Conceited little brat

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Have you come across a somebody who has said something like, “I have a bad temper, I can’t help it. My staff knows it and my wife (or husband) knows it, and they know better than to go anywhere near the triggers.” This kind of information is usually transmitted with a chest puffed up and shoulders drawn back. Proudly.

What is the true evil here? Is it the bad temper? Hardly. It is pride.

Pride tops the chart of all evils – anger, drunkenness, greed, vanity, covetousness. These are just “flea bites” in comparison, according to C S Lewis. He says it was through pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

It is the easiest thing to figure out how proud you are.

Try to evaluate your feelings in the below situations:

The boss asks for your opinion (making you feel good to be the chosen one) and when it is given, he dismisses it as irrelevant or nonsensical in front of your colleagues. Rage? Humiliation?

You walk in to a party with a friend and the host welcomes the friend but fails to acknowledge you. Worse, the host takes your friend away and introduces him to others leaving you to fend for yourself. Embarrassed? Feeling small?

How about when in the company of friends, one of them starts to show-off – brag about the cruise, the new car or starts name-dropping. Utter dislike? Bad taste in your mouth?

Aren’t some people just annoying? You want to slap them and put them in their place. Oh! the fantastic scenarios you are cooking up in your head to teach that conceited little brat a good lesson. So satisfying.

I think you get the point. All of the above confirms we are prideful. We pray to God to make us humble, but we cannot stand being snubbed, patronized, belittled.

As new believers, we fall frequently but we get up again. Some realize the triggers and stay well away from those situations. These people take the long long road home. Hiding away in your prayer closet is not going to get you the skills to fight the good fight. The Holy Spirit will fix you to finally resemble the image of Christ – but you need to let God. The end game is to be a little Christ. How do we become humble if we are not in the thick of things?

Let’s say you have finally arrived at some level of humility – at least when dealing with the outside world. Now you have a very calm and humble demeanor and you speak gently and lovingly – all the right out-ward traits of a Christian. You take your seat at the back, inconvenience yourself to help others, build up a lovely reputation as being a Godly person, determine to turn the other cheek whilst hoping the situation will not arise.

And now creeps in spiritual pride.

You know the Bible and think you know better than the speaker. Nevertheless you sit demurely at the back with your Bible open and listen attentively.

You have a gift of speaking in tongues and is ecstatic when asked to pray in tongues at the Wednesday small group meeting.

People seek you out for prayers because it is known that most of your prayers are answered.

Your first love – Jesus, fades away to welcome a new god – spirituality.

If we lose our focus on Jesus, we are in trouble. Pride will lead us not so much to the secular scenarios mentioned at the beginning of this article, but it will surely lead us astray into false doctrine. Pride will make you open up to strange teachings, and you will see what is not there to see. Because at this stage of our spiritual journey, we are established in reputation among the flock. It is not easy to admit we were led astray.

For those who have fallen into this spiritual pride, let me share an interpretation of Proverbs 6:1-5 given by one of the early church fathers living in the Egyptian desert.

“If you have invested in false doctrine and have spread it publicly, you have been trapped by what you said.

Free yourself by meditating to God without rest that you may be awakened from the delusion. The intensity of your meditation will not escape the attention of the Lord (Intense – Allow no sleep to your eyes, no slumber to your eyelids).”

Oswald Chambers speaks of another kind of pride. He says that we will become stagnant in our Spiritual lives when we decide to bear it all by ourselves. We cannot. When we obey God, others are affected. What are we to do? Become the martyr and say that you will not hurt the others in your quest to obey God? Not upset the family or friends or hurt their feelings? If we take this road, we will have some relief, but we will bring grief to God. We need to trust God to take care of the consequences. Oswald Chambers further says:

“Beware of the inclination to dictate to God as to what you will allow to happen if you obey Him.”

Child of God, really??

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WE know we had the experience. But was that just euphoria or real saving grace? Am I really saved ? Here are some points to ponder:

Romans 8:13 – For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

verse 14 – For as many are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.

Are you led by the Spirit? Does that mean you are led to marry the right person? Led by the Spirit to get the right job? The perfect house? Are you led to the right church?

I don’t believe this is what Paul is saying – verse 14, begins with “For” which is pointing us to the previous verse to clarify that if we are led by the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body.

Trouble in paradise?

Still watch porn, speak filthy language, look with lust at fellow workers at office? These are some of the deeds of the body. I am sure we can all think of more deeds of the body than this list.

