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]

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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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The Testimony Of Philemon – Part 2

Brother Philemon’s testimony.

Back in 1993, I was a regular guy who loved drinking beer in the local pub. One day, I remember I was drinking in the inner room of the pub with two of my friends. I happened to know that both these men were once saved, but they had backslidden. And so on that day, I asked them why they had backslidden.

One of them told me, “Pal, salvation is a very difficult thing.”

“But”, I countered, “I have heard them teach that there is a hell?”

“Yes”, he answered, “there is a hell.”

“Don’t you fear going to hell?” I pressed further. But they did not answer me and we continued drinking.

But something had grabbed at my heart. Hell. I cannot say it was fear; rather, it was like the word “hell” made a big impression upon me and it just would not let go.

I had a neighbor who was saved and when I woke up the next morning, I knocked on his door. I asked whether he had a Bible and whether he could lend it to me.

“Most gladly”, he said, and he went inside and came back with a Swahili language copy of the New Testament.

I took the book back home and began reading it. But all I was searching for was the word “hell”. I wanted proof from the Bible that hell exists and that every sinner would end up there.

In the course of reading that small Bible over many days, I found plenty of that proof. There was a lot written there concerning hell! Whatever had grabbed my heart concerning hell continued to tighten its grip. Gradually, a conviction formed in me that I ought to get saved. As the days went by, that conviction grew and grew.

One day I came back home and called to my wife. I said to her, “I am thinking of leaving you.”

“Why?” she asked, surprised.

“Because I am thinking of getting saved.”

“You?” she scoffed. “How can you get saved while you are drinking in the pub all day long?”

But, unknown to her, I had already made up my mind. One Sunday morning, I went to my neighbor’s house, the one who had lent me his Bible. I told him, “Here, I brought you back your Bible. See you later,  I am going up to the shops.”

“Wait”, he said. “I am going that way, too, to church.”

We walked on together, and when we reached his church, I made to pass on. But the man reached out and said, “Welcome in. Come on in and let’s worship together.”

“Oh, okay”, I said, and without much ado, I turned and walked into his church.

The service went on and, at the very end, the pastor called to anyone who would want to get saved. I stood up and walked to the front. I could feel everyone staring at me. But this was a decision I had made for quite a while, and I was simply delivering on it. And so, on that day, I got saved and became a born-again believer.

Soon after, my wife followed suit and gave her life to Jesus.

In those days, unlike today, the fear of God was in church, and the pure gospel of Jesus Christ was preached. We knew what it was to live a holy life.

But, as the years progressed, things began to change. Gradually, the pure gospel we had been hearing was replaced by something else. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was a definite change. There was an emphasis on the outside man rather than the spirit. There was, for example, an emphasis on how one dressed; and on being financially stable. In church! Now, today, as I speak, the church that I got saved in is a circus. There is little of the Spirit there. The services are a circus, geared towards entertaining the flesh. And, in preaching, there is a lot of emphasis on money. Today, when the bishop comes to visit, women lay down clothing for him to walk on, all the way from his car to the inside of the church! That was not so in the early days of our salvation. Moreover, back in the diocese in town, the churches are ranked according to how well they treat the bishop when he comes and the leaders make a huge thing out of it.

But the worst part are the broken lives of believers. The lives of believers are a joke; and so are those of the leaders themselves. There is more discord and enmity amongst church members than there is in the world.  Leaders are jostling – actually fighting – for positions in church. Me and my wife were leaders in that church, but we arrived at a point where we decided it was far much better – and safer – to just stay at home rather than go to church even if we were members of the church leadership.

That was when I met Dude here. He told me he had met some brethren who preached a different gospel, the gospel of the cross. He told me that the gospel of the cross revealed the problem of the church today, which is the flesh.

What he said made sense to me and I desired to hear more about this gospel. That was when you came to Minyughe.

