All posts by ELKANAH KIPROP CHEBOI

Christ-follower, pastor and a theologian.

The Role of Holy Spirit in the Spiritual Formation of a believer-  

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Spiritual formation is, “the ongoing process of the triune God transforming the believers and character toward the life and character of Jesus Christ- accomplished by the ministry of the Spirit in the context of biblical community” (Pettit, Foundations of Spiritual Formation, 24).

Spiritual formation process is a synergy of the divine initiative and our human response (Phil 2:12-13; 1 Thess. 5:23). It involves developing right relationship of love with God (vertical relationship) and with fellow men (horizontal relationship).

God is actively involved in bringing a sinner to Christ and consequently in the spiritual formation (sanctification process) of the infant Christian as s/he progresses to maturity in Christ.

The role of the third Person of the Trinity (Holy Spirit) in the spiritual growth of a believer is paramount.

Here are ways in which the Holy Spirit is involved in the Spiritual formation in the life of a believer:  

  1. He convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment. He brings sinners to salvation. So he is involved in the conversion/turning to God experience.
  2. He indwells believers to bring an inward-out change.
  3. He illuminates God’s truth/mysteries (Jn. 14:26) for understanding.
  4. He is the power that enables believers to bear witness (Jn. 15:26; Acts 1:8; Rom 8:26).
  5. He intercedes for believers (high priest role) in accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26-27).
  6. He distributes gifts to believers as he wills for the edification of the church (1 Cor. 12:11). The church is not only the people of God, and the body of Christ, but also the temple of the Holy Spirit.
  7. He is deeply grieved by sin in the lives of Christians (Eph. 4:30).
  8. The Spirit applies redemption to us (Jn. 14:26; 16:7).
  9. The Holy Spirit gives us regeneration or new spiritual life (Jn. 3:5-8). He is the “giver of life”; all living creatures are recipients of the life-giving principle of the Spirit of God.
  10. He sanctifies us (Rom. 8:13; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2). He is the source of holiness.
  11. He empowers believers for service (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
  12. He produces in us the fruit of Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23); that are signs of sanctification.
  13. He provides spiritual guidance to believers in the ways they should go (Acts 15:28).

Read here for other ways God guides believers.

Also, Hindrances to hearing God’s guidance.

Questions to ponder:

  • Spiritual formation process is a synergy of the divine initiative and our human response (Phil 2:12-13). What are some of the steps we can deliberately take to achieve spiritual maturity. What is the believer’s role in spiritual formation?
  • Do believers in Christ make deliberate efforts to grow spiritually?
  • Formation is the primary task of the church. Do you think the church is faithfully discharging this mandate?

TRINITY- THE NATURE OF GOD AS REVEALED IN THE SCRIPTURE

In the Bible, God is revealed and described with such attributes as: eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, perfect, and the like.

Also, the doctrine of Trinity is taught in the Bible; that is, God eternally existing as three co-equal Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), yet as one God.

Although the term trinity is not found in the Bible, it certainly represents a biblical theme and revelation that runs throughout the Bible. The term summarizes the teaching of Scripture that God is three Persons yet one God.

The concept of triune God is not foreign in the Old Testament Scriptures. There several passages that highlight this doctrine; the following represent few examples.

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Gen. 1:26 (Mark the plural pronouns).

“The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil….” (Gen. 3:22)

“Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” (Gen. 11:7)

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’” (Isa. 6:8).

Further, there are OT passages where one person is called “God” or “Lord” and is distinguished from another person who is also said to be God (Ps. 45:6-7; 110:1. cf. Matt. 22:41-46; Prov. 8:22-31; Isa. 48:16; 63:10. Mal. 3:1-2). It shows that the Bible authors seemed to be much aware of the plurality of Persons in one God.

In the New Testament, we see a complete revelation of the Trinity. The incarnation of Jesus (the Son) was for the purpose of revelation of the Father. In several passages the three Persons of the Trinity are named together (Matt. 3:16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2; Jude 20-21; 1 Jn. 5:7).

