FF Chong—London, UK
We are living in an extremely uncertain time. The current pandemic rages on, and the havoc wrought by COVID-19 surging—and resurging—in many countries is horrifying. Each new wave brings more cases and deaths than the one before, grinding the world’s strongest economies to a veritable halt. Millions in the wealthiest countries struggle to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads. In some of the most scientifically-advanced nations, the COVID-19 death toll has risen exponentially.
Science is integral to humanity’s survival but cannot eradicate every threat. The scientific community may be hailing the huge breakthrough of vaccine development in an exceptionally short time, but it will take a considerable period to inoculate the whole world. So, while there is light at the end of the tunnel, it is an indisputably long tunnel.
Recent reports further overshadow celebrations over the vaccine development: more transmissible variants of the virus have been discovered in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Brazil, and, most recently, India; and more will undoubtedly appear before this pandemic is over. Medical science must now contend with these viral mutations. Frighteningly, new viruses are emerging from the largest forests in Africa and other continents. If one of these new contagions takes hold in the human population, no one can predict the devastation the next pandemic could cause. Indeed, this is a crisis that besets all humanity, Christians and non-Christians alike.
Besides the threat to health and livelihoods, the pandemic has also made daily living since 2020 more challenging. Most, if not all, of us have had to cope with school closures, restriction of movement, and the banning of gathering for worship—the timings of which can be unpredictable. Nevertheless, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Our Lord Jesus has long warned us that pestilences will increase (Mt 24:7). We must be prepared to face these, knowing that His second advent is closer than when we first believed.
WE ARE GOD’S CHILDREN: PURIFY OURSELVES
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (Jn 16:33)
These words of Christ to His disciples two millennia ago are also meant for us. Tribulation is unavoidable (Jas 1:3; 1 Pet 4:12), but we shall have peace. Furthermore, this teaching from Christ tells us where we can truly experience this promised peace. While tribulations may emerge on an ever-increasing scale, we will experience tranquility if we are in Christ. The contrast between the two spheres—in the world and in Christ—is sharp. Today, we are privileged to be in Christ, having undergone the one water baptism that made us His children. This pandemic should stir us to realize that we must never depart from the safe embrace of our Father. So, how do we remain in Christ? Keeping ourselves in Christ requires constant purification (1 Jn 3:2–3). The peace of God will truly rule in our hearts when we are determined to be Spirit-sanctified. We can genuinely sense this divine peace safeguarding our hearts even as worldwide calamities rise and disrupt practically every aspect of life.
WE ARE PRECIOUS IN GOD’S EYES: TREASURE OUR STATUS
The Bible tells us God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son into the world (Jn 3:16). His Son came to the world with the doctrine of the Father (Jn 7:16) to save those who respond positively to His calling by accepting baptism to become His children. By His grace, we have become His children, receiving His undivided love (Deut 7:6–7; 1 Jn 3:1). This love pertains to our salvation and excludes all who are not in Him. Now we are in Christ—we are part of His body, the church. This fact must perpetually prompt us to see ourselves as a people who are starkly different from the world. Our existence is in Christ (Jn 17:16), so we do not conform to the world even though we live in the world.
Amidst the present crisis and fear-inducing statistics on infection and death rates, one way to keep our eyes and heart firmly turned to Jesus is to renew our understanding of the basic beliefs, particularly the one true church.
The True Jesus Church has taken substantial criticism for her doctrine of the one true church. She has been accused of arrogance and of discrimination. While a more extended discussion is beyond the scope of this article, it bears repeating that Christ established only one church (Mt 16:18) and gave her the authority to overpower the gates of Hades. The seven “ones” in Ephesians 4:5–6 and Paul’s stern warning of “another gospel” in Galatians 1:8–9 point to one church entrusted with the truth from the beginning, rather than a loose collection of denominations with varying sets of beliefs working towards a broad amalgamation.
A proper understanding of the doctrine of the one true church should not evoke a sense of superiority, but an overwhelming gratitude and reverence. The Spirit of God will then work within us effectively to deepen our understanding of God’s love towards us. We must not allow the passage of time to blunt our appreciation of being chosen to be in His church. We are His special treasure; together, we form and are called to build up the church of God. This calling is purely God’s initiative and has nothing to do with man’s merits. Since God’s choosing of us is such a miraculous and critical part of our lives, we must make time to understand God’s choice. Meditating on this with a prayerful heart is an essential part of faith-building in this uncertain time.
WE ARE GOD’S SPECIAL PEOPLE: TREASURE THE TRUTH
There is another immediate benefit of such daily communion with God—we gain greater clarity on the interconnectivity of the true church’s doctrines. These basic beliefs are so wonderfully consistent with the Scriptures and with each other that the church could only have received them from God. For example, many Christian denominations teach and practice water baptism. There are also several which baptize through full immersion. But the complete biblical mode—full immersion with face downwards and in Jesus’ name—is only practiced in the one true church. Only such a God-inspired mode makes the baptism efficacious in ushering us into the church, the one body of the Lord. Understanding how we gained our membership in the church can strengthen our faith.
