Author: Alice A. Anacioco

The Very First Christian Song

The Very First Christian Song

Let me ask you, Christian, “What do you think is the very first Christian song?” If you are in your 50’s or 60’s you probably know more songs than those in their 20’s. Well, that is if you have been keeping track of every song written about God and for God. With all the Christian singers and bands since time immemorial, not many of us could keep up.

Going back to the question on the first-ever Christian song … it might not be what you’re thinking.

The Role of Music in the Church

Music makes a worship service; that is hard for a preacher to admit. But we also know that music (praise and worship) prepares the soul to hear and receive the Word.

Can we have a church service without music? Why can’t we just pray, listen to the sermon, give our tithes and love offering, and then go home? Can you imagine a church service without music and singing? I bet you couldn’t.

Ascribe to the Lord the Glory due His Name

I’m reminded of the story behind the song, “Heart of Worship.” In his conversation with Crosswalk, Matt Redman admitted that his church was struggling spiritually. This is despite their worship band’s huge contribution to the worship revival in churches worldwide.

He went on to say that there was a dynamic missing. So, the pastor decided to get rid of the sound system and they just sang with their voices. His point was that they’d lost their way in worship, and the way to get back to the heart would be to strip everything away.”

By the time they re-introduced the musicians and the sound system, the congregation had gained a new perspective that worship is all about Jesus.

Joy to the World

It’s December once again, which means Christians around the world are getting ready to celebrate the first coming of Christ. Yeah, I know; Christmas this year may not be the kind of celebration most people used to have. We can blame Covid-19 all we want but doing so won’t make things better. Rather, it would make us feel even more miserable.

Regardless of our current situation, we must never forget what Christmas is all about. The main reason we celebrate the yuletide season is that Christ came to bring salvation to all men (Titus 2:11). The world celebrates Christmas for several other reasons but we celebrate Jesus, God’s greatest gift to us.

Is “Joy to the World” the first Christian song? It may be one of the oldest and most popular Christmas songs ever! What a joy, indeed, when Christ left His throne above. He came down to the earth He created, became a man, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). As wonderful as this song is, it’s not the first Christian song.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

In this thrilling first book in a new series, authors Amir Tsarfati and Steve Yohn draw on true events as well as tactical insights Amir learned from his time in the Israeli Defense Forces.

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What Makes a Song Christian

A song isn’t Christian just because the artist or the songwriter are Christians. It’s not also a Christian song because of the rhyme or melody. What makes a Christian song is the lyrics; the words that make up the song. Christian songs include songs that talk about the love of God, His mercy, grace, and compassion.

But what about some so-called Christian songs by Christian singers and rock bands that are theologically off? Meaning, unscriptural songs? One particular song that comes to mind is “What a Beautiful Name” by Hillsong. The song starts pretty okay but as we come to the second verse it becomes clear that something is wrong. It says, “You didn’t want heaven without us. So, Jesus, You brought heaven down.”

It’s true; the name of Jesus is beautiful, wonderful, and powerful. He is the Creator, can never be defeated, and has no rival. But to say that God did not want heaven without us? That sure would make people think that they are more important than God.

This is why when worship leaders select songs for their lineup, they must consider the message that the songs communicate. Do these songs line up with Scripture? Do they bring honor and glory to God?

The First Christian Song

We know that followers of Jesus were first referred to as Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:19-25. But how did Christianity begin?

Christianity began with a song. When Christ was born in the manger, an angel went to a nearby field and announced the news to shepherds who were watching their flocks.

Luke 2:13-14

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God. They were saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

Upon hearing the good news, the shepherds started glorifying and praising God. With hearts full of joy, they sang the very first Christian song. These shepherds are a great example for us to imitate today. They received by faith the message God sent them and went on to give praise to the Most High.

Luke 2:14
Photo Credit: The Skit Guys

Victory Songs

In the Bible, singing was used to celebrate victories. Moses sang a song of victory just after God covered Pharaoh’s chariots with the Red Sea (Exodus 15:1). Surrounded by three enemy armies, Jehoshaphat sent the choir singing unto the Lord before the attacking armies (2 Chronicles 20:21).

Imagine how the enemy laughed. But the songs of praise released the angels of God who attacked and annihilated the enemies. Anointed singing destroys the power of darkness (Psalm 149:5-6). It is spiritual warfare that will cause every demon to run in total terror.

After the Lord’s Supper, the disciples joined Jesus in singing a hymn before they walked to the Mount of Olives (Matthew 26:30). Singing prepared Jesus for the Passion to follow.

After being beaten and surrounded by disease and filth in prison, Paul and Silas could still sing praises to God. God heard them and sent an earthquake to rock the doors open. Paul and Silas walked out of that prison with a convert – the jailer. Singing with anointing moves the hand of God (Acts 16:25).

Final Thoughts

In as much as we enjoy singing and listening to the best Christian songs, one day, we will get to hear God’s newest release.

Revelation 14:3

“They sang as it were a new song before the throne, before the four living creatures, and the elders; and no one could learn that song except the hundred and forty-four thousand who were redeemed from the earth.”

What a song that will be. Imagine hearing the debut of a new song to usher in the eternal reign of Christ the King.

Are you looking forward to hearing God’s brand new song?

While waiting for that day to come, let us keep singing Christian songs. Let us use music to praise and glorify God and express our love for and gratitude to God.

God’s Principles of Giving

God’s Principles of Giving

Giving, particularly tithing, is just one of the few subjects that often cause division and conflict within the body of Christ. Although God has laid out clear principles of giving in His Word, many Christians still struggle a lot in this area. Some even go to the extreme of accusing the church leadership of just being interested in money.

Why is it that many Christians seem to have the wrong attitude when it comes to the issue of money? It’s pretty easy for many to get involved in the church ministry and sacrifice their time, gifts, and talents. But when asked to give financially for the works of the Lord, suddenly they become indifferent.

In the same way that money is the engine on which our society runs, the church also needs money to run the Father’s business. Outside of the giving of its members, the church has no source of income.

The Role of Money in Society

5 Biblical Principles of Giving

In both the Old and the New Testaments, we see several principles of giving that help us to see money from God’s perspective. May these five principles enable us to handle God’s blessings in a way that is aligned with His will.

Sometimes, it’s easy to be overwhelmed with God’s abundant favor that we forget to seek God’s guidance on how to use them. We must never forget that God has a purpose for everything and He is in control of all things. At the end of the day, our purpose is to live for God and His glory.

So, here we go …

#1 Principle: God Owns Everything

There is no argument that God is sovereign over everything in heaven and on earth; this is the principle of sovereignty. All things that exist belong to God and God alone (1 Chronicles 29:11).

It was not enough for King David, a noble and successful king, to acknowledge that the entire earth belonged to God. He added that all its fullness also belonged to Him, including the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).

Psalm 24:1, NIV

David emphasized the truth that God’s ownership of the earth extends to the people who live upon it. Through the rights of creation and continuing provision, God has a claim upon every person who has ever lived. This includes everything that they own, possess, and will acquire. Can you think of a more sweeping statement of God’s ownership?

So, if God owns everything, what do you have that rightfully belongs to you? Nothing! Nada! God’s sovereignty gives Him the exclusive right to exercise supreme authority over everything. And that extends even to our personal belongings. All that we are and all that we have are His.

You may ask, “How do I honor God’s sovereignty in my giving?”

#2 Principle: We are but Stewards

Although all things belong to our God, He has entrusted us to care for and use His possessions. This is the principle of stewardship. What is required of a steward? Faithfulness!

As stewards, we must be faithful in the way we use God’s talents and treasures inside and outside the church.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2, Paul used the image of the steward. A steward is a servant who manages everything for his master, but who himself owns nothing. As caretakers of God’s money and property, we must do well to use them only for His purpose and glory. Thus, we give in support of the needs of the church and the ministry.

Jesus also gave a parable indicating that one day we will give an account to God on how we handled God’s money. Will God find us faithful and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Are you spending the money entrusted to you by God to honor Him and to further His Kingdom?

#3 Principle: Sowing and Reaping

When a farmer sows his seed, he may think that he lost it as it fell from his hand into the ground. In the same way, we may feel we are losing money every time we give. But just as the farmer gives the seed in anticipation of a future harvest, we should give with the same expectation. And the better quality of seeds we sow, the greater will the harvest be.

