The Lost Message of Easter

By Okuwoga Temitope

The Easter celebration, for me, is the greatest celebration in Christianity. A lot of us know that Jesus was birthed into the world only to die and be resurrected to save us from our sins and put us in right standing with God since the blood of animals could not do it. Isn’t that pretty much it? What else?

As Myles Munroe said, “Christianity has become a celebration of what Jesus did rather than a reception of the reason he did it.” Jesus was born, lived, died and returned to Heaven so we could have again the most important thing man lost at the Garden of Eden: THE INDWELLING PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

Between the fall of man and the resurrection of Jesus, the Spirit of God had to reside in consecrated arks and temples built with wood and stones by human hands. He would occasionally come upon people but could not permanently reside within them. The great plan of Jesus’ life and death was the restoration of man to God for the ultimate purpose of restoring God to man!

The Holy Spirit is a ‘HOLY’ Spirit and has to be in a holy place. The death of Jesus made every man free of sins, granting us justification (just as if we have never sinned) and sanctification (set apart for a sacred purpose). This was the whole point all along. Something had to happen before we could be temples again and the death of Jesus was that sacrifice.

Man was created to have a relationship with God. How will you please God if you don’t have his Spirit to govern your actions? If you wanted something, you would have to communicate it to another person. Apostle Paul said, “For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11). We need the Spirit of God to be vessels of God and instruments for him.

Jesus died for you even when you didn’t know him. What if you would never accept his sacrifice? It was a big risk but a necessary provision because ultimately, all men will acknowledge God. Even now, God is looking for willing vessels. God has done everything on his part to restore and redeem you. Will you accept his love and his Son, becoming a temple where you fellowship with the Spirit every day and every time to be used for his good pleasure?

All you need to do now is: believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the son of God, confess with your mouth, and repent (change your way of thinking) from every sin and everything unpleasing to God. Voila! It’s that simple. You are now saved, the Holy Spirit is now your guide for this life and you now have eternal life in Heaven.

The Beautiful Unknown

…if the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us -Num 14:7

After the Israelites left Egypt, almost every time they faced challenges their default response was, “let us go back to Egypt!”When they became tired of the manna, their reaction was to reminisce about all the varieties of food they had “for free” in Egypt. The same thing happened when they were to go and take possession of Canaan and the spies came back with a negative report.They did not remember the harsh labor they were subjected to, the beatings, or the murder of their children.

We often prefer the comfort of the known over the obscurity of the unknown. We know that God is leading us to a new place, but the moment things become even a LITTLE difficult we try to run back into our comfort zones, focusing on all the possible ways things could go wrong instead of the One who is leading us.

If we look closely into why we react this way, we would see that it shows at its core, a lack of faith in the ability of God. The problems seem “bigger” than God, and we worry that he might not be able to handle them. In Numbers 14:11, “the LORD said to Moses, “how long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the signs I have performed among them?”.

The response that Joshua gives is one we should always have at the back of our minds: “if the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and he will give it to us” (Num 14:7)

We have already established that, as Christians, God is pleased with us <here>. Joshua did not focus on the negative things associated with the land. He focused on the goodness of it and on the fact that the God who promised it to them would be able to deliver it.

Let go of your fear of the unknown. If God has called you to a new place or season in your life, rest assured that he is strong, loving and generous enough to take you there. Take your eyes off you “giant-sized” problems and focus on our God, whose love reaches to the heavens and faithfulness to the skies (Ps 36:5).

Saved: Then, Now and Forever

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
Hebrews 10:10

Growing up, I always thought that Christianity was very restrictive. I saw it as a religion full of “thou shall not” and I tried to do everything possible to obey every single law. You can imagine how impossible this was. Then, I got to a point where I started to look for loopholes in the rules, attempting to identify boundaries not to cross and then dancing on the edge of these boundaries. I would ask things like, “is this a sin?” Or “did the Bible explicitly say we should not do this?”. I felt fine as long as I did not cross the boundaries, but when I would eventually fall in after dancing on the edge for a while, I would be completely racked with guilt and condemnation. I lived in perpetual fear of the rapture happening immediately after I did something wrong.

