Alpha 25

I can’t say that I’ve learnt much from Conference this year, to be honest. I share out of obligation and not of true revelation. Yet, if there are any insights, these, in summary, would be them:

  1. God heals.
  2. Trust God above all else.
  3. Forgive the church.
  4. Don’t take God’s blessing on the church for granted.
  5. Love yourself.

I took this photo as I didn’t manage to catch my juniors. I was a little bummed, but have since reasoned that even though I didn’t take a picture with them, there will be many chances. Alpha 25 happens once in a lifetime, but as people we will undoubtedly meet again (heck, one of them is in the CCA I’m helping out before I enlist anyway).

If you can worship at the dance floor, do it! You don’t get to do it any day, you know!

And the highlight, I felt, was surprisingly not when they played “Risen”, which FYI is my favorite song of all time (for now), but the Anniversary celebration.

We were given candles, which I had zero clue to what they would be used for. Then the lights were dimmed and I presumed that the candles would be lit. But how? Then I saw the flame passed on from Senior Pastor to the first row, then the second row, and so on until I got a flame on my candle. Wow!

Seeing the auditorium light up with candles declaring Jesus to be the centre of the Church was undoubtedly the most heartwarming experience I’ve felt this year. Life Con was a lot more fun than heartwarming…This brought forth my 4th takeaway: never to take this blessing for granted.

By God’s grace, we’ll keep being intentional to bring this light into a world of darkness, just as Jesus first gave the light and passed it on, so shall we.

Amazing and unforgettable a night it was.

The Confession Controversy

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. [1 John 1:9]

When I was growing up in church, I was taught that I needed to confess my sins in order to be forgiven and justified before God. This meant that when I had faith in Christ, I walked righteously. When I lost faith and thus sinned, I swayed from the path of righteousness. I needed to confess my sins in order to become righteous. This began a path of relentless confession. I wanted to be accepted in God’s eyes and justified in His presence. This meant that I needed to confess every sin to Him lest I saw from the path of righteousness.

My friends thought I was berserk. Every time I was rude to someone or used a vulgar word or two, I would crouch under my table and confess my sins. Every time I shouted, I’d quickly turn around and whisper a prayer of confession. Clearly, my friends did not like me, for more reasons than just that, but knowing that people were scared away from Christ because of me, I knew I needed a change in life. I thought that every sin I made has made me unrighteous and has put me out of fellowship with God, despite having faith in Christ for salvation. Only after I encountered the pure, unadulterated gospel of grace that my life improve effortlessly—glory to God alone! When God revealed to me that I only needed faith in Jesus to be justified forever, past, present and future sins. I was accepted in the beloved (Ephesians 1:6) and no longer condemned, ever (Romans 8:1). Yet, this has got me thinking about making sense of 1 John 1:9 in light of the Gospel, in terms of two simple yet profound questions.

Question 1: Does confession of sins make us righteous?

Most conventional Christians say yes, quoting Scripture to substantiate their views when really it’s because they have been brought up with that teaching. Let me first qualify what I mean by “confession of sins”, “us” and “righteous”. By “confession of sins” I mean list out all the wrong things that I did in the day, week, month, year or in my whole life. In this sense, no, since no person can ever list out all of his sins, conscious or unconscious, but supposed we redefine “confession” as admitting that we are sinners in need of a Saviour.

By “righteous” I mean a state of right-standing with God, that I am accepted, favoured, not condemned and loved by God. If by “us” I mean Non-Christians, then yes, confessing that we are sinners in need of a Saviour is synonymous to placing faith in Christ, and salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus as Saviour. Yet, for the Christian, we are justified by grace and are kept justified by grace (1 John 2:1). Confession of sins did not keep us justified—the blood of Christ did. Furthermore, as far as God is concerned, we no longer bear the sinner identity, but in Christ, we are the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21). We are righteous people who at times make mistakes, which we then confess not in order to be forgiven but precisely because we have been forgiven.

The definition of “confess” should also raise eyebrows, since “confess” in the Bible isn’t exactly “confess” in English. The word ‘homologeo’ means ‘to agree with’; in other words, we agree with God with regard to our sin, that Jesus has paid for it with His blood that we may be forgiven through it and that we are the righteousness of God in Him.

Advocates of the belief that confession precedes forgiveness then argue that forgiveness could mean ‘parentally’ instead of ‘judicially’, in the sense that Christ’s blood bought our judicial forgiveness before God as judge, whereas confession of sins precedes parental forgiveness before God as Father. This leads to my next question.

