The Paralyzing Power of Fear(Part 2 of 3)

The entire narrative contained within the Bible focuses on a spectacularly all-encompassing Love Story of Redemption where God graciously extends salvation towards rebellious human beings. Within this broken world, only God’s boundless and exceedingly rich love extended through Christ Himself is capable of perfectly casting out fear in our fragile lives. Not only did Jesus Christ model the perfect example of what it means to love one another, but He also lived a perfect live of obedience to God, the Father. Therefore, those who place their full, unbridled trust and surrender in Jesus alone making Him the Savior and Lord of their lives, will be saved from the dominion of sin in their lives. In a similar way, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. Jesus paved the only way(John 14:6) for perfect reconciliation between us and the Father. Until we are made right before God through being justified by the blood shed by Jesus, we will continually be at enmity with God being under His righteous judgement.

The Christian Church today is under siege by false teachers who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ(2 Cor. 11:13) whom are in control of many of the world’s largest religions(some of which operating under the guise of
prosperity-gospel“Christianity”
) . To many of you reading, this probably doesn’t strike you as strange considering the vast growth and popularity of the Prosperity Gospel within the West, even being exporting to other countries around the world. What I feel compelled to share and expose is that fear-based religion, whether it functions under the Christian label or not, is not of God, nor is this what God has ever designed for His redeemed people. This is purely of man, and it is basically a repackaged form of the way the Religious Leaders(Pharisees, and other Experts of the Law) of Jesus’ day sought to oppress and enslave the people of this time. Astonishingly, those who adhere to any form of fear-based religion are in greater danger of perishing than those without any religious affiliation, like the atheists, agnostics and/or those who have not yet heard the full Gospel message. Allow me to explain by quoting from part 1 of this series below:

However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I don’t think that I need to remind everyone that Jesus also reserved the sharpest rebuke for the hypocrites who, ironically, were those within the religious community of this time. Therefore, it is critically important that we examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith as Paul prescribes in 2 Corinthians 13:5 saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test”. There is no such thing as a lukewarm, half-committed Christian contrary to popularly held opinion. We are either true Christians, or merely impostors–it is as simple as that. This also is why we need to be continually growing in our faith walk by pursuing the Lord daily and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Rom 6:11-13), otherwise we will be drawing further away from Him.

One of the strongest indicators that you belong to a fear-based religion is that those who are placed in leadership seek to control you. We will term this, the “spirit of control”. Usually such people have been prematurely respected and therefore placed in positions of leadership in churches and ministries before their character can be clearly confirmed. This spirit of control will eventually lead to destruction if it is not stopped immediately. The distinction between God’s Holy Spirit and this demonic spirit of control is that the Holy Spirit liberates while the spirit of control imprisons. The Spirit-led person cares solely about being controlled by Christ, as opposed to the spirit of control which focuses on manipulating people. The main cause of someone with the spirit of control is almost always because they have not yet completely surrendered to Christ. When someone like this is ignorantly placed in leadership within a church, the consequences are wide-reaching and far-extending. These ripple effects are opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and tragically those who follow such leaders will replicate their hypocritical example.

spirit-filledThis is why spiritual discernment is absolutely essential for every believer which comes from being in God’s Word and leading a Spirit-filled life through surrender. Our spiritual walk is greatly contingent on the level of discernment we possess as believers. Isn’t it interesting how the majority of the followers of the religious cults of today are almost always those who lack Biblical Literacy? There is an unseen spiritual battle in our midst which is why we need to always be alert, and continually equipped with the entire armor of God(Eph 6:10-18) wielding the sword of righteousness which is the Word of God. It can only be effective if we keep it sharpened which comes from actually reading, meditating, and living out God’s Word. Otherwise, we as believers are extremely vulnerable and destined to fall away from the faith. False teachers prey upon the naive and the ignorant. They hope that they know the Bible better than you and I in order that they can exploit and manipulate us for their personal gain. One of the biggest lies “progressive Christianity” teaches is that once we are saved, we are free to live however we like because of God’s abundant grace. This heretical teaching has already been soundly debunked by Paul in Romans Chapter 6 and consistently throughout the entire book of Galatians. Rather than an easy-believism, seeker-sensitive, man-centred false gospel of health and wealth, the true Gospel must always be preached in its entirety. Being a real disciple of Jesus requires more than just attending church on Sundays and going out for brunch with some friends afterwards, it requires dying to self daily through continual repentance. The true Gospel message does not end at salvation. Salvation is like the first side of the coin which is like the first step in the Christian’s walk of faith. The second side is repentance through surrendering every single area of your life to Jesus so that the old self can die in order that the new self may live(see Galatians 2:20).

