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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Danger of the Excess

The world lives on a principle that cannot be explained. It believes that a good thing cannot be truly good if it cannot be good in excess. For example: If it is a good thing to help a man when he is hungry, it is a better thing to provide all the other things that he might need. On the other hand, if it is a good thing to make money, then it is a better thing to accumulate the wealth at any expense.

And thus we have excesses in all areas, especially in the church. One church will preach that it is a good thing that people drink alcohol only in moderation. The next says that it is best that they have no alcohol at all. One says that it is best to show some emotion when worshipping, the next displays wild histrionics. It seems that there is no end to excesses. It does not matter whether you speak of prayer, the Bible, the Holy Spirit or any manner of deportment, excesses abound.

My own assessment is that the Spirit is not leading when people are brought to excess. The excess can be in stoicism or in emotionalism. It can be in allowing the Priest only to read the Bible to denying that those who preach have any knowledge of the Word. It can be in wild dancing in church to denying dancing outside of the church. It can be in avoiding prayer or cloistering oneself for a lifetime for the sake of prayer.

It is much easier to go to excess. Excess denies self-control. It allows the good act to control the individual. This can be done without thinking, being Spirit led or even consulting the Spirit for that matter. Excesses more easily tear people away from their relationship with the Lord because the excess pushes out the relationship with the Lord. God is no longer the focus of the individual who is given to excess. The excess has become his lord.

So all things must be held in discipline. The body must know when it is working in harmony with the Spirit. Thus, it neither overeats or over-exercises. Thus, there is prayer and Bible study. Thus, the Spirit is leading and emotions are felt and expressed without drawing self attention.

The Spirit gives glory to the Son. He does not draw attention to the believer through excesses. He allows for extravagence without excess.

This Spirit led self-control is a matter of discipline. It allows for the tears but not for the wailing. It seeks God in prayer but not at the expense of soul-winning. It allows for eating but not for gorging. It permits dancing but not as a public sexual display.

Yes, it takes a great deal more discipline to exercise self-control than to either eliminate the action or allow it to continue unabated. Yet , that is what makes it a remarkable Christian life. It is what we call maturity.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (ESV) 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

8 comments:

high-expressions said...

Discipline and self-control, 2 elements which contribute into what we call a “balanced life”, have been traditionally exhorted in the faith; today, we have preachers, the overly grace ones, mostly, tearing away at this foundation, by their over-concentration of their portrayal of a Christian life as being with full and even absolute liberty because of the grace of God.

It is indeed over-stretching the grace of God to imply a Christian is at liberty to do anything or nothing at all. Such teachings attack the traditional call for a balanced life, on pretext of a truth needs no balancing. No, we who call for a balanced life is NOT saying that a truth needs to be balanced, for indeed a truth is a truth and no balancing is required, but it is that many truths are applying in the life of one, and the interplay of the applications points to a balanced life.

How we play out our lives, is relevant to 2 parties, namely God and our neighbours. In our Christian walk, what counts, is that done, as unto the Lord, and at the same time, we are expected by God NOT to stumble another, as well as to be our brother's keeper. Often times, it is because we have to take into consideration our "responsibility" towards our neighbours, as required of, by the Lord, that we have to have balance in our lives. Make no mistake, the life you and I is called into, is NOT a solo life, that you only need to "take care" of yourself; if it were so, there would NOT be such calls, in Scripture, like you are to love your neighbour as yourself; or that, if you have NOT loved men, how could you claim you love God. Stumbling another is definitely NOT loving the person. So, when you apply a truth, but it will stumble a brother, it is NOT necessarily pleasing unto God.

The Apostle Paul gave this example: Indeed, it is true that food offered to god or deity is just food, and if you eat it as unto God (meaning eating it simply as food which you give thanks to God, recognising it is God who provides), it is of course, alright to eat it; yet at the same time, eating food offered to god or deity does carry the connotation of one maybe “friendly” to both the Lord and other god, an attitude which the Lord does NOT approve, and if your partaking of the food would misrepresent to a brother (that it is alright to share the Lord's table and fellowship at the table of other gods), you are NOT to do that (eat the food). So, even if it is very tempting to engage in that feast (often offered free to us), we are to exercise self-control and discipline.

