Archive for July, 2013

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23
Jul

A tribute15

A tribute

The wonderful assurance about all God’s Promises is that He has allowed us ample sampling of them all.  And we who have sought the Lord and savored them know with certainty of things we hope for.  For example, when Jesus arrived at Lazarus’s house, His comforting words were the reassurance that Lazarus was only sleeping (Jn 11: 11-14), and that He was here to conquer death and pave the way of resurrection for us (Jn 11:23, 25-26).

As children of God, let us be firm on His Word.  The Word that commanded all things into existence will go forth and wake the sleeping.  His Word woke Tabitha (Mk 5:41), just as it did Lazarus (Jn 11:43).  They are proofs of Jesus’ assurance that death is only a sleep –  a rest.  Just as Enoch and Elijah are proofs that ascension into heaven is enabled for God’s children, even though mere mortals!  No matter where our remains are buried, our bones drowned or our ashes scattered, at the appointed time, “..He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt 24:31).  Also refer Jn 5:25-29.

By paying this tribute to His servant, the late Evangelist Johnson Solomon, I hope to either bring to or strengthen all readers in the faith God in His mercy has gifted us. The faith and hope that had completely enveloped our family and insulated us from all evil and negative thoughts and words.  Added to it, the joy of experiencing God’s amazing love with an overwhelming sense of gratitude!  For such was the provision and such was His perfect and timely  interventions in our life, throughout.

At the outset, we were at our tether’s end.  We had no money, no savings, but just the barest of income.  And, above all, we had none to turn to.  But, from the first moment when he had passed out on our kitchen floor and had to be rushed to the hospital in the early hours of the morning of June 21, 2003, to the time when he was discharged from the hospital on July 23, 2003 for a day’s family reunion and goodbye – God took care of all our needs, met all our expenses and sent His angels in the guise of ordinary folks through extraordinary interventions and took such amazing care of us that throughout the period we could do nothing but sing His praises, thank Him and encourage the downcast.  When the diagnosis was confirmed on July 1 of advanced stage of cancer, the disease had spread throughout his internals and suspected to have begun in the brain, though he was admitted on account of breathing difficulties.  And indeed his left lung was also affected.  He received the news with a mixture of gratitude and relief, for his response to the doctors who broke the news to him was, “I am glad you have found out what is ailing me, thank you”.  And to the stream of visitors, that, “Whether I live or die, God’s Name should be honored!”.

Back home, amidst a large crowd of friends, foes, relatives, neighbors etc he had the privilege of the most reassuring and peaceful passing.  It was literally the bidding of farewell with songs and hopefuls tears from this side of Jordan to a grand reception at the other side.  The peace and joy I felt at that time continues unmarred to date.  The certainty with which I lived every moment is as tangible today as it was then.  

If I were to speak a few words about him, I wouldn’t want to eulogize or idolize.  But then, it is another Promise of God that He will testify for us, and I’m happy to wait.  However, I would like to say this much – he was a man of no particular import outwardly.  In the sense that he’d fail to measure up to the standards of this world in any way. But, he was a humble man of tremendous faith.  His life and work was a homage to the teachings and commands of Jesus Christ.  The most endearing thing about him, that set him apart from everyone else in my eyes, was that he was ever willing to be corrected, and when corrected, the renewal and transformation in him was instantly obvious.  Not the sway of ‘habits die hard’ or the struggle of fruitless striving for him – a bane that I battled with all the time until like him I had also learned to submit self to the Lord to transform all my limitations, all my impossibilities, into divine and marvelous possibilities!  To be precise, his was a steady and tremendous christian growth.  So that, when the time came, he was ready and prepared to go.  And we – my children and I had no fear of letting him go.

The one thing that was beginning to trouble him initially, and that which escaped my understanding, however, did not escape the loving Father.  And that was his deep concern for the children’s future.  The Word of God came to us repeatedly, assuring us of all His wonderful and incomparable provision.  We never doubted any of His promises. And the peace that surpasses all understanding was ours to bank on.  For your assurance, let me tell you He has never let us down even though it is a fact that we never turned to man for help.  How I wish and pray that more and more people will learn to put their faith in Him and trust Him! 

As his elder brother was leading the gathering in prayer to commit his soul into God’s Hands and our elder child showering him with her last kisses, our younger child, aged six at that time, turned around in my arms to let me know, “Mama, now we’ll see dada when we go to be with Jesus.”  I opened my eyes and saw that he had indeed gone on ahead to be with the Lord.

God bless you for letting me share this with you.

 

 

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23
Jul

What is Grace?4

G R A C E  

WHAT IS MEANT BY GRACE ?

Grace is a divine anointing of God.   Ps 45:2 describes Jesus Christ, “You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever.” Yes, it is literally the anointing of the mouth of the Lord from where His Word proceeds.  The Word that Begets, Creates, Recreates, Redeems, Restores, Regenerates and above all Saves. Therefore, it is rightly said “It is by grace you have been saved” (Eph 2:5, Rom 11:6, Isa 64:6).  FOR GRACE IS ESSENTIALLY THE REPERTOIRE OF GOD’S WORD.

MAN HAS NO GRACE IN HIM:

On the contrary, man has no grace in him.  Because out of man’s heart, which is deceitful above all things (Jer 17:9, Eccles 9:3(b), Mk 7:20, Matt 12:34(b), Col 3:8-9, Ps 34:13 etc.), comes lies, evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.  They make him unclean, and they are fit only to tear down, destroy, dishonor, desecrate that which is holy, accuse and kill. 

But, God in His mercy and love gives grace, the divine anointing, to those who fear Him.  To those who keep His Word and obey Him. Therefore, those few servants of God, who have been blessed by the abundant grace of God, testify to it in the relative abundance of His Word bearing fruit within them.  They not only abide by His Word but also preach and teach the same faithfully. Having been redeemed by the Word, they in turn would only seek to save others.  Read Matt 24:45-46, “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the Master has put in charge of the servants in His household to give them their food at the proper time?  It will be good for that servant whose Master finds him doing so when He returns.”

For another example, let us read what the psalmist of 119:98-103 has to testify, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me.  I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes.  I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts.  I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your Word.  I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me.  How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”  

THE FULLNESS OF GOD’S GRACE:

As it is rightly testified in  Jn 1:16, “From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another”:

A.  First the Grace that sent forth His Word and brought everything ‘good’ to life and existence (Gen 1 & 2).

B.  Then the Grace that sent forth its Word and sowed the seed of Good News that anyone Who believed and put their trust in the Lord might be saved (Gen 3:15).

C.  And to the Grace that sent His Word as flesh to die on the cross and save many from their sins, curses and death (Jn 1:14).

  • Jn 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, Who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Lk 2:40, “And the child grew and became strong; He was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” Lk 2:47, “Everyone who heard Him was amazed at His understanding and His answers.”   Lk 4:22, “All spoke well of Him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from His lips….”
  • The Saving Grace or the gift of life by God’s Grace – “But the gift is not like the trespass.  For if many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the One man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!….For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One Man, Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:15-17). 

D.  And to the Grace that poured out His Spirit, so that, by His Word we are renewed and restored unto complete regeneration (Jn 3:5-7, 1 Jn 3:7-9, Eph 2:4-5, Rom 11:6, Col 3:10, Eph 5:26 etc). 

  • But by the Spirit of Grace we received the Word, the bread of life, to replenish our souls and to help us grow into His likeness. Col 3:10, “…Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

E.  And to the Grace that is poured out upon us in its various forms so that we in turn may be equipped to live in the light of His Word and serve others for their redemption (1 Pet 4:10).

  • As Paul testifies in 1 Tim 1:12-16, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, Who has given me strength, that He considered me faithful, appointing me to his service.  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief.  The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on Him and receive eternal life.”
  • Because, even as we are weak and of dust, God’s all-sufficient grace strengthens and enriches us, 2 Cor 12:9, “But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness….”, and by His grace that was poured out upon us, we have been equipped to administer His grace in various forms (1 Pet 4:10),“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

F.  And finally to the Grace that will renew and make everything new by His Word that is trustworthy and true! (Rev 21:5). 

GRACE TO FLAVOR OUR SPEECH:

Therefore Jesus reminds us of our calling, our heritage to be the salt of the earth.  Matt 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth.  But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?  It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”

Col 4:6, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”  And 1 Pet 3:15-16, “..Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience…”

2 Tim 4:2, “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage – with great patience and careful instruction.”

Rom 6:14, “For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.”  Since His grace has redeemed us from the law so that it is no longer by works, but by grace, we ought to continue under the grace of God. Our conversations should be full of grace, so that we become builders of one another.  2 Cor 13:10, “…in my use of authority – the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down” and Ephes 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs…”.

[Words influence and deceive men most easily. Soft and gentle speech that goes against the grace of God’s Word amounts to nothing. Without the proper grounding on His Word, it will be very hard to resist attractive and nice sounding speech that are only meant to enamor, corrupt and deceive. And those who continue to be deceived and refuse to heed will fall prey to the deception of words progressing with time until they are most manifested at the reign of the Antichrist. Refer Rev 13:5-8, 13-17.]

THEREFORE, UNDERSTAND, THE ONE DECORATED WITH GRACE IS THE ONE WHO IS ARMED WITH THE INFALLIBLE AND IRREFUTABLE WORD OF GOD.

THE HERITAGE OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD BY HIS GRACE:

Finally, it is the heritage of the servants of God to be able to refute by the infallible and irrefutable Word of God.   For such is the wealth of God’s Word that enriches and arms the ones blessed with His grace.  

2 Cor 10:4-5 testifies, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world,  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

And it is for such as these the promise of God stands eternally true, “..’No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you.  This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from Me,’ declares the Lord.”

Matt 10:19-20, “But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it.  At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”  (Also refer Mk 13:11).

Lk 21:13-15, “This will result in your being witnesses to them.  But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves.  For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will able to resist or contradict.”

Ps 149:4-9, “For the Lord takes delight in His people; He crowns the humble with salvation.  Let the saints rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on their beds.  May the praise of God be in their mouths, and a double-edge sword in their hands, to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples, to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, to carry out the sentence written against them.  This is the glory of all His saints.  Praise the Lord.” 

Refer Ps 119:98-103 again, “Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me………”  

Let us conclude with the words of the psalmist in Ps 119:111-112, “Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.”

THE PERIOD OF GRACE:

Where grace abounds, His Word abounds so that it is the wealth of His Word that shows forth.  Therefore, this is rightly called the period of grace.  The age of God’s Word – to be preached to all nations and race.  To reach out to all – mighty and small, rich and poor, master and slave, male and female, young and old, infants and babes, enslaved and free, the oppressed, the destitute, those imprisoned inside iron fortresses, the sick and the perishing.

And God in His abundant grace sent the Holy Spirit, also called the Spirit of Grace (Heb 10:29) down to us.  Isa 34:16, “…….For it is His mouth that has given the order, and His Spirit will gather them together.”  Also refer Jn 3:5-7  and 1 Jn 5:6-7.

This is given to us so that by the Spirit of grace the Word might continue to produce children of God. Refer Jn, 1:12-13, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His Name, He gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” In the manner of Christ Himself though not in the body but in the Spiritual sense.

And just as prophet Zechariah testifies, it is  by the Spirit of Grace the remnant of the house of Israel will also return to their God, Zech 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a Spirit of Grace and supplication.  They will look on Me, the One they have pierced, and they will mourn for Him as One mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” 

EPILOGUE:

Thus, the period of grace is the period of God’s Word sown in the harvest field of this world, readying for the harvest at the end of the age. Rom 5:20-21, “…But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Word continues to wash us and keep us in His fellowship.  For eg, Jesus to His disciples, Jn 15:3, “You are already clean because of the Word I have spoken to you.”  And Jn 13:8(b), “…Jesus answered, ‘Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me’.” Also Eph 5:26-27. There is no judgement in this period, only the call for repentance.  And the constant building up of His people into His likeness (Col 3:10). 

However, since grace abounds many misuse it and use it as a licence to do evil and deny the Lord (Jude 4).  Read Isa 26:10, “Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the Majesty of the Lord.”  As seen in Rev 20:7-9.

