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Saturday, 2 August 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John(Chapter 3)


5: The Indispensable Workings Of The Holy Spirit In Salvation.
Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit....The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.(vs 4-8).
In this interaction, it is clear a "second birth" was the main theme of the discourse but with two different mindsets: Natural and Spiritual. The natural mind, Paul says cannot receive (understand, accept, agree, live by) the things of God.
But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Nicodemus just couldn't comprehend it because his spirit and mind was dead to the Spirit of God and needed a quickening of his spirit to understand and accept spiritual truth. "...the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." (John 1:5). Clearly, there is a distinction between the natural birth and the spiritual birth(born again):
That which is born of the flesh is flesh(natural); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit(born again, spiritual, spiritually alive).
As members of the human race, we are sinful by birth and depraved because we inherited a sinful nature from our first parents-- original sin the theologians call it: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:"(Romans 5:12). This state renders us spiritually dead and separated from God until we come to faith in Christ Jesus.

There is a good analogy for the spiritually dead-unregenerate person we must consider. We go way back to the beginning when it all started; the very first state of man after he has been created. He was lying there, sand and mud, "dust to dust", lifeless and helpless; incapable of living until "...the LORD God...breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."(Genesis 2:7). Great Analogy: a dead lifeless corpse cannot come to life. In the same way, a spiritually dead person cannot partake in the divine nature until given life by the Spirit of God.

As we have no control over our birth in the natural realm, we have no control over our spiritual birth in the spiritual realm: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing..." (John 6:63). The Spirit of God will have to convict us of our sins. The Spirit of God will have to quicken. The Spirit of God will have to enlighten. This goes beyond human effort. This is one of the major reasons we have to take every opportunity to share the gospel of Christ because we cannot tell when someone's heart has been prepared to receive the gospel. It is the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the "drawing" of the Father. "... Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father." (John 6:65). In all our efforts at reaching the lost, we must pray that the Spirit of God will convict the hearts we minister to.

Now, you who have no relationship with God through Christ, Would you come to the saviour of your soul to be cleansed and washed of your sins? Or you would stand aloof and spurn this great gift of salvation? "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." (Matthew 11:28-29).

To be continued....

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John Chapter 3(Series)

4: We Need God's Help To Understand Spiritual Truth.
 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? (vs 4). 
 I suspect the most asked question God has had to deal with in human history would be the question "How"? Scripture is replete  with people asking the "how" question. It might not appear in the exact words "how", nevertheless, a question that implies "how" was asked.

Accepting spiritual truths is a battle to the human mind and we all need the aid of the Holy Spirit to illumine our minds to understand His word.

Nicodemus was just one of the many people who analysed spiritual truth on the level of natural reasoning, and got it wrong. He represents us. We have faith in God, but we struggle to take Him at His words and promises. We look at our condition and we are not able to come to terms with spiritual realities. When an angel appeared to Zacharias with the promise of the birth of John The Baptist, the "how" question was asked: "...Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years."(Luke 1:18). In some few verses down the chapter, Mary, the mother of Jesus, asked the same question: "...How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?"(vs 34).

In Matthew 19:25-27 when Jesus explained the workings of God in salvation, the Apostles couldn't take it:  "When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?", then came Jesus' response; one of the  most popular texts in Scripture: "...With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." That response from Jesus was not enough, so Peter, disciple cum talkative pressed further: "...Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?"

 If  you can take it(and not tag me blasphemous), God's word and promises sometimes are preposterous. From a human perspective, they are simply laughable. You would love this discourse; such great sense of humour our God has to get this recorded in Holy Scripture.
And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the LORD said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old?  Is any thing too hard for the LORD? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh.(Genesis 18:10-15).
 Unspiritual to laugh at God's promise I suppose. But Sarah, considering her condition, could not even bring her mind to think of sex, much more a child. The woman's body was "dead"! She had no need for a sexual experience: "After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?" Sarah didn't only laugh, she lied when confronted with her unbelief:" Nay; but thou didst laugh". I would be uncharitable to Sarah, if I don't tell you before Sarah laughed, Abraham had already laughed:
Then Abraham fell upon his face, and laughed, and said in his heart, Shall a child be born unto him that is an hundred years old? and shall Sarah, that is ninety years old, bear?"(Genesis17:17). 
Great lesson here; even in unbelief, God is still faithful. Glory to God if you have insight into spiritual truths. Don't be puffed up. You contributed nothing to it. It has nothing to do with your intellect or abilities. It is all by the grace of God. You want wisdom from God and insights into spiritual truth? Pray and ask God's Spirit for it. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (James 1:5).

