Your Heart! – Part 3

17 And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable.

18 And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;

19 Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

20 And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21 For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22 Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness:

23 All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. Mk. 7:17-23

The freedom that we have in the Spirit can only be accessed through the cross. The cross working in our lives, that is. Any freedom outside of the cross of Jesus Christ is of the flesh. True faith, whereby this freedom is found, states with the Apostle Paul:

“19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. 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.” (Gal. 2:19-20)

Notice the things that Paul says about himself. He is

  1. “dead”;
  2. crucified with Christ”;
  3. “I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”;
  4. “the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the Son of God”.

Paul’s life was crucified! Paul no longer lived! On the contrary, Christ lived in him.

What profound facts! What a profound place to be! What an entirely different lifestyle from the humdrum and tepid Christian lifestyle that most believers live. We are so carnal, so selfish and so self-centered, and therefore we are deprived of the beauty and the power of the Kingdom of God.

Notice Paul says that because he was crucified with Christ, therefore Christ lived in him.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me”.

The two cannot exist together. You cannot be alive and at the same time have Christ live in you. If Christ is to live in you, you must go. That was the revelation that Paul received from Christ.

And yet, as we see here, the truly wonderful thing about Paul was that, as he says in Acts 26:19,

“I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision”.

It is all about obedience. Paul could have received the revelation and sit there and begin wringing his hands and mulling over how he would one day crucify his life. He could have said, “What a wonderful revelation! I am now going to lay me down and sleep and I can come back next year and look at this revelation in a different angle. After which I will work out how to approach the cross. Oh, what a wonderful revelation!”

But no. Not this man, Paul. When Paul received the revelation of the cross, he crucified his life. He crucified his life with Christ, to the end that the life of Christ might be found in his mortal body.

This reminds us of Abraham who, when God told him to circumcise himself and all the men in his house, the Bible says:

“23 And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham’s house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him… 26 In the selfsame day was Abraham circumcised, and Ishmael his son.” (Gen. 17:23-26)

On the very day that God told Abraham to circumcise himself, Abraham obeyed God and did so.

God is pleased when we obey Him instantly, as Abraham did.

The need for obedience is the reason why, in our key scripture, Jesus swoops in on the heart. It is such a waste of time, energy and resources to approach the things of God through form and the other natural avenues that we attempt to. The reason for all this preoccupation with these things is because we are nursing our disobedience. For this reason we will never arrive where God wants us to arrive at: His throne room of power, grace and wisdom.

But Jesus wants to help us to go directly to God and to receive from Him. We do this through obedience.

In speaking to His disciples about the heart, Jesus was in effect saying, “Circumcise your hearts; that is enough with God”.

When we fail to circumcise our hearts, we are just going round and round in the wilderness like the children of Israel. They did so for 40 years and in the end they all died there!

What a tragedy. But yet, again, what a lesson for us.

We are to look at our hearts. Forget about form. God’s attention is fully centered on our hearts.

If you take a toothpaste tube written “Colgate”, although the tube is beautifully and ‘loudly’ adorned with all kinds of writings and drawings, yet you know full well that the “Colgate” (the toothpaste) is inside. You have to squeeze the tube to bring out the real stuff – the “Colgate” toothpaste.

In the same manner, God allows many circumstances into our lives to squeeze whatever is inside us out. Whatever we have inside of us is the life that we have in us, and that is what comes out when God brings people and situations to squeeze us. And so it is that when we have not the cross working in us, whenever we are squeezed we give out the “evil things” that Jesus stated here. These are the things that you will find in an un-crucified heart.

evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride foolishness”. (Mk. 7:21-22)

Jesus said,

“All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.” (v.23)

What troubles God, therefore, is not the food we eat but, rather, on the contrary, it is when we have these “evil things” in us. These things are the result of a disobedient heart, a heart that does not want to be circumcised. A Christian who does not want to crucify his/her life.

But when we are crucified with Christ, whenever a situation squeezes us, we give out the aroma of Christ.

God be praised for the Apostle Paul who could write,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

These are the most beautiful words ever! Whenever the Apostle Paul went through a situation, he left behind the aroma (the knowledge, the grace) of Christ. He did not leave behind the putrid stench of the flesh.

