Paul’s Spiritual Ministry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this is what Godly ministry is all about.

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

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Northwest Flight 85

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

Here, Northwest Flight 85.

Latter-Day False Prophets – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And, finally:

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

And,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[They have friends on the other side…]

 

Latter-Day False Prophets – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

There is this business of people going to heaven… people who claim to have been supernaturally taken up to heaven. There are people, especially preachers, who claim to have visited heaven and who love describing their experiences. They describe in detail everything they saw and heard in heaven. You will hear someone say, “I saw Elijah”. Or, “I saw a store full of arms and legs and Jesus weeping because there are people who need them and are not claiming them.”

Some of these people have even written books about their heavenly experiences. Others choose to tell it on TV, where the realism can be better appreciated. Believers, on the other hand, love this heavenly talk. They love to hear descriptions of the things in heaven.

Personally, though, for the time being I will ask to be excused from believing in these beautiful stories. I am not saying people have not been caught up to heaven, and that they have not seen and heard things there. But among all those whose stories I have heard, there is only one man whose account I can believe in – the Apostle Paul’s. As I said, that’s me. The reason for my believing only in Paul is because among all the accounts that I have heard, it is only Paul who never described what he saw or heard in heaven. And he tells us why he would not talk about what he saw in heaven. In fact, it is important that we read the entire account of Paul in relation to his going to heaven.

“1 It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) 4 How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (v. 1-4)

Notice that even though he later on lets on that it was he who was caught up to heaven (v. 7), Paul does not explicitly state that it was he who went up to heaven. He does not say, “I was caught up to the third heaven” or, “It was I who was taken up to heaven.” Paul, being a true man of God, knew that the issue of being caught up to the third heaven is too spiritual for a man to say, “I was…”

But the scripture that destroys all the claims of descriptions of heaven is verse 4.

“… he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.”

Paul tells us the reason he did not describe his experiences in heaven. It was because they are “unspeakable”! And that is as it ought to be. I cannot imagine you and I describing God or the things in heaven as if we were talking about meeting the pope. And the things of heaven being unspeakable, therefore, the Bible authoritatively states that it is “not lawful” for a man to utter them. That ought to be clear enough, but again man has a propensity for blatantly ignoring what God has said.

So, what is it with today’s self-proclaimed apostles and prophets who claim their ministries originated from a trip they made to heaven, and who go into all the details of the mandates they were given? Either they heard words different from the ones that Paul heard, in which case they are carrying a different doctrine and should be steered clear of; OR (if they heard words equivalent to those that Paul heard) they are deliberately breaking God’s law, for God through the Apostle Paul expressly says that it is “not lawful” for a man to utter words that he has heard in heaven.

Either way, these false prophets end up losing the debate.

And yet… it is these prophets who are reining in more crowds of believers than even Jesus Himself could pull during His earthly ministry!

Notice verses 1 and 2:

“1 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, 2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them”.

Nearly – or possibly all – of the world’s false denominations began with a vision, a sign or a miracle. Modern-day false prophets are performing even more incredible signs and wonders; and believers are flocking to them, eager to see these signs. But the prophets are leading God’s people away from God. One of the things they are leading God’s people into is materialism. Inspired by the spirit of covetousness, they are leading God’s people into idolatry. Scripture calls covetousness “idolatry” (Col. 3:5).  But the Bible also tell us:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry”.

From the Arctic to Antarctica, these prophets are prophesying only positive and good things to their hearers. Sadly, modern-day prophets are even leading God’s people into manifest demonically-inspired doctrines. But, even if they do all these miracles and prophesy all these things, the Bible says:

3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.

God is allowing these false prophets into our midst in order to prove us. God is testing us! And He says:

“Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams”.

God is testing whether it is the world we love, or Him. When we love the world, we will love the ‘good news’ these worldly prophets are telling us. It is just as it says in 2 Tim. 4:3-4:

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”

We should beware of these “positive confession” prophets. They are leading us away from the cross, from Christ. Why would we rather not cleave to the Apostle Paul’s doctrine of suffering with Christ? For that is the true doctrine of Christ.

