The Battle Against The Flesh – Part 1

25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:

27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:

29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.

30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:

31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. 1 Cor. 1:25-31

I grew up hearing the term “The Bishop of Canterbury”, and I recall being awed by the power that was attached to this title. The church has turned the word “bishop” – a Biblical term meaning “servant” – into a title that brings the greatest glory possible to men in church. And this has now crossed over into the Pentecostal church. Today, if you own a church (which nearly every preacher does), then you also own the top position, which is that of a bishop; a worldly bishop, I hasten to say, for in the Bible, the bishop is a person appointed by men to run the day-to-day affairs of the flock in a local church. He is a helper to the pastor. He is nowhere near the top rung of the Godly order of church leadership.

But, in today’s usage, the term “bishop” is a title carefully calculated to bring honor and respect to men. Fact is, generally speaking, the Biblical terms which otherwise denote the wonderful ministries of Jesus Christ in the church are today being used to bring glory and respect to men in the flesh. The five-fold ministry designations of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, having been stripped of their spiritual power and authority, have been turned into an outfit for men seeking after worldly glory. It is generally accepted that when you wear one of these titles you should be accorded respect and honor.

But the gospel of Jesus Christ was never meant to bring worldly glory or respect to any man or woman. The church of Jesus Christ is the last place any man should seek glory. Neither the gospel nor the church were crafted for that. Where the true gospel of Jesus Christ is preached, it does only one thing. It does exactly the one thing no man would desire for… it crushes man and his pride. It comes to shame and crucify the flesh. The authority that the gospel has was crafted crafted to do exactly that.

The Bible says that God has chosen the foolish things and the weak things of this world. Think carefully about that. For what reason?

“to confound… to bring to nought the things that are”.

Just think about that for a minute. Don’t think about the proud people of this world; think about yourself. You might be surprised to realize that this scripture is talking about you!

We all think ourselves as being something. But, as much as this goes against our thinking, I have to say that thinking of ourselves as something is the one thing that God is against. The Bible says so right there.

Who or what are we? That is a question we would all love to answer in the affirmative. But God thinks otherwise. Thinking of ourselves as something comes from the flesh, and the power of the flesh is revealed in the fact that it is the most difficult thing to think of ourselves as nothing. In fact, we cannot. That is why we need the cross of Jesus Christ.

Notice verse 28:

“… yea, and things which are not (hath God chosen), to bring to nought things that are”.

God desires to bring to “nought” things that are.

This is something we should meditate upon. Unfortunately, man thinks too highly of himself, and he has always been fighting against the authority or rulership of God.

All the things we run after in this world are calculated to bring glory to the flesh.

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Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 1

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit (Eph. 3:1-5)

There are certain ‘Christian’ cults that look down on the ministry of the Apostle Paul. They will say, “Talk to me about anything, but not Paul!” For reasons known to them, they just ‘do not like’ his doctrine, and they read his letters just in order to get something to criticize.

Well, I cannot help but feel sorry for them. They are not going to get anywhere with God with that kind of attitude. No one is really going anywhere in the Spirit without at least trying to understand Paul’s doctrine. You cannot make light of someone who wrote more than half the New Testament and hope to understand the littlest thing about the God the Bible is all about.

You cannot make light of someone who made the sacrifices that the Apostle Paul made for the sake of the gospel. He even forsook taking a wife and experiencing the unthinkable pleasures of holding a woman to his bosom. (The Roman Catholic church has tried that and it failed miserably. There are some things you cannot do without understanding what Paul understood).

But the real fact about the Apostle Paul is that it was he who came to reveal, more than anyone else, the end of the writings of the Old Testament and the words of our Lord Jesus Christ. In the life of Paul, as in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ, the writings of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus Christ came to be fulfilled. Paul followed hard on the footsteps of his Master.

