Dead Or Half-Dead? Part 2

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

We saw in the first part of this post that Jesus loved this man; but it is his soul, or spirit, that Jesus loved. He did not love him in the natural, carnal way that we are accustomed to. It is for this reason that the prosperity preacher got it right in one way when he said God wants us to prosper in our spirits. But the gospel is about one thing only and we cannot bring in a concoction of eveything else and claim it is the gospel.

For now, let me tell you a story, the story from which I got the title for this post. This is a true story.

There are some communities in my country that eat donkeys. Yes, they eat donkeys just like you and I eat beef. One of these communities are even my neighbors. Actually, the incident I am about to narrate took place not too far from where I live.

Now, donkeys are not in as much supply as cattle anywhere in the world and with the voracity with which these tribesmen were consuming this particular delicacy, the government soon awoke to the fact that before long there would be no donkeys in this country. So one day the prime minister of that time decided to pay one of these communities a visit, and as chance would have it, he chose to visit my next-door neighbors. He came with a large contingent of government ministers because most people require to see big government for any point to sink in. Flanked by top government officials, the prime minister in effect banned the wholesale slaughter of donkeys that was going on in that community. The people agreed to the ban and the slaughter ended there. But the truce was only temporary. Now, hardly three years or so down the path, the slaughter has started all over again. Obviously, these people’s appetite for their favorite “beef” is too overpowering.

Anyways, on the particular day that I am recounting of here, some men were slaughtering a donkey. The man handling the machete had slit the throat completely, but the donkey is a very powerful animal and in order to kill it, you need to cut the neck vertebrae also. The man was about to do this when the donkey, in the initial stages of its death throes, gave out a kick that was so violent that it threw the men holding him down completely off balance. They let go and that is when the impossible happened. The donkey got up on its four legs and began running about, with its head swinging from its neck!

It was an incredibly horrific and gruesome sight. Blood and gore was spattering all over the place as the animal banged itself about. People scattered. Unable to really make a run for it, the donkey kept running around in ever-tightening circles until it tired itself out and fell to the ground with a thud.

It was a sight to turn your stomach.

I have brought this story up because I thought it was so apt a description of what happens when a believer fails to allow the cross to have its way in their lives. A believer without the cross is a believer who does not have the death of Christ working in them. And this is the greatest tragedy in Christianity.

Had the donkey allowed itself to die peacefully, he would not have created so much inconvenience for himself and for the people handling him. We create all kinds of havoc in the Spirit when we refuse to accept to die to our carnal ways.

Moreover, the life of Christ is sadly lacking in such a life.

But, really, who can willingly allow themselves to be slaughtered without making a fuss? Obviously, this rich man was not able to.

Well, Jesus did. Jesus Himself stated:

“17 Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” (Jn. 10:17-18)

But scripture goes beyond that and states that Jesus was slaughtered even before the foundations of the world were laid (1 Pet. 1:19-20). That fact alone is central to our calling as believers.

Moreover, Isaiah 53:7 says that as Jesus was being slaughtered, He opened not His mouth.

“He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

You can be taken down to the slaughterhouse and, like this rich man, not allow yourself to die. He was a wonderful man, full of zeal for the Lord. But he was spiritually deficient in that he had no revelation of the cross in his life. When Jesus therefore began to tell him to deny himself, he stumbled at this word. He did not allow God’s machete to go far enough, and he stumbled away from the scene of the slaughter, wounded but not dead. The Bible states that he

“went away grieved: for he had great possessions.” (v.22).

The man had tempered himself since his youth… for nothing.

What a sad commentary on this young man’s life! But this is the same sad commentary that is written of our lives when we fail to take up the cross. When the cross is absent in our lives, we are still short of the Kingdom of God despite all our religiosity. Something needed to die in this young man. He needed to have his neck vertebrae cut. And so do we.

[Below: Deep in central Tanzania, I found the most picturesque bathroom!]

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Dead Or Half- Dead? – Part 1

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-21

The reason for the title of this post you will find in Part 2. But first…

My heart goes out to this rich young man. Such a wonderful man, and so zealous for God!

