The Power of Right Believing: reflection 7

rightPart 7: Finding rest in the Father’s love

Now at last I have come to the last part of the book. It’s rare that I finish a book. Making a public promise gives me that little push to complete it. So I am glad to announce this Good Friday: “It is finished – the reading of this book of course.”

Chapter 19: Receive the Father’s love for you

This chapter has interesting insights into the parable of the Prodigal Son or some say the Waiting Father. JP does a good job of showing that this is all about the waiting father’s prodigal lavish love and grace to both of his sons. The first son was accepted even though his motive for returning home was suspect with self-interest, and his mentality is one of works – “Let me try to earn my keep by working for you like one of your hired servants”. The second son, also had that same works mentality: “I have slaved for you all these years and you never gave me what I deserved, but this son who never deserved anything, has a barbecued fatted calf!” Both sons showed the flawed but common approach to Christian life of many Christians.

Joseph Prince himself personally does confess and admit his wrong to God (310) but it is done as one already forgiven, as one secure and deeply loved: “Do I say “sorry” to God and confess my sins when I have fallen short and failed? Of course I do. But I do it not to be forgiven because I know that I am already forgiven through Jesus’ finished work. The confession is out of the overflow of my heart because I have experienced his goodness and grace and because I know that as His son, I am forever righteous through Jesus’ blood. It springs from being righteousness-conscious, not sin-conscious; from being forgiveness-conscious, not judgement-conscious. There is a massive difference.” An earlier quote (308,309) shows the belief he finds harmful: “Some people think that fellowship with God can only be restored when you are perfectly contrite and have perfectly confessed all your sins. They think that you must apologize to God before He can be appeased. Please understand that I have nothing against saying “sorry” to God or confessing our sins. All I am saying is that we are not as important as we make ourselves out to be. The father was the initiator. Before the son even had thoughts of returning home, the father had already missed him, was already looking out for him, and had already forgiven him. Before the son could utter a single word of his rehearsed apology, the gather had already run to him, embraced him, and welcomed him home.” I thought it good to quote extensively here, as there has been some controversy and confusion about JP’s statements about confessing sins that are often not accurate reflections of his understanding. Hope this clarifies and settles some dust from your eyes.

Chapter 20: Be transformed by the Father’s love

The focus in this chapter is our propensity to try to earn the Lord’s love and favour. JP demonstrates that both sons had that mentality. Believers therefore need to come to a place of believing and receiving God’s love and let it transform them. All his love and spiritual resources and blessings are already ours not because of our perfect performance but His perfect finished work. And when we learn to receive God’s love, we will be empowered to live free from the pig sty life that the prodigal son would never think of going back to after experiencing the love of the father.

Chapter 21: Finding rest in the Father’s love

The best way to sum up this last chapter is to quote a “simple but critical truth”, one that you should memorize “even if you forget everything else you have read in this book”. Here it goes: “As a child of God, no matter what happens in your life, your Father in heaven loves you dearly and nothing you do can ever change that.” Believing this will free you from the performance trap; give you power to overcome mistakes, failures and sins in your life; triumph over temptation; and make you unshakeable.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 6

rightPART 6: HAVE A CONFIDENT EXPECTATION OF GOOD

The central idea in this part is all about having hope: a confident expectation of good from God because He is gracious. It’s about what is hope, why it is important, how to have it, and bible examples of this truth in action.

CHAPTER 16: THE BATTLE BELONGS TO THE LORD

Joseph Prince used the famous battle that Jehoshaphat fought against enemies that formed an unholy alliance against God’s people (2 Chronicles 20). It demonstrated how hope comes, and how it works magic in impossible situations that God’s people finds themselves in. Inspiring chapter.

CHAPTER 17: GOD LOVES IT WHEN YOU ASK BIG

The story of Jabez’s prayer and God’s answer to him (1 Chronicles 4:9) was the basis of encouraging us to unashamedly ask big when we approach God in prayer. He tells the inspiring story of Olivia Lum, the entrepreneur who founded Hyflux, Singapore’s first water management company to be listed in the SGX.

CHAPTER 18: FINDING HOPE WHEN ALL SEEMS HOPELESS

Joseph Prince reminds us of the thesis of this book. There is power in right believing. And the secret to right believing is right listening. He demonstrates this principle by showing how listening to the stories of Jesus healing power raised the faith of the woman who had been bleeding for 12 years (Mark 5).

Well, I am surprised that I have actually come to this point. This is the second last part of the book. Most books remain unfinished on my book shelf. I am easily distracted when it comes to ideas. I move from one idea and interest to another quickly. You could say it was my earlier pledge to readers that has brought me to this point. Now I can see the finish line.

