The Gospel – A Responsibility (Part 1)

And the children of the Levites bare the ark of God upon their shoulders with the staves thereon, as Moses commanded according to the word of the LORD. 1 Chr. 15:15
Early on, notice the word “shoulders” in this scripture. Shoulders speak of responsibility. Mark that.
But first, let us set a background for what we want to learn from this scripture.
In 2 Samuel 6:1-7 we read:
“1 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. 3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.”
This account is repeated in 1 Chronicles chapter 13.
Had David made a new cart for himself to ride upon, God would have had absolutely no problem with that. But David made the cardinal error of trying to set the ark of God’s covenant with Israel on the new cart he had made. But God is not served by human hands, and this act was extremely displeasing to Him. His anger boiled over when Uzzah stretched out his hand to touch the ark as it threatened to topple over in its doomed crossing. God killed Uzzah right there and then.
The ark never arrived at its destination, the holy city of Jerusalem. The mission to bring back the ark to Jerusalem came to a disgraceful and tragic end midway in its execution, and David had to leave the ark – and all the blessings that went with it – at Obededom’s house.
In 1 Chronicles chapter 15, we see David bringing the ark to Jerusalem the right way, the way God wanted it done: carried on the shoulders of the priests and Levites.
Notice that in both expeditions to bring back the ark, it is stated that there was singing and dancing. In the first attempt, the Bible even says that “David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals.”
But God had never intended for “all the house of Israel” to play these instruments. He had chosen specific men to play these instruments. God had given very specific instructions to Moses about who was to do what in Israel’s service to God. David over-rode that directive and he allowed “all the house of Israel” to play every kind of instrument before the Lord.
Moreover, as we have already seen, God had chosen men, not new carts, to bear the ark of the covenant upon their shoulders. God had told Moses that the ark of the covenant was to be carried by men, the priests and Levites. But David chose to ignore that directive and he built a new cart for the Lord’s ark.
David’s actions cost a man his life.

[Below: God is above all!]

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A Church In Exile (Part 2)

10 And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, they set the priests in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites the sons of Asaph with cymbals, to praise the LORD, after the ordinance of David king of Israel.

11 And they sang together by course in praising and giving thanks unto the LORD; because he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever toward Israel. And all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. Ezr. 3:10-11

Notice that Israel sang and praised God, and that the people shouted with a great shout only after the the foundation of the house of the Lord had been laid. In other words, the reason for their rejoicing was because the temple foundation had been laid.

Before that, the children of Israel had been in captivity, and the enemy had destroyed the temple down to the foundation. But now God had visited them again, and they had began to build the temple.

The Bible says that we are the temple of the living God and that the Spirit of God dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). There is no way you can build a temple before you have laid the foundation.

The foundation of the temple that God is building in us as believers in Christ is “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). Before we even begin talking about the temple, we must first consider its foundation. If we do not catch the revelation of the cross in our hearts, we cannot build the church of Jesus Christ. The foundation of this new temple is humility and brokenness.

But, alas! today we see that the church submitting itself to other gospels. The church is in captivity to many other gospels. The church is looking for other things other than the inner work of the cross.

That is why the church today is a church in exile. The church may be shouting on the outside, but in the Spirit the church has nothing to shout about. The children of Israel were wiser than we; when they were in captivity they asked, “How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land?” (Ps. 137:4)

They just couldn’t do it.

Today we ought to be mourning for how far the church has been taken from her borders. We can only truly rejoice when we have returned our lives onto God’s chipping block, the cross.

[Below: Moshi Town, with the beautiful Mt. Kilimanjaro towering in the background]

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Revelation for Grace!

24 And the men of Israel were distressed that day: for Saul had adjured the people, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food until evening, that I may be avenged on mine enemies. So none of the people tasted any food.

25 And all they of the land came to a wood; and there was honey upon the ground.

26 And when the people were come into the wood, behold, the honey dropped; but no man put his hand to his mouth: for the people feared the oath.

