Posts by Peter Eng

Prayer and Anointing

The early church practised the laying on of hands regularly when they pray.  It is not a practice that is limited to big occasions like an ordination. When they prayed for the sick, they did so by anointing the sick with oil.

Such faith symbols have meaning but we have neglected them.  They seem to demand so much of the anointer and the anointed.  But let’s hear the Word of God:

Are any of you suffering hardships?  You should pray.  Are any of you happy?  You should sing praises.  Are any of you sick?  You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord.  Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well.  And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.  (James 5:13-15  NLT)

Does your Electronic Bible Work?

I’m so deeply committed to “more-is-better” that I hardly notice I am addicted to it.  If this program has 30 Bible versions, it is better than the one that has 5.  If my e-book stores the Bible and 1,000 more titles, it is better than the Bible alone. When I got my smartphone, I enjoyed the freedom it gave me. Now, I don’t have to bring my Bible to church anymore.  I just read off my phone.  But I think last Sunday will be the last time I do it.  My electronic Bible doesn’t work.

It works fine.  It just doesn’t work for me.

Two Sundays ago, I got onto the MRT (Subway) and made my way to church with a Bible in hand.  It had been some time since I did that.  As a pastor, I had my Bible with me in the church office.  When I preach now, I tend to use the slide presentation and read the Bible off the projection. Last Sunday, when I attended church as an ordinary worshipper, something happened.  Suddenly I felt like my teenage years again.  When I held a Bible in my hand, I had to behave as a Christian. It doesn’t mean I don’t behave as one when I don’t hold a Bible.  It is just that my Bible is a public commitment to Christ that allows others to place me.  The thought crossed my mind, “I think life is easier holding a phone.” But if I were to live out my life as a Christian, I need to reach the point when behaving like a Christian is the norm.  I need to get used to the Bible in my hand and the responsibility it places on me.

I feel that the phone has taken over too much of my life.  When I am with someone and a signal comes, it could be an email, a text, or a phone call.  What do I do?  I try not to interrupt my conversation with the person I am with, and just ignore the signal.  But somehow that is hard to do.  It is like I don’t understand why a customer service person may be talking to me, and stops to listen to a phone call.  After all, I took the trouble to come and stand in front of you.  “Why do you put me on hold in favor of the person who phones up? Next time, I will phone and interrupt your conversation with a live person.”

My electronic Bible doesn’t work because it does too many things. I have come to see the tyranny of my phone.  When I have nothing but a physical Bible with me, I can only read the Bible.  I am not interrupted by phone calls, distracted by emails, summoned to action by texts.  Some of you may have the discipline to block everything out and focus on the Bible.  I can do that too.  But for me, that takes too much effort, willpower.  And I would rather reserve my energy, my effort, my willpower to read God’s Word.

I enjoyed driving my kids around.  They could take the school bus (they’re free in America). But I got up early to drive them to school and got to work early.  All that just so I can spend a bit of alone time with them.  Family time is great, but I want alone time with each of my kids.

Then I think of God my heavenly Father.  He wants alone time with me.  He wants to have me to himself, and not shared with another person or interest.  He wants to speak with me, to listen to me.  This is when my phone Bible does not work.  Every now and then, I tell God, “Timeout please, I gotta respond to this email / text / call.” I know God wants a dedicated time from me.  He looks forward to it as I look forward to the time I spend with my kids. But it seems my phone gets in the way.  The phone used to be for phone calls only, but now, it connects me to everybody around the world all the time.  I really shouldn’t put  God on hold.  But that is hard to do when the very phone I use to read his Word is buzzing with other messages.

I think it is inaccurate to call our alone time with God “Quiet Time.”  I need not utter a single word and still be distracted by other things.  That time we spend with God is essentially consecrated time, holy time, set-aside time.

