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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!

REMEMBERING GOD’S GOODNESS OVER OUR LIVES

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Read: Genesis 32:9-12

Today we want to learn from the prayer of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, Israel’s patriarch.

Jacobs life is recorded in Genesis 25-35, and in the rest of Genesis through the life of his son, Joseph.

Jacob is an interesting character to look at. He was a rival of his twin brother right from the womb (25:23-26). He shortchanged his brother and acquired his birthright, by offering him a meal. He is known as a schemer, and a liar. He lied about his wife being his sister, just as his father had lied. In a plot organized with his mother Rebecca, Jacob also stole Esau’s blessings. Fearful and distressed, Jacob fled for his life to the land of his uncles. In a foreign land, he married, increased in family, and wealth. More so, with his in-laws, he experienced life defining moments that would later shape his life.

After two decades of hard labor, it was God’s time for him to return to his homeland (31:13). But he had to keenly plan how to approach his brother because of unresolved past experience. Although Jacob had many challenges, fears, and failures, there are some positive things we can highlight from his life, especially from his prayer in Genesis 32:9-12.

From this prayer, we can discover four principles, Jacob:

Knew God (v.9)-

Jacob had a personal relationship with God.

He first identifies the Lord God with his grandfather and father; but this God is also the God he related to. The God of his fore fathers had become his Father. While in a foreign land, he lived among people who worshipped idols (31:19, 30), but his devotion to the true God remained unmoved.

 

He saw God’s favor in his past and present life (v. 10)

As he crossed back River Jordan, Jacob remembered when he formerly crossed the same river two decades earlier. He realized that back then when he crossed Jordan, he only had staff in his hand. Nothing more! He had no attendants, no family, and no companion.

Yet as he was now crossing back the same river, he was never the same person! He had greatly increased. The Lord had given him a big family, great possessions (goats, sheep, herd of cattle, camels), and servants. Formerly he was a poor man, but now he was a wealthy man.

As he reviews the past twenty years of his life, he noted two things:

  • He is unworthy to have received such a great favor- He pondered on who he was to merit such a great favor. He felt unworthy that he had received much that he never planned for. Presumably, Jacob knew that God blesses whomever he chooses; but the fact that he was such a recipient humbled him. (cf. 1 Sam. 2; Matt. 8:8; Lk. 1:46-53; 1 Cor. 4:7).

 

  • The Lord had shown him his kindness and faithfulness- Jacob realized that what he had become was as a result of God’s favor (hesed). The Lord of his fathers had become to him a healer, protector, pillar, and a sustainer. To him, God had become all in all; the single greatest treasure. The one who gives ability to create wealth had greatly blessed him. In God, and he had received everything for life and godliness. Jacob was grateful to God. As he persuaded his twin brother to receive his gifts, Jacob confessed, “…God has been gracious to me. I have more than enough” (33:11). He knew that everything he now owns was as a result of God’s graciousness. Today, do we have the same perspective as Jacob? We need to be grateful to God and realize that everything we have has been received from Him (the power, money, clothes, cars, spouses, children, jobs, health, houses…).

Jacob had many challenges in his life, in fact he was shortchanged when he wanted to marry, he was treated unjustly by his father in-law as he worked for him (31:40-42), but in all, Jacob saw God’s goodness. He changed the lenses in which he saw his past life. Instead of complaining to God about his past life, he thanked God and praised him for his faithfulness.

 

He prayed (v.11)-

Formerly, Jacob had crossed Jordan river with fears, fleeing for his life. And, twenty years later, as he crossed back the same river, Jacob still harboring fear in his heart (32:6-7).

He remembered that he had unsettled grudges with his brother. And his unconfessed transgression was always before him (Ps. 51:3). He knew his brother would not hesitate in any given chance to revenge the past wrongs (27:41).

But how did he handle this situation? Jacob executed two strategies.

First, he divided his wealth into two, just in case (32:7-8). Secondly, he prayed. And prayer settled his fears. The power of prayer…

Even after being given the assurance by an angel to go back to his people, Jacob still feared Esau. Generally, Jacob was a fearful character, in the past, he had cheated that his wife was his sister because he feared “someone would kill me to get her from me” (26:9). Here again in this verse, he admits to God “I am afraid that he is coming to attack me, along with my wives and children.” Many times, the things we fear most never happen. What fears are you battling with today? Remember, a time of fear is a good time for prayer.

