18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19
Although Adam might have been able to fly, yet, under the New Covenant, we could hardly find time to talk about Adam and his flying skills. On the contrary, we are to look at the heart. Something bad happened with Adam’s heart. And thereafter, grief, sorrow, fear and death reigned over the earth. Whether Adam was able to fly thereafter or not is no more of importance to us.
I truly thank God for the revelation that He has given to the church concerning the heart. Where would we be without this revelation? No doubt we would be preaching the charismatic gospel of material prosperity, et al.
But the Bible says:
“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
I have heard many preachers try to make this scripture to be about the human intellect. But they could hardly be more off-track. This scripture is not talking about the brain. Indeed, no scripture addresses the human intellect. All scripture addresses the heart. All it is saying here is that as a man is in his heart, so is he. As a man is in his heart, so is everything about him.
Elsewhere, the Psalmist wrote:
“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps. 139:14)
The Psalmist was in the Spirit when he wrote those words. He was not in the flesh. The Psalmist here therefore is talking about the heart. God could hardly be bothered with our bodies the way we are.
In the Bible, we find men and women who had the heart of God. Men like David. And Abigail, among countless others. I have it in my heart to write about these two especially and, God willing, I shall do so within the next few days.
God has given us a heart that is fearfully and wonderfully made. A heart where God can dwell. Through Jesus Christ, our hearts have become the dwelling place of God.
Is that not so wonderful! But for us to arrive at the place where God dwells in our hearts, we have to pay the price. And, pray, what is the price?
The price is to circumcise our hearts. Those are the “sufferings” the Apostle Paul talks of in our key scripture above. Notice,
“we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!
The true gospel of Jesus Christ preaches the singularity of the sufferings and death of Christ through crucifixion. It may not be a “pop” gospel, but it is the true gospel. Any other gospel, any other Jesus, is not genuine and the preaching of such simply draws men and women further from eternal life (2 Cor. 11:4).
In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Himself said,
“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”
The denial of self and the taking up of our cross is not easy. But there is no different path. The cross makes for a beautiful heart. A beautiful heart, on the other hand, makes the difference in this world – and in the next.
I find myself singularly wanting in any endeavor to do justice to this important subject. What I have written here is my small contribution for now. I pray it might make a difference in the lives of any who read it.
[Man is an incredibly wonderful creation. God intended it to be so. Judge Frank Caprio]
18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19
The words “the creature” in verse 19 refer to all of creation. This verse could therefore also have been written, “For the earnest expectation of all creation waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”
All of creation. That understanding is important to our comprehension of this scripture. But… before we get to the meat of this scripture, let us look at another scripture in Genesis chapter 1.
“26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth… 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” (Gen. 1:26-31)
The other day I read in the news that a lion mauled and badly injured eight young Maasai men in the countryside. The beast chanced upon them as they were digging a well and attacked them. The young morans were unprepared for the attack, of course, and as they scattered they cried out for help. But the lion fought off anyone who came to help and he managed to walk away from the confrontation largely unscathed. Fortunately, no one died; but some of the morans were badly injured.
In the comments section of that story, people were talking about how things would have turned out had the young men been from a different tribe. One comment read, “The headlines would have read: ‘Eight young men mauled to death by a lion'”.
The Maasai are without a doubt the most redoubtable people in the land. In the early days, a Maasai warrior had to hunt and kill a lion in order to be initiated into manhood.
But the lion is no animal to tangle with. It is known to be the boldest and most ferocious animal in Africa. This time, unprepared, nine young warriors were wrecked by a single marauding lion.
But the first man, Adam, was an awesome creation before the fall. He was beautiful and wonderful to behold. We cannot imagine the glory that attended the first man. Adam was clothed with the glory and power of God. We could say he was supernatural. I once heard Benny Hinn claim that Adam could fly. I cannot argue with that. Adam was a truly awesome creation.
Had Adam encountered the lion, all alone, Adam would have played with it the way one plays with a cat. The Bible says,
“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth” (v.28)
Adam had dominion over every living thing that moved upon the earth. He was every creation’s master. All of earthly creation was subject to him.
It was only after the fall that God turned the tables on Adam (or, rather, Adam turned the tables on himself!). Now, man fears everything. (Even a domestic cat, when cornered, can be deadly! Nothing in this world is safe anymore, and nothing is to be taken lightly.)
1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and showing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: and the twelve were with him.