Summary of Biblical Teaching on the doctrine of Trinity

  1. God is three persons– They are distinct persons and work together without confusion (Jn. 1:1-2; 14:26; 16:7).
  2. Each person is fully God– They are co-equal and eternal.
  3. There is one God-There is one and only one God. The three Persons are one not just in functions, but also one in essence. There are no three Gods. There is only one God. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 reads, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” This is a clear affirmation and declaration of the oneness of God. The following verses also attest the same truth: Exodus 15:11; 1 Kings 8:60; Isa. 45:21-22; 44:6-8; Rom. 3:30; 8:27-29; 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Tim 2:5. Jas 2:19.

There is a perfect functioning relationship within the Godhead and no conflict at all in respect to how they work: The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him (Jn. 8:29). The Father sends the Son yet remains with him. The Son represents the Father and obeys him willingly. The Holy Spirit brings to completion the work that has been planned by God the Father and carried out through the incarnation of God the Son.

Heroes of Faith- Gideon

 

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The book of Judges records Israel’s continuous apostasy (state of ungodliness) and struggles to obey and follow God’s ways.

In this period, the nation of Israel repeatedly went through a four-step cycle:  Rebellion/Sin-Retribution/Servitude- Repentance/Sorrow and then Restoration/Salvation. In the first stage of the cycle Israelites forsook God, sinned and followed Baal. In the second stage, God punished them for their sin (by sending enemies, drought, diseases). Then in the next step they suffered greatly; and when they cried to God in repentance, God listened and answer them by sending a judge/deliverer to bring them salvation and restore them to prosperity path. The appointment of Gideon, as a judge to Israel, was a response to Israel’s repentance after a prolonged impoverishment and suffering in the hands of their Midianite enemies.

The call, and faith of Gideon is an encouragement today as we seek to be used of God.

Read here for what heroes are known for. 

Gleanings from the Calling and Mission of Gideon:

  1. God in His wisdom chooses to use weak vessels to display His strength

When we read of Gideon in Hebrews 11 we are tempted to think that Gideon began as a hero of faith. This is untrue. When God called Gideon he was a man full of weaknesses and inadequacies. He was not a superhero but a very ordinary man. He struggled to believe that God could use him and his background to accomplish his purposes.

But Lord,” Gideon asked, “how can I rescue Israel? My clan is the weakest in the whole tribe of Manasseh, and I am the least in my entire family!” (Judges 6:15).

According to Gideon, God’s calling was beyond his ability; in fact, in his self-assessment he claims not to have influence over his family, leave alone mobilizing the entire tribe.

God often chooses the “weak of this world” to accomplish great things for his glory (1 Cor. 1:26-29). Gideon was a man who frequently needed signs and assurances from God in order to be firm. But God saw potential in him and called him a man of valor/mighty warrior (Jdg.6:12).

He chose Gideon and gave him His promise- “The Lord said to him, ‘I will be with you. And you will destroy the Midianites as if you were fighting against one man” (Jdg. 6:16).

He chose Gideon and empowered him with His Spirit (Jdg. 6:34). Through this Gideon was helped to overcome his fears and wavering faith. God’s Spirit worked on him and changed him to bring about the needed courage and faith.

This is an encouragement for us not to despise our small beginnings because through it  what God is able to achieve something bigger and greater.

Your inadequacies cannot limit God from using you for his noble purposes. An ungodly life is the only hindrance that can make God’s power and life not flow through us.

What are those things that make you feel inadequate? Could it be age (as it was to Jeremiah), eloquence (Moses)… Remember He is God who makes his power manifest in weakness (2 Cor. 12:10). Trust in his power.

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  1. God does not need numbers to accomplish his purposes, (Jdgs 8:1-10)-

In the fight against Midianites and its coalitions, Gideon marshaled his troops and they numbered 32,000 in total against a total of 135,000 Midianite soldiers (Jdg. 8:10). You don’t need to be a military expert to know that there was a colossal problem here. Humanly speaking warfare, like politics, is a game of numbers and so Gideon needed to up his game. But instead of increasing the numbers God told Gideon to downsize it!

