At One Time 

~~MTS-4070
At One Time
“All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.”      Eph 2:3

For me, that one time was almost forty years ago. It’s hard to imagine what my life would have become had the Lord not reached down and plucked me up from my life of sin.
I wasn’t all that bad, looking from a worldly point of view. I was just doing what everybody deemed acceptable and had no earthly idea that I was going toward the direction of destruction.
I would have felt uneasy if I was traveling alone and doing anything that was considered evil by the majority of people. Indeed, I had found security in the masses, for most people were doing what I was doing. We were merely trying to make it in the world and keeping ourselves and our loved ones sheltered and fed. There was nothing wrong with that, right? We all want to live instinctively, and who can blame us for trying to improve our living a little bit?
“All of us also lived among them at one time.” There was no exception, for all of them were first-generation Christians, and they all had the collective experience of leading a pagan life style, and they would have thought nothing about it had they remained nonbelievers all their lives. Human beings do have a strong capacity for justifying the unjustifiable and accepting the unacceptable. Our moral barometer fluctuates according to various circumstances and whatever is convenient at a given time.
We do have cause for concern if we feel perfectly at ease in the world, for we are not created for the world and there should always be a tinge of homesickness in our hearts for our heavenly home. I was fortified by my youth and youthful enthusiasm for life as a young man when the conversion suddenly took place; therefore I can hardly imagine what it would have been like growing old as a pagan. It would have been rather depressing indeed.
Isn’t that what most people are doing, come to think about it. People merely play the cards they are dealt and roll with the punches, for they know not that there is any other way but the way of the world. It has to be the most gut-wrenching thing for those who have experienced the abundant life in Christ to see their loved ones continue to indulge in the pleasure of sin as if it were the most desirable thing ever.
Surely I have known it all and known too well, for I have been one of them. I know what it is like to lead a life of gratifying the desire of one’s flesh and doing all things according to the principle of the flesh. How do I indicate to them the futility of such a life since that’s the only thing they know and have come to love and enjoy? How do I point out to them that there is an invisible world if they hold the belief that what they see is all there is to see?
Yet how can I lose hope in view of what has transpired since Paul uttered these words? Indeed there have been first-generation Christians in every generation since, and there will continue to be until the Lord returns. 
 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 15, 2015 6:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Redeeming the World 

~~MTS-4069
Redeeming the World
“…in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air…”      Eph 2:2

How can we be in the world, yet not of the world? This is the question that we must deal with, for all of us are part of this world and most of us do have the desire of avoiding being worldly.
It’s entirely impossible for us not to interact with the world and the people in it unless we depart from the world by becoming hermits somewhere. Of course there was such a movement during the Middle Ages when some people considered the world evil and the path to becoming holy was to avoid having anything to do with the world. Consequently, many spiritually-minded people found their homes in cells out in the wilderness somewhere or in the monasteries where they could nurture their spirituality.
We Christians are supposed to be salt and light in this world. We are a city built on a hill that cannot be hidden and, besides, we don’t light up a lamp and keep it hidden under the table. We should not depart from the world, considering her too evil to be redeemed; we should instead enter into the world and try to preserve her from becoming utterly corrupted.
Compared to the so-called laymen who rub shoulders with people from all walks of life in the marketplace, I seem to have a much easier job since I seem to hide in my little cell daily, avoiding contact with worldly people. Who has a greater impact on the world of the two? Of course, the ones who labor in the workplace have greater potential to work for the greater good of the society.
What needs to be guarded against for Christians in the marketplace is to conform to the image of this world and to become so worldly that they lose their Christian identity and testimony. The most urgent thing for them to do is to cultivate a sound Christian mind, perceiving all things through a Biblical perspective, and acting accordingly. We don’t have to strive to become more and more like the world in order to be accepted by her; we should uncover to people a better alternative and a different lifestyle, which is far more appealing and fulfilling than theirs and, perhaps, they will be drawn to God’s kingdom by our testimonies.
Indeed, we are a peculiar people and we must be different. Well, to be more exact, we are different and there is something seriously wrong if we are entirely identical with the world in thought and action. In time of need, people may turn to Christians for help not because of their similarity, but for their differences. There is no need to turn to someone for something they themselves already possess. The Incarnate Word entered into a world torn up by sin to redeem her from herself; by the same token, we should go into the world with a message of redemption, and to exemplify what miraculous things the gospel can bring out in one’s life.
   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 14, 2015 6:21:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Dead in Sin 

