Do you see the Church as an abode of the righteous.. or as the refuge of sinners..?
Are you facing a battle with sin..? One where you constantly face failure after failure as you wish to overcome the sin..? Are the failures hurting you.. deep down, to the very bottom of your soul..? Convicted in that soul.. you may feel a heaviness that you’d be quick to acknowledge as a nudge from your conscience. The desire may exist, to leave behind this pattern of ‘sin and repent’. Yet, you may find yourselves unable. Some of us may even feel like we have become numb to sin.. that we can’t even believe that own heart is capable of repentance.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
But trust me when I tell you, no matter how far you feel you’ve gone.. you are still capable. No matter what you’ve done or for how long you’ve done what you’ve done, your heart is not destined to stay hardened forever.. it can still return to days when it was tender.. when repentance came naturally. Despite all your failures, you can still taste victory over sin. How would I know all this, when I don’t even know you, you may ask..? Oh, I do know. I may not know you, but I do know because this battle is not about you, but the One who died for you.. who arose from the dead and is with you, even today. I do know, because I know Him.. He who is faithful, even when we are not….
Why strive against what is too powerful for you and prolong this path of pain..? How can man defeat his own nature..? Jesus didn’t die on the cross, facing all the pain in the world, to see you wrestle in futility, the burden of sin.. the consequence of our fallen nature. As He died shedding every ounce of blood that flowed through His veins, sin lost the battle over your soul, forever. No longer does your sin have the voice to utter words of condemnation against you, if you will believe. Live life in that freedom. That is the Good News for which God strived in the form of man, so that man need not strive. That is the Good News that I as a Christian am commanded to share. Believe. Live free….
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Now you may wonder.. what about sin from this point on..? How does knowledge of the redemptive power of the cross, work in our life..? If sin no longer condemns us, do we then have freedom to indulge freely in sin..? If not, what really is the point of it all..?
Firstly, I’ll state this – the claim I made, that ‘sin no longer condemns’, I whole heartedly believe, is true with no variation. So then, should we keep on sinning, now that through Jesus we are no longer weighed down when we do..? Logically, that can be a mind set that flows from the knowledge of the freedom we have in Christ. While the other mind set can be one of gratitude to the One who gave you that freedom, to live a life that pleases Him. Before I go on though, I will pose this question: If you suffered so much at the hands of sin, why would you want to return into it’s hands..? [I wish I had asked myself that question early on in my post-salvation life.]
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.
So.. how does freedom in Christ Jesus work..? Do we go on to live without a trace of sin..? Or do we just go on sinning with no fear of the consequence..? I’ll share with you the kind of mindset I entered as I embraced the Good News….
I received salvation as I read through Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. That was a time when I read the Bible only because I believed it to be a healthy habit. Not to hear the voice of God.. who’s love for me I hadn’t yet tasted. I struggled alone with my secret sin.. one I just couldn’t share with another soul. I knew that God is forgiving in nature. I knew when I did sin, His forgiveness was a prayer away, if I repented. And I did repent. I never liked the man that I was for my dark indulgence. But, even as I saw God as forgiving, I would still fear.. what if I die before I have a chance to repent..? I knew that God could see the umpteen times I kept going back to sin after repentance. What if God decides to punish me by taking my life right in the moment when I’m yet to repent of a terrible sin..? What if I’m destined to the fire of hell..? And it was to this anxious soul that the Book of Romans spoke comfort to.. that no matter when I die, or what I do from this time till then, my salvation is secure.. that my salvation is not dependant on me living a good life nor on my pious prayers, but is dependant of my unchanging Lord who offered that hard earned prize of eternity with Him, for free.
There has never been such a moment since in my life, when I felt such happiness and joy bubble from within. I smiled. I laughed. I cried, as tears over flowed. I could not have contained such emotion even if I had been in public with the eyes of the whole world on me. What if they thought I was a mad man..? I couldn’t care less. God loves humanity so much. God loves me so much. What more do I ever need..?
You’d think I’d have been quick to choose the way of God. You’d have thought I’d have no taste for sin from then. But that wasn’t the way things turned out. I flirted with sin once again. The flirting turned into a deep affair, that in my mind, I legitimized though my knowledge of God’s grace. Now when I look back, I know that what I did then was abuse the freedom that I received. I abused God’s grace….
