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Category: Series

Introducing: The Great Pursuit—a Study series through Jonah

Last month, the amazingly gracious guys at THE FELLOWSHIP, a weekly bible study gathering just outside Kampala, Uganda gave me the opportunity to teach through the book of Jonah.

In a study I called “The Great Pursuit”, I set out to explore How God meets our sin and rebellion with His Amazing Grace by crashing our idols and winning us to Himself. Listen or download the audio to listen online. There are two parts; Episode 000 is the intro of the book while Episode 001 is the teaching from Jonah 1:1-4.

And I also provide my sermon transcript free, find it here. Enjoy!

We All Stand Naked and Inadequate (Gen. 3:7-9)

Just after Adam and his wife shared of the forbidden fruit, they realised that they were naked. The eyes of both were opened, so they sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:7).

The question now is one of ‘right standing’, or—call it—righteousness. Before the fall, man and woman had stood unashamed before God (Coram Deo) and before each other (Coram Mundo).

Before the fall, God looked at the man and was fully satisfied with what He saw in him, the same with the woman. They were all clean and righteous.

They had done nothing to make themselves right before God, now with their disobedience, sin rears its head high. Their nakedness is now common knowledge. Not just that: they even feel an urgent need to cloth themselves—self-salvation.

A definitive self-salvation project is not Adam and Eve’s problem alone; it is our problem as well—all of us. We, just like them, also look for fig leaves to cover our nakedness. We seek a sense of rightness from under every rock and behind every tree.

In power, money, kids, spouses, beauty and appearance, style, a good name, respect, honour, knowledge, accomplishment and so on. When we seek these things, we are in away looking to restore the righteousness that we lost through Adam and Eve.

All but Insufficient

The Theologian Matthew Henry has called our clothes “badges of shame” because they are the evidence of our nakedness. They are a testimony that something is not right with us and needs to be covered.

Ironic as it may seem, Adam and his wife, though covered in fig leaves, still feel the weight of their nakedness. They still hide from God.

The fig leaves are insufficient to make them right before a Righteous and Holy God. The glory of God—or His ‘radiant character’ as Bishop Festo Kivengere would call it—still shines perfect through their garments of leaves thereby exposing their nakedness all the more.

We put on this garment of leaves to hide who we really are—guilty sinners who have by our disobedience forfeited the right standing that had been given to us as gift by God.

If anything, this passage shouts one thing: no striving inspired by our tears, sweat and blood can ever make us acceptable before a holy God. There is nothing we can do in our power to cloth ourselves.

On one occasion, Jesus tells the parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke. 16:19-31), the rich man had spent all his life clothing himself in money and what it could get him. And he was eternally condemned, while Lazarus who sought God to cover him was laying in the bosom of Abraham, the father of all who believe (Gen 15:5).

In another place, a parable as well, Jesus narrates the story of a ruler who prepares diner and invites some ‘street-smart guests’ to come over and feast with him (Matt. 22:1-14). All guests, clad in party wear showed up except one who didn’t have party clothing. He had sewed his own coat of leaves and felt quite comfortable in it that he needed not the party attire, which was a pre-requisite to be at this dinner.

He was dragged out of the premises and thrown into a dark place where “there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” The party attire is the righteousness that God gives to all who believe in His son—Jesus Christ.

At the cross, Jesus was stripped so that we will eternally be clothed. He gave up his honour so that we will one day stand honourable before God.

Paul, writing to Philippian Church had this to say: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:5-8)

By the unmerited grace of God, you have been clothed in an irremovable garment of salvation and righteousness. In Christ, who fulfilled the righteous requirements of the Law, God is now pleased with you. Your shame and guilt and fear have been cast away and God remembers your disobedience no more!