May His Grace Be Upon You Now and For Ever and Ever!

 

 

 

 

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23
Jul

Our Home – II (light reading)11

Our Home – II
 
In this land of tropical kind
Riches of flora and fauna combined,
Creations of Divine artistry
Woven in resplendent tapestry,
Encounters with some have I told
With promises of new ones to unfold.
 
Since of old is land assigned.
Once a garden for Adam to mind,
Now, food and fodder for us to fend
While floral tributes in gardens blend.
To nature’s table all are drawn –
The hungry, the nesting and the Felon.
 
Once smitten are always shy.
Hence cold welcome to slitherers sly.
Habits die hard, and still they come
To oust us from reveries calm.
Employing ways and ploys uncanny
In hues of yellow, brown and ebony.
Like missiles dropped thro’ ceilings,
Or crossing paths and walls-a-scaling.
Some are shooed and some are killed
Some by fear backward willed.
 
Making sport of blood and gore,
Enter their enemy of animal lore
Bringing respite to our watchful eyes
Striking terror as mongoose’s vice.
Welcome relief enjoins adventure!
Tracking their moves with repressed pleasure
While in ranks they steal past,
Fear of man prodding them fast.
 
Sweet lessons of parenting.
Crows and mongoose in young ones’ caring.
Gleeful sights from kitchen window,
Feeding, guiding; moving to and fro.
 
Those that crawl on feet multiple
With stings that both hurt and tickle,
By His mercy assigned to fate,
Before in us, breed seeds of hate.
 
On mulberry tree of the famed bush
In fruitful abundance by season’s push,
Reigns the loner of speckled wing,
Endowed to scare with looks challenging.
Guavas, cheekoos, custard apples,
Berries, various and in surplus,
On all is asserted winged authority,
Leaving us to feed on their mercy.
 
Cats are frequent visitors too,
More frequent than you’d like them to.
Cracking nights with cries irritating,
Loath to rid of litter resulting.
The roof for them a place to carouse,
With mates in play or rats to chase.
Blackened eyes from sleepless nights
Avow extinction at first sights!
 
Nay such luck for they multiply.
All of nocturnal that come by.
Each for space and life with us vie –
Resigning us to fates that sigh.
 
