Called… To The Cross

22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after widom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:22-24

Someone asked me why so many people who profess to follow Christ end up in clearly unbiblical churches. Quite specifically, he asked, “Why doesn’t God reveal to them the gospel which the Apostle Paul preached, the gospel of the cross? How come so few believers seem to understand this gospel of the cross?”

I had also struggled with this same question, but at the exact time that the brother asked it of me, God gave me the answer. Actually, I realized the answer had been lying in open sight right in front of both our eyes all along; yet we had never been able to see it.

At that very moment, I answered the brother, “The Bible says that God reveals the understanding of the cross to those He calls. That’s what it says right there: ‘But unto them which are called…‘”

In every generation, the people whom God has called to Him have learned to deny themselves, to take up their cross, and follow Christ. That was exactly the command that Christ gave to those whom God would call.

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

These believers were not taught in Bible class to deny themselves. They did not have even have beautifully designed blogs like this one that talked about the cross. On the contrary, the ‘education’ of the cross came to them naturally, by the power of the Holy Spirit in them. They were taught by the Holy Spirit. They learned through God to live the crucified life.

As I said, this grace is there in every generation. Even today, God is calling men and women to Him, and when He calls them to Himself, the Holy Spirit teaches them to deny themselves. (Even in the lowest of periods, God has always had a remnant – 1 Ki. 19:18). And so we must question whether a ‘church’ that is running merely after miracles, signs and wonders – a church that would want to make this ministry the bona fide calling of God – is truly of God.

It is very telling that in all the apostolic epistles nowhere does the Bible mention miracles, signs and wonders; certainly not to the extent that the church today would want to trumpet these things. Rather, the New Testament emphasis is on the cross. Little wonder, then, that Paul could boldly state:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after widom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”

Paul could simply have said, “We preach Christ crucified…” without dragging in the beliefs of the Jews and the Gentiles. But Paul was no PC idealist. On the contrary, he wanted to make it clear to the church that the only gospel that had any impact on the spiritual lives of believers was the gospel of the cross, the gospel that would teach believers to follow Christ in denying themselves through taking up their cross. Any other gospel – including the gospel of signs and wonders – has zero impact on the spiritual lives of believers.

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul says:

“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.” (1 Cor. 1:17)

The subject of Paul’s statement here is the cross of Christ, or, rather, the power that was in the cross of Christ. He says he preached to the end that the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.

Again, any other gospel has nothing to offer to the man or woman who would be spiritual.

Now, in this materialistic generation, where people are going to church to “receive” and to be “blessed” in Jesus’ Name, the cross cannot but be set aside in favour of the gospels of signs and wonders. At the other end of the spectrum are those who love to have their grey cells tickled. For these the doctrine of human wisdom takes precedence.

We need to become un-politically correct and ask this modern-day church: Is it too hard a thing for we believers to agree with the Bible? Is it really just too hard to side with Jesus’s command? Or with what the Apostle Paul and all the other apostles taught?

And now, to end…

[The church is not a place for miracles]

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A Gospel And A Life – Part 2

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

When the Apostle Paul set out to write 2 Corinthians chapters 11 to 13, he set out to accomplish the greatest mission of all: to prove how the gospel of Jesus Christ worked in his life. This is the greatest accomplishment that any man can accomplish this side of heaven: proving the gospel of Jesus at work in him. Let us not forget the gospel that Paul preached.

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

Simple and clear. Paul did not preach any other gospel. Paul did not try to bring up any ‘smart’ doctrines or anything to show how clever or intelligent he was. Nor did he try to show how ‘powerful’ he was. Paul wanted to show the power of Christ.

Any other gospel other than the gospel of the cross will produce false ministers of the gospel – the kind of fellows that we talked of in Part 1 – who in turn will turn out unproven Christians under their watch. Paul therefore set out to prove that the gospel of Jesus Christ was at work in his life. He gave the example of his own life as proof that the true gospel of Jesus Christ was working in him.

So how did the gospel work in Paul?

The gospel worked through Paul through weakness!! Hallelujah to that! The gospel worked through Paul allowing himself to become weak. The gospel brought in Paul a broken man. Paul would gladly boast of nothing of himself except his weaknesses.

“… of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 12:5)

The “infirmities” Paul talks about are his sufferings for the sake of the gospel. The sufferings for the sake of the gospel are the mark of a true servant of Jesus Christ.

This is according to God’s will, for Jesus says in Revelation3:19:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten”.

Paul rejoiced in the rebuke and chastening of the Lord! It was his only joy. That’s so different from us.

Paul lays out his sufferings in 2 Cor. 12:23-33.

“… in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft… 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness… 32 In Damascus the governor under Aretas the king kept the city of the damascenes with a garrison, desirous to apprehend me:  33 And through a window in a basket was I let down by the wall, and escaped his hands.”