The Blessed Weak

“If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”— 2 Corinthians 11:30 (ESV)

The gospel has a unique way of turning our culture on its head. It elevates what our culture degrades and degrades what our culture elevates.
One of the things our culture elevates is strength.
We love to be strong. It’s hardwired in our system to always swirl the ball from weakness to strength.
What we naturally do is find areas where we are better than others, what economists call the ‘comparative advantage’, and use that to manipulate others, buy favours from them and ultimately control them.
It may be your knowledge in a particular field, it may be an education, knowledge of doctrine, the number of years you have been a Christian, a political office you hold, your place in the family, financial status, name it. We will naturally craft strength and power according to the things where we have an advantage over others.
St. Paul had also done the same many years before us. He had persecuted the early followers of Christ, the ones they called “the Way”. Not just that, he had been on the team that successfully executed Stephen with the help of sharp desert rocks (Acts 7:54-60; 22:20)
Paul had developed a reputation because he had learned at the feet of the best theologians of his day, unlike the people who followed The Way. To him, they were unlearned, weak, poor, dirty and smelt like fish (most of these men had been fishermen).
Then, God wrecked him. God took away his power, trashed what he had learned at the feet of Gameliel (Acts 22:3) and turned the High Priest and the Council of Elders against him.
Paul, the hunter, now became Paul the hunted. At this moment when Paul was weak, God started to use him.
Strong people don’t need a Saviour. They can always craft a saviour from their doctorates, medical degrees, political offices, theology, money, spouses, and children among others.
Weak people on the other hand are those who have been driven to despair by God. They have learned the hard way that there is no salvation in things smaller than Jesus, and much less their zeal for God. Out of their weakness, God has drawn them to Himself and has become their help.
In the gospel accounts, all the people Jesus delivered are those who admitted their weakness and how they couldn’t do it on their own. They had lost hope in what this world had to offer and fell at the feet of Him who is the resurrection and the life.
They found hope in Christ alone who came to do for them what they had failed to do for themselves. And in him, they found deliverance and strength. Not their own but His.
Paul, at a deeper level, knew what it meant to admit weak when he wrote to the messed up church in Corinth:

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, ESV).

Friend, there is tremendous freedom in admitting weakness. God is for weak, lowly, poor, losers, dirt-ridden, arrogant beggars who know it. If you are one of these, you have a Saviour in Jesus Christ who is your strength.


That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Dead People don’t Swallow Aspirin

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses…”—Colossians 2:13 (ESV).

There is a big difference between being sick and being dead.

That sounds awfully obvious but not to a Christian.

To this effect, the difference needs to be drilled into the bone marrow of every Christian with the drill bit of the highest caliber, with the intensity that spells calamity to all our sensibilities.

Whereas a sick person may heed the doctor’s instruction to climb up on the bed to take an injection, swallow some aspirin, or greater still, take the cup of water to slide the aspirin down his throat, dead people, on the other hand, don’t work well with instructions.

For some reason, dead people seem to have their own agendas. They can’t even hear us as we mourn losing them. Dead people just don’t work on projects.

What needs to be drilled into our bones is the fact that our pre-Christian condition is one of deadness, not sickness. Before you came to the faith, you were dead. You were dead to God, dead to His Law, dead to his righteousness. Dead to anything of His.

The false notion of cooperation theology is that we are only sick, with may be a headache, and what the gospel does is offer us some aspirin which we reach out to get, swallow and have a glass of water slide it down our throat. The challenge with this idea of us “helping God out in our salvation project” is that it is not biblical.

We are dead and salvation is God bringing us back to life:

“Sing oh sing of my Redeemer / With His blood He purchased me / He from death to li fe He brought me / Son of God with Him to be.”

Paul himself writes:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9, ESV)

He re-echoes it again:

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” (Colossians 2:13-15, ESV)

People who think they are only sick, do not see a Saviour as their everything. In fact they will contend that, in salvation, Christ plays His part and they also play theirs. “You have a responsibility”, they always quip.

