The Insufficiency of Human Wisdom and Sufficiency of the Wisdom of God -1 Cor. 1:18-31

wisdom

I once read a book and at the back cover of the book one person recommended, “If you don’t have this book consider your library empty!” In the same vein, godly wisdom is important and if you don’t have it, I dare say consider your life to be empty!  A wise man in the Bible fears God; wisdom leads to life, bounty, blessings, sustenance, and security. A fool is by definition someone who says in his heart there is no God, Ps 14:1.

Bible talks of two kinds of wisdom: human wisdom/wisdom of the world, and wisdom of God. We do not just need any kind of wisdom but wisdom that leads to life, wisdom from above.

Wisdom of the World/Human Wisdom and its insufficiency

Basis- Human wisdom has its foundation in the cleverness of speech, persuasiveness of words-wisdom of words. The danger to this is that words can be used manipulatively, hypocritically, deceivingly.

Human wisdom is temporal– “Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world” where is their power? Where are those who declared ‘God is dead’? has not the living God finally declared them dead. Where are those who mocked God/persecuted believers? Where is their wisdom? You will realize that their human wisdom and pride came/comes to nothing.  Within a twinkle of an eye, they are no more; they will be blown like chaff.

Insufficiency– The wisdom of the world is about sagacity, natural wit and only head knowledge; it consists of knowledge of natural things. It has a general knowledge of God and not specific in reference to the person of Christ; not for of lack of facts and information but lack of faith. In Rom 1:18ff, men failed to know God who has revealed himself in the universe, in man and in history. They essentially knew God but not as exhibited in Christ. It is true that not all intelligent people are wise- Jer 8:9; 1 Cor. 3:18-21. That is why salvation depends on faith not on wisdom, “to save them that believe”. It is not by human reason but by revelation. The physical cannot in itself comprehend the spiritual unless enabled.

The intellectualism of our day is insufficient in reaching God because God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. As a matter of fact, the philosophies of this world, however appealing they are, are hollow and deceptive, Col 2:8. At best they give birth to: atheism, materialism, rationalism, agnosticicsm, and refined selfishness.

We therefore need a better wisdom…

The Wisdom of God

Basis– The wisdom of God rests on the power of God- not dependent on what we know, or our eloquence, linguistic proficiency or polished accents, thoughts or our skill in exposition. It has a foundation on the gospel, the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, Rom 1:16.

The wisdom of the world leads to atheism, materialism, rationalism, or agnosticicsm but the wisdom of God leads to from a righteousness and justice, truth, peace, joy, love. When God’s wisdom is present it is evident for all to see, Gen 41:38,39; 1 kings 3:28; Dan 5:11.

The wisdom of God is about the cross. This message is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is power of to those who are being saved. It is about Jesus crucified on the cross to pay the penalty of our sin. It is about the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ; it about the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. It is about the revelation of God’s love. The cross of Jesus is the wisdom of God; on that Friday afternoon it looked like it was a defeat and weakness but on the Sunday morning it was victory and power of God to impact lives. What was hidden was revealed (1 Cor. 2:7); and since then the message of the cross has continued to change lives. Your are a testimony to what am talking about here if the cross of Jesus has transformed you.

God’s wisdom is seen on the use of the weak to shame the strong. Obviously,  any coach would want to have the best players in his team to win a game. But it is not so with God. Sometimes/most times we feel inadequate but in our weakness God’s strength is manifested. He qualifies the unqualified for his service.

God in his divine ways know how to use the unwise by human standards, the un-influential, the un-noble as his vessels to display his purposes and glory. For the purpose that anyone who boasts should humbly boast in God. Do you feel inadequate for his mission? He refills those who have emptied themselves and surrendered all to him for his usefulness. Think of the disciples Jesus called. Peter and a few others would be the least persons you would want in your team; but thankfully God uses anyone willing to follow him. People noted that the disciples were unschooled ordinary men from Galilee (villages), but they were astonished by their courage and they took note that they were with Jesus, Acts 4:13. Paul in his self-evaluation confesses he was the chief of sinners, 1 Tim 1:12-16. Jesus can totally transform a person; he can make the vilest sinner live. In His wisdom, he can make the unproductive vine productive.

So why has God in his wisdom call us despite our nothingness? First to shame the strong, and second that, “the world does not know him”, he wants to use you in a unique way that will leave the world in wonder.

Do you desire wisdom from God? The wisdom of God is a person: Jesus Christ, God’s self disclosure- “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”. Wisdom is a person; he is personified in the book of Proverbs. We know/learn God’s purpose and plan of redemption through Jesus, the exact representation of God. We also understand the OT wisdom literature better through beholding Jesus, he is wisdom incarnate. He is the image of the invisible God, Col 1:15.  To become wise is to know Jesus. Christ who is able to save, transform, sanctify.

In comparison, V25, the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, God’s “folly” is the highest wisdom; man’s highest “wisdom” is but folly.  The wisdom of the world in its pride and rebellion leads to perishing; whereas the wisdom of God leads to salvation.

