Posted in Book Reviews, Faith

Book Review: Am I Truly Saved? by John Musyimi

I have been a Christian for almost 15 years now, give or take. The thing is, I am not always sure I am a Christian. I am also not sure if the first time I raised my hand and “gave my life to Christ” was really the time I got “born again.” I am not even sure if the second time I did it was the one… or the third time I did it.

I don’t know about you, but I sometimes have doubts. Something tells me that most of you are doubters too, secretly. Yet that does not worry me as much as the fact that many of us can be so sure that we are saved.

But should we be so sure? Can we?

John Musyimi believes we should, and w can. But he also believes that not everyone who is sure they are saved, is saved. Our certainty must have the right basis, and Musyimi sets out to show us that basis.

In his second book (or his first booklet), John Musyimi, a pastor at Mamlaka Hill Chapel (when he wrote the book), lays out a six-point diagnostic tool that Christians can use to check “whether you are in the faith”. He appeals to his namesake, the Apostle John, for a guideline on how we may gain assurance that we are “really” and truly born-again.

Now, I think what Musyimi is attempting to do in this booklet is quite dangerous. It may easily go either way. Many teachers who have set out to assure Christians of their salvation have ended up increasing the doubts of those Christians, and those who’ve sought to reduce those doubts have ended up shipwrecking the faith of their hearers.

There’s no denying that this is a dicey topic, and one that must be approached with utmost care and wisdom. Fortunately, John Musyimi does just that, to the best of his ability.

The six tests mined from 1 John are real gems:

  1. Obedience – if you are truly saved, you will keep God’s commandments.
  2. Affection– if you are truly saved, you will love the brothers.
  3. Separation – if you are truly saved, you will have decreasing love for the world.
  4. Faith – if you are truly saved, you will believe in Jesus Christ.
  5. Holiness – if you are truly saved, you will experience increasing victory over sin.
  6. Spiritual – if you are truly saved, you will show evidence of the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.

I have a confession to make: I didn’t make the cut. Not on all the six tests. I seriously flunked on test number 2 (affection). I struggle with affection for the brethren. Most of the time, I just don’t like to be bothered. I really have to “push myself” to care, and that is just how it is… at least for now.
Sounds bad, doesn’t it? Furthermore, it’s not that I am doing so well on the other tests anyway. And this is where Musyimi’s booklet proved quite helpful. What if we fail the test? What if we realise that we don’t always obey, we don’t love as we ought, and our battle against sin often seems like a losing one?

Thankfully, Musyimi anticipates those questions, and that is why he is careful to approach the tests with a subtlety that might be missed by most. Throughout the manual, you will find such statements as “inclined to” (help brothers)”, “decreasing love” (for the world), and “increasing victory” (over sin) just to name a few.

These are POSTURE phrases, not POSITION phrases.

The author, like the Bible, is aware that he is addressing men, not machines. We change, and the best change is a growth kind of change. The proof of our salvation is not in where we are in the journey but in which direction we are facing (heading), and Musyimi is careful to point this out.

One last thing, what if we find out that we are facing the wrong direction? What if our love for the world is increasing while our love for the brethren is decreasing decreasing? Is this a valid reason to throw in the towel and say goodbye to this “salvation thing”?

Absolutely not! It turns out that this realization is one of the best news you could have received all your life! As Musyimi puts it, realizing this deficiency in your life is actually “a sign of God’s mercy upon you!”

Get your hear examined today. Your life may just depend on it.

Posted in The 4th Dimension

When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing

“What matters is that you are sincere” sounds like good advise, and it is, as we shall see in a moment. But it can also be the worst advise to give anyone. God does, indeed, want us to be sincere about what we do. A common dictionary definition of sincere is “free from pretense or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings”. It is wrong to be pretentious and deceitful. We must always strive to be genuine, honest, in other words, sincere. Integrity.

Photo credit: genius.com
Photo credit: genius.com

But what if being true to who we are involves doing something that is hurtful and unkind and unloving? What if I genuinely don’t care about the homeless and the sick? Should I be sincere even then? Would it be pretentious to “do” caring things to such people because that is “the right thing to do”? Such questions lead us to something that often goes un-examined when we talk about “being sincere”: It matters what we are being sincere about. In other words, our personal feelings are not the ultimate standard of what is right or wrong. We are not automatically doing right just because we are doing what we feel like doing. There seems to be a standard of right or wrong, outside of our feelings.