But to the spiritually dead, to those who can’t lift a finger, there is Good News, and Robert Capon puts it better:

“The only reason the church cannot rise from its moribund condition is that it will not die–that for as long as it tries to hang on to the life it thinks it has, it will never enjoy the gift of resurrection from the dead that God gives it in Jesus. “Jesus came to raise the dead,” he said–not to teach the teachable, reform the reformable, or improve the improvable.”

Salvation is God’s gift to you, His resurrection for you, His life for you and all this comes to you passively. Your sweat, blood and tears never enter the case, all is God from beginning to end.

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

Flawesomeness and Creating Loveable People

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”—Romans 5:6 (ESV)
Are you ugly?
Have you heard of the word flawesome?
I bet you are reading the word for the first time, but a flawesome individual is one ‘who embraces their flaws and knows they are awesome regardless’.
To be flawesome is to dig deep to generate love for something that is unloveable. Such people will love their ugly finger nails because they have convinced themselves that the nails are not actually ugly.
In other words, this is trying to find the reason for love in the object of love itself. Let me explain: the flawesome loves because the other person is loveable, better still they try to make them loveable.
Locating the reason for love in the object of love itself is what ruins our relationships. It’s no surprise that our relationships are shoddy. If you asked two lovebirds why they love each other, you will hear them scoop out their lover’s attributes as if they are filling an ice cream cone.
This may sound good but therein rests the tragedy. What if you woke up one morning and those attributes have vanished from the person you say you love, will you still love them? You won’t. And don’t try to say that you will try because we all know you won’t.
The lovelessness, mockery, hate, and chaos that happen under the sun are because we try to find a reason to love people in the very people we are trying to love. In the end, when we have found none, the whining sets in.
St Paul wrote in Romans 5:6 that while we were powerless, Christ died for us. But he did more than that, he also told us why Christ had to die our death. It’s obvious that the reason has nothing to do with us, because he quickly bursts our bubble before we even claim the bragging rights: we were powerless.
In the same chapter, the eighth verse he writes: but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Paul locates Jesus’ reason for loving and dying for us in Jesus Himself: “…but God shows his love for us in that…”If Christ was to look for a reason in us to come down here and save us, there would be no salvation.
If we are to genuinely love people, we will need a shift in paradigm. We will have to stop looking for a reason in the people we should love, but above all, fixing people in order to produce in them the robots that we will love should be thrown out of the window once and for all.
The reason we love people is outside of them and outside of us as well. St John writes: We love because he first loved us(1 John 4:19, ESV). It is love that begets love; reasons don’t produce love.
You are loved by God, make that your singular focus and it will produce in you a love so fierce, hopeless, reckless and illogical; a love that will leave the world dumb-struck and standing on its head.
That is your Lifeline, AMEN


In His Grip

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself.” —2 Timothy 2:13 (ESV)

After the anxious heart has accepted the doctrine of atonement, and learned the great truth that salvation is by faith in the Lord Jesus, it is often sore troubled with a sense of inability toward that which is good.

Many are groaning, “I can do nothing.” They are not making this into an excuse, but they feel it as a daily burden. They would if they could. They can each one honestly say, “To will is present with me, but how to perform that which I would I find not.”

This feeling seems to make all the gospel null and void; for what is the use of food to a hungry man if he cannot get at it? Of what avail is the river of the water of life if one cannot drink? We recall the story of the doctor and the poor woman’s child. The sage practitioner told the mother that her little one would soon be better under proper treatment, but it was absolutely needful that her boy should regularly drink the best wine, and that he should spend a season at one of the German spas. This, to a widow who could hardly get bread to eat!

Now, it sometimes seems to the troubled heart that the simple gospel of “Believe and live,” is not, after all, so very simple; for it asks the poor sinner to do what he cannot do.

To the really awakened, but half instructed, there appears to be a missing link; yonder is the salvation of Jesus, but how is it to be reached? The soul is without strength, and knows not what to do. It lies within sight of the city of refuge, and cannot enter its gate.

