Category Archives: Manna for Today

WHEN THE LORD BLESSSES YOU

In Deuteronomy 7:1-14; 8, the nation of Israel was on the verge of entering the promised land after many years of wandering. God, through Moses, gave them some instructions as they planned to settle in the land. But before giving these admonitions, the Lord reminded them about their past journey. God had severally rescued them from their enemies, delivered them miraculously, taught them, nurtured them through their challenges, and miraculously provided for their needs. As a result, they were now a people destined for an inheritance. God’s past dealings with them gave them some obligations as people. This is a timeless truth.

Therefore, when the Lord blesses you, remember to:

  1. Maintain your Identity in Him (7:2-8)- The people of ancient Israel were to set themselves apart as a special people to God. They had to jealously safeguard their (special) covenant relationship with God. Here, to be set apart means to be holy and blameless.

They were reminded that they were the chosen ones of God on the face of the earth. What a privileged position and favor! They were God’s treasured possession, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, called to declare God’s praises among the nations.

Also, they were reminded that God’s choice over them was not meritorious. Rather, it was a gracious act. There was nothing special to them that could attract God to them. In fact, they were not numerous than other people (people power), also, they were the fewest of all the people (insignificant). But God only exercised his love toward them because he was fulfilling the promise made with their patriarch, Abraham.

However, setting themselves apart was not going to come easy; they were to take radical steps against sin to remain holy to their God. For their safety, they were not to intermarry with those with opposing belief system (not to be yoke with unbelievers/friendship with the world is enmity with God), they were also required to break down their altars. Simply, they were not to adopt a lifestyle that was alien to their cultural, ethical, and spiritual foundations.

Holiness does not come easy; it involves constant, deliberate, and decisive moves against apostasy, sin, and wickedness.

Today, has the Lord God done so much to/for you (or blessed you) that you wonder how to thank Him? maintain your identity by living a godly life. Offer your body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God- as your spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1-2). Thank Him by living a godly life. It is what pleases him. When you live a holy life in thankfulness for what God has done, you glorify Him (Matt. 5:16). In other words, you cannot thank God if you are deliberately living in sin

  1. Seek to Know the Lord- (7:9-10)
  • Increase in the knowledge of God– Seek to know what he cherishes, his will, what pleases him, and what makes him angry. Seek him, his kingdom, and His righteousness (Matt. 6:33). We often want to increase in knowledge of our professions, that is good, but we need to extend the same spirit in seeking God’s knowledge.

In this knowledge, realize that the Lord is your God is faithful (hesed), keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Seek him as your greatest treasure (Matt. 13:43-45); make him your all in all; and, involve him in your life.

  • Do not forget the Lord (8:2)- It is interesting that we remember what we want to forget and forget what we should remember. The people of ancient Israel were instructed to remember the Lord and what he done in the past.

How can one FORGET the Lord and what the Lord has done in the past? Well, this is a common temptation to all of us. When the Lord blesses us, it is very easy to end up focusing on the blessings than the source/One blessing us.

Moses noted that the people will unsurprisingly forget the past miracles through the vast dreadful desert, thirsty and waterless land, with its venomous snakes and scorpions, military victories, the water out of the rock, and the manna in the desert. Sadly, this is one of the problems of the human heart: forgetting God.

When we forget the Lord and his workings in our lives, we give room for our hearts to be occupied by pride (8:14). We soon allow other gods and idols to take a center stage of our lives.

Pride (the spirit of independence) is something that crawls in silently and grows gradually without our realization; Moses warned that if they do not guard their hearts, they might end up saying, “’My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth…” (8:16-18). Therefore, for us today, it is paramount to stay humble and understand that everything we have has been received, because of God’s graciousness.

  • Love Him, serve Him, and fear Him– (6:5,13) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

It is not enough that we are consecrated to the Lord and that we know him, we need to love him and serve him wholeheartedly with all that we are and have.

In Exodus 10:26, Moses adamantly told Pharaoh that the people will have to leave Egypt with their possessions because they will need it in their worship of God; “Our livestock too must go with us; not a hoof is to be left behind. We have to use some of them in worshipping the Lord our God…” We need to present not just ourselves to the Lord but also our possessions. God needs our possessions. We should serve the Lord with our wealth, don’t waste it on worthless things.

Giving is one of the ways we can serve the Lord and promote his kingdom; giving generously is one way of declaring that everything we have has been received and we are only stewards of God’s resources. A grateful heart gives; and by giving you make what you have received a tool for service rather than an idol of worship.

III. Follow the word of God (7:11-26)- God had revealed his word to Israel; and this was to be the basis for their belief and living. Torah contained God’s expectation, and God’s past dealings with them in regard to salvation. They were to read it, interpret it, and apply it. It contained guidance for their living, food for their nourishment, warnings for their good and promises for their success.

Obedience to God’s word ensured their continued blessings. Also, obedience to the word of God demonstrates our commitment to God; Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching” (Jn. 14:23).

This is what happens when you observe the word of God and revere him: God will keep his commandment of love with you, he will love you, he will bless you and increase you, he will bless your families, bless your jobs/crops of your field and herds of your flock. He will lift you up above others, he will keep you free from diseases, he will ensure that no one will stand against you, he will give you victory, and accomplish the impossible for you (7:17-24).

Walking in God’s ways radicality in regard to sin. Walking in obedience to God and his word means taking deliberate actions against falling into the snare of idolatry, destroying any form of idolatry, not to coveting the treasures of the wicked (7:16).

It is foolish and evil when some people use God or his name (as a bridge) for their ends; and quickly abandon him when they have secured their desired end.

IV. Praise/Bless him (8:10-)– When the Lord blesses you and have eaten and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, when your property increases, and when your money multiplies, remember to praise the Lord.

Praising/blessing the Lord involves declaring him as the source of the power of your success.

In Psalm 116:12, the psalmist communes with his own heart on how to respond to God’s grace and providence. He writes, “How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?

First, the Psalmist says that he will call upon the name of the Lord. He will declare God’s name and deeds among his people. Having tasted of the goodness of the Lord the Psalmist will invite others to come to the living waters where they can eat and drink without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1-2). He will make the world know that the source of his help, joy, peace and salvation. He will let the world know that in Jesus there is a healer, provider, sanctifier, deliverer, redeemer, savior, hope and eternal life. He will lift up the name of the Lord, he will decrease as he increases (Jn. 3:30).

Second, the psalmist will fulfill his vows to God. Perhaps in his dark moments, he had made a vow to the Lord; and since the Lord had acted in his goodness, he will fulfill his vows.

As a person, you may have made a vow when you were sick, desperate, unemployed, in distress, or needed a sort of deliverance, breakthrough or promotion. Then the unbelievable happened through God’s intervention. You got healed, you got a job/promotion, or your business started picking up; or simply put, you became delivered from your ‘enemies’ and fears. The best thing to do is to remember to fulfill the verbal commitments you made to the Lord. The Lord commands, “When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said” (Num. 30:2).

Concluding Thoughts: When the Lord blesses us, let us: Set ourselves apart for the Lord and his purposes; Seek to know the Lord; Follow the word of God; Praise Him.