We should also beware of prophets who claim to have been handed their mandate in heaven. It is so easy for one to be led into demonic visions and dreams, and the Bible says these false prophets definitely are under the power of demons.

Finally:

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

God says to put such people to death. Under the new covenant of Christ, we wouldn’t literally stone them or kill them with the sword. But I believe a good way of putting these prophets to death is by not giving heed to them or their teachings. The Bible says in 2 Thessalonians 1:9 that one of the ways that God will punish unbelievers is by banishing them away from His presence (ignoring them).

“Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power”.

But, incredibly, these false prophets are the very people believers are worshipping as if they were God Himself! Incredible.

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“Exercise… Unto Godliness” – Part 2

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:1-8

Practice, practice makes perfect, they say.

According to the above scripture, believers can practice – and perfect themselves – in one of two things: in old wives’ fables, or in Godliness. That is what verse 7 tells us. Once again, let us remind ourselves what old wives’ fables are. The context here gives us the exact meaning of old wives’ fables, or tales. It is simple and clear. Old wives’ fables are the teachings that have departed from the faith, or “words of faith”, which transform us into true children of God. They are teachings that originate from seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.

And the Bible goes on to state clearly the errors embedded in such doctrines.

Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats”.

One of the most intransigent modern-day false denominations is the Seventh Day Adventist church. This particular denomination forbids people from eating certain foods. This belief is embedded in Old Testament teachings. But not eating certain foods does not make one holy. Jesus made that clear in Mark 7:18-23.

The Roman Catholic church is the mother of all ‘Christian’ churches. But it forbids to marry. Priests and nuns are not allowed to marry.

The list goes on. I have heard of Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah’s Witnesses and countless other denominations that pass themselves off as ‘Christian’.

The Bible calls all these teachings and beliefs “lies” that have been taught through hypocrisy by men whose consciences have been seared with a hot iron. All these teachings are lies! If the Bible calls them lies, I believe we should, too.

Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron”.

This particular verse is telling. It means teaching something that one knows is wrong, but they do not mind because their conscience is dead. Because they have departed from the faith and are “giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils”, they are able to do this with a straight face. In fact, such people are so deceived they believe in what they are teaching.

In the Pentecostal and charismatic circles, things couldn’t get worse. Preachers have perfected the art of old wives’ fables and they are misleading God’s people with all kinds of gospels that cater, not to the spirit, but to the flesh: prosperity, false miracles, signs and wonders.

About the glut of ‘power’ signs and ministries that have inundated the church today, the Apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15:

“13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. 14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.”

All these things the Bible calls “bodily exercise”. It is a work of the mind whereby there is no fruitful ministry to the spirit.

And one can become accomplished in them. All they need to do is to regularly exercise in them.

But the Bible sweeps all these teachings and denominations off the table, and it leaves only one thing standing: Godliness. I believe if we are not going to church to seek after Godliness and Godliness alone, then our understanding of God is warped. And in church we are to hear “words of faith and of good doctrine”.

Under Godliness, the only ministry is that of the Holy Spirit. Here, it is simply the Holy Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit in us as we surrender self to Him.

And when we have the fruit of the Spirit in us, we become

“more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).

That is what the Bible means when it talks of Godliness as

profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

There is much profit for us in this life when we exercise Godliness. We conquer sin in our lives; we are at peace in the midst of the storms of life; we rejoice in the face of sadness; and we exhibit victory in every area of our lives. The list under “victory” here is endless. I do believe it is not talking primarily of things like job promotion, though. Rather, it is talking of victory especially in our relationships with people, and with God. Imagine someone who has in their lives:

“22… love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance”. (Gal. 5:22-23)

That’s someone who is truly free. And, pray, what more profit could a person who desires to be spiritual aspire for in this world?

And how about the promise of the life which is to come?

The Apostle Peter depicts it best in 1 Pet. 4:13:

“But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”

The promise of the life which is to come is exceeding joy.