But one thing is clear here, Jacob had learned to direct his fears to God in prayer. Formerly, he trusted his mother more than anyone, but now, he had faith in God. He trusted Him in matters concerning his life, family, situations, and future. I pray that we learn this lesson today just like many biblical examples. That is, taking our concerns, distress, fears, and problems to Jesus.

The Bible says, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Ps. 50:15).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Prov. 18:10).

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears…This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” (Ps. 34:4,6).

Jacob sought God’s help in prayer. He expressed his dependence on God the chief mediator of men. Finally, God delivered Jacob from his fears.

 

He knew God’s promises (v. 12)-

In this short prayer, Jacob reminded God his promises. God had promised to protect him and multiply his descendants (also see 28:3,4, 13-15).

Jacob had learned not only to hold so dearly the word of God but also to hear God speak; to an extent that he now boldly claimed his inheritance. We need to learn to hear God through circumstances, word, godly people, prayer…

What does it mean to remind God that he is Jehovah Jireh, Ropha, Shammah…. taking him at his word.

 

Concluding Remarks

THE POWER OF THE TONGUE

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In any conversation, engagement, and communication, use of words is inevitable. We use words to express our ideas, emotions and feelings. We use words to cause an action or reactions. 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 a 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.
  • A ship, although large and driven by strong winds, is steered by a rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
  • The bit and rudder are small, but they provide direction to the horse and ship respectively. They offer direction and control.
  • With seasoned words we can direct people’s lives in the right path.
  • 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 capacity to destroy families, fellowships, communities, and bring splits and divisions. A small slander can cause a 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 kind 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 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 channel the power of the tongue rightly?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, then 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).
  • 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, discourage.
  • But at the same time, we can choose to use our tongues to: praise God, exalt Jesus, encourage, build up.
  • Guard what enters into your heart- “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 what is truthful-in love 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 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 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

gain by losing

SHINNING LIKE STARS (IN A DARK WORLD)

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The first half of Philippians chapter 2 deals with Jesus Christ, our example in love, humility, suffering, compassion, and obedience. Believers are exhorted to have the same attitude that was in Christ Jesus (2:5).

But Philippians 2:12–30, a text of focus in this write-up, shows how believers can shine like stars in the universe. The key question that this pericope raises is: How can we shine like stars in a dark world (see Phil. 2:15b; Matt. 5:14).

Paul reminded the Philippian believers that they lived in a “crooked and depraved generation”. A language drawn from Deut. 32:5, 20 describing the wilderness/tangatanga generation. A generation that did not shine for God but were characterized with ungodliness and rebellion. It was a generation that was ungrateful, always complaining, and unbelieving. Jesus also talked of a “perverse generation” (Matt. 17:17), and apostle Peter talked of a “corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40).

But in what sense are we today living in a “crooked and depraved generation”? People live as enemies of God, do not value or believe the truth… Most people have turned their backs on God.

So, we have a unique role to fulfil in a dark world- That is, not to leave but to live and shine the light of Christ.

Biblical Principles that can help us shine like Stars in a Dark world:

  1. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling (v.12-13)- Our God-given gracious gift of salvation requires some working out. It is like a baby that should be nursed to maturity, it is like a investment that needs to be multiplied, it is like a farm that need to be cultivated…. This is a daily activity.

Salvation is such a precious gift from God that we should hold it dearly and treasure it.  It should be done “With fear and trembling”- knowing that by our own, with our weaknesses and unworthiness, we cannot make it (Jn. 15:5). But that God works in us… to accomplish his good purpose.

The external world may be full of darkness, but our hearts are continually lit by the light and hope of salvation. The Spirit of God works in us to bring to completion the good work that God has begun.

So, we have a responsibility to nurture our spiritual lives. Thankfully, God enables us in this process.

Spiritual growth does not happen by chance or by wish. It takes hard work. Beware of the real danger of being nominal and lukewarm. Maturity and Christian character is not achieved unless we take deliberate steps of denial and sacrifice.

