Making friends is easy but keeping friends is difficult.
Making friends is easy but keeping friends is difficult.
That is why you are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God's people and members of God's family. Ephesians 2:19, GOD'S WORD Translation
Loneliness is fast becoming a public health crisis.
Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 2 Corinthians 3:5-6
Grace makes the difference in the way we serve and minister.
Whether we are paid or volunteered, our attitude and way of doing things reflects Christ's attitude and character. His presence and power in us allow us to serve as ministers of the new covenant through the Spirit.
Embracing your identity in Christ impacts how we serve and care for one another.
When we learn to partner with the Holy Spirit, we serve with freedom and favour. We are not dictated by the law, that is forced to labour like a slave but we are directed by the Spirit to serve as sons and daughters in our Father's house. You can tell the difference by examining your motives.
If your life and ministry is driven by a colossal fear of disappointing God, you are not relying on the power of God's grace to sustain and strengthen you. Ministry becomes a burden and we become impatient and discouraged when things don't happen right away. Then everything we do becomes transactional—contingent solely on how people look at us and make us feel on the inside.
If you serve with the revelation that your service to God is not in vain, you can serve with passion and purpose. Ministry is not supposed to be painful or devastating. But unfortunately, it happens and often brings much sorrow and heartbreak. This is because we serve a broken and hurting world. In spite of the pushback and hardship, with God's help, you can persevere and overcome every pain and disappointment.
We can learn from the Apostle Paul's counsel to Timothy:
16 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them. 17 But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. 18 And the Lord will deliver me from every evil work and preserve me for His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory forever and ever. Amen! 2 Timothy 4:16-18
Even when Paul was alone, forgotten and friendless, he knew Jesus was always with Him. That gave him much joy and strength. Likewise, when you learn to do all things for Christ and through Christ, He will help you to overcome all our ministry struggles and opposition. So don't give up or quit because the challenge is hard and how weary you feel. Be like Paul and and say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7)
Let each of us please his neighbour for his good, to build him up. Romans 15:2, English Standard Bible
If our approach to community is about what we can get out of it, then our relationship with others tends to be transactional rather than transformational. Transactional relationships are forged out of a strong culture of individualism and self-serving interest. It is looking for relationships to feed your needs and expectations in a selfish way. As such, transactional relationships are not happy relationships and they won't survive in the long run.
We don't make use of people for our own happiness or fill the emptiness we feel.
The motivation behind transactional relationships is driven by an underlying fear of not having enough and a limited understanding of God's abundant grace and generosity. In Acts, we read of Simon Magus who tried to buy spiritual power from the apostles. He treated the gospel as a transactional gospel of religious consumerism and wanted to profit from it.
Transformational relationships transcend transactional relationships and show genuine love for God and others in an authentic way. Transformational relationships have fewer expectations, more appreciation and mutual love and respect. We cannot have true transformation until or unless there are true encounters of God. Paul's experience of Jesus on the road to Damascus transformed him in a way that was beyond imagination. Subsequently, he experienced many more encounters that set him ablaze for the gospel and impacting lives for Jesus.
Truth is, all of us have a mixture of transactional and transformational relationships within our church community. But it should not be so among God's people. If we are children of God, then we are brothers and sisters in Christ to each other. All the more, we are to grow relationships that are deep, meaningful and mutually fulfilling.
When we are true to each other, we will dare to take risks and try new things, knowing that we are in a safe place of mutual encouragement, love and acceptance. Then forgiveness and healing and reconciliation are the best gifts we offer one another and receive from one another. This is the essence of every transformational relationship.
[Jesus] said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Mark 16:15
Sharing faith is not the sole responsibility and concern of pastors, evangelists and missionaries. Every believer shares his or her part in proclaiming the good news and trust in the Spirit's power to convict people of their need for Jesus.
When we share the gospel, the Holy Spirit helps us to be witnesses in word and deed. Pray for opportunity and courage and God will open doors for you. Trust what Jesus said: "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matthew 28:20) In other words, Jesus promises us His presence and power to accomplish the commission He gave us.
Jesus is the gospel.
Whatever means we use to proclaim the gospel, whether conversation, persuasion, or presentation, we rest on God's grace alone to remove the barriers and hindrances and to reflect love and mercy for people. Remember, salvation belongs to God but we cooperate and partner with God in His mission. As we follow Jesus, we invite others to follow Jesus as well.
Our call is not to make converts out of people. Rather it is because we have been positively changed by the gospel, we want everyone else to encounter what we have experienced. As we receive unconditional love and grace, we give unconditional love and grace to other people. Someone once described, "Sharing the gospel is like one beggar telling another beggar where to find food."
Believing in Jesus and sharing about Jesus are part of the same gospel.
It is easy to tell people about Jesus when you realise God has done everything possible to save everyone. All you have to do is to ask God which of the people around you is ready to hear the message of His love—and let God take it from there.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12
Jesus calls us to forgive others just as how God has forgiven us.
13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13
According to Jesus, God will not lead us into temptation and that He will also deliver us from the tempter. The Greek word for "deliver" is rhyomai which means "to snatch". Therefore, when we pray, we are asking God to snatch us from the clutches of the devil and to protect us from all harms and dangers.
If we want to be delivered from evil—and the Evil One, we must consistently pray for deliverance. To pray for deliverance is to exercise your freedom in Christ. Satan cannot take advantage of us when we stand completely rooted in the truth of what Christ did for us. Then, no temptation can overtake us that is beyond what we can resist and overcome.
Prayer is not an obligatory function, that is, something we do before taking meals or exams. Rather, prayer is our weapon and the means of our victory over Satan in Jesus' name. We can see the example of Jesus telling his disciples: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:39). In other words, God does not forsake us when we are tempted. Rather, our Father comes to our aid and saves us from Satan's malice and schemes.
No doubt, it is easy to fall into temptation when we neglect to grow a healthy prayer life.
Purpose yourself to pray regularly each day for your spiritual and physical well-being. Pray without ceasing. Do invite others to pray for you and with you.
This was what the Apostle Paul did. He was always ready to use the power of prayer to fight against the power of darkness. Prayer empowered him to discern and overcome demonic oppositions. That was why he often gained the higher ground in spiritual warfare and battles.
It was through his personal victories that Paul could instruct the churches how to experience Christ's victory over Satan in their daily walk. He told the Corinthians: "It’s my duty to make sure that Satan does not win even a small victory over us, for we don’t want to be naïve and then fall prey to his schemes." (2 Corinthians 2:11, The Voice).
Pray for spiritual insight and experience victory in your daily battles.
11 Give us this day our daily bread. Matthew 6:13
Jesus tells us that God will provide because He is our loving Father. We just need to ask and have confidence we shall receive from Him. In the same way God provided daily manna to sustain the children of Israel, God will also provide for our daily needs.
Jesus gives us an incredible promise:
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11).
God gives good things to those who ask Him. God will not only give but He will give generously and often beyond all expectations. After all, Jesus tells us that God will provide an abundant life to those who seek His kingdom first.
Kingdom vision produces Kingdom provision. These two go together. God's provision is the fuel that keeps us pursuing God's vision. Thus empowered and strengthened, we can persevere through all things and face life's difficult moments with courage, patience and wisdom.
Worrying over our needs is a sign that we are not focusing on our Father. To worry over what to eat, what to drink and what to wear shows a poverty mindset and an orphan spirit. This fear of not having enough will not grow faith but actually robs you from enjoying God.
Unless we have given ourselves totally over to God, we will feel restless and frustrated and fearful. We need to realise our relationship with God is sustained by the generous character of God and His amazing love towards us.
Being nurtured by God's generosity makes us generous people.
Like our Father, we become cheerful givers who give without holding anything back. Growth and maturity in our identity means that a life of generosity and true abundance becomes almost second nature. Then, in all that we do and say, we might better reflect our Father's generous character and His call to live wholly for His Kingdom.
10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10How we understand God affects the way we pray.
9 In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. 11 Give us this day our daily bread. 12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13Jesus teaches us how to pray simply and honestly and from the heart.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 New International Version
The church is connected to the kingdom of God, but for many believers, the relationship appears to be so elusive that they have somehow concluded both are pursuing opposite directions. This explains why churches can be so consumed with their own activities at the cost of kingdom priority and purpose. Too often they are trying to build the church for the Lord, and not heed the call to seek His kingdom first and not rest on the promise that He will build His church.
If the church is not on the same page as to what the gospel of the kingdom is all about, we will use our traditions and theological perspectives to supplant the kingdom agenda with our own. We can be busy and do stuff—but they are of no consequence to God’s Kingdom. Take for instance the situation in Acts 15 when some Jewish believers were trying to make circumcision a salvation issue for the Gentiles.
A church with kingdom focus has a clear sense of bringing Kingdom reality into every sphere of influence in our city. It is willing to push boundaries and take risks to challenge the status quo with the truth of the gospel. To put it bluntly, such a church is not interested to be relevant with prevailing culture—but seeking for its reformation and transformation with kingdom presence and power. That is why everywhere the apostles went, we see the amazing authentication of the gospel by signs, wonders and miracles of various sorts.
If God can accomplish His purposes through them, He can do the same through you. We have no less anointing than those faithful men and women who have gone before us. Perhaps the missing ingredient is passion. That is, passion for the lost and passion for the kingdom.
Let us echo the Apostle Paul's words: It would be agony to me if I did not constantly preach the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16 Passion Translation) Remember, when Paul said those words, he was not put under pressure to preach the gospel. Rather, he knew he was called and commissioned by Christ Himself. Likewise, we too are called and chosen to live boldly as witnesses for the gospel.
10 Be devoted to one another in love. Romans 12:10 New International Version
If our community building is based on human efforts and reliance, like the Tower of Babel, it will disintegrate and fall apart. If it is centred on the grace of Christ, then the impossibilities of community become possible. This is because, by the power of the Spirit, Christ is incarnate in us so that we can mirror and manifest His life with one another.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5 New International Version
Genuine community begins with a genuine and continuing relationship with Jesus Christ. As the head of the church, Jesus is the source of our unity and oneness. Because we are connected to Christ by faith and by the Spirit, we are united in Christ by faith and by the Spirit. If we don't honour the Lordship of Christ as our King and Saviour (Philippians 2:9-11), then we won't value community and contribute to its life, growth and purpose.
To love Christ is to love the people whom He died for and has incorporated into Him and included into His church.
The finished work of Jesus not only dealt with the sin that separates you from God, it also dealt with the sin that separates and builds barriers between you and others. As such, there is no ground or place in any church community for racism, gender oppression and class status—for in Christ there is no longer race, gender and class pride and prejudice. There is no lesser "someone" in the family of God. To allow such things to persist is not obeying the gospel of the Kingdom.
The early church had to learn the lesson to stop treating certain people as "clean" and other people as "unclean"—for out of His great love God has made everyone clean in Christ. It is still a lesson we need to learn and put into practice today.
We are one family and a new humanity and one community of new creation in Christ. In such a glorious setting, old fears can be overcome, risks can be taken and the proclamation of the gospel can be expressed more fully. In other words, if we are willing to do for each other what Christ has done for us, this new experience in community will seem like a foretaste of heaven.
42 Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion[c] and coming together regularly for prayer. Acts 2:42 The Passion Translation
If Christ is truly present with us, then the community of believers must be the most remarkable people in the world. Somehow we don't give the impression that we are. However, we must not be disappointed, if we are not as good as we would like to be. The most important thing is to keep on loving the church in spite of its flaws and failures—that is how Jesus loves us.
Sometimes, an individualistic mindset contributes to a lack of community. When we choose not to build relationships for fear of hurt or disappointment, we will miss out on deep and meaningful connections. Yes, while friendships can be painful, they are extremely rewarding and enriching.
Without genuine community, faith grows cold and pale.
The COVID pandemic posts a huge challenge for churches and individuals. The lockdowns and restrictions have disrupted many churches' activities and believers are finding it harder and harder to stay in touch. In fact, thanks to those technological advances, many rather watch or listen to a church service now rather than attending one. This is going to be the new normal for the post covid church. In time to come, believers will experience a crisis of community unless they find new and creative ways to express and experience community.
The good thing is that we have a culture of life groups in our church and I recommend that everyone should belong to one. A life group gives you a sense of belonging with the church and a personal connection with other believers.
Community is about journeying together as adventurers to the unknown rather than trying to make sure everything is perfect before we take action. This was how the early church in Acts does community. They were always surprised by the Holy Spirit whenever they gathered together. This is often how God works in redeeming and caring for us.
Let's be mindful that Covid is still affecting people and communities everywhere. Instead of wanting to go back to a pre-COVID life, let us find a newfound sense of community and continue to encourage each other to find new experiences of faith, worship and service. It is good to rest on what God through the Prophet Isaiah: "Do not cling to events of the past or dwell on what happened long ago. Watch for the new thing I am going to do. It is happening already—you can see it now!" (Isaiah 43.18-19)
If we truly believe God and trust His leading, we will be the most remarkable people—people will ever meet.
13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13, New International Version
Spiritual deception comes from a lack of healthy knowledge and relationship with God. This makes it easy for a believer to fall into erroneous teachings and ideas. When we accept wrong ideas of God, it causes conflicts and difficulties and sometimes even a falling away from faith. This is why it is important to guard our faith and stand firm in the Lord.
Genuine faith flows from the love of God.
When we discover from the gospel how much we are loved by God, faith is ignited within us. Our faith in the gospel opens our eyes to the truth of Jesus and His amazing grace. It is by walking in the reality of the truth that we avoid spiritual deception and confusion.
The Apostle Paul warns Timothy that there will be those people who do not love the truth but instead they love falsehoods (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In other words, people choose to be deceived. We must love the truth found in Jesus and passionately defend the truth of the gospel when it is under attack.
Legalism, traditionalism and faddism are enemies of the cross. They ascribed to the efforts of the flesh or to anything else but the grace of God. If we are to discern spiritual deception, we need to imitate the Bereans who would study the scriptures for themselves to prove the truth of the gospel (Acts 17:10:11).
God's Word in Scripture is the ultimate standard for our Christian walk and the Holy Spirit guides us in all truth and empowers us to walk in truth. It is to your favour to grow a habit of studying the Bible and living out your faith in the context of community.
Our faith thrives well when we grow alongside others who can lead, guide and encourage us. A deep-rooted faith is nourished by both the revelation of the gospel and the relationships of godly and genuine friends.
It is never a good idea to sacrifice your spiritual health. Don't use excuses or give poor reasons like why it won't work in your context. Rather, ask God to help you be on your guard to protect your faith and to send you people who can nurture us into spiritual maturity.
3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. [a]It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Acts 9:3-6
Paul was dramatically changed forever by his encounter with Jesus on the way to Damascus. When he knew it was Jesus speaking to him, the first thing Paul said was, "What do you want me to do?" His question was an act of surrendering his way of life for Jesus' way of life. An encounter of God usually changes the way we see Him and our new perspective of God affects the way we respond to Him.
6 Then Peter said, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6
Our friendship and relationship with God will radically change the way we live and how we view life. When the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles and early disciples, they began to boldly do things that they never thought of doing or were too hesitant to attempt. Having Christ in them, they started to offer to others what they have received from Him.
Consider what Peter said to the lame man, "Silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk."
One thing we can learn from the early church is that they truly put God first—before ministry. Luke described how the believers devoted themselves to prayer and worship. That means how they relate to God matters more than what they do for Him.
God always provides what we need to serve Him. When we totally depend on God as our source and supply, we are set free from the stress of ministry and a performance-based identity. If you serve out of compulsion and obligation rather than with love from and for the Lord, ministry is more drudgery than joy or something more of a duty than something delightful.
If you want to get more out of the Christian life, you must learn to see the incredible beauty of your life in Christ. You don't get more power when you give yourself to prayer and worship. You already have all the power you need—because of your position in Christ. However, it is through intimacy with God through the Scripture and the Spirit that you learn how to utilise the power given to you.
God enables us through grace to love and serve Him well. The more we grow in grace, the more we operate through grace. Grace frees us from the bondage of pleasing people and perfectionism. As we cling to Christ like a branch to a vine, His grace working in us will make us more productive and more fruitful. Then ministry is a true blessing from God and not a burden.
God is kind and compassionate, generous and always forgiving, patient and absolutely perfect love. As such, we should experience joy and peace in our encounter with Him. This joy is the distinctive feature that tells us whether we worship and serve God out of duty—or out of sheer genuine love.
Everything we do for God is the fruit of being loved by God. This makes our friendship with God authentic and genuine, not laborious and religiously punishing.
If you feel your relationship with God lacks depth and growth, don't feel condemned or guilty. It could actually be the Holy Spirit prompting you. Just acknowledge it—and start fresh every morning because God never changes His mind about you. Find other believers who are hungry for God too and get together to spur each other on.Consider these words:
24 Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. 25 This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing. In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning. Hebrews 10:24-25, The Passion Translation
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us a good healthy church community involves encouraging and equipping each other for the works of service.
Have a sense of belonging and ownership in our church.
Most importantly, we ought to make every effort to come together and enjoy each other. Don't stay away from church for the smallest reason. Be resilient and faithful followers in these uncertain and stressful times, especially when we can experience a COVID lockdown at a moment notice. If we can't meet, try to stay connected with others. Ask how we can pray for them and ask how we can help. Learn to contribute to each other's growth and well-being and challenge each other's thinking and build new understandings of God's grace and the gospel. Show love and acceptance to those who are new in our midst and show patience and compassion to those who are hurting and broken.
Contributing to community life is not an option. Doing community life well brings us back to God's original intent. God does not want us to be alone or afraid. God gives us the gift of community so that we may discover the beauty of each other's worth and creative giftedness, and in doing so, we get to experience health, wholeness and harmony.
Make every effort to keep the oneness of the Spirit in the bond of peace [each individual working together to make the whole successful. Ephesians 4:3, Amplified Bible
When we help each other with our spiritual walk, we will grow like-minded with one another in the process. The early disciples were in "one accord". They were stronger and bolder together because they manifested their unity in Christ.
6 The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7 Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:6-7, English Standard VersionIf we hold tightly to our positions and possessions, we are hindering ourselves from trusting God in a deeper way.
Spiritual growth and community are closely linked to each other. Yet and oftentimes, believers keep themselves away from building healthy connections with other people in the same church community. Somehow, along the way we have lost each other and that is something we should be concerned about.
1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 1:1-2
The epistle to the Ephesians is regarded by many to be the best of all the Apostle Paul's letters. It was written during his first imprisonment (AD 60-62). He was addressing believers who behaved like paupers when they were incredibly rich beyond measure in Christ.
Stating his credential as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, Paul called the believers to return to the life God intended for them. In his introduction, Paul made a distinction between "the saints who are in Ephesus" and the "faithful in Christ Jesus". One possible explanation for Paul's action was because he was dealing with believers who were at "different temperatures" in their spiritual life.
While some stayed faithful, others were identifying more with surrounding distractions than with Christ. The more attracted they were to the prevalent culture, the less certain they were of their faith. Paul urged them to return to their first love (cf. Revelation 2:4), to remember who they were and where they meant to belong because of Christ. In calling these distracted believers "saints" (Greek, hagios —"separate for holy use"), Paul was recalling how they were set apart by God from an ordinary life for an extraordinary purpose.
Like the Ephesians, we can let life get in our way so that we easily lose sight of everything we are in Christ. In correcting the believers, Paul never used a harsh word on them. Instead he prayed for God who is our Heavenly Father to release His grace and peace so that we can live the kind of life He has purposed for us in Christ. When God embraces you with His loving arms of grace and peace, you will find the security and strength to live fully for Him.
Just as Christ is faithful to you, be faithful to Him and hold fast to your confidence, especially when the trials and troubles hit hard.
All the believers were of one heart and mind. Acts 4:32
Community is not first of all adopting a set of doctrines and beliefs or a particular church practice. Instead, community begins with being embraced by the Community of the Trinity. And our encounter of the Three Persons (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) in the Godhead defines and fuels the way we do and build relationships.
We are united in and through the Trinity. We don't have to create unity—it is already a reality. We just need to manifest it in our life together. Then solidarity, forgiveness and true harmony become awesome possibilities.
The early church lives and moves in one accord. The phrase "one accord" appears several times in the Acts of the Apostles. In each instance, the Greek word "homothumadon" is used and it simply means "with one mind, one purpose and one passion".
God wants us to be one—just the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one. If we cannot be one with each other, it is not a "fact problem" but a "faith problem" on our part. For in Christ, we are one family with one Father God and the Holy Spirit helps us to walk with each other—so that together we can be God's living expression of Himself on earth.
Our view of God affects what we are and do. In other words, the health of our church community hinges on how healthy our relationship with God is. Having the experience of the perfect love of the Trinity, we are not looking for perfection but for progress in the way we welcome and receive people. If we truly believe and live the gospel, we demonstrate the same uncommon grace, favour and blessings to each other and to others who are yet part of us.
Keep believing and keep practicing the truth we have in Christ and we will experience His grace working in our midst.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Philippians 2:3-4Our faith is nurtured in a community as we learn to love and live like Jesus.
We often define grace as an unearned favour of God; however, a careful reading of the Bible reveals grace as the enabling power of God. I am not saying the first definition of grace is wrong because it still gives us a valuable insight of grace. But when we reduce grace to just a notion of unearned favour, we tend to focus on "getting what we don't deserve in Christ" rather than on "getting to do all things in Christ". Such a lopsided view of grace stunts growth and delays maturity.
Without a doubt, grace is freely given by God to all through Christ so that they may become His children. But there is more to grace than just getting saved. Grace is God's enabling power to grow us into maturity and become Christ-like in character and values (Romans 8:29, Ephesians 4:14-15). In other words, the unearned favour of God opens the way for us to experience the enabling power of God.
If there is anyone who truly understands grace, it has to be the Apostle Paul.
10 Today I am who I am because of God’s grace, and I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted. I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest; but I realize it is not me—it is God’s grace with me that has made the difference. 1 Corinthians 15:10, The Voice
Grace not only established Paul's identity but grace also empowered and equipped him to serve God's purposes everywhere. Consider Paul's words to the Corinthians, "I have made sure that the grace He offered me has not been wasted, I have worked harder, longer, and smarter than all the rest". Here Paul is saying—since God's grace is already at work in my life, I will work with God and for God through His power working for me.
If we just emphasise grace as an unearned favour and speak nothing of grace as the enabling power of God, our Christian life is like a plane with one wing. The New Testament teaches again and again that when people encounter God's unearned favour—it is like when Jesus reached out to Zacchaeus—they will also experience God's enabling power to do good, as seen in Zacchaeus' decision to cancel debts and restore prosperity.
Grace gives us the power for Christian living.
16 For out of His fullness [the superabundance of His grace and truth] we have all received grace upon grace [spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing, favor upon favor, and gift heaped upon gift]. John 1:16 Amplified BibleHow we see Jesus will determine how we pray and receive from Him.
The yes to all of God’s promises is in Christ. And that is why we say “Amen” through Christ to the glory of God. 2 Corinthians 1:20
God does not lie. He does not go back on His promises to us.
God made Christ the Source of everything concerning your salvation. And when Christ takes His rightful and preeminent place in your life, you will enjoy everything that comes with your salvation. Pray that the Holy Spirit will enable you to understand the significance of your life in Christ so that you can live your life worthy of God.
Many Christians remain immature believers because they never get beyond the few initial revelations they have of Christ. While they may enjoy what they already know, they are still missing out on the total picture of their abundant life in Christ. It is possible to be in Christ and still live as if you are not in Him. In doing so, you are forfeiting what is actually yours in Christ.
Without a doubt, God wants you to live in the reality of the saving power of the gospel. Jesus said:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. John 15:4
Jesus pictured our relationship with Him to a branch drawing life from a vine. As long as we have His life flowing into us, we will bear fruit. The Greek word for "abide" is menō, which means "to rest, to stay and never leave". God placed you in Christ so that you will thrive and grow well through Christ. By choosing to reside in you, Christ is empowering you to produce fruit, more fruit and much fruit (John 15:1-8). A life that takes delight in becoming what God calls it to be will never be anything less than God’s best.
Your life is inextricably bound to Christ!
If there is a simple way to describe the Christian life, nothing is simpler than “Christ in you, you in Christ”. Consider this life-changing truth for a moment—you can take hold of His life because He factored you into His death.
21 Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:21-22The Holy Spirit is a missionary.
38 Jesus of Nazareth was anointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with great power. He did wonderful things for others and divinely healed all who were under the tyranny of the devil, for God had anointed him. Acts 10:38, The Passion Translation
A biblical understanding of the mission of God provides us the basis and framework to worship and serve God in every sphere of life and relationship. This should lead us to partner with God in what He is doing in the world. This is how the Apostle Peter sees Jesus: one who was anointed by God and went about doing good everywhere, subduing strongholds in the marketplace and restoring lives shattered by the evil work of Satan.
Now wherever you go, make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:10, The Passion Translation
Without a doubt, the heartbeat of God is for everyone to be saved (1Timothy 2:4) and not for anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). God's compassion and concern for the lost and searching involves our praying and participating. The more we can identify with God's mission, the more responsible we become. This is shown in our willingness to act and to make a difference. After all, mission is not a program or an activity but—our very "DNA"—that defines and decides our lifestyle choices.
3 He heals the wounds of every shattered heart. Psalm 147:3, The Passion Translation
Don't let your pain make you think you are weak or make you feel you are less than human. Don't fight your pain. Don't treat it as an enemy. Welcome your pain. Embrace your pain and learn from it.
20 God sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Psalm 107:20God desires to see you free and victorious in your struggles.
4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 (NIV)We live in a culture where the individual is supreme and the community is negotiable.
7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. Romans 15:7, New International Version
Lots of Christians will tell you that they get along better with non-Christian friends than they do with each other. One reason for this is that we don't hold both groups of friends to the same standard of expectation. Somehow, we react more strongly when fellow believers disappoint us, and this in turn leads us to judge them or treat them more harshly than we should. If this describes you, then take a moment to consider: what's your understanding of grace?
36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” John 18:36Jesus was actually living in one of the most politically charged times in history.
Jesus tells us that He gives those who believe and receive Him the right to become children of God (John 1:12). What an incredible honour and privilege to have this unique position of favour! Being a son or daughter of our most gracious Father makes intimate fellowship with Him both possible and enjoyable.
3 We know that we have come to know him if we keep his commands. 1 John 2:3 New International Version
The Apostle John tells us obedience is a fruit of our love for Jesus. If our faith in Christ is true, then our desire for obedience grows. There is evidence of eagerness to please God and serve Him with fervour and passion.
1 So now the case is closed. There remains no accusing voice of condemnation against those who are joined in life-union with Jesus, the Anointed One. 2 For the “law” of the Spirit of life flowing through the anointing of Jesus has liberated us from the “law” of sin and death. 3 For God achieved what the law was unable to accomplish, because the law was limited by the weakness of human nature. Yet God sent us his Son in human form to identify with human weakness. Clothed with humanity, God’s Son gave his body to be the sin-offering so that God could once and for all condemn the guilt and power of sin. Romans 8:1-3 The Passion TranslationOne of the most important and yet confusing concepts is the relationship of the Christian with the Law.
Most important of all, you must sincerely love each other, because love wipes away many sins. 1 Peter 4:8 Contemporary English Version
We are living in a culture where too many people are easily offended over the smallest slights and misunderstandings.
Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires and petitions of your heart. Psalm 37:4 Amplified Bible
Everything we need to live a godly life has been provided in Christ. There is nothing more we can add to the already finished work except to believe and receive. This revelation should change the way we pray and how we approach God.
5 As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” 6 Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. 7 Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars[ to buy enough food!” John 6:5-7 Passion Translation
There has never been an experience in life where God cannot use or turn to our favour. These are often challenges, obstacles and even life-changing events that have left you feeling helpless and lost.
15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them! 16 But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:14-16, New English Translation
The gospel is never just for the worthy but for everyone. It invites even the wrong people and gives everyone a fresh start in their relationship with God.
God’s grace humbles us.
None of us can earn our place with God but rather He redeems those who believe in what
Christ had done on the cross. The apostle Paul’s story describes how when we try to add our imperfect work into the perfect work of the cross, we produce a crude form of “faith” that does not reflect the truth of God’s love. By mixing obedience to the law with a complete faith in Christ, he became self-righteous and hardened to God’s grace. Instead of enjoying the freedom and victory, He was experiencing fear and condemnation. This led Paul down a destructive life path until Jesus met him on the road to Damascus.
Self-righteousness produces legalism and rigidity.
If we live a legalistic and rigid Christian life, there is no faith but fear. We judge ourselves and others by our own perceived standards of acceptance and rejection. This can even show up in our understanding and application of Christian theology. Dogmas and doctrines are essentials however when we rely on them to have a right standing with God, rather than by grace through faith alone, they have become idols that will lead us away from God. This crude form of “faith” will puff up to simply intellectualism and spiritual pride. This was the downfall of the Pharisees as they substituted a genuine relationship with God for rules.
If what we are taught as Christians only inform but isn’t enough to transform, how does that benefit us and help us grow?
We need to hear and meet Jesus in the gospel once again. If what we know and have heard does not humble us but cause us to wrongly judge our level of faith, and the faithfulness of others, we need to hear the gospel again. If what we do does not exalt God fully, but instead only draws attention to ourselves, let us go back to the gospel and draw on Jesus to transform our hearts.
Do not only depend and let your focus be on what you believe, believe in Jesus and you will not lack faith. Focus on the perfection found in the person of Jesus Christ, and what He has done at the cross for you, and it will produce the faith for fearless living.