Question 2: Does confession of sins give us parental forgiveness?

The failures of our human parents may imply such. When we lie to our parents, they get angry and scold us, and our apology appears to calm them down. Yet, I know that when I have children and they make mistakes, I will present a firm corrective tone to correct their ways, but deep down I’ve already forgiven them for their mistake. I’m not angry at them, but their action. What would hurt me even more is for them to actually be afraid to freely tell me that they messed up and try to hide from me, when I love them and will do what I can to help them learn from their mistake and move on. Again, I argue that we confess because we are already forgiven, accepted and beloved, and that we can freely talk to God about our failings and mistakes.

My answer to this question is thus no, because the blood of Jesus has cleansed us from all our sins once and for all and continues to cleanse us even as we make mistakes. This means that judicially or parentally, we continue to walk in the light because of Jesus’ finished work, and when we fall, His blood continues to cleanse us and keep us in the light. We fall in the light, not out of it. This gives us boldness and confidence to confide in our God, to tell Him our failings, because He doesn’t condemn us and is ready to release His divine power that grants to us all things that pertain to life and godliness. His fresh wave of grace and gift of no condemnation gives us the power to go and sin no more (John 8:11).

As children of God, we don’t stay in sin, and it is His grace that empowers us to live life His way. If He knows better than us, and He has planned everything out for us, don’t you think that however awesome our plan seems to be, God’s one will supersede it in awesome-ness? Because God has already forgiven us, we can find strength to live the set-apart life. Precisely because we have been freely forgiven, justified and accepted in the Beloved, we can freely tell God our failings and weaknesses that His grace can be made sufficient in (2 Corinthians 12:9).

To end off this essay, let me describe my life post-revelation. After God revealed to me the Gospel, that I can’t sin away my righteousness in Christ, and that in my worst, God still accepted me in the Beloved, I had a new lease on life. I realised that as Jesus is, so am I in this world, and as He is righteous, holy and blameless, so am I in this world, giving me boldness in the day of judgement (1 John 4:17). I started seeing myself from God’s lens, as a child of God. As Jesus was excellent in everything He did, so will I, by the power of God, also put in a spirit of excellence in my studies. As Jesus was unashamed of the Gospel, so was I.

Don’t get me wrong, I still struggle with personal weaknesses and do fall into sin every now and then. Yet, I did not confess my sin in order to be forgiven, but I simply confessed,  in essence, “Thank You Lord for Your grace. I know I messed up, but thank You for your gift of grace and of no condemnation, that You will help me overcome these struggles.” Now, confession is a fruit of righteousness, not a route to it. I confess because I am forgiven. Nothing can separate me from the love, acceptance and favour of God ever again (Romans 8:39).

Transcendental Worship

There seems to be a great chasm in contemporary Christianity with regard to the use of music in worship. More orthodox Christians favor hymns and condemn contemporary songs for being too emotional, drawing the worshipper away from the richness of the lyrics found in hymns. More contemporary Christians despise the archaic hymns for failing to relate to the individual during emotion, thus less effectively connecting the worshipper with God.

This issue has bugged me not because I favor hymns but because it is dividing the church. In other words, the church is arguing over something that is relatively trivial to the theology of Christ. As long as we agree to disagree, we don’t let our disagreements ruin our unity.

Worship transcends words and music, and yet includes both. While I have a preference for the theology-laden hymns of old, for helping me meditate on the glory of God, I have come to realise that words are not the only form of worship. The highly controversial Bethel Music has often been accused for promoting emotionalism and sensationalism, yet one can’t help but commend their incredible instrumentation.

Clearly, their musicians have a talent and they use their mastery of their instruments to present to God worship in the form of musical art. I feel that disregarding such merit completely is unreasonable, even though the criticism of little theology is fair.

If I had to choose, I prefer songs or hymns chock-full of theology like “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and even Hillsong’s modern rendition of the Apostle’s Creed, “This I Believe,” pointing me to the nature of God. Even recent hymns like “Victor’s Crown” remind me that Christ is the ultimate Victor, and in Him I can be victorious in any situation. The wordy theology in these songs help me contemplate about the glory of God, a recently predominant spiritual pathway of mine.

