Sunday, December 30, 2012

Do Believers Need Christ To Obey On Their Behalf?

Do We Need Christ to Obey On Our Behalf?

By Albert Kang

Some people claim that once they are saved and justified, they are also simultaneously sanctified. They do not see the difference between Justification and Sanctification. In fact, in their belief, they can do away with Sanctification all together.

They believe that it is purely the one-sided work of God without the need for man to respond or be accountable. This is because of the misunderstanding that if man is made responsible then it means ‘work’is involved. "Work" is a bad word in spite of what James stated, "But someone will say, 'You have faith, and I have works.' Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:18).

There is confusion between the "works of the flesh" and the "works of faith". The first one depicts that we have to work for our salvation. The second means that because we have been saved by accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior through faith, then the result of this redeemed life is receiving the empowerment to obey God and unto good works. These 'works' mentioned here have nothing to do with our salvation. In our justification, it was Jesus plus nothing. No amount of human efforts or works can bring forth our salvation. 

James was very clear when he said that 'HE' will show 'HIS' faith by HIS “works". He was declaring that he was fully responsible for how he serve God. So whatever works that James did, it was his own works and not that of Christ. Christ did not do for what James was supposed to do. Christ did His works so that we now can do our works. That was why Paul said that a workman needed not be ashamed. Of course, he was being empowered and helped by the Holy Spirit but those works were still his own.

There is a personal responsibility and personal obedience involved here. Our good works are the result of God's power working in and through us. We cannot blame God if we do not obey and do good works. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10). In Ephesians 6:8, Paul added, “… because you know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does, whether he is slave or free.” Here we learn that after our salvation, our good works are important and that God does reward those who are faithful in carrying out His instruction.

The new teaching states that whether we produce good works or not, it does not matter to God. There is no condemnation and there is no reward. Therefore, no matter what man does, God does not care or at least He is not concerned. Why? That, according to them, is because God only looks at the obedience and works of Christ and not that of the believers. This misconception totally absolves all believers of any need for personal obedience and holiness. 

One adherent of such belief told me that because of the 'obedience of Christ' - that is Christ obeying on his behalf, it subsequently resulted in this man being grateful to God and so now he does not live in sin.  That, I said, also happened to all us when we first encountered Christ and believed in Him. We have been 'Born-Again' and are also very grateful and do not live in sin too. A sense of gratitude is great but ultimately it is the Holy Spirit who helps and empowers us to overcome all temptations.

We should know that even though during our conversion, God accepted us as who and what we were, but He still wanted to change us by the Holy Spirit to become more and more like Christ. Paul wrote, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Why are the adherents of this belief asked to go back to the cross again and again? Why do they need Christ to obey for them when they can now do so? This understanding has come about because such group teaches indirectly that all believers are totally depraved and have no ability or capacity to obey. Even if they were to obey, their obedience is tarnished and thus cannot be acceptable to God. Ultimately, the under-lying understanding is that since the believers have to be ‘justified by obeying the law’, and they are never able to do so, they then have to perpetually depend upon Christ to obey for them. 

This belief is absolutely against justification by faith which is ‘apart from the law’. Paul said, “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”. (Romans 3:28). Are we, the believers, still under the law so much so that Christ has to keep obeying for us? If not, then why is this group constantly referring back to the finished work of Christ whenever they sin? The finished work of Christ is ‘Gospel’ or ‘Good News’! If you have preach the Gospel to yourself every time you sin, then are you really free from the law?

We believe that by faith we are saved and law got nothing to do with our salvation. Once we are being set free we are ‘free indeed’ (John 8:36). Then after being set free, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to produce good works – just like what is found in James 2:17-18 - it is not possible to have faith without producing good works. God has given us the Holy Spirit who in turn grant us the capacity to obey because He has made us new creatures in Christ, totally Born Again, free from the condemnation of the law, and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Our emphasis now as redeemed people of God is not to keep running back to the cross but move forward by the Holy Spirit promised by our Lord. Calvary cross is meant for justification but the Holy Spirit is given for the work of sanctification.

Paul emphasized in 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit enables all believers to lead holy lives, dedicated to the service of God and conformed to the likeness of Christ.

