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A Brief Catechism of Bible Doctrine-1-The Bible

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The Bible

 

1.What book have we that teaches about God?

The Bible.

2. By what other name is it known?

The Scriptures.

3. Into what two parts is it divided?

Into the Old and New Testaments.

4. How came it to be written?

God inspired holy men to write it.

5. Did they write it exactly as God wished?

Yes; as much as if he had written every word himself.

6. Ought it, therefore, to be believed and obeyed?

Yes; as much so as though God had spoken directly to us.

7. Does it teach us every thing about God?

It does not; no language could teach us the full glory of God, nor could we ever comprehend it.

8. How much does it teach us?

It teaches us all that is necessary about God, our duty to Him, our condition as sinners, and the way of salvation.

 

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Christianity and theology

Death Penalty From a Biblical Perspective

Lucius Banda, one of well known musicians in Malawi,  once sang in a song titled “Tisayana bwanji”:

Malemba amanena usaphe munthu

Sati boma lokha lingathe kupha…

Chigawenga ndichouma mtima

Koma ngati boma lichibwezera zasiyana pati.

Literal translation would render the verse as follows:

The Scriptures says “Thou shall not kill”

They don’t  say that only the human government can kill…

A murderer is a merciless person

But if government executes him too then where is the difference?

This is a popular opinion among those who reject the death penalty also known as the capital punishment.  There are so many Christians in Malawi and all over the world today who hold that the death penalty for murderers is unbiblical. But does Scripture really prohibit the observance of  death penalty by human governments? When human governments implement death penalty, are they committing murder thereby breaking the Sixth Commandment?  Doesn’t Jesus words in Matthew 5:38, 39 prohibiting  an eye for an eye principal (lex talionis) render capital punishment unbiblical? What should we say about those who are falsely accused of murder and are executed,  and how do we deal with those who commit murder but manipulate justice systems and get away with it? These are the questions I would like to address in this post. Please note that I am discussing death penalty as punishment for murder cases only.

First, we need to know the origin of death penalty. It all begun with God himself in Genesis Chapter Nine. But before we  dwell on  this chapter, I would like us to consider the first murder to occur in the history of the world as recorded in Genesis 4:8. Cain committed the first murder by killing his brother, Abel. God pronounced judgment on Cain and said: “And now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. When you work the ground, it shall no longer yield to you its strength. You shall be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth,” (Genesis 4:11, 12). Cain then complained to the Lord that his punishment was greater than he could bear and people who would  find him in his wandering would kill him. Then God said, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” (Genesis 4:15).  The Lord then  put a mark on Cain so that no one should kill him.

In this passage, we see the Lord reserving the right of implementing capital punishment to himself. God does not execute Cain; instead,  God punishes Cain in a different way and declares that no one should put him to death. If this was the  only instance of God’s revelation  regarding murder and death penalty, those who advance that human governments should not implement capital punishment could have surely been right.

However, this incident is just the beginning of God’s revelation to us regarding murder and capital punishment. We need to progress to Genesis Chapter Nine where God reveals even more clear regarding murder and death penalty. In His covenant with Noah after the flood  which also applies to us even today, God makes this statement: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his image” (Genesis 9:6). This is where the capital punishment is established by God.

Unlike in the case of Cain in Genesis Chapter Four where God reserved the right to implement death penalty for himself, in Genesis Chapter Nine God entrusts the responsibility of implementing death penalty to human government for he says, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.” The man to shed the blood of the murderer is not just any man but the human government. Commenting on these two instances, O. Palmer Robertson in his book, Christ of the Covenants writes:”Earlier, God had reserved for himself alone the right to deal with the manslayer. In the case of Cain, God spoke judgment against the one who would dare touch him (Gen. 4:15). But now God deliberately places the responsibility for the execution of the wrongdoer on man himself (human government).” God requires that whosoever sheds human blood should have his own blood shed because man is created in the image of God hence Geerhardus Vos in his book, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments comments, “In life slain it is the image of God, i.e. the divine majesty that is assaulted.”

Therefore, when human governments (and all human governments are established by God as we read Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17) implement capital punishment, they are not committing murder and thereby breaking the Sixth Commandment rather they are carrying out their God-given responsibility. God’s command for capital punishment was later repeated in Exodus 21:12, 28 and Numbers 35:16-21.

