Monday, 18 April 2016

Depart From Me...I Am A Sinful Man

Have you ever thought about it? What is the greatest need of humankind? This question will generate a lot of response. Probably, for the majority, top of the list will be eradication of poverty and disease. Others will put forth world peace, eradication of drug and sex trafficking. To others, equal rights for all humankind will top the list. These indeed are commendable, but they are not the greatest need of humankind. The Bible gives us the answer:
2015-09-12 01.31.00For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
This is the divine verdict from God. All humankind have sinned. Not only that, but by our sins, we are  enstranged, alienated and separated from God. We are enemies of God and liable to receive the just punishment for our sins. Paul describes our hopelessness in Ephesians 2:1-3 saying , “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”.
The above is true of every human being. It is the present reality of the unbeliever and it was the reality of the believer who has now come to Faith.
Now the reality of sin as our greatest need came home to me again very strongly today when I read portions of Luke’s gospel for my devotion. In Luke 5, the story is told of Jesus using the boat of Peter to preach and afterwards, He issued a command saying “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch” (v.4). Here is an experienced fisherman who has toiled all night and caught nothing, so he might have been surprised by the command from Jesus. Indeed he was and his response tells:
And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!”(v5a).
However, I suppose having heard Jesus preaching, his heart might have been convicted to obey. So he didn’t stop at questioning Jesus’ instruction. He responded positively afterwards: “But at your word I will let down the nets.”(v.5b). After they heeded Jesus’ instruction, we are told a miracle happened. They had a great catch to the extent they had to signal other fisherman to assist with bringing their catch (vv.6-7).
Simon’s report in the narrative  is what caught my attention: “But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”(v.8).
A miracle has taken place. But it seemed the miracle didn’t matter to Simon. We are looking at a great breakthrough for that day. They have a great abundance. But in the midst of that abundance, the state of Simon’s heart was laid bare. He was convicted: “he fell down at Jesus’ feet”. He was broken. He lost himself. Before Him was no ordinary man but Jesus, God incarnate.
In that moment of a great miracle, his sinful heart all played before him in front of a Holy God: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord”. Anyone who encounters the holiness of God is always struck with the wretchedness of their soul (Isaiah 6:5, Romans 7:24). Sin is our greatest predicament (Psalm 51:5, Jeremiah 17:9, Isaiah 53:6) and until we are reconciled to God, nothing else matters that happens to us. A miracle or breakthrough is of no significance to a heart dead in sin.
Like Simon, we must all fall on our knees at the feet of Christ and plead for forgiveness and reconciliation. Our sin must not drive us away from God, rather it must drive us to Him. Jesus didn’t drive away Peter, but He spoke forgiveness to the need of his sinful heart: “And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”(v.10).
Here is the mercy of God in action; a man not only forgiven, but his life takes on a new direction. A sinful man cleansed and reconciled to God and commissioned to be a soul winner–fisher of men. Our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins and reconciled to God. That is the foremost reason Christ walked this earth (Ephesians 2:14-17).

Friday, 25 March 2016

Christ Our Sin Bearer

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world--Sin.
From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are made to know there is a Creator who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31). But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God's proclamation that "everything that he had made...was very good". The answer is that sin entered the world. So;
What Is Sin?
Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a]. Lev 5:17;   Jas 4:17;   1 John 3:4
~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14
In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God's law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, "want of conformity" will read something like inability to conform to the law of God or failure to measure up to or obey God's command. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is "missing the mark" and rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God's rigtheous standard (Romans 3:23).
DEXATI20160325080715Now, how did sin enter the perfect world God created? We again go back to Genesis, the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, "And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die". Fast foward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world.
Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned"(Romans 5:12).
Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam's fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalm 51:5).
What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describes the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.
However God didn't leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that even in their sins, God's mercy was manifested. Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium--the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
The seed of the woman being referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil"(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sins was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6).
Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ's imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ. Paul aptly captures this saying, "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2Corinthians 5:21).
Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith  If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God's Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Life Under The Providence Of God.

It was 21st March, 2016 at about 9:30pm and I was trying to catch up with a bible reading plan --Luke 1:1-38
--I had missed in the morning. While reading, verses 8-9 caught my attention "Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense" (Luke 1:8-9).