Did you ever notice that this man is one of the very few people of whom scripture states that the Lord loved? Not that Jesus does not love everyone else; but it is notable that scripture could take the trouble to write that the Lord loved this person. I believe the reason Jesus loved this man was because of his zeal for God. This rich young man, who had kept all of God’s commandments since his youth, not breaking any one of them and who had come running to Jesus and who, upon reaching Him he had knelt at His feet… What a heart! I haven’t read in the gospels of many people who did that.

But I also believe there is another more important reason for scripture to write that Jesus loved this man. The reason is, I believe, that God wants us to know how He loves us, or what His love is all about. If someone told me they loved me and then took off their very expensive watch and gave it to me, I would understand that. That is love to me. But, as is so clearly made out here, when God loves us, He does not love us in that way. On the contrary, He calls us to deny ourselves; actually, to deny ourselves, to take up the cross and follow Christ.

That is why the greatest gift that God can give us is a revelation, or a spiritual understanding of, the cross of Jesus Christ. In the cross we find true love, the love that never questions why.

I heard – actually, there is a video of this on Youtube – one of the major preachers of the prosperity gospel say: “I define prosperity as every arena of life… prospering in your spirit, prospering in your soul, prospering in your physical body – that’s healthy; prospering in your relationships, prospering on your job and prospering in your finances.”

It just might be coincidence, but it so happens that this preacher is one of the wealthiest men on the planet. If this preacher were to meet Jesus, Jesus would tell him, “Go sell your private jet, your multi-million dollar houses and your expensive cars and suits and give that money to the poor. After you’ve done that, come, take up the cross, and follow me!”

But, on top of all that he owns, this preacher is currently making plans to purchase a 65-million dollar private jet. Which translates into the fact that he has never met Jesus in his life. A tough conclusion, but true.

When Jesus loved this young man that we read of in the above scripture, he did not tell him, “Friend, I love you so much, which is why I have given you all that wealth. Hoard it well and enjoy it to the full, for that is my blessing to you.”

No, Jesus did not say that. On the contrary, Jesus told him to go sell all that he had and to give the proceeds to the poor and to come follow Him. And nowhere in its entirety does scripture deviate from this stance. For that is how Christ loves us and that is how He calls each one of us. He loves us to the end that we might deny the flesh and its worldly lusts and become like Him. The time for the worldly spirit of wantonly living life as “King’s Kids” is no more. Now is a time to give up our comfort zones and to go share the real life of God with Jesus. As the Apostle Paul writes 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…”

[Below: “Sell all you have and give to the poor then come, take up your cross and follow Me!” Love doesn’t ask why]

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Photo credit: Carol Lanthier

The Family

18 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.

19 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.

20 Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.

21 Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

22 Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God:

23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men;

24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

25 But he that doeth wrong shall receive for the wrong which he hath done: and there is no respect of persons.

4:1 Masters, give unto your servants that which is just and equal; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven. Col. 3:18-4:1

We should be extremely wary of the flesh, especially in relation to our families. You notice in this scripture that Paul is not talking about relationships within the church, but within the family. And here the Apostle Paul makes it clear that even a servant is a part of the family.

The reason for this need for vigilance is because it is the easiest thing for us to cast ourselves into a mould, where things become ‘normalised’ and we are no longer running the race we have been called to. The whole concept of salvation, including our relationships, is a daily race, and a gritty one. It is a race of the Spirit vs the flesh. But it is with the family that God is most concerned and it is with the family that this race must begin.

My son is a slow learner, and much of the time (at least, according to my estimations) he does things contrary to the instructions I give him.  I am well aware that there was some delay during his delivery and this was what caused his condition. But this knowledge does nothing to calm my high-strung calibre and much of the time, the things that my son does have me clawing up the wall, literally.

And so it was that one day I was watering my garden and I asked him to carefully move the hose for me between the young plants. Instead of picking the part of the hose I had shown him, he picked the wrong one and in the process he ended up breaking one or two of my precious plants.

