God’s Hidden Purpose – Part 1

8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Christ Jesus: 10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord. Eph. 3:8-11

So much to contemplate here, so I will make this post a series.

Notice, first, how Paul perceived himself.

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given…”

This was no false humility. This was Paul! Paul dared not consider himself anything above what he states here. “The least of all the saints…” he said of himself. Such humility simply takes your breathe away.

And yet, unbeknown to us, God through Paul was stating exactly who He gives His grace to. The Apostle James put it out in black and white.

“God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Let a man not just mouth the words, but let him live that life, and God has material to work with. And, y’know, people think that where the big crowds are, that’s where God is at. Oh, please! No one could possibly pull in bigger crowds than the devil. The Bible tells us that “many” there be that follow the way that leadeth to destruction (Mat. 7:13). If we are talking about a mega-church, the devil has the largest.

On the other hand, “few” find the way to eternal life.

The Church, Christ’s Bride, His Body, is like a diamond. Rare. And the men whom God puts in charge of His Church are even rarer. God cannot give anything but His best for His Church. The men whom God has put on earth to birth and nurture the Church are therefore the best of the best. They are called apostles.

The Bible firmly declares,

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

The apostles are the best of the best.

That is why the Apostle Paul could make such a claim:

“Unto me… is this grace given”.

Why?

Ha! Simply because he was the best. And Christ gives His Body, the Church, the best.

[“Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” – Eph. 5:25]

Image12545

Advertisements

Eternal Life – God’s Mystery

12 And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: 13 And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. 14 And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. 19 And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole. Lk 17:12-19

Indeed,

“strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Mat. 7:14)

Only one man saw something different. One man out of ten. That is how difficult it is to see the things of the Spirit.

But first…

It is not written, but the sight of the lepers  standing “afar off” must have shattered Jesus’ heart into a thousand pieces. The compassion that this Man had knew no bounds. And when they begged Him, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”, knowing He had the power to do what they asked Him to, He couldn’t have been more glad to oblige.

“Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” He spoke casually; but He was excited, for He knew the profound miracle that would befall them along the way.

“And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed.” (v.14)

Jesus was happy at their cleansing; yet nothing could send Jesus’s heart pounding harder than what happened next. Scripture tells us:

“15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.”

The fact that scripture states that this man “turned back” indicates that he did not wait to arrive at the priests’ office. He had no more need of that. He had met God! And having met God, he became alive in his spirit.

The other men went rejoicing, of course. Not that they were thankless, no. They were very happy and thankful. But where, pray, do you think they went? To the priests, of course. They were going to show the physical miracle that had been done for them. These men saw nothing besides the miracle that was done for their bodies.

But their compatriot turned back and came and worshiped the living God. Bye, bye priests!

This man saw something the others did not. As they say, what you see is what you get. For that reason, therefore, Jesus told the man,

“… thy faith hath made thee whole.” (v.19)

We can finally perceive what true faith is. It is seeing into the Spirit. Jesus was now not talking about physical wholeness. That had already been accomplished. Here Jesus was talking about spiritual wholeness. This is the greatest gift a man can receive from God.

When we see God, we get done with the law! Our spirits become alive!! We are free men and women. That means we can worship God in truth and in the Spirit, for the life of God resides in us.

We ought to endeavour to go for the life of God. Christ’s life in us. The Apostle Paul wrote,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified… 24 Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:22-24)

Paul and those who worked with him did miracles, but they distanced themselves from the miracle ‘ministry’ and the wisdom seekers. They sought after the life of God in them instead.

Lastly,

“… and he was a Samaritan.”

Wow. This man was not a Jew. Jesus called him a “stranger”.

The people in greatest danger of not receiving the life of Christ are, sadly, those of us who claim to be saved.  The problem is, we tend to think in terms of entitlement. For this reason we take the grace of God in vain. But forget about all the rights you think you have in Christ. God’s Kingdom is for those who do not think anything of themselves. That is why Jesus told the Jews:

“If ye were blind, ye should have no sin: but now ye say, We see; therefore your sin remaineth.” (Jn. 9:41)

Imagine that. Jesus told them it were far better if they had been blind!

The Apostle Paul said,

“I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11)

That was Paul’s perspective of himself.

Recently, I was drawn to read about an American preacher who wears $4,000 shoes. Y’know, just shoes. In America they call them celebrity preachers. I wondered what a man who wears $4,000 shoes thinks of himself.

But what does the healing of our spirits do for us?

We become men and women of grace, for the life of Christ works in us. In 1 Cor. 15:45, the Bible says:

“… the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.”

