A Salt and Light Kind of Influence

Dubai is listed as one of the most influential cities in the world. It’s easy to see the influence that various cultures have had by simply looking at the architecture landscape of Dubai’s buildings, the array of food served in restaurants and hotels, the various events that pop up around the city, and even in the way people dress and interact with each other. All of which can be attributed to the people that inhabit Dubai.

Over 86 percent of the nationalities living in Dubai are foreign born, a diversity that is almost unparalleled in other cities around the world. From Singapore to India, Britain to Finland, South Africa to the U.S., Australia to Japan and everywhere in between, the people of various visiting countries have influenced the way Dubai citizens live their lives.

Most expats moved to Dubai for a better job opportunity. We were offered a chance to move up in our career, to establish ourselves financially to give our families a new start, the adventure of a lifetime, and the opportunity to experience life in a different position – a position of influence. 

Whatever our situation, we would have never considered our “opportunity” strategic in any way with regards to being Christian; especially being Christian in Dubai. In this sense we could look at a group of people who wouldn’t have considered their existence strategic with regards to their beliefs either – the early church of first-century Christians.

Today, we associate Rome with the Catholic Church, but if you could go back in time and tell first-century Christians living in Rome that their city would one day be full of ornate crosses celebrating Jesus, they wouldn’t believe you. They lived in an environment hostile to their faith. People around them considered them members of a strange cult. They faced intense persecution.

The emperor Nero falsely accused them of setting the Great Roman Fire of 64 AD and punished them by crucifying them and feeding them to dogs. The apostles Peter and Paul were martyred during Nero’s persecution. Yet by the third century, Christianity had grown into the official religion of Rome. Thankfully, we personally live in a city that has a great appreciation for a variety of faiths.  Nevertheless, we are surrounded by a region that feels extremely similar. How then did such a hated, powerless people become so influential?

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said some surprising things that reveal what he thought about power and influence. He lists a number of qualities that he associates with being blessed: those who are poor in spirit, mourn, and are meek; those who hunger and thirst for righteousness; those who are merciful and pure in heart; those who are peacemakers; those who are persecuted because of righteousness or are insulted because of their faith in him (Matthew 5:3–10).

None of what Jesus said made much sense to people living in first-century Rome. In their world, might made right. Women, children, the elderly, and the sick had no voice. Generosity wasn’t a virtue. Human life had little value. Yet within a few centuries, the followers of Jesus turned the Roman Empire upside down.

Jesus used two word pictures that explain how his followers, living on the margins of Roman society, changed their world. His metaphors were a call to his followers to live world-changing lives. Though they had no standing in the culture in which they lived, their lives would be the last stand.

“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13a).

Salt is a preservative; it prevents food from rotting. Jesus was calling his followers to be the preservative of the entire earth. Though their world was falling down around them, first-century Christians lived out a kind of mercy, purity of heart, and righteousness that found worth in those that Roman society thought worthless. They demonstrated a powerful love that changed the way the world valued human life.

“You are the light of the world. A town placed on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14).

Jesus meant for his followers to light up the world, showing the way to God’s grace. He called them to live in such a way that the people around them would connect the dots between how Christians live and the God they serve.

If you’re a Christian, it’s because someone was salt and light in your life. God put them in your life at just the right time. When you look back on your life, those people were “towns on a hill,” showing you the way to God’s grace. Their persistence may have been a little irritating, but their love changed your life.

You have a chance to influence those around you during your time in Dubai with that same love and grace.  It’s a transient city, ever changing, with people coming and going from all around the world.  We have an opportunity wherever we are, in our workplace, in our neighborhoods, even on the roads in our cars, to be salt and light and help people connect what we do to the God we serve. We can be salt and light to the people of Dubai. Two things that Dubai’s culture absolutely loves when you think about it. Who is one person for whom you can be salt and light this week?

A Modern Christian Church Perspective

There’s a stigma that has been associated with Christians. They are old-fashioned, traditional, and conservative. They say that Christians are wary of modernization and are always hesitant to accept new ideas or technological advances to move forward and to adapt to a changing world.