Does this, then, mean that our feelings don’t matter? No. It only means that our feelings are Continue reading “When Being Honest and Sincere is a Bad Thing”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

The Day Someone Shared the Gospel With Me

cornell vic poa place I don’t know where it came from, but it finally arrived. In fact, I think it has always been there, though I chose to ignore it. But it was there. And it was real. I am talking about something that exists in all of us, believer or not, born-again or not. It is the desire to live for something greater than ourselves. The need to worship. The yearning for something out of this world. Something more powerful, more important than we are. It is what keeps us going. Something that sets the standards and the stage. What gives our life meaning and a purpose. This is God calling us. It is God drawing us and nudging us, the chosen, towards Him.

I realized that I had a desire to worship. I acknowledged the existence of a supernatural being that held everything together. Everything on earth that I thought would sustain and satisfy me had let me down. Wealth had dumped me. Fame had worn me out and the search for approval had grown stale. I never contemplated alcohol or drugs (all by Grace, now in hindsight). I guess my need was more intellectual than emotional. No philosophy could make my mind content. No. This world just didn’t have the answers. Continue reading “The Day Someone Shared the Gospel With Me”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

How God Redeems Culture

God was sitting in heaven one day when a scientist said to Him,  “God, we don’t need you anymore. Science has finally figured out a way to create life out of nothing – in other words, we can now do what you did in the beginning.”

“Oh, is that so? Explain…” replies God.  “Well,” says the scientist, “we can take dirt and form it into the likeness of you and breathe life into it, thus creating man.”

“Well, that’s very interesting… show Me.”

So the scientist bends down to the earth and starts to mold the soil into the shape of a man.  “No, no, no…” interrupts God, “Get your own dirt.”

This popular joke communicates volumes about how God deals with His own creation. It was only the other day that I found this classic joke to be illustrative of a fundamental truth about how God redeems culture. Abraham Kuyper once remarked, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!” With this thought in mind, I decided to trace out some examples in the Bible where we see God taking a cultural practice and “redeems” it to serve His own purpose and to glorify Himself. In my study, I have come to the realization that the whole universe is one great metaphor. It is like a divine analogy of God’s glory; a transcendent illustration of God’s great design.

Even so, the problem with analogies, pictures and illustrations is that they are not the real thing. The best they can do is point to reality. But they are not the reality themselves. For instance, when I say, “My God is a mighty fortress”, I am using the fortress as a metaphor. God is like a mighty fortress. However, a fortress is not God, neither is a fortress like God. One is the metaphor of the other, never vice versa. God is the ultimate reality. It is important to maintain this distinction in our efforts to engage and redeem the culture around us. The following are a few examples of how God appears to have done it, as gleaned from the Bible: Continue reading “How God Redeems Culture”

Posted in Music Reviews

Lyrical Review: Mateke by Size 8 […And Some Tips for the Artist]

The popular local secular singer/actress, Size 8, finally “came out” and confessed that she has been a Christian for a while. For a long time, she had struggled with the apparent contradiction between her music and her faith, and she finally decided to make the switch. As she explains in a recent interview, “I have been born again for quite some time and my songs were in conflict with my faith. As much as I was making big cash and commanding a massive fan base, my heart was not at peace.”

There has been a myriad of reactions concerning her announcement. The pendulum swings from skeptics (believers and unbelievers) who are convinced that she is only in it for the money in Gospel music; to the other extreme of Christians who are unreservedly celebrating the entrance of one more lost soul into the Kingdom. There’s also an apprehensive minority who have chosen to reserve their comments, wait it out and see if Size 8’s new found faith will stand the test of time.

If you’re wondering where I stand in that spectrum, I think these words from Paul best describe my current stand: Continue reading “Lyrical Review: Mateke by Size 8 […And Some Tips for the Artist]”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Be It Unto Me According To Your Word

I am currently reading Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality and this book is just overflowing with timeless gems of truth about the Christian’s walk with Christ. I came across this illustration and  had to share it with you. Schaeffer revisits the story of angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary and shows us how Mary’s response ought to be the response of every believer upon hearing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. What is your response? Are you born again?

