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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My Life as a Christian

Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow

There has been silence on this blog. Yes, weeks of no words. I was down with malaria and a persistent pain in the stomach. It was a hard time for me and my family; however, we thank God for sustaining us and pouring more of His grace in our lives which is always sufficient.  For sure, His power is made perfect in weakness.

My family and I thank God for all the prayers of the saints as well as the gift of medical doctors whom he has used to  heal me. Of course, I continue to feel the pain once in a while but it is lesser now and we continue to trust God for His complete healing. Please remember us in your prayers and join me as I sing this doxology:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him, all creatures here below

Praise Him above, ye heavenly host

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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Christianity and theology

My Reflections on Holy Living

Jesus

We all need Him as we pursue Holiness

There are times when it feels so good to be a Christian, especially, when you walk in the life of obedience to the will of God. It is that time when joy overflows every chamber of life and heaven feels closer than ever before. Then there are times when the flesh takes over and it’s nasty. You fight but you feel like punching the wind. The once higher graph of obedience nose-dives and you see no sign of progress. It hurts. It really hurts!

In times like these, I have found comfort in the assurance that God never loosen his grip on me and he never let me go. He still holds me as strong as always while the Holy Spirit convicts and leads me back to the path of obedience. It is comforting, really comforting! Of course, His discipline, in such cases, is inevitable (Hebrews 12:5-11)  but the thought that he still holds me stronger in his hand is soothing and assuring.

I would have loved that the moment Christ takes full control of ones life, they would never be tempted to go to the old ways or wander away from the path of obedience. But the truth is otherwise.  In this world, I am prone to let the fresh rule sometimes. It sad, really sad! However, I pray that the Holy Spirit will rule more.  I can’t agree more with R.C. Sproul:

“We all begin the Christian life with the intention of living in such a way as to please God. But we encounter obstacles along the way. We meet conflicts between what pleases us and what pleases God.

We need help in overcoming these obstacles. In a real way the Christian life is often a struggle. We gain ground and then slip backwards. There is such a thing as backsliding. Sometimes the slide seems as if is greased with the slickest substance the Devil can use. But as children who totter at the top of sliding board, fearful to move, we have a heavenly Father who guards the edge of the board and who waits at the bottom of the slide to catch us in His arms” (Pleasing God, Tyndale House Publishers ©1988)

Lord, I fall on your feet seeking more of your mercy and grace. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I will myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I will serve the law of sin” (Romans 8:24, 25).

Saints, lets always pray for one another no matter how rosy and beautiful our Christian lives might look. We all need more of His grace and mercy! I really need it. Pray for me as I pray for you.

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Christianity and theology

This Deadly Temptation

This is a deadly temptation indeed. From the beginning of the New Testament Church, it has troubled the Body of Christ and it continues to do so. Of course, it comes in various forms but the essence is the same namely Christ is not enough.

In Scripture, we first encounter it in Acts 15. Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch in Syria where they were preaching that salvation is through Christ alone.  However some Jews who had been converted to Christianity and still felt that Christ alone is not enough for salvation came down and started teaching that “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses you cannot be saved” (v. 1, 5). Paul and Barnabas debated and argued with them that salvation is through Christ alone but these people did not back down.

Therefore, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem where the first recorded church council of apostles and elders gathered to discuss the matter. The council resolved that it is not necessary to be circumcised in order to be saved because salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone.

Fast forward to the Epistle to Galatians. Paul is addressing the same problem of Acts 15.  Judaizers (Jews who had been converted to Christianity) continued to preach that Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation.  Instead, they were adding circumcision to it. So, salvation, according to them, was through faith in Christ plus circumcision. Unfortunately, some Galatians started buying into this error and Paul was angered by this deception and wrote Galatians:

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are returning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:5-8, ESV).

Now, what type of gospel did Paul preach to the Galatians? Back to Book of Acts, Paul preached that salvation is through Christ alone. And what did those who troubled the Galatians preach? Salvation is through Christ plus circumcision. So, Paul, boldly, declares that if anyone, even if he is an angel, should preach that salvation is through Christ plus… should be accursed. This how serious and deadly this temptation of adding on Jesus is.