To Be Continued

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John Chapter 3

3: Salvation: Humanity's Utmost Need.
Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.(John 3:3).
Salvation is our utmost need because sin is our utmost problem. We are sinful and wretched; needy of God's grace: "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God". (Romans 8:23).

The pandemonium of our times are just symptoms of the true state of the sinful heart of humankind: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..." (Jeremiah 17:9). "desperately wicked": Apt description of the human condition: " No mincing with words at all. The Bible goes straight to the root of all our predicaments: Sin. "You are a sinner"... "...[You must] be born again".

The expression born again as used by Jesus is the Greek word anothen which means "born from above". To be born again therefore is firstly a work initiated by God's Spirit before humans respond through faith in Christ Jesus. It is God's merciful act of grace towards humanity, where He saves us from sin and reconciles us unto Himself through Christ Jesus. That explains Paul's words "we are sitted in heavenly places". For us who profess the Christian faith and have a relationship with Christ, you will admit salvation is not a consequence of our moral worth. No, we can't table any of those. Our moral worth is like filthy rags before God. It is just the grace of God we are saved. We were once dead in sins.
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5). 
Now, just as our natural birth is a necessary condition to be part of the human race, to be born again is also a 'sine qua non': an indispensable necessary condition that has to be met to be a member of God's family. Though it greatly counts, to be born again is not necessarily a change of mind or transformation of character. Anyone can undergo a character transformation without necessarily being born again. A necessary requirement to be born again is to express saving faith in Christ Jesus:
...as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name" (John 1:12). 
Do you have Jesus? Are you saved? Are your sins forgiven?
...there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel Of John 3

2: Good Works Doesn't Save

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.(John 3:1-2).
A Pharisee meeting with Jesus presents a very fascinating scenario. Considering the place of the Pharisees in society, I can safely describe Nicodemus as a representation of the Mosaic Law; because according to Jesus, the Pharisees sit in Moses' sit(Matthew 23:2). The Catholic Encyclopedia defines the Mosaic Law as "The body of juridical, moral, and ceremonial institutions, laws and decisions comprised in the last four books of the Pentateuch, and ascribed by Christian and Hebrew tradition to Moses."

The Pentateuch or Torah, is basically comprised of the first five books of the Old Testament. So, if the Mosaic Law takes its definition from the last four books of the Pentateuch, then, the Mosaic Law is simply all the ceremonial and religious law, including the Ten commandments contained in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These rules and commandments, handed to Moses by God, served as a moral code by which God related to the nation Israel.

Nicodemus, with a high moral standard approaching Jesus to enquire about God  is a strong indication that, the Mosaic Law, with all its moral code was not sufficient to appease God's demand for justice  for humanity's sin. Good works and morality by themselves doesn't save:
...by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight... ( Romans 3:20). 
This naturally leads us to the next verse:
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).....

To be continued.....


Monday, 21 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From The Gospel of John 3

Contd from Previous Post:

1: Social Status Doesn't Save From Sin.
There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him (vs 1-2).
The Pharisees, in Jewish history, were the custodians of the Mosaic law. The served as members of the Sanhedrin; "...a kind of Jewish Supreme Court made up of 71 members whose responsibility was to interpret civil and religious laws" (Jewish virtual library). Typical of people with power and authority; they abuse it. "Power", Lord Acton says "corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely". That was the Pharisees; self-righteous, high minded and self-conceited:
Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: [and] bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers." (Matthew 23:1-4).
Hypocrites! Jesus called them. (see Matthew 23:13). Between true spirituality and hypocrisy is a very thin line. I pray none of us who names the name of the Lord would  be found guilty of hypocrisy. Introspection! The Spirit of God dwells in you. If you crossing that line, you must know. We will do great also with a level of accountability. Hard talking, no nonsense friends who can reprimand us when we err will also be good pals amongst our circle of friends. Iron sharpeneth iron!