Using Modernization to Spread the Word of God

Mosaic Church Dubai deviates from these misconceptions. As a modern Christian church we believe that advances in technology can be used to reach out to a lot of people and build relationships with them. It helps the church deliver the church’s sermons in a widespread program. This is why we stand by our saying that life is better connected.

With the utmost intention of advancing God’s teachings to all parts of the world, technology has helped in spreading the word of the Christian church during these modern times. The use of media like podcasts, video series, and blogs on past sermons has been helpful for us to deliver the messages of God. There are great sources of sermons that are almost easily available for anyone to watch and listen
to.

We use it as a form of communication to reach out to other parts of the world and carry out the values the church upholds, which can now be done efficiently and effortlessly. And in today’s time, it is more likely valuable to use our technology to help encourage the adults as well as the young people to be more involved in His teachings.

Respecting New Ideas for Different Social Conditions

Another Reason why Mosaic Church Dubai considers itself to be a modern Christian church is in how we value the different perspectives of our members. We acknowledge that each and every member has their own interpretation of God’s message. We believe that we can learn from each other’s differences. It’s a way of sharing and gaining values on a broader sense of understanding. Imagine a larger scale of teachings and learning all gathered through the use of technology, because without God the values of a single person is often defined by what the society gathers it up to be.

The modern Christian church acknowledge that with the changes in social conditions there is a need to pause and reflect what this means about the Christian faith. The youth live in a different environment, one that has allowed them to express themselves. But they are also being hammered down and hindered by thoughts and ideas that have not progressed with the times. Our youth is filled with vigor and enthusiasm for the future, and Mosaic Church Dubai wants to provide a community for the youth where they will not hesitate nor will they be scared to express their ideas about the world.

A Community United in Our Love for God

We are a church that is guided by the teachings of the Bible, and we want the members of our community to express their love for God and for life, and their understanding of the Bible in a way that they see fit. We also want to provide a place for spiritual growth by learning from each other’s understanding of the word of God and how they apply what they have learned in their lives.

Mosaic as a modern Christian church in Dubai wants to fulfill a mission: to connect each person by faith and by love of God, and the life that He has given us.

It’s Not What You Think: What Is Boxing Day?

There are no days of celebration between Christmas Day and New Year’s. It’s only right, as a week in between two festive days should be enough time to rest. That, however, is not true. Boxing Day

With such a name, it’s easy to think that Boxing Day is about two people knocking each other out. Thankfully, that’s not what it is. If you’re curious as to what the true meaning of Boxing Day is, whether you’re from the United States or a modern Christian church in Dubai, go ahead and read on.

British Beginnings

Because of its obscurity, not much is known about the true origin of Boxing Day. What is known, however, is that it was originally celebrated in Great Britain during the Middle Ages, and later on, in extension, in its colonies such as Barbados, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bermuda, New Zealand, Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.

According to some historians, the day came about because servants had to work during Christmas Day but took the following day off. And before the servants went back to their respective families, as a sign of both goodwill and recompense, employers gave them gift boxes, thus the name of the holiday. Later on, Boxing Day became a holiday wherein people gave presents to mailmen, tradesmen, porters, and doormen who had worked for the previous year.

In addition, ever since 1871, the British government declared Boxing Day as one of the country’s bank holidays, which are days when government offices, the post offices, and as the name suggests, banks have a day off; making it a perfect day to recover from all that holiday festivities and be ready for work the next.

The First Martyr

Another possible theory for the name of the holiday is because long ago, there were boxes placed outside churches. They are where church attendees would leave coins for the poor. And on December 26, the day after Christmas, they were distributed to the needy. Fitting, considering that the 26th day of December is also the Feast of Saint Stephen. And while it may not seem that Saint Stephen is related to Boxing Day in any day whatsoever, save the fact that the day of his feast coincides with that of Boxing Day, it’s nevertheless interesting to look at his life and death.

During the days of the early Christian Church, Stephen was one of the seven deacons who were ordained by the apostles to look after widows and the needy. And aside from taking care of the less fortunate, Stephen’s lectures were delivered with so much wisdom and grace that the enemies of the early Church had a plot to kill him, which later on succeeded. His legacy, however, survives his death, as he has become one of the greatest examples of love for God and the impoverished.

