Christ’s Finished Work: Worship

I remember that in the days of paper dictionaries the word before and after “worship” is “worse” and “worst” respectively. Worship keeps the “worse” from getting to “worst”!

Worship of God under the old era was a tedious, costly and bloody affair. The sheep, goat or bull had to be taken to the priests for checks. Those who cannot afford can offer doves instead. Once they pass muster, they will be sacrificed and the best parts were burnt as an offering to God to atone for one’s sins. The innocent life of animal sacrifices paid for and covered the sins of the worshipper.

Under Christ’s new era, we do not worship in order to attain peace with or right standing before God through animal sacrifices. Instead, because of the finished work of Jesus in his ultimate and final sacrifice of his life, right standing and peace with God has been achieved for us who put our faith in him. Instead our worship is a grateful response to the finished work of Christ that secured our salvation. 

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy (Christ’s finished work), to offer your bodies (instead of animal sacrifices) as a living sacrifice (instead of dead animal sacrifices), holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. (Romans 12:1 NIV– my comments bracketed)

True and proper worship springs from Christ’s death and resurrection. It is never to gain acceptance or favour before God, but a grateful thankfulness that Christ has already obtained, earned, and deserved these gifts for us. It is not mainly singing songs of praise to God and thanking him in prayer which is one of many expressions of gratitude to God. In essence, worship has to do with fully surrendering our whole lives to God. We do not strive to worship; we surrender to worship. We separate our lives from all sins and devote our whole selves (all that we are and have) to living for his praise and glory. When I live to do God’s will whether it be studying, serving National Service, working in the marketplace, raising a family, or serving among God’s people, I am a true worshipper.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is Spirit and his worshipers must worship in Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23,24 NIV). When the good news of Jesus’ finished work is preached and people respond in faith to the message, they are born again by the Holy Spirit, and will be able to worship in the Holy Spirit as they ponder over the wonderful truths of salvation. Without the finished work of Christ, there is no true worship!

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Christ’s Finished Work: Victory

Sometimes in Christian funerals, we hear mourners say, “He lost the battle to cancer (or whatever other disease or condition), but he fought bravely.” While this is a fact, the truth is more like, “Though he lost his life to cancer, he won the victory over death through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Victory, in the Old Testament, is the act of defeating an enemy or opponent in battle. It is the same in the New Testament except that the enemy is not flesh and blood as it often was in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the enemy defeated is death. 

Death visited humankind with the disobedience of Adam. God the Creator had told Adam and Eve, in effect, “The day you disobey, death will be part of your life experience”. Both physical death, and spiritual death, which is separation from a loving relationship with God. Death became the hated and feared enemy of man. God too treats death as an enemy to battle with. 

It was the death and resurrection of Jesus that was the decisive battle that defeated death. Jesus became the first to be raised from the dead to live forever. When Jesus returns, all who believe in Jesus will be raised to life, and believers living during his return, will have their bodies transformed into spiritual bodies(1 Cor 15:51-52), and be taken up to meet him in the air, to join thousands of other followers who had died in Christ before his return .

1 Cor 15:54, 55 states: “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: 

‘Death is swallowed up in victory. 

O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?’”

1 Cor 15:57 states: “But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the Old Testament death was pictured as a huge greedy mouth swallowing the dead but the picture St Paul conjured is of death itself being swallowed up by the victory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Because God raised Christ, he will also in time, raise all who put their trust in Jesus Christ. Death is already defeated but the consummation of this victory awaits Jesus return. Death, the enemy most feared by the human race: both rich and poor, educated and illiterate, powerful and lowly, will finally be eradicated and destroyed once for all when Jesus returns. Death will be swallowed forever never to re-appear. Thanks be to God for the finished work of Christ.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Finitely Infinite: Exploring Infinite Meaning in a Finite World

My home church decided to do an exhibition that is seeker friendly. It is stylishly named: Finitely Infinite. The exhibition guide states that it is an invitation “to explore the majestic cosmos and the profound depths of individual consciousness,” and “to encourage contemplation of our place within the grand design of creation”. It’s a great idea: to facilitate an exploration of the meaning of our existence, after all, this is Advent, when the Meaning of Life, Jesus Christ came to show us humans the secret of existence. 

The young leaders in World Revival Prayer Fellowship were fantastic. Led by Sarah Phua, they conceived, nourished, grew, and finally, after much contraction pains, birthed and delivered this exhibition at this stunning level of excellence. It was a multi-generational effort, but the young adults owned it, worked it, prayed it, and volunteered a few thousand hours to complete and run this exhibition. I was astounded at how the worship hall had been professionally transformed beyond recognition.

