Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross-bearing 07] – The Cross and Suffering

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross-bearing 07] – The Cross and Suffering

“IN FACT, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”

2 Timothy 3:12 NIV

The cross of Christ and suffering are inseparable. Like the scripture above says, it is a fact. If you choose to walk with Christ by living in a godly manner, you will face persecution.

The Message Translation puts Second Timothy three twelve in a more down-to-earth way. It says anyone who wants to live all out for Christ is in for a lot of trouble; there’s no getting around it. 

While carrying the cross, a believer must go through toil, weariness, want, persecution, tribulation, rejection and ostracism for Christ’s sake. Suffering for the believer is inevitable. In Paul’s first letter to the Thesselonian church, the third chapter and third verse, he encouraged them by stating explicitly “That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.”

Paul himself went through a lot of suffering for Christ’s sake. He gave us a glimpse of his ordeal in second Corinthians eleven from verse twenty-three. He said, “. . .I have been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the thirty-nine lashes. 

“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, 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. 

“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. . .”

What suffering brother Paul had to endure! But thank God, our suffering for Christ is light and easy. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. These sufferings are light and easy because we have the comfort of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:4)

So don’t be deterred by these sufferings, but rejoice that you’re a partaker of Christ’s suffering. And if you’re not suffering for Christ, examine yourself, you may be compromising.

gidmedico

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Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Self denial 04] – Abraham’s example

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Self denial 04] – Abraham’s example

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son”

Hebrews 11:17 NIV

Abraham is a typical example of men of Bible times who denied self, trusting God. He demonstrated self denial on several occasions, some of which are mentioned in Scriptures.

On the occasion of his call in Genesis chapter twelve verses one through five, the Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. . .” And it was later documented: “So Abram went, as the Lord had told him. . .” At this beginning phase of God’s dealings with him, God required self denial and Abraham passed the test. He had to let go of his country (land or familiar territory), his relatives and his father’s house; he had to show he loved God more than his father.

At another instance when Abraham could be described as matured in the faith – for he had walked a while with God – God still brought up the self denial test to see if Abraham could lay aside everything for Him. This time, he was to set aside the very gift God had given him – his son.

The story is found in Genesis twenty-two, from verse one through fourteen. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” His response was later documented: “. . .He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. . .” He had to let go of his only son, Isaac by literally sacrificing him; he had to show he loved God more than his son. 

In your walk with God, the first prerequisite is to forsake all – possessions, people, pursuits – and follow Christ. God will literally ask you to leave things and people for His purpose to be actualised in your life. Oh that you will emulate the life of Abraham, living a life of obedience and self denial!

gidmedico

Word Clinic 21: Truth is absolute

Word Clinic 21: Truth is absolute

“On the day the Lord gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the Lord in the presence of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’  So THE SUN STOOD STILL…”

Joshua 10:12‭-‬13 NIV

I was cycling back from work this morning at about past six (I was on call through the night), enjoying my leisurely ride, I gazed into the distance above the trees in my far vision and was blinded by the hue of the rising sun. For a moment, I tried appreciating the earth’s horizon, how the road in the distance disappeared in a gentle convexity from which the sun was emerging. And then I remembered the Bible story above. Joshua actually told that sun to stand still. I ruminated a little on that miraculous event – how a mortal man halted the course of nature, and then my mind wondered off to another issue.

Joshua actually did tell the sun to stand still? Was the sun moving before? From the geography I know, the sun is stagnant in our solar system, while the earth rotates around its axis to cause the effect of day and night, and revolves around the sun to cause the effect of different seasons. Then it dawned on me. Joshua’s time was before scientists came to know that the earth was spherical and not flat; and that it was the earth that was in motion and not the sun. The “sun-standing-still” event took place around 14th century BC when almost everyone believed the earth was flat and stationary with the sun and moon doing the movements around it. It was not until 470 to 385 BC that some ancient Greek philosophers started putting forth the theory that we may have a rotating earth instead of the sun, and that we most likely had a spherical earth.

But then, when Joshua and those Israelites and Amorites were to report the miraculous event that took place at Gibeon, they said “the sun stood still.” Someone standing in the sun (if that were possible) would have said “the earth stopped rotating.” God looking from His throne in heaven into our miniature solar system would have said “the earth stopped rotating.” Different perspectives!

