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Monday, 29 June 2015

Sufficiency of Scripture: Our Rule; Thy Word.


Psalms 119, Matthew 4:4

The date was 4th April, 2015. A group of friends agreed to meet and debate a topic we have been debating in a whatsapp group: "Does God Speak To Us Apart From Scripture?"

Refuting the claim that God speaks apart from Scriptures, I presented my argument for the sufficiency of Scripture. After, I took my seat and listened as others proffered their thoughts on dreams, visions, prophecies, intuitions, gut feelings, etc. These, they pointed out to us -- who hold to the sufficiency of Scripture -- are some of the ways God speaks to His children through the Holy Spirit; even today. Impressive! Some of the dreams and visions were captivating and wittingly convincing to the undiscerning mind.

In my submissions, I contended that, “Scripture is sufficient in our walk of faith". I further  reasoned that, "All we need in this walk of faith can be deduced from Scriptures --explicitly or implicitly --through diligent study and faithful application to every life situation (see 2 Tim 2:15). I contended that Scripture is central to our lives as believers.
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.(1) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word;(2) and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.(3) (1) 2Ti 3:15,16,17; Gal 1:8,9; 2Th 2:2 (2) Jn 6:45; 1Co 2:9,10,11,12 (3) 1Co 11:13,14; 1Co 14:26,40 (WCF1:6).
Overtly, the sufficiency of Scripture is plain in the aforementioned. Charles Wesley rightly penned the words: "Our rule; Thy Word". A rule, by dictionary (google.com) definition is  "...a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct or procedure". It is also "control of or dominion over an area or people".  Following from the definition of rule, the word of God is the rule over our lives. The word teaches us the way of salvation. The word leads us on to maturity. It teaches us the path of growth to be brought to the full stature of the knowledge of Christ, so we will not be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine. By the word our minds are renewed. The word under girds all we do as believers.

Psalms 119 is one of the portions of Holy Scripture that encapsulates the Bible's testimony about itself.
Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD! Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! You have commanded your precepts to be kept diligently. Oh that my ways may be steadfast in keeping your statutes! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. I will keep your statutes; do not utterly forsake me! How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. Blessed are you, O LORD; teach me your statutes! With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law (vs 1-18).
Notice the premium David placed on the Word of God. Every single verse in Psalms 119 addresses the uniqueness of the Word of God. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, David describes the Word as: Law (vs1), Testimonies(vs 2), Precepts(vs 4), Commandments(6), Statues (vs5),  Judgements (vs7), Word (vs 9) and Ordinances. In a commentary on Psalms 119, The Oxford Scofield Study Bible(KJV)  explained these different renderings of the word of God as follows:
  1.  Law: Instructions or teaching, legal pronouncements, rules of divine administration, all of God's revelation for life
  2.  Testimonies: Testimonies indicate God's own declarations concerning His nature and purpose.
  3. Precepts: Precepts relate to man's moral obligations as enjoined by God
  4. Commandments: Authoritative orders used as religious principles
  5. Statutes: Civil and religious appointments of the Mosaic law.
  6. Word: Speech or utterance, a general word for the disclosure of God's will [ In the word of God we see the will of God
  7. Ordinances: Refers to legal pronouncements, rules of divine administration
In Psalms 119, we see the centrality of the Word of God in in a believer's life. The authority of the written Word is final and sufficient. There is no need for a support system of audible voice of God, dreams, visions, new revelations--clutches and scaffolds--to help the word of God stand on its "feet". The Word is sufficient. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path (Ps 119:105). The Word of God gives us direction: the direction many in our generation seek from places outside the word.

In Matthew 4--the famous encounter between Jesus and Satan--we see the authority, finality and sufficiency of the Word of God in our Lord's life. Jesus' victory over Satan in this encounter  was not won by any esoteric revelations. Jesus wielded "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God"(Ephesians 6:17b). He categorically stated that   : “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”(Matthew 4:4).


To be continued

Monday, 15 June 2015

Eternal Security

No Christian; born again, regenerated by the spirit of God will lose their salvation. The Christian is secured: “… sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance…” (Ephesians 1:14). “Once Saved Always Saved”. I believe that.

