Christian Sanctification Is Not Sinless Perfection- It’s Sinning Less And Less As We Become More And More Like Jesus

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New Revised Standard Version)

The Christian life is a relational walk with God, while following the footsteps of the Lord and Master Jesus Christ. From the new birth experienced at conversion till death, the Christian, through the enablement of the indwelling Holy Spirit, strives to emulate Jesus Christ in words and deeds, as he grows into the stature of a perfect man. We have a standard to measure up to, with regards to our thoughts, words, deeds and relationship with God and one another- the Lord Jesus Christ, the only perfect and sinless man to have walked upon the face of planet earth. Unfortunately, some view this growing into Christlikeness (sanctification) as sinless perfection, and thus spend the entirety of their Christian experience struggling with guilt and condemnation in their failure to reach that illusory state of sinless perfection. The frustration/struggle with sin has left many discouraged and disillusioned, and has made some to fall out of the heavenly race. What’s the biblical view of sanctification, Christian maturity and Christian perfection? What constitutes victorious Christian living from the view point of Scriptures? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these pertinent questions.

Christian sanctification has two components. When a person believes in the finished works of Christ on Calvary as the basis of his salvation and eternal life and accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, he becomes saved. The person is immediately justified and sanctified. He is justified by the fact that God declares him no longer guilty of his sins, thus attaining peace and right standing with God. He is sanctified immediately because he becomes adopted into God’s family and becomes a new creature, old things in his life having passed away, with all things concerning him becoming brand new. Justification and sanctification are by grace, through faith in Christ Jesus.They are both imputed gifts of grace that are not earned or merited! God simply transfers the righteousness and perfection of Christ to the new believer, because Christ had already carried the believer’s sins upon himself and died vicariously for the believer on Calvary, some 2000 years ago.

1 Corinthians 1:26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.

1 Corinthians 1:27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

1 Corinthians 1:28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are,

1 Corinthians 1:29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

1 Corinthians 1:30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption,

1 Corinthians 1:31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

2 Corinthians 5:17 So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation;

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us.

2 Corinthians 5:20 So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—

Ephesians 2:9 not the result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

Romans 4:1 What then are we to say was gained by Abraham, our ancestor according to the flesh?

Romans 4:2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.

Romans 4:3 For what does the scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.”

Romans 4:4 Now to one who works, wages are not reckoned as a gift but as something due.

Romans 4:5 But to one who without works trusts him who justifies the ungodly, such faith is reckoned as righteousness.

Romans 4:6 So also David speaks of the blessedness of those to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works:

Romans 4:7 “Blessed are those whose iniquities are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;

Romans 4:8 blessed is the one against whom the Lord will not reckon sin.”

The first part of sanctification (adoption into God’s family and separation unto God) is thus a work of grace and not merited by any acts of righteousness. Just by being in Christ, we’re clothed with his righteousness and invested with all his attributes. Whatever he is, so are we in this world, in God’s eyes. We become sons and daughters of God, and God’s heirs as well as joint heirs with Christ. This is the privilege any child enjoys by being born into a royal family. Immediately after birth, such a child becomes royalty himself, from the very minute he comes out from the womb. He didn’t do anything to merit it. Royalty was conferred on him by being born into the royal family. It’s his hereditary right! The same is conferred or imputed sanctification or righteousness. It comes through the blood of Jesus Christ and not by any works of righteousness which we have done.

Romans 8:14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

1 John 3:1 3 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1 John 3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.

1 John 3:3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

1 John 4:15 God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God.

1 John 4:16 So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.
God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.

1 John 4:17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world.

1 John 4:18 There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.

The second part of the sanctification process is the outworking of the inner grace of the Spirit in us, as we strive to match our high and holy calling with our conduct in the world. It’s akin to the grooming process of princes and princesses from infancy to maturity, to help them become what they were born to be. The Holy Spirit continually grooms the believer in the ethics and acceptable behaviour of Christianity, teaching, guiding, leading, rebuking and exhorting as the occasion demands, as he leads us in the footsteps of Christ, towards the stature of a perfect man, towards the fullness of the measure of Christ. We learn to sit, crawl, stand and walk in the Spirit, as he guides and leads us. We will stumble, fall, make false steps, but it’s all part of the learning process. Each time we fall, God helps us back on our feet, as we continue to learn to walk in righteousness.

One thing we should have at the back of our mind in our walk with God is that our acceptance with God and his approval of us do not depend on our performance. As long as we’re in Christ, we’re automatically accepted before God. Our acceptance is in Christ, not in ourselves. In walking with God we’re not trying to please him and earn his favour. We already have that unconditionally in Christ. All we’re doing is growing in grace. We don’t need to get agitated or frustrated by the growth process. We need to be calm and relaxed, and trust that God is able to help us become what he wants us to be. We should keep our eyes focused on Jesus and his love for us, and not on our mistakes, failures, disappointments, etc. Those things do not define us, however slow the progress we think we’re making. A toddler may be overwhelmed by the way an adult runs and jumps, but if only he knew how long it took the adult to get to that level, and all the fallings and stumblings that went with it! Our earthly parents never gave up on us till we got to where we are today. So, why do we think God will give up on us if we stumble and fall a couple of times? As long as we remain in Christ and don’t slide back and abandon the faith, God will continue to patiently groom us to spiritual maturity.

Ephesians 4:7 But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:8 Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;
he gave gifts to his people.”

Ephesians 4:9 (When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth?

Ephesians 4:10 He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)

Ephesians 4:11 The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers,

Ephesians 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,

Ephesians 4:13 until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.

Ephesians 4:14 We must no longer be children, tossed to and fro and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.

Ephesians 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,

Ephesians 4:16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

1 Peter 2:2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—

1 Peter 2:3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

1 Peter 2:4 Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and

1 Peter 2:5 like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 1:3 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 1:4 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 1:5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,

Ephesians 1:6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Ephesians 1:7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace (NKJV).

The outworking of sanctification (matching our calling with our walk, or our position with our standing) is a lifelong process that never really comes to an end till we’re glorified. As long as we’re in these fallen bodies of clay, sinless perfection is an impossibility. The goal of the Christian walk is therefore not sinless perfection (a mirage unrealisable by fallen men in a fallen world) but a continual transformation into the image and likeness of Christ. Each day, we’re to take a step closer to the image of Christ, as we follow his footsteps, one step at a time. Sometimes we’ll slip and fall, but it’s okay. We’re not to beat ourselves and remain down. We’re to simply admit and confess our failures, accept God’s forgiveness, pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and keep moving. We should never despair or give up! Each new day, we’re to put behind the things that are past, and reach out for the mark ahead of us. The big shoes and giant footsteps of our Lord are not to overwhelm and discourage us; rather, they’re to humble us and keep us meek and free of pride and totally dependent on God and his grace. The high target set by the Lord himself is to remove far from us the arrogant assumption of having arrived spiritually, for the moment we think we’ve arrived and consider ourselves able to stand on our own without the Lord’s help, our fall is imminent! The one who has risen the highest can fall to the lowest depth in a twinkle of an eye!

1 Peter 2:21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

1 Peter 2:22 “He committed no sin,
and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

1 Peter 2:23 When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.

1 Peter 2:24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.

1 Peter 2:25 For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

Philippians 3:8 More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

Philippians 3:9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death,

Philippians 3:11 if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Philippians 3:12 Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Philippians 3:13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,

Philippians 3:14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:15 Let those of us then who are mature be of the same mind; and if you think differently about anything, this too God will reveal to you.

Philippians 3:16 Only let us hold fast to what we have attained.

Our walk with God (the visible manifestation of our sanctification) is not a turbulence-free experience. The flesh or “old man” is still alive in every believer, and will not be done away with or destroyed until when we’re clothed with our immortal bodies. That will be either after our death, or when we’re glorified at the coming of the Lord. For as long as we remain in these fallen bodies of clay, the Spirit and the flesh in us will be engaged in a daily battle of supremacy and control. The Spirit and the flesh struggle for control and dominance over our lives. Whoever of the two we yield to will control and direct our lives.

The whole process of Christian maturity is learning to yield to the Spirit and resist the flesh. Sometimes we will succumb to the flesh and let it drive our actions, grieving the Spirit. However, the Spirit doesn’t abandon us as long we don’t cut ourselves off from Christ. The Holy Spirit helps us work through our weaknesses and failures, and teaches us to yield to him and resist the devil and the flesh. As we mature in our spiritual walk, we learn to resist and subdue the flesh and yield to the Spirit. At no point do we get to the stage where it’s impossible for us to sin or fall into temptations of the flesh. That’s why we’re to be on our guard at all times. That’s why we’re enjoined to watch and pray ceaselessly. That’s why we’re encouraged to deny and deprive the flesh of the base things that feed and nourish it and make it thrive and flourish.

Knowing that falling is part of the growing up process, we don’t get frustrated and give up when (not if) we fall. We don’t get discouraged by our imperfections. We’re rather realistic and accept our imperfections and the fact that God loves us just as we are, warts and all, and he’ll help us become what he wants us to be, with time. Just like children are not deterred by their childhood failings, but still go ahead to enjoy life and have fun, we should go out and have fun spiritually despite our imperfections. We should be proud of our calling and our heritage and enjoy our sonship, even though we’re still imperfect. We may not be exactly like Christ today, but we’ll be exactly like him one day. For every mistake we make and for every fall we experience, there’s ready grace and forgiveness, so we don’t have to wallow in regrets and self pity. After each fall, we should pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and receive forgiveness and move on. Knowing that no one can can condemn you except the one who has justified and sanctified you (and continues to sanctify you daily), we relax and enjoy God even in our shortcomings. We have already overcome by being in Christ and are not striving to be victorious, for we’ve already obtained the victory in Christ! It’s a win-win situation for the believer in Christ! What a blessed state!

Galatians 5:16 Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,

Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions,

Galatians 5:21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

Galatians 5:23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:26 Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

Colossians 3:5 Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).

Colossians 3:6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.

Colossians 3:7 These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.

Colossians 3:8 But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth.

Colossians 3:9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices

Colossians 3:10 and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

Colossians 3:11 In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!

Colossians 3:12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.

James 4:1 Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you?

Proverbs 24:15 Do not lie in wait like an outlaw against the home of the righteous;
do no violence to the place where the righteous live;

Proverbs 24:16 for though they fall seven times, they will rise again;
but the wicked are overthrown by calamity.

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

1 John 2:2 and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 Corinthians 10:11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

1 Corinthians 10:12 So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it.

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

Romans 8:30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Romans 8:32 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 8:33 Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.

Romans 8:34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

Romans 8:36 As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Romans 8:38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,

Romans 8:39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (NKJV).

In conclusion, Christian perfection or progressive sanctification is not sinless perfection, but a gradual (even if sometimes inconsistent) lifelong move towards Christlikeness. It’s a daily and steady transformation into the image of Christ, although we’ll never get to replicate the fullness of that glorious image on this side of eternity. Christian perfection doesn’t mean that the Christian can or will ever stop sinning altogether (we can never be sinless but we can and should sin less and less as we progress). As long as we remain in these sin-tainted bodies of clay, and as long as the old man remains in us (and he will remain in every Christian till we leave this earth), we will never be immune to sin. Hence, we’re called upon daily to put on the whole armour of God and to resist the devil and the flesh daily, so that we will continue to walk in the Spirit in order not to fulfill the desires of the flesh. The growth process towards maturity can be slow and sometimes frustrating, but patience is a fruit of the Spirit that’s wrought in us as we persevere in following the footsteps of the Lord day by day. However much we rise and fall and stumble and wobble in our walk towards maturity, we’re assured of one thing- our acceptance and approval with God do not depend on our performance, for we’re already accepted in the beloved, warts and all! So, let’s learn to relax and enjoy our daily walk with the Lord, knowing that through it all, we’re more than conquerors through him that loves us! We’ll keep moving from glory to glory even after several fallings and stumblings, and the Lord will always be with us, as long as we don’t forsake him.

The Grace Of God Is Not A License To Sin!

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version).