Those who reject the necessity of repentance within the Christian Walk were probably never saved in the first place, despite fooling themselves into thinking that they somehow were. Such people are in grave danger and they are really at the mercy of fear-based religious institutions which help to propel this false sense of security. While many fall into this category, there are still those who have genuinely accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord of their lives through repentance, thereby quenching the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, we need to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled in order to walk in the fullness of God’s Plan. This can only happen through humility and dying to self. Indeed, fear will consume and paralyze the Christian when they do not live Spirit-filled lives through this daily surrender and repentance. The source of any kind of fear is not of the Father, nor can it ever be, it is of the flesh, primarily coming from the irrational fear of man. Those who are saved and living the Spirit-filled life are not only thriving spiritually and being used as instruments of God’s mercy and grace, but they are free from fear itself because of Christ Who dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 12:4-5 Jesus teaches,

“I tell you friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him”

Because Jesus has conquered the world and overcome death itself, His followers are liberated from the fear of man. The only fear we should ever have is the Fear of the Lord consisting of a reverential and holy fear because of God’s omnipotence and His supremacy over all things.

May God Bless everyone! Stay tuned for the last part of this series where I will share some practical steps to overcoming fear in your life through the power of the Cross and armor of God.

Father, I pray that You can use this blog entry to remind of us of who we are in Christ while re-orienting our attention to the Holy Spirit, Who is often the most neglected Person of the Trinity. Father, remind us of the need to lead a Spirit-Filled life in order to be victorious in the ongoing spiritual warfare we face and to be fruitful for furthering God’s Kingdom. Demolish any strongholds set by the enemy and as you perfect us by Christ’s love, I pray that the fear of man may also be eliminated!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Reference: http://www.godfactor.com/blog/are-control-freaks-killing-your-ministry

 

Let Christ’s Love Cast Out Fear!(Part 1 of 3)

slides_perfect-love-05

Fear is an extremely power thing. If fear is not handled properly, it is capable of destroying a person simply because of its crippling effects. There are those within this world today who live in maximal fear–sometimes for understandable reasons, other times because they have allowed fear to control their lives entirely.

What I want to progress towards discussing within this series are the terrifying ramifications of when believers succumb to fear-based religion. As an introduction, today’s focuses will be on (1) providing historical background of religion within Christendom and on (2) highlighting one of the threats some “christian” churches pose towards spiritual seekers and professing believers alike. 

Strikingly, religion has almost always been wielded in such a way to instill fear into the masses through both oppressive and manipulative means so that the people can be controlled. Yes, even “Christian” religious denominations have largely been premised in fear, which can be quite certainly be linked to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church(RCC). In fact, prominent author and apologist, Ravi Zachaaris postulates that, “Christianity is not the same as who Christ is“.

I will now digress a little here so that I can provide some reasoning for why I believe this is happening within Christianity. Increasingly what we have today even among several Protestant denominations is the integration of some practices and traditions from Catholic teaching. Notably, within Protestantism there is an expanding-divide between the laity and the clergy in which there is a greater perceived value towards the ministry work among the clergy(church leaders) within the church compared to that which God accomplishes through the laity(church members). The fact is that we are all a royal priesthood of believers under the New Covenant(1 Peter 2:9) in Christ. Therefore, no believer is seen as more or less significant before God simply because they serve in a leadership capacity at a church as opposed to being used in some other capacity in another profession. The hierarchy within the RCC has certainly been influencing and has even started to pervade some Protestant denominations. The consequence beginning to arise from this is the proliferation of Bible illiteracy because church-goers place too much weight on the pastor at the pulpit. Therefore, the spin-off from this is that there is the presumption that this pastor has authority over God’s Word. Sadly, many church adherents then follow whatever is said trusting that the pastor is always 100% accurate, frequently without taking part in their own Bible Study to test what is said against God’s Word. For those of you who know your history of the RCC, I’m sure that this sounds very familiar. In spite of this example, as well as several others unmentioned, one can quite accurately speculate that the trajectory to which we are going within Protestantism is frighteningly similar to the way things were before the Protestant Reformation.  