But if God had told Joshua then that the earth stopped rotating, and that that was why the sun stayed over Gibeon and did not go down for a whole day, he would have argued, and doubted if he was truly hearing God. So I think that’s why God let him document that portion of Scripture in his own perspective since it still conveyed the miracle that happened to the people of their time. But the different perspectives that stemmed out of the people’s ignorance then, did not change the truth. What truth? That the earth is spherical and rotated, and that the sun did not stand still but the earth.

Now what point am I driving at? Truth is absolute and unbending. Even if everyone gangs up against it, it still remains the truth. It doesn’t follow the democracy principle of “the majority has it.” It may be obscured due to perspective but when that perspective gains alignment, it discovers that the truth had been the same the whole time.

I’ve seen some Christians pick up some portions of Scripture and make it say what it is not saying. They make leading sentences like “this is how I understand it” or “my viewpoint or school of thought about this scripture is this.” And then they begin the argument and appear to back up their points with “Scriptures”. They may end up bamboozling the ignorant and naïve ones, but what they fail to realise is that Truth is absolute. 

The truth about God’s word is absolute. Every portion of Scripture has just one truth and the onus lies on the believer to discover that by meticulous study, listening to what others that have gone ahead have to say about those Scriptures and dependence on the Holy Spirit’s illumination.

God already knew that the earth was spherical (after all He created it) way before Greek philosophers started postulating about it in the 6th century BC. The prophet in Isaiah forty verses twenty two said “He sits enthroned above the CIRCLE OF THE EARTH, and its people are like grasshoppers. . .” So when Anaximander and Hecataeus of Miletus were drawing their early world maps based on the early Mesopotamian mythology that portrayed the world as a flat disk floating in the ocean with a hemispherical sky-dome above, God was probably laughing hysterically at them from above. Now with evidencial knowledge at our disposal, we can join God in that laughter at these fellows. 

But has it occurred to you that God may be laughing at some of the folly we currently display in the interpretation of Scriptures? Interpretations like “If you sin, just confess your righteousness,” “Once you believe the gospel, that is obedience, no matter what you do afterwards,” “You don’t need to please God since He is already pleased with you,” “You are already in heaven,” “God is good, so He cannot kill.” And many more hilarious interpretations.

I know that someone may be uncomfortable with me saying that “God is laughing…” Remember I qualified that laughter with the word “hysteric.” And the last time I checked, this qualifier can also be used for weeping. So which ever you want, God is unhappy with the wrong interpretation of His Truth, because His Truth is a person – He never changes.

gidmedico

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross-bearing 06] – Yoked with our fellow servants

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross-bearing 06] – Yoked with our fellow servants

“That all of them may call on the name of the Lord, to serve Him with one unanimous consent and ONE UNITED SHOULDER (bearing the yoke of the Lord).”

Zephaniah 3:9 AMP

We had previously considered that the believer is in a yoke-system with Christ. Not only is he in this yoke-system with Christ, but he is also yoked with other believers. 

I have heard some believers say that they can do whatever they like irrespective of what other christians think. You can’t! You’re in a yoke-system. Have you seen oxen or cows being yoked together to work in a farm? If you haven’t, let me attempt a description. The animals (two or more) to be yoked are made to stand in the same horizontal plane neck-to-neck. A collar is placed round their necks (usually padded) with a splint made of wood (or any other rigid material) running horizontally across the neck collars of these animals, attached firmly to them. The farming or plowing tool is usually attached to the horizontal splint. The animals are all in a yoke-system, united as a single unit. If one animal tries to go ahead of others or do its own thing, it will end up breaking its neck. This analogy applies to the yoke-system in which the believer finds himself with Christ and other believers. That picture of one unanimous consent and one united shoulder.

This yoke-system speaks of our union with other believers (as members) in one body (the church) with Christ being the head of the body. The Good News Bible puts Romans twelve verses five this way: “In the same way, though we are many, we are one body in union with Christ, and we are all joined to each other as different parts of one body.” In Phillipians four verses three of the King James Bible, we see the apostle Paul calling Euodias and Syntyche, likely members of the Philippian church, his “true yokefellow”.

