Category Archives: June

Knowing God without being religious.

Religion does not satisfy the longing of the soul because it does not answer the basic questions of the innermost being. Religious people all over the world are entangled in rituals and ceremonies to get a good report from a god whom they really don’t know. They know God is for real but they do not know Him personally. A lot of people trust their imaginations, while many are satisfied with the myths and legends handed down to them traditionally. In such cases you do not have any historical records or evidences to back you up. 

But for a Christian it is entirely different. His faith is based on the written Word of God, the Bible. The Bible is not a collection of mythological stories. It has been a proven historical document. It gives us a clear understanding of who God is and how we can relate to Him. It tells us that we can fathom God’s person not more than what He desires to reveal to us. So we read thus in the letter to Colossians:

 “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”‭‭.    (Colossians‬ ‭1:15-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬)‬ 

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Allowing God to work through you

Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead—whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” (Acts.5:29-32) NIV

Ignoring an eye-opener

Peter and John were locked up in prison for doing the ministry as God directed them. God was with them and He commands His angel to unlock and free them, not for a comfortable ministry, but to be booked again. God directed them to the Temple and they start teaching there. Meanwhile the authorities summon the prisoners for investigations and probably with the idea of silencing them. But God has His purposes fulfilled in all these unpleasant situations. The Apostles let God have His way through their lives and the authorities were confused about the missing prisoners. To their surprise they discover that the Apostles are still free and doing what they had prohibited. This was more than an eye opener for any open minded truth seeking individual regarding what the Apostles were proclaiming. However, they chose to ignore it and secure their seats of power.

Opposing God

The authorities obviously recognized the supernatural element in the message of the Apostles. They also realized the influence these men had up on the lives of the people. So the police behaved gently with the Apostles (Acts:5:26). The Council blamed the Apostles for teaching in the name of Jesus while the Apostles blamed the Council for the killing of Jesus. Peter in his explanation asserted that Jesus was the Messiah who rose from the grave and is alive and willing to forgive the nation for their sins when they turn back to Him. However, the Council was not ready to accept the Apostles’ explanation. They wanted to get rid of them because of their stand to “obey God rather than men”. One among the Council was a wise and mature man named Gamaliel. His advise was more of common sense. He said,

“…Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)

Gamaliel probably had the inkling that the Apostles were on a supernatural mission as their message and the attesting miracles revealed. This message had the power to transform lives and opposing it will be opposing God Himself.

The Church has been commanded to proclaim this message of salvation to the entire world. As opposition and threat mounts we must remember that we should be obeying God rather than men. The fear of men will cause us to water down the message or conveniently alter it to suit the situation. Let God’s message be proclaimed as God intended it to be. Allow God to do His work. If you fear men, don’t meddle with God’s business, better keep away. The Apostles were warned and whipped but they never stopped proclaiming the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. They allowed God to work through them. They were happy that God found them worthy to suffer for the sake of Christ.

The Ministry of the Gospel

The high priest and his officials, who were Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. But an angel of the Lord came at night, opened the gates of the jail, and brought them out. Then he told them, “Go to the Temple and give the people this message of life!” (Acts 5:17-20) NLT

The work of God must be done as directed by God, not as deemed intelligent to us. This is what distinguishes a genuine servant of God from a fake one. Today God’s workers are adopting worldly ways to do God’s work. Every serious employer has a specific job description, a standard of performance and service rules for his employee. An employee can not operate on his own whims and fancies. We see this in the lives of the Apostles.

God’s work should be done God’s way

The Apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit in every detail of their ministry. They went where the Spirit led them and preached the message of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. God allowed persecution to scatter them all over the world so that the message will reach far and wide. Sometimes they were asked to leave their thriving congregations to go to deserts and other new places, sometimes to give the message to individuals. They were allowed to be imprisoned so that the rulers and people in authority could receive the message of the Gospel. The Apostles did not chose comfortable mission stations, because they did not have their choice, but went wherever they were sent. That is why they were called “Apostles”. Today, some christian ministers have the audacity to prefix their names with the title ‘Apostle’ without being obedient to the Spirit of God in conducting themselves and doing the ministry.  