God Our Refuge

refuge God

When in distress, where do you run to?

When Israel finally conquered the promised land, God commanded Joshua to set aside six cities of refuge (Joshua 20). These cities were to be set strategically in the promised Land.

What was the purpose of these cities?

The cities were to be safe havens to those who unintentionally find themselves in trouble. For instance, anyone who killed a person accidentally/unintentionally fled to any of these places for protection from the avenger of blood. By running into these cities, the offender received a lifeline. In these cities, a victim was granted asylum until the trial of his case was held in the presence of the community. In short, a city of refuge was a place of safety in times of danger.

Over time, theologically, the idea of finding refuge in geographical places was replaced by the idea of finding refuge in the Person of God. A shift from a PLACE to a PERSON!

In 2 Samuel 22:1-4, David proclaimed, THE LORD IS MY REFUGE. He referred to God as his rock, fortress, stronghold and shield. The idea of a place being a refuge place began to remotely disappear in their theology, and the idea of God as refuge took a center stage.

Now, instead of a geographical location, the Lord is a stronghold to the oppressed, poor, and those who are in trouble (Ps. 9:9; Isa 25:3).

Bible mentions some benefits that come from having God as our refuge. Those who take refuge in God (even today) receive:

Blessings– Those who take refuge in him are blessed, are filled with joy and gladness (Ps. 2:12; 5:12). Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (Ps. 34:8).

Protection– They that run to Him receive protection (Ps. 5:11). The Lord is a shield to those who shelter under his wings (2 Sam. 22:31; Ps. 18:30). Those who trust in God are kept safe (Ps. 16:1-2). The Lord guards them; “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Ps. 91:4).

Deliverance– Those who shelter in the Almighty receive deliverance from enemies and from the traps of enemies. The Lord delivers his own from the wicked. He is the strong tower against our enemies (Ps. 61:3-4), therefore worthy to be trusted at all times. David confessed, “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you, save me and deliver me from all who pursue me” (Ps. 7:1ff; 11:1; 31:4). Also, David expressed his confidence in God, the trustworthy deliverer; for those who trust in God as their refuge are also rescued from shame (Ps. 25:20) and are redeemed (Ps. 34:22). If we want to receive honor instead of shame, then we need to hide under His wings.

Love and Goodness of the Lord– Those who take refuge in God are shown the wonder of God’s great love (Ps. 17:7-9) and enjoy the goodness of God (Ps. 31:19-20).

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Where do you seek your refuge today? Is it in places, people, family, beauty, knowledge, material things, relationships? Ultimately, these options disappoint. Realize that even people who have sought refuge places in schools and in church buildings, in the past, were disappointed when those ‘safe’ places were razed.

If God is your refuge, you will not fear (Ps. 46). You will not be moved.

The safest place to be in the times of storm is to be under the shadow of His wings. The Lord is the strong shelter from the wind, a shade from the heat of the day, a refuge and hiding place from the storm and rain.

Like the Psalmist, the Lord is and has been our refuge, we tell him what concerns us and he delivers us. Also, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” (Ps 46:1); “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1).

Jesus Christ is the refuge’ to those who run to him; even the vilest sinner who runs to him finds life. He is a safe refuge we can run to from the sinful world and turbulence of life.

Life has eventualities, just as the Mosaic law anticipated and made some legal provisions. But more importantly, we need to have a PERSON we can run into and be safe. The Lord is that sure refuge; not places or human beings.

Today, make the sovereign Lord your refuge. The psalmist exhorts us to choose God as our refuge for it is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man or in princes (Ps. 118:8). What does this mean to you?

A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it” (Prov. 22:3).

Over time, theologically, the idea of finding refuge in geographical places was replaced by the idea of finding refuge in the Person of God. A shift from a PLACE to a PERSON!

KNOWING GOD THROUGH HIS NAMES

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What is God like?

Bible uses several names to describe the nature and character of God. Each of these names and titles (and other metaphors and similes), like different facets of a diamond, reveal to us a unique quality, character, and identity of God. Although, no single name reveals all that may be known about Him. Collectively, through these names, we can know God better and increase our knowledge of Him.

However, in our experiences, we are confronted with false notions/views about God. Also, there is growing ignorance of who God is. And undeniably, wrong concepts/perspectives of God lead to wrong behavior; the high or low perspectives of God affects our thinking, conduct, and attitudes.

Therefore, it is important for us today to think rightly about God. We can only achieve this not on our own but based on the revealed word of God.

Biblical knowledge of God, through his revealed names, will enable us to confront distorted views of God. It was Jesus’ prayer that we may know Him (Jn. 17:3); and it was Paul’s greatest desire to know him more (Phil. 3:10).

Today, we would like to look at two names of God, as revealed in the Bible, namely: Elohim and El-Olam. Admittedly, the English names: God and Lord, furnish us with little information about His character and ways. That is why looking at these two names in the Hebrew language is instructive.

  1. Elohim (See Gen. 1)

The prefix (or shorter form) “El” was both the word for “god” and the name of the original high god among the Semitic peoples of the ancient Middle East. But among the Hebrews, the name Elohim was prominently used. El means God (of heaven), mighty one, strong. The ancient people depicted El as the great God; as opposed to a weak, passive, or powerless God. The plural rendering of the name is a plural of majesty.

In the Bible, the name Elohim is second in use (used about 2,570) after the name Yahweh. Sometimes these two names (Jehovah-Elohim) are combined. So, in what contexts are these names used, and what qualities of God do these names highlight.

Instances where the name Elohim is used in the Bible

God the Creator– The use of the name Elohim in Genesis 1 (appearing 32 times) depicts him as the Creator who causes things that are not to be. He spoke into existence things that were not. He fills the emptiness, brings out light out of darkness, form out of formlessness, and order out of disorder. Importantly, he creates man our of his image and likeness. By him, all things were created (Acts 17:24ff; Col. 1:16). He existed before the creation of all things. He is the source and sustainer of all things. In creation, Elohim speaks of himself as us (Gen. 1:26)

God the Deliverer– He delivered Israel up out of Egypt (Num. 23:22). He is the Savior of his people (Gen. 26:24).

God the Sovereign One– He is depicted as God of all the kingdoms of the earth (Isa. 37:16). The Lord of heaven and the earth (Gen. 24:3). The God of gods, the Lord of lords who is great and mighty (Deut. 10:17). He is all-powerful.

How big is your God? Is your God sovereign over every area of your life?

God of Relationships– Elohim is depicted as God who is near to his people (Jer. 23:23) and is the God of mercy (Ps. 59:17). He is the God who seeks a relationship with those who believe in him; he calls himself the “God of Abraham.”

He is the Lord of a second chance, Elohim established a covenant with Noah after the flood (Gen. 6:18; 9:15,16). He is the Lord who is faithful to his covenant; he remembered his covenant with Abraham when he judged Sodom, and saved Lot and his family (Gen. 19:29). He is the God who fulfills his word; in his deathbed, Joseph told his brothers, “I am about to die, but God (Elohim) will surely come to your aid and take you up out of this land he promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” (Gen 50:24).

Implications of the name Elohim for us Today

Elohim as creator, deliverer, sovereign, and God who seeks an intimate relationship with his people….

