Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Use the language people use and understand

"[Satan] has often made use of obsolete forms of speech, that under this mask he may cloak his impostures."
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. viii.

My take from this is: Beware of archaic words and phrases. Speak and write in a way that is clear to the audience.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 9

This is the post #9 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Those who forsake Scripture and claim to have another direct revelation from the Holy Spirit are wrong for Scripture is born from the Holy Spirit and He, being God Himself, does not contradict what He had already revealed in Scripture. Instead, all believers recognise the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture as they are led to Christ when they read it, and they are driven back to Scripture when the Spirit works in them. The Holy Spirit and the Word are "joined" together in this way.

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 8

This is the post #8 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Human testimonies about Scripture:
  1. Quality of writings and especially their content.
  2. Antiquity
  3. Embarrassing details about the authors and their family lines.
  4. Miracles, which must have been authentic to be written down, show God’s approval of the message.
  5. Fulfilment of prophecies
  6. Trustworthiness of the transmission of Scripture. God must have worked in preserving it.
  7. Clarity and power of the New Testament writings and the amazing transformation that took place in their authors.
  8. Church’s testimony about Scripture through the ages over against the world’s attempt to destroy it.
  9. Martyrs who gave their lives for Scripture and its content.

“[Therefore] Scripture will ultimately suffice for a saving knowledge of God only when its certainty is founded upon the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, these human testimonies which exists to confirm it will not be vain if, as secondary aids to our feebleness, they follow that chief and highest testimony. But those who wish to prove to unbelievers that Scripture is the Word of God are acting foolishly, for only by faith can this be known.”

When you feel discouraged that there are so few who believe around us...

Whenever, then, the fewness of believers disturbs us, let the converse come to mind, that only those to whom it is given can comprehend the mysteries of God [cf. Matt. 13:11].
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. vii.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Let them read John's Gospel

"Let them read John's Gospel: whether they want to or not, there they shall find a thousand sayings to arouse, at least, their dull minds–nay, I should rather say, to burn a dreadful brand upon their consciences for the restraint of their mockery."
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. viii.

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 7

This is the post #7 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

It is not church that gives Scripture its authority, rather, it is God, for He is the Author of it. In fact, it is the church that is founded upon Scripture. The church does recognise the divine qualities of Scripture because the saved ones are the ones whose minds are illumined by the Holy Spirit. More than reasons or other facts, the Holy Spirit Himself gives proof and assurance to those who believe that Scripture is the true Word of God. Trying to prove Scripture as the true Word of God by reason or other facts is a vain effort because that would be an attempt to build one's foundation of faith by men's effort rather than relying on God Himself. Nevertheless, the best reasons do agree with the true doctrine of Scripture.
Conclusion: "that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. [...] Such, then, is a conviction that requires no reasons; such a knowledge with which the best reason agrees–in which the mind truly reposes more securely and constantly than in any reasons; such, finally, a feeling that can be born only of heavenly revelation. I speak of nothing other than what each believer experiences within himself–though my words fall far beneath a just explanation of the matter."

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Thankful and sad

Today was the last Sunday at Toongabbie Anglican Church for us. We are thankful for the church who welcomed us, loved us, and helped us grow in so many ways for the past 4 years. We certainly learnt what ministry looks like when people stand confidently on the Word of God, and we also experienced love that overflows in the hearts of such people. And so, we are deeply sad to say good-bye to them. As Sammy said recently, without our time at Toongabbie, we wouldn’t be training for the full time ministry now. We move on to continue our training, but by God’s grace, we will always serve the same Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the one and only Saviour of the world. It seems fitting to quote this bible verse in memory of our time at Toongabbie Anglican: “Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. (Hebrews 12:1–2)”
Christmas at Toongabbie Anglican 2015

How to rid of errors...

"We must come, I say, to the Word (the Bible), where God is truly and vividly described to us, while these very works are appraised not by our depraved judgment but by the rule of eternal truth. [...] For errors can never be uprooted from human hearts until true knowledge of God is planted therein."
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. vi.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 6

This is the post #6 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Since the nature is not sufficient to make people to know God truly, although it is enough to condemn all people for rejecting God, God has given us His Word so we may truly know Him. We can know God as Creator and as Redeemer. For one to be saved, one must know God as both Creator and also as Redeemer. God's own Word is necessary for knowing God as Creator, not just for knowing Him as Redeemer. Our minds are so weak and corrupted, we always conjure up false gods when we look at the creation, even though it's singing God's praise every second. God has given His own Word to reveal Himself, and had it written for the our security. Without this Word of God, people will continually fall into error, and we must come to the Word again and again, since we are so forgetful (and sinful). Conclusion: while the creation declares the glory of God, we must come to the Word in order to gain true and sure knowledge of God.


