The Christian And Fruitfulness.

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John 15

The central motif of this chapter is as we read on is fruitfulness. Now when a child is born, we expect growth. When a seed or tree is planted, we expect growth and fruitfulness. Likewise, growth and fruitfulness is expected and actually required of the Christian. In John 15, Christ used an agricultural metaphor to describe his relationship with his disciples and by extension us and what’s required in that relationship–fruitfulness. John MacArthur, in his Bible Commentary notes that “The NT describes fruit[fulness] as godly attitudes (Gal. 5:22, 23), righteous behaviour (Phil. 1:11), praise (Heb. 13:15), and, especially, leading others to faith in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (Rom. 1:13-16)”.¹ (Emphasis mine)

As a believer, you may want to pause and ask if  any of these describes you. Fruitfulness is not an option for the believer. It is an obligation we must work towards in cooperation with the sanctifing work of the Holy Spirit. And in this post, I hope to explore in the text how a believer can bear fruit.

The True Vine

Christ described himself as the true vine in John 15:1: “I am the true vine….” The vine was an important plant in the lives of the Jews and the disciples would be well acquainted with that metaphor hence Christ’s usage of it to depict fruit bearing:

Vine, the well-known valuable plant (virus vinifera) very frequently referred to in the Old and New Testaments and cultivated from the earliest time. The first mention of this plant occurs in Gen. 9:20,21….The vines of Palestine were celebrated both for luxuriant growth and for the immense clusters of grapes which they produced, which were sometimes carried on a staff between two men as in the case of the spies, Num. 13:23…From the abundance and excellence of the vines, it may readily be understood how frequently this plant is the subject of metaphor in the Holy Scriptures. To dwell under the vine and fig tree is an emblem of domestic happiness and peace.²

The above tells how important the vine was in the life of the Israelites. Israel was described as a vine planted by God (Ex.15:17; Jer. 2:21, 12:10; Ps. 80:8). Israel as a vine was a foreshadow of the real and true vine–Jesus Christ. So when Christ described himself as the true vine, he was juxtaposing himself with apostate Israel which didn’t bear fruit.

Now, if there is a vine, then there must a Vinedresser. And Jesus identifies the Vinedresser as the Father: “my Father is the vinedresser“. The Father as the Vinedresser also indicates to us the union of the Father and Son in working towards the fruitfulness of believers—the branches.

Fruit Bearing

In John 15, Jesus speaks of how a believer bears fruit. I will categorise these into two: (i) God’s Initiative and (ii) The Believers’ Response. This means fruit bearing is a two way approach. God works in the believer and the believer responds to God’s work. Paul in his letter to the Philippians perfectly illustrated this. He wrote:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13).

God’s Initiative.

First and foremost, fruit bearing is possible only when one is in union with Christ through faith. Fruit bearing can’t happen outside of a union with Christ: “for apart from me you can do nothing” (v.5). Ultimately, it is God who works in us to bear fruit. Sinful as we are, separated from God by sin, we can do nothing pleasing to God without him first taking the initiative to love us and reconcile us to himself (Rom. 5:6-8, Eph 2:1-10; 1Jn. 4:19). God saves the sinner by grace and joins them to Christ through faith: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide…” (v.16).

God doesn’t leave us on our own after we are saved. He provides the strength and energy to please him through his Holy Spirit who indwells every believer. As a loving Father, one of the many ways he ensures we are bearing more fruit is pruning:

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you (vv.2-3).

The believer, as we see in the text, starts from a position of justification where they are already declared clean by the word: “Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (v.3).We can only proceed to bear fruit because of this position of justification. We can bear fruit because we are clean before God.

Pruning

Pruning is an agricultural term where branches impeding fruitfulness on a vine are trimmed off to allow for more room to bear fruit. Sometimes it involves lifting creeping branches on the floor, supporting them with stakes and washing them with the purpose of getting maximum fruit. This agricultural imagery is what God does to a believer who is bearing fruit. God prunes them so they bear more fruit. Pruning takes place in many ways.

When the word of God is preached for example, it searches our hearts and convicts us of our sins (Heb.4:12-13). It also involves discipline and chastisement (Heb. 12: 5-11) of the believer. God has the sole aim of conforming us to the image of Christ in character and holiness; therefore any sinful habit or even a ‘good thing’ which may stand between us and God in this journey of conformity would be cleared—pruned away.

