Identifying With Christ

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:66

This is, incidentally, one of the few scriptures embedded with the dreaded 666 logo; and it probably is no coincidence, for what happened here is indeed disturbing.

Y’know, you can be reading the Bible for a hundred years and you won’t notice some things until one day God pulls aside the curtain, and it hits you like the Chicago Express.

The problem, of course, is that we have a tendency to romanticize things. You might, for example, have some really idyllic ideas about the writer of this blog; but after you meet him, you might begin noticing things that will make you to become less cozy with him. That is called reality.

In the same vein, we could read a scripture like the one above and drop our jaws in “utter disbelief” that people could leave off from following our Lord Jesus Christ. But the reality closer home could be that we are also walking “no more with him.”

The Bible says that “Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof” (Eccl. 7:8). When it came time for the Lord to reveal the end of His calling to His disciples, for many of His followers it was not “better”, but rather the exact opposite! Notice that not a few, but “many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”

As much as Christ desires that all men be saved, still the church is not about numbers. When the church begins to understand the true message of Jesus Christ, not many will remain true to their calling. For the truth is that our calling to follow Christ is not so rosy in the flesh.

The cold fact is that many today are in church to get things from God. There are many who are after riches, material things. Others are after vain glory. (There are many false apostles, prophets and teachers within the church today, and all they are seeking after is the glory.)

Many, many more people are following after Jesus to receive bodily healing and such-like things. But few are there to identify their lives with Christ’s by taking up their cross and following Christ in His sufferings and death.

That is why we thank God for the Apostles who, led by Peter, stayed put and endured the difficult prospect that was staring them in the face. By then, they probably had began to understand that even though Jesus had entered Jerusalem “triumphantly”, ultimately He would lose His life right there.

Today, more than ever, we need to walk in the reality of our relationship with our Lord Jesus… the reality of living a crucified life, the reality of losing our life, however difficult and painful it might be.

Jesus said, “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Lk. 17:33).

We need to marry our lives to that very principle.

[Below: A pride of lionesses in the Serengeti National Park. Needless to say, lions have incredibly fast reflexes and are not to be tangled with]

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Photo Credit: Prisca Ambe

Only One Way to Abundant Life

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. Mk. 8:31-33

Let us take a closer look at verse 32: “And he spake that saying openly.” We need to be careful with Bible language. The keyword in this particular scripture is “openly”. If Jesus spoke this saying openly, then it means He wanted it known. He wanted whatever He was saying to be abundantly clear to each one of His disciples, clearer than anything He had ever said to them.

And, pray, what message was Jesus getting across? It was that He would need to suffer and die in order to bring life into the world. That was the single most important message that Jesus had and He wanted His disciples to hear it and completely understand it.

I can hardly suppose that Jesus wanted His disciples to know this fact but not us. If this message is not for us, we might as well go throw the Bible into the lake. But if Jesus wanted His disciples to get this message, I believe more so we. In fact, this is the single most important message that we as born-again believers will ever need to understand.

Sometimes, too, I believe such scriptures give us a glimpse into the character of Satan. Jesus mentioned Satan in His reference to “the things that be of men”. In this scripture Jesus lumped Satan, Peter and “men” together! If you want to get to know the devil, just look at men. And how are “men”? We are selfish, of course. Satan is one big, selfish personality.

This single fact – Christ’s suffering, rejection and death, and His subsequent resurrection – was the single most powerful occurrence that would happen in the history of the world. The power that this act would unleash was so powerful that it shook the foundations of the spirit world.

Through facing the cross, Jesus would bring abundant life into the world – and death to every work of the devil.

Jesus’ declaration was also the worst piece of news that old man Satan would ever hear. The minute he heard Jesus make that declaration, Satan engaged his armies and sought for a way to prevent Jesus from taking that road.

Y’know, most people read such a scripture and they think Satan was joking. Satan never, ever joked. He never plays games. He is dead serious about his business. And here he knew exactly what would happen if Jesus took that road of the cross. It would be disaster for him. He therefore used Peter to try to dissuade Jesus not to take that road.

But Jesus saw through Satan’s malevolence, and He rebuked Peter: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Notice that Peter was in league with Satan and with “men”. When we are not willing to take the road of suffering, rejection and death, no matter we are born-again, we are still carnal men, and subject to the devil. That might sound strange, but it is true. It is true because Jesus said so right there.