My note: It seems Calvin is labouring in these sections so far to establish the point that knowing God as Creator cannot come about by simply contemplating on nature (empiricism?) or by reason alone (rationalism?). He might be doing this in order to counter the claim that says the Scripture is only needed to know God as Redeemer, but God the Creator can be known from the nature or reason alone. Maybe this view was a prevalent one in the Roman Catholic church in Calvin's day.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

People are gifted. But they are ungrateful and proud.

“[People] have within themselves a workshop graced with God’s unnumbered works and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing with inestimable riches. They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride.”
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. v.

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 5


This is the post #5 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

All human minds are engraved with the knowledge of God. They all have a natural sense of divinity.
The creation reveals the Creator.
The human sense of justice and mercy are meant to point out God and the world to come.
And yet, all human beings corrupt the knowledge of God through idolatry.
Even great minds were not free from this error.
Conclusion: The whole creation testifies to the glory of God brilliantly, and yet, this revelation is not sufficient for human beings to know God because human beings corrupt this knowledge, and hence they are not excusable.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

We fail to honour God, in good times and bad times.

"In tranquil times they wittily joke about God, indeed are facetious and garrulous in belittling his power. If any occasion for despair presses upon them, it goads them to seek him and impels their perfunctory prayers. From this it is clear that they have not been utterly ignorant of God, but that what should have come forth sooner was held back by stubbornness."
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. iv.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 4

This is a part of the Calvin's Institutes summary series post #4.

All human beings are given some knowledge of God, yet all such knowledge is corrupted. Some turned to lesser gods of their own imagination (which are no gods at all) and some consciously rejected and refused to seek the true God. Still others think of God only when difficulties in life arise. All these point to the reality of God and the knowledge of God in all human beings, yet, in their own stubbornness, they have all turned away from that knowledge.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 3

This is a part of the Calvin's Institutes summary series post #3.

All men have an innate knowledge of God who is the Creator. Idolatry and atheism are two evidence for this. Idolatry: Men, who are by nature not humble to bow down and worship others, prefers to worship wood and stone than to have no God. Atheism: Those men who refuse to acknowledge God are so occupied in proving that there is no God in order to escape the thought of having God. Every single human being is ingrained in their minds with the conception and the due honour they owe to God the Creator.

What is greater about human beings than animals?

[Therefore], it is worship of God alone that renders [people] higher than the [animals], and through it alone they aspire to immortality.
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. iii.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 2

This is a part of the Calvin's Institutes summary series post #2.

To know God as the Creator is to know that absolutely everything is made by Him and all good things (such as wisdom, light, righteousness, power, rectitude, truth, etc) come from Him. Hence, knowing God requires one to be pious, ie. to revere and love God.

Theoretical-only knowledge of God is a useless speculation as is irrelevant. True knowledge of God is a practical knowledge. We ought to know what God is like and respond rightly. To do so, we must not imagine what God is like, but rather, carefully pay attention to His own revelation.

"Here indeed is pure and real religion: faith so joined with an earnest fear of God that this fear also embraces willing reverence, and carries with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed in the law."

Friday, 11 December 2015

What matters is... God's glory.

[A pious mind] embraces [God] no less as punisher of the wicked than as benefactor of the pious. For the pious mind realizes that the punishment of the impious and wicked and the reward of life eternal for the righteous equally pertain to God's glory. Besides, this mind restrains itself from sinning, not out of dread of punishment alone; but, because it loves and reveres God as Father, it worships and adores him as Lord. Even if there were no hell, it would still shudder at offending him alone.
  -- Calvin, Institutes I. ii.

Calvin's Institutes. Book I, Chapter 1


This is a part of the Calvin's Institutes summary series post #1.

The knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are connected. Knowing our sinful state leads to knowing God. Knowing God leads to knowing our sinful state. Nevertheless, it is proper to begin with the knowledge of God first, then the knowledge of ourselves.

Reading Calvin's Institutes

The time has come. I am required to read Calvin's Institutes in order to proceed to the second year at Moore Theological College. I only need to read the book I and book II (there are four books altogether), but that's still around 550 pages to get through. I'm sure it'll do me good, but I need some motivation time to time. Also, I hope to gain and retain as much as possible from this reading. So, I will try to summarise each chapter in the following posts. I don't know how long or short each summary will be, but I will try to make them as short as I can manage. But these will be my summaries, and what I want to say explicitly here and now is that these must not be taken as a "right" or "correct" summaries. Inevitably, I will misunderstand and I will mis-express time to time, but hopefully not too much and not too often. At the very least, I hope this will be of some use to others who have read or undertaking reading the Institutes.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Certainty of Death


When I believed cancer was a death sentence I was wrong ­— not because I’m not going to die, but because in fact I’d always lived under the shadow of death. The one thing we know for sure is that we’re going to die.
  – p33, Hope Beyond Cure by David McDonald

Thursday, 6 August 2015

A path that Jesus once took

Jumpy dots and numbers in red,
Shallow breaths and tubes with med.