To our abode is this homage –
Sheltering all of skin and plumage,
By shaky roof of sheets that tilt,
And tiles or shrubs or trees or silt.
Smoothened floors from overuse,
Cracked in places or suffused,
By ants or termites as they choose,
For their need, their freedom abuse.
 
~~~~~~~~~~
 
 
 
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23
Jul

Our Home – I (light reading)2

[My children inspired me to write Our Home I and Our Home II.  And I am happy to dedicate them to all the little children of this world.  For only children know how best to translate the joy and wonderment in all God’s creations. And, in their quaint ways help us adults to enjoy afresh what we had unwittingly begun to take for granted!] 
 
Our Home – I
 
Often I’d wanted to share –
Of nature in daylight’s glare,
Of  species in happy residence
Within my garden’s distance.
Of birds that come to delight
Or those in hasty flight,
To seasons of fruits beckoned
Their faces easily reckoned.
And having had feasted
To see them in ground assembled,
From wings to dainty feet
Quaint marvels in their feat.
 
Those of lil’ winged variety
And of gay colored beauty –
Of day long drone and buzz,
Industrious, on flowers fuss.
All of equal right and share –
Their nests, their homes, declare!
In His merciful tenancy
Is this place to them and me.
 
Most are kind and let us be.
Some are teachers just like me.
For in weeds as I detect
By a quick sting they inject
When homes uprooted by neglect
Darker motives they suspect.
And these of lower altitudes
In a green world of multitudes
New shapes and sheen display
Teeny workers in their fray.
 
Those that from above intrude –
With scary looks and manners rude,
When hearken not to my reproof
I chase them to their homes in roof.
Yet of them that come defiant –
Mercilessly, I end the fiend.
 
Those of rodent variety –
Bushy tailed and striped beauty,
Tho’ not of winged feature
With birds, a fellow creature.
For they nest on lofty treetops.
Squirrels they are, of noisy chirrups!
Little thieves with darting eyes,
Ever in hurry, as quick as mice.
A treat to watch from stealthy corners
Climbing about and scattering litters.
 
With these, now lemme conclude,
To pen on others as I brood.
To bring to you tales anew
Of snakes and mongoose and cats that mew! 
 
 
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21
Jul

To My Motherland34

TO MY MOTHERLAND
 
My mother had just
Winged out of her teens,
When the air stirred
With wails of her umpteenth.
 
I was nursed at her
Promising breast,
Carried astride her 
Heaving chest.
 
‘Was cradled on her
Hardened thighs,
And soothed to sleep
By her recurring sighs.
 
Of her children
That are numerous.
I was at odds,
Just as themselves.
 
For we are fathered
By tens and thousands,
Only to be abandoned to
Our own counsels.
 
Though of the One
 Who formed her, and
With unmatched abundance,
Never did utter a word to me.
 
All my pleas and tears
In search of the missing link,
Fell on deaf ears, though 
To despair, she saw me sink.
 
She gave me playmates,
She gave me succour,
But shushed me to silence
When asked about Father.
 
I fought and cried,
My chest I beat
But, then she had me 
Flung to her feet.
 
There I lay, desperate! 
By callousness, defeated!
Trampled and crushed,
By her sons wicked!
 
Then I saw the Hand
That’d reached for me,
The Hand of miracles
That had come to save me.
 
Why, Oh why, did I wonder –
True Love spurned and rejected?
The voice of the Maker unheard?
The pierced Hand unrecognized?
 
Yet, His compassion fails not,
His love calls you and me.
Though, ma, leave I must,
I leave with one last plea –
 
“Join us ma, for in His Kingdom 
Are many mansions –
Plenty for you, and 
All your many sons.”
 
xxxxxxxxxx
 
 
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19
Jul

The Commandment to Watch25

THE COMMANDMENT TO WATCH

INTRODUCTION:

Existence of such a commandment is unknown to many.  Therefore, churches have been lulled into an abominable sense of complacency. And just as the parable of weeds tells us, having caught the unfaithfuls off guard the enemy has successfully planted his volley of lies. So that churches race on the hot-wheels of false teachings – the very thing we are warned to watch out for!  For example,

  • Pre-tribulation rapture of the church
  • Which in turn sanctions the teachings of blatant pursuit for worldly riches!
  • Distorted and corrupt teachings on love, forgiveness, marriage, etc.
  • Similarly, scores others, much to our shameful folly, that you will discover as you persevere faithfully on this website .

PROLOGUE:

Let us understand that christian life is a slow-paced life lived with a lot of caution, patience and perseverance.  It may not seem attractive in a world that has become increasingly fast-paced.  But not if we realize that fast-paced life is only possible on broad ways. Jesus says, Matt 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

This is the reason Jesus has said, Matt 22:14, “…….Many are invited, but few are chosen.”  Like the shortlisting of Gideon’s army from thirty two thousand to a mere three hundred.  Yes, only a few (Matt 22:14) find ‘the narrow pathway of life’. Why?

THE INVITED AND THE CHOSEN:  Because, many mistake their invitation for their ‘chosen’ness.  For example, a born again person considering that being born-again is the acceptance of the ‘invitation’.  What a pity really!  If we thought our born-again status could save us.  As Jesus explains in Matt 12:43-45, if the spiritual bath has not been allowed to grow, and if one fails to fellowship with the Holy Spirit continually, one’s latter condition will be at least seven times worse than the former!

The wide chasm between the ‘invited’ and the ‘chosen’ is well portrayed in Jesus’ parable of the wedding banquet (Matt 22:1-14). And if we are not careful, we would also end up as the man who appeared at the banquet without wearing the wedding clothes (Matt 22:12-13). (For those who are unaware, Rev 19:7-8 teaches that the wedding clothes stand for the righteous acts of the saints).  Also James 2:14, Rev 3:2, 4-5 & 18, Rev 16:15, Rev 19:14.

What are the righteous acts of the saints?  Where can one learn of them?  In Matt 5:20, Jesus says, “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”, which clearly means keeping the law is not the answer.  One will have to move beyond the parameters of the law.  But, where to?  Now, let us read John 6:68.  It is Simon Peter’s cognitive response to Jesus’ query to the disciples if they didn’t want to leave Him like the others (Jn 6:66-67), “…Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life….” (Jn 6:68).

Yes, every christian must turn to Jesus Who Alone is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2).  He Alone will teach us the ‘words of eternal life’.  In Him alone is found all righteousness, and, origin and perfection of all virtues.  So there should be no compromising on our part.  We must ‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness….’ (Matt 6:33).

The common practice among Christians is to lead their spiritual lives with their old selves in tow, so that even though one claims to be born again, there is no renewal seen in one which like some falsely teach does not begin with wearing white or removing ornaments – but with the renewal of one’s mind.  Just as apostle Paul instructs in Rom 12:2, “……Be transformed by renewing of your mind…”.

Yes, begin with your inner self.  Get rid of all base and human manner of thinking!  Instead, let them be superseded by lofty thoughts and ways of God.  We have learnt in our earlier lessons how high His thoughts and ways are, and as such, how far removed they are from ours (Isa 55:8-9).  Therefore let us begin by training our minds with the Word of God to help us become visibly productive in our words and deeds.

Thus, the OT will reveal God the Most Holy One to us even as it hearkens, “…..Worship the Lord in the splendor of His holiness…” (Ps 29:2) and the NT revelations would unravel His Triune personality further as Truth (in Jesus Christ, His Only begotten Son) and Spirit (in His Spirit, the Holy Spirit) as it adds, “….His worshipers must worship in Spirit and in Truth.” (Jn 4:24).

To be sure, one cannot enter His presence without ‘His Holiness’. The Holiness of Christ, Who is the Truth and Whose Spirit is poured out for us.  Yes, we are called to partake of the Holy Spirit Who is the Spirit of Christ.  Because, Holy Spirit will testify about the ‘Truth’ to us (Jn 15:26).

Therefore, as Rev 21:27, Rev 21:8, Rev 22:15 warn :

–  “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful….”.

–  “But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake…”

–  “Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

They will not find their names written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev 21:27(b)) and to be sure they will not enter the presence of the Holy God!

JESUS SHORTLISTING THE DISCIPLES:  Thus, we find in Jn 6:70, Jesus shortlisting the twelve disciples further, “Then Jesus replied, ‘Have I not chosen you, the twelve?  Yet one of you is a devil!’.”  

To think that to be called by Him and to be chosen by Him do not suffice to ensure our worthiness in the ‘final reckoning’ should ring the warning bell for us.  Because, as seen in Jn 6:70, God knows those who are His.  We do not (Jn 13:18-28).  Therefore, we ought to be all the more careful lest we fall out!  Please read 2 Tim 2:19.  So, obeying His commandment to watch is the only surety we can give ourselves.

W A T C H :

Jesus commands to keep watch for two things :

  • Keep watch for His Second Coming.
  • Watch out for spiritual impediments that will constantly battle against our progress.  As we proceed, let us learn about the two in the most befitting titles of ‘HIS KINGDOM’ and ‘HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS’ (Ref Matt 6:33) respectively.

 HIS KINGDOM

(Keep watch for His Second Coming)

I.  NT begins and ends with the heralding message of His Second Coming, also known as coming of the kingdom of God.  Matt 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”, Rev 22:20, “…Yes, I am coming soon.”

When John the baptist first heralds it in Matt 3:2, Jesus Christ hadn’t even begun His ministry.  For just as it says in Lk 17:25,“….First, Son of man must suffer many things”, the coming of the kingdom of heaven begins with the first-coming of the Lord, followed by His death on the cross.

THE FIRST STAGE:  Therefore, the first stage of the coming of the kingdom of heaven is the first-coming of Jesus. His ministry on earth spanned a brief period of about three and a half years, after which it culminated in His vicarious death on the cross for the remission of our sins.  This was followed by His resurrection on the third day. And about forty days later, His ascension into Heaven, witnessed by His disciples and people of Galilee assembled there at the time. Thus, Jesus’ first-coming laid the foundation of the kingdom of God by Himself becoming its capstone .

ITS PROGRESS:  The kingdom of God has been progressing since, strengthened and enhanced by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. His final reminder in Rev 22:20 that He’s coming soon is a promise He is going to fulfill soon.

[For our deeper insight, we have read in Gen 2:2-3, that God rested on the seventh day, after creating the heavens and the earth and all that is in it in six days.  However, since the ‘fall of man’, God is at work once again.  Therefore, it is rightly said in Ps 121:4, “…He Who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”  Again, in Jn 5:17, “Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I too, am working’.”  Isa 57:2, Ex 33:14, Dan 12:13, Heb 4:3-5, Heb 4:9-11, Rev 15:13, Rev 21:3-5 – these verses teach us that God has prepared another rest, an eternal rest.  And He will not rest till He has accomplished it for us and has made all things new once again – new heaven, new earth, everything.  “….I am making everything new!” (Rev 21:5).  Heb 4:9 confirms, “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.”]

VARIOUS STAGES:  Jesus reveals the various stages that will lead to His Second-coming in Matt 24, Mk 13, Lk 21 and the book of Revelation. The stages or events that lead to the coming of the Lord are called ‘the beginning of birth pains’ (Mk 13:8(b), Matt 24:8).  As Mk 13:7(b) asserts, …..But the end is still to come.”

THE FINAL STAGE:  The final stage is marked by a chain of events occurring in rapid succession, that we’d better watch out!  It is onset by “..’the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong!” (Mk 13:14) – the reign of the Antichrist (also read Matt 24:15, Lk 21:20, Rev 13-18).  As declared in Rev 10:6-7, after this, “….’There will be no more delay!’..”  Refer Mk 13:22, Matt 24:15, Rev 13:4-18, Rev 16:13-14, 16, Rev 17:17-18.

Other events in succession during the final stage are :

  • Nations will gather against Israel (Lk 21:20) and trample or desecrate the holy city of Jerusalem (Rev 11:2) for 42 months.  It will be a terrible time for the people of Israel (Mk 13:14-19, Lk 21:20-24).
  • The fiery judgement of God on the great city of Babylon (or ‘the group of nations’ of deception and violence), which will come upon it suddenly and swiftly (Rev 18:17(a)) and it will never be seen again (Rev 18:21).  Also refer Rev 16:16 and read Rev 17-18.
  • Lastly the mother of all earthquakes (Rev 16:18).  This is the fifth and last of severe end-time earthquakes.  It will trigger off catastrophic events marked by great signs (Mk 13:24, Matt 24:29, Lk 21:25-26, 2 Pet 3:10, Rev 16:18-21). The first of these earthquakes reveal a sampling of these events (Rev 6:12-17). Like the Dec 26, 2004 earthquake and tsunami.  The fifth earthquake will immediately precede Jesus’ Coming!
  • His glorious Coming will appear to all, when the first resurrection will take place (yes, it is called the FIRST RESURRECTION and not ‘rapture’ as some have opted to re-christen it to propagate their false teachings!). And, the Lord will enter Jerusalem accompanied by the heavenly hosts and all His saints (called the Holy Highway of Isa 35). Though the Antichrist (the beast) will gather the kings of the earth to wage war against the heavenly army, they will all be captured and assigned to their respective fates (Rev 19:11-21).
  • The Lord’s reign will at last bring the perfect peace and prosperity that men have always fantasized about but never ever came even close to experiencing, under the various powers of the earth – monarchy, democracy, tyranny and what have you!  (God willing, more on  the thousand years of the Lord’s reign will come up shortly in an exclusive article.  Please pray expectantly.)

[Here is a little note in addition to avoid any confusion:

BEFORE THE ETERNAL KINGDOM OF GOD IS ESTABLISHED:  The proceeding sequence of events are cited here separately because they could otherwise deviate us from the current topic:

Before the Lord’s reign here on earth and at His Second Coming, the ancient serpent or the Devil will be captured and thrown into the Abyss to be held captive there until the thousand years of Lord’s reign on earth along with His saints has come to pass.