Like fighting for his rights, etc.

We are to crucify the flesh. We are to crucify the rights of the flesh. We are not just to understand the revelation of the cross as Paul and the other saints understood it; we are to get ahold of our flesh and actually crucify it. We will never really get anywhere in the Spirit until we do that. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ”.

Paul was a man on the move.

[The Apostle Paul: a man on the move]

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His Grace In Us!

But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen. 2 Pet. 3:18

If what we read about Jesus in the Bible is true, then Jesus had immeasurable grace. Yes, Jesus had grace. In fact, the Bible says, God the Father gave Jesus grace without measure (John 3:34).

Had Jesus been anywhere near as graceless as we are, He would of necessity have been holding disciplinary meetings every now and then with his disciples. Apart from the troublesome twelve apostles He had, there were others, 72 of them, who stuck ‘close’ to Him. Now, you would think they were close… until you look again. As long as there was bread, healing and all sorts of miracles about, these guys stayed close to Jesus. But such are a very dangerous bunch to have about. They had not understood what Jesus came to do because He had not made it clear enough to them. On the day that He did, they abandoned ship so fast Jesus did not even have the chance to say goodbye to them (John 6:66).

Apparently, the twelve apostles stayed. But it was these who would give Jesus the hardest time. For starters, there were the “Brothers Karamazov”, James and John, whom Jesus surnamed, “The sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). Which goes to show that Jesus had a sense of humor, for all those who think He was a piece of dry hardwood.

If Jesus called these guys “the sons of thunder”, they must have been my tribesmen. During the 1990s when I was working, someone in my office nicknamed me “The bomb”. Although saved, I was volatile and unpredictable. I simply could not get a handle on myself. I was so unpredictable I could not even predict myself. One time during a company meeting I stood up and called everyone “Philistines”. They never forgot that one.

Jesus had no shortage of incidents with these two hot-headed brothers. One time, as Jesus was walking towards Jerusalem (to be crucified), He passed through a village which did not give Him “respect”. Then, just like now, respect was a commodity that was sought after at all costs (especially by preachers). Apparently, in all the other villages that Jesus and his entourage had passed through, He had been received with pomp and ceremony and crowned with many crowns. The apostles James and John and all the other apostles were in high spirits and they were high-fiving each other as they watched all that glory unfolding around them.

Having fed on this feast of praise and worship, the two erstwhile right- (and left-) hand men of Jesus, James and John (and all the rest of them as well, of course) were ill-prepared to face the ignominy of being given the cold shoulder. When they therefore entered this little village and it became clear that the locals not only did not think much about Jesus respect-wise, but that they also did not want Him about their town, it was too much for them to handle. It was particularly so for the brothers who always had a keen eye for “respect”, glory and honor. They simply could not take the humiliation; they went ballistic. Off they went to Jesus and demanded that He allow them to call down fire from heaven to consume that little village as Elijah had done to some people under the old covenant.

But Jesus turned and rebuked them by telling them,

“55 …Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. 56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Lk. 9:55-56)

After which He turned and went to another village. Here Jesus taught them the cardinal law of grace that, if you have grace, you do not fight people. You forgive and move on with life.

It is laughable that, not too long a while ago, these same men, James and John, had gone incognito to see Jesus accompanied by their mother. This lovely family wanted Jesus to set the brothers on each side of the Lord in His glory. In His glory! Ha!

Even Jesus could not guarantee that. For any man to sit next to Him in His heavenly glory was too lofty a thought even for our Lord. But to get anywhere near there, He told them, they first would need to suffer in the flesh. They first had to shed all those pounds of flesh in order that they might carry the grace of God in them.

We all, just like James and John, want to sit with Jesus in His glory, don’t we? Well, we better check our grace levels first. And as for sitting next to Jesus in heaven, forget it. You can begin to think about it after you are dead and buried. Fact.

The gospel of Jesus is all about the grace of God in our lives. The Bible says that God is love. It does not say that He is a mega-church preacher or that He has any of the things that we love boasting in. But all that God is above everything else is that He is rich in grace. That is what the Bible means when it says God is love.

We are to be rich in grace. What is lacking with the church is not money, it is the grace of God.

