Saturday, 1 August 2015

May The Lord Be With You

The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you.(2 Timothy 4:22).
2 Timothy 4:22 is a benediction. As is common with all the epsitles, the Apostles conlude their letters with a benediction; invoking divine help, blessings and guidance. Here is one common one:
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.(2 Cor. 13:14).
Benedictions are not a mere pronouncement of blessings. Rather, they are pronouncements of blessings based on the truth of God’s word and His providence in our daily, even mundane routines of life. God is not distant. He is not removed from the struggles of our lives. He is “a very present help in trouble.”(Ps 46:1).

Through benedictions, we receive comfort and encouragement in every situation. Our spirits are lifted. It is of great comfort to also note that pronouncement of  benediction is God ordained:
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them, The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.(Numbers 6:22-26).
There are indeed many promises in the Bible from which we can draw strength and comfort in difficult moments. One of such promises is the promise of the ever abiding presence of God. He has promised He will never leave us nor forsake us. David, in the very popular Psalms 23 said “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” He continued: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life”.

Whatever dark moments life presents this month, God is able to empower us to override those dark moments. His presence is more than a thousand demons set in array against us. In his presence there is fullness of joy and at His right hand there are pleasures forever more (Ps. 16:11).

Today, as you go through this new month, “May your spirit know the presence of the Lord”.

Friday, 31 July 2015

Renewed By The Holy Spirit

Titus 3:5-6
The Christian life is a relationship between a Holy God and sinful humanity, who, God in Christ has reconciled unto Himself (2 Cor 5:19). The Bible describes all of us  as sinners separated from God by sin (Rom. 3:23). As Christians, we were once dead in sin, but God through the Holy Spirit quickened us. He gave us life. He changed the disposition of our sinful hearts and brought us to saving faith in Christ Jesus.

Coming to Christ in faith is the first work of renewal the Holy Spirit does in our hearts.
He produces faith in our hearts to believe in Christ for the remission of sins. Salvation is a work of God through the Holy Spirit. Our renewal starts from the day we believed in Christ and were given the right to become children of God.

Now that we are children of God, what is required of us by God?

God requires from us a life of holiness and separation from sin. It not just a requirement. It is what we were created to be: holy (Eph 1:4, 1 Pet 1:15-17). We are called out of the world not to be friends with the world--lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life. This, left on our own is a daunting task because as long as we live on this side of eternity, our struggles with the flesh and with sin will continue:
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.(Gal 5:17).
The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak(Matt 26:41).
However, despite the struggle, we are not victims of our flesh. We are not left on our own  to suffer under bondage of sin. God works in us to will and do of His good pleasure, while we, with the help of the Holy Spirit also work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We need not be overcome by sin. The Holy Spirit renews and gives us strength to be victorious.

How can we access this strength to be victorious?

By submission to God through prayer and feeding on His word:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.(Rom 12:1-4).

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The True Shepherd

Jeremiah 23:1-4, Ephesians 2:11-22 
Mark 6:30-34

The word shepherd is an amalgam of two words: sheep herder. A shepherd therefore herds or takes care of sheep. The relationship between the  believer and the Lord is depicted as that of a Shepherd and sheep: "we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture."(Ps 100:2c). Psalms 23 probably is one of the most common imagery of the sheep-shepherd relationship we have with the Lord. The Psalms opens with the words "The Lord is my shepherd...."

Now, with the role of a Shepherd in mind (cf Psalms 23, Jer 23:3-4), let's attend to the theme "The True Shepherd".

Here we can say that, if there is The True shepherd, it gives us an indication there is the false shepherd. While the True Shepherd tenders and takes care of the sheep, the false shepherd ignores the sheep and scatters them. “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!”declares the LORD...“You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them."(Jer 23:1-2).

There are indeed many false shepherds(false teachers/prophets) who take advantage of God's flock and scatters them. They are representatives of Satan. They deceive. They lead astray and put God's people in jeopardy: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy". (John 10:10a).

But we have The True shepherd in our Lord Jesus Christ . He laid down His life for His Sheep. He cares for us. He gives us eternal life. "...I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep"(John 10:10b-11).

Are you weary and burdened? Do you feel like a sheep in need of a Shepherd? Turn to The True Shepherd; Christ the Son of the Living God who died to reconcile us to The Father.

