Wednesday, 16 October 2019
This question was asked when Jesus said that it would be difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. One of the rulers He talked with has just walked away sad because He asked him to let go of all his riches, sell them and give to the poor. The man considered his possessions more precious than obeying the instructions of Jesus. He missed a life changing opportunity.
My focus today is not to attempt to answer the question the disciples asked but to address the mindset and assumptions that produce such a question.
Firstly, the question assumes that the rich enjoys special favors from God and a man who has wealth is held at high esteem before Him. Even if the poor does not get an answer from God, when the rich asks, God will quickly answer because he is rich in wealth, they thought. Hence what Jesus said stunned them and they asked, if the rich is not saved, who then can be saved?
Secondly, this question assumes that God looks at the rich the same way man looks at him. It assumes that our values are the same with God’s - He places value on the things we place value upon. Here we value people based on our perception of their wealth size. Special attention is paid on people based on what we perceive them to worth in terms of wealth. Jesus’ assertion was against this assumption; therefore, the question, “who then can be saved”
Thirdly, the question assumes that God knows, recognizes and regards people based on their riches. Here we honor people and respect their views based on our perception of their wealth level. Oftentimes, even when their views have logical flaws, they are managed and their flaws ignored because their wealth is important to us. In some cultures, people are given chieftaincy titles only because they are perceived to have more wealth than others. They are made rulers and given positions of authority. Those that heard Jesus were astonished to see Him ask the rich man to sell everything he had, give them to the poor, and then come and follow Him. The man walked away sad and Jesus did not bother to pursue after and call him back, instead He commented as He watched him walk away “how hard is it for the rich to enter the kingdom of God”. His commentary shocked their assumptions and they asked “who then can be saved?”
Finally, the question assumes that salvation is easier for the rich than for the poor. In fact, the rich enjoys God’s salvation while the poor that suffers has problems with God, they thought. Just for illustration, if you are in a meeting and disaster happens, you notice that attempts will be made first to rescue those in authority and people of wealth before others, displaying the supposition that their salvation is more important than the salvation of every other person involved in the tragedy. That is who we are in this world. That is the life we live based on these assumptions. The audience of Jesus was astounded to hear Him alluding to the possibility of the rich not making the Kingdom of God and they asked “who then can be saved?”
God gives us the power to make wealth and our wealth increases our power to create options. As God increases us and expands our capacity to create options, may we not create options or alternatives to Him or become gods ourselves. Instead may we keep our hearts humble and remain poor in spirit and in awe of Him knowing that no matter how powerful, rich and untouchable we may become before men, with God alone belongs all possibilities including doing to and with us that which no man is able to do. The reply of the Lord Jesus is instructive here, “what is impossible with men is possible with God” Luke 18 vs 27.
What are our assumptions when we choose our preferences? Even in the church, what are the assumptions that drive the things we do? It is clear that behind our questions, attitudes and actions are the assumptions we have made. Wrong assumptions will lead to wrong living. May we ensure that our assumptions do not run against the mind of Christ. This is because His ways are not our ways. God bless you.
Thursday, 17 July 2014
Occasionally church leaders email me, asking for my opinion on various personal or church problems. This spring, I received a note from a church leader in another city. The location isn’t important, because the situation he outlined is common across the nation.
He wrote of how a number of members ages 25 to 35 had reached the conclusion that premarital sex is “OK.” Some even play on the praise team, teach in the children’s program, or film videos for weekly announcements.
“The problem is that some of them will tell me that they cannot find anything in scripture that says that what they are doing, having sex with someone, is wrong,” he said. “I have taught on the subject, but they do not see a direct statement against premarital sex.”
Dealing with sin.
Should it allow them to continue leading ministries or bring them before the congregation and—as the Bible says—have nothing to do with them in hopes it will help them see their sin and return to Christ?
“I know that Satan wants to get in and cause problems in the church, but I also know the need to accept them and love them,” he concluded. “But we also have to deal with sin, or Satan wins.”
In my response, I pointed out that the Bible repeatedly instructs God’s people to “flee fornication.” For 2,000 years, the word translated “fornication” in Scripture has been understood to include the prohibition of sex prior to marriage. Webster’s dictionary definition is clear: “consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other.”
A privileged experience.
