Sealed and Guaranteed

Sealed and Guaranteed

My heart was so full and rejoiced deeply on 12 Aug 2018 (Sun) for the baptism of two very dear brother and sister in Christ, Tim and Ruth. The Lord gave me the privilege to journey with them for the past months and it was such an encouragement. My pastor tasked me to deliver a short messge for their baptism. The message is titled Sealed and Guaranteed.

Key Scripture Passage

Ephesians 1:13-14 New King James Version (NKJV)
“In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the HOLY SPIRIT OF PROMISE, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.”
Emphasis mine.

Baptism and Salvation

Water is used for washing and to make clean. Water baptism is more than just a public declaration. It is also a symbolic act of our old self being washed away by the water and emerge as a new person. All the past regrets, shame, pain, loses, victories and achievements, are taken away, far away from us. This is the time to start anew, afresh. A second chance whereby a clear line is drawn. I am so thankful that God uses the physical elements to help us understand and internalise spiritual truths that might be too abstract at times for us.

Baptism is the beginning of our jouney and the end is when our physical body is laid to rest or when Christ comes back, whichever is earlier. Therein lies the challenge of finishing this journey. This is a long marathon and not just a 100m sprint, which we do not know the distance nor the duration of our individual journey.

The beautiful part of it is that we are not alone in this journey, sealed with the Holy Spirit. We are SEALED and GUARANTEED in Christ until He comes back!

Seal

Let’s go a little deeper to understand what it means to be sealed by the Holy Spirit of God. We will look at the instances whereby the concept of seal is used in the Bible to gain insights to the function of a seal.

  1. Locking something within. E.g. how the tomb of Jesus was sealed (Matthew 27:66). This is to keep something precious seperated from the outside within so that there is no access from outside. Each believer’s whole being, spirit, soul and body is “wrapped” by the Holy Spirit to be seperated from the world. Holiness is defined as being separated from the world. The role of the Holy Spirit is to keep us pure and holy, untainted by the world, till Christ comes back for us.
  2. Sign of Authenticity. E.g. circumcision is a seal of righteousness of Abraham (Romans 4:11). Hologram seals for many products, like medication, supplements and even some IT products indicate its authenticity from the original manufacturer or brand. This is to help people identify the genuine products and differentiate from the imitations. The Holy Spirit within a believer marks the authenticity that the believer is of God.
  3. Identification and protection. E.g. Seal of God in the forehead of God’s servants as protection (Revelation 7:3-4). As long as the seal remains intact on a product, we know that they are new and not tampered with. A buyer will safely take the products whose seals are intact and those with broken seals are left to be trashed or heavily discounted for quick clearance. The same for Jesus. He has already paid for us in full and sealed us so that he can come back for us. The seal will be the identification used to protect us and take us home with Him.

Guarantee

Let’s illustrate guarantee through the rental of bicycle at East Coast Park (location where the baptism was held, by the beach). The rental shop requires customers to put in a refundable $200 cash deposit or personal ID as guarantee. The guarantee must be valuable enough for the customer to return their rented bicycles. What does it mean when the Bible says the Holy Spirit is a “guarantee of our inheritance”? God deposited Himself, the Holy Spirit, in us. The Holy Spirit is more than a valuable  guarantee for Jesus to return for us as promised?

Thus, the Holy Spirit as a seal and guarantee locks in our faith, validates us as true children of God and protects us from judgment/destructive forces that are not meant for us.

This implies the completion of our walk and journey with God is only possible by the grace of God.
God sets us on the journey with the assurance of completion. He gives us the resources and security for SUCCESS. God makes provisions for our slips, weariness, ignorance, “blur-ness”, idiosyncrasies and weaknesses.

The ability to continue to the end is NOT based on our own strength. We take the responsibility of our lives, but we are still not perfected yet. This means we stumble and fall. This means we can still fall short.

Our Responsibility – The Cross

Luke 9:23 “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.

Jesus states three requirements that is expected of those who wants to follow him, these make up the part that we have to play in this journey.

  1. Deny himself
  2. Take up his cross daily
  3. Follow Jesus

I will start from the middle requirement, which is to take up our cross daily. Carrying the cross is not equivalent to wearing a cross around our neck. Jesus carried the cross for a few hours to Calvary and here he commanded us to carry it for our whole journey. Does it even make sense that since Jesus already carried our sin on the cross that we need to carry our cross for the rest of our lives after accepting Him? Is the cross that Jesus ask us to carry similar to the cross He carried to Calvary?

