The Attributes Of God

23 Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord. Jer. 9:23-24

This is a big one…

But, before we start… We have to realize that every word written in the Bible is written to believers, not to unbelievers. The Bible is the believer’s handbook. The words above, therefore, written by the Prophet Jeremiah, were written to the church, not to unbelievers. And the way these words are written suggest that here, right in the church, in the Body of Jesus Christ, there are believers who are boasting in all kinds of things which God never thought that a child of His would boast in.

There are believers boasting in their wisdom. Have you ever heard of people called motivational speakers? In church, I mean. They talk all kinds of lofty things and they have all these grand ideas of how you can achieve practically anything you want to achieve and how you can basically become anything and anyone you want to become. You would think they work for The American Dream, Inc. But motivational speakers are just a small part of this large group of wise men and women.

There are believers boasting in their might. I heard one owner of a Christian denomination in a neighboring country tell his bishops, “Any bishop who does not respect my wife I will throw out of my church. This time I will show you my power.” These are powerful men. They have lawyers and all kinds of musclemen who will do their bidding at any cost.

In my country, there are preachers who have all kinds of titles on them, ranging from “Transformer” to “Caterpillar” (equated to the famed heavy earth-moving machinery), to “Chief”. A little further down south we have the Major, of course.

All these self-given titles talk of earthly (not spiritual) might.

There are believers boasting in their riches. Have you ever heard the gospel called the gospel of prosperity? God’s Word hits the nail on the head with this one. The people who subscribe to this gospel are many and they flaunt their wealth about “in the Name of Jesus”.

There are a million and one ways that God’s people use to show off their “godliness”, or how much they “know” God. In addition to the few we have mentioned above, there are all kinds of circuses (real ones) going on in church today. People vibrate, pole vault, and do all kinds of gymnastics in church, all geared towards making a statement about their “knowledge” of God. Some preachers are capable of roaring like lions, with devastating effect upon their blind, terror-filled followers.

As I said, man is capable of doing a million and one things to try and convince people – and God, hopefully – that God is on his side.

But God is not in any of these groups. God does none of those things. In fact, notice how humble – and simple – God is. He states simply that He exercises

“lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth”.

Just in case you are tempted to think that those are lofty, unattainable ideals, the answer is no. They are simple, everyday principles which every believer in Jesus Christ can practicably attain to.

In the Swahili Bible, the word “lovingkindness” is translated “goodness”. How so clean and simple! Goodness is the opposite of evil, or maliciousness. It means not doing evil to your fellow man, only good.

God is simply good. His goodness has no strings attached to it.

“Judgment” speaks of a lack of favoritism.

“Righteousness” talks of not sinning against God.

All these are the simplest things that a child of God can do. And the Bible says that these are the things that please God. Not those other things which we saw so forcefully put forward in church.

But we must realize that we can attain to doing the things that please God only when our flesh is crucified; when we are crucified with Christ, as the Apostle Paul says of himself in Galatians 2:20:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

[Goodness is doing no ill to your fellow man, only good]

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True Goodness – Part 1

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.

20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:

22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:

24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

25 For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. 1 Pet. 19-25

Long time ago, when I was about 8 or 9, my brothers and I used to go down to our grandmother’s farm where a little stream passed by. We loved to go down there and play in the water. The stream was too small even to swim in but, one day, as we were by the stream, my elder brother John announced to us that he intended to swim all the way up to wherever that “river” originated from. The stream came from a swamp quite some distance away.

We crossed our hearts in awe as we envisioned the undertaking John was about to engage in. He would be crossing steep ravines and fighting currents of every sort.

He quickly took off his clothes and before you could say “Abracadabra!”, he was in the water. Head down and arms flying like rotors, he beat away furiously at the water.

After about half a minute of this energetic exercise, he pulled up his head and asked, “Where am !?”

I still recall the answer we gave him. We told him, “You are still right here with us.”

He hadn’t moved an inch. The river was too small to even manouver in.

I am going to use this analogy to share with my readers one of the greatest lessons that the Lord has taught me to date. That we can do so many things that are “thankworthy” and “acceptable” – but not before God. That we can do so much good in this world for but, when we get to heaven, we find ourselves standing empty-handed before the Lord.

Why? Because, somehow, we evaded that all-important thing in our lives: “suffering”. We never allowed ourselves to endure suffering.

It is this suffering that I want to talk of at length here.

19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God.

I want us to consider verses 19 and 20 and, in particular, the two words “thankworthy” and “acceptable”.

To whom does the word “thankworthy” refer to? In other words, who is thanking who here? Or, put differently: Who is commending who here?

Actually, verse 20 qualifies verse 19. In this verse, we read that if we suffer patiently for the sake of Christ, this is acceptable with God.

Imagine that. Imagine doing something that is acceptable with God. Imagine being commended by God. Imagine being thanked by God.

In my lifetime, I have met many very good people. Truly wonderful people. People who would die for you.

But, in these verses, the Bible draws a clear line between what is good, commendable, thankworthy or acceptable with man; and what is with God.

The two are as far apart as night is from day.