Eternal security or Perseverance of The Saints (Preservation of The Saints) is a comforting doctrine believers must delight in, but unfortunately this is not the case. There are believers who fiercely contest the eternal security of the Christian and do in fact assert that, a Christian can lose their salvation. The opponents of eternal security, pointing us to the Bible, also call us to look at the many warnings that seem to suggest the possibility of losing one’s salvation.  In this short post however, I will not be able to address them. I will therefor entreat you to look up these texts for further study. (2 Peter 1: 10-11, 2 Timothy 2: 17-18, Hebrews 6:4-6, Hebrews 10:26-37).

Now, if salvation can be lost, then God is not faithful to His promises. Truly, there are warnings in the Bible, but these warnings are there to ensure we don’t presume on the grace of God. In instances I had engaged in debates on this doctrine, I have always made one observation; and it is that people always jump to the conclusion they could live their lives any how they please when they hear “Once Saved Always Saved”. As if by default, I am always asked, “so I can live my life anyhow and still go to heaven?” With a grin on my face, I respond, “of course, that’s not what I am saying.”

Salvation is a gift of God and Scripture tells us the calling and gifts of God are irrevocable (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom 11:29). A believer’s eternal security, is founded on the character and faithfulness of God first, not how good we perform or not. God is faithful to His promise because of His character, not our performance. “…when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.”(Hebrews 6:17-18).
It is bizarre how when you say “Once Saved Always Saved”, people tend to hear “live in sin, it makes no difference, you are saved.” The doctrine of eternal security however, is not a license for a cavalier attitude towards sin. The dangers of sin are real and no true believer, who has a grasp of grace will live in sin and flaunt grace. (See Rom 6:1).

There are indeed many imperatives in the Bible. Nonetheless, the faithfulness and love of God remains. Following are a few examples:

In Jer 31:3 God gives us an indication of the nature of His love: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” In 1 Cor 1:8-9, Paul writes, [God will] sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In John 6:39 Jesus said, “…this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day”. Paul tells us in Romans 8:39 that nothing shall separate us from the love of God. In Phil. 1:6, we are told [God] who began a good work in [us] will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

Jude in his doxology points us to the faithfulness of God in the believer’s eternal security: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy…” These and many other texts point us to the eternal security of the believer.

What “Once Saved Always Saved” simply means is that God is faithful to His promises. If He saves a person, that person is saved with an eternal salvation. Not a salvation that vacillates on our performance. Christians, just like all fallen humans, sin. But our sins do not cut us from the love of God. Our Salvation doesn’t depreciate with our sinful human nature. Christ’s atoning sacrifice atoned for sins of our past, present and all sins we will possibly commit in future. Our sins are paid for and they will not tamper with our eternal security. That however, does not give us justification to indulge in sin. We are told that anyone who has the seed of God in him doesn't make a practice of sinning.

There are many imperatives in the Bible warning against ungodliness. However, these do not repudiate the truth of God’s faithfulness towards the eternal security of His elect. Those who call themselves Christians and live in sin without repentance and justify their sins may not truly be saved. But if they are saved, we can count on the faithfulness of God to bring them to repentance. God will not let go of any of His own that go astray. He pursues us to restore us back to fellowship. He pursues us with discipline and correction till we are restored. This is love:
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:6-11).
We are secured. Nothing can undo our salvation:

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29)

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Are We Prepared For Eternity?

For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8ESV).
I was scheduled to preach at a friend's fellowship at Kasoa on Sunday 7th June, 2015. I live at Kuntunse. It meant I will be driving about 3hours on a highway to get to my destination. A total of six hours journey.

Before leaving home, I did something I rarely do. Usually, I pray for travelling mercies. But this time, when I sat by the steering, with the recent disaster that hit our nation fresh in my memory, the reality dawn on me: this could be my last trip. I might not return. There was no guarantee I was going to return.

With fear in my heart and a teary eye, I bowed my head and prayed "Father, If this journey happens to be my last, please receive me home safely through faith in Christ".
Fact is, there is no guaranteed protection from all of lives dangers because you are a Christian. Over the past weeks, stories of people who survived the flood and fire has being circulating. Some assert to an unknown hand that saved them from the fire. Glory to God!

