Dashed Hopes In Christ

Hopelessness

But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (Luke 24:21a).

These words were spoken by the men taking a journey to Emmaus whom Jesus approached and started asking questions of. Apparantly, they were discussing the events that had happened; i.e. Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection. Jesus joined them and asked a question. Scripture says somehow, they couldn’t recognise him:

That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus , about seven miles from Jerusalem, and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them . But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” (Luke 24:13-17a).

The first response to that question Scripture tells us was sadness: “And they stood still, looking sad” (Luke 24:17b). These words are not encouraging since it showed a sense of disappointment. Now what better explains all of this is that these were people with misplaced hopes of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They had defined Christ’s ministry according to their most immediate felt needs. During Jesus’ lifetime on earth, the Jewish nation was under Roman rule and hence the Messiah, in their understanding was going to deliver them from that rule. Another of such misplaced hopes is seen in Acts 1:6 before Christ’s ascension: “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” the disciples asked.

You see, one thing is clear here. Their agenda differed from God’s. While they looked to the restoration of Israel from Roman rule; God’s agenda was on a global scale gathering a “great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Rev 7:9). Many people in the same sense come to Christ with wrong hopes. Some come with the hope of an improved life, better life prospects, looking for a spouse, seeking healing for a disease etc. In the gospels, we see a group of people who sought Christ for the wrong reasons. And Christ rejected them:

Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. But Jesus f on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man (John 2:23-25).

Clearly, these people didn’t have a true heart in seeking after Christ. And Christ knowing what is in man (speaking of his divinity) rejected them. Now it is one thing to come genuinely to Christ for salvation and another thing to come with our expectations rather than his will. In such situations, you are likely to have your hopes dashed and blame Jesus or say Christianity doesn’t offer what it promises. No, in actual fact, Christianity doesn’t promise some of the things people hold so dearly like prosperity and a good health.

So we are not disappointed in our walk with Christ, let’s bear in mind the only thing guaranteed and promised in Christ is the forgiveness of our sins and the promise of eternal life if we come to him by faith and turn from our old ways. All other things apart from these are not guaranteed and will lead to dashed hopes.

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Christ Was Crucified For Our Sins

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I find no guilt in him” (John 18:38; 19:4;6).

Three times in his trial, Jesus–the Great and Sovereign Judge of all—was found not guilty by a human judge Pilate. However, justice was perverted and an innocent life killed.

Though innocent, his death was to keep in line with biblical prophecy. His death was no random death in human history. He came to die for the sins of humankind. Isaiah prophesied of his death saying: “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). Matthew narrating the annunciation recorded the angel telling Mary “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21). John the Baptist, calling the attention of the people gathered, pointed to Christ saying: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29).

Apostle Peter reflecting on Jesus’ death quoted Isaiah saying: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (1Peter 2:24). Finally apostle Paul also summarised the intent of Christ’s death saying: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5:21).

All the biblical writers attested to this one truth that Christ died for sinners. He gave his life so we might have life and be reconciled to God through faith. Jesus died so sinners will be delivered from eternal damnation: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).

The message of Easter is Christ’s death for sinners. God condemns all human beings as sinners separated from him and culpable of death (Isaiah 53:6,Romans 3:23;6:23). However, hope is provided in the death and resurrection of Christ to reconcile sinners unto himself (1Peter 2:25).

“I Can Do All Things Through Christ”…You May Have Been Misinterpreting The Text.

