Grace and Sin

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. Jn. 8:3-11

Grace and sin. It is like David and Goliath, David being the grace and Goliath sin. But remember, David defeated Goliath.

Grace is infinitely far more powerful than any other force as far as relationships go. That is why the Bible says that “grace and truth came by Jesus Christ”. (Jn. 1: 17) Even Moses could not bring the grace of God into the world!

When it comes to sin, we have a knee-jerk reaction to crucify the perp. It is the hardest thing to carry grace against a sinner. And it becomes doubly difficult when the said sinner has committed what in our eyes is one of the ‘unforgivable’ sins: adultery, theft, lying, etc. Such sins appear too big for us to handle!

But that is law. Such reactions are born of the law in us! But grace always has a way to deliver the sinner, whatever the sin they might have committed.

When a man in the Corinthian church was found committing a type of fornication that is unheard of even in the world, the Apostle Paul ordered that the man be thrown out of church (1 Cor. 5). But notice that Paul did so for a reason: it was

“… To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (v.5)

Now, that is grace. That is love! Paul did not give the order out of a spirit of law, no. He did so out of love, not just for the man, but for the entire church. And in his second letter to the Corinthians, he bares his heart for the man.

“6 Sufficient to such a man is this punishment, which was inflicted of many. 7 So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow. 8 Wherefore I beseech you that ye would confirm your love toward him.” (2 Cor. 2:6-8)

In the same manner, Jesus – who did not carry a heart of law in His heart – did not condemn the woman. The scribes and Pharisees, driven by the law in their hearts, would have stoned the woman without a second thought. And they would have felt a sense of justice in doing so.

But Jesus carried grace, not law. Instead, He told her,

“Neither do I condemn thee…”

Jesus set the woman free! He freed her in her spirit. When you do not carry a heart of law, we also do not carry a heart of condemnation. And people can feel the difference. They can feel the freedom emanating from your spirit. And it makes it so much easier for them to reciprocate that love.

It was so much easier, therefore, for Jesus to tell the woman,

“… go, and sin no more.”

Notice Jesus did not say, “Neither do I condemn thee; go”. No. He said, “Go, and sin no more”.

I have a strong conviction that the woman did not sin any more. And why would she sin no more? Because she had met the grace of God. The reason we destroy people is because we do not have God’s grace in our hearts. All they can feel is this oppressive hardness or inflexibility emanating from us. We try and smile and tell them that we love them; but the spirit of a man can feel and connect to the law or grace in our hearts, whichever one we are carrying.

But what if this woman went and sinned again? Still, Jesus  would have let her go. Still, Jesus would not have condened her, even if she came to Him a thousand times. Why? The answer is simple and clear: Jesus carried law, and not grace. It was through grace alone that He could fulfill His sole responsibility, which was to set people free, not to bind them, praise the Lord!

Grace has a way of working that sets the sinner free and I am sure this woman went away free from sin.

Thank God for His grace in us. Yes, we can confront every type of sin and come out with victory, both for the sinner and for ourselves. Every time! But that is as long as we carry grace in our hearts. And this grace is our inheritance as children of God.

Where can weak sinners in church run to? It is into the arms of grace. Not the arms of law.

How can we give people victory over sin in their lives? It is by carrying grace, and not law, in our hearts. May God give us this grace, that we might be able to heal, and to revive, and not to destroy, souls.

[Grace brings spiritual freedom]

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Don’t Touch That Ark!

 

1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.

2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.

3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart.

4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark.

5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.

6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it.

7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God. 2 Sam. 6:1-7

The storms of life have taken a heavy toll on this blog, and I have been able to write only intermittently. In the interim, though, the Lord has been teaching me an incredibly valuable lesson which, interestingly, has given me immense peace in the middle of the storm. The lesson that God has taught me is that He is pleased only when we trust in and depend on His strength alone. And this, probably, is the most important lesson we need to learn in our relationship with God.

