Free To Give!

7 Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also.

8 I speak not by commandment, but by occasion of the forwardness of others, and to prove the sincerity of your love.

9 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. 8:7-9

Giving away our finances and our material wealth is one of the ways that we serve God. The devil therefore works hard to bind us in this area. According to this scripture, to find yourself free in the area of finances and giving as our Lord Jesus Christ was is an incredible grace. Indeed, this is an unbelievable scripture. That a believer can “abound” in everything else – “in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us” – and yet not be free in the area of financial giving! This talks of the power of money upon the human spirit.

The area of giving, for most believers, is where “the rubber meets the road”. The human heart is so bound up with money that to find oneself free in the area of finances is true freedom indeed! He who is free from the power of money is free in nearly every area of his spiritual life. Just imagine how rich the Corinthians were in all these other areas; and yet, in this single area, it is clear they were woefully lacking.

The Bible says that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Tim. 6:10). According to Galatians 5, evil is “… adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Nearly all these things are rooted in money.

Elsewhere, scripture also says:

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Mat. 6:24).

The word “mammon” means money, wealth or worldly possessions. Mammon is so powerful that the Bible equates it with God! Mammon is the god of this world.

But notice the Bible says that we cannot serve God and mammon. It is clear, therefore, that we as believers need to be set free from the power of this force or god, mammon. In other words, we need to be set free from the power of the love of money! We are to be free in our spirits with regard to finances in every area, including in our giving. That is the only way to serve God.

That was why Jesus said of the poor widow who put in two cents in the offering box, that she had given more than everyone else (Mk. 12:42-44). This old lady was so free she gave away all her “living”.

Do you think she was grieving and telling God, “God, I am planting a seed so that you might bless me a hundedfold”?

Hardly. Had she said that in her heart, Jesus would not have said those words about her. But Jesus spoke about her because in her heart she was free from the power of money. Although she was poor, yet she was the richest person in the temple. She was so rich she could give all her living for the gospel’s sake.

“For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.”

The heart of this old widow was the heart of Christ. Free.

Had this widow died from hunger, she would have died gladly. She would not have been sorrowful about her condition.

Our love for money is a subject that we tiptoe about, simply because we do not want to offend the flesh. It is the flesh that is bound up with money, not the spirit. The spirit of the born-again believer yearns to be set free from the power of money.

Finally, let us consider verse 9:

“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.”

This is a verse that has become the bane of the church because carnal-minded preachers and believers use it for their own gain. They say, “Jesus became poor that we may inherit the wealth of this world.”

But this scripture is not even talking about that! Jesus did not become poor so that we might inherit worldly possessions for the simple reason that God’s Kingdom is spiritual. You will not find the dollar sign in heaven.

So what is the meaning of this scripture?

The Apostle Paul here is trying to show the Corinthians how free our Lord was in the area of finances. Christ did not serve mammon. He served God. That was how He could afford to become poor.  You do not become poor simply because you have decided to become poor. You become poor because a work of God has occurred in your heart and God has set you free.

And notice Jesus did not become poor for poverty’s sake. Jesus became poor that through His poverty we might be rich.

But, anyways, let us give the benefit of doubt to those who claim that this scripture is talking about Jesus sacrificing His worldly riches so that we might become financially and materially rich. This argument gets instantly killed by the fact that the Bible also tells us to become Christ’s disciples, to follow Christ’s example and manner of life. How about we follow Christ’s example in not just becoming rich, but also in becoming poor that through our poverty others might become rich? That would require  we go and sell all that we have and give to the poor! Incidentally, that was exactly what Jesus told the rich young ruler. And just like the rich young ruler, I am sure not many who follow this line would obey Christ’s command to go sell all.

The love of money is the root cause of all evil. We, being innately evil, have not the faintest chance of defeating this god, mammon. If we have been born again, we can only thank God for having delivered us from the power of darkness. Hallelujah to that! And to thank Him exceedingly for the Holy Spirit who, through the power of the cross, will fully conquer this most subtle and menacing of all our enemies, the love of money in our hearts as we willingly surrender our wills to Him.

The cross is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).

[Below: God was so rich He gave us His Son Jesus Christ!]

