Category Archives: Christian doctrine

God’s system of justice

inequalityMany cultures have traditional moral stories. Aesop’s fables from ancient Greece, Panchatantra from ancient India and many more. These commend good and denounce wrong by making the characters derive benefit from good deeds and suffer punishment from wrong deeds, usually very quickly. This philosophy is not restricted to moral stories and most of us subconsciously subscribe to this thought process. When the Biblical character Job suddenly lost his oxen, sheep, camels, children and his health, that is what his friends and towns folk believed. Eliphaz said “Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. At the breath of God they perish; at the blast of his anger they are no more.” Job 4:7-9 (NIV). Bildad said “Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin.” Job 8:3,4 (NIV). Zophar said “Surely you know how it has been from of old, ever since mankind was placed on the earth, that the mirth of the wicked is brief, the joy of the godless lasts but a moment. Though the pride of the godless person reaches to the heavens and his head touches the clouds, he will perish forever, like his own dung.” Job 20:4-7(NIV). On the contrary, God gave a completely different appraisal of Job saying “There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Job 1:8 (NIV).

We know that “God is true, even if everyone is a liar” Romans 3:4 (ISV). So we have to dismiss the philosophies of the ancients, Job’s friends, our own ideas and turn to the Bible for answers. Job himself observed and said “Why do the wicked live on, growing old and increasing in power? They see their children established around them, their offspring before their eyes. Their homes are safe and free from fear; the rod of God is not on them. Their bulls never fail to breed; their cows calve and do not miscarry. They send forth their children as a flock; their little ones dance about. They sing to the music of timbrel and lyre; they make merry to the sound of the pipe. They spend their years in prosperity and go down to the grave in peace.” Job 21:7-13 (NIV). Such observations are not limited to Job and it is found in other parts of the Bible. Asaph says “… I saw the prosperity of the wicked. They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits. They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression. Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth. Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance. They say, “How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?” This is what the wicked are like — always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.” Psalm 73:3-12 (ISV). Another Psalmist says “… How long will the wicked be jubilant? They pour out arrogant words; all the evildoers are full of boasting. They crush your people, Lord; they oppress your inheritance. They slay the widow and the foreigner; they murder the fatherless. They say, “The Lord does not see; the God of Jacob takes no notice.”” Psalm 94:3-7 (NIV). Jeremiah says “Why are wicked people successful? Why do all dishonest people have such easy lives?” Jeremiah 12:1b (NET). We would also personally know people who live wicked lives but are prospering.

Job gives us a clue about the punishment of the wicked “Here is the fate God allots to the wicked, the heritage a ruthless man receives from the Almighty: However many his children, their fate is the sword; his offspring will never have enough to eat. The plague will bury those who survive him, and their widows will not weep for them. Though he heaps up silver like dust and clothes like piles of clay, what he lays up the righteous will wear, and the innocent will divide his silver.” Job 27:13-17 (NIV). This principle is found in other parts of the Bible. The Lord said to Solomon, “Since this is your attitude and you have not kept my covenant and my decrees, which I commanded you, I will most certainly tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your subordinates. Nevertheless, for the sake of David your father, I will not do it during your lifetime. I will tear it out of the hand of your son. Yet I will not tear the whole kingdom from him, but will give him one tribe for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem, which I have chosen.” 1 Kings 11:11-13 (NIV). The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite saying “have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” 1 Kings 21:29 (NIV). It may surprise us but that is also how God introduced himself to Moses when he went up to Mount Sinai saying “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” Exodus 34:6,7 (NIV). It is also an integral part of the 10 commandments “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:5 (NIV).

When people are quickly punished, they avoid doing wrong just to escape punishment. Jeremiah 17:10 (ISV) says “I am the LORD who searches the heart, who tests the inner depths to give to each person according to what he deserves, according to the fruit of his deeds.” When justice is meted out immediately it is impossible to test the heart and the motives. So God may defer his justice to subsequent generations to verify if the person truly believes and fears God. This does not exempt man from having a judicial system and passing out justice quickly. God clearly specified the judicial system for Israel and for the church. There also remains a final judgment that nobody can escape. Acts 17:30,31 (ISV) mentions “God now commands everyone everywhere to repent, because he has set a day when he is going to judge the world with justice through a man whom he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Many find it difficult to believe in God when they see injustice everywhere Are you willing to believe that there is a God who metes out justice to every one, even if it is not instant? God is testing us to see if we will walk in His walks even if not walking in His ways does not seem to have consequences. Do not live a life ignoring God’s commands just because God seems to be ignoring your rebellion. Your future generations will face the wrath of God and you cannot escape the day of judgment.

