God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 2

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, 2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: 3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, 4 Whereby, when ye may understand my knowledge in  the mystery of Christ) 5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; 6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: 7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. 8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord… Eph. 3:1-11

Who is the apostle, and who is the prophet?

May I start by saying that a true apostle or prophet is rarer than the rarest jewel. If you can find one such person, you will have found the greatest treasure you could possibly find under the sun.

But the Bible paints a frightening picture of the life that this best of the best of God’s array of vessels lives. First, the Chief Apostle, our Lord Jesus Christ, said of Himself:

“The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay down his head.” (Mat. 8:20)

This was in response to a scribe who came running to Him and who asked to be allowed to follow Jesus wherever He would go. Jesus was warning him: “Stay back! Desist! Unless you are willing to lose your life, you cannot follow me.”

They ended up crucifying Jesus Christ.

I once saw a video of some people slaughtering a man for being a Christian. They bound his hands and feet and slaughtered him the way you would slaughter a goat. Hardly something to go running to.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul says of the early apostles:

“For I think that God hath set forth us the apostles last, as it were appointed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” (1 Cor. 4:9)

Notice the range of losses that the apostle has to endure. He is a man “appointed to death… a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.”

In other words, he is not a worldly celebrity.

Paul continues,

“10 We are fools for Christ’s sake… we are weak… we are despised. 11 Even to this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwellingplace; 12 And labour, working with our hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: 13 Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and we are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” (1 Cor. 10-13)

“Even to this present hour”.

Meaning, “Even as I write.” At the time of writing this letter to the Corinthians, Paul was undergoing these things. What a sobering thought.

“Unto this day.”

There is hardly any rest in the flesh for the apostle. Every day his body is pummeled. God uses everything in his power to bring down this man: hunger, thirst, nakedness, beatings. God goes further and attacks this man’s reputation. He casts it down. He has him defamed, and the apostle does not hire a lawyer. Instead he entreats. When he is beaten, he says, “Sorry.” Losing is the only right he has. He knows he is appointed to death.

In Colossians 1:24, Paul writes:

“Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church”.

Notice the all-important words, “in my flesh”. The word “flesh” here goes much deeper than just the flesh and bones. It talks of self. Paul gave up who he was. Paul’s life was given. He counted himself a dead man. His life was given as a sacrifice. It was given so the Church could be edified.

But more than that is the fact that Paul rejoiced in his sufferings for the Church’s sake. For most of us, the slightest inconvenience on account of the gospel can only be borne under duress! But the true servant of God goes to the slaughter rejoicing, for he knows what his death will bear in the Spirit.

The Church cannot be entrusted to just anyone. Jesus said,

“Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…” (Mat. 7:21)

In the same way, not everyone who calls themselves an apostle or prophet is truly one, and God will not entrust them His church. An apostle or prophet should measure themselves by how much they are willing to suffer for the sake of the gospel. God will entrust the Church to men whom He has shaped to love the church as Christ does. The apostles and prophets of God are men who carry the selfless, sacrificial heart of Jesus.

Christ is the supreme example of the kind of dying that his followers are called to, chief of them being the apostles and prophets. We read of His example in Philippians 2:5-9

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal to God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus started out as God, but He sank lower and lower in esteem till he became nothing.

This is hardly the kind of life anyone would desire. But this is what is needed to bring forth the best out of God’s utmost servants, the apostles and prophets.

[“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.” – Rom. 8:18]

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God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 1

8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph. 3:8-11

So much to contemplate here, so I will make this post a series.

Notice, first, how Paul perceived himself.

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…”

This was no false humility. This was Paul! Paul dared not consider himself anything above what he states here. “The least of all the saints…” he said of himself. Such humility simply takes your breathe away.

And yet, unbeknown to us, God through Paul was stating exactly who He gives His grace to. The Apostle James put it out in black and white.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Let a man not just mouth the words, but let him live that life, and God has material to work with. And, y’know, people think that where the big crowds are, that’s where God is at. Oh, please! No one could possibly pull in bigger crowds than the devil. The Bible tells us that “many” there be that follow the way that leadeth to destruction (Mat. 7:13). If we are talking about a mega-church, the devil has the largest.

On the other hand, “few” find the way to eternal life.

The Church, Christ’s Bride, His Body, is like a diamond. Rare. And the men whom God puts in charge of His Church are even rarer. God cannot give anything but His best for His Church. The men whom God has put on earth to birth and nurture the Church are therefore the best of the best. They are called apostles.