If you are still enjoying the deeds of the body, chances are your “born-again” experience may not be authentic. The Spiritual work of regeneration makes you a new man. Old man died. Repentance brings you face-to-face with your past sinfulness. How then, can you keep living in the same life of sin? I agree, you can and will be tempted. You will fall. But as you journey on, these instances become few and far between and each time you are so sorrowful that you cannot have peace until you have fully repented. You feel terrible that you have grieved the Holy Spirit that dwells in you.

As a child of God, you will make war on sin – your own sin. Your will is to emerge victorious.

Prodigal son

Also, when we can cry out ” Abba, Father” the Holy Spirit will bear witness with our spirit that we are children of God as explained in Romans 8:15-16.

You could say that anyone can say “Abba, Father”. But the Holy Spirit knows our hearts – do we mean it with all our hearts? Imagine the prodigal son coming home. When he sees his dad running down the path, he must have expected rebuke..surely not the loving embrace of dad? The unfathomable relief of receiving this love leading to the repentance of the son is what produces “Abba, Father” in us. It is this endearing word that should come to each believer when we seek the Father. “Daddy, I am sorry…Dad, I love you. Help me Dad.”

When we “cry out” in v 15., it doesn’t mean “say”. Crying out happens only from the bottom of our hearts at the point of total abandon.

If you have doubts about your salvation, its time to act. Repent and be saved.

And those who are saved and therefore are the children of God –

…exort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13.

Go and make disciples

go and make disciples

‘SAVED’ anew and in a mighty hurry to get going. We study the Word and the doctrines of the faith. We study the issues that divide and pick our side – Calvinism or Arminianism? We listen to youtube preachers and carefully sieve out who is true to the Word and who is not. Once discerned, we follow our guy on social media and gather more knowledge. Then we go to church and start dissecting each word of the Pastor according to our new-found knowledge. Hmm…they really don’t measure up, do they? It is only the thought of gratitude of being saved that keeps you from bashing the sermon as soon as you walk out of the service. You remember the time before “salvation” when you just let out your opinion without any reservation to anyone who would lend a sympathetic ear. At least now, you will keep your mouth shut, but in your heart, feel so elevated because now you know better than everybody else. Your heart gives a joyful leap at your new wisdom compared to the stupidity of the rest. And because you need to feel charitable, you feel pity for their ignorance and their obvious “un-saved” status. No wonder Billy Graham advised new believers to ‘take time’ before launching out.

But we want to make disciples.

Here is some good advise from Oswald Chambers –

Don’t get impatient, remember how God dealt with you – with patience and with gentleness; but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said,”Go and make disciples,” not “make converts to your opinion.”

So what are we to do? We have to learn to stay put until we realize with all our hearts and minds, that we had no contribution in our salvation. It was the work of God. He called, we answered. He justified and we were saved for all eternity. The Holy Spirit works in us to perfect us into the image of Christ. We have to allow the Holy Spirit to do this work. We interrupt this work when we try to push our own way – maybe out of pride, maybe out of our zeal, nevertheless, we want our ideas to take precedence. The indwelling Holy Spirit is grieved. But through this cycle of error and repentance, God works in us to fulfill His purpose.

Finally we see the faint light of where He is leading us. A huge sigh of relief as we realize God did not forget us nor ignore us. But was slowly molding us according to the vessel that He wanted to use for His glory. He knows when we are ready. He knows when our ego is subdued through the trials that He allowed us to go through. He knows when we have surrendered our will 100%. He knows when Christ is glorified in us. Now we ‘go make disciples’ and bear much fruit.

When we go out, what is our prime concern – it’s not to get others to believe this doctrine and that theory. It’s not to get others to believe the Bible. But we are to project Jesus – who is revealed in the Bible. Our opinions are not important, but rather, do we project Jesus? If we are upheld by the Spirit of God and we have glorified Christ in our lives, it is natural that we project Jesus. And what happens then :

“Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.” – Psalms 51:13

Converted – not saved. We can never think for a moment that we have any part in the “saving” of a soul. That belongs to God and God alone. Our job is :

“To open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” – Acts 26:18

Conversion is not regeneration. Most of us “Christians” are converted. We see the light. But we have not received anything from God. A “born-again” person knows when he or she has received something from God. That persons knows it is wholly from God. It is a total spiritual experience. It cannot be learned or understood by reading the Bible. According to Oswald Chambers, salvation means that we are brought to the place where we are able to receive something from God on the authority of Jesus Christ, viz., remission of sins.

