The Bible says, “Naaman, commander of the army for the king of Aram, was a great man in his master’s sight and highly regarded because through him, the Lord had given victory to Aram. The man was a brave warrior . . .” (2 Kings 5:1).
Here was a man that had power, position, and prestige. He was successful. He was a winner. He was wealthy. He was a hero. He was respected. He was admired. He was envied.
“But”— a three-letter conjunction. That small word “but” changes everything. “But he had a skin disease.” The fact is that Naaman was infected by the slow-growing leprosy. Lepers were isolated from the community and humiliated. They were the outcasts— the ultimate, the original untouchables.
Where do we find help? Where do we go for healing? Naaman, the commander-in-chief, finds direction through a captive servant, his wife’s slave. Naaman, the conqueror, finds help in a conquered nation, Israel. Naaman, the highly regarded man, learns of his treatment from a lowly prophet Elisha. Naaman, the wealthy and valiant soldier, is cured in a dirty river.
Naaman almost rejected his opportunity for healing by getting angry that Elisha did not show up to greet him at the door. Naaman was a big shot in his country and he wanted a big shot prophet to meet him at the door and heal him.
Elisha’s prescription for healing was bizarre. “Go wash seven times in the Jordan and your flesh will be restored and you will be clean.”
Humility leads to obedience. The humble person makes no claims on God, but knows that God has claims on him or her. We must believe that God’s way is better than our own. We may not always understand his way of working, but by humbly obeying, we will receive his blessings.
Pride was standing between Naaman and his healing. The famous prophet did not come out to meet him but instead sent a servant. This wasn’t the way he expected to be treated. Then he was told to wash himself in the muddy water of the Jordan river. There were much larger and cleaner rivers in Damascus. He felt insulted.
Namaan finally humbled himself in complete obedience and in doing so he was touched by God and healed. His skin was not only cured but it became better than before like that of a young boy.
Are you in desperate need of a touch of God in your life? Humble yourself in obedience and approach him anytime time, anywhere.
Scripture passage: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash” (Matthew 7:24-27).
The two builders: This parable of Jesus concerns a wise man and a foolish man. One built his house on rock; the other built his house on sand. The difference in their houses was the foundations. Both man faced life’s difficulties… “The rain came down, the streams rose, the winds blew.” The house built on the rock stood. The house built on the sand “fell with a great crash.” Palestine is known for torrential rains that can turn dry valleys (wadis) into raging torrents. Only storms reveal the quality of the work of the two builders. The point is that the wise person builds to withstand anything.
Jesus is illustrating that we can live wisely or foolishly. It depends on where we lay our foundation. A wise person represents those who put Jesus’ words into practice; they are building to withstand anything. Those who pretend to have faith, or have a merely intellectual commitment, are foolish builders. When the storms of life come, their structures fool no one, above all not God.
The ‘fool’ in the scripture: The word Jesus used for the wise builder is not the word for philosophical wisdom; rather, it is the word for practical wisdom. It is synonymous with thoughtfulness, careful planning, and common sense. The term for the foolish builder means “dull.” We get our English word “moron” from this word. It is an insulting term.
In the Old Testament, “fool” indicates moral deficiency rather than intellectual deficiency. The fool who says in his heart, “There is no God,” has shut God out of his life (Psalm 14:1). Such a person is twisted that he or she is open neither to reason nor to God. The “fool” is neither ignorant nor an atheist. The word is synonymous with the wicked, who aggressively and intentionally flouts his independence from God and his commandments. The fool in his heart denies the practical import of God’s existence. He shuts off the affairs of this world from divine intervention and denies any personal accountability to God for his actions. Within the congregation he may mimic the sounds of faith, but his true self shows disregard for God and his commandments. In the New Testament, “fool” portrays a person who lacks understanding because he or she has not adequately taken God into account. Christians can be foolish if they fail to evaluate life’s issues from God’s perspectives.
Storms of life reveal the difference: Before the storms came the two houses looked identical. They may have both been attractive, spacious, and comfortable. On the surface you couldn’t really tell which house was built on the sand and which was secured deep to the rock. It was only when the storms hit that you could see the difference in the homes.
It is impossible for us to tell who is genuine in their faith and who is not until the time of trial comes. Everybody sounds like a believer when times are good. True faith comes when we are called to trust him in the dark. The person who has a deep secured foundation always trusts God, relies on God, looks beyond the present to the eternal glory and runs to God rather than away from him.
Everyone is building their life: This parable conveys the demand for radical submission to the exclusive lordship of Jesus, who fulfills the Law and the Prophets. It warns the disobedient that the alternative to total obedience, true righteousness, and life in the kingdom is defiance against God, a life that is self-centered, lack of love for God and for others and eternal damnation.
