The Holy Spirit And The Cross – Part 2

The classic case of just how gentle, unobtrusive and unassuming (but powerful) the Holy Spirit is, is to be found in Matthew 16:13-20. But before we read that scripture let us look at Proverbs 7:11-12.

“11 (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: 12 Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)

That’s not talking about a woman; it is talking about the flesh. The flesh is loud; and it is all over the place. The flesh always wants to advertise itself.

But the church is not a place for advertising who we are, nor the things of this world and of the flesh which are, incidentally, temporal. On the contrary, the church is a place for the quiet dealings of the Holy Spirit, which are eternal. If a Christian wants to be known in the flesh, he or she is a carnal Christian.

So now, let us look closely at Matthew 16:13-20. Here I will just quote a few relevant verses.

“15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? 16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven… 20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was the Christ.”

Now, did we say that God does not want to be known, nor His power to be proclaimed?

Hardly. The Bible is filled to the brim with scriptures that declare the glory and power of God. But then God is not flesh. He is Spirit, and He is holy. He does not want to be advertised in the flesh.

It is not that Jesus did not want the world to know that He was the Christ. But He wanted this knowledge to come as a work of the Holy Spirit, not of man. I recall some years back we had a phrase in church, “Running with the vision.” It began in the Spirit all right. In those early days men and women truly heard from the Lord. But it didn’t take long for the flesh to raise its ugly head in church and now, today, people are piling up in churches to hear all kinds of visions from all kinds of visionaries… We are living in different times all together.

But when Jesus was here on earth, He did not give the flesh a single opportunity to express itself. In this particular case, He did not want His disciples to go and tell people that Jesus was the Christ while, just a while back, they had been openly jostling for the No. 1 position in Jesus earthly government! He did not want Simon Peter, who did not want to face the cross (Mat. 16:22) to proclaim that He was the Christ!

Jesus would allow His disciples to declare that He was the Christ after the Holy Spirit had done a work of the cross in their lives. That was long after He had left this earth in the flesh.

This is exactly what God is looking for in our lives. God is looking for men and women who have accepted the work of the cross in their lives. He desires us to be changed by the cross in us. God is more interested in what we can allow Him to do in us rather than what we can do for Him.

In 1 Pet. 3:1-4 we read,

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be the outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

Notice in verse 1 that the Biblical way for wives to win over their unbelieving husbands to the Lord is not through the word; but

“by the conversation of the wives”.

The word “conversation” means way of life. In other words, the way the wife talks and behaves in the fear of the Lord. Not the preaching. That is the Biblical way to win over people’s lives to the Lord.

Secondly, notice, in verse 4,

“the hidden man of the heart” and

“the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit”.

What does the Bible say about these two qualities?

It says they are

“not corruptible”;

in other words, they are eternal. Secondly, they are

“in the sight of God of great price.”

We should not desire to be seen. Neither through our preaching nor through anything else we do. On the contrary, we should desire the work of the cross through the Holy Spirit working in us to be seen in us. The reason for our doing should only on account of what He has done in us.

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The Holy Spirit And The Cross – Part 1

I attended a meeting recently where the speaker made one of the most astounding statements I have heard in my life. He said, “The Holy Spirit does not expose Himself.”

Those words hit me like an express train. All of a sudden, in that single sentence, I discovered so many unspoken revelations. No wonder, I realized, He is spirit. The Holy Spirit is not flesh, and He absolutely does not relate or attach Himself to the flesh. In other words, He does nothing for the human eye’s nor the flesh’s benefit. That is why, when Jesus was here on earth, because He Himself was God (for He had the Holy Spirit in Him without measure), He did nothing to be seen of men. He spent an inordinate amount of time and energy preventing people and evil spirits from revealing who He was! Imagine that. People and evil spirits both lumped together. How could this be so? It is because, when we are without the Holy Spirit, we are

“earthly, sensual, and devilish.” (Jam. 3:15)

James here is talking about three things: the world, the flesh and the devil. And he says they are one.