2 And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
3 And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.
4 And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable:
5 A sower went out to sow his seed… Lk. 8:1-5
This is the final part of this series.
It is clear from our key scripture above that women had an important role to play in the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ just as the men. But this scripture also sets the standard by which God apportions ministry to both women and men in the church. Today, especially, there is so much confusion concerning the ministry of women. But scripture here sets a precedent by which, if we humble ourselves, we cannot go wrong.
I believe Genesis 2:18 lays the basis of how our Lord Jesus Christ went about conducting His earthly ministry. There we read:
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
The first man, Adam, was a priest. He ministered to God. And God saw it was not possible for His servant to minister alone. So He made Adam
“an help meet for him.”
When we talk of ministry, therefore, we are talking of two ministries: firstly, the five-fold ministry, which is given directly by Jesus for the building of the church; and this, as we saw, He gives to the man for two reasons: first, for He is the head of the man; and, secondly, because the man exercises the authority of God in the church.
But there is another ministry: the ministry of helps. God brought along Eve to help Adam in ministry.
By and large, as we see here and elsewhere, God has put women in the ministry of helping the man. This fits in with God’s original plan for the woman, for the Lord said, “I will make him an help meet for him.”
That is what we see the women who accompanied Jesus doing. They supported His ministry with their substance. That means they fed even the apostles of Jesus!
In Romans 16:1-4, we read an interesting account.
“1 I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea: 2 That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever business she hath need of you: for she hath been a succourer of many, and of myself also. 3 Greet Priscilla and Aquila my helpers in Christ Jesus: 4 Who have for my life laid down their own necks: unto whom not only I give thanks, but also all the churches of the Gentiles.”
Contrary to popular belief, Phebe was not a pastor. The word “servant” indicates she most likely was a deaconess at the church in Cenchrea. But Phebe was no ordinary “servant”. She was a woman of incredible energy and heart who had helped many, including Paul himself. The word “succourer” means “helper”. We do not know exactly how she helped; but she refreshed the brethren.
Verse 3 tells us the interesting case of the husband/wife couple, Priscilla and Aquila. Paul says directly they were his helpers in Christ Jesus. How did they help Paul? For one, they were willing, for the gospel’s sake, to lay down their necks on his behalf.
There are many ways that Godly men and women people can be helpers of the men that God has appointed to carry the gospel.
The interesting thing is that the women (and men)who ministered to the men of God in the early church did not feel inferior. Thus they fulfilled scripture:
““whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet.3:6)
They were not fearful of their “servant” position. The women who ministered to Jesus with their substance knew Jesus had chosen only men to be apostles, yet they did not fear or feel demeaned. On the contrary, they gladly served Jesus… and His men.
They saw far in the Spirit and knew they were co-workers with Christ and the apostles. These were great women in the Spirit. They were greater than if they had tried to promote themselves by strutting across the stage calling themselves apostles, pastors, etc. Had they told Jesus, “We will not support you” (for some were rich) “unless you also acknowledge us in ministry”, they would have lost out in the Spirit.
Oh, how I love these women: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “and many more”. I would never tire mentioning those names.
In the same spirit, this post would amount to nothing if I did not pay tribute to the many modern-day women (and men) who support genuine servants of God with their substance, and in many other different ways. My own ministry, and this blog, are kept ‘alive’ by the financial, material and moral support of Godly women (and some men; but mostly it is the women) including my dear wife, Flo.
This laptop which I have been using to write this blog for the last what, 5 years? – it was given me by my mother, Carol Lanthier. She brought it all the way from Toronto, Canada to Mwanza, Tanzania, where she lovingly handed it to me.
My heart melts within me when I think of these wonderful people. I thank them from the bottom of my heart. I fall down and worship God on their behalf. They never ask anything in return. By serving me they know they are serving God. I pray an overflow of God’s blessings upon their lives.
I want to end by thanking everyone. I thank my fellow bloggers and all who read this blog. I thank EVERYONE. Thank you all. I love you all. But, above all, once again, I salute in the Spirit all who support Godly men in ministry. May the Lord bless you all mightily.
[And now, enjoy this beautiful song. And thank God. Make sure to put on stereo!]
