The Greatest Promise Of All

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… (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

What powerful words! What an incredible promise! And right here, as an aside, let me say that I have heard both powerful and unpowerful preachers enumerate the promises that God has for us in the Bible, and I have never heard them mention this one. You wonder, What are Christians being taught in churches today? Aren’t Christians being taken for a ride by the very preachers they have entrusted their souls to? And it is a ride straight to hell.

But let us embark on our lesson today by looking at another incredibly powerful scripture.

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:24

That’s talking of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture here plainly states that it was not possible that death could hold Jesus.

If language is anything to go by, the words “not possible” mean something, don’t they? Another word for “not possible” is “impossible”; and other words for “impossible are, “impracticable”, “unachievable”, “out of the question”.

It is clear, therefore, that there are some things that death can achieve; and there are others that it cannot. That’s interesting, because even the Bible makes clear the power of death, for in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, we read:

“25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Death is an incredibly powerful enemy. No man is free from the grip of death. Even the great partriarch David was held by death, as the Bible says in Acts 13:36,

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”

But of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible states:

“But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (Acts 13:37)

Death had no power over Jesus simply because it was not possible for it to have power over Him!

“not possible”. What beautiful words! In the context they are in, they probably are the sweetest words in the Bible. But they are not just beautiful; they are also powerful. The power in those words is incomprehensible. And the stratospheric question here is, Why was it not possible that Jesus should be held by death?

The Bible says it is because God would not allow it.

“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 13:35)

God would not suffer, or allow Jesus to be held by the power of death. Again, that is awe-inspiring. How could that be so? Why?

You see, God is the determiner of everything. He is the I AM. All things exist in Him. All things and everything therefore is easily under the control of God. So when God says or does or even so much as wishes something (for He always does so according to His irrefutable wisdom), there is NOTHING that can rebuff Him. In fact, it is much more than that. When God was creating the universe, He just wished it, and it was so.

In the same manner, God did not wish Jesus to see corruption – and it was so.

So how come that every man since Adam has seen corruption but not Jesus? What made Jesus so special? Why would God wish and therefore not allow Jesus to be held by death? Was it on a whim?

Certainly not. The reason why God would not allow Jesus to see corruption is, simply, because Jesus obeyed God! It is that simple; and yet, again, it is not that simple. The price that Jesus paid to obey God is uncomprehendable. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:12 that

“because he hath poured out his soul unto death”.

Jesus poured out his soul unto death. The Bible is full of the sufferings and ultimate ignoble death of Jesus. Jesus lived the kind of life that we find practically impossible to live here on earth.

It is in this context therefore that the Apostle Paul makes clear the importance of our identification with Christ. He tells us that in order for us to achieve anything of value in the Spirit, we MUST identify our lives with the sufferings and death of Christ.

“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…” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

Notice the sequence of events here. If we die to self as Christ died to self, we shall have the life of Christ in us here on earth. As the Apostle Paul says,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20)

If we suffer with Christ here on earth, we shall reign with Him in heaven.

And pray, what, exactly, is suffering with Jesus?

The words of Jesus Himself explain this best.

“39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

[God’s call to the church is to crucify self just as Christ did]

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“I am Crucified With Christ”

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20

The former president of the United States, Barack Obama is famously reported to have stated that the sweetest sound he has ever heard is the Moslem call to prayer, or the “muezzin”. That call has been there since Mohamed; and the Moslems never tire of hearing it.

What about us? What is the sweetest sound that we have ever heard, and that we should never tire of hearing? What are the words that we should daily welcome enthusiastically into our hearts and lives until the end of time?

My vote goes to the words by the Apostle Paul,

“I am crucified with Christ.”

These are the sweetest words that could sincerely come out of the mouth of a Christian believer. After all the singing, after all the praying, after all the preaching, after all our service to God and man; our ultimate destination is to find ourselves crucified with Christ. If we did all of the above without crucifying our flesh, it would amount to nothing.

Indeed, the above words by the Apostle Paul ought to get sweeter and sweeter to the believer’s ear by the day. They ought to be a daily call in our lives, a call that we relish and eagerly look forward to every day of our lives: to absolutely lose self, that the life of Christ may be found in us.

Indeed, our Lord Jesus Christ said so Himself. In Luke 9:23 we read:

“And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

There is much ado in the church today. Unfortunately, a disproportionate amount is much ado about nothing, for the church has a singular calling, which is to crucify the flesh to the end that Christ may live in us.

[The beautiful land of central Tanzania]

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Dying With Christ

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow in his steps: 22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteousle: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. 1 Pet. 2:24

In those early days when we were being taught how to receive by faith, we used to hear preachers say, “You know that you know that you know…” In other words, we were to know deep down in our hearts that we had received whatever we had asked God for. That principle still stands with regard to our faith.

