Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Preciousness of Time

This message was originally delivered during a friend's 18th birthday. It's June 5, and as I've always celebrated the day I first attended the church (today's the 12th year), I'm posting this. God alone be glorified.


March 12, 2016

The message I will be delivering is about the Preciousness of Time.
We’re gonna begin discussing about the Preciousness of Time by considering just three points for today. We will look at how precious time is (1) In relation to its Creator, (2) In relation to Us the creation, and (3) In relation to Christ the Redeemer.
Before that though, let us define what time is. “Time”, both in scripture and in common language, could simply be defined as a “measurable period”. And when we say measurable, then we are saying that it has a definite beginning and a definite end. Sometimes it’s about computation of years (Gen. 15:3), months (1 Chr. 27:1), weeks (Dan. 10:2), or days (Gen. 8:3).  Sometimes it refers to specific events such as succession of families (Gen. 5:1-32), lives of great men (Gen. 7:6,11), succession of kings (1 Kin. 11:42,43) or earthquakes (Amos 1:1). And sometimes it's about long periods of years such Israel’s the bondage in Egypt (Acts 7:8), Israel’s wanderings in the wilderness (Deut. 1:3), times of the judges (Judg. 11:26) or Daniel’s 70 weeks (or 490 years). 

I. Time and Its Creator

God’s relation to time has been a controversial subject among philosophers and theologians for centuries. I will skip the technical details but the biblical position is that God created time, and is not essentially “in” time but nevertheless could see and relate “in” time. This paradoxical truths is often termed as God’s transcendence (or his supremacy and separateness from creation) and God’s immanence (or his nearness to his creation). Biblically God is both transcendent and immanent.
To better understand this, picture a big arc. Above that arc is the timeless Creator, below that arc is the time-bound creation. All of the creation below that arc dwell in time and space. That includes us. God is above and separate from us and, therefore, not subject to time. That’s what it means to be Transcendent.

However, if we only have a transcendent God, a God who is just far above and away from us, that would be deism – which is a belief that God created everything and then just left it on its own motion, like a parent abandoning his children. But that is not the God of the Bible. The transcendent Creator in the Bible is the same Creator who drew near to his creation, communing with them and guiding them in time. He made our father Adam and had fellowship with him, even caring for him after the tragic fall which plunged all mankind into sin and death (Rom. 5:17-19). We see him caring still during the time of Noah even though the number of righteous people in the world that time is just eight (1 Pet. 3:20). We still see him caring for Abraham, for Job, for Israel even though that nation rebel against him from time to time.
I hope we will not take this lightly. We as time-bound creatures could never reach and comprehend God in His timeless nature on our own. Yet He decided to reach us below the arc while still remaining above the arc, he decided to reach his creation without becoming part of the creation.
So when you think about the Preciousness of Time, consider this: God is above the arc. He does not need us, he does not need time. Acts 17:25 says "he is not served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything." He is infinitely self-sufficient in His nature. He does not need us or our time… and yet he cares! He cares about our time which is evident when he disposes several, undeserved providential blessings to his creation “in” time. He gave us life, family, food, strength, revelations, wisdom and everything we have in time! Even though He is above time. That alone is amazing, and humbling.
The Psalmist in Psalm 8 expressed the same wonder after meditating about God the Creator and the creation’s wonders, he said “what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (v.4)
So think about this: If God who is timeless values our time, who are we to depreciate time when we are all time-bound? If He who is above the arc values the time of those who are below the arc, who are we to live as if we do not value the very limited time we have? Time is precious because the transcendent God did not just create time but governs time and uses time to relate to his creation. Not to value time is not to value the Creator and Governor of time.
Secondly, let us consider the preciousness of time in its relation to creation.

II. Time and Us – the Creation

And here, I want to hide myself behind Jonathan Edwards as he hid himself behind Christ. Edwards mentioned four reasons why time should be precious to us. The first reason he mentioned is because time is...

A. Determinant of Eternity

Edwards said "[T]ime is so exceedingly precious, because by it we have opportunity of escaping everlasting misery, and of obtaining everlasting blessedness and glory. On this depends our escape from an infinite evil, and our attainment of an infinite good." We will elaborate this more on the third point but, for now, it is good to be reminded of Hebrews 9:27 “it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment”. Your eternal destiny – heaven or hell – is in a sense determined by how you spend your time here on earth. Edwards wisely compared time to gold or silver. The reason gold is so precious is because gold has several purposes. It could enhance beauty, demonstrate fame, or you can accumulation riches through it. In the same way, time is so precious because through our use of time – we could suffer the greatest danger (which is hell) or get the greatest good (which is heaven or eternal fellowship with God).