Secondly, I would like to address some questions or concerns that arise regarding the death penalty. Doesn’t  the capital punishment contradict the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 5:38, 39 in which He says: “You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Is Jesus not prohibiting us from observing  the captial punishment in our societies in this passage? The answer is a resounding no.

Before I address what Christ is saying in the verses, I would like us to remember that Christ is God and it is God who established the capital punishment. Therefore, it means that it is Jesus who established the capital punishment. We should bear this in mind as we approach Matthew 5:38, 39.

Now, lets dive into the passage. Jesus words in these verses are based on the following passages of Old Testament: Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20 and Deuteronomy 19:21. The main teaching in these passages is that punishment for any crime should be equitable and fit for the crime. In the case of murder, God already declared that the fitting punishment for murder is the capital punishment. The words of Jesus in passage prohibit exacting a greater punishment on a lesser crime. Jesus further teaches against personal vengeance because the responsibility of exacting the punishment on various crimes is entrusted to civil authorities. The passage has nothing to do with abolition of death penalty as some argue. John Calvin says it better in his Bible Commentary:

An eye for an eye. Here another error is corrected. God had enjoined, by his law, (Le 24:20) that judges and magistrates should punish those who had done injuries, by making them endure as much as they had inflicted. The consequence was, that every one seized on this as a pretext for taking private revenge. They thought that they did no wrong, provided they were not the first to make the attack, but only, when injured, returned like for like. Christ informs them, on the contrary, that, though judges were entrusted with the defense of the community, and were invested with authority to restrain the wicked and repress their violence, yet it is the duty of every man to bear patiently the injuries which he receives (http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc31/cc31057.htm).

A fellow blogger has discussed Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:38, 39 at length on this link:  http://wittenberg-door.blogspot.com/2013/01/was-jesus-against-capital-punishment.html Please check it if you wish a further discussion on the passage.

Another concern that is usually raised is that sometimes innocent people (those who did not commit murder but are accused of murder) end up being executed for the crime they did not commit. It is true that some have been executed because they were falsely accused of murder. I don’t intend to underestimate the pain and the agony that this brings upon the individual that is falsely accused and also upon his or her family, relations and friends. However, we still need to realize that injustice occurs in this world because we are all fallen. We are not always able to know the truth regarding various allegations; nevertheless, this must not form a basis for abolition of the capital punishment. Where enough evidence has been given to prove that one committed murder, human governments should implement the capital punishment. In cases of  those who are falsely accused and later executed, our comfort should lie in the fact that God is sovereign and he knows all things. One day he will bring every secret thing into the open and he shall let truth and justice prevail (Ecclesiates 12:14).

Yet another concern is on those who commit murder and through their power and money and influence manipulate the justice system of human governments and get away with it. Shouldn’t this discourage Christians from advocating for the capital punishment since it only disfavors the poor. Again, I say not at all.  Regarding this matter, John Calvin in his Commentary of Genesis writes: “And we see some die in highways, some in stews, and many in wars. Therefore, however, magistrates may connive at the crime, God sends executioners from other quarters, who shall render unto sanguinary men their reward.” Calvin’s main point here is that although some might manipulate the justice system but God has his own ways of dealing with such individuals. We should always bear in mind that God is sovereign and all powerful.

In this post, I have labored to explain why death penalty for murderers is biblical and why human governments should implement it. I have also addressed some questions and concerns that seem to justify the abolition of capital punishments in human societies. Now, if we are to go back to Lucius Banda’s song I would respond and say: Human governments are established by God and God has entrusted them with the responsibility to carry out the capital punishment on murderers. Capital punishment is not the same as murder hence it doesn’t break the Sixth Commandment which orders, “Thou shall not kill.

Lucius Banda’s track,  “Tisiyana bwanji” below:

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Sound Teaching

True Repentance

“Godly sorrow worketh repentance” 2 Corinthians 7:10

Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls itself in sinners except divine grace works it in them. If you have one particle of real hatred for sin, God must have given it you, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

True repentance has a distinct reference to the Savior. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin, and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of His love.

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally – as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it – shun it in everything- not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against Him.

Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. Thus dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.

