Despising Shame

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 rub 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

So many things here. But today I just want to address one thing here. But just before I do that, did you notice that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses? They are listed in Hebrews chapter 11. These are men and women who made it. By the grace of God they saw the reward in the Spirit and surrendered their lives that they might receive it.

But today I want to talk about ‘despising the shame’. The Bible says this was what Jesus did.

At first it did not catch my eye. I never understood what shame Jesus despised. Then, slowly, the Lord taught me.

Have you ever had situations in your life where you were shamed? I mean raw, ordinary shame. I would be surprised if you said “No”.

However well set we are, somewhere in life we all will have situations where we will be put to some form of shame. I can recall many times in my life where I have been shamed. Being shamed was the single most difficult spiritual trial in my life. Probably because it began since childhood…

Anyways, long into my salvation, I still reacted against being shamed. I never realized that our Lord Jesus Christ was also shamed. Then, one day, the Lord opened my eyes. I saw clearly that what I was fighting against was the same thing that the Lord despised. Shame. Our Lord not only endured the cross, He despised shame.

Wow! I had never seen it that way. The ordinary situations that we think are unconnected with the gospel. For me, a simple thing like my wife saying something to me in front of people which I considered offensive or ‘disrepectful’ (and she is a pro at that because she never really minds speaking the truth to whoever she needs to speak it to); something like that could start a conflagration that would have all heaven ceasing every activity to wonder at with open mouths.

But one day I heard the voice of the Lord speak to me. It was very clear. I was all alone when the Lord led me to that scripture. He asked me, “Is the word ‘shame’ there or is it not.”

I said, “It is there.”

The Lord said, “How come you behave as if you have never seen it?”

I said, “As a matter of fact, Lord, I had never seen it. This is my very first time to see it.”

He said, “This is exactly what that scripture is talking about. You must despise shame. Shame of every kind. That is what the cross is for.”

I had never heard anything so clearly. And I knew, just hearing that in my spirit, that I had taken one of the biggest steps in my spiritual walk. That I could despise shame! I had never thought I should.

Ever since that day, I know I not only should despise shame; but I can, too. I am not always able to; in fact, I fail often. But I realize I can laugh at shame. And whenever I manage to do so, what sweet victory!

So many situations rise up to shame me. But the realization that this was the very thing that my Lord Jesus despised gives me the strength to do the same.

What say you? Don’t you think we ought to despise shame? Shame of every kind? There are so many versions of shame, but we ought to despise every kind of shame.

But we cannot do that without the revelation of the cross in our hearts. Without that revelation, we will fight for our pride and rights.

While this applies to every believer, yet I cannot help thinking about many of today’s preachers in this respect. Those who have no revelation of the cross. Many today are so big they are bigger than God Himself. Today’s apostles, prophets, pastors, evangelists and whoever. The self-proclaimed ones. I cannot help thinking about them. They have a long way to go… down.

I don’t know about you. But me, I want to welcome and rejoice at any and every opportunity that rises for me to be shamed. It’s the only road we have as believers.

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A Given Life – Part 1

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19

Let us read that again.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham

“… offered up Isaac.”

In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,

“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)

in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,

“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.

But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.

When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.

[Oh, those songs!!]

“The Sons Of God” – Part 2

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. Rom. 8:18-19

Although Adam might have been able to fly, yet, under the New Covenant, we could hardly find time to talk about Adam and his flying skills. On the contrary, we are to look at the heart. Something bad happened with Adam’s heart. And thereafter, grief, sorrow, fear and death reigned over the earth. Whether Adam was able to fly thereafter or not is no more of importance to us.

I truly thank God for the revelation that He has given to the church concerning the heart. Where would we be without this revelation? No doubt we would be preaching the charismatic gospel of material prosperity, et al.

But the Bible says:

“For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

I have heard many preachers try to make this scripture to be about the human intellect. But they could hardly be more off-track. This scripture is not talking about the brain. Indeed, no scripture addresses the human intellect. All scripture addresses the heart. All it is saying here is that as a man is in his heart, so is he. As a man is in his heart, so is everything about him.

Elsewhere, the Psalmist wrote:

“I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well.” (Ps. 139:14)

The Psalmist was in the Spirit when he wrote those words. He was not in the flesh. The Psalmist here therefore is talking about the heart. God could hardly be bothered with our bodies the way we are.

