Monday, February 29, 2016

Lessons from Jonah

Again, what was the book of Jonah about? The guy who enjoyed the fun ride in the whale? Let’s take a quick look and find out. The first 3 verses of Jonah’s book summarize very well most of the whole story:
“Now the word of the LORD came unto Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.“
During a storm he gets thrown into the sea, dies, somehow still gets to say a prayer before, God revives Jonah and speaks to him again, repeating his original words and finally Jonah chooses to go to Nineveh, delivers the message of destruction, the Ninevites repent and God spares them.
Background: Jonah was a Hebrew who feared God. Nineveh was a major city in Assyria. The time: about 770 BC.
Anything that strikes you as unusual about the whale … ah whole story? Why did Jonah refuse to go? The prayer in chapter 2 (after he had been thrown into the sea to die) doesn’t mention anything about his assignment. What is it that God wants Jonah to tell the inhabitants that he would go through such an ordeal? Here is the whole message to Nineveh (Jonah 3:4):
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.”
Those 8 words don’t sound the least bit compassionate to me! How did the people respond to it? The following verse, Jonah 3:5, reports:
“So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.”
Awesome! But then, why did Jonah get so angry in 4:1-2 although the Ninevites got spared from God’s judgment?
In order to find out, hop with me into my time machine, fasten your seat belt and let’s fast forward from the Book of Jonah year 770 BC to 36° 20' 6" North, 43° 7' 8" East, year 2011 ((you can actually punch that into Google maps!)). We arrived - what do you see? A quick glance at the provided intel reveals that you are in a place called Mosul, Iraq. Key words: Islam, Sunni, radical jihadism (that means terror, bloodshed & violence). One of the most dangerous places on the face of the earth. Now imagine God sends you to such a place to tell the people who terrible things would befall them if they don’t change their way and turn to the living God. How many people would actually go there?! Like Jonah I’d rather cruise the Mediterranean (Tarshish is today’s Spain)! Fear would be a natural response. Was Jonah full of fear? Who were the Assyrians to him? The Assyrians were enemies of the Israelites but it does not mention anywhere that Jonah was afraid. But I can very well imagine that he didn’t want to go because he didn’t want his enemies to hear how to avoid God’s judgment, he simply did not care about them. Eventually he still delivered his message, the Ninevites repented and lived. Sure enough it didn’t make Jonah happy, he got frustrated, even depressed about it! I think Jonah’s attitude had to do with racism & prejudice, that God’s enemies deserve judgment. In 2011 Jonah might say “Homicide bombers should be bombed, not saved”. What do you say in 2011 if God sends you to the Muslims in Iraq? What does God say about the whole matter? God desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). And about the Ninevites in particular:
“And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?" (Jonah 4:11 ESV)
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
So, that is “the world” and “whosoever believes” – do the Muslims qualify? IF they believe in the finished work of Jesus Christ as son of God, they most certainly do. Do we like it? That’s not the issue. God loves them! The key verse in Jonah is 4:2b (ESV) :
“I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.”
And God does not change (Malachi 3:6).
Again, would you be willing to go…? Would you be willing to do…? Would you be willing to say…? Would you be willing to love…? And all that regardless of fear, racism and prejudice? Jesus said “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” (Matthew 5:44) Later on in the Bible it says “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a). So, if we love our enemies, we will not fear them – a timeless lesson!
Before the crucifixion Jesus knew what would happen, that’s why he told his friends in John 14:1
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
We also know from the Bible that a lot of bad stuff will happen in the last days. But God also did let us know the end of the book so that we may know, be comforted and not let our hearts be troubled.
Lord, make me willing, give me courage and give me compassion – Amen!
Andrea Kioulachoglou

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Sunday, February 28, 2016

Escape Tribulation? - Wrong! - Corrie Ten Boom

"Later that week, half the congregation of that church was executed.
 I heard later that the other half was killed some months ago."

anti-Christian'Corrie Ten Boom and the Rapture' - (This is from a letter Corrie wrote in 1974)

