FacebookTwitterRSS FeedPinterest

Frequently Asked Questions - Practical Issues

FAQs - Practical Issues

No, because that is often the first step toward addiction. Many alcoholics started just by drinking on social occasions. They never thought they would become addicted to it. God’s Word says in Proverbs 23:31-33 "Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." Besides this, if we say that we are strong enough to resist addiction, we still set a bad example for others who may not be as strong as we are, and who will fall into alcohol addiction because they followed us.

Some try to justify drinking by showing that Christ drank wine and also performed the miracle of turning water into wine at a wedding feast. But the study of the background to these passages in Scripture will reveal that wine was the common mealtime beverage of that time and that it was diluted up to 200 parts of water to one part of wine. In fact it was considered barbaric to drink wine that was undiluted or mixed with only an equal amount of water.

The only way to avoid alcohol-influenced thinking, speaking or behaviour and to avoid addiction is not to take the first drink. The production, sale and use of beverage alcohol is incompatible with biblical principles. Christians should have no part in them. If you own a shop or restaurant, be sure that no alcohol is sold or consumed in it. In the U.S. about 10,000 murders occur each year in situations involving alcohol. Alcoholism also leads often to suicide and crime. Thousands die each year from liver cirrhosis - a condition caused by alcohol consumption.

Gambling is a social evil that has promoted covetousness and ruined many lives and even whole families. It ranges from playing with one-armed bandit coin machines, to games like mahjong, and poker to betting on horses, buying four digits, or buying Singapore Sweep tickets. Christians should totally abstain from any form of gambling, even if it is legal, because of its harmful effects:

1. It is addictive. In 1 Corinthians 6:7 the Bible says, "all things are lawful, but I shall not be brought under the power of any."

2. It causes people to lose sight of reality. Gamblers live in a dream world of riches. Hoping for that unreal ‘chance of a lifetime’ to fall into their lap. All their problems will be solved, if they strike it rich.

3. It makes people believe that luck rather than hard work is the way to prosperity. It goes against the Christian work ethic.

4. It causes people to become intensely self-centered. Nothing else matters to them except the indescribable thrill of risking one’s assets to make some gain. It leads to getting rather than giving as a way of life.

5. It often draws people into a life of dishonesty and sin. Gamblers often resort to borrowing money, cheating, stealing and embezzling funds to feed their habit.

6. It results in families destroyed by poverty. The parent who gambles becomes so caught up with gambling that he becomes unable to feel for others. He gambles late into the night instead of spending time with his family who needs him. He sells off the house and other family securities, and destroys the lives of his loved ones.

Speculating on the stock, currency or property market is also a form of gambling, as it has the same risks involved. There is nothing wrong however with investing in shares just as a means of getting dividends from a long-term investment. No speculation is involved in this.

The important element in gambling is the taking of risk. The one who gambles risks his assets on a speculated result, in the hope of getting gains for himself. If the speculated result does not occur, he loses whatever he has risked. There is no gambling involved when there is no risk of loss. Speculating on the stock, currency or property market can result in huge capital losses. Therefore it is a form of gambling.

In contrast to this, investing more in certain shares because of certain incentives offered - like the chance to win a car or household equipment in a "lucky" draw - does not result in the loss of capital. The capital is still retained, although in a different form. The only difference is that less dividends may be received than if the investment had been made in other kinds of shares. But there are still overall gains in long term investments whether large or small.

It is a common trend in our competitive environment, for the same incentives to be offered by almost any commercial establishment, e.g. car salesmen, supermarkets, Internet service providers and mobile phone operators. Each tries to win the market by offering chances to win something in a "lucky" draw.

A Christian who chooses to buy a product from a certain vendor because he gets a chance to win something, is not gambling. But if he does this despite knowing that the product is inferior to another of a different brand (but with no such incentive offered), he is not exercising good stewardship of his resources. Good stewardship requires us to make good use of all the material resources that God has entrusted to us, to get good value for money.

Sometimes the choice may be between two brands which offer equally good value for money. Then there is no harm for the Christian to choose the brand that offers the best incentives for buying its product.

