Godly Chastisement Brings Godly Character

Of such an one will I glory: yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 12:5

This is an awesome scripture. Notice Paul talks of two different people here: “an one” and “myself”. Of this “an one” he says he will “glory”, or boast; but of the persona he calls “myself” he says:

“yet of myself I will not glory, but in mine infirmities.”

Who is this person of whom the Apostle Paul is willing to boast in?

He tells us exactly who this person was: he was a person who

“was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.” (v.4)

This was a spiritual person because Paul says of him:

“(whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;)”

We could use language here to describe these two – the “an one” and the “myself” – as two personalities within the same person. The “an one” is the spiritual man and the “myself” the carnal man. These two personalities dwelt inside Paul, just like they do in each one of us. And the Bible in Galatians 5:17 tell us that the two are in a perpetual state of war.

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

The incredible fact about the Apostle Paul was that he took sides with the Spirit in its war against the flesh. That is a detail that we take so much for granted; and yet to take the side of the Spirit against our own selves is without a doubt the most difficult undertaking that any human being can attempt. It is therefore profound what Paul says of himself:

“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” (v. 10)

It is a powerful testimony of a man who had surrendered his life completely to Christ that the resurrection power of Christ may dwell in him. Paul allowed himself to become weak in the flesh in order that the power of Christ may rest on him. Christ had told Paul:

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” (v. 10)

To which Paul responded by declaring:

“Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 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.”

Oh, the glory of that! The long and short of it is that when we are strong in the natural, we are weak in our spirits. Conversely, when we allow ourselves to become weak in the flesh through Godly chastisement, we become strong spiritually. If, for example, an argument arises between me and my wife, I as a man am tempted to use my ‘machismo’, or male chauvinism, to remain on top. And she, having heard about the Beijing Conference and women empowerment, will try and stand her ground. Neither one will be willing to go down without a fight.

But the Bible tells us exactly how to bring the power of Jesus into our homes, into our churches and even into our communities: it is through spiritual humility. And spiritual humility comes about through buffeting of the carnal mind in us.

The Bible says in Rom. 14:17:

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

How do we bring righteousness, peace and joy into our lives and into our homes?

It is by following the Apostle Paul in accepting Godly chastisement. It is the only way we can let the Spirit to win in us.

The Preacher – A Man in Bonds

For which I am an ambassador in bonds… Eph. 6:20

The word “bonds” means chains. Why would God put Paul in chains?

There are two things that characterize a true man of God. By a man of God, we mean a person who represents God. That is what an ambassador is. A man of God is a person who characterizes Godliness.

The first thing that characterizes a man of God are his words. By his words I mean the Word of God that he speaks. Many preachers preach for preaching’s sake. Yes, they know the Word and they can expound on it. But skilfully expounding on scripture is hardly God’s Word. A preacher must preach what he has been sent to preach, not what he wants to preach. We cannot preach a message just because it sounds good to us. The Apostle Paul says:

“18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; 19 And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20 For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Eph. 6:18-20)

Notice Paul asks the Ephesians to pray for him that he may be enabled to preach as he ought to preach, not what or how he wants to preach. That means that Paul was asking the Ephesians to pray that God would put His Word in Paul’s heart and mouth. It was not that Paul could not preach. I believe he could preach very well; moreover, he knew so much he could have preached the world to his hearers.

But Paul desired to do or speak nothing apart from what God had told him to do or speak. For God looks at His Word and His purpose to accomplish it. He does not look to accomplish the whims of man.

That is the first important thing that characterizes a man of God. He must be able to speak God’s Word as he has been sent to speak. He must not speak God’s Word just because he can speak it or because he wants to speak it.

When he speaks God’s Word according to God’s directions, his hearers will hear God’s voice and they will be edified. They will be warned, encouraged and given direction – all in the Spirit.

The second thing that characterizes a true man of God is His life. Our Lord Jesus Christ said,

“16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” (Mat. 7:16-18)

Jesus is not talking about the preacher’s message here. He is now talking about a preacher’s life.

One of the most prominent tele-preachers and faith healers in our country, who has a huge following, was recently caught on video insulting and threatening to kill his neighbor. The neighbor is not saved. But, for a long time, he had kept chiding the pastor: “You are not fit to be a pastor!”

Without a doubt, the neighbor knew things about this pastor that many people, including this pastor’s congregation, did not know.

On this particular day, this pastor parked his car right in front of his neighbor’s gate, got out, and said, “This is your day!”

Someone was passing by and he recorded the whole saga – all the insults and the threats – on their cellphone. It is now all over social media.

