Christianity and theology

So Heavenly Minded and No Earthly Good?

Last week we began looking at individual eschatology and some of the reasons why this doctrine is rarely discussed among Christians. Today, we pick up by considering the spiritual benefits that come when we constantly reflect upon the glory to come.

One of the lies that the world wants Christians to believe is that they can be “so heavenly minded that there are of no earthly good.” However, the opposite is true. Christians can never be of earthly good until they are heavenly minded. John Calvin writes, “If that hope (of going to heaven) be deeply seated in our mind, it is impossible that it should not lead us to devote ourselves wholly to God. On the contrary, they who do not cease to live to the world and to the flesh never have actually tasted what is the worth of the promise of eternal life.

A Christian should always live with one leg in this life and another up in the air ready to step into glory. Our prayer should always be like that of Jonathan Edwards, “O God, stamp my eyeballs with eternity.” Indeed, may God stamp eternity not just on our eyeballs but also on our minds, ears, hands, soul, feet, and the whole of our being so that the hope of glory should always before us.

The spiritual benefits that come with constant contemplation of the future glory include: a motivation to pursue holiness in our daily lives. How can a Christian contemplate about the land in which he will sin no more and deliberately live in sin? How can we contemplate the eternity in the presence of our Holy Father and willfully give ourselves to sin? Just as sin will keep us from reflecting on heavenly glory, reflecting on heavenly glory will also keep us from sin. Moreover, the author of Hebrews reminds us that without holiness (in this life), we won’t see God in heaven (Heb. 12:14).

Second, constant reflection of heavenly glory is a sign of true conversion and adds to the assurance of our salvation. This is what Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 1. In the chapter, Paul writes that one of the reasons he is convinced that the Thessalonians are truly saved is that they are constantly living with the hope of glory. “For we know, brothers, loved by God, that he has chosen you because…” He mentions various reasons and at the end of the chapters adds one more reason: “(you) wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1:4, 10).

Third, constant reflection of our blessed hope will make us resist getting comfortable in this world and conforming to its standards. It will enable us to realize that this life is just but a tent. “For we know that if our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Fourth, constant reflection of heaven will bring comfort in times of trials and afflictions. When a believer considers what Christ has prepared for him in heaven, the sorrows of this world would seem as a fleeting shadow. The sorrows will be like labour pains, which last for a while and turn into greater joy when a baby is born. Apostle Peter writing to the persecuted Jewish Christians comforts them with the truth of heavenly glory and says, “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” (1 Peter 5:10).

Lastly but not least, constant reflection of our eternity in heaven fosters love for our neighbors both believers and unbelievers. Knowing that we will spend eternity with our neighbors who are Christians changes how we treat each other here on earth. It will often, by the grace of God, lead us to love them as we love ourselves. For our unbelieving neighbors, a constant reflection of our future glory motivates us to share the gospel with them because we realize that without faith in Christ they can’t taste this glory but will be subjected to the eternal wrath of God.

But how can we cultivate this constant reflection of heaven in our daily lives? This is what we will look at in the next post, the Lord willing.

 

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Christianity and theology

Let’s Take Time to Talk About Individual Eschatology

In the coming weeks, the Lord willing, I would like us to take time on this blog to study what the Scriptures teach about individual or personal eschatology. Eschatology is a theological term and is derived from two Greek words, eschatos and logos, which when combined basically mean “the study of the last things.”

There are two aspects to the study of last the things. The first aspect is called individual or personal eschatology and the second one is called world or general eschatology. In the coming weeks we will focus on the former. This means that we will concentrate more on death and what happens after a Christian has closed his eyes in this life and opened them in the next.

In my Christian experience, I have noted that personal eschatology is one of the doctrines that are least discussed among Christians. It is also rarely preached in our churches. Yet in many Reformed and Presbyterian congregations, every Lord’s Day we confess our strong belief in this doctrine by reciting the Apostles’ Creed and say, “I believe in…the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.”

There could be a number of reasons why we rarely talk of death and the life after. First, I would argue that even for us Christians it is often hard to talk about death, let alone our own death, because it makes us and those we are talking to feel very uncomfortable. Yes, we know that we have been liberated from death’s power (John 11:25). Of course, we fully understand that death is a defeated foe (1 Cor. 15:54-57), but still because death is very unnatural to us (since man was initially created never to die until sin entered the world) we experience a certain type of uneasiness to talk about it. We would rather bury our head in the sand, as it were, and discuss other doctrines.

Second, related to the first reason, we hardly think or talk about personal eschatology because we often view it as distant. Not many Christians, more especially, younger Christians tend to think that today might be our last day on this earth. We often think that God will grant us many years to live in this world before he calls us to glory or the Lord Jesus comes again. But the truth is that none of us knows for certain. The Lord does not guarantee us the next minute (James 4:14b, 15). The Scripture also reminds us again and again about the brevity of life. Just consider some of the words it uses to describe our life: vapor (James 4:15), flower (Psalm 103:15), and handbreadth (Psalm 39:5). Our lives are indeed very short; therefore, we always need to be ready to either die or see our Lord coming in glory soon.

