Saturday, 28 August 2010

Serving others

I have been deeply convinced by the observation of others that truly i lack a heart of generosity and hospitality. Its not that i don't give to others, that I do and its not that i don't show hospitality, that i also do. But in doing these things, I seek my gain first and then i seek others whereas it should be the other way round for that is the way of the kingdom. for example, if i have £5 i seek to spend first on me rather than spending it on others and then spend the remaining on me. Another example that follows from this is, if i was in a pub and i only have money to buy one drink, i would normally spend it for myself rather than serving my brethren and serving them with generosity. So, i've made it my aim, the gospel as my motivation to cultivate a heart of hospitality and generosity which seeks to serve others first before my wants. I believe that doing this though unseen will be to my reward and to the benefit of others and ultimately to the glory of God. So, I pray that the Spirit may help me and remember me when i forget for I am truly unworthy.

K.Oni

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Use the Jewish/Gentile controversy as an example of how Christians should resolve conflict. (Acts15; Galatians2)

The Jewish Gentile controversy

Luke writes in acts 15:1 ‘And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the law of Moses, you cannot be saved”. This was the root issue of the Jewish and Gentile controversy, the controversy was on the issue of salvation. This men who came down from Judea was preaching a different message to what Paul and Barnabas had preached to the gentiles in Antioch. The men from Judea preached to the already converted Christians that they must obey the law of Moses, they must be circumcised if they are to be saved.  This message was contrary to what they already would have heard from Paul, and for them to hear of this new message would have  created confusion in their hearts leading them astray and away from the truth of the gospel in which was first preached to them. The Jewish/Gentile controversy was not just a mere debate that could be put away and not attended to, it was a matter of life and death , heaven and hell and so it was a matter to be taking seriously and thus Paul and Barnabas  went to Jerusalem, to the elders and apostles on the matter. As Christians today, living in the 21st century where there are so many branches of different beliefs and doctrines being put forward in denominations, one ought to consider to himself whether his beliefs are the one that are affirm by solid scripture that faith in Jesus Christ alone saves you. “So God, who knows the heart , acknowledge them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” (Acts15:8-9).

The burden of the Jewish law

Paul strongly believed as well as the apostles that the law of Moses was a burden. They opposed  the sect of the Pharisees who said concerning the gentiles that “it is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses“ (Acts15:5). In Galatians 2 Paul describes this sect of Pharisees as “false brethrens secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they may bring us into bondage”.  Peter also says to the Pharisees that “Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). The Pharisees insisted that keeping the law of Moses was essential to salvation thus making salvation an act of works rather than faith. This was their understanding of the law of Moses, because the law was originally meant to be completed by faith but this they did not understand, Christ was the fulfilment of the law and the law always pointed to a righteous man but this they did not heed but seek to establish their own righteousness.

How the conflict was resolved  and how Christians today can use the same means to resolve conflicts.

The conflict was resolved in the council of Jerusalem where a number of apostles and elders gathered together to discuss the issue. Three decisive speeches were made by the three apostles. As Christians if there arise an issue of debate in our church, it would be wise to set up a council of elders, people who are of knowledge and godly in their behaviours according to the fruit of their faith in Christ Jesus. It would be unwise to have any one there; just as the controversy was brought before people of high authority in the council of Jerusalem I advise our churches to do likewise so that there may be unity and coherence on the preaching of the gospel.

Peter

Peter was the first to speak after there had been much dispute among them. Peter reminded them about his experiences with Cornelius and how God chose him that by his mouth gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. What peter is saying here concerning the event that happened with Cornelius is that God regarded Jews and gentiles as equals “So God, who knows the heart , acknowledge them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith” . This speech nullifies the argument of the Pharisees on the observance of the law because Peter is saying that it is the inward purity of the heart that draws people towards God not the rituals of the law but by faith and not by the works of the law. Peter makes it clear when he says “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (acts 15:11) that salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ which Paul and Barnabas preached to the gentiles and not by works of the law in which some Jews insisted.

Paul and Barnabas

The speech that Paul and Barnabas put forward were not recorded in act 15 but we already know there position on the discord. Paul says in Galatians 2:16 “We know that a man is….justified….by faith in Jesus Christ. So, we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus”.  Paul and Barnabas shared their testimony to prove that the message they preached was genuine and accepted by God.

James

James came to a decision that “they should not trouble those among the gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19). James is agreeing with Peter and Paul, that if the gentiles are turning to God by their faith in Christ Jesus then let us not trouble them by putting yokes on their necks.

All three apostles agreed with each other that it is by faith and not the works of the law that brings you into fellowship with God. The conflict was resolved and now there was a sound agreement on whether gentiles are to follow the law of Moses. The way this conflict was resolved can also be transferred to the church today. If there is a conflict within a church, it is the responsibility of the elders in the church to resolve the disagreement in a wise manner concluding their results are in accord with scripture as it was also with James when he quoted Amos 9:11-12 to affirm his judgement.