Some have interpreted God’s grace in Christ Jesus to mean a license to continue in sin. Such people view God’s grace as a permission to live unholy and ungodly lives, since unlimited grace is available to forgive all sins as long as one is in Christ. This school of thought believes the more sin abounds, the more grace abounds to cover it. Shall we continue in sin so that grace will abound? Is grace a license or a permission for saved Christians to indulge in a lifestyle of sin? What is the purpose of God’s grace that’s been made available to us in Christ Jesus? Let’s examine the Apostolic writings to find answers to these questions.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,

Titus 2:12 teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,

Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Titus 2:14 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.

The passage above teaches us some fundamental truths about God’s saving grace- it’s available to every person, and its purpose is to save men from sin and to teach them to live godly and righteous lives in this present world! Saving grace is to teach us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and not to give room to them. Grace is not a license for sin, but a deterrent against sin! God’s grace is to enable and empower us to deny access to sinful impulses, not to accommodate them. Grace is to impart to us a hatred for sin and a love for righteousness. When grace comes into our lives, we’re to submit ourselves as instruments of righteousness, and commit to living sober, godly and righteous lives, starting right here in this present sinful age! Nothing can be plainer than these truths!

Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?

Romans 6:2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?

Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,

Romans 6:6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.

Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,

Romans 6:9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.

Romans 6:10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.

Romans 6:11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Romans 6:13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!

Romans 6:16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?

Romans 6:17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

Romans 6:18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

Romans 6:19 I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.

Romans 6:20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.

Romans 6:21 What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.

Romans 6:22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.

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

According to the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome, believers in Christ are to consider themselves dead to sin, and alive to righteousness. Paul told them that they were once slaves to sinful passions by which they were held captive. Then, they indulged in sinful passions without restraint. But now, having been delivered from their captivity to sin, they should become slaves to righteousness, and gladly indulge in righteous passions. Once when they were slaves to sin, they submitted their bodies as instruments of unrighteousness. Now that they have become slaves to righteousness, believers should submit themselves as instruments of righteousness unto godliness. The believer in Christ is expected to hate sin and love righteousness. He is expected to be ashamed of his former sinful lifestyle and now become a champion of righteousness and holiness. The believer in Christ is expected not to continue the habit of practising sin, now that he’s a new creature and old things have passed away. Yes, the believer is not perfect and he’ll fall into sin every now and then, but he’s not to live comfortably in his sins. Once the believer sins, he’s to feel godly sorrow (through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and his awakened conscience) and quickly repent and forsake his sins. He may fall into sin, but he’s not to remain fallen and joyfully wallow in the mire and grovel in sin. Only dogs return back to eat their vomitus with comfort, and only pigs gladly go back to wallowing in the mire after they’ve been washed clean!

1 John 3:4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.

1 John 3:5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.

1 John 3:6 Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.

1 John 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.

1 John 3:8 He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.

1 John 3:9 Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

1 John 3:10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.

1 John 5:18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

1 John 5:19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5:21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

1 John 1:5 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 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

1 John 1:7 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 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.

2 Peter 2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

2 Peter 2:21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.

2 Peter 2:22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Finally, grace liberates us from the law and sets us free from the law of sin and death. Grace delivers us from the prison house of the law. However, we’re not to use the liberty we have in Christ as an occasion to sin. The liberty of grace is not a warrant to indulge in sinful lifestyles. It’s not an open check to wilfully sin with impunity, knowing that forgiveness is readily available. Grace gives us the liberty to live free from sin and the authority to become children of God. The grace of God in Christ makes us not slaves, but masters over sin. It empowers us to walk in the Spirit so that we would not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Being no longer subject to the law through grace does not make us lawless! We may not be subject to the law of carnal ordinances anymore, but we’re still subject to the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus! And those who are Christ’s are expected to crucify the flesh and its sinful lusts and passions!

Galatians 5:13 For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.

Galatians 5:14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Galatians 5:15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!

Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Galatians 5:18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,

Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

Galatians 5:21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

Galatians 5:23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

In conclusion, grace sets us free from the bondage of the law of carnal ordinances. However, it does not make us lawless, and it doesn’t give us a license to sin. The grace of God in Christ Jesus sets us free from the law of sin and death and enables us to mortify the flesh and its lusts. Grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and unrighteousness and to live sober, godly lives in this present evil age. Grace is therefore not a license to sin, but an empowerment to live above sin.

Thanks for visiting and for reading. God bless you!

God No Longer Dwells In Cathedrals, However Magnificent They May Be: Christians Are Now His Dwelling Place!

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version)

John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.

John 4:23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.

John 4:24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

The Temple of God is where God’s presence is made manifest among men, where men can expect to meet with God in worship and supplication. In the Old Testament, we find God’s presence dwelling among his people in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple, all built to divine specifications. In the Tabernacle/Temple, men had the opportunity to offer sacrifices for sin, worship God and pray to him. Thus, the Tabernacle/Temple was a hallowed and revered place, because of God’s abiding presence.

Exodus 25:2 “Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring Me an offering. From everyone who gives it willingly with his heart you shall take My offering.

Exodus 25:8 And let them make Me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them.

Exodus 25:9 According to all that I show you, that is, the pattern of the tabernacle and the pattern of all its furnishings, just so you shall make it.

Deuteronomy 12:10 But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety,

Deuteronomy 12:11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord.

Deuteronomy 12:12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you.

Deuteronomy 12:13 Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see;

Deuteronomy 12:14 but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.

Because the Tabernacle/Temple was the only accepted meeting place with God (as the place where God’s presence dwelt), no resource was spared in its construction and beautification. Precious stones and all manner of costly pearls were lavishly used to decorate and garnish the Tabernacle/Temple, according to divine instructions. Solomon’s Temple, for instance, was considered the most magnificent and the most expensive in his time. It was built with expensive stones and woods imported from foreign lands, and was decked inside and outside with gold and other precious stones. King Solomon spared no cost and no effort in building the best house he could for God (1Kings Chapters 5, 6 and 7).

Even in those times when God chose to reveal his presence in a physical Tabernacle/Temple, Scripture made it abundantly clear that no man could build any befitting house for God, simply because even the heaven of heavens cannot contain God! How then can men build a dwelling place for God? Solomon too acknowledged this truth while building the most magnificent Temple for the worship of God. He confessed that no house any man built could be adequate for God, and pleaded rather for God to have respect towards prayers made in the house that was built to bear his name.

1 Kings 8:12 Then Solomon spoke:
“The Lord said He would dwell in the dark cloud.

1 Kings 8:13 I have surely built You an exalted house,
And a place for You to dwell in forever.”

1 Kings 8:14 Then the king turned around and blessed the whole assembly of Israel, while all the assembly of Israel was standing.

1 Kings 8:15 And he said: “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, who spoke with His mouth to my father David, and with His hand has fulfilled it, saying,

1 Kings 8:16 ‘Since the day that I brought My people Israel out of Egypt, I have chosen no city from any tribe of Israel in which to build a house, that My name might be there; but I chose David to be over My people Israel.’

1 Kings 8:17 Now it was in the heart of my father David to build a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel.

1 Kings 8:18 But the Lord said to my father David, ‘Whereas it was in your heart to build a temple for My name, you did well that it was in your heart.

1 Kings 8:19 Nevertheless you shall not build the temple, but your son who will come from your body, he shall build the temple for My name.’

1 Kings 8:20 So the Lord has fulfilled His word which He spoke; and I have filled the position of my father David, and sit on the throne of Israel, as the Lord promised; and I have built a temple for the name of the Lord God of Israel.

1 Kings 8:21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the Lord which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.”

1 Kings 8:22 Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the assembly of Israel, and spread out his hands toward heaven;

1 Kings 8:23 and he said: “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven above or on earth below like You, who keep Your covenant and mercy with Your servants who walk before You with all their hearts.

1 Kings 8:24 You have kept what You promised Your servant David my father; You have both spoken with Your mouth and fulfilled it with Your hand, as it is this day.

1 Kings 8:25 Therefore, Lord God of Israel, now keep what You promised Your servant David my father, saying, ‘You shall not fail to have a man sit before Me on the throne of Israel, only if your sons take heed to their way, that they walk before Me as you have walked before Me.’

1 Kings 8:26 And now I pray, O God of Israel, let Your word come true, which You have spoken to Your servant David my father.

1 Kings 8:27 “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built!

1 Kings 8:28 Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O Lord my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You today:

1 Kings 8:29 that Your eyes may be open toward this temple night and day, toward the place of which You said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place.

1 Kings 8:30 And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.

The Acts 7:44 “Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He appointed, instructing Moses to make it according to the pattern that he had seen,

The Acts 7:45 which our fathers, having received it in turn, also brought with Joshua into the land possessed by the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers until the days of David,

The Acts 7:46 who found favor before God and asked to find a dwelling for the God of Jacob.

The Acts 7:47 But Solomon built Him a house.

The Acts 7:48 “However, the Most High does not dwell in temples made with hands, as the prophet says:

The Acts 7:49 ‘Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
What house will you build for Me? says the Lord,
Or what is the place of My rest?

The Acts 7:50 Has My hand not made all these things?’

Gradually, God moved from having his presence dwell in physical temples to having humans as his dwelling place. He started by dwelling in his fullness in Christ, who was Emmanuel (God with us) on earth. Christ was the full embodiment of God and the perfect Temple of God. He was the perfect dwelling place of God. While the people kept adoring and magnifying the magnificent Temple Herod built for the Jews at the time of Christ, God had moved from Herod’s Temple to the perfect One! When the disciples drew the Lord’s attention to the magnificence of Herod’s Temple, the Lord could only see one thing in that Temple- its imminent destruction! While others looked and saw a magnificent structure that housed God, Christ saw a shifting shadow that had fulfilled its purpose and should now give way to the real Temple! The substance was here now, and the shadow had become irrelevant! How ironic that while the true Temple of God was ignored, insulted and blasphemed by the religious people, the shadow was venerated and deified! How typical of humans, to be more concerned about shadows while ignoring the substance!

Matthew 1:18 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.

Matthew 1:19 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 1:20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew 1:21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

John 2:18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:20 Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”

John 2:21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

Colossians 2:6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

Colossians 2:7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

Colossians 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

Colossians 2:10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

Mark 13:1 Then as He went out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”

Mark 13:2 And Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down.”

From Christ as the Temple of God, God moved further to dwell on the inside of believers in Christ who have been saved and sanctified by his redeeming blood. God has now made every believer in Christ his dwelling place through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Thus, God’s ultimate purpose to dwell among men has been fulfilled- not in houses made by men’s hands, but in the very hearts of men! Now, wherever two or three of God’s people are gathered in his name, he’s there in their midst! It doesn’t matter where the gathering takes place. It could be in a cave, a desert, in the forest, in the open or in an uncompleted building. As long as two or more Spirit-filled believers gather together in those places, God is there in their midst, because each of them is a carrier of the divine presence! Each is a temple of the living God!

1 Corinthians 3:16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

1 Corinthians 3:17 If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.

1 Corinthians 6:15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not!

1 Corinthians 6:16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For “the two,” He says, “shall become one flesh.”

1 Corinthians 6:17 But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.

1 Corinthians 6:18 Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.

1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?

1 Corinthians 6:20 For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.

Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the temple of God having moved from physical buildings to the hearts of men, a lot of churches today still lay emphasis on physical buildings as the temple of God. We see churches spending exhorbitant amounts of money to raise and decorate mighty cathedrals which they celebrate as God’s dwelling place! We see churches competing to outperform one another in building the biggest, the most expensive and the most lavishly decorated “temples” for God, all the while ignoring and paying little attention to the welfare and the wellbeing of the men and women (the true temple of God) who worship in these mighty edifices. The garnishing and decoration of these cathedrals are put above the needs of the congregants who must deny themselves even their basic needs in order to build a befitting “tabernacle” or “dwelling place” for God. And so, unwittingly, we’ve returned back to the Old Testament where the physical building has more significance and glory than the worshippers!