To talk of a sonic boom here would hardly do credit to the bellow I let out. If you ever saw Disney’s animated “Beauty and the Beast”, well, the Beast’s roars there are a downgraded version of what occurred that afternoon. My son stood still as I went on the warpath and blasted him into Neverland.

But the Lord is good and I thank Him for His mercy towards me. After my son had left the crime scene, the Lord quietly came to me and showed me the rot that was in my heart. As I lay on my bed that the evening, I called my son.

“Joe”, I said, “I want you to forgive me for what I did to you this evening. I am truly sorry and please know that I love you.”

I was sorely tempted to add, “But please, please try harder at doing things right”; but with all the effort I had I bit my tongue and held my peace.

Notice the Bible says, both in Colossians above and in Ephesians 6:4, that fathers should not provoke their children to anger. The Bible here is not talking of the small children that we in our selfishness are wont to spoil. Rather, when children reach a certain age, when they are in their teens, it is the time that their independence begins to assert itself, and it is here that parents need to be very careful to not to stamp out that independence. It is this independence, nurtured in the love of God, that will lead your child on to maturity.

There are any number of scenarios with regard to our lack of vigilance. It is the easiest thing, for example, for the wife or husband to enter into an adulterous relationship with another person, not for any other reason than that they have not been vigilant in their relationship to their spouse. But it requires a daily death to the flesh for that relationship to stay renewed in the Spirit.

The same goes for every other relationship within the family. The parents need to die for their children; and the children, likewise, for their parents. The servant needs the death of the cross to work in him for him to serve his master as he would serve Christ; likewise, the man and woman of the house towards their servant. If the work of the cross is not in them, they can easily look down on or mistreat their servants.

It is the easiest thing for the pastor to run about pastoring everyone else except his family. He never spends time with his wife or children! It is no wonder, therefore, that many pastors today stand accused of having adulterous affairs with other women, because they were unable to pay the price needed to take time with their wives.

It is the easiest thing for the mother to be busy, oh! inviting over and welcoming all those beloved brothers and sisters in Christ – but never having a thought for her children. And the children become rebellious and she wonders why!

It is the easiest thing, as I said, for us to allow the flesh in its various forms to take over control of our families. It is the easiest thing for us to become selfish and to look only to our own interests: the father, to his own pride; the child, his/her own independence, etc. But the Bible in 1 Peter 5:8 says:

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour…”

It talks about the devil there, but it might as well be talking of our flesh. The flesh is always lying in wait for us, ready at any moment to step in and take control the minute we lose our vigilance. That is why we need to be very vigilant in our relations with our family members.

The church setting is meant to overflow with the love and selfless sacrifice of Christ. And it has to begin with the family. As one of my friends used to say, you cannot jump to No.2 before you are done with No.1. The family is the Number One place where we are required to deny ourselves, to take up our cross daily and to follow Christ.

[My family. The highest responsibility I have is both to my wife and children, to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” – Eph. 6:4]

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Tortoise Or Giraffe Meat?

11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.

12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:

14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.

15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:

17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus…

21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;

22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.

24 And they glorified God in me. Gal. 1:11-24

The people amongst whom I live eat tortoises. Or at least they used to eat in former times, for the story I am about to narrate is of long bygone days. Tortoises, though, were eaten as a last resort, when there was no other meat available. The story goes that one day, a man was walking in the bush when he came across a large tortoise. He immediately caught it and put it on his head and headed home. As he walked along he met two men going in the opposite direction. The men asked him, “What is that you are carrying?”

“It’s a tortoise”, replied the man.

“Throw that away”, the men told him. “We just received news that a giraffe has been killed in the valley and you can go take as much as you need.”

The man quickly threw away the tortoise and headed to the valley with his two friends. There they found the dead giraffe and all the vllagers were taking away as much meat as they could.

In a related development… Two years ago, myself together with a team of five other pastors were travelling to a neighboring country to attend a conference. These were pastors who had recently ‘converted’ to the gospel of the cross, and they were eager to hear more about the cross.

A few hours into our journey, one of the men received a call. After the initial greetings, the conversation proceeded as follows:

The caller: “Where are you?”

The pastor: “I am on a bus.”

“What bus?”