K.Oni

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

From my youth

It is true to say from the bottom of my heart that from an early age, I have indeed had a fascination with the bible and to the reading of it. As a young child I would learn the beatitudes and quote them to my brothers and friends and they would use it against me in a joking way. For example they would purposefully slap me and thus I would have to turn the other cheek. Nonetheless it was a joy to have a bible in my hand to learn. Now that I’m older, not much has changed  except my understanding as increased and a great deal of sanctification has occurred in my heart of which I thank my Lord for. There are still sins in my heart, those principles of hell which I abhor but my prayer is of constant to be free of them. Memorizing scripture has been sweet to me but the difficulty is in starting. I love to learn the word but I feel that lately I have let many things distract me and let those things take precedent above his kingdom and his righteousness. I am not unaware of the devils schemes and practices and his solemn determination to separate me from the devouring of the word. So I press on, forgetting what is behind, taking hold of Christ for he has already taken hold of me.

K.Oni

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Home thus far

For the past week I have been at home and what a joy it as been but also at the same time there isn’t much to do until recently when I had to help my cousin move to her new two bedroom apartment. I love my family and love the time I have with them and I am constantly amazed at the generosity and love I am showered with. I barely do anything and there is much to eat and drink whether in takeaway or dining out. I sit for the most part of it on the dining table, on my failing laptop and play football manager, serve the web and dwell on face book. I keep my eyes partly on the fifty inch screen and from time to time play with my little cousins whom I love with all my soul. But more importantly, I had wished to spend more time on the word of God and in prayer of which I did a little but saddened that I had not maximise my time to full effect.

Nevertheless it is with Joy to say that I am currently reading a book titled, ‘how to read the bible for all its worth’, and would wish for all Christians to read it especially those who teach the word in any context whatsoever. I have been praying for people that I had said I was praying for them but I wish I may increase in this area of my life. For me it is good to reminding myself constantly of the gospel because my nature is rightly divert back to the law and thinking that God must be happy or unhappy with me according to my efforts but when I think in this way I am constantly unhappy. So, I am thankful for the gospel and more importantly the power of it that God has amazingly filled me with this week to overpower any desires or temptations. Though at times I see the depths of motives and the impurity of them that leaves me in despair and hatred for the remaining corrupted seed that remains. But, I rejoice that in that day, I will be made like him and my impurities will fade and I will be perfect like he is perfect. Although at times I find it hard to believe but because I have tasted of his cleansing power of purification that I am certain that it is indeed possible.

Now I do aim to commit to memory the whole epistle to the Romans but it will be hard and difficult, perhaps unfinished but I do hope that I may endure in this particular task to the glory of God, for the edifying of the brethrens and the nourishment of my own soul.

K.Oni

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Jesus and His Apostles: Teaching in Harmony


Have you ever gotten the impression that the teaching of the apostles is at odds with the teaching of Jesus?  Sometimes it may seem that way, especially when we see Jesus emphasizing certain things that the apostles don’t, and vice versa.  Though we may be confident that, in the end, their teaching is harmonious, we do get special enjoyment when we see examples of doctrinal harmony between Jesus and His apostles.  
I had just such an experience recently as I was listening to Dr. Sproul preach on Matthew 23 and Jesus’ lament over the spiritual state of Jerusalem.  I couldn’t help but be struck by the thought that Jesus’ brief words in Matthew 23:37-39 anticipated the Apostle Paul’s fuller teaching about Israel in Romans 9-11.  Check out the verses collated below and see if you don’t hear echoes of Jesus in Paul.
1. Notice that Jesus expressed deep grief over the spiritual state of Jerusalem, even as Paul expressed profound anguish over the spiritual state of Israel.
    Jesus – Matthew 23:37a
    23:37a “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … .”
    Paul – Romans 9:1-310:1
    9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ - I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit - 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. 
    10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
    2. Consider that, just as Jesus rebuked Jerusalem for its persecution of God’s prophets, so too the apostle disparaged Israel for its persecution of God’s prophets.
      Jesus – Matthew 23:37b
      23:37b “… the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
      Paul – Romans 11:2-3
      11:2 Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”
      3. In his lament, we see Jesus highlighting the countless offers of refuge He had made to Jerusalem; in his exposition, we see the apostle highlighting the unceasing offers of salvation God has made to Israel.  Moreover, just as we read of Jesus’ grief over Jerusalem’s repeated stubbornness, so we read of Paul’s grief over Israel’s historic obstinacy, reaching back even to Moses.
        Jesus – Matthew 23:37c
        23:37c “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
        Paul – Romans 10:1-418-21
        10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. …
        10:18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
        Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
        and their words to the ends of the world.”
        10:19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
        I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
        with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
        10:20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
        I have been found by those who did not seek me;
        I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
        10:21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
        4. Note too that Jesus announced the destruction of unrepentant Jerusalem and bemoaned the judgment of all but the remnant who would receive Him.  Likewise, note how the apostle announced the judgment of unrepentant Israel and bewailed the hardening of all but the remnant who would call on Him.
          Jesus – Matthew 23:38-39
          23:38-39 “See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” 
          Paul – Romans 10:27-2911:7-1023-27 
          10:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
          If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
          we would have been like Sodom
          and become like Gomorrah.” …
          11:7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
          God gave them a spirit of stupor,
          eyes that would not see
          and ears that would not hear,
          down to this very day.”
          11:9 And David says,
          Let their table become a snare and a trap,
          a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
          10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
          and bend their backs forever.” …
          11:23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
          11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers:  a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
          The Deliverer will come from Zion,
          he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
          27 “and this will be my covenant with them
          when I take away their sins.”
          The Westminster Confession (chapter 1, paragraph 5) teaches that “consent of all the parts” is one of the arguments by which Holy Scripture gives abundant evidence that it is the Word of God.  As we hear the words of Jesus reverberating through the words of His apostle, let us be sure to remind ourselves of this foundational truth.