The first elimination method employed was that all that tremble with fear should go back home. A total of 22,000 men left. Certainly, the journey is not for the fainthearted.

Mosaic Law offered military exemptions for several classes of people- including those who had just build a home, who had just planted a vineyard and have not enjoyed its fruit, those engaged to be married, and the fainthearted (Deut. 20:5-8).

Only ten thousand recruits remained. But in God’s terms they were still many.

In the second round of elimination, they were taken down to the river. And Gideon was to separate those who lapped the water with their tongues and those who knelt down to drink. Three hundred men lapped water with their hands. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.

The Lord approved the 300 men that lapped the water with their hands to be enlisted for the battle. The rest were summarily dismissed to return home. Thinning of his army needed faith and courage.

It was now 300 vs. 135,000men. The numbers were not adding up. Gideon might have feared and so needed some encouragement. The Lord told him to visit the enemies’ camp secretly at night. There he found people conversing about a dream that the interpretation was to the effect that the Lord had handed over Midian to Gideon. This bolstered his strength and caused him to worship God (Jdg. 7:15).

In a quick and decisive victory, the 300 men routed Israel’s enemies because God fought for them. The Lord confused and caused Israel’s enemies to turn against each other with their swords.

So what?

Gideon’s story shows that God is not limited by numbers. God can wage his battles and win. Moses had assured the Jews that if they obey the Lord, one soldier could chase a thousand or two soldiers would “put ten thousand to flight” (Deut. 32:30). In this regard, all that Gideon needed was 27 soldiers to defeat the whole Midianite army of 135,000 men, but God gave him 300.

In history, God has always worked with few people to accomplish great things… Therefore it is not about what you have or don’t have but about what God can do with the small you have or even don’t have.

For us, it is possible to deceptively think that when I have more of this and that I will be able to be an effective/successful servant or make a greater impact for God-we think, when I have a six-figure bank statement, good communication skills, another degree, or more experience. Gideon did not need additional army because when we are in God’s side we certainly win. God’s presence is what we need.

Again, to be able to accomplish God’s mission God’s way some downsizing is necessary. What are the things (in your life) that you need to downsize today?

Our faith in God wavers when we start comparing God with our circumstance/resources we have (it often looks intimidating: 300 vs 135,000). Rather, we need to believe. Mathematically speaking things may not add up in your case but wait on God to solve the equation for you. Gideon learned that one with God is majority. Gideon believed and that is why he is listed among the heroes of faith. He believed in God who can turn impossibilities to possibilities.

Whenever God call us to task that we think is beyond us, we must be careful to look to God and not on ourselves. God does not need numbers because nothing is impossible with God. God asked Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (Gen. 18:14); “for nothing shall be impossible with God,” (Lk. 1:37). Job discovered that God could do everything (Job 42:2); Jeremiah admitted that there’s nothing too hard for God (Jer. 32:17). Jesus told his disciples “with God all things are possible” (Matt.19:26).

  1. God wants us to give Him glory in all things-

God pointed out to Gideon that he had too many men for God to deliver Midian into his hands. God downsized Gideon’s army so that through what is achieved, God is glorified. Not one would boastfully say, ‘my strength/hand/skill/connection/weapon saved me’. But that they would exclaim, ‘the Lord has done it!’

God handed over them victory without much struggle. The Israel’s force only blew horns, broke jars, and shouted causing the enemy to kill each other in their confusion. Through reduction of Gideon’s army, God’s role in the victory became clear with only 300 men.

The war was won not because they had a great military leader, powerful arsenal, or numerical strength but because- God was with Gideon, the Holy Spirit’s empowered him, and the fact that Gideon obeyed God’s word.

God ensures that the situation nears impossibility so that when He acts his power is manifest and consequently he receives all the glory.