The insights in these chapters does not grab you like gems in the earlier chapters. But the stories are inspiring. I love the Olivia Lum story. Wonderful stuff. This part is an easy lap. It energises, it inspires. It is not rocket science. Hope is strengthened when we keep our eyes on Jesus and his love for us. God wants to bless us and we can have a confident expectation of good because of His unchanging love.

The power of right believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 5

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

PART 5: BE FREE FROM SELF OCCUPATION

Part 5 shows how a reader can move from an undesirable position of self-occupation to the desirable one of Christ-occupation. This is a continuation of the whole theme of the renewal of our minds by right believing. Part 5 shows the goal and why it is important and how it can be done.

Chapter 13: Be free from self-occupation

Joseph Prince emphatically states the need to move from self-occupation to Christ-occupation. Too many are self-occupied and as a result suffer from the consequences. They are overly concerned about what others think or say about them. They suffer from an inferiority or a superiority complex. They are often insecure and dwell on negative thoughts about themselves and others. He used the example of how David slayed Goliath as an example of someone whose trust in God, rather than the bigness of the problem occupied his mind. It set him free from fear and anxiety that plagued the other fighters in the battlefield.

Chapter 14: Jesus be the centre of it all

In chapter 14 and 15 Prince moved to the practical steps that help us move from self- to Christ-occupation. Chapter 14 shows that the way to do it is to see Jesus in the scriptures. His main text is the story of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (“warm baths”). The disciples were discouraged and confused over Jesus’ death. The resurrected Lord, unrecognized by them began to show them how Jesus fulfilled the scriptures. He showed them Jesus in the Old Testament. He reproved them for being slow to understand and to believe. This then is one practical thing to do to move to Christ-occupation. Whenever we read scriptures look for God. Do not see more rules and laws to obey. See more of Jesus and his beauty. Then our hearts will have a warm bath just as the two disciples’ hearts burned with holy fire.

Chapter 15: Worship with the words of David

Joseph Prince uses a story in the life of David. He had fled from Saul who wanted to kill him. He went to Gath and pretended he was mad. They released him and he hid in the caves and Adullam. Prince used Psalms 34 to highlight how David sang and worshipped and prayed and this helped him shift from a self-occupation that discouraged him to a Christ-occupation that inspired him. Prince traced the shift from self to Christ in Psalms 34 thus showing that the act of praising God and praying moves us from self to Christ-occupation.

As a whole this was a practical part. It motivates you to co-operate with God bath yourself in scripture and prayer and praise. It reminds me of the traditional “means of grace”: scripture meditation and prayer. In fact the whole of church community life is meant to revolve around the word and the sacrament, both of which point to the finished work of Christ.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 4

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

The last reflection was on 23 Dec 2013. That was about two months ago. I have been rather occupied and there were other event-related blog posts I wanted done more urgently. However, I still want to finish the reflections on this book that I started off with. In Part 4, Joseph Prince writes about a topic that has helped many of his hearers. He has received much feedback on messages related to these chapters. The title of Part 4 is “Win the Battle for your Mind”. Let me highlight some of the main points as it appears to me and give you my reflections:

Win the battle for your mind (chapter 10): The battle of the mind has to do with replacing wrong beliefs with right beliefs. The devil wants negativity, lies, condemnation to occupy believers’ minds. These deeply embedded wrong beliefs are strongholds that affect their emotions and feelings and even their health. Thus negative emotions like fear, worry, guilt and anger find their source in people’s thought patterns and beliefs about God and the world and people. Thus the battle of the mind is won by establishing the truth of Jesus and what he has accomplished on the cross. It is won by believers knowing who they are and what they have in Christ. It is won by bringing every thought into captivity, which means to focus on the obedience of Jesus in the place of believers, the perfect righteousness of God granted to all believers by faith.

Prince shows insight into how the devil works in planting wrong thoughts in the believer’s mind: he uses the first person pronoun “I“, instead of “You” to deceive believers into thinking the bad thoughts were theirs, instead of an external evil source. Instead of “You are such a lousy Christian” he will insert “I am such a lousy Christian.” This alerts us to the devil’s tactics.