I’d like to add that the power of God is not restricted by songs that are simple at best and simplistic at worst. Yet, simple songs like Bethel’s “No Longer Slaves”, Tomlin’s “Good Good Father” and Israel and New Breed’s “I Know Who I Am” release a wave of comfort snd assurance that however great God may be, He still cares for our puny, insignificant lives. In Him alone we find our significance, and this is the simple beauty of simple songs.

This leads us to an even bigger issue. Worship transcends the very essence of music, and really refers to a daily choice to honour God. Music is the most apparent form of worship, and yet the attitude we have when we learn, the perseverance we maintain when we endure an arduous task and the humiliation in denial of self-right when offended are all also manifestations of worship unto the Lord.

God gives us His undeserved grace, completely on the basis of the finished work of His Son, and we use the grace that God gives us to express excellence in everything that we do, that the works of our hands may prosper and God alone be glorified. Worship is thus, I propose, using the grace of God to honour Him and bring Him glory by having a spirit of excellence in everything that we do.

Agreeing to Disagree

Today after CCA a few of us were discussing some interesting thought-provoking issues, then somehow the name “Joseph Prince” was mentioned, and I heard “Oh Joseph Prince, our church preached a whole sermon against his teachings,” and I quickly interjected with, “with regard to Joseph Prince I’m ready to agree to disagree,” that is, to agree that we may not agree with the topic, but that won’t stop us from having fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ.

This topic stayed at the back of my mind for the rest of the day. I googled and the responses were somewhat vitriolic. There were name-shaming and devil-related accusations. I’m not offended because I don’t worship the guy and I’ve honestly heard all that there is to hear with regard to criticism of Joseph Prince. Later on, I discovered that more people publicly expressed leaving CHC and FCBC than NCC (granted I know of people who did, in fact, leave NCC), and many of them, unfortunately, expressed vitriol along with their disappointment.

From CHC, many felt cheated that their goodwill offerings were misused. From FCBC, many felt condemned as though nothing they ever did was good enough. From NCC, the people have heard all that there is to the grace of God and want to move on to other areas of spiritual knowledge. What broke my heart was not them leaving, but the vitriol and lack of grace in opining on the issue. There was much condemnation among Christians simply for not believing some of the specifics that they do. We all agree on the fundamental doctrines but differ in specifics, yet we let our minor differences disunite us from being a body.

It’s sort of related to the Catholic Church. Sure, they add on to the 66-book Bible and take close heed to their spiritual leaders. Their focus is a lot more doing good than the grace needed to do good. Yes, Mary is more significant to them than to the Protestant. Yet, because their doctrines are more-or-less aligned with the teachings of Scripture, I personally would be willing to have fellowship with them if we choose to help one another grow toward Christ more and more. To me, that’s the determining factor to whether or not we can have fellowship.

Perhaps many a time we don’t argue for truth (though we use that as a cover-up excuse) but actually to feel right. To justify our opinions over others’ and to simply win the argument. I’m guilty of that. Many times. I cared to win arguments. Over time, however, God corrected this wrong thinking of mine. NO point winning the argument but losing the soul. The reason to argue/discuss/debate is to build one another in Christ. My words have got to be edifying rather than scathing. It’s a learning process for myself, and something I’m learning to do. The same Joseph Prince accused of hyper-grace also ever said, “a truth spoken out of season is no better than a heresy,” and this saying, together with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, have helped me apply my knowledge more wisely, to edify rather than to humiliate.

The bottom line is, we’re not perfect, and we shouldn’t pretend to be. We all need the grace of God to turn more and more into the likeness of Christ, and while we may disagree with elements within Christendom, we can always unite in Christ. I quote Ravi Zacharias on this matter: unity does not mean uniformity. As long as we all have that common goal of growing more into the likeness of Christ, I can have fellowship with a Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist or Charismatic or any professing believer of Christ any day.

My Struggle with Insecurity

I can’t say that I generally have a fantastic relationship with people of my age or older. Yes, Shun Xian, Daniel, Jonathan and Hui Ting, not to forget Queenie, are exceptions to the norm. For most others, however, I can at best be friendly/amicable and at worst fearful, even dreadful at their very presence.

The origin of this fear was an entire childhood of being looked down upon by older kids. Whether they meant it when they teased or not, I interpreted it as condescendence. As I recall these hurts, trust me, my heart feels pierced with pangs, not too many as God has and is continuing His healing work in me.

  • Why do you look down on me?
  • Am I too young and immature for you?
  • Am I not as smart/sporty/large-sized/capable as you?
  • Am I never cool enough for you?
  • Am I always wrong in your eyes?

