The Distinctiveness Of The Church – Part 2

In Romans 3:27 the Bible says:

“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.”

I was in a burial recently. The man who had died was the regional bishop of one of the biggest Pentecostal churches in our country. He had under him all the churches in roughly one third of the country.

The burial ceremony was attended by a big government delegation, so illustrious was the man. But it was the bishops who came in their hordes. They literally covered the meeting. They were so many that I lost count as each was called up to the podium to be introduced to the massive crowd. And, in recognition of the position they held in church, each bishop was given the opportunity to address the meeting. The head bishop of that church organization was also there.

I had never been in such a meeting before. The introductions took more than three hours! But it was what was done by these bishops that truly amazed me. As each one stood and made their speech, they would turn around and address the head bishop who, together with the bishops, was seated on the podium facing the crowds. In fact, the bishops called him “Father Bishop”! And everything they said was directed at him. In other words, they were talking to the head bishop, not to the people.

When it came the turn of the head man himself to speak, he took the opportunity to remind the faithful (flock) of his position by telling them that it was he who represented them before the country’s president.

That is how the church is run today. But the early church, as we saw in the first part, was run differently. Then, nothing superseded the church body. Not even the leaders, be they bishops, pastors or deacons.

Had Paul been in this burial meeting, and had he had the opportunity to address the meeting, guess what? Paul would have addressed the people facing him. He would not have addressed the head bishop seated behind him. He would have addressed the saints. He would have said, “Saints”, or “Beloved” instead of “Bishop”.

Anyways, back to the scripture we started with.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.”

Probably the thing that man loves above anything else is boasting. Man loves praise! If you say something good about them, men will give you “even to the half of my kingdom” (Mk. 6:23)!

But that is the spirit of this world. It has absolutely no place in the church. Unfortunately, today, men (and women) in the church love praise. They love to be called all the big names. They love being noticed, credited, accredited, applauded, respected, saluted, and everything in between. You cannot write a letter to a church and just address the “saints” or “faithful” like the Apostle Paul did. If you do not address the letter to the pastor, it will be thrown into the fire. Why? Simply because the pastor wants to be recognized! He wants to be noticed for who he is.

But – glory be to God! – the church is not about men; and the Apostle Paul by the wisdom and courage that was given to him made that emphatically clear in the epistles. On the contrary, the church is all about Christ and His bride, the church. And Paul stamped the mark of distinctiveness upon the church. In a wedding, men do not waste their attention on the best man. All the attention is on the bride and bridegroom.

John the Baptist told the Jews, when they enquired about him. They asked him, “Who are you? Are you the Christ?” To which he replied,

“28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him. 29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John made it clear what the big prize was: it was the bride! John, the fore-runner to Jesus Christ called himself only “the friend of the bridegroom”. Then he said,

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

There is no place in the church for all the titles and self-serving positions that men have given to themselves in the church. Today, men in church are greater than Jesus Himself! But John said,

“There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.” (Mk. 1:7)

The Ministry Gifts

The church (as a body) is the singular most important thing with Christ. The church is the singular entity that Christ loves with all His heart. That is why He has given her the five-fold and other ministries. The ministries that Christ has put in the church are for serving the church, Christ’s Bride. Notice they are gifts. They are ministry gifts to the church. In fact, the Bible declares that Christ has put upon us His engagement ring.

“13 … in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Col. 1:13-14)

These ministry gifts have been given by Christ to prepare His Bride, the church, for Christ, who is the Bridegroom. They have been given to perfect her (Ephesians chapter 4). They are not garlands for men to wear around their necks. The gifts and callings of God are not for men to serve their egos with!

It is all about the church. It is all about every saint, every believer in Jesus, every “faithful”. Each one is equal in the eyes of God. No man or woman is bigger than the other.

The Leaders

So what about the carriers of the ministry gifts and church leaders in general? Who are they?

If John the Baptist considered himself not worthy to stoop and unlatch the shoes of Jesus, how much less so the new covenant servants of Jesus? These are simply men who have been entrusted with the responsibility to raise the church. They are servants. When Jesus was describing the role of the church leader, He told His disciples,

“… whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant”. (Mat. 20:26-27)

That is the spirit that ought to be in the church. Church is the place where every child of God ought to feel valued equally, their social, financial or any status notwithstanding. At any rate, the church is a Body. We all have bodies. At no one time have we ever felt that any part of our bodies was more important than the other.