But this is also something that we can examine and find in our own lives. When we fail to take up our cross and follow Christ, we are playing into the devil’s character of self-preservation.

But when we take the road of self-denial, resurrection life will flow out of us. We will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We will become pillars in the Kingdom of God. We will bring life into the church, and we will be dependable in the Spirit. We will support others in the Spirit. This was exactly what Jesus did. He took the road of the cross, and we see the end of it all was the resurrection life, the very life of which we have become partakers.

But when God charts that course for us, we better prepare ourselves because Satan, who is the god of this world, will throw his entire armies against us in his efforts to prevent us from carrying Christ’s death sentence in us. He will batter us in many different ways. Chief amongst his weapons are brethren who are not walking in the Spirit. Just look at the guys who would crucify Jesus: “the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes”. These were the people who represented and claimed to know God! You don’t see “Gentiles” there. That was what happened between Joseph and his brethren.

Satan will also use circumstances in his efforts to derail us from taking the road of self-denial. He wants us to complain, grumble, and do all those negative things, “the things that be of men”.

But because we have the mind that Jesus had (and not the one Peter had), we will stand and face that cross resolutely.

A Christian who loves this world can hardly complete this heavenly journey. That is why all other gospels should be silenced within the church and the church should be made to hear only one gospel: Christ and Him crucified. Wherever the Apostle Paul went (this is clear in the scriptures) he made sure to teach only one thing – only one: “Lose your life for Christ and for the gospel, so that the resurrection life might be found in you.” There can only be two roads in the spirit world: the spiritual road, and the carnal road. The spiritual road brings life, and it is the one that we need to choose.

[Below: A new development in the Kinondoni municipality of Dar es Salaam]Image2590

“Perfectly Joined Together”

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. 1 Cor. 1:10-11

[“Perfect” means complete, 100%.]

I know this will sound very un-Christian, and it is, but I can tell you right here that I don’t know of many people, brethren, with whom I am “perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” I leave you, the reader, to judge me as you see fit, but that’s a fact I cannot deny. The problem here is with that word “perfect”. If that word were not there in that scripture I would not have needed to make that admission. Had it said “just make sure, somehow”, that would have been just perfect for me. I have hundreds, probably thousands, with whom I am at various levels of agreement with. But the scripture says “perfect”, and that throws a spanner into the whole works for me.

On the other hand, my heart beats with excitement when I consider the implications of this scripture. It is possible for brethren to be perfectly united and be in one accord in everything. Everything! Our mind, our purpose, our will, our speech, and our manner of life. And that is the Godly life, for we are one Body.

As children of God, let us first agree that human nature is way too rebellious for that to happen. I know someone will say that we need to be born again, and we are. But the Corinthians were born again, and they even had the gifts of the Holy Spirit flowing liberally in their midst and yet, as we see, they had “contentions” among themselves!

Clearly, they needed something more. Paul had exactly what they needed: a revelation of the cross. That was what Paul had preached to them at the first instance. In chapter 2, verse 2, he reminds them of the gospel which he first brought them: “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. In other words, he brought them an understanding of what the cross needed to do in their lives.

But apparently, they had quickly forgotten.

In order for us to understand the gospel that Paul preached, we must first understand that he had received this gospel through a revelation of the Lord Jesus (Gal. 1:12). The Lord Jesus Himself met Paul, then known as Saul, on the way to Damascus and revealed Himself to him in a way we cannot comprehend fully – yet. But the revelation was so clear and powerful in the Spirit that Saul died, and Paul was born! He says in Galatians 2:20, “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.”

Paul became an embodiment of the character and nature of the Lord Jesus. That was how powerful the revelation of Jesus to Paul was.

We cannot contemplate walking in perfect unity without a heart understanding – a revelation – of this gospel. Indeed, we cannot contemplate being perfect as God is perfect in anything apart from this revelation. When we read the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians we see that by implication, there was another gospel (or gospels) that Paul could have preached to the Corinthians. With his over-sized brain, Paul could have preached them a gospel of the intellect. But he chose not to, because he loved the church. He chose to die – to crucify his life – with Christ through the revelation that he had received, that he might bring life to the church.

