Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Be Prepared for the Abomination of Desolation




  Passage: Mark 13:14-23 
"But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter. For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.

In AD 70, Roman standards, bearing the images of Caesar, stood on the site of the ruined temple. Later, of course, after the revolt of AD 135, when the statue and temple of Zeus stood on the ruined site of the temple in Aelia Capitolina, as rebuilt Gentile Jerusalem was called, the horror was complete: for orthodox Jew, the ultimate desolation had come. The 70AD event of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem city, as a mark of the end of the old Judaistic religious order happened in the lifetime of most of the disciples who were listening to Jesus on this Tuesday morning.
It was God’s ultimate desertion of Israel as an ethnic people of God as their judgment and it is a miniature picture of the judgment of the world when Jesus returns. For this reason the language in this passage carries pregnant eschatological overtones. The concept of abomination of desolation is from Daniel 9:27; 11;31; 12:11 and there is an element of prophetic foreshortening. Because although these events may be an abomination of desolation, it points to the abomination of desolation of a persona anti-Christ, yet to be revealed before the second coming of Christ. It will be fully displayed at a point when Paul describes like this in 2Th 2:3-4
Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.
The judgement of Jerusalem and the desecration of the temple is clear evidence that the Lord is not tied to anything of His creation – even what He Himself has ordained anything for His use. He does not dwell on temples built by human hands.
However, I would like to warn you of some very common error of our day. Whenever we talk about the future end of the world, many people are too excited that they end up with many ideas about what shall happen and so miss the point of Jesus’ lesson in bringing this events to us. In our talk we must be very careful to keep close and very close to what the Lord Jesus Christ says in Scripture. We must not run away with wild imaginations. His main agenda in this passage is to tell us to be ready and prepared when this events come.

1.      Keep your focus and do not allow for any distraction (14-18)

Very swiftly, and urgently, the Lord in the passage before us gives not just a prophecy, but also the mind of God as to the future of Christendom for the preparedness of His disciples. Before His second advent, the Lord very clearly recounts the time of trouble, displacement, discomfort, anxiety and suffering for His people. Perilous and evil days are coming – be ready! This are the instructions our Sovereign omniscience God is giving so that we must be ready, prepared, and set to obey His matching orders.
The Lord expected the disciples to be on their guard or vigilant so that they will know what is supposed to be where at every given point so that they were to;
a)      Keep focus by being observant: “And but when you see…” Jesus expects His disciples to be vigilant and focussed on eternal things. Remember this is first of all dealing with what was to happen in Jerusalem in AD70. This would be in 40 years from the time of this warning. The Roman army would come, surround and destroy the city and the temple and kill many people. But the abomination here refers to the sacrilege to the temple. First, the Gentiles entering the temple is an abomination. Secondly, they offered pig and animal sacrifices in the temple as the Romans butchered the Jews. The Lord is telling them to be on the lookout for sacrilege leading to the desolation or destruction of the city and the temple, that had been sanctified for God’s holy use.
b)      Do not allow for any distraction: “…let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak...When you see the armies coming do not wait for another trumpet blast as an alarm. This is it – I have sounded it personally! Flee for your dear lives. Do not go back to pick an extra pair of clothes, or to pick money, or anything else, your life is more valuable! Run! Illustrate the aeroplane warning – in case of emergency fix your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else – even your child!
c)       Keep up with prayer: “And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that it may not happen in winter.” The Lord recognizes the special needs of some people, the women who are elsewhere regarded as the weaker vessel by Peter (1Peter 3:7). It is not biblical to have women join the army – never do we see the women recruited in the army in Scriptures! The Lord specifically says that pregnant and nursing women will particularly find this time unbearable because of both their personal needs and the priority of their lives. These events will distract them from their primary roles of being mothers – so pray for them that sufficient grace and strength will be supplied. Moreover, it will be more difficult for everyone to flee from Jerusalem if will be on winter when the roads are impassable and make their flights challenging.
1)      Our focus is ChristCol. 3:1-2: If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. Heb. 12:1-2.Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
We must put aside every weight, everything that comes our way to keep us from faithfully following our Lord must be put away. For faithful continuance in this, much vigilance is necessary. Much prayerfulness is expected. You need other believers to hold you up, by sharpening you as iron sharpens iron, community and fellowship is absolutely necessary to be able to keep up and to keep on. He is our hope and our trophy – He and He alone must we look up to and look out for.
2)      Whatever we have is not more important than what we are. The Lord says here that His disciples must leave whatever is in the house to flee for their lives. Do not think that your job, your property, even your family is more important than the salvation of your soul. Mark 8:35-37.For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? Mark 9:43-48.And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, 'where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.'
3)      We must employ means to be saved: The Lord in these verses informs and instructs us to use lawful means to provide for our own personal safety. We must never think that it is unworthy of Christians to flee or run away from danger. You are wise to take measures to avoid peril. You must not neglect the use of means such as medication. A believer must not suppose that God will take care of him, and provide for his wants, if he does not make use of means and common sense which God has given him, as well as other people. (J.C. Ryle) Certainly the Lord will help us in every time of need, but we must expect it in the diligent use of lawful means. So Paul told his fellow seamen - Acts 27:31 Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, "Unless these men stay in the ship, you cannot be saved."