An apostle let down through a window in a basket!

Paul was hounded and pounded. And here Paul lays down the challenge: “If anyone wants to boast in the Lord, let him boast as I have boasted – in his sufferings for the gospel!” This was proof that Paul was a minister of Jesus Christ.

That seems incredible enough, but what is even more important was the reason for Paul’s sufferings. In Colossians 1:24 Paul talks about the reason he endured his sufferings:

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

This life – laid down on the altar of sacrifice – produced the kind of person that God could use, one that could do the whole will of God. Such an one would love Christ’s church as Christ Himself loved it. Such was the man, Paul. He loved Christ church as Christ Himself loved her and gave himself for her.

In 2 Cor. 12:9, Paul writes:

“… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

What “power” is Paul talking of here. Is it the power to lord it over God’s people?

No, on the contrary, it is the power to give of his life for God’s people sacrificially. The power to do all he could so that others could be built up in the Spirit. The power to lay down one’s life.

With such a man God was well pleased. Need we wonder, then, why Paul was given the mandate to preach the gospel throughout the known world and to single-handedly write half the entire New Testament?

[Recently sighted…]

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A Gospel And A Life – Part 1

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

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

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

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

I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“another Jesus, whom we have not preached”;

and that they carry

“another spirit”, and

“another gospel” (v.4).

In other words, they do NOT preach

“Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).

They preach everything else apart from

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

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

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

That is the true gospel of Jesus Christ.

II.

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

“desire occasion” (v.12).

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

Paul calls them

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

Deceitful workers?

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

These false preachers

“glory after the flesh”. (v.18)

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

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

Finally, Paul calls them

“fools” (v.19).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When the true gospel of

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”

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

We will see more about that later.

[Have you seen the light?]

The Holy Spirit And The Cross – Part 2

The classic case of just how gentle, unobtrusive and unassuming (but powerful) the Holy Spirit is, is to be found in Matthew 16:13-20. But before we read that scripture let us look at Proverbs 7:11-12.

“11 (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: 12 Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)

That’s not talking about a woman; it is talking about the flesh. The flesh is loud; and it is all over the place. The flesh always wants to advertise itself.

But the church is not a place for advertising who we are, nor the things of this world and of the flesh which are, incidentally, temporal. On the contrary, the church is a place for the quiet dealings of the Holy Spirit, which are eternal. If a Christian wants to be known in the flesh, he or she is a carnal Christian.

So now, let us look closely at Matthew 16:13-20. Here I will just quote a few relevant verses.

“15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven… 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ.”

Now, did we say that God does not want to be known, nor His power to be proclaimed?

Hardly. The Bible is filled to the brim with scriptures that declare the glory and power of God. But then God is not flesh. He is Spirit, and He is holy. He does not want to be advertised in the flesh.

It is not that Jesus did not want the world to know that He was the Christ. But He wanted this knowledge to come as a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. I recall some years back we had a phrase in church, “Running with the vision.” It began in the Spirit all right. In those early days men and women truly heard from the Lord. But it didn’t take long for the flesh to raise its ugly head in church and now, today, people are piling up in churches to hear all kinds of visions from all kinds of visionaries… We are living in different times all together.

But when Jesus was here on earth, He did not give the flesh a single opportunity to express itself. In this particular case, He did not want His disciples to go and tell people that Jesus was the Christ while, just a while back, they had been openly jostling for the No. 1 position in Jesus earthly government! He did not want Simon Peter, who did not want to face the cross (Mat. 16:22) to proclaim that He was the Christ!

Jesus would allow His disciples to declare that He was the Christ after the Holy Spirit had done a work of the cross in their lives. That was long after He had left this earth in the flesh.

This is exactly what God is looking for in our lives. God is looking for men and women who have accepted the work of the cross in their lives. He desires us to be changed by the cross in us. God is more interested in what we can allow Him to do in us rather than what we can do for Him.

In 1 Pet. 3:1-4 we read,

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Notice in verse 1 that the Biblical way for wives to win over their unbelieving husbands to the Lord is not through the word; but

“by the conversation of the wives”.

The word “conversation” means way of life. In other words, the way the wife talks and behaves in the fear of the Lord. Not the preaching. That is the Biblical way to win over people’s lives to the Lord.

Secondly, notice, in verse 4,

“the hidden man of the heart” and

“the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”.

What does the Bible say about these two qualities?

It says they are

“not corruptible”;

in other words, they are eternal. Secondly, they are

“in the sight of God of great price.”

We should not desire to be seen. Neither through our preaching nor through anything else we do. On the contrary, we should desire the work of the cross through the Holy Spirit working in us to be seen in us. The reason for our doing should only on account of what He has done in us.

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.

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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