Taken from: Morning and Evening, Morning Oct. 13 by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

 

 

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My Sermons, Uncategorized

The Blessed Saints

Text: Ephesians 1:1-14

 I remember teaching Sunday school some years ago and I asked the kids in my class what being in Christ meant to them. Some said happiness, others said joy but there was this one kid who said that being in Christ for her means blessings. She did not elaborate but just said that being in Christ means blessings.

And this is exactly what we are seeing in this passage we have read. In the passage, Apostle Paul is reminding us of the blessings we have in Christ. Of course, there are so many blessings that Apostle Paul highlights in the passage but we will dwell much on three blessings that have come to us Christians as a result of the life, death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

But before we can dwell on the blessings, the author of this Epistle we have read introduces himself to us and says, “Paul an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” Paul was an apostle of Jesus. As an apostle of Jesus he was not there to advance his own interests or his own ideas but rather he was there to proclaim Jesus. He was made an apostle to proclaim the Cross of Jesus.

Similarly, we Christians are not on our own. We are of Jesus. We belong to Christ; therefore, our lives should proclaim Christ and glorify him because we are not of our own but of Christ by the will of God. This fact should also bring comfort to us as the Hilderberg Catechism Questions number 1 asks: “What is your comfort in life and death?” The answer in part reads: “That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and death to my faithful savior Jesus Christ.” Friends, we are of Jesus. We belong to Jesus.

Then Apostle Paul goes on to introduces the recipients of the Epistle and says, “To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.” Every believer or Christian is a saint. I remember attending a Bible Study on this passage this other day. Then the leader of the Bible study asked “Do you think, you are a saint?” Then somebody replied and said, “No, I am not a saint.”

“Why?” The leader asked. Then came a reply: “A saint is a very holy person.I mean he is very righteous….” I cut him and said, that’s what you if you are a Christian. In Christ we are righteous not basing on our own righteousness but on the righteousness of Christ which God gives to us when we believe in him for salvation. In Christ, every Christian is holy basing on the holiness of Christ.” Friends, every one who is saved is a saint. If Paul was writing to us here today, he would have definitely wrote to the “Saints at…” (put in your place there).” Of course, I don’t mean that you should address me as St. Confex. It is not that necessary although that’s what actually we are in Christ. We are saints.

Then Apostle Paul moves on to praise God for the spiritual blessings He has given us in Jesus. In verse 3 he says: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.” Paul has in mind here the risen Lord Jesus Christ. As the Scripture tells us, Jesus Christ has ascended into heaven and is sitting at the right hand of God the Father and from there he pours out blessings upon his Church, upon believers. We need to praise God for these blessings which he gives us through Christ.

Apostle Paul then lists the blessings. First he says, God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  For us to be saved. For us to be Christians today, it is not because we chose God but God chose us even before the world was created.  So, you and I are Christians today not because we are smart or we are better or we made a right choice when we heard the gospel preached to us.

NO! It is God who chose us to be believers. Sometimes I know there is a temptation to think that we did something that moved God to save us. But according to this passage, God chose us even before we were born. Before God created the world, he saw us miserable in our sin. As a matter of fact, we were dead in our sin but in his grace and mercy, God chose to save us. Apostle Paul then continues to give us a reason why God chose to save us so that we should walk in a holy and blameless life. God desires his children to be holy just as he is holy. He desires us to be set apart from the world.

Then Apostle Paul mentions another blessing  in verse 5 and says, God predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will. Two theological words here: predestination and adoption. Predestination basically means that before creation, God already foreordained or planned what will happen in our lives. And Adoption is an act whereby God after he has saved us, he goes on to take or adopt us as his children in his family. Oh, what a blessing!

God took us we who were his enemies because of sin and turned us into his children. Oh, what an amazing grace. This is why John1:12, 13 clearly tell us: “But to all who did receive him (meaning Jesus), who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of the blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” Oh, what a blessing we have in Christ! I would like now to move on and concentrate much on three of many blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus as we have read in the passage.

The first one is that We have the forgiveness of sins in Christ (v. 7)

In Jesus Christ we have the forgiveness of sin and this forgiveness leads to redemption and salvation. Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has forgiven and delivered us from the slavery of sin. The blood of Christ that was shed on the cross cleanses us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 tells us: “If we confess our sins, Jesus is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteouness .

And please mark the words all unrighteousness. In Jesus we do not only have partial forgiveness but full forgiveness of sins. In Christ we have forgiveness of our sins in the past, in the present and in the future. There is not limit in the forgiveness of Jesus. Christ does not tell us that I have forgiven you today but be careful because I won’t forgive you again. No, in Jesus we always have forgiveness of our sins if we approach his throne with a broken and repentant heart.

But here it is important to clarify about the consequences of sin and forgiveness of sin. If we sin we can face the consequences of sin although Christ has forgiven us. For instance, a Christian might cheat his or her partner and contract HIV/Aids Then this Christian might ask for forgiveness from Jesus after being convicted of his or her sin. Jesus will surely forgive but might not heal the disease. So, although forgiven in Christ, this Christian will still have to face the consequences or his or her sin.

Now, sometimes we are tempted to doubt if Jesus really forgave those sins we committed. Some times you can even hear the voice of the evil one whispering in your ear and say, “Do you really believe that Jesus forgave you those sins?” And you might doubt, but in the passage we have the assurance that in Christ we have forgiveness of all our sins.  This is why the Word of God says in Romans 8:1 that “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ” because in Jesus we have full forgiveness of our sins.

Friends, I don’t know what sins you have committed but I know there are sins or evil things we have done which we, human beings, might find hard to forgive but t Christ alone forgives all sins. Therefore, let’s lift our eyes to the cross of Jesus where the forgiveness of all sin is. As we sing in that famous hymn, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood.

        There is a fountain filled with blood 
               drawn from Emmanuel's veins; 
               and sinners plunged beneath that flood 
               lose all their guilty stains. 
               

 Secondly, in the passage, we see that We have eternal life in Christ (v. 11)

Apostle Paul is telling us that in Christ we have obtained an inheritance. The inheritance that Paul is talking about in this verse is the gift of eternal life as well as all the benefits that belong to those who are in Christ.  And note the way the Bible puts it. It says we have obtained an inheritance in Jesus. The gift of eternal life is a present reality. Every believer has eternal life right now.

It is sad that some people think that eternal life is what we will get in the future when we go to heaven. When you ask them, “Do you have eternal life?” They will reply and say, “I can’t tell. We will see when we get there in heaven.” It might sound spiritual but it is not biblical because in verse 11 Apostle Paul assures us that we have eternal life right now if we are in Christ.

It is very important for every believer to know that they have eternal life right now because this realization determines how we live our daily lives. If we do not know that we have eternal life, we are likely to live any how and like anybody without purpose. However, when we know that we have eternal life, we start looking at things differently.

When we realize that we have eternal life, we can confidently sing:

This world is not my home

I am just passing through

 When we realize that we have eternal life, we also realize that we are strangers and a pilgrims in this world and our eternal home is where our Father is and that is heaven. As a stranger in the world you do not conform to the standards of the world because you know that your citizenship is not here but in heaven.

Furthermore, knowing that we have eternal life in Christ comforts us when our fellow believers depart from us and go to be with the Lord. We get comforted because although they have died physically, they still have life in Jesus Christ.

 As Christians who have believed in Christ we should always know that we have eternal life right now. Apostle John writing to us in 1 John 5:13 says: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” So, eternal life is a gift we receive when we believe in Christ not when we will go to heaven.

Friends, we have eternal life in Christ and this truth does not depend on how we feel or think. But if we have this risen Lord in our lives. If he is controlling our lives, then for sure we have eternal life.

 Thirdly and lastly, We have a guarantee of our salvation in Christ (v. 13, 14).

 Paul tells us that we when we heard the gospel and believed in Christ as our Lord and Savior, in him we received a guarantee of our salvation who is the Holy Spirit.

 English is my second language. So when I saw the word guarantee I consulted my dictionary and according to Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners, the word ‘guarantee’ means ‘a promise that something will definitely happen.’ It goes on to say, ‘if something is guaranteed, it means that you will definitely get it or have it.”

 So when the Bible says that the Holy Spirit is the guarantee of our salvation, it means that no matter what, eternal life is ours in Christ Jesus. Nothing and no one can take it away from us. We cannot also lose it because it is guaranteed.