Is this want of strength provided for in the plan of salvation? It is. The work of the Lord is perfect. It begins where we are, and asks nothing of us in order to its completion. When the Good Samaritan saw the traveler lying wounded and half dead, he did not bid him rise and come to him, and mount the ass and ride off to the inn. No, “he came where he was,” and ministered to him, and lifted him upon the beast and bore him to the inn.

Thus does the Lord Jesus deal with us in our low and wretched state.

(This week’s devotion is adopted from Charles H. Spurgeon’s “All of Grace”, chapter 11 titled “Alas! I can do Nothing!”)

Taking Matters into Our Own Hands

“When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. As for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.””— Exodus 32:1 (ESV)

Have you heard about the ‘Devil’s Trinity’? I first heard the phrase from Dr. Steve Brown when he was teaching through Romans 5, as part of his series “The Roman Road to Grace” about two years ago. The Devil’s Trinity is: fear, guilt and shame. Those are the three bullets in his gun.

Let me tease this out for you: guilt happens internally, inside one’s heart. When that guilt flows from inside us and out into community, it becomes shame. Shame in the eyes of others will then breed fear. Then out of fear, we will devise a self-salvation project to ‘conquer’ this fear.

That is how addictions are born. Because at the heart of every addiction is a deeper addiction to self-salvation. We do what Sports Company Nikesays, “Just do it!” An addiction is when we take matters into our own hands in order to atone for our sin by doing more, trying harder or getting better.

The Protestant Reformer, Martin Luther once wrote:

“The sin underneath all our sins is to trust the lie of the serpent that we cannot trust the love and grace of Christ and must take matters into our own hands.”

We need not go far. Let us look at the simple things like the need for respect. Gerhard is my guy, for the first time, he goes to bible study on Tuesday evening. He sees some great sports cars in the parking lot. Since he doesn’t have one, guilt sets in and Gerhard starts feeling inferior to everyone else.

He will then in the coming weeks look at his not having a sports car as shame. He will conceive in his head thoughts of being belittled, thinking that everyone in the bible study group is talking about him and his lack of a sports car. When he sees a group of three men having a chat and laughing, he thinks they are laughing about his ‘situation’.

Now in order to save his skin, Gerhard will get to work. He will do more, try harder and even try to get better. He will put in some extra hours at work, get to work before anyone else, stay up late or even get a night part-time job.

What is driving Gerhard is not the sports car, don’t be fooled. It is his craving for respect and approval in his bible study class. He is addicted to respect and approval that he will do anything to earn it by his sweat, blood and tears. And we can now officially call Gerhard an addict. At least am not alone, phew!

Addictions are deeper than we can dare imagine. There is no such thing as addiction to money, you are only addicted to what that money can get you: power, control, honour, identity, approval etcetera. There is no such thing as addiction to sex, you are only addicted to what the sex can get you: it may be a sense of fulfillment or something else, I don’t know.

Satan is not a fool. He is the master of cover-ups. He knows, just like God, that we are since Adam a generation of do-it-yourselfers. He knows that we will try to fix our addictions with therapy and life coaching or self-help, so he hides our addictions beneath layers and layers of even stronger addictions.

Our past sins haunt us. But the thought of those sins being brought to light even drives us bananas. Yet, every soul under the sun longs for justification—and the forgiveness of sins. Regardless of where we go to find that justification, everyone longs for it.

Someone, I don’t know who, has said that when a man knocks at the door of a harlot, they are looking for God. And it’s true, because what they are looking for in the golden calf—in this case the harlot—only God can provide.

Our hearts deep down shout “Maranatha”—come back Lord and put things back in order (Romans 8:22-23). Every one of us.

The gospel is the announcement of Good News. A huge banner stands over the hill, against the hurling winds, reading: “It is finished”, and inviting everyone to rest under that very banner. You are loved, forgiven (even your sin of endlessly curving gods of just about anything), justified, approved of and accepted by God because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for you.