Whether you celebrate Boxing Day or not, we wish a happy Boxing Day to you! May the lingering spirit of Christmas and today’s holiday fill you with cheer and give you a heart for our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

Right in the Eye Part 6: Yielding Control to God

There’s a certain kind of independence and flexibility we all intrinsically yearn for, and that is being able to do what we want, when we want, and where we want it. It sounds like rampant irresponsibility, and in some ways it is, but many people justify it with the old belief that it’s alright as long as no one gets hurt. While some may find that to be adequate reasoning, it’s not one that is universally accepted; many would believe that Christians are bound by rules such as these, but in truth we are allowed these freedoms, but only to a certain extent.

 

Churches – whether it’s a modern Christian church in Dubai or wherever else – definitely do not promote the idea of stifling free will; instead they even propagate these freedoms, but only if they’re not abused. As with everything – it must be in moderation.

 

This simple rule of “regulated” freedom was broken by the Israelites – for a time, they would sin and sin again and would do anything the wanted, only to end up having to face the consequences of their actions and repent at the last minute, thus left with no choice but to ask for another chance from God. According to Judges 21:25:

 

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”

God, in all his love for man, forgave when they asked. He continued to work as he did in spite of Israel abandoning Him; little did they know that in the midst of all their chaos, God was preparing for Christmas.

 

He used two unlikely people: one – a woman angry and bitter against God, and the other – a man who held his beliefs despite Israel’s abandonment of God.

 

Ruth’s Tale

The story of Ruth is one that is integral to Christmas, as it played a large role in setting it up.

 

Ruth 1:1-2 begins:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. The man’s name was Elimelek, his wife’s name was Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Kilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem, Judah. And they went to Moab and lived there.”

Naomi went on to marry her two sons to Moabite women but were left with naught but her daughters-in-law when both her sons died. From this event she brewed resentment towards God, believing that if there were a God he had forsaken her; she believed that if there were a God he did not know her name.

 

Heartbroken, she opted to return to Bethlehem, however, Ruth returned with her. Despite all the drawbacks of being a foreign woman in a foreign land, her loyalty to Naomi remained strong. In the passage Ruth 1:16-17, Ruth reaffirms this, saying:

 

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.

So with Ruth, Naomi returned to Bethlehem, right when it was the barley harvesting season. During the time, it was good practice to allow widows and servants to pick up after any farms’ initial harvest so they may use the excess barley for themselves. Ruth partook in this practice and captured the attention of Boaz – a farm owner. He knew of her; rumors and stories of Ruth’s loyalty to Naomi had spread among the townsfolk. This impressed him, thus in Ruth 2:11-12 he says to her:

 

Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.

Boaz protected her, urging his servants to leave her alone as she gleaned the barley field.

 

From that event time goes on, but eventually, Naomi – who was getting older – and Ruth discuss the latter’s need to be married. As she was a foreign woman with almost nothing to her name, she was left no choice but to find for herself a kinsman-redeemer. Ruth went to Boaz, who himself attempted to get them another guardian-redeemer. However, he was unsuccessful as according to Ruth 4:5-6:

 

Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.” At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”

In the end, Boaz married Ruth, and they had a son named Obed. Naomi lived long enough to see this, and as she held the baby in her hands, she realizes that in spite of everything that had transpired, God had been faithful to her after all, and that God had redeemed her and her family.

Obed then has his own son, Jesse, who is the father of David, the second king of Israel. Much later on Nathan the prophet appears to David on behalf of God, and in 2 Samuel 7:16 states:

Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.

David’s bloodline went on as foretold, and about 25 begats later, according to Matthew 1:15-16:

Elihud the father of Eleazar,

Eleazar the father of Matthan,

Matthan the father of Jacob,

and Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and Mary was the mother of Jesus who is called the Messiah.”

Our Lord and savor Jesus Christ was born on Christmas day.

 

All throughout the rest of his life he came to be known as the son of God, but also as the son of David. He was a king, as he so bravely proclaimed as he stood in front of Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea (who was appointed by Tiberius of Rome). John 18:36 says:

 

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

What can we learn from this?

