Friday 30 September 2016


What are the various crowns promised to faithful believers?

What makes us jump out of bed each day to face life’s challenges? What is it that makes us tick? What motivates us in life? It all depends on our worldview and values.

Some believers focus on the 'here and now', thinking that blessings such as prosperity and health are indicators of God’s favour. And, provided they do not go overboard, this kind of thinking is not entirely wrong (Proverbs 22:4).

But excessive preoccupation with temporal blessings without an upward focus is unbiblical: “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2).

As a man thinks so is he. Thinking about heavenly rewards, instead of earthly treasures, helps us reorient our goals and aspirations in life. When we live in light of eternity and Christ’s return, we purify ourselves, just as He is pure (1 John 3:3).

Various crowns are promised to faithful believers who overcome. What are these imperishable heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 15:58, Revelation 22:12)? 

Crown of victory

Champions in the ancient Olympics are honoured with perishable crowns—wreaths of olive leaves. But believers who are faithful in discharging our God-given calling and triumph over sin will be given imperishable crowns.

“Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown” (1 Corinthians 9: 24-25).

Now, is there a possibility of being disqualified after we have enrolled ourselves in the spiritual race? Yes. To finish well in the spiritual race, believers need endurance. Paul warns that, though he preaches to others, he might be disqualified if he fails to exercise self-control and discipline (1 Corinthians 9:27).

May we run with perseverance, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), so that we might receive the crown of victory.

Crown of righteousness 

While languishing in a musty prison cell, Paul writes with a triumphant note: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).

Does this crown come easy? No. Nothing worthwhile in this life (or the next) is attained effortlessly. It is only for those who manage to overcome the world, flesh and devil. As we choose to abide in Christ, and seek God and His strength, we will receive this crown of righteousness at the end of life’s journey (Matthew 7:13-14, John 15:6).

Though we live in the world, we are not of the world. In fact, we are to distinguish ourselves from the world through the process of sanctification.

“Come out from among them. And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

Neither are we to be like the world nor allow it to squeeze us into its mould.

“Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

Jesus was once asked, “Will few people be saved?” His reply is this: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able” (Luke 13:24). Unless our righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, we will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:20).

No matter what “feel good” teaching might tell us otherwise to soothe our itching ears, the “passing mark” for entry to heaven is indeed high.

Crown of life

Though we do not look out for them, temptations will inevitably crop up. If it were not so, why would this line, Lead us not into temptation, be a part of the Lord’s prayer?

But temptation is not synonymous with sin. We are not held accountable when we are tempted but only when we fail to overcome it. Moreover, we can take heart in the fact that God gives us the strength to overcome temptation (Matthew 26:41, 1 Corinthians 10:13).

And, if we do not yield to temptation, we will be rewarded. “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” (James 1:12).

This crown of life is also bestowed on those who remain faithful and steadfast under persecution, even to the point of death—not only to those who overcome temptation.
“Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

The fact that only overcomers receive the crown or prize is in line with Christ’s teaching on persecution during the end times. “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved” (Matthew 24: 9-13).

Crown of glory

Leaders often face challenges which can be overwhelming. But those who faithfully tend the flock can take comfort in future reward. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

Paul, who suffered a great deal for the faith, also encouraged believers to press on, pointing out that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

But, no matter how glorious our crowns might be, we will have to lay them down at heaven’s throne for it is God who truly deserves all glory, honour and power (Revelation 4:10-11).

In closing, let us be encouraged by the life of Moses, who turned his back on the world because he knew that the invisible God would eventually reward him for his enduring faith.

“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (Hebrews 11:24-27).

What is our consuming passion and focus in life? Do we merely live for visible and tangible things? Don’t we look forward to receiving these everlasting crowns of unfading glory?


Why do believers need to be overcomers?

If we start well in our journey of faith, does it mean we will definitely end well?

The best awaits those who choose the unseen and intangible over the seen and tangible

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT, eventually, they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more? 


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Friday 9 September 2016


Will Christ return to earth as a baby or sacrificial lamb? Or will He come again as the Judge and King of Kings?

Why did Jesus refer to the days of Noah and Lot while speaking about the end times?
“Just as it was in the days of Noah, so will it be in the days of the Son of Man. They were eating and drinking and marrying and being given in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise, just as it was in the days of Lot—they were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building, but on the day when Lot went out from Sodom, fire and sulfur rained from heaven and destroyed them all—so will it be on the day when the Son of Man is revealed. Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17: 26-30, 32).

What is the prevailing end-time scenario in the world before Christ's return?

