Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 3

There is one thing that was not so simple as the provision of bread, and this is what truly troubles God. Jesus told His disciples:

“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Now, in those words, there was a work to do! This, finally, is the time for the saint to wake up. A lack of bread is nothing to wake anyone up about. But here – where the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians is – here is the place to shake everyone awake. It is the place for the saint to keep his eyes peeled. No time for sleep here!!

Where hypocrisy and every work of the flesh is, that is where the saints are involved. That is what should concern us. Not Burger Kings! Or Kentucky Chicken. Or houses or lands or clothing or cars or private jets. Or even whether our kids go to the best school or not (Today, education for our children, especially here in Africa, is at a premium. It has shot so high in esteem for the children of the Kingdom it is threatening the very throne of God in importance.)

But, in a sense (and this is where Jesus needs us to be mature), God is not too worried about the things of this worldly life as we are. There are examples in the Bible to show that, with regard to this natural life, God is not too worried even whether we live or die! There are instances where God gave up His children to be slaughtered.

What has God truly worried is when we carry the leaven of the Pharisees in our hearts. And here God has set up a whole system – the way of the cross, the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – to ensure that we do not continue carrying this leaven with us. That is the eternal gospel.

Let us have the simple faith to trust God for our needs… and let us move on to seek after the wellness of our hearts for this is what truly matters with God.

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Grasping The Eternal – Part 2

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

Jesus was always thinking and talking in the Spirit. At no one time did Jesus think to talk to His disciples (as a teaching) about earthly bread. But His disciples were on an altogether different algorithm. They thought, talked and acted in the flesh. Just like us. Ever noticed how worldly situations get us down so quickly? When we are short of something like money, food or clothing, we carry that long face. Bur these things are temporal.

But we are to walk in the Spirit! That is which is eternal. And herein we are going to see what the spiritual life is.

Verse 12 establishes that Jesus’s disciples finally caught on to what He was trying to tell them, thank God. He was warning them to beware of the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Now, that word, “doctrine”, is central to Jesus’s teaching here. Was He talking of a teaching per se? A teaching without the Spirit produces form. Form is what we portray on the outside. Without the life of the Spirit in you, you appear holy, but you are not holy. In fact, you do everything on the outside to appear holy. But you are not so on the inside. You build spiritual castles in the air, so to speak. And many great Christian denominations in the world are that way. So, unfortunately, are the majority of Christian lives.

So, was Jesus talking about a teaching? Hardly. On the contrary, Jesus was talking about a way of life. He was warning His disciples to beware of living an empty ‘Christian’ life. In fact, St. Luke put it more clearly in Luke 12:1-5:

“1 In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. 2 For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known. 3 Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken in the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops. 4 And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him.”

Form is what we portray before men; reality is what we carry before God. And, with God, without reality is hypocrisy. But reality is repentance. And living a life of repentance is living a life where I am daily desiring and striving to put off the works of the flesh in my life. The Pharisees had the best form of worship, but they harbored every kind of evil in their hearts, including murder.

True repentance means living a life that fears God more than men. It does not really matter what form I worship God in. What counts with regard to eternal life is the heart life that I live before God.

Jesus said, “Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell”.

[“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land” – 2 Chron. 7:14]

Two Lessons – Part 1

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Gal. 2:1-10

I have been away for a while but I thank the Lord that He has helped me through many difficult stutations; and I am glad to be back.

Today I would like to address two issues that are on my heart, both of which are to be found in the above portion of scripture.

The first issue I would like to address is found in verses 1 through 6. It is about the liberty that we have in Christ. It is clear here that, even if the gospel first sounded out from Jerusalem, yet there was a problem that simply had failed to go away in that church. That problem was legalism and its resultant bond-brother, hypocrisy. Hypocrisy always attends legalism (to those who accept to be bound by legalism).

The apostles in Jerusalem had failed to handle legalism, and it therefore had the upper hand within the church. But Paul had received a slightly different gospel: the gospel of the grace of Christ, in its fullness. He knew what true liberty was in the Spirit. Christ had revealed Himself to him in a way He had not done with the other apostles.

Paul’s words, therefore, in verse 6:

“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me”

were a stinging rebuke of the hypocrisy that was going on in the church in Jerusalem. Titles were meaningless here. Apostle or no apostle, stand for the truth of the gospel!!