27 But Jonathan heard not when his father charged the people with the oath: wherefore he put forth the end of the rod that was in his hand, and dipped it in an honeycomb, and put his hand to his mouth; and his eyes were enlightened.

28 Then answered one of the people, and said, Thy father straitly charged the people with an oath, saying, Cursed be the man that eateth any food this day. And the people were faint.

29 Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land: see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey.

30 How much more, if haply the people had eaten freely to day of the spoil of their enemies which they found? for had there not been now a much greater slaughter among the Philistines? 1 Sam. 14:24-30

This scripture is talking about revelation. Without revelation there is no victory for the church. Without revelation – the Pauline revelation of the cross – there is no hope for the church. That is a fact that ought to be branded with fire on our hearts.

Notice in this scripture that Jonathan was the only man in the entire Israeli army whose eyes were enlightened.  Jonathan “tasted a little of this honey”, and all of a sudden his eyes were enlightened! How so incredibly fantastic!!

Then notice what Jonathan says about his father, Saul: “My father hath troubled the land…”

Religion without revelation is so stifling. There is no freedom, hence no growth and no spiritual victory. Saul had effectively bound his men to frustration and, ultimately, defeat. That would certainly have been so had it not been for Jonathan’s intervention.

In verses 1 through 23 we read about the incredible feat that Jonathan had pulled off against the enemies of Israel. Jonathan accomplished so much all by himself because he was a free man. The Bible says that he did not hear when his father gave out the order that no one should eat anything that day. Jonathan was free in his spirit.

There was honey dropping from the woods! Through His servants God has brought about the revelation of the cross of Christ. That revelation is freely flowing and available to the church today. It is the revelation that will bring victory to the church, victory in every sense of that word.

But, unfortunately, old man religion and his servants stand there issuing edict after edict, and preventing God’s people from partaking of the one thing that will enlighten their eyes and give them the victory over the enemy. Have you ever heard in church about “ten steps” to achieving this and that? I once even saw a book titled: “Fifty Steps To…(can’t remember what)”. Can you imagine that? Fifty steps!

Jonathan never heard his father’s edict! There is so much stuff the church is hearing today that it shouldn’t be hearing. There is so much law. But that law is couched in such intellectual language that it is difficult for one to see it as law.

And the church remains weak, lying helpless at the feet of sin.

I love what the Apostle Paul says: “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.” (Gal. 6:14)

That was a man who was walking in the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ. And the entire world, both friend and foe, are all too aware of the incredible life that Paul lived through the grace that was to be found in that revelation. No wonder Paul is the most misunderstood and maligned apostle that ever lived. If only one man, Jonathan, could receive enlightenment in the entire Israeli army, then we can also expect that today not many believers will receive the clear revelation that Paul so powerfully brought out in his epistles. That is painful to admit, but it is the truth. Not many.

Jesus said, “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Mat. 7:14 Notice that word there, “few”. I wonder how on earth we can change that word to read “many”.

The only revelation the church will ever receive is of Christ, Christ crucified. It is the revelation that St. Paul received and lived. It is the honey that, many centuries ago, a young man called Jonathan actually tasted in the flesh.

[Below: The true apostles of Christ bring forth the revelation of the cross of Christ to the church: Brother Eliya Amas from Musoma, Tanzania]

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Photo Credit: Carol Lanthier

Beware Herodias!

6 But when Herod’s birthday was kept, the daughter of Herodias danced before them, and pleased Herod.

7 Whereupon he promised with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask.

8 And she, being before instructed of her mother, said, Give me here John Baptist’s head in a charger.

9 And the king was sorry: nevertheless for the oath’s sake, and them which sat with him at meat, he commanded it to be given her.

