The Kingdom of Heaven

At church today, we were challenged to evaluate our mindsets in relation to the kingdom of heaven based on the following parable:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46)

The kingdom of heaven – this treasure – is worth everything we have and more. Yet so many of us (myself included) are guilty of treating our pursuit of the kingdom of heaven as a less significant goal that pales in comparison to our education, career, or worldly plans. In doing so, we wrongly demonstrate to those around us that the kingdom of heaven is of low value. There are many ways in which I have failed to uphold the importance of the kingdom of heaven. Being too hasty to fit in with my group of friends and spending more time socialising, drinking and participating in leisure activities rather than ensuring that my relationship with God was right.  I care more about making sure that my life is “comfortable” by looking into getting a better job with a higher salary, lusting after the next designer handbag, and satisfying my appetite in my hunt for food.

But those who perceive the value of the kingdom of heaven will sacrifice everything to obtain it:

“What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.” (Philippians 3:8-9)

To reach the kingdom of heaven we need to have a knowledge of Christ that is gained through experience and not merely a factual reflection of what is written in the Bible. The pastor today alluded to the notion of a Turnstile Christian – someone who has made the initial pledge to take up the cross and honour God, but who has yet to do more in their Christian life and transform their understanding by dedicating their life to serving the Lord everyday (sidenote: read Joshua 24:15). This cannot happen unless we put in the effort to have the kingdom of heaven become a greater treasure for us.

After reflecting on this message, I’ve come up with some ways for me to pursue God and become a “Kingdom Christian”:

  • Keep up the biblogging!
  • Look for ways to serve God. I’ve signed up to help out at Vacation Bible School over the summer, but I also want to look at volunteering at a local Christian charity that provides after-school classes and tutoring for underprivileged Nepalese immigrant children.
  • Aim to become a prayer warrior. Pray steadfastly and give all my needs to the Lord. Thank God constantly for all his blessings.
  • Encourage other Christians in their walk with God, and non-Christians with their problems by bringing them to God.

2 Timothy 2: Becoming an Approved Worker

In this passage, Paul highlights a vast selection of Christian qualities that us, as Christians, should embody.

Reliability and ability 

In verses 1-2, Paul states that we should entrust the Christian gospel and God’s word to “reliable people who will be qualified to teach others.” Christian leaders must have a backbone, and be able to disciple, nurture and teach. Discipling can be a difficult and challenging task, in more ways than one. For example, imagine a twenty-something year old bible study leader who has recently started dating a non-Christian. The obvious next step is that a reliable church leader should disciple this particular individual by informing them that this decision of theirs will have an adverse impact on the group members that the bible study teacher leads.

The appeal renewed

The inclusion of strong imagery in this chapter helps us to understand the dedication and hard work, and the risk of failure, of running the Christian race. A soldier runs the risk of death or sacrifice during his service, and cannot “become entangled in civilian affairs.” He must remain solely focused on his goal. An athlete cannot expect to win by cheating (like taking sporting drugs) or without hard work and training. A farmer cannot expect a harvest without toiling from morning to night, through all four seasons. In the same way, a pastor cannot make his own job easier by eliminating the difficult or challenging verses of a bible passage in his sermons. We cannot promote cheap or idle Christianity – this ties back into the idea of a “Sunday Christian” mentioned in the previous post.

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (v 13)

Faithfulness is a virtue that Christians need to possess when running the race for God. Verse 13 importantly highlights that we can rely on God to remain faithful if we endure, but we must also take this as a warning if we ever give up. Even if we do not remain faithful to the task of spreading the gospel and being disciples to one another, the rest of God’s faithful church will stand and triumph in the future.

An approved worker

Paul gives us the perfect example of an approved worker. This is a person who:

  • Watches their words by avoiding speculative and divisive word games in church or during biblical discussion (v 16; 23-24)
  • Correctly handles the word of truth by putting in the time to understand each bible passage and teaching (v 15)

Dealing with false teachers

The imagery created by the articles of gold and silver, but also those of wood and clay, symbolically reflect either (1) the presence of false teachers in the church, (2) the presence of false doctrine or teachings. We are to cleanse ourselves from these false teachings to make the church, and our work, “useful to the Master.”

Finally, the last paragraph of chapter 2 reminds us of the godly qualities we should posses: purity, holiness, usefulness, preparedness, maturity, friendliness, discernment, kindness, credibility, forgiveness, humility, courage, optimism and realism.

2 Timothy 1: Being Active Followers of Christ

With so many distractions in our everyday life, it is easy to become a “Sunday Christian” or to simply grow “comfortable”. It is easy to become passive and simply resort to the practices and mentality of this world – or a state of constant tiredness, struggle and worry of the unknown. But God wants us to enter a place of his love and grace that we can be part of if we are willing to. In this chapter, Paul reminds us that we need to be proactive and strive to follow His calling for us.

