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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

12: God Loves You(continued from previous post)

1: The Relationship Between God And The World Part One
For God so loved the world...( John 3:16).
The first introduction of God we see in the Bible is that of a Creator. The Architect of the whole universe. The universe, humans, animals and plants all take their origin from God: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Genesis 1:1). Psalms 24:1 further tells us "The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.(Psalms 24:1).

I recently read an article in the 21st-27th October, 2012 edition of the Catholic Standard which speaks volumes about the Creator and His relationship with His creation. In the article, the Cardinal of Washington, Donald W. Wuerl is quoted to have said:
[ a] tsunami of secularism” has washed across the world, leaving in its wake a tendency to deny God’s existence, or to deny that God’s existence is relevant to human thinking and action…. Without God the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered…. Human dignity and human rights flow from the fact that human beings are created in God’s image.
Those words, "Without God the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered….Human dignity and human rights flow from the fact that human beings are created in God’s image." leads  us into a magnificent truth: We are created in the image of God. That is not a thing to be taken frivolously. We, created in His image are the objects of His divine, unwavering love. The love He demonstrated in sending Jesus to the cross to die is directed towards us mere mortals: christian or non-christian, religious or non-religious. Moral or immoral; God loves you.

Even if you don't believe in the existence of God, you might want to pause and consider the complexity of the world including your very being.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.  O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!(Psalms 8:3-9).



Monday, 15 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

12: God Loves You
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16).
Imagine this:

A guest preacher is introduced in your church. He mounts the pulpit. He does all the usual pleasantries, announces his theme; then asks everyone to turn to John 3:16. Most probably, there would be three  responses: One group of  persons would not refer; because they are familiar with the text and can recite it from memory with ease.

Others, still with an attitude of familiarity, will develop apathy towards the preacher: "what has he got to say?". The third response, would be like the second; but apathy would be replaced with fervour: "what has he got to say?"

Again, still with familiarity to the text in mind, try hard to imagine how a child who has spent enough time in a Sunday school class would recite John 3:16. It might go like this(the breaks indicates the sloppiness of child-like speech): For---God--- so--- loved--- the world,--- that he gave--- his only begotten Son,---that whosoever--- believeth in him ---should not perish,--- but have everlasting life.

In its familiarity and imagined child-like reading lies what I will describe as the core and heart of Christian doctrine. In John 3:16, we find a breathtaking synopsis of the entire gospel. If we split these words of Jesus, we will be staring at a stockpile of biblical truth: "God"..."  "love" "the world"..."gave"..."only begotten son"..."believe"..."not perish"..."eternal life". In subsequent posts, I will attempt to tackle this text from a four point approach :

1: The relationship between God and the world
2: God's greatest gift
3: Faith
4: Eternal Life
         


Sunday, 14 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

11: Jesus Christ: God's Remedy For Sin
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15).
Long before He came unto the scene, His life and mission was announced through the Patriarchs and prophets of old. Jacob prophesied about Him: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. (Genesis 49:10). Isaiah spoke both about His birth, death and sacrifice of atonement: "...Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel"(Isaiah 7:24), "But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6).

Jesus didn't just emerge in human history. When John The Baptist first saw Him, He exclaimed: "...Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:26). Every Jew at Jesus' lifetime was waiting in anticipation of the prophesied Messiah, yet, when He showed up; when " He came unto his own,...his own received him not." (John 1:11). Isaiah accurately prophesied His rejection.

In this interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus referenced Scripture to tell Nicodemus more about the Kingdom of God and salvation. The first time I read John 3:14, I startled: "How on earth should Jesus liken Himself to a serpent?".

It will be good to recount what Jesus was referencing. Jesus here drew an analogy from an incident that happened in the wilderness when the Israelites were sojourning to the promise land. The people murmured and complained: they sinned against God. And as punishment for their sins, God sent snakes among them and everyone bitten by a snake died. Having realised the severity of the situation, they cried to God, and Moses was instructed to erect a pole and hang a brass serpent. According to God's instruction, anyone who looked up to the brass serpent, will live. (See Numbers 21:5-9 for full story).