Victory over the enemy’s mind games (chapter 11): The unpardonable sin is dealt with in this chapter. Joseph Prince shares his experience of condemnation. “I was really worried that I had already committed the unpardonable sin and was on a one-way ticket to hell. The more I tried not to, the more I would have all kinds of blasphemous thoughts about the Holy Spirit when I prayed and even when I was earnestly worshiping God. It was a harrowing experience, with the devil relentlessly oppressing and attacking my mind with all kinds of evil thoughts.”(Prince, 170). The mental oppression lasted a year for Prince. He won the battle by ignoring the enemy. “When the devil suggests things to your mind, just ignore him. Spiritual warfare doesn’t have to be combative. It can be restful, peaceful, simple, and easy. It’s all about seeing Jesus’ finished work”(Prince, 173). I liked the way he interpreted the “unpardonable sin” as “simply the sin of an unbeliever continually rejecting Jesus as his or her Savior,” something any true believer simply cannot have committed.

Prince quoted an excerpt from John Bunyan’s autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, in which Bunyan was delivered from his despondency by a revelation of God’s gift of righteousness. “I saw, with the eyes of my soul, Jesus Christ at God’s right hand; there, I say, was my righteousness……………..I also saw, moreover, that it was not my good frame of heart that made my righteousness better, nor yet my bad frame that made my righteousness worse; for my righteousness was Jesus Christ himself, ‘the same yesterday, and today, and forever’.”

We also get Prince’s idea of repentance. It is “metanoia”, a Greek word from the original text which literally means “a change of mind”. He debunks the caricature associated with repentance as grovelling, tears, self-condemnation and feeling bad enough for long enough so that God’s forgiveness can be earned. For Prince it is changing your mind to align it to what God thinks and has said about believers. Let right beliefs based on God’s word replace all the falsehoods planted by the devil in the believers’ minds. “It is right believing that brings about true repentance (change of mind) and hence genuine transformation”(Prince, 176).

Beware the roaring lion (chapter 12): Prince dealt with one of the greatest struggles of believers: the persistent thought that God does not approve of them. He is not happy with them. In fact, he is angry with them. He debunks this and shows that God is not mad at us but mad about us. He shows that the armor of God needs to be put on and the armor shows all the ways the devil will attack our minds. The belt of truth shows Satan will attack us with lies. The breastplate of righteousness shows that the devil will attack us with accusation and condemnation. The shield of faith is to protect us from fears and doubts. The shoe of the gospel is the peace that protects our joy from being stolen. And so on. His main idea: the armor of God has to do with what you believe in Christ. When you believe right, there is nothing the devil can do with you.

I prefer the way Arthur Wallis put it in his book, “Into Battle”. He demonstrated how Jesus fulfilled all the pieces of the Christian’s armor. He is truth. He is righteousness. He is our peace. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is our salvation. And He is the Word. When we continually believe in Him, we have in effect put on Christ and therefore the whole armor of God, and are fully protected in Him.

However I was not comfortable with his interpretation of Proverbs 19:12 “The king’s wrath is like the roaring of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.” The best interpretation is the obvious sense. The wise writer of Proverbs has simply made a wise observation that it is scary when the king is angry with you for your life is in his hands, but if he likes you, the blessings will nourish and prosper you. Prince has spiritualised the text. The king is the Lord Jesus, and when Jesus is angry it is the disease, the injustice, and what sin is doing to you that he is angry with. “But the devil comes to you all dressed up as a lion, impersonating the King. He wants to give you the impression that God is angry with you, even though He isn’t…..The devil is going about as a roaring lion because he is pretending to be Jesus and trying to intimidate you through the impression that God is angry with you. The devil is an imposter! He wants to make you feel alienated and cut off from Jesus. He wants you to think Jesus is saying, “I am not pleased with you. I am really disappointed in you. How could you make such a mistake?” His description of the devil’s tactic is spot-on but the usage of the Proverb betrays a slant for spiritualizing, when a plain reading of it has nothing to do with the devil or spiritual warfare. However other scriptures about the “accuser of the brethren” more plainly expose this aspect of the devil’s tactics.

Overall, Part 4 is very practical and useful, as our minds are a spiritual battleground in which we need to enforce the victory that Christ has already given us. The chapters give us practical handles for winning the battle of the mind.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 3

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

This book is deceptively simple, but the truths are gospel truths and potent. Part three of Joseph Prince’s book is titled “Receive God’s Complete Forgiveness”. Part one was “Believe in God’s love for you” and Part two was “Learn to see what God sees”. These are the ABC’s of the greatest news in the world. Does not seem like anything difficult for anyone to wrap their minds around. However I suspect many find it difficult to believe all these powerful declarations. Human propensity is to achieve God’s forgiveness, acceptance and love by one’s own goodness and effort, not to receive them by faith. Believing and receiving God’s forgiveness and acceptance without any human payment for the debt of sin is too difficult for the rational and self-sufficient person to accept. However, these are truths that the world and even the baptized needs to hear over and over again.