NOTE: Miss Corrie Ten Boom was a Dutch survivor of the Nazi Concentration Camps, and a lifelong missionary. Corrie was a believer in facing tribulation. She was one of the many people who were persecuted in concentration camps during World War II. Her family was murdered before her eyes, but though her life was threatened, God led her through that terrible time. Here is her exhortation to us from a letter she wrote in 1974:
"The world is deathly ill. It is dying. The Great Physician has already signed the death certificate. Yet there is still a great work for Christians to do. They are to be streams of living water, channels of mercy to those who are still in the world. It is possible for them to do this because they are overcomers. Christians are ambassadors for Christ. They are representatives from Heaven to this dying world. And because of our presence here, things will change.
My sister, Betsy, and I were in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck because we committed the crime of loving Jews. Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred. As far as I knew, Betsy and I were the only two representatives of Heaven in that room. We may have been the Lord's only representatives in that place of hatred, yet because of our presence there, things changed. Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." We too, are to be overcomers - bringing the light of Jesus into a world filled with darkness and hate.

Sometimes I get frightened as I read the Bible, and as I look in this world and see all of the tribulation and persecution promised by the Bible coming true. Now I can tell you, though, if you too are afraid, that I have just read the last pages. I can now come to shouting "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" for I have found where it is written that Jesus said,

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things: 
and I will be His God, 
and he shall be My son."
This is the future and hope of this world. Not that the world will survive - but that we shall be overcomers in the midst of a dying world.

Betsy and I, in the concentration camp, prayed that God would heal Betsy who was so weak and sick. "Yes, the Lord will heal me,", Betsy said with confidence. She died the next day and I could not understand it. They laid her thin body on the concrete floor along with all the other corpses of the women who died that day. It was hard for me to understand, to believe that God had a purpose for all that. Yet because of Betsy's death, today I am traveling all over the world telling people about Jesus.

There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days. Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution. In China, the Christians were told, "Don't worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated - raptured." Then came a terrible persecution. Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,

"We have failed. We should have made the people strong for persecution, rather than telling them Jesus would come first. Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution, how to stand when the tribulation comes, - to stand and not faint."
I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it.
We are next. Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus' sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible text I think, "Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation." Then I write it down and learn it by heart. When I was in the concentration camp, a camp where only twenty percent of the women came out alive, we tried to cheer each other up by saying, "Nothing could be any worse than today." But we would find the next day was even worse. During this time a Bible verse that I had committed to memory gave me great hope and joy.

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; 
for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you;
on their part evil is spoken of,
but on your part He is glorified." 
(I Peter 3:14)
I found myself saying, "Hallelujah! Because I am suffering, Jesus is glorified!"
In America, the churches sing, "Let the congregation escape tribulation", but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation.

Several years ago I was in Africa in a nation where a new government had come into power. The first night I was there some of the Christians were commanded to come to the police station to register. When they arrived they were arrested and that same night they were executed. The next day the same thing happened with other Christians. The third day it was the same. All the Christians in the district were being systematically murdered. The fourth day I was to speak in a little church. The people came, but they were filled with fear and tension. All during the service they were looking at each other, their eyes asking, "Will this one I am sitting beside be the next one killed? Will I be the next one?" The room was hot and stuffy with insects that came through the screenless windows and swirled around the naked bulbs over the bare wooden benches. I told them a story out of my childhood. "When I was a little girl, " I said, "I went to my father and said,

"Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ."
"Tell me," said Father, "When you take a train trip to Amsterdam, when do I give you the money for the ticket? Three weeks before?"
"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."
"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength. Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ. He will supply all you need - just in time..."

My African friends were nodding and smiling. Suddenly a spirit of joy descended upon that church and the people began singing, "In the sweet, by and by, we shall meet on that beautiful shore."

Later that week, half the congregation of that church was executed. I heard later that the other half was killed some months ago. But I must tell you something. I was so happy that the Lord used me to encourage these people, for unlike many of their leaders, I had the word of God. I had been to the Bible and discovered that Jesus said He had not only overcome the world, but to all those who remained faithful to the end, He would give a crown of life.

How can we get ready for the persecution? First we need to feed on the Word of God, digest it, make it a part of our being. This will mean disciplined Bible study each day as we not only memorize long passages of scripture, but put the principles to work in our lives. Next we need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the Jesus of yesterday, the Jesus of History, but the life-changing Jesus of today who is still alive and sitting at the right hand of God. We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is no optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary. Those earthly disciples could never have stood up under the persecution of the Jews and Romans had they not waited for Pentecost. Each of us needs our own personal Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to stand in the tribulation without it. In the coming persecution we must be ready to help each other and encourage each other.

