Freedom In Christ – Part 1

13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.

14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 1 The. 4:13-14

Oh, the liberty that the gospel brings!

One of the things that money cannot buy in this world is reprieve from sorrow. And, without a doubt, one of the most painful sorrows that affects us here on earth is the loss of a loved one. Imagine the pain that death brings to those who are left behind by the passing away of a loved one. It affects us in our deepest parts. It is bad enough when it is an ordinary death but, in today’s violent and unpredictable world in particular, death sometimes is attended with terror, pain, suddenness and a host of other additional calamities that make it all the more difficult for the deceased’s relatives to bear. I cannot imagine the pain that the violence that accompanies so many deaths in a place like the U.S. city of Chicago, for example, causes to those left behind. It is estimated that every day, 12 people are shot dead in Chicago.

It is in this light that we can better appreciate the Apostle Paul’s words here. This scripture makes it clear that people ignore Christ at their own spiritual peril. It is in Christ that both the dead and the living can enjoy this liberty. What Paul says in essence here is that when we lose a brother or sister in Christ there is no sense of loss on our part! The brother or sister is simply sleeping, he says! Who would mourn a person who was only sleeping?

What a blessing, to be set free from such incredible pain! Imagine being set free from the many bondages and hurts that death brings! It is an incredible thought.

But these things, though hard to comprehend, are true in the Spirit. Remember when Jesus was told that His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus did not break out wailing. He simply told His disicples:

“Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.” (Jn. 11:11)

Jesus said this because He was the resurrection and the life. He did, in fact, raise Lazarus from the dead.

Today, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life, and He will remain so unto eternity. We may grieve for a brother or sister who has died in the Lord in the short term, but that is due to our human weakness. In truth, however, that person has gone to a far better place – to be with the Lord.

This realization affords us incredible freedom – freedom from sorrow. And sorrow is one of our greatest enemies. Sorrow can hit us where nothing else can.

The words of our Lord Jesus Christ in John 8:36 ring out true and clear when held in this perspective.

“If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.”

[Below: Women mourning at a funeral in rural Singida]

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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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Suffering For Our Faith

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, 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.

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat. 16:13-25

In 1 Samuel chapter 22 verses 1 to 2 we read the following account of David:

1 David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

Four hundred men… what a small number! But the Kingdom of God is built upon weakness, not strength; in inadequacy, not competence; in insufficiency, not abundance. Four hundred men is a perfectly sufficient enough number for God to bring about a world-shaking phenomenon, for that was what the kingdom of Israel would soon become under King David.

As we noted in an earlier post, we must move on – move on to maturity. Leaving the basic doctrine of our Christian faith, we of necessity must grow, or move on, to perfection. But, in order to find ourselves on this road, we need spiritual perception.

The account about David is therefore an analogy: an analogy of Christ, the cross and us. Throughout scripture, the Bible talks of only one Christ – the Christ who was crucified. The cross signifies Godly suffering. Hence, in one scripture we see David suffering; and, in another, we see Christ suffering.

Interesting, isn’t it… that David escaped King Saul by hiding in a cave. The Bible, talking of the righteous men of old, says in Hebrews 11:38:

“… (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

The saints of old suffered for their faith. Many of us know David for his role as king of Israel. Yet, the Bible counts David among the men of old who suffered for their faith.

Equally amazing, however, is the fact that we see people who, in spite of the suffering they witnessed in David, still went out and followed him. But who were these people who went out to David? The Bible does not say that the rich and the well-fed and those contented with life gathered themselves unto David. On the contrary, the people who went out to David were all desperate people. The Bible says they were people “in distress”, “in debt” and “discontented”.

“In distress” here simply means they were poor.

In other words, the people who went out were people who had nothing to lose. They had lost everything already. Today’s world would call them ‘losers’. The men and women who went out to David were losers.

In the same manner, we can only follow Christ when we have lost all and have nothing more to lose. As long as you have so much as a shoelace to your credit, you cannot follow Christ. The Biblical standard for becoming a disciple of Christ is losing all. And when the Bible says all, it means all. The Bible says of Jesus, that He “poured out his soul unto death” (Is. 53:12).