In conclusion, I want to leave you with the words of PH278

Christ Good Shepherd of the sheep, Shepherd Good that feeds His people. When the hour has come for Him, All the earth shall come, rejoicing. Rise up now and shine Your Light, Word of Jesus is fulfilled.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The Sufficiency Of Scripture: Our Rule; Thy Word. Final Part

This is the final in the series. As a recap, I have written on The Sufficiency Of Scripture: Our Rule; Thy Word (1  &  2) indicating how the word of God is sufficient in matters relating to the Christian faith.

Today I want to start with a phrase that is ubiquitous among evangelicals "How to hear the voice of God".

Many books ha've been written on how to hear the voice of God, how to be directed by God. how to be directed by God, how to know the will of God and the list grows tall. The danger with these volumes is that, they tend to point people away from Scriptures and lead the masses into an esoteric and mystical approach towards knowing the will of God. You want to hear God's voice? You want to know His will? Read your Bible. Listen to His word preached by faithful teachers appointed to feed God's flock. God speaks loud and clear every day in the pages of Scriptures.

Recently, I received an email in my inbox which, supposedly, was a decree from the ‘’throne of God’’ for my country to undergo a prayer and fasting for the nation.

The email read:
The Most High God and King of Ghana has ordered from His Throne that there should be the OBSERVANCE of NATIONAL WEEK of CONFESSION OF, and REPENTANCE FROM CORRUPTION, EVIL WAYS, and WICKEDNESS in the land by the Church, Government, Nation and all the People in the land (Ghana) from Monday, April 27 through Sunday, May 3, 2015.

How do we respond to messages as this purported to come "directly" from God? Ignore them! Of course, a call for repentance is a good call. But Scripture is replete with such calls we don't need a new word from God to rise up in repentance. The Bible is explicit about our responsibility as Christian citizens towards our nation. We don't need God to speak any new word apart from what He has already revealed in His word.

Am I in any way advocating a silent God? Not at all. God is Sovereign and actively, through Divine Providence, participates in the affairs of His creation. In an online article, Don’t Put God In A Box, Erik Raymond wrote that
The main things you need to that God is not disconnected from what is happening in the world today. God is upholding, governing, and ordering all happenings as with his very hand.
As I pointed out earlier, "God speaks loud and clear every day in the pages of Scriptures". It stuns me that the same people who believe in miracles, tend to ignore the wonder of God ruling and governing our lives by His written word. If you believe in miracles, shouldn't it equally be deemed miraculous that an ancient document written in antiquity still has power to convict of sins and bring us to repentance and faith in Christ unto eternal life?

Indeed it is a miracle by all standards, a book that is relevant for all generations:
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.(Psalms 119:160).
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.(Hebrews 4:12-13).

If you believe in miracles, I think the sufficiency of Scripture must be a miracle to you.

There is a great error and deception in our time. Christians--Pastors and church members-- advocating  God speaks to us in our days just as He spoke to Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel, Abraham, Peter, Paul etc. Isn't the thought of this absurd?

They go to the extent of saying "once it is written in the Bible I must experience it". What these believers are refusing to understand is that these occurrences were part of God's progressive revelation of Himself during the recording of His word over a period of time. His revelation was also limited to specific individuals with specific assignments. God didn’t speak to all the Israelites as He spoke with Moses. God didn’t speak to all Christians as He spoke with the Apostles.

Revelation has ceased and God has no new information apart from what is written -- including what has been fulfilled and yet to be fulfilled. It is all captured in His written word.

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds...(Hebrews 1:1-3).

Here we notice God's way of speaking to humanity is divided into two periods: The Past (in time past) and The Present (last days). We also notice God's revelation of Himself culminated in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. In these last days, God has spoken to us by His Son-- the 2nd person of the God head, the word incarnate "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high"(Hebrews 1:3).

Everything God the Father has to say to us, He clearly says, "This is my beloved Son: hear him [listen to Him](Mark 9:7).

How do we hear or listen to the Son? By means of divers manners (dreams, visions, trance, burning Bush, clouds of fire still small voice...)? In these last days (church age), we listen to the Words The Father has spoken by the Son. How do we know those words? We go to Scriptures. Jesus gave The Father's words to the Apostles, and they in turn passed it on to us in the gospels and epistles.