For me in ministry, there is an added distraction when I spend time with God.  It is the challenge of reading the Bible for myself or for other people.  That line is difficult to draw.  The message I have for my flock is often God’s message to me first.  Yet, if I were to read in order to teach, I am not really spending alone time with God.  I would be coming to God with a ministry agenda. I need to come to him just to listen to him, and talk with him about my stuff.  There is certainly a need for me to read the Bible for God’s message in ministry, and there is a need for intercessory prayer for all of you. But that should be separate from my consecrated alone time with God.

Over the past years, I have been reading the computer version of the Bible more and more, and less of the paper copy.  The computer version is so convenient.  I can make notes, I can look up something immediately when I have a question, and even know when someone has just sent me an email — of course, I am never tempted to pause and read your email.

The electronic Bible is still superior when I am doing work.  But it doesn’t work for me when I need to spend time alone with God.  The pew Bible works well because it is there. But it is not my Bible.  It is not enough that I read a Bible. I need to read my own copy.  I need to write in the margins as the Lord speaks to me, I need to underline what the Holy Spirit impresses upon me.  My Bible records God’s conversation with me. The pew Bible doesn’t do that.  The pew Bible is not my consecrated Bible.  It is shared with other people.  I need my own copy to personalize as God speaks to me one-on-one.

The pew Bible doesn’t work for me.  My phone Bible doesn’t work for me.  These little compromises diminish my alone time with God.  The Maker of heaven and earth wants to spend time with me. I think I can find space on my desk for a Bible.  I think I can find the strength to bring one to church.  I think I can tune off the world when God and I are together.

Peter Eng

Forgiving Fathers who Fail

by Peter Eng

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This Father’s Day, my family brought me to a new hipster joint called “Fette Sau” (pronounced “Fatty Sow”). We had a great time and there was nothing in our conversation about my failures.  But for entirely unrelated reasons, my thoughts this Father’s Day are about my failure as a father and failures of fathers in general.  Some fathers fail big-time, like abandoning the family.  But most fathers fail in less severe ways.  I kept thinking about the failures that result from the over-enthusiastic father.  Your father’s biased support for you, his protectiveness, his desire for your good, can cause him to behave badly.  His actions may embarrass you.  You may not approve of what he does.  But I like to urge all of us to remember that even when his actions are not right, they are done in your interest.

I noticed during the High School Concerts, overexcited parents launched from their seats to give a standing ovation for their kid.  They meant well, but I know I don’t want to be the kid of those loutish parents who give standing ovations to mediocre performance. I was guilty of such failures when it came to sports.  I was the overexcited dad who yelled instructions from the sideline — and to the credit of my longsuffering son, I was not told to pipe down.  Fathers can over engage, over discipline, over protect, etc.  It is easy for a father to get it wrong.

This is also true in the Christian community.  We have our spiritual fathers (or mothers).  They are the people who care for our spiritual welfare.  They love us, feed us, care for us, cry with us, laugh with us, and protect us.  It is the protection part that goes wrong sometimes.  I know that as a pastor, I am protective over the interests of those God placed in my charge. I treat them as my children according to the pattern found in the NT Church.  Paul treated the Thessalonians as a father treated his sons (1 Thess 2:11). Timothy served Paul as a son to his father (Phil 2:22); Timothy was Paul’s “true son in the faith” (1 Tim 1:2); Paul repeatedly called Timothy his son (1 Tim 1:18; 2 Tim 1:2; 2:1). Paul called Titus “my true son” (Titus 1:4). He called the slave Onesimus his son (Phlm 1:10). The Apostle Peter called John Mark his son ( 1 Pet 5:13). The Apostle John consistently called his flock “my children” (1 John 2:1; 2:12, 13, 18, 28; etc. 3 John 1:4).

fathersdayFrom time to time, our spiritual fathers (and mothers) may do things wrongly when they try to protect our interest.  Like our parents in the flesh, they can go overboard.  I like to ask, “Why?” If a Christian leader does something wrong out of selfish motives, that is not spiritual parenting.  A pastor, or an elder may do things that are intended only to protect his own reputation.  There is no mitigating factor in that.  On the other hand, a Christian leader may get into an altercation with other folks because of competition for resources, and may even go overboard in doing so.  For example, we need to book a bus to bring us to our retreat and the bus company backs out at the last minute.  The elder then twists the arm of the bus company mercilessly to get them to honor their contract, and in the process, offends some church members.  What is happening here?  I believe it is a case of the elder being protective of his flock and going overboard. The wrong he did cannot change.  But the wrong was done because he lost sight of how things should be done in the interest of getting the thing done for the benefit of his children.

