Carrying The Heavenly Vision

24 And when the messengers of John were departed, he began to speak unto the people concerning John, What went ye out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind?
25 But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet.
27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.
28 For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Lk. 7:24-28
Just the other day, a brother and I were walking in the hot midday sun and we got so exhausted that one of us quipped, “Sometimes I wish we had a car to move about with!”
To which the other replied, “True. But that’s hardly a priority.”
“Yes”, agreed the former. “A car is hardly a priority with us.”
One of the incredible graces that God has blessed this brother and I with is to discern what God’s real blessings are. I remember there was a time when I used to pray for every material blessing under the sun. I had a long list of things that I wanted God to give me. While some are needful, yet I now realize that most of the things that I used to desire and pray for so vigorously are absolutely insignificant.
When some believers hear me saying that, they deride me.
“It is because you do not have these things, that’s why you talk that way”, they say.
But I know their accusation is not true. On the contrary, it is what is in my heart that makes me to consider material things unimportant in my life.
There are many blessings in my life which that God has granted me. One of the blessings that this brother and I cherish in our lives is the deep contentment we get from each other’s company. We both realize that the grace of God is upon our lives in this regard. This brother’s company is one of the most amazing and important things in my life. He is as I and often I wonder at the blessing of having such a wonderful brother by my side.
Today’s modern gospels want the believer to believe that the comforts of this world are the most important things in their lives. This leads him to compete with the world for the things and comforts of this world. But we ought to realize that, although we are in the world, our Kingdom is not of this world. We should not become materialistic Christians.
Jesus said, “… Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts.” (Lk. 7:25)
These are worldly-minded people, Jesus said. In today’s world, the prosperity gospel has bewitched God’s people.
But the man whom Jesus was about to talk about did not live in kings’ houses.
Now, one the most amazing facts about this account is the fact that Jesus would take such a long time to speak about a man, John the Baptist. This shows us that this man was very important in God’s Kingdom. Jesus Himself said as much.
Jesus began by contrasting John the Baptist with the comfortable lives that earthly kings live. A king’s lifestyle represents the highest standard of living in the land. He lives that kind of life because he holds the ultimate reins of power.
But Jesus went on and told the people that, even though John was so weak in the worldly sense that he appeared like a reed in the wind, yet he represented something which had infinitely much more power and glory than that of earthly kings.
Jesus said, “You went out to see, not a king, but a prophet.”
It is beyond doubt that a prophet is supremely above any king. A prophet is someone who has been sent by God. That in itself sets him far above this world in terms of glory, power and importance, for all earthly kings are subject to God. A prophet carries a message from God. He might be sent to warn, to direct or to comfort, but his message comes directly from God Himself. He is God’s mouthpiece. In spiritual terms, an earthly king in all his glory pales in the face of a prophet of God. The former lacks enduring glory and power, while the latter carries the same in himself.
But, still, Jesus told the crowd, John’s mission was far greater than that of an ordinary prophet. John had a mission that set him apart from other prophets. This is because he came to accomplish the most important task that would ever be accomplished by any man on earth. John was sent to precede and prepare God’s people for the coming of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world.
26 But what went ye out for to see? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and much more than a prophet. 27 This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.”
There could never be a more noble duty assigned to man than this!
For this reason, Jesus said, “… Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist”.
Among those that are born of women, including kings, there never had been, and there never would be, a greater prophet than John the Baptist.
But Jesus had not arrived at the end of what He wanted to tell the people who were listening to Him. In saying all this, Jesus was laying a foundation for the ultimate message that He was about to deliver. All this was a preamble to the important message that He had for His listeners. And it was that, finally, He declared it:
“… but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
Notice there are two “he”s in this sentence. The last “he” refers to John the Baptist, of course, but who does the first “he” refer to? And it is clear that this person is greater than John the Baptist. Who could this “he” be?
It is us, we who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus was telling His listeners that anyone who would believe on Him under the New Covenant would be far greater than John the Baptist.
What an awesome realisation! Jesus indicated that John was of another era, the Old Testament era, whose end he was announcing. The Lord Jesus Christ ushered in the new era of the New Covenant. And the Bible says in 2 Corinthians 3 that the New Covenant is far greater than the old one.
Now, if Jesus could contrast, or separate John the Baptist from the world and its comforts, how much more should we be separated from them? Much, much more, I believe.
It is not that we should not have the things of this world; rather, it is that our hearts should never, ever be bound up with these things.
One of the most powerful examples of this in the Bible is Job. Job was one of the most blessed men in his generation. He was extremely rich materially. But Job lost everything, including his children, in just one day. Upon receiving the news of his staggering calamity, however, the Bible says that Job fell down on his face and worshipped God. And the Bible further says:
“21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD. 22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22)
Clearly, Job’s heart was not on the things that God had blessed him with. Job’s heart was on the heavenly glory; losing, or not having material things was a small sacrifice for him.