In failing to realise that the neglected men and women who worship in the buildings that are held in such esteem are the true temples of God, we neglect the temple of God while glorifying empty buildings! By not recognising every believer as the true temple of God, we dishonour God and his temple! We trample upon the true temples of God and ignore their needs, while we ignorantly spend time and waste resources to decorate buildings that God does not dwell in and has no delight in. If only we can realise that whatever building we gather in to worship is just for our comfort and has nothing to do with God’s glory! If only we can understand that God doesn’t give a damn about our places of worship! If only our eyes can be opened to the fact that God’s concern is with the state of our souls, his true temple, and not the magnificence of our buildings which we erroneously call his house! God doesn’t care a hoot about where we gather to worship, but he cares a lot about the state of our souls and how we care for one another, for we all (as believers in Christ) make up his true temple. How will God feel that we neglect his temples to waste resources and care on buildings that will ultimately decay, collapse or be destroyed? Isn’t it foolishness to place more value on ephemeral and temporal things to the detriment of eternal things? Think it about this!

2 Corinthians 6:16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said:
“I will dwell in them
And walk among them.
I will be their God,
And they shall be My people.”

Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

Ephesians 2:19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,

Ephesians 2:20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,

Ephesians 2:21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,

Ephesians 2:22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

1 Peter 2:4 Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious,

1 Peter 2:5 you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

In conclusion, the temple of God has moved from physical buildings constructed according to divine instructions, to the hearts of converted and sanctified believers in Christ Jesus. Thus, God’s emphasis has shifted from magnificent buildings men erect in his honour, to Spirit-filled men and women in whom he dwells by his Spirit. In response, people of God too should move from adoring and deifying cathedrals and buildings (which are actually sanctified by the presence of Spirit-filled men and women who bring God’s presence into these buildings). Emphasis should shift accordingly from building befitting cathedrals for God, to building up men and women into a holy habitation for God’s dwelling. Whatever building we gather in to worship now has nothing to do with God’s glory, for we are the glory of God as believers in Christ. The buildings are just for our comfort and nothing else. God dwells in us now and no longer in buildings made with human hands! Let us then stop venerating empty buildings and making them more important than the Spirit-filled temples that gather in those buildings!

Revelation 21:3 Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:
Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God (HCSB).

God bless you, and thanks for visiting the blog!

Faith Is Not A Denial Of Reality, But Reliance On God’s Omnipotence To Upend Negative Reality.

Oftentimes, we see Christians living in denial as they struggle to display “faith” in God in the midst of adversity and calamity. These believers have been taught to deny reality and confess “positively” always, as a demonstration of faith in God. The mere acknowledgement of their situation is deemed a lack of faith. Thus, when such people are sick and you ask them how they’re feeling, they tell you they’re fine or they’re “strong”, even when they’re terribly down and need urgent help! When they’re broke, they tell you they’re “rich”, even while coming to borrow money from you! They deny and refuse to accept medical diagnoses as not being their “portion”, and most of them refuse the treatments offered thereafter, while clinging to their “faith”. Is faith a denial of reality? Does the acknowledgement of a difficult and challenging situation amount to a lack of faith? Can faith coexist with the acknowledgement of reality? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.

Scripture teaches us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. It is believing God’s report and his promises of supernatural intervention and victory for those that trust in him. Biblical faith is having full confidence in God’s word and in his ability to make good his promises. When a believer is confronted with a problem that’s beyond his natural abilities to resolve, he has the promise of God to expect divine help in time of need. Taking God at his word in expecting supernatural help in the midst of trouble is called faith.

Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

Hebrews 11:32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

Hebrews 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,

Hebrews 11:34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens (NKJV).

The starting point for faith is the acceptance of one’s inability to deal with the reality of the challenges one is confronted with. Faith begins where situations and circumstances overwhelm our natural abilities. For faith to be called into action, the challenge must be acknowledged as something that’s beyond one’s natural abilities to handle. Faith is therefore not a denial of the problem at hand, but its acknowledgement as being beyond our capability and thus needing supernatural intervention. A few biblical examples of faith at work will buttress this point.

King Hezekiah of Judah was a man who feared God and walked in his ways closely, following in the footsteps of his ancestor King David. One day, he was threatened by invasion from the powerful Assyrians who had subdued all the surrounding kingdoms and now had Judah in their sight. The King of Assyria sent a warning letter to Hezekiah to surrender peacefully and not allow himself and his kingdom to be invaded, for the consequences would be grave. Hezekiah immediately recognised the magnitude of the danger at hand. Truly, the Assyrians had a formidable army, and soldier-for-soldier, Israel could not stand the might of Assyria. Hezekiah did not deny the problem at hand, but honestly acknowledged it. He rightfully assessed the magnitude of the problem as being beyond the ability of his military to cope with. This realisation triggered and activated his faith and led him to cry unto God for help. In his frank and honest heart-to-heart discussion with God, Hezekiah revealed the magnitude of the problem at hand, acknowledged the might of the enemy, but also recognised heaven’s omnipotence as being far and above the enemy’s power, if God would undertake for him. By recognising the problem and God’s power to resolve it in his favour, Hezekiah showed how true faith works! Faith is linking God and our problems and getting out of the way for God to work on our behalf and grant us the promised victory!

2 Kings 19:14 And Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord, and spread it before the Lord.

2 Kings 19:15 Then Hezekiah prayed before the Lord, and said: “O Lord God of Israel, the One who dwells between the cherubim, You are God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth.

2 Kings 19:16 Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to reproach the living God.

2 Kings 19:17 Truly, Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their lands,

2 Kings 19:18 and have cast their gods into the fire; for they were not gods, but the work of men’s hands—wood and stone. Therefore they destroyed them.

2 Kings 19:19 Now therefore, O Lord our God, I pray, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.”

2 Kings 19:20 Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘Because you have prayed to Me against Sennacherib king of Assyria, I have heard.’

2 Kings 19:21 This is the word which the Lord has spoken concerning him:
‘The virgin, the daughter of Zion,
Has despised you, laughed you to scorn;
The daughter of Jerusalem
Has shaken her head behind your back!

2 Kings 19:22 ‘Whom have you reproached and blasphemed?
Against whom have you raised your voice,
And lifted up your eyes on high?
Against the Holy One of Israel.

2 Kings 19:23 By your messengers you have reproached the Lord,
And said: “By the multitude of my chariots
I have come up to the height of the mountains,
To the limits of Lebanon;
I will cut down its tall cedars
And its choice cypress trees;
I will enter the extremity of its borders,
To its fruitful forest.

2 Kings 19:24 I have dug and drunk strange water,
And with the soles of my feet I have dried up
All the brooks of defense.”

2 Kings 19:25 ‘Did you not hear long ago
How I made it,
From ancient times that I formed it?
Now I have brought it to pass,
That you should be
For crushing fortified cities into heaps of ruins.

2 Kings 19:26 Therefore their inhabitants had little power;
They were dismayed and confounded;
They were as the grass of the field
And the green herb,
As the grass on the housetops
And grain blighted before it is grown.

2 Kings 19:27 ‘But I know your dwelling place,
Your going out and your coming in,
And your rage against Me.

2 Kings 19:28 Because your rage against Me and your tumult
Have come up to My ears,
Therefore I will put My hook in your nose
And My bridle in your lips,
And I will turn you back
By the way which you came.

2 Kings 19:32 “Therefore thus says the Lord concerning the king of Assyria:
‘He shall not come into this city,
Nor shoot an arrow there,
Nor come before it with shield,
Nor build a siege mound against it.

2 Kings 19:33 By the way that he came,
By the same shall he return;
And he shall not come into this city,’
Says the Lord.

2 Kings 19:34 ‘For I will defend this city, to save it
For My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”

2 Kings 19:35 And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out, and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand; and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.

2 Kings 19:36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went away, returned home, and remained at Nineveh.

2 Kings 19:37 Now it came to pass, as he was worshiping in the temple of Nisroch his god, that his sons Adrammelech and Sharezer struck him down with the sword; and they escaped into the land of Ararat. Then Esarhaddon his son reigned in his place (NKJV).

Paul, the Apostle of faith, had a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan sent to torment him. He didn’t deny the existence of this thorn in his flesh. He didn’t deny the pain and torment he felt. Rather, Paul acknowledged the presence of his distressing situation and cried out for divine help. In the process, God made Paul realise that his grace rests upon us only as we acknowledge our weaknesses, not as we deny our problems or their existence. The Apostle Paul thereafter resolved to always boast about his weaknesses, so that the power of God would rest upon him always!

2 Corinthians 12:2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know —God knows.

2 Corinthians 12:3 And I know that this man —whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows —

2 Corinthians 12:4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

2 Corinthians 12:5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses.

2 Corinthians 12:6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say,

2 Corinthians 12:7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.

2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

2 Corinthians 12:10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (NIV).

When one is sick or has suffered a misfortune, faith is not denying the existence of the sickness or the misfortune. That is denialism, not faith! True faith is acknowledging the problem and then going beyond that to cry for God’s promised intervention! Each time the prayer of a saint reaches God, he asks what we’d have him do on our behalf. Blind Bartimeus acknowledged his blindness and wanted his sight back. Hannah recognised her barrenness and asked God for a son. David, in the multitude of his psalms, recognised the powerful forces of the enemies arraigned against him (Saul, Absalom, etc), and cried to God for deliverance. God heard and delivered him out of all his troubles.

Psalms 34:4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.

Psalms 34:19 Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all. (NKJV).

There was a time Jesus healed a man who was blind. After touching the eyes of the blind man, the Lord asked him to describe how he could now see things. He responded by saying he could see people walking as trees! That was a sincere declaration because that was how he could see things! Jesus knew the man’s healing wasn’t perfect yet, and had to touch his eyes a second time, leading to a perfect restoration of his sight. By admitting to Jesus what he could actually see (his reality) rather than what he was expected to see, the imperfectly healed blind man had an opportunity for a second and perfect healing! Imagine if he had denied reality by telling Jesus he could see perfectly after the first touch! He probably would have gone on in his “faith” seeing men as trees! But, by acknowledging his reality and confessing how things were with him, this man got perfect healing!

St. Mark 8:22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.

St. Mark 8:23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

St. Mark 8:24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

St. Mark 8:25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly (NIV).

Child of God, don’t let anyone make you look faithless for acknowledging your reality. If you have been prayed for over an illness and you don’t feel better, don’t try to please anyone by falsely saying you’re better. That’s not a declaration of faith but a denial of reality. God does not expect us to confess the opposite of what’s happening to us just to please him or anyone. Our demonstration of faith is in taking our problems to God in prayers, and in presenting ourselves before God’s anointed servants for deliverance, healing, etc. That we come before God or his anointed servants believing he’s able to make us whole is our display of faith. We have played our part. When God heals us, we’re supposed to mend and get well, and when we’re well, we’ll feel well!

When a demon-possessed person was brought to the Apostles of Christ and was neither delivered nor healed, Jesus didn’t blame the sick person for lacking faith. He didn’t expect the sick person to go away confessing he was healed when he wasn’t. That would be denying reality. Instead, the Lord blamed the Apostles for their lack of faith in not healing the boy! If the Apostles had the power and faith to heal the boy, the boy should have been healed, having had enough faith to present himself before servants of God for healing! Don’t die in silence confessing you’re well when you’re not! If you were healed you would become well and you would feel well! There’s no one in the Bible that was healed miraculously that didn’t become well immediately thereafter! God’s healing power is real! He doesn’t need us faking we’ve been healed when we’re not! It’s bearing false witness to God’s omnipotence to claim healing and wellness when your body is still riddled with disease and its evidence! True divine healing shows, and is evident for all to see! It doesn’t need to be assisted by false declaration of wellness in positive confessions when healing has not taken place!

Matthew 17:14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying,

Matthew 17:15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water.

Matthew 17:16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.”

Matthew 17:17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.”

Matthew 17:18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour.

Matthew 17:19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”

Matthew 17:20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.

Matthew 17:21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (NKJV).