Read:  The Role of Holy Spirit in the Spiritual Formation in the life of a believer

  1. Do everything without complaining or arguing (v. 14-15)– Note that these verbs are in present tense highlighting the idea of continuity of the behavior. Paul might have been thinking about the wilderness generation who complained to Moses and to God (Ex. 16:7; Num 11:11; Cor. 10:10). Most likely Philippians were complaining (to God and each other) and arguing (with each other); which is a sin. God hates complaining. Complaining makes us unholy and impure. We cannot shine like stars in our generation when in our speech we are always full of complaining like everybody else around us. We need to develop a grateful spirit.

Through all trials and suffering Jesus underwent, he did not complain. Do (much of the complaining/discontentment deals with things we ‘do’- see the story of Jesus, Mary and Martha) everything without complaining. The root cause of complaining is rebellion and disobedience; Israelites for example complained because they did not want to do what the Lord wanted them to do.

Remember, Jesus, our example, went through trials and endured without complain.

Related: Complaining Spirit Vs Thankful Spirit

  1. Hold fast/firmly the word of life (v. 16)-

The word is the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Rom 1:16). It is a powerful word that is able to transform people’s lives. It is the word that brought things into being that were not (Gen. 1) and calmed a raging storm (Matt. 12:13).  It is the word that can release divine power in our lives. The Thessalonians received this word and treated it specially, not as words of men (1 Thess. 2:13). It is powerful and authoritative word in matters of faith and practice. It reveals, nourishes, perfects.

The word of God is qualified by ‘life’ (cf. 1 Jn. 1:1). The word gives life (it is the spiritual food that sustains a Christian- Jn 6:63). It is the word of life because it proclaims the true life in Christ; it is a message of salvation and new life Acts 13:26; 5:20). It is what offers life in a lifeless world. It is what brings light in a dark world.

Philippians, just like us today, were reminded to “hold firmly”/believing this word till the return of Christ.

  1. Always Rejoice, be glad (v. 17-18)– Whatever outcome of the trial Paul rejoiced in Christ because the name of Christ will be eventually honored. God’s control over every circumstance should cause us to always rejoice.

Paul viewed his death as imminent; and saw himself being “poured out like a drink offering” (being an act of worship); a similar language used in 2 Timothy 4:6. But still Paul counted all possible eventualities joy!

  1. Honoring good examples in our midst (v. 19-30)- Paul singled out Timothy and Epaphroditus for their critical role in his missionary life and activity. These two were unique gifts from God to paul and his ministry. God gave Paul a vision but he also raised people to support him.

TimothyHe was a spiritual son of Paul, who had joined him during his second missionary journey. He was raised us by a Jewish mother and a Gentile father. Paul had something to mention about him.

Paul confessed “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare”. In a generation where young men took care of their own interests first, in a world where preachers preached what people’s itching ears wanted to hear, Timothy stood out as one who dearly loved God and His people.

Paul had certainly observed this over time to have said this of Timothy. Paul must have noticed his genuine concern and passion for God’s people and for the growth of the churches planted.  To Paul, Timothy was a rare example to be honored and emulated. He had God’s people in his mind and earth. Paul hoped to send him so that he can receive news about the Philippians.

To be able to administer to Paul in his difficult situation, Timothy must have had a servant heart. He is an example to all even today.

Epaphroditus– He was a Gentile believer who had been send by the Philippian church to attend to Paul’s needs and to deliver church’s “gift” (financial support) to Paul (Phil. 4:18). Paul highly commends this individual, he is a: brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and messenger.

He became ill, when with Paul, and almost died but God had mercy on him.

The church of Philippi and these two individuals were among the key churches and associates of Paul behind Paul’s successful ministry among the Gentiles. As God gives a vision, he also brings right people/groups to support the mission.

What were Philippians supposed to do with them? The Philippians were to honor and welcome such men- people who risk their lives (all) for the sake of the gospel and ministers of the gospel. A fake shepherd would not risk their lives for the sheep.

They were to emulate and honor them. The world may not accord honor, value, or recognize their efforts but the church and believers should. They were diligent and faithful servants of God. They may not lay them a red-carpet or scrubbing of streets; but should be received honorably and heartily.

Like Jesus, these two took the roles of a servant. How many of such people do we have today?