Returning to Dr. Zachaaris’ point from earlier, I believe that his point soundly exemplifies what is transpiring today within Christianity. As human beings we have put an inordinate level of img_6168emphasis on doctrinal differences and biblical interpretations to the degree whereby they are exalted above what God Himself has told us within His Word. We have forgotten that Christianity is about modeling and living the way Christ lived where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves through grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. We need to walk out our theology rather than simply intellectualizing it in order that God’s Word has it full intended impact within our hearts(breathing in through studying it and breathing out through living it). It is as though we have tried to put God into a proverbial box made out of our human preconceptions and categorical assumptions of Who we think He is. However, as you and I both hopefully know: God simply does not, and, moreover, He cannot fit into our human-made doctrinal boxes. Like apostle, Stephen quotes in Acts 7:48-50 from Mat 5:34,35 and Isa 66:1,2:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be? Has not My hand made all these things?

Disclaimer: Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret me at all, I do recognize that pure religion (see James 1:27) has a place and it is essential for the Christian walk of faith. However, without having a personal and dynamic relationship with God, religion is merely a set of rules, rituals and traditions which is dead in and of itself(look at the Pharisees). We need pure religion to keep us grounded while the relationship we have with God enables us to live in the liberties Christ purchased for us on Calvary. Pure religion and relationship are not opposing forces but rather they should work in harmony in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

The central result of religion without relationship is known as legalism where we frustratingly strive and strive to earn our salvation, while repeatedly falling short and being devastated at the end of our lives when we face God for judgement. What I fervently and earnestly want Christians to know about is the damning power of false (christian) religion which permeates the world today, particularly within the West. It is common knowledge that being a church-goer does not mean that you are saved because church membership cannot purchase salvation; salvation is received by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape it because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I cannot even begin to fathom the immeasurably high numbers of souls who have fallen victim to the clutches of false religion. I have personally experienced what this is like coming from a Roman Catholic Background myself for over 2o years of my life. I am normally not a stubborn person but God had to radically shake up my life before He captured my attention to see the destructive path which I was on. It is my prayer and hope that the true life-giving Gospel Message of unfathomable love and grace will liberate any readers who find themselves entrapped in fear-based religion.

I encourage anyone who desires to briefly share their experience of being set free from the bondage of religion to comment below.

I plan on continuing this series with a blog post entitled, “Paralyzing Power of Fear”. In this post, I intend on exploring some of the devastating ramifications of living in fear within the framework of religion.

May God Bless everyone in the weeks ahead!

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis

 

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

Power in Eternal Perspective

As Christians, I do not think that it is possible to overemphasize the level of importance we should place on our perspective. Yet, I cannot even begin to count the number of times where my perspective became distorted and tainted by the deceitfulness of my heart. The truth of the matter is that even as Christians, we are still very inclined to waver and allow our perspective to be shaped by the lies of the world. Perhaps one of the best examples of someone in the Bible who truly got what having an eternal perspective looks like is Paul. In his letter to the Philippians(4:10-13), Paul writes,

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Let this sink in for a moment: Paul is literally a prisoner at this point, yet he is virtually unaffected by his present circumstances to the point where he is actually rejoicing. How is this possible!? Shouldn’t Paul be anxious about what may happen to him, or at the very least that the Jesus Will Supply All Thingsadvancement of the Gospel may be hindered? To the extreme contrary, Paul rejoices with the assurance that God will supply all his needs (Phil. 4:19) and that God’s will is being accomplished despite these adverse circumstances. The central lesson here is that “our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances”. Paul had unbridled confidence that Jesus was always with him and no outward circumstance could ever undermine this. The secret to this is simply found in relying on Christ’s power for strength. 