We must humble ourselves and pray for a revelation of Christ in our hearts. This revelation is the only thing that can crucify the flesh in our lives and bring about true unity within the Body of Christ.

The Consecrated Life

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,

By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh;

And having an high priest over the house of God;

Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. Hebrews 10:19-25

Every time the Bible talks about a veil, whether in the Old Testament or in the New, it talks about the death of Christ; and every time the Bible talks about the death of Christ it of necessity speaks about our death also. Not the natural death of the body, but the death to self, a result of the work of the cross in our lives.

We can have boldness to enter the Holy of Holies only after we have put away the old man of the flesh. This is the way that Jesus Himself “consecrated for us”. There is no other way.

That is why an understanding of the cross is so essential to the church. The cross was not just a place for Jesus to die for our sins, but it was also a place where we, too, would crucify our fleshly desires (the old man of sin) and have a living way with which to approach God.

That is why on the last Day, Jesus will tell many preachers, “Go away; I never knew you, you workers of iniquity!” (Matthew 7:23). These were men and women who did not pass through the veil.

I have come to realize the reality of this truth in my own life. It is not how much I know or how long I have been a Christian or how much I serve. I have come to appreciate the fact that the really important thing in my life is carrying the cross and crucifying the flesh thereon. If I am not walking in this revelation, I can do all those things but the flesh will still be alive. And when the flesh is alive, sin is close by.

The Apostle Paul cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24). Note the words ‘the body of this death’. Not that the Apostle Paul was not saved or that he was not serving God; but he could not ignore the danger that his flesh posed.

But, praise God he found the answer to this dilemma! He says, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

In other words, Christ has made a way for us (the veil, the death to the flesh), through which we can walk in victory over the flesh, the world and sin. It is the only way by which we can become totally consecrated to God.

We cannot over-emphasize the importance of an understanding of the true purpose of the cross of Christ in our lives particularly in the days we are living in. If the phrase “last days” exists in the Bible (and it does) then it certainly cannot be referring to any other moment than the time we are living in. The signs are all around us. One of them is a Church that loves the world and the things in it.

But the Church needs to make sure that it is safe – safe within the veil. Anyone who walks outside the work of the cross in their lives is operating outside the veil, and the life of Christ is not in them. Jesus said, “You shall know them by their fruits.”

Paul tells us exactly how we should live a life that has passed through the veil, that is,  a life that has been crucified with Christ.

“Hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering”. Remember Paul tells Timothy that he has “kept the faith”. When he spoke those words he was talking about more than being just saved. He was talking about guarding the revelation he received from Jesus, the revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. 1 Cor. 2:2

“Consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works”, which speaks of the totality of our Christian calling.

Lastly, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…  but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (verses 23-25). Here he is talking about the fellowship of the saints.

This is a life that can only be lived if we have crucified our lives with Christ. It is divine Life, which we can only have if we have died with Christ.

The Power of the Gospel

During my stay in Mauritius I was invited to a brother’s house for dinner, and I was struck by the deep love that the man of the house had: he wanted to know all about me and he went about it in the most gracious and considerate manner I had ever seen. He also wanted to share his story with me, and by the time he finished I had made a 180-degree turn in my perspective of this quiet, unassuming man. Below, with his permission, I have reproduced his story:

“My name is John Paul Pyndiah and I was born 54 years ago. In 1980 the Lord touched my heart and I got saved and joined a Pentecostal church here in Mauritius.  Reading through the Book of Acts, I was moved by the lifestyle that I saw in the early church – the unity, simplicity and love that existed in the Church then. I always desired to live that life. But things did not go like that. In the church I was in I could see each of us making an effort to live that life, but it was not real.

In 1989 I got married to a sister who was a member of the Christian Church (Eglise Chretienne) in Curepipe. At first it was okay, each one going to his/her own church. But for me this soon created a big problem. I expected my wife to follow me to my church, and this expectation brought problems in our marriage. In fact, I was praying constantly and expecting a miracle for my wife to join me in my church, and I stood on the Word of God which says that the husband is the head of the house and the wife ought to submit to him.