But, today, under the ministry of the revelation of the cross of Jesus, I have come to know something more. I have come to know that faith goes beyond just receiving. Actually, I have come to learn that faith is all about giving; and giving of the highest scale possible.

In this light, therefore, I have come to learn one of the most important lessons that I will ever learn as a believer. And what, pray, might that lesson be?

It is that, whenever someone forces their way with me and I feel bad about it, I always know where the problem lies: it is with me. THE PROBLEM is not that other person, and it does not matter what it is they have done to me. It does not matter whether they have insulted me or beaten me or taken away my things. If my heart is not right any time someone has their way with me, the problem is with me, not them.

You see, the revelation of the cross teaches that the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about giving our lives, just as Christ gave His. It is dying to self. Once self has died, it does not hurt. Who is affected when we are hurt? It is self.

Dying to self. What else do you think Jesus meant when He said to deny ourselves? (Mat. 16:18). It is the giving up of who we are.

It is in marriage especially that the denial of our rights is tested most. A man of God once said that half the cup that we are to partake in salvation is in marriage. In marriage, you have with you someone who is guaranteed to constantly chafe you the wrong way. Unless you are married to Jesus Christ Himself (but no, He is in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father), you are guaranteed to have someone with the same weaknesses as you have and who therefore will fail you much of the time. Just as you yourself fail them, although we somehow gloss over that.

But, whatever situation arises to confront us, we are called upon to give up “our seats”. Yes, those lofty seats that we have allocated to this fellow called self, we are called to give them up if we would be like Jesus. The Bible says He left us an example to follow. So we need to ask ourselves, even as we fight tooth and nail to retain our rights, what example are we following? We ought to ask ourselves, are we dying with Christ, or are we fighting to keep the flesh alive. But remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ,

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” (Jn. 12:24)

Many Christians today are alone. This means they are profit-less in the Kingdom of God. Oh, isn’t that so, so, so very sad?

And the reason?

The reason for one abiding alone is simply because they are holding onto their lives.

Let us end by looking closely at verse 24 above.

“24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

The Bible makes no mistakes; and here it clearly states that Jesus gave His own body at Calvary. Jesus did not fight for self. No, on the contrary, He gave up His body.

And here we see what happens when we give up our bodies; when we crucify self. Life comes to the world! Life comes to those around us… and even to the furthest reaches of the world. Amen and Amen!!

[Give your life!]

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His Grace In Us!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:18

If what we read about Jesus in the Bible is true, then Jesus had immeasurable grace. Yes, Jesus had grace. In fact, the Bible says, God the Father gave Jesus grace without measure (John 3:34).

Had Jesus been anywhere near as graceless as we are, He would of necessity have been holding disciplinary meetings every now and then with his disciples. Apart from the troublesome twelve apostles He had, there were others, 72 of them, who stuck ‘close’ to Him. Now, you would think they were close… until you look again. As long as there was bread, healing and all sorts of miracles about, these guys stayed close to Jesus. But such are a very dangerous bunch to have about. They had not understood what Jesus came to do because He had not made it clear enough to them. On the day that He did, they abandoned ship so fast Jesus did not even have the chance to say goodbye to them (John 6:66).

Apparently, the twelve apostles stayed. But it was these who would give Jesus the hardest time. For starters, there were the “Brothers Karamazov”, James and John, whom Jesus surnamed, “The sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). Which goes to show that Jesus had a sense of humor, for all those who think He was a piece of dry hardwood.

If Jesus called these guys “the sons of thunder”, they must have been my tribesmen. During the 1990s when I was working, someone in my office nicknamed me “The bomb”. Although saved, I was volatile and unpredictable. I simply could not get a handle on myself. I was so unpredictable I could not even predict myself. One time during a company meeting I stood up and called everyone “Philistines”. They never forgot that one.

Jesus had no shortage of incidents with these two hot-headed brothers. One time, as Jesus was walking towards Jerusalem (to be crucified), He passed through a village which did not give Him “respect”. Then, just like now, respect was a commodity that was sought after at all costs (especially by preachers). Apparently, in all the other villages that Jesus and his entourage had passed through, He had been received with pomp and ceremony and crowned with many crowns. The apostles James and John and all the other apostles were in high spirits and they were high-fiving each other as they watched all that glory unfolding around them.

Having fed on this feast of praise and worship, the two erstwhile right- (and left-) hand men of Jesus, James and John (and all the rest of them as well, of course) were ill-prepared to face the ignominy of being given the cold shoulder. When they therefore entered this little village and it became clear that the locals not only did not think much about Jesus respect-wise, but that they also did not want Him about their town, it was too much for them to handle. It was particularly so for the brothers who always had a keen eye for “respect”, glory and honor. They simply could not take the humiliation; they went ballistic. Off they went to Jesus and demanded that He allow them to call down fire from heaven to consume that little village as Elijah had done to some people under the old covenant.