2.     Know that God has special care for the elect (19-20)

At this point the Lord is not just describing the events that were to happen in the lifetime of His immediate hearers. There are a number of evidences to show this – what with a tribulation He describe as having been experienced before (v.19) and the Lord will cut short the days or shortened the days (v.20).
a)      Be prepared for the greatest tribulation: In those days there will be events of universal, even cosmic magnitude – the sun being darkened, the moon will not give its light. But even worse is the tribulations described as follows:
“…there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be…”
This speaks of the greatest tribulation in human history. It is incomparable from the beginning of time and for ever. Its extent and intensity are such that this is the one in all human history. This surely is the time when the earth and the heavens will be rolled up as a scroll. This is the time when the world will come to the end, to pave way for the new heavens and new earth.
b)      Be prepared for the Lord has made special provision for His people: Thank the Lord that the Lord has special means in place for the care of His people. This special care for His people, the elect is twice described to show the emphasis in the care of His people.
“…And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days…”
The Lord in caring for the elect will cut short the days and He has shortened them for the sake of the elect. The period is shortened to care for the elect. It is also necessary to notice that the false teachers are also as interested in the elect in order to draw them away (v.22). There is no question that the Lord has a people that He chose before the foundation of the world - even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, Ephesians 1:4-5.
Of these two verse, I cannot say better than the old saint of Chester:
Election, or choice, respects that lump or mass of mankind out of which some are chosen, from which they are separated and distinguished. Predestination has respect to the blessings they are designed for; particularly the adoption of children, it being the purpose of God that in due time we should become his adopted children, and so have a right to all the privileges and to the inheritance of children. We have here the date of this act of love: it was before the foundation of the world; not only before God's people had a being, but before the world had a beginning; for they were chosen in the counsel of God from all eternity. It magnifies these blessings to a high degree that they are the products of eternal counsel. The alms which you give to beggars at your doors proceed from a sudden resolve; but the provision which a parent makes for his children is the result of many thoughts, and is put into his last will and testament with a great deal of solemnity. And, as this magnifies divine love, so it secures the blessings to God's elect; for the purpose of God according to election shall stand. He acts in pursuance of his eternal purpose in bestowing spiritual blessings upon his people. He hath blessed us - according as he hath chosen us in him, in Christ the great head of the election, who is emphatically called God's elect, his chosen; and in the chosen Redeemer an eye of favour was cast upon them.[1]
To the saints belong the wonderful blessings of justification, sanctification, and glorification and form the universal body of Christ.
Please notice that this passage shows that God’s election in the eternity past upholds human responsibility. There is no enmity between the two for they are close friends! It is for their care that the Lord will make the days shorter. There are a lot of blessings that the Christians, by the virtue of being in the world, bring the world. It is because Lot was in Sodom that the Lord did not rain sulphur and brimstone immediately. And then the Lord said that if there were ten people there He would not destroy the city, but as it turned out, there were no ten people and so sent the retribution to the wicked city. This brethren, calls us to be faithful in the dissemination of the gospel as it is the means of the preservation of the world. Until the gospel has reached every nation, He is not going to come the second time. Matthew 24:14, And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.