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Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is one exuding with great joy, praise and adoration. In this epistle, you encounter words like “rejoice in the Lord” (3:1); “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (4:4). What is most fascinating is that Paul wrote these words while in prison. The epistle to the Philippians, therefore, is one of Paul’s prison epistles. Now it is fascinating because, in our normal human reasoning, a man in prison shouldn’t be exuding with such admonishments to be joyful. John MacArthur notes that “In spite of Paul’s imprisonment, the dominant tone of the letter is joyful (1: 4, 18, 25, 26; 2: 2, 16– 18, 28; 3: 1, 3; 4: 1, 4, 10)”¹. Philippians without doubts contains great themes not only of joy, but also of the humiliation of Christ and the great exchange that took place:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him a name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here is a Christological statement telling us of the humility, humiliation, and exaltation of Christ. Albeit, despite these great themes, there is one text in Philippians which is often widely quoted, and often widely misinterpreted. That text is Chapter 4:13. It reads,

I can do all things through him[Christ] who strengthens me.

Paul’s words here have been interpreted to basically mean the ability to achieve great feats in whatever endeavour a believer sets their minds to. A believer has exams to write, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. A believer is attending a job interview, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. A Christian businessman is chasing a contract, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” A believer competes in a sports event, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“. An online article aptly describes how this text has been used in the sports arena by some athletes.

Tim Tebow put Phil 4:13 under his eye before football games. Jon Jones, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, has it tattooed on his chest.

What we must not do is pluck biblical texts out of context to say what we want them to say. Unfortunately, that is what many believers have done with Philippians 4:13. In hermeneutics, that is, the science of biblical interpretation, this is called eisegesis—reading into a text a meaning that is not there. On the contrary, we must be doing exegesis—reading meaning out of the text. Now, it doesn’t matter how sincere we may be with a text; once it is taken out of context we are being unfaithful to God’s word.

So, you may ask, how must we view Philippians 4:13? In dealing with any biblical text, the immediate context and the larger context of the bible is to be taken into consideration. We shouldn’t, for example, interpret a text in such a way that other passages of Scripture are contradicted. Thus, in the immediate context of Philippians 3, what do we learn?

Not A Booster for Great Achievements

Firstly, Paul’s words “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” should not be taken to mean the believer can do any great thing they set their minds to. In fact, with a correct understanding of the text, I dare say “you cannot do all things through Christ who strengthens you.” Eyebrows raised? Of course, the text says exactly that so why am I saying otherwise?
Please hear me out. The fact is, Christ doesn’t empower you to be able to do ‘everything’ you want to do. If you are not a trained surgeon, for example, you cannot perform a surgery simply because you believe “you can do all things through Christ”. This may sound an extreme example but that is a perfect picture you paint if you believe you can do all things. You cannot pilot a plane if you have not been trained to do so, simply because you can do all things. In fact, you cannot fly because you believe you can fly. You are not a bird.

It has been noted earlier that Philippians is a prison epistle. Think of this: what greater feats is a man in prison attempting to achieve when he writes “I can do all things…?” No, Paul cannot do all things in the sense of achieving whatever great feat he can set his mind to. This is someone in prison, who is probably bound in shackles and couldn’t even move about freely. Achieving arbitrary great feats will not be his focus at that time. A man in prison will perhaps be making good use of the limited time he has. He wouldn’t be having “conquering the world in great achievements” on his plate at all.

Contentment

In Philippians 4:13, what Paul is speaking about condenses simply into contentment. You see, Paul is in prison and the Philippian church have finally had an opportunity to show their concern for his upkeep: “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity” (v.10). It could be that perhaps hitherto, they had not had the opportunity to show their concern to Paul in prison, yet, through divine providence, it had become possible and Paul shows gratitude for their concern. However, perhaps for them not to feel compelled under duress to further provide for him, Paul quickly explains he is not appreciating them out of need. He tells them: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be a content” (v.11).

Paul here makes it clear he has learnt contentment in whatever situation he finds himself. And this is the crux of the whole text: contentment. Building up to v.13 Paul will again speak of how he has learnt contentment in every situation: “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need (v.12). This is very instructive to us today in a world that constantly calls us to crave for more. A consumerist spirit has gripped many and they are never content with what they have. But not so with Paul. He tells us he has learnt to endure both plenty and lack. Where did he learn this from? He learnt it by emulating Christ. Remember, earlier he had advised the Philippians to “have this mind among [themselves], which is yours in Christ Jesus.” Learn from Christ, he is saying. Set your mind upon him. Let his humiliation be an example to endure whatever situation you find yourself. Be content with whatever you have and learn to trust in God in the bad and good situations.

