Thursday, 4 May 2017

SIT, WALK, STAND

Isn’t it good to know that the Christian life can be summed up in three simple words—sit, walk, stand?
                                                                           


In his book, “Sit, Walk, Stand”, the late Watchman Nee, a Chinese church leader and teacher, reveals an interesting way of summarising the book of Ephesians. A mere 78 pages, it is a small book with a big message. Simple but profound, it provides fresh insights to believers, both young and old.

While the verb ‘sit’ is passive, ‘walk’ and ‘stand’ connote active participation.

What does ‘sit’ mean, spiritually speaking? When we ‘sit’, we rest in what Christ accomplished for us; we need not do anything.
  • He chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us to be His children (Ephesians 1: 4-5).
  • While we were dead in sin, He saved us and made us sit with Christ in the heavenly places (Ephesians 2:5-6)
“Most Christians make the mistake of trying to walk in order to be able to sit, but that is a reversal of the true order. Our natural reason says, ‘If we do not walk, how can we ever reach the goal? What can we attain without effort? How can we ever get anywhere if we do not move? But Christianity is a queer business! If at the outset we try to do anything, we get nothing; if we seek to attain something, we miss everything. For Christianity begins not with the big DO, but with the big DONE. Thus Ephesians opens with the statement that God has ‘blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (1:3) and we are invited at the very outset to sit down and enjoy what God has done for us; not to set out to try and attain it for ourselves” (Watchman Nee, “Sit, Walk Stand”, Pg 2).

                                                                      
What does ‘walk’ mean, spiritually speaking? When we ‘walk’, we are living out our faith in practical terms.

Since we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Ephesians 2:1-2):
  • We should live our lives in a manner worthy of our high calling (Ephesians 4:1).
  • We are to walk in love, just as Christ also loved us and gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5: 2).
  • We have to be careful concerning how we walk, making the best use of the time because the days are evil. And we must not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is (Ephesians 5:15-17).
Though it is important to ‘walk’—work out our faith—Nee cautions against doing it in our own strength:

“The all-important rule is not to ‘try’ but to ‘trust,’ not to depend upon our own strength but upon his… Too many of us are caught acting as Christians. The life of many Christians today is largely a pretense. They live a ‘spiritual’ life, talk a ‘spiritual’ language, adopt ‘spiritual’ attitudes, but they are doing the whole thing themselves” (pg.38-9).

Thirdly, we need to ‘stand’ because we are soldiers of Christ engaged in spiritual warfare. We need to be alert, vigilant and prepared always.
  • “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:10-11).
  • “Armies march into other countries to occupy and subdue. God has not told us to do this. We are not to march but to stand. The word ‘stand’ implies that the ground disputed by the enemy is really God’s, and therefore ours. We need not struggle to gain a foothold on it” (pg. 54).
  • “Today we do not fight for victory; we fight from victory. When you fight to get the victory, then you have lost the battle at the outset” (pg. 55).
  • “Because victory is His, therefore it is ours” (pg. 56).
  • “If we believe the Lord, we shall not pray so much but rather we shall praise him more. The simpler and clearer our faith in him, the less we shall pray in such situations and the more we shall praise” (pg. 57).
From the above, we can see how important it is to have a proper balance in our Christian life. We need all these three steps in our faith walk—and they must be in the correct sequence as well.

Firstly, we have to sit before we can walk. To sit is to rest in the finished work of Christ at the cross and enjoy all the benefits that come with it: forgiveness, peace with God, direct access to Him, assurance of His presence always in all circumstances and eternal life.

After understanding what it means to SIT, we then proceed to live our lives in a manner worthy of our calling—we begin to WALK***

Secondly, we cannot just sit, and not walk, as liberal teachers would have us think.

                                                                      
Liberal theology emphasises what we get to enjoy based on our position in Christ but downplays personal responsibility. Indeed, the wind of doctrine now blowing across some churches is that accountability is a dirty word, good works border on legalism and ‘works righteousness’, there is nothing more believers need to do because it is ‘all by God’s grace’ and that once we are justified in Christ, we have already “arrived”, without any need for sanctification.

Though we may be made righteous in Christ, a process called justification, we also need to be progressively conformed to the image of Christ, a part of our Christian life termed sanctification. Confusion and muddled thinking result when we lump together two different processes: Justification, which is through faith and faith alone. And sanctification which is a life-long process whereby we die to self, submit ourselves to God, renew our minds and work out our faith with fear and trembling.

