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.

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

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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!

What Does God’s Word Say?

What is Happening Today

Within the West today, we are experiencing a rapid decrease in the number of genuine, faithful, practicing Christians. The influence of Eastern World Religion has been continually on the rise and it has permeated much of the culture in which we live today. We only need to look at what is on the best-selling book list to see hundreds of self-help books proposing new ways to unlock our full potential from within. In addition, life-hacking techniques are merely a web click away teaching us ways in which we can supposedly live our best life now with the least effort expended.  I don’t think we have ever lived in an era with such a myriad of leaders, gurus, mentors, and coaches who somehow all profess to have the key(s) to help us live our most successful life. To make matters worse, Biblical Christianity has even begun to absorb these adverse effects through becoming re-packaged into a sort of “Convenient Christianity”.

When Supplements Turn into Substitutes

“Convenient Christianity” has strong ties with the Prosperity Gospel Movement which focuses on gaining health and wealth, rather than salvation and forgiveness from our sins. We have so many material resources in the West and, if we are not careful, this will lead to complacency deterring our faith walk with God. Even within the Christian subculture, there are numerous resources which we can utilize to study God’s Word such as: podcasts, songs, articles, books, devotionals, study Bibles…just to name a few. Our Bibles themselves are full of commentaries, cross-references, and study guides of various kinds. We barely need to put forth any effort when it comes to understanding the Scriptures since this work is seemingly already done. While on the one hand this is super convenient and helpful, on the other, this is extremely dangerous because it relegates the quality of our Bible Study time. Not only are we depending more on the individual to tell us what God has said(which belittles God’s authority), but the richness and intimacy of unpacking God’s Word is pointedly reduced. Plus, God’s Word is unable to have the full intended impact within the affections of our heart. What is initially perceived to be a shortcut actually turns into a major stumbling block towards our spiritual growth and maturity.

Certainly, there are benefits and value towards supplementing our Bible-reading time with Christian resources. The keyword is supplement though! We cannot allow these supplements to turn into substitutes. The moment that this happens is when we risk committing idolatry because we are in effect telling God that we place greater value in what the theologian, for example, is saying over God Himself. The Scriptures are God’s Gift to us and they are truly the sword of the spirit within our armor of God(Ephesians 6:17). However, the sword of the spirit is only effective if we equip ourselves with it and this only comes from studying and knowing God’s Word. This can only help through intentional time spent studying it.

Practical Advice

In my own life, I confess that I have been spending an inordinate amount of time with supplementary resources, particularly with podcasts and Christian literature of various kinds. Sadly, even during my personal Bible devotional time, I have sometimes given too much authority to the study commentaries. I find that it is very helpful to pray before reading the Scriptures through asking God to provide us a fresh perspective and to speak to us through His revealed Word. Then we should read through it slowly, unpacking what the author is trying to convey about God and His character within the overall Gospel Narrative. We need to soften our hearts so that God’s Word will have their full transformational impact on our affections as the Holy Spirit does His work within us. This approach to Bible-reading helps make our experience direct, personal and intimate during the time in which we encounter God face-to-face through His All-Powerful Word.

Implications from Biblical Illiteracy

On a macro level, what I believe we can in attribute the dwindling influence of Christianity primarily towards is Biblical Illiteracy. We are living in an Information Age. Biblical-IlliteracyKnowledge has never been so widely and easily accessible to us as it is today. With this comes various disadvantages, like the ease by which uncredible sources have platforms to disseminate misconceptions and falsifications of Christianity. Christian Cults holding onto heretical teachings have even emerged which propagates confusion all the more. In modern society, Biblical Christianity is viewed as anything but the answer because we have strayed so far from orthodoxy. Nobody knows what truth is anymore and culture is experiencing moral-decay because it has become morally-relativistic. The media keeps pumping out lies upon lies, and people are believing them because they have no discernment. This should be no surprise for unbelievers, but what is striking about this is that even believers are falling prey to some of these lies. The Church is being disestablished as we speak and we as a Church are being paralyzed by fear and comfort. I contend that at the core of all this is Biblical Illiteracy. People do not know God and His purpose for them because they do not know their Bibles. The Bible reveals Who God is and what we are called to be as partakers of His Redemptive Plan. Without staying in God’s Word, we will continue to be deceived by the lies of the world and tossed about by the wind. Worst of all, we will be ineffective and unproductive for God’s work. John 15:6-7 tells us the following about remaining in Jesus,

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.