This is the principle of increase that Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 9:6. We reap in measure as we sow. This principle needs little explanation because we see it operating in everyday life.

The farmer who sows much seed will have a better chance for a bigger harvest. The investor who puts a large sum of money into a company will certainly collect more dividends. As we invest more in the work of the Lord, the more “fruit” will abound to our account.

2 Corinthians 9:6, NLT

Keep in mind that when we give to God, we are never losers. God always rewards the giving heart both now and in eternity. But what do we reap when we sow into God’s Kingdom? We will reap a harvest of blessings, both material and spiritual.

Don’t stop the flow of God’s blessing by disobeying Him in the area of giving.

#4 Principle: God Supplies All Our Needs

In Philippians 4:19, Paul tells the church that God would supply all their needs. Why did Paul believe this? It’s because they met his needs. They call this the supply principle.

The apostle did not see the gifts of the Philippian believers as simply coming from them. He saw it as the supply of his need from heaven. Paul trusted the Lord to provide for his needs and God did through the believers at Philippi.

To paraphrase what Paul said, we might state it this way, “You met my need, God is going to meet yours. You met one need that I have, but my God will meet all your needs. You gave out of your poverty, but God will supply your needs out of His riches in glory.”

There is a direct correlation between God supplying our needs and the liberality with which we supply the needs of others.

2 Corinthians 9:10 also speaks of how God supplies the giver with his own needs and also the means to give to others. As long as God can count on us to supply the needs of others, He will continue to provide for us. God supplies not just our daily needs; He gives excess for us to share with others.

#5 Principle: Our Attitude Towards Giving

This is the principle of sincerity. How do you react every time the offering basket is passed around? Do you often make an excuse to skip this part of the worship service by going to the washroom? Or do you pretend to not know what’s going on? 

I know that many Christians do not believe tithing is commanded in the New Testament. The sad part is that they mock those who do and call them fools for (allegedly) believing their pastor’s lies. I get it; we don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to biblical tithing.

For this reason, I want us to stick to giving in general, whether it be in tithes or in freewill offerings. What attitudes should not characterize our giving? 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.”

Here’s a song by Ron Kenoly to encourage us to be faithful in our giving unto the Lord.

No Grudges nor Reluctance

“Grudgingly” literally means “not in grief.” When we give, we should not be sad nor feel like it’s something painful to do. And after giving, we should not regret having done so and complain or murmur.

Of Necessity or Under Compulsion

Do you give out of pressure or because you feel compelled or manipulated? Or is it because you have been made to feel guilty?

The Jews were required to give to under the law. For fear of legal and moral punishment, some of them would grudgingly give what necessity obliged them. What about you?

We Give from the Heart

The Christian attitude and motive in giving or in any other activity for the Lord are vitally important. Our giving must come from the heart, and the motive in the heart must please God. Our giving is to be sincere, heartfelt, and in recognition of God’s abundant provisions in our life.

We must not be “sad givers” who give reluctantly or “mad givers” who give in response to pressure. Rather, we should be “glad givers” who cheerfully share what we have because we have experienced the grace of God.

The believers who are motivated by grace reap the blessings of personal enrichment in their lives and characters.

Proverbs 22:9, NASB

Concluding Words

As we pointed out, God is sovereign over everything and has entrusted us with His properties. God also promised an increase when we sow our seeds and will supply all our needs exceedingly so we can share with others. Finally, God is concerned about our character in giving.

You might ask, “If the two negative attitudes mentioned in 2 Corinthians 9:7 characterize me, is it better for me not to give?” For sure many would say, “Yes, you should not give if it’s not from your heart.” However, I’d say we should not stop supporting the work of God. 

Instead, we should keep obeying God in this area of giving and ask Him to change our attitude. It may hurt at first to give sacrificially into the ministry. But this should not deter us from continually doing what is morally right.

Whenever we purpose in our hearts the amount of seed that we sow into God’s fertile soil, may we consider these five biblical principles of giving.

God bless us all!


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: The Grace of Giving: A Biblical Study of Christian Stewardship by Stephen F. Olford

Financial giving is a topic that many people don’t openly discuss. It is also a topic that many Christians misunderstand and undervalue.

With a solid perspective, Dr. Olford has penned a comprehensive, honest, and deeply perceptive study of financial stewardship that will help many in an understanding of this important topic.

Becoming God’s Own Children

Becoming God’s Own Children

One of the greatest blessings of the Christian experience is adoption (Ephesians 1:5). First, we become God’s children by regeneration (John 3:3; John 1:12). And then we are adopted into God’s family when God gives us the Holy Spirit as a seal of His ownership over us.

When a sinner trusts in Christ as Lord and Savior, he starts as a spiritual baby who needs to grow (1 Peter 2:2-3). But as far as his position is concerned, he is an adult son who can draw on the Father’s wealth.

Our Relationship with God

In one of my posts, I said that “adoption focuses more on the personal relationships that salvation gives us with God.” We are not just little children but adult sons (and daughters) of our heavenly Father.

But what does it mean to have a father-child connection with God?

The Bible mentions several ways in which our relationship with God is truly a father-child connection. These are in contrast with that of a slave or servant.

The Same Nature as God’s

As children of God, we have the same nature as the Father, but the servant does not.

When we trust Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to live within us, and this means we “share His divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

The law could never give a person the nature of God within. All it could do was reveal to the person his desperate need for God’s nature. So, when the believer goes back into law, he is denying the very nature within. Also, he is allowing the old nature (the flesh) to go to work.

New Creation in Christ

We have become new creatures through the ministry of reconciliation brought about by the works of Christ. Our old, sinful nature is gone and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17-19).

Since we have God’s nature within, we need to have an appetite for that which is pure and holy. Our behavior ought to be like that of the Father. We ought to live in that kind of spiritual environment that that is suited to our nature. We ought to associate with that which is true to our nature (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Not Orphans

The servant does not have a father; believers in Christ do.

No servant or slave could ever call his master, “Father.” When a sinner trusts Christ, he receives the Holy Spirit who tells him that he is a child of God (Romans 8:15-16). It is natural for a baby to cry, but not for him to talk to his father.

However, when the Holy Spirit comes to indwell a believer, He cries out, “Abba Father.” In response, the believer cries, “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15).

The word “Abba” is an Aramaic word that is the equivalent of our English word “papa.” This shows the closeness of the child to the father. No servant or slave has this kind of relationship with his master.

What a blessing to be able to call God, “Abba Father!” Christians no longer have to worry even though they do not have a physical father. God as our Father is more than enough. He promised that He would never leave us nor forsake us. We are no longer orphans, hallelujah!

Obey Out of Love

While a servant obeys his master out of fear, God’s children obey out of love.

The Holy Spirit works in the heart of the believers to quicken and increase their love for God. One of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer is to produce love (Galatians 5:22; Romans 5:5).

Throughout John’s description of the Last Supper, we can’t help but notice the repetition of the word love. If we treasure God’s Word and obey it, then the Father and the Son will share their love with us and make their home in us.

Obedience is Proof of Our Love for God

As the believer yields to the Father, loves the Word, prays, and obeys, his relationship and experience with God will go deeper. If we love God and obey Him, He will manifest His love to us in a deeper way each day.

The Judaizers told the Galatians that they would become better Christians by submitting to the law. But the law can never produce obedience. Only love can do that (John 14:15). When we love, we obey!

God’s Children are Rich

The child of God is rich, while the servant is poor.

As children, God has made us His heirs and we have become co-heirs with Christ (Galatians 4:7; Romans 8:16-17). And since we are adopted – placed as adult sons in the family – we may begin drawing our inheritance right now.

Everything in heaven and on earth belongs to God, thus, He holds the right to all of it. And since we are God’s children, we are co-owners of all that God owns. We are rich because our heavenly Father is rich.

Now, this does not necessarily mean that every Christian is living a very comfortable life. God wants us to enjoy abundant life. He came so that we might have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10b). Nevertheless, a life of plenty does not always mean owning a mansion or having a fat bank account or being able to travel around the world.

We need to keep in mind that riches are not limited to the kind that the world has to offer. God’s riches are more than just money or wealth.

