Loving Jesus, Loving His Church – Part 3

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:31

Have you ever seen a grown man weeping? It is an unforgettable experience. But a grown man can only shed tears out of deep, heartfelt bitterness. I remember a famous Congolese musician named Franco. In the early 70s this man lost a brother in a car accident. Franco composed a song to commemorate his brother’s death. He sang it in his local Lingala dialect. This song became one of the most touching songs in the 70s. Not because it was sang by Franco, but because of the depth of the feelings that were embodied in that song. The song bemoaned the fact of being left alone.

And it is said that ever since that time, the sound of mourning never left any of Franco’s songs.

That’s how powerful a grown man’s sorrow is.

And yet the Apostle Paul freely wept for the church. He wept for it out of sorrow; but it was sorrow in the Spirit. The love that Paul had for the church was a love that no earthly parent could never know for their child. Paul could not bear to imagine even one hair of the church being harmed.

That’s the kind of ministers that Christ left to look after the church. The 5-fold ministry is not about numbers; rather, it is about carrying the heart of God the eternal Father.

In order for a believer to go to heaven, he needs to be loved, to be prayed for, to be cared for and ministered to in many different ways. That’s called nurturing. Jesus left behind people who would do exactly that: hence, the 5-fold ministry.

We can thus begin to imagine the greatness of this man, Paul. Paul perfected ministry. And, in perfecting ministry, Paul defined the word “love”. He writes in Ephesians:

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Eph. 5:25-32

In these verses, Paul shows us the true meaning of love.

Let us look at something else that Paul writes in Galatians. In chapter 1 verses 6-8, he writes:

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Now, pause and think about that. Scripture here states clearly that there is no other gospel that can be preached other than the gospel that Paul preached! In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul talks of the gospel that he preached.

“But we preach Christ crucified…”

And here, in Galatians, he says that anyone who preaches a different gospel is troubling the church and is stands accursed. I will leave it to your imagination to work out what “trouble” it is that Paul is talking of here. That should not be too hard for anyone to do. Today, in particular, “trouble” is written all over the church. Why? Because God’s people have put aside the gospel of the cross and they are preaching a different gospel.

But Paul says, “If anyone preaches a different gospel than the one we preached to you, let them be accursed!”

The church is greater than anyone. It was greater than Paul himself. Which brings us to the question, What does Paul mean by the “we” in verse 8?

He means that even he had to be careful. Yes, Paul, the great apostle, had to be careful lest he mishandle the church! He had to be careful what he preached. God is no respecter of persons and Paul himself stood the risk of being accursed if he preached any other gospel than “Jesus Christ and him crucified”! (1 Cor. 2:2)

If every minister of the gospel could crucify his lusts and his desires and serve the church, it would be a blessing both to the themselves and to the church. But today everything is upside down.

Notice, in our key scripture in Acts, that Paul’s tears were to warn the church. Paul did not shed because there was no bread on the table. Bread is important; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about bread. But Paul’s tears were to warn the church.

What was so important about the gospel that Paul preached?

Paul was careful about the gospel he preached because it is the singular gospel that prepares Christ’s Bride, the church. How would you feel if, on your wedding day, they brought you a bride who was filthy, unkempt and thoroughly un-mannered in the ways of housekeeping?

I believe you wouldn’t touch her unless you were a madman.

But Jesus is not a madman. He wants a perfect Bride.

The gospel of the cross perfects the Bride of Christ. The cross crucifies the flesh and leaves behind a Bride without spot, and without blemish.

Finally, let us look at yet another example of how Paul cared for the church. In Philippians 2:19-21 he writes:

“19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”

Paul wanted to send Timothy to the Philippians because he wanted to “be of good comfort”. And Paul would only be comforted if he knew their “state”.

“State”. What a word!

I work with a team of four other pastors in my town. We meet every Thursday. Our motto is: “The only problem between us is the state of our hearts!”

Paul wanted to make sure the Colossians were well in their hearts. This was the only thing that could comfort him. So he sent them Timothy, the only man he could trust to truly care for their spiritual welfare.

Paul had other guys with him but he feared that if he sent them, they would go and become burdensome to God’s people. They would tell the church, “Your pastor needs a new car”, or something of that nature.

Timothy was the only person who would not say such a thing.

If faithful ministers were so rare even in Paul’s day, we can imagine how the situation is today. There are faithful ministers; but they are few. Many today look at the offering basket more than they look after the condition of people’s hearts. Many do not have the ability to deal with the problems affecting God’s people because they do not have the revelation of the cross in their hearts.

But Paul, and the few faithful men he had with him, had crucified their flesh and were thereby able to fully focus on the spiritual well-being of God’s people.