But things did not work out as I was praying and expecting, and my heart began to become bitter, broken and desperate, and I did not know what to do. One day, a pastor of Eglise Chretienne came to visit us and while I was sharing with him my hurt feelings, he simply asked me to seek the Lord and ask Him to give me an open heart so that I could see His plan for our lives.

I had never heard that kind of language before and it left me deeply mystified. I did not understand what he was trying to tell me. I was attending a church where they taught on prosperity, blessings, healings and miracles. The word ‘open heart’ was a new vocabulary to me and I did not understand it.

Sometime afterwards, the company I was working for sent me on a mission to the neighboring island of Rodrigues. It was then that a miracle happened. I was looking for a church to worship in and the first church I came across was a Eglise Chretienne church….

I went and met the pastor, who immediately invited me to his home. When I arrived there I was surprised to see the small house he was living in – a small 2-bedroom house. But what really astonished me was to see the great number of people who lived in that house. Altogether, there were 25 people living there – young, old, men and women, people of different backgrounds and all living together in peace and joy, sharing whatever they had together.

At that very moment, the Lord opened my eyes and I understood that He had answered my prayer. I had always prayed that the Lord would show me the kind of life that I read about in the Bible. When I saw what was going on in that pastor’s small house and realized it was real, I knew I had seen the reality of the gospel. It was so clear that I remember feeling as if scales had literally fallen from my eyes. I understood for the first time how the gospel had changed these people’s hearts and brought them together in unity and love just as in the Book of Acts.

At that very moment also, without further thought or deliberation, I made a decision to join my wife in her church, the Eglise Chretienne; and I have been there ever since. It is now 20 years since and I have never regretted the decision I took that day. On the contrary, I came to understand how great God’s love for me was and how He had opened a door through my marriage to bring me to understand the gospel of the Cross, the peculiar revelation that was delivered to the Apostle Paul. I realized that had been His desire for me all along.

Two years after my return from Rodrigues, my wife gave birth to a wonderful son. Today he is a born- again young man who fervently loves the Lord. I am happy he got saved under this gospel because in the world we are living in this gospel is my only assurance for his security. It is the only gospel that has the power to secure his life on a firm foundation which can withstand the pressures of today’s world.

In retrospect, I can see that even before I got the revelation of the Cross, I loved the Lord and my heart was sincere. But I did not have that revelation of what Christ had accomplished for me on the Cross, and how I was required to identify my life with that work of the Cross. I was therefore walking in defeat and I could not overcome the things of my flesh. But I witnessed a different lifestyle from my wife.

I thank God for revealing the Cross of Jesus in my heart. This is the gospel that the Apostle Paul calls the power of God. It is also the gospel that Paul himself submitted himself to, in order to crucify the flesh and walk in spiritual victory over the flesh and all the works of the devil. He says in Galatians 6: 14 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.’”

Amen.

Of Proclamations and Our Worship of God – Pt. 2

I haven’t read anywhere in the Bible where God is upbraiding His people for not praising Him loud enough. On the contrary, I have read many Scriptures where God tells His people, both in the Old and New Testaments, that He does not actually need their praises. In fact, in one scripture in the Old Testament, God has a particularly nasty reaction to the Israelites’ songs and their ‘empty’ worship of Him.

The reason God was so angry with them is because they were walking in sin but at the same time praising Him.

The Christian world today is outdoing itself in its efforts to praise and uplift God. Many beautiful new songs are being composed, old songs and hymns are redone and presented with ever greater passion; singers with the most beautiful voices are being discovered; piano chords and guitar strings are tweaked to the highest levels of creativity – the whole spectrum is a sight to behold indeed. There are churches which have been set up solely on the praise and worship theme. I think all this is good, but at the same time I believe things are not as rosy in the Spirit as they appear to be on the outside.

There are also what we would call new age ‘Christian’ artists and preachers and songs that I would rather die than listen to or watch. I once went to Youtube and they were singing a song about “crying holy” or whatever, and it was the most revolting thing I have ever seen. There are thousands of these artists, and regrettably Christians are going absolutely gaga over them. I have never understood why we need to identify with the world in order to preach the gospel of Christ. Most likely, we misinterpret scripture.