10 And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.

11 And his head was brought in a charger, and given to the damsel: and she brought it to her mother. Mat. 14:6-11

I used to think King Herod’s promise to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask” was just old-time parlance, or language – until it dawned on me that the king actually meant it. He was ready to give his daughter “whatsoever she would ask”.

Whatsoever she would ask!

And, y’know, she just goes and asks for John the Baptist’s head!

In Africa, we love meat so much that even the heads of the animals we slaughter are used to prepare soup.

But, pray, of what profit can a human head be to anyone? You cannot even make soup out of it! It is worthless.

My heart goes out to this little girl. I don’t know how old she was, but she must have been very young in age – and very talented. Imagine how beautiful she must have appeared as she danced for her dad’s assembled guests. Probably she had practised and practised for days in her room or somewhere, her pure heart imagining the joy that she would give to her parents and their guests. She probably wasn’t even thinking of getting a present.

But an incredible opportunity presented itself. The king was so pleased with her display that he bound himself with an oath to give her whatsoever she would ask. Mark’s account says that he promised to give her even unto half his kingdom!

I know in our ignorance we pooh-pooh these kinds of things; but stop for a moment and think of what a kingdom is. Take even five minutes. You can even check an encyclopedia if you need to. (Sometimes I wonder where we are hurrying to; and we miss out so much on God’s true blessings!)

The point here is to get the feel of what this girl had been promised by her father. In that instant she could have inherited the world. But she chose to ask for John the Baptist’s head!

What, pray, could possibly have made this lovely, wonderful girl to ask for a human head?

Verse 8 gives us the clue to this all-important question. It says she was instructed by her mother to do so.

The gospel of Mark puts it even clearer: “And she went forth, and said unto her mother, What shall I ask? And she said, The head of John the Baptist” (Mk. 6:24).

In other words, she consulted with her mother. It was a deadly mistake.

Herodias had sat there the whole evening, brooding inwardly. All she wanted was John dead. No human mind could possibly “sound the depths” of the evil that lay in this woman’s heart.

The devil is so cruel! This girl’s mother robbed her of not only the chance to inherit half her father’s kingdom; she ended up with something which was of absolutely no value to her.

Probably beheading John was of value to her mother, but it was of absolutely no value to this girl!

The Prophet Jeremiah under the anointing of the Holy Spirit spoke thus of the nation of Israel: “10 For pass over the isles of Chittim, and see; and send unto Kedar, and consider diligently, and see if there be such a thing. 11 Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? but my people have changed their glory for that which doth not profit. 12 Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the LORD. 13 For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:10-13).

It was such a horror what the Israelites had done, to seek after other gods (which were no gods) and to seek for a glory that would not profit. Even the heavens were astonished!

And that was exactly what Herod’s daughter did. She not only asked for something that would not profit her, but she asked for something that brought horror to everyone who would hear of it.

And it must have killed her spiritually. I cannot begin to imagine the nightly – and probably daytime – nightmares that followed after that.

Even her father Herod who in his own right was a by-name for cruelty was shocked by his daughter’s request. Had he been in a position to refuse her request, he most certainly would. But he had bound himself with an oath, upon which he could not renege.

And I can imagine with everyone else “shocked” would have been a monumental understatement.

Apart from shocking everyone to death, of course, the little girl also lost the opportunity to inherit half her father’s kingdom.

All this happened because this little girl consulted her mother! Herodias is a metaphor for evil. She hated the man of God with all her heart.

There are worldly gospels out there, and we better be careful. Paul warns us against these gospels in 2 Corinthians chapter 11. We need to be very careful what gospel we are consulting with or submitting ourselves to. If we submit ourselves to a worldly gospel, it will kill us spiritually.

A worldly gospel caters to the lusts of the flesh. It does not have a heavenly agenda. A heavenly agenda deals with the condition of our hearts.

And before we move on from here let me point out that a worldly gospel is a deceiving gospel, which means it is so subtle even the elect get caught in its snares.

