Friday, 21 August 2015

The Carnal Mind And The Spiritual Mind.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are [children] of God.--Romans 8:14
In Romans 8, Paul contrasts a life lived under the dictates of the flesh with a life lived under the influence and control of the Holy Spirit. He argued that, “we[children of God] are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.”(Rom 8:12). To be a debtor to the flesh, is to be under  bondage to sin and controlled by the desires of the flesh.

Living under bondage of the flesh, Paul says leads to death; “For if you live according to the flesh you will die”(vs 13).

In life we are all driven by a specific desire: success, fame, money, power, influence, pleasure etc. But as believers, we should be driven by the glory of God. The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (WSC).

Where is your desire? (Ps 42: 1-2, Matt 6:33, Phil 3:10, Col 3:1). The difference between those driven by the desires of their flesh and those submitted to the Spirit is simply that, the latter are regenerated, born again and indwelt by the Spirit of God. They are sons–children–of God.

If the Spirit of God lives in you and you are truly converted, there must be a growing evidence of victory over the desires of your  flesh. If there is no evidence of change and transformation in the dispositions of your heart which of course shows in your way of life, then there is a legitimate  reason for your conversion to be questioned. You must be yearning and desiring to please God in all you do.

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom 8:7-9).

There is a Litmus test for who is a child of God! Is yours a mind set on the flesh or a mind set on the Spirit? The best judge is you if indeed you belong to Christ: “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!(2 Cor 13:5).

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Christ Our Living Bread

1 Kings 19:4-8, Ephesians 4:25, John 6:41-51
The Bible draws many analogies from the natural world to teach lessons about spiritual reality. Light, darkness, water, etc. Bread is one of the commonly used analogies from the natural world which speaks to spiritual reality. Jesus indicates in John 6:51 that He is “the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

Bread in the natural signifies food. We eat to to live. We eat to have strength. We eat for nourishment. We eat to satisfy hunger. In the wilderness, after Elijah has run away from Jezebel’s threat for fear of his life, he was constantly supplied with food for his physical nourisment and strength.
And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.(1 Kings 19:7-8).
Note vs 8 carefully. Elijah “went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights”. Physically, he was strengthened by food. He was nourished by food. He ate to live in order to continue his assignment. If bread gives nourishment and life to the physical body, the “the living bread” who is Christ gives  the spiritual food we need for spiritual life, strength and nourishment. He is the “living bread” because He gives eternal life to sinners who are separated from God by sin. He reconciles sinners dead in sin to God.(Rom 3:23, 2 Cor 5:19).

Spiritually, without Christ, there is a gulf between us and God. We all deserve eternal damnation. But “the living bread”—Jesus Christ– administers life to all who through faith in Him will come to God to satisfy their spiritual hunger. In Matthew 4:4, Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that comes out of the mouth of God. Then in John 1:1, we are told Jesus is the Word incarnate.

Saint Augustine rightly described this spiritual gulf, void and hunger when he said in his Confessions, 
You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.
Indeed our hearts are restless till they find rest in God. Because God created us for Himself and for His glory. The only satisfaction we will have in life is satisfaction derived from the source of our lives — the Word of God, the Fountain of Living Water, the Living bread, our sin Bearer, our Advocate and the Mediator between God and man.

It is to Jesus we must turn, for without Him, we can do nothing(Jn 15:5). In Him we live and move and have our being(Acts 17:28). We are the sheep of His pasture(Ps. 100:3). We are the branches abiding in the True Vine(Jn 15:4). All other sources of satisfaction are pale in the face of God’s immense provision for satisfaction of our souls.

O! may our hearts be nourished by God’s Word: The Living Bread. Sex won’t do. Alcohol won’t do. Illicit drugs and relationships won’t do. We will find true and lasting satisfaction only if we will turn to God who loves us and came down in human form in the person of Jesus Christ to die to reconcile us to himself. He is the living bread. He is the one with authority given to Him to forgive sins and justify all who will come to Him.

Don’t fill up that void with anything else apart from a lasting, loving relationship with the Living Bread; Jesus the Son of the Living God.

Guide me, O Thou great Redeemer.
Pilgrim through this barren land. I am weak but Thou art mighty. Hold me with Thy powerful hand.
Bread of heaven, bread of heaven.
Feed me till I want no more. Feed me till I want n

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Create In Me A Clean Heart

2 Samuel 11,12. Psalms 51:1-12
We live in a fallen world in a fallen body. A world broken with pain and heartaches. A world inundated with sin. Believers have been separated from sin to righteousness, yet we struggle with sin and fail sometimes if not often. Unbelievers are called unto repentance from their sins. Sin is the root of all our predicaments.