Jesus Christ in John 10:28 says, “I give (every believer) eternal life and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” This is the guarantee we have in Christ through his death, burial and resurrection. In Christ, we are safe and secure. There is nothing or any one who can snatch us away from the hand of Christ.

 Apostle Paul also in Romans 8:37-39 assures us: “For I am sure that neither death nor things present nor things to come… nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 Apostle Paul again writes in Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In other ways, Paul here is saying: “He who saved you, will make sure that you remain saved, saved, and saved to the end.”

 Now, for sure our salvation is guaranteed in Christ. But does this mean that we should deliberately sin more and more? God forbid! As the Bible says, God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation and eternal life. Now the work of the Holy Spirit is to sanctify or make us holy or make us become more and more like Jesus. The Holy Spirit who is a guarantee of our salvation convicts us of sin and helps us to live a holy life that is pleasing to God.

 Furthermore, knowing what God has freely done to me in Christ can never make me sin against him deliberately. Instead, knowing all the good things that God has done in Christ for me provokes thanksgiving to God. Naturally, when somebody has done good to us, we don’t repay them back with evil. We pay back with good as well.

The fact that God loves us so much and that he allowed his son to die for our sins. The fact that God has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation does not mean that we should sin deliberately against him. Instead, those who have truly experienced his love and grace live a life of obedience to him out of love and appreciation for what God has done to them.

And Christ in John 14:15 says: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” We show our love and appreciation for all that God has done to us in Christ by keep his commandments.” Not out of fear but out of love and appreciation for what he has done to us.

Therefore, let this assurance from God’s Word that in Christ our salvation is secure comfort us always. We do not need any other form of assurance more than this.

A story is told of an elderly man who came to a preacher by the name of H.A. Ironside. “I struggle with assurance of my salvation. How can I be sure about it?”

Ironside replied, “Suppose you had a vision of an angel who told you your sins were forgiven. Would that be enough assurance?”

“Yes, I think it would. An angel should be right.”

Ironside continued, “But suppose on your deathbed Satan came and said, ‘I was that angel, transformed to deceive you.’ What would you say?”

The man was speechless. Ironside then told him that God has given us something more dependable than the voice of an angel. He has given the Holy Spirit who is assurance of our salvation and this was made possible through the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In this Christ we have  forgiveness of our sins; in this Christ we have eternal life and in this Christ we have a guarantee of our salvation.

Lets pray:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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God’s Assurance When the Going Gets Tough

TEXT:                       Psalm 126 and John 16:33

There is an old popular saying that goes, “When the going gets tough, it is the tough that get going.” However, according to the two passages we have read we see that, when the going gets tough, it is those who trust in the Lord that get going.

Psalm 126 which we have read  is called the Song of Ascents. There are different explanations about the meaning of this but the one that most Bible Scholars agree is that all the psalms that are called song of ascents which are Psalms 120 to 134 were sung by pilgrims traveling to the mountain of God (Zion) to worship.

Psalm 126 was most likely composed for those who had returned from Babylonian captivity. It begins with rejoicing because the covenant people who were in captivity have been brought back to their covenant land by their covenant Lord. Then the restored people pray for complete restoration. Restoration from captivity meant more than a physical return to the land. God’s covenantal presence was also needed.

Then the restored people reflect on their past and say that  Babylonian captivity was like sowing with tears but now they are reaping with songs of joy. The Lord has overruled evil with good.

In John 16, Jesus is speaking to his disciples. His days on the earth are almost over and he tells them that in this world they will face tribulations, but they should not worry because Jesus has overcome the world.

I would like us to reflect on this Psalm together with the words of Jesus Christ in John 16:33. Both passages talk about the suffering or difficulties that God’s children encounter and what God does in such situations.

As God’s children dearly and beloved,  we experience difficulties in various ways. Sometimes we face difficult times because we have sinned against God and he is disciplining us as was the case with the covenant people of Israel. God sent them to captivity as a result of their sin. In the book of Hebrews, God tells us that as his covenant people like the Israelites, he disciplines us when we sin. God does this out of love so that we may share in his holiness as Hebrews 12:10 tells us.

Other times, we experience difficulties in form of trials. Again, God in the book of James 1: 2-4 tells us that God allows trials to come our way so that they should strengthen us in our faith.