We are not yet done, so let’s skip some pages of the New Testament and come to the Letter to Colossians. This epistle was written to oppose what has commonly become to be known as “The Colossian Heresy.” The heresy involved a lot of things but to sum it up, it also taught that Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation. It taught that apart from Christ one was supposed to among other things deny themselves (2:21; 2:23); worship angels (2:18); and have special knowledge (Gnosticism) (2:18; 2:2-3). Apostle Paul then wrote the Church at Colossae to remind them that Christ alone is sufficient (1:15-20; 2:2-3, 9) for our salvation. There is nothing we can add to Christ for God to save us.

Again, let’s fast forward to almost 1, 500 years later.  This deadly temptation continued to rear its ugly head in the Church. During this time, there was only one church and there were serious errors being taught in this church. Then, God, through his Holy Spirit, raised a man by the name of Martin Luther who by God’s grace boldly stood up to oppose the errors, especially, the one that said salvation is through Christ plus good works. Of course, it should be noted that before this man, others also opposed the errors in this church including John Hus and John Wycliffe.

Martin Luther opposed various errors in the church basing on Scripture and his opposition reached the climax on October 31, 1517. The climaxing of his opposition led to what is now known as Reformation which also led to the birth of what are now called Protestant Churches.

Reformation emphasized on five main issues which sometimes are called Five Banners of Reformation or Five Solas of Reformation namely Christ Alone (Solus Christus), Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura), Faith Alone (Sola Fide), Grace Alone (Sola Gratia) and To God alone be the glory (Solus Deo Gloria). For the sake of this post we will just dwell on Solus Christus (Christ Alone).

Martin Luther opposed teachings like you need to believe in Christ and also punish your body through penance and fasting to be saved. He opposed the teaching that stated you need to give money to the church and believe in Christ to be saved.  All in all, Luther and the other Reformers like John Calvin opposed any teaching that added on Christ as means of salvation.  After, devotedly, studying Scripture, the Holy Spirit opened their eyes to see that salvation is through Christ Alone for only Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. No one can go to the Father unless he goes through Christ alone (John 14:6).

We now come to our time. Has this deadly temptation ceased to bother the Church? Not at all! It has just put on a new form. Today, some still preach that Christ is insufficient.  It is very disheartening to note that the preaching that focuses on Christ alone is becoming less and less popular. Instead those preaching Christ plus miracles or Christ plus success and riches or Christ plus prediction of minute details of life are becoming more popular and crowd pullers.  Whatever happened to the old but ever relevant and satisfying truth that Christ alone is all we need, I don’t know.

I pray that the Church today will sober up and realize that the Head of the Church, Jesus, is sufficient. We don’t need to add anything to him to make him sufficient or more appealing. Fellow preachers, please preach Christ Alone.  He is our all in all.

“For by (Christ) all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross…and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Colossians 1:16-20; 2:9, ESV).

“Dear Father,  give us this day the understanding of the sufficiency of Christ and deliver us from this deadly temptation of adding on Christ.” May all God’s people say…”Amen and Amen!”

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Christianity and theology

What is Wrong with ‘Prosperity Gospel’?

On the onset let me say that I know some true and sincere believers who have bought into ‘prosperity gospel’ for various reasons.  Some of these are personal friends and I know that this post will break them. I, strongly,  do pray that it breaks you not because I have written it, but because the Word of God contained in it, powered by the Holy Spirit, has come with full force in your life  to break you and thereafter mold you according to God’s will revealed to us in Scripture alone. Now here we go:

What is wrong with ‘prosperity gospel’? Before answering the question, it is good to put the record straight that ‘prosperity gospel’ is no gospel at all. The Bible is clear that there is only one Gospel (Galatians 1:6-8)and if I were to take at least one verse that summarizes this Gospel, I would go for John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” This is the Gospel. Anything that adds or subtracts from it is no gospel at all.

In light of this, Apostle Paul warns us of ‘other gospels.’  His words in Galatians 1:8, 9 echo with great emphasis: “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed” (ESV)

Now, what is wrong with ‘prosperity gospel?’ First, it misses the mark on God’s chief plan for a sinner. It emphasizes that one should come to Christ in order to get material blessings not what is big in God’s plan of salvation namely eternal life.

God gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to live a perfect life on behalf of a sinner like me and die on behalf of a sinner as me and later rose from the dead so that every believer should have eternal life. Therefore, God’s chief plan in redemption is that man should be saved from sin and death and not to prosper materially. If that was the case John 3:16 would read: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son that whoever believes in him should be healthy and wealthy.”

