Editorial Be a good minister of Christ
Apostle Paul in his epistle to Timothy exhorts him to be a good minister of Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 4:6).
We see many ministers of Christ who are engaged in very busy schedules and activities. They spent their money and time for the ministry in various levels. They are considered as leaders and have many people to work under them. Though these are essential for the expansion of the Lord's kingdom, Bible picturise a person as a good minister on the basis of certain other parameters.
A good minister is supposed to be a good teacher who is able to teach the scriptures as it is so that the members in his care are brought up in the truths of the faith.
The present day church is lacking this teaching and training. We normally quote the verse: "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6), as a verse for the Sunday school students and teachers. But I feel that this verse is very important and has very relevant application with reference to all believers.
In secular field, we see different kinds and levels of training. According to the positions and assignments, employees are given training by the employers on a regular basis. This is given to enhance their knowledge and efficiency. This kind of training is very essential in Churches nowadays. We lack in many things. We think that the training is required only for Sunday school children and bible school students. But it is very essential for all believers and pastors too.
How many Church leaders give attention to give training to their pastors at least once in an year? Which church takes time to train their believers? Simple Bible study or sermons will not be sufficient to create committed and mature Christians.
It is high time to think about regular trainings for the Church members and pastors. Unless we consider this as a serious matter, the church will not be able to create members with spiritual quality and maturity.
A thanksgiving note: We are immensely joyful and highly grateful to the Lord as we present this "Anniversary Issue" of Suvartha magazine. As we are in the 19th year of publication, we remember the ups and downs that we passed through and the hurdles that we had to cross. As Prophet Samuel expressed his gratitude to the Lord after setting up a stone between Mizpah and Shen: "Ebenezer, Thus far has the LORD helped us". We thank all our friends and well wishers who supported us through their prayers and finances.
Two practical lessons from Israel
Rev. Dr. Thomson K. Mathew, Dean, Oral Roberts University, USA
The writer recounts the lessons that he learned during his recent visit to Israel and some practical applications songs
I just returned from a trip to Israel. I had the opportunity to travel from Dan to Beersheba. Naturally, seeing the land of the Bible expands one's understanding of the scriptures. Even to those with no particular interest in the Bible, a trip like this contains lessons for life. I will mention here two practical lessons I received.
Lesson One: All Human Kingdoms Will Ultimately Perish.
A trip through Israel reminds us of the many empires that have imposed their will on that part of the world. The Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Muslims, the Crusaders, and the British all have ruled the place, oppressed the people in varying degrees, and exploited them at will. What is left of the major empires today is only large piles of stones! Caesarea is in ruins. Tiberius is not much different. Megiddo has been rebuilt at least 22 times and it is back to rubbles now being dug through by archaeologists. This old city has four different gates at four different levels built at four different times, each time on top of the previous level because they did not have bull dozers! Each kingdom thought it was the greatest. Each considered itself most powerful and expected to stay in power for ever. What we now have is a lot of sealed tombs instead, except, of course, for one open tomb.
Only God's kingdom is everlasting. It will prevail because it is a different kind of kingdom. The values of the kingdom of God are opposite to those of the world's kingdoms. In God's kingdom, the first shall be last. In His kingdom, dying is the way to living and giving is the way to receiving. In these other kingdoms, generally speaking, force was the way and exploitation was the norm. But all of them perished either by other kingdoms or by natural disasters.
What a humbling lesson for the modern world. We as modern people think that we are superior to everything and everyone. We are proud of our technology and think that knowledge alone will save us. We think that everything revolves around us. That simply is not the truth. The truth is that God is in charge of His world. We are called to be stewards of his world and citizens of His kingdom. Only God's way is perfect. Only He is the wise God. No idol can stand before Him. It is better to seek God's kingdom and His righteousness first.
Lesson Two: Only Givers Maintain Life.
