Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sin - what is it?

It is so important to understand what the Bible teaches about sin.  If we do not understand the disease, we cannot know how to treat it! 
What is sin? “Sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).  Sin is not only the actions, speech and thoughts that we have that are against God’s law.  Note what Jesus teaches as to where all these sinful things come from: “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, …” (Matthew 15:19).  The “heart” is our inner self out of which all comes.  There is something wrong with our heart.  Jeremiah says of the heart that it “is heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick ”   (17:9).  Paul writes of the Gentiles that they have no understanding and are ignorant “due to the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart” (Ephesians 4:18).  So sin is a condition, a character, an attitude, man’s nature.  Jesus likens the heart to a treasure box (Matthew 12:35).  How a person lives depends on the character of his heart.  Men and women not only do acts of sin, they are sinners by nature (see Ephesians 2:3).
Depravity = moral corruption.  When we say this depravity is “total” we do not mean that man is as sinful as he can be, but that sin has spread to every faculty of his being and has seriously affected him.  As a result everything that men do by nature is sinful and not good in God’s sight.  Paul makes a universal conclusion about all men and all they do that “no one does no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11).  No thought, no emotion, no word spoken, no action, is acceptable to God.  Even our very best acts are polluted by sin (Isaiah 64:6, see Philippians 3:4-8).  As a drop of poison makes the whole drink poisonous, so sin makes all corrupt and repulsive to God. 
Not only are all actions sinful, but as a result by nature we are totally unable to do anything spiritually good which is acceptable to God.  Note the following Biblical evidence:

(1)   Clear statements. 
What things are impossible, according to the following passages?
·         John 3:3,5 – seeing or entering the kingdom of God (unless born of water/Spirit)
·         John 6:44, 65 – coming to Jesus (unless the Father draws)
·         Romans 8:7 – submission to God’s law (to the mind that is set on the flesh)
·         Romans 8:8 – pleasing God (to those who are in the flesh)
·         1 Corinthians 2:14 – accepting the things of the Spirit of God (to the unspiritual = without Spirit)
·         Hebrews 11:6 – pleasing God (without faith)

(2)   Word pictures. 
What word describes total inability in the following passages?
·         John 8:34, Romans 6:16-17, Titus 3:3 slave
·         Ephesians 2:1,5, Colossians 2:13, 1 Timothy 5:6 dead
·         John 9:40, 12:40, 2 Corinthians 4:4 blind
Slaves have no power to free themselves – the master, or someone more powerful, must give the freedom. 
Those who are dead have no power to make themselves alive – only someone who has power over death can. 
The blind, like Bartimaeus depend upon another to open their eyes.
Historic confessions have dealt with this matter this way: “The actual sins that men commit are the fruit of the corrupt nature transmitted to them by our first parents.  By reason of this corruption, all men become wholly inclined to all evil; sin disables them.  They are utterly indisposed to, and, indeed, rendered opposite to, all that is good” (Ch.7, Sect.4, and see Ch.9, Sect.3).

OTHER VIEWS: There are other views that cannot be defended from Scripture, that insists that sinful man still has a free will.  This view teaches that any man has the ability, any time he chooses, to do the good that God commands, especially to repent of sin and believe in Christ.  They do believe that as a result of Adam’s sin the whole race also fell, and inherited a corrupt nature (= original sin); but also through the death of Christ a grace, which is called “prevenient” (because it precedes), has been given to ALL men to make everyone able to choose Christ.  This is the most common view today and people will react with horror if you suggest there is no such thing as free will.  They do not know that at the time of the Reformation Martin Luther wrote, what he called his most important book, The Bondage of the Will, which he regarded to be at the heart of the Reformation controversy.
What does the Bible teach about the will of men now?  Is there such a thing as “prevenient grace”?  It is an assumption based on the belief that if God commands something we must be able to do it.  The ‘will’ is the faculty of choice; it does not act independently.  Do you think a leopard may change its spots at will? Impossible! (Jeremiah 13:23).  How is it possible that a sinner will choose Christ if his heart is unclean, if he does not understand the things of God, if he hates the light (John 3:19-20)?  Everyone chooses according to his nature.
Three passages that teach the will of man is not free to choose Christ “(…children of God)   who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the   flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13),
“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit." (John 3:8), “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy”. Romans 9:16 clearly teach that the will of man is not the cause of salvation.
Original sin
The sin of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, who were the representatives of all mankind, all men fell with him - Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14)
From this passage, you notice that sin began with the sinning of Adam, as instigated by the devil and the consequence of this is that all people are born with a sinful nature (original sin) and are sinners by practice. For this reason, then there has to be another representative – the Lord Jesus Christ who is the ultimate solution. This is because He is appointed by God to be the Saviour of sinners by His perfectly righteous life and by His effective death on the cross. This is what
For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:17-19)
The sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, who were the representatives of all mankind, all men fell with him - Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. (Rom 5:12-14)
From this passage, you notice that sin began with the sinning of Adam, as instigated by the devil and the consequence of this is that all people are born with a sinful nature (original sin) and are sinners by practice. For this reason, then there has to be another representative – the Lord Jesus Christ who is the ultimate solution. This is because He is appointed by God to be the Saviour of sinners by His perfectly righteous life and by His effective death on the cross.
For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Rom 5:17-19)

