The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 2

Firstly, in 1 Cor. 1:17-18, Paul states,

“17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

Notice what verse 18 is telling us. It is making a difference between being saved and taking up your cross and following Christ. These are two completely different things. In other words, you could be saved but not be under “the preaching of the cross”. You could be a believer who panders to his or her carnal lusts. One who is not fulfilling the righteousness of God in their lives. But the Bible declares that to those who have accepted salvation, the cross is “the power of God”!

In other words, when we are allowing the cross to work in us, the power of God is revealed in us! The power to do what? To defeat sin and to work the righteousness of God in our lives.

The Apostle Paul feared lest the cross of Christ should be made of “none effect” in the lives of believers.

Wow! What a mighty revelation!! But Paul goes even further and writes similar words in Philippians 1:29:

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

The believer has two mandates. Actually, one – salvation – is not our mandate. The work of salvation has been wrought by God Himself; we were dead in sin, and God resurrected us in Christ Jesus. A dead person cannot resurrect himself, so we were not involved in any way in our salvation. Salvation is all of God’s grace (Eph. 2:5).

The singular mandate that we have been given is to crucify our flesh. God calls us, by the Holy Spirit that He has given to us, to crucify our fleshly lusts and desires. Galatians 5:24 puts it thus:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

Again, this is of grace. According to His great mercies and love, God has decided to make us co-workers with Him. He makes us co-workers with Him in His fight against His enemies. And, pray, how do we fight God’s enemies?

It is not by screaming at the devil, as most believers have been taught. Nor is the believer’s victory in the thousand and one “steps” that fill most charismatic teachings.

On the contrary, there is only one way to defeat the enemy. It is by crucifying the flesh! God gives us His Holy Spirit for the express purpose of crucifying the flesh. Once we have crucified the flesh, we are done. Done, I said. That is what it says in Ephesians 6:10-20. Here, it is well documented how our spiritual warfare is waged solely on the battleground of the flesh. Just look at our armor (vss 14-18).

Truth. Righteousness. Peace. Faith. Salvation. The Word of God. Prayer. All these things require a denial of self.

It is all about crucifying the flesh! Once we crucify the flesh, the devil has nothing in us (Jn. 14:30). The devil fears a dead Christian! But when he meets a ‘live’ believer (i.e., one who is living for himself), the devil has a powerful weapon. We do the devil’s work when we fulfill the desires of the flesh.

Hence the cross. This mandate that we have from God – to crucify our flesh – was the reason the Apostle Paul held the cross in such esteem. You can see in his epistles that the singular thing that the Apostle Paul defended was the cross. Unlike many preachers in his time (but more so today), Paul did not boast in the great works that were done through him; nor in visions and heavenly visitations, all of which he had in abundance. On the contrary, Paul boasted

“in mine infirmities” (2 Cor. 12:5)

What does Paul mean by “infirmities”?

We shall see that in the next chapter of this series.

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The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 1

38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: 40 For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Mat. 12:38-40

Our lives are bound up with God to the extent that we live the crucified life. That was what Jesus was telling these Jews here. They – just like many believers today – believed the Kingdom of God consisted of signs and wonders. But Jesus here set the record straight: when it comes to the Kingdom of God, the only true sign that would be given this generation was the suffering, death and resurrection of our souls.

Actually, Jesus reprimanded the Jews for seeking after a sign. He said that seeking after a sign is the mark of “an evil and adulterous generation”.

That’s quite telling. That’s talking of people who are not interested in seeking after the holiness of God. Rather, they are using God (religion) to seek after their own gain. Material, financial and physical gain, to be exact. But Jesus said,

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God”.

Even seeking after bodily healing of itself is a form of selfishness. Seeking after your own healing first (you will know you are doing this in your heart of hearts) is a form of idol worship. Today, there are so many believers who worship their bodies. But we are to seek for God’s Kingdom first to be established in our hearts.

I believe it grieves God’s heart the way many believers today throng to these miracle-working churches. All they are seeking after is a sign, a miracle, a healing, or an awe-inspiring wonder. According to scripture, these are “an evil and adulterous generation”.