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 English Standard Version
How ready are you for change and are keen to move forward to a new season in your life?
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, New International Version
Frustration is the price we pay for avoiding God's calling in our lives.
12 Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name. John 1:12, Modern English Version
The gift of becoming sons and daughters of our God empowers us to be who we truly are in Christ. When we don’t often think about the reality of who we are in Christ, we quickly forget how to exercise our authority and release the power that is already in us. This explains why many believers wrestle with feelings of inadequacy and jealousy. They feel negative about themselves but at the same time they are envious of other believers.
The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man accomplishes much. James 5:16 Modern English Version
There is always something amazing about prayer because it connects us to God and builds our trust in Him. We often pray when facing difficulty or tough times. Instead prayer is more than asking for a rescue, it is resting on God's undivided heart towards us and experiencing His abiding presence in the midst of the chaos and calamities.
God's kingdom does not consist of what a person eats or drinks. Rather, God's kingdom consists of God's approval and peace, as well as the joy that the Holy Spirit gives. Romans 14:17 God's Word Translation
Being a Christian is not a protective bubble or an iron-clad guarantee that you will be perpetually safe and no harm will come to you. Just as God did not shield Jesus from the pain, suffering and harsh realities of life, neither will He shield us from all these so that we can feel happy.
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which [God] has made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6As much as it is true that hurt people hurt people, healed people heal others.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. 22 In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22, New International VersionEach and every one of us has to deal with our own attitude towards those who wronged us and not sorry for what they did.
25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Proverbs 11:25 New International VersionA spirit of generosity reveals and reflects God's character in all its fullness.
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20
Why will people want to be a part of our church community?
51 When the time was coming near for Jesus to depart, he was determined to go to Jerusalem. 52 He sent some messengers ahead of him, who went into a town in Samaria to make everything ready for him. 53 But the people there would not welcome him, because he was set on going to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John, followers of Jesus, saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven and destroy those people?” 55 But Jesus turned and scolded them. And Jesus said, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. 56 The Son of Man did not come to destroy the souls of people but to save them.” Then they went to another town. Luke 9:51–56 New Century Version
When Jesus calls us to love our neighbour, He wants us to demonstrate His love to the people around us in practical ways so to help them see the kind of God we believe in.
In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9God is always way ahead of you.
Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” 2 And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come." Luke 11:1-2 English Standard Version
A healthy prayer life flows from a healthy and growing relationship with God.
26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 New International Version
All of our prayers are heard in the presence of the Trinity.
9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. 10 So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. Colossians 2:9-10 New Living Translation
The Father sends the Son for our salvation and the Son sends the Holy Spirit for our sanctification.
We are complete in Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells within secure our completeness. Sanctification is the Spirit's work of revealing our salvation. It is through Him that we experience our completeness and fullness in Christ in new and powerful ways.
Being in Christ, you cannot be more complete than complete, more full than full.
Any efforts of trying to become complete instead of focusing on your completeness in Christ put your friendship and relationship with God on a shaking ground. You are making faith harder than it needs to be. In doing so, you are missing out on the amazing sweetness of your salvation if you are striving and performing in an attempt to earn God's love and acceptance.
To be complete in Christ is to be fully assured that you have a perfect standing and a perfect acceptance and a perfect relationship with God. The same love the Father has for the Son is the love He has for you! And the Holy Spirit in you is God's guarantee that His love abides with you and in you now and forever. If this truth does not fill your heart with joy and your mouth with praise, then you either don't understand the gospel or you simply refuse to believe it.
The sanctifying work of the Spirit empowers you to obey and walk in the truth of your identity in Christ and live a life that brings God the most glory. Obedience is an essential mark of a person whose heart has been quickened by the Spirit of grace. The more we grasp our completeness and fullness the less we desire sin. The more we grasp our completeness and fullness the more we desire God and so the more we seek to walk in His way.
Our completeness and fullness in Christ is both the testimony and evidence of our salvation and sonship. Then we will not feel and behave like spiritual orphans, but act and walk as true adopted sons and daughters of God.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14
If anyone gives you the idea that we can continue to sin because grace abounds it is definitely not proclaiming the good news to you. If grace still keeps us in bondage to sin, then grace is not truly grace.
11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, 12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, 14 who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14Salvation is so beautiful.
Passion disappears when you are no longer open to your call—when you stop making it a priority to live up to your purpose and forget God has blessed you to be a blessing. With all the distractions happening around you, it is easy to disengage from what God has intended for you.
John Mark was such a person.
6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Proverbs 27:6We live in an age where personal accountability is a rare quality.
25 Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. 26 And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. Acts 11:25-26
Keep away from small-minded people who have a stranglehold on your life. They are the ones who keep reminding you of your failure. Or make you afraid of trying new things. Or keep talking down to you and never inspire you to go beyond where you are right now.
56 Wherever [Jesus] entered, into villages, cities, or the country, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged Him that they might just touch the hem of His garment. And as many as touched Him were made well. Mark 6:56
We need a fresh understanding of God's presence in our city.
Imagine what would happen if the presence of God and the power of God, so to speak, converge at one single point? In the gospels, we see Jesus—who is the very embodiment of God's presence and power—demonstrating again and again that all things are possible when we offer God a sacred space to move freely without encumbrance.
You can never diminish God’s goodness by refusing His grace, but you are denying yourself from enjoying all His grace has to offer. Grace isn't something you deserve, and it isn’t something beyond your reach. It is a precious gift of God and God gives us grace to fulfil His purpose in our lives.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20
How extensive and how wide-ranging is the salvation of humanity?
You died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. Colossians 3:3 New International VersionWhat Christ did for us is so phenomenal that it's hard to wrap your head around, but it's true.
4 God wants everyone to be saved and to know the whole truth, which is: 5There is only one God, and Christ Jesus is the only one who can bring us to God. Jesus was truly human, and he gave himself to rescue all of us. 1 Timothy 2:4-5, Contemporary English VersionGod is not just good—He is perfect goodness itself.
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes with palm branches in their hands. Revelation 7:9, Christian Standard BibleDiversity is a gift of God to us.
Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, for the glory of God. Romans 15:7 English Standard VersionHow do we make our church more welcoming to people?
I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” Galatians 2:21
In the Old Covenant, blessings or curses depend upon a person's careful obedience of the law. If they obeyed perfectly all the laws, they would be blessed. But if they disobeyed even one iota of the law, they would come under a curse.
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. Hebrews 8:6 New International Version
Jesus is our Mediator of a New Covenant, which is a better covenant than the Old Covenant, because it was enacted on better promises.
Once again Jesus spoke to the people. This time he said, “I am the light for the world! Follow me, and you won’t be walking in the dark. You will have the light that gives life.” John 8:12 Contemporary English Version
Jesus gives an invitation with a gracious promise, that is, whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness. Darkness is not sin, but darkness can lead you to sin and make you lose your way. In the context of the gospel of John, darkness means to struggle and stumble through a personal darkened world without the light of the gospel revelation of Christ.
9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:9-10, English Standard Version
Salvation is a free gift available to all because of Christ's finished work on the Cross.
9 After I heard about these who would be sealed, I looked and saw a huge crowd of people, which no one could even begin to count, representing every nation and tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and waving palm branches. 10 They cried out with one loud voice: "Salvation comes only from our God, who sits upon the throne, and from the Lamb." Revelation 7:9-10, The VoiceWhat happens to people who die without knowing Jesus?
We want to celebrate and thank all our amazing mothers and mother figures for making such an impact on so many lives. God really appreciate and honour you for the amazing selfless role you play today and every day.
21 For God made the only one who did not know sin to become sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God through our union with him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 The Passion TranslationGod's justice is not retributive, but redemptive.
8 “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is offered to you. 9 Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Luke 10:8-9 New International Version
Sin is not a crime to be punished but a sickness to be healed. This explains why Jesus told His disciples wherever they go in proclaiming the gospel of the Kingdom, they are to heal the sick, cure diseases and drive out demons.
For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5:19Christ is the Saviour of all people in that He reconciled the entire world through His death.
As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 1 Corinthians 15:22
Are those who never hear the gospel irretrievably lost?
2 He died in our place to take away our sins, and not only our sins but the sins of all people. 1 John 2:2There is no limit to what Christ has accomplished for us at the Cross.
18-19 We see, then, that as one act of sin exposed the whole race of men to God’s judgment and condemnation, so one act of perfect righteousness presents all men freely acquitted in the sight of God. One man’s disobedience placed all men under the threat of condemnation, but one man’s obedience has the power to present all men righteous before God. Romans 5:18-19 J.B. Phillips New Testament
As all were condemned in Adam, all are saved in Christ.
5 My beloved friend, I commend you for your demonstration of faithful love by all that you have done for the brothers on their journey, even though they were strangers at the time. 6 They have shared publicly with the congregation about the beautiful acts of love you have shown them. 3 John 5-6 The Passion TranslationPeople come to church for community.
17 Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. Acts 9:17-18, New International VersionMany followers of Jesus suffer from people-blindness, just like others who suffer from colour blindness.
Every priest goes to work at the altar each day, offers the same old sacrifices year in, year out, and never makes a dent in the sin problem. As a priest, Christ made a single sacrifice for sins, and that was it! Then he sat down right beside God and waited for his enemies to cave in. It was a perfect sacrifice by a perfect person to perfect some very imperfect people. By that single offering, he did everything that needed to be done for everyone who takes part in the purifying process. The Holy Spirit confirms this: This new plan I’m making with Israel isn’t going to be written on paper, isn’t going to be chiselled in stone; This time “I’m writing out the plan in them, carving it on the lining of their hearts.” He concludes, I’ll forever wipe the slate clean of their sins. Once sins are taken care of for good, there’s no longer any need to offer sacrifices for them. Hebrews 11-18 The MessageJesus is a different kind of priest, like Melchizedek. His priesthood is superior to all others. His priesthood is complete and eternal. His priesthood is better in every way.
You have been chosen in keeping with what God the Father had planned. That happened through the Spirit’s work to make you pure and holy. God chose you so that you might obey Jesus Christ. God wanted you to be in a covenant relationship with him. He established this relationship by the blood of Christ. May more and more grace and peace be given to you. 1 Peter 1:2 New International Reader's VersionThe Community of the Trinity works together in unison for our salvation.
"These are the people who are turning the world upside down!" they yelled. "Now they’ve come here!" Acts 17:6 New Testament for Everyone
Our experience of the perfect community of the Trinity gives us the capacity to move purposefully in the direction, to join God and partner with Him in His mission to a lost and broken world.
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. 2 Corinthians 13:14, New International Version
It is through Christ that we are brought into the Community of the Trinity. We are in a perfect community of perfect love. We not only get to enjoy a loving fellowship with the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, but we also get to experience the beloved work of each person of the Godhead individually.
I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us. Romans 8:38-39 The MessageThere is nothing incomplete in our relationship and friendship with God.
31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31
Boldness is not a personality trait or an overt pretence of bravery. It has nothing to do with being an extrovert. Peter was an extrovert but he was not often bold. Boldness is the empowerment of the Spirit within that sustains us to endure and stay resilient in the face of adversity and opposition.
According to the Apostle Paul, Jesus our Great High Priest is superior to all the high priests of the Old Covenant (Hebrews 4:14-5:6). Why is this so? Year after year, the high priest needed to atone for the sins of the people. Jesus our Great High Priest, however, paid the one perfect sacrifice that took away that which kept us from God and opened the way for us to the Father.
15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16
Grace did something that the Law could not do. It brings you into such an intimacy with our Father God that you can always come freely and fearlessly into His Presence. This is because there is no longer any reminder of sin (Hebrews 10:3) for you are sanctified forever through the high priestly offering of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10).
God is not trying to get something from you. God is trying to get something to you. That is, God did everything for you in Christ so that you can always obtain His mercy and find grace in your “time of need”. The Greek word for “time of need” is eukairos which means “at every opportunity in every season”.
Put simply, God will always meet you with the providence of His grace in whatever circumstance or situation you are in. Yet, somehow many believers hardly ever take advantage of God's availability by growing an authentic relationship and friendship with Him. This makes it challenging for them to trust God in those dark days when everything seems to be falling apart.
The more we grow in grace, the bolder we become in facing the issues of life. This is because we are fully persuaded that nothing separates us from God's love. Remember Jesus is our gracious and merciful Saviour who sympathizes with our every need and gives us the grace to overcome every storm.
5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Job 42:5The story of Job calls for an answer to an important question, "Would you still love and believe God in spite of everything and even when you don't see His plan for your life?"
Our love for Jesus will cause us to love each other.
We are given to each other the privilege not merely of sharing a life in Christ, but also of suffering together for His sake. Paul tells us that as fellow believers, we are divinely appointed to encourage each other through our joys and sorrows.
20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. Revelation 3:20Picture this—we open two doors for Jesus Christ to enter into our lives.
7 Is there not, if thou dost well, acceptance? and if thou dost not well, at the opening a sin-offering is crouching, and unto thee its desire, and thou rulest over it. Genesis 4:7 Young’s Literal Translation
The context behind this verse was Cain becoming angry when God disregarded his offering of fruit. God Himself however provided Cain a better sin offering in the gift of a lamb crouching at his door. Moreover, God told Cain that the lamb desires him. The word “desire” comes from a Hebrew word used to describe the exclusive love of a man for his wife. In a literal sense, the lamb “loves” Cain. All Cain had to do was to “rule over it”, that is, to sacrifice the lamb for him to be accepted by God. In other words, God extended grace to Cain to "re-do" his sacrifice in a more appropriate way. Cain nevertheless rejected God's offer of grace.
The lamb is a typology of Jesus.
Jesus was chatta't—He was both sin and sin offering on the Cross. He who knew no sin became sin to make us right with God (2 Corinthians 5:21). He did it by becoming the one and perfect sacrifice for our sin.
Cain could have enjoyed the same favour Abel had with God—but he didn't take hold of the revelation, that is, the determining factor of enjoying God's favour was through the offering of the sacrificial lamb. Put simply, he did not take advantage of God's grace by obeying and trusting the means which God has ordained for anyone to stand right before him.
Like Cain, many people trust in their own idea of what is acceptable before God rather than believing in His perfect provision in and through Christ. And as a consequence, every person is reconciled to God without any works or efforts on their part, but that they are saved by believing in Jesus for their salvation.
11 …Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame. Romans 10:11
When you put your confidence in Christ who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), you will not be disappointed at all.
Favour rests on those who understand and embrace God's grace in Jesus Christ!
7 And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Matthew 10:7
The gospel of the Kingdom is God's invitation card to everyone, letting them know that they are welcomed to enjoy His hospitality and friendship in Christ, and they don't need to stand in line to get in. And once you are in, you are always in!
16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. 2 Corinthians 5:16 Revised Standard Version
We must learn to see the image of God in each other, not just in believers, but in all persons. When we endeavour to know them deeper than what our eyes can see, we learn to love and accept just as God loves and accepts them.
14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. 15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. 16 Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. Ephesians 2:14-16 New Living Translation
During the time of the Apostle Paul, the difference between the Jews and Gentiles was great. It was not just race or ethnicity, but both groups were divided by so many different things that only God alone could bring about bring reconciliation and peace between them. The Cross broke down the wall of division between these two distinct groups of people and created one new person out of them in Christ.
1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. 3 He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever. Hebrews 7:1-3 English Standard Version
The perfect and perpetual priesthood of Christ according to the order of Melchizedek is superior to the transitory priesthood of Aaron according to the order of Levi. The implication is that once we are in Christ, we are under a new and better covenant based on better promises. This new covenant is not an extension of the old covenant of the law, but it is the continuation of the Abrahamic covenant.
For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. Hebrews 7:12 English Standard VersionThe Law of Jesus is different from the Law of Moses.
1 Now the promise of entering into God’s rest is still for us today. So we must be extremely careful to ensure that we all embrace the fullness of that promise and not fail to experience it. 2 For we have heard the good news of deliverance just as they did, yet they didn’t join their faith with the Word.[a] Instead, what they heard didn’t affect them deeply, for they doubted. 3 For those of us who believe, faith activates the promise and we experience the realm of confident rest! Hebrews 3:1-3 The Passion TranslationBe like Jesus and do like Jesus.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. 1 Peter 1:3 English Standard VersionThe resurrection of Jesus Christ was such a significant historical event that it changed the course of human history and destiny.
20 When you come together, it is not the Lord's supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? ....23 [Jesus said] Do this in remembrance of me.”... 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died... 33 So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another. 1 Corinthians 11:20-23, 29-30, 33
The division of the Corinthian church was clearly seen in the way they eat the Lord's Supper. Some came early and ate and drank before the others arrived, leaving little for those who came after them. Their behaviour makes a mockery of the meal Jesus gave us. They failed to check their attitude and continually to feast without caring for those who are left hungry and thirsty. And because of this, many of them became weak, sick, and in some cases dead.
When the Apostle Paul instructs the Corinthians to wait for each other, he is saying everyone has a right and a place to feast at the table of the Lord. Though we are different and from different sides of life, we are made one in Christ and we can wait for each other.
We can wait for each other to come into a place of mutual celebration and ensure everyone in our community is welcomed and not rejected. There is no community where we do not love each other and when we make others feel they don't belong. We cannot celebrate Jesus and not celebrate each other.
To wait for each other is to extend love, be considerate and show hospitality to those who are “of the household of the faith” (cf. Galatians 6:10) but not only to them, but also to those unable to repay you.
To wait for each other is to value the unique contribution each person makes to the whole. It is not our place to make everyone fit into our community. That is the job of the Holy Spirit who knows how to put all of us together.
To wait for each other is not to keep others out or push others out (on the basis that they are different from us. Rather it is about welcoming the "different" that we find our "oneness" with all.
When we celebrate the table of the Lord the next time, let us discern the Lord's body. It is a double vision. First, we envision ourselves in the true presence of Christ Himself and second, we envision ourselves being joined together by the Spirit as the real presence of Christ's body to each other.
4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:4-5, New International Version
Jesus grows His church through community.
14 But the grace of our Lord was fully given [overflowed; abounded] to me, and with that grace came the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:14, Expanded Bible
One of the many great things we can learn from Jesus is to reach out to those whom religion would never touch. They were His targeted audience. Our Lord demonstrated amazing and relentless grace to those who needed it the most. And we ought to ask Him for the ability to do the same.
I was a stranger and you welcomed me. Matthew 25:35 English Standard Version
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus told an amazing parable about extending God's welcome and hospitality to the strangers in our midst.
See what great love the Father has for us that He would call us His children. And that is what we are. For this reason the people of the world do not know who we are because they did not know Him. 1 John 3:1 New Living Translation
God always acts in love and out from a heart of love towards us.
5-8 Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge: “Don’t begin by travelling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don’t try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighbourhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously. Matthew 10:5-8 The MessageWhat makes a church welcoming to those outside its door?
We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing. 2 Thessalonians 1:3 English Standard Version
Our belonging in Christ is an act of God's grace.
11 Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God’s Spirit of Resurrection lives in you, he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you! Romans 8:11 The Passion Translation
The resurrection of Jesus completes the story of God's salvation plan.
It is interesting that the four Gospels detail Jesus’ final week, climaxing to His death on the Cross on Friday, then—total silence. There is no one Scripture verse that says what really occurred on Saturday.
And by his one perfect sacrifice he made us perfectly holy and complete for all time! Hebrews 10:14 The Passion Translation
Christ died for all so that all may live for Christ.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35
Many friendships don't last—and not because anyone is at fault.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7, Modern English Version
It is through Jesus that we encounter and experience God's deepest love and grace. With the work of the cross already finished and complete, God in Christ has done all things possible to bring humanity to His saving grace and offers a life enjoying a right standing with God.
15 So they came to Jerusalem. Then Jesus went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. 16 And He would not allow anyone to carry wares through the temple. 17 Then He taught, saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ” Mark 11:15-17
When Jesus entered into the Temple, he got angry with the merchants hawking their wares in the outer court.
13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:13-14
A perfect lamb had to be selected to be the Passover Lamb in the context of the Jewish tradition. Over five days, the lamb was thoroughly examined and must be found spotless and unblemished (a picture of sinless perfection) before it was to be sacrificed.
“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9
The narrative of the crowd welcoming Jesus with palm leaves and loud praises shows that it is always easy to worship when you are with others. But what happens to worship when you are by yourself?
Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. 1 John 4:19, The Passion Translation
Have you ever wondered how God feels about you when you go back to your old sinful habits or added a few new ones? Do you think God is angry, upset or ashamed of you because you messed up again and again? Or do you believe God is still good to you even if you feel completely empty of faith?
22 For the very glory you have given to me I have given them so that they will be joined together as one and experience the same unity that we enjoy. John 17:22, The Passion Translation
Jesus declared in His prayer that He has given you the same glory our Father God has given Him. In doing so, Jesus unites us with the Trinity and with each other as one family and community. As such, unity is possible and can happen if you believe it, not because of any of us, but because Christ has brought us together.
4 Do the riches of [God's] extraordinary kindness make you take Him for granted and despise Him? Haven’t you experienced how kind and understanding He has been to you? Don’t mistake His tolerance for acceptance. Do you realize that all the wealth of His extravagant kindness is meant to melt your heart and lead you into repentance? Romans 2:4, The Passion Translation
If you truly understand the gospel of grace and grasp what God has done for you in Christ, then you will discover God is the kindest person you will ever meet. It is because of God's kindness that you enjoy the immeasurable riches of His grace. And if you are not completely amazed by this, it is good to hear the gospel again.
11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11
The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that the gospel should not be perceived as a human tradition but the gospel is to be received as God's revelation to all peoples. As such, you cannot add to the gospel or even subtract from the gospel—but to stay faithful and firm to the good news of God's salvation in Jesus Christ.
In Him we have . . . the forgiveness of sins. Ephesians 1:7Our forgiveness comes from God.
5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. 6 Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. 7 Instead, He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When He appeared in human form,8 He humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 New Living TranslationAttitude is more important than abilities.
46 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” Mark 10:46-49 New International Version
Many people have been largely conditioned to accept life as it is, and to set aside any desire for change in their circumstances. Somehow, the stronghold of fear and unimaginable disappointment has gripped their hearts to the point that they are unable to pray and hope for a breakthrough or a blessing from God. They believe it is their fate or their lot in life to endure and not expect anything.
25 Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery kept secret since the world began 26 but now made manifest, and by the prophetic Scriptures made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith— 27 to God, alone wise, be glory through Jesus Christ forever. Amen. Romans 16:25-27, New International Version
The Apostle Paul tells us that God is the one who establishes you through the gospel of His Son. The Greek word for "establish" is stērizō which means "to make firm, set fast, fix". (Strong's G4741) This means the gospel gives you the power and ability to stand strong and stay true to living righteously.
1 I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 34:1Regardless of how you feel, choose to bless the Lord at all times.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain. Galatians 2:21
Those who imagine that they can approach God on their own terms usually ignore God's grace. The Greek word for "set aside" is atheteō which means "to do away with, despise, frustrate". (Strong's G114) It is to reject God's provision for salvation and feel that we know better than God in how we are saved and stay saved through His grace by faith in Christ alone.
1 Now the Festival of Unleavened Bread, called the Passover, was approaching, 2 and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some way to get rid of Jesus, for they were afraid of the people. 3 Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. 4 And Judas went to the chief priests and the officers of the temple guard and discussed with them how he might betray Jesus. Luke 22:1-4, New International Version
Though Luke didn't give us any clear reason to explain Judas' action, he, however, tells us that Satan has entered Judas' heart to convince him to betray Jesus. Judas could have resisted Satan's temptation but he didn't—and that was when he turned from being a dear friend into a deadly enemy.
16 When evening had come, they brought to Him many who were demon-possessed. And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: “He Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses.” Matthew 8:16-17Sickness is not God's punishment or condemnation on any of us.
6 Blessed [joyful, nourished by God’s goodness] are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness [those who actively seek right standing with God], for they will be [completely] satisfied. Matthew 5:6, Amplified BibleWhat does it mean to hunger and thirst for righteousness?
22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside. Genesis 9:22
Like Ham who despised Noah when he saw his father's nakedness, there will be those who reject you because they cannot accept you for your weaknesses or mistakes. Instead of covering your nakedness, they choose to magnify your flaws and shortcomings. Now, covering does not mean hiding. It is about someone who protects your vulnerability and weak spots and equips you to grow the character and strength to overcome these faults.
3 All praises belong to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For He is the Father of tender mercy and the God of endless comfort. 4 He always comes alongside us to comfort us in every suffering so that we can come alongside those who are in any painful trial. We can bring them the same comfort that God has poured out upon us. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, The Passion Translation
God is not the author of your pain and suffering. Rather God is the healer of your broken heart and fractured soul. While life brings its share of trials, you do not have to bear them alone because God is ever-present to care and comfort you in your troubles.
This is my work, and I can do it only because Christ’s mighty energy is at work within me. Colossians 1:29 The Living Bible
If you think God cannot use you because you are not like somebody else, you are actually struggling with your identity in Christ. This is because you are coveting their calling, gifts and skills and not believing God has given you abilities that He has not given to anyone else. Then it is easy to quit, give up and walk away offended when you feel God has let you down by not giving you what you need to succeed.
Now Jesus was telling the disciples a parable to make the point that at all times they ought to pray and not give up and lose heart. Luke 18:1 Amplified Bible
When we make life about fulfilling our creature comfort and self-satisfying desires, our prayers to God is for our wishes to come true. The truth is we are not truly living but merely enacting what we think makes us happy. Then when things do not seem to fall in place according to our wishes and timing, it is easy to walk away from God in the midst of trials and tribulations.
19 May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God. 20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Ephesians 3:19-20 New Living TranslationA Christian life can be enriching, fulfilling and impactful.
10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 English Standard VersionPrayer is co-creating with God and partnering with Him to establish His Kingdom plan and purpose on earth, as it is in heaven.
9 Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 English Standard VersionThe gospel tells us that Christ, through His finished work on the Cross, has irrevocably brought us into His family.
You know that Christ came to take away people’s sins. There is no sin in Christ. So whoever lives in Christ does not continue to sin. If they continue to sin, they have never really understood Christ and have never known him. 1 John 3:5-6 English Revised VersionWe are strong against sin because Christ has defeated the power of sin over our lives.
20 I am not asking solely for their benefit; this prayer is also for all the believers who will follow them and hear them speak. 21 Father, may they all be one as You are in Me and I am in You; may they be in Us, for by this unity the world will believe that You sent Me. John 17:20-21 The VoiceJesus is our High Priest and he never tires in His ministry to us.
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21 English Standard VersionWhat would life be like if you truly believed the gospel? It will be life changing for those who are willing to listen.
Those who are proud can’t stand in front of you. You hate everyone who does what is evil. Psalm 5:5 New International Version
The Lord watches over those who do what is right. But he really hates sinful people and those who love to hurt others. Psalm 11:5 New International VersionIs it true that God hates sin but loves the sinner?
9 In the letter I wrote to you previously, I made it clear that you are not to band together with those who have embraced immoral lives. 10 Don’t misunderstand; I’m not telling you to hole up and hunker down from the rest of the world. That’s impossible. The world is filled with immoral people consumed by their desire for more; they steal from one another without hesitation and will worship man-made idols with no shame at all. If you attempted to avoid these people, you would have to leave the world itself. 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 The Voice
If the gospel we believe feeds our prejudices and ill feelings towards others around us, then we need to carefully consider whether what we believe is, in fact, the gospel.
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. Matthew 4:4 New International VersionSpiritual dryness is a negative experience when a christian feels forsaken by God. There can be an overwhelming sense of brooding doubt and darkness; where your previous beliefs about God can be tested and possibly even shaken.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Matthew 6:13 English Standard VersionJesus calls us to pray against temptation and attacks from the Enemy.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors... 14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:12, 14-15Jesus puts a high priority on forgiveness and forgiving.
11 Give us today our daily bread. Matthew 6:11-13 New International VersionJesus teaches us to pray for God's daily provision.
9 Pray then in this way: “Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed by your name. 10 Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 English Standard Version
Prayers are spontaneous conversations we can have with God.
9 “This, then, is how you should pray: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, 10 your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:9-10 New International Version
Praying from what we heard from the Father gives our prayer a prophetic advantage and edge. This is because we are praying according to the agenda of God's Kingdom. Then prayer is bringing things into alignment with the revelation of Scripture and Spirit. This is what Jesus meant when He said, "I am in my Father's business."
16 Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him, “Simon, son of Jonah, you are happy because you did not learn this from man. My Father in heaven has shown you this. Matthew 16:15-17
Jesus told Peter the reason why he could declare his confession of faith was because he heard from His Father in heaven. Likewise, it is possible for us to receive revelation when our hearts and minds are open to the Holy Spirit working within us. And when we learn to obediently declare what is revealed to us from God, it brings joy to the Lord and in turn, it inspires others and encourages them in their faith.
7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Matthew 6:7-8
Our identity in Christ is the foundation to our Christian life. It affects the way we live, how we love and serve with kindness, how we pray with expectation and believing God to exceed our expectations.
We pray out of the revelation of our identity, that is who we are to God and who He is for us. Jesus taught us to pray to God as a Father, and not a God who is distant. As such, we pray as sons and daughters of God, knowing our prayers flows from the place where we feel fully accepted and loved. It is from this revelation and relationship that we receive faith to believe that we have a good Father who loves us and who hears every word we pray and who is eager to answer us.
If we don't intimately know God as revealed by and in Christ, then we don't know how to ask and we don't know what to expect. This is why many are fearful of praying or stop praying. They don't want to be disappointed or feel let down when their prayers are not answered.
