Monday, 27 December 2010

Luther on Galatians

it's Nicolai here, and I wanted to share something I found in Dr. Martin Luther's commentary on Galatians. I love the way he quotes Psalms. This is part of his comment on the verse where it says, "cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree":

Paul does not say that Christ was made a curse for himself, but for us. Christ is innocent as far as his own person is concerned, and therefore he ought not to have been hanged upon a tree. But because, under the law of Moses, every thief and criminal had to be hanged, Christ too had to be hanged, for he sustained the person of a sinner and of a thief - not just one, but all sinners and thieves. We are sinners and thieves and therefore guilty of death and everlasting damnation. But Christ took all our sins upon him and for them died upon the cross Therefore, it was right for him to be "numbered with the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12).

No doubt the prophets all foresaw that Christ would become the greatest transgressor, murderer, adulterer, thief, rebel, and blasphemer that ever was or could be in the world. Being made a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, he is not now an innocent person without sins, not now the Son of God born of the Virgin Mary, but a sinner who carries the sin of Paul, who was a blasphemer, an oppressor, and a persecutor; of Peter, who denied Christ; of David, who was an adulterer and a murderer and caused the Gentiles to blaspheme the name of the Lord. In short, Christ bears all the sins of all people in his body. It was not that he himself committed these sins, but he received the sins that we had committed; they were laid on his own body, that he might make satisfaction for them with his own blood (see Isaiah 53:5; Matthew 20:18-19). Therefore, this general sentence of Moses includes Christ too (even though in his own person he was innocent), because it found him among sinners and transgressors - just as the magistrate takes a man for a thief and punishes him when he finds him among other thieves and transgressors, even if he never committed a crime himself. Christ was not only found among sinners, but of his own accord and by the will of his Father he was a companion of sinners and took upon himself the flesh and blood of those who were sinners and thieves and plunged into all kinds of sin. When the law, therefore, found him among thieves, it condemned and killed him as a thief.

Some people will say it is quite absurd and slanderous to call the Son of God a cursed sinner. I answer that if you deny him to be a sinner and to be cursed, you must also deny that he was crucified and died. It is no less absurd to say (as our faith confesses and believes) that the Son of God was crucified and suffered the pains of sin and death than to say that he is a sinner and cursed and the greatest of all sinners (see 2 Corinthians 5:21). He is truly innocent because he is the unspotted and undefiled Lamb of God (John 1:29). But because he bears the sins of the world, his innocence is burdened with the sins and guilt of the whole world. Whatever sins I, you, and all of us have done, or will do later, are Christ's own sins, as truly as if he himself had done them. In short, our sin has to become Christ's own sin, or else we will perish forever.

Isaiah says of Christ that "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6). We must not make these words less than they are. In these words of the prophet, God is not playing games but is telling us earnestly and out of great love that Christ, the Lamb of God, would bear the sins of us all. But what does it mean to bear them? If it menas Christ is punished, why is he punished? Is it not because he has and bears sin? The Holy Spirit tells us in Psalm 40 that Christ has sin: "My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head" (verse 12; see also Psalm 41:4 and 69:5). The Holy Spirit is speaking in the person of Christ and clearly says that he had sins. This testimony is not the voice of an innocent, but of a suffering Christ who took upon him the person of all sinners and therefore was made guilty of the sins of the whole world.

Christ, therefore, was not only crucified and died, but also (through the love of the divine majesty) sin was laid on him. Therefore, Paul is quite right to apply this general statement of Moses to Christ. Christ was hanged on a tree; therefore, Christ was cursed by God.