God designed the physical union of a man and a woman as a privileged experience within the bounds of marriage. The Lord intended marriage as a secure environment for raising children and a uniquely meaningful union that symbolizes God’s committed relationship to us (Ephesians 5:32).
If there was nothing wrong with premarital sex, then why was Joseph determined to divorce Mary when he discovered she was expecting a child prior to marriage?
If there is nothing wrong with premarital sex, then one could conclude there is nothing wrong with having children out of wedlock.
Read the full write up here.
Every Church leader needs to take a decision and stand on premarital sex and be ready to encourage the up coming generation to live a holy life. We have to show them by our exemplary lives that it is possible to obey the Lord. Church discipline must be practiced in cases of flagrant known sins, especially where it involves leaders. Except we do this, the next generation may come to the point whereby sex before marriage will be accepted as a way of life for Church members.
Wednesday, 2 July 2014
The burden of knowledge
I had wanted to title this piece “The perils of knowledge”. But because I do not want many to misunderstand the title at first glance, taken out of context, I have decided to title it “The burden of knowledge”. I strongly encourage people to pursue God and strive to know Him personally. However, when God begins to open Himself to us and starts to give us the revelation of His ways, we have to be careful the way we deal with the “ignorant” men around us who presumably do not know what we know. If we are not aware of the burden we have to bear because of what we now know, we can destroy those around us and even destroy ourselves. 1 Cor. 8:11 says that our knowledge can destroy a weak brother if we are not careful.
We are all familiar with the passage, “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” Hos.4:6, however, not many are aware of this other side of knowledge, that it can hinder you; can limit you and puff you up and even kill you. The Bible says that “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor.8:1) and makes you feel important and can set you up in a position where God Himself will work to resist you. Doesn’t that catch your attention? It indeed catches mine.
This is why I am sharing these 5 burdens of knowledge:
1. Exercise of knowledge must have some controls. Knowledge lifts you from where you are to a different mental estate. Knowledge expands your understanding and capacity to reason. Knowledge makes you different. What you know can make you think differently, analyze issues differently, respond to situations differently and even live differently. In fact knowledge can change you.
Having said that, it is important to note that even though the knowledge you just gained has changed you, your environment and the people around you have not changed with you. Why? It is simple; they do not know what you know. It will take you time to let them know what you know, let them understand what you mean, and bring them to the level where you are, precept upon precept, line upon line, a little here, a little there until they come to the same plane where you are. Hence, in manifesting your knowledge, you must control yourself depending on the gap between you and your environment and also depending on the gap between you and the people around you. Control does not mean that you compromise your core or the content of what you know, it all means that you exercise patience and wisdom in manifesting your knowledge and the revelation of God that you have. Even in the Scriptures, God’s dealing with us is in progressive revelation. We can deal with our fellow humans the way God deals with us. Knowledge on its own is not tangible. What people can touch is how you go about your knowledge; the things you do with what you know and how you manifest what you know. For knowledge to be profitable, we must add self-control to it. 2 Pet.1:6.
2. Knowledge needs to be balanced with other attributes, virtues and character in order to positively impart others around us. My emphasis is not on the earthly knowledge and wisdom which sometimes we may have to completely set aside if we must operate in faith; what I mean here is the spiritual knowledge which makes us claim to have known the Lord better than others. I mean the knowledge that changes the way people look at us and makes them to hold us at a high esteem spiritually. This knowledge must be balanced with other areas of our lives. The level of spiritual knowledge we claim we possess must produce virtue and godly character. If it does not produce righteousness, then there is a question mark on your spiritual knowledge regardless of what you say. It amazes me when men claim spiritual knowledge and still remain naughty, rebellious and immoral. These things do not add up.
3. Increase in knowledge must go with increase in humility if it is going to produce spiritual results. One of the reasons why knowledge can become a snare is that it can raise your shoulders up and make you become a Pharisee. The Pharisees are critics who do not offer alternative solutions. They do not believe that God can also use somebody else apart from themselves. They run others down and despise their level of knowledge but expect the same people to recognize and respect their own knowledge and insight. I do not want to be distracted here into discussing the Pharisees, but suffice it to say that the Pharisees burden others with their knowledge and keep them perpetually dependents and ignorant. No effort is made to liberate others from ignorance.