[A tranquil beach in Mwanza City]

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The Distinctiveness Of The Church – Part 1

The Apostle Paul called himself “an ambassador in bonds” of the gospel of Jesus Christ (Eph. 6:20). What a profound statement! A man in bonds. A bondservant.

A bondservant is a person who cannot do his own will. Not that he does not have a will; but he surrenders it. He no longer does his own will now. On the contrary, he does the will of another, his master. The Apostle Paul fit this description perfectly. He did the will of the One whom he served, Jesus Christ, perfectly. That was why God gave him so much revelation. Paul could reveal things that we in our widest search could never dream of uncovering.

Paul was so faithful to Him who called him that he revealed things that we would never otherwise have known had it not been for his faithfulness as a bondservant. He revealed the deepest secrets of God. What we are about to learn today is without a doubt one of the most profound revelations that could ever grace the church’s sight. This revelation could only be revealed by one who was as faithful as Paul was.

Our lesson today is about the magnitude of the church.

Did you ever notice that Paul never wrote to a particular person in his epistles to the churches? In every epistle that he wrote, Paul wrote to the church as a whole. It is only to the Philippian church that he added,

“with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1)

In fact, let us take time to read exactly how Paul addressed his letters to the churches.

To the Romans: “To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 1:7)

To the Corinthians: “Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2  Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s” (1 Cor. 1:1-2).

To the Galatians: “Paul… And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia” (Gal. 1:1-2)

To the Ephesians: “Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Eph. 1:1)

To the Philippians: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons” (Phil. 1:1)

To the Colossians: “Paul… To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse” (Col. 1:1-2)

And to the Thessalonians: “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ…” (1 The. 1:1)

Wow! What an astounding revelation! We shall be expounding on this later, but, for now…

No “Apostle So-and-so”, or “Pastor So-and-so”; nor even “Deacon So-and-so”! Nothing of the sort. Just plain, simple “To the church”; and “To the saints”.

Is that not truly telling? I believe it is.

[In a remote homestead in the village recently, I met and befriended Jessica]

The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 3

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12-13

One day I had a dream. In the dream, we were at a sort of pier, and people were queuing up to pay for their tickets. Upon looking behind me, I saw Jesus standing right behind me. He had a sort of string purse, and He was trying to dig inside, looking for some money. But there was nothing inside.

In the dream, I turned around and, with tears in my eyes, I said to Him, “Jesus, I could never have thought that you would not be having money!”

At which I gladly took out my own money and paid for His ticket.

I woke up from my dream my heart pounding with excitement. This was one of the clearest dreams I had ever had, and in it I had unmistakably served the Lord in the clearest way possible! I stayed there in my bed for a while, awed by the wonder of it that dream.

The Lord, however, was not about to let me have a picnic with that. He quickly brought me down to earth by bringing a few scriptures to my mind.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17); and,

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17).

And, finally,

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)

The Lord showed me that loving and serving Him was all about loving and serving my brothers and sisters whom I dwell with down here on earth. Doing so pleases the Lord just as much as if I had served Him in person.

I have not written this story to show how cozy I am with Jesus. Only God truly knows about that (1 Cor. 4:5). Rather, I have written it to illustrate that when He was here on earth, the Lord walked in need, in spite of the fact that He had many women ministering to Him (Mk. 15:40-41). It was the kind of lifestyle He had chosen.

But, back to Paul. Let us have another look at that scripture.

“12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (2 Cor. 12:12-13)

This is the only place in the scriptures where Paul refers to the mighty works that were done through him by the Lord. Is that not so different from many modern preachers, some of whom have raised up ministries based solely on the mighty works they perform? Many years ago, when I was living in our neighboring country of Kenya, I saw a poster that said, “A man of miracles comes to Nairobi.”

The Apostle Paul would not have written such a poster. A man once asked me, “Who are you in your church?”

He wanted to know what position I held in church.

I told him, “I don’t know.”

He thought I was being arrogant. But he was trying to back me into the very corner that I was scrambling to get out of.

Today, many men of God want to be something. But neither Jesus nor the Apostles had that goal.

