Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Pleasing God In A Self Pleasing World

The chief end--purpose, reason of existence -- of man is to glorify self and enjoy self forever"...That of course is wrong, an adulteration by myself of the original "The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever". The adulteration however, is on purpose to sum up our self-obsessed generation. We live in an age preoccupied with self. It is a selfie generation. Everything is about self. Self-esteem, Self-confidence, Self-actualisation. Self is on the ascendancy. The whole fabric of society is woven with selfishness. Many are gods to themselves though they will not say it. They live, eat and breath self. In an online article, Kevin DeYoung aptly captured the self centeredness we carry around in what he calls "The Beatitudes Of The World"

Blessed are the rich, for theirs is the kingdom of pleasure. 
Blessed are those who feel good about themselves, for they shall be confident. 
Blessed are the aggressive, for they shall control the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for recognition, for they shall be noticed. 
Blessed are the demanding, for they shall receive what’s coming to them. 
Blessed are the sexually liberated, for they shall be their own gods.Blessed are the scheming, for they shall be called children of the powerful. 
Blessed are those who are praised by the world, for theirs is the kingdom of now.

These words vividly portrays what the human race is: selfish and self centered. It was selfishness; belief in a lie, a promise of independence from God and  "self-exaltation" to deity that plummeted our first parents. They believed they could be like God; “Did God actually say, ‘You  shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”(Genesis 3:1-5).

You will notice that, the first assault from the Serpent was against God's word;"Did God actually say"? Where ever self is dominant, people indulge in sin, attack the word and its authority. The word is twisted, rendered false by misinterpretation, sin is justified and the relevance of God's word called to disrepute.  Why? So we will be able to please self and disregard what God's word says. In Matthew 4, during the encounter between Jesus and Satan, we see the devil consistently attacking the word of God to lure Jesus to disregard God's word and sin. Where ever there is a disregard for God's word, selfishness and sin is the result.

Today, that same voice, which suggested independence from God and the prospect of deity In the garden of Eden is still loud in our generation. Many will have nothing to do with God. He is, to the unbelieving world, non-existent. If He is given attention at all; He exists to cater for our needs, grant our everyday desire; including  approving of our every sin, because He is a God of love. ...J. I. Packer, in his book knowing God, pulls a punch against this distorted love of a Holy God. He wrote; "the God who is love is first and foremost light, and sentimental ideas of his love as an indulgent, benevolent softness, divorced from moral standards and concerns, must therefore be ruled out from the start. God’s love is holy love...God’s love is stern, for it expresses holiness in the lover and seeks holiness for the beloved. Scripture does not allow us to suppose that because God is love we may look to him to confer happiness on people who will not seek holiness, or to shield his loved ones from trouble when he knows that they need trouble to further their sanctification"

Paul, writing to Timothy, saw the assault self will unleash on godliness. In 2Timothy 3:1-5, with prophetic precision, he hinted us on what to see in the last days: "...lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to ...parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

"...lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God"...That caps it all, doesn't it? Fallen humanity will choose their evil ways above God's holy ways. We love ourselves. Our world today is ruled by subjective morality. The language is, "it is true, because it is what I want". The Prophet Isaiah rightly prophesied  when he wrote "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way..."(Isaiah 53:6).

Now, contrary to the world's  self pleasing lifestyle, Scripture calls believers to a God glorifying, Christ exalting life. We are the light of the world(Matthew 5:16). Christians are people who have been delivered from the world of sin into a world of righteousness and holiness to show forth the praise of God(Colossians 1:13, 1Peter 2:9). Romans 12:2 admonishes us "not [to] be conformed to this world". To be conformed to the world is to imitate, act and think like the world. It is, as James puts it, "friendship with the world". The Christian life is a radical call to separate ourselves from the world-- the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life. Jesus said if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off (Matthew 5:30, Mark 9:43). Jesus is in no way teaching self-mutilation for rigtheousness. He is painting a picture of how radical the call to separate ourselves from sin and self is. The standard for the believer is high. We are called to be perfect as our Father in heaven is. We are called to separate ourselves from the world. We are called to be holy as our Father is Holy.

