Dead Or Half-Dead? Part 2

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

We saw in the first part of this post that Jesus loved this man; but it is his soul, or spirit, that Jesus loved. He did not love him in the natural, carnal way that we are accustomed to. It is for this reason that the prosperity preacher got it right in one way when he said God wants us to prosper in our spirits. But the gospel is about one thing only and we cannot bring in a concoction of eveything else and claim it is the gospel.

For now, let me tell you a story, the story from which I got the title for this post. This is a true story.

There are some communities in my country that eat donkeys. Yes, they eat donkeys just like you and I eat beef. One of these communities are even my neighbors. Actually, the incident I am about to narrate took place not too far from where I live.

Now, donkeys are not in as much supply as cattle anywhere in the world and with the voracity with which these tribesmen were consuming this particular delicacy, the government soon awoke to the fact that before long there would be no donkeys in this country. So one day the prime minister of that time decided to pay one of these communities a visit, and as chance would have it, he chose to visit my next-door neighbors. He came with a large contingent of government ministers because most people require to see big government for any point to sink in. Flanked by top government officials, the prime minister in effect banned the wholesale slaughter of donkeys that was going on in that community. The people agreed to the ban and the slaughter ended there. But the truce was only temporary. Now, hardly three years or so down the path, the slaughter has started all over again. Obviously, these people’s appetite for their favorite “beef” is too overpowering.

Anyways, on the particular day that I am recounting of here, some men were slaughtering a donkey. The man handling the machete had slit the throat completely, but the donkey is a very powerful animal and in order to kill it, you need to cut the neck vertebrae also. The man was about to do this when the donkey, in the initial stages of its death throes, gave out a kick that was so violent that it threw the men holding him down completely off balance. They let go and that is when the impossible happened. The donkey got up on its four legs and began running about, with its head swinging from its neck!

It was an incredibly horrific and gruesome sight. Blood and gore was spattering all over the place as the animal banged itself about. People scattered. Unable to really make a run for it, the donkey kept running around in ever-tightening circles until it tired itself out and fell to the ground with a thud.

It was a sight to turn your stomach.

I have brought this story up because I thought it was so apt a description of what happens when a believer fails to allow the cross to have its way in their lives. A believer without the cross is a believer who does not have the death of Christ working in them. And this is the greatest tragedy in Christianity.

Had the donkey allowed itself to die peacefully, he would not have created so much inconvenience for himself and for the people handling him. We create all kinds of havoc in the Spirit when we refuse to accept to die to our carnal ways.

Moreover, the life of Christ is sadly lacking in such a life.

But, really, who can willingly allow themselves to be slaughtered without making a fuss? Obviously, this rich man was not able to.

Well, Jesus did. Jesus Himself stated:

“17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (Jn. 10:17-18)

But scripture goes beyond that and states that Jesus was slaughtered even before the foundations of the world were laid (1 Pet. 1:19-20). That fact alone is central to our calling as believers.

Moreover, Isaiah 53:7 says that as Jesus was being slaughtered, He opened not His mouth.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

You can be taken down to the slaughterhouse and, like this rich man, not allow yourself to die. He was a wonderful man, full of zeal for the Lord. But he was spiritually deficient in that he had no revelation of the cross in his life. When Jesus therefore began to tell him to deny himself, he stumbled at this word. He did not allow God’s machete to go far enough, and he stumbled away from the scene of the slaughter, wounded but not dead. The Bible states that he

“went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (v.22).

The man had tempered himself since his youth… for nothing.

What a sad commentary on this young man’s life! But this is the same sad commentary that is written of our lives when we fail to take up the cross. When the cross is absent in our lives, we are still short of the Kingdom of God despite all our religiosity. Something needed to die in this young man. He needed to have his neck vertebrae cut. And so do we.

[Below: Deep in central Tanzania, I found the most picturesque bathroom!]

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Patience In Suffering

18 Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 2:18-25

The Swahili version of verse 19 reads: “For this is true goodness, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.”

There it is, just in case you were wondering at the exact meaning of the word “thankworthy” in this verse. In other words, there is what we could call ordinary goodness; and there is true goodness. Ordinary goodness is the goodness that responds only to like goodness but cannot endure opposition to self. This goodness is of our carnal nature and it does not please God for it does not respond well to Christian suffering.

True goodness can only be of God. That means that the bar for true goodness is set very high. Remember the girl in Philippi who had a spirit of divination in her and who followed Paul and his team and proclaimed after them:

“These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation” (Acts 16:17)?