The last Adam, Jesus, was a life-giving Spirit. That is what we become when our hearts are touched and changed by the Master.

[A mother and her child arriving home in the evening]

Image21672

God Makes His Way

No great victory can ever be won without a great battle. The bigger the battle, the bigger the victory. For this very reason, God takes our weaknesses and defeats, and He turns them into victories. The weaker one is in the flesh, the stronger they are with God. The bigger the loss in the natural, the greater the victory in the Spirit.

One of the stories that captivated the world in recent years is famously known as “The Bali 9”. The Bali 9 were nine young men from Australia who in 2005 were arrested in Indonesia on drugs charges. Two of those young men who were identified as the ringleaders, Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, were convicted of drug trafficking and sentenced to die by firing squad. The sentence was duly carried out in 2015 in the face of great international emotion. Many high-profile appeals had been made in and out of court. The Australian government went even so far as to threaten the Indonesian government with sanctions.

It was clear from the testimonies that were given by the other members of the Bali 9 that Andrew and Myuran were brutal, cold-blooded gangsters who would go to any lengths to enforce their will upon others. This made the judges to impose on them the toughest sentence possible: the death sentence. But in the ten years that they were incarcerated, the two young men on death row turned their lives around and became such role models that, during their final appeals, even the prison governor came to their defense. He told the judges that it would be “a shame” to execute the two young convicts. But the Indonesian government would not be swayed, and two fine young men lost their lives in the most appalling manner possible. Due to the political situation in the country at the time, the world viewed the senseless execution as a case of a weak government trying to appear tough in the eyes of its people.

As I pointed out, the case of ‘The Bali 9’ garnered great international attention. But in the midst of all the uproar and clamor that attended this incredibly emotional case there was one detail that the world did not have reason to dwell on too much. It was the fact that while in prison, both Andrew Chan and Myuran had converted and given their lives to Jesus. When the duo were transferred to the island fortress where they were to be executed, Andrew carried only his Bible, a symbol of his conviction and faith.

The Bible says,

“Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (Lk. 15:10)

God’s ways are so different from ours. The world wailed and mourned at the execution of these two young men; but heaven rejoiced. Through a long, torturous road – drugs, violence, death – these sinners received the ultimate gift: eternal life.

It goes without saying that these once callous men would never have had a chance of even thinking about heaven. So God made a way, His way. On that early morning of April 2015, Andrew Chan, Myuran Sukumaran and six other men stood looking into the cold barrels of a dozen guns. As they stood there, they sang “Amazing Grace”. And, in heaven, Jesus stood up to welcome them to His eternal Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul also was fashioned from similar circumstances. Once a brutal enforcer of Judaism, through much suffering God turned him around and he not only obtained eternal life himself, but became an invaluable asset to the Kingdom of God.

We should not fear to suffer for the sake of Christ. It is out of suffering alone that true spiritual victory can be achieved. For this reason, the Apostle Paul did not seek to unchain himself from suffering for the sake of the gospel. He himself wrote:

“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. 12:10)

[God Makes A Way]

God Can Use Anything

One time I went to visit a relative in the city and as I was sitting alone in the living room, his young son came in and found me reading a book. He told me, “That is my dad’s book.”

“Oh, great!”, I said jovially.

He didn’t seem to think it was so jovial. He looked blankly at me and said, “Put it down, you thief!”

I am no thief and in my tribe, the least form of punishment that I would have given that boy for insulting me was instant death.

But God gave me grace and I realized exactly what was happening. I realized God was checking to see what was in my heart.

God can use anything – even a small child – to show us what is in our hearts. Whenever something negative comes into our lives, we should beware that God has allowed it in order to uproot something that He does not like in our lives.

In my case, the Lord allowed me to see the mountain of pride that was in my heart. In fact, I was so humbled by what the Lord revealed to me that I became as small as a pin in that house and especially towards that boy. And by the time I left, he and I had become best of friends.

[God can use even a small child to check your pride level. And no, this is not the boy in the story]

image21370

Welcome, 2019

… for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. Mat. 5:45

On this particular day, 1st January 2019, I feel a great sense of thanksgiving to God. The reason for this is because I feel He has been overly gracious to me. I can plainly say that during the last year, I cannot put myself anywhere near those who have been “good” and “just”. I have not only not done many things that I ought to have done; but I have also done things that I ought not to have done. And yet, come the year 2019, and I can clearly hear God whispering in my ear, “I love you.”

In Psalms 51:10-13, David wrote:

“10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.”

