God’s Gospel Of Grace (Free Ebook)

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Authors Various :Thomas Boston, J. I . Packer, Thomas Manton, J. C. Ryle, C. H. Spurgeon, A. W. Pink, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, John Calvin and more.
Formats: EPUB.MOBI & .PDF

About Book:

God’s Gospel of Grace is a unique collection of outstanding messages from past centuries on the doctrine of salvation. These authors describe with a unified voice the biblical faith of our fathers. They speak powerfully to the present day with grace-exalting, Christ-centered instruction. Ancient errors dressed in modern theological robes are leading many away from the historic Reformation faith once handed down to Christ’s churches. Our day needs a return to the old paths that lead to everlasting life in Christ Jesus. Feast on the sound doctrine and spiritual nourishment found in these pages.

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The True Worshipper

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John 4:20-24

John Chapter 4 is a popular narration in the gospel of John where an encounter between Jesus and a Samaritan woman is recorded. In this encounter, many truths emerge as Jesus engages the Samaritan woman who, on hindsight in the narrative, we also know was an adulterous woman. Firstly, Jesus breaks a racial barrier between Jews and Samaritans in this narrative: “A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) (vv.7-9).

Note that Jesus was the first to initiate a conversation: “Give me a drink”. The woman’s response was that of shock. “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” If John had left it at that point, we probably might be wondering, “why did she respond in that manner?” John inserts an explanation: (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans). Clearly, we see an existence of a racial barrier: “The comment that Jews have no dealings with Samaritans explains to John’s readers outside the land of Palestine that Samaritans were considered by many Jews to be in a continual state of uncleanness, thus they would have thought that drinking water from this woman’s water jar would make a person ceremonially unclean” [1].

What is the lesson here? Jesus reaches to people  of “every nation, tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Secondly, by speaking with a woman, He broke down gender barriers.  The reaction of the disciples in v.27 tells a lot. “They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” Over and against their “marvelling”, Jesus’s engagement with the woman teaches us that, when it comes to salvation, “there is neither male nor female“(Gal 3:28).

More importantly, of all the lessons we learn from the narrative, Jesus revealed Himself as the expected Messiah–the Saviour of the world: “The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” (John 4:25-26). This takes us to our title for today “The True Worshipper“.

Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”(John 4:20-24).

In the conversation, the woman introduces a topic on worship which considering her lifestyle, could possibly mean there was a yearning in her heart for freedom. Don’t forget, she has religious knowledge. She knew of a coming Messiah.

So who is a true worshipper?

The true worshipper is one who worships in spirit and truth. Though, true, that is quiet an unsatisfactory answer because other questions remain unanswered which are, “What Is Worship”, “Who Do We Worship” and What Does It Mean To Worship In Spirit And Truth”? If we answer these, then we will get a clearer answer of who a true worshipper is.

What Is Worship?

The act of paying divine honors to the Supreme Being; religious reverence and homage; adoration, or acts of reverence, paid to God, or a being viewed as God. The worship of God is an eminent part of religion, and prayer is a chief part of religiousworship.

~ Tillotson [1]

If you have observed, it appears worship has become synonymous to music—slow Christian music. And the phrase “true worshipper” is often used by Christian musicians. You might have heard a worship leader saying something along these lines “Today, we will give all our worship to the Father. Leave every burden you came here with and let’s worship the Father in Spirit and Truth“. I must say, personally, I have heard the phrase “worshipping in spirit and truth” more from Christian musicians than from any other place. Does this suggest worship and true worship is all about music, the raising of our hands to God in praise etc? Worship involves more than music. Worship is the totality of the lives we live as Christians. Everything we do as believers must be geared towards worship: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). In Romans 12:1, the Bible “appeal[s] to [us]…to present [our] bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God”. The Bible further says:  this “is your spiritual worship”.

Worship involves a life of holiness; presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice. Leviticus 6:13 is worth noting: “Fire shall be kept burning on the altar continually; it shall not go out” What do we have here? Worship is unceasing. Our whole life is worship. We must live “Coram deo”, that is, in the presence of God always. That leads us to our next question.

Who Do We Worship?