In summary, faith is trusting God to intervene in our circumstances for good. It is having confidence that God is able and willing to do unto us as he has promised. Our act of faith is to present ourselves and our problems before God, and beseech him unceasingly to intervene. When God does intervene (either directly or through his anointed servants), our situations will definitely change! However, we should not confess we’re well when we’re not yet well. We should not deny our reality before our change comes. It’s okay to tell God exactly how we feel. We confess our reality before God, not our expectations. Faith holds unto God until change comes. Like blind Bartimeus, our cry for help should be louder and louder until Jesus stops and asks what we would have him do. Don’t therefore let anyone tell you to confess you’re well when you’re not. When God heals you and you’re well, you will be well indeed and won’t need to make false declarations of wellness! Making false declarations of wellness when you’re not well is fake, not faith! Don’t bear false witness against God’s omnipotence by claiming what he hasn’t done yet. Keep believing and keep trusting until he does it. Only then can the weak truly say he’s strong! Faith is not delusional; it is evidencial and substantial!

James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (AKJV).

You Don’t Need To “Tap Into” Or Be Envious Of Another Man’s Grace: Every Believer Has Got His Own Grace!

(All Bible quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).

We frequently hear of believers struggling to “tap” from the grace of successful ministers or other believers. In many Christian circles, people are encouraged to sow “financial seeds” into the lives and ministries of men of God, in order to “key into” or “tap into” their grace. Is grace transferable? Can a man impart his own grace to another, outside of the divine will? And most importantly, do we really need to covet another man’s grace in order to be successful Christians? We shall attempt to answer these questions through a close examination of the Scriptures.

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Romans 12:4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function,

Romans 12:5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

Romans 12:7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach;

Romans 12:8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

The Apostle Paul made it abundantly clear, from the Scriptures above, that every member of the body of Christ is graced. Every believer has one spiritual gift or the other given to them by the grace of God, in order to bless the entire body of Christ and the whole of humanity. I wish we can all understand this important truth! Yes, everyone of us in the body of Christ, including the “least brethren”, has received grace from God to function in a unique way in the body of Christ! We all have unique talents, gifts and abilities that God has deposited inside all of us, for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ and blessing humanity! Grace is not an exclusive preserve of ministers of the gospel! The grace of God is upon every child of God! We may not have the same grace and the same gifts and talents, but we all have our own Christ-apportioned gifts! We’re not just called to sit and admire and applaud the grace of gifted ministers! All of us have unique graces with which to bless one another!! This knowledge should destroy envy, jealousy and pride among believers instantly! Why should I be envious and jealous of your grace when I have mine? Why should anyone be proud and haughty concerning the grace he carries when everyone else carries grace too? Hallelujah! Yes, God has given to every child of God some measure of faith and grace, and that should make everyone content, humble and grateful!

Ephesians 4:1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;

Ephesians 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

Ephesians 4:6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Ephesians 4:8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”

So, we all have grace and gifts of grace. We all have ministries. We are all ministers. Thus, the idea of thinking that only the ordained clergy are graced and gifted ministers is fundamentally wrong! The idea that other believers are just to sit back in the pew to receive from graced ministers during fellowship is not biblically right. When the church gathers together for fellowship, each member is to use his gift and grace to bless others. Blessing is not supposed to be a one-way traffic, from the pulpit to the pew! The pew is to bless the pulpit as much as the pulpit blesses the pew! The pastor too is to be edified by the members as much as the members are edified by the pastor! If pastors come to fellowship with the mindset that they’re to empty and release their grace upon their people and go back home depleted of virtues, then they’ve missed the mark! Pastors are to receive as much virtues from the people as they release upon the people. Every member of the congregation has the grace and the gift to bless and replenish the pastor while in service! The Church is supposed to be a closely-knit body where every member nourishes and sustains and builds up one another!

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.

1 Corinthians 12:5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

1 Corinthians 12:6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.

1 Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body —whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free —and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

1 Corinthians 12:14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 14:26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

I want to make a categorical statement here which might offend some people, but it’s the gospel truth: no man can give or transfer his gift or grace to another! Because no man gifted himself or is the source of his own gifts and grace, no man can transfer spiritual gifts to another man! All spiritual gifts come from God, and God distributes those gifts to his people according to his will and desire. It’s not by our coveting of gifts that we possess them. It’s not by lusting after gifts that we receive the grace for them. We cannot project our gifts onto others, even though we can bless others with our gifts. It’s only God’s prerogative to give or transfer a gift. The bearer of the gift does not control the gift. So, to fawn and appeal to a man of God in order to “tap” from his gift is scriptural ignorance. To sow “financial seeds” into a man’s life in order to have his grace transferred to us is folly and satanic delusion! You can’t buy the gift of God with money!

James 1:17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

1 Corinthians 12:14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

1 Corinthians 12:15 Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

1 Corinthians 12:16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

1 Corinthians 12:18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Numbers 27:15 Moses said to the LORD,

Numbers 27:16 “May the LORD, the God who gives breath to all living things, appoint someone over this community

Numbers 27:17 to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD’s people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.”

Numbers 27:18 So the LORD said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.

Numbers 27:19 Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence.

Numbers 27:20 Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.

Numbers 27:21 He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

Numbers 27:22 Moses did as the LORD commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole assembly.

Numbers 27:23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the LORD instructed through Moses.

The Acts 8:14 When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria.

The Acts 8:15 When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit,

The Acts 8:16 because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.

The Acts 8:17 Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.

The Acts 8:18 When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money

The Acts 8:19 and said, “Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.”

The Acts 8:20 Peter answered: “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!

The Acts 8:21 You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.

The Acts 8:22 Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord in the hope that he may forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.

The Acts 8:23 For I see that you are full of bitterness and captive to sin.”

Someone might argue and say, “what of Elisha? Didn’t he covet a double portion of Elijah’s spirit and anointing, and didn’t Elijah transfer same to him?”. At first glance that would appear to be correct, for Elisha asked and received a double portion of Elijah’s prophetic spirit. However, on deeper exposition of the Scriptures, we’ll discover that Elijah’s transfer of prophetic anointing to Elisha was simply in obedience to divine directives. God had already commanded Elijah, some moment before, to appoint Elisha as prophet in his stead, when his ministry was about to come to an end. It was a clear will of God for Elisha to become the voice and mouthpiece of God after Elijah. So, Elisha asking for the spirit and power that was upon Elijah to come upon himself was simply asking for the will of God to be done! Elijah wasn’t transferring the anointing or grace on his own impulse; he was simply obeying a divine injunction!

1 Kings 19:13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:14 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”

1 Kings 19:15 The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.

1 Kings 19:16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.

1 Kings 19:17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.

1 Kings 19:18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel —all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.”

1 Kings 19:19 So Elijah went from there and found Elisha son of Shaphat. He was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, and he himself was driving the twelfth pair. Elijah went up to him and threw his cloak around him.

1 Kings 19:20 Elisha then left his oxen and ran after Elijah. “Let me kiss my father and mother goodbye,” he said, “and then I will come with you.” “Go back,” Elijah replied. “What have I done to you?”

1 Kings 19:21 So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and became his servant.

In conclusion, the grace of God is upon every believer in Christ, manifesting as unique gifts of the Spirit for ministry. It’s therefore absurd for believers to be envying and coveting one another’s gifts and graces, seeing we all have been dealt some measure of grace and faith by our gracious heavenly Father. Also, we’ve seen from Scriptures that all graces and gifts come from God, and cannot be transferred without divine authority. We also learnt that we cannot purchase the gift or the grace of God with money. It’s therefore unbiblical to induce people to sow financial seeds into a ministry in order to “tap” grace. That’s simply making merchandise of the gift of God, and it’s fraudulent! Rather than being envious and jealous of other people’s gifts, we should give all diligence to discover and cultivate our own gifts and graces, so that we too can minister to and bless other members of the body of Christ as well as the rest of humanity.

On this last day of the year 2020, I want to thank God specially, for the success of this blog, as well as appreciate all the followers and visitors to the blog. Your viewership made the difference! It’s been a difficult year, but here we are, just hours away from 2021! May God keep and bless us all and make year 2021 more glorious for us than the outgoing year. Happy new year to all the followers and visitors to the blog! See you all in 2021!

Grace Alone Is Not Sufficient For Success: You Can Have Grace And Still Be A Failure!

(All Bible quotations, unless otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).

Oftentimes, we hear people describe those who’ve excelled in ministry (or in life generally) as highly graced and gifted people. The conclusion usually is that, a man or a woman succeeds in whatever endeavour they’re into because they’re highly favoured by God, with a special gift, talent or ability. Most people reckon that geniuses are born, with little or no human effort needed in their success. Grace is thus judged to be the sole determinant of success: a person succeeds and excels because he has grace. Conversely, one fails because one lacks grace. Is grace alone a sufficient criterion for success? Can one be graced and fail to succeed? In this article, we shall examine the role of grace in success generally, but especially in ministry.

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Paul acknowledged here that he achieved whatever he did in ministry by the grace of God. He admitted that he became the great apostle that he was by divine favour. In other words, without the grace of God upon his life, evidenced by his apostolic calling and the abundance of the gifts of the Spirit, Paul wouldn’t have accomplished what he did for the Lord in being the chief of the apostles. God’s grace is represented by the totality of the power of God available for a man to access and use in the service of God. The level of the power and gifts of the Spirit available differs from person to person, and is determined by God. Thus, grace differs from one person to another. God distributes to every man some measure of grace according to the work we have to do, and according to our ability.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Ephesians 4:8 This is why it says: “When he ascended on high, he took many captives and gave gifts to his people.”

Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit,

1 Corinthians 12:10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Matthew 25:14 For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.

Matthew 25:15 To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away (ESV).

Is it possible to have grace in abundance and not excel? Is it possible to be highly favoured by God and still fail to accomplish one’s mission or fulfil one’s destiny? The answer is a resounding yes! Grace and the gifts of grace are just divine potentials and capabilities. They’re like latent energy that must be harnessed and utilised to accomplish a task. Grace requires discipline and hardwork to excel. To cultivate the gifts of grace requires patience, discipline and diligence. Yes, Paul had great grace, but he made us realise that he disciplined himself intensely, denied himself a lot of privileges, fasted often, prayed without ceasing, and worked tirelessly not to make the grace of the God in his life be in vain. An athlete may be massively talented (graced) but he needs to discipline himself to train for long hours, to eat the right kinds of food, to avoid ingestion of things that could affect his fitness, and to deny himself so many pleasures, all in a bid to be the best and to win the ultimate prize. Grace is nothing without discipline and hard-work! Grace can be frustrated and made useless and ineffective!

1 Corinthians 9:24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Corinthians 9:25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.

1 Corinthians 9:26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air.

1 Corinthians 9:27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

1 Corinthians 15:9 For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them —yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

2 Corinthians 11:22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they Abraham’s descendants? So am I.

2 Corinthians 11:23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.

2 Corinthians 11:24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.

2 Corinthians 11:25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,

2 Corinthians 11:26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers.

2 Corinthians 11:27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

2 Corinthians 11:28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain (AKJV).

Let’s now consider an example of a man in Scriptures who was highly graced but fell way short of God’s glory and had his destiny aborted. That man was Samson, Israel’s supernaturally gifted but wayward judge. Samson was a uniquely graced and gifted person, the like of which the world has never known. The gift of supernatural strength that came upon him with the anointing of the Holy Spirit turned him literally into a one-man army! Imagine if Samson had been the kind of Nazarite that Samuel or John the Baptist was- sanctified and wholly consecrated to God. Imagine if he had separated himself to serve God the way the other two Nazirites mentioned above did. He alone was capable of exterminating the entire Philistines! He would have been the greatest warrior that ever lived among men! But, we all know what indicipline, lack of temperance and an unbridled romance with sin did to Samson’s grace. He grieved the Spirit of God continuously with his irreverent lifestyle, and the Spirit ended up departing from him. Samson ended up disgraced, humiliated and terminated prematurely by the enemy he was raised up to destroy! The great grace upon him did not attain its full potential! Though highly graced, Samson ended up in disgrace because he lacked the discipline and diligence to make the grace of God in his life count. In the end, he frustrated the grace of God! He failed God and his destiny. He was destined to destroy the Philistines, but the lusts of the flesh and of the eyes conspired to make him an object of ridicule and a piteous prisoner in the camp of the enemy! He had no temperance and no discipline to cultivate his gift and consecrate himself to his life’s calling. He couldn’t bring his body and his lusts under control. In the end, his unbridled lusts brought him down, at the prime of his life and grace. Samson was a case of extraordinary grace with no consecration, no preparation and no discipline. Such grace will end in failure, disgrace and disappointment.

