Category Archives: Attitude Transformation

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.

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Justification by Faith and its Blessings -Romans 4-5

 

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

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

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

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

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

I. Justification by faith –How Abraham was saved?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Lord will Fight for You…

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In several instances the Bible presents Yahweh as Warrior; a mighty Warrior who’s strong in battle. He wages his own wars and wins.

In life we are faced with many battles. As a matter of fact, spiritual warfare is one of the inevitable battles we must face and win because our union with Christ gives us power, strength, and victory.

Few weeks into the wilderness, during the exodus from Egypt, the nation of Israel found themselves trapped between an enemy behind them and a mass of water (Red Sea) before them.

Related, read One more night with the frogs

They had heeded the call of God through Moses to journey to the Promised Land. In a great way, God had demonstrated his power against the powers of Pharaoh and his gods.

But now God’s chosen people were in for a new colossal challenge. With their enemies advancing quickly in pursuit of them, their options to escape and life were dwindling by seconds! It was a real defining moment!

The only available option was to either to surrender to Pharaoh’s might and be slaves forever or fight a losing fight and die.

But Moses provided the third option. He brought in the God-perspective; a perspective that the people were blind to.

Moses knew something about God’s power and presence. He knew God is a miracle worker, a way-maker and performs the impossible. He knew that God presence means victory. He knew that God is a sure and near help to everyone who calls on Him.

These thoughts (though written years later) must have been going through the mind of Moses:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea– (Ps. 46:1-2).

And call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me–               (Ps. 50:15).

A horse is prepared for battle but victory belongs to the Lord (Prov. 21:31).

He therefore courageously told the complaining and terrified crowd, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on” (Ex. 14:13-15).

This situation also speaks to our situations today…

Four Principles to help/assure us in times of need:

  1. Fear Not (vv. 13)

For sure, fear had crippled the Israelites when the saw the Egyptian army pursuing them. Behind them was an enemy, in front of them was a great sea. The only option, which Moses refocused them to see, was to look up.

Fear is something dangerous in your life. It paralyzes your potential and kills your faith. Fear leads to doubt, complaining, self-pity, and faithlessness. In your situation replace fear with faith and confidence in God. Make a deliberate decision to look up to God in faith. Rise above your fears and believe that you will make it by faith. Remember, God did not give you the spirit of fear but of courage, sound mind and love. Fear not.

Why should we not fear? It should be because God is on our side. We have seen God’s hand and faithfulness the far we have come. Choosing to response in fear does not solve the situation at hand; it only makes you more and more vulnerable to the enemy.

  1. Stand firm and be still (vv.14)

God wants us in our very time of need to be unmoved and to be still. To be unmoved by the number of the enemies, to be unmoved by the weapons they have, and to be unmoved by the powers ‘they’ claim to possess. On our side is a mighty Warrior.

Stand firm because you have a strong Deliverer. On your side is the One who is mighty in battle; the One who shields you in the day of battle.

  1. Be still (vv.14)

Be still because God is in control. Be calm and have a serenity of heart because the battle belongs to the Lord. He will fight for you (be sure to be engaged in battles that God is involved in). He will ensure your bones are not broken. Be still. Be still because by your own efforts you cannot win.

Be still and trust in the Lord, “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5,6).

  1. The Lord will fight for you (vv. 14)-

This is a wonderful promise. The Lord shall fight for you.

You have the One who is an enemy to your enemies on your side. Worry not; for victory is your portion. Engage Him in your battles and he will fight for you.

  1. Therefore move/go forward (vv. 15)-

The next order from God to Moses was “God forward!” God wanted his people to take steps of faith; not by walking round the challenge but by going through it. Lack of faith can make us stagnate in one level and be comfortable with the status quo. As they edged to the coastlines of the sea Moses raised his rod and lo and behold the waters parted!

The people walked right in the middle of the sea with the mass of water against them. Move forward, don’t get stuck in the past with its entanglements like unforgiveness, but move forward with hope, optimism, and confidence in God.  In whichever circumstance, sober up and move on…

-The Lord will fight for you; because the battle belongs to the Lord!-

Singular Focus in Life

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Life presents us an opportunity to pursue many things; but what is that one overarching thing that defines all that we pursue?