Firstly, it is without a doubt that the Gospel will be offensive to anyone who hears it, some to a greater degree than others.  The reason for this is because men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil (John 3:19).  The very message of the Gospel is that God loves sinners that he sent Christ to die on behalf of them; but people will find that message offensive because they do not like to acknowledge themselves as sinners.  So witnessing is an offensive task by nature.  The word "to witness" in Greek is martureo, from which we get the English word "martyr."  Martyrs are killed for preaching the Gospel - for witnessing, because the act is offensive.  So there is no remedy for the offensiveness of the Gospel - rather, we preach and bear all reproaches and persecutions for Christ’s sake.  But in preaching the Gospel; wisdom, tact, and finesse also play a part.  We watch for every opportunity to preach the Gospel, and such opportunities abound.  And when we witness, we should ask of God wisdom to use the right words, understanding of the person’s needs, how to assess the situation, to be warmly received, etc.  Remember that Christ has sent us out as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16), so we must be blameless in this respect, to minimize any offensiveness contributed by us (such as being a bad testimony and a stumbling block).  But the offensiveness of the Gospel we must never minimize, lest we preach a muted Gospel.

Concerning persistence, an important principle is found in 2 Timothy 4:2 where it is exhorted that we preach the word in season and out of season.  This means that we are not to cease to minister the Gospel.  However, we must also understand that witnessing is a process.  More often than not, a person who hears the Gospel for the first time will not believe.  It often takes time and many seasons of preaching.  Evangelism, you could say, is like the agricultural process.  In agriculture, the early rains soften the ground.  This is followed by tilling, where the ground is prepared for the next step, which is sowing.  This is followed by late rains and cultivation where the small seedling grows into a sapling which eventually matures enough for harvesting.  So likewise, the Gospel may have to be preached many times before the person is finally harvested and saved.  This takes patience and prayerfulness, especially if the unbeliever is a parent.  One way of witnessing is through Christian literature.  Recommended books include Josh McDowell’s "More Than a Carpenter," Robert Laidlaw’s "The Reason Why," and Frank Morrison’s "Who Moved the Stone?"  Other means of witnessing to folks of an older generation is to have their peers preach them the Gospel - such as older church members or by the Minister conducting a home visitation.

Another important principle is also found in Matthew 10:14 which exhorts witnesses to shake off the dust of their feet if they are not received.  This means that if there is persistent and chronic rejection of the Gospel by the unbeliever, the witness is to leave that person alone.  God will deal with that person in good time as the Gospel seed has already been planted.

Concerning how to minister to an unbeliever involved in the occult, one must realize that the person knows no better.  There is no life nor light in him - he is only doing what comes naturally to him in his sinfulness and blindness.  The only way to minister to such a person is to minister the Gospel to him, and yes, the Gospel will be offensive; but it is the only means by which the person will be rescued from the occult.  Do remind your friend that the Living and True God clearly forbids the consultation of spirits.  Mediums receive their knowledge from such evil spirits who seek to destroy man and ensnare him in darkness.  Remind your friend too, that many mediums are charlatans, who by their keen knowledge of and experience with human behavior, victimize those who are in need - those who are willing even to seek out a medium.  Use this as a platform for witnessing - to spur the unbeliever to examine why he has to seek advice from a man and minor spirits when he can go directly to an Almighty God who knows all things, even the number of hairs on a person’s head.  Watch for every opportunity to preach the Gospel.

Although there is a Christian cult that advocates vegetarianism (The Seventh Day Adventists) there is no biblical basis for it. God sanctioned the consumption of animal meat just after the flood, on the condition that the blood is drained from the meat before consumption: Genesis 9:3,4 - "Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."

Unlike man, animals are not made in the image of God. They have no afterlife. They live by instinct, not by moral choices. They do not sin. They merely cease to exist after death. This is why the sixth commandment that God gave, "Thou shalt not kill" is applicable only to the taking of human life, not animal life.

While we should not mistreat animals (Exodus 23:5; Proverbs 12:10), cause them unnecessary suffering (Deuteronomy 25:4), or kill them unnecessarily, e.g. for sport (Jonah 4:11), we can kill animals to eat their meat. As for the slaughtering of animals for meat, in local abbatoirs the animals are killed by applying high voltage current to their heads. It is very quick and merciful.

If we were to follow the vegetarian’s reasoning of not killing out of respect for life, to its ultimate conclusion, we should watch out before taking any step when we walk, just in case there may be a worm or an ant about to be stomped upon! We should also not spray insecticide or destroy a hornet’s nest. Would vegetarians disinfect their hands with antiseptic solutions? Even amoeba and bacteria may be considered as animal life. The fact is, we do kill a lot of animal life everyday. Those who feel good about not eating animal meat are therefore not very consistent. They have a zeal which is misdirected, and not according to knowledge.

