Sunday, 11 January 2015

Love In The Air

I once joined a taxi cab and the driver was playing a song by Toni Braxton(I might be wrong). Here is a line from the music: "Dream lover come rescue me/I need you so desperately" ...."I need you so desperately": That speaks volumes about the heart cry of the human race. Hear more sampled lyrics of songs I believe you can identify: "You always on my mind", "Girl you are my angel" "You make me feel like a natural woman", "Write your name across my heart/I want the world to know you are mine forever" and my recent favorite "Odo Carpenter".

Love, without doubt, I believe is the most sang about subject worldwide. This points to how needy we are as humans, doesn't it? We want to be loved. We want to be appreciated. We want to have a sense of belonging. The loss of a love one shatters us. There is everything right with that. God made it so. That we love one another. We are not islands. We are interdependent on others to achieve a certain level of self-worth and self-acceptance. "Everyone needs somebody”—that is a very popular saying and it is true. No one is an island, we all need relationships and friendship to carry on in life. We are interconnected. We are to be each others keeper. We are to bear the burdens of one another. Acknowledging the place of love in our human interactions is a necessary ingredient for peaceful and harmonious living.

However, despite its universal acceptance, love can be abused when sought for in the wrong places. Human love has its limitations. It can and does fail based on how well we perform and how much we meet up to another person's standards. Human love can also be abused and used as a tool for manipulation. "If you love me...". That's a popular one we can all identify with. Isn't it? When we make imperfect human beings, the source from which we derive all of our emotional well being, then we are unhealthy, vulnerable and heading towards an emotional disaster.

What is love? Where do we take our cues of love from? From music? Soap Opera's? Novels? Love in its Greek origin carries a number of meanings. I will give a brief summary of these:

EROS:  Intimate, sensual and erotic.
STORGE: Natural affection. This is usually love shared amongst family members.
PHILIA: Affection shared purely by friends and can generally be described as platonic.
AGAPE : Unconditional Love.

From the summary of what love is, we can see much of the emphasis on love from society through music, is sadly one sided; Eros,  Romance, Feelings and the sensual. It is not uncommon to find  gospel music mimicking the idea of Romantic love, reducing God's love to good feelings and sensations. With society's fixation on eros - erotic and sensual - God's perfect, unconditional love can easily be lost in our minds. In an age of feelings and sensations, we can easily confuse God's love with how good or bad we feel at a particular moment. In the process, we end up defining God's love by our feelings. But God's love is unconditional, it is perfect. God, the Bible tells us is love. God's love is not just a characteristics of who God is. God Himself is love. God's love is Agape love; selfless and unconditional. It is the highest form of love. Agape love is the kind of love God manifested towards us when Jesus left all of His glory, took upon Him the form of man and died a wretched sinner's life(though He was sinless) to reconcile humanity to God(Philippians 2:6-9, 2 Corinthians 5:21 ). It was love that sent Him to the cross.

Do you need love desperately? Where are you seeking for it? No human, no sexual experience, no entertainment, no drug, no alcoholic beverage, no emotional high, no peers or family can fully give you the love you need to feel wanted, loved and accepted. If you are a believer, you don't have to strive for acceptance, you are already accepted in Christ (Ephesians 1:6, Jeremiah 31:3, 2Thessalonians 2:16 , 1John 3:1 ). God's love is everlasting and nothing can separate us from that love(Romans 8:35 ). You can't do more or less to be loved by God. You are already loved. Is that a licence to live our lives anyhow? No. However, living on this side of eternity in a fallen human body, we will still battle with sin and if we ever lose a battle against sin, we must never despair that God will take His love away from us. Christ' propitiation for our sins is for all sins committed in the past, committed in the present and to be committed in the future. Though He calls us to holy living and holy we must live, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness(1John 1:8-9). We do sin and that is the reality of the fallen human condition. Though saved, we struggle in different areas with the sin problem and its resultant guilt. R.C. Sproul in his book, What Can I Do With My Guilt, wrote these profound words:
The simple truth is that if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That’s an objective state of affairs. Maybe our friends will not forgive us. Maybe our spouses will not forgive us. Maybe society will not forgive us. Maybe the government will not forgive us. But if God forgives us, we are forgiven. That doesn’t mean that we were never guilty. We cannot have forgiveness without real guilt. But forgiveness releases us from the punishment that we justly deserve because of our guilt. Through it, we can be restored to a healthy and loving relationship with God.1
Now, if you are not a Christian the love of God will make no sense to you. You might end up searching for love in the wrong places. The vacuum and emptiness in your heart you seek to fill with other things can only be filled by God's love. That vacuum is just a symptom of a root problem of sin and separation from God. All humanity is condemned under sin(Romans 8:23 ) and until we bring the burden of our sins to Christ, we still stand guilty before God. Repent from your sins and surrender your life to Christ. Be reconciled to Himand let Him give you the love you so desire.
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
Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10).
1: R.C. Sproul, What Can I Do With My Guilt, ©2011, Reformation Trust Publishing.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Four Reasons To Be Bold In 2015

