Wednesday, 22 November 2017

The Fruit of the Gospel

Paul and Timothy's letter to the Colosian Christians gives us an amazing reminder to us of the fruit that the Gospel produces in the life of the believer and in the church community who receives it. 

They begin stating that they thank God always when they pray for their unwavering faith in God and their love for the saints. The community exudes these two qualities because of the hope they have, this hope that came to them when they heard, believed and understood the word of truth; the Gospel. Do you remember Paul writing to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthains 13. Slap bang, in the middle of the two chapters on the gifts, he writes about love. At the end of the love chapter, he says "And these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." At the end of it all guys, when the rubber meets the road of the Christian life, after all the conferences, after all the worship sessions and sermon CDs, the rubber meets the road: does your life exude faith, hope and love? These three fruits only come by the receiving and the understanding of the Gospel. 

As Jesus explained in Matthew 13, when the seed of the Gospel message takes root in the good soil, it produces a harvest, it grows a powerful tree, a powerful believer who bears much fruit. God's gospel is an accomplishing gospel. It's purpose is to conform you and I into the likeness of His Son, JESUS. We will exude the same fruit that Jesus did: Faith, Love and Hope!

Let me explain:

When one receives and believes the Gospel, there is a hope that is stored up in heaven according to Paul in Colossians 1. What is this hope? I have three:

1. Jesus. He has given us Himself. Jesus is our treasure. Jesus is heaven. Paul knew this when he said "To live is Christ. To die is gain." Whether he lived or died, his whole being rejoiced in knowing and loving the person of Jesus. God said to Abram in Genesis, before he entered into covenant with him, "I am your shield, I am your exceedingly great reward." Our reward, our treasure one day isn't the gold streets or the huge mansions - it's JESUS! We'll have him forever. To walk with, to talk with, as much as we like. He gives us Himself.
2. Eternal life. We won't just have Him for ten minutes or one week. We will be with Him forever. Eternal life in the kingdom of the King of heaven! We will get to worship Him, be with our fellow JESUS lovers in the most beautiful place in the galaxy...Forever.
3. Eternally secure. There will have no fear that we'll lose our position in Him and with Him, ever. No matter what happens, we will be secure forever.

These 3 hopes comes through receiving and understanding the Gospel. When one really "gets" it and sees the beauty of the good news, it produces this unwavering hope in the hearts of the believers. And it's from this hope that two fruits become really apparent according to Paul: 1. An unwavering faith in God and 2. A love for the saints. These are two things that people can't conjure up or hype up in their own strength. It's effortless and come about with ease...they are fruits of the gospel, they come by GRACE!!! 

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Don't be a Pharisee

In the times of Jesus, you had two groups of people; the Pharisees and the disciples of Jesus. 

The Pharisees "knew" the scriptures and were supposed to be those that "knew" God. When Messiah came, they were the ones who "knew" how'd he be, how'd come and how he'd be towards sinners and sin. The were the "Christians" of the day. But JESUS didn't come like they thought. He didn't speak, act or conduct himself even close to how they perceived him to be. They expected him to be one thing and he turned out to be totally different. They rejected him and tried to kill him because he posed a massive threat to what they perceived God to be like. 

The disciples were the closest to Jesus. They knew him for months if not a year before he appeared on the water to them. They were in fear and thought him to be a ghost. They didn't expect him to come to them as he did. And when he did they were apprehensive and afraid. He assured them that it was him and that they need not be afraid. Even they, after spending day in and day out with him, didn't even recognize him that night. Amazing. They were so close to him, they knew the sound of his voice, they knew what he looked like....and yet they didn't recognize him. But when they did, he came and they were together again.

God is coming. There is a tidal wave of a move of God about to sweep this planet and he's going to be coming in ways that will be radically different to what you and I have ever seen him before. He'll be speaking through men and women whom you would normally discount and right off for whatever reason. He's going to move through the church down the street which you don't agree with and through that Christian that you don't really like. He's going to bless those people whom belong to a different congregation and denomination that you don't agree with and he's going use men and women who's theology doesn't quite line up with yours. He's going to use people whom got saved weeks ago in ways he's never used you even though you've been saved for twenty years! God is going to do this. He's going to break glass ceilings and break the boxes of our prejudices and religiousness. 

