A False Pursuit Of Christ

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During the week, I refuted a statement by a friend that Christianity promises riches to believers. And his basis was;

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich (2Cor. 8:9).

I tried explaining the true context of the text to him but his mind was made up. There are many today, who like my friend, hold this same kind of belief. To them Christianity promises everything in the world. And to these people, coming to Christ is premised on such false notions of Christianity. This false form of Christianity is pervasive in our country Ghana and indeed across the world.

Sadly, many, if not the majority, have bought into this perverse and watered down gospel which promises anything from a life of health, prosperity and comfort in the name of Christianity. People put up a pursuit of “things” as a pursuit of Christ. But they are wrong. Coming to Christ because of a false gospel produces false converts.  In the gospel of John, we are introduced to the first miracle Jesus did at a wedding in Chapter 2. Then as the narration concludes, we are told that

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 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 (vv. 23-25).

There are a number of lessons we can draw from the text.

1 Superficial Faith Cannot Save

…many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing (v.23).

Why we come to Jesus is very important. Some come to Jesus for the wrong reasons. They want a breakthrough, a miracle, a healing…We see in the text that the people came because of the signs and miracles they saw Jesus perform. However, Jesus being God and omniscient, saw beyond their facade. He saw their hearts; the shallowness and insincerity of their faith. The only reason we must come to Christ is for our sins to be forgiven and reconciled to God. Any other thing apart from this will be a wrong reason.

What did Jesus say? “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God” (Matt. 6:33a). We would all have to examine ourselves to ascertain the state of our heart. Are you a genuine seeker of Christ? Is your pursuit after Jesus and the Kingdom of God?

Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.(John 6:27).

2: Jesus Knows Our Heart

But Jesus 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 2:24-25).

You might have heard Jesus can give you a healing, a breakthrough, a miracle. Yes, you may truly have a need and you have been made to believe Jesus has the answers to your problem. Yes he does have the answers. However, your heart seeks after only what you can receive. But not a heart willing and ready to submit to Christ’s Lordship. We can be hypocritical with people. We can have double standards. We can deceive people with our piety and religious fervency. But before God, we are bare and naked. We can’t hide our true self. We can’t hide our motives. We can’t hide our intentions. He sees beyond all that: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”(Hebrews 4:13).

Just like in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God covering themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7). Ironically, the loincloths didn’t cover up their shame. Is your heart sincere? What are you hiding from God while you seek His blessing? It is time to unmask and come face to face with the reality of your sinful life. Come because you need forgiveness of sins and you will not be cast out.

3. Salvation Is What You Need.

Whatever prompted you to seek Jesus is not greater than your need for salvation. Every problem is just symptomatic of humanity’s sin problem. We live in a fallen world in a fallen body. Our need for fulfilment, breakthroughs, miracles e.t.c are all a yearning for a void in our hearts to be filled. Augustine said it rightly; “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee”.

What we need is Christ Himself: the bread of life, Nothing else will satisfy your famished soul. Money won’t. Healing from a disease won’t. Temporal solutions cannot be applied to an eternal problem. Your need is rooted in a far more higher need; the redemption of your soul, reconciliation to God and standing justified before God. If you are coming to Christ for anything apart from these, you are trifling with your soul. It is not surprising that in the next Chapter immediately following John 2:23-25, we read of Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemus. What Jesus told him is of great significance here:

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).

Are you born again? That’s what you must be pursuing Christ for if you have no relationship with him.

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Christ Died For Our Sins

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Image: Cover Photo for TableTalk Magazine (Ligonier.com), January 2015 issue

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us  the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).

But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;

What Is Sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4

~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14

In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).

How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. 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: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).

Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.

However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.

Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).

Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).

Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Gospel Tract: What’s The Gospel?

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There are many so called gospels out there. But many of these miss what the gospel actually is. The Gospel is not God will heal you. The Gospel  is not about wealth or your well-being. The Gospel  is about our salvation. It is a good news that cancels a bad news of our separation and rebellion towards God in our sins.

Here is a short tract that tells us succinctly what the gospel is. You can download a PDF copy here :Gospel Tract (PDF)

If you need a hard copy for your personal use or outreach, kindly contact info.truthpublications@gmail.com

Eternal Life: God’s Gift

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For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

At the end of every month, I draw a salary from my employer for work done. That salary is my wages. I have earned it because I worked for it. My employer is not doing me a favour by paying me a salary. My salary is my reward for my service.

However, should I not be an employee of an organisation or provided a service, yet, I draw a remuneration from that organisation, it ceases to be something I deserve. It simply becomes a favour or a gift.