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The Apostolic Message (Part 2)

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. Gal. 1:8-9

Again, here, before we talk about the apostle and his message, let me state what an apostle is not. There are many things that a true apostle of Jesus Christ is not. But for fear of getting bogged down with these explanations, I will cut through to the heart of the matter and mention the two most important things that an apostle is not, beginning with number two.

The secondary explanation of what an apostle is not is that an apostle is not a person who peddles the Word of God for monetary or any other worldly gain – fame, position, etc.

In 2 Cor. 2:17 the Apostle Paul writes, For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.”

‘Corruption’ here means to twist, or to dilute the Word of God for carnal gain.

Now, unless you are an alien just dropped in from Mars, you most certainly are aware that in the church today there are many preachers who are doing just that – twisting scripture for their personal gain. These are, in effect, crooks. But the church is so blind it holds these villains in the highest esteem. It is no secret that many of the most highly regarded preachers today, whether in Africa, Europe or the U.S., are in this category; but again, if one does not see, they do not see.

People flow to these churches like the Nile River.

But, in his day, the Apostle Paul saw in the Spirit and exposed these villains for who they were. He said of them: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).

Let us move on and see even further. Let us see the really important description of what an apostle is not.

The primary description of what a true apostle of Jesus Christ is not is SOMEONE WHO DOES NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL THAT THE APOSTLE PAUL PREACHED. This is who a true apostle is not. Any ‘apostle’ who does not carry the message that the Apostle Paul carried is a false apostle. Paul himself says as much in Galatians 1:8-9:

8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”

This is our primary scripture in this second part of this series. Notice the emphasis that Paul lays on this particular aspect of his ministry… the gospel that he preached. It points to the importance that he attached to the particular message that he carried.

This is a subject that needs to be laid to rest within the church once and for all. Just as in Paul’s day, today there is an influx into the church of people calling themselves apostles. But in the scripture we just saw in 2 Corinthians 2:17, the Apostle Paul says that not a few of these, but “many… corrupt the word of God.

And how come these ‘corrupters’ are so many? They say supply goes with demand. It means there is a demand by God’s people for this corruption. When there is a lack of spiritual revelation within the church as the early church had, people see only the world, and in that kind of atmosphere these kinds of preachers slide into the church as naturally as breathing air. Actually, the church welcomes them in with open arms.

In our final instalment in this series, following, we will look at the message that the first apostles and the early church carried.

[In a humble café in rural Singida, a man enjoys his early morning breakfast of ‘chapati’, beans and black tea]

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A Contrast – the Corinthian Church

This post stems from Paul’s words to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9.

Do you know what “contrast” means? For our purposes, let us use the word which my computer’s Thesaurus provides me with here, “dissimilarity”. In this post I want us to see how dissimilar the Corinthian church was to the Macedonian churches.

Talking of prosperity, let me point out at the very outset that at the time of Paul’s writing, the Macedonian churches were the richest entity on the face of the earth. At their time these were the richest people in the world. No earthly conglomerate existing today could boast even a whiff of the wealth that these churches had.

But, of course, it was wealth of a different kind altogether that these people had. It was the true heavenly riches, the riches of a gracious heart. It could well be that there were other equally spiritually rich churches, but we have no need to speculate.

But at the same time that these Macedonians were exhibiting such riches of the grace of God in their lives through their liberality, the Corinthian churches were exhibiting the exact opposite through their stinginess! I am sure that had the Corinthians been half as generous as the Macedonias were, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 might never have been written!!

The Bible clearly says that the Macedonians were poor in worldly riches. But it does not say the Corinthians were poor. Nowhere does it indicate that these guys were anywhere near poor materially. On the contrary, history is replete with accounts of how rich the Corinthians were!

Moreover, after granting them salvation, God graciously blessed the Corinthian churches with every kind of spiritual gift. Paul affirms this in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7: 4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; 6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift…”

This church was bristling with the gifts of the Spirit, so much so that Paul even had to write and put order in that church with regard to the usage of these gifts! (1 Corinthians 14)

But alas! this church lacked the most important gift – the grace of God. It is incredible, but true. You can have all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and still lack in the most important gift of all, the gift of the grace of God upon your life. It is a contradiction of terms, but it certainly did occur with the Corinthians.

This fact manifested it self in their lives in the following manner: these guys had been promising – indeed, they had bound themselves – to give a financial gift, a certain amount of money, for the poor saints in Jerusalem. And yet, for a whole year, they had not parted with a single cent!

