Dying To Live

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.
33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
37 Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. Mat. 8:31-38
In the world, when men die, we say they’ve lost their lives. That is as it should be, for here we are speaking from a worldly point of view. It is fair and correct to say that someone has lost their life because they have no other life.
But when we believe in Jesus Christ, we gain another life. Not that we get to have more than one life like the proverbial cat. On the contrary, through losing this temporal earthly life we gain the eternal heavenly one. This is our singular calling as believers. Many believers know and are affirmed of the hope of eternal life. But there is the experiential grasping of this hope, which can only be achieved through losing our worldly life.
Unfortunately, many people do not have this revelation. Even after they have been born again, many believers are not aware that they need to lose this earthly life in order to gain the heavenly one. That is why they will fight and scrape for self-preservation in every sense of the word. They do not learn to lose their love for this life.
But losing or denying one’s self is not easy, as we see in Jesus’s example. It goes absolutely contrary to what we in our flesh would want to experience. Notice what Jesus stated would happen to Him:
“And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed”.
Nothing in these words is easy by any standards. But with Jesus it went far beyond comprehension. He did not deserve to undergo any of this. Normally, after a terrorist attack you often here people say, “The terrorist killed innocent people”. But there is no such thing as an innocent person. All human beings are guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23).
The only Person to whom that word “innocent” ever applied in this world was our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible declares that “He did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).
Jesus therefore did not derserve to suffer in any way. On the contrary, He needed to be praised and exalted and lauded. But He suffered, and terribly. And for this reason – His sinlessness – our own suffering cannot be held in comparison to His.
But still the Bible exhorts us to have the mind of Christ,
“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:6-8)
It is not easy to have the mind of Christ. Such a mind will take you to places you wouldn’t want to be. It will lower you to levels you would not wish to be at. And sometimes it will cause you to suffer physical pain. That is why worldly-minded men will try to stop you from suffering for the gospel of Jesus Christ, just as Peter attempted to do to the Lord. I have heard believers say, “Being saved does not mean becoming a fool” as they attempt to justify fighting for their rights. That is why you will find them in the civil rights movements, etc.
But Jesus said clearly,
“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it…”
May we learn to deny our selves. Denying ourselves means denying our own rights and whatever else the flesh craves. The flesh craves the world, literally. It has thousands and thousands of desires. But the cross comes to crucify these desires. It comes to reveal another glory, the heavenly glory. In the process, we count the glories of this world, including our rights and material comforts, as dung.
[In the world, dying is counted as losing. In the Spirit, it is gain]


Keep Your Heart Pure!

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

In the Swahili translation, the first part of this scripture reads: “Guard your heart above everything else…”

In other words, there are other things that we should guard; but it is the heart that we are to guard above everything else.

I believe there is much to this scripture than I dare try to expound here. But there is a small light that has been shining in my heart with regard to this scripture, which is what I want to share with you this morning. And it has to do with what I have just explained concerning what it says in the Swahili translation.

There are many areas in our Christian life where we can mess up; but it should never be with the purity of our hearts. We can “blow it” in may areas of our lives; but it never should be with the heart.

Let me illustrate this to try and bring out the light that I have seen in this scripture. Let’s say you and your wife have a disagreement over something. A disagreement often leads to some form of altercation. Unfortunately, this occurs quite often between married couples. But this is not the real problem. The problem, as far as God is concerned, is when we come away from such a situation with bitterness in our hearts. Bitterness causes us to close our hearts to the people who have hurt us. On the other hand, we can walk away from such a situation with a pure heart.

The Corinthian church hurt Paul deeply. He had paid such a big price to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them but the minute he turned his back, they reverted back to the flesh in a big way. When Paul heard the news, he was deeply distressed. But he did not close his heart. In other words, Paul guarded his heart to the extent that he did not allow any bitterness to seep in. And hence he was able to write them:

“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12)

Paul had such grace that, the more they sinned against (him) the more his heart became enlarged towards them. That is the heart of grace that the Bible talks of and that we should always carry in us.

It is not okay for us to arrive at disagreements, but that is the lesser of the problems that God sees in us. The disagreement or the altercation is not the problem; with God the problem is the condition of our hearts.

In Matthew 5:8 we read:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

You can do everything well and be blessed; but in order to behold God’s face – in order to get up close to God – you have to take care of the condition of your heart. But, pray, what does it mean to “see God”?

I believe we can find the answer in 1 Peter 3:7

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Here the Apostle Peter says that if husbands play it roughshod over their wives, God will not grant them an audience. He will not hear or answer their prayers. In other words, such husbands will not be able to “see” God. On the other hand, when we guard our hearts and maintain patient and loving hearts towards our wives, God is pleased with us. He gives an ear to and answers our prayers.