Anyway, to end. The Apostle Paul talked extensively about himself in all his epistles. But all the talk about himself was only about his weaknesses, or his “infirmities”, as the Bible refers to them. He talked only about the things he suffered for the gospel’s sake. That was his singular boast. He would gladly have boasted in his many accomplishments; but the Lord told him, “No.”

And now, in these scriptures, he reveals a mind-blowing fact about his life. That he gloried in his LACK. Paul worked in the church at Corinth in great want. So much so that the church in Macedonia had to come to his aid (2 Cor. 11:9)

Whilst great miracles and mighty deeds were done through him by the Lord to confirm Paul’s calling as an apostle; yet Paul would not glory in these. On the contrary, he was looking to and rejoicing at his material and financial lack in the midst of the Corinthians. In other words, what concerned him most was the cross working in him!

I don’t know about you. But my heart rejoices when I see the beauty of the cross. The cross was the singular revelation that drove Paul’s life. And today, you cannot afford to preach the gospel without mentioning Paul, so influential is his life.

The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 2

Firstly, in 1 Cor. 1:17-18, Paul states,

“17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Notice what verse 18 is telling us. It is making a difference between being saved and taking up your cross and following Christ. These are two completely different things. In other words, you could be saved but not be under “the preaching of the cross”. You could be a believer who panders to his or her carnal lusts. One who is not fulfilling the righteousness of God in their lives. But the Bible declares that to those who have accepted salvation, the cross is “the power of God”!

In other words, when we are allowing the cross to work in us, the power of God is revealed in us! The power to do what? To defeat sin and to work the righteousness of God in our lives.

The Apostle Paul feared lest the cross of Christ should be made of “none effect” in the lives of believers.

Wow! What a mighty revelation!! But Paul goes even further and writes similar words in Philippians 1:29:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”.

The believer has two mandates. Actually, one – salvation – is not our mandate. The work of salvation has been wrought by God Himself; we were dead in sin, and God resurrected us in Christ Jesus. A dead person cannot resurrect himself, so we were not involved in any way in our salvation. Salvation is all of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5).

The singular mandate that we have been given is to crucify our flesh. God calls us, by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us, to crucify our fleshly lusts and desires. Galatians 5:24 puts it thus:

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

Again, this is of grace. According to His great mercies and love, God has decided to make us co-workers with Him. He makes us co-workers with Him in His fight against His enemies. And, pray, how do we fight God’s enemies?

It is not by screaming at the devil, as most believers have been taught. Nor is the believer’s victory in the thousand and one “steps” that fill most charismatic teachings.

On the contrary, there is only one way to defeat the enemy. It is by crucifying the flesh! God gives us His Holy Spirit for the express purpose of crucifying the flesh. Once we have crucified the flesh, we are done. Done, I said. That is what it says in Ephesians 6:10-20. Here, it is well documented how our spiritual warfare is waged solely on the battleground of the flesh. Just look at our armor (vss 14-18).

Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. All these things require a denial of self.

It is all about crucifying the flesh! Once we crucify the flesh, the devil has nothing in us (Jn. 14:30). The devil fears a dead Christian! But when he meets a ‘live’ believer (i.e., one who is living for himself), the devil has a powerful weapon. We do the devil’s work when we fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Hence the cross. This mandate that we have from God – to crucify our flesh – was the reason the Apostle Paul held the cross in such esteem. You can see in his epistles that the singular thing that the Apostle Paul defended was the cross. Unlike many preachers in his time (but more so today), Paul did not boast in the great works that were done through him; nor in visions and heavenly visitations, all of which he had in abundance. On the contrary, Paul boasted

“in mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:5)

What does Paul mean by “infirmities”?

We shall see that in the next chapter of this series.

Interlude: Tribute

55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55-56

Two days ago, a terrible tragedy occurred in our country. An overloaded ferry which was making a crossing between two islands in Lake Victoria capsized and, as I write, more than 150 people have been confirmed dead from that accident. The social media in our country is clogged with photos of the bodies of these our fellow countrymen and women . Our nation is currently in a state of deep mourning. So many lives have been needlessly lost; and so many lives left irreparably scarred. Lake Victoria islands are closely-knit communities, and many families lost more than one relative. At any rate, the nation of Tanzania is like one big family, thanks to our founding father, ‘Mwalimu’ Julius Nyerere, who managed to unify it under the banner of one language, Swahili.