(1) Our understanding of salvation depends upon it.  Are we saved because we choose Christ, or because God first chooses us?  The Bible is so clear that we are totally dependent upon God.  What must God first do if anyone is to come to Christ? God has to  give him to   Christ (John 6:44).  What must first take place if anyone is to produce spiritual fruit? Born of water and the Spirit, (John 3:5).  Like Lazarus, stone dead in the tomb, we must first be made alive, before we can do anything spiritual.  Salvation is of the Lord and to Him all praise is due!
(2) Our method of evangelism is controlled by it.  Man-made methods such as special music, altar calls and testimonies of well-known people have produced many false converts. Because of total depravity and inability salvation begins with God’s work of the new birth. God uses the preaching of the gospel to urge men to believe and repent.  We must tell sinners the truth as clearly and forcefully as we can, trusting that God will open the heart to give heed (Acts 16:14).
(3) Our personal holiness is stimulated by it. It will lead us into the practice of both godly humility, because we are totally unworthy, and a joyful praise because God has graciously done what we could never do.  In our Christian lives sin becomes enemy number one that we take seriously in order to put it to death (Romans 8:13). While a Christian can sin, yet he is not under the bondage or slavery to sin because he has been freed from its permanent effects like eternal death. Consider this,
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1Jn 1:8-10)
The way to deal with sin is to confess them to Christ. To acknowledge and self-accuse before God and be sure that the Lord is merciful, for God has said that he who conceals his sins will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces will obtain mercy (Prov. 28:13).

Monday, August 25, 2014

Martin Luther’s Conversion

He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many waters.—Psalm. 18:16
Their righteousness is of Me, says the Lord. — Isaiah. 54:17
When first awakened to a sense of sin, Luther became unspeakably troubled. Once and again deep anguish took hold of his soul, and it seemed as if he would sink under it. On one occasion he had been conversing with a friend upon the things of God. No sooner had the conversation ended, than the truths of which they had been speaking struck home with awful power to the tossed soul of Luther. He left the room and sought the nearest chamber to give vent to the feelings of his bursting heart. He threw himself upon the bed and prayed aloud in agony; repeating over and over again these words of the apostle, “He hath shut them all up in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon all” (Rom. 11:32).
Luther now began to try to make himself holy. He fasted for days together. He shut himself up alone in his cold cell. He passed many nights, sometimes for weeks, without sleep. He read, he studied, he prayed, he wept, he watched, he strove, but all in vain! He found himself as far from holiness and peace as ever! If ever anyone could have gained heaven by his own merits, Luther would have gained it. To those around him, he seemed the holiest man alive. But the light of the law showed him that within all was vile. His soul cried out for rest, but he found it not, for he was seeking it not in God’s way, but in a way of his own. He wanted to be sure that his sins were forgiven him, for he felt that until he knew this, he could not have peace. But his fear increased upon him, and he knew not what to do, nor which way to turn. He saw everything that he thought and did to be sin, and how could he rest until he knew that all was forgiven! His friends told him to do good works and that would satisfy the justice of God. Miserable comforters!
“What good works,” said he, “can proceed out of a heart like mine; how can I, with works like these, stand before a holy Judge.” The terrors of the fiery law compassed him about and consumed his soul. His “sore ran in the night and ceased not.” He saw nothing in God but the angry Judge. He had not yet learned the riches of His grace through Jesus Christ.
His bodily health gave way, “a wounded spirit, who can bear?” He wasted away. He became thin and pale. His eyes, which were peculiarly bright, looked wild with despair; and death seemed just at hand. In this state he was visited by an old priest. His name was Staupitz. He pitied the dying monk, and all the more so when he was told the cause of his suffering, for he had himself passed through the same conflict. But he had found the peace of Christ in his soul, and was therefore well fitted to give counsel to Luther.
“It is in vain,” said Luther to him, “that I make promises to God; sin is always too strong for me.” “Oh, my friend,” said Staupitz, “I have often made vows myself, but I never could keep them; I now make no more vows; for if God will not be merciful to me for Christ’s sake, I cannot stand before Him with all my vows and works.”
Luther made known to him all his fears. He spoke of God’s justice, God’s holiness, God’s sovereign majesty. How could he stand before such a God?
“Why,” said his aged friend, “do you distress yourself with these thoughts? Look to the wounds of Jesus, to the blood which he has shed for you; it is there that you will see the mercy of God. Cast yourself into the arms of the Savior. Trust in Him — in the righteousness of His life — in the atoning sacrifice of His death. Do not shrink away from Him. God is not against you; it is only you who are averse from God. Listen to the Son of God. He became man to assure you of the divine favor.”
Still Luther was dark. He thought he had not repented properly, and asked, “How can I dare believe in the favor of God, so long as there is in me no real conversion? I must be changed before He can receive me.”