Nobody deserves a gift. It is given solely by the discretion of the giver.

There is, as we have seen, a clear distinction between wages and a gift. Scripture tells us death is the wages we receive for sin. It means that we deserve death. It is our wages. It is what is due us for sinning. We don’t die simply because we are human beings. Death was introduced into the human race because of sin. In the garden of Eden, our first parents disobeyed God and brought death, the consequences of their disobedience, upon the human race.

What this means is that every human being that walks the surface of the earth is a sinner deserving to die. We sin everyday reaping the wages for sin—death; not only physical death—but spiritual death separating sinners from God now and eternally.

But in contrast to what we deserve, that is, death, God extended a gift towards us. A gift which we don’t deserve and have not worked for. Instead of death, God has extended life to us freely. He sent Christ to come and die to reverse the effect of separation between sinners and God. Christ’s death was a gift to the world to be reconciled to God now and eternally. In Christ Jesus, God has made a way of escape from the death we deserve.

God has offered us a gift of salvation through Christ which if we receive in faith, reconciles us to Himself and gives us eternal life.

Unconditional Election: Salvation Is Unmeritorious

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Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him… we are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith, for example, in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. [1]

Probably the most commonly used word in Ghana, among Christians and non-Christians alike is the word grace. Ask someone “how are you?” and you are likely to hear a response “By the grace of God I am fine”. No doubt, it is a word we love to use. A Christian going for a job interview will believe that “by the grace of God, he will get the job rather than the other candidates. A business woman bidding for a contract, will believe that by the grace of God she will win the bid. And a young Christian who has just applied for admission to a university will believe that by the grace of God he or she will gain admission. Clearly, in our everyday use of grace, we do acknowledge we get something from God we do not deserve. If you ask any Christian what grace is, you are sure to get an answer “God’s unmerited favour”. And indeed that is what grace is. It is God’s favour and mercy we contributed nothing towards.

Now far more important than favour over another candidate in a job interview or contract bid or admission to an institution; grace is the determining factor in the salvation of sinners. Without grace, no soul will be saved. Paul says, in a very popular scripture that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Paul tells us we are saved by grace and this grace is accessed through faith. Also grace is a gift of God. To know what we are saved from, it would be helpful to take Paul’s words in its full context. Beginning from the opening verses of Eph 2, Paul describes the state of the Ephesian believers prior to their regeneration. They were dead in trespasses and sin (v.1). Not only them, but this is true of every believer today. We were previously dead in sin. Furthermore, this is also true of every unbeliever. The former state of the believer is the present reality of the unbeliever; they are dead in sin. 

This throws us back to the previous article in this series—Total Depravity: We Are All Sinners. If naturally, the unbeliever is dead in sin, it simply means they will remain dead in sin. Corpse don’t have life, neither can they give themselves life. So for a sinner to come to salvation which is life, a power beyond them will have to intervene. This power, so to speak, is the Holy Spirit who convicts sinners to come to salvation. Without this conviction of sin unto repentance, no sinner will be saved. As Paul says in 1Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. The natural person here is anyone who has not come to the knowledge of salvation. And before any one will come to the appreciation of spiritual things, that is, things pertaining to God and salvation, they have to be first regenerated –be born again.

Regeneration is solely a work of God which He does on a sinner. God makes a sinner’s heart come alive and then He gives them the gift of faith to believe. Reformed Theology affirms from Scripture that those the Lord regenerates are those He has chosen and predestined unto eternal life. These chosen and predestined ones are called God’s elect: “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace” (WCF 1.5).

Unconditional election is biblical. Surprisingly, some Christians do ignore the fact that there are a group of people called God’s elect. Speaking about election, Paul says of Jacob and Esau; “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad— in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written , “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11-13). The only reason to explain the choosing of Jacob over Esau as Paul says is “that God’s purpose of election might continue”. God’s elect were chosen before the foundation of the world and that’s what unconditional election is about (Ephesians 1:3-6).

1. Five Points Towards A Deeper Experience Of God’s Grace, by John Piper (Christian Focus Publications, 2013, kindle edition).

Total Depravity: For All Haved Sinned.

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In the previous article, I mentioned the doctrines of grace acronised as TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace And Perseverance of the Saints) and further explained with a quote that “Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation”¹.

I did an unusual thing by first explaining the last petal in the TULIP; P (Perseverance of the Saints). Today, I will do an explanation of the first ‘petal’ T, which is Total Depravity.

