Thursday, September 26, 2013

Grow in Grace and in the Knowledge of Our Lord

2 Peter 3:15–18:
My article on Christian Life was very well received. This is because all genuine Christian are interested in Christian life and how they may grow thereby. The book of 2Peter has a lot to say on Christian growth. In the backdrop of many false teachers kindly look at the outline of the sermon preached last night:

1.     We should regard the time in which we live as a time of salvation (v.15)
The only history of eternal significance is the story salvation by Christ. It is about the gospel preaching and missions and its off-shoots in sound doctrine and holy living.
2.     This is also what Paul taught, and his letters have the same authority as the inspired Old Testament Scriptures. See, Romans 2:4 (vv.15, 16)
Both Paul and Peter teach that God's withholding judgment is an act of forbearance that should be regarded as giving added time for repentance and salvation. And in 2 Corinthians 6:2 Paul said, "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation."
3.     The inspiration of Paul's letters, nevertheless, does not mean they are all easy to understand (v.16). NOTE THE FOLLOWING:
I.         Being inspired, the Scriptures reveal the mind of God.
II.         The mind of God is vastly greater than our mind and will often be perceived by us as strange and complex, not familiar and simple.
III.         Therefore, the Scriptures will sometimes be strange and complex and hard to understand.
IV.         The continued selection only of what is simple in the Bible would be a sin in the regular preaching of the church, because Hebrews 5:13 says, "Everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness; for he is a child."
V.         Therefore, preaching which aims to deliver the whole counsel of God in Scripture (and which does not presume to be wiser than the apostles) will sometimes be complex and will demand from God's people the utmost in humility and mental effort.
4.     The misinterpretation of Scripture can lead to destruction (v.16).
The interpretation of Scripture is a matter of life and death. James said (in 3:1): "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach shall be judged with greater strictness." Why? Because the eternal destiny of the people hangs on how they interpret the Scripture
5.     Therefore, guard yourself from error and destruction by growing in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (v.17-18). 
The antidote to deception and destruction is growth in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Peter's great desire for these people and for us is that we might experience lots and lots of God's grace; that we might suck it up through our roots and grow by it; that we might soak it in like sunshine through our leaves and grow by it. Grace is what we must have when we come to die. Grace is our only ray of hope when the future darkens over with storm clouds of fear.
And how shall we receive this grace? Where shall we send our roots down? To what sunshine shall we turn up our leaves? To the knowledge of God which is based on the promises given to us when the Master bought us by his death (2:1). The best fertilizer for our hope and godliness is the knowledge of our future in God's grace.
6.     Remember that the great goal of God in your life is that Jesus Christ be glorified. Everything else is designed to that end (v18b).

The message of 2 Peter is that the joy of hope is the power of godliness. The knowledge of God's promises is the pathway of his power (1:3, 4). And the promises, the power, the hope, and the godliness are all because of his grace. And so the book ends—and with these words we take our leave: "To him be glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen."

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Constant Reminder is Necessary

22nd September 2013, Passage: 2 Peter 1:12-16 Hymns 97, 430, 634
12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. 13 I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, 14 since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. (2 Peter 1:12-15, ESV)

Consider how you easily forget! How many friends from primary or high school can you remember – yet they made your life so good and happy? Can you remember all that was preached last week? We forget so easily. We forget people, we forget important events, we forget good incidences – we have a terrible tendency to forget! That is why you are taking notes, this is why you buy a diary every year. This is why we have alarms. This is why many communities have memorial services for their dead relatives!
This is one of the reasons why we have to come to church regularly. This is one of the reasons why we need brethren close to us always so that they may remind us of things. It is because of our tendency to forget that we have the Scriptures written down so that we turn there often. God knows that sin has affected our memory and that we forget even the very things that we want to remember and sometimes struggle to forget the things that we want to forget – maybe a range of anger, may be a terrible blunder, maybe some things we have said or done – they just don’t go. Sometimes it is something that someone has done or said to us that we want to go away.
This only serves to prove that we are perverse more than we can admit. Sin makes us forget and so effectively stands between us and that which is best and excellent to us. We forget to pray as much as we ought, or to read the Bible, or to call your mother, or to pick up an important thing.
In view of this, then it is essentially necessary that we be constantly reminded of the spiritual things that build us up, for the following reasons given in this passage:

1.  To establish you in truth
Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have (v.12)
Whenever this letter is read, we are reminded the words of Apostle Peter that were the very breath of God. Hence by this we come to the truths of God’s revelation. The Scriptures constantly emphasizes the need for a constant reminder:
But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God… (Rom. 15:15)
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. (Phil. 3:1)
I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth (1John 2:21).
Therefore, truth is not some new invention or revelation by some preacher that Christians need to hear but the same old truths of the gospel that you constantly need to hear as often as possible so that you may live by them. A lot of boldness is needed when reminding people of what they ought to know and practise – even Apostle Paul needed it! Wisdom and grace is also essential. Reminder is also good in that It is ‘safe’ as he tells the Philippians. When John writes about the same things again, he says that the very reason for writing is because they already know it! Truth needs to be reiterated and emphasized until we will put on immortality, where sin will no longer be a factor of our lives.
We live at a time when many Christians believe that sensational preaching is good; new teaching is what they want to hear. We must never be those who are followers of the new teaching. Most of the new teaching is only an old heresy coated with the current language.
Many of us are not so open to having their memories refreshed by others.
We are quick to say, “I know”. Peter in verses 12 is convinced of his responsibility as a pastor to remind and refresh the memory of his congregation and of other Christians later who were to believe later. He is concerned that they know the truth, He is concerned that they live by the truth that they already know. He joins with Paul in telling them that the Lord has given Him the position he gad in order that the grace of God at work in him may be shared by other Christians.

