The Reluctant Slave

Many years ago I read a story about a man who was taken into slavery into a faraway land, and when he was taken into slavery, it so happened that he was taken straight to the king’s palace. He lived there for many years, working as a slave.

In those days, it was customary for a slave to be redeemed if his kinsfolk brought to his masters sufficient wherewithal to redeem him. During the time that he was enslaved, this man’s relatives worked and worked until they got enough means to redeem their flesh and blood.

After those many years, the relatives started on the long journey to the strange country to redeem their brother. On arrival, they were well received, as was the custom in those lands. They were washed, fed and treated very well throughout the night. In the morning, they brought their agenda to the king’s hearing and, upon hearing it and upon weighing up the wherewithal his relatives had brought, the king had only one answer: “The man is free to go.”

The man was asked to pack up and leave, but to the surprise of everyone, he refused to go. He told his relatives, “I have lived well here in this palace, far much better than I did back home. Furthermore, I know there will be – and there are – people back home who still dislike me, so I am not ready to go back to all those problems. I am comfortable here.”

His relatives were shocked by his answer and they began crying and beseeching him to consider them, his own flesh and blood; but he would not. He remained adamant and they had no option but to leave without him. They went away crying loudly, sorrowful that their brother had chosen to remain in slavery rather than to go live in freedom together with his own kith and kin.

Not long after this saga, it was reported in that faraway land that the king was seriously ill and, soon afterwards, he died. It was also the custom in that country that when the king died he had to be buried together with his favorite servant, alive. And so, therefore, while burial arrangements were being made, a council was set up to determine who should be buried with the king. It didn’t take long for the council to conclude that the servant whose relatives had recently come to redeem had been the king’s favorite servant. It was therefore declared that this man, having been the king’s favorite servant, would have the honor of getting buried alive with the king.

When the news reached the servant, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was shell-shocked. Not, of course, on account of the news that he was the king’s favorite, of which he was well aware; but of the fact that, being the late king’s favorite servant, he would be buried alive alongside the king. The latter was a fact that he was not aware of although he had lived in that country for a long time.

He tried to plead for his life. He told his new masters, “My brethren, whom you saw here recently, will be coming again to take me home.” But it was to no avail; his name had already been officially proclaimed.

In a desperate bid to save his life, he tried to escape, but he was apprehended and locked up. Finally, the day of the king’s burial arrived and the king was finally laid to rest, together with his favorite servant. As was the burial custom, the servant was buried alive, standing up straight, in honor of the king.

This man had recanted his flesh and blood to remain with a foreign king, and the reason he gave for denying his brethren was because he was living a comfortable life and did not want to suffer any problems! In the end he died – alone, in a foreign country.

This story reminds me of what is happening within the church today. It reminded me of the dangers of those who would not allow themselves to suffer for Christ’s sake. In particular, it reminded me of those within the church who would push aside the gospel of the cross in favor of other gospels. The revelation of the cross is the believer’s flesh and blood. We do not preach another Christ, however comfortable he is:

But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

If you hold onto your life, you will be denying Jesus Christ, for He Himself said,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:25)

The comfortable gospel of prosperity and bodily welfare is probably the one true menace to the church today. The prosperity gospel “bodyslams” the gospel of the cross. It enslaves God’s people to this world. Philippians 3:18-19:

“18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

One day, this gospel will die, and those who are deriding the gospel of the cross will be buried together with it. And so will all other gospels that are not lined up with the gospel of the Apostle Paul:

“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

When Jesus comes back, He will not be coming back for those who cling to the welfare gospel. He will be coming to take with Him those who have walked the strait and narrow road, those who loved Him and denied themselves.

[And now, for your listening pleasure]

Greed And How To Overcome It

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called… 1 Tim. 6:9-12

Notice verses 9 and 10: “… they that will be rich”. These words refer to those who want to become rich. If a believer wants to be rich in this world, he is playing with fire. No, no, no, it does not say that being rich is a sin; it is the desire to become rich that is wrong. It is this desire that God is fighting against. The Bible says that such a desire will make one to “fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.”

In the epistles of the Apostle Paul, there are two things which he expressly tells the church to flee from: FORNICATION and IDOLATRY (1 Cor 6:18; 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). I have capitalized both words because these are words that no man should miss seeing.

