“Touch Me Lord”

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Heb. 12:3

If there is one word I would rather not hear in my life, it is the word “endure”. That word implies trouble, suffering and discomfort. It implies also hardship; and one interpretation of the word “hardship” that I found in my Thesaurus says it is a lack of money. Well said, and this is the kind of hardship I could pray to God all day to never allow to come my way.

But none of the above would compare with what the Apostle Paul is talking of here (at least as I understand this scripture). Here he is not talking about hardships that the impersonal environment brings to us – things like hunger, sickness, or other deprivations, even tragedies, that we encounter in the normal course of our natural lives. These are hard enough to bear, but that is not what the Bible is talking about here. The Bible is warning us to be prepared to endure something far worse than this.

And what, pray, might that ‘something’ be? The Bible is talking of the time when people will rise up and say and do bad things against us. I don’t know about you, but I personally find it the most insufferable thing in my life when people rise up against me, whether rightly or wrongly. Generally, that translates into an attack on my pride and it is here, more than anywhere else, that my flesh literally “flies”  to respond in a way that God would not approve of.

But it is in this very situation that the Bible tells us to

“consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself”.

With Jesus, of course, things went way much further. One of the most painful things that can happen to someone is to have their friends betray them. This was exactly what happened to the Lord. Scripture says:

And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.” (Zech. 13:6); and

“But, behold, the hand of him that betrayeth me is with me on the table.” (Lk. 22:21)

The verse in Luke certainly refers to Judas Iscariot; but Zechariah might very well be referring to every man since Adam. Remember Adam was God’s friend before the fall: God would walk in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day and He and both Adam and Eve would converse  together. (Gen. 3:8)

And we know all the things that men did to Jesus since the day of His birth (He was denied a room to be born in and had to be born in a cattle shed) until that awful final night and in His crucifixion. But none of that could compare with men’s rejection of Him.

The Bible tells us we as Christian believers should be prepared for this same scenario in our lives. The notion of people praising us and telling us how wonderful we are is not Biblical. There are many things that men, both friend and foe, will do against us on account of Christ. No matter how ignorant we are of it, the fact is that the world is against the Son of God. Jesus Himself said,

“For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?” (Lk. 23:31)

In the Bible, it is men that comprise the world. The heart of man is so full of evil. But the Bible exhorts us as believers to “endure” this opposition to ourselves. It will come, but we should be prepared to carry a heart of love, patience and forgiveness.

This is where the need for an understanding – a revelation – of the cross of Jesus in our hearts is most urgent. This is where the need for sound doctrine, the very doctrine that Paul exhorted Timothy to never let go of, is needed (2 Tim. 4:2). It is here that we get to understand Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

Finally, let us look at verses 5 and 6:

“5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Notice that these verses are tied in with verse 3. In other words, when people rise up against us, it God who allows them to. They do so at God’s bidding, to the end that He might chastise us. Chastisement means, for example, crushing our pride.

In our key scripture above, the Swahili version uses the word “reflect” or “meditate upon” for the word “consider”.

Meditating is not something you can do in the blink of an eye. That is something you take time to do. That is why God’s work in our lives is not a one-time affair. On the contrary, it is a process that takes time as we patiently allow Him to mould and shape us into the image of His Son Jesus Christ. To carry Christ’s grace. The Bible says of Jesus,

“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (Jn. 1:17)

The Humility of Zacchaeus -Part 1

1 And Jesus entered and passed through Jericho.

2 And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich.

3 And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature.

4 And he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.

5 And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up, and saw him, and said unto him, Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down; for to day I must abide at thy house.

6 And he made haste, and came down, and received him joyfully.

7 And when they saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner.

8 And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.

9 And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. Lk. 19:1-9

I had set out to write about Zaccheaus, but things sort of got out of hand…

I am convinced in my heart that God has a special place for the man with a humble heart. Above all things, I am convinced, God hates a proud heart. And I believe it is the same with us. Consider the murderer who can say, “I am sorry” and mean it. Most of us would look at such a man with a different eye. Nearly every sin is forgivable if the perpetrator can show enough remorse.

With God, of course, it is much more so. Think about the case of David and Uriah in 2 Samuel 11. David did what no man ought ever to do – he slept with another man’s wife and, to cover up his crime, he had that man killed. Moreover, after Uriah was killed, David sent and had the man’s wife brought to him and David took her and made her his wife. I often wonder what any of us righteous people would have done to David had we been in God’s place. I will leave that to your imagination.

But God, who is infinitely more righteous than we, planned on doing worse than any of us could have conceived. He planned to kill David among a host of other things that He intended to punish him with.