These are harsh words from Jesus Himself and they should serve as reminders of the absolute importance of remaining in His Word, otherwise we will face these devastating circumstances.

Lord, I pray that you help us rise up against complacency and spiritual-laziness through returning to the roots of Biblical Christianity through Your Holy Word. Teach and equip us to be the courageous men and women of God You have called us to be on this spiritual battleground!

In Jesus’ Name, I Pray Amen.

 

“Take off the GraveClothes and Put on the GraceClothes!”

The enemy has always had a propensity to offer cheap substitutes in exchange for the glorious hope which can be found only in Christ Himself. The fleshly desires which have plagued Contentment in Himhumanity since the Fall do not satisfy simply because they cannot satisfy. The desires of the flesh are unquenchable and they will continuously demand more and more. Interestingly, the more that we feed these desires, the more that they will hunger and thirst to be filled. True, soul-satisfying contentment is not found in more money, a bigger house, a faster car, a more lucrative career, a better education, partying it up, a more attractive spouse or even religion for the matter. You will literally go insane chasing after these empty pursuits because you will always come up short! Feelings of disappointment and disillusionment will ensue every single time. There is unequivocally nothing under the sun which is capable of ever providing our hearts with full and lasting satisfaction.

Our God is certainly a compassionate Father abounding in patience desiring for all of us to come to repentance, however I do believe that there is a point of no return that deserves to be mentioned. Dabbling in sin, particularly habitual sin, is extremely dangerous territory for the Christian. A prime example of this in found when Esau sells his birthright inheritance for a single meal, directly disobeying God. Upon desiring God’s blessing, Esau is unable to repent despite the fact that he sought it earnestly.

Hebrews 12:15-17 tells us:

15 See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

When it comes to sin in our own lives, particularly with respect to repeated, intentional and habitual sin, I fear that too many believers mistakenly believe that God’s grace somehow provides a licence for them to remain in this sin. In Romans 6:1-4 Paul reminds believers of the following:

1 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

The enemy is very cunning and deceptive with the strategy and the tactics he uses to lure us into committing sinful behaviours. What I have learnt from books as well as personal experience is that if we are not actively pursuing the Lord, then we are in effect drifting away which quenches the indwelling Holy Spirit. One of Satan’s primary weapons is to do whatever it takes to persuade us to compromise away No Compromiseour Christian convictions. It always starts with something seemingly small and innocent. As time progresses, we begin to rationalize and justify why this sin is not actually sin at all, falling prey to the enemy’s lies. Moreover, we begin to build up a threshold of tolerance where we our flesh demands more of a “buzz”. At this point, the seemingly innocent sin evolves into an addictive sinful pattern progressively pulling us further and further away from God. Our formerly high sensitivity to this sin gradually depletes and unbeknownst to the Christian, he or she has strayed so far away that it becomes exceedingly challenging to repent.

This concept of reaching a point of no return is quite controversial however I do believe that it merits discussion because Satan is constantly prowling around like a roaring lion looking for whom he may devour on sight(1 Pet 5:8). 1 John 5:16-17 talks about sinning unto death below:

16 If you see any brother or sister commit a sin that does not lead to death, you should pray and God will give them life. I refer to those whose sin does not lead to death. There is a sin that leads to death. I am not saying that you should pray about that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.

GotQuestion.org defines the “sin unto death” as “willful, continuous, unrepentant sin”. This specific passage is exceedingly complicated to interpret, however it should underscore the reality that we are living in a spiritual battleground where we need God every second of every minute of every hour of every day. We need to be consistently growing and maturing in our faith through being in God’s Word and living out an authentic Christian Life in joyful obedience to Him. We should be so filled with the Holy Spirit that we need not even entertain the very thought of committing any sin which formerly held us captive.