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Can such knowledge lead to anything else..? Wouldn’t man who is already broken, be lead to more sin with such a freedom granted to him..? Is any other way even possible..? That’s where the Good News finds it’s completion. You see, the Truth that sets us free is not just a statement or a verse, but the Truth is Christ Jesus. The Truth isn’t just life giving, but the Truth is living. Along with the freedom that comes with salvation comes the promise of God, that He Who Lives will live with you, forever. The Holy God will indwell sinful man; who He has atoned for with His blood. The Helper – the Holy Spirit – will actively work to transform our hearts to be able to handle that freedom that comes with His grace. And when all your thoughts fail you as you wonder how man can handle such freedom, He shows us that what is impossible with man is possible with God.
God’s love for us didn’t end at the cross. He still extends His love into our lives by transforming our hearts and minds each day as He draws us closer and closer to Him. And that is a love that I have tasted.. a love that I can testify to.. a love that patiently guided me.. me who abused the very grace that saved me, to teach me how to rejoice in the liberating Truth that I found in Him.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
1 John 2:1
Today, I am still far from being a perfect man. At times, I still sin the same sins, which in extension are against the Law of Love. But no longer do I justify my sinful thoughts or actions using the grace of God.. no longer do I embrace sin. When I am tempted, I lean on Him for strength to overcome. If through a moment of weakness I fall, I am reminded that in Christ Jesus my Lord, my sins no longer have the power to condemn me. I may live in brokenness still.. as long as I live in this body of flesh, but in the eyes of my Lord I know that even in my brokenness I am precious. I live life in the unshakeable hope that one day, all that is broken in me will be made whole. Now, I truly live free….
The Book of Revelation begins with the message of Jesus Christ our Lord, to the seven churches of Asia Minor [modern day Turkey]. The messages – which can be applied to churches and individuals, even in our times – reflect the spiritual state of each church, which are quite distinct from each other. One church in particular though, sets itself apart from the rest.. and it isn’t for the best of reasons – the Church of Laodicea.
The Laodicean church is better remembered as the lukewarm church; the one that is, as Jesus says, neither cold nor hot – in a spiritual sense. And among the seven, this is the only church that does not receive even a single line of commendation from our Lord; our Lord who is quick to applaud the good He found in the other six churches. So.. what kept the church in Laodicea in such a state of spiritual bankruptcy..?
For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.
Historical sources agree with the Bible on the fact that Laodicea was noted for its abundance of wealth. And it was this state of prosperity that acted as a stumbling block to the church at Laodicea. Don’t get me wrong.. I do not intend to make wealth appear an evil in itself nor do I wish to say that wealthy people are spiritually bankrupt. But to point out from our Lord’s message to the churches that a healthy financial state can lead to a false sense of sufficiency in riches, from which it is vital that we guard ourselves.
When I read the words that reflect the state of the Laodicean believers, “I need nothing”, I am reminded of words spoken by a famous man in the Bible – the psalmist David. In Psalm 23:1 he says, “I shall not want”. The meaning of the words are similar, but the trust of David wasn’t upon the riches he possessed [which must have been much, considering he was the king of Israel], but in the Lord who is his Shepherd. Let us pause a little to consider our lives.. where have we placed our trust..?
Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
While the Lord finds nothing worthy of commendation in the Laodicean believers, He doesn’t leave them feeling despised by Him. As a loving Father, He directs them on a more desirable path. He also makes it a point to affirm His love for them, lest the enemy make them believe otherwise. Can you imagine this..? Even to those of us in the most wretched of spiritual states, our Holy God desires to say, “I love you”. While we are convicted in our hearts over the ways in which we have gone astray, what a comfort it is to know, that despite our lack of good works we are still loved by Him, who has done far more for us than we ever could deserve….
You might be familiar with a man named C.T. Studd.. one of the most inspiring missionaries to have preached the Gospel in the modern era. But do you know how this man found and accepted Christ as his saviour..? I recently had a chance to read his personal testimony.. and in it I found a story of a man, a missed train ride and lives transformed….
Walking down the streets of 19th century Dublin, a man was looking for ways to while his time on a Saturday evening. He should’ve been elsewhere, had he only been able to be on time for the train that was to take him there. The next train didn’t leave until Sunday, and wondering how he could keep himself entertained, he took a stroll around town.
Advertisement bills promoting Moody and Sankey who were on a visit from the US, caught his eye. “I will just go and hear those Americans,” he thought to himself.. just eager to hear something different, perhaps. He went. The person speaking on the stage may have been merely a man, but through his words, God welcomed this man into His fold. End of story..? Not quite….
The new Christian came to London on the invitation of his friend. The said friend.. Mr. Studd, after dinner let his guest choose the form of entertainment. The man suggested they go listen to Moody, but Studd complained that it wasn’t a Sunday.. still, he went. He too, embraced the Lord.