I had the opportunity to go up to Dan in the Northern Israel and see some tributaries of the Jordan River. They help form the river. It then flows into the Sea of Galilee which is really a fresh water lake. From the Sea of Galilee it flows to the Dead Sea which remains at the lowest level on planet earth. The salt level in normal sea water is 3%, but in the Dead Sea it is 30%. That is why people can float in it. The water that comes into the Dead Sea from the River Jordan just stays there. It does not flow out. The Sea of Galilee receives water and gives out water. It allows water to flow out. The Dead Sea receives water but does not give out water. Water leaves the Dead Sea only through evaporation! The Sea of Galilee which is a giver is full of life with all sorts of fish and other life forms. There is no life in the Dead Sea. Everything is dead in it. Life remains where there is receiving and giving. Where hoarding is normal, there is stagnation and death.
Reflections on the Lessons
I believe these are significant lessons for Keralites everywhere. There seems to be efforts everywhere by Keralite men to build up their own kingdoms. This seems to be prevalent especially in relation to churches and ministries. Having come from a place of economic hardship and having acquired new wealth, a number of Keralites are seeking significance for their lives. The easiest place to find some of this seems to be churches and ministries where quality control is not common practice.
One Keralite "ministry" head recently asked me why I do not have a ministry with my name on it. I have been a minister of the Gospel for a number of years and am in the business of preparing competent ministers for God's work at a major Christian university, but never felt the need to put my name on another ministry or building. This ministry leader implied that it is foolish not to have a personally named ministry. I do not believe that it is always a sin to put one's name on a ministry or building, but I do not believe that it should be the standard of success in ministry. I simply want to serve the Lord, fulfill my calling and go home. It is not accidental that the title of my latest book is, "What Will Your Tombstone Say?" We need to keep in mind that all human kingdoms will ultimately perish. Only God's kingdom will prevail.
Likewise, the second lesson reminds me that many Keralites still need to learn the joy of giving. Although there are many generous people among us, according to several reports of local pastors, our giving rate is not very high. Many are still tipping instead of tithing. Keeping up with the Joneses is taking everything we have and more. This affects our giving.
Several Keralite pastors have told me that they are afraid to preach on the subject of giving in their churches. The topic simply is not welcome. The truth is that giving and receiving is a principle of biblical life-style. It needs to be taught in our congregations. Just because there are people who abuse this truth, we should not stop preaching it. Keeping up with the Joneses and hoarding will not keep us alive and well. That will only make us breathing Dead Seas.
The visit to Israel brought home to me these two lessons in a powerful way. I am asking God to help me never to forget these important lessons.
Do the work of an Evangelist: Part 5 Fulfill your ministry
Pastor Mathew Philip, Philadelphia, USA
Apostle Paul writes to evangelist Timothy to do the work of an evangelist (2 Tim. 4:5). The first work of an evangelist is to be faithful to one's calling (2 Tim.1:1-2:13). The second is to be diligent in one's work (2:14-26). Third is to be prepared for the last days (2 Tim.3: 1-9). Fourth is to persist in one's conviction (2 Tim.3:10-17). Finally, Paul urges Timothy as a young evangelist to fulfill his ministry (2 Tim. 4:1-22). Paul mainly talks about three things as to how to fulfill one's ministry:
1. Preach the Word (vv.1-4):
The most important ministerial duty is to preach God's Word. Preaching the Word is very important because we must preach it in the light of God's presence; in the light of the coming judgment; in view of Christ's return; and in view of the coming Kingdom (v.1). One thing that is indispensable for an evangelist is to preach God's Word as it is and teach sound doctrines. Paul very specifically instructs Timothy to devote himself to the public reading of Scripture and also to preaching and teaching (1 Timothy 4:13). Paul's own testimony is that he was compelled to preach. He further says, "Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" (1 Cor. 9:16). How to preach God's Word? (a) We must preach the Word by being prepared in season and out of season. As evangelists, we must cease the opportunity to preach the Word. (b) We must preach the Word by being ready to give the right message according to the context. We must give the words of encouragement to those who are disheartened. We must give the words of correction to those who do wrong. We must give the words of rebuke to those who are selfish in their motives. It is because there will be false teachers who will preach wrong doctrines. These false teachers preach things that will suit their own desires. They will turn people's ears away from the truth. They will also have a great number of gatherings around them to hear myths and stories. (c) We must preach the Word by enduring hardship. There will be hardship when you preach the Word. The true Word is against all kinds of false doctrines spread by false teachers. When you preach the Word, you will be persecuted (Matt. 5:11). Paul experienced it in Antioch (Acts 13:14), Iconium (Acts 13:51) and Lystra (Acts 14:6). What must we do in this hostile situation? Paul urges us that we must keep our head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, and discharge all the duties of our ministry.