It is an extraordinary consolation for all Christians to clothe Christ with our sins, to wrap him in my sins, your sins, and the sins of the whole world, and so to behold him bearing all our iniquities. Seeing him like this will easily overcome all ideas of justification by works. If we think that faith adorned with love takes sins away and justifies us before God, we strip Christ of our sins, make him innocent, and charge and overwhelm ourselves with our own sins and look upon them not in Christ but in ourselves. This makes Christ utterly useless to us. If it is true that we take away sins by obeying the law and by works of love, then Christ does not take them away. If he is the Lamb of God cursed for us, we cannot be justified by what we do. God has laid our sins not upon us, but upon his Son, Christ, so that he, bearing the punishment for them, might be our peace, and so that by his wounds we might be healed (Isaiah 53:5). Therefore, they cannot be taken away by us. All Scripture bears witness to this; and we also confess it in the articles of Christian belief when we say, "I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified and died for us."

Merry Christmas =)

Saturday, 25 December 2010

John 1:1-18 Christmas Planned Before Creation

Christmas is in the air! Well, down at Drake’s Circus, all along New George Street and across Armada Way, Christmas has been in the air pretty much since September! The shops have been making sure we’re well prepared for Christmas.

They all claim to have the perfect present – whether it’s a warm pair of gloves, the latest mobile phone, a must-watch DVD, or the best-selling book…

And M&S – they’ll tell you that you need the perfect turkey – and surprise surprise, they actually sell them! – along with all the trimmings that you must have if you’re going to have a perfect Christmas dinner.

Well, all these things aren’t bad in and of themselves! Don’t get me wrong… I’m definitely not against presents so if you’ve brought me any… do pass them on! And food – man Jesus enjoyed eating so much that people accused Him of being a glutton! And myself – I’m looking forward to being more stuffed than a turkey!

But I’m sure you all know what the problem is with Christmas on the high street! Jesus is largely missing. More and more, the world is trying and succeeding in taking Jesus out of Christmas. Think about it – it’s increasingly hard to find Christmas cards. Having replaced Jesus and the nativity scene with pretty scenery, holly, bells, Santa and snowmen, it’s no longer a Merry Christmas, but a mere Season’s Greetings or Happy Winter!

According to an article on the BBC, “Recent trends have shown that Christmas is gradually becoming a traditional British holiday rather than a Christian one. It is increasingly taking on a secular and commercial character…”

Here’s what someone whom they interviewed said: “We just see Christmas as a nice celebration. I just love the atmosphere. We really enjoy all the snow, the tinsel and the carol singers. It's a lovely time of year. I especially love the build up to Christmas. There are massive amounts of present buying. We go to my parents' house and have Christmas dinner with crackers and on boxing day all the family come round with the kids and we have another meal. The house is decorated with trees, stars and we always watch Christmas TV… We do everything to do with Christmas, except celebrate the birth of Jesus.”

Thing is… if we take Christ out of Christmas, then we no longer have Christmas. We can call it whatever we want, but it just won’t be Christmas that we’re celebrating!

Well, we’ve all battled the cold and icy roads to get to church tonight. It’s a great opportunity – you know, before it all goes a bit mad tomorrow – to just regain a sense of perspective as to what Christmas is about and why we should indeed celebrate it wholeheartedly and lavishly!

Unlike that lady whom the BBC interviewed, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Yet, we’re not merely celebrating the birth of Jesus in the same way that a Muslim might celebrate the birth of Muhammad or a Buddhist the birth of Buddha.

Look at John 1vv1-2 – In the beginning was the Word [it’s one of the many important titles for Jesus], and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

Jesus did not begin to exist on that very first Christmas Day, He didn’t begin to exist when He was first conceived in His mother’s womb! No… in the beginning, before anything or anyone else existed, Jesus was already there. As the eternal Son of God, Jesus has always existed with His Father and the Holy Spirit.

And Jesus is the creator of everything. vv3-4 – Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of men.

Right in the beginning, on Day 1 of creation, the Father sent Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit to create everything. Even before the sun – S-U-N – was created, Jesus was already the true life and light to all creation – sent to be the creator and sustainer of everything. Right now, we’re breathing because Jesus keeps us breathing, our hearts are beating because He makes sure that they’re beating. And tomorrow, as we open our presents and feast with family and friends, we’ll be enjoying the gifts that Jesus has lavished on us.

