Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Radical

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. (Matthew 5:38 NIV)

At the start of the twentieth century, a man from India – a lawyer who lived in South Africa – picked up the New Testament and started reading. The lawyer’s homeland was plagued by discriminatory laws enforced under British rule. The lawyer searched for an effective way by which he would resist the tyranny of the ‘Raj’, and he found it when he read the Sermon on the Mount. At one time, during one of his speeches, the lawyer simply stood up and recited the Sermon on the Mount and told the gathered to follow it. He would say, “Christ’s Sermon on the Mount fills me with bliss even today. Its sweet verses have even today the power to quench my agony of soul.” In a way, I think it is safe to say that India owes its independence to Christ.

Before Mahatma Gandhi, was the Christ. At the dawn of the first century, the Jews eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Messiah. The Jewish mindset of that time envisioned the Messiah as one who would fight the Roman Empire, claim the throne of King David, and liberate the Jewish people from foreign rule. Little did they know that the coming Messiah, who would indeed be the Liberator – but of a different sense, would also challenge the very core of human society.

When Christ preached the Sermon on the Mount He set off a chain reaction that continues to polarize the world today. Before Christ there was Rome, Babylon and Egypt, powers that ruled the weak with an iron fist. When Christ arrived He gave a sword to the weak, the sword of love and peace. That sword scared the living daylights out of the ruling party of Jesus’ time, and it continues to scare the powers-that-be today.

Christ took centre-stage and told the masses to ‘turn the cheek’ and not retaliate. He commanded his people to ‘love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them’. By hearing this, the crowd was dumbfounded. Certainly, they had expected, the Messiah would urge them to take up arms against Caesar. They altogether missed the point that the real enemy was not Caesar; the real enemy was Satan who controlled Caesar.

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12 NASB)

Today, Christians think that Christ established a new religion – set of beliefs or a code of conduct – but in reality what Christ initiated was something revolutionary in that it stood contrary to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:2).

Christ was often at odds with the establishment of society.

Society favors the rich and the strong but Christ champions the poor and the weak.
Society glorifies evil but Christ rebukes it.
Society is self-preserving but Christ denies self-preservation.
Society spreads sin but Christ cleanses the sinner.
Society kills its opposition but Christ Himself died to save us.

The radical message of Christ today continues in the form of Christ’s church. The church is the Body of Christ and therefore we must not conform to the pattern of the world but to the pattern of Christ. It is up to the Body of Christ to challenge the sinful actions of society by means of Christ-like living.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16 NIV)

A friend of mine once asked me, ‘How can you spread the message of non-violence all by yourself?’ So many times we make the message all about ourselves, but it was never about us. Christ is that message pure and simple, like Shane Claiborne says: “We’re just the jackasses that get to bring Jesus into our community.”

Let’s have confidence that we are not alone.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b NIV)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Christ in us

There is a scene in the 2003 film Luther that captivated me the moment I saw it. In the scene, Luther (portrayed by Joseph Fiennes) steps down from the pulpit and goes to each member individually as he preaches with passion.

“He does not live in the bones of dead saints or relics. Christ lives in you!” Luther says pointing to each member of the laity in a church marred by tradition and superstition.

Paul boldly declares that his own self died in baptism and in its stead Christ lives in him.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. (Galatians 2:20 NASB)

In Romans 8:9 Paul says that the Spirit of God dwells in us. And he says, in verse 11, that through this dwelling of the Spirit we receive life.

Today Christians are marred by a different kind of superstition. In the 1990s a trend started among the youth in America, ‘WWJD – What Would Jesus Do?’ Evangelical Christians began to wear bracelets with the initials ‘WWJD’, and they would contemplate on the question before each and every action of their day to day lives. These practices, in the light of Biblical truths, deserve nothing more than a face-palm reaction.

Believers act as though Christ is a mere person who lived and died two thousand years ago, but scriptures tell us that Christ is alive… and not just alive! Christ’s magnificent and wondrous story continues today by His indwelling Spirit in us.

When Christ came to earth in human form He often preached about ‘eternal life’. What is this ‘eternal life’ that Christ so often spoke about? Is it our ‘ticket’ to heaven? Most people assume that it means nothing more than immortality. Christ says in John 10:10, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Again, what is this ‘life’ that Christ spoke about?

John, the beloved disciples, writes:

"The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us." (1 John 1:2 NIV)

Jesus says:

“I am the way and the truth and THE LIFE" (John 14:6 NIV) emphasis mine

That same Jesus, who turned planet earth upside down and spinning, is the same – magnificent, wondrous, almighty, powerful – Christ who dwells in us! The eternal life is none other than Christ Jesus – the beloved Son of God.