Let me illustrate. If I preach that because I was faithful in giving God this and that amount of money, God therefore blessed me with this and that material blessing, what am I catering to? The flesh, of course! There is absolutely no heavenly agenda there.

If we tie in giving with “reaping” material blessings we have moved from the heart condition to the natural realm. If we preach this gospel in church, the man sitting in the pews who is blessed materially will be feeling comfortable and the one who has nothing will feel he has failed spiritually.

The only “catering to the spirit” that I see in that scenario is that people will die spiritually. The rich man will die of pride, and the poor man will die of a broken heart. The bitter irony is that the poor man could have given to the Lord all right, but his giving is now taken from his heart and tied in with his outside circumstances. And preachers today find no problem making such declarations openly. One prominent preacher here said on TV: “You cannot come to my church riding the back of a motor-cycle” – which is the normal mode of public transport here. He added, “You are supposed to come driving your own car, since I have prayed for you to be blessed!”

At the root of such a gospel is a worldly, not heavenly agenda, and it will kill people!

I also talked in one of my earlier posts about a man of God – a prominent, internationally-acclaimed TV preacher – who told a man as he was praying over him, “You have won a land case”, and that in full public view.

There is no heavenly agenda in such a statement. That would make God a worldly judge, a “divider” of worldly property. But Jesus in Luke 12:14 said He had not come to do such things.

There are a thousand ways that a worldly gospel can kill us. Even the healing ministry can kill you.

Can you see the ‘progression’ there: apostate Israel, Herod’s daughter, and finally us!

That is why we should not listen to or submit ourselves to any gospel except the one single gospel that the apostles paid such a great price to bring to light – the gospel of the cross of Jesus. This is the only gospel wherein the Holy Spirit can break us and bring us to our true inheritance – spiritual maturity, and reigning with Christ in heavenly places.

This is the gospel that deals with the issues of our hearts. And God is all about our hearts. All these things that these gospels promise are good, but they become a Herodias when they are preached in the natural realm, outside of the heart. They are not the subject. Our hearts are. And only the cross can deal with that.

I love the word “determined” in Paul’s words, For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” 1 Cor. 2:2. That would mean there were other, strange gospels that were clamoring for his attention; but he ignored them.

Herod’s daughter ought never to have listened to her mother. That simple action turned her daylight into night.

[Below: In Africa, poverty can sometimes go to extremes: here, somebody’s “shop” – literally!]

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The “Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah”

And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. Ruth 1:16,17

These words by Ruth are not only some of the most popular in the Bible, they are also amongst the most powerful. Nearly every reader of the Bible knows them, and they have impacted many Christians’ lives in a most powerful way.

What many of us do not know is the origin of these words. Where did Ruth get these words? They came from her heart, of course; but what caused her to say them?

God uses the most unlikely people to work out His purpose. I am not talking about Ruth here now; rather, I am referring to Elimelech and his family. The grace of God is revealed throughout the Bible in many different aspects, but one of the most prominent ways we come to notice God’s grace was in the way He used many improbable characters to fulfill His purpose.

Elimelech was such a man. He had run away from his land to escape famine. There was nothing wrong with that, of course, except that he left his fellow countrymen praying, trusting and waiting patiently on God to reveal His faithfulness. That was what we would have expected Elimelech to do also. He should not have left his people in a time of trouble. But it appears that Elimelech was not a very persevering man, and in a moment of weakness, he lost his nerve and bolted for safety.

Years later, long after Elimelech and his two sons had died in a foreign land, God would remember His nation Israel and visit His people “in giving them bread”, and his wife Naomi alone would go back to the home they had left behind.

God knows men’s hearts, however, and He is the best judge of our motives. God knew Elimelech. And through this nerveless man God would re-write history.

The Moabites were a nation that did not know or serve the true God. Their chief god was an idol they called Chemosh. As a result of worshipping this pagan god, they were a very ungodly nation and they lived very wicked lives in the sight of God. There is no way any nation (or person) can live a Godly lifestyle if they do not know the true God. Not, especially, when they are worshipping a demonic entity.