This is as it should be for in Isaiah 57:15 it says,

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

It is in the same spirit that Jesus taught about forgiveness.

“6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat. 6:14-15)

Forgiving requires a denial of self. Ultimately, therefore, we have to come back to the cross to be able to keep pure hearts. Only a man or woman who has crucified their lives with Christ can keep and maintain a pure heart in a world that waiting is to defile our hearts every waking moment of our lives. The Bible says that a man’s enemies are those of his own house (Mat. 10:36). That means that it is the things that are closest to us that easily defile our hearts. And what could be closer to us than our own selves. It is when we are unable to rein in our carnal nature that we get defiled in our hearts.

Personally, I can say that in my married life it was my wife who became the biggest thorn in my flesh. Presumably. I had never heard the cross taught as the Apostle Paul expressed it, and I therefore always had something to be bitter towards her. It took me a painfully long time to realize that the key to unlocking the victory over the bitterness lay in my heart. But today, by the grace of God, it is no longer so. Whatever may come between me and my wife, I am glad (and greatly surprised) to see that there is no aftertaste of bitterness after all is ended.

I believe that is one of the true victories that we can claim in the Spirit. But the price we have to pay for such a victory is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Above all things, may we keep a pure heart.

[Called upon to keep and maintain a pure heart]


Jesus – Our True Friend

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend. Prov. 27:17

Hello there again. Today we will look at a subject that has been on my heart for a while: Who is our true friend?

There are people who call the dog man’s best friend. Actually, the faithfulness of this animal is legendary. It is known to do exactly as you tell it to, and it sticks as close to its owner as their own skin. Dogs have even been known to save their owners from certain death. But thank God, a dog’s life is just that: a dog’s life; and we cannot carry this reasoning into the church. For all the faithfulness it is famed for, there is one thing the dog cannot do: it cannot save you from eternal death. In fact, no one can save you from eternal death, except One: our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In the Spirit, Jesus is therefore our true friend. Jesus does not appear to us physically; but we know Him through the circumstances that He allows us to pass through. And here on earth, Jesus has given us many like-minded friends – brothers and sisters in Christ who will show us and coax us along the narrow road, the road of denying self and taking up our cross.

This scripture is therefore speaking of Christ, ultimately. It is Christ who tells us:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…” (Phil. 1:29)

Notice, Christ does not tell us to only believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake. The reason for this is because God’s wisdom stated long ago in Proverbs that

“Iron sharpeneth iron”.

Believing alone does not sharpen us. Suffering does that work. Suffering for Christ, or Christian suffering, sharpens our spiritual countenance.

The No. 1 gospel in the world today is the “faith message”; but it is a message that twists God’s truth. This message teaches that all we need to do is to believe. That is all that is required of us. Once we believe, this message states, we will be able to receive God’s best for us, both in this world and thereafter in heaven.

But God’s truth states that we are not only to believe on Christ here on earth, but also to suffer for His sake. That is the full Christian message. If someone were to pay me a half-salary all my life, imagine the amount of money they would have robbed me of! That is what the “faith” or “only believe” message has been doing to believers all their lives. It has been robbing them of God’s best for them. But Christ will never rob us. That is why He has brought the revelation of the cross to the church. The message of the cross pays the church its full spiritual dues. That is why the Apostle Paul also would teach no other gospel than

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

As he also tells the Galatians in Galatians 3:1:

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”

As I said earlier, Christ also gives us true earthly friends. No, these are not the people that you laugh with and with whom you have a good time together. On the contrary, these are probably the people whom you would not call “friends” here on earth. They are the people who will tell you the truth, however painful or bitter it may be. That should include your wife or husband. (In fact, if you have a Godly wife, she can be your best friend on earth. Your wife knows all your weaknesses and by God’s help she can become your best helper).

True friends are the people who will rebuke you and put you on the right path of righteousness. They are people like your pastor (if he is a man whose faith is founded on the revelation of the cross). As we can see in his letters both to the Corinthians and to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul was such a man.

Sometimes you hear things that make your ears to literally tingle. I recently overheard a pastor (one of the many new ‘prophets’) tell his congregation, “We are not going to drive cars; we are going to drive machines!”

He meant God wants us to own Hummers, Bentleys, Mercedes Benzes; not the Toyota Corollas that jam Tanzanian roadways.

Such a pastor cannot claim to be your friend. In fact, he is an enemy and a deadly one. The Bible says:

And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you…” (2 Pet. 2:3)

Such a “friend” will fleece you here on earth and ultimately lead you to hell through teaching you to have the same covetous spirit that he has.

Jesus is our true friend. As iron sharpeneth iron, so does Christ us. Christ will bring in our way circumstances that will only sharpen us spiritually. He will bring in our way things that will shake our spirits to the core.