Or, who is the object of the Christian’s worship? The answer is God. It is God who seeks true worshippers and it is God who ought to be worshipped in spirit and  truth. The object of our worship must be pointed out since some worship all kinds of things but not the true God. God warns against this in the first and second commandments (Exodus 20:3-4). Who is God? “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. [2] “God is a Spirit”(John 4:24). What does that mean? It means He is unlike us. He has no bodily parts and is self-sufficient; what theologians call asiety of God:

The term aseity comes from the Latin phrase a se, meaning “from or by oneself.”…Since God is a se, he does not owe his existence to anything or anyone outside himself, nor does he need anything beyond himself to maintain his existence. He is not like the idols that depend for their existence on  select materials, skilled craftsmen, and ritual offerings (Isa. 40:19-20, 44:15-17, Psm. 50:8-15). Indeed, he has no needs at all (Acts. 17:25). So the terms  self-contained,  self-existent, selfsufficient, and independent are often used as synonyms for a se.[3]

Further, we know God to be the Creator (Genesis 1:1, John 1:1-3, Acts 17:24). In Acts 17:29, Paul says “we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man”. You see, God is not the creation of humankind or an imagination of a divine being as some have claimed. God is the self-sufficient One from whom all lives and creation proceed. The true worshipper therefore is called upon to worship God in spirit and truth.

Worship In Spirit And Truth

Throughout the Bible, it is God who prescribes how He should be worshipped. And anytime people have breached God’s prescription of worship, there has been consequences. If there are true worshippers, it means there are false worshippers. A false worshipper is one who worships God not according to His revealed pattern of worship. An example of a false worship is in Leviticus 10:1 “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, which he had not commanded them”.

What we see here is an unprescribed worship–that which God had not commanded. The first point to be made therefore is that, worshipping in spirit and truth is worshipping according to God’s prescribed pattern. No human prescribes how God is to be worshipped. He is the one who prescribed He be worshipped in spirit and truth. One crucial element of worshipping according to God’s prescription is the element of Faith. “…without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). How can you worship a God whose existence you don’t affirm? And this faith is not a blind leap into the abyss. This faith must be in the person of Christ Jesus. Look at what Christ said in verse 22: “salvation is from the Jews”. We can’t miss that point. It is clear. This is a self-reference to Himself. The origin of Salvation is to spring forth from the Jewish people in the person of Jesus. Faith in Christ is utmost worship because without that, there is no access to God. Hear Jesus: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6).

Secondly, in contrast to worship  restricted to a geographical location (John 4:21), the Omnipresent God can be worshipped anywhere. We need not undertake a pilgrimage or restrict Him in a temple: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man”(Acts 17:24). God is not restricted to any geographical location. Thirdly, worship must be in response to God’s truth. Our worship must be according to God’s revelation of Himself in His word. We cannot grapple in darkness worshipping  God contrary to what He has revealed in His word. God has given us His word; which is truth to aid us in knowing Him.

Finally, the disposition of our heart is crucial in worshipping in spirit and truth. We must not be found offering lips service to God. Our worship must be from a sincere heart. Jesus quoting Isaiah 29:13, rebukes the hypocrisy of the Pharisees saying:  You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-8).

If you are to assess yourself, will you qualify as one who is a true worshipper?

1 http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Worship

2 Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&A 4

3 Study notes on John 4:9; The ESV Study Bible, Personal Size, Crossway, 2008

3 A Paper on Divine Asiety and Apologetics by John M. Frame link http://resources.thegospelcoalition.org/library/Divine-Aseity-and-Apologetics

Justification By Faith Alone

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Whatever deeds we do as Christians we do as a result of His grace working in us. Because of the gracious character of these works, we have nothing of which to boast in ourselves.

Often the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone is misunderstood to mean that good works have nothing to do with the Christian life. On the contrary, they have everything to do with the Christian life, as they are essential to our sanctification. The doctrine of justification by faith alone teaches that our works contribute nothing to our justification. Our justification rests squarely on the works of Christ alone. But we can still say that though we are justified by faith alone, our rewards in heaven are distributed according to our works. This “according to” does not mean that our works merit a reward. They do not. Our best works remain tainted with sin to such a degree that Augustine called them “splendid vices.” Augustine also taught that when God rewards our works in heaven, this is a reward grace and is, as it were, God’s crowning His own work.

