None of Self, and All of Thee

“Oh, the bitter shame and sorrow,
That a time could ever be,
When I let the Saviour’s pity
Plead in vain, and proudly answered–
“All of self, and none of Thee.”

Yet He found me; I beheld Him
Bleeding on the cursed tree;
Heard Him pray, “Forgive them, Father,”
And my wistful heart said faintly–
“Some of self, and some of Thee.”

Day by day His tender mercy,
Healing, helping, full and free,
Sweet and strong, and ah? so patient,
Brought me lower while I whispered–
“Less of Self, and more of Thee.”

Higher than the highest heavens,
Deeper than the deepest sea,
Lord, Thy love at last hath conquered:
Grant me now my soul’s petition–
“None of self, and all of Thee”

Author: Theodore Monod

Paul – The “Chief” of Sinners

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

We have all heard it and perhaps we have even said it ourselves.  “I am the worst cook…”  “I am the worst organizer…”  “I am the worst preacher…”  “I am the worst teacher…”  “I am the worst gardener…”  “I am the worst mother/father/daughter/son-in-law…,” etc.

Why do we say such things?  We don’t believe these things when we say them.  So, why do we say them?  I would like to suggest a few reasons.  Sometimes, we just don’t want people’s expectations to be too high.  We don’t want them to be disappointed if we fail to deliver the goods.  Or perhaps we say such things simply to elicit sympathy.  We want people to feel sorry for us.  We want them to pat us on the back and tell us that we are really not the worst, but someone else is.  Often, people say things like these out of a false sense of humility.  We are subtly fishing for compliments.  We want people to tell us that far from being the worst, we are actually the best they know.  Sometimes we say these things due to a very poor self-image.  Life has been so hard for us.  We have been battered for so long.  We are tired and sick of everything and we feel that we owe it to ourselves and the world to say such things.  Self-depreciation has perhaps become a lifestyle.  Sometimes we say such things because we have unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of ourselves.  We are perfectionists and we judge anything less than perfect to be the absolute worst.  But perhaps we say these things simply because we don’t really know what else to say!  We each have our own favorite, well-rehearsed, self-inflicting put-downs which we like to repeat to ourselves and others from time to time.  But if truth be told, we don’t really believe them.  We don’t really know why we keep saying them but we do.

In 1 Timothy 1:15, we have a statement from the Apostle Paul which sounds very similar to the statements we have looked at above.  Paul addresses himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Why would Paul say this about himself?

Why Does Paul Call Himself the “Chief” of Sinners?  Why does he do that?  We need to be clear right here at the outset.  Paul doesn’t address himself as the “chief” of sinners because he wants to limit people’s expectations of him.  Far from it!  He doesn’t make this statement because he wants to elicit sympathy.  He doesn’t make because he has some false sense of humility.  He doesn’t make this statement because he has lost all self-respect or because he is fishing for compliments.  And Paul certainly does not make this statement because he doesn’t have a clue!  No!

Paul as an apostle makes this statement under the inspiration of Holy Spirit.  This was not an off-handed or an incorrect self-depreciating comment.  This statement is one of deep gratitude and sincere humility.

This is not the first time where we see Paul reflecting on his life and spiritual standing.  It’s interesting to trace Paul’s personal progress toward this great confession.  There are at least two other places where Paul stops to think, reflect and evaluate his own spiritual standing (something that we have neglected in our day much to our detriment).

He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles…,” to which we might sarcastically say, “Wow, Paul, how humble you are!   How self-depreciating…!  The least of the apostles!  During Paul’s time the apostles would have been considered the most exclusive group of men that lived on the face of the planet earth!   As apostles, they held the unprecedented and unrepeatable office.  There were only twelve others and he was the thirteenth.  “That certainly doesn’t sound very humble,” we might say.

A little later in his life, Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, “I am the least of all the saints…”  And to that we might respond by saying, “Well, that is certainly a step down…but it’s not that great a step downward.” In Paul’s day, Christians made only about one percent of the population.  Therefore, being the least of the top one percent and the least of the top ten percent of the people in the entire world is not really that great of a step down!

But much later in his life, Paul wrote these words which we find in 1 Timothy 1:15 where he refers to himself as the “chief” of sinners.  What changed?  The longer he lived (as a Christian), the lower estimate he had of his own spiritual standing.  Paul is no longer setting himself above anyone else!  He now puts himself at the bottom of the pile of all of humanity.  No longer just “the least of the apostles” or “the least of the saints”!  He is now the “chief” of sinners.  The closer he got to Christ, the more clearly he saw his sin.  The more clearly he saw the original, the ideal, the pattern, the more clearly he understood how far short he fell of that standard.