On what foundation have we built our lives, families or ministries/careers on? Human wisdom will fail, but godly wisdom lasts. What the human wisdom fails to accomplish God’s wisdom does.

The wisdom of God which is also the word of God (Lk 11:49) teaches us to be humble, that God opposes the proud, not to fear but to be courageous. It instructs us on how to speak, to wait upon the Lord, it teaches us the goodness of God’s discipline, and brings in us the fruit of righteousness, how to live in evil times, how to succeed, and how to understand the will of the Lord. It comes by embracing the word, valuing it and applying it in our lives.

Make God’s wisdom your ally!

 

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THE RECONCILING POWER OF THE CROSS: The message of Eph 2:11-22

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We have many things that divide than unite us. We can be divided along spiritual, economic, cultural, tribal, social or political lines. What is the hope of unity in such diversity? Paul’s audience faced a similar situation when differences between Gentile and Jewish believers became apparent even in the church. This negatively affected relationships within the church. But should this be the case?

In his epistle to the church in Ephesus, Paul presents the power of the cross as the hope of reconciliation. The message of reconciliation is a powerful message to any person who knows what separation or enmity really is. It is only in Jesus that two (or more) opposing groups can harmoniously become one. This is the message of Eph 2:11-22.

It is doubtless that Ephesians is one of Paul’s most elegant letters. He writes the letter in Rome while in prison for preaching the gospel. The purpose of the letter is to strengthen believers in the faith by reminding them of their position in Christ and the purpose of the church. In the first chapter he shows them the how rich believers are in Christ; in the second chapter he explains how believers have been made alive in Christ.

In verse 2:11-22 he writes to believers in Ephesus showing them that the dividing wall between the Jews and Gentiles has been destroyed in Christ. Jews and Gentiles have both been reconciled because of the cross of Christ.

The reconciling power of the cross brings about:

  1. A New Identity (verse 11-13)

Apostle Paul reminds the Gentile believers who they were formerly (before they came to Christ). They were called “uncircumcised” by “the circumcision” group (Jews). This is how the two groups (Jews and Gentiles) would refer to each other. Jews boasted of circumcision not as 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 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 by their union with Christ. This act of remembrance will further cause them to be filled with thanksgiving.

The Gentiles were not to forget who they were in the past. Formerly, (verse 12) they were:

  • Separated from Christ– As a matter of fact, the Ephesians worshipped the goddess Diana and they knew nothing about 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 the Gentile nations 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, religions were powerless to help men face either life or death. They literally had no hope to hold on to, 1 Thess 4:13-18.
  • Without God in the world– The pagans had many gods as Paul noted in Athens (Acts 17:16-23). But still pagans in their religiosity did not know the true God, YHWH.

But all these have changed! They are no longer what they used to be. This is introduced by the contrast “but” in verse 13. They were “far away” but were brought “near” through “the blood of Christ”. The cost of destroying the enmity was the blood of Christ. The Gentiles who were formerly separated from God (because of sin) now belong because of the blood of Christ.

Reconciliation that Paul talks about is not brought about by works (2:8a) but by the gracious act through the blood of Christ. The blood of Christ is what made the Gentiles citizens in Israel, partakers of the covenants of the promise. It is through the blood of Christ those who had no God encountered God and those without hope found hope. To Paul this was worth remembering.

It is very easy to forget where we have come from, or who we were as opposed to who we have become. I don’t know why we forget things we ought to remember and remember things we ought to forget! But what happens when we forget? We lose focus of who we are and what we are becoming. It is important, as a Christian, to have “stones” that serve as “memorial” Josh 4:6-7 to the things God has accomplished for you.

Apart from receiving a new identity, the reconciling power of the cross also brings us,

  1. Unity/oneness in Christ (verse 14-15)

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The two opposing groups (Jews and Gentiles) have been brought together in Christ. As a result there is now a new identity and a newfound unity. Paul points out that Jesus Christ who is “our peace” brought unity. In Christ, the vocabulary of circumcised and uncircumcised ceases. It is now possible for “them” to be “us” because of Christ who is “our” peace.

 In order to bring this unity Christ was able to:

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 the Gentiles and Jews required peace. And that peace is Jesus Christ. Jesus “our peace” makes us be one with God, and others. Again, you will remember that in Jn 17:21 Jesus prayed for believers that they may be one. Unity is important in any relationship.

Destroy the barrier/the dividing wall of hostility– Christ was able to do this through his body when he died in the cross for all people. The “wall” here could refer to the partition that hindered Gentiles from going to the holy place in the temple. It could also refer to the curtain in the temple that separated the holy place from the holy of holies. Either way, the dividing wall has been broken. By implication, there is literally nothing that can once again separate believers based on race, culture or whichever background. All in Christ have been made one.  In addition, Christ also abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. As a result, believers are now not under the law but under grace. As a matter of fact, barriers hinder unity; and so they have to be destroyed.

