国家和民族情结中的福音

最近在微信上看了一篇转发的文章,作者为中国人振臂高呼,指出西方社会的不好,和中国社会的优越。我读后心里想了很多。我理解文章作者的心情。我觉得很可能是一个真诚的年轻人写的,不像是被雇的枪手。虽然许多内容完全不符合事实 (比如文章中说,巴菲特和比尔盖茨其实都是“高干子弟”,暗指他们的成功其实是美国社会腐败的证据,等),但更像是作者道听途说的结果,不太像是故意捏造, 并且其中有些观点我觉得其实是对的。中国人的确太容易崇洋媚外,过于自卑。

但是,我读了那篇文章后,却为我在中国的亲人和朋友担忧,因为大家都仍然落在一个国家和民族的情结中,而看不见人更根本的需要。

人面临的最大问题,并不是国家和民族的问题。我们中国人过去太苦了,又受了许多列强的欺负,结果就造成了这种民族和国家的情结,现时代不仅解不开,反倒由于国力的增强变得更加剧烈了。这其实是一种不健全的病状。先害己,如果将来更强大了可能还会害别人。

中国人的问题,和美国人,英国人,任何其它国家的人面临的问题没有任何两样,都是同一个问题: 是人的问题。是每个个人的问题。因为我们和外国人一样,都是亚当的子孙,都是罪人,都犯了罪,亏缺了 神的荣耀。

在这一点上,中国人和外国人没有任何两样。和西方人相比,如果中国人的经历和美国人欧洲人的经历有何重要不同的话,就是欧美人比我们中国人更早认识到自己是罪人。这不是因为他们比我们好,或比我们更会反省、更谦卑。

不是的。那只是因为近两千年前耶稣基督的福音从耶路撒冷按照 神的计划传开,首先到了欧洲。 那时候,欧洲虽然有比较发达的希腊文化和强大的罗马帝国,但整体的欧洲基本是一个野蛮社会。大部分人,要是客观的看看历史,都会同意中国文化在两千年前在各个重大领域都比欧洲先进的多,文明的多。

是福音渐渐改变了欧洲。在这里无法讲那么长的一段历史。福音在欧洲先是在生命里传播的300年,随后以系统化的宗教落在黑暗里蕴育1200年, 到16世纪时,符合圣经的信仰才真正在欧洲社会全面开花,导致了欧洲无论是道德还是文化,以及经济都明显进入强势。福音后来又成了美国社会正面品德和强盛的基础。他们的社会蒙了福,福音的福,是真福气。

但是,即使在欧美,所谓的基督教国家,也都是一个混杂体,其中包括有真正信仰的基督徒,也包括许多文化基督徒,也有许多非基督徒。一方面,那些有生命的真基督徒,他们遵照 神的话而行,在地上作光作盐,到了一个程度会对整个社会普遍带来好的变化和福气,这是真的,欧美历史就是见证;但另一方面,无论是完全不信的、将信将疑的、或假装相信的,还是有真正信仰的基督徒,也都是罪人,只是后者蒙了恩典。

而蒙 神恩典,正是人生命的关键,并且是一件每个人和创造主 神之间的事,并非是一个笼统的社会问题。

我们中国人看欧美,遇到的困惑也在此,因为我们看到一个混杂的社会。有些人对西方文化很欣赏,有些人则很提防甚至敌视。但无论如何,不能把西方文化和福音混为一谈,也不能透过任何社会和文化来看福音。

相反,必须通过福音真理来看社会和文化。

用国家、民族和文化的眼光去看福音,是一个错误的眼光。 那样你看到的只是假象,最多只是外表的宗教,并不能领会里面的信仰。

宗教和信仰有着本质的区别。文化和福音也是两个完全不同的事。 同样,社会的兴盛和个人的得救更是完全不同的事。

中国人在和西方国家打交道的近代史中,曾经看见过宗教的面孔。宗教冠冕堂皇,但并不能成为公义圣洁的化身,反倒被人性的罪恶当成外衣,成为对良心的贿赂。宗教甚至可以藏在扩张和霸权的背后。

但中国人在和基督徒来往的近代史中,也曾经看见过信仰的内心。信仰是放弃自己所有,到中国传讲福音,爱中国人,爱到一个地步,和他们一起穿长袍、扎辫子、忍羞辱、受饥饿,甚至为他们舍命的戴德生先生(和许多向他那样的基督徒)。