This tragic accident occurred at about 2 p.m. local time. That same evening, another death occurred, far from and quite unrelated to the one on Lake Victoria. At 8 p.m. of the same day, a lady in one of our churches went home. She went to be with the Lord. I was informed of the news by her pastor at the exact time she died, since she died in his arms.

When I heard the news, I broke down and cried. In fact, I cried the whole night. I cried, not because this lady had died, but because I knew the circumstances surrounding her demise. And my tears were tears of joy, not of sorrow.

For those of you who read my recent post titled “Kishapu!”, immediately I left the town of Kishapu I passed by one of our churches in a town called Igunga. Being new in these parts, it was my first time to visit this church. I intended to sleep over and have a little chat with the pastor there.

Early the next morning, however, before I left, the pastor took me to see one of his parishioners. He informed me that the lady in question had been suffering for a while now with what appeared like the beginnings of paralysis on one side of her body. She had been to the hospital and all the doctors could diagnose her with was high blood pressure. But no medication brought any relief. The pastor wanted me to pray with her.

When we arrived at her house we found her alone; her children had gone to school. She was attempting to go about her normal chores, but it was clear she was in extreme pain. Her body seemed bent completely to one side.

My heart went out to this sister. I could not imagine someone living in that condition for any amount of time. But in my heart, I knew I had to do something more than just pray. I told her, “Sister, before we pray, I want to know a little bit about your life history.”

Although she was in pain, she managed to talk clearly and she told me quite a lot about her life. She told me that she had suffered much in life (I could see it in the poverty surrounding her). She had four children to take care of; but what really hurt her was that her husband had left her. Life was therefore very difficult. She ended by saying that she was “bitter at life”.

When I heard that, I knew I had nailed what was troubling her.

Right there, in the presence of her pastor, I told her, “Lady, you have to let that go. You have to let go that bitterness. You cannot take one step forward in life with that heart condition.”

Immediately, I said that, she went into a paroxysm of pain as the paralysis hit her.

But I was unrelenting. I told her, “The condition that is tormenting you is a result of what you have allowed into your heart. You have to forgive where you need to forgive, and you have to let go where you need to let go.”

With many such words, my fellow pastor and I coaxed this lady to once again submit to the Lordship of the Lord Jesus in her life even though she was already saved. I waited for her to respond.

At length, she nodded her head in acquiescence, and I prayed for her. I prayed for God to heal her body and her soul. As is normal with me, I laid in heavily when it came to praying for her soul; my heart was all there!

When the pastor called me to inform me of this sister’s demise two days later, I was surprised. She hadn’t seemed that close to dying. But then the pastor told me something that made my heart to dance with joy. He told me that the sister’s last words were: “Thank God for the words you and pastor spoke to me. I am well in my soul. I have let go everything and I feel at peace with God.”

After which she said, “I am having a splitting headache, pastor. Please pray for me.”

Those were her last words. She tried to talk further, but nothing else coherent came out of her mouth. Her body gradually lapsed and death made its final futile grip on her.

That was when the pastor called me.

When I received news of her death, I spent the whole night visualizing the kind of welcome that sister must have received from the Lord Jesus Christ. I played the scene over and over. And I cried and cried.

With the stroke of a pen, so to speak, this precious lady had accomplished what none of us could accomplish were it not for the grace of God. Even though it were a matter of something that she probably had accomplished in a single day, yet this lady had joined the ranks of the Apostle Paul, who wrote,

“7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)

For the believer, death is all about finishing the race that has been set in front of us in the Spirit. It is a matter of grasping the incredible grace that is available to every child of God, and putting it to good use.

[Home – our eternal home – calls]

The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 1

38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, 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. 12:38-40

Our lives are bound up with God to the extent that we live the crucified life. That was what Jesus was telling these Jews here. They – just like many believers today – believed the Kingdom of God consisted of signs and wonders. But Jesus here set the record straight: when it comes to the Kingdom of God, the only true sign that would be given this generation was the suffering, death and resurrection of our souls.

Actually, Jesus reprimanded the Jews for seeking after a sign. He said that seeking after a sign is the mark of “an evil and adulterous generation”.

That’s quite telling. That’s talking of people who are not interested in seeking after the holiness of God. Rather, they are using God (religion) to seek after their own gain. Material, financial and physical gain, to be exact. But Jesus said,

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God”.

