Your Heart! – Part 3

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mk. 7:17-23

The freedom that we have in the Spirit can only be accessed through the cross. The cross working in our lives, that is. Any freedom outside of the cross of Jesus Christ is of the flesh. True faith, whereby this freedom is found, states with the Apostle Paul:

“19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. 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.” (Gal. 2:19-20)

Notice the things that Paul says about himself. He is

  1. “dead”;
  2. crucified with Christ”;
  3. “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”;
  4. “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God”.

Paul’s life was crucified! Paul no longer lived! On the contrary, Christ lived in him.

What profound facts! What a profound place to be! What an entirely different lifestyle from the humdrum and tepid Christian lifestyle that most believers live. We are so carnal, so selfish and so self-centered, and therefore we are deprived of the beauty and the power of the Kingdom of God.

Notice Paul says that because he was crucified with Christ, therefore Christ lived in him.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

The two cannot exist together. You cannot be alive and at the same time have Christ live in you. If Christ is to live in you, you must go. That was the revelation that Paul received from Christ.

And yet, as we see here, the truly wonderful thing about Paul was that, as he says in Acts 26:19,

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

It is all about obedience. Paul could have received the revelation and sit there and begin wringing his hands and mulling over how he would one day crucify his life. He could have said, “What a wonderful revelation! I am now going to lay me down and sleep and I can come back next year and look at this revelation in a different angle. After which I will work out how to approach the cross. Oh, what a wonderful revelation!”

But no. Not this man, Paul. When Paul received the revelation of the cross, he crucified his life. He crucified his life with Christ, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in his mortal body.

This reminds us of Abraham who, when God told him to circumcise himself and all the men in his house, the Bible says:

“23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him… 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” (Gen. 17:23-26)

On the very day that God told Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham obeyed God and did so.

God is pleased when we obey Him instantly, as Abraham did.

The need for obedience is the reason why, in our key scripture, Jesus swoops in on the heart. It is such a waste of time, energy and resources to approach the things of God through form and the other natural avenues that we attempt to. The reason for all this preoccupation with these things is because we are nursing our disobedience. For this reason we will never arrive where God wants us to arrive at: His throne room of power, grace and wisdom.

But Jesus wants to help us to go directly to God and to receive from Him. We do this through obedience.

In speaking to His disciples about the heart, Jesus was in effect saying, “Circumcise your hearts; that is enough with God”.

When we fail to circumcise our hearts, we are just going round and round in the wilderness like the children of Israel. They did so for 40 years and in the end they all died there!

What a tragedy. But yet, again, what a lesson for us.

We are to look at our hearts. Forget about form. God’s attention is fully centered on our hearts.

If you take a toothpaste tube written “Colgate”, although the tube is beautifully and ‘loudly’ adorned with all kinds of writings and drawings, yet you know full well that the “Colgate” (the toothpaste) is inside. You have to squeeze the tube to bring out the real stuff – the “Colgate” toothpaste.

In the same manner, God allows many circumstances into our lives to squeeze whatever is inside us out. Whatever we have inside of us is the life that we have in us, and that is what comes out when God brings people and situations to squeeze us. And so it is that when we have not the cross working in us, whenever we are squeezed we give out the “evil things” that Jesus stated here. These are the things that you will find in an un-crucified heart.

evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness”. (Mk. 7:21-22)

Jesus said,

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (v.23)

What troubles God, therefore, is not the food we eat but, rather, on the contrary, it is when we have these “evil things” in us. These things are the result of a disobedient heart, a heart that does not want to be circumcised. A Christian who does not want to crucify his/her life.

But when we are crucified with Christ, whenever a situation squeezes us, we give out the aroma of Christ.

God be praised for the Apostle Paul who could write,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

These are the most beautiful words ever! Whenever the Apostle Paul went through a situation, he left behind the aroma (the knowledge, the grace) of Christ. He did not leave behind the putrid stench of the flesh.

Like fighting for his rights, etc.

We are to crucify the flesh. We are to crucify the rights of the flesh. We are not just to understand the revelation of the cross as Paul and the other saints understood it; we are to get ahold of our flesh and actually crucify it. We will never really get anywhere in the Spirit until we do that. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

Paul was a man on the move.