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word (John 17:14-20).

In conclusion, I want to point out that beliefs have implications. If God is still speaking apart from  His written word concerning our Christian life, then there are certain implications I believe we must consider:

1: Scripture Is Incomplete

If God is still speaking apart from His written word today, then like a building still in construction, the Bible is incomplete and needs scaffolds (dreams, visions, prophecies, still small voice) to remain standing. It means God has new things to reveal to us and they, if new, ought to be recorded because every "thou saith the Lord" which is not from Scriptures must be documented as new information to be added unto Scripture. The word of God is complete and it is through His word that He speaks to us.

2: God Contradicts Himself.

If God has indicated in His word that, "at many times and in many ways, [He] spoke to our fathers by the prophets", how do we still expect Him to speak in our contemporary times by the same "many ways" which includes dreams, visions, burning bushes, still small voice in a thunder etc. Won't God indeed contradict Himself when after speaking to us through His Son by the written Word, He goes behind the scene and starts acting as if we are living in "the past" of His self revelation?

3: Prone To Be Misled

If we don't bow to the Sufficiency and finality of the word of God as a rule over our lives, we open ourselves up to be carried about by every wind of doctrine. We will not grow in the Christian faith. We will not be rooted. We will not be established. Rather, we would be taken "captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ."(Colossians 2:8)

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sufficiency of Scripture: Our Rule; Thy Word. Part 2

In the first post in this series, I concluded on Matthew 4:4, where Jesus indicated to us the centrality of God’s word in our life: “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

“It is written” or in our contemporary terms, “The Bible says”. These phrases are great statements that must settle every argument against the sufficiency of Scripture. However, the same is equally dangerous when the word is not rightly divided. The word can be abused if not correctly applied.

Note in Matthew 4:6, the devil also quoted Scripture to deceive. He misinterpreted the text. In fact, Scriptures describes Satan as “disguis[ing] himself as an angel of light.”(2 Corinthians 11:14).
Now, if the Bible can be misinterpreted, can we trust it, much more build our lives on an ancient document written many years away from our civilisation? Nathan Busenitz, a professor at Master’s Seminary, opens an online article titled “Why These 66 Books?” with the words

Have you ever looked at your Bible and wondered, “How do we know that these 66 books, and no others, comprise the inspired Word of God?” That is a critically important question, since there are many today who would deny that these 66 books truly make up the complete canon of Scripture.

Truly; “Critically important question”.More than any other book, the Bible has suffered a barrage of attacks all aimed at discrediting it as the very inspired words of God. Busenitz continues, “We believe in the 39 books of the Old Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament. And we believe in the 27 books of the New Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ authorized His apostles to write the New Testament”.

Church history presents us with numerous creeds and confessions testifying of the credibility of the Bible.
The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments,[a] is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.(WSC 2)
Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical Books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.(Anglican Articles of Religion VI)
The words aforementioned affirm/lend credence to the fact that, the sixty-six books of Scripture — Old and New Testaments contain the final rule by which God guides and governs our lives. The Bible also affirms about itself being the word of God.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good(2 Timothy 3:16-17).
In our present day, God is still speaking; loud and clear through His inspired word in the pages of Scripture. Some believers abhor this claim and want us to believe God audibly speaks just as He spoke to the biblical characters.

Amongst Pentecostals and Charismatics, there is still an obsession for the latest, fresh word from God: A revelation, a dream, vision and in extreme cases, people have reported to have been directly spoken to by God. It is sad to say that this obsession of man to hear from God apart from what is written in scripture has led many to places they should not have gone as Christians.  The Bible itself clearly tells us how God speaks to us in “these last days”.
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…(Hebrews 1:1-3).

To be Continued

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Three Thoughts For Corporate Worship:

Receive, Retain And Reproduce The Word (Bear Fruit).

Matthew 13

20: “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and ANON WITH JOY RECEIVEITH IT; 21: Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.23: But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.“

“The message was good. The message was brillant --- straight on point. The speaker didn't mince with words at all and the environment was electrifying“

These words are typical and can be heard on the lips of many after hearing an inspiring or thought provoking message. But attempt to ask: “what exactly did the speaker say?“ and many of us will be caught flat footed.