可惜的是,二战以后,欧洲人离开了那爱他们的 神,自高自大,渐渐走向没落。目前,在欧洲真正信仰耶稣的基督徒可能已经不到10%(有些人认为不到5%)。 我个人感觉,按照过去50年欧洲变化的趋向,尤其是这十年的加速,欧洲要不了一百年(可能不到50年)就会把自己过去两千年积累的老本全部吃光,变成腐败没落的社会。

他们忘本了。忘恩负义了。

美国相对来讲要比欧洲好的多,因为信仰的光景要好得多,神的祝福还在美国。但是,美国这个社会也正在以很快的速度离开 神。生活在美国,过去这几十年我就亲眼目睹了这个快速的变化。从个人到社会,每离开 神远一步,生命里的那个福气就少一点。

具体表现:仁爱、喜乐、和平、忍耐、恩慈、良善、信实、 温柔、节制,这些圣灵所结的果子,越来越少;而 奸淫、污秽、邪荡、 拜偶像、邪术、仇恨、争竞、忌恨、恼怒、结党、分争、异端、 嫉妒、醉酒、荒宴,这些肉体的败坏则越来越多。

但就在这个历史的转折点上,福音被广泛传到中国。今天,在中国,人们对人生的觉悟,对耶稣基督的福音的渴慕,和归向创造天地的真神的愿望,明显超过欧洲,甚至美国。神的怜悯和慈爱终于临到了中国。

但是,神的心从来都是向着每一个个人。祂爱每个美国人,但不是为了美国国家的强大;同样, 神也爱每个中国人,但不是为了中国国家的强大。 国家的强盛可能成为福音的一个副产品,但不是福音的目的。福音是拯救每个个人,让人脱离罪恶、脱离黑暗,归向真神光明的国度。

但愿中国人被福音的爱所征服,不是屈服在西方文化下(福音不是文化,而是 神的救恩), 更不是屈服在美国和西方政治和权势下 (因为美国不代表福音,也不代表基督,只有那些真心相信耶稣的人,不管是哪国人,才代表福音,才代表基督)。

但也愿中国人不是热衷于自己的国家和民主,落入国家主义和民族主义之中。愿更多中国人就像历史上许多其他国家和地区的人一样,从自己的罪恶中悔改,接受福音,接受耶稣基督的拯救。

讲这么多,就是一个盼望和祷告:愿亲人朋友们更多认识生命真相,认识真神,认识救主耶稣基督。

除祂以外,别无拯救;因为在天下人间,没有赐下别的名,我们可以靠著得救。(使徒行传 4:12)

那靠律法的罪魁

在耶稣基督的恩典被显明之前,人心靠什么被鉴别? 犹太人靠律法,外邦人靠良心。人的良心里所写的律法,其实是 神的律法一个不完全的影子。

但无论是良心还是律法,没有一个是人可以靠着得救的。

神用保罗来见证此事。就着人凭自己努力守律法,保罗是楷模中的楷模。但那些依靠律法的人,不要说那些根本就没有诚意的假冒伪善者,就是像保罗这样竭力守律法的人,也被福音弃绝了(除非他们像保罗那样悔改)。

当福音从耶路撒冷开始后,整个犹太教系统和其当权阶级很快完全站在了 神的对立面。考虑到犹太教是地上唯一传承 神的律法的宗教,这是何等可悲! 神藉着犹太教对福音的反应,像一个“pH值试剂”一样,显明了 神的福音和犹太教的不匹配和必然的决裂。许多人以为那场决裂是不幸的分裂,但实际上是圣灵特意的工作,为了表明 神在耶稣基督里全新的立场。

福音绝没有一点和犹太教妥协的意思,因为越靠律法,就越贬低基督的恩典。“靠律法”和“行律法”不是一回事。行律法可能是可嘉的努力,只是不会成功;但靠律法则是 神恩典的敌对。 (more…)

那曾搭救我的 神

我在二十多岁时才认识主耶稣基督。

想起从小的日子,我禁不住在心里问主说,主啊,回想我这一生,为什么我从来都没有受到过身边那为父的栽培呢? 好像我所得的都要费比别人大很多的努力,得全靠自己,还要绕更多的弯,才能获得。