Logically, if you have read v.12, the meaning in v.13 must now begin to stand out when Paul says “I can do all things through him[Christ] who strengthens me.” The ‘all things’ refers in the first place to coping with need or plenty. The apostle’s words are better translated ‘I can do all things in him…’. It is ‘in Christ’ that he has learned to do this.² If you have never seen contentment in Philippians 4:13; begin looking at the text in its context. I will conclude with the words of Sinclair B. Ferguson in his book ‘Let’s Study Philippians’:

Christians today live in a society which is permeated by a spirit of discontentment. Greed has destroyed gratitude, getting has replaced giving. But in the pursuit of self-sufficiency, we have lost our way. We have developed spirits driven forwards to gain more, incapable of slowing, stopping and remembering that those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind…It is time to pause and to ask: ‘Am I content, in Christ?’ If not, it is the first thing I need to begin to relearn³.

Notes:

1. Note on Philippians 4:13 from The MacArthur Study Bible, 2006, Thomas Nelson.

2. Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Philippians (Edinburgh:Banner of Truth, 2005), 108

3. Ferguson, Let’s Study Philippians, 109

Scripture And Divine Guidance

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Who do I marry? What work or profession must I take on? Where should I live? etc. are some of the legitimate questions Christians ask. Believers must seek to please God in all they do and hence these questions are commendable. However, these questions tend to be answered in ways that I believe are dangerous to believers. Many books, supposedly answering these questions inundate the shelves of Christian bookshops. One such title reads, “Are You Still Single? Prayers to Locate Your Divine Spouse.” These and many more are bestsellers because people are indeed looking for answers to life’s questions and somewhat these titles promise to offer them their answers. But are they the right answers?

As believers, God has given us his Word as the means by which we will please him and every other “How Tos” not faithful to Scripture are to be avoided. And many of these “How Tos” are indeed unfaithful to Scripture. The Old and New Testaments; that is the whole Bible has been given to us “to be the rule of faith and life.”1 A rule, by dictionary definition, is “a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct over an area of people”. It is also “control of or dominion over an area or people” Following from this definition, the Word of God then becomes our explicit or understood regulations or principles governing our conduct. The word of God has control of or dominion over us. This simply a means Scripture has an overarching authority over the believer. If Scripture is the word of God (and it is), then we are to submit our whole lives to its obedience, for in the obedience of Scripture we obey God.  Everything we need to live lives pleasing to God is addressed in Scripture. Is this not an over-stretch you may ask? No, it is not. The Bible indeed has all the answers for our lives.

Perhaps one of the places in Scripture where Scripture testifies of itself is Psalm 119. In this Psalm, David speaks of all what the word of God does for the believer. He places a premium on the Word and in this Psalm, David celebrates the Word of God. The Word keeps us pure, he says. There are wondrous things in the Word to behold, he beckons. The Word is to be treasured above all riches, he admonishes. How relevant all these are to someone who wants to please God by his word! The question remaining unanswered so far is how the word of God gives us guidance. To this I turn to the Westminster Confession of Faith:

The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.2

There are two important things to be noted in the words of the confession in terms of knowing those things which please God and serve as a guide for our lives. Firstly, there are those things expressly set down in Scripture and secondly, there are those things by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. In other words, there are things that are so plain in Scripture we don’t need second thoughts or opinions to obey them; and there are those things we cannot clearly see stated in Scripture but can know them as we study and apply Scripture.

