RELATING WITH UNBELIEVERS

It is a lot easier for us to associate with fellow believers because we always share a common area of understanding. However, our Lord Jesus expects us to go beyond familiar circles and invest in others. True fellowship comes about when we learn to engage positively with those who may not be of our faith.

Our effectiveness as believers who are out to serve the Lord will be seen when we humble ourselves and associate with unbelievers who feel unworthy before the Lord. It is the best way of drawing them to the gate of heaven. We should show hospitality to those who cannot pay back in response to God’s mercy. Christ reached out to all the people and attended to their deepest needs.

There are many ways we can engage with unbelievers. Praying for each one of them by name, for example, indicates that we are truly concerned about their spiritual wellbeing. We should find time to spend with unbelievers; this will enable us to avoid going back to the comfort of the church and fellow believers. Our love for God and the neighbours will be seen through such gestures as identifying two or more people who do not belong to our churches but with whom we would enjoy spending time together. Listen to their life issues and offer friendly advice devoid of condemnation.

When we have unbelieving family members, it is always good to be close to them and encourage them in their struggles. We should appreciate them and keep praying for their salvation. The best guiding principle should be to allow neighbours to be attracted to us and use that opportunity to share the word of God with them. This should be done in a gentle and friendly manner.

We are never going to win others to Christ by becoming more sinful or lowering our morals to be acceptable to our friends. God does not call us to do that but to be light in a dark world, to stand for truth in a world of lies and to be healing salt in a world of festering filth.

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FOLLOW THE TRUTH

Satan has been in the business of opposing the true gospel from the time of the early church. He does this through false teaching within the church. To avoid his tricks, we need to be discerning by abiding in the Word and in Spirit (1 John 2:24-27).

The true gospel is revealed to us through the written word and its central message is the love of God for sinful humanity as opposed to strange revelations by the false teachers. These teachers tend to emphasize instant blessings to those who accept their message. This is contrary to the biblical teaching of waiting upon the Lord and allowing Him to operate within His time frame to provide for our needs.

False teachers start out with orthodox teaching then gradually turn away from the truth. They build up a following to uphold their ideas and are usually motivated by a number of things. There are those who are looking for fame and financial gain. They feel the more famous they are, the more power they wield, and the more people they will get. They will form new groups and throw the entire congregation into confusion as to where the truth is. Others will simply want to bring in a new experience such as spiritualism so that church members may think they are closer to God than others.

True believers know that they have been regenerated by the spirit of God and are not merely corporate church members. They recognize that there is no perfect church and can persevere amid difficulties. They are usually committed to work through the problems that arise in church in the same way a family irons out their issues through constructive dialogue. In instances where there are huge doctrinal differences, true believers recognize the importance of preserving purity of faith in Christ as opposed to unity or church growth.

PATIENCE PAYS

One of the hardest things we face in life is what seem to be the delays in God’s actions. We pray. The answer is delayed. Then we fume and fret and sometimes set about to work out the answer for ourselves. What is wrong when we do this? Simply put: we are not trusting. We doubt either God’s ability to do what He has promised or His timing. We need to trust God and wait upon Him.

Patience is the quality that brings about inner peace, and together with perseverance, brings about success in whatever endeavour we choose to undertake. Impatience causes irritation, imprudence, and wrong decisions and contributes greatly to personal unhappiness. Patience in its deeper sense is rooted in faith, i.e., faith in fellow human beings and faith that divine justice will prevail in the long run.

In life, patience is not something that comes easily to us. We jump the gun on most issues and we question God’s judgement and timing; trying to take matters into our own hands. We convince ourselves that everything happens for a reason and that every opportunity or situation has been the chosen one from God.

We are conditioned in our society to think that everything must be given to us instantly. We want instant answers, love success and comfort. It is like watching the news. A tragedy happens and within minutes, the world is waiting for expert advice (even when the experts are not ready to dish out their thoughts). Some things are better when they are analysed and waited out, rather than given super speedy time. In Philippians 4:6 we read: “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known unto God.”

LISTEN TO THE VOICE OF GOD

I spend much of my free time on social media. There are quite a lot of messages I come across as I click through my accounts. Some of them are dirty. I have blocked and reported a number of them to the authority and am glad the response has always been positive.

I have registered on a few sites that generate godly messages and I receive devotions on a regular basis. These are always uplifting, spiritually and also socially, as I get to interact and share the gospel with a lot of other people in the network. It is through social media that I have been able to reach many people with the message of Christ. My relationship with Christ is very clear on all my social media accounts.

I feel empowered to tell others about the love of God through the latest technology because I believe I have a positive message to share with everyone following me. I set up a blog (www.wagabi12.wordpress.com) to share the good news of Christ with others and know many are blessed through the spiritual gems I post.

In the house, radio and television are mostly tuned into Christian broadcasts where I learn about what is going on in the world. I see the need to pray for Christians being persecuted in the Middle East and ask God to comfort them and also open ways for them to find stability wherever they go.