我小时候是自己在野地里到处乱跑长大的。这不怨父母,因为那个时候的生长环境就是如此,好像安全无忧,自由自在,充满童趣。

在那个不认识 神的时代和社会,父母除了给孩子们提供生活基本所需,并没有太多可以再给的。所以我从小没有领受过太多智慧的栽培。

在学校里,从小学到研究生,也不觉得曾遇到一位让我很敬仰的老师,给我很多豁然开朗的启迪。似乎一切都是我用力自己琢磨。

信主之后,刚刚有些被开启,开始从年长弟兄们身上尝到些父辈似的供应,就由于学业而离开了最初聚会的地方,到了另一个地方。后来又到另一个地方,然后又到另一个地方,就是现在这里。一路上虽然主恩满溢,弟兄姊妹恩爱无比,但却总觉得像个还没有长大的孩子,身边没有父辈的爱护和指引。

但圣灵提醒,告诉我 父神从来都在关切我,保护我,搭救我。在我还根本不认识 神的时候,神就一直那样。

再想想我幼小时的经历,我就必须承认这是事实。

小时候,我有一次搭便车 (好像是父亲把我交托给了一个他认识的卡车司机)。上路后出了车祸,我们的车翻倒在路边,被一棵大树挡住。

要不是那棵树挡着,车就会掉到路边的渠里,车上的几个人都会丧命。

我不记得车是如何离开道路,如何翻倒并撞到树上,也不知道自己如何从车里出来的。只记得我出来后趴在路边,处在一个奇怪的“游离状态”,不像是当事人,倒像是傍观者,目中无其他人和事,只是静静地看着那辆翻倒的车。

那一刻我与无限和永恒发生一个关系。我那时虽不明白,更不知如何表达,但那一刻的思想被凝聚而沉淀,永恒在我生命中一闪而现。

是 神搭救了我,并且在预备我的灵魂。那时的我并不认识祂。 神把那个得救后的时刻拍下一张照片,留在我记忆中。

大概十岁时,我暑期自己跑去县城到我父亲那里去玩。

那时父亲在县城工作,而我们几个孩子和母亲一起在乡里。到了假期,我就自己步行到父亲那里去。

快乐的童年,在小县城里又是别具风味。

但一天早晨,忽然父亲说他要马上去一趟老家,说小妹妹病了。她是跟奶奶去老家探亲。父亲要自己去看小妹妹,不带我,叫我自个回家到母亲那里。

从县城到家大概20里的路,我刚学会了脚踏车,就踩着成人脚踏车上了路。那时我个子太小,根本上不了横梁,坐座位就更不用提了,就在三叉里踩着走。

那本来并不是一件值得记忆的事。因为那时候,好像根本就没有吃苦和危险的感觉和意识,那么一点艰难,应该是过后就忘记的。并且,那是一条我在那之前更小的时候都自己步行过的一段熟悉的路,现在还有了脚踏车的帮助,又何谈艰难呢!

然而那天却永远留在了我的心中。

那一路,那样地踩着脚踏车,在上行的路上吃力地踩踏,身旁频繁有远途的运货卡车几乎贴身而过(因为路很窄)。

那轰然来,又轰然消失的声音和气流。

但那天我感到最强最大的,并不是一路的艰辛,也不是过往车辆的危险,而是一个莫名其妙的阴影,一直笼罩着我。我当时不知道那是什么。

后来我才知道,我那四岁的小妹妹因为患了疟疾而离开了世界。我在路上的那天,她就没有了。

小妹妹没有了。 她那时大概4岁。她是不光全家也是所有亲戚朋友公认最可爱最巧嘴的孩子。

我记得那时我心中更多的是无助,困惑和惧怕,超过忧伤。看见母亲哭泣,我也让自己忧伤哭泣,觉得那是我唯一能够安慰母亲的方法,然而我的忧伤虽然是真实的,却并不是那时最占据我心的。