~~MTS-4068
Dead in Sin
“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…”
       Eph 2:1

I am not dead if I have to be reminded that I am dead. The problem is that I am very much alive, in the flesh, that is. I must be dead to my flesh if I want to be truly alive.
I wasn’t ashamed of the things that I did at the time, for I wasn’t alive spiritually and my conscience wasn’t as sensitive as it should have been; therefore corruption was not all that corrupt to me and sin was not really sinful in my perception. I could not see my filth, for I was wallowing in it in utter darkness.
No one tried to reminded me that I was dead, for the ones I was hanging out with were dead themselves. We were on the bullet train heading rapidly toward perdition and no one could have kept us from moving forward. The pleasure of sin had a blinding effect that kept us from seeing reality. We thought we were very much alive, yet we were dead in God’s eyes, because we were leading a kind of life that was completely contrary to God’s intention for us.
We are alive only if God considers us so. The prodigal son was considered dead before he came to his senses and went back to his father. He was senseless while he was indulging in sins.
Am I alive? This is the question we must ask ourselves. You may be thinking that you are very much alive, but in fact you aren’t so at all. Dead people don’t know that they are dead, and only the living have the capability to question their own existence.
Our lives may be filled with either life or death depending on the choices we make daily. Every choice we make brings about some sort of consequence that affects our wellbeing as a person. We may be bathing in God’s light or shrouded in pitch darkness. We can choose life, or choose death.
To be alive and to remain alive is a constant choice that we must make. Of course, there are still choices to be made even after we have made the initial choice to depart from the darkness that has engulfed us and enter into the bright light. Following the light is a daily choice that we make. Therefore, we make the choice to be in the light the moment we wake up in the morning and continue to keep the determination fresh throughout the day, for the temptation to fall back into darkness is forever present and death will prevail if we make the wrong choice.
Death is laying a siege at our doorstep and it will invade if it senses an opening either in our thought or action. I guess that’s what it means when Paul made the remark, “Do not give the devil a foothold.”  
 


   

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, October 13, 2015 6:44:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Resurrection Power 

~~MTS-4067
Resurrection Power
“That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead…”       Eph 1:19

If the Lord hadn’t intervened at the right time I know where I was heading as a young man. I would have been going in the same direction as all my friends were travelling and my end would have been the same as some of them who met a tragic end at a young age.
Of course I had no desire to alter the course of my life, for I simply found no reason to do so. Life in sin was rather intoxicating and I would have continued to wallow in sin the rest of my life unless the Lord had decided otherwise. He entered into my life and single-handedly changed my way of life without even consulting me.
No power on earth is greater than the power of love and no might is greater than the might of changing a life. Indeed, “it’s easier to remove a mountain than to change one’s life (江山易改,本性難移,)” goes a Chinese saying. The transformation in me was so thorough that no human power could have achieved such a feat. The Lord did it through the Holy Spirit, period.
My life had been transformed once and for all, yet I continued to be transformed into the image of Christ and the process will be ongoing until the day I am glorified. We have already become saints, yet we continue to be sanctified as long as we are still in the flesh.
Life is not without struggles along the way, however, and most of my struggles seem to have stemmed from my desire and passion to transform myself by using my natural strength. I believe I can accomplish the impossible, which is to achieve a spiritual end with physical strength. We somehow believe that if we try hard and long enough, we will eventually become what the Lord has designed us to be.
“Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?” Paul wrote to the Galatians, exhorting them not to attempt to use human means to achieve a spiritual goal, which was their sanctification. What was started by the Spirit must be completed by the Spirit.
Perhaps I need to quit making apologies for all my spiritual shortcomings and continue to wait on the Lord to do his work in me through the Holy Spirit according to his timing. Even so, there is still a possibility that I must lead my life “as is” and I simply have to accept my infirmities as part and parcel of my life, a kind of cross, possibly. If the Lord decides not to remove our weaknesses, we must learn to depend on him in dealing with them without complaining.
Paul had been thoroughly transformed, yet some of his weaknesses in his temperament and the thorn in his flesh still remained with him his entire life and through it all, he came to realize that when he was weak, he was strong, for such was the occasion when he needed to rely on the Lord the most.       