B. Shortness of Time

The second reason Edwards mentioned why time is precious is because it is very short. Economics teaches us that whenever there is a shortage of a commodity it becomes very costly. Guess what? Your time never has an excess of supply. It is very short.
Job 16:22 – “For when a few years have come I shall go the way from which I shall not return.
Job 9:25 – “My days are swifter than a runner; they flee away; they see no good.
Psalm 89:47 – “Remember how short my time is! For what vanity you have created all the children of man!”
James 4:14 – “Yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”
This shortness of time, logically, should make us more zealous and more diligent than we are. Unfortunately, most of us prefer to live in self-indulgent ignorance. And whenever we do so, you know what, whenever we are indifferent to the shortness of our time, Satan shows himself more diligent than us. Revelation 12:12 says “But woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!” Satan knows that his time is short and therefore launched so many urgent strategies to destroy Christ and the community of faith as is evident in the very next verse "And when the dragon [i.e., Satan] saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child." Jumping to verse 17 "Then the dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus. And he stood on the sand of the sea."

And so, all of Satan’s diligent strategies in history to destroy the Messiah and the Messiah’s community of faith, according to the text, sprung from his understanding of the shortness of his time. Yes, all of Satan’s actions are evil. But the urgency he feels in making the most of his time should make us evaluate our treatment of our time. Do we have that urgency, or do we love to waste our time?

But for those who want to take their time, time will come when time will take your life. Those who love to waste time, the truth of the matter is time is wasting your life away. Those who love to kill time, the truth of the matter is time is killing you.

C. Uncertain of its Continuance

Thirdly, Edwards said, time is precious not only because “it is very short, but [also because] we know not how short” it is. Who among us here knows how many years, months, weeks or days he/she still has left? Who among us here can be absolutely certain that he will still be able to complete this day? None of us. And even in every minute that we’re here, the time of some people in this world is expiring. Majority of the people in this world live healthily, with no sign of approaching death. Yet many of them are about to die few months from now, or next month, or tomorrow, or probably today. The reality of the uncertainty of our time hinges upon the reality of death. This is the case of the rich fool in
Some of you are probably thinking right now that I’m such a party-pooper for talking about death in a birthday celebration. And if you feel like throwing something on me, you are free to use the cake. I’d love to die by eating cakes.
But kidding aside, birthdays should be more than just a celebration but a reminder of our finiteness. Moses in Psalm 90 reminds us:
“The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (vv.10-12)
70 is the lifespan of a human in this world but we all know that’s just an approximation. Some of us die at 50, some at 40, some at 25, some at 15, some at 5. Sadly, thousands of Americans today die (or rather killed) during infancy. But the point is very clear: your days in this world is uncertain.
You could’ve planned your life: to finish your studies, get a job, get a car, get a beautiful wife, have kids, establish a business, get rich and spend the rest of your time enjoying your family and riches. But even if you are the most intelligent person in the world, you cannot be certain whether you can fulfill even half of your plans. This reminds us of the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12, who, after producing a big crop, rebuild bigger barns to store and enjoy his goods for the rest of life. Then he said to himself in verse 19, “,'You have stored up enough good things to last for years to come. Live it up! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.' ” Isn’t that a familiar statement that we often make? Well, God’s reply to this man in verse 20 is this: “You fool! Tonight you will die. Then who will get what you have stored up?” And the obvious answer is “Not you.” Nobody can bring his riches to the grave.
The parable concludes in verse 21: "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” That’s what happen when man presumes that he knows his time and spends his time on himself instead of on the Creator.
Death is certain but you don’t know when it comes to you. Spend your time on yourself and time will spend your life in death – without informing you.

D. Irrecoverable

Finally, Edwards said time is precious because it is irrecoverable. How old are we? If in fact the average lifespan is 70, how old are we now? How many years have already gone? They can no longer be restored. You can lose and regain some precious things in this world, even though it might take great pains. You can lose money and eventually work harder to regain money. You can lose a house and eventually rebuild it. You can lose a friend and earn another one. But you can never restore time. What you have spent will be gone forever. It is irrecoverable.
Being time-bound means we are experiencing a succession of moments. One moment you have money, the next moment it’s gone. One moment you are happy, the next moment you are miserable. One moment you are strong, the next moment you are weak. One moment you are talking to a friend, the next moment she’s gone. One moment you are alive, the next moment you die. Life is being tasted in moments and when a moment terminates, it cannot be undone.
So it’s either you make the most of your time now or wait for the day that you’ll say “I wish I’ve done this a long time ago.”
So, in view of time’s relation to creation, time is precious because (1) our eternity hangs on time, (2) this eternity-determining time is too short, (3) we don’t know how short this eternity-determining time, and finally (4) this indefinite and short, eternity-determining time is irrecoverable.

III. Time and Christ

Going now to the third part of the message, we shall see that time is precious not just because of its relation to the Creator (i.e., He is transcendent over time but still governs and reaches us in time), and not only it is precious because of its relation to the creation (i.e., time is short, uncertain, irrecoverable and eternity-determining), time is precious also because of its relation to Christ the Redeemer.

I would start with the conclusion: time was ultimately created for Christ. The whole point of history and of the present and of the future is Jesus Christ. Time is precious because it points to the preciousness of Christ.
For that, let me read Acts 17:24-31

Act 17:24 The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.
Act 17:25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.
Act 17:26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
Act 17:27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.
Act 17:28 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'
Act 17:29 Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.
Act 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.
Act 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

In verses 24,25 we see God’s self-sufficiency by which we say that he is not in need of or constrained by our time, making him transcendent. We also see there that he is immanent “giving life and breath and everything else”. In verse 27 “he is not far from each”. That reminds us of our first point.