[The Apostle Paul: a man on the move]

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The New Covenant And ‘Blessings’

When you read the New Testament, everything therein, (the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospels, the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, the apostolic epistles, and the Book of Revelation), you cannot find the promises that God promised the children of Israel under the Old Testament. I cannot, for example, read anywhere where it is written, “Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store” (Deut. 28:5); or, “The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways” (v. 7). This one is mostly used by church people against perceived enemies. And the reason for this is because we cannot take defeat!

But the New Testament teaches us to love our enemies, to bless and not to curse them. We are to be meek, and to willingly turn the other cheek.

And, the favorite amongst Pentecostals: “And the LORD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shall not be beneath” (v.13) This one is for those who are seeking after worldly accomplishments, worldly stardom. Oh, glory! To meditate on such wonderful promises!

But the new covenant has no place for such ‘blessings’. Ours is an entirely different blessing! And yet Christians spend all their time “confessing” Old Testament blessings. I used to do so too. Wrong approach. Claiming the blessings of God that are in the Old Testament is a completely useless activity for we who are under the new covenant. If such blessings are to come, let them come. But, apparently, there are many Godly people in the Bible for whom these ‘blessings’ arrived too late, if they ever did arrive at all.

Nowhere did Jesus or the apostles mention the word “Blessed” or “blessings” in connection with anything material. On the contrary, the blessing in the New Testament is always in connection with identifying our lives with the life of Christ, for which there is no promise of any comfort in the flesh. Actually, the new Covenant is solidly against the flesh. Under the new covenant, God openly comes out to declare war against the flesh. Romans 8:7 states clearly:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”

When it comes to this life (where, apparently, most believers’ hearts are set on), although I am sure God is not against us living a comfortable material life, yet I believe the case of Lazarus and the rich man illustrates the fact that we have not been called to live the kind of prosperous lifestyle as portrayed under the prosperity teachings. In fact, many scriptures point to the fact that we have been called to live a thrifty lifestyle. In heaven, Jesus castigated the rich man for living a compulsively lavish lifestyle while his neighbor Lazarus lived a poor life.

And how can we, anyway? Take, for example, John the Baptist’s words,

“He that hath two coats,let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.” (Lk. 3:11)

Due to our human weakness, God allows us to have more than others. But there are excesses to which God simply does not subscribe. How can you reconcile what John said with owning a Rolls Royce in this world so full of poor brothers and sisters in Christ, let alone a poor world in general. Or manhandling people to buy you a $65 million private jet as if God called you to a mission to Mars?

That fact alone reveals that you are not denying yourself. There is absolutely no justification in this world to own those things. Maybe there is in some other world. But not in this one. You may claim I am being judgmental, but I am not. I am just stating a plain Biblical fact. The Bible tells us to live “soberly” (Tit. 2:12). The word “sober” means an inexpensive, reasonable lifestyle. That means that, under the New Covenant, there are limits to the kind of lifestyle that we can live. We are not King Ahasuerus by any means.

Jesus also said,

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth…” (Mat. 6:19)

There are so many scriptures that show that the blessings of the Old Testament as we interpret them are not exactly the kind of thing we have been called to. If God wants to give them to us, well and fine. But they are hardly the main menu. They are not even the dessert. The true meal that God has promised us under the new covenant is Christ, Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23). That was the blessing that God gave to Abraham (before the setting up of the Old Testament covenant and laws with the children of Israel). In Galatians 3:16 we read,

“Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

Now, who told Paul that this seed was Christ?

God did, through revelation.

Back to our coveted blessings. At any rate, we have no justification to claim the blessings of the covenant that God made with the Israelites. In the first place the covenant was with the Israelites, not we Gentiles. It has absolutely nothing to do with us. Secondly, and most importantly, ever since Jesus came, that covenant and everything to do with it has been annulled. We are now under a completely different covenant, the covenant that God made with Abraham which, as we have just seen, is Christ. And who, pray, is Christ?

The Bible says of Christ, that it is

“Christ crucified”. (1 Cor. 1:23)

And hereby is the cross set revealed to us.