In a like manner Ephesians 4:17-19 says,

17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

It is completely illogical to re-visit our former sinful ways because of this infinitely precious and glorious gift we have in Christ Jesus Who imputes His entire righteousness onto us when we humbly believe and trust in His atoning work on Calvary! We need to crucify those old fleshly desires and “…put on the new self created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness”(Eph. 4:24). Jesus already paid the price in full and destroyed the power which sin formerly had over us(Romans 7) so let’s embrace this glorious freedom we have in Christ!

New in Jesus

Reference: http://www.gotquestions.org/sin-unto-death.html 

Why Are You Sleeping?

This particular blog post vividly conveys the importance of regular and intimate prayer time with the Lord.

Truly, we are in an unseen spiritual battleground against principalities much stronger than mere mortal beings. The enemy is constantly tempting us, hoping to make us stumble, consequently rendering us inffective for God’s work. It is only through prayer that God’s unprecedented power through His Holy Spirit is able to be unleashed, providing us with inexplicable strength to conquer all things. This is why maintaining a vibrant and healthy prayer is absolutely indispensable as we persevere throughout the good fight of faith, pressing on towards the finish line!

Original Blog Entry:

Why are you sleeping?

Obedience Brings Blessings

Thank-you for writing this beautiful and well-timed post. I like how you connected and related obedience to our faith in God. May God embolden His followers to pursue more godly risks even when they may not make sense at the time!

Boosters, Prayers & Confessions

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FAITH BOOSTER:

Obedience Brings Blessings [Mar.09, 2016]

WORD OF FAITH:

“Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession…”(Exodus 19:5, NIV)

Sometimes God asks us to do things that don’t make sense. It doesn’t seem logical. It doesn’t fit into our budget. It doesn’t line up with our schedule. “God, You want me to go back to college? I’m 40 years old.” “God, You want me to give them a gift? I was saving those funds for my own dreams.” Or, “God, You want me to leave this secure position that I’ve had for years and start my own business?” Too often we over-analyze it. We debate it. Look at it only in the natural. We end up making excuses, talking ourselves out of it, “That couldn’t be God.” But if you’re going to reach your highest…

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Pride will Destroy

Has anyone ever stopped and pondered on what the root of every sin is? Fundamentally, I would contend that the root of every sin is pride. As innately sin-prone humans, we do not merely sin for the sake of sinning. Rather, the allure of sin is derived from the deception that we are autonomous beings who foolishly think that we do not need to be accountable to any higher being. We sin out of our own selfish-thinking which postulates that we know what is best for us and that we have somehow evolved past needing God. When we sin, we blatantly transgress and disobey God, essentially telling Him that we are sovereign over our lives. In doing so, we push God away and decide to live selfishly.Pride.jpg

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God’s Unfailing Love

Today I feel particularly drawn to reflect on God’s steadfast and His unfailing love in my own life.

As sin-bent humans we are so prone to fall away from our faith walk. Media bombards us almost unceasingly with sin-infested messages where the Enemy waits for Christians to fall into all kinds of temptation. Not a single Christian is ever immune to our susceptibility to sin which is why it is so incredibly important to be in constant prayer Forgetfulnessand to actually be in God’s Word. I think that as Christians living in a self-absorbed western culture, we easily become ignorant of the fact that if we are not actively seeking intimacy with God then we will indeed fall away. For clarity, by falling away I mean that we begin to quench the Spirit thereby weakening our faith and delaying us from furthering God’s Kingdom. I believe that delaying the good work of Christians is one of the Enemy’s main spiritual assaults against us. It is when we enter into the forgetfulness of Who God is and all that He has done for us that the Enemy renders Christians ineffective for God’s work. Continue reading

The Importance of Prayer


power_of_prayer_400.jpgRecently, I feel that the Lord has been drawing my attention to the importance of prayer more than ever. It is so easy for Christians(myself included) to become apathetic with our prayer life, particularly living in an increasingly Biblically-hostile society. However, I firmly believe that prayer is the powerhouse for the Christian life. It is paramount that as Christians we realize that “…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”(Ephesians 6:12, NIV). There is an unseen world around us where Christians are living in the midst of a spiritual battleground. This is why it is critical that we put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 13-17), and that we pray for God’s continued protection. Continue reading