He is told that there can be no real conversion so long as a man fears God as a stern judge. “There is,” said his friend, “no true repentance but that which begins in the love of God and righteousness. That which some fancy to be the end of repentance is only its beginning. If you wish to be really converted, do not try these penances. Love Him who has first loved you.” Luther listens and is glad. The day breaks, new light pours in. “Yes,” said he, “it is Jesus Christ that comforts me so wonderfully by these sweet and healing words.” In order to true repentance we must love God! He had never heard this before. Taking this truth as his guide, he went to the Scriptures. He turned up all the passages which speak of repentance and conversion; and these two words which were formerly his terror, now become precious and sweet. The passages which used to alarm him, now “seemed to run to me from all sides, to smile, to spring up and play around me. Formerly I tried to love God, but it was all force; and there was no word so bitter to me as that of repentance. Now there is none more pleasant. Oh, how blessed are all God’s precepts when we read them not in books only, but in the precious wounds of the Savior.”
Thus he learned that we are not forgiven because we love God, but we love God because we are forgiven. We cannot repent, we cannot love, until we have known and believed the love that
God hath for us. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and gave His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).
Still Luther’s darkness at times returned. His sins again went over his soul, and hid the face of God.
“Oh, my sin! My sin! My sin!” cried he, one day to his aged friend. “What would you have?” said Staupitz. “Would you like if your sin was not real? Remember, if you have only the appearance of a sinner, you must be content with the mere appearance of a Savior. But learn this that Jesus Christ is the Savior of those who are real and great sinners, and deserving of utter condemnation.”
“Look at the wounds of Christ,” said he, on another occasion, “and you will see there shining clearly the purpose of God towards men. We cannot understand God out of Christ.” But Luther’s peace sometimes gave way, and his fears returned. He was taken ill and brought down to the gates of death. Terror again took hold on him. Death seemed full of gloom. It was a fearful thing to meet a holy God! An old monk visited him in his sickbed, and in him God gave him another comforter and guide. Sitting at his bedside he repeated this sentence of the Creed, “I believe in the forgiveness of sins.”
These words, thus simply and sweetly brought to mind, were like balm to the soul of Luther. “I believe,” said he to himself, “the forgiveness of sins.” “Ah, but,” said the old man, “we are not merely to believe that there is forgiveness for David or Peter; the command of God is that we believe there is forgiveness for our own sins.” Luther’s spirit was revived. He found on this rock a sufficient resting place, and his soul rejoiced in the forgiving love of God.
Thus his weary soul found rest. He was now like a vessel that has reached its haven. No storm can reach or harm it. He was like the dove in the clefts of the rock. He was like the man who had reached the city of refuge. He found himself safe and at rest. Jehovah his righteousness was his song, and his joy. It was what he saw in Christ that gave him hope and confidence toward God, and not what he saw in himself.
It was what he knew of Christ and His righteousness that took away all fear and filled his soul with peace. He believed and was forgiven. Nor did he reckon it presumption to count himself a forgiven soul. He gloried and rejoiced in this. He counted it one of the most grievous of all sins to doubt it. He saw that the gospel was intended to bring us forgiveness, and to assure us of it. He saw that whenever we really believe in the gospel, then that forgiveness is as completely and certainly ours as if we were already in heaven. This was the very life of Luther’s soul. It was this that made him so bold in the cause of Christ, in all his future life. He was assured of the favor of God, and that took away all fear of men. There was one text of Scripture which seems to have been greatly blessed to him.
It was very frequently on his mind during his many struggles. It was the text which Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:9, to prove that we are justified by faith alone: “The just shall live by faith.”

Once, he was sent to Rome on some business, and he thought that good works done at Rome were better and had more merit than those done anywhere else. He was told that if he would crawl up a very long stair, called Pilate’s staircase, on his bare knees, he would acquire a great stock of merit.
With great earnestness he set himself to do this miserable penance. While he was crawling up the steps, he thought he heard a voice like thunder, saying aloud to him, “The just shall live by faith.” Immediately he started from his knees, and stopped in the middle of the ascent. The words went to his soul like the voice of God reproving him for his folly. Filled with shame, he instantly left the place. He saw that it was not by his works that he was to save himself at all, far less by works such as these — “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but by His mercy He saved us” (Titus 3:5).
At another time, he was appointed to lecture on divinity. After explaining the Psalms, he came to the Epistle to the Romans. In studying this he took great delight. He used to sit in his quiet cell for many hours with the Bible open before him, meditating on that Epistle. The seventeenth verse of the first chapter fixed his eye, and filled his whole thoughts: “The just shall live by faith.” In this he saw that there was another life than that possessed by man in general, and that this life was the fruit of faith. In the midst of much darkness these simple words were “a lamp to his feet, and a light to his path.” Clearer light soon dawned upon his soul, and through him the bright beams of the gospel shot forth upon the benighted nations of Europe. The conversion of
Luther was the dawning of the Reformation.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Embracing Biblical Approach to Parenting