In fact, let’s up the ante. Or, rather, let us see how the Bible judges today’s generation of miracle-seekers. Yes, God judges all miracle-seekers, as we shall see. Firstly, the Apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 1:22-24 declares something which is very contrary to popular charismatic belief:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified… 24 Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

In his day, Paul’s generation was demanding a sign. Today’s generation loves preaching Christ; but not “Christ crucified”. Today, the gospel is all about being blessed – materially, financially and physically. They preach another Jesus. The cross is out. And so is God’s wisdom and power.

But the real killer is 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12. Here scripture says:

“9 Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10 And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

What, pray, is the “truth” the Bible is talking of here?

The truth is Jesus. He Himself declared,

“I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6)

And, who, pray is the Bible talking of here? Is the Bible addressing pagan sinners? By no means. The world is already deceived. Satan’s work is to deceive those who have been called to the truth. Here, therefore, the Bible is talking of God’s people who refused to love the truth (Jesus), but had pleasure in a lie.

There is no shortage of believers today who are so deceived even the drunkard in the bar can see what is going on, for it is happening in broad daylight. In Africa, congregations of the deceived are so vast that some ‘churches’ use football fields to hold their services. So many people running to receive a lie! There is so much damnable folly and unrighteousness going on in these charismatic churches today. Just to mention a few: People are persuaded to eat grass and snakes in church. Apparently, this is done under a form of hypnotism for no one in their right minds would do such a thing. Many other things are done to God’s people in these churches under this particular form of hypnotism.

Merchandise, purportedly from the holy land, is sold in churches: flags, oil, sand, water, etc. Women are raped in church under the guise of being healed and receiving other ‘blessings’. And preachers live the high life at the expense of fooled believers. The list is inexhaustible. There is a church whose members worship naked. They read the Bible and they discovered that Adam was naked (although Adam was not naked; he was covered with the glory of God). Then there are the mainstream established churches, who have taken centuries to establish each their own particular form of lie.

The common factor amongst all these groupings is that they have refused to affirm the singular Truth that was preached by the Apostles: Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. They have cast aside the cross of Jesus Christ. They have cast aside the singular thing that connects them with the living God.

So what is that scripture we just read in 2 Thessalonians saying? It is warning us. It is stating that you cannot fool God. God can see when His people have no love for the truth, and he is not happy about it at all. God saw through the mask of people’s worldly desires and He realized people did not really love His Son, Jesus (the Truth). All they wanted were the miracles. The Bible here says that, for this reason, God let loose a spirit of “strong delusion”. A spirit of signs and wonders. They had refused to believe in the singular gospel of the cross, so God let loose Satan (in a spirit of “deceivableness”) upon them. This spirit is at work in the church today and, as we just saw, it is not working in parables. It is plainly see-able.

But it is the cross and what it does in our lives that will usher us into the presence of God. We saw in our last post that Jesus has received the ultimate reward from God the Father: He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. And the Bible makes clear that Jesus did not receive this honor on account of the miracles that He performed when He was here on earth. Rather, it was on account of the cross that He allowed to work in His life.

Many believers, as we just saw, make a big fuss out of miracles and signs and wonders. But when we get to heaven, these (whether we worked or whether we received them) will be of very little consequence to our final accounting with God. What will determine how God receives us in heaven will be how we denied ourselves by partaking of the sufferings and death of Christ when we were here on earth.

This was what Jesus was trying to tell the scribes and Pharisees here.

[Our reward is to live forever with Jesus after we have taken up our cross]

A Reward Awaits!

Do you know that, right now, as you sit there reading this, something awesome is going on in heaven. In fact, many unimaginably marvelous things are happening in heaven just about right now. Let us read about a few of them.

“1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2)

Wow! Notice the second part of this scripture. It is informing us of an incredible fact. That right now, as we speak, Jesus is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Right now. Wow! How truly awesome! But the reason for this, as we shall be seeing shortly, is due to something that Jesus did while He was here on earth.

But let us read on further about what is going on in heaven with Jesus. Bear in mind this is happening real time.

The Apostle Peter, talking about Jesus, says:

“Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers made subject unto him.” (1 Pet. 3:22)

Wow! Jesus is not only seated at the right hand of God; but angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. As we speak, Jesus wields power and authority over every angel, power and authority, whether in heaven or on the earth.