2. Finish well (vv.6-8):
Paul compares the spiritual life to that of a race. The one who runs the race is determined to finish first. He or she will not be distracted by the crowd or hardship or body aches or muscles cramp. Perseverance is of utmost important in the life and ministry of an evangelist. A strong determination to finish well is important in doing the work of an evangelist. Only a person who keeps the end in mind can finish well. There will be many who loose their sight while running. In the book of Hebrews (12:1-3) we are admonished to keep our sight on Jesus. In our text Paul claims to have finished his race. He has almost come to the end of his life and expects his death soon. He views this as the pouring out of his life as an offering to Christ. Paul is an example after Jesus for us to follow in our life and ministry.
3. Do your best (vv.9-22):
Paul asks Timothy to do his best in discharging all his duties as a minister of God. He says, "Do your best to come to me quickly" (v. 9) and "Do your best to get here before winter" (v. 21). Then he goes on to explain the experiences of people who deserted him during the course of his ministry, especially, people whom he thought very sincere and close to him. Demas loved the world and deserted him. Alexander did a great deal of harm to Paul by opposing his ministry. Some have gone for other areas to preach the Word. No one was there with him in his first defense to support him. None of these adverse circumstances prevented Paul from doing his best in testifying Jesus Christ. As people called to do the work of an evangelist, we must do our best in preaching God's Word and finishing our Christian race well. There will be people who desert us, oppose our message, go after materialism, and not willing to support our ministry. Yet we must do our best so that we will be able to fulfill our ministry. It is the Lord who stands at our side and gives us strength to excel in our evangelistic work. He will rescue us from every evil attack and will bring us safely to his heavenly kingdom. May our hearts be gripped with the one purpose: Do the work of an evangelist!
Jehoshaphat, the Judean king, entered into a matrimonial alliance with Ahab, the king of Israel. Ahab wanted Jehoshaphat to go with him against the Syrians in war.
He was ready to go, but fearing God, he said, "only after God's consent!" The easiest way was to ask a prophet.
'That's not a problem", Ahab said "I have 400 of them in my custody."
"Go up; for God will give it into your hands," said all the prophets! Jehoshaphat, however, doubted their integrity.
"Is there not here another prophet of the LORD?" He asked.
''There is a guy, but I hate him ... He always speaks against my desires. So, I don't entertain him these days," said Ahab. What a pity! The king expected the prophet to sanction all his wild desires.
Prophet Micaiah, the rebel in Ahab's sight, was finally summoned. Micaiah said, "As the LORD lives, what my God says, that I will speak."
'Why, Micaiah? Why can't you be just one among the other 400?" The king's messenger asked him and said, "Behold, the words of the prophets with one accord are favorable to the king; let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably."
A prophet is a messenger of God. He speaks on behalf of God! Who decides the content of the message? It is neither the messenger, nor the one who is addressed to. It is the author of the message ... God himself!
The voice of Micaiah was an isolated one. He was not in for a compromise. However, there were 400 prophets, who prophesied "in the name of the Lord" (v. 10) and ready for a compromise.
"Oh Micaiah, prophesy the truth. Shall we go to Ramothhgilead?" asked the king.
'What did your official prophets say? Why don't you hear their voice and go?" Micaiah mocked at the king. "What they said is their truth or your truth. But I tell you 'the' Truth. Israel is going to become a shepherdless sheep. You are willing to go die in this battle."
Micaiah was thrown into prison for his uncompromising words, but what he spoke was God's truth. King Ahab died as he prophesied.
Prayer: Lord help me to stand uncompromising for your truth, even when I need to suffer for it. Amen.