The two greatest sins that have plagued the charismatic, Pentecostal church throughout history are idolatry and fornication. Idolatry refers to the worship of things. Therefore, although it may refer to the worship of idols as the Roman Catholics and other mainstream sects do, and as we see Paul explaining in 1 Cor. 10:18-23, yet, under the New Covenant, idolatry principally refers to covetousness, the love of worldly things, including money. The Apostle Paul states this clearly in Colossians 3:5:

“Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry…”

In simple terms, idolatry, which is covetousness, is greed.

Idolatry and fornication go hand in hand. Once the body has been fed well and there appears to be peace all around, lusts which had long been submerged under the drought of hunger, lack of money and lack of status, gain strength and begin demanding to be satisfied, too. That is what we see with Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible states that their land was “even as the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt…” – Gen. 13:10.

Sodom was an incredibly rich country!

These were the same circumstances that set the stage for the tragedy that befell King David in the case of Uriah’s wife. It is worldly contentment.

In today’s world, we may not have literal lands that are like “even as the garden of the LORD”, but we have money. Money can give us everything we want. But money also has hidden dangers. We can very easily grow fond of it. And this mindset can sweep us off our spiritual feet in an instant.

The prosperity gospel that is preached today spawns many, many dangers to the believer.

I often wonder at the fact that every high-profile TV preacher that I have seen or read is a victim of either covetousness, fornication or both. Ever since Oral Roberts introduced the false “seed” gospel and ever since the days of the infamous televangelist Jim Bakker, who personified excessive lust for material consumption, including sexual perfidy, the graph curve of these two influences in preachers’ lives has only continued to steepen. Nearly every high-profile TV preacher, past and present, is a victim: Kenneth Hagin, Benny Hinn, Joyce Meyer, John Osteen, Joel Osteen, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Tilton, Creflo Dollar, Ted Haggard, Paula White, Mike Murdoch, Ed Young, Joseph Prince, T. D. Jakes, Eddie Long, Jesse Duplantis, Paul Crouch, Rick Warren, T.B. Joshua and others.

At least these are the most prominent faces on Christian TV here in Africa.

I am not saying that these men have never loved the Lord. What is clear is that they were/are unaware of the dangers of the prosperity gospel that they embrace. They had never known what it means to identify with Christ in His sufferings and death. But God is a merciful God and I am sure that He has restored some of them.

Another evil that the love of money brings in a person’s life is pride. In Tanzania, people have a saying: “Greet people, your money will end!” It is a rebuff for the arrogance associated with the rich, who normally tend to ignore the lower classes.

But this worldly “richie” attitude has also crept into the church. I have heard some of the most arrogant and inane things coming from the lips of some of these very same TV preachers. This is the result of pride.

The problem, of course, is that these preachers never had any revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. They were unaware of what the cross can do in their lives in terms of mortifying the lusts of the flesh in them. They are unable, therefore, to represent the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which says:

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat. 16:24)

But, the gospel of the cross of Christ is the light at the end of the tunnel. In the midst of all this darkness, the gospel of the cross is the very gospel that Christ is revealing to the church again today. I say again because it was there in the early church, but it became submerged under the teachings of men who have always defended the flesh.

Notice verse 12, which says:

“Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.”

God has called us to lay hold on eternal life. That is a call that is in direct contradiction to the race to become rich. We ought to desire and pray for the revelation of the cross of Jesus in our hearts. This is what will make us to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Strait And Narrow Road

13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Mat. 7:13-14

What was Jesus saying here? Was He talking both to believers and unbelievers? We know that unbelievers will go to hell, but was that what He was referring to here?

The answer is no. In both these verses Jesus was referring to believers. He was saying that, in the final account, many believers will chose the broad way that leads to destruction and that few will choose the narrow way that leads to eternal life.

In reality, Jesus was warning those who would believe on Him – the church – about the most dangerous obstacle to their attaining eternal life. That obstacle is the flesh that is the carnal nature in each one of us.

Jesus was saying that, in the final analysis, many believers will choose to follow the flesh rather than the Spirit. Many will choose to follow the lusts of their flesh rather than choose the difficult road of self-denial. Indeed, few believers, even today, are willing to lose this aspect of their lives for the sake of the gospel. They will preach, sing, pray and visit the sick. But dealing with the things of their carnality is another issue altogether.

In our town, I heard of a bishop who beat up his wife so badly that the neighbors protested in indignation. I believe the police were also involved. Can you imagine that? A bishop! In our country a bishop is like the pope – he is a big man, with many local churches under him. You can imagine the damage done to the Kingdom of God by this one man who claims to be a Christian but who has no inkling of what the cross is supposed to do in his life.