2. El-Olam (Gen 21:33)

This is a description of a quality of God, bringing out the concept of eternity of God. He is limitless.

The Lord is the everlasting God (Isa 40:28). Moses wrote, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2).

His rule and dominion endure through all generations (Ps. 145:13).

He has no beginning and no end. He is Alpha and Omega.

He makes things work at his appointed time. He is not limited by time. He can accomplish his purposes even when we think the time is not (no longer) right or favorable.

Implications of the name El-Olam for us Today

Since God is eternal and everything else around us is passing away, we can then anchor our lives on him. We can shelter and find refuge in him (Ps. 90:1).

It is possible to be imprisoned by fear, but the eternity of God reminds us that God eternal has already lived in our tomorrows.

We need to embrace the life that Jesus gives. He proclaimed that he had come to abolish death and to give us life.

Concluding Thoughts

What (picture/concept) comes into your mind when you think about God?

We need to recognize two temptations concerning what we’ve talked about. First, is the temptation to create God in our own image. It could be fashioning God in line with our own personal, conventional, or cultural beliefs. And certainly, this leads to wrong views about God.

Since everything rises or falls with our concept of God, we need to probe long-held false views of God, unlearn then, and rediscover Him; so that we can worship him as he is.

It has been said that God is not what we believe, rather, we believe in what God…

Second, there is the temptation to suppress the truth that has been revealed to us about God. Paul noted that although creation testifies the there is a creator (Rom 1:19, 20), human beings in their unrighteousness have suppressed this truth (Ps 19:1-4; Rom 1:18). In rebellion, human beings suppress and reject this knowledge. Paul writes that “although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful” (Rom 1:21).

God is not a mysterious being to us, he’s has revealed himself specifically through his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2).

So, has the knowledge of the Holy one transformed the way we live?

Finally, may the knowledge of Elohim enable us to embrace God’s power over our lives. And may the knowledge of the eternity of God help us anchor our lives on Christ, who gives life in abundance.

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

In any conversation, engagement, and communication, the use of words is inevitable. We use words to express our ideas, emotions, and feelings. We use words to cause an action or reaction. We tell a story using words. Words have meaning, influence, and impact. More importantly, we communicate the gospel message using words.

Depending on how we use them, words can build up or tear down, incite, encourage or discourage. The tongue is small but has great power. Therefore, it is important to learn from God’s word how we can handle the power of the tongue.

Text: James 3:1-12

Warning and the Danger of Words (v.1-2):

  • James warns that not many should presume to be teachers. Why teachers? It is because teachers use words as tools just as a carpenter uses a hammer…
  • But is this a danger exclusive to teachers? In verse 2, the danger is to ALL; “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” All of us, in one way or another, use words, and so the danger is real.

The Power of the Tongue (v. 4-12). The Tongue has:

I. Power to Direct (v.3-4)– James gives us two examples of a bit and rudder.

  • When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, it makes it possible to turn the whole animal.
  • Although large and driven by strong winds, a ship is steered by a rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
  • The bit and rudder are small but provide direction to the horse and ship. They offer direction and control.
  • We can direct people’s lives on the right path with seasoned words.
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  • II. Power to Destroy (v.5-8) – Two examples are given here- fire and animal (v. 5-8).
  • The tongue is like the small spark that sets a great forest on fire- It should not be underestimated, just like a small crack in a ship.

Words have the capacity to destroy families, fellowships, and communities, and bring splits and divisions. A small slander can cause big harm to a fellowship.

The tongue is a fire. You know that fire is good when it is under control; it can warm people, give light, and cook food. But when it is out of control, it can create massive destruction. It can burn, consume and destroy what we value.

Like a drug, it is something good that within it has the capacity to be poisonous. It can corrupt the whole person and set the whole course of his life on fire…

Our words can start fires and destroy what took ages to build and can also quench fires.

So how can you control/put into check this fire?

  • Like all kinds of animals and birds, the tongue needs to be tamed. And it is good to know that it can be tamed. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

III. Power to Bring Life or Death (v.9-12)

The tongue has the power to pronounce curses or blessings. Out of the same mouth can come blessing or curse. The tongue is powerful, right?

A positive or negative word said to a person may have a life-long impact.

Solomon said, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).

The Challenge Today: In churches, fellowship groups, families, communities, and nations, many people have not learned to control their tongues. They do not even understand the impact/power of their words.

So how can we control our tongues and rightly channel the tongue’s power?I. Determine Who is in Control

  • Who is at the steering wheel of your life? Is Jesus enthroned in your heart? If he is not enthroned in your heart, then he is not enthroned in your speech.
  • Since it is difficult to perfectly tame the tongue, we need help from God.
  • When Jesus Christ is the Master of the heart, He is the Lord of the lips too.
  • Always guard your heart (Prov. 4:23), knowing that Satan can also use our tongues.
  • David prayed, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Let me not be drawn to what is evil…” (Ps. 141:3-4a).
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  • II. Choose How to Use your Tongue
  • Will you use your tongue to bless or curse? The choice is yours.
  • We can choose to use our tongues to slander, swear falsely, gossip, curse, blaspheme, boast, destroy, tear down, or discourage.
  • But at the same time, we can choose to use our tongues to praise God, exalt Jesus, encourage, and build up.
  • Guard what enters into your heart- the “garbage in, garbage out” principle is also biblical. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34).
  • In the final analysis, you cannot be both a fresh and salty spring. You only can become one. You cannot be a fig tree and bear olives, or be a grapevine and produce figs. We recognize spring by its water and tree by its fruit.
  • A double-tongued person is a poisoned tongue (praising God at one time and hurling unprintables to the brother/sister. Choose to bless with your tongue.

III. Resolve to Control Your Tongue

  • It is possible that you make a resolve to speak about what is truthful-in love is and in a way that builds up.
  • Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Col. 4:6).
  • Resolve to reason before you talk. Learn to control what you say.
  • Revolving to speak words of life. Fill your heart and mind with the word of God.
  • (Realize that I’m not saying you zip up your mouth or speak less).
  1. Develop Your Fellowship with God
  • When we have fellowship with God, we will definitely talk about what is true.
  • Continually Learn to practice what we preach, say, sing.
  • As you submit and surrender to God, He will fill your mouth with eternal words.
  • Spiritual maturity requires a tamed tongue.

tongue

Gaining by Losing

gain

In the first part of Philippians chapter 3 (3:1-11), Paul’s recounts his former and present life. Before his encounter with Christ, Paul based his confidence in the “flesh.” But after his experience with the risen Lord, his life totally changed! He put his confidence in God. In this church, false teachers from the Jewish background had spread false ideas with potential to cause conflicts and divisions. They boasted on external aspects of identity rather than looking at their newfound identity and calling in Christ. Today, believers in Christ should be changed by this transformative message of the gospel. We should be ready to lose in order to gain.