First, it is business as usual. Man is caught up in the daily hustle and bustle of life without any thought that life on earth will come to an end. They will be eating, drinking, marrying, buying and selling, planting and building up till the point when Christ makes His second entrance.

Second, man’s evil continues unabated in these last days. This scenario is similar to the days of Noah, when “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God was grieved in His heart and regretted that He had made man (Genesis 6:6). It will be like the days of Lot when men view homosexuality not as a sinful sexual deviation but a mere difference in sexual orientation (Genesis 19:4-5).

Notice that not many were saved in the days of Noah and Lot. Only eight persons got saved in Noah’s ark and only three escaped the destruction of Sodom. The majority perished because they lived as if God did not exist or willfully lived in sin. Indeed, narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it (Matthew 7:14).

Thirdly, deception abounds. Of the various end times characteristics—deception, persecution and turbulent times—mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 24 (Olivet Discourse), deception seems to be the most prominent. Even the elect (believers) can be deceived. In fact, in Matthew 24, Jesus warns believers to be wary of deception not once but four times:
  • Take heed that no one deceives you (vs. 4).
  • For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many (vs. 5).
  • Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many (vs.11).
  • For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (vs. 24).
Next, there will be an illusion of social, political and economic well-being. But just when people say there is peace and security, sudden destruction will come upon them as labour pains come upon a pregnant woman. For Christ comes suddenly like a thief in the night to judge the earth (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3).

The end times will be marked by spiritual decline—the great falling away. Christ warns that many will fall away due to persecution, sinfulness and deception (Matthew 24: 9-13). Paul also writes that Christ will not return unless there is a falling away first and the antichrist is revealed (2 Thessalonians 2: 3).

And when the antichrist comes, he will perform false signs and wonders through satanic power and deceive many—even believers, who think that he must be on God’s side.

“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11).

In these end times, men are clinging not to ancient statues of wood and stone but modern-day idols—whatever money can buy. They are consumed by the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). Man are lovers of self, lovers of money and lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4). They no longer want to listen to sound teaching but look for teachers who tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3).

At this juncture, we would do well to take heed of this: “Remember Lot’s wife” (Luke 17:32). Though short, this verse is pregnant with meaning. Before God rained fire and sulphur on the sin city of Sodom, she managed to escape with Lot and their two daughters. Angels had earlier warned them not to look back while fleeing the doomed city.

But Lot’s wife disobeyed. As she looked back to see the flames engulfing the city, she turned into a pillar of salt. Why? Why did she look back? Though her feet carried her away from the comfort and pleasures of Sodom, her heart could not bear to leave the worldly lifestyle she cherished so much. Jesus warns in a parallel verse that if we put our hand on the plough, and then look back, we are not fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).

We too need to guard our affections. Watch our hearts for they influence everything else in our life (Proverbs 4:23).

And what will happen when all is about to end? The rapture will occur just before God sends down judgment on an unbelieving world. Christ will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matthew 24:31). Believers will be airlifted to safety before judgment descends upon earth.

Before judging the earth, God always rescues the elect—just as He rescued Noah from the global flood and Lot from the destruction of Sodom. Believers do not have to face God’s wrath, having obtained salvation through Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:9).

Will Christ return to earth as the gentle babe or sacrificial lamb? No. He is coming back as the Lion of Judah to judge the earth. His return as the ultimate Judge reflects His character—for He is the personification of grace and truth, not grace alone (John 1:17). That’s why He repeatedly warns all to be watchful and ready to stand before the King, not distracted by worldly attractions, fleshly cravings, and the cares and concerns of life.

  • Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware, like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth. Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21: 34-36)
  • "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17)
To reiterate, will believers be judged? Yes, they will be called to account concerning what they have been entrusted with. Let's choose to be faithful servants whom the master has set over his household (Matthew 24: 45-51). Let's be the faithful stewards who utilise and multiply the talents given to us (Matthew 25: 14-30).

We must be watchful like the wise virgins, not complacent like the foolish virgins (Matthew 25: 1-13). All who eagerly expect Christ’s return will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure (1 John 3:3).

So we must keep watch! For we don’t know when our Lord is coming (Matthew 24:42). Though we will never know the exact day, we won’t be caught off guard when Christ returns if we are vigilant (1 Thessalonians 5: 4).

Hopefully, as we reflect on Christ’s end time warnings with special reference to Noah, Lot and Lot’s wife (Luke 17: 26-30, 32), we will be better prepared for His coming.


What does it mean to be watchful in light of Christ’s second coming?

To live soberly and purposefully during these perilous end times, we need to arm ourselves with wisdom and discernment.