Since our election is unto conformity to Christ and unto good works, we see the love of God working in our redemption from beginning to end, from election to the divine initiative by which we are brought to Christ, to the end goal of our glorification… The author of Hebrews declared that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. Yet, it is only the believer who diligently seeks God. Paul taught that by nature no one seeks after God (Rom. 3:11). The seeking of God begins at conversion; it does not end there. It is the regenerate person who seeks God and makes seeking after God the main business of his or her life.

~Adapted from Chapter  Seven of God’s Love: How The Infinite God Cares For His Children[kindle edition] by R.C. Sproul.

Studying and Interpreting The Bible

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Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2Timothy 2:15).

Paul writes to young Timothy his protegé instructing him on several doctrinal issues in his role as a pastor and particularly in this verse, Timothy is instructed on “rightly handling the word of truth”. Though a pastoral letter, the charge nonetheless holds true for every believer. We are all called upon to engage in a right handling of the word of truth. If the Bible is the word of God and it is, then you and I have a responsibility not to misinterpret God’s word. You don’t want your words to be misinterpreted to mean what you didn’t mean, do you? Why would you go as far as misinterpreting God’s word?

In different instances, I have engaged in disagreements over how a biblical text was handled and I have met with words as “That’s your opinion” “I  have my own opinion”. “That’s how you choose to interpret the text, I choose to interpret it differently”. You probably might have heard similar words spoken to you or you might have spoken those words yourself to someone who disagreed with you on a biblical text. In a world of subjectivity without any objective truth, this might sound appealing.

The problem however is that the bible is not left to our subjective interpretation and “opinionising”. The Bible has an objective meaning in its context. Though it is God’s word, it is written in human language and all the rules of reading, comprehension and interpretation of literature or any written document applies. The Bible is God’s word but it is a book and must be read as a book.

Do Your Best

Though it is a book, yet the Bible is the sacred word of God and we must handle it accurately and not misinterpret it. If you wouldn’t want your own words misinterpreted and given meaning you didn’t intend, it must follow then that if no human being will tolerate a misinterpretation of their words, I doubt God will tolerate same. The phrase “Do your best” gives a picture of effort, preparation and diligence.

Prior to vs 15 of 2Timothy, Paul had drawn certain analogies from the life of a soldier, athlete and farmer. These analogies help us understand well the phrase “Do your best”. The soldier seeks to please his superiors, the athlete competes according to the rules and a farmer works hard. The Christian must do same in their lives and especially the handling of God’s word. She must seek to please God in all she does and especially in the handling of God’s word. And must, as it were, live according to the “rules” that govern Christian living. And finally work hard–not be lax in Christian conduct. The phrase “Do Your Best”, in the Greek–Spoudaźo[1], speaks of zeal or being zealous. To “Do your best” therefore speaks of zeal in presenting ourselves as one approved–that is people who please God. And one of the many ways in pleasing God is handling His word accurately.

Rightly Handling The Word

Suppose you are to engage the services of any professional, what will be your standard for selection? For example, if you are to engage the services of a tailor/seamstress ( fashion designer), would you engage one who cuts clothes indiscriminately without precision and accuracy? Would you engage an architect whose drawings are inaccurate. And who would live in a house that tilts to its side? I doubt if anyone would. But if these are important, why do people leave their lives and eternal destiny into the hands of people who “wrongly handle the word of truth” and teach their followers same? If you want your shirt well cut, why don’t you want the word of God well cut? Would you rather your soul is damned than wear a badly cut shirt? “Rightly  handling the word of truth” speaks of accuracy, precision, exactness and straightness. “Precision and accuracy are required in biblical interpretation, beyond all other enterprises, because the interpreter is handling God’s Word. Anything less is shameful”[2].

An admonishing for rightly  handling the word of truth is an admonishing against wrongly handling the word of truth. The question is, how can we handle the word of truth with accuracy and precision? I will offer some

Read Your Bible

First and foremost you must read the Bible if you will come any close to rightly handling the word of truth. Many believers don’t know what the Bible teaches simply because they don’t read it. They believe the Bible is God’s word, but they can’t even tell of the last time they read the Bible. Writing about why people don’t study their Bible, R.C. Sproul in his book Knowing Scripture nailed it to one reason–laziness: “We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy” [3]

At the beginning of the year, I wrote an article The Resolution Every Christian Must Make In 2016 where I shared six points to help in reading and studying the Bible. I trust it will be helpful in this discussion. Now it is one thing to read the Bible and another thing to read it well to be able to rightly handle the word of truth.