As Christ sharpeneth us spiritually, so do Godly brothers and sisters in Christ. And so do our Godly wives and husbands. And so do the men and women who, like Paul, preach no other gospel save the message of the cross – the revelation of

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

[The lyrics to the following song (by Google Translate)

“There is a happiness that sings in me,

And that gives me joy.

Without which I can not live, for which I want to live.

The Prince of equity has freed me from iniquity.

Changed my identity, my name is redeemed.

Where would I go far from You,

The one we call Emmanuel.

My happiness and my joy, my all in all.

My precious and personal property

My friend, my heart, my Jesus.


My Jesus, I have no other than you Lord / x2


Your love in me remains,

Your presence in me abides, I want to belong to you.

As a seal in our hearts,

Be engraved the name of my Jesus.

Where would I go far from You,

The one we call Emmanuel.

My happiness and my joy, my all in all.

My precious and personal property

My friend, my heart, my Jesus.

My Jesus, I have no other than you Lord / x2

My Jesus Your love in me abides,

Your presence in me abides, I want to belong to you.]


11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.
12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life… 1 Tim. 6:11-12

Without a doubt, it is much easier to run away from danger than to stand and fight. But the Bible here tells us to fight – to fight the good fight of faith. The “flee” that Paul talks of here is part of this fight. You have to wrestle yourself from the things of this world – things like fornication, idolatry (materialism). The Bible also talks of other things that we are to part from:

“… envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings” (1 Tim. 6:4-5)

On the other hand, you have to fight to cling onto the things that Paul tells us here to follow after, things such as:

“righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.”

We can choose to fight – or run. But if we run, we will not be counted worthy to enter into God’s Kingdom. The Bible in Revelation 21:8 tells us,

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.”

Who are the “fearful” that the Bible is talking of? What fear is the Bible referring to here?

I believe it is not the fear of snakes, nor the fear of heights that some of us have. Rather, when the Bible talks of the fearful, it is they who are unable to deny themselves, to take up their cross and follow Christ. It is they who love themselves. In a nutshell, it is they who are unable to crucify their flesh.

But the Bible encourages us with the words of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 5:24:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

May we choose to fight, not run.

[In 1963, President Kennedy announced that America would put a man on the moon. He said it was worth pursuing, not because it is easy, but because it is hard.]


Paul’s Spiritual Ministry

17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. Phil. 4:17-18

I am still intrigued – and greatly challenged – by the Apostle Paul’s attitude towards material wealth and towards the offerings that he received from God’s people. When Paul received a gift, he did not say, “Gotcha!” Nor did he exhale an, “Oooooh, yeah!!”

No. Paul’s outlook was never about himself. As a recipient, he never thought about himself when it came to the ministry of giving and receiving. On the contrary, he thought about the giver. He thought about how this other person would gain through their gift in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

But probably the truly earth-shaking revelation is of how Paul could convert something that was basically material into spiritual. It is like in science, where you can turn something from physical form into chemical form. Paul turned a physical action into a spiritual one. How did he do it? He did it by not directing the gift to himself, but to God. He says,

“… the things which were sent from you, (are) an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.”

The Philippians sent Paul a gift and Paul did not write, “Oh, your gift really blessed me. It took me out of a rut.”

Instead, Paul says, “The gift that you sent me was received, not by me, but by God, and it has pleased His heart. Your gift has blessed God.”

But words are just words. You can say all those wonderful-sounding words and still be a man or woman who is looking after himself. What makes the difference is the lifestyle that you live. A life of self-denial is the proof that such words are indeed true in a man’s life. It is therefore through Paul’s lifestyle that we can judge and commend him for being a spiritual servant of God. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:8:

“I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.”

Whatever Paul received from other churches, he used it, not on himself, but to minister to other churches. This is what the revelation of the gospel in a man’s heart does. His whole outlook on life becomes, not about himself, but about others.

And, pray, what “service” do you suppose Paul did the Corinthians?

It was spiritual service. He preached to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. He taught them to give of their lives also even as Christ had given His. This was Paul’s “service” to the Corinthians.

I heard a bling (you have to look up “bling” in a contemporary dictionary) preacher tell his congregation, “You see my bling, you see my Bentley, you see my glory, but you do not know my story!”

The man also owns a Mercedes Benz and he went on to justify his extravagant lifestyle. “I have been pastoring for 26 years and… I have accumulated my wealth over the years.”

Another felt she had to justify on TV why she had to fly only on business class: “I really could not fly commercial at this stage of my life and do what I am doing. I could not endure it physically… You know how hard it is to fly commercial.”

“Physically”. All these preachers are thinking of is their physical and worldly comfort. They think only of themselves. And they have the material and financial wherewithal to live the kind of lifestyle they want.