Why do I say that the words hit me like an express train?

Just how many expressions of the flesh, both the subtle and the not-so-subtle, are in us! Down to the way we talk, the way we walk, look, and even preach – indeed, sometimes in our entire way of life, how many aspects of the flesh are to be found there!

[The cross sets us free from the bondage of the flesh]

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Welcome, 2019

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

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

In Psalms 51:10-13, David wrote:

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

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

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

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

[I kick off this year with my favorite song]

“A Rushing Mighty Wind” (The Work Of The Holy Spirit) – Part 1

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Gal 5:22-23

The work of the Holy Spirit is to produce fruit in us. Just in case you thought He is there only for us to speak in tongues. But first, a preamble.

Speaking in tongues has its place in the church. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 14:4:

He that speaketh in an unknown tongue edifieth himself; but he that prophesieth edifieth the church.”

We see here that one of the reasons the gift of speaking in tongues has been given to us is for us to  edify our own spirits. To “edify” means to build up, to cause to grow. The Bible says that when you speak in tongues you speak mysteries with God (1 Cor. 14:2), and in this way you build up your spirit.

What a truly wonderful experience! That is why every believer should seek the gift of speaking in tongues. The Bible in 1 Cor. 14:1 tells us to “desire” spiritual gifts; and speaking in tongues is one of the spiritual gifts that God has given to the Church.

In the Early Church, speaking tongues was a gift common to the church, as we see in the Book of Acts.

Acts 2:1-4:

“1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”

Acts 10:44-46:

“44 While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. 45 And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as any as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. 46 For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God.”

Acts 19:1-6:

“1 And it came to pass, that, while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper coasts came to Ephesus: and finding certain disciples, 2 He said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. 3 And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said unto him, Unto John’s baptism. 4 Then Paul said, John verily baptized the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. 5 When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 6 And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came upon them, and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.”

Notice the Holy Spirit came to God’s people in different forms and in different ways. But His filling up God’s people was always accompanied with speaking in tongues.

Other gifts of the Holy Spirit flowed freely also. In Acts 21:8-9 we read of the evangelist Philip. The Bible says:

“And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.”

Imagine that. Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit that was there for these girls to live such a spiritual life. Four virgins in one house. And they all prophesied. The Early Church was totally given to Christ.

That means there is a problem in the Church today when we fail to emphasize on being filled with the Holy Spirit accompanied with speaking in tongues. Or is it possible that we are a different Church from the Early Church? God forbid.

How does the Holy Spirit come on someone?

The Bible says it is by desiring. The Bible says we are to “desire” spiritual gifts. The gifts of the Holy Spirit come by desiring. The Holy Spirit does not come upon you by being prayed over. You could be prayed over by every servant of God in the world, but if you have not “desired”, He will not come upon you.

But, pray, what does it mean to “desire”?

Desiring speaks of having a hunger for God in you. It says in Isaiah 55:1,

Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…”

When I got saved in the early 90s, there was a hunger for God in the hearts of God’s people. People sought for God. As a result, people were easily filled with the Holy Spirit. One could be filled even as they were being baptized in the water. And they always spoke in tongues.

Today, the dollar sign is up. The charismatic gospel has come to up-end things, and there is a different hunger in the hearts of God’s people. People now want things, not God. They want material prosperity, miracles, and signs and wonders. There is no desire for righteousness, or for the things of God. Today, one would rather fill their pockets with money than speak in tongues!

But we need to get back that old hunger in us; and we shall witness the Holy Spirit moving as “a rushing mighty wind” in the Church. That means the Church will witness a return of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and it will grow spiritually.

The validity of speaking in tongues for every believer is espoused by the Apostle Paul , the foremost of Christ’s apostles, who spoke in tongues ceaselessly whenever he was alone; for he says in 1 Corinthians 14:18,

“I thank my God, I speak with tongues more than ye all…”

If Paul spoke with tongues, we need to desire to do so too. The key word here is desire. Through speaking in tongues, the Bible says we edify our spirits.