Jesus told Simon Peter,

“These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs: but the time cometh, when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall shew you plainly of the Father.” (Jn. 16:25)

But it was the Apostle Paul to whom the heart of the Father would be revealed to the fullest. The Apostle Peter himself acknowledged this fact.

“15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (2 Pet. 3:15-16)

In verse 16 the Apostle Peter reveals that many would rise up to oppose Paul’s doctrine of the cross.

In the following two posts, I intend to show, through one example each from both the Old Testament and the words of Jesus, how the central message of scripture – to take up our cross and follow Christ – came to be fulfilled in the life of the Apostle Paul.

[Taking a walk in the bush is my favorite pastime. Here, with my friend Dude]

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Confirmed

4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ;

5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you:

7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:

8 Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord. 1 Cor. 4-9

 In Romans 1:28-29 we read:

28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. 29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

Verse 28 is talking about the Israelites. Verse 29 is talking about the Israelites and us. Both these scriptures are talking about God’s stand with regard to these two groups of people.

These scriptures reveal the paramouncy that the gospel has over even the gifts and calling of God.

I was surprised to read somewhere that the nation of Isarel has one of the highest levels of gays worldwide. Yes, you heard it right: homosexuals. That kind of statistic was something I had never contemplated in my life and this knowledge kind of toned down my cheering for Israel; but I am sure it hasn’t fazed God in the least. The Bible says that the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. God will never back down one inch from the promises He made to the nation of Israel.

Any nation which tries to attack Israel in the natural will find itself coming up against the armies of God (angels) – literally. The world has witnessed this countless times. The Six-Day War of 1967 has remained one of the most historic mystery (read miracles) of our modern times.

That is because Israel is the elected nation of God. God, in His wisdom, has put these few people in this world to declare how His election works.

Indeed, wherever the Jew sets foot becomes blessed. America is (or was once) a prime example.

But,

“As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes”.

Hmmm. Yes, the Israelites have become enemies of the gospel in order that we, too, might be included in the mercies of God. And the Bible declares that they, too, have been hardened in their hearts to the end that they, too, just like us, might obtain mercy from God (v. 32).

Notice, they are elected, but ultimately they will need to receive mercy. In the end, both we Gentiles and the Israelites will be products of God’s mercy.

It is clear, therefore that, if it is of mercy, it is not of us. The gifts and calling of God come, not from us, but from God Himself. And if it is so, then, no one has anything to boast of there. Indeed, the wisest person in this regard is the person who recognizes this and daily humbles themselves under the mighty hand of God.

This – the non-repentance of God – explains why preachers and Christian believers in general can continue to witness the grace of God in certain areas of their lives even when it becomes clear they are living in sin. This was true of the Corinthian church as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:4-7:

“4 I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; 5 That in every thing ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge;

6 Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you: 7 So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”.

But notice verse 8.

“Who shall also confirm you unto the end, that ye may be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In spite of all the gifts of the Spirit that the Corinthians had, yet it was their confirmation unto the end that was pivotal. Why? Because it was this that would present them blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This confirmation is what we ought to seek for above anything else.

But let us backtrack and ask, What is the meaning of the word “confirm” here?

It means to approve, or to validate. We will not go to heaven on the basis of the gifts and calling of God, but on the basis of our approval by Christ Jesus. Christ will first have to prove us, whether or not we passed through the narrow road that He also passed. If we do not get the stamp of approval from Jesus, we will not make it to heaven.

Jesus’s stamp of approval reads:

“IF ANY MAN WILL COME AFTER ME, LET HIM DENY HIMSELF, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS, AND FOLLOW ME.”

We become approved when we share in the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings. The Apostle Paul makes that very clear in Philippians 3:10:

“That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death”.

Are you carrying Jesus’s stamp of approval? Are you denying yourself daily, taking up your cross and following Jesus?

The most important thing for us are not the gifts and calling; rather, it is to be confirmed.

[God’s beloved nation, Israel.]

Marangu!