That is why the devil has brought in so many substitutionary gospels because he knows that there are more than enough customers willing to subscribe to them. Not many professing Christians are willing to suffer for Christ. Not many are willing to lose the deep inner things of their carnal nature. And these will flock to churches that do not tell them to take up their cross and follow Christ.

But find me a man or woman who understands and who has embraced the gospel of the cross – the gospel of self-denial that Jesus taught – and I will show you someone who has eternal life in them.

The message of the cross is an incredibly powerful message. It is the only message of self-denial that is guaranteed to transform you into the image of Christ and hence into a citizen of heaven.

Any other message panders to the flesh, and the end result, the Bible guarantees, is “destruction”.

Jesus said: “Enter ye in at the strait gate…”

Dare we choose any other way? Or is Jesus required to downgrade that requirement and say, “Ok, guys… it’s all right even if you do not hit that 100% mark”?

By no means. As a matter of fact, Jesus never has had to apologize when asking us to take up our cross and follow Him. Instead, He promises to help us on the way of the cross. That is why the church needs to understand and open their hearts to the message of the cross. There we will find, not only a reason to take up our cross and follow Christ, but also the power to do so.

Do you remember Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane? The prospect in front of him was so difficult He asked His Father to take away the cup from Him if it were possible. But it was the Father’s will that He partake of that cup. And the Bible says that God sent an angel from heaven to strengthen Jesus.

And so the next day, Jesus spent six hours suffering indescribable agony on the cross. And that was in addition to many other traumas that He had had to undergo.

We ought not to be in league with the flesh. The Bible says we are indebted to the Spirit, and not to the flesh. The road of the cross is hard and difficult, but it is the only way to eternal life.

We defend so many seemingly important things, but they are the things of our carnal nature. But when we by God’s grace receive the revelation of the cross in our hearts, we turn and confront these very things.

[Below: The ‘MV Magogoni’ connects the coastal region of Kigamboni to Dar es Salaam City]

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Grace, Grace For The Church – Part 2

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mk. 10:28-31

2. The second significant thing that we find in the above scripture is the manner in which Jesus answered Peter. Jesus was always – always – in the Spirit. Everything He did was spiritual; and if you asked Him a question in the flesh, like Peter did here, He would answer it in the Spirit. Jesus never answered anyone in the flesh, no matter the spiritual mode in which the question was made. He never missed the mark. This is because in His heart Jesus never lost focus of the Kingdom of God.

Peter’s question was in the prosperity-gospel mode, which is a carnal approach; but Jesus answered him in the Spirit. He hit the bullseye: He told him it was all about the church.

I believe that in answering Peter, Jesus found the best opportunity to talk about the glories of the church. This must have been one of His finest moments. He must have enjoyed this moment tremendously.

But judging from the way Peter presented his question, it was a tense moment. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that Peter was even contemplating leaving. At that particular moment, after Jesus had made the no-riches declaration, the atmospehere within the camp was verging on the mutinous.

The wonderful news is that Jesus remained cool as a cucumber. He gave it to them exactly as it was, and stayed put. He did not compromise God’s standards to please anyone. I am not saying that Jesus would have loved to see His disciples leave; but He would not have been fazed in the least had they left.

“…he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Mat. 10:38).

The bottom line is that God is not a respecter of men. He respects those who humble themselves and take the road of the cross.

But Peter had a humble heart, and he stayed, despite the disappointment. So did the other apostles.

3. Finally, let us consider the essence of Jesus’ answer to Peter.

Notice carefully Jesus’ answer: “29… Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions…”

That is Jesus’ promise to the church concerning what it would receive in this world.

When Jesus said, “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands”; do you really think Jesus was talking about worldly material things here? No, sir!

On the contrary, Jesus was talking about the abundance of God’s grace that would be found within the church. The Kingdom of God is not about things. It is about God’s grace, the grace of God that is revealed in God’s people’s lives as they give their lives sacrificially one to another.

The Kingdom of God never has been, and never will be about the things or riches of this world.

The Kingdom of God is all about the grace of God in believers’ lives.

The Bible says of the early believers:

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32).

They had all things common.

In our contemporary self-driven, self-made and self-possessed setting, it probably is rather hard to imagine such a state of affairs where people have all things in common. But that is simply because we have allowed the flesh into the church.