At the end of the millennium, once again the dragon will be let loose so that he will deceive those who will be deceived and gather a great army to fight the Lord – a really great multitude indeed!  A testimony to how vile is the sinful man’s heart. Jer 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?” and Eccles 9:3, “…The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterward they join the dead.” But the fire from heaven will come down and devour them.  “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” (Rev 20:10).

The lake of fire is the second death.  At the second resurrection which will follow next, the Lord will judge the wicked. All whose names are not found in the Book of life will be thrown into the lake of fire, death and Hades preceding them. And all the old order of things will be assigned to the eternal fire as well.

And, the Kingdom of God will be established forever.  Everything will be new.  There will be new heaven and new earth. God will dwell with His people.  He will be their God, and they will be His people.  The Sun, moon and seas will all be gone. God, the Father and the Lamb will be its Light.  There will be no sin, sickness, curse, sorrow, tears or death.]

With that, let us revert to the main topic :

THE SECOND-COMING:  Luke 21:28 reads, “When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” for as Lk 21:27 proclaims, “At that time they will see the ‘Son of man’ coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”(Rev 19:11-16). Apostle Paul writes in 2 Thess 2:1-4, confirming, “…..for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”  Also read 2 Thess 2:9-12, “….let the reader understand….” Mk 13:14.  Also 1 Thess 4:15-17.

THE FIRST RESURRECTION:  Therefore, let us not be deceived.  Contrary to the widely accepted teaching which advocates the pre-tribulation rapture of the Church, the Word of God is firm and stands united in all the prophecies concerning it, including the OT (Daniel Ezekiel, Isaiah etc) that the first resurrection will not take place until the Second-coming of the Lord, which will be at the end of the tribulation period.

Yes, of the two end-time resurrections prepared for all mankind, the first resurrection (Rev 20:4-6) will take place only at the Second Coming and will be immediately followed by Christ’s millennium rule on the earth. 

THE HOUR OF TRIAL:  The rule of the Antichrist is known as the great tribulation period or ‘the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world’.  It will be impossible to forbear.  Therefore, God in His mercy will save His faithful ones by giving them rest through death before that. In fact Jesus reminds us to be faithful and pray earnestly so that we may escape all that is about to happen, Lk 21:36, “Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happened, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of man.”

Yes, since Jesus overcame death, it has lost its power over us, so that it is written, “…Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on.”  “Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” (Rev 14:13). Also refer Rev 3:10, Rev 6:9-11.  Let us read Isa 57:1-2, “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart, devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil.  Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death.”  Also Ex 33:14 and Dan 12:13 – the same assurance that Moses and Daniel received by faith.

But for the surviving believers because of their disobedience and unfaithfulness, it will be the most difficult and unimaginable a period.  Most will give up their faith and turn to worship the beast.  And all those who resist will be put to sword or taken into captivity, without exception (Rev 13:9-10).  The reign of the evil will be so terrible and so complete that one will not be able to trust even one’s own – be they parents or children or friends whatever!  Only the ones who bow before the beast and receive his mark will be able to buy or sell even the basic necessities of life.  

However, the Lord will raise the few faithfuls, who do not receive the mark of the beast and stay true to the Word and their testimony of Jesus, at the first resurrection and assign them the power to reign with Him (Rev 20:4). Along with those who had gone on ahead into their rest, who will sit on thrones with the authority to judge the world during the millennium reign of Christ.

SURMISING ON THE REIGN OF ANTICHRIST:  Clearly, the saints of God will be here until the end (Rev 20:4-6, Rev 2:11) when most will be put to death (Rev 13:9-10).  Be warned! Rev 14:12, “This calls for patient endurance….of saints who obey…and remain faithful to Jesus.” And 2 Thess 2:7-8, “For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work, but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of His mouth and destroy by the splendor of His coming.”

And when he is finally revealed, the ‘hour of trial’ that will come upon the saints of God will be unimaginable and terribly unbearable (glimpses of it can be had in: Rev 13:5-10, 12-18, Rev 14:9-12, Rev 17:9-18, Rev 20:4).  Starvation and martyrdom will be the order of the day for the saints of God.  Yes! it will be the severest of all trials to come upon the Church and indeed many will fall, unable to overcome! (It does not help the Church in anyway, therefore, to be beguiled into believing lies and embracing complacency and prosperity in the name of blessings!).  2 Thess 2:9-12, “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing.  They perish because they refuse to love the truth and so be saved……”.  

Do not partake in the wickedness of this generation that always seeks signs and wonders (Matt 12:39).  But, hold on to what you have received and be faithful.

Unless we realize the gravity of our situation, the ‘commandment to keep watch’ for His Coming will not drive home any sense to us.  Like the scoffers referred to in 2 Pet 3:3-4, secretly we’d also be found ridiculing the very idea, if not as openly as most who (even among church leaders!) are in the habit of doing.  This is the wickedness that exposes the end-time people, believers and all, in Mark 13:12, Lk 21:16-19, 2 Tim 3:1-9 etc.  Take heed! lest we’re also counted one with these scoffers for they only scoff so that they can follow their evil desires (2 Pet 3:3(b)).  Let us be warned!

Times foretell the onset of these events.  The gospel has been preached to all nations (Mk 13:10, Matt 24:14).  The generation we live in is predominantly the generation of those who have rejected the gospel.  May all who read this take heed and obey 2 Pet 3:10-15, “….You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming… So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with Him.  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation….”.  Therefore, let us not be found not ready and not waiting prayerfully.  Luke 21:34.

OTHER IMPORTANT BUT MOSTLY IGNORED OR MISINTERPRETED FACTS CONCERNING HIS COMING:

1.  Date and time unknown:

It is not given to us to know the exact date and time of His Coming (Matt 24:36, 42, Mk 13:32-33, Matt 25:13). Acts 1:7, “He said to them, ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His authority.'”  Therefore, let us not waste our time trying to establish it (deplorable! and to think many have made it their prime occupation!). Instead, let us keep watch and ready ourselves.

2.  Visible to all:

Let no one tell us otherwise!  Do not be deceived.  Matt 24:30, “At that time the sign of the Son of man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn.  They will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”  Refer Matt 24:27, 30-31; Mk 13:26-27, Lk 17:24, Lk 21:25-28, Rev 19:11-16, Acts 1:10-11, Rev 1:7, Zech 14:1-7.

3.  In this generation:

(Matt 24:34, Mk 13:30-31, Lk 21:32-33).

Matt 24:34 and the rest read as follows, “I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”  Reading Matt 24:4-33 will help us realize that all the events foretold therein would definitely encompass a number of generations, counted in human terms.  Preaching the gospel to all nations (Luke 24:47, Matt 24:14) itself would take centuries to accomplish.  Therefore, quite obviously Jesus could not have meant the generation at that time when He declared Matt 24:34 quoted above.

For further clarification, let us read Matt 19:28(a) – kjv, “And Jesus said unto them, ‘Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me, IN THE REGENERATION when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit…’.” It indicates to the generation until ‘the regeneration(kjv)’ or ‘renewal(niv)’. Yes, from God’s perspective, there are only two generations: the old and the new.

The old generation (i.e the ongoing one) begins with Adam.  Spiritually speaking, from the period of fall to the period of judgement (end time), and of course it includes this period of grace.  Ref Matt 23:35-36, Rev 20:11-15.  A generation predominantly of the wicked. Matt 12:39, 2 Thess 2:9-12, Rev 13:13-14.  Also, Matt 10:23, 16:28.

And the new generation is the generation of the righteous; yet to come, for they are being readied now.  Therefore, as long as there’s a generation that will read ‘Matt 24:34’, one need only understand that REGENERATION is yet to take place.

THE KEY WATCHWORDS CONCERNING HIS COMING:

  • Mk 13:34-36 – Watch! without sleeping.  Here sleeping means spiritual retraction or backsliding, dead in sin again. Rev 3:1-4, 2 Pet 2:21-22.
  • Lk 12:35-40 – Keep watch in full gear!  Dressed, ready for service and with our lamps burning.  Like the five wise virgins in the parable of ten virgins (Matt 25:4, 7, 10).  It means to be washed in the blood of the Lamb, robed in righteousness, rooted on the Word, ever-ready for service and ever-renewed with the filling of the Holy Spirit. Remember, Holy Spirit is not only the ‘Deposit’ guaranteeing our eternal inheritance.  But, He is also the ‘oil’ that will keep our lamps burning steadily and zealously.
  • Matt 6:10(a)  – Prayerfully!  Col 4:2,  Lk 21:36.  Jesus teaches us to put His Coming the first and foremost item on the list of our petitions-“Thy kingdom come” (kjv).  Isa 62:6-7 shows us how to pray for His Coming, “….never be silent day or night…..give yourself no rest, give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth.’
  • And indeed, the very creation groans and waits in eager expectation of the same!  (Rom 8:19-23).

CONCLUSION:  Matt 24:35, “Heaven and earth will pass away.  But my words will never pass away.”  Rev 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon!….”.  Rev 22:17, “The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!”.   And, Rev 22:17(b), “…Let him who hears say, “come!” .

The Spirit is ever-vigilant and constantly hearkens, “Come” and is joined by His bride, the Church.  Therefore, even as one hears it (Rev 13:9)may one hasten to rejoin “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus”.  Rev 22:17(b) and 20(b).  Yes, Come Lord Jesus! Come!  

HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS

(Watch out for false teachings and love of this world)

II WATCH OUT FOR:

Let us begin by reading Eph 6:10-18, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

What we see here is the complete armor of God for a christian soldier.  From a child of God to a soldier of God, the christian growth as of one who is constantly in battle with evil, is both consequential and imperative as it is tremendous. Whether we like it or not, are prepared or not – the truth is we have a spiritual warfare to contend with constantly!  No one who calls himself a child of God is exempted from it.  The evil forces of darkness referred to, above, will ensure that for us!  Let us recall what happened in Eden (Genesis 3).

A BRIEFING ON THE ORIGIN OF EVIL:  Where did the spiritual forces of evil spring from?  How did it come into existence? How has it captivated us?  How does it continue to influence?  Let us now learn and understand all that.

The first reference to it in the scripture is found in Gen1:2, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep,…”, which means it came into existence about the time God set about to create the world (Gen 1:1-2).  It is to this darkness that God casts Lucifer and his band of rebelling angels.

Darkness, therefore, may be defined as the abode of evil; a place created for the purpose.  Refer Isa 14:12-17, Ezek 28:12-17, Lk 10:18. Also read 2 Pet 2:17, Jude 13, Matt 8:12, Matt 25:30 etc.  We also learn that some of the devil’s legions are cast into dark dungeons, imprisoned there until it is their time to serve God’s certain purposes, reserved exclusively for them. Refer Rev 9:1-6, 14-15; Rev 13:1(b), Rev 17:8, 16-18.

Similarly, Satan who now roams about freely will also be soon locked up in the abyss (Rev 20:1-3) for a period of thousand years, only to be released again for a short time to meet his end (Rev 20:7-10).  Darkness, therefore, is a place that will be around and influence the inhabitants of the earth (eg Gen 3:1, Eph 6:12, Col 1:13) until the Day of the Lord. Then it will be completely annihilated in the eternal fire (Rev 17:16, Rev 18:8, Rev 19:20, Rev 21:8, Rev 20:10, 14-15).

Luke 22:53 tells us that this is the hour of darkness – when darkness reigns.  So we who have been rescued from darkness (Col 1:13, Eph 5:8-10) ought to be even more careful lest darkness overtakes us (Jn 12:35) once again.  But since as a child of God, “…because the darkness is passing  and the true light is already shining.” (1 Jn 2:8), let us put away the deeds of darkness (Eph 5:11-12) and live as children of light.  And while we do so, let us be aware of devil’s scheming ploys and be prepared to overcome them.

THE KEY WATCHWORDS ARE:

1.  Matt 7:15, “Watch out for false prophets.”

  • “They come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”  Vs 16, “By their fruits you will recognize them.” The spiritual fruits of a spiritual man.  Only the Spirit of discernment can help us discern them. To see through their guise, especially when no fruit is forthcoming or are pretentious.  Matt 7:21-23 – one will have to depend on more than one’s human faculties.  Read what Jesus has to say about it in Matt 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes  and as innocents as doves.”  Also Rev 13.
  • 2 Pet 2:1-3, 15, 17-22, 2 Pet 3:17, Rev 2:14-16 –  They have strayed the straight way and lead many astray like Balaam.
  • 2 Cor 11:13-14 – They masquerade as apostles!
  • Rom 16:17-18 –  They serve their own appetites.

2.  Matt 16:6, “Be careful.”  “Be on your guard….against false teachings (Matt 16:12), “hypocrisy” (Lk 12:1(b), “malice and wickedness” (1 Cor 5:7-8).

  • These are the four vices Jesus warns us to guard ourselves against, termed by Him as “yeasts”.  Gal 5:7-9 reads, “You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth?  That kind of persuasion does not come from the One Who calls you.  ‘A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough’.”  Eg.  Mk 7:5-8, Matt 15:1-14, Matt 23.
  • How Paul warns the church elders in Ephesus in his farewell message, Acts 20:25-31, “…keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers….I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.  Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth…so be on your guard!…”.

3.  Lk 12:15, “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed, a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