I have not seen a preacher wearing earrings yet (I mean the male preachers), and probably they are there, it’s only that I have not seen them. But our choirs today are awash with male singers touting Rastafarian hairstyles and all decked out in gold chains and earrings, etc. I do not know what to expect next, but it is clear Jesus has quite a band coming His way…

Christian proclamations and declarations from the pulpit all the way to the street present a picture where the Christian world is one of total victory over the devil and all his works.

By now you probably are thinking that if I am not the Anti-Christ himself then I am a major pessimist who has failed to find joy and fulfilment in his Christian life. Don’t even consider the thought. I am as happy as Jesus Himself. And don’t get me wrong. As I said earlier, I have no problem with Christian worship when it is done in the right spirit. What I am pointing out here is that God is more interested in the state of our lives than our vocal proclamations. There are far too many Christians today walking in sin, and yet their mouths are full of proclamations of the glory of God. And God’s real problem with us today, just as with the Israelites, is sin. God loves praise, but He hates sin and He would rather deal with the latter first.

If I am playing with my children and I see a snake, I will kill the snake first then continue playing with my children.

We Christian believers should not therefore put a smokescreen of praise before God. God can see the sin that is ravaging the Church today. It is open secret that Christianity in our generation has a major problem with sin. Sin is rampant among lay Christians and preachers alike. Even big-time preachers who have been known to raise the dust on TV and some who served God faithfully in years past have been hit by scandals…

Something is wrong, and we should stop praising and listen.

It is time to go back to the basics. Let us go back to the Cross, where Christ was crucified. Therein is the power to defeat sin in our lives, the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Christ. Paul preached this very gospel, and even if his ministry was not inundated with miracles as today’s gospels appear to be, it had the power to set men and women from the power of sin, and we see from his epistles that this was Paul’s chief concern: to set God’s people free from sin.

That gospel, though unproclaimed in similar terms, has always been there in earlier generations, and the men and women who walked in it lived a victorious life over sin.

I remember that in the 1970s and the early 80s, at least in the small world that I lived in, a saved person was a threat to sinners, who evaded them like the plague. My elder brother was the first to get saved in our big family. Whenever he would begin praying an overpowering Presence would fill our home and we would all run away – dad would walk staidly towards the village beer hall but clearly a man on the run! We would come back only when we were sure John had finished praying. Then, my mom, who had been a beer brewer, gave her heart to Jesus. Then followed two of my brothers, then my dad, who was the village champion drunkard. Many years later, I too accepted the Lord. I am assured we are all the fruit of not only the prayers of my brother, but also the victorious lifestyle that he led. In those years Christians lived a victorious life over sin, and we saw it, and it affected us.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing even for many of those same Christians today. Something has gone awfully wrong somewhere. We talk a lot, but there is a power that is simply not there. There is song, yes, but not the power.

Nowadays a preacher divorces their husband or wife then they come on TV and, to the accompaniment of a ‘powerful’ praise session, they begin talking and justifying themselves. Where is the power of the gospel in that? And there, in the auditorium, are thousands of Christians cheering him/her on. If you multiply that number with that of the faithful who are watching at home on TV and assenting to this preacher’s doctrine, you realize this truly is a big church, but then you begin wondering “What kind of ‘church’ is this going to turn out to be?” The answer is: a defeated, sinning church. I once saw a homosexual ‘church’ on TV in South Africa, complete with a homosexual pastor, and they were praising Jesus! But we ‘straight’ sinners cannot disassociate ourselves from this abomination if we are divorcing and remarrying in church and continuing with our praise and cheering sessions.

In all this chaos, it is not that people are not praying as before, or that they are not reading their Bibles. Rather, it is simply that wrong doctrines have been allowed into the Church, and have taken the place of the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. Wrong doctrines which simply have not the power to deal with sin.

Jesus came to earth to deal with sin and all its works once and for all. And He did that by crucifying the body of the flesh. If there is no crucifixion of the flesh, if the Christian is not having a daily revelation of that work of the Cross, there is no way he is going to live a victorious spiritual life. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31: “…by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily”. In order for Paul to rejoice in his labors for Christ, he had to crucify his flesh daily. It means he partook of the sufferings and death of Christ. Now, if you cheer when all this is going on, God has no problem with that because after this there will be victory. Unfortunately, many Christians today are cheering while there is so much defeat in their lives!