But personally, I have tasted of this joy of the church. I have spiritual brothers and sisters and mothers galore all over the world. And when it comes to the things of this world, I have everything I need on account of the church. I have houses, I have cars, I have lands. None of them is in my name, of course, but they are mine all the same simply because they belong to brethren who literally love me as their own soul.

Finally, notice the phrasing of Jesus words, “with persecutions…”

“With” speaks of “going together”. In other words, grace for the church and persecution go together. Jesus was making it clear that there is no grace without the crucified life. Grace goes with persecution. Where an abundance of grace is there is also an abundance of persecution. We can see that with the Early Church, and with the life of the Apostle Paul.

Persecution comes in many forms, but the crucified life is a state of heart. You have either seen the light or you have not. You are either ready to surrender your life or you are not.

This grace that would be found in the church would come from people whose lives have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

If we are not carrying the crucified life, we will end up like the Corinthians. There was no grace, and there was not much of a “church” there at the time of Paul’s writing. Only divisions and selfishness.

But where there is the revelation of the cross there is much grace, grace for the church.

And the final reward?

“…and in the world to come eternal life.”

[Below: The fire of persecution brings much grace to the church]

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True Christianity is Practical

31When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd dividethhissheep from the goats:
33And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35For I was anhungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee anhungred, and fedthee?or thirsty, and gavetheedrink?
38When saw we thee a stranger, and tooktheein? or naked, and clothedthee?
39Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have doneitunto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have doneitunto me.
41Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42For I was anhungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee anhungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye diditnot to one of the least of these, ye diditnot to me.
46And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. Mat. 25:31-46
I have been away from home for close to two weeks, on what we call a regional inter-circuit tour of our churches. Overall, I went through three different towns.
At the very outset of my journey, my computer developed a problem, and my schedule did not give me any time to visit an internet café, so I was unable to do anything blog-wise. It is my hope and prayer that my readers and my blogging friends have not given up on me!
Today I will share a lesson that I learned during my recent travels.
In one of the towns that I visited there lives one of the oldest and most well-known diamond mines in the world. Long before I ever set foot in this town I had heard of this diamond mine, it is so popular.
There is, however, a rather unsavory folklore connected with this mine, which I heard only recently when I was there. The story goes that many, many years ago, the owner of this diamond mine once went to Buckingham Palace and, on account of his wealth, presented a marriage proposal to one of the Queen’s daughters. The Queen’s Protocol duly answered him that he would soon be receiving an answer to his request.
The man went back home and, unknown to him, the Queen dispatched a super-secret spy team after the man to check out on one singular detail: how did this multi-billion pound conglomerate of a man live with his neighbors?
The team came and did its investigation, which was not much of an investigation since everything was clear once the sun had risen in the east. They established that, despite the fact that the diamond mine had been there for ages and although the diamond mine was indeed extremely productive and the owner had to be a multi-billion entity in himself, yet his neighbors lived in abject poverty. The mine operated in an enclosed compound, and the man was totally unknown to his neighbors. There was also not the slightest sign of any development in the area which one could attach to the existence of this mine. The spies established many other things, which all pointed in one direction.
Shortly thereafter, the Queen sent a reply to the man who had asked for her daughter’s hand in marriage. She told him pointblank that she could not give her daughter to a man who does not care about his neighbors.
The story is folklore, which means it might be true, or it might not be true. But when you visit this town, you will find the story there; it is common to everyone who lives there.
As I listened to this story, I remembered Jesus’ words in the scripture above. I was reminded then that, as God’s children, we are called upon to do many things apart from singing, preaching, and doing the many things we do in church. We are called to give our lives for other people and in very practical ways. This pleases the Lord more than anything.

The Price of Following Jesus/‘Worldly Correctness’/“Who is my mother, or my brethren?”

57 And it came to pass, that, as they went in the way, a certain man said unto him, Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

58 And Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

59 And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father.

60 Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.

61 And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house.

62 And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (Lk. 9:57-62)

I was first drawn to this scripture by the phrase, “Let the dead bury their dead…” I wondered so much why Jesus would call a grieving family “the dead”.

But before we discuss that, let us see what Jesus said to the first man, the man who told Him, “I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest”.

Jesus told this man, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

That is incredible, to say the least. The Son of the Most High God had nowhere to lay His head? while even foxes and birds have somewhere to lay down and sleep?! The Kingdom of God is a worldly paradox. That is why Jesus’ words cannot marry with the “Money, come to me now!” gospel or lifestyle that worldly preachers try to propagate today (see the clip in my post “Prosperity Gospel vs Suffering for Christ”). Suffering is the price for following Christ.

