Christ in Me 

MTS-3359

Christ in Me

“I have been crucified with Christ and I
no longer live, but Christ lives in me.”

             Gal 2:20

 

Is this some sort of unfriendly cohabitation? Probably. My flesh still seeks to control my entire
being and sometimes it manages to gain the upper hand in this unending
competition for domination between the Spirit of the Lord and my carnal self.

My body has turned into a war zone and the battle has been going on for many years.

To which side am I going to declare my allegiance? Is this even a question? “I have been
crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” May this
verse be our daily reminder when we are tempted to choose to surrender to the
enemy and take up his cause.

It’s not me who lives; it’s Christ who lives in me.

I have fallen short in so many ways, both as a Christian and a servant of the Lord and,
consequently, I have developed a bad habit of condemning myself for not
striving hard enough to lead a life of holiness and for not working diligently
to advance God’s kingdom. I don’t think it’s Christ who lives in me doing the
condemning; it’s the accusing voice of Satan who tells me that I am not worthy
of Christ’s love and am not deserving to be a minister of the gospel.

The Holy Spirit who dwells within me does not condemn me in anyway; he only convicts me
of my sins and enables me to repent. The Lord cannot condemn and forgive at the
same time. Christ’s death on the cross is the basis of his forgiveness.   

The ones who have the indwelling of Christ don’t judge or condemn themselves.

When I was taking my morning walk, I was trying to calculate how many people truly love
me, and the number turned out to be quite small. “Isn’t God’s love enough for
you?” I said to myself, becoming rather impatient with my lack of self-esteem.
I seemed to have developed another bad habit of self-pity over the years and
have often felt sorry for myself when things are not going well.

How can I, the one who is shaped in the image of God and the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit,
feel sorry for myself? It’s insulting to the Christ who lives in me if I start
to pity myself.

Self-pity is contradictory to the spiritual reality of Christ in me.

Self-loathing is also something against which I have been battling for as long as I can
remember. Although I have been redeemed by the blood of Christ, there seems to
be a wide chasm existing between my ideal self and my real self and, as a
result, a strong sense of self-loathing gradually has crept into my heart.

Is Christ-in-me to be loathed? To loathe myself is to despise Christ who lives
within me.

To be crucified with Christ means to put our old self to death on the cross, including all our
feelings of self-condemnation, self-pity, and self-loathing, and by doing so, a
new self created in the image of Christ through resurrection will be born.    

Monday, October 8, 2012 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Hypocrisy 

MTS-3358

Hypocrisy

“The other Jews joined him in his
hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray.”       Gal 2:13

 

Something had to be done right away. The situation was so serious that it could lead to
church division.

I don’t think this was Peter’s original intention at all. He was making a gesture to sooth
the ones who had just arrived from Jerusalem, hoping to ease them into a
situation to which they weren’t accustomed, not knowing so many people,
including Barnabas, would follow suit by withdrawing from the Gentiles.

Hypocrisy! That’s how Paul labeled it.

What the apostle meant was the ones who did such a thing as Peter was doing were not acting
in accordance with true belief, which taught them that both Jews and Gentiles
were equal before God and should be united as one. They cared about people’s
opinion so much that they went so far as to sever their physical contact with
the Gentiles and through such action they seemed to declare that the non-Jewish
were unclean.

Surely people were coming to the Lord in great numbers during this time, but their practices
were yet to catch up with their faith, and we can always detect a tinge of
hypocrisy among them. It happens to all of us, doesn’t it?

Peter should have known better, but he was not always known as someone who put a lot of
thought behind his every action. For a while he might have considered that he
was doing a wise thing, for he was just trying to maintain church harmony, on
the surface at the least, not knowing that he had committed a grave
offense.   

Without thinking the issue through, many Jewish Christians, Barnabas included, followed
Peter and refrained from eating with the Gentiles at the same table, believing
they were doing the right thing. Peter might have considered his action
personal, yet as a church leader, what he was doing instantly turned into something
communal. He was unknowingly setting a bad example for the believers in the
church.

We need to remember who we are and we should always act in consistency with our identity
as Christians so that people won’t brand us as hypocrites. What we do as a
Christian matters a great deal, for the world is indeed watching our every
action, and our every action can either become a blessing or a curse to other
people. Indeed “a city on a hill cannot be hidden.” Who we are should always
determine what we do.

Paul was always aware of who he was and made a daily effort to guard his doctrine and
practice, for fear of becoming a stumbling block to his fellow believers. Either
Peter was a little lax in doing so in this incident, or he simply didn’t think
it was such a big issue. It isn’t unlikely that his action was somewhat
misconstrued and the consequences it caused might have been more than he had
anticipated.       

