Archive for June 2012

Epistle to the Hebrews (4:1-11)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.For only we who believe can enter his rest. As for the others, God said,”In my anger I took an oath: ‘They will never enter my place of rest,” even though this rest has been ready since he made the world. We know it is ready because of the place in the Scriptures where it mentions the seventh day: “On the seventh day God rested from all his work.But in the other passage God said, “They will never enter my place of rest.”So God’s rest is there for people to enter, but those who first heard this good news failed to enter because they disobeyed God. So God set another time for entering his rest, and that time is today. God announced this through David much later in the words already quoted: “Today when you hear his voice,don’t harden your hearts.”Now if Joshua had succeeded in giving them this rest, God would not have spoken about another day of rest still to come. So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.For all who have entered into God’s rest have rested from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest. But if we disobey God, as the people of Israel did, we will fall. ” Hebrews 4:1-11

We already reached chapter 4 and the author has not ceased to argue about many doctrines. Now he’s arguing about something in particular, God’s rest. The author is now shifting to something else.  Most probably the Christians were discouraged and needed to hear about this superior rest reserved for Christians. The author is talking about a rest that all Christians should experience. He makes an allusion to a rest in Genesis, where God ceased to work/create and blessed/praised/contemplated the work of His hands after creation. Another allusion is also made to the rest of Canaan where the Israelites were to establish themselves after 40 years of trials. Still another allusion is made to the sabbath rest where one rests from his labors.  These rests presuppose that there were work/trials before and a time has come for cessation of work and trials. Now the author is talking about a divine rest that is awaiting us. It’s more than Canaan and more than the sabbath. We are pilgrims on earth awaiting to reach our heavenly resting place. Was it not the Lord who promised to us :

 Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.And you know the way to where I am going.”

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again.” John 14

Is the author talking about our heavenly rest i.e. where we will go after our last breath? Or is the author talking about a rest which we can experience right now on earth? In my opinion, the author is talking about both. We can experience this rest in Christ right now in this troubled world. The ultimate enjoyment of this rest will occur when we will leave this earth. As the book of Revelation puts it:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Rev 21

The author also emphasises that this rest (whether it is the new heaven or this rest in Christ) is only reserved for believers. He argues that some can fail to experience it if they cease to believe.

For those who do not believe, we read still read in Revelation 21:

All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.  “But cowards, unbelievers, the corrupt, murderers, the immoral, those who practice witchcraft, idol worshipers, and all liars—their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

“We ought to tremble with fear”, the author warns. Why? Because the Israelites  who also heard the good news about a place of rest(in this case Canaan) did not care about this promise. This good news did not have a positive impact on their way of living. Many of them did not share the faith of those who believed that they will enter Canaan. In our case Christians, it’s the same scenario. We heard a similar good news, called gospel in our era and we need to be careful of failing to persevere/continue to have faith.

Peter in his letter said:

And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 1

I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 2 Peter 3

For a while, Hebrews 4 appeared to me to be written by Peter. Peter wanted to encourage Christians to make every effort to respond to God’s promise. We share God’s divine nature through Christ. Be careful of those who say that the promise of Jesus’ return is false. Be careful of those who say that there will be no heaven/rest. God has prepared a place of rest for us since the beginning of creation. He wants to have fellowship with us and He is inviting us to enter His place of rest(now). Not only that, He also manifested Himself as the One who gives rest in the person of Jesus Christ.

This rest for Christians ultimately culminates to God the Son who manifested Himself in flesh, Jesus. He said :

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Mat 11:28

If Jesus gave us rest, peace, joy and love right here on earth in our troubles, I guess we have already tasted a bit of the heavenly rest. Let us do our best to enter this rest and not have an unbelieving and disobeying heart like the Israelites. God did not rest because He was tired but because He wanted to stop and look at the beautiful things He created. Let us do the same. Let us contemplate the Lord’s work, let us contemplate His majesty. Our body will stop to be tired when we’ll die but our soul can find rest TODAY.