It is an announcement that God has taken matters into His own hands and dealt with the Devil on your behalf (Col. 2:15). That you don’t have to look for justification and atonement for your sin in mere created things which can’t guarantee life. That your forgiveness can’t be bettered by rightdoing, spoilt by wrongdoing or taken away by stains of sin. You are in forever! (Romans 8:38-39).

God now bids you take the gift of free salvation. Open it and gaze on it daily as you are reminded that everything you need, in Christ Jesus alone you already have. The pressure is off, let the rest set in. IT IS FINISHED.

That is your Lifeline, AMEN.

One Story: Types and Shadows from the Beginning

If the Old Testament tells One Story, then it follows that all the people, events, and themes we read about in the OT are but “types and shadows” of the good things that would come (Romans 5:14; Colossians 2:17; Hebrews 8:5; 10;1). Jesus himself says that these good things concern Him alone (Luke 24:27; John 5:39).

What we are going to do this week is talk about these “shadows and types” as a set up for Genesis 3 and onwards.

Eden, the Temple Garden—God’s Footstool

Genesis 3:8 introduces us to the notion of God walking through the garden. This time He does it in the evening. The feet of the Creator of all things making contact with the soils of this earth as they stamp under His feet the dry leaves that litter the garden is a sign of God’s sovereignty.

If heaven is God’s throne, then the earth is his footstool (1 Chronicles 28:2; Psalm 99:5; 132:7; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1). He is Lord here and above. It is here that God’s glory and presence are, where other than in the temple would have the presence and glory of God reside?

Adam is created by grace

After lavishing grace on the monsters and all the plants, God bestows an even bigger grace on Adam. Out of His own pleasure, He makes man after his own likeness (Gen. 1:26). Adam has nothing to do with his own creation, he has no say, no referendum was held, just God lavishing His love of man.

Here, transactionalism doesn’t enter into the case; Adam is just a recipient of what God gives. Just like we receive God’s gifts, the hard work that is required of Adam is to open his hands (or nostrils, which he can’t do by himself!) and receive the breath of life that God gives. This is reminiscent of the Lord’s Supper in the upper room and the words we hear on Sunday morning: “Take, eat; this is my body” (Matt 26:26). That is how Adam receives his life, that is how we receive our lives, by grace as a free gift of God apart from what we do (Luke 12:32). He is “mercy” like it’s said in the prayer of humble access:

But you are the same Lord,

Whose nature is always to have mercy.

Adam, the High Priest

What would be of a temple without a High priest? Adam as a created being was given a charge to rule over the created things. That was his first act of worship as the one in charge of worship. In fact, Thomas Merton writes and says:

“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak, to [God’s] creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree.”

His point is that the created things worship and glorify God by being and flourishing in their original God-intended state. When an apple tree starts bearing mangoes, then it has disobeyed. Its charge was to bear apples not mangoes. So was Adam, his act of worship was to be Adam—highest and ruler among the created but lower than the Creator.

When Adam is given the world to enjoy for the glory of God (Genesis 1:28-30), he takes charge seriously by naming the animals (2:20). This is his first act of worship in God’s temple garden. Vocation should never replace worship; it should always be an act of worship. In the things we do every day, we carry out our God-given functions, and that is how grace is dispensed in the work place—Coram Mundo. The point is: in whatever you do, God has put you there for His glory alone. Things begin to get messy when we start seeking our own glory in these little things that can give none of it to us.

Adam, God’s Prophet

Prophets, easily defined, are people ordained by God to speak for Him. He heard from God directly (Gen 1:28-30), and went to carry out ministry as the Lord had spoken (Gen 2:19-20). It is of utmost importance to point out that unlike the other prophets that come after him, Adam had a natural ability to fully and perfectly keep God’s Law, although it doesn’t last long.