I will describe this as moving from the known to the unknown: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)

Expressly Set Down In Scripture

Whatever is expressly set down in Scripture simply indicates things that are clear and unambiguous. They are things that are revealed and ought to be obeyed. They are so plain it will take only disobedience not to see them. One of the characteristics of the Bible taught by the sixteenth-century Reformers is what they call perspicuity of Scripture. “What they mean by that technical term was the clarity of Scripture. They maintained that the Bible is basically clear and lucid. It is simple enough for any literate person to understand its basic message.”3 Of course, this doesn’t mean everything in Scripture can be easily understood. But at least, the very important things we need are explicit.

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.4

One of the clear teachings of Scripture about our conduct as believers is in 1 Thess. 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” God demands nothing but a sanctified life; that is, a life separated from any form of ungodliness. The text actually goes on to list all that is in view here by our sanctification: “that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” (vv.4-7) The list here is not exhaustive, albeit it tells us clearly what God demands from us. It guides our conduct. The popular verse, Romans 12:1-2 is another place we see an explicit teaching of Scripture: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.

There are indeed many other teachings of Scripture on money, relationships, employment, marriage and any other thing we may call practical issues of life. We are to be good stewards of our finances. We are to love one another as ourselves. As Christians, we are to marry Christians and of course we are to marry from the opposite sex and not same sex. In matters of employment, we are to firstly work and work as unto God and not as to men. These are basics indeed and if we commit to obeying these, other areas of our lives would be less blurred.

Deducing from Scripture by Good and Necessary Consequence

The Scriptures are to be studied and its lessons applied to our life. Any believer who doesn’t make the study of Scripture a part of their life will surely walk about not knowing what God requires of them in any sphere of life. All Scripture, Paul tells us, is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (1Timothy 3:16-17) If Scripture is profitable, then we are to study it and apply it to our lives. For example, studying Scripture will lead us to make a good choice of a marriage partner. God’s word has already laid down many things to look out for when one is considering marriage. As I mentioned earlier, first consideration for marriage is that a believer marries a believer of the opposite sex (this emphasis is important as marriage has taken on an unbiblical outlook). This is a non-negotiable and anything contrary to it is unbiblical. This is a general rule, but how does one narrow down to specifics? Well, if you find a Christian and you both love each other, nothing prevents you from marrying.

Many believers are postponing important life decisions because somehow they want to hear God speak to them. Well, God has spoken in Scripture (Heb. 1:-2), they are simply not listening. Stop postponing life decisions. Make decisions as long as they don’t violate what God has clearly revealed in Scripture.

Waiting for this will of direction is a mess. It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they actually do5

I will conclude with the last part of the Confession which is very instructive: “according to the general rules of the word.” (1.6). Whatever decisions we must make should be guided by what Scripture clearly teaches and we will not go wrong. Let Scripture be your guide in your decision-making. Say with David “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Notes:

  1. Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) (1.2)
  2. WCF (1.6)
  3. R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), Kindle edition
  4. WCF (1.7)
  5. Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), Kindle edition

—originally published on The Gospel Network by author as Divine Guidance

The Great Work Of Salvation

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Israel was carried into captivity from their land of habitation into foreign lands. (Ezekiel 36:16-20) because of sin. Ezekiel as a priest and prophet of God was among those carried into captivity hence the scene of his prophecies is that of captivity (Ezekiel 1:1). In Ezekiel 36, God announces a restoration of the nation Israel despite their sin and rebellion: “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land” (v.24). In these prophetic words of restoration, we learn many lessons about how God restores and reconciles sinners unto Himself.

1: Salvation Is A Work of God

God speaks through the prophet Ezekiel saying “I will…” In this phrase appearing about six times in the text, we notice that every action towards the restoration of the Israelites was solely a work of God. Salvation is monergestic as opposed to synergistic. God was restoring Israel for the sake of His name not because of any meritorious deed by them.

In an earlier verse, He told Ezekiel “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord GOD: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name …” (v23). God acted in the interest of Israel “for the sake of [His] holy name”. David in Psalm 23:3 echoes this same truth: “He restores my soul. He leads me in the path of righteousness for his name’s sake”. (see also Ps.115:1).