Third, we hardly discuss personal eschatology because sometimes we are so much consumed with the blessings that the Lord has given us here on earth and in the process forget the glories of the life to come. This is truer in places and nations that are very prosperous by our worldly standards. For example, for the four years that I have lived in North America, I have observed how easier and more comfortable life is for many people here than for many in my beloved continent of Africa. Sadly, some Christians are blinded by the plenty and pleasantness of this life hence forget that the glories of heaven can never be compared to anything here on earth. I do not say this to instill an unnecessary sense of guilt for my Western brothers and sisters; however, this is the reality that we all need to face and guard against (1 Tim. 6:6-10).

Fourth, on the other hand, some due to poverty and suffering, they experience in this world, tend to focus more on what the Lord can do to deliver them from these ills and in the process forget the glories of heaven. This is very true in many places like my continent of Africa where the so-called prosperity gospel continues to grow in leaps and bounds. One would think that poverty and suffering would cause people to think of heaven more, but this is not always the case.

Lastly but not least, we don’t discuss personal eschatology as much as we ought to because a good number of Christians are ignorant of what the Scripture has to teach us on this subject. If you are to go out on the streets and ask those who profess to be Christians on what happens during death and after, you will get various responses and some might not even be biblical. For instance, consider how common it is to hear among Evangelical Christians statements like, “The deceased is now looking down from heaven on us with joy” or “Heaven has gained another angel.” These statements reveal our ignorance on the subject.

So, because of these reasons, I strongly believe that we need to take our time and study personal eschatology so that we are not ignorant of God’s design for our future as individuals. Furthermore, if we constantly think of heaven or the Second Coming of Christ, our relationship with Christ here on earth would be enhanced even more. That’s what will look at in the next post, the Lord willing.

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Christianity and theology, Sound Teaching

Biblical Prophets Vs. Today’s Prophets

A couple of days ago, the social media was awash with a prophecy coming from the West Africa, Nigeria in particular. The so-called Prophet TB Joshua predicted the outcome of USA 2016 Elections. He stated that a female candidate would win. This was a reference to Hilary Clinton. However, come early this morning, the “prophecy” has proved to be another false prediction.

Now this is not the first time that prophets in my beautiful and beloved continent have predicted falsely. They are a number of instances that can be cited, but that is beside the point of this post. I am writing mainly to express my concern over some people’s unhealthy fascination with prophets.

Prophets have become so popular in Africa that they are regarded as semi-gods, which is certainly against the Second Commandment. Prophets have also become the elite and one of rich groups of people, monetary wise, at the expense of their poor followers. But this is very different from the picture we see of Biblical prophets both in the Old and New Testament.

The Biblical prophets were often unpopular. Their message was very offensive to those rebelling against God. The Biblical prophets were not crowd-pullers as our “prophets” today. They were not business magnets as the prophets our time. When one was called to be a prophet in the Bible, it often meant putting your life in the harm’s way.

While it was not all glamour and glitter for the Biblical prophets, it’s all a bed of roses for the contemporary “prophets.” The biographies of modern “prophets” stand in sharp contrast to the biographies of Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, and John the Baptist just to mention a few examples.

Looking at this fact, one thing is certain: the prophets like those in the Bible no longer exist. Without repeating what I have stated again and again, the ultimate fulfiment of the office of Biblical prophets is found in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2). Jesus Christ is the Prophet par excellence. He is the only prophet we need today. In fact, he is not only the Prophet but also the Priest and King forever.

Now back to the prophecy of TB Joshua. His so-called prophecy should bring to mind Deuteronomy 18:20-22:

But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’  And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’ when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.

Now we know how we should respond to TB Joshua and all the so-called prophets.

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Christianity and theology

Happy 499th Reformation Day!

Happy Reformation Day!

Today we celebrate 499 years since the Protestant Reformation began. We need to thank the Lord for his faithfulness and goodness to his church.

As I was reflecting on the Reformation, I thought of the common saying, “ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda (latin for “the church reformed, always reforming”). No doubt this one of the abused sayings in the Church today. Often it has been used to argue that the church needs to keep reforming or changing according to times.

For instance, I heard one arguing for female leadership in the church basing on the phrase. The argument went something like this: the church has been led by male leadership over the centuries, but now it’s time to embrace female leadership because the Church is reformed and always reforming.

What an abuse of this well-meaning phrase. The Church does not reform with times, it reforms with the word. Christ reforms his Church by the work of the Holy Spirit through the Word. Ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda secundum verbum Dei (the church reformed, always reforming according to the Word of God).

When the Old Testament church was deformed, God used the word to reform it (Nehemiah 8). The Pharisees also deformed the Church with their man made rules and Christ used the word to reform it (Matt. 5:17-20). The same thing happened in the 16th Century. God used his Word to Reform his Church. Reformation without the word is not Reformation at all. If the church is reforming without the Word, it is actually deforming.