The spirit of man needs to be like the Garden of Eden. The Bible says that the Garden was well- watered (Gen. 2:10).

We need to be bubbling with life in every area of our lives. We need to have soft, malleable hearts, where God can easily deposit His spiritual riches.

[The church in Minyughe, Singida. It may not be like the church that was in Philip’s house, but one amazing fact about this church is that there is an entire family of six who are all worship leaders]

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Victory In The Cross

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Rom. 7:22-25

Even I am surprised at myself. I am very, very surprised at what I see in me. It is as if I am trapped on every side by the flesh. So much so that, in other words, I could only describe myself as a carnal man. The lusts of the flesh are all too clear in my life and they batter at me on every side!

And yet, at the same time, I find myself cheering at the things of the Spirit. When my spirit hears something Godly, it comes alive. It cheers wildly!

I find this juxtaposition hard to comprehend. Is it me who is cheering at the things of the Spirit and at the same time desiring so much the things of the flesh? How can the two things be alive in me? And so, so much like the Apostle Paul here, I find myself thoroughly flabbergasted and distressed by this state of affairs.

But I find also that Paul had an answer to this problem. In verse 25 he says,

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

Therein – in Christ Jesus our Lord – lies the answer to this most complex of problems for the believer. In the following verses, Paul shows us that it is through crucifying the flesh. In Romans 12:1-2 he writes:

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.

That means to crucify the flesh.

There is only one way to defeat the problem of the flesh in our lives: it is to crucify the flesh.

I never truly understood what Paul meant when he described Jesus as God’s “unspeakable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).

But I have come to know its meaning. It is, simply, that the cross (“Jesus Christ crucified”) helps us to live the will of God!

When “Christ crucified” is firmly enthroned in our lives and we are living the crucified life, we will not obey the lusts of our flesh. In fact, we will live in a completely different dimension; a dimension where the lusts of the flesh are alien to us.

I recall there was a time when believers lived this kind of lifestyle. My elderly pastor often regales us with the story of the day when he proposed to his then wife-to-be. She burst out crying, “Oh my God! What have you likened me to? A harlot?”

In her mind, the thought of being with a man was alien. It had never crossed her mind!

Yes, in those early days when salvation was untainted, the flesh never had a chance. The cross was alive in God’s people’s lives. People’s consciences were alive! If someone needed to forgive, the hurriedly did so. They would not accept to live even one minute with unforgiveness because every minute they were beholding the face of God, and how could you possibly behold God’s face with unforgiveness in your heart?

Today, Christianity is largely lived on another dimension altogether. In the city of Dar es Salaam, I know of a preacher who has left his wife and married a younger girl. He is an “apostle and prophet” and he told his congregation that God had led him to do that. He sent his wife and children back home to her parents. And his church is still packed to capacity. I challenge you to believe it or not; but it is true.

In the early days of Christianity, when the revelation of the cross was in the church, such a thing would not only have been untolerable. It would have been unthinkable.

“Christ crucified” is the SINGULAR cure for the contradiction of the flesh and the Spirit in our lives. Because we have been born again, our spirits are alive to God and they desire the things of God. But the flesh, un-crucified, is right there beside us, doing exactly what Ishmael did to Isaac.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:28-29)

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal. 4:30)

We are Abraham’s seed. If Abraham had to throw out Hagar and her son, then we also have to throw out the law and sin in our lives.

And so, I have discovered the solution to my dilemma. I must crucify the flesh. There is no short-cut. And there is no middle way.

Have a victorious Monday, everyone!

Circumcision vs The Cross – Part 2

There is no other way of becoming spiritual other than crucifying the mind of the flesh together with its lusts (Gal. 5:24). That is the singular most importance understanding that a believer can have in his or her life

We can therefore see the significance of Paul’s words in verse 11:

“Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.”