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. Rom 8:13
The first man to die was Adam, and here scripture gives us the reason why he died. Adam died because he followed after his flesh rather than obeying God. This scripture also brings us to realize that what has always troubled the church then and now is the flesh. Much as we would love to blame the devil for the church’s woes, yet it is far much safer to stay with what the Bible says; and here the Bible states that the real enemy of God’s church is the flesh. If that is the case, therefore, there is no doubting the fact that every other gospel preached has missed the mark, except one – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ, as it was revealed to the Apostle Paul – “For the preaching of the cross… is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18). The revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is the singular gospel that has power to deal death to the flesh, and to enable those who are called by God to inherit eternal life (Gal. 6:14).
To find ourselves even beginning to understand this revelation is an indescribable grace!
Now, before we go on, let us make sure that we understand perfectly clearly what the Bible means by the word flesh. The Bible itself gives us the meaning right here in Romans 8:13: the flesh, it says, are “the deeds of the body”. Again, the “body” mentioned here is not the physical flesh and blood body that we know of. Rather, it is the innermost part of man, his soul. In Bible language, the “body” is that unregenerate nature of man.
A list of the body’s “deeds” is written down in Galatians 5:19-21:
These are the things that the Bible refers to as the flesh. They are the things that we absolutely must put off from our hearts in order to enter heaven. God has given us His Holy Spirit for this very purpose.
The Holy Spirit is more than sufficient for this task while, on the other hand, on our own we are completely useless. So what is our role in all this? Our responsibility is to humble our wills to the working of the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to deal with these “deeds” in our hearts. To carry a humble heart is the singular greatest responsibility that man has before God.
I find it interesting that many born-again believers think that they will enter heaven with their carnal ways just as long as they have done some things on the outside… fulfilling some church roles, or obeying some laws and regulations. And yet, throughout scripture, we find that the singular condition for us to be ushered into God’s heavenly Kingdom is for us to put off the old man of the flesh and its lusts by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There are people who will counter that this “requirement” implies works rather than grace. But no. This requirement is not of works nor, indeed, can you do away with the flesh through works. There is no power that can defeat the works of the flesh, except one – the power of God, the Holy Spirit. But God has given us this same Holy Spirit to come live in us. The power of the Holy Spirit, which saved us in the first place, is even more capable of dealing with our sinful nature.
Living in sin or appeasing the flesh is therefore a denial of the Holy Spirit’s power in your life.
That is why the Bible insists that we must be transformed. In other words, the Bible reasons, seeing God has given us His Holy Spirit, there is no reason for a believer to not be transformed into the image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, for which very purpose God has given us His Holy Spirit!
The church wants to ride the sugar train of the flesh and also inherit God’s spiritual Kingdom? No way! And yet today, increasingly, Christians want it that way. They want to sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” and raise a racket in church while embracing the lusts and passions of the flesh. But God is more interested in us putting off the carnal nature in us than in our singing. God is more interested in a pure heart, for example. He is also interested in us living a morally pure and holy life. God is interested in a heart of mercy, and a heart that can easily forgive. There are many things that God is interested in, and they can only be found in us if we have crucified the flesh and allowed the Holy Spirit to cleanse us.
Paul in Galatians provides us with a list of the things that please God in a man.
“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (5:22-23).
Such people – people who have crucified their flesh – are free! They are free from any laws. You cannot even tell such a person, “Obey God!” because he has already obeyed Him by putting off the works of the flesh. Praise God!!
Many believers have been taught spiritual warfare, to war against the devil. They boast in being able to confine the devil in the bottomless pit and many other places. But few know how to defeat the flesh. Incidentally, I haven’t read anywhere where it says that if you confine the devil to the bottomless pit you will go to heaven.
But the cross of Jesus Christ teaches us exactly what is needed to please God: it is the mortification of the flesh. Moreover, through the revelation of the cross, when it comes to the devil we learn that, once we have defeated the flesh, we have in effect defeated the devil (Eph. 6:10-18). He cannot touch us.
The Bible is an interesting Book because it does not use half-way words like “maybe” or “probably” or “just might”. But when the Bible says that we will die if we live according to the flesh, it means just that. When God told Adam he should not eat of the fruit that God had told him not to eat for he would die the minute he ate it, Adam thought God had said “just might”. But God had not said that. When therefore Adam ate that fruit, he died immediately.
How much more do you think we shall die spiritually if we fail to deal with our carnal natures? Much more so, I am sure. And yet believers walk about with this mindset of testing God. For that reason, many believers today are dead spiritually, and the Bible declares that some have even died physically as a direct result of choosing to walk in sin (1 Cor. 11:30-32).
