The Church’s One Foundation

10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation… 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 1 Cor. 3:10-11

Let me begin by trying to get your attention. Let me begin by stating that the foundation of the church is weakness and foolishness.

I am so glad I was able to state that.

Every structure has to have a foundation. Actually, every thing has a foundation. But it cannot just be any foundation. The firmer the foundation, the easier and more securely the structure which is built on that foundation will rest. The structures or things that we see in the natural that have been built by God are unspeakably secure. We see them: the planets and galaxies in the cosmos; the sun and the stars. They are immovable. Even the mighty ocean cannot overcome the boundaries that God has set for it, even though all the world’s rivers, both mighty and small, have been flowing into it for thousands of years.

One can add so many things to this list. All these things have a foundation, and it is this foundation that makes them secure and immovable.

This is incomparably more so in the Spirit. If God can secure His creation in the natural to the extent that we see with our natural eyes, how much more would He do for the things of the Spirit, which are of far much more value to Him? You can therefore imagine just how strong the foundations of the things of the Spirit are. Chief amongst these things – the thing He values above all – is the gospel. This is the singular thing which God was willing to give His Son to die for.

(Don’t you think that for this reason we ought to take a moment to reflect and thank God that it was for us that He did this incredible act of selflessness.)

The gospel  of Jesus Christ has a foundation, thank God!! And what, pray, is this foundation?

It is Jesus Christ Himself, Christ crucified. The minute you remove the word “crucified” you have removed the foundation from under the gospel, and that gospel will crumble like a card of sticks.

Thankfully, “Christ crucified” was the foundation that the Apostle Paul lay in the Corinthian church when he first preached the Good News to them. When Paul uses the words “wise masterbuilder” to describe himself, he is not seeking after our accolades. Rather, he is stating a spiritual fact which is so important for the church. He is stating the wisdom of God.

Paul directed the Corinthians to the cross. He told them to accept sufferings for the gospel’s sake, and to crucify self, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in them.

“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.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

“… we preach Christ crucified”. (1 Cor. 1:23)

Paul told the Corinthians to accept to become weak, and foolish. What a challenge! But the Corinthians rose up to it, and Paul left behind a strong, holy and united church in Corinth. Everyone had surrendered their lives to Christ.

What a strong foundation the Apostle Paul had laid! For as long as the Corinthians stood on this foundation, they were safe and secure. Since they had denied themselves and taken up their cross, it was the easiest thing for them, in everything, to find themselves standing together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10).

Wow! What a testimony!

It is not easy for any number of people to stand together “in the same mind and in the same judgment”. Human nature simply cannot allow that. But with God all things are possible. With “Christ crucified” firmly enthroned in our hearts, it is so much possible!

But not long after Paul left them, the Corinthians began listening to other doctrines and teachings. Probably they heard the gospel of prosperity, who knows? Or a gospel of law and prescriptions. They could have heard any number of strange gospels. But it is clear they were no longer adhering to the gospel that Paul left them with, “Christ crucified”. For this reason, they came off the foundation of the cross.

And now they were no longer secure! Now there was war, fraction, and every kind of evil work amongst them.  They had come off the only secure place God had given them; the revelation of the cross in their hearts had been darkened. And now they were on another, different foundation, which was fast crumbling.

The church today cannot expect to become spiritual without this revelation in our hearts. There is no other way, and there is no shortcut. The words of the Apostle Paul, backed by the authority of God:

“For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

It is a foundation of weakness and foolishness… weakness and foolishness with Christ.

[True unity in church can only come about through a revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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A Church In Exile (Part 2)

10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.

11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. Ezr. 3:10-11

Notice that Israel sang and praised God, and that the people shouted with a great shout only after the the foundation of the house of the Lord had been laid. In other words, the reason for their rejoicing was because the temple foundation had been laid.

Before that, the children of Israel had been in captivity, and the enemy had destroyed the temple down to the foundation. But now God had visited them again, and they had began to build the temple.

The Bible says that we are the temple of the living God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). There is no way you can build a temple before you have laid the foundation.

The foundation of the temple that God is building in us as believers in Christ is “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Before we even begin talking about the temple, we must first consider its foundation. If we do not catch the revelation of the cross in our hearts, we cannot build the church of Jesus Christ. The foundation of this new temple is humility and brokenness.

But, alas! today we see that the church submitting itself to other gospels. The church is in captivity to many other gospels. The church is looking for other things other than the inner work of the cross.

That is why the church today is a church in exile. The church may be shouting on the outside, but in the Spirit the church has nothing to shout about. The children of Israel were wiser than we; when they were in captivity they asked, “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4)

They just couldn’t do it.

Today we ought to be mourning for how far the church has been taken from her borders. We can only truly rejoice when we have returned our lives onto God’s chipping block, the cross.