[Paul cared deeply for the spiritual well-being of God’s people]

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It Pleased Them!

25 But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister unto the saints.

26 For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem. Rom. 15:25-26

This morning, my mind is on the subject of giving – again! The scripture above tears at my heart.

First aways, notice the singular form of ministry mentioned in this scripture. It is the ministry of giving to the poor. It is not stated that Paul went to preach in Jerusalem. The purpose of his journey to Jerusalem was to deliver the Gentile churches’ contribution to the poor saints there. Whether he preached or not is not our subject here.

But the thing that sends my heart racing with excitement is the second part of this passage of the Bible. The Bible says it pleased the churches in Macedonia and Achaia to make a contribution for the saints in Jerusalem.  It pleased them! Wow, the beauty of that!!

There is nothing as beautiful as something that is done from the heart. It is so powerful it reaches the ureachable parts of the heart. For this reason, the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 9:7:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”

God loves a cheerful giver!

God loves things that are done with a willing heart. God loves a purposeful heart. To demonstrate this, God has even taken people who were terrible sinners and changed them and put them to serve Him mightily. They were men and women who were willing to do things from the heart. Chief amongst these is the Apostle Paul himself (1 Tim. 1:13-16).

No man in their right minds loves things that are half-done. With God, it is infinitely much less so.

As believers, we are to do things heartily. When you give, give heartily. Don’t allow your mind to pick nits and bits. Above all, do not count how many times you have given in the past. Give as if you have never given before!

In the same manner, when you forgive (for we are called to forgive whenever someone wrongs us) do so with a hearty heart. Don’t weigh the wrongs! Above all, do not count the former wrongs done to you by the person you are supposed to forgive.

Whatever we do, we are to do it heartily. In Ephesians 6:5-8, the Apostle Paul writes:

“5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ; 6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; 7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men: 8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.”

Notice verse 6. Whether bond or free, we are to do things

“from the heart”!

From the heart. That’s not talking of any old heart. Rather, scripture here is talking of a willing and cheerful heart.

Abigail’s Beauty – Part 2

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

Many years ago, when I was a small boy, my school organized an expedition for some of us to visit a ship at the coast. When we arrived, the ship’s captain led us on a tour of the big ship; but I do recall that the one thing that made a permanent mark on my mind was the engine room. It was huge. When we walked down there, it was like we had entered a different world altogether. At that young, impressionable age, the engines appeared to be a hundred stories high! Surprisingly, there was not much activity going on down there. In fact, I recall it was like we found no one down there. Just the large engines powerfully humming away by themselves.

Then the captain spoke to us about the engines. I remember the word he used. He said, “The engine room is the heart of the ship.”

The engines, he told us, drove everything on that ship. Nothing could work on that ship if the engines were dead. The engines were the life of the ship. In other words, the engines made the ship to become a ship! Without the engines, that ship was just a big piece of scrap metal sitting uselessly (and possibly dangerously) on top of the ocean waters.

It is the same with us. The heart is our engine room. It is our very life. Our heart controls everything we do. And God, in his infinite wisdom, is concerned only with what issues from our hearts, for this is where our life is. As far as God is concerned, if we are to do things without the heart, we might as well not do them. God does not regard anything that is not done from the heart. That was exactly what He meant when He told Samuel:

“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.”

The man who wrote the Book of Proverbs probably received one of the greatest insights into God’s working, for he wrote:

“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.” (Proverbs 4:23)

Out of a man’s heart comes every issue of his life. His character comes out of his life; and so does his success, his prosperity – and even his beauty. And, in more ways than one, this inner life comes out and brightens a man’s exterior life.

That said, we cannot, as spiritual people, measure success, beauty or prosperity in material terms. No, we measure these things through what comes out of a man’s heart.

Consider Joseph. The Bible says of him,

“And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.” (Gen. 39:6)

What does the Bible mean by “goodly”? Does it mean he was good-looking, handsome? He might have been, but that is not what the Bible is talking of here.

Or, “well favoured”; what does that mean? Does it mean Joseph was built like Hercules? By no means. We might not even have any inkling of Joseph’s physique, for that is not what the Bible is referring to here.

The Bible is not interested in these things. Rather, in using these terms, the Bible is trying to show us the kind of heart that Jospeh had. Joseph had a “goodly” heart (not physique); and the term “well favoured” means he had the grace of God in him. And, through having this kind of heart, Joseph prospered.

How about Moses? The Bible record about Moses states:

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.” (Heb. 11:23)

Does that mean that Moses was more handsome than his siblings and that his parents therefore gave more consideration to him than to the others?