But the Bible says that, upon hearing from the Prophet Nathan the sentence that God had passed upon him, David humbled himself before the Lord and declared,

“I have sinned against the LORD.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

The difference between God and us is that God is quick to let go of His anger. Upon hearing David’s humble reply, the Bible says:

“And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”

It was that quick with God. God is not quick to anger as we are. On the contrary, He is quick to show mercy to a repentant heart.

The word “also” here means that God hearkened to David when He saw David’s humility. He regarded David with a merciful heart.

I am also reminded of another Israelite king. This king’s name was Manasseh. Let us see how totally evil this man was.

“1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem: 2 But did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD, like unto the abominations of the heathen, whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel. 3 For he built again the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down, and he reared up altars for Baalim, and made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them. 4 Also he built altars in the house of the LORD, whereof the LORD had said, In Jerusalem shall my name be for ever. 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger. 7 And he set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever: 8 Neither will I any more remove the foot of Israel from out of the land which I have appointed for your fathers; so that they will take heed to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses. 9 So Manasseh made Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to err, and to do worse than the heathen, whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel. 10 And the LORD spake to Manasseh, and to his people: but they would not hearken.”

2 Kings 21:16 adds:

Moreover Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another; beside his sin wherewith he made Judah to sin, in doing that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.”

But on reading the account in 2 Chronicles further we find something else, something different about this king:

11 Wherefore the LORD brought upon them the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, which took Manasseh among the thorns, and bound him with fetters, and carried him to Babylon. 12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God. 14 Now after this he built a wall without the city of David, on the west side of Gihon, in the valley, even to the entering in at the fish gate, and compassed about Ophel, and raised it up a very great height, and put captains of war in all the fenced cities of Judah. 15 And he took away the strange gods, and the idol out of the house of the LORD, and all the altars that he had built in the mount of the house of the LORD, and in Jerusalem, and cast them out of the city. 16 And he repaired the altar of the LORD, and sacrificed thereon peace offerings and thank offerings, and commanded Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel. 17 Nevertheless the people did sacrifice still in the high places, yet unto the LORD their God only. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Manasseh, and his prayer unto his God, and the words of the seers that spake to him in the name of the LORD God of Israel, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel. 19 His prayer also, and how God was intreated of him, and all his sin, and his trespass, and the places wherein he built high places, and set up groves and graven images, before he was humbled: behold, they are written among the sayings of the seers. 20 So Manasseh slept with his fathers, and they buried him in his own house: and Amon his son reigned in his stead.” (2 Chron. 33:1-20)

I used to wonder why God would allow such an evil king to reign for 55 years. That’s way too long for such a horrible man!

But then I realized that Manasseh actually reigned two terms in Israel. During his first reign he did all that evil. Eventually, God caught up with him and He had him pay for his folly by banishing him into exile. While in exile, though, the Bible says of this king:

“12 And when he was in affliction, he besought the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, 13 And prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD he was God.” (2 Chron. 33:12-13)

God heard Manasseh’s humble cry and, in spite of the fact that he had done so much wickedness against God, God reinstated him to the throne, and Manasseh reigned for another term where he restored nearly all the work of the Lord that he had torn down during his first reign.

Yes, God does indeed have a soft spot for the man with a humble heart.

[Below: God shows great mercy to the repentant in heart]

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Our Hearts – God’s Husbandry

For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building. 1 Cor. 3:9

It has been some time since I last posted on this blog. During the time that I was away, however, God was teaching me something valuable, which is what I want to share with you today. God has been teaching me that we are His “husbandry”, that we His building.

The word “husbandry” simply means garden or farm. We work our gardens, or our farms. In the same manner, God also works His garden, which is us.

And in the same manner that we painstakingly build our houses, God also builds His.

But exactly which part of us is God building? And which part, exactly, is He working as His garden? It is our hearts. God’s garden, God’s building, is the human heart, and especially the heart that is surrendered to Him. When we surrender our hearts to God, we become His husbandry and He begins to work in us.

The heart is God’s turf.

Now, if we want our gardens to be clean and orderly, how much more does our Lord want His garden to be clean and orderly? If we can consider and take care of our earthly abodes to such an extent, how much more the heavenly one? God therefore wants us to look after the cleanliness and orderliness of our hearts above all things.

That being the case, and considering that God has enemies – Satan and his fallen angels – there are so many things that will come to try and dirty or “rubbish” our hearts.