The Bible firmly declares,

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

The apostles are the best of the best.

That is why the Apostle Paul could make such a claim:

“Unto me… is this grace given”.

Why?

Ha! Simply because he was the best. And Christ gives His Body, the Church, the best.

[“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Eph. 5:25]

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A Gospel And A Life – Part 1

Our key scripture for this new series of posts is 1 Cor. 3:1:

1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.

As we read through this blog, we should always bear in mind that the message we are setting forth, which is the true gospel of Jesus Christ, is

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)

I.

One time they were interviewing your favorite prophet from down south… Oh, did I say “your”? Sorry about that because he might not be your favorite prophet. But, just in case you dropped in from Mars, here’s the buzz: everyone today has to have their favorite prophet, one who can prophetically bring up images of their kids simply by tapping on an ipad, etc. The southern tip of Africa is heavily infested with these prophets. The interesting thing is that nearly all the top prophets peddling their wares in the south come from outside that part of Africa: they come from Congo, Malawi, Nigeria, etc. It is a virtual invasion of this country. Why this invasion?

Guess what? South Africa has the world’s greatest deposits of gold. This invasion is all about wealth, and it is not heavenly wealth we are talking of here.

In one of our neighboring countries also, they have the most mightiest prophet of God. He has to carry that pitifully slanted title because the English language has failed to provide him with an adjective that adequately describes his powers. This particular prophet would love the whole world to worship at his feet. Most of his countrymen already are.

Initially, it was thought that all this man wanted was a big-sounding title and nothing more. This was because he began by preaching forcefully against ‘pulpit thieves’ and even refused to take up offerings in his meetings. But it has now surfaced that the most mightiest of all prophets is a scammer of the worst sort who has specifically been targeting rich widows. He has clandestinely and systematically robbed widow after rich widow of their inheritances. After the initial daze wore off, some of his victims caught onto the man’s act and are now trying to reclaim their property through the courts.

The truth is that all these so-called apostles, prophets, etc., are nothing more than the worst form of scammers. Why? THE GOSPEL THAT THEY PREACH AND THEIR LIFESTYLES ATTEST TO THIS. The Apostle Paul’s description of them in 2 Corinthians chapter 11 is telling.

Paul first charge against them is on account of what they preach. He says that they do not preach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. He says they preach

“another Jesus, whom we have not preached”;

and that they carry

“another spirit”, and

“another gospel” (v.4).

In other words, they do NOT preach

“Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

They preach everything else apart from

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

But recall that the Apostle Paul stated what the true apostle and prophet ought to preach.

“But we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Cor. 1:23)

That is the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

II.

Paul then goes on to connect the gospel that these scammers preach with the lives they lead. For one, they

“desire occasion” (v.12).

In other words, they desire to be seen. They seek after worldly glory. These are the folks who love doing their stuff in front of cameras in order to be praised by men. They love titles, and fame. They love being adored by men (and women).

Paul calls them

“false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (v.13)

Deceitful workers?

If you thought that everyone who works a miracle is doing a bona fide miracle from heaven, think again. In reality, Paul says, these fellows are ministers of Satan (v.14, 15).

These false preachers

“glory after the flesh”. (v.18)

If you Google them, you will learn about their net worth, the watches they wear and the cars that their wives and children drive. One famous preacher in the U.S. once said, “I am one of a few billionaires…”

They are all about going up and up and up in this world.

Finally, Paul calls them

“fools” (v.19).

How do you view someone who walks on air? Must be very wise. Or a billionaire? Can’t even come up close to them. Another ‘prophet’ in Africa calls his henchmen “wise men” (an attempt to compare them to the true Biblical wise men). All these people appear incredibly wise in the sight of men. But in God’s sight they are fools who are headed straight for destruction. Anyone who subscribes to the flesh is a fool.

Just in case you thought people masquerading as ministers of God are a modern phenomenon within the church, scripture here reveals that it is not. This is a problem that has been there since the inception of the church. Paul himself confronted it.

And Paul tells the Corinthians what these scammers will do to anyone gullible enough to entrust themselves into their hands.

“For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.” (2 Cor. 11:20)

Today, we witness too much of what Paul is saying here to write about it. But, strangely, believers will simply not heed scripture! The fact that these kinds of characters have not two or three but hundreds of thousands of followers attests to this. But it is also foretold in scripture. In 2 Timothy 4:1-5 the Apostle Paul gave his young disciple Timothy a mandate:

“1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; 2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

Notice verse 3. Who are the “they”? It is as if Paul is saying that a time would come when the entire church would be taken in by these false prophets! Sadly, indeed, it appears so today.