3.     Do not believe everything you hear! (21-23)

Jesus warns us that false teachers will come. Some will say that Jesus has come back and persuade you to believe them. What are they going to employ to achieve their wicked end? The Lord leaves us well informed as to their tactics, for:
a)      They will use ordinary means of deception
“… And then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it.”
Very ordinary people - your neighbours, your relatives, your friends will tell you, anyone. The devil was able to use a serpent to deceive Adam and Eve. But now he now uses those who are very familiar to you so that you will be unsuspecting and so be deceived. He continues to repeat the old trickery, but employs different tools to do it.
Very ordinary arguments and reasoning – they say to you. Words that you know. “Look here is the Christ” ,or  “there he is.” Do not think that they will come speaking necessarily in the tongues of angels. They will come in very ordinary language and you will be unsuspecting if you are not vigilant. Do not believe it for they are employed by your adversary the devil. Please I beseech you by the mercies of God – do not be gullible like your mother Eve. Do not just stand there idly like our father Adam – do something. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Thank God that He has given us sufficient ability to successfully resist this wicked liar. Thank God that He can and will actually flee from you.
b)      They will use extra ordinary means of deception.
“…For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.”
It appears that two specific methods are employed by the extra-ordinary deceivers:
Claim big titles for themselves: The Lord here also warns His disciples against the extra-ordinary fellows who identify themselves as ‘christs’; ‘prophets’ and miracle workers. These people, the Lord says have an agenda to lead astray anyone, even the elect. These are deceivers and imposters, do not swallow their bit. Do not accept or believe their well-crafted stories – they have nothing good to give you.
Perform miracles, signs and wonders: The devil is the father of all lies and is capable of producing counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. It should be always understood that miracles are ambivalent and sometimes ambiguous. True signs, like those of Christ were signs pointing forward to the reality, namely Christ. The reality of the miracles of Jesus was two-fold: they pointed first of to the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, the Redeemer of His people and secondly they were redemptive, portraying the power and the willingness of the authentic Messiah to save from sins and its misery as well as to deal with all the enemies of God’s people. False signs on the other hand point you away from the reality. They cause you to believe a counterfeit instead of the genuine one. For this reason do not depend on them!
Jesus is telling the disciples here not to confuse the two events – the destruction of Jerusalem and His second coming, for such a blander could lead to them being led astray by false teachers.
There is a real danger before us. All Christians in view of the eternal blessedness that awaits us, must be ready, yet we must be prepared by being on the guard, vigilantly anticipating the second appearing of Christ. Evil forces are up in arm against us and we must resist them by being on the watch. When these terrible times come, our Lord wants us to be prepared and ready in Him and not be deceived. He would not want us to believe lies and falsehood. He wants us to trust Him and depend on Him, even though it is hard. He has warned us by telling us all things beforehand. Now we know and we have been well prepared.










[1] Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible, Complete and unbridged, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008 p.1847

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Centrality of Preaching in the Church of Christ