The angel has come to Mary and says: “Mary, you are going to give birth to the long-promised Messiah.” This was a unique promise, and unrepeatable. There is something totally unique here: the birth of the eternal second Person of the Trinity into this world. What is her response? The Holy Spirit, we are told, is to cause a conception in her womb. It seems to me that she could have made three responses…

1. She could have rejected the idea and said, “I do not want it; I want to withdraw; I want to run. What would Joseph say?” And we know what Joseph thought later. Humanly, we could not blame her if she felt this way. But she did not say this.

2. Second… she could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.” But with this response she never would have had the child. She could not bring forth a child without a man, by her own will, any more than any other girl could do.

3. But there was a third thing she could say. It is beautiful, it is wonderful. She says: “Behold, the bondmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

There is an active passivity here. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, with her body, to God. In response to the promise, yes; but not to do it herself. This is a beautiful, exciting, personal expression of a relationship between a finite person and the God she loves. This is an illustration of our being the bride of Christ.

Indeed, God could have just planted the seed in Mary’s womb and not need to make any verbal promise or announcement. But the truth is that God was pleased to pay Mary a visit and proclaim the Good News to her. Let this be an example of how our attitude should be concerning evangelism. We need to go out and proclaim this news. In the same way, there are various ways Mary could have responded. But only one response was valid, and only one response revealed true faith. In the same way, there is only one response that is a response of faith, may this be our response, “Be it unto me, according to your word.”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Much Ado About Resurrection

For a long time in my Christian walk, I honestly didn’t get the resurrection of Christ. I confess that I am still not quite sure that I truly grasp it . What I mean is that I didn’t get what the “big deal” was regarding the resurrection, and why it must be included in our Gospel confession. I “got” why Jesus had to come to earth as a human being, I “got” why he was born of a virgin, why he lived a sinless life and died on the Cross.

But that’s where the story ended for me.

The resurrection just didn’t square with my understanding of the Gospel. It was like an awkward, almost unnecessary addition to the essentials of the Gospel. To me, the resurrection of Jesus was no more significant than the resurrection of Lazarus. It was just one more miracle. The big deal was the death of Christ, not His resurrection.

I doubt that I am alone in this boat. I am sure that many of us are (or have been) “conformists” when it comes to incorporating the place of resurrection in our Gospel messages. For many of us, we have noticed that the Bible includes the resurrection as part of the “essentials” package of what one must believe to be saved. We have noticed great Bible teachers emphasizing it in their sermons about the Gospel.

But we don’t quite get it. Continue reading “Much Ado About Resurrection”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

How To Change God’s Mind

You’ve probably come across those passages in the Bible where God changes His mind after a prophet intercedes for the Israelites. Maybe you’ve even been part of discussions about how to reconcile such passages with those other passages that explicitly say God does not repent, or change His mind. Two common solutions have been proposed. Most liberals and open theists have settled for a smaller God, a God whose will conforms to ours. They have settled for a God who reacts to new information. A God whose actions are determined by our “free will”. An Arminian God, if you like. But others have sought to preserve God’s sovereignty in the face of this apparent contradiction. And the most common solution to the puzzle can be summarized in these words by R. C. Sproul:

“I think that what we have here is the mystery of providence whereby God ordains not only the ends of things that come to pass but also the means. God sets forth principles in the Bible where he gives threats of judgment to motivate his people to repentance. Sometimes he spells out specifically, “But if you repent, I will not carry out the threat.” He doesn’t always add that qualifier, but it’s there. I think this is one of those instances. It was tacitly understood that God threatens judgment upon these people, but if somebody pleads for them in a priestly way, he will give grace rather than justice. I think that’s at the heart of that mystery.”