In verse 26 we see us – our limits in terms of time and space. That reminds us of our second point.

And in verses 29-31, we see God confronting the biggest problem in our time, namely, sin. Our time of sinning, idolatry in this specific passage, is called ignorance. Our time of living a life that isn’t lived for God is called ignorance. We have not understood who we are, and who God is and what his purposes are in time. All of those previous times of hopelessness God overlooks no more! We don’t have to drown in ignorance and sin and death anymore. God NOW commands all people everywhere to repent. Time is so precious because it is now time to turn to Christ! Time is precious because the peak of history has come since Christ came and announced his kingdom. Time is precious because Christ died and resurrected to show that He is either your Savior and Lord today, or your Judge in His second coming.

The same is said by Christ Himself in Mark 1:15: "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

Jesus is saying that it is now time to stop wasting your time on sin and trustingly surrender your life to Him. Let me tell you this: nothing is more grandeur in human history than the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. Yes, the emergence of science is great. Yes, the world wars are great. But no event in history touches even just a pinch of the greatness of the story of Jesus Christ. Remember the transcendent God – the timeless Creator – showed his immanence the most in the Person of Jesus Christ. This is why He is called “Emmanuel” God is with us. The timeless God became bounded by time by assuming human nature, walked just like us, tempted just like us, suffered death just like us, so that we could escape the greatest problem of our time – which is sin and death. Jesus Christ the Redeemer is so precious because He is God Himself rescuing sinners by becoming human, living his life in perfect obedience and dying for the sins of sinners like you and me. A great reason why time is so precious is because in time, we can turn from our sins and turn to this Precious Savior by faith.

We hear the same description about time in relation to Christ. The word “fulfilled” is also in Galatians 4:4-5:
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons."

The context is that the Old Testament also called Mosaic Covenant and its law, is now over. Because Jesus Christ – to which the law points to – is now here.

And so we see God orchestrating history, governing every moment of His creation, for this very purpose: to display the preciousness of Christ the Redeemer.

The implications are tremendous: first, examine yourselves. Most of us here would call ourselves Christians but have truly entrusted Jesus our whole lives? Have we truly surrendered our lives to the Lordship of Jesus by faith? Look at how you spend your time everyday – Is it really for the Savior or for yourselves? And if it’s for yourselves, then, repent! Christ is the very reason why you have that time, why you have everyday, why you have today. And if we will not turn to Christ, what awaits is judgment, death and hell. “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18) You need that this life you live and the time that you have is not meant to be yours – it is meant to be Christ’s. Christ is all you need and therefore you need now to surrender your life to Him by faith.

Secondly, if you’re now a believer, we are told to “[make] the best use of the time.” (Col. 4:5) It is interesting to note that this commandment is sandwiched by a command about testimony towards unbelievers (“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders”) and godly speech (“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”), implying that to make the best use of our time is to fill our minds and tongues with godliness as we spend our time with unbelievers in this world. Let us examine our daily habits. Are we showing how precious Christ is by deeming time as precious and using time wisely? Remember that whenever we quote “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) – a verse often use to say Soli Deo Gloria or God Alone Be Glorified – remember that whenever you use “whatever you do”, it’s the same as saying “whatever you spend your time on”. We cannot, therefore, rightly say “glory to God!”, “praise Jesus Christ!” and spend most of our day in front of the television, watching teleseryes, or spending the whole day in the Internet doing nothing but chat about senseless things. Soli Deo Gloria implies that every moment you have here on earth is spent for the glory of God.

Paul’s theology of time management in a nutshell is found in Titus 3:14 – “Let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful” (Titus 3:14).” To give God glory, we need to be fruitful.

To this, John Piper commented, and I will close with this:

“Fruitfulness means meeting others’ needs with “good works” — expenditures of our time, energy, and money in the service of love — which will be both proactive and reactive. Without scheduling, we will falter at the proactive; without flexibility, we’ll be unavailable for the reactive.”

So in order to make use of our time, let us plan each day and at the same time wisely react to the circumstances that providence bring us. Let us show that Christ is precious by showing that our time is precious.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Incredibly Happy

This post is more personal than theological. I just want to savor this day for some reason. I feel incredibly happy. For the past few months, I feel like I was trying to grasp both the future and the past, trying to pull them together in the present.

Maybe you've been there too. There's something in the past that you want to restore, and there's something in the future that you look forward to. 

Since going home, I was trying to evaluate the joy I feel. Had a happy discussion with my "teammates" at work. Happily had an early out from work. Had a happy and incredible time with some former co-leaders and my pastor last night till this morning. 

But I think that's not the reason why I'm feeling happy. I mean, sure, I love programming. And, yes, I really miss PCD-UMYFP leaders! But there's more...

I think it's because... I woke up early and didn't see a laptop before me, or a desktop near me. I see pews around me and I see a cross before me. I didn't have to rush prepping for the hassle of mrt, or think of choosing a better javascript framework. I was just there sitting... praying... happily. 