God is saying, "Don't be like the Pharisees. Don't write people off because you perceive differently or because you don't recognize me in that move." Test it, nothing wrong with that. Discern the fruit and judge the tree, but do it with much kindness and lots of patience. 

Thursday, 21 September 2017

The S-Word

Not sure what "S" word you were thinking of, but this post is about sin. Not the most exciting of subjects, but an important one nonetheless :-) Well, let's get into it then.

Christians often have an unbalanced view of sin. It's either we're obsessed with it or we don't pay enough attention to it. People in both camps don't believe they part of the camp they part of. HAHAHA! And that's the tricky bit. Again, like all things in the Christian faith, it comes by revelation.

We need to be fully aware of the dangers of sin. It's not wrong to ask "How do I stay away from it?" At the same time, we don't need to be sin conscious either. We need to have a healthy biblical stance when it comes to sin. If you ignore sin or think it doesn't matter "that much", then you'll find yourself in error too. We need to be fully aware of our adversary whose task is simple: He seeks to kill you and destroy you. And sin does that. We need not fear sin or be intimidated by it, but that attitude must not lead to ignorance either. Paul exhorted the church to not be ignorant of the devil's schemes!

Sin is a personal disdain towards Jesus. It's your will over His. It's choosing your desire over His. It's the ultimate form of idolatry and selfishness. To put it simply: Sin is against God. A Christian desires not to sin. But he finds at times that he does. John wrote in his first epistle, "I write this so none of you would sin, but if anyone does..." The battle is real. John knew that. And God certainly does too.

The good news is that sin cannot and does not change ones status in the Kingdom of God. No matter what a Christian does, even the most terrible sins, his position in Christ is secure. He has been made the righteousness of God, he has been justified in the courtroom of Heaven and has been perfected forever. Positionally, nothing can eradicate the finished work of Christ in a man. Not even the gravest of sins. A sinner's justification and gift of salvation is something given as a free gift. It comes by faith alone and no amount of sinning can take it away. Knowing that fundamental truth and being established in it is the foundation to victory over sin. I cannot stress this enough.

But what sin does do, is that it effects fellowship with God. It effects our intimacy with God. God doesn't leave us or create distance from His side, but it does from our side. He promised to never be angry with us and so He will never create distance out of disappointment. But when we sin, it's us that create the distance and awkwardness in the friendship and so our fellowship is effected. God has been friends towards us in Christ but by us choosing sin, we aren't being very friendly back to Him. Sin can't take away what He's done for us (regeneration) but it can take away from our future (fellowship and inheritance). It damages our souls, it hurts the Holy Spirit and it creates distance in our day to day fellowship with Him. If I sin against my wife, it doesn't cause a divorce but it does create an unnecessary tension between us and awkwardness in our marriage. Closeness and intimacy is not the same when sin is involved. Anyone can testify to this.

Christians obsessed with sin tend to be so sin conscious that their entire lives become engulfed in trying to avoid, stay clear and keep oneself clean. They live in perpetual fear that they rend themselves ineffective in the Kingdom. Their lives become so intrinsically focused and self absorbed because it's all about what they do in order to stay clean before God. It's an evil form of unbelief, actually.

Christians who live oblivious to the dangers of sin, where their doctrine of justification has enveloped or swallowed up their sanctification, to a point where they don't give much thought to sin at all, are also in danger. Sin creeps in and they find their fellowship with God becomes distant and weak. It leads to a lukewarm heart and gives worldly pleasures a place in their hearts in the name of freedom.

The Biblical warning to all believers is that we should not take sin lightly. God didn't. That's why Jesus had to die. We need to watch and pray as Jesus said. Watch what the enemy is doing, be aware of His schemes and traps, and pray. Stay in fellowship with God, it's the safest sin-free place you and I can be. Let's not be troubled or intimidated by sin and the enemy. They are both defeated. But they not going down without a fight. Stand firm in the faith, fight the good fight of the faith and stay intimate with Jesus.