          Friday, 20 August 2010

          Making the Grade?



          The hard work, the sleepless nights, the nail-biting exams…and then the wait. The endless, anxiety-inducing wait for news…

          Our poor GCSE students still have another week to go, but yesterday, for hundreds of thousands of students across Britain, the agony was finally over, as they ripped into the envelopes containing their A-level results.

          And now, the scramble for university places begins. With more students than spaces, it’s expected that even those that make the grade will struggle to get onto their chosen course. Some will have to move to Plan B, in a society that has increasingly come to expect its prospective employees to be educated to degree level.

          I know we don’t yet live in God’s perfect world, but part of our Christian discipleship, as individuals and as a Church, should be making the steps that help this world to become more like the one God made it to be. You might be thinking that’s obvious, but stick with me – I do have a point.

          In the context of God’s Kingdom – the Kingdom that we strive and yearn for - what does achievement actually mean? Will St Peter be standing at the pearly gates, dividing people into categories according to performance? Will there be a luxury lounge in heaven reserved for post-grads only?

          Education is undoubtedly important and, to a certain extent can get you to where you want to be in life. But when we tell our children and young people that their value as a person depends on their performance in an exam (or a project, or a job interview…) we belittle them and we belittle the image of God that rests within them. We tell them that they must be useful. They must achieve. They only get one chance! We pile on the pressure but still we expect them to love themselves whatever happens. So when the results aren’t what they’d hoped for, it can be a crushing blow.

          Of course we want to do well and we want our children to do well - to make the best of the talents and passions God has given them. We want to serve God with all that we are and all that we can be. But I think that God cares so much more about who we are than about what marks we get in tests or who we work for. God cares more about whether we are the people he has made us to be. He cares about how we treat people, how we cope with challenges and, (I think) most of all, how much we can reflect his love to those around us, wherever we spend our days.

          And we won’t be graded. We probably won’t even get a smiley-face sticker. But I think it’s the scariest, most important and exciting challenge that we face as Christians. Anyone can apply and the places are endless.

          Anna Drew, Lead Media Officer for the Methodist Church in Britain

          Definitions of Apologetics

          By Jamin Hubner (http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=4132)

          Here is a list of definitions of the word "apologetics" from both presuppositional and classical/evidential apologists:

          Presuppositional Apologists


          “Christian apologetics is, at root, a biblical discipline.” Richard Gaffin Jr. in K. Scott Oliphint and Lane G. Tipton, eds. Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2007), 1.

          “Apologetics is about inviting people to look into the face of this absolute, personal God. It dares them to see him for who he is and what he means for the world.” Thom E. Notaro in Revelation and Reason, 157.

          “We may define it as the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope.” John Frame. Apologetics to the Glory of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1994), 1.

          “Apologetics is the vindication of the presence of Christ as his church against the various forms of the non-Christian philosophy of life that constantly attempt to invade and intrude that presence.” William D. Dennison in Revelation and Reason, 203.

          “Apologetics is a way of doing theology, a way of doing evangelism, a way of doing philosophy.” Greg Bahnsen in Van Til’s Apologetic (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1998), 44-45.

          “Apologetics may be defined as persuading people to think through their worldviews, abandon their false beliefs, and embrace Jesus, all while defending the truths of the gospel.” Jamin Hubner, Light Up the Darkness (BookSurge, 2008), 119.

          Classical/Evidential Apologists


          “Apologetics is the reasoned defense of the Christian religion.” R.C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. Classical Apologetics (Zondervan, 1984), 13.

          “Apologetics…is that branch of Christian theology which seeks to provide a rational justification for the truth claims of the Christian faith.” William Lane Craig. Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics (Crossway, 2008), 15.

          "Apologetics is the discipline of defending Christianity as true, rational, and pertinent to life." William Lane Craig. On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision (Colorado Springs:David C. Cook, 2010)

          “Apologetics is directed primarily for those who do not believe so that they may have a reason to believe.” Norman Geisler. “An Apologetic for Apologetics.” http://www.normangeisler.net/apologetic.html

          “At its essence, apologetics is the art and science of Christian persuasion: communicating the relevance, coherence, and reasonableness of the Christian Gospel to skeptics, cultural influencers, and critical thinkers across the globe.” Ravi Zacharias International Ministries. http://www.rzim.org/initiatives.aspx 

          “Apologetics is the attempt to ally reason to faith, to defend faith with reason’s weapon.” Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli.Handbook of Catholic Apologetics: Reasoned Answers to Questions of Faith (Ignatius Press, 2009), 32.