Everyone is building their life on some kind of foundation. There are only two choices: you either build on a solid and deep foundation or you build on a shallow and weak foundation. The picture is clear. You are either walking on God’s way, experiencing his transformation in your life, and knowing his strength for difficult times; or you are walking away from God, producing nothing of eternal value and are vulnerable to the storms that may come your way.
Are you the wise builder or the foolish builder? You are not born foolish or wise when it comes to laying the foundation of your life. That’s it. When laying the foundation of your life it’s your decision on whether to lay it on the loose and unstable sand or on secured and unshakable rock.
Exodus chapter 3 and 4 tell us about the meeting of Moses with God. It was probably the most important meeting of his life but he had no advanced warning about it. There, in the desert, Moses found that God had already set the agenda. There was no time to his ease, no time to think up ways of diverting God’s attention to other matters. When God confronted Moses, we find out what Moses was really made of.
A. The voice from the bush: The scene is the slope of Mount Horeb, also called Sinai. On the summit of this mount, Sinai, Moses will later receive the Law. But Moses does not know this as he guides his flock in search of vegetation. Suddenly he comes upon a bush in perpetual flame and stops short in wonder. He is jolted a second time when a voice speaks from the bush, calling him by name.
When the Lord saw that he had turned aside to look, God called to him from within the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” God said, “Do not approach any closer! Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” He added, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:4-6
The inclusion of Moses’ father suggests the continuity of God’s relationship with His people. Moses is astounded and awed. In reverence he covers his face, for he is afraid to look upon God. After the divine revelation comes an announcement of what is to happen. God always reveals Himself for a purpose, never simply to create a show.
B. The five reluctant words: The task of Moses was simply that of speaking out for God. But Moses came up with five convincing reasons for why he was not suitable. His reservations are ones we all would felt when confronted the same challenge.
I. Who am I? Moses is saying, “I am a nobody.” II. Who are you? Moses is saying, “I do not know enough.” III. What if they won’t believe me? Moses is saying, “I am afraid of failure.” IV. I am not eloquent. Moses is saying, “I don’t have the gift.” V. Send someone else. Moses is saying “I do not want to go.” Finally the truth is out!
God knows what has already happened and tells Moses about it.
The Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt. I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows. I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up from that land to a land that is both good and spacious, to a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:7-8)
C. I am a nobody: Now comes the biggest shock of all. God names Moses as the deliverer.
Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
Forty years before, Moses had tried to stop the oppression and had to flee for his life. Now he is an old man of 80, no longer impetuous, impulsive, passionate for justice and bold. After four decades in the wilderness he has learned his weaknesses. Once he might have complimented God for choosing him. Now he says sincerely, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, or that I should bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”
This is the person God can use, he has over the years learned humility.
Moses once needed humbling, but now he needs assurance.
He replied, “Surely I will be with you, and this will be the sign to you that I have sent you: When you bring the people out of Egypt, you and they will serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:11-12)
D. I do not know enough: God’s assurance, however, is too far in the future for Moses. He must have something to say when he first appears before the children of Israel. He fears that they will not listen to him unless they are convinced that the God of their fathers has sent him. Furthermore, they will want to know the divine name as an expression of the character of God.
Moses said to God, “If I go to the Israelites and tell them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ – what should I say to them?” Exodus 3:13
God said to Moses, “I AM that I AM.” And he said, “You must say this to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14)
The “I AM that I AM” denotes God’s absolute and essential being. Moses is to announce himself as the messenger of the all-powerful God who cares for his people and is ready and willing to respond to their cries. God further tells Moses how to begin the mission. He is to gather the elders of Israel and announce the deliverance to them. But God advises that the deliverance will not be quick and simple. Pharaoh will resist and will not let the people go until after a demonstration of divine miracles. Then Pharaoh will be glad to send the Hebrews away and will even provide for their journey.
E. I am afraid of failure: Moses is still unwilling to heed God’s call. He wants credentials, proof that he is acting under divine authority. God is patient and gives him two signs, the changing of the shepherd’s staff into a serpent and back again and the hand that becomes leprous and is restored.
F. I do not have the gift: The two signs were still not enough for Moses. He feels ill-prepared to speak to the Hebrew elders and to Pharaoh.
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O my Lord, I am not an eloquent man, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant, for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” Exodus 4:10
The Lord said to him, “Who gave a mouth to man, or who makes a person mute or deaf or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? So now go, and I will be with your mouth and will teach you what you must say.” Exodus 4:11-12
G. Send someone else: But Moses said, “O my Lord, please send anyone else whom you wish to send!” Exodus 4:13
Moses pleads again with God to send anyone but him. The truth is out! Moses really don’t want to go!
But there was no escape route for Moses. God has the answers for all the excuses Moses presented before him. God said Aaron would be the spokesman. Aaron was God’s second choice. It would have been better if Moses had consented to be the speaker, for later events will reveal that Aaron is the weaker of the two. Nevertheless, God sends Moses with the signs of the rod-serpent the leprous hand. He is the man chosen and prepared for the task.
