Many are Christians declaring tenacious allegiance to Christ, but revealing superstitious tendencies only. There are seven obstacles, easily observed as tripping many people in their Christian endeavours. Also see [Believing in Jesus is different from having faith in Jesus].
The cause of Christianity is Jesus’ responsibility, having accomplished everything for the salvation of humanity. Faith should be appreciated in the context of sincerity, as one cannot have faith without understanding reasons for having faith.
Others get imprisoned in past sins, assuming that salvation comes by own effort: “For God so loved the world; that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17 KJV).
However, rejection comes (Matt. 7:21-23). The formidable question is who and why others become rejected where salvation is available to everyone? The answer lies in lacking the faith of Jesus, which is different from having Faith in Jesus.
Abraham did not have Jesus, in whom to have faith. Yet we are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to promise (Gal. 3:29). This assertion is anchored on faith alone, giving assurance of deliverance, as promised to Abraham.
This is motivating though Abraham is not necessarily a model on Christian living. Jesus remains our model. However, Abraham is attributed for not entertaining reasons to doubt God with whom he was communicating (Gen. 22:1–19).
Abraham may not have been more ethical than his peers, but he truly believed God, doing what others may have considered strange. We are not different from Abraham when behaving similarly, but with the privilege of observing salvation in Jesus.
Abraham’s logical submission to God’s calling is different from illogical hypnoses. God communicates as clearly as facilitated by attentive and sincere listening. While not making sense to others, the one concerned receives the message clearly.
One becomes Abraham’s seed at conversion, when not doubting God. If Abraham, with promises extended to all nations (Gen. 22:12) was tested, those called are also tested, whichever way. But all humans have access to salvation as pre-planned:
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will, to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given…” (Eph. 1:3-6 NIV).
Predestination does not imply having special people predestined for salvation, with the rest poised for condemnation, as some might suppose, contradicting John 3:16-17. Neither does this imply avoiding responsibility, as banking on predestination.
The only undesirable blockage towards deliverance is lacking faith, resulting from dishonesty or having two opinions in one. God is unable to bear with such behaviour (Rev. 3:15-16), which also caused Israel’s failures (Heb. 4:1-2).
Those being called today, ahead of everyone, are like those sent to survey Canaan to confirm provisions of the Promised Land (Num. 13 and 14). Ten of the twelve came with a bad report—concluding that the intimidating giants were more powerful than God’s people––a suggestion that God’s promises had been unrealistic?
Those spies did not have faith, notwithstanding several miracles proving God’s supremacy. The bad report affected the rest of the nation, except Caleb and Joshua, surviving to cross over with the next generation. Predestination is for the entire humanity. Failings are due to lack of faith.
Through the cross, God outstretches tolerance, only barring those deliberately spurning the offer (Heb. 10:26-27). God foreknew selected individuals, filling up various positions throughout the ages; good and bad people.
But the overall grand plan is to save humanity, including those who pierced Him. The following anecdotes portray behavioural patterns, being seven obstacles––traps of which current Christians are not spared:
Obstacle #1: Unforgiving attitude. To be forgiven by God requires intentional forgiving of others, even with good reason against doing so (Matt. 6:12). When Adam and Eve sinned, it was God who took the responsibility to look for them at their hiding place (Gen. 3:9).
True Christians seek to forgive, even before being asked to forgive. However, the issue of forgiving is, itself, most junior in terms of appreciating the responsibility bestowed upon true Christians. Only God has the right to forgive people.
Forgiving someone implies being superior, yet this cannot be true when still surviving in the flesh. True Christians seek to dislodge offenders out of chute rather than obsession with personal feelings. Nevertheless, forgiving should be on the basis of understanding the person being forgiven.
A Christian cannot lose decency because someone has lost his/her decency. The most significant factor being that the offender was created in God’s image—deserving to be loved and fully respected all the same, regardless of his/her momentary loss of dignity.
Obstacle #2: Desiring recognition. Such people face Christ’s rejection (Matt. 7:21-23). Those expecting accolades for great achievements will be rejected, even when having done so in Jesus’ name. Their reward ends with natural praises from those awestruck by such achievements (Matt. 6:1-3).
Accessing the power of Christ is possible even for selfishness (Phil. 1:15-18). Those with the faith of Jesus direct all praises to Christ, who gave a parable highlighting futility in desiring higher consideration ahead of others (Matt. 20:1-16).
Being used by God is only a privilege to be accepted with humility, giving glory to God. Naturally, praises make one feel good. But, certainly not when considering what Jesus said in Matt. 5:10-12 and (Matt. 6:1-3).
Obstacle #3: Self-pity. Others remain in bereavement, long after having suffered misfortunes. This assumes them being the only ones having gone through such misfortunes, throughout the entire planet? They go so far as even cursing their loved ones for not sympathizing with them enough.
They also censure God for not providing them with blessings, viewed as being enjoyed by their peers. The opposite is true for those carrying the faith of Jesus who, when faced with unprecedented traumas of the cross displayed compassion for others instead (Luke 23:28-31).