2.   To stir you up to action
It is not enough that you know the truth. Even Peter tells them that their problem is not that of ignorance, but it is that they know and are established in the truth that they have (v.12). Mental knowledge of the truth is not what is needed. What is needed is practicing the Christian qualities that he already enumerated in vv. 5-7. Therefore their problem was not doctrinal unorthodoxy – their problem was pharisaical knowledge with no commitment and actions to the truths that they knew so well.
He is aiming at reminding them that knowledge of truth demands actions. He is telling them,
“You solid in doctrine, you are well established in the truth; you are well aware of the things that I have been teaching you; but I know myself too well that to know is not enough – yes! you have to put it at the center of your mind, but if this knowledge any will be of value to you, then some action must be aroused to confirm that you actually know what you profess to know!”

The intended action is based upon certain principles that have been grasped well enough. The Christians living is informed by very basic Christian principles that lead to a specific family ethic, particular work ethic, clear social ethics, financial ethic etc. their lives are guided by the Christian culture – not the contemporary philosophy, not the demands of the society nor is it guided by what people want... yes it is not guided by democracy. The Christian culture is basically a life under the lordship of Christ in His word. A Christian’s first ambition is to please the Lord. A Christian lives to glorify the Lord. A Christian is more concerned about what God will say than what men will say – because he/she fears the Lord not men.
The word translated ‘stir’ is literally to arouse or wake up. The mind of any human mind is very quick to take rest, to relax and live for today – here and now. All sinners are in stupor, their minds are calloused they need to be given a new life. Their consciences are seared, the Spirit has to work. Christians on the other hand are prone to laziness, to inertia. How many times do we relax upon the comfort of past achievements? When we achieve something little, we are quickly lulled to the slumber of I did this… forgetting:
1)    it is God who is at work in us both to will and to do
2)    the spiritual warfare with our enemies is ever ranging
3)    we are still pilgrims on earth
4)    we are yet to receive our inheritance
When we are reminded of this and come to our senses to realize what is needed of us, we must move into action. The action must be to do with achieving the end for which the Lord created us – to bring glory to His name, to build His kingdom, to edify the church. We are to know God in His Son and make Him known. We are to worship the Lord in all we do and say. If you have been made alive by Christ, then how can you live a life of inactivity?
We are to live a godly life waiting for the time of putting away of our mortality, our tent, our transient in exchange for the permanent.

3.   To prepare you for the eminent death
People rarely talk about death because they fear it. They fear death because they are not ready for it. Do you think about death? Do you know how you can prepare a person for death? Death is the most welcome thing when we are ready for it. I have spoken to many elderly Christians and by the grace of the Lord I have drawn so much comfort from them. In this passage, Apostle Peter opens up the subject of death in the manner he was ready for it. He said that all he was doing was in light of death that he was anticipating. He knew that the Lord had taken away the sting of death:
Death is swallowed up in victory…thanks be to God who gives us the victory through Jesus Christ. (1Cor. 15:54b, 57)
It is only in the Bible where there is a clear and deliberate preparation for death- to the Muslims death is terrifying because they have no hope. It is only a believer in Christ who has a definite assurance from the Creator of the universe that all shall be well for them in death. The only answer to death is to be found in the gospel.
 DM Lloyd-Jones rightly observes that,
The gospel has very special pronouncements to make with respect to this life itself. It tells us of the greatness and glory of life [something we must never forget]. The world today, outside of the church and outside the Gospel, has very poor and low view of life. New kind of cynicism and despair are spreading through the minds of the people [he was speaking shortly after the World War II]
Do you think this despair has ceased with the World War II? People are afraid and scared of death. Do you fear death? Look at the way Peter writes about death:
“… since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me.”(v.14).  Peter was not afraid of death – he was looking forward to it. But he knew that for as long as he was in the body, he was supposed to make every effort so that after his departure we may be able to recall these things at any time as we are doing right now! Like Paul, he knew that to be while present in the body (and so absent from the Lord) we make it our ambition to please the Lord (2Cor. 5:9). And how do we please the Lord? The love of the Lord ought to constrain us so that we do not live for ourselves but for Him who for the sake of sinners died and was raised. We take up seriously the ministry of reconciliation that we have received from our Master. We are to be His ambassadors now and here. Yes, we are to live in such a way that Christ is honored in our bodies whether in life or in death, so that to live is Christ and death is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me (Phil. 1:20-22). This is the whole purpose of life for a Christian. He who lives like this is guaranteed that there is a glorious crowning day coming, there is a final exodus from the troubles of this world. There is something definite to look forward to – the glorious exit from this transient life into a more glorious and permanent one – with God!
This constant reminder that you hear from God’s Word and from preachers are meant to prepare you for the either the coming of Christ or death of which both are eminent. Are you ready? Peter is ready enough to say that the putting off of his body is soon – believing the prediction of the Lord in John 21:18-19. He believed that his death will glorify God just as the Lord had said – it was to be a drastic end… it was to be sudden, even violently as it was by crucifixion. What do you think could be your state if you learnt that your death will be a violent one? It would lead to trauma and distress. But this was not the case for Peter. He was even making plans and provisions for it. He was adjusting his life to accommodate the will of the Lord!
Notice that his concern and commitment was to make those who will be left behind, after his death, comfortable, in terms of having truth to refer to constantly. Christians do not fear death. Christians prepare for death, because wise people plan for death, foolish people plan for this life. Why does God call the rich man in Luke 12:16-21? While God expects men to plan for their exit from this hard life of sin, this rich man was planning to draw comfort from it. There is no comfort in this life.
There is nothing in this life that should make us love it so much that we give it all we have or our best. Instead we must be like the Apostle of the Lord who prepared for death, while in this body knowing that death is only an exodus from a creation that is groaning waiting with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set from the bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of children of God (Rom. 8:19-21). Is this true of you?
v We must never be tired of being reminded of the truths of Scripture
v We should take the reminders from God’s Word very seriously
v We should all devote ourselves to reminding others of both Christian principles and conduct
v We should live a life that has a definite eternal perspective
v We should prepare for death that even after our departure others will profit from our lives.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Apostle Paul