There is a shocking unwillingness and failure by our society to listen to God-given instructions on parenting. Biblical principles have been at best forgotten and at worse ignored – yet it is only God, the Creator and Redeemer of sinners, who has the ultimate remedy and solution to the whole aspect of being faithful parents and godly family builders. This then explains why the society is disintegrating. Morality has been spurned and the result is a common moral decadence. The only way to deal with this situation is to acknowledge this unfortunate failure and take it to God, in repentance and ask for forgiveness and wisdom in dealing with the matter. The general attitude of bringing up children in the society is usually not based on Biblical principles but mostly philosophical. There is no question that there are pressure from society to adopt worldly standards, and there is no problem if unbelievers accepted them. However, it is shocking that Christians are embracing elementary principles of the world.
As a minister of the gospel, I consider it my responsibility to explain God’s word to you so that you may be a better parent:

1)      Biblical parenting has to begin with God and His instructions
So I want to begin by begging you all, not consider yourselves wiser than God. I encourage you go back to the Scriptures and learn the mind of God in regard to method of parenting. God understands that our age has produced children who do not obey their parents – see Romans 1:28; 2Timothy 3:2. This is a very serious sin and such children who are disobedient to their parents are going to hell. So we better take this very seriously.
God has given us the Scriptures so that we can be better parents, bearing in mind that God is Himself our Father and expects us to relate with Him. He also expects us to take our parenting model from Him and not from the world. Listen to what He has to say in His Word in Ephesians 6:1-4
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise), "that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

2)       Who is responsible for bringing up children?
“Fathers...” This does not mean parents because he could have said so like he did in verse 1… neither does it mean fathers and mothers because he has already used it in verse 2! Fathers are held by God as directly responsible to bring up children as a His delegated responsibility. While I say this I acknowledge that there are those without fathers. This means that the role of father is being played by someone else and this is the person who is being instructed here to be responsible for the bringing up of the children. Obviously this is the role only a parent can do, not a school.
In this country Fathers have relegated most part of this responsibility to schools for the most of the time. TV and internet or radio play a big role also in child upbringing in many homes. At best many parents have given an for the church to do something in the lives of their children. For other parents it does not matter. Interesting enough, the world will tell you this for free,
Several research studies in the USA and Europe found that church attendance practices of parents, especially fathers, can be highly influential in forming the future church attendance practices of their children. Wikipedia
Children are picked from home by the school bus at 5am if they are lucky, others will have to leave at 4am! The school next door, a Christian School has their buses on at 3.30am! the children are brought to school before 6am and leave after 9m! Schools particularly boarding schools have taken this role so ‘well’ that they even give instructions to the parents  on when they can visit and see their children – if you come any other time, for example, to pay fees, you will not be allowed to your daughter or son! There is something very very wrong here! Things are upside down.
For this reason we need to reconsider sending children to boarding schools especially primary boarding schools. Obviously children should be educated but in a way that does not take away God-given responsibility from you. I have taught in a boarding primary and I can assure you that the children there are begging for parental love and guidance. This is why Guidance and Counselling and Psychology is a big business in the Kenyan Schools. The government is investing in it because schools being torched by these children. Why is there no home torched by irate children? Because children consider school to be a prison of some sort!

A.      What must the Fathers NOT DO?
" Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger…”
a)      Harsh discipline and excessive punishment - this cannot secure obedience  instead it will produce resentment. This can be done out of either unbridled anger, hitting the child wherever the parent wishes, venting his frustrations so that it is done in the most punitive manner.
b)      No discipline at all – you feel that you do not want to ‘hurt your children’ etc. we will deal with this later.
c)       Inconsistent standards - changing of goal posts.
a)      Not set too high standards
b)      Unwillingness to listen to the children
c)       Simple neglect - no time of the children
d)      Inconsistent life of the fathers or parents

B.      What must fathers DO?
Fathers, … but bring them up in the discipline… of the Lord”
Bringing up the children is the same as nourishing and nurturing them to become mature and responsible members of the society. In the following areas:
1)      Spiritually - teaching all your children the Word daily.
a)      Instructing them to obey God's commands,
b)      Taking them to a good biblical church, where they will be taught God’s Word faithfully

2)      Intellectual – equip the mind and instruct, train them into godliness, Instil wisdom and discipline. Teach them to apply the knowledge in various areas of their lives.
3)      Physical - nutrition, excise – make sure that they are fed well and are playing or exercising enough
4)      Social - taught to know how to relate with older people, agemates, family responsibilities
5)      Vocational - how to handle money, how to fix stuff, to repair … Make sure that you give a life skill especially in the use of their own hands. Gardening, mechanic, driving etc.

a)      Discipline bring them up in the discipline … of the Lord.