 

 

Friday, October 5, 2012 6:27:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Rebuild 

MTS-3357

Rebuild

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I
really would be a lawbreaker.”

             Gal 2:18

 

Indeed Paul was working very hard toward that end since that was his strong conviction. He
was convinced that men could be saved by observing the law. He was willing to
put people to death if that was what it took to keep the law. As far as
observing the Jewish law was concerned, Paul was without a doubt an extremist.

Everything changed when the risen Lord appeared to him on the desert road. Paul’s belief
system was entirely demolished and it would take him a few years to evaluate
everything and to come up with a new belief system based on the cross.

That was the message he was trying to bring to the unbelieving world, both to the Jews and to
the Gentiles.

Years had gone by, and Paul’s teaching of justification by faith was starting to take
root, especially in the church at Antioch where the Jews and the Gentiles were
worshipping together. Things were going rather well until some people arrived
from the church in Jerusalem. Many of them seemed to have great difficulty
believing salvation could be achieved apart from observing the law.

Their doctrine appeared to affect their practice as well. Even though they had been
converted, some Jewish Christians seemed to have had a hard time giving up
their entitlement as the “chosen people” of God and acted as though they were
superior to the Gentile believers. It was indeed a “half-baked” conversion that
they might have gone through, and their attempt was to build something new upon
the crumbling foundation of the old.

“If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker,” Paul stated.

There are quite a few successful Christian doctors and lawyers, people who have done well
in their field, in our churches today, and naturally they are picked as elders
and deacons who rule the congregations. There is grave danger in putting these
people in positions of spiritual leadership without careful examination. They
are not suited to serve as church leaders unless their conversion is genuine
and complete, for they may try to rebuild what should have been destroyed.

We may all encounter this temptation more often than we care to admit. We may be upright in many
ways and be universally praised for being faithful and devout, but we may still
commit the sin of pouring new wine into old wineskins, attempting to construct
something new on the basis of our old value system and secular philosophy.

We need to constantly examine ourselves to see whether we are guilty of this. Why do
Christians seek fame and recognition within the church circle, even though that
is something they claim to have forsaken when they were converted? 

 

     

 

 

   

Thursday, October 4, 2012 6:29:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Conflict 

MTS-3356

Conflict

“When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed
him to his face, because he stood condemned.”             Gal 2:11

 

What was Paul’s purpose in telling this incident? I can’t help asking this question. Is
this even edifying?

We know Peter was less than perfect, for he had shown himself to be all too human when
tension arose. The man’s passion and impulse would cause him to perform the
greatest deed and, at the same time, it would make him fail miserably before he
even realized it.

Surely we are capable of doing the same thing as Peter did when he was visiting the church in
Antioch, which was a budding church where Gentiles and Jews were united as one.
What Peter did could have been catastrophic to the church, for it threatened to
tear down the unity the church had been carefully forging and nurturing.

Peter was merely doing what came natural to him as a Jew without thinking about the
ramifications of his action. By withdrawing from the Gentiles during mealtime
he appeared to be making a theological and racial statement, declaring that
there was still a deep chasm dividing the Jews and the Gentiles, which was
contradictory to the essence of Paul’s message.

What Peter did was appalling to Paul and he was willing to take the risk of offending this
pillar of the church by confronting him publically. Paul was never one who
placed human relationships above the integrity of the gospel. He was merely
“speaking the truth in love.”

We may not have the courage to do what Paul did to Peter when something similar happens to
us or to our church. For the sake of maintaining church peace and harmony we
sometimes may be more than willing to compromise the integrity of the gospel
and the teaching of God’s word.

There is always a tension existing between the two mentioned above. How do we choose
between church unity and doctrinal purity when conflict within the church
occurs? We know what Paul did under this sticky circumstance. As a consequence
of his action, the harmony and unity might suffer a little, but at least the
truth was maintained: Gentiles were not second-class citizens in God’s eyes, both
the Jews and the Greeks were saved by faith, not by merit, and the end of
salvation was to bring all people under the headship of Christ. Such was the
gospel truth that Paul would guard with his life.

How did Peter and the rest of the Jews react to Paul’s public confrontation? It’s not
mentioned in the epistle. Cephas might have been an impulsive person in some
ways; he was still a man of God who would repent of his action when repentance
was due. What started as a confrontation must have ended in reconciliation, for
the matter wasn’t ever mentioned again. The perfect solution to this conflict
was for Paul and the ones from the Jerusalem church to continue to mingle with
the Gentiles and not to withdraw from them during mealtime. 