The key question to ask ourselves: What barriers of hostilities have we possibly erected as individual believers or as a church? Could these barriers be tribal barriers, educational, spiritual, political, or socio-economic. Definitely barriers create unhealthy distinctions of “us” versus “them”. But these barriers need and should be destroyed by Jesus Christ for peace to prevail in our relationships. One of the problem today is that there are many people who do not see schism as a sin or unity as important. Therefore as a believer you need to decisively, through God’s grace, deal with issues that create disunity and strife among God’s people because you now know that it is God’s will for unity and peace to prevail in our relationships.

Thirdly, the reconciling power of the cross brings,

  1. New Community- the church- (verse 16-17)

one people

The purpose of the oneness that Christ brings is to create “one man/one people/ one body”.  The “one body” or the church results from the reconciliation of all (both Jews and Gentiles) into one man through the cross. Reconciliation was achieved through the cross; it is where the hostilities were nailed. Therefore the cross is the sign of reconciliation. This speaks so powerfully of the power of the cross.

What comes into your mind when you see the cross? Is it shame, failure, defeat or 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. 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.

Finally, the reconciling power of the cross brings,

  1. Access to God (verse 18-22) –

In Christ we not only have a new identity, unity, and a new community but also an access to the Father by one Spirit. 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. This is a message that transforms individual lives, families, churches and society. The transformational power of the cross is what we desperately need today in our world full of divisions, separation and conflict.

Kuria’s ICC ‘fixing’ claims a positive step to healing and reconciliation

The recent revelation by Hon. M. Kuria of the alleged fixing of ICC suspects has been received with mixed reactions. Some politicians and religious leaders think Kuria’s claims are “opening up old wounds” and polarizing the nation. I beg to differ with this thinking. Kuria should be celebrated! He is launching the country into a very crucial process of genuine forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation.

It is true that the question of PEV is a serious and divisive matter. It is one of the regrettable moments of our history as a nation. Though it is eight years ago, the memories are still fresh in our minds. Many lives were lost, while others still bear the marks on their bodies, relationships between individuals and communities broken, and property destroyed. The worst thing to do is bury our heads on the sand and pretend that the problem does not exist.  It will be insensitive of Kenyans to blindly say “let’s move on” without resolving the real issues amicably.

Over the last eight years, there have been efforts to ensure justice is implemented but this has been elusive and to some extent unsuccessful. There has also been attempts toward peace, reconciliation, and bring cohesion among communities but still much has not been achieved.

As a matter of fact, today the issue of PEV is still an emotive issue(no wonder we still call it a ‘wound’ not a ‘scar’) because no passionate move has been pursued to bring healing. We have never resolved our issues; we buried them like the person who resorts to chang’aa to forget his problems. During the last general election many people travelled to their rural/tribal homes because “who knows what could happen”. I take this as an indicator that we have only wished our problems away and have not decisively dealt with them.

Hon. Kuria’s ‘fixing’ claims and disclosure of his role in relation to the PEV cases is fundamental because it can redirect us into a path to genuine forgiveness, healing and reconciliation. The foundational step toward genuine forgiveness, healing, and reconciliation is confession. It sounds simple yet it is not an easy thing to do. It takes courage to say, “I am sorry, I did it. Forgive me”. It is a courageous move because it expresses one’s willingness to accept responsibility and consequence of their actions.

In my opinion, this man’s confession should be commended rather than condemned. I wish there could be thousands of echoes across the country of the same confessions. And for that matter, such voices should be listened to if we are serious about reestablishing trust. Confession is the medicine to reconciliation. You may not agree with Mr. Kuria on everything he says but on this issue he is telling his version of truth. Sometimes truth hurts yet it is what brings true healing and liberation.

We have all along believed that blanket forgiveness will resolve the 2008 post poll chaos, but that strategy was doomed to failure from the start. It has only worsened the situation and created more resentment, hurt and division. True healing and reconciliation only begins when the offender specifically admits his/her wrong and is sorrowful over his/her attitudes and actions. Genuine words of confession do not and should not polarize a nation but firmly unite. They do not increase hurt and suspicion but fosters genuine love, unity, and restores trust. We can enhance peace and cohesion not by urging people, “Let’s forget and move on” but by calling a wrong a wrong and asking for forgiveness.

Confession and sorrow for one’s action is important because it also leads to the path of recovery and justice. Although restitution can be impossible in cases where lives were lost; the victims should be helped to pick up their lives and move on. A wrong must be righted. Stolen things should be returned. Truth should be told. Those found guilty should humbly take responsibility. This becomes easier after the offender admits his/her wrong and seeks forgiveness from the one offended. In our opinions, let’s all give truth a chance by creating an environment where people can publicly admit their past wrongs without fear of physical or verbal attack. Confession and sorrow for a wrong done is necessary for genuine forgiveness, healing and reconciliation.

LIVING ONE DAY AT A TIME

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One of the very essential truths that God wants every believer to learn is to wholly depend on Him every single day. It is a lesson he consistently taught the Israelites for over forty years in the wilderness. Let’s read Exodus 16:15-21.

