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Monday, 29 September 2014

Grace: A Total Transformation

And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him” (Acts 22:20).
This is Paul; recounting his former deeds. You admire Paul right? Before he became Paul, he was Saul: a murderer and hated believers with all zeal. He has blood on his hand. Today, if you are looking for the equivalent of Saul(Paul), look at the most gruesome terrorist group around: Saul(Paul) could could be a leader of any one of them.

You will understand it better when you consider the believers response when they heard of Saul's conversion. They didn't believe it. They took it to be a scam, another strategy to get believers. Ananias even had guts to question Jesus' instructions: "Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem: And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name." (Acts 9:13-14). Hear more: "But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? (vs21). This guy Paul doesn't belong in the fold of God's people humanly speaking. He unleashed terror on God's people  yet he was a chosen vessel of the Lord. In response to Ananias who had questioned the Lord earlier, Jesus said "... he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel:" (Acts 9:15).

If you still don't get the terror of the guy I am writing about, this would be helpful. I believe Saul's terror rose up to heaven and broke the very heart of Jesus. I am speculating on this one: I believe Jesus stood up and said "I must stop this guys, enough is enough"...so on his way to Damascus to unleash more terror, the Lord brought him low on his feet: "And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do."(Acts 9:3-6).

Saul the terrorist "trembling and astonished"...the rest of his life he became a disciple of the Lord and what a gift he was to the body of Christ. If you are a believer and you don't admire Paul then you have no good role models. But, before your admiration goes overboard, note that Paul was a work of grace: Total Grace. No wonder he wrote so much about grace than any other. He was a Scholar, he has rights to boasting, but knowing who he was, he said "by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me."(1 Corinthians 15:20).

What have you done that you think you are beyond the reach of God's grace? Grace gives a Total Transformation


Sunday, 28 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

God Loves You

Faith In Jesus For Eternal Life

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).

I have met humble, good and morally upright people who care less about Jesus. Is Jesus then saying, "No way" apart from faith in me? even for these good people? Yes, that's exactly what He is saying. Either it is true that Jesus is "...the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.(John 14:6) or it is not true.  I have said before in a post that beliefs--religious beliefs have dire eternal consequences and it is everyone's responsibility to have right beliefs. Your beliefs would either land you in hell or heaven. Well, you can also believe death ends it all...that also is nice. But it has its consequences.

In a democracy, we all have freedom of worship, but that democratic right doesn't change God's truth neither does God adjust His truth to accommodate our rights. Ignorance, legal language says is no excuse. Equally, Scriptures says for the lack of knowledge my people perish. This is no mere religious talk, this bothers on eternity; so seek for truth. If what you have is truth, great. If it is not, you might want to start considering your eternal destiny. For the believer in Christ and the unbeliever; we have all made a choice and our choice must necessarily be the truth NOW. You can't get to the other side of eternity and be shocked your beliefs were wrong.

One day, while interacting with the Jews, Jesus made some statements that ignited fury against Him. On this particular occasion, Jesus revealed His deity; "I and my Father are one" (John 10:30). Such arrogance! Such blasphemy! Who is this insane person who claims to be God. They might have responded with fury. They picked up stones to finish Him there, but He calmed them and asked: "Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?" (John 10:32). The charge, they responded; "...For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God". (vs 33).

Clearly, in this conversation with the Jews, they understood "I and my Father are one" as a claim to be God. God manifested in the flesh...that is the greatest claim a mere man can make, and rightly so, if His claims were false, He deserved to be stoned! In another interaction, this time with His own disciples, Philip made a request; "Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us" (John 14:8). See through that question; it carries with it an element of doubt "ermmm...is He who He claims to be?"...Jesus' answer was equally like the one that nearly sparked a mob action from the Jews: "Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?" (vs 9). C.S Lewis, in his great classic, Mere Christianity penned these words:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God..."

Decide now...


Friday, 19 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John Chapter 3

Continued from Previous Post

The Relationship Between God and The World Part 2
For God so loved the world...(John 3:16)
When I sat down last night to write today's topic, I overheard my kids singing..Jesus Loves The Little Children/All the children of the world/Red, brown, yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world ....I listened to them and in the process, they interrupted my train of thoughts...I was going to talk about Agape, Storge, Philia, Eros...and other Greek meanings of the word Love.