This means educating with enforcement of action. Mark the Word action… in this case you have to move into action. It is education in five things above, enforcing what has been taught (Heb.12: 5-6)
Discipline is necessary because folly is bound up in the heart of the child (Proverbs 22:15). Each child hugs and kisses foolishness, that should be dealt with by spanking. It is because of the folly that is bound up in the heart of the child that God has designed the rod of discipline.
It is for this reason that God has said so clearly that the rod of correction imparts wisdom (Prov. 29:15). And again, punish him (a child) with the rod and save his soul from death (Prov. 23:14). A child who refuses to be under authority is in a grave eternal danger and it is the parent’s responsibility to rescue and save the children – timely and faithful use of the rod is the God-ordained means of rescue. Clearly a child who will not submit to parental authority is along with it rejecting God’s authority and this is eternal death. Properly administered discipline humbles the heart of a child, making him subject to parental authority.
We have however, to be aware that no discipline at the time seems pleasant, but is painful. This by implication means that the rod has to be administered in a manner that is painful! But later on it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it (Hebrews 12:11). The rod of discipline, while it brings with it pain, it also comes with a harvest of righteousness and peace (with the parent and with the Lord who is the Supreme and originator of all authority). We have to bear in mind that the any child left to its own folly disgraces his mother… so discipline your son and he will give you peace, he will bring delight to your soul (Prov. 29:15,17).
Instilling discipline in punishment - Prov.13:24; 19:18; 22:13-14
Spurgeon being taken out to see the gardens of his host, saw lovely British flower gardens, very well tendered. And then there was this bush that had weeds and diseased and unsightly! Mr. Spurgeon asked why that was left like that. The host said, “I have left that to its own discretion!” When children will be left without tender care, and attention in terms of discipline, they will soon be like that unsightly bush. All you need to do to prove this is, take a walk up the street in town and find the street kids – they are called street urchins!

a)      A Parental exercise – physical discipline has to be packaged with the on-going parent-child love.
b)      An Act of Faith – we do it not because we know how exactly it works but because God has commanded us to us it.
c)       An Act of Faithfulness – towards the child. Knowing that there is hope and it is unwillingness of the parent to be party to his child’s death.
d)      A Responsibility – it is the parent determining to obey God as His representative in the life of the child.
e)      A Physical Punishment – the careful, timely, measured and controlled use of physical punishment without anger, frustration or malice. Remembering that man’s anger does not produce the righteous life that God desires (James 1:20).
f)       It is a Rescue Mission – it is designed to bring back the child from its foolishness and doom to life.
We must never over react to our backgrounds of harshness or of vacuum and lack in discipline. Rather we should be guided by God in His Word as to how to go about this important task in the bringing up of our children.
There are people who have all sorts of objections against discipline:
i)                    I love my children too much to spank and hurt them – it is understandable but the more important question is who benefits from the spanking? Who is at risk left with the spanking? He who spares the rod hates the child, but he who loves is careful to discipline (Prov. 13:24)
ii)                   I am afraid that I will hurt him – but the biblical instruction is, “Do not withhold discipline form a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death.” (Prov. 23:13-14)
iii)                 I am afraid it will make him rebellious and angry – discipline brings peace in the home for the parents – Proverbs 29:17
iv)                 It doesn’t work – It will not work if used inconsistently, failure to persist in it until there is change on the child, failure to be effective as the child feels no pain, doing it in anger (when the child feel that it is unjust). But it does work because it a God-given prescription!
v)                  I am afraid of the government authorities who may arrest me for child abuse – while you have to be careful with those who could report you and so do it privately, but the basic question is will you obey God or men?
Verse that talk about Discipline:
1.       Proverbs 23;13-19
2.       Proverbs 23:22
3.       Proverbs  2326
4.       Proverbs 18:2 – the need to train the children to articulate their thoughts and feelings honestly and clearly.
5.       Proverbs 22:15 – folly is bound up in the heart of the child
Yet I consider that more than discipline, the most difficult part of parenting is to do with instruction. This is positively seeking to educate your children unto good works.
b)      Instruction - bring them up in the … instruction of the Lord.
This is instructing in words in specifics so as to produce a life change … it is to admonish - Acts 20:31; Or instruction and reasoning (1Cor. 10:11); and warning them (Tit.3:10). We are talking of communication with your children here. In many homes communication involves setting rules, followed by correction and then discipline. I want to add to these the following things important for instruction in the Lord:

Designed to inspire, fill with hope, courage
Bringing into conformity to standard
Censuring behaviour – get the child to experience your sense of alarm, shock, dismay at what he has done or said
Intense, earnest communication – involving pleading, soliciting, urging and even begging – Proverbs 23:26
Providing lessons, precepts or information – Psalm 119:98-100, 104
Merciful speech, alerting one to stay from danger or ruin – Proverbs 12:24; 13:18; 14:23; 15:1; 16:18; 17:19; 19:15. Warn them using Scriptures as well as real life examples
The process of imparting knowledge
Praying with the child is important, as they hear parents communication with God and consequently learn how to pray that way. As parent hear the child pray, one will get to know them more

The specific instruction is to instruct them in the word of the Lord. When you punish them it is in obedience of the Lord. Those who think that they blew it, can still seek out older children and ask them for forgiveness and tell them your desire is to make a change for its never too late to change. Basically Parenting Communication involves rules,  correction and discipline. But communication is the preventative method.