Knowing God Father's heart towards us frees us to pray without fear or doubt. This was how Jesus taught us to pray. That is we have a heavenly Father who never gives us a stone when we ask bread or a serpent when we ask for fish. Rather we have a Father who knows exactly what we need before we pray. If this is true, then no prayer is ever wasted or ignored. All our prayers becomes
Prayer is nothing less than an open and honest conversation within the context of a meaningful relationship. Jesus modelled for us a life of active listening to the Father and learning to those things the Father is doing. This is what living in the revelation of our identity looks like. We don't have a different agenda from God. With God, we want to see His will freely done here as it is in heaven.Application: What is the Holy Spirit saying to me from today's scripture reading? What is it saying about God and me and helping me in my Christian walk?
3-6 Praise be to God for giving us through Christ every possible spiritual benefit as citizens of Heaven! For consider what he has done—before the foundation of the world he chose us to become, in Christ, his holy and blameless children living within his constant care. He planned, in his purpose of love, that we should be adopted as his own children through Jesus Christ—that we might learn to praise that glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son.
7-10 It is through the Son, at the cost of his own blood, that we are redeemed, freely forgiven through that full and generous grace which has overflowed into our lives and opened our eyes to the truth. For God had allowed us to know the secret of his plan, and it is this: he purposes in his sovereign will that all human history shall be consummated in Christ, that everything that exists in Heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfilment in him.
11-14 And here is the staggering thing—that in all which will one day belong to him we have been promised a share (since we were long ago destined for this by the one who achieves his purposes by his sovereign will), so that we, as the first to put our confidence in Christ, may bring praise to his glory! And you too trusted him, when you heard the message of truth, the Gospel of your salvation. And after you gave your confidence to him you were, so to speak, stamped with the promised Holy Spirit as a guarantee of purchase, until the day when God completes the redemption of what he has paid for as his own; and that will again be to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:3-14 J.B. Phillips New TestamentIn yesterday's devotion, I spoke about the importance of valuing godly prosperity and having a spirit of prosperity. Today we want to talk about how we actually grow and nurture a spirit of prosperity.
20 Then Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, a place where the king’s prisoners were confined. And he was there in the prison. 21 But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy, and He gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. 22 And the keeper of the prison committed to Joseph’s hand all the prisoners who were in the prison; whatever they did there, it was his doing. 23 The keeper of the prison did not look into anything that was under Joseph’s authority, because the Lord was with him; and whatever he did, the Lord made it prosper. Genesis 39:20-23How do you define prosperity?
14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Hebrews 2:14-15 New International VersionFear is one of Satan's favourite weapons, one of which he frequently uses against us.
11 It’s my duty to make sure that Satan does not win even a small victory over us, for we don’t want to be naïve and then fall prey to his schemes. 1 Corinthians 2:11 The Voice
When we seek God's Kingdom and His righteousness, we will see another kingdom coming against us and what we stand for. This other kingdom is of the devil. It is a kingdom of darkness and wickedness and lies.
The kingdom of God has come near to you. Luke 10:9 New International Version
Jesus did not go through the Cross so we could go to church and wait for His second coming. Jesus went to the Cross so that we can enter the Kingdom. The Kingdom is both spiritual and practical. It encompasses the preaching of the gospel and the transforming of lives.
1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress 4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. Romans 7:1-6The Apostle Paul used the analogy of a marriage to emphasize the truth that a Christian cannot be joined to Christ and the Law at the same time. This is spiritual adultery and the Scripture used a strong term to describe those who practice it as playing “the prostitute with many lovers” (Jeremiah 3:1-2).
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. Romans 6:10-12
If you are feeling defeated by a habitual sin and guilt is getting to you, you are simply weary from fighting a battle that is not yours to fight. You need to consider what God has done for you in Christ. That is to say, when Christ died, you died together with Him. Because Christ's death broke the power of sin, it severed your relationship with sin.
7 And as you go, preach this message: ‘Heaven’s kingdom realm is accessible, close enough to touch.’ 8 You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others. Matthew 10:7-8 The Passion TranslationThe gospel of the kingdom is inherently disruptive.
23 Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian. Galatians 3:23-25
In the Old Testament, the ability of how one keeps the law determines their standing before God.
21 I do not set aside God’s grace, because if righteousness could come through the law, then Christ died for nothing! Galatians 2:21 New English TranslationIt is good to know that the law and the gospel are not in opposition with one another.
2 God planned long ago to choose you and to make you his holy people, which is the Spirit’s work. 1 Peter 1:2 Easy-to-Read Version
There is no justification without sanctification and there is no sanctification without justification.
47 This woman has been forgiven much, and she is showing much love. But the person who has shown little love shows how little forgiveness he has received. Luke 7:47, The Voice
God gives us many wonderful pictures of justification and sanctification in the Bible.
11 The people of Berea were more open-minded than the people of Thessalonica. They were very willing to receive God’s message, and every day they carefully examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11, Names of God Bible
During their missionary journey, Paul and Silas encountered the Bereans who were more open-minded than the Thessalonians in their response to the gospel. The Greek word for "open-minded" is eugenesteroi, which means "to be wellborn, noble-minded, having a generous spirit". This is seen in how the Bereans would search the Scriptures daily to prove the gospel is true.
16 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. John 15:16. English Standard VersionThe Christian life is not about what you do but it is about who you are in Christ. It is not your level of activity in ministry or good deeds but it is your identity in Christ that defines you. That being said, if you are a busy Christian, ask yourself why you are busy.
37 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. 38 No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. Luke 5:37-38, New International VersionWhen God is leading you, you cannot do things the old way.
But they have not all obeyed the gospel. Romans 10:16Do you experience a gap in what you believe and how you live?
9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:9-10Grace is the power of God to change, and grace is also how God gives you time to change and grow.
As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Galatians 6:14 New Living Translation
In Christ, we have a new identity.
For by the one offering He has perfected forever and completely cleansed those who are being sanctified [bringing each believer to spiritual completion and maturity]. Hebrews 10:14 Amplified
It is our justification that determines our sanctification.
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:28 English Standard Version
The gospel we believe is the gospel of God's grace, where His righteousness is imputed to us apart from the works of the law. What does the Apostle Paul mean when he says, "apart from the works of the law"? Quite simply, no one can ever self-justify themselves and much less secure their salvation by following the works of the law.
31 Therefore do not worry or be anxious (perpetually uneasy, distracted), saying, ‘What are we going to eat?’ or ‘What are we going to drink?’ or ‘What are we going to wear?’ 32 For the [pagan] Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; [but do not worry,] for your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But first and most importantly seek (aim at, strive after) His kingdom and His righteousness [His way of doing and being right—the attitude and character of God], and all these things will be given to you also. Matthew 6:31-33 Amplified Bible
The purpose of life is to know God, to love Him as He loves us and follow Him with complete trust and confidence. That does not mean everything is going to be easy or according to plan. But if God is in it, everything will always work out for you who love Him and embrace His purpose.
But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. Matthew 6:6
Make your friendship and fellowship with the Father a priority and a necessity. Don't give Him your leftover time or leftover thought. Don't pray only when you are hurting and in pain. Pray even if there is nothing for you to worry about. Pray and draw close to God and enjoy Him in all seasons of life.
2 ...Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2 New International VersionFaith is a lesson we learn, and keep learning.
19 Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who comes from God and dwells inside of you? You do not own yourself. 20 You have been purchased at a great price, so use your body to bring glory to God! 1 Corinthians 6:19 The Voice
Most Christians are unaware that the Holy Spirit lives in them and is transforming them into the image of Christ. If only they knew—then they will learn to partner with God through His Spirit and become like Christ in all words and works.
21–22 Even though you were once distant from [God], living in the shadows of your evil thoughts and actions, he reconnected you back to himself. He released his supernatural peace to you through the sacrifice of his own body as the sin-payment on your behalf so that you would dwell in his presence. And now there is nothing between you and Father God, for he sees you as holy, flawless, and restored, 23 if indeed you continue to advance in faith, assured of a firm foundation to grow upon. Never be shaken from the hope of the gospel you have believed in. Colossians 1:21-23 The Passion TranslationThe intent of the Cross is God's gracious offering of salvation to everyone.
20 God's kingdom isn't just a lot of words. It is power. 1 Corinthians 4:20 Contemporary English Version
When Jesus commanded His disciples to go and proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom, He gave them both authority and power to do works in His name. Likewise, we are charged with the same mandate to reach others for Him through announcing and demonstrating His Kingdom.
30 It is God who has made you part of Christ Jesus. And Christ has become for us wisdom from God. He is the reason we are right with God and pure enough to be in his presence. Christ is the one who set us free from sin. 1 Corinthians 1:30 Easy-to-Read VersionWe cannot be holy apart from Christ.
46 Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. 47 They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life. Acts 2:46-57 Passion TranslationIt is good to know the difference between community and communitas.
26 I have been on many journeys and faced the most extreme circumstances: perilous rivers, violent thieves, and threats by my own people and by the Gentile outsiders alike. I have faced dangers in the city, in the wilderness, and at sea; and danger from spies among our brothers and sisters. 27 I have survived toil and hardships, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst without a crumb in sight, bare to the cold. 28 As if these external trials weren’t enough, there is the daily stress I feel and anxiety I carry for all the churches under my care. 2 Corinthians 11:26-28 The VoiceIt takes courage to be vulnerable with others.
If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it, how shortsighted to refuse correction! Proverbs 12:1 The MessageHow open are you to being corrected by others?
If you love learning, you love the discipline that goes with it, how shortsighted to refuse correction! Proverbs 12:1 The Message
Who are you accountable to for your spiritual growth and well-being?
8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Hebrews 12:8 New International Version
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews is explicitly clear that God uses His Word to correct and discipline those whom He regards as belonging to Him. Though it can be a challenging and humbling experience, we must understand that correction from God accomplishes God's will in our lives. It both affirms and confirms our belonging to God and our profound friendship and relationship with Him.
17 A friend loves you all the time, but a brother was born to help in times of trouble. Proverbs 17:17 Easy-to-Read VersionBe thankful for the people God places in your life.
12-14 I’m so grateful to Christ Jesus for making me adequate to do this work. He went out on a limb, you know, in trusting me with this ministry. The only credentials I brought to it were invective and witch hunts and arrogance. But I was treated mercifully because I didn’t know what I was doing—didn’t know Who I was doing it against! Grace mixed with faith and love poured over me and into me. And all because of Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:13-14 The MessageAcceptance is not the same as agreeing or approving someone's decisions or life choices.
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me [a]to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; 19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. Luke 4:18-19
The gospel calls us to embrace everyone, and never to treat anyone with disrespect or unfairly because they are different from us. If you can see God's image in them, you can learn to love and accept them as God loves and accepts them.
In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Gratitude is the attitude of being thankful and appreciative of everything God has blessed us with.
1 Beloved friends, what should be our proper response to God’s marvellous mercies? I encourage you to surrender yourselves to God to be his sacred, living sacrifices. And live in holiness, experiencing all that delights his heart. For this becomes your genuine expression of worship. 2 Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you, but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes. Romans 12:1-2 The Passion Translation
Worship is a lifestyle, and not just a weekend event.
18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it. 2 Corinthians 3:18 The Voice
Often the message we hear from the pulpit comes across as a demand for change, if we want to be accepted by God. But this is not the gospel. It is precisely God who loves us and accepts us in Christ that He continually supplies us the power to change.
5-8 Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Philippians 2:6-8 The Message
Obedience is putting into practice all that we believe about the gospel.
We obey, not because we want to please God, but because we know God is pleased with us —and He has favourably bestowed us with His amazing grace to walk a godly life that is evidenced by good works and righteous living. In doing so, it truly pleases God because we are drawing from all of God's accessible resources in Christ to live the Christian life. If we don't rest on His grace to thrive and live victoriously, everything we do becomes our own works and self-effort.
If we are truly believing the gospel of grace and rightly discerning the New Covenant, we will endeavour to obey all we have heard and put every revelation into practice. Every revelation of Christ is a revelation of who you are in Him and who is He to you. As you grow in your understanding of the depth of Christ's love for you, you will experience the reality of His unsearchable riches in every area of your life's situations.
As Jesus is the obedient Son to His Father, we are all obedient children of the Father (1 Peter 1:14). Many believers, however, struggles with obedience because they continue to think and act like orphans. They have yet to learn how to walk in the spirit of sonship and have the same mind of Christ. As God's Perfect Son, Christ perfectly reflects all the excellent attributes and qualities of sonship. And the best part is, Christ puts us in Him so that we can be like Him and live for Him.
Christ was obedient to His Father, and does only what He sees the Father is doing. When we are sure that everything we do is tied to our identity and purpose in Christ, obeying God is not burdensome or laborious, it is fruitful and joyful. This is what it means to have the mind of Christ.
We cannot obey and serve with a mixed mindset, that is, we want to do God's work our way. Then ministry becomes tedious and heavy and worship becomes dull and routine. However, when obedience becomes a habit and a practice and a way of life, we will see more of God working in and through us. When Peter obeyed, he caught more fish than he had ever caught on his own. It is the same for us with Christ. Learn to obey and we will get to see God at work.Application: What is the Holy Spirit saying to me from today's scripture reading? What is it saying about God and me and helping me in my Christian walk?
20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:20 New Living Translation
In Christ's Great Commission, we are called to teach those who are in faith with Him to obey all He commanded until He returns. One critical problem we face today are believers who are easily distracted and love to chase after new teachings or new revelations instead of getting grounded in the gospel and act in obedience to it. They always want to hear something fresh and exciting from the Sunday pulpit but not endeavouring to obey the truth in their everyday life's situations.
47 Now you must go into all the nations and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins so that they will turn to me. Start right here in Jerusalem. Luke 24:27 The Passion Translation
Many Christians like to make excuses and explain why they can't obey Christ to grow in grace and fulfil their part in the Great Commission. In doing so, they are thinking and acting like orphans and not living up to the spirit of sonship and identity Jesus has given them. This frustrates the grace of God and prevents the gospel from reaching every corner of our city and the world.
19 Now go in my authority and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28:19 The Passion TranslationWhat makes a Christian a disciple of Christ?
14 Christ's love has moved me to such extremes. His love has the first and last word in everything we do. 2 Corinthians 5:14 The Message
Experiencing Christ's love empowers us to fully love Him back without reservation or condition. As a natural response to that love, worship becomes much more of a spontaneous everyday activity and not just an act for the moment on a Sunday.
18 Jesus came to them and said: I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! 19 Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, 20 and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world. Matthew 28:18-20 Contemporary English VersionWho is God leading you to disciple and help grow in faith and fruitfulness?
18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18 New International VersionAre you a peacemaker who is involved in creating a peace culture in your home, church, workplace, and community?
4 These proverbs will give you great skill to teach the immature and make them wise, to give youth the understanding of their design and destiny. 5 For the wise, these proverbs will make you even wiser, and for those with discernment, you will be able to acquire brilliant strategies for leadership. Proverbs 1:4-5 Passion Translation
If you want to grow and mature in your Christian walk, cultivate a teachable spirit and be open to receive instruction and correction from others. This takes humility and courage—for it involves you being open to hear things you don't want to hear, but need to hear. But if you are willing to hear and change your ways, you are paving your path to success and significance.
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Colossians 4:5 New International Version
If for some reasons or other that your circle of friends is mostly Christians, it is good to broaden your friendship base. Build and nurture genuine relationships with your unchurched friends and making the most of every opportunity to bless them, and do whatever good you can for them.
17 Obey your spiritual leaders and recognize their authority, for they keep watch over your soul without resting since they will have to give an account to God for their work. So it will benefit you when you make their work a pleasure and not a heavy burden. Hebrews 13:17 Passion Translation
The Apostle Paul tells us to obey our church leaders and recognise their authority if we want to build a church that is foundationally strong and healthy. Often, most church-goers have no idea of the stress, challenges and problems their church leaders faced in their ministry.
17 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17 English Standard VersionWho holds you accountable and inspires you to be the best you God intended you to be?
18 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father.” John 14:8 New Living Translation
If your main concept and relationship with God is one of ruling master and subservience servant, and not one of beloved father and a well-loved child, it is hard to experience true intimacy and enjoy an authentic friendship with Him. This makes trusting God tenuous and difficult because we are wary of Him and not wanting to get too close to Him.
18 Love never brings fear, for fear is always related to punishment. But love’s perfection drives the fear of punishment far from our hearts. Whoever walks constantly afraid of punishment has not reached love’s perfection. 1 John 4:18 Passion Translation
Love sets us free to live.
16 And now out of his fullness we are fulfilled! And from him we receive grace heaped upon more grace! John 1:16 Passion Translation
Our journey with God is not as much a journey towards perfection—but a journey towards wholeness, completeness and healing.
8 Move your heart closer and closer to God, and he will come even closer to you. James 4:19 Passion Translation
As we begin the New Year, we look forward with hope and expectation, believing God has great things in store for us. Knowing that the Lord has made Himself known through His Scriptures and Spirit, give time and create space daily—to be with Him so that you can truly know Him and learn more about Him.
16 The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]. James 5:16 AmplifiedPrayer is not as much asking as it is seeking.
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. Matthew 1:18-19
What if the life you always wanted didn't turn out to be anything like you imagined?
10 When you have Christ, you are complete. Colossians 2:10 New Life VersionRemember you are already made complete in Christ.
12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. Luke 2:12
The shepherds in Bethlehem were responsible for raising sheep for the Passover sacrifice. They would swaddle a newborn lamb to protect it from injuring itself so that it is without blemish or defect and perfect for purpose. One night, while the shepherds were keeping watch over the Temple flocks, a host of angels appeared and announced to them the birth of the Saviour. They were told to look for the sign of a swaddled baby in a manger.
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us... John 1:14The birth of Jesus Christ is one of the greatest bible stories ever told.
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15
Many people have a wrong idea of who God is.
1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2
The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us how God has remarkably revealed Himself "at various times and in various ways”, but in “these last days” Christ is the only way God chooses to reveal Himself and His heart to us. In Christ, God purposely moves you out of the shadow of the Old Covenant into the full light of the New Covenant. In doing so, God changes the way you relate to Him and He with you.
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.” 61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marvelled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. Luke 1:20
The naming of John at his circumcision ceremony became a family dispute. While everyone wanted to continue a family practice, that is, to name him after his father. However, both Elizabeth and Zechariah broke away from tradition and insisted on calling their child, "John". Quite simply, John means "God is Gracious". By graciously giving a son to an elderly couple who thought they would never have a child, God has turned their reproach and shame into kindness and mercy.
5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.6 And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse. Malachi 4:6
The last verse of the Old Testament spoke of our estrangement from God and how God will raise a prophet in the likeness of Elijah who will initiate a ministry of reconciliation to restore everyone to a right relationship with God. This was fulfilled through John as a forerunner who will prepare a generation for the Lord.
20 …my words shall be fulfilled in their season [their fixed appointed time]. Luke 1:20, Greek VersionGod doesn’t tell lies or change His mind on His promises.
24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:24-25Something impossible happened to Elizabeth.
5 In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. 6 Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. 7 But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old. Luke 1:5-7 New International Version
One lesson we can learn from the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth is that don't let age rule you out from serving God.
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Luke 1:34
God chose Mary, not because she was the best, most attractive or most educated, but because God believes in Mary as someone who was willing to serve Him in spite of her fear and feelings of inadequacy. Being a virgin makes it impossible for Mary to give birth to Jesus, but when Mary was willing to humble herself, God made the impossible possible.
45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfilment of those things which were told her from the Lord. Luke 1:45
We know from the gospel of Elizabeth's barrenness and Mary's bitterness. Just when they think life has nothing more to offer them, both women marvellously experienced the grace of God in a significant way. God's grace is God's power turning their trials and tribulations into triumph and jubilations.
37 For with God nothing will be impossible. Luke 1:37Mary was greatly troubled and confused by the angel’s words and wondered what they meant. Circumstantially she questioned how it was possible for her to conceive since she is a virgin.
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. Luke 1:30
What a great truth lies in the reassuring words of the angel to Mary, “do not be afraid…for you have found favour with God.” It shows that there is no exception in God’s favour in whatever circumstance or situation you are facing.
30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Luke 1:30
Sometimes a person's name can attract the wrong kind of attention from people, or cloud the opinion of others towards them. For instance, the name of Mary means "bitter rebellion". We can't be too sure but it may seem likely that Mary had a difficult time growing up, and perhaps her name wasn't much of a help to her. Yet, in spite of her life's circumstances, God chose to favour Mary because He saw beyond where she has been, but the possibilities of who she can become.
76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 79 to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace. Luke 1:76-79, New International VersionHave you referred to yourself as a child of God recently?
18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years. 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” Luke 1:18-20 New International VersionGod often fixes us before He fixes our circumstances.
6 Could it be any clearer that our former identity is now and forever deprived of its power? For we were co-crucified with him to dismantle the stronghold of sin within us, so that we would not continue to live one moment longer submitted to sin’s power. Romans 6:6 Passion Translation
Grace doesn't ignore sin. Grace actually destroys sin's domination over us.
31 After this prayer, the meeting place shook, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit. Then they preached the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 New Living Translation
Bold prayers are prayers that strike fear in the heart of the Enemy.
7 Yet all of the accomplishments that I once took credit for, I’ve now forsaken them and I regard it all as nothing compared to the delight of experiencing Jesus Christ as my Lord! 8 To truly know him meant letting go of everything from my past and throwing all my boasting on the garbage heap. It’s all like a pile of manure to me now, so that I may be enriched in the reality of knowing Jesus Christ and embrace him as Lord in all of his greatness...10 And I continually long to know the wonders of Jesus more fully and to experience the overflowing power of his resurrection working in me. I will be one with him in his sufferings and I will be one with him in his death. Philippians 3:7-8, 10
In his epistle to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul describes the Christian life is not about knowing more principles but knowing more about the person of Jesus Christ. And it is not by more reason, but by more revelation about Christ and His finished work that we can access every blessing and benefit by faith.
2 The good news has been told to us just as it was told to the people in the desert. But the message which they heard did not do them any good. Even though they heard it, they did not believe it. Hebrews 4:2, World English Bible
It is obvious not everyone has the same outcome from hearing the same gospel.
18–19 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, and he has anointed me to be hope for the poor, freedom for the broken-hearted, and new eyes for the blind, and to preach to prisoners, ‘You are set free!’ I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great acceptance has begun.” Luke 4:18-19, The Passion Translation
People were excited when Jesus publicly announced the good news of God's forgiveness and love towards them. This was because Jesus placed both His message and ministry in the context of Jubilee.
24 Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good works, 25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as the custom of some is, but exhorting one another; and so much the more, as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25, World English Bible
Some people would say, "I don't need to go to church to be a Christian".
25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Acts 16:25
Both the Apostle Paul and Silas didn't fret when they were unjustly imprisoned. They instead chose to worship and praise the Lord because their faith in God was not based on where they were but who they belong to; having been made one in Christ.
The Bible is full of stories about underdogs, of individuals who have to face insurmountable obstacles to get ahead. While many enjoyed a great ending, some never saw any real success in their lifetime. One such person was the Prophet Isaiah. Consider what God said when He commissioned Isaiah to go and proclaim His words to a disobedient generation.
9 Love overlooks the mistakes of others, but dwelling on the failures of others devastates friendships. Proverbs 17:9, The Passion Translation
Forgiveness is the greatest test of any friendship.
45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said. Luke 1:45 New Living Translation
Our blessing leads us to be a blessing. You cannot give to others unless you have first received.
18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet[ did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. Matthew 1:18-19 New International Version
Matthew tells us that Joseph was a man faithful to the law, but he was not one who just about keeping certain standards, while ignoring the need to help Mary. Knowing well of the consequence of exposing Mary to the religious authorities, Joseph took intentional steps to discreetly call off their betrothal and to let her go quietly.
Growth involves change, and often we resist change because we are used to life staying pretty much the same.
1 The word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision. God said, “Abram, don’t be afraid. I will defend you and give you a great reward.” 2 But Abram said, “Lord God, there is nothing you can give me that will make me happy, because I have no son. My slave Eliezer from Damascus will get everything I own after I die.” 3 Abram said, “You have given me no son, so a slave born in my house will get everything I have.” 4 Then the Lord spoke to Abram and said, “That slave will not be the one to get what you have. You will have a son who will get everything you own.” 5 Then God led Abram outside and said, “Look at the sky. See the many stars. There are so many you cannot count them. Your family will be like that.” Genesis 15:2-5 Easy-to-Read Version
God does not change our circumstances without first changing our way of thinking.
7 The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him. Nahum 1:7Have you ever wondered where God is when you are facing trials and difficulties in your life?
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Jude 1:20-21, English Standard Version
The Apostle Jude wrote his epistle to warn believers to beware of false teachers who preached against the literal return of our Lord. He told them to earnestly fight for the faith. That is, to make an effort to keep the victorious truth of the gospel alive within their households and community.
4 But when the kindness of God our Saviour and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. 6 He poured out this Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that having been justified by His grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:4-7, Holman Christian Standard BibleHow we perceive the Trinity will affect the way we live the Christian life.
18 For through Christ we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Ephesians 2:18, New International VersionIt is through salvation that you have free access to the Trinity.
34 Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. John 8:34-36
Have you experienced what it means to be enslaved by sin?
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 1 John 5:14When did you last pray to God? Do you remember what it was about?
21 Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. John 20:21-22The Holy Spirit is a missionary.
26 Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Matthew 20:26-28As our Servant-King, Jesus taught us the importance of living a life of serving God and others.
11 He came to the very people he created]—to those who should have recognized him, but they did not receive him. 12 But those who embraced him and took hold of his name were given authority to become the children of God! John 1:11-12 The Passion Translation
The beauty of knowing Christ is being reconciled with God and adopted into His family. We are all siblings in Christ, and we expressed our sense of belonging and unity by sharing our lives with each other and loving those around us.
7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:7-8 New International VersionWhat is the pain of our city? Do you know what hurts people put up with and live with each day? Do we care enough to do something about it?
28 Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28As a starting point in our Christian life, we should consider ourselves perfect in Christ. This is our inheritance in God through Christ.
11 And that same Christ gave these gifts to people: He made some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to go and tell the Good News, and some to care for and teach God’s people. 12 Christ gave these gifts to prepare God’s holy people for the work of serving, to make the body of Christ stronger. 13 This work must continue until we are all joined together in what we believe and in what we know about the Son of God. Our goal is to become like a full-grown man—to look just like Christ and have all his perfection. Ephesians 4:11-13 Easy-to-Read Version
The gospel does not call us to be better Christians, but it calls us to be Christ and to reveal Christ to a world who does not know Him.
44 All the believers were in fellowship as one body, and they shared with one another whatever they had. 45 Out of generosity they even sold their assets to distribute the proceeds to those who were in need among them. 47 They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life. Acts 2:44-45, 47 The Passion Translation
Practicing how to live and belong in a healthy community containing mature friendships within the four walls of the church is the training ground for our wider role in society. This is what we can do to make a positive difference in the world we live in.
7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy,[a] drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. Matthew 10:7-8 New International Version
What is the pain of our city? Do you know what hurts people put up with and live with each day? Do we care enough to do something about it?
42 Every believer was faithfully devoted to following the teachings of the apostles. Their hearts were mutually linked to one another, sharing communion and coming together regularly for prayer. 47 They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life. Acts 2:42, 47 Passion Translation
The church is more than a building, more than just an organisation. What is the church for you today?
So faith comes from hearing the good news. Romans 10:17 Easy-to-Read Version
From a scriptural perspective, hearing is more than just mere listening. It involves understanding what we hear and acting accordingly. Thus, faith leads us to action, and our actions will also enrich our faith and deepen our friendship with God.
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. James 5:13 English Standard Bible
Worship is not restricted to an event or a physical location.
We have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:16
God hates what sin is doing to you and you should have the same attitude towards sin as your Father.
Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Ephesians 6:18 New International Verse
The Apostle Paul calls us to pray in the Spirit for all of the Lord's people with all kinds of prayers. Have you ever thought about the different kinds of prayers Paul is referring to?
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Romans 8:31-32We hold back from God—not because we are weak, but because we do not know how complete and strong we are in Christ.
Be sure you give Archippus this message: “Be faithful to complete the ministry you received from our Lord Jesus! Colossians 4:17, Passion Translation
While the Apostle Paul was in prison, he wrote many letters to encourage the believers in the churches he planted and nurtured.
12 Epaphras, a member of your own fellowship and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends you his greetings. He always prays earnestly for you, asking God to make you strong and perfect, fully confident that you are following the whole will of God. 13 I can assure you that he prays hard for you and also for the believers in Laodicea and Hierapolis. Colossians 4:12-13, New Living TranslationFew of us know much about wrestling in prayer.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2 English Standard Version
How are you supposed to endure the challenges of the Christian life?
I am convinced that any suffering we endure is less than nothing compared to the magnitude of glory that is about to be unveiled within us Romans 8:18 The Passion TranslationGod is love, and He won't do anything to us that will violate His nature and character.
8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:8, New Living TranslationNo believer is without personal weakness or fault.
23 Abraham believed God...and he was called the friend of God. James 2:23How has my faith in God impacted me?
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. Romans 1:16 English Standard VersionHave you ever regretted or lost momentum in following Jesus?
11 For you know how, like a father with his children, 12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory. 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12, English Standard VersionIs a life well lived, walked worthy of what God had called for us?
4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Romans 12:4-5Do you belong and if not, desire to be a part of a healthy church community?