Now, these kids, in their innocence and carefree life(what is life all about is not in their vocab) would never ask questions about the love of God. Jesus loves the little children; a child's world: No questions asked! It is us adults, grown up men and women, who  start asking questions when the love of God is mentioned. If you have been around for a considerable number of years, you would have had your fair share of the pains, hurts and disappointments in life.

The struggles, the dashed dreams, the broken hearts, finances that won't balance, wayward children, rejection, emotions that won't cooperate with your brains...It is rare to find a person who hasn't encountered any challenge of any sort in this life. One of the hardest hit man in human history, Job, aptly described the nature of life. He said: "...man is born unto trouble..." (Job 5:18).

In a space of twenty-four hours, he lost all he had; such a great contradiction in the life of a man who was "...perfect and upright...feared God, and eschewed evil" (job 1:1). His was not a twenty-four hour miracle. His was a twenty-four hour disaster.

The pains, hurts and disappointments of this life in themselves are not the real problem; they are just the symptoms of the real problem. Sin is the real problem, but unfortunately, we seem to focus on dealing with the symptom instead of the real ailment: sin. When sin was first introduced into God's creation, it came with its accompanying calamities worse of which was separation from God: When Adam and Eve fell, the whole human race plummeted with them and their judgement became humanity's judgement; death and toil:
"...I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." (Genesis 3:15-18).
After the pronouncement of judgement, man was driven away from the presence of God and that gulf of separation remains till today until one comes to God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus Loves The Little Children/All the children of the world/Red, brown, yellow, black and white/They are precious in His sight/Jesus loves the little children of the world...is not only true in a child's world. It is equally true in an adult's life.

God created us and wants to reconcile us back unto Himself and to the uninterrupted relationship and fellowship he intended from the beginning. Nothing will satisfy our yearning souls until we direct it towards the very owner of that soul. He created us for Himself and knows the needs of our hearts. The emptiness cannot be filled with anything. Sex will not do. Drugs will not do. Alcohol will not do. Materialism will not do. Wealth and prosperity will not do. At best, they can only numb the pain; but "...what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36).


Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

12: God Loves You(continued from previous post)

1: The Relationship Between God And The World Part One
For God so loved the world...( John 3:16).
The first introduction of God we see in the Bible is that of a Creator. The Architect of the whole universe. The universe, humans, animals and plants all take their origin from God: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Psalms 24:1 further tells us "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.(Psalms 24:1).

I recently read an article in the 21st-27th October, 2012 edition of the Catholic Standard which speaks volumes about the Creator and His relationship with His creation. In the article, the Cardinal of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl is quoted to have said:
[ a] tsunami of secularism” has washed across the world, leaving in its wake a tendency to deny God’s existence, or to deny that God’s existence is relevant to human thinking and action…. Without God the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered…. Human dignity and human rights flow from the fact that human beings are created in God’s image.
Those words, "Without God the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered….Human dignity and human rights flow from the fact that human beings are created in God’s image." leads  us into a magnificent truth: We are created in the image of God. That is not a thing to be taken frivolously. We, created in His image are the objects of His divine, unwavering love. The love He demonstrated in sending Jesus to the cross to die is directed towards us mere mortals: christian or non-christian, religious or non-religious. Moral or immoral; God loves you.

Even if you don't believe in the existence of God, you might want to pause and consider the complexity of the world including your very being.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.  O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!(Psalms 8:3-9).



Monday, 15 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

12: God Loves You
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).
Imagine this:

A guest preacher is introduced in your church. He mounts the pulpit. He does all the usual pleasantries, announces his theme; then asks everyone to turn to John 3:16. Most probably, there would be three  responses: One group of  persons would not refer; because they are familiar with the text and can recite it from memory with ease.

Others, still with an attitude of familiarity, will develop apathy towards the preacher: "what has he got to say?". The third response, would be like the second; but apathy would be replaced with fervour: "what has he got to say?"