Secondly, ‘prosperity gospel’ robs God of his Godhood and renders Him as a vending machine. If one takes a closer look at ‘prosperity gospel,’ they will notice that it emphasizes on faith as means of obtaining blessings from God. So, God becomes a vending machine and the currency for buying on this vending machine is faith. You put faith in this vending machine and out comes a very big mansion. You slot in faith, and boom you have a top-notch job.  You push faith in and the machine gives you an ‘all-eyes-on-me’ car.  The moment you slot in faith, the vending machine spits out good health. If you a bachelor or spinster, you just have to put in faith, and the vending machine will give you a beautiful wife or handsome husband and a happiest marriage as a bonus.

So, people become followers of God because He is like a vending machine that gives them their wants and not because they have experienced His true and amazing love and grace in their lives.  It is similar to what Christ experienced while on earth. In John 6:1-71 we read that after Jesus miraculously fed 5000 men, He withdrew to a lonely place and later at night walked on the sea and joined His disciples as they crossed over to the other side of the lake.

The next day, when some people noticed that Christ was not among them, they got into boats and followed Jesus to the other side of the sea.  Upon meeting them, Jesus rebuked the people because their motive for seeking Him was wrong. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.  Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you” (26, 27 ESV).

In other words, Jesus is telling these people and us today that we should not follow Him because we want to prosper. Doing that is missing the mark. Rather we should follow Him because He is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:16). Jesus is not the vending machine that dispenses out material blessings at our will. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

Material possessions, not matter how huge, cannot satisfy us. It is God who satisfies.  King Solomon explains this outstanding truth very well in the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon was a very prosperous man in every way (1 Kings 10:14-29).  However, despite having all those riches, Solomon still felt that life was useless and was like chasing after the wind because he did not allow God to satisfy him.

Eventually,  God enabled him to realize that  silver and gold cannot satisfy but only God and Solomon confessed and said: “All has been heard, here is the conclusion of the matter: fear God and keep his commandments for that’s the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV). We should realize that only Christ and not the riches of this world can satisfy us. For sure, “Our hearts will remain restless until they find rest in Christ” (St Augustine).

Thirdly, ‘prosperity gospel’ robs God of his sovereignty.  By God’s sovereignty, we basically mean that God is in full control of what happens in heaven and on earth. He carries out all that he wills and nothing can stop His plans. In other words, when we say that God is sovereign, we mean that God is God.

Now do proponents of ‘prosperity gospel’ recognize God’s sovereignty in the lives of his people? No, they don’t because they teach that if you are a Christian you should prosper and be rich.  By such emphasis, they usurp the place of God and start determining the destiny of God’s people. They teach that it is God’s will for you to be rich.

Now, is it true to say that it is the will of God that every believer should be rich and prosper materially? Turning to the Bible, which by the way is a final rule of faith and practice for Christians, we find so many examples of believers who were very dedicated to God but were not materially rich including  Jesus himself who reminds us : “The poor you shall always have,” (Mark 14:7).

Does this mean that Christians should always be poor? No, that’s another extreme which the Bible does not teach. Instead the Bible calls on Christians to work hard and trust God for their both spiritual and physical needs. In the model prayer which Christ taught His disciples and is also commonly known as the Lord’s prayer, Jesus teaches us to trust God to provide for us and He encourages us to ask: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3 ESV). God knows our needs; we should trust him to meet such needs one day at a time.

Jesus also warns us of focusing our eyes so much on riches that we are  blinded to the fact that God is the sole provider  and sustainer when he says: “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist  in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Another warning comes to us through the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 6:6-10:

“Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desire that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs” (ESV).

Apostle Paul continues with the word of admonition regarding focus more attention on riches than God  in 2 Timothy 6:17: “As for the rich in this present age, charge then not be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (ESV).

And what is this ‘everything to enjoy’? Is it big mansions, expensive cars, and excellent jobs? No, it is Jesus! Jesus is everything that a Christian needs to enjoy. Jesus is the greatest provision that God has made for his children far richer than material blessings which are temporal.  That’s why a Christian should echo the words of the Psalmist and say, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:25, 26, NIV).

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