I guess what David said several years ago is still true to this day:
"For a day in your courts is better
    than a thousand elsewhere."
(Psalm 84:10a)

After a very long time, by God's grace, I have once again experienced this bliss of just waking up and walking in a silent place, looking up the sky, thinking of the Maker and smiling. Surely, nothing in this world compares to having communion with God. Absolutely nothing.

I'll end this short post with two songs that gave me LSS this week (and the lines I love most):

This Day (by Audio Adrenaline) 
It's six A.M
I'm so tired
The alarm sounds
And the new day begins
Before I go
And disturb this peaceful moment
I look to You 
I want to say a prayer
Before my feet can hit the ground
Lord I give this day to You

The Space Between Us (by Shawn McDonald) 
I'm still up, and it’s 3 in the morning
I try to sleep but my mind keeps going
Am I awake cause You're trying to speak to me
Lying here with my ears wide open
Can You fix what I know I have broken
There's a hole in my heart where I need You to be
But I'm right here, and You're right there
Will You take this wall I built and tear it down 
Do what You always do
Making the ocean blue [ = ocean and sky appear connected because of the color ]
Taking away the space between us
Filling it up with More of You

Saturday, June 20, 2015

When You Feel Like Growing Weary

"Is Christianity hard or easy?"
I think a simple answer like "It's easy" or "It's hard" wouldn't be enough.

If we say it's easy, we might sound like antinomians, quietists and/or easy-believists, who forget the Christian side of hard obedience, costly discipleship, discipline and sufferings. On the other hand, if we say it's hard, we might be suspected as legalists and/or masochists, who ignore the Christian's freedom, joy, grace, peace and rest.

The truth is: there is a sense in which Christianity is hard and there is a sense in which it is easy.

Consider these two passages for example: 
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  (Luke 9:23,24, ESV) 
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry." (Matthew 11:28-30, NET)
The first one obviously shows the difficulty. We gotta give up everything or we'll lose everything. The second one says it's easy. It speaks of rest and easy burden we have with Jesus.

How then do we reconcile the two seemingly contradicting ideas? Let's start it with the hard side.

I guess, aside from the scriptures, the greatest proof would be experience itself. It's not easy to invest your time, energy, money and everything for other people in discipleship. On top of that, we have struggles outside and inside of us. Trials and persecutions on the outside; the flesh on the inside.

Christianity is tough. Sometimes we feel like giving up. Sometimes we grow weary. And when we do, how do we get over it? Answering this question would help us connect the "easy" part.

1) Look at those who have gone before you

When we are overwhelmed by our problems, we tend to think we got the heaviest load. But that's not true. Try looking at the Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11: "There were others who were tortured... faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated... wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground." (vv. 35b-38)

Have you ever experienced all of those sufferings? Most of us don't. Hence, the same author stated that in our struggles "against sin, [we] have not yet resisted to the point of shedding [our] blood." (12:4) Before grumbling about your circumstances, try digging the riches of church history and take a look back at those who endured so much pain without complaining.

2) Look at who Christ is and what He has done

Secondly, look at the unmatched sufferings of Jesus. From eternity past, He is the Lord of the universe, completely self-sufficient, that even the most glorious angels find themselves unworthy before Him. But he set aside the full expression of His deity and assumed humanity - such an incredible humility all for the sake of proud sinners like us! Not only did Christ become one of us, he lived as the lowest among us. We should be reminded over and over again that when He came down to announce His kingdom, it was in the form of servant - born in a lousy place, had an unwealthy family, walked under the heat of the sun, helped the helpless poor, healed the sick and demon-possessed, called and ate with sinners, rejected several times by people to the point of being threatened to death, and suffered under the hands of Roman soldiers whose expertise is to pour out the greatest excruciating pain that human body could feel. But greater than all of that is the fact that Christ, while hanging upon the cross for three hours, bore the wrath of God for our sins, which takes us eternity in hell to suffer  (1 Pet. 2:24; Rom. 5:6-11; Jn. 3:36).

Has any Christian or any human ever undergone that? None! And no one else will, because no one else can.

3) Look at the powerful grace available to you and at work in you

Thirdly, it's not as if God has left us to bear the difficulties of Christian life on our own. It's not as if grace was given to us when we were forgiven, so must repay him for the grace he has given in the past. That's not it! That would make Christian life legalistic. Grace has brought you from the beginning and grace will make you persevere to the end:

"For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." (Jn. 1:16)

"he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6)

"...continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Phil. 2:12-13)

"...looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:12)

The Christian life is not about how much we give to Christ but how much God has given us in Christ. All that you've done so far as a Christian - your thoughts, emotions and actions for God  - do not make us more accepted than when we first repented. Your justification (when God declared us righteous in the sight of God) in Christ is not being improved by your sanctification (where God actually and progressively makes us righteous) in Christ. Both of them are of God's grace that He lavished on us through the cross. They are undeserved.