That is why we must crucify the flesh. I believe that the first business of the church is to put to death the deeds of the flesh. The power of the Holy Spirit is readily available to us, and we grieve the Holy Spirit when we ignore Him. Even worse, of course, is that when the church fails to take the way of the cross, it fails to grow and become the bride that Christ is awaiting.
The church today appears larger-than-life, and yet it is all a façade. Before we boast of our mega-churches, we must crucify the flesh. God is not really bothered about the size of someone’s church.
Before we sing “Glory, glory hallelujah!” we must crucify the flesh. I haven’t read anywhere in the New Testament where it says that I have to absolutely sing “Glory, hallelujah!”, but I certainly have read that I need to crucify the flesh if I hope to one day make it to heaven.
Genesis 2 reveals a bit of the nature of God. Let us see what it has to say.
We read that after God had created man He planted a garden in the east of Eden and put the man He had created there.
Verse 9 says that after God had put man in the garden, He made to grow in the garden “every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.”
Notice the words “pleasant” and “good” there. “Pleasant to the sight and good for food.” And that was all for Adam to enjoy!
In verse 16 we also read, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat…” (Except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for a special reason).
Notice the word “freely” there. It speaks volumes about the heart of God.
The Swahili translation reads: “You may eat of the fruit of any tree in the garden of Eden”. That is total freedom.
Then in verse 18 God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
God was thinking about the welfare of His good man all the time! And so God got busy for Adam.
“And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” v.19
I can see God lovingly creating all these animals – just for Adam. Then He gathered them all together and brought them into Adam’s presence. What royal treatment!
Then He told Adam to give them names.
“And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” That’s a big ‘wow’ there! “Whatsoever” the man called any animal “that was the name thereof”.
God lovingly and patiently stood by as Adam took all the time in the world to name the animals. And he never intervened.
Had it been us, it would have been difficult for us in our legalistic makeup to stand there the whole day and watch such a process. And you can imagine there would most likely have been a row of no small proportions as we probably would not have agreed to some of the names that Adam gave to the animals, for example, crocodile. ‘What kind of a name is that, man?!’ we probably would have railed, after we had walked round the Garden a couple of rounds to take a breather.
But God stood there joyfully and let Adam do all naming.
“And whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.” Total, perfect liberty.
But, alas, among these animals “for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.” v.20
And so God got busy again.
“21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”
We can easily visualize God tenderly putting Adam to sleep and lovingly forming that beautiful creation, woman with all her tender physical and emotional composition. Then – the most delightful part – God presented her to Adam.
God enjoyed doing things for Adam. But it is the freedom that God gave to Adam that I am most enamoured with. With the exception of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which for a special reason God instructed him not to eat, God gave to Adam free rein in the kingdom that He had created for him in Eden.
Lastly, of course, we see that Adam and Eve lived happily after, for some time. And the Bible says that they, knowing neither good nor evil “were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” v. 25
We only wish the story would have ended at Genesis 2. But we know there are a few things that Adam would soon get to know, and things would soon turn horribly ugly.
But that’s a story for another day. For today let us just meditate on the magnanimity of God. And as we meditate on God’s heart, let us remember the Apostle Peter’s words: “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” 1 Pet. 2:21
If Jesus left us an example to follow, you can be sure that God’s magnanimous heart is also an example for us to follow.
We as believers ought to have the same heart of magnanimity towards others that God had towards Adam.
[Below: Under the New Covenant we, unlike Adam, enjoy God’s magnanimity in the true sense, for in Christ we have learned our lesson]
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
We could hardly claim to know the full implications of this scripture. For Jesus even to considerleaving Heaven to come to earth, that thought itself was an unimaginable sacrifice on His part. It was an affront to Who He was; but He allowed it. Praise be to Him!
But the Son of God would go beyond thinking it. He would actively carry out that thought, and carry it out to its fullness. He would perform it to perfection. But that would require Him to go all the way, and the road was long indeed. But go it He would; and He did.
He stepped out from His throne and put off the Body of His glory. Next He took up the body of our flesh and put it on. He then came down to earth and lived among fallen humankind, enduring the lowliest life that any man could ever know, beginning with His birth in a cowshed.