Conclusion: Today the need has never been greater for messengers to announce the Good News that Jesus saves and delivers from sin. We don’t have enough missionaries because we don’t want to leave the comforts of home, we are unwilling, we are undedicated and we don’t care. Other reasons are financial problems, lack of encouragement, no calling, and unqualified. Are not all these mere excuses not to go?
Not every Christian is called to be a full-time missionary, but all are called to be servants and witnesses of God. If God opens an opportunity for service, there is really no excuse for not responding in obedience. If you feel unprepared, ask him for help. Moses felt weak and inadequate, as has every Christian leader in history. God can do great works through us if we trust him and have faith in his divine provision, protection and power.
“An atheist is a man who looks through a telescope and tries to explain all that he can’t see.” – Anonymous
Does God exist?
This question continues to baffle many minds. The answer to the question never seems to be enough. That’s understandable because God is not a physical ordinary being. We know some of His attributes. He is love. He is faithful to His promises. He is merciful. He is patient. He is slow to anger. He is just. He is spirit. He is eternal. He is holy. He is omnipotent. He is omnipresent. He is omniscient. Yet He is mysterious too. But the very fact that some attempt so aggressively to disprove His existence is actually an argument for His existence.
The Bible– written because God exists:
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Bible begins with a majestic statement. The Bible does not seek to prove that God exists. Rather, its authors wrote the Scriptures with the knowledge that He does exist. They have no doubt or uncertainty about the existence of God. The very first verse of the Bible…
denies atheism (the doctrine that there is no deity),
disclaims polytheism (the belief in or worship of more than one god) and
rejects pantheism (a doctrine that equates God with the forces and laws of the universe).
It proclaims the one eternal Creator. It proclaims the existence of God before and apart from all else. God does not exist in created or man-made things. Difference between the word ‘made’ (asah in Hebrew) and the word ‘created’ (bara in Hebrew)… ‘Made’ means only transformation of existing substances. But the Hebrew word for ‘create’ expresses the origin of something new, as only God can. The Creation is an absolute beginning, a creating of something out of nothing.
The atheist– the fool:
Atheism is not a new phenomenon nor is it the result of advancement in science or human knowledge. People who deny the existence of God can be traced back to ancient times.
Psalm 14:1 The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.
The “fool” is neither ignorant nor an atheist. The word is synonymous with the wicked, who aggressively and intentionally flouts his independence from God and his commandments. The “fool” in his heart denies the practical import of God’s existence. He shuts off the affairs of this world from divine intervention and denies any personal accountability to God for his actions.
The problem of human suffering:
The world is ravaged by problems and difficulties of all sorts. The question we often hear is, “If there is a God, why is He not doing anything about them?” Our worldly problems, trials and difficulties do not mean there is no God. There is action and reaction. To every effect there is a cause. Through the disobedience of Adam, sin entered man. Our relation with God was severed. Besides this we commit sins too. We are sinners living in a fallen world. Hunger and poverty, personal and social problems, wars and strife, sickness and death, natural disasters and calamities will always be there with us. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to know that something is wrong. We have so many problems. But sin is our greatest problem. And because of sin physical death is inevitable and it will come sooner or later. But worse than physical death is spiritual death, which means separation from God. But Jesus died to pay the penalty of our sins. And by grace through faith in Him we can have eternal life…. reunited with God.
A way to evade accountability:
People claim to reject God’s existence because it is “not scientific” or “because there is no proof.” The true reason is that once they admit that there is a God, they also must realize that they are responsible to God. If God exists, then we are accountable to Him for our actions. If God does not exist, then we can do whatever we want without having to worry about God judging us. That is why many of those who deny the existence of God cling strongly to the theory of naturalistic evolution– it gives them an alternative to believing in a Creator God. God exists and ultimately everyone knows that He exists.
Faith is the real key:
Hebrews 11:3 “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”
Faith is a present reality, not exclusively the property of past heroes. Faith gives us convictions about creation. Belief in the existence of the world is not faith, nor is it faith when people hold that the world was made out of some preexisting “stuff.” But when we understand that it was the Word of God that produced all things, that is faith.
The visible universe is not sufficient to account for itself. But it is faith, not something material, that assures us that it originated with God. This world is God’s world, and faith assures us that God originated it.
Man’s attempt to find God:
The existence of God is to be accepted by faith. But this does not meant that there is no proof of His existence. In addition to the biblical arguments for God’s existence, there are other arguments.
The universe is the whole of space– time containing matter, energy, and forces. It is the summation of all physical laws and constants. It contains everything from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies. It also includes all biological entities as well as humankind. We live in a tiny globe surrounded by an endless universe. Over the last few thousands of years we are trying to learn, to discover and to understand the ultimate force behind everything we see. This is man’s attempt to find God.