Read It Orderly:

“…it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4)

Luke tells us something about his gospel account which is true of every book of the Bible. The Bible is an “orderly account” of events. It is not a disorderly, haphazard, magical words appearing on a paper. God is a God of order and the word He “breathed out” was “breathed out” in an orderly manner to be approached orderly. In that sense, it must be read in an “orderly” manner.

Study Your Bible

Reading and studying are two different things. “There is a great deal of difference between reading and studying. Reading is something we can do in a leisurely way, something that can be done strictly for entertainment in a casual manner. But study suggests labor, serious and diligent work“[4].

There is a level of seriousness that comes with studying that is not required of reading. Again we turn to Luke’s gospel. He said to Theophilus:

…having followed all things closely.

This statement indicates an attention to detail and facts concerning gospel truth. This same disposition of mind is required in studying the Bible. Luke poured over– examined, investigated, scrutinised, paid attention, analysed and engaged–the facts of what was handed over by the eye witnesses of Christ’s life, i.e. the apostles (Luke 1:2). As believers, our regenerated  minds have been empowered to be able to engage the text of God’s word. We have the capacity now to “spiritually discern” God’s word in contrast to the unregenerated  man who can’t discern  or receive spiritual things. So dear believer, do just that! Engage the text! Take note of phrases, meaning of words, figurative expressions, grammatical  constructions and pray the Holy Spirit to illuminate your mind.

Present Yourself To God As one Approved

As believers we need to grow in sanctification and mature in holiness. Our effort in cooperation with the Spirit of God towards sanctification as believers is not what secures our salvation, yet it is necessary for our spiritual growth and usefulness. See the result or the objective Luke hoped to achieve with his orderly presentation of his gospel to Theophilus: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught”.

This is important for us Bible readers. An orderly presentation of truth brings clarity. It gives roots to faith. It solidifies ones beliefs. Paul tells Timothy something similar to the impact Luke hopes his gospel would have on Theophilus: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed , knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 3:14-15).

When we rightly handle the word, it makes us wise in our faith walk and saves us from error of false teachers: But avoid irreverent babble , for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some.”(2Timothy 2:16- 18).

Basic Tools Of Hermeneutics

To rightly handle the word of truth we need tools to help us. At this point I will share three basic tools of hermeneutics.  Hermeneutics “…is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible…The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help us to know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible”[5].

Analogy Of Faith

This rule holds that Scripture is its own interpreter: “Sacra Scriptura sui interpres“. What this teaches basically is that no interpretation of a Scripture or Scriptures must contradict any other Scripture. Since God doesn’t contradict Himself, we must expect His word to also be in harmony as a whole. Biblical interpretation therefore must be approached with the whole body of biblical revelation in mind. When we interpret a Scripture, we must be sure that our interpretation agrees with other Scriptures rather than contradict. Where a Scripture is contradicting another, we must solve the contradiction or throw away our interpretation.

Literal Translation

It has been said already that the Bible is a book and as such must be read as a book. When we are told to read the Bible literally, what is being spoken of here is that we must  “…interpret the Bible literally… as literature. That is, the natural meaning of a passage is to be interpreted according to the normal rules of grammar, speech, syntax and context”[6]. So the next time you approach the Bible, take notice of the words you are reading

Genre Analysis

Bible is a Greek word biblio which means book. So the Bible is a book. It is not only a book but a book made up of different collection of books of different genres. The genres of the Bible includes historical narratives, wisdom literature, Psalms, Letters (epistles), Gospel, Prophetic writings,  Apocalyptic writings and each of these  genre must be identified and read with the rules governing a particular genre. Now genre analysis involves the study of figures of speech and style, literary devices and any other literature forms. This tool goes hand in hand with literal translation. So in genre analysis, we consider the literary style of every particular genre and how to interpret it.

There are many other tools of hermeneutics. But these three are basic and a good foundation for further reading.