God comes with you wherever He sends you

The Apostles were filled with the Holy Spirit and were speaking the message of God as the Spirit of God directed them. Hence there were visible results. It was God who was adding people to His Church as the Apostles proclaimed His message. There was definite and visible transformation in the lives of those who came to Christ. The influence of these unschooled men up on the lives of the thousands of new believers whipped up jealousy in the minds of the Religious leadership who felt threatened by the popularity of the new Way. They arrested the Apostles and threw them in jail. But God goes with His servants wherever He sends them. He opens closed doors when you do just what He tells you to do.
     
Today, servants of God do not want God to go with them, because they are preoccupied with their own agenda. They do not want God to disturb them in their business. They justify their programs and activities in the name of their ministry strategy instead of following God’s strategy. So we have less and less of God’s ministry and more and more of individuals’ ministries. Wonder who is serving whom? It is to these, who ‘perform miracles and wonders in the name of Jesus’, that the Lord would say, “Depart from me… , I do not know you.”

Some ministers feel threatened by the work done by their co-workers and other ministers. If you feel threatened, it may be  because you are expecting human praise rather than God’s approval. You desire that glory and praise should come to you. It may also mean that you are trying to establish your authority, or your kingdom and not God’s. Then you lose your focus on God and begin to focus on yourself, your ministry, your church and your influence. Serving God as per His directions does not necessarily mean that yours should be the largest congregation in town, or the largest team of missionaries working around the world. There are many unknown servants of God who obediently serve Him in the most unassuming manner undergoing untold sufferings and pain. There is no substitute to obedience in the kingdom of God. 

Cheating God and Serving themselves

But there was a certain man named Ananias who, with his wife, Sapphira, sold some property. He brought part of the money to the apostles, claiming it was the full amount. With his wife’s consent, he kept the rest. (Acts 5:1-2) NLT

We are coming across a lot of Christians and even Christian ministers, who cheat on God and people. They put on a show of godliness and undermine the kingdom of God as it says in 2Tim.3:1-5. They are like Ananias and Sapphira. Ultimately, they will bring disaster up on themselves as well as their followers.

Wrong Motives

The motive behind selling their property and bringing the money to the Apostles was to gain social recognition. It was not from the love of God or His people. They want to appear Godly but did not want to make any sacrifice. They were concerned about themselves more than the mission. They accumulate for themselves before they distribute to others. They will see their interests before others’ and will not hesitate to channelize God-given resources for their own benefit and according to their own interests. They build up their own kingdom rather than God’s kingdom and will not allow others to cross their ways. They are demonstrating the characteristics of the anti Christ and are aiding the devil.

Lack of Faith

These Christians are demonstrating their lack of faith in God. They pray “Our Father in heaven…” but they don’t trust God to provide for their daily needs and meet their emergencies. They think unless they take care of themselves things won’t work out. They feel capable of handling the future better than God. They don’t want to take risks with their lives while they play with other people’s lives.   They forget the assuring words of the Lord when He said we are better than the birds in the sky and the flowers in the field.

God attested His Word through the Apostles with accompanying miracles. Even the sick on whom their shadow fell were healed. God’s judgment on the cheating Christians also came immediately. But, through it all, God was glorified and people were brought into His kingdom.

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What do you boast about?

Those who are trying to force you to be circumcised want to look good to others. They don’t want to be persecuted for teaching that the cross of Christ alone can save. And even those who advocate circumcision don’t keep the whole law themselves. They only want you to be circumcised so they can boast about it and claim you as their disciples.