Adam, the first Christ?

This is not the first time that I am stirring up controversy, and it won’t be the last. But on this point, the now dead Anglican theologian Robert Capon in his book Genesis the Movie had raised the question: “If Christ can be the last Adam, why can’t Adam be the first sacramental appearance (the first real presence) of Christ in the movie?”

Using Paul and the preacher of Hebrews who both bring forth the notion of “types and shadows,” then Adam is the first type or shadow of Christ just like Christ is the Last and better Adam. With this notion, all the OT characters are a type of Christ, and therefore Jesus is the better Version of them who does what they couldn’t do. This is how Jesus encourages us to read the OT, to see in these characters a shadow of Him and how he fully and finally does what they all couldn’t do.

Adam and Christ

Starting next week, we will be developing this idea of Christ being “the last Adam.” But even now, in these first two chapters of Genesis, we see a semblance between Adam and Christ (although this picture becomes full blown from Genesis 3 and going ahead).

Jesus Christ is the last and better Adam because the first Adam couldn’t get his act together. Christ is a better High priest in the order of Melchizedek whose one perfect sacrifice takes away the sins of the world for once (Hebrews 4:14).

Better still, unlike Adam who was created above all created things, Jesus was given a name above all and exalted to the highest of places and one day every knee shall bow before him and declare His Lordship (Phil 2:9-11).

Whereas Adam spoke God’s first word—that of naming the created things; Jesus Christ spoke God’s last word—it is finished. Christ is the Yes and amen of God’s promises (2 Cor. 1:20).

As I close, let me state that one of our greatest sins is to treat these “shadows and types” as if they are the real thing. In the real world, shadows are a representation of the real thing but cannot do what the real thing does. You can’t drive a shadow of your car, can you? But the shadows are in themselves Good News because they are a promise of a future gaze. When you look at a shadow, then the real thing is nearby. I will close with this quote from John Piper:

“Raking is easy, but all you get is leaves; digging is hard, but you might find diamonds.”

Keep digging,


One Story: Concerning Himself

One of the most rewarding marks of a Christian is to be able to read the Old Testament for all its worth. This series titled “One Story” is prepared for just that. As we go through a number of Old Testament passages, we will see one thing: That the bible does not tell so many stories, but it tells one story in so many different ways.

The best place to start is Luke 24:13-35. The Emmaus Road experience. The reason we are starting here is two-fold: it is in this passage of scripture that we see how we wrongly read the Old Testament, and two, Jesus Himself in this same passage teaches how to read the Old Testament.

Two sad disciples are walking down to Emmaus when Jesus meets them, but they are kept from seeing Him. He asks them what they are talking about:

18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19 And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and pall the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

“28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going.  He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other,  “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?””—Luke 24:18-32 (ESV).

Before we delve into what Jesus teaches us about reading the OT, it is important that we understand how we read it today. This very passage does that very well.

The OT (and the entire Bible) in our churches today is read as if it is about us—helping us attain our best life now with a little help from God. Just like these two men who thought that Jesus was coming to establish a Kingdom on earth when they said: “But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (v 21b). Their Kind of story was one in which they were the main cast, and Jesus played a supporting role who only came in to swing His magic wand when the need arose. To be more specific, there are majorly two dangerous ways in which we approach the Old Testament.

One, Moralism. For the most part, I grew up being told that the stories in the OT were meant to be examples for me to learn from. Don’t get me wrong, the Bible has a lot of examples we should learn from, but that is not the primary reason those stories are there. Abraham’s faith, Noah’s obedience, Moses’s stewardship, Joshua’s leadership, Gideon’s courage, etc. all these stories are not there make us good people, of moral astuteness. Sermons and books about how to “sly the heads off the giants in your life like David” are all too common, but they miss the story. In fact, moralism and legalism that plague the church to this day is because nearly everyone has been taught to read the Bible this way. In the end, it is our goodness, instead of Jesus’ cross and blood that we front in the hope that we will be justified.