Our lives, families, relationships, jobs, education should glorify God alone. In every endeavor we should acknowledge His power and Spirit’s enablement (Zech. 4:6).

Indeed as David admitted, “No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his strength” (Ps. 33:16). Victory and glory belongs to God.

Victories that are won because of faith bring glory to God because nobody can explain how they happen.

A Disciple Submits to the Lordship of Christ

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In a context where many people easily identify themselves as Christians; it is essential to recapture what it really means to be a disciple of Jesus.

FYI, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times, and “Christians” only 3 times. The numerous repetitions of the word should cause us to dig deeper into its meaning.

Read here on the disciple of Jesus as a learner. 

It is worth noting here that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for spiritual leaders to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and also Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renown twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11). To be a true disciple of Jesus is to submit to his authority and lordship.

A Disciples of Jesus Submits to his Lordship –

In the first century Roman world, the emperor was regarded as kurios (lord). Kingdoms, new lands, and peoples were conquered and subjugated to the lordship of the Roman emperor. As a matter of fact sacrifices were offered in honor of the emperor, the embodiment of the Graeco-Roman gods.

But Jesus taught his disciples concerning a new kingdom, the kingdom of God. In that kingdom he is the Kurios (the Lord over all things). Following him involves acknowledging his lordship over the lordship of Emperor Caesar. Unconfusedly, this was not supposed to bring a threat to the state. Their submission to the authority of Christ was a superior allegiance because it was a loyalty to the Lord of Lords, the Lord and Creator of the universe.

Briefly, what does submission mean?

  1. Submission to Christ means hearing and responding to the call of God– It involves answering the call and invitation to salvation that is by grace through faith. It means acceptance of God’s gift of salvation in order to receive eternal life in Christ Jesus.
  2. Submission means constantly yielding to the authority of Christ– Coming to Christ in repentance and faith is a step to a Christian life. But that is not all; we need to have a daily walk with God whereby we yield to his leading. This process involves putting to death the old self and putting on a new self. It involves a process of total transformation of our minds, emotions, affections, and hearts.
  3. Submission means subjecting our will to his will– It involves praying “your kingdom come and your will be done.” It means subjecting our will to his will; and realigning our plans/vision/mission to God’s agenda. Jesus modeled submission by doing the will of God the Father who had sent him.
  4. Submission means obeying the words of Christ– Jesus instructed, “if you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (Jn. 8:31-32).
  5. Submission means letting the word of God transform us-The man who says “I know him” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him (1Jn. 2:4-5).

Disciples of Jesus always live a life of submission to the lordship of Christ.

Read here on Attitude of rebellion Vs Attitude of Submission. 

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A Disciple is a Learner

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FYI, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The numerous repetitions of the word should cause us to dig deeper into its meaning.

It is worth noting that in the first century, it was common phenomenon for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist had disciples (Matt. 9:14); and Pharisees had disciples (Matt. 22:16). Jesus himself had many disciples other than the renown twelve (Matt. 10:1; (Lk. 22:11).

In the Great commission (Matt. 28:19-20), Jesus charges his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.

So what does it mean to be a disciple?

A disciple is a learner-

The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner,” or “student.”

Jesus called his disciples to a new and different life. The new life called for a paradigm shift in their thinking, affections, actions, reactions, worldview and perspectives.

Disciples were taught life principles that were upside down from the conventional wisdom of the day. They were taught humility in a world that esteemed pride; in order to be first they were taught to be last. To be filled they must first empty themselves of human sufficiency; to live they must first die to self; to find they must be willing to lose; and in order to gain they must first let it go. Certainly, this needed quite some learning.

The disciples of Jesus were fishermen by profession, but they were called to be fishers of men. Their calling was more than a transfer of fishing skills; it needed learning.

Therefore a true disciple of Jesus needs to embrace learning as a lifelong activity.

Disciples of Jesus never arrive; instead they are in constant process of learning and becoming.