Are we destined to this?

Unconscious, so far as we can tell.
Not in too much pain, doctors compel.

How sure are you?

It is only natural, someone had told me.
Maybe it was from that stupid movie.

Am I supposed to believe it?

Too scared even to touch his sleeve
Lest my hand be his last heave.

Go on, tell me I'm being irrational!

Then,
Slowing the pace.
And no more.

What am I supposed to think?

He's gone, God took Him.
He's with Jesus, all the better.

What am I supposed to feel?

Rage. Disgust.
Full. Empty.

What am I supposed to do?

Wait.
Yes, wait for the Day.
Wait.


  -- For my father-in-law  (1948 - 2015) --

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Anglican Via Media

The Church of England’s peculiar history also shaped the tone and scope of the Articles. […] As an established Church, it was also important that she should be as comprehensive as possible, even given the need to exclude certain groups such as the Roman Catholics and the more radical Protestant sects. In this way, Reformation Anglicanism did indeed represent a via media, a middle way, but not in the sense for which Newman argued prior to moving Romeward. It was not a middle way between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism but rather between Roman Catholicism and Anabaptism. This is otherwise known as Reformation Protestantism.
  – pp. 112-113, The Creedal Imperative by Carl Trueman (italics original)

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Fatherhood

Are you a father? Or do you have a potential to be a father? (That’s just another way of saying, are you a man?) This is a great book on what fatherhood is, and what it’s for. Let me give you the opening paragraph of the chapter 2 (chapter 1 just explains what he will be doing in the book, that is to change your mind about fatherhood by showing you what fatherhood is and what it’s for. There, chapter 1 down.)
 “I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to maintain a serious conversation with someone while they are attacking your private parts with a knife, but that’s what I found myself doing one early summer morning in 1996.” 
  - p.19 in Fatherhoodby Tony Payne 

How can you not read on? Get it and read it. It’s a good mixture of humour, personal reflections, and biblical wisdom.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Ordinary? Or extraordinary? I can't decide.

It was a great privilege to do a bit of walk-up evangelism around Sydney Uni last Thursday. I went with a fellow college student, who I knew had a Jewish background. In the course of our conversations with people, someone asked what denomination he was from. My friend answered, “I’m a Jesus-man.” I’m a Christian too. So, telling people on the streets about Jesus Christ is I guess what is expected of us two. An ordinary thing to do. But I can’t stop thinking about that one hour spent together trying to talk to people about Jesus.

Below is a basic summary of what people said as we asked them what they thought about Jesus.

“Nah… not interested.”

“No, thanks.”

“I used to go to a Presbyterian church… I’m looking for a better preaching… a minister I used to know went and did something something something…, my wife has a Catholic church background, something something something… No, I don’t go to church at the moment. No, there are some difficulties with believing things about Jesus, his resurrection and oh, the virgin birth… although that’s a bit easier, maybe something happened with y-chromosome, but then, why… yeah, well, I now gotta go and teach a tutorial, so… thanks.”

“What’s your story? Nah, I’ve (you’ve? He was mumbling.) got something better to do.”

“Err… I dunno. I dunno. Something something something… I dunno. I went to a Catholic school, so I went to the mass and heard all that. No, I dunno. I dunno. I dunno. Basically if you do good, you will have a good life. I’m a Buddhist. I dunno. Ok… so what do you believe? So let me get it straight. You mean, even murderers and thieves, just by believing in Jesus can go to heaven? How is that just? What about sick children? Why didn’t God make things better than this? I dunno, I dunno. Something something something. I dunno. Nah, I haven’t read the Bible as an adult. Nah, I have a Bible at home. I went to a Catholic school. I dunno. Nah, see ya.”

“Huh. You don’t want to talk to me, ‘cause Christians hate homosexuals like me, right? No? Yeah? Fair? (walks off)”

These were people who needed to hear that Son of God came and died for us and rose back to life to be King over us. And there I was, a gentile, trying to tell people about Jesus, side-by-side with a Jesus-man who has a Jewish background. Reflecting back on it, I think I can decide. It was extraordinary.

“The Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and partners of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. (Ephesians 3:6)”

Friday, 22 May 2015

Not assuming the gospel

Could you have preached that sermon if Christ had not died on the cross? Could you have developed that Christian leadership principle had Christ not been crucified? I’m not saying be impractical—the Bible has much to say about being practical—but make sure that the practical is tied to the message of Jesus. Otherwise we are on the road to an assumption that will lose the gospel.
   – p. 41, Marks of the Messenger by Mack Stiles