When the Israelites saw it (manna), they said to each other, ‘What is it?’ For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much as he needs…’ The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some gathered little. And when they measured it by the omer, he who gathered much did not have too much and he who gathered little did not have too little. Each one gathered as much as he needed. 

God had provided food for his people but the condition was that each was to collect what was enough for a day. Then Moses said to them, ‘No one is to keep any of it until morning.’ However some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. Each morning everyone gathered as much as he needed (vv.19, 20)But some disobeyed and stockpiled for the following day. Unfortunately, it didn’t last; it had an expiry date of the same day!

Jesus also taught his disciples on the same (living one day at a time). In the Lord’s Prayer, the disciples are to pray, “Give us TODAY our daily bread”; in the same chapter (Matt 6) the disciples are further instructed on the same subject.

Why should Christ’s disciples live each day at a time?

God knows what we need– Living one day at a time stems from the understanding that God knows what we need. Prayer is not a channel of furnishing God with information or list of our needs but a channel of expressing dependence on God. For sure, He knows what you need, Matt 6: 31-34. He not only knows what you need but also when you need it. God knows our daily needs and he is in a daily business of ensuring that those needs are met.

Each day has enough trouble of its own– Matt 6:34- Each day has its own challenges, worries, disappointments, discouragements, and demands. But at the same time, each day has its own highs, joys, praises, and opportunities. Each day, we have our hands full.

Further, each day brings about newness. God’s mercies are new every morning, (Lam 3: 22-23). Each day has its, new connections, new assignments, and new wonders. The Hebrew meaning of manna is “What is this?” Israelites woke up each morning collecting and wondering, “what is this?” (manna).

Although you may have many challenges to face, remember every single day brings about God’s sufficient grace and power to overcome. And I pray that this day God will surprise your life with good things.

There is enough for our need not for our greed –In the Exodus account, there are some people who disobeyed what God had said through Moses. They collected manna more than they needed for a day; but it never worked to their advantage. Why did some people collect more than they were supposed to? It is apparent that they were driven by human greed. They had a selfish desire to have more and more for themselves. Gathering more today does not necessarily mean satisfaction or a secured tomorrow. Bringing together concern’s for tomorrow and today is a good recipe for worry. But God’s daily provision is sufficient for our need.

It is an expression of trust in God- To put this point in perspective, ponder on this: Why didn’t God rain manna that would be stocked for a whole year or so? I think one of the reason is that God was teaching his people to trust Him step by step. It is not an easy one. It is harder to walk by faith than by sight. Yet, trusting God is a daily aspect we have to learn and apply. God’s people must learn to surrender control and put trust in God and on his unfailing promises. The point is, the God who provided for my needs yesterday is the same Jehovah Jireh who can do it once again and in the future. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, Heb 13:8. And so, living one day at a time means walking by faith and not by sight, 2 Cor 5:7.

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WHAT DO YOU HAVE THAT YOU DID NOT RECEIVE?

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It is very easy in life to adopt a false view of ourselves. On one hand, a wrong estimate of who we are can lead us into low self esteem and on the other hand the danger is an inflated ego. The Bible gives us a crystal-clear picture and truth of who we are in Christ. Here is a short verse that has been helpful to me.

1 Cor 4:7- “For what makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”  

You might rightfully want to ask yourself, “What is it that makes me different from other people? Could it be: wealth, family, education, power, personality, beauty, strength, diligence, intelligence, job, health, or talent?

Probably you might be tempted to think these things have ‘made’ you what/who you have become; but a honest analysis will show that God is indeed the one who has made all the difference. He is the one in whom all things hold together. All things in our possession have been RECEIVED (except our sin nature). It’s all about the grace of God. From God we have received grace upon grace.

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The idea that you have received everything  should cause us to:

Be humble-What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”  1 Cor 4:7. Obviously, there is no point of boasting of what you were give. But the issue of pride is a heart problem.  A heart full of pride says, “I deserve it all”; it is all about my powers, my education, my investment, my talent.  It is “my” and “I” because it is all about me (not about others, not about God). Therefore, knowing the origin of what we have should cause us to be humble and only boast in God.  Pride slowly creeps into our hearts the moment we forget that all we are and have is by the favor of God.

Be Thankful- There is no better way to appreciate a gift that has been given to you other than by giving thanks. God has given us so much that we owe him lots of thanks. He has blessed us with all we need, both material and spiritual blessings. Through his power we are provided for- “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness” 2 Pet 1:3. The thing we give back to God after receiving is a thankful heart.

Give praise – We praise him because he is the Giver of all good things; “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows Jas 1:17. This understanding should make us praise his name. The purpose of what has been received is for the magnification of his name.

We have many things to praise God for- salvation, life, healing just to name but a few. David in the Psalm 103:1-2 wrote, “Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”. Has God satisfied your life with good things? Praise Him.

 Trust in the God of grace- – Grace has been defined as unmerited favor. To the question, “For what makes you different from anyone else? 1 Cor 4:7 I suggest it is the grace of God. God has given his grace to different people as he determines and as it pleases him. How special are you that God saved you and has not saved others? It is all by grace! It is not based on any merit. Every blessing we posses is a receive grace and gift from God; and if we desire something in life we should ask God, the one who gives us freely and generously.