   

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 9, 2015 7:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Inheritance 

~~MTS-4066
Inheritance
“…the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”   Eph 1:18,19

We know that God is our inheritance, but not many of us are aware of the fact that we are God’s inheritance as well. We have the indwelling Holy Spirit, the seal of our salvation, guaranteeing that we will receive our inheritance someday, yet we also have to remind ourselves that the Lord expects to receive his inheritance among the saints. What kind of inheritance is the Lord expecting to obtain from us? We wonder. Surely the Almighty isn’t lacking anything and whatever we can provide for him is utterly superfluous at best.
“You are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” David wrote in Psalm 22.
Why does the Lord need his people’s praise? Unlike us humans, God is completely self-sufficient; therefore he does not need affirmation from anyone to give his ego a boost. As I have pointed out often in my writings, it’s for our sake that we offer to the Lord the sacrifice of our praise, not for his sake.  He is enthroned in our praise, but our praise of him does not enthrone him in anyway. God’s accepting our praises is his ultimate descending, not his ascending.  He stoops down to accept our praise and worship.
This only means that we are doing what we are supposed to be doing as God’s children if he does find some inheritance among his children and nothing else. There is absolutely no ulterior motive in God’s attempting to harvest some inheritance from us. His only interest is that his children are fulfilling what they are created to be, and by doing so, God’s name is lifted up and glorified.
“What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” Wasn’t this also the purpose of him choosing us before the foundation of the world and redeeming us through the death of his own son? Indeed, the Lord expects to harvest some fruit among his chosen people, which is the inheritance he is worthy to receive.
Are we being productive as God’s vineyard? Are we passionately yearning for God’s inheritance above, yet neglectful of the important fact that we are God’s inheritance here below as well and he does expect to have a harvest among us? What will happen to us if the Master fails to find any fruit on the vine?
“This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” The Lord is the most glorified if we multiply in our fruit bearing, both in bringing people into God’s kingdom and in our pursuit to be more like Christ Jesus.   

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 8, 2015 7:15:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Knowing Him 

~~MTS-4064
Knowing Him
“…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”        Eph 1:17

Compared to how much we need to know him, we really don’t know him all that well; considering how much there is to know about him, what we know is nothing but a grain of sand on the boundless beach or a drop of water in the vast ocean. We may claim to know him, yet we really know nothing about him except the things pertaining to our salvation. God reveals to us what we need to know and keeps all the rest from us, for mystery belongs to God, and we will not comprehend it even if it is clearly shown before our eyes.
Others may be able to grasp the vastness of the universe and seem to know what dark matter is; that’s not for someone with a pea brain like me. How can anyone who can only travel four miles an hour on foot even penetrate the mystery of the speed of light? It puzzles me when I hear scientists discussing the distance from the planet earth in terms of millions of light years so matter-of-factly as if they can truly grasp the concept.
“The concept of space and speed is measured by our perception of time and distance, and when we escape from the bondage of time, surely reality changes instantly and we will no longer be governed by the law of nature that rules the earth,” I said to my wife during our mealtime.
“I guess so,” she nodded in agreement. Indeed, we must agree that the laws that govern this world will no longer apply if we enter into eternity when perhaps the entire cosmos will become our playground and we can leap from one galaxy to the other in a single bound.
This isn’t the subject of my discussion, however, for the speculative isn’t true knowledge and our imagination may get off track and take us into the world of fantasy, which has nothing to do with reality at all.
Only the knowledge of God is time-tested and boundless, transcending space and time. If the Lord so desires, he may reveal it to us and enable us to know it with the help of the Spirit of wisdom and revelation. More importantly, the measure of our understanding of him is in accordance with the measure of the revelation he chooses to bestow on us.
There are things that I have kept from my children and, unless I decide to uncover them, they will forever be shrouded in mystery. Even in an autobiography, no one leaves no stone unturned about him or herself. We reveal what we want to tell and keep what we desire to hide forever in the dark.
Even so, it should be our passion and insatiable desire to know God and to know him better, for to know him more is to love him more, and the more we know him, the more we will be drawn by him. So we pray that the Lord will empower us with Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that we will know him better. 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

The Hope 

~~MTS-4065
The Hope
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you…”     Eph 1:18