It’s not so much that Paul wants to draw attention to himself as the “chief” sinner although I am sure he was not speaking hyperbolically here.  Rather, he wants to cast a greater light on Christ and show us the magnificence of Christ, His love, mercy and grace towards sinners!  Paul is calling us all to cast our eyes upon Christ and marvel at Him and the greatness of His saving grace.  As Paul is evaluating his own spiritual standing (i.e. in relation to the grace and glory of God in Christ) he cannot help but see himself as the “chief” sinner.

He had seen the original pattern and he immediately understood his position in this world as being the “chief” of sinners.  He had seen the perfect Man in the Lord Jesus Christ and consequently, he stopped comparing himself to the rest of the apostles.  He stopped comparing himself to the rest of the believers in the world.  He is now comparing himself to the Lord Jesus Christ and at once, he sees himself as he really is, the “chief” of sinners.  The more he increased in the knowledge of Christ, the more he grew in grace.  The more the image of Christ was restored in him, the more he understood how much of that image was yet to be restored in him.

We all know this from our own experiences in life, don’t we?  The further we stay from the light, the less we see the dirt on us.  Conversely, the closer we get to the light, the more clearly we will see the dirt on us.

Here is a very sobering truth that we all need to grapple with:  the most spiritual among us are those who most clearly see their sins and NOT those who think they are okay and have no sin.  And so it was with Paul.  Towards the end of his life, a very long way down the road, he ultimately came to view and speak of himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Those who are maturing in the faith and growing closer to Christ, have a low view of themselves and a high view of God.  I wonder if that describes you and me.  I pray so!

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

All of Grace

I HEARD A STORY; I think it came from the North Country: A minister called upon a poor woman, intending to give her help; for he knew that she was very poor. With his money in his hand, he knocked at the door; but she did not answer. He concluded she was not at home, and went his way. A little after he met her at the church, and told her that he had remembered her need: “I called at your house, and knocked several times, and I suppose you were not at home, for I had no answer.” “At what hour did you call, sir?” “It was about noon.” “Oh, dear,” she said, “I heard you, sir, and I am so sorry I did not answer; but I thought it was the man calling for the rent.” Many a poor woman knows what this meant.  Now, it is my desire to be heard, and therefore I want to say that I am not calling for the rent; indeed, it is not the object of this book to ask anything of you, but to tell you that salvation is all of grace, which means, free, gratis, for nothing.

Oftentimes, when we are anxious to win attention, our hearer thinks, “Ah! now I am going to be told my duty. It is the man calling for that which is due to God, and I am sure I have nothing wherewith to pay. I will not be at home.” No, this book does not come to make a demand upon you, but to bring you something. We are not going to talk about law, and duty, and punishment, but about love, and goodness, and forgiveness, and mercy, and eternal life. Do not, therefore, act as if you were not at home: do not turn a deaf ear, or a careless heart. I am asking nothing of you in the name of God or man. It is not my intent to make any requirement at your hands; but I come in God’s name, to bring you a free gift, which it shall be to your present and eternal joy to receive. Open the door, and let my pleadings enter. “Come now, and let us reason together.” The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. It may be that the hour is come in which you shall enter upon that new life which is the beginning of heaven. Faith cometh by hearing, and reading is a sort of hearing: faith may come to you while you are reading this book. Why not? O blessed Spirit of all grace, make it so!

This post has been taken from Charles Spurgeon‘s little book entitled, All of Grace which you can download here for free.  You can also download free MP3 audio files of the same book here.  I highly recommend it.  Blessings in Christ!

“Weeping May Tarry for the Night, But Joy Comes With the Morning.” – Part 5 of My Reflections on the Death of Malawi’s Third President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika

The Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, Third President of the Republic of Malawi

In this last post of my reflections on the death of Malawi’s former President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, I simply want to encourage us all to trust the Lord and accept His sovereign providence.  I would like to do this by taking us to my first post which I entitled, “In the Year That King Uzziah Died, I Saw the Lord…”  While we may not understand such tragic events as the death of a President or the death of a King, one thing is true, the LORD is still on the Throne.  He remains sovereign over all things and is working all things towards His good and glorious purposes.

We cannot question His wisdom and purposes.  We are simply to yield to His providence and pray as the Lord Jesus Christ taught us, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  God has a plan for the bereaved family and for Malawi as a nation.  The LORD does all things well and He makes all things beautiful in His time.  “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5).  May the LORD comfort the bereaved family and bless the nation of Malawi with His love, mercy and grace during this time.