Youth Forum: Depression: The "common cold" in life
Dr. J. Varghese, ICPF
Dr. J. Varghese, Inter Collegiate Prayer Fellowship, suggests a few general principles to keep in mind while trying to deal with depression. Although the Bible does not use the word "depression", it describes people whom we might call depressed.
Our interior lives are largely hidden from us. It follows that it is not always obvious how we should respond to what we find ourselves experiencing. Any counsellor wants to ensure that the person to whom they are listening comes to recognize what is at the root of their life-experience. These days there are many who label as "depression what is just weariness, exhaustion or overwork.
Depression has been called the "common cold" of mental disorders and one source estimates that it disrupts the lives of millions of people. Depression is too complicated to solve with a single pat answer.
The Bible does not use the word "depression", although it describes people whom we might call depressed. It certainly doesn't mention antidepressant drugs. However, there are a few general principles I would suggest when trying to deal with depression.
Aim to work on the causes of your depression, not just the symptoms.
Scripture points to many issues of sin or conflict that can affect your emotions; most counsellors would agree that depression can result from other underlying issues. Don't worry about the depression itself; check to see what other problems need attention. Realize that you can't base life on your emotions.
Christians base life on truth, not feelings. Philippians 4:1 commands us to rejoice (whether we feel like it or not!) and James 1:2 asks us to "consider it all joy when we fall into various trials". Notice that James doesn't tell us to feel joyful; he tells us to reckon, to choose to think about your situation as a spot where you can have joy.
Choosing to trust truth rather than your feelings may require a lot of faith. And if that is what we mean by asking if faith can solve depression, then faith may be enough in some cases. Trusting what God says than your feelings is certainly a more realistic approach to life!
However, many people talk about "faith" and only mean a vague hope that God will somehow pull them through. Many of the same people who claim to have faith keep plunging through life ignoring God's principles for healthy living. If we spurn the good advice that the Bible contains, we won't escape the consequences-even if we have faith.
Then comes the importance of values and beliefs in all people's lives. They may help or hinder people's growth. Support all moves to integrate with a view to strengthen persons to cope with crises and to live more abundantly. And that religious resources or prayer etc. can be appropriately used by those wanting to do so and strengthen the person in facing his struggles.
So in depression counselling is a tool and not an end in itself. It is an instrument (caring and loving relationship) to increase in men and women love for God, for each other and or self. It is a tool that the author has experienced as being used to answer the following prayer of millions of people of any faith and no faith:
"Lord, give me the grace to change what can be changed, to accept what can not be changed and the wisdom to know the difference"- Amen.
From the pulpit: The light cross
Rev. Dr. Baby Varghese
"Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
A young man was walking through the desert with a heavy cross. He was so tired of walking but had to finish his journey. He was mumbling to himself because of the heavy cross and thought to himself that if he didn't have this cross, he could have made this journey much easier. When he was totally fed up, he cried to the Lord, "Lord, please help me to lighten this cross." Suddenly, he heard a sound from heaven saying, "Just walk to the big building near you and select a cross of your choice." With a happy heart, he went to that building. As he entered the building, he happened to notice many crosses there. He inspected each cross. Some crosses were so big and heavy and others were so light. After a long search, he selected a small cross. When he got out of the building, he was excited and full of joy. He heard a sound, "Son, you selected the cross that was once being carried by you. It was the smallest cross in that room."
After that, he never complained anymore about his cross. When he thought about the big crosses and their carriers, his heart felt lighter. With joy and satisfaction, he completed his journey.
Dear friends, the problems that we suffer in our lives are very great indeed. When we think more and more about them, we feel very heavy with our burden. Sometimes, we think others have very little problems. It will definitely bring down our peace of mind. However, if you sincerely ask about the sufferings of others, they would be telling you how much of a miserable life they face than us. We have to remember that without carrying the cross, we cannot finish our journey.