But trusting in God also goes with seeing in the Spirit. In all likelihood, what probably saved Ahio was because he “went before the ark”. He therefore did not see what was about to happen with the ark, as Uzzah did. When we see things with our human eyes, we react accordingly – with our human strength, and with our human wisdom; and this displeases the Lord greatly. It displeases God because it has no value in the Spirit and, in effect it goes against God’s purposes.

We can never claim to know how God works until we are fully in the Spirit (But this has a price to it). Sometimes God destroys in order to build. This idea is alien, indeed unacceptable, to us in us in our human state.

It is infinitely better to have a very little of what God has done than to have much of our what comes from own strength or effort. But that requires us to see God’s plan in the Spirit. That is why the Apostle Paul prayed for the Ephesian church, that their inner eyes would be opened to see things in the Spirit. When we see things in the Spirit, we will not do anything on our own. On the contrary, we will depend on God’s work in us to bring out the real works of God in us.

That is why, despite all the work that Paul wrought in his ministry, yet he wrote:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Paul credits all his work to the grace of God. He did nothing on his own. It was the grace of God working in him.

This therefore brings us to the need for an understanding of the revelation of the cross in our lives. In other words, when God opens our inner eyes, we realize that the only work acceptable to God is His work in us! Our work on the outside should be a consequence of His work in us! It is when we have allowed God to work in us that He can allow us to go on and do anything that pleases Him. And, pray, how does God work in us?

God is the Potter. He works in us through the cross.

Most believers think that just because Jesus is being mentioned in a sermon, then that must be the gospel. But no. There are so many gospels being preached and, believe it, it is not Jesus being preached even though His Name is mentioned throughout. The Apostle Paul sets a difference between the gospel of Jesus Christ – the revelation of the cross – and all other ‘gospels’. In his classic rendition in 1 Cor. 1:22-24, he writes:

“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.”

Notice the word “But” there. Cut out everything else and read,

“But we preach Christ crucified”.

What would you rather hear preached? Is it what the early apostles preached, or is it what anybody else is preaching? That is a choice we have to make.

But it is clear from the scriptures that the gospel of the cross is the only gospel for the church. Any other gospel is certainly not for us. The gospel of the cross is the only gospel where the grace of God, not of works of man, is available. Grace comes into our lives when we have crucified the flesh. But as long as we fail to grasp this revelation and therefore fail to crucify our flesh, we cannot preach the right gospel – and we cannot do things right in the Spirit. We will always do that which displeases God.

Heavenly, Not Worldly, Stars

I have read that stars die. And that the bigger the star, the quicker it dies, and vice versa. The smaller the star, the longer it lives.

It is comforting in the Spirit to hear that stars die. The only way we can achieve heavenly glory is to die. When we talk of God’s Kingdom, the foremost realization we should have is that it is a spiritual Kingdom, not a material or physical one. That is why many of the true spiritual heroes that we shall find in heaven when we get there will be men and women who were unknown in this world. They were dead to this world, and therefore unsung by it. They were men and women who did things before God, and not before men; who served God in, as the Apostle Peter says,

“the hidden man of the heart” (1 Pet. 3:4).

One of the greatest Books that I have ever held in my hands is the Swahili Bible (1952 Union Version). This particular Bible was translated from the King James Version of the Bible, and it is an incredible translation. There are a number of other adjectives that I would use to describe this Bible: amazing, spectacular, brilliant, magnificent, outstanding. In my assessment, it is one of the truly great literary works alive and deserving of all acclaim.

But there is another remarkable thing about this Bible. In its preface, the translators refer to themselves simply as “We, the translators”. That is all that is written about them: “We, the translators”. There is no mention of their names, nor of anything else about them. If I ever wanted to know who they were, I wouldn’t know where to begin searching.

I have often wondered about these translators. Who were these Swahili men (and women, probably) who were so educated in those early days that they could translate the Bible to such a degree? Colonialism had not even ended; where did they get such an exceptional education? And the truly great question: how did they arrive at the decision to not identify themselves? These two questions bothered me for a very long time.

But, one day, the light broke through. I finally realized that those two questions can be answered very easily when you realize that God was working in and with these men. I realized that, where God is involved, man steps aside. He is not visible because he has died to his natural state.