Two weeks ago, our umbrella church organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) held its 15th regional East African ladies’ conference in the small Tanzanian town of Marangu, situated on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The heartwarming moments, and the inexpressibly beautiful scenery, were priceless.

For most of the wonderful ladies who travelled from Singida to attend the conference, it was their very first time to travel so far from home and to such a beautiful gathering as this, not to mention the paradise-like greenery of the Mt. Kilimanjaro ecosystem.

For unavoidable reasons, I was not able to post this report earlier. But now, here, in pictures, is the story of their experience.

Stepping out.

Ogling at the age-old eucalyptus trees at Marangu-Mtoni.

One of the beautiful services at the conference.

Two of our sisters from Kenya.

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The Singida ladies welcoming their “mother”, Flo (yours truly), who arrived late.

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Some of the Singida ladies braved the early morning cold to catch a glimpse the elusive mountain.

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Mt. Kilimanjaro can just be seen in the background.

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Finally, a moment of rest for Pastor Stephen, sister Frida and the elders from the Lake Region.

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Prior to starting on their journey back home (and fully refreshed in their spirits), a group photograph for the Singida ladies.

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And… here comes the bus. Bye bye little town of Marangu.

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Grasping The Eternal – Part 1

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mat. 16:5-12

The disciples of Jesus (if they had any wits about them) must have thought that Jesus was about to start a cult – THE CULT OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, it would have been called. Yes, it appeared that was the direction Jesus was headed. Now, if it had turned out to be so – which, bless the Lord, it turned out not to be the case – that would have been an Old Testament cult. Unfortunately, today, in Christianity, there are so many such cults, cults that are embedded in the Old Testament. There are people today who will defend the old covenant to their death at the expense of the new covenant. Well-meaning men, but who have no idea of the work of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross. Such men, such churches, are steeped in law.

I heard one ‘apostle’ from Philadelphia, in the U.S., claim he bars men in his church from sitting together with women in the pews for the sake of discipline. Yep, those were his very words. He doesn’t want the men in his church, he said, looking down strange women’s exposed cleavages, or have them dropping their pens every now and then in a desperate attempt to look at their female counterparts’ beautifully-formed ankles and leg calves!

The Old Testament law, under which many churches today are entrenched, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, law works; but it works the exact opposite of Godliness. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:3:

“But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”

All law does is to remind one of sin. Or, to put it more clearly, it makes you aware of sin. That is what it says also, very clearly, in Romans 7:7-11:

“7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

It couldn’t be stated clearer than that.

I love this preacher from Philly, he is a well-meaning man, but he has got it all wrong. He does not have the revelation of the gospel of grace. By doing what he is doing, he is putting law on God’s people. And you cannot lead people into God’s righteousness by harnessing them under Old Testament law. By his own admission, all the men seated in his church are unrepentant sinners who need the law to keep them from committing sin! His ‘church’ therefore ceases to be the church, but a cult.

On the other hand, the gospel of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) – which the Apostle Paul preached, glory to God! – is solid gold. It is the power of God. God’s grace, that comes through the working of the cross, breaks the power of sin in our lives. If, say, a short-skirted woman were to sit next to me, a man, who is being ministered to under the new covenant (the true gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby I am crucifying my flesh daily) that short-skirted lady would not make the slightest difference to me in the natural. If she had the most visible cleavage, still it wouldn’t make any difference. The likely scenario is that I would yearn for her in a Godly manner. On the other hand, when you are under the ministry of law, in such a situation you would not be free. You would be under pressure. Your un-crucified flesh would give you problems. The very thought of looking at that woman would have you beginning to fret. That is the difference between law and grace. Grace sets people free; law binds them. Preachers are stunting and ultimately killing God’s people spiritually by preaching law instead of grace to them. The law cannot set anyone free from sin.

Anyways, back to Jesus and His disciples…

[To know Christ is to understand grace]

Businessman Or Preacher?

