“Exercise… Unto Godliness” – Part 1

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:1-8

One of the most accomplished guitarists I have ever met, a man named Bryceson, once told me that there is a principle in guitar-paying that states that:

  1. If you skip practicing for one day, you will notice the difference
  2. If you do not practice for two days, your fellow artists will take notice.
  3. If you fail to practice for three days, the audience will notice.

I believe it is even so with the church. Anything and everything requires practice in order to be perfected. And the Bible here tells us that it is no different with the things of the Spirit.

“Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”

On our way towards perfection, we are to exercise ourselves greatly in the things of the Spirit.

There are many ways that one can exercise themselves in Godliness. As a young believer, I found myself immersing myself in the Word and in prayer. These things built up a strong foundation in my Christian life.

Something else happened in my life. I left off my old company. Actually, I did so in style. I used to hang out with a gang of three friends in college. When I got saved, I told them, “Guys, let’s go for a walk.”

We went out and I sat them down on a piece of rock. Then I stood in front of them and declared to them that I was now saved.

I will not go into the details of what followed next, but I can assure you there is no better way of saying bye to your former companions-in-sin. After preaching to them the little of salvation that I knew, I left them there, stunned and speechless, and I went my way to seek for brethren to fellowship with.

Those three steps are very important in our initial walk with the Lord. You cannot skip them in your growth in salvation. But as you grow older in your salvation, however, you realize that there is something else bothering you. There is another enemy: the enemy within. Yes, you begin to get acquainted with the greatest enemy of our souls: self.

That is when adulthood kicks in and you realize the battle has not been won yet. You are saved, yes; filled with the Holy Spirit, yes; you know the Bible, you’ve become a prayer warrior; you are probably casting out demons right and left; all your former friends are gone from your life (or you have managed to convert some); AND THEN, at some point in your life, you become aware of your own personal shortcomings and inner battles. This is where, if you are on the right foundation, the revelation of the cross comes in. You realize that you need to crucify your flesh.

It is mandatory that every believer arrive at this stage – the Pauline revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) – otherwise he/she will remain a spiritual babe all their lives. Unfortunately, many believers do not arrive here. They never come to the realization that they need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ. They follow after other gospels that veer off the narrow road. But self is our mortal enemy. The Apostle Peter exhorts us:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The mature Christian realizes that the enemy of his soul is within, not without. He wars, not so much with the devil as with his flesh, and with sin. And there is only one weapon he has been given whereby he can win this battle: the cross. In the revelation of Christ crucified alone can the believer learn to “abstain from fleshly lusts”.

And he crucifies his flesh every day. That is his spiritual exercise.

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables” (v.7)

The word “fables” is mentioned four times in the Pauline epistles; and all four times it is directed to Paul’s young disciples, Timothy and Titus. It is therefore evident that it is in the process of growing up in the Spirit, and especially as a preacher, that one can easily encounter and come under the influence of men’s wisdom, or fables.

One of the dangers of growing up as a young believer is the danger of being derailed by worldly wisdom. There are many people, especially religious leaders, who use more brain than the Spirit to try and understand the things of the Lord, and to lead others in the same. The more educated, the more this danger grows. The more weaponry the brain gets to fight the spirit with. That is why in 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul says:

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

The church is not a debating club. Nor is it a university where doctorates are offered. The church is a place where the Spirit of God is given full and free reign to reveal Christ, Christ crucified. This is what brings Godly edifying to God’s people.

Very educated people who are devoid of the Spirit love debating the Word of God and building un-Biblical doctrines. The Apostle Paul told Titus:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Tit. 1:14)

Much desire after education brings these things into one’s life; but Godly edification simply relies on a humble heart.

“For bodily exercise profiteth little…”

Christians use this scripture to justify physical exercise. But God is not bothered with whether you exercise or not. You can be the most un-athletic person in the world and still go to heaven. And scripture here is not talking about such bodily exercise, anyway. On the contrary, it is talking about all the worldly education that we are hearing today in church thinly veiled as the gospel. You hear someone say, for example, “I believe prospering for the believer means prospering in their spirit, prospering in the finances, prospering in their health, prospering in their marriage, prospering in their job…”

What a concoction! Here there is no Spirit. God’s people are simply being exercised in their minds. And if you exercise yourself in all those things mentioned there, you will end up with very little profit in the Spirit.

[I love the simplicity of village folks. Lacking in the education of this world, but mature in the Lord]

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Jacob’s ‘Mistake’

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Gen. 48:13-20

What a contrast! A man who can see God’s plan in the Spirit, and one who does not. And, we see here what happens when someone does not see in the Spirit and is confronted. Notice Joseph was “displeased” by his father Jacob’s actions.