Similarly, dancing before the Lord can be very innocent, and it is may NOT be wrong for one to say, he/she was only dancing for the Lord (if indeed, he/she was), and it is the people looking on, who are of perverse mind or thoughts. If you are alone in the privacy of your own room, it is valid and fine, but what about in church publicly, if you are scantily dressed and engaged in “sexy dance”, say, on the stage or at the front? Now what should the answer be? A no-no or it is ok? Before we answer this, let us take a look at an actual case in Scripture, that which involved David and his wife Michal:

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high-expressions said...

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2 Samuel 6:16-23 –
16 As the ark of the LORD was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD, she despised him in her heart. 17 … 18 …19 … 20 When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!” 21 David said to Michal, “It was before the LORD, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the LORD’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the LORD. 22 I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.” 23 And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death

This would be the 2nd time King David attempted to bring the ark to the Old City of David, and this time he was successful. Now, how David danced, was before all, publicly. His wife, Michal, was NOT liking what David did; in other words, she disapproved of David’s public display. The last verse, v23, actually implied that as a result of Michal’s disapproval, her despising of King David, she was made barren by the Lord.

Now, what is my answer for the example of one performing “sexy dance” in church? Is it a straightforward, “Yes”, and I should NOT despise or disapprove of the person? I do NOT want to be like Michal, to suffer retribution by the hand of God?

I think it is NOT an easy question to answer, and many people, especially church leaders, should find such issues as something NOT so easy to answer, meaning if they are too quick to answer either way, a “Yes” or a “No”, they might NOT be doing the right thing! The point is that weighing is required. It cannot be David-Michal’s case is a precedent, and so, we let people do anything they like, nor is it that we should simply based it solely on our individual preference, and can label the person as being a “vulgar fellow”. How then should we deal with such conduct and behavior or in the broader category of what Ps Prentis calls “excesses”?

I think it is necessary to go into a few specifics of the David-Michal’s case, and then see if we can derive some “working framework” to guide us.

1. David is the King. In other words, David is NOT any Tom, Dick and Harry. No, I am NOT promoting those in the “Inner Circle” can do anything they like and can get away with it. But what I am saying is, this is one factor that we have to put some weightage on. David’s claim in v21 was a fact; indeed the Lord had chosen David to be the King or leader, which meant he sat on a seat of honor.

A seat of honor is a seat above many, and is seat having greater accountability to God. The seat does come with greater liberty; and liberty and accountability go hand in hand; in other words, the greater the liberty, the greater the accountability. Another person given such a seat of honor was Moses, and there was such an artifact called the “Moses’ Seat”. When Moses took an Ethiopian woman as his wife, and when Aaron and Miriam “rebuked” Moses for that, God was also displeased. In other words, there appeared to be such a thing as “God made him the boss; God gave him some liberty, and he will answer to God for that extra liberty.”

The practical application is that (1) we should bear this in mind, and let the person have some leeway, that which God has given him, knowing full well that he will be answerable to God. (2) when it appears “grey” TO US, and even though we give him the benefit of doubt, we should nevertheless, NOT necessarily be following after the person, and do the same thing. The reason is simple, we do NOT sit on that seat of honor; the person does.

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high-expressions said...

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2. David did NOT get others to do, likewise. Now, this is an important point. In other words, the point 1 above does come with provisos, which included when it is “grey” to us {many, not one} (NOT necessarily grey in his own eyes), he must NOT insist others to do the same or teach/instruct others to do it. In other words, the person, too, must recognize that what he was permitted to do, or even asked to do, does NOT necessarily be widely applicable, for others are NOT of such favor that God has extended to him.

Practical application would that (1) the person on the seat of honor, should NOT insist or teach/instruct others do it, and if he does that, he has stepped into the office of a teacher, and we can judge his teaching, even though we do NOT judge the person; in other words, we can refuse his teaching if we honestly think it is wrong, or that we do not sit in that seat of honor. Plainly, it meant you can say, “Sorry, I do NOT think I am up to it, to do that”, and you do NOT have to do it. (2) As a brother’s keeper, your role is to recognize that, and see if he does insist others to do it or teach/instruct others to do it; and if he does, you can discharge your brother’s keeper role by expressing your view to him that he should NOT insist or teach/instruct others to do likewise. When it is a brother’s keeper’s role that you are performing, you only need to tell him; regardless whether or not, he listens to you, you have done your part; his “blood will NOT be on you”.