My decision to stick with the Christian media ensures that I do not give in to the many social and political noises around. Therefore, I can stand in the gap and pray for peace in my country and the world at large.

TAKING RESPONSIBILITY

Any adult who has children in his or her care must be responsible for them. If we are in charge of a child in place of its parents, responsibility for the safety of the child and for its behaviour lies squarely on our shoulders. We all need to take our share of responsibility regardless of whether we are in charge of fewer or many children.

Responsibility varies according to one’s position. A team leader, for instance, carries a great measure of responsibility than a member of the team. The biblical principle is: “… for unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more” (Luke 12:48).

The easiest way to understand our responsibility is to see it as fulfilling what is expected of us, whether by parents, church leaders, team leaders or other members of the team. To avoid feeling isolated from the rest of the church, it is important to have other people covering for us and they should be ones interested both in what we are doing and in our spiritual welfare. The writer of Ecclesiastes informs us that two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Ecclesiastes 4:9). It is always good to work alongside another person.

As soon as someone else does become involved in our work, liaison is needed. It is our responsibility to encourage communication amongst ourselves. Working as a team brings undoubted benefits. It also highlights the fact that certain requirements are necessary if we are going to function well. We should try and draw the team together and discuss what the rest of the members require of us.

What often comes up in such discussions is the need to love and be loved. Love and encouragement are fundamental. We need to remember that we are whole people. We cannot teach the children if we are not right with each other (Matthew 5:23, 24). We need to encourage one another and build each other up (1Thessalonians 5:11). In this respect, we are our brother’s keeper as we work together.

ARE YOU RICH OR POOR?

Oppression and fraud, misfortune, laziness and neglect are the main causes of poverty.  Some of these things can be broken through the political will to reduce suffering among the populace. If governments can establish laws and statutes that prohibit and punish injustice, the poor will be free from exploitation and fraud. Equitable distribution of resources too will ensure they do not go hungry all the time.

However, it is worth noting that poverty cannot be solved just by addressing injustice and misfortune. Christians should reach out to those in poverty by distributing their own financial resources and supporting ministries working in the area of poverty alleviation. Such an outreach provides churches with a mechanism to meet the physical needs of the poor as well as a context to meet their spiritual needs.

Christians should also use their gifts and abilities to help those caught in the web of poverty. Doctors can provide health care. Educators can provide literacy and remedial reading programmes. Business people can impart job skills. This kind of social involvement can also provide opportunities for evangelism. Social action and evangelism often work hand in hand. When we meet people’s needs, we often open up opportunities to reach them for Christ.

Christians, therefore, must recognize the freedom that comes with simplicity. A simple lifestyle can free us from the dangers of being owned by material possessions. It can also free us for a deeper spiritual life. While simplicity is not an end in itself, it can be a means to a spiritual life of service.

To live simply means, among other things, to eat sensibly and eat less. This includes not only good nutrition, but occasional times of prayer and fasting. Use the time saved for prayer and meditation on God’s word. Use the money saved for world hunger and relief.

PRACTICAL EXPRESSION OF LOVE

Love is an action not just an emotion. We should be able to love those who are unlovable, whether or not we feel like it. Genuine love is usually without a selfish agenda. It seeks what is good for the beloved. Deplorably, much of what we call love is selfish. Calvin said, “It’s difficult to express how ingenious almost all men are in counterfeiting a love which they do not really possess.” Consider how much romantic love is oriented to fulfilling one’s personal needs such as sex and security, rather than the needs of the other.

In the absence of love, we want to outdo other people in the sense that we win and they lose. We want to defeat them, to win the prize, to snatch away the promotion. We want to win, in part, so that we can feel better about ourselves and partly, to have people admire us. At its core, much ambition-behaviour is an attempt to win approval so that we might feel valued and loved. But ambition-behaviour drives wedges between people. The person who wins the prize often does so at the cost of the admiration that she’d like to win. The winner must often settle for second prize which is to be feared as opposed to being loved.

As believers in Christ, we need to focus on facilitating the other person’s victory. We can do this in a variety of ways: remembering birthdays, saying thanks, telling other people that they did a good job, encouraging them to understand that they have important gifts, helping them to get the job done, making it possible for them to further their education, listening to their needs, participating in an activity that they enjoy.

True love never gets even. We all have a propensity to hold grudges. We always feel that if we treat others according to the way they have treated us, we are only giving them justice. We can justify this so easily, “I am teaching them a lesson. I’m only showing them how I feel.” But any time you argue that way you have forgotten that many times you have injured others without getting caught yourself. But God hasn’t forgotten.

When we resist the urge to revenge, and instead leave it to God Himself, then we will always get the strength to act positively and in so doing, we’ll have won the battle. If there is a conflict going on, we’ll win if we respond with doing good instead of evil.