Jesus was here telling the man the price to pay for following Him. He was to expect to gain nothing of this world.

“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

The Apostle Paul knew the price. In his writings, he puts it this way, “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” (1 Cor. 12:10).

At least, now, we know the price. It is to lose all.

Let us get back to Jesus and the man who wanted to first go bury his father then come follow Jesus. Jesus told the man, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

In African society we highly revere a family that has undergone a death, and we would hardly use such words as Jesus used here in a situation where a family is grieving, even in our imagination. But here Jesus tells a man who wants to go bury his father, “Let the dead bury their dead…”

I will tell you one thing: a man who has nowhere to lay down his head can talk a little differently than a man who owns a private jet. He has that luxury because he has nothing to lose. Jesus certainly made full use of that advantage.

But why, pray, would Jesus call this grieving family “the dead”? Was He irreverent?

No, Jesus was neither being irreverent, nor was He callous. I am sure that He loved this family very much, and it is inconceivable that their grief would not have touched His tender heart. But Jesus always stayed in the context of the heavenly Kingdom, and here He was stating a very important fact concerning what He came to do in the world. Jesus came to bring eternal life into the world. The Word of God teaches that anyone who has not received Jesus into their lives is spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-3).

In the natural, there is only one thing that we can do with a dead person: bury them. Once someone is well and truly dead, all we can do is bury them, to rise no more.

But – thank God! – in the Kingdom of God, we have another option. We can choose to bring resurrection life to people through preaching the gospel. Jesus opted to work with this option: preach the Kingdom of God and bring resurrection life to the people of God.

You can’t be callous with a dead person. In fact, you can rattle them until their teeth fall off if it will bring them back to life again. The people that Jesus was referring to (this man’s family) were spiritually dead. If He truly loved them, there was only one thing He could do for them: give them eternal life! That is why He told this man, “Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

What a glorious combination!

Today the modern world has coined a phrase: ‘political correctness’. Many in the world today believe that ‘political correctness’ among worldly leaders is killing civilization as we know it. In the spiritual world, we have an equivalent, though probably unspoken term: ‘worldly correctness’. ‘Worldly correctness’ means we do not want to step on people’s toes with the gospel because we feel we will offend them. I am sure that this attitude on our part will send a lot of people to hell.

A Muslim friend of mine told me that as long as I did not mention Jesus in my discussions with him concerning religion, he would listen to me. I told him, “Whatever I have to tell you begins and ends with Jesus”.

Jesus was not ‘worldly correct’. Jesus had only one aim: to be ‘heavenly correct’. He talked and lived the only life that really matters: the eternal heavenly life. When Jesus therefore told the man “Let the dead bury their dead”, He was stating a spiritual reality of the life that He came to live.

We expend an inordinately large amount of energy and time trying to please and to fit in with the world. But that is not love. Smiling is good, but we cannot smile and expect to save the world. The same goes for intellectual arguments and counter-arguments. If we truly love the world, the only thing of worth that we can give them is to solidly preach to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus tells this man, “Go thou and preach the kingdom of God”.

Only the gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ can bring true life to people.

Let us have one last glance at this scripture.

If there are “the dead” in this world, then there are also the living. This refers to the church. In this context, I believe  also that Jesus was telling this man to appreciate the church, more than his worldly flesh and blood kith and kin. He was laying upon him the importance of the church vis-à-vis his flesh and blood relations.

This aspect is a challenge to many people in church. Many do not know where to draw the line between their worldly relations and the church.

But Jesus did not have any uncertainties, hesitations or misgivings in this regard. He knew exactly where to draw the line. When His mother and brethren came to fetch Him, the Bible says, “33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? 34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” Mk. 3:33-35.

That’s pretty tough to swallow. We are called upon to love and care for our own flesh and blood, and even the world in general. But we ought to know where our true inheritance lies. It lies in the church, which is the true Body of Christ. True spiritual brethren are our spiritual inheritance. The church is our “portion”. That is why our true value with God is connected to how much we value His church, the brethren.

Our worldly relationships with our worldly kin should be whittled down to the bare minimum. (In the Spirit, of course, we will be working overtime to get them saved!)

But on the contrary, we should love and devote ourselves to the church with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our strength. Jesus set the example for us.

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[Photo credit: Carol Lanthier]

The Wedding Garment

Although under a new title, this post is actually a continuation of my last post.