As David said:

A single day in your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else! I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.” Psalm 84

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.My salvation and my honor depend on God;he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” Psalm 62:5-8

Posted June 30, 2012 by Cedric in Theology

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Epistle to the Hebrews (3:12-19)   Leave a comment

Epistle to the Hebrews

Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says: “Today when you hear his voice,don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him?So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.” Hebrews 3:12-19

In the previous post, we had an introduction to the dangers of having an unbelieving and stubborn heart. Repent today was the author’s directives. The author took the people of Israel as example to expose his point. The Hebrews could easily identify themselves to these examples because they knew what God did for their fathers. Now the author moves from the Israelites and address himself to Christians(brothers and sisters). Next warning. Be careful he says of not stopping to believe and turning away from the living God. I hear over and over again that a Christian cannot lose his salvation. Listen, I’m 100% sure that God will never abandon/forsake me. But if I want to take the foolish decision to turn away from Him, He won’t force me to remain in His presence. God is not a beggar. The author is addressing himself to Christians who want to stop to believe and not to people who never knew Christ. As we read in 2 Timothy 2:11:

This is a trustworthy saying:If we die with him,we will also live with him.If we endure hardship,we will reign with him.If we deny him,he will deny us.If we are unfaithful,he remains faithful,for he cannot deny who he is.”

We are often unfaithful but He remains faithful to us and don’t forsake us. But if we deny Jesus, He’ll deny us.

Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven.” Mat 10:33

If we Christians stop to believe in Jesus or deny Him through the way we live or what we say, we’ll never enter the heavenly rest.

So the author says : Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.” Stopping to believe is what makes us turn away from God. Incredulity is a sin because we infer that God is a liar. The author goes further and says “warn your fellow brethren TODAY”. These Christians were quite discouraged and perhaps wondered if God was still with them. Beware of being deceived by sin because it hardens the heart little by little. As we saw in Timothy “For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.” We need to persevere and remain in Christ as we read in John 15. Remain in me and I’ll remain in you. If we do not remain in Christ, we are cut off and thrown away. Let’s not take lightly these warnings. Many doctrines out there want to infer that no matter what a Christian does he’ll go to heaven because of Jesus’ sacrifice. May I ask why Christians ask to repent when they live in sin then? May  I ask why Paul warned in his Epistles that if Christians continue to live in sin, they won’t have part in the kingdom? Why do we see so many warnings regarding sin in the bible if there’re no consequences of being separated from God?

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division,envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Gal 5:21

And again talking to Christians: “You can be sure that no immoral, impure, or greedy person will inherit the Kingdom of Christ and of God. For a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world.Don’t be fooled by those who try to excuse these sins, for the anger of God will fall on all who disobey him.” Eph 5:5

Be careful about those who think that once we are saved we are forever saved and can live as they wish. Once we are saved we are forever saved IF we remain in Christ, obey His teachings and persevere. We need to keep running towards perfection. As Paul said :

 Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.” 1 Cor 9:24

We don’t do good works to be saved but once we are saved we should work our salvation i.e. show evidence through fruits.

Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Phil 2:12

Those who could not entered God’s rest were those who sinned, stopped to believed and disobeyed Him. Disobedience occurs when we hear but refuse not listen. Let’s be careful . God saved Israel from the Egyptians, showed so many evidence of His presence and promised Israel Canaan. But not everyone were able to enter God’s rest. It was only those who continued to have faith, persevered and obeyed God. It’s the same for us Christians, God saved us from our sins and we need to continue to persevere, have faith and obey God.

Evangelism (1)   Leave a comment

Evangelism

Evangelism

Last week we had a team from the US who came to help some churches in my country to share the gospel. They have been there for 1 week and on the closing day, the project coordinator announced that 410 people made a decision to follow Jesus. To be honest I don’t know if these 410 people understood well what the gospel was. I also don’t think everyone who heard the gospel for the first time understood everything in just half an hour.

As Jesus said “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Christians from the States came to help harvesting and it was the church’s responsibility to give them Christ’s teachings as follow up.

