The Antiochians – Again! (Part 1)

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:25-26

Let us read that last line once again.

“And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

Now, please don’t tell me, “Oh, Mwita, you just wrote on this a few days ago.”

Actually, I am surprised we do not talk much on this particular scripture. No. On the contrary, this scripture needs to be turned into a mantra that every believer should be chanting every minute of their lives.

The disciples were called Christians. Oh. I cannot imagine the price that these believers in Antioch paid to be called so. When I see the defeat in the church today, I just cannot imagine what kind of people these believers were. Once again, I salute them.

Today, Christianity is, to a large degree, just a label, for there is everything in church except victory over sin and over the flesh. There is very little victory in church over these things. But there is so much of everything else: knowledge, signs and wonders, high class sermons, music. The church today is very much like the Corinthian church was in Paul’s day, for Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7 writes them:

“4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…”

The Corinthians had all the wonderful things listed here but they lacked the singular thing that would make then Christians. They lacked the cross in their lives. They had lost the revelation to deny themselves and living a life of daily crucifying their flesh. And therefore the Apostle Paul told them pointblank,

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ… 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

You could not possibly call such people Christians, for a Christian is one who reflects the character of Christ in their lives.

But, in Peter 2:21-23 we read of the example that Christ left us.

“21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously”

What exactly is verse 23 trying to tell us?

It is telling us that Jesus did not do anything to defend Himself. On the contrary, He allowed His flesh to be crucified.

The word “reviled” means “insulted”. When people insult us, it hurts. Our gut reaction therefore is to insult back; or, at the very least, answer back. We want to hit back!

But Jesus stood still and let the wave of insults ride out its full strength on Him. He did the same with all the other sufferings that were meted out on Him.

And the Bible says that this was the example that He left us. This is one of the most difficult things for us to do, our religious exterior notwithstanding.

The believers at Antioch portrayed this same resilience in the face of the opposition against their faith.

But they did more than that. They lived the life of Christ to the full. Verse 22 says of Jesus:

“Who did no sin”.

This means that Jesus lived a perfectly holy life. He did not give in to the unclean lusts of the flesh but, on the contrary, He crucified them.

The believers at Antioch depicted this same sacrificial character of Christ in their lives. They saw the believers sacrificing their bodies. And all who saw them saw Christ revealed in them. And they said of them, “There are of Christ. These be Christians.”

In our second part we shall see what it was that the Antiochian believers proved to be such a testimony of the life of Christ in them.

[“And be ye kind one to another…” Eph. 4:32]

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Dar es Salaam Youth Camp 2018

Normally, youth camps are feisty affairs with a myriad of events including outdoor games and different other activities. But this year’s annual ZGACT youth conference was molded on an entirely different format: it was unofficially labeled a “Word tsunami”. Everything else was put aside and the youth were inundated with the Word of God.

The youth camps were held in 12 different locations all over the country. I, together with Brother Boni from Mwanza, were scheduled to minister at the Dar es Salaam camp.

And so it was that, by the grace of God, for five days we engaged the Dar es Salaam youth in the Word and in prayer. The young people left the conference thoroughly refreshed in their spirits, and ready to face new challenges in the Spirit.

Here, below, in pictures.

  • The small auditorium was packed to capacity
  • The greatest praise and worship team ever!
  • With our host, Joshua Goodluck
  • My co-worker, Brother Boni
  • Some of the young people shared their testimonies
  • There was great fellowship all around
  • After the conference, an early morning trolling of the beach…
  • … And we encountered some fishermen hauling in their catch
  • Finally, at the bus terminal ready to travel back home

 

 

Count Your Blessings

Hi everyone. Shouldn’t we be grateful to God always for the littlest good that He does for us? But He does far more good than that for us.

And, pray, shouldn’t we be thankful even when the cross seems difficult to bear?

When we have the right (i.e. spiritual) eyes, we can see the good that God is always working on our behalf in every situation; and we can thank Him.

Count your blessings one by one, and you will have reason to praise and thank God.

“Christians”!

25 Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul:

26 And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. Acts 11:25-26

This blog has taken a toll from my many travels on account of the gospel. Much of the time, for various reasons, I am forced to leave my laptop behind.

In the last few weeks, however, Acts 11:26 has been powering its way in my spirit; and I felt I should share it with my readers.

The above scriptures go to show, not just the great work that Paul (then called Saul) and Barnabas accomplished as apostles (which I will address in a later post); but also the fruit that is born in men’s lives when the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached. The Apostle Paul had received the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ on the way to Damascus, so it goes without saying that he preached no other gospel than this to the believers at Antioch (Gal. 1:11-12; 1 Cor. 2:2). And when the disciples in Antioch became followers of this gospel, the fruit of the Spirit was born in their lives and their lives were transformed. So much so that it became clear to everyone who saw them. And the people of Antioch called them “Christians”, for they followed after Christ.