As believers, we all have our own part to contribute to the growth of the body. We need other believers to fulfil God’s purpose for our lives. The Good News Bible puts Ephesians four sixteen thus: “Under his control all the different parts of the body fit together, and the whole body is held together by every joint with which it is provided. So when each separate part works as it should, the whole body grows and builds itself up through love.”

Having found ourselves in this yoke-system, we have to do our best possible to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the body, bearing one another’s burden and serving one another in love.

And next time you come across any believer, irrespective of his tribe, profession, looks, or church-affiliation; bear this in mind, he is your yokefellow.

gidmedico

WORD CLINIC 20: Feel free to quote your Bible

WORD CLINIC 20: Feel free to quote your Bible

After one of those religious riots in the 1990s in which a great number of persons were massacred, the Kano state government called together prominent persons in diverse fields to discuss the way forward. These persons entailed pastors, imams, chief judges, doctors, politicians, and many other important personnel, the governor himself was present.

The conference kick-started at about noon, the theme of the meeting was to discuss how to maintain peace in the state and each speaker had ten minutes to make his point. Speaker after speaker spoke; they all tried to be diplomatic and politically correct. The imams spoke, trying hard not to hurt the christians in attendance; pastors spoke, avoiding direct statements from the Bible and making general statements like “we can live in peace and harmony, we are all brothers. . .” Some even said “. . . we serve the same God. . .” But someone stood up and spoke differently. He was a doctor, a consultant ophthalmologist, renowned in his field. More importantly, he was a christian known to speak the truth without mincing words.

He started by saying that Jesus was the Prince of peace. And that the state could never know peace as long as she kept rejecting Jesus. He quoted Scriptures like John sixteen verses thirty-three in which Jesus was saying “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” He quoted other Scriptures to buttress his point then summarised. In the seconds that passed, there was dead silence all over the hall. Everyone watched the speaker with apprehension. One could imagine the audience standing up, ranting and hauling stones at this man. But instead, he received applaud, and some standing ovation. What a bold step! He spoke the truth and referenced his Bible and God got the glory.

Many Believers feel awkward referencing the Bible in secular meetings, when writing articles for newspapers and magazines, or in non-fiction writings, and in other “outside-the-church” settings. But why is this the case? The Bible is not just a religious book but a holistic one. It is the most successful literary creation, more influential than Shakespeare. Shakespeare’s works have been translated into 60 languages while the Bible has been translated into well over 2,000 languages. The Bible outsells every other book every year, as world’s bestseller. About 44 million copies of the Bible are sold every year.

Some have argued that the Bible was nothing but the white man’s tool to subdue and enslave Blacks through their colonisation; it is nothing but a religious book that peddles hearsays and lacks facts. But a closer look at how it came about will dismiss this argument. It was written over a period of 1600 years by more than 40 authors (led by the Holy Spirit) all from different backgrounds – kings, diplomats, fishermen, tentmakers, poor people, the list been endless, all spanning across three continents – Africa, Asia, Europe. It was written in three languages – Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, and across multiple cultures. And yet, the whole Book has one theme – Jesus. This book obviously cannot be the figment of someone’s imagination.

Some have queried the reliability of the text, especially the New Testament, claiming it had been subjected to alterations. The Bible has done well in terms of preservation. It is obvious a divine hand has been behind it. Over 5,300 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin and 9,300 early other portions of the New Testament of the Bible are still in existence. These were early copies of the original book. No other document from antiquity comes close to this (in terms of sheer numbers). If you reject the reliability of the text of the New Testament just in terms of sheer numbers, then you lose all of classical antiquity. 

John Warwick Montgomery puts it this way: “To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity; for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.” You may wonder why I’ve said this much about the New Testament and not the Old. That’s because the reliability of the New is more contested than the Old Testament. Notwithstanding, the latter is as reliable as the former.

The word “Bible” means book. It is the book of books. When dying, Sir Walter Scott, the possessor of a great library called his son saying, “Bring me the book” “Which book?” asked the son. Walter replied, “There is only one book, it is the Bible.”

I wonder why I can’t make reference to the Bible in a secular gathering without been tagged as religious. If there’s one book that has stood the test of critical scholars and historians over centuries, it is the Bible.