In my life, I have seen much in the church, and I am convinced in my heart that the gospel of the cross is the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Nothing would budge me and my wife from this belief. We have witnessed the grace of God through the revelation of the cross in our lives. Today, our lives are filled with joy and purpose in the Spirit. We have changed! We look at our brethren in all these Pentecostal churches, fighting and living defeated lives, and we simply thank God for the revelation of the cross.

What do I believe? I believe with all my heart that this revelation will cover the entire earth, and then Jesus will come. When I read scripture, that is what it tells me. Jesus will not come back until the truth – the gospel of the cross – has been preached everywhere, to prepare God’s people.

I will forever be grateful for the revelation of this revelation in my life.

[Brother Philemon]

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Grace Only In The Cross

This post is based on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Imagine Jesus was speaking these words to people who did not know anything but law! What hope did He have that His words would change them? Could the law they were under change them even by hearing such beautiful words?

But Jesus was speaking of a time that would come, after His crucifixion, when there would be a revelation of the cross in the hearts of God’s people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, before the Holy Spirit was shed forth on the day of Pentecost, the risen Jesus spent forty days with His disciples talking to them the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. But after the Holy Spirit had come, Jesus left the scene.

The gospel can never be about law. Just because you tell someone not to do something does not give them the ability not to do the thing you told them not to. Just tell a man not to look at a woman lustfully and all you end up doing is to make him aware that there is a woman around. And once he becomes aware of the woman’s presence, his carnal nature kicks in. Without the revelation of the cross in our hearts, we can only fulfill the letter of the law. But the law is powerless to defeat sin.

On the contrary, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a revelation; the Holy Spirit revealing to our born-again spirits the incredible power in the cross of Jesus Christ – power over sin and death. That is the grace of God.

That is why, when we are people of law, we easily get angry at people who are not changing. We short-charge and quickly get impatient with them. Which, of course, is an indication that we ourselves have not changed one iota!

Grace, on the other hand, can wait it out. It can give all the rope to a man.

Jesus would not have expected the people in His time to change instantly because back then, grace was given only in a measure. In other words, during the era of law, grace was scarce! That is difficult to comprehend today with all that we know about the abundance of God’s grace. But before Jesus died on the cross, it was all law; but God, because He is merciful, still gave measures of grace to His people.

After Jesus had come, though, grace was given without measure. The Bible declares that even before Jesus was crucified, He Himself was given grace without measure (John 3:34)!

In our present time, therefore, we do not need law to teach us how to worship God in true holiness. In the first place, as we have said, law cannot perfect us. On the contrary, today, what we need is a revelation of the cross in our hearts. This was the revelation that was given to the Apostle Paul as an Apostle of Jesus Christ (1Cor. 2:2 and elsewhere).

This revelation makes available to us the abundance of God’s grace in our lives. We can therefore live a life that is pleasing to God, and to men because our spirits have grasped the power in living a crucified life. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ…”

Let us also read about the life of Jesus who, during His life here on earth, had grace without measure:

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

As a result of the grace of God upon His life, Jesus gained in wisdom and in favour with both God and man. That is our calling as children of God.

Mercy, Not Law

For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. Jam. 2:13

I looked at the lady seated in front of me. I had prepared some hard words for her and I was ready to let fly. I had all the reasons in the world to do so. Then, all of a sudden, God’s Word knocked on my heart.

“… mercy rejoiceth against judgment.”

Mercy. That’s a word that ought to be always on our lips… and in our hearts. Unfortunately, much of the time our hearts are, literally, hearts of stone. Remember, under the Old Covenant, Moses carved the law into tablets of stone. But, under the new covenant, God’s law is written onto our hearts; hearts, not of stone, but of flesh. Now, we all know that there is a big difference between stone and flesh. One is hard and unbreakable; the other is soft and malleable.

Do we know how merciful God is towards us? He is incredibly merciful towards us. In the first place, He provides us with food, clothing, protection, and everything else that we need in this life. Yes, it is God who provides us with these things, despite our inclination to think otherwise. Some even attribute it to luck! You are not lucky to be alive; God’s hand of protection has been upon your life throughout. And have you ever thought of all the free things of nature that God has given us to enjoy?

