Sound Teaching

Enemies of the Cross

“Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on thosewho walk according to the example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with the minds set on earthly things” (Philippians 3:17-18).

Here we come to one of very sad and agonizing passages in the Bible. Apostle Paul gives us two groups of people found in Christianity.  First, they are those who like Paul imitate Christ. The apostle urges believers to follow the example of these people who have their eyes fixed on the cross of Christ.

Secondly, there is a group that Apostle Paul describes as enemies of the cross. Please note, these people are not outside Christianity. They are inside yet they are enemies of the cross. This is a very dangerous group of people because unlike those who are outside Christianity and openly oppose Christ, these people masquerade as Christians and pose like they are working for him yet the truth is otherwise.

The enemies of the cross have often been described as false teachers and false prophets. Now, it’s not funny to label anyone a false teacher or false prophet.  Personally, I hesitate to do so unless basing on the testimony of Scripture I clearly see that one is indeed a false prophet or false teacher since God’s Word assures us that “by their fruits, we shall know them” (Matthew 7:16, 20).

In the above passage, Philippians 3:17, 18, the Scripture describes the destiny as well as three fruits of the enemies of the cross. If these fruits or any of these are present in someone who claims to be a Christian or Christ’s servant, I would not hesitate to say that they are a false teacher or an enemy of the cross. Let every man be a liar but God’s Word alone should declare who the enemies of the cross are.

First, in the passage we see that the end or destiny of the enemies of the cross is destruction.  Friends, this is not a simple matter. No one should treat this matter lightly because it has to do with the wrath of God. The end of all the enemies of the cross is destruction. I shudder at this statement. Who can stand the wrath of God? Recall how God destroyed the entire earth except for Noah and his sons and a few animals and birds (Genesis 7:1- 24). Consider the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:23, 23). “OK, that’s the Old Testament,” someone might say.

Well, think about God’s wrath poured on Ananias and Sapphira for lying to Him (Acts 5:1-11). What about Herod who was struck down by an angel for robbing God of His glory (Acts 12:22, 23)? The New Testament goes further to describe the ultimate destruction of the enemies of the cross in the following way: “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,” (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This can’t be a light issue; however, that’s what Scripture says is the end of the enemies of the cross. It’s really scary!

Secondly, the enemies of the cross have their belly as their god. They always work hard for their physical satisfaction and not to please God. They use God’s name to acquire and satisfy their wants. When ‘preaching’ what is supreme on their mind is not “Thus says the Lord” rather what will I gain after ‘preaching’ this message. Will people like me more and give me more money and gifts?  They work for their belly and not for God.

Thirdly, the enemies of the cross take glory in their shame. The things that they ought to be ashamed of are the things that they enjoy to do.  Instead of being ashamed that often they make the Bible say what it never meant and mean what it never said, they boast of getting special revelations which no one else can see in the Scripture apart from themselves. Some of the things they claim that Bible says are very shameful indeed.

I once heard of a preacher who told people that God had ordered him to collect a certain amount of money from Christians failing which he will die. This preacher had no shame to say this. Really? Can God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ kill a preacher because he has failed to receive an offering of a certain amount?  The examples are many. You can also consider of preachers who hire bodyguards to protect them even as they stand on the pulpit to preach God’s Word. Surprised? It is happening. Bodyguards around the pulpit to protect a man or woman of God as he/she is ‘sharing God’s Word’. Shameful indeed!

Finally, the passage highlights that enemies of the cross have their minds set on earthly things. “Forget about eternity, live your best life now for heaven is already here” is the mentality of the enemies of the cross. Now, if I can live my best life now here on earth, what will happen to me when I go to be with my Father in glory? At this point I would like to make this bold declaration: Anyone one who claims to serve Christ but doesn’t help God’s people prepare for eternity with Jesus fails in their task and this cap of the enemy of the cross fits them very well.

If truth be told, it is hard and painful to talk about these things. This is really a hard talk but we have to face it any way. The enemies of the cross really exist and by their fruits we know them.  The Bible reminds us not to follow or imitate them. Instead, we should join, imitate and keep our eyes on those who walk according to Christ and His Word. We thank God that by his grace we have such people who seek to honor and glorify Christ always and by the same grace we will follow them, will we not?