  • Col 3:5(b) –  Beware!  Greed is equivalent to idolatry.  Understand that it is the lure of the devil (Matt 4:8-9).  All the pinnacles of this world – success, fame, riches, position – come to us only after a compromise with the devil (vs 9). Overcome, before it is too late.  Read 2 Kings 5:15-27, Joshua 7:19-26, Acts 5:1-10.
  • Greed is a sure sign (the revealing fruit of one’s sinful self) that a person is opposed to the Holy Spirit and His leading (2 Kings 5:26, Acts 5:3-4, 9).

4.  Matt 24:4, “Watch out that no one deceives you….”.  “…..For many will come in My Name….”.  Matt 24:24, Matt 24:10-11.  “See to it that you are not alarmed…” (Matt 24:6).  Let not fear and wonderment overtake you.

  • Refer Rev 13:3(b), 17:6(b)-7(a), 8(b).  “Worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matt 4:10; also read Rev 19:9-10, Rev 22:8-9, Deut 5:7-10).
  • In this period of God’s grace, we partake of His great compassion for us.  But let us remember if God is a compassionate God, (Deut 4:31 – “For the Lord your God is a merciful God.”), then He is also a consuming fire, (Deut 4:24, “For the Lord your God is a Consuming Fire, a Jealous God”.  Also, Heb 10:30-31)  After the defined period of grace is past, what remains is – “only a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:27).  1 Pet 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
  • Read Rev 12:11 – Our weapons are The Blood of the Lamb, The Word and Courage even in the face of death, if need be.  Also, Lk 10:19.

5.  1 Cor 16:13, “Be on your guard:  stand firm in the faith, be men of courage; be strong.”

  • 1 Tim 4:15-16, “Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely.  Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.”
  • Rev 21:8 is a list of all those whose place is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  And the list begins with ‘COWARDLY’. Even though we do not wage wars as the world does and do not fight with the weapons of the world (2 Cor 10:3-4), as christian soldiers ‘cowardice’ can never be our forte.
  • Yes, we need courage not only to die for Christ but also to live for Christ.  Persecution, severe oppositions, betrayal, starvation, and what have you, are our lot.
  • We ought to be extraordinary people with extraordinary courage.  And only when we become extraordinary, can we join with Paul and declare, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present, not the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God.  That is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39).

CONCLUSION:

The wealth of God’s promises that we have begun to experience in this life will continue on endlessly.  They are for us by His great mercy and love.  But if we persist in disobedience and unfaithfulness, then even though we will still continue to enjoy His mercy and perhaps even cash in on a few of His promises for a while (for He is long suffering, and His patience is to make room for our salvation), the hour of reckoning will be upon us most unexpectedly. Even now as you read this, be assured of His amazing love that has brought you to it.  Be warned.  Repent.  And enjoy His everlasting fellowship.  Amen.

May God Bless You!

The series of commandments concluded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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15
Jul

End of The Age6

END OF THE AGE
 
Every leaf that falls,
Every hair that drops;
The wrinkles that develop,
The erosion of landscape;
Upheavals in space,
Tumults in the seas;
Outbreaks of war
Like outbreaks of disease!
 
Each audible in silence
And thunderous in speech.
Speak alike to deaf and hearing
The grace and forgiveness of One crying
When tore in Himself the passage
To life and fire at end of the age.
 
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15
Jul

The Commandment to Give22

THE COMMANDMENT TO GIVE

INTRODUCTION:

God paved the path of righteousness for us on the principle of Giving.  Jn 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (kjv)

Giving, therefore, ought to be the earliest formed characteristic in a new believer, the hallmark of a christian.  As exemplified by Zacchaeus the tax collector (Lk 19:8).  Let us read and find out afresh what Lk 19:8 has to testify about Zacchaeus the new believer, “But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, ‘Look, Lord! here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount’.”

YOU WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE POOR AMONG YOU:

And, so that all of us are trained in ‘giving’, we’ve a promise of God to rely upon – an ever-rewarding but nevertheless the most ignored of all God’s promises!  Which is, “You will always have the poor among you….” (Jn 12:8, Mk 14:7).

The same held true even in OT days of instant rewards and blessings – Deut 15:11, “There will always be poor people in the land.  Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.”  

What’s more?  God commands us to give in such a way that, “However there should be no poor among you….” Deut 15:4. Also read Acts 2:44-45 and Acts 4:32, 34-35.

God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor 9:7(b)), and He honors and blesses all givers.   Lk 6:38 reads, “Give, and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Also read Matt 10:42, Mk 9:41, Matt 25:34-36, Gal 6:9-10, 2 Cor 9:10-11, Phil 4:18(b)-19, 2 Cor 9:6, Mal 3:10, Eph 6:8(a).

Therefore, instead of looking down upon and shunning the poor and needy among us, let us begin to see them in true spiritual perspective, as they truly are – BLESSINGS IN DISGUISE!  They not only train us to be giving but also help add to our blessings constantly. 

LAYING THE FOUNDATION WITH OT LAWS OF GIVING:

1.  Giving is essentially, offering to God.  Even when we give to our fellowmen.  

Making offerings to God became apparent after man’s separation from Him in the garden of Eden.  Refer Genesis 4. Though man was banished from His presence, God continues to provide for all his needs.

Yes, God does not abandon us.  In fact He had already envisaged His plan of redemption for the restoration of mankind unto Himself (Deut 30:2-6).  Therefore, God expects and desires that we remember Him and not stray away from Him after we have been satisfied with the goodness of the land and eaten to our heart’s content.   A quick perusal of the passage in Deut 8:10-19 reads, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God….. Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God, failing to observe His commands, His laws and His decrees…. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God…..You may say to yourself, ‘My power and strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’  But remember the Lord your God, for it is He Who gives you the ability to produce wealth……”

The spiritual maturity that prompts one to give is simply this – all that we have is from God and all that we make or achieve is also from God because He gives us the ability for it.  As the psalmist testifies, Ps 87:7, “……’All my fountains are in you’.” Only a person who hasn’t come to this understanding would withhold his/her giving self.

2.  Follow His will and be in His favor.  Yes, obedience is better than sacrifice.

The earliest recorded giving or ‘offering’ is found in Gen 4:3-4.  Proceeding verses, 5 and 6, reveal that Cain had failed to make his offerings according to the will of God – he simply offered ‘some of the fruit of the soil’, not specifically the first-fruits.  On the other hand, God looked with favor on Abel’s offering of ‘fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock‘.

It is clear from Abel’s offering and God’s exhortation to Cain to do right (Gen 4:7) that the accepted pattern for offerings was also already made known to man.  

3.  God’s provision for:   ‘restitution’ for man, His work, His servants, the aliens/strangers and the underprivileged.

As we move on, we find, God reminding and teaching the people of Israel to give by tithing, offering first-fruits, setting apart the firstborns, besides, making provisions for freewill offerings.

Tithes and offerings, we learn, served the following purposes:

  • Made temporary restitution for sins. (Num 28 and 29, Lev 1-7:21).  In fact none could present themselves before God without making restitution for their sins.  Even the priests.  It taught the people of their unworthiness because of sin and encouraged them to seek reconciliation with God.
  • They testified to His blessings, expressed gratitude better than words. People were commanded to come into His presence, hold feasts and celebrate before the Lord with all the members of their household including servants and slaves (Deut 26:5-11, Deut 15:19-20, Deut 16:10-11,13-15,17, Deut 14:24-27).  
  • Made provisions for all the needy (Num 18:8-21,23-24, Deut 14:11(b),27-29, Deut 15:1-3,7-10).  The Israelites were commanded to build store houses in their towns and villages for the purpose. (Deut 14:28-29).  Also Lev 19:9-10.)
  • It provided for the making of the tabernacle and, later on for building and restoration of the temple of God. (Exod 25:1-2, 1 Chron 22:14, 1 Chron 29:2-4, 6-9, 14-18; 2 Chron 34:8-11 etc).

TO BE IN FAVOR OF GOD:  Surmising on all above, firstly, we understand that God provides for all mankind.  All of us partake of His bountiful provisions.  But that does not mean all mankind enjoy the favor of God.  Some, like Cain, fail to find God’s favor (even though they come quite close), by persisting in their waywardness.  Only those who abide by the will of God, like Abel, find favor with God.

Enjoying the mercy of God is not the same as enjoying the favor of God.  Even though Cain murdered Abel soon afterwards, God has not forgotten Abel, and his future is secure in Him.  (Gen 4:10, Heb 12:24, Matt 23:35, Heb 11:4, Rev 6:9-11, Rev 8:3, Rev 18:20, 24; Rev 19:1-6, 14; Rev 20:4).  Another instance is that of Sarah and Hagar.  Though Hagar enjoyed the mercy and miraculous providence of God even when she had none to turn to, she did not continue in the favor of God like Sarah did.

THE SACRED PORTION OF GOD:  Secondly, God’s provision includes God’s portion.   Which means, He entrusts us with His portion known as ‘the sacred portion of God’ (Deut 26:13).  It is the portion that belongs to God (Lev 27:30-33, Lev 27:26). Therefore, we find, even Levites commanded to tithe (Num 18:26,28-32).  Failing to offer the sacred portions of God or tithing is equivalent to robbing God (Mal 3:8).

FROM TITHERS TO CENT PERCENT GIVERS:  Thirdly, the above piece of wisdom should drive home the truth that we do not begin to give unless we give from what is our portion or share of God’s provision – the 9/10 of it, to be precise. Therefore, we see Jesus teaching us that anything we do in the name of righteousness would only measure up if it exceeds the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law – who were of course very diligent tithers (Matt 5:20, Matt 23:23-24, Lk 18:12).  From tithers to cent percent givers!  That is the kind of faith God desires to see in us (Lk 16:9, Mk 12:44).

TOWARDS PERFECTION:

JESUS THE GIVER:   Jesus exemplifies and teaches the perfected giving by willingly giving Himself up to die for us. Why perfected? Because, in His mercy and long suffering patience by which man was brought to the knowledge of His redemptive plan, God led His people step by step, pouring upon them His abundant grace and granting them His all, withholding back nothing until at last they were readied for the Perfect. Again, perfected, because by His PERFECT provision He made up for the temporary restitution man had to seek repeatedly.  Now that the perfection has come, we no longer lean back on temporary restitution of OT times.

What do we lack today? Besides material advancement, we have the kingdom of God given to us; salvation through Jesus, His only Son; abundant and fulfilling life in the Spirit…. the list goes on as each of us who have partaken of them would gladly testify.  What shall we withhold from Him Who has given us His all?

Therefore,  the NT perspective of ‘Giving’ i.e. the perfected giving is as follows:

1.  GIVING IS AN ACT OF WORSHIP:

Giving is an expression of worship brimming from a grateful heart.  Because when we give, we inadvertently also do the following:

  • We glorify God the Provider (Deut 26:5-10, 2 Cor 9:12, Ps 87:7).
  • We testify that He alone sustains us.  (Mk 12:41-44 – the honored widow’s mite). NO ONE IS TOO POOR IN GOD’S KINGDOM TO NOT GIVE, UNLESS ONE IS BANKRUPT ON FAITH.
  • We honor Him by being faithful givers (Gen 4:4, Matt 2:11, Matt 25:40, 2 Cor 8:19 (b), 1 Chron 16:29).
  • We declare our great hope in the promised eternal inheritance (Matt 25:34, Matt 6:20, Eph 1:13-14, 1 Tim 6:17-19, Lk 12:32-34.  
  • We testify to our spiritual maturity.  Our true blessedness.  Truly, blessedness is not in accruing but in giving.  Acts 20:35 reminds, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Ezek 11:19(b) promises, “I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh.”
  • Thus, we also testify that we are not dominated by material goals of this world (Lk 12:15, 20-21, 29-30, 32-34, Lk 16:13. 15(b), Col 3:2). It is the fruit of a Spirit-led life and therefore ought to show forth.

2.  GIVING IS A SPECIFIC CALLING:

1 Cor 12:28, “…and those able to help others..”.  This is a specific calling of God and a particular service to fellow brethren.  It is of equal spiritual worth, if not more, as the other spiritual services within the Church (Mk 10:21, Matt 19:21, 2 Cor 9:8-9).  Read Phil 2:13, “For it is God Who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose.”  

Yes, it is enabled by the grace of God (2 Cor 9:14, Mk 10:27, Matt 19:26, 2 Cor 8:1,6-7).  Apostle Paul calls it an indescribable gift of God to be able to give (2 Cor 9:15).  Also read 1 Pet 4:10, 2 Cor 8:7, 12, Gal 6:10.  Egs. Obadiah (1 Kings 18:3-4), Abigail (1 Sam 25:23-31), Daniel, Esther, Joseph (Gen 41:55-57, Gen 42:25-26, Gen 43:16, 24, Gen 44:1-2, Gen 45:4-24, Gen 46, 47).

3.  GIVING ENABLES RESTITUTION WITH FELLOW-MEN:

Giving should not be misconstrued as an act of restitution with God for the forgiveness of our sins.  Nothing we could give would suffice for that (let’s not forget such sacrifices in the past only gave temporary relief).  Therefore, GOD GAVE US HIS SON AS THE PERFECT SACRIFICE, ONCE AND FOR ALL, FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF OUR SINS.

However, like Zacchaeus (Lk 19:8), we ought to make restitution with men if we have wronged anybody in word, deed or kind.  Read Matt 5:23-24.

4. GIVING ESTABLISHES OUR TRUSTWORTHINESS BEFORE GOD:

In Lk 16:11, Jesus says, “So, if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”  Again, in Lk 16:10, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”  And Lk 16:9 shows our trustworthiness is measured by our giving, “I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”  Beware, friends as of spiritual fellowship.  Because, the Word of God is very clear, ‘Giving in His Name or for His sake’ (Matt 10:42).  Eg. “…for Me and the gospel…” (Mk 10:29-30, Matt 19:29).  Squandering money would definitely not measure up likewise.

It does not matter whether we are equipped with little or more (as in the parable of the ten minas – Lk 19:11-26), what is important is that we are found trustworthy with what is entrusted to us.  And, if found trustworthy more will certainly be entrusted (Lk 19:26, Matt 25:28).  THE MORE WE INVEST, THE MORE WE’LL BE ENTRUSTED TO RE-INVEST WITH IS THE DIVINE PROMISE!