[Below: Moshi Town, with the beautiful Mt. Kilimanjaro towering in the background]

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The Office of the Prophet

9 Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.

10 See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.

11 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Jer. 1:9-11

Today there are prophets popping up all over the church landscape, and it appears they have a message that is very different from the one that Jeremiah had. I wonder why that should be so.

At any rate, people are running to these preachers and their ministries at breakneck speed, something which is not possible if these prophets were preaching the same message that Jeremiah was sent to preach. You cannot preach the message that Jeremiah preached and have people running to you. On the contrary, the minute they hear your gospel they will scatter like flies – and speak evil of you in the process.

Today’s prophets are prophesying the sweetest things to God’s people. They prophesy things like: “Thus saith the Lord, you will get a promotion at your job!”, or,

“I see money coming to you right now!”

“God says you will have a baby within the year!”

“The Lord is blessing you right now! Receive!!”

All are biblically valid words.

And so the congregation goes, “Prophesy, man of God!!”

“Speak, servant of the living God!”

“Power!!!”

“Word!”

(One prophet was actually introduced as “a man and a half”!)

But the prophet Jeremiah was not given such sweet words to preach. He was given some very unsavory words to deliver to God’s people, the nation of Israel. God told him that through the Word that He had given him, He had put him there purposely to “root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down…” Afterwards, the Lord told him, he would build and plant. That’s pretty tough language.

As a result Jeremiah received no accolades from the Israelites. On the contrary, he was persecuted.

Let us, right from the beginning, set the precedent that, if God was tough on His people under the Old Covenant, how much tougher do you think He is going to be on us under the New? I believe He will be much more harder on us. And yet we behave as if God is going to deal with us like eggshells!

God is not going to deal with anyone like eggshells. The first assignment that Jeremiah was given as a prophet was to see in the Spirit how God would deal with wayward Israel: Jeremiah saw an almond rod; and we know a rod stands for chastisement. God was telling Jeremiah that He was preparing to chastise, or punish, Israel.

The gospel comes to destroy something, and to set up something else in its place. The gospel of the cross – which is the singular gospel that was revealed to the Apostle Paul for the church – comes to destroy the flesh. It comes against the flesh. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not flesh-friendly.

After it has pulled down the flesh, the gospel then establishes the spiritual Kingdom of God in a man’s heart and life. The two things, the flesh and the Spirit, are mutually incompatible.

That is why when someone – a preacher of the gospel – solicits money to buy a 65 million-dollar private jet, like I heard lately on the Pentecostal grapevine, the spotlight has of necessity to turn on him. We are a spiritual people and when you hear such a “big bang” in the flesh you need to look closely at what you just heard. You ponder how much of such a ‘gospel’ is flesh and how much is Spirit. The scales weigh heavily on the flesh side!

It is unfortunately that these are the people around whom a vast majority of the pentecostal world revolves!!

When we preach or live out a gospel apart from the gospel of the cross of Christ, it is like we are declaring that God is reinstating the same thing He came to destroy! But you cannot destroy something and replace it again with the same thing!!

But if we are truly serious about following Christ, the first thing that we must acknowledge is what our Lord Jesus Himself said: “And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mk. 8:34).

Notice, “Whosoever”. It is a personal choice or decision.

We ought to realize just how important the church is to God. And God has put these two ministries, the apostle and the prophet, in the church in order to lay God’s spiritual foundation in the church. The Bible says that the church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20).

These Godly ministries do not come to pamper the flesh. They come to deal with the flesh. They come to destroy this body of the flesh, so they may establish God’s spiritual Kingdom in men and women.

In this post we just looked at the office of the prophet. If a prophet does not deal with the flesh in his prophesying, he is not a prophet of God. He will bring many things into the church, he will even bring temporal blessings upon people’s lives; but he will not bring the life of Christ into the church, for this life can only come about where there is a death of the flesh through the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ.

[Below: A prophet warns God’s people. The true foundation for the church is Christ, and Him crucified]]Image10242

The 5-Fold Ministry: In Submission

27 And in these days came prophets from Jerusalem unto Antioch.

28 And there stood up one of them named Agabus, and signified by the Spirit that there should be great dearth throughout all the world: which came to pass in the days of Claudius Caesar.

29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea:

30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Acts 11:27-30

10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus.

11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Acts 21:10-11

If there is something the church should lament today, it is the lack of the five-fold ministry within the Body of Christ. It is true that there are men of God who are anointed with different ministries. But those ministries must come together and work as a team for them to be of any effect in building the Body of Christ.

When we look at the Early Church we see that the ministries worked together as a team. They worked in submission to one another. Just because someone had a calling (a ministry gift) did not mean that he could go off and open a church or a ‘ministry’ somewhere.