Jesus lost all, including His life. On the cross, He died.

“24 If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

If you have something precious, better lose it now. When you go to the Lord, you go as the song says: “Just as I am, without one plea!”

But why did these people go out to David in the first place? The man was living in a cave; were they mad? Or had they lost hope to the extent that they were willing to suffer for suffering’s sake?

Hardly. On the contrary, these people saw something in the Spirit. The flashback to the reason these people followed after David is found in the key scripture above in Matthew 16. Jesus told Peter that upon the revelation of who He was, He would build the church, against which the gates of hell would not prevail.

In spite of David’s apparent weak circumstances, God brought a revelation into these people’s hearts that David was the anointed one of Israel, that he it was who would deliver them from their oppression. In David’s sufferings, they saw the plan of God for the nation of Israel!

In the cross of Christ – which represents Christ’s sufferings – we see God’s plan for us. In weakness, we see strength. In defeat, we see victory!

Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (v.10)

Those who will receive the things of the Spirit are those who have received a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who are ready to deny themselves and to share in Christ’s sufferings, with the hope of the Spirit in them. The Bible says:

11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb. 13:11-14)

The Bible says: “Let us…” God here is beseeching us. But God’s “Let us…” can sometimes be a command. Just as these people went out to David, we must move out – move out from our comfort zones, and from self-preservation. We cannot be contented with the status quo. We must desire real change in us – the change to live a sacrificial life. Blessed, indeed, is he who hungers and thirsts in their spirit for the things of God. He will learn to deny himself, to take up his cross and follow Christ.

[Below: Tanzanians standing for their national anthem]

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The Recipe For Carrying God’s Grace

1 Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up.

2 After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight.

3 Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth. Hos. 6:1-3

There are many good things which I can recount that God has blessed me with. First and foremost, of course, is the salvation of my soul. There is nothing to compare with this grace.

Secondly, there is my pastor, and my wife. I know I might sound stupid saying this, but I am yet to decide who between these two I should put first. For my wife is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones; yet my pastor is as God to me. He has shaped my life to become what I am today.

I could list blessing after blessing that God has bestowed upon me. And yet… among all of the blessings that God has bestowed upon me, there is none I cherish more than God’s hand upon my life. I count God’s chastisement of my self as the most important blessing in my life.

Do not for a minute think that this is something that I have always received with joy. There are times when, like the Apostle Paul when God first began dealing with him, I also have “kicked against the pricks” (Acts 9:5).

There is nothing joyous in the flesh when God begins dealing with us. We can be sure of that.

The Bible declares in Romans 8:7:

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God…”

The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, and we are full of it. We are full of spiritual folly and every kind of sin. When God therefore begins dealing with our fleshly mind or lusts, He goes about it just as you, too, would go about dealing with an enemy: He pummels the flesh to the ground. Actually, He buries it six feet under. God wants the flesh dead and buried; and that’s the reason He brings the revelation of the cross to our hearts. In the Spirit, the cross is the instrument by which we can crucify our flesh every day.

“O happy day!” we sing. “When Jesus washed away my sins.”

When Jesus washes away our sins, we become spotless white. For that to happen, much needs to happen. There will be much confrontation and much flaying of the flesh.

I once read a self-defence manual that said when you shoot at a deadly enemy, you should shoot until the enemy is completely immobilised. “Don’t stop shooting until he stops moving”, it said. That’s when you can be sure that the enemy is absolutely dead.

That is what God does with the flesh. It took Jesus six hours to die. With us, it could take much longer. But God will not stop shooting until He makes sure the flesh is completely dead.

“O, happy day!”

The happiest day in my life was the day God placed His finger and touched my pride. It is the day that God tore me up, ripped me apart. I am forever grateful for that day, – and days – and I am forever grateful for the people God used to bring these situations upon me.

Yes, God uses people. We can see that all over the Book of Acts and in the Pauline epistles.