Concluding Thoughts: 

Sometimes we feel the darkness around us is overwhelming. But we are called to shine like stars in the universe. Don’t be bothered by darkness around us, stars shine brighter when it is darker. Darkness brings them out. May God raise godly and resourceful people along our paths to nurture the gift of God in us into fruition. Those who shine for God NOW, will in the coming kingdom shine like stars forever (Dan 12:3)

STAR

Related: making a difference in an ungodly generation

Also Read: How can we sing a Lord’s song in a strange land

WHATEVER HAPPENS…. (Philippians 1:27-30)

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From previous Philippians expositions, we looked at the establishment of the church in Phillippi by apostle Paul and his associates.

We’ve also looked at the situation Paul was in (imprisoned for Christ, not for political reasons).

In 1:27-30 he exhorts believers on how to respond in various circumstances of life- Literally, in “whatever happens…

Life is full of uncertainties- some happenings that come our way may be good, and some not good. In life, there are good times and bad times. Life can bring both joyful moments, celebration moments as well as conflicts, sorrow, hardship, and confusion.

Paul, like us, faced various happenings of life. He experienced the ups and downs of life- both the mountaintop experiences of life and the valley experiences. There were times he was rejected, beaten, persecuted and abandoned for death. But there were other high moments of life when God revealed to him secret things, and generally he was greatly used by God in reaching out to the Gentiles.

Although there were strong established ministry partnerships with the Phillippian church, Paul had pressing concerns. Evidently, there were emerging false teachers (3:2), illnesses of close ministry associates/friends (2:27), relationship problems in the church (4:2), times of financial difficulties-when not one church shared with him in matters of giving and receiving (4:15).

But Paul chose to soar above these challenges/storms.

In whatever the circumstance, Paul KNEW (v.12,19,25) that:

  • God is able to use dark moments to accomplish his purposes (v.12-14)- God used Paul’s imprisonment, chains, and sufferings in a profound way to advance the gospel, and through it many Christians found encouragement to proclaim the gospel more courageously and fearlessly.
  • God is able to use envy and rivalry to advance his mission (v. 15-20)- he can even use our enemies to bring some to salvation.
  • Things will turn out well for him- v.19.
  • In the final run he will not be ashamed- v.20
  • It will result into sufficient courage- to do more, to suffer more- v.20.
  • Christ will be exalted- by life or death- v.20.

Related: When we go though hard times

As Christians today, how can live in a godly way through every circumstance of life? (in whatever happens)

Instead of becoming victims and captives of circumstances, how can we be victors? How can we soar above the storm?

Here are some biblical principles that can help us today:

  1. Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ (V.27)-

How can we achieve this?It involves living in a manner that pleases God, imitating Christ, and living a holy life.

We are called to live, think, act and react in a manner/pattern that is consistent with the Word of God. We should not respond or react as the world or people of the world do… we are different people… we should be gracious, patient, hopeful, joyful, faithful, and loving.  Our conversations should be full of grace, seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).

Circumstances are subject to change, but as God’s children our responses should not vary with circumstances.

A question to ponder: Are we conducting ourselves in matters family, finances, relationship etc in a manner that befits the gospel of Christ/the people of God?

Sadly, many times, we adapt/conduct ourselves in manners worthy of our cultures and customs, traditions, experiences and circumstance.

We should be watchful of our conduct all the times- that is, not just when we are under a watch of our parents, employers, bosses, spouses etc but also in their absence. This is because we doing it unto the Lord.

  1. Stand firm (v.27)-

Paul reminded believers in Christ to stand firm unified in one spirit.

It is easy to be swayed by ideologies of false teachers, and mixed emotions from our circumstances.

But we need to be firmly grounded; by standing firm in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

Simply, how can one stand firm? By:

  • Being deeply rooted in the word of God; holding on to the teachings you have received.
  • Embracing the freedom in Christ, Gal. 5:1.
  • Resisting temptations.
  • Although God make us stand firm, we also need to make a deliberate choice to stand firm.
  • Putting on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against devil’s schemes (Eph. 6:10-11).
  • Praying that you stand firm (Col. 4:12) and Jesus instructions to his disciples before the betrayal…
  • Being part of a fellowship of believers for shared life and encouragement.

Stand firm because the Lord’s coming is near.

  1. Be fearless- v.28

Circumstances of life (both good and bad) can bring fears (or, in other words, rob our courage)…

We can be subject to numerous kinds of fears: fear of the future, fear of unknown, fear of enemies, fear of failure etc. You only need the fear of God to dispel other fears.