Two, self-help. We live in a self-help culture, not just that, we are all natural born do-it-yourselfers since Genesis 3. This habit tends to creep into our bible reading when we to look for social and cultural cues in our bibles so that we will implement them for a smoother living. “Give me some biblical principles on how I can get out of debt,” then “Seven steps to Christian growth.” These are all too common. To stress this even more, our churches today are more inclined to the culture than they are to our sin problem and its atonement. Sermons are about “Raising obedient kids,” “Managing finances,” “Motivation,” “Tribalism and Racialism” etc. and ‘experts’ are brought to teach on these, using the bible as a manual. This is no different from yoga and other Zen habits.

This way of bible reading is popular because it puts us in the driving seat and hands all the control to us to make up a kind of god who will specifically meet our unique needs using our own methods on our terms—a custom made God! When we do this, we make the entire bible about us and our betterment (the evangelical word used here is transformation).

At the core, this kind of bible reading and study showcases the Christian, not the Christ.

When we bring this mind-set to Bible reading, we will miss Jesus just like the two guys on the Emmaus road. Our eyes will be closed so that we will only see ourselves in the story, instead of seeing the promised and presented Messiah—the one God intends for us to see.

Another thing that I need to point out is Jesus’ initial response “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (v. 25). Paul in Romans 10:17 writes that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Truth (Law and Gospel) alone, there was no way these guys would receive faith to believe in anything. What they had read from their bibles was not the “Word of Truth,” they were instead preoccupied with their selfish desires of political independence, self-improvement, and deafening grandeur. What we glean from here is that if we are ever going to receive the gift of faith from God, we must hear the gospel, not ourselves; His story, not our story; one story not many stories. Because it is by His gospel, not in our fantasies that we are granted God’s gift of faith.

Have you heard people say that majority of Jesus’ teaching is about money, so God wants us to be rich? I don’t think that is so. The reason Jesus uses money in His illustrations and parables, I believe, is because money is the only language all the perverted generations after Adam actually speak. If there is anything that will ‘turn on’ the human mind, its money. But money, just like any other created thing is never the thing. This is how C. S. Lewis puts it:

“These things – the beauty, the memory of our own past – are good images of what we really desire but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never visited.”

Now the question is: How are we to read the bible? My short answer would be Luke 24:27! “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” [my emphasis] That’s it. Concerning Himself.

In the next couple of weeks we will be locating Jesus in the accounts of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Red Sea, Passover, the giving of the Law, Samson, Esther, and many other Old Testament characters and events. That is the only right way to read the OT according to Jesus.

All scripture concerns Jesus. Not us and how to attain our best life now, but Jesus. Matthew Henry in his commentary writes: “A golden thread of gospel grace runs through the whole web of the Old Testament.” As readers of the Bible, we should be able, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to see Jesus on every page of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.

We cannot afford to see the Old and New Testaments separately. They are one by the same author (2 Tim 3:16). To Alec Motyer, an Old Testament theologian, the bible is “… a book with the answers at the back.” While the Old Testament promises the Saviour, the New Testament presents the Saviour.

The Old Testament is a canvas on which God begins to draw a sketch, even though unclear to us, it is the foundation of a more Beautiful picture that God completes in the New Testament—the picture of Himself.

That is the picture God wants us to see in His story, that one picture will make our “our hearts burn within us” with joy unspeakable. The joy of being found by the Saviour Himself. In the end, the OT like the NT announces our deliverance from the bondage of sin and its power.

Therefore Old Testament is neither a moral guide nor self-help manual, it is God’s announcement that He reached down into our sin, became the very thing that was killing us in order to save us from that very death we brought to ourselves (2 Cor. 5:21). It is a story in which Jesus; the main Character comes to save us. This is Jesus’ story.