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27
Often many believers long to be holy and clean, but somehow, they are unaware or too ignorant to trust and lean upon the righteousness of Christ working in and through them. Instead, they continue to feel bad and guilty by not learning to rest on the truth of what Christ had done for them. Do you remind yourself of who you are in Christ after you have failed?
24 “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” Matthew 7:24-27 (ESV)
In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' heartfelt desire was for you to have such a firm foundation of faith— just like a house built on the rock for it can withstand the winds and waves that hit hard around it. Firm as a rock.
11 Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? Numbers 14:11Do you find it challenging to believe in God's Word, especially when circumstances are against you?
17 He sent a man before them—Joseph—who was sold as a slave. 18 They hurt his feet with fetters, He was laid in irons. 19 Until the time that his word came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him. Psalm 105:17-19
Most of us are familiar with the story of Joseph in the Bible; as a son sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. But rose to a position of prestige, power and prominence. Since he was young, Joseph knew from God about his destiny but God's Word "tested" Joseph until he was ready to fulfil it.
26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. 28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God. 30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
Are you willing to be a fool for Christ?
18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18 New Living TranslationIt matters to know the difference between being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9In one of His beatitudes, Jesus sees all believers as peacemakers.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:14In the biblical times, there is a clear distinction between a child and a son.
5 As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” 6 Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith. 7 Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars[ to buy enough food!” John 6:5-7 Passion Translation
There has never been an experience in life where God cannot use or turn to our favour. These are often challenges, obstacles and even life-changing events that have left you feeling helpless and lost.
Woman: 19 Sir, it is obvious to me that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped here on this mountain, but Your people say that Jerusalem is the only place for all to worship. Which is it?
Jesus: 21-24 Woman, I tell you that neither is so. Believe this: a new day is coming—in fact, it’s already here—when the importance will not be placed on the time and place of worship but on the truthful hearts of worshipers. You worship what you don’t know while we worship what we do know, for God’s salvation is coming through the Jews. The Father is spirit, and He is seeking followers whose worship is sourced in truth and deeply spiritual as well. Regardless of whether you are in Jerusalem or on this mountain, if you do not seek the Father, then you do not worship. John 4:19-24 The VoiceJesus is not looking for fans, but followers.
26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26
Before Jesus’ return to heaven, He assured His disciples that He would not forsake them like orphans. He told them that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in His place. The Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls the Helper, will enable them and every believer to grow well in Christ.
18 Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Ephesians 6:18 New Living Translation
Prayer is an active partnership with God in seeing His will done on earth as it is in heaven!
7 Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory. God serves us as we serve Him. Romans 15:7 New Living Translation
The Apostle Paul tells us that we honour God when we are able to accept one another, just as Christ accepts us. How does Jesus accept us?
7 For God will never give you the spirit of fear, but the Holy Spirit who gives you mighty power, love, and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7 Passion Translation
Some people are trapped by a timid spirit.
19 Christ’s love is greater than anyone can ever know, but I pray that you will be able to know that love. Then you can be filled with everything God has for you. Ephesians 3:19 Easy-to-Read Version
When was the last time you felt loved by God?
And I pray that you, firmly fixed in love yourselves, may be able to grasp (with all Christians) how wide and deep and long and high is the love of Christ—and to know for yourselves that love so far beyond our comprehension. Ephesians 3:18-19 J.B. Phillips
How often do you pray to comprehend the incomprehensible love of God?
17 May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love. Ephesians 3:17 Amplified Bible
The gospel starts and ends with God's love.
19 The woman said, “Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain. But you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where people must worship.” 21 Jesus said, “Believe me, woman! The time is coming when you will not have to be in Jerusalem or on this mountain to worship the Father. 22 You Samaritans worship something you don’t understand. We Jews understand what we worship, since salvation comes from the Jews. 23 But the time is coming when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. In fact, that time is now here. And these are the kind of people the Father wants to be his worshipers. 24 God is spirit. So the people who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:19-24 Easy to Read Version
Jesus tells us that a wrong and unscriptural belief of worship can sometimes rob us from the experience of enjoying and encountering God.
1 Consider the incredible love that the Father has shown us in allowing us to be called “children of God”—and that is not just what we are called, but what we are. 1 John 3:1 J.B. Phillips
It is awesome to know that God sees us more than all our guilt, sin and shame put together.
1 I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. John 15:1-3
There is a common teaching that suggests just as diamonds are formed under intense pressure, God uses persecutions and sufferings to perfect His church. Somehow we have forgotten that it is Jesus alone who keeps us from stumbling and presents us faultless (Jude 1:24-25). Therefore, we should not fear our standing before God since Jesus has already imputed His righteousness on us. If God needs to make us more perfect through misery, hurt and pain, then He is actually nullifying the perfect work of His Son.
The work of Jesus was complete at the Cross.
We do suffer persecution and tribulation, but we should recognise that it is not because we lack faith. When we decide to have faith in God, it is the Enemy who wants to attack and deceive us out of our faith. As our Righteous Father, God perfects us through His Word (2 Timothy. 3:15-17). In His High Priestly Prayer, Jesus asked God to sanctify, that is, to cleanse us and empower us to be fruitful sons and daughters: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17).
How does God do it?
In John 15:1-3, Jesus described God as the Vinedresser who would repeatedly prune the vine to bear fruit, more fruit and much fruit. Again, many assume pruning involves cutting away, that is, some kind of spiritual mutilation and destruction. It is this false understanding of cutting away that leads believers to think God will use other means besides His Word to perfect the church.
Jesus says His Father prunes the unfruitful branches as well as the fruitful branches (John 15:2). The original meaning for “prune” is to “lift up” and not “trim or cut away” as is often taught. In other words, if you are experiencing some fruits or no fruit right now, rejoice that God will lift you up with the truth of His Word so that you stay fruitful and even more productive in every area of your life.
Moreover, in John 15:3, Jesus told His disciples, “You are already clean because of the word (that is, logos in Greek) which I have spoken to you. Logos means the fully revealed Word of God. This means God does not use any other means to perfect us apart from Jesus who is God's fully revealed Word to perfect us all. Take note of what the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews tells us: "For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14). What could be clearer? By a single offering Jesus forever perfected us; not by persecution and sufferings, but through His perfect sacrifice on the Cross.
Ask Yourself: In what area God is lifting me with His Word right now?
31 “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teaching. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. John 8:31-32, Common English Bible
Have you found God’s truth for yourself?
Many believers often feel they need more teachings, more inner healing or more prophetic insights instead of practising on what they already know and believe in Christ. While there is a place for sound teachings and spiritual understanding, we do not acquire spiritual knowledge for its own sake or to satisfy an inquisitive mind. A big part of our growth and maturity involves more than an accumulation of knowledge alone but comes from a true transformation that flows from an abiding personal relationship with Jesus.
Jesus tells us that the reality of our true freedom hinges on our ability to "know the truth".
The Greek word for "know" is ginōskō, and it is often used to describe the physical intimacy between a man and his wife. In other words, "to know the truth" is not about learning a concept, but it is about living out the reality of what is already ours in Christ in regards to His relationship with His Bride, the Church.
Receiving knowledge can help us be aware of our freedom, but knowledge itself cannot set us free. This is because the very idea of freedom is defined differently across many schools of thought. In most instances, their proponents and philosophers see freedom as a goal of personal achievement, and not an outcome of something involving God. As such, they are always offering contradictory propositions or self-help programs that cannot be all true at the same time.
Jesus brings true and full freedom.
This is because He paid the price of our freedom from sin, God's wrath, and death through His finished work on the cross. As such, the freedom He offers us is not a goal to be earned, but a gift to be experienced.
Have you received His gift of salvation, forgiveness of your sins and an everlasting life with Him?
The true freedom we have in Christ is unlike the false, anarchic and ego-centred freedom that urges us to cast off self-restraint so to fulfil our selfish desire. Rather, it is the freedom of living in Christ's perfect love that drives out fear. Cast this fear out today! (1 John 4:18). Then we truly experience God's spirit of sound mind, power and love working in and through us.
Ask Yourself: How am I pursuing the truth of my life in Christ from damaging thought patterns, strongholds and undue fear?
37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?” John 18:37-38 English Standard Version
We live in a world where truth is fast becoming relative and is constantly shifting like the wind. Is it no wonder that we are confused and divided?
4 Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust. Psalm 40:4
Is it difficult for you to trust God and believe He will come through in your present situation?
8 Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand. Isaiah 64:8, New International Version
Like clay in a potter's hands, be willing and yielding as God shapes you into the image of His Son. If you truly learn to trust God for what He is doing in your life, there is no need to fear or lose hope because you are being transformed into a masterpiece with the most beautiful story to tell.
21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21 New International Version
There are believers who holds a misguided notion that God micromanages their every move.
4 Whatever was written beforehand is meant to instruct us in how to live. The Scriptures impart to us encouragement and inspiration so that we can live in hope and endure all things. Romans 15:4 The Passion Translation
The Bible was experienced first before it was written.
This was so we too can personally experience the Bible for ourselves and live out according to what was written. The Bible is the Word of God as much as it is personal to each of us. According to the Apostle Paul, the stories and characters were written so that we can find encouragement and hope for both today and the future.
Have you read the Bible and allowed God to speak to you personally through His Word?
Too few of us realise how many lives were sacrificed in history and how many good people who have laboured hard and with dedication to put the Bible in our hands. It will do us well to honour their memory by committing to a daily habit of reading the Bible, and at the same time, we are also treating God's Word with the respect and reverence it deserves.
Simply reading the Bible for information is not enough if we truly yearn for transformation. For many believers, discovering God's plan and purpose seems difficult to find, hard to obey and easy to miss. Truth is, when you are full of God's word, you are full of God's will. By knowing God's Word, it gives you an edge in discerning the voice of Jesus and to know His truth from error. God wants to empower you to walk confidently by faith and not by sight. Confirm your walk in His Word. Anyone who gets bored reading the Bible is actually disconnected with God and distracted by a host of other issues. Remember, if God never leaves us nor forsakes us. Have you wondered then who might have left the room? We are bored because we constantly crave stimulation and that puts us in danger of an addictive behaviour. Boredom can become a thought habit with devastating effects, like cynicism, faithlessness and an unteachable spirit.
How could you be bored when God has so many wonderful things in store for you? Remember that God gives life and light to His word.
It is good to pray for wisdom and revelation to discover what God is saying to you. Rather than just seeing God's Word as a means to prepare for a sermon, a bible study or a quick fix to life’s problems, it is much more than that. Learn to encounter God's Word relationally. God is your Heavenly Father who desires to be with you. Discover God's amazing love and grace again and again by spending your time in His Word for every season in your life. God’s Word is life to your flesh and bones. When God opens His Word to you, He is showing where He wants to take you. His Word is dynamic, purposeful and exciting. When you walk in His purpose, you will also experience His promises, provisions and favour. This makes obedience and holy living a real possibility.Ask Yourself: How can I describe my relationship with God right now? Am I bored or still have a childlike faith?
23 Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life. Proverbs 4:23, Easy-to-Read Version
How do my thoughts affect my emotions, mood and actions? Many of us have the tendency to think more negatively than positively.
Negative thinking breeds negative consequences and self-fulfilling prophecies.
Often those negative thoughts are repetitive and unproductive in nature. They trap you in an unending cycle of defeat and failure that affects your energy levels, make you less confident in your abilities, and rob you of joy and contributes to strains in your health and relationships.
God wants you to be the victor and overcomer.
If you want to create positive changes in your life and become a person of value and influence, you need to retrain your pattern of thinking and attitude with the truth of God's word. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He used Scriptures to resist Satan. In the same way, you must use God's Word to combat and defeat all negative thoughts.
Don't believe every thought you have but follow the Apostle Paul's prescription to take every thought captive and make it obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). Remember that the battle of the mind is won by deeply rooting yourself in who you are and what you have in Christ. Your unshakeable identity and irrefutable authority in Christ is your inheritance as a child of God.
A negative thought can make you a prisoner of your own mind unless you grab hold of it and subject it to the truth of Christ which sets you free. Fix your thoughts on Jesus today.
Instead of letting your negative thoughts rule your mind, give all your worries to the Lord because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). When Paul stood before King Agrippa, he confidently declared, "I think myself happy" in spite of his situation (Acts 26:2). Rather than allowing circumstances to have a hold over his thinking and feelings, Paul had such an unspeakable joy in Christ that transcends his trials and tribulations.
This joy is not something that happens when everything turns up right for you. Even in the darkest moment of your life, this supernatural joy is already yours because Christ lives in you. You don't have to do anything but believe in Him who promised never to leave you nor forsake you.
Ask Yourself: Do I constantly think myself happy because of who I am in Christ?
1 Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Luke 4:1-3, Christian Standard Bible
One of Satan's major attacks is against your identity in Christ.
7 Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7
Though the phrase "spiritual warfare" never appears even once in the Bible, its concept is clearly biblical. However, many believers don't have a good understanding of spiritual warfare, and what they usually know are mostly superstitions and misconceptions. This lack of knowledge will cause them to live a confused, fearful and defeated life.
10 A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on all of God’s armour so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. Ephesians 6:10-11 New Living Translation
Jesus is our best defence whenever we are attacked by the devil.
3 He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.” 4 Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! 5 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath[a] enter you, and you will come to life. 6 I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’ 7 So I prophesied as I was commanded. Ezekiel 37:3-7 New International Version
What season is God calling forth in your life?
19 It is easier to conquer a strong city than to win back a friend whom you’ve offended. Their walls go up, making it nearly impossible to win them back. Proverbs 18:19 Passion Translation
Being offended is an inevitable part of human relationships.
32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32 English Standard Version
Having kindness tfor others is not just about being nice.
10 We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfil the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfil it! Ephesians 3:10 Passion Translation
Do you desire to have a life well lived?
22 The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it. Proverbs 10:22
Being in Christ puts you in a blessed place of favour with God.
As you grow in your understanding of your identity as a child of God, your inheritance through Jesus, and your authority as a King and Priest you have in Christ, you will have the boldness to act. Begin to pray and believe nothing is impossible when God is on your side. We have favour because God has already blessed us with everything we need to live a godly life (2 Peter 1:3).
Do you remind yourself with what God says about you in His Word?
When we lack revelation about our identity in Christ, we could end up with a negative and incorrect mindset about ourselves. As a result, negative thoughts and feelings can start to take hold in your life, breaking down your confidence to pray, worship and spend time with God. Do you feel that you are not good enough to be in God’s presence? Do you feel that you are unworthy of His love?
God wants the revelation of His grace to set you free.
If we do not fully grasp the gospel, we cannot get excited over Jesus, and what He has accomplished for us through His finished work. This explains why many believers are bored with God and bored with His church. They are bored because they don't feel connected with God and remain unaware of His constant presence in their lives. This, in turn, keeps them from receiving and experiencing the favour of God.
No one can earn God's favour. His favour is unmerited.
God gives us favour because of who He is, and not because we are worthy, deserving or good enough. His favour is for those who know they are unqualified to expect any. If you truly believe this gospel truth, then prayer is not something difficult. Prayer is an opportunity to connect with God, to be refreshed in His presence. It is an invitation from God to enter by faith and experience His love and grace in spite of any negative feelings of unworthiness and shame.
Even if God didn't answer your prayer in the way you wanted Him to answer it — it does not mean you are out of favour with Him.
Don't let one unanswered prayer discourage you or make you doubt the goodness of God. There have been many moments in my life when an unanswered prayer was the best answered prayer. It is because of God's favour that those prayers remained unanswered so that my trust in God is not based on what I want but what God wants for me. When I learned to rest on this truth, I have seen God doing the impossible for me. It is so that His will for my life is done.What God does for one, He will do for all. Ask Yourself: Can I remember a time when I experienced the extreme favour of God?
24 But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it to finish the work assigned to me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God. Acts 20:24 New Living Translation
God’s grace came in the person of Jesus Christ. That is why we value it so greatly.
The Apostle Paul always knew that no matter what happened to him and no matter where he ended up, his life's purpose was to reveal the amazing grace of God. This singular focus allows him to weather through the storms and stand firm against untold dangers and meet deadly foes.
What a privilege it is to know Jesus and proclaim His gospel to everyone. It is by His grace that we get to partner with God and in the amazing things He is doing.
There is no fear when you choose to follow Jesus. The more you follow Jesus, the more you feel His heart for people in your everyday life. You will experience His love for others and serve out of the gracious overflow of His love, and not out of a grudging obligation.
Jesus is the greatest servant of them all. Yet, He is a King.
If you find sharing your faith a difficult thing to do, why not sit down and write out what God has done and is doing in your life? Then look for opportunities to tell your personal stories to others, and be amazed by what God can do with your stories. That was what Paul did. In every epistle, Paul testifies extensively about God's grace working in and through him to reach many for Christ.
Everything about Paul was anchored in the richness of God's grace. Do you want your life to overflow out from such a richness? You can have that too.
This grace, of course, is none other than the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. To be in Christ is to have His grace to obey and follow His leading. People who dare to follow Jesus seldom get lost or stuck. It is not about what happened to you in life, but knowing God in Christ is with you throughout your life that brings the greatest safeguard and security.
Being in Christ is the best place for everyone to be. Man fails but God does not.
Grace is more than getting someone saved. It is getting them to Christ where they can have a personal relationship with Him. This relationship redefines who we are as His Sons and Daughters, that we belong to God in Christ and that our future is secure because we are heirs, Kings and Priests in His name. This is true living because you are loved with the same love that the Three Persons within the Trinity loves each other. Knowing you are so loved by God frees you to live well and wise in spite of what life throws your way.Ask Yourself: How am I using my life for the gospel?
54 When Jesus arrived in his hometown of Nazareth, he began teaching the people in the synagogue. Everyone was dazed, overwhelmed with astonishment over the depth of revelation they were hearing. They said to one another, “Where did this man get such great wisdom and miraculous powers? 55 Isn’t he just the wood-worker’s son? Isn’t his mother named Mary, and his four brothers Jacob, Joseph, Simon, and Judah? 56 And don’t his sisters all live here in Nazareth? How did he get all this revelation and power?” 57 And the people became offended and began to turn against him. Jesus said, “There’s only one place a prophet isn’t honoured—his own hometown!” 58 And their great unbelief kept him from doing any mighty miracles in Nazareth. Matthew 13:54-58
Would we welcome Jesus into our church, family and lives?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:31-33
We need a fresh understanding and revelation of what God values. In return, this is what we should place value in as well.
28 We know, in fact, that God works all things together for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 New Testament for Everyone
Don't ever think God hates you because of the bad situations you are in. God is love and you must never forget that you belong to Him.
11 Now these [Berean] Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too, agitating and stirring up the crowds. Acts 17:11-13, English Standard Version
God’s word gives life to your body, it brings wholeness to every part of your being.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 1 Corinthians 16:23
Grace is the heartbeat of the living gospel.
1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed, And though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; 3 though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3
When David wrote Psalm 46, he was looking to God for help during one of his most difficult times. His crisis taught him a precious lesson. That is, since God is on our side, there is no reason to fear even in the biggest crisis.
When Jesus was having dinner in the house of Simon the Leper, Mary poured an alabaster flask of costly nard on His head [Mark 14:1-9]. She was criticised by those present for her “excessive wastefulness” but Jesus rebutted that she had done a good work for Him. Bear in mind, what Mary did was not impulsive. Jesus said that her act of extravagant worship came by revelation because she was anticipating His death.
8 She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Mark 14:8
Mary knew something that others didn’t.
Imagine what would happen if the presence and the power of God, so to speak, converge at one single point?
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, English Standard Version
I am the righteousness of God in Christ, that is my inheritance as a child of God.
34 Awake to righteousness, and do not sin. 1 Corinthians 15:34
Once in Christ, you are made a new creation of God's righteousness in Christ.
32 That evening at sundown they brought to [Jesus] all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:32-35
Have you found time with God your Father recently?
4 Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. 5 Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long. Psalm 25:4-5 English Standard Version
When was the last time you had an awakened sense and wonder about God?
33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. Acts 4:33-34
Most believers have a weak idea of grace.
They often either use grace as a cover for their erratic Christian life or as an excuse to sin. However, if we take time to grasp God’s understanding of grace, it is nothing less than His free gift of power to overcome all that is against us.
The early Christians knew that the power of grace flowed from the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
They understood that the power of God which raised Jesus from the dead was the same power that gave them the life of the Spirit (Romans 8:11). As such, whenever they preached or ministered, the apostles were expecting great things to happen because of the great power that was working in and through them.
We need to move a few notches up in our notion of grace.
Grace is more than just a safety net to catch you when you fall, but grace also catapults you into the supernatural realm of God. I am increasingly clear from my understanding of scripture that God never makes a distinction between His grace and His power (2 Corinthians 12:9). The implication is huge.
Why live an explainable life when you are meant to live a supernatural life?
If you believe in the reality of grace and its power to meet needs, then you are to live in the reality of the supernatural. The ability to testify to the power of resurrection is God's new normal for every child of His. When you truly believe God has created you for the supernatural, then God’s signs and wonders become commonplace wherever you are—whether in your home, workplace or community.
When you are unaware and unable to comprehend the consequence of God's grace in your life, you are missing out on the incredible blessings of being in Christ. Without Christ, you can do nothing. With Christ and through Christ, you stand to encounter and experience His indescribable presence and power in your daily life.
Ask yourself: How do I know that I am living supernaturally in Christ? Do I display any evidence of a resurrection-powered life and ministry?
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. Ephesians 1:16-18, English Standard Version
When you look at yourself in the mirror, what do you see?
We used to sing a song in Sunday school that begins with these words, "Oh, be careful, little eyes, what you see". There is a ring of truth in those words, at least in terms of how important it is that we see ourselves as how God sees you.
Do you think differently of yourself when you fail and make mistakes in your life?
When the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesians, he asked God to grant them wisdom and revelation so that the eyes of their hearts are rightly opened to the truth of their life in Christ. When there is a change and awareness in how you see yourself as God sees you, it produces and encourages true transformation and growth.
Only God sees you for who you truly are.
This exhortation was something very personal for Paul. He himself has his own eye-opening experience when he began to recognise Jesus is the Christ. Luke tells us that Paul could not contain his excitement and immediately started to preach about Jesus in the synagogues, saying "This is the Son of God" (Acts 9:20).
If the gospel you believe doesn't make you excited or eager, honestly go and hear it again! But this time, ask God to help you to see it with fresh eyes and hear it with fresh ears. So that you might possess and recover all that God has for you in Christ.
Without wisdom and revelation, your eyes would continue to be closed with scales covering and blinding you. This cataract of your soul will surely cloud your vision and blur your understanding of your glorious identity and inheritance in Christ. As such, it is to your advantage to know who you truly are in Jesus and who you are becoming through the fullness of His grace and truth.
Ask God for wisdom today and He will surely not withhold it from you.
When you are given wisdom and revelation by God to understand the gospel, everything about your life in Christ becomes clearer and more grounded in the truth. Then each step of faith you take will become surer and stronger. This is because you no longer focus on what lies ahead as much as who is with you all the way.
Ask yourself: Am I still excited about the gospel and can't wait to get out and share it?
21 It would be wrong for the eye to say to the hand, “I don’t need you,” and equally wrong if the head said to the foot, “I don’t need you.” 1 Corinthians 12:20-22 The Passion Translation
There is safety when you belong in a healthy loving church community.
Whether we feel we belong to the family of God comes down to our attitude, energy and focus. In the Bible, the Apostle Paul tells us that our feelings of entitlement often cause us to put false expectations on others. This can easily lead to resentment and tension in our relationships. We may then use the excuse of not getting along with certain people to leave the church. The sad part is that it is naive to think we won't confront similar issues in the next church we attend.
Our community challenges us to grow as individuals as much as with others around us.
The truth is we don't need a new church as much as we need a new heart. It is because we are lacking in love that we see so many broken people who are disappointed with the church. Instead of seeing differences as trigger points to break fellowship, we need to learn to see our differences as strengths and find new ways to appreciate and affirm each other's presence and role in our community.
What do I bring to my community?
If we don't learn this important life's lesson, we will always feel restless and unsettled and frustrated in any church we go to.
The believers in Corinth were either hypocritical or hypercritical. Instead of condemning them, Paul helped them to rediscover their true identity in Christ and what it means for them to live authentically as holy people of God.
If we believe we belong to Christ, then we belong to each other because we are each part of His body. When we understand the reality of this truth, we will discover the grace to contribute to the well-being of our church in many ways. Moreover, we won't treat other believers and churches as competitors or even rivals. Instead, we are fully persuaded to pray for their success and breakthroughs in doing the Lord's work in our city and beyond.
In doing so, God will put us and hold us together for His larger plan. A plan to ensure the good news of the Kingdom of God is heard by all. Then the whole world will know us by our love.
Ask yourself: Do I endeavour to build unity in Firstlight and acknowledge the need to change my thinking about some people and get along with them?
14 In fact, the human body is not one single part but rather many parts mingled into one. 15 So if the foot were to say, “Since I’m not a hand, I’m not a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still a vital part of the body. 16 And if the ear were to say, “Since I’m not an eye, I’m not really a part of the body,” it’s forgetting that it is still an important part of the body. 17 Think of it this way. If the whole body were just an eyeball, how could it hear sounds? And if the whole body were just an ear, how could it smell different fragrances? 18 But God has carefully designed each member and placed it in the body to function as he desires. 1 Corinthians 12:14-18, The Passion Translation
What is your dream for our church community?
The Corinthian Church was a problematic bunch of believers because they focused on their differences and kept fighting with one another. In doing so they placed their community’s strength of unity in peril. There were some believers who felt they didn't belong because of the differences between each other. The Apostle Paul, however, tells them that the reason they didn't feel a sense of belonging was because they were not seeing themselves as how God saw them. In other words, they were not obeying the gospel truth. They failed to believe in their identity in Christ and their inheritance that Jesus paid for at the Cross.
By using a satirical illustration of various human body parts, you might understand the feeling to why they didn't belong. Paul was reminding these believers that they had forgotten that it was God who brought them together in the first place. This means if we really want to fit in, we can. But more often than not, we act like the foot or the ear, thinking we are so different that there is no possibility of unity and affinity.
Sometimes people use this excuse of not fitting in to change to another church. They have the wrong idea of what a church ought to be. Such a wrong idea will only lead to more disappointment and pain because it has been built on a false premise.
It is normal to feel you don't fit in sometimes.
Hurts and misunderstandings can cloud your judgement about others. But you can learn from your brokenness to build better and stronger relationships. Most people in church are in the same vulnerable place as you. They want to love and be loved. Instead of waiting for someone else to initiate, it is best to take the first step and reach out.
Can you imagine what a loving community would look like?
Align yourself to what God is doing in your church and be a part of it — then you will truly value who God has made you to be and others whom God has placed in your life. It is the willingness to let others into our lives that will allow us to grow together into the full likeness of Jesus Himself.
Ask yourself: Have I ever thought about leaving church? Do I have good reasons for doing so or just giving excuses to avoid working out differences?
20 Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. 21 We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Ephesians 2:20-21 New Living Translation
Do you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit?
The Apostle Paul tells us that Christ unifies and unites every believer everywhere to be His holy temple. We all belong to each other, even though we are different in many ways. If we learn to express the truth of our oneness in Christ, we will receive the grace that empowers us to live in unity and fellowship with one another.
As Christians, we are the one beautiful bride of Christ.
Christ has marvellously arranged and fitted us altogether in Him. In other words, unity is workable if we are willing to make it work. Truth is, as believers, we are more known for our disunity than our unity. Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time disagreeing and sometimes theologically bashing other believers because they don't share the same viewpoints as we do.
We are stronger together than apart.
Don’t get me wrong, doctrine is important. Without sound doctrines, the church falls apart and serves absolutely no purpose. Unity does not occur because we agree on every single doctrine. Unity is already a reality and an accomplished truth because we are all in Christ. We can love one another, despite our differences. We can accept one another, and love each other despite our differences.
We must never be too quick to pronounce the divergence of views as heretical and false. There is a crucial difference between different views and divisive doctrines. For example, different churches may have different modes of baptism. But if someone teaches baptism is essential for salvation, then the person is rejecting the gospel that tells us it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (Acts 22:16).
We must agree on the essentials that are central to salvation and we can agree to disagree (but not be agreeable) on the non-essentials. In doing so, we keep the main truths intact. While we make room for debate and discussion, we must also make room to love and encourage our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ and pray for one another.
We must recognise that it is the living Christ who brings us together and forms us into a community of love and matures us to love and be involved with each other for good. With Christ as our cornerstone, He has anchored us in Him and He will keep us connected through Him.
Ask yourself: Have you ever let your doctrinal differences with someone become a barrier for friendship?
12 In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12 New International Version
Have you ever prayed to grow closer to God?
The truth is my brother and sister in Christ, you cannot be closer to God than you already are right now. God has placed you in Christ. What needs to grow is your awareness and knowledge of the truth in God’s word. This will then propel your desire to walk by faith.
There is nothing that stands between God and you.
If you are a child of God, you already have full access to your Father God. He has given you the power and ability to walk with Him in perfect obedience. This is because there is now no more separation between you and Him because of Christ's finished work. Jesus has finished a perfect work at the Cross. But somehow many believers are led to think that they are still unworthy and unacceptable before God. In fact, many of our worship songs reflect this kind of unscriptural and poor thinking. The lyrics often give the idea of a gap and distance between us and a Holy God, which can lead to a feeling of incompleteness and undue fear of judgement. This sort of self introspection without a proper focus on what Christ has done can wreck your faith life.
God desires for you to draw close to Him.