This attitude, of pursuing one thing over others, is explicit in the lives of prominent figures in the Bible. They had one chief and principal thing that they pursued wholeheartedly. This helped focus their attention, and energies to a productive end. Briefly, let’s look at biblical examples in which we see prominent figures who had singular focus/desire in life and ministry.

  1. Joshua: 15 “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

In a generation that was experiencing a growing apostasy, Joshua desired to serve the Lord despite the strong opposition around him.

2. David: “One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple” (Ps. 27:4).

David, desired, above all, to seek the Lord…and to experience the beauty and the tender care under God’s wings. His desire was a life-long desire; he will follow it through till the end of his life. Also, he commmitedly seeks what he has asked of the Lord. Did he fulfill this desire at the end of his life? A resounding yes, Acts 13:36 records that after David had served God’s purpose in his generation he rested with his forefathers.

3. Solomon: (when given the opportunity by God to ask whatever thing he needed): “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9).

This man asked God to give him wisdom (a wise and discerning heart to be able to administer justice). In response, God gave him wisdom but also in addition gave him all the other things he did not  ask for like wealth, and long life. Solomon’s priorities at least at this early stage of his life were focused. He asked God for ONE thing.

4. Agur son of Jakeh: 7 “Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die: 8 Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  9 Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God (Prov. 30:7-9).

This little known man of the Bible asked of God two things. His focused desires reveal that he longed for contentment, truthfulness, and  honoring of God.

5. Jesus: 34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work (John 4:34).

Our Lord, talked of accomplishing the will of God as his “food” (a daily necessity)

Also, Jesus instructed, 33 “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33-34).

We know Jesus accomplished his singular focus, when at the cross he said, “it is finished”.

6. The merchant in the parable of Jesus: 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it” (Matt. 13:45-46).

Why this the merchant in the parable sell EVERYTHING just to buy ONE thing? It is because the ONE thing he had found was of GREATER value than EVERYTHING he had.

7. Martha (the one thing that is needed): 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41-42).

One thing is needed, and that is what Martha chose; something that cannot be taken away from her! For Martha, it was to be with Jesus, to seat under the counsel of Jesus.

8. Paul: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead (Phil. 3:10-11).

Paul’s desired to “know Christ”; to know how wide, and long and high and deep is the love of Christ. Paul achieved his purpose because at the end of his life he was able to confidently declare, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…” (2 Tim 4:7).

These desires consumed the lives of these key characters in the Bible. Notably, they desired what ultimately brings true joy and contentment. These men desired what counts eternally. Why is it important to have a singular desire/focus: we end up seeking what we desire, “one thing I have desired; that I will seek after”;  singular focus in life leads to simplification of life; it focuses our energies and pursuits; when we have our desires defined it is easy to turn them into prayers. Life is a process of simplification…

Read Satan’s thesis statement and Jesus’ Offer

Read- One more night with the frogs

Living in Anticipation of the Lord’s Return

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The doctrine of eschatology (end times) is broadly taught in the Bible. Central to this teaching is the return of Jesus Christ for his church. Believers are not ignorant of the things that will happen in the future because the Bible talks of signs, promises, and warnings concerning the return of Jesus Christ. Through the Bible, God’s eternal plan into the future has been revealed. Jesus not only gave us the promise to return but he also gave us the signs that will precede his return and the warnings that we should beware of.

Promises:

  • Jesus promised to come back soon (Acts 1:11; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 1:7; Rev. 22:20).
  • He went to prepare a place for believers (Jn. 14:3). A place where evil and suffering will be no more. A city where there shall be no more Satan, death, tears, pain, and imperfections; for the former order of things will have passed and the new come. In this city, believers will be in the very presence of God.
  • These promises give believers/church a solid hope.
  • During his second coming the righteous will be vindicated and the wicked condemned.

Do you BELIEVE in these promises?