The traditional beliefs of the True Jesus Church form the complete gospel of salvation. God deems us as having full trust in Him when we fully believe in the gospel of salvation (Eph 1:13). Those who have already received the Holy Spirit must continue to believe in the doctrines to remain sealed. This is how we become motivated to foster an even better relationship with God (2 Tim 1:13–14). This sealing produces two instant benefits. First, we know that we belong to God through His choosing, making us even more willing to draw closer to Him. Second, we are empowered to withstand satanic forces seeking to separate us from Christ. We are shielded from the attacks of the wicked one and his accomplices (Rev 9:4).
Building up and maintaining a steadfast faith in God is part of a lifelong exercise that requires power from the Lord. Unceasing prayer is the only way for us to receive this power from above. The challenge is to build a prayer routine where prayer is not a mere routine; it must be a meaningful time through which we enter into the depth of God. Continual prayer in the Spirit is essential to establishing a true and firm relationship with God. The state of our relationship with God can be adduced from our willingness and determination to submit to God and His word. Do not deceive ourselves that a relaxed attitude towards God’s word is acceptable. Idleness in spiritual nurture will hinder our achievement of spiritual higher ground.
COVID-19 has forced the whole world to dial back our previous frenetic pace of life. In the past year of lockdowns, many of us have had more precious time for ourselves. Of course, it is difficult to plan, given the present climate of fear and uncertainty. However, the kind intention that God has for us will surface (Jer 29:11) when we fervently pray to God for wisdom and direction to navigate through this plight.
We must pray about many things, but what do we pray for to build up and maintain our faith?
But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit (Jude 20)
First, we are to build ourselves on the most holy faith—our received set of common beliefs that are identical to the beliefs held by the apostolic church. These constitute the truth that the church received on the first day of her arrival on earth (Acts 2:42). It is on this foundation that the True Jesus Church is built. Establishing what truth is has become increasingly challenging in a world where fact, fake news, and false teaching are skillfully woven together and frequently mutate. A complete comprehension demands a complete trust that this truth is the only truth that saves. Understanding God’s word is radically different from understanding worldly knowledge; understanding God’s truth is only possible through the Holy Spirit’s revelation.
Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us. (2 Tim 1:13–14)
Second, we must hold steadfastly to the traditional beliefs, an endeavor multiple times harder than just knowing these beliefs. There are many reasons which lead believers to abandon or modify these traditional beliefs. One is the church’s perceived inability to counter every challenge posed against the basic beliefs. Another reason for the desire to shift away from the church's beliefs is the innate appeal of being like other denominations (cf. 1 Sam 8:5ff), which have seemingly logical alternatives to our church’s doctrines. So we must be vigilant in faith. Deepening our understanding of geographical and societal contexts, theological knowledge and so on will help us better explicate the Scriptures. But let us not muddy up the church's basic beliefs and eventually lose sight of God’s salvation plan.
The church’s traditional beliefs are not subject to change, for they are the foundation of the church, which God laid at the point of her inception. We will comprehend these beliefs when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. It is imperative to pray in the Spirit for the faith to accept that these basic beliefs are divinely given to the church. Such faith will open up the window of wisdom to gain an even more profound understanding of the doctrines. Aided by the Holy Spirit, we will gain a holistic view of the basic beliefs, and see that these are consistent with the apostolic paradigm chronicled in the Bible (Jn 16:13).
Such Spirit-enabled understanding of the word of God will bolster our faith in the truth; our trust in our doctrinal position will not waver, despite facing the staunchest of tests. Simply, we would be given the foresight to realize that any theological knowledge contradicting the church's doctrinal stance is a typical tactic Satan employs to lure us away from building up our faith. Drifting away from traditional beliefs is risky. Thus, we would make a mockery of our status as the corrector of Christianity, as chosen by the Lord, and become just another church amongst the countless denominations. This is tantamount to belittling our faith.
Spiritual cultivation—which can be a tedious and painful spiritual exercise—is of utmost importance to our spiritual survival. It goes beyond praying, reading the Bible, and being self-disciplined. The foundation of our faith must be built upon the church's basic beliefs. When the foundation of our salvation is sure and firm, we would not be short of God’s abiding presence, which makes cultivation effective and divinely guided. In turn, the cultivation generates the momentum needed to continue establishing our faith in the present truth (2 Pet 1:12).
CONCLUSION: OUR SALVATION IS NEARER THAN BEFORE
The ultimate goal for every sincere Christian is the salvation of the soul. We do not know the exact date of Christ’s second advent. But one thing for sure is that His coming is nearer than ever before. He shall come like a thief when everyone is asleep at night. If we are in spiritual slumber or depart this world suddenly, being spiritually unprepared would jeopardize our salvation.
The current pandemic has sounded an urgent warning to us: we can no longer afford to take our faith in Christ for granted. We must take serious steps to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). One such step is to build on the present truth (our traditional beliefs). We must allow the Holy Spirit to lead us and help grow our faith in the beliefs of the church. Make spiritual cultivation—unceasing prayer and increasing in knowledge of the truth—the top priority of our life.
 For more in-depth discussion on the doctrine of one true church, please refer to: Gospel Series: Church, https://tjc.org/elib-single-item-display/?langid=1&itemid=915&type=pub.