We have been called unto hope, but we may not have a clear idea what exactly the hope is. How do we know the hope to which we have been called? Paul stated it clearly in this verse - our inner eyes must be enlightened in order for us to see the mysterious hope.
We have been programmed to see hope from an earthly point of view while we are in the flesh and we can only speculate as far as the hope beyond this world is concerned. How can we know heavenly things if we have trouble knowing earthly things?
Surely we all know the blessed hope we have through the merit of Christ Jesus and we will be forever with the Lord after our earthly days are done. The issue is that we seem to only know the general, not the particular. We will spend an entire eternity in the presence of the Lord, this we know for sure, but we are not completely sure what we will be doing on a moment to moment basis. Will we be singing praises to God all the time and doing nothing else? Some of us may find a couple of hours of weekly church worship a bit boring; how can we even overcome the boredom of an entire eternity of worship? Is this the blessed hope to which we have been called?
I knew absolutely nothing about music and yet I often attended classic music concerts as a student in high school merely to prove to myself and others that I enjoyed listening to Beethoven and other composers. I wanted so much to like classical music even though I found it rather boring at the time. Are heaven and life eternal the same things - a good thing that we must learn to like, not necessarily enjoy. Mustn’t our inner eyes be enlightened in order for us to see that eternal life is in fact quite enjoyable?
We are by nature sensual so it’s natural for us to enjoy doing sensual things. We also have a strong tendency to consider our future blessing and hope in sensual terms, not realizing that what we deem the most valuable on earth is dirt cheap above and what we reckon insignificant is greatly treasured in heaven. Indeed, gold is dirt cheap since it’s used to pave the streets in heaven.
What I enjoy doing the most here on earth is having good conversations with friends and loved ones over a cup of Taiwanese green tea, and I believe this will continue since it’s not entirely materialistic in nature and we can take whatever is pure and spiritual with us to heaven. I guess that’s what Lewis meant when he spoke about converting our earthly love into agape love in his book The Four Loves. What’s carnal will remain here below and what’s holy will be found in heaven above as well. I suppose this truth can only be appreciated and comprehended by enlightened minds. Indeed, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again." 
  
 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, October 7, 2015 7:28:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Deposit 

~~MTS-4063
Deposit
“…who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” Eph 1:14

There is no telling whether we will get our deposit back after we put the funds in the bank, even though the financial institution may have the backing of the government. We are well aware that the global economy may collapse and all our savings may turn into nothing. It’s not all that unusual for people to lose all their investments in one day when the stock market crumples. Nothing is guaranteed in this world. Even if things remain sound, there is no promise that we will have sound health to enjoy the fruit of our labor. The foolish rich man in the gospel who stored up grain for his retirement never got to enjoy it, for he didn’t seem to put death in the equation of all his calculations.
Indeed, nothing is guaranteed except the guarantee of the Holy Spirit who is immutable and in whom there is no turning of shadow. We will never lose our inheritance in Christ Jesus, for it’s sealed and guaranteed by the third person of the Godhead.
We do have a lot to lose, don’t we? I don’t usually care about the fluctuation of the stock market since I have very little at stake. In fact, I have nothing at stake since I don’t own any stocks. Not so with the ones who may have tons of money invested in the market. Even so, losing one’s investment in the market may not be the worst to happen to a man; nothing can be worse than losing one’s heavenly inheritance. Being poor on earth only lasts for a numbers of years, but being poverty-stricken in heaven above will last eternally. Of course, I am speculating here. How can anyone be poor in heaven?
Our redemption in Christ Jesus was the inheritance Paul was referring to in this context. He was probably speaking about the perseverance of the saints, meaning that we will never lose our salvation.
On what ground is our salvation based? It’s on a very shaky foundation if it’s based on our merit and performance. We know how unreliable we are and our merit is nothing but filthy rags. Surely we are where we are by the grace of God and what we will be eternally is also guaranteed and sealed by the Holy Spirit. What a blessed hope this is!
If such is truly the case, why do we still act as if we may lose our most treasured possession, which is the blessing from the heavenly realm? Surely we must quit trying to earn our salvation with our good deeds and personal merit, and exhaust all our energy every day praising the One who is the Giver and Sustainer of our heavenly inheritance. It matters very little whether we are rich or poor here in earth, for our earthly possessions will all turn to dust and only the love of God will remain forever. Surely if we must labor on earth, we should labor “for food that endures to eternal life.”  