Let me first summarize the chapters in part three:

Receive His forgiveness and reign (chapter 7): Prince underlines the importance of believing in God’s unconditional love and accepting his full forgiveness. He also explains how these coupled with the knowledge of God’s gift of righteousness are able to transform and set free those who feel guilty, condemned, trapped in habits and addictions. It also issues forth in works of love not obligation.

Fresh grace for every failing (chapter 8): Prince opens his life and shares how irritable he can get on occasion. He shows that many problems arise out of a person not dealing with a sense of guilt or condemnation in his life. He points out that grace is not merely empowerment as some claim it to be. Grace is God’s unmerited favour and forgiveness for every failing and it is this confidence in continually receiving God’s forgiveness that enables our lives to be transformed and freed from every addiction, sinful habits and anxieties.

Experience freedom from condemnation (chapter 9): Prince uses the woman caught in adultery as the main passage to demonstrate how God does not condemn us for our sins but rather extends his forgiveness for us all. Jesus was the only one qualified to throw the first stone but instead he forgave the woman. And just as release from condemnation would give the adulterous woman the power to “go and sin no more” so it would be with us. Not only freedom from sin but also the healing of our sicknesses.

Reading this book is similar to reading the first epistle to John. There is a constant repetition and use of spiral to weave the truths into your being. There is constant overlapping of truths and applications and a clear outline may not be easily discernible at times. Do not get riled up, used as we are to western logical deductive thought and order with points and sub-points format.

I like one of his fresh insights on Jesus writing on the ground. What is the most common interpretation of what Jesus wrote on the ground in front of all the religious folks who wanted the adulterous woman stoned? Jesus was writing down the specific sins of the angry mob. Some say with their names too! Well Prince saw an interesting twist. He said Jesus wrote on the stony ground, stood up and stooped down to write again. What was he writing? He wrote on the stone ground the 10 commandments. What does this remind you of? Of God, who wrote the 10 commandments on the stone tablets twice – the second time after Moses broke the first set in anger at the sins of the people. Jesus was in effect saying to those with eyes to see, I am the Word made flesh.

Joseph Prince believes that “the root cause of many sinful habits, fears and addictions can be traced to condemnation. I want to talk to you today about going after condemnation as the root to help you receive god’s forgiveness in those areas so that you can break out of your cycle of defeat and step into a new cycle of victory”(Prince, 106). There have been others root causes put up by other Bible teachers. Those in deliverance work will point to rejection as the root cause. Those in inner healing would point to the dysfunctional relationship to the father. Without wanting to split hairs, it seems to me that theologically the root cause should be unbelief. Condemnation is one of the consequences of our unbelief. Our ancestors Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan to believe wrongly that God did not intend good for them when He forbade them from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The whole process of redemption on the human side would then require the power of right believing. That’s why the cardinal essential for salvation and transformation and effective ministry has to be: by grace through faith (Ephesians 2: 8). However the disagreement here is major.

I hope some people are taking the opportunity to read the book along with me and to enter into conversation about it. I apologize for any delays in the approval of your comments on my blog, and also for not replying or conversing with readers. During the Israel pilgrimage the access to internet was intermittent and weak at times. I anticipate that I will be pretty busy during this period with functions and catching up on work that has piled up. Also I have just returned from Israel and I have seen God work his wonders and learned much from the pilgrimage but I need to edit the photos before I blog about that.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 2

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

Tomorrow I fly off to lead a group of 47 pilgrims in a tour of Israel. Half the members are from our church, the other half are their friends and a group from another church. Its going to be an exciting time. We go to pray and to bless Israel, and certainly be blessed as well. Blessed to see what was once not a nation now a nation; blessed to hear Hebrew, once dead but now a living language; blessed to feel how Old Testament prophecies have been fulfilled, and God’s faithfulness revealed. All this will be energizing for us. This is also the land where Jesus lived, moved and ministered. Here He was born; here He died and rose again. Here is where He will return in glory. I’m excited. Do pray for us.

Before I go off I wanted to write this reflection on the second part of Joseph Prince’s book. If you have his book and it is lying on the shelf somewhere why don’t you read this particular part and help contribute some thoughts on how the book has helped you. You can share what you like or do not like in the book, and discuss more deeply some of the ideas in this part which covers chapters 4, 5 and 6. Imagine you are in a reading club and we are all reading this stuff together to discuss it on this platform instead of face to face.