Friday, August 15, 2014

What you should look for in a church:

  1. A Church is the people not the building, and all the people who constitute the membership of the church should be born again. Hebrews 8:11
  2. A Church which recognises the importance of preaching and teaching biblical doctrine. Acts 2:36, 2 Tim 3:16f
  3.  A Church which is seeking to rule itself according to biblical principles and instructions. Titus 1:9, Revelation 3:1-3
  4.  A Church which is not compromising itself by associating with those who do not teach Christ as the only way of being saved. Galatians 1:6-12.
  5. A Church which engages in reverent and biblical worship which should include:
  • Teaching (Acts 2:42)
  • Scripture Reading (I Timothy 4:13)
  • Congregational Singing (Colossians 3:16, Matthew 26:30)
  • Prayer (Acts 4:23-31)
  • Giving (2 Corinthians 8+9; esp. 9:13)
  • The Lord’s Supper. (Acts 2:42)
6.  A Church which has members whose lives are characterised by the following:
  • Friendliness (Hebrews 13:1-2, 1 John 4:7-5:2) 
  • Evangelism (2 Timothy 4:2, Romans 10:15)
  • Good works or godliness (Galatians 6:9-10)
  • Good order (Titus 1:5-2:15)
  • Joy in Christ (Romans 5:1-11)

Why you ought to attend church regularly

Do you think that it is sinful for a believer not to be fully engaged in a local church? Have you ever failed to attend church? Is it necessary to attend the church? With the many failures of the church, many believers feel justified not going to church. Many would rationalize by giving all sorts of excuses. They would say that they were ‘required to work’ by their bosses (not by the Saviour and Creator!) or, “I have not found ‘a good church’”. Or, “I would leave the church enraged and bitter, because of what is preached”, or, “the church is made of ‘cliques’ or groups so I feel out of place”, and now most recently, “I attend my church on TV or Internet”! While we may appreciate these and many other reasons, we should consider this question very seriously. As I write many churches are closing down in Europe because people do not attend church.
The Wikipedia tells us that several research studies in the USA and Europe found that church attendance practices of parents, especially fathers can be highly influential in forming church attendance practices of their children. It is true that if you do not regularly attend church and demand that your children must go, they may soon drop out as they grow older because they will take cue from your bad example. Therefore, this is so important for yourself and family. But what does the Bible say?

1.       Devotion to means of grace
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers… And all who believed were together and had all things in common… And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, (Acts 2:42,44,46)
After Peter’s convicting sermon on the day of Pentecost, the Spirit-filled church is constituted with the 120+3000 members! Their distinctive identity is their commitment to the meeting of brethren to enjoy the means of grace provided. So they devoted themselves to these means – they were available, eagerly listening and learning from the doctrine of the Apostles, who were delivering to them what they also received from the Lord. They immersed and soaked themselves to the Scriptural teachings from the apostles. This was the first distinguishing characteristic.
The second mark is the subject of this article – fellowship. They also devoted themselves to the breaking of bread, a token given by the Lord to believers to remember His death and resurrection until He comes. In this regard, it is a foretaste of the marriage supper of the Lamb, isn’t it? They also devoted themselves to prayer.
How was their devotion revealed?
They had like precious faith (2:43). This faith was the foremost, for it was because of their belief in Christ that they met. They were only united with one another having been united by Christ. So it is recorded that all who believed were together.
They were together. There cannot be fellowship when apart. The meeting of believers is the most important as we see from the very first congregation. Their meeting was not by remote but they actually met and felt each other’s warmth.
They had all things in common. Their relationship, springing from the same heart, faith and proximity, extended to ownership so that they did not have a problem sharing or fellowshiping in their belonging. This way there was no one who lacked the needs of life. They were well-provided. While we appreciate that there was history of persecution around this time, so that there was such a great need to share, yet a total rejection of this vital practice breeds materialism, a rot so prevalent in the church today!