Notes

1: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, ESV Study Bible, ©2008, Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois

2: Study notes on 2Timothy 2:15, THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE (kindle edition)

3: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

4: ibid

5: http://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

6: Sproul, R.C Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press[kindle edition]

Suggested Reading:

R. C. Sproul,  Knowing Scripture, © 2009, InterVarsity Press

http://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-hermeneutics.html

Originally posted on http://www.sovereigngracegh.wordpress.com

A Craving For Miracles

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C. H. Spurgeon

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.
John 4:48

A craving for miracles was a symptom of the sickly condition of men’s minds in our Lord’s day; they refused solid nourishment and longed for mere wonders. The Gospel that they so greatly needed they would not have; the miracles that Jesus did not always choose to give they eagerly demanded. Even today there are many who must see signs and wonders or they will not believe. Some have said in their heart, “I must feel deep horror of soul or I never will believe in Jesus.” But what if you never should feel it, as probably you never will? Will you go to hell out of spite against God because He did not treat you like someone else?

One has said to himself, “If I had a dream, or if I could feel a sudden jolt of something, then I would believe.” You undeserving mortals dream that my Lord is to be dictated to by you! You are beggars at His gate, asking for mercy, and you are drawing up rules and regulations as to how He will give that mercy. Do you think that He will submit to this? My Master has a generous spirit, but He also has a royal heart. He rejects all orders and maintains His sovereignty of action.

Why, dear reader, if this is your case, do you crave signs and wonders? Isn’t the Gospel its own sign and wonder? Isn’t this the miracle of miracles, that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish”? Surely that precious word, “Let the one who desires take the water of life without price”1 and that solemn promise, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out”2 are better than signs and wonders! A truthful Savior ought to be believed. He is truth itself. Why will you ask the One who cannot lie for proof? The devils themselves declared Him to be the Son of God; will you mistrust Him?

1) Revelation 22:17
2) John 6:37

Family Bible Reading Plan

Ezekiel 5Psalms 42, 43

Devotional material is taken from “Morning and Evening,” written by C.H. Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2003, Good News Publishers and used by Truth For Life with written permission.

But God

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And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Paul here contrasts the life of the Ephesian believers when they were unbelievers with their lives when they became believers.

Dead In Sin

Prior to conversion, the Ephesians were dead in sin. They were  unregenerated, unbelievers and sinners born in sin. This is not only true of the believers in Ephesus. It is true of everyone today who is a believer. Previously, you were dead in sin and naturally couldn’t obey God. This is also the current state of every unbeliever. You are a sinner dead in sin who needs life from God: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins”(v1).

Under Satan’s Control

Because the Ephesians were dead in sin prior to conversion, they were by nature under Satan’s dominion. They live to do the bidding of the “prince of the power of the air”(v2). This was not only true of the Ephesian believers. It was true also of the apostle Paul who wrote the letter. See how he uses inclusive language: “we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind”(v3).

Further, this is equally true of any one who has not tasted of the salvation of God. You are in bondage to Satan. You are a child of disobedience. You are under the wrath of God and if you don’t repent, God’s full wrath would be poured on you one day: “because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed”(Rom 2:5).

From vv 1-3, we see the hopeless state of every sinner. He is dead in sin. That is, he has not got the ability in himself to respond to God: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day”(John 6:44). In fact, if left on her own, the sinner would not come to God. She needs help from outside herself. To be dead in sin is comparable to a corpse. A corpse cannot give life to itself can it?

But God

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved” (vv4-5).

“But God”. This juxtaposes God’s ability with our  inability: what we couldn’t do with what God did in our  regeneration. Out of our despondent, desperate, hopeless situation as sinners, hope sprung from God. From v4 onwards, we see the love and mercy of God at display towards the sinner

A New Life

When God intervenes in our deadness, He gives us eternal life. Not only life in this world, but in the world to come. The sinner who once had no hope is now given hope in this life because he is now united with Christ and reconciled to God: “raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”(v5). We are seated in the heavenly places. We are citizens of heaven. We have hope now and hope in the life to come. God has purposed  to show us “in the coming ages…the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus “(v7).

All of Grace

This new life is not a result of anything good or meritorious work in us. It is a new life that springs from the love, mercy and grace–unmerited favour– of God :”For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (v8-9).

Would you lay hold of this new life by Faith in Christ? “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

“We Know”: Certainty In Our Beliefs

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Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught (Luke 1:1-4)

There seem to be the perception among some that being sure and certain about one’s Christian beliefs is a sign of arrogance and lack of humility. Sadly, rather, it appears vagueness about one’s beliefs is considered a sign of humility and virtue. Discernment has given way to credulity and superstition.