There are different problems in our life. If we think of the problems that other people face, they are bigger than ours. They may have a long or short list of problems. When we think about those who carry a cross bigger than ours, our heart can feel a great lightness. Let us meditate on the sufferings of Christ. Nobody can carry the cross that Jesus once carried. Trust on Jesus with your sufferings. Just think about Jesus and meditate on the fact that he endured the cross, despite the shame. Nobody in the world can ever take the cross of Jesus. Nobody in the world can ever take the depth and intensity of the sufferings that Jesus had for us at the cross. Please do not think about your burdens...trust in Jesus as He proclaimed, "Fear not!"
According to a recent report quoting scientists in London that the age-old question: "Which came first: The chicken or the egg?" has finally been solved. The report emphasizes the fact that the question has been puzzling "the finest minds for thousands of years"! Scientists have discovered the answer, hold your breath: it's the chicken which came first. A team of scientists from University of Sheffield and University of Warwick has found that a protein called ovocleidin (OC-17) is crucial in the formation of eggshells. This protein is produced in the hen's ovaries. The egg can exist only if it is created inside a hen. Hence, the chicken have to come first to produce egg shells. However, the research does not come up with how the protein-producing chicken existed in the first place! The leading scientist of the team said: "It had long been suspected that the egg came first but now we have the scientific proof that shows that in fact the chicken came first".
But was this so-called age old question a mystery to a Bible believing Christian who believes in a Creator God and the 'creation story' as narrated in Genesis 1? Read verses 21 & 22: "So God created ----- every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. God blessed them and said, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth". Is there any doubt about which came first? The birds were created as different kinds with capability to produce its kind of young ones. The chicken came first with capability of producing eggs. The 'finest minds' can be foolish if God is kept out of their perception. The Psalmist rightly declared: "The fool says in his heart, "There is no God" (Psalms 14:1)! The 'finest minds' have still to come up with an answer to the question of how the protein-producing chicken existed in the first place! Let us allow them to figure it out in the next hundred years!!
British Government may give green light to Atheist Schools
It is reported that atheist schools may become a reality in the United Kingdom. Education Secretary Michael Gove says he is open to the idea as part of reforms to his department. The argument seems to be: "If you can set up faith schools, then quite obviously you must also be allowed to set up a school that will cater for people whose parents are bringing them up specifically to have no faith". Addressing the House of Commons education select committee, Gove said parents opposed to faith-based schools should be given more opportunities to educate their children in the way they want in the state education system.
It is indeed sad to recall that England was once considered to be Christian country sending vast number of missionaries to other countries like India. Now there are very few church going Christians in that country.
Lasers uncover first icons of St. Peter and St. Paul
Rome has dozens of burial chambers which are a major tourist attraction, giving visitors a peek into the traditions of the early church when Christians were often persecuted for their beliefs. Early Christians dug the catacombs outside Rome's walls as underground cemeteries, since burial was forbidden inside the city walls and Romans were usually cremated. Twenty-first century laser technology has opened a window into the early days of Christianity, guiding researchers through the catacombs beneath Rome to a startling find: the first known paintings of the apostles Peter and Paul. The new laser technique allows restorers to burn off centuries of thick white calcium carbonate deposits without damaging the brilliant dark colors of the paintings underneath. The icons were discovered on the ceiling of a tomb of an aristocratic Roman woman, near where the remains of the apostle Paul are said to be buried. Vatican archaeologists announced that the image of Paul was not found in isolation, but was part of a square ceiling painting that also included icons of three other apostles - Peter, John and Andrew - surrounding an image of Christ. Many of Rome's catacombs are open regularly to the public.
Benny Hinn's family problems
Television evangelist Benny Hinn has admitted that his marriage probably broke down because he did not spend enough time with the family. In his show "This is your Day" on August 5, he said, he was oftentimes "caught up with the ministry", so much so that he forgot about his family. "I've made mistakes because I wasn't the perfect husband and the perfect dad because I was always gone travelling the world," he said. Benny Hinn told his viewers "not to neglect your family", saying that the call of God should first touch the family. Hinn's wife, Suzanne, filed divorce papers in California earlier in the year, citing "irreconcilable differences". The couple had been married since 1979 and have four children.
"Don't neglect the family" is the emphatic advice that rings out of the situation, whether you are a globe trotting preacher or an ordinary Christian in any part of the world. Family is a divinely established institution.