Signs that will precede Christ’s return:

  • Preaching of the gospel to all nations (Mk. 13:10; Matt. 24:14).
  • Great tribulation (Mk. 13:7-8, 19-20).
  • False prophets performing signs and wonders (Mk. 13:22),
  • Signs in the heavens (Mk. 13:24-25).
  • The coming of the man of sin/antichrist and the rebellion (Rev. 13; 1 Jn. 2:18).
  • The salvation of Israel in the future (Rom. 11:12; Rom. 11:25-26).

Warnings:

  • Although Jesus promised to return, he did not indicate the time of his coming. Well, is this problematic? Jesus warned that the day will come like a thief, he will come at an hour you do not expect him (Matt. 24:44; 2 Pet. 3:10). Since he did not state the exact time, is it logical to say that he has delayed? And also, if he said he would come in two or a hundred year’s time, imagine what we would be doing in the meantime.
  • Also the Bible warns of the coming judgment- the day of the Lord will bring vindication to the righteous and condemnation to the wicked. In the day of the Lord, people will be held accountable for their actions and words.

Because of Jesus’ promise, revelations, and forewarnings, WE HAVE HOPE– specifically, the hope that Christ will soon return: the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).

This hope is not a passive hope. It is a hope that should accomplish something in us. This hope should transform the way we live, think, work, handle relationships, and circumstances.

2 Peter 3:11-15 reminds us that that we ought to be doing something in anticipation of the Lord’s return. The knowledge of these promises and warnings should presently shape our lives.

How should we live NOW in light of this hope of the second coming of Jesus?

  1. Live a Holy life– Longing for Christ’s glorious appearance should cause us to be holy.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure (1Jn. 3:2-3).

The promise that Jesus will return should cause us to desire to be holy; in other words, to be like Christ. This hope should produce the fruit of righteousness in us. This blessed hope should make our lives free from any entanglement of sin.

This hope brings alongside the manifestation of God’s grace to all men. It teaches us “to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we await for the blessed hope- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (Titus 2:12-13).

Notably, this hope should change our actions and attitudes in a way that reflects a holy character.

The more we are unholy the more we will be unprepared for his coming.

The fact that Christ will return anytime should make us purify ourselves from sin, grudges, unforgiveness, and to be presentable before God as holy and blameless.

  1. Live as Strangers in this World

Living with an eternal perspective means living in this world as strangers, pilgrims, and sojourners.

Jesus revealed to us our true identity. We are God’s children, and citizens of heaven but temporarily in a foreign land (Phil. 3:20). As God’s children and ambassadors we are in the world but not of the world. Eternal perspective will remind us not love the world or follow its patterns.

We explicitly see this eternal perspective in the lives of Israel’s patriarchs. We are told, Abraham and the other patriarchs, because of eternal perspective, lived “like a stranger in a foreign country”. They lived in tents (temporary dwelling). Why? For these patriarchs were “looking forward to the city whose foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb. 11:10).

Life in this world, to a believer, should be lived as an exile. Eternal perspective should make us not to hold the things of this world dearly to our hearts. The world and the things therein are passing. Human life in this world is brief and fleeting. We are aliens in a foreign land. For international students here today, the KPP’s, Alien Cards, and Passports we carry around remind us of our temporary nature of our residence. Believers in Christ are equally strangers in this world.

As strangers in a foreign land we are called to manifest kingdom values. Life in this foreign land, as foreign people should cause us to pray and long for the full manifestation of his kingdom.

  1. Be Patient

Living as aliens in a strange world comes with challenges. Faithful living of our hope brings rejection, persecution, and sorrow. Expectedly, our hope demands that we swim upstream; that is, living in a way that stands in opposition to the values that a fallen world upholds.

When we face such opposition, we should remember the world of Paul. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:16-18).

Are you tempted to be impatient in you walk with God?  Factually, the challenges we face are: “light and momentary” and achieves for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. The glories of heaven far outweigh our temporary challenges. We, therefore, should be patient in tribulations.

In our patience, we should also continually express our longing for the Lord’s return: “our Lord, Come!” (Maranatha) 1 Cor. 16:22); “Amen, come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

  1. Walk not by Sight but by Faith

Expectation of Christ’s return should cause us to live by faith. The ancients were commended not based on what they were or what they possessed but for their faith in God. We know that without faith it is impossible to please God.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Cor. 4:18).