Disciples of Jesus learn to love unconditionally, they learn to forgive without taking inventory, they learn to discern the will of God; they are students of the word of God. They learn how to live out their newfound life in Christ. They learn how they can please their Master.

Disciples also learn from valley of life and mountaintop experiences of life. They learn from successes and failures. They will say, ‘when I went through that circumstance…. God taught me this and that…” Also, they learn from both young and old.

Learners have a teachable spirit, they have inquisitive minds and have a receptive heart for God’s word. It is because of learning attitude that the disciples implored on their Master, “Lord, teach us to pray” Lk 11:1. Learners are always growing and transforming.

Jesus extends an invitation to every person to come and learn from him, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light, Matt 11:28-30.

The problem with the know-it-all believers is that they have no room for learning or a teachable heart. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t stand to be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. I

Therefore disciples of Jesus are in a constant process of learning and growing. If you are not growing in learning then you are not a true disciple of Jesus. Learn from his word, from life experiences he takes you through, and from young and old.

Remember, if you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling God’s greatness.

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When we go Through Hard Times   

 

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…When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” (Isa. 43:1-3). 

We live in a world full of evil, evil persons, demons and Satan. That’s enough to bring us trouble/hard times. And so the question is not “if” we will go through hard times but “when”; for hard times will certainly come. The dark moment could be financial, loss of a job, relationship, health, family e.t.c.

Sometimes dark moments in our lives can cause us to question God’s power, goodness/love, understanding, and presence. But we need the right responses/attitudes to be able to discern purpose of God’s working through our pain or challenges. Therefore,

How should we respond when we go through hard times?

  1. Remember God is with us even in our hard times– During hard times we often ask, “where is God? Does he know what I am going through? and if so, Does he care?” The Bible assures us of God’s enduring presence even in times of difficulty. He does not abandon us. He does not allow Satan have a field day on us. He is Jehovah Shammah-the Lord who is present; He is Emmanuel- God with us.

He has promised, “never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Heb 13:5). Therefore trust in his power to deliver you. Prayers are not platforms to give God breaking news or updates concerning our sorrowful condition but an opportunity to show our utter dependence on Him no matter what.

Read here the things God cannot do

2. Learn to see God at work

God is at work every time, everywhere and in different ways. The problem is that sometimes we are like Elijah, expecting God to work in preconceived pattern. Indeed, God is a God of surprises; he surprised Elijah by revealing his presence in ways Elijah did not expect. A great and powerful wind passed but the Lord was not in it, it was followed by earthquake, and fire-but the Lord was not in them all. Instead he revealed his presence in a gentle whisper (1Kings 19:11-12).

Open your eyes wide to behold God’s wondrous working. In your dark time, He may in his providence sent people, friends, or community of believers to make your journey bearable; or to give you encouragement and motivation needed to take you through your dark moment. He may also perform a miracle that can turn around your dark moment; and praise the Lord when that happens. In other times God, in his providence can say “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9); and gives you sufficient grace to go through a hard time.

In either way, God is actively at work in your dark moments. You should be able to discern God’s working and be encouraged and thank him that He is not in a lalaland (slumber land) but actively at work in your situation.

  1. Be able to trust the Word of God– :

We must cling to God’s word when we go through hard times. The nature of your situation, or the length, and intensity of your dark moments cannot eclipse God’s promise. The Word of God is powerful, alive, and active. Instead of thinking of your problems over and over again, seek to meditate upon God’s Word over and over.

Remember the Lord is not slow in keeping his promise as some understand slowness (2 Pet. 3:9), there is a reason and purpose why God, a good Shepherd would allow you to go through a dark valley. He will keep his promise to protect, sustain, provide, rescue, restore, heal, bless, uplift, and open doors. In your hard moments, learn to treasure God’s word and cling unto it (Refer Ps. 119).

