Christmas

THERE IS SALVATION IN NO OTHER…

photo_3309_20070912At this period of the year, we take out time to specially celebrate the birth of our Saviour. We celebrate the One through whom God chose to bring salvation to mankind. We remember the good tidings of peace on earth and goodwill towards the human race.

A college recently put a professor on administrative leave for comments she made regarding the commonality of the God of different religions. She basically implied that the major religions served the same God. This sparked outrage in some segments of the society and reawakened the global debate on the similarities of religions. Highly placed church personalities have come out to speak for both sides of the divide. My opinion is that some people have made statements that appear to directly undermine the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I do not consider myself suited to be on the same pedestal with revered church leaders for a debate on the subject, so I would avoid an argument over the matter. I only feel I should say what I believe the Bible says and stand by what I have read in the Holy Scriptures.

I call myself a Christian because I have received the saving grace of my Lord Jesus Christ. I pray based on how the Bible has taught me to pray. I worship based on instructions found in the Word of God. My belief in God is modeled after what I have read in the Bible. My perspective on the after-life is based on the scriptures. My understanding of creation is founded on the inspired writings of the Bible. So I believe that my view of salvation must also be based on what is written in this same Bible. It makes no sense to cherry pick only what appears nice sounding in my ear and discard those parts of the Bible that run against public opinion.

In the Bible I have read the following:

John 3:16 – For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Acts 4:12 – Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Philippians 2:9-11 – Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.

John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

I am not sure there are any other scriptures in the Bible that are contrary to the ones above – which is not even an exhaustive list of related scriptures. You might ask why a loving God would give access passes to only those who come through His son Jesus. Well, I probably would be able to answer when we find out why a five year old boy would die of cancer. What crime has he committed? I guess we can agree that God’s sovereignty permits Him to do things according to His own will and purpose – things that are beyond human reasoning. He has chosen to bring salvation through His Son and He has declared that all who believe in Him will be saved. He has announced and demonstrated His love to me. This call of love is extended to everyone – with no exception – who would believe in His son’s name. This call of love also requires that I love everyone irrespective of their inclinations because He is the Father of all. This is why I, declaring the good news of salvation, invite everyone to His banquet.

Merry Christmas to you and your family. May the joy and peace of this moment experienced thousands of years ago come alive in your lives this season in Jesus name.

Still in His grip.

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WHAT DO I DO WITH JESUS?

Mat 2:1-2  Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.

Human beings generally do a good job of celebrating milestones and major events in their lives. We celebrate new jobs and do a housewarming party when we move into a new house. We have naming ceremonies for new babies, a set of funeral events when we lose a loved one and graduation ceremonies at the end of an education program. Marriages, anniversaries, birthdays and promotions all get some mention and celebrations to go along with them. And of course, celebrations vary from the most obscure to the most elaborate. We generally enjoy the celebrations and associated parties but always eventually get to find out that the real deal is not planning the parties but handling the object or cause of whatever we are celebrating. For example, a newly wedded couple gets to find out that handling the marriage is a bigger task than the wedding ceremony; the guy who has a big housewarming party gets to know that taking care of that mansion he has just built is no mean feat.

At this period we are celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. We are celebrating a major event in the course of man’s existence. Like every other event, what we do with Jesus is more important than how we celebrate His birth. Now that He has come into our lives, what happens next? Do we put a picture of Him in the corner of our room to keep Him in remembrance since we cannot see Him physically now? Or do we try to ensure that we say a prayer to Him daily and read a verse of the scriptures as often as we can? Another option is to accessorize with something that has the name Jesus on it. This is a nice idea too. There are several ways people try to stay linked to Jesus but here are some important things I believe we must do with Jesus.

Keep worshipping Him. Our Lord Jesus is thrilled that we celebrate His birthday and sing wonderful hymns about His birth and mission on earth. But His joy is that we worship Him all the days of our lives with every bit of our strength, mind, heart and soul. He wants to be the focal point in our hearts, the pivot of our lives and the centre of our joy. Let Him be involved in your decision making, let Him be the deciding factor when you have to make choices and let Him have the highest priority among all things in your heart. This is what makes our melodious singing and dancing true worship. Remember, we are urged to present our bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, for this is our reasonable service of worship (Romans 12:1).

Obey His words. Jesus Christ left instructions for us to follow while we remain on earth. By His infiniteness and omniscience, he has everything about our past, present and future covered. And He has assured that if we can trust Him and follow Him closely, we would live the highest quality of life possible. It might be challenging sometimes but a sincere desire to follow the commandments and leadings of the Lord Jesus Christ has never been a bad idea. John the beloved admonished us in 1 John 5:3 that we keep the commands of God. And His commands are not burdensome.

Prepare for His return and tell others about Him. Jesus is going to come back again for His own. He asked if He would find faith on earth when He returns (Luke 18:8). In other words, would there be people who have looked forward to His return and prepared themselves to meet Him? This requires that we live holy lives and tell others about Jesus so that they have the opportunity to know the truth. The world is getting more evil and darker and the times are more challenging for those who trust in Jesus. But He has said He is coming back and we must hold on to this truth and tell others He is coming back again with His reward in His Hand (Rev. 22:12).