In our country, my tribe is renowned. It is famous for all the wrong reasons, notably anger. I heard there is an anger management centre in New York. What is needed is for my entire tribe (which is very small, actually; this is affordable) to be airlifted to that centre in New York, NY and be given a crash program in anger management. I personally wouldn’t mind such a trip since I would get the chance to set my foot in the land of opportunity (although, truth be told, I was watching a clip of a street in Philadelphia recently and my conclusion was that some part of this great country has gone to the dogs).

Anyways, I was telling you about my tribe. In my country, when you introduce yourself as coming from my tribe, people generally step back a pace or two just to feel safe. We are feared that much.

With such a record-setting reputation, it makes it that much harder for someone from my tribe to have their right taken from them. They will fight to the death to hold on to their right. Nor do they take censure lying down.

That is how it has been for a big part of my life. I have been a fighter, and it was not the good fight of our faith. It took me a long time to finally come to the realization that I had a problem with people generally, but with my wife especially. It started out slowly, but I would criticize whatever she said or did. Nearly nothing she said seemed right or praiseworthy. I reached a point where even the slightest mistake on her part became a Mt. Everest for me. I was blowing up 24/7.

One time we had visitors at home and in the course of their stay, we took them to do some shopping in town. They wanted to buy a certain item, and my wife had already told them the price of the item, without my knowledge. When we arrived in town, they found to their dismay that the actual price of this item far exceeded the money they carried with them.

I asked them, “Who gave you the price?”

They said, “Mama” (my wife).

I was livid. I knew the right price and my wife had given them the wrong price without consulting with me! I took it personally that she would do something without consulting me.

Neither the visitors nor my wife had the additional money needed to purchase the item. I had the extra money; but in my heart I vowed I wouldn’t give out a dime. I vowed to let her suffer for her ‘stupidity’. I therefore whistled my way around the stalls as, from the corner of my eye, I watched my wife, visibly distressed,  haggling with the dealer for a price reduction. I felt extremely satisfied when the shopkeeper firmly kept repeating that a price reduction on that particular item was not possible.

If there is one person who can say that God is merciful and mean it, that person is me. At that particular moment that I was looking at my wife, God opened my eyes to see a vista of sorts. Deep inside me something stirred and I saw that God had all along been trying to do something to or for me through my wife’s many seeming mistakes, missteps, miscalculations, and oversights. Yes, the Lord showed me that it was He who was at work in all those things in my wife’s actions that were displeasing to me.

As children of God, we must acknowledge that nothing happens in our lives is by chance. More importantly still, we must realize that what appears displeasing to us in other people’s actions towards us is actually God at work. Joseph was “displeased”; but it was God at work in his father’s actions! And God works all for our good. It was all for Joseph and his sons’ good – and for the good of God’s Kingdom.

What displeases us in our natural ‘habitat’ is what we see in the natural. In the Spirit, though, what appears harmful to us in the natural is, in nearly every case, good and profitable to us in the Spirit. In the natural, Manasseh was the firstborn and there was absolutely no reason for Jacob to overstep him. But Jacob did overlook Manasseh – because he was answering God’s call in the Spirit.

When God sets out to do things His way, He does not need our permission. Our wills, our plans and our purposes are all twisted, and God is out to put things straight in our lives. God knows what is best for His Kingdom – and for us.

To end my saga now… As I stood watching my wife desperately trying to save an unsavable situation, and as the Lord put his finger on my pride and spiritual blindness, I broke down. Deeply humbled, I walked up to my wife and asked her, straight up, “How much do we need to add?”

“Five thousand”, she said.

I dipped into my pocket and came up with the money and humbly handed it to the shopkeeper.

Ever since that time, I have been very much aware of God’s dealings with me through my wife. I realized I had gone ‘overboard’ in the way I viewed and dealt with her and there is a lot of backtracking I have had to do in that regard since that day.

[Below: My wife is bound to make many mistakes; but God uses her actions to chastise me]

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“The Way Of Holiness”

8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. Is. 35:8-10

The way of holiness”. What a way! Nothing unclean shall pass over it; it shall be for the holy only. The Bible goes on to give a description of the holy.

“No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon…”

The lion here does not refer to the Lion of Judah, who is Jesus Himself. Both the lion and the ravenous  beast the Bible speaks of here talk of the carnal lusts in us. These shall not be found on that road. The carnal nature shall not be there.

The Bible says that “the redeemed shall walk there”. Redeemed from what? It is men and women who have been redeemed from the corrupt nature of the flesh.