The Pharisees were elites of Jewish society. Paul was a Pharisee. Josephus; a Jewish historian was a Pharisee. Nicodemus, clearly, stated, was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews. That puts him in the class of the elites. He was not a riffraff. He had high standing in society. The Pharisees also had political authority. The example of Paul, when he was Saul, throws more light on the power Pharisees had in society:
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem." (Acts 9:1-2). 
That was how much power Pharisees held in society. All the aforementioned were embodied in Nicodemus, a Pharisee. If such heights of social status was enough to save, he would have had no business seeking after Jesus at night to enquire about his soul and matters of the Kingdom of God. Have you enquired about the state of your soul and its final destination?  "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"(Mark 8:36).

To be continued.


Saturday, 19 July 2014

Seeking For Truth: Lessons From John 3

There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews: The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.(John 3:1-2)
Some of the profound truths of Scriptures were spoken by Jesus in His personal interactions with individuals.

In John 3, one of His numerous interactions with individuals, we see a cardinal truth of Christianity-Born Again - revealed.  As the book of John progresses, we see a continuous interaction with people from different walks of life.

From the high class in society - like Nicodemus, "...a man of the Pharisees...and ruler of the Jews"- to the down trodden, rejects and outcasts of society, Jesus was reachable. If we fast track and step into Chapter 4 of John, we meet the Saviour with a Samaritan-an adulterous- woman. The Master was truly a friend of sinners; an accurate description indeed from the Pharisees:
And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?" (Matthew 9:10-11).
As usual, they got the right response from Jesus: "...They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick." (Matthew 9:12). Self-righteousness, typical of the Pharisees resists the saving grace of the Lord Jesus. If you believe you are fine, and have no need of a Saviour; great! You're on your own and fully responsible for the consequence of rejecting Salvation.

Regardless of  how refined you're morally, like Nicodemus, there is a need to seek for truth. You might know many things that are not so. And that's the greatest deception we can live with: knowing and believing things that are false. Nicodemus as a Pharisee occupied a high position among the Jews. He was "a ruler of the Jews". Yet he came seeking for truth. Jesus was right when he said:
And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Is what you know and believe the truth? Beliefs have dire eternal consequences: Be certain what you know and believe is the truth.
Seek for truth. Whatever it will take to know truth, seek for it.

Look at vs 2 again: "The same came to Jesus by night...". Here we see another marvellous truth. For fear of the Jews and stigma of been seen with Jesus, Nicodemus sneaked in at night to see Jesus. Though, a master of Israel(vs10), he went all out to seek for truth.  Also, Jesus' accessibility is clearly demonstrated in the words "...by night"  He is not aloof; even at night, Nicodemus had access to the Master. The doors are still open, 24/7, Jesus can be accessed. Would you come to Him in faith?  "...him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." (John6:31).

To be continued....


Friday, 11 July 2014

Battling Doubts and Fear: The Power of Words.

If faith comes by hearing, and hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17), then, it follows logically that fear and unbelief, comes by hearing, and hearing words that are not from God. Can I safely say fear or unbelief comes by hearing, and hearing the words and lies of Satan? I think I can. Fear and unbelief are just words that are contrary to faith in God's word; they are "tares among wheat". Words generate faith or fear. In the most famous David and Goliath battle in Scripture, we see the power of words at display. Goliath, described as the champion of the Philistine, used words to instil fear into the hearts of military men.

"And the Philistine said, I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together. When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid....And as he talked with them, behold, there came up the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, out of the armies of the Philistines, and spake according to the same words: and David heard them... And David spake to the men that stood by him, saying, What shall be done to the man that killeth this Philistine, and taketh away the reproach from Israel? for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:10-11, 23-26).

Notice how Goliath used words to demoralise men -mighty men - of valour: “When Saul and all Israel heard those words of the Philistine, they were dismayed, and greatly afraid.” (vs11).

Now, bearing in mind Goliath's words, note that the same words that sent shivers down the spine of men, were the same words heard by David, a teenager. But his response was different. He took Goliath's words as an affront to God. “…for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?”. He responded with faith in God:

"Then said David to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied." (vs 45)

The next time the enemy uses words to generate fear and doubt in your mind, counteract those words with faith in the word of God. David dared Goliath based on his faith in God and his faithfulness: "David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine..."(vs37). In any situation, make a choice to choose faith over fear and doubt. Give the devil no chance. Don't allow him any space to sow words of fear and doubt in your life. Take God at His word: "...hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?" (Numbers 23:19).‪