Keep yourself in His love.

Keep believing the Gospel.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

The Millennial Mystery

If you're born between 1990 and 2000, you're a Millennial. If you're born before 1990, you're not. Sorry, but you're not. You're classified as old school. The quicker you deal with it, the better :-) The reason why I say "mystery" is because those of us over 30 need to catch a wake up if we want to be relevant to this generation. They are light years ahead of us when we were that age. Their world now and the world we lived in when we were 18 are two different worlds. Two different galaxies, actually. If you're wanting to 'reach them' in whatever capacity i.e. business, ministry, relational, you'd better be up to speed on four Millennial traits.

Firstly, they are incredibly tech savvy. They're on all platforms and they have a mapped out purpose for at least two of them. They have accounts on the rest so they can appear relevant to their peers and so that they don't miss out on who's doing what where. Being in 'the know' and 'up to date with the latest news' is a big driver for them. And this isn't just with their peers, frienemies and celebrities....but their trolls aswell. They want to be informed. Of. Everything. 

They realize they have a voice. And they want their opinions to be considered. They blog, post, and they not afraid to disagree with anyone. Bill Gates. Kim Kardashian. Caitlyn Jenner. "Who cares who they are? I have an opinion and I'll disagree if I feel differently. Because I can." It's because of this, that millennials are a more confident generation than ever before. They've crossed the shy barrier and they've expressed their differences. Even if it's only on Facebook. 

Like it or not, Millennial, but you are also the "I Want It Now" Generation. Instant gratification is what you've grown up with and its what you know. You've been brainwashed, unfortunately. And it's our fault. Life...REAL life...is not about instant gratification. It's an illusion. Your parents and the society you live in has done you a disservice by ingraining this belief into you. Did you know that a millennial gets an average of 52 'notifications' a day i.e. emails, Whatsapps, Social Media likes, Blog comments. That's around one reply/comment/thumbs up to something they've said on Twitter, to a photo they've posted on Instagram or a blog they've written, every 30 MINUTES!!! They post on social media in order to generate a response. And they get it. Very quickly! Millennials are results driven. If they don't get a reponse or a desired result within a prescribed time frame, they will move on to something else. 'Take your time' is not part of their vocabulary. It's not part of their makeup. When I was young, we were taught the value of sticking to something, through the good and bad, in order to get to your desired result. Not a millennial. The hard work that a Marriage needs is foreign language to them. They don't understand that. If it doesn't work, move on. "Why live and be unhappy, bro?" Sticking at a job, build the blocks necessary, make sacrifices and climb up the ladder over time is stupid thinking to a millennial. You want to be the CEO? Start your own company! The only sacrifice they willing to make is sleep, so that they can live harder and make more money! 

Millennials are lonely. Because they can literally live and exist in their flat with their iPad, they don't need to socialize, in person. And this is why a guy my age (and I'm only 36) can see through the facade of 'social media'. It's not social at all. Many Millennials' identity is wrapped up in what others think of their opinions on Facebook. They measure their likability but how many 'likes' they get on a quote they posted 29 minutes ago. They quick to respond to a disagreement on their blog post but have little idea on how to do it while sitting around a meal. Facebook may say they have 1248 friends, but they still go to the movies alone. What this generation is lacking is that only few of them know what it feels like to belong. Belonging to something that only happens when practicing real socializing. Face to face interaction and building relationships over a long time. Millennials are being robbed of this human need. We all need to belong to something. To someone. And it can't come from online shopping or social media chat rooms. 

Make no mistake, Millennials are smart and they know a lot. They are the most informed and knowledgable generation ever. They can hold conversations and have intelegable arguments over a host of social ills and injustices. They have strong opinions and they are gifted in communicating these opinions. They're adventurous and they not afraid to work hard when the time calls for it. But they want results and they expect things to be done quickly, and they make no apology for it. But they need the over 30's. They need us to show them the value of time. They need us to interact over the supper table. They need friends, flesh and blood friends. They need to feel valued. They want to belong.