The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. We can have every kind of spiritual gift working through us but still lack in the most important gift, the gift of the grace of God upon our lives. In today’s spiritual context, we highly regard men who work the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We are so enamored with the manifestations of these gifts! And yet, while it is true that these gifts are needful in church, it is clear from Paul’s words to the Corinthians that the greatest “gift” that we can have as believers is the Holy Spirit working in our lives to produce the character or grace of Christ in us. Paul tells the Corinthians: “Hey guys… just as you have been enriched in every kind of gift in the Spirit, including your love for us, may you also be enriched in the grace of giving” (2 Cor. 8:7, paraphrased).

Apparently, they needed to be “pushed” in some areas. That is not grace.

Actually, when it comes to ministry, 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 provide the clearest example of the practical application of grace in a preacher’s life. In these two chapters, the Apostle Paul finds himself confronted with a situation where apparently only law could work. But Paul was a man of grace! He therefore used every means possible, embedded here in these two long chapters, to cajole these hard Corinthians into living a life of grace.

Paul was a true spiritual father!

This goes to show that we cannot bring back the spirit of law into the church, however big the sin or infraction. We must go out of our way to make sure that whatever needs to be dealt with in church  is dealt with in a spirit of grace.

The way Paul dealt with these Corinthians gives his ministry great esteem in light of the gospel.

As for the rest of us, may we never forget that walking in grace is fulfilling the royal law, to love our neighbor as ourselves. The Bible says that the person who does this has fulfilled the whole law of God.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves, of course, demands that one deny their own self. That means we die. And, pray, what can you do with a dead person?

Need we say it again? Yes, we certainly do – that it is only at the cross where this grace can be found. When our lives are identified with Christ’s in His sufferings and death, when we are constantly (daily) denying our own self and taking up our cross and following Him, there will this grace be found in its fullness.

[Below: The spontaneity in the lives of children provides us with the clearest example of the grace of God]

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Grace! – the Macedonian Example (Part 1)

[I have changed the title slightly from the original]

1 Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia;

2 How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.

3 For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves;

4 Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. 2 Cor. 8:1-4

No, we haven’t read that clearly enough, have we? Let’s read this scripture once more.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia…”

In modern English, Paul is saying: “Brothers, we want to tell you about the grace of God given to the churches of Macedonia”.

Without a doubt, this is the most beautiful sentence in the entire universe. When I was in school, there was a certain type of punishment that a student would be given if they failed to complete a given task. They were commanded to write any sentence that the teacher dictated, a hundred times or more. They would be told, for example, to write “I will never come late to class again” – a hundred times!

That meant that while everyone else was outside enjoying their morning break, you would be cooped up in class trying to hold your brains in. Talk of torture! The equivalent to that today is water-boarding.

But I will tell you one thing: re-writing 2 Corinthians 8:1 is one ‘punishment’ I would be extremely happy to undertake. I could gladly write that sentence a million times over and once I had finished, I would be ready to do it all over again… and again…. and again.

In fact, let me just say that I could never tire of this scripture. It is the most beautiful thing I have ever read.

“Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia…”

But what, pray, is so delightful about this scripture? Actually, what this scripture is saying should knock each one of us off our feet. What it is saying is stupefying. It is telling us that the Macedonian churches received the grace of God! The grace of God!

We will see later on that we probably have a very small idea of what the grace of God really is. Now, don’t get me wrong; I am not saying that in an arrogant sort of way. Let’s all just cool our heels and wait and see what I mean.

Kindly notice that these Macedonians did not receive expensive mansions or bundles of money, nor anything of this world. No, sir; they received the grace of God!

Grace is the most beautiful thing that you can own in this world. There are many wonderful things that we would love to own, but nothing – absolutely nothing – comes even close to comparing to the grace of God in beauty and importance.

There are, for example, many beautiful women in the world. But the truly beautiful woman is the woman who has the grace of God in her heart.

There are also many extremely rich men in this world. But no man is richer than the man who carries God’s grace in their heart.

Tomorrow we will look further at this interesting scripture. But let us, right now, pray that we would be men and women who desire the grace of God in our lives above anything else .

[Below: Even in our modern age, the broken mirror still defines an African woman’s beauty]

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Christmas!