Sure, God would certainly reward our obedience (2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Cor. 9:4-27; 2 Timothy 2:5), but if we'll consider the authority of Christ in our lives as well as the grace that accompanies it, all we can say in the end is:
"We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done." (Lk. 17:10)

4) Look at the overwhelming glory that's ahead of us

Finally, try comparing our present, temporary suffering with the eternal, future glory.

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." (Rom. 8:18)

"For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all." (2 Cor. 4:17)

Most of the time, trials and sufferings make us myopic. We only see the greatness of the pain that we currently feel, we only see the conflicts that we presently undergo. And they look too big to handle, making us grow weary. We feel like we want to quit.

During times like this, the Scriptures command us to raise our heads and look up to what awaits us. Christ Himself has been the example: "Jesus... who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross". Christ looked forward to the glorification after His sufferings. We too should.

If only we could grasp what Paul means when he said "it's not worth comparing" and "far outweighs", we can joyfully endure every trial that we'll face here. It's just like skipping one meal for an eat-all-you-can, forever free feast later. It's like trading your most precious gadget to own the manufacturer of it. It's just like... ah... any comparison falls short actually! The point is that we wouldn't mind what we lose here, if we remember the greatness of heaven, where there is no more pain, no more sin in us, and where we have an eternal fellowship with God. We gotta get this perspective always.


Perhaps, you've experienced a lot, and I would be a liar if I'll say that I understand every pain you're undergoing. But God in Christ does (Heb. 4:15). And yet He was the one who called the burdens we have as "light". If we will be mindful of these four truths, the weight we feel will be lifted, the seemingly big trials will be just minute and trivial, and Christianity would be light and restful and enjoyable. Do you feel like growing weary? Pause for a while and consider those truths.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Does Repentance Mean We Won't Do it Again?

What's the limit of your patience? If I'd be asked, I'll say it's when a person keeps on repeating his offense. I often lose my cool when a person seems to be too "stupid" and too "stubborn"to do the same mistake over and over again. And inside of me, I justify my impatience with thoughts like "who wouldn't get annoyed by that?"

Perhaps, you've done that too. You clearly tell a person his mistake, he promises not to do it again, and then he did it 5 times more!  Isn't that annoying? So, eventually, we get fed up with such people, who seem to be "unrepentant" of their sins since they keep on repeating them.

Sometimes, we apply the same with God's patience towards us. Have you uttered prayers like, "Lord, I'm sorry, I did it again" with a sigh? I did. Many times. Countless times. It's discouraging, isn't it?

And as we think about the N-th time we've done that particular sin, we get the feeling that God is probably already fed up with our prayers. Besides, we're going to do it again. It feels like there's no point in confessing and repenting because next week or next month I might do it again. And since we've done it again, it doesn't seem like we're repenting at all.

Maybe you have heard this a lot: a sign of true repentance is that you won't do it again. Maybe you've heard if from me before. But that statement is actually untrue, because the struggle of a Christian with sin is a lifetime:
"For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing." (Romans 7:19, NIV)
Would we say that Paul in his struggle wasn't repenting at all? He keeps on doing the sin he hates. There's a repetition there. [1]

It appears that we have gotten this kind of victorious Christian living that we will always overcome sin. Besides, we have verses like this:
"No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God." (1 John 3:10, NIV) [2]

The seeming contradiction has been a struggle to me both theologically and practically. I used to always emphasize that a Christian doesn't continue in his sins but the more I age in the faith, the more I find myself sinful and sinning. So I did re-evaluate what I believe.

Does a Christian keep on sinning or does he not? I found that the answer is both, but in different senses.

In one sense, a Christian would not continue in sinning to the point that he has no struggle with sin and has no progress in holiness at all and that living in sin has become his apparent lifestyle. When we say "lifestyle", it's the kind of conscious, repetitive sinning that doesn't fluctuate for a long period of time. I put some qualifying words there. "Conscious" means that we know that it's a sin and "doesn't fluctuate" means that there isn't really a struggle. "For a long period of time" means that he isn't turning his back from the sin. That's not how a Christin lives. That's an unbeliever's life.

At the same time, a Christian will keep on sinning (though he shouldn't) in the sense that he will often discover a deeper darkness inside of him and keep on repenting from such darkness.

In this life, sin will always indwell us, though not reign in us. It will keep on battling with us, and sometimes (many times!) it will win. Kris Lundgaard used to say that indwelling sin is like a big, haunted house. One terrifying door leads to another.

(For more information about this indwelling sin, see my post here)

So, back to our repentance issue, it appears that repentance doesn't mean we're not going to do it again. We don't want to do it again and we can avoid it for some time. But at some point in time, we will do some sins that we thought we have already overcome few days or months or years ago.

Yesterday, I was listening to a theological podcast [3] about sanctification. One of them named JJ Seid[4] quoted Martin Luther who said that,
"Repentance isn't what you do when you fail to grow. Repentance is the way you grow."
That's one striking statement. We don't grow in our spiritual lives apart from repentance -- it's how we grow! And the more we grow in Christ, the more we see the malignancy of our sins. And the more we see it, the more we become repentant. Repentance is not just a thing in the past. Just like faith, repentance is continuous. It's how we grow.