But, while we are sharing the testimonies about how God saved people from the fire and floods, let's not lose sight of the fact that there are, or might have been believers in that inferno who perished. Yes, they perished! The God they served didn't save them. They might have probably prayed in the morning for safety while leaving home; yet they didn't return. Has God abandoned them? Did their faith fail? No, death is inevitable. How we die has no bearing on our level of Faith. "... it is appointed for man to die once"(Hen 9:27). While celebrating the stories of "escape", let's be sensitive to those who lost lives and property. "Mourn with those who mourn", that's biblical.

Let us put away the easy believism where Christians suppose they have an entitlement to life, and God will always deliver them from danger. God doesn't  always deliver from danger including death. We will all die. Some by fire, some by floods, some by disease, some by natural causes. Whatever way we are taken home, one question is important. Are we prepared for eternity?

Friday, 5 June 2015

Grieving With Hope

On 3rd June, 2015, the capital city, Accra, was hit by torrential rains submerging many parts of the city. The Daily Graphic in an online news headline "Apocalypse in Accra! 150 Dead so far in floods, inferno" reported the devastating effects of the rains:
Flooding, resulting from torrential rains, brought Accra to its knees last Wednesday night, with unimaginable loss of lives and destruction of properties. By press time yesterday, the death toll had hit a staggering 107.Seventy-six of the victims were killed at a fuel station that exploded in the midst of the rains, while many others who suffered serious burns were taken to major hospitals in the city.1
Also, “President John Mahama has declared three days of national mourning of some 200 citizens who lost their lives in an explosion and deadly floods in the capital, Accra."2 The presidential candidate of the opposition NPP is also reported to have said: “It is a tragedy, a major tragedy for Accra. It is a dark moment in the history of our city”3

These media reports presents us with an imagery (I hope it does) of the wreckage that "brought Accra to its knees". The day after the floods, as will be expected, and rightly so, the electronic media’s agenda was driven by the incident. During one of the radio phone in sessions, a caller, who phoning in to express his grief, queried the host in response to his (host’s pleasantries) "What is good about the morning?"

“What is good about the morning?” That startled me! The caller has life and he is asking what's good about the morning?

Truth be told. No matter how despondent our situation; being alive is enough reason to give thanks to God. Is today, despite the ghastly aftermath of the rains, the day the Lord has made? Then Scripture says, "Rejoice in it". Are you faced with an insurmountable situation? Rejoice. Rejoicing in hard times is tough. Nonetheless, Scripture says that is what we must do: "Rejoice".

The Apostles reiterated these truths in their epistles.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thes. 5:16-18). 
 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.(Phil 4:4). 
 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,(James 1:2).
"Rejoice…In all things give thanks...count it all joy". Are these not mere placebos and denials? Doesn't Scripture tell us there is a time for everything, including a time for mourning (Eccl 3:4). Certainly, as humans, we must grieve when it hurts. However, if Scripture tells us to "Rejoice", we must pay attention and obey.

As Christians, to rejoice in difficult times is not escapism or living in denial. It means grieving as people who have hope. “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope”(1 Thes. 4:13). All humans grieve. But some grieve with hope and others grieve without hope. The latter live their lives for the here and now. They have no hopes of a life hereafter. The believer however knows that, the suffering of this present time cannot be compared to the glory which shall be revealed in us. We also know that nothing shall separate us from the love of Christ. We also know that, one day, we will spend eternity in the glorious presence of our King and Saviour where there will be no tears or pains.

These and many promises of the Bible give us hope even when we are grieving. It is good to often remind ourselves of the hope that is stored up for us in Christ Jesus. We must not become short sighted and forget that being alive is in itself a blessing. Every day is another opportunity to ravish in God’s unceasing steadfast love and mercy. His love and mercy renewed everyday. In the grave, no one can praise God.