Our God is the Most High God and his standards are equally high. True goodness cannot therefore be the feel-good stuff that our flesh craves. As a matter of fact, true goodness can only be something that the flesh detests, and which it desires to run away from.

In the world, our hearts automatically warm towards those who will us no ill. But when we meet people who would do us harm, we close our hearts. It is the easiest thing, even in church, to align ourselves with the people whose hearts are open to us. But we tend to close our hearts to those people who will not open their hearts to us, or to those who criticize and torment or persecute us. And if this is the case in the church, how much more so when this suffering comes from the world? The Apostle Peter here puts his finger on what is probably the most difficult thing for a believer to do: to suffer wrong patiently and to maintain a pure heart when in that situation.

Notice, again, “… but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.”

The word “acceptable” here again attests to the high standards of God. “Acceptable” means what is right with or pleasing to God. If it was me, what Peter describes here is not what would be acceptable with me. But this is what is acceptable with God.

On the flip side, it means that if we suffer when we do well and are unable to take that suffering “patiently”, this is not acceptable with God. We have a long way to go in pleasing God!

But the Apostle Peter gives us the example of Christ Himself. Christ endured suffering from sinners, although He Himself was sinless! In that way, Christ did that which was acceptable with God. But even more so, the Bible tells us, it was through this endurance that Christ became the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.

If we are selfish, we cannot take evil, and for that reason can never be of value to anyone from God’s perspective. Jesus said,

“24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.” (Jn. 12:24-25)

Hence the need for the revelation of the cross in our lives, where “Christ crucified” becomes the foundation of our Christian lives. It is only through a crucified life that we can live this kind of life, the life that pleases God.

[In the midst of suffering may it be well, Lord, with my soul.]

Strengthened To Be Spiritual

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Phil. 4:13

When this particular scripture is read, in the Spirit you can hear a pin drop. The silence is deafening. When we look at the many things that we can not do, this scripture becomes incredibly significant.

This man, Paul, could do all things! But when the Bible says that Paul could do all things, it qualifies this by saying, “through Christ which strengtheneth me.” And when it says “through Christ”, the Bible is not talking about the things of this world. It is not talking about us becoming Usain Bolts. It is not talking about filling our pockets with money. Nor is it talking about attempting to lift 1-ton boulders. (You would definitely tear your muscles to shreds even as you declared, “In Jesus’ Name!”) There are people who use the Name of Jesus to do (and receive) almost anything – except the one thing the Name of Jesus is designed by God to do, which is to make us spiritual, and true God’s children.

When Christ strengthens us, He strengthens us to do the spiritual. He strengthens us to live the life of the Spirit. He strengthens us to have the character of the Spirit in us. In His goodness and magnanimity, God does strengthen us in many other areas also; but it is all towards the goal that we might become spiritual men and women.

A happy New Year to you all.

[Below: The song that has endured in my heart and mind throughout the year 2016 is Sarah K’s “You Alone”]

Paul – A Model of God’s Character

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Phil. 4:9

How can this be? How can God allow such words by a man to be inscribed into His holy scriptures? The man is talking about himself here! Indeed, it would appear he is boasting.

But the Apostle Paul, who it is that is speaking here, was no mere man. And his boasting was no ordinary bragging. Everything that he wrote in the Bible was approved by the Holy Spirit before it was even written down.

At any rate, a person would have to be either grossly egoistic or painfully ignorant to even hint at downplaying the significance of a man whose writings God allowed to make up for more than half the entire New Testament. Not only so, but Paul was he who was chosen and commissioned by God to bring about the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace in its absolute entirety and clarity to the church. Were it not for Paul’s writings, we would not understand the gospel as we do today.

And yet, amazingly, neither of these two things comprises the most important fact about Paul. The most remarkable thing about the Apostle Paul is that he lived the words he wrote. In other words, he lived the very life he preached and, in so doing, Paul became a model of God’s character and God’s grace. This is the single most important thing that sets Paul apart.

Make no mistake: preaching the gospel is extremely important. But whatever we do for the gospel’s sake we do it to the end that men and women may change and live the gospel. Living the gospel is the single most important thing that God is looking for in our lives.

Now, living the gospel might sound easy – until God pries the scales from off your eyes and you discover there are not too many people who can quote Philippians 4:9 for themselves with any sense of conviction. I am sure you would need to search far and wide indeed to find a single person who can perfectly fit the words that Paul writes about himself here. This is not a judgment on anyone. But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that not many people are willing to accept the crucified life. If, on the other hand you can find a man or woman who lives such a life, you’ve hit gold. You will have found someone you can follow, for such a person will lead you to Christ. And Paul was such a man.