We should keep our hope by fixing our eyes not on what is seen but on what is unseen. As a matter of fact, not all reality is seen. If you only live for what is seen then you are acutely limited in your perspective.

Living in light of eternity involves keeping in step with the Spirit; living under the guidance of the Spirit.

Eternal perspective should enable us to store our riches in heaven rather than on earth (Matt. 6:20).

It takes faith to live as a foreigner in the world.

  1. Serve the Lord with Passion

Eternal perspective should lead us to SERVE God diligently, and with excellence; for we know our service and faithfulness will be rewarded. Such a perspective will make us serve without grumbling or seek praises from men. This eternal perspective certainly changes our perspectives on money, people, career, and work.

The hope of Christ’s return gives us the wisdom to know that we should work while it is still daytime for night is coming when there will be no opportunity to work. It teaches to maximize on every opportunity to do good to all people. If you truly have this hope it will make you invest your time in what counts eternally.

On the other hand, lack of eternal perspective makes us to live life centered on “here and now”. Such a perspective blinds us to the realities of tomorrow.

Significantly, living in light of eternity will make us WIN SOULS for Christ. Also, this hope will make us realign our purposes with God’s purposes.

  1. Be Watchful

Sometimes when we think about Christ’s return the question that comes straight to our minds is “when?” I.e. when will Christ return? But every time Jesus was asked this question, he redirected it because the question misses the point. The main point/question is: how can I live now in light of Christ’s promise to return? (Ref. Acts 1:6-8).

Knowing that Christ will return in an unknown hour should cause us to live watchfully and prayerfully.

Be on guard! Be alert! (Matt 24:42-44; Mk. 13:32-36; 25:1-13).

Watch your way of life, your testimony, and your doctrine. Watch against false teachers/preachers.

“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back — whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!'” (Mark 13:35-37).

Finally…

Has the hope of Christ’s return transformed the way you live your life here on earth?

Interestingly, it is said that what we think about heaven determines what we think about the present. C.S. Lewis once said, “it is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.”

So, when Christ returns will you be ready? Will our garment be clean? Will you wish that certain priorities in your life had changed? I want to close by saying, you have the opportunity now to live in light of the hope that Christ will return.

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God’s Power to Achieve His Purposes No Matter What

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From the scripture we know that the Sovereign God is all-omnipotent to eliminate evil, pain, and suffering. But experientially, he does allow his beloved children to go through dark moments; not because he is unable but because in his sovereignty he is ultimately able to turn evil for our good (Rom. 8:28). As a matter of fact he turned the evil and hatred intended against Joseph by his brothers to bring about the salvation of many (Gen. 50:20). In his power and wisdom he allows and disallows.

When God allows his beloved to go through a hard and trying moment, he ensures he ultimately brings out something good and beautiful, for his own glory and purposes.

Apostle Paul clearly understood this biblical fact. That is why in Philipians 1:14-30 Paul’s experiences and especially his responses to situations presents to us a challenge to embrace new situations, both good and bad, with new lenses/perspectives/attitudes informed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Paul knew that:

  1. God is able to use our dark moments to accomplish his purposes (vv. 12-14):

Paul’s imprisonment, chains, and suffering for the sake of the gospel was in a profound way used by God to bring about something beautiful:

  • It served to advance the gospel- The whole palace guard and everyone was now aware that Paul is in chains- for Christ.
  • It became an encouragement to many Christians to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

Through Paul’s chains, God was achieving something far greater and better…

Paul did not lament over his present predicament but chose to trust in God because he knew that God was at work in fulfilling his greater purposes through lives (living sacrifices) that are fully committed to Him. He knew everything happens under God’s direction. He knew God is able to bring good out of a bad circumstance/suffering. He knew he was chained, but God’s word was not.