NEXT, HOW SHOULD WE GIVE?

  • That there might be equality (2 Cor 8:13-15, Acts 2:44-45).
  • That there may be no poor among us (Deut 15:4, Acts 4:32, 34-35).
  • Cheerfully, not reluctantly or under compulsion (2 Cor 9:7, Deut 15:10).
  • Liberally, rich in generosity, excelling in the grace of giving (Lk 6:38, 2 Cor 8:1-2, 7, 1 Tim 6:18-19).
  • Willingly, and according to what one has (2 Cor 8:12).
  • Secretly (Matt 6:3-4).
  • Expending all for eternity’s sake (Lk 16:9).
  • Without expecting back (Mk 5:40, Lk 6:35).
  • As unto Him, so that His Name is honored (2 Cor 9:13, Matt 25:40, Col 3:23-24, Eph 6:7).
  • As one who serves.  Like Jesus, “….But I am among you as one who serves.” (Lk 22:25-30,27(b), 1 Pet 4:9-11). Jesus lavishes His gifts on us, and yet He is moved with compassion again and again so that He continues to lavish them upon us.

TO WHOM SHOULD WE GIVE?

  • To all needy people, particularly to our needy brethren (Gal 6:10, Deut 15:1-3, 7-10, 1 Tim 6:17-19, Titus 3:4-8, 1 Jn 3:17-18).
  • To the orphans and widows (James 1:27, Deut 26:12-13, 1 Tim 5:3-4, 8, 16).  
  • To full-time God’s servants (Gal 6:6, 1 Cor 9:14, Matt 10:9-10, Lk 10:3-8, 1 Cor 16:2, 15-18, 2 Cor 8:3-5, 10-11, Phil 4:14-17, 2 Tim 2:6, 3 Jn 5-8, 1 Tim 5:17-18).
  • To anyone who asks (Matt 5:40-42), even if it is to one’s enemy – Give or lend without expecting back. (Lk 6:30-31, 34-35).
  • To whomever the Spirit prompts us to give (2 Cor 9:7(a), Phil 2:13).  Such deeds make for timely and miraculous provisions, and they raise a continual sacrifice of praise and thanks offering to God (2 Cor 9:12-13, 2 Cor 8:1-5).

THREE WAYS IN WHICH ONE WOULD GIVE YET FORFEIT GOD’S REWARDS:

1.  Giving that is done before men to be seen by them (Matt 6:1, 1 Thess 2:5-6).

2. Giving that is heavily publicised to be honored by men.  By receiving honor and praise of men our motive receives its reward in full.  Thus we forfeit our reward from God.  It is one or the other – never both! (Matt 6:2)

3. Giving as benefactors, lording it over.  God is the only Benefactor.  We’re all called to dispense His gifts entrusted to us faithfully (Lk 22:25-30, 1 Pet 4:9-11, Eph 6:7).

CONCLUSION:

Giving away what we believe belongs to us is not an easy thing to do.  Jesus looks on our dilemma with deepest compassion and love us an added assurance.  For eg. Mk 10:21, “Jesus looked at him and loved him….”, Rev 3:19, “Those whom I love….”  to the rich young man and Laodiceans respectively.  Love was the converging point for backsliding Peter (Jn 21:15-17).

Let us therefore, train ourselves to look up to the compassionate eyes of our dear Lord and seek His encouragement to freely let go of that which He has freely entrusted to us and will continue to do so.

May God bless you!

To be contd…..NEXT: The commandment to Watch.

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13
Jul

The Commandment to Witness103

THE COMMANDMENT TO WITNESS

Matt 28:18-20, “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age’.”

INTRODUCTION:

The commandment to witness is the answer to all who seek to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.  It is the natural and fruitful outcome of a growing Christian life – the spiritual maturity that transforms a receiver into a giver, a served into a servant and a learner into a teacher (Heb 5:12).  

While seeking to awaken one’s spiritual consciousness, the study also elaborates upon generally ignored truths, and by the Word annuls not a few misconceptions and myths.  Hence, a truly enlightening and challenging piece of work.

PRIESTHOOD, NOT LAITY:

We learned in the earlier lesson on Sacrifice that the OT provision of the Levite tribe exclusively for priestly service is no longer the practice.  ‘Laity’ has no business in the NT scheme of things.  The commandment to witness is for one and all. In other words, all are expected to outgrow the ‘laity’ tag and become His priests.  The sooner, the better. Because, we are called to serve God.  Refer Rev 1:5-6 “…To Him Who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father….”.  Also refer 1 Pet 2:9, Rev 20:6, Rev 7:14-17.

MINISTRY OF THE NEW COVENANT:

Further, just as we learned in the commandment to Sacrifice, the nature of priestly duties has also changed.  Having accomplished its fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the old pattern since then has become obsolete.

Heb 7:12 says, “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law.”   The new pattern emerges under the new priesthood which is the priesthood under Jesus Christ the Eternal High Priest (Heb 7:21-22, 24).

How did Christ establish the new pattern?

For your answer, read Heb 9:11-13 which concludes in vs 14 thus – “How much more, then, will the Blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the Living God!”

Further, let us read Heb 9:15, “For this reason Christ is the Mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance….”.

And Heb 8:6, “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which He is Mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.”  Thus, the new order has made the old obsolete by becoming the superior one.

NOTE:  All the above references are taken from the letter to the Hebrews which the writer wrote exclusively for the Jewish community.  Hence the references to old and new covenant.  However, the truth is, the new covenant is really not the new covenant at all.  But it is the first and the eternal covenant.  Even before the old and the temporal covenant was given to Moses, the new had already been revealed.  The old came into existence because men were slow to understanding.  Judge for yourselves!  Did not God reveal to Abraham the eternal order of Christ’s priesthood through king Melchizedek when the latter brought out “Bread and wine” (Gen 15:18) to the former?  Again, did not God make it very clear to Abraham that sacrifice of the son of the seed of man will not do, but that God Himself would provide the holy and perfect sacrifice – the Lamb of God, when he ordered Abraham not to lay his hand on the boy Isaac and instead directed him to the lamb that God had provided (Gen 22:12-14)?  Indeed one has to be spiritually seeing to truly understand the truth.  

Ours is the Eternal Priesthood based on lasting ordinances.  Rev 7:14-17 – “….These are they…., they have washed their robes and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.  Therefore, ”They are before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple; and He Who sits on the throne will spread His tent over them…’.”  Also refer 2 Cor 5:17.

Each one of us has a role by which we support and assist one another for the furtherance of Gospel (1 Cor 12:27, Eph 4:16).  Finally, read 2 Cor 5:20, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us…”.

TOWARDS SPIRITUAL MATURITY AND GROWTH:

This calls for spiritual maturity and growth (Heb 5:13-14). A must, otherwise, instead of fulfilling God’s purpose, one will end up ‘at least seven times’ worse than one’s previous self! (Matt 12:43-45).

Laity is as brief and as imperative for growth a period as that of infancy in a new-born baby.  Every milestone achieved accounts for one’s spiritual maturity.  As in the case of a new-born baby, it is a stage of intense dependency – on God! But unlike a growing baby, a child of God is never weaned out of it (Jn 15:1-8).

What one is weaned out of, here, is the laity tag.  How?  By following these three steps of equal importance :

  1. Equipping oneself with sound knowledge of the Word.
  2. Empowering oneself with the Holy Spirit.
  3. Enriching oneself with the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

1. EQUIPPING ONESELF WITH SOUND KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORD:

Let us be aware that there is no reward in just carrying the Bible about or merely reading it or even chanting portions of it. Do not be deceived.  Follow the method of apostle John (Rev 10:9-10), Ezekiel (Ezek 3:1-3), Job (Job 23:12) and other saints who fed themselves on the Word of God.

Jer 15:16 reads, “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your Word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…” (kjv).  Jesus reminds in Matt 4:4 (kjv), “….man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”

Let us therefore feed ourselves on it, chew on it by meditating on it day and night as David did.  Let it run in our bloodstreams so that it may strengthen our feeble arms, delight our hearts and rejuvenate us with His life.  So that like Job we may also testify, Job 29:1-4, “…When God watched over me, when His lamp shone upon my head and by His light I walked through darkness!  Oh, for the days when I was in my prime, when God’s intimate friendship blessed my house.”

AT THE MASTER’S FEET:  Jesus did not open any theological institute.  Instead, He poured out His Spirit upon us. Therefore, turn to the age-old school of learning which is called, “At the Master’s Feet” (Luke 10:39), and let the Holy Spirit guide you into all truth.  It may not be enticingly advertised or easily recognized but it is still fully functional and thriving to support thousands upon thousands of real though mostly unknown heroes of faith.

Righteous man Job was an exemplary alumnus of the school.  The knowledge of God he amassed far exceeded that of his contemporaries as did his righteousness and testimony of Him (Job 42:7-8).  So, firstly, turn to the Word!

NAVIGATING THROUGH THE SCRIPTURE:  Here are a few navigational tips into the scripture:- 

1.  First, get a firm grip on your faith by drawing close to the Personality and Deity of Jesus Christ.  And learn about His works, His teachings, death, resurrection, the commissioning, ascension, His unfailing promises and the Second-coming. All this, by studying the four Gospels, namely Mathew, Mark, Luke and John, followed by the Book of Revelation.

While the importance of the Gospels is vested on the fact that they are the end-products of Jesus’ commissioning of His disciples, the Book of Revelation is the only book written to the Church directly under divine order, revelation and supervision.

2.  Next,  maintain continuity and move on to the book of Acts and learn of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit followed by historical evidences of the struggles, survival and tremendous growth of the early church.

3.  What is now left of the New Testament is a collection of letters, also known as epistles, written by apostles or church elders. They are of two kinds – General and Personal:

(i) General: The general category may be further divided into two :

  • First, letters that are addressed to the Church as a whole, existing at the time.  They are 1st and 2nd Peter, 1st John and Jude.
  • Second, that which is addressed to Jews in particular –  the letter of James.

(ii) Personal: The personal category consists of letters written to particular churches or persons.  They pertain to particular situations that necessitated their writing.  They are, therefore, to a great extent contextual in nature.

Nevertheless, just as it is in the case of the letters of general category, which are also to some extent time-framed, these have also been considered worthy of canonical induction due to their spiritual content and/or authorship. They may be further classified as Letters of Paul and Letters of John:

Letters of Paul:

  • To Churches:  Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1st and 2nd Thessalonians and Hebrews.
  •  To Persons:  1st and 2nd Timothy, Titus and Philemon.

(NOTE:  Though uncertainty veils over the authorship of ‘Hebrews’, majority believe it was written by Paul even though the beginning is not typical.  Paul’s letters have the distinction of bearing the name of their recipients as titles.)

Letters of John:

  • 2nd and 3rd John, both addressed to persons.

4.  Finally, studying the NT will throw open the floodgates of related references to prophecies, the creation, the fall, the transcendental calling and history of Jewish people (from whom comes the Author of salvation), the Mosaic Law, man’s perpetual struggle with sin and wickedness, their repeated failures of tragic proportions etc in the Old Testament.

It is only a matter of time, aided by diligent perseverance and miracle, as the navigational guidance of the Holy Spirit is allowed to supersede one’s strenuous groping about, before one comes to wholesome and increasing knowledge of scripture and God.

OVERLOOKED FACTS:

Before moving on to the next segment, permit oneself to understand or discern the human elements in the scripture or the Bible:

(a)  Please read 2 Tim 3:16-17, “All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

It will do well to remember that the above verses belong in a letter written at a time when OT was the only scripture in use.  Today, what we use as scripture is a compilation of very many books and letters of varied interests, including what we have come to call as the OT, or Old Testament.

For instance, Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus became the basis for Church to function as an organizational body. Hence they are also called pastoral epistles.  Whether it was written with this purpose in view is worthy of effectual brainstorming, if need be.  But that it was inducted as part of the scripture with the same purpose in view is undeniable.

And how much of their content can be attributed to Pauline authorship will always remain a bone of contention between opposing claimants within the Church.  Because, some of their contents not only contradict the Spirit of Gospel but the author himself.  (Not surprising really, taking 2 Thess 2:2 into consideration, which is Paul’s allusion to such fabrications of his time – “…Report or letter supposed to have come from us…”).

Similarly, what purpose does inclusion of the letter to Philemon serve other than promoting slavery, a thriving trade of the time.  It does not concern those responsible that they disobey God.  Read Deut 23:15, “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand him over to his master.  Let him live among you wherever he likes and in whatever town he chooses.  Do not oppress him.”  Remember, God hates all forms of oppression!

The lame justification that the letter demonstrates Paul’s supreme love; the manifestation of godly love in him, is nothing but an insult to THE GREATEST MANIFESTATION OF LOVE DEMONSTRATED IN THE VICARIOUS DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST!  Refer Jn 15:13.  Could anything or anyone surpass or add to it?

(b)  To suppose or believe or even suggest that all scripture is the ‘Word of God’ from cover to cover and word to word is blasphemy.  The truth is, THE SCRIPTURE CONTAINS THE WORD OF GOD IN IT.

The fact that human hands have been constantly at work with it – producing, reproducing, translating and re-translating; repeatedly and constantly into all languages possible – both existing as well as newly formed for the purpose, is to be ever dominating our study of the same.  Refer Jer 8:8, “How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the Lord.’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?”  Also refer Matt 15:8-9, “These people honor Me with their lips, but their hearts are from Me.  They worship Me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.”  And, therefore, a complete reliance and submission to the Spirit of God will only safeguard us from getting side-tracked from the divine to the human elements in it.