 

   

 

   

 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Gentile World 

MTS-3355

Gentile World

“They agreed that we should go to the
Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.”

                Gal 2:9

 

The three “pillars” of the early church, namely John, Peter, and James, were probably
more provincial than Paul; therefore they chose to do what was natural to them
as far as witnessing for Christ was concerned. They turned to the Jews and left
the entire Gentile world to Paul and Barnabas. The need of the Gentiles was
obviously greater than that of the Jews, yet most of the twelve apostles didn’t
seem to see that and remained committed to their own countrymen.

Thomas might have gone to India and taken the gospel to the eastern region of Asia. This may
or may not be true, but we do have some inkling from church tradition,
indicating this was indeed the case. If so, some of the apostles did venture
into the Gentile world with the gospel.

Even so, the workers weren’t really evenly distributed according to supply and demand. More
apostles among the twelve should have taken the gospel to the Gentile world,
shouldn’t they have?

Dr. Graham, president of the college where I attended, often discouraged the graduates from
going to the States, either to study or to work, considering the need for the
gospel was so much greater in Taiwan than elsewhere. Besides, most people who
had gone overseas often decided to stay on foreign soil for good, which irked
him, an old missionary to China, to no end. I didn’t have a whole lot of
personal contact with Dr. Graham when I was at school, but I did take his
teaching to heart and had no desire to study abroad after I graduated. When I
was given the opportunity to study theology in America, I packed up and went
back to Taiwan immediately after I finished my studies there

“What am I doing here ministering to a handful of people while thousands of people in my
homeland are in dire need to hear the message of salvation through the Lord
Jesus?” I have been asking myself this question for many years.

Paul would have liked to remain among his own people to witness to them, for his love for
his countrymen was unsurpassed and he would have felt much more at ease
associating with his own people, yet the Lord had a particular mission for him
to accomplish, which wasn’t necessarily through his own choosing.

We may have a preference concerning our mission in God’s kingdom, yet our desire may not be
God’s desire and our ambition may not be from the Lord. I like to believe that
the One who called Dr. Graham to China and Taiwan also called me to the States
for a particular purpose and I must comply whether I like it or not. “So my
ways are higher than your ways,” says the Lord. Besides, even if I had gone
back to Taiwan to serve the Lord, I most likely would have been doing exactly
the same thing as what I am doing here at the moment - ministering to a small
congregation in a country church.      

Tuesday, October 2, 2012 5:54:00 AM Categories: Devotional

At Work 

MTS-3354

At Work

“For God, who was at work in Peter as an
apostle to the circumcised, was also at work in me as an apostle to the
Gentiles.”     Gal 2:8

 

I want people to be saved and, preferably, saved under my preaching or our church ministry.

Do we have a tinge of envy in our heart when revival occurs elsewhere? Can we praise the
Lord for his great work, even though it happens in another congregation?

We may see something rather undesirable when we look into the depths of our heart. We may
be serving the Lord out of our selfishness and ambition.

Our success as servants of God may be measured by how many people we bring into the church
by baptism and how fast our churches grow; therefore we may be tempted to look
at the quantity rather the quality of our converts.

An ill-feeling sometimes surfaces when I drive by big churches with massive buildings. I tend to feel slighted when the Lord chooses to bless other churches with great resources and feel self-pity for our lack of the same.

I have developed a severe case of small church pastor syndrome over the years and it
seems to have kept me from rejoicing with other Christian brothers and
sisters. 

God is at work in all his servants so that they may fulfill the purposes he has designed
for them. May we never feel that we are somehow snubbed when the Lord chooses
to be more “at work” in other people.

Within the family of God, we are enriched by other people’s richness, strengthened by
other people’s strength, and blessed by the blessing others receive from the
Lord. Jealousy and covetousness will surely keep these from happening.

The Lord was doing his mighty work in both Peter and Paul; therefore both the Gentiles and
the Jews were saved. Even though the Gentiles were coming to the Lord at a much
greater pace and number, that does not mean the Lord had forsaken the Jews or
that the apostles to the circumcised were less talented or spiritual.

God is free to do whatever he deems suitable and right at the time. Some people may catch a
great wave while surfing and have a thrilling ride, while others may just
paddle their boards on a still sea, but what makes the difference is the wave,
not the surfers. We can do all things possible to reach out to the unsaved, but
only the Lord himself decides the outcome of our efforts.

Paul seemed to have caught a greater wave than the rest of the apostles, for the Lord
decided to bring more Gentiles to himself and Paul was instrumental in bringing
this to pass. I guess we can cultivate a spiritual sensitivity so we can better
discern where the wave of the Holy Spirit is heading and perchance we can catch
on and have a joy ride.   