In that singular Book these people have done a far greater work in the Spirit wherever the Swahili language is spoken than all other works past, present and future combined. For that reason, these men ought to be the stars of our generation. But these men, who handled God’s holy Word firsthand, received from God the greatest gift of all: the wisdom to not leave a record of themselves.

God does not want us to be stars in the worldly sense. He detests the glory of this world which is of the flesh. The only goal acceptable to God in any and everything we do is to bring glory to Him alone, for He alone is worthy. Hallelujah!

Unfortunately, since we are prisoners of the flesh, we find ourselves sorely tempted to flaunt our own glory rather than God’s. In so many ways, we stand accused in this regard. But, interestingly, we are not done yet. That is still not enough for us. We have chosen to take things to another level, so to speak. It is normal nowadays to have superstar preachers, superstar gospel singers, New York bestsellers and all kinds of other superstars within the church. People are even using God’s ministries – the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher – to seek for stardom.

So many believers are getting lost in worldly glory. In my country, I have even heard someone tell of how, once they realized they could sing really well, they pulled out of their church choir and started a solo gospel singing career.

Sometimes God’s love for His children leads Him to do things that we think are cruel. But, in actual fact, it is God’s love in action. When gospel stars die young, people are full of grief, not realizing that, in most of these cases, God is saving that person from a dangerous situation. He is saving them from a perilous road they were hurtling down unaware of the consequences to their souls – the road of fame and stardom; the road of certain spiritual ruin and destruction. God decided, “Oh, no, I love this person too much, I am not going to allow them to go down that road” – and He took them home.

In most cases, gospel stars begin their ministry with a lot of humility and with the fear of God attending their souls. Unfortunately, that is the last time God will hear from them, so to speak. After the money begins rolling in and the fame begins surrounding them, they want to become stars in the natural.

But if we are to be stars in the Spirit, we have to die first. We have to die to worldly glory. Many of the gospel music artistes alive today, in my country and elsewhere, need to realize that they are alive because of God’s mercy. They are alive because God is giving them chance after chance to glorify Him alone through the gift of music that He has given them. In other words, God is giving them all the rope He can. It is because He loves them. And when He takes them home at an early age, it is also out of love.

[One day, even the sun will die]

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It’s About Power!

He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him. Ps. 27:14

I am thinking of asking whoever is involved to enter my name in the annals of history as one of the great pioneers of discovery. Actually, probably the greatest of them all. I haven’t read much, and if there is someone who has made this discovery ahead of me, I will gladly let go my claim to the title. But if not, may the record-keeper be kindly informed that I seriously need this recognition.

So, what discovery have I made? What have I pioneered that is so important as to deserve such distinction? It is this: I have made the singular discovery that the greatest desire in man, above any other, is the desire for power. I used to think that the love of material comforts, or the love of money, or the sexual urge were the most powerful forces in man. But no; all these come a distant second to the lust for power.

And you wouldn’t believe it, but I have made this discovery through observing my chickens. I have been raising chickens for the last four years, so I ought to know what I am talking about. It took a while, but through long-term observation, this realization finally dawned upon me. I will, however, divulge the secret of how I made the observation to you for your gift of a couple of million dollars. (Why not; every preacher is asking for these kinds of gifts).

Armed with this knowledge, it has therefore come as no surprise to me to learn that the struggle between God and man (i.e. man in the flesh) is a struggle for power above anything else. The flesh wants to usurp God’s power, God’s position and God’s authority.

Proverbs 27:14, therefore, does not mean that God is prohibiting us from greeting our neighbor aloud early in the morning. As a matter of fact, done in the right spirit, greeting your neighbor cheerily in the morning is one of the best things that you can do. The Bible says a merry heart is good medicine (Prov. 17:22).

But we must dig further to get a proper understanding of this scripture. What the Bible is talking about here is something entirely different. It is talking about pleasing men. You cannot please men and please God at the same time. One has to give way to the other in our lives.

