It’s a word that is in our headlines all the time.
Freedom of speech. Political freedom. Economic freedom. Sexual freedom.
Amid all the fuss about freedom, little is mentioned about spiritual freedom. Sometimes spiritual freedom is often misconstrued as the license to do, think, or speak however one wants to under the guise of freedom. But when freedom is misapplied it leads to chaos
True freedom isn’t the unrestricted option to do whatever we want, but rather the ability to do what is right.
The apostle Paul was greatly concerned with misapplied freedom among the Galatian believers. Here some of his words of urgent concern:
“I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him.” 1:6
“I am perplexed about you.” 4:20
“I fear for you.” 4:11
“Who hindered you?” 5:7
Seeing Christ-followers lose their way through bad choices was alarming for Paul.
He knew the very essence of the gospel is understanding how it brings true freedom. Not unrestricted, call-your-own-shots kind of freedom, but rather a reasoned submission to God that allows freedom to come from doing what is right.
It’s counter-intuitive, for sure. Most of the Christian life is. The last shall be first? You must die to live?
But it’s nonetheless true. True freedom is found is willing submission.
Paul reasons with them: “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16)
Truth is a gift and the pathway to real life. Truth guides us to real freedom.
Consider doing an inventory of your recent choices. Are they deliberate, intentional, and filtered through the wisdom of God? Or have you allowed the wisdom of the age to creep in, causing you to justify unwise actions, all the while calling it your freedom?
So pursue truth and apply it to your life. Joyfully live with limits. You are a child of God, and your heavenly Father is only good. So his limits are not cruel, but pathway to real freedom.
Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me. May those who want to take my life be put to shame and confusion; may all who desire my ruin be turned back in disgrace. May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” turn back because of their shame. But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, “The Lord is great!” But as for me, I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay. Psalm 70:1-5 NIV
Recently, I have had a very tough time at work and the challenges that have been thrown my way have weighed me down, pressured me and at times, made me want to give up. I can relate to David when he said “I am poor and needy; come quickly to me, O God. You are my help and my deliverer; Lord, do not delay.” I was so desperate for God’s help and was crying out for Him to deliver me from all the situations I was going through. I knew that only God could help and deliver me from the trials and tribulations I was going through.
But as I reflected on this scripture, I was reminded of when Jesus was thinking about the suffering He would soon have to face – dying on the cross. He said His soul was “troubled’ and contemplated whether He should ask God to “save Him from this hour” but ultimately said, “No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name!” (John 12:27–28a)
Both David and Jesus were facing pain and, in David’s words, he asked for his pain to be taken away so that God can be glorified and in Jesus’ words, He knew that He had to face the pain in order for God to be glorified. Because of Jesus and the pain He faced on the cross, we can now experience the salvation, grace and freedom from God. Sometimes, God is most glorified when He delivers us but others times, He is most glorified when we “take up our cross.”
So as I continue to face the challenges and pain through different circumstances in life, I no longer ask God to take away the suffering, rather to be glorified in every circumstance of my life. If taking it away glorifies Him – amen; if facing and overcoming it glorifies Him – also amen. God, help me to sustain that!
Let us come before God by:
I recently discovered a truth that I have overlooked in all my years as a Christ-follower. I have heard others, and I myself have used the following scripture many times over the years:
I say to you, if two of you agree on earth concerning anything they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them. Matthew 18:19-20
As I recall, this passage was in every case linked directly to prayer, when it doesn’t specifically say this; and it is often misquoted as “two or more,” instead of the way Jesus directly states – “two or three.”
I found this really interesting!
Now without a doubt, Christ is present when larger numbers than three are gathered and prayer remains a center piece in faith. But this specific passage is not about such. The context for Jesus’ words helps clear up any confusion. The context of this part of Matthew 18, is dealing with the reality of sin and dealing with conflict when it arises between brothers and sisters in the church and how to recover health in relationships.
Jesus is promising us that when we have done all we can to resolve some interpersonal problem and we need help from another person, then he will be intentionally present with them as followers who are seeking unity in reaching decisions and gaining health.
Matthew, who is primarily writing for Jewish followers of Christ, knows well how this concept is interlinked with Old Testament teachings, such as Deuteronomy 19:15, where two or three witnesses are needed to resolve sinful behaviour within the community of faith.