When you have full confidence in Christ's atoning work, you have boldness to believe you possess free access to God. Free access was not gained by a cheap price. God our Father sacrificed His only begotten Son, in order that you don't have to go through someone else to get to Him. In Christ, you have been given the privilege to know God personally and intimately. You don't need someone to teach you about God and how to know Him intimately. This is because God Himself will reveal to you once you have learned to be still before Him.
God is our loving heavenly Father.
If your idea of God is someone who is impersonal or difficult to get along with, then loving and serving God will be that much more difficult and seldom fun. Such a wrong mindset and attitude will discourage you from stepping out in faith and to do something beyond yourself.
God is after you, not your ministry or good works.
Honestly, when we are burnt out by ministry and serving, we need to ask whether we have become religious workaholics. Is service to God more important than the ones we serve? That is, we serve for service's sake and not true service of ourselves to God. Ministry is drudgery because we have forgotten the privilege of serving in God’s plan. God has placed us in Christ and has given a measure of Himself to each of us (Ephesians 4:7). That happened to the Church of Ephesus. It became a hard working but non-loving community (Revelation 2:2-4).
Run boldly to Him today because God cares for you.
Your free access to God is an invitation to be embraced by God's love and mercy. Go boldly and confidently to Him in joy and gratitude. And be amazed by who God is, and be amazed by how He sees you. He knows you more intimately than you can ever imagine possible.
Ask yourself: What do I enjoy about my relationship with God? What do I find challenging?
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. John 10:27-28 English Standard Version
Does God always hear your prayer?
Some people think that they cannot hear God because they don't feel worthy enough or are not spiritual enough. This kind of thinking and issue comes from a place of low self-worth, and it has absolutely nothing to do with God.
As Christians, we belong to God.
Jesus assures us that we can hear His voice because we are His and we belong to Him. It is really about learning to recognise and respond to His call when He speaks to our hearts through His Holy Spirit. The Bible is full of examples of how God speaks in the everyday life of a believer. God speaks in many different and valid ways. Sometimes He speaks in an audible voice and sometimes He speaks through impressions or through supernatural dreams and visions.
The voice of God will never contradict the word of God. It only confirms it.
I have come across a number of believers who claim that, "God told me" and then go on to do something that contradicts what the Word of God teaches and asks of us. I call this behaviour "using the G-card" (G meaning God). They are using God to justify their selfish and sometimes ungodly choices without admitting they are selfish and manipulative.
As a child of God, you have direct contact with Him.
God will never say something to you through someone else or your own inner voice—that does not line up with what He has already clearly revealed in scripture. In other words, the more you are acquainted with the Word of God, the more you will develop an authentic ability to hear God and know His voice. If you genuinely long for God to guide you, He will actively speak to you and confirm everything through the amazing words of the Bible.
God is our shepherd and He is looking out for us.
A sheep listens to its shepherd because it recognises the voice that offers comfort, protection and provision. Recognizing the voice of Jesus can change everything. He is always speaking and whether you can hear Him or not, it really boils down to obedience and willingness.
Build a habit of studying Scripture regularly and reflectively. Feed your Spirit man.
Broaden your understanding of each book of the Bible, and hold on to the promises of God. Being grounded in the word of God increases your intimacy with God. It will bring alignment and clarity in every season of life. When you are full of God's Word, you are full of God's Will.
Ask yourself: Do I have a desire to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus? Where in the Bible is God speaking to me today?
4 Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4
God is good, it is in His very nature.
1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life. 1 John 1:1
The Apostle John was the youngest of Jesus' disciples, who also lived the longest.
12 So teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12
Do you ask God for Wisdom?
12" I said, ‘Break new ground. Plant what is right. Then you will harvest good things from your loyalty to me. It is time for you to turn back to me, the Lord. Do it until I come and pour out my goodness on you." Hosea 10:12, International Children Bible
Having a new beginning is about breaking new ground.
18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3: 18, New International Version
It is much easier to talk about love, preach about love, and teach about love than it is to love.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Hebrews 8:12
When a court passes a verdict of "not guilty", it doesn't mean the defendant was innocent of a crime. Rather, the case was not proven beyond reasonable doubt of guilt. This then results in and justifies a verdict of “not guilty”.
Many well meaning believers desire change in their outward behaviour.
11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you. Romans 8:11
As a Christian, isn’t it great that the very same spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead is the same spirit living inside you? This is as true for us today, as it was for the early church in the Bible.
Grace is not freedom to sin, but a freedom from sin.
11-14 Now what is our response to be? Shall we sin to our heart’s content and see how far we can exploit the grace of God? What a ghastly thought! We, who have died to sin—how could we live in sin a moment longer? Have you forgotten that all of us who were baptised into Jesus Christ were, by that very action, sharing in his death? We were dead and buried with him in baptism, so that just as he was raised from the dead by that splendid Revelation of the Father’s power so we too might rise to life on a new plane altogether. If we have, as it were, shared his death, let us rise and live our new lives with him! Let us never forget that our old selves died with him on the cross that the tyranny of sin over us might be broken—for a dead man can safely be said to be immune to the power of sin. And if we were dead men with him we can believe that we shall also be men newly alive with him. We can be sure that the risen Christ never dies again—death’s power to touch him is finished. He died, because of sin, once: he lives for God for ever. In the same way look upon yourselves as dead to the appeal and power of sin but alive and sensitive to the call of God through Jesus Christ our Lord. Romans 6:11-14 J.B. Phillips New Testament
It is worth slowly meditating on this morning’s devotion and reflecting on the implication of your life in Christ.
7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7
Now if the Holy Spirit empowers us to live out our freedom in Christ, how come so many of us are still bound by fear, guilt and condemnation? Surely we cannot attribute these feelings to Him because they impact us in a negative way.
17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17 English Standard Version
Our freedom in Christ is not just freedom from sin but from everything and anything that enslaves us.
18 Many believers publicly confessed their sins and disclosed their secrets. 19 Large numbers of those who had been practicing magic took all of their books and scrolls of spells and incantations and publicly burned them. When the value of all the books and scrolls was calculated, it all came to several million dollars. 20 The power of God caused the word to spread, and the people were greatly impacted. Acts 19:18-20 The Passion Translation
God is working everywhere in the world, but not just within the four walls of the church.
1 The church at Antioch had several prophets and teachers. They were Barnabas, Simeon, also called Niger, Lucius from Cyrene, Manaen, who was Herod’s close friend, and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and going without eating, the Holy Spirit told them, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul to do the work for which I have chosen them.” 3 Everyone prayed and went without eating for a while longer. Next, they placed their hands on Barnabas and Saul to show that they had been appointed to do this work. Then everyone sent them on their way. Acts 13:1-3 Contemporary English Version
Community is not a noun but a verb.
15-16 Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: “What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riff raff? 17 Jesus, overhearing, shot back, “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? I’m here inviting the sin-sick, not the spiritually-fit.” Mark 2:17 The Message
When Jesus was in the world, He didn't just embrace good people or those who would like him right back. He embraced even those that the culture of his time would term as ugly, unclean and undeserving. In doing so, Jesus was called "a friend of sinners" by the Pharisees (Matthew 9:11, 11:16–19). They used the derogatory term on him to besmirch his reputation but Jesus wore it as a badge of honour, saying, "I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts" (Mark 2:17 Holman Christian Standard Bible).
13 Encourage each other every day. Hebrews 3:13, The Voice
How often do you encourage someone? When have you last received an encouraging word?
19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Revelation 3:19
In the Book of Revelation, we learn of seven churches in seven cities and how Christ gave a specific message to each one of them.
6 Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. Philippians 1:6
Thank God that just as He begins His good work of salvation in you through Christ, He is going to faithfully complete it.
23 One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved. John 13:23 New International Version
The love of Christ is our basis and source for everything we do as a church and community.
19 I want you to know all about Christ’s love, although it is too wonderful to be measured. Then your lives will be filled with all that God is. Ephesians 3:19 Contemporary English Version
In the Bible, the Apostle Paul did not pray for the Ephesians to love Christ more but instead for them to grow in the revelation of Christ's love.
2 Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. 3 Try your best to let God’s Spirit keep your hearts united. Do this by living at peace. 4 All of you are part of the same body. Ephesians 4:3-4 Contemporary English Version
Community is messy.
4 For when you divide yourselves up in groups—a “Paul group” and an “Apollos group”—you’re acting like people without the Spirit’s influence. 5 Who is Apollos, really? Or who is Paul? Aren’t we both just servants through whom you believed our message? Aren’t each of us doing the ministry the Lord has assigned to us? 6 I was the one who planted the church and Apollos came and cared for it, but it was God who caused it to grow. 7 This means the one who plants is not anybody special, nor the one who waters, for God is the one who brings supernatural growth. 1 Corinthians 3:5-7
A true community is not just about people acting and thinking alike. Rather, a true community of Christ is when people act, think and work together so as to reveal and reflect the love of Christ. This is what truly brings glory to God.
First world churches face problems when their members are passive and hesitant to get involved in ministry. This is called Passivity.
Statistics show that a Christian church in the West has, on average, only 20% of its members engaged in ministry work. Yet, despite the fact that modern technology has made Christian teachings and all the revelations more readily accessible and abundant, few believers use this advantage and available resource to empower themselves, meet the challenge and make a difference. Instead, there is an expectation placed on preachers and teachers to give us something new every Sunday. We need to take the time to reflect, understand and apply what we have learnt even if our lives are busy and take up a lot of our attention.
What causes passivity?
Having a humble and teachable spirit brings about growth and fruitfulness for many believers, using the teaching resources available to you. The church is blessed with good and easily accessible Christian teachings and revelation. Passivity is a form of unbelief, when a believer does not want to cooperate with God's revelation of grace. This can appear in forms such as being uninterested with spiritual subjects or matters, and being indifferent about society issues that impact our lives. While it is possible to rationalise and pardon our own passivity, the truth is that we are still learning to trust God with our hearts and lives to receive His grace and live it out differently for His Kingdom.
It is true that God does not love you more or less, regardless of how much you have served in ministry or your good works to others. God’s love for you goes far deeper. I encourage you to take hold of the truth of God's grace for your own life, and your actions and attitudes will reflect the heart of God for the world and people. Allow Him to grow your understanding of His, and in your courage to be engaged in all that He is doing in church, ministry and all good works. God knows that when we live out the truth of His grace, it will surely bless and enrich our lives and many others around us.
Consider these words of the Apostle Paul:
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Corinthians 15:10
If the “grace” you know does not inspire you to grow and be fruitful for God but only serve to feed your ineptitude or perpetuate a rejection of God's purpose, you have not fully embraced or understood grace at all. In fact, you will become stagnant if you stay in this poorly defined idea of grace.
Grace empowers you far beyond what you ever imagined to be your limits, and what you could ever do on your own. It was through grace, Paul boasted, that he was who he was, and able to do what he did. Paul realised that it wasn’t him who was working hard for God, but it was God’s grace working through him that made the difference.
How have I applied God’s grace in my life today? Is there something God is directing me to do in church and ministry?
33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Acts 4:33
It is good to know the difference between the presence and power of God.
16 For I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes it. Romans 1:16, J.B. Phillips New TestamentPray for a fresh awakening to the power of the gospel.
12 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. John 14:12 (NASB)
In the Bible, Jesus told His disciples that they will do "greater works" after He has returned to the Father. In the context of the verse, He was describing how God would use them to take the gospel from a small part of the world to the four corners of the earth. On the day of Pentecost, Jesus fulfilled His promise when He sent the Holy Spirit to empower them (as much as He empowers us today) to witness and testify boldly.
2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. Isaiah 54:1-3 English Standard Version
What does it mean to enlarge your tent?
1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. Isaiah 54:1-3 English Standard Version
When the Prophet Isaiah told the barren woman to sing and shout for joy, he promised the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married. Here we see the shift from barrenness to fruitfulness. As such, she has to enlarge her tent to make room for all the children she is about to have.
1 “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord. 2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes. 3 For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities. Isaiah 54:1-3 English Standard Version
Having a Vision is a call to be more.
The gospel declares that it is for freedom that Christ has set you free (Galatians 5:1).
14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh. Romans 13:14, New International Version
What do we mean by "finding your identity in Christ" and why does your identity matter?
7 And as you go, preach this message: ‘Heaven’s kingdom realm is accessible, close enough to touch.’ 8 You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the kingdom, so freely release it to others. Matthew 10:7-8, The Passion Translation
Our Lord is calling us back to the things that matter to Him. These are things that are close to His heart.
4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings? 5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. 1 Corinthians 3:4-6 New International Version
We live in a culture where the individual is prioritised and the community becomes negotiable.
19 Have you forgotten that your body is now the sacred temple of the Spirit of Holiness, who lives in you? You don’t belong to yourself any longer, for the gift of God, the Holy Spirit, lives inside your sanctuary. 1 Corinthians 6:19 Passion Translation
How do we align our daily lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Time’s up! God’s kingdom is here. Change your life and believe the Message. Mark 1:15 Message
Jesus boldly proclaimed the gospel with a call to repentance. This was what He expected from those who wished to follow Him.
69 Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70 But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. 71 Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” 73 After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "We know you’re one of his disciples—we can tell by the way you speak, for your accent gives you away." Matthew 26:69-73
Peter was identified as a Galilean and a disciple of Jesus because of his distinct accent. His accent would have triggered an automatic dislike because a Galilean, at the time in the BIble, is often seen as a crude, unrefined and somewhat untrustworthy individual. So you can well imagine why Peter quickly denied knowing Jesus due to the pressure of social discrimination and prejudice.
One of the things I often encourage everyone at Firstlight Church is to find your life verse in the Bible.
3 As soon as you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it. 4 Yet there shall be a distance between you and it, about 2,000 cubits in length. Do not come near it, in order that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before. 5 Then Joshua said to the people, Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you. Joshua 3:3-5 English Standard Version
In the Bible, Joshua told the children of Israel that the ark of the Lord will lead the way to the Promised Land. They, however, need to keep a distance of about one kilometre behind the ark. This was for two reasons. First, they need to identify that it is God who sets the direction for them. But also, it was to make sure everyone can see the ark and follow God's presence. This prevented their minds from wandering and getting distracted about something else.
4 When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” 6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. Luke 5:4-6
Our solutions to problems can sometimes fail us, not giving us the same result as it did in the past. Even our surroundings that were once familiar to us can change rapidly. This can affect our confidence to expect the results we were hoping for. This was how Peter might have felt after spending the whole night fishing. His usual fishing spot gained from being an experienced fisherman didn't yield anything and he was ready to quit for the day. Then Jesus got into his boat, and told him to row out and cast his net. As far as Peter was concerned, his natural skill and experience as a well-seasoned fisherman pointed out that the location and timing Jesus chose was highly unsuitable for fishing.
33 Just before the light of day came, Paul told all of them to eat. He said, “Today is the fourteenth day you have not eaten. 34 You must eat. It will give you strength. Not one of you will lose a hair from your head.” 35 After he said this, he took some bread. He gave thanks to God in front of them all. He broke it in pieces and started to eat. 36 They all were comforted. Each one ate some food. Acts 27:33-36 New International Version
What we need most in our new season is not just a new mindset, but a new found strength of faith that will bring us into a whole new experience of God's promise and provision. Our journey and lessons we learnt has prepared us for what God is bringing our way.
22 Everyone was impressed by how well Jesus spoke, in awe of the beautiful words of grace that came from his lips. Luke 4:22 The Passion Translation
A man of God told me this years ago, "People will forget what you have said to them and even forget what you have done for them. But they will never forget how you made them feel". There is truism in that statement.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:7-8 New International Version
When the Apostle Paul was in prison, he was alone and separated from his fellow believers and close friends. He wrote to the Philippians, telling them how much he loved and missed them and how he longed to be with them.
13 In Him you also who have heard the Word of Truth, the glad tidings (Gospel) of your salvation, and have believed in and adhered to and relied on Him, were stamped with the seal of the long-promised Holy Spirit.14 That [Spirit] is the guarantee of our inheritance [the firstfruits, the pledge and foretaste, the down payment on our heritage], in anticipation of its full redemption and our acquiring [complete] possession of it—to the praise of His glory. Ephesians 1:13-14
In giving us the Holy Spirit, God is assuring us that our inheritance of every spiritual blessing in Christ is guaranteed beyond question. This truth frees us from thinking we have to be perfect in order to be loved or blessed by God. Rather, it is for the reason that God loves us that He has given us the Holy Spirit to perfect our relationship with Him.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8,9
Grace and faith are not mutually exclusive from each other but there is a distinction between them.
Grace reveals God's generosity unreservedly and the faithful receive God's generosity undeservingly. Grace is God's choice in giving you freely everything in Christ. Faith is your response in choosing to receive from God everything through Christ. Grace is God making you right with Him and Faith is when you believe that you have been made right before God.
The Apostle Paul tells us we are saved by grace through faith.
Grace is God's free but precious offer of salvation, and faith is your acceptance of his generous gift to you! Faith flows from grace. Without grace, faith is impossible. Too often, people confuse faith with their own efforts. They want to earn or keep their salvation by their own efforts and traditions. When they do so, they are rejecting the gospel of God's grace by turning faith into their performance before God. That kind of approach hinders their relationship with God! Faith is never based on what we have done for God, but rather it is what Christ had done for us on the Cross.
Both grace and faith are gifts from God.
Imagine for a moment, Grace is like a father giving his son or daughter a car. Likewise Faith has the same father sitting in the car, teaching his child how to drive it. Here we see the father giving two gifts, the car and the driving skills to operate the car. Likewise, grace is God's gift of salvation, and faith is God's way of getting you saved and making sure you know that you are saved.
Being saved by grace through faith enables you to enjoy the privileges and power of the finished work of the cross. Once you have the truth, you are set for life. If questions of doubt and fear are suffocating your faith and trust in God right now, just let God embrace you with His arms of loving-kindness and grace.What obstacle or struggle am I currently facing that I need God to help me to overcome my unbelief?
32 Be kind to one another. Ephesians 4:32
There are two types of people we remember in life: those who were kind and generous to us, and those who were unkind and thoughtless towards us. No matter how people treat you today, never forget God is your source of kindness and love. You can make your surroundings a kinder place through random acts of kindness and good deeds.
The Greek word for "kindness" is chrēstos which means "gracious, tenderness, wholesome". It is a quality of the fruit of the Spirit. Kindness flows from God's Spirit within you and hence, you rest on God's grace for the ability to be kind to everyone, even enemies and those who do not like you. If we learn to operate under the divine power of kindness, we do not need to place unnecessary limitations on doing good works.
There were many biblical examples of people who were kind and helpful. Abraham was kind to his nephew Lot by giving him the first choice of the best land, and even rescued him when he was a prisoner of war. Joseph showed extreme kindness and compassion to his deceitful brothers who were jealous of him. The four friends who kindly brought their paralytic mate to Jesus and saw him healed, and Dorcas who was always helping the widows and poor in her neighbourhood.
You don't need a right timing or perfect moment to show kindness.
Just look for opportunities and God will show you who, when, where and how. When you are in partnership with God, He will supply what He calls you to give away. In other words, the more you show kindness and love to others, the more you become aware of God's grace and gifts in your life. As such, you do not diminish but multiply.
Everyday, God gives us the capacity and energy to love and be kind to others in a way that frees us from resentment and bitterness. Just be thankful that even when others let you down, you can still find the grace to care and comfort them.
Who can I show kindness to in this coming week? What are some specific acts of kindness I could show them?
12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12
In Acts of the Apostles, Luke tells us Paul had many opportunities to stand before the leading political figures of his days. Yet you will notice that he never once spoke of state affairs or public issues to them except Jesus. It doesn't mean he didn’t care about the extreme inequality of wealth and social status that existed in his time. Rather, Paul chose to take the conversation to a whole different level.
7 Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8 will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9 For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. 2 Corinthians 3:7-9, English Standard Version
The Law of Moses may temporarily improve and even change your behaviour for a while, but sooner or later, you will fail and fall back into sinful habits. This explains why we had so many accounts of revivals in the Old Testament. The people of Israel kept trying to obey God on many occasions, but they failed repeatedly because they didn't have the Holy Spirit to empower them to live a righteous life before God.
You and I, however, have the privilege of the Holy Spirit living in us to live a life worthy of our high calling in Christ (Ephesians 4:1). Yet, when we fail to appreciate this truth, we will start acting like we need a revival instead of relying on the Holy Spirit to renew our hearts daily with the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Why do we seek a visitation of the Holy Spirit when He has already made us His habitation? (1 Corinthians 6:19)
Bear in mind, the Apostle Paul didn't tell spiritually messed-up Corinthians that they needed to experience a revival to correct the spiritual abuses and moral failings in their church. Rather, he told them to see themselves in the light of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4) through the Holy Spirit's ministry of righteousness.
Research shows most present-day revivals only lasted an average of five years. They are often marked by excessive emotionalism and fleshy extremism. However, it is not to say that lives weren't impacted for the better, but the positive effects of a revival are always short lived. Sooner or later, people are back on their knees and praying for another revival or spiritual awakening to transform their city and nation.
What if, instead of wanting a revival experience, we start and carry on living in the resurrection reality that is already ours in Christ? Then we are not trying to manoeuvre and get God to do something for our spiritual life, when we are supposed to receive all things freely in Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12).
Any true and genuine ministry of the Holy Spirit will always have the finished work of Jesus in the centre. Revival is an Old Covenant experience that foreshadowed the new Covenant revelation about our complete fullness in Christ. In other words, the church today does not need a revival because our Lord has already given us, through the Holy Spirit, everything we need for a dynamic spiritual life and holy living (2 Peter 1:3). What we really need is an awakening of righteousness (1 Corinthians 15:34) and of everything Christ accomplished for us on the cross.
How aware am I of the Holy Spirit helping me to grow and mature?
Have you ever wondered why God doesn’t seem to answer you every time you pray or seem to give you everything you ask of Him? There are believers who get disappointed or disillusioned with God when they feel He has not heard their prayers.
The truth is that God actually gives you more, so much more than you can ever ask or think.
8 I cannot think of anyone more unworthy to this cause than I, the least of the least of the saints. But here I am, a grace-made man, privileged to be an echo of His voice and a preacher to all the nations of the riches of the Anointed One, riches that no one ever imagined. Ephesians 3:8, Voice Bible
God gives us grace for our progress and growth.
20 Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energizes you. Ephesians 3:20 The Passion Translation
God doesn't leave us, even in our toughest times. He is always there.
No one is born with a low self-esteem.
It is a bad habit cultivated when we forget who God has made us to be. When individuals suffer from a low self-esteem, they feel unloved and not worthy of love. Such a feeling sows the seeds of self-loathing and insecurity. When these feelings take root and are not dealt with, it may even lead to a path of destructive behaviour.
Low self-esteem has nothing to do with our human flaws or weaknesses. Everyone has them one time or another. Rather, it is like when a person sees himself through a distorted tunnel vision; obscuring the truth that we are God's perfect workmanship in Christ.
10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10 New International Version
The Greek word for "workmanship" is poiema, which means "poetry, a work of art and a masterpiece". You are God's divine work, supernaturally crafted in Christ Jesus. This truth will cure you of the curse of a low self-esteem.
A low self-esteem lacks the depth of God's perspective.
In the Bible, Gideon almost let the paralysis of low self-esteem and worthlessness rob him from fulfilling his destiny (Judges 6). God called Gideon "a mighty man of valour" even though, at that point, he was far from it. In doing so, God wanted Gideon to reassess himself in the way He saw him, not by how he felt about himself.
Without wisdom and revelation, many of us will keep to a fixed way of thinking that isn't healthy and also far from the truth. However, every time you identify yourself through the lens of the gospel, you will experience freedom and peace. As such, it is good to develop an understanding of how much God values you and cultivate the vocabulary of how you value yourself in light of God's Word.
A healthy awareness of who God made you in Christ offers you the grace to grow beyond your flaws and weaknesses. See your true sense of self in Christ. Instead of agonising over a crippling sense of low self-esteem, start recognising your true worth before God and live out this revelation in your life's direction and decisions.How is it by knowing who I am in Christ changes what I do through Christ?
4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:3-10 New International Version
It is a privilege and a joy that God has chosen to give us his undeserved mercy and kindness, as He has made us holy and blameless before Him. He placed us in Christ and in His finished work so that none of us can boast about how good we are or how well we measure up to our idea of spiritual perfection.
We cannot improve our righteous Christian position because we have already been made perfect in Christ. Since we cannot lose this position, because the Holy Spirit had already set His seal on us, He now inhabits in us and is forever with us. Allow this truth to encourage and empower you, even if it means asking the Holy Spirit to reveal this to you. He loves to glorify Jesus and His perfect work on the Cross.
God's grace is far more than just saving us from sin. His grace empowers us to do everything that pleases God. Many believers treat grace as a safety net that catches them if they stumble and fall into sin. This non-consequential attitude towards grace blinds them from God's love and turns their hearts cold towards God. This is why many use grace as an excuse to sin and not do good. Grace makes obedience not only possible but it also equips us and makes us fit for God’s service.
God doesn't want to treat you less than He treats Jesus. Remember that you are in Christ. As such, we must learn not to treat God less than how Jesus would treat Him. When our condition is aligned to our position, we exude the likeness of Christ and His kindness to others. This is what living out our true self in God looks like. That is why we are made by God to become makers of peace everywhere He plants us. This is why Ephesians 2:10 tells us that each of us is God's handiwork, uniquely fashioned by His hand and destined to grow into the perfect image of His Son.
You are not a mistake or an accident. Your being and existence reveals and reflects God's purpose and love for you. So keep growing wisely, beautifully and rightly.
Do I have a sense of God's purpose and direction in life? How do my thoughts and behaviours get in my way?
1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. Ephesians 2:1-3 New International Version
In Ephesians 2:1-10, the Apostle Paul talks about the difference between our position and condition. Our position in Christ is eternal and irrevocable because God does not change his mind about us. Our condition is our daily experiences of our life in Christ. Sometimes we feel so intimately close to God but in some other times, we have difficulty believing He actually loves us.
Our condition may seem to conflict with our position, that is, we don't feel complete even though we are already made whole and complete in Christ. Don't base your position in Christ with your condition in life and circumstances. Instead remind yourself that your life comes by God’s grace for you, and God has given you the power to overcome your condition because of your position in Him. Learn that your Christian life is a journey of grace through faith. While battling every thought that tries to rob you of this revelation, hold on to God’s Word that you have been blessed with every blessing in Christ.
Paul didn't start with telling the Ephesians about what was wrong with them. He began with revealing to them their true identity and destiny in Christ. He then encouraged them by praying for their spiritual growth and maturity. This is one of the best things we can do for each other and everyone else in our church.
Instead of judging others when they are acting below or beneath who they should be, start believing that they will grow according to the revelation of the glory of Christ. When we do that, we will see their lives transform into a glorious life being true sons and daughters of our Father. This is how we demonstrate unity and community.
Most times we have what I call an "event unity", that is we circle up and join hands and sing "Kum Ba Yah". This kind of unity won't last because it is nothing more than emotionalism. True unity flows from what we believe about ourselves and others through the revelation of the gospel. Then we will also discover the power and the means to appropriate what is already true about us and for us.How do I live out the truth of my position in Christ in my daily experiences?
15-19 Since then, I heard of this faith of yours in the Lord Jesus and the practical way in which you are expressing it towards fellow-Christians. I thank God continually for you and I never give up praying for you; and this is my prayer. That God, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ and the all-glorious Father, will give you spiritual wisdom and the insight to know more of him: that you may receive that inner illumination of the spirit which will make you realise how great is the hope to which he is calling you—the magnificence and splendour of the inheritance promised to Christians—and how tremendous is the power available to us who believe in God. Ephesians 1:15-19, J.B. Phillips New Testament
We are only able to grow according to the revelation we have of God and His promises to us in Christ.
15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. Ephesians 1:15-17, New International VersionOnly God can reveal Himself to us.
11 Through our union with Christ we too have been claimed by God as his own inheritance. Before we were even born, he gave us our destiny; that we would fulfil the plan of God who always accomplishes every purpose and plan in his heart. 12 God’s purpose was that we Jews, who were the first to long for the messianic hope, would be the first to believe in the Anointed One and bring great praise and glory to God! 13 And because of him, when you who are not Jews heard the revelation of truth, you believed in the wonderful news of salvation. Now we have been stamped with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit. 14 He is given to us like an engagement ring is given to a bride, as the first instalment of what’s coming! He is our hope-promise of a future inheritance which seals us until we have all of redemption’s promises and experience complete freedom—all for the supreme glory and honour of God! Ephesians 1:11-14 The Passion Translation
The church of Ephesus consisted of Jewish and Gentile believers, and this was a radical new departure during a time where social norms and values were distinct and even opposite. This is the gospel at work — for it has the power to break the strongholds of pride and prejudice that keep people apart. It too has the power to bring people together and keep them together. This is a much needed message especially when the world is facing increasing cultural and racial tensions in various parts of the world.
Both the Pharisees and Jesus wanted people to live rightly before God in a sin-ruined world. However, their approach was different from each other. Basically, the Pharisees saw sin as a crime to be punished and Jesus saw sin as a sickness that needed healing. You can see this contrasted by how they both saw and treated people.
The Pharisees were always eager to point out other people's sin and make them pay for it. They did it because they felt they had the "God-given" right to carry out judgement and punishment on His behalf. Being God in human flesh (1 John 1:1, 14; 8:58; Colossians 2:9), Jesus knew how sinful and guilty humanity is, however, He did not come to accuse or condemn anyone for their sin. Rather, He came to forgive people and take away their sin.
7 In Christ we are set free by the blood of His death, and so we have forgiveness of sins. How rich is God’s grace. Ephesians 1:7, New Century Version
Forgiveness of sins brings healing and wholeness.
When we appreciate how we are truly forgiven of all our sins, we are set free to enjoy a healthy relationship with God. The Pharisees were right about the problem of sin, but their approach was unhealthy and wrong. They demanded people to earn God's favour, hoping the good they did would outweigh the bad they had done. Jesus, on the other hand, offered rest to those who were laden down with sin. This demonstrated the richness of God's grace.
God's grace is something we can never earn, but something we will always need. Grace changes the way we view God. Instead of seeing Him as an angry Divine Being, we have come to know Him as our Loving Father. This provides the basis for us to build strong and enduring relationships with those who matter most to us. In other words, Christ's forgiveness gives us grace and freedom to love others, in the same manner to how we have first received love from God.
What are the spiritual benefits of knowing that I have been forgiven of my sin?
9 Making known to us the mystery (secret) of His will (of His plan, of His purpose). [And it is this:] In accordance with His good pleasure (His merciful intention) which He had previously purposed and set forth in Him, 10 [He planned] for the maturity of the times and the climax of the ages to unify all things and head them up and consummate them in Christ, [both] things in heaven and things on the earth. Ephesians 1:9-10
The gospel reveals the mystery of God's will, that He had chosen us and called us "holy and blameless". This is not by our own works but instead, God incorporated us into Christ's perfect work. The Apostle Paul tells us that God was working patiently, until everything was in place for Christ to bring all things together in unity through His sufferings and victory.
God reveals His grace to all, allowing everyone the possibility of experiencing His grace without the need for them to do anything on their part. Once saved, we are in God's will and under God's blessing because of our union with Christ. This means that right now, we are all in the will of God for salvation and transformation.
Some people, however, make discovering God's will elusive and harder than it really is.
God's will is about embracing our identity in Christ. In Christ, we are continually transformed by the amazing truth of the gospel. When we learn to live out this truth in every situation and circumstance, God works in and through us. The Holy Spirit instructs us to act in conformity to our identity and inheritance in Christ. When we believe that we are God’s children, we choose and act in the same manner of whom we belong to. This is why the early disciples didn't just sit and wait for God to tell them what to do next. Christ's Great Commission was enough for them to go about intentionally living and sharing their faith daily to everyone. Likewise that should also be our attitude and posture in life.
Knowing that we are already blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ should empower us to take bold steps for God. In Christ, there is no such thing as being out of God's will. This is because a right understanding of the gospel leads us to righteous believing, righteous actions and habits.
It is true that there will be times of doubt and discouragement and even fear because we have "sinned against God". But the truth is that when God puts us in Christ, He has placed us in the safest place possible. It is far away from condemnation and severe judgement. Our position in Christ enables us to experience full recovery and a deep personal healing. We can be assured that God who began a good work in us, is and will be faithful to complete it.
Am I living out the truth of who I am and what I have in Christ?
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence. Ephesians 1:7-8
The phrase, "in Christ" or a variant of it appears some twelve times in the opening verses of Ephesians 1:1-14. The emphasis could not be clearer. Every blessing God wants you to receive is bound up in your relationship with Christ. It is through Jesus, at the cost of His own precious blood, that you have been freely forgiven and fully redeemed from your sin once and for all.
Jesus, the Son of God, cut a covenant with God the Father on our behalf, of which we have become beneficiaries of His death. It is out of the riches of His grace that we enjoy our inheritance of blessings. You are set for life because your Lord can provide for all your needs and wants in accordance to His name. Don't look for blessings somewhere else. You cannot be more blessed or complete than who you already are in Christ. All the blessings in your life are found in Jesus.
There are believers, however, who feel they are not blessed enough. They frequently move from one church to another, one so-called anointed ministry to another, so as to harness more blessings in their life. Sadly they reduce their relationship and friendship with God to a formula or transactional agreement. They are taught to say a certain prayer, thing or behave in a particular way in order for God to bless them even more. In doing so, they are only trying to earn God's blessings instead of receiving them by faith.
God's blessing is not a goal for us to strive towards in our Christian lives. The Christian life is an unfolding of the blessings that belongs to us, given to us as a gift, because we belong to God. We have a good God who does not withhold from us. If we believe otherwise, we will always have an issue trusting God and not rely on Him fully to work all things for our good.
Consider these words of the Apostle Paul:
32 For God has proved His love by giving us His greatest treasure, the gift of His Son. And since God freely offered Him up as the sacrifice for us all, He certainly won’t withhold from us anything else He has to give. Romans 8:32 Passion Translation
Take time to study the implications of this truth in your life. Live out this truth in your daily life and walk in faith rather than self-performance.
Start by listing the blessings God has wisely and generously bestowed on you, and take a moment to recognise that they are already yours right now. Each blessing is a reality of God's grace — enabling you to live not by your own strength, but by His presence and power working within you.What impact does Paul's repeated use of "in Christ" have on me?
The world ties personal worth to performance.
Whether you are an athlete or a dancer, a staff or a student, it is important to give your best to what you love doing. But don’t let your success go to your head and lead you to selfish pride.
An unhealthy sense of pride creates a false sense of self worth.
It misleads you to believe that you need to meet certain standards in order to feel good about yourself. Pride can certainly breed a performance-based life. The Pharisees were such prideful people because they were caught up in a performance-oriented game and religion. They measured their own sense of success by their own self-made rules and trusted in their own efforts more than relying on God’s grace.
Pride can rob a person from enjoying the fruits of success due to false feelings of not measuring up and never being good enough. The truth is that it actually limits you. You attempt only things that you are confident of success and avoid things you feel most at risk of failing. It also affects the way you relate to people. You like others who don’t threaten your ego or social standing, and avoid those whose greater measure of success and significance make you feel lesser than how you would like to be perceived and more like a failure.
You are missing the mark if you ever use any standard, even a Christian standard, to obtain a more positive sense of worth. Your sense of worth comes from God, not your performance.
6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:6
God shows His acceptance of you by ascribing unsurpassable worth to you. By redeeming you with an unsurpassable price through His Beloved Son, the Apostle Paul says that you are accepted in Christ. He means that God is truly satisfied with you because He saves you by Christ’s performance, and not yours.
The word, “accepted” comes from the Greek charitoō which means “to be highly favoured”. You are highly favoured by God because He loves you the same as He loves His Son. Allow this truth to set you free today, and radically change every aspect of your life.How does knowing God's favour empowers me to overcome every problem today?
Jesus spent some thirty years in obscurity before He began His public ministry. From the little bits that we know of his childhood, it is clear that Jesus understood from a very young age of His call to do His Father’s business (Luke 2:49). In the ensuing years, He grew in wisdom and stature, always in favour with God and men (Luke 2:52).
Jesus was raised in a culture whereby it was important for a father to publicly “adopt” his son into the family business. This adoption is unlike our modern idea of adoption. It is about a son coming of age, ready to take his place and play his role in what his father is doing. As such, Jesus Himself was publicly adopted by His Father God on the day of His baptism. He was totally committed to carry out His Father’s business with full authority and power.
10 And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. 11 Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Mark 1:10-11
With the blessing of His Father, Jesus as the Son of God launched into His ministry, knowing that His Father had sent Him (John 8:42). As Jesus was chosen and adopted by the Father as His Son, He also chose us before the foundation of the world to be adopted as His "sons" through Christ.
4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. Ephesians 1:4-5
In adopting us as “sons” in accordance to the good pleasure of His will, God also made us heirs and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). This is so that we can receive everything that He has obtained for us through His finished work on the cross. As sons, we share in all the benefits and privileges of the Son in this age and also in the age to come.
How conscious am I of the importance of my identity in Christ?
4 Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Ephesians 1:4
Have you ever worried about whether God accepts you or whether you are worthy of His love?
We know that God accepts us and loves us because He chose us before the foundation of the world. What does "foundation of the world" mean? The word for "foundation" carries two meanings; one refers to before the creation of the universe and other after the fall of creation. That is to the fall of Adam and the dire consequences resulting from it, and both meanings are applicable. There is no reason why the Apostle Paul should not have both in mind.
Adam's fall didn't deter God's perfect plan for your life.
God called and purposefully planned for you to be one with Christ even from the beginning of creation. Out of His great love and extravagant generosity, God chose or "set you apart" by joining you to Christ. This is so that through Christ, you are made holy and blameless in His presence. In other words, God found you in Christ before you were lost as a result of Adam’s sin and downfall.
The implication is huge.
This means that you were never an accident or a mistake. If you believe this, stop acting like one and stop thinking as if your life doesn't matter. The word "chose" in Greek is ekelgo. It means "honourably elected to fulfil a call or purpose". Ekelgo is a compound word — ek means "out of", and lego means "spoken word". In context, long before you existed or were even born, God had already "spoken out" your identity and destiny in Christ. Your life is a perfect "speech" of God's grace because He compared you to Christ.
Your life is intertwined with God's call and purpose.
You have a significant role to play in God's great plan for humanity. It is time for you to speak out what God has spoken into you. Start to release what He has deposited in you and accomplish what He has already put into you.
Am I actively living out my life believing that I have been chosen by God?
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace. Ephesians 1:7
Are you happy being you? Some people struggle with finding happiness in being themselves.
5 [God] predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1:5 New International Version
11 In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will. Ephesians 1:11 New International Version
Some people believe predestination is about God including some but excluding others from His salvation plan. The truth is that predestination reveals God's character. Out from God's great love and good pleasure, He is and has been working out everything to make everyone His own. In other words, salvation was not God's "Plan B" to fix the fall of creation but rather our spiritual adoption through Jesus Christ. This has always been God’s "Plan A" right even before the foundation of the world.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
Everything our Heavenly Father has for us is “gift-wrapped” in Christ.
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. Ephesians 1:3-4 English Standard Version
In Christ, God has given us every possible blessing for our growth and benefit.
10 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 English Standard Version
Ministry is not something we do for God, but something we do with God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22
The ninth attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22
The eight attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is gentleness.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23
The seventh attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Galatians 5:22
The sixth attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is goodness.
The fourth attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is long-suffering.
The Greek word for long-suffering is makrothymia which means “to not lose heart, mild, slow to punish”. It is a compound word (makros meaning “long duration” and thumos meaning “anger”) depicting God’s forbearance and extreme patience towards us. The Holy Spirit desires that we demonstrate this same patience to others (and ourselves), so that we can enjoy healthy and fruitful relationships.
Patience is different from passive waiting.
It involves laying the groundwork to bring change and to get things ready beforehand so that you can affect change at some point in time. In other words, patience is calculated action and a well thought out way of doing something well. It is like a farmer who knows the right season to plant, patiently waiting for the right timing to harvest.
When we show patience towards others, especially those who have angered or disappointed us, we are less likely to hurt our relationship with them. This in turn propels us to trust God in turn the relationship around for the better. This was how Jesus portrayed God in the parable of the Prodigal Son. In the story, the father was so full of compassion and patience that he waited and watched for his wayward son to return. The story then tells us that when he saw the son coming back from a far distance, He humiliated himself in public by running towards him, putting his arms around him and kissing him repeatedly.
When you allow God to love you, to unequivocally love you, you will also be able to extend that same kind of love and patience to others. If you find it hard to love someone or show them patience and compassion, give yourself permission to return back to your source and supply. When in His presence and true love, drink deep.
The Holy Spirit is our helper.
You can lean on Him to provide you with what you need. The Spirit will give you the strength and grace to forgive, accept and love people — not when you feel they are deserving. You will find power to do so because the Holy Spirit has already filled your heart to an overflowing point, allowing you to pour your love onto others around you.Is there someone that I need to show patience and understanding?
The third attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is peace.
If you have ever prayed to God asking for Him to give you peace, the truth is that as a Christian, you already have it. This is because His Spirit who is also the Spirit of peace resides in you. As such, you don't chase after God's peace whenever you don't feel at peace or are struggling in some way. Rather you are to manifest God's peace by faith because His unshakable peace is ever present within you.
The Greek word for peace is eirēnē which means the binding or joining together again for what was divided back into wholeness. The Apostle Paul tells us the peace of God surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). This supernatural peace is so much more than a warm gushing feeling but it is a profound confidence in God, no matter what circumstances life throws in your direction.
Consider these words of the Apostle Paul:
15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts. Colossians 3:15
The Greek word for "rule" is brabeuo which means "to act as umpire, to make the call" (Strong's G1018). During Paul’s time, an umpire or a referee is called a brabeus, and his purpose was to arbitrate the game, ensuring all players follow the rules. If a player didn't play according to the rules, the brabeus will stop him from playing because the player is in conflict with the rules of the game. Likewise, when you choose not to believe that God's peace is already in you, you end up feeling as if you are "out of the game". Be at peace and remember to rest completely in the gospel truth again.
When you have God's peace to "umpire" your heart, you are fully assured by a strong supernatural sense of peace and certainty. When everything seems to be against you, think of Jesus, Peter and Paul.
God's peace is the manifested presence of the Kingdom in you.
Let God's supernatural peace rule your heart. Never allow any conflict, contradictory thoughts and feelings or even trying circumstances rob you of your joy and peace for these are rightfully yours, as promised in the gospel.Do I keep reminding myself that God's peace is already in me?
The second attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is joy.
The first attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is love.
The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that their faith is not founded on following the Law, for it leads to bondage all over again. Instead pursue a liberating life in the Spirit built on the wonderful revelations of Jesus Christ.
5 For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. 1 Thessalonians 1:5
Holiness is a God-given ability to live the life of the Spirit, without ever contradicting the Scriptures.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:15-16 ESV
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit comes to bear witness or speaks together with our spirit assuring us that we are truly God's children. The Greek word for “bear witness” is symmartyre, which literally means “testifying in support of someone”. This means every time God speaks to your spirit, He affirms the truth of your birthright and adoption as His son or daughter (John 1:12-13; Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:5-7).
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by Him you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30
As a new creation, you are connected to Christ through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit delights in revealing the truth to you for He desires for you to live out your life with a full revelation of Christ. The Apostle Paul writes how the Holy Spirit is affected by your response to His revelation. To receive the Holy Spirit is to receive His revelation. Nothing gives Him the greatest joy when you understand the truth of who you are and what you have in Christ.
To reject His revelation, however, is to reject the Holy Spirit.
When you reject the truth of what God thinks of you, you not only hurt yourself but also grieve the Holy Spirit. The Greek word for “grieve” is lypeō which means “to make sorrowful”. The idea of grief here is not about feeling sad but the suffering for being doubted or rejected.
How do we grieve the Holy Spirit?
Consider Paul’s words here,
31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamour, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. Ephesians 4:31
In short, we grieve the Holy Spirit by denying our freedom in Christ and returning back to those things we had already been delivered from, since the day we first said "yes" and accepted Jesus as our Saviour and Lord.
How do we avoid such things then?
It is by developing an awareness of His Spirit’s presence in your life and depending on Him to lead and teach you. Jesus tells us that the role of the Holy Spirit is to convict (which means "bringing to light") believers of their righteousness, and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we stop believing the truth of who we are and whose we are in Christ.
The Holy Spirit grieves for us, and does not grieve against us.
When you stop believing rightly about yourself, it becomes easier to start behaving wrongly in your actions. Your sins not only hurt you but also those around you. Though God promises not to hold your sins against you (Hebrews 8:12), what you believe and how you live matter to Him. This is why God gives you His Spirit of grace to change you from within, so that through His presence and power you are free from the spirit of guilt and condemnation. It is by enjoying this freedom that you will find strength to live daily for God.
The opposite of grieving the Holy Spirit is joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).Have you asked the Holy Spirit to help you today? What has He reminded you about your identity and inheritance in Christ?
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Galatians 5:18, 25
There is clearly a distinction between "being led by the Spirit" and "walking in the Spirit". The former implies the Spirit guiding you, and the latter shows our obedience to His guidance.
1 The Spirit clearly says that in the last times some will turn away from what we believe. They will obey spirits that tell lies. And they will follow the teachings of demons. 2 Those teachings come through people who tell lies and trick others. These evil people cannot see what is right and what is wrong. It is like their conscience has been destroyed with a hot iron. 3 They say that it is wrong to marry. And they say that there are some foods that people must not eat. 1 Timothy 4:1 Easy-to-Read Version
When Jesus was baptised by John in the river Jordan, the Holy Spirit came like a dove and rested on Him.
The first thing the Holy Spirit did was to lead Jesus into the wilderness to confront the devil. So it wasn't the devil challenging the Son of God but it was the Son of God challenging the devil in the open. Likewise, Christ's desire and expectation of His Church is that we take an offensive position against the devil and his schemes. Jesus promised us that when we do so, we will have victory over the devil and his demonic forces (Mark 16:17).
The Apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, calls all of us to be mindful of the lies and wiles of Satan. By responding to the Spirit's prompting, He will give us the insight and wisdom to expose and defeat the counterfeit works of the devil.
Satan never had an original idea. He likes to counterfeit what is genuine from God and pervert it, so as to divert us from the truth. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan looks and acts like an angel of light, but behind the facade hides a rather diabolical character. Satan imitates God because he wants to deceive everyone into rejecting God, so that they will end up with the same fate as him.
Paul reveals to Timothy that legalism is a counterfeit approach to morality and righteousness. God certainly wants us to walk and live a righteous life, and He helps us by generating the desire within us to do so (Hebrews 10:16). The devil, however, will twist Scripture to his own ends. He will deceive believers that certain practices like falsely imposed celibacy and legalistic dietary restrictions are more spiritual and more pleasing to God.
If deception is Satan's greatest weapon, then the gospel is our unparalleled weapon against the devil. Be like Jesus and use God's Word against Satan. You can resist and overcome the devil with the truth of your identity in Christ and the freedom that comes from it. By being rooted in Christ, the devil can never dominate or enslave you again.Am I able to discern false teaching from what God's Word actually says?
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:8-11
Jesus tells us that the Holy Spirit brings conviction to the unbelievers of their sin of unbelief. The believers are reminded of their righteousness in Christ, and Satan of his judgement and ultimate defeat. The devil however, refuses to concede defeat because of pride and arrogance. He wages war against the saints but the outcome of Satan’s fate and defeat is guaranteed.
8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. John 16:8-11
When was the last time the Holy Spirit convicts you of sin?
8 When the Helper comes, he will show the people of the world how wrong they are about sin, about being right with God, and about judgment. 9 He will prove that they are guilty of sin, because they don’t believe in me. John 16:8-9 Easy-to-Read Version
God hates sin, not just because it is bad and wrong, but because of what it does to us. Sin hinders us from encountering and experiencing God's love and forgiveness. While we might know that nothing can separate us from God's love, a lack of revelation in the gospel prevents us from laying hold of the benefits and blessings founded upon the finished work of the cross. This is why Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to convict the world or the unbelievers of sin.
It is good to know the difference between the meaning of the words conviction and condemnation.
Condemnation hurts our pride but it doesn't really bring any benefit into our relationship with God. Conviction heals and frees us. It is not about finding a person’s faults, weaknesses and failings. It is about becoming aware of our wholeness and fullness in Christ. It is through the preaching of God's gift of righteousness that helps everyone to walk out of condemnation. Faith comes by hearing and hearing the gospel of Christ (Romans 10:17). The Holy Spirit convicts unbelievers of their sin and releases faith for them to believe their sin has been paid in full.
If someone rejects the gospel, as some might, they are actually rejecting their freedom from sin and their ability to live according to God's intended purpose. This is why Jesus told us not to be surprised when the world hates us on His account. Even so, endeavor to be Christ-like to them and learn to bear the reproach of others when you are identified with Christ.
The Apostle Paul tells us the reason behind their resistance:
4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4
Those that are blinded by Satan are unable to see the light of the gospel. It is crucial to pray against deception and spiritual blindness and partner with the Holy Spirit in revealing God's love to hurting people who are in bondage to sin.How I have been listening to the Holy Spirit to share the good news with someone? What happened and why did it happen?
26 But the Helper will teach you everything and cause you to remember all that I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name. John 14:26 Easy-to-Read Version
The Holy Spirit is your Teacher.
He continually reveals everything you need to know about Jesus as you grow into conformity with Christ. If the desire and passion for God are there, there is no end to what you can learn. It is good to know that Father, Son and the Spirit are equal and work in harmony with each other. As the Father sent the Son whom He loved into the world He loves — the Beloved Son sent the Spirit of love (Romans 5:5) into our heart so that we might cry out, "Abba Father, I love you" (Galatians 4:6).
The Holy Spirit helps us in understanding the Scripture.
While the Bible is a closed book to the lost (1 Corinthians 2:14), it is the source of spiritual truth and sustenance for believers. The Holy Spirit desires us to go deeper into the Word of God so that we may discover Jesus who is the eternal, creative and living Word of God. This is especially crucial since Jesus told us everything in all of Scripture points to and finds it fulfilment in His person and work (Luke 24:27, 44).
10 God by His Spirit has brought it all out into the open before you. The Spirit, not content to flit around on the surface, dives into the depths of God, and brings out what God planned all along. 1 Corinthians 2:10 The Message BibleIf you think studying the Bible is boring, have a think again and reconsider it for a moment. You might have had a wrong approach to studying God's Word. The Holy Spirit wants to illuminate your mind and give you the ability to comprehend the subtle nuances of the Scripture. Using Bible aids (such as the concordance, Bible dictionaries and commentaries) will significantly help you to understand the Bible. However, when your passion for studying Scripture is coupled with the Spirit's guidance, you will be amazed by what you are able to glean from God's Word. Remember that the Holy Spirit is a willing teacher who wants you to grow into the fullness of Christ (Ephesians 4:13-14). This is so that you will not be vulnerable to false doctrines and willful lies from the devil. Knowing that the Spirit will always exalt Jesus will enable you to discern the truth from anything that does not exalt Jesus. This is because the Holy Spirit has set such a perfect standard for our faith (which is the Person of Christ) that we will not be easily swept away by spiritual fads and unsound teachings. Can you recall what false teachings, myths and misconceptions that you had believed in the past? How did the Holy Spirit bring you back to the gospel truth?
15 If you [really] love Me, you will keep and obey My commandments.16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper (Comforter, Advocate, Intercessor—Counselor, Strengthener, Standby), to be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive [and take to its heart] because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He (the Holy Spirit) remains with you continually and will be in you. John 14:15-17 Amplified Bible
14 The Spirit of truth will bring glory to me by telling you what he receives from me. John 16:14 Easy-to-Read Version
The Holy Spirit who is also the Spirit of truth will reveal to us all that Jesus desires us to be and do in His Name. We could see how this happened in the lives of the disciples and the early church when they earnestly and diligently flowed with the Holy Spirit to accomplish what the Lord had willed for them. In other words, the work of the Holy Spirit is to give glory to Jesus and to turn people's hearts to trust in Him for their salvation and grow into His image.
The Holy Spirit does not call attention to Himself. He acts as a spotlight would do, pointing us to Christ and will never add nor subtract or even deviate from any revelation of the gospel truth. We, however, must not assume He is some sort of a divine messenger or an errant runner. The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity and He is a Person; not an impersonal force. We can know Him too, just as how we know God the Father and God the Son.
It is important to know the Holy Spirit because He wants to be deeply involved in our lives. By walking with Him daily, you can open yourself up to the opportunity to change the spiritual atmosphere anywhere you go.
When the Apostle Paul laid hands on the twelve men in Ephesus for them to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, it sparked a significant shift in the spiritual texture of the city and its citizens. In Acts 19, we can see the turning of Ephesus and the Ephesians from the darkness of occult practices into the life and light of Christ within a short span of time.
Imagine seeing the same thing happening in our city — I believe it is possible, if and when we let the Holy Spirit move as He wills. If a small virus can shake up the whole world, I wonder what faith the size of a mustard seed can do when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us?Am I willing to partner with the Holy Spirit to exalt Jesus and to share His love in practical ways with others?
2 Tell me this one thing: How did you receive the Spirit? Did you receive the Spirit by following the law? No, you received the Spirit because you heard the message about Jesus and believed it. Galatians 3:2 Easy-to-Read Version
If what we read and believe about the Bible doesn't lead us into encountering God or worshipping Him more deeply, we have gained nothing of value. It is somewhat like having lots of head knowledge about God, but without a heart connection to God. That was what the Judaizers tried to do in the Bible. They wanted the Galatians to stuff their minds with rules and laws instead of living their lives by faith. In doing so, they were robbing these believers of the opportunity to experience the spiritual reality of the fullness of God's grace.
5 He saved us because of his mercy, not because of any good things we did. He saved us through the washing that made us new people. He saved us by making us new through the Holy Spirit. Titus 3:5 Easy-to-Read Version
It is through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit working inside you that you experience the new life in Christ. The moment you are saved, the Holy Spirit abides and remains with you forever. From that day onwards, He glorifies Jesus by helping you to be sure of your salvation and imparts to you fruits and gifts to honour God with your service.
13 Even you who are bad know how to give good things to your children. So surely your heavenly Father knows how to give the Holy Spirit to the people who ask him. Luke 11:13 Easy-to-Read Version
The Father gives us the Holy Spirit through Jesus Christ.
16 You should know that you yourselves are God’s temple. God’s Spirit lives in you. 1 Corinthians 3:16 Easy-to-Read Version
What a privilege it is to have the Holy Spirit residing in us.
5 There were some godly Jews in Jerusalem at this time. They were from every country in the world. 6 A large crowd came together because they heard the noise. They were surprised because, as the apostles were speaking, everyone heard in their own language.7 They were all amazed at this. They did not understand how the apostles could do this. They said, “Look! These men we hear speaking are all from Galilee. 8 But we hear them in our own languages. How is this possible? We are from all these different places...11 We are from these different countries, but we can hear these men in our own languages! We can all understand the great things they are saying about God.”12 The people were all amazed and confused. They asked each other, “What is happening?” 13 But others were laughing at the apostles, saying they were drunk from too much wine. Acts 2:5-8, 11-13 Easy-to-Read Version
The coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was to give the 120 believers the boldness to proclaim the gospel.
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1 English Standard Version
How ready are you for change and are keen to move forward to a new season in your life?
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
Jesus tells us that the distinctive mark of true faith is an obedience to God.
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. James 1:17 New International Version
We need to remind ourselves that we have a good and perfect Father who gives us good and perfect gifts. Even if we are right in the midst of suffering and sudden difficulty, God is still blessing us in an amazing way. But somehow, we tend to blame God for what we don't understand, rather than trusting God to stay faithful and true to His character. God has promised us in His Word that He will never leave us or forsake us, and that He has the power to turn the worst tragedy into something beautiful.
God measures success differently from the way we measure success.
To the world, success is the result of hard work. To God, success is a restful increase. The world defines success as having a high living standard, status and possessions, but to God, success is an overflow from meditating on His Word.
1 The righteous stand their ground as boldly as a young, ferocious lion! Proverbs 28:1, Direct Translation
Often when you are struggling, it is common to feel defeated and discouraged. You may pray over what is troubling you, but you can't help but wonder whether God has heard you. And if He does, then when is the breakthrough going to happen?
18 Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. 19 Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19If you want God to take you to a new season, you need to let go of what you know and make room for Him to move in your life. When it comes to change and transitions, the hardest thing for you is to stay focused and not get stressed out by the unknown or when unexpected things happen.
Have you ever struggled with the idea that you will never be good enough for God? This kind of thinking alienates you from God and distorts your understanding of the gospel.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. 6 Remember the Lord in everything you do, and He will show you the right way. Proverbs 3:5-6 Good News Translation
God is not interested in keeping us in our comfort zones.
19 My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you. Galatians 4:19 English Standard Version
Too many people agonise over the question of finding out God's will for their lives.
3 Entrust your efforts to the LORD, and your plans will succeed. Proverbs 16:3 God's Word Translation
To succeed, it is important to never give up.
1 Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear. Isaiah 59:1 English Standard Version
God is never silent about our discomfort and pain. And neither is He indifferent or passive about it.
17 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus. Galatians 6:17 English Standard Version
The Apostle Paul wanted the Galatians to know that the scars he had on his body and by being persecuted, were more significant and substantial than the scar of circumcision. This gave him the right to boast about all he had done and suffered in preaching the gospel. As Christians, it helps to give us some perspective when we too face rejection or get discouraged by people unable or unwilling to receive Jesus Christ.
14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14 English Standard Version
Christians can too often measure their spiritual life by how much they have sacrificed and given up for God and His Kingdom, rather than by how much they have received and enjoyed from the Lord. Instead of boasting in their fleshy works and self-effort, the Apostle Paul boasted in the accomplishments of Christ's finished work on the Cross.
8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. 9 But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years! 11 I am afraid I may have laboured over you in vain. Galatians 4:8-10 English Standard Version
What are you doing to make yourself acceptable before God?
1 I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, 2 but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. 3 In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. 4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Galatians 4:1-7 English Standard Version
When we limit the Christian life into just an issue of morality, we miss out on what the gospel is really about. The gospel is not about our personal struggles against sin, but rather it is about our sonship and adoption into the family of God.
Some believers live life with a certain sense of resignation. They often say, “Instead of believing that God will take away my problem, I will learn to cope with it”. They are usually the ones with the gaunt and weary look on their faces, wondering how much more burden they can bear before they finally break.
In January 2009, 800 British buses as well as the London Underground carried a poster with the slogan, “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. Called the Atheist Bus Campaign, this poster was seen across the British Isle and received tremendous support from many members of the public.