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2. God is able to use envy and rivalry to advance his mission (vv. 15-20)-

  • In Philippi, like today, there are those who preached the gospel out of envy and rivalry- Doing it out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, stirring up trouble. Such people do ministry to build a name/glory for themselves and not to save lives. They do not preach the true gospel. They teach another gospel which is not gospel at all. Does this matter?
  • The second group preaches out of goodwill- Paul represented this category of preachers. They did ministry in love, sacrificing their all.

In both of these cases, either with good or bad motives, Christ is preached and the gospel is advancing and bearing fruit. The spread and multiplication of God’s word is not limited by evil motives. God can use any means; He can use any raw material to advance his gospel. He can use our enemies to bring some to salvation. Even through the ministry of defrauders God can save some!

He is able. And so we should rejoice that God is able to use evil intentions to accomplish his purposes. No weapon formed against the church shall prosper.

In all these Paul maintains a joyful attitude. He has plenty of reasons to complain but he chooses to be joyful, But why? He says “I know” (term used in v 12, 19 and 25). He knows that in the end:

  • Things will turn out well for him- He admits that eventually things “will turn out for my deliverance” v.19. Deliverance from prison and/or salvation in the next life- through prayers and help from the Holy Spirit.
  • In the final run he will not be ashamed- v, 20.
  • It will result into sufficient courage- to do more, suffer more? v20.
  • Christ will be exalted- by life or by death-v20.

3. God is able to use our life or death to promote his glory (vv. 20-26)

God is not limited by what we do in the span of this life.

Being conscious of this, Paul found himself in a dilemma.

He was torn in between two alternatives:

  • Continuing to be in the body– To him this meant an opportunity to engage further in a fruitful labor. He admits this option is necessary for the Philippians because he will have opportunity to work for their progress and joy in the faith. Also being with them will make their joy I Christ Jesus to overflow on his account. This alternative is good for “them”.
  • Departing to be with Christ– To Paul this means being separate from the body that is prone to weaknesses and evil plots of men. It means being in the very presence of God where there shall be no prison, pains, cry, sin, sicknesses, and death. It is an option that guarantees eternal joy and fellowship with Christ. This alternative is a true gain for Paul!

Through our lives and ministry we are building a spiritual legacy that will outlive us. In our lives, accomplishments, and service Christ should be exalted/glorified.

4. God is over all Circumstances of Life (vv. 27-30)- 

Whatever happens”- they say, life happens. Life is full of happenings. But believers in Christ should:

  • Conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (not circumstances). Circumstances change but we should not change because our lives/attitudes and responses are anchored on the solid and unchanging gospel. The ‘manner worthy of the gospel’ involves imitating Christ, and living a holy life.
  • Stand firm in one spirit– contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
  • Be courageous and strong in Christ– Not frightened by those who oppose you, because they also oppose God.

Because of God’s sovereignty, we should be joyful and hopeful in every circumstance. Knowing that God is able; and that we have been called not only to believe in him but also suffer for him.

Read also more on Paul in the book of Philippians 

Attitudes that Build Unity

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The Situation: There were apparent conflicts and divisions in the church at Philippi. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul urges believers in Christ to consider two facts that should form the basis and motivation for their unity:

  • Their union with Christ and Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
  • The example of Jesus Christ
  1. Union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit (vv.1-4)

Believer’s union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit should be the real cause for christian unity. This divine union brings blessings to the body of Christ. As a matter of fact it should make Christ-followers to:

  • Be like-minded, and agree with one another (certainly this does not mean uniformity of thought but plurality and diversity with overarching a singular goal and purpose).
  • Have same love.
  • Be one in spirit and purpose.
  • Act not out of selfish ambition but in humility.
  • Look not only at self interests but also interests of others.

A question for reflection: Why is it that in most cases our union with Christ and fellowship with Holy Spirit does not help us much as Christians in bringing unity in churches and society today? A good question for another day…

2. The Example of Jesus Christ (vv. 5-11)

Apostle Paul points out the example of Jesus Christ as the motivation and model for our unity. In Christ we see attitudes that bring true unity. Following Christ means living just as he lived.

Here are three attitudes that build/bring unity:

A). Attitude of Humility– Jesus Christ was in the very nature God but gave up his prerogatives due to his unselfishness. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). This attitude made Jesus to consider humanity in their helpless estate and to offer himself as a sacrifice and ransom for the salvation of many.