Everything here unmistakably speaks of the need to crucify our flesh. Everything with the gospel revolves around the cross – the cross working in us. If that detail is lacking in our understanding of the gospel, then we simply are not living the gospel of Jesus Christ. We are living “another gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).

Lion. Ravenous beast. How so apt a description of the lusts that destroy both us and those who surround us! Here, on this highway, they shall not be there! Praise the Lord!!

As with all of the gospel of Jesus Christ, this scripture is therefore a call to crucify our flesh. It is a call from God to separate ourselves from this world through dying to self. The Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul put out this call so well:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24)

[““No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon…”]

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God’s Singular Focus

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. Mat. 17:1-8

There are slightly differing versions of this account in the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. But there is no mistaking what happens at the end of each account. In every account of this story, Elijah and Moses left the scene, and disciples were left beholding only two things: Jesus Himself, and the words that God had spoken from out of the cloud:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

In other words, God powerfully took Elijah and Moses out of the New Covenant scenario. Peter would have loved to retain both these Old Testament prophets with Jesus; but God firmly said no.

It is not possible to have both the old covenant and the new one working in our lives.

I remember in school we had something called a duster. The duster was used to clean off the blackboard. Here, in this account, God Himself came in a cloud and dusted Moses and Elijah off the map. But He did not dust off Jesus. The cross is undustable. The cross is inerasable.

Although the apostles were probably witnessing a heavenly scene (the Bible says that Jesus’ clothes and countenance changed and became heavenly white) yet, when God appeared on the scene in the cloud, He neither referenced Elijah nor Moses. Instead, He spoke only about Jesus:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

This was a powerful demonstration to the disciples of the singular focus that God attaches to Jesus – and to the cross.

Today, people want to lump Jesus, Moses and Elijah together. They want to place the old and the new together. But that is simply unacceptable with God.

Today the majority of believers are either into law or into miracles and signs and wonders. But, at the same time, all these people proclaim, “Jesus!” But, although these things (law and miracles) may be good in themselves, neither one of them have the power that is needed to do in us the singular thing that pleases God, i.e. to transform us and to form in us the character of Jesus. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom 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.”

You can be ‘baptized’ into the law up to your neck, but you cannot please God through the law. You can also be into miracles and signs and wonders; but you cannot please God through these things. Jesus said that many who are doing miracles right now will not go to heaven (Mat 7:22). The only thing you can please God with is by taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Few today are hearing the gospel of the cross preached. Even fewer still are willing to take up their cross and follow Christ. Many would rather listen to the comfortable gospel of prosperity and of solving one’s problems (financial prosperity, miracles, healing, promotion, etc.).

But God has wiped everything off His blackboard and left only one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified. God wants His new covenant class (the church) to focus on only one thing. This was the singular focus that the Apostle Paul also had (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1). The cross is the SINGULAR way we can please God. Why the cross? The cross crucifies the flesh and this brings the grace of God into our lives. And it is through carrying God’s grace in our hearts alone that we can please God:

“Wherefore… let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”. (Heb. 12:28)

That is how we can come to understand the reason for Paul’s singular focus on the cross of Christ. In all his teachings and in all his life, Paul purposed to know (and to live) nothing apart from Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And the power that was in Paul’s life was and is profound and unambiguous even to this day; and it will be unto eternity.

Christ crucified is God’s revelation to the world.

[“And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”]

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The Reluctant Slave

Many years ago I read a story about a man who was taken into slavery into a faraway land, and when he was taken into slavery, it so happened that he was taken straight to the king’s palace. He lived there for many years, working as a slave.

In those days, it was customary for a slave to be redeemed if his kinsfolk brought to his masters sufficient wherewithal to redeem him. During the time that he was enslaved, this man’s relatives worked and worked until they got enough means to redeem their flesh and blood.

After those many years, the relatives started on the long journey to the strange country to redeem their brother. On arrival, they were well received, as was the custom in those lands. They were washed, fed and treated very well throughout the night. In the morning, they brought their agenda to the king’s hearing and, upon hearing it and upon weighing up the wherewithal his relatives had brought, the king had only one answer: “The man is free to go.”

The man was asked to pack up and leave, but to the surprise of everyone, he refused to go. He told his relatives, “I have lived well here in this palace, far much better than I did back home. Furthermore, I know there will be – and there are – people back home who still dislike me, so I am not ready to go back to all those problems. I am comfortable here.”

His relatives were shocked by his answer and they began crying and beseeching him to consider them, his own flesh and blood; but he would not. He remained adamant and they had no option but to leave without him. They went away crying loudly, sorrowful that their brother had chosen to remain in slavery rather than to go live in freedom together with his own kith and kin.