When Elimelech and his family settled in the land of Moab, no doubt they began telling the people there about the true God that they worshipped. But more importantly, they lived such a Godly lifestyle that when Ruth married into that family, through careful observation of their lifestyle, her tender heart was deeply touched.

She saw a kind of godly lifestyle that was not there in her own nation. She saw that the God that these people talked about was different from the gods she knew of in her land. He was a God who had many desirable attributes. He was a God of compassion, and a God of holiness. She heard many moving stories of the Israelite God, Jehovah, and she was profoundly touched.

More importantly, she observed how these people did not simply talk about their God, but she saw how their lives reflected the nature of the God they talked about. Her tender heart craved what she saw and heard.

That was why when Naomi besought her to go back to her gods and her people on the eve of Naomi’s return to Israel, Ruth was adamant: “Your people”, she told Naomi, “shall be my people, and your God my God”. She had found something she wanted, and she would pay for it with her life if it so required. What a powerful testimony to the kind of lifestyle that Naomi and the Elimelech family had lived in the midst of these people!

Neither Elimelech, nor any of his sons’ lifestyles is specified in the Bible, and some would argue that it was probably Naomi herself who lived the kind of lifestyle that attracted Ruth to her God. But I am sure that Elimelech himself and his sons also lived that kind of life. There is nothing to suggest that any of these men lived anything other than a perfect, Godly life in the land of Moab. Also, the Bible is a very keen Book, and it would never mention these men’s names without a particular reason.

Elimelech’s failing (if failing it was) in running away from his nation in a time of trouble fades into nothingness when compared to what he accomplished through his Godly lifestyle in the land of Moab.

Many Christians spend years, and possibly a lifetime, wringing their hands and wishing they were not the losers they are in life. But the Bible here shows us a bunch of losers who became one of the greatest winners in the Bible – The “Ephrathites of Bethlehemjudah”. God, in fact, uses losers. If you consider yourself a loser, I encourage you to put on your dancing shoes right now, get out on the dance-floor of life and see what God can do with your life!

Now, we know that Elimelech and his sons died before they would even have an idea of the great wonder (Jesus) that would proceed from the seed they had planted through the Godly lifestyle they had lived in Moab. But the important thing is not that they lived or died. The important thing is what came out of their lives; the fruit that their lives bore.

Some folks are so taken up with living this life! How sad. We should be taken up with living the future life. I know that does not sound very appealing, particularly considering what the world has to offer. But the glory that comes out of living a hard, unpaid, but Godly life in this world could scarcely be compared with the flitting pleasures of this world.

Living this kind of life requires us, in fact, to die to this wordly life. How so contradictory! And yet… how so fascinatingly beautiful!

The Apostle Paul, observing how God works in ways so different from man’s thoughts and expectations, exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen” (Rom. 11:33-36).

How amazing, indeed.

We Should See Chastisement

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree.

Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.

And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying, What seest thou? And I said, I see a seething pot; and the face thereof is toward the north.

Then the LORD said unto me, Out of the north an evil shall break forth upon all the inhabitants of the land.

For, lo, I will call all the families of the kingdoms of the north, saith the LORD; and they shall come, and they shall set every one his throne at the entering of the gates of Jerusalem, and against all the walls thereof round about, and against all the cities of Judah.

And I will utter my judgments against them touching all their wickedness, who have forsaken me, and have burned incense unto other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands.

Thou therefore gird up thy loins, and arise, and speak unto them all that I command thee: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound thee before them. Jeremiah 1:11-17

Even with the gospel, unfortunately, things sometimes “go with the territory”, as the saying goes. People “see” all kinds of things, and it goes with the environment they are living in. The “seers” in the more affluent West see different things than what those in less developed countries see.