I guess I could ramble on if I felt like it, but I never felt worthy enough to be around them. I felt like a little kid who knows no shit and can’t be anything more than a burden to the community. I was rarely, if not never, respected.

This, perhaps, explains my overwhelming warmness to younger people, since I was determined never to make similar mistakes that they did. I respect and honor each junior I meet, and show them they are worthy by the grace of God and I’m not out of their league. I’ve walked down the path of intimidation and I was determined to prevent any other junior from doing the same. I decide to be intentional to know my juniors perhaps because my seniors were rarely intentional to know me.

The root cause would, I suspect, be a spirit of inferiority. Perhaps the knowledge that who I am and how much value I am worth is found in who Jesus is and how much value He is worth has not fully sunken into my heart, leading to insecurity and fear that have haunted me for 19 years. Even now I generally still feel intimidated by strangers older than or as old as me, despite having being convicted by the gospel of grace 5 years ago.

After Birthday Jam, on my way home, there were some large-sized and older people who teased me for scratching my sweaty itchy scalp on the bus. They chortled incessantly, but I chose to ignore them by blasting music. In the corner of my eye I saw them joking about me (and unknowingly making a huge nuisance on the bus). Just as I got off, I turned to see them, only to find the ringleader scratching his scalp as mockery to my eccentricity.

This shit is enough. I stuck my middle finger out as a sign, “STOP MOCKING ME,” before I strode off the bus. A pang of guilt filled my heart.

  • That wasn’t God glorifying.
  • That was not grace.
  • You claim to be a fervent follower of Christ.
  • Why didn’t you turn the other cheek?

That’s when God showed me that this hurt has not been dealt with. I’m still struggling in this area. And Shun reminded me that just as God has healed me physically, so shall He heal me emotionally.

His grace has brought me safe thus far; His grace will take me home

Through the emotional healing, God’s grace avails much. Yes, I will falter, but His grace will pick me up and work through me to glorify Him. My request from the reader is prayer, for emotional healing in this area. For boldness to face my fear of worthlessness. For practical steps to walk out of this difficulty, in the power of the grace of God.

Thanks for this moment of being vulnerable. Help me keep accountable. Thanks. ☺️

Taking Grace for Granted

Recently, one of my students parents wanted to sack me for being unable to fulfil my promise—to buck her kid up from an A to an A*. I was a little hurt, but reflected on it and realised that none of my kids were actually improving. Money was wasted because I have failed as a teacher.

This is what happens when I teach by my own strength. I have lost the habit to commit each tuition session to the Lord and started to blabber away on each session. I have not stewarded my gift well as I did not let Him use it. I have failed as a teacher in this respect.

Thank God in Him there is no condemnation. Yet it just reminds me even more to not take any of my students for granted, to meet them at their level and to teach by His grace. This job/ministry is given by Him and He has every right to take it away should I fail to steward it well. Today I make the choice to reinstate Joel Kindiak Math Tuition into God’s hands.

From tomorrow onward, I want to commit every session with my kids to the Lord, that I may teach graciously, that they may learn passionately and that they score excellently, by the power of His grace. May you readers keep me accountable. May I teach with grace.

Joel Kindiak, May 5, 2016

Pervasive Loneliness

I used to struggle with loneliness a lot. This can be inferred by my jealousy of the many photos and adventures of my peers. Today, I overcome loneliness by being alone with Christ, yet I sense that this issue has become more prevalent in my generation with the presence of social media.

Some people feel lonely when they feel excluded from their friends’ adventures proudly loaded onto social media. This has probably held true since the dawn of photo-sharing features. Yet I get the sense that some people struggle with loneliness precisely because of their active photo-sharing, as a facade to how they really feel. To hide their sense of loneliness, they show the world how involved they are in an attempt to feel accepted, superficial it may be.

Loneliness pervades most of our lives. We would be lying if we say that we completely do not struggle with loneliness. Yet, I remembered clearly and I hold dearly this quote by Pastor Prince, that “the cure to loneliness,” a depraved heart condition, “is to be alone with Jesus,” the healer of all hearts.

When my eyes are on Jesus, He brings to me people whom I can be intentional to, to people whom I can trust and share my weaknesses with. These groups are small and sporadic with respect to my life, but we still meet to share life and point one another to Christ. Aloneness in Christ has made me a less lonely person. I treasure every group and am confident that every time we meet it will be an edifying experience.

Joel Kindiak, May 5, 2016