Judges 13:2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth.

Judges 13:3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son.

Judges 13:4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean.

Judges 13:5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Judges 14:5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him.

Judges 14:6 The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.

Judges 15:14 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands.

Judges 15:15 Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.

Judges 15:16 Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”

Judges 15:17 When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi.

Judges 16:1 One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her.

Judges 16:2 The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

Judges 16:3 But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

Judges 16:18 When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands.

Judges 16:19 After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.

Judges 16:20 Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Judges 16:21 Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison.

Judges 16:22 But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.

Judges 16:23 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”

Judges 16:24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”

Judges 16:25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars,

Judges 16:26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”

Judges 16:27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.

Judges 16:28 Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “Sovereign LORD, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”

Judges 16:29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,

Judges 16:30 Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.

Judges 16:31 Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years.

Success in ministry (and in life generally) is not just dependent on the grace and talents one has. Diligence in cultivating and developing one’s talents is equally as important, if not more important than mere possession of a gift or a talent. Unrefined and unprocessed gifts and talents will not take one far. The best an uncultivated talent or grace will achieve is a mediocre life. However, when a gift is diligently cultivated, it will bring the owner before kings and prominent people; it will advertise its owner and bring fame and fortune. And when diligence is coupled to seeking God and pleasing him at all times, grace and gifts will be multiplied and the result will be good success. Every grace is received from God, and every grace relies on God for success. Detached from God, the best grace will be but dim and lackluster.

Proverbs 22:29 See you a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men (AKJV).

Deuteronomy 28:1 If you fully obey the LORD your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.

Deuteronomy 28:2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the LORD your God:

Deuteronomy 28:3 You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country.

Deuteronomy 28:13 The LORD will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the LORD your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.

Joshua 1:7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go.

Joshua 1:8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Psalms 1:1 Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,

Psalms 1:2 but whose delight is in the law of the LORD, and who meditates on his law day and night.

Psalms 1:3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither — whatever they do prospers.

In conclusion, the grace of God can be sufficient only when men make good use of it. For grace to be sufficient for us, we must take due diligence to cultivate and develop the gifts of grace given to us. We must have the discipline to separate and consecrate ourselves to God and dedicate ourselves to our lifetask. Grace and talent can be frittered away and wasted. Divorced from God and hard-work, the best of graces will just be a shadow of their potentials, and will fall way short of God’s expectations. Samson was the perfect example in Scripture of uncommon grace made common and vulgar by lack of consecration, discipline and diligence. Such grace will end in disgrace, and will be overtaken by less gifted, but more consecrated and diligent men. May God help us not to frustrate his grace in our lives. And may he give us the wisdom and diligence to cultivate and develop every talent in us, for the common good. Amen.

The Essence Of Christmas: Joy, Peace And Goodwill To All Men!

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New King James Version).

Mainstream Christianity has adopted the 25th of December every year to commemorate the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Although no one knows for sure when the Saviour was born, the fact that the Son of God was immaculately conceived by the Virgin Mary (through the power of the Holy Spirit) and was born some 2000 years ago in Bethlehem is worth celebrating, whatever the day we choose to do that. The birth of the Lord Jesus, in his human incarnation, was announced by angels with great fanfare, and was prophesied to bring joy, peace and goodwill to all men. The commemoration of that day should reflect the message of the angels who announced the Messiah’s birth.

Luke 2:8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

Luke 2:9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

Luke 2:10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.

Luke 2:11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

Luke 2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Luke 2:15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

Luke 2:16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.

Luke 2:17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.

Luke 2:18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

Luke 2:19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Luke 2:20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

The birth of the Saviour is such good news that it should bring joy to all mankind, for without a saviour, all men would end in hell, as all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory, and all deserve to perish, for the wages of sin is death. Thus, the news of the birth of the Saviour, who alone could rescue mankind from hell, should bring joy to all mankind. Joy that we now have a worthy and able kinsman redeemer. Joy that God loves us so much that he had to send his only begotten Son to take our place in death and give his life to us. Joy that there is hope of escaping death and receiving eternal life. The birth of the Saviour should bring joy to all men, because he came to bring salvation to all men. Only Jesus gives joy that’s inexpressible and full of glory!

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

1 Peter 1:4 to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you,

1 Peter 1:5 who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials,

1 Peter 1:7 that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,

1 Peter 1:8 whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,

1 Peter 1:9 receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls.

The birth of the Messiah was to also bring peace to all men who would accept God’s gift of grace in Christ Jesus. These are those who will believe and receive the Messiah as Lord and Saviour. To those believers in the Messiah, peace beyond what the world can give is promised and guaranteed. First, he makes peace between us and God, as the mediator between God and men, following his atoning sacrifice on Calvary. Apart from brokering peace between God and humanity, Jesus gives inner peace to his people. The peace that the Messiah gives is the type that calms the troubled heart and removes all fear and anxiety. It is the peace that comes from knowing that God has your back. And not just your back, he’s got the whole of you in his hands! No wonder he’s called the Prince of Peace, for he calms the storms of life and and brings refreshing healing and wholeness to every broken heart that turns to him.

Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Ephesians 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Ephesians 2:14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,

Ephesians 2:15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,

Ephesians 2:16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Ephesians 2:17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.

Ephesians 2:18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

Mark 4:35 On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

Mark 4:36 Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.

Mark 4:37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.

Mark 4:38 But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Mark 4:39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

Mark 4:40 But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”

Mark 4:41 And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Philippians 4:6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

After announcing the Messiah’s birth to the shepherds, the multitude of angels began to praise and glorify God for this wonderful event! Let’s ponder on this for a moment. Angels are not beneficiaries of this salvation that Christ brings to mankind. There was no room for redemption for the angels that fell and left their first estate; they’re reserved in everlasting chains in hell for the judgment of the great day. Angels cannot sing the song of salvation (Amazing Grace), because those that sinned among them cannot be redeemed, and the ones who remained sinless cannot understand what redemption means. Yet, even though they’re not beneficiaries of God’s salvation that would come through the Messiah that had just been born, they erupted in glorious praise and celebration, on behalf of mankind! Now, how should humanity, the beneficiaries of this great salvation, respond? We should shout ourselves hoarse while praising God! We should be eternally grateful! We should continually and ceaselessly offer the fruits of our lips, from sanctified and grateful hearts, as our eternal sacrifice to God. And, we should not just honour him with our lips, but our hearts and lives should be consecrated to him also, as we serve and worship him all the days of our life, and for all eternity. That’s what’s expected of us, especially those who are already heirs of this salvation that angels desire so much to understand.

1 Peter 1:10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you,

1 Peter 1:11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

1 Peter 1:12 To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

Jude 1:6 And the angels who did not keep their proper domain, but left their own abode, He has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness for the judgment of the great day;

Revelation 5:6 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.

Revelation 5:7 Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne.

Revelation 5:8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

Revelation 5:9 And they sang a new song, saying:
“You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

Revelation 5:10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands,

Revelation 5:12 saying with a loud voice:
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain
To receive power and riches and wisdom,
And strength and honor and glory and blessing!”

Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying:

“Blessing and honor and glory and power
Be to Him who sits on the throne,
And to the Lamb, forever and ever!”

Revelation 5:14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.

Hebrews 13:15 Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

Hebrews 13:16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Finally, let’s all do what the shepherds did after confirming the message of the angels. When they had gone and seen the child Jesus as foretold by the angels, the shepherds didn’t keep the good news to themselves: “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child”(Luke 2:17). That’s what all of us who’ve encountered the Messiah should do- spread the word concerning him. Go into the world and preach the good news to every creature. Now that we’ve been saved and have been reconciled back to God, we’ve been commissioned as ambassadors of Christ to help reconcile others to God. We can’t keep still with this good news which alone can set men free and keep them from hell. To keep from telling lost sinners the good news is to be an accomplice in their journey to hell. Their blood will be on our hands if our neighbours should die in their sins without hearing the good news from us. That’s what the Scripture says.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

2 Corinthians 5:18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.

Ezekiel 3:17 “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:

Ezekiel 3:18 When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Ezekiel 3:19 Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

Ezekiel 3:20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand.

Ezekiel 3:21 Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.”

In conclusion, the commemoration of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ as celebrated on Christmas day is a wonderful opportunity to remind ourselves of the message of peace, joy and goodwill to all mankind brought by the angels who heralded his birth. Our words and our actions this season should reflect this angelic message. We should also be grateful for the coming of the Lord to pay for our sins and reconcile us back to God. Our hearts and our mouths should be continually filled with God’s praise as a sign of gratitude for a salvation that cost us nothing, but that required the life of the only begotten Son of God. Finally, the recipients of the salvation procured by the the Messiah should become heralds of this message of good news, and should make sure that every man and every woman hears of the salvation available in Christ, and have the opportunity to benefit from the joy, peace and goodwill God has shown to all men by giving us his only begotten Son. That’s the only way to make Christmas meaningful, for that is the essence of Christmas!

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Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? Examining The Scriptures For Precedence In The Celebration Of Extra-Biblical Festivals

(All Bible quotations, expect otherwise stated, are from the New International Version)

Much has been written about the pagan origin of Christmas and the need to jettison the celebration of this festival among Christians. This article does not intend to rehash the history of Christmas, which can be accessed from many sites on the internet. It’s not in dispute that our Lord Jesus Christ couldn’t have been born on the 25th of December, as the snowy winter in Palestine at this time of the year couldn’t have permitted shepherds to be out in the field watching their flocks by night. In fact, no date set for the birth of our Lord can be accurate, for the simple reason that it wasn’t recorded in the Scriptures. So, any attempt at date-setting for the Lord’s birthday is speculative at best, and doesn’t really matter, because we don’t need to know the exact date he was born! The most important thing is that, the incarnation took place, as well as the nativity, to give humanity the Saviour!

The feast that was celebrated in ancient Rome on the 25th of December, before Emperor Constantine made Christianity the state religion, was in honour Mithras, the pagan sun god. There’s no doubt about that. The Church, in a bid to woo pagans to Christianity and still give them something to celebrate on that day, converted the day into the celebration of the birth of Christ. The question is, is it permissible to introduce a festival into the Church, outside of the biblically mandated ones, that honours and celebrates God or a godly cause? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer this question.

In the Mosaic Law, certain annual festivals were given to Israel as obligatory religious feasts to be observed at set times of the year. The Law mandated the Jews to observe six major festivals, all of which have unique significance in relation to Israel’s history as a nation, as well as her journey from slavery in Egypt to the promised Land of Canaan. These feasts were more or less memorials to remember God’s dealings with the nation, as well as her past. They were to serve also as the basis of history lessons to the coming generations who could learn the nation’s history from these festivals. The major feasts of Jehovah for Israel included the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the Feast of First Fruits, the Feast of Pentecost, the Feast of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. These were the perpetual feasts of the Lord which Israel was to celebrate throughout their generations. The details of these feasts, including when and how they’re to be celebrated, can be found in Leviticus 23:1-44.

However, another feast was added to the six feasts listed above, towards the end of the Babylonian captivity. During the reign of the Persian King Xerxes, the Jews in captivity were threatened with extinction by the evil Amalekite, Haman. When the plot failed and the Jews destroyed their enemies instead, the widespread celebration of the glorious deliverance God granted the Jews was declared a national festival to be celebrated annually, by Mordecai and Queen Esther. This was the origin of the feast of Purim, during which the Jews celebrate their victory and deliverance from their enemies with great joy and exchange of gifts. It became an addition to Israel’s annual festivals, and continues to be celebrated to this day. The feast of Purim wasn’t among those God gave to Moses for the Jews, but it was recognised and honoured by all subsequent generations because of the symbolic significance for the nation. The account concerning the inception of the feast of Purim can be found in the 9th chapter of the book of Esther. However, I’ll quote the last few verses of that chapter here for consideration.