The gospel bequeathed to us from Jesus Christ through the Apostles states that just as we were sold into sin, we have now been sold to righteousness. How? By dying to the body of the flesh. After which, by the working of the same Holy Spirit who resurrected Jesus from the dead we too are resurrected into the glorious life of victory in the spirit, victory over sin.

This is the gospel that needs to come back to the Church today, and which the Church needs to accept. I believe it is coming back, through true Apostles and ministers of God whom God is reinstating in our day. But is the Church willing to accept it? Or we will continue dancing while sin ravages the Church?

The Bible warns of a falling away of many believers just before the return of Christ. At no other time do we need to heed Christ’s and the Apostles’ warnings than in the days we are living in.

God’s Purpose for Our Lives – And How to Achieve It!

45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” 49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. (John 11:45-52).

The Bible states clearly that Caiaphas spoke under the direction of God. Therefore, the words that he spoke were not his, but God’s. The man that Caiaphas spoke about was Jesus, and Jesus underwent all what Caiaphas had prophesied. He died and was crucified on the Cross for the sins of the entire world.

It is interesting to note that the days that Jesus and the Apostles lived in are identical to our own in many ways. In Jesus’ days God’s people boasted in outward appearances. They boasted in their education, their mode of dress, their flawless knowledge of the Law. They even prayed publicly at the crossroads! We could say they gloried in the flesh.

And yet, at the time of Jesus’ birth the nation of Israel was in a time of deep spiritual darkness. They “sat in darkness … in the region and shadow of death” (Mat. 4:16). It was a period of deep spiritual darkness in Israel, which meant that sin was rife.

In our own generation, the Church has grown exceedingly rich in many areas: financial and material prosperity, education, magnificent buildings, growing TV coverage. Today we even have Christian multi-millionaire pastors. In the spirit realm, miracles occur, and healings take place.

Yet alas! Despite all these outward ‘riches’ the Church is in a deep mess. Sin is commonplace. ‘Prosperous’ Christians and pastors are sinning. Depression and defeat pervades the Church.

Miracles will not bring victory in the Church. Indeed, miracles are not meant for the Church, so we cannot boast in them. Remember, the Corinthian church “came short in no spiritual gift” – yet it was a shamefully carnal Church! All our knowledge and materialism cannot fulfill God’s purpose in the Church and on the earth.

But the Cross will fulfill that purpose!. Caiaphas prophesied that someone had to die in order for something important to happen in the spirit. To fulfill that prophesy Jesus died on the Cross.

Jesus had a difficult time getting a place to be born in in Bethlehem. Today, He is having a difficult time indeed getting born in men’s hearts. Am I saying people are not getting saved? Certainly not! But I am talking about that extra all-important step, taking up our Cross and following Jesus.

In Jesus’ day, God fulfilled His purpose through Jesus’ obedience. Today, He wants to fulfill it through our obedience.

Many Christians know the Bible, but if they do not crucify the flesh, this knowledge will not profit them.

If every Christian would partake of the death of the Cross by denying self and losing our lives for the sake of Christ, then the life of Christ will be found in the Church, and we won’t need to make so much noise nor will we need to explain ourselves to people because the grace of God and the anointing on our lives will attract men and women to us.

When we die to self, God Himself will bring in His people, who are scattered all over the world, into our churches. They will come into our churches and they will know they have arrived home. In our CTMI congregations we have witnessed this happening many times. Someone comes into church, and the minute they experience the life inside and hear the sound teaching, they announce: “This is what I have been searching for all my life!”

Neither good, Biblical explanations, nor a Bible college education will build the Church of Christ. Jesus said He Himself would build His Church (Mat. 16:18). It is time we allowed Christ to build His Church by allowing the work of the Cross in our lives.

Why was Paul so effective in building the Church? The answer lies in Galatians 1:16 Paul says the minute he believed in Christ, he did not “confer with flesh and blood”. In other words, he carried the Cross from day one, and he never put it down. He did not ever use his education again. In fact he threw it away, like dung. This is so humbling! Today’s Church needs to throw away so much stuff. There are too many things we are boasting in, but which are not profitable in the least to our spiritual growth.

The day men and women of God begin boasting with Paul in ONE thing only: “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” (Gal. 6:14), then we shall witness the purpose of God -to gather His people together in unity of spirit – accomplished in our generation.