2 Timothy 4:1-2
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

Faithful preaching of the gospel is the method that God has given His church to dispense the riches of His grace to the world. The power and authority of the church is in preaching! Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit stated so unequivocally, that he was not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). He gave at least two important reasons:
(1)     in it the righteousness of God is revealed and
(2)     in it the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Romans 1:17).
For the same reasons, I write to exhort you to take back your pulpit to the centre of public worship because there is eternal good to be gained – the righteousness of God, but also to escape the wrath of God! Therefore, he was called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, and he was eager to preach the gospel to all (Romans 1:1,15). Preachers, you must not be ashamed of the gospel by turning to the man-centred ‘gospels’ like philosophy, or ear-tickling business; rather be eager to preach to all every time.
Human beings are busy suppressing the truth of God by their thoughts, words and actions. Introduce them to God by the message of the gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. When there is a failure by the church at this point, the only door of hope for sinners is shut. This is the backdrop upon which the passage before us is written. Therefore,
1.      Here is a the most serious charge to preach the Word (v. 1)
This is a most explicitly solemn and divine charge. You notice it is given before God the Father and in the presence of Christ the great and eternal Judge. God’s all-seeing eye is keen to see if His Word is being preached faithfully. All this accumulation of words here is meant to show the full intensity of this instruction. This is not something that we can ignore or forget. It must be remembered and obeyed by all at all costs for God will require an account.
This is a perpetual charge. Timothy, you and I are to bear in mind that this will be required by the Lord Jesus Christ, the Judge. For this reason, Paul mentions Christ’s second appearing and His kingdom. As long as we await this world changing event of the second coming of Christ, as long as we are part of the commonwealth of the kingdom of Christ, as long as Christ is our delight, we have both His mandate and a responsibility to sinners to make Him known. Paul charges that Jesus Christ will judge both the living and the dead. Why is Paul saying this? To make Timothy and us be sure that we will give an account before Christ on whether we sounded the gospel trumpet, as faithful watchmen. If we persist in this, we will save both ourselves and our hearers (1 Tim. 4:16).
2.      Here is a the most forthright charge to preach the Word
… preach the word…(v.2a) The Apostle does not mince the words given to Him by the Master, and in so doing sets an excellent example. He directs Timothy to preach. He is to declare and proclaim the message as one who has divine authority. The word preach here means is to be a ‘herald’, one who has been given both the message and the commission of the Sovereign King, to speak on His behalf, marching forth without delay with the unaltered message. In this charge authority, faithfulness and urgency are urged. These constitute what it means to be a herald. The work of a preacher of the gospel is not an indifferent thing; it is absolutely important and necessary. Woe be to him if he doesn’t preach the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:16). The redeemed church of Christ is urged to carry on with this immediate commission – preach the word!
The church is not charged to sing or dramatize the word, or to practice a social gospel. If this is what the Lord expects of us, He would have instructed us. While philanthropic activities have their place, they must not be the central business of the church. The church must, as of first importance, deliver the message of the gospel across the world first and foremost by preaching. It is possible to have singing, music and all the rest of them mistaken for entertainment. Don’t turn the gospel call into a lullaby to put the unbelieving world to sleep! The faithful preaching of the gospel cannot be mistaken by the world because it is the very equipment that the Holy Spirit uses to open the hearts and eyes of the spiritually dead sinners. Unless we use the sovereignly appointed tool of preaching the gospel, we have nothing to give that has eternal value.
History shows that there is a great need for every true church of Christ to deliberately make preaching the centre of worship. Students of history know of the effects of the Reformation and Puritan preaching in the 16th and 17th Centuries. The Great Awakening of 18th Century, humanly speaking, could be attributed to the preaching of George Whitfield, John Wesley and Jonathan Edwards and other faithful preachers. C. H. Spurgeon was such a preacher and God blessed his labours in London. The same is true of men like J.C. Ryle in Liverpool, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones in London.
If preaching is not highly valued, then churches greatly risk falling off the cliff. There are too many examples of churches that have made preaching secondary – please do not add to their number! In the Roman Catholic Church, the Lord’s Table was elevated too high that it became the apex of their worship, to a point that they confused the elements of the Eucharist with Christ! In most Kenyan churches music is the main thing (considering the amount of time allocated in their worship service, in practising, in the amount of financial investment on buying instruments or paying workers and in the number of music personnel). This is not meant to question the sincerity of worship leaders. Rather it is meant to bring a redress in this area. This ‘worship’ sooner rather than later becomes an entertainment muddle. When the Lord Jesus, through His apostle says, “Preach the word”, He is instructing us to put the pulpit in the very centre of church life and of worship. Nothing is more important!
3.      Here are the most clear instructions on how to preach the word
… be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching (v. 2b)
It concerns both ministers and the church to seriously consider the account that they must give shortly to the Lord Jesus Christ of the good news entrusted them. The church, by her ministers, is called to press upon this world all God’s message with all earnestness. Preach the whole Bible – Genesis to Revelation, verse by verse – precept upon precept, line upon line, until the whole counsel of God is given. Do not withhold anything profitable by either adding (and so obscuring the gospel) or subtracting (by preaching what you like). Yes, exegetical accuracy is absolutely necessary. Be sure you have the right hermeneutic tools before venturing up the pulpit. This is what it means to be faithful.
The call is to be ready in season and out of season for very specific actions of reproving, rebuking, and exhorting with all fervency of spirit. Specifically, the message is to call on their hearers to be aware of sin, to repent of it, and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope. The preachers are to do this with complete patience – do not demand immediate result always, patience is necessary with all. Paul demonstrates this when he says, “And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the faith-hearted, help the weak, be patient with them all (1 Thessalonians 5:14). Good preaching demands sermons that are well structured and vividly illustrated. Every sermon ought to reach every ear present and this requires pointed application. Complete teaching demands a well-balanced doctrinal diet or, in other words, every sermon must be saturated with doctrinal substance.
In and out of season means that it is to be given when welcome and even when unwelcome. There was no invitation letter from the Assyrian king inviting Jonah to preach in Nineveh, but there was the word from God. Usually sinners are not going to invite us to preach to them, although there are times when special events occur, e.g. deaths and weddings! When they come calling you for these events, milk these opportunities to the last drop.
Many are the times when we have to press the message upon them. We have to acknowledge that the world is too chained, blinded and stifled by devil’s deception to call out for help. It is for this reason that we should not sugar-coat the gospel with any worldly glaze. We must not make things comfortable for them; rather, our call is to preach pure and unadulterated Word of God. Moreover, let not any opportunity slip away. Do not shift off the duty, under pretence that it is out of season; it is a serious message that must not be delayed.
It is a direct message of “reproving, rebuking…” – tell people of their faults with gravity and authority, in Christ's name. “Exhorting…” – Convince wicked people of the evil and danger of their wicked courses. Endeavour in teaching, by speaking simply but profoundly; directly but wisely; urgently but patiently, in order to bring them to repentance. Do not leave them in ignorance; rather instruct them so that they may be made wise for salvation.