Discover how rich we are- you can imagine how much you have received (physically and spirituall)from the Lord for the days you have lived under the sun. You are simply blessed!  As a child of God you have one spiritual blessing after another,  you have: forgiveness of sins, redemption, justification, sanctification, wisdom and understanding, Eph 1. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” 2 Cor 8:9. And so the poor should say “I am rich”, the sinner “I am forgiven”, and the weak “I am strong” because of what the Lord has done.

Love more– The fact that we have received all should challenge us to love (people and God) more.  In relation to God we are all debtors, “The more God has given the more we are in debt. Why should a man boast that he is deeper in debt than another?” However the debt we have should be that of love, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another” Rom 13:8. Believers should not be like storage tanks to God’s blessings but vessels that convey the same blessings to others.

Give God glory– The understanding that God has given us all things should make us to give God all the glory. Because we realize it is not by our strength but by God’s mighty hand and outstretched arm.  It is not by the chariots or horses but by the name of the Lord our God (Ps 20:7). Giving God glory involves acknowledging that it is not by my sword and my bow but by the power of the Lord Almighty (Ps 44:6). “Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name be the glory because of your love and faithfulness” Ps 115:1. Let God be glorified.

6 WAYS THAT GOD HAS EQUIPPED YOU TO CARRY OUT HIS MISSION

It first begins by acknowledging that God has a mission and a purpose to be accomplished; and that this purpose does not begin today or yesterday but in eternity past. God has made his divine plans manifest through his written Word. It is vivid that his purpose/mission and desire is that ALL people come to know him. He desires all men to be saved. I see this purpose explicitly captured in two Bible passages.

The first passage, Jn 10:14-16 Jesus instructs- “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep knows me- just as the Father and I know the Father- and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” NIV

The second passage: 1 Tim 2:3-6 reads, “This is good, and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” NASU

Quick things to note on the above passages: Jesus, the good shepherd, has knowledge of his sheep and the sheep know him. He’s laid down his life for the sheep (a fake shepherd would not attempt). He has other sheep that he still must also bring in (note that he also calls them his sheep for they will hear his voice).  There is hope for they will listen. Jesus’ purpose is to have one flock and one shepherd. In 1 Tim 2:3-6, God desires that all men to be saved (but it does not mean all will be saved). This salvation is about the knowledge of the truth that comes from one God and one mediator-Christ Jesus.

I know God works through many ways, for his ways are higher than our thoughts. But one way that we all know is that God uses his people. The good shepherd uses His sheep to accomplish his mission.  But since God knows that this purpose is greater and bigger than us, he has in a special way equipped you for the task. He has equipped you as an individual and collectively as a church for the mission. How has God equipped you to carry out his purpose?

God has given you (us):

  1. A message– We have been given a message, the word of truth, the gospel/ good news. It is a trustworthy message. It is a message that brings salvation to all men. The gospel is able to transform people into what God desires. It is a message that speaks freedom to the prisoners, healing to the sick, hope to the hopeless, comfort to the afflicted and peace a world without peace. It is a message that resonates to the core need of humanity: salvation. It is a message of faith, hope, and love.

Like the Amalekites (2 Kings 7:4) we would be guilt of the sin of silence if we hold back the good news to ourselves and let the world desperately perish. This message is about telling the world that we have one Mediator between God and man- Jesus Christ; and that only in Christ sins are forgiven. You have a divine message!

  1. An opportunity- We have numerous opportunities as individuals and as a church to make all know God/hear the voice of God. God presents us with opportunities to make exploits for him. Paul exhorted the saints at Ephesus to understand the will of the Lord (in this case, wanting all men to be saved) and make use of every opportunity because the times are evil-Eph 5:16. Opportunities are best seized. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work-Jn 9:4. God’s patience and tarrying in respect to parousia means an opportunity for sinners to repent. What opportunities has God presented to us to impact the community around us? What opportunities have we been blind to?
  2. A new identity in Christ- In order that God’s mission is accomplished God has given you a new identity when you were united with Christ. God’s unique mandate needs unique people. You union with Christ made you become- a child of God Jn 1:12, Christ’s friend (Jn 15:15), justified (Rom 5:1), free from condemnation (Rom 8:1), member of Christ’s body (1 Cor 12:27), saint (Eph 1:1), complete in Christ (Col 2:20), and a citizen of heaven (Phil 3:20). You now have a direct access to God through the Holy Spirit (Eph 2:18).

Then, does it mean that this new identity is devoid of weaknesses, failures, flaws, limitations and imperfections? Absolutely no. God has power to turn them for his magnification; for his power is at work in you and through you!

This new identity comes with the responsibility to make disciples of all nations- bringing into the sheepfold the “other sheep”. In your new identity you are called to be- salt and light of the earth (Matt 5:13,14), a witness of Christ (Acts 1:8), chosen to bear fruit (Jn 15:16), and an ambassador for Christ 2Cor 5:20.

