   Not   by   the   phone, or by Whatsapp. With your fullest attention, talk to your friend. Such conversations tell your friend that you are not afraid to settle the conflict, even   if   it   means   admitting   your own sins to your friend. Also, using indirect means of communication (Whatsapp, phone calls) may lead to more misunderstanding. Writing out your thoughts may be helpful, but it may not convey all your thoughts to your friend. Meeting directly with your friend gives you the time and space to speak your mind out and clarify things. After all, doesn’t God want us, His friend-servants, to be in His presence?

4)       Forgive. When sins have been confessed to each other and regret has been acknowledged, you must be ready to tell your friend, “I forgive you”. Read Q&A 126 of the Heidelberg Catechism.

5)       Bear with it! Do I tell my friend that I forgive him, when he does not think he is in the wrong when he clearly is? If our friends do not acknowledge their faults in the conflict, then we must be ready to bear with those faults for some time. To bear with faults can be expressed this way: “He doesn’t know where he is wrong: But that is fine. Maybe he needs more time to realise his fault; why he needs more time, I do not know. I will just give him that time he needs. Meanwhile, I will pray for him, that the Lord shows him his error. All I want for him to know is that I love him and am ready to forgive”. Does the Lord patiently bear with our sins that we are not conscious of? Have we seen Him lash out at us in eternal fury? Never. In time, He gradually makes us discover a new depth to our depravity and brings us to confess the sins we have grown conscious of. Even as God has shown us patience, so we must be patient with our brethren, and bear with their weaknesses.

6)       Doing the same thing in the home. If we do not practise forgiving our parents and siblings in the home, we must not expect ourselves to be able to forgive and resolve our conflicts with our friends.

Conclusion

More can be said on conflicts between friends in the church and on dealing with these conflicts. Yet, one point must never be left out: How we deal with our friends is how God deals with us. Has God ignored us when we sinned? Has God ever said, “I forgive you”, but make us sense that he is still angry with us? Has God looked at us, only to bear thoughts of anger and hatred? Never, from eternity to eternity!

That is our pattern, my dear friends.

Written by: Lim Yang Zhi | Issue 44