(c)  The human element of the scripture is most evident in the sad reality that the undertone has always been male chauvinistic. It is no coincidence that there is not a single female authorship even though prophetesses were always an existing reality.  The marked trend of male chauvinism gets more and more highlighted with every new translation work in a regional language!  Such apathy!  Such a lack of fear of God!

(d)  The church has never been and will never be able to straddle the human influence for an organizational outfit as is evident from its constant break-ups and disintegration into smaller ‘units’ (far too many in number today, and as opposed to each other as can be imagined!).

THE REASONS ARE NOTEWORTHY:

(i)  At the very foundations of its make-up, it contradicts the Spirit of Gospel. ” ‘But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father,’ for you have one Father, and He is in heaven. Nor are you to be called ‘Teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted’.” (Matt 23:8-12).

(ii)  It aims to re-set the old patriarchal order with all its cursed and sinful nuances of hierarchical set-up and totally depraved subordination of women.  Even though, it is evident from Paul’s letters (who is also believed to be the author of 1 Tim 2:11-15!) that women were as many as his co-workers as men even at that period of time.  Refer Rom 16, Phil 4:3, Col 4:15 etc.  How the visible church has come to degrade itself !  Matt 23:16-21,23-32.

(iii)  It seeks the honor and praise of men.  Matt 23:5-7.

(iv)  It seeks worldly recognition.  Therefore, the Word of God is constantly compromised with.  And, as was prophesied in 2 Tim 3:1-9, the resultant body of so called believers depict ‘only a form of godliness but denying its power’.  And the state of its womenfolk  – ‘always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth!’ (Matt 23:13-15).

(v)  Its motive is to persist in the unholy and aggressive commercialization of the free gifts of God.  “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt 10:8b).  Disregardful of Christ’s whip of zeal on the House of God (Jn 2:15-17), these wicked and greedy shepherds who pretend to run the affairs of God continue to feed on the flock!  Refer Ezek 34:1-10, Jn 10:7-13 etc.  They have made it the means of their livelihood and deny and deprive His servants their rightful fields and vineyards.  Refer Jas 5:4-6, Neh 5:11, Mic 2:9, 1 Kings 21:2, 7 etc.

Arrogant, and ignorant of the prophecies and revelations with regard to women and their calling (Gen 3:15), they continue to subject women to their cursed and sinful dominance and oppression.  Read Jer 31:22, “….. For the Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman shall compass a man.” (kjv).  Also read Prov 9:3, Prov 31:26 etc.  Learn more from the article “The Making of the Spiritual Woman” on this website.

And, though the Holy Spirit is poured out on men and women alike and no gifts of the Spirit is exclusive either to men or women, they forbade the women from exercising their gifts.  The women are not only forbidden to grow to their full spiritual potential in Christ but are also forced to live under the old curse of manly rule and lowly desire (Gen 3:16).  As prophet Micah has written, Mic 2:9, “You drive the women of My people from their pleasant homes.  You take away My blessing from their children forever.”  Also read Lam 3:48 & 51, “Mine eyes runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughters of my people.” (kjv) and “Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city.” (kjv).

What is more, by their own very deeds they contradict the Word of God and invite Judgement upon themselves (1 Kings 21:17-19, Matt 23:1-36, Jas 5:1-3, Jer 25:34-37 etc.)  It is all very well that they claim to painstakingly translate, print and publish the Word of God; adding some, deleting some and including new and attractive features to it with every new edition.  But all the proceeds and glory that go to them and to the gods of their idolatry will testify against them.  Just as it is written in Jas 5:3, the corrosion of their ill-gotten wealth ….will testify against (them) and eat (their) flesh like fire….”  because of the lies they have infiltrated into the Word of God to reap the material benefits thereof and to maintain their carnal supremacy – so that while they pretend to worship God they can ensure women continue to serve and revere them.

PEOPLE OF THE ‘WAY’ OR CHRISTIANS:  For more on such obvious fallacies, please refer to the note on the commandment to watch coming up shortly. Suffice for now that one realizes what began to be known as the people of ‘the way’ (Acts 9:2) or as the ‘the Christians’ (Acts 10:26) has today been reduced to the identity of just ‘another religion’!

However, for the discerning, such things need not overly concern because of the solace that comes from Jesus’ promise, “….I will build My Church,and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Matt 16:18 (b).  The Church He planted is not an organizational set-up.  It is the assembly of believers, come together in the Oneness of the Spirit, completely obedient to the Truth and numbering perhaps as few as two or three.  Matt 18:20.

We have learned and understand that the real Church is not visible.  It is a mystery (Eph 5:32), waiting to be revealed. (1 Pet 1:3-5, Rom 8:19, Matt 13:43). And when it is revealed through the divine act of the Holy Spirit, Who is constantly at work making her spotless and radiant for the Lamb, at the Second-coming of our Lord, she’ll collectively embody the whole – the Bride of Jesus Christ. 

2.  EMPOWERING ONESELF WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT:

A tarrying period for empowerment of the Holy Spirit is of utmost importance.  Note the difference it wrought in apostle Peter’s life. Always remember, IT IS HIS WORK AND SO THE RIGHT WAY TO DO IT IS HIS WAY.  Jn 16:7, Acts 1:8, Acts 2:33. (Please refer to the article, The Holy Spirit, if you haven’t already.)

As servants of God, the complete ‘seven fold’ Personality of the Spirit should be allowed to grow within us so that we may ‘become lesser as He increases’ and so that we may not depend on our own frayed merits and bring disrepute to God’s work, as many are already doing.

What is the ‘seven-fold’ Personality of the Spirit?

It is the complete Personality of the Holy Spirit.  Refer Rev 4:5 and Isa 11:2.  Also read Rev 1:16, 20, Rev 5:6b, Zech 3:9, Zech 4:10b etc.  All spiritually mature servants of God should aspire to show forth the seven characteristics of His Personality, which are:

  • the Spirit of the Lord
  • the Spirit of wisdom
  • the Spirit of understanding
  • the Spirit of counsel
  • the Spirit of Power
  • the Spirit of knowledge
  • the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.

And, just as Isa 11:2 asserts, the Spirit of the Lord will come to rest which means the anointing is not brief or periodical.

As wisdom rears its head, wait for understanding to follow suit (unlike what had happened in Adam’s case); develop His power by His counsel (so that everything we do concurs with His will); and as knowledge increases, may the fear of the Lord increase too (to keep us from becoming conceited and committing foolhardiness).

3.ENRICHING ONESELF WITH THE GIFTS OF THE HOLY SPIRIT:

The empowerment of the Holy Spirit will manifest itself in the various gift/(s) He bestows upon us, in addition to the growing ‘Spiritual Personality’ in us.  The gift or gifts make up for our lack.  They turn our impossibilities into possibilities. They reveal the power of God in us.  And above all, they work to glorify God in us. (The article on the Holy Spirit will offer a complete study and perfect understanding).

HIS WITNESSES AS CHRIST’S AMBASSADORS:

Thus, as one begins to arm oneself with the above-mentioned three Es, one’s work will start reflecting the growing christian personality within:

1.  You are the salt of the earth (Matt 5:13)

As salts we add or bring flavor into other people’s lives – the flavor of God’s grace (Col 4:6) to kindle hope in the hopeless. THE GREATEST OF ALL HUMAN TRAGEDIES IS HOPELESSNESS.

We know and experience a hope worthy of sharing because we partake of it everyday.  Mk 9:15(b), 1 Pet 3:15-16, 2 Tim 4:2, Rom 10:15, Phil 2:15 (b) to 16(a).

2.  You are the light of the world (Matt 5:14-16)

We live in a world that is submerged in spiritual darkness.  Jesus has called us to be luminary bodies to light it up wherever we are. Like a light-house shining high and steadily against the currents of this world to beam pathways of safety to the lost and the straying. How?  Matt 5:16 and Mk 4:21-25.  Yes, by our deeds and works.  If by His grace we preach and teach, then by our deeds and works we ought to show that we practice what we preach (unlike Matt 23:3). Also read Eph 5:8-11, 1 Tim 4:15(b).

3.  You are saints of the Living God (Matt 27:52)

Refer Rev 20:15, Rev 22:14, 1Thess 3:13, 1 Cor 6:2-3 etc.  Let us read a few verses to understand better:

Heb 10:10, “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”,

Heb 10:14, “Because by one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.”

Heb 10:15-18, “The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this.  First He says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my Laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’  Then He adds:’Their sins and lawless acts I’ll remember no more.’  And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”

Isa 44:3-5, “….I will  pour out My Spirit on your offspring, and My blessing on your descendants……… One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand ‘The Lord’s’ and will take the name Israel.”

INTERCESSORY POWERS OF THE SAINTS:  The immediate privilege of being called His saints is the privilege to intercede for others – for friends and foes alike (Jn 14:13-14, Jn 16:23-24, Matt 16:19).

Eph 6:18, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Rom 8:26-27, Ezek 22:30.

[PLEASE NOTE:  The dead do not intercede.  All our opportunities to intercede and minister come to an end with the end of our life in this world (Refer Luke 16:20-31).  Yes, even the dead in Christ cannot intercede after death for the simple reason that none have been resurrected.  Jesus Christ is the only One to have resurrected from the dead – the first-fruit of resurrection.

(Though the coming back to life of Lazarus and other such mentions, eg. Matt 27:52, Heb 11:35 etc served as proofs of resurrection in children of God, they have all without exception returned to their rest and await the promised resurrection at His coming with everyone else.)

Therefore, we who intercede while still living, do so, through Jesus Christ, the Only One (Rom 8:34) to have been resurrected from the dead and seated at the right hand of God to intercede in turn for us.  (Heb 7:25, Job 16:19-21). And that is the reason we pray to Him and pray in His Name only.]

4.  I have called you friends (Jn 15:15)

As friends of God, we are revealed the deep things, the mysteries of God.  He also makes known His will to us in everything concerning us. (Matt 10:27, Jn 15:16, 1 Cor 2:10-14, Amos 3:7, Ps 25:14).

Matt 13:52, “…Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his store room new treasures as well as old.”

Jn 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his Master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.”  Therefore, grow and enjoy the spiritual upgradation He has promised to the faithful: ‘FROM SERVANTS OF GOD TO FRIENDS OF GOD’.

Let us also remember, as it says in Jn 16:12-15 – there is yet much more to be revealed.  Especially, since God deals with us on individual basis, His plans and purpose for each one of us will vary.  It is His pleasure to make them known  to us, Amos 3:7, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.”

5.  You make a difference (Mk 13:20)

Do not belittle yourselves.  Remember, your very presence in this world makes a big difference.  As Mk 13:20 says, it lightens the burden of this world and shortens their suffering.  (The book of Revelation too).

Therefore, let us persist in holiness.  Whether the world recognizes it or not – we’ll continue to be a blessing simply by our presence amidst them.  REMEMBER, IF JONAH COULD BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR THE NEAR SINKING OF THE SHIP, PAUL’S PRESENCE AND PRAYERS ACCOUNTED FOR THE SAFE ARRIVAL OF EVERY SINGLE LIFE IN THE SHIP-WRECK ALONG THE COASTS OF MALTA.

FINALLY, ATTENTION! WOMEN OF GOD:

Grow as Christian witnesses.  Let nothing stop you.   Following are four red-alerts for you:

1.  Matt 3:8,10, and vs 10 reads, “The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”  Every tree meaning every child of God – whether male or female. Refer 2 Pet 1:10, 2 Pet 2:20-22.

2.  Be wise.  Wise women naturally seek and follow God (eg. Ruth, Abigail, Lydia,..) just as all the remarkable women, we read about did during Jesus’ time even though Jesus had called only twelve men to be His chief disciples. Perhaps that is the reason God had never the need to call a woman.  For more examples, read Lk 7:44-47, Lk 8:2-3, Lk 10:42 etc. 

Therefore, it does not come as a surprise at all that Jesus Christ, after His resurrection first commissioned a woman to proclaim the good news, Jn 20:17-18, “….Go instead to My brothers and tell them….”.   Remember, Wisdom has sent out her maids (Prov 9:3).  Let not folly restrain you.

3.  Do not seek your answers in the letters that frame the law but from the Spirit Who gives it.  Like the wise daughters of Zelophehad did, seek the heart of God (Num 27:1-7).  Isa 8:19(b), “…Should not a people inquire of their God?”  Refer 2 Cor 3:6.

4.  When the Holy Spirit leads, the commissioning or non-commissioning by men or church leaders cannot be a hindrance as ministries of Stephen, Philip, Apollos, Mark and the women of God in the Bible will prove.  1 Pet 2:16, “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”

 2 Cor 3:17, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

May God bless you!

To be contd……NEXT: The commandment to Give.

 

 

 

 

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11
Jul

The Commandment to Forsake53

THE COMMANDMENT TO FORSAKE

INTRODUCTION:

Faith’s greatest test is obedience in forsaking.  Because, it is investing all our trust in Him. Our faith, translating itself into deeds literally. Therefore, we might as well call it the entrance test to His school of Christian apprenticeship. 

SALIENT FEATURES OF FORSAKING:

  • The higher the calling, the greater the cost.  Therefore, as Jesus forewarns, let us first prudently analyze the cost before venturing forward, lest we drop out midway and end up like the salt that has lost its saltiness! (Lk 14:28, 31, 33-35).
  • The more we succeed in forsaking, the better we equip ourselves to obey the commandments to sacrifice and witness. Eg. Lk 5:27-28.
  • Our calling becomes clearer to us as we begin to forsake.  For eg., Jn 21:11, 15 – shows how Peter’s calling became clear to him.
  • The call to forsake is a test that we will be taking repeatedly.  For eg. As it happened in Abraham’s life (Gen 12-22).  For we see that they reap a harvest of righteousness. Read James 2:23-24, “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend.  You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.”
