Saturday, July 28, 2012

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE



This is a very important area of Christian teaching. We must be able to answer the questions: What does God expect from me in my Christian life? How is it possible for me to live such a life?

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONVERSION AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

A battery will only give light to a torch according to the power in it. A Christian can only live according to how God worked in conversion. Conversion is not only the action of a sinner in faith and repentance; but also the action of God. How do the following passages show God has changed the sinner? A Christian has died to sin (Romans 6:2). A Christian is one who is filled by the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9). A Christian is a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). A Christian has been raised us up with Christ (Ephesians 2:6). When someone objects that the doctrine of free justification will lead to sin (Romans 6:1), Paul reminds the objector of what has happened to every one who has been converted: he has been united to Christ (verses 2-11), and he has been made a slave of righteousness (verses 12-23). This is why all Christians are described as “saints” = Holy ones (Romans 1:7), and as those who have already been sanctified = set apart for God and His service (1 Corinthians 1:30, 6:11, 1 Peter 1:2). We begin our Christian lives empowered by the Spirit and the power of sin over us broken. So God has given us all needed resources at conversion.

THE GOAL OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

At the end of our Christian lives what should we be like? In life we have goals for all we do. The great goal for the Christian is not wealth, health and long-life, high education, marriage and children. But -
  1. To be like God in holiness (Matthew 5:48, 1 Peter 1:15-16, 1 John 2:29). God chose us with the purpose to make us holy and blameless (Ephesians 1:4). Christ loved us and died for us for the same purpose (Ephesians 5:25-27). We must pattern our lives on how God has revealed Himself in the Bible, for example, in kindness, tenderheartedness, forgiveness (Ephesians 4:32-5:1).
  2. Like Christ (Romans 8:29, 1 John 2:6, 3:3). God’s purpose is to make us like Christ in His human nature, which will be completed on the last day (Philippians 3:20-21, 1 John 3:2). We must imitate Christ, for example, His love (Ephesians 5:2), His humility (Philippians 2:5ff.), His attitude to suffering (1 Peter 2:21ff.).
NECESSITY: This likeness to God and Christ is necessary in order to enter heaven (Matthew 5:8, Hebrews 12:14). Such likeness will not be perfect in this life, but there must be a great difference from before becoming a Christian. Holiness must be the one great mark of our Christian lives.
ASSURANCE: Is it possible to be sure of reaching this goal? Yes, because no one who is a true believer can be lost. Read John 10:28-29, 1 Corinthians 1:8-9, Philippians 1:6. But how can you know if you are a true believer? Note what the following verses say about who will be saved in the end: “he who endures to the end will be ssaved (Matthew 24:13); “if we hold our first confidence firm to the end (Hebrews 3:14). This is the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints.

HOW YOU WILL REACH THIS GOAL OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE?

  1. Use the Means of Grace. In order to persevere to the end you need continual supplies of the grace of God. How does God give grace to us? It is not automatic with no effort on our part. There are public and private means of grace, centered in the Word.

A.     PUBLIC MEANS.

  • Be committed in attendance at worship (Heb.10:25). It is through the reading and preaching of the Bible that you will know the promises and commandments of God.
  • The ordinances of baptism and the Lord’s Supper are the same Word in the form of symbols. As you respond to the Word in faith it will be a means of grace to you.
  • Constant fellowship with other Christians is a great blessing (read Hebrews 3:12-13).
  • Then there is the encouragement of praying together (Acts 2:42).

B.     PRIVATE MEANS

  • Read the Word of God consistently, let it dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16). What benefits come from the Word in the following verses from Psalm 119? Guard the heart (v.9); not sinning (v.11); in affliction Comfort as to give life (v.50); Lamb and light (v.105).


  • Pray constantly to commune with your heavenly Father (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Meditation, a constant consideration of the Word and how it applies to your life, is very important (Psalm 1:2, 119:97).
  • Make use of the sufferings God brings into your life, as His Fatherly discipline (Psalm 119:67, Hebrews 12:11).

2.     Give Practical Obedience to God’s Commandments.

In His commandments God has clearly shown us the road upon which we must walk. You must know the meaning of the 10 commandments, that they are positive as well as negative, that they cover our thoughts as well as our actions (study Matthew 5:21-30). Do not forget the 4th. commandment! Consider Jesus’ summary of the commandments (Matthew 22:35-40). Practice the love commandment Jesus gave to His disciples (John 13:34-35). There are many passages that outline what our Christian lives ought to be like – Romans 12:9-21, Ephesians 4:25-5:5, Colossians 3:5-17. Such obedience is sure evidence that we know God (1 John 2:3).
3.     Put to Death (= Mortify) Sin (Romans 8:13, Colossians 3:5).
You must be serious in dealing with sin, not only actions, but words and thoughts. Rather than sin, cut off your hand (Matthew 5:30). Do not let sin reign in your mortal body (Romans 6:12).