If you are anything like me, unfavorable circumstances have a tendency of leading me to thoughts of discouragement, doubts, and even despair. What I have found is helpful is preparing ahead of time through feeding my mind with God’s Word and meditating on His promises. Reading about God’s promises is one thing, but actually marveling and mediating on them so that they become entrenched in our minds is quite another. In doing so, when conflicts befall us and we find ourselves immersed in unpleasant circumstances, we can readily call God’s promises to mind. “What we put into our minds determines what comes out in our words and actions”; harmful input from the world needs to be replaced with wholesome input from God’s Word.

Interestingly, even the world has its own version of this teaching within New Ageism. The difference is that the world wants you to believe that you alone possess the power to change your inner attitude and perspective through relying on your own strength. While this may work in the short-term, it certainly does not within the long-term because only God through Jesus can provide us with an eternal perspective. We are weak and we will constantly fall short even though we like to view ourselves as wise in our own eyes; the heart is deceitful and it cannot be trusted(Jer. 17:9). You will find yourself chasing after the wind never actually finding the contentment which your soul seeks. All the while, you will become a slave to your own desires, becoming a product of your environment and situations rather than a conqueror through being anchored in the One who already victoriously overcame sin and death!  We all need Jesus, so let’s stopping leaning on our own strength like the enemy cunningly tells us to do by means of his lies. Instead let’s put our full trust in Jesus alone so that we can see life through God’s point-of-view. 

Please free feel to comment below! I welcome any of your thoughts!

God Bless!

Engaging Culture

Called to be Faithful Where You Are

In recent months, I have increasingly realized and observed that God pointedly uses His children in whatever platform He has sovereignly placed them. Oftentimes as believers we wrongly assume that we need to pursue a different vocational calling, rather than being faithful in our current platform within our sphere of influence. I know that I have certainly found myself praying that God would widen my platform or even provide me with some kind of  job in ministry in order that I may be an effective Christian. However, 2 Peter 1:3 clearly tells us, “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness”. Therefore, we are called to be faithful regardless of where God has placed us because He has equipped us with “everything we need for a godly life”.

Engaging Culture Where You Are

In reference to last month’s post on “Biblical Worldview”, I quoted Pearcey saying that “Christian Principles are meant to saturate our lives and flow out into the world around us”. With this being said, we have been Engage Culturehonored with the privilege to be participants in God’s Redemptive Plan of making all things new–transcending over and above all boundaries. Categories which relegate things of culture(ie politics, business, law, music, the arts) as wholly sacred or secular are therefore irrelevant and unnecessary.

Lecrae states in his book, Unashamed, that “Because of Jesus, we don’t need to see culture as something to be avoided. It is something to be engaged. You cannot stomp something you’re running away from. You can’t influence something you never encounter”. In order to begin to transform culture, we need to engage culture. I believe that this starts by bringing our sacred callings into our current work environments through being instruments of God’s Mercy and Grace. Having a Biblical Worldview enables one to see the world through the proper lenses because it allows us to see that all of God’s creation is in fact good and redeemable.

In addition, when we already speak the same language of those within our workplace, our Christian Witness becomes more creditable and effective towards our co-workers. We are all strategically positioned in different job positions which should be treated as mission’s fields where we have the platform to reflect God’s greatness to those around us. There are unsaved people everywhere, some of whom are yearning to hear this precious Gospel Message. Many of these people may never enter church and your light may be the only exposure to church they will ever receive. If you and I do not share it with them, then who will? If your workplace is anything like mine, I tend to feel overwhelmed and even discouraged at times because of the sheer number of unbelievers. At the same time, I feel blessed to have been placed at a workplace with such a need for the Gospel Message to be shared. I am praying for boldness to be more vocal and intentional about witnessing at my workplace. I pray that you do the same. We should all share the same sense of urgency because time is running out and people’s souls are at stake.

Application: Living Authentically for Christ

By This They Will KnowIt is my hope that God will use you and I to engage a culture that has not known or seen the true and living God of the Bible.  After all, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them(Ephesians 2:10)”. The world should be able to notice something different about the way in which we live our lives. On a deeper level, unbelievers should be able to see the Body of Christ at work as the Church within the world. Jesus Himself tells us in John 13:35, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another”. It is this supernatural love within the Church that builds intentional relationships and is capable of reaching the lost unlike any other.