占据我心的,是那天在那20里的公路上我所经历的那个阴影。

在那个阴影下,我和外面这世界原有的天真关系破裂了。如果那个阴影再回来,我就不知道如何生活。

但那个阴影却从此后再也没有出现,而从我生命里消失了。

那是死亡的阴影。

我受了一个我所不认识的保护。或者更准确说,我不认识的一位 (神)保护了我。

直到我认识了这位 神和曾为我舍命的主耶稣,才知道是爱我的 神自己一直在保护我, 尽管我多年不认祂,一直以为一生是靠着自己过来的,祂却认我,没有厌弃我。

“就是一生牧养我直到今日的 神, 救赎我脱离一切患难的那使者。。。” 创48:15-16  。

原来我的 神早就认识我。

“因为祂预先所知道的人,就预先定下效法祂儿子的模样,使祂儿子在许多弟兄中作长子。预先所定下的人又召他们来;所召来的人又称他们为义;所称为义的人又叫他们得荣耀。”  (罗 8:29-30)

主耶稣啊,让我任何时候都不要不认你。

抱怨的灵

你见过抱怨的人吗?我们中没有人能够做到凡事没有任何的抱怨。不信主的人抱怨似乎是常事,但信主的人也抱怨,久了、多了好像也会感到是平常事。

或许真的是平常事,但却不是正常的事。

多年前,一位 神的仆人 Devern Fromke 讲过的一句话,一直留在了我心里: “Every complaint finds its way back to God.”  每一个抱怨最后都是针对着 神的。这是真理。当然这话的目的不是给我们每一个小小的抱怨都加一个大罪名,而是让我们明白抱怨背后的实质。

对于世人来讲,抱怨只是一个生活的态度,如果再深入一点是一个人性格和人品的一部分。但对一个 神的儿女来讲,抱怨反映出我们对爱我们的父和爱我们的主的基本态度和关系上的不正常。神儿女的抱怨使得父神和主脸上蒙羞 (God’s children’s complaint dishonors the Father and the Lord)。

而这正是为什么 神的仇敌那样地费尽心思为着要你这属 神的人能够抱怨。当你的抱怨从心里发出时(不用等到从口里出来),撒旦已经得逞一大半了,他已经在你身上做成一个不信靠 神的实例,他可以靠着夸口。而那抱怨从你口中出来后,撒旦就完全得逞了,因为你已经向着众人见证了撒旦在你里面得逞的。

有一个人,常常抱怨 神不公平。他实在是一个抱怨最多的人。如果说抱怨对一般人来讲像是一时在皮肤上生出的疹子,那个人的就是全身的大麻风。 

他是一个可怜可悲的人。很年轻时就在专业上很出色,但后来并没有能够在事业上谋得一个满意的发展机会。结果,他年轻时的成功,反过来成了他的咒诅,使他成了一个抱怨的人。 他总喜欢就说按照当初他的成绩,今天会如何如何。而他如此讲的目的,倒不是为了自夸,而是为了说明一件事,即他得出一个结论:神不仅不公平,而且专门喜欢捉弄人。

这是他数十年生活的结论。甚至更严重,他愿意别人相信这是他生命的最终结论。似乎他要每个人听他宣称,他生命余下的目标就在于向着凡他认识的人见证:神不好。神不仅不公平,而且专门喜欢捉弄人。

而同时,他并不是一个那么不幸的人。他有个贤惠、温柔又能干的妻子。家里不仅家务、养育儿女是他妻子的事,家庭的收入也是,当然这本身又是他抱怨的理由之一。他有一个聪明听话的孩子,学习成绩优秀,被一所一流的大学录取,当然这也是他抱怨的理由之一,因为学费之高,命运在和他开玩笑。

奇特的是,他并不相信 神,更不接受耶稣基督的救恩,却把一切的抱怨都泼到 神的身上。

抱怨的灵抓住了他,蹂躏他,折磨他,戏弄他,而他自己却以为能很“精彩”地抱怨 神是他一种能力 – 只有他才能够那样清楚地分析并推断出 “神不公平,捉弄了他“的结论,并且让别人无法再说服他,这是一个他自己值得骄傲的能力。他坚守着最后的那个机关,就是撒旦用来捆锁他的机关。撒旦骗他说至少这个机关是他可以自豪的,因为别人都没有能力胜过这个机关。可悲的是他竟然相信这个,并且努力地坚持着。