So this evening and all day tomorrow, we’re not merely celebrating the birth of some founder of religion. Jesus is the founder of the universe and at Christmas, we’re celebrating the day Jesus, the divine, eternal and powerful Word of God became one of us.

Quite a few years ago Joan Osborne sang “What if God was one of us?” It wonders and speculates what it might be like if God was one of us. Thing is, she didn’t have to speculate or guess. Christmas reminds us that God is one of us! John 1:14 – The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only Begotten Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

God is one of us! The eternal Son moved into the neighbourhood and lived among humanity – walking, talking, sleeping, eating, laughing, crying, even dying! God has been seen face to face, seen for who He is and what He’s like.

Have you got any questions about God? Are you searching for the Living God? Go to the only place where He may be found. Go to Jesus, the Word who has been sent by the Father precisely to make Himself known to us. Without Jesus, God is silent. Without the Light that gives light to all men, we can only grope around in darkness.

Now, as it has always been, all questions about God find their answers in Jesus – John 1v18 – No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only Begotten Son, who is at the Father’s side, [He] has made Him known.

So the question is not ‘what if’ – but ‘why’? Why did the Father send the Son to become one of us? Why did the Father communicate Himself to us in Jesus?

We’re probably familiar with how Jesus was sent to bring us salvation – forgiveness of our sins and eternal life. These are awesome things that we desperately need – they are part and parcel of salvation, but compared to the full extent of God’s gift to us in Jesus, they’re like the wrapping paper and box around the full gift, they’re like the trimmings around the turkey! Because more than forgiveness and living forever, salvation is about being brought into the family of God, brought into the Trinity – John 1v12 – to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, he gave the right to become children of God.

I wonder if you’ve thought about salvation or Christmas is such a way before? Christmas was planned from before the creation of the world. In fact, the world was created so that Christmas could take place. The world was created as a family home for the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and they want to share this home with humanity!

And it’s not because they are looking for a bunch of slaves to serve them and pander to their every whim and fancy! That’s not the kind of God that we see in Jesus at all! No… the Father, Son and Holy Spirit wants us to share their home as part of their family.

And for that to happen, Jesus was sent to become one of us. When Christmas happened, God became our blood relative! In His physical body and by the Holy Spirit, Jesus has brought God to us and us to God. And when that happens, when we’re part of the family of God – then we share in the eternal love that the Father has for the Son.

Unlike the Santa who’s coming to town in that song, when Jesus came to town, He doesn’t frown upon those who pout or cry. Instead, He shared in all our sadness and tears! This means that even if Christmas is a hard time for some of us – it’s ok. We’ve got a God who knows exactly what we’re going through and feels for us. May you know the comforting peace of Jesus even this Christmas.

And unlike Santa, when Jesus came to town, He didn’t come with a list that he’s made and checked twice. He wasn’t bothered about who’s naughty and nice, or who’s been bad or good. Jesus didn’t come to reward boys and girls who’ve been good or to put coals in the socks of those who’ve been bad. When Jesus came, He was sent by the Father as a gift to ALL – that all may share and find rest in the very same love that He has for the Son!

We all know we’re more naughty than nice, we’re more bad than good – but no matter. As children of God – the Father’s pleasure, delight and love rests on each of us. And right now, what He says to Jesus, He says to each of us, who have become His children – You are my child whom I love, with you I am well-pleased. Every nano-second of every day! And I’ll never ever disown you! Not on your life!

What wonderful peace, joy and assurance! How wonderful, kind, beautiful, gracious and loving is the true and living God! May all of you know, enjoy and be comforted by God’s gift of Himself to you this Christmas – maybe even for the first time! To all who receive Jesus, to all who believe in His name, He gives the right to become children of God!

Happy Christmas! Amen!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Heavenly Signs

Joel 2:31   31 The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 

Interestingly the moon turns to blood red when the world casts its shadow on it....

A solar eclipse however is when the moon comes between the world and the sun...

So then.. what does that mean ? =)

Spiritual Blessings

What is a spiritual blessing? (cf Eph 1)

In the talks below:

What i said was this:

"I'm going to give someone a spiritual blessing right now

Who wants to volunteer?