God has made available to us the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7; 2:7) and the riches of His glory (Philippians 4:19). As children of God, we also get to enjoy the riches of His goodness (Romans 2:4) and the riches of His wisdom. Above all these, all the riches of God are found in Christ, our Lord, and Savior (Colossians 1:19; 2:3).

What it Means to be Blessed

A Bright Future

God’s children have a bright future, while the servant does not.

While many kind masters do provide for their slaves in old age, they were not required to. But the father always provides for his son (2 Corinthians 12:14).

As children of God, we will never experience lack because the Lord is our Shepherd (Psalm 23:1). Jesus is adequate for our every need.

We do not have to worry about tomorrow because our heavenly Father is in charge. He promised to take care of our daily needs; we just need to trust Him (Matthew 6:34). Worrying about tomorrow does not help either tomorrow or today. If anything, it robs us of our effectiveness today – which means we will be even less effective tomorrow.

It’s easy to be overwhelmed by fear and despair because of all the things that are happening today. The chaos that we see around us may very well find a way to steal our hope and cause us to doubt God’s promise of a bright future. But we need to hold on to the hope that we profess because He who promised is faithful (Hebrews 10:23).

Conclusion

God Almighty is not just our Creator; He is also our Father. This father-child relationship that we have with God allows us to come to Him anytime, anywhere without any hesitation.

Each of us can experience the profound truth that the apostle John expressed. “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1a)!

God is your Father, you are His child. Your heavenly Father loves you, cares so much about you, wants to bless you, and is preparing a bright future for you. Never let the enemy convince you into believing otherwise.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Adopted by God: Discover the Life-Transforming Joy of a Neglected Truth by Barton Priebe

Every Christian has been adopted into God’s family. Yet, the great truth of what adoption means has been neglected throughout history and overshadowed by other truths.

In Adopted by God you’ll discover—perhaps for the first time—the life-transforming joy that comes from being adopted as God’s cherished son or daughter. Through clear biblical teaching and stories from the Priebe family’s journey in adopting their son from China, this book will:

  • Explain what it means to be adopted by God
  • Increase your assurance of God’s acceptance and love
  • Provide you with the strength to face the most difficult trials in life
  • Equip you to gain victory over sins in your life
  • Enable you to relate to others in ways that heal the wounds of racism, sexism, and loneliness

Discover adoption. Encounter joy. Experience transformation.

No One Knows the Day and the Hour

No One Knows the Day and the Hour

One biblical fact concerning the return of the Lord is that no one knows exactly when it’s going to happen. Proponents of the pre-tribulation rapture call this the “Doctrine of Imminency.”

The return of the Lord in the event known as the Rapture can happen at any moment without any warning. And this is not some kind of made-up argument; it’s the Lord Himself who said it. Thus, there shouldn’t be any question as to whether this is true or not.

Bible Verse: Mark 13:32-33 (NKJV)

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.”

The Return of the Son of Man

At the beginning of the Olivet Discourse, we see how the disciples are amazed by the beauty of Jerusalem. One of them said, “Teacher, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here” (Mark 13:1)? And they were astonished for good reasons. The Temple was remodeled by Herod the Great to be one of the magnificent structures of the ancient world.

But as great as the Temple was, Jesus said it’s going to be destroyed. He said, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone shall be left upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2).

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem
Photo Credit: Pinterest

Jesus’ statement caused His disciples to be anxious about the time of His return. They asked Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age” (Mark 13:3)?

Even on the day of His ascension to heaven, they asked Him about the timing of things to come (Acts 1:6). But Jesus replied that God had not given them the timetable of His future works.

Jesus expressed this idea in Mark 13:32 in a way that some have found puzzling because of the way He refers to Himself. Doesn’t the Son everything that the Father knows?

No One Knows, Not Even the Son

If Jesus is God, how can He not know the exact day and time of His return? This statement of the Lord has caused some people to doubt His divinity. But this can easily be explained by His dual nature: divine and human.

Jesus as God knew exactly when He will be returning. But He voluntarily submitted to the Father and restricted His knowledge of this event. Jesus is saying that the Father has not published His timing to human beings, to angels, or even to the Son as the Savior and Mediator.

As the second Person of the Godhead, Jesus has always known the appointed time. However, His knowledge of this is not intended for men or angels, and it is not accessible to them. The Father did not intend for Son to reveal this knowledge to His disciples.

Keep Watch and Pray

From the fact that the day and time of His return are not revealed, Jesus draws an important conclusion: we are to “watch and pray” (Mark 13:33). The return of the Lord is certain. Jesus’s warning means that it is also imminent, that is, it could happen at any time.

Watching means living in an attitude of confident expectation (Luke 12:36; Romans 8:25). On the one hand, we must have a constant desire to see Jesus (Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 1:8). On the other hand, we are to be patiently active in the life of good works to which He has called us (Ephesians 2:10).

The Day of the Lord Comes Like a Thief in the Night

At the same time, we need to remain in an attitude of prayer. This does not mean we must be on our knees 24/7 talking with God. Rather, we must be in constant fellowship with our Lord and always follow His lead. The enemy will work triple time to get our focus off of God. He will do everything to get us off track. The only way we will emerge victorious in the end is if we fix our eyes on the Lord.

Watchfulness prepares Christians, enabling them to see whatever signs may precede an event. And we must always pray, that we may be found worthy to escape those things that will come to pass and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).

The hope that we rely on as we wait must be our foundation for living day by day in obedience to the Lord.

Always be Ready

Jesus cautioned His disciples to be ready for an unexpected coming. He then went on to tell them how they should live while waiting for His return (Mark 13:34-36, NIV).

“It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. Therefore, keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping!”

Jesus said that He will come as a surprise. The Lord’s return for His saints happens at a time that nobody is expecting. Thus, readiness is the key for all end-time events. Anyone ready will not be caught by surprise. But people who aren’t prepared will fail.

Let us be reminded of the five foolish virgins who were not ready when the bridegroom came. Not only did they not have oils in their lamps, but they also fell into a deep slumber while waiting (Matthew 25:1-13).

Here’s a beautiful song to encourage you to be ready for the Lord’s return.

Final Thoughts

There are two aspects of the return of Christ: the Rapture and the Second Coming. The Second Coming, also called Second Advent, is understood to follow the Tribulation, while the Rapture is to come before it. The Rapture could happen at any time without warning. In contrast, the Second Coming will be preceded by certain prophetic signs, and to that extent, its timing will be known.

If you are a believer in Jesus, you are not waiting and preparing for the Second Coming; you’re waiting for the blessed hope. Our blessed hope is the rapture, which is the appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13). The Lord will descend from heaven and we will be caught up to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

No one knows the day and the hour when this event will take place, thus, we must always be ready. We may not know the exact day and time but we know it is certain to happen.

Are you ready to meet your Lord and Master? Will you hear Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23)?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The Last Hour: An Israeli Insider Looks at the End Times by Amir Tsarfati

Avoiding sensationalism and date-speculating, respected Bible teacher Amir Tsarfati uses his unique perspective as an Israeli Christian to lead you through a fascinating modern-day description of God’s plan for the end of the world.

Grounded from start to finish in Scripture, the book reveals how the Rapture, the imminent rise of the Antichrist, and the tragic horrors of the Great Tribulation will play out in our world today.

He also helps you understand the roles – and fates – of Russia, Iran, Syria, Turkey, the European Union, the United States of America, and Israel in the end times, illustrating just how biblical prophecies are being fulfilled in our time.

But above all, he offers hope that amid chaos and horror, God is ultimately in control, and those who belong to Him will be safe with Him.

Would You Deny Our Lord?

Would You Deny Our Lord?

Peter’s denial of Christ 3 times may be one of the lowest points of his life as a follower of Christ. Who would have thought that the disciple who seemed to be the most loyal could turn his back on his “rabbi?” Yet, he did! The fact that Peter denied Christ not just once but thrice is so unthinkable.

When Jesus warned His disciples that they would all “fall away,” Peter vowed that he wouldn’t. And Jesus said to him, “…before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But Peter doubled down and said, “I will not deny You, even if I have to die with You” (Mark 14:27-31).

Jesus Predicts Peter's Denial

Peter’s Three Denials

We can read the story of Peter denying Christ three times in all the 4 gospels (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; and John 18:25-27).

After Jesus got arrested, the guards led Him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. Here, a group of religious leaders and teachers of the law gathered to put Jesus on trial.