Actually, when it comes to talking about his life, Paul does so extensively in his epistles. But his is no ordinary talk. Every word that Paul wrote he wrote under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we will consider just one scripture among many, where Paul talks about himself. This scripture is a goldmine.

“16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. (1 Cor. 4:16-17)

Notice Paul talks of his “ways which be in Christ”.

“Ways”. What a strange word! I believe this speaks of his entire manner of life. His ways, he says were conducted “in Christ”!

I cannot comprehend the boldness that Paul had. For here he is telling the Corinthians that he will be sending Timothy to remind them of how he lived and walked among them according to the gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached to them. I wonder what Paul wanted them to remember about him?

Personally, there are many things that I as a preacher would wish people not to remember about me. Many times my ways were not “in Christ”, despite my belief to the contrary. May the Lord be merciful to me. But Paul’s ways were all in Christ and he had nothing to fear. What a price he must have paid to arrive at such boldness!

And it was not just to the Corinthians that Paul took his ways which were in Christ. It is recorded in the Bible that he took these same ways to all the churches that he set his foot in – “every where in every church”.

What an incredible feat this was in the Spirit! It is through such insights that we can begin to appreciate the greatness of this man, Paul, in the Spirit.

Unfortunately, people ‘export’ all kinds of things to God’s churches. A couple of decades ago, someone brought the ‘Toronto Blessing’ to Africa, and people were laughing in churches like crazy. Today, I do not hear of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ any more. Where did the ‘life’ of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ go? Why did the laughter, and the barking, and the drunkenness not endure? It is because these things were not “in Christ”; they were not of Christ. Whatever is not of Christ cannot endure the test of time.

But Paul’s life, which was in Christ, and which he lived thousands of years earlier, is still with us. And it gets sweeter and more powerful the more we get to know it.

Paul did not go ‘slaying people in the Spirit’ in the churches. Rather, he took to them his ways which were in Christ, and these endured. And they will endure to the end.

Unfortunately, false doctrines like the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and other deviant doctrines are all that most preachers can bring to God’s people. The result is that, at the very least, believers are not taught the cross, they have no example to look up to, and they end up living a grace-less life. At the end of all the hype, they find themselves fighting a losing battle against depression, anger, pride, envy, lust, division and every work of the flesh because in essence these believers are products of preachers who have no “ways” of Christ in them.

Even worse, however, is that these doctrines damage people spiritually in other, more sinister ways.

Much too many preachers today have nothing of Christ in their lives to show to God’s people.

Today, God is looking for preachers who will bring their “ways which be in Christ” to the churches.

To be fair, the ‘Toronto Blessing’ caught God’s people when there was no spiritual father in the church. But that has been the problem of the church throughout history: the lack of a spiritual father within the church. In such an atmosphere, anything goes.

The church’s spiritual father is the apostle, and the apostle reveals the crucified Christ to the church. He does this through showing them his ways which are in Christ!

The challenge to us, the church, is that exactly what Paul says here – a life lived “in Christ” – should be what every preacher and every believer have to say of themselves. This is the core of our salvation: the life we live, the words we speak, the spiritual deposit we impart to others; and the way we relate to people, especially believers. This can only be a life founded upon the revelation of the cross in a person’s life. When we are crucified with Christ, Christ lives and proves His works in us, as He did in Paul’s life. Paul makes this clear in Galatians 2:20:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Notice, “the life which I now live in the flesh…”

We ought, first and foremost, to ask ourselves the question: What kind of life do I live?

We can only live a life of grace and true holiness when we have crucified our flesh on the cross. Any other way is mere religion and it will not produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

Living The Resurrection Life – Part 2

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

 

Part 2

“…and to die is gain.”

I haven’t heard anyone speak that kind of language lately. It appears that, today, the world has so much to offer!

But, again, the early apostles were men who saw in the Spirit. They were men who were ready for another world. They had leavin’ (this world) on their minds. In the Spirit, they saw and desired another world, God’s spiritual Kingdom. The Apostle Paul says,

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (v. 23)

For Paul and the other apostles, being with Christ was “far better”!

But then, apparently, today, many believers cannot see as much into the Spirit. The reason for this is that other gospels have come in and blinded them to the heavenly vision. The churches with the biggest numbers today are those that preach on materialism. But the gospel of materialism is not taking anyone anywhere near heaven. On the contrary, it will most likely take many to hell.

Most people think that if they can throw in an “In the name of Jesus” to anything they say or do, then that thing becomes spiritual. But that’s not true. Jesus Himself said many would even do miracles in His Name and still not enter heaven (Mat. 7:22).