We can now personally relate and talk to God because He is our Father in heaven. We can also please God as an individual. We can offer ourselves as ‘living sacrifice” ( Romans 12:1-2). We can love God as a true child of His. And God will reward our obedience and also our efforts to serve Him faithfully (Matthew 19:29). And daily, through the sanctifying process, we are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory. Yes, we have Jesus. It is His obedience that saved our souls and now He has given us the Holy Spirit so that we can be like Him, living in the obedience to God.

According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. (1 Peter 1:2).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The tragedy that shook Newtown, Connecticut, and indeed the entire nation, defies analysis. What must have gone on in the mind of this young man for him to walk into a school of little children and wreak such devastating carnage numbs the soul. At the same time this was happening, I was under the surgeon’s blade for minor surgery. When I left the recovery room and returned home, among the first pieces of news on my phone was the news of this mass killing. Something within me hoped that I was still not clear-headed, but I knew deep inside that I was reading an unfolding story of horror and tragedy. What does one say? What is even appropriate without violating somebody’s sacred space and their right to scream in protest?

I am a father and a grandfather. I simply cannot fathom the unbearable weight within a parent’s or grandparent’s heart at such a personal loss. It has often been said that the loss of a child is the heaviest loss to bear. I have no doubt that those parents and grandparents must wonder if this is real or simply a terrifying nightmare. My heart and my prayers are for them and, indeed, for the family of the assassin. How his father will navigate through this will be a lifelong journey.

When a mass-killer like this ends by taking his own life, there is an even deeper sense of loss. Everyone wants to know, “Why?” Not that the answer would soften the blow but it would at least give some clue, some release to speak, to hear, to try to work through. But all we are left with is twenty-eight funerals and lifelong grief. To all of those who have suffered such loss, may the Lord carry you in His strength and bear you in your grief. You will be in our thoughts and prayers.

My own attempt at saying something here is feeble but carries a hope that somebody listening will make this world a better place. My heart goes back to Angola Prison in Baton Rouge where I met such people whose savagery took them to that destination. It was interesting to see a Bible in every cell and to hear many talk of how it had become their only means of life and hope. Someone with me said, “If we had more Bibles in our schools maybe we would need less of them here.” To the skeptic and the despiser of belief in God, I know what they will respond. I am quite convinced that the one who argues against this ends up playing God and is ultimately unable to defend any absolutes. Hate is the opposite of love and while one breathes death, the other breathes life. That is what we need to be addressing here. The seeds of hate sooner or later bear fruit in murder and destruction. Killers are not born in a moment. Deep beneath brews thinking and the animus that in a moment is uncorked. We are living in a society that nurtures hate on many sides with the result that lawlessness triumphs.

Even in ideal settings, killing can take place. Murder began in the first family when a brother could not stand the success of his sibling. The entire history of the Middle East–five millennia–is a tale of two brothers. Centuries of killing has not settled the score. Maybe in Adam Lanza’s case we will find a deep psychological reason behind what he did. But that does not diminish the reality that there lurks many a killer whose moment will come and the nation will be brought to tears again. We can almost be certain of that. Yes, we can discuss all the symptomatic issues—security, gun control, early detection signs, and so on. These are all worthy of discussion. But it’s always easier to deal with the symptoms rather than with the cause.

I wish to share what I think we must address or we head down the slope to a precipitous edge of brutality. The fiscal cliff is tame by comparison to the moral devastation ahead if we do not recognize the malady for what it is. Hate is the precursor to murder. Jesus made that very clear. Playing God is the dangerous second step where we feel we are the ultimate judge of all things and that we have the right to level the score.

Here, I would like to address our political leaders and media elite: You may personally have the moral strength to restrict your ideas to mere words but many who listen to you do not. To take the most sacred privilege of democracy and transform it into the language of aggression plays right into the hands of hate-mongers. This is not the language of a civil society or of wise leadership. It is not the ethos of a culture of co-existence. It is not the verbal coinage with which we can spend our way into the future. Our political rhetoric is fraught with division, hate, blame, and verbal murder. Our young are listening. Remember that what you win them with is what you win them to.