Meanwhile, Peter followed Him at a distance and came to the high priest’s courtyard. He made sure to stay far enough behind so that no one would notice him. Very cautiously, he entered the courtyard, sat with the guards, and waited to see how it would all end.

However, three different people recognized Peter as one of Jesus’ followers. Yet each time they accused him of being with Jesus, Peter denied it. He even went as far as to swear and say that he didn’t know Him.

The fact that Peter was standing in the enemy’s fire, warming himself, indicates how defeated he was. The denial was even more humiliating because two of the interrogators were servant girls. The third challenge came from a man, one of the bystanders, but Peter failed again.

Listen to the Lord’s Warning

Just as the Lord predicted, Peter denied knowing Him 3 times before the rooster crowed. Take note that Jesus told Peter before He was arrested that he would turn his back on Him. But instead of heeding Jesus’ warning, Peter insisted that he would stick by Him even if it would cost him his life.

Perhaps Peter himself did not expect that he could do what he did. He was not even aware that he was doing exactly what Jesus said he would do. It was only after the rooster crowed that he realized what he has done.

Peter Denies Christ

When the Lord looked at Peter, his heart broke. He knew that he messed up big time! Come to think of it; all Jesus had to do was look at Peter. Jesus warned him that this would happen. Yet, Peter was very confident that his faith won’t fail him no matter what.

Let this be a warning and lesson for the followers of Jesus. Keep in mind what Paul wrote to the believers in Corinth. “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT).

God is Faithful, We are Not

People often say, “Promises are made to be broken.” Sadly, this is used to justify not keeping one’s word. In short, we are validating the argument that it’s okay to not always make good your promise. After all, aren’t promises made to be broken?

While this is maybe true for fallen men, it is never the case with God. Whatever God promised, He will surely bring it to pass. It may not always happen within our timeline but it does not mean God won’t fulfill it.

Therefore, “let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23, NIV).

What promise or promises of God have you claimed that are still waiting to get checked off your list? Do not ever lose hope that you will eventually receive them.

From what we read in the gospel accounts, we can conclude that Peter was always bold and straightforward with the Lord. He was never afraid to express exactly what he’s feeling in every given situation. He did not hold back, to the point that in certain situations, Jesus had to openly rebuke him.

Overcoming Fear

Can you imagine how Peter must have felt after realizing what he just did? Were you ever at a point where you had to choose between your safety or being loyal to a friend? You’ve committed to catching a bullet for someone you care so much about. But when the time came to put that loyalty to test, you buckled. Why?

The number one reason most people don’t stick with their friends to the end is fear, and that’s normal. We fear for our safety, we fear for our lives! It’s pretty easy to commit to remaining true to someone when everything is great. But when the situation turns into a matter of life or death, that’s when we give in and give up.

Fear is just one of the weapons that Satan uses against us and he’s good with it. But we can defeat the enemy by not allowing fear to overcome us. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 5:7).

The Lord's Guidance
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Jesus Reinstates Peter

The miracle of the rooster’s crow told Peter that a new day was dawning. After all, that is what the rooster’s call means each day. It was not a new day for Judas or the enemies of the Lord. It was a new day for Peter as he repented and wept bitterly.

The Lord saw how sorry Peter was. And God always gives second chances; He will not reject a broken and repentant heart (Psalm 51:17).

So, on the morning of Resurrection Sunday, the angel sent a special message to encourage Peter (Mark 16:7). More importantly, the Lord Himself appeared to Peter that day and restored him to fellowship (John 21:15-19).

You may be wondering why Jesus had to ask Peter if he loved Him three times. We know that Peter and his Lord had already met privately and no doubt took care of Peter’s sins (Luke 24:34; 1 Corinthians 15:5).

But since Peter had denied the Lord publicly, there must be a public restoration. Since Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus asked him three personal questions. He also encouraged him by giving a three-fold commission that restored Peter to his ministry.

Concluding Words

Peter’s denial is a warning to all of us. For if an apostle who walked with Christ denied Him, what might we do in similar circumstances?

Thus, before we judge Peter too severely, we need to examine our own lives.

How many times have we denied the Lord and lost opportunities to share the gospel with others? Do we, like Peter, talk when we should listen, argue when we should obey? Do we sleep when we should pray and fight when we should submit?

To Peter’s credit, he was sorry for his sins and wept over them. And the Lord was gracious to not only forgive him but also reinstate him.

Did you repent for those times when you denied your Lord?


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Simon Peter Leader Guide: Flawed but Faithful Disciple by Adam Hamilton

He left everything to follow his teacher and possessed a passion that would change the world. That’s one way to describe Peter. Here’s another: poor, uneducated, quick-tempered, and full of doubts and fears. Doesn’t even sound like the same man.

And that’s the point of Simon Peter, a new book and six-week adult Bible study by Adam Hamilton. Peter was just an ordinary guy who heard and followed God’s extraordinary call. Discover how you, too, have special gifts, talents, and abilities that God can use to make a difference today.

In addition to the Leader Guide and DVD components for adult studies, corresponding youth and children’s resources, sold separately, can be used to create a churchwide study.

Who is the Great Harlot in Revelation?

Who is the Great Harlot in Revelation?

Revelation 17 talks about “the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters” (Revelation 17:1). But who is this prostitute that John is referring to in this passage? Is it possible to come up with the correct interpretation without being labeled a bigot and an extremist?

Religious Idolatry on the Rise

A harlot or prostitute is an individual who has been unfaithful in her wedding vows. In Revelation 17, John portrays an apostate church. Although it professes loyalty to Christ, it cleaves to idols and a false religious system. The Bible calls this spiritual idolatry.

God tells John that the influence of this apostate church is worldwide. “The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations, and tongues” (Revelation 17:15). Indeed, the great harlot is a worldwide false religious system.

In Revelation 17:2, we discover that this “great harlot” seduces “the kings of the earth,” not just the general population. They are stupefied and mesmerized by this worldwide religious system centered in Babylon.

The Ancient City of Babylon
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Revival of the Roman Empire

John further writes, “So he carried me away in the Spirit into the wilderness. And I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast which was full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns” (Revelation 17:3).

Going back to Revelation 13:1, we read, “Then I stood on the sand of the sea. And I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name.”

What we see in Revelation 17:3 and Revelation 13:1 is the same. The great harlot sits upon the revived Roman Empire or the nations represented by the European Common Market.

A Deadly Beauty

In Revelation 17:4, John describes the apparel of the great harlot. “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls.”

She has the outward appearance of royalty; she is wearing gold and precious stones and pearls. This means she has unlimited wealth. In her hand is “a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.”

Outwardly, the great harlot is beautiful, but the contents of her cup are poison to the nations of the world.

John identifies the great harlot in Revelation 17:5. “And on her forehead, a name was written: MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Babylon is the “Mother,” which means the source, or the polluted fountain from which all spiritual prostitution flows.

The word “mystery” in the New Testament does not refer to something mysterious. Rather, it refers to some truth not previously presented by God to men. The “mystery” is in the last days, there will be a great worldwide apostate church that will reject Christ and dishonor God.

Worldwide Confusion

Nimrod's Tower of Babel This identification of Babylon as the source of spiritual unfaithfulness takes us back to the Tower of Babel, where it started.

Nimrod, who was the arch apostate of the post-diluvian world, built the Tower of Babel. He was four generations after the flood and is recorded as “the mighty hunter before the Lord. And the beginning of his kingdom was Babel” (Genesis 10:8-10).

Nimrod’s generation built the Tower of Babel to cast God and His influence out of the earth. They proposed to build a great tower that would reach into heaven so that they could have the benefits of God without submitting to Him.

God’s reaction was, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So, the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth” (Genesis 11:7-9).

Here’s the critical point: the first organized, idolatrous, religious system in the history of the world was introduced at Babel. John calls Babylon “the Mother of Harlots” because it was the birthplace of spiritual adultery.

One day, the great religious system that began after the Flood will return to the forefront. Man will again organize in rebellion against the Creator just like at the Tower of Babel.

Judgment of the Great Harlot

How will it all end for the great harlot? Revelation 17:16-17 reads, “And the ten horns which you saw on the beast, these will hate the harlot, make her desolate and naked, eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to fulfill His purpose, to be of one mind, and to give their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled.”