Ruth’s tale was an important one, as aforementioned, because she played a huge role in setting up the birth of Christ.

Also, Jesus Christ coming into our world had a profound impact on mankind, as evidenced by how his tales withstood the test of time. Pontius Pilate was a powerful man, sure, but in the end he ended up as nothing more than a footnote in the story of King Jesus who used his power to give it to those who had none.

And you know what? He still does it until today.

How, then, can we take part in the story of Jesus Christ centuries after it had transpired?

While many may not realize this, Jesus is always there for us. He is always close by, ready for the time you’ll allow him to enter your life. He is the king that gives all of us an opportunity to be better than what we are now; He is the one who can lead us into righteousness – as long as we allow him to. (Like any good king, of course, he will not force himself unto you.)

As the Christmas season rolls in and we are once again reminded of the importance and wonder that was the birth of Jesus Christ, do something new – instead of simply doing what you want, when you want, and where you want and centering everything on yourself, try letting Jesus in – you will learn to live right no longer from the outside in, but from the inside out. In addition, you will learn to live with your hands and your heart wide open, as long as you’re able to yield control to Him.

Winter in the Desert: Christmas in Dubai

Contrary to popular belief, people in the Middle East also celebrate Christmas, especially in Dubai. This is because this beautiful and economically powerful city in the Middle Desert is full of professionals who came from different parts of the globe, and they have brought their Christmas traditions with them. This phenomenon has caused a melding of the different holiday customs and practices, making Dubai’s Christmas experience unique.

The malls, the hotels, and most importantly, the modern Christian churches in Dubai all exude the season’s warmth, and it does so in ways that are completely different from the rest of the world.

Dubai Winter Festival

First and foremost would be UAE’s most famous event during the Yuletide season – the Dubai Winter Festival. Already in its fourth year, this is the go-to event if you want to celebrate with thousands of fellow holiday lovers like you, anything and everything there is about Christmas. So if you and your family want to meet Santa Claus in the flesh, experience ice skating, engage in snowball fights, marvel at the giant Christmas tree display, and watch Peter Pan’s Christmas adventure, the Dubai Winter Festival would be perfect for you.

Christmas Markets

Whether you like it or not, and whatever your moral standpoint you have towards it, it’s undeniable that shopping will always be a part of Christmas. And in Dubai, there are so many Christmas markets for people who want and need to buy stuff for the holiday celebrations. There’s the Atlantis Festive Village and ARTE at Time Square Centre. Meanwhile, for those who would love to have fresh and organic produce on the Christmas table, there is the Ripe Festive Market at Festive Zabeel Park and Ripe Food & Craft Market and Al Barsha Pond Park.

Christmas Brunches And Trees

A lot of people who celebrate the holidays have dinner on Christmas Eve. In Dubai, however, Christmas brunches are the in thing.  And while you can have the Christmas brunch in your own home, you can choose to have it in many of Dubai’s fine dining restaurants.

Another staple to the Christmas tradition would have to be the Christmas trees.  And in Dubai, there are a lot of places where you can buy different kinds of Christmas trees, whether you go for natural or synthetic.

The C Word

As what has been evident in previous paragraphs, Christmas, unlike in other Middle East countries, is something that is not only openly mentioned, but also openly celebrated. In fact, there are many Christmas customs and practices that many of the people who live in the city, especially the expatriates, practice.

This holiday celebration, however, is a very secular one, as any religious aspect of the holiday cannot be put on display in any public establishment. This is because even though there is no prohibition on the practice of religion, there is still that lingering cautiousness of the people to not offend anyone of a different religion.

Nevertheless, the important thing is that despite the lack of displays of Christmas cheer that are rooted on the Christian faith and the overabundance of secular holiday traditions, there is that sense of harmony and cheer within Dubai, most especially within the expatriate community.

Each country celebrates Christmas differently, and Dubai is no exception. The way it is being observed in such a diverse city is secular due to necessity, but that shouldn’t mean it can’t and shouldn’t mean anything deeper than just shopping and mealtimes – the fact that the people of Dubai can live together in peace all year round is proof of that.