It could well be that our Lord Jesus Christ was born on the 25th of December, some 2,000 years ago. That, after all, is the basis of our celebrating Christmas. But, important as it is that Jesus was born on whatever day it was that He was born (and for sanity’s sake let’s just presume it was the 25th of December), I believe the fact of His crucifixion far supersedes that of His birth. If we are to celebrate days, we therefore ought to be celebrating the day of Christ’s crucifixion more than the day of His birth.

I do not wish to dampen anyone’s spirits here, but I believe the church must begin to move away from the frivolousness into which churchdom has been cast. Celebrating Christmas is all right, and indeed I believe that for the believer every infinitesimal second in their lives should be a moment of celebration. We have so much to celebrate! And celebrating our salvation even physically is no sin at all.

But we should be celebrating with a sense of maturity in our hearts.

When we look at the scriptures we realize that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son Jesus – for what? It was so Jesus could become the sacrificial Lamb. It was so He could die for our sins. Jesus did not come to earth to open bottles of champagne, no. He came specifically to die, to die for our sins.

The death of Jesus, therefore, is of far greater importance than His birth. Had Jesus been born and not died on that cross, nothing would have changed in our relationship with God. To date we would still be sinners in God’s sight. Had Jesus not come to the right decision at Gethsemane, believe me, things would be a whole lot different for us today.

But thank God that Jesus – worthy is He! – made the decision to accept the Father’s will. It was God’s will that Jesus be tortured and killed for our sins (Isaiah 53), and that was exactly what happened because Jesus accepted that responsibility, although He knew it would cost Him dearly. That is why He is worthy of all praise and glory.

Today, through believing in the sacrifice of Christ on that cross we stand righteous in God’s sight. Praise and glory be to our Lord Jesus Christ! So much worthy is He!

And now God in His incredible love for us calls upon us to not only believe in the sacrifice of Jesus, but to identify our lives with Christ’s in His sufferings and death so that we may experience and share in His glory and power. He wants us to be victorious over the flesh and sin, just as Christ was victorious. If we are to have a taste of Christ’s glory in our lives, then we need to realize that we have to lose in this life, just as Jesus lost. But this loss is temporal.

If we are not willing to walk in this identification with Christ, we stand to experience the real loss. The real loss for the believer is when we are only content with evading the fire of hell. Here we will lose in eternity. When we live a lifestyle that simply wants to stay saved but holding onto our lives, we will lose heavily in the Kingdom to come. Better we lose our lives now.

“13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. 14 If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.” 1 Cor. 3:13-15

The “work” that Paul is talking of here is the work of identifying our lives with Christ’s by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Him. Here Paul was addressing a carnal church, the Corinthian church. When the Corinthians first heard the gospel of Jesus Christ they cast off the flesh and all its works. But lately they had begun to cuddle the flesh once again!

That is why God calls on us to not only receive Jesus into our lives, but to also have a revelation of Christ’s sufferings, death and resurrection in our hearts. Only then can we gladly identify our lives fully with Christ’s death on the cross – and with His resurrection life.

Then and only then can we celebrate any aspect of our salvation in truth and in the spirit. And we are called upon to celebrate every second of our lives!!

[Below: Late evening, cross-country buses begin arriving in Dar es Salaam. Some will arrive as late as 10 p.m. depending on the distance they have had to travel]

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A Singular Gospel – Part 2

When I married my wife I was working in a certain company. Every day, immediately I left the office I would head straight for home, to see my heart’s desire. I did not pass by the coffee shop or the library or even at a friend’s house. I went straight home. And I can assure you that when I would enter that house and set my eyes on my wife, I would feel something like a “full stop” in my heart. I knew I had arrived home.

Incidentally, that love between me and my wife has simply grown with the passage of time, so you can go ahead and give us a round of applause before you continue reading!

I love the singular focus that the apostles had. The Apostle Paul expressly says, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. I love that. I love the singular focus that this man of God had.

The apostles did not go meandering all over, touching on this and that and the other ‘subject’. There is a difference between a drunken man and a sober man. A sober man can walk in a straight line; a drunk cannot.

In 2 Corinthians 11:4 Paul talks of “another Jesus”, “another spirit”, and “another gospel”. There are actually heaps of gospels out there! People are preaching on everything!!