In essence, Joh is saying that in the middle of the 7-year Tribulation, the European Common Market will realize that they are mere puppets of the great harlot. They will then turn on her and destroy her with a vengeance.

Conclusion

Revelation 17 focuses on Babylon’s religious character, climaxing in a world religion during the first 3 ½ years of the Tribulation. The major indictment against Babylon is the city’s spiritual idolatry (Revelation 17:4-5).

Millions of Christians will disappear at the Rapture. Meanwhile, the church institution left on earth (void of true believers) will quickly fall into the hands of opportunists. Arnold Fruchtenbaum says this of the prostitute in Revelation 17:

“Babylon the Harlot that represents the one-world religious system will rule over the religious affairs during the first half of the Tribulation. She rules over the nations of the world fully controlling the religious affairs and has the reluctant support of the government. The headquarters of this one-world religion will be the rebuilt city of Babylon, the mother of idolatry, for it was here that idolatry and false religion began.”

Robert Thomas also says, “She leads the world in the pursuit of false religion whether it be paganism or perverted revealed religion. She is the symbol for a system that reaches back to the Tower of Babel which extends into the future when it will peak under the regime of the beast.”


References:

  1. NKJV Prophecy Study Bible edited by John Hagee
  2. The End: A Complete Overview of Bible Prophecy and the End of Days by Mark Hitchcock

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource: Revelation (The John Walvoord Prophecy Commentaries) by John F. Walvoord

The book of Revelation has long fascinated and even confused readers and students of the Bible. Yet the Bible is written to be understood, and Revelation is no exception.

Who better to help you understand the seals, trumpets, vials, woes, and plagues than John F. Walvoord, one of evangelicalism’s most prominent leaders, and Mark Hitchcock, today’s leading Bible prophecy expert?

In this first in a renewed series of commentaries from Dr. Walvoord, he points out that much of the book’s symbolism can be interpreted literally. At key points, different views and approaches to interpretation are explored. Walvoord devotes special attention to textual and doctrinal issues while avoiding technical language.

Refined, updated with the English Standard Version (ESV), and streamlined, this classic text is set to help you interpret the last book of the Bible and gain a better grasp of current trends and the climax of history!

Are All People God’s Children?

Are All People God’s Children?

I often hear people say, “We are all children of God and so we must treat each other like family.” In a general sense, this is true. All men and women are God’s offspring in that He is the Creator (Acts 17:2-29).

However, this relationship is not sufficient to offset the penalty of sin. It’s because we are all sinners separated from God (Romans 3:23). Therefore, for a sinful person to become a child of God, a miraculous transformation must take place.

The Doctrine of Adoption

In regeneration, God gives us new spiritual life within and in justification; God gives us a right legal standing before Him. But in adoption, God makes us members of His family.

Thus, we can define adoption as an act of God whereby He makes us members of His family. The doctrine of adoption focuses more on the personal relationships that salvation gives us with God and with His people.

That leaves us with the question, “If we only become children of God through adoption, whose children are we before that?”

The Doctrine of Adoption

In John 1:12, we read that only those who receive Christ and believe in His name are given the right to become God’s children. By contrast, those who do not believe in Christ are sons of disobedience and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:2-3; 5:6).

When the Jews who rejected Christ claimed that God was their Father, Jesus said, “…you are of your father, the devil…” (John 8:41-44).

From Slave to Son

When Christians are adopted into God’s family, a dramatic transformation of status takes place from slave to son. As God’s sons, we can call God, “Abba Father,” and become heirs of God through Christ (Galatians 4:6-7, Romans 8:15-17).

But if we are God’s children, are we then related to one another as family members? Certainly! This adoption into God’s family makes us partakers even with the Old Testament-believing Jews. Paul says that we are all Abraham’s children as well and children of the promise (Romans 9:7-8).

Paul explains that this status of adoption into God’s family was not fully realized in the Old Covenant. He says, “Before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law… the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:23-26).

While the people of Israel knew God as their Father, the full benefits and privileges of membership in God’s family did not come until Christ.

Evidence of Adoption

If we are, indeed, God’s children, what evidence do we see in our lives? The clear evidence is the fact that the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts that we are God’s children.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6)!

We also see in John’s first epistle how he places much emphasis on our status as God’s children. Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God. Beloved, now we are children of God … (1 John 3:1-2).

Notice that John frequently refers to his readers as “children of God.”

Although the New Testament says we are “now children of God,” there is another sense in which our adoption is still future. We will not receive the full benefits and privileges of adoption until Christ returns to give us glorified bodies (Romans 8:23).

How Do We Become Children of God

Adoption vs. Regeneration

There’s a common notion that we become God’s children by regeneration. This is because the imagery of being “born again” in regeneration makes us think of children being born into a human family.

However, the New Testament never connects adoption with regeneration. Rather, the idea of adoption is opposite to the idea of being born into a family. Adoption is connected with saving faith. This is to say that God has adopted us into His family in response to our trusting in Christ.

John 1:12 and Galatians 3:23-26 make it clear that adoption follows conversion as God’s response to our faith. Furthermore, Paul’s statement in Galatians 4:6 does not refer to the giving of the Holy Spirit in regeneration. Rather, it is an act of the Holy Spirit in which He begins to bear witness with our spirit that we are members of God’s family.

This work of the Holy Spirit assures us of our adoption. In this sense, Paul says, God causes His Holy Spirit within our hearts to cry, “Abba Father,” after we have become sons.

Adoption vs. Justification

Just like regeneration, justification is distinct from adoption. God could have given us a right legal standing before Him without making us His children. This is why it is important to recognize how great our privileges are in adoption.

As mentioned in the first part of this post, adoption has to do with our relationship with God as our Father. When we were adopted into God’s family, God has given us many of the greatest blessings that we will know for all eternity. When we realize how great these blessings are, knowing that God is not obligated to give any of them to us, we will also exclaim:

“Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1)!

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The Benefits of Adoption

I mentioned several times that there are blessings that come with becoming members of God’s family.

1. God Becomes Our Father

The first and greatest benefit or privilege of our adoption is being able to speak to God and have a relationship with Him as a Father. As we pray, “Our Father in heaven …” (Matthew 6:9), we realize that we are His sons, not slaves. Thus, we relate to God as a child relates to his or her father.

This relationship to God as our Father is the foundation of many other blessings of the Christian life. It’s true; God is our Creator, Lord, Master, Judge, Teacher, Provider, Protector, and Sustainer of our existence. But the most intimate role that conveys the highest privilege of our fellowship with God for eternity is Him being our heavenly Father.

2. God Loves Us and Cares for Us

Another benefit of adoption is that God’s love for us and cares deeply for us. As His children, God our Father has compassion on us (Psalm 103:13, NIV). Moreover, our heavenly Father gives us many good gifts (Matthew 7:11) and a great inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:4).

The privilege of being led by the Holy Spirit is also a benefit of adoption (Romans 8:14). This is a moral benefit whereby the Holy Spirit puts in us desires to obey God and live according to His will. As God’s children, we must submit in obedience to the guidance and leading of the Holy Spirit.

3. God Disciplines Us

Still, another benefit of adoption that we may not always recognize is God disciplining us (Hebrews 12:5-6; Proverbs 3:11-12). The author of Hebrews explains that God is disciplining us because we are His legitimate children (Hebrews 12:7-8).

As our heavenly Father disciplines us, we grow in righteousness and share in His holiness (Hebrews 12:10, NIV).

God Disciplines Those Whom He Love

4. Fellowship with Other Believers

Finally, we also have privileges of adoption that affect the way that we relate to each other and affect our own personal conduct.

Because we are God’s children, our relationship with each other is far deeper and more intimate than the relationship among angels. Many passages throughout the New Testament refer to Christians as brothers and sisters in Christ.

See Romans 1:13; 8:12; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 6:8; James 1:2; Matthew 12:50; Romans 16:1; 1 Corinthians 7:15; Philemon 1:2; and James 2:15.

This indicates the strong consciousness they had of the nature of the church as the family of God. As members of God’s family, we are to work together for the good of the family and the honor of God our Father.

Conclusion

All people on the earth are God’s creation but not all of them are God’s children. Scriptures are clear! Only those who place their faith in Christ become members of God’s family.