MERE STEWARDS

God owns everything because He created everything: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) King David wrote, “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein. For He hath founded it upon seas, and established it upon the floods” (Psalm 24:1, 2). God put Adam, the first man, in the Garden of Eden to tend it and allowed him to eat of anything except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Like Adam and Eve we were also created and given food by God. We have been given a place to live by God. We belong to Him along with everything we think is ours. It is all God’s stuff.

Eden was a great garden residence that God gave to Adam and Eve. The Garden even had gold and other valuables (Genesis 2:10-12). But anything they had must not have been theirs really. We know that because when they sinned, they were driven from the Garden and didn’t take anything with them (Genesis 3:24). They lived in God’s Garden and enjoyed God’s food gifts and everything else, but it was all God’s. Because of sin, they lost access to it all.

If we have ever lost our jobs, gone bankrupt, watched our portfolio shrink, had something repossessed, or ever been forced to downsize or sell off, we should have learned that everything belongs to God. He creates wealth and anything else He gives us to use, but none of it is our possession really. If it can be taken away, it is not ours.

If we don’t learn it by life experiences, there is something we should learn from every funeral. We don’t own anything because we don’t take it with us. Solomon, the wisest man ever, said, “As he came forth of his mother’s womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand” (Ecclesiastes 5:15). The apostle Paul concurred, “For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we carry nothing out” (1Timothy 6:7). God didn’t mince His words about how temporary material things are. We only have them for a little while.

SALVATION FOR EVERYONE?

A Universalist believes that a good and loving God cannot condemn anyone to hell. There is some good even in the worst of people. God will take that into account, so that no one will be condemned. The Universalist underestimates both the awful sinfulness of the human heart and the absolute holiness of God.

We are deluding ourselves if we say we are without sin (1 John 1:8). People often quote John 3:16 in saying God loves the world, but the same verse says only those who believe in Jesus have eternal life. All have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all at some point have engaged in adultery, fornication, witchcraft, heresies, drunkenness, revelling and other sins (Galatians 5:19 – 21). The punishment for it all is hell.

The Bible is clear that hell does exist. Jesus describes weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 13:49, 50) and an unquenchable fire (Mark 9:43). He also says the unsaved will be condemned (John 3:18, 36).

Universalism cannot stand careful scrutiny of the Bible. Christ did not die so everyone will go to heaven no matter what but rather to give everyone the opportunity to go to heaven. Jesus opened the door to heaven but only the elect will walk through it.

God does not really send people to hell. The only ones there are those who have rejected His salvation, choosing to suppress the truth He made plain to them. God made people in His image, after His likeness, with the power to say No and to reject the universal revelation of Himself. Subsequently, sinners have no one to blame but themselves if they are damned.

In order to understand what love is, we should look at what Christ did at the Cross. He suffered and died for the ungodly. Jesus died for mean people, really. A God who will suffer and die for the mean ones is not mean. In fact such a God totally loves; to be condemned by a God of perfect love shows how damnable our sin truly is.

OUR RIGHTEOUS JUDGE

Justice – A human judge is usually limited when it comes to knowing the truth and ascertaining the true facts of any case. He must depend upon the testimony of men, many of whom will lie even under oath. People may fail to tell the truth, but this is not a problem with God. The true facts of every case are naked and open before Him. He needs no witnesses and no jury because He has personally witnessed every crime and sin that has ever been committed. The entire universe is God’s inheritance and so He is bound to decide righteously in every circumstance: “That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: … shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

Unrepentance – All who lead unthankful lives must be reminded that the judgement of God will be according to their real character. Every time we sin flagrantly, there is contempt of the kindness of God. Genuine turning away from sin requires that we hate former sinfulness and have our minds inclined to do whatever is good.

Damnation – People should never assume that ignorance, even owing to the negligence of preachers, will be an excuse to save them from divine punishment. In the OT, God commanded death for many violations of His law and warned that it could be a consequence of any consistent sin (Joshua 1: 16-18). As believers we appeal to God by our duty with our enemies, but God is the one who takes vengeance. God cannot appeal to anyone. God’s future action is placed in the hope of the Christian. God’s action on the day of judgement in which the Christian hopes will involve the revelation of His wrath: “For the work of a man shall He render unto Him, and cause every man to find according to his ways” (Job 34:11).

Goodness – God is by nature tender-hearted. His mercy and kindness follow all who trust Him (Psalm 145:1-7). It is natural to worship God for His benevolence. His justice does not demand that He punishes us for our sins immediately. God’s kindness leads Him to forbear and be patient with us.

Eternal Life – Whereas those who do not obey the gospel await destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9), the righteous look forward to eternal life. Hell is the most appalling reality we can imagine. No horror of suffering in history can be compared to what Apostle John calls “lake of fire” (Revelation 19:20) and where Jesus said, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48). To go through life distrusting and disobeying the infinite God, is an infinite sin and will be punished with eternal torment.