I had always read Paul’s words,

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10)

But I had never stopped to think what these things constituted in Paul’s life. But now I know they comprised of the most debasing, offensive and degrading things, things that were done to him by… men. All this was orchestrated by God to break Paul’s pride; to break the “I” in him.

God cannot work with us while we are carrying the flesh. We must die in order that Christ’s resurrection life may be found in us. You cannot possibly compare this miserable, earthly life that we carry (which is nothing but death) with the life that God wants to give to us – Christ’s resurrection life. The latter is full of faith, joy, love, peace, and hope.

Finally, let us look at Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Notice Paul is saying that he worked more than all the other apostles. But in saying so, Paul is not applauding himself; rather, he is exalting the grace of God that was in him. He says:

“… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

In other words, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.

How did so much grace come to be upon Paul? Is God a respecter of persons? Of course not. But the reason Paul had so much grace upon him was because he allowed God to break him more. The reason for abundant grace being upon Paul are his words that we just read in 2 Cor. 12:10:

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

Paul rejoiced in these things!

The more we rejoice in these things also, the more grace we will have, just as Paul had, for God is no respecter of persons.

And, pray, what does the Bible mean when it says that Paul “laboured more abundantly than they all”? Is it that he preached more than they? It could well be that he did, but that is not what scripture is talking about here. On the contrary, here Paul is saying that he had more of the fruit of the Spirit in him than the rest of the apostles. He had more patience, more love, more faith, more of everything of the Spirit, for the grace of God was upon him.

It is for this reason that the Bible says Jesus had the Spirit without “measure” (Jn. 3:34).

I have heard some people preach that the Spirit has been given to us without measure. But it is important to qualify that statement. The Spirit was given to Jesus without measure because He

“… poured out his soul unto death” (Is. 53:12)

Have you poured out your soul unto death? The Spirit – and, by inference, God’s grace – can only be given to us without measure to the extent that we lay down our lives just as Jesus did.

And by God’s grace we are not talking about miracles or prophesying (cf. Mat. 7:22). Rather, we are talking of the grace to live the crucified life – the ability to forgive, to repent, to die to the lusts of the flesh, to die to our pride.

The central question is, How can the Lord heal, if He has not wounded us? It is impossible.

God must wound us first. We must spend two days in the belly of the whale, and on the third day God will raise us up with Christ.

[He is all I need]

Loving Jesus

For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better… Phil. 1:23

When He was here on earth, Jesus always had an urgency about Him – the urgency to go back to His Father in heaven. In the above scripture, we see the same attitude with the Apostle Paul. Paul’s singular desire was to “depart” from this world. But Paul had a reason for wanting to depart. He says he wanted to “depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better…”

It was incredible, the love that Paul had for Jesus. It is unmatched. People are always talking about, oh! how they desire to go to heaven so they can walk the streets of gold, etc. I am sure there are a few believers who think that heaven is a lot like Disneyland!

But heaven is all about Jesus. Heaven is about knowing Christ. It is loving Jesus and His ways – His all too often difficult ways. The Bible says we have to suffer with Christ in order to be glorified with Him (Rom. 8:17).

There are many things that will hold us onto this world if we do not see in the Spirit. We shall be bound by the system of this temporal world and we shall miss out in the issues that truly matter.

In Ephesians 1:15-23 the Apostle Paul prays that we be empowered to see these things.

Beloved, it is not time to be drawn by what the world can flash at us. There are people who would want to mix the gospel of Jesus Christ with the materialism in their own hearts. These are the so-called prosperity preachers. But it is not time to allow materialism to blind us to the beauty of heaven.

Materialism is a big enemy to the church. There are many believers whose ‘destiny’ is to become rich materially. But it is clear from the scriptures that even our Lord Jesus Christ Himself was not rich in earthly material things. One day someone came running up to Jesus and declared he would follow Him wherever He went. Jesus warned him,

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Lk. 9:57).

Our Lord Jesus Christ did not even have a place to lay His head!

On another day the tax men came to demand Caesar’s half-shekel from Him but our Lord did not have a penny on Him! Simon had to go fish for the money to pay the tax (Mat. 17:27).