The problem in the church in Jerusalem was made clear when men from Jerusalem came and found Peter eating with the Gentile brethren. The account states that these men had come “from James” (v.12). Peter immediately withdrew from associating with the Gentiles, fearing a backlash from the Jerusalem party. The law was so powerful that every other Jew, including even Barnabas, a long-time associate of Paul’s, was taken up in the hypocrisy.

There are few men, even today, who can go against the formidable tide of the spirit of the world to defend the gospel of grace and freedom in Christ against law and hypocrisy. Pastors, apostles, prophets and leaders of every sort of the gospel will arrive at a place in their ministry where they will be tested in this regard – and, sadly, many will compromise. They will find it hard to defend the gospel against men.

Uncompromising men like Paul are rare. But the important fact to understand is that these can only be men and women who have died to self through a realization of the cross in their lives.

Notice what Paul says in verse 2:

“And I went up by revelation…”

What wonderful news! A man of God who can be led only by the revelation of God in his heart, and not by James or John or Peter!! Paul did not go to Jerusalem because any of the apostles had sent him summonses, no. Paul went by revelation, thank God – and that after a long time ministering under that same revelation.

The men and women who walk by revelation of Jesus Christ in their hearts are they who will bring the true gospel of the cross to triumph in a world that is clueless about the true meaning of the cross.

[Below: Paul went up to Jerusalem by revelation]

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Peter, A Humble Apostle (Part 1)

(This post is about the Apostle Peter, but you won’t read about him until Part 2)

30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. Joshua 8:30-31

Do you know there is clockwise and there is anti-clockwise? You would be surprised to learn that most of the time we are working in an anti-clockwise manner in our Christian walk with God. While God is trying to perfect and glorify us ‘clockwise’, we are busy trying to seek for that same perfection in an anti-clockwise way!

That’s how funny we are.

I will explain that in a minute, but let me begin by saying that the reason we work against God is because we fear. We fear to expose our failings and our weaknesses. But we should not fear to be who we are, nor should we fear to be seen by people for what we truly are. That is the essence of the gospel as far we are concerned. We are not called to ‘protect our identities’, nor are we called to be ‘politically correct’ either in word or in deed.

Many born-again believers, especially after they have grown in years and find they are still struggling in some areas of their lives, decide to hide their failings. In trying to do this they build up a beautiful façade, putting up an image of how they would like to be viewed.  What they don’t realize is that in doing this they are ‘setting themselves in stone’ and that God will not be able to work in their lives. However difficult or hard or shameful it may be (to us) we are not to avoid confronting the truth and exposing ourselves at whatever cost. That is what humility is all about, and God is concerned with humility in our hearts above anything else.

God told the children of Israel that they should not try to chisel the stones upon which they would offer sacrifices to Him. He Himself would sanctify the stones by His presence.

You remember also that when the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah, Samson’s father, in Judges 13, Manoah offered a sacrifice unto the Lord upon a bare rock (v.9). The Bible does not say that he chiseled at the rock first, no; he offered the sacrifice on the rock just as it was… and the rock instantly became the altar. These were men who understood the ways of the Lord.

And the Bible says that “19 …and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.

20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground” (Jdg. 13:19-20).

What this means for us is that we should go to the Lord just as we are and allow Him to perfect us. We are not to lay even a finger upon our character to try and change it. If we do this it becomes highly displeasing to God and we deny the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in our lives.

But, alas! many of us try to suppress things. ‘Suppression’, however, has never been a good word, and certainly not for born-again believers. You suppress bombs and those kinds of things, not your spirit. We need to be what we are.

God loves your roughness. Let us say you easily get angry, for example. What a wonderful place to be! Don’t bother hiding it. Simply acknowledge it and allow God Himself to work in you to perfect you and use you for His glory. When we get busy trying to act right we lose flavor with God. God loves us most when we are exactly what we are. He loves to be able to perfect us.

The Heart of the Matter

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Mat 23:23

Values. It’s a rather stiff word and I have never seen it in the Bible – at least not the KJV which I read. In his day, Jesus had a problem with people who esteemed ‘values’ above people.

The Bible says that “mercy rejoiceth against judgment” (Jas. 2:13). That means that with God there is both judgment and mercy, but He chooses mercy above judgment in dealing with us.

What we choose between these two in our daily dealings with our fellow men is of utmost importance to God as far as our relationship with Him is concerned!