The serpent hanging on a pole or tree indicated punishment for sin and a curse. Scriptures says "...Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree" (Galatians 3:13). In effect, all those who sinned against God in the wilderness, deserved the full impact of punishment, but God said no, He provided a way of escape by putting "sin" itself on the tree. Remember sin was first introduced into the human race through a serpent.

Jesus , therefore, referencing this incident was describing His own death, His substitutionary death for the sins of humankind.
For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him".(2 Corinthians 5:21). 
All of us, as members of the human race, like the Israelites in the wilderness have been stung by sin. Before God , we stand guilty of sin until we come to Christ through faith


Monday, 8 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel Of John 3

10: Christ Must Be Revealed In Our Message To The World.
And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:(vs 13-14).
In this conversation with Nicodemus, we see a familiar trait with Jesus when He engages in conversations.

Eventually, in many of his interactions, He ends up  talking about Himself. He begins with stories, parables, analogies...from the familiar to the unfamiliar; then plummets into His deity and identity as the long awaited Messiah. He refer people to Scriptures and what has been prophesied of Him. Read the gospels and you will notice. My favourite is in John 4: 25-26, Jesus' interaction with the Samaritan woman; "The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he."

"I that speak unto thee am he". In those  words, Jesus revealed Himself: "I am the Messiah"...In all our philosophising, in all our stories, in all our analogies; in all our preaching, sermons and any other way we spread the gospel, if Christ is not revealed, we have failed. Preacher, Christian Musician, Christian Author, Christian Minister in any capacity; may it not be said of us that we left the preaching of Christ and got preoccupied with other things.

Fellow Christian, are you happy when you hear a sermon for 45-60minutes and Christ is not mentioned? What an indictment on the gospel. Has Christ become archaic and irrelevant to our generation? Christian friends, are we truly fed and nourished by all the travesty parading as Christianity?

May God have mercy on us for believing lies caricatured in the name of Christianity. May Christ be revealed in all we do. May we see Christ revealed in Scriptures above all other things. Christ is pivotal in Scriptures; all other things are secondary.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

9: The Natural World Conveys Spiritual Truth
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (John 3:11-13).
Jesus, what a Master communicator He was. He told stories. He used parables. He drew analogies from the natural environment; all with one agenda: conveying spiritual and eternal Truth. From Childbirth, Death, Aquaculture, Agriculture, Meteorology, Parenting, Light, Darkness, Bakery and we can add on, He had something to say. In this interaction with Nicodemus, we see Jesus drawing an analogy from childbirth to explain spiritual birth---born again.

I said in a previous post that just as our natural birth gives us entrance into the human race, our spiritual birth also gives us entrance into God's Kingdom:
...Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (vs 3).
One fact of the spiritual birth we learn from our natural birth is that just as we don't determine our birth, the spiritual birth is also exclusively a work of God by His Spirit.
...as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." (John 1:12-13).
Jesus clearly illustrated this when He said in John 6:65, "...no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father."  To be born again is a work of God. We can't  save ourselves  unless the Spirit of God has worked on on our hearts; convicted us of sins and regenerated our dead spirits. This places a great demand on us to always pray the Lord convicts the hearts we minister to.

By our own efforts---preaching, writing, singing, choreography, drama and all other means by which we spread the gospel, we cannot save any soul until the Spirit convicts. We can have well laid out and planned sermons. We can have the best stories and analogies, but "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."(John 6:63)

Spiritual truth is not shrouded in total mystery. All around us, God's creation speaks. "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork." (Psalms 19:1). Hear God and seek Him. His own creation speaks of Him(unless of course the world to you is an "accident"). "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead..." (Romans 1:20).


Saturday, 6 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John 3

8: How Much Premium Do You Place on The Bible?
Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?(John 3:10).
You see, Jesus' question to Nicodemus indicated that everything He has been explaining to him about the new birth was right there in the Old Testament, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee ---scholar in the Old Testament--- should easily understand the new birth. That explains Jesus' shock. "Nicodemus, you should know these things?"( my own rendition).