Chinese Pastor chooses prison instead of exile
According to reports, Wang Dao, Pastor of a Chinese church, chose to be in prison rather than being exiled from the country. Wang was placed on criminal detention, accusing him of gathering a mass of people that disturbed the public order. He asserted that the charges were completely fabricated. He told his lawyers that he refuses to be exiled to any other country and asked them to tell his church members that they must not stop gathering.
Let the Pastor's courage be an example to us. Even in the face of persecution, he is prepared to stand for his faith and encourage his church members to stand firm, too.
Personalities encountered by Jesus - 21: Herod the Tetrarch
"Now Herod the tetrarch heard about all that was going on. And he was perplexed, because some were saying that John had been raised from the dead" (Luke 9:7)
When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, which came under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas, he sent Him to Herod to be tried. But the tetrarch, who already had the beheading of John the Baptist on his conscience, wanted nothing more to do with prophets, and sent Jesus back to Pilate.
Both Biblical and secular history leave no doubt as to Herod's wicked character. He was a son of Herod the Great by one of his five wives, Cleopatra, a native of Jerusalem. Reared amidst the intrigue of a corrupt court, he began his ruthless career at 17, when Augustus Caesar gave him as his share of his father's estate, the greater portion of Galilee.
When Tiberius Caesar became emperor, Herod journeyed to Rome to pay respects. During his voyage to Rome, he fell in love with Herodias, his niece by one brother, and the wife of another, and persuaded her, together with her daughter, to accompany him back to Galilee. When John the Baptist also condemned Antipas for his incestuous union, Herodias persuaded the tetrarch to have John imprisoned, then, through her daughter, to have him beheaded.
After the death of Tiberias, Herod Antipas was sentenced to banishment by the new emperor, Caligula. The manner of his death is not known, but the ancient Jewish historian, Josephus, indicates that he spent his last days in Spain. He had ruled over Galilee for 43 years.
Timothy's father was a Greek and his mother was a jewess and also a believer. His mother taught him the scriptures right from his childhood. He also had a caring grandma who taught him to trust God and seek to please God more than anything. Apostle Paul testifies of timothy's sincere faith in 2 Tim. 3:15. The Believers of Lystra and Iconium spoke well of him (Acts 16:2). Therefore Paul chose him as a missionary to travel with him to different places to preach the word of God. Paul also says that Timothy had the same burden and vision as that of Paul. Since he learned the scriptures right from infancy (2 Tim. 3:15) , he was a strong believer. He was devoted to God and His purpose. Therefore he was ordained as the pastor of the church at Ephesus. He taught God's word to that church. He was a good evangelist, a Bible teacher and a missionary. This was possible because he had a good understanding of God's eternal Word. He obeyed God's Word and served God and God's people.
Dear children, let us make every effort to grow up in the knowledge of God's Word and live in obedience to His Word. Then only can we live a life pleasing to God and also be useful for God's Holy purpose. Do take time to study God's word daily so that you will know God and His will more and more each day. Throughout Church history we can see people who lived in obedience to God's Word were used by God as His instruments to fulfil His purpose on this earth and bring glory to His Name. Let us be instruments in the hands of God to fulfil His purpose in this generation by living a life of obedience to God's eternal Word just like Timothy. God bless you.
Reader's Forum: Can you answer this?
Visualized and compiled: Johnson Thomas
Question of the month:
Why does Paul admonish 'put no confidence in flesh'? Is it ever possible to 'have no confidence in flesh'? (Ref: Phil. 3:3 - "For we are the circumcision ....... put no confidence in flesh")
Read what believers around the world think.
Ajin Abraham, Bangalore (Management executive)
Glorying in Christ Jesus, requires putting no confidence in the flesh. It means putting away an attitude of accomplishing things apart from Christ and taking on an attitude of daily, conscious reliance on Him.