It is highly unlikely, though, that many of these “seers” have the vaguest idea which direction God is headed in.

Listening to many of our local so-called gospel songs (sang by the aptly-named ‘gospel artists’), one hears the craziest things! Africans are generally a poor people and if they are not in the Spirit, they tend to “go with the territory”. In other words, they talk and behave according to the environment of poverty that they are living in. That is why the message of prosperity is so popular in Africa. Preachers of this gospel are the richest people in Africa because they have made money out of promising riches to a desperate and poor people, who in turn give all that they have into the church coffers, expecting to reap a hundred-fold in return!

People are seeing all kinds of things! One time I heard a local song that began with the words, “What are you seeing in the Spirit, my brother?”

That sounded pretty deep, so I sat up to listen. The singer had the answer to her own question, though. She screamed: “Say, ‘I am being lifted high! Like Esther and Joseph of old, I am being lifted up high! From the dust I am being raised to glory!’”

I have no grudge against gospel artists, but seriously, if they have to sing, they should just sing “Glory, Hallelujah!” and no more. They especially should not try to “preach”.

In the scripture above the Prophet Jeremiah saw many things. But here I will talk of only one of the things that he saw in the Spirit. He saw a rod.

What does  that mean and what are the implications for the Church today? A rod means chastisement. That scripture means Jeremiah saw chastisement. In other words, he saw the cross of Christ. In his spirit he saw the crucified Christ and understood the message of the cross, just like the Apostle Paul would many generations later.

Jeremiah had seen well. He suffered much and he endured many things during his ministry.

When we are not on the right foundation we see what we want to see. We see all kinds of things. Another artist asked in one of his songs: “Why should I suffer when Christ is in me? Why should I have any trouble in this world? In Jesus’ Name, I command all problems to leave immediately! Right now!!” And you can hear people in the background literally going around the bend.

It goes with the territory, as I said. When we are poor, and we do not see in the Spirit, all we see is our poverty; and we begin looking into how Jesus can get out of our poverty.

If, on the other hand, we are well off financially and materially (and if we are spiritually blind), pride, arrogance and apathy become our bane.

But God has news for us, just as He had news for Jeremiah and the nation of Israel. Christians today are worshiping at the idols of materialism and the desires of the flesh. God’s servants are preaching a gospel of the flesh, for the flesh. God says He will punish them. But God in His boundless mercy always begins by punishing His servants, the faultless ones. This speaks of the true apostles and prophets in our generation who will have to suffer for the Church just as Jeremiah suffered for the nation of Israel. In other words, God always pays the price Himself! God begins by chastising His own servants.

The Apostle Paul tells the Galatians, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you”! Gal. 4:19

There are many people today who are calling themselves apostles and prophets, but they are not. They are counterfeits. You can tell them by the lifestyles that they live. These kinds of ‘ministers’ would not suffer for the gospel or for the Church. But a true apostle or prophet of God will suffer much for the Church.

It is clear today that the Church is working wickedness through the gospel of materialism that it is preaching. Someone has to pay the price to bring the Church back to God.

Just as Jeremiah saw a rod, the Church today will experience chastisement in order for it to return to a true relationship with God. That is why an understanding of the cross is so vital for the Church today. We need to embrace the revelation of the cross that Christ is bringing into the Church.

The gospel of prosperity, as it is being preached today, is simply idolatry. It is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is one true gospel: the gospel of chastisement, like the one Jeremiah saw. That is the revelation the Church needs to catch today.

Israel, not Jacob!

But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not:  for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name;  thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1

In the scripture above we see that God is addressing two different kinds of people: Jacob whom He created, and Israel whom He formed. Without going into long drawn-out discussions about the meanings of the words “created” and “formed” here, we at least know that God is more interested with Israel than Jacob because when the angel of the Lord met Jacob on his way back to his fathers’ land, Jacob demanded a blessing from Him, and the Lord told him, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:  for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Genesis 32:28.

