The Wickedness of Man’s Heart – Part 2

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

Through the new birth, Christ has given us a new nature, and a new heart. We have been born of the Spirit of God and our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

But we know that this newness of life is a work in progress. The flesh – our humanness, that old human heart – is there still, an indefatigable enemy of our souls. The Apostle Paul cried out in Romans 7:24, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

This cry of anguish was a result of the wickedness that he saw in his heart.

I sometimes smile ruefully when I ponder the many times that I seek after men’s approval. I want people to think of me as a good person. But it is not true. I am not good, and I know it.

I appreciate the fact that it is by staying hard by the side of Jesus that I can expect to get and maintain a different heart. There is no other way. Any other way is a big lie or a denial.

The Apostle Paul summarizes it very well when he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul realized how rotten he was. He placed all his hope to be anything different on the grace of God alone.

When we are not walking in the revelation of the cross, we could even be saved and active in church, but our hearts are filled with every kind of evil. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church, “I cannot address you as spiritual people. For you have in your hearts envyings, strife, war, and every kind of evil.” These guys had even someone in their midst who was sleeping with his father’s wife!

If you find people in a church bound by a certain sin, do not be deceived. You will find every other sin running deep beneath the floor boards of that church. If we are not watching over our hearts, we will carry every kind of wickedness in us.

The Apostle Paul would not find any other way to keep his heart pure apart from a true, spiritual knowledge of and relationship with our Lord Jesus. In Romans Rom 7:24, as we have seen, he writes, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

In the very next verse he provides us with the answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

In effect he is saying, “Only Jesus can deliver me from the rot that I am!” Paul’s heart was desperately wicked, and he knew it. The greatest challenge that he had was in maintaining a pure and holy heart. More than 50 years after his conversion he writes the Philippians, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” (Phil. 3:13-14)

He is not referring to his ministry here. He is talking about his personal walk of faith with the Lord, his life as a Christian. He struggled daily to keep a strong faith and to maintain a pure heart.

A pure heart is needed within the Body of Christ. It is what will keep us holy. It is what will keep us in sincere fellowship. It is what will build us up as a Body.

The False Doctrine of ‘Deliverance’ – Pt. 2

… And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. John 8:2-11

They caught her in the very act, they said. Ha! I wonder where the he was! Mosaic Law stated that both adulterer and adulteress should be stoned to death. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn the man was a relative of one of the accusers, or a fellow Pharisee! He could even have bribed his way out of the scandalous mess. Religion has the capability of going to such extremes of hypocrisy.

That, however, is beside the point that I want to make in this post.

What I want to point out is that after this woman was brought to Him, Jesus did not perform ‘deliverance’ on her. There was no demon involved here. This was purely a case of a work of the flesh and there was only one solution to it, which only Jesus had. What wonderful news! Jesus did not say, ‘Aw, c’mon, guys, please forgive her. Let her go. C’mon, have a heart for the poor woman!’ What an abject defeat it would have been for the power of God’s grace. Jesus wanted to demonstrate that His gospel had the power to look sin in the face and defeat it.

Let me tell you what happened in this incidence. Jesus simply preached the true gospel, the power of God was manifested, and it set the woman free. It would take the damnedest, hell-bound unbeliever to doubt the fact that this adulterous woman was set completely free from the power of her sin after Jesus told her, “Go, and sin no more”! Her accusers, too, would have been set free from their sin had they swallowed their pride and embraced the grace that was there with Jesus. But they chose to walk away. It is clear that the law of Moses, on which these Pharisees depended, did not have the power to deal with sin. This is authenticated by the fact that when Jesus faced them with the Truth, we see all the accusers were condemned in their hearts by the sin that was eating at them, and they demonstrated it by walking away.

Jesus did not do ‘deliverance’ on the woman. There is something that has more power than the ‘deliverance’ ministry. It is the preaching of the right gospel. When we preach the right gospel, the Holy Spirit is involved and He sets men free. Anything besides the preaching of the gospel is pure manipulation and it does not take long for the condition that one was ‘delivered’ from to settle comfortably back. You cannot do ‘deliverance’ ministry on a work of the flesh. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 1:21: “…it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” We must preach the gospel!