3. David’s heart was right then. David’s heart then was to welcome the Lord into the City; gave Him all the glory due His name. His attitude was that “if my subjects would humble themselves before mine (in those days it would NOT be uncommon for subjects to sing and dance {perform} for the King), he would likewise humble himself before the One who made him King above his subjects, and he regarded his display as that which his subjects could identify with; in other words, he believed he was NOT acting inappropriately. In fact, David underscored the significance of his disrobing, as an act of humbling himself. In the context of him before the LORD, I believe in the frame of his mind, he was humbling himself, and he believed, in the mind of his own subjects, the same – the King was humbling himself, before God; they, the subjects, would honor him that he honored God (v22). We must understand that there is spiritual meaning to enrobing and disrobing, understood by the people of old.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, though they were naked, NOT robed, they knew NOT shame; but since The Fall, nakedness, even being scantily dressed, does invoke shame. It is like one is exposed, or in modern language, we say and we sing the song with the lyric, “we are undone”. To disrobe before God is to express that one is exposed and feel unworthy to be before the LORD. Enrobe brings the opposite meaning; to enrobe is to honor, is to cover over, is to be counting acceptance towards the one being enrobed. God enrobed Adam and Eve, despite their Fall (counting out acceptance); and in the Parable of the Return of the Prodigal Son, the father enrobed the returned son. Jesus was disrobed or stripped off his clothes; it is parabolic to his bearing of our sins and shame.

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high-expressions said...

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Now, then should we all strip ourselves in church every weekend services? No, of course NOT; even King David did NOT, do it as a matter of norm (it was NOT recorded of other occasions that he disrobed again). In fact, the King’s robe represents honor, and so, a King does NOT easily disrobe or permit royal robes to be worn by another, without a valid reason. In the Book of Esther, the PM, Haman, thought that his King (King of Persia) had wanted to honor him (actually the King wanted to honor Mordecai), suggested that the King let the person to be honored wear a robe the King wore before, because that would be honoring; this, you can read in Esther 6:8. You have to be honest with yourself, had you NOT read these that I have said concerning the significance of enrobing and disrobing, did you already know what you were really doing, had you actually disrobe before the Lord? If you know NOT and have NOT, the significance, when you do a thing, it is often NOT counted as a thing being done as unto the Lord that pleases the Lord.

Now that I know, can I do it, disrobe in church service, I mean?! No, you may NOT, unless you “hear” specifically from the Lord. But David did NOT hear from the Lord, and he did it! Yes, it was NOT recorded that David heard from God, but for us, the Word did warn about stumbling others, and so, you have to ask if by what you do, would it likely to stumble others. If it would stumble, I believe, if you did NOT “hear” from God, you will NOT be faulted if you do NOT do it. In the Bible, it is recorded that Jesus took mud, and spit saliva into it, and placed the mix on a person’s eyes, healing the person; do you do the same as a matter of norm? No, you do it only if you “hear” specifically from the Lord on such an act.

So what do you do, if a member, say, disrobes in the church service? First, you have to ask yourself if you are a church leader, in other words, if you have a position over the person, or your seat of honor is above his. Michal’s seat of honor was below that of King David. Then, the royal prophet’s seat of honor was above the King’s. This, we know from the story of King Saul and the prophet Samuel; where Samuel could rebuke King Saul for the King’s inappropriate action of assuming the role of the priest, and NOT waiting for Samuel who was also the priest. If you are NOT, then you need to refer to a church leader, to have him address the issue, and the church leader should address the issue (If you still want to confront the member, you can only be doing so, in the capacity as a brother’s keeper).

What if it is NOT of disrobing, but performance with moves that arouse sexual desires? I want to say, “That is simple – out!”, but at times, it is NOT that straight-forward; because I might think it arouses sexual desires, but you don’t; in other words, one man’s meat is another man’s poison (or the other way round, one man’s poison is another man’s meat), kicks in.

That is where the Proverb 11:14 comes in: “Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” (KJV). In other words, there should a panel in the body of believers, who can then discern if something is NOT appropriate. Who are in the panel, of course, is important. What kind of people should be on such panel? In short, godly people.

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high-expressions said...

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Of course, even so, still it is possible that with such panel, a decision reached by the panel is NOT correct. For example, in a traditional church not believing that the gifts of Holy Spirit, especially the gift of prophecy, are still applicable, when you exercise the gift of the Spirit, like prophecy, the decision coming from a panel may still be “you are in the excesses”, since all members appointed to the panel may most likely to be of the same belief - that such gifts are no longer applicable.