Hardly. On the contrary, the writer here is talking in the Spirit. In the Spirit, Moses’s parents saw into his heart. They somehow saw, in the Spirit, that this boy would turn out to be a vessel in God’s hands. And for that reason (for they were people of faith), “they were not afraid of the king’s commandment”; and they hid Moses.

Finally, let us consider the life of what most people regard as the Bible’s favorite character, David. In most people’s imagination, as well as in folklore and in countless modern-day movies on the subject, David is given the character of a strapping, handsome young man. My guess is that all this comes from what people read about David in 1 Samuel 16:12:

“… Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

But th church has no place for Hollywood’s portrayal of a Biblical figure. All the attributes that the Bible lays out here talk, not of David’s physical appearance, but of his heart. Yes, the commendations that this particular scripture places on David are many, but that is because the heart of David had so many credentials to it.

Many of us would love to have such credentials attached to our names in God’s heavenly Kingdom;  but there is a price to pay. And these men and and women were willing to pay the price.

The price we have to pay to become beautiful in our spirits, as the writer of Proverbs tells us, is to guard our hearts. And, when it comes to guarding our hearts, there is no way around it apart from denying our selves, taking up our cross, and following Christ.

Need we wonder, then, why the Apostle Paul would preach such a singular gospel,

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified”? (1 Cor. 2:2)

It was because he realized the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul said,

“Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” (Col. 1:29)

Christ worked in Paul’s heart mightily. The Apostle Paul was one of the most beautiful people spiritually. It was because he allowed the cross to work in him. When our hearts are well, we are the most beautiful people in the world.

Abigail’s Beauty – Part 1

Now the name of the man was Nabal; and the name of his wife Abigail: and she was a woman of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings; and he was of the house of Caleb. 1 Sam. 25:3

I am going to put out a rambling post here but, amidst the ramblings, there is a concrete gem, a gem that I will try to pry free from the general ramblings. The gem encased in these ramblings is a gem of priceless worth. The subject is centered on the heart, the human heart. The heart we are talking of here is not the organ that circulates blood in our bodies, no. We are talking of the other heart, the spirit of a man.

As a man is, so is his heart. Your character cannot exceed what your heart carries. In other words, your character can do no more than reflect your heart. The intentions of your heart will come through in your character. As a man is, so is his heart.

Was Abigail a physically attractive woman or was she not? I am sure she was. But that is not what the Bible is talking about here. When the Bible says that Abigail was “of a beautiful countenance” it is not talking about her physical beauty. At no one time has God ever been concerned with anyone’s physical beauty. God created both what we call “beautiful” and what we call “ugly”; and He saw it was good. Both are His, and He values them equally. At any rate, even the world itself has something that puts a balance between the so-called ugly and the beautiful. It is the saying that “beauty is in the beholder’s eye”. What you consider ugly someone else calls beautiful.

But, praise the Lord, none of this is of concern to us here. God is Spirit.

On the contrary, when the Bible talks here of Abigail’s beauty, it is talking about her heart. God told the Prophet Samuel:

“…for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7)

Nowhere in the Bible is it written that God said later, “Sorry, I recall I said a while back that I look on the heart, but let it be known that once in a while I look also on man’s outward appearance.” When God says something, He does not come back and add to or try to take back a little bit of what He has said.

God does not, has never, and will never look at or talk of anyone’s outward appearance. God is not moved by physical appearances or outward manifestations.

But that’s not us! (And here I am deliberately digressing, for I love these kinds of challenges that the Bible throws at us). Oh yes. The natural man is easily drawn to outward beauty. We have a big problem there. The charismatic gospel in particular has given room to physical, material and outward expressions of “Godliness”.

But we are called to be spiritual, and the spiritual man is not drawn to outward appearances or beauty. He is dead to that.

[So many different hearts in this photo; but Jesus would want them all to be identical in beauty]

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A Humble Heart Above All

6 And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the LORD’S anointed is before him.

7 But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

8 Then Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

9 Then Jesse made Shammah to pass by. And he said, Neither hath the LORD chosen this.

10 Again, Jesse made seven of his sons to pass before Samuel. And Samuel said unto Jesse, The LORD hath not chosen these.

11 And Samuel said unto Jesse, Are here all thy children? And he said, There remaineth yet the youngest, and, behold, he keepeth the sheep. And Samuel said unto Jesse, Send and fetch him: for we will not sit down till he come hither.

12 And he sent, and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and withal of a beautiful countenance, and goodly to look to. And the LORD said, Arise, anoint him: for this is he.