How can someone say, “to die is gain”?

It all depends on the gospel that one is hearing. There is only one gospel that has the power to make someone say such words. It is the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. Today there are many gospels that abound, but they do not bring a revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. And yet…  “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” is the only true message for the church today.

THE CHURCH NEEDS TO HEAR THE TRUE GOSPEL, THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED! THE REVELATION OF THE CROSS IN A MAN’S HEART IS THE POWER OF GOD THAT BRINGS THE TRANSFORMATION NEEDED TO MAKE A MAN WORTHY OF HEAVEN.

Upon reading the epistles, we find that many in the early church were men and women who did not count their lives dear to themselves (Acts 20:24), on account of the gospel that they heard. Through this gospel, they had a true heavenly vision. That means they saw the glories of heaven. They saw into the Spirit, and what they saw made them willing to trade in their worldly lives for the heavenly one. That is why they were willing to die. For them, death for the sake of the gospel was the Golden Gate to heaven.

But, pray, how can one be so willing to leave this world? And how can one be so unafraid of death?

It is because they had met with the resurrected Christ.

The classic example of this are the apostles. Many died for their faith. They were killed. We recall the Apostle James, who died at the hands of King Herod. But before the revelation of the cross in his heart, this man had so much of the world in him that Jesus nicknamed him and his brother John “the sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17).

These were the men who were so chagrined that a particular village would not line up and obediently clap for Jesus as He passed through, so much so that they asked Jesus whether they could not be allowed to call down fire upon that little village as Elijah did.

James and John were they also who wanted each to be sat on either side of Jesus in His kingdom, thinking His was an earthly kingdom.

In every instance, Jesus rebuked them vehemently. It is safe to say that with the kind of outlook that they had in life, these were earthly, carnal men. They could hardly expect to go and live with Christ in His heavenly Kingdom.

But after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we find a new attitude in James. It is clear now that in the Spirit, he had seen something different. He had seen “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – and he had been transformed. He was willing to trade in his life for Christ.

In Acts 12:1-2 we read,

“1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”

I am sure that, now, James welcomed death. In his spirit he must have been saying, “Hurry! Take me to my Lord!”

I can imagine if they had tried to kill James before the revelation of the crucified Christ had come into his heart. He would have died cursing and kicking. Not a spot of heavenly light in his life. Just seeing the dark world he was leaving behind, nothing else.

That is why the church needs the revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) today more than ever. This is the only gospel that can make us to consider dying as gain. The words of the Apostle Paul need to be heard more and more in church today:

“… to die is gain”

In another place, the Apostle John says,

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

We must leave the spirit of the world behind if we are to have confidence at Christ’s coming. We must be found abiding “in him” – in His sufferings, and in His death. Having this mind in us, we shall not fear physical death; on the contrary, we will welcome it, for it alone will usher us triumphantly into Christ’s presence.

[Below: The approach to Iguguno, a small town just outside Singida]

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Living The Resurrection Life – Part 1

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

This is by far one of the most profound scriptures in the Bible. Indeed, I am assured that I am not worthy to address this scripture. For in it is a spiritual man, talking inscrutable spiritual language.

Howbeit, having put my hand to the plough, I shall attempt, by God’s Spirit in me, to look into the mystery of Christ and Paul.

I shall divide this post into two parts. Part one reads:

Part 1

“For to me to live is Christ…”

How much would one need to know Christ to say such words? How much would one need to have understood “Jesus Christ and him crucified” to speak thus? How much would one need to have crucified himself to this worldly life, and the lusts thereof?

In this first part we shall look briefly at two things:

  1. What it means to live “Christ”; and
  2. The Christ-like life is born out of love, not law.

The Apostle John says,

“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

“The world” is not cars and houses. “The world” is far beyond these things. “The world” is our deep-seated carnal nature, the things that Jesus talked of in Mk. 7:21-22:

“21 … evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness”.

I am glad to see that pride is included here. These things are “the world” that scripture is talking about. The gospel is all about uprooting this system from our hearts.

When therefore Paul says “For me to live is Christ…” he was not talking about his preaching ministry. On the contrary, he was talking about something far beyond that. He was talking about character, the Christ-like character. He was saying he lived the Christ-like life or character.

And what, pray, is the Christ-like character?

Galatians 5:22-23 puts it forth clearly:

“22 … love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance”.