In conclusion, you have read the most serious, forthright and clear instructions on what is to be done in the church of Christ. If you are a pastor, labour in preaching, because your duty and business is to preach – “do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). If you are Christian, let the word of God dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom (Colossians 3:16). But if you find yourself in a church that is malnourished in God’s Word – leave it before you starve to death. Look for a church that is deliberate in the faithful and expository preaching of the God’s Word. Every true church of Christ must endeavour to have the pulpit at the centre – therein lies your authority and the power. The church is the beautiful bride of Christ when it is ‘bibline’ that is, speaking the language of the Groom as in His Word.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Nahum


Among the Minor Prophets is a relatively unknown book of Nahum. The book of Nahum is labelled as one of the “Minor Prophets.” This does not mean that their message is any less important than the messages of the prophets called the “Major Prophets.” That label simply means that their message is shorter. The Hebrew name “Nahum” means “comfort” or “consolation.” It is a shortened form of the name Nehemiah. The city of Capernaum is named after Nahum. The Jews call the city “Kepher-Nahum,” or “The City of Nahum.” It is a hard book to read because of the graphic war images. This book is a sequel to the book of Jonah. About 100 years earlier, Jonah was sent to the city of Nineveh, which was the capital city of the nation of Assyria. Jonah entered their city preaching the certain message of impending judgment. When the Ninevites heard the message of Jonah, they repented of their sins and the Lord spared the city. At the time of this message a century has passed and they have turned away from the commitment they made to the Lord. But this book is written for the comfort of Judah while Jonah was a message to the Ninevites.

The theme of the prophecy is the fate and destruction of Nineveh, the one-time capital city of the mighty Assyrian empire, which had destroyed Israel and taken many inhabitants of the land captive (722 B.C.). By the time the book of Nahum was written, the Assyrian Empire was at the height of its military and national power. They were on the march, seeking to expand the boundaries of their kingdom. In fact at this time they had gone all the way to Egypt and had only left the ‘village over the hills’ (Jerusalem). Beyond that, the Assyrians were guilty of attacking the nation of Israel. God used them to punish Israel for their sins, but God would also punish Assyria for their disobedience and their hatred of the people of God.
The message was proclaimed to Judah (Nahum 1:15) and not to the 10 tribes of Israel who were already in captivity. Nahum’s announcement was a “comfort” and a “consolation” to the inhabitants of Judah, as it predicted the downfall of Assyria, a savage and cruel enemy of Israel and Judah.

Nahum’s message is one of judgment. It is a book of harsh pronouncements of doom against a people who had abandoned the ways of God. In v.1, Nahum refers to his message as a “burden.” This word means “heavy.” His message is a heavy message because it is a message of doom, gloom and judgment. Nahum’s prophecies were fulfilled when God allowed the Assyrians to be conquered by the Babylonians in 612 BC. 
While Nahum’s message is one of judgment and wrath, there is one bright spot – v. 7. In the midst of all the words of wrath, anger and doom, this verse stands like a shining beacon of hope on a dark and stormy night. I want to unpack the whole book from this verse today. I want to borrow the words of Nahum where he says, “The Lord is good,” for my title. I want to show you some reasons that I see in this verse that teach us that The Lord Is Good.
Nahum reminds the embattled people of God that God is “a stronghold in the day of trouble.” (1:7) the word “stronghold” means, “a place of safety, protection and refuge; a safe harbour in the storm.” Sooner or later, we will all need to stronghold. Trouble will come to us all eventually. (Job 5:7; Job 14:1) the word “trouble” refers to, “distress, straights, or trouble.” It speaks of those times when life closes in around us, and the pressures of life come against us. In those times, the people of God have a refuge. But for believers, we have a place to which we can flee in the day of trouble. A place we are secure from all the hurts and horrors of life, yes… a place of safety for the people of God is in His Son. For we read,
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. Heb. 2:16-18.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sanctification and Belief in the Truth


But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. 2Th 2:13-17.