Even if we shared the gospel with more than 410 people, not everyone accepted it. Some of those who accepted the gospel probably heard it before and finally took a decision. As Paul said:

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building. ” 1 Cor 3:5

Some of us had the privilege to reap what others have been working hard on. Others sow and never see the fruits and still others water where a seed was sown. But God Almighty is the One who makes that seed grow. There’s no need to feel bad if you don’t see the fruits of your evangelism, you’re perhaps a sower. You’re successful in evangelism if you have presented Christ’s gospel in its simplicity. Whether people believe or not is not your responsibility, it’s theirs. Your responsibility is to witness to others.  There’s no need to be prideful if someone repents the very day you share the gospel. You can perhaps be a harvester in this case. You probably don’t know how many prayers of the saints were behind for this soul to repent.

Paul sowed many times but not every heart were good soils as Jesus taught. Some people’s heart are tough, rocky, others like thorns  and others are well prepared.

Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path.The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it.” Mat 13:18

Jesus said these words because He knows the heart of man.There’re 4 categories Jesus said. In this post, I would like to talk about those hearts who did not understand.

1. Those who categorically refuse the gospel because they don’t want to turn away from their sins, have some preconceived ideas of Christianity or simply don’t want to hear about it.

This is what we read in John 3, people don’t want to repent because they fear that their sins are exposed by the Light. Still there’re some people who have set some barriers in their mind and closed their ears. They have some arguments against Christianity and this causes them to close their ears to the gospel. For example, I have some friends who think that I worship 3 Gods. But this is false. They also wonder how can Jesus be a “son of God”.  But this is just a title given to Jesus. Jesus is “God’s very Word made flesh” – John 1.  They think that it’s blasphemy to say that God had a relationship with Mary and conceived Jesus. But we Christians don’t believe that. Jesus is not a biological son of God. Just like I have a soul, a body and a spirit, I am one being. There’re not 3 Cedrics. As the bible says, man was created in the image of God. This is why I believe in God the Father, Jesus and the Spirit. We are also a kind of trinity. This is what differentiates us from animals. So it’s important to identify barriers which hinder a good presentation of the gospel.

The first category of soil makes allusion to those who heard the gospel but do not understand it and it’s easy for the devil to dissuade them. They are like the pharisees. They might be religious people,  intellectuals, living in debauchery or simply respectable citizens. Their religious background or intellect cause them to resist and argue. These people might be very zealous, respectable citizens but there’re things blinding them. Christians need to identify these barriers and not just ignore these people. We need to remove these barriers to be more effective in evangelism. The man writing this would have been lost today without God’s grace. Yeah, I had many questions regarding Christianity but never received clear answers from Christians. By God’s grace I received a fantastic study book on the Epistle to the Hebrews and it’s then I understood that Jesus is God. My life radically  changed since that day.

No one can be forced to become a Christian. If someone has been forced to become a Christian, he is simply not a Christian because a Christian is one who voluntarily decides to follow Jesus. Many professes to be Christians but they are not. We cannot force someone to love someone else, this is not genuine love. The same applies to being a follower of Jesus. A Christian is someone who has understood, he uses his mind to decide to follow Jesus. In religion one is born a hindu, muslim, catholic etc if he’s born in such a family. E.g. I was born a catholic. But not so with Christianity. Christianity is not a religion. One is not born a Christian if he/her parents were Christians. Jesus said  “You have to be born again” i.e. when you choose to follow Him, your old life is gone and you become someone new – A Christian. You get a new life.

To be continued…

Posted June 10, 2012 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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My first poem   2 comments

Poem

Poetry

I don’t like poems, I don’t like reading them, I don’t know how to write one and never wrote one.
Poetry seemed to me too weak for a man to write.
Arguments appeared to be more manly.
Poetry weakens my analytical faculties when it starts to get romantic.
But only for you Jesus, I’ll write a poem in my style.
Well, I was born a male but it’s you who made me become a man.
I know it’s foolish to argue with you because deep down my conscience, I know you’re always right in what you say.
Just reading what you said keeps my mouth shut and makes me bow to my knees.
You the perfect man made a public declaration of love to me in John 3:16.
Your wisdom, boldness and love inspire me. I want to become as tender and gentle as you are.
I know you now and have a stubborn love for you.
You’re not some fable or fairy tale that I’ve made up inside my mind.
Thank you for your patience towards me and transforming my life.

Posted June 2, 2012 by Cedric in My writings (English)

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