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, October 5, 2015 8:13:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Marked 

~~MTS-4062
Marked
“When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…”           Eph 1:13

I don’t remember the exact time when I received the Lord into my heart by making a profession of faith. I kind of doubt I ever did it. I started to claim to be a Christian without going through the proper procedures, such as saying the sinner’s prayer and getting baptized. There was a wide time frame between my new birth in Christ and baptism. By the time I received baptism, it felt rather anticlimactic.
When exactly was the time when I became a Christian? There is no way of knowing at this point. It was a period of time rather than a day or an hour. I was quite unaware what was going on when something rather unusual was occurring to me. I only came to understand the significance of the whole thing when I looked at it in retrospect.
How could I know the exact time when the Holy Spirit entered into my heart?
Many people have uttered their prayer of confession and have accepted Christ into their heart in my presence, and I have also baptized more people than I care to remember, yet I only did so by faith out of my obedience to God, since so many of them who went through the rituals with me have since vanished from the church. I did the visible, but had no idea whether the invisible and the mysterious had occurred or not. One isn’t saved unless they are marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit.
I remained a nominal Christian for about four years, and I am pretty sure didn’t have the indwelling within me of the third person of the Trinity. I had never sensed his presence and was doing all the things that I considered right in my own eyes. Had he been in me, I would have known the reality and honored him as my Lord.
I only came to realize the indwelling of the Holy Spirit by looking at the effect of his mysterious operation within my heart. My transformation as a person was very obvious and even I myself had no clue what was really going on in me. I seemed to be turning into someone who was rather foreign to me.
Are you saved? Tricky question, isn’t it? 
Don’t point at the time when you made a profession of faith if there was no inner transformation occurring at the same time. There is no use mentioning when you received the ritual of baptism if there wasn’t death and resurrection taking place in your life. Of course, it means nothing if you bring up your church membership or other official things. They signify nothing but your social affiliations.
There is no seal of your salvation but the seal of the Holy Spirit, separating you from all the unsaved and making the invisible visible before God and men. Instead of asking whether you are born again or not, you can merely look inward and see who is sitting on the throne of your heart, directing your every thought and action. As simple that. If you fail to find him there, you may want to invite him into your heart now and see what a great difference he will make in your life.  

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, October 2, 2015 7:30:00 AM Categories: Devotional

In Order That 

~~MTS-4061
In Order That
“…in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.”        Eph 1:12

We are saved unto our own pleasure and glory. This seems to be making a lot of sense to us. By instinct, we are motivated to do things for our own sake, not for anybody else. We are by nature self-centered and are always on the lookout for our own interest. If we were not created this way, sin must have done something sinister to us and caused us to become selfish and egoistical.
What motivated us to humbly bow down before the Lord and accept salvation through the Lord Jesus? Certainly it’s not for his own glory and praise at all; we do so for our own interest and pleasure. Surely we don’t want to perish but to have eternal life. Isn’t this a form of selfishness? One may ask.
We have no glory of our own and whatever glory we may have is derived from him. We are not originators of light, and whatever illumination we may have is a mere reflection of the true light.
It’s for his sake that we are redeemed, and the purpose of our redemption is for the praise of his glory, not for our own benefit and pleasure.
Can the completely self-sufficient God be any more glorified than he already is? Why is the Almighty so vain that he yearns to be honored by his creatures, as if he has any unmet needs at all?
We are created in his own image to reflect the glory of our Maker and the more we do so, the more joyful and fulfilled we will be as persons. We are the most satisfied when God is the most glorified. By the same token, we are the most miserable if we try to bring glory to ourselves in all we do. Self-preoccupation is a sure recipe for sorrow, for we are not our own and we are not created unto our own praise.
If we seek the Lord, we will find ourselves; and if we seek for ourselves only, we will lose both. For sure we will find ourselves in him and in his glory and honor we will find ours as well. It’s hard to comprehend this mystery, yet we are co-workers with the Lord and we will have a small share of profit if he has a great harvest. It’s as if we are share-holders of the company for which we work, and we get to share in the profit if the company becomes profitable. Therefore we continue to invest ourselves in him, for his interests and ours are one and the same. If the head of the body is glorified, the entire body is illuminated as well.
Why are we so slow to learn this spiritual math? There is zero possibility that we will lose our investment if we invest our life and, along with it, all its resources in him. If we are united with him, whatever is his will becomes ours as well, including the praise and honor of our own redemption. We ourselves are praised when God’s name is praised. 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, October 1, 2015 6:31:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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