No Place For Boasting

“For His name sake”

Here is an overarching theme of the Bible. Everything God does is to “the glory of God alone”—Soli Deo Gloria (Rev 4:11). There is no room for boasting in ourselves and our good deeds because salvation is “not a result of works” (Eph 2:9). It is by “grace” we “have been saved through faith”, It is not our own doing (v8). We owe our salvation to the glory of God. We are saved “to the praise of his glory”(Eph. 1:12, 14). The grace of God strips us off of all avenues of boasting. God saves on the merit of His grace. John Piper rightly noted: “When it comes to being a candidate for grace, your background has nothing to do with God’s choice.

Simply, we contributed nothing towards our salvation.

2: Cleansed By The Water Of The Word And Of The Spirit

Like the Israelites, we are also a people unclean by nature and in captivity to sin. We need cleansing and restoration. The Bible records that God created Adam and Eve and gave Adam a commandment to keep (Gen 2:16-17). Adam disobeyed God and by his disobedience, sin entered the world (Gen 3). Now, Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth (Ps 51:5, Rom 3:23, 5:12), except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin. In Adam, we are all separated from God by virtue of an inherited sinful nature and total depravity. As Adam was driven away from the presence of God (Gen 3:23-24), sin has driven us away from the presence of God and like the Israelites, we are under captivity and bondage to sin.

To The Rescue

However, despite our captivity and bondage to sin, God didn’t leave us in a hopeless state. He sent Christ to die in place of sinners to reconcile us unto Himself. God cleanses us from our sin by the water of the word and of the Spirit. Wherever the word of God goes forth, the Spirit of God follows to do His work (Acts 2:37). In John 17, what is termed Jesus’ High Priestly  Prayer, He prayed that the Father sanctifies the disciples in the truth, because His word is truth(v17). Peter taught that, we are “born again not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God”(1Pet1:23). The Spirit convicts sinners of sin when the word is ministered. The sinner is brought to a point of self-awareness of their sinful nature then they are brought to Christ for forgiveness and cleansing.

3: Regeneration

As said previously, all humankind are sinful, born in sin from the womb. The Christian, prior to his salvation was “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1) If we were indeed dead in trespasses and sins and separated from God then the sinner can’t save herself. Dead men have no life neither can they inject life into their deadness. To be dead in sin is to not possess the ability to choose God; the inability to come to life by ourselves: To be alive therefore and come to salvation, we need an external influence to resurrect and give us life from our deadness (Jn. 6:44).

4 Alive To God

What God does in regeneration is to infuse life into our dead heart through His Spirit. Our cold, dead, unresponsive heart to divine truth is made alive to divine truth. Our unyielding heart now willingly yields to God. God’s Spirit then indwells the sinner as a guarantee one has been born of God and they belong to Christ (Eph1:14. Rom 8:9).

If God doesn’t intervene in a sinner’s life, there will be no spiritual life and spiritual birth. We must therefore pray that God will intervene in the lives of unbelievers so they will come to a saving knowledge of our Lord Jesus.

Number Your Days And Live Wisely

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Today is 1st January, 2018. Happy New Year to you dear reader. I have no doubts we all have plans for this new year and most importantly plans to please God if you are a believer. Indeed this is the period of the year many resolutions are made towards that.

In this article, I want us to briefly look at a prayer prayed many centuries before our time, yet with profound lessons to aid us in this new year. The prayer is Psalm 90. It is one of the wonderful prayers in the Bible from which we are able to glean some lessons useful to go through this new year.

I will attempt to address what I mean by number your days and live wisely.

Psalm 90

Live Coram Deo

Living Coram Deo is simply living our lives with the consciousness of the presence of God that our everyday lives are open to God. This therefore calls for a life of intergrity and wholeness in Christian attitude. For the believer and even the unbeliever; we cannot live anywhere but in the full glare of God’s presence.