Have you received Jesus as your Lord and believed in His name? Did you receive the “Spirit of adoption” by whom you cry out, “Abba Father?”

If you are not yet a member of God’s family, why don’t you confess your sins right now? Acknowledge you’re a sinner, believe in the Lord Jesus, and receive God’s forgiveness for your sins. In response to your faith, God will give you the right to become His child and adopt you into His family.

As a result of your adoption, you will be able to enjoy the many blessings and privileges of being a child and son of God.


Reference: Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Adopted by God: From Wayward Sinners to Cherished Children by Robert A. Peterson

In an age of family breakdown, loneliness, and insecurity, we need more than ever to grasp the meaning of being sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. Surprisingly, theologians have devoted little attention to the biblical teaching on adoption.

This book views the many facets of God’s saving grace through the lens of the Bible’s family imagery. Combining careful exegesis with gripping personal stories of father-child relationships, Robert A. Peterson brings home the warmth and wonder of biblical adoption.

Blessings for Being a Christian

Blessings for Being a Christian

Have you ever had someone asked you why you’re a Christian? Most people may think that believing in God is just all about going to heaven when you die. But as wonderful as that may sound, there’s more to life in heaven for a follower of Jesus.

There are wonderful blessings for being a Christian which we can enjoy even while we are still on this earth. I’m talking about some specific blessings that Paul mentions in his letter to the Romans.

Bible Verse: Romans 5:1-11

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

3 And not only that but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; 4 and perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.

The Blessings of Justification

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

We Rejoice in God’s Blessings

In listing the blessings in the fifth chapter of Romans, Paul tells us how wonderful it is to be a Christian. Our justification is not simply a guarantee of heaven, as thrilling as that is. More importantly, it is also the source of tremendous blessings that we enjoy here and now.

1. Access to God

This is the first blessing Christians get to enjoy (Romans 5:2a).

Remember, the Jews were kept from God’s presence by the curtain in the Temple. Only the high priest was allowed to enter the holy of holies. And even then he got to do it once a year on the Day of Atonement (Hebrews 9:7).

The Gentiles, on the other hand, were kept out by a wall in the Temple with a warning on it. Anyone who went beyond would be killed. But when Jesus died, the veil (curtain) was torn in two (Matthew 27:50-51; Luke 23:45) and broke down the wall (Ephesians 2:14).

Jesus has become our Great High Priest who has passed through the heavens. So, now we can come boldly to God’s throne that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

We can come to the Father through Jesus Christ, ask Him anything and He will do it (John 14:13-14; 15:16; 16:23-24). What a wonderful blessing it is that we can come to the Father anytime through our Lord whom God appointed as our mediator.

The Blessings of Justification

2. Glorious Hope

Having “peace with God through our Lord” (Romans 5:1) takes care of the past; God will no longer hold our sins against us. But the “place of undeserved privilege” where we now stand takes care of the present. We can now confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory (Romans 5:2b).

How do we share in the glory of God?

When we got born again, we have received the Spirit that brought about our adoption as God’s children. And since we are God’s children, we are His heirs. Together with Christ, we are heirs of God’s glory (Romans 8:15-17).

See also John 17:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:14, Ephesians 2:6; 2 Timothy 2:12.

3. Strength to Endure Trials

We can rejoice too, even when we run into problems and difficulties because we know that tribulations will develop perseverance in our lives (Romans 5:3).

Just because we have received justification that we can escape from the trials of life. As we go through trials and depend on God’s grace, the trials only purify us. God is working in us to develop character.

Sometimes we question why God allows His children to suffer. But as 2 Corinthians 4:17 (NLT) says, “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!”

James, the Lord’s brother, also encourages every child of God to persevere in James 1:12.

“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”

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4. God’s Love through the Holy Spirit

Our hope in God will not lead to disappointment because we know that God loves us. God has poured out His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us (Romans 5:5).

God proved His love by sending Christ to die for us (John 3:16). Even while we were still in our sins, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Now that we are His children, surely He will love us more. The inner experience of this love through the Spirit sustains us as we go through problems and trials.

Knowing that God loves us unconditionally is a blessing that we should never take for granted. Instead, we should strive to love God and live a life that brings glory, honor, and pleasure to Him.

5. Saved from God’s Wrath and Judgment

Man’s broken relationship with God was restored as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. We are no longer enemies with God. The death of Christ and His blood made right our standing with God (Romans 5:9-10). Paul argued from the lesser to the greater, the unsaved person is one of God’s enemies because he cannot obey God’s law (Romans 8:7).

But God did not declare war on humanity. Instead, He sent His Son as the Peacemaker that people might be reconciled to God (Ephesians 2:11-18). If God saved us when we were his enemies, surely He will keep on saving us now that we are His children. We can be sure that justification lasts.

Thus, we shall be saved from His wrath that will be poured out upon all the inhabitants of the earth. There is coming a time when God will not only restore the nation of Israel but will also judge the wicked, unrepentant world. Prophetic books such as Daniel and Revelation talk about this future judgment of God in detail.

But the bride of Christ, the church, is not appointed unto God’s wrath. We are appointed to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Here’s a beautiful song called, “Blessings” by Laura Story from the album of the same title released in 2011.

Closing Words

The blessings we have freely received and can enjoy as children of God are profoundly amazing.

First, we are no longer estranged from God but have been placed in good standing with Him based on His grace. We can come to Him at any time for the help we need. Praise Jesus; what a comfort that is.

Secondly, we can rejoice in the glorious hope of sharing in the glory of God not only in the future but even at present. Third, we can also glory in our tribulations knowing that God can (and will) sustain us. And this is how God builds in us a better character.

Fourth, we will have a deeper awareness of the love of God through the Holy Spirit. And finally, we can rest in God’s promise that we will not suffer His wrath.

Our heavenly Father loves us and cares so much about us that He did not want us to perish. He gave His only begotten Son to take our place of punishment on the cross to reconcile us to Himself.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

Romans: Grace, Truth, and Redemption by John F. MacArthur

Paul’s letter to the Romans is an inspired masterpiece of doctrine highlighting God’s grace, truth, and redemption.

Within its pages, the apostle shares his message of good news and eternal salvation with the church advises believers on theological truths, gives practical applications for living the Christian life, and shows how God’s righteousness comes by grace alone through faith in Christ.

The book of Romans underscores that Christianity is far more than just a doctrine—it is an essential road map for daily living.

The MacArthur Bible Studies provide intriguing examinations of the whole of Scripture. Each guide incorporates extensive commentary, detailed observations on overriding themes, and probing questions to help you study the Word of God with guidance from John MacArthur.

The Power of God in Prayer

The Power of God in Prayer

Do you sometimes doubt the power of God in prayer? Is it because you prayed for something and God did not grant it? Do you know someone who used to be a Christian but quit because God did not give him what he prayed for? Isn’t God a loving God, kind, and generous?

Whatever it is that may have caused us or others to question if God works through prayer, rest assured He does. God is still God. He is enthroned in the heavens above and hears even the silent prayers of our hearts.

When Things Get Tough

More or less two weeks ago, the news about the deadly floods in Germany broke. One headline news read, “Climate scientists shocked by the scale of floods in Germany.” What took place was something unexpected and the cities that were heavily affected declared a “state of emergency.”

I immediately contacted a friend who recently flew there to make sure she’s okay, and thank God, she’s fine. She lives in the southern area which is far from where the flash floods are happening.

A day after, we learned that China’s Henan province was also affected by severe flooding. To make matters worse, several dams and reservoirs have breached warning levels. Flights and trains in many parts of Henan have also been suspended.

Flash Floods

We may not have family, relatives, or friends living in Germany or China. But for sure, every single one of the victims has had somebody grieving for their loss.

You see, it’s hard enough to see the people we love going through difficult times. It’s much harder because there is nothing we can do about their situation. We feel powerless and at times useless, as we watch them go through challenging times

As a result, we can quickly become frustrated, sad, and scared.

The Power of Prayer

Think about how the church at Philippi must have felt knowing what Paul was going through. When they heard of Paul’s imprisonment, they sent Epaphroditus with financial help. But that was all the Philippian church could do. They loved Paul dearly, thus, knowing the struggles he had to endure broke their hearts. They were 4600 miles away and had no political power to change the situation.