He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time

By responding to his calling, we can enter a life of spiritual abundance that we are entitled to by God’s grace — not because we have done anything to earn it (verse 9). For many believers like myself, this is a truth we have probably heard many times over many years and yet it seems so easy to slip into a state of apathy or inactivity… and with it a sense of undeserving or even guilt. And before we know it, we feel disconnected from God and His Word. This is why we must make an active effort to put God and His calling as a priority in our life. More importantly, we must be aware of when this happens and to act on it. Revelation 3:16 says that we must not become accustomed to this lifestyle — or “lukewarm”.

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

In fact, just the speaker at church last week reminded us that it’s normal to slip into these phases — that it happens to everyone. What we need to do is to constantly renew our pledge and commitment to Him, to pray that He can sustain us.

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

With intervention of the Holy Spirit we can grow strong in our faith and be able to exercise love and self-discipline (verse 7). This strength will allow us to rise from timidity and stand strong in adverse situations and remain unmovable.

We can start growing in this way by acting on our calling. God has given each of us unique gifts and we are not to just sit around and wait for something to happen. Even for those of us who are not sure what this is exactly, we can start building cultivating our passion towards His purpose. I particularly like the image of a burning and consuming fire described in verse 6 as it reminds me of the power and potential God has reserved for each of us in pursuing His calling.

The rest of the chapter further contextualizes this strength: that our gifts and calling all builds towards having confidence in spreading the gospel and standing strong even in the face of persecution.

1 Timothy 6

Servants and masters 

It should not be surprising how accurate and apt biblical teaching is, yet I still somehow marvel at the fact that a book written hundreds of thousands years ago is so in touch with this modern world. I guess this goes to show that God really had us in mind when he passed down his Word.

This might be overly dramatic, but I’ve just started a new internship. Most of the people at the firm are decent, (although the big boss is rather particular about things), but I just cannot seem to get along with the receptionist, who is keen to micro-manage every aspect of my tasks – from calling me 3-4 times to check on my status when I stepped out to take a delivery – to asking me every hour which tasks I’m working on and instructing me to ask for more work if it seems as though I don’t have enough on my plate. After a looong working week, I read 1 Timothy 6:1 ,which states:

All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.

This verse reminded me to demonstrate godly behaviour, no matter my circumstances. Instead of rebelling against work, or continually complaining and bad-mouthing the people I don’t get along with, I am to give God honour by continually serving him and demonstrating my faith to those around me, including my co-workers.

False teachers and the love of money

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it (verse 6).

In this chapter, Paul again emphasizes the danger of a love for money, and stresses the problem of false teachings. As Christians, we are to be content because our needs are met by Christ. I have a cool home (air-con is a must in 40-degree Australian summer), a comfortable bed, delicious home-cooked meals, a good church, and wonderful friends to confide in and spend my time with.

Paul’s take home message is that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It results in “an unhealthy interest in controversies” and quarrels that result in “strife, envy, malicious talk and evil suspicions.”

The final charge

Paul concludes his letter with one final challenge to Timothy and his church. The main points of this charge are:

  • Turn away from godless chatter and false teachings (Verse 20)
  • To flee from all things evil, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith (Verse 11)
  • Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, but to put their hope in God and to be generous and willing to share (Verse 18)

This is a lot to take in. It almost seems as though Paul as squeezed in as much teaching in the final charge as he has throughout the rest of 1 Timothy!

Fleeing from all things evil means focusing on God, turning away from all sin: envy, slander, gossip, corruption, lying, immoral activities, drunkenness, and hatred, and from staying guarded against all temptations.

To have internet access, a decent standard of living, to never thirst for water or hunger food, and to be able to read and write this blog already means that I am in the richest 3% of this world’s population. And chances are that if you’re reading this, you are to. In what ways can I be generous in serving the church? Aside from making sure I give my tithes of 10%, I must be willing to share not only the gospel, but my time and financial resources with the less fortunate.

I hope I can take up this challenge and remain Christ-centred.





This chapter discusses a ‘righteous’ way for different members of a church with much of the first half giving advice to widows, then proceeds to describe sinning in a leadership role. In the second half, Paul primarily focuses on the responsibilities we have in dealing with the sins of our own and of others.

1. Impartiality 

20 But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning. 21 I charge you, in the sight of God and Christ Jesus and the elect angels, to keep these instructions without partiality, and to do nothing out of favoritism.