We are to practise holiness by denying self, taking up our cross daily and following Christ. The Apostle Paul says:

“30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.” (1 Cor. 15:30-31)

Paul was a man who exercised Godliness daily. And he became so accomplished in Godliness that he could tell the rest of us to follow him for he followed after Christ (1 Cor.11:1)

Hallelujah!

[The art of practice… Having our sights set on Christ]

“Exercise… Unto Godliness” – Part 1

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:1-8

One of the most accomplished guitarists I have ever met, a man named Bryceson, once told me that there is a principle in guitar-paying that states that:

  1. If you skip practicing for one day, you will notice the difference
  2. If you do not practice for two days, your fellow artists will take notice.
  3. If you fail to practice for three days, the audience will notice.

I believe it is even so with the church. Anything and everything requires practice in order to be perfected. And the Bible here tells us that it is no different with the things of the Spirit.

“Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”

On our way towards perfection, we are to exercise ourselves greatly in the things of the Spirit.

There are many ways that one can exercise themselves in Godliness. As a young believer, I found myself immersing myself in the Word and in prayer. These things built up a strong foundation in my Christian life.

Something else happened in my life. I left off my old company. Actually, I did so in style. I used to hang out with a gang of three friends in college. When I got saved, I told them, “Guys, let’s go for a walk.”

We went out and I sat them down on a piece of rock. Then I stood in front of them and declared to them that I was now saved.

I will not go into the details of what followed next, but I can assure you there is no better way of saying bye to your former companions-in-sin. After preaching to them the little of salvation that I knew, I left them there, stunned and speechless, and I went my way to seek for brethren to fellowship with.

Those three steps are very important in our initial walk with the Lord. You cannot skip them in your growth in salvation. But as you grow older in your salvation, however, you realize that there is something else bothering you. There is another enemy: the enemy within. Yes, you begin to get acquainted with the greatest enemy of our souls: self.

That is when adulthood kicks in and you realize the battle has not been won yet. You are saved, yes; filled with the Holy Spirit, yes; you know the Bible, you’ve become a prayer warrior; you are probably casting out demons right and left; all your former friends are gone from your life (or you have managed to convert some); AND THEN, at some point in your life, you become aware of your own personal shortcomings and inner battles. This is where, if you are on the right foundation, the revelation of the cross comes in. You realize that you need to crucify your flesh.

It is mandatory that every believer arrive at this stage – the Pauline revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) – otherwise he/she will remain a spiritual babe all their lives. Unfortunately, many believers do not arrive here. They never come to the realization that they need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ. They follow after other gospels that veer off the narrow road. But self is our mortal enemy. The Apostle Peter exhorts us:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The mature Christian realizes that the enemy of his soul is within, not without. He wars, not so much with the devil as with his flesh, and with sin. And there is only one weapon he has been given whereby he can win this battle: the cross. In the revelation of Christ crucified alone can the believer learn to “abstain from fleshly lusts”.

And he crucifies his flesh every day. That is his spiritual exercise.

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables” (v.7)

The word “fables” is mentioned four times in the Pauline epistles; and all four times it is directed to Paul’s young disciples, Timothy and Titus. It is therefore evident that it is in the process of growing up in the Spirit, and especially as a preacher, that one can easily encounter and come under the influence of men’s wisdom, or fables.

One of the dangers of growing up as a young believer is the danger of being derailed by worldly wisdom. There are many people, especially religious leaders, who use more brain than the Spirit to try and understand the things of the Lord, and to lead others in the same. The more educated, the more this danger grows. The more weaponry the brain gets to fight the spirit with. That is why in 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul says:

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

The church is not a debating club. Nor is it a university where doctorates are offered. The church is a place where the Spirit of God is given full and free reign to reveal Christ, Christ crucified. This is what brings Godly edifying to God’s people.

Very educated people who are devoid of the Spirit love debating the Word of God and building un-Biblical doctrines. The Apostle Paul told Titus:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Tit. 1:14)

Much desire after education brings these things into one’s life; but Godly edification simply relies on a humble heart.