In the above scripture, Paul says that he and the team of ministers that was with him were “labourers together with God”. In other words, Paul was saying that he and God were working God’s people’s hearts. They were tilling them, manuring them, and caring for them in every sensee of the word. It also means that they were pruning them (which is not a very enjoyable experience for the plants!)

That is what a preacher ought to be doing. Every preacher ought to care about the condition of the hearts of his flock. Any other agenda is mere earthly, motivational speaking, which has absolutely nothing to do with God’s spiritual agenda for men. Why do you think the Apostle Paul would write:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

The Apostle Paul could have preached so many things to these people. He could have preached the world to them. But he preached them nothing apart from how to take up their cross and follow Christ. That is how God takes care of His garden, which is our hearts.

Jesus never changes. We must strive to guard our hearts at all times in order to be found safe and sound in Him. We must at every opportunity refuse to allow into our hearts things that will dirty them. The things in question are, basically, the works of the flesh.

“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like…” (Gal. 5:19-21)

These are the things that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we must never allow into our hearts. The Holy Spirit has been given to us for this very purpose.

We must not hearken to new age gospels that teach us that we must care for our bodies as much as we care for our spirits. There are people who teach that because the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, then it must be cared for to the same extent that our spirits are cared for.

But you would have a hard time convincing the poor, beggarly and sore-infested Lazarus that we read of in the Bible of such an outlook on life. The Bible actually states that Lazarus went to heaven while the rich man who fed himself sumptuously went to hell. Much food for thought there.

God is not bothered if you are dirty or poor or underfed. If God can allow us to live abundant earthly lives, praise the Lord! But God is infinitely more concerned about the condition of our hearts. It is our hearts, not our bodies, that will live with Him forever in heaven.

Our God – A Humble God

1 Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven.

2 Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

3 But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:

4 That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly. Mt. 6:1-4

When the great actress, Joan Crawford, was about to die from a heart attack, it is reported that her housekeeper knelt by her side and began to pray for her. At which Crawford snarled at her, “Don’t you dare ask God to help me.”

And yet, this was a woman whom God had blessed with almost everything this world had to offer: beauty, talent, wealth and fame. At the time of her death in 1977, her estate was worth an estimated $2m.

By the time Crawford arrived at the end of her life’s journey at the grand age of 73, she had physically soaked in tons and tons of sunlight, received untold blessings caused by God’s rain and breathed in all the oxygen she ever needed. So much so that even her death was not caused by a lack of oxygen!

And these were just the “bare necessities” of life. God had given her so much more!

I did not set out to write out any negative thing about this exceptional woman. But it is clear that she had written God out of her life. Her attitude probably had to do with the fact that God had never physically hollered out to her from heaven, “Hey, Joan! Do you know that it is I who supplies all this goodness to you?”

When I recalled this story, I thought about the many people in this world who refuse to acknowledge God and yet live – indeed, thrive – off His goodness and kindness. This is something that has been happening for hundreds of centuries, ever since Adam. Apart from the self-avowed agnostics and atheists of this world, even the best of us have at times been doing things that are not pleasing to God. And yet at no single moment, since the creation of the world, did God sort of get impatient and say to us, “Lookey here, you fellows. I feed you, I clothe you and all you do is ignore me and do things that are displeasing to Me!”

More to the point, however, is the fact that at no time did God brag about the fact that it is He who provides for our incredibly multi-faceted existence. In my lifetime I have heard prophecy after prophecy (which is where we believe God speaks real-time) and I have never heard God talk about how it is He who is supplying our oxygen and our food. I find that extremely remarkable.

God quietly keeps in the background. So how do we come to know that it is God who provides us with these things?

God does so by allowing others to speak on His behalf. The Bible, in Romans 1:20 says:

“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead”.

In other words, God lets His creation talk – and take credit – on His behalf. It is like allowing your servant to be honored on your behalf. It would require a man of extraordinary self-control to do that.

Everything the Bible says about God tells us about God’s character. Humility is one of the attributes of God. God is extremely humble and He can do every good thing without trumpeting the fact… so much so that many, many people actually think that God is non-existent!

We, too, are called by God for one singular purpose – to carry in us His character. Our lives should therefore be a demonstration of the humble character of God.

The Bible says the character of God in us is demonstrated in a “meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Pet. 3:4)

It is even so with our giving. We are to give in such a discreet manner that our left hand is left unaware of what the right hand has done! That talks of humility. Such an attitude is of great price in the sight of God.