But Paul also foresaw in the Spirit long into the future that a time would come when God’s people would cease to have a hunger for the things of God, but would use ‘God’ as a platform to fulfill their fleshly desires.

When the true gospel of

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”

has been sidelined, people will become everything but spiritual. For this is the only gospel wherein Christ is: where the flesh is being crucified daily. Christ is to be found nowhere else; incidentally, not even in miracles. Christ is firmly settled in the crucifixion of the flesh.

We will see more about that later.

[Have you seen the light?]

God’s ‘Mechanism’ Of Love In Church

15 Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. 16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. 17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Mat. 18:15-17

There are many stories of heroic rescue missions where the entire mission involved rescuing just one person. My pick for this post is the rescue of U.S. Air Force Captain Scott O’Grady. During the Bosnian war in 1995, against tremendous odds and against a formidable foe, the United States Army sent a team of servicemen to rescue Captain Scott O’Grady who had been shot down behind enemy lines. Although hunted down day and night by the enemy, O’Grady had managed to elude his pursuers for six days. Through unrelenting searching via radio, and operating just beyond the enemy’s reach, finally, the U.S. Army located their downed colleague.

But the enemy had also located O’Grady’s position, and they were waiting for the rescue team when it came.

But the team that went to rescue O’Grady was no ordinary team. The United States Army did not send a couple of guys over with the weak instructions to “Go see what you can do. See whether it is even possible to bring him out. If not, crawl safely back, we will just read his obituary.”

No, the Army did not do that. The Army intended to bring O’Grady back, alive. So what did they do? They sent in two navy helicopters carrying 43 Marines, together with two gunships, and four Harrier fighter jets. Forty heavily armed aircraft backed up the rescue team. All these were sent to rescue just one man. Yes, the United States commanders risked the lives of all these men, and their own positions, to rescue just one man. Fortunately, God was on the Army’s side and they overcame the enemy’s resistance and succeeded in bringing Captain Scott home – alive and well. The mission was a national success story.

So how does this story relate to our scripture above?

Far from it being a dead religious guideline on how to handle disputes in church, this scripture is talking of something entirely different, something far much grander. (At any rate, God is not religious in the myopic way we view religion. On the contrary, God is up close to each one of us, and unfathomably personal.)

This scripture is talking of the great worth that Christ attaches to every individual believer. We probably will never know while here on earth how much value, how much love God attaches to each one of His children.

Notice the progression of events here. If your brother trespasses against you, the first thing you are to do is to try and patch things up, just the two of you. If he hearkens to you, glory to God! you have gotten back your brother. Nothing more needs to be said and nobody else needs to know about what transpired.

If the brother does not hearken to you, still do not rush to the newspapers. Instead, the Bible says call one or two brethren and ask them to intervene. They must be spiritually sound, of course, otherwise things could turn out a whole lot differently. If the brother agrees to reconcile, it is a beautiful ending and you can both look forward to serving God better in the future.

If the man still does not relent, still, no problem. The Bible says to bring the matter up in church. The Bible does not tell us to bring the matter to the intelligent-looking or the moneyed, or our friends in church; no, it says simply the church. That is very important. The Bible, of course, assumes that the church is a spiritually mature and sound place where the Holy Spirit has full reign. Such a church has the power and authority to arbitrate between you and your brother. (The Bible categorically refuses us permission to take our cases to a worldly court of law. The church has the sole responsibility to arbitrate between Christian believers.)

If the brother refuses to listen to the church, then he has cut himself from the fellowship of the church, and from God. He in effect becomes a heathen, together with anyone who befriends him. There are always people in church who will try to show these kinds of people how much they have been wronged, etc. But God respects the church as much as He does His Son Jesus, and if someone will not respect the church, God has no choice but to leave or dump him.

But look! Notice how protective God is towards the erring brother. In every step of the way, great restraint is used. It is clear, right from the start, that God has no intention whatsoever of exposing one of his children’s faults. On the contrary, through the spiritual mechanism that He has set forth, God embraces the wronging brother! Because of the great love that God has for us, He has set up in church this mechanism to ensure that each of His children’s privacy is protected, so to speak. But God goes beyond there. Every step of this mechanism is geared towards bringing healing to the erring brother. How? By allowing him to reach the point where he can repent of his wrongdoing. Repentance is the sole bridge between God and man.