We notice also in the text that there are those who don’t bear fruit and are cut off and cast into fire. This picture depicts eternal damnation and since a believer would not be brought into eternal damnation; these unfruitful branches are actually those who may appear to be believers but are actually not. If a person claims to be a Christian and is bearing no fruit in their walk with God, it may be a cause for concern. Are you truly saved? You must bear fruit.

The Believers’ Response

So far, we have looked at God’s initiative towards the believers’ fruitfulness. As already discussed, God works and the believer responds. And in John 15, Jesus tells the disciples how they will bear fruit or how they are to respond to the vinedresser—God’s initiative. They are to abide in him“Abide in me…” (v.4).

The Bible student, to understand this, will naturally ask what it means to abide in Christ and then proceed from there  to find answers. The Christian takes her source of nourishment and growth from the vine. This means the Christian, as a branch, will have to be glued to Christ to bear fruit. To ‘Abide in Christ’ is to continue daily to nurture our relationship with Christ in faith, obedience, fellowship in prayer, study of God’s word and other spiritual disciplines.

So firstly, abide involves taking root in our faith walk. We come to Christ in faith and our journey and pilgrimage on this earth is that of faith for without faith no one can please God (Heb.11:6). It is also communion with Christ through prayer anf the study of God’s word—the Bible. Indeed Christ calls the believer into fellowship through prayer and the study of his word: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (v.7). Prayer and the study of God’s word is the means through which we encounter Christ. We cannot trust when we don’t have the word in us. Faith comes by hearing the word (Rom. 10:17).

Finally, to abide is to live in obedience—“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” (v.10). In our days, any talk of obeying or keeping God’s commandments raises eyebrows and is very likely to receive the charge of legalism. However, Christ has called us to obedience. We can’t live anyhow and continue to call ourselves Christians. We must live in obedience to God’s commandments and indeed he has given us the grace to live in obedience to his word—“For this is the love of God , that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn.5:3).

Love for God is manifested in keeping his commandments. Loving God is not sentimental. It is obedience to his commandments and obedience in loving one another: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you”. (v.12). Remember the greatest of all commandments is love—loving God and your neighbour (Matt. 22:37-39). When we have done all these, then the joy of the Lord, which is our strength and which is a fruit of the Spirit will become ours: “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (v.11).

Our response to God’s initiative is to bear fruit by abiding in Christ.

What’s The Essence Of Fruit Bearing?

Firstly, fruit bearing is a mandate given to the believer. It is a ‘charge to keep‘³ the believer has. Christ tells his disciples he chose and appointed them that they will bear fruit (v.16). God’s sovereign electing grace of the believer has fruit bearing as a goal. There are good works the believer is elected to walk in (Eph. 2:10).

Secondly, bearing fruit is evidence of discipleship. A truly converted soul will have fruits to show. Saving faith must be accompanied by fruits– good works. True discipleship is evidenced by fruit. Martin Luther aptly said “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Faith without works, James says is dead (James 2:22; 26).

God has provided all the believer needs to bear fruit. He has given us his Word, his Holy Spirit and the body of Christ—the church— to aid us in our journey of faith. If indeed we are saved, we must be desirous to bear fruit to glorify God.

Notes:

1.John MacArthur, The MacArthur Bible Commentary ( Nashville, Tennesse: Thomas Nelson, 2005)

2. William Smith, Smith’s Bible Dictionary ( Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendricksons Publishers, Inc, 2008), 731

3. From Charles Wesleys’ hymn “A Charge To Keep I Have”

 

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Faith And Conduct

Amos 5:21-24

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Among six key themes (from ESV Global Study Bible) of the book of Amos, two stands out for me.

1. Justice and righteousness in the treatment of other people are the key evidences of a right relationship to the Lord.
2. Religious observances in the absence of social justice are disgusting to God.¹

I find these two key themes present in the verses that follow. God says;

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them. Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen (Amos 5:21-23).

Today, many profess faith but their profession contradicts their conduct. Should that be the case? Where profession of faith and conduct contradicts, there is a justification to question what one professes. Could it be possible that God has rejected many gatherings supposedly assembled in the name of God and yet we are unaware? Could it be that God has turned his ears away from our worship and considers many a congregations singing noise yet they haven’t discerned it?

How would we know if our worship is acceptable to God? I believe the answer is in the next verse: “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24). Where our life is not marked by justice and righteousness—a right treatment of one another and right conduct; our salvation may be questionable. Our Lord commands us to love one another and to not love the world (1Jn. 2:9-17). Paul says “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers , and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1cor. 13:1-2).