People love saying “Praise the Lord”, and making long testimonies. None of that is wrong, of course, but what really counts are not the words we speak, but transformed lives. Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

“14 Ye are the light of the world… 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Mat. 5:14-16)

Much of the time, God is not looking for the praise and worship session in church, however much we make of it. Nor is He waiting for our testimonies or sermons, be they long or short.

God, however, is very much concerned with the price we are willing to pay in order that we may live the kind of life that pleases Him. Incidentally, the kind of life that pleases God is also the kind of life that pleases the ordinary man. The Bible says of Jesus:

“51 And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52  And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Lk. 2:51-52)

Christianity is not a label. It is Godliness – Godliness in action. Jesus pleased both God and His parents by “subject unto them”. That means He obeyed His parents. He did not please God or His parents by singing “praise and worship”. You can sing praise and worship without it costing you a dime. It is when we accept to give up our inner “things” to be crucified that we please God, for this brings out the character of Christ in us. And that is all that really matters in our confession of Christianity.

That was what the disciples at Antioch did; and it became evident to all men.

[I found this little boy all alone deep in the bush grazing his father’s calves]

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The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 2

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

Although we are particularly thick-headed, yet verse 25 is trying to tell us something. In the natural state of affairs, everything, man included, wants to go only up. We grow up, not down! But in the Spirit, we are to take the opposite route. We are to go down. We go down with Jesus. We are to accept to be weak and foolish in this world. Philippians 2:5-8 says:

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 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.”

Now, we cannot hope to fathom the weakness and folly that attended Jesus’s actions here. The folly and weakness – the denial of self – that He exhibited here is incomprehensible to the human mind. But we are to follow Christ in worldly weakness and foolishness.

Notice, now, verses 27 and 28. Why would God choose the foolish things of this world, and the weak, and the base and despised? And why does the Bible expressly state that

not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called”?

Maybe God does not like problems. And, in the natural course of things, educated people and the rich and those with positions are, to say the least, a bit of a problem. They know things; they have things. It is very difficult for man to humble himself, so these kinds of people tend to be a bit dificult. Scripture declares:

“Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.” (1 Cor. 8:1)

It is no secret also that most white people have a superior view of themselves against other races. Whether rightly so or not, that sort of thing ought not to happen in the church. But the cold fact is that the minute natural man latches onto something, he wants to use it to elevate himself. The Bible says so.

That is why, when the authority of Christ is not in the church, men bring titles and everything else of the world into the church. But where the authority of Christ is at work, no one wants to be recognized for who they are. Rather, God’s people will desire only to reveal the fruit of the Spirit through the cross working in them. This was the singular thing the Apostle Paul desired to have in his life.

“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.” (Gal. 6:14)

Paul counted anything he might have had in the natural as dung! In Philippians 3:7-8 he writes:

“7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ”.

Paul had a lot to lose in the natural. But he realized that these things are of no value in the Spirit. But the fruit of the Spirit matters!

Is God really against the wise of this world, and the moneyed and them who have positions?

The answer, unfortunately, is yes. God wants the people He has called not to glory in these things. God does not want you waving your Ph. D in church. Go throw that in the dustbin and bring your circumcised heart into the church!

God wants us to glory in the things of the Spirit. But the flesh craves the glory of this world.

But… are we really weak when we accept to follow Christ in His weakness?

No, we are not. The Bible says of the exact moment that Jesus died on the cross,

“51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” (Mat. 27:50-53)

Great power attended Jesus’s shameful death.

It is the same with us. Great power attends a righteous man’s death. In weakness, we release great power in the Spirit. And in worldly folly, we become wise in the Spirit.

It has been one of the greatest privileges for me to minister amongst people who have little worldly education or wealth in central Tanzania.

It is wonderful to see how quickly faith builds up in such people, and to see the humility of their hearts.

[One of the purest sources of joy in my life is working with these humble men of God]

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The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 1

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

I grew up hearing the term “The Bishop of Canterbury”, and I recall being awed by the power that was attached to this title. The church has turned the word “bishop” – a Biblical term meaning “servant” – into a title that brings the greatest glory possible to men in church. And this has now crossed over into the Pentecostal church. Today, if you own a church (which nearly every preacher does), then you also own the top position, which is that of a bishop; a worldly bishop, I hasten to say, for in the Bible, the bishop is a person appointed by men to run the day-to-day affairs of the flock in a local church. He is a helper to the pastor. He is nowhere near the top rung of the Godly order of church leadership.