I have been hearing the message of the cross preached for close to 20 years and in all that time I have never heard healing taught in our church. And yet we pray for the sick and they get healed.

I have never heard prosperity taught in our churches – and yet the Lord blesses us and meets our needs.

Let me tell you, church: we really need to hear only one message. Only one message – the message of the cross. We don’t need all the topics that are taught in church today. There are teachings even on health and countless other harmless topics, which are probably profitable somehow. But these are of no value to the spiritual man. They are things that are “not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col. 2:23).

Now, let’s wind up this discussion by seeing what it was about this cross that the apostles focused on. It is good to be singularly focused; but it is even better to know you are focused on something profitable. We need to understand that the apostles did not focus on the cross just for focus’s sake!

THE APOSTLES’ SINGULAR FOCUS ON THE CROSS WAS BECAUSE THEY KNEW IT WAS THE ONLY THING THAT COULD DEAL WITH THE FLESH AND BRING THE CHURCH TO SPIRITUAL MATURITY AND ON TO PERFECTION.

On the flip side, they also knew that a lack of this revelation in the church guaranteed that the flesh would come back wholesale, and the church would never arrive at what Christ had died for.

Take the example of the Corinthians. They were so full of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that they needed to be told to wait in line on one another during ministry times. In other words, that church was literally bursting at the seams with the gifts of the Holy Spirit! Not many churches today would boast of the arsenal that this church had.

And yet, sin was very much alive in this church. What a contradiction! And it was the same with the Galatian church.

But remember the Bible says in 2 Timothy 2:13 that “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.” Which means that God faithfully continued working in the midst of these people even though they were unfaithful to Him.

In the same manner, there are preachers today who have robust ministries but who are living in sin.

God is against sin. Any true apostle understands that and he will bring to the church something that sets the people of God free from sin and brings them into the liberty of the true sons and daughters of God. He will bring a revelation of the cross. In other words the message of the cross is the only message that does not compromise with the flesh. All other gospels, in one way or another, compromise with the flesh. Every other gospel has a hidden or open pact with the flesh.

The Apostle Peter writes: “15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15,16).

Our goal is a holy, sinless life. A life of humility, true love and unity within the Body of Christ.

To be able to arrive at that goal, we need one single thing – that singular revelation of the cross.

[Below: In this church I reminded them of the single, uncompromising message of the cross, the only message that can deal with the flesh]

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“Perfectly Joined Together”

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 1 Cor. 1:10-11

[“Perfect” means complete, 100%.]

I know this will sound very un-Christian, and it is, but I can tell you right here that I don’t know of many people, brethren, with whom I am “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” I leave you, the reader, to judge me as you see fit, but that’s a fact I cannot deny. The problem here is with that word “perfect”. If that word were not there in that scripture I would not have needed to make that admission. Had it said “just make sure, somehow”, that would have been just perfect for me. I have hundreds, probably thousands, with whom I am at various levels of agreement with. But the scripture says “perfect”, and that throws a spanner into the whole works for me.

On the other hand, my heart beats with excitement when I consider the implications of this scripture. It is possible for brethren to be perfectly united and be in one accord in everything. Everything! Our mind, our purpose, our will, our speech, and our manner of life. And that is the Godly life, for we are one Body.

As children of God, let us first agree that human nature is way too rebellious for that to happen. I know someone will say that we need to be born again, and we are. But the Corinthians were born again, and they even had the gifts of the Holy Spirit flowing liberally in their midst and yet, as we see, they had “contentions” among themselves!

Clearly, they needed something more. Paul had exactly what they needed: a revelation of the cross. That was what Paul had preached to them at the first instance. In chapter 2, verse 2, he reminds them of the gospel which he first brought them: “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. In other words, he brought them an understanding of what the cross needed to do in their lives.

But apparently, they had quickly forgotten.

In order for us to understand the gospel that Paul preached, we must first understand that he had received this gospel through a revelation of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 1:12). The Lord Jesus Himself met Paul, then known as Saul, on the way to Damascus and revealed Himself to him in a way we cannot comprehend fully – yet. But the revelation was so clear and powerful in the Spirit that Saul died, and Paul was born! He says 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.”

Paul became an embodiment of the character and nature of the Lord Jesus. That was how powerful the revelation of Jesus to Paul was.