But we must not wait until the tribulation comes before starting. The fruit of the Spirit should be the dominant force of every Christian's life. Many are fearful of the coming tribulation, they want to run. I, too, am a little bit afraid when I think that after all my eighty years, including the horrible Nazi concentration camp, that I might have to go through the tribulation also. But then I read the Bible and I am glad. When I am weak, then I shall be strong, the Bible says. Betsy and I were prisoners for the Lord, we were so weak, but we got power because the Holy Spirit was on us. That mighty inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit helped us through. No, you will not be strong in yourself when the tribulation comes. Rather, you will be strong in the power of Him who will not forsake you. For seventy-six years I have known the Lord Jesus and not once has He ever left me, or let me down. "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him", (Job 13:15) for I know that to all who overcome, He shall give the crown of life.


- Corrie Ten Boom - 1974
Unedited :: Link to Original Posting

Friday, February 26, 2016

1 Samuel 16 and how Samuel was led by the Lord

This article is mainly concerned with 1 Samuel 16. Saul, the first king of Israel, was commanded by God to utterly destroy the Amalekites for all they had done to Israel on its way out of Egypt. However, he did not perform what he was commanded (1 Samuel 15:11). This in turn made God to start looking for another king. Thus, 1 Samuel 16:1 tells us:
1 Samuel 16:1
"Now the Lord said to Samuel, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill your horn with oil, and go; I am sending you to Jesse the Bethlehemite. For I have provided myself a king among his sons."
God’s replacement for the king’s position was one of the sons of Jesse. Hence, Samuel was commanded to go there and anoint him. A look at the interaction between God and Samuel regarding the question of the next king shows the following:
i) The Lord appointed Saul to be a king and Samuel anointed him (1 Samuel 10:1).
ii) The Lord rejected Saul, because of his disobedience, and Samuel announced it to him (1 Samuel 15:26).
iii) The Lord appointed David to be the new king, and Samuel was commanded to go and anoint him (1 Samuel 16:1).
As it can be seen, Samuel always did what the Lord had first decided. To tell it differently, Samuel was not a decision maker but a decision executor. This is truly very instructive for those of us who, like Samuel, want to serve God. Like him, our role is not the role of a decision maker but the role of a performer of what God has already decided. Samuel did not make up his mind to anoint Saul, nor did he later decide to tell him that he was rejected by God. Similarly, he was not the one that determined to go to Jesse's house. ALL were God’s decisions, and Samuel simply executed them.
Moving to us now, the Word says that as born again believers, we are members of the one body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-31), whose head is Christ (Colossians 1:18). Therefore, as our physical members are under complete subjection to the head, so also we, as members of the body of Christ, should be under complete subjection to the Head of this body, the Lord. He is the Boss, we are His servants. He makes decisions, we execute them. Returning to Samuel, the Lord directed him to Jesse the Bethlehemite. Yet, he still had some questions. Verses 2-3 tell us:
1 Samuel 16:2-3
"And Samuel said, "How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me." But the Lord said, take a heifer with you, and say, "I have come to sacrifice to the Lord." Then invite Jesse to the sacrifice, and I will show you what you shall do; you shall anoint for Me the one I name to you."
God not only told Samuel what to do (1 Samuel 16:1), but He also told him in the above passage how to do it (1 Samuel 16:2-3). Thus, He instructed him to go there with a heifer for a supposed sacrifice, while the true reason of his visit was to anoint the new king.
Having received all the information that he needed, Samuel moved to action. 1 Samuel 16:4-5 tells us:
"So Samuel did what the Lord said, and went to Bethlehem. And the elders of the town trembled at his coming, and said, "Do you come peaceably?" and he said, "Peaceably; I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and come with me to the sacrifice." Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons, and invited them to the sacrifice"
The Lord gave directions to Samuel, and Samuel acted on them. Thus, he went to Bethlehem and soon he had seven of Jesse's sons before him. As we may remember, the Lord had told him that the next king would be one of Jesse's sons, without however telling him right from the beginning, who exactly this would be. What did Samuel do to find it out? He simply contacted the Boss, the Lord:
1 Samuel 16:6-7
"So it was, when they came, that he looked at Eliab and said, "Surely the Lord's anointed is before Him!" But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart "
First in the line, was Eliab, the eldest son of the family. He was probably handsome and his appearance suitable for a king, for when Samuel saw him, he thought that he was the one ("SURELY the Lord's anointed is before Him" (1 Samuel 16:6), he said). However, when he presented him to the Lord he got a negative reply. As the passage tells us, the Lord, looking at the heart, refused him. Many times it happens to us too. We like something, it looks perfect to our physical eyes and thus we are led to believe that it is also the will of God for us. However, we should never make a decision based on the outer appearance. Had Samuel done this, he would have anointed the wrong man. Instead, we should always consult the One that sees where our senses cannot see: at the heart. Returning to Samuel, after God's negative reply for Eliab he moved ahead to the next in the "queue". 1 Samuel 16:8-10 tell us:
1 Samuel 16: 8-10
"So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one. Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, "Neither has the Lord chosen this one" Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, "The Lord has not chosen these."
Samuel presented to the Lord all the sons of Jesse that were there and for all he got a negative reply. Yet, he did not give up:
1 Samuel 16:11-13
"And Samuel said to Jesse, "Are all the young men here?" Then he said, "There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep." And Samuel said to Jesse, "Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here." So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good looking. And the Lord said, "Arise, anoint him; FOR THIS IS THE ONE!" Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah"
Samuel heard the desired "this is the one", not for the first in the "queue" (1 Samuel 16:6), the one that he expected to be the chosen one, but for the last in the "queue" (1 Samuel 16:12), and only after he heard seven "no". The reason I point this out is because sometimes we may find ourselves in the same position i.e. we present to God choices for things that we know as His will, and the replies we get are negative. "Why Lord?", we say. However, the reason is the same with the reason for which God rejected Eliab (1 Samuel 16:6-7): God looks at the heart and makes decisions based on the heart. When therefore He rejects something He does not do it because He wants to......torture us but because, looking at the heart, at the inner part of the matter, sees that it is not the best for us. As Psalms 84:11 says:
Psalms 84:11
"NO good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly."
Also James 1:17 affirms us:
"Every GOOD gift and every PERFECT gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning"
If God denies something to us, it is only because He loves us and wants us to have the best. Samuel heard seven "no" before the desired positive reply. However, looking back do you think that his faithfulness was worthless? I do not think so. Though he didn’t anoint the first in the "queue", he certainly anointed THE BEST in the "queue".
Finally, keep in mind that neither Samuel nor David were the leading parts of the story. The former was mourning for Saul, while the latter was keeping the sheep of his father. Instead the leading part of the story was the Lord, who gave revelation to Samuel to go to Bethlehem and anoint a man that he never knew before. Similarly, it was the Lord who, some chapters earlier (1 Samuel 9), acted with Saul and through the temporary loss of his donkeys and the instruction of his servant, eventually brought him before Samuel to anoint him as a king. In other words, the Lord has all the power to only perform His will. When something is His will then HE is the leading part and we only have to simply follow Him.


In this study we went through the first 13 verses of 1 Samuel 16, to see how Samuel was being led by the Lord and how he was making decisions. Samuel was a servant of God and some of us want to be the same. As any servant, so also Samuel and so also we, have to obey the master. We are to do what the master says and only this. Samuel, as we too, could walk with his five senses. For example, he could have anointed Eliab as king, because he seemed fitting to his eyes. But he did not. Instead he turned to the Lord and did only what he was instructed. Let us do the same. Let’s allow the Lord to be in charge. Let Him be Lord! He is the Boss, the Master!