  1. Paul’s Former Basis for Confidence in the Flesh
  • Circumcised on the Eight day– The false teachers (referred to as ‘dogs’) emphasized on the need of the Jewish rite of circumcision beside believing in Christ. Circumcision practice was usually celebrated among the Jewish people as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Gen 17:14). To the Jewish people, it was a mark of identity and belonging. Paul claims he can validly boast because he was circumcised in exact compliance with the law (Gen 17:12; Lev. 12:3; Lk 1:59). Gentiles were “uncircumcised”
  • Of the people of Israel– Paul descended from the patriarch Jacob; and as an average Jew, he could trace his family lineage all the way to Abraham. He was a true member of God’s covenant people. He was not a Samaritan, proselyte, God-fearer or pagan…
  • From the tribe of Benjamin– We know that Benjamin was the most favorite son of Jacob. Significantly, it was one of the remnant tribes that remained with Judah (also godly) and when the other ten tribes seceded (1 Kings 12:21).
  • Hebrew of Hebrews– An expression expressing the superlative degree. Although born in a pagan country, Tarsus, his parents were Hebrews and so he was a true Jew with no ‘mixed blood’.
  • Pharisee, regarding the law– the Pharisees were the strictest sect within Judaism, with legalistic interpretation of the law of Moses (Acts 23:6-9; 26:5). Paul was a well-trained Pharisee.
  • Zealous Jew– Due to his devotion and zeal to safeguard the law and Judaism, Paul persecuted the church of Jesus Christ.
  • In the eyes of the law– Legally, faultless and righteous. Paul’s former righteousness was obtained by observation of the law. He could pride over other the legal standing because in the eyes of the law he was by far better than any other Jews and Gentiles.

From what we have looked at, Paul had a strong basis to boast or to glory in his Jewish-related privileges. He could boast of his cultural identity (ethnicity), what he has done (merits) and what he has not done (to break the law). These are the things (confidence in the flesh) that the false teachers, Judaizers, promoted and boasted about. They boasted about

This may look distant to us, but the point is real. In most cases, are tempted to take rely/pride in our tribes (as regrouping points), connections, wealth, jobs, experience, politicians, families, birth/inherited privileges, education, etc. These are good things but can become ‘idols’ when we use them as yardsticks of everything. Going by these distinctions will not help the body of Christ; these looks at the outside and not the inside. It focuses on standards set by men and not by God.

  1. But Something Radical Happened…

Saul encountered Christ Jesus. In his Damascus road experience, he realized that he had all along been blind without knowing. He realized he had been attaching value on wrong things. He realized that he had been basing his life on a wrong foundation- “flesh.” He realized that his zeal was devoid of knowledge. He realized that he was so lost that he direly needed a bearing for a true salvation. he realized that he was wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.

When his eyes were opened, he realized that truth and life are not abstract concepts but a person.

And so, he had to scale down from the ladder that leaned on the “flesh” in order to climb up the right ladder that leans on “God.”

Entirely, his encounter with Jesus Christ transformed his mind, world view, and heart. The life of the new Paul was never the same again.

Have you had this encounter with Jesus?

 III. What Did this Transformative Encounter Lead to?

Paul now considered what was formerly profit a LOSS. He literally began a journey of losing. Christianity is a journey of losing and gaining. He started detaching value from what is worthless and putting value on what is praiseworthy and eternal. He now wanted to glory/boast in Christ.

What was formerly an advantage was now a loss, for the sake of Christ (v.7, 8). He realized that the very things that led him by the nose like a bull were the very things that hindered him from coming to the true faith in Christ. Now they are a loss. He now considers them all a “rubbish” (refuse, what is thrown away as worthless, chaff, refuse of a table, or of slaughtered animals, and then filthy of any kind), he no longer depends on them. He no longer esteems rites (circumcision), ethnicity, or birth privileges. Instead, he now has an identity defined by his relationship with Christ.

In Philippi, the slave girl lost her demonic gift, reputation, and power to predict the future and to earn money out of it. The disciples gave up everything- houses, brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, fields for Christ’s sake (Matt.19:29). For our behalf, Jesus gave up- his riches (2 Cor. 8:9), glory, joys of heaven to be a ‘man of sorrows’, immunity from temptation so as to be tempted, etc. (Phil 2:6-11). Many have lost friends, names, property, social exclusion, and abandonment.

Are there some things that you have lost as a result of your union with Christ?  Can you be able to say:

I no longer live the life I used to live; sing the songs I used to sing; eat the food I used to eat; drinks what I used to drink. I am able to truly say: I no longer talk the way I used to talk; go to places I used to go; think the way I used to think; or do what I used to do…. Have we suffered loss/renounced/given up some behaviors, attitudes, shameful ways (2 Cor. 4:2), patterns of the past (2 Cor. 5:17)?

We always sing, ‘count your blessings’; perhaps it is also good to think of ‘counting our loses’

Paul lost all things, but he gained much more than he lost.

What is it that has happened since Christ come into your heart? Are there loses? Have you lost attachment to the ways of the world or people of the world? The problem we have today is that we have many Christians who are unwilling to lose attachment to the (things of the) world. What is it that was formerly dear that you’ve now considered to be rubbish, FOR THE SAKE OF CHRIST.

IV. Things That Paul Wanted to gain (V. 8-11):

By losing “all” Paul did not want to remain empty. Rather, he wanted to be filled by God with worthy, valuable and eternal things. He wanted to receive what is true bread (Isa 55:1-2). He wanted his thirsty to be quenched once and for all (Jn 4:14).

So, what did he seek in exchange? Paul sought:

  • To gain Christ– Christ was the treasure that apostle Paul sought. Christ is the all in all. Secondly, Paul wanted to be found in him-united with Christ.
  • The righteousness of Christ (v.9; cf. Rom 3:21, 23,25) – Paul did not want self-righteousness but a form of righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.
  • The knowledge of Christ (v8)- Paul confesses “I want to know Christ.” Although he had walked with Chrsit for about three decades, Paul still desired a continual intimate/personal relationship with God. To know God is to: know Jesus Christ, walk as Jesus did, and to obey his commands. He wanted to know of his love that surpasses all understanding (Eph 3:19).
  • The power of his resurrection– Paul wanted to continue to know the power that raised Christ from the dead-the power that is now at work in us, the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8; Rom. 1:16; Col. 3:1). This is the same power that quickened us when we were death in our transgressions and sins; the power that brought us to salvation, sustaining us, the power that will present us before God.
  • The fellowship of Christ-(v.10-11)- The fellowship of sharing in his suffering. Similar experience to the baptism experience. Paul desired to suffer like and with Christ so that hw will be overjoyed when is glory is revealed (1 Pet 4:13; Col 1:24). He had a proper perspective of the present pain versus the future gain.
  • Becoming like him in his death- United with Christ in his death- 3:21. Baptism figure. Crucified with Christ… (Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:29-30).
  • Attain the resurrection from the deathPaul believed that the death would be raised (Acts 24:15; 26:6-8; Phil. 3:21) that he will attain this resurrection. He hopes for that glorious resurrection of those who died in the Lord.

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Concluding Thoughts:

Jesus as the single greatest treasure that is worth everything (Matt. 13:44-45)

If you have not lost anything then you have not gained anything.

Paul gained far more than he lost.

If you have not detached yourself from the world then you have not learned the secret of attachment to Christ.

“He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot

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Making a Difference in an Ungodly Generation

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As we live in the world we are reminded that this is not our home. We are children of light in a dark world (Eph. 5:8).