False Views of the Christian Life

  • Deliverance – We sin because we have evil spirits from which we must be delivered.
  • Second Blessing – We can be holy if only we are baptized with the Spirit of God.
  • Keswick – Stop struggling and let Christ take over and live His life through you.
Write TRUE or FALSE for each of the following statements:

_____ The Holy Spirit was given us at conversion so that we might become holy.
_____ It is impossible to be perfectly like God in this life.
_____ If you profess salvation in Christ you will surely get to heaven.
_____ The Christian life is a difficult life of constant struggle.
­­­_____ The 10 commandments were only for the Old Testament people of God.

The following books are recommended on the Christian Life:
  1. Alderson, No Holiness, No Heaven;
  2. Ferguson, Grow in Grace;
  3. Ryle, Holiness and Practical Religion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

THE HOLY SPIRIT


The subject of the Holy Spirit is a very emotional and divisive one in today’s church. This is because it concerns the experience that people have. However, our claims must always be tested by the teaching of the Bible (1 Thessalonians 5:21, 1 John 4:1). This does not quench the Spirit because it is what the Spirit has commanded in the Word! We have been warned to expect there will always be false prophets (Matthew 7:15, 24:24, 2 Peter 2:1, 1 John 4:1).

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONVERSION

(1) Without the powerful work of the Holy Spirit no one would become a Christian. Write down the words that describe what the Holy Spirit does: convict the world (John 16:8); preaching comes with conviction of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Thessalonians 1:5); washing and regeneration of the sinner (Titus 3:5, remember John 3:1-8); and holy (= being set apart, 2 Thessalonians 2:13, 1 Peter 1:2).
(2) The Holy Spirit comes to permanently indwell every Christian (John 14:17, Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 6:19, 2 Timothy 1:14). Christ came to save us from our sins so that we might receive the Spirit as the central gift of the new covenant (read Ezekiel 36:26-27, John 7:39, Acts 2:33, 2 Corinthians 3:8, Galatians 3:14). If you have not received the Holy Spirit then you are not a Christian. How can you know if the Spirit lives in you? Speaking in tongues is not the evidence, as tongues was not a gift given to all (see 1 Corinthians 12:30). In Romans 8:12-17 three evidences are given: every Christian kill the deeds of the body by the Spirit (vv.12-13); is led by the Spirit in this way of fighting against sin (vv.14-15); and experiences the Spirit witnesses with his spirit that he is a child of God (vv.16-17).
(3) This personal indwelling of the Spirit in every Christian is so important as it is the assurance God gives us of final glory in heaven. So the Spirit’s indwelling is described as seal (2 Corinthians 1:22, Ephesians 1:13, 4:30), guarantee (2 Corinthians 1:22, 5:5, Ephesians 1:14), and first-fruits (Romans 8:23). Each of these three words emphasize the spiritual security of the one who has received the Spirit.
(4) Many wrongly think that to be “baptized” with the Spirit is an experience after conversion. Rather, to be baptized with the Spirit is a way of describing part of our conversion. Baptism means to be dipped into something, so it is to say that the Spirit powerfully indwells the believer. This was the experience of all the Corinthians and it united them (1 Corinthians 12:13). When Cornelius was baptized with the Spirit it was the evidence of repentance unto life (Acts 11:18).

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHRISTIAN LIFE

(1) We are also dependent upon the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in our Christian lives. We are to filled by the Spirit as the One who gives us power to live our lives (Galatians 5:16,25). Paul prays that Christians might be walk/live through the Spirit (Ephesians 3:16). The Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14:17, 15:26), who teaches us spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:13-16, Ephesians 1:17). It is the Spirit who enables us to pray (Ephesians 2:18, 6:18, Jude 20); who gives us strength to put our sins to death (Romans 8:13); and who enables us to wait for our hope to be realized (Galatians 5:5). But above all the Spirit is the One who enables us to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
  1. The Bible does not teach that we can become holy by a special experience of the Spirit, or by a special act of surrender on our part. Rather, producing fruit is our responsibility because the Holy Spirit of God indwells us (see Philippians 2:12-13). This sanctification, or becoming holy like Christ, is a life-long struggle against sin, which will only be complete when the Spirit gives life to our mortal bodies in the resurrection from the dead (Romans 8:11).
  2. Some people claim they are ‘Spirit-filled’ because they have had some experience. But to be “filled” with the Spirit is to be controlled by Him and the sort of life that is lived by such a person is described in Ephesians 5:18-33. It has nothing to do with having certain spiritual gifts. For example, what does verse 20 say a ‘Spirit-filled’ person will do? Give thanks always to God What does verse 25 say a
Spirit-filled’ husband will do? Love his wife.

THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH

  1. All true Christians have a common experience of the Spirit indwelling. This is the basis of our unity in the church (1 Corinthians 12:13, see Ephesians 4:3). Therefore our unity as Christians is a spiritual unity, and is expressed in the local church.
  2. For the benefit of each member of the local church the Spirit gives gifts. The purpose of spiritual gifts is not for the individual but for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7). Over and over again, in the discussion of the use of the gifts prophecy and tongues, the principle of ­­­­­­­­­­­­­ building is the basis (1 Corinthians 14:3-5,12,17,26). Who gives each Christian the gift/gifts as he wishes? The Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11).
  3. Lists of spiritual gifts are given in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, and Ephesians 4:11. We should not suppose that every gift must be present today. For example, there are no more apostles because they are the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). No one today has the qualifications for an apostle as laid out in Acts 1:21-22, especially that of being an eye-witness of Christ’s resurrection. And other gifts that were so closely identified with the apostles have also ceased, such as prophecy and tongues (both being revelation from God), and ability to work miracles.
  4. If you are a Christian, you have at least one spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit has given this to you to use in the edification of your brethren (1 Corinthians 12:5). In what ways are you serving in the local church? There are two types of gift, speaking and serving gifts (1 Peter 4:10-11). Peter’s exhortation is that you do not keep it to yourself, but use it for one service. Examine yourself to see if you are using any of the gifts you have been given.

Write true or false for each of the following statements:
________We can be sure our experiences are genuine without going to the Bible.
________ If I have not received the gift of the Spirit, I am not a Christian.
________ The Spirit’s indwelling is the guarantee of glory.
________ Spiritual gifts are not given for the benefit of the individual.
________ I do not need to struggle against sin if I am filled with the Holy Spirit.


The following books are recommended on the subject of the Holy Spirit:
  • Octavius Winslow, The Work of the Holy Spirit;
  • Edgar Andrews, The Spirit Has Come;
  • David Budgen, Charismatics and the Word of God;
  • Walter Chantry, Signs of the Apostles;
  • Palmer Robertson, The Final Word.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

CONVERSION


Very few people understand the Biblical doctrine of conversion today. We have claims that half of Kisumu town was converted during a Crusade of 1988; that more than 9 million have recently been converted to Christ in Nigeria. How many of these are now baptized and active members in a local church? How many of these are the salt of the earth and the light of the world? Sadly, probably very few. This is because the Biblical marks of conversion are not required. So often what is called conversion is just an emotional response to an emotional appeal done in a large meeting; or an intellectual response to a gospel presentation; or (even worse) a coming to Jesus for some felt need to be dealt with, such as sickness or poverty. What makes up true conversion?

THE NEW BIRTH

Conversion is not started by the sinner, but by the Holy Spirit. This was the humbling lesson that Nicodemus had to learn after all the religious efforts he had made (John 3:1-10). In telling him he had to be born again, Jesus was saying that he had to start his spiritual life again from the beginning. So far he had done nothing. Three reasons why it is God who starts conversion:
  1. Sovereignty of the Spirit. To what does Jesus liken being born of the Spirit (v.8)?
The wind (note that “wind” and “Spirit” are the same word in Greek). What determines the direction the wind blows? God. How does the language of ‘birth’ also teach us that the Spirit is sovereign in this work of conversion? The child has no role to play in its birth – the parents are responsible (think: who alone is responsible for the birth of a child?).
  1. Inability of the sinner. What is the “flesh” (= man’s natural power without the Spirit) able to produce? Only flesh (v.6). What is necessary for anyone to produce “spirit” (= spiritual fruit such as faith and repentance)? The Spirit. What is it impossible for a sinner like Nicodemus to do unless born again (vv.3, 5) see/enter the Kingdom of God.
  2. The new birth is the source of all spiritual life. How did believers become children of God (John 1:12-13)? Believed in Christ, born of God. Again, what do those who believe Jesus is the Christ show has happened to them (1 John 5:1)? They have been born of God. What did God promise would be the result of the indwelling of the Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27)? Walk in His statutes/ carefully obey Him.
What is the result of “the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5, and for the answer see v.7)? Being justified by His grace.
False teachings. Tell the sinner to ‘open your heart,’ which is impossible without the Spirit (Acts 16:14). Tell a person they will be born again if they believe, when it is the other way round (again see Lydia’s conversion). We are totally dependent on the Lord in this work of conversion, which is why we must make prayer a priority.