This Father’s Day, I am grateful for my children who look beyond my failures to see my motivation. I believe many children can forgive the failures of their father because they understand that even when my actions are wrong, the motivation is right.  I hope this is also the case in the Christian community.  There is a strange phenomenon we observe among Christians in our spiritual and earthly family. There are Christians who will forgive their leaders for any wrong, and there are Christians who will not forgive even the slightest wrong done with good intentions.

We have a perfect heavenly Father who gives us only good gifts (even though we may not feel it is good at that point in time).  But earthly fathers are imperfect. We see our fathers doing things in our interest through actions that are sometimes wrong.  Spiritual fathers also do things wrong–out of interest for their spiritual children.

This Father’s Day, I ask you to consider the gift of forgiveness.  Some wrongs are grave, done with selfish or evil motives. Some wrongs are no more than the excesses of an overprotective father.  Different wrongs require different remedies.  But in most healthy families, we readily forgive the over-zealous, over-protective father.  Will you forgive this Father’s Day?


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Effective for Jesus

What does it mean to be effective for Jesus?

“Meet on Wednesday, not Saturday,” says this loud booming voice from heaven.  So we moved our meeting from Saturday to Wednesday.

Don’t you wish it were that easy?  I do.  Instead, we met on Saturday and learn that it is not a good day to meet. We explored different nights and finally settled on Wednesday night for prayer, dinner and meeting.

One of our core values in to be effective for Jesus. This value is so utilitarian that if you have been fed a diet of spiritually correct speech, it may seem that effectiveness is contrary to dependency on God.  These are not true opposites.

God calls us to use the ability he has given us to reason and plan, and therein become effective for him.

We rejoice in the Lord that with our move to Wednesday, we are now better able to invite loved ones and friends whom we think will benefit from our meeting.

The sooner we recognize that something is not working and prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, the better off we will be. That is what we mean when we say we want to be effective @TheWell.

I wish there was a voice from heaven.  But God choose to make us grow by requiring us to learn.

.True Happiness Among Kingdom People – Part 2/2

Sermon:CLICK
Bible References:

  • Acts 4:32-37
  • Acts 11:22-26
  • Acts 15:36-41
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD

 

Video Reference:

 

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What is Enough?

by Peter Eng

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“He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness”
(2 Corinthians 12:8-9)


When it comes to money, surveys show a majority of people give a number that is about 10% more than what they make. When it comes to a woman in your life, what is enough? Why do so many men have a desire for someone in addition to their wife? Is it the “10% more” discontent transposed to our wife?

When the other woman comes into our life, what is happening? What are the emotional and spiritual dynamics that will lead us astray or keep us true? Here we have the phenomenon of pleasure and pain once more. But the temptation is so well disguised that we often fail to identify it as temptation.

We are confident we can spot temptations and make the right decisions. The reality is quite the opposite. The simple temptations are apparent. But the most powerful temptations come in an insidious disguise. “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

The husband about to abandon his wife for the other woman does not say, “I have been unfaithful to my wife; I cheated on her; I am going to dump her to gratify my selfish lust for the other woman.” Instead, he will invoke the best excuse known to our age—love. He will say, “I love my wife, but I also love the other woman.” In some instances, he will say, “I have a child with the other woman. I cannot ignore my responsibility towards my child.”

We use love as the reason to do many things that are really motivated by less noble passions. Men tend to think in a more compartmentalized way than women. Even then, men find it hard to sort out their own desires. Is it love? Is it lust? Is it a mid-life crisis? Is it an escape? Is it boredom? Is it an opportunity to start life over?