In the Bible, we find men and women who had the heart of God. Men like David. And Abigail, among countless others. I have it in my heart to write about these two especially and, God willing, I shall do so within the next few days.

God has given us a heart that is fearfully and wonderfully made. A heart where God can dwell. Through Jesus Christ, our hearts have become the dwelling place of God.

Is that not so wonderful! But for us to arrive at the place where God dwells in our hearts, we have to pay the price. And, pray, what is the price?

The price is to circumcise our hearts. Those are the “sufferings” the Apostle Paul talks of in our key scripture above. Notice,

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

The true gospel of Jesus Christ preaches the singularity of the sufferings and death of Christ through crucifixion. It may not be a “pop” gospel, but it is the true gospel. Any other gospel, any other Jesus, is not genuine and the preaching of such simply draws men and women further from eternal life (2 Cor. 11:4).

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus Himself said,

If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.”

The denial of self and the taking up of our cross is not easy. But there is no different path. The cross makes for a beautiful heart. A beautiful heart, on the other hand, makes the difference in this world – and in the next.

I find myself singularly wanting in any endeavor to do justice to this important subject. What I have written here is my small contribution for now. I pray it might make a difference in the lives of any who read it.

[Man is an incredibly wonderful creation. God intended it to be so. Judge Frank Caprio]

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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How Many Cups Of Water?

[The original title to this post was: “A Heavenly Reward”]

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:42

Today I have four stories to narrate and they are all related. They all point to the same moral.

The first story involves the biggest mansion (actually, the only one-storied mansion) in my town.

It belongs to the bishop of the largest Pentecostal denomination in our region.

End of story.

The second story is about another bishop of that same denomination who resides in a neighboring district. His mansion, which happens to be the biggest personally-owned building in his town, is currently under construction. But this story stretches out a bit. The bishop also owns two vehicles, both 6-cylinder SUVs. Actually, one is a Range Rover.

This minister’s church, however, is heavily tasked to contribute to the construction of his big mansion. The church also takes care of the running of the bishop’s two cars. Every parishioner has been allocated a large portion of money to contribute, and the deacons have been instructed to enforce it.

A friend of mine who used to worship in this minister’s church once asked him why he needed to build such a big house. The man replied, “Our God is a big God. We should be able to enjoy the big life because all things belong to God.”

When he asked him why he had to task God’s people to pay for his house instead of receiving directly from God, the minister replied, “God has put them there to serve me. That is how they will receive their reward, while I receive mine by preaching to them.”

At about the same time, a friend of mine from the U.S. sent me a video clip of a church that had rioted against the pastor during a church service because they were asked to tithe 1,000 U.S. dollars each. (The tithe goes directly to the pastor.)

Those who could not afford the 1,000 dollars were coolly asked to give not less than 300 dollars.

And yet this pastor drives a Rolls Royce, he owns a number of mansions, and he has satellite churches from which he “reaps” tons of cash every Sunday. But the community that he “serves” is dirt poor and there are families who cannot afford a decent meal.

Finally, the “sheep” had woken up to the fact that they were being pimped and they decided to do something about it.

The Bible does not say we pay back evil for evil, nor that we should riot in church. But these people did not know any better, so they rioted.

The last story is about our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus talked about a reward. He did not say that we would receive a reward by building a mansion for ourselves or by driving the most expensive cars in His name. Jesus, however, said that we would be rewarded by giving a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (children).

Imagine that. Not even warmed water, but cold. A cup of cold water is worth nothing. And yet, the littlest thing we could do for God’s Kingdom and for His children will get us an eternal reward in heaven.

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

We can serve God’s people with the littlest thing we have and expect a reward; or we can serve ourselves by pampering our flesh, for which the Lord made no promise.

I am trying to calculate how many cups of water this American preacher could get from selling his Rolls Royce. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, each cup of water that this man would give to a saint has a reward in heaven. Now do your maths and tell me what kind of reward this preacher would have in heaven. But he is wasting it away on self.

Jesus said,

“19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mat. 6:19-20)

Self (the love for this world) is the saint’s biggest enemy. That is why God gives us the revelation of the cross, to the end that we might crucify the flesh and move on and serve God in the Spirit, where there is a reward. The revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” gives us a spiritual vision and we lose sight of the pleasures and glories of this world.

[“But we preach Christ crucified… Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. 1:23-24]

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