The pastor was subsequently arrested and interrogated at the police station.

Now his loyal congregation is writing on social media: “Do not talk evil of the anointed man of God!”

But whether we are to heed Jesus’ words or peoples’ whims on social media is a choice we have to make on our own.

In a separate incident, a lady once visited my house and in the course of our conversation she told me about how her pastor had prayed for her to get healed from an ailment that had troubled her for a long time. She had in fact spent a lot of money in a private hospital trying to get treatment, but her condition only worsened.

“But”, she told me, “ever since the day that the pastor prayed over me, that condition ceased troubling me. I was set completely free.”

But she told me many other things about this pastor and the way he ran the church, things which brought only confusion to her spirit. In short, his character and behavior did not in the least reflect that of Christ.

The true man of God must live a life that conforms to that of Christ: a life where the flesh has been put to death and where Christ rules supreme in that man. The Bible says:

“2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; 3 Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; 4 One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; 5 (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) 6 Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil. 8 Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; 9 Holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:2-9)

It is up to the church to choose whether to follow God’s guidelines in the running of its affairs or to respect men instead. Today, there are men in the church who are bigger than Christ Himself. But, in the true church, it is Christ, “the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” (Eph. 1:23)

For that to happen, the man of God must of necessity be put in chains by Christ. This is so he cannot do or speak his will, but Christ’s.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Pleasing God – And Man

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Lk. 2:52

I absolutely love this scripture. The Swahili version says that Jesus “… did that which was pleasing to God and man.”

But it is impossible to please God and man at the same time. This is because God’s ways are as far from man’s as east is from west. Was Jesus a man-pleaser? By no means. You cannot be a man-pleaser and please God at the same time. On the contrary, what this scripture tells us is that Jesus took responsibility over His life and did that which was:

  1. right in the eyes of God.
  2. right, fair, good and a blessing to men. No one could point a finger at Jesus and say, “Jesus did me evil” – in word, deed or thought.

In even weightier terms, it means that Jesus became an example, an example of true Godliness. In like manner, the early apostles sought to become examples of righteousness and holiness (Phil. 3:17).

That was what the Lord Jesus did. Jesus did only that which was right and righteous. He did not wrong anyone. Nor did He wrong God. Jesus did the will of God.

That hardly translates into the fact that everyone was pleased with Jesus. It is evident from the Bible that not everyone in Nazareth was charmed by Jesus. In fact, we read that it was in a Nazareth synagogue that the worshippers were so incensed at Jesus’ claims to scripture that they all, in one accord, rose up, and carried Him to the brow of a hill to throw Him down and kill Him (Lk. 4).

They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Lk. 4:22

They knew Him well. They ought to have been hometown fans of Jesus. And here, in the synagogue, He had done nothing but speak words of grace to them. But instead of praise and thanksgiving, they became offended at Jesus and they wanted to kill Him.

Matthew records:

“54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Mat. 13:54-58

All that Jesus did was to speak words of grace and do miracles in their midst. And yet they were so offended at Him to the extent that they wanted to kill Him!

It is evident, therefore, that even in His own town of Nazareth, not everyone was pleased with Jesus. But Jesus did nothing to offend anyone. But the hatred and resentment in their hearts was stirred and they could do nothing but persecute Him.

Jesus became an example! I love that. How about you? How about we also become examples; not examples of unrighteousness, but of righteousness, and of the love of God? Incidentally, that is exactly what we have been called to become as children of God. We are to live our lives in such a way that we become a blessing.

Whether people accept us is a different matter altogether. But we should be prepared to be accepted by very few people in this world because the world is totally against anything that is inclined towards Godliness or righteousness. It is the few who have the Spirit of God in them who can accept us unconditionally.

The call of God upon our lives is a tall order indeed. But it is the most perfect place to be. We should be ready to become accountable in our spiritual lives to the extent that we shall be found to be doing God’s will in this world.

[Below: Muslim ladies in Singida shopping for the Islamic holiday of Ramadhan]

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The Cost of Serving God

And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day. Acts 23:1

A “good conscience”. This is the heart of today’s post. A good conscience talks of integrity before the Lord. That talks of a clean heart, a pure heart, for there is no other way to serve God. The Apostle Paul had lived with a heart of integrity before the Lord. When we say “integrity” it does not mean that Paul was faithful in paying his tithes. Serving God “in all good conscience” means more than that. It involves giving up the deep things of our hearts, literally, a death to the carnal nature in us. There are many lusts in us, chief of which is human pride. Have you ever thought about anger? Where does it come from? The cross of Jesus deals with these things at their roots. It deals with the heart. You can tithe without allowing Christ to touch your heart. But it needs the touch of God to uproot anger from your heart.