1 And Jesus answered and spake unto them again by parables, and said,

2 The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,

3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.

4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come unto the marriage.

5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:

6 And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them.

7 But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.

8 Then saith he to his servants, The wedding is ready, but they which were bidden were not worthy.

9 Go ye therefore into the highways, and as many as ye shall find, bid to the marriage.

10 So those servants went out into the highways, and gathered together all as many as they found, both bad and good: and the wedding was furnished with guests.

11 And when the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:

12 And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.

13 Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

14 For many are called, but few are chosen. Matthew 22:2-14

This scripture is talking about taking up our cross and following Jesus.

In this parable, two things apparently occur. The first thing that happens is that those who were invited to the marriage feast by the king would not come. Every one of them had an excuse; and others scorned and persecuted the servants whom the king sent to invite them.

This happens even today. It is so difficult to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to the high and mighty of this world; and if you become too insistent they will look for ways to deal with you.

But the poor and downtrodden receive the gospel eagerly. We do not read that “the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind” (Lk. 14:21) gave excuses or refused to come when they received the invitation. In fact, they came running.

Do you think that the king did not know that those he had called would not come? Yes, he knew. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of heaven, and God knows this better than we. As long as we have something we are holding onto in the natural in our lives we will never answer the call of God. That thing will always be of more importance to us.

But God is rich in patience and He continues to give every man and woman a chance to turn their lives around.

Finally, though, it was time for the wedding – and there were no guests! What a graceless wedding it was bound to be! The king was so angry at the refusal of his invited guests to attend his son’s wedding that he sent his servants into the alleyways to invite to the wedding people who were clearly unworthy of the noble feast laid out by the king. In the Gospel of Luke version of the story, we read:

21 Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind.

22 And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room.

23 And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.” (Luke 14:21-23)

The scripture says that we who have been called have been called, not because we are good or worthy, but because we are unworthy.

The second part of this parable is the really chilling part. After all the ‘guests’ had come in and were hungrily tucking into goodies they would never have dreamed of in their former miserable lives, the king decided to move around in his wedding hall to see how things were going with his guests. While doing so, he stumbled upon this man which had not on a wedding garment”!

Apparently, the single most important requirement that one had to have in order to be in that wedding was a wedding garment. And yet this fellow had somehow managed to worm his way right into the wedding hall without a garment! Well, no matter.

Now this king was a very magnanimous person. He called the man, “Friend”. Judging from the gist of the story, this man was really no friend, but an enemy. But the king was so kind-hearted he addressed him as “Friend”.

But love him as he would, the king nonetheless wanted to know how this man had gotten in without a wedding garment. And, no doubt with a heavy and sorrowful heart, “Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (v. 13)

Jesus ended the parable by saying, “For many are called, but few are chosen.” (v. 14)

We must put on the wedding garment if we are to be allowed into that heavenly abode.

So what’s this all-important wedding garment? Many of us believe it is the call to salvation; and no doubt it is. But it is more than that, otherwise Jesus would not have said that many are called but few are chosen.

The key to unravelling this mystery lies in Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.

2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

You realize here that the Apostle Paul is saying that there are two ways to preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. One is with excellency of speech or with human wisdom.  But that is a gospel that has no power. It is a gospel that cannot change someone.

The second way of preaching the gospel is by revealing Christ, and Him crucified. This, Paul affirmed, was the one true gospel that alone had the power to change people on the inside.

The garment that the Bible talks about, therefore, is Jesus Christ Himself (Gal. 3:27). And Christ is not something that we can put on on the exterior, like sporting ‘Jesus’ t-shirts or wearing crosses around our necks.

Jesus is very Life itself, manifested in believers’ lifestyles. The Bible in Colossians 3 says,

“9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;

10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.”

There, for one, lying is gone. But there is more. In verses 12 to 14 we read,

12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;

13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.”

In Galatians 5:19-23 we read more concerning the things that we ought to put off and those that we need to put on. We cannot enter the Kingdom of God while still putting on the “old man with his deeds”. We must put him down. We must live a holy life. And in order to do this we must receive the revelation of the cross in our lives. The cross of Christ is the only thing that has power to change us.

The cross brings death to the old man and his deeds and it enables us to put on the new man, the wedding garment whereby when the King finally sets His eyes upon us, He will be pleased to welcome us.

That is why Paul preached the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 2:2). He did not want to preach a powerless gospel.

[Below: Zanzibar Harbour]

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