和他在一起的人,何等难。与他有一点对话都很艰难。到最后都是他自己一个人的声音,抱怨、抱怨、抱怨,一同伴随的是自以为聪明的推理、推理、推理。别人都无言以对,他却以为他又赢了一场辩论。他的心思里只有自己,并从自己利益出发的抱怨。从没有听到他口中发出一个赞美和感谢的声音来,更不用说一句建树别人的话。

但正是这个朋友,使得我看到了赤裸裸的抱怨的灵!我明白了抱怨背后可怕的灵。我看到了以色列人在旷野数十年,他们那抵挡 神的灵(“抵挡”本是撒旦的名字)。

抱怨的灵是不信的灵,是“无信之辈 (faithless generation)”的基本特征。那灵在人里面时苦害那人,但跳出来显示在众人面前时,你就看见,原来就是那个高声叫着 “钉他十字架!钉他十字架!”的灵,是以色列那个从抱怨到完全不信,最后又到以暴力弃绝 神的灵。它们是一个线上的,是一家的。他们的主人是撒旦。

主常常藉着见证人来正面鼓励我们。但有时主也藉着反面的见证撞击我们的心门,让我们意识到一件事的反面,反过来为自己羞愧。时常,我们的抱怨是被掩盖在许多的包装之下,让我们不容易看到其本相 (听到或意识到一个抱怨的存在,和认清抱怨背后的真相,不是一回事)。直到有一天,主藉着一个赤裸裸的、毫无遮掩、像面团发起来一发不可收拾的那样一个专门抱怨的人,让你看到抱怨的本相, 那时你就不会庆幸你比他好的多,而是看到你里面有个东西和他的一样丑陋,一样地有辱主面!你就要一面痛悔,一面感谢 神,靠祂的怜悯你看到了抱怨背后那个灵的可憎。

但愿主施怜悯!人以为这也不公平,那也不公平,似乎 神欠了我们的债,夺去了本来是我们理所当得的好处。但岂不知自从亚当犯罪后,人的账上已经一文不值,不仅完全破产,而且负了一个巨大的债。每个人都如此,并没有例外。从亚当之后,人所得的,全都是出自神的怜悯和恩典;人未得的,没有一样是神欠人的。

再看到我们的主,耶稣基督。他原本是万有的主人。他是何等的富足。他不欠任何人任何的事物,反而万有的一切资本都是从他得来,即使在人和这个宇宙因着罪落入罪债的重压之下以前都是如此,更何况在那以后。

但正是这位耶稣,他道成肉身,来到地上,从万有的主人变成一无所有!他出身在马槽,一个卑贱又肮脏的地方,在地上时连个枕头的地方也没有。

就是这位耶稣,他原本拥有万有 (而一个抱怨者原本却什么都没有),却被剥夺了一切,而他的灵却是抱怨的灵的反面。如果这世上曾有过一个人有权利、有资格抱怨,他就是。但他却没有发出过一句的怨言。不是为着显示他的大度,乃是为着以重价赎回那在罪中堕落的人 (抱怨的声音是那堕落者的一个表征),抵消所欠的债,全胜过撒旦那杀害的灵。

就是这位耶稣,他最后为拯救众人的缘故情愿被钉在十字架上,让那 “钉他十字架!钉他十字架!”的罪恶声音尽都落在他身上,再也没有任何的回音,没有反弹。那声音曾在人类历史中回旋,在众人之间相互反射,被放大,直到来到这位被钉在十字架上的耶稣身上,像是找到了其最后抱怨的对象,一并倾倒在他身上。然而那声音却被耶稣的身体完全吸入而消灭了。。。

唯有一个声音,从他口中发出:“父啊,赦免他们,因为他们不知道他们所做的!”

You’ve got to know Him

You’ve got to know Jesus. He is meek, and humbled himself from the highest to the lowest for your sake.  You would be making a fundamental mistake to judge his worth according to his humility, which is the very basis of your salvation.

Is your life without purpose? Is your life too complicated? Is your life sin-laden? If so, it is because you haven’t known Jesus. But how can you know him without first accepting him? You could know a theory without having to know its author, but you could not know a person without meeting the person.

A great mystery of gospel is that God became a person, not only to accomplish man’s salvation itself, but also to make it possible for we mortals to know God. For the proud, the very notion of God becoming a man stumbles him. Not only can he not accept this notion, in fact he supports his entire unbelief with reasons found in this notion.