The cross was a symbol of shame, a punishment that was given to the worst criminals. Jesus’ death changed the cross from a symbol of shame into a symbol of victory after His resurrection. Jesus carried the cross of shame, with our sin on it, to Calvary. The cross Jesus told us to carry is the cross of victory.

The cross that Jesus carried was heavy, especially with his beaten body, so heavy that Simon had to help him with it (Matthew 27:32). My next question is, “How heavy is the cross that Jesus calls us to carry?” If the cross represents the victory of Christ, it should carry the weight of Christ’s power. If Christ power overcame sin, it should be weightier and thus heavier. If we are unable to even carry the cross of our own sin without crumbling, how then are we able to carry the cross of Christ’s power?

Only God can carry Himself. No one else can.

Sealed and Guaranteed
I used the float found at the baptism site to illustrate the cross. We had a “Jesus” who carried the “cross” bent double. The other who represented us had some fun with it and even put it over her waist. What a contrast in how the cross was carried.

This leads me back to the first step Jesus instructed. To deny ourselves, which in other words, to die to ourselves. The reason why we need to die to ourselves is so that the Holy Spirit in us can fully come alive to enable us to carry the cross! This journey is not to Calvary but to Jesus. It is not to death but to life. So, our responsiblity is not to carry the cross but to deny ourselves to allow the Holy Spirit to carry the cross. This is a very reasonable demand Jesus made of us, possibly the smallest part to play in this narrative.

Is Our Cross Really Neccessary?

I find myself asking God if carrying our cross is really necessary since we already have the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can serve to remind us of Jesus’ death and resurrection, lead and guide us. The cross seems a little clumsy in this whole works. I realized the “clumsiness” of the cross is exactly what God is looking for. The cross is a large visible object that everyone can see, more of cannot miss. The Holy Spirit within is not visible to the physical eyes and its existance is proven by its workings within a person and through a person. Therefore, this clumsy cross is the testimony of Christ’s victory at work in our daily lives.

Conclusion

The only way to complete this journey is by dying, not just humbling, ourselves. This is the exact same journey Jesus took to obtain victory and glory. To be able to carry the cross daily, we need to die to ourselves. Our victorious completion lies in the cross we carry daily. We can only carry the cross daily when we have the Holy Spirit within us as a seal and guarantee.

The ultimate goal is for the GLORY OF GOD as stated in Ephesians 1:14 and we share in it. Not just at the end of the journey, but throughout the journey as we carry our cross of victorious power.

Phil 1:6b – “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

“Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise”

I wrote a series of devotion for my church on the Seven Last Words of Jesus for this Lent season and sharing them here. I am happy to discuss the answers to the questions in the comments below. So feel free to engage me in a dialogue. =) First of Seven Last Words of Jesus […]

Garden of Gethsemane

The Garden of Gethsemane bears witness to the last moments of Jesus before his arrest and crucifixion, after the Last Supper with his disciples.

The Garden of Gethsemane

39 And He came out and proceeded as was His custom to the Mount of Olives; and the disciples also followed Him. 40 When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, 42 saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” 43 Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. 44 And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. 45 When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, 46 and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” Luke 22:39-46 (NASB)

Although fully man, Jesus is also fully God. The godly nature of omniscience means he knows what is to come ahead of him, explaining the extent of his agony. As the Creator of our human body, he knows exactly the extent of the physical torture that awaits him. On top of this, the emotional pain of betrayal from his trusted disciple, and the abandonment by his other disciples when he takes on the path of suffering weighs on him. The weight of humanity’s sin upon his shoulders causing him to be separated from his perfectly united Abba is tremendous spiritual stress. This cup refers to the cup of redemption in a Passover Seder meal (the Last Super) that he just finished with his disciples, when he gave them the blood covenant that we remember now as Holy Communion. The price Jesus has to pay for this cup of redemption is unimaginable by any human mind. Matthew and Mark records Jesus praying this prayer three times. Jesus knows that this is the will of His Father and there is no other way. There is no way out. I might think there may be the permissible will of God rather than the perfect will. Nope, only God’s perfect will. It in with the full knowledge that Jesus obeyed the will of God. It might be a lot easier if Jesus did not have full knowledge, and just “happened” to walk to the cross. Often times, we as believers realise on hindsight that it was God’s wisdom not to reveal His full plan in a situation for we will not be willing to take the first step due to fear. This is not the case for Jesus. Full knowledge and full submission.