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Sound Teaching

Miracle Money?

I, first,  heard about it a couple of months ago and I ignored it.  I have heard it again this week and I cannot afford to ignore it anymore.  Some ‘men of God’ are performing miracles whereby one can just find that you have money in your pocket or in your bank account. Believe you me, I hear that ‘some men of God’ are able to rain down money on people.  It’s exciting, isn’t it? NO! It is very pathetic and scary! These so called miracles are acting in strong opposition to God’s Word.

At creation, God established three mandates namely work, rest and marriage. God put Adam in the Garden of Eden to work therein (Genesis 2:15).  He established a day of rest (Genesis 2:2, 3). God also established marriage when he brought Eve to Adam (Genesis 2:22).  No matter what we might think of these mandates, they will remain until Christ comes.

Now, it is sad to note that some Christians think that work came into effect as a result of Adam’s sin. This is not true because work was ordained by God even before the entry of sin. People, especially Christians, should be eager to work and earn their living instead of expecting the so called miracles where one becomes a millionaire without work.

God can do anything. However, it is also important to remember that God always honors his word. If he said that we should work, he expects that from us. God blesses the work of the hands of his children and in his grace, he provides through the work of our hands.

Therefore, Christians’ attitude towards work should always be positive.  We should never expect God to put money in our pockets while we are sitting idle. No matter how godly you are, God can never put money in your pocket while you are idling. Apostle Paul was a true servant of God but he had to make tents to earn a living (Acts 18:1-3) hence he could boldly say:

“For when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. Now to such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to ear their own living,” (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12).

Friends in Christ get this right: It is not God’s will that you have money which you have not worked for. It is one thing to have God move the hearts of people to assist you with money for a particular cause and another thing to have money in your pocket without knowing where it has come from. If this happens to you, you ought to be afraid rather than rejoice.

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Christianity and theology

Salvation and Good Works

The fifth and last trustworthy saying is found in Titus 3:8 and reads: “This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.”

Good works do not produce salvation but salvation produces good works. For sure, salvation is by the grace of God and there is nothing we do to earn it yet true salvation will always produce good works.  This is what Apostle Paul is stressing in this trustworthy saying.

The relationship between salvation and good works has sometimes caused confusion but I believe God’s Word clarifies the issue better in the saying. Every Christian is saved to do good works.

The only difference between good works of a Christian and a non-Christian is that a Christian does good as a result of the Holy Spirit who has come into his life. It is this Holy Spirit who motivates and gives the believer the grace and desires to please God by doing what is good.

A non-Christian, on the other hand, will do good works hoping to be accepted by God and usually driven by the natural guilt that is in all those who don’t have Christ due to original sin of our first parents which all of us are born with.

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Christianity and theology

Godliness

The third ‘Trustworthy saying’ is found in 1 Timothy 4:8, 9: “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance.”

Timothy being a young man was most likely involved in some sporting activities. Apostle Paul then takes advantage of Timothy’s knowledge of sports to communicate an important truth. He tells Timothy that physical exercises are good but they cannot surpass the need for godliness in a life of a Christian.

Now, godliness does not just come automatically in ones life; there is a need for deliberate effort to pursue godliness while still relying on God’s grace. This is why the apostle is bringing in the analogy of athletics.

In as much as athletes train for physical fitness, Christians while relying on God’s grace should ‘train’ for godliness. This is where spiritual disciplines like studying God’s Word, prayer, fasting, meditation and others come in.  Christians should not neglect these things.

It is also true from the saying is that Christians should always bear in mind that all the things we do in this world will pass away but only that which is done for Christ will last. Therefore, Christians must always seek to glorify Christ with their lives. Remember:

“Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last” (Anonymous)

This is not to discourage Christians from participating in other activities that the world offers us like education, business, sports, and music.  Let’s get involved in these things; however, we should never at a single time let them take the place of God in our lives because they will one day pass away but our relationship with God through Christ is eternal.

 

 

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Christianity and theology

The Worst Sinner

As I indicated in my previous post, the first “Trustworthy Saying” is found in 1 Timothy 1:15 and reads: “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance:  Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners- of whom I am the worst.” In the verse two important truths are presented before us.