For the proud, the very humbling status of Jesus becomes a reason for his despising the gospel. The proud prefers a luminous god which he makes up in his own mind, a god which he can control, a god which he can comfortably entertain and manipulate in his thought and his own domain.

However, regardless of the haughty thoughts of the proud, God Himself cannot be known by human being by their own effort. Philosophy and religion may lead to interesting ideas about God, but never to God Himself. But God gave us His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that you may not only be saved but in fact know Him.

Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God has not only become knowable but also desires to be known by us.

“All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.” Romans 10:21.

Will you turn to Him to receive His saving hands? You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain.

The distance to the righteousness of God

How far are you away from reaching the righteousness of God? It is a heart and a tongue away.

“The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10: 8-9.

The fundamental meaning of “righteousness” is not the same as being merely morally just. “Righteous” means being right in the eyes of God. And if you believe that God’s righteousness is largely the same as what the society regards as “good” in conduct and behavior, you have not come to the essential truth as revealed in the Bible yet.

Concerning righteousness, there are roughly three kinds of people in this world. Those who have consciously rejected righteousness and believe that all things are merely subjective and relative; those who seek righteousness; and those who have found righteousness.

Fortunately, I have met very few people in my life who’d really belong to the first type. The majority of people are the second kind who seek righteousness. This type of people may either be religious or nonreligious, but it does not make much difference if the person is seeking outside of Jesus Christ.  If there is one thing that the Book of Romans has revealed, it is that there is no righteousness outside of Jesus Christ, who is the summary of everything God intended, God’s holiness, God’s law, love, mercy and grace.

One who seeks righteousness outside of Jesus Christ is at best seeking for self-righteousness, which will be proven unrighteous in the end (or not right in the eyes of God), regardless of how it might appear and how it might feel.

Now that we have seen God’s righteousness revealed in the gospel, and this righteousness is by faith, you may wonder how far you are away from this righteousness of God. The word of God would further tell you that this distance is not measured by your knowledge, your wealth, your health, your social status, your reputation, nor your past. It is measured by the willingness of your heart to submit yourself to God and the willingness of your tongue to confess.

“The word is near you; is in your mouth and in your heart…” Romans 10:8.

And never think that you are an exception with regard to the offer extended by God, as the Scripture says, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Sin and Atonement (a supplement to Romans 8 study notes)

As much as I look forward to studying Chapter 9 of Romans, my heart dwells on Chapter 8, eager to share an essential divine truth revealed in this chapter, fearing we might miss what the Word of God is telling us.

“For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:2-4

We had previously learned how we receive forgiveness by God because of Jesus Christ. The word “forgiveness” is very often misunderstood because we often relate it to an analogy in human forgiveness. Human forgiveness is drawn from the subjective mind of the person who forgives, and is therefore a mere attitude. But to understand what kind of forgiveness we need from God, it is necessary to consider what Atonement is.

From the most basic sense, atonement is a remedy to a problem, like a cure to a disease. Specifically, atonement is God’s remedy or cure to a problem and disease called Sin.

Sin is a problem – a problem to the sinner himself; a problem to others; a problem to the universe; and most of all, a problem to the Holy God.  Sin is a blemish, a fault, and defectiveness, but it is much more than that. Sin is a destructive force, but it is even more than that. Sin is active rebellion against a righteous God and thus not only deserves punishment but must be punished, unless God himself is unrighteous.

For any problem, a remedy is necessary. If the nature of the problem so requires, the necessary remedy can be a horrible one. If you have any memory of the pandemic chicken influenza (chicken flu) broke out in Hong Kong some years ago, you will recall that the chickens or other birds stricken by influenza must be killed in mass and thoroughly destroyed by burning and burying. The healthiness of human lives and the environment not only justifies such a horrific remedy but in fact demands it.

If you see the contrast and conflict between the sanctity of healthy human life and pandemic chicken, I hope that picture gives you a clue, although still an imperfect one, to the contrast and conflict between a holy God and man’s sin.

Sin deserves death penalty and also must be punished.

“… but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17.