The cross, not material blessings, is the singular blessing in our lives. Whether we have the things of this world or not is completely immaterial. That is why the Apostle Paul wrote:

“For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel… lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1 Cor. 1:17)

That word, “effect”, is crucial to our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It talks of the power of the cross in our lives. Understanding the power of the cross is central to our understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ. The cross comes to crucify the flesh. That is why, in Philippians 1:29 the Apostle Paul writes:

“For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake”.

Our singular blessing is to partake of the sufferings, death and resurrection of Christ.

Mind you, this is not the gospel of the Jews, it is the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is God. The Jews are people just like us. They have the same human problem just as we, the problem of sin and self. Sin and self go hand in hand and these two comprise the universal human problem.

There is no greater power than the power to deal with sin and self. And this power is in the cross.

[Where the revelation of the cross is lacking, the doors are open for every kind of perfidy to invade the church]

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His Grace In Us!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:18

If what we read about Jesus in the Bible is true, then Jesus had immeasurable grace. Yes, Jesus had grace. In fact, the Bible says, God the Father gave Jesus grace without measure (John 3:34).

Had Jesus been anywhere near as graceless as we are, He would of necessity have been holding disciplinary meetings every now and then with his disciples. Apart from the troublesome twelve apostles He had, there were others, 72 of them, who stuck ‘close’ to Him. Now, you would think they were close… until you look again. As long as there was bread, healing and all sorts of miracles about, these guys stayed close to Jesus. But such are a very dangerous bunch to have about. They had not understood what Jesus came to do because He had not made it clear enough to them. On the day that He did, they abandoned ship so fast Jesus did not even have the chance to say goodbye to them (John 6:66).

Apparently, the twelve apostles stayed. But it was these who would give Jesus the hardest time. For starters, there were the “Brothers Karamazov”, James and John, whom Jesus surnamed, “The sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). Which goes to show that Jesus had a sense of humor, for all those who think He was a piece of dry hardwood.

If Jesus called these guys “the sons of thunder”, they must have been my tribesmen. During the 1990s when I was working, someone in my office nicknamed me “The bomb”. Although saved, I was volatile and unpredictable. I simply could not get a handle on myself. I was so unpredictable I could not even predict myself. One time during a company meeting I stood up and called everyone “Philistines”. They never forgot that one.

Jesus had no shortage of incidents with these two hot-headed brothers. One time, as Jesus was walking towards Jerusalem (to be crucified), He passed through a village which did not give Him “respect”. Then, just like now, respect was a commodity that was sought after at all costs (especially by preachers). Apparently, in all the other villages that Jesus and his entourage had passed through, He had been received with pomp and ceremony and crowned with many crowns. The apostles James and John and all the other apostles were in high spirits and they were high-fiving each other as they watched all that glory unfolding around them.

Having fed on this feast of praise and worship, the two erstwhile right- (and left-) hand men of Jesus, James and John (and all the rest of them as well, of course) were ill-prepared to face the ignominy of being given the cold shoulder. When they therefore entered this little village and it became clear that the locals not only did not think much about Jesus respect-wise, but that they also did not want Him about their town, it was too much for them to handle. It was particularly so for the brothers who always had a keen eye for “respect”, glory and honor. They simply could not take the humiliation; they went ballistic. Off they went to Jesus and demanded that He allow them to call down fire from heaven to consume that little village as Elijah had done to some people under the old covenant.

But Jesus turned and rebuked them by telling them,

“55 …Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Lk. 9:55-56)

After which He turned and went to another village. Here Jesus taught them the cardinal law of grace that, if you have grace, you do not fight people. You forgive and move on with life.

It is laughable that, not too long a while ago, these same men, James and John, had gone incognito to see Jesus accompanied by their mother. This lovely family wanted Jesus to set the brothers on each side of the Lord in His glory. In His glory! Ha!

Even Jesus could not guarantee that. For any man to sit next to Him in His heavenly glory was too lofty a thought even for our Lord. But to get anywhere near there, He told them, they first would need to suffer in the flesh. They first had to shed all those pounds of flesh in order that they might carry the grace of God in them.

We all, just like James and John, want to sit with Jesus in His glory, don’t we? Well, we better check our grace levels first. And as for sitting next to Jesus in heaven, forget it. You can begin to think about it after you are dead and buried. Fact.