First, the reason Christ came into the world was to save sinners. Although while on earth Christ healed the sick, cast out demons and performed miracles, his main goal was to save sinners and this was achieved when he lived a perfect life, died on the cross and later rose from the dead on behalf of all believers.  Christ himself affirmed this when he said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). By the way, Bible Scholars say that this is the key verse of the Gospel according to Luke.

Therefore, we, preachers of God’s Word, miss the point when we emphasize on the physical well being of people the main reason Christ came into the world. For sure, Christ did not come into the world to make the poor rich rather he came to save sinners like you and me who were once dead in our sin but were made alive in Christ by God’s grace alone (Colossians 2:13, 14). This remains the main reason of Christ’s coming into the earth even today hence preaching should center on this.

Secondly, it is important to note how Apostle Paul addresses himself in the verse.  There is no doubt that Apostle Paul is one of the men that God has used greatly in the Church. Paul also wrote almost half of the New Testament yet when he examined himself, he felt that he was the worst sinner.

This is what happens to every Christian who is growing in his/her faith hence becoming closer to God. The more we get closer to God, the more we realize how greatly we fall short of His glory. Any Christian who gets closer to God can’t help it but realize how sinful he is and how holy God is.

For instance, consider Prophet Isaiah, the moment he came closer to God, he immediately realized how holy God is and how evil his heart was and he cried out, “Woe is me for I am (sinful)” (Isaiah 6:5). The same can also be said of Apostle Peter. In his first encounter with Jesus, it dawned on him that Christ is holy and he was very sinful hence he told Jesus:  “Depart from me a sinner” (Luke 5:8).

Therefore, it should scare us when we take the holiness of God for granted.  We have every reason to be afraid when we play with the holiness of God as a child’s toy. For sure, God is a our Father and we always have to approach His throne of grace with confidence as his children yet at the same time we should bear in mind that He is holy and we are not.  The only reason he welcomes us is because of Christ who clothes us with his holiness.  Without Christ, you and me are the worst sinner hence we should continually work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

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Christianity and theology

The Trustworthy Sayings

There are some phrases in the Bible that we sometimes overlook yet they call our attention to something important.  One of such phrases is the one we find in the New Testament and it goes, “This is a trustworthy saying…”

Now, begin from this week, we would like to take a closer look at these phrases which appear in the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus. These three books are also known as Pastoral Epistles.

These phrases exist no where in the New Testament apart from the Pastoral Epistles and is found in the following passages: 1 Timothy 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Timothy 2:11 and Titus 3:8. It is believed that Apostle Paul uses these phrases to call the attention of recipients and readers of these letters to a very important point.

Therefore, we would like to take our time on this blog to critically look at each trustworthy saying and listen to what God is communicating to us through these sayings. Of course, by this we do not mean that the other passages of Scripture are not worthy paying attention to; however, the phrases form a good material for an in-depth Bible study. Just as we can choose any other passage of Scripture to study deeply, on this blog we have opted to dig deeper around the trustworthy sayings for now.

 

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Christianity and Society

The Man Named Epaphras

Lately, I have been studying the Epistle to Colossians and one character that has caught my attention in the study is the man named Epaphras.

Epaphras got converted when he went to hear Apostle Paul preaching in Ephesus.  Thereafter, he went home in Colossae and planted a church. Later, the Colossian church was faced with the problem of false teachers and Epaphras immediately went to Rome to meet Paul and seek assistance on how to address the problem (1:7-8; Acts 19:10).

The interesting thing with this man, however, is that he still remains a little known figure despite “working hard for the church at Colossae” (4:13). Unless, you take you time to critically study the epistle, you will never know how important Epaphras was to the Colossian church.

This is how things can go in our service for the Lord sometimes. We might give out our best and keep things moving by the grace of God but still remain little known figures. This should never discourage us since it is all about Christ and not us.  All the glory should go to him alone. As John Baptist once remarked, “Let him increase while we decrease” (John 3:30).

Therefore, never be bothered so much about getting a credit for your service unto the Lord because the truth is that you will not always get it. All the same continue to serve the Lord faithfully and seek to bring all the glory to Him like Epaphras the unsung hero did.

 

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