So now we know our job when Jesus told us “Go and make disciples.” How?

We do need knowledge of the Word and we do need to learn how to defend our faith to unbelievers. We also need humility to be able to understand and respect the other person’s faith in his own religion.

Ravi Zacharias has given a wonderful illustration – If you attack another person’s faith, there will be no possibility for you to introduce Jesus to that person. He would have already shut-down. Its like if you cut off a person’s nose, there is no point offering him a rose to smell.

What are the occupational hazards of making disciples?

We love spiritual success.

Jesus told us not to rejoice at spiritual success (Luke 10:22) but this is what we do. We forget that God’s foundation of grace has been laid, and grace has made it possible for us to convert hearts. He made it possible. It is God who justifies and sanctifies. One saved life is more valuable that a hundred converted. So we nourish the sheep in the knowledge of the Lord in total obedience to Christ.

Bonhoeffer says the road to faith begins with this real and tangible step of obedience. In other words, being a disciple of Jesus doesn’t mean simply agreeing with Jesus or even heading in the same general direction as Jesus. It’s sort of like this: You can agree smoking is hazardous to your health, but it means nothing until you stop smoking.

Let’s go and make disciples – not by asking them to sign a contract to agree in principle. But by asking them to die.

Colossians 3:3 – For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Ayn’s courtship with Christ

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HERE is a story of a conversation between two Christian believers.

Ayn (not her real name), is a new believer in Christ. She had a tremendous experience of regeneration after she started asking God to show her the truth. She found Jesus through her heart-felt prayers and it didn’t take her long to repent of her sins and start a Spirit-filled life in Christ. During her time of learning, she learned about justification, sanctification and the final glorification of the spirit. She learned the Bible and prayed every opportunity she had. Intellectually she was well on her way to learning everything there was to know about the Christian faith. She had a good life with no troubles whatsoever and she felt blessed that God had not taken her through any difficulties in order to bring her to Him.

Ayn always prayed to God to use her as He seemed fit in order to make disciples and to spread the Good News. After about two years, she even began to worry as God seemed to ignore her and there were no doors opening to go out and share the Word. However, during this time, she prayed faithfully and made intercessions for her family and friends to turn to Christ. She didn’t ask for any material blessings as she believed the Lord’s words – Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.(Matthew 6:33). So this is what she did – prayed for the lost souls and prayed for wisdom to understand the Word of God.

One day, Ayn decided she is not doing God’s will because she is not actively doing anything Christian-like other than being a good person. So she wanted to really put her heart and mind into praying for the salvation of her family. She decided she will fast for 24 hours. She wanted to take her next step in her prayer life. One night she prayed to Jesus to help her in her endeavor and feeling confident she went to sleep.

The following morning, Ayn made sure not to have her glass of water because she remembered the fast. She woke up a little early than usual and started her prayers and intercessions. One hour into it, she felt sleepy and decided to take a little nap before proceeding with the rest of the day. As soon as she decided to take the nap, her mind was flooded with every conceivable worldly pleasure known to her. She could not stop the flow of thought and didn’t want to either as the wild imaginings were too wonderful to let go. Her heart was crying out against this onslaught but she managed to drown that voice for about one full hour.

As if by some blessed Divine intervention, Ayn’s reverie was broken by a relative – who happened to drop by to see her that morning.

Later, Ayn was very much shaken and feeling terribly distraught at what had happened to her and she began to question if she had really been “saved” at all. Why then did her thoughts go off on a sinful tangent like that? Ayne looked at her phone to see a Whatsapp message from her spiritual teacher – Joanne (not her real name).

—————–beginning of msg————
Joanne: Just covered u in prayer for anointing strength to take the good news of Jesus Christ to others.

Ayn: Thank you Joanne. I started the day with great intentions but already falling back on an unruly mind. Very disappointed with myself. I am so glad to see your msg. It’s as if God Himself is telling me.

Joanne: So glad it helped. I pray intentionally at designated times for you but this prayer came out of nowhere. Just felt wanting to pray. Went to the room and saw people living in darkness bcz no one ever told them about the freedom in Christ Jesus. I felt utter sadness for those people (I believe the people I saw are in Country A) who has no escape in their body mind and soul. I know my time is getting limited. I want young people to rise up to the highest perfection of love. We must have our ups and downs or how can we know it is He who does the work in us?