Esther 9:20 Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far,

Esther 9:21 to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar

Esther 9:22 as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.

Esther 9:23 So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them.

Esther 9:24 For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction.

Esther 9:25 But when the plot came to the king’s attention, he issued written orders that the evil scheme Haman had devised against the Jews should come back onto his own head, and that he and his sons should be impaled on poles.

Esther 9:26 (Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word .) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them,

Esther 9:27 the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should without fail observe these two days every year, in the way prescribed and at the time appointed.

Esther 9:28 These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family, and in every province and in every city. And these days of Purim should never fail to be celebrated by the Jews —nor should the memory of these days die out among their descendants.

Esther 9:29 So Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter concerning Purim.

Esther 9:30 And Mordecai sent letters to all the Jews in the 127 provinces of Xerxes’ kingdom —words of goodwill and assurance —

Esther 9:31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to their times of fasting and lamentation.

Esther 9:32 Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim, and it was written down in the records.

Another instance of the introduction of a new feast into the Jewish calendar, in addition to the feasts of the Lord given to the Jews via Moses, occured during the reign of the Maccabees, in the inter-testamental period (the “silent years” between Malachi and Matthew, spanning about four centuries). During this period, the Maccabees, a family of priests, ruled in Judea. During the reign of the Maccabees, Judea was invaded by the Syrian Antiochus Epiphanes, who entered into the holy temple and pillaged and desecrated it, sacrificing swine (an unclean animal by Jewish tradition) on the altar of sacrifice. The Maccabees later organised a Jewish revolt to retake the Temple and expel Antiochus’ soldiers from Jerusalem. They then undertook the cleansing and dedication of the Temple to the Lord. This cleansing and dedication of the temple is commemorated every year by the Jews for eight days, starting from the 25th of December, as the Feast of Dedication. This account is found in the first four chapters of the apocryphal book of 1st Maccabees. The portion of that book where the Feast of Dedication was first instituted is reproduced here.

1 Maccabees 4 [52] Now on the five and twentieth day of the ninth month, which is called the month Casleu, in the hundred forty and eighth year, they rose up betimes in the morning,

1 Maccabees 4 [53] And offered sacrifice according to the law upon the new altar of burnt offerings, which they had made.

1 Maccabees 4 [54] Look, at what time and what day the heathen had profaned it, even in that was it dedicated with songs, and citherns, and harps, and cymbals.

1 Maccabees 4 [55] Then all the people fell upon their faces, worshipping and praising the God of heaven, who had given them good success.

1 Maccabees 4 [56] And so they kept the dedication of the altar eight days and offered burnt offerings with gladness, and sacrificed the sacrifice of deliverance and praise.

1 Maccabees 4 [57] They decked also the forefront of the temple with crowns of gold, and with shields; and the gates and the chambers they renewed, and hanged doors upon them.

1 Maccabees 4 [58] Thus was there very great gladness among the people, for that the reproach of the heathen was put away.

1 Maccabees 4 [59] Moreover Judas and his brethren with the whole congregation of Israel ordained, that the days of the dedication of the altar should be kept in their season from year to year by the space of eight days, from the five and twentieth day of the month Casleu, with mirth and gladness.

1 Maccabees 4 [60] At that time also they builded up the mount Sion with high walls and strong towers round about, lest the Gentiles should come and tread it down as they had done before.

1 Maccabees 4 [61] And they set there a garrison to keep it, and fortified Bethsura to preserve it; that the people might have a defence against Idumea (KJVA).

The Feast of Dedication, as instituted by the Maccabees, was celebrated by our Lord and the Jews of his time. It’s instructive to note that the Feast of Dedication wasn’t among the scripturally mandated feasts of the Lord given to Israel by Moses. It is essentially an extra-biblical feast introduced after the completion of the Old Testament canon of Scriptures. Yet, Jesus and the rest of the Jews celebrated it to the glory of God, because it was a feast that honoured God and his Temple. By partaking in this extra-biblical but God-glorifying feast, Jesus authenticated it and thus showed that whatever would glorify or honour God, even though not expressly contained in the Scriptures, is permissible. Whatever is done to the glory of God, as long as it does not violate any extant law of God, is accepted before God. Jesus’ great discourse about being the Good Shepherd was actually given during the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem.

St. John 10:22 Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter,

St. John 10:23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.

St. John 10:24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

St. John 10:25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me,

St. John 10:26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

St. John 10:27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

St. John 10:28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

St. John 10:29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all ; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

St. John 10:30 I and the Father are one.”

St. John 10:31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him,

St. John 10:32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

St. John 10:33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

St. John 10:34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ’I have said you are “gods”’ ?

St. John 10:35 If he called them ’gods,’ to whom the word of God came —and Scripture cannot be set aside —

St. John 10:36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ’I am God’s Son’?

St. John 10:37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father.

St. John 10:38 But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”

St. John 10:39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp.

St. John 10:40 Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed,

St. John 10:41 and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.”

St. John 10:42 And in that place many believed in Jesus.

We’ve seen two examples of extra-biblical feasts introduced among God’s people to celebrate unique victories, which became incorporated into the feasts of the Jews, and which were even celebrated by the Lord Jesus. This goes to show that extra-biblical feasts can be introduced and celebrated by God’s people if such feasts honour God and glorify him. As long as a tradition does not negate any biblical precept or doctrine, but actually honours God, there is nothing wrong in celebrating it. What the Bible is against are traditions that oppose or violate God’s words and make them of none effect. Whatever gives God thanks and glorifies him is acceptable before God. We presently celebrate personal birthdays, Thanksgiving Day, Fathers’ Day, Mothers’ Day, etc., all of which are intended to glorify God. All these celebrations are not mandated in the Scriptures. Yet, they do not contradict any biblical precept, as giving thanks to God and honouring our parents on special days are in accordance with God’s will.

Romans 14:1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.

Romans 14:2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.

Romans 14:3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.

Romans 14:4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Romans 14:5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.

Romans 14:6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone.

Romans 14:8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.

Romans 14:9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.

Romans 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister ? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

Romans 14:11 It is written: “’As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ’every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

Romans 14:12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

1 Corinthians 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

Now, let’s get back to Christmas. Though the celebration on the 25th of December in ancient Rome was originally to honour a pagan deity, by converting it to commemorate the birth of the Son of God, Christianity effectively converted a pagan festival to a godly one that honours the Son of God. There is nothing wrong in setting aside a day to honour a historical event like the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though we don’t know the exact date of his birth, and though 25th of December is a very unlikely date for this historic event, the idea of bringing out a day to commemorate the nativity, though extra-biblical, is not anti-Biblical. By drawing global attention to the story of the nativity, we increase awareness to the gospel. What Christians should be bothered about is how people celebrate the day. It should be a solemn festival devoid of the debauchery, revelry, and wantonness most people display during this period. Christmas should be a day of thanksgiving, rejoicing, sharing of gifts, taking care of the poor and needy, and preaching the good news of salvation that the birth of Christ brought to mankind. Once we get the celebration right, Christmas is a festival worth celebrating!

Another part of Christmas that should be jettisoned is the whole stuff about Santa Claus (“Father Christmas”), which has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity. Satan Claus is a patently pagan myth that should have no place in the celebration of the birth of Christ. The deceptive story told to kids of Santa Claus visiting and granting their wishes overnight with gifts is imparting lies and falsehood to children. If we’re to observe Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Christ, the event should strictly focus on the story of the nativity and its significance to humanity. Any mythological addition to the celebration that cannot be justified by the word of God should be tossed out. We cannot replace one pagan myth (the worship of Mithras) with another (the worship of Santa Claus) while celebrating the birth of Christ. It would amount to the same idolatory!

If the celebration of Christmas will lead to a worldwide holiday for Christians and provide a forum for Christian assemblies to meet and worship God and remind ourselves of the first coming of Christ and the purpose of his coming, it will serve a great evangelistic purpose. We should use whatever means that’s available to us to project the message of Christ to the world, even if that means hijacking a hitherto pagan festival and converting it to a godly use. We can sanctify an unholy day by turning it over to God and thus making it a holy day. Paul did a similar thing at Athens during his evangelistic campaign in that city. While promenading through the city, Paul saw many altars dedicated to the pagan idols the people worshipped, and was grieved in his spirit at the wholescale idolatory of the Athenians. However, when he sighted an altar with the inscription, “to an unknown God”, Paul decided immediately to put it to good use. He turned this their “unknown God” to Jehovah, and even quoted one of their pagan poet’s description of humanity as God’s offsprings, and used it to make them realise that God could not be like those animal idols they were worshipping, if humans are his offsprings (Aratus, the Greek poet Paul quoted, was actually referring to Jupiter as the supreme God, but Paul turned it around to make the Supreme God Jehovah). This is one instance of using the enemy’s weapons against him, and of sanctifying an idolatrous practice to the glory of God, by converting it to a godly use. Christmas, based originally on a pagan celebration, has been so sanctified to the glory of God, by being converted to the birthday celebration of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. We should ensure that every aspect of the celebration is Christian and godly, and reflect only the nativity story and its implications for mankind.

The Acts 17:15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens and then left with instructions for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible.

The Acts 17:16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.

The Acts 17:17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with both Jews and God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there.

The Acts 17:18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to debate with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.

The Acts 17:19 Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus, where they said to him, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting?

The Acts 17:20 You are bringing some strange ideas to our ears, and we would like to know what they mean.”

The Acts 17:21 (All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time doing nothing but talking about and listening to the latest ideas.)

The Acts 17:22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious.

The Acts 17:23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship —and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

The Acts 17:24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.

The Acts 17:25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.

The Acts 17:26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

The Acts 17:27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

The Acts 17:28 ’For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ’We are his offspring.’

The Acts 17:29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone —an image made by human design and skill.

The Acts 17:30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.

The Acts 17:31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

The Acts 17:32 When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, “We want to hear you again on this subject.”

The Acts 17:33 At that, Paul left the Council.

The Acts 17:34 Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

In conclusion, though the origin of the feast we now celebrate as Christmas was initially idolatrous, it’s been sanctified by its Christian adoption to commemorate the birth of the Son of God, rather than the pagan sun god, Mithras. We don’t need to know the exact date that the Lord Jesus Christ was born before we can honour his birth. Any day set aside to commemorate the birth of the Lord and to honour him is acceptable to God. It’s true that there’s no precedence of the celebration of Christ’s birth in the Scriptures. But, the Scriptures allow for the celebration of extra-biblical festivals that honour and glorify God. As long as Christmas focuses on the celebration of the nativity story and God’s love to mankind in giving us his only begotten Son, and as long as it provides a basis for evangelism and the demonstration of God’s love to others, the celebration should be encouraged. The only parts we need to remove from Christmas are the pagan myth of Santa Claus, and the irreverence and ungodliness associated with the celebration. Outside of these, Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to tell the story of the Saviour to the world, and to preach the gospel to every creature. The Church recovered a day dedicated to the pagan sun god Mithras, and rededicated it to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate that!

Thank you so much for visiting this blog. We appreciate you and the precious time you spared to read through this lengthy post. If you were blessed by this message, kindly like, drop a comment and share with others (with due acknowledgement of the source). You can also follow us to have subsequent posts sent directly to you through your email. God bless you abundantly in Jesus name! Amen!

Following The Footsteps Of Jesus In Being A Friend Of Sinners And Tax Collectors

(All Bible quotations, except otherwise stated, are from the New International Version).

Ecclesiastes 7:16 Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise — why destroy yourself?

As Christians, our zeal for God and for righteousness should make us hate sin and contend for righteousness wherever we find ourselves. However, sometimes we fail to separate the sinner from his sins, and we end up hating and attacking both in our misguided zeal for God. While we must hate and abhor sin at all times, we must be careful not to hate the sinner. While we must separate ourselves from sin, we must be careful not to alienate ourselves from the sinner. We’re called and commissioned to go after the lost sheep and recover them, not to recluse ourselves as hermits who are so afraid to be contaminated by the world that we give up on the world and on our mission, in our bid to preserve our ‘holiness’. That would be falling into the trap of self-righteousness. Too many Christians there are who refuse to associate with sinners. We see many church people who cannot be friends with sinners and unbelievers. There is so much physical and social distancing between most Christians and their unbelieving neighbours that both end up living in two different and parallel worlds that hardly intersect. Communication and opportunity for real conversation and evangelism become lost.