Again, still with familiarity to the text in mind, try hard to imagine how a child who has spent enough time in a Sunday school class would recite John 3:16. It might go like this(the breaks indicates the sloppiness of child-like speech): For---God--- so--- loved--- the world,--- that he gave--- his only begotten Son,---that whosoever--- believeth in him ---should not perish,--- but have everlasting life.

In its familiarity and imagined child-like reading lies what I will describe as the core and heart of Christian doctrine. In John 3:16, we find a breathtaking synopsis of the entire gospel. If we split these words of Jesus, we will be staring at a stockpile of biblical truth: "God"..."  "love" "the world"..."gave"..."only begotten son"..."believe"..."not perish"..."eternal life". In subsequent posts, I will attempt to tackle this text from a four point approach :

1: The relationship between God and the world
2: God's greatest gift
3: Faith
4: Eternal Life
         


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

11: Jesus Christ: God's Remedy For Sin
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15).
Long before He came unto the scene, His life and mission was announced through the Patriarchs and prophets of old. Jacob prophesied about Him: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10). Isaiah spoke both about His birth, death and sacrifice of atonement: "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel"(Isaiah 7:24), "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).

Jesus didn't just emerge in human history. When John The Baptist first saw Him, He exclaimed: "...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:26). Every Jew at Jesus' lifetime was waiting in anticipation of the prophesied Messiah, yet, when He showed up; when " He came unto his own,...his own received him not." (John 1:11). Isaiah accurately prophesied His rejection.

In this interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus referenced Scripture to tell Nicodemus more about the Kingdom of God and salvation. The first time I read John 3:14, I startled: "How on earth should Jesus liken Himself to a serpent?".

It will be good to recount what Jesus was referencing. Jesus here drew an analogy from an incident that happened in the wilderness when the Israelites were sojourning to the promise land. The people murmured and complained: they sinned against God. And as punishment for their sins, God sent snakes among them and everyone bitten by a snake died. Having realised the severity of the situation, they cried to God, and Moses was instructed to erect a pole and hang a brass serpent. According to God's instruction, anyone who looked up to the brass serpent, will live. (See Numbers 21:5-9 for full story).

The serpent hanging on a pole or tree indicated punishment for sin and a curse. Scriptures says "...Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13). In effect, all those who sinned against God in the wilderness, deserved the full impact of punishment, but God said no, He provided a way of escape by putting "sin" itself on the tree. Remember sin was first introduced into the human race through a serpent.

Jesus , therefore, referencing this incident was describing His own death, His substitutionary death for the sins of humankind.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him".(2 Corinthians 5:21). 
All of us, as members of the human race, like the Israelites in the wilderness have been stung by sin. Before God , we stand guilty of sin until we come to Christ through faith


Monday, 8 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel Of John 3

10: Christ Must Be Revealed In Our Message To The World.
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:(vs 13-14).
In this conversation with Nicodemus, we see a familiar trait with Jesus when He engages in conversations.

Eventually, in many of his interactions, He ends up  talking about Himself. He begins with stories, parables, analogies...from the familiar to the unfamiliar; then plummets into His deity and identity as the long awaited Messiah. He refer people to Scriptures and what has been prophesied of Him. Read the gospels and you will notice. My favourite is in John 4: 25-26, Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman; "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he."

"I that speak unto thee am he". In those  words, Jesus revealed Himself: "I am the Messiah"...In all our philosophising, in all our stories, in all our analogies; in all our preaching, sermons and any other way we spread the gospel, if Christ is not revealed, we have failed. Preacher, Christian Musician, Christian Author, Christian Minister in any capacity; may it not be said of us that we left the preaching of Christ and got preoccupied with other things.

Fellow Christian, are you happy when you hear a sermon for 45-60minutes and Christ is not mentioned? What an indictment on the gospel. Has Christ become archaic and irrelevant to our generation? Christian friends, are we truly fed and nourished by all the travesty parading as Christianity?

May God have mercy on us for believing lies caricatured in the name of Christianity. May Christ be revealed in all we do. May we see Christ revealed in Scriptures above all other things. Christ is pivotal in Scriptures; all other things are secondary.