Many who are idol worshippers however, refrain from consuming meat for a different reason: because of their belief in reincarnation. They believe that killing an animal may be taking the life of a creature who may be a human being in a previous life or future life. The Bible teaches that all creatures are only born once and die once physically. There is no rebirth. Hebrews 9:27 - "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment."

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with a Christian wanting to go on a full or partial vegetarian diet for health reasons. E.g. to avoid consuming animal fat which tends to be saturated and high in cholesterol. But such a Christian should not condemn those who do not follow his diet. Romans 14:2,3 - "For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him."

When a person accepts Jesus as Saviour, he is automatically made a member of the Church which is the Body of Christ. This universal Church is mentioned in Ephesians 5:22,23, and membership in it is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:27. But at the same time, the Scriptures recognise the existence of local churches (Acts 8:1; 11:22; Romans 16:1, Colossians 4:15; Acts 14:23). Each local church is to carry out discipline of its members, and at times this discipline may include excommunication (e.g. 1 Corinthians 5:4-13; Matthew 18:17). The act of putting a person out of the church implies that there is a defined group of local believers that one can be either in or out.

Each local church is also responsible to appoint its own church leaders from among its own members, following the criteria given in the Scriptures. In Acts 6:3 the local church in Jerusalem was told to "look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business." This phrase ‘looking out among you’ implies that the candidates for church leadership were to be selected from a defined group of local believers.

Moreover Hebrews 13:17 says "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." This implies that there is a defined group of believers that the leadership is accountable for, and those who are in the group are hence responsible to obey the leadership and submit to them. (see also Hebrews 13:7,24)

From the above, we can understand that membership in a local church is essential for every believer, even though he may already be a member of the universal church. It is not essential for salvation, but it is essential for obedience to the whole counsel of God ("Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you", Matthew 28:20). Therefore I think it is wrong to say that local church membership is something man-made, or that it is something that came later in church history. The early church had its own way of defining local church membership for the purpose of discipline and church government.

It is the duty of every believer to be a member of a local church, and he should be careful to choose a church that is faithful to the Word of God, and not be a member of an apostate church (Revelation 18:4 - "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.")

If a Christian does not want to register as a member of a local church, it is very probable that he is not aware of the above teaching from the Bible, or not convinced of it. If he is aware of the above points but still does not want to register, then it must be asked, Why does he not want to register? Does he not recognise that local churches and church leadership are instituted by God? Is he perhaps motivated by a desire to be free from submission to all authority, including church authority? If he submits to Christ’s authority, should he not also submit to the authority that Christ has given to local church leadership?

Serving in a local church is actually a privilege. But with privilege, there comes responsibility. It is wrong to say "I accept the privilege, but not the responsibility." If a person who is not a member of a local church serves in it in any way he likes, but his service is not done well, or even done in a wrong manner, how can the church leaders correct him? Not being a member, he can say to them "You have no authority to correct me." It is therefore not healthy for a Christian who has been serving in a local church to refuse to be a member of that church.

I would understand why a Christian may want to serve for a short time in a church before becoming a member of it. He may still be seeking God’s will on whether this local church is the right one for him, and his ability to serve in it may be one of the factors affecting his decision. But once a Christian is satisfied that the church he is in is a valid Christ-instituted local church where he can worship God and serve Him with his spiritual gifts, he should not delay accepting church membership and submitting himself to the local church leadership.

It must be admitted that God’s Word does not speak explicitly on this matter. But Jesus did say in Luke 18: 16 – “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God.” And King David expressed confidence that he will see his deceased infant son in heaven one day, 2 Samuel 12:23 – “I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”

But beyond these few statements and some good and necessary inferences that we can make from Scripture, there is a definite limit upon what we may legitimately say on this matter. To say more than this is to venture into the unknown. There are some who speculate that all infants who die in infancy are automatically saved because it is claimed that they are all innocent and have no sin. But the Scriptures teach the sober truth that we are are already sinners not only from birth, but even from the moment of conception, even though no actual sins have been committed yet. David testified in Psalm 51:5 – “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