We should follow the example of our Lord Jesus who was so focused on his mission that he was always with his target population (sinners and lost sheep). Jesus spent so much time with sinners that he was rightly accused by the self-righteous Pharisees of being a friend of sinners and publicans. He wasn’t ashamed to identify with those he came to save. His love for them forced him out of his comfort zone and into theirs, in order to be able to access them and minister to them. He would gladly attend their parties when invited, to eat and to drink with them. He would gladly visit their homes when invited, to rejoice and to feast with them. Sometimes, he would not even wait for an invitation to go to their homes- he’d invite himself! Jesus wasn’t a hermit ! Yes, he was the Son of God. Yes, he was the great prophet! Yes, he was sinless and perfect and undefiled. But he was also a socialite who mixed freely with sinners!

St. Matthew 9:10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples.

St. Matthew 9:11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

St. Matthew 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.

St. Matthew 9:13 But go and learn what this means: ’I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

St. Matthew 11:16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:

St. Matthew 11:17 “’We played the pipe for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

St. Matthew 11:18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ’He has a demon.’

St. Matthew 11:19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ’Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”

St. Luke 19:1 Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.

St. Luke 19:2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.

St. Luke 19:3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd.

St. Luke 19:4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.

St. Luke 19:5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”

St. Luke 19:6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

St. Luke 19:7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”

St. Luke 19:8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

St. Luke 19:9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.

St. Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.

To accomplish the great commission, we need to go after the lost. We need to go hunting for sinners wherever they are. We’re not to wait for them to come to church, but we’re to go after them into the highways and byways of society (their comfort zones) and persuade them to come to the Lord. We’re to befriend them in our neighbourhoods, places of work, schools, etc, so as to soften them up for evangelism and soul-winning. We’re to love sinners because God loves them! God loves them so much that he sacrificed his only begotten Son to get them saved. We should love them so much that we sacrifice our comfort and self-righteousness to reach out to them and show them the love of God. It’s not sinners the Bible warns us to keep away from, otherwise we would need to leave the world! It’s actually fellow believers who are living disgraceful lifestyles which bring the Lord’s name to disrepute that we’re supposed to avoid, not unbelievers!

1 Corinthians 5:9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people —

1 Corinthians 5:10 not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.

1 Corinthians 5:11 But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

1 Corinthians 5:12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?

1 Corinthians 5:13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

St. Luke 15:1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all gathering around to hear Jesus.

St. Luke 15:2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

St. Luke 15:3 Then Jesus told them this parable:

St. Luke 15:4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?

St. Luke 15:5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders

St. Luke 15:6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ’Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’

St. Luke 15:7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

The Pharisees adopted a holier-than-thou attitude towards sinners and publicans, and socially distanced themselves from them, to avoid being “contaminated”. By so doing, they ended up alienating sinners from the kingdom of God. The Pharisees literally locked the sinners away from the kingdom of God, by refusing to interact with them and engage them. To them, the sinner’s cause was a lost cause not worth pursuing. Their public image and self-righteousness were more important to them than the fate of hell-bound sinners!

St. Matthew 23:1 Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples:

St. Matthew 23:2 “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.

St. Matthew 23:3 So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.

St. Matthew 23:4 They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.

St. Matthew 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

It may be okay for the self-righteous and hypocritical Pharisees to act like some ascetic monks and isolate themselves in some monasteries located in the desert, but not so for the Lord! You can’t be a fisherman and not be mixed up with muddy water and dirt! You can’t be in the business of catching fish and not get wet and messed up while mingling with water and fish. In the same vein, you can’t be a fisher of men and not be ready to reach out and be friendly with the men to be caught! You have to go into the world of sinners to catch sinners! You have to relate with the sinner, love him, be his friend, have compassion on him and be concerned about his destination to be able to reach out to him and win him for heaven. He that wins a soul must be wise! Winning souls requires a deliberate and strategic effort targeted at them. You can’t hate the sinner and distance yourself from him and expect to win him for Christ! Any sinner you fail to love and befriend is a sinner unavailable to you for soul-winning!

St. Mark 16:15 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

St. Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

St. Matthew 22:8 “Then he said to his servants, ’The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come.

St. Matthew 22:9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’

St. Matthew 22:10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

1 Corinthians 9:19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.

1 Corinthians 9:20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.

1 Corinthians 9:21 To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.

1 Corinthians 9:22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.

1 Corinthians 9:23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son to a world of sinners to rescue them. Having been rescued ourselves and filled with the Spirit of God, we should so love the world that we would go after sinful men to try and rescue them from destruction. When the Bible said we should not love the world nor the things that are in the world, it was referring, not to the men of the world, but to the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes and the pride of life. These are the things we should not love, for these works of the flesh are in opposition to the Spirit. However, we’re to love all men of the world, like our heavenly Father, including those who hate us because we’re Christians. We should not interact only with people of like precious faith, nor should we relate only with those in our spiritual caucus. Loving only those in our comfort zone and our familiar friends isn’t the God kind of love. The God kind of love reaches out to the unlovely, the sinful, the immoral and even to those who hate us and persecute us. We must become friends of sinners and tax collectors and harlots like our Lord and Master, in order to win them for Christ. As disciples, we’re to follow the Master’s footsteps. And, if we do that, it will lead us to sinners and immoral people who need God’s love and mercy, not just to the assembly of the righteous.

St. John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

St. John 3:17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.

1 John 2:16 For everything in the world —the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life —comes not from the Father but from the world.

1 John 2:17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

Romans 10:11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”

Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile —the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him,

Romans 10:13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Romans 10:14 How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?

Romans 10:15 And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

St. Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

St. Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

St. Matthew 5:45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

St. Matthew 5:46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?

St. Matthew 5:47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?

St. Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Jesus was a retail and compassionate soul-winner who wasn’t afraid to break religious norms in order to save men. He would touch the leper who was an outcast and bring him close as he ministered to him. He had so much compassion for the people that he would wear himself out to see their needs met. That included doing good on the Sabbath day, refusing to condemn sinners caught in the act, and conversing with prostitutes and allowing them to touch and anoint him. As the perfect physician, he wasn’t afraid to reach out and touch the sick as he ministered to them. Jesus, the good shepherd, would readily leave 99 sheep that were safe, to go after one lost in the wilderness of sin. And he would so rejoice when that one lost sheep was found! The sick sinner needs our compassionate and friendly touch. Let’s love them with the love of Jesus and win them back to God!

St. Matthew 8:1 When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him.

St. Matthew 8:2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

St. Matthew 8:3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy.

St. Matthew 8:4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

St. Matthew 15:32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”

St. Mark 3:1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.

St. Mark 3:2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.

St. Mark 3:3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

St. Mark 3:4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

St. Mark 3:5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.

St. John 8:1 but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

St. John 8:2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.

St. John 8:3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group

St. John 8:4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.

St. John 8:5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”

St. John 8:6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.

St. John 8:7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

St. John 8:8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

St. John 8:9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.

St. John 8:10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

St. John 8:11 “No one, sir,” she said.“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

St. John 4:5 So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph.

St. John 4:6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

St. John 4:7 When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?”

St. John 4:8 (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

St. John 4:9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. )

St. John 4:27 Just then his disciples returned and were surprised to find him talking with a woman. But no one asked, “What do you want?” or “Why are you talking with her?”

St. Luke 7:36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.

St. Luke 7:37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.

St. Luke 7:38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

St. Luke 7:39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is —that she is a sinner.”

St. Luke 7:40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said.

St. Luke 7:41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.

St. Luke 7:42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

St. Luke 7:43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

St. Luke 7:44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.

St. Luke 7:45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet.

St. Luke 7:46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet.

St. Luke 7:47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven —as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

St. Luke 7:48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

In conclusion, a holier-than-thou attitude and disposition towards sinners is counterproductive to the preaching of the gospel and the winning of lost souls for God. While we should hate sin and abstain from every form of evil, we should not hate sinners. Not only should we not hate them, we should also love them and be friendly with them! Our Lord was ridiculed and derided as a friend of sinners, and we shouldn’t be afraid to be so labelled by self-righteous people! It’s only as we become friends with sinners (while distancing ourselves from their sins) that we can win their confidence and trust to minister the gospel to them. Physically and socially distancing ourselves from sinners in our environment will only alienate them and create a communication gap which will hinder evangelism. May we be wise to use every opportunity to win souls like our Lord and Master Jesus Christ.

Thank you so much for visiting this blog. We appreciate you and the precious time you spared to read through this lengthy post. If you were blessed by this message, kindly like, drop a comment and share with others (with due acknowledgement of the source). You can also follow us to have subsequent posts sent directly to you through your email. God bless you abundantly in Jesus name! Amen!

The Christian And Xenophobia: Biblical Injunctions Concerning The Treatment Of Foreigners Amongst Us

Xenophobia, hatred and racism words written with blocks on red background

Xenophobia is defined by the Offline English-Urdu Dictionary as the morbid fear and hatred of foreigners. The fear and maltreatment of foreigners is rising proportionately with the rise of nationalistic movements the world over. As more and more anti-immigration elements within nations attack the foreigners in their midst and agitate for the closure of their national borders to the strangers at their gates, there’s an urgent need to understand the Christian’s obligation to foreigners living with us. How does the Bible expect Christians to deal with foreigners in their midst? How does God view the maltreatment of people in a foreign land? We shall examine the Scriptures to answer these questions.

Abraham, the father of faith and friend of God, left the promised land twice to sojourn in foreign lands, during periods of famine and food scarcity. He went first to Egypt (at the beginning of his call), and later sojourned in Gerar (just before the birth of Isaac). On both occasions, Abraham harboured great fear of being maltreated by the citizens of the places he was visiting. On both occasions, he had to lie to disguise his relationship with his wife, for fear of the men of the land killing him and taking over his beautiful wife, Sarah. We thus see that migrating to foreign lands for better economic opportunities (among other reasons) has been part of man’s pursuit of happiness and fulfilment from time immemorial. We also see that the sojourner in a foreign land has always been an endangered species. The story hasn’t changed much in our time. If anything, migration for better opportunities and personal safety (fleeing from political and religious persecution) and the apprehension of immigrants due to xenophobic attacks have only multiplied!

Genesis 12:10 Now there was a famine in the land, and Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine was severe.

Genesis 12:11 As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “I know what a beautiful woman you are.

Genesis 12:12 When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ’This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but will let you live.

Genesis 12:13 Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you.”

Genesis 12:14 When Abram came to Egypt, the Egyptians saw that Sarai was a very beautiful woman.

Genesis 12:15 And when Pharaoh’s officials saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh, and she was taken into his palace.

Genesis 12:16 He treated Abram well for her sake, and Abram acquired sheep and cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.

Genesis 12:17 But the LORD inflicted serious diseases on Pharaoh and his household because of Abram’s wife Sarai.

Genesis 12:18 So Pharaoh summoned Abram. “What have you done to me?” he said. “Why didn’t you tell me she was your wife?

Genesis 12:19 Why did you say, ’She is my sister,’ so that I took her to be my wife? Now then, here is your wife. Take her and go!”

Genesis 12:20 Then Pharaoh gave orders about Abram to his men, and they sent him on his way, with his wife and everything he had.

Genesis 20:1 Now Abraham moved on from there into the region of the Negev and lived between Kadesh and Shur. For a while he stayed in Gerar,

Genesis 20:2 and there Abraham said of his wife Sarah, “She is my sister.” Then Abimelek king of Gerar sent for Sarah and took her.

Genesis 20:3 But God came to Abimelek in a dream one night and said to him, “You are as good as dead because of the woman you have taken; she is a married woman.”

Genesis 20:4 Now Abimelek had not gone near her, so he said, “Lord, will you destroy an innocent nation?

