Excerpts of Testimonies of Course Students (I) (Edited)

Misconstrued Love (JT)
Over time, this concept of love becomes somewhat twisted from the biblical doctrine of it. While we might have received and experienced the love of God in salvation and do learn to reciprocate and exercise it in Christian living, worship and service, our practice of it is only limited as far as our doctrine of love goes. If our doctrine of Christian love is shallow or lacking, our practice of love will be largely handicapped and even superficial at times.

I thank God for His providential hand in guiding me and allowing me to receive Christ in a relatively fundamental and sound church, However, I did not realise till many years later that how easy it was for the neo-evangelical movement to influence us in the church. While there was the love of God taught in the biblical Gospel and some degree of biblical love in doctrine and practice, this doctrine and practice of love would be distorted from its true biblical form subtly.

As I grew up in the church, especially in the youth fellowship, there was a great emphasis on bonding and building up good Christian relationships. I made friends quickly, shared deeply and participated in many activities and areas of service together from singing in the choir, going for mission trips and Bible camps. Many of these activities by itself were not wrong but in those years as a young Christian I did not realise that a good part of these while done in the name of Christ, was quite man-centred. While some Bible learning was involved and good doctrines taught, many of these relationships were built up on emotions and experiences together and the love exercised was not really anchored or directed much towards God.

As Carson wrote, niceness and sentimentalism became the measure of Christian love and anything that was not deemed as “nice”, like judgment, rebuke, or correction, was seen to be unloving. Before long, a good part of the youths started to fall away and the attempts to recover these “lost sheep” could only involve doing “nice” things because that was their impression of Christian love. Any attempt to address sin or compromise, was deemed as being judgmental and harsh, which were supposedly un-Christlike and even hypocritical. In many such cases, the “niceness” that the church can provide can never surpass the worldly delights and pleasures that would appeal to the flesh. The experience-oriented philosophy of neo-evangelicalism had already done its damage. Some false-believers ultimately renounced the love of Christ which they once testified, shared and sang about, for the world. Some who might be weaker brethren found refuge in neo-evangelical churches that would offer just enough of the biblical gospel to perhaps ease their conscience but would never demand a holy and righteous love where they would have to give up their sins or worldly pursuits.

Such conflicts do occur when this man-centered idea of Christian love takes precedence. This is where the misconstrued concept of Christian love itself indeed becomes an idol, as mentioned during the lectures. Any disruption or obstruction to this man-centered love, to turn one towards true biblical Christian love, speaking the Truth in love (Eph 4:15) will be seen ironically as unloving. It is no surprise that some would be easily offended and even be willing to attack and malign those that do so. Instead of learning to be edified in true Christian love as a body of Christ (Eph 4:16), one would go to war to preserve the shallow or even unbiblical love that one would be so proud of.

Learning to Love (JT)
As God’s love is divine and most infinite, our learning of love and to love will never stop. The exercise of true charity from 1 Cor 13 is familiar and binding to us but can easily be forgotten or hard to practice. At times, it seemingly contradicts itself. While charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity”, yet it “suffereth long”. This is the constant day to day struggle in the ministry and our Christian walk. While we have no love for sin, yet we find ourselves trying to have charity that is longsuffering or to deal with the sin that we witness around. There are days when it is exhausting within and without. Sometimes we would think that we are already struggling with our own sins, and on top of that, we must make sure that we are “not easily provoked” whether from ourselves or from others, and not to provoke others to sin! This struggle might be painful, but it is necessary and humbling for us to learn. When we think that we might have grown, the Lord places increasing trials and temptations to bear.

There is a persistent thought in this struggle and exercise of love: are we using charity, and longsuffering as an excuse for sin to abound? We struggle with the thought that we might be using charity as an excuse for our fear of men to avoid dealing with issues or to sweep things under the carpet. There are times when an issue might be dealt with in genuine love to uphold the Truth but it can be misconstrued by others that we might be “too zealous”, or perhaps that we might be too prideful, “puffed up” and are dealing with things our own way. It causes doubt to arise and many a times, we ask ourselves if we did not exercise charity in correction, or even harshness, would we have condoned sin?

This endless struggle on earth, can only be helped when all are able to turn to Christ, and to understand biblical love and how it ought to be practiced. It cannot be a solo effort. If the body of Christ, fellow believers, do not learn to do so, and are not taught to do so, it will be an endless cycle. Something will be done, words will be said in accordance with biblical truth and love but few might be able to perceive it for what it is because of the lack of knowledge of biblical love. We can only remind ourselves that while we continue to learn how to cultivate and to practice it, we can only teach and show by example, regardless of how many might be able to perceive it. This is the pattern of Christ, where in his earthly ministry, we find that His actions and Words, always borne with divine love, is so often misinterpreted, rebuffed, mocked and taken advantage of. Yet still, He suffered, went to the cross and died for us, all in love. May the Lord teach us to learn to love like Christ, as He had shown the Apostles and to us an example (John 13:34) and to love Christ more.

A Proactive Love (ST)
Learning about the various aspects of true love through the book, “Christian love” and through the course lectures, I realised that true love is pro-active and independent of the nature or actions of its recipients. It was wonderful to be able to learn this from the example par excellence of the Godhead, especially from the example of their love to man. The Father set His love upon us even before we came into being, even though He knew we would be utterly sinful and despicable, with nothing lovely or deserving in usat all. He knew that His love to us would only cost Him, for we would have nothing at all to give Him in return for whatever He would bestow upon us. His love to us would not just cost Him, it would cost Him that which is beyond value – the life and death of His only begotten Son.

A Humble Love (ST)
The final key takeaway from this course that I will share is the humility that is the pre-requisite of true love. This was exposited and emphasised in Binning’s “Christian Love” and was taught in the lectures as well, particularly in the lecture that taught the example of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. Reading and learning about such humility through the course, which has tied in with the experiences that the Lord has been giving me to humble me, has made me learn much of makes meekness and lowliness. Indeed, one cannot exercise or possess true love without humility and learning and meditating upon this through the course brought this to the forefront of my mind, especially as I reflected and pondered upon my life and relationships with others. One aspect of my relationships for which I found this lesson to be most useful was the admonishment of others and correcting of their faults. As great sinners ourselves, we should remain humble and meek when thinking of the faults of others and seeking to correct them. We must deal with them not in Pharisaical hypocrisy and pride but in genuine compassion, pity and love, having sincere care for their spiritual wellbeing and exuding that care in our interactions and dealings with them. While we are able to truly love our family and friends to some degree, so often, some of our thoughts, feelings, words and deeds towards them are mingled with our own selfish, carnal desires and pride. This causes us to fail to seek only their spiritual wellbeing for God’s glory and worldliness, godlessness and carnality creep into the picture. We must learn to put ourselves and our sin aside and to wholly seek the Lord’s will, kingdom and glory in such matters. We must seek that His compassion for sinners and grace towards His saints be magnified upon this earth. Thus, we must come with that spirit of His to minister to others, not bearing any impure or selfish motives in our hearts. No matter what the sinner or Christian has done, God still loves him/her and is willing to forgive him/her. Thus, we must also genuinely seek his/her welfare and none of our own carnal lusts or pride. This is what it means to be a follower of God. Echoing Binning’s sentiments in his ,“Christian Love”, being able to follow after God in His love is one of the chief, if not the chiefest, glory and excellency of Christian love. May God transform us by His Spirit, “from glory into glory”, that we may show forth the glory of His grace, unto His praise!

Yours affectionately,
Pastor Clement Chew