I love the way JJ Seid illustrated Christian life and progressive sanctification. He said to picture a man going upstairs with a yoyo.

Christians are the yoyo. There will be highs and lows in our spiritual lives. We will fluctuate from victory to sin and sin to victory. Our duty is to always return to the hand (of God) through repentance. But note that the man is going upstairs. Our direction is towards holiness. That means even though we fluctuate day by day. we have the assurance that God will finish the work he started in us (Phil. 1:6). Though not in this life, He will completely vanquish indwelling sin one day.

So if you're just like me, if you have struggled with the thought that you have overdone repentance and you feel like God is fed up with you already, there's one thing we need to do -- REPENT! We must repent from unbelief, for thinking that God isn't a forgiving God (1 John 1:8-9), and that repetitive repentance is a sign of being unChristian or being unspiritual. Don't get tired of fighting sin. But when you fall, don't get tired of looking at your sins and confessing them to God and repenting over and over again. Remember Luther's words: Repentance is the way we grow.

[1] See also Job 40:3-4; Psalm 51:3; 1 John 1:8
[2] See also 1 John 1:6; Heb 2:14; 12:14; Ezek 36:26-27  
[3] Theology Unplugged includes Sam Storms, Michael Patton and Tim Kimberley
[4] JJ Seid is a pastor of Community and Discipleship at Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City

Friday, June 5, 2015

Leap To A Manger (A Parody of Lips of an Angel by Hinder)


No, not really. I was. Not physically but spiritually. Not specifically today but it was around this time of year that I got converted (Praise be to God). And I owe my spiritual birth to the work of Christ. If Christ wasn't born in a manger, I wouldn't be born in his kingdom.

I think that's theologically true but, honestly, it just happened that I finished this parody today. So... Merry Christmas! LOL.

Leap To A Manger

A parody of "Lips of an Angel" by Hinder

Can we love a worm that we'll incarnate?
It's kinda how he reached us out
Have we heard God lying in a mere bed of hay?
Christ condescended though the gap is too wide
Well, the heaven's grandest rooms
Are still unfit for His booth
Who'd guess He'll even greatly move down?

Chorus 1:
He really took no hero's choice
Dwelling with men
And cows and sheep
Coming down as babe on a manger
There is no word to state this leap
This child got the whole world in His hands
The God who made us now is a creature
Quantum leap to a manger

He probably was crying that night
And, yes, he peed and pooped too
His mama knows the Boy she carries
Is God of Might
Truth is that He carries her through

Well, the heavens can't fathom
How God our flesh has assumed
Who'd guess He'll even greatly move down?

Chorus 2:
He really took the shameful course
Dwelling with men
In humble feat
Coming down as babe in a manger
There is no earthling this unique
Think how did God unmixedly unite
Our finite nature and divine nature
In him who sleeps in a manger

Chorus 3:
It's really good news He was born
Left his domain
Grace sounds so sweet
Coming down as babe in a manger 
There's a great gulf that He just leaped
This child who was born that He may die
The God who reigns above, for His people,
Had to leap to a manger

Can we love a worm that we'll incarnate?

Saturday, April 11, 2015

The Death Story of Us and the Life Story of Death

Photo credit here
The brevity of life rarely shakes us
We got used to seeing other people dying
Till death strikes the people in our lives
Reminding us that death is the horror king

Since the tragic fall of Adam's race
Until now, no one, but two, has escaped
The mighty, the noble, the wise, the rich
We all are doomed in rat-baiting cage!

No weapon, fortress, medicine, or doctor 
Can kill this killer, can cure this cancer
But we trivialize it like a tv commercial
We live as though tomorrow is forever

Will you dance naked in a stormy snow?
Is it right to feast while on a death row?
But that's how we are in this fading ghetto
We die more than we live at all

We consume momentary pleasures 
While death consumes our flesh and soul
Ignoring the scythe, but will we be spared?
Dismissing God's wrath against our sin won't dismiss death

And death's not just the separation of spirit and flesh
But also eternal separation from God's presence
Our soul is eternal and will suffer hell-fire
Where there's gnashing of teeth, where worms don't die

Such is our fate when we're left on our own
Foolishly rushing towards self-destruction
Pitiable and frail creatures, what comfort have we?
How shall we be freed from this misery?

The Hope of nations took a quantum leap for this
Proclaiming Himself as the Fountain of life
He came to give life to those who took His
He died and by His death, death itself would die

He conquered death and ascended into heaven
Freeing man from death's terror, rescuing them from its sting
Turning death into a sweet sleep, making death a gain
For those who, by faith, surrender their lives to Him

When the Son returns He will finally put death to death
And those who are in Him will be raised from the grave
Clothed with never-dying bodies, the sons of God shall no longer mourn
For though death reigned through Adam, through Christ life abounds more

Saturday, February 22, 2014

True Love Waits - Is It Biblical?