Through even the seemingly innocuous things that we do daily, the flesh is engaged in a never-ending struggle to dethrone God; to dethrone Him from our hearts and from our entire lives. The flesh wants to be noticed, and to be applauded – at the expense of God. Our smiles, our good deeds, when not done in the Spirit, are an extension of our inner pride. Greeting your neighbor aloud in the morning is a very good deed; but if it done so your neighbor can see how good you are, that is putting the flesh ahead of God. It is the flesh usurping God’s position in our hearts – and in the eyes of men.

But God will have none of it. That is why God introduces the cross into our lives. The cross comes, first and foremost, to deal with our pride. This is why our Lord Jesus Christ commanded us not to seek to be seen by men in anything we do, whether it be prayer, fasting, giving, or our piety. We should strive to do things in the hidden inner man, where men do not see and give us acclamation, but where God sees and rewards us. Why? Because when we do things in the sight of God, it is a testimony that we are humbling ourselves before Him, and giving Him His due glory, honor and praise. In other words, we are proclaiming His power. In the same manner, therefore, when we do things to be seen of men, we are making the flesh our god! And God will not share His glory with man. When men praise us, our reward with God is gone.

This is a grave challenge to the flesh. But the flesh needs, not just to be challenged, but to be crucified on the cross. And herein lies the relevance of the Pauline revelation in 1 Cor. 2:2:

“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

When we do not have that revelation, we shall be doomed to doing obeisance to the flesh instead of God. And this translates into a curse upon our lives.

[A powerful lesson from the chickens]

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True Spiritual Victory

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness;

15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace;

16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.

17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:

18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints;

19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,

20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Eph. 6:10-20

In my country, Tanzania, there is a city called Arusha. Anyone, even from outside the country, who has ever heard of Tanzania knows Arusha, for it is the tourist hub of Tanzania. In other words, it is the most renowned city in Tanzania.

But there is something else for which Arusha is notorious for: it is awash with Pentecostal churches, ministries, radio stations, etc. There is every kind of these things in Arusha. And Arusha has every kind of ministry that you can find in the Bible, and more. Here there are chief apostles, ‘anointed thunder’; anything and everything that has to do with Penteostalism you will find here.

Furthermore, it is as if every minute there is a major Christian event going on in this distinguished city.

But it is in the ministry of prayer that Arusha has broken the sound barrier. The city is the prayer mecca of Tanzania. Dozens of prayer mountains, both literal and figurative, dot the town. Every weekend, pilgrims are bused in from every corner of Tanzania to attend ‘power-packed’ prayer vigils in the various hallowed locations of this city. Arusha is the powerhouse of prayer in the country.

But, in spite of all this religious activity and prayers, a lot of rumours surround the lives of most of the leaders of these ministries, churches, etc, leaving a lot to be desired. And rumour also has it that Arusha is not the holiest city in Tanzania. As far as raw crime goes, to begin with, it is an open secret that Arusha is the top haven for robbers, conmen, etc. A while back, the army had to be called in to dislodge a gang of robbers who had barricaded themselves inside a top-security house. In fact, during that particular operation the army had to use artillery to bring down the house!

And there is more. The rumour mill also has it that for every kind of twilight girl who considers themselves light-skinned enough and who can manage a smattering of English, their first stop is Arusha. The green city teems with these girls.

The general picture, therefore, is that, despite the city being the top upholder of Christian prayer and religious activity, it appears also to be abode of spiritual principalities and powers of darkness.

And herein we find the biggest problem facing the church today, and the chief reason for the church walking in defeat. The problem with most believers is that, when they read that our warfare is

“against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”

they immediately think in the natural. Instead of seeing things in the Spirit through God’s Word, they visualize things in their mind. And when you think in the natural, in the spirit you are defeated even before you begin your perceived ‘warfare’.

These believers begin to war against the devil through prayer, fasting, rebuking, etc. Now, these things are necessary, but notice in our key scripture above that they are not the first thing on the to-do list. According to this scripture, the first thing is living a holy life. Prayer is part of our spiritual weaponry all right, but it is not the sole weapon and, indeed, it is not the first. Our primary spiritual weapon is the holy life that we live. That is what Paul is telling us in Ephesians.