“For bodily exercise profiteth little…”

Christians use this scripture to justify physical exercise. But God is not bothered with whether you exercise or not. You can be the most un-athletic person in the world and still go to heaven. And scripture here is not talking about such bodily exercise, anyway. On the contrary, it is talking about all the worldly education that we are hearing today in church thinly veiled as the gospel. You hear someone say, for example, “I believe prospering for the believer means prospering in their spirit, prospering in the finances, prospering in their health, prospering in their marriage, prospering in their job…”

What a concoction! Here there is no Spirit. God’s people are simply being exercised in their minds. And if you exercise yourself in all those things mentioned there, you will end up with very little profit in the Spirit.

[I love the simplicity of village folks. Lacking in the education of this world, but mature in the Lord]

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David’s Generous Heart – Part 2

26 And when David came to Ziklag, he sent of the spoil unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends, saying, Behold a present for you of the spoil of the enemies of the LORD;

27 To them which were in Bethel, and to them which were in south Ramoth, and to them which were in Jattir,

28 And to them which were in Aroer, and to them which were in Siphmoth, and to them which were in Eshtemoa,

29 And to them which were in Rachal, and to them which were in the cities of the Jerahmeelites, and to them which were in the cities of the Kenites,

30 And to them which were in Hormah, and to them which were in Chorashan, and to them which were in Athach,

31 And to them which were in Hebron, and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt. 1 Sam. 30:26-31

I know of a man, right here in my backyard, who has never owned a bank account in his life. Granted, in Africa, the majority of people do not own bank accounts because they are poor and cannot afford to. But not this man. This man could have had two or even three bank accounts if he wanted to. He was educated and he had a good-paying job. But the only money he ever owned was the money that you would find in his clothes pockets at any given time.

This man was a good friend of mine and one day I asked him why he did not keep his money in a bank account. Did he fear it would be stolen?

“Oh no”, he answered. “But I cannot possibly keep money in a bank while there are so many people suffering from a lack of it.”

I knew well what he meant. I had seen him go – and sometimes I had accompanied him – at every end of month, from house to poor house delivering bags of charcoal and assorted groceries to less fortunate families and to widows. He used a pick-up truck which he borrowed from a fellow brother in the church. (The man could have bought a car of his own but he chose not to.)

In church, needy brethren would pass him notes at the end of every service asking him for financial help of one kind or another. He never refused help to anyone.

He was like a government ministry. He had a long list of needs over which he pored at the end of every month; a list, not of his own needs, but of others’. Then he would jump into action.

Twenty years ago, this man started building his own house. To this day, that house stands there, unfinished. The man and his family live in a rented house. But his sacrificial love for God and for God’s people has never waned. If anything, it has only increased.

This is a true story. This is a man whom I have known for over 30 years. I know everything that goes on with him. The testimony written here is true.

Some stories sound like fairy tales, but so would David’s story have sounded also were it not written to be believed. But it is a story of an incredibly generous heart. It is clear here that David’s joy was in sharing what he had with his brethren. He sent gifts

unto the elders of Judah, even to his friends… and to all the places where David himself and his men were wont to haunt.”

This is the heart of God. No doubt David, as all men, was tempted to hoard his spoils and to use them for himself and his family. But David rose above such a temptation.

I heard a preacher say he was a billionaire. Unless I am mistaken, being a billionaire means that that person is worth a billion dollars in his personal assets over and above his necessary needs like food and clothing. A billion dollars! I heard about another who owns jets and mines (note the s’s). Another billionaire preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I wonder where one would find the spiritual nerve to own billions, or even millions in this needy world. But be that as it may be, I am assured that the true riches for a man of the Spirit lie in his heart. God’s true spiritual riches reside in the heart that is willing to lose. It is the heart that is ready to share whatever one has with the needy. The Bible says of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

Where there is grace there is much giving, much sacrifice. This is what we see with our Lord Jesus Christ, with David; and with the Macedonian church (2 Cor. 8:1).

[The ubiquitous African cockerel silhouetted against a fading eastern sky]

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