2 Timothy 1:6-7 ,  1 Corinthians 1:1-39
"Keep focus, Don't Give Up, Have a plan, Extend Your Network, Take Risks, Be Positive" and many more of these self-help strategies swamped my mind while preparing to speak to a Christian youth group on the theme "Take A Bold Step Into 2015". I only have to open my Bible and garnish these points with "practical living" biblical texts and I have a ready message to deliver.  But how different would my message be from what they might have heard all year round? I asked myself. In deep thought, I concluded that too much emphasis has been placed on these self-help strategies , especially on pulpits that must be preaching the gospel of Christ and I wasn't going to add to an already pathetic situation. Don't get me wrong. Self-help strategies are in themselves not bad. But when they are given prominence over the gospel, then we must raise eyebrows. The truth is people can be taught all the self-help strategies, attain all the success imaginable and yet be damned to eternal damnation: "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?" (Matthew 16:26).

Here are four points gleaned from the message I delivered to my friends in the youth group.

1: You Are Called By God
Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours(1 Corinthians1:1-2).
From Paul's salutation to the church in Corinth, we learn a vital truth: If you are a believer, you are "called by the will of God" (Romans 8:29-30John 1:12-13 ). God, before the foundations of the earth, set you aside as a chosen vessel to reveal His glory (Romans 9:23). Paul was called by the will of God to be an apostle. The believers in the church of Corinth were also called. God's calling is not in relation to any inherent good in us. Our calling is rooted in God's mercy and His grace (Ephesians 2:1-10 ). Like Paul and the Corinthian believers; every believer is called with an assignment to fulfill. We are not on a "self-sent" assignment on earth. Our lives, our breath, our purpose for existence all takes its source from God. "In Him we live, move and have our being"(Acts 17:28). We are all on God's assignment.  He brought us on earth for His purpose, His will, His plan and His agenda. Our life originates and evolves  around God and what He created us for. If there is any truth that will sustain us in 2015, it is that we take our existence from God. We are, because He is: self-existent and all sufficient. We take our sufficiency from Him. We are complete in Him (Colossians 2:10 ) and without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5 ). God Is Our source of Existence.  The Bible opens with the words "In the beginning God..."(Genesis 1:1).Our lives and the whole of the Universe takes its source from God(John 1:3-4) This knowledge and truth will make a lot of difference in your life in 2015.

2. You Have The Holy Spirit: Not A Spirit Of Fear
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)
Every believer has the seal of the indwelling Holy Spirit and that's enough assurance of security. "In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory".(Ephesians 1:13-14).Now  2015 is a new year, we haven't walked this path before, so for some, it will create fear and anxiety. That is normal. Change comes with the unknown. The unknown comes with fear and uncertainty. Everything new always produces a level of anxiety and nervousness. Will I win, will this turn out well? Can I truly do this? Fear is a potent power that can ground and immobilize anyone to try new things. Fear will stop you from entering the place of change God has for you. Fear I believe is “faith in the devil.” From 2 Timothy 1: 7 it is clear fear is a spirit— a spirit not from God. “… God hath not given us the spirit of fear.” If fear is not a spirit from God, then obviously, it originates from Satan. Now, as much as fear is an enemy for change, fear itself is not the problem. The problem is what we do with fear: whether we will allow it to immobilize us or serve as a springboard for greater things. If placed in a right perspective; fear will drive us to our only source of strength— God ( Acts 4:29 ). You can overcome fear— you have the Holy Spirit.