We cannot contemplate walking in perfect unity without a heart understanding – a revelation – of this gospel. Indeed, we cannot contemplate being perfect as God is perfect in anything apart from this revelation. When we read the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians we see that by implication, there was another gospel (or gospels) that Paul could have preached to the Corinthians. With his over-sized brain, Paul could have preached them a gospel of the intellect. But he chose not to, because he loved the church. He chose to die – to crucify his life – with Christ through the revelation that he had received, that he might bring life to the church.

We must humble ourselves and pray for a revelation of Christ in our hearts. This revelation is the only thing that can crucify the flesh in our lives and bring about true unity within the Body of Christ.

Onesiphorus! – Part 2

Many of us think we love the Lord. We would be surprised to learn that we don’t. We might not be aware of it, but there are thousands, probably millions of Christians who love this world more than they do the Lord Jesus. The saddest fact is that they are unaware of it because they have been ‘taken captive’ by a different gospel other than the one that the Apostle Paul preached. They are unaware of the fact that the gospel is about denying self. It is about taking up our cross and following Jesus.

It is clear from Paul’s epistles that not many born-again believers in his time were willing to “partake of the cup” of the sufferings of Jesus with him. That being the case, why would we, the Church of today, think that we are so willing and ready to follow Jesus? Actually, we do not need a diviner to know that we are not. That fact is clear to even the most intransigent apologetic.

Because of an absence of the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus which crucifies the flesh, many variant gospels have been fashioned and allowed into the Church which give Christians a false sense of following and serving the Lord, while clearly they are serving the flesh.

We little realize that we, too, are not any different from Phygellus and Hermogenes.

It is telling that at this particular time in his ministry Paul found only one person worth mentioning – Onesiphorus, who gladly identified with and served Paul during this time of Paul’s persecution.

When Paul was undergoing persecution, very few people stood by him. At times he stood absolutely alone. If you have read the Bible you know it is true.

But Onesiphorus was “not ashamed” of Paul’s ‘chain’. In other words, this was a man who took up his cross and, following after Jesus, welded his life to Paul’s sufferings.

Elsewhere Paul talks of Priscilla and Aquila “who have for my life laid down their own necks”. (Rom. 16:4)

Onesiphorus practically partook of the sufferings of Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not for the crowd. It is not for the thousands.

The gospel is for a chosen few – a very few. It is for those who will lay their lives on the line for the gospel’s sake.

Many of us are not willing to do so, in spite of our vocal declarations to the contrary. We are contented to live the gospel to the extent of our own personal gain and comfort, no more. We scream and rave upon hearing the prosperity message, the gospel of blessings. But when we hear the message of suffering, we suddenly turn cold. We say, “This is a strange doctrine!”

Probably it is time to wake up and walk away from the crowd. Probably it is time to have another look at the gospel we are hearing in light of the revelation that God is bringing to us today, and to determine to be born into that spirit of the sufferings and death of Christ.

Onesiphorus! – Part 2

Many of us think we love the Lord. We would be surprised to learn that we don’t. We might not be aware of it, but there are thousands, probably millions of Christians who love this world more than they do the Lord Jesus. The saddest fact is that they are unaware of it because they have been ‘taken captive’ by a different gospel other than the one that the Apostle Paul preached. They are unaware of the fact that the gospel is about denying self. It is about taking up our cross and following Jesus.

It is clear from Paul’s epistles that not many born-again believers in his time were willing to “partake of the cup” of the sufferings of Jesus with him. That being the case, why would we, the Church of today, think that we are so willing and ready to follow Jesus? Actually, we do not need a diviner to know that we are not. That fact is clear to even the most intransigent apologetic.

Because of an absence of the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus which crucifies the flesh, many variant gospels have been fashioned and allowed into the Church which give Christians a false sense of following and serving the Lord, while clearly they are serving the flesh.

We little realize that we, too, are not any different from Phygellus and Hermogenes.

It is telling that at this particular time in his ministry Paul found only one person worth mentioning – Onesiphorus, who gladly identified with and served Paul during this time of Paul’s persecution.

When Paul was undergoing persecution, very few people stood by him. At times he stood absolutely alone. If you have read the Bible you know it is true.

But Onesiphorus was “not ashamed” of Paul’s ‘chain’. In other words, this was a man who took up his cross and, following after Jesus, welded his life to Paul’s sufferings.