Wow!

Let us read a little bit further.

In Acts 7:55-56, as the Jews were stoning Stephen, he lifted up his eyes in the Spirit, and the Bible declares:

“55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, 56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”

Again, Wow!

Jesus was not only now seated; He had stood up. He stood for this man Stephen.

Who do we stand for, anyway? We stand for those who are worthy of our respect: the elderly; and those who have accomplished something worthy of our honor. In athletics, as the winner comes round the last bend of the final lap, we all stand to cheer. It is what took us there in the first: to experience the thrill of victory. We cheer wildly for the victor. We cheer wildly for someone who has done well.

I remember one time, during a great football match, that the great master of football, Ronaldinho, playing for the great team of Barcelona, played such a fine game against another great team, Real Madrid, that, at the final whistle, not just the Barcelona fans, but all the Real Madrid fans stood up to honor him. They stood up to honor an opposing player. That was the great maestro, Ronaldinho. He and Pele are the greatest pair who ever touched a ball.

But the Christian believer runs a different race altogether. All these great worldly accomplishments by earthly people are nothing when it comes to what we are called to do in the Spirit. Nevertheless, they are there for us to imitate in the Spirit.

As the man great man of faith, Stephen, made his final victory sprint across the finishing line of eternity, Jesus, seated at the right hand of God, could not bear it; and He stood up. He stood up to cheer Stephen, and to honor him. When the Bible says that Jesus stood up, that means all heaven stood up. All heaven stood up to applaud and honor a great athlete in the Spirit.

Back to Jesus. The Bible firmly affirms that Jesus is set at the right hand of God in heaven. But, as I said earlier, the reason Jesus is seated at the right of God in heaven was because of something He did while He was here on earth. Yes, Jesus did something right here on this earth that earned Him such a great reward from God. What, pray, could one do on this earth that could give one such a mark of distinction in the presence of God? The Bible has the answer. It tells us that Jesus:

“… endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

While He was here on earth, Jesus endured the cross and despised its shame. For this reason, He is seated at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities and powers subject to Him.

You cannot have your cake and eat it. That is a worldly saying; but then God has given men the wisdom to coin such sayings, for their own good.

When He was here on earth, although He was God, and although He was Lord of all and had all power and authority both in heaven and on earth (Mat. 26:53); yet Jesus

“7 … 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.” (Phil. 2:7-8)

Did we read the word “humbled himself” there? Yes, Jesus humbled Himself. He made Himself of no repute. He willingly surrendered all He had. He gave His body to sinful men, to do with it as they wished. And they rent all their anger and rage upon that body. He stood silently as they did so. He did not lift a finger to defend Himself.

This is what the cross is all about. That was Jesus, who was God and who was Lord of all. He endured the cross.

How much more we? How much more ought we to humble ourselves under the cross? How much more ought we to count ourselves as dung in this world, that God might lift us up in the Spirit? How much more ought we to confront situations (and wilful men) with grace in our hearts by the power of the Holy Spirit in us? For this was exactly what Jesus did.

For this reason God has greatly exalted Jesus.

“9 Wherefore God also hath exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Again, Wow!

What a great calling we have! Yes, right now. What an incredible opportunity we have! What an incredible grace, to be able to follow Jesus in His sufferings and death, that we might enter victorious in heaven, and to be equally exalted?

What is our reward, anyway?

It is to live with Him forevermore. To behold the face of God forever! The Bible in Psalms 16:11 says:

“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy: at the right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

We normally associate the word “pleasures” with the worldly pleasures that we know of. But I sure am glad to read that with God there are “pleasures”; which are no mere worldly pleasures! We have no business pursuing worldly pleasures, which are so temporal. God has in store for us eternal pleasures.

The problem is that when our spiritual eyes have not been opened we do not see these things and we therefore live largely for the flesh and its desires.

But if we see these things in the Spirit, we will deny ourselves as Jesus did. That in effect means we will have no rights to fight for. We will endure the cross, and despise its shame.

[The athlete goes to great lengths to achieve his/her goal]

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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!]