In the Bible we find a man of God, a prophet named Agabus. The Bible clearly says that Agabus was a prophet. It does not say that he was an apostle, an evangelist, a teacher, nor a pastor.

This Agabus worked within the church. He did not say that because now he was a prophet he could start his own ‘ministry’. He submitted himself under the church and worked with the other ministries.

What I like about Agabus is that he stuck to his ministry. Being a prophet, this man could have gone off and become a “big man of God”. That, unfortunately, is what we see happening today.

Today, let’s say someone has a ministry gift, he is a prophet for example. What happens is that this person goes off and starts a church or a ‘ministry’. Immediately he becomes “Senior Pastor”.

Now the question arises:  What is this man’s calling? Is he a prophet or a pastor?

This man is a prophet. The cold fact is that his starting a church and naming himself “senior pastor” is simply because he wants to hold onto something. He wants to protect something of his own. It is the flesh at work here. The flesh always wants to exalt itself. And it also wants to hold onto things.

But we see Agabus simply carrying out his duties of a prophet. He would set out from his church in Jerusalem in Judea and he would go and minister as the Holy Spirit led him. Then he would go back to the church he came from. He would go back, no doubt, and submit himself to his pastor. He did not lead a church because he was not a pastor. It was as simple as that.

Where, pray, is it written in the Bible that just because one has a ministry gift they must start a church??

Agabus faithfully stuck to his ministry of a prophet, quietly working with other prophets and in submission to the leadership of the apostles. The really important thing was that he was submitted.

The first attribute of a man with a calling in their lives is humility. He is a person who recognizes and is willing to submit to other bona fide spiritual ministries. He will seek out other true ministries and work with them under the Biblical model of the Early Church. He will not desire to work alone.

Then the church will be built, it will be refreshed, it will be happy.

If a person is working alone, and ‘building’ his ministry, he is headed for disaster. Soon, he will begin seeing things, visions. Many wrong teachings today are a result of a lack of submission to the five-fold ministry.

There are many unbelievably crazy and utterly wrong things going on in church just because people are not submitted to the five-fold ministry. I once saw a preacher slap a person in church. People are simply not on the right foundation! The five-fold ministry is where Christ works to build the church. The five-fold ministry puts us on the right foundation, the foundation of Christ, and Him crucified!

We need to make sure that we, as believers, are on that foundation. That foundation is Christ, and Him crucified. This is the place where Christ’s ministry gifts are found, and this is the place where our flesh is confronted daily.

[Below: Fully submitted!]

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A Sobering Thought

In 1977 U.S. scientists launched a spacecraft, Voyager, into space to take images of our solar system, including the planets within. It was a one-way mission; the spacecraft would never return to earth.

In 1990, the scientists commanded Voyager to turn around and take snapshots, in a panoramic view, of everything that it had covered on its way so far. By that time, the spacecraft was over 3 and a half billion miles away from the earth!

We could hardly claim to have gone that far with 1 Corinthians 2, so we will turn back and take one last look at this scripture.

Let us look up close, in particular, verse 3:

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

These are words that we should take very seriously. Not unless, of course, we choose to underestimate Paul. (We haven’t even touched on God here yet!)

Y’know, in several places Paul asks the church to consider him a fool. But Paul is trapping us!

Paul was no fool. He had more physical, mental and spiritual clout than any man that we know of. Indeed, Paul is the father of the modern church.

It is therefore wise and safe for us to heed every word that Paul says.

Now here Paul says that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

Why would Paul do so? It was because he feared to bring in something different from that which he had been commissioned to bring. You see, Paul was a bond slave of Jesus Christ, and in his desire to please his Master, he feared lest he deviate from the message that he had been sent to deliver – the singular message of the cross.

This, of course, was tied in with the fact that Paul loved the church with the love of Christ and he knew that the only thing that would bring it to the perfection that Christ purposed for it to arrive at was the gospel of the cross.

He writes to the Colossians: “1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:1-3).

That was Christ’s love at work in Paul’s heart.

I believe that if we are serious with God, we too should fear and tremble. We should fear and tremble lest we are carrying and working on and glorifying something other than the singular message that the Apostle Paul carried – the message of the cross.

Not that we are not going to pray for the sick or that we are not going to desire miracles and other manifestations of God’s power in our midst. We definitely will. But we must first be settled on the right foundation – the foundation of the cross.

Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

There can be no other foundation for the church apart from that which has been laid by the true apostles of Jesus Christ, which is none other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

We cannot make the physical manifestations of God’s power to be the foundation upon which a mature and perfect church is going to be built. Jesus told the Canaanite woman that the manifestations of God’s power are “children’s bread”! (Matt. 15:26)

But the Apostle Paul talks of something else. He says that there is strong meat which “belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

Notice the words “full age” in this scripture. Paul is here talking about the gospel that he carried, the gospel of the cross, which alone had the ability to bring God’s children into maturity.