These however cannot be attained by mere goodwill. We are bound to fail if we attempt to please God in our strength. We first of all must come to a place of total surrender where we look to God for the strength to please Him. While Paul charges us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, he emphatically told us where the strength to please God and do his will comes from. It is from God Himself; He is the one who works in us both to will and to work for his good pleasure...we are here to please God, and all of our lives must be lived in honour and glory to God who is a rewarder of those who through faith seek him.

To this end God has called us--His Glory! "Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created".(Revelations 4:11)

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Salvation By Grace Alone Through Faith Alone.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians.2:8-9ESV).
In a secular state with about 71% professing Christianity; many grow up in Christian homes with Christian discipline. Raised and groomed "christianly"; the Christian faith appears normal to many. Nothing peculiar! Church attendance is a given. Talk of morality, philanthropy, fighting the social cause---you might be actively engaged. You probably  have grown up believing you are a Christian. But there's a danger here. Growing up in a Christian home, regular church attendance, morality and philanthropy without saving faith in Christ still leaves you in a sinful state separated from God: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"(Romans 3:23).

The whole world, without saving faith in Christ, lies dead in sin.(Eph 2). We are broken and sinful--totally depraved and needy of God's grace.The dispositions of our hearts are evil. We tend to believe we are good people. But no, Scripture describes us otherwise:  “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17:9).  If we are indeed dead in sins and our hearts desperately sick, how can we help ourselves? Human pride coupled with false religion suggests to us we can help ourselves. "We don't need God". Though many will not openly confess that, nonetheless they live that everyday. Truth is we can't help ourselves. But self-help sells. There are multitudes of them out there that promises you "your best life now".

However, salvation is strictly a work of God's grace in our hearts. Try as hard as we may, our best efforts in reforming ourselves will only produce "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6). Our only hope of salvation is a divine work of grace that makes our hearts pliable to divine truth:

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules".(Ezekiel 36:25-27).

Here we see the regenerating power of God's grace in our lives. He first removes our "heart of stone"; cold dead to divine truth, disobedient and unyeilding to Him and replaces it with a "heart of flesh"; alive to divine truth, obedient and yeilding to Him. This regenerating power of God's Spirit in our heart leads us to repentance from sin and saving faith in Jesus Christ for remission of sins unto salvation. It is only then you can call yourself a christian and a member of God's family. No one is deserving of God's grace. That's why it is in fact called grace--unmerited, undeserved favour. We contributed nothing to it. It is a gift and rightly so, a gift must be accepted and received.

Now, try answering these questions: Are you a Christian? Is your heart regenerated? Are you born again? Have you come to saving faith putting your trust in Christ for the remission of sins? Be certain with your answer. No self-deception, lest in eternity future you hear Jesus saying to you; "I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’(Matthew 7:23).

Friday, 18 September 2015

Christians: Channels Of Truth And God's Holiness

Christians are children of the Sovereign, Almighty, Most Holy, Most Wise and Infinite God. Creator of the heavens and the earth and all that dwell in it. We are His children He “chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Once upon a time, we were sinners, children of disobedience and separated from God. But Scripture says, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us”(Rom 5:8). He died to reconcile sinners to God. And by coming to Him through faith, we become His children. We are adopted into the family of God (Jh 1:12-13,Rom 8:14-17).

Apart from being children of God, there are different other descriptions used for the Christian. We are God’s elect. We are His chosen ones. We are His sheep. We are His servants and ambassadors. We are the salt and light of the world. These descriptions presents us with some understanding of our relationship with God. He is a Father, Shepherd, and King. He is Lord and ruler over us and His creation. If this is true of us, then as a Father, Shepherd, King and Lord over our lives; He must have expectations of us. It is said we are the hands and feet of Christ in the world. We are God’s representatives on earth with a mandate to let Him be known to the world. We are saved to show forth God’s glory to the world(Jh 15:16, 1 Pet 2:9, 2Cor 5:20).