But God sent “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh…”

In His perfect Son, God found the perfect remedy to the problem of human sin. Jesus Christ took the likeness of sinful nature, on account of my sin and your sin, took the punishment on my behalf and on your behalf, so that Sin was condemned, while at the same time allowed you and I to escape from the death penalty we rightly deserved. That is, the death of Jesus Christ became the atonement for my sin and your sin.

Seeing and accepting the atonement in the death of Jesus Christ is the very beginning of one’s salvation. Merely feeling some need of help by a “god who is kind” does not lead to salvation.

Many people have self-willed and wishful thoughts about God, using all possible imagination to make up an all-loving “god” without acknowledging the atonement by the death of Jesus Christ on the Cross. Those people will one day discover, in deep regrets, that their man-made religion does not solve their biggest problem – Sin, because it is simply a wrong remedy, an unworthy one, unacceptable to God.  And sin, without an effective remedy, will certainly lead to eternal death.

The divine truth revealed in Chapter 8 of Romans goes beyond just atonement. It revealed a new heavenly and glorious spiritual life promised for anyone who has received atonement. Once again, here you see resurrection (life) follows death (atonement). One cannot receive nor understand resurrection life without having first received atonement by the death of Christ.

God is true love. He loves not according to the self-willed wishful thinking of human being, but according to truth, the eternal truth. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  John 3:16.

Sin and death, faith and resurrection

Why is sin a recurring subject during a Bible study? If gospel is all good news, why this preoccupation with the concept of sin?

The truth is, being ignorant of one’s sinful condition is part of what separates a person from salvation. The fallacy of every human philosophy more or less relates to ignorance or misunderstanding of sin as human nature.  On a personal level, every excuse for unbelieving or rejecting God relates to the person’s ignorance or misunderstanding of his sin.

On the other hand, being conscious of one’s sin is not the same as knowing and understanding one’s sinful nature.

Further, feeling guilty in itself does not bring salvation to a person. Adam and Eve felt guilty the very day when they disobeyed God, but it took God many thousands of years of personal dealing, first with selected individuals and then with an elected people (the Jews), to manifest the true sinful condition of the fallen race.

It’s not because people have been gradually and progressively becoming more sinful than before, that God had to wait thousands of years for the sinful condition of man to grow into its maturity. In the eyes of God, people are as sinful today as ever, even from the first day when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God.

The wages of sin is death. Death is then the final manifestation and conclusion of sin. Death is really the true face and real condition of sin. Therefore only when you see the fixed equal sign between sin and death (SIN = DEATH) can you say that you truly understand what sin is.

Death of course is the ultimate embodiment of the total hopelessness. One who sees death objectively (not merely subjectively) sees total hopelessness.  In other words, seeing no hope in oneself and thus standing hopelessly before a just and holy God is the only right and truthful conclusion of sin. Only then do you know that, being a dead man, your only hope is resurrection, which is of course the ultimate symbol of impossibility for a natural man.

But you have now been brought face to face to the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is summarized by one word: Resurrection.

God promised and eventually demonstrated this resurrection in the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise seems impossible, just as the promise to Abraham seemed impossible to him. But that is very thing your faith must rest upon, and it is the essential merit of your faith which God can count as righteousness to you.

The decision is yours. Before you choose, you must be aware of the fact that you are brought face-to-face to the gospel by the necessity of your life’s condition, not by a curiosity in your mind.

According to the gospel, the sinner’s sinful life dies with Jesus when Jesus died on Cross bearing the sinner’s sin (because He died for the sinner). The sinner has thus paid the dues of his sin without suffering the actual outcome of his sin. But the sinner receives the resurrected new life from Jesus when He was resurrected from the death due to this connection made in faith.

God has promised you something which seems impossible, and if you believe that God did not lie, your faith will be counted as righteousness to you. Stop doubting by reasoning that what was promised is impossible. Impossibility is the very quality of the promise that can save you, because the impossibility is overcome by the resurrection power of the Lord Jesus Christ.

God made such a hard-to-believe promise because he must, as nothing short of the resurrection power can save you from sin and death. If it could take less to accomplish that, God would not have made such a hard promise. You complain that it is hard to believe, but have you ever thought that it was much harder for God to make such a promise, because the hardship all falls on God himself.  The hard nature of the promise required God to give away his beloved Son for our sake. Do you think God would let His Son suffer the death as a cost of sin if it were not necessary?