  • When we willingly forsake, God takes our ‘little’ and blesses it to ‘abundance:  
  1.  1 Kings 17:15-16 – the lasting provision of the widow of Zarephath.
  2.  Matt 14:18-21 – five loaves and 2 fishes that fed more than five thousand people,
  3.  Jn 10:10(b) – the brief life here to abundant life in eternity.
  • God restores our humble forsaking with greater honor:
  1. Mk 14:8-9 – Mary’s perfume of anointing – what she has done will be told throughout the world in memory of her.
  2.  Matt 27:60(a), Lk 23:50-53 – the new tomb that will remain open as the greatest symbol of hope!
  3.  Lk 19:30-35 – the colt that gave its maiden ride to the Lord.
  4.  Lk 22:8-13 – the room prepared for the Last Supper.
  • God restores our forsaking with great blessings, so great that we are justifiably left wondering if we ever forsook anything at all.  Praise God! for He is pleased to remember it always:
  1. Gen 25:1-2 – the impossibility that had turned into possibility did not stop with the birth of Isaac.  Abraham went on to raise many more children of his own.
  2.  1 Sam 2:21 – similarly, Hannah continued to bear more children after Samuel so that God had filled her bosom with immeasurable joy.
  • Finally, we are also led to forsake something or someone if found detrimental to our spiritual well-being (Heb 11:26, Matt 18:8-9 and Lk 9:60.  Also, Deut 13:6-10, 12-18 -though an example of extreme measures of O T times).

[THE EXAMPLE OF ABRAHAM:  No man can perhaps excel or even equal Abraham who is also known as the ‘father of faith’ by his obedience in forsaking – his country, his people, his father’s household (Gen 12:1, 4-5), Lot, who’d initially rallied to his side and with him the rich pastureland along the plains of Jordan which was his by virtue of Promise (Gen 13:8-9, 11), the wealth of Sodom even though it was his by virtue of conquest (Gen 14:22-24), his son Ishmael (Gen 21:11-14) and even his promised heir and son of the covenant, Isaac (Gen 22:2, 9-12, 15).

FROM PROMISES TO BLESSINGS TO GREATER PROMISES:  (Gen 12:2-3, 7; Gen 13:2, 14-17; Gen 14:19-20, Gen 15:1, 5-7, 18-21; Gen 17:1-2, 4-16, Gen 18:17-19, Gen 22:16-18) Most noteworthy is also the fact that at every cross-road of his obedience, God blesses Abraham more and more.  So that we find him richly rewarded and increasing greatly in manpower and wealth (Gen 24:1).

Undoubtedly, God blesses us every step of our obedience (Matt 19:27-29, Mk 10:28-30), rewarding us with hundred-fold of whatever we might have forsaken for His sake, from this life onward.  But taking our cue from Abraham we should keep our focus steady and not let it stray to the blessings of this world. (Heb 11:9-10).

FOLLY OF SHIFTED FOCUS:  Otherwise, like Terah, Abraham’s father, who had initially heeded the call to Canaan but ended up discontinuing after reaching Haran (Gen 11:31-32), we’d also fail in complete obedience.  Like Terah, most of us struggle to let go of what we perceive as deserved or promised blessings.  It is only our ‘folly of shifted focus’ that we end up exposing.  We need to understand that by blessing us God is accounting us faithful to be entrusted with more to invest upon.]

RENUNCIATION VS FORSAKING

We must also understand that Christian concept of forsaking is not the same as religious concept of renunciation.    Often ‘Forsaking Christians’ are looked at with skepticism because of this lack of understanding prevailing even among the Christians.   A comparative study of the two will help clear the cobweb of confusion:

THE DIFFERENCE:

  • Renunciation is a voluntary act of the highest order in terms of human virtues. Forsaking, on the other hand, is an act of obedience to a personal command received from God (Lk 14:26-27).
  • Renunciation usually involves renouncing everything that may be summed up as worldly living – going into seclusion, embracing extreme austerity and carrying out severe penances. In Forsaking though, what one forsakes is Christ’s prerogative and command.  To one it may be something, to another something else (Lk 9:57-62).
  • One Renounces to seek God, salvation, peace and freedom from bondage of life’s desires, sin and fear of death. Whereas, in Forsaking, salvation and freedom from all bondage is the reason, not the goal (Matt 19:16-21).  Also read Jn 14:27, Phil 4:7, Matt 28:20. 

IN THIS WORLD, YET NOT OF THE WORLD:

Jn 17:15-16 –  In the world, yet not of the world.   Yes, we are called to remain in the world but with detachment for the salvation of others.  We cannot, therefore, renounce the world or go into self-imposed isolation.

God’s blessings and provisions strengthen us to further the cause of Gospel, provided we do not lose our vision and faithfully continue to re-invest.  A vow of austerity will only be a deterrent under the circumstances.

JEHOVAH-JIREH:

Saints like Abraham proclaim and testify to the provisions of the Living God everyday of their lives (Gen 22:14, Rom 4:3, 18-22).  They willingly forsake because they know their Provider, ‘Jehovah-Jireh’ never fails (Gen 22:14 (kjv), Ps 87:7).

By commanding the Israelites not to store up left-over manna for the next day, God taught them the invaluable lesson of continuing to look up to the Source of all their blessings.  The trusting line of prayer Jesus teaches sums it all up, “Give us today our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11).

ANALYZING THE COST:

In order to analyze the cost of following Jesus, it is imperative that we understand the scriptural purview of things we might be required to forsake:

1.  Worldly ambitions, even that of owning a place of one’s own.  Matt 8:19-20, “…..Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has no place to lay His head.”  Also, Mk 8:36-37, Matt 16:26, 1 Jn 2:15-17, Lk 9:57-58.

2.  Worldly obligations, sometimes even that which one feels one owes one’s own parents. Lk 9:60, “Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God’.”  Also, Matt 8:21-22, Lk 9:59-60, Mk 1:19-20, Matt 10:37, Lk 14:27.

3.  Marriage (not by divorcing but by not marrying).  Matt 19:10-12, “…….others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven.  The one who can accept this should accept it.”  Also, Rev 14:4.

4.  One’s life.  Matt 16:25, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.”   Also, Jn 21:19, Lk 17:33, Matt 10:39, Mk 8:35, Lk 14:27, Heb 11:35.

5.  One’s occupation: Mk 1:16-18, “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’  At once they left their nets and followed Him.”   Also, Lk 5:27-28.

6.  Worldly ties or familial ties and worldly desires.  Lk 9:61-62, “Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family’.  Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God’.”  Also Gen 19:17, 26; 2 Tim 2:4, Lk 14:26, Lk 17:31-32, Matt 6:32.

7.  The wide and commonly followed path of this world.  Matt 7:13-14, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it  Also, Lk 13:24-27, Lk 17:26-29.

8.  All one’s possessions or wealth.  Matt 19:21, “Jesus answered, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me’.” Also, Mk 10:21-22, Lk 16:9.

From all above, we are also led to understand that when one forsakes, one forsakes even that which one does not possess but might aspire to possess otherwise.  For example, marriage, a career, worldly success etc.

DOCTRINAL IMPOSITIONS:

Often we see churches making so-called doctrinal impositions. When churches stoop to impose they deprive the flock of their right to individual fellowship and calling from God.  In other words, they resist the working of the Holy Spirit in one’s life.  What one forsakes is entirely Christ’s prerogative, and we will do well by not meddling with it. 

LEARNING FROM JESUS:

Let us now look to Jesus Who alone exemplifies for us all divine virtues better than best of men:

GOD’S COMMISSION FULFILLED BY GOD’S PROVISION:  Jesus first forsook His heavenly abode and all the riches and glory associated with it to come into this cursed, lowly and perishing world to seek us.  Though garbed in flesh like man, He overcame all the temptations and lure of this world (Jn 16:33).  He humbled Himself like a Servant (Isa 49:1-10, Isa 52:13-15, Isa 53:1-12, Isa 49:1-10, Isa 50:10) by willingly forsaking all its temporal charm and remained obedient to the Father till the end.  He willingly forsook His life at its prime.  Having thus proved Himself perfect through complete obedience, Jesus, offered Himself as a perfect sacrifice.

Thus, all His forsaking geared Him for the sacrifice or the “Calling” that was exclusively His own.

PROVISION:  Throughout the brief period of His life and ministry in this world, the Creator by Whom all things were created (Jn 1:3) did not seek even a place of His own (Matt 8:20).  Yet, everything – from the womb to the grave was made available for Him at the appropriate time for the fulfillment of His divine mission.  Jesus seeks to lead us by the same path to enrich us with total and all encompassing fellowship of God.  

Next, let us look closely into why most of us fail or hesitate to forsake:

1.CORRUPT TEACHINGS:

“The old wine and new which take away the understanding of My people.”  Hos 4:11(b).

Heb 11 enlists great men and women of faith who forsook everything, even their lives, readily.  They are people who expected great things from God and attempted great things for God.

On the other hand in today’s materialistic world, churches have more or less discarded the teaching to forsake. Instead, today’s teachings are all about acquisitions.  Acquisition, apparently, to showcase one’s blessedness as the favored child of God.  

Hos 4:6-12 depicts the current state of affairs vividly:  “My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.  ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.  The more the priests increased, the more they sinned against Me; they exchange their glory for something disgraceful.  They feed on the sins of My people and relish their wickedness.  And it will be:  Like people, like priests.  I will punish both of them for their ways and repay them for their deeds……..”.

The new wine introduced by Jesus (Lk 5:36-39) can only be contained in new wineskins, and for that one has to be transformed by the renewal of one’s mind (Rom 12:2).

BLESSINGS OF THIS AGE:  Mk 10:30(b) is very clear as to the blessings of this age – They come with persecutions!  How many of us are prepared to accept our blessings with persecutions?  Let us look closely into the lives of godly men and see for ourselves how true it has been for them – not just in N T times but since O T days, e.g. Joseph, Daniel, Ruth, Esther etc.  And they were all the wiser for it.  Persecutions help us stay detached and faithfully persevere for that which is eternal and yet to come.  Like the aforementioned known and anonymous saints of Hebrews 11 exemplify.

2.MYOPIC SPIRITUAL VISION:

“If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” 1 Cor 15:19.

Jesus teaches, “…A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possession.” (Luke 12:15(b)).  Ps 62:10(b) reads,….Though your riches increase, do not set your heart on them.”

Yes, forsaking also means giving up the temporal for the eternal.  Matt 6:19-24 teaches, “store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven…. for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”  How do we do that?  By investing our blessings further.  From basic trust to blessings is how God honors and rewards us.  So that we may venture into greater investments as was the case with the two good and faithful servants in the parable of the talents (Matt 25:15-30)! 

To the worldly-wise it might sound like foolishness, but to the spiritually discerning it is the very aspiration of one’s life – AWAITING THE ETERNAL AND TAKING POSSESSION OF IMPERISHABLE TREASURES.  Read Luke 16:9-15.

3.FENCE – SITTING BELIEVERS :

“As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.”  James 2:26.

Let us stop living our spiritual life on the periphery of God’s blessings and be willing to plunge right in and invest our trust in Him.  Only then will our faith begin to show forth itself in our deeds.

The passage in James 2:14-26 exhorts us to practice our faith with deeds to match. But, we find that the teaching is usually limited upto verse 17 and misinterpreted grossly.  As a result, the general idea is that it is all about giving to the poor and needy only.  And therefore today’s emphasis is on christian ministry that borders on social work only.  We find that even people without the means going to great lengths to raise funds in support of some charity or the other.  What role does faith have here?

How unlike the faith demonstrated in Peter’s work!  Read Acts 3:4-6, “Peter looked straight at him, as did John.  Then Peter said, ‘Look at us!’  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Then Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you.  In the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk’.” 

1 Cor 12:28, “…those able to help others..” is very clear.  Charitable work as such is for those God has thus enabled.  It is for those with the means to invest their trust in God and give to the poor and needy.

Christian services or deeds have got to demonstrate faith.  If you have, then gladly give.  That is deed matching faith.  If you don’t have don’t ask of somebody else so that you can give.  It is not faith.  It does not glorify God or His power in any manner.  If anything, it brings disrepute to God’s work.

DEEDS THAT PROCLAIM ALOUD OUR FAITH:  Reading the whole passage through will help us arrive at the right perspective.  The deeds James is referring to are the deeds that proclaim aloud our faith.

EXAMPLE OF RAHAB: Let us take a quick look into Rahab’s life and find out why her faith stood out to be worthy of mention.  Joshua chapter 2. 

Rahab becomes the only woman, the only person in the entire city of Jericho to stand her ground against the king’s orders, staking her life, her everything to fulfill God’s divine purpose.  Her confession of faith testifies to her great courage (Josh 2:9-13).  Verses 10 t0 11 from her confession show that all in Jericho had heard of the Israelites, and the awesome deeds and wonders God performed on their behalf. The people were gripped with fear (James 2:19, “You believe that there is One God.  Good!  Even the demons believe that – and shudder”).  Yet, we find it was Rahab alone who truly feared God, who could match her faith with deeds (vs 9), worthy of the Spirit’s commendation.

What became of Rahab is history written in indelible ink (Josh 6:22-25).  Vs 25, “But Joshua spared Rahab the prostitute with her family and all who belonged to her, because she hid the men Joshua had sent as spies to Jericho – and she lives among the Israelites…”  What’s more, God honored her and she went on to become the second woman finding a mention in Christ’s genealogy (Matt 1:5(a)) by becoming the mother of Boaz.

IN CONCLUSION:

Let us be earnest and keep our focus fixed on Christ, our Redeemer and the broader picture He offers.  Like the wise men of Matt 13:44 and 45, let us be found forsaking and staking our all, if need be, to lay claim on that which is of greater and incomparable worth.  Amen!

May God bless you!

To be contd…….NEXT: The commandment to Witness.