It took more than a decade since this term was coined. As far as I remember, though, the song entitled ”This Promise I Made” (subtitled “True Love Waits”) by CSM popularized it:

I will not break this promise I made
I will not take this treasure and throw it away
I will not break my future dreams for pleasures made of clay
For roses fade but love, but love is true
True Love Waits

TLW actually started as “an international Christian group that promotes sexual abstinence outside of marriage for teenagers and college students. TLW was created in April, 1993 by the Southern Baptists, and is sponsored by LifeWay Christian Resources. It is based on conservative Christian views of human sexuality that require one to be faithful to one's husband or wife, even before marriage. ” [1] That’s how it began.

Nevertheless, my main agenda here is not historical but biblical.  Where do we find “True Love Waits” in the Bible? That’s what this essay is all about.

Definition of TLW

But first thing first. What do we mean by “True Love Waits”? Let’s start this with a negative definition.

1.    TLW does not just mean waiting for the right time to have sexual intercourse.

Let me clarify this.  The original TLW group has a pledge that goes this way: "Believing that true love waits, I make a commitment to God, myself, my family, my friends, my future mate and my future children to be sexually abstinent from this day until the day I enter a biblical marriage relationship." [2].

In other words, the classic TLW simply means “No to premarital sex”. But don’t get me wrong. That principle is absolutely biblical:

“But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband.” (1 Corinthians 7:2)
This verse implies that sex outside of marriage is sexually immoral. And we have several verses condemning sexual immorality:  Acts 15:20; 1 Corinthians 5:1; 6:13, 18; 10:8; 2 Corinthians 12:21; Galatians 5:19; Ephesians 5:3; Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3; Jude 7.[3]

So TLW certainly encompasses refraining from sex until marriage. However, we will argue that the biblical TLW is more than just waiting for marital sex.  TLW involves refraining from all premature romanticizing thoughts, emotions and actions until the right time.  The rationale behind the wider definition is because the waiting part in biblical romance is not just sexual, although that certainly is included. Coz if it’s just waiting for sex, this gives a license to the playboys out there who enjoy winning the hearts of girls out of self-satisfaction.

2.    TLW does not mean you should always wait for a specific person.

1 Corinthians 13 says that true love “is patient” and that “it rejoices with the truth.” True Love is not presumptuous. It seeks the will of God. Christ Himself taught us to pray “Thy will be done”. David said “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) It is therefore too presumptuous to say that it is God’s will for you to wait for the day that you will court or marry a certain person.  More often than not, God wants us to live by faith in our love life, entrusting unto Him the uncertain. As Jaci Velasquez says, “Waiting for the day when I hear you say, here’s the one I have created just for you.” [4]

3.    TLW does not mean we have to wait passively.

We should not just lie in wait and do nothing like when we’re waiting for the train. Waiting for the right time to love means actively preparing for it. So we’re saying that True Love Waits because there are a lot of things that you should do right now before you can apply true love in the right context, that is, a marriage-oriented relationship. As we will see later, the biblical eros love will always be pointing towards marriage.

And when you’re already prepared, do not expect God to appear on your dream and say “Do you see the blond woman who walks by the door? That’s your destined partner.” God doesn’t act that way. As Dobson says,  

“I do not believe that God performs a routine matchmaking service for everyone who worships Him. He has given us judgment, common sense and discretionary powers, and He expects us to exercise these abilities in matters matrimonial.”[5]

So now, if TLW is neither a passive, presumptuous waiting nor being merely sexual abstinent, what is it?

TLW means actively waiting for the appropriate time to pursue a pure, godly, marriage-oriented relationship with the opposite sex.

With this definition, marriage is the goal of every romantic step we take. Exclusive dating, holding each other’s hands, and the like are therefore part of what we should wait for. For boys it means not asking the girl out until you both are “marriable”, that is, until there is a possibility of marriage. For girls, it means not entertaining any guy who is trying to woo your heart if he cannot yet marry you or at least until he is near at possibly marrying you.

Now, since we’ve properly defined TLW. Let’s try to establish its biblical support. It has been questioned many times and, to be honest, it is not easy to defend. This is because there is no single explicit verse for it. Again, let me say it: we don’t have any verse that explicitly teaches the principle of TLW. But we can still induce the principle from some biblical support.

Biblical Support for TLW

1. God has designed romance to be ultimately realized in marriage.

The whole tenor of the Bible speaks of romance (or eros love) as a good thing only when honored inside marriage. On the other hand, romance outside of marriage is often (if not always) condemned. Adam and Eve, the first couple, “held fast” to each other in marriage (Gen. 2:24, 25). Isaac, through his father’s servant, looked for Rebekah to be his wife. Jacob actively waited for Rachel to be his wife, not just girlfriend. The whole love book of the Bible (Songs of Solomon) is written in the context of marriage (4:8, 9, 10; 5:1). Even God himself often illustrated His love for his people as a Bridegroom to his bride (Jer. 2:2). Jesus calls us, the Church, his bride (Eph. 5; Rev. 19:7). Marriage is the sole romantic relationship which the Bible endorses so obviously.