In the opening words of Luke’ gospel, there are some instructive words worth examining in this subjective anti-intellectual Christian age. Luke’s gospel is an orderly account of events about the life and earthly ministry of Christ written to Theophilus with an objective in mind: “that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). Theophilus was the same recipient of the book of Acts: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach”(Acts 1:1). Do you see what’s going on? This is an “orderly account” of events with the aim of giving Theophilus roots in his beliefs: “certainty concerning the things you have been taught”(Luke 1:3-4).

Do you have certainty in the things you believe? Knowledge solidifies our beliefs. Knowledge gives us certainty concerning the things we believe or have been taught. Knowledge gives us roots; grounding our beliefs! Christianity is not a blind leap into the dark abyss. Christian faith is knowledge driven: “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). It is not commendable to be “clouds without water”.  Zeal without knowledge is spoken against in Scripture (Rom 10:2).

The Bible calls us unto maturity “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you” (Colossians 2:6-7). “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2Peter 3:18). Paul prayed for the church in Ephesus “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might”

The apostles spoke and wrote words of certainty in communicating the gospel. “We know” and many other phrases connoting certainty are common in the New Testament: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good (Romans 8:28).  “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments” (1John 2:3). One of my favourite “we know” statements is in 1John 3:2: “we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is”. Further in v.3, we see the benefit of this certainty: “And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure”.

Knowledge leading to certainty in our beliefs has the power to “regulate” our lives. If we know what God requires of us from His word then we are well positioned to obey Him. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples”(John 8:31b).  Knowledge is desirable in our faith walk. We are not called to put aside reasoning in our pursuit of God. In fact, the opposite is true. The Bible calls us to love Him with the totality of our being including our mind and thinking faculties: (Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:36-37, Mark 13:30).

We live in the most anti-intellectual age of history, and even many Christians believe we can compartmentalize faith as a way of knowing completely separate from sense perception and reason. Yet as Augustine told us centuries ago, how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind? Could we say that “Jesus is Lord” without some understanding of what the term Lord means, what the verb is indicates, and who the name Jesus refers to? We can’t believe the gospel without our minds understanding it to a degree. [1]

1 :http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/faith-has-its-reasons/

Homowo: Can A Christian Eat Kpokpoi(Kpekple)?

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Between August and September this year, the Ga tribe in Ghana will celebrate their festival homowo. Though I am not a Ga, I grew up in Osu–which has launched its homowo–and one of the fondest memories of those formative years is the celebration of Homowo, a traditional festival of the Gas which “…recounts the[ir] migration…and reveals their agricultural success in their new settlement. According to Ga oral tradition, a severe famine broke out among the people during their migration to present day Accra. They were inspired by the famine to embark on massive food production exercises which eventually yielded them bumper harvest. Their hunger ended and with great joy they “hooted at hunger” this is the meaning of the word HOMOWO”[1]

Before you proceed further, let me tell you my answer ahead of any explanation. My answer is Yes to whether a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekle). While working on this article, I checked with a few friends about their views. One answer made me smile: “pray over it and EAT all you can”.

Now, as with every festival, there are celebrations and merry making and one of the highlights of this festival is a special food; Kpoikpoi: “…a Ga delicacy that is prepared during their popular festival Homowo. It is a corn food with unique texture and unusual flavour”.[2]. It is enjoyed with palmnut soup and when there is a leftover, it can be fried to get a crispy texture.

What necessitated this article was an incident which occured recently at work. In a conversation with a colleague who is Ga, I informed her I will be paying her a visit during this year’s homowo celebration to enjoy Kpoikpoi in her home. Another colleague, a Christian friend, overheard our conversation and with shock in her voice, she exclaimed, “You of all people Enoch, I am surprised you are going to eat that”. Knowing what my friend was driving at, I took her aside and we had a discussion on the subject.

Now before the festival takes off in the different Ga communities, the priest, referred to as Wolomi, together with the paramount chief sprinkle Kpoikpoi to the gods thanking them for a bountiful harvest. After this, the festival is officially opened and every Ga household participating in the celebrations prepare their own Kpokpoi. So the common perception is that Kpoikpoi is pagan which in a certain sense is true because it is solely associated with the festival. No family prepares Kpoikpoi on a normal day. The assertion therefore of my friend was that I was going to eat food offered to idols or gods.