But the Philippians knew the power of prayer, so they prayed to God. Paul wrote:

“… Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Philippians 1:18b-20, NIV).

What does this tell us? That when God’s people intercede for one another, God takes affirmative action. This principle remains true even for believers today.

Intercessory Prayer

To intercede means to “to come to God on behalf of another.” In other words, when you intercede, you are asking God for something on behalf of someone else other than yourself.

The Bible calls this “standing in the gap” (Ezekiel 22:30). We see this in many different places throughout the Bible. For instance, Abraham pleaded with God on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). Moses interceded on behalf of Israel (Exodus 32:30-33).

In the same way, the Philippian believers went to God in prayer on behalf of Paul. They understood perfectly that there is a direct correlation between God’s actions and the prayers of His people.

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Partnering with God in Prayer

We often hear Christians say that we can partner with God through prayer. God partners with His people to bring about His will and purposes. And the Philippians accepted God’s invitation to partner with Him in bringing to fulfillment His desires for Paul.

Today, God is giving us the same invitation to partner with Him in prayer. Would you accept His invitation?

Now, let me make this very clear. When we intercede, we should first seek to know God’s will and desires for the people we are praying for. This is crucial because not knowing the will of God may lead us frustrated in the end.

To partner with God does not mean manipulating God to agree with what outcome we want. Rather, we must become aware of God’s will and desires for someone and join Him in that.

The apostle Paul was aware that the Philippians were praying for God to help him. And the Philippian church knew that God wanted good for Paul. Even amid trials and difficulties, God is good and He desires what is good for His people.

God Desires Good for His People

It’s easy for us to become discouraged and frustrated when faced with an impossible situation. But Psalm 100:5 (NIV) says, “The Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”

1 John 5:14 (NLT) also assures us that God hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.

When we pray God’s will for His children, we can come to Him confidently. But despite knowing this we don’t always feel like we can come to God confidently. It’s because we are not sure if we will pray for the right things.

We may not be able to always discern the will of God perfectly. But we can trust God because He is good. God will not give someone something that isn’t good for them simply because we asked for it.

God Helps Us Pray for the Right Things

What if we run out of things to pray for? Or when we do not know what to pray for? Romans 8:26-27 gives us the answer:

“Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.”

Not only that; Jesus who is seated at the right hand of God is also interceding for us (Romans 8:34).

“Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”

Final Thoughts

There is power in prayer. We see God’s power in action when His people come to Him in prayer. When we intercede for one another, God brings to pass His will and desires in our lives and the life of others.

Let us then boldly approach the throne of God through prayer for ourselves, for one another, for our nation, and the world.

Let us approach God’s throne of grace with confidence and we shall receive His mercy to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Let us give thanks to the Holy Spirit, to our Lord Jesus who intercedes for us, and to the Father who hears every word of our prayers.

Let us continue to intercede for one another just as the Philippian believers did for Paul.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations by Anne Graham Lotz

Bestselling author Anne Graham Lotz will teach you how to pray effectively for your nation, for your families, and yourself.

Many people today find that their prayers don’t “work.” And like a broken cell phone, DVD player, or TV remote, they throw prayer out as unnecessary “clutter” in their busy lives.

Anne Graham Lotz has found that while prayer does work, sometimes the “pray-ers” don’t. So she has turned to the prophet Daniel for help.

The Daniel Prayer is born deep within your soul, erupts through your heart, and pours out on your lips, words created by and infused with the Spirit of God quivering with spiritual electricity.

It’s really not an everyday type of prayer. It’s a prayer birthed under pressure. Heartache. Grief. Desperation. It can be triggered by a sudden revelation of hope. An answer to prayer, a promise freshly received a miracle that lies just over the horizon.

Join Anne in a thrilling discovery of prayer that really works.

Life Lessons from Jonah

Life Lessons from Jonah

Each of the chapters in the book of Jonah records a significant lesson the prophet had to learn. These parallel in many ways the life lessons God consistently and patiently tries to teach each of us along the way.

Overview of the Book of Jonah

Most people are familiar with the story of Jonah that nothing in it surprises them anymore. But what’s the book of Jonah all about?

It’s not simply about a great fish (mentioned only 4 times), or a great city (mentioned 9 times), or even a disobedient prophet (named 23 times).

It’s about God! Do you know that God is mentioned 37 times in these 4 short chapters? And if you eliminate God from the book, the story wouldn’t make sense.

Jonah’s Wrong Attitudes

I’m pretty sure most of us can relate to Jonah. He is one of the characters in the Bible who cause us to sigh and think, “Well, if there’s hope for Jonah, there’s hope for me.”

But then we must understand that the Bible was written for us so that we will not make the same mistakes they made.

You see, in his story, Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong.

What about our attitudes? Can we honestly say that we have become better people since God recreated us? 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV) says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.”

Becoming a New Creation

You see, to be a new creation is to be changed. There has to be a change in character, change in viewpoints, change in our motivations, goals, and priorities. This is what we call sanctification, or becoming more and more like Christ.

In this article, I would like us to look at the life of Jonah and use his responses to God and the world around him for self-evaluation. If we find ourselves living out the same worldview as God’s resistant and reluctant prophet, then we are definitely in need of an attitude upgrade.

1. Wrong Attitude toward the Word of God

First of all, Jonah got into trouble because he had the wrong attitude toward the word of God, which is also the Will of God.

When the Word of the Lord came to Jonah, what did he do? He consciously and deliberately disobeyed God.

The Lord asked Jonah to “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). But instead of going 550 miles northeast to Nineveh, Jonah attempted to go 2,500 miles west to Tarshish (modern-day Spain).

Jonah Deliberately Disobeys God

As we can see, God’s instruction to Jonah was crystal clear. It’s not as if God was speaking in ambiguity or uncertainty. He wasn’t speaking in parables or some figurative speech either. We must understand that God does not tell us one thing and expects us to do another thing.

Yet Jonah decided to disobey God. Now, why is that?

Jonah’s wrong attitude toward God’s word stemmed from a feeling that the Lord was asking him to do something impossible. Alright, what was God asking Jonah to do exactly?

Well, God told Jonah to go to Israel’s enemy, Assyria, and allow them to repent.

The Great City of Nineveh
Photo Credits: Jesus Way 4 You

Note 1: The city of Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was also a large and prominent city in its day.

Just a quick refresher, when Israel was divided into two kingdoms, the Babylonians conquered Judah and the Assyrians conquered Israel. And the Assyrians were very abusive toward the Jewish people. Just read Nahum chapter 3 to see how wicked they are.

Jonah’s Patriotism Gets in the Way

For Jonah to preach God’s message of repentance to the Assyrians would be like helping Israel’s enemy. It’s like working with the enemy of your country that wants to destroy your people. Anyone who does that today would be considered a traitor and will be tried for treason.

In his patriotic zeal, Jonah put his country before his God. Jonah didn’t want the notoriously cruel Assyrians in Nineveh to escape God’s judgment. He would much rather have seen the city destroyed.

Note 2: We need to understand that there is a divine order that God has put in place with regard to submission to authorities. God is the one who sets up kings and rulers and we are commanded to submit to them.

But when the governing authorities hold to a position that is in clear and direct violation of the Word of God, we must choose to obey God rather than men (the same way Peter and the other disciples and Daniel’s friends did).

God’s Challenging Commands

What are some of the things God commanded us that we find very difficult to do?

1. Love your enemies.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44, NKJV).

To love your enemies, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who hate or abuse us is easier said than done.

2. Forgive those who have hurt or offended you.

This command is incorporated in the Lord’s prayer.

“Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12, NLT).

Take note that this is in the past tense. It means before we even come to God in prayer, we should have already forgiven our offenders.

Forgive your offenders

The Sovereignty of God

When the word of the Lord came to him, Jonah thought he could take it or leave it. That whether he does what God asked him to do or not won’t matter to God. And that God would leave him alone.

As it turned out, that’s not exactly what happened. God used a creative series of counter-measures to accomplish His desired result.

Lesson 1

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s patience. We can run far, but we can’t run away from God.

Jonah attempted to run as far away as possible from God. But before reaching his desired destination, God took a hold of him. We can see in the next events that took place that God was very patient with Jonah (Jonah 1:4-17).

