It Is All Of God’s Grace

One time at a summer youth camp I was assigned to lead a group Bible quiz session. The minute I settled down in my seat I asked them to give me one of the names of the twenty four elders mentioned in Revelation chapter 4. The reaction I got from the young people was heavenly. It was as if I had asked them to tell me how many stars there are in the sky.

Many times, though, just like these young people, we fail to realize that heaven is about us. We think that heaven is a far-flung place that has nothing to do with us as humans!

So, who are the twenty four elders mentioned in Revelation 4? What are their names?

They are the men that we know of so well in the Bible. They are the twelve sons of Jacob: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Joseph and Benjamin; and the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, namely, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, the sons of Zebedee; Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James Alphaeus, Simon Zelotes, Judas the brother of James, and Matthias (Genesis 29:32-30:24; 35:18; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:26).

These are the men of whom Jesus said,

“Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” (Mat. 19:28)

In all humility, I submit that in heaven these men might be having new names, different from the ones they had when they were down here on earth; but about who they are there is no question: the twenty four elders who constantly fall down and worship God in heaven with golden vials are the men whose lives the Bible is full of. The golden vials that they hold in heaven talk of perfection; and yet, when you look at the ‘honor roll’ of these men while they were here on earth, in some areas they were not the greatest examples of godliness.

Reuben slept with Bilhah, his father’s wife.

And then there is Simeon and Levi, whose anger is legendary. They went and killed the entire male population of the Shechemite tribe on account of their sister Dinah, who had been defiled.

Judah went in to his daughter-in-law mistaking her for a harlot.

Those are the ones we know of of the sons of Jacob. Except for Joseph and Benjamin, the rest were no better.

Of the apostles of Jesus, none could be more famous than Simon Peter, the man of whom Jesus said,

“17 Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail upon it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth hall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat. 16:24)

Peter was truly a great man according to the picture that Jesus painted of him here. He was a great symbol of the heavens. But this was the same man who would go on and cut off another man’s ear with a sword.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Jesus called “The sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17). They had a temper like Hitler’s, and equally great and dark designs. They are famously known to have asked Jesus to allow them to call fire from heaven to consume an entire village (Luke 9:54). They harbored grand thoughts of power and control.

About the rest, whom not much is written, we can only imagine the worst.

Even after Jesus had ascended to heaven and the Holy Spirit had come and the power of God was being revealed through them, the apostles still exhibited streaks of imperfection especially with regard to their seeming unwillingness to part ways with the Law of Moses (Gal. 2:11-12; Acts 21:18-21).

But all these men, whose weaknesses we are so well acquainted with, these are the men whom God has chosen to first sit with Christ in heaven.

How about us? Who is the strong man among us? Who does not sin? Who can stand before God on his own merit?

The great Apostle Paul wrote:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am… I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Let’s all relax. Take a big breathe. Realize you are as mortal as these twenty four men whom God has elevated to behold His face. None are where they are by their own merit. They are all there by the grace of God. Thank God for His grace. And desire to know God’s grace rather than any strength or virtue you think you might possess.

Yes, we are to strive for perfection; but don’t think perfection is just around the bend. It is more about God’s grace than your striving. In fact, take more time to thank God for His grace above anything else that you do. God’s grace ALONE makes us who we are, and gives us any righteousness that we might have. There is NOTHING about us in all this. It is all of God’s grace, mercy and love to us.

No wonder Jesus said that when we kneel down to pray, the very first words that ought to come from our lips are words of praise and thanksgiving to God!!

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Mat. 6:9)

Take all the time in the world to thank and glorify God for His grace and mercy.

Of Joseph, and Jacob

17 He sent a man before them, even Joseph, who was sold for a servant:
18 Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron:
19 Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him. Ps. 105:17-19

It is rare that I can read the story of Joseph without tears streaming down my cheeks. It is incredible the suffering the saints of old endured in order to carry through and keep alive God’s plan and purpose through the ages until Christ’s time should come.

All the more reason that we should consider it a privilege when we suffer for Christ’s sake. And it is for this very reason that the Apostle Paul would write:

“8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8-9)

If any man preach any other gospel than the singular gospel that Paul preached – (“But we preach Christ crucified…” 1 Cor. 1:23) – let that man be accursed.

For Christ has called us to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Him. Jesus also said,

“13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Mat. 7:13-15)

Many false prophets will rise up in the last days who will show a different way, the easy way; but it leads to destruction. But the only way to eternal life is the way that Joseph, Jacob and the early saints, walked – the way of suffering.

 

Jacob’s ‘Mistake’

13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him.

