Pastoral Letter 18 Oct 2020
My dear readers,
Proverbs 15:33:“The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.”
To be honoured is to be recognized for something done well, in deeds or life or both. People like to be honoured. People try to honour themselves too as seen in all the foundations, ostentatious buildings and activities named after themselves. They hope to be remembered, even long after they are dead and gone and their bones turned into dust, that they had lived and done something with their lives. This has been the way of mankind throughout the ages. It has not diminished with time. It has been enhanced and entrenched into the very fabric of modern society due to the virtual reality made possible by the internet world.
Almost everyone who has an internet account can post his life story for the world to see and read. Responses with thumbs-up have been the norm in most cases, thus lifting the spirit of the person. Leaving a mark to be honoured by fellow men has become the “drug” of modern society, knowingly or unknowingly. Many have jumped into the bandwagon with little thought to their innate need to be accepted and publicly advertised. Striving for the championship or to be number one in every field of life is the driving motive that motivates almost every human being today. Some have succeeded and monuments are built and great accolades are recorded as to who the Greatest Of All Time (G.O.A.T.) is. Every endeavour is debated and placed in the highest esteem, waiting for the next champion to arrive with new heights of glory and accomplishments. This vicious cycle of mutual honour amongst men is seductive and vanity.
If we were to take a contemplative step back, it all boils down to emptiness. It is like hot air that rises and then disappears to nothingness. At the end of it, the life ends with nothing to show for it except for the honour of men. But that seems to be enough for most people. Is that how you would like your life to be as well?
This is the emptiness that has drowned millions into living a life of vanity because they have been deceived by the god of this world to their own destruction. Children of God ought to be wiser and live their lives with spiritual eyes and purposes that will last for eternity. Proverbs 15:33 teaches this life.
The Fearful Prerequisite – The fear of the LORD is the first step towards such a meaningful eternal life. What does it mean to fear the LORD? “The LORD” is the God of Israel who is the one living and true God, beside Him there is no one else. He is the Creator of heaven and earth. Every human being came into existence by His sovereign might, power, and determination. Therefore, all mankind answer to Him. Before there is honour, man must first fear Him. Man fears the LORD because he has committed innumerable sins against Him and will be judged by Him upon death. He fears Him as He has the power to send every sinner to hell upon death. He must fear Him today before any of the above occurs in his life. This is the immediate fear of God that drives the sinner to Him, begging for forgiveness and mercy. With the fear of the LORD in his heart, he listens to instruction (i.e. chastisement) and turns his life toward righteousness upon true repentance.
The true repentance begins with his salvation which is to turn to Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour. He experiences forgiveness of sins by faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ who died for him and rose from the dead for his justification. Then his life continues with the fear of the LORD in his heart that will keep him in a life of holiness. He will now desire with all his heart to not sin against his LORD. Whenever he fails and succumbs to sin, he will repent of his sin immediately as he does not want his LORD to be angry with him. This is godly fear that keeps God's child from sinning and to repent whenever he sins.
This “fear of the LORD” is explained as “the instruction of wisdom.” The instruction is chastisement which is a rebuke from the teaching of the Bible as well as through God’s direct physical chastisement such as sickness, loss of jobs or even loved ones, imprisonment, etc. The primary purpose is to keep God’s child in the path of holiness. Through this personal experience with the LORD, the child of God becomes wise. He learns discernment and stays away from all that is sinful and holds on to all that is good and righteous according to Holy Scriptures. This wisdom is from above (i.e. heaven) and from below (i.e. earth). With this godly wisdom, he begins to see and evaluate people and circumstances in his life with the eyes and mind of God. He possesses the wisdom of God!
The Needful Disposition – With the wisdom of God in his heart, he knows that he is nothing without Christ. Without the LORD, he is nothing and can do nothing. Everything he does that is good and honourable begins with his fear of the LORD. He would not be able to be the blessing that he is to others without the transforming work of God in his life. He is saved by Christ. He serves with the strength of Christ. He prays with the help of the Spirit of Christ. He evangelizes with the courage of Christ. He understands the Word of God with the wisdom of Christ. He is alive because of Christ’s death. He lives only for his Christ. He knows and does this from his heart. As the Lord says in John 15:4-5: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing".
The phrase “to get understanding” literally means “to own a heart.” The hearing of reproof reveals the heart of the believer. First, he receives the gospel of salvation in Christ which begins with a deeply convicted realization of his sins against God that he cannot atone for. He mourns for his sin and humbly accepts Christ as his Lord and Saviour. This first reproof gives him a heart of flesh. Future reproofs should also result in the same response of teachability. But the one who despises his own soul by refusing instruction lacks understanding, i.e. a heart.
Food for Thought – Would a child of God hate his own soul by rejecting instruction from the LORD?
Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew