Receiving the Right Thing

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. Mat. 20:20-23

Notice that these sons of Zebedee and their mother came “worshipping” Jesus; but also desiring a certain thing of him.” So, these folks first worshipped Jesus, then presented their request to Him.

In other words, these folks worshipped Jesus because they wanted something from Him!

That is a dangerous combination, if ever there was one. If there is anything dangerous in church but which, alas! is going full steam ahead in many churches today, it is people going to church to “worship” the Lord because they want something of this world from Him. Many people are not aware of it, but this state of affairs is going on in their lives all the time!

Today, the 21st of December, 2014 is Sunday and this morning many folks are going to church ostensibly to worship the Lord. But God knows our hearts and He knows how many of us are truly going there to worship Him in truth and in the Spirit. He knows how many are going to church because all we want is the establishment of God’s Kingdom in our hearts. He knows how many of us are going there because we truly need an overhaul of the state of our spiritual lives.

He knows how many are going to church because we want to lose our lives more and to serve others more.

He also knows those who are going to worship Him simply for who He is.

But many, alas! are going to worship, but “desiring a certain thing” of Jesus – something of this world. They want the good things of this life. That is why they are going to church.

And today in many charismatic churches many preachers will end their sermons with an altar call where God’s children will be told to “Receive!” Many of God’s people will “receive” many things in church today.

Receiving is not a bad thing. We see Jesus also telling James and John to “Receive!” But what He told them to receive is vastly different from what many today will be “receiving” from their preachers.

Jesus told these gentlemen to prepare to receive only one thing: the cup and the baptism (Mk. 10). He did not promise to give them anything of this world. But we know they wanted something of this world. They wanted a place of honor in what they thought was Jesus’ impending worldly kingdom.

Today many people are going to church to receive the good things of this life. Personally I have no problem with a child of God receiving the good things of this life. I believe God also has no problem with that. But in reality, the things of this life are small change with God. That is why whether we receive the good things of this life or not is not a big deal with God; and it should not be with us. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians that he knew “both how to be abased, and… how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil. 4:12)

When it comes to receiving, there is something of far greater importance which we as the church ought to pay attention to. We should not miss this one. We may miss the good life, but we should not miss the one thing that Jesus wants us to receive.

What is this thing? It is what Jesus gave to James and John. It is what He told them to “Receive!” It is the cup and the baptism.

This is what we should all be going to church to receive this Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, many will be going to be entertained by the good music, or by the charismatic preacher. Many more will be going to seek and answer to their prayers – prayers for the things of this life.

But ours is a heavenly agenda. May God open our eyes to see the heavenly agenda. We will then worship Christ for who He is, not for what we want from Him.

Have a blessed Sunday service!

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(Un)Loving This Life

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.

24 And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.  Mat. 20:20-24

While everyone in Jesus’ camp was thinking about the glory that would be theirs once they had arrived in Jerusalem (or wherever), and while the more bold ones were taking matters into their own hands in charting their own destiny by seeking to secure those all-important positions of importance, we see one person, the Lord Jesus – alone – thinking about something entirely different.

He was thinking of the cup and the baptism. He asked James and John, “Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?”

While everyone else was thinking about a worldly kingdom and worldly glory (v. 24), Jesus was thinking about suffering – and death. He was thinking of what He would need to undergo in order to be finally free of the dictates of His earthly body.

Too many believers today are thinking about the good life – the good earthly life. But here we see Jesus’ spiritual mindset, which was to die to this life. That is why He told James and John, “Ye know not what ye ask.”

Too many of us do not know what we ask for when we pray. Unfortunately, we have been taught to “claim” blessings in Jesus’ name. We have never been taught to lose, and we see nothing wrong with this “claiming”. Our desires are all wrong, built on the foundation of self-preservation.

(I saw a big church on TV where they have been taught to hug their chests – to hug things to their chest – by faith – whenever the preacher says, “Receive!” It looked so childish.)

But there is everything wrong with a receiving mindset. With this kind of mindset, we will never be willing to share in the sufferings of Christ, and we therefore shall never know Christ’s resurrection life in us. We shall probably have everything of this world, but nothing of the true character of Christ and of the Kingdom of God in us.

We need to catch a certain revelation in our hearts – the same revelation that Jesus had, which was the same revelation that the apostles later on carried also. It was the revelation to lose.

I am not here to answer whether the good life is desirable or not for the believer. People with a worldly agenda want to dwell on these kinds of things. They pose their arguments with words like, “Do you mean to say that…?”

Why not, rather, we dwell on Jesus’ words, ““Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” Why should we not want to know more about this cup and this baptism that Jesus talked about? Why should we not want to identify our lives with the kind of life Jesus was willing to undergo here? What a wonderful place this is for the believer! It is a place of spiritual ecstasy as well as a place of spiritual safety.

People, let us desire the spiritual aspect of our calling rather than the material side. Yes, it is true Jesus can also give us the material things. But where were Jesus’ eyes fixed? While the worldly-minded apostles’ eyes were fixed on the worldly glory, Jesus’ eyes were fixed on another glory – the heavenly glory. And you do not arrive there by singing, “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” Jesus knew He would arrive there by first having to lose everything that He had of this world: worldly dignity (soon even the slave girls in the high priest’s house would be slapping away at Him!), worldly riches (His last worldly possession, His robe, was taken by the Roman soldiers); even His very life.

May God give us the grace to lose our lives as Jesus did.

Partaking of the Cup and Baptism of Jesus

35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire.

36 And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you?

37 They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory.

38 But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

39 And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized:

40 But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared.

41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. Mk. 10:35-41

I am back, back where I belong. I am not talking about this blog, of course; I am referring to the fellowship of the saints, where I can be together with my brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have missed all of you, but I am sure God’s grace has been upon each one of us, regardless of the outside circumstances that might have come upon us during the last week.

Today, I will begin with a startling confession. I do not expect this blog to become a popular blog by any standards. This is because I write from the viewpoint that the modern church has somehow left “the King’s Highway”, which is the revelation of the cross of Jesus in our hearts. The ‘unpopularity’ of this blog will arise from the fact that many in the church will not be willing to forsake the comfortable place the populist gospels of prosperity, etc have put them and embrace a gospel that clearly puts them in the danger zone.

But we cannot preach anything less than what Jesus Himself taught. And here clearly He is telling his disciples John and James to expect danger. Jesus was pointing them to the cross!

But even before we consider Jesus’ words above, it is clear even in the days we are living in that true Christianity is something that is costly. All over the world and particularly in the Middle East, Christians are paying dearly for their faith.

From Jesus’ words above we can see the attitude that we need to have as Christians. It is an attitude of suffering. Jesus talks about a cup – a bitter cup – and a baptism. We need to be in the Spirit to understand these terms. Jesus was not talking about being baptized in the river, for John had already baptized Him. He was talking about something much deeper, something that would touch the very core of His life.

On the other hand, you can see the disciples’ attitude. It was a worldly attitude. They were thinking of worldly positions. In fact in Matthew’s account it says they came with their mother – which is a traditional canvassing technique that has never been known to fail. And that is the attitude of the church today. It is headline news that today’s church loves the world more than it does God. The church has been taught to want the good life. We don’t want to suffer in any way. If any trouble comes it is considered a demon and we have been taught to rebuke it “in Jesus’ Name”!

Actually, the charismatic gospel is too simplistic – it knows everything about God! “God is good all the time, and all the time God is good!” And the church now has dredged up every “promise” from the Bible which it deems suitable to make it stay safe.

Under such a ‘gospel’ we cannot humble ourselves to accept what God has for us. It is indeed a gospel that teaches us to “stand up for our rights”! But if you read the Bible well, you will see exactly what God has for us: suffering and death. There is only danger for the born-again believer. That is the only way to bring out the life of Christ in us. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “35  But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? 36  Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die” (1 Cor. 15:35-36).

Notice the word “die” there. When the carnal man in us dies, then we carry Christ’s life in us.

The result of desiring the world is that we will not carry the life of Christ in us. The gospel will be robbed of its power – the power to change a man – and we will carry all the fruits of a carnal life in us instead.

It is not easy to carry the nature or character of Christ in us. For that to happen there is a price to pay. We will have to carry a spirit of suffering, just like Jesus did. That is what Jesus was trying to get across to James and John (although it would appear that they were not getting a word of what He said! The thought of sitting at the high table can affect one’s sense of reasoning in an incredible way!!)

The more we listen to what Christ is saying, though – the more we know Christ – the more we realize and acknowledge that much needs to change in us. We discover the pride in us, the lack of faith, the hardheartedness, and many other undesirable things.

But we need to partake of the cup and that baptism in order to “sit with Jesus” in heavenly places. That “to sit” means we put off the old man of sin.

[Below: The Maasai in Tanzania have comfortably embraced other trades apart from pastoralism. But they are not about to abandon their traditional dress code!]

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