The gospel of Jesus is all about the grace of God in our lives. The Bible says that God is love. It does not say that He is a mega-church preacher or that He has any of the things that we love boasting in. But all that God is above everything else is that He is rich in grace. That is what the Bible means when it says God is love.

We are to be rich in grace. What is lacking with the church is not money, it is the grace of God.

God’s Word challenges you today to stop everything you are doing and get out there and begin crucifying your flesh. Don’t waste time looking at all the other things that God has apparently “blessed” you; watch out for His grace in your life.

[Grace is to carry other people’s burdens]

Away!

For more than a week I have been away from this blog and, as usual, I left without saying bye! It is for this reason that I humble myself and ask again for forgiveness from my readers. I am very poor at preparations (whenever I am traveling, I always pack in a rush the morning I am leaving; can’t pack earlier!)

Thank you all for forgiving me. I have been away from home also, and right now I am in Dar es Salaam for our annual regional youth camps which are held all over the country. I will be giving you some updates when time allows, but I will give a full report next week after the camp has ended.

Let me end this post by encouraging you all to keep close by the cross. If we are serious about going to heaven (which is the only thing we ought to be serious about; we are to take everything else lightly), let us constantly adhere to the words of Jesus Christ:

“If anyone will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mat. 16:24)

[And now for the light touch. For me, the ending of anything, especially a song, is probably more important than the song itself!]

 

Of Apostles And Prophets – 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 read, 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 (Eph. 3:1-5)

Let us begin with the Old Testament. In proverbs 17:11 we read:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

Notice how these words align with what the Apostle Paul went through as he describes in 2 Corinthians 12:7.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.”

A messenger of Satan was given to Paul, to buffet him in the flesh.

Was Paul an evil man?

It is clear from these scriptures that the “evil man” that the writer of Proverbs 17:11 is referring to is not our human idea of an evil man; on the contrary, the “evil man” here refers to the flesh. In essence, therefore, this scripture addresses all of us, for we are all carnal. If you thought you were good or holy, the Bible says no, you are “evil”. You haven’t become good until you meet with that cruel messenger. If you haven’t met him yet, get prepared; it is God’s will that he be sent… to buffet you!

With regard to his candidacy for meeting the cruel messenger, Paul states in Romans 7:14:

“… I am carnal, sold under sin.”

And again, in Romans 7:21-23:

“21 I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. 22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

Do we not all experience this? We are at war! And the cruel messenger has been sent our way. Strangely enough, he has been sent to help us win this war.

Who is the cruel messenger then?

The cruel messenger is the cross. The cross was set up against Paul’s carnal nature, for Paul’s carnal nature was evil.

We read in Romans 8:7-8:

“7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

In his case, therefore, scripture had to be fulfilled:

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”

In order for Paul to do the will of God and please Him fully, God put him under this cruel messenger. Unscribed in the ways of God, Paul prayed to God thrice to have this messenger taken away from him, but God told him:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

In other words, God was telling Paul, “Paul, you cannot serve me as you are. But that thorn will constantly keep your flesh under, for your flesh only wants to rebel. That cross will produce the grace needed to bear fruit for Me.” (Rom. 7:4)

In 2 Corinthians 4:12, the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians just as much concerning what the cross accomplished in his life :

“So then death worketh in us, but life in you.”

When the cross worked death in the apostles’ lives, life came to the church!

It is the same today. The problem with the church today is that there is a huge number of people calling themselves apostles and prophets. But death is not working in these people! Their condition is exactly as it was with the false ministers of Paul’s day. Paul spoke of the ministers of his day thus:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:13)

Why?

Paul tells of what they were doing to the church.

“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.” (v.20)

This is exactly what is happening in church today. These so-called apostles and prophets are doing these same things to God’s people!

“Smite you on the face” means to degrade, to demean, to humiliate. Just as in Paul’s day, today’s false apostles and prophets are doing extremely inhumane things to God’s people. Every kind of evil is being done against God’s people by ungodly men who are in actual fact ravenous wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. The Swahili Bible uses the word “cruel”. It calls them “cruel wolves”.

Indeed, there is probably more cruelty going on in the church than in the world. But, just as in Paul’s day, people are thronging to these crude ‘ministries’. Wonders.

Because the church today is largely under the influence of these false apostles and prophets, there is no life left in much of today’s church. Everywhere, God’s people are suffering terribly, and they are in deep mourning.

Is there no balm in Gilead?

Thank God, there is. Let’s recap again to our key scripture in Ephesians chapter 3 and verse 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”.

Notice,

“holy apostles and prophets”.

The key lies in the word “holy”. God’s Holy Spirit will minister the true gospel only through holy apostles and prophets. These are they who will preach and live the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached:

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

Unfortunately, the church has always had unholy ministers, and these nearly always outnumber the holy ones. But we are to be on the look-out. Jesus said,

“15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”

Jesus was talking about entering into God’s Kingdom through the narrow gate; and here He declares that false ministers will not live a life that reflects this lifestyle. They will live the high and sinful life.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that these false ministers have not the vaguest idea of the gospel of the cross, which was the singular gospel that the apostles preached. They preach

“another Jesus”; “another spirit”; “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

They preach the prosperity gospel. I heard one of them say, “I am a billionaire.” A billionaire preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Another has jets (“Jets, with an ‘s’!”, effused the reporter). Etc, etc. Incredible.

Others skirt the prosperity gospel but carry equally demonic doctrines. But any other gospel, apart from the revelation of the cross, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And Jesus told us to beware of all these fellows.

“Beware of false prophets”.

This is a responsibility the church must bear. You cannot just say of your pastor, “Oh, I did not know his life.” How can you not know your pastor’s life? If you have no access to your pastor, stop going to that church. You should have access right into his bedroom (it could be that’s where he beats his wife).

Jesus gave us the responsibility to know what those who minister to us are carrying in their hearts.

“Ye shall know them by their fruits.”

False apostles and prophets have not been granted the revelation of the cross. They will preach and live other things altogether.

God’s people today need to desire and to heed the gospel of the cross which has been revealed to God’s holy apostles and prophets . Otherwise, there is no end to the spiritual grief they will endure and, in the end, most likely miss heaven altogether because they have been led along the wide and broad way.

[Another of my favorite dishes in the villages: freshly boiled pumpkins]

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The Gospel vs The Flesh

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers… 1 Pet. 1:18

The story goes that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian were flying on a plane and they were required to jump out when they arrived in their respective countries. When the Englishman saw the Wembley Stadium, he jumped out. When the Frenchman saw the Eiffel Tower or the Seine River (can’t remember which), he also strapped himself and jumped out.

The plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, upon sighting land, the Ghanaian put out his hand. A short while later, he announced to the pilot that he had reached his country. The pilot asked him what he had seen.

The Ghanaian replied that he had seen nothing; but his wristwatch had just disappeared from his hand.

Sadly, it is true that you can have your watch popped off your hand or your pocket picked at any minute in darkest Africa; and you should be thoroughly shocked.

In a related issue – to put the icing on that story –  the U.S. president, President Donald Trump, has directed that only 15% of aid will go to African countries because they don’t know how to manage resources.

Is he rrrrrrrrright on that one? Of course he is right. The African’s ingenuity in some arenas of life excels even himself.

These are not just stereotypes about the African; these are facts. Broad generalizations, given; but facts nonetheless. I know there are people who will burst a vein when they hear such things. But everything we are hearing from Trump & co. about the African is hardly news.

Notice that in our story there is nothing unbecoming written about the two white men. If you are thinking they are angels, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have never been outside Africa, but I do not need to travel beyond my house to know that the white man is as rotten as the African is. Indeed, in God’s eyes, every race under the sun is equally rotten. The Bible tells me so.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The only difference between the white man, the black man, the Chinese, the Indian, the Arab and any other race that might be on this earth is the diversity, or variety of rot. But it is all rot nonetheless. Whether they are white, black, brown or yellow, we all know what man is capable of. Since this is not a competition, I am not going to write down a list of the evils these other races excel in.  But, given the genetic factors that they possess, it is a given that, in their particular realms, some of these races are infinitely much more dangerous than the African.

These racial and tribal tendencies in men the Bible calls “vain conversation”. This “vain conversation” is who we are. And when the Bible says that we have received it by tradition from our fathers, it means that we have inherited them from our fathers’ gene pools.