As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died. It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. May God’s peace and mercy be upon all who live by this principle; they are the new people of God. (Gal.6:12-16)

Do you feel proud about being religious? Do you boast about your achievements? Do you take credit for what you possess that which you can never earn?

Religions tell us to work our way to god. Those who tirelessly follow the “to do” lists of religions often boast about their achievements. They feel they are eventually making god obligated to them. There are also those who think they are equal to god, thus making it possible for the humans to achieve practically anything or everything.

Promoting Rituals

Most people swear by rituals. Every culture is full of them. Rituals are part of religion. Christian Religion is no exception. It is our attempt to find God. Since it is human effort people will take credit for it. But the Bible says that no one can become acceptable to God by being religious or by observing rituals, however faithful they might be.

As long as you encourage others to follow some rituals you are in vogue. You earn name and fame, position and influence, money and perks. Promoting rituals is boasting in self and it will last only till we last.

Preaching the Cross

The Bible tells us that a Christian has nothing to boast about himself. The only thing he can boast about is the Cross of his Savior because he is saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, in what Jesus has accomplished on the cross.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Eph.2:8-9)

Every Christian is commanded to preach the message of the Cross, because it is the power of God unto salvation (Rom.1:16). The message of the cross excludes all rituals and human efforts and is highlighted as the only way to reach God. When you preach this way you will invite opposition, threats and persecution. That is one of the reasons why several people are content with promoting rituals.

However, the ultimate yardstick of effectiveness is the resultant transformation. The real thing is the new life that we receive from God through faith in Jesus Christ, just because of what Jesus has done on the cross. Neither religion nor rituals can do this. And all of it is a free gift from God. Aren’t you glad for the cross of Christ?

So, if at all I boast, let me boast of the cross of Christ, by which I have been transformed in my relationship with all that is temporal.

Man of God in Distress

As for me, I said, “O LORD, be gracious to me;
Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You.”
(Psa.41:4)

Distress and agony visits everyone and stays for longer with some. One’s knowledge and experience of God will come to his rescue at such times. For a Christian it is a part of his training for his future reigning in God’s glory. David was a man who went through this experience in spite of his being anointed as King of Israel to succeed Saul. His Psalms are mostly the reflections of his relationship with God.

The books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles paint the backdrop of many of these Psalms. Psalm 41 reveals the agonizing prayer of the man of God. The context probably was the rebellion of his son Absalom and the betrayal of his trusted friend Ahithophel (2Sam.15:2-6; 16:23). David had been in mental agony as well as physical pain. The guilt of his being slack in fulfilling his duties was eating on him. In such distress he knew there was only one place to confide-the presence of the merciful God. If at all David has any confidence, it is in the character of his God.

Principle of receiving and showing mercy

David starts at the right point-the nature and character of God. He tells God his understanding about God’s nature. God shows mercy to them that are merciful towards the helpless. In other words, you give mercy and receive mercy. However, David is not relying on his virtues here. Instead, he is leaning simply on the mercy of God, admitting his unworthiness and sinfulness. He is pleading for spiritual healing before he can experience physical healing.

Principle of having and losing friends

A powerful man has a lot of friends. But they all desert him as he loses his power. Worldly friends are a commercial lot. They are there as long as opportunities for profit are there. Opportunistic relationships are not built on true love but on flattery and hypocrisy. Such friends turn enemies swapping sides for better benefits. They visit you in your sickness with malicious intentions, to demoralize you, to aggravate your condition and to spread gossip with the information they have gathered. As David narrates, it is a painful experience to go through. The only solace for a child of God is the presence of God, from where he she can draw strength.

It is natural to become bitter and revengeful. Eventually one becomes physically indisposed. David felt guilty that he had neglected his daily responsibilities, thus allowing his rebellious son to take undue advantage of the situation. So he prayed for spiritual and physical healing. He is duty bound to discipline his enemies for their rebellion against God’s anointed. However, the focus is on David’s humility in acknowledging his sinfulness and utter helplessness without God.