Spiritual knowledge must be dispensed with great humility if we expect it to change men. We encounter oppositions and the ego of men because the people feel our pride and “holier than thou” attitude as we share what we know. They hear our counsels and revelation but feel our pride and ego. They hear our words but see our high handedness. We must apply the things we learn from our Bible Studies with great humility especially when others are involved. You know, it is easier to pride ourselves around with claims of knowledge and demand respect and recognition than to humble ourselves and look for the best ways to impart the lives of others with what we know. For me, the content of the message is as important as the vehicle or means through which the message is delivered and the way it is delivered.
4. Responsibility must increase with Knowledge. We have seen it play out in relationships and in our attitudes and response to issues. For example, it is the person who knows that he has to pursue peace by all means possible that will humble himself, deny himself, and even often give up his right for the sake of peace. What he knows makes him to be the first to initiate peace moves in spite of his personal ego and the insensitivity of the other person involved. He accepts to be defrauded if it will bring peace because of his knowledge. Why? This is because that is the dictate of the Scriptures that he knows. It is the person that knows that bears the responsibility in making sure that the situation they are in produces spiritual result. Not the ignorant, even though at the end of the day, his ignorance does exonerate him before God.
The Scriptures you know places demand upon you to obey them and be different even when people around you think otherwise. This is one of the reasons the devil does not want God’s people to study the Bible. He lures them away from their Bibles with all kinds of human philosophies and empty fables. The reason is simple, when you know and do not obey, guilt can easily be stirred up in you quicker than somebody who is completely ignorant and does not care. Hence repentance is possible where there is knowledge.
Having said that, my challenge is that I see men that claim that they know, but at the same time they live in a blatant disregard to their claim and yet bear no guilt about it. This indeed is a paradox.
5. Knowledge raises expectations. When we claim that we know, we raise people’s expectations from us. It is not only that God looks upon us, depending on His investment in us, men around us also expect to see what we claim we know in our own personal lives. The tragedy of our time is that we have a generation that claim they know God and His word but fight anybody who places a demand upon their lives because of what they claim they know. At best they explain it away. For me, it is a high level of irresponsibility to make a claim and refuse people placing a demand upon such a claim. If we claim we know, we must bear the burden of that knowledge. Knowledge must bear responsibility.
We must pay attention to these issues because God has called us to impart lives and to equip them for Him. This must be our focus in all that we do in the Body of Christ.
At the end of the day, knowledge shall pass away. What shall remain as substance is how we treated and made allowance for other brethren; how we esteemed others above ourselves; how we humbled ourselves for Christ to be exalted; how we showed love to others, especially those who cannot pay us back. Love is what builds the body. 1 Cor. 8:1.
God bless you!
Wednesday, 12 June 2013
Irreverence and our warped view of God.
Oftentimes, we forget from where God picked us up. There are sinners today who will become saints tomorrow, whether we like it or not. All these details are things hidden from us as humans but because we want to have our way by all means, we throw prayers to the god we can control to do our bidding.
It is not only in our prayers that our irreverence shows, it also shows in our preaching. Many of us no longer lead people to faith in Christ; we lead them to faith in ourselves. We no longer point men to Christ, we point them to ourselves. When we speak, we do not speak as servants and oracles of God, we speak as gods. We no longer lead men to worship God, we lead them to worship us and other men. We make all kinds of claims and erroneously quote Scriptures out of context to buttress what we are saying. However, when we do all these, it only shows our level of irreverence.
It equally shows in our lifestyles. We just roll with the worldly tide and live lives that have no checks and balances and still think that it does not matter. We live as though we are the ones that will be on the judgment seat on the last day and not God. We behave as if we are the ones that set God’s judgment standard. We do whatever we want to do with all liberty, without any recourse to God and His word and do not care. People cheat others and exploit only to bring their tithes to church with the mindset that they are doing God good – He needs money so they give Him the money He needs. We dupe people in business, lose all integrity and it does not bother us. In our families, work and business places, we hurt people and do not have good testimonies before people and we seem to wear the seal, “whether you like it or not, I’m born again”. Our attitude is as if there is no day of reckoning.