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Righteous, saved by grace

The good news contained in the part of the Word of God addressed to the believers after the day of Pentecost is that Jesus Christ met all the required conditions so that by confessing Him as Lord and by believing that God has raised Him from the dead you are righteous and saved. This is really good news, is not it? Ephesians tells us:
Ephesians 2:8 
"For BY GRACE you are saved through faith: and this not from yourselves: it is the GIFT of God: Not by works, so that no-one can boast"
Also Romans 10:9-10
That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”
And Acts 16:30-31 
“Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."
Also: Romans 3:20-24, 28
"Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by the works of the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin. But now the righteousness of God, apart from the law has been made known, to which the law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness of God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. For there is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus ......Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the works of the law"
The above passages state that our salvation and our right standing before God, i.e. our righteousness, are not based on how many good works we did, do or will do but on the grace of God. According to the above passages, even if you kept all the law you could not be righteous before God; for as we read: no-one can be righteous before God by the works of the law. And it also says that "all have sinned". Even if you had never sinned in your life (which I’m sure it is not true) there is still Adam's sin which passes down from generation to generation. But praise God, another way has been provided by which we can be righteous before Him. This way is called grace. Yes, someone had to work for all these gifts to be made freely available to us. However, this was neither you nor I but the Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 3 tells us about the accomplishments of Jesus Christ:
Romans 3:23-26 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus."
The redemption is IN CHRIST JESUS, not in what you and I achieved. This is very important if we want to understand the relationship we have with God. Our relationship is based upon the grace of God and the accomplishments of Jesus Christ, NOT upon our worth, works or achievements. We are righteous before God twenty four hours a day. The reason is that this right standing was given to us by grace. It was given to us as a result of the unmerited favor and love that God has for us. It is "righteousness of God", NOT righteousness from ourselves i.e. self righteousness. This "of" denotes the source of this righteousness. This source is neither you nor I but God. Galatians 2:16 also tells us:
"know that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we too have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law no-one will be justified."
Once more we see that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ! If it was by works, I could say: "Look I did more than you. I deserve it more than you." No-one deserved something from God. It was God who, motivated by His love for us, sacrificed His Son so that by believing in Him we can be righteous and saved. That's really grace! Amazing grace!

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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grace and Works

The word "grace" used in Bible is a translation of the Greek word "charis" . "Charis" means "free undeserved favor". In the Bible, it means "God's unmerited favor". It is very important to have a correct understanding of the word “grace” as all too often people confuse grace with works. However, grace and works are entirely different things. Romans 4:4 tells us:
"Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation."
In this passage the word "gift" is the word "charis" in the Greek text, which as we have learned means grace. What this passage tells us is that when someone works for something, that which he receives back is a reward for his work. This reward therefore is not given to him by grace, as a gift, because he worked for it, and thus he deserves it. In the same way, when the Word of God says that something has been given to us by grace it means that it has been given to us as a gift, as something for which we did not qualify and for which we did not work. It is clear therefore that something either will be earned by works or will be given by grace. It cannot be both by works and by grace at the same time. Difficulties in understanding and accepting this fact have caused many Christians, instead of enjoying what they already have by grace and then utilize it to build their fellowship with God, to try to achieve by works what they already have.
Another passage which shows clearly that grace and works are entirely different things is Romans 11:6. There we read: 
"And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were [i.e. by works], grace would no longer be grace."
Once again, this passage explains to us what we have already seen: if something is gained by works then it could not be by grace since otherwise "grace would no longer be grace"!!! How clear and pure is the Word of God. Many of us when we go to the Word of God, we think that what we read has to mean something different than what is said! We need to understand that the Word of God means what it says and says what it means. It is our refusal to accept the Word of God that has produced all these strange ideas that gift means wage and grace means works. We go to the Word of God with the preconceived idea that we must do something to achieve a right position before God and when we see that the Word of God says that this right position has been granted to us by grace, through the accomplishments of the Lord Jesus Christ, on the condition of our faith, then we worry what is wrong with the Word. Rather, we should and must ask what is wrong with our preconceived ideas. When you go to the Word of God you must leave out any preconceived ideas you may have about it. You must go with the intention to fit your ideas to the Bible and not the Bible to your preconceived ideas. With regard to the topic of salvation and righteousness, and seeing the confusion that abounds about it, it is no wonder that God paid such special attention to tell us that when He says grace He means grace and not works!
Now does this mean that God does not want us to do good works? Of course not! In fact He has created us for good works and He has already prepared them for us (Ephesians 2:10). However, what I want to point out here is that we start as righteous and saved, and as we grow in our fellowship with the Lord, the works come as the fruit of that fellowship. These are not works that we have predetermined to do for God but works that "GOD has prepared" (Ephesians 2:10) for us. It is important to understand how you start. If you start doing good works in order to achieve a good position before God then you have missed the point. You will always end up with condemnation because you are trying to achieve righteousness by works, which is impossible. However, if you know that, because of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and your faith in Him, you start as righteous and saved and that all these were granted to you as gifts (by grace), when you believed, then you can go ahead and do the works that God has prepared for you. These works are then not the means of your relationship with God but the fruit of that relationship. And God does want us to bring forth much fruit for Him. As the Lord said in John 15:8:
“Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be my disciples.”
Ephesians 2:8-10 summarizes the relationship of grace and works very well:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Though we are not saved by works, we are created in Christ Jesus for good works, that God has prepared for us to walk in them. To say it differently, though works do not precede our salvation, they should definitely follow it! We, as professing Christians, are indeed expected to live and walk as Christians, doing what the Word of God says and walking in the good works that God has prepared for us.
To conclude therefore: salvation is by grace through faith. It is not of works! On the other hand the fact that we once believed is not the end. We should move ahead and seek to find and do what God has prepared for us, bringing forth fruit for our Lord. As He said “every tree is known by each own fruit” (Luke 6:44). James goes even further saying “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). The fruit of our life proves therefore whether our faith is a true living faith or a dead faith (just a confession made sometime, somewhere). To say it differently: are you saved? If yes, then walk as saved! Ephesians 5:8, 10-11 encourages us:
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light …. finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