3. Expect God to turn your situation for your own good-

God has promised in his word to turn evil intended against us for our own good.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his promise” (Rom. 8:28). It says that in ALL things God works for good. He is able to bring beauty out of ash. He is able to deliver you. Keep your hope alive each day because your morning is dawning. Do not look up to people to save you or rely on your knowledge, experience or connections. Instead, surrender it all to God who is all-powerful.

As a matter of fact he turned the evil that was intended against Joseph for his good and for the salvation of many. The brothers of Joseph sold him because of their hatred and envy but God used this evil as raw materials for Joseph’s success and salvation of many people. Retrospectively, Joseph confessed to his brothers,  “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” Gen 50:20).

Never underestimate God’s power to change your situation in a turn-around manner. He is the same God who creates out of nothing. He is the One who calls into being what is not. God used the cross- in what people saw as defeat, weakness and shame- to bring about victory and salvation to many (Acts 3:12-26). God is achieving something powerful through your current situation. Keep the focus; for God can work out his purposes irrespective of men’s machinations.

But this requires patience and perseverance to wait upon the Lord. And waiting is not easy; only courageous people wait.

5. Every experience you go through matters to your destiny

Hard times sometimes presents us breaking or making moments. Some situations you face can be key defining moment for your life. It can be God’s credibility test for your promotion. He never takes you through a valley devoid of purpose. Therefore approach your dark moment with an attitude of seeking to understand what God is teaching you.

You pain is valid, never waste it.

The former experience of Moses in Pharaoh’s household and in the wilderness was formative for his destiny as a leader of the Israel nation. The wanderings of David in the desert and hideouts from King Saul shaped his character in preparation for his kingship. The multiple predicaments of Joseph helped him develop and understand the Egyptian culture before becoming their prime minister. He learned to take commands before he was elevated to a position of issuing edicts/commands. Every dark moment you go through counts for your destiny. Your experiences is building you up into something God is preparing your for/to be. Be patient and cooperate with God.

  1. Every dark moment of your life has an expiry date

The hard times we go through in this life aren’t permanent. It isn’t going to last for life. They are momentary. Joy comes in the morning. David asserted, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death. I will fear no evil for you are with me” (Ps. 23:4). Mark the word through. The ‘valley of the shadow of death’ is not your destination; you only pass through it. Victory is awaiting you on the other side. Keeping on hoping to see light at the end of the tunnel; God’s help is near. God is at work. God isn’t going to allow evil to prevail for long. In meantime, like the experience of Jesus at the cross, it may seem that evil prevails, but God’s decisive action and vindication ensues. God’s appointed time is coming. When he comes; he will vindicate you and wipe all your tears away.

  1. Your response during dark moment matters-

A dark moment is a time of decision. It is a time to choose between submitting to God’s authority or your own ways to maneuver the situation. Some people choose to respond with doubt, anger, others with fear, blame, and others with trust. You need to have the right attitude; the right framework of mind and heart to be able to benefit and learn from what God is teaching you. Choose to trust in him.

Read here on the attitude of faith

Read here on the attitude of submission

Read here on attitude of gratitude

 

BUT GOD…

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Ephesians 2:1-3 describes the status of man before an experience with Christ as Savior and Lord. Believers in Christ are reminded that formerly they were death in their transgressions and sins. Yes, dead. BUT GOD did something radical.

Boldly, verse 4 is introduced by the contrastive particle “but”- But God… (ὁ δὲ θεὸς).

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us,” (Eph. 2:4).

In addressing the former hopeless condition of man, God brought about a real transformation that totally changed the identity and position of believers in relation to Christ. To be able to understand the magnitude of what God did, we need to compare what believers in Christ were formerly as opposed to what they have become by God’s salfivic activity.