I pray that Jesus will be revealed to us as we navigate the Old Testament terrain, may we see Jesus and Him only. AMEN

You can’t Get Out

As concerns the first two chapters of Genesis, one of the revealing things is that the ‘state of affairs’ is nice and dandy. It is the perfect Triune God speaking His creation into being, perfectly. Then the door opens on chapter three. The title its self is telling: ‘The Fall.’

Genesis 3 is the apex of the human problem. Man and his wife rebel against the one who made them and whom they owe not just their breath but also their being. On the surface, it’s just a simple act of disobedience. “God will understand”, some will say. But most times things are never what they look like. This is one of those times.

Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil does not give you the ‘knowledge of good and evil’. Ask Adam and Eve. And it doesn’t make one a god either, maybe a little ‘unhappy god’ who lacks even the dimmest of powers such as to conjure a smile to light up his ever frowned face.

The Old Testament theologian and author Alec Motyer has remarked that the knowledge of good and evil is not just knowing what is good or bad, but is to the best part deciding what is good or bad. This is where our problems begin. We all want to be right, yet we cannot because we have all developed little mental pictures of what right is based on dwarf ideas of religion, class, caste, tribe, political affiliation, profession and many other of those man-made ideas. 

We now have a man who, instead of depending on God, loves his independence as he loves himself. See how this came into play almost instantly:
And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, what is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat (Gen 3:12-13, KJV).

Adam is pushing the blame to his wife, and the wife does the same by also pushing the blame further towards the serpent. Doesn’t this describe all of us? We crave credit but at the same time dread blame. Rebellion has brought man this far from God and into himself. He is now the ‘center of it all’. What at first was ‘man in the image of God’ is now ‘god in the image of man.’ Man is now his own self-made god. According to one author, man is now ‘using God-created faculties in an anti-God mode.’

Paul, in Romans chapter three puts this problem into perspective:
As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:
There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.
They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:
Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:
Their feet are swift to shed blood:
Destruction and misery are in their ways:
And the way of peace have they not known:
There is no fear of God before their eyes (Romans 3:10-18)

A story is told of a drunk who was staggering home late on a rainy night. As he was passing through the cemetery, he fell into a freshly dug grave. He tried to climb out but to no avail as the walls were slippery. Then another drunk who was taking the same route fell into the same grave. Now there are two drunken guys in one grave.

This second guy tried to get himself out as the guy who fell in first gave him some attention. He quickly opened his mouth and said: “You can’t get out man!” How is that for motivation?

This is where all of us find ourselves—in the middle of a freshly dug grave called sin. Getting out is impossible until someone will come and pull us out from the outside. But the truth is some of us still enjoy the grave, while others don’t know how they got into the grave in the first place.

Amidst judgment, there comes good news. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head […] (Genesis 3:15).” God’s rescue of sinners comes amidst judgment. God is so overflowing with love and compassion. He loves rebels even in their rebellion. “[Love her] as the Lord loves the Israelites, though they turn to other gods and love sacred raisin cakes (Hosea 3:1b, NIV).”

The Good News of the gospel is that God saves sinners—real sinners—not nominal ones. For a sinner out there, this is not just music to the ears but good music to the ears that have neglected their responsibility of hearing.

Isaiah in chapter sixty-one foretells the day of the Lord’s favour, when the Messiah promised in Genesis 3:15 will come and what He will do. He is coming to; Isaiah writes in verse one, “bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
The salvation of the Lord comes from outside, for you and me. It’s a gift to everyone. And He surely accomplishes what He comes to do. “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible (Matt 19:26).”

This is why Christmas is such good news. It is not just a fulfillment of the promise by God but also the ushering in of liberty and redemption. Christmas is the Father’s “I love you” to our “we don’t need You.” God comes, climbs down into the grave and gets the drunks out without them doing anything to merit the rescue, or tip the rescuer. Christmas is God getting us out and winning us to Himself.