This sinful nature can be seen even in the behaviour of newborn babies – you can see how quickly they learn how to get their mummies and daddies to respond to their griping and crying. And so even one who is still in a state of infancy is a sinner in need of salvation, and if he dies, there is no automatic salvation for him. And so we must be careful not to speculate on this matter or else we may end up believing things that are not scriptural at all. We may even end up teaching a new method of salvation – by dying in infancy! This is why the only thing that the Westminster Confession ventures to say about this matter is that “Elect infants, dying in infancy, are regenerated and saved by Christ through the Spirit, who worketh when, and where, and how he pleaseth. So also are all other elect persons, who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the word.” (WCOF Chapter X, para 3)

All that is stated here is that by the same divine election that we have been saved, those who are incapable of hearing the Gospel can also be saved. It does not go on to speculate how this happens, or how many of such persons are elected to salvation, whether they include only the infants of Christian parents or also those of non-Christian parents. All those whom God elects are ultimately saved, and their salvation is wrought by God only through Jesus Christ alone.

But what is good for us to know out of all this, is that because according to the Scriptures, salvation is completely wrought by the sovereign work of God, God is still able to save those who die in infancy and those who are retarded. Their incapacity poses no barrier to God’s work of salvation. That puts them on the same level as everyone else. And this gives us hope to comfort others and also ourselves if have loved ones in such a state – a child who dies in infancy or is born with some abnormality which makes him mentally handicapped. Let us do our best for them, knowing that God can save them. Pray for them, communicate Christ to them as simply as we can, and leave the rest up to God.

And actually, we too before we were saved, were just like them and not very different from them. We too were incapable of responding to the Gospel of Christ. Jesus said, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” If God had not worked in your heart, and drawn you to Christ, you would not be saved today!

What you need to do is to take a step of faith and trust God that the church He has led you to attend is the one that He wants you to settle in. If you are still unsure if this is the church He wants you to settle in, then ask Him in prayer. As you earnestly seek to do His will to serve Him in a local church, He will show you what His will for you is. Be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in this matter.

Objectively, you can find out  if the church is teaching the right doctrine, if it is based fully on the Scriptures, if its leaders and members are trying their best to practise what the Bible teaches, if souls are being saved, and lives are being changed.

The doctrine of divine providence teaches us that nothing ever happens by chance (Romans 8:28). He has a purpose for everything that has happened to you, including the turbulence that you have experienced in the church split. One possible purpose is to teach you to put your confidence in God and not in man (see Psalm 118:8). Please do not attend a church just because you like its pastor or elder. You will probably be disappointed. They are at best fallible undershepherds, accountable to Christ, who is the infallible Great Shepherd of the sheep (Hebrews 13:20). Let your loyalty be only to Christ!

There is no perfect church on earth. Even in New Testament times, the apostles had to deal with problems that come from doctrinal and personality issues (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 1:11,12; 3:3; 11:18; Galatians 5:14,15; Philippians 1:15; 2:3; 4:1,2; 1 Timothy 6:3,4; James 4:1). Sometimes, even the apostles themselves were involved in such contentions (Acts 15:37-39; Galatians 2:11-14).

There has been an increase in disagreements and splits affecting many Bible-believing churches in recent years. I believe that it is because Satan is hard at work knowing that he has little time left before Christ’s second coming. He is very skilled at sowing tares among the wheat (Matthew 13:25-30) and sowing discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:19).

You can overcome your discouragement and disillussionment by looking at all that is happening from God’s perspective. He is still on the throne and He is in control. He allows church problems and splits to happen for reasons that are best known to Him. It may be part of his purification process (Ephesians 5:25-27). On our part, we have to do our best to be faithful in our responsibilities, not allow the flesh to reign, and to be mindful of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

(from a Christian sister’s perspective)

I was blessed by a sermon entitled, "Wanted: Women who are gentle, modest and quiet" by Steve Marquedant. I was enlightened by some of the points that he brought up about women’s dressing. Let me share it with you.

1 Peter 3: 3 & 4 talks about outward and inward beauty. All of us want to look good but how far are we willing to go? Is being fashionable and trendy so very important to us?

Let’s consider 2 points to dressing modestly.

1. Consider the culture that we live in.

We have to face the fact that different ages do see things differently. Different cultures too have different views and customs. What is absolutely scandalous in one culture is perfectly acceptable in another. However, there are certain things we should never accept even if the culture accepts it.