He took human body/nature without ceasing to be God; setting aside the right to his glory and power.

An attitude of humility will enable us set aside our rights and privileges in order to serve others.

Jesus implored, “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).

B). Servant AttitudeChrist had a servant attitude. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many, Mark 10:45. Servanthood came out of his love. As true servant he (temporarily) emptied himself (kenosis)of many things, for example:

  • He gave up his riches-he became poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
  • The Glory (Jn. 17:4, 5).
  • He gave up some of the joy of heaven, to become a ‘man of sorrows’ and familiar with weakness (Isa. 53:3).
  • He gave up his omnipresence for the geographical limitation of time and place.
  • He gave up the separation of sin and misery; which is part of life in heaven.
  • He came in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering Romans 8:3. Although sin was alien to his nature, He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
  • He gave up his immunity from temptation so as to be tempted in every way. He learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
  • Taking the very nature of a servant, a person who has no rights at all.
  • He became servant of all yet remained a master.

Believers should have/develop an attitude that makes them servants after Christ. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).

C). Attitude of Submission– Jesus Christ submitted himself to carry out the will of the Father. In his attitude of submission he became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Of course, he had within his jurisdiction, divine powers to unleash whatever fate he chose to those who crucified him; but he submitted himself to the will of the Father.

Jesus was humble, submissive, and obedient.

These are attitudes that build relationships and bring true unity. They are winning attitudes. It is what made Christ: to be exalted to the highest place, and be given a name above every name. The name that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We should pray God for grace to constantly develop these attitudes.

Is Christ’s Blood Thicker than Water?

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We live in a world that is deeply divided. A world that is divided along tribal, social, cultural, economic, religious, denominational, and political lines. And as a matter of fact, there are many things that divide than unite us. The church on the other hand is neither spared in this mix; for its membership constitutes people from all these backgrounds. What is the hope of unity in such diversity?

In Ephesians 2:11-22, Paul’s audience faced a similar situation when background differences between Gentile and Jewish believers threatened their unity of faith in the body of Christ. Differences, prejudices, conflicts, biases, and divisions were a deep reality among them. With these existential problems, one might rightly ask, ‘What then did the cross or blood of Christ achieve?’

Ephesians letter is without doubt one of Paul’s most elegant letters. It was written to: strengthen believers in the faith by reminding them of their position in Christ, highlight what the death of Christ achieved for believers, and, to show the purpose of the church (Ch.1-3).  The second section of the epistle (Ch. 4-6) deals with ethical implications from the preceding teachings. In the immediate context, Paul discusses spiritual blessings in Christ (Ch.1) and the fact that believers have been made alive in Christ (first part of chapter 2).

In chapter 2:11-22 Paul presents the power of the cross as the hope of unity and reconciliation.

In a divided world, God is on a mission to bring peace where there is enmity; love where there’s hatred; and, unity where there’s division. He is on a mission to both reconcile humanity to Himself, and humanity to each other.

He has done this by:

  1. Giving us a new identity (vv.11-13)- Believers in Christ are given a new and higher identity- that of a sons/daughters in God’s family. This identity does not depend on external distinctions based on what God has done in us.

In verse 11-13, Apostle Paul reminds the Gentile believers who they were formerly (before they came to Christ). Jews and Gentiles had deeply formed biases and prejudices against each other: Gentiles were referred to as “uncircumcised” by “the circumcision” group (Jews). Jews boasted of circumcision not as some African men do (as a sign to mark transition from childhood to adulthood) but as a key sign of God’s covenanted people. This pride highlighted their special status before God in a way that the Gentiles were not.

It is worth noting here that the imperative “remember” is the only imperative in chapter 1-3. Paul wanted his listeners to be continually aware of the change that has been brought about by their union with Christ. This act of remembrance will further cause them to be thankful for what God has done.