Still other times we experience difficulties because of the warfare between the God’s kingdom and Satan’s kingdom. Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we are at war with Satan and his fallen angels. Of course, it is not a physical war but spiritual and still its impact can sometimes be felt physically.

So, Christians will always experience suffering and difficulties in this world in one form or the other. This is why Christ says in John 16:33 that “In this world you will have trouble…” He does not say that we might have trouble but he affirms that we will have trouble.

However, when we look at these two passages, we can sigh a sigh of relief because in these passages, God gives us three assurances when we face difficult times.

First is God’s assurance of restoration (vv.1, 2, 3)

After God disciplined his Covenant people, the Israelites, through Babylonian captivity, he restored them. God did not discipline his children forever.  He restored them by bringing them back to Jerusalem. Similarly, with us, God does not discipline us forever. After disciplining us and putting us on the right track, he restores the joy of our salvation and fellowship with him.

When he allows us to pass through trials, a time comes when he restores us to a better life. Job after going through trials, God restored him and blessed him even more.

We also know that the warfare that is going on between the kingdom of light and darkness will not continue forever. One day, God will restore peace in the world. Satan together with his angels will be thrown to hell and there shall no longer be warfare between the kingdom of light and darkness.

God is speaking to us in our various situations today. Whatever the situation we are in, God will restore us. In 1 Peter 5:10, he tells us: “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

For sure, in this world, we experience various challenges. However, God is assuring us that after passing through all these, he will restore us. The greatest restoration that all covenant people should  look forward to is the restoration we will have when we go to our eternal home, heaven. There will be no tears, sorrow, sickness nor death. As John Newton composed in the famous hymn, Amazing Grace, “When we have been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun, we we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun.”

God’s assurance of restoration should comfort us when we face hard times in our walk with Christ. The Israelites after suffering in exile in Babylon, they were later restored and they shouted with songs of joy. God will always restore his covenant people.

From  these two passages, we don’t not only have God’s assurance of restoration but also God’s assurance of joy and peace.

God’s assurance of joy and peace (vv. 2, 5, 6, 33)

When you look at Psalm 126 you find the word ‘joy’ appearing three times in verses 2, 5, and 6. In John 16:33 Christ also assures of peace. “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”

The Israelites expressed joy when God restored them. But Christians do not only experience joy when things are going well. We experience joy even when things are not going on well. We are supposed to rejoice all the time. This is why Apostle Paul could say in Philippians 4:4:  “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say rejoice.” Joy is ever present in the life of a Christian because Christ who is the true source of joy is always with him.

Animals are grouped into two: warm blooded and cold blooded.  The body temperature of cold blooded animals keeps changing according to the weather. If the weather around them is hot, their body temperature rises. If the weather around them is cold, their body temperature goes down as well.

However, warm blooded animals are different. They maintain their body temperature despite the change of the weather around them. Whether it is cold or hot, their body temperature remains the same.

Christians are like warm blooded animals. Their joy does not depend on the circumstances surrounding them. Whether they are passing through challenges or not, they always have joy because Jesus who is the source of true joy is ever-present in their lives. This is why God is assuring us of joy even in times of hardship and suffering because Christ the true source of joy is always with us.

The same applies to the peace of God. The peace from God is always available whether we are passing through hard times or not.

God assures us of his joy and peace when experiencing harsh times. When passing through challenges and we are tempted to feel sorry for ourselves and fall in the dungeon of self-pity, let’s remember the joy and peace of the Lord. As Nehemiah told the children of Israel, the joy of the Lord is our strength. It is this joy that Christ gives us that will keep us going when the going gets tough.

When I talk of a joy in times of difficulties, I am reminded of my friend and classmate in Bible college.  Most of the times he had a song on his mouth. When coming from the hostels to the classes, he was sing. Even at night when we were out guarding, you could hear him singing even from a distance.

Being a friend and prayer partner we shared experiences we were passing through and sometimes he left me amazed at what the joy of the Lord can do in somebody’s life.  Here was a man who was facing great challenges and very trying times, but challenges could not take away the smile and songs of joy from his mouth.