Every now and then a scandal breaks making news headline. Apart from those making the headlines, numerous, equally scandalous, go unnoticed; they occur in “secret places”. However, though removed from the public eye, God sees all that is done in “secret places”. (Ps 139:7,  Heb 4:13)..One of such scandals took place in the palace of an ancient king. The story is narrated in 2 Samuel 11 through to 12. David commits adultery with Bathsheba. She takes seed and in an attempt to cover up, David connives with his army general, Joab, to assassinate Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband. The plot was well executed. Uriah is dead, David marries Bathsheba. Done and dusted! No one knows what has transpired. But wait, though done in secret, the Bible tells us an “Omnipresent eye” was watching:

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.(2 Samuel 11:27b).

God, displeased with David’s sin, sends Nathan, a prophet to confront David. After the “charge sheet” has been read out to David; Scripture records “David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; You shall not die” (2 Samuel 12:13). Fast forward to Psalms 51 and David penned his prayer of repentance on a musical note.

The effects of David’s sin on his relationship with God and himself can be seen in Ps 51:8-12 His joy was gone. He senses a gulf between himself and God. Spiritually, unrepentant sin separates humanity from God. Naturally, the first  reaction many of us take, when we sin, is to hide and pretend. This also, we inherited from our first parents. Their first reaction when they fell was to hide themselves from God:
…the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. (Gen 3:8).
You see, sin has ramifications. Psalms 51 gives us a picture of the weight of sin. Sin is first and foremost against God; an infinitely Holy God: “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.” (vs4). To be bothered about sin in your life is to be bothered about a good cause.

At this point I will offer three suggestions to undergo a “heart cleansing”

1: Acknowledge Your Sins.

Hiding our sin is a great deception. We must bring our sins before God to be healed and forgiven. The first verses of Psalms 51, i.e. vs 1-3 opens with David acknowleding his sin. In 2 Samuel 12:13, we see this same truth. When Nathan confronted David with his sin, he didn’t debate, deny or justify his sin. He admitted to his sins immediately.

In our age of self-esteem and self-aggrandisement; we will do everything to ignore our sins, cover it up with activity; more activity eventually drowning the voice of our conscience. When we mourn over our sins, we are told not to be hard on ourselves. But sin is ubiquitous. In theology, the universal presence of sin is termed Original sin. Ps 51:5 tells us the origin of sin; “I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Sin is natural with us as a result of the fall.

The whole world, without saving faith in Christ, lies dead in sin.(Eph 2). The dispositions of our hearts are evil. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9). When Isaiah encountered the holiness of the Lord, his depravity and sinfulness stared him in the face: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(6:5).

When Peter encountered Jesus, his sinful nature couldn’t stand the presence of The Holy One. Falling at Jesus’ knees, he exclaimed: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” (Luke 5:8). Paul, in deep anguish, I believe over indwelling sin, cried out; “[O] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”(Romans 7:24). The tax collector who showed up in prayer with the self-righteous Pharisee is also worth mentioning. He, “… standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’(Luke 18:13).

2: Repent: Look To Jesus

“God be merciful to me, a sinner”. This prayer, devoid of eloquence and “empty phrases” got God’s attention. Hear Jesus’ commentary. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified…”(vs14). God hears the prayers of the penitent who looks up to Him in humility and true repentance for forgiveness of their sins: “…a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”(Psalms 51:17).

A renunciation of the presence of sin is probably the worst predicaments that has happened to the human race. Instead of addressing sin as sin; we live in denial, replacing sin with psychological words aimed at drowning and soothing our conscience.

Sin has eternal ramifications and must be treated as such. We  must not live in denial of the presence of sin in our lives. We are all sinners from conception and having inherited the consequence of Adam’s disobedience, Scriptures accuses us and places us distanced from the glory of God (Psalms 51:5, Romans 3:23).

Sinner, will you do the noblest thing of your life by acknowledging your sins? Run to the outstretched arms of the Saviour Jesus for forgiveness and remission of your sins. Come just as you and receive pardon for your sins. (Pro 28:13Matt 11:28-30, Jn 1:12-13).
3: Submit To The Holy Spirit

“Go and sin no more”: I think on two occasions, Jesus pronounced these words to people who have been forgiven of their sins. The woman caught in adultery (Jn 8:11) and the paralysed man who was healed by Jesus (Jn 5:1-14).

When we come to saving faith through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, God requires from us a life of holiness and separation from sin (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(Gal 5:17, Matt 26:14).

However, despite the struggles, 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 overcomed by sin once we have been regenerated.

The Holy Spirit renews and gives us strength to be victorious when we submit daily to Him by taking advantage of the means of grace available to us.

Broken and sinful, we all need grace and forgiveness of sin.

Blessed, merciful, Jehovah, Lord, my sin, You have forgiv’n. Now I’m filled with joy eternal, Now I’m satisfied in faith. O my soul, give thanks with praises, Great is God’s blessings we have. Merciful, He loved, redeemed me, Evil dungeon saved me from.~~Presbyterian Church of Ghana hymn 462, Author:Philipp. Friedrich. Hiller 1699-1769. Scripture:Matthew 18 vs. 27

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!