God’s Word challenges you today to stop everything you are doing and get out there and begin crucifying your flesh. Don’t waste time looking at all the other things that God has apparently “blessed” you; watch out for His grace in your life.

[Grace is to carry other people’s burdens]

Of Apostles And Prophets – Part 3

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

Finally, let us look at the New Testament. In John 21:18-19, Jesus told Peter,

“18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. 19 This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.”

First, let us consider verse 19.

I used to think Jesus was talking about Peter’s physical death. But scripture here is talking about how Peter would glorify God. It is so banal to think of Jesus telling Peter, “When you grow old, someone will come, bind you and go kill you” even if Jesus wanted to communicate such information to Peter.

But scripture is no ordinary writing. So there must be something more to what Jesus was saying to Peter. I believe He was telling him, “You will glorify God by dying to self. By surrendering your life (and rights) and allowing the crucified Christ to fully live in you. You will glorify God by dying to your own selfish ways and desires.”

Which brings us to Jesus’s words in verse 18:

“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.

Who is this “another” that Jesus was talking about?

It is Jesus Himself. We are to be prisoners of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Which brings us to the Apostle Paul and the great work that he accomplished in the Spirit.

Remember that Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“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.”

Paul says that he labored more than the other apostles. That word, “laboured” as we shall see below, could better be translated “loved”. But Paul does not give himself credit for his accomplishments; on the contrary, he credits the grace of God. In clearer terms, Paul had more grace than the other apostles.

So how did Paul come to have more grace than his counterparts?

It was because he allowed himself to become a bond-slave of Jesus. He allowed Jesus to bind him hand and foot and to lead him where he would not want to go. In Ephesians 6:20 Paul says:

“I am an ambassador in bonds…”

Bonds are not the most comfortable thing for one to be in. Which means that Paul was forced into that situation. Willingly? Yes. And this brings us to 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

“7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 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.”

The truly ‘abnormal’ thing about the Apostle Paul was that he realized that there was only one way to “labour” for God effectively. And by laboring for God it meant loving the church. Why do you think Paul wanted to be “strong”? It was for the sake of the church. Paul loved and cared for the church with everything that he had in him! And Paul realized He had to surrender self. He had to die to self in order to truly love and serve Christ’s Body, the church.

When Paul realized this, he happily stretched out his hands and allowed the Lord to bind him. He gladly gave his flesh over to the cruel messenger to be buffeted. And thus it came to be that Paul got filled to the brim with the grace of God. Grace to enable him to fulfill his desire to love the church as Christ loved it.

You can see the grace of God in Paul’s life written all over his epistles and in the Book of Acts. He was full of humility, compassion, and love towards God’s people.

And then, again, he was full of Godly wisdom. He could bring the revelation of the cross right up to any level you asked him to (1 Corinthians chapters 1 -4).

But Paul could also compassionately tackle issues which did not have a direct answer from scripture. He would therefore write the Corinthians,

“Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me… I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.” (1 Cor. chapter 12)

What humility! And what Godly advice without a “Thus saith the Lord!”

That was the Apostle Paul. Fully surrendered to God, and fully fulfilling the purpose and calling of God upon the church, which was to love it.

That’s who a true apostle is. He is one to whom the cross is revealed, to the end that he may love the church as Christ loves it.

[I do not know many things. But I do know I love the old Hillsong songs]

The Gospel vs The Flesh

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers… 1 Pet. 1:18

The story goes that an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Ghanaian were flying on a plane and they were required to jump out when they arrived in their respective countries. When the Englishman saw the Wembley Stadium, he jumped out. When the Frenchman saw the Eiffel Tower or the Seine River (can’t remember which), he also strapped himself and jumped out.

The plane crossed the Mediterranean Sea and, upon sighting land, the Ghanaian put out his hand. A short while later, he announced to the pilot that he had reached his country. The pilot asked him what he had seen.

The Ghanaian replied that he had seen nothing; but his wristwatch had just disappeared from his hand.

Sadly, it is true that you can have your watch popped off your hand or your pocket picked at any minute in darkest Africa; and you should be thoroughly shocked.

In a related issue – to put the icing on that story –  the U.S. president, President Donald Trump, has directed that only 15% of aid will go to African countries because they don’t know how to manage resources.