I am personally fascinated with what this passage clearly states but has so often been misused, thereby causing many to miss a powerful application to real problems and debilitating sin.
This truth about a power found in “two or three” gathered to assist with recovery in no way speaks against larger group gatherings or of the power of prayer in other settings. It is instead an amazing layer in the richness of God’s love and provision for us in Christ. Jesus is sharing with his followers that when a brother or sister is held captive by some specific wrongdoing and ready to recover and rebuild, there is a promise that Christ will be present in powerful and unique ways when that person is gathered with one or two fellow believers. How special is that!
On a personal note, my study of this passage led me to once again enter into a support/accountability relationship with one brother. We met yesterday, not to deal with some specific sin, but to provide a relationship to guard against what Satan may throw our way. An amazing time with Christ’s presence in our midst.
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8:4 (ESV)
For many of you, this is a beautiful and familiar verse; for those who have never read this verse before, I am glad that it was introduced to you today.
What I would like you to do right now is read this verse very slowly… “What is man – that you are – mindful – of him, and the son of man – that you – care for him?” Now, close your eyes and meditate on these few simple but profound words… “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?”
The definition of “mindful” according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “careful not to forget about something”. It overwhelms me to know that God sees us as His precious sons and daughters, and that He is careful with us. I have three precious sons and I don’t need to be reminded of that since they are always in my heart.
As a father, how can I forget my children? As an imperfect human being however, I need to be careful not to forget that they are their own person, have their different personalities, and need to be loved in a way they each feel loved.
But our Father in heaven is perfect! He knows every strand of our hair because He created us (Luke 12:7). Isn’t it comforting to know that our God is the perfect and holy God? That He never sleeps nor slumbers (Psalms 121:4)? Isn’t it comforting to know that He is careful in loving us and that He will never leave or forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6)?
In fact, let me turn this around. It is I who needs to be mindful of God. I need to be careful and not forget that He is the one who is ultimately in control and that whatever happens in my life, I know I am His beloved child, His creation and that He is always, always be mindful of me.
How about you? How are you being mindful of your Lord God today?
Welcome to the BOLD Faith Campaign Newsletter!
Hong Kong is a city that awaits God’s transformation. God is at work and He is using His church to transform the fabric of our society.
Since the April newsletter, an additional 14 buildings have been introduced by brokers, developers and congregants. We have conducted a detailed analysis of one development in Wong Chuk Hang and realised that there are issues with seating occupancy limitations, vertical traffic discharge and low ceiling heights. Let us pray for God’s wisdom for the right building for the church.
In this newsletter, we are pleased to introduce one of our Ambassador couples as spokespersons for the BOLD Faith Campaign. Ambassadors are congregants at Island ECC who are committed in supporting the BOLD Faith campaign with their time, giving and resources. Here is a picture of them and a message from Bernard:
Ambassadors: Noel Chu and Bernard Chang
“Our faith journey as a couple began in 2006. While we were dating, our views on God were completely different. After Noel was baptised at Island ECC, God’s plan for our lives started unfolding through a chain of miracles that led me to seek Him.
“Men’s Fraternity encouraged me through many loving brothers and mentors. Noel then witnessed my baptism and a “Bernard 2.0” who was made new by the Holy Spirit was born. With God’s Grace, Noel (a wedding dress designer) put aside her cynical thoughts from witnessing too many broken marriages and regained hope in marriage. In 2000, we were married in the church's sanctuary by Pastor Brett.
“Island ECC is more than a church: it is our second home and family as we share life with others. Sundays are to worship Jesus and other days to serve our communities.
“As an architect, the notion of ‘permanence’ is significant: all churches and cathedrals stand against the rise and fall of civilizations and regimes. BOLD Faith is far more than securing a permanent home for our growing congregations and ministries – it is a lifetime opportunity for all of us to participate in advancing the Kingdom, bringing the Gospel to non-believers, and transforming lost and hopeless souls in the city and beyond.
“No one would have thought Noel and myself are capable of having bold faith. We are not able but our God is able.”
Jesus is the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Acts 4:11
Please pray for Noel and Bernard to continue to use their gifts and talents for God’s glory! Our church is so thankful for God’s provision of Bold Faith Ambassadors.
Blessings, Phillip Chin
Bold Faith Chairman
God who made the world and everything in it does not dwell in temples made with hands. Acts: 17: 24-25