Thirdly, we have to sit and walk before we can stand. We have to rest in the finished work of Christ, who defeated Satan at the cross, as well as walk in truth and righteousness before we can make a stand against the evil one.
  • Christ “disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” (Colossians 2:15).
  • Christ came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8).
  • “Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14).
The best summary of the book is the one that Nee provides at the end of the book:

“The Christian life consists of sitting with Christ, walking by him and standing in him. We begin our spiritual life by resting in the finished work of the Lord Jesus. That rest is the source of our strength for a consistent and unfaltering walk in the world. And at the end of a grueling warfare with the hosts of darkness we are found standing with him at last in triumphant possession of the field” (pg.78).

To conclude, the Christian faith should be seen as both passive (“sitting”) and active (“walking” and “standing”).

To SIT is to know our position in Christ and rest in His finished work.

To WALK is to live a life pleasing to God, realising that we have been redeemed and blessed.

To STAND is to actively engage in spiritual battle against the evil one.

FAITH: ACTIVE, NOT PASSIVE

“It would not be difficult to point out at least twenty-five or thirty distinct passages in the Epistles where believers are plainly taught to use active personal exertion, and are addressed as responsible for doing energetically what Christ would have them do, and are not told to “yield themselves” up as passive agents and sit still, but to arise and work. A holy violence, a conflict, a warfare, a fight, a soldier’s life, a wrestling, are spoken of as characteristic of the true Christian.”
― Dr Michael L. Brown

OUR FAITH WALK   ***

How do we walk in a manner befitting our high calling?

In the second part of Ephesians (chapters 4-6), Paul stresses that, in view of our blessed position or standing in Christ, we need to respond by leading a life worthy of the high calling to which we have been called:

We must be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Having varied and distinctive gifts, we should work together to build up the body of Christ till all attain unity and maturity.

We need to put off the old nature and put on the new nature—no longer be like the unregenerate who continue to live in sin as their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened.

Let our anger be short-lived and let our words be positive and edifying. Bitterness and slander should be put away.

Thieves should stop stealing and engage themselves in honest jobs.

We should be kind and forgiving just as Christ forgave us.

We must not indulge in filthy talk or sexual immorality and avoid bad company as they might corrupt us.

We need to seek God’s will and make the best use of our time.

Instead of being drunk, we should have a grateful attitude and be filled with Holy Spirit, encouraging others through psalms and hymns.

Our new status should also impact our family life. Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church. Wives should submit to their husbands. Children should honour their parents. Fathers should not exasperate their children but bring them up in the fear of God.

The way slaves (or employees) and masters (or employers) should behave and relate to one another is spelled out. The former should respect their bosses and serve them as if they were serving Christ. Bosses should treat their workers well, cognizant of the fact that God is Master over all.


RELATED POSTS

SIT: ENTERING GOD’S REST
Jesus’ challenge to those who mean business with Him is this: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
Yet, in another part of the Bible, we read that God has promised rest for His people and we should do our best to enter this place where we cease from our labours (Hebrews 4:1).
How are we to reconcile carrying a heavy burden—like a cross—with entering God’s rest?

WALK: WHAT IS NEXT?
It is true that we receive God’s grace (salvation) through faith, not works. But, then, what comes next? God is looking for fruit: Changed lives, repentance and obedience, all of which does not nullify at all the grace we receive by faith.

STAND: SPIRITUAL BACKLASH
Believers who earnestly desire to be God’s instruments must be prepared for satan’s reprisals.
http://bit.ly/1K8aAty

Friday, 28 April 2017

END TIME WARNINGS

Why we need to be watchful and prepared during these perilous times

How often do you hear messages that warn? More often than not, believers are fed a steady stream of comforting messages of God's promises and blessings. Now there is nothing absolutely wrong with the latter but don't you think some balance is necessary?

In order to live victoriously in these turbulent end times, we need to be alert and vigilant. Scriptures abound with end time warnings which believers would do well to take heed. Here are five such warnings:

                                                              

False prophets

Jesus gave ample warning that false prophets will appear and lead many astray. By performing signs and wonders, these ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’ attract many followers.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15)

“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24).

We need both in-depth knowledge of scriptures and the Holy Spirit to discern whether miracles or supernatural manifestations are from God or not. Just as not all that glitters is gold, not everything supernatural is of divine origin.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).


