By Elder Enoch Ofori Jnr
(Sabbath Sermon, 15th December, 2012)
Heavenly Honours put Earthly Honours in the Shade
It’s been two weeks since Ghanaians went to the polls to elect a new President and Members of Parliament. The peculiar circumstances of the general election relative to the declared results have meant an extended political season of acrimony. The political climate remains tense. (May Yahweh Shalom envelop the nation in His durable peace!)
For the competing political parties, the coveted prize was and is the presidency, the seat of government. The presidential candidate who is inaugurated as the substantive President not only assumes the highest authority in the land but also becomes the commander-in-chief of the national army as well as the head of state with all the trappings of office that go with it.
Elsewhere in life, the rat race for the world’s temporary riches and fame is on. And the believer’s race is equally on, but for what prize?
The apostle Paul, in contrast to the perishable laurels sportsmen compete for, touts the Christian prize as comparable to none:
"Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.
"And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible [crown].
"I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:
"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:24-27).
You are Special
Beloved, you are in the holy Christian race for an incomparable prize and riches. The riches are not bought with gold or worldly prestige; they are only available to the sincere believer in Christ.
As a believer, you are in the finest company; you are in a unique class. Your world is comparable to none on the face of this earth. You are richly blessed and favoured. Because you have Christ and hold Him devotedly!
Moses, the servant of Yah, celebrated the Israelites, God’s chosen nation, thus:
"Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it.
"Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.
"For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon Him for?
"And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Deut. 4:5-8).
I am pleased as God’s servant to celebrate your life in similar terms. You are far ahead of the world. You are "the light of the world" and "the salt of the earth". Your neighbour may be materially richer than you, more educated and/or more socially advanced than you. But you have got something far superior and infinitely rewarding that he lacks!
Christ has brought heavenly change to your life. The life in heaven has found expression in your life, and it pervades all aspects of your life.
You live the Golden Life of Christ
As a person in whom Christ lives, your lifestyle sets you apart. All around you is low and base. Petty thievery, lies, fights, loose talk, corruption, marital unfaithfulness and sexual immorality define the lives of the majority of people in your community, workplace or house. While they know these acts are reprehensible and most do it in secrecy and under the cover of darkness, they are quite powerless to stop themselves from indulging in them.
But you have received power to live above the ordinary earthly life of sin and debauchery. This power makes you God-like and Christ-like in character enabling you to live as an obedient child of God:
"But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name:
"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12-13).
To the point, the excellent moral character of Christ has been formed in you (Gal. 4:19). You have put on Christ, and the moral flaws which dog fallen mankind have lost their dominance over you. Rom. 13:14 tells us: "But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof".
If you are true to your calling, you belong to the former. You have put on Christ – His virtues, His holiness and His righteousness. The delights (things) of the flesh have been chucked out of your life; you don’t even put your mind to them (as the Greek text suggests), much less store or "make provision" for them in your heart.
You are brand new in Christ. God through Christ has created you afresh in His glorious image of righteousness and true holiness. The "old man", Satan, has been booted out of your life for good:
"That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
"And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
"And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:22-24).
Watch the word "renew". It calls for a spiritual and moral reorientation, an adjustment in thinking as to the reality of your present life in Christ. In other words, attune your mind to your new status of holiness and righteousness in Christ; acclimatize yourself to your new essence as a Christian believer. Rid your mind of any lingering idea or feeling that the "old man" has a place in your life. You are brand new in Christ; act and live as such. Or as Paul beautifully puts it in Eph. 5:8: "… ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light".
It’s a sad situation but many supposed Christians don’t seem to know what they have become in Christ. They exhibit traits which show they are still tied to their old satanic nature, the "old man". This only proves they never experienced true conversion in the first place which manifests itself in the godly fruits of righteousness. The Lord Jesus stated in His Sermon on the Mount: "Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matt. 7:16).
So then, a believer who shows not the characteristics or fruits of his or her new heavenly life in Christ is simply living a lie; Christ does not live in them! We read in 2 Cor. 13:5: "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?"
So what was the outcome of your own self-assessment and introspection? Is Christ in your talk, social relations and behaviour? Did your soul-searching reveal a person unreservedly committed to the Lord Jesus in holiness and righteousness?
I hope you did not fail the test (v.6). BECAUSE CHRIST IS IN YOU! And it shows in your moral behaviour–the demonstrable proof of the divine power at work in your life.
"The Spirit of Glory Rests on You"
The same power that that imbues the true believer with the excellent moral character of Christ also bestows His supernatural power on him. This too is not static or abstract. You are to demonstrate the supernatural divine power of the indwelling Christ:
"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In My name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
"They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17-18).
Much as the Holy Spirit power of Christ benefits you as an individual believer all the way to "the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30), it’s also your heavenly power for witnessing the living Christ to the world: "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth" (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit power is all-powerful (Gen. 1:3; Job 26:13), pure and heavenly, but it’s not just anybody who qualifies to receive it. Although meant for "all flesh" (Acts 2:17), God has poured His Spirit on you and a select few because you obey Him (Acts 5:32). Little wonder, the world envies you because of this rare blessing of the Holy Spirit baptism:
"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified" (1 Pet. 4:14).
The Spirit of the King of glory rests on you, and not just anybody, because you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood and God’s special holy people (1 Pet. 2:9).
An Oasis in a World of Trouble
With Christ, the Rock of Ages, indwelling by His glorious Spirit, what in the world will faze you? After all, “greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (John 4:4). Moreover, He has assured the faithful that He has overcome the world of troubles:
“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The result is that you face the vicissitudes of life with the calm assurance of Christ’s ever present victory. Nothing alarms you, and every circumstance you encounter is welcome and endurable. Christ has brought meaning to your life, and He strengthens you to cope with each and every challenge and circumstance. The apostle Paul wrote of the contented life Christ enabled him to live:
"Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
"I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
"I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (Phil. 4:11-13).
Christ is the key to a life of satisfaction. He is the One able to make a dry morsel of bread more satisfying than the dainties of a feast. It’s the joy and peace He places in your heart that count, not the abundance of material things. In Luke 12:15 we read, "And He said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth".
The sweetness of your life as a believer is not in the abundance of material possessions but in the contentment and assurance He produces in your heart that He who faithfully watches over the sparrow is by your side to supply all your needs according to His riches in glory. So then, covetousness only betrays a feeling of fear that you are all alone and so you must greedily chase after things.
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee".
No economic hardship will reduce you to a pauper. Christ is your able provider; His store of blessings for u is beyond your wildest expectations!
"All things are Yours"
That’s the fitting summary. The riches we have inherited in Christ are inestimable. Simply put, "all things are ours". Because all things are God’s. "Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours; Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s" (1 Cor. 3:21-23).
What’s left is to lay hold of the riches in Christ and not let go: "For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end" (Heb. 3:14). Amen!