If you are alive today, Praise the Lord! And to those who lost loved ones and relatives, my sincere condolences.
When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed,When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,Count your many blessings, name them one by one,And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.4
Notes

1 http://www.graphic.com.gh/news/general-news/44214-apocalypse-in-accra-150-dead-so-far-in-floods-inferno.html

2: http://m.myjoyonline.com/marticles/opinion/floods-mahama-declares-3-days-of-mourning

3 :http://citifmonline.com/2015/06/04/floods-and-goil-fire-a-dark-moment-in-accras-history-nana-addo/#sthash.LIG9d5vW.DjjN65av.dpuf

4: http://cyberhymnal.org/htm/c/o/countyou.htm

Thursday, 4 June 2015

My Journey from Charismatism to Calvinism*

IT IS A GREAT THING to begin the Christian life by believing good solid doctrine. Some people have received twenty different “gospels” in as many years; how many more they will accept before they get to their journey’s end, it would be difficult to predict. 1
About three years ago, I met Michael Appiah-Duku in a group on facebook. I had just self-published a book, Biblical Truths: Knowing What God Has Prepared For You and during one of my publicity campaigns in the group, I received a message in my inbox from Michael asking, “Are you a theologian?” Michael is aCalvinist and I was a Charismatic. After our first meeting in the group, a bond of friendship developed between us; a bond that is still ablaze today to the glory of God.
As will be expected, our beliefs began to clash. Our clashes, however, were friendly fires predominantly centred on theological and biblical subjects. We disagreed vehemently over many doctrines and the doctrine I resisted fiercely was the doctrine of grace as expounded by Reformed Theology. Top on my list of disagreement was Predestination: God electing some (The Elect) to eternal life, and others (Reprobates) He passed by to eternal damnation.
By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels (1) are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.(2) (1) 1Ti 5:21; Mt 25:41 (2) Ro 9:22,23; Eph 1:5,6; Pr 16:4 2
Predestination was obscene to me. I hated it. It made me angry. How can a Holy and loving God discriminate amongst His creation? Hasn’t He given all of His creation the opportunity to choose life? We all have the free will to choose or reject God. Don’t we? I often argued with Michael. Calvinist and Charismatic friendship is a weird combination. These are two opposing doctrinal beliefs and there was no way we were going to be friends without influencing each other.
Unfortunately, or rather, fortunately, I was the one who was influenced. Michael will shout ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ to that.
One day, I was gripped with the reality that, sitting on the fence without taking a stance between the Calvinist and Arminian divide was only intellectual and spiritual dishonesty. I had been presented with, through further reading, enough biblical evidence to embrace Calvinism and Reform Theology. It will equally be a lack of faith in God’s word, to reject that which is explicit in the Bible. If I didn’t bow, I would only be guilty of “always learning and not able to come to the truth“(2 Tim. 3:7). Gradually, I began to loosen my grip on charismatic doctrine and lean more towards Reform theology, which I found to be biblically sound and God glorifying.
Writing on Reformed Theology, in His book [ebook], What Is Reformed Theology?, R.C Sproul asserted that “Reformed theology is first and foremost theocentric rather than anthropocentric. That is, it is God-centered rather than man-centered.”3
Reform theology indeed is theocentric opposed to much of today’s evangelical church’s ‘anthropocentricism’. The final blow to my intransigent  posture towards Calvinism came when I listened to a message preached by Dr. James Montegomery Boice+ on The doctrine of Election. He spoke from Romans 9. I listened to the message on numerous occasions and never got tired of listening over and over. To date, it remains one of my favourite audio messages.
After a year or two of abhorring Reformed Theology, I am now fully persuaded Calvinism/Reform theology is biblical Christianity. We–Michael and I– wish by this blog to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.”(Jude 1:3).
I will want to conclude by leaving you with one who has more authority in defending Calvinism than we have. Hear Charles H. Spurgeon:
I have my own opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the gospel if we do not preach justification by faith without works; nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace; nor unless we exalt the electing unchangeable eternal, immutable, conquering love of Jehovah; nor do I think we can preach the gospel unless we base it upon the special and particular redemption of His elect and chosen people which Christ wrought out upon the cross. 4
Soli Deo Gloria
Notes
* Article first was posted on http://semperreformandagh.com/
1:http://www.spurgeon.org/calvinis.htm
2: The  Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter Three, Of God’s Eternal Decrees, III
3: What Is Reformed Theology [ebook], R.C. Sproul, (Grand Rapids,Baker Publishing, 1997).
4:http://www.reformedreader.org/spurgeon/squotes.htm
+Deceased

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

What The Statistics Won't Say; You Must Be Born Again

Ghana’s 2010 population census recorded 71.2%1 of the population as Christians (Pentecostals/Charismatic 28.3%, Protestant 18.4%, Catholic 13.1%, other 11.4%)
Of the world's total population 32%was recorded for Christianity. Impressive!