How was their attendance? It was day by day attendance, meaning it was not erratic – it was organized and consistent. They met formally for worship in the temple, and this extended to their homes. They were generous to one another, since God had been generous to them in giving them His Son. Those who were recipients of this generosity were grateful and glad to their benefactors as well as to the Lord.
The implications of this passage: The spiritual growth of a Christian and  the numerical expansion of the church is dependent on the provision of the means of grace to the church by the leadership. Pastors must aim at making available apostolic (Biblical) doctrine to the church. They should be very deliberate in breeding, encouraging and nurturing meaningful fellowship among the membership of the church.
The members must endeavour to cultivate a genuine desire for community with other Christians within the church. A heart for self-sufficiency must be taken to be a weed that has to be pulled out. Having all things in common, means that, very practically, some will not live like kings while others live as paupers, yet subscribing to the same faith, being in the same family and saved by the save Lord and Saviour.
Fellowship meals ought to form an integral part of the life of a church. In this passage, we see the emphasis of breaking bread (v.42, 46), and that they received their food (v.46). In our family we join together for meals, don’t we? In the same manner as the spiritual family of God, we should meet together not only to break the spiritual bread of life, which is the Word of God, but also the physical food. Where there is failure to recognize that meals enhance fellowship, you will soon discover Christians will feel neglected. They will seek out to fellowship with others of biological or tribal descent and there will be lack of attendance in the church!
Fellowship being one of the means of grace, is called Koinonia in Greek. Meaning, the sharing together, the communion, the fellowship in God and one another and the partnership for the course of Christ. This is a powerful tool for the church. It is also used of the Lord as an evangelistic tool because the passage ends with the fact that the early church found favour with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved (v.47). Could it be farfetched to say that when you fail to attend church, you are communicating to the unbelievers that salvation is not important? On the contrary, when they see your commitment and devotion to the Lord and His Church, they are encouraged to think that salvation is the most important thing that can happen to them? This is something for you to consider very seriously.

2.       Encouragement to fellowship
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
We must not assume that because of the benefits of the devotion to fellowship, therefore church attendance will always be automatic and a delightful thing to do. The human heart is sick and desperately wicked. It is naturally inclined to abhor that which brings spiritual good. And the Lord understands this and so we have the exhortation from Hebrews 10:24-25.
It is our Christian duty to stir, or encourage others to this devotion to good works. The tendency to Christian duties is neglect. Neglect, like rust upon iron does not need an invitation letter. Neglect springs up from the heart and it is not long before we see this rust corroding a vibrant spiritual life, and could lead to backsliding, or even worse apostasy! Diligence and carefulness is expected of every Christian and you know this. Yet with all self-watch, if there is no encouragement from other brethren, you will discover that your default mode is self-deception. Christians are to be not only diligent on self-watch but also prudent in watching over others. Mutually we are to observe other brethren’s character, spiritual gifts, experience and virtues leading to good works. This can happen where there is meaningful close fellowship.
This means that when you fail to be in fellowship with brothers and sisters who are so committed to your spiritual good, you do yourself a great disservice. You notice that neglect, though appearing as something idle, yet it is a deliberate effort towards a direction that a person desires. Other Bible translations call it ‘forsaking’ (ASV), ‘giving up’ (GNB), or abandoning (LEB). For this reason, this is not something that falls on you by chance, it comes upon by your own effort, or lack of it!
When you miss the fellowship once, whether on a Lord’s Day, or prayer meetings, or any gathering of saints, you need to be very wary. Once will turn to be twice and develop into habit.  When such habits are perpetuated, they end up disastrous to the faith. Such habits are infectious, if those around you do not admonish those perpetuating it.

To be without fellowship is dangerous. It must be pointed to any Christian who finds himself walking in a solitary path, that sooner than he expects, the devil who is a roaming roaring lion will devour him and will not be able to strive with it by himself. Heed the counsel of the Lord, two are better than one… woe to him who is alone, when he falls and has not one to lift him up! A threefold cord (of two believers and the Saviour) cannot be broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). As iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17).

It is particularly important that we stick with one another and be united because that great Day, of the coming of the Lord is drawing near. He is coming to unite us in eternal fellowship with Himself and His Father as well as with one another.
I plead with you now to seek a biblical church and be a member of it. Use all the means of grace provided for your good. If you are not baptized, then request for baptism.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Must the Christian keep the Law of God?

Jeremiah 31:31-34
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34 ESV)

Christians must absolutely keep the law, for they have been brought into a new covenant and the purpose is to take them to heaven where righteousness dwells. The problem with the old covenant was not the covenant itself for how can God give something that has a defect, being infinitely holy? The problem was that being external the Israelites broke it. 
So God here promises to make a covenant characterized with the following:
1)      He will put His law within them – it is His own work done in the believer, by His Spirit in regeneration and the continuing work of sanctification.
2)      He will write His law on their hearts – God will make the covenant efficacious and effective, causing, demanding and guaranteeing obedience.
3)      He will be their God and they shall be His people. This is a gracious relationship that depends on God’s own initiative.
4)      No longer shall each one teach his neighbor teach his brother saying, ‘know the Lord’ for all shall know God – from children to the old – it is in the conscience as Paul writes in Romans 1.
5)      He will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more – it is marked by forgiveness of sins, sin is dealt with by God gradually, through sanctification, until there is no more remaining sin at the time of glorification

The terms of the new covenant were still within the requirement of law keeping, for it must always be noted that the law and grace as revealed in Scripture are parts of one harmonious and progressive redemptive plan, conceived by a Holy God, and executed graciously to make us holy – for He chose us before the foundation of the world to make us holy and blameless before Him. The present dispensation is spoken of as the age of grace, not because grace belongs to it exclusively, but because in it grace has been fully manifested. When John declared that ‘…the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ’, (John 1:17) he was contrasting law and grace, not as two contrary and irreconcilable systems, but as two related parts of one system. Therefore, salvation through faith by grace is not opposed to the Christian’s obligation to keep God’s law. So the old and the new covenant differ not in substance but in the different ways of administration. In all the covenants after the Fall, there is the same Christ (looking forward to Him or He has already come), the same faith, the same recovery of sinners by God providing the means of the forgiveness of their sins. We therefore have to understand Hebrews 8:8,10 quoted from Jeremiah 31 as referring to the same covenant distinguished in the manner of administration.