You see, our faith and conduct are insperable. If we have faith, it must show in our conduct: “But be n doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”!(Jam. 1:22).

Notes:
1. Introductory notes on Amos from The ESV Global Study Bible (Wheaton, Illinois:Crossway, 2012 ) Kindle edition

 

Work Out Your Own Salvation

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Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).

It appears Paul is admonishing the Philippians to work to earn their salvation: “work out your own salvation”. However, if we interpret Paul’s words in that sense, we will be (i) contradicting the whole body of biblical revelation because salvation is by grace through faith and (ii) contradicting Paul himself because he taught in his epistles that salvation is by faith.

What Does Scripture Teach About Salvation?

Scripture first and foremost teaches that all human beings are naturally sinners because of original sin inherited from Adam and as a result, are separated from God and His glory (Psalm 51:5, Romans 3:23). But God out of love, though humanity is separated from Him as a consequence of sin and bound for eternal destruction, provided a way of rescue to reconcile sinners unto Himself by faith in Jesus Christ:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved ?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”(Acts 16:30-31).

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

These Scriptures (not exhaustive) point us to one truth: Justification by faith. To be saved therefore, a sinner has to repent of their sins and put their trust in Christ Jesus, “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith”(Rom 3:25). If it is true (and it is) that sinners are saved by faith alone without any self-rigtheousness, then we must put in proper context what Paul means by “work out your own salvation”. He is obviously not writing about earning our salvation by self-effort.

Epistle From Prison.

It is crucial to note the circumstances surrounding Phillipians and the verse under consideration in particular. Paul is in prison and not physically present with the church as its leader. From prison therefeore, he writes to give instructions on numerous topics confronting the Philippian church.

In Chapter 2, Paul exhorts on Christian conduct citing Christ’s example of humility “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. (Philippians 2:5-8)… “… Have this mind among yourselves” This is a message calling on the Philippian church to take a cue from the humility and suffering of Christ.

Note also that our opening verse starts with “Therefore”. This means Paul draws on his previous teaching on Christ’s example and goes on to tell the believers to emulate Christ.

Philippians Was Written To Christians

We must bear in mind the epistles were written to Christians to give instructions on Christian living or conduct. So when Paul wrote “work out your own salvation”, he is writing to people who were already Christians. They were believers. They have salvation. They have trusted Christ by faith and needed instructions on Christian conduct. Paul calls them “my beloved” and he pointed out that they “have always obeyed”.

You can’t call on unbelievers to work out their salvation; a salvation they don’t have. The Philippians no doubt were Christians. And the fruit of their Christianity is that they are living in obedience. The mark of a true Christian is a life of obedience.

Work Out Your Own Salvation

Now if the Philippians were already Christians (and they were), Paul is greatly concerned they will continue in obedience especially because he is no not physically present with them and his imprisonment has opened up the church to infiltration by false teachers. “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry…”(Philippians 1:15). “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh” (Philippians 3:2).

Clearly, the infiltration of false teachers in his abscence needed to be addressed. The church was in danger of falling into laxity, complacency, hypocrisy and legalism. Because of this, Paul admonished them to continue in their obedience.

Lets face it. It is human tendency that when a leader is not present or when no one is watching, people naturally fall into laxity in their faith. This is what Paul warns against. The command from Paul is this: Live like Christians. Let the salvation you already possess  manifest in how you conduct your life. “Will and do God’s good pleasure”. Take personal responsibility for your Christian conduct: “your own salvation”.

The Greek. verb rendered “work out” means “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” It cannot refer to salvation by works (cf. Ro 3: 21– 24 ; Eph 2: 8 , 9 ), but it does refer to the believer’s responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification ¹.

“Work out…with fear and trembling” The point here is that of godly reverence: don’t develop a cavalier attitude towards God’s grace. Don’t play slack with the grace of God. Every believer must have a “healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him (cf. Pr 1: 7 ; 9: 10 ; Is 66: 1 , 2 )².

The charge to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” can be compared to Peter’s charge also: “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall”(2Peter 1:10). As believer, there is already a work of grace going on in your lives. God is already at work in you “both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. If you have a desire for the will of God, you didn’t produce that desire. God planted it in you.

The Christian is always called upon to respond to God’s ongoing work of sanctification. God works first and we must cooperate “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29).

1: THE MACARTHUR STUDY BIBLE Copyright © 2006 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

2: ibid

Our Ways Are Not God’s Ways.