13 Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel rose up, and went to Ramah. 1 Sam. 16:6-13

The other day my wife confronted me about something I had done and I owned up immediately. I said, “Yes, what I said was wrong, please forgive me.”

My wife almost fell down with shock. Being a good reader of my wife’s mind, I could see she was thinking that probably the rapture had occurred without her knowledge and that we were now living in the millennium. She is so used to me defending myself whenever I am confronted that what I had just said was simply inconceivable to her in the old world. But on this ocssion she searched my face and she realized it was real.

What she did not know was that when she came at me, I was prepared. I had been reading about David, the man who made ghastly mistakes but was quick to own up. And David’s heart and life had challenged me greatly.

We can hardly claim to know what God knows, even about ourselves. The Apostle Paul tells us:

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1 Cor. 13:12)

Here Paul is saying that it is only when we get to heaven that we shall know things as God knows them.

That said, it stands to the test that we do not know men’s hearts as God knows them. We need to die more to self to arrive at this point. But many today do not want to know the cross of Christ. That is why today men are so full of empty praises. They love praising the mighty and looking down upon the lowly. But if we truly knew people’s hearts, especially with regard to how God sees them, we wouldn’t be so fast with our praising of some and our despising of others.

When Jesse’s sons began passing in front of Samuel, he looked on the outside. Is that not so much like us? We gauge, judge and categorise people based on what we see on the outside. For this reason, men therefore prepare themselves more on the outside than on the inside because everyone’s attention is on the outside; and, in our natural state, we crave men’s praise more than anything.

The seven sons whom Jesse made to pass before Samuel had better qualifications than David in the natural. They were of a better countenance and stature.

Under the new covenant, we could be better men by all standards; but God is not looking for just any standard. We could be better preachers, but God is not looking for good preachers. We may be great singers, but God is not looking for great singers. We may be men and women who do everything right. But God is not looking for people who do not make mistakes. David made the biggest mistake that any man under the sun could make.

But God is not looking for any of these things. God is looking for a heart. And having the kind of heart that God is looking for is the biggest challenge that any man or woman could face.

So what kind of heart did David have? What kind of heart did he have that set him apart from his brothers? What kind of heart did he have which made God to say to Samuel,

“Arise, anoint him: for this is he.”

The answer is to be found in 2 Samuel chapter 12. The answer lies in David’s attitude when he was confronted. He had sinned, and when he was confronted by God’s servant Nathan, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the LORD.” (v.13)

David did not rise up to defend himself. He did not even try to offer an explanation. In other words, he did not give God any conditions. He owned up fully to his sin.

That is the hardest thing with us. The minute we get confronted, our defense mode kicks in. Even if we admit our guilt, we still try to offer up an explanation. But this attitude of heart is of the flesh, not of the Spirit of God. Even when wrongly accused by men, Jesus did not defend himself.

If you want to know that you have the kind of heart that God desires, it is when you desist from defending yourself. That is the humble heart that God desires us to have. That is the heart of faith.

God is therefore not looking to the many great things that we can do. He is looking for a humble heart, one that can quickly fall down, confess, admit and repent. One that can allow itself to be trampled under. We see all this with David especially in his difficult relationship with King Saul.

We may not have many qualifications in the natural. We may not even be gifted with many gifts in the Spirit. But we can all have a humble heart, and this is what pleases God most.

In the Psalms, King David wrote about the relationship that God has with people who have a humble heart. In Psalms 34:18, he wrote:

“The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.”

And in Psalms 51:17, he wrote:

“The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”

[… for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.]

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Photo courtesy of Carol Lanthier

Keep Your Heart Pure!

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

In the Swahili translation, the first part of this scripture reads: “Guard your heart above everything else…”

In other words, there are other things that we should guard; but it is the heart that we are to guard above everything else.

I believe there is much to this scripture than I dare try to expound here. But there is a small light that has been shining in my heart with regard to this scripture, which is what I want to share with you this morning. And it has to do with what I have just explained concerning what it says in the Swahili translation.

There are many areas in our Christian life where we can mess up; but it should never be with the purity of our hearts. We can “blow it” in may areas of our lives; but it never should be with the heart.

Let me illustrate this to try and bring out the light that I have seen in this scripture. Let’s say you and your wife have a disagreement over something. A disagreement often leads to some form of altercation. Unfortunately, this occurs quite often between married couples. But this is not the real problem. The problem, as far as God is concerned, is when we come away from such a situation with bitterness in our hearts. Bitterness causes us to close our hearts to the people who have hurt us. On the other hand, we can walk away from such a situation with a pure heart.