Even seeking after bodily healing of itself is a form of selfishness. Seeking after your own healing first (you will know you are doing this in your heart of hearts) is a form of idol worship. Today, there are so many believers who worship their bodies. But we are to seek for God’s Kingdom first to be established in our hearts.

I believe it grieves God’s heart the way many believers today throng to these miracle-working churches. All they are seeking after is a sign, a miracle, a healing, or an awe-inspiring wonder. According to scripture, these are “an evil and adulterous generation”.

In fact, let’s up the ante. Or, rather, let us see how the Bible judges today’s generation of miracle-seekers. Yes, God judges all miracle-seekers, as we shall see. Firstly, the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 1:22-24 declares something which is very contrary to popular charismatic belief:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified… 24 Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

In his day, Paul’s generation was demanding a sign. Today’s generation loves preaching Christ; but not “Christ crucified”. Today, the gospel is all about being blessed – materially, financially and physically. They preach another Jesus. The cross is out. And so is God’s wisdom and power.

But the real killer is 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. Here scripture says:

“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.”

What, pray, is the “truth” the Bible is talking of here?

The truth is Jesus. He Himself declared,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6)

And, who, pray is the Bible talking of here? Is the Bible addressing pagan sinners? By no means. The world is already deceived. Satan’s work is to deceive those who have been called to the truth. Here, therefore, the Bible is talking of God’s people who refused to love the truth (Jesus), but had pleasure in a lie.

There is no shortage of believers today who are so deceived even the drunkard in the bar can see what is going on, for it is happening in broad daylight. In Africa, congregations of the deceived are so vast that some ‘churches’ use football fields to hold their services. So many people running to receive a lie! There is so much damnable folly and unrighteousness going on in these charismatic churches today. Just to mention a few: People are persuaded to eat grass and snakes in church. Apparently, this is done under a form of hypnotism for no one in their right minds would do such a thing. Many other things are done to God’s people in these churches under this particular form of hypnotism.

Merchandise, purportedly from the holy land, is sold in churches: flags, oil, sand, water, etc. Women are raped in church under the guise of being healed and receiving other ‘blessings’. And preachers live the high life at the expense of fooled believers. The list is inexhaustible. There is a church whose members worship naked. They read the Bible and they discovered that Adam was naked (although Adam was not naked; he was covered with the glory of God). Then there are the mainstream established churches, who have taken centuries to establish each their own particular form of lie.

The common factor amongst all these groupings is that they have refused to affirm the singular Truth that was preached by the Apostles: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. They have cast aside the cross of Jesus Christ. They have cast aside the singular thing that connects them with the living God.

So what is that scripture we just read in 2 Thessalonians saying? It is warning us. It is stating that you cannot fool God. God can see when His people have no love for the truth, and he is not happy about it at all. God saw through the mask of people’s worldly desires and He realized people did not really love His Son, Jesus (the Truth). All they wanted were the miracles. The Bible here says that, for this reason, God let loose a spirit of “strong delusion”. A spirit of signs and wonders. They had refused to believe in the singular gospel of the cross, so God let loose Satan (in a spirit of “deceivableness”) upon them. This spirit is at work in the church today and, as we just saw, it is not working in parables. It is plainly see-able.

But it is the cross and what it does in our lives that will usher us into the presence of God. We saw in our last post that Jesus has received the ultimate reward from God the Father: He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And the Bible makes clear that Jesus did not receive this honor on account of the miracles that He performed when He was here on earth. Rather, it was on account of the cross that He allowed to work in His life.

Many believers, as we just saw, make a big fuss out of miracles and signs and wonders. But when we get to heaven, these (whether we worked or whether we received them) will be of very little consequence to our final accounting with God. What will determine how God receives us in heaven will be how we denied ourselves by partaking of the sufferings and death of Christ when we were here on earth.

This was what Jesus was trying to tell the scribes and Pharisees here.

[Our reward is to live forever with Jesus after we have taken up our cross]

A Reward Awaits!

Do you know that, right now, as you sit there reading this, something awesome is going on in heaven. In fact, many unimaginably marvelous things are happening in heaven just about right now. Let us read about a few of them.

“1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

Wow! Notice the second part of this scripture. It is informing us of an incredible fact. That right now, as we speak, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Right now. Wow! How truly awesome! But the reason for this, as we shall be seeing shortly, is due to something that Jesus did while He was here on earth.