What does the Bible teach us concerning the world?

  • It is fallen and with fallen people; far from God; and full of evil.
  • It has values/ways of this world are opposed to the kingdom values.
  • We are in this world but not of this world (Jn. 17:14-16).
  • Satan is the prince of this the rule of this world (Jn. 12:31; Eph. 2:2)
  • Its structures are against godly values
  • The world is passing away
  • It not the ideal place…
  • The truth is, we can influence the world or still it can influence us….

In this world, people have become:

  • Disobedient; drifting from truth
  • Lovers of themselves and pleasure, and not lovers of God
  • Immoral- degeneration of morality; empty
  • Biblically illiterate
  • Materialistic- pursuing money as the ultimate goal
  • Selfish and do not think of others or God

As a matter of fact, it is very easy to live, talk, and think according to the patterns of the world or according to the ways of the people who are of the world are; especially if we often interact with them more than God’s Word.

So how can we live in such a world as and remain Christ followers? In other words, how can we shine our light in a dark world? How can we live godly lives in the present evil age?

Paul in his letter to Ephesians 5:15—20 and Titus 2:1–14, helps us to practically address this question:

  • Be Careful How You Live (v.15)

By being wise, watchful, discerning/cautious to avoid danger.

Watchful of our belief and conduct. Christians should be wise people.

Being cautious that the waters we are swimming have crocodiles, the path we are walking have mines and thorns.

Be careful not to lean of your own understanding- Prov. 3:5

Be careful if we think we are firmly standing, 1 Cor. 10:12.

Once again, be careful not to fall into the deception of the enemy…

Living not as unwise but as wise– Bible exhorts us to be wise. Wisdom can be attained through asking (Jas. 1:5); through read and applying God’s word (2 Tim 3:14,15).

The word of God is able to guide you, build you up, make you wise, make you grow, cleanse you and shape your character and attitudes. At its base, wisdom is the fear of God (Prov. 9:10).

Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil (Rom 16:19).

Be watchful and wise about the company you keep (2 Cor 6:17).

  • Making the Most of Every Opportunity (V.16)

Time and chance happens to all (Eccl 9:11)

Opportunities are seized. Grab every opportunity to grow, know Christ.

Make use of time and opportunities to be a blessing, to touch lives, to participate in big things, to serve God, to improve your present situation….

Why? Life is short (Ps. 90:12); and the days are evil (present times are full of temptations, evil people).

Be like the men of Issachar, who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12:32).

  • Understand the Lord’s Will (V.17)

God created us for a special purpose; but we need to discover/seek to understand and APPLY that purpose for our OWN lives.

The will of God is revealed in His Word. It is the will of God that you should be sober, holy, and steadfast.

It is the will of God that you submit to the Lordship of Christ. It is the will of God that you should be committed in the church. We seek to know and accomplish what pleases Him.

It has never been easy thing to be a true Christian in any generation…

What does God want you to be if you live to be 80?

  • Be Filled With the Holy Spirit (V.18)– Have the God-influence over your life, by allowing God’s Spirit to indwell, control, and transform you. “Drunk” with the Spirit.

The Spirit of God enables us to receive strength, overcome evil forces of the enemy (Ep 6:10-18;) overcome sin (Rom 8:13). Overcome flesh (Gal. 5:16, overcome the word (1 Jn. 5:4).

When you are filled with the Holy Spirit the fruit of the spirit will be manifest.

  • Be Joyful and be Thankful (V.19-20)

One of the characteristic of people of the world is that they are both ungrateful and have no true joy.

Encourage one another; speaking to each other, enjoying the fellowship of one another and praising God.

Be thankful to God for all things or all persons- including your family, situations… Acknowledge God, the one who has graciously gifted you with unmerited favors. A grateful and joyful heart makes a lot of difference.

 

Blessings of Justification

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In Romans 5:1-11 Paul explains the blessings that comes through justification by faith. Faith in Christ brings a believer some benefits of salvation

Since we have been justified, we have:

  1. Peace (v. 1-2a)- “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A Greek variant reading of some credible manuscripts have the subjunctive form of the indicative verb ἔχομεν; which can be rendered “let us have peace” (subjunctive). But the context supports ‘we have peace’.

 Formerly, believers were enemies with God because of sin and rebellion (Rom. 5:10, 8:7). Perhaps being an enemy with men can be treated as a nonissue; but being an enemy of God, the might Warrior, is a big problem. Previously, hostility and alienation characterized this relationship.

But now, because of the reconciling work of Christ on the cross,believers have peace with God. We have peace with God because our sins have been forgiven and our guilt removed. We’re no longer objects of God’s wrath that is to be revealed upon the ungodly. We are sons of God, restored and redeemed.

The Greek word for peace eirene is shallow in meaning (it expresses absence/cessation of war) but the Hebrew concept of shalom is more profound in meaning, “well-being including social harmony, communal well-doing. God’s peace brings to our hearts some inner sense of security and serenity (Isa. 32:17-8).

Do you have this peace? If not what has robbed your precious peace with God? Remember, Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14, 15, 17), and He gives peace to his loved ones (Num. 6:26) … ask him….

Peace is God’s gift even amidst cares and sorrows, the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7). People who search for peace never find it until they find fulfillment in God.  For those who posses it, it is our duty to keep having peace with God.

Importantly, having peace with God also brings with it the access into grace (v.2a)- Through Jesus we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We have received favor and acceptance. Believers experience the richness of his grace; the abounding grace, that is new every morning.

2. Joy (v.2b)- We rejoice (or boast) in the hope of glory of God (v.2b.). A Greek variant also has “let us rejoice” (indicative and subjunctive). He is the “hope of glory.”

The glory of God is the end for which he created mankind. We rejoice that our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice even when the circumstances around us does not allow. Our God-given inner joy does not depend on happenings. This joy delights in the fact that God is at work in and through us. Outwardly, things may not look good, but we should rejoice in Christ always. Because we know that something good will eventually come out. Let not concerns of our lives rob us the God-given joy.

3. Hope (3a-5a)– We rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance-character-hope (a hope that does not disappoint/put one to shame). Paul knows that suffering is something we must deal with in life. Suffering is inevitable because we are in an evil world, with evil people, Satan, and with evil nature. This is enough to cause us trouble.

Jesus warned, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The apostles knew, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In suffering, we are supposed to be joyful, hopeful, and determined. Suffering refines or strengthens our faith; it shapes our character to produce hope. God uses suffering to build our lives, he can turn evil intended against us for our own good. Suffering is not our destination but a temporary valley we go through.  So, the testing of your faith should not destroy your zeal for the Lord rather strengthen it.

Working or studying in AIU may be an opportunity to serve/make a living or further intellectual pursuits respectively. But remember that it is also an opportunity for God to refine your faith and test its genuineness. How do we respond to these moments? God is achieving in us something of greater worth…our character is developed, and our hope grounded more.

Is hope alive in you today? In a hopeless world it is easy to maintain hope. There is hope even when hope is lost because God promises to give us hope (Jer. 29:11).