"He became to us" (1 Corinthians 1:30)

"He became to us" (1 Corinthians 1:30)

A simple look to the thoughts and ideas of many Christians suggests that the idea of righteousness by works, i.e. self-righteousness, is very well rooted in many Christian minds. However, the Scripture does not support this idea. Indeed, what the Scripture points out is not our ability to achieve a right standing before God but the sacrifice of Christ who achieved this right standing for us. I Corinthians 1:30 tells us about Christ's accomplishments on our behalf:
1 Corinthians 1:30 "It is because of him [meaning God] that you are in Christ Jesus....."
As we see, it is BECAUSE OF HIM, meaning God, that we are now in Christ Jesus. It is not because of our worth or our abilities but because of the grace, love and goodness of God that we are in Christ Jesus. In the preceding verse (verse 29) Paul says "so that no-one may boast before him [meaning God]” and then it continues:
1 Corinthians 1:30 "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Therefore as it is written "let him who boasts boast in the Lord."
Jesus Christ became to us all these things. He became (past tense). It does not say that WE became to him. Instead HE became to us. He became wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption. Do you know why we are righteous, redeemed and holy before God? Because Jesus Christ became to us all these things. When did He become ? When you believed. When you believed with your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead and confessed Him as Lord (Romans 10:9), you were declared righteous, you were saved, you were sanctified. I know, it would have been very logical if God had told us: "Look, you will do this and that work and then you will be saved, become righteous etc." Although there are many that teach exactly that, the Bible does not teaches it. What the Bible tells us is that to become righteous and saved you need to believe with your heart i.e. to truly believe, in the Lord Jesus Christ and His resurrection and stay in the faith. We are saved by faith through grace.
Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
In whom shall we boast therefore? Not in our works and achievements but in the Lord who “who became to us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30)