Part 2 is titled “Learn to See What God Sees” and here is my summary of each chapter in this part:

Play the Right Mental Movies (chapter 4) – The central idea is that we have a tendency to look at the negative and this creates fear in our hearts. We play the wrong kind of mental movies. And fear like a boa constrictor suffocates us to death. We cannot get rid of such fearful ideas. The best way is to replace them. Replace them with God’s truth and right belief.

See Yourself As God Sees You (chapter 5) – Here Prince introduces the doctrine of justification in its practical implications. A great exchange has taken place. Jesus took our sins. We received his gift of righteousness. When God looks at us He sees Jesus’ righteousness and not our failures, sins, weaknesses. He looks at us and He sees a child of God deserving of favor, blessing and approval.

You Are Irreversibly Blessed (chapter 6) –  Prince takes the Old Testament story of Balaam paid by Balak to curse Israel but when it came time to curse Israel he actually blessed Israel. Balaam explained that God commanded him to bless and he could not reverse that. God has “not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel”(Num23:20,21). The chapter went on to develop further the idea of justification and how God views us who are made righteous in Christ, and how therefore God loves to pour out his undeserved blessings on us.

I am beginning to notice the use of a dominant image or life story in each chapter. For instance the mental movie, the constrictor snake, or a businessman who moved from fear to faith, or an American guy who found help in knowing how God sees him. I like it that he is using both local as well as Caucasians (with an eye to connecting to American Christians) as it shows that this message can have the same fruit across national boundaries and cultures.

When I read Chapter 6, I thought, I must digest this and share this with the church. Its a beautiful “shadow”  that points us to the amazing work of justification and its implications. Traditional teaching on justification falls shy of talking about how God will bless and favor us as a fruit of justification. They will focus on the spiritual blessings as in Romans 5. Prince boldly talks about material blessings though not in this chapter but elsewhere.

Conservative interpretation of the Old Testament also does not allow for the use of typology when the event, person, object or colour is not so used in the same way in the New Testament. Thus since Balaam and the story of Israel, and the high priestly breast-piece,  used as “shadows”pointing to the real blessings of justification was never mentioned in such a connection in the New Testament, it is not permissible to interpret the OT text in this way. I am less conservative with regards to this, and there are scholars along a spectrum on this issue. To me, such typology should be permissible. However, the text must not be artificially contorted beyond recognition and reason. It should not contradict any of the major Bible doctrines that are made clear elsewhere. Lastly, it brings out the loveliness of Jesus finished work and not shed light on some insignificant subject. If it sheds light on the overall redemptive theme of the whole Bible and I give it my thumbs up.

The Power of Right Believing by Joseph Prince: reflection 1

"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince
"The power of right believing" by Joseph Prince

There are seven parts to this book and I hope to post my reflections on them a part at a time. This book was written to help people with fears, guilt, and addictions. Prince is convinced that the difference between those who were set free and those who were not, is simply right believing.

First a summary of the first part: Believe in God’s Love for You

What You Believe is Powerful (chapter 1):  Wrong beliefs keep you imprisoned but the truth sets you free. The truth that sets you free is the gospel of grace which when believed will uproot all your wrong beliefs.

The God Who Seeks the Shunned (chapter 2):  God is not after you for your mistakes and failings and sins. People will shun you like the village shunned the Samaritan woman, but Jesus would seek you out.  Uproot common misconceptions about God’s attitude towards those who fail him. Know and believe He abounds in mercy and love and your life will change.

“Jesus Loves Me This I Know” (chapter 3): God’s love for us is unconditional. He forgives us completely; He justifies the ungodly; and loves the sinner. It’s not about how much you love Him but about how much He loves you.

Joseph Prince’s book is very readable. I like the easy to read typo and spacing. The chapters are probably adaptations and edited versions of his sermons. They bear some characteristics of sermons. They speak directly to you in a conversational tone. Sometimes there is the occasional detour and the repetition of ideas in different words. It’s also inspirational and declaratory.

What resonates for me was the mention of how we often have mere head knowledge of the vastness of God’s love for us but when a crisis hits our lack of real belief and knowledge is betrayed by our great fears, anxiety and guilt. On reflection I realize these moments when we see a gap between what we believe about God and how we react or behave are opportunities for the Spirit to write on the tablets of our hearts His personal love letter. Through such experiences what we know in the head percolates to the heart.

From reviewing the first part, I can understand why he keeps preaching the rich theme of God’s grace over and over. For one there are always new people in the audience who need to hear it many times in different ways before it uproots their wrong concepts about God. Second, the whole Bible has a rich deep vein of inexhaustible grace to be mined and surfaced for the people to draw from. Third, faith is not built over a Sunday and often when we are facing a challenge we need to be reminded again and again to look to the God of grace and unconditional love.