Two different views—easy and difficult ways to heaven

Will many lose faith in God during these perilous and tumultuous end times? Is this is a fact or a figment of someone’s imagination? Let’s explore the biblical basis for the great falling away.

Some believers may lose their eternal rewards BUT eventually they are saved. In the Parable of the Ten Virgins, did the foolish virgins merely lose their rewards or much more?

Some say that the gender of one’s sex partner is a matter of personal preference—just like some people relish spicy food while others delight in milder, non-spicy food. After all, isn’t He a God of love? Won’t He accept our choice of sexual partner, even if it is the same sex, as long as everything is done in the name of love between consenting adults?

Some Christians believe, once they are saved, absolutely nothing can happen to them to alter their destiny. Even though they might live in sin or deny God, they believe that one day they will surely reach their final destination in heaven.


Bible verses on Jesus, the Judge,-Judge

Ruins of Sodom found

Friday 2 September 2016


Believers are saved when we trust in Christ. Does it mean that repentance and obedience are optional?

Radical no-lordship proponents assert that repentance is not part of the gospel, arguing that we only need to believe. When the jailer asked Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved, the latter replied: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31).

But faith is a word with broad ramifications. If a person claims he believes in Jesus but fails to make Him Lord in his life—and continues to willfully live in sin—his belief is fake, spurious and questionable. Without repentance and obedience, belief alone is empty. Genuine faith has to be evidenced by good works. Faith, by itself, without works, is dead (James 2:17, James 2:26).

True repentance involves not only believing that Jesus paid the price for our sins but turning away from sin and turning towards God in obedience. Repentance must involve a change in thought and behaviour—and goals, aspirations and lifestyle as well.

A change in behaviour, in itself, does not constitute true repentance, which involves a change in mind, heart and will and, consequently, transformed behaviour.

According to Berkhof, repentance has intellectual, emotional and volitional components. The intellectual element of repentance is described as "a change of view, a recognition of sin as involving personal guilt, defilement, and helplessness." The emotional element is seen as "a change of feeling, manifesting itself in sorrow for sin committed against a holy God." The volitional element involves "a change of purpose, an inward turning away from sin, and a disposition to seek pardon and cleansing" (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 486).


Perhaps those who claim that repentance is insignificant—not part of the gospel—have not considered the following passages:

  • Jesus, having emerged victorious from the temptation in the wilderness, preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, Mark 1:15).

  • Peter, in the first sermon given at Pentecost: “Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2: 38).

  • Paul affirmed that “I have had one message for Jews and Greeks alike—the necessity of repenting from sin and turning to God, and of having faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21).

  • In his defence before King Agrippa, Paul stressed: “I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do” (Acts 26:20).

  • Though he was the forerunner to Jesus, John the Baptist preached on repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He also urged the people to bear fruits in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8).

  • Finally, Christ used an incident to illustrate the fact that, unless we repent, we will all perish. Some Galileans, while offering sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem, were killed by Pilate soldiers and their blood were mixed with that of the sacrifices at the altar. To those who think that these unfortunate souls must have been great sinners, Christ has this to say: “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3).

Let’s not be fooled by those who tell you that repentance is not part of the gospel. They are only trying to pull the wool over your eyes. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

The gospel, which offers salvation by grace through faith in Christ’s atoning work at the cross, has all these elements:  
  • Faith (Ephesians 2:8-9, Acts 16:31, John 1:12)
  • Confession with our lips and belief in our heart (Romans 10:9)
  • Repentance (Acts 2:38, Acts 20:21)
  • Obedience (John 8:11b, John 15:6)
Mere remorse for sin associated with persistent willful sinning—without a positive change in lifestyle—will not reap salvation's ultimate reward, eternal life:

"For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

“If we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies” (Hebrews 10:26-27).

If we think that we just need to believe in the saving virtue of Christ’s blood, but refuse to acknowledge His lordship in our lives—through repentance and obedience—we may be confronted by these shocking words on judgment day: “I do not know you.”

Concerning what we would like to hear, the choice is ours. Would we choose ear-tickling truths now and face the consequences later? Or choose the harsh truth which saves?  

Sermon topics such as repentance and obedience seem harsh and even offensive. But they show us the way to eternal life and blessings forevermore.


How do we differentiate between the true and false gospel?

It is true that we receive God’s grace (salvation) through faith, not works. But, then, what comes next? God is looking for fruit: Changed lives, repentance and obedience, all of which does not nullify at all the grace we receive by faith.

The foolish virgins were shut out from heaven. Who do they represent?