  1. Spiritual gifts– God has prepared you for his work by giving you a spiritual gift(s). He distributes different gifts (expression of grace) to different believers just as he determines. The purpose of the gift is to edify/built up the body of Christ /making him known. It is not for your selfish gain but for the benefit of others.

Read Rom 12:6-8 and 1Cor 12 to see the variety of these gifts, and guess what, it is not even conclusive! In the mission of God there is enough space and work for everyone.  Am told many Christians do not know their spiritual gifts- but what is the value or worth of an unopened gift?

Your spiritual gift has a special role in fulfilling God’s agenda!

  1. The Holy Spirit– What is the best gift you can give to someone important to you? (probably many answers here: flowers, objects, living-things, and whatever…) I have many times gone to gift shops to get some ideas but I sometimes still go ‘what other ideas do you have’.

The greatest gift God has given us is Himself. We have Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit; literally we have God.  His presence is with us, always. To the Israelites in the desert, his greatest gift was not manna but his enduring presence. Because of this promise, the psalmist expressed courage and confidence, “I will fear no evil, for you are with me” Ps 23:4. Jesus promises his disciples (us included) to be with them till the end of age Matt 28:20.

The Spirit of God lives in us, and is with us always. In the work that God has called us to do, remember he is your partner, For we are God’s fellow workers 1 Cor 3:9. Holy Spirit empowers believes in witnessing, Acts 1:8.

  1. Community of believers- God has equipped us by giving us the church; the church in its ministries also equips believers for service. God knows that you can’t do it alone and you can’t live in isolation and so he has prepared you a community of people called out of the world. You need a community so that you can know him more and make him known.

There are many passages that exhort us to a life shared together in a community- love one another (Jn 13:34), be devoted to one another (Rom 12:10), live in harmony with one another (Rom 12:16), accept one another (Rom 15:7), greet one another, instruct one another, submit to one another, teach and admonish one another, encourage one another, do not slander one another, offer hospitality to one another, fellowship with one another and many more. The point is, the body of Christ, plays a key role to the life of a believer in the process of furthering God’s agenda.

Right from the beginning God’s mission has been to bring blessings to all humankind (can be traced through the covenants). And you are part of that divine plan. His mission and desire to reach all men, through his people, is not in futility for 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. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands” Rev 7:9.

8 THINGS GOD CANNOT DO

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Perhaps you are already wondering and asking yourself what is it that the Almighty and all-powerful God is unable to do. For clarity, “cannot do” in this case does not mean inability on God’s side but is something that reveal His eternal character. There are some things that God cannot do for He cannot act contrary to his character.

The written word of God affirms God’s power and sovereignty, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”  Gen 18: 14. Again, “with God all things are possible” Matt 26:19. For this reason apostle Paul asserts, “I can do all everything through him who gives me strength” Phil 4:13.

Here are seven things that God cannot do (and that we should be thankful for):

  1. God cannot lie-“God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Num 23:19. It is impossible for Him to lie: Titus 1:2; Heb 6:18. He cannot lie, and so you can bank on every single word or promise he has said and promised in his word.
  2. God cannot let a sinner inherit his kingdom– God hates sin and cannot allow a sinner to inherit his kingdom. “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God: Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God” 1Cor 6:9-10. He will simply say to them, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers” Matt7:23.
  3. God does not show favoritism- Acts 10:34-35, Jas 2 – He is not a respecter of persons; He accepts all men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. He judges all peoples in righteousness and with equity.
  4. God cannot disown himself- He is what he says he is. He is the great I AM. His being is not dependent on our response. “Here is a trustworthy saying: if we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself” 2 Tim 2:11-13.
  5. God cannot violate his covenant– Ps 89:34- “I will not violate my covenant or alter what my lips have uttered”. He can’t break his covenant promises, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands.” He cannot change his mind along the way for his word is eternal and firmly established in the heavens.
  6. God cannot stop loving you– Ps 103: 17 “But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children.” God also declares, “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness” Jer 31:3. We also see it in Jn 3:16. God cannot stop loving you because he is love, 1 Jn 4:8.
  7. God will never leave you nor forsake you– “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” Deut 31:6. Sadly, we sometimes and perhaps most of the times forsake Him but he still remains faithful.
  8. God cannot forget you- Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me” Isa 49:15-16.

Since God cannot do these things we can be sure that our salvation is real, our faith sure, our hope firm, His promises trustworthy, and that His word abides forever.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 2

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(Continuation from the previous blog)- So far we have seen that true disciples of Jesus are learners, they are submissive to Christ (and to authorities), and are bearing fruit. Being a disciple of Jesus also means:

  1. Loving God and his people

By sending the disciples out to preach, Jesus was giving them opportunity to share God’s love to people. The calling the disciples received was also a calling to herald the love of God. When Jesus saw the crowd he had compassion over them, they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he told His disciples that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few and that the disciples should ask the Lord of the harvest to sent out workers into his harvest field. He then sends them out to preach the gospel.

Jesus had taught them what love is. A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another– Jn13:34-35.