Today, as you attend to corporate worship, here are three points I want you to consider in the worship service.

Common to all the hearers in the scriptures above is the fact that they received the word --- they heard the word, they listened to it, they accepted it as the word, they probably might have also taken notes and read all scriptural references.

Moving away from receiving the word, the difference begins to show. One hearer was shallow with a shallow commitment --- had no root system in their lives to retain or hold unto the message. The other hearer heard the word and had a root system--- understood the word---their commitment was deep.

This is the ultimate --- the word must be lived. What the word says must be implemented Action must back inspiration. The word must yield fruits.

“But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.“ (James 1:22).

Monday, 29 June 2015

Sufficiency of Scripture: Our Rule; Thy Word.

Psalms 119, Matthew 4:4

The date was 4th April, 2015. A group of friends agreed to meet and debate a topic we have been debating in a whatsapp group: "Does God Speak To Us Apart From Scripture?"

Refuting the claim that God speaks apart from Scriptures, I presented my argument for the sufficiency of Scripture. After, I took my seat and listened as others proffered their thoughts on dreams, visions, prophecies, intuitions, gut feelings, etc. These, they pointed out to us -- who hold to the sufficiency of Scripture -- are some of the ways God speaks to His children through the Holy Spirit; even today. Impressive! Some of the dreams and visions were captivating and wittingly convincing to the undiscerning mind.

In my submissions, I contended that, “Scripture is sufficient in our walk of faith". I further  reasoned that, "All we need in this walk of faith can be deduced from Scriptures --explicitly or implicitly --through diligent study and faithful application to every life situation (see 2 Tim 2:15). I contended that Scripture is central to our lives as believers.
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.(1) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word;(2) and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.(3) (1) 2Ti 3:15,16,17; Gal 1:8,9; 2Th 2:2 (2) Jn 6:45; 1Co 2:9,10,11,12 (3) 1Co 11:13,14; 1Co 14:26,40 (WCF1:6).
Overtly, the sufficiency of Scripture is plain in the aforementioned. Charles Wesley rightly penned the words: "Our rule; Thy Word". A rule, by dictionary ( definition is  "...a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure". It is also "control of or dominion over an area or people".  Following from the definition of rule, the word of God is the rule over our lives. The word teaches us the way of salvation. The word leads us on to maturity. It teaches us the path of growth to be brought to the full stature of the knowledge of Christ, so we will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. By the word our minds are renewed. The word under girds all we do as believers.

Psalms 119 is one of the portions of Holy Scripture that encapsulates the Bible's testimony about itself.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (vs 1-18).
Notice the premium David placed on the Word of God. Every single verse in Psalms 119 addresses the uniqueness of the Word of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David describes the Word as: Law (vs1), Testimonies(vs 2), Precepts(vs 4), Commandments(6), Statues (vs5),  Judgements (vs7), Word (vs 9) and Ordinances. In a commentary on Psalms 119, The Oxford Scofield Study Bible(KJV)  explained these different renderings of the word of God as follows:
  1.  Law: Instructions or teaching, legal pronouncements, rules of divine administration, all of God's revelation for life
  2.  Testimonies: Testimonies indicate God's own declarations concerning His nature and purpose.
  3. Precepts: Precepts relate to man's moral obligations as enjoined by God
  4. Commandments: Authoritative orders used as religious principles
  5. Statutes: Civil and religious appointments of the Mosaic law.
  6. Word: Speech or utterance, a general word for the disclosure of God's will [ In the word of God we see the will of God
  7. Ordinances: Refers to legal pronouncements, rules of divine administration
In Psalms 119, we see the centrality of the Word of God in in a believer's life. The authority of the written Word is final and sufficient. There is no need for a support system of audible voice of God, dreams, visions, new revelations--clutches and scaffolds--to help the word of God stand on its "feet". The Word is sufficient. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105). The Word of God gives us direction: the direction many in our generation seek from places outside the word.

In Matthew 4--the famous encounter between Jesus and Satan--we see the authority, finality and sufficiency of the Word of God in our Lord's life. Jesus' victory over Satan in this encounter  was not won by any esoteric revelations. Jesus wielded "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"(Ephesians 6:17b). He categorically stated that   : “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4).

To be continued