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Monday, February 22, 2016

The Breastplate of Righteousness

We spoke in the articles “Saved and Righteousness by Faith” and “Bible and Righteousness” about how to become righteous before God. Further understanding of the role of righteousness is given in Ephesians 6. There it speaks about the armor of God that was given to us to fight the spiritual war:
Ephesians 6:13 "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to withstand, and having done all to stand."
I would like to point out two things in this verse. First, the armor is of GOD. It is NOT an armor that you constructed. Rather, it is an armor that has been constructed by GOD. Second, it is YOU that put on that armor. God will not put it on for you. God made it available. Now you have to put it on. These two things are important for correct understanding of the next verse. There it states:
Ephesians 6:14 "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."
It is this second piece of the armor, the breastplate of righteousness, on which we will concentrate our attention here. The various parts of the armor, as they are described in verses 14-17, have not been given a name by chance. God has a reason for everything He says. So, we must ask ourselves what is the job that a breastplate is designed to do? I believe that most of us know the answer: in an armor the breastplate protects the breast. As you know, the heart, a vital instrument for our lives, is located in the left side of the breast. Therefore, one of the most important jobs of the breastplate is to protect the heart. Biblically, the word heart means the inner part of the mind; the inner being of a man. What is in our heart determines what we are. As Proverbs 4:23 tells us:
"Above all else guard your heart; for out of it are the issues of life"
The Word of God calls us to guard our hearts more than anything else and when it says heart the actual reference is to the inner part of our minds. Indeed, what is in the inner part of our minds, what is in our heart, determines "the issues of life". No wonder therefore, that it is exactly this part at which Satan aims his darts. If his darts manage to pierce the heart i.e. the inner part of our being, then this is exactly what he wants. One of the weapons that Satan frequently uses to fire his darts into the heart of sincere and devoted Christians is none other than condemnation. Condemnation is one of his best weapons since it makes the heart, the inner part of our beings, ill. It is a powerful weapon of Satan to corrupt our fellowship with God. I John describes the effects of this disease which affects many Christians.
1 John 3:21 "Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God."
Pay careful attention to that "if". Note also that the reference is to the heart. Condemnation is a serious disease that affects the heart, the inner being of a man. When there is condemnation in our hearts then there is no confidence before God and if there is no confidence before God, then I really question of the fellowship that we are able to have with God. The will of God is to "rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4). It is however impossible to rejoice in Him when you do not have confidence before Him. Nevertheless, Satan will not manage to bring condemnation into our lives IF (and only if) we use the armor of God for our defense. So the question is what is the piece of the armor of God that protects the heart? Ephesians 6:14 tells us:
"Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around you waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place....."
This piece is the "breastplate of righteousness". But which righteousness is this? You see, we are accustomed to reading this verse using a preconceived idea of righteousness by works. Thus, we think that the righteousness referred to in that verse is our self-righteousness. We say "if I am good enough and do good works then I'll be righteous". However, we forget that the Bible says "therefore no-one will be declared righteous in his [God's] sight by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20). The righteousness here is not our self-righteousness but the righteousness of God. The full armor has been made ready for us by God. It is the "armor of God". It is not an armor that we constructed. The Word does not say "Make up the armor". It says "put on the full armor of God" (Ephesians 6:11). If the armor is of God, whose then is the breastplate of that armor? It is God's. Whose therefore is the righteousness that is the breastplate? Is it your self-righteousness gained through your good works? No! It is the righteousness of God, as indeed the whole armor is of God, and so therefore is each separate piece. You did not make up the armor. You just put it on. In the case of righteousness this means that you place deep in your mind, in your heart, that you are righteous before God BY GRACE ("righteousness of God") and thus you do not try to achieve a self-righteousness standing before Him. It means that you understand that before Him "no-one will be justified by the works of the law" (Romans 3:20) and that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by His grace" (Romans 3:23-24). You must accept that grace is grace and works are works. You must understand that when the Bible says grace does not mean grace with some works. As the Scripture says: "And if by grace it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace" (Romans 11:6). Then, you will have "the breastplate of righteousness in place" (Ephesians 6:14). Otherwise, you will leave your heart unprotected and be vulnerable to the disease of condemnation. Satan will trap you through his cunningness because you are not wearing the full armor of God but something that you yourself made up. You are wearing the breastplate of self-righteousness instead of the breastplate of righteousness of God. However, the breastplate of self-righteousness has been declared faulty by the Word of God. No wonder therefore that if you put on that “breastplate” you will be vulnerable to the Satan-caused disease of self condemnation. On the other hand, when we protect our hearts with the true breastplate of the righteousness of God then that which the Scripture says in Romans 8:1 will be fulfilled in our lives:
1. The latter part of this verse is omitted by all critical Greek texts.