You may have heard a charge of bigotry against Christianity for declaring Jesus is the only way to heaven. People have pressed further to say there are good people living charitable, philanthropic lives and based on that, they can make it to heaven. The sad reality however is that, there are no good people on earth. The Bible condemns all as sinners. In Romans 3:9-10, Paul says “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one”. Further on in v.23, he says  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. John also puts it this way: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (John 1:8). Anyone who says they are without sin is living in self-deception. That’s the point of John 1:8.

The origin of our sin is explained by the Bible as springing forth from Adam’s disobedience of God’s command: “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Genesis 2:17). Adam disobeyed, he ate and the sentence for disobedience; physical and spiritual death was pronounced. In Adam’s fall, all humankind fell and were declared sinners: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

All I have said so far is what Total Depravity is. We are all sinners: “As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all of Adam’s descendants are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Calvinists are quick to point out that this does not mean that all people are as bad as they could be. Rather, this doctrine says that, as a result of man’s fall in Adam, all people are radically depraved from the inside and that their depravity affects every area of their lives”. ²

G.K. Chesterton, quoted in an online article on Original Sin said “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved,” (Orthodoxy, chap. 2) ³. You see, what he means here is that the sinfulness of humankind is not difficult to prove. The empirical evidence is all around us. Just look into your heart and life. Sin stares you in the face doesn’t it? On this grounds, no one stands the chance of acquittal from God on their merit. The only means God has provided is through Jesus Christ who offered Himself as a sin sacrifice to appease God’s wrath towards humankind. Come to Him in faith or you will perish in your sins:

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. (John 8:24).

1: https://www.google.com.gh/amp/s/gotquestions.org/amp/doctrines-of-grace.html

2: ibid

3: http://www.theopedia.com/original-sin

Perseverance Of The Saints: Assurance Of Salvation

fb_img_1475583156578There is what is called doctrines of grace amongst those who hold to Reformed Theology or Calvinism. Reformed Theology or Calvinism is nothing strange. Just as some describe themselves as Pentecostals or Charismatics, Reformed Theology or Calvinism is a branch of Christianity with specific beliefs from Scripture.

The doctrines of grace is acronised as TULIP: “Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation”[1]TULIP as an acronym represents: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace And Perseverance of the Saints. A study of what these represents can begin from here.

Here is a brief explanation of the last letter of TULIP–P which is the focus of this article.

Perseverance of the Saints – The particular people God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None of those whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure in Him (John 10:27–29; Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:3–14). Some Reformed theologians prefer to use the term “Preservation of the Saints” as they believe that this choice of words more accurately describes how God is directly responsible for the preservation of His elect. It is clear in Scripture that Christ continues to intercede for His people (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). This continues to provide believers with the assurance that those that belong to Christ are eternally His. [2]

Now, when I first became convinced of Reformed Theology, one of the doctrines of grace I grasped quickly was the last letter P–Perseverance/Preservation  of The Saints. Some nickname it “Once Saved Always Saved” with a smirk of negativity though. Why I so quickly grasped it could probably be because I have had my own battles with doubt about my salvation and was desperately seeking for assurance to know I was indeed saved. What a joy to discover I couldn’t lose my salvation if indeed I was saved.

Assurance of salvation is the believer’s right and every believer must be “…the more diligent to confirm [their] calling and election” (1Peter 1:10). That said, it is crucial we don’t give ourselves and others false assurances of salvation if indeed we are not saved. The basis of assurance is for those “who are in Christ Jesus”. It is not for those outside Christ. For those in Christ, there is no condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1). So first things first. A sinner must be saved before they can have any assurance of salvation. Though when saved, they might have seasons of doubt.

When we are saved, we must bear fruit. Yet, we  don’t have to look at ourselves for assurance of salvation. Our human emotion is too frail and a bad barometer for measuring our assurance of salvation. What must be done? Look to God in His word. Seek and dig the word of God for your assurance because it is in God’s world we are told we are sinners and how we need to be saved and possess salvation.

Regardless of your feelings of doubt about your salvation, if you are truly saved, be assured “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). If you have it, that is, if you are saved, you can’t lose it. The believer is eternally secure.

Notes

1: https://www.google.com.gh/amp/s/gotquestions.org/amp/doctrines-of-grace.ht

2: ibid

Recommended reading

1: Five Points Towards A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace by John Piper

2: Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul

3: Chosen For Eternity by John MacArthur

4: For Calvinism by Michael Horton

Other resources can be accessed from monergism.com a reliable place for Reformed resources