The Corinthian church hurt Paul deeply. He had paid such a big price to take the gospel of Jesus Christ to them but the minute he turned his back, they reverted back to the flesh in a big way. When Paul heard the news, he was deeply distressed. But he did not close his heart. In other words, Paul guarded his heart to the extent that he did not allow any bitterness to seep in. And hence he was able to write them:

“11 O ye Corinthians, our mouth is open unto you, our heart is enlarged. 12 Ye are not straitened in us, but ye are straitened in your own bowels.” (2 Cor. 6:11-12)

Paul had such grace that, the more they sinned against (him) the more his heart became enlarged towards them. That is the heart of grace that the Bible talks of and that we should always carry in us.

It is not okay for us to arrive at disagreements, but that is the lesser of the problems that God sees in us. The disagreement or the altercation is not the problem; with God the problem is the condition of our hearts.

In Matthew 5:8 we read:

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.”

You can do everything well and be blessed; but in order to behold God’s face – in order to get up close to God – you have to take care of the condition of your heart. But, pray, what does it mean to “see God”?

I believe we can find the answer in 1 Peter 3:7

“Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”

Here the Apostle Peter says that if husbands play it roughshod over their wives, God will not grant them an audience. He will not hear or answer their prayers. In other words, such husbands will not be able to “see” God. On the other hand, when we guard our hearts and maintain patient and loving hearts towards our wives, God is pleased with us. He gives an ear to and answers our prayers.

This is as it should be for in Isaiah 57:15 it says,

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”

It is in the same spirit that Jesus taught about forgiveness.

“6:14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: 15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Mat. 6:14-15)

Forgiving requires a denial of self. Ultimately, therefore, we have to come back to the cross to be able to keep pure hearts. Only a man or woman who has crucified their lives with Christ can keep and maintain a pure heart in a world that waiting is to defile our hearts every waking moment of our lives. The Bible says that a man’s enemies are those of his own house (Mat. 10:36). That means that it is the things that are closest to us that easily defile our hearts. And what could be closer to us than our own selves. It is when we are unable to rein in our carnal nature that we get defiled in our hearts.

Personally, I can say that in my married life it was my wife who became the biggest thorn in my flesh. Presumably. I had never heard the cross taught as the Apostle Paul expressed it, and I therefore always had something to be bitter towards her. It took me a painfully long time to realize that the key to unlocking the victory over the bitterness lay in my heart. But today, by the grace of God, it is no longer so. Whatever may come between me and my wife, I am glad (and greatly surprised) to see that there is no aftertaste of bitterness after all is ended.

I believe that is one of the true victories that we can claim in the Spirit. But the price we have to pay for such a victory is to take up our cross daily and follow Christ.

Above all things, may we keep a pure heart.

[Called upon to keep and maintain a pure heart]

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The Basis For Our Peace

I remember once, many years ago, when we had just began to hear the gospel of the cross, that a man of God came to our church and preached a message in which I remember only the words, “Put down your weapons!”

He repeated this phrase over and over in the course of his sermon.

Over the years, I have come to discover just how much to the point this man was. We have so much weaponry in our hearts it makes a mockery of all the munitions in the entire world. And the enormity of our weaponry is not just in its sheer size and abundance but, more ominously, in its power of annihilation. We have weaponry in us that can devastate a soul, something which all the worldly artillery does not have the capacity to do.

Just imagine what a misplaced word can do to a brother or a sister. Or, more appropriately, a deliberately well-aimed barb, sent in not to edify, but to destroy… to destroy someone’s soul.

Imagine what can be born out of a heart that is not well: Jesus listed the things that can come out of such a heart:

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

Imagine the damage that a single God-less thought can do, even to yourself.

The things that come from our unregenerate hearts will nearly always manifest themselves in the natural, and sometimes they will flare out into verbal or even physical violence.

There is so much violence in the human heart, so much war and uproar!

The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. “ (Gen. 6:11)

The way of peace they know not…” (!s. 59:8).

One of the names of our Saviour, Jesus Christ is, “The Prince of Peace.” (Is. 9:6) All the violence in our hearts is there on account of the King of Peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, being denied His royal place in our hearts.

Somehow, we have got to make sure that our faith in Christ is just not in our words or in our minds. Our faith must have a tangible relationship to the lives we live. This can only come about when the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, is firmly enthroned in our hearts. And the Bible makes it clear that there is only one Christ: the crucified Christ, who also rose again (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2).

That is why we must have a revelation of the cross in our hearts. This revelation is the only thing that has the power to make us put down our carnal weapons. And when we put down our carnal weapons, there will be true peace in our hearts, which is the basis for true victory in the Spirit.

[Below: Once in a while you stumble upon a great song, beautifully sang]