For a brother to get to the stage where he does not hearken to all these elements of the church, therefore, it means he is a son of Belial. Long before he gets there, God has given him chance after chance to repent and repair his ways.

What about us? What happens when we are not walking in the Spirit? We have no brakes. Even worldly nations have levels of everything, including terror levels. But what about us? When in the flesh, we will find ourselves jumping to the highest level of dealing with the erring brother. With no restraint whatsoever, we will want to first tell other people about what has happened. Sometimes we want to tell the whole world! Right away the brother who has wronged us becomes a mortal enemy! There are even brethren who write in newspapers about how they have been wronged. And some will even ‘prophesy’ in church. People will use any means to get back at the person who has wronged them.

But that ought not to be so in church. God is love. Through Jesus Christ we, too, have been moulded into the image of God, and His love and compassion ought to fill up our lives. We ought to love our brothers as God loves us. Trumpeting our brothers’ faults abroad is certainly not love, and such an approach scatters instead of gathering together. But if there is a chance that reconciliation can be reached just between the two of us, nothing more needs to be done. Or said.

But when we have crucified our flesh, we will do things just as God does them.

[The church is a place of love and acceptance]

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Christ And The Church

1 After this I looked, and, behold, a door was opened in heaven: and the first voice which I heard was as it were of a trumpet talking with me; which said, Come up hither, and I will shew thee things which must be hereafter. 2 And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3 And he that sat was to look upon like jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald. 4 And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. Rev. 4:2-4

These scriptures show the importance that God attaches to two groups of people. Twelve of the twenty four elders mentioned here represent the nation of Israel. These are the twelve fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel.

Notice,

“I will shew thee things which must be hereafter.”

This means that the nation of Israel plays a major role in the Kingdom of God right to the end of time. There is much spoken in the Bible concerning the nation of Israel. Israel is and will remain central to the heart of God right to the end of time. For this reason, Israel deserves only awe and respect from the rest of the world. It does not do anyone any good to oppose Israel. For this reason also, Israel will always come out victorious against anyone who declares themselves their enemy.

The other twelve elders described above are the twelve apostles that we read of in the Bible. They had to remain twelve; that is why when Judas Iscariot died, the disciples of Jesus went into the trouble of casting lots to appoint another man to replace him (Acts 1:12-26). God’s proportions are incredibly strict. The apostles had to be twelve to represent the twelve tribes of Israel. And this shows, amongst other things, how much God respected our spiritual fathers, the men whom He not only chose, but who also walked according to His ways.

The nation of Israel, and the church. Notice also that these 24 elders

“had on their heads crowns of gold.”

These two groups of people represent everything that God has to do with. Anyone who is not in either of these groups is outside of the realm of God’s dealings.

For many in the church, showing respect and awe for the nation of Israel is easy enough. But it is with the church itself that many have problems. Many within the church do not realize the importance that God attaches to the church. They therefore have a worldly approach to the church. They have almost the same approach to the church that the world has.

But we need to realize that the church is the apple of God’s eye. We therefore need a very careful approach to the church. The church is God’s chosen people in the Spirit. Every member of the church is therefore extremely important to God. The church is represented in the face of God by twelve apostles.

The term “apostle” is first mentioned in the New Testament. So is “church”. These are entirely new names for a completely new dispensation. It is the Church, the Bride of Christ. That is why Jesus told Peter, “If you love me, feed my sheep”. At one stage He told him,

“Feed my lambs.” (Jn. 21:15)

In many cultures, people show affection for their loved ones by calling them by their initials or other affectionate abbreviations. And they use other tender names like “Babe”, etc.

It was so with Jesus. By calling His sheep “lambs” He was showing His extreme love and affection for His church.

The attitude that Jesus has for His church is the same attitude that we need to have towards one another in the church, the real life brothers and sisters that we rub shoulders with. In Colossians 3:12-14 it says:

“12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

It is all about loving Christ’s church.

To The Far Blue Mountains!

A new church opens in the village of Kiegea in Mpwapwa District, Dodoma Region.

The gospel was incredibly well-received by members of this new church. The pastor, an elderly servant of God, said, “Ever since I was born-again many years ago, I have never heard ‘Jesus Christ, and him crucified!'”

Oh, wow!!

[The road leading to the mountainous region where the church in Kiegea is situated]

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[The members, and the pastor of the church at Kiegea]