The only premarital relationship that we see is actually betrothal (like in the case of Joseph and Mary). This is, however, cultural and is not an imperative pattern for Christians. We are not commanded to be betrothed. Same goes with dating and courtship. Proponents of either dating or courtship should acknowledge that their method will never be found in the Bible. But what I want you to understand is that even the Jewish betrothal points to marriage. In fact, in the Mosaic covenant, a man who lies with a betrothed woman is considered an adulterer and is to be put to death. (Deut. 22:23-27) On top of that, so marriage-oriented is the Old Testament that an Israelite man who violated an unmarried woman ought to marry her! (Deut. 22:28-30; Ex. 22:16)

The point that I’m making here is that if ever there is a romance that God wants His children to pursue, it is the kind of romance that intends to and is able to get married. If you do not possess both the intent and the ability to get married, it’s not for you yet. You wait.

Rick Holland stated it this way,

“Premarital relationships should serve one purpose:  to test the relationship for marriage.  Let me say it another way: There is no good reason to have a girlfriend or boyfriend until a person is ready to get married!  I hope the implications of this statement are obvious.  Readiness involves being old enough and mature enough to assume the responsibilities of marriage.  No romantic relationship should ever begin unless marriage is the possible - even probable outcome.  That said, it is difficult to justify the romances of junior high and high school.  If one is not ready to get married, he or she is not ready to date or court.”

2. The seasons of life are designed by our sovereign God.

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.” (Ecc. 3:1) One of the things we ought to remember is that waiting is not an alien idea to us. It’s a human thing. It even appears that every creature is designed with the nature to wait. We, humans, wait for “the time to plant and the time to reap” (3:2b) We wait for a lot of things. By morning we toil and wait for the night to rest. By evening we sleep and wait for the morning to come. Whether we’re studying or working, conducting ministry or just at home, we wait for certain schedules. Same goes with love. In fact, you don’t have to teach a 5-year old kid that true love waits because his nature itself is waiting to first grow. Why is it then that when it comes to romance, so many young people can’t seem to wait at all? The answers may be several.

One reason is that our generation idolizes romance. We live in a time where all forms of media sensationalize love for the opposite sex. TVs, radios, books, magazines and the Internet. All are filled with various, deceitful, worldly perspectives about eros love. While the bible says that love is a willful commitment to give your life to someone, the world says love is a feeling that you “fall into” possibly with just one sight. And, therefore, the sin within us goes against the seasons that God has designed for us to enjoy. It defies marriage and it hates waiting. It wants freedom to do whatever it wants right now.

Another reason is that our generation is accustomed to the instant. Instant foods, instant transportation, instant information and many automated human systems enabled through technology. On one hand, this is to our advantage and gives us ease. On the other hand, we’ve lost the virtue of waiting and patience. But true “love is patient”. (1 Cor. 13:14) We should not treat eros love like an instant noodle that you could grab any time you want. One good example is Jacob’s 14-year waiting for Rachel. Love is patient, therefore, it waits.

And, thirdly, we hate waiting because we distrust God’s sovereignty. In our unbelief, we worry whether we might miss out. In our pride, we want to take control and do things “our” way. Yet  the Bible is plain that God is sovereign over all things.

 “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, The power and the glory, The victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours; Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, And You are exalted as head over all.” (1 Chron 29:11)

“The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.” (Ps. 103:19)

“For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:36)

In reality, every passage of the Bible that declares “God is sovereign” ought to make us say that “I trust Him, even in my love life”. Every verse in the Bible that teaches God’s sovereignty supports the principle of TLW.

3. Inappropriate romance endangers brotherly love.

“Treat... younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Tim. 4:1,2) It was Timothy who was instructed by Paul in this passage. He was saying that Timothy, the bishop of Ephesus that time, should treat his members as family. Older men as fathers, older women as mothers, younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters. We should note, however, that Paul added “with all purity” after mentioning “the younger women”. The reason is obvious: men who deal with young women has this tendency to be captivated by lust or by charm. If Timothy is therefore warned, how much more with us?

This verse is not in any way directly teaching us to wait. However, if “not having absolute purity” includes “untimely romance”, this verse is supporting it.

To put it simply, absolute purity could include these:

absolute purity = {“gentleness”, “no malice”, “no adultery”, “no sexual immorality”, “honoring marriage”, “timely romance”, “no infatuation”, “no flirting/hinting”}

If that’s what absolute purity means then the verse could be telling us that we ought to view each other as brothers and sisters without the infatuating, the flirting and the untimely romance which are common among young people. It’s like saying “You are not treating a woman as a sister if you are developing a romantic relationship with her while you are not yet ready to get married.” Let me say it in another way,  “If you have no intention of marrying a Christian man/woman, don’t express and expect romance in your relationship with him/her. Treat him/her as a brother/sister.”


“True Love Waits” is a biblical principle that honors marriage, God’s sovereignty and brotherly love. Regardless of the method you use in finding the right one, waiting for God’s perfect time is God’s will for all of us. And, in ways that could differ among us,

“When God knows you're ready for the responsibility of commitment, He'll reveal the right person under the right circumstances.”[6] 


2.    ibid.
4.    This is from her song entitled "I Promise"
5.  Dr. James Dobson, Head over Heels, p.40
6.  Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye