Perspective: Why Our Trust Must Be Rooted in Christ and Not Christianity(Religion)

Preface

Have you ever stopped to consider and ponder that Christianity is not the same as Who Jesus Christ is? Christianity as a religion is comprised up of imperfect humans who are gradually being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ. Christ is perfect, Christians are not. Sadly, one of the main stumbling blocks I encounter when witnessing to others is their exposure to a misrepresentation of the Christian Faith. Therefore, as Christians, we should not be placing our faith in fellow Christian brothers and sisters on a micro-level and/or even towards Christianity on a macro-level. We are equally broken–Christian and non-Christian–who are all in as much of need for Jesus as the next person. Yet, we regularly put other Christians on pedestals almost on a daily-basis, commonly without consciously thinking about it. The tragic result is disappointment when they do not fulfill our expectations, but, more significantly, it is a diminishment of the all-sufficiency of God. In turn, we end up idolizing other Christians, rather than placing our unwavering faith in Jesus Alone for our salvation and spiritual growth.

Christianity Cannot Save You, But Jesus Can

Within the West, I believe that we are at a comparative spiritual-disadvantage to that of poorer parts of the world. We have so much material wealth, abundance, and prosperity to the degree that it becomes easy to trust and depend on things other than God Himself. Christian resources are almost too readily accessible, thereby presenting the temptation for us to exchange these Christian supplements in the place of diligent study in God’s Word.

What I believe is one of the leading causes of lukewarmness within the Christian Church in the West today derives itself from the false belief that the Church saves us. The implicitly-held belief among several Christians in the West is that as long I attend weekly church service, partake in helping through various ministries and fulfill the requirements of other rituals, then I am saved.

Church-goers swiftly become enticed by the allure of comfortable Christianity. Even lesser known local churches have such an unparalleled access to ministry resources. It becomes almost too easy to become spiritually-lazy through relying wholeheartedly on the local church to feed us, while we ourselves lack the spiritual disciplines. In doing so, we place too much weight on the pulpit and we begin to ignorantly think that we absolutely need an intermediary between ourselves and God in order to grow in faith of Jesus. Devastatingly, the local church slowly, but surely takes the place of Jesus. Rather than trusting in Jesus and His finished work alone, the mindset of the church-goer shifts to placing their trust in their church instead. Paradoxically, the local church becomes an idol and stifles the spiritual life of the believer which Jesus graciously provided. Rather than being a faith in Jesus by grace alone, it subtly evolves into a religion by self-effort.

Disclaimer: I do believe that all Christians need to actively be apart of a local, Biblically-Rooted Church. However, I also believe that the purpose of the Church is to equip its Saints to boldly go out and point others to Jesus. We need to be cautious to never forget that our foundation is built upon Jesus and that He is the Only One worthy of our full allegiance. 

Religion by Self-Effort vs. Salvation by Faith

The major implication for those who idolize their church is that they re-enter into the bondage of law and rule-keeping, the very thing that Jesus has already saved them from. For church-goers, this manifests itself in the form of religion when Jesus Christ by faith is replaced by religion through self-effort. Because it is impossible to earn our salvation or to somehow work our way to heaven, those who place their trust in their own righteousness will perish in the end. The figure below helps illustrate the differences between the two:

O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1–4).

Those attending the church of Galatia had naively returned to works of the law even after having begun by the Spirit. I think that it is important for us all to do a self-examination to ensure that we have not fallen into the same trap. Paul provides us with instruction on how God desires for His children to live by in verse 11 below:

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:11).

Believers must live by faith in Jesus out of reliance in the future grace which He extends to all who trust in Him. This reliance can only come when the believer’s heart is rightly postured before God. No amount of sacrifices, good deeds, and/or religious rituals will ever be enough because God doesn’t delight in external performance. As seen below, God desires a surrendered, repentant, and humble heart from us. It is then and only then that He can provide us with a new nature in order that we can live the resurrected life as His new creation!

For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalms 51:16–17)

Heavenly Father,

Forgive us for anytime that we have trusted in anything other than Your perfect righteousness for our salvation and continued spiritual growth. Help us to continue to live by faith in You Alone. Remind us that Your Son, Jesus, has torn the veil between us and You which has provided us with direct access to Your throne of grace. This is something that no religious teacher can ever provide. Provide us with rock-solid confidence in You as we seek journey and grow with you in faith. In Jesus’ All-Sufficient Name, Amen!

Insight: “Maybe Words Don’t Say Much”

Words are perhaps one of the greatest ways by which humans can communicate with one another. After all, words are precisely what comprises language and allow us to freely express our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Without language, it would be arduous to accomplish anything by way of communication. The purpose behind words is to convey and, at the very core, embody their intended meanings. Once there is a disconnect between the word in use by the author and the farmilar meaning by which the reader would associate, the word is rendered futile. Therefore, the author may be ignorantly propelling confusion on any given topic as opposed to providing the desired clarity towards the reader. There must be an unbroken connection between words and their actual meanings in any form of communication at all times. The moment that the communicator decides to diverge from this, it is necessary to provide the new definitions which are being assigned to the said words. Sadly, among Christians today, I believe that words are being disassociated from their meanings far too frequently than should ever be permissible.

Within Christianity, it is like we have our own language, which many like to term as, Christianese. There are so many words within Christianity that we tend to loosely utilize without giving much thought into their intended meanings. This is not only harmful among those within the Church Body, but it also leads to confusion towards those outside of the Church.

Because we are not thinking much about the words we use, what almost certainly results is a half-hearted Christian Faith which has not properly been thought through. We become especially good at knowing which words to say at exactly the right time and place. Frighteningly, we can fool ourselves into thinking that our membership into this sort of Christian Subculture is all the God requires. The reality is that we are merely professing-believers without having any genuine heart change. Consequently, these so-called “believers” end up misrepresenting Christianity. Rather, than leading the lost to Christ, they help to perpetuate the existing misconceptions about Christianity.

God certainly does not intend for Christianity to be a religion of confusion, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace(1 Cor 14:33)”. So, please fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, ensure that you have a sound understanding of the meanings behind the words which you use, particularly when sharing the Message of the Gospel towards others. Let’s not fuel the stereotype that Christianity is some kind of blind faith by failing to honestly think through our faith. Instead, let’s reason through our faith by and through the power of God’s Holy Word and His Spiritual Armour which is capable of demolishing strongholds,“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds”(2 Cor 10:4).

I pray that thought processes in the form of doctrinal discussions and spiritual conversations do not become an end to themselves either. It is so easy to talk the talk, but is something entirely different to actually walk the talk. True Christianity is a religion of action and power, not only in talk. Like Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power”(1 Co 4:20). Therefore, if our lives as followers of Jesus do not mirror the meanings ascribed to the words we use, then these words are used in vain and are meaningless.

Conquering Doubts and Unbelief

Introduction

This most recent season of my life as a Christian has been one marked with periods of doubt, uncertainty, wavering and confusion. There have even been some worldly desires and pursuits that have subtly begun to encumber my walk as a Christian. Relevantly, one of the teachings contained in the parable of the sower tell us that “…the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful”(Matthew 13:22). Furthermore, James candidly tells believers, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God”(James 4:4). It is abundantly clear that we cannot be friends with both God and the world. Believers who try to live for the world will drive themselves insane and they will be extremely miserable people. As someone who is apart of the royal priesthood of believers who has been saved and set apart for God’s holy work, I am reminded of the essential need for holding uncompromisingly to the Gospel Message originally preached.

A Christian is Never Stagnate in Their Faith

As I have learned academically and practically, it is impossible to remain stagnate within our journeys of faith. We are either growing in godliness or we are growing further from God; there is simply no middle-ground. Such double-mindedness is spoken about in the James 1:6-8 where God instructs,

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways”

On a personal note, this passage is quite an accurate reflection for the way in which my life as a Christian has looked in recent days. Tragically, we do not truly recognize the degree to which we depend on God until we begin to feel the spiritual-disconnect from His arms as His Spirit convicts us. Doubt in and of itself is not evil, it is when these doubts go unchecked and fester into unbelief that there is a serious problem. “Being unstable in all of one’s ways” is no small statement to make, therefore it is wise for us all to heed the wide-sweeping implications of what James is saying. After all, every decision we make will affect the trajectory for the eternity of the believer.

Doubt’s Spiritual Death-Grip

If you remember from Genesis 3, it was the devil who craftily decided to utilize doubts as his spiritual weapon of choice to assault Eve, then Adam in the Garden of Eden. Surely, what worked then to help cause the fall of creation still works just as well today. One of the most potent spiritual assaults against Christians is when they are tempted to doubt the very core of what they believe. In Ephesians 6, Paul instructs believers to put on the full armour of God reminding us that our battle is “not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). We are then instructed, “in all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”(Eph 6:16–17). The other elements of the armour of God are identified in Ephesians 6:10-18, but I believe that the secret to success to combating doubts is found here in verses 16 and 17.

Weapon of Defence 1: Shield of Faith

Faith and doubt are directly opposed to one another. Paul of all people knew this very well. This is precisely why he instructs for believers to “take up the shield of faith” in order that we may defend ourselves against “the flaming darts of the evil one”. As long as believers live in this fallen, sin-bent world where the devil is the prince of the air, these flaming darts will continually try to attack us. It is not a matter of when, but more a matter of how we will respond when they do. You may be wondering how this looks in a practical sense. Because “…faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ(Romans 10:17), we take up the shield of faith by renewing our minds through the Word of God. In a like manner, we are told in Ephesians 6:17 that the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.

Weapon of Defence 2: Helmet of Salvation

In addition, as our minds are being renewed in Christ through reading God’s Word, we are then capable of more easily keeping on the helmet of salvation. Have you ever noticed that the majority of the doubts are aimed at dismantling the assurance of salvation we already have? The enemy is very manipulative and he knows that by getting us to doubt our foundation as Christians, he then can temporarily gain the upper hand. When the believer doubts the core of who they are in Christ, the door is swung open for the enemy to make his move. Therefore, it is imperative that as believers we hold fast to our identity in Christ by exposing ourselves daily to the saving Gospel Message. We are in a spiritual battleground and the only way by which we can gain victory is by equipping ourselves with the armour of God.

Purpose Behind Doubts

One of the reasons why I believe that God allows us to undergo seasons of doubts is to test the authenticity of our faith. The purpose behind any doubts should be ultimately be to draw us closer to God. Rather than allowing these doubts to fester and form a foothold for vulnerability to temptation, God has intended for us to doubt our doubts. As we lean and trust in God more deeply, the sanctifying work of His Spirit will produce a fuller dependency on Him.

God’s Means of Grace Through His Unfailing Love

What continues to baffle me is how far the depths of God’s mercy extend and how amazingly faithful He continues to be towards all of us despite our failings. As Christians, I do not think that we will ever fully comprehend the magnitude of God’s love until we see Him face-to-face in the New Earth. We are so forgetful and we often fail to access the various means of grace which God has extended to us as believers(myself included). Christian community is vital towards holding one another accountable and spurring one another on this faith walk. It is also particularly beneficial to overcoming doubts when we accompany ourselves with like-minded believers. As we fellowship with other believers, we are learning how to grow in godliness and also how to be children of light while remaining unstained by the world.

Prayer

It is my prayer and hope that we all adapt the mindset of the father in the book of Mark who, “…cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”(Mark 9:24) as he witnessed the miraculous healing of his son.

God, we too have been redeemed and made whole, but the temptation is to default to our fleshly nature and ignorantly believe otherwise. Help us to doubt our doubts and to cling closely to You who never will forsake us! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Don’t Be a People Pleaser!

People Pleasing Defined

Although the terminology of “people pleasing” may not necessarily always be associated with when it is occurring, I still believe that the activity of “people pleasing” pervades much of our lifestyles even as Christians.

“Psychology Today” defines the characteristics of a people pleaser as follows:

A people pleaser is one of the nicest and most helpful people you know. They never say “no.”  You can always count on them for a favor.  In fact, they spend a great deal of time doing things for other people. They get their work done, help others with their work, make all the plans, and are always there for family members and friends.

Issues with People Pleasing

There is nothing inherently wrong with the desire of being there to help out those who are in need. In fact, as Christians we are called to love others self-sacrificially, which would certainly include those times when it is inconvenient for us. Two pivotal issues need to be expanded upon in order to better grasp why Christians should never allow the worldly activity of “people pleasing” to infiltrate their service to God.

  1. Motives of Heart Any professing-believer who serves others in order to curry the favour and the respect from other people is clearly not doing it for God. The person ought to examine the motives of their heart to identify why they choose to serve others. They should ask the question: Am I doing this for God’s glory, or for my glory instead?
  2. It is Impossible to Please Everyone– When you try to gain everyone’s approval, the inevitable result is that you will gain no one’s approval. Apart from this heart attitude being completely unbiblical, it is also completely self-defeating because it will never succeed. The simple truth of the matter is that you cannot please everyone, regardless of how hard you try! I believe that God designed it this way so that we would be drawn to Him in humility. If and when this form of unhealthy behaviour persists and develops into a patterned behaviour, it will lead to an array of adverse physical health effects. For the Christian, their spiritual vitality will also be neutralized and they will become very unfruitful. God has never intended for us to live in such a harmful way.

 

Personal Confession

I am somebody who has struggled with the sinful pattern of people pleasing for most of my life. God has blessed me with a kind attitude and a heart for serving others but there are times when my motives go unchecked causing me to fall into the “performance-trap”. What I mean by this is that I begin to care more about what others think about me than what God thinks about me. Tragically, when I do this I am essentially telling God that His approval is not enough and that I want more. I become forgetful and I need to be reminded that I already stand right before God which is immeasurably more meaningful than the approval of man. Even as believers, we need repeated exposure to the Gospel either through self-preaching or preaching from others. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jesus likened us to forgetful sheep and also why we have been given God’s Holy Word to read over and over again.

Hope in the Gospel

This right standing(justification) is not as the result of what I could ever accomplish, but rather, what Jesus has accomplished when He accepted the punishment for my sins on the Cross. When God looks at those Who place their trust in Him as Saviour and Lord, He sees His Son, and with us He is also well-pleased. This is precisely the Truth which sets Christianity apart from all world religions. God has already reached down to us in and through His Son, Jesus, where He has paved The Way for us to Heaven. We cannot work to somewhere earn it, all we can do is accept it humbly with open arms. Not only does the Gospel free us from the need to perform to please others, it also provides us with right relationship to the Only One True God where He sees us perfectly.

How God Instructs Us How To Serve Others

When it comes to serving others, God expects His children to act very differently in comparison to those who are of the world. Fascinatingly, it is possible for unbelievers to possess an appearance of spirituality without actually possessing a saving faith. 2 Timothy 3:5 refers to this said cohort of people(fully described in verses 2-5) by describing them as possessors of, “…the appearance of godliness, but denying its power”. Clearly, this is a superficial and a vain attention-capturing form of godliness which is of the flesh, not the spirit. Verse 4 even supportingly describes them as “swollen with conceit”. At the core, it starts with the intent of the heart, which only God has the ability to see and know fully. This is both terrifying and reassuring at the same time. On the one hand, we can fool others with our “righteous deeds” while God cannot be fooled. On the other hand, because our hearts lay open before God, He knows when our deeds are genuine despite what others may think. When we do good deeds so that we are noticed and given recognition before man, the gratification we receive from this temporary approval is the full extent of our reward as seen below in Matthew 6:1-4:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We are called to serve in the utmost humility and surrender to God alone because it is not about us; it is about God and Him getting the maximum glory. This can only happen as we decrease and He increases(John 3:30). The point I believe that Jesus desires to drive home is that when our hearts are postured in the right way before God, the fruit that we bear will be an overflow of what has been supernaturally sown within the roots of our new heart. This simply cannot happen in our carnal and fleshly state. The only undefiled and pure fruit yielded that will last eternally is the fruit that comes from a redeemed heart. And only Jesus can provide us with this redeemed heart!

I pray that Christians may be challenged and encouraged to live unwaveringly for the glory of God knowing that we are 100% approved by Him no matter what the world tells us. Please solidify the awe-inspiringly beautiful foundational truth that our identities are safe and secure in Jesus Christ! In Jesus’ Name, I pray. Amen.

Reference:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shrink/201210/are-you-people-pleaser

Insight: Church. What’s The Point?

Sadly, Christianity within the Progressive West often overlooks what it means to be a true follower of Jesus. Taking up our crosses daily by dying daily to our fleshly desires is an incredibly unpopular message, yet it is practically the whole point of the Gospel Message! We need to crucify the sins of the flesh in order that Christ may reign supreme in every fiber of our being and every sphere of our lives! However, in Western Society we typically find ourselves doing one of the two extremes: placing excessive focus on building up one another as a Church Body, or decisively disconnecting ourselves from the Church Body because of its alleged hypocrisy. Every true Christian must diligently seek to uphold this delicate balance of being equipped and being missional with the power of the Holy Spirit, otherwise they will become lukewarm and/or self-righteous hypocrites themselves. Exclusive focus to either one of these ways of Christian living is extremely dangerous and it must be avoided at all costs! By seeking to maintain this balance through the indwelling Holy Spirit, our impact as Christians is able to be optimized and, most importantly, our Awesome God is also being glorified!

God Bless!

The Paralyzing Power of Fear(Part 2 of 3)

The entire narrative contained within the Bible focuses on a spectacularly all-encompassing Love Story of Redemption where God graciously extends salvation towards rebellious human beings. Within this broken world, only God’s boundless and exceedingly rich love extended through Christ Himself is capable of perfectly casting out fear in our fragile lives. Not only did Jesus Christ model the perfect example of what it means to love one another, but He also lived a perfect live of obedience to God, the Father. Therefore, those who place their full, unbridled trust and surrender in Jesus alone making Him the Savior and Lord of their lives, will be saved from the dominion of sin in their lives. In a similar way, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:21 that “God made Him Who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. Jesus paved the only way(John 14:6) for perfect reconciliation between us and the Father. Until we are made right before God through being justified by the blood shed by Jesus, we will continually be at enmity with God being under His righteous judgement.

The Christian Church today is under siege by false teachers who masquerade themselves as apostles of Christ(2 Cor. 11:13) whom are in control of many of the world’s largest religions(some of which operating under the guise of
prosperity-gospel“Christianity”
) . To many of you reading, this probably doesn’t strike you as strange considering the vast growth and popularity of the Prosperity Gospel within the West, even being exporting to other countries around the world. What I feel compelled to share and expose is that fear-based religion, whether it functions under the Christian label or not, is not of God, nor is this what God has ever designed for His redeemed people. This is purely of man, and it is basically a repackaged form of the way the Religious Leaders(Pharisees, and other Experts of the Law) of Jesus’ day sought to oppress and enslave the people of this time. Astonishingly, those who adhere to any form of fear-based religion are in greater danger of perishing than those without any religious affiliation, like the atheists, agnostics and/or those who have not yet heard the full Gospel message. Allow me to explain by quoting from part 1 of this series below:

However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I don’t think that I need to remind everyone that Jesus also reserved the sharpest rebuke for the hypocrites who, ironically, were those within the religious community of this time. Therefore, it is critically important that we examine ourselves to see whether we are in the faith as Paul prescribes in 2 Corinthians 13:5 saying, “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you–unless, of course, you fail the test”. There is no such thing as a lukewarm, half-committed Christian contrary to popularly held opinion. We are either true Christians, or merely impostors–it is as simple as that. This also is why we need to be continually growing in our faith walk by pursuing the Lord daily and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Rom 6:11-13), otherwise we will be drawing further away from Him.

One of the strongest indicators that you belong to a fear-based religion is that those who are placed in leadership seek to control you. We will term this, the “spirit of control”. Usually such people have been prematurely respected and therefore placed in positions of leadership in churches and ministries before their character can be clearly confirmed. This spirit of control will eventually lead to destruction if it is not stopped immediately. The distinction between God’s Holy Spirit and this demonic spirit of control is that the Holy Spirit liberates while the spirit of control imprisons. The Spirit-led person cares solely about being controlled by Christ, as opposed to the spirit of control which focuses on manipulating people. The main cause of someone with the spirit of control is almost always because they have not yet completely surrendered to Christ. When someone like this is ignorantly placed in leadership within a church, the consequences are wide-reaching and far-extending. These ripple effects are opposed to the work of the Holy Spirit, and tragically those who follow such leaders will replicate their hypocritical example.

spirit-filledThis is why spiritual discernment is absolutely essential for every believer which comes from being in God’s Word and leading a Spirit-filled life through surrender. Our spiritual walk is greatly contingent on the level of discernment we possess as believers. Isn’t it interesting how the majority of the followers of the religious cults of today are almost always those who lack Biblical Literacy? There is an unseen spiritual battle in our midst which is why we need to always be alert, and continually equipped with the entire armor of God(Eph 6:10-18) wielding the sword of righteousness which is the Word of God. It can only be effective if we keep it sharpened which comes from actually reading, meditating, and living out God’s Word. Otherwise, we as believers are extremely vulnerable and destined to fall away from the faith. False teachers prey upon the naive and the ignorant. They hope that they know the Bible better than you and I in order that they can exploit and manipulate us for their personal gain. One of the biggest lies “progressive Christianity” teaches is that once we are saved, we are free to live however we like because of God’s abundant grace. This heretical teaching has already been soundly debunked by Paul in Romans Chapter 6 and consistently throughout the entire book of Galatians. Rather than an easy-believism, seeker-sensitive, man-centred false gospel of health and wealth, the true Gospel must always be preached in its entirety. Being a real disciple of Jesus requires more than just attending church on Sundays and going out for brunch with some friends afterwards, it requires dying to self daily through continual repentance. The true Gospel message does not end at salvation. Salvation is like the first side of the coin which is like the first step in the Christian’s walk of faith. The second side is repentance through surrendering every single area of your life to Jesus so that the old self can die in order that the new self may live(see Galatians 2:20).

Those who reject the necessity of repentance within the Christian Walk were probably never saved in the first place, despite fooling themselves into thinking that they somehow were. Such people are in grave danger and they are really at the mercy of fear-based religious institutions which help to propel this false sense of security. While many fall into this category, there are still those who have genuinely accepted Jesus as Savior but not as Lord of their lives through repentance, thereby quenching the supernatural power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, we need to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-controlled in order to walk in the fullness of God’s Plan. This can only happen through humility and dying to self. Indeed, fear will consume and paralyze the Christian when they do not live Spirit-filled lives through this daily surrender and repentance. The source of any kind of fear is not of the Father, nor can it ever be, it is of the flesh, primarily coming from the irrational fear of man. Those who are saved and living the Spirit-filled life are not only thriving spiritually and being used as instruments of God’s mercy and grace, but they are free from fear itself because of Christ Who dwells inside them through the Holy Spirit. In Luke 12:4-5 Jesus teaches,

“I tell you friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has the power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him”

Because Jesus has conquered the world and overcome death itself, His followers are liberated from the fear of man. The only fear we should ever have is the Fear of the Lord consisting of a reverential and holy fear because of God’s omnipotence and His supremacy over all things.

May God Bless everyone! Stay tuned for the last part of this series where I will share some practical steps to overcoming fear in your life through the power of the Cross and armor of God.

Father, I pray that You can use this blog entry to remind of us of who we are in Christ while re-orienting our attention to the Holy Spirit, Who is often the most neglected Person of the Trinity. Father, remind us of the need to lead a Spirit-Filled life in order to be victorious in the ongoing spiritual warfare we face and to be fruitful for furthering God’s Kingdom. Demolish any strongholds set by the enemy and as you perfect us by Christ’s love, I pray that the fear of man may also be eliminated!

In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

Reference: http://www.godfactor.com/blog/are-control-freaks-killing-your-ministry

 

Let Christ’s Love Cast Out Fear!(Part 1 of 3)

slides_perfect-love-05

Fear is an extremely power thing. If fear is not handled properly, it is capable of destroying a person simply because of its crippling effects. There are those within this world today who live in maximal fear–sometimes for understandable reasons, other times because they have allowed fear to control their lives entirely.

What I want to progress towards discussing within this series are the terrifying ramifications of when believers succumb to fear-based religion. As an introduction, today’s focuses will be on (1) providing historical background of religion within Christendom and on (2) highlighting one of the threats some “christian” churches pose towards spiritual seekers and professing believers alike. 

Strikingly, religion has almost always been wielded in such a way to instill fear into the masses through both oppressive and manipulative means so that the people can be controlled. Yes, even “Christian” religious denominations have largely been premised in fear, which can be quite certainly be linked to the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church(RCC). In fact, prominent author and apologist, Ravi Zachaaris postulates that, “Christianity is not the same as who Christ is“.

I will now digress a little here so that I can provide some reasoning for why I believe this is happening within Christianity. Increasingly what we have today even among several Protestant denominations is the integration of some practices and traditions from Catholic teaching. Notably, within Protestantism there is an expanding-divide between the laity and the clergy in which there is a greater perceived value towards the ministry work among the clergy(church leaders) within the church compared to that which God accomplishes through the laity(church members). The fact is that we are all a royal priesthood of believers under the New Covenant(1 Peter 2:9) in Christ. Therefore, no believer is seen as more or less significant before God simply because they serve in a leadership capacity at a church as opposed to being used in some other capacity in another profession. The hierarchy within the RCC has certainly been influencing and has even started to pervade some Protestant denominations. The consequence beginning to arise from this is the proliferation of Bible illiteracy because church-goers place too much weight on the pastor at the pulpit. Therefore, the spin-off from this is that there is the presumption that this pastor has authority over God’s Word. Sadly, many church adherents then follow whatever is said trusting that the pastor is always 100% accurate, frequently without taking part in their own Bible Study to test what is said against God’s Word. For those of you who know your history of the RCC, I’m sure that this sounds very familiar. In spite of this example, as well as several others unmentioned, one can quite accurately speculate that the trajectory to which we are going within Protestantism is frighteningly similar to the way things were before the Protestant Reformation.  

Returning to Dr. Zachaaris’ point from earlier, I believe that his point soundly exemplifies what is transpiring today within Christianity. As human beings we have put an inordinate level of img_6168emphasis on doctrinal differences and biblical interpretations to the degree whereby they are exalted above what God Himself has told us within His Word. We have forgotten that Christianity is about modeling and living the way Christ lived where we are commanded to love our neighbors as ourselves through grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, patience, and understanding. We need to walk out our theology rather than simply intellectualizing it in order that God’s Word has it full intended impact within our hearts(breathing in through studying it and breathing out through living it). It is as though we have tried to put God into a proverbial box made out of our human preconceptions and categorical assumptions of Who we think He is. However, as you and I both hopefully know: God simply does not, and, moreover, He cannot fit into our human-made doctrinal boxes. Like apostle, Stephen quotes in Acts 7:48-50 from Mat 5:34,35 and Isa 66:1,2:

However, the Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool. What kind of house will you build for Me? says the Lord. Or where will My resting place be? Has not My hand made all these things?

Disclaimer: Please do not misunderstand or misinterpret me at all, I do recognize that pure religion (see James 1:27) has a place and it is essential for the Christian walk of faith. However, without having a personal and dynamic relationship with God, religion is merely a set of rules, rituals and traditions which is dead in and of itself(look at the Pharisees). We need pure religion to keep us grounded while the relationship we have with God enables us to live in the liberties Christ purchased for us on Calvary. Pure religion and relationship are not opposing forces but rather they should work in harmony in a sort of symbiotic relationship.

The central result of religion without relationship is known as legalism where we frustratingly strive and strive to earn our salvation, while repeatedly falling short and being devastated at the end of our lives when we face God for judgement. What I fervently and earnestly want Christians to know about is the damning power of false (christian) religion which permeates the world today, particularly within the West. It is common knowledge that being a church-goer does not mean that you are saved because church membership cannot purchase salvation; salvation is received by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone. However, the church is always one of the most dangerous places you can be if you ignorantly fool yourself into thinking that you are saved when you are really not. Essentially, you have not only become a hypocrite without even realizing(or through suppressing it) but once you are within the clutches of religion, it is exceedingly difficult to escape it because the enemy has cunningly fooled you through using religion as his choice of weapon.

I cannot even begin to fathom the immeasurably high numbers of souls who have fallen victim to the clutches of false religion. I have personally experienced what this is like coming from a Roman Catholic Background myself for over 2o years of my life. I am normally not a stubborn person but God had to radically shake up my life before He captured my attention to see the destructive path which I was on. It is my prayer and hope that the true life-giving Gospel Message of unfathomable love and grace will liberate any readers who find themselves entrapped in fear-based religion.

I encourage anyone who desires to briefly share their experience of being set free from the bondage of religion to comment below.

I plan on continuing this series with a blog post entitled, “Paralyzing Power of Fear”. In this post, I intend on exploring some of the devastating ramifications of living in fear within the framework of religion.

May God Bless everyone in the weeks ahead!

The Mark of a True Christian

I have been very fortunate to grow up in a healthy home with loving and supportive parents who raised me well. The importance of being obedient to my parents and respecting their decisions was instilled within me at a young age. My parents were stricter than most and at times I felt like I was missing out. I even recall being ridiculed by some of my peers for supposedly living too sheltered of a life. Admittedly, there were occasions where I was inclined to agree, particularly with the severe forms of discipline I faced when I made poor decisions. In retrospect, I am very grateful for the way in which my parents raised me because of the person that I am today.

In a very similar way, the Scriptures reveal to us that God not only desires our obedience but He commands it. In John 14:15, Jesus pointedly tells us that “If you love Me, you will obey-god-in-loveobey what I command”. He later expands on this by saying, “If anyone loves Me, he will obey My teaching, My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching(John 14:23-24). Without reservation, Jesus declares that obedience is required within the Christian Walk as we follow Him. In effect, the love which we have for God through Christ results in obedience to do what God has asked and called us to become. In John 14 verse 23, we are also told that as we obey God’s teaching that the Father will love us and that They(we) will also make Their home with us. Jesus is referring to when the Holy Spirit resides within our souls in our bodies which have now been transformed into holy temples through Christ’s perfect atoning sacrifice on Calvary.

I am about to digress a little here but I assure you that is for good reason. What I find alarming and disconcerting about the way in which the Gospel is preached today is that there is an imbalanced emphasis on salvation by grace with little to no mention of the need for the now-saved-sinner to pursue continued repentance. I understand that the work on the Cross is finished however this does not preclude the absolute vital need for repentance through making war with sin by the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Gospel is preached while neglecting the essential repentance aspect, a half-truth Gospel is being spread which is really no Gospel at all(Galatians 1:6). What I have seen is one of the results from this twisted gospel message is people ignorantly presuming on God’s grace, thinking that they have a licence to sin because the need for repentance is either minimized or forgotten altogether. The other dilemma is that the majority of this time the person is not genuinely saved, though they falsely think that they are. This half-truth Gospel falsely portrays Jesus as a sort of functional savior where nothing is required from the sinner after accepting Jesus. Jesus Himself warns and advises us to count the costs of following Him. He demands our full allegiance and this will require sacrifice and our unbridled commitment. 

I need to provide some basic Christian theology of justification in order to bring things full circle. Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit initially occurred when we believed in Christ alone for our salvation, in turn making Him the Savior and Lord of our lives. Now God declares us as justified before Him. Amazingly, when God looks at us He sees us clothed in the righteousness of His Son, Jesus. The mark of a true Christian is not that we are now perfect, or not going to stumble, rather, it is derived from true repentance.     

I believe that it would be helpful to establish a working definition of repentance in order to ensure that we are all on the same page. Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines repentance as:

an actual hatred of sin (Ps. 119:128; Job 42:5, 6; 2 Cor. 7:10) and turning from it to God…and a persistent endeavour after a holy life in a walking with God in the way of his commandments. The true penitent is conscious of guilt (Ps. 51:4, 9), of pollution (51:5, 7, 10), and of helplessness (51:11; 109:21, 22). Thus he apprehends himself to be just what God has always seen him to be and declares him to be. But repentance comprehends not only such a sense of sin, but also an apprehension of mercy, without which there can be no true repentance (Ps. 51:1; 130:4)”.

Repentance is all about turning away from the sin which formerly held us captive through taking off the grave clothes and putting on the grace clothes. As believers in Christ, we now possess this power to be victorious over any and all sin because its stronghold and grasp over us has been destroyed. True believers in Christ are sealed with the Holy Spirit by God. Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes within real Christians. However, even as believers, our flesh is very weak and we are ourselves are incredibly prone to go astray. That is why it is indispensable that we walk in obedience by following God’s commands, especially when it comes to daily repentance and putting to death the deeds of the flesh(Romans 8:13). As Jesus continues speaking in John 14 about obedience, He becomes more direct about what He meant in verse 23 when says, “we”. In verse 26 Jesus says, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you”. We need to be continually filled by the Holy Spirit in order that we may be led and controlled by Him so that God becomes the Lord over all entire lives…not just on Sundays. As I see it, this only happens as an overflow of our love for God through active obedience to God and His commands. Even the smallest, seemingly insignificant day-to-day decisions make the biggest difference over time. CS Lewis put it this way,

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible(CS Lewis p 132).

The Holy Spirit drives the whole engine of the Christian life, therefore when it is grieved or quenched by our disobedience, we stumble back into our sinful and comeholyspiritfleshly tendencies. Herein lies the danger of disobedience. Although believers are indeed indwelt by the Holy Spirit, God does not remove our free will. This means that we have the choice each and every day to either obey God allowing our souls to be filled with the Holy Spirit or to disobey God thereby quenching the Holy Spirit. The former way enables God to work in and through us where He works mightily enabling us to be all that God has designed and purposed for us to become. The latter way leads to an unfruitful and strangled Christian life where instead of thriving we end up merely surviving.

Like loving parents who know what is best for their children, we can rest on the ironclad promise that God knows what is best for us. Even though there are times when we feel like we know better, we need to trust in God and His perfect timing for all things. He is our good Father and He will withhold no good thing for us as we lovingly obey and walk rightly with Him (Pslam 84:11).

The importance of obedience to God is instrumental for living a fruitful, God-honouring, Christ-exalting, kingdom-furthering Christian life. The Old Testament contains numerous examples of those who stepped out in faith to pursue what God was calling them to do. Comfortable Christians cannot change the world. It is not until we leave our comfort zones that God is able start to work through us in ways which you and I cannot begin to imagine.

Lord, I pray that this blog post may serve to help embolden Your Church to courageously pursue opportunities where we are being called even if they make us uncomfortable. I also pray that we delight in following You and Your commandments because of our pure love and devotion to You. Help us to live real Christian lives marked with repentance and an unceasing passion to reach the lost. In Jesus’ Name, I pray, Amen.

References:

Easton’s Bible Dictionary by Matthew George Easton

Mere Christianity by CS Lewis