He knew hunger, he knew physical fatigue. He knew sleeplessness. In His adult life, He had nowhere to lay His head. He knew human-ness as any human being can claim to know it.
In His altercations with the Jewish leaders, Jesus endured the impossible as man stared God in the face and ridiculed the Law of God that He carried in His heart.
Ultimately, Jesus would suffer incredible physical humiliation and abuse at the hands of the Jews and the Roman soldiers; and finally He would die an ignominious death of crucifixion, alone, abandoned even by His closest associates. Jesus carried out God’s plan to its bitter end.
And yet there is a hidden mystery in all this…
When you read Hebrews 12:2 it talks of Jesus thus: “… 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”. Here you get the idea that Jesus would be rewarded for His sacrifice.
But when you read Jesus’ prayer in John 17:5, you get a completely different view of what Jesus hoped to get from His sacrifice. He says, “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was”. In other words, after Jesus had accomplished His mission on the Cross all He was asking of His Father was to restore to Him the same glory that He had before the world was created.
Jesus would be rewarded as a man, but not as God. That is astonishing, to say the least. It means that Jesus (as God) was not receiving anything more than what He had before in return for His sacrifice. He would simply be going back to His old glory. The Bible says that Jesus was God. Even after all that suffering, there was nothing more He could become or gain as God apart from what He already had been. God cannot possibly become anything more than what He already is – GOD.
In other words, Jesus came down to our level for one purpose: He came for us, not for Himself. He came to make us to be like Him. The first Adam could never be God, because He was made from dust. The Bible says, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”(1 Cor. 15:45) In other words, Jesus came to make us in the image of God Himself. Thus is fulfilled the scripture in Psalm 82:6, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”
The Bible says that Jesus came to reconcile us with Himself. That is all He suffered and died for: that we might become like Him, and be united with Him. Then He would go back and sit exactly where He had sat before.
The incredulousness of Jesus’ sacrifice lies in the fact that he did it all for us. All He accomplished was for us. Jesus did not do it to receive anything back. He did all He did out of love. Love never expects anything back. That is the incredible mystery of God becoming man.
The Psalmist, beholding and understanding the truth of Jesus’ sacrifice in the spirit marvels, “LORD, what is man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou makest account of him!” Psalm 144:3
In another place he asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.”Psalm 8:4-5
Jesus, though He was rich, became poor, that we might become rich. This is the greatest love story ever. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus sacrificed Himself selflessly to purchase for Himself something He loved dearly: man.
Dear reader, what thinkest thou? Knowing who man is, it is an incredible thought indeed. But, more incredibly still, as we partake of the nature of God, we also begin living the sacrificial life that He lived. This is the true blessing.
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people. Acts 23:1-5
There is nothing like a whack in the mouth to bring out the ‘snake’ in us. That was what happened with Paul. This is one of the rare moments when the Apostle Paul is caught breaking God’s laws. He ‘spoke evil’ of a ruler of God’s people, which is against God’s law. Actually, Paul insulted the high priest. That was a sin.
Paul was caught off-guard, which was a very fortunate thing to happen to him. Why fortunate? Because it exposed a fault in him which he probably did not know existed.
In a moment of weakness Paul allowed the flesh to triumph. He gave place to his old anger.
But Paul was quick to repent and move on. His defeat was momentary. He hurriedly stood up, dusted himself, and moved on.
Some of us lie there for hours, days, years even, wallowing in the mud of self-pity, unforgiveness, hard-hearted denial, and pure pride. But God is not going to take a knife and prune back His standards just because we want to nurse our flesh.
I wonder if Paul was embarrassed by the exposure of his weakness. Maybe he was. But again, maybe he wasn’t. Paul was a man who rejoiced in his weaknesses – even the revelation of a fault on his part.
Not that Paul would rejoice in the anger that he manifested here; and yet, I am convinced that Paul was very happy to have any such a failing in him exposed.
It is the hardest thing for a person to admit their weakness. We scramble to hide our nakedness, just like Adam and Eve, our ancestors in the flesh, did. But that is not God’s nature. God is the Great Revelator – and I am not talking about visions and dreams. I am talking about Him revealing our failings, weaknesses, flaws and faults.
Paul knew something about God. He did not waste time thinking, “This can’t be! How can I be caught like that, a great preacher of the gospel like me?” I am aware that there are times when I got angry with God for allowing me to be caught in such ‘embarrassing’ situations. But I am ashamed because that has simply been human pride on my part.