Sunday, 11 June 2017

A Christian's Greatest Challenge

The greatest challenge for every Christian on this side of eternity is to stay continually satisfied in Jesus and not allow one's heart to be fulfilled in anything other than Christ and His presence.

The chief purpose of man is to know God and enjoy Him forever. It's funny how many of those who genuinely know Him haven't learnt what it means to enjoy Him. Enjoying Jesus is a foreign concept to them.
Keeping ones heart free from finding fulfillment in the things of this world is a daily struggle. This is because we are weak and we have a flesh. This is why renewing the mind is of such significance. Renewing our minds to who we are and to whom we belong is key. It's so important to be fully aware of His presence in us and around us daily. That has helped me. Allowing the realization that He is 'here', wherever I am and through whatever I face, has helped me to find my fulfillment in Him, "in the moment".

Don't allow your hear to be satisfied in money, in material wealth, in sex, in any idol on this earth. Train your heart to be satisfied in Jesus. It's the Christian's greatest challenge, but it's so worth it.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Good Works!

God doesn’t need our good works, but the world does. We have been freed from our need to repay God with good works! There is no ‘debtors complex’ – paying God back for what He has done for us.
Jesus wasn’t passive in His love towards others. He changed villages and impacted towns! It came from a place of total security and a love relationship with His Father. He knew he was loved and secure. There was nothing he could do that would make His Father love him more and there was nothing He could do that would make Him love Jesus less. He knew He was His Father’s Beloved.

And we are loved like Jesus! And we needn’t be passive in our love and serving of others either. The natural outworking of God’s grace and security in our relationship is good works! Christians were known as Christians for the first time in Antioch – it was there fervency of love in action! They were a diverse people, a worshipping people and a generous people. They were known in the community as a different people; a peculiar people – a loving people. Their actions made an impact! Like Jesus’ did.
When Christians say they are Christians but there isn’t a visible overflow of love and action in their lives, then there are some questions they should ask? Do you know how much you are loved? Do you know that you are His Beloved? Do you know that He loves you 100%?

We are objects of love before we are subjects who love. Our good works don’t establish our relationship with God by any means, but they do communicate to whom we belong. Life after justification does not eliminate good works, but it ‘horitzonalizes’ them. Jesus said that men will know that we are His disciples because of our love for one another. Christians love. Love in action. It’s an outworking from the inside out!
He won’t love us when we become better. He already loves us completely. Nothing we do can increase or decrease His love for us. That’s who He is. And that’s exactly who is at work INSIDE of us. And that love is going to work such magic inside of us that it expresses itself through us in outrageous good works to the people around us where we’ll love them as we’ve come to know God’s love for us.

Go forth! And have fun as you feed your enemies, be kind to your boss and  bless your unfriendly neighbours with the good works prepared for you in advance!  

Monday, 17 April 2017

Father approves and He is proud!

Two of the most difficult truths that I've battled to believe as a Christian is that God approves of me and that He's proud of me. All the time.

I buy the fact that He "loves me unconditionally". I even buy the fact that He approves of me and is proud of me most of the time. But anything more than that is hard to accept.

It's hard to accept because, you know...How can God approve of me and be proud of me when there are times when I disapprove of me and disappoint myself by the things that I do and say. And I'm quick to justify myself to at times too. But there are other times when I concede defeat and I'm truly gutted at things I do and say. So how exactly can God, the perfect judge, be proud of me....all time?

Suppose I put a piece of torn paper into a container. If I put that container in the fridge, where's the torn paper? If I put the container in my cupboard, where's the torn paper? That's right. Wherever the container is, that's where the torn paper is. So it is with us being in Christ. We are in perfect union with Him. We are in Him. If He goes in the fridge, so do we :-) Whatever the Father feels or thinks of Jesus, He thinks of us. We are in Him!!!!

And do you know what? He is proud of Jesus all the time and He approves of Jesus all the time! And therefore He is proud of us and He approves of us all the time.

"This is my beloved Son, whom I love and in whom I am well pleased." - Father, Gospel of Matthew, 3rd Chapter