The life of a Christian is not necessarily intended for comfort as self-pity conjectures (Matt. 5:11-12). The early disciples, who were ruthlessly murdered, would testify that Christianity is not intended for good time fellows. See [Created to solve, instead of creating problems].
Obstacle #4: Degrading other people. (Matt. 7:1-5). Negatively judging other people, puts one in a superior position and one cannot do that without pride—which Christ describes as the log, compared with speck––being appalling sins with one being judged. See also [False data stripping].
Moses and Aaron did not enter into Promised Land because of their error at the waters of Meribah (Num. 20:9-12). “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them” (vs. 12 NIV).
Moses’ leadership had previously been punctuated with advocacy for the Israelites (Exod. 32:11-13 and Num. 14:13). Nevertheless, his only stumble was exclusively on the incident at the waters of Meribah. Moses failed to follow clear instructions, due to emotional reaction to Israelites’ poor conduct, thereby uttering non-advocacy words—with Aaron conspiring:
“Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff.” (Num. 20:10 KJV). The display of anger by Moses implies that the two gentlemen considered themselves as spiritually superior to the errant Israelites?
Putting oneself in favourable light against others, on matters of faith is folly. Jesus, whose role is advocacy (1 John 2:1), categorically stated that no-one comes to Him, unless drawn by His Father (John 6:44). This strips us of all our human intelligence, where God’s calling is concerned.
However, instructions in James 4:11–12 may be distinct from rebuke against hypocrisy, as Jesus demonstrated (Matt. 23:13-17). Hypocrisy comes from the devil and it is intended to deceive. Pretending to be one thing whilst being the other is contrary to sincerity.
Peter, though later being rebuked similarly by Paul (Gal. 2:11-14), had rightfully rebuked Simon the sorcerer, (Acts 8:18-23). However, true love entails committing oneself into being used by God for others to be drawn. Those sincere in their condition of error, ought to be fully understood, before they can be helped.
Paul surmised use of caution when helping one another in Christian Love (Gal. 6:1-3). Contemptuous evaluations develop bad feelings against those negatively judged, causing failures in Christian responsibilities. See [Jesus Christ established an invisible Church].
Obstacle #5: Self-degradation. Generally, this obstacle manifests itself in three types of fear. The fear of the unknown, the fear of human authority and fear of the majority. These emanate from self-degradation, leaving the person unable to make rational decisions on critical issues of faith.
Young David’s encounter with the towering giant—Goliath—demonstrated being without any of these three awful displays of fear. Saul reacted differently when approached by Samuel, to be first king in Israel:
“Saul answered, ‘but am I not a Benjamite, from the smallest tribe of Israel, and is not my clan the least of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin?’” (1 Sam. 9:21 NIV).
Apparently, Saul assumed that inherently, he ought to have had special qualities presumed necessary for regal responsibilities over Israel, even without God’s involvement. This was not a sign of humility as most people might suppose, but a weakness exposing self-degradation.
Saul sought to have faith in self––not imagining that God could sufficiently be trusted with such responsibilities? Saul’s problem was in failure to connect with Genesis 1:26. God never created a substandard human being, as all were created in His own image. See [The greatest person the world has ever known].
Self-degradation is one of the tools Satan uses so that even the naturally gifted ones avoid coming forward where there is need. However, with the faith of Jesus most people could accomplish more than envisaged in agreement with Paul: “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13).
The psalmist declares: “I Praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14a NIV). Yet those failing to appreciate that reality in their own lives, take comfort in eulogising the so-called religious gurus, assuming that to be some form of piety? But the perfect example of avoiding fear was left by Jesus.
Though not emerging from high echelons of recognized religious establishment, Jesus disregarded all that and stood by His Father’s will. Jesus is a model of how Christians should behave. See [Christianity is full-time commitment]
Obstacle #6: Doubt. Peter—who identified Jesus as Christ ahead of others (Matt. 16:16) ––had faith enabling him to walk on sea water (Matt. 14:27-31). But, Christ had to rescue him in imminent danger: ‘“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”’ (vs. 29-31).
From where, had Peter’s doubt come from, having initially stepped out in robustness, doing what others could not dare attempt? Doubt implies having two opinions in one and should, apparently, be treated as ranking second, of the top-most, among these seven greatest obstacles of Christian faith. The topmost of them all is—Pride.
Obstacle #7: Pride: This implies viewing oneself as better than others, due to some past achievements, making the individual feel superior and unable to value other people’s opinions: “Because you say, ‘I am wealthy, and have become rich, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Rev. 3:17 KJV).
But a person can still be proud even without achievements to show. Also, it is important to note that the actual reason for the Pharisees’ failure to appreciate Jesus’ supremacy was pride. The preceding six obstacles stem from pride—an attribute without which, it cannot be difficult to follow Christ—who carries all burdens of sinful humanity (Matt. 11:28-30). See also [The enemies of Change are the proud people].
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
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