Monthly Archives: May 2021

Be sober!

The weather is nice at the moment and I could even dare to say it feels like summer in England – finally. With that and some of the restrictions imposed by the government during the Coronavirus pandemic starting to easy off, many are meeting together to have celebrations. It has been a difficult year for most. Weddings are going ahead with more guests, football matches are happening again, theatres and cinemas are reopening and pubs are once again very noisy places.

We live in a place where there are plenty of pubs around and we see many young people heading out to the pubs on the weekends. We also hear them late at night, and sometimes, very early in the morning coming home having had one too many drinks. Have you ever seen a drunken person trying to speak cohesively? Walk properly? Make sense of their surroundings or situations?

I have never been drunk, but I grew up watching my uncle destroy his life and his family because of alcohol. He was addicted to it. When he was drunk, he lost control over his mind, senses and he was even violent. He couldn’t hold a job and eventually his marriage broke down and he wasn’t allowed to see his children. He was in and out of hospitals and eventually he died of cirrhosis of the liver. He had a sad life and made everyone who knew him very sad as we watched the consequences of his choices unfold in front of us. A drunken person is never alert, never in control of their senses, never ready to speak or think and they are vulnerable to attacks too.

Maybe it is no coincidence that Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1: 13, “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” (NIV) (emphasis mine). I don’t think that Peter’s audience was made up of drunken people. Maybe they had been before they became Christians and could relate. Perhaps they had seen many drunken people around and would be able to understand the choice of words here.

Why should I worry about this as I already mentioned I have never been drunk and I am not about to. As far as I am aware, I am alert most of the time. Why did Peter choose these words? What do they mean?

Lets have a look at the same verse in the King James Version:  Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

The first thing worth mentioning is that in Peter’s time the people used to wear very loose and flowing garments, some still wear them to this day. Therefore they had to gird their garment in order to be ready for any kind of exercise. They had to be prepared in case they had to run. Peter’s audience would have understood what he meant. The ESV translation puts it this way: preparing your minds for action. Perhaps we need to search our hearts and see if we are “securing” the things we believe tightly around us. Are we holding on to the truth that has set us free? Are we preparing our minds with the Gospel truths we have been told? Spurgeon once said: bind the blessed truth of the gospel more closely to your soul than ever. We must be careful that our hearts are not divided and that our minds are fixed on Jesus and on Him alone.

The next thing we need to consider is “be sober”. How are we getting drunk as we live in this world? This is directly linked to the “girding up the loins of our minds”. When we are not prepared, focused on Jesus, holding on to the truth of the Gospel it is very easy to act like a drunk person. We are at risk of loosing all our senses or morality or right and wrong especially in a society where everything goes, as long as you are happy. We are at risk of distorting God’s truth in the name of diversity and tolerance. We are at risk of being attacked by the enemy and taken captive by all sorts of false teaching. We loose sight of Jesus. As a drunk person cannot distinguish between right and wrong in their numbed mind, we become spiritually dazed, numbed, ineffective, fruitless. “Be sober”. Be spiritually sober.

Why? “Because we are to set our hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.” Peter celebrate God’s grace in verses 1 to 12. Christianity is based on God’s action to save his people, that is grace and we must hope fully on it. May our gracious God help us as we seek to follow him and be more like Him.

God bless.

Half empty or half full?

Have you ever been disappointed in your life? Perhaps you’ve saved money to buy that car you needed only to find out the last one was sold 10 minutes before you entered the shop and all they have left is a model you can’t afford. Or maybe, you were one mark, just one mark, short of passing that all important exam. You might have been waiting for that first date, and when it happened you realized he was not going to make the cut, as he was not the person he said he was on his Instagram or Facebook.

Other disappointments could be a diagnosis of a disease that was missed a few years previously and now it is too late to treat. It could also be that job interview that never happened or a promotion that was given to someone else. The house you were buying got taken off the market.

What do we do when we feel disappointed? Where do we go? Who do we speak to? What things do we allow our mind to be filled with during these times? Do we look at our cup and see it as half empty? How long do we allow the disappointment to linger in our hearts? Does it become the idol in our hearts?

Recently in a talk I delivered to the ladies in my church, I spoke of the discipline of conviction. Conviction being a belief that it is so strong that it changes the way we live our lives. This talk was part of a series on “Pursuing Holiness”. In our journey to become more Christ like we need to train ourselves to develop Bible based convictions.

The first thing we need is to believe the Bible is God’s word and the absolute truth. When we believe that it will be easier to understand that we need to live life based on the teachings God has given in His word.

You might be scratching your head asking: What does that have to do with disappointment? Bear with me. We will get there.

We also need to know that the Bible is a book about God. From the first page to the last it reveals to us His character and His will. It tells us that He is a God who is Sovereign, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, unchanging, self-existing, self-sufficient, infinite, incomprehensible, holy, loving, gracious, good, merciful, truthful, faithful, wise, just and righteous. These are only some of God’s attributes. This is the God we trust when we become Christians. The Bible tells us that He loves us so much that He initiated the greatest rescue plan – He sent His one and only Son to die for us on the cross.