Jesus could have become the richest man on this world if He had wanted to. But His eyes were set on the heavenly Kingdom, and He showed a holy disdain to the things that this evil world has to offer.

I am not preaching that men should be poor. But true believers are certainly not in a race for any material ‘destiny’.

Jesus could see something in the Spirit. Do you see anything? Do you see what Jesus saw?

Even more importantly, where is your heart set? Do you have an inordinate love for this world? Believers today have an easy lust for the world, and they compromise. They compromise their love for Christ. That makes them not ready for the heavenly Kingdom. There are many who would rather not “depart”; they would love to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a little longer.

But we should be so ready for heaven that if we were to die at any moment, we would do so with joy knowing we were going to the most beautiful place in the spiritual realm – heaven, and to be with Christ.

Is it time to harbor all those ill feelings that we have against a brother or sister who has wronged us? The answer is no. On the contrary, it is time to watch over hearts. We should strive to keep our hearts pure however contrary the circumstances. We should love back and pray for those who persecute us (Mat. 5:44).

That is what heaven is all about. That is what Christ is all about. Just in case you are in a hurry to get to heaven, first consider your heart and your life. Make sure you are living a holy, sanctified life and that you are walking in love towards your fellow men. That is what heaven is all about!

[Children. The Kingdom of God is for such as these]

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“… Up Where We Belong”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Eph. 1:3

Notice in the above portion of scripture how God’s Word looks only upwards! That’s so powerful. The writer of this epistle could have chosen to look downwards. He could have chosen to talk about all the earthly blessings that we have in Christ. But he chose to look up. He chose to consider the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. In his discourse he chose to ignore the physical and material blessings of this world.

God, our father, desires to take us up. That is where we belong as His children. He wants us to partake of His spiritual blessings and His spiritual Kingdom. That is our inheritance as His children. And yet, too many believers today have their sights set on the physical and material blessings of this world. Even when the Lord has begun “a good work” in us (Phil. 1:6) it is the most difficult thing for believers to appreciate the spiritual nature of our calling.

But our calling is spiritual. That is why the Bible says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”

It does not say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual and material blessings in Christ”. That would be true, of course, since God is the God of all blessings, both physical and spiritual. But the Bible in every place makes a distinction between the physical and the spiritual; between the temporal and the eternal. Whatever is temporal will one day pass away. You could not, for example, take your car with you to heaven, even if it was a blessing that was hand-delivered to you by God Himself. When you go to heaven, your beautiful car will be left to rust here on earth. But in heaven you will find love, a spiritual blessing. That is the stark contrast.

The church should therefore focus on God’s “spiritual blessings”. If the Bible can take the time and the effort and the space in its hallowed pages to include the word “spiritual”, I believe we should pay heed to what it is trying to tell us. It could even be a warning. Today you rarely hear the term “spiritual blessings” used in church. You just hear of “blessings”. Everything, the physical and the spiritual, is lumped together.

But if you read the entire Book of Ephesians and, indeed, every other book of the New Testament, you will not find much talk about physical or material blessings. The Bible, especially the New Testament, talks of many things, and nearly all of them have to do with the inner man of the spirit and the work of the cross that is needed to bring about a transformation in his character.

We must once again learn to hear from the Holy Spirit. For the world, riches comprise of material wealth. For the spiritual person, the Bible tells us what comprises true riches:

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

For the church the true riches are “Christ in you”!

Jesus comes to live in us when we accept Him by faith; and when through that same faith we become partakers of the death of Christ through an understanding of the cross, we become partakers of His resurrection life. The life of Christ in us means we can exhibit, right here on earth, the character of Christ. And this is the whole purpose of the gospel.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

These characteristics form the true spiritual blessings that the Bible talks about. Their formation in us is the top priority with God. It is the character that Christ had when He was here on earth, and it is the same character that we will find Him with in heaven. In other words, these are the things that last, for God never changes.

Many believers will be deceived by worldly-minded preachers and worldly-minded gospels. They will be led to prioritize the blessings of this world over the things that would mature their spirits and make them partakers of true “spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

But God wants us to move on to perfection in the Spirit (1 Col. 1:28).