It is the will of God, our sanctification. Therefore, we must preach to our hearers that they must become more like Christ in order to establish them in the faith, and to a holy living. This is what the Apostle did when he wrote to the Thessalonians who were swamped by the false teaching of their day. They were losing the stability and strength and calmness that Christians should have. There was this false teaching that was literally ‘shaking their minds’! They were also being ‘disturbed’ or ‘troubled’ or ‘alarmed’. What was so alarming to the Thessalonian believers as to cause them lose stability? It was that some people were purporting to speak a word from the Holy Spirit, and they were backing this up by ‘confirming it with an apostolic word’ supposedly from Paul! But Paul rejects all this and he told these Christians that they are being deceived (vv.1-3). This method is still with us today and so you should endeavour to preach to your hearers how they may become more like Christ.
Here are professing believers, instead of consistently growing in the knowledge and grace of God, they were falling prey to the heretical eschatology. They had heard from false teachers of their day that the day of the Lord had come, and they accepted and believed! As their faith was being overthrown, they were changing away from the image of Christ further and further. It means that stability in faith is an indication of growth in grace and so conformation to Christ. What are the things from this passage that Paul presents that would bring stability? I would like to show you in in the text before us that, sanctification of the Spirit is conjoined with belief of the truth to produce Christlikeness.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Why Baptism?


Although baptism does not in and of itself save, we are commanded by the Lord to do it to show the new life of obedience to His lordship. He commissioned His disciples to make disciples of nations by baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). This means there is a new relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as one becomes a beneficiary of God the Father’s eternal love in His election, a partaker of the grace of Christ in His life, death and resurrection and enjoys the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who applies and secures a believer by sealing him to eternity, delivering him home in glory.
We must obey this vital command from our loving Saviour and Lord because it is a means of grace that the Lord uses to assure us of our new relationship we enjoy with Him and His people – the church. As we stand before the church and declare of our faith in Christ and the repentance of our sins, we are telling of the excellences of Him who delivered us from the domain of darkness into His marvellous light.
Baptism is an ordinance of Christ in the New Testament to be a sign to the one being baptized of the fellowship with Christ, in His death and resurrection. It marks the reality of being ingrafted into Christ and His body the church – this is why baptism is the initiation and the mark of entrance into a formal membership of a local church. It is also an emblem of the forgiveness  of sins as the water wash the person. It therefore the mark of a new life in Christ.
Baptism is a picture of what has happened in the inside. This is the way Paul describes it in Romans 6:3-5
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
And again in Colossians 2:12,
…having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
When we are baptized in water (water is the outward element to be used), the person is submerged or dipped (this is what the word baptism means – to completely dip or immerse or cover or submerge. It never means to sprinkle or to touch with wet hands or wet cloth). In this simple but profound act, we portray what happened to Christ in His death and resurrection. Remember that the word baptize is not really an English Word – it is a Greek word that has been transliterated. The method of sprinkling was a shortcut that became too convenient to people and so popular but unbiblical as it short-circuits the picture! Why did John the Baptist go to river Jordan only to sprinkle? Why did the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8 say that ‘here is a pool of water’ – why didn’t he use the drinking water he must have carried? Because it is baptism not sprinkling. This is why the passage above is ‘…buried with him by baptism!’ Christ was completely buried in death and in the same way one is buried completely in water. Then there is being raised from the water just as He was raised from the dead!
Dipping or immersion of the person in water is therefore necessary to the due administration of this ordinance. Consider how the Lord Himself was baptized in Matthew 3:16,
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

And the fact the baptism of John was in a place with plenty water, see John 3:23
John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized

Baptism  is a means of grace as the assurance of our faith is strengthened. When this happens our belief is firmed up and solidified so that we are made to recognise the inward reality and so testify to others of His saving love and mercy which one has become a beneficiary. Means of grace is what the Lord uses to help a believer grow in faith so that there is spiritual growth in knowledge and grace.

When is baptism administered?
Baptism is for believers. Those who do actually profess repentance towards God, faith in, and obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ, are the only proper candidates for this important ordinance. This is why we read first the words of the Lord in Mark 16:16
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
And again the inspired words of His Apostles in Act 8:36-38
And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, "See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?"
And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.