In verses 20-21, we are told to remain objective and impartial when taking action on the sins of our elders in church. In a close knit community such as churches, it is easy to let our emotions cloud our judgement. On a more day to day application, we must always remember that God is just and wants us to remain in vigilance; that although it may sometimes be ‘easier’ or ‘convenient’, we should strive to maintain God’s standard of righteousness in all our decisions.

2. Remain cautious

22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, and do not share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.

When we see our friends in a bad situation, our initial instincts are often to dive in. Instead, verse 22 reminds us to stay grounded when faced with sin so that we do not get caught into it. We should take a step back, seek God, remember His teachings and then approach with caution. This is important as even when our intentions are good we may fall into sin: we remain accountable for our actions regardless of our intention.

3. Nothing is hidden forever

24 The sins of some are obvious, reaching the place of judgment ahead of them; the sins of others trail behind them. 25 In the same way, good deeds are obvious, and even those that are not obvious cannot remain hidden forever.

These last two verses extends the warnings mentioned above. In facing the sins of others, we must cautious of judging based on what we see. Although we may only see the surface, God sees and remembers all – so we are to trust God’s perfect justice and in that He knows all. Verses 24-25 also reminds that we serve God, not man. Our worth and righteousness is judged by God. In other words, gaining the approval or being righteous in the eyes of man is meaningless. We don’t need to publicize our good deeds just as we shouldn’t hide away our sins.

1 Timothy 4

In this passage, Paul returns to the main theme he canvasses in Timothy, continuing to mount an attack on false teachers and their “old wives tales.” He explains that these false teachers will come up with ludicrous commands, such as forbidding people to marry, and asking them to abstain from certain foods (v 3)  – food which we should acknowledge as God given and receive with thanksgiving.

Acknowledge and praise God’s creation

Verse 4 goes on to emphasise the goodness of God’s creation. During a trip to the beach yesterday, I was reminded of the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation. As I passed Narrabeen Lagoon – a large, sparkling body of azure water fringed by two beaches, I relished in the tranquility and perfection of God’s work.

Be on guard for baseless teachings

Paul goes on to warn the Christians to remain “nourished on the truths of the faith,” and to avoid “godless myths and old wive’s tales.” As Christians, we need to warn our fellow brothers and sisters of the dangers of these false teachings. In this day and age, false teachings can take different shapes and forms.

Having briefly scoured the internet for guidance against false teachings, I chanced across Tim Challies’ Five Tests of False Doctrine, and have extracted them below:

  1. The test of Origin – sound teaching originates with God and false teaching originates with men or demons (basically, fabrication by someone else).
  2. The test of Authority – sound doctrine grounds its authority within the Bible, false doctrine grounds its authority outside the Bible.
  3. The test of Consistency – sound doctrine is consistent with the whole of Scripture, false doctrine is inconsistent with some parts of Scripture.
  4. The test of Spiritual Growth – sound doctrine is beneficial for spiritual health, while false doctrine leads to spiritual weakness.
  5. The test of Godly Living – sound doctrine has value for godly living, false doctrine leads to ungodly living.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)

Remain vigilant and develop your gift

In “setting an example for other believers in speech and conduct”, we cannot shy away from confronting ourselves – and others – with regards to our sin. The first thing that pops in to my mind is my peers whom are dating non-Christians. It is a difficult conversation to have, but we should gently but firmly remind them of the dangers of entering into ungodly relationships.

Second, Paul instructs us not to “neglect our gift.” Whether it be music/worship, preaching, hospitality or encouragement, we should match our faith to our actions and serve the Lord in church with a dedicated heart.



1 Timothy 3: Family

We often hear sayings like “family comes first” or “family is everything”. In this chapter, Paul emphasizes the importance of being a responsible family member. He starts out by reaffirming the importance of several qualities mentioned throughout his letters, such as temper, self-control, hospitality and gentleness through a short list in verses 2-3.

Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

However, he then stresses in verses 4-6 that the best judge of a character lies in his/her fulfillment of family responsibilities and in leading well. The fact that he writes two verses emphasizing this after only listing short phrases shows that the success of managing a family is of paramount importance: especially for one who wishes to lead others in faith.

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full[a] respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

He also mentions the importance of this in verse 12:

12 A deacon must be faithful to his wife and must manage his children and his household well.

At first glance, these verses may seem irrelevant to you if you’re not married or don’t have kids yet – but I believe that one’s ability to parent and to manage a household can be nurtured years before. One’s success in marriage and raising a family is ultimately a culmination of how strongly rooted he/she is in God’s word and principles (i.e. how well one can manage their own spiritual and emotional life).

Even if one has no desire to lead, I believe that this chapter gives us insight on what God values in us, that: (1) we should strive for quality familial relationships and that (2) our ability to do so is reflection of us as individuals.