It is possible to cultivate the attitude of 'not putting confidence in the flesh'. Of all people of his time, Paul had reasons for such a confidence. Yet, he did not rely on his achievements or accolades and chose to consider them as loss for the sake of Christ. That is to say, he had his sights set on the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus as Lord. Thus, it follows that only by a daily awareness of Christ, can we retain a sense of perspective and focus on becoming who Christ desires us to be. Then, all things of the world will grow dim and any overt self-confidence will be replaced by a humble, daily submission to the Lord and Saviour.
In Phil. 3:3-6, Paul had given a list of things that he could have been proud of. However, he knew that nothing of that sort will gain anything from God. Again, flesh represents mans fallen, unredeemed humanness; it pictures human ability apart from God. Unlike the many who boasts according to the flesh, true Christians put no confidence in it. They understand that It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing (John 6:63), and agree with Paul's declaration: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh (Rom. 7:18). Because it is fallen and unredeemed, the flesh cannot do anything to please God; it serves only the law of sin. Therefore it is a distinguishing characteristic of the redeemed that they do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit, because the mind set on the flesh is death and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Only true repentance, which puts no confidence in the flesh, leads to salvation.
Thelma Machado, Mumbai (Admin to CEO)
Those who put confidence in the flesh are those who think they are good people. The good they do puffs them up. They become very boastful, proud, whereas Bible says we have to be humble.
Our confidence should only be in God because we have to remember one thing.....one day our flesh will be dead and buried but it is the Spirit that will live forever. If one knows this truth then automatically it will be easy not to put trust in the flesh as flesh will fail and fade away but those who put their confidence in God will stand forever.
Sibu Varghese, Ahmedabad, (Senior Management)
Paul admonishes "Put No confidence in flesh" as the Jews thought that 'circumcision' made them believers rather than the free gift of Grace given by Christ.
Paul has warned Jews against putting confidence in flesh because they tend to believe or trust that by their mere acts of kindness, being good to people, being helpful to the poor, being prayerful or performing rituals they will be saved or doing rituals and they will access the Kingdom of God. Circumcision of heart is important than the body through which we can reach up to our Father in heaven.
It is easy to put confidence in flesh than on internal faith, but God values the attitude of our hearts above all else. Don't judge peoples' spirituality by their fulfillment of duties or by their level of human activity. And don't think that you will satisfy God by passionately doing his work. God notices all that you do for him and will reward you for it, but only if it comes as a loving response to his free gift of salvation. We can live a life without putting confidence in flesh only if we are continually lead by the Holy Spirit. And if anyone tries to live with his own strength and wisdom, you cannot attain the final salvation.
Johnson K. Samuel, New York, (Suvartha Chief Editor)
Apostle Paul is making that statement in a specific context. Some Jewish Christians tried to divide the church by spreading the false doctrine that gentile (non-Jewish) converts to Christianity must first become Jews by undergoing circumcision before they can be accepted as Christians.
So Paul states that circumcision is just a physical operation, but salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ alone. He further expands on the theme to say that a man's position in society or his privileges or his noble birth or his religious fervor are of no value when it comes to salvation through faith by the grace of God. As an illustration he takes his own example in the following verses (Phil 3:4-8): His own circumcision, his birth as a Benjaminite Hebrew, his position as a Pharisee, his high standard of learning under Gamaliel - everything he counts as loss or rubblish in comparison with the knowledge of Christ.
We are advised not to put our confidence in any of our physical or mental abilities or talents. But God expects us to "trade with" or use those talents for the glory of His name and for the expansion of His kingdom.
Alternate theory, Author
The 'circumcision' or the true people of God are described here in three ways:
i) they are those who worship God in the spirit, their worship of God is prompted, directed and enabled by the Holy Spirit
ii) real Christians also rejoice in Christ, they boast and take pride in Him, not in themselves
iii) they have no confidence in the flesh, 'flesh' here means one's earthly privileges, human attainments and religious accomplishments.
God's people refuse to depend on such things for their salvation; instead, they rely upon Christ to obtain favor with God.
Then why do we still spend our efforts to accomplish and to attain?
QUESTION FOR NEXT ISSUE
CAN YOU ANSWER THIS?
Should a Christian save money or wealth? Should a Church save money or wealth?
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