I believe living “in all good conscience before God” is the biggest challenge that we as believers have in the Spirit. This is because it requires us to surrender the deep things of our hearts.

God looks deep into our hearts. But Paul served God with his heart. That is why for him to declare that he had served God with a good conscience all his days was no mere talk. The Apostle Paul paid the ultimate price – death to the flesh – to be able to arrive at this state of affairs.

Immediately Paul declared his uprightness before the Lord before men, it was put to the test.

“And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth” (Acts 23:2)

It was a tough test. To have someone strike you on the mouth is one of the greatest attacks on anyone’s personality.

But Paul had died to his persomality. The Bible says that death is the last enemy to be vanquished, so the flesh is still very much alive. The flesh tried to rear its ugly head in Paul’s life. But Paul would not allow it to. He swallowed his pride and humbled himself before the High Priest, and before God.

“3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law? 4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest? 5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people” (Acts 23:3-5)

In humbling himself, Paul proved that his was not mere talk. He proved to all present that he was a man who lived what he talked.

It is not easy to serve God with a good conscience every day of our lives. There are many things that will come and try to remove this state of affairs from our hearts. But notice Paul says,

“Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.”

“…until this day.” That talks of every day of his life.

Elsewhere, Paul tells the Corinthians:

“I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31).

Paul died to self daily. It was a daily battle.

Brethren, contrary to common belief, it is not easy to please God. Indeed, if we have any intention of pleasing God, let us realize there is a price to pay. We have to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ. Daily.

Many people are not aware that Jesus talked about paying the price. But He did. There is a price to following Christ. You can read about that in Luke 14:25-35. The word “cost” is stated there, in verse 28.

The Bible also says:

“23 Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. 24 Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. 25 Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. 26 Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. 27 Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil” (Prov. 4:23-27).

That’s talking about the cost. It talks about crucifying the flesh.

Men love talking about visions and revelations. But the single most important revelation that the church can have is “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul had many visions and dreams, but this was the singular most important revelation that the Apostle Paul received from Jesus Christ. But Paul did not receive it in order to boast. He received it to show men – including himself – the way to being set free from the power of the flesh, and to eternal life.

[In a remote village in Singida, I found an incredible drawing by a 10-year-old girl]

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Seducing Spirits and Doctrines of Devils – Part 2

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained. 1 Tim. 4:1-6

Have you ever heard of cluster bombs? They are bombs that are released from a single ‘mother’ bomb (I suppose), and they scatter all over the place. They do much more damage than a single bomb would.

In the spirit, cluster bombs are what people of God come against when they depart from the faith. Notice in the scripture above that it is not people giving heed to a seducing spirit or to a doctrine of a devil, no. On the contrary, there is a multitude of demons out there, all with the singular purpose of dispersing many wrong doctrines, and spreading much deception.

And how do God’s people become ensnared by these demonic doctrines? It is when they depart from the truth. There is a departing from the truth. And the Bible says that a time will come when God’s people will depart from following the truth.

“3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4).

The Bible declares that we have loved the lie more than the truth. And you do not have to be demon-possessed to believe in demonically-inspired doctrines.

Today in Christendom, apart from those demonic doctrines that Paul mentions in the above scripture (forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats), there are many more that the devil has released from his arsenal.

In mainstream Pentecostalism, the prosperity gospel probably tops the list of suspect ‘faiths’. This gospel is more widely accepted than any other false teachings because it caters so well to the flesh. Who does not love the good life?

But you will not find this teaching in the New Testament, not an iota of it. All the Bible says is that if we have food and clothing, these things are sufficient for us and that true riches constitute being content with them (1 Tim. 6:5-10) as long as we are living Godly lives. That is as far as the Bible goes with material or worldly “prosperity”.

Material and financial riches are all right, if God chooses to bless us with them. But they do not form any part of the New Testament teachings. And they are certainly not the spiritual blessings that God promised Abraham, our father of faith. The Bible talks of our father Abraham, who was rich in worldly possessions, in this manner:

“For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10).

If we were to agree with the proponents of the prosperity message, we would not be in league with the Old Testament partriarchs, the OT prophets, our Lord Jesus Himself, the Early Church, nor the apostles of Christ.

The minute the church leaves the central message of Jesus of denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ (Mat. 16:24), we throw ourselves wide open for the devil to attack and defeat us because we have given him the one weapon he needs to defeat us – our flesh.

The first man, Adam, had a problem. The Bible says,

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6).