What we were and what we have become because of what God has done in Christ:

  1. We were dead in our transgressions and sins; BUT GOD in his great love and richness in mercy, made us alive with Christ. He is the voice that the dead hear and obey; He told Martha, the sister to Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life” (Jn. 11:25). Thankfully, the life of God now flows through us!
  2. We were held hostage/captive/enslaved to the patterns of the world and its ruler and the desires of sin nature; BUT GOD out of his rich mercy and great love, raised us with Christ and made us seat with him in the heavenly places. In our present status and union with Christ, we are united with Him in his death, resurrection and ascension. In this we experience power, strength, and victory to lead victorious Christian lives.
  • We deserved God’s wrath and to be in hell; BUT GOD in his abounding mercy and great love, chose to show the incomparable riches of his grace in Christ. We did not deserve love but God’s wrath. That is what mercy means, it is being denied what you deserve for your own good!

We were far away from God, BUT GOD in his grace, love and mercy brought us near. God did what only God would have done. He saved us. He saved you! Not because of what you had done but because of his grace. He saved us through faith- a gift from God.

God changed us and made us new! He did what we could not have done on our own. He did not begin by changing our destinies, he changed us so that our destinies change!

Remember these words today as you go about your daily business, “BUT GOD…” and fill in the blanks…

  • Perhaps you did not deserve to live, BUT GOD made it possible that you are alive.
  • Perhaps you did not amount to anything by human standards, BUT GOD elevated you and gave you favor and a name.
  • Perhaps you do not have required human connections for that breakthrough, BUT GOD your Father is able to place you wherever and whenever he wants.

This idea runs throughout the Bible.

  • In Genesis 3 mankind fell into sin, BUT GOD right in the garden of Eden promised a seed of a woman that will crush the head of the serpent. 
  • Many may have laughed at Hannah’s barrenness, BUT GOD was on his way to remember her richly!
  • Rahab may have been treated as an outcast, BUT GOD rewrote he story.
  • Peter may have seemed a failure when he denied Jesus three times, BUT GOD later gave him a new heart so as to be the rock of the church.
  • Many despised the message of the cross as foolish, BUT GOD used it as power to save all men.
  • Many may have looked at Jesus disciples as ordinary and unschooled, BUT GOD used their witness to bring the gospel to the whole world.

People may write you off, BUT GOD is able to accomplish the impossible for you!

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FORMERLY, YOU WERE DEAD IN YOUR TRANSGRESSIONS AND SINS

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In a hospital doctors are charged with the confirmation and certification of the death of a patient. Their declaration of patient’s status is normally considered authoritative and final.

In Ephesians 2:1-3 Paul reminds believers about God’s perception of their former condition- when they were separated from Christ. God’s definition of a sinner’s spiritual status is final because he sees beyond the physical.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins…” (Eph. 2:1)

This description also befits or is true of any other person who has not yet come to salvation or received Jesus as Savior and Lord. It is bad news to be called or labeled- dead/lifeless/senseless. It is a serious state, but true. It is a spiritually hopeless condition that needs more than a rescue strategy. It needs someone who is greater and able to breathe life into our dead bodies.

But how were they dead?

They were spiritually dead when they:

  1. Followed the ways of this world- They were spiritually death when they followed worldly patterns that ultimately lead to death instead of following God’s ways that lead to life. They were dead because they followed the empty, hollow, self-defeating, and deceptive philosophies of men that seek to oppose God. Instead of worshipping the only one and true God who has revealed himself in his Word, they worshiped idols. They heeded the ways of the folly instead of the ways of wisdom. In summary, these patterns made them dead, lost, and without hope.
  2. They followed Satan– They followed the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit that is now at work in those who are disobedient. By not following God, they were definitely choosing to follow the deceiver of nations. They followed the ruler of the kingdom of darkness; getting blinded every step from what God has done in Christ.
  • Sought was to gratify the desires of the flesh– In their lifeless state they did not follow God’s will but sought to gratify their sin nature. And the acts of sin nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and the like (Gal. 5: 19-21).

In this, they rightly deserved God’s wrath; that is, God’s burning anger. They deserved to be punished as their sins deserve.

The message to the church in Laodicea is relevant here. God sees beyond the outward; “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so that you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so that you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so that you can see” (Rev. 3:17-18).