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Jesus, The Perfect Lamb of God

lambMost of us know how the shepherds were told by an angel “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:21 ESV). The sign given to them was “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12 ESV). Since we are not familiar with many Jewish customs, this sign has not meant much to most of us. These shepherds who were in the vicinity of Bethlehem and Jerusalem would have been those who took care of sheep meant for temple sacrifice. When a lamb was born, it often thrashed around and sometimes got hurt in the process. But Leviticus 22:20 (ESV) says “You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you.” So to keep the lamb safe and un-blemished, shepherds seemed to have had a habit of wrapping their lambs in swaddling cloth and put it in the manger away from the other sheep! New born Jewish babies seem to have been usually dressed in baby clothes and not normally wrapped in swaddling cloth! When these temple shepherds were given the sign of baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger by the angel, it was the perfect sign that the baby was the true Lamb of God that they had been eagerly waiting for!

Another interesting custom was that before a lamb was taken for sacrifice, it was cleaned and its legs were again swaddled so that it will not become dirty and it was carried over the shoulders to the temple for sacrifice. When Jesus entered Jerusalem a few days before his crucifixion, he didn’t walk in! Matthew 21:7-8 (ISV) says “they brought the donkey and the colt and put their coats on them, and he sat upon them. Many people in the crowd spread their own coats on the road, while others began cutting down branches from the trees and spreading them on the road.” Another proof that Jesus was indeed the true Lamb of God!

Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) says “under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Hebrews 9:28 (ISV) says “The Messiah was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people.” With this fresh understanding, spend some time this Christmas meditating on how God prepared Jesus Christ of Nazareth, to be our perfect lamb to take away our sins. If you have not believed on his sacrifice to cleanse you from your sins, this is the perfect time to do it.

Wish you all a blessed Christmas and a happy 2019.

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Understanding the value of man

CrucifixionOnly the Bible describes God that dies for man. God undergoes an unfair and brutal death to free man from sin and death. “By oppression and judgment he was taken away” (Isaiah 53:8a ESV) and “His appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14 ESV). When we see God who sacrifices himself so that we may be saved from our sins and death we understand that the life of every person is very precious.

After going through such a horrifying process to save us, God could force us to follow Him. Instead he says “I am standing at the door and knocking. If anyone listens to my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he will eat with me.” (Revelation 3:20 ISV) “My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me” (John 10:27). When we see God who does not bully or compel, we understand the value of human freedom.

Sadly many do not understand the infinite value of a human being over any other creature. Many do not understand the value that God places on their life. Growing up in a country where animals are worshipped and given undue respect, many have lost respect for human life. Often cows get too much respect and people get killed for transporting them but basic needs of a human like food and water get withheld just because they get labelled as inferior. People are sometimes not free to even choose their religion or a spouse.

Sadly many Christians are not much better than their neighbours and have not understood the value and freedom that God has given man. The Church has not always been able to rise above the wrong values of the society. Even as Jesus said “I do not call you servants anymore” (John 15:15 ISV), we should treat one another with love, respect and with freedom. When India sees the Church implementing this, especially in the rural areas, I believe their eyes will be opened and they will run to the church. They will then demand such respect from the political leaders and government officials and we will have a transformed India.

In this season, may we understand the value of man which made necessary the death and resurrection of our God and be transformed and then transform our society.

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Inspiration from the reformation

crossbibleThe quincentenary of the protestant reformation was celebrated recently. Although God inspired many to reform the church, Martin Luther stands out as the man though whom the reformation broke out with force. As taught by the Catholic Church of his time, Martin Luther tried to earn his salvation by penitence, good works, beating himself, sleeping without a blanket in the freezing cold, etc. His conscience was very disturbed by sin that he went to the confessional many times a day. He even took a pilgrimage to Rome and went on his knees whipping himself up the stairs of St. John’s church as it was believed to be the stairs Jesus climbed to stand before Pontius Pilate. But nothing helped him. Having learnt Greek, he read Romans in the original instead of the Latin Vulgate and his eyes were opened through Romans 1:17 “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith” a quotation from Habakuk 2:4. He realised that it was impossible to attain the righteousness required by God how much ever hard he tried but that when by faith we believe on Jesus, God imputes the perfect righteousness of His Son freely to us. Horrified that this great truth was nowhere to be found and that instead penance and buying of indulgences were taught as a way to be free from sin, Martin Luther posted his 95 theses on the door of his church on 31 October 1517 as a way to stir up discussion. The theses were rejected, challenged by the pope and the Catholic Church but Martin Luther stood by it saying “I cannot recant, for I am subject to the Scriptures I have quoted; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. It is unsafe and dangerous to do anything against one’s conscience. Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. So help me God. Amen.” This paved way for the nascent reformation to explode and millions of people have accepted the righteousness freely offered by Jesus Christ instead of trying to earn it.