Fortunately, the Bible does explicitly address eating food offered to idols. There are some things the Bible is silent on, but this is not one of them. Paul, responding to a question by the church in Corinth on food offered to idols, wrote saying: “Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth— as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— yet for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist (1Corinthians 8:1-6).

Riding on the back of the aforementioned text, I will now address why I said Yes, a Christian can eat Kpoikpoi (Kpekple).

Christian Liberty

Christian liberty “can mean that Christians are freed in respect to such activity that is not expressly forbidden in the Bible. Therefore one can feel free to engage in such activity as long as it doesn’t “stumble” or “offend” another Christian” (Romans 14:12-16).[3]

I begin from the premise that the Bible doesn’t expressly forbid the eating of any food. In answering to the question of food offered to idols, Paul begins from a fundamental truth of Christianity. There is only one God. The Christian acknowledges only one true God who has revealed Himself to us through the incarnate God; Jesus Christ: “for us there is one God, the Father , from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist”.

Any other thing that exists by name as god or Lord, “so-called gods in heaven or on earth”, Paul says is worthless of consideration”. It doesn’t matter! “we know that “an idol has no real existence”. Idols are fake. They are fraud. They have no power. They are simply what they are, idols with no life; “They have mouths, but do not speak; eyes, but do not see. They have ears, but do not hear; noses, but do not smell. They have hands, but do not feel; feet, but do not walk; and they do not make a sound in their throat. Those who make them become like them; so do all who trust in them”. (Psalm 115:5-8).

We are emancipated from what Paul calls “weak and worthless elementary principles of the world”(Galatians 3:9). Paul will finally say to the Corinthians: “Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do” (1Corinthians 8:8). What food we eat or don’t eat have no effect on our relationship with God. We have the liberty to eat any food. Unless of course on medical grounds. So on the grounds of Christian liberty, I don’t consider it a moral issue or sin if I eat Kpoikpoi.

However, the same text that gives me my liberty, again puts what I would call boundaries around my liberty. Simply put, I can’t flaunt that liberty when other believers with a weaker conscience are involved. I can’t take a superior stand and consider myself a better Christian than the person who says no a christian can’t eat kpoikpoi or any other ‘forbidden’ food. That will put me in the category of puff up believers without love (1Corinthians 8:1-2). Paul prescribes how we express our liberty when it comes to the eating or not of food offered to idols:

But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged , if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble (vv. 9-13).

In exercising my Christian liberty, not only in food, but in everything I have liberty in, my fellow Christian’s conscience is also at stake. If my liberty will harm the conscience of my fellow believer. I better abandon that liberty out of love for my fellow Christian who has a weak conscience. That however doesn’t mean eating Kpoikpoi in itself is wrong or a sin.

No Sinner Beyond The Reach Of Grace

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And when the blood of thy martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by, and consenting unto his death, and kept the raiment of them that slew him (Acts 22:20).

This text introduces us to a man–Stephen — who died a matyr’s death. He was first introduced to us in Acts 6:5 as a “man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit“. Further on in  v.8, we are told “…Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people“. Here is a man used mightily of God in what can be described as a revival and sporadic spread of the gospel in first century Christianity. We could describe him as someone with a budding future and ministry. The narrative of his great exploits for the kingdom of God flows through the rest of Acts six and the whole of Chapter seven. As the story progresses, we notice he had become a threat to the non-believing Jews because of the gospel (Acts 6:11-14).

Sadly, false accussations levelled against him led to his death: “Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul” (Acts 5:58).

As Stephen was stoned to death, we are introduced to another young man –Saul– full of zeal but for the wrong reasons. The text at the beginning of this article was Saul recounting his life. Though his name had changed to Paul, he was the Saul mentioned in Acts 7:58. Paul had a hand in Stephen’s death. He  approved of his execution (Acts 8:1). Saul was a murderer and loathed believers of his day. He had blood on his hands by the death of Stephen.

Today, if you are looking for the equivalent of Saul, cast your gaze on any of the terrorist groups around. Saul could be a leader of any one of them. He breathed threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord (Acts 9:1). No doubt his conversion was received with apprehension (Acts 9:13-14, 21).