If you ask, why would God NOT want to intervene so that the correct decision is given, I will answer with another question, why is it reasonable to expect God to intervene in every wrong decision about to be made? God does NOT automatically stop every wrong decision to be made, even when it is being made by a panel appointed in a body. I mean God still allows people to make their own decisions, or people are allowed to exercise their volition, generally.

Now, there is also, bound to be differences when we put people together, especially, they are a “random” lot. We, then, have to see how fundamental the differences are. If they are NOT, it might be OK to accommodate the difference with an attitude of bearing with one another (and this is exhorted too, in Scripture). If they are fundamental, they need to be addressed, and it may result in one party leaving the scene, so to speak; but it is better that way, for Scripture also did warn about allowing a “bad” yeast to continue in the body, would be disastrous.

Excess is of course, subjective, but the subjectivity is to be subject to discipline and self-control. So, if you are told to “moderate”, you have to exercise self-discipline and self-control. If you are insistent that what you are doing is NOT excess, but extravagance approved by the Lord, your recourse is to go to the Lord. But what if you do NOT seem to “hear” from Him? My default mind-set is that I try as far as possible to accept decision coming from a multitude of counsel (of godly people). Leaving is the last resort.

Of course, in the article, Ps Prentis was also referring to many excesses which are NOT so “publicly censorable”, like you don’t want to read the Word, but only want to worship God, or like you want only to Bible-study but you do NOT want to act on the Word, i.e. you only want to be a hearer of the Word but NOT a doer of the Word, etc, etc; this, you have to know, there are various aspects to a Christian life, and it is God’s desire for you to walk in them, and NOT in only a selected one(s), because He wants you to grow overall, even as He may use you in a particular ministry more. In other words, there is still a balancing required of the pull of one’s time, even when the all the aspects are each, legitimate aspect of the faith; discipline and self-control is inevitable in a Christian life.

For example, I tell people, sure you can be angry, but how angry and for how long?! Without discipline and self-control, even if your anger is only for a brief moment, and if in that brief anger of yours, you trust a knife into another, killing him, that would be a big problem, wouldn’t it? Even for such a thing (as anger), there can be excess, and if you do NOT “cultivate your inner world”, you can be displeasing to God, and you can get into trouble.

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high-expressions said...

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The life that God intended for Man isn’t only black and white, but with shades of colours, and the Christian life is NOT boring, also because it is NOT simply a set of do or don’t or “Yes” and “No” without the need to discern, or the Christian life is NOT lot casting (although there were occasions of lot casting in olden times); the Christian life is a life of discernment; more so, if you are in leadership (Actually, one way to view one’s life is that we are all in leadership training under the Lord, and so we are all acquiring the “art” of discernment, along the way). Yes, ultimately the answer maybe a “Yes” or a “No”, but it is after discernment, after weighing the matters, and after bringing them before the Lord (such, make the Christian life remarkable, such are the marks of maturity, like Ps Prentis said it). Wearisome? But such, was the job of the leader, Moses, and he had to, eventually, through suggestion of his father-in-law, get a team to assist him.

Another aspect that should be borne in mind, too, when talking about excesses, is that of knowing and seizing the “times and seasons” (Eccl 3:1). In this regard, viewing things with the appropriate the time-frame is most important.

Now, if you come to Singapore in December month and go back at the end of the same month, and assuming you do not get information from elsewhere, you will likely to conclude that Singapore is a very wet country, for it pours and pours regularly in December in Singapore, for that month is one of the heavy monsoon months. If you enlarge your time-frame, and look at the matter over the entire year, then the conclusion of Singapore’s weather is different.

Get my point; in our lives, too, there are times and seasons; in our ministry, too, there can be times and seasons. The life of church, too, may be assigned times and seasons, by the Lord. I am NOT saying, for an individual or the local church, you do NOT do all the common things, that we generally can agree that we should be doing, like we should be Bible-studying, praising and worshiping God, winning souls for the Lord, ministering to brethrens, helping the poor and the needy, etc; we are to do all those things, but there could be particular times and seasons in one’s life and that of the church, in which certain things you are to do a lot more, even as you do the other things.

I believe one of the things that would please God is our seizing his times and seasons for our life and that of the church. This is one aspect, not easy to do, but should be the prime pursuit of our life, or the church’s life. In other words, if it is the time of our Lord for you or the church to save souls big time, you or the church should do that, effort in it; if it is His timing for you to be still before Him, you be still before Him, even though on a short-time frame, you appeared to be doing nothing! Who knows, maybe afterwards, you will exploit big time for the Lord!