     

   

Monday, October 1, 2012 6:45:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Favoritism 

MTS-3353

Favoritism

“…God does not show favoritism—they
added nothing to my message.”

                Gal 2:6

 

The Lord did show favoritism toward the apostles Paul was referring by choosing them, didn’t
he? If that wasn’t the case, how about the chosen people the Lord had elected
among all the nations in the world? There were many people in the land of Ur
who might have been equally devout as Abraham, yet why was the patriarch the
only one who was picked to leave the land of the Chaldeans? Did the Lord show
partiality by choosing some and not choosing all the others?

God does show favoritism by the sheer fact that he predestines some to be saved and others to
be damned. That does look a lot like favoritism to you and me, doesn’t it?

God is entirely sovereign and he is free to choose to do anything according to his
will, and whatever he chooses to do is righteous and good, even though it may
not look so good to us. Being an omniscient Sculptor, the Lord has complete
liberty to make whatever he desires out of a lump of clay, and we have absolutely
no right to criticize or to scrutinize. Being a poet, I am completely free to
choose to compose whatever I feel like and to determine to choose one is to
exclude all the others. I do have preferences and likes and dislikes which are
personal, and they should not be subjected to criticism as if I had done
anything unjust or wrong.

I don’t think Paul was feeling that he was slighted in any way. He was simply saying the Lord
showed favoritism to the three “pillars” of the church by assigning them a job
to do. “Favoritism” may not be the word to use in this context, for it does not
mean preferential treatment at all. God favors all of us by appointing us to do
various works and to fulfill different missions. Being human, we tend to value
some work over others, and categorize them by their importance. This is,
however, not the way the Lord perceives things. All things, be they big or
small, are equally significant, and what he expects from all us is nothing but
faithfulness.

The Lord expected the apostles to be the best apostles they could have been and he also
demanded Paul to be the best evangelist and missionary he could possibly have
been. There was no need for Paul to evoke Peter’s or James’ name or authority
in order to fortify his position, to enhance his status as a servant of God, or
to make his message more powerful or effective. “They added nothing to my
message,” Paul wrote in the letter. He was merely saying that there was no need
for him to inject the church pillars’ names or reputations into his gospel
ministry to give it extra credence. The message of the cross was sufficient to
save people, Paul firmly believed.      

 

Friday, September 28, 2012 6:43:00 AM Categories: Devotional

High Esteem 

MTS-3352

High Esteem

“As for those who were held in high
esteem—whatever they were makes no difference to me…”           Gal 2:6

 

Paul was probably referring to three pillars of the church, namely James, Peter, and
John. This verse may strike us as a little critical, but surely Paul didn’t
mean to sound that way. He had the utmost respect for those three and didn’t intend
to degrade them in any way; he was merely saying that he needed no
recommendation from men as far as his ministry was concerned. It was the Lord
who gave his work creditability and it was Christ in whom he placed his trust.

Paul was going to carry on what he was called to do with or without the support of the
other apostles. Indeed he craved their approval and blessing, but he it wasn’t
essential to him; the Lord’s approval was what was absolutely essential.

As far as evangelistic work was concerned, Paul seemed to have chosen a path less
travelled and far more difficult. Had the man had any ambition to become
prominent in the early church, he would have chosen to work among the Jews, who
still remained the majority within the Christian church. Ministering among the Gentiles
didn’t seem to enhance Paul’s status among the Jews; indeed, it might have
brought him down a notch in their perception of Paul as a person.

Paul had no intention of making a name for himself within the early church. What he had
been was indeed a thing of the past and the man was thoroughly converted. He
didn’t consider all the repercussions he might encounter by turning to the Gentiles
with the gospel message; he simply went to the Greeks and Romans out of
necessity, to avoid being persecuted and stoned by the Jews.

Human esteem was becoming less and less significant to Paul as time went by, and suffering
and persecution seemed to have stripped away whatever self-esteem remained in
him. Paul had learned to labor for God’s sake and to earn God’s approval alone
in all he did.

I sin whenever a sense of self-pity surfaces in my heart for being unnoticed and
unrecognized. People pity themselves for receiving less than what they have
invested, their returns pale compared to their output, or they fail to get what
they think they rightly deserve. What do I want to get from the church
ministry? Fame and fortune? If not, why do I even feel self-pity for not
achieving them? Am I hypocrite or a wolf in sheep’s clothes?