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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Holy Spirit: “Another Comforter”

In John chapters 14 to 16, we find Jesus, shortly before his arrest by the Jews, giving last minute instructions and comfort to his disciples. He was no longer going to be with them. They will indeed see him again after his resurrection but only temporarily, till the ascension to his Father. The fact that Jesus would go to the Father would mean that they would be left alone … except if he sent a replacement, another one to fill in for him. Except if He was coming to them in “another form” so to speak. And as we will see that’s exactly what happened! Jesus, though is no longer physically present, he is much more present than before! How? Through the Comforter, the Holy Spirit; this comforter truly fills in for Jesus, doing what he would be doing if he was physically present with each one of his disciples. Mentioning disciples, I’m not referring here only to the disciples that were present that night in the garden of Gethsemane. Apart from them and much more I’m referring to us! None of us have met Jesus in person, flesh and blood, as the disciples had met him. Yet, because of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, we are not left without him. John 14:15-18 tells us:
John 14:15-18 “If you love me, keep my commandments. “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another comforter, to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; but you know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”
Jesus Christ is speaking about the Holy Spirit here and describes it as another comforter. Though Jesus was leaving, he was not actually leaving them alone. He would send ANOTHER comforter i.e. somebody that would fill in for him, somebody that would do all that he was doing when he was with them, a replacement so to speak for his physical absence. Though he would no longer be physically present with them, he would be spiritually present, through the Comforter. In other words having the holy spirit is absolutely like having Jesus. And the Holy Spirit does for those who follow Jesus what Jesus did for his disciples when he was physically present i.e. teaches them, guides them, admonishes them, comforts them. That’s why it is called ANOTHER  comforter. The first comforter was Jesus in his physical presence. Just a few days after Jesus’ ascension, the Holy Spirit, the second comforter, “another comforter”, the fill in for Jesus, the first comforter, came. As Barnes says in his commentary:
“Jesus had been to them a counselor, a guide, a friend, while he was with them. He had instructed them, had borne with their prejudices and ignorance, and had administered consolation to them in the times of despondency. But he was about to leave them now .. The other Comforter was to be given as a compensation for his absence, or to perform the offices toward them which he would have done if he had remained personally with them. And from this we may learn, in part, what is the office of the Spirit. It is to furnish to all Christians the instruction and consolation which would be given by the personal presence of Jesus..” (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)
Therefore dear brother and sister in Christ: you are not left alone. Jesus is not somewhere far away from you. He is very close to you. Jesus, through the Comforter, is in you! As Colossians 1:26-27 tells us:
“the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
Christ is IN YOU dear brother and sister. The comforter is in you! And why is the comforter there? To do all that Christ would do if he was physically present. Here is the ministry of the holy spirit as described by Jesus:
John 14:26 “But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”
John 15:26 “But when the Comforter comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeds from the Father, he shall testify of me.
John 16:7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is to your advantage that I go away: for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. 
Having the Holy Spirit is more to our advantage than even if Jesus stayed physically present on the earth!
John 16:8-15 “And when he has come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in me; of righteousness, because I go to my Father and you see me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak; and he will tell you things to come. he will glorify me, for he will take of what is mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are mine. Therefore I said that he will take of mine and declare it to you.”
This is the wonderful ministry and the wonderful reality of the holy spirit.
Many people do not really believe to an active in the life of the disciples holy spirit. They are thus essentially supporting that we have been left orphans with just our minds to try to figure out how to live for him! But as Jesus said: we are not left orphans! The Holy Spirit fills in for him, being “another comforter”, that is to say a comforter in the place of the Jesus, the first comforter.
Others again attribute to the Holy Spirit things that we never see Jesus doing and which have no backup in the Scripture. Are these things really done by the Holy Spirit? The answer is NO. What the holy spirit does is always in alignment with the Word of God. If something is not in alignment with the Word then it is not done by the Holy Spirit.
To close this article: Jesus going to his Father did not leave us alone. He sent us a replacement that does what Jesus would do if he was physically present with each one of us. This replacement is the Holy Spirit and its mission is, among others, to teach and bring into remembrance (John 14:26), instruct, guide (Acts 16:6-10) and comfort (Acts 9:31). It is not a “spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). This is the wonderful gift that the Father, because of His love, gave to those who believe in His Son and his resurrection from the dead.
Romans 5:5 the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the holy spirit which is given unto us.

               Please check out Anastasios's book 
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