Ayn: The ups come without warning. The downs come every time I make a decision to do something. You are right. I have to let Christ do the work in me.

All this I learned intellectually…but now it’s becoming an experience.

Joanne: Happy that Lord your God is purifying and making you to perfection. Even though it might be hard at the time of going through, but it’s also a beautiful teachable times.
Bible can be used as a book of knowledge or book of Life….I pray that it will become a book of life…God’s love letter to you.
I sometimes have this fear for you that you will start the thirst and hunger in the Word, but later it will become the book of knowledge. It has happened to many of us including priests who started the journey in such faith and even to a point they give up priesthood. So we are never exempt from the temptation. Surrender is the answer to everything; When I see everything is going out of my control and I become helpless, all I know to say is “Have your way in me Lord, if this is Your way in me, I surrender to your way”. Then the peace of God will come to me. I will get up in strength to let Him work His purpose in me, regardless what I think is right and wrong become immaterial. So all the failures, down times, pain, suffering , persecution either body or mind, become times of courtship with the Lord. But at times it does not come easily as we say. I am blind and deaf to His way and I will keep on pushing my way but when I see anointing has left or things are going wrong and wrong in my way, its then I learn to repent and surrender. Nothing is more sure than to say these down times are a courtship with the Lord.

Ayn: Oh my gosh…this is what I have been looking for..courtship. Suddenly my day is not so bad after all! If I had never made the effort, I would’ve never fallen down. This is why others have it easy..they don’t go the distance..so they are always safe and cushioned. I think people have wrong idea about the work of the Lord. You can do it without moving a step. But its the hardest thing if you don’t allow Christ to do it for you.

Joanne: so true..

Ayn: So I learn the most today. Thank you 🙂 🙂

Joanne: We all love to play safe and cushioned; u worded beautifully right. I wonder what the world would be if Jesus did not have a courtship with the Father, but decided to play safe and cushioned? Prayed all the pain and suffering to go away or taken away? Hebrew 5:8-9 – Son though He was, He learned obedience from what He suffered, and once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.
Obedience is learned through suffering and pain. It is a gift of God so we may enjoy the courtship with Him, like Jesus did.

————–end of msg———-

My prayer – May the Lord give us Godly teachers who are humble at heart and who are willing to teach with true love for Christ.

Always look at things above and eagerly accept all spiritual gifts of joy, peace and righteousness. Christ is waiting to work His work within us. Don’t wait for supernatural prompting. Step out – if only it is out of the comfortable habitat of your mind. Submit your mind to God and soon you will love God with all your heart, all your mind and all your strength.

Grace – is it free?

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GRACE is a gift. As Christians, we believe we are saved by the grace of God through faith. How did grace become a free gift? Because Jesus paid for it through a cruel and bloody crucifixion. So it was a very expensive gift – expensive to Jesus. What do we do once we receive this gift?

I have been told countless times, we need to be good people – not bring God into disrepute through our actions or words. We have to be kind, generous, steer clear of any questionable associations.

Did Jesus die to give us a code of conduct? Buddha did that well enough without having to suffer at all. Yogis of India have given good instructions for life. My school teachers gave good advise. My parents have instilled in me great values. We have a plethora of life coaches to tell us how to live a good life. So why did Jesus need to die, if all we need to do as believers is to simply be good people?

God is personal. The Incarnation is personal. “He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness” (Philippians 2:7). Can’t ever get more personal than that.

Jon Walker’s Costly Grace says it like this: “Why do you think Jesus died for you, if not for the personal? What do you think He expects from you, if not something personal?”

I never liked this idea that Jesus did something personal for me. What did that make me? Indebted. I didn’t like it. I used to think, I didn’t ask for it. Why do I need to be under obligation when I had nothing to do with anything. I had no idea of the reality of eternity. My eyes were blind. Ears deaf. At the back of my mind I wanted heaven, but I didn’t want Jesus. It was too burdensome. So it was easy to think Jesus died for all of us, instead of Jesus died for my particular sin.

Things change drastically when you are saved. Grace flows when we open our hearts in repentance. Suddenly you are face-to-face with Christ. You can ignore Him no more. You see your rebellion face-to-face. You see it so clear that you are overwhelmingly grateful for the gift you have received at the cross. This is the one experience you can never explain to anybody. Why? Because its personal! An unbeliever will never understand what changed in you. Even a church-going one. It cannot be intellectually understood even by the most educated. Remember Nicodemus?