3. 2015: Incomparable To Eternity
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus... as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.(1 Corinthians 1:4-9).
Every born again believer carries a secure eternal promise. The faithfulness of God that called us in His dear Son will sustain us until eternity. That's guaranteed. Nobody can snatch you from the Father's hands(John 10:29 ) and nothing can separate us from the Father's love(Romans 8:35 ). That's security: in this present age and the ages to come. God will take care of you. Nothing can jeopardise the future and security over your life.  The greatest question you must ask yourself however is "Am I one of His"?. Many people sit in church who have no relationship with God through Christ Jesus. They have good Christian upbringing but they are not born again. Some came looking for a solution because they heard Jesus will solve all their problems. Are you called of the Lord? Are you a saint in Christ? Are you you born again? Will your success in 2015 stand the test of time in eternity? Settling your eternal destination is bigger than any achievements in 2015. Ponder that.

4. God's Vessels Are Ordinary People.
For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being  might boast in the presence of God.(1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
"Foolish, weak, unwise...". These are not befitting words to describe anybody. But that is how God describes those He calls. Now, In an age of abundant success formulas, the world lures us away "from the simplicity in Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:3). As Christians, we can easily be held "...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). We can easily get trapped in a man centered Christianity where we have to do so much to be blessed by God. We might be tempted to seek a certain level of "spiritual or social status" to court God's favour.  The Bible however tells us "it is not by might, but the Spirit of God. Scripture is littered with "nobodies" whose lives were turned around by God. Every vessel of God is an ordinary vessel. But God is extraordinary and He works in an extraordinary way to bring His purpose to pass in ordinary vessels. If you are a believer, you can be bold in 2015 because you qualify as a vessel of God. God takes unqualified people and qualifies them. John Piper, a minister of the gospel wrote that “when it comes to being a candidate for grace, your background has nothing to do with God’s choice”.  Many of the people God worked through and is working through were not, are not and will never be the obvious choice of society. Why? So that no human will have cause to glory in God’s presence. Be bold, you Ur an ordinary vessel of God.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Sound Doctrine or Sentiments?

It was 1st January, 2015 . 1:30am. We had just returned from 31st December watch night service(night vigil).  Before retiring to bed, we deliberated and shared  our expectations for 2015 . Theodora--my wife -- asked a question that startled me."Are you grateful for 2015? "  Before I will answer her, she added a follow up question "what does your new doctrine say against gratitude?".  She is my wife, so of course, I knew why she was asking those questions.

Throughout the service, I was seated soberly :no shouting, no screaming, no jumping--a big contrast of my old self. So to her, that quiet demeanour, in the midst of the "joyful noise" meant something was wrong with her husband who previously will be screaming and jumping all over the place. Let me give you a little background of what has happened to me which I believe can further inform you of the reasons behind my wife's questions. I am of Charismatic persuasion but recently I have been looking intently into Reformed Theology and have questioned many of the beliefs  I hold as a Charismatic. That's a brief history.

Now, naturally, Theodora is the first person I must get to understand the changes taking place in my Christian beliefs. This, has, by default, made her the first person I express my disagreements over practices I deem unbiblical. I once disregarded an instruction  to apply anointing oil on my forehead to "seal" my  Iife. It is unbiblical, I argued to myself.  Ephesians 1:13-14 informed my decision.
In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Is the seal of the Holy Spirit over my life as a believer not formidable enough for protection? Do I need something else to compliment what God has already done in His word?  This and many other unbiblical practices have become a part of our everyday worship.

Unfortunately, many believers today don't question what they believe. We swallow everything in: hook, line and sinker. Sentiments, emotions and feelings have taken over sound doctrines and biblical instructions. The order of the day is what a respected man of God said. Rev. ABC  said it so it is true and people, whether it makes sound, biblical, logical and rational sense care less. Unlike the Bereans, we do not search scriptures to find out if what a man of God said conforms to the word of God. Some of the acts we associate with Christianity in our part of the world will easily pass for magic and superstition. Sound doctrine(teaching) or sentiments? What will we build our lives on?

Scriptures admonish us to build our lives on truth-the truth of the word of God. Sadly, many believers don't take personal responsibility for their Christian walk, hence, they are tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine (Ephesians 4:14). Paul in his epistle to Pastor Timothy also admonished sound teachings (1 Timothy 3:16, 4:1-4). Jesus said the truth--not emotions and sentiments--will set us free. John 17:17 also points us to truth. So does John 4:24. To live a victorious christian life, our foundations must be built on sound and solid doctrines. The word must take root in our lives. We must mature to be able to also instruct others in the word of God. We must rightly divide the word and we must be doers of the word and not hearers only.