While I do believe that this is the right way to handle the mystery, I was thinking about this issue last night and I noticed something that I’d never noticed before. Continue reading “How To Change God’s Mind”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Jesus Did Not Cast The First Stone

It is a familiar passage. One that almost every Christian has become well acquainted with. A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus, to serve as bait. The pharisees and the scribes wanted to see if Jesus is going to break the Law of Moses. He seems to have broken too many laws by now. Working (healing) on Sabbath, eating and drinking with sinners… among others. Somehow, he has managed to cleverly get himself out of their entrapment tricks. But this is a big one. To speak against a law that required capital punishment would be outright heresy. There is no way that Jesus was possibly going to get himself out of this one. The law was black and white on adultery. Jesus had to agree with the law on this one:

They said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.

And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.

Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” [John 8:4-11] Continue reading “Jesus Did Not Cast The First Stone”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Disciples or Converts – Is There a Difference?

discipleship21As far as my formal Christianity is concerned, I come from a baptist background. As baptists, we have a tendency to describe things in categories and outline commands in action-points. This does not always work well for us. While such a cautious approach to the Christian walk protects many of us from error, it does not always work out as planned. A lot of confusion that tends to happen between the teaching phase and the application phase of “doing” church or group bible studies. One confused notion that I used to hold for a long time, yet never paid much mind to, was that there is a difference between a convert and a disciple of Christ. Continue reading “Disciples or Converts – Is There a Difference?”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Blog Break (6 Feb 13)

Here we go:

  1. HOW CAN I SELL A GODLY MESSAGE WITHOUT SELLING OUT? is an answer to my own prayer and question. I’d just put up the post on “My Blogging Idolatry” when I came across this post. Mark Driscoll responds to the concern of every Christian blogger who strives to remain faithful to God, relevant to his readers while at the same time resisting the temptation to create a buzz for the sake of a buzz. “Guard against false prophets in search of false profits.”
  2. ON THE LABEL ‘GAY CHRISTIAN’ by Wesley Hill: “Claiming the label “celibate gay Christian” means, for me, recognizing my homosexual orientation as a kind of “thorn in the flesh.” When the apostle Paul used that phrase in his correspondence with the Corinthian church, he made clear that his “thorn” was indeed an unwelcome source of pain.”
  3. How many times have you asked Jesus into your heart? Well, you need to stop. In STOP ASKING JESUS INTO YOUR HEART, J. D. Greear talks about his book by the same title: “I wrote this book to help people find assurance – to tell people like me who ask Jesus into their hearts over and over they can stop doing that and start resting in the promises of the gospel.”

Enjoy!

Posted in Music Reviews

Lyrical Review: WANAJUA by Mwenyehaki ft Pitson

This song reminds me of an earlier post written on a related subject, Volunteers in Hell, in which I noted that “God doesn’t send people to hell, they volunteer.” Woe to the man who has grown up hearing the law of God, and the call of the Gospel, but still chooses to ignore it. Here’s a YouTube link to the song in-case you haven’t already listened to it.

The first verse reminds those who grew up in a Christian subculture, attending Sunday School and constantly being bombarded by Christian messages; that they have no excuse for ignoring God. They cannot claim ignorance. The song is in Swahili, so, here’s (my best effort at) an English translation: Continue reading “Lyrical Review: WANAJUA by Mwenyehaki ft Pitson”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Blog Break (19 Jan 13)

I love to read. Actually, I think I am addicted to reading. I may be the only person who takes breaks from reading to read something else. On any given day, I am always in the middle of at least 2 books, apart from the Bible. I also love reading blog-posts, I think I read a minimum (not maximum) of about 5 blog-posts per day (on top of the aforementioned books). In my reading adventures across the blog-world, I often come across posts that are simply too interesting not to share with the rest of the Body of Christ. That’s why I am beginning this series of blog stop-overs. I hope you will find the posts shared to be as interesting and inspiring as they were to me, if not more so. It is also my hope that, in sharing these posts, you will be getting a glimpse of the thoughts that feed my mind and inspire my own posts.

Disclaimer: I may not always agree with or recommend “other teachings” by authors of posts shared, so it will be helpful to read the posts I recommend individually and with an open but discerning mind.