11 Who told you that you were naked? Genesis 3:11
When God queried Adam and Eve in the bible asking them, "Who told you that you were naked?", He was questioning their source of authority in their lives and actions. God did not ask so as to humiliate them but to bring them to a better clarity of where they are in their relationship with Him.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins. Mark 2:22 English Standard Version
When Jesus taught about having new wineskin, He was not introducing the newest formula for church growth, success or implementing the latest style of ministry. Rather our Lord was talking about the condition of our hearts and the need to embrace a fresh perspective on our long-held assumptions.
28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her. Proverbs 31:10 New International Version
Dear mothers, you are truly a blessing to your family. I’m sending big hugs to you on this special day — know that you are valued, appreciated and loved by everyone at home. My prayer is that you will continue to experience God in a fresh new way and brighten the lives of your loved ones around you.
36 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Luke 24:36-38 English Standard Version
When Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, they thought it was His ghost. They could not believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead because they never took His word to heart. No matter how many times Jesus explained the way of the Cross to them; it never seemed to sink into their minds.
7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7 New International Version
We live by what we believe, and not just by what we can see.
Count it all joy, my brothers 2 when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2-4 English Standard Version
The Apostle James tells us to count our trials as joy because the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. Steadfastness is a well-grounded faith that endures and even flourishes during times of pain and affliction. Instead of abandoning hope and sinking into fatal resignation, we each become a stronger person; dealing better with problems and disappointments.
10 Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 English Standard Version
When the Prophet Isaiah first appeared with this message of hope and strength in the old testament, the people of Israel were exiled from their land. While they were far from where God wanted them to be, He was never far from them. Israel could still experience God's presence and encounter His power of deliverance and restoration in the midst of all of their trials and difficulties.
6 My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. “Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children. Hosea 4:6 New International Version
Have you ever made this remark, "I prayed but nothing happened"?
10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up from Egypt’s land. Open your mouth wide — I will fill it up! Psalm 81:10, Common English Bible
Perhaps you are one of many who can't find work, for various reasons, as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis. The resulting loss of income, and the extra expenses incurred, have impacted you so deeply that it has changed the way you now trust God and follow Him. This makes worshipping God hard and less appealing, and you are left trying to figure out why God is seemingly silent when this is the time you really need Him to speak to you.
The silence of God is not the absence of God. After all, God has promised He will not leave us nor forsake us (Deuteronomy 31:6). This promise was first given to the children of Israel in the old testament when they left Egypt for the Promised Land. In spite of witnessing the presence and power of God through the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, they were still full of unbelief. Though they ate manna every day and their clothes miraculously never wore out for forty years, they still have difficulty trusting God for their next season.
Can we truly say we fare better today than the children of Israel?
In our lives we are often plagued by fear, doubt and unbelief even though Christ is in us and His Spirit never ceases to remind us that we have every blessing in Him. We act and behave as though God's promises were meant for someone else but not us. When we have no revelation of who we are and what we have in Christ, it prevents us from taking hold of God's promises for ourselves.
Behind the promise of God is backed by the provision from God for all of your needs and much more.
The Psalmist reminded us that God is able to meet all our needs, whether spiritual or physical. The invitation is for us to “open our mouths wide” and He will fill it. Likened to a nursing mother who feeds her hungry baby, God has always something good to give us.
When God appears slow to act, we must remind ourselves that He knows what He is doing. God is sovereign and that is, nothing in life can stop Him from fulfilling His promises to us. When we grow impatient and remain focused on our problems, instead of looking to Jesus as our source and security — take heart for He is our very help in our time of need. Allow Him to come in and His peace and rest will be with you even while you are still in midst of a raging storm.
What promises from God do I need to hold on to, to help me stay hopeful?
28 Let us be thankful then, because we receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken. Let us be grateful and worship God in a way that will please him, with reverence and awe. Hebrews 12:26-29 Good News Translation
Change and transition does not come in a neat little package.
4 Just as the day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” 6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. John 21:4-6 English Standard Version
When facing a crisis such as COVID-19, we must learn to receive faith from God through His revealed truth in the Scripture and apply it into our situation. Faith is more than just hearing the truth, but it also involves acting on the truth. This is important even if we have not been fully persuaded or convinced when we hear it for the first time.
33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:33-34 English Standard VersionOften we want God to take care of our needs — and He will. As Jesus has promised us that we have a Heavenly Father who knows what we need before we ask Him, He is also able to do more than we realize (Ephesians 3:20). But there are times when what we considered as a need wasn’t one, we ask God to bless our self-centered pursuits and end up out of His purpose for our lives.
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:12-13Are you afraid of failure or success? The Bible is full of stories about people who allowed their fear of failure or success to stop them from getting ahead in life. Think of Abraham, Moses, Esther and John Mark — their fearful thoughts limited God from working in and through them. And God had to wait until they were willing to trust Him.
1 Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers...2 As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:1-3Are you part of a church that recognises and respects God's call for your life and will endeavour to help you fulfil your purpose? Or are you part of a church that just wants you to keep the status quo and not make any radical changes to your life?
17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19There is no perfect church — if by perfect, we mean a church that is free from conflicts and inconsistencies. Until we are united in our faith and in our knowledge about Jesus, to become fully mature like Him (cf. Ephesians 4:13), every one of us still has a lot of growing up to do. There is a fallacy however amongst believers that they can have a relationship with Christ without any relationships with His Church. Such believers often use their disappointments with other believers to justify their estrangement and isolation. This actually goes against the grain of the gospel that teaches us that every believer is connected with Christ through His Body, the Church (cf. Hebrews 10:25). While certain situations dictate the need to change churches, they however do not warrant us to stay away from church. Simply put, if we choose to be “on our own” without any godly fellowship, we will find ourselves making up our own rules or believing anything that seems right to us. The Apostle Paul prays for every believer (which includes you and I) to "comprehend with all the saints" to fully feel and understand how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is (even though it is beyond all knowing) so that we are all filled to the fullness of God. What is the fullness of God? When we know that God is love, we are always filled with His fullness to love Him and others (cf. 1 John 4:11). As such, any believer who appears to love God but can't love God's people, their faith is nothing but "a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1). Their dismissive attitude towards other believers is definitely out of sync with the gospel of grace. Don't give up on the church. Christ didn't. Neither should you.
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25Community makes everyone's faith bigger and bolder. A lot of believers are spiritual drifters, and they won't settle down until they find the perfect church. Often they harbour a secret hurt stemming from their own fears that people will let them down, and this prevents them from having authentic relationships. But seriously, when is a church ever perfect? The "perfect" church is not the one that is without flaws or problematic people, but the one that you feel like you belong to. When you have that sense of belonging, you feel empowered and this empowerment will also enable you to empower somebody else. This is the power of community — that we can encourage each other to show love and do good.
1 Do not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! Psalms 83:1The Psalmist echoes the feeling of helplessness we experience when God doesn't seem to be answering our prayers, at least in the way we expect or want. Often this silence will give rise to a "darker picture" of God which makes us doubt His ability and goodness. Don't take God's silence as a "no" but learn to recognise how His silence can affect how you might perceive Him. There is always a reason for the time when God doesn't appear to act or speak. This is not because He wants to frustrate you but because God wants to fix your view or the "lens" in how you see your situation or problem. God does not want you to see your relationship with Him as one to revolve around your timetable, but instead in His ultimate timing for you. You won't find the happiness and peace you seek if you continue to struggle against what God has in mind for each season of your life. Learn to let go. We often forget just how much God loves us and how everything He is doing is for our own good. God's silence is not designed to be an obstacle, aimed at interrupting our progress, but an opportunity to believe that God has a far better plan for us that we can possibly imagine. Until we are certain that God knows what is best for us, we will not turn over our plans to Him. The life of Abraham teaches us a valuable lesson; the more we hurry God, the more we hinder Him. When Abraham couldn’t wait, he produced an Ishmael. But when he learned to believe God, Abraham became the father of many nations. God's silence reveals either your level of faith or your level of frustration. Both faith and frustration clarify the basis and focus of your relationship with God — the first is about trust and confidence in Him, and the other is out of need and desperation. If God appears to be silent right now, just focus on your response to Him. Don't be afraid but be patient and take courage. Be assured that God knows where He is taking us, so as to bless you, and not to hurt you.
40 How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! 41 Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. Psalm 78:40-41Complaining does not change your circumstances. But believing in God does. A complaining spirit reveals an unbelieving heart, and it is this unbelief that limits both God and you. It denies you from receiving from Him. In the gospels, this was what happened to Jesus when He came amongst His own people:
5 Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 And He marvelled because of their unbelief. Mark 6:5-6Mark tells us that Jesus marvelled at their unbelief. The word “marvelled” literally means “to lose the mind in bewilderment”. Jesus was certainly baffled by their casual attitude and indifference towards receiving from Him. You can only receive in accordance with what you believe about Jesus. Asaph didn’t end his psalm on a negative note. Rather, he reminded the people that in spite of themselves God had always been and always will be good and faithful to them. Don’t let your pain change God’s plan for you. Stop complaining and start believing and confessing that He is with you, even when you don’t see Him.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8God didn't wait for us to be good in order for Him to show us His amazing love. Right from the start, it was God in Christ who made us right with Him. Even when, as the Apostle Paul said, we were alienated from God and hostile towards Him by our evil thoughts and actions (Colossians 1:21).
10 So [Adam] said “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.” Genesis 3:10Adam hid from God because of his sin. He assumed that if he stayed hidden, he could work things out himself. And that God wouldn't find out about what he had done, provoking God to deal with him severely.
5 Trust in the Lord completely, and do not rely on your own opinions. With all your heart rely on him to guide you, and he will lead you in every decision you make. 6 Become intimate with him in whatever you do, and he will lead you wherever you go. Don’t think for a moment that you know it all. Proverbs 3:5-6 The Passion TranslationSome of us are more prone to worrying than trusting God.
6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7In our lives we can become overwhelmed by our worries and feel anxious because we have no control over life's events, more so with the threat of COVID-19. This leads us to a fearful thinking that makes it impossible to trust God and lean on Him each day.
12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more. Hebrews 8:12Whenever a court passes a verdict of "not guilty", it doesn't mean the defendant was innocent of the crime. Rather, the case was not proven beyond reasonable doubt leading to a guilty verdict. In our case before God's court of law however, we were judged both "guilty" and "not guilty" equally at the same time.
21 For He [God] made Him [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21Many Christians often struggle with the issue about getting right with God. They are constantly worrying about their ability to please God, which in turn traps them in a vicious circle of self effort, spiritual failure and condemnation.
4-6 Everyone who commits sin breaks God’s law, for that is what sin is, by definition—a breaking of God’s law. You know, moreover, that Christ became man for the purpose of removing sin, and he himself was quite free from sin. The man who lives “in Christ” does not habitually sin. The regular sinner has never seen or known him. 1 John 3:4-6 J.B. Phillips New TestamentThere is a difference between God's judgement of our sin and Him disciplining us to keep us from sinning. The punishment of God on sin deals with our past but His discipline deals with our future. Given that God had already judged our sin in the flesh of His Son, He gives us the spirit of sonship to walk free from the power of sin. If we go about our lives in sin, without resisting it, it means we have not fully understood that Christ's death has removed the power of sin from our lives once and for all.
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13-14Are you fully satisfied with Christ?
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9When it came to your salvation, Jesus left nothing half done.
11 Yes, God raised Jesus to life! And since God’s Spirit of Resurrection lives in you,
he will also raise your dying body to life by the same Spirit that breathes life into you!
Romans 8:11, The Passion Translation
As we celebrate Resurrection Sunday today, we are reminded that the resurrection of Jesus Christ changes everything in how we see ourselves and how we minister to others around us.By uniting us into His death and resurrection, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead. Too often we underestimate what God wants to do in and through us. This leads us to pray for more power, and then still long for more, when God has already given us everything we need. Somehow we trust more in receiving from God through our prayers of unbelief than possessing by faith, what God has freely provided for us in Christ. Unlike in the Old Testament where there was a sharp division between what is holy and what is worldly, there is no longer this divide between sacred and secular. Now that the resurrected Christ lives in you, you can supernaturally manifest His presence and power. Everywhere you go — the atmosphere changes because you are a bearer of Christ in the world. Right now, people need God in this time of crisis more than ever. Even though you cannot be physically close to someone, let your prayer carry with it the power to fulfil all of the Father's promises. The Holy Spirit that works in you will work in the lives of your loved ones and will bring them much needed rest and peace.
32 There were also two others, criminals, led with Him to be put to death. 33 And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him, and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left. 34 Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Luke 23:32-34Ignobly treated by the authorities and public, Jesus was crucified on the cross like a common criminal. Yet in the midst of intense suffering, Jesus prayed to the Father to forgive His perpetrators, and not to count their sins against them.
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:34-35Today is called Maundy Thursday. The name of this day is derived from the Latin mandatum, which means love.
3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:3-5Believers can often lack a clear idea about God's wrath. They might think God's wrath and His love are at odds and irreconcilable. The truth is that God's divine and righteous anger is a proper response to the evil of sin, just like how a protective parent fights back a dog trying to attack his defenceless children. God's wrath comes from a place of deep love and compassion for us. It is not an emotional feeling or uncontrollable rage on God’s part, but it is the manifestation of His just and holy indignation against sin. God's wrath is the natural consequence of sin. If His pure love is never angry with sin knowing how it hurts us us, then His love for us is questionable. It would mean God will not act against sin and bring judgement on it. However, we do have a God who loves us more than what we deserve or can ever humanly comprehend. Many Bible verses warn us of God's wrath stored up against the wicked. We see episodes of when God revealed His wrath against those who hide behind their sins, with the excuse of being ignorant of God and who we are to Him (Romans 1:20). This is why the Apostle Paul tells us that we are by nature children of wrath because of sin working in us. God knew we cannot bear His wrath even though we deserve His judgement. Out of His rich mercy, God justifies the wicked — not by making light of sin or brushing it aside but by bringing it into judgement through Christ's death on the Cross. At the cross we see God's wrath and His love meet intertwined. Christ’s sacrificial offering of love bought us victory over sin. This is good news! God will never again judge us for our sins because the Lord Jesus took our judgement righteously on the cross. As such, please don't be deceived by anyone who claims that COVD19 is God's judgement on the world. Rather, we hold on to Paul's words in Romans 8:32-33:
31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Romans 8:31-33, English Standard VersionPraise the Lord for the truth of His Word!
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and He raised us up and seated us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-7, Modern English VersionIt is through Jesus that we encounter and experience God's deepest love and grace. With the work of the cross already finished and complete, Jesus has done all things possible to bring humanity into His saving grace, and offers a life enjoying a right standing with God. By incorporating us into His death and resurrection, even before we believed in God, Christ removed everything that prevented us from receiving all God had for us. Jesus saved us from both sin and the wrath of God, there is now absolutely nothing that can impede a person from choosing to follow Christ and to believe in Him as Lord and Saviour. The Apostle Paul describes this truth beautifully, telling us that even when we are dead in sin, Jesus in Christ has made us alive together with Him. If we take Paul's words seriously, the clear implication is that we are born again even before we believe. Not what we had commonly presumed, that is we must believe in order to be born again. Salvation is always and still is the grace of God at work. Now it is no longer sin that keeps us from God but it is our unwillingness to receive God's love and grace. It is our unbelief that will keep us living a victorious life in Christ. It is by being made alive with Christ that we can believe in Christ. Having such a great gift of salvation, we assume everyone wants to be saved. But it is not always so. Jesus tells us that there are some who have no sense of their own sinfulness, and as such find no need for a Saviour. Too often they see sin as something only evil people would do, but not realising sin is enmity with God (James 4:4). Sin is not what you do but why you do it. Sin is not deeds but a nature within us that acts against a Holy God. Sin refuses to acknowledge God's sovereignty over us and our unwillingness to trust Him for what He has promised. Having removed sin, Jesus gave us a new divine nature and a right standing. This allows every person to have an authentic and personal relationship with God in Christ. This can only come by grace through faith.
9 “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Matthew 21:9The narrative of the crowd welcoming Jesus with palm leaves and loud praises shows that it is always easy to worship when you are with others. But what happens to worship when you are by yourself, or when the church can't meet together in a building? Worship is personal. You cannot depend or expect others to make you a worshipper. While people can inspire or lead you, only you alone can choose to worship God. Worship is more than just singing songs, it is wholistic — being self-aware of God's presence in every area of your life. Notice the people cried out to Jesus as "Hosanna"? Hosanna means “save us now, please”. In other words, you do not worship to get an infilling of God's grace, but rather your worship is the outpouring of God's grace into every circumstance and situation in your life. The reason why many believers find it hard to worship is because of a weak revelation of God's perfect love towards us. This tension comes from a past hurt or a fracture in their relationship with God. Unless there is healing, this clash between God’s faithfulness against your faithlessness will widen further. That’s why it was easy for the crowd to switch sides a few days later. Without a real revelation of Jesus , they could only receive Him one day and reject Him the next. Worship reveals our true heartfelt view of God. He is not an egotistical megalomaniac Divine Being who demands your worship because He needs validation and approval. God is your Father. Jesus says that when you receive the Son, you also receive the Father (John 13:20). Jesus came to reveal His Father, the heart of God, and His death on the Cross was to restore our hearts back to our Father. In this sense, you can’t worship God your Father without a heart of sonship. Sonship gives you your identity and strengthens your security. Sonship builds intimacy and trust, making obedience easy and serving joyful.
1 The Lord is my light and my salvation. Should I fear anyone? The Lord is a fortress protecting my life. Should I be frightened of anything?
Psalm 27:1-2, Common English BibleDavid composed this psalm when he was under attack from Saul. In the midst of fearing for his life, he was forging his faith in the undeniable goodness of God. David could sing with such boldness and confidence because God was his light and salvation. He knew his enemies will never triumph over him because God is on his side.
8 The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Deuteronomy 31:8 New International VersionAs the nation of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, Moses gave them an assuring promise that God will never leave them nor forsake them. Just as God was faithful in His promise to them, God continues to be faithful even in our present circumstances.
38 But Jesus was calmly sleeping in the stern, resting on a cushion. 39 So they shook him awake, saying, “Lord, don’t you even care that we are all about to die!” Fully awake, he rebuked the storm and shouted to the sea, “Hush! Calm down!” All at once the wind stopped howling and the water became perfectly calm. Mark 4:38-39 The Passion TranslationWhere is God right now in the midst of the COVID19 Virus Pandemic? I can say that God is present with us in the midst of the storm, no matter how bleak and grim the latest reports and forecasts seem to be. Like the disciples who thought Jesus did not care about them when their lives were in dire straits, we too may feel God is slow to answer our prayers and cries. We must learn to be like Jesus,staying calm in spite of our external circumstances. What we need to be assured of is that God is sovereign in all things. He alone can do far more than what we can ask or imagine. God has promised that He will never leave us nor forsake us. From a humour point of view, there is no social distancing with God! While some dislike the awful inconvenience, there are others who have suffered horrifying personal pain caused by this crisis. Even if it is hard to explain or understand this terrible crisis, we can still hold on to the love of God. In Romans 8:38-39, the Apostle Paul gave us such a precious truth:
38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39, New International VersionPaul singles out ten important things that cannot and will never be able to to separate us from God’s love. We can rest in the safety and security of His perfect love towards us. We can come boldly to Him with a great expectation of receiving His mercy and grace in our time of need. Be sensitive and respond appropriately to those who may have been physically or economically affected by this crisis. Instead of just feeling sorry for them, find the means and opportunities to do right by them in a practical way. Whenever possible, give to those in need and support them through these hard times. Through your acts of kindness, you are extending God's love to others. Whatever you do even to the least, you are doing it to and for the Lord Jesus.
Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet. Judges 14:14Samson fought a ferocious lion and killed it with his bare hands. When he passed by the same way after a few days, Samson saw bees making honey in its rotten carcass and ate the honey. He later turned his experience into a riddle to reveal a greater truth of God's grace.
27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:27-29, English Standard VersionGod fulfilled what He had promised to Abraham through Christ, that we who are Gentiles by birth are His spiritual descendants because of our personal faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul told the Galatians that they were baptized into Christ. He explained that by using the rite of circumcision and by following the Law as entry points into the church, they were both superfluous and not keeping in step with the revelation of the gospel.
23 Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. Galatians 3:23-26, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul tells us that the Law was temporary and a transition before the coming of faith, the Law functioned as a guardian to keep people from sin until Christ came.
22 But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Galatians 3:22, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul tells us that the written Law or the Scripture was given to reveal we are prisoners of our own sin. The Law sets a standard of righteousness but it cannot produce righteousness to save us. As such none of us can ever be justified by our own works, but only by faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.
21 Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. Galatians 3:21, English Standard VersionBoth the promise to Abraham and the Law of Moses were given by God. They were both not in contradiction but were for different purposes. The apostle Paul tells us that if the Law could produce life, then everyone could become justified or righteous by following it. However the Law brought death because no one could be fully justified by their own works in keeping the law. This is the curse of the law and also why Paul pronounced a curse on anyone who preaches a different gospel. Anyone who seeks to add or subtract from what Christ has accomplished for us through His finished work on the cross is under a curse. True righteousness does not come from the law, but from Christ Himself. Our desire to do right does not come from the dictation of the law but from the direction of Christ as our true source of holy living. The Law however has two main functions in the life of a believer. Firstly the Law set a standard to remind us that none can fulfil its requirements and stand righteously before a holy God. Secondly the Law leads us to Christ by showing us our need for a Saviour. If we still insist on using the law to obtain or keep our relationship with God, then we are only reducing salvation to a self-earned reward rather than a free gift from God. Only Christ can give us the life and power to do good and overcome evil. Paul cites the various Old Testament laws in his epistles to bear witness to the gospel. When he was a Pharisees, he understood the Law in a certain way. But now that He has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Paul reads and uses the Law in a whole new way. He tells us that we have a Saviour who has kept the law perfectly for us and borne the judgment and condemnation we deserved. As such, instead of us being under the Law of Moses (where blessings and curses are determined by our obedience), we who are in Christ have a righteousness that is not of our own making but established by the obedience of Christ on the cross. Whenever God sees us today, He looks upon Christ’s perfect righteousness in us and will not impute sin on us (Romans 4:8) because we are made a new creation in Christ. In doing so, God frees us from the accusations of the devil that brings feelings of condemnation and fear. Harbouring the desire to be under the law is to make ourselves slaves of sin again and to stay as enemies of God, pronounce a curse on ourselves, and cut ourselves from Christ and His grace (Galatians 5:4).
19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one. Galatians 3:19-20, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul tells us the law was "added" to help the Jewish people to become aware of how far they have sinned against God. The two words "added" and "until" implied the Law was not the central theme of God's salvation plan, but it played a secondary role and a shadow of the good things to come (Hebrews 10:1). The Law was "added" and "until" it was fulfilled by Christ who is the promised seed of Abraham, appearing to bring the new covenant. This is both the re-affirmation and continuation of the abrahamic covenant. In other words, the abrahamic covenant was not just for the jews but for all who are in Christ. While the Mosaic covenant is time-limited, temporal and conditional, the new covenant which is the spiritual fulfilment of the abrahamic covenant is eternal and unconditional. As God is one, He ratified His promise to Abraham by Himself. There was no need for an intermediary or any other person to do anything except to accept and believe the gospel by faith. If we are to continue to follow the law in order to be right with God, we are saying that we are still slaves to our sin. Knowing that we have been set free from sin and into the liberty of a new life in Christ, we can walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15). It is beneficial to know that Paul wasn't dismissive of the Law. While he repudiates the Law on the issue of circumcision, he re-appropriated the Law for what it is. It was a source leading to the revelation of a new and living way, the gospel of Jesus Christ. For example, in 1 Corinthians 9:9-10, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 24:5 and asserts that the Mosaic call "not to muzzle an ox" was "written for our sakes". The new covenant believers are to financially support ministers of the gospel. It is absolutely impossible to reconcile the gospel with a lifestyle that embraces Old Covenant laws and practices. Such a way of life contradicts all of what Christ had done for us. Instead of seeing the Law as the "legal" authority in the life of a believer, we should acknowledge Christ as our "living" authority over every aspect of life.
17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Galatians 3:17-18, English Standard VersionThe Judaizers were teaching the Galatians the necessity of keeping the law because the law replaced God's promises to Abraham. Although the Law was instituted by Moses some 430 years later, the Apostle Paul explained that God's promises to Abraham was irrevocable and sure. This promise was made to Abraham's singular offspring, Jesus and all who put their trust in Him are guaranteed inheritors of the blessings that come from that promise.
15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. Galatians 3:15-16, English Standard VersionIt is through His death on the Cross that Jesus redeemed the world out of the slavery and from the curse of the law. He did this by becoming a curse on behalf of us. In doing so Jesus made it possible for all who believed in Him to become the children of Abraham by grace through faith.
12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. Galatians 3:12-4, English Standard VersionSome believers find it difficult to believe that God is always fully pleased with them and this is because they struggle with living a holy and perfect life, in all their actions and thoughts. This was the problem with the Galatians as they began well but lost their momentum and way when they believed the wrong idea about pleasing God. They embraced a false gospel which was a mixture of law and grace. They wanted to add their works of the Law into the already perfected and undeserved work of grace. Law and grace cannot be mixed together. When the Christian life is a mixture of law and grace, it is like mixing vinegar and wine. It becomes undrinkable. This mixture Paul warns us, leads to hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is man’s religious showmanship and is not of God. It is both self-serving (you are happy when your own flesh is able to please God) and self-defeating (you become unhappy when your flesh fails you). The Apostle Paul tells us:
12 Yet the law is not of faith.
Galatians 3:12If you trust your own flesh to please God, the Law knows your flesh will ultimately fail you. It cannot save you but it points you to a Saviour. Grace is always greater than Law. It offers a righteousness that the Law cannot give. Again, Paul gives us a precious insight:
21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.
Galatians 2:21The complete and perfect work of grace is Jesus’ performance and not yours or ours. God is fully pleased with you because of what Christ has done for you. Don’t set aside the grace of God in how you live your Christian life and especially when you fail in your actions and thoughts, it is of faith and by faith.
10 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” Galatians 3:10-11 English Standard VersionAnyone who depends on following the law to please God is under a curse. This is a pretty strong statement but it is undercut by the truth that the gospel of God's grace in Christ frees us from the oppressive self-defeating efforts of earning and keeping our salvation. The Apostle Paul tells Galatians if we crossed the line from resting on the flawless work of Christ to relying on our own fleshly efforts to obey the Law for our salvation, we actually put ourselves under the curse of the law. What is the curse of the law? It is the punishment of sin due to your failure to obey all the demands of the Law. Since there is no provision in the Law for the forgiveness of sin, there is nothing you can do to earn God's pardon. When you attempt to live an upright life on your own efforts, doing good deeds and charitable acts, it is not enough to make yourself righteous. The Law is perfect holiness and man, on any attempt of our own, we are doomed to fail. This act of self-righteousness works against what Christ had done for you, and freely given to all, through His finished work on the cross. You cannot measure your righteousness by keeping to any moral standard. Trying to justify yourself by law-keeping and not believing you have been justified by faith is incompatible with the gospel of grace. God does not want you to live by a cold list of rules and regulations. God does not take pleasure when instead of relying on Jesus’s sacrifice, you rely and observe the old and obsolete covenant law of works to please Him. God has empowered you to please Him through a new covenant of grace based on an unbreakable relationship where He puts in your heart and mind the ability and purpose to live as Christ lived and walk as Christ walked (Hebrews 6:6). It is Christ who provides the impetus to live rightly before God because He is the basis and perfecter of your faith. Instead of trying hard to obey God, why don't you see your acts of obedience as the manifestations of grace through faith? Know in your heart that you have God's favour to live a life of obedience that is perfectly plausible and tenable.
6 Just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? 7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. Galatians 3:6-9, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul used the example of Abraham to show that justification comes by faith and not by the works of the law. When we believe and are justified by faith in Christ, we become the spiritual children of Abraham. Just as Abraham believed God and was accounted to him as righteousness, we model after him by responding to God's call to salvation through faith.
1 O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:1-6, English Standard VersionKnowing that the Law produces death and condemnation but not life or righteousness, the Apostle Paul was querying the Galatians as to why they were relying on the Law. The Law is unable to produce faith, maturity or the mighty workings of God experienced in their midst.
21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. Galatians 2:21, English Standard VersionToo often believers make light of God's grace which unfortunately leads to dire consequences for their faith. The example of the Galatians is a good illustration of this point. They simply saw grace as something rudimentary and only necessary for their salvation, but once saved they wanted to strictly follow a religious routine of do's and don'ts in order to keep and maintain their salvation. The worst part is not that the Galatian believers had not experienced God's grace for themselves, but that they had abandoned God's grace in replacement of the Law.
20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20, New American Standard BibleWhen Christ was crucified and raised from death, you were crucified and raised together with Him. By incorporating you into His death and life, sin loses its power and cannot dominate you again. You have died to your old sinful self and are now made alive in Christ as a new creation, completely forgiven and reconciled to God.
17 But if, in our endeavour to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. Galatians 2:17-19, English Standard VersionBoth the Judaizers and the Galatians who were beguiled into accepting circumcision charged the Apostle Paul for being a transgressor or violating the Jewish law. His belief was that Christ had put an end to the Law as the way to obtain and maintain salvation. In making such a firm stance, Paul's detractors accused him for making Christ “a servant of sin", where there is no imposition of the Law as necessary to ensure moral behaviour and ethical conduct.
15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. Galatians 2:15-16Both justification and sanctification is the unified work of God in the life of a believer. You cannot both be saved by grace and be sanctified by the law of Moses. We either believe by faith that Jesus has completely fulfilled the Law on our behalf or depend on our full and perfect obedience of the Law and all of its commandments for our salvation.
11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Galatians 2:11-14, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul makes it clear that there is a place for public rebuke within the body of Christ, however it must be done with wisdom and discernment. When Paul rebuked Peter for hypocrisy, he knew what was at stake if Peter was allowed to get away with it.. Peter’s actions stood to mislead others to think that it was not proper for Jewish believers to fellowship with Gentile believers. That happened because Barnabas and other Jewish believers became overly cautious and fearful about being labelled for not keeping to Jewish practices and traditions.
10 Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do. Galatians 2:1-2, English Standard VersionIf the gospel you believe in does not include caring for the poor, it is not the gospel at all. Caring for the poor is more than doing acts of charity, it is also about bringing justice and helping the vulnerable and marginalised. There is a difference between charity and justice. Charity is about giving much needed resources to those who are socially and economically poor. Justice however deals with breaking the cycle of poverty. As such charitable efforts are temporary and short-lived measures but justice brings a cultural shift in dealing with the problems of poverty.
7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised 8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), 9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Galatians 2:7-9, English Standard VersionWhen the Apostle Paul shared about his experience with Peter, James and John, he was showing the importance of building relationships with other preachers of the gospel, even if we belong to different groups or communities.
6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. Galatians 2:6, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul was not being arrogant when he told the Galatians that the Jewish apostles did not make any additions or modifications to his knowledge and understanding of the gospel message. Rather Paul wanted to prove to the Galatians, as well as the Judaizers, that the content and authority of the gospel that he preached is on par with Peter and James.
3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. Galatians 2:1-3-5, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul was warning the Galatians against the Judaizers who were persuading Gentile believers to follow the law and submit to circumcision. Circumcision is more than a ritual. To be more precise, it is an act of submission to follow the entire Law of Moses.
3 But even Titus, who was with me, was not forced to be circumcised, though he was a Greek. 4 Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— 5 to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. Galatians 2:1-3-5, English Standard VersionFalse brothers are not non-believers in general. They could well be genuine believers with a deceptive and divisive motive of damaging the faith of believers by undermining the simplicity and integrity of the gospel. In this sense, they are false brothers because they are not holding to the truth of what Christ has already accomplished. Rather, they are deceiving believers with smooth talks and slighted twisted truths to draw them away from the genuine gospel of grace to the pseudo-gospel based solely on self-effort and hard work.
1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. 2 I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain. Galatians 2:1-2, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul was commissioned by our Lord Jesus Christ to reach the Gentiles. Some fourteen years later, he was prompted by a revelation to present the gospel that he preached to the Gentiles to Peter and James. Paul's purpose of going to Jerusalem was to make sure that these leading church figures will acknowledge his ministry and mission as legitimate and of vital importance. He had not run from and will not now run in vain in obeying Christ in preaching to the Gentiles, the message that they need not have to follow the Law of Moses in order to be saved.
18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.How radical has your life changed since you received the Lord as Your Saviour? The Apostle Paul experienced such a radical transformation after knowing Jesus that he began to boldly proclaim the gospel which he had previously rejected and despised. His change was so dramatic and in such contrast to his earlier days as a persecutor of the church that many doubted his conversion.
13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Galatians 1:13-17, English Standard VersionThe Apostle Paul shared with the Galatians about his past when he was trapped in legalism, believing his ill treatment and persecution of Christians was the proof of his love for God. What Paul really shows is that legalism is more than just strict religious observances. Rather it is a destructive form of spirituality. It not only corrupts good people to do bad things to others who don't share their conviction, but may even incite them to do violent acts towards those they disagree with. It is through the revelation of Jesus Christ that Paul saw the glory of God's grace. It not only freed him from his legalistic bondage but it also broke his prejudice against the Gentiles and empowered him to take the gospel to them. Legalism clearly comes from a failure to recognise the true value of the gospel of God's grace. It presumes that God accepts us based on what we do and not by who we believe in and trust. The first breeds pride or insecurity depending on our self-effort, but the second produces godly humility in us because Jesus has set us free, given wholly as a gift. Legalism and grace produces two sorts of expectation and effect. Legalism demands that you get your life sorted out, in order to follow God. It wants to achieve grace despite when it had already been freely given without conditions. Grace however invites you to follow God, coming simply as you are, but assured that your life will be transformed by God’s power and might. This frees you from an irredeemable debt because God has given the best and all of Himself, when He redeemed you through sacrificing His only Son. The gospel of God's grace is much more than a topic in Christianity. It has the power to radically reverse the whole direction of your life so keep your focus always on Him.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. Galatians 1:11-12The apostle Paul told the Galatians that the gospel should not be perceived as a human tradition but one that is to be received as God's revelation to all peoples. As such you cannot add to the gospel or even subtract from the gospel, but only to stay faithful and firm to the good news of God's salvation in Jesus Christ.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. Galatians 1:10, English Standard VersionThe apostle Paul was criticised and attacked for proclaiming Christ and His gospel of freedom from the Law. Yet this did not deter Paul from obeying Christ and taking the message of His grace to everyone.
6 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— 7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9, English Standard VersionThe epistle of Paul to the Galatians was to address a conflict that was confusing the church, and an attempt to turn believers back to the gospel of Jesus Christ. False teachers in the church were corrupting the purity of the Gospel, and turning Christians back to the Law of Moses. Paul tells us this different gospel is no gospel at all. It is a perverted version mixing legalistic demands of what is acceptable and not acceptable before God with God's unconditional love and acceptance, given as a gift to us in Christ.
2 To the churches of Galatia: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:2-5, English Standard VersionThe apostle Paul captures the essence of the gospel, that is God's will for Jesus to save us from our sins by freeing us from an evil and oppressive belief system that keeps us in bondage to sin and Satan.
1 Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— 2 and all the brothers who are with me. Galatians 1:1-2, English Standard VersionThe calling of Paul's apostleship is strongly tied to his relationship with Jesus Christ. To be an apostle is to bear witness to the truth of the gospel. The gospel tells us that those who are in Christ stand perfect and complete, lacking nothing because of the rich grace of God. It is through the finished work of the cross that God is no longer counting our sins against us but brought us back through what Christ Jesus did.
The Father has loved us so much! This shows how much he loved us: We are called children of God. And we really are his children. But the people in the world don’t understand that we are God’s children, because they have not known him. 1 John 3:1, Easy-to-Read VersionOver the years I have encountered individuals who are waiting for God to call them to do something purposeful in their lives. The truth is that you don't always need a call for you have already been called. The Apostle John tells us that we are not only called to be sons and daughters of our Father God, but we are also called by Him into the world. There are a lot of negative attitudes and feelings towards Christians in the world today. Many of them have yet to have a true experience of God's love and that explains their hostile feelings and discrimination against Christians. The Apostle John tells us their antagonistic attitude for the most part, comes from their antagonism towards God. It doesn't matter how the world perceives God or us, for we cannot just stop caring for the world simply because they don't care about us. Why you might ask? This is because God has never given up on them and in his unceasing and great love, He loves them just as much as He loves us. As a son or daughter rooted in God's love, let us not be swayed by what others say or treat us but love them just as Christ has loved us. The mission is God's heart for the lost and we should make it our own personal mission to spread God's love to all. Until people know how much God loves them, they won't change their minds about Him and even less so, surrender their lives to Him. How are they to know if no one loves them with God's love? Take your place with what God has already called you to be in Christ and when you do so, you are creating possibilities for others to call upon Him that they too may become His sons and daughters.
10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. 1 John 1:10John tells us there are those who deny that they have ever sinned and their lies are detrimental to their relationship with God. While God cannot accept sin, He had already given them a way out. When we choose not to believe and turn away from Jesus, we choose to miss out on the abundant life God meant for us in Christ. The Bible defines sin as "missing the mark".
9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9The Gnostics claimed that they were already saved because they presumptuously assumed their superior spiritual knowledge had given them mastery over sin. John however pointed out that no one could ever say they were without sin. God had already finished the work in saving us through sacrificing Jesus at the cross, and as believers we receive this when we confess our sins.
8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8Beware of self-deception. Self deception is the worst form of deception. It is believing that we are something when we are not. Instead of repenting from sin and turning to God, the Gnostics believed their salvation came through gnosis (secret truths). By believing they possess superior spiritual knowledge, they have deceived themselves that they have attained salvation. In reality they are only lying to themselves. What is worse is that they have failed to see anything wrong with what they have believed in.
7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:7The strength of our fellowship with God and each other stands on the truth of the gospel.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6Fellowship with God gives you a firm foundation in your Christian life. John tells us that believers cannot be double-minded in regards to their relationship with God. They can't say they love God and yet they are unwilling to walk in His will. Surrendering to God's will doesn't bind us but it actually frees us to live a blessed abundant life, empowering each of us to fulfill our purpose in Christ. In our walk and fellowship with God, we will each grow in our ability to surrender to God in all aspects of our lives. God's will is actually the truth of His gospel. When we cease to love and be loved by God, we can easily slip into darkness. Darkness here is not necessarily a reference to a life of sin, but a life lacking the revelation of the gospel. Feelings of guilt, fear, and rejection arise when we become doubtful about our relationship with our Heavenly Father. This makes it easy for us to pervert the truth of the gospel. We distort the love of God by dismissing it as a license to sin. We misrepresent grace by using it to justify our sinful actions. We misrepresent holiness by making it into legalism. John calls the believers to come back into fellowship with God. God has never left you. Instead of living and believing the lies of darkness, let God speak to you through the light of His Word. It is in the beauty of having His fellowship, you will grow and blossom under His care.
5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it. John 1:5Some periods of our lives are so confusing that we find it very difficult to explain our feelings. Our need to make sense of it all can cause us to feel angry, conflicted and even suspicious of God. In these challenging times we doubt His goodness towards us.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5The Gnostics believe that man is a mixed being of light and darkness, and it is only through a rigorous process of gaining gnosis ("secret knowledge" or "higher truth") that we can purge the darkness out of us. In this sense we claim to be our own Saviour. This is not what the gospel says about us.
4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:4The Gnostics were deliberately troubling believers with heretical ideas of Jesus causing many to question the validity of their salvation. John wrote his letter to restore the joy of salvation back to the believers. Joy reveals our confidence in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is nothing that can give you a far deeper sense of joy than the gospel, for it is God's proclamation of glad tidings in Christ (cf. Luke 2:10). Joy is not a feeling that comes and goes with a changing mood. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit birthed out from right believing in what Christ had done for us. Joy is not determined by your current circumstances but is fixed on the sureness of the cross, and the surety of our salvation in the Lord. In this way it is possible to keep our fullness of joy in spite of challenging circumstances, for we have the promise of the One who says He will never leave or forsake us. We lose our joy when we stop trusting the Lord. Doubt and worry are joy killers. It is always possible to recover your joy. To recover your joy is to take the gospel seriously and personally. It is to return to who Jesus is to you and what He says about you. Don't compromise with any thoughts, ideas or habits that may erode your faith in Jesus. Face every temptation by the power of His grace. You don't have to fight alone, for His finished work is a testimony that He had fought and will fight your battles for you.
2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us. 1 John 1:2John wrote this letter to refute a group of believers who practised Gnosticism, claiming to receive exclusive and far more superior revelations from God. These Gnostics found the gospel of God's grace too plain and mundane. They were a prideful group snubbing those whom they considered beneath their intellect and spiritual superiority. Instead of fellowship with other believers, they would hold secret initiation rituals for their chosen few.
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Psalm 34:8When David first sang this psalm, he was caught in a hard place where he was fleeing away from Saul’s jealous rage, only to find refuge in enemy territory. It was easy for David to wonder whether God had forgotten all about him. Yet David reasoned that God was still good despite the bad circumstances. When he started to nourish his spirit by worshiping God, David found grace and strength to overcome all his adversaries. You waste grace by keeping your desire for God small.
32 ...your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:32-33We are constantly under stress because juggling and fulfilling our different roles at home, school or work place. We become guilty, miserable or perhaps even angry because our overloaded schedule leaves us with little time for our personal life and meaningful relationships. What we struggle with is not really due to an issue with time management but a struggle over priorities.
2 Give unto the Lord the glory due to His name; Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness. Psalm 29:2True worship is giving God the glory He deserves. In Psalm 29 David invites us to worship God by revealing to us who God is, what He has done and will do in our lives. When you have experienced the greatness of God, you don't need any other reason for worship Him. You will search for every possible moment to worship Him. This is because the experience of worship opens you to the reality of being loved by God and the opportunity of loving God in return. In doing so worship actually changes the way you live and view life.
19 We love Him because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19Religion misrepresents the character of God. Religion says God will love you if you are first to change. Grace says God will change you because He loved you and gave Himself up for you. God will love you with everything He has so that you will realise how much you are worth to Him. Sometimes the hardest part of this truth is simply believing it. God’s perfect love for you is the victory of grace.
1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God". Psalm 14:1When someone chooses not to believe that God exists, it is never just because of an absence of scientific evidence or weak reasoning. The problem is not an intellectual one but spiritual. The Psalmist calls such a person a fool.
48 “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:48, The MessageHaving been born again you are given a new identity in Christ from which you will learn and have been empowered to live differently from before. This "learning to live differently" is your purpose in the Christian life. Your identity is not a product of your purpose but the the reason for your purpose. As your personal revelation of Christ finished work grows, it will also give you more clarity allowing you to pursue your purpose in Christ.
1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:1Knowing our identity in Christ is the basis for our healing. There is a connection between sin and sickness but the transformative power of God's grace restores and heals us to wholeness. The gospel is clear that Jesus made provision for our healing in the atonement and the new covenant. However many believers are not enjoying the blessings and benefits of their life in Christ because they have not believed or grown in the revelation of what Christ had righteously paid for them on the cross.
28-30 Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30, The MessageWhen Jesus spoke these words to His disciples, they just completed one of the most hectic, demanding and exciting times of their lives. After travelling with Jesus to various cities and villages to preach the gospel and heal the sick, the disciples were looking forward to a break.
3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 2 Timothy 4:3-4, English Standard Version
In this ever connected and information rich world, there seems to be increasing trend for pulpits and churches to constantly deliver something newer, better and more interesting. In doing so and wanting to satisfy the crowds of people coming to church, we fall into the danger of developing a spiritual appetite that feeds our self-indulgence instead of God's truth. What we only have is a stylistic version of Christianity that appears to have outward appearance of godliness, we might inwardly see a void in our lives without God’s transformational power.
11 My dear brothers and sisters, I have a serious concern I need to bring up with you, for I have been informed by those of Chloe’s house church that you have been destructively arguing among yourselves. 12 And I need to bring this up because each of you is claiming loyalty to different preachers. Some are saying, “I am a disciple of Paul,” or, “I follow Apollos,” or, “I am a disciple of Peter the Rock,” and some, “I belong only to Christ.” 13 But let me ask you, is Christ divided up into groups? Did I die on the cross for you? At your baptism did you pledge yourselves to follow Paul? 1 Corinthians 1:11-13, The Passion TranslationThe Apostle Paul was concerned for believers who were chasing after preachers and places of worship where they assume to have a greater anointing above others. He warns us this unhealthy habit actually divides the Church Christ had founded. Pastors are not celebrities nor are churches performing art centres.
17 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Luke 5:17Healing is a necessity. There are some who do not believe in healing or in a God that heals today, and will not even attempt to ask God for healing. They will even go to the extent of stopping others from receiving their healing. In the bible, these religious legalists found fault with Jesus for healing the paralysed man. They were so distracted and upset by Jesus' mode of healing, and more so were not drawn to Him for their own healing. Luke tells us that the same power of the Lord was present to heal them but none of them would receive it. Healthy and healing belongs to us, paid righteously by Jesus on the cross. Health and healing for your bodies are freely given to us through Christ's redemptive work and suffering on the cross. However we need to realise that there are wrong beliefs that keep people from receiving their healing. Some feel they are undeserving of healing and dare not ask for it. Some let their theology get in the way of their healing because they believe sickness is God's way of teaching them a lesson. Some accept their sickness as their lot in life or fate, and never seek wholeness and healing for their diseases. The devil seeks to steal, kill and destroy and He would love to keep us sick and defeated. This is why we need to stand firm on what Christ has already accomplished for us on the cross. When healing doesn't take place, it can be demoralizing and hard to accept. But don't let discouragement and fear stop us from believing the one true God who cannot lie. While we weep and mourn for what has been lost, we lean on God's sustaining power to see us through each day until we receive our breakthrough. Don't judge the sick and afflicted. Be bold and pray for them. That is what James 5:13-15 commands us. Rest on the revelation of the gospel and believe God to manifest His power and goodness every time.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2:5-7, New International VersionHow radical are we in proclaiming and living out the gospel? Jesus' profound revelation of God's grace was so radical that the Pharisees called him blasphemous. The spiritual danger of these religious legalists is in believing that God is not loving enough or merciful enough to forgive the sins of the most undeserving. As such they and many of their modern-day counterparts often treat human disasters or tragedies as divine punishments and not an opportunity for God to work powerfully.
59 As they hurled stone after stone at him, Stephen prayed, “Our Lord Jesus, accept my spirit into your presence.” 60 He crumpled to his knees and shouted in a loud voice, “Our Lord, don’t hold this sin against them.” And then he died. Acts 7:59-60, The Passion TranslationWe can learn a lot from Stephen's attitude towards those who have gone against him. Despite what they have said and acted, he prayed for God to forgive them for their cruelty and ill treatment. What we believe about the character of God influences the way we pray for others and what we choose to say.
At the right time I, the Lord, will make it happen quickly. Isaiah 60:22, God's Word TranslationEvery promise of God involves a process. What is required of you is for God to get you ready for what He has in store for you.
1 Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, 2 speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 3 forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3In these last days, the Holy Spirit clearly says without any uncertainty that some believers will desert the truth of the gospel and devote themselves to spirits of deception and following demon-inspired revelations and beliefs. The Greek word for “deceiving” is planos which means “wandering, misleading, leading into error”. These so-called believers are caught in a web of legalistic rules that advocates celibacy and dietary restrictions that God doesn’t expect.
7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7What's in your mind when the offering bag is passed around or when you heard of someone with a financial need? Do you find it a challenge to give or do you readily seize the opportunity to sow more?
14 But the grace of our Lord ·was fully given [overflowed; abounded] to me, and with that grace came the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 1 Timothy 1:14, Expanded BibleOne of the many great things we can learn from Jesus is to reach out to those whom religion would never touch. They were His targeted audience. Our Lord demonstrated amazing and relentless grace to those who needed it the most. And we ought to ask Him for the ability to do the same.
8 I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8 English Standard VersionSearching for a perfect church is a major obstacle to the mission of God. Consider the church of Philadelphia. It was the only church that Jesus praised and had many good things to say to the believers. It was not the biggest church or the richest church and certainly not the most spiritually mature church (in comparison to the church of Ephesus).
18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18Peace is a misunderstood concept. Often we assume peace to be quiet, gentle, passive, compliant and non-confrontational. But this widely accepted idea of peace is far from what the Bible teaches us.
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 1 John 4:7-8It doesn't really matter how much God loves you –– but if you had never felt or valued it –– you can never understand the implication of how much you meant to God. Believers who cannot fully perceive God's love will often struggle with self-acceptance and feelings of unworthiness. And when you don't like yourself, it's only a matter of time before you don't like others.
12 Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend! 14 We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God. Psalm 55:13-14, Holman Christian Standard BibleHave you ever been betrayed? It makes you feel so vulnerable and misunderstood, with feelings of hurt because you can’t understand how a friend could turn against you. This makes it hard to find closure because the other person is not looking for reconciliation or forgiveness but had planned to forsake or hurt you when you least expect it.
1 In the church at Antioch there were a number of prophets and teachers of the Word, including Barnabas, Simeon from Niger, Lucius the Libyan, Manean (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping as priests before the Lord in prayer and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “I have called Barnabas and Saul to do an important work for me. Now, release them to go and fulfill it.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they laid hands on them and sent them off. Acts 13:1-3When church leaders initiate a culture of open discernment and figuring out what the Holy Spirit is saying, they create a space for better conversations and new ideas to emerge. In doing so, they are drawing out the dreams and destiny in the people they lead. Barnabas and Paul knew the Holy Spirit was calling them to a wider ministry. However, they did not rush out without the prayers and support of everyone. When the time was right for both of them to step out in faith, the Holy Spirit revealed to the leadership that they should send them to the nations. Honoring God’s call in each other’s lives brings everyone to God’s purposeful future. Many churches often keep their best to themselves. They find it hard to recognize and release those whom God has gifted and set apart to serve a wider community. This lack of empowerment frustrates many who are willing to share their lives with others for the gospel sake. Great things happen when a church obeys and submits to the Holy Spirit’s promptings to identify and encourage people to do what God wants for them. Authority should never be confused with control. Fearful leaders exercise control because they believe they are doing what is best for their local church by hoarding God’s talented sons and daughters. Faithful leaders enable others to make significant contributions for God’s kingdom because they know what is most needed in the world. Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. This means we are never meant to only exist just within the four walls of the local church. Instead we are called to make a difference in someone else’s life. This call is not just for the individual but for the wider community as well.
5 Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations. Jeremiah 1:5, English Standard VersionLearn from the Prophet Jeremiah about the significance of your life and finding your true purpose that you were meant to fulfil. When God called him to be His prophet to the nations, God made it clear, right from the start, that He had forged Jeremiah's purpose long before he was formed in his mother's womb. Even though Jeremiah felt that he was unqualified for the job as he was too young and too inexperienced to speak for God, it didn't deter God from making him one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament times.
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus. Acts 4:29-30Some believers think the supernatural power to work signs and wonders died with the apostles. However, there is no biblical basis to support this view. We can read how the Apostle James commanded church leaders to pray for the sick and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14). He did it to reveal to the believers the authority and power they have in Christ to bring His healing to others.
10 When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you? 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11God and we often treat sinners differently.
8 Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” Luke 19:8Tax collecting was not a reputable occupation in Jesus' time. The Jewish people held a high disdain and contempt for tax collectors because they were levying monies on behalf of the Roman Empire. Since they were seen as the faces of fiscal oppression and exploitation of the poor and a running dog of a foreign political power, no self-respecting Jew would ever associate themselves with these individuals, but not Jesus.
35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, [Jesus] departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. Mark 1:35We live in an incredibly busy world. When work seems to consume much of our time and thinking, it is difficult to find a moment to be still with God. Our problem is not about not having the time for God. It is about not being willing to give our time to God.
6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. 7 So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. 1 Corinthians 3:6-7The Corinthians were obsessed with whose teaching they were most impressed and following that it caused divisions and arguments amongst them. This necessitates the Apostle Paul to teach them and us that while God may use different individuals to "plant and water" our faith, but it is He alone who gives us the increase.
10 … my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Ephesians 6:10
3 [God] heals the broken-hearted and binds up their wounds. Psalm 147:3A healed heart matters to God. Holding onto your emotional baggage can weigh you down and it keeps you from enjoying the rest of God. If you carry unforgiveness and mistrust inside you, then you will see life through a judgemental and critical spirit. Feelings of fear and worry can lead to a complaining and negative mindset and feelings of anger and resentment may produce an unhappy and sometimes raging version of you.
7 Be quick to abstain from senseless traditions and legends, but instead be engaged in the training of truth that brings righteousness. 1 Timothy 4:7, The Passion Translation (TPT)The apostle Paul warns Timothy to stay away from controversial doctrines that do not produce faith but fear in a believer’s life. We cannot blindly believe in every christian teaching we hear in a church sermon, watching a video or reading an article online, as the gospel truth. Remain diligent and mindful for some of these christian teachings can shipwreck your faith and leave you vulnerable and unsure.
15 This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them! 16 But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life. 1 Timothy 1:14-16, New English TranslationThe gospel is never just for the worthy but for everyone. It invites even the wrong people and gives everyone a fresh start in their relationship with God. God’s grace humbles us.
46 Daily they met together in the temple courts and in one another’s homes to celebrate communion. They shared meals together with joyful hearts and tender humility. 47 They were continually filled with praises to God, enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord kept adding to their number daily those who were coming to life. Acts 2:46-47 The Passion TranslationTrue community flows from our personal encounter with God’s love and grace in Christ, not from our relationships with other people. It is through enjoying our friendship with God that we grow the capacity to extend His love through us to each other.
7 When you pray, there is no need to repeat empty phrases, praying like those who don’t know God, for they expect God to hear them because of their many words. 8 There is no need to imitate them, since your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. 9 Pray like this: ‘Our Father, dwelling in the heavenly realms, may the glory of your name be the center on which our lives turn. Matthew 6:7-9, The Passion TranslationDo we pray to impress God or sway Him to favoring us because we use certain choice words? Jesus revealed that those who did not believe or know God will act, behave and communicate in long-winded or superfluous prayers. Instead He taught us to pray and relate to God as a Father who cares and loves us.
1 Then Job replied to the Lord: 2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Job 45:1-5, New International VersionWhen our prayers go unanswered and a breakthrough is nowhere in sight, we sometimes grow weary and assume that God doesn't care and is unaffected by our needs. This simply isn’t true. Our fears, leading from an orphan spirit mentality, lead us towards feeling rejected, unloved, anxious, angry, disappointed and even tempted to the point of unbelief. Moments of silence from God often reveals the noises in our hearts. If we truly believe and trust God and his promises to us, we must learn to rest and be still. Perhaps this is the lesson of unanswered prayers. Can we still have faith that God has the power to work all things together for our good even when life is tough? God never answered Job’s question as to why he suffered seemingly without reason. But Job became a much better worshipper because he “sees and hears” God from a whole new perspective through his painful circumstances. If there is something we need to learn through unanswered prayers, it is to relate to Him as a son or a daughter, and not an orphan. When we pray as orphans, our prayers are transactional. We do our part and God does His. However, when we pray as sons and daughters, our prayers are transformational. We invite God into our space and life situation and let God do what He needs to do even when He chooses not to tell us why, how and when. God takes the risk of not answering our prayers how and when we want. It is never to disappoint or hurt us but on the contrary, when prayers go unanswered and it appears that God is silent, it trains us to rest in His perfect love amid life’s conflicts and contradictions. Never cease to pray to your Heavenly Father and be captivated by His embracing love, and God will replace the fears in your heart with His faith.
20 It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me to save the lives of many people. And that is what happened. Genesis 50:20, Easy-to-Read VersionGod can miraculously turn things around for your good. God has the power to take what was intended for evil and turn it for our good. Do not lose heart even where there is injustice and unfairness. Like in the case of Joseph, he saw God's goodness beyond his brother's murderous intentions and deceit. Instead of becoming bitter and vengeful, he showed mercy to those who acted mercilessly towards him.
24 This day belongs to the Lord! Let’s celebrate and be glad today. Psalm 118:24, Contemporary English VersionDavid calls us to enjoy God in every moment of our lives but how do we actually do that? Sometimes we might think that if today turns out well for me, it is because God is working in my life. However whether we have good or bad days, they are all still sacred and holy because God is always with us. This revelation of God opens up new opportunities for us to enjoy and worship Him even when those moments are most difficult and heartbreaking. He is with us and never leaves us.
19 Jesus called out to them and said, “Come and follow me, and I will transform you into men who catch people for God.” Matthew 4:19, The Passion TranslationJesus’ call to follow Him is clear. The question is how aware are you of that call today?
37 Barnabas wished to take Mark (also known as John) along with them, 38 but Paul disagreed. He didn’t think it was proper to take the one who had deserted them in south-central Turkey, leaving them to do their missionary work without him. Acts 15:37-38, The Passion TranslationHave you ever left your church or ministry because things got too hard and you just want to give up? This happened to John Mark. He quit in the middle of a missionary journey, leaving Barnabas and Paul when they needed him the most.
14 [Jesus] gave himself for us to set us free from every wrong and to cleanse us so that we could be his special people who are enthusiastic about doing good deeds. Titus 2:14, Modern English VersionGrace does not produce laziness. Jesus gave gifts to the body of Christ to encourage and equip each other to pursue a fruitful and fulfilling life for God. When we choose not to serve God's people, we are inhibiting our community from growing and flourishing from what the Holy Spirit desires of us. We need to continually depend and draw from God's grace to strengthen and expand our ability to bless others with our gifts and talents. Grace engages us to serve others not expecting only to be served. Who else is a finer example than our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ? Our identity in Christ empowers us to live life with a purpose. Purpose is about identifying potential in people, and releasing them into greater expression of who they are in Christ. Grace helps us to be eager to do all the good we can. In doing so, we are truly sons and daughters of God. When we incorrectly use grace as an excuse not to do what God wants us to do, then we have not truly understood what grace is. Living a life in grace means having a deep belonging to Jesus, and to do as He wills. Grace leads us to rest but not to live complacently from the calling He has placed in our lives. Complacency comes from a place of selfishness and ignorance from what God had set us apart for, which is to be a blessing to others. This approach to the Christian life is not consistent with the gospel, hindering our spiritual growth and hurting our relationships with others. Ask Jesus to give you new eyes, re-frame the way you understand grace, rest and ministry. It will allow you to experience fruitfulness and fulfilment in a fresh new way.
9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9, New International VersionFrustration is the price we pay when avoiding God's calling in our lives. Jonah was a frustrated prophet because he refused to preach God's grace and mercy to a people whom he thought deserved to be judged and punished. He assumed that by running away he could avoid what God wanted him to do. You can refuse to hear God but it does not mean that God w