After David had confessed his sin, he was given the chance to start doing anew what he loved doing best: teaching transgressors the ways of the Lord, and converting people to the Lord.

I feel forgiven, re-born, and ready to start anew. It is a difficult mountain to climb, this way of the cross. But through His Holy Spirit the Lord gives us a love for such a challenge. I cannot comprehend the joy that awaits me as I return again to the place of restoration, and to serving the Lord wholeheartedly.

It is therefore with a deep sense of thanksgiving  that I welcome the year 2019.

[I kick off this year with my favorite song]

Grace Through Humility

7 And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them. 8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. 10 But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them of them that sit at meat with thee. 11 For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 14:7-11

It could hardly be supposed that Jesus here  was talking about a mere wedding, or that He was setting out the seating protocol at weddings for people to follow; so what is this all about?

Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God! Notice that Jesus’s words here are a parable (v.7). Which means it is a teaching; a teaching for the Church. And Jesus’s message here was simple: when you come into the Kingdom of God, take the back-est seat possible. Desire to be the lowest person in God’s Kingdom.

Who do you think Jesus is referring to as “he that bade thee and him”? Who is the “he” here?

That “he” is God. Far from talking about a wedding in the natural, the Lord was talking about the totality of the Christian life. He was referring to the attitude that a Christian believer needs to have in his relationship with God; the attitude that the Church needs to carry in their hearts as children of God. It is this attitude that will cause God to raise us up.

Notice verses 8 and 9.

8 When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; 9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room.

In ministry especially, men are tempted to take “the highest room”. We want to be recognized! But the only person who counts is the “more honourable man”. And, pray, who is the “more honourable man” Jesus is talking of here?

We may not know this man. John the Baptist told the Jews,

“26… there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

The Jews thought John was the greatest.

This is a wake-up call to preachers. Leave off all those high-sounding titles and desire to become common servants of Christ. Above all, do not despise others, for you never know who is coming after you.

Thank God, John knew.

The “more honourable man”  is the man whom God alone acknowledges. It is not the man who thinks of himself as honorable, or he who advertises himself. Ought that not make us want to become smaller still in our own estimation of ourselves?

Desiring to be a nothing in the Kingdom of God is an attitude of heart. All our proclamations to the contrary, this is one of the hardest things for us to do as children of God. And the reason for this is because the flesh is involved. The heart of man is naturally puffed up.

The flesh works in tandem with the devil, who tried to take the position of God. It is written of the devil in Isaiah 14: 12-15:

“12 How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! 13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

But God answered Lucifer and said,

“Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.”

Thank God for He controls everything. He looks upon the lowly heart, and uplifts them. He causes the poor (in spirit) to become rich.

The Psalmist, David, had a lot to write concerning the poor. In Psalm 69:29, David wrote:

“But I am poor and sorrowful: let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high.”

David was not talking of material lack; the sorrow he refers to here is the sorrow of a man who seeks after the righteousness of God. Here he echoes the attitude of a broken man. That man, the Bible says, God will set “up on high”.

In Psalm 113:7-8 he writes also,

“7 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, 8 That he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.”

That scripture is talking about the “poor” and “needy” in spirit. God will always consider the humble in heart, and He will do something about it. But God will never consider the man who carries pride of any form in his heart.

During the charismatic era, I never really knew what this Psalm meant. Since I was poor materially, I thought it was referring to my natural state. But when we become children of God, God has better things for us. He desires to give the eternal things, which are spiritual, not the the material things, which are temporal. It is true He will also bless us with the material things if He so desires. But that is not where His heart is.

But the central point is that God gives the good things of the Spirit to the humble in heart.

Humility cannot be found in our hearts if we have not crucified the flesh. That is why the entirety of our Christian life revolves around the revelation of the cross in our hearts. The work of the cross is to crucify our flesh, for it is the flesh that desires to

“in the highest room”

But Paul writes in Galatians 5:24:

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

So what happens when God raises us “out of the dust” and lifts us “out of the dunghill” in the Spirit? Do we become rich materially, or wise and strong in the flesh?

As we already noted, the answer is no. On the contrary, it simply means that God enriches us with His grace. We become carriers of the grace of God. We become men and women who carry in us the crucified and resurrected life of Christ. It is for this reason that the Apostle Paul wrote,

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Grow!!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ… 2 Pet. 3:18

Oh, to grow! We are to grow in the Spirit. We are not to remain the same. Notice that to grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ is to grow in grace. The two are inseparable. You cannot say you have grown in the Lord Jesus Christ because you are now a bishop. Our claim to knowing Jesus solely rests on the fact that we have also grown in His grace.