But the Apostle never thought of himself. A true man of God thinks only of losing – losing, that others might gain. But it goes far beyond that; in fact, the spiritual man loses in the natural that others might gain in the Spirit. If it was a matter of owning churches, Paul owned all the churches in Europe, Asia and Africa. He also owned all the churches in the Middle East, except the tiny enclave of Jerusalem. He could have gone on and become the richest preacher who ever walked this earth. But Paul’s lifestyle hardly reflected any such thing. In 1 Corinthians 4:11-13, he writes:

“11 Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.”

Those were the apostles of old; they were the Godly ministers of old. Today, largely, it is a far much different story. But, again, it is all about seeing into the never-ending war between the flesh and the Spirit. If one does not have this revelation, he cannot live the kind of lifestyle that Paul and the other apostles lived. He cannot deny himself. Nor can he see into God’s spiritual Kingdom.

Paul was fully filled with the Holy Spirit and in all aspects of his life, he was fully directed by the Holy Spirit. Paul therefore thought in spiritual terms in every aspect of life. We can sum up Paul’s life and ministry as a true ministry of the Spirit. Viz:

  1. Paul never thought of his own profit, but of the profit of others;
  2. Even when Paul thought of others, he was not thinking of the material gain they would receive on this earth, but of their spiritual gain in God’s heavenly Kingdom.

And this is what Godly ministry is all about.

[Paul chose to lose in order that he might minister to God’s people in the Spirit]


Northwest Flight 85

We are all human, and it is impossible to not celebrate human courage – and the endless mercies of God. In this post and others that I will occasionally be putting here, it is primarily to hail the great courage and selfless sacrifice of the men and women who work the great machines that ply the sky. As well as to take a peek at the humanity in us all. Lastly, and most importantly, it is to thank God for His manifold grace.

Here, Northwest Flight 85.

Latter-Day False Prophets – Part 2

1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,

2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;

3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

5 And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee. Deut. 13:1-5

I felt compelled to write further on this topic because I feel there are main issues in the church that we cannot rush over. The issue of latter-day false prophets is certainly one of them.

There is a belief within the church that when a prophet or man of God says something and it comes to pass, then that person is spiritual, or that he or she is working under God’s mandate. But that could not be further from the truth. The Bible tells us that the devil is able to turn himself into an angel of light, and

“Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” (2 Cor. 11:15)

Light and righteousness. The church needs to keep its eyes peeled and realize that not every light is from God, and not every seeming work of righteousness is a bona fide work of righteousness. That means not everyone who calls themselves a minister of God is a minister of God. There are many who are agents of the devil.

Further, in 2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 we read:

“7 For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.8 And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Apart from having the ability to appear holy, the devil (and his agents) also has power to work signs and wonders. And, in particular, verse 8 tells us that the full power of Satan shall be revealed in the end times. But this power comes

“with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish”.

At no time in the history of the church has there been an avalanche of power signs as there are today. The full power of Satan is being unleashed in our days. At no time also has there been so much demonic deception in the church as there is today. And at no time has the church been as weak, divided and defeated as it is today. Without a doubt, scripture here was referencing our very days.

The litmus test that a sign or wonder is from God is not in the sign itself. Rather, it is in the doctrine under which that sign is being performed. Doctrine is everything with the Bible. Where the doctrine is wrong, everything is wrong. That is why Paul, in giving spiritual instructions to his young charge, Timothy, did not tell him to look at the signs. On the contrary, Paul told Timothy to mind his doctrine.

“If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.” (1 Tim. 4:6)

Paul did not tell Timothy, “Work the signs.” That was of the Old Testament. It was of Moses. But today, we are of Christ. Under Christ, doctrine – the doctrine of Godliness – is of first importance. Anything else can lead us away from God.

As believers in Christ, we cannot follow signs and wonders alone, however powerful they are. If it is a matter of power, the devil also is powerful, as we just saw in 2 The. 2:9. Moreover, if we seek after these things, we stand in danger of being deceived – and of perishing, as Paul clearly tells us in verse 10.

And, finally:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22-24)


“39… An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mat. 12:39-40)

Both these scriptures attest to the fact that the only “sign” that is relevant to the church is the revelation of the cross. The church cannot be running after signs and wonders like the world – the Jews and Greeks that Paul talks of in 1 Cor. 23. The church cannot be seeking after these things. For the church, the only sign it needs is an understanding of what the cross can achieve in our lives; in other words, the power of the cross over sin.

I have heard believers say, “Don’t talk to me about sin, I am saved.”

That is one of Satan’s greatest lies. Sin is as close to every believer as their skin, and it is only through the work of the cross that sin can be completely defeated in our lives, as Paul clearly states in Galatians 5:24 and 6:14:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

As for signs and wonders – well, did you not know? Have you not heard? False prophets are able to perform some of the most powerful miracles in the world.

[They have friends on the other side…]