Like his friend, Studd could not keep the Good News to himself. He took his sons to hear Moody. But this time, God didn’t choose Moody to work His transformation. Being a man with means, Studd organized conventions at his estate where many would come to preach and to hear God’s Word. One man who happened to be at one such convention to share God’s message, initiated a conversation with Studd’s son Charles as he was heading out to play a game of cricket. And that conversation lead to Charles a.k.a. C.T. Studd, give his life to Jesus.
C.T. Studd would go on to share the Gospel with many around the world. And a little thing as a missed train – which at that moment, might have lead to much frustration – had a part to play in the Master’s plans.
Has a situation in your life made you feel like you’re standing on the platform watching the train you’d rather have been on.. run away..? Consider this, the moment that might make you upset.. frustrated.. or even angry today, could turn out to be a blessing.. not just for you, or those around you, but for hundreds and thousands more.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The Personal Testimony of C.T. Studd can be found here.
When I look back at my life this past week, I am filled with a sense of gratitude to God for His faithfulness.. faithfulness that is unwavering. Being in Christ is no guarantee that we will never go wrong, but that when we do, He in His patience will guide us back to the path of life.
Initially, when I opened this blog, my intention was not to make it to be a kind of online ministry.. but rather to simply share with the world some of my personal learnings in my walk with Jesus.. so that another might benefit from what the Lord has taught me. At some point though, my desire to write became more important than my walk with Him.
There is nothing wrong in desiring to use your skills for the Lord, of course, but unless your actions are rooted in Christ.. in love for Him and His children, it is impossible to bear fruit.. [and I was just about to find that out]. Writing prompts that seemed to come without ceasing suddenly dried up. And when I tried mining for ideas to write, I ended up with posts that I could not complete [still in draft] either for lack of words or simply because I was confronted through scripture that the ideas were partly flawed.
And it was in this frustration – unable to write and wondering why I couldn’t – that I entered my weekly quiet time. As I spent more time with His Word for company, I realised what I had been lacking. Through the week, the anxieties caused by the storms in life kept me seeking the Lord for comfort.. but kept me from seeking Him. When I finally did, I was able to see why I couldn’t write.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
The reason I write should be Christ. Nothing else. Not to make this a successful blog.. to rake up views/visitors.. or to satisfy my pride. The closer I am to God, the prompts would come as and when they’re necessary. And when I receive a prompt from Him, He will be with me and enable me to write. Trust and obey. Simple, eh..? Grateful to Him for being patient with me amidst my ignorantly prideful attempts. Truly, apart from Him I can do nothing….
It’s easy to forget sometimes
And become legends in our minds
But we’re just tools within His hands
Used to carry out His plans.
Ken Lawrence [Just The Brush]
There are times we all go through when the days of life are as dark as night with stormy clouds hovering above. You know within that there is light above those menacing clouds, but you just can’t see the light with your eyes. There is a deep longing within you to see those clouds disappear. There is a hope that you’ll soon bathe in light but.. when..? Each passing day is another mighty wave thundering on the sides of the ship called Faith that you’re sailing on.
Though we may never fully understand why God chooses to let us traverse such days, we can trust that He will never leave us to face them alone. In the days that followed my mother’s passing, those clouds that hovered above my head were darker than ever before. But even in those darkest of times, His footsteps were ever present beside me. He provided comfort.. the extent of which I could not believe was possible.
One of the ways He reached out to comfort me.. to make His presence known, was through music. In particular from a certain YouTube channel named TheNCrew EliEli. One of their videos that deeply touched my troubled soul was Stephen Nasby’s version of the hymn ‘Be Still My Soul’. And that is what I wish to share with you today.
If you’re going through days where the clouds are dark and the wind and the waves are just too strong for you to bear, remember to tell yourself:
Be still, my soul;
The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them
While He dwelt below.
Sunday Quiz: Where was Jesus born..?
Well, that is an easy one, right..? You likely answered Bethlehem and you would be right. But.. I want to share a little bit of trivia about Bethlehem – the City of David.
When the Israelites gave names to people/places, they chose for a name a meaningful word/string of words in their own tongue – which is still a common practice in many cultures around the world. Naturally, names in the Bible carry more significance to the Hebrews than it does to us – people who do not speak/understand Hebrew. Consider this, every time people called out to Jesus by name in Judea, they would’ve been effectively calling Him as ‘God is Salvation’. See, the name to them meant more than the sound of the syllables in His name.