2. Consider the appropriateness of the dressing.

It’s not only about what you wear but also how you wear it and what you will be doing in it. Some attire is only good for standing around and looking good. Any movement such as bending or even sitting will reveal certain portions of the body that should not be revealed! We constantly see our young ladies pulling their t-shirts or skirts to try to elongate them or adjusting collars, sleeves and tops to try to cover up more. Why do we have to do that? Is it not because we feel uncomfortable and uneasy in our clothes?  Can we honestly say that we are not aware that we are not as appropriately dressed for church as we should be?

From the sermon, I found two very practical pieces of advice that can guide us if we have a willing spirit that wants to please God in the way we dress.

1. Ask your father/husband/male mentor for his opinion

If you want an honest answer as to whether you are modestly dressed, ask the male fraternity around you – father, husband, male mentor, peers – people whom you know cares for you and will give you an honest answer. Who better to ask than a man because only a man knows how men think. If you think about it logically, which man wants a woman or lady whom he cares about - whether a wife, daughter or friend – to look like someone who has loose moral values or who come across as someone whom you can have liberty with. My daughters and I can testify to the effectiveness of this as the only male in our family ensures that we are dressed in a manner that is acceptable and pleasing to the Lord.

Through one of my conversations with some young men in our church regarding the young ladies in our church, I was quite taken aback when I was informed that “there are some girls whom you can only go out with and have fun but they aren’t the ones you would choose for your wife!” So, you see, the young men in our church do have a fairly good idea what qualities they would want in their future wife.

We are not talking about having our dressing controlled or restricted such that you come to church looking frumpy or prudish or old-fashioned. You can come to church looking stylish without being immodest or outlandish.

2. Don’t judge a book by its cover<BR>
How many times have people told you not to judge a book by its cover? But if you think about it, that phrase is not entirely true. Look at the covers of some books such as romance or horror stories or fashion or lifestyle magazines. Sometimes you don’t need to read them to know what is inside the pages.

The way we dress is our choice. It’s what we put on to show others. It’s what we want people to see and to identify us as. When ladies go shopping for clothes, you can frequently hear them say, “Oh, I can’t wear that, it’s just not me!” We each have an idea of how we want to look and what we are going to wear. Look at your group of friends. Do you dress in a similar manner? Or do you all dress differently? Interestingly, there is a tendency for people who dress in a similar manner to hang out together.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. When we do something that is out of the norm such as dye our hair green or dress in an outlandish manner, we basically aim to get a reaction from others. We either want to shock or surprise (depending on whether they are the parents or peers) the people around us. We want to provoke a reaction – it was a provocative action – one that expects a reaction from others. Is that what we want to do in church? Dress in a manner that will provoke a reaction from the people around us?

In the sermon, I learn to look beyond the words “outward adornment” in 1 Peter 3:3 which refers to women adorning themselves to look good. Instead focus on why we so painstakingly put so much effort to “adorn ourselves”. We “adorn ourselves” on purpose and with purpose. This means that we choose to and willingly dress in that manner. Let us be reminded in 1 Peter 3: 4 that the inner self should shine forth and not be dominated by the outward self or outward image.

Is it not true that our outward appearance is usually a manifestation of our inner self? It is however not the only way that we judge others. We also judge others by the way they look and the things they say. These are the only ways that we can judge others – their outward self - because we can’t judge their inner self – what is in their heart. We can only get to know someone better across time and sometimes we are pleasantly surprised that they are not as bad as we had initially thought. But do we want others to have a wrong idea of us in the first place?

I can only conclude that it’s not about what we can wear but what we should wear. No one can force you into clothes that you don’t want to wear. Some parents have given up and allowed their children to go to church in whatever they want to wear as long as they go to church. Is your going to church dependent on how good you look? It has to do with the state of your heart. How do we see the heart? It’s through our actions and conduct. It’s not about dressing for vanity sake or to please your parents. It’s about dressing in a manner that is pleasing to God. If you love God and have God in your heart, you will know what is the right thing to do. Your manner of dressing will show your reverence and respect for the sanctity of worship in church. May we all strive to do that which is pleasing to our Lord Jesus who has done so much for us and asks so little of us. Amen. (Note: This answer was written by sister Tan Poh Yok)

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

November 19 & 26 - The End of the World

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. 2 Peter 3:10