Right in the Eye: Made to be Ruled

Even until now, philosophers still debate whether there truly is an absolute freedom or not. From what is being taught in modern Christian churches in Dubai and everywhere in the world, however, there is no such thing; that means doing whatever with whomever, wherever, and whenever you want to isn’t the right way to live.

Aside from the fact that such a way of life is destructive, it’s literally impossible, because doing what you want with complete disregard for consequences and other people doesn’t mean freedom. In fact, that means being subjected by ugly yet powerful “kings”.

Heeding Joshua’s Words

To illustrate this point, let us go to Joshua 24: 14-16. In these verses, Joshua instructed the Israelites to fear the Lord and serve Him with all their hearts and asked them to choose which gods they will choose to obey – the one true God or the false idols, which are either the ones their ancestors or the Amorites served. The Israelites, realizing the goodness of the Lord, vowed to abide by Joshua’s words and obeyed Him.

But considering the Israelites’ relationship with God – one that is a cycle of faithfulness and unfaithfulness – it didn’t take long before they broke the vow they made and emulated the religion and culture of the Canaanites. They served Baal and Asthoret, gods who demanded blood sacrifice, and practiced sexually immoral rituals. And because they broke their covenant with God, He sold them off to the very people they idolized.

To Be Ruled

So, why is this related to the wrongness of doing anything you choose to do whenever, wherever, and with whoever you want to? Because the things we want to do that are not aligned with God’s will are like little kings that take control of our lives. And they will only able to do that if we relinquish God’s power over us. You see, God created us to be ruled by Him. And if we are not being ruled by Him, then we will be ruled by different principalities – greed, sloth, lust, pride, just to name a few. We let ourselves be controlled by these things because they allow us to do the things we want and the things that we think and feel are good for us.

Without Mercy

What people don’t realize, however, is that these kings are nothing like the One True King. Unlike Him, they are evil. They may seem kind because they permit you to do whatever things you please, you will someday realize that the very things they have allowed you to commit had already run you to the ground. At worst, the damage they have let you do to yourself could be so great that it can no longer be reversed.

Thankfully, God offers freedom from all of these things, these kings. Through His grace and mercy, He can save us from ourselves. And when we let ourselves be covered under his rule, He is more than able and willing to free us from the self-destructive power of these principles over us.

Marriage and Commitment: What “I Do” Truly Means

You’ve heard this question a thousand times before, both in real life and in movies: “do you take this (man/woman) to be your lawfully wedded (husband/wife), for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness, and in health?” Unless this is a rom-com, a romantic drama, or a bizarre yet possible real-life situation, then there’s only one answer: “I do.” And now that the two have said their vows to each other, it’s a certainty that they’re going to have a good and lasting marriage, right? Wrong.

It doesn’t matter whether the wedding was held in a pristine white sand beach or a modern Christian church in Dubai; if either or both newlyweds don’t have that one thing to make them able to keep their promise, then that marriage is going to fail. No one who has already tied the knot or wants to do so in the future wants that to happen. So if you’re either of the two, then we ask that you  read up to make sure that your vows remain unbroken.

Commitment = Overrated

Don’t get it twisted; commitment is important. However, a commitment is only as good as the ability to uphold it, and preparation is one of those things. Unfortunately, a lot of newlyweds lack preparation. After all, if you do not have what it takes to fulfill all the things you said during your wedding day, then you will unintentionally break them.

That is what happens to a lot of married people. They’re honest men and women who either have or had tried their very hardest to keep them, but because they weren’t prepared to back up their talk, they fail at it. It’s not that they thought that they don’t need to prepare for married life; it’s just that they didn’t know that they have to.  And once they find out that they do, it’s sometimes too late.

Changing Your Ways

One of the most important ways a person can prepare for married life is by changing his or her ways. These are a person’s habits, choice of words, actions, likes and dislikes; these are the things that define a person, the things that make him or her predictable in a way. And it is very important for you to take note of your ways, and change them if need be, before you get married. After all, you’ll be sharing the rest of your life with someone and will be building a family with him or her, so it’s only right that you calibrate your ways in such a way that you’ll be able to peacefully and joyously live with the most important people in your life and fulfill your responsibilities for and towards them.