We should not fear of those who oppose us (and God)… Gen 12:4; Ps. 2.

In whatever the circumstance, God assures us that we will be saved/delivered.

To overcome fear, we must have strong convictions:

Like Job- “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

Like Paul- “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-9)

  1. Believe in Him- v29

By identity we are believers; and by calling, we are called to constantly believe in God.

We should believe in Him who is above every circumstance of life.

Believe that God has good plans for you; and that His actions towards you are motivated by love.

In hard times, remember to trust in God, his word, and providence

  1. Suffer for him- v.29-30-

If we should should suffer, it should be because of doing what is good; for this is a blessing!

For, like Paul, we know that through suffering God can bring out something beautiful. Paul wrote to Romans, “and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” Rom 5:2b-5a.

Again, how can we maintain stability amidst confusing and all-round of life situations? How can we hold our heads up above our shoulders in all situations? reflect upon the five points above.

In summary, Paul knew that whatever happens, whether he is in prison or not, the gospel is advanced. He realized that even through his suffering something good happened- the jailer and palace guard believed in God.

In whatever the circumstance, remember God is at work. God works in mysterious ways. He is a miracle worker, and a way-maker.

Wherever you live, whatever your age, whatever your circumstance- live for God, stand firm, fear not, believe, and when need be, suffer for Him.

Also read: God’s power is far above your situation

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EXPOSITION OF ROMANS 11: THE UNSTOPPABLE PURPOSES OF GOD

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Chapter 11 of Romans marks the end of the first half of the letter dealing with doctrinal teachings; while the second half (chapters 12-16) deals with applications of the revealed truth.

In Romans 11, Paul responds to some key theological issues which he had begun addressing in chapter 9-10 on God’s sovereign choice, Israel’s unbelief, power of God’s word/promise, and his desire for Israel to be saved.

As the proclamation of the Gospel crossed cultural frontiers in the first century, there were new and emerging theological and missiological questions that needed to be addressed by the apostles. For example, what becomes of the Jewish people/nation with the inclusion of Gentile into the community of faith? What exactly is the basis of Gentile soteriology? These and many other anticipated questions begged for answers. In answering part of these concerns, Paul seized the opportunity to explain God’s sovereignty, mystery, and plan of salvation.

It must be acknowledged that often this chapter presents some interpretive challenges, because Paul uses common terms and words and feeds them with new meanings, (i.e. all Israel, all men, Israel, Zion, Jacob, elect, full number). So, we’ve got to pay a close attention to the central arguments of the passage in order to gain a clearer understanding of Paul’s message.

Romans 11:1-36 shows us that God’s eternal purposes from the beginning prevail no matter what.

God’s Purposes Continue Irrespective of:

  1. Few Remnants (vv.1-6)- God has a remnant of his own at any given time.

Paul starts by asking: Did God reject his people? Paul answers using a strong negative (μὴ γένοιτο -in the optative mood- meaning- By no means! or God forbid!). he proves this point using a personal example and an example from the OT.

Personal example (vv.1)-Paul was himself an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, from the tribe of Benjamin. He was a living example that any Jewish sinner who comes to God in faith receives God’s gracious gift of salvation. In his time, Paul was a living testimony that God has not forgotten his people. Paul was one of the Jewish-Christian remnants, (Ps. 94:14).

Elijah’s example (vv.2-6)- Paul quotes 1 Kings 19:10; a context whereby Elijah had successfully defeated Baal’s prophets and his life was in danger. He was at a low-point of his life, when he felt he was the ONLY hunted down prophet of Yahweh. He felt he was the only TRUE Israelite, because the rest of the Israel had deserted God and his covenant, broken down His altars, and put His prophets to death.

So, according to Elijah, his death would mean that there will be no more remnant in Israel. But surprisingly, God’s answered him, “I have reserved for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

Yes, Elijah might have been zealous for God, but God had many zealous armies. He suffered the it’s-only-me/I-am-the-only-one syndrome. He might have felt that he’d worked his way out, he’d tried his best, but that was according to his wrongful self-assessment. God had other armies who like Elijah remain unbowed to Baal. Elijah had forgotten that God always has a remnant, chosen by grace. And even his remnant-ship was all by GRACE! And because of these few remnants (compared with the whole apostate nation), God’s eternal purposes continues unhindered.