(a guy comes up to the front)

(I stretch my arms and do some finger exercises)

Are you ready?

You have no idea what I'm going to do - do you? \

Ok - come closer... closer...

(I give him a big hug)

Brother, I appreciate you so much for being a great friend-in Christ this year
thank you for doing ... and ... (specific to the guy)
I love you man
Thanks to Jesus

(he sits down)

There.. I have just given you a spiritual blessing, in Christ - even - in the heavenly places"

What do you think? =)

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Planning for Leviticus

Help! I know it's only Christmas, but of course even as we think about the birth of Jesus, His death is not far from our minds! So, our church is already planning for Easter and I've been given a 5-week series on Leviticus. I've got some ideas but any suggestions will be very helpful, especially with titles, since we'll be printing term cards soon and I'm sure I'll be asked for them. Am struggling for catchier titles. But here's what I got so far...

Overall Series Title: Lent with Jesus in Leviticus

Exodus 40: Building Blocks (aim is to have tabernacle as the context, with Leviticus showing us what must take place for man to enter into the Most Holy Place)

Leviticus 1-7: Jesus: Our All-Sufficient Sacrifice

Leviticus 8-10: Jesus: Our Great High Priest

Leviticus 16: Jesus: Our Man in Heaven

Leviticus 23: Jesus: Our Reason to Celebrate / Our Cause for Joy[ful Celebration] / Our Joy

Monday, 13 December 2010

One - Theme Song

This was our theme song for the camp (from Stuart Townend)

I have seen a mystery, 
The hopes of prayer and prophecy, 
And rising from all peoples see, she comes.
Rescued, ransomed, lifted up, 
Crowned with mercy, clothed in hope, 
The object of all heaven's love, she comes.

It is the church, 
The hope of all the world, 
And here I fix my heart and hand, 
I cannot turn away!
It is the church!
The passion of God's Son, 
The goal of history, come.
You'll see we've nearly reached the day.

And she will be all glorious;
Fitting for Him whose bride she is. 
In that day, in that day,
In that day, in that day.

It is the church...

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Infant Baptism

Just did a briefing on infant baptism today

i would actually argue that not baptising a child born in a Christian (or semi-Christian) home - is tantamount to making him think that he must earn his salvation

would even go further and say that anything except raising him up with the full assurance that his Father loves him as a true child of God will cause him to backslide

though i am happy for the child to as many times as he wants - affirm and reaffirm his faith and trust in the Father seeing his own failings

i wonder if this is the problem we put on '2nd generation' Christians - we bring them up with an inherent lack of assurance

and i suspect that this is motivated by our own pride at what 'we've accomplished' as Christians ourselves (think of the disciples preventing many from coming to Christ)

to my own children i hope to always tell them - you are children of God - 100% true... you never have to doubt this... but He would love to hear you affirm it everyday


5 days on Ephesians - mainly chapters 1 till mid 5 - to 13-18 year olds
(just a note - Singaporean 15 year olds are very well behaved and pretty educated.. =) )

Theme: One Lord, One Love, One Family

Excuse my Singaporean-ese and you can obviously tell that it isn't scripted - so have mercy on my countless repetitions or hesitations

One Plan

One Hope

One Family

One Bond, One Body

One Bond, One Purpose

Let me know what you think...

Friday, 10 December 2010


2 Corinthians 12:9  My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

How does weakness tie in with gifting?

For surely the gifts of God are not given so that we can 'do' things that we are not gifted in? - that would be quite  illogical

Weakness is not about inability - weakness is about understanding that you cannot do things alone...

Inherent to our creation is our gifts, but also our need for our Father and our Brother, and fellow brothers and sisters

when we understand - we are rightly weak... and pray about weakness rightly..

"without ME you can do nothing...."

Sunday, 5 December 2010


To be faithful means to never walk away from a person..

therefore if we grow in faith - we keep returning to Christ, and to every person that our Father puts in our way...

Only they can walk away