All of this stemmed from a belief I had that I could somehow lose my salvation. I knew that I was saved by grace, but I believed that this grace and salvation could be taken away immediately after I did something wrong. I would always approach God apologetically, scared that He would not want to listen to me or that He was tired of me and all my shortcomings.

I have now come to understand that to believe we can lose our salvation means that we believe that Jesus’ death was not really effective and once for all. It means we do not truly understand the power of the cross. Jesus said, “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” (John 3:16). Full-stop. Notice that he did not add, “until the next time he lies, after which this becomes null and void”.

We should learn to stop relating to God from a place of fear and understand that we have been fully forgiven, saved, justified and sanctified! Letting go of this fear helps us to focus more fully on the love of God and to have a healthy relationship with Him. Hallelujah!! 💃

Bridging the Gap

If only there were someone to mediate between us,
someone to bring us together,
someone to remove God’s rod from me
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot.

Job 9:33-35

In the Old Testament, the people did not really know what it meant to have “personal” relationships with God. Communication with God was shrouded in mystery and involved a lot of protocol. The Levitical system of offering sacrifices was cumbersome and largely ineffective, and the people never had full access to God. Even the priests who were anointed to be mediators between God and the people had limited access to his presence. They had the Law but were unable to keep it and this left them in perpetual uncleanliness, unable to freely and boldly approach God.

In our reference chapter, Job was talking about the sheer magnificence and holiness of God, and how impossible it seemed to relate with God on any level.

In the New Testament, however, we see a shift; a change in dynamic. Jesus came to be the once and for all sacrifice, and at his death, the veil covering the entrance to the Holy of Holies was torn. Man was no longer separated from God.

We no longer have to build physical altars or look for spotless lambs and bulls to offer sacrifices.

We no longer need to wait for a High Priest to go into the presence of God on our behalf once a year.

By acknowledging and accepting the death of Jesus on our behalf, we have his righteousness imputed to us; “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:21 NIV)

As a result of this, we can go to God confidently and speak with him without fear. Hallelujah!

“Let us then fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it].”Hebrews 4:16 AMPC

Full Partakers: All Day, Every Day

For we have become fellows with Christ (the Messiah) and share in all He has for us, if only we hold our first newborn confidence and original assured expectation [in virtue of which we are believers] firm and unshaken to the end.”

Hebrews 3:14 AMPC

When a lot of us first came to know Christ, there was this confidence we had; and with this confidence came unspeakable joy, “I’m a Child of God!” We would exclaim; “My sins are forgiven!”
We felt brand new, shiny and untainted. Somewhere along the line, however, this confidence began to wane.

“Am I really a Child Of God?” We asked ourselves the first time we did something wrong.

“Can God still be pleased with me?” We asked when it happened for the 50th time.

“Is God really still with me? Or is He now angry with me?” We wondered the first time we experienced a setback.

Subtly, we began to get discouraged and believe somewhere in the back of our minds that we’re no longer as “In Christ” as we were before.

We have a way of complicating things that have no business being complicated for ourselves. These beliefs have made people live in constant fear and worry.
We were saved by grace, through faith when we first believed. That’s it. You can’t undo what Christ has done and you can’t do more than what Christ did.
You, Child of God, share in ALL Christ has for you simply by holding on to that confidence you had when you first believed.

His Greatest Delight, Right Now!

Happy New Year!! 💕

At the beginning of each year, we almost always make resolutions. When making them, we often do so with the aim of becoming a better person (“New Year, New Me” sound familiar?). We fixate on the ways we might have fallen short the previous years and resolve to do better. For our spiritual goals, we resolve to read our bibles and pray more, listen to more messages, etc. Now while these resolutions are very necessary, it is important to question what drives them.

Why do you want to pray more in 2020?