4. Love (5b-11)– God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

God showed his love to us “at just the right time”- at the fullness of time. This love was lavished upon us when we were weak/powerless, ungodly, and enemies. This love was demonstrated in the death of Christ for sinners; and in adopting us to be sons in his family. (see also Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:1-2; 1 Jn. 4:16). This is a love that embraces unconditionally (1 Cor. 13).

He loved us so that we can proclaim this love to others.

Finally, God’s salvation has always been purely through justification by faith. This is the same salvation message to all humanity. The new status of believers as justified not only brings with it some blessings but also some implication of living a godly life in anticipation of God’s final verdict and deliverance from the wrath of God on the day of judgment. #Baraka

Jesus Christ our Sufficient Sacrifice

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God’s perfect creation in Genesis 1—2 was distorted by the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. The entrance of sin brought about death and curses to human history.

Sin is not only a reality we struggle with but also an affront to a righteous God. Sin is serious. Therefore it has to be dealt with with the seriousness it deserves.

In the OT God in His wisdom and grace God chose to make a temporary way sin can be atoned as the coming of Christ is awaited. A substitutionary animal sacrifices was allowed for remission of sins. For sin to be atone for, there must be a shedding of blood (lose of life).

And so, the idea of animal sacrifices and levitical priesthood runs throughout the OT as a shadow of the NT reality in Christ.

Significantly, in the OT, there was a specific national day (the day of atonement) in which sins were atoned for. This day highlights seriousness of sin and God’s hatred for sin and demands for righteousness.

Understanding the Day of atonement, helps us understand better the sacrifice of Jesus.

Key Highlights of the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16

  • Apart from having the other daily sacrifices, the annual day of atonement was a day of fast; a day God cleansed all the sins of his people; and the only day the high priest entered the Holy of Holies/the Most Holy Palace.
  • The high priest prepared himself to appear before God in a worthy manner.
  • A bull and two goats were required for the sacrifice. One goat was for the for the Lord (sin offering) and another for the scapegoat.
  • Aaron was to slaughter the bull for his personal sin offering and his household.
  • The high priest slaughtered the goat for sin offering for the people and took its blood behind the curtain and sprinkled on the atonement cover and in front of it. This showed that Israel’s sin could only be atoned for by a substitutionary death V15.
  • Concerning the scapegoat- The high priest was to lay both hands on the head of the live goat and confess over it all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins- and put them on the goat’s head. This goat was then released to the desert. The goat will carry on itself all their sins to a solitary place. (According to Jewish tradition the goat was subsequently thrown over a cliff to prevent it from returning).

But there was a problem… clearly the animal sacrifices were insufficient in the following ways:

  • The Day of atonement and sacrifices were repeated endlessly year by year. No one sacrifice was enough or final. The sacrifices were an annual reminder of sins because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
  • It never made perfect the worshippers. The worshippers still felt guilty for their sins.
  • The day of Atonement was only a “shadow” of a reality that was to come through Jesus (Heb. 5:1-14).

 Sufficiency of the sacrifice of Jesus (Heb. 5, 9)

  • Like the sacrificed animal, he shed his blood for forgiveness of our sins
  • Jesus as a scapegoat was sent outside the camp (Jerusalem) and took the sins/guilt of his people- (Heb. 13:2; 1Jn 3:5).
  • Jesus was made sin for our righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). He is the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, (Jn. 1:29).
  • Jesus was made curse (Gal. 3:23).
  • His sacrifice is sufficient; perfect, and superior sacrifice- He entered a heavenly sanctuary, by his own blood (never needed to make atonement for himself as a high priest). He now sits at the right hand of God the Father. His sacrifice was once for all and he can make us holy.

The story of the adulterous woman in John 8:2-12 illustrates the sufficiency of Jesus’ sacrifice. Her life was spared because they brought her to Jesus the ultimate and superior sacrifice. The perfect sacrifice of Jesus offers hope. Every hopeless sinner, like this woman, can find hope only in Jesus!  Again, why did God allow her to live? This story offers us profound lessons:

Jesus did not allow her to be put to death simply because in Him there is:

  1. Life- The sacrifice of Jesus offers humanity a free gift of life.

For example, in this story (John 8:2-12), the adulterous woman (we don’t have her real name) had already received her death sentence from her accusers: people and the religious leaders. Perhaps they pondered, “why should she live?” but Jesus perspective was, “why should she die?”

Jesus had come for the very purpose to seek and save that which was lost and to give his life as a ransom for many, Mk 10:45. Jesus also declares, I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. He is the fountain of life and any sinner who turns to him in faith is never turned away but given eternal life.

He gives life and breathes life to your lifeless situations….

  1. Love- The story of the cross of Jesus is the story of unconditional love. While we were still sinners Christ dies for us (Rom. 5:8). He has loved us with an everlasting love. In his love he adopted us into his family as sons.

The woman in this story, like many in our world today, suffered rejection and hate. She was brought early in the morning and before everyone to shame her before stoning her. But Jesus does the unexpected. He accepts her. This does not mean that he affirmed her sin but in accepting her to come to him he clearly displayed God’s unconditional love. We see this love clearer when we look at the cross. God is love (1 Jn. 4:8). A very familiar verse summarizes it all, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son… (Jn. 3:16).

This is a powerful love! What is it that can separate us from the love of Christ?

It is because of love Jesus laid down his life for us (Jn. 15:13; 1 Jn. 3:16).

  1. Forgiveness– In Christ, there is forgiveness of sins. Remember, without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins (Heb. 10:17).

In Christ, we are forgiven- the past, present and future. The death of Jesus as a substitute brought us forgiveness by taking our penalty upon himself.

All we know about the woman in this story is that she was an adulterer. She was a sinner. Like any other sinner, she deserved death. The people and the religious leaders must have justified themselves from Leviticus 20:10, Deuteronomy 22:22. But Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29) took her sin upon himself!

Sadly, we sometimes doubt the forgiveness we have received! Remember, Doubts do not begin from God but from the devil, for he is the accuser of the brothers (Rev. 12:10). Satan plants doubts to paralyze us and the ministry God has put in us.

When Jesus forgives you, you also need to forgive yourself. He is the perfect sacrifice and so you should no longer be crippled by doubt, fear, and guilt conscience.

If you have put your faith in God count your transaction done in Christ! Tetelestai (Jn. 19:30). When God has forgiven who can reverse? Jesus our sacrifice is sufficient.

When Jesus forgives he does it completely: he removes them as far as east is from the west Ps103:12; he casts them behind his back Isa 38:17; he casts then into the depths of the sea Mic 7:19; he forgives all our trespasses Col 2:13; and he remembers them no more Heb 10:17. Amazing! He never leaves the woman the same point he found her, he forgives her and gives her a new beginning. Jesus said, It is not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick, Matt 9:12. There is no remission of sins apart from the shedding of blood.

Since Jesus forgives, we should not live under the guilt of sin but instead confess our sins in order to be forgiven.

  1. Justification– In Jesus there is declaration of righteousness. In Christ, sinners are justified, “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ” Heb 5:10. This righteousness is not based on works but purely on the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, Heb 5:10. It is received by those who put their faith in Jesus Christ, the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

The woman we read about had no righteousness of her own but Jesus’ righteousness was imputed on her. This is precisely what grace is (undeserved favor).