Henceforth Jacob would be known as Israel. That is of profound significance.

In all His dealings with man God allows the natural to precede the spiritual, and if we are not careful we miss out on the real blessing that God intended for us to have. That is why we who are called by God under the New Testament cannot simply rejoice in the material and physical blessings that God gives us. They come so easily and naturally we are tempted to think they are an end in themselves. On the day I got saved God healed me of a terrible physical illness. It was such a big miracle, and it could still be the highlight of my life with Jesus.

But we must discover the hidden meaning of God’s true calling in our lives. The Apostle Paul talks about a hidden mystery. When we read the Apostles’ epistles we see they did not talk very much about miracles and material blessings, even though they experienced all these. Rather, they spoke about something infinitely more spiritual – the changing of our carnal selves into spiritual, which is a process!

Nor can we rest in the mere act of salvation itself. We cannot underestimate its importance in our lives (eternal life with Jesus), yet the Bible is filled with proof that this is not the end of the matter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:15 we read that If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss:  but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Elsewhere in Jude 1:23 we read: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;  hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Paul also talks about “a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:  and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

There are many Christians today who are so worldly-minded that it cannot be said of them that they would love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Which means that people will be saved all right, but there will be a distinction: while some will enter in triumphantly, yet for others it is as if they will have barely made it.

The conclusion of the whole matter is that God does not want us to remain ‘Jacobs’. Here I mean carnal, or immature Christians. He wants to form us into the image of His spiritual people, “the Israel of God”  -Galatians 6:16. When we speak of “form” we get the impression of people in whose lives God’s hand has worked to bring out something out of something. He works on what He has created to form something new. It is this which He desires to do in our lives. There is a big difference between the simple calling of God and his formative work in our lives.

Hence the revelation of the Cross. It is of utmost importance to us to understand that the apostolic gospel that has come down to us is a revelation. The Apostle Paul (whose mental faculties we cannot fault) says he received the gospel by revelation. Moreover, in Ephesians 3 he implies that all true apostles and prophets in every generation would be men who would have caught the gospel by revelation, a revelation of the Cross. They would understand what it means to be a Christian: it is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, that our minds may be renewed (i.e. put far from sin) and that we may conform to the image of Christ. And this will be accomplished by the work of the Cross in our lives.

When you receive the Cross as a ‘Jacob’ (i.e. without revelation) you will understand that Jesus came to die for your sins so you do not go to hell, which is true. But you cannot go beyond that, and soon you will turn to the weak, worldly materialistic gospel which does not have the power to deal with sin. But when you get the revelation of the Cross, which is only found under the true apostolic ministry, you will understand that the Cross came to work in your life also so that your body of sin may suffer and die with Christ, and to rise to the resurrection from the dead in newness of life; and to become a mature son and daughter of God, worthy and capable to inherit that spiritual Kingdom, as we read in Galatians 4:1-7: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son;  and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Note the angel’s words to Jacob: “as a prince hast thou power…”! He had fought the good fight and he was worthy!

In other words you become a man or woman who has died to sin. Many people today are praying for the hand of God upon their lives. Behold, the hand of the Lord is the Cross! If we think the hand of the Lord are the worldly blessings He gives us, the healings and all that, we are doomed to spiritual immaturity and carnality. While in Mauritius, I witnessed the death of a man whom the church had prayed for a long time to get healed. I visited him one week before he died, and he was sitting there, weak in body, but strong in faith, in righteousness and holiness. He died triumphantly, and we rejoiced on the day of his burial.

We need to join ourselves with the true gospel of Jesus Christ, Christ crucified. Then we will know, as Paul says in Romans 12, “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” How can we say we are in the will of God while we are walking in sin? It is simply impossible. We are called to a walk of holiness and purity – of body, soul and spirit: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;  and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Anything beneath that, however flamboyant it might appear, and under whatever name it is called, is carnality!