The Chinese culture in Singapore retains the social memory of a wife who is submissive in the home but strong and independent in society. She is like the idealized characters in Chinese wuxia (i.e. Kung-Fu) novels. These women may be powerful fighters, but the Chinese social order expects them to submit to their husbands.

The other woman is extremely accommodating. She taps into our social memory of the submissive wife who prioritizes her husband’s needs over her own. The Singapore man who is accustomed to a self-willed, self-directed wife, who perhaps, over time, has become kids-centered, now experiences something lying dormant in his social awareness. He now lives the pleasure of having a submissive partner, one who makes him feel ten feet tall.

Sufficient in God’s Provision

There will always be something the other woman has that your wife does not. This ignites the fire of romantic love.

Romantic love is powerful. It makes the grass greener, the sky bluer, the food tastier, the smell more aromatic. When we are in-love, life is just better. We need less, we enjoy more, we laugh more, we behave better, we try harder. Love is such a wonderful thing!

The passage of time in a marriage can make us lose a measure of romantic love. The other woman makes us alive again. The call to leave her and your child and keep to your wife is quite an unthinkable denial of pleasure.

And we justify the other woman easily by calling it “love.” But romantic love with the other woman is that disguised angel of light. It looks good, feels good, and when that relationship stands in isolation, it is perfect. Temptation is the enticement to sinful pleasure.

colossiansI will not dispute a husband’s love for the other woman. It may be lust, or romantic love, or a mixture of both. What so easily blinds us to sin, what makes it so easy for us to be deceived by temptation, is that it seems to have the glow of love surrounding it. It is not useful to argue about the nature of the feelings for the other woman. It may be love indeed. But wrong love is sinful love.

We are to love the Lord our God with all our being. If we love passionately, but assign that love to an object, it is idolatry. The wrong object of love makes love a sin. Love is good only when the object of our love is good. The amount of love, the nice feeling that comes with love, the need to make sacrifices for that love, all do nothing to turn a wrong love right. Loving is not God’s love when the object of love is wrong.

We choose to love God, we choose to love our wife, otherwise we choose to love an idol, or to love the other woman. Loving someone, in itself, does not make it right.

John Adams (2nd President of the US) and his wife Abigail lived in different cities in Massachusetts before marriage. They had a courtship that depended heavily on writing letters to each other. After their marriage, they suffered frequent separation because John was always away from home in the service of his country.

John and Abigail Adams were passionately in love throughout their marriage. We know of this through the letters they left behind. They exchanged 1,100 letters! In them, we see their shared burdens, hopes, and passions. They were never emotionally detached despite their separation.

They had a good share of parenting problems, financial problems, career problems, etc. But Abigail never forgot whom she gave her heart, and John never vented his suffering on her. They suffered many stresses, but they chose to suffer together. They chose to love the right person.

Abraham suffered terribly when God asked him to abandon Hagar and Ishmael. “The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, “Do not be so distressed about the boy and your slave woman. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. 13 I will make the son of the slave into a nation also, because he is your offspring.” (Genesis 21:11-13).

Abraham came to a time when he had to abandon his son Ishmael. But God’s promise to Abraham was that his provision and blessing will sustain him and Ishmael will also be a great nation. There are times in our life when we need to do the thing that is difficult and trust God for things over which we have no control.

If you have a child with the other woman, you need to hear God’s message to Abraham. And trust God for his provision for your Ishmael.

Sufficiency in Christ Alone

There are women who neglect their husband. Some wives practically drive their husband into the arms of the other woman; and then whine about their husband.

They all call him, “Doctor.” He was already ancient when I was a child. My relatives tell me, “Doctor is a Christian.” That is not remarkable. But they also say, “Doctor’s wife is mental. But he looks after her himself. When he is at work, he employs a nurse to look after her.”

I was only in Primary school. But this doctor’s devotion to his wife was indelible in my mind. I could not understand how he could do it. Of course, I never spoke with him since I was only a kid. But it was clear that my relatives attributed it to his Christian faith. I am guessing that he meant his marriage vow, “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health … till death us do part.”