Secondly, observe from Jeremiah 31 that our new covenant membership actually shows that we ought to keep the law.  Why else would God be interested in putting and writing His law in the hearts of the people in the new covenant? Moreover, why is it necessary to have an arrangement where everyone knows the Lord?
 It has been said that he who understands the two covenants is a theologian. The heart of every real Christian is most reverent towards the law of the Lord. So that like Paul we can say, "The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good." (Romans 7:12) And like Paul and David, a man that God said was after His heart said, —"I delight in the law of God in my inner being” (Rom. 7:22). C.f. Psalm 119:70, 92. You show your justification, which is by faith alone through your sanctification. But a sanctification that stops short of perfect conformity to the law of God cannot truthfully be called perfect sanctification, for any deficiency of exact conformity to the perfect law is sin. For sin is lawlessness. Do you think there is lawlessness among the angels in heaven? No, for then they would have been ejected from the presence of the infinitely holy God to absolute wickedness, perdition and its consequent misery just like the fallen angels. Clearly, when the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount said, 
For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.(Matthew 5:18)

He meant that the Law of God is perpetual to all eternity and that it will be accomplished or fulfilled and this, fulfillment certainly does not mean that it will be nullified, or abrogated for believers. There is no abolition of it, nor amendment of it. It is not to be toned down or adjusted to our fallen condition. However, every one of the Lord’s righteous judgments abides forever. The Lord gave three reasons for this –

(1)    Christ Himself came to fulfill it, not to abolish it – this is to say that the gospel that demands faith, is actually seeking to uphold the law. Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law (Romans 3:31). The gospel is the true means given by God to establish and vindicate the law for Jesus did not change the law, rather He explained it to the ones who were seeking to change it by externally and hypocritically keeping it. He emphasized its spiritual nature, that is, the Holy Spirit applies it in the heart. In this fulfilling the Law of God, the Lord Himself lived a life of perfect obedience. He said, “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.” (John 15:10), so that He ‘well pleased’ the Father. Shall we do anything less than our Master and Saviour? It is actually, because of Christ’s high regard for the law that He willingly gave His life to pay the penalty due to all lawbreakers, so that He satisfied the justice and its legal demands. Christ so highly regarded the law that He gave His own life and shed His blood to satisfy its demands for His people! If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. (John 15:10-11)

(2)    The nature of the law shows that it is perpetual. Surely right must always be right, truth must always be true, and purity must always be purity – it is ever unchanging in the eyes of the Eternal God who gave it, For Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever more (Hebrews 13:8). Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change (James 1:17). Before the Ten Commandments were published at Sinai there was still that same law of right and wrong laid upon us by the necessity of being God’s creatures. Right was always right before a single command had been committed to words. When Adam was in the garden it was always right that he should love his Maker, and it would always have been wrong that he should have been at cross-purposes with his God. It does not matter what happens in this world, or what changes take place in the universe, it never can be right to lie, or to commit adultery, or murder, or theft, or to worship an idol for God. To imagine that there will be hatred for God and idolatry and adultery in heaven, that there will be murder in glory, is to fail to comprehend the immeasurable holiness, purity and moral excellence of God. Clearly the law demands no more than is good for us and good continues to work out eternal good for His people. It is for both our immediate and eternal good that we do not get ourselves messed up in sin. It is never for a man’s good to do what God forbids him. It is never for man’s real and ultimate happiness to not do anything that God commands him. The wisest directions for spiritual health, and for the prevention of evil, are those directions that are given us concerning right and wrong in the law of God. What this means is that the law is for our good so that there is assurance of our own justification – for it is only a fool who can consider himself justified when living in sins! The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and righteous, and good." (Romans 7:12)

(3)    The law must be perpetual because if it is altered is most dangerous: By lowering the law you weaken its power in the hands of God as a convincer of sin. Most men will take care to adjust it so as to give themselves as much latitude as possible. By removing the law you have done away with sin, for sin is the transgression of the law, and where there is no law there is no transgression. When you have done away with sin you may as well have done away with the Saviour and with salvation, for they are by no means needful. When you have reduced sin to a minimum, what need is there of that great and glorious salvation which Jesus Christ has come to bring into the world? The problem is that people are not consistent in their seemingly logical arguments. If you opted to adjust and change the law of God so that you allow the minimum, then such obedience would only be according to your own standard and not that of God – such is not holiness and without holiness there is no heaven (Hebrews 12:14)