REPENTANCE & FAITH

There is no experience of true conversion unless there is a response of repentance and faith to the message of the gospel. Christ preached this (Mark 1:15); so did the apostle Paul (Acts 20:21). The first thing a newly born again person does is to repent and believe. There is much ignorance about what repentance and faith really are, and there are many counterfeits.

REPENTANCE.

11 Biblical examples of false repentance. Judas “repented” confessing his sin (Matthew 27:3-4), but he had no faith that God could forgive him. Simon was urged to repent and he prayed not to perish (Acts 8:20-24), but there was no repentance of his sin. There is a sorrow for sin that is “worldly” but it does not lead to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:9-11), because it does not produce a change of life.
12 True repentance. Psalm 51 is David’s prayer of repentance. He trusted in God’s mercy and steadfast love (verse 1). He wanted to be washed from his sin (verse 2). He could not forget his sin (verse 3). Although he had wronged Uriah and Bathsheba he knew it was against God he had sinned (verse 4a). He acknowledged he deserved whatever judgment God would bring to him (verse 4b). He did not excuse his sin but knew he was born in sin (verse 5). In the rest of the Psalm he promises to live a godly life (see also Luke 3:8,10-14).
13 Problems today. Very often the demand for repentance is not even made, only faith unto forgiveness, yet repentance is often tied to forgiveness (Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38, 3:19, 8:22). Repentance is more than confession of sin and wanting to avoid punishment; true repentance must include admitting that judgment in hell is deserved and a purpose to turn away from all sin.

FAITH.

21 Biblical examples of false faith. ‘Faith’ is used of many who did not have true saving faith. The demons have a sort of faith (James 2:19), but faith without work is dead (verse 20). Many only had a temporary faith, but because of evil one or persecutions they give up (Matthew 13:20-21). Others believed only because of the signs Jesus performed (John 2:23-25), for example, Nicodemus, but Jesus did not treat them as true believers. The Scripture records that Simon believed (Acts 8:13) but it is later shown to be false (8:21-23).
22 True faith. Faith is much more than agreeing that the doctrines of the Bible are true; the demons are forced to admit this. A faith that cannot withstand difficulties is not true, because faith is trust in God who is faithful to do what He has promised, and powerful to do whatever He wants (Romans 4:20-21). A faith that depends on signs will wither when he seems powerless; how many joined in the cry, “Crucify him!” when he was arrested. Faith is trusting Christ; one who knows he is a sinner and that Christ is the Saviour will come to Him as the leper and say, “If you are willing you are able to save me.” Faith is trusting Christ with your whole soul: so it is to call on the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13); to come to Him (John 6:37); to eat His flesh and Drink His blood (John 6:53). Faith knows what it needs and will not give up (Mark 10:48).
23 Problems today. Saving faith is much more than raising a hand, coming to the front in a meeting and being prayed for, or agreeing in a fact such as ‘Christ died for me.’ Faith is a glad and unreserved submission to Christ as Saviour and Lord. It is impossible to be a disciple of Christ without loving Him first above all others (Matthew 10:37); without being willing to take His cross and follow Him = to suffer for Him (10:38-39). This is why so many make a profession of faith for a while, and either give up, or produce no fruit.

JUSTIFICATION

This is one of the great blessings God gives to those who have faith in Christ (Galatians 2:16).
In justification, God declares the sinner to be righteous, only because of the righteousness of Christ imputed to him (Romans 4:6, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Philippians 3:9). Justification is much more than forgiveness; we are counted as righteous as Christ Himself is righteous.


Write TRUE or FALSE for each of the following statements:

_______A sinner cannot believe in Christ unless he is first born again.
_______Without full submission to Christ there is no true saving faith.
_______ If I confess that Jesus died for me it is sure that I have saving faith.
_______Tears of sorrow for sin are genuine only if followed by a turning from sin.
_______God cannot justify sinners because He is righteous.

The following three books are recommended:
  • Paul Helm, The Beginnings Word & Spirit in Conversion;
  • Tom Wells, Faith the Gift of God;
  • C. H. Spurgeon, All of Grace.