Most of us marry because the other person makes us happy. And when we marry, we are supposed to become happier. What we forget is that happiness in a marriage is the result of a good marriage, not the purpose. If we marry to become happy, we forget the other person also marries us so that she can become happy. What we have are two sinful self-centered persons wanting the other person to make them happy.

Let us step out of marriage to learn a lesson about God’s purposes. Generally, what is God’s purpose for us to meet this or that person? We know not everybody makes us happy. God brings them into our life to make us holy. There will be some who encourage us God-ward and therein lies how they make us holy. But there are others who do the opposite. They bring out the worst in us. These people, no less, are also there to make us holy! They try our patience; they tempt us to anger, anxiety, frustration and other negative emotions. And they play a necessary role in God’s development of our character. They make us holy.

Marriage is the closest relationship two people have with each other. Marriage, more than any other relationship, makes us holy. There will be aspects of the marriage that fosters holiness in a positive way, as in mutual encouragement, love, doing things together, etc. But there will also be aspects of the marriage that are negative, like an indifferent wife. The indifferent wife with negative aspects is no less God’s instrument in characterforming to make us holy. The husband who has an indifferent wife is blessed in a unique way. If we are in this predicament, we will be in a situation we do not want, to learn something we need. We are about to learn sufficiency in Christ.

We will be tempted to reject this pain. We will say we have done our part and what we are going through is unfair. Life should not be like that. We should not be given pain for all that we have done. And we are right. There is pain that we ought to have because we have sinned. But when there is also pain when we have done right, that is a special position in life.

James I:2ff says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter different temptations … that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It is in such a situation that we can know we are completely in God’s will and not suffering the consequences of our own sins. We are in a place of pain because we ought to be there. This is our Garden of Gethsamane.

This is one time when pain temptation is clearly laid before us. We are to embrace the pain of an indifferent wife and reject the pleasure of the other woman. When we accept the pain of “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health” we become “perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The coldness of an indifferent wife is not reason for embracing the other woman. It is reason to embrace the pain.


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.True Happiness Among Kingdom People – Part 1/2

Sermon:CLICK
Bible References:

  • Revelations 19:7-8
  • James 2:18-19
  • Ephesians 5:15-21
  • Matthew 6:33
  • Matthew 6:1
  • Matthew 35:37-38
  • Romans 4:13-18
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD

 

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Faith in the Public Square

Mike Huckabee was a Baptist pastor who became the governor of Arkansas, ran for the Presidency of the United States, and among other things, is the host of the The Huckabee Show on Fox News Channel.

There are some things l like about what this man is doing. One of them is how he brings good moral and social values into the public square. Another is his readiness to talk about faith in public.

I know he is new to my friends in Singapore. Enjoy the clips below where Huckabee interviews Francis Chan.  You will see two men committed to Jesus engaging the public.

 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZR1I-ULyAj0[/youtube]

 

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OOsh_ebRQg[/youtube]

Pleasure and Pain

by Peter Eng

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“Nature has placed mankind under the government of two sovereign master, pain and pleasure – they govern us in all we do, in all we say, in all we think.”
Jeremy Bentham


The temptation a man faces with the-other-woman is intense, but the dynamics are similar to all other temptations. It doesn’t matter if your besetting sin is laziness, the love of money, lack of forgiveness, or idolatry of things and people. The devil has a pattern of attack and if we know that pattern, we can repulse that attack. Our adversary uses the pincer movement of pleasure and pain.

Think about your motive for doing something, anything. Let’s say, your motive for getting out of bed in the morning. Let’s see if your motivations are similar to mine.

I know I accept the pain of crawling out of bed each morning to start a new work day because the alternative is the far greater pain of privation and hunger. If I endure the pain of working beyond my necessities I am motivated by the pleasure of rewards I wish to enjoy, or the pleasure of security, or the pleasure of providing more for my family, etc. The simple act of getting out of bed in the morning to work is a complex mix of motivations, but they all have to do with pleasure or pain.