  1. That having been said, I will start us off by bringing to your attention this insightful post by Kaj Vincent, “DO YOU LOVE YOUR CHURCH?” The answers to this seemingly obvious question may surprise you. For instance, did you know that “Many say ‘I love my church’, when they mean ‘I love how well the music is done’ or ‘I love the ambience’, or ‘I agree with the preaching’, or even ‘I like being associated with the reputation my church has built for itself’.”? Read the post and find out more.
  2. From the church we go into the world of miracles (well, we don’t actually have to “leave” the church to enter the world of miracles 🙂 ). Did you know that God still performs miracles today? Whether you are a cessationist or a continuationist, this book review by Tim Challies will compel you to reconsider you view of the nature and purpose of miracles. Yes, GOD PERFORMS MIRACLES TODAY! This is a review of Nik Ripsen’s Book, The Insanity of God. Check it out to find out what the “greatest miracle of all” is, and why it is also the most recurrent miracle even today.
  3. Finally, my friend and fellow alien, Serah Njambi, has chosen to start her blogging year with quite an eccentric perspective on our salvation. Read THE AUCTION and share it with a friend who (preferably) has heard the Gospel but is still reluctant to believe and be saved. We could all use a reminder now and then.

There you go. These three posts are enough to get you going today. I will be sharing more links to worthwhile blog stop-overs over the course of the coming days, months and years (God-willing). Be checking in for more inspiring links and let us keep edifying one another with Christ as our ultimate end and focus.

For the fame of His name.

Cornell

Posted in The 4th Dimension

The Salvation of a Hypocrite

As followers of Christ, we don’t always need to travel across borders to find souls in need of a Savior. More often than not, we don’t even need to step out of our houses to find a soul in need of our witness. And though this could come as a shocker, we don’t even need to leave our own beds to find a soul in need of the Gospel. That’s right, professing Christians need to hear the gospel just as much as unbelievers, if not more so. This is because many of us are simply strutting cloaks of empty religion.

I know all this because… I was the front-runner:
You see…

Continue reading “The Salvation of a Hypocrite”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

The Truth! Do You Know Him?

He stumbles into my courtyard. His hands tightly bound at the wrists in leather straps. His hair is an entangled mess of blood and sweat, yet there seems to be no scratch or cut on his face. I wonder wonder whose blood that is, or where it came from. His knees are buckling with exhaustion. His eyelids are heavy…, yet somehow, he manages to keep his footing. He stands before me.

The voices behind him scream for his blood. “Crucify him!” They want him dead. Dead on a cross. Common sense and my political advisers tell me I should just let the crowd have its way; that they must be justified in their unanimous verdict. But the eyes of the accused man catch mine… and I begin to study this captive.

His looks are haggard, those of a drifter, a wanderer. His frame outlines the features of an outcast. His sandals spell the poverty of a pauper. Everything about his form and appearance screams suspicion and guilt, everything… but his eyes! Continue reading “The Truth! Do You Know Him?”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

I’m Only Human… or Am I?

“I’m only human.” – Unknown

At least, that’s what I like to tell myself every now and then. I am only human. I employ those words to shield myself from correction and the rebukes of others, and often to justify my carelessness or poor stewardship. This is especially true when it comes to my words, they never quite seem to come out right. But then again, isn’t it James in the Bible who said that “We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.” [3:2]?

I’m only human.

But I say this mostly when I know I’ve been stupid. When I’ve said something I know I shouldn’t have; or when I’ve said it in a way that was less than loving or considerate. I say those three words when I regret something I did in the past, something I cannot undo.

I’m only human.

I often say these words when I become vividly aware that I could have said or done it better, paid more attention, held my tongue, done deeper research, written it more carefully. I say it when I have not lived up to my own standard of reasonable excellence. Continue reading “I’m Only Human… or Am I?”

Posted in The 4th Dimension

Beautiful Mud

I was a loser, drifting through this cursed planet, aimlessly weaving through broken promises.

I was a proud star, scaling the heights of shattered commandments, tip-toeing across sharp pieces of broken trust.

I was a loose cannon, a loud cymbal, a lost cause.

Love was not a word in my life-tionary, even though it dominated my diction-ary.

As brown as dirt, as wavering as dust, as shifty as sand, as hardened as the land.

My life was tainted.

My hope had fainted. Continue reading “Beautiful Mud”