Instead of encouraging words, flogging.
Instead of respect, a crown of thorns.
Instead of a drink, vinegar.
Instead of a hand to hold, a cross to bear.
Instead of gifts, nails on his hands and legs.
Instead of enjoying the gift of breath, pain.
All received willingly.
From people who are not able to tell what is right from wrong,
With a passion wrongly placed.

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It is instinctive for me to avoid being in situations where there is pain, especially if I can see it in the next step. What is my response to God’s invitation to carry the cross in Luke 14:27 “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.“? I shrink away. I wrestle with God, not for blessings but to avoid suffering. Some may say that Christ has already borne all suffering and pain on his shoulder and thus as believers, all we get is blessings. Yet it is hard to avoid the teachings about dying to self so that Christ can live in us. The only blockage to living out to our full destiny in Christ is ourselves, our fleshy nature. Because of this, we need to be crucified with Christ.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NASB)

What amazes me even more is that in the agony of prayer, it is recorded that Jesus rose above the suffering COUNTING IT ALL JOY! I cannot imagine anyone consider enduring the cross as joy. Jesus casts his eyes further than the cross. Jesus is part of the Trinity even before he came to earth and was already ruling with Father God. The sitting down at the right of the throne of God represents a reinstatement of his position, which is a joyous occasion on its own. Perhaps there is an even greater joy that propels him through this suffering. Jesus was looking at the redemption of His Bride and through His authoring and perfecting her faith, she can be seated on the right hand of God with him.

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A Tribute to My Daddy

I miss my daddy. Miss him so much. I was daddy’s girl. Miss the fun I had with him, the discipline he enforced on me, the gifts he showered upon me and most importantly, being who he was in my life.

Daddy was a strong warrior who fought hard and well with cancer. He was atheletic and well-built but was half his size when half his stomach was taken from him. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy took him to another level of battle. There was not one word of complain throughout all the medical procedures and treatment. Chemotherapy weakened him further and all he said was that food tasted very strange. Radiotherapy left huge patches of burnt skin on his back and it seemed that my heart ached more than he did when he endured it matter-of-factly. At times his face cringed with pain, even so, he rose above it by being attentive to those around. He treated the nurses and health staff with much kindness and appreciated very help. Even though he struggled so much physically, mentally and emotionally, he chose to enjoy life as much as he could. He learnt different senior citizen sports after the cycles of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was strange having daddy at home so often but it was good. I knew his days were numbered. My prayer to God was “do not take him home until He accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior”.

One day he collapsed at home. This time the doctor confirmed that he was not going to last. He was hospitalized for about 2-3 weeks with stronger chemotherapy. Not through the usual IV, but one that was inserted directly to his heart. Yes, he had a plug at his heart. The time came when the doctor alerted me that he only had less than 2 days. I stayed by him in the hospital throughout. He was in coma, not able to respond. I sat beside him and kept singing “Yes, Jesus loves you” tenderly by his left ear. The next day late morning, he woke up. In his weak voice he said, “I want to be baptised”. Our pastor rushed down that very afternoon and baptized my father. After the baptism, he managed to whisper some last instructions to me and a farewell… then he went back into “sleep mode”. His pulse was getting weaker. I continued to sit next to him, and held his hand. When it was almost midnight, I knew within me it was time for him to go. I kept my fingers on his pulse. True enough, not long after his pulse stopped. There was a glorious glow on his face with a smile. I believed he met Jesus. There is no other way to explain the glory reflected on his countenance.

Daddy fought his last 11 months with such grace. He taught me so much about endurance, and the giving of self. I am so thankful that my Father God is a God who answers prayers. He did not allow my daddy to be eternally seperated from Him. I know that although daddy’s presence is taken away from me now but I will meet him in the glorious Kingdom of God after the return of Christ.

Happy Father’s Day, my dearest Daddy! You are dearly missed.

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Refigured by Grace

One night, I was with my late father and his friends crossing a major road after a late dinner. The 8-lane road was really quiet at that time. The whole bunch of us stopped at the middle divider after crossing 4-lanes to look out for traffic from the other side of the road. After which, I have no recollection of the events that followed and all of it was related to me by my dad.

A fast-moving motorcycle came really close to the middle divider and hooked onto me. I was dragged along with the motorcycle for a distance while the cyclist jammed his brakes. The abrupt stop catapulted me to about 11 metres away from the where the motorcycle stopped, and the motorcyclist was flung 15 metres away. The next thing I remembered was opening my eyes in a hospital bed.