“I am travelling to Nairobi.”

“What?! What are you going to do in Nairobi?”

“I am attending a conference.”

“What conference? You mean you will no longer be attending our classes?”

“Er, not exactly, but for the next few days I won’t.”

“If that’s the case, then we need you to hand back our books, how do we get them?”

“Unfortunately, you will have to wait until I come back”, said our man.

We were all seated on adjacent seats, so we all could hear our man’s side of the conversation. In any case, there are people (myself included) who, when on the phone, have an undefiable inclination to talk in a loud voice. The reason for this propensity to talk loudly on the phone is another story altogether which I shall reserve for later. And our man was talking as if he was in a shouting match.

After he had hung up, the pastor seated next to him asked him, “What was that about a class and books?”

“Oh, it’s a class on discipleship that I have been attending.”

“What discipleship?”

“Well, y’know, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

“Do you have those books with you here?”

“I have one”, replied the pastor.

“Let me see it.”

At which the pastor pulled out from his bag a medium-sized Christian manual.

Without even opening it, his fellow told him, “Throw that tortoise out the bus window. How can you still be carrying a tortoise when we are going to eat giraffe meat?”

Ever since that day, our team has fashioned many anecdotes based on the story of the tortoise and the giraffe.

But, on a more serious note, such a conversation can tell you immediately the man whose eyes have seen in the Spirit and one who has not; the man who has caught the revelation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the gospel of the cross, and one who has not. The one who has caught this revelation talks like the Apostle Paul:

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

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

The first thing that happens when a man or woman receives the revelation of the cross is that they think and talk differently, not just from the world, but from the charismatic gospel. The cross is always on their lips. They talk a language you cannot hear in the charismatic gospel.

In his epistles the Apostle Paul talks about the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This revelation was the basis of what Paul preached. He preached “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23); an assertion which, as we just saw, he repeats in 1 Corinthians 2:2.

But this revelation was not a burst of light nor some form of inspiration. On the contrary, it was a work of the Spirit in the inner man, as he tells us in Galatians 1 above:

“23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me.”

As we see here with Paul, we live the gospel that we preach. Our lives transform and we change. In other words, we live the crucified life, where the old man in us is daily crucified to this world and the new, who is formed in the image of Jesus Christ, is daily formed in us, unto perfection. As the Bible says in Galatians 5:24:

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

These people heard about the transformation that had taken place in Paul’s life!

[Children playing in a village in central Tanzania]

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God’s Kingdom – In Us!

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Lk. 17:20-21

The inspiration for this post came from a conversation I had this morning with an elderly neighbour. I was out sweeping my front yard when my neighbour showed up and asked me, “Pastor, are you not going to church today?”

“No, madam, why?” I asked.

“Today is Good Friday!” she answered with surprise in her voice.

“Well”, I told her. “I know it is Good Friday all right but today I am not going to church.”

“Doesn’t your church hold a service on Good Friday”, she asked, clearly taken aback.

“No, we don’t”, I said simply.

“How come.”

This lady and I are very good friends, so I took the liberty to preach to her a proper Good Friday sermon. In as few words as I could, of course.

“Lady”, I said, “ever since Jesus came into this world, there is only one religious observance that we are called to and it is the purity of our hearts.”

Today, Good Friday, there will be so much activity going on in churches all over the world in honor of the crucifixion of Christ. I even know of people who will not be eating meat today as part of their religious observance. There is nothing wrong in all these things. The only thing we could fault them with is that the Kingdom of God is not found there.

The Apostle Paul preached one singular thing: the cross. Notice his words in 1 Corinthians 1:17:

“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.”

But I probably am getting ahead of myself… There is still much to talk about this religious observances.

When Jesus said, “Lo here! or, lo there!” He was referring to the entire spectrum of religious observances that people carry on with in church. And when it comes to religious observances in church in general, they are too many to mention here.

I remember one time, many years back, Pastor Amas and I had gone to a certain village to preach the gospel. In those days, unlike today when even in the most impassable routes there are motorcycle taxis, in those days much travelling into the villages had to be done on foot. So, on this particular occasion, after we had dropped off the bus, we had to walk for a full hour and a half to reach our destination.