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where y shall I flee from your presence?  If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me ( Psalm 139:7-10).

In Psalm 90, the Israelites have been wandering in the wilderness enroute to the Promised land since they set off from Egypt. A lot has happened during these times. Moses in vv. 1-11 acknowledged God’s hand and presence in their sojourning all those years: “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations.” (v.1) Here is an affirmation of God as the Israelites’ very existence and a truth we must acknowledge and live by with the understanding that our whole lives are before God; the Creator to whom we owe our lives and to whom we must seek for direction.

Dependence On God

To live Coram Deo also necessitates dependence on God. He knows what we don’t know which calls for us to seek his guidance. In verses, 12, Moses aptly captured this when he prayed; “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” and this verse is where the title of the article comes from. Now this prayer is one for direction and guidance from God. It was a prayer of dependence on God. God created us and until we have learnt to depend on him, we will forever live a self-destructive life. It was St Augustine, in his Confessions who said, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in Thee.” This is a good place to ask “What place has God in your life?” Since God created us, we must live our lives to please him.

Consider That Life Is Fleeting

Wisdom demands we acknowledge the brevity of life. 2017 has just passed with the speed of light. Some of those we started the year with have passed on into eternity. Life is short. We are not here to stay forever. We are on borrowed time. Human life is so fragile; like leaves, today we are, tomorrow we are gone. Moses tells us this brevity of life in v.5: “You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” Not oblivious of humanity’s frailty, Moses prayed for wisdom to number their days.

Be Wise

Moses’ prayer is a prayer asking for wisdom not to be wasteful of the few days humankind has on earth. Our days are limited and we must not lose sight of this. Every passing day brings us close to eternity. Wisdom is the right application of the knowledge we possess, in this case our understanding of the brevity of life and living accordingly. When we pray for God to teach us to number our days; we are in effect praying for wisdom: “that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (v.5). Proverbs 90:10 tells us “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” Do you fear God? Do you have a relationship with him or you are only living your life to please your self? Let not this year be a self-pleasing life for “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q&41).

In the New Testament, James tells us that “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God. ” He didn’t stop at that; he assured us that that prayer would be answered: [God] gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him (James 1:5). Paul in his letter to the Ephesians admonished them saying “See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph.5:15-16 KJV).

Your life is not your own. You are accountable to God who made you. In 2018 and beyond, make it a point to live a life pleasing to the Lord.

Revelation: Hearing God

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The word revelation is used loosely in our time in relation to Christian theology. Some speak of God speaking to them, giving them a revelation through dreams, visions and prophecy. Someone may approach you and say God has revealed something to him about you. How are we to respond to such extra-biblical revelation?

The answer is to understand what revelation is, how God has spoken through the ages and how he speaks today. Such an understanding will free us from the error and danger of men and women who come with what they term revelation. One place in Scripture we can turn to in further answering the question about revelation is Hebrews 1:1-2.

Long ago, at many times and a in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,  through whom also he created the world.

When we say Revelation, we are speaking of how God has made himself known in human history. R.C. Sproul aptly says “Everything we know about Christianity has been revealed to us by God. To reveal means “to unveil.” It involves removing a cover from something that is concealed.” [2] Theologians identify two avenues by which God has revealed himself in human history, namely, General Revelation and Special Revelation.

General revelation, is, as named, general and is available to all. This revelation of God manifests in the world around us. God has revealed himself to all human beings through nature and no one has an excuse to deny the existence of God. Any denial is actually a suppression of the truth (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:19-21).

Special revelation on the other hand is how God has revealed himself to humankind apart from nature and through special means unavailable to all. Special revelation is therefore salvific; that is, it leads to salvation. The Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) highlights the inability of people to come to faith through General revelation: “Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men inexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of His will, which is necessary unto salvation” (WCF 1.1). Special revelation varies in nature and this is precisely the point of the text when it says “at many times and in many ways.” Some of these many ways include theophanies, dreams, visions, and through prophets.