And so formerly, the Gentiles were (verse 12):

  • Separated from Christ– They worshiped idols and had no knowledge of Christ.
  • Excluded from the citizenship in Israel– Israel was God’s nation in a way that was not true of any Gentile nation.
  • Foreigners to the covenants of the promise– God did not make any covenants with any Gentile nation but only with the Jews. Interestingly, many of the Pharisees would pray daily, “O God, I give thanks that I am a Jew, not a Gentile.”
  • Without hope– It is said that great hopelessness covered the ancient world. Philosophies were empty, traditions were disappearing, and religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. They literally had no hope to hold on to (1 Thess. 4:13).
  • Without God in the world– Although they had many gods as Paul noted in Athens (Acts 17:16-23), they in their pagan religiosity did not know the true God, YHWH.

But all these changed! They were no longer what they used to be. This is introduced by the contrast “but” in verse 13. They were “far away” but have been brought “near” through “the blood of Christ”. This is what makes all the difference! Now, because of the new identity, the blood of Christ is thicker than water (than former external identities/distinctions). They now belong to a spiritual family.

It is the blood of Christ that made the Gentiles citizens partakers of the covenants of the promise. It is through the blood of Christ that those who had no God encountered God and those without hope found hope. To Paul, this was worth remembering.

In a nation plagued by divisions, tribalism, and strong political inclinations along tribal lines, how can we apply this understanding?

Undeniably, our tribes give us our foundational identities as Kamba’s, Kalenjins, Luo’s Kikuyu’s etc. On the other hand our union with Christ supplies us with a new identity as sons/daughters of God. How do you handle these two identities? Do they conflict each other?

To be specific, How do you identify yourself? Are you a Luo/Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu Christian or are you a Christian Kalenjin/Kamba/Kikuyu? If the first be the case then water is still thicker than Christ’s blood.

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If the second is the case then, Christ’s blood has become thicker than water.

The new identity that Christ gives is a higher and brings unity across tribal distinctions. Obviously, Jesus does not obliterate our former identities but provides a higher and superior identity. When we came to Christ for salvation, he made us a new creation. He gave us a new and transformed identity that gives us new lenses of seeing and engaging the ‘other’. With this transformed view, we are able to see more than a tribe/political affiliation in a person. It makes us see God’s image in THEM. It makes us see external identities not as primary but as secondary. It makes it easy for one to bless, love, talk to, pray, and to vote for a candidate from another tribe…

The solution to our tribal politics as Christians is not in refraining ourselves from discussing politics but in rising up beyond tribal categories by living out our new identity in Christ that sees all people through God’s lenses.

  1. Making Christ our peace (vv.14-15a)- Our oneness as God’s people has been made possible by Jesus Christ, our peace. Through him, walls of hostilities fall; or must fall. Also, as our model, Jesus unites us to God and to one another.

In Christ, the vocabulary of circumcised and uncircumcised ceases. It is now possible for “THEM” to be “US” because of Christ “OUR” peace.

 In order to bring this unity Christ was able to:

A. Make the two one– Practically, how can two become one? Mathematically it can only happen by subtraction; but in Christ two can become one without subtraction. In God’s economy, two can become one through the Person of Christ. The separation between Gentiles and God and between Gentiles and Jews required peace. And Jesus Christ became that peace- the one who makes us one with God, and with one another. Inviting and involving Christ among warring parties will definitely offer a lifeline of peace and hope.

Unity is an important component in our families, relationships, churches and by extension the nation. As individuals and corporately as a church, we have a solution to the challenges Kenya and Africa is facing. The church is not part of the problem but part of the solution because of the message and mission of reconciliation that Christ has entrusted the church to bring to the world (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Therefore be a peacemaker and an ambassador of reconciliation within your social networks.

B.  Destroy the barrier/the dividing wall of hostility– Christ was able to do this through his body when he died on the cross for all people.

The “wall” here can refer to the partition that hindered Gentiles from going to the holy place in the temple. It could also be referring to the curtain in the temple that separated the holy place from the holy of hollies. Either way, the dividing wall has been broken.

By implication, there is literally nothing that can once again separate believers from all backgrounds based on race, culture or whichever background. All in Christ have been made one. In addition, Christ abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. As a result, believers are now not under the law but under grace. Barriers divide and hinder unity; they create unhealthy distinctions of “us” versus “them” therefore they must be destroyed.