On the contrary, Paul realized that he was only a man and if there was any perfection in him, it was all by the grace of God. He was happy to admit his humanity.
God has never tried to sweep anything under the carpet. He has never spared anyone, not even His best ones. He exposed them all! How much more will He expose us. The things we try our best to hide from people He says that one day He will cause them to be shouted from someone’s rooftop!
You might appear a simpleton by admitting your human-ness. But that is exactly what we should be doing. Jesus said we should be like children! Do you think children are embarrassed when they make mistakes? Hardly! They move on with life as if nothing has happened.
Let us stop being God. None of us is perfect. Only God is; and we are not God. Let us be simple folks like the Apostles were. In that way, we will have much grace upon our lives, for “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” James 4:6
Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them. 1 Gen 3:21
Notice that God made and clothed Adam and Eve with the coats of skins after they had sinned against Him. What does this teach us? This teaches us that we live by God’s grace and by God’s grace alone. It is not because we deserve His love or that we are any good. No. But God in His great mercy and love “covers” us.
A brother once came to visit at my house and he remarked on how “well” we lived.
“My brother”, he said, “you eat so well, your children dress so well; and you are so contented!”
There were a great many things he did not know were lacking in that house; but I understood him well enough.
I said to him, “My brother, we live by the grace of God. If you were to ask me today how we manage to survive, I really don’t know. But I know that God in His great mercy and compassion provides for us, even to the extent that you see.”
Many of the born-again believers whom I know of are people whom the Lord brought from a very low state of life. Many were people who were way down in nearly every aspect of their lives. In fact, I can hardly think of any Christian whose life has not been changed for the better after committing their lives to Christ. The Lord not only called them into His eternal Kingdom with the promise of eternal life, but He also blessed them even in this earthly life. Their lives have been changed simply because the grace of God is upon them.
Consequently, the Word of God exhorts us to be a thankful people. We should be people who are continually thankful to God for His great mercy and provision towards us.
There is no place for complaining or grumbling in the life of a born-again believer. It displeases God greatly when a Christian complains or grumbles. Even when things are not going well for us, we still have more than enough reason to be thankful to God instead of complaining.
1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”
The Bible here clearly states what the will of God towards us is: it is that we should give thanks to Him in everything. Everything! The Bible does not say that we should give thanks in good things. It says to give thanks in everything, whether good or bad. This was what Job did, and it pleased God greatly.
In the final analysis, I believe God wants us to realize and acknowledge that there can really be no bad news for someone who has the hope of eternal life in them. We are a people of the Good News!
We find this fact beautifully stated in Colossians 1:12: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”
We have been made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light. There are many preachers who teach this scripture with a heavy bearing on the physical and material blessings that God can give to us. But this scripture is talking about the hope of salvation that we have in Christ.
That means that even if we were to live a life of utter want in this world, we still have a larger-than-life reason to be thankful to God for the hope of eternal life that He has granted us in Jesus. In other words, our eyes should not just be on the good life that God gives to us here on earth, but we should focus on that hope, which is the true riches of a born-again believer.
In Hebrews 13:15 it says, “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Notice the word ‘continually’ there. It is the will of God that we should be ceaselessly thanking Him.
The Bible tells us how to live a spiritually fulfilling life: “…be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” Ephesians 5:18-21
Many Christians easily forget the great provision of God in their lives and allow themselves to slide into a bitter life of complaining and moaning about this and that. The battle is tough, but God provides the grace to rejoice and thank Him even when circumstances are tough.
The Bible says that God was displeased with the children of Israel for their murmurings in the wilderness, and He destroyed them.
Let us take heed, for everything about God comes with a warning.
The point I want to make has to do with the word ‘subtle’. The Bible says that “the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.”
The first thing that is clear here is that the serpent was not that Force that had been fighting against God since the beginning of the ages. Many people wrongly think the serpent was the Devil himself. But no. The serpent was simply one of the “creatures of the field” that God had made. (One day, not too long into the future, we will be cavorting with cobras and adders in heaven!)
Someone or Something else, was that Force.
The second thing the Bible says is that the serpent was “more subtil” than all the other creatures that God had made. In other words, he was brainier than all the other animals. The serpent, it appears, could think.
And – bingo! – we see that Whoever was waging war with God found in the serpent’s high-end IQ his most effective tool in his war against God. In the grey cells of God’s wiliest creature, Satan found the perfect means he could possibly find in all the cosmos to fight God with.