                                                                  
These false prophets, who are actually agents of Satan (2 Corinthians 11: 13-14), seem to be God’s servants in the eyes of gullible believers. But their nefarious schemes will be revealed on judgment day when Jesus declares them as evildoers.

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.
(Matthew 7: 22-23)


 “Feel good” teachers

These teachers draw a huge following because they cherry pick the pleasant parts of scripture—promises and blessings—and present it to those who prefer ear-tickling, soothing messages.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Interestingly, the themes about trials and tribulations, self-denial, discipline and the need to persevere in order to inherit eternal life are downplayed or avoided.

Typically, they feed you with adulterated half-truths such as:
  • God loves you and He will never point out your faults or convict you of sin.

  • You just need to believe (intellectual assent) and you are saved; repentance is not necessary.

  • God wants you to be wealthy as Jesus was wealthy when He walked on this earth.

Pleasant but errant half-truths may lead many believers along the path of complacency—and may even cause some to lose their inheritance, which is eternal life. 

"Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers" (1Timothy 4:16).


                                                                    
Worldly distractions and worries

The Parable of the Sower illustrates the fact that we can allow “thorns” in our life to choke the seed (God’s word) so that we remain fruitless. Now, what do these thorns represent? They symbolise the ‘worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things’ (Mark 4:19).

Christ repeatedly warns believers to be watchful and ready to stand before the coming King, not distracted by worldly attractions, fleshly cravings, and the cares and concerns of life.

“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”
(Luke 21: 34-36)



Spiritual decline

Spiritual decline—the great falling away—is one of the signs of the end times. Christ warns that many will fall away due to persecution, lawlessness and deception (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Without any regard to God, man clings on to things that reflect luxury and opulence. Many have become lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). They are consumed by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).

Paul writes that Christ will not return unless there is a falling away first and the antichrist is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2: 3). http://bit.ly/1PFkRlh

Will we take the path of least resistance, swept by the relentless tide of sin and lawlessness, or will we make a stand for truth?

“Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).

Coming King

Will Christ return to earth as the gentle babe or sacrificial lamb? No. He is coming back as the Lion of Judah, the King of Kings, to judge the earth. His return as the ultimate Judge reflects His character—for He is the personification of grace and truth, not grace alone (John 1:17).

Many believers think that since they are saved, they will not have to face judgment. But such thinking is not aligned with scripture.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?
(1 Peter 4:17-18)

Some believers think that this judgment is merely with respect to the quantum of reward they will receive and that, no matter what happens, they will eventually be saved. Such thinking, however, does not hold water in light of the Parable of the Ten Virgins. http://bit.ly/1MA1h8F

                                                                            
The above FIVE warnings may make us feel nervous and fearful. However, we need not be dismayed.  

Though Christ will come again like a thief in the night, we won’t have a rude awakening if we are alert, vigilant and prepared:

“For you yourselves know perfectly  that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night”(1 Thessalonians 5: 2).

“But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5: 4-9).

RELATED POSTS

OBSESSION WITH THE MIRACULOUS—ITS DANGERS
The pursuit signs and wonders—even if we can feel the so-called presence of God, or experience miraculous healing—has its dangers if sound doctrine is compromised. When we exalt signs and wonders to the extent that doctrine, scholarship and discernment are all downplayed, red flags go up.

A DIFFERENT JESUS, A DIFFERENT SPIRIT, A DIFFERENT GOSPEL
These three areas of deception are just as alive today as they were in the Corinthian church long ago.

BRACING FOR TOUGH TIMES
Will there be a time when many believers lose faith in God?

EFFORTLESS ENTITLEMENT
 Just believe and every spiritual blessing is yours. Be happy because you have already bought an instant ticket to heaven. Repentance is merely a change of way of thinking. No need to emphasise obedience as it will nullify God’s grace. Don’t worry about working out your faith, self-denial, endurance or overcoming because nothing you do or fail to do will cause you to lose favour in God’s sight. After all, future sins are automatically forgiven. And once you are saved, it means you are always secure. You merely need to rest on the imputed righteousness of Christ; God will always see you as pure.

HOW TO SHARE THIS POST
END TIME WARNINGS
Why we need to be watchful and prepared during these perilous times
Scriptures abound with end time warnings which believers would do well to take heed. Here are five such warnings: http://bit.ly/2pHCgWK