The ultimate Judge took away her guilt and declared her righteous. Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death, Rom 8:1-2. We also know that, God did not send his Son to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him (Jn. 3:17).  Who else can condemn those who the Righteous Judge of all has declared as righteous?

Justification also leads to a process of being made holy (sanctification)…

  1. Freedom– It is only in Jesus that sinners are set free. In this case it freedom to not sin again.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees had a water-tight case against this specific woman until they brought it to Jesus who dismantled it. It is worth noting that Jesus eventually lets her go by telling her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” v11. The newfound freedom is a freedom not to further indulge sin but to serve the living Savior who had freed her (the nation of Israel in Egypt was also freed so as to serve Yahweh.

In the words of apostle Paul she was told, “Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your boy to him as instruments of righteousness” Rom 6:11-13.

  1. Reconciliation- Sin separates us from a holy God. In no other way is the wall of hostility between us and God bridged apart from the only one Mediator between men and God- Jesus Christ. It is through the death of Jesus Christ that we are once again reconciled to God (Rom. 5:11,12; 2 Cor. 5:18,19).

Because of the reconciliation we can come to God’s presence with confidence (Heb. 10:19, Col 1:19). We come before God not because we are worthy but because we are reconciled through the ultimate Sacrifice, Jesus Christ. We confidently bring our needs to Him knowing that he hears us and answers us.

The adulterous woman had broken the law of God, in fact caught in the act, and by status an enemy of God, but Jesus actions toward her demonstrates that God has made a way that sinners can find hope. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation, Col 1:22.

  1. Redemption and deliverance– The penalty for sin is death and Jesus’ audience, together with the adulterous woman, must have understood this fact from the Law of Moses. But when they presented her to Jesus, they unknowingly presented her to the One who ultimately pays the penalty of sin once and for all.

Therefore, the adulterous woman, and any other sinner like you and me, can live because of the redemption through the shed blood of Jesus. The biblical authors testified, In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:13-14). She, like any other sinner who comes to Jesus, was delivered from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light.

Finally… contrast the human and angel fall and reflect on the grace and unique love that God has extended to mankind. Angels fell but no plan was given for their salvation; in fact,  hell was prepared for them. But mankind fell but God gave his very son as a sacrifice so that those who BELIEVE will inherit eternal life.

Jesus Christ- the ONLY Precious Name

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The book of Acts chronicles several miraculous acts that were performed by the apostles in THE NAME OF JESUS.

In Luke’s account, “the name of Jesus” carries a lot of significance as he narrates the working of the Holy Spirit through the apostles as the gospel was proclaimed to the uttermost parts of the world.

It is important for us today to comprehend the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. For by knowing Jesus, we know the Father; “now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (Jn. 17:4).

In Acts 2:37—4:13, Jesus is presented as: the Jesus the author of life; the promised messiah; the descendant of Abraham; the prophesied One. But more so, the name of Jesus Christ is given a lot of significance.

 In this this context, the NAME OF JESUS is the ONLY Name that:

  1. Men are forgiven of their sins– “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38)

It is on the account of this name that sins of men can be forgiven, once and for all. As God’s anointed one, Christ did not sin and so able to forgive sins. He is the High Priest who needed no sacrifice for his own sins because he was sinless.

In this name, those who come to him in faith and repentant hearts are forgiven and their sins remembered no more.

Even the vilest sinner can be forgiven by calling on this name… On the account of this name the adulterous woman was forgiven… Also, by calling on this powerful name, tax collectors, sorcerers and murderous were forgiven and given a new name and identity…

  1. Has power to heal– “Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk” (Acts 3:6,16;4:10).

The apostles healed the man crippled from birth, by calling on the name of Jesus Christ. The name of Jesus is the ONLY name that is able to deliver humanity from weaknesses, diseases and infirmities.

In this name is both physical and spiritual healing.

Medical practitioners treat but God heals.

Yahweh revealed himself as Healer- “I am the Lord who heals you” (Ex. 15:26).

Call upon this name today for him to heal your body, soul, relationships, wounds…

  1. The dead are resurrected- (Acts 4:2)-

Through the name of Jesus Christ, the dead resurrect.

The dead hear his voice; the death Lazarus responded to Jesus’ call (Jn. 1:43). Believers will also resurrect in the future because the same Spirit who lives in them is the same Spirit that resurrected Jesus from the dead.

Through this name there’s life. Jesus gives LIFE. Eternal life.

By implication, he can breathe life to your lifeless situation…

  1. Men can be saved- “Salvation is found in no-one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The name of Jesus is the ONLY name that men can be saved.

Are there other ways men can be saved apart from Christ?

Scriptures clearly affirm that there is no other name under heaven given to men by which they must be saved (Jn. 3:16-18, 14:3; Rom. 10:13-15). There is ONLY ONE way to the Father- Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life.

It is a hard truth and there is no other way around this exclusive view; there is no salvation without accepting and believing in Christ, the author of life, as the one who died for our sins and rose again (Acts 3:15).

Other religions and philosophies that claim to have truth are only false and empty.

Although we have established the fact that Jesus saves, we should also underscore the fact that one has to respond to Him in faith. And this is by calling on this name for salvation.

The Scriptures are clear, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Since there is only one Savior, the church should move with urgency in spreading the message of the gospel to the world lost in sin.

  1. Should be proclaimed(Acts 4:17-18) They taught and spoke in his name. for people to come to salvation in thousands. Their numbers were added increasingly.

This is the name that the apostles testified. It is the name they propagated. They never went about creating brands for themselves, but they proclaimed God’s kingdom and exalted Christ in their preaching, teaching, doctrine and conduct.

Are our ministries today built around our own names or on the name of Jesus…

Are the organizations founded upon this name still actively proclaim this name?…

Are our teaching or preaching ministries Christo-centric?

  1. It is the name through which miraculous signs and wonders can be performed- (Acts 4:30)

It is through this name that demons were cast (Acts 16:18); for it is the name that even demons submit to (Mk. 16:17; Lk. 10:17)

By implication, we have power and victory over the devil and demons through the name of Jesus.

  1. We should prayJesus told his disciples to ask anything in his name (Jn. 14:13-14).

It is through the name of Jesus that we should present our requests known to the Father.

Our prayers are only answered by the Father in Jesus name (Jn. 16:23-24).

This is not a magical formula but a powerful name in which we plead to God. He is our advocate, high priest, and intercessor in heaven.

Therefore, we should not pray through angels but through Christ alone.

It is through this name that through prayer, the lowly are lifted up and the proud are humbled. It is through this name that some rise and some fall…

  1. In his name we serve

Believers in Christ have opportunity to serve God in whatever profession by doing whatever they do in Christ’s name.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

Read Biblical principles on work

Finally…

The name Jesus Christ is a precious name: By this name the vilest sinners are delivered, by this name addict can be made sober; and the lost get found.

At the mention of this name demons flee, through this name kingdoms have been built and armies have been destroyed. At this name impossibilities turn into possibilities. By this name lives are transformed.

This name is a safe refuge: it is a strong tower that the righteous run into and they are safe (Prov. 18:10).