The human brain.
Now, I might have used a rather roundabout way, but I hope my readers will get the point. In this war that has been going on for ages and generations, Satan, God’s great opposer, has always used, and he still uses the same instrument he used then – our brains.
To bring this whole thing to our realm of understanding, it translates into that nearly everyone who opposes the gospel of Jesus Christ is someone who has used his or her mind in one way or another. That is the bottom line.
The Apostle Paul says: “If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness” (1 Cor. 3:18-19). The word ‘seemeth’ here means ‘thinks’. In other words, if you are the sort of guy (or lady) who relies on the smartness of their minds to get around, Paul advises you to cry to God that He would make you brainless – literally – in order that God’s wisdom may be invested in you.
Have you ever noticed the kind of people you find in truly spiritual churches (especially in Africa)? Most are uneducated folk. They are the people from the villages. They are the sort of people who can’t think straight, can’t talk straight, can’t walk straight – the type who cannot seem to do anything to any degree of ‘perfection’. They have no good table manners. They do not know how to dress up. Some are dirty (oh, yes!). One time I was invited by a sister for a meal and I almost refused to eat, everything seemed so dirty! Cockroaches and flies were flying all about and I saw a rat nibbling at one of her pots. I ate her food ‘at gunpoint’, literally.
I will leave it to the health specialists within the body of Christ to come and hold a one-week conference or something at this sister’s house. Suffice it to say that today, that sister is one of my most prized companions on the narrow road of the cross. God loved her then even when she was dirty! (Doesn’t this make you crazy about God – one way or another?)
Did we ever read that Jesus once went to have a meal at a leper’s house, one Simon? Food for thought there.
I am glad I am so stupid. I even look stupid, praise the Lord! (When my mind is working, I hate looking at my stupid-looking face in the mirror. Probably, in order to allow God’s wisdom to work more in me, I should begin looking at myself more in the mirror: “Mirror, mirror, who is the most foolish, stupid-looking, brainless, planless guy on the block?”
“Thou art, thou most wretched of wretches.”
Human wisdom is folly in God’s sight. I pity all the brainy guys in this world. They will never arrive at a knowledge of God’s wisdom. That is a sweeping statement all right, but hopefully it will wake some folks up. I will leave it to whoever wants to start a world war with regard to that assertion to do so.
Brother Miki Hardy once said that if it were possible, it would be far much better to have our heads cut off and leave them at the door as we entered church! This is because the disobedient human nature in us wants to take God’s word and make it suit its pride.
Prayer: “Lord, make me a fool, for Christ’s sake. Take away my human reasoning, my cleverness, my smartness, and instead give me the humble mind of Christ.”
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die… Genesis 3:1 4
Today I want us to look at the word ‘subtil’ in this scripture. Actually, the word is ‘subtle’, only that it is written in old-fashion English. Another word for ‘subtle’ here would be ‘clever’, or ‘brainy’, or ‘intelligent’.
Before we proceed, however, let us take a few seconds to set a background to our discussion. It is clear from the first few verses of the Book of Genesis that long before God created the world or Adam, something was wrong in the cosmos that existed then. In chapter 1 the Bible talks about ‘darkness’ covering the face of the deep. To any investigative mind, that rings many loud warning bells. The Bible says that God is light and in Him is there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5); so what is this about there being darkness in a world where God appeared to be in control and everything seemed so ‘cool’?
And now here, in Genesis 3, we find Someone or Something coming and refuting what God Himself had told Adam! He (or It) tells Eve, “Oh, no! God lied to you. He has never had your welfare at heart.”
Where ever did this Thing come from? Clearly, something was not right somewhere. Here we can see something bad beginning to show up. It was like “Nightmare on Elm Street”. Something was horribly wrong.
If God was like us, He would have hurriedly wrapped up things and ended the Bible at Genesis 2, with an “And they lived happily ever after”. But thank God, ours is a God who wants everything to remain, clear, clear, as clear can be, in all holiness.
What we find here is that there was a war going on long before Adam and Eve ever came onto the scene. Yes, God had an enemy at His gates. When Adam was created, the enemy used Adam’s free will to his advantage, simply because this first Adam was a precursor of the second Adam, the real Son of Man (Jesus) who was to come.
We do not have the time for all that ‘theology’ right now, however.