 Because baptism in and of itself does not save, rather it is to depict the inward reality, it means that the reality must exist before the shadow. Baptism is a sign of salvation – salvation must exist before the sign. Would you imagine if you put up a sign to say that there is a petrol station ahead but there is none? It would be misleading and could bring such trouble to the motorists as they run out of fuel! When the right baptism is done before there is true salvation, it is as good as getting wet! And so if one was to be baptised when not truly saved, if by God’s grace he came to salvation, then he should be baptised truly. I know many who made wet when they were babies, (I also was), but had to be baptized! Otherwise would live lie or in disobedience of the Lord.
                             


Thursday, May 7, 2015

The Garissa Massacre



The memory of those awful events continues to haunt us and we begin by expressing our heartfelt sympathies with surviving witnesses of the atrocity and with bereaved relatives.  Jesus Himself wept outside the tomb of his friend Lazarus and onlookers saw how much he loved him.  May God grant that comfort in Christ that is so sorely needed.

It is not our purpose to start thinking about how the terrorists were able to get away with such wickedness on a human level.  We certainly see the depth of sin as such things are planned in detail, and we see the impotence of even the best government to prevent it.  There are far deeper questions.  Where was God?  Was He unable to prevent it?  If He was not unable then why did He let it happen?  Can there be any good purpose in such a thing? 

We are so affected by what happened because it has come home to so powerfully.  It happened on Kenyan soil, it specifically targeted non-Muslims, and there were mobile phone conversations as it happened.  Yet, sad to say, history is littered with such massacres.  Boko Haram has been slaughtering thousands in northern Nigeria.  Little more than 20 years ago 800 thousand are reckoned to have been killed in Rwanda.  During WWII 6 million Jews suffered in what is known as the Holocaust.  2015 marks the centenary of what many call the Armenian genocide when around 1 million or more perished.

Let us not pretend we have all the answers.  The mysteries of why such things happen go right back to the very start when Adam and Eve fell, and the whole human race with them.  God made a creation that He described as “very good”.  Why did sin come in to spoil it?  And the evil consequences remain with us today!  Was God just an observer, unable to control creatures He had made, Satan, and the first couple?  You do not get rid of the problem by declaring that God gave them ‘free-will’.  At the very least surely God knew what they were going to do, for He is omniscient.  He could have prevented the serpent from getting near Eve, or made it unable to speak, or used another animal to speak opposite words; in fact He left Eve completely to herself. 

No, we must rather confess 3 things: God has all power (omnipotent), and all knowledge (omniscient), and His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), and past finding out (Romans 11:33).  God has purposes of judgment as well as blessing, of warning as well as comforting, purposes for the future as well as for the present, for others as well as for myself, for His own glory as well as for our good.  Read the Bible and see how God perfectly weaves together all events, both good and evil, to fulfil His gracious plans that finally brought His Son our Lord Jesus Christ into the centre stage of world history.  You do not have to understand how the weaver so expertly manages his loom in order to appreciate the finished product!

Even if we do not have all the answers, there are some very important things we must say about which we have no doubt.
(1) God is just, despite what has happened.  “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25), proclaimed Abraham when God revealed to him that He was about to destroy Sodom.  Measured on the time line of eternity, and weighed in the balances of God’s law, God never acts unjustly in punishment, although He acts mercifully times without number.
(2) Sinners deserve eternal hell, whether those carrying out atrocities, or those on the receiving end.  Sin is nothing less than rebellion against God.  David confessed his adultery as “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight,…” (Psalm 51:5).  Adam was threatened with death (Genesis 2:17); Ezekiel reiterated that “the soul who sins shall die” (18:4); the New Testament teaches “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23); and the last book of the Bible tells us of “the second death, the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14).  It is this death as hell, as separation from God, that our Saviour had to undergo on the cross, as He cried out of the darkness, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).  Anything we experience less than this is less than we deserve.
(3) The response must be repentance.  Jesus was told of a massacre and this was His warning.  “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.  And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-3).  We must stop asking the question ‘Why?’ because we do not have all the answers.  We must not suppose that such an awful death is a punishment for specific sin, because Christ denies it.  We must stop just focussing on what happened, or those who were involved.  Jesus says that we must start to think about ourselves and our readiness to face the judgment when we are summoned sooner or later from this world.  Someone might say that this is not very kind, that much more comforting words need to be given.  But apart from the fact that would be to impugn Christ Himself, consider that such a warning is great kindness.  If during the post-election violence you were warned not to go to a certain place because of trouble there would you not have been profoundly grateful.  The Lord Jesus, who infallibly knows all things present and future, had graciously warned you.
(4) The Christian has great hope.  Thank God that all those who die in Christ, have the assurance of eternal life (John 10:28).  Death is but a short sleep for them, when they are absent from the body but present with the Lord.  The terrorist’s bullet may kill their body but it cannot kill their soul.  For this reason Christ told us to love our enemies and not to fear them.  Christianity is the only religion that gives this assurance of resurrection, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23).