Scripture makes it clear that each race/tribe has its own peculiar brand of rot. When the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete, he warned him,

“12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:12-13).

The spiritual language for culture is flesh. Man is a product of the flesh. I see “vain conversation” all around me – in my own life, in the lives of my wife and children and in the lives of those who surround me.

Man in his intelligence has tried various methods to try and suppress his cultural tendencies and in most cases it appears as if he has won the battle. But “vain conversation” runs deep. Deep in our subterranean consciousnesses, the flesh reigns supreme.

But I love what the Bible says in Colossians 3:9-11:

“9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)

That ought to suffice. There is only one weapon that can defeat the flesh: it is the cross. We cannot undo the flesh in us; only Jesus can, through the cross.

Through “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), the Bible says we have put off our old man and put on Christ. That means we have put on Christ’s character. That’s why it is not enough to say “I am saved”. We need to go ahead and realize the mystery of “Christ crucified” in our lives.

Putting on the character of Jesus is the greatest miracle that can happen to a man. May we (the church) humble ourselves under the cross of Christ and allow it to break us and to form Christ in us. That way, we will not exhibit the works of the flesh. Instead we will bear and show off in our lives the fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance…” (Gal. 5:22-23)

[We reveal the character of Christ in us when we crucify the flesh]

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Confirmed

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; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 4-9

 In Romans 1:28-29 we read:

28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Verse 28 is talking about the Israelites. Verse 29 is talking about the Israelites and us. Both these scriptures are talking about God’s stand with regard to these two groups of people.

These scriptures reveal the paramouncy that the gospel has over even the gifts and calling of God.

I was surprised to read somewhere that the nation of Isarel has one of the highest levels of gays worldwide. Yes, you heard it right: homosexuals. That kind of statistic was something I had never contemplated in my life and this knowledge kind of toned down my cheering for Israel; but I am sure it hasn’t fazed God in the least. The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God will never back down one inch from the promises He made to the nation of Israel.

Any nation which tries to attack Israel in the natural will find itself coming up against the armies of God (angels) – literally. The world has witnessed this countless times. The Six-Day War of 1967 has remained one of the most historic mystery (read miracles) of our modern times.

That is because Israel is the elected nation of God. God, in His wisdom, has put these few people in this world to declare how His election works.

Indeed, wherever the Jew sets foot becomes blessed. America is (or was once) a prime example.

But,

“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes”.

Hmmm. Yes, the Israelites have become enemies of the gospel in order that we, too, might be included in the mercies of God. And the Bible declares that they, too, have been hardened in their hearts to the end that they, too, just like us, might obtain mercy from God (v. 32).

Notice, they are elected, but ultimately they will need to receive mercy. In the end, both we Gentiles and the Israelites will be products of God’s mercy.

It is clear, therefore that, if it is of mercy, it is not of us. The gifts and calling of God come, not from us, but from God Himself. And if it is so, then, no one has anything to boast of there. Indeed, the wisest person in this regard is the person who recognizes this and daily humbles themselves under the mighty hand of God.

This – the non-repentance of God – explains why preachers and Christian believers in general can continue to witness the grace of God in certain areas of their lives even when it becomes clear they are living in sin. This was true of the Corinthian church as we read 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; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

But notice verse 8.

“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In spite of all the gifts of the Spirit that the Corinthians had, yet it was their confirmation unto the end that was pivotal. Why? Because it was this that would present them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This confirmation is what we ought to seek for above anything else.

But let us backtrack and ask, What is the meaning of the word “confirm” here?

It means to approve, or to validate. We will not go to heaven on the basis of the gifts and calling of God, but on the basis of our approval by Christ Jesus. Christ will first have to prove us, whether or not we passed through the narrow road that He also passed. If we do not get the stamp of approval from Jesus, we will not make it to heaven.

Jesus’s stamp of approval reads:

“IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME.”

We become approved when we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The Apostle Paul makes that very clear in Philippians 3:10:

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”.

Are you carrying Jesus’s stamp of approval? Are you denying yourself daily, taking up your cross and following Jesus?

The most important thing for us are not the gifts and calling; rather, it is to be confirmed.

[God’s beloved nation, Israel.]