Colossians 1 and 2 speaks volumes of the vastness of Jesus Christ. The titanic image of Christ grows more and more when Paul says all creation is held inside Him (Colossians 1:16-17). All creation, even time itself, is inside the Giant that is Christ Jesus! Indeed, Christ does say "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" (Revelation 22:13 NASB). It is this indwelling of Christ’s life in us that truly humbles us.

Through our sinful nature we deserved the death that resulted from it – alienation from the fellowship of God. God, through His Son Christ Jesus, reconciled us to His fellowship by dying a torturous death on the cross. But the real eternal purpose lay not only in salvation, as so many think, but in that God made His dwelling among us (Ephesians 3).

People tend to think that eternal life is separate from God. It is not separate from God but it is in Christ Jesus Himself. It is a ‘Gift IN Christ Jesus’ according to Paul in Romans 6:23. When we are baptized into the death of Jesus Christ it is no longer we who live but Christ in us.

"For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory." (Colossians 3:3-4 NASB)

Let us then rejoice that Christ Jesus abides in us. He doesn’t look upon us from far away but moves wherever we move, just like the song goes “Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.” Let us be joyful as Christians in a church which is in fact a colony from heaven, for Jesus has promised to be with us forever.

“I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b NASB)

Monday, October 1, 2012

The Kingdom of God is like Kefir Grains..(A modern day parable)

The following article was written by my good friend Samuel Mathew. You can visit his blog: His Kingdom Now.

The Kingdom of God is like kefir grains, that a man took and hid in a jar filled with milk, until it turned to kefir.

What is Kefir?
"What in the world is Kefir", some may ask! Kefir is a "living" fermented milk drink, which contains beneficial bacteria (probiotics), yeast, minerals, essential amino acids and easily digestible proteins. Consumers of kefir (including myself) tout the myriads of health benefits this drink provides. You can learn more about it at

But the purpose of this post is not to educate you or convince you of the amazing drink that kefir is. Rather, it is to share what I learnt about Jesus Christ, who is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God.

The Process
Let me explain the simple process of making kefir. You take a jar of milk and put a few kefir grains in it and set it aside for 24 hours. The bacteria and yeasts in the kefir grains start working in the milk and convert it to kefir. After 24 hours you simply strain the kefir for drinking and use the same kefir grains in a new batch of milk for another nutritious kefir drink . Another amazing thing that happens in this process is that the kefir grains, which is the source of life, so to speak, keeps growing. When it grows in quantity, you can either, (1) share some of your grains with others (2) eat the grains or (3) throw the excess (I don't think anyone would want to do that).

The Parable explained
The jar is our 'earthen vessel', our body. The milk in the jar, is the unregenerated human spirit within the body, which is dead in transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1), darkened in its understanding and separated from the 'life' of God (Eph 4:18). The kefir grain teeming with 'life', represents our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the treasure in our earthen vessels (2 Cor 4:7).

Jesus, who is 'life' (John 14:6), the bread of life (John 6:35), came to give life to raise up dead mankind (John 10:10) . This "zoe" life is the very life of the God by which He exists. Jesus is the Tree of life, the vine that supplies life to the branches (John 15:5). He came so that we could once again eat from the Tree of Life and live.  He is the incorruptible seed or grain of wheat containing life, that fell to the ground and died. But on the third day that life burst forth and He became a 'life giving spirit' (I Cor 15:45). Just as the kefir grains give life to the milk in the jar and turns it into something new - Kefir, the seed of Jesus regenerates the human spirit, giving birth to the New Man, born from above - a brand New Creation. The life in the kefir grains permeates the milk, becoming one with it. He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit (I Cor 6:17).

The health benefits of drinking kefir are many. Consuming Jesus Christ, not only gives you His life, but you get all the blessings in Him as well, which impacts your overall well-being (Eph 1:4). When Jesus takes up residence in us by the Holy Spirit, He moves in with the whole package, the fullness of the deity (Col 2:9)!

The life of Jesus not only nourishes you, but just as the kefir grains grow, His life in us grows.  We begin to experience and manifest more and more of Him. This is what is called 'growing in grace' or 'growing to the fullness of the stature of Christ'. What do you do when the kefir grains grow? Of course you can eat them (eating more of Jesus individually). But you are so teeming and overflowing with His life that you can share the life giving grains with others. Those grains produce kefir(life) for them and they then share the grains with others out of their abundance and so it goes on and on..until the earth will be filled with the image of Jesus Christ and the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea (Hab 2:14).