Monday, May 4, 2015

What is salvation?

Every human being, by the virtue of being born of Adam is born in a state of sin and so commits sin that comes from the heart (Mark 7:21-22) and this goes to the mind and to the rest of the parts of the body – see Romans 3:9-19:
What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." "Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips." "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness." "Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known." "There is no fear of God before their eyes." Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.

Therefore, every person in the whole world is a sinner by nature. The sinful heart, thoughts, desires, appetites and actions are symptoms of this sinful nature. Yes, you sin because you are a sinner! This state of sin is described in the Bible as being dead in sin and trespasses. See, Ephesians 2:1-3:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
                                       
While all human being are not sinful in the same way or to the same extent, everyone is not only sinful from the heart, but also utterly unable to do any spiritual good that would get him out this state of sin and misery. After all, what can a dead, cold spiritual corpse do for itself? Nothing! Therefore, God declares in His Word, no one is righteous, no not one. No one does good! But remember that the law of God declares that the wages of sins is death (Rom. 6:23) and that the soul that sins shall die (Ezekiel 18:20)
This means that for a sinner to be saved, an external help has to come from one who is both willing and able to given eternal salvation. This is the point of the good news – that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Yes, God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). When the angels announced the birth of Jesus to Mary, they said that He was to be called ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus came to the world to deal with sins. He came not to call the righteous but the sinners.
How does Jesus save? In two ways –
·         His life on earth: By his perfect and sinless life on earth the Lord Jesus obeyed perfectly all the law of God and by so doing He achieved all the necessary righteousness for His people. The righteousness of Christ was acceptable to God the Father and so God said that He was “Well pleased with His son” during his baptism and at his transfiguration.
·         By His death and resurrection: Christ’s death paid the penalty of death that was due all sinners. The indication that the price of the death of Christ was sufficient was that Christ said “It is finished!” when He was on the cross on the verge of death. Furthermore, God raised Him from death. The resurrection of Christ meant that the sacrifice was acceptable and the new life is given.
For you to be a beneficiary of this vicarious Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, you have to:
·         Experience the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: You have to be born again/above. This means that for an unsaved person (who is dead in sin) to be saved, the Holy Spirit must come in his life and give new life so that the person so that he can respond to the good news. This is what Christ told Nicodemus – you must be born again for you to see or enter the kingdom of God. This was not something that Nicodemus could do. There is nothing a baby does to be born, in the same way new birth is absolutely and only the work do the Holy Spirit. The Lord said that just like you do not know from where the wind blows and where it is going so it is the sovereign work of the Spirit in conversion.
·         Have faith in Christ: Stop trusting in yourself and trust wholly, fully and truly on Christ. But how do you know that you have such a faith in Him? You turn to Christ in faith and repent all your sins to Him and plead for His pardoning mercy and saving grace.  Faith and repentance are the first signs of spiritual life, just like a new born baby sneezes and cries for the mother and the midwife to know it is not stillbirth. Once the Holy Spirit comes in a person, the person believes in Christ and repents of the sins. This is why the work of a preacher is to command and demand faith and repentance, nothing more and nothing less.
One great example of a person who repented is the tax collector in Luke 18:13 who cried, “Be merciful to me, the sinner!” and then he went to his house justified or Paul who said in 1 Timothy 1:12-16,
I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because … though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.   

Like Paul if you were to believe in Christ today, you would obtain His mercy and so have eternal life, secured by Christ’s eternal love. Tell the Lord Jesus Christ the sinful life you have lived and ask Him for forgiveness. Thankfully, He has promised that whoever comes to Him, He will by no means cast out (John 6:37). In fact He calls out, “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28) Thank God, for Jesus is willing to save. And behold – He is able to save. God has said in His word that Jesus is able to save to the uttermost all those who draw near to God by faith through Him (Hebrews 7:25). You will be wise to believe Him now and repent of your sins and obtain this wonderful, eternal salvation.