Whenever you hear of “Christ”, this is first and foremost what it means. The church cannot talk of any other Christ apart from the Christ who first died and was then resurrected from the dead. In the same manner, we too need to die to self and to be resurrected with Christ. To be called “Christians”, we must live the resurrection life.

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul states:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Here again the Apostle Paul reveals an even more incredible aspect of his adherence to Christ: that it was born of love! In other words, Paul understood Christ’s love for him! In return, he surrendered his life to Christ as a reciprocation of Christ’s love for him. He did not do anything for Christ out of law, or because he had to. He did it out of love, and in total freedom.

It is a sad statement on today’s church condition that many people serve God out of law. These people do not know Christ as Paul knew him. What a challenge for us today to know Christ’s love for us!

Seeing The Cross – Part 2

We established in the first part of this series that Jeremiah pleased God because he saw exactly the thing that God wanted him to see. In other words, he saw things exactly as God saw them. And this pleased God immensely.

But the Bible also makes clear what it was that Jeremiah saw. The Bible says that he saw an almond rod. The fact that Jeremiah saw a rod also pleased the Lord greatly.

And what, pray, was the significance of this rod?

Proverbs 13:24 says, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son…” (Prov. 13:24)

In the Bible, a rod is an instrument of chastisement. A rod is a tool of correction in the hand of the father.

Today there is a problem in the church. People are not seeing what God wants them to see. God’s people are not seeing a rod. They are not seeing chastisement.

Instead, God’s people today are seeing blessings.

And yet… “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever” (Heb. 13:8).

God never changes.

If Jeremiah saw God’s rod of chastisement for the nation of Israel, we too ought to see God’s rod of chastisement. Under the New Covenant, God has a chastising rod, and it is the cross of Jesus Christ.

It pleases the Lord exceedingly when we are walking in the revelation of the cross, just as it pleased Him when Jeremiah was walking in the light of that vision.

I wonder that we would not want to know what it was that the Galatians saw in the Spirit when the gospel was first preached to them:

“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?”

According to scripture here, the truth of the gospel is Jesus Christ “crucified among you”!

Today people are having dreams and visions of blessings. But we don’t read “blessings” in this scripture. Every believer should ask themselves: What exactly did the Galatians see?

It is a paradox that believers today are seeing something that is not there in the Bible! Do I mean that blessings are not there in the Bible? By no means. But they are hardly the “truth” according to scripture.

When the Galatians first heard the gospel, they received a revelation of the cross in their hearts. That is what they saw. They did not “see” or receive blessings. They saw Christ, “crucified among you”. Consequently, they were willing to suffer with Christ and to live a life that was pleasing to God.

But the Galatians later lost sight of this revelation, and they began struggling spiritually. When you are stuggling you introduce laws and principles and the “ten steps” to nowhere. Now, law has no power, and the Galatians swiftly turned into carnal believers. Amongst the harmful things they had in their midst at the time of Paul’s writing was that they bit and devoured one another! (Gal. 5:15)

There was no cross in their lives, and therefore the life of Christ also was not there.

But, initially, they saw the crucified Christ. And this pleased the Lord greatly.

In the same way, when Paul first went to the Corinthians, he says that he “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor.2:2). He knew this alone would please God and he determined not to waver from this message.

When he preached to them, the message of the cross that he carried changed the Corinthians. He left them living the crucified life. But later on, he received news that the Corinthian church had slid back into division and every type of sin. He realized that they had put aside the hard, narrow life of the cross and had allowed the lusts of their flesh to overwhelm them. They were now just plain carnal believers.

But Paul never wavered from his purpose. He said, “But we preach Christ crucified… Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:23-24).

These Corinthian believers had many things of the Spirit going on in their midst, but they lacked the real power in their lives – the power to defeat sin.

But the church today is seeking after blessings, miracles and signs and wonders. The hand of chastisement is not in the church. The doctrine of Christ and Him crucified is not understood in the church.

Listen to any number of sermons or contemporary worship songs; and they are all about God’s provision and His protective hand. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but how much more should the church be singing and preaching about the need to relinquish the deep things of our hearts, the things that strangle the life of Christ in us? Things like pride, for example, or unforgiveness. Or the lust after the things of this world.

People do not hear the gospel that can provide them with the grace to let go these burdens. All they hear is how God will bless them.

But the Early Church saw in the Spirit, and what they saw – the cross – had power to strip the flesh away and to allow them to live a spiritually fulfilling life. They practiced the crucified life.

No wonder, therefore, the Early Church was powerful in a way that today’s church is not.

Without a revelation of Christ, and him crucified, there can be no true church.

[Below: The sun setting over Shinyanga Town]

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