As a child of God, I seek to purify my motive for getting out of bed to work. Even then, I do it to have the pleasure of God’s approval, and I do it to avoid the pain of God’s displeasure. It is in our DNA. We do things for pleasure or to avoid pain.

When a man is tempted by the-other-woman, he is facing a temptation of pleasure. The proposition is simple enough. It is the proposition of the “adulteress” in Proverbs 7. It is the promise of stolen pleasures without consequences as long as the parties don’t talk about it. It is excused as actions between consenting adults, and nobody gets hurt.

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Why does a person steal? One reason is that he thinks he can get away with it. Why does a person catch AIDS through sex? Because he thinks he can get away with a certain event or lifestyle. The proposition of the “adulteress” is that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience without consequences.

When a person takes drugs, he is manipulated to think in the same way as the victim of the adulteress. Why do people indulge in substance abuse? The overwhelming reason is for its pleasurable effect. A secondary person may be peer approval – which is also pleasure. Most people do not become physically addicted with a single incident of substance abuse. But that one no-consequence of the incident leads to another, and another. The horror of drugs, like heroin, is that after a time, the dependency is so severe that getting off the drug involves a process of great pain. Now the reason to consume the substance transitions from an indulgence in pleasure to avoidance of pain.

The shared dynamic of temptation is this. The pursuit of pleasure brings us to sin, the avoidance of pain keeps us in sin.

The two faces to temptation are pleasure and pain. In modern English we use the term “temptation” to refer to things of pleasure, and not to describe the avoidance of pain. But in older English, such as found in the venerable King James Version, the word “temptation” is used for both the temptation to pleasure, and the temptation to avoid pain. One example of such a use is in the term “The Last Temptation of Christ.” By this, we mean the event in the Garden of Gethsemane. That was the place Jesus spent his last hours before he was arrested. There Jesus agonized over the looming darkness of the cross. What was the nature of that temptation? It was the temptation to avoid the pain of the cross. There was no pleasure involved, there was only pain.

The Greek word for temptation is peirasmos. We notice that the KJV consistently translates “peirasmos” as “temptation” and never as “trial.” But changes in the meaning of “temptation” have caused modern translators to use the term “trial” in place of “temptation.” Below is a comparison.

  • My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; (King James Version)
  • Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, (New American Standard Bible)
  • Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, (New International Version)
  • Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy (New Living Translation).

I had struggled with temptation and I came out bruised and beaten, notwithstanding the repeated assurances that as a child of God, I am supposed to have victory over temptation. As the Lord led me to study Scripture for myself, I was stymied that I did not even know the meaning of temptation. I cannot recall what led to my study of James 1. But it was here my understanding of temptation was challenged.

So how should I read James 1? As “temptations” or as “trials”? “Temptation” has to do with pleasure, and “trial” with pain. How can these opposite experiences in life reside in one word?

First, we note that opposites are connected. If they are simply unrelated, they will not be opposites. Temptation and trial are related as opposites. The trial/pain and temptation/pleasure contrast is connected by motivation in life. We observe there is hardly any action in the ordinary course of life that is not motivated by either pain or pleasure. On this account, the devil uses these same two motivations to entice us to sin.

Second, we note that they possess the cause-effect connection. We know from experience that when we seize pleasure that is improper, we will enjoy the pleasure but suffer pain as the consequence. Conversely, when we accept the privation of not yielding to sinful pleasure, the result is true pleasure. Yielding to sinful pleasure produces pain; and embracing righteous pain produces pleasure.

So when the Bible uses the same word “peirasmos” for both pain-temptation and pleasure-temptation, it calls us to recognize there is a cause-effect of pleasure-pain in temptation. The indulgence in pleasure produces pain, and the acceptance of pain produces pleasure.

When we are tempted, we are tempted to indulge in a sinful pleasure, or we are tempted to avoid a necessary pain. When we indulge in a sinful pleasure such as a tryst with the little dragon maiden, or an addictive drug, we seize the pleasure, confident there is no pain at the other end. The same dynamic applies for all sins, like the sin of gluttony. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can indulge and not bulge. We think we can be lazy without poverty. We think we can overwork without breakdown. We think we can ignore the spiritual disciplines and still be spiritually strong.