Happy Reformation with the Word!

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Christianity and theology

He Abhors Not the Virgin’s Womb

The second hymn on the list is “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Originally written in Latin by Francis Wadde (1711-1786) but translated into English by Frederick Oakley and William Brooke in 1841. The second verse of the carol goes:

God of God, Light of Light

Lo, he abhors not the Virgin’s womb:

Very God, begotten, not made

Have you ever wondered how it was like for God to freely choose to humble himself and become a baby in a womb? The all-powerful God becoming a helpless baby who is fully dependent on her mother. How incomprehensible this is! Little wonder then that Francis could not also help but marvel as well and say, “See he does not despise his state of being a baby in Mary’s womb.”

Probably, Francis had Philippians 2:6, 7 in mind as he wrote down these lyrics: “Who (Christ), though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

Christmas is a really wonder, but it is not a wonder that leaves us confused. Instead, it fills us with gratitude and adoration. So, O, come all you who believe in Christ and let’s us adore him. Adore him not only on December 25 but all the days of our lives.

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Christianity and theology

…Far as the Curse is Found

It’s Christmas season once again, and the airwaves are filled Christmas hymns and carols. Although not all these hymns and carols are sound, there are some that have deep and sound theological truths. As we approach Christmas I would like us to take some time to reflect on these songs.

The first hymn on the list is Joy to the World which was composed and written by Isaac Watts in the 18th Century and is based on Psalm 98. The third verse goes:

No more let sins and sorrows grow,

nor thorns infest the ground;

he comes to make his blessings flow

far as the curse is found,

far as the curse is found,

far as the curse is found.

What a wonderful truth we have in these lyrics. When sin entered the world through Adam, it brought a curse on human race and the rest of creation (Gen. 3:14-19; Rom. 8:19-22). However, Christ came to reverse the curse so that man could be reconciled with God. He redeemed us from the curse by becoming a curse himself on our behalf (Gal. 3: 13).

Now through him, the curse is removed and we enjoy all heavenly blessings in him (Gal. 3:14; Eph. 1:3). This is why Watts declares that Christ came to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found. In Christ, all those who were once cursed are declared righteous and there is no single part in their life that remains under a curse, for they become a new creation in him.

Oh, what a great message of joy we need to carry to the whole world.

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Christianity and theology

If They Cannot Believe the Scriptures, They Will Never Believe…

Some months ago, a Ghanaian online newspaper carried an article of a woman who claims that she went to hell where she saw world leaders and celebrities who died some time ago. She claims that Jesus took her to hell and later brought her back to life to warn people so that they should repent and believe in Christ. Her story can be accessed on this link, http://www.reportghananews.com/i-saw-whitney-houston-gadhafi-in-hell-and-they-gave-me-messages-woman-narrates-her-2nd-visit-to-hell/

Now, this is not the first time for me to read or hear stories like these. Dozens of books and movies have been written and produced of people who went either to hell or heaven or both and were sent back by Jesus to share their experience so that people can believe in Christ and escape hell . Whether these stories are real and true is another topic for another day. However, in this post, I would like to highlight this important truth: If people cannot believe in Christ through the preaching of the gospel, they will never believe in him through these stories.

Why am I saying so? Because the Scriptures say so. In Luke 16:19-31, we read a story of a rich man and Lazarus. Both of them died and were buried. Lazarus was carried by angels to the side of Abraham (Paradise/heaven). The rich man went to Hades (hell) where there was torment.

The rich man later made a request to Abraham who was in heaven with Lazarus and said: “I beg you, father (Abraham), to send him (Lazarus) to my father’s house – for I have five brothers – so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment”(v.27).

By this request, the rich man is asking that Lazarus who had died should come back to life and share his experience of hell and heaven to his own people. Lazarus’ experience should act as a warning to unbelievers so that they should believe in Christ or else go to hell when they die.

Abraham responded: “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them” (v. 29).

“Moses and Prophets” here refers to the books of the Old Testament (see also Luke 24:27) since by the time Jesus was narrating this story, the New Testament had not yet been compiled. In other words, Abraham is saying, “Those people have the Bible, let them believe it.”

The rich man replies: “No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent” (v. 30).

Here now comes an important answer from Abraham. “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets (Bible), neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead” ( v. 31).

In other words, Abraham is saying, “If they cannot believe the Bible, even if someone should rise from the dead and warn them of hell, they will never believe.”

Friends, this is an important truth for us. Let’s not underrate the sufficiency of Scriptures in our lives. God has given them to make us wise unto salvation through faith in Christ (2 Timothy 3:15). For sure, no single person can be saved without hearing the gospel (Gospel is a synonym for Scripture). Apostle Paul drives this point home in Romans 10:8-17: “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching…So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Personal experiences of hell or heaven alone can never save anybody. This is why I am reiterating that the Church should remain faithful in preaching the gospel and never let the so called experiences of hell or heaven take her eyes of the main thing which is the preaching of the Scriptures or the gospel.

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