Secondly, and this is the most amazing of all, He forgives us of our sins. The Psalmist wrote:

“8 The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” (Ps. 103:8-10)

I don’t know whether you have ever stopped to think about this, but God forgives us of our sins more times every day than we can even think of. And I am not talking about the cases where we ask Him to forgive us. Much of the forgiveness is for sins that we are not even aware we have committed – just as much, unsurprisingly, as we are not aware of His forgiveness! He forgives us silently, without creating a fuss, or even making us aware of what He has done, because He loves us. He does all this out of compassion for us. God is extremely compassionate!

It has come to my notice that nearly, or all, of the people we interact with need mercy, and not judgment, from us. And more so those who have sinned or wronged us. But it is only when we are taking up our cross that we can carry this heart in us and be able to have mercy upon others. When we are men and women of law, it is so much easier to throw the book at someone. We don’t mind too much whether it will hurt, maim or kill them; as long as the law in our hearts is fulfilled.

But the Bible even says to feed our enemies! Not with that heart, of course. But here the Bible is talking about being compassionate even to our enemies.

We need to realize that people are as weak and prone to fall just as much as we ourselves are. That is why we need that heart of compassion, for that is the nature of God Himself.

Finally, the Apostle Paul tells us, when it comes to confronting a brother or sister who has sinned,

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” (Gal. 6:1)

That talks of grace and mercy, not law.

[John Starnes reminds us of God’s merciful providence upon our lives]

It Is Of Grace!

8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

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.

11 Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed. 1 Cor. 15:8-11

My wife and I arrived in Arusha this afternoon, where we will spend the night before departing tomorrow for Nairobi to attend my sister-in-law’s funeral. As I was relaxing in my room and savouring the cool Arusha weather, my spirit calmed down and I found myself reflecting on an incident that had taken place not too long ago.

A travelling brother had passed by my house and he had the sweetest words of praise for my work in Singida. But in speaking, he said something that my spirit utterly repelled against. He attempted to compare me to some of the other brethren we work with. As he spoke, the Holy Spirit impressed upon my spirit the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. And the Lord was impressing upon me that nothing done on His behalf was about us; that, on the contrary, it is all about the grace of God in us.

Through the words of the Apostle Paul, I realized that we are simply… nothing. Paul himself used the same word about himself: in 2 Cor. 12:11 he writes,

“… in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.”

And here, in our key scripture, he says:

“… by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.”

Concerning his ministry, Paul said, “not I”.

In fact, what Paul had to say about himself was interesting:

“8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” (v. 8-9)

Paul has a very negative view about himself without the grace of God. He was “as of one born out of due time… the least of the apostles… not meet to be called an apostle”.

But when the grace of God came into His life, it began working and the fruit of that work became evident; and thereafter it is this fruit of the Spirit alone that would matter in his life.

It is not us. We cannot claim to do God’s works. On the contrary, it is God’s grace in us that works the works of God. If it is us, then whatever we are doing is not God’s work; it is our work, and it not only has no lasting value and it is bound to perish but, even more ominously, it is an abomination to God.

With Paul, it was so much about the grace of God that, even though he worked more than the other apostles, yet he said:

“Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.” (v. 11)

Wow! In other words, Paul was saying, “It is not about me. It is not about them. Rather, it is about the grace of God in us.”

Neither Paul nor the other apostles were competing against one another.

Any other viewpoint breeds pride and competition. It produces the works of the flesh. The Spirit of God is not involved in such attitudes and, therefore, even though there might appear to be a big thing going on on the outside, yet it is all a work of the flesh and people’s spirits are not edified.

We are free to do whatever God has called us to. There is no law against the doing. But it is our attitude that is everything, for we must always give place to and acknowledge the Holy Spirit’s working in us. And it is only through a revelation of the crucified Christ (as Paul had) that we can carry this heart and allow God to be what He desires to be in us – Lord of lords and King of kings, to whom alone be glory, honor and majesty.

[Does what you do bring glory to God – or to you?]

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