I went to this exhibition in the afternoon determined to do it at a leisurely pace, to relish and contemplate about my finiteness and God’s infinity. I felt the vast greatness of God and my smallness. I delighted in the grace that stooped to love me even though I did not deserve it. I was impressed beyond words. The good news of God’s love was conveyed in a beautiful way through 6 exhibit rooms, displaying the eternal attributes of God: his majesty, beauty, power, wisdom and love. It also allowed me to respond with my reflections.

I left the exhibition celebrating this historic first in my home church’s development timeline. I pray that more seekers would come and see and experience this exploration of the true Meaning of Life that the exhibition seeks to facilitate. Here are some photos I took of the exhibition. Sadly these photos cannot convey God’s presence, nor the feelings that many who went to the exhibition experienced. You simply have to come and taste.

Exhibit 1 displays the complexity, beauty and vastness of creation (including a few remarkable photos of a church member who is a professional photographer). All exhibits are accompanied with appropriate music. My sense of sight, sound, touch, smell and taste were all engaged.

The exhibition runs from 15th Dec to 23rd December 2023. You can book your time slot HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Unity

The world is experiencing great divisions, polarisation and tribalism. People are no longer listening to each other, not trying to understand each other’s position. They hold rigidly to whatever they believe in and they refuse to budge. The vocal ones are usually deeply entrenched in their opinions and beliefs. They are even willing to cancel out others who disagree with them. The need for unity in diversity is never greater than in today’s divided world.

The New testament church faced similar tensions in their congregations because both Jews and Gentiles have come to know Jesus Christ and find themselves in the same congregation. Their disagreements and disputes in theology, practices and expectations caused tension and disunity. 

St. Paul pointed to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the solution to divisions in the church. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were  far off (the Gentile believers) have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one (conflicting Jewish and Gentile converts) and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility”(Eph 2:13-16 ESV). The walls of hostility and division between believers of Jewish and Gentile backgrounds have been demolished by the power of the finished work of Christ. And so too all other divisions caused by differences in gender, status, beliefs, nationality, race or language. God wants to form a vast community of people in Christ who love each other with a love that covers the cracks of divisions.

Therefore we should be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”(Eph 4:3). This unity was purchased and founded on the reconciling death of Christ. Maintaining unity is hard work and all believers must strive to do their part. It is worth the effort because unity is highly valued by God. It was so valuable he gave his only Son so that the gift of unity, a unity that first resided in the triune God may be established in the Body of Christ.

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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Christ’s Finished Work: Triumph

What is triumph? A great victory or achievement. A second definition is “the processional entry of a victorious general into ancient Rome”. The latter definition was exactly what St Paul had in mind when he wrote to the Christ-followers in Colossae: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Colossians 2:15 NIV). It was obvious that he was using an analogy that the first century recipients of the letter would have understood: the triumphant processional entry of a victorious Roman general into the city of Rome after a successful conquest over some faraway country. As he enters in triumph and grandeur with his legion, to the adulation of thousands of people, he would have in the procession the chained, disarmed and defeated generals and rulers of the defeated country. They would be openly shamed and humiliated, while the glory of Rome and the victorious general would be magnified and celebrated. 

What then, in Paul’s mind, were these “powers and authorities”? To him they were the spiritual enemies of God: Satan and his lieutenants. They had been defeated “by the cross”: by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Satan had been stripped of his most potent armament. He has been disarmed of lethal weapons. The kilotons of power (sin and death) that Satan had over human beings have been nullified by the megatons power of the cross. Now all he can do is to deceive and influence people (including Christians) to believe his lies instead of being freed by God’s truth. In the end, Christ triumph will be manifested for all to see, and every knee that has now bowed shall bow before him.

As followers of Christ we can share and participate in this triumph over the enemy. We no longer need to fear the two weapons of the spiritual forces of darkness. We declare by faith that sin’s power has been nullified. “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work” (1 John 3:18 NIV). The devil tempts us into sin like he did with Adam and Eve, but Jesus has disarmed him of this weapon through the forgiveness of sins, and through setting us free from the power of sin in our life. This is vital triumph.

His other weapon is death, and Jesus broke its power and freed all believers from the fear of death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death- that is the devil” (Hebrews 2:14 NIV). The resurrection of Christ is both proof and promise that God will also raise all followers of Christ to a resurrection of life when Jesus returns. This is triumph – beautifully poetic, powerfully effective, complete and final. All because of the finished work of Christ! Praise God!

This is part of a planned series of writings on the topic, “The A to Z of Christ’s Finished Work”. I am writing it alphabet by alphabet. Thus far the others that I have written can be found HERE.

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