Is he rrrrrrrrright on that one? Of course he is right. The African’s ingenuity in some arenas of life excels even himself.

These are not just stereotypes about the African; these are facts. Broad generalizations, given; but facts nonetheless. I know there are people who will burst a vein when they hear such things. But everything we are hearing from Trump & co. about the African is hardly news.

Notice that in our story there is nothing unbecoming written about the two white men. If you are thinking they are angels, you couldn’t be more wrong! I have never been outside Africa, but I do not need to travel beyond my house to know that the white man is as rotten as the African is. Indeed, in God’s eyes, every race under the sun is equally rotten. The Bible tells me so.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).

The only difference between the white man, the black man, the Chinese, the Indian, the Arab and any other race that might be on this earth is the diversity, or variety of rot. But it is all rot nonetheless. Whether they are white, black, brown or yellow, we all know what man is capable of. Since this is not a competition, I am not going to write down a list of the evils these other races excel in.  But, given the genetic factors that they possess, it is a given that, in their particular realms, some of these races are infinitely much more dangerous than the African.

These racial and tribal tendencies in men the Bible calls “vain conversation”. This “vain conversation” is who we are. And when the Bible says that we have received it by tradition from our fathers, it means that we have inherited them from our fathers’ gene pools.

Scripture makes it clear that each race/tribe has its own peculiar brand of rot. When the Apostle Paul left Titus in Crete, he warned him,

“12 One of themselves, even a prophet of their own, said, The Cretians are alway liars, evil beasts, slow bellies. 13 This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:12-13).

The spiritual language for culture is flesh. Man is a product of the flesh. I see “vain conversation” all around me – in my own life, in the lives of my wife and children and in the lives of those who surround me.

Man in his intelligence has tried various methods to try and suppress his cultural tendencies and in most cases it appears as if he has won the battle. But “vain conversation” runs deep. Deep in our subterranean consciousnesses, the flesh reigns supreme.

But I love what the Bible says in Colossians 3:9-11:

“9 … seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.” (Col. 3:9-11)

That ought to suffice. There is only one weapon that can defeat the flesh: it is the cross. We cannot undo the flesh in us; only Jesus can, through the cross.

Through “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23), the Bible says we have put off our old man and put on Christ. That means we have put on Christ’s character. That’s why it is not enough to say “I am saved”. We need to go ahead and realize the mystery of “Christ crucified” in our lives.

Putting on the character of Jesus is the greatest miracle that can happen to a man. May we (the church) humble ourselves under the cross of Christ and allow it to break us and to form Christ in us. That way, we will not exhibit the works of the flesh. Instead we will bear and show off in our lives the fruit of the Spirit.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance…” (Gal. 5:22-23)

[We reveal the character of Christ in us when we crucify the flesh]

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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]

Why Believers Are Afflicted

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Ps. 34:19

How can righteous suffer; indeed, why must he be afflicted at all? That should not be since the righteous is supposed to be in God’s favor. But this scripture says otherwise. Indeed, the Bible says that the afflictions of the righteous are many. Why this state of affairs?

In Africa, during harvest time, the farmers thresh their produce, to remove the grain and store it, and to burn the chaff. God afflicts us because He wants to bring out the spiritual treasure that is in us. If you want wine, you have to press the grapes, right? In the same manner, God wants to show off the treasure in us, and there is no other way that He can do this apart from scrubbing us and whittling away at us, that the ‘gold’ in us may shine forth.

We have such treasure in us! But we are hardly aware of it. But we have gold in us.

When we have the fruit of the Spirit in us –

“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Eph. 5:22) –

… that is the treasure that God wants to show off to the world.

I have heard worldly preachers say that God wants to reveal riches like Bentleys, Rolls Royces and million-dollar mansions. But no. Those things do not comprise the heavenly riches. Actually, they are the height of spiritual poverty for when these things grasp your heart, that is the end of you spiritually.

God’s riches, the riches that He wants to show forth to the world in and through us, are the fruit of the Spirit. Those are the spiritual riches.

And so, therefore, God allows afflictions into our lives that they may press us and through this pressing the true heavenly riches in us will show forth.

The perfect example is Jesus. The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:22-24:

“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.”