As for the entertainment world, what does one even say at a time like this? Calling for gun control and then entertaining the masses with bloodshed is only shifting the locus from law to entertainment. Do our entertainers ever pause to ask what debased values emerge from their stories? The death of decency is audible and visible in what passes as movie entertainment and political speech. This is the same culture that wishes to take away Nativity scenes and Christmas carols from our children. God is evicted from our culture and then He is blamed for our carnages. America is lost on the high seas of time, without chart or compass. The storms that await us will sink this nation beyond recognition if we do not awaken to the rapid repudiation of the values that shaped this nation. The handwriting is on the wall. Freedom is not just destroyed by its retraction. It is destroyed even more painfully by its abuse.

There is one more thing. It is so obvious but is seldom ever addressed. All these recent mass murders have been done by men. Many of them young men, yes, even mere boys. Jonesboro, Columbine, Virginia Tech, now Newtown. Is there something within our culture that doesn’t know how to raise strength with dignity and respect? Is this how boys are meant to be? From bloodletting in hockey games while thousands cheer to savagery in school shootings while thousands weep, we must ask ourselves what has gone wrong with us men? Where are the role models in the home? Is knocking somebody down the only test left for strength? Is there no demonstration now of kindness, gentleness, courtesy, and respect for our fellow human beings? One young man on death row in Angola Prison told me that he started his carnage as a teenager. Now in his thirties with the end of the road in sight, he reached his hand out to me and asked me to pray with him. Life was lost at the altar of power and strength.

The Bible only speaks of one remedy for this: the transformation of the heart by making Christ the center. Those who mock the simplicity of the remedy have made evil more complex and unexplainable. Every heart has the potential for murder. Every heart needs a redeemer. That is the message of Christmas. The world took that child and crucified Him. But by his triumph over death He brings life to our dead souls and begins the transformation within. Unto us a child is born and He shall save us from our sins.

Before the first murder was committed, the Lord said to Cain, “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” To gain mastery over sin there is only one way. Just as Victoria Soto put herself in the way so that the children in her class might live, Jesus Christ put himself in the way that we all might live. That is the beginning of the cure for us as individuals and as a nation. All the laws in the world will never change the heart. Only God is big enough for that.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


In this day of two-working-parent families, time constraints make it easier for us to automatically respond with a "no" when our children ask for little things. Solution: In an article published in Better Families, Dr. Kay Kuzma offers some practical approaches we can use. She suggests we can say "yes" on many occasions, and it's more effective because it also teaches valuable lessons.

For example, your child might ask, "Am I going to get to watch my favorite television show tonight?" You have a chance to say, "Yes, as soon as you have dried the dishes and put them away," or "Yes, as soon as you have called Sally and apologized for your behavior this afternoon."

This approach changes you in the child's eyes from being a person who wants to deny him or her a pleasure to a parent who is interested in helping the child perform in a better, more mature way.

Your teenager might ask to use the car to run a few errands. You can say, "Yes, as soon as you wash it and if you will stop by the service station and fill it with gas on your way home." This way you're teaching your child responsibility.

Dr. Kuzma also points out that when a child asks, "May I have dessert?" you can say, "Yes, as soon as you have finished your salad or vegetables." This way you are attaching a small reward to a fulfilled responsibility. The child ends up with the temporary pleasure and some long-term benefits.

Practice Dr. Kuzma's suggestions and you will have taken a giant step toward raising a positive, courteous, responsible child.
by Zig Ziglar

Saturday, December 1, 2012

In the Valleys We Grow

In the Valleys We Grow

Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe
It's then we have to remember
That it's in the valleys we grow.

If we always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
We would never appreciate God's love
And would be living in vain.

We have so much to learn
And our growth is very slow,
Sometimes we need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys we grow.

We do not always understand
Why things happen as they do,
But I am very sure of one thing.
My Lord will see me through.

The little valleys are nothing
When we picture Christ on the cross
He went through the valley of death;
His victory was Satan's loss.

Forgive me Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord
And use my life each day
To share Your love with others
And help them find their way.

Thank You for the valleys, Lord
For this one thing I know
The mountain tops are glorious
But it's in the valleys I grow!