For myself (and a lot of people, I suspect) these resolutions usually came from a place of fear that I did not please God in previous years because I “did not do enough”. So I’d begin the New Year vowing to read my Bible for xyz hours or pray in order to be a “better child” of God. All this did was set me up for constant performance anxiety, afraid that If I underperformed in some way, God would no longer be pleased with me. This led to a vicious cycle where I’d have an intense period of prayers and studying followed by a period of relaxation, till my spiritual high faded again and I’d be spurred by guilt into another bout of intensity. So I’d have sporadic bursts of intensity, but no real consistency.

I think it’s important to point out that in all the accounts of Jesus’ baptism in the scriptures (Mat 3:13-17, Mk 1:9-11, Lk 3:21-22) it was noted that the Spirit of God descended on him and said, “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased”.

It’s important because this happened BEFORE Jesus began his earthly ministry. If it had happened say after Jesus raised Lazarus from death, we could have rationally thought, “God was pleased because of what He did” but Jesus hadn’t done anything that we know of. I’ve talked about how God’s love doesn’t depend on us <here> and I think it’s something we need to remind ourselves as we step into the New Year.

I am starting this year with the knowledge that I am God’s beloved daughter, chosen and marked by his love, and that he is well pleased with me. His greatest delight is in me. Right now. Today.

So I’m not reading my Bible more this year because I’m trying to earn his favor. I’m doing it because I love him and I want to spend time with him.

I’ll tell others about Jesus, not to rack up evangelism points, but because he’s too wonderful to not talk about.

And if peradventure I miss my bible reading one day, I won’t feel bad because I think he’s annoyed with me. I’ll feel bad because I prioritized something over my greatest love.

And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Mat 3:17 (NIV. Please read it in KJV, MSG, TPT and AMPC as well)

Letting Go Of The Reins

“…if anyone wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way…”
Mark 8:34-35

For the longest time, I tried to follow Jesus while holding on tightly to my own way. I attempted to call the shots in my walk with Him, doing what I felt like and then asking Him to bless it.
Then one day, I heard something that made me stop and think.

There’s space for only one King on the throne of our hearts.

I realized that I had been trying to battle with Him over the course and purpose of my life. And it wasn’t really working out for me.
Have you ever been in this position, Unwilling to let go of the reins of control in your life? How’s that working out for you?

Recently I was listening to a teaching and the pastor asked, “what is worship?” After everyone attempted to explain what they understood by it, we saw from Scripture that at the heart of it, worship is sacrifice. Every time “worship” was used in the Bible, it was in reference to someone paying homage/humbly making obeisance to God while offering a sacrifice.
Under the New Covenant we no longer need to sacrifice lambs and bulls to worship (thank God!), but there’s still an element of sacrifice- our will, our pride, our talents, our resources. Romans 12:1 (AMPC) says, “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational,, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.”

Becoming disciples of God means that we let go of our selfish ambitions and remain devoted to Him and obedient to His commands. It means that we accept His Lordship over our lives and align ourselves to the purpose He prepared for us instead of the one we dreamt up for ourselves.

The thing is, at the heart of it, our reluctance to follow God wholeheartedly is a sign of unbelief. It shows that we don’t really trust that He has everything that pertains to us under control.
Giving up control is never easy because there’s always that thought at the back of our minds that we know best for ourselves. But who knows the original purpose of a thing better than its inventor?

This week,
Have you been unwilling to hand over control to God? Why do you think that is?

Me First! Me Only!

1 Corinthians 13:5

One of the main reasons Christians frown on teachings about “self-love” is that a lot of people believe such teachings will encourage people to become selfish. This is a very valid fear, as we live in a time when we are already battling heavily with the “me first!” attitude of the world. We must be cautious not to misinterpret one as the other; “Self-love” is having a healthy regard for one’s own well being and happiness, while “selfishness” is being so preoccupied with our own selves that we lack consideration for other people.