Paul didn’t have any envy for those who were held in high regard in the church; he was just
stating that it made no difference to him whether he was highly respected or
not. His main concern was preaching the gospel. He would have been preaching
and promoting himself had his concern been fame and fortune.          

Thursday, September 27, 2012 6:32:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Give in 

MTS-3351

Give in

“We did not give in to them for a
moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.”            Gal 2:5

 

The situation in the church was fluctuating at this time and there must have been many voices
competing for people’s attention and adherence. There were different versions
of the gospel books circulating among the believers and the words and actions
of the Lord Jesus were still fresh in many people’s memories, which were
subjected to various interpretations.

It was quite a challenging time when the believers were likely bombarded with
newly-formulated doctrines, which they must choose to believe or to
dismiss.  

All the apostles were Jewish and they couldn’t help but perceive the message of
salvation through a Jewish perspective. The Lord appeared to have made it clear
to them that salvation was for all people, but it would take quite a while for
the Jewish Christians to digest this. It took Peter quite an effort to explain to
them how he was led by the Holy Spirit to the house of a Roman centurion and I am
afraid there were still some listeners who found this unconvincing and
unacceptable.

Being an apostle to the Gentiles, what was Paul to do under such tense circumstances?
From his understanding of the Lord’s words and actions, he was convinced
without a smidgeon of doubt that redemption was based on God’s grace through
Jesus’ death on the cross, not on human merit at all. Therefore, he considered
it totally unnecessary for the Gentiles to observe the Jewish law to be saved.
Such was the pure gospel message he had been preaching among the Gentiles and
he would never, ever compromise what he believed to be eternally true.

The purity of the gospel was at stake here and Paul would guard it with all his might from
any outside assault. To give in to the pressure from the Judaizers concerning
this issue would have demolished what he had been trying to build. There was
absolutely no need to revise what he considered to be a “heavenly vision.”   

Are we compromising the gospel by adding something to it or taking something out? To
do so is to surrender to the demands of this age and to be fractured under the
weight of the golden image of this world.

I sometimes feel a little apologetic about the gospel message and feel the urge to dress it
up with human learning and decorate it with men’s logic. With its simplicity
and originality, the gospel message is neither ornate nor flowery; therefore we
may feel the need to make it more appealing and attractive to sinners. We seem
to have great difficulty stepping out of the way and letting the Holy Spirit do
his work through the simple proclamation of the simple gospel. Giving in and
compromising the purity of the gospel takes many shapes and forms, and we may
be guilty of doing just that without knowing it.      

     

 

   

Wednesday, September 26, 2012 6:36:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Circumcision 

MTS-3350

Circumcision  

“Yet not even Titus, who was with me,
was compelled to be circumcised, even though he was a Greek.”         Gal 2:3

 

Circumcision has nothing to do with one’s salvation. If that were the case, Paul would have
had Titus circumcised when he was converted. Titus was baptized, but he wasn’t
circumcised when he became a Christian.

Paul argued repeatedly that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to be saved. By the
same token, they didn’t have to observe the law to be justified; the basis of their
justification was Christ’s death apart from the law.

This idea became a contentious point between Paul and some of the Christians from the
church in Jerusalem, and it wasn’t really resolved until a church council was
held at a later date. Even though the issue was finally settled, the
ill-feeling between Paul and some Jewish Christians might have lingered.

Evidently Paul wasn’t about to coerce Titus, a Greek, to get circumcised when he was visiting
Jerusalem. Had he done that, the action might have been misconstrued by some
people, presuming that Paul had yielded to pressure and changed his view
concerning the doctrine of salvation.

It could have happened, however. Paul might have allowed Titus to get circumcised for some
“weaker” brothers.

It was one of those things that people seem to care so much about without sound reasoning
behind it. The issue might have been more emotional than spiritual for some
Jewish Christians, who were attempting to bring the tradition of their
ancestors into their new found faith and to pour strong new wine into old worn
out wineskin.

Ancestry worship has never been sanctioned by the Protestant churches in Taiwan, but
such wasn’t the case with the Catholic churches, which permitted their converts
to participate in their old practices in some form and fashion. It was indeed a
compromise on the church’s part, since ancestry worship is akin to idolatry.
The issue has been debated over the years, but it remains one of the major
hindrances for some Taiwanese from embracing Christianity.

Had Paul allowed Titus to get circumcised under pressure, it would have created a great
repercussion among the Gentile believers and he would have a lot of explanations
to give to them. It was a battle Paul must have considered worth fighting for
and he remained consistent to his conviction until the end of his earthly
ministry. He was known as a man not easily persuaded to compromise his Biblical
principles.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012 6:48:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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