Paul, by our limited human reasoning, doesn’t belong in the fold of God’s people. Yet he was a chosen vessel of the Lord. (Acts 9:15). Saul was unstoppable, full of hatred for the believers of his day. But when he encountered the Lord Jesus on his way to Damascus; his life was changed ( Acts 9).

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.”(Acts 9:3-6).

Saul the murderer stopped in his tracks by the King of Kings and the Lord of glory, Jesus Chris and for the rest of his life he became a disciple of the Lord and what a gift he was and is to the body of Christ. Though a persecutor, nonetheless, he encountered the grace of God and was transformed. Hear him speak: “by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me (1Cor15:20).

You see, irrespective of the life you haved lived or are still living–muderer, fornicator, adulterer and any sin under the sun–Paul’s life is a great testimony that none is beyond the reach of the grace of God. God’s grace pardons. Pardon and forgiveness of sin is available through the atoning sacrifice of Christ: “…he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(2 Cor. 5:21). God’s arms of grace are outstretched to you a sinner. Come just as you are and He will cleanse you from your sin and set your life on a path of restoration from the atrocious grip of sin.

[I] implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2Cor. 5:20).

God’s Love Is So Wonderful

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Love, without doubt, is the most spoken of subject in the world. Indeed, there is nothing wrong about that. God made it so. That we love one another. We are not islands. We are interdependent. “Everyone needs somebody” is a popular saying and it is true. We all need relationships and friendship. We are interconnected. We are to be each others keeper. We are to bear the burdens of one another:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1Cor.13:4-7).

Acknowledging the place of love in our human interactions is a necessary ingredient for peaceful and harmonious living.

However, despite its universality, love can be abused. Human love has its limitations. It can and does fail based on how well we perform according to someone else’s subjective standards. When we make fallible, imperfect humans, the source from which we derive all our emotional well being; then we are unhealthy, vulnerable and heading towards an emotional disaster.

Now, love in its Greek origin carries a number of meanings.

EROS:  Intimate, sensual and erotic.
STORGE: Natural affection; love usually shared among family members.
PHILIA: Affection shared purely by friends and can generally be described as platonic.
AGAPE : Unconditional Love.

You will immediately notice that much of what we refer to as love is sadly one sided– Eros, Romance, Feelings and Sensuality– and has become predominantly what we refer to as love. In a world fixated with eros, where our cues for love is drawn from music, soap operas, and novels, God’s perfect love can easily be lost on us. This is an age of sentiments and we can easily confuse God’s love with how good or bad we feel. In the process, we end up defining God’s love by our  feelings.

But God’s love is perfect. God, the Bible tells us is love. Love is not a characteristic of God. God Himself is love. God’s love is Agape love; selfless and unconditional. It is the highest form of love. Agape love is the kind of love God manifested towards us when Jesus left all of His glory, took upon Him the form of man and died the death of wretched sinners (though He was sinless) to reconcile humanity to God (Phil. 2:6-9, 2 Cor.5:21.)

It was love that sent Him to the cross.

Do you need love desperately? Where are you seeking for it? No human, no sexual experience, no entertainment, no drug, no alcoholic beverage, no emotional high, no peer or family provide all of your love needs. If you are a believer, you don’t have to strive for acceptance, you are already accepted in Christ (Eph1:6, Jer 31:3, 2Th. 2:16 , 1Jn 3:1 ). God’s love is everlasting and nothing can separate us from that love (Rom. 8:35). You can’t do more or less to be loved by God. You are already loved as a believer. Is that a licence to live our lives anyhow? No. However, living on this side of eternity in a fallen human body, we will still battle with sin and if we ever lose a battle against sin, we must never despair that God will take His love away from us. (1Jn. 1:8-9).

Now, if you are not a Christian the love of God will make no sense to you. The vacuum and emptiness in your heart you seek to fill with other things can only be filled by God’s love. That vacuum is a symptom of a root problem of sin and separation from God. All humanity is condemned under sin (Rom 8:23 ) and until we bring the burden of our sins to Christ, we still stand guilty before God. Repent from your sins and surrender your life to Christ. Be reconciled to Him and let Him give you the love you so desire.