14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day,

16 The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

17 And when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand upon the head of Ephraim, it displeased him: and he held up his father’s hand, to remove it from Ephraim’s head unto Manasseh’s head.

18 And Joseph said unto his father, Not so, my father: for this is the firstborn; put thy right hand upon his head.

19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.

20 And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh: and he set Ephraim before Manasseh. Gen. 48:13-20

What a contrast! A man who can see God’s plan in the Spirit, and one who does not. And, we see here what happens when someone does not see in the Spirit and is confronted. Notice Joseph was “displeased” by his father Jacob’s actions.

In our country, my tribe is renowned. It is famous for all the wrong reasons, notably anger. I heard there is an anger management centre in New York. What is needed is for my entire tribe (which is very small, actually; this is affordable) to be airlifted to that centre in New York, NY and be given a crash program in anger management. I personally wouldn’t mind such a trip since I would get the chance to set my foot in the land of opportunity (although, truth be told, I was watching a clip of a street in Philadelphia recently and my conclusion was that some part of this great country has gone to the dogs).

Anyways, I was telling you about my tribe. In my country, when you introduce yourself as coming from my tribe, people generally step back a pace or two just to feel safe. We are feared that much.

With such a record-setting reputation, it makes it that much harder for someone from my tribe to have their right taken from them. They will fight to the death to hold on to their right. Nor do they take censure lying down.

That is how it has been for a big part of my life. I have been a fighter, and it was not the good fight of our faith. It took me a long time to finally come to the realization that I had a problem with people generally, but with my wife especially. It started out slowly, but I would criticize whatever she said or did. Nearly nothing she said seemed right or praiseworthy. I reached a point where even the slightest mistake on her part became a Mt. Everest for me. I was blowing up 24/7.

One time we had visitors at home and in the course of their stay, we took them to do some shopping in town. They wanted to buy a certain item, and my wife had already told them the price of the item, without my knowledge. When we arrived in town, they found to their dismay that the actual price of this item far exceeded the money they carried with them.

I asked them, “Who gave you the price?”

They said, “Mama” (my wife).

I was livid. I knew the right price and my wife had given them the wrong price without consulting with me! I took it personally that she would do something without consulting me.

Neither the visitors nor my wife had the additional money needed to purchase the item. I had the extra money; but in my heart I vowed I wouldn’t give out a dime. I vowed to let her suffer for her ‘stupidity’. I therefore whistled my way around the stalls as, from the corner of my eye, I watched my wife, visibly distressed,  haggling with the dealer for a price reduction. I felt extremely satisfied when the shopkeeper firmly kept repeating that a price reduction on that particular item was not possible.

If there is one person who can say that God is merciful and mean it, that person is me. At that particular moment that I was looking at my wife, God opened my eyes to see a vista of sorts. Deep inside me something stirred and I saw that God had all along been trying to do something to or for me through my wife’s many seeming mistakes, missteps, miscalculations, and oversights. Yes, the Lord showed me that it was He who was at work in all those things in my wife’s actions that were displeasing to me.

As children of God, we must acknowledge that nothing happens in our lives is by chance. More importantly still, we must realize that what appears displeasing to us in other people’s actions towards us is actually God at work. Joseph was “displeased”; but it was God at work in his father’s actions! And God works all for our good. It was all for Joseph and his sons’ good – and for the good of God’s Kingdom.

What displeases us in our natural ‘habitat’ is what we see in the natural. In the Spirit, though, what appears harmful to us in the natural is, in nearly every case, good and profitable to us in the Spirit. In the natural, Manasseh was the firstborn and there was absolutely no reason for Jacob to overstep him. But Jacob did overlook Manasseh – because he was answering God’s call in the Spirit.

When God sets out to do things His way, He does not need our permission. Our wills, our plans and our purposes are all twisted, and God is out to put things straight in our lives. God knows what is best for His Kingdom – and for us.

To end my saga now… As I stood watching my wife desperately trying to save an unsavable situation, and as the Lord put his finger on my pride and spiritual blindness, I broke down. Deeply humbled, I walked up to my wife and asked her, straight up, “How much do we need to add?”

“Five thousand”, she said.

I dipped into my pocket and came up with the money and humbly handed it to the shopkeeper.

Ever since that time, I have been very much aware of God’s dealings with me through my wife. I realized I had gone ‘overboard’ in the way I viewed and dealt with her and there is a lot of backtracking I have had to do in that regard since that day.