However, I believe if these findings are subjected strictly to what qualifies a person to be called a Christian, the percentage will plummet.

Some respondents may be occasional church goers. They show up only for weddings, funerals and other christian activities including Christmas and Easter, yet, they consider themselves Christians. Others show up only on the Eve of New Years. They also responded "Christian".Others will use their social status to consider themselves Christians. Probably they might have chaired or sat on a number of church committees.

A moral life can also be appealed to. The most dangerous and deceptive of all of them is to be born into a Christian home. Like me, your Father might even be a minister of the gospel. But, the truth is that, we cannot inherit our parents faith. We must all come to a personal profession and possession of faith.

Regardless of one's social status, moral fineness and Christian upbringing, we are all sinners fallen short of God's glory and must be Born Again to have access to eternal life:
Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus  by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:1-3).
Nicodemus occupied a high position among the Jews. He was “a ruler of the Jews”. Yet he came seeking for truth. If his prominence was enough to save him, he wouldn’t have sacrificed his night―moment of rest from the day’s activity― to seek Jesus.

Another potentially deceptive claim to Christian faith which can cloud true conversion is “the signs and wonders" movement. Many troop to churches seeking one solution or the other, but not Him who is able to save them. When the bread, instead of the giver of the bread becomes the focus, faith becomes superficial:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man. (John 2:23-25).

If you are a part of the 71.2% or 32%, you must be there because you are Born Again. Any other reason, apart from the new birth is a delusion.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Faith In Uncertainty.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.(Hebrews 11:8)

If Abraham were a member of today's church, he will score a straight F in "Steps To Successful Living". "...he went out, not knowing where he was going" That's absurd! If subjected to today's success principles; Abraham's action will fail abysmally as a success strategy. Here are a few ones Abraham was acting contrary to: "Be Specific, know what you want and Go for it". "If you don't know where you're going, any road will lead you there". "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail".

Abraham---by worldly standards-- was jeopardising his future. He was undertaking a journey with no destination in mind. He set out holding on to only a promise of God. He was specific about nothing. He planned nothing. He set out only by faith in God and His promises.

"By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God."(vs 9-10).

Abraham journeyed with only a promise of God with no detailed road map; but only faith and Obedience to Him who called.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not proposing a life that says "Que Sera, Sera" (Whatever Will Be, Will Be). That is not faith! That is fatal determinism and the Bible doesn't teach that. The Bible calls believers to be diligent, hard working and make wise choices based on sound judgement from His word; explicitly or implicitly. We are called to put our trust in God and obey His word; "By Faith Abraham obeyed...."

Just like Abraham, God calls believers to a life of faith and obedience without giving us the details. This naturally presents us with uncertainty.  However, in such moments of uncertainty, all we can do is continue to believe God, hold on to His word in obedience.

Can you for a second attempt to read into the minds of some who went ahead of us in the faith? Try hard! Get into Joseph's mind while he was languishing in jail with his dream still fresh on his mind. What was going on in his mind? Uncertainty! How about Moses? He was forty years when he fled Egypt. By the time God appeared to him, he was eighty years. What was going on in his mind during those moments of God's silence? Uncertainty! David has been anointed King of Israel, yet he lived in the wilderness and in caves as a vagabond. What has happened to the promise of God?

What do you do when God seem silent in your situation, things are getting out of hands, pressure is mounting and you are clueless, "not knowing where you are going?

What do you do?

By Faith, "look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith" and obey His revealed will in His word. Leave the unknown to Him: "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." (1Thessalonians 5:24).