The flesh was alive in Eve and Adam, and sin found a foothold.

In the second Adam, Christ, the flesh has been crucified. At the cross Christ completely and utterly defeated Satan through defeating sin – by crucifying the body of sinful flesh..

“3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: 4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Rom. 8:3-4).

The cross is the only place where we can crucify the flesh and defeat the devil. The truth of the Bible is the cross.

We have a choice. We could choose to ally ourselves with the victory that Christ got on the cross, by crucifying the deeds of our flesh; or we could ally ourselves with the flesh – and become susceptible to every new doctrine the devil brings in through his seducing spirits and devils.

And demonic doctrines play havoc with people’s lives. There is no questioning the fact that the doctrine of “forbidding to marry”, in particular, has wrought incredible destruction in the lives of men, women and children. Having been swept under the carpet through the centuries, today that damage is headline news even in the secular world.

Likewise, the prosperity gospel has wreaked havoc in the lives of men and women. This is especially so in Third World countries where poverty is rife. Unscrupulous preachers have used this gospel to enrich themselves at the expense of poor believers. The preachers tell their flock to bring in all their wealth, with the promise of “reaping a hundredfold”, and other false promises.

Moreover, today material and financial “gain” is touted as godliness in church. The wealthier one is “in Christ”, the more spiritual they are considered. But notice Paul’s words in 1 Timothy 6:5: “Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself”.

“From such withdraw thyself”. Withdraw yourself from whom? From men who suppose that gain is godliness. Withdraw yourself from men who teach that the more prosperous you are materially, the closer you are to God. That is the spirit of the world. In the world, the closer you get to the center of power, the more affluent you become.

“From such withdraw thyself”. That’s the final nail in the prosperity gospel’s coffin.

There are many other virulent doctrines within the church today, but we do not have the opportunity to deal with them here.

The bottom line is that these doctrines do not deal with sin. They do nothing to transform men and women into the image of Jesus Christ. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is about a transformation. The message of a transformed life was the singular gospel that the Early Church heard and preached.

And tragedy of it all is that the minute we leave off following this message of transformation, as the scriptures so clearly warn us, we throw ourselves wide open to deception.

[Below: “Oh, happy day!”]

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A Life is Required

During his first meeting at the Nairobi Leaders’ Conference tonight Brother Miki Hardy spoke about relationships, drawing from the fact that this was a leaders’ conference, and there is no way we can talk about church leadership without there being true, solid relationships.

He read from Philippians chapter 1 verse Php 1:3-7 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,  Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

Miki said he would be talking on Paul’s words, “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all…”

Paul could not have carried that kind of heart if he had a judgmental, critical attitude. It was not as if the Philippians were perfect. But Paul had faith for them, even if they were weak. He could see ahead and have patience with their weaknesses, trusting God for them. It was the same with his relationship with the Corinthians. Most striking was Paul’s attitude towards the Galatians who had backslidden completely and for whom he had every reason to despair. But we see him willing to start with them from scratch as he declares in Gal 4:19: My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”.

As Miki spoke the Holy Spirit quickened me and I saw clearly why Abraham was called the father of faith. The faith of Abraham had nothing to do with material things! It had a lot to do with his Godly character. It had to do with his being a patient man, as we see him in his dealings with his nephew Lot. He surrendered all his rights to Lot. Abraham’s faith also had much more to do with how we see him sacrificing his life by going to rescue Lot from his captors.

That is what Biblical faith is all about! It is about laying down our lives so that others may gain life! It has nothing to do with material prosperity at all – for those who harbor such thoughts about Abraham’s faith! Personally, I would hate to think that God would consider someone a great man of faith simply because he owned a herd of smelly camels!

I prefer to think that there was something else, much more profound, that made God to consider Abraham a great man of faith. And since God is spirit, that means that Abraham’s faith was spiritual. It had to do with matters of the heart, not material things. Otherwise, scripture would contradict itself!!

I could see that it was for the same reason that Paul, too, became a spiritual father to many, including Timothy. It was not just because he preached to them the gospel, but it was due to the manner of life that he lived among them, being an example himself of the Godly life.

If there is one thing lacking in Church today it is men and women of God who are willing to lay down their lives and be an example for others to follow. There are too many “servants”, but few “fathers”. Fathers give their lives. In many of the cases where preachers decide to become examples it is all in the wrong things: prosperity, success, etc. But Paul became an example in the things that pertain to Godliness. He says in 2Ti 3:10-11: “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured…”

If there is a preacher today who can stand up and claim the words of Paul for himself through the life that he lives then we can begin to see the beginnings of the Church of Christ.