Even through the sins of his people or his enemies, the LORD can and He does plot all things for His glory.  This is true at a personal level; it is true at a family level and it is certainly true at a national level as well.  God is always at work even in the worst of times.  When we think that He is farthest from us; when we think that He has turned against us, we must always remind ourselves of the solid-rock truth that he is at the same time laying a foundation of greater joy and happiness in our lives.

William Cowper, an old English poet wrote in his poem entitled, God Moves in a Mysterious Way writes,

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense

But trust Him for His grace.

Behind a frowning providence

He hides a smiling face.

Therefore, as we continue to mourn the death of our beloved President, let us remember the following:

God Remains Sovereign:  The Almighty God reigns in all the affairs of men.  Individuals, families and nations are all under His sovereign rule (Daniel 2:21; Daniel 4:35).  He does whatsoever He pleases.  He gives rain and He takes brings draught.  He gives life and he takes life.       He says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things” (Isaiah 45:7).  Our times our in His hands (Psalm 31:15)!  All things, small and great are under His sovereign rule.  His providence is mysterious.  We will not always understand what He does.  But we can take confidence in the fact that He is a good God, He knows all things and He does all things well.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.  For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” (Job 1:21).

Please visit the Bible Answers blog for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of these reflections.

“I Have Raised You Up For This Very Purpose…” – Part 4 of My Reflections on the Death of Malawi’s Third President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika

Exodus 9:16

As I pointed out in my previous post, Romans 13:1-7 also has massive implications for our national leaders precisely because it is the LORD God who sovereignly appoints and ordains “governing authorities” as the following verses from Romans 13 indicate:

Verse 1:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God;”

Verse 2:  “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Verse 4:  “For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

Verse 6:  “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”

This post is mainly directed to the current President, Her Excellency, Mrs. Joyce Mtila Banda – and I hope that somehow this post will make its way to her.  Here is my message to you Madam President:

  1. Seek First the Kingdom of God:  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).
  2. Pursue the glory of God in everything you do:  “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
  3. Pursue the fear of God (not man) in everything you do:  “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” (Proverbs 9:10).
  4. The LORD God honors those who honor Him:  “…But now the LORD declares: ‘Far be it from me, for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).
  5. Pursue justice for the poor, orphans, widows and the oppressed“If you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.  And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water,    whose waters do not fail.  And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;   you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in” (Isaiah 58:10-12).
  6. Be Prepared to Take the Necessary Risks for the Greater Good and for the Glory of God:  “For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)?
  7. Trust the Lord and Commit Your Ways to Him:  “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones” (Proverbs 3:5-8); “Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act.  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Psalm 37:5-6).
  8. Be Still and Know That God is LORD:  “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! (Psalm 37:7); “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10)!
  9. Refrain From Anger:  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!  Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.  For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land” (Psalm 37:5-9).
  10. Be Strong and Courageous with God’s Word as Your Guide:  “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6); “Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:6-9).
  11. Relax – The Battle is the LORD’s:  “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24); “Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:45-47).  “And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent” (Exodus 14:13-14).
  12. Walk Humbly with Your God:  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

The LORD God delegates authority to “governing authorities” and appoints them to be his “servants/ministers” for one purpose:  that He may be glorified!  This means that all “governing authorities” must make a conscious effort and make sure that they are exercising their powers and responsibilities to the glory of God.  I pray that your will dedicate yourself to this grand purpose as you carry out your responsibilities at the Fourth President of the Republic of Malawi!

May the Lord richly bless you – and may He bless the nation of Malawi!

Please visit the Bible Answers blog for Part 1; Part 2 and Part 3 of these reflections.

“There is No Authority Except From God…” – Part 3 of My Reflections on the Death of Malawi’s Third President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the Christians in Rome, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, penned the following words found in Romans 13:1-7:

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.

Map of Malawi, "The Warm Heart of Africa"

As the nation of Malawi continues to mourn the loss of her third President, His Excellency, the Late Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, I would like to remind us all of this biblical teaching that “there is authority except from God” (Ro. 13:1).  These words have massive implications on us all as a nation especially at this particular time.

As I pointed out in my post yesterday,

“…Times of great tragedy and loss like the one that we are going through now as a nation, provide us with wonderful opportunities for deep, serious and penetrating reflection, soul-searching and evaluation of our priorities and the orientation of our lives.  Tragic times like these as unpleasant, hard and painful as they are often special gifts and conduits of blessing from our gracious Lord who does all things well.  The LORD often orchestrates and uses such tragic events to shape us into the kind of people that He wants us to be and to fulfill His purposes in/through us to His glory.”

In today’s post, I would like to reflect with you on some of the implications that Romans 13:1-7has for all of us even as we mourn the death of our former President.