The cosmological argument:
The cosmological argument states that an effect must have a cause. There is a reaction to every action. To every effect there is a cause. This universe and everything in it is an effect. There must be something that caused everything to come into existence. Ultimately, there must be something “un-caused” in order to cause everything else to come into existence. That “un-caused” cause is God.
The moral argument:
Another argument is known as the moral argument. Every culture throughout history has had some form of law. Everyone has a sense of right and wrong. Murder, lying, stealing, and immorality are almost universally rejected. Where did this sense of right and wrong come from if not from a holy God?
The teleological argument:
The teleological argument states that since the universe displays such an amazing design, there must have been a divine Designer. Nothing is random; there is an intricate and complex design in everything… from the smallest particles to the largest galaxies. Hence we cannot deny the existence of God who designed and placed everything in its proper place.
“I know this world is ruled by infinite intelligence. Everything that surrounds us- everything that exists – proves that there are infinite laws behind it. There can be no denying this fact. It is mathematical in its precision.” — Thomas Alva Edison
The universe testifies God’s glory:
Psalm 19:1-4 “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.”
The glory and wisdom of God are evident in the vastness of space. The universe is a revelation of God’s creation of the magnificent heavenly bodies, which are characterized by radiance and regularity. The verbs “declare” and “proclaim” express the continuous revelation of the heavens. God alone is the Creator; the heavenly bodies are “the work of his hands.” The cycle of day and night contribute to the regularity of the seasons and thus to the regularity of the agricultural calendar. They reveal “knowledge” in their own distinct “speech.” The “knowledge” is not only knowledge about God but also a special kind, best understood as God’s wisdom, revealed in his creation. Being unrestricted by the division of languages, natural revelation transcends human communication without the use of speech, words, and sounds. To those who are inclined to hear, revelation comes with no regard for linguistic or geographical barriers.
“When a load of bricks, dumped on a corner lot, can arrange themselves into a house; when a handful of springs and screws and wheels, emptied on a desk, can gather themselves into a watch, then and not until then will it seem sensible, to some of us at least, to believe that all these thousands or millions of worlds could have been created, balanced and set to revolving in their separate orbits – all without any directing intelligence at all.” — Bruce Barton
Jesus, the living revelation of God:
The universe (the whole cosmic system of matter and energy of which the Earth is a part) reveals the works of God. This is natural revelation. Than we have the special revelation in the Bible, the Word of God. Jesus is part of that special, a living, walking and talking Word of God.
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Jesus did not claim merely to know the way, the truth, and the life. He actually claimed to be the only answer to human problems. Jesus’ solution to perplexity is not a recipe; it is a relationship with him.
He is the way to the Father because only he has an intimate knowledge of God, unmarred by sin. He is the truth because he has the perfect power of making life one coherent experience irrespective of its ups and downs. He is the life because he was not subject to death but made it subject to him. He died to demonstrate the power and continuity of his life. Because he is the way, the truth, and the life, he is the only means of reaching the Father.
Jesus is the only authorized revelation of God in human form, and he is the only authorized representative of humanity to God.
Denying God is without excuse:
Despite all of this, the Bible tells us that people will reject the clear and undeniable knowledge of God and believe a lie instead. Romans 1:25 declares, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen.” The Bible also proclaims that people are without excuse for not believing in God: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities– His eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).
A relationship with God:
Besides these we know God exist because of the ways He had touched and so miraculously changed our personal lives with His wondrous love and grace. We sense His presence, we feel His leading, we know His love, and we desire His grace. God has set eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end”. Our lives will feel meaningless and our hearts empty until we get to know God. You can’t fill this spiritual void by denying the existence of God and holding to the theory of evolution (which only makes you a shaved monkey) or anything else. The void in your heart can only be filled by the One who made it.
In Genesis 11 we find the story of the Tower of Babel. The builders of Babel were the first humanists. Instead of God these first humanists put themselves at the center of their lives and activities. They decided to build a monument to themselves. “Whose top will reach into heaven” expresses their intent to reach into areas that God should have occupied in their lives.
The term “humanism” sounds innocent, even denoting virtue and honor to God’s highest creation. Who could be against the betterment of mankind? When we examine the ideology or philosophy of secular humanism, however, we realize how dangerous it is. Basically, humanism puts man at the center of everything. God is just a crutch or a symbol that the simpleminded use to explain the yet unknowable. Some tenets of humanism:
There is no evidence of the supernatural. God does not exist.
No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
Beliefs in life after death distract humans from present concerns.Life has meaning only here and now.
Reason and intelligence are the most effective instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute.
The right to birth control, abortion, and divorce should be given to all.
The right to euthanasia and suicide should be held by all.
Notice that humanism is focused on man. Religion, God and faith are completely out of the picture. Man decides what is moral and worthwhile.
The builders of the Tower of Babel were full of pride. They did not build in humility and dependence upon God. They sought their own will, not the will of God. They built in vain. The result of their effort was the exact opposite of what they originally intended to do and they were scattered.
“Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman keeps awake in vain” (Psalm 127:1).
This Psalm is a song of ascents of Solomon. This Psalm calls you to recognize and acknowledge that God is the true builder and that all you do must be done in an attitude of humble dependence upon Him.
It calls you to look to God for your security, both on a national and in a personal level.
It calls you to trust God for your safety and the safety of your family.
Your dependence upon God, as Christians, will not produce vain effort. If you seek God’s will in all you do and have, then it is not vain work.
In humility, seek God in all you do. Seek His will. Give to Him your work, your security, your family… and He will bless you
Paul was born and raised in Tarsus, the chief city of Cilicia and one of the greatest learning centers of the Eastern World. Many people had purchased their Roman citizenship. Paul’s parents were Jews, but they had Roman citizenship too. Paul, though a Jew, therefore had both Jewish and Roman citizenship by birth (Acts 22:25-29). He was a Pharisee, a doctor of the Law (Acts 22:3). He completed his studies in Jerusalem under the most famous rabbi of his time, Gamaliel (Acts 23:6).
Saul was his Hebrew name, named after the first king of Israel. But due to his dual citizenship he was called Paul. Some Bible scholars claim he took the name Paul after his conversion.
Even at a very young age he was a very popular leader. In the beginning Paul actually thought that the followers of Christ were dishonoring the true God. So he was actively involved in the persecution of Christians (Acts 22:4). He was present during the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 8:1).
2. Conversion of Paul:
Paul went to the chief priests for letters of authority to capture the believers (those who follow the Way) in Damascus and bring them to Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2).
But on his way to Damascus he was converted by a direct confrontation with the risen Lord. He had to ask, “Who are you, Lord?” (Acts 9:3-5).
By asking that question, Paul discovered the ultimate truth. After his encounter with the risen Lord, Paul remained blind for three days but the Lord sent Ananias to him and he received his sight. Paul was neither one of the twelve who had been with Jesus nor witnessed his resurrection and ascension. He was added into their number (Galatians 1:1). The resurrected Lord commissioned him and the grace of God expressed through Christ authorized him as an apostle and to carry out the gospel to the Gentile world.
3. Christianity won a champion:
The news of Paul’s conversion had come to the Jews as a shock. They saw this young man of great promise united with those whom he formerly persecuted, and fearlessly preaching in the name of Jesus. An ordinary man who left to join the opposing group would not make much difference. Paul was no ordinary man. He was a man of courage, sincere and tireless in everything he did, ever ready to take up responsibilities and filled with great determination. He was among the most learned men. He was endowed with oratory skill and was therefore an eloquent speaker.
The enemies of Christ lost his services. Those to whom he joined gained a great advantage. God in his wisdom and providence did not strike Paul dead on the road to Damascus but converted him. Thus a champion from the side of the enemy was transferred to the side of Christ. As Paul preached Christ in Damascus, all who heard him were amazed. But many hardened their hearts, refusing to respond to his message. Their astonishment at his conversion was changed into intense hatred like that which they had shown toward Jesus. From Damascus he went to Jerusalem. But the disciples hastened his secret escape because the Grecian Jews were conspiring to kill him.
But wherever he went he preached Christ crucified. In the midst all kinds of oppositions he constantly attempted to explain the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the overall God’s plan of redemption. Undeterred by jealousy, false accusations, false teachers and the Judaizers in the churches of various cities, he wholeheartedly carried out the task given to him by the risen Lord.
4. Conclusion: Paul became Christianity’s chief theologian and committed missionary to the Gentiles. He was beheaded in A.D. 65. He suffered martyrdom at the hand of Emperor Nero, the fifth Roman emperor. For the apostle Paul no sacrifice for the Lord was too great. Not even lying down his life.
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel – not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! Am I now trying to gain the approval of people, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ! Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin. For I did not receive it or learn it from any human source; instead I received it by a revelation of Jesus Christ.
1. Galatians converts warned: The words of Paul here may be translated as, “Are you so quickly transferring yourselves– that is, your loyalties to a different gospel?” The Galatians were in the process of defecting, and Paul hoped he was in time to bring them to their senses.
There is only one Gospel, and its trademark is the sufficiency of the shed blood of Christ. Those in Paul’s day who felt it necessary to add circumcision or law-keeping to God’s provision of salvation by grace were not preaching the true Gospel.
Those today who insist that salvation is by grace plus good works are also preaching “a different gospel.”
2. The danger of cultic doctrine: Many religious sects strongly emphasize righteousness by works. They are highly legalistic and teach, essentially, that man is his own savior. They teach that theirs is the only true Christianity. That they usually have high moral standards and demand much of their members gives these movements an appearance of spirituality.
A churchgoer who is concerned about theological or moral drift in his denomination or local church, but who has little sound biblical understanding, is especially susceptible to the influence of these pseudo-Christian cults.