Living The Resurrection Life – Part 2

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

 

Part 2

“…and to die is gain.”

I haven’t heard anyone speak that kind of language lately. It appears that, today, the world has so much to offer!

But, again, the early apostles were men who saw in the Spirit. They were men who were ready for another world. They had leavin’ (this world) on their minds. In the Spirit, they saw and desired another world, God’s spiritual Kingdom. The Apostle Paul says,

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (v. 23)

For Paul and the other apostles, being with Christ was “far better”!

But then, apparently, today, many believers cannot see as much into the Spirit. The reason for this is that other gospels have come in and blinded them to the heavenly vision. The churches with the biggest numbers today are those that preach on materialism. But the gospel of materialism is not taking anyone anywhere near heaven. On the contrary, it will most likely take many to hell.

Most people think that if they can throw in an “In the name of Jesus” to anything they say or do, then that thing becomes spiritual. But that’s not true. Jesus Himself said many would even do miracles in His Name and still not enter heaven (Mat. 7:22).

How can someone say, “to die is gain”?

It all depends on the gospel that one is hearing. There is only one gospel that has the power to make someone say such words. It is the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. Today there are many gospels that abound, but they do not bring a revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. And yet…  “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” is the only true message for the church today.

THE CHURCH NEEDS TO HEAR THE TRUE GOSPEL, THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED! THE REVELATION OF THE CROSS IN A MAN’S HEART IS THE POWER OF GOD THAT BRINGS THE TRANSFORMATION NEEDED TO MAKE A MAN WORTHY OF HEAVEN.

Upon reading the epistles, we find that many in the early church were men and women who did not count their lives dear to themselves (Acts 20:24), on account of the gospel that they heard. Through this gospel, they had a true heavenly vision. That means they saw the glories of heaven. They saw into the Spirit, and what they saw made them willing to trade in their worldly lives for the heavenly one. That is why they were willing to die. For them, death for the sake of the gospel was the Golden Gate to heaven.

But, pray, how can one be so willing to leave this world? And how can one be so unafraid of death?

It is because they had met with the resurrected Christ.

The classic example of this are the apostles. Many died for their faith. They were killed. We recall the Apostle James, who died at the hands of King Herod. But before the revelation of the cross in his heart, this man had so much of the world in him that Jesus nicknamed him and his brother John “the sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17).

These were the men who were so chagrined that a particular village would not line up and obediently clap for Jesus as He passed through, so much so that they asked Jesus whether they could not be allowed to call down fire upon that little village as Elijah did.

James and John were they also who wanted each to be sat on either side of Jesus in His kingdom, thinking His was an earthly kingdom.

In every instance, Jesus rebuked them vehemently. It is safe to say that with the kind of outlook that they had in life, these were earthly, carnal men. They could hardly expect to go and live with Christ in His heavenly Kingdom.

But after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we find a new attitude in James. It is clear now that in the Spirit, he had seen something different. He had seen “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – and he had been transformed. He was willing to trade in his life for Christ.

In Acts 12:1-2 we read,

“1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”

I am sure that, now, James welcomed death. In his spirit he must have been saying, “Hurry! Take me to my Lord!”

I can imagine if they had tried to kill James before the revelation of the crucified Christ had come into his heart. He would have died cursing and kicking. Not a spot of heavenly light in his life. Just seeing the dark world he was leaving behind, nothing else.

That is why the church needs the revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) today more than ever. This is the only gospel that can make us to consider dying as gain. The words of the Apostle Paul need to be heard more and more in church today:

“… to die is gain”

In another place, the Apostle John says,

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

We must leave the spirit of the world behind if we are to have confidence at Christ’s coming. We must be found abiding “in him” – in His sufferings, and in His death. Having this mind in us, we shall not fear physical death; on the contrary, we will welcome it, for it alone will usher us triumphantly into Christ’s presence.

[Below: The approach to Iguguno, a small town just outside Singida]

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