So is it free – this grace we have received? Yes because we did nothing to earn it. No, because grace is costly. It’s costly because it can cost us our life. It requires us to carry the cross. That is the cost of grace.

How difficult is it for us hear a sermon in which we are told we have to suffer? On the other hand, how many sermons we hear about the love of God, His long-suffering and kindness, and the God who loves to deliver us from all our earthly afflictions? Are we not more prone to preaching the gospel in a light that keeps us feeling good in our ungodly lives?

Have you thought what would be the turn out in the many churches (charismatic or otherwise), if the music is shut down, special effect lighting is scrapped and the message becomes Christ and Him crucified? If the preacher stopped with the entertainer-streak and simply concentrated on expository teaching? As believers, do we go to church to make ourselves feel good? Will we go to a church where the message is to abandon our lives to Christ? To be partakers of all spiritual blessings (as against material blessings) that are ours in Christ?

Grace calls us out of our comfort zone. Are we willing to abandon our lives that have been saved to Christ? Are we willing to take the risk of letting God provide? Do we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our ministry even if it means upsetting our own plans? Or do we compartmentalize Jesus along with career, family, holidays, etc.

Grace is given to us because Jesus loves us without any holding back. He demands the same from us. It means we cannot have a life unless it is the life of Christ.

Oswald Chambers (My utmost for His highest) – The summing up of our Lord’s teaching is that the relationship which He demands is an impossible one unless He has done a supernatural work in us. Jesus Christ demands that there be not the slightest trace of resentment even suppressed in the heart of a disciple when he meets with tyranny and injustice. No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker , only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring cleaning until there is only one purpose left – I am here for God to send me where He will. Every other thing may get fogged, but this relationship to Jesus Christ must never be.

The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own. Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.

Repent or move on?

THERE is a great tendency nowadays for telling each other “it’s ok, it’s not your fault. It could have happened to anyone. Try to move on. You have to forgive yourself. Get over it. Move on.”

Forgiving ourselves and moving on seems to be the accepted M.O. for most of us. Sure, we fall into trouble, we make the wrong decision with our eyes wide open, we act on impulse and enjoy the fall before the guilt creep in. But now we are so clever at excusing ourselves and moving on, that little by little the guilt is wearing off. It was bad the first time, but now it’s not so bad. Guilt stays at the gate. After all, we are only human. After all, we deserve a little happiness. After all, it’s not hurting anybody. After all, its my life.

Now imagine someone says to you “Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices!” (Ezekiel 14:6) What will you do? On a scale of 1-10, where would you be in identifying all your idols? Your detestable practices? Can you at least identify, let alone renounce?

Why is this so important? Because there is no salvation without repentance. Acts 3:19 tells us – Repent, then, turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

Here is how King David repented-

Psalm 51- Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you. Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise. You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

First step, if we really can’t figure out what the big deal is, because we have “moved on”, ask God to grant you repentance. We are so deeply entrenched in our sins, we don’t even recognize it. So how do we repent for what we don’t see? Many people have said, “I am not crazy like most people. I don’t drink or smoke. I provide for my family. Sure, I have some minor defects, but then, who doesn’t?” See, most of us believe we are good people because we don’t commit murder, steal or tell really big lies. This is how we justify ourselves. By doing this, we are telling Christ, we don’t need Him. We can manage on our own, thank you. Don’t live in this delusion. Ask God to give you this gift of repentance.

2 Timothy 2:25 – …in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to knowledge of the truth.

Next step, hopefully you have now seen your sin and acknowledged what you have done was quite detestable, and repented. For some, this happens in one sitting (or kneeling). For others, repentance may take a few days. In the process, sorrow has to be felt. Sorrow leads to true repentance.(2 Corinthians 7:10) Maybe lots of crying, because after all you are getting totally cleaned out – as white as snow.

This is the order of events I see from the gospels.

Jesus heals the sick. Asks them to repent.

We are told in 2 Timothy, repentance leads to knowledge of the truth. And repentance leads to the producing of good fruit (Matthew 3:8).

What happens when you have been the recipient of a miraculous healing or gift and fail to repent and turn to God? Matthew 11:20 tells us that Jesus denounced such towns that saw miracles but failed to repent. So here we see that the miracles are for the benefit of the unbelievers for them to see the glory of God and repent and be saved.