Unless he is well grounded in Scripture, has a knowledge of the heresies of the sect involved, and is prepared to witness strongly for the Gospel, he is better off politely declining to talk with cultic missionaries.
3. To back out or take a stand? We should be patient with those who disagree with us on such issues as church government, free will and election, baptism, etc. Christians who are equally sincere and spiritual have honest differences of opinion on these matters. But when crucial points of doctrine are involved– the deity of Christ, His atoning death and bodily resurrection, the inspiration of the Bible, and the like– we are to take an uncompromising stand.
4. False doctrine sends people to hell: As he indicated in his epistle to Corinth, Paul was much aware of the dangers of personality cults (1 Corinthians 1:12-13).
Often through no fault of a Christian leader, certain members of his immature followers begin to think that they can do no wrong. They begin to measure the Word by their favorite preacher rather than measuring a preacher by the Word. Paul wanted the Galatian believers to understand that the truth of his message was not based on the wisdom or authority of any man, including himself.
“But even if we ((Paul, Barnabas, Silas, or any apostle) or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! (Galatians 1:8)
Whoever spread any gospel but the true one of salvation by faith in Christ’s atoning sacrifice, should be considered accursed. His leadership should be rejected and his teaching opposed as strongly as possible.
Because the preaching of a false doctrine sends people to hell, this offense is heinous in the sight of God. There is no room for tolerance in dealing with false teachers, since precious souls for whom Christ died are at stake.
5. Paul- ever faithful to his Master: It responding to the accusations made by Paul’s enemies that he was trying to please man rather than God, Paul says, in effect, “In saying things like these, does it sound like I am trying to win man’s approval? Regardless of what people say, all I want is to please Christ, whose bond-slave I am, and to be loyal to His Gospel at any cost.”
Having warned that to trifle with the Gospel is a serious offense against both man and God, Paul describes the manner in which the uniqueness of the Gospel was revealed to him and preached by him. Paul gave all his allegiance to his Lord, Jesus Christ. He never felt the need to “butter up” any human being. He often called himself “Christ’s bond-servant” or a “steward” whose responsibility was to be faithful to his Master and to seek to please Him alone. He wrote, “For if I preach the gospel, I have no reason for boasting, because I am compelled to do this. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)
Paul has a sole purpose, to serve Christ by winning people to Him. We should be as winsome and pleasing as self-forgetfulness can make us, and this Paul was. But he strongly denounced sinful compromise. Far from flattering people, Paul preached a Gospel that humbled them.
6. Paul- commissioned by God not man: Paul’s authority as an apostle stands or falls on the question of his teachings had been revealed to him directly by God or taught to him by other men. If his message was straight from God, obviously he was in a position to speak with with more authority than if he merely proclaimed what someone else had told him. He goes on to prove that it was impossible for him to have been taught by the other apostles at Jerusalem.
Paul’s doctrine was not according to man. It was not the kind of truth that man’s mind would ever have imagined. It came through the revelation of Jesus Christ. The veil that hides Christ from mortal view, was drawn aside for Paul to see.
Prior to his encounter with the risen Lord on Damascus road, Paul had doubtless known a great deal about Christianity. But only after Christ was revealed to him did his whole life changed.
The whole of Scripture, and only the Scripture, is God’s revelation to man. If we want to avoid the Galatians’ heresy, we must master the Word of God. Most Christians spend very little time systematically studying the Bible– or even reading it. Pastors and preachers study the Word to prepare their sermons. Few of those who regularly attend an adult Sunday School class prepare their lessons in advance. Always remember that even the best Bible teachers in the world are no substitute for personal study of the Word of God and meditation on it.
1) Scripture passages: “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house. You shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.” (Exodus 20:17)
1 Timothy 6:6 “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”
2) Brief introductory note: In the final commandment of the Ten Commandments (The Decalogue) the key word “covet” is repeated, emphasizing its importance. The word is used in both positive and negative senses. In its positive sense, the word simply means “a strong desire.” Used in the negative sense, the word means “a strong desire for something we have no right to have.”
The last commandment of the Tenth Commandment is not forbidding strong desire in general. It’s the object of the strong desire which crosses the line into coveting. That is why specific objects are named in the verse: “I have no right to possess my neighbour’s wife. Or his house. Or his servants. Or his animals.”
3) We are unhappy and miserable: If things could make us happy, we’d be in paradise every day. We think “more is better.” It seems the more we have, the less we like it. If having more would make us happy, we would never need the tenth commandment. It is written for unhappy people. If more can make us happy, we are living in an age of limitless things we can have like never before in human history. There are so many brands and models and designs of mobile phones. There are so many luxury cars you can choose from. You can have a huge flat screen TV in your homes and feel like you are in a the best movie hall. Ordinary people have become millionaires within months. From expensive perfumes to designer clothes or even shoes or beds or wrist watches, there is more than you can buy and keep. Yet, people are feeling empty and miserable in spite of having money and almost everything that money can buy.