We live in an age when we think pain is the greatest evil. I recall Saddam Hussein broadcasting the confessions of a captured pilot, who denounced his own country. It is apparent the pilot was roughed up with a swollen face. Many people say it didn’t matter what he said because he was tortured. The temptation he faced was pain avoidance or staying true to his country. Many US pilots captured by North Vietnam suffered similar temptations, but most refused to give in. The temptation to avoid pain can be very compelling. And it is right for us to accept a pilot’s betrayal as having mitigating factors. But it does not change the reality that the act itself is motivated by pain avoidance.

Coercion is possible only when we fear pain or the ultimate pain, the pain of death. Once we no longer fear pain or death, we are liberated from this temptation. This is the victory of the early church when they faced persecution. They accepted pain and death for loving Jesus supremely, and Rome lost its power over them. We witness the same victory that overcomes the temptation to deny Christ among the persecuted Christians in China and India today. They have the victory because they are prepared to accept the pain.

Most of us do not suffer the pain of persecution. We just suffer ordinary pains in the course of life. For instance, we avoid the pain of developing a career and think that we can somehow escape poverty through our wit. We think that if we avoid the pain of living within our means, and just keep borrowing, things will somehow work out, and there is no day of reckoning. We think we can avoid the pain of rehabilitation from substance abuse, but discover that our addiction has led us to terrible things.

We are naturally driven by either the avoidance of pain or the pursuit of pleasure. The use of peirasmos for temptation and trial (pleasure and pain) returns us to what motivates our actions. Together, they provide the push and pull motivations of life. They also become the bases for sin. When the Bible uses the word peirasmos (temptation/trial) it covers both the sinful indulgence in pleasure and the sinful avoidance of pain.

I will avoid using the term “trial” for peirasmos because it causes us to think of the event differently. Instead, I will use the term pain-temptation and pleasure-temptation as the need may arise.

I think it is important for me to jump to a topic we will cover later, and note that all true pleasure comes from God. There is nothing wrong with pleasure. God gave us the capacity for pleasure. And it gives God pleasure when we enjoy our life with thanksgiving. The devil perverts the pleasure that God gives us for our proper enjoyment. The devil corrupts true pleasure into something selfish, excessive, or abusive; thus turning holy pleasure into temptation to sin.

This is easily observable. Food is good, but food in excess is sinful towards God and harmful for us. Rest is good, but laziness is a repudiation of the productivity God expects of us, and such indolence is harmful to us. Work is good, but when work defines our value or we become workaholics, we depart from God’s purpose for work by neglecting our loved ones. Temptation as sinful pleasure is a perversion of God’s blessing of pleasure.

When we see that the sinful indulgence of pleasure and the sinful avoidance of pain naturally result in the exact opposite, we begin to appreciate the true nature of temptation. To yield to immediate pleasure of sinful indulgence is to choose long-term pain. To accept temporary pain that we are called to bear, is to choose long-term pleasure.

When the Bible uses one word (peirasmos) for both pleasure-temptation and pain-temptation, we see two nuances driving the meaning of the word. First, we become aware of the motivation for our actions. Left to our own devices, we are almost always driven by our anticipation of pleasure or pain. These two opposite motivations are what the devil use to lead us away from God. Next we accept the cause and effect of pleasure and pain. This sensitizes us to the real results of sinful pleasure or the rejection of just pain.

Once I understood how the devil uses both pleasure and pain to induce me to commit sin and remain in sin, I understood how and when to call upon the Holy Spirit to empower me in my weakness. This was a seminal moment for me because it placed everything in perspective.


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.Making Your Happiness Complete

Sermon:CLICK
Bible References:

  • 1 Peter 1:3-5
  • 1 Peter 6-9
  • Hebrews 2:10
  • Hebrews 10:34
  • Hebrews 12:1-2
  • Matthew 5:12
PowerPoint: DOWNLOAD

 

Video References:

 

Reference in the message taken from video time segment 12.07-14.30

 

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