[Below: My wife is bound to make many mistakes; but God uses her actions to chastise me]

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Godly Humility is Incredible Humility

27 And he asked them of their welfare, and said, Is your father well, the old man of whom ye spake? Is he yet alive?

28 And they answered, Thy servant our father is in good health, he is yet alive. And they bowed down their heads, and made obeisance. Gen. 43:27-28

“Thy servant our father…”

I haven’t heard that lately. In fact, I have not heard that kind of language spoken anywhere, real time.

And I am wondering what, if these men could refer to their father as someone’s servant, what then could they say of themselves? Much lower than a servant, no doubt.

And this was not a scene from some screen shot. This was real. It was real life.

Notice it was not Joseph who referred to Jacob as a “servant”. It was his brothers. They referred to him as Joseph’s “servant”, even though at the time they did not know it was Joseph they were addressing. This was the way Godly men of old spoke of themselves.

Our spiritual fathers were men who were extremely rich in the Spirit. And the reason for this was because they were extremely humble.

Modern man is so ‘emancipated’ he has missed it in the Spirit. But we need to have the spirit of humility that these early men of God had.

We recall also Sarah, Abraham’s wife, whom the Bible informs us called her husband “lord” (1 Pet. 3:6). That’s a big “Wow!” there. That speaks of humility, great humility. In today’s ‘modern’ church, a wife may not necessarily use the word “lord” to address her husband, but thank God the life she is called to live is not about words. However, the word “lord” as used here has a very specific meaning. It means that the wife humbles herself to the extent the husband actually becomes her lord, or master.

A woman of the Spirit has no place in her heart for things like women’s emancipation, because emancipation is of the heart, and Christ has set her free to obey her husband. He has not set her free to seek ‘equal rights’ with her husband. Christ has set her free to obey her husband. Any other ‘freedom’ is not of Christ.

We could talk of many more Biblical figures with regard to incredible humility. Take David, for example. We could talk of David and Saul; of King David and Absalom his son; and of David and a man called Shimei. We do not have the time to talk about these things in detail here, but they show that David was a truly humble man.

As we already stated, with the Godly men and women of old, it came naturally to humble themselves. But what was the reason for this incredible humility?

It was because they knew God. They may not have been perfect, but these men and women knew God to an extent that would make us appear like little children with all the pride and selfishness we exhibit.

The modern believer may boast of many things, many accomplishments in the Spirit. But to have the incredible heart of humility that the men of old had! That’s the true calling of God.

I use the word “incredible” deliberately. Humility is a big challenge to the modern believer. I have seen many men of God, myself included, who draw the line concerning how far they can be challenged, provoked or defied.

But humility is of grace.

My prayer today that God may give me – give us all – a heart which is ready and willing to say with the great men of old, “Your servant…”

[Below: A wedding. In marriage, as with any relationship, humility is of absolute essentiality]

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The Simplicity of Godly Men

10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Gen. 28:10-22

It is incredible how simple the men and women who knew God in the Bible were. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would meet God face to face and the only thing he could think to ask of God was safe passage, food and raiment. But this was exactly what this great partriarch did.

And he did it for a reason: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

These men did not desire a simple life for simplicity’s sake; rather, it was because they had their sights on something else.

It is so interesting how the men in the Bible had a singular vision. They did not see “all over the world”. They had a singular focus. And their focus was not on worldly things, however ‘spiritual’ they might appear. They focused on something heavenly, something truly spiritual.

Here we see Jacob’s singular vision: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

We need to understand that scripture cannot be interpreted in the natural. This is why our minds have absolutely no place in God’s plan of revealing things. The “father’s house” that Jacob is referring to is the land that was given to Abraham and his offspring by God through a promise; and anything that is promised by or given by or is of God in any way is spiritual. That is why a born-again believer is spiritual throughout, and if we are not we need to be.

And Jacob says, ‘That I go back there in peace’.

The Godly men and women of old had only one reason for living in this world: to accomplish God’s righteousness in their lives. As far as this world was concerned, all Jacob wanted were the bare necessities. He had his sights elsewhere: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”. That is a spiritual statement, if ever there was one!

Today, the concept of “bare necessities” has been bashed into submission by a materially-minded gospel. I once actually saw a prominent preacher say on television: “God wants you to have ten houses!” That’s not a fable; it is a fact.

If you are poor or if you are deficient in anything of this world today, you are labeled: ‘You have no faith!’

And yet we see Jacob praying to God, ‘If you will only give me safe passage in this world, food and raiment’, that was enough.

The men and women who knew God in the Bible did not think too much of this world. They knew God could bless them with the things of this world if He so desired. But they did not set their hearts on those things. They looked for something spiritual. That is the bottom line: they looked for something spiritual.