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Last week, Christians worldwide celebrated Easter, the commemoration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you are a believer, this season marked the day your salvation was secured. If you are not a believer, He died for sinners and until you come to Him in Faith, you have no reason to celebrate Easter.

There is one fascinating account of the Easter events which teaches a number of lessons in our sourjourning as pilgrims on this side of eternity. The account is in Luke 24, where two of Jesus’ disciples were undertaking a journey to a village named Emmaus. While travelling, they discussed the events that had taken place in Jerusalem, namely, the death and resurrection of Jesus (vv.13-14). Immersed in their lamentation, Jesus joined them on their journey and we are told their eyes were kept from recognizing him. (vv. 13-16).

On hindsight, the reader of the Bible sees the victory in the death and resurrection of Christ. However, as we read the narration, one fact emerges; the disciples, who walked with Christ were dejected by His death. They believed Jesus was going to be their political deliverer from Roman rule. But in cold blood, the life of their leader who offered hope to them was brought to an abrupt end, so to speak. He was lifted on a cross  and gruesomely murdered. He died a death reserved for criminals–crucifixion.

When Jesus joined in the conversation with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, he asked, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”(v.17). Their reaction to the question was evident of the content of their conversation:

And they stood still, looking sad (v.17).

Why were they sad? Because their hopes and expectations about the man Jesus has been curtailed. .

We had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel (v.21)

The disciples had their hopes and expectations. They had hopes of deliverance from Roman oppression. Their hope was political. But God’s agenda for sending His Son was grand than political, it is redemption from spiritual death and bondage. It is reconcilatory. God is in Christ reconciling the world –Jews, Romans, Greeks, Gentiles — to Himself. Jesus came to restore lost humanity into relationship with God. The agenda is mammoth, a worldwide reconciliation; calling a “great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelations7:9). This is God’s agenda for sending Christ.

Regardless of the dreams and expectations we hold for our lives, we must come to a basic truth in our faith walk that our ways are not God’s ways and most often, our expectations fall short of God’s ways. Expectations can and do slip through our hands. But God’s agenda is bigger than any expectation we may have. He is working behind the scenes working out His own agenda concerning our lives and that must settle our hearts.

Whatever expectations drive our lives, we must ensure they align with God’s revealed will in His word. We see this clearly playing out in the conversation when Jesus rebuked His disciples for lack of Faith in God’s revealed will and from the Scriptures taught them God’s will concerning His suffering:

25:And he[Christ] said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
26:Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory ?”
27:And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

If we are going to think God’s thoughts and not merely go through life with what we think is God’s way, we must be people who expose ourselves to God’s will through what He has revealed in His word. Our expectations must not be simply what we want God to do. But our expectations must be what God wants to do. And the only way to know this is through faith built from His word.

Christ rebukes the lack of faith of the two in the revealed will concerning His suffering. Then He takes them through an exposition of the things written about Him. Truly, there is no reliable place for the believer to thrust their anchor than in the word of God. To allay our fears and assuage our worries, we must as a matter of necessity look to the word of God.

May God grant us grace that our expectations will align with what He has revealed in His word concerning His work in us through Christ.

The Gospel, Grace And Good Works.

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I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel (Galatians 1:6).

In every generation, the gospel — the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of sinners  by grace alone through faith alone for justification before God has always been under attack. Recently, I met with a group of friends and from Galatians 1:6-10, I admonished them to go back to their churches and start listening well if the gospel is being preached on their churches’ pulpit.

Now a church that doesn’t preach the gospel and salvation by grace is not worth the name church.

Sadly, many believers have stopped listening and reading with discernment, hence, all kinds of errors are passing on for gospel preaching on many pulpits in our country. Among the numerous errors, there are two extremes by which we see the abuse of the gospel: Legalism and Antinomianism. These two are opposites to each other and are all wrong. Legalism is simply seeking justification with God through good works or by keeping the law — (10 commandments, holiness laws, etc)¹. There is also another side to Legalism where we look to the law and good works to maintain our salvation. All these fly in the face of Scripture because “…one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Romans 3:28). What Paul means here is that, justification is by faith alone; believing and trusting in Christ’s death alone for salvation.