Dear friend, take this to heart: Nothing short of that will do. What you think may be easier to believe is not worth believing; But what is worth believing, is necessarily hard to believe due to the nature of our problem.

Why do you base your doubt on the very basis for the only thing that can save you? Abraham believed. Many others did too. Will you?

“[Abraham was] fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “IT WAS ACCOUNTED TO HIM FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Rom 4:21-22.

To a friend who starts to see the light

A letter to a friend once wrote to share her joy in the commencement of a journey to knowing God. 

We just received and read your letter.  The letter brought us true joy. Praise God our Lord for the work in your lives by His Holy Spirit.

No one has ever changed anyone’s life except with the help of the Holy Spirit of God. If you saw light when you first heard the good news from your friend, it is only because God’s life is in her and that life is the light that shines through.

The Son of God came and said: “I am the Light,” and  “I am the Way, Truth and Life.”  Before I became a believer, when I heard that, I thought it was some beautiful poetic language, just like what I heard many times before.  But poetic language, no matter how beautiful it may be, had nothing to do with my life and did nothing to my life.

Until one day God lifted the veil over my earthly eyes and opened my spiritual eyes to let me see the true reality behind and beyond everything our physical eyes see, and see that what Jesus said was literally true.

It is the ultimate truth, light and life hidden with love in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The truth does exist, only different and immeasurably better than what the idealists think it is.

The greatest thing that has ever happened in my life is to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savoir.  I did not expect such great things when I came to America.  And my heart is again blessed whenever I see a friend starting to know God, being awakened from all the earthly teachings and fleshly inspirations (which are lies of Satan), and walking away from the dark ways of this world which ultimately lead to death.

It is therefore our constant prayer that both of you will eventually come to truly know the salvation from God and are saved to the eternity. God’s salvation will surely bring hope to your life and change it for the better.  But do not mistakenly think that the Salvation of God is yet another religion, philosophy, or a self-help theory that might help to create a more positive attitude in one’s life.  It is much more than merely a positive attitude toward life.  It is even much more than just a profound and good world view.  Those things, if they are real and good, will be manifested by life, but God’s salvation is the life itself that lasts to the eternity.

I am very glad and thankful to hear that both of you are humble before God. Indeed, humility before God is the beginning of wisdom.  I hope you will continue to search for God, reading Bible which is the word of God, and seek fellowship with Christians.

I realize that the spiritual environment is not very good in the place you live.  But there are many faithful delivers living near you and you just don’t know them.  I even feel that, if the Lord permits, the tidings of God’s blessings, which swept Europe many centuries ago and America in the most recent centuries, are turning to Asia, particularly China.  God has promised that the Gospel (the Good News) will be preached to the ends of the earth before the time is up.

Never be led away by the schemes and illusions set by the devil to confuse you and frustrate you.  It is not easy to know God.  It is so because our ungodly condition keeps us away from God, not because God delights in hiding from us.

Never expect knowing God to be a “natural process.”  If you know yourself and others, you know that the nature of human being is hostile to the knowledge of God.  So violent is the natural incompatibility that when the Son of God came to the earth, we not only despised him but eventually crucified and killed him.

The evilness of human being is declared and manifested on the Cross on which the Son of God was crucified.  Once you see that, you will cry out to God and ask Him to help you to believe, because the very fact that we don’t believe is evidence that we need to believe, and our condition is in a pit and snare set up by the devil to trap us into unbelieving.

May you find favor in God’s eyes and hold on to that blessing.  I pray that we will meet soon in the future to share the fruits of God’s goodness.

The Cross is man’s judgment

Men squander the nature and their lives, but refuse to acknowledge the Maker of heavens and earth, even their lives; Men build alters and “high places” in their minds to satisfy their idolatrous hearts but deny Jesus precisely because of, not in spite of, Jesus’ “lowliness” of coming down from heaven to die for men’s sin. 

Yet it is the very same men who are very certain they are morally justified and do not need God’s salvation.  God will judge on that day everything man has done, but the condemnation needs not wait until men’s deepest secrets are revealed. 

Instead, men will be condemned at the very moment the Cross is revealed to them. They will see the Cross and immediately understand why the condemnation is well deserved and God’s judgment will be completely righteous.