[Below: The brother I love and myself]



The Spiritually Fulfilled Church

Ruth 1:6: “Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.”

We as God’s people would like to think that in every generation the Church has always been well fed spiritually; yet here in the Book of Ruth the Bible tells us there was a time when there was a famine in the land of Israel (1:1).

I believe we need to be humble enough to admit that there have been times of famine for the Church. There have been times when the Church was starved spiritually. This might be difficult to discern particularly in a generation where there appeared to be abundant riches on every front and where God’s people failed to question the basis or the nature of those riches.

For example, in our generation we have had the gospel of material prosperity, good health and general well-being preached on a universal scale, and the Church somehow came to believe that what this gospel taught was the true blessing that God promised Abraham.

This gospel has brought untold suffering and disillusionment, especially in Africa where people have literally been promised the world in the Name of Jesus, but have failed to see the realization of this dream.

The Bible says that even though Abraham truly was a rich man in worldly riches, yet he looked not to these things, nor indeed revelled in them. The Bible says of the father of our faith: “By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:9-10). Abraham did not live in big mansions, nor did he seek to. The Bible says he and the other fathers of our faith desired “a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city” (v.19).

Our spiritual fathers looked to something different than the material riches that they had. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (v.13). In spiritual terms this means that they did not consider anything of this world as the thing they were seeking for, even though they had it all. Rather, they looked to something purely spiritual.

In the same way, it is true that the Lord blesses us with earthly things, sometimes to the point of overabundance. But we are not to look to these. Healings, financial success, etc. are all good things, but, just like with Abraham, these things are not what we are truly called to aspire after.

Nowhere in the scriptures can we find the basis for boldly declaring that the gospel of material prosperity that we have been hearing in our generation is indeed the gospel that Christ died for. It certainly cannot be said to be the spiritual food that was meant to bring God’s Church to spiritual maturity, for we have seen failure and defeat in many Christians lives, and especially those who ‘confess’ victory.

It is true that in His day, Jesus also went about doing good, healing the sick and feeding the hungry. But one day, He let the Hebrews know that He had brought them something far more profound than the earthly goodies he was generously dishing out to them. In fact, he told them clearly, “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed” (Jn. 6:27).

Then he dropped the bombshell: “I am the bread of life” (Jn. 6:35). They would have to eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, He told them. He was talking about partaking of His sufferings and death.

The Jews said, “This is an hard  saying; who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:60). i doubt it would have been any easier for us to receive. The Cross is still a hard teaching today. Partaking of the sufferings of Christ and His death is not easy. The flesh does not accept it.

But praise God, the Apostle Paul received a revelation of Christ crucified. Henceforth he would preach nothing else. He told the Corinthians, “We preach Christ crucified…” (1 Cor. 1:23). In fact, says he “determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (2:1-2). Paul preached the Gospel of the revelation of the Cross.

Jesus Christ, and Him crucified is the true spiritual food for the Church. This was the food that Paul and the early apostles fed the Early Church.

This is the gospel that the Church and the world needs today. A gospel that will deal with the flesh, and that will mature men and women into the Kingdom of God.

Even in the Old Testament, the only people who made any impact are those to who received a revelation of the sufferings of Christ in their hearts, and who lived accordingly.

For us here in Africa, this is the gospel that has come to us through the revelation that God gave to Brother Miki, and that has been carried in the hearts of countless servants of God who are coming into contact with this revelation through the CTMI ministry.

Today we can say with Naomi: ‘God has visited his people in giving them bread.’ That is bad news for the flesh, and for the Christian who stubbornly wants to remain in the carnal realm.

But for those who want to truly serve the Lord, those who truly desire spiritual fruit in their lives, they will embrace the Cross and the death it brings to self.

How can we do anything but rejoice at the Good News as Naomi did, and embrace it. “Then she arose with her daughters in law, that she might return from the country of Moab: for she had heard in the country of Moab how that the Lord had visited his people in giving them bread.”