Not long after this saga, it was reported in that faraway land that the king was seriously ill and, soon afterwards, he died. It was also the custom in that country that when the king died he had to be buried together with his favorite servant, alive. And so, therefore, while burial arrangements were being made, a council was set up to determine who should be buried with the king. It didn’t take long for the council to conclude that the servant whose relatives had recently come to redeem had been the king’s favorite servant. It was therefore declared that this man, having been the king’s favorite servant, would have the honor of getting buried alive with the king.

When the news reached the servant, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was shell-shocked. Not, of course, on account of the news that he was the king’s favorite, of which he was well aware; but of the fact that, being the late king’s favorite servant, he would be buried alive alongside the king. The latter was a fact that he was not aware of although he had lived in that country for a long time.

He tried to plead for his life. He told his new masters, “My brethren, whom you saw here recently, will be coming again to take me home.” But it was to no avail; his name had already been officially proclaimed.

In a desperate bid to save his life, he tried to escape, but he was apprehended and locked up. Finally, the day of the king’s burial arrived and the king was finally laid to rest, together with his favorite servant. As was the burial custom, the servant was buried alive, standing up straight, in honor of the king.

This man had recanted his flesh and blood to remain with a foreign king, and the reason he gave for denying his brethren was because he was living a comfortable life and did not want to suffer any problems! In the end he died – alone, in a foreign country.

This story reminds me of what is happening within the church today. It reminded me of the dangers of those who would not allow themselves to suffer for Christ’s sake. In particular, it reminded me of those within the church who would push aside the gospel of the cross in favor of other gospels. The revelation of the cross is the believer’s flesh and blood. We do not preach another Christ, however comfortable he is:

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

If you hold onto your life, you will be denying Jesus Christ, for He Himself said,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:25)

The comfortable gospel of prosperity and bodily welfare is probably the one true menace to the church today. The prosperity gospel “bodyslams” the gospel of the cross. It enslaves God’s people to this world. Philippians 3:18-19:

“18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

One day, this gospel will die, and those who are deriding the gospel of the cross will be buried together with it. And so will all other gospels that are not lined up with the gospel of the Apostle Paul:

“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

When Jesus comes back, He will not be coming back for those who cling to the welfare gospel. He will be coming to take with Him those who have walked the strait and narrow road, those who loved Him and denied themselves.

[And now, for your listening pleasure]

Loving God’s Son

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you… 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:53-66

The gospel of the cross can only be accepted and carried out by those who have a true love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I once watched an Irish movie called “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In that movie, a wealthy nobleman dies leaving a will wherein he gives instructions for his priceless collection of paintings to be auctioned off. But in the will is a hidden clause that states: Whoever buys the nobleman’s son’s portrait (which has been done by a local artist) will inherit all the nobleman’s wealth, including the massive collection of expensive paintings. His son is already deceased.

The whole world wants these paintings, and art collectors and the elite and moneyed gather from every corner of the world to view and buy the art collection. The first item to be auctioned off is the portrait of the nobleman’s son, a dull and unremarkable piece of art. No one wants to buy the painting; indeed, no one takes any notice of its submission and even as the auctioneer tries to get their attention on it, everyone is busy clamoring for the auction to “get underway”!

The painting is finally bought at a very cheap price by the rich man’s gardener. This was a man who was extremely loyal to his master and who had always admired the young boy. And that purchase brings the auction to an abrupt and unexpected end for, as the auctioneer reads from the will, the nobleman had stated that whoever would buy his son’s portrait would inherit all his wealth, including the paintings.

Benumbed and clueless as to what had taken place, the visitors shuffle away empty-handed.

That is a picture of the church today. Everyone wants all the goodies that God has to offer – the blessings, the healings, the dancing and celebrations, the amens and hallelujahs – but few are willing to love the Lord Jesus Christ to the extent of dying with Him. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no life in these things; the life is in the partaking of the death of the cross. Our calling, therefore, is clearly set forth in both these scriptures which we ought to meditate upon before “believing” anything else:

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…”

and 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”.

According to the Bible, few believers are willing to deny themselves (Mat. 7:14). Denying oneself means forgoing one’s (worldly) rights and being content and happy therein. Denying oneself means taking up our cross daily and following Christ.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to die; to die the death of the cross where the flesh with its worldly lusts, have been crucified.

It is to not love the glitz and glory of this world, which today has been comfortably allowed to settle in church. Rather, it is to have our sights set upon the unseen treasures of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to become lowly and humble:

Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16)

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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