Without repentance, we are also not able to produce good fruit. Matthew 3:10 is very clear about what happens to those who don’t produce good fruit – cut down, thrown into fire.

Now as unbelievers, all this drama hardly makes any sense. But the moment you are saved, the impact of these verses will hit you hard. Much of the Christian faith can be intellectually understood by a non-believer. But there is so much more to be understood and known upon regeneration of the spirit. This knowledge comes only with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Only to the children of God.

The moment you become a child of God, you realize the mess you were in and the tremendous miracle of being yanked out of that mess. You cannot wait until you do your bit to get everybody else out as well, because now you clearly see the reality of heaven and hell. That is why sometimes our zeal overtakes our knowledge. But God will always work out His purpose His way through His children.
Isaiah 6:8 – Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me!”

Saved or self-deceived?

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Recently I met with a lady who is almost 80yrs old. She prays lovely prayers and has a mind sharper than a 30year old. However, the people who live with her are at their wit’s end how to manage a good relationship with her. She is not easy to live with. When the conversation got around to the shared beliefs of our faith, she told me she was saved at the age of 12. That got me thinking.

I remembered how I myself thought I was saved at the age of about 17, when I was at a church service where a visiting American evangelist spoke about accepting Christ. The atmosphere was charged with the music and the charismatic speaking of the evangelist. The church was full. So when an alter call was given, there were many who went up to “receive the Holy Spirit”. I was one of them.

The initial feeling was euphoric. I remember feeling elevated and joyous. I also remember crying a little.  Afterwards, I really did try to be a better person, being an obedient teenager and reading the Bible and being nice to people who I didn’t much like. This lasted about a week. I soon forgot all about the “born-again” experience.  I went on with my life – school, exams, friends. Life went back to “normal”.

When the “real” regeneration happened many years later, I was able to compare the two experiences.

So what is the meaning of being “saved” or “regenerated” of “born-again”?

Is it believing that there is one God? I doubt it.  Because even the demons believe that. (James 2:19 – You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe – and shudder).

Believing involves some measure of faith, but is that “saving faith”?

What about Simon the sorcerer in Samaria (Acts 8:13) – who believed and was baptized? He later offered money to the Apostles to have the power to impart the Holy Spirit to others. What a terrible suggestion. We are told that he was rebuked – ….because your heart is not right before God. (v.20-21). What doe this mean? Was he saved or wasn’t he? The story doesn’t actually tell us. But we can be sure of one thing through our own experiences. At the point of being saved, we know we are justified. The sanctification starts at that point. We don’t become “the image of Christ” immediately. It takes time. So Simon possibly made the offer of money because of his greed and lack of knowledge.

A person might have a very positive initial response to the gospel. He might get involved in church activities and might even get involved in ministry without being saved. Got Questions.org illustrates the situation like this:

People will see an infomercial about the latest home exercise equipment, and they say, “That’s just what I need!” and they buy the equipment. They receive their purchase and eagerly use it  – for a couple of weeks. Six months later its back in the box packed away somewhere. What happened? They believed in the product, it wasn’t the type of belief that led to lower their body weight. Nothing really changed their lives. …they were merely indulging  in a passing fancy. Matthew 13:5-17 illustrates this well.

What is the danger of a euphoric initial response to the gospel? The alter calls are turning out quite a few new converts. How many will gain knowledge of the Word before they step out into the ministry? We are told many times in the Bible, the folly of not having knowledge. We have zeal – but no knowledge. It is with knowledge of the Word that we draw near.

We are given a warning in Matthew 7:21-23:

Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!'”

Who are the people Jesus is talking about? Seems they are involved in the ministry. So this clearly tells us that even if someone is not saved, he is able to perform miracles, drive out demons and prophecy. So many signs and wonders – all deceitful. If some of those in the ministry are so self-deceived, what hope do we have of knowing with confidence that we are saved.

The key is in Matthew 7:21 – ...who does the will of My Father in heaven.

It is important to note here that we cannot do anything to be saved. We are saved only through the grace of God. It is a gift. However, the doing follows as a natural process in the sanctification process that every believer goes through.