Jesus taught his disciples what love is. The service of a disciple of Jesus was to be characterized by love. It is because of love and compassion that he told them to go and heal people of their sicknesses, casting out demons, raising the death, and cleansing the lepers. When a disciple leads he does not lord over others but serves like a servant. He serves by leading and leads by serving.

Small actions of love make a great difference.

  1. It means imitating Christ- the Master

Disciples are known for the imitation of their teachers. The call of every disciple of Jesus is also a call to follow after the Master- Jesus Christ. The calling of disciples by Jesus as recorded in Mark was twofold, he appointed the twelve that they  might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons-Mk 3:14-12. The time they spent with Jesus was a life-changing moment. It is in this close relationship that he revealed to them the secret things of God. Jesus modeled that disciples are servants.

The goal of being a disciple is to become like the teacher. A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher- Lk 6:40. John writes in his epistle, whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did- 1 Jn 2:6. To know the Father is to walk as Jesus did. Paul urged believers in Ephesus to imitate Christ, Eph 5:1. Paul said of himself: I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me– Gal 2:20.

The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch, outside Jerusalem. People saw Christ in them- Acts 11:26. As we behold on Christ, the author and perfector of our faith, we become transformed inward out and become like Him. In the words of John the Baptist, He must become greater, I must become less-Jn 3:30

  1. Counting the cost- Many people want to be associated with Christianity but are not ready to consider the cost. Following Christ comes with a cost. It means following one master and forsaking other masters. It means living in oppposition to world values. It involves carrying your own cross. This is not easy. One has to be ready to surrender all and laying down all at the feet of Jesus. The disciples of Jesus who were later referred to as apostles suffered persecution rejection, and suffering in obedience to the will of their Master. One must be ready to suffer, Mat 10:34-37; Lk 14:25-27. It is a life of denial.
  2. It means proclaiming the imminence of the kingdom of God-

The disciples of Jesus were told to go out and proclaim that the kingdom of God is near. It is not like the kingdom of this world. This kingdom was inaugurated during the incarnation of Jesus and at the Pentecost when the church was founded. The church is not the kingdom but a witness to the kingdom. The casting of demons, healing ministry of Jesus revealed that the kingdom of God has come. This kingdom has come in part and awaits final revelation during parousia (second coming of Jesus). It is a kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy. It is a kingdom of power and glory. The disciples of Jesus proclaim the coming and the nearness of this kingdom. The church serves a central role. The ‘delay’ of the full manifestation of this kingdom means an opportunity for sinners to repent.

True disciples of Christ will seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness. They make disciples of all nations.

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A TRUE DISCIPLE OF JESUS CHRIST- Part 1

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It is important for us today to recapture what it means to be a disciple of Jesus because we live in a world where many people identify themselves as Christians yet they live a different life. The central question is who exactly is a disciple of Jesus? What does the Bible teach about becoming/being a disciple of Christ? What does it mean to follow Jesus?

For your knowledge, the Bible uses the word “disciple” 282 times, “believers” 26 times and “Christians” only 3 times. The number the word “disciple” is repeated shows us that there is more to learn on what it means to be a disciple. In the Great commission, Matt 28:19-20, Jesus commissions his followers to go into all the world and make disciples.

The passages (Matt 10:1-7; Lk 10:1-12) we have read details the call to be disciples of Jesus. We become disciples of Jesus by responding positively to his call. Jesus called his disciples and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. He then sent them out into the world as apostles, (the purpose of their preparation) to preach.

It was a common phenomenon in the 1st century for a spiritual leader to have disciples. John the Baptist also had disciples. Matt 9:14. Pharisees had their own disciples, Matt 22:16. Jesus had many disciples other than the twelve disciples, Matt 10:1; Lk 22:11. Many of his followers were Jews, Jn 6:66; Lk 6:17. Some of Jesus’ disciples followed him secretly, Jn 19:38. Some were true and some were false dsiciples.

What Does it mean to become a disciple of Jesus?

  1. It means being a learner– The word “disciple” is from the Greek word “mathetes” meaning a “learner” or “student”. It is one who follows another person’s teaching.

Jesus’ disciples were called to a new and different life. In fact the life principles they were taught were upside down and a paradox of what they knew. The way up is down (humility); the first shall be last; to be filled we must empty ourselves; to live we must first die; to find we must first lose; and we gain not by adding more but by letting go. This needed learning.

The disciples of Jesus were fishermen, but they were called to be fishers of men. That also needed learning. No wonder they are sent for an internship in the Luke’s passage.

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 the 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; from young and old. They will say, ”When I went through that circumstance…. God taught me this and that…”

Learners have a teachable Spirit, they have inquisitive minds and learners 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.

The good news for disciples is that we have an invitation from Jesus to 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 are not teachable. Such people do not listen, even when warned of an impending danger. They can’t be corrected. The book of proverbs calls them fools. You warn them of a ditch ahead of them they will downplay it as a small pothole!