This naturally raises questions about whether we can live our lives anyhow since we are justified by faith alone. The question usually arises from a misunderstanding of the place of the Law in the Christians life. There are those who insist that because of grace the law of God has no place in the believers’ life. Such position leads us to the next error that confronts the gospel—Antinomianism. Antinomianism teaches that the Law has no place in a Christians’ life. But that is far from the truth. In an online article, The Threefold Use Of The Law, R.C. Sproul wrote on three uses of the law in the Christian’s life. He stated that:

Every Christian wrestles with the question, how does the Old Testament law relate to my life? Is the Old Testament law irrelevant to Christians or is there some sense in which we are still bound by portions of it? As the heresy of antinomianism becomes ever more pervasive in our culture, the need to answer these questions grows increasingly urgent. ²

You see, the preaching of the gospel is the means by which God brings people to salvation and it is of utmost importance it is not misrepresented or watered down. A watered down gospel lacks power to save. “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1Corinthians 1:18). But what do we see today? We live in times when the preaching of the gospel has been replaced by human and secular philosophies which has no power to save anyone. The Galatian church to which Paul wrote his letter, were, just like today, invaded by false teachers propagating a false gospel. Paul described them as trouble makers and those who distort the gospel of Christ(v7).

The gospel is central to the salvation of sinners and any false representation of it must be a cause of concern to every believer. We see Paul registering his disapproval of what was going on in the Galatian church in a rather forceful manner: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel”.

Rightly so, Paul was astonished–greatly amazed, surprised–that a people who have been “called…in the grace of Christ” are “quickly” moving away from the gospel; not gradually, not slowly, but quickly, rendered as as hastily (tacheós)³ in the original language. It was a concern to him, that a people who have once believed in the gospel and have been justified by grace through faith alone are now shifting from grace to works salvation. Any departure from the proclamation of the gospel must just as Paul, astonish us who call on the name of the Lord.

The Christian is saved by grace alone through faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9) and this truth must remain at the back of our minds throughout our Christian journey. Grace doesn’t only bring us in. Grace keeps us till the end of the journey (Jeremiah 31:3, John 10:27-29). It is important, unlike the Galatians, we keep focus on the grace of God and continue in Him (Colossians 2:6-7, Hebrews 4:14-16). Many believers after they are saved by grace go on to live their lives as if they have works to add to their salvation.

Of course the Christian is saved to do good works. But the Christian is not saved by doing good works.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).

In conclusion, just as I admonished my friends to start listening for the preaching of the gospel on their church pulpits, permit me to put the same charge to you my reader. Start listening for gospel preaching on your church pulpit and count how often sinners, guilty of the judgement and wrath of God are called to repentance by pointing them to the death and resurrection of Christ for sinners. Listen also how often believers are admonished to continue in the grace of God.

Anything short of this passes for “a different gospel”. Nothing else will do but gospel preaching and gospel centred ministries.

1. https://carm.org/what-is-legalism

2:https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/sproul/threefold_law.html

3:http://biblehub.com/greek/5030.htm

O! The Grace Of God

It is commonplace to hear “by the grace of God…” as a part of our response to daily inquiries of how one is faring. Indeed, it has almost become an unwritten requirement to proper behavior and good social etiquette. So much so that even non-Christians unwittingly use this expression on daily basis. Alas, grace to the Ghanaian is nothing more than a proper diction in our everyday lingo.

However, to the Christian, Grace is laden with meaning and significance. Grace has been and continues to be the theme to many a sermon. It has served as the title to many ancient hymns and contemporary songs. Books that discuss and attempt to unravel grace as a theme are never in short supply. It usually comes up as the topic of conversation among believers and often strikes feelings of awe and adoration toward the One from who grace proceeds.

The Christian acknowledges he is the result of grace. He understands grace is the mark of distinction between him and the unbeliever. Imagine this: You stole from the house of a judge, got arrested and  brought before the judge in his courtroom. The judge finds you guilty and pronounces a just judgment meet for the crime you committed. The penalty for your crime is burdensome. It is impossible for you to pay this penalty because of your penurious status. But then something happens. The judge opts to pay the fine for your crime. So not only are you pardoned, but the judgement due you has been absorbed by the judge.

O! The Grace of God.

Though this analogy may be greatly inadequate, it attempts to give a glimpse into what grace entails — undeserved, unsought and unmerited favor. If you were the one in the above analogy, what will your reaction and attitude toward the judge be? Will you spurn this undeserved gesture from the judge or will you in humble awe turn to him expressing your profuse appreciation for his graciousness toward you?

This is where good works comes in. It is the natural consequence of this amazing work of the Father. Good works in themselves don’t make us merit the father’s favor. If it did, it would cease being a favor. It will be wages earned for one’s meritorious deeds. And that is not grace!

Therefore, focusing and reveling in the favor of God produces good works and as we grow in grace, so will our good works grow in commensurate proportions.