When we have not the revelation of the cross, we do things upside down. We begin with number two instead of number one; or, we begin with the tail instead of the head. And there is no victory in such an approach.

In fact, the Christian way to living a victorious lifestyle is the life we live, not the principles and laws that we follow. That is why, in living the victorious Christian life, there are no 5 (or 10 or 20) steps to this or that. There are no number of principles to follow. That is why the Apostle Paul can tell the Ephesians,

“18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel…”

Imagine that! As part of their victorious war against the devil, Paul asks the Ephesians to pray for him and his ministry! This is not the understanding the church has today. All it knows about warring against the devil is casting, rebuking, so-called deliverance, and such-like. Prayer therefore becomes a ritual from which the believer’s life and lifestyle is suspended.

But prayer ought to be part and parcel of our entire Christian life.

Finally, Proverbs 14:34 tells us:

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.”

We cannot replace “righteousness” with “prayer” in this scripture, can we? You can pray all you want, but if you are not striving to live a holy life, all your praying amounts to nothing.

[The approach to Singida Town from Arusha]

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Making It

The wife of a pastor friend of mine died yesterday afternoon, right after church. She was a woman whom I knew intimately. Just last Friday I was with her and her husband at their house. As we sat she complained of a headache, and her husband brought her some painkillers. No one thought anything else about it until she fell down in her sitting room and died. She died instantly.

It was a poor family and she lived a poor life. She never knew the good life.

Today, at her vigil, all the men were sitted outside and the women inside, as is customary when there is not enough space inside the house. Everyone’s thoughts were on what caused her sudden death. But, as her husband was narrating the ordeal, he said something that made me realize that the really important question was not what had caused her death, but where she’d gone.

A week ago, her 14-year old son had been involved in an accident. He had been riding a borrowed bicycle when he was broadsided by a motorcycle as he was making a turn. It was a ghastly accident, but luckily he came out largely unscathed. Within four days he was out running again. But the near-miss had shaken his mother badly.

Her husband told us, “My wife’s last words were to my son. She called him over and said to him, ‘Do you realize what could have happened to you in that accident? You could have died instantly. You should not play with going to church. Tell me you will not be missing church again.’

“At which”, proceeded the pastor, “the boy said, ‘I promise, mother.’”

It was then that his mother let him go. Not long afterwards, she collapsed inexplicably and died instantly.

As the pastor was speaking, we were sitted outside, under a clear, blue sky. Just about then, I glanced up and espied an airliner making its way across the sky. It was travelling from the north to the south. It was very high up, probably 30 – 40,000 feet. It was so high that were it not for the jetstream, I might not have noticed it.

Something told me, “No, she is not on that plane. She has left the splendors of this world that she never knew. But she is somewhere”.

And I knew, even as I looked up, beyond the airliner, that she had made it. Yes, she was finally with the Lord Jesus Christ. The thought was too tremendous for me to comprehend. It still is, even as I write.

A Friend In Jesus

Not too long ago, the Lord impressed upon my heart the importance of prayer. And, although I know it was personal, yet this impression has stuck with me so unrelentingly that I felt I should share it here for the sake of someone who might be in such need as I was. And the way God works is indeed marvellous and strange, for it is not I thought I had a need. But but the Lord impressed upon me that I ought to pray, and it was then that it dawned on me that I truly had a need – the need to pray!

Actually, the impression came in the form of a familiar song. On this particular occasion, the words of a song that I had sang for so long that it had become mundane to me became the sweetest words of any song that I had ever heard or sang! The song took me to a new level of faith, literally. Ultimately, I discovered that I had the truest Friend in Jesus.

Since then, I have shared this song with my family and with some members of my church, and although they are accustomed to singing it every so often, this time round I could see the power it had over their lives. So I thought, There might be someone out there, besides us here, who needs some encouragement in this regard. Hence my decision to share it on this blog. I share it with a prayer.

May the Lord bless everyone who has a need tonight and may He hearken to your cry. And may you discover, like I did, the meaning of the word “friend” in Jesus Christ.