What barriers of hostilities have we possibly erected as individual believers or as a church? Jesus is the wall-crusher and chain breaker of such obstacles! Demolishing of barriers that separate is necessary for peace to prevail in our relationships.

In your relationships, what are some of the issues that create disunity and strife that God is calling you today to work on?

He reconciles us with the purpose of:

  1. Forming a New Community (vv. 15b-17)- Reconciliation through the cross, is for the purpose of creating one man/one people/one body- the church. The church is the place where unity and diversity is both experienced and celebrated! The church is the convergent point of peoples from all backgrounds, tribes, languages, nations.

Reconciliation was achieved through the cross- where the hostilities, hatred and enmity were nailed. Therefore the cross of Christ is a unique sign of reconciliation.

What comes to your mind when you see the cross? Is it a sign of shame, failure, defeat or a sign victory and power? Apostle Paul wrote to the church of Corinth, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross is the power of God. It is the hope that churches and warring communities can be reconciled.

Today, God’s reconciling power is at work in the church and through believers. God’s purpose of forming a new community/church is not in futility because Apostle John in his vision observed, “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb…” (Rev 7:9).

  1. Providing Access for all to the Father (vv. 18-22) – Through Christ, humanity is granted access to the Father by one Spirit. Former enemies are now considered sons/daughters in God’s household.

Both Jews and Gentiles now have access to God through Jesus Christ, by one Spirit. This access comes as a result of the destruction of the former walls of hostility.

The Gentiles are no longer foreigners and aliens but are fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.

In the OT the only division in the temple was between priests and laity (1 Kings 8:41-43), but by Paul’s day architectural barriers had been introduced for non-Jews and for women. Paul claims that these barriers are destroyed in God’s spiritual temple.

The role of Jesus in the access is vital. God’s people now are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises up to become a holy temple/dwelling place in which God lives by his Spirit.

The power of the cross to bring reconciliation in our relationships is available to every believer. The message that transforms and brings together individuals, families, churches and society is available to every believer in Christ. Therefore, be reconcilers after Christ in a world full of divisions, separation, and conflicts.

Today, as we generously give toward AICMD mission work and ministries, we are reminded that our new identity and unity as believers in Christ should cause us to bring the transforming message of reconciliation to the entire world. For God is making a people for himself from every nation, people and language.

God is calling us to cross frontiers and break barriers in order to bring blessings to the end of the earth. Why support mission work to THEM? It should be because through OUR gift Spirit’s call will enable THEM become US.

I will finish where I started: Is Christ’s blood thicker than water? (Kiswahili: Je Damu ya Yesu ni Nzito Kuliko Maji? Je Uhusiano wa kiKristo ni muhimu kuliko wa kibinadamu?). Is our relationship and identity through the blood of Christ deeper and trustworthy compared to our human and external identities? It should be so; because our new birth is more important and higher than our natural birth.

Christ’s blood is and should always be thicker and deeper than water. #Baraka

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Also read our former helpless and hopeless state and what God did to provide a divine solution.

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 gives believers an inward assurance of salvation.
  3. He indwells believers to bring an inward-out change.
  4. He illuminates God’s truth/mysteries (Jn. 14:26) for understanding.
  5. He is the power that enables believers to bear witness (Jn. 15:26; Acts 1:8; Rom 8:26). He gives power and boldness required for witness.
  6. He intercedes for believers (high priest role) in accordance with God’s will (Rom. 8:26-27).
  7. 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.
  8. He is deeply grieved by sin in the lives of Christians (Eph. 4:30).
  9. The Spirit applies redemption to us (Jn. 14:26; 16:7).
  10. 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.
  11. He sanctifies us (Rom. 8:13; 15:16; 1 Pet. 1:2). He is the source of holiness. Helps believers live holy lives.
  12. He empowers believers for service (Acts 1:8; 1 Cor. 12:7-11).
  13. He produces in us the fruit of Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22-23); that are signs of sanctification.
  14. 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?

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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