The priest in question here is Zachariah, the Father of John the Baptist and husband of Elizabeth. Prior to vv8-9, Luke briefly profiled their lives: "In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years".

Here is a couple described as rigthteous and walking blameless before God. However, there was a problem: (i) they had no child, (ii) Elizabeth was barren and they were (iii) both advanced in age. That last one sums up the seemingly hopeless situation of their lives. As I read on and the narrative progressed, my mind was fastened on vv 8-9 especially the last words: "he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense."

You see, events that unfolded that day hinges on the fact that Zachariah was chosen as the priest to enter the temple and burn incense by casting of lot.  The lot could have fallen on any other priest than Zachariah and we probably might read Zachariah's story in a different context. In this ordinary human act of casting lot, we see the Providence of God explicitly revealed in the narration.Though men made their choice, God through His divine Providence ordained His purposes through their action: "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD," (Proverbs. 16:33).

On this day, I believe Zachariah never expected what unfolded in the narration prior to his entering the temple (at least the text didn't tell us). I also believe the team of priests who were involved in choosing him didn't envisage what transpired on that day. The people made a choice, their choice sent Zachariah into the temple to burn incense and the events of that day changed the life of Zachariah and Elizabeth because the Providence of God was at work.

So what is Providence?
God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy (Westminster Confession Of Faith 5:1).
According to, Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8)
God's Providence is a pillow believers can lay their heads on and sleep soundly. Nothing can happen to a believer that catches our heavenly Father by surprise. Though Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, he later informed them they meant it for evil but God meant it for good. Moses was left in a basket in the river Nile and as we know he went on to become God's chosen vessel to deliver Israel out of slavery.

The believer's life is not left to chance. Every single event in our life is part of God's grand design to bring about His purposes and plans to pass. We serve a living God who is not bewildered thinking what to do next with the situations that confronts us. He has it all covered. He is personally involved in every detail of our lives including what we might consider mundane:
Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?(Matthew 6:26).

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

The Syrophoenician Woman and Jesus

But immediately a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit heard of him and came and fell down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, a Syrophoenician by birth. And she begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And he said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs. (Mark 7:25-27)

The text records a woman who approached Jesus to ask for a miracle on behalf of her daughter. Now, if Jesus indeed “went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil”(Acts 10:38), isn’t it startling, the response He gave to the woman? “She begged him”…yet, we see Jesus responding in a seemingly derogatory manner. But was He being offensive?

There are two perspectives to approach this incident.

Firstly, in Mark 7:24, Jesus had entered a hideout, away from the crowd, probably to rest with His disciples from the rigours of public ministry. We get a hint about this when we look back one Chapter: “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat (Mark 6:31).

Unfortunately, Jesus and His disciples didn’t get the needed rest. The Bible says the people run ahead of them to their destination. When Jesus and His team got to their desired resting place, a crowd was waiting for them. So instead of resting, Jesus “…began to teach them many things”(Mark 6:34). After attending to the crowd and other ministry needs, Jesus sought another opportunity to rest: “And from there he arose and went away to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  And he entered a house and did not want anyone to know, yet he could not be hidden.(Mark 7:24).  It is on this background the woman enters the narrative: “But immediately…”
If you can envisage the frustration of Jesus and His team, you can empathise with them. After losing their first opportunity for rest, they were on the verge of been deprived this also. His statement to the woman could therefore be viewed as He saying; “let me attend first to myself and my disciples, then I will attend to you later. It is not right to give time I have set aside for myself and my disciples and attend to you."

It appears Jesus was apathetic to the woman and her possessed daughter.
But looking at the text from the second perspective, one fact of the gospel emerges; by faith, sinners can come to God through Christ for salvation. Salvation is for whoever will put their trust in Christ: “For God so loved the world , that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16).

Now, there was a time in God’s redemptive history when non-Jews were outside of the covenant family of God. To the Jews, anyone apart from a Jew was a “nonentity”. David called Goliath an “uncircumcised philistine” in 1Samuel 17:26. In John 4:22, Jesus, talking to a Samaritan woman, made a statement worth noting here: “…salvation is of the Jews”. Jesus’ earthly ministry was first confined to the Jews. But in the scheme of God’s redemptive plan, salvation will be extended to other persons outside of what Paul calls “commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12).