And what is the right gospel that we should be preaching, the gospel that will bring men and women into the knowledge of the truth that will set them completely free? It is the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Christ, the same gospel that the Apostle Paul preached and lived.

Today we want to substitute the preaching ministry with the dark scientology of conversing with demonic powers over live TV! We see this all the time on TV. Sometimes this takes hours and you are left wondering of what spiritual benefit this exercise is to anyone. Preachers are doing this and many other things all over on TV and elsewhere; but the people of God remain bound. Before the apostolic ministry arrived we had in our church a certain lady whom on every Sunday we would need to cast a demon out of. I do remember that clearly. When the apostolic ministry came and began dealing with the flesh through the preaching of the Truth we never had to cast a demon out of her again. The simple preaching of the gospel set her free! Is it not wonderful news today that since we have Jesus living in us we can walk in victory over sin and every demonic power? Why ever should we seek the black magic of ‘deliverance’ ministries to set us free from the power of sin? Neither the flesh; nor the world; nor sin; nor the powers of darkness; none of these things can overcome us – unless we have another Jesus in us, or we are being ministered to by another gospel, under another spirit, as the Apostle Paul clearly warns us in 1 Cor. 4:11!

True freedom comes in knowing Jesus. I wonder why we would not want to know the kind of gospel that the Apostle Paul preached. Or do we not believe that this man understood the concept of the death of Christ on the Cross in a manner slightly more revelatory and radical than our conventional understanding of the crucifixion? I have seen men and women weeping on watching “The Passion”. Paul probably met with a bigger experience than the movie version and would have felt absolutely nothing on watching the movie.

There is power in the gospel of Christ. We should not seek quick fixes; but rather let us desire to lay down our lives in order that we might discover real liberty in the spirit.

Of Proclamations and Our Worship of God – Pt. 1

If you come to our church, you will find I probably shout the loudest “Hallelujahs!”, “Praise the Lord!”s and “Amens!” than anyone else. If we were talking in the natural, this state of affairs could be attributed directly to the fact that in the tribe which I come from we yell instead of speaking. In our village it is perfectly normal for two people to talk across a valley while they are a good 3 or 4 nautical miles apart. If a neighbor is passing by your house, he prefers to greet you from the other side of the road so he can express himself more satisfactorily. That means the whole village will know so-and-so is passing by. The favorite evening activity in our village is young men letting out great war cries which can be heard several villages away.

When members of my tribe come to the big cities we are a real problem to the cultured people there because we cannot talk quietly. One man from my tribe can silence an entire bus when he is talking on the phone.

But my tribal heritage really has little clout in my spiritual walk with the Lord. The real reason I shout and sing so loudly in church is simply because I love the Lord, and it is always in my heart to want to express my love and gratitude to Him with all my strength. During worship I will clap my hands and sing with all my might, telling of the goodness and love of God to me, and declaring my love to Him in return. And once the preacher begins preaching I shout “Amen!” regularly, assenting to his every word with all my heart. If I am in a quiet church I have to be quiet, of course, but I feel restrained! That does not mean I consider quiet people less spiritual, no! It is simply that I feel I want to express myself in a certain way, and I do.

Apart from my loud proclamations of love to my God in church I am also the perfect Christian, and it would require a long shot for anyone to point an accusing finger at me. Of course, there are small imperfections even a few brethren are aware of, but the bulk of the people whom I come into contact with would be forgiven to think I am perfect, considering the ‘perfect’ carriage I proffer!

And yet… even though I make such vocal declarations of love to my God, and in spite of my perfect conduct on the outside, I know the many areas in my life where I have failed the Lord and where I continue to fail Him. And they are not the small areas like anger against my wife or kids, but even in really big things.

Consider the fact, for example, that there was a time in my Christian life where I found myself looking at other women apart from my wife with a lustful eye. Now, looking is a different thing, but I went even further and actually began thinking about them. The Bible calls that sin adultery. You know, there are some things in the Bible that Jesus or the Apostles talked specifically only to men about and there are others that they talked to women about (For example, there are women who want to take charge at home or in the church and they are more than a thorn in the flesh, and they bring a dishonor to the gospel of Jesus Christ). With men, I believe they have a bigger problem with sexual sin in church than women.

These were sins that I would hide deep in my heart, and I would not allow the slightest hint of them to be known by anyone. The fact that I had not physically touched any woman gave me a sense of relief; but on the inside I knew it was a false one.