G. S. Bishop aptly encapsulates the subject thus:

Grace is a provision for men who are so fallen that they cannot lift the axe of justice, so corrupt that they cannot change their own natures, so averse to God that they cannot turn to Him, so blind that they cannot see Him, so deaf that they cannot hear Him, and so dead that He Himself must open their graves and lift them into resurrection.

Let us think on the grace of our Lord and let us see its ripple effects in all aspects of our hopes.

Oh how the grace of God amazes me.FB_IMG_1444167538706

Soli Deo Gloria!!!

 

 

 

The Poor In Spirit And The Kingdom Of Heaven

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingom of heaven (Matthew 5:3)

Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound. That saved a wretch like me I once was lost, but now am found. Was blind, but now I see ~John Newton

Before a Holy God, humankind, without Christ stand wretched. The Bible attests to the truth of this wretchedness in various places. Humanity is separated from the glory of God because of sin (Rom. 3:23). The prophet Isaiah declares our rigtheousness is like filthy rags before God(Isaiah 64:6). Jeremiah paints a rather troubling picture of our condition. He says our “heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”(17:9). “Desperately sick”–that calls for desperate solution. In Ephesians 2:1, sinful humanity is described as “dead in sins and trespasses”

Apart from these general descriptions of humanity, we also see in the pages of Scripture, the reality of our human wretchedness before God through the experiences of some of its characters.

When Isaiah, a prophet saw the holiness of God, he exclaimed in dread “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”(Isaiah 6:5). Apostle Paul, when he was brought face to face with the reality of the fallen nature in his own life, he, out of the pain of the reality of indwelling sin, wrote words similar to Isaiah; “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”(Romans 7:24). You might think an Apostle of his calibre must not utter such words.

All these, I believe finds better expression in David’s confession after his infamous adultery with Bathseba. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive” (Psalm 51:5). In these words, David sums up what is true of all of us– Original SinPraise-06-782013 and Total Depravity.

Original sin is the doctrine which holds that human nature has been morally and ethically corrupted due to the disobedience of mankind’s first parents to the revealed will of God. In the Bible, the first human transgression of God’s command is described as the sin of Adam and Eve in theGarden of Eden resulting in what theology calls the Fall of mankind. The doctrine of original sin holds that every person born into the world is tainted by the Fall such that all of humanity is ethically debilitated, and people are powerless to rehabilitate themselves, unless rescued by God.

Total Depravity is the doctrine that fallen man is completely touched by sin and that he is completely a sinner. He is not as bad as he could be; but in all areas of his being, body, soul, spirit, mind, emotions, etc., he is touched by sin. In that sense, he is totally depraved. Because man is depraved, nothing good can come out of him (Rom. 3:10-12); and God must account the righteousness of Christ to him. This righteousness is obtainable only through faith in Christ and what He did on the cross

We see clearly the biblical account of the condition of the human race. However, the proud, haughty and arrogant will have nothing to do with these description. Not many people agree they are that “bad”. Predominantly, people believe they are good and reject any idea that attempts to describe them in a least favourable way.

The poor in spirit however, acknowledge their wretchedness and accept the truth of the human condition as expoused in Holy Scriptures. Like the publican, they “beat [their] breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The poor in spirit, agrees with the truth of God’s word that apart from His grace and imputed righteousness; they are lost in their sins and bear His wrath. The poor in spirit are totally dependent on God for their salvation. The poor in spirit possess a humble heart as a result of the knowledge of their depravity and unworthy of God’s love apart from His mercy. The poor in spirit are humble and accept the divine verdict of man’s lostness. They acknowledge they are sinners:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.(Psalm 51:17).

This sense of wretchedness leads sinners to turn to God for His mercy, ushering them into His kingdom; “for theirs is the kingdom of God”. The poor in spirit, through faith and regeneration of the Holy Spirit are born again and regenerated. Their sins are forgiven. They become children of God through adoption into His family. They gain entrance into the Kingdom of God and eternal life. Once they were lost, now they are found. Once they were enemies of God, now they are reconciled To God. Once they stood condemned before God. Now, they are justified through faith. Though poor in spirit, now they are rich in Spirit and made beneficiaries of all God’s divine abundance.

Are you aware of your sinfulness and inadequacy to please God? There is hope. There is forgiveness. Come to Christ in faith and repentance and enjoy the blessedness of heaven-forgiveness and reconciliation to God.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s(Psalm 103:1-5).