We see clearly, the Bible was specific in telling us who this woman was. She was a Greek, a non-Jew, one separated from the covenant family of God. She didn't qualify to receive anything from Christ. But Jesus’ strong words didn't put her off. She didn't get offended, rather, in faith, she answered “…Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs”(v28). That caught Jesus’ attention. “And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter” (v29). Jesus praised the woman’s faith and granted her request.

The message is simple for today’s Bible reader; the door of salvation is opened for anyone who will believe and approach Christ in faith. When Christ died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51) signifying an open access to God for people from “all tribes and languages” (Revelation 7:9).

In Christ, there is neither Jew, Greek, Roman or Gentile….
But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us”(Ephesians 2:13-14).

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

The Gospel, Grace And Good Works.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).
In every generation, the gospel -- the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners  by grace alone through faith alone for justification before God has always been under attack. Recently, I met with a group of friends and from Galatians 1:6-10, I admonished them to go back to their churches and start listening well if the gospel is being preached on their churches' pulpit.

Now a church that doesn't preach the gospel and salvation by grace is not worth the name church.

Sadly, many believers have stopped listening and reading with discernment, hence, all kinds of errors are passing on for gospel preaching on many pulpits in our country. Among the numïerous errors, there are two extremes by which we see the abuse of the gospel: Legalism and Antinomianism. These two are opposites to each other and are all wrong. Legalism is simply seeking justification with God through good works or by keeping the law -- (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc). There is also another side to Legalism where we look to the law and good works to maintain our salvation. All these fly in the face of Scripture because " is justified by faith apart from works of the law" (Romans 3:28). What Paul means here is that, justification is by faith alone; believing and trusting in Christ's death alone for salvation.

This naturally raises questions about whether we can live our lives anyhow since we are justified by faith alone. The question usually arises from a misunderstanding of the place of the Law in the Christians life. There are those who insist that because of grace the law of God has no place in the believers' life. Such position leads us to the next error that confronts the gospel---Antinomianism. Antinomianism teaches that the Law has no place in a Christians' life. But that is far from the truth. In an online article, The Threefold Use Of The Law, R.C. Sproul wrote on three uses of the law in the Christian's life. He stated that:
Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent.
You see, the preaching of the gospel is the means by which God brings people to salvation and it is of utmost importance it is not misrepresented or watered down. A watered down gospel lacks power to save. "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Corinthians 1:18).

But what do we see today? We live in times when the preaching of the gospel has been replaced by human and secular philosophies which has no power to save anyone. The Galatian church to which Paul wrote his letter, were, just like today, invaded by false teachers propagating a false gospel. Paul described them as trouble makers and those who distort the gospel of Christ(v7).

The gospel is central to the salvation of sinners and any false representation of it must be a cause of concern to every believer. We see Paul registering his disapproval of what was going on in the Galatian church in a rather forceful manner: "I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel".

Rightly so, Paul was astonished--greatly amazed, surprised--that a people who have been " the grace of Christ" are "quickly" moving away from the gospel; not gradually, not slowly, but quickly, rendered as as hastily(tacheós) in the original language. It was a concern to him, that a people who have once believed in the gospel and have been justified by grace through faith alone are now shifting from grace to works salvation. Any departure from the proclamation of the gospel must just as Paul, astonish us who call on the name of the Lord.

The Christian is saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and this truth must remain at the back of our minds throughout our Christian journey. Grace doesn't only bring us in. Grace keeps us till the end of the journey (Jeremiah 31:3, John 10:27-29). It is important, unlike the Galatians, we keep focus on the grace of God and continue in Him (Colossians 2:6-7, Hebrews 4:14-16). Many believers after they are saved by grace go on to live their lives as if they have works to add to their salvation.

Of course the Christian is saved to do good works. But the Christian is not saved by doing good works.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
In conclusion, just as I admonished my friends to start listening for the preaching of the gospel on their church pulpits, permit me to put the same charge to you my reader. Start listening for gospel preaching on your church pulpit and count how often sinners, guilty of the judgement and wrath of God are called to repentance by pointing them to the death and resurrection of Christ for sinners. Listen also how often believers are admonished to continue in the grace of God.  Anything short of this passes for "a different gospel".

Nothing else will do but gospel preaching and gospel centred ministries.