34 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.
35 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.
36 For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Mk. 8:34-36

It is incredibly strange how Jesus’s teaching that one should deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him is juxtaposed alongside the prosperity gospel that is rife in the church today.

There is an infinite difference between motivational teaching and preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. The principles embodied in motivational teachings are not for the church; they are for the world. Jesus should not even be mentioned in such teachings, because He did not come to seek after the success of this world.

Millions in the church will try these principles and still remain poor because God is not involved in such principles – or their end result, which is worldly riches and success.

These teachings by Dr. Myles Munroe only encourage greed for worldly success and glory, and worldly riches. (The Bible calls greed “covetousness, which is idolatry” – Col. 3:5)

In the end, so much good $25,000 did Dr. Munroe.

 

Sell All/Take Up The Cross/Invest

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-22

This post boasts all the subjects that I have listed in the title above.

One would need to write whole books and more to dissect this small portion of scripture, so I will not attempt to do that here. Instead, I will just home in on verses 21 and 22. The Bible says that Jesus beheld this young man and He loved him. That singular fact is of great importance to us in understanding God’s heart for us.

When Jesus loved this young man, it is clear from scripture what Jesus did. The account says He told this young man:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

We cannot assume that, if Jesus truly loved us, that He would tell us anything less than what He told this young man. But the first thing is to be sure that Jesus does love us. Does Jesus truly love us? You bet He does. He gave His life on the cross for us. But the flesh has a problem with the love of Jesus for, when Jesus says He loves us, the flesh would want Him to shower us with American dollars and houses and lands; and the occasional private jet. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing gospel in the church today. But it is a worldly gospel, of the flesh, and demonic.

But, on the contrary, when Jesus turns His loving gaze upon us, He only has one thing to say to us:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus asks us to sell all that we have, to take up our cross and follow Him!

Now, we might not be rich like this man was, and we might have a problem with the “sell whatsoever thou hast” when we probably have nothing to sell. Not all of us have things to sell. But “selling all” here does not necessarily mean giving away or parting with our material riches. More importantly, it means denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. When you deny yourself, you have “sold all”!

And the poor here might not be referring to the materially poor. But what if the poor here refers to anyone who might need something from you; say, for example, someone feels they need to rob you, or to insult you, or to hit you on the cheek. That’s a poor person right there, and you need to “sell all” and let them have their way with you. Actually, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that demanding.

The gift, or joy, of denying ourselves! The pleasure is all mine, said the Apostle Paul:

“9… Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 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.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

The flesh is against the cross. There is nothing in all what Paul writes here that the flesh can rejoice in. But Paul, who in the Spirit saw the beauty of the cross, rejoiced in these contrary states of affairs, things contrary to everything that the flesh stands for. They were the things that would make him spiritually rich.

Denying oneself means exactly that: denying your rights! That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

In all what Jesus said to do here, there is a denying of self. In the Spirit, you gain your life by losing it.

Finally, let us see something slightly different but equally important. Scripture says that Jesus beheld this young man and loved him. Now, even in ordinary life, when you love someone, you want the best for them, don’t you? Jesus saw this man, He saw in the Spirit the worldly wealth that this man had and Jesus immediately knew that He could turn this young man, whom He had taken an instant liking to, into one of the top “billionaires” in God’s heavenly Kingdom. All the young man needed to do was… invest. In the Spirit, Jesus saw what this man’s worldly riches were worth in heaven if he could invest them wisely. Jesus decided to inform the young man of the Good News.

“Friend”, He said. “I have for you the best investment proposition that both heaven and earth can offer.

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”.

Jesus said,

“… and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

But, sadly, the rich young man could not see in the Spirit. Unfortunately, he did not see things as Jesus saw them. He did not see the great reward that would be his in heaven if he followed Jesus’ advice to sow in the flesh and reap in the Spirit. He could see only in the flesh; and all he saw was his valuable wealth – and someone (Jesus) trying to take it away from him.

[A woman and a young man meditating]

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