Elsewhere Paul talks of Priscilla and Aquila “who have for my life laid down their own necks”. (Rom. 16:4)

Onesiphorus practically partook of the sufferings of Christ.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not for the crowd. It is not for the thousands.

The gospel is for a chosen few – a very few. It is for those who will lay their lives on the line for the gospel’s sake.

Many of us are not willing to do so, in spite of our vocal declarations to the contrary. We are contented to live the gospel to the extent of our own personal gain and comfort, no more. We scream and rave upon hearing the prosperity message, the gospel of blessings. But when we hear the message of suffering, we suddenly turn cold. We say, “This is a strange doctrine!”

Probably it is time to wake up and walk away from the crowd. Probably it is time to have another look at the gospel we are hearing in light of the revelation that God is bringing to us today, and to determine to be born into that spirit of the sufferings and death of Christ.

Onesiphorus! – Part 1

This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes. The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain: but, when he was in Rome, he sought me out very diligently, and found me. The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day: and in how many things he ministered unto me at Ephesus, thou knowest very well. 2 Timothy 1:15-18

I have come to realize that many people do not like reading long posts. That is why when I do a long post I divide it into parts, for ease of reading. That also gives the reader the option of reading on only if they want to do so. Karibu!

Upon reading the King James Version of the above scripture, one might be misled into thinking that it was only Phygellus and Hermogenes who had turned away from Paul; but the Swahili Bible says, “amongst whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes”. Which would agree with what that same scripture says, that “all” who were in Asia had turned away from Paul. Not a few, or some, but all.

That is awesome and difficult to comprehend. Can you imagine people – Christians – turning away from Paul, the great apostle? And not just some, but all! And these were people who had been born into the gospel through the ministry of Paul himself. We are so used to holding preachers in such high esteem (which we should) that this scripture appears somewhat odd.

But did you ever know that the Apostle Paul lived a life that one could hardly attribute to a preacher of his calibre? Did you ever know that at various intervals in his life Paul had inadequate clothing (and that’s probably an understatement. It is no stretch of the imagination to envision Paul, at one time or another, attempting to pull a torn piece of raiment over his spare body!); did you know that at times Paul went hungry; and did you know that much of the time he lacked many of the basic necessities of this life? Yes, he lacked. Not that he did not want these things; no, he lacked someone to supply him with them.  At times Paul had to work with his own hands to provide a living for himself and those who were with him. And this was a man who had preached the gospel to the entire continent of Europe and beyond!

Today I hear preachers saying they have 5,000 church members, and most live like it. Paul had much more, if it is numbers we are talking about. But apparently there were not many people who were providing for Paul! Despite the ‘greatness’ of his ministry, not a great many people thought of supplying him with his needs. You can read that in Philippians chapter 4.

The Apostle Paul lived a life that would have many an ‘apostle’ or ‘prophet’ of today throw their apostolic garb into the street and ran away very hard if they were confronted with the kind of life he lived! His was a classic case of being rejected for the gospel’s sake.

But let us consider again the question that why would people turn away from Paul? What was it that the Apostle Paul had that made people to want to run away on meeting him? It was the gospel he carried. It is clear from the Bible that the Apostle Paul carried a very dangerous gospel. The gospel that Paul carried and preached had something unsafe about it. It had an aroma of death. And we all know what our reaction to death is – we run away from it!

Paul’s gospel had a price tag on it; and it was not any price, but the highest price. It demanded one’s very life. It commanded a denial of self. But Paul’s gospel simply echoed Jesus’ words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

Paul refused to compromise and he would not preach any other gospel or ‘water down’ the gospel of the Cross and denial of self that had been commissioned to him by Christ. He tells the Corinthians: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2) Paul preached the gospel of the cross. Consequently his gospel alienated him from people.

It would appear that initially people accepted Paul’s gospel gladly; but the truth takes time to sink in. Sooner or later these same people realized exactly what the gospel demanded from them, and many (many, not a few) simply found themselves unable to pay the price. They turned away from Paul and his gospel. You can see it all over Paul’s epistles. He became, for example, an enemy to the Galatians. The Corinthians were up in arms against him also. (Paul had to start all over again with these churches!)

In every epistle, Paul had to confront the spirit of anti-christ – the spirit that is against the sufferings of Christ.