I cannot stress the importance of authentically walking out this faith which God has gifted us with. We are children of the light and God’s Spirit greatly desires to work in and through us to transform the world around us wherever this may be. But we need to be willing and this usually means stepping out of our comfort zones through taking leaps of faith. Having theological discussions about doctrinal differences and what the Scriptures teach are well and good, however it cannot and must not end here. The Gospel Message requires a responsive action on our part, which surpasses intellectual book knowledge as it extends into deep-rooted heart application. Actions always speak louder than words so I earnestly pray that we keep Christ at the forefront of our lives seeking to live wholeheartedly in our actions for His Glory.

May God continue to use His Children in their present spheres of influence to engage, impact, and radically transform the culture around them. I pray that we may all be emboldened to seek out the lost through disciple-making and that You may be glorified in and through us.

In Jesus’ Name, I pray Amen.

Biblical WorldView

What Sets Christianity Apart

Christianity is not merely another world religion where one needs to follow a prescribed set of rules, regulations, and steps in order to be made right with God. Conversely, Christianity is about placing our trust in the One Who has lovingly reached down to us, accomplishing that which is humanly impossible by living the perfect life of obedience through Jesus. Christ lived the life none of us could have lived. Therefore, rather than us hopelessly climbing a ladder of good works to somehow bridge the gap between us and God, all we need to do is trust in Jesus Who has already finished the work on the Cross.

“Sacred” and the “Secular” Coming Together

There is a phenomenon that has plagued Christianity for far too long. It has significantly limited and even restricted the effectiveness of the Church within the world by relegating Christ-following Christians to purely a private spiritual matter. Specifically, it is the false dichotomy between the “sacred” and the “secular”. In Nancy Pearcey’s book, “Total Truth”, she expounds on this school of thought by stating that “Christian Principles are meant to saturate our lives and flow out into the world around us”. She continues, “Having a Christian worldview means beings utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world”. As ambassadors of Christ, we are called and commissioned to be salt and light within this world. If we choose to stay in our own Christian bubbles and comfort zones, how can we expect the dying world around us to hear the glorious truth of the Gospel? It is so easy to become apathetic and spiritually-selfish through focusing excessive attention on being built up without physically going out to make disciples as God calls us to do. God’s redemptive plan extends to all things–both the secular and the sacred.

As believers, we know full well that the Christian faith is not designed to be compartmentalized within the sacred portion of our lives, rather, it needs to overflow into every facet of our lives!
biblical-worldviewPearcey wisely states, “The Christian faith is not just a religious truth, but the total truth about all reality.The implication is that the Christian Faith is meant to pervade and saturate everything we come into contact with. In turn, having a Biblical worldview shapes how we think about politics, business, law, education, and the arts. God has created absolutely everything (John 1:3), and as seen in Genesis 1:28, He calls us to subdue the earth. Right from the beginning of time, God has invited us to participate in His project for the world. Andy Otto explains this concept of subduing the earth below:

As one would “subdue” a plot of land, planting seeds, watering, cultivating it, caring for it, and harvesting its fruit, one is called to subdue the world—planting seeds through our witness, using and cultivating our gifts, working for the common good, and sharing its fruit with others. And as God has desires for the cultivation and harvesting of the earth, metaphorically, we do as well.

Application: Life Is Ministry

There is a common misconception that only those involved in ministry of some kind can really serve the Lord. This cannot be further from the truth and it greatly dismays me that many Christians believe this fallacy. Admittedly, I believed that this was true for my own life and it held me captive for several years. I knew that God had gifted me in different ways but I reasoned that I couldn’t serve Him as well or even at all unless it was explicitly done for ministry purposes. Once I first read about Biblical Worldview through observing Lecrae approach to his Hip Hop music as a Christian, I realized that as a Christian my entire life is ministry. Romans 12:1 instructs us to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, which is our true and proper worship. In other words, everything we do spanning from the ways in which we interact with others all the way to our viewpoints on social issues should be rooted in our Biblical Worldview. We are not just Christians on Sundays, but rather we are called to serve the Lord 24/7; indeed life is ministry. Someone who has been called to a trade such as a plumber is no less capable of serving God than a pastor for instance. All that God expects is our joyful obedience as we serve and glorify Him in our unique ways.