Similar to Luther, I tried to get my salvation un-Biblically. As I attended the services of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship and read and heard countless testimonies, I was deceived into thinking that we are saved when God gives us a verse mentioning that we were saved. I did not understand about why Jesus came to the earth and how by his sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection I can receive forgiveness of sins and the righteousness of God. I was waiting for God to “give” me a verse and a “feeling” that I was saved. Thankfully this did not work and I learnt that salvation is obtained by faith and that getting a verse involved no faith! This sowed seeds of suspicion over the doctrine of the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship although I continued to be involved with them for many more years. Later as I saw the duplicity of the Daniels and certain others, I decided to leave. I was troubled as I saw Christians unable to understand simple truths of the Bible and no public critical views on the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship (LEF). So in June 2013, I started this blog with this unusual Greek name. I hoped that many people, especially those in the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship (LEF) will be transformed. Sadly my initiative was nowhere as successful as the reformation unleashed 500 years ago but I do believe some eyes have been opened. The quincentenary has stirred me up to continue my writing and that eyes may be opened. Thank you for your encouragement by reading and posing comments, especially “GE”. Do pray that more people will understand the truth and that eyes will be opened.

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Believe and be saved

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16) This is the most important verse in the Bible in my opinion. Being sinners we were all destined to perish but God’s grace and love made a way for our salvation. Amazingly God did all the hard work and asked us to believe on His Son! This sounds too good to be true and so unfortunately people add extra rules to receive this gift. The Roman Catholic Church adds baptism, the sacraments and other regulations into a package for salvation. The common “sinner’s prayer” is an unwanted adaptation since the focus is on the prayer and not on believing.

The Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship sadly has its own version of salvation. Since they do not have written doctrines, it is not possible to determine their official position but they have a fairly consistent approach to salvation. In its evangelistic meetings there will be one or more testimonies in which the person usually gives details about their sinful past, how it was confessed and stolen money and goods were returned, how God “spoke” to them through a Bible verse and finally how they were filled with peace and joy. Then the message, especially Mr. Joshua Daniel’s message, will focus on sinful actions and end by asking the gathering to go home and pray and that God would “speak” to them. Not much is preached about how Jesus obtained salvation nor believing on Jesus for salvation. In the oral and printed testimonies of people the pattern recurs. Confession of sin, returning stolen money and goods, getting right with people they earlier had problems and God speaking to them from a verse in the Bible showing them that their sins are forgiven and they are saved and finally being filled with peace and joy. There is nothing wrong with these steps but unfortunately the fundamental step of belief is relegated to the background and rarely mentioned.

Since the simple step of belief has been wrapped around by many “holy” procedures, the general attitude of LEF is that they are superior Christians. This is probably the biggest reason why people do not easily leave the Laymen’s Evangelical Fellowship. Nobody wants to leave superior Christianity for  inferior Christianity! Confession and restitution are good but it should be spontaneous and not forced. In Luke 19:8, Zacchaeus committed to return four times the amount he cheated people. In Acts 19:18&19 some new believers in Ephesus confessed their deeds and burnt their books of occult. But the Bible does not record such incidents happening for every new believer. It is recorded that in the early revivals of LEF, incidents of public confession spontaneously occurred. In my opinion, what happened spontaneously has been converted into a doctrine without a strong Biblical mandate. They also incorrectly use the term repentance for this process. In the Bible, the word “repent” means “to change one’s mind”. By changing the meaning of the word, there is a false feeling that they are more closely following the Bible than other churches. LEF’s “superior” position has led to some people feeling that they are not saved since they did not get any verse from God or feel saved even though they believe in Jesus, pray and read the Bible regularly. Also when people wait for verses for a proof of salvation, it is no longer by faith but by sight! There is also no guarantee for a nice feeling after believing. “The wind blows where it wants to. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. That’s the way it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 (ISV).

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Rightly dividing the word of truth

The Bible is comprised of 66 books written by around 40 different people. It has many genres of literature which can be broadly classified as history, law, wisdom, poetry, prophecy, gospel, letters and apocalypse. Although the Bible is so diverse in authorship, age and genre it beautifully agrees with one other. If the Bible was a handbook, reference book or a book of rules each individual verse can be understood and interpreted on its own. But the Bible is about Jesus, the son of man: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 ESV). “Jesus then explained everything written about himself in the Scriptures, beginning with the Law of Moses and the Books of the Prophets.” (Luke 24:27 CEV)

The Word of God is like a body with many parts: “The body of Christ has many different parts, just as any other body does. It takes many parts to make a single body.  That’s why the eyes cannot say they don’t need the hands. That’s also why the head cannot say it doesn’t need the feet.” (1Cor 12:12,20,21 CEV). Similarly, a single verse from the Bible should not be taken on its own to form a doctrine. Instead the Bible has to be taken as awhole to form any doctrine. Unfortunately this principle doesn’t seem to be well known or understood and sadly many Christians and churches misinterpret and twist the Word of God by clinging on to favourite verses without seeing the big picture of the Bible. The Devil loves to take verses out of context and deceive. He even tried it on Jesus and said, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, because it is written, ‘God will put his angels in charge of you,’ and ‘With their hands they will hold you up, so that you will never hit your foot against a rock.'” (Matthew 4:6 ISV). But Jesus, rightly dividing the Word of Truth replied saying “It is also written, ‘You must not tempt the Lord your God.'” (ISV Matthew 4:6).

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