This is the name that someday every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth; and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11)

THE NAME OF JESUS, THE NAME ABOVE EVERY NAME

Read also Satan’s thesis statement, Jesus’ offer

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Justification by Faith and its Blessings -Romans 4-5

 

justification-by-faith-cross-s

The example of the life and ministry of apostle Paul challenges us greatly on becoming zealous for the Lord. Before his encounter with Christ, he was a fierce persecutor of the church; a zealot who was determined to destroy any perceived aggression against Judaism, the faith of his ancestors. But the Damascus road experience radically changed his life and purpose once and for all. Significantly, his conversion made him realize that he was blind, ignorant, and wrong. He came into terms with the fact that his zeal was devoid of knowledge and truth.

As was the case, he had been fighting truth all along; but in the words of St. Augustine, he realized that truth is not an abstract concept but a Person. In the past Paul was zealous to bring death to those who threatened the integrity of the Judaism. But God delivered him from that kind of a zeal and gave him a new zeal of bringing life to those who are living in sin. Upon conversion, Paul became even exceedingly zealous for the Lord and for the gospel truth. He endeavored to preach the gospel where it has not been preached. He became passionate about the things that God is passionate about, like bringing salvation to all men. He became passionate about knowing the truth and letting others know and experience freedom in Jesus.

In chapter 1-3 of Romans Paul highlights the depraved human condition and God’s initiative in bringing about salvation. The pagan Gentiles, moralists, self-confident Jewish people and all humanity is guilty and stands condemned before God, the righteous Judge. He admits, “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God” (Rom. 3:10). “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

BUT NOW, he says “a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known… this righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe (Rom. 3:21-22).

In chapter 4 and 5, Paul explains justification by faith as the form of righteousness that God has revealed apart from the law. Justification is a forensic term that means to be “declared righteous.” Were people saved in the OT based on keeping the law or through sacrifices they offered? Paul, in chapter 4, establishes the fact that that justification has all along been purely by faith. God has not changed the way he saves! He uses Abraham and David to correct/illustrate justification by faith in the past.

I. Justification by faith –How Abraham was saved?

A. Abraham was not justified by works (4:1-8)- Otherwise justification by works would have made him boast; but “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness” A quote from Genesis 15: 6. David commends this righteousness that is apart from the law.

B. Abraham was not justified by rites or rituals (4:9-12)– His justification occurred about 13yrs before circumcision. So, the circumcision was only a seal of Abraham being declared righteous because of his faith.

C. Abraham was not justified by law (4:13-17)- His justification preceded the law by about four centuries.

D. Abraham was justified by Faith (18-22)– “Against all hope” Abraham believed. He exercised faith on God’s promises even when situation looked unpromising. He was a pagan/Gentile who believed in God (others: Rahab, Ruth, …) and was justified by faith. By implication, Jews and Gentiles are all spiritual children of Abraham. There is one salvation for all humanity- Jews and Gentiles.

Those who come to Christ by faith, even today, are declared righteous. Justification is not earned but is a gift from God. Believing in God today can also change your life… The Lord never turn away a repentant sinner.

Chapter 5 highlights the benefits/blessings of our status as justified persons in the sight of God. Being declared righteous is an incredible blessing that we enjoy here and now.

II. Blessings of Justification (5:1-11) –Since we have been justified,we have:

  1. Peace (v1-2a)- “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A Greek variant reading of some credible manuscripts have the subjunctive form of the indicative verb ἔχομεν; which can be rendered “let us have peace” (subjunctive). But the context supports ‘we have peace’.

 Formerly, believers were enemies with God because of sin and rebellion (Rom. 5:10, 8:7). Perhaps being an enemy with men can be treated as a nonissue; but being an enemy of God, the might Warrior, is a big problem. Previously, hostility and alienation characterized this relationship.

But now, because of the reconciling work of Christ on the cross, believers have peace with God. We have peace with God because our sins have been forgiven and our guilt removed. We’re no longer objects of God’s wrath that is to be revealed upon the ungodly. We are sons of God, restored and redeemed.

The Greek word for peace eirene is shallow in meaning (it expresses absence/cessation of war) but the Hebrew concept of shalom is more profound in meaning, “well-being including social harmony, communal well-doing. God’s peace brings to our hearts some inner sense of security and serenity (Isa. 32:17-8).

Do you have this peace? If not what has robbed your precious peace with God? Remember, Jesus is our peace (Eph. 2:14, 15, 17), and He gives peace to his loved ones (Num. 6:26) … ask him….

Peace is God’s gift even amidst cares and sorrows, the “peace of God” (Phil. 4:7). People who search for peace never find it until they find fulfillment in God.  For those who posses it, it is our duty to keep having peace with God.

Importantly, having peace with God also brings with it the access into grace (v.2a)- Through Jesus we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. We have received favor and acceptance. Believers experience the richness of his grace; the abounding grace, that is new every morning.

2. Joy (v.2b)- We rejoice (or boast) in the hope of glory of God (v.2b.). A Greek variant also has “let us rejoice” (indicative and subjunctive). He is the “hope of glory.”

The glory of God is the end for which he created mankind. We rejoice that our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice even when the circumstances around us does not allow. Our God-given inner joy does not depend on happenings. This joy delights in the fact that God is at work in and through us. Outwardly, things may not look good, but we should rejoice in Christ always. Because we know that something good will eventually come out. Let not concerns of our lives rob us the God-given joy.

3. Hope (3a-5a)– We rejoice in our suffering because suffering produces perseverance-character-hope (a hope that does not disappoint/put one to shame). Paul knows that suffering is something we must deal with in life. Suffering is inevitable because we are in an evil world, with evil people, Satan, and with evil nature. This is enough to cause us trouble.

Jesus warned, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33). The apostles knew, “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).

In suffering, we are supposed to be joyful, hopeful, and determined. Suffering refines or strengthens our faith; it shapes our character to produce hope. God uses suffering to build our lives, he can turn evil intended against us for our own good. Suffering is not our destination but a temporary valley we go through.  So, the testing of your faith should not destroy your zeal for the Lord rather strengthen it.

Working or studying in AIU may be an opportunity to serve/make a living or further intellectual pursuits respectively. But remember that it is also an opportunity for God to refine your faith and test its genuineness. How do we respond to these moments? God is achieving in us something of greater worth…our character is developed, and our hope grounded more.

Is hope alive in you today? In a hopeless world it is easy to maintain hope. There is hope even when hope is lost because God promises to give us hope (Jer. 29:11).

4. Love (5b-11)– God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

God showed his love to us “at just the right time”- at the fullness of time. This love was lavished upon us when we were weak/powerless, ungodly, and enemies. This love was demonstrated in the death of Christ for sinners; and in adopting us to be sons in his family. (see also Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:1-2; 1 Jn. 4:16). This is a love that embraces unconditionally (1 Cor. 13).

He loved us so that we can proclaim this love to others.

Finally, God’s salvation has always been purely through justification by faith. This is the same salvation message to all humanity. The new status of believers as justified not only brings with it some blessings but also some implication of living a godly life in anticipation of God’s final verdict and deliverance from the wrath of God on the day of judgment. #Baraka

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