In Lecrae’s book, Unashamed, he states that “Following Jesus doesn’t just save us from a less fulfilling life or eternal separation from God. It also saves us to a life that can radically transform the world around us through the power of God”. The responsibility then for Christians is to transform culture.

I plan on creating a follow-up article to this post regarding what transforming culture looks like for the Christian. Please stay tuned!

Lord,

We are so grateful for that which we have done for us on the Cross and we are honoured to be partakers of Your redemptive plan. Help us to live faithful lives to You in whatever you have called us to as our vocation. I pray that through Your Holy Word, You may mold our Biblical Worldview into one that has the ability to transform culture for Your glory. May we lift up Your Name and glorify You always!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

 

References:

Subdue the Earth: A Genesis Understanding of Discernment

Total Truth By Nancy Pearcey

Unashamed By Lecrae

 

Humanity Has A Preference Problem

Since the Fall of the human race in Genesis 3, accepting accountability for our actions has always been a real area of weakness for us. Arguably, one of the central reasons for why people would rather deny the existence of God is so that this very form of accountability is somehow removed. This is freedom after all, isn’t it? Being able to live however you true_freedom_in_christplease without having to answer to a higher power sounds both appealing and liberating at the same time. However, this type of freedom is not freedom at all. Don’t let the world’s way of thinking confuse and entrap you. In contrast to what real freedom in Christ provides, this is actually slavery which happens to be under the guise of freedom. Slavery to what you may be wondering? Simply put, it is slavery to your fleshly desires and impulses. The precise thing that you think is liberating you is in fact doing the exact opposite, that is, enslaving you.

Recently, I had the privilege of listening to a fascinating podcast by long-term Christian Pastor and Author, John Piper, entitled, “Why Hell Exists?”. Within this podcast, Piper makes the powerful argument that “everyone knows the supreme value of God…but that everyone prefers something to God“. Romans 1:18-19 supports this argument below:

18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

Regardless of whether you are: a skeptic, an atheist, a new age believer, or a follower of any of the world religions and denominations, God through His Word makes it abundantly clear God's Glorythat deep down inside you already know the truth of God. As seen in Romans 1:19, God’s eternal power and His divine nature are manifested throughout the beauty and intricacies of creation, consequently leaving people without excuse(Rom. 1:20).

Piper continues by postulating that “nobody leaves God simply because they value Him little; [rather] we always turn away from God because we value something more”. In a like manner, Romans 1:21-23 reveals:

21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

Wow! Think about this for a moment and let this truth sink in. This is God Who is the Creator of the entire universe! He literally breathed it into existence out of nothing, Who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Author and Finisher of all life, Who came down from Heaven, lived the perfect life, died the death we should have died, was raised on the third-day so that we can have forgiveness for our sins and have a forever relationship with Him! This infinitely beautiful and glorious God has given us everything, even Himself on the Cross. YET, we foolishly decide to exchange His glory for “images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and replies!(Rom 1:23)“.  Every sin is rooted in this abominable truth and heart-wrenching reality. Indeed, this is the biggest insult humans can possibly make towards God which is why unrepentant sinners must be judged. Interestingly however, whenever we sin no matter how big or small, we are committing this very exchange. The underlying reason for why we push God away is because in our darkened minds we think that we have discovered something more valuable. Therefore, we mistakenly find it more fitting to exchange God’s glory for things of this passing and transient world found in His creation instead of in God Himself.

With all this being said, believing in the One Living and True God is at the core derived from one’s preferences. The truth of God is tangibly displayed everywhere we look and eternity has even been hard-wired into the very hearts of our beings. Intrinsically, what matters is whether we decide to accept God for Who He is or to suppress Him as we aimlessly pursue the empty promises of this fleeting world.

Heavenly Father,

I pray that the spiritual-blinders may be lifted from unbelievers’s eyes to see You for Who you are in all Your honor and glory. Strengthen us as a Church so that we may faithfully share the Good News of the Gospel Message for everyone to hear! Also, please bring those of us who have gone astray back to You realizing how lost we are without You. Help us all to always cling close to You and please provide us with a re-vitalized hunger to know you more richly and deeply!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray, Amen.

 

“Take off the GraveClothes and Put on the GraceClothes!”