But I will tell you something more important that happened. The Lord knew what was going on in my heart and one day, by His grace He showed His light into my heart. When He did that I cried out. When the Lord showed me the rotten nature of my heart, I remember saying, “Lord, what have I done? How could I do this to you?” I did not ask God “How could I sin against You?” because I am always sinning; but it was more like, “How could I be so ungrateful as to go this far from You?” I felt helpless and dirty.

But an even more important thing happened. I repented of this sin. I tell you I repented. It was not in my power to stop this sin, but it was in my power to repent, and repent I did. I poured out my heart to God and asked for forgiveness and strength.

If you ask me how what happened after happened, I will tell you I do not know. But I do know something deep and tangible happened in my heart. And I do know it was a work of the Holy Spirit. After I had repented, I felt a cleansing, and I experienced total victory in my life. By ‘total’ I do not mean that I have not been tempted since, no. What I mean is that today I can go anywhere, and I can be away from my wife, and every day and in whatever situation I feel that victory in my life, strong and alive. I can look at any woman, and I can see beyond the outer sheen of her beauty and see the need in her heart.

That, my friend, whatever you call it I call it victory. And I tell you, there are many women out there who desperately need spiritual help, and we can only help them if we are walking in victory over the flesh. Otherwise, as is so often the case nowadays, we will take advantage of them. Or we will keep away from them, which is not much help!

You see, women will always be there, and if you are a carnal man you could waste your entire life moaning about why God put women on earth, etc. But I tell you, we must face the Cross and allow Christ to strip the body of sin from us. The Bible says clearly in Romans 8:3 that God (in) sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh”.

It is when we come into contact with the right gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Jesus and what it came to do in our lives, that we are set free. When we hear the right gospel, we will have victory over sin. That’s a fact. The true gospel brings us to a place of true repentance. And true repentance brings true victory, be it a ‘big’ sin or a ‘small’ sin. Why? Because it allows the Holy Spirit to come work in our hearts, to transform us and give us that victory. Paul tells Timothy: Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” 1 Tim. 4:16. What is that about? He is talking about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is able to deliver men and women from sin’s power.

How can we be born-again believers and continue to live under sin, or to walk under the power of sin? It is totally unacceptable to God. Probably it is acceptable to us and that is why we spend so much time wringing our hands about this or that. But Christ came for just one purpose: to defeat the works of the enemy, which works are sin.

The whole problem with Christianity today lies in the fact that we want to have victory over the devil but not over sin.

We conclude tomorrow.

Love… Is The Greatest of Them All

During an evening concert held last Friday at CTMI’s Trianon conference hall by Sister Audrey to launch her new album, “I Worship You”, a group of young people performed a piece about the woman who was brought to Jesus on adultery charges. The presentation was incredibly powerful and the lady in particular was riveting. I felt the tears streaming down my face as the realization of the power of grace hit me.

There is something about having grace where you don’t just talk, but where people can feel that power in you. The Pharisees made a grave mistake by bringing the woman to Jesus. The law confronted grace. Men who had no thought of ever sacrificing themselves in any way confronted a Man who was willing to lay down His life. Big mistake.

Jesus could have spoken so many words, trying to reason out with the Pharisees to let the woman go. But He spoke only two sentences – and the authority and power in those words did the rest. There is something about someone who is walking the road of the Cross that sets other people free.

Recently, I was dealing with a girl who felt she was being tempted to backslide. In my zeal, I commented that she should ‘avoid’ sin at all costs because of the negative impact it would have on her life. I was scared she would sin, and I wanted to prevent that.

But it is not my job to prevent people from sinning. That is the Holy Spirit’s work!

That night I could not sleep. I realized what a big burden I had put on the suffering girl. The very next day, I sought her out and told her: “What I told you was not the truth. Let us trust God for your situation.” In my heart, I felt the need to set her free, and to allow the grace of God to help her in her time of need. I prayed with her and let her go.

The Lord set her free and today she is walking in victory.

Let us give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to do what only He can do – to set the people of God free from the power of sin. We can only do that by taking our Cross and following Jesus. Then, death will work in us and life will come to those we come into contact with: “So then death worketh in us, but life in you” 2 Cor. 4:12.