Doing this, however, requires the kind of self-control that many of us do not have. But God has made a way for us to perfectly carry out this directive. For us to carry out this directive from God in its perfectness, we need to go back to the basics – the cross of Jesus. Jesus said,

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

In other words, Jesus was saying that if any man wants to do what God requires him to do, he has of necessity to

“deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow (Christ)”

When we are taking up our cross and following Jesus, it is easy to do good with a meek and humble spirit. It is easy to present ourselves to God, and not to men.

[The Hillsong oldies are an indescribable treasure]

“Angels Unawares”!

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Heb. 13:2

Who are the “strangers” the Bible is referring to here? A Biblical stranger is any person – apart from yourself – who has a need. It could even be your next door neighbor. But primarily, here, it refers to people that we do not know or whom under normal circumstances we could hardly care about.

Our key scripture above refers, chiefly, to the account, in Genesis chapter 18, of how Abraham entertained total strangers who just happened to be the LORD Himself and two of His angels. Let us look at this account up close.

“1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; 2 And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, 3 And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. 6 And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. 7 And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetcht a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. 8 And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. 9 And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. 10 And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him.”

In this account, we can clearly see Abraham’s attitude to strangers in the way he treated the three men. Abraham had a heart of mercy. He lifts up his eyes and sees three men standing outside his tent “in the heat of the day”. This little detail – “in the heat of the day” – indicates that the men were tired, exhausted and hungry.

Abraham does not know they are angels. The LORD was not wearing a three-piece suit, nor did He roll up in a Jaguar. He came on foot and He looked tired and hungry.

Clearly, the men have come a long way and they probably have a long way to go. Abraham decides he cannot let them pass. He must do something for them! His heart trembles with mercy – and generosity.

But first, he must get their permission. Abraham has a servant’s heart. Just because he has something to give to these men, Abraham does not walk up to them with his hands stuck in his pockets and tell them, “I can see you are hungry. Now, sit down and let me see what I can do for you. And don’t make noise. I don’t like noise around my house.”

Bless the Lord, no. Abraham does not talk or behave like that. Instead, he tells them:

“3 My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: 4 Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: 5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant.”

Abraham calls himself their servant and deliberately makes these strangers his lords. To which they replied,

So do, as thou hast said.”

Abraham springs into action. Abraham has a large heart. Without thinking, his heart knows exactly what it needs to do to refresh these exhausted men. The rest, as they say, is history. The “morsel of bread” that he sets out to prepare for them turns out to be a banquet!

It could be that Abraham did not prepare a good and tender calf for every stranger who passed by… or, it may well be that he did. After all, not many people passed through the dry plains of Mamre in those days and Abraham’s heart was able to take care of anyone who had a need. But, whatever he did or did not do, Abraham’s heart to strangers, or people in need, is clearly revealed in these scriptures.

That is unlike so many of us. Many of us have an ‘accountant’ mind where keeping an account of the things we own is of more importance to us than helping someone in need. To many people, a stranger – or a needy person – is an intrusion into their lives! But it was not so with Abraham.

Has anyone passed by your house or your place of work lately, whom you felt was not deserving of your attention? They probably did not meet your (worldly) criteria of someone you needed to do a favor to.

Most people will bend over backwards to extend their warmest welcome to people they know or to people who look important – or to people they want to help – but not to “other” people.

But God comes incognito. When the Lord decides to visit you in person He does not send a celebrity your way. Nor does He send your best friend around. On the contrary, He will send a type of person that you couldn’t care about – or the kind of person that you loathe. That will be your angel. God knows our hearts and He knows all the pride and selfishness in us. This is a test that He therefore sets before us. Being the God of heaven, He is not going to give us kindergarten stuff. God will give us something that will test us to the core, for He longs to mature us in the Spirit.

But this test comes with a blessing. According to His good purposes, God sometimes does bless us materially to the extent that we do the same to others. But it is not the material blessing which we are to seek after, and that is why it is not a law for God to bless us in that manner. It is the fruit of the Spirit that is God’s true blessing to us. The Bible, in Luke 6:38, says:

“30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. 36 Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. 37 Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: 38 Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” (Lk. 6:30-38)

That is God’s character. But, again, notice God’s many promises to us when we “entertain strangers”. And God is faithful, which means He will fulfill every promise of His.

It all hinges on the heart. Do we have a loving, tender heart? Or is our heart hard and selfish and judgemental?

I thank God for the many men and women of God the world over who have exactly this heart. I personally have had the honor of coming across some of them. They are not necessarily the people who can preach the cross very well. But they are brothers and sisters who can live it.

God will bless these people with a heavenly blessing.