We can understand why he would want to put everything else aside and emphasise the importance of this revelation to the Galatians. The revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) was the singular most important thing that they could grasp in their lives.

When we lack that revelation in our hearts, we look to form, tradition and anything that can be grasped with our human understanding. The Galatians looked to circumcision.

There are so many things that believers today think are important in their lives; but which are not.

The Apostle Paul puts it out so clearly the single most valuable thing in a believer’s life:

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Not tradition or form; but a work of the Spirit in someone’s heart.

[The work of the Holy Spirit in us transforms us]

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Sell All/Take Up The Cross/Invest

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions. Mk. 10:17-22

This post boasts all the subjects that I have listed in the title above.

One would need to write whole books and more to dissect this small portion of scripture, so I will not attempt to do that here. Instead, I will just home in on verses 21 and 22. The Bible says that Jesus beheld this young man and He loved him. That singular fact is of great importance to us in understanding God’s heart for us.

When Jesus loved this young man, it is clear from scripture what Jesus did. The account says He told this young man:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

We cannot assume that, if Jesus truly loved us, that He would tell us anything less than what He told this young man. But the first thing is to be sure that Jesus does love us. Does Jesus truly love us? You bet He does. He gave His life on the cross for us. But the flesh has a problem with the love of Jesus for, when Jesus says He loves us, the flesh would want Him to shower us with American dollars and houses and lands; and the occasional private jet. Unfortunately, this is the prevailing gospel in the church today. But it is a worldly gospel, of the flesh, and demonic.

But, on the contrary, when Jesus turns His loving gaze upon us, He only has one thing to say to us:

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.”

Jesus asks us to sell all that we have, to take up our cross and follow Him!

Now, we might not be rich like this man was, and we might have a problem with the “sell whatsoever thou hast” when we probably have nothing to sell. Not all of us have things to sell. But “selling all” here does not necessarily mean giving away or parting with our material riches. More importantly, it means denying ourselves for the sake of the gospel. When you deny yourself, you have “sold all”!

And the poor here might not be referring to the materially poor. But what if the poor here refers to anyone who might need something from you; say, for example, someone feels they need to rob you, or to insult you, or to hit you on the cheek. That’s a poor person right there, and you need to “sell all” and let them have their way with you. Actually, the gospel of Jesus Christ is that demanding.

The gift, or joy, of denying ourselves! The pleasure is all mine, said the Apostle Paul:

“9… 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.” (2 Cor. 12:9-10)

The flesh is against the cross. There is nothing in all what Paul writes here that the flesh can rejoice in. But Paul, who in the Spirit saw the beauty of the cross, rejoiced in these contrary states of affairs, things contrary to everything that the flesh stands for. They were the things that would make him spiritually rich.

Denying oneself means exactly that: denying your rights! That is why Jesus said in Matthew 5:38-42:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”

In all what Jesus said to do here, there is a denying of self. In the Spirit, you gain your life by losing it.

Finally, let us see something slightly different but equally important. Scripture says that Jesus beheld this young man and loved him. Now, even in ordinary life, when you love someone, you want the best for them, don’t you? Jesus saw this man, He saw in the Spirit the worldly wealth that this man had and Jesus immediately knew that He could turn this young man, whom He had taken an instant liking to, into one of the top “billionaires” in God’s heavenly Kingdom. All the young man needed to do was… invest. In the Spirit, Jesus saw what this man’s worldly riches were worth in heaven if he could invest them wisely. Jesus decided to inform the young man of the Good News.

“Friend”, He said. “I have for you the best investment proposition that both heaven and earth can offer.

“… go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor”.

Jesus said,

“… and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.”

But, sadly, the rich young man could not see in the Spirit. Unfortunately, he did not see things as Jesus saw them. He did not see the great reward that would be his in heaven if he followed Jesus’ advice to sow in the flesh and reap in the Spirit. He could see only in the flesh; and all he saw was his valuable wealth – and someone (Jesus) trying to take it away from him.

[A woman and a young man meditating]

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