Dealing with Issues

As what has been said before, some marriage issues are not actually marriage issues, but instead are actually issues from peoples’ single lives that were brought into a marriage. And when not dealt with properly, these can cause a lot of trouble for couples and families.

Maybe you have issues with your parents, friends, or past relationships. Maybe, because of them, you became untrusting, worrisome, or distant – some of the few things that you a hard time interacting with your spouse.  Therefore, before you tie the knot, make sure that it will not be brought into the marriage by dealing with it and confronting it. And remember that your friends, family, and spouse-to-be will always be there if you need support.

Marriage is a commitment, and commitments mean just as much as both parties’ ability to keep it. So before you say “I do”, make sure that you mean it and you can fulfill what those two words truly mean.

Respect and Honor: For the Love of Women

Despite all the progress of feminism has made, it is still a man’s world. In terms of numbers, men still dominate women in many industries, there are still more men than women who hold high-tier positions, and a lot of women still experience harassment and disrespect. The modern Christian church in Dubai and every single one of us needs to help the men understand that they need to be a lot more careful, sensitive, and respectful towards women.

This brings us to the main point: if you are a man, then you should respect and be sensitive towards women. That respect and sensitivity should not be limited to your mother, sister, and friends, but should also extend towards female strangers, and most importantly, your significant other, whether you’re still just dating her, your girlfriend, or your wife.

Don’t Do As the Romans Do

You might be saying  that kind of treatment towards women should be common sense. Well, back in the day, it’s not. Because when the Roman Empire was still in power, women weren’t treated like commodity – they actually were commodities. Many of them were either slaves or prostitutes.  And since men can have sex with those women, a lot of them were thinking “why marry in the first place?”

To them, marriage was a hassle, because it meant taking care of the wife and children, and spending and splitting their wealth with them. To make matters worse, prostitution and having mistresses were common at that time, which led to the men neglecting their wives. And last but definitely the most horrible of all would be the killing of baby girls right after they were born. That was the status quo. Thankfully though, three men of God stood up against that gross disrespect towards women: Jesus, Peter, and Paul.

A Man Who Loves All Women

In that dark age for women, Christ and his followers Peter and Paul showed respect towards women unlike any other. Jesus told everyone to love one another, no exceptions – that, of course, includes the women. And part of that love is respect, and that means men should respect each and every woman they will encounter in their life.

Then Paul came along and gave that respect, reverence, and love towards women with a more marital context by telling the men to love their wives as much as Jesus loved the Church. And how much did Jesus love the Church? Enough to die for it. It is crystal clear and there’s no going around it – men must love their wives to the point that they are willing to die for her.

And last but not least was Peter. Peter, one of the greatest apostles there is. What was he caught doing? Talking to a woman. Not only that – he was letting her, a Samaritan woman of all women, get a drink first before he does. It may not be a big deal during our time, but in theirs it was, for they considered women as non-people. And to talk to a woman and be allowed to have water first – that woman definitely would’ve felt honored.

An Honorable Love

In 1 Corinthians 13: 5, it is said that love does not dishonor. And that’s what men must do – to never dishonor any woman, most especially their beloved woman, regardless of how far along they are in the relationship. After all, God died for women and men, and it’s only right that you respect, honor, and love women, especially the one who is destined to be with you for the rest of your life.

Before you loved your wife, God loved her first. Before she loved you, God loved you first. Therefore, with the same love that God has given us as an example, man and woman should love one another as husband and wife. And part of that love is respect.

Focusing on Following Christ

All of the world’s religions, no matter how different, have one thing in common: they are all comprised of laws. Whether it’s a modern Christian church in Dubai or a Hindu temple in India, all of them follow a particular set of rules its believers must follow. From a perspective of people who want to do what is right and bring about a change in themselves and others, all these commands that have to be followed seem like a good thing.

Unfortunately, with religion and its many laws, you can only do so much – or so little, rather. In fact, through a system of laws and beliefs alone, we can never fully comprehend God or help ourselves to become better men and women.  Thankfully, through Jesus Christ, we can go beyond what religion is teaching us and truly follow the Lord.