And, in Isaiah 53:7, it says of Jesus:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

It is clear that Jesus was afflicted! He was reviled; and He suffered. But He wouldn’t utter a word. Jesus opened not His mouth!

Now, not opening our mouths when we are reviled is not easy. Actually, it is very difficult. The minute we hear something against us, our mouths begin moving even before the reviler has finished saying whatever they want to say about us!

But we have such riches in Christ Jesus. Imagine Jesus, He

“reviled not again”.

Imagine,

“when he suffered, he threatened not”.

That is not easy. Sometimes we may do nothing, but in our hearts we end up doing so much!

But we have such riches in us! That is why God allows us to be afflicted. When we are afflicted, these riches show forth. The fruit in us gives forth its aroma.

And if the fruit has not formed yet, afflictions will serve to show us our need for repentance and drive us to desire a greater work of the cross in our lives. There is so much work that afflictions accomplish in a believer’s life. In a word, suffering produces grace. There is no grace without suffering. That is why the Apostle Paul preached the cross before he would talk of grace.

Finally,

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

The word “temptation” here is the same word “affliction” that David used in Psalm 34.We will be tempted. We will be tried. We will be afflicted if we are true children of God. But God’s hand will be upon us and He will not allow any trial or affliction to overcome us. He will make a way, a way of grace for us to walk in victory through every affliction.

Growing In Grace

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Lk. 2:40

That’s talking about our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice the Bible tells us that Jesus grew. Elsewhere, the Apostle Peter tells us:

“But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (2 Pet. 3:18)

I have an interesting illustration to go with this scripture. It is a true story. And, as always, it involves me, God bless my poor soul!

Many years ago, I was invited to attend a 5-day religious conference and, when I arrived at the venue, I was led straight to my sleeping quarters. When I saw the spot where I was to sleep, I was less than impressed. In fact, I remember, I was livid. It was not the best living quarters that anyone could desire, least of all me! Apparently, it was the best they could do for me; but even such a thought would not appease me.

A short while later I was invited to the same conference. When I received the invitation (sent via text message), I immediately called the sender, who happened to be the secretary of the conference. I was smarting from the last “putting down” they had given me. Without mincing words, I gave the man specific instructions about where I wanted them to put me up, including the distance the residence had to be from the conference hall. The secretary faltered for a minute, then he finally gave in and said okay.

Years passed and then, one day, I received the very same invitation. But something had been going on in my heart…

I boarded the bus and headed for the conference venue, a 6-hour journey. As the bus sped across the countryside, somewhere along the way the thought popped up in my head, “What about the sleeping quarters?”

It was at this moment that I knew for sure that a change had taken place in my heart. The answer came automatically: I would gladly sleep anywhere they put me.

The questioner persisted, “What if they put you up in a far-off place where you might need to walk for half an hour to reach the conference venue?”

Again the answer came smoothly: “So much the better. In fact, I would want them to put me up in exactly such a location.” I felt so free! And I rejoiced greatly that I would be willing to suffer rather than be a burden to my brethren.

It was then that I recalled clearly my attitude the last time I had attended this conference. As I looked at how my heart had been then, I was appalled – appalled at my selfishness. In fact, I felt so embarrassed I wondered how I could ever face my hosts again. Unable to do anything else, right there in the bus I closed my eyes, bowed my head and said quietly, “Lord, forgive me.”

The burden of guilt lifted off me. It was like the Lord said, “You are forgiven.”

When I arrived at the conference venue, I found that a brother from a foreign country had also attended the conference. The hosts told me, “Brother Mwita, you are the man best suited to give our foreign visitor company, so, please, you will be staying with him.”

Without so much as a shot fired, I found myself staying at a more comfortable residence than all those I had fought for before. But then, it really did not matter. I was ready for anything.

In this account, I feel that there is nothing for me to be ashamed of. The Bible says that Jesus grew. And the Apostle Peter exhorts us to grow. There is nothing wrong if we are growing, no matter how afield our growth might appear. It becomes a problem with God, however, when the years pass and we are not growing, not changing through dying to our selves.

Paul exhorts us in Romans 12:1-2

“1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

And in verse 3 he goes on to remind us:

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (v.3)

That is growing in grace.

[To grow in grace… is to not think of yourself more highly than others]

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