Clearly, we note that God is not a silent God but a God who has through human history revealed and made himself known specially: “God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” This sets a contrast between the prophets of long ago and Christ in these last days as God’s means of revelation.  Prophets held a high place in Jewish religion for it is through them God spoke to the Old Testament people. “Our fathers” also in the text is to be understood as the Patriarchs of the Old Testament, who are the progenitors of the recipients. So God at a certain point in history; the past, revealed himself to the Jews by Prophets all recorded in the Old Testament.

In the the Old Testament which is also the Hebrew Bible or Tanak, the Jews have three main divisions — Torah (Law), Neb’im (Prophets) and Ketubim (The writings). You will recall when Jesus spoke with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he preached to them about himself from Moses (the Pentateuch or Torah) and all the Prophets (Luke 24:27). Prophets indeed held a high place in Jewish religion. When Paul said in 2Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is breathed out by God…”, he was speaking primarily of Old Testament Scripture made up of the writings of prophets–Major and Minor. It is in the same sense Peter’s words were written in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

Now moving from a lesser argument, that is, God speaking through the Prophets at different times and many ways, the author turns to a greater argument–Christ as the final agent of God’s revelation. Sinclair Ferguson in his book From The Mouth Of God identifies how God’s revelation of himself moved progressively to its culmination in the person of Christ.

First, it is historical: God has been active in history in order to show his power and love. Second, it is verbal: God has provided his own interpretation of his actions. He has given us a permanent record of his words … through…the pages of Scriptures. Third, it is progressive and cumulative. God gave his revelation in different ways and at different times. But now he has given his final revelation in these last days. Fourth, it is Christ-centred: God’s revelation reached its fulfillment when he spoke his final word to us in his Son, Jesus Christ. [3]

As we have seen, God’s revelation in the past (long ago) has been through agency of prophets through various means. But in these last days (the very day Jesus touched down to the earth until now) God’s revelation of himself culminated in the person of Christ: the God-man, the Immanuel. Christ is superior over all other forms of revelation. God has spoken his final words to us through Christ.

Since God’s final revelation has come, the implication therefore is that revelation has ceased for there is nothing new to reveal about God that has not been revealed in the person of Christ. And all of God’s special revelation has been recorded in Scripture to teach, reproof, correct, and train us in all ways necessary to please and glorify him. We therefore don’t need a prophet to speak into our life for direction or even a dream or vision to guide us. God’s written word is sufficient for in it we hear God’s word revealed through the Son: “This is my beloved Son: hear him” (Luke 9:35 KJV). Hearing the Son is only possible through the written word.

…therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His Church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the Church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing; which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God’s revealing His will unto His people being now ceased (WCF 1.1)

I will finally conclude with the words of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones as quoted in John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire:

Again, we must note that often in the history of the Church trouble has arisen because people thought that they were prophets in the New Testament sense, and that they had received special revelations of truth. The answer to that is that in view of the New Testament Scriptures there is no need of further truth. That is an absolute proposition. We have all truth in the New Testament, and we have no need of any further revelations. All has been given, everything that is necessary for us is available. Therefore if a man claims to have received a revelation of some fresh truth we should suspect him immediately. [3]

Notes

1. Sproul, R. C.. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith ( United States Of America: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), Kindle Edition

2: Sinclair B. Ferguson, From The Mouth Of God: Trusting, Reading, And Applying The Bible (Edinburgh: The Banner Of Truth, 2015), 7

3. John MacArthur, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending The Holy Spirit With Counterfeit Worship (Nashville: Tennessee, Nelson Books, 2013), Kindle Edition.

—- Adapted from article originally posted by author as Christ:God’s Final Revelation  on Sovereigngracegh.org