As we celebrate His birth, let’s think about what we would do with the Saviour whose Spirit lives in us. What we do determines how much we enjoy from our relationship with Jesus. He came that we may have life and have it in abundance. He is always willing to make sure this is a reality in our lives.

CHRISTMAS LIGHTS

I had written this with the intention of posting it around Christmastime  but had to pause when some parts of Northern Nigeria were thrown into mourning on account of the heinous activities of some humans on fellow humans who had gone to celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus. But I believe this would still bless us.

As I drove around town last night and saw the beautifully decorated streets, I thought I felt the Christmas thingy. But somewhere at the corner of my mind was that nagging feeling of general insecurity across Nigeria.

There has been so much evil in the news these days that stories about Christmas are just able to make cameo appearances.  If we are not hearing about bomb blasts, we are hearing about protests turned violent. What about the son who kills his father for money or the young man who hacks his wife to death. I’ll spare you more details so you don’t get irritated and stop reading. In spite of the fact that some not so pleasant events are competing for more attention than our yearly celebrations, we still won’t forget Christmas. We will put up the Christmas decorations, send greeting cards, give gifts and get new clothes for the children (some adults won’t be left out of this anyway). The social networking media has made life easier. We can easily send Christmas wishes to our friends with little effort.

In this midst of all this I asked myself if we would still have heightened excitements about Christmas if we did not see the Christmas lights and decorations and if we did not hear the classic Christmas carols. Would we still smell Christmas in the air without the Santa grotto or Christmas trees? I have heard it severally that Christmas is to be celebrated every day. Which part of Christmas is referred to when this is said -the associated celebrations, the true essence of it or the total experience? I actually wouldn’t mind the total experience. I’d love to have the opportunity to say once and again several times a year that Christmas is in the air.

Among other great truths, I believe Christmas tells of the coming of light to the world. Jesus said He is the light of the world. From the scriptures, we understand that the world is full of wickedness and darkness. Darkness naturally fills the earth. The evils we see around us represent the darkness that is resident in our world. Recently, I thought and I asked, “If you want to see what darkness really looks like and you shine the light on it, what would you see? Nothing I found out. Darkness disappears when light comes. No wonder there is no comprehension of light by darkness, because they can never mix. So, what does this mean? The only way I can deal with darkness is to shine the light. Yes, shine the light. In the New Year, I am going to shine the light. As long as I keep my light under the bushel, darkness will rule. Darkness would clothe my own world like the Mephistophelian blanket it is, if I do nothing with my light. I have to be courageous and always speak the truth and speak for the truth. I must get involved in my community, shining the light and not blending in.

We would complain less about the darkness around us as we shine our lights. It is not going to be you alone; I am with you in this. Surely, we can have more Christmases in the year not just filled with Christmas lights but with the light of Christ shining through us. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

BEARERS OF GOOD NEWS

Luke 2:9-11 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

The angels must have been jostling to be selected to bring this good news to those shepherds that beautiful night. It always feels good to be the first to break a pleasant news to others. You even become more special when you are perceived as a regular bearer of good news. Everyone loves good news. Everyone wants to hear good news all the time.

We have good news for everyone that is relevant for all seasons. This season we are celebrating that special moment in eternity when the redemption plan of God for man was manifested on earth.

What is the good news?  God had kept His word. The prophesies were fulfilled. Israel’s long wait for a deliverer was over. Simeon and Anna, who were present the day the Lord Jesus was presented in the temple, could not agree any less. The man to rescue us from our slavery to sin and its consequences was born in Bethlehem. God had given peace on earth and goodwill towards men. God himself had reached down to man. It was not another effort of man to reach God but God’s ultimate and only way of saving man.  Finally, man would be reconciled to His maker. Glory be to God in the Highest.

Why is it good news to us? It is good news to us because we are privileged to partake of this miracle. The patriarchs anxiously waited for this great event. They prophesied about it but did not experience it. They knew its importance and significance and earnestly sought to be a part of it. They knew this was the coming of the true kinsman-redeemer of Israel and the world as a whole. Simeon was so happy to see the boy Jesus. Anna rejoiced to see that day. Today, we are fortunate to be able to celebrate this event too. This good news means we can be called joint heirs with Christ. It means we now have direct access to the Father through His son. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (I Timothy 2:5). What was hidden for several generations is now available for all to access.

What do we do with the good news? We should spread the good news. God says our feet are beautiful when we do this. He says we are His ambassadors and His co-workers when we tell others about Jesus. We would go because we have His backing and authority. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations… lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:19-20). Also, our response to the good news should be continuous gladness and rejoicing. Each time the devil brings an accusation or affliction, we should remember the good news. We should believe the good news and apply it to our lives.

Yes, it is good news. He might not have had a grand entry but all the forces of heaven and earth took note of His coming. He might have looked as helpless as any day-old babe will look at birth but His power and ability were never in doubt. He might have come to earth without a physical army or retinue of forces but everyone knew a King was born. We have nothing to lose by sharing the good news that has this man as its focus. We don’t have to defend the truth. The truth will speak for itself. We only have to tell the truth. Go tell it on the mountain that Jesus Christ is born!