We should fear and tremble lest we build on a gospel that will never bring God’s people to spiritual maturity, which is any other gospel apart from that singular gospel that Paul carried, the gospel of the cross.

[Below: Passengers board the bus that is to take us from Mwanza to Musoma…

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A bus conductor checks tickets on the bus…

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And we are finally on our way]

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A Tough Road (Part 2)

Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. Isaiah 53:1,2

The sight of those trees standing defiant in such a hostile environment branded itself on my mind as though with a hot iron. I never forgot that scene. In fact, it was the most powerful scene on my mind from that point onwards. And to this day, it is still as powerful as it was on that day.

It reminded me with a clarity that I could not deny about our life as believers in this world. It is a tough, hostile environment indeed that we are called to bloom in. That is why the word “root” in the scripture above is so important. It talks about the strong, spiritual foundation that we need to have in order to not only survive but to thrive as a “tender shoot” in this world.

We are to be people who are full of tenderness, compassion, grace and mercy even in an environment that is not conducive for the ‘growth’ of such things.

The “root” mentioned here is the foundation for the church, which very thing concerned Apostle Paul more than anything else during his ministry. He made it clear what the true foundation was: it is the cross of Christ revealed in our hearts.

Without our dying on the cross and crucifying our flesh and its desires thereon, we cannot survive nor thrive spiritually; we shall perish. The enemy is just too strong for any other path that we would choose to take apart from taking up our cross and following Jesus.

The materialistic gospel of prosperity that is so popular today negates the very spirit of the above scripture! It is not a gospel that accepts suffering with Christ easily, nor walking the narrow road. Any gospel that does not teach that we ought to die with Christ is a gospel that advances the interests of the flesh above the interests of the Spirit. The revelation that we find in the scripture above condemns any gospel that is preached that does not teach God’s people to take up their cross and follow Christ.

Let no one try to tell you that salvation is a breeze. If we are truly serious about our salvation, we shall not underestimate our battleground. On the contrary, we shall put on the full armor of God, so that we may stand victorious.

The Foundation of our Faith – the Pauline Doctrine (Pt.1)

I want to make it clear early enough that this is not an academic study on the life of the Apostle Paul, nor do I presume to add on what has already been written about Paul by the many outstanding men of God whom I consider vastly more capable than I. I humbly submit that I am not an authority in these matters, therefore I could be making mistakes. The reason I will be talking about Paul is simply because, since I write on many seemingly different topics, I just want to set the foundation or basis for the things I write. What I am going to write about the Apostle Paul in this and the following few posts should be considered by my eminent readership as the foundation of everything I write on my blog crossofchristblog@wordpress.com. Without the Pauline doctrine that I am about to discuss here this blog would not exist. It is the raison d’être, it is the cause I back, it is my whole life.

I will begin my survey of the Apostle Paul by stating that probably the single most powerful statement that Paul had to make about his doctrine is found in the Book of Galatians chapter 1 verses 12-13: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

The Apostle Paul here makes clear the powerful and unequivocally spiritual nature of the gospel he preached. He was not taught it in a seminary or Bible school. It was not a study, or a discussion or anything that could be grasped by any means of human discourse. It was not a product of human intelligence. It was not homiletics. It was not even Bible study. It was none of these things. In fact, it was nothing other than a spiritual revelation of the Lord Jesus Himself, and it was an experience that could only happen in a man’s heart. It was what Jesus Himself had spoken  to the Jews: “The Kingdom of God is within you”, meaning in their hearts.

The revelation that Paul speaks about was the Lord Jesus Himself and the power that resurrected Him from the dead, coming to reside in a man’s life. It could not therefore be an education, just like you cannot teach someone how to get saved. Unless a person is born again of the Spirit of God, he can know the entire Bible by heart, and he could recite the sinner’s prayer and he could make every ‘spiritual’ motion there is to make, but none of these will get him saved.

The revelation that Paul received was not even a vision or a dream. Paul had many of these, but this is not what he is talking about here. The revelation that he received was an experience of far greater magnitude and significance. In a nutshell, it was Christ Himself coming to dwell in a man’s heart in His fullness. Far from it being a powerless ‘education’, this revelation was literally a birth, a spiritual birth. And this birth brought the Life that had the power to change a man from being carnal to being spiritual. Let us pause for a moment and reflect upon the fact that do we not find the need in our own lives today to have a true change in our character where we are walking in the exact image of Christ? The gospel that Paul received, that revelation, is the answer to our dilemma.