Although God was no longer speaking to Jonah through His Word; He continued speaking to him through His works. God used the sea, wind, storm, and even the huge fish to carry out His plans. Notice that everything in nature obeyed God, except His servant Jonah.

In the beginning, I said that Jonah got into trouble because his attitudes were wrong. But his disobedience to God also brought trouble to a boatload of pagan sailors.

God had called the Jews to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:1-3) but whenever they were out of the will of God, they brought trouble instead of blessings.

Self-Reflection

Are you a blessing to others, especially to those who do not yet have a relationship with God? Do unbelievers see God’s glory in you? As the saying goes, “You may be the only Bible some people read.” The idea behind this phrase is that Christians should live the “Christian life” for everyone to see.

2 Corinthians 5:20 says we are Christ’s ambassadors. Matthew 5:13-16 says we are the salt and light of the world. Are we living our calling and commission?

Going back to Jonah’s story, Jonah found himself inside the belly of a fish and stayed there for 3 days and 3 nights. He then cried out to God for deliverance and the fish vomited him onto dry land.

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Lesson 2

Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon. God forgives those who call upon Him. See Romans 10:11, 13.

While inside the belly of a huge fish, Jonah cried out to God for deliverance. And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land (Jonah 2:1-9).

But it didn’t end there. God gave Jonah a second chance. He gave him the same commission – go to Nineveh and preach the message of God’s upcoming judgment. And Jonah eventually obeyed God.

Think about Jonah’s experience. He had to experience getting stuck inside the belly of a huge fish for 3 days and 3 nights before obeying God.

Do we realize that oftentimes we find ourselves in deep trouble because of our wrong attitudes? We always like to blame Satan for our misfortunes and failures because it’s convenient. It takes away the accountability from us.

But if we would just look deep down, we would discover that we are as much to blame. Our blessings are often delayed because of our disobedience. We often get into trouble because of our rebellion.

When God commands us, we must listen and obey. In the ministry that God has entrusted to us, our part is to obey. In our partnership with God in accomplishing His purpose through us, our part is to obey. Disobedience is NOT an option!

God Gives Jonah Second Chance

What was the message that Jonah preached to the great city of Nineveh?

On the day Jonah entered the city, he shouted to the crowds: “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed” (Jonah 3:4, NLT)!

After hearing Jonah’s message, the people believed God, a fast was proclaimed for everyone from the greatest to the least of them and they put on sackcloth, including their animals. The king of Nineveh also got off his throne, laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.

“For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Everything they did was a sign of repentance, humility, and surrender. But they did not stop there. They also cried out to God, prayed earnestly, turned from their evil ways, and violence (Jonah 3:5-8).

This is perhaps the greatest revival of all time as the entire city of Nineveh believed God, proclaimed a fast, and cried out to God.

Lesson 3

Once again, Jonah learned the lesson of God’s pardon and forgiveness to those who call upon Him. But then, he also learned the lesson of God’s power as he saw a whole city humble itself before the Lord.

In the end, the Lord’s will has prevailed and Jonah’s efforts to thwart God’s plans were pointless.

This is a powerful reminder not only to Jonah but to us all of the sovereignty of God in every circumstance.

Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose” (Isaiah 46:9-10, ESV).

2. Wrong Attitude toward Circumstances

Jonah also had a wrong attitude toward circumstances; he thought they were working for him when they were really working against him.

Let’s break down what happened here in Jonah 1:1-5.

So, Jonah decided to disobey God and run away from Him. He fled to Joppa and found just the right ship waiting for him (ship heading to Tarshish).

He had enough money to pay the fare for his long trip, and he was even able to go down into the lowest part of the ship and fall into a deep sleep that the storm didn’t awaken him.

Hey, look at that! Everything seems to be working out perfectly for Jonah.

Stephen Prado, Jesus is Alive CMNV Monumento

Clearly, we can be out of the will of God and still have circumstances working on our behalf. We can be rebelling against God and still have a false sense of security that includes a good night’s sleep.

Could it be that it’s the devil who is going out of his way to help us disobey and escape from God? Of course! But most of the time we don’t see it this way. It’s because even when we are out of the will of God, things seem to be going smoothly.

3. Wrong Attitude toward the Gentiles

Instead of wanting to help the Assyrians find the true and living God, Jonah wanted to abandon them in their darkness and spiritual death and he wanted them to perish under God’s mighty hand.

Why do you think Jonah disobeyed God when he was first told to go to Nineveh and announce God’s judgments against it? It’s because he already anticipated what would happen.

Jonah knew that the Assyrians would repent and call out to the Lord for His mercy and forgiveness. And God, being merciful and compassionate, would relent or change His mind about destroying Nineveh. And that was the last thing that Jonah wanted to happen.

He was reluctant to preach God’s message because he didn’t want to give the Assyrians a chance to repent!

Now, think about that for just a moment. Jonah was God’s messenger, a representative of the God of Israel to the Gentiles. But he certainly didn’t act like one. When his one-sentence sermon brought in incredible results, which can be said to be the most responsive evangelistic effort in history, Jonah was displeased.

And when God did not destroy Nineveh, Jonah became angry. Read Jonah 4:1-11.

God’s Love vs. Jonah’s Anger

In the 4th chapter of Jonah, we see God’s love and grace contrasted with Jonah’s anger and lack of compassion. So, God used a plant, a worm, and a wind to teach Jonah a lesson in compassion.

In a humorous but meaningful account, Jonah was forced to see that he had more concern for a plant than for hundreds of thousands of people (120,000). He just didn’t care if the Assyrians perished.

Then the Lord said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city (Jonah 4:10-11, NLT)?

That’s a huge contrast with Abraham who pleaded with God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33).

God is compassionate and gracious

Lesson 4

Jonah learned, perhaps the most important lesson of all. Here, he had to learn the lesson of God’s pity, that God has compassion for lost sinners like the Ninevites and His servants must also have compassion.

We may have always thought that God’s desire for the salvation of the Gentiles only came up in the Gospels when the Jews rejected His message.

But the book of Jonah, unlike other Old Testament books, revolves exclusively around a Gentile nation. We see here that God is concerned not only for His covenant people Israel but for the Gentiles as well.

The story of Jonah is one of the clearest demonstrations of God’s love and mercy for all mankind in the entire Scriptures.

How is our attitude towards those who are still in the dark? How do we treat people who do not know the Lord, are hostile to us and are in danger of facing God’s judgment during the Tribulation?

Conclusion

As I said from the start, the book of Jonah is all about God. First, it is about the will of God and how we respond to it. Do you see yourself in Jonah’s shoes? How do you respond to God’s commands? Jesus said this in Luke 6:46.

“But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?”

To know God’s Word and His will is a privilege. But doing the will of God makes us grow in grace and become more like Christ. We may think it’s hard but God will enable us. We just have to allow God to work in us and He will transform us into His image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:18, NASB).

The book of Jonah is also about the love of God and how we share it with others. Incredibly, Jonah brought a whole city to faith in the Lord, yet he didn’t love the people to whom he was preaching. Jonah took God’s repeated pity on his own life for granted while he expected extinction for the sinners in Nineveh.

How often do we expect God to treat us one way while we pray He will treat others according to an entirely different standard? Let us apply Jesus’ words to Jonah’s situation and ours.

“In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12, NASB).

In other words, the grace we expect from God, we ought to ask Him to give to others.


Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate, I may earn a commission when you use any links on this page to make a purchase, but at no additional cost to you.

Recommended Resource:

The Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy by Timothy Keller.

An angry prophet. A feared and loathsome enemy. A devastating storm. And the surprising message of a merciful God to His people.

In The Prodigal Prophet, pastor and New York Times bestselling author Timothy Keller reveals the hidden depths within the book of Jonah.

Keller makes the case that Jonah was one of the worst prophets in the entire Bible. And yet there are unmistakably clear connections between Jonah, the prodigal son, and Jesus. Jesus in fact saw himself in Jonah.

How could one of the most defiant and disobedient prophets in the Bible be compared to Jesus?

Jonah’s journey also doesn’t end when he is freed from the belly of the fish. There is an entire second half to his story – but it is left unresolved within the text of the Bible. Why does the book of Jonah end on what is essentially a cliffhanger?

In these pages, Timothy Keller provides an answer to the extraordinary conclusion of this biblical parable – and shares the powerful Christian message at the heart of Jonah’s story.