We think to ourselves, “If only I had……” We can fill the blank with so many things, a new house, a new wife, a new job, a new career, a new start in life. Oh how happy we’d be… If only!
No wonder we’re unhappy. No wonder we’re discontented. No wonder we’re miserable. Coveting has done its evil work within. It has bored its way into our soul, eating away our happiness, leaving us empty, frustrated and angry.
4) The invisible and forbidden sin: Coveting is an invisible sin. Most of the others sins have some kind of visible manifestation. Coveting is invisible. It is the root of all other sins. Whenever a thing is forbidden it becomes desirable. That which a man must not have becomes the very thing he now must have at all costs. Coveting is the root of all other sins because it causes us to want that which is forbidden.
5) It springs from an ungrateful heart: The covetous man doubts God’s wisdom, God’s goodness, God’s justice. God’s timing and ultimately God’s love.
Coveting is a terrible sin because it is a surreptitious attack on God himself. Those who covet are saying, “God, you haven’t taken care of me.” They are blaming God for his failure to meet their needs.
6) Coveting destroys life: We live in the most technologically advanced generation the world has ever known. No generation has been so advanced. No generation has enjoyed our privileges.
If having more could make you happy, we ought to be the happiest people in the world. But we’re not. We’re miserable, neurotic, unhappy, confused and dissatisfied. We’re frustrated and extremely materialistic. Our marriages fail, our homes break up, our children struggle, our lives don’t hold together. We’ve got it all! And it’s still not enough! We ought to be happy… but we’re not!
7) Guard your heart: This means pay attention to your desires. Every act was once a thought; every purchase was once a desire; every foolish word was once an idea. Coveting happens inside the heart when our desires begin to get out of control. We must guard our hearts (our minds and thoughts) for it is the starting point of all sins. We become what our minds dwell most upon.
8) Your checklist for life: A) Don’t compare what you have with what others have. A saying goes, “What makes us discontented with our condition is the absurdly exaggerated idea we have of the happiness of others.” You can never be content nor have peace of mind as long as you keep comparing yourself and your properties with that of your neighbours. B) Avoid impulsive desires to spend more money. Don’t make excuses for your greed. Don’t justify your foolish purchases. C) Don’t pass unfair judgments on those who have more than we do. You have no idea what trials they may be going through. D) Stop lying to yourselves about things which you really need when in reality they are not needs but endless wants. Do not allow yourself to be swept away by foolish desire. Learn how to say “No”.
9) What is contentment? Contentment is not the fulfilment of what you want, but the realization of how much you already have. It is putting your trust in God to meet all your needs and thereby helping you avoid stress and preventing you from hunting for happiness in all the wrong places. Benjamin Franklin said, “Content makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor.”
10) Paul found sufficiency in Christ: Philippians 4:11-12 “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” In Philippians, we learn that Paul had learned to be content with what God provided, irrespective of circumstances. It is significant that Paul had to learn this virtue; contentment is not natural to most of us. Paul truly understood what it was to be in want and to have plenty. He had learned how to trust God in every particular situation and in all situations as a whole. In Stoic philosophy, “content” described a person who accepted impassively whatever came. Circumstances that could not be changed were regarded as God’s will, and fretting was useless. This philosophy fostered a self-sufficiency in which all the resources for coping with life were located within a person. In contrast, Paul locates his sufficiency in Christ, who provides strength for believers.
11) The remedy for covetousness: Today coveting is one of the most prevalent and destructive sins. We covet money, status and success, possessions and pleasure without limits. What is the answer for the curse of covetousness? The answer is contentment. You can’t be content and covet at the same time. You can be contented or you can covet, but you can’t do both. The way to control our coveting, the desire for all forbidden fruits… is to practice its opposite, which is contentedness. Contentment is a rare quality in today’s culture, but it is extremely liberating!
12) Start being generous: Would you like to experience the joy of freedom from coveting? It’s not that difficult. Start by giving something away to the needy. Then do it again and again. Coveting can’t stay inside a generous heart!
13) Ask God to give you a grateful heart: This one is so simple that we miss it. Why aren’t we more grateful? We aren’t grateful because we’ve never asked God to give us a grateful heart. By nature we are covetous, greedy, grasping and unhappy. We need hearts filled with gratitude for God’s grace, love, mercy and for all the blessings he had bestowed upon us, more especially for the blessing from the cross.
14) Conclusion and Prayer: Contentment doesn’t mean that you cannot pursue God-given goals, but it does mean that you are content with what he has provided you with, day after day. Contentment simply means, “Be happy with what you have.”
Hebrews 13:5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”
Prayer: “Lord Jesus, you have given so much to me, more than I deserve. Give one thing more, a contented and grateful heart. Amen.”