John MacArthur says this:

..a deceived person seek feelings, blessings, experiences, healings, angels, etc. They are only interested in the by-product of the faith, not in Christ. They are not consumed with the glory and the honor and the beauty and the magnificence of Christ. They are not consumed with honoring Him, loving Him, serving Him, obeying Him, submitting to Him, exalting Him, proclaiming Him, worshiping Him, confessing Him (the will of God). They are only there for the by-products of that which is attached to Him. Give me blessing, give me spiritual experience, give me good feelings, give me healing, give me prosperity….

Does this have the ring of truth in it?

In the early church, people knew that being a Christian was tough. They didn’t harbor any illusions that life would suddenly be good for them. In fact, the early church knew very well they are making a fatal choice to follow Christ. Fatal – only in this world, not in the next. They actually believed what Christ said about carrying our cross.

So what do we know now? Take a good look at your life – you will recognize immediately if Christ is in your sights. If you are saved, being unsuccessful in business will not matter. Being poor will not matter. Being ill will not matter. Being incapacitated will not matter. Being dead will not matter. Because you have the pearl of great value. Nothing can take it away from you. You will be looking at things above, and not on things below. Earthly matters are for the unsaved. Life on earth will be hard. God will discipline us – whom He loves.

So next time before you rush to the healing service and rob God of His work with you, remember not every healer is saved, not every prophet is saved. If you are in hardship, praise God for giving you an opportunity to grow in faith (for how will your faith grow if there is no way to exercise it?)  and pray for patience and endurance. If you are not well, ask the elders of the church to pray for you. (This is how Paul has instructed us). You must learn to submit to the will of God. First seek the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. (Matthew 7:13).

The truly saved love the narrow path. They welcome everything in the narrow path for the sake of Christ. They will not be distracted by the lures of the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John, son of Zebedee

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According to the Homily on the Gospel of John by John Chrysostom :

Chrysostom says,

“For when you have learned who he was, and from where, who his parents, and what his character, and then hear his voice and all his heavenly wisdom, then you shall know right well that these (doctrines) belong not to him, but to the Divine power stirring his soul.

We do know a little bit about John, son of Zebedee. First of all he was from Galilee. And Galilee was a place of no importance because the bible tells us that no Prophet arises out of Galilee and nothing good ever comes from this place. We can imagine it was neither an intellectual hub nor commercial. But from what we gather, it is more likely a poor part of the country. Obviously some sort of fishing industry must have thrived, but nothing remarkable.

Who is John’s father? Chrysostom assumes Zebedee must have been a very poor fisherman indeed to have taken both sons into same employment. Zebedee and his sons must have been with the poorest and most ignorant because they seem to be catching their fish in a certain little lake instead of at sea. When Christ called the brothers, they were mending their own nets – further proof they were not higher up on the ladder, even among the fishermen. Luke confirms John’s ignorance in Acts 4:13. Thus, we can be sure that John had no worldly instructions. in short, he was illiterate and ignorant.

If we were to meet John, what to expect – talk about fishing? Tackle, tides and net qualities? He had no other world. No other ideas about the world. His world was in fishing. With father and brother.

What happens to John after his experience with Christ? How does he speak then? Not of fishing, that’s for sure. But he speaks of heavenly things as if he had just come from there!

Did Christ give John special lessons? Considering that all of the disciples fled from Jesus at the crucifixion, it seems unlikely that Jesus imparted a special conviction on any of them. Yes they saw Him perform miracles, and heard Him speak for three years. But they were not convinced of His Deity in their hearts. It took the resurrection to do that and the coming of the Holy Spirit to gain knowledge and wisdom.

The transformation of the soul due to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is nothing but miraculous. We see it in the transformation of John and other Apostles. The poorest of the poor, the most ignorant, becoming the keepers of the keys to heaven.

Chrysostom says of vice and virtue:

Some of these things the disciples of Plato and Pythagoras enquired into. Of the other philosophers we need make no mention at all; they have all on this point been so excessively ridiculous; and those who have been among them in greater esteem than the rest, and who have been considered the leading men of science, are so more than the others; and they have composed and written somewhat on the subject of polity and doctrines, and in all have been more shamefully ridiculous than children. …As for doctrines of the soul, there is nothing excessively shameful that they have left unsaid; asserting that the souls of men become flies, and gnats, and bushes and God Himself is a soul; with some other the like indecencies. …..for since they assert everything on uncertain and fallacious arguments, they are like men carried here and there in Euripus, and never remain in the same place.