Irrespective of what people say about us, without God, we are dead, blind, wretched, pitiful, poor and naked.  We therefore need a Savior to make us alive, see, clothe and embrace us, and make us rich in God’s terms.

Read Here to find God’s remedy to this hopeless condition.

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THE LEADER AS SERVANT

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There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on one leadership motif presented in the Bible: servant.

Leader as Servant

A leader is a servant.

The servant motif traces way back to the OT whereby priests, prophets and kings were seen as servants of God. Like the nation of Israel, they were God’s vessels in which he accomplished his divine purposes on earth.

In the New Testament Jesus referred himself as God’s servant. He came to serve, and to save the lost. He exemplified service by washing the feet of his disciples; performing a typical work of a slave (Lk. 22:27; Jn. 13:4-11). He served the poor, the sick, the despised, and embraced the social outcasts of the society.

A leader who is a servant goes right to where people are. It models leadership from below. Jesus exemplified humility, obedience, and servanthood through his incarnation “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness “-the kenosis concept (Phil. 2:7-8).

Servanthood is an attitude of the heart. It takes humility, a selfless spirit and a transformed heart for a leader to be a servant. This attitude was in Christ. Therefore, Jesus becomes our example. He redefines what greatness is (Mk. 9:35).

Those who lead should lead by serving. They should not by serving their own interest but the interests of the people they oversee. Those who fail to meet this threshold should never be considered leaders.

Read here for an example of servant leadership.

Read here for another Bible metaphor on leadership.

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THE LEADER AS SHEPHERD

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There is voluminous literature out there on leadership. Some of the leadership principles and values propagated in these books are Bible-based while others are research based. It is also worth noting that some of these values and principles on each side of the divide have points of convergence and points of divergence (this is for another day).

But the Bible provides rich metaphors that depict the nature of spiritual leadership that is to be exercised in and by the church. Believers in Christ are to embody these biblical values as foundational values for their actions, reactions, and convictions. In this short write-up let’s focus on the shepherd leadership motif as presented in the Bible.

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Leader as Shepherd

A leader is a shepherd. And as a shepherd, he has a flock under his care.

But more importantly, it should be noted that this is a communicable attribute from the divine. The shepherd motif presented in the Bible is derived from the character of God.

In the Bible God is revealed as the good Shepherd who leads, feeds, disciplines, and protects his flock (Ps. 23; 100:3; Isa. 10:1-11). Specifically, the sheep in Psalms 23 admits that his Shepherd: satisfies him-makes him lie down in green pastures and quiet waters, restores his soul, guides him, protects, comforts and disciplines him.

Jesus referred himself as the good shepherd (Jn. 10:11,14). He showed through his incarnate life that a good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A good shepherd does not abandon the sheep and run away when he sees a wolf coming. Instead, he protects. He does not allow the flock to be scattered. He gathers and embraces. A good shepherd knows his sheep and his sheep knows him. He always leads from the front. He has good interest of the sheep/followers at heart.

By implication, those who serve on behalf of God, at any leadership position, are also referred to as shepherds (Jer. 23:1-4; Ezek. 34:2-10). They are supposed to shepherd after God; to shepherd in the likeness of God. Shepherds should not be preoccupied with taking care of their own (self) interests but the interests of the flock. Good shepherds strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind the broken, bring back the straying sheep, seek the lost, and rule gently.

Leadership is a noble thing. Jesus commissioned Peter, and by extension the other disciples and believers today, to feed his flock (Jn. 21:15-19); with an ultimate promise of a reward. Apostle Peter later wrote that when the Chief Shepherd appears he shall reward, with unfading crown of glory, all those who have taken good care of his flock  (1 Pet. 5:2-4).  A good shepherd like Jesus leads, directs, nurtures, heals, and guards even sacrificing his life if need be for the sheep.

And so any leadership position should be seen as an opportunity to shepherd God’s people; “not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).

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