As we were walking along the road we saw afar off a man approaching us. From afar we noticed he was wearing a suit and tie. Deep in the village! Even before we had got anywhere near him, I said, “That’s a pastor.” And true enough, when we finally met him, he was carrying a Bible. He was probably going to preach in the city.

Yes, wearing suits was once – and it still is in some circles – considered a religious duty, just as wearing a gown and crucifix is considered a fulfilment of some religious role in some denominations. There are churches where one cannot preach without wearing a suit and tie.

The list of Christian religious duties and observances, as I just said, is too long to write down here. People are looking for God in every nook and cranny. There are some who are looking for Him in form. Many more are looking for Him in miracles and signs and wonders. But the Kingdom of God is not found in these things. Jesus told us exactly where the Kingdom of God is to be found:

“…behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

What did Jesus mean by these words?

He meant that the Kingdom of God is the life that we live. We as the church should be very careful that we do not get carried away by all the “star-spangled” (to borrow a phrase) shows and goings-on that men can put out in the natural. Nor even in signs and wonders. Instead, our sole duty is look deep into our hearts and to make sure there is a work going on there – the work of the cross! The Apostle Paul said,

“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

To which he added,

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

Are we crucified to the world and is the world crucified to us? Have we become new creatures, not in name, but in truth and fact? Do we live transformed lives?

These are the central questions that we need to ask ourselves, not whether we can do a little gardening on a Sunday afternoon or not.

[Water geese at the Musoma pier]

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The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 2)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15

In his epistles in New Testament, the Apostle Paul brings the light of the gospel to bear upon this saga between God and David. In 1 Corinthians 1 verses 17-18, Paul writes:
“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.”
And, in chapter 2 verses 1-5 he writes:
“1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Both these scriptures indicate that the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be carried in the lives of men. It is to be demonstrated in the lives of men, not in fabulous teachings and programs of men. In other words, we bear a tangible responsibility in carrying the life of God in us. God does not dwell in men’s teachings, ability, plans, or even traditions, however wonderful. Nor does God dwell in our beautiful songs and dance. These are today’s “new carts”. These are the things that Paul talks of when he talks of
“excellency of speech or of wisdom” and “enticing words of man’s wisdom”.
But, on the contrary, God dwells in the hearts of men when their lives have been crucified. The Bible tells us that. You cannot come up with a new program for God. God always depended, and He still depends on His original program: crucify the flesh!
Hence, the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross it is that comes to build an abode in our lives for God to dwell in. It crucifies the old man of the flesh and allows the character of Christ to be built in us. Actually, the gospel is all about character – the character of Christ in us. This is the significance of this account of David and God.
Today, we have men who are serving God. The manner that they are going about serving God is what concerns God most. God wants men to serve Him with their lives, not with their wonderful teachings and theologies. If you are not willing to give your life, you will only bring death to those you minister to.
It is for this reason that the Apostle John writes in 1 Jn. 3:18:
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
He is talking about serving God with our lives, not with our teachings or our programs.
And when the Apostle Paul says:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”;
he is giving an account of how he served God with his life. Paul’s life among the Corinthians is laid out here: it was
“in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
You don’t find that in many men of God today. Today, many men of God will demand this and that. I recently heard of one who would not sleep in a hotel room that does not have air conditioning. I don’t see much weakness, fear or trembling there. Just someone who wants to be treated super-special.
But you can read a lot about how Paul demonstrated the character of Christ in his life in 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 through 3.
Where is the responsibility of the cross in God’s people’s lives today? When David put God’s ark on a new cart, where were the priests and Levites? Where was Israel’s responsibility? God punished David and the entire nation of Israel when they thought to carry His ark on a “new cart”.
In the same manner, God will punish the church for thinking to carry the gospel through teachings alone. Teachings and programs, however “anointed”, will only bring death to God’s people if their carriers have not crucified their flesh with Christ. Today, there are all kinds of wonderful teachings going on in church. But God is looking for the crucified life.
I hear there are even so-called new age teachings… “God will take you into a new dimension”, etc.
Look, there are no “new dimensions”! The gospel has only one dimension: Jesus said if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. It is only when we carry the gospel of Jesus Christ in the right manner by denying ourselves that we can please God and bring Him into people’s lives.