The truth is that we create the image of the kind of god we want to serve and worship, and set out with the kind of lifestyle we expect him to accept. We pray to him the way we want and tell him what we want – a god that has no reverence. We indeed preach about the god we have created and we rightly live as those who dictate to him what happens. The truth also is that this god we created in our minds and psyche must be an idol and not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. So, are you serving the God of Israel or are you serving an idol you have created?
If you want to serve the Living God, let His fear show in all you do; “as he said through his holy prophets of long ago,…to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.” Luke 1:70-75 NIV. Serve Him all your day. God bless.
Irreverence and our warped view of God.
Over emphasizing an attribute of God at the expense of His other attributes does not make God better. The bible never uses a comparative word on God’s attributes. They are absolute and definite. For example, singing about God’s goodness and confessing that He is love cannot make God good or better. It cannot make God to love more. He is good and He is love essentially. We cannot add anything to God neither can we subtract from who He is. When we make confessions and sing certain songs, we help and edify ourselves and not God, no matter what we do. He rejoices in our fellowship not because He has a need; not because we have made the fellowship meeting sweet or decorated the place to look nice but solely because He has chosen to dwell in the praises of His people. Fellowship is very important to God. The gathering of His people is a special convocation. This is because it is in such a fellowship that God dwells.
Having said that, it is good for us to note that there is nothing we do in this life that is doing God a favour. Many of us live as if we and God are in a game of chess. Doing what we ought to do is seen as if we are only being kind to Him, as if without us He cannot be God. We live and talk as if God is God only at our mercy; as if we and God come with our bargaining chips and trade on what happens in our lives and the lives of others; that is, God places His cards on the table while we come with our own too. In fact, we even behave as the side that has the upper hand. God must bow to our pressure and do what we want Him to do for Him to remain God.
It shows in our prayers. Do we really pray? What is prayer? When we pray to God, what do we tell Him? Do we speak like children in the presence of their Father and King or do we speak like kings on our thrones who demands God to do whatever we want Him to do? Do we show reverence in our hearts, bringing our helplessness, hopelessness, limitations, needs, challenges, uncertainties, fallibility and incompleteness to Him who is enough for us and without whom we are nothing? What is prayer and how do we pray? Do we just come and throw words at Him, exercise ourselves and sweat and come out with the feeling that we have prayed? Is that really prayer? A brother once was coordinating a prayer session and asked the people to repeat after him, “my father, my fire…”. I later asked him, “why are you saying ‘my father my fire’? Where did you learn that from? What do you really mean?” He couldn’t proffer any answer. I discovered that because he shouts and encourages the people to shout in their prayers under an emotionally charged atmosphere, he feels good and satisfied that he has led a very hot prayer session. We feel good but do not care how God feels. What we easily forget is that our declarations in prayers are never towards God but towards Satan and his cohorts, our lives, circumstances.
You know, the environment many of us come from is still affecting us. We view God the same way a native doctor views his god, because of our idolatrous backgrounds. A native doctor can use his god or ask him to do good or to do bad depending on his mood and what he wants. Oftentimes, that is our approach to God when we come to the place of prayer. We have a God we use and not a God we fear and worship. We have a God we send on errands, who serves our interests and not a God we serve and who is sovereign. We come to Him with our shoulders raised high instead of bowing in humility.
He has promised to answer our prayers not at the expense of anything. He answers our prayers because He has promised to do so and delights in our fellowship. We cannot even explain that but He has chosen to relate to us that way because He loves us. There are no specific words that impress God. There are no holy places anymore, where you must go or face for Him to answer. There are no postures that give you an express ticket to His presence. That is why it is not in our eloquence or crafty use of words that make Him answer. I have seen God answer prayers even though the person praying used bad English. Our motives, intentions, hidden agendas and life follow our prayers, hence God looks beyond our good and nice and correct English words.
Now, are we really praying when we ask God to kill people? This high hand with which some of us come to God only shows our pride, ego, bitterness and unforgiveness. We curse in prayer and send out arrows to harm people in prayers and still think that we are fellowshipping with God. We see ourselves as very special to the extent that we can use God to achieve whatever we want to achieve. We think that we can move God to show one of His attributes over the others just because of us. Unfortunately for us, that is impossible. It is having an incorrect view of God. For example, God cannot, because of His children, be unjust to the unbelievers. Furthermore, some people we see today as unbelievers are tomorrow’s saints...