This scripture challenged me greatly especially in my relationship with my wife. Now, there is no doubt at all in my heart that my wife is a rare gem. I consider her one of the most beautiful of God’s creations. She is amongst the regal women of this world (“Regal” means royal, majestic, stately, noble, according to my Thesaurus. My wife is all these. She has an incredible love for people.) I am very sure of the fact that, if it were men giving out wives, I would not have been in the race to ask for Flo’s hand in marriage. Had I come forward, the whole world would have had a long, hearty laugh. That’s a fact. In the natural, I am not the kind of guy who should have married Flo.

But the Bible says,

“Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord.” (Prov. 18:22)

In other words, it is God who gives men wives. So, God gave me the woman I should never have had. End of story.

That’s the warm part. But now to the cold facts.

Regal she may be, but my wife is also my ‘iron’. What is it about her being an ‘iron’?

The Bible says,

“Iron sharpeneth iron…” (Prov. 27:17)

She is my sharpener. She keeps seeing all those weak points in me, and God has singularly created her to iron them out. In the early days of our marriage, she was especially enthusiastic about that job. She never wasted a moment in showing me the many creases in my character, after which she went about trying to straighten me out in the best way possible.

That was hard enough in itself. To say that I did not accept her chastisement would be a stupendous understatement. I kicked  and fought. But it did not end there. Regal she may be, but my wife is as human as the next. And to err, they say, is human. So, sometimes she erred and saw things that were not there. And she wanted to iron them out as well. She wanted to iron out things that were not there in me!

That was when my patience absolutely ran out. I was never one to take such injustice lying down. And so the mother of all battles would ensue. Mostly it was fought in the dead of night. Its details are yet to be de-classified.

As I got older, I decided to ‘grow’ and so I changed tactics. The trick, I realized, was to keep my mouth shut, and so I kept my mouth closed much of the time. But I closed my heart also. She would talk and talk… and I would keep my cool. I thought, Oh, what peace! What was I thinking all this time, making a scene? How so peaceful to just sit in my corner and watch her yap and yap!

One day, I attended a regional conference where our elder, Brother Miki Hardy, was preaching, and I heard him say, “I have purposed in my heart to never hold a grudge against my wife.”

I remember thinking, ‘I will never arrive there.’

Remember I am talking about the condition of my heart towards my wife whenever she tried to tell me something that grated against my pride or my rights. I am not implying that we lived a ‘war-torn’ life, no. Being the kind of woman she is, I believe I have enjoyed an incredibly happy marriage, in spite of myself. I am talking about those trying moments… the moments that tried my heart.

Anyways, one day I chanced upon this scripture.

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”

I was sure I had never seen that word, “grow”, in the Bible. It seemed new to me. I mean, I had given up even trying to get out of the rut, and I had accepted the fact that when Jesus came back to earth, He would find me in exactly that state. But I consoled myself that Jesus would understand…

But, reading that scripture, it dawned upon me that we are commanded to grow. God commands us to grow. That means to stop moaning and to get up and move!! In the army, when you moan about how difficult an exercise is, they drill a bullet right next to your calf, and they promise that the next one will be on target. And they mean it.

But this scripture also means that God recognizes our weaknesses and our helplessness, and that He is there to help us grow in grace.

It was then that I stopped moaning. I stopped moaning, and I began working at growing. And, ever since then, never have I found a more delightful occupation. To grow. To grow in grace.

I know in my heart that I have now reached the place in my life where I could say, as Brother Miki once said, that I will never close my heart to my wife. I have purposed that in my heart. Not that she is perfect. But I have found the impossible is possible, for with God nothing is impossible (Lk. 1:37).

Does that mean I no longer react? Hardly. Does that my wife has stopped sharpening me? By no means. She is still my ‘iron’. As a matter of fact, she does not seem to be aware that I have changed and she digs into me even more. And – and I now know this is God’s doing – she keeps making those fallible ‘errors’. God allows her to see things in me that are not there. God allows it because He wants to see how I will react.

In recent times I have heard the phrase “open borders”. With me, it is “open heart”. I have brought up all my arsenal and placed it near the only place that matters – my heart. My heart ought to never shutter again – be it against my wife, nor against anyone else.

Granted, there is more to the Christian life than just relationships. But I believe the area of relationships is especially trying. That said, however, as believers, we are to grow in every area of our lives. We are not to keep glorifying our weaknesses. But we are to move on to maturity.

Fact: on the day of reckoning, Jesus will not ‘understand’ our lack of spiritual maturity.