Bigger Seed, Bigger Fruit!

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 2 Cor. 9:6

It is hard not to contextualize this scripture. In the charismatic gospel that I grew up in during my early years of salvation, this scripture was automatically interpreted in shillings or dollars – or material things. Give more and you shall receive more. 2 Corinthians 9:6 fits the money lovers’ agenda like a glove. It is a prized favorite with them.

But the Apostle Paul, who is the writer of this scripture, was not a money lover. Paul was a man of the Spirit. He could hardly have been smitten with the dollar sign. So, why would he write such words?

As I said in a recent post, I raise chickens for a living and, through this enterprise, I have learned many valuable lessons. Simple lessons in the natural, but profound in the Spirit. I have learned, for example, that an egg will hatch a chick that is equivalent to itself in size. The bigger the egg, the bigger the chick that will be hatched from it and, once fully grown, the bigger the chicken that chick will eventually become. Likewise, the smaller the egg, the smaller the chicken it will produce.

In other words, the bigger the seed, the bigger the fruit!

In like manner, Paul is saying here that we shall reap a harvest equal to the seed we have sown. But Paul is talking in the Spirit, not in the flesh. He is saying, therefore, that in the same measure that we sow in the Spirit, we shall reap in like measure in the Spirit.

How do we sow in the Spirit? We sow in the Spirit by dying to the flesh; by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ. You can argue your way to the farthest galaxy and back but that principle remains unmovable. It will only be done away with when Jesus comes back to end this present world.

What does it mean to deny ourselves? Denying ourselves in the Spirit means finding joy in the things of the Spirit rather than in the things of the flesh. It means casting away the things that would profit our flesh – the “me” attitude – and looking beyond self to the will of God. God’s will includes looking outward to the interests of others rather than inward, to our own interests. And this attitude must of necessity come with joy and a free will. That is why, in the following verse Paul states:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (v. 7)

The word “cheerful” here talks of joy in the Spirit; and this joy can only come about when we have denied the flesh.

The more we sow our lives by denying ourselves, the more we will become profitable to God and to others in the Spirit – and the more we will add to our spiritual and heavenly account. As we give of our lives more and more, we create a tornado-like effect of profit – for God, for the brethren, for unbelievers even, and for ourselves. This is exactly what Paul says in the subsequent verses:

“8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; 13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; 14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (vs. 8-15)

Let us now consider the reaping part. Notice, in verse 10, that it is “the fruits of your righteousness” that God is looking to. What is that talking of? It is referring to the fruit of the Spirit. The more we give of ourselves in the Spirit, the more the fruit of the Spirit will increase in our lives. Peace, joy, thanksgiving and such-like things will be found in greater measure in our lives as we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.

Wherever the idea came from that this scripture refers to us prospering in the natural? God is not looking to us to prosper in the natural. Whether we prosper in the natural or not is nothing with Him. Increasing “the fruits of your righteousness” is what truly concerns God, and whatever it takes to arrive at that goal should be our concern also.

The greater our giving through dying to self, the greater the joy and thanksgiving to God we create in the Spirit. And these are the activities that please God.

The sowing/reaping principle is all-encompassing. It involves our ministry also. We will become effective in ministry to the extent that we die to self. The Apostle Paul says:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Is God a respecter of persons? Hardly. God’s grace is there for all of us to acquire. But there was an increase of grace in Paul’s life for him to become more effective in God’s labor fields to the extent that he received that grace “not in vain”. How did Paul receive God’s grace “not in vain”? Paul received God’s grace not in vain by sowing his life. He shut his eyes and presented his flesh as a living sacrifice to God. In that regard, the grace of God worked more in him.

That is why we need to not look to the flesh if we are to bear much fruit in the Spirit; fruit that will abound far beyond our personal frontiers even to God, and to others, both saved and unsaved.

[Below: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”]

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