This joy of the Lord is our strength. This is why God assures us of joy and peace in our hard times. So, “Though Satan should buffet; though trials should come let this blest assurance control that Christ has regarded your helpless estate and has shed his own blood for your soul. It is well, it well with my soul” (Hymn by Horatio Spafford). So, when the going gets tough, let’s remember God’s assurance of joy and peace. This should be our strength.

And From the two passages we do not only find God’s assurance of restoration and joy and peace but also God’s assurance of victory.

God’s assurance of victory (vv. 6 and 33).

Bringing sheaves is a sign of success. It is a sign that after laboring in the field, they are now enjoying  a great harvest. In verse 33 of John 16, Christ assures us that he has overcome the world.

Though we will experience trouble, we should take heart for Jesus has overcome the world. No matter how the Evil one seems to prevail, Christ has overcome him.  Many discouraging  and heart-breaking events are taking place in our world and sometimes we find ourselves asking, what is happening? The Devil seems to be winning. However, in these two passages, God is assuring us of victory. Christ is the victor not the victim.

When we are passing through hard times and the devil seems to be winning we should remember that it is like we are watching replay of a game which we already know how it ended. If you know that your team won the game, even though the other team seems to be winning, you don’t panic because you know that eventually it is your team that will carry the day.

 

We are in the winning team of Jesus, so don’t be discouraged saints. Please march on in the confidence of our Lord Jesus Christ in whom we are more than conquerors. As a matter of fact, Jesus is our conqueror.

When the going gets tough and you feel like quitting, remember the assurance of victory. Remember that the one who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6).

Conclusion:

The Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic Christian Novel. In the book, John Bunyan tells a story of a man named Christians who sets on a journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. As he is traveling, Christian meets another man named Hopeful who is also going to the Celestial City.

As the two travel together, they take a wrong path that leads them to a place of a cruel and merciless man called Giant Despair. Upon meeting them, Giant Despair takes the two as prisoners and put them in a very dark and stinking dungeon. Giant Despair keeps them without food for four days.

After the four days, Giant Despair picks up a crab and mercilessly beats Christian and Hopeful. He leaves them almost dead. The two are so helpless that they cannot do anything but just weep and weep.

The following morning, Giant Despair goes to the dungeon again and he is surprised to find the two alive. He mocks them and says: “You will not come out of this dungeon. You will just keep on suffering. Why don’t you just kill yourself with a knife or poison because there is no any hope for you. “

But Christian and Hopeful refuse to take Giant Despair’s ill advice. They encourage each other that this is not the end of every thing. If God wills, he can save them.

Their refusal angers Giant Despair very much and he tells them that they will regret their action because he is going to do something they have never seen or heard in their life.  These words scare Christian and Hopeful so much that Christian faints with fear.

But later in evening, Christian comes to himself. Together with his friend, Hopeful they spend the whole night praying for God’s help. Upon the break of the day Christian remembers something. He joyfully shouts to his friend, Hopeful and say:

“What a fool I am! I have spent so many days in this stinking dungeon yet I have a key in my bosom called Promise which I believe can open the doors of this prison. How could I forget that?

Hopeful is very excited and encourages his friend: “That’s good news, take it out and try.”

Christians takes the key out of his bosom, tries it on the door of their prison, and click, the door opens to their excitement and joy. In no time, the two are on their way to freedom.

When hard and trying times come our way, let’s remember that God has given us the key of promise in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ God has promised to restore and to  give us joy, peace and victory.

Let’s pray:

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“Sermons” A New Category on Scripture Alone

“Sermons” is a new category on my blog. I have thought that my sermons should also be part of this blog and I believe God can use them to speak to you. So, please  check the tab regularly as I will be posting my sermons from now on, God willing.

One of the great things I love is preaching. Honestly, preaching is heaven for my soul; however, preaching also makes me tremble, especially when I realize that every time I stand to preach, I am in essence saying:  “Thus says the Lord.” This is great when it is indeed the Lord speaking but very dangerous and scary if it is just my thoughts. Therefore, it is my prayer always that God will dim and darken my thoughts and ideas in these sermons but shine brighter His word in them.

Another thing to be noted is that usually when writing sermons, I tend to write for the ear and not much for the eye. Therefore, as you read you bear this in mind. May the good Lord the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ bless you as you read these sermons to His glory. May He also use them to nourish your soul. “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen (Jude 24, 25).

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