Genesis 20:5 Did he not say to me, ’She is my sister,’ and didn’t she also say, ’He is my brother’? I have done this with a clear conscience and clean hands.”

Genesis 20:6 Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know you did this with a clear conscience, and so I have kept you from sinning against me. That is why I did not let you touch her.

Genesis 20:7 Now return the man’s wife, for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you and you will live. But if you do not return her, you may be sure that you and all who belong to you will die.”

Genesis 20:8 Early the next morning Abimelek summoned all his officials, and when he told them all that had happened, they were very much afraid.

Genesis 20:9 Then Abimelek called Abraham in and said, “What have you done to us? How have I wronged you that you have brought such great guilt upon me and my kingdom? You have done things to me that should never be done.”

Genesis 20:10 And Abimelek asked Abraham, “What was your reason for doing this?”

Genesis 20:11 Abraham replied, “I said to myself, ’There is surely no fear of God in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife.’

Genesis 20:12 Besides, she really is my sister, the daughter of my father though not of my mother; and she became my wife.

Genesis 20:13 And when God had me wander from my father’s household, I said to her, ’This is how you can show your love to me: Everywhere we go, say of me, “He is my brother.”’”

Genesis 20:14 Then Abimelek brought sheep and cattle and male and female slaves and gave them to Abraham, and he returned Sarah his wife to him.

Genesis 20:15 And Abimelek said, “My land is before you; live wherever you like.”

Genesis 20:16 To Sarah he said, “I am giving your brother a thousand shekels of silver. This is to cover the offense against you before all who are with you; you are completely vindicated.”

Genesis 20:17 Then Abraham prayed to God, and God healed Abimelek, his wife and his female slaves so they could have children again,

Genesis 20:18 for the LORD had kept all the women in Abimelek’s household from conceiving because of Abraham’s wife Sarah.

However, the most significant sojourn in foreign lands for God’s people was the migration of Jacob and his entire family (70 persons in all) from Canaan to Egypt, as a result of a prolonged and severe famine in Palestine. Again, survival and the search for better opportunities drove this migration. Jacob himself was reluctant to leave the promised land for any reason; however, God appeared to him and encouraged him to do so, on account of the severity of the famine afflicting the land of Canaan. This shows that God might be behind some migration of his people to foreign lands. After all, the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof. The Lord can direct the relocation of any of his people to any parts of the world, to serve his purpose.

Israel’s sojourn in Egypt lasted for about 430 years, and ended up with maltreatment of the Jews who were turned into slaves and severely dehumanised by the Egyptians. Though the Jews contributed in no small way to the building and development of the Egyptian economy and their society as a whole (remember it was Joseph that preserved Egypt from the catastrophic effect of the global famine), envy, jealousy and misguided fear of dominance and displacement led the Egyptians to forget the good works of the Jews and turn on them in vicious xenophobic attacks. Eventually, God delivered the Jews from their captivity in Egypt, and returned them back to the promised land of Canaan that he had earlier given to their ancestors. However, the bitter experience of slavery in Egypt affected Israel’s perception and treatment of foreigners in a profound way, and was to define the nation’s immigration policies for generations to come.

Genesis 46:1 So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.

Genesis 46:2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” “Here I am,” he replied.

Genesis 46:3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there.

Genesis 46:4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Genesis 46:5 Then Jacob left Beersheba, and Israel’s sons took their father Jacob and their children and their wives in the carts that Pharaoh had sent to transport him.

Genesis 46:6 So Jacob and all his offspring went to Egypt, taking with them their livestock and the possessions they had acquired in Canaan.

Genesis 46:7 Jacob brought with him to Egypt his sons and grandsons and his daughters and granddaughters —all his offspring.

Exodus 1:5 The descendants of Jacob numbered seventy in all; Joseph was already in Egypt.

Exodus 1:6 Now Joseph and all his brothers and all that generation died,

Exodus 1:7 but the Israelites were exceedingly fruitful; they multiplied greatly, increased in numbers and became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

Exodus 1:8 Then a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.

Exodus 1:9 “Look,” he said to his people, “the Israelites have become far too numerous for us.

Exodus 1:10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with them or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.”

Exodus 1:11 So they put slave masters over them to oppress them with forced labor, and they built Pithom and Rameses as store cities for Pharaoh.

Exodus 1:12 But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread; so the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites

Exodus 1:13 and worked them ruthlessly.

Exodus 1:14 They made their lives bitter with harsh labor in brick and mortar and with all kinds of work in the fields; in all their harsh labor the Egyptians worked them ruthlessly.

Exodus 1:15 The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, whose names were Shiphrah and Puah,

Exodus 1:16 “When you are helping the Hebrew women during childbirth on the delivery stool, if you see that the baby is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, let her live.”

Exodus 1:17 The midwives, however, feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do; they let the boys live.

Exodus 1:18 Then the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and asked them, “Why have you done this? Why have you let the boys live?”

Exodus 1:19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.”

Exodus 1:20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous.

Exodus 1:21 And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families of their own.

Exodus 1:22 Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

Exodus 12:40 Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years.

Exodus 12:41 At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the LORD’s divisions left Egypt.

Israel’s experience as maltreated slaves in Egypt formed the basis of God’s laws for them with respect to the treatment of foreigners in their midst. Because they had suffered severely in the hands of their slavemasters in their land of sojourn, the Israelites were expected to know what it felt like to be maltreated and persecuted in a strange land. They had experienced xenophobia first hand, and they were expected to be better positioned to deal more kindly with foreigners in their midst.

The Mosaic Law took care to defend and protect the lot of foreigners among the Jews. Under the law, foreigners were to be treated with love, respect, dignity and empathy. Foreigners were not to be discriminated against. One law was to be applicable to both citizens and foreigners. The foreigners were to be specially protected and defended from harassment and exploitation, and their material needs were to be catered for as one of the underprivileged and disadvantaged in society. Foreigners in need were to be taken care of from the tithes of the people, alongside the priests, Levites, widows and orphans! As we can see, a social safety net existed even then for the poor, and it covered foreigners in need too, in addition to the underprivileged natives.

Exodus 23:9 “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.

Exodus 23:12 “Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and so that the slave born in your household and the foreigner living among you may be refreshed.

Leviticus 19:10 Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 19:34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

Leviticus 24:22 You are to have the same law for the foreigner and the native-born. I am the LORD your God.’”

Deuteronomy 26:12 When you have finished setting aside a tenth of all your produce in the third year, the year of the tithe, you shall give it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat in your towns and be satisfied.

Deuteronomy 26:13 Then say to the LORD your God: “I have removed from my house the sacred portion and have given it to the Levite, the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, according to all you commanded. I have not turned aside from your commands nor have I forgotten any of them.

Deuteronomy 26:14 I have not eaten any of the sacred portion while I was in mourning, nor have I removed any of it while I was unclean, nor have I offered any of it to the dead. I have obeyed the LORD my God; I have done everything you commanded me.

Deuteronomy 26:15 Look down from heaven, your holy dwelling place, and bless your people Israel and the land you have given us as you promised on oath to our ancestors, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Jeremiah 22:3 This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Furthermore, under the Mosaic Law, foreigners in Israel were given a path to citizenship, if they wanted to become Jewish citizens. All they needed to do was convert to the Jewish religion, get circumcised and keep the Jewish laws. They would then become proselytes, and enjoy all the religious rights and privileges of the native-born Jews. Such proselytes could then partake in all Jewish religious celebrations, including the Passover! Following this pathway to citizenship, some Gentile converts to Judaism rose to become prominent citizens in the land of Israel. Ruth, the Moabite, thus became one of the ancestors of King David and of our Lord Jesus, through her marriage to Boaz, after she renounced her gods and her people to take up Jehovah as her God, and Israel as her adopted country.

Exodus 12:48 “A foreigner residing among you who wants to celebrate the LORD’s Passover must have all the males in his household circumcised; then he may take part like one born in the land. No uncircumcised male may eat it.

Exodus 12:49 The same law applies both to the native-born and to the foreigner residing among you.”

Isaiah 56:3 Let no foreigner who is bound to the LORD say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people.” And let no eunuch complain, “I am only a dry tree.”

Isaiah 56:4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant —

Isaiah 56:5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will endure forever.

Isaiah 56:6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD, and to be his servants, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant —

Isaiah 56:7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

Ruth 1:16 But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

Ruth 1:17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”

Ruth 1:18 When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Ruth 4:9 Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon.

Ruth 4:10 I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”

Ruth 4:11 Then the elders and all the people at the gate said, “We are witnesses. May the LORD make the woman who is coming into your home like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the family of Israel. May you have standing in Ephrathah and be famous in Bethlehem.

Ruth 4:12 Through the offspring the LORD gives you by this young woman, may your family be like that of Perez, whom Tamar bore to Judah.”

Ruth 4:13 So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When he made love to her, the LORD enabled her to conceive, and she gave birth to a son.

Ruth 4:14 The women said to Naomi: “Praise be to the LORD, who this day has not left you without a guardian-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!

Ruth 4:15 He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

Ruth 4:16 Then Naomi took the child in her arms and cared for him.

Ruth 4:17 The women living there said, “Naomi has a son!” And they named him Obed. He was the father of Jesse, the father of David.

In the New Testament, the need to deal kindly with foreigners is brought even closer to the believer- we ourselves are foreigners and pilgrims on earth, whatever our country of origin! Our new identity in Christ makes us citizens of heaven, and whatever earthly citizenship we have is secondary to our heavenly one. So, basically, the believer is a stranger himself and should treat other strangers with compassion and empathy, because he has the heart of a stranger! Scripture also enjoins us to be careful to entertain foreigners well, because some angels have come down to men in the form of strangers! Thus, treating foreigners right is not only the right thing to do, it’s also key to not missing a divine visitation!

The believer’s heavenly citizenship is the main driving force of his life. Yes, we’re citizens of our countries of birth and we should be good and model citizens in being responsible and obedient to the laws of the land. We should perform our civic duties and support the governments in place to maintain law and order. However, we should not be carried away by nationalistic sentiments and forget our heavenly citizenship, which overrides the earthly one. When the chips are down, if we have to choose between our heavenly citizenship and the earthly one, there should be no hesitation as to where our loyalty should be! If we have to choose between the government of heaven and the government of our countries, we shouldn’t think twice before choosing to obey God rather than men! At all times, we should judge the policies of our various countries by heaven’s policies and laws. We’re heaven’s ambassadors on earth, and we should represent heaven well and not get carried away by nationalistic fights and lose focus of our mission, which is to win and disciple all men and women for the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippians 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,

1 Peter 2:10 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 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul.

1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

Hebrews 11:13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.

Hebrews 11:14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.

Hebrews 11:15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return.

Hebrews 11:16 Instead, they were longing for a better country —a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

2 Corinthians 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:

2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.

2 Corinthians 5:20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.

In conclusion, the fear of strangers and hostility towards them is a base human instinct that stems from fear of the unknown, self-centredness, hatred and intolerance. Envy and jealousy are also often at play, especially if foreigners are perceived to be doing better than the indigenes. These negative instincts towards foreigners are all works of the flesh that are natural to the unregenerated. However, the believer in Christ is expected to respond differently to foreigners, being strangers and pilgrims ourselves here on earth. The Christian is to show love to all, but particularly to the foreigner and stranger, for some angels have come down to men in the form of strangers. People usually leave their home country to migrate to other places for economic, political and religious reasons. Being in a foreign land and far away from one’s familiar environment is enough circumstance on its own to induce anxiety and distress. To add to it hatred and the risks of violent attacks from one’s supposed hosts makes the experience even more harrowing. If we recognise that we’re all strangers on earth, we’d take more care to love and protect the stranger within our gates from molestation, exploitation and all other forms of abuse. If we understand that we could be in their shoes one day, we’d learn to treat them as we’d have them treat us if our positions were reversed. Israel suffered intense xenophobic attacks in Egypt, and that motivated the laws God gave them to protect and defend the cause of the strangers in their midst. May we learn to love our neighbours as ourselves, and to do unto others as we’d have them do unto us. Love is God’s cure for xenophobia, and the Christian is the ideal person to lead the fight against xenophobia, because the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

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