Not so this fisherman. For all he says is infallible. And standing as it were upon a rock, he never shifts his ground. For since he has been thought worthy to be in the most secret places, and has the Lord of all speaking within him, he is subject to nothing that is human. But others are only guessing at what they cannot see, have erred a great error and like drunkards have dashed against each other. And not only against each other, but also against themselves, by continually changing their opinion.

So here we have John. Where eastern religions seek to transform a soul with years of discipline and meditation and maybe “multiple lifetimes” of it, the fisherman John is transformed walking with Jesus.

Mind of Christ

THE best reason for a revival of philosophy is that unless a man has a philosophy certain horrible things will happen to him. He will be practical; he will be progressive; he will cultivate efficiency; he will trust in evolution; he will do the work that lies nearest; he will devote himself to deeds, not words. Thus struck down by blow after blow of blind stupidity and random fate, he will stagger on to a miserable death with no comfort but a series of catchwords; such as those which I have catalogued above. Those things are simply substitutes for thoughts. In some cases they are the tags and tail-ends of somebody else’s thinking – G.K. Chesterton

God has commanded:

And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
Luke 10:27

We believe we are more intelligent than our forefathers. But where is our thinking? How do we use our mind to glorify the Lord?

Are we so engrossed in supernatural experiences that we have become idolatrous of feelings and emotions? Does abiding in the Lord mean having some kind of out of body/ out of mind experience.

We are told clearly what ‘abiding’ means. To abide in Christ is to live or remain in Him. When a person is saved, he or she is “in Christ”.

Romans 8:1, Corinthians 5:17, John 10:28,29.

Its certainly not a mystical experience available to a few. There are no “classes” among the saved.

When we abide in Christ, we are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

So how do we love the Lord with all our minds? By exercising the mind of Christ that we all possess as believers, to know the purpose of the Lord.

As believers, we understand God’s plan in the world to provide salvation for sinners and to restore creation to its original splendour. All for the glory of God.

The purpose of the gift of the mind of Christ is to honor Him.

The once hidden knowledge of His Word is now revealed so that we are not blown away by every passing wind but stand steadfast in the knowledge of God.

The mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Spirit. It gives discernment in spiritual matters (v.15).

Good thinking is now in our possession. Dig deep into the Scriptures and drown in the ocean of joyful wisdom. You will love the Lord with all your mind.

A willing mind

For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not.
2 Corinthians 8:12 KJV

We are all called. But who is willing?

I used to think being ‘called’ is a calling into a Christian vocation – priest, nun, missionary, etc. But have realised this is not so.

We are called to get to know our Creator. The owner of the house in which we will reside eternally. If we don’t get to know the owner, will we be invited to His home?

Who will normally invite us as house-guests? Family and maybe some close friends. We know them and they know us. We know we will be welcome because they extended the invitation and we have a sense of being truly welcomed.

Do we feel confident about our welcome into our eternal home? Do we at least know the owner, nevermind that we are asked to love Him with everything we got.

Getting to know God is made possible through Jesus. Jesus dwelt among us but we did not recognise Him. However, when we do recognise Him, He teaches us all about the Father. He is our mediator. Through Him we can know.

How do we get to know? Jesus is the Word. We have the Word of God. Are we willing to read and understand? If we are, we have a confirmation from the Word :

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3:16‭-‬17 NIV
https://bible.com/bible/111/2ti.3.16-17.NIV

Do we need additional help? If you are a believer, the Holy Spirit of God teaches you perfectly.

But there are Godly men who are full of the Holy Spirit and it is very illuminating and inspiring to listen to them. Here are some names that can be trusted to teach the Scripture accurately.

Wayne Grudem

John Piper

Greg Koukl

You will find a massive difference between their expository teachings and the preaching of many televangelists today.

Not everyone who preaches the Bible is a Christian.

Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
1 Corinthians 1:20-25

A willing mind is necessary to learn the truth.

A willing mind is necessary to learn the untruth.

And how do you discern?

The truth grows in a man’s heart. First tiny and inconsequential just like a mustard seed. It grows slow. Taking deep root. Bearing good fruit.

Its never an explosion and doesn’t change direction according to the way the wind blows. Its rooted in righteousness.

Peter was a fisherman. No college degree and no eloquent speaker. Jesus called and he followed.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1:26‭-‬31 NIV

I am told some religions are so highly intellectual that foolish people cannot understand its doctrine. The ‘wise’ are attracted. The rich are attracted.

But blessed are the poor..