But, in today’s usage, the term “bishop” is a title carefully calculated to bring honor and respect to men. Fact is, generally speaking, the Biblical terms which otherwise denote the wonderful ministries of Jesus Christ in the church are today being used to bring glory and respect to men in the flesh. The five-fold ministry designations of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, having been stripped of their spiritual power and authority, have been turned into an outfit for men seeking after worldly glory. It is generally accepted that when you wear one of these titles you should be accorded respect and honor.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to bring worldly glory or respect to any man or woman. The church of Jesus Christ is the last place any man should seek glory. Neither the gospel nor the church were crafted for that. Where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it does only one thing. It does exactly the one thing no man would desire for… it crushes man and his pride. It comes to shame and crucify the flesh. The authority that the gospel has was crafted crafted to do exactly that.

The Bible says that God has chosen the foolish things and the weak things of this world. Think carefully about that. For what reason?

“to confound… to bring to nought the things that are”.

Just think about that for a minute. Don’t think about the proud people of this world; think about yourself. You might be surprised to realize that this scripture is talking about you!

We all think ourselves as being something. But, as much as this goes against our thinking, I have to say that thinking of ourselves as something is the one thing that God is against. The Bible says so right there.

Who or what are we? That is a question we would all love to answer in the affirmative. But God thinks otherwise. Thinking of ourselves as something comes from the flesh, and the power of the flesh is revealed in the fact that it is the most difficult thing to think of ourselves as nothing. In fact, we cannot. That is why we need the cross of Jesus Christ.

Notice verse 28:

“… yea, and things which are not (hath God chosen), to bring to nought things that are”.

God desires to bring to “nought” things that are.

This is something we should meditate upon. Unfortunately, man thinks too highly of himself, and he has always been fighting against the authority or rulership of God.

All the things we run after in this world are calculated to bring glory to the flesh.

Victory In The Cross

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Rom. 7:22-25

Even I am surprised at myself. I am very, very surprised at what I see in me. It is as if I am trapped on every side by the flesh. So much so that, in other words, I could only describe myself as a carnal man. The lusts of the flesh are all too clear in my life and they batter at me on every side!

And yet, at the same time, I find myself cheering at the things of the Spirit. When my spirit hears something Godly, it comes alive. It cheers wildly!

I find this juxtaposition hard to comprehend. Is it me who is cheering at the things of the Spirit and at the same time desiring so much the things of the flesh? How can the two things be alive in me? And so, so much like the Apostle Paul here, I find myself thoroughly flabbergasted and distressed by this state of affairs.

But I find also that Paul had an answer to this problem. In verse 25 he says,

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

Therein – in Christ Jesus our Lord – lies the answer to this most complex of problems for the believer. In the following verses, Paul shows us that it is through crucifying the flesh. In Romans 12:1-2 he writes:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

That means to crucify the flesh.

There is only one way to defeat the problem of the flesh in our lives: it is to crucify the flesh.

I never truly understood what Paul meant when he described Jesus as God’s “unspeakable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).

But I have come to know its meaning. It is, simply, that the cross (“Jesus Christ crucified”) helps us to live the will of God!

When “Christ crucified” is firmly enthroned in our lives and we are living the crucified life, we will not obey the lusts of our flesh. In fact, we will live in a completely different dimension; a dimension where the lusts of the flesh are alien to us.

I recall there was a time when believers lived this kind of lifestyle. My elderly pastor often regales us with the story of the day when he proposed to his then wife-to-be. She burst out crying, “Oh my God! What have you likened me to? A harlot?”

In her mind, the thought of being with a man was alien. It had never crossed her mind!

Yes, in those early days when salvation was untainted, the flesh never had a chance. The cross was alive in God’s people’s lives. People’s consciences were alive! If someone needed to forgive, the hurriedly did so. They would not accept to live even one minute with unforgiveness because every minute they were beholding the face of God, and how could you possibly behold God’s face with unforgiveness in your heart?

Today, Christianity is largely lived on another dimension altogether. In the city of Dar es Salaam, I know of a preacher who has left his wife and married a younger girl. He is an “apostle and prophet” and he told his congregation that God had led him to do that. He sent his wife and children back home to her parents. And his church is still packed to capacity. I challenge you to believe it or not; but it is true.

In the early days of Christianity, when the revelation of the cross was in the church, such a thing would not only have been untolerable. It would have been unthinkable.

“Christ crucified” is the SINGULAR cure for the contradiction of the flesh and the Spirit in our lives. Because we have been born again, our spirits are alive to God and they desire the things of God. But the flesh, un-crucified, is right there beside us, doing exactly what Ishmael did to Isaac.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:28-29)

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal. 4:30)

We are Abraham’s seed. If Abraham had to throw out Hagar and her son, then we also have to throw out the law and sin in our lives.

And so, I have discovered the solution to my dilemma. I must crucify the flesh. There is no short-cut. And there is no middle way.

Have a victorious Monday, everyone!