His Excellency, the Late President, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika & Madam Callista Mutharika

Implications for the Citizenry in General:  The Bible here clearly teaches that it is befitting that subjects give due honor and utmost respect to “governing authorities” whoever they may be.  To reinforce this, Paul reaches for the highest reason he could find, namely that God is the One who appoints these authorities.  These governing authorities (regardless of who they are or what one may think of them), are God’s chosen servants.  Consider the following verses in Romans 13:1-7 and notice the highlighted phrases:

Verse 1:  “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God;”

Verse 2:  “Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.

Verse 4:  “For he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

Verse 6:  “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”

It’s interesting to note how much emphasis Paul puts on the fact that the governing authorities are God’s servants (seven times in these seven short verses).  The implication is that anyone who messes with these governing authorities messes with God and “will incur (God’s) judgment” (verse 2).  This is huge!

We are to Honor and Submit to Both Good and Bad “Governing Authorities.” 

Emperor Nero mercilessly persecuted and killed many Christians

It’s also interesting to note that Paul does not give any other qualification when he talks of these “governing authorities.”  Some of us would expect him to say, “Let every person be subject to ‘good’ ‘governing authorities’”.  But the Bible is silent there.  Why?  I think the reason is this:  It doesn’t matter whether we consider those “governing authorities” to be good or bad.  That’s irrelevant when it comes to this exhortation.  We are to submit to them all – the good ones and the bad ones.  In saying this of course, the Bible is not condoning bad government.  Besides the fact that these “governing authorities” have been appointed by God and that they are His “ministers,” Paul wants to impress upon us that if we find ourselves under bad, cruel, uncaring and oppressive “governing authorities,” we still need to submit to them by honoring and respecting them as those who have been appointed by God to be His “servants/ministers” vested with His authority to rule over us.  Their failures, mistakes and sins do not exempt any of us from this divine obligation.  We will all give an account for our own sins – other people’s sins are in no way excuses for our sins – neither are other people’s sins licenses for us to indulge in or rationalize our sins (hate speeches, retribution, mercilessness, etc).

Another interesting thing to note regarding this is the fact that Paul wrote these words in about 57 A.D.  That is very significant because Caesar Nero was the “governing authority” during this time.  He reigned over Rome as Emperor from 54 to 68 A. D. – and he was not a good leader by any stretch of imaginations.

The implications are doubly binding and serious for Christian citizens as they were when Paul wrote these words.  One Bible commentator makes this observation:

The grace of the gospel teaches us submission and quiet, where pride and the carnal mind only see causes for murmuring and discontent.  Whatever the persons in authority over us themselves may be, yet the just power they have, must be submitted to and obeyed…This directs private persons to behave quietly and peaceably where God has set them (1 Ti 2:1,2).  Christians must not use any trick or fraud.  All smuggling, dealing in contraband goods, withholding or evading duties, is rebellion against the express command of God.  The lesson here taught it becomes all Christians to learn and practice, that the godly in the land will always be found the quiet and the peaceable in the land, whatever others are.

Madam Callista Mutharika, Former First Lady

In our present situation, it is a known fact that not everyone thought well of the late President, Professor Bingu wa Mutharika especially in the last two years of his regime.  Although we would all agree that his first five years was excellent, very few (if any) would have described him as a good, caring and kind “governing authority” at the time of his death.  Yet, the fact remains that he was God’s appointed “governing authority” (President) for Malawi for the time that he was in power (2004-2012).  Regardless of what our personal view concerning our late President, His Excellency Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, it is my sincere hope and prayer that as Malawians, we will give honor his memory and respectfully mourn his death for he was truly a God-appointed servant to rule over us.  One of the ways we can do this is by praying for, expressing our sympathy and giving our support to Madam Callista Mutharika, and the bereaved family.

The LORD God will hold us accountable (not Bingu) for how we conduct ourselves.  Each of us will answer for himself/herself before God at the end of our lives.  Let us then be careful not to “incur (God’s) judgment.”  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

Finally, I applaud the incumbent State President, Her Excellency, Mrs. Joyce Mtila Banda for calling on us all, to respectfully mourn our late President.  I also applaud “Soldier” Lucius Banda for putting Romans 13:1-7 into practice by honoring the memory of the late President with this beautiful song entitled, Tribute to The Late Bingu wa Mutharika.  You can listen to this song here:

The teaching of Romans 13:1-7 also has implications for our national leaders, but for that, we will have to wait until tomorrow, Lord willing.

Please visit the Bible Answers blog for Part 1 and Part 2 of these reflections.

May the LORD God bless Malawi and bless us all!