I find this temptation, by Elijah, real today among Christians: the tendency to think that we are important; and that if we are not around nothing significant happens/goes on. That if I cease to be the pastor in charge the congregation will disintegrate…. Or that my/our church is the only heaven’s gate…. That, if I leave the current organization systems will collapse… Well, this is  lie. In fact if you leave ‘now’ then sooner than later normalcy will take over.

God has people. He has his own, remnants. You are not indispensable!

Among young people today, there is the tendency to entertain the false notion that nowadays  there are no faithful men/women… This is a real lie from the devil! Because God has thousands upon thousands of his own! Or a business person may be tempted to think that in today’s world there are no people running ethical businesses in the corporate world! Well, the truth is, there are many people out there (and in every generation) who have not bowed to the god of corruption, materialism, immorality. If you are one of the faithfuls, be humble and know that God has other faithfuls, and through these few remnants God’s purposes will be unstoppable!

Therefore, God has not rejected his people- he has remnants who are continuing his purposes, however few they are. The remnants will live by faith, and will be experience grace…

Second, God’s purposes continues irrespective of:

  1. Hardening of Hearts (vv.7-10)– So if God has not rejected his people, so what has happened? Israel sought righteousness but did not obtain it; but the elect (those in Christ-Jews and Gentiles) obtained it.

Related: One more night with the frogs.

What was the problem of the rest of the Jews? They were hardened. God GAVE them- a spirit of stupor/slumber, eyes so that they could not see, and ears so that they could not hear” (V8); their table becoming a snare/trap/curse (from a passage referring to David’s enemies in Psalm 69:22-23;). Like, during Jesus time, many Jews saw Christ but did not believe in him; they heard his word but did not accept it.

Hardening of heart is a spiritual insensitivity which precedes unbelief. In the Bible, Pharaoh hardened his heart, (Ex. 8:15,32;9:7,34-35;13:15). In response, God also hardened his heart (Ex. 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20,27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17). And so, he was insensitive to Gods call through Moses.

But hardening of heart is not something impossible for God to deal with, for his purposes must prevail. In Jeremiah 23:28, its written, “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

The habit of sinning and suppressing truth makes one’s heart to be hard and insensitive to God and his word. It deadens one’s conscience. A sinful and hard heart is blind to God’s doing, leading, and promptings. Pharaoh’s hard heart readily embraced suffering through the plagues than to obey God.

Read Hearing God’s Voice. 

Read Hindrances to Discerning God’s voice. 

How long will this hardening last? See verse 25-27. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the “full number” of the Gentiles come in. In verse 26, “all Israel” means Jews and Gentiles (previously hardened majority and the believing minority) will be saved. So what’s the “full number?” we exactly don’t know BUT we know that it will be a large number than no one can count (Rev.7:9).

There’s hope because, a deliverer will come from Zion who will turn the godlessness away from Jacob. So this hardening of heart will take a supernatural intervention.  The current hardening of hearts will only be temporary; and meanwhile God’s purposes are ongoing in the Gentile world.

Third, God’s purposes continues irrespective of:

  1. Transgression and Unbelief– (vv. 11-14)- In verse 11, Paul asks, “Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?” In other words, is there any hope? Is there hope that they can obtain what they earnestly sought, but the elect obtained? Paul answers this question by noting that because of their transgressions/unbelief, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make them ENVIOUS. That they will feel bad over the fact that their inheritance he’s been taken over by “others” (Gentiles).

See, the positive power of envy; envy is simply wanting what someone has. The Jews will see the beautiful thing that God has snatched from them and entrusted to the hands of the Gentiles. Centripetal missions for the Gentiles… Jews will be left admiring what God is accomplishing in the Gentiles world. Unlike in the OT were the nation of Israel was told that nations envy them and will stream to Jerusalem to behold the beauty, glory, and greatness of Yahweh (centripetal missions). Now, it’s the opposite! The Jews will benchmark God’s doing in the Gentile world and be envious. Believing Gentiles are no longer proselytes but God’s own people! Because of transgression and unbelief the center of Christianity was gravitating from the Hebraic to the Hellenistic world!