So friends, when next you’re in that secular gathering, or writing that article or thesis of yours, feel free to quote your Bible.

gidmedico

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Following Christ 03] – His prayer life

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Following Christ 03] – His prayer life

“And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.”

Luke 6:12 KJV

Someone may be thinking, “Why did Christ have to prayer at all, and all night for that matter? Is He not God?” Yes, He is God, but He’s also fully man. And he came to lay an example that we should follow His steps. And if He has set a precedent as regards the way to prayer, then we as believers cannot do otherwise.

Jesus had a robust prayer life that served as the fuel for His entire life and ministry. From the records we have in Scriptures, he was very consistent and spent ample time praying. When the apostle Paul was admonishing the Church in Thessalonica to “pray without ceasing,” he was in other words asking them to pray like Christ.

Just going by the few records of the gospel writers of the instances in which Christ prayed will affirm the richness of Jesus’ prayer life to any keen observer. 

Jesus prayed at his baptism – a symbolic step at the commencement of His ministry (Luke 3:21-22). He began His day by deliberately getting up early before sunrise and finding a convenient place to have an alone time with God – what is referred to as “quiet time” in many circles (Mark 1:35). He withdrew from the multitude in order to spend time in prayer, exemplifying that there’s a need for we as believers to create a balance between our public life and private communion (Luke 5:15-16).

Before making the crucial decision of choosing His disciples, He had a vigil in prayers to God (Luke 6:12). Yes, a vigil! He forfeited sleep and spent a whopping twelve hours in prayer. After His great exploit of feeding the five thousand, He prayed (Matthew 14:23). Prior to Peter’s confession of Him being Christ, He was alone praying (private prayer), and His disciples were with Him, to join with Him in His prayers (cooperate prayer) [Luke 9:18-20].

Jesus prayed on the mountain before His disciples and had His form changed (transfigured) [Luke 9:28-36]. He knew this encounter was God’s purpose yet He sought it by prayers. At Lazarus’ grave, Jesus spoke few words in public as a prayer of faith, and brought back Lazarus from the dead because He had been endured with power from His private communion with God (John 11:41-42). At another time, He was praying when His disciples stumbled on Him. They were so moved by the excellency and fervour of His prayer life that they requested to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:1).

In His priestly prayer in John chapter seventeen, Jesus prayed for Himself, His disciples and the Church. At Gethsemane, on the mount of olives, He prayed before facing the suffering of the cross. In this place of prayer, he laid off the burden that had hitherto weighed Him down, and received strength for the mission ahead (Matthew 26:36-44). And on the cross, during His last moment on earth, he prayed for the forgiveness of man’s sins and prayed, committing Himself unto God (Luke 23:34, 46).

Wow, what a highlight! Christ indeed had a rich prayer life. Very few, if anyone today is as busy as Christ was during His time and ministry on earth, yet many of us spend little time in communion with God. God wants us to awake from our comatose prayer-void state and follow the prayer life of Christ. 

gidmedico

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross Bearing 05] – Yoked to submit

Three Prongs of the Christian Walk [Cross Bearing 05] – Yoked to submit

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am MEEK and LOWLY in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

Matthew 11:29 KJV

The yoke of Christ on our necks brings us under subjection to the will of God. Any neck void of this yoke cannot walk the narrow path that leads to life eternal; he will eventually stumble on the way.

It is as we carry this cross of ours – the yoke of Christ on our necks – that our lives would be conformed to that of Christ. It is vain to profess with the mouth saying “I know who I am,” when our necks are carrying yokes other than that of Christ.

This yoke refines our thoughts, tames our appetites, and eventually conditions us to be extensions of Christ. It makes us humble, meek, and poor in spirit (contrite in heart), just like Christ.

Show me a proud believer and I’d show you one whose neck is without the yoke of Christ. The call to bear this yoke comes before the call to learn of Christ. So if you’re already in the school of discipleship, please check your neck; if it’s devoid of Christ’s yoke then you came in through the window. Go back to the door and sling His yoke over your neck.

Every neck must have a yoke over it; either the yoke of sin or the yoke of Christ. Therefore Christ, having removed the yoke of sin from our necks through His finished work, is imploring us to submit our necks to His yoke – which is the entire will of God for our lives – and follow Him.

gidmedico