In Hebrews 11:9-10 the Bible speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the following manner: “9 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: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

These three men looked for something spiritual.

The Apostle Paul humbly says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Paul uses the same language Jacob used. The apostles looked for something spiritual!

And yet, all these simple men were the truly great men of this world. The Bible says that these were men “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

The great men of God did not look for the great things of this world. They looked for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They looked for that deep inner work of the cross in their hearts.

How far away the church has gone that we cannot use the same language today that these men used! It is so sad how the church has left the spiritual path and has turned into a carnal entity, believing that the things it justifies itself in seeking after are what is in God’s heart.

God in His magnanimity has no problem with us owning these things, and probably they are good for this world.

But even after we receive them we should hold onto them with our fingertips, because they are things that God will not allow into heaven. You cannot drive a Hummer into God’s heavenly Kingdom. And not even a healthy body will be allowed into that Kingdom. God will gladly welcome a healthy spirit into His Kingdom, but not a body, however healthy. The Bible in 1 Cor. 15:50 says that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Sometimes it takes us eons to finally believe the Word of God!

There are ‘ministries’ today which have turned healing into the de facto Kingdom message.

But the message of the Kingdom of God is the singular message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I love the gospel of the cross. You can go to heaven and back, but you will not find any other gospel that zeroes in on what God wants to do in our lives.

I thank God for the revelation that He gave to the Apostle Paul: “Christ, and him crucified”!

[Below: I give you praise, Lord, for health and strength and for the revelation of the cross in my life]

The Simplicity of Godly Men

10 And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran.
11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;
14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.
15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
16 And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the LORD is in this place; and I knew it not.
17 And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.
18 And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
19 And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first.
20 And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
21 So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the LORD be my God:
22 And this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee.
Gen. 28:10-22

It is incredible how simple the men and women who knew God in the Bible were. It is incomprehensible to me that someone would meet God face to face and the only thing he could think to ask of God was safe passage, food and raiment. But this was exactly what this great partriarch did.

And he did it for a reason: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

These men did not desire a simple life for simplicity’s sake; rather, it was because they had their sights on something else.

It is so interesting how the men in the Bible had a singular vision. They did not see “all over the world”. They had a singular focus. And their focus was not on worldly things, however ‘spiritual’ they might appear. They focused on something heavenly, something truly spiritual.

Here we see Jacob’s singular vision: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”.

We need to understand that scripture cannot be interpreted in the natural. This is why our minds have absolutely no place in God’s plan of revealing things. The “father’s house” that Jacob is referring to is the land that was given to Abraham and his offspring by God through a promise; and anything that is promised by or given by or is of God in any way is spiritual. That is why a born-again believer is spiritual throughout, and if we are not we need to be.

And Jacob says, ‘That I go back there in peace’.

The Godly men and women of old had only one reason for living in this world: to accomplish God’s righteousness in their lives. As far as this world was concerned, all Jacob wanted were the bare necessities. He had his sights elsewhere: “So that I come again to my father’s house in peace”. That is a spiritual statement, if ever there was one!

Today, the concept of “bare necessities” has been bashed into submission by a materially-minded gospel. I once actually saw a prominent preacher say on television: “God wants you to have ten houses!” That’s not a fable; it is a fact.

If you are poor or if you are deficient in anything of this world today, you are labeled: ‘You have no faith!’

And yet we see Jacob praying to God, ‘If you will only give me safe passage in this world, food and raiment’, that was enough.

The men and women who knew God in the Bible did not think too much of this world. They knew God could bless them with the things of this world if He so desired. But they did not set their hearts on those things. They looked for something spiritual. That is the bottom line: they looked for something spiritual.

In Hebrews 11:9-10 the Bible speaks of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the following manner: “9 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: 10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.”

These three men looked for something spiritual.

The Apostle Paul humbly says in 1 Timothy 6:8, “And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.”

Paul uses the same language Jacob used. The apostles looked for something spiritual!

And yet, all these simple men were the truly great men of this world. The Bible says that these were men “of whom the world was not worthy” (Heb. 11:38).

The great men of God did not look for the great things of this world. They looked for the fulfillment of God’s Kingdom in their lives. They looked for that deep inner work of the cross in their hearts.

How far away the church has gone that we cannot use the same language today that these men used! It is so sad how the church has left the spiritual path and has turned into a carnal entity, believing that the things it justifies itself in seeking after are what is in God’s heart.

God in His magnanimity has no problem with us owning these things, and probably