The enemy has always had a propensity to offer cheap substitutes in exchange for the glorious hope which can be found only in Christ Himself. The fleshly desires which have plagued Contentment in Himhumanity since the Fall do not satisfy simply because they cannot satisfy. The desires of the flesh are unquenchable and they will continuously demand more and more. Interestingly, the more that we feed these desires, the more that they will hunger and thirst to be filled. True, soul-satisfying contentment is not found in more money, a bigger house, a faster car, a more lucrative career, a better education, partying it up, a more attractive spouse or even religion for the matter. You will literally go insane chasing after these empty pursuits because you will always come up short! Feelings of disappointment and disillusionment will ensue every single time. There is unequivocally nothing under the sun which is capable of ever providing our hearts with full and lasting satisfaction.

Our God is certainly a compassionate Father abounding in patience desiring for all of us to come to repentance, however I do believe that there is a point of no return that deserves to be mentioned. Dabbling in sin, particularly habitual sin, is extremely dangerous territory for the Christian. A prime example of this in found when Esau sells his birthright inheritance for a single meal, directly disobeying God. Upon desiring God’s blessing, Esau is unable to repent despite the fact that he sought it earnestly.

Hebrews 12:15-17 tells us:

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

When it comes to sin in our own lives, particularly with respect to repeated, intentional and habitual sin, I fear that too many believers mistakenly believe that God’s grace somehow provides a licence for them to remain in this sin. In Romans 6:1-4 Paul reminds believers of the following:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The enemy is very cunning and deceptive with the strategy and the tactics he uses to lure us into committing sinful behaviours. What I have learnt from books as well as personal experience is that if we are not actively pursuing the Lord, then we are in effect drifting away which quenches the indwelling Holy Spirit. One of Satan’s primary weapons is to do whatever it takes to persuade us to compromise away No Compromiseour Christian convictions. It always starts with something seemingly small and innocent. As time progresses, we begin to rationalize and justify why this sin is not actually sin at all, falling prey to the enemy’s lies. Moreover, we begin to build up a threshold of tolerance where we our flesh demands more of a “buzz”. At this point, the seemingly innocent sin evolves into an addictive sinful pattern progressively pulling us further and further away from God. Our formerly high sensitivity to this sin gradually depletes and unbeknownst to the Christian, he or she has strayed so far away that it becomes exceedingly challenging to repent.

This concept of reaching a point of no return is quite controversial however I do believe that it merits discussion because Satan is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour on sight(1 Pet 5:8). 1 John 5:16-17 talks about sinning unto death below:

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

GotQuestion.org defines the “sin unto death” as “willful, continuous, unrepentant sin”. This specific passage is exceedingly complicated to interpret, however it should underscore the reality that we are living in a spiritual battleground where we need God every second of every minute of every hour of every day. We need to be consistently growing and maturing in our faith through being in God’s Word and living out an authentic Christian Life in joyful obedience to Him. We should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we need not even entertain the very thought of committing any sin which formerly held us captive.

In a like manner Ephesians 4:17-19 says,

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

It is completely illogical to re-visit our former sinful ways because of this infinitely precious and glorious gift we have in Christ Jesus Who imputes His entire righteousness onto us when we humbly believe and trust in His atoning work on Calvary! We need to crucify those old fleshly desires and “…put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”(Eph. 4:24). Jesus already paid the price in full and destroyed the power which sin formerly had over us(Romans 7) so let’s embrace this glorious freedom we have in Christ!

New in Jesus

Reference: http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-unto-death.html 

The Way God Wins

Thank-you for sharing this beautiful reflection on the incomprehensibly glorious significance of the Cross!
God bless!

The Game Huddle

Gabriel Rosa Photo Credit: Gabriel Rosa via CC Flickr

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses…., God made alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in (Jesus).” Colossians 2:13–15 ESV

When God wins, He wins big time! We’re not talking an overtime, squeak-it-out victory. And we’re not talking about a soccer game where there’s a shootout win because one ball dribbles in, but otherwise it would have been a tie. God doesn’t operate like that. When He wins a battle, His victory is decisive.

As God was pouring out His wrath on His Son, we were there in His mind. From each painful step to Calvary, to His last…

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