True Goodness – Part 2

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow 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 righteously:

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.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 19-25

Jesus did so much good during His earthly ministry but, in the epistles, the Bible does not talk about those things. Instead, it talks about Christ’s sufferings and His endurance in the same! The Bible exalts the cross above anything that Jesus did or underwent. In fact, in Philippians 2:5-11, the Bible talks about the different stages that Jesus allowed Himself to descend from glory to shame and death. But it ends by stating that He

“became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (v.8)

The death of the cross. That is not any death. The death of the cross is not physical death. It is death to self. And it was on account of this death that scripture declares in verse 9:

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”.

You can die every kind of death; but if you have not died to self, you are nothing in God’s eyes.

I have an interesting illustration in this regard.

One day, a brother called me and told me he was travelling to the village to attend the burial of a close relative. I knew this brother’s financial condition, so I wanted to bless him with some money. I decided I would surprise him, so I called him back and told him to meet up with me at a certain place. He answered, “I am leaving right away.”

I walked briskly to our meeting point, my heart beating with excitement at the good I was about to do. When I arrived there, the brother was nowhere to be seen. True, he lived some distance away, but I expected him to take some form of transportation and hurry.

I called him and told him exactly that. I told him, “Take a motorcycle!”

He mumbled an answer and the phone went dead.

Finally, the brother showed up after about 20 minutes. By that time, my heart had turned charcoal black. The man had kept me waiting – and I was livid. I almost did not greet him, and I had to dredge up all the remaining dregs of grace left in me to hand him the money I had come to “bless” him with.

I had done good, but my good was not acceptable with God. In God’s eyes, it was the exact opposite of what you could call good. Why?

Because I had not accepted to suffer. God was not looking at the good I had gone to do. He was looking to see whether I would endure patiently when something grated at my will. Those 20 minutes of waiting were more important to God than any good intentions I had to help someone.

God waits for us at the point of suffering. He does not wait for us at any other place. He waits for us like the umpire waits for the athlete. The umpire does not wait for the athlete at any old point along the track. He waits at the finishing line.

Jesus waits for us at the finishing line; and our finishing line is the cross. When we accept to suffer patiently “for conscience toward God” we find God waiting for us right there.

By introducing the cross, the Bible destroys any notion of “good” that we have in the human sense. With God, “good” can only be when we serve Him under His terms, not ours. Actually, the cross is all about dying to our old man, self.

In John 21:18, we read Jesus’s words to Peter,

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.”

Imagine that. Jesus told Peter that a time would come when Peter would not serve God under his own terms, but under God’s terms!

Did you know that Peter carried a sword to serve the Lord with? That was his will at work. In fact, Jesus once rebuked him with the words:

“Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” (Mat. 16:23)

That is how we are much of the time: serving God, but carrying carnal weapons. If someone hurts us, we hurt back because we are not willing to suffer. We, just like Peter, are carrying weapons of our flesh with us.

We begin to understand why the Apostle Paul would not preach any other gospel other than “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)

It is the cross alone that can deal with the flesh so that we may serve the Lord on His terms, not ours. Nothing else can. Not even prophecies. There are too many self-styled, self-willed ‘prophets’ roaming about. It’s time to show them the cross – or the door.

So, finally, what is true goodness? What is thankworthy and acceptable with God? It is when we submit ourselves to another’s terms, not our own. It is when we crucify our wills. Biblically, the flesh is our will.

All our good, all our striving, all our effort comes to nought if we have not reached the place of crucifying our flesh. God is not interested in what we do. He is interested in what we allow Him to do in us.

If we are good on our own terms, despite all the good we do, we, just like my brother John at the brook, will not even have began our spiritual journey.

[I love the arts!]

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