 

The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 2)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15

In his epistles in New Testament, the Apostle Paul brings the light of the gospel to bear upon this saga between God and David. In 1 Corinthians 1 verses 17-18, Paul writes:
“17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”
And, in chapter 2 verses 1-5 he writes:
“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. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.”

Both these scriptures indicate that the gospel of Jesus Christ is to be carried in the lives of men. It is to be demonstrated in the lives of men, not in fabulous teachings and programs of men. In other words, we bear a tangible responsibility in carrying the life of God in us. God does not dwell in men’s teachings, ability, plans, or even traditions, however wonderful. Nor does God dwell in our beautiful songs and dance. These are today’s “new carts”. These are the things that Paul talks of when he talks of
“excellency of speech or of wisdom” and “enticing words of man’s wisdom”.
But, on the contrary, God dwells in the hearts of men when their lives have been crucified. The Bible tells us that. You cannot come up with a new program for God. God always depended, and He still depends on His original program: crucify the flesh!
Hence, the significance of the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross it is that comes to build an abode in our lives for God to dwell in. It crucifies the old man of the flesh and allows the character of Christ to be built in us. Actually, the gospel is all about character – the character of Christ in us. This is the significance of this account of David and God.
Today, we have men who are serving God. The manner that they are going about serving God is what concerns God most. God wants men to serve Him with their lives, not with their wonderful teachings and theologies. If you are not willing to give your life, you will only bring death to those you minister to.
It is for this reason that the Apostle John writes in 1 Jn. 3:18:
“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”
He is talking about serving God with our lives, not with our teachings or our programs.
And when the Apostle Paul says:
“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”;
he is giving an account of how he served God with his life. Paul’s life among the Corinthians is laid out here: it was
“in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”
You don’t find that in many men of God today. Today, many men of God will demand this and that. I recently heard of one who would not sleep in a hotel room that does not have air conditioning. I don’t see much weakness, fear or trembling there. Just someone who wants to be treated super-special.
But you can read a lot about how Paul demonstrated the character of Christ in his life in 1 Thessalonians chapters 1 through 3.
Where is the responsibility of the cross in God’s people’s lives today? When David put God’s ark on a new cart, where were the priests and Levites? Where was Israel’s responsibility? God punished David and the entire nation of Israel when they thought to carry His ark on a “new cart”.
In the same manner, God will punish the church for thinking to carry the gospel through teachings alone. Teachings and programs, however “anointed”, will only bring death to God’s people if their carriers have not crucified their flesh with Christ. Today, there are all kinds of wonderful teachings going on in church. But God is looking for the crucified life.
I hear there are even so-called new age teachings… “God will take you into a new dimension”, etc.
Look, there are no “new dimensions”! The gospel has only one dimension: Jesus said if any man would come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow Me. It is only when we carry the gospel of Jesus Christ in the right manner by denying ourselves that we can please God and bring Him into people’s lives.

The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 1)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15
Early on, notice the word “shoulders” in this scripture. Shoulders speak of responsibility. Mark that.
But first, let us set a background for what we want to learn from this scripture.
In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 we read:
“1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. 3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.”
This account is repeated in 1 Chronicles chapter 13.
Had David made a new cart for himself to ride upon, God would have had absolutely no problem with that. But David made the cardinal error of trying to set the ark of God’s covenant with Israel on the new cart he had made. But God is not served by human hands, and this act was extremely displeasing to Him. His anger boiled over when Uzzah stretched out his hand to touch the ark as it threatened to topple over in its doomed crossing. God killed Uzzah right there and then.
The ark never arrived at its destination, the holy city of Jerusalem. The mission to bring back the ark to Jerusalem came to a disgraceful and tragic end midway in its execution, and David had to leave the ark – and all the blessings that went with it – at Obededom’s house.
In 1 Chronicles chapter 15, we see David bringing the ark to Jerusalem the right way, the way God wanted it done: carried on the shoulders of the priests and Levites.
Notice that in both expeditions to bring back the ark, it is stated that there was singing and dancing. In the first attempt, the Bible even says that “David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.”
But God had never intended for “all the house of Israel” to play these instruments. He had chosen specific men to play these instruments. God had given very specific instructions to Moses about who was to do what in Israel’s service to God. David over-rode that directive and he allowed “all the house of Israel” to play every kind of instrument before the Lord.
Moreover, as we have already seen, God had chosen men, not new carts, to bear the ark of the covenant upon their shoulders. God had told Moses that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by men, the priests and Levites. But David chose to ignore that directive and he built a new cart for the Lord’s ark.
David’s actions cost a man his life.

[Below: God is above all!]