If you only see Elijah in that 2 days after he ran from Queen Jezebel, where he only ate and slept, and ate and slept, and you know NOT, his other days, you will say, “What kind of prophet of God is this; only eat and sleep?” But Elijah had “glorious” past days, and he subsequently did go on assignments again for the LORD.

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high-expressions said...

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I realised one thing, on hindsight, from my ministry walk with the Lord, the last 4 years; how I wish I realised it from the beginning! It is this: When His anointing was present for the time and season, I and the church should have pressed in, and made full use of that time. You will remember Ps Prentis, in a couple of entries back, talked about the Israelites had NOT wanted to enter into the Promised Land to fight the inhabitants of the land to conquer it, and when they were rebuked, they then wanted to go in to fight, but Moses told them NOT to, saying the time had passed and the LORD would NOT be there fighting for them, but they insisted and went ahead still, and they were beaten back, and had to wait for another 40 years before they once again would be given another chance to go in and take the land. Don’t miss God’s assignment of times and seasons for your life or the life of the church; and when you are in it, don’t mistaken it as excess!

There is yet another aspect that we should also bear in mind when dealing with excesses, and it is this: While we, as individuals or the local church, as a whole, are to engage in the common things that we are to do (I already listed some of them in earlier para.), yet it is possible that as an individual or as that local church, the Lord has particularly called you into specific ministry. For example, as an individual you could be called to be a healer-minister, in which case, you will invariably be doing a lot more work relating to divine healing than the other things, although it is NOT that you do not need to do any of those common things, or would NOT need to share in the enthusiasm of others in those other things. Of course, it is a mistake to think that you are a healer-minister, you are exempted from participation in studying the Word, praising and worshiping Him, winning souls, and helping the poor and the needy, etc. In other words, I am saying there is such thing as a service calling, and different persons may have different service callings.

An analogy to help understanding: I am trained to be an accountant, and I am quite good at the work of an accountant, and that is my secular work; so what will I be doing a lot? Accounts, financials and numbers. If you are a doctor, you would NOT be doing a lot what I am doing, a lot; you will be doing something else, a lot – attending to the sick. But both of us, as men, we are NOT exempted from the other things that men are to do, like, be a good father, be a leader (men are to lead), defend the country or have the country’s interest at heart, etc, etc. The same might be said of a local church; there could be a specific calling for that local church. The crucial thing to do is to know the specific calling in its season, and do the things you are supposed to do, exploitatively for the Lord. If you are a local church called to healing, then fulfill your calling in its season, and do the divine healing work of the Lord, even if other churches around are NOT doing any of it. They might regard what you are doing, moving in the divine healing by the Holy Spirit, as an excess, but it is NOT. Yes, discernment is needed, and often NOT easy, but having the correct disposition is the right start.

Because it is NOT easy, because it is about service calling, and we are NOT the Boss, but He, God, is, it is also the reason, the Word asked that we judge NOT the ministry of others; only God, the Boss, knows what He has assigned to another person or church, NOT us. He alone can decide on the performance because He alone knows the assignments given (We are NOT to judge the ministry of others, but we can judge the teachings of another; the two are NOT the same; the former does NOT please God, and latter is exhorted in Scripture). In short, if it is your (or the local church’s) particular service calling, you may be doing particular thing more, and it is NOT necessarily an excess.

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high-expressions said...

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In the last 4 years that the church that I am in, has allowed and facilitated the move of the Holy Spirit in divine healing, openly in church services, there was a time when tens of people collectively decided to leave the church because their inability to accept the church’s emphasis (over-emphasis, according to them; in other words, “excess” in their view) on divine healing. My understanding was that the church did meet up with the group, and expressed that we would continue with facilitating the moves of the Spirit. It took courage for the church leadership to do that, and in this instance, I do NOT believe the leadership has acted wrongly, for I do believe the church (the church I am in) does have a divine-healing focus being assigned by the Lord.

This has been a long comment (too long) for a blog entry, but I truly hope that it will provoke the acquiring of a right disposition necessary to embark on a life embracing weighing and discernment, and promoting discipline and self-control, in an effort to live a balanced Christian life. Such long comment is stretching Ps Prentis’ indulgence!