But Jesus turned and rebuked them by telling them,

“55 …Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Lk. 9:55-56)

After which He turned and went to another village. Here Jesus taught them the cardinal law of grace that, if you have grace, you do not fight people. You forgive and move on with life.

It is laughable that, not too long a while ago, these same men, James and John, had gone incognito to see Jesus accompanied by their mother. This lovely family wanted Jesus to set the brothers on each side of the Lord in His glory. In His glory! Ha!

Even Jesus could not guarantee that. For any man to sit next to Him in His heavenly glory was too lofty a thought even for our Lord. But to get anywhere near there, He told them, they first would need to suffer in the flesh. They first had to shed all those pounds of flesh in order that they might carry the grace of God in them.

We all, just like James and John, want to sit with Jesus in His glory, don’t we? Well, we better check our grace levels first. And as for sitting next to Jesus in heaven, forget it. You can begin to think about it after you are dead and buried. Fact.

The gospel of Jesus is all about the grace of God in our lives. The Bible says that God is love. It does not say that He is a mega-church preacher or that He has any of the things that we love boasting in. But all that God is above everything else is that He is rich in grace. That is what the Bible means when it says God is love.

We are to be rich in grace. What is lacking with the church is not money, it is the grace of God.

God’s Word challenges you today to stop everything you are doing and get out there and begin crucifying your flesh. Don’t waste time looking at all the other things that God has apparently “blessed” you; watch out for His grace in your life.

[Grace is to carry other people’s burdens]

A Mature Church Is Needed – Pt.2

There was a time when I did not want to hear such words. I wanted to remain in my comfort zone, safe in my ‘understanding’ that I had already passed from death into life. I hardly knew the depths of my rottenness and how much I needed that Cross to work in me!

I am made to understand that in some ‘developed’ countries there are laws against parents disciplining their children, either by beating them or otherwise. I thank God such a law has never applied in my life. When I was a kid growing up, there were no such laws either in my country, in my home, or anywhere close to me. I was beaten by my parents, my teachers and by any grown-up who felt I needed a beating. In that way, sense was beaten into me.

I have raised my kids in the same way. That modern ‘love’ stuff has never worked with my family. I love my kids, but not in that way, no sir! I prefer to be in the same league with God than with any baby, child, teen or whatever-rights-group. The Bible says about God and us: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6). Which basically means that if you do not do that sort of things with your kids you are in league with the devil. Believe it or not.

Now that my children are getting into their late teens I tell them, “If you never learned anything in this house, you will never learn it anywhere else!”

People want a light gospel; and they are getting tonnes of it today. Preachers are having a field day dealing out the easy charismatic gospel that has invaded the Church in recent times. This is a gospel that has nothing in it to confront the flesh. In fact, you tell Christians today that the flesh is a problem in the Church and that it needs to be crucified and they will tell you they are going to heaven by faith, not by works! Don’t judge, they say. If you become insistent you become their enemy. That was what happened to the Apostle Paul when he confronted the Galatian church (Gal. 4:16). They had turned back to their carnal, worldly ways and they did not want to hear anything that would confront them in that area.

I would want to tell you, though, that sin dwells in our flesh. There is no denying that fact. If you are the kind of Christian who has trouble with such statements, just stop right now and reflect on the fact that even your denial is a work of the flesh. It is true that Jesus died on the Cross to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life. But the Bible also says, …we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2Co 5:14-15). Jesus died so that we, too, would die. That’s what the Word is saying there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about dealing with sin through crucifying our carnal nature.

So much for the ‘bless-me’ gospels, which are actually enslaving Christians in perpetual babyhood. In fact, in this scripture, we are being told we need to move on from there. In other words, we need to hear something more solid than the ‘God-bless-me’ gospels. These kind of gospels will never deal with our carnal natures.

Anyone trying to belittle the power of sin in the flesh is effectively digging his/her own grave. The Apostle Paul never denied the fact that his flesh was a constant problem to him. He makes it abundantly clear that his real problem was the flesh. As a result, he did not simply preach the gospel; he crucified his body of sin. He constantly put it down and strove to completely do away with it. That is far removed from the goodie-goodie gospels we are hearing today of how God loves us and how He will see us all safely home. Yes, He will indeed see us safely home; but what responsibility have we? There are many things we do not know about that heavenly home. We could get there all right – and be unpleasantly surprised. The Bible says, “…And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1Jn 3:3).

It’s not like we are going to breeze into heaven by a faith that denies the working of the Cross in our lives. I believe we have an obligation to take to heart the many conditions that God attaches to His heavenly calling upon our lives.