But let us read on further about what is going on in heaven with Jesus. Bear in mind this is happening real time.

The Apostle Peter, talking about Jesus, says:

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers made subject unto him.” (1 Pet. 3:22)

Wow! Jesus is not only seated at the right hand of God; but angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. As we speak, Jesus wields power and authority over every angel, power and authority, whether in heaven or on the earth.

Wow!

Let us read a little bit further.

In Acts 7:55-56, as the Jews were stoning Stephen, he lifted up his eyes in the Spirit, and the Bible declares:

“55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Again, Wow!

Jesus was not only now seated; He had stood up. He stood for this man Stephen.

Who do we stand for, anyway? We stand for those who are worthy of our respect: the elderly; and those who have accomplished something worthy of our honor. In athletics, as the winner comes round the last bend of the final lap, we all stand to cheer. It is what took us there in the first: to experience the thrill of victory. We cheer wildly for the victor. We cheer wildly for someone who has done well.

I remember one time, during a great football match, that the great master of football, Ronaldinho, playing for the great team of Barcelona, played such a fine game against another great team, Real Madrid, that, at the final whistle, not just the Barcelona fans, but all the Real Madrid fans stood up to honor him. They stood up to honor an opposing player. That was the great maestro, Ronaldinho. He and Pele are the greatest pair who ever touched a ball.

But the Christian believer runs a different race altogether. All these great worldly accomplishments by earthly people are nothing when it comes to what we are called to do in the Spirit. Nevertheless, they are there for us to imitate in the Spirit.

As the man great man of faith, Stephen, made his final victory sprint across the finishing line of eternity, Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, could not bear it; and He stood up. He stood up to cheer Stephen, and to honor him. When the Bible says that Jesus stood up, that means all heaven stood up. All heaven stood up to applaud and honor a great athlete in the Spirit.

Back to Jesus. The Bible firmly affirms that Jesus is set at the right hand of God in heaven. But, as I said earlier, the reason Jesus is seated at the right of God in heaven was because of something He did while He was here on earth. Yes, Jesus did something right here on this earth that earned Him such a great reward from God. What, pray, could one do on this earth that could give one such a mark of distinction in the presence of God? The Bible has the answer. It tells us that Jesus:

“… endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

While He was here on earth, Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame. For this reason, He is seated at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to Him.

You cannot have your cake and eat it. That is a worldly saying; but then God has given men the wisdom to coin such sayings, for their own good.

When He was here on earth, although He was God, and although He was Lord of all and had all power and authority both in heaven and on earth (Mat. 26:53); yet Jesus

“7 … 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. 2:7-8)

Did we read the word “humbled himself” there? Yes, Jesus humbled Himself. He made Himself of no repute. He willingly surrendered all He had. He gave His body to sinful men, to do with it as they wished. And they rent all their anger and rage upon that body. He stood silently as they did so. He did not lift a finger to defend Himself.

This is what the cross is all about. That was Jesus, who was God and who was Lord of all. He endured the cross.

How much more we? How much more ought we to humble ourselves under the cross? How much more ought we to count ourselves as dung in this world, that God might lift us up in the Spirit? How much more ought we to confront situations (and wilful men) with grace in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit in us? For this was exactly what Jesus did.

For this reason God has greatly exalted Jesus.

“9 Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Again, Wow!

What a great calling we have! Yes, right now. What an incredible opportunity we have! What an incredible grace, to be able to follow Jesus in His sufferings and death, that we might enter victorious in heaven, and to be equally exalted?

What is our reward, anyway?

It is to live with Him forevermore. To behold the face of God forever! The Bible in Psalms 16:11 says:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

We normally associate the word “pleasures” with the worldly pleasures that we know of. But I sure am glad to read that with God there are “pleasures”; which are no mere worldly pleasures! We have no business pursuing worldly pleasures, which are so temporal. God has in store for us eternal pleasures.

The problem is that when our spiritual eyes have not been opened we do not see these things and we therefore live largely for the flesh and its desires.

But if we see these things in the Spirit, we will deny ourselves as Jesus did. That in effect means we will have no rights to fight for. We will endure the cross, and despise its shame.

[The athlete goes to great lengths to achieve his/her goal]

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