Relationship, Not Religion

Jesus did not come to this world to support or start any religion. The changes he inspired in his followers were not based on any specific guidelines, but on his actions. And when he has died, lived again, and returned to the heavens, the legacy of Christ continued through his followers, as they believed that our Lord and Savior lives in and through them. And because of this worldview, this relationship between the son of God and men, it has become a revolutionary movement that was ahead of its time.

In 200AD, however, things began to change. Christianity, which started as a great spiritual uprising, became more and more of an institutionalized religion – the very thing Jesus Christ did not want Christianity to be.

But Why Not Religion?

But don’t get it twisted – laws by themselves are not bad. However, they are not completely beneficial either. This is because they can only tell you the things you should and shouldn’t be doing. And most of the time, you fail in following them because of your limited and sinful nature as a human being. To make matters worse, if you abide too much by the rules, you will feel frustrated with yourself whenever you fall short.

Another drawback of living life through the eyes of religion is that you will always feel like you are missing out whether you choose the way of the world or of the law. If you follow the former, you will feel guilty and weak for succumbing to sin. On the other hand, if you adhere to the latter, it’s easy to think that you are missing out on all the pleasurable things a carnal life offers when in fact it doesn’t.

Following Jesus Christ

If you are to break this cycle of following the law, failing to follow it, and feeling downtrodden for doing so, you must abide by Christ instead of religion. For according to Jesus himself:

“I am the vine, you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15: 5

Instead of trying to follow the law and stumbling every time because we are drawing from our own strength, we should ask Jesus Christ to live in us so we can walk in grace. By doing so, just like what was mentioned in John 15:5, we would be surprised to see ourselves able to live according to God’s word, change to the men and women God wants us to be, and bear the fruits of the spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,” -Galatians 5:22

Truth be told, it’s so much easier to follow the law than Jesus himself. However, in the long run, it’s also a lot more tiresome and damaging. On the other hand, following Christ and having a relationship with Him will lead to a way of life that is transformative, empowering, and upright.

Now You Know

How many times does it occur to you that something you’re about to do is wrong, but you end up doing it anyway? Have you ever felt remorse, promise yourself you will never do it again, and then end up doing the exact same thing not long after?

Last week we discussed how there is something inside each and every of us that continually urges and convinces us to do destructive behavior. How this is something that all people, including non-religious people or those who attend a modern Christian church in Dubai are exempted from this.

The reason there’s an internal battle inside all of us, as the apostle Paul explained, is because SIN lives inside of us. We were all born in Adam, and in Adam there was sin and condemnation. Because we were born in sin, it sometimes feels like sin is our master and at times we think we are unable to control it.

Living as slaves to sin

Why do those who have been freed from the power of sin continue to live in it? Why would you keep saying yes to a master who is no longer your master? Apostle Paul asks if we know that there is so much more to the fact that Christ died for our sins so we can go to heaven someday. All of us who were baptized in Christ were baptized in his death.

Taking the word ‘baptized’ without the religious connotation, it means ‘to put something in something’. In this case, we were taken out of Adam and into Jesus.

As we previously discussed, when we were with Adam, what was true of Adam was true of us, hence we were born condemned by God. This explains why sometimes we feel separated from God and felt helpless to fight against the power of sin.

Apostle Paul enlightens us as to how the death of Christ was what inevitably freed us from being slaves to sin.

Old self vs New self

When you become a Christian, you are taken out of Adam and baptized into Christ. When we were placed in Christ, what is true of Christ is now true of us. This means that the moment Christ died for us, we died with him, and all the ramifications of his death became true of us. Just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. The parts of us that were ruled by sin is no longer under its power.

Sin is not your master

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

Romans 6:11

While temptation will still incessantly come knocking on our doors no matter what, we are now aware that in truly accepting that Jesus’ death and resurrection freed us from slavery to sin. We cannot stop the opportunities and the urge to sin, but we can remind ourselves the following “Sin is not my master. I am dead to sin but alive to God.”