I was confined to the bed for almost a week. I had no broken bones and there were no visible wounds or injuries on my body. You can imagine how difficult it was for an active 11-year-old to stay in bed the whole day. The reason for the bed confinement was for the fear of head concussion. When I flew off from the grips of the motorcycle like a supergirl, I landed head down against the concrete road. Just imagine how huge the impact of the fall was upon the head considering I had no other injury on the rest of my body. In my one week of confinement, my head felt a little strange and stiff but other than that, no abnormality.

Finally they let me off the bed. First thing I did was to go to the sink to wash up with running tap water. This was the first time I saw myself in the mirror. To my horror, the left side of my face was completely covered with dried blood and wounds from the accident. Just imagine the wound a child gets when he has a nasty fall on his knees on a road. This wound multiply at least ten times, all on the left side of my face. I honestly look like a horror movie demon that just walked out of a film set, perhaps even more horrific looking than creature coming out of the screen in The Ring.

Thank God that I was discharged a week after when the neuro team of doctors were certain that there was no concussion or any brain damage. Since it is a neuro team, they did not quite treat my facial wound. I was discharged without any medication for my face except some disinfectant lotion to clean the wound. The wound was left open without bandage as well. By then, some bruises on my legs and arms started to surface but nothing serious. My parents took good care of the facial wound. They cleaned it diligently everyday and after a month or two, scabs of the wound began falling off revealing pink new skin beneath. The healing process was miraculous. I have ZERO scars on my left face. I stand amazed by the sheer fact that a fall on the knee leaves scars and I have scars on my face from pimples, but there is absolutely no sign of this major wound on my face!

It is by God’s grace that I am alive from the accident. Yet, beyond that He has His angels protect me that I have no broken bones and no head injuries. The only visible wound on the face, He miraculously healed it COMPLETELY! It was because of this, I chose to be baptised the following Resurrection Sunday as I know that my life is not my own but Christ’s.

P.S. I wished we took photos of my face after the accident but we didn’t have any. Even the newspaper report of the accident had no photos of me. Perhaps out of compassion, the people did not want to keep records of such a hideous wound. Even so, to God be the glory!

Salvation

Hand Over to Satan to Save His Spirit?!

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I am in the midst of writing a book on 1 & 2 Corinthians which serves as a study book for a Diploma Biblical Studies program. As I am writing, thought I will share a little about Apostle Paul’s almost incredulous instruction of discipline to “hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh,so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:5) for a man who is in an incest relationship with his stepmother.

Apostle Paul’s instruction of handing over this man to Satan is a very specific and strong instruction. If he only intends to excommunicate him so that the church is kept holy, there is no need to mention Satan. Moreover, it seems contradictory that handing someone over to Satan can eventually save his spirit. Paul mentions a similar disciplinary action in 1 Timothy 1:20 where he delivered Hymenaeus and Alexander to Satan for discipline. It should be noted that this act of handing a person over to Satan for discipline is more than just a physical excommunication where Paul specifically prays for the power of our Lord Jesus to be present. Another passage written by Paul in 2 Cor 12 where he refers to the thorn in his flesh as a messenger of Satan that is present in his body to keep him humble and also for the glory of Christ. In these instances, Satan becomes God’s rod of discipline. The person is handed over to Satan “with the power of the Lord Jesus” signifies that God is still in full control of the situation with the end purpose to save the person’s spirit. God is sovereign over the life of the person handed over to Satan as Satan has to submit to God even in his rebellion.

Another record of a man being handed over to Satan in the Old Testament is Job (Job 2:6). Although Job is a blameless man and the reason for him being in the hand of Satan is the wager between God and Satan, the catastrophes meted out to Job drives him to declare “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6). There is a process of maturity and growth in God that brings Job to such repentance. In examination of Job’s story, the delivery of a man to Satan is a pathway of discipline for maturity and growth and not for destruction. Another Biblical story that bears such similarity will be that of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) where the father has no choice but to allow his son to go into the world, which can parallel to that of handing him over to Satan as he is the prince of the world. It is when the prodigal son experiences the harshness and bitterness of the world that he will turn and appreciate the goodness of the father. This turning back is salvation for the spirit even though the physical, emotional and mental are battered by the battles in the world.

This is probably best typified by what we call tough love now. The wilderness of willful sin can either kill a person or drive him back to repentance.