Getting to know our Sovereign Lord through the pages of scriptures will help us to develop convictions which will change our behaviour. Even as I wrote the past sentence, I am thinking: I know God is Sovereign and his will is perfect (Romans 12:2), so my disappointment should not last. Right? I know that God will take care of my needs and that I should not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), so my disappointment should be momentary. Right?

Is my cup half empty? Why do I feel that I have been let down? Worse, I look at everybody else and think that their cup is half full. Have I sought God through the process preceding my disappointment? Have I brought my desires in line with what the Bible says I should pursue?

Often the problem is not that our cup is half empty or half full. The problem is that we have lost sight of the truths we learnt from the Bible and are not responding to the situation based on our convictions. We react to the situation based on our emotions alone. Don’t get me wrong. Feeling sad when a situation does not go the way we expected is not wrong. However, how we react to it might be.

We must be careful to put our trust completely in our Lord God when we feel disappointed. We may not understand why our situation has not gone according to what we expected but we must believe God has our best interest at heart. We must remember that God has redeemed us for Himself. He has brought us back to Him through Jesus and whatever situation we might be going through it is for our good (Romans 8:28).

If in our reaction to our disappointment we sinned, i.e. displayed an unjustified anger, or blamed God for what happened, or delighted in our misery too long until our hearts were full of bitterness, we must confess our sins before our God (I John 1:9).

Knowing our God more as we read the Scriptures will certainly help in developing convictions but we must trust Him. We must believe what we know about Him and most of all we must let the Holy Spirit teach us what we need to learn through all the situations we go through. God is still God and He is sovereign and good.

Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

Clean clothes!

Imagine for a minute that I do a lot of running (I don’t, just in case you didn’t know). Now consider these two scenarios: 1) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes and straight away put on my nice clean clothes and go to work. 2) I run long distances each day and get covered in sweat and mud. I go back home take off my dirty clothes, have a shower, put on my dirty clothes and go to work. You might be thinking “ew disgusting”. Who on earth would do that?

We have been considering the pursuit of holiness in my past 2 posts and today we will be considering that God’s grace teaches us to say yes to positive qualities of the Christian character. These are the qualities that we call the fruit of the Spirit. (Read Galatians 5:13-26) In order for us to be able to say yes to these, we need to consider what the Apostle Paul said in Ephesians 4:22-24

22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

In the process of striving to attain, pressing on in this journey of seeking holiness, we need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. Lets consider my two scenarios: we think they are disgusting but very often as Christians we do exactly that. Consider scenario number 1. We might feel sorry for something we did, so we mumble a few words to God and put on our nice smile and go on our day trying our best to do the good things that will impress God. Now consider scenario number 2: we might genuinely repent and hate the sin we have committed against God, but we continue to let our self be in control of our desires and we go on living our day doing the same thing we did with no change.

There are problems with my two scenarios. If we take off the old clothes and put clean ones on without showering, all we are doing is making the clean clothes dirty and we are only concealing the mud and smell. If we shower and put the dirty clothes back on, all we are doing is making our body dirty all over again. The smell and the dirt will be transferred back to us. The perfect scenario would be to shower, get dry and put on the clean clothes before going to work. The process of getting clean and changing into clean clothes go together.

We need to do the same when it comes to pursuing holiness. We need to “put off” the old self and “put on” the new self. They go together. As we scrub the mud away, i.e. as we repent genuinely of the sins we cultivate or struggle with, we get dry and put on the nice clean clothes we have, i.e. we put on the new self, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” This is where we strive, we persist, we press on to imitate centred on God’s grace and with the help of the Holy Spirit.

We must remember that the grace of God is sufficient and it must be in the centre of our pursuit. Lets consider Titus 2:11-12

11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.

Verse 12 presents us with the positive side of what grace teaches us: to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives. These 3 words Paul uses here relate to actions towards one self, neighbours and God. We need to be self-controlled in order to practice the restraint we need in order to focus on good things of life. We also need to deny all things clearly sinful. We need to learn to live upright lives. That means we must have the right actions and conduct towards other people. Godliness is having regard for God, his glory and will in every aspect of our lives. Small or big. We must do everything out of reverence, love and obedience to Him. These are our new, “clean clothes” so to speak.

What an amazing, wonderful, gracious God we have! Not only has He sent His Son to die on the cross for us as a perfect sacrifice, but He has also given us what we need in order to live holy lives. Let’s be encouraged. We have God’s grace and the Holy Spirit living in us. We also have God’s word. We need to train ourselves to open it up, read and study it so we can know God more and understand all of the wonderful things He wants to teach us. For now remember to put off the old self and put on the new one. We are new creations in Christ. To get back to my scenarios: get in the shower, scrub all the mud off and get dressed in your bright clean clothes.

Have a blessed week.

Photo by Ylanite Koppens from StockSnap