As God’s representatives on earth, we have a mandate to make Him known, as already indicated. But if He is God–a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeabled in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth; how can we mere mortal and finite beings represent Him and show forth His glory? How can we be channels by which His truth and holiness will be known?
I will offer two thoughts.

1. Know The Truth.

How can we represent or be channels of what we do not know? It is impossible. It will be an exercise in futility. We must know the truth if we are to represent the truth. Truth is what God has revealed about Himself in Scriptures. “The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify… [God]. (WSC 2A).

In Deuteronomy 4:5, Moses clearly indicated the source of the commandments he was giving the children of Israel. They were God’s very words and commands: “See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it”. These “statutes and rules” which are God’s words are to be made known because they are true. Truth is not subjective. Truth is not what other people definite it to be. Truth is what God calls truth through His self-revelation in His word.(Pr 30:5) Jh 14:6, 17:17).
The believer who doesn’t pay attention to the truth of God’s word is going to live a defeated Christian life, tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. Despite its importance, as humans, the tendency of forgetting the important things of the faith is high. So constantly in Scriptures, God reminds us of the importance of paying heed to His word (Joshua 1:9, Psalms 1 & 119). The reality of our forgetfulness necesscitates constant reminders: “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. (Deut 4:9). Knowing the truth also has an element of passing the truth on. “Make them known to your children and your children’s children”(Deut 4:9).

2 Live The Truth

Knowing the truth is not enough. We must live the truth:

…be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.(James 1:22-25).

Accumulation of truth is not the desired end for the believer. Living in obedience to God and His word is the desired end of biblical knowledge. I once heard a preacher say the worst sinner is the one whose theology doesn’t reflect in their lives. I agree with him. The highest level indeed of hypocrisy is to preach what we do not practice. God has called us into a life of holiness. He chose us “that we should be holy and blameless before him (Eph 1:4). We are also by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit being conformed to the image of Christ. (Rom 8:29). Because He is Holy, God calls us unto holiness(Lev 11:44, 1 Pet 1:16). Our manner of life matters to God, because we are His representatives and others see His workings in the world through our lives in our sanctification and holiness.

However, holiness is not only outward. It is also inward; “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”(Mark 7:21-23). There are people whose outward deeds will, in the eyes of men recommend them to God. But before God, they are “whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness”(Matt 23:27).
That said, it is critical we understand holiness cannot be produced by self-will. We can only be holy when we submit ourselves in obedience to God’s truth enabled by the power of the Holy Spirit. In pursuit of personal holiness, which God has called every believer to, God works and we respond: “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”(Phil 1:12-13).

Holiness doesn’t also spell perfectionism. In our pursuit of holiness, we will fall and stumble sometimes. But we must not relent to keep focus on Christ our righteousness. It is in His rigtheousness we work out our righteousness. Apart from our personal holiness, we are also to be people who care and love others not only in words, but in deeds. We are to extend a hand of care and love to the society we find ourselves. We are to love one another and care for the needs of others. In love, we show the love of God to others. In love, we practice “pure religion”.
These two, I believe are just but a few ways we can be channels of God’s truth and holiness. We must never forget we are instruments and channels through whom God shows forth His truth and holiness to the world. Let us examine our lives and repent where we fall short in representing God’s truth and holiness.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.(Matthew 5:14-16).

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Your Body Is The Sanctuary Of God you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own(1Corinthians 6:19).
Many of us practice a level of cleanliness in our homes, offices and environment. We sweep compounds. We mop floors. We remove cobwebs etc. This is because that is where we live. And when we are receiving visitors many of us do a more thorough cleaning. Imagine the President of the land is paying you a visit in your home.