Therefore disciples of Jesus are learners all the time. If you are not growing then you have expired and if you are expired then you are not of use to the kingdom of God. If you have stopped learning you have stopped marveling at the greatness of God.

  1. It means being submissive to Christ (and to authorities)-

The disciples of Jesus found a new Master when they responded to his call. The Roman Empire had many lords and Caesar was one. Submission to Christ means following him no matter what. It means subjecting our will to his will. It means realigning our plans/mission to God’s plans.

Submission means obedience; and obedience to 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; 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– 1 Jn 2:4-5. Christ wants the life of his disciples to be totally submitted to him in obedience to his word.

When a Christian says “I am born again and Christ is my Lord” he actually says two things. He is saved (in reference to the past activity of justification) and secondly, Christ is Lord (in the sense that he presently rules over my life). The point I want to make is that many Christians were saved but presently they do not have Christ as Lord over their lives. The lordship of Christ is something we choose every other moment; we choose to submit to Him or to follow our own will. Disciples of Christ live a life of submission to Christ. T

Submission also involves submission to the authorities instituted by the Lord-either at home, workplace, government, or in the church. Peter, a disciple of Jesus, later exhorted the church to be submissive: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right-1 Pet 13-14.

In submission to the will of the Father, the disciples obeyed the Great Commission and preached the gospel from Jerusalem, to all Judea, all Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

  1. It means bearing fruit

After teaching them and showing them miraculous signs, Jesus sends out the disciples to share the gospel and heal people. Fruit here may represent new converts, or even fruit of the Holy Spirit. Whichever way you take, the point is clear, true disciples of Jesus bear fruit. They are like the tree planted by the river which yield its fruit in and out of season.

Jesus taught that: This is to my Father’s glory that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples Jn 15:8. What do you call people who claim to be Christians yet they are unproductive? I don’t know, what I know is that they are not disciples.

Beware of unfruitful Christian life. Unfruitful believers are like a clouds without rains, a well without water…a tree without fruit. We live in a world that we are very cautious about judging others; but the truth is that you will know the disciples by their fruit. Fruitfulness is a sign of true disciples.

9 Excuses of the Lepers

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The story of the ten lepers in Luke 17:11-19, who were healed of leprosy by Jesus, is a story that has profound teaching on thanksgiving. Ten were miraculously healed but only one (not two… not three…) returned to give thanks. One can easy criticize the behavior of the nine without looking at how sometimes we similarly react. Yes, in a similar manner. You see, each of the nine lepers must have had a plausible excuse of its own kind or an explanation for not going back to give thanks.

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Here are nine possible excuses that they might have given:

  1. It is Jesus’ business to heal so why bother myself thanking him– ‘In fact he delayed, he should have even come earlier!’, they must have said. The garden of ingratitude is watered by pride. Underneath this excuse lies pride. A heart full of pride cannot bow down in humble appreciation  to a shown favor/grace, for a proud heart says ‘I deserve it all”. No wonder the one who went back to express his thankful heart s was a foreigner, a Samaritan; the Jews felt they deserved it all.
  2. I will go later and convey my thanksPerhaps one of the healed lepers thought of giving thanks but later. One might have thought of first updating his friends, family, and acquaintances about the healing and later on give thanks. Procrastination in expressing gratitude shows that our priorities are attached on other (wrong) things.
  3. One of us has already gone to say thanks and he represents our views anywayOne of the healed lepers might have used the one thankful leper as a scapegoat. The truth is: no one can clearly express your thankful heart other than yourself. The lepers had a lot in common in their day-day struggles but each healing was a unique story.
  4. God already knows that my heart is grateful The fact is: unexpressed gratitude is ingratitude.
  5. What matters is that we are healed. –This attitude attaches no value or priority to the act of thanksgiving. It only makes one minimize the work of God and the former situation in which we were in. Their healing was important but also they should have made thanksgiving the main thing.
  6. Mine was only a disease, unlike the blind and lame– Some of the healed lepers might have been tempted to compare their miracle with “others” who were worse than “us”. Comparison will only lead us to complaining and not to giving thanks.
  7. Is it really true that we are healed? Let’s give it time– At the heart of this excuse lies unbelief; doubting the work of God. A doubting heart does not give glory to God but ascribes the work of God to prevailing circumstances. Doubters will always doubt irrespective of available facts and evidence.
  8. Ooh I forgot it!– One or some of the healed lepers might have simply forgot to go back to Jesus and express thanks. It sounds a serious joke to be said of someone who had just been healed of a deadly disease. But the truth is that there are some people who simply do not have the word “thanks” in their vocabulary. Waiting for that word to come out of their mouths is like waiting for the sun to rise from west.
  1. What difference will it make?- Thanks is something we give, not take. The word is precisely “thanks-giving”. A heart that is full of ingratitude is a heart that is always at the receiving end. But a grateful heart is always at the giving end. Why is it that few people (perhaps a tenth) have a thankful spirit? It is because many people are only comfortable receiving than giving.

Cultivate a thankful heart, a heart that gives glory to God for what He does.

give thanks to the Lord

Life of Abundance