Scripture passage: He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars–their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.” –Revelation 21:-6-8
God proclaims that he has completed his new creation… “It is done”. The name of God… “The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.” His name emphasize his absolute authority and control over the cosmos, his creation.
Salvation is beautifully depicted by the image of drinking at the spring of life. God invites those who sense their need and are drawn toward him to come. Nothing is required except to come and drink.
Those who respond to this invitation and remain loyal to Christ as over-comers will inherit all the new things of the city of God. They will be God’s children, and he will be their Father. This is the essence of salvation– unending, intimate relationship with God himself.
A choice confronts us. This choice must be made because there are two cities: the city of God and the city of Babylon, each with its inhabitants and its destiny. Those who drink from salvation’s springs supplied by God himself are true followers of Christ. The “cowardly” are those who fear persecution arising from faith in Christ. Not having steadfast endurance, they are devoid of faith. Thus they are linked by John to the “unbelieving” and “vile.” They are called “murderers” because they are guilty of the death of the saints. The sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars are those associated with idolatrous practices. By their own choice, Babylon is their eternal home.
Eternal punishment awaits all who do not believe and obey. God is love. Love is his very nature. But this love cannot supersede his righteous judgment. He will judge everyone according to truth and justice. We can be so taken up with the love and compassion of God that we overlook his implacable opposition to all evil. The wrath of God is not a popular subject today, but it looms large in biblical teaching. We overlook this wrath only at our peril. Heaven is the goodness of God. Hell is the severity of God. No ungodly person can bribe the holy, the just and the righteous God out of his or her punishment in the eternal fire. Eternity is a long time to make the wrong choice.
The rich man found himself in a fiery place of torment. Lazarus found himself in the bosom of Abraham. There were ten maidens waiting for the arrival of the Bridegroom. Only five of them could not enter the Wedding Feast. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when the Day of Judgment will come. It will be as in the days of Noah.
Revelation 2:10 “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.”
Be firm, hold fast the faith, confess Christ to the last, and at all hazards, and you will have a crown of life. You will be crowned with life and have an eternal happy existence, though he may suffer and die a temporal death.
It is said of Polycarp that when he was commanded to reject and blaspheme Christ, he firmly answered, “Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never did me wrong, how then can I blaspheme my king who hath saved me?” He was burnt alive. He suffered cheerfully and died for Christ his Lord and Master.
The existence of God is questioned by some people based on all sorts of trials and suffering across the world. But these things are nothing else but what we philosophically call “life.” Something is wrong with the world. One don’t have to be a great Bible scholar or highly educated or a great thinker to understand that something is wrong with the world. Look around you, the answer may be nearer to you than you thought. The world is ravaged by problems and suffering of all sorts. These are not confined to mankind alone but even nature. Nature is indeed is beautiful but not free from the contamination of sin. The calm rivers can become devastating floods. A volcano can suddenly erupt and destroy whole towns with everyone living in them. Cyclones can ransack towns, farms, and kill both man and animals.
The big question “Why?”
The most common questions often asked to debunk the existence of God are…
“If there is a God, why is he not doing anything about all the human suffering in the world?”
“How can we say there is a loving God when he allows killing, murder, and let innocent little children die in wars or disease or hunger?”
The cause behind the effects
Our worldly problems, trials and difficulties do not mean there is no God. A person becomes ill because something is making him or her sick. Something is terribly wrong with the world. Think logically, there must be a cause behind the effects.
Action and reaction go hand in hand. Through the disobedience of Adam, sin entered man and our relation with God was severed. This is the original sin. Besides this we have a tendency to commit sins. This are personal sins, which is in fact the influence of the original sin.
We are sinners living in a fallen world. Hunger and poverty, personal and social problems, wars and strife, natural disasters and calamities, sickness and death, will always be there with us until the second coming of Christ.
Physical and spiritual death
Sin is our greatest problem. It has corrupted the entire universe. Physical death is inevitable. It will come sooner or later. From distance we were made and to dust we return. Worse than physical death is spiritual death, which is separation from God.
The assurance of faith
In conclusion, faith is the key. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins. And by grace through faith in him we can have eternal life…. reconciled and united with God.
Hebrews 11:3 By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.
Hebrews 13:14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Romans 8:18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Faith gives us convictions about creation. Belief in the existence of the world is not faith, nor is it faith when people hold that the world was made out of some preexisting “stuff.” But when we understand that it was the Word of God that produced all things, that is faith.
The visible universe is not sufficient to account for itself. But it is faith, not something material, that assures us that it originated with God. This world is God’s world, and faith assures us that God originated it. Further, nothing is permanent in this troubled and chaotic world. Everything in this world is temporary. We don’t have an enduring home in this world. But it is faith that enables us to see a glimpse of heaven. By faith we are assured of our invisible, permanent, and eternal home. Therein lies our joy, our hope of living in the presence of God for eternity.