God’s prevailing purposes-  “…Their transgression means riches from the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles…” (v.12). And so, we need to guard our hearts against unbelief….

Fourth, God’s purposes continues irrespective of:

  1. Rejection of God (vv.15-24- Willful rejection by God also means that the people first rejected God. As a matter of fact Israel rejected God’s Son…

“There is a trustworthy saying: ‘If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also endure with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” (2 Tim. 2:11-13).

But even in their rejection or disowning God, God’s agenda continued: “…their rejection is the reconciliation of the world…”. He illustrates this in two ways”

First, the First fruits- if the part of the dough offered as first fruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches (v.16).

God’s mystery explained: God planted the olive tree (Israel); the roots being the patriarchs of Israel. Some (natural) unfruitful branches were broken off (because of unbelief), a wild olive shoot was grafted to share in the nourishing sap (holiness of the roots) from the olive root (because of faith in Jesus). So, the grafted branch (adoption of-Gentiles) should not boast over the broken branches; rather they should be afraid over those branches. Why? You do not support the root, but the root supports you (I think this should inform our OT scriptural importance in formulation of Christian Theology). Secondly, if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare the wild olive branches either- there is the possibility that the wild olive branch can also be cut off if it becomes unfruitful (if the believing Gentiles does not continue in His kindness).

Is their rejection (by/of God) permanent? No. (Verse 23).

What will make them (Jews) to be grafted in again? If they turn from their unbelief. That is, if they turn to God through Christ, then they will be grafted in, even more easily because they are the natural branches of the olive tree.

So, Paul is confident that one day the unbelieving Jews will repent, turn to Christ, and be grafted back into the tree from which they originally came. God will not utterly reject them.

Meanwhile, as Israel continue in their rejection of Christ, God is accomplishing reconciliation of those who were far, the enemies of God.

Fifth, God’s purposes continues irrespective of:

  1. Disobedience (vv.28-32)- Accomplish of God’s purposes cannot be hindered by disobedience. Paul noted that presently, at his time (and also now), many Jews are “enemies” of Christ; but are only loved on account of patriarchs, why? “for God’s gifts and call are irrevocable.” Just as Gentiles were once disobedient God worked his salvation purposes; he will do the same to the Jews. He has temporarily given them over to their disobedience, (Rom, 1:24,26,28). Also, Paul notes, “For God has bound all men (meaning Jews and Gentiles) over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (who believe in Christ)” (v.32). Generally, even to the disobedient, God is still good to them.

Concluding Thoughts

How can God show mercy to some and not show mercy to others? Paul was amazed by the way God works his purposes without any hindrance. There shall be no shutdown on God’s purposes.

Paul now realized that God’s plan for mankind is so great and deep that he chooses to worship God in verse 33-36. God is sovereign and His purposes cannot be thwarted. On why God hardens some and shows mercy to others? Paul could only content with the fact that whatever God does is right, just, and wise. He has a plan and purpose for EVERY PERSON. The greatest thing is to align our purposes/agenda/plans/aspiration to God purposes.

God’s purposes cannot be stopped by the few number of remnants, hardening of hearts, transgression and unbelief, rejection of God, and disobedience.

In the final analysis, God’s eternal purposes (on matters salvation) eventually prevails.

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Successful Living

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How can we live meaningful lives in a world that is diametrically opposed to the kingdom values we uphold? Paul in his letter to Ephesians 5:15—20, helps us to practically address this question:

  • Be careful how you live (v.15)– By being wise, watchful, discerning/cautious to avoid danger. Watch your belief and conduct. Christians should be wise people. If you don’t have wisdom ask the wise, read God’s word, and ask God to give you wisdom. Be wise to avoid being carried by the winds.
  • Making the most of every opportunity (V.16)– 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; and the days are evil (present times are full of temptations, evil people).

  • Understand the Lord’s will (V.17)– God created us for a special purpose; but we need to discover/seek to understand that purpose for our OWN lives. It is the will of God that you should be sober, holy, and steadfast. Perpetually, seek to know what pleases God.
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit (V.18)– Have the God-influence over your life, by allowing God’s Spirit to indwell and transform you.
  • Be joyful and be thankful (V.19-20)– Encourage one another. Speaking to each other and praising God with music.

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.

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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