Clearly, Jesus was saying, "Nicodemus, this born again I am telling you is nothing new. It is not a new idea. It is right there in Scriptures. Nicodemus, you should know these things". Being born again was not a new term Jesus invented. Rightly so, New Testament is a fulfilment of everything prophesied in the Old. See Born Again in Old Testament:
For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.(Ezekiel 36:24-27).
Too many of us are running around seeking for a sign, a revelation, a word etc etc when everything we need to live a fruitful and victorious life is right there in the Word of God. The much sought for will of God is right there in the Bible.

Veer away  from the Bible and you are veering away from the very  word of God that will give you the direction you need for your life:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.(Psalms 113:105).
My passion as a believer is towards the word of God. Nothing gets my attention than a ''biblically accurate holy spirit inspired word.'' Preach the Word! Paul told Timothy.

There is too much Psychology and popular opinion amongst us; even on great pulpits. The children of God--people He has purchased with His own blood deserve better from preachers. We deserve better from the Word. We deserve to be fed the unadulterated Word. As in the days of Ezra, we need a revival of the word of God amongst us today. In a conversation with a friend, Daniel Zotoo, he made a statement that registered on my mind strongly. He said "This generation needs the unadulterated word of God. The raw word".

Would you be one of those in this generation who will place high premium on the Bible and its truth? I surely want to be.



Friday, 5 September 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John Chapter 3

7: Half-Truth is No Truth
Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?(vs 10).
Standing in front of Jesus is a man described in vs 1 as a Pharisee and ruler of Israel.  In today's diction he could pass for a theologian and a bible scholar.

In Nicodemus, we find a truth that should guide us all in life and especially in our Christian walk. We can know many things yet not know the truth. Jesus' question was one of an expression of surprise. I can imagine the face with which He asked that question. He definitely was amazed. His question indicates to us that the idea of born again is in the Scriptures and not necessarily a new idea. Nicodemus being a master, Rabbi should have known, but, he only  knew half-truth, which is no truth at all.

In Acts 18 also, we see another man who knew so many things yet didn't know the truth. "...Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures..."(Acts 18:24).

Mighty in Scriptures! What a way to describe a person. However, as mighty as Apollos was in Scripture, he didn't know the whole truth. He was an eloquent man. He can preach! But what he had was half-truth:
This man[Apollos] was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.( Acts 18:25-26). 
What a shock! Preacher man finished preaching and a couple, church members called him aside to "expound unto him the way of God more perfectly. This can't happen in our generation. We are gagged! We take everything hook, line and sinker-no questions asked. We can't grow and mature that way.

Regardless of what you hear and from whom, verify. One of the many things I am grateful to God for is that in my life I have people around me who can call me to question when I make a false statement  not in line with Scripture. I have personal critics. I don't just write or say things "by heart"( someone is reading me, he knows himself, he will call me to book if I twist Scriptures). In the process, my beliefs have been challenged. I have dropped off some "lies" on the way. I can confidently say with Paul that "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." (1 Corinthian 13:11).

I want to appeal to you my friends;  be careful of blind faith and half truths. Your Pastor, mentor or favourite author doesn't know it all. No matter how gifted, charismatic or anointed a preacher is, don't take them as final authority. It is your responsibility to know the truth. The plumb line for truth is Holy Scripture, not the words of your pastor or anyone else. A person can be highly gifted and successful in ministry, yet speaks half-truth. I am not inciting rebellion, I am calling for a life that is lived with a high value of Scripture. If a message or statement contradicts with Scriptures, don't just accept it because it is coming from your favourite. "Deep" is not necessarily true. "Deep" could just be "the enticing words of man's wisdom". Nicodemus was a master, he should have known about being born again, yet he didn't.

My prayer for you this morning is the prayer of Paul for the Ephesians:
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18).