1.    The four most important things that characterized the man Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ. (A list with evidence for each one from both Acts and his letters).

1.     Paul was a man full of divine commission
After the conversion and commission on the Damascus road (Acts 9:3-6, 15, 16), Paul was a changed man and acted as one who had been personally sent by the Lord and rightly so. Throughout his letters we see that very clearly he acknowledged that he was sent by God (Rom 1:1-6), having received His revelation (Gal. 1:12) and was an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ as he has it in most of his letters Rom. 1:1; 1& 2Cor. 1:1; Gal.1:1; Eph1:1; etc). So his strong compulsion is evident throughout 
(Cor.9:16). With this divine commission, Paul having experienced such a great measure of grace and mercy from Christ, sought to do everything possible to channel this grace to others. His great zeal is inspired by the commission from God.

2.     His love for the conversion of sinners
His love for the conversion of sinners made him to be willing to do anything possible to bring people to faith. Therefore, he travelled extensively and suffered a great deal for it, but by God’s power brought many to Christ. He preached to the Jews as well as to gentiles with the same urgency. He preached in Palestine as well as Asia and Europe. He was willing to work with his own hands to support his ministry (2Cor 4:12). He was willing to suffer and be nothing for the sake of the elect. This is clearly seen in his commission to Timothy to preach the Word always – in and out of season (2Tim 4:2)
Even in cases where people did not like him, he was still eager to go to them and show them that he did what he did because of his love for them. E.g. the church in Corinth had many misgivings and prejudices against Paul, but kept on pursuing them again and again in order that he might bring them to God unblemished (2Cor 7:7).

3.     His life of faith and godliness
Paul lived a godly life and so he could strongly tell people to follow and imitate him as he followed and imitated Christ (2Tim 1:13; 2Thess 3:7, 9). This is his own testimony, “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God.” (2Cor. 4:2). Paul was a minister who lived a life of faith and trusted on the Lord daily in his walk with the Lord.

4.     His physical strength in endurance, patience and steadfastness

Paul endured a lot of hardships to make it where he reached and achieved. Paul greatly labored, and had many imprisonments, with countless beatings, stoned, shipwrecked, and often near death because he was in danger from rivers, robbers, his own people, Gentiles, in the city, in the wilderness, at sea, from false brothers. He was always in toil and hardship, sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, in cold and exposure (2Cor. 11:23-28). As a result, the lord greatly blessed his ministry.

This is presents us with the following applicatory questions:
  • Are you a Christian with a divine mandate to spread through all the earth the honors of our God and King like Apostle Paul?
  • Who have you impacted with the gospel of the grace of God in Christ?
  • Do you live in such a manner that will attract men and women to Christ?
  • Is your faith obvious and conspicuous to others?
  • What have you endured for the sake of Christ?
Most of the preachers today are so full of themselves that in the end they preach themselves instead of preaching Christ. There are those who are making endless financial demands to their hearers. Others are deceiving and conning their hearers by making all sorts of promises including healing, financial prosperity etc. Others demand "holiness" from their hearers, which is simply demanding that their hearers conform to their whims. Please look at the Lord Jesus Christ. Consider His Apostles and the life that they lived... Make it you ambition to consider the older generation of Christians and see whether you are in the same path.