Now.. we can get back to Bethlehem. Bethlehem too must have a meaning, right..? Of course it does. The prefix ‘beth’ signifies ‘house’ in Hebrew. There are many names that begin as such – Bethel, Bethesda and Bethsaida come to mind – which all signify that they are a ‘house of’ something [or someone]. What is that something, here..? The second part of the word ‘lehem’ signifies bread in Hebrew. So.. Bethlehem put together becomes ‘House of Bread’.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger.”
Our Saviour spoke many amazing things. Amazing things like claiming to be the ‘Bread of Life’. And we do know from scriptures that the Saviour who claimed to be the ‘Bread of Life’ was born in a manger in the ‘House of Bread’. How mysteriously beautiful are His ways….
Have you ever been surprised by a verse in the Bible..? Like when you read it once, you just have to read it again..? ‘Did it just say what I think it says..?’
Today I was reading through 2 Kings 7 when I came across a verse that I just couldn’t believe is found in the Old Testament. The verse – spoken by lepers in Elisha’s time – is so well worded that you’d think it was speaking directly to us Christians. When I stop to think that people of that day had no clue about the mystery to be revealed through Christ who would only come centuries from their time, I truly am amazed.
Then they said to one another, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news. If we are silent and wait until the morning light, punishment will overtake us. Now therefore come; let us go and tell the king’s household.”
2 Kings 7:9
Doesn’t it sound like it is speaking to you and me..? To those of us to whom the Good News has come..? Perhaps what we are reading is a prophetic message, that came out of the lips of lepers….
Lord, I do not know whether these words were intended to be prophetic or not. But I do know that the message that it shares is true to me today. I have received the Good News in my life and I will not be doing right if I kept silent and wait until your coming. Give me the grace to be bold enough to go and tell Your household – those who are yet unaware of your call – of the abundance You have made available to us. In Jesus name I pray. Amen.
Eutychus might have answered, “Because the sermons are too long.” But really though, why did Eutychus fall..? Why did this incident in the life of Eutychus make the pages of the Bible..? Even if the name doesn’t ring a bell, you might remember if I introduced him as the man who fell asleep during a sermon and fell down to his death. The account of that fatal fall is found in Acts 20:7-12.
Some would say the message of this passage is a warning to those who fall asleep in Church. Others like my imagination of Eutychus may use this passage to ask the Pastor to check the length of their sermon. All depending on which side of the pulpit they find themselves, I guess.
There’s only a little information we can gather from this short passage. We do see that Eutychus ‘sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked still longer’ and that Paul ‘prolonged his speech until midnight’. So perhaps Paul was in the fault here..? But look, there is a defence for Paul too. The reason he prolonged his sermon as such was because he ‘intended to depart on the next day’. Travelling in Paul’s day was surely a much slower affair than we have it in our time. And knowing how much Paul travelled from place to place there was a good chance he might not be able to see these people ever again. You couldn’t really blame him for wanting to make the most of the time he had with those who were so dear to him.
One thing I do notice in Eutychus though is something that I so often see in myself – a sense of carelessness..? Our poor friend didn’t just fall asleep, but he fell asleep while sitting on an open window all the way up.. in the third floor. I repeat – the third floor! Not the ideal place to be dozing away, is it..?
We are all prone to make them – those innocent mistakes that sometimes have a deep impact on our lives and the lives of those around us. At times these mistakes stem from well intentioned actions. Eutychus got on to that window eager to get an unhindered access to Paul’s sermon. Surely, you can’t fault him for that..?
Though all may seem gloomy yet, the end of this episode gives us enough reason to take heart. The passage doesn’t end with a fall that leads to death. Eutychus’ near and dear are not left to mourn – thinking of how different their lives would’ve been had Eutychus been more cautious in his actions. But what follows is an act that exhibits God’s ever present love and power – even over death. As Paul intervened, Eutychus’ life returned to his body. The people departed with hearts that were greatly comforted.
From personal experience, I can say that God – more often than not – in His mercy, guards us from falling like Eutychus, even when at times our actions push is to the edge of the ledge. But you may at some point – even today – find yourself in the midst of a needless mess; one that you could’ve easily avoided had you showed more care. You could be going through a whirlwind of emotions. There might be pain. There might be guilt. All would perhaps combine leaving you with nothing but loathing over yourself. Maybe you had nothing to do with the mess that has been caused, but you’re suffering because of the heedless actions of a close someone.
Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
Whatever be the reason for you being in the dire straits that you’re in, just remember: the God who revived Eutychus and comforted those around him, is still the same today as He was then.