To be honest, as human beings, putting other people first is not a natural reaction. We are instinctively wired for self-preservation. Now, having a sense of self-preservation is a good thing, and is an important component of loving oneself. It means that we will avoid the things that bring us hurt and pain; that we understand that our feelings, wants and needs should matter. The problems come up however, when we do not extend this same courtesy to other people.

When we want other people to put us into consideration, but we do not reciprocate; when we constantly do things that will favour only ourselves; when we constantly put ourselves first; when we do not consider the feelings of others and the toes we step on in this our quest to get what we want- this is no longer self-preservation, but selfishness.

“Love is not self-seeking” means that while acknowledging that we would not want others to insist on their own way if it would bring us pain, we understand that other people also feel this way and so we go out of our way to make sure that their needs and feelings are taken care of.

In Phillipians 2:3-5, we are told, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”. We cannot do this in our own strength however, we need to daily ask God for the grace to love unselfishly.

Plugged In

Pray without ceasing…

-1 Thes 5:17

I really don’t know how people managed to be in meaningful relationships before the advent of telephones and instant messaging (lol, spoken like a true millennial). These technological advances have made it so that we can be in constant, real-time communication with the people in our lives even if we happen to be on different continents. We are constantly plugged in with them and are able to tell them about the things going on with us as soon as they happen. It’s strange and worrisome to us to hear people in a relationship say they don’t talk/text multiple times everyday.

A lot of people see prayer as just presenting a list of requests to God and so when they hear “pray without ceasing”, they imagine just droning on and on to God all day (which actually sounds tedious). I’ve heard quite a number of people say things like, “won’t you run out of stuff to say?” However, prayer is not just presenting a wishlist to God and it isn’t a monologue, it’s a conversation.

For us to be told to pray without ceasing, it means that God is able and willing to keep the lines of communication between us open constantly. This does not mean that we’re to separate ourselves from everyone else 24/7 and say we’re praying, It means that He wants us to be in contact with Him throughout our day, from the moment we wake up till we’re winding back down for bed; we’re to develop a lifestyle of prayer. Things like; thanking Him for opportunities/provision, asking for help before doing difficult things, praying for people we come in contact with/who cross our mind, praising Him for the beauty of the things he created, etc are all included in prayer. These are often called “spontaneous prayers”. Praying without ceasing means we stay connected to Him the same way we’re constantly plugged in online to our friends and families.

This week, explore the meaning of prayer and what it means to “pray without ceasing”. Stay plugged in.

The “S” Word

“This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…” Rom 3:22-23 (NIV)

No one ever wants to be called a sinner. When a lot of people hear the word “sin”, they think of things like rape, murder, theft; “Evil” things. So you hear people say things like, “I don’t think I’m a sinner, I’m a pretty good person. I haven’t killed anyone and I don’t steal or cheat”. This, however, is a pretty myopic view of sin. According to Selwyn Hughes, “a sinner is someone who is estranged from God and who maintains a rebellious, resistant and independent attitude towards Him”. Sin, basically, is living your life independent of God and in disobedience to Him; That’s it. It doesn’t matter how good or well behaved you think you are generally, you can’t cancel out sin by doing a million good things- “for the wages of sin is death…” (Rom 6:23). The price of the sin must be paid.

A lot of churches and Christians shy away from teaching about sin because it seems to be such an uncomfortable topic. The mood of the present age is to challenge people less over issues, and a big part of the church is now striving to be politically correct to the detriment of the integrity of the scriptures. But to not talk about sin is to ignore the cost of Calvary. “For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood” (Rom 3:25, NLT). Jesus literally gave his life to pay for sin on our behalf so that we might be reconciled to God.
To not talk about it is to not talk about the foundation of our Christian faith.
To not talk about it is to ignore the greatest gift ever given to us by God.

We read from Rom 6:23 earlier; the full verse says, “for the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Jesus died for our sins and is only through His death that we are saved and made righteous before God. Salvation is a gift. It’s not something we earn by doing good deeds and it’s one that you need to accept if you haven’t already.