It is said that cleanliness is next to godliness. That is not entirely true, if not entirely false. There are countless number of people who observe marvellous standards of cleanliness and personal hygeine but are far from godliness. That said, if we are believers, we must indeed strive to live lives of excellence which might include personal hygiene and cleanliness of our environment. At least if the earth belongs to our God and all that dwell in it, we must be stewards of it.

When we were moving from our previous accommodation to where we currently live, the landlord came in to inspect the state of his facilities. He was grateful and thanked us for keeping his facilities clean and intact. He continued by saying "most tenants when they leave a facility leave it in a worse and deplorable state". When we first moved into that property, that was going to be our home for the period we will be living there so we kept it as we will keep our own property. How we keep that place gives an indication of the kind of people we are.

Now, God tells believers our body is His sanctuary. It is His temple. It is His dwelling place. When we become born again, when the Holy Spirit regenerates our hearts and quickens our mortal body, He takes residence in us. What this means is that God owns us. We belong to Him. He has control over our body. The huge edifices, cathedrals and temples put up by "human hands" are not God's dwelling. Our body is through the Holy Spirit and the word.

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man.

If our body belongs to God and His Spirit dwells in us, then God calls us to holiness. He calls us cleanliness and purity. He commands us to stay away from desecrating that temple. If we will take pains to clean our homes and environment, then we must as a command make our body a worthy dwelling place for God. Not necessarily in personal hygiene(though it matters), but in sexual purity and holiness. Since our body is not ours but God's, He must be glorified in us.

...for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body(1Corinthians 6:20).

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Be Fervent In Spirit: Serve The Lord

Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.(Romans 12:11).

Life does get boring sometimes. Suddenly, the things that gives us joy doesn't again. The same thing can happen to a believer in the Christian walk which inadvertently affects our passion for spiritual things. Our hearts get cold. We become slothful--lazy--a state every believer must guard against.

The church is one of the many means God has ordained for our growth; where our faith is sharpened and built up. When we are saved, God places us in a community of believers to be built up and to in turn build others up. The church--an assembly of the called out ones--like the human body has many parts. Each part of the human body has a part to play. The eye can't claim superiority over the legs. Every part of the body has its specific role. No part of the body is insignificant.

In that same comparison, every believer, as a member of the body of Christ has a significant role to play. We are not independent isolated members of the body of Christ. As members of the body of Christ, we all have a part to contribute to its growth. Paul brings this point home in the earlier verses of Romans 12. In verse 4-5, he says

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another

As members of the body, we are all endowed with gifts and abilities for the building and growth of the body of Christ. In the words of John MacArthur, "The church is a living, breathing organism that functions as life and breath on the basis of the ministry of each member to minister to the others. This is why the church is seen as a body and every one of us as a member of that body. We have a function in harmony and symphony with every other member." We see this further clearly spelt out in vs 6-8.

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Despite these rich endowment of gifts each member of the body of Christ has, many believers sit idle without making their gifts benefit the body. They are almost non-existent though they are physically present. Why? Either they have not identified their gifts or think of themselves and their gifts as insignificant or worse still they are simply lazy. Having the knowledge we are all gifted in the body, it is mandatory we take steps to identify our gifts and be actively involved in building the body. Many are actively and passionately involved in other things apart from service to the Lord. Like the third person in the parable of the talents, many believers have buried their gifts and are making no returns on it.

Certainly when the Master returns, they will  hear Him say to them "You wicked and slothful servant!"(Matt 25:26). Not to put our gifts to the benefits of others in the body of Christ is wickedness and slothfulness--laziness.

In Revelations, Christ warns against lukewarmness. God demands of us to be fervent in service to Him. We are to present [ourselves] as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is [our] spiritual worship(Rom 12:1). This imperative cannot be obeyed without making ourselves available as vessels in God's kingdom.

Are you idle and uninvolved in God's kingdom? It is time to get active. Pray that God will help you find your gift to put to use in the building of His kingdom.