[It is not the good we do that God looks at, but our patience in suffering]

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Do Good

The past will always come back to haunt us, and it is very powerful. That is why there are many evil people who, in the fading years of their lives, commit suicide. It is because they cannot bear to look back at the evil they did when they had the choice – and strength – to do good. When you have the strength to do good, do good, and do it now. That is the only true investment that you can put up, not just in God’s heavenly Kingdom, but for your twilight years here on earth. The good you do now will be the reward of beautiful memories that you will reap in your fading years. You cannot afford those bad memories: in your twilight years, they will kill you.

God’s Goodness For Our Repentance

Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? Rom 2:4

The Bible says that when God created Adam, He formed him from the dust of the earth all right, but then He breathed His breathe of life into Adam, and Adam became “a living soul” (Gen. 2:7).

In other words, God did not create a robot. Robots are beneficial, but they are also dangerous. I read recently that a newly-created robot – an advanced species – killed one of its handlers. It grabbed the man without warning and slammed him onto a metal plate, crushing him to death instantly.

Robots are dangerous because they have no mind of their own; rather, they are digitally pre-programmed to do certain tasks which, if the program has no hitches in it, they perform to perfection.

But when God created Adam, He gave him the greatest gift of all – a will, and a conscience. That means he set him free, free to will and to do. The Bible says that God made man to be like Him: He said,

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26)

God has a will, He has a mind, and He has a conscience. These are the components that constitute freedom.

When men therefore make choices in life, they do so out of the freedom that God has given them. Of every other creation God gave Adam power or dominion over them. But He did not put anything or anyone to have dominion over man. The Bible says that even angels are there to minister to us!

Man has so much free potential to please God.

Because of the nature of Adam’s sin, the first thing that man is required to do in pleasing God is to repent. Again, that is to be done in absolute freedom. If God ever wanted to have everyone saved by force, He wouldn’t need to do much. He would only have to come down to cloud level and say, “Before I finish what I am about to say…” – and in the blink of an eye, every church would be packed to the steeple.

But God is not like that. He gives us the freedom to choose to repent. He has given us a free will, and He is never going to take it back.

Out of the goodness of God’s heart there comes not law, but grace. God’s love for man is revealed in the freedom that He has given to us. Freedom to repent.

But the universal human cry is: What can soften a man’s heart enough to make him want to repent? That – living a life of repentance – is the greatest miracle of all.

Let us end by looking at the next few verses:

“5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;

6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:

7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:

8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath…” (Rom. 2:5-8)

We do not know much about heaven, and it is probably not for us to want to know all that is hidden up there. At present, though, we are here on earth. What should be of greater concern to us is how we ought to use the wonderful opportunity of freedom that God has given us on this earth to strive to please Him – to please Him by obeying Him.

May God help us. May He help us to willingly, lovingly obey him.

[Dar es Salaam’s ‘Central Park’]

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Faith Worketh by Grace – Part 2

[Genesis chapter 17]

Twenty four years after He had called Abraham (then known as Abram) God told him, “I want you to be perfect”!

Apparently, God is never in a hurry. That’s too bad for we law guys, those of us who want things to happen instantaneously and for people to change at the drop of a hat (while conveniently overlooking the fact that nothing is changing in our own lives!)

So after 24 years God tells Abraham He wanted him to become perfect. God had a perfect reason for that, though. He wanted Abraham perfect because God’s time had arrived to bless Abraham with a spiritual blessing. In the very next year, God intended to give Abraham the son He had promised him (chapter 18).

Now, as an aside here, let me point out that there are many interpretations in contemporary Christianity as to what Abraham’s real blessing or what God’s promise to him really was. The majority are materialistic, with an eye on all that wealth that Abraham had.

Well, let’s just say it was a spiritual blessing that God had promised Abraham. After all, Abraham already had a son, Ishmael, and he loved him like his own self. But Isaac was not just a son. God had spiritual business He wanted to accomplish through Isaac. He never promised Abraham Ishmael. Isaac was therefore a spiritual blessing.

That’s the way God views anything that He gives us. If He gives you a car, God does not see that metal and leather toy that you are so taken up with. He sees something that will be of value to His Kingdom, something that will work for the advancement of His Kingdom; and God’s Kingdom is spiritual.

But, on the other hand, God is not as legalistic as everything we hear sounds. God is spiritual all right, but He is willing to give us all the rope we need to arrive at where He is. He is prepared to give us even things that are totally unnecessary. Not many of us would be that magnanimous!

God allows us to enjoy the things He blesses us with in this world, even though many of them will never see the light of heaven. I am not a rich man, but I have enjoyed my wife’s natural beauty and grace for 20 years, and I am sure God has no problem with that. But the Bible tells us that “in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven”! (Mat. 22:30)

All these things that God allows us to enjoy down here is a result of the riches of the grace of God. There is no one who could possibly be as free and generous as our God. The “riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering” (Rom. 2:4) are unsearchable!

It was for this same reason that God told Abraham, “OK, I will bless Ishmael also” (verse 20) – even though we know Ishmael would never be included in God’s plan (Galatians 4:23).

Ultimately, though, God wants us to arrive at the place where we can see things exactly as He sees them, which is in the Spirit. Whatever anything turns out in the natural, if it does not come down to us as a spiritual blessing, then it has nothing to do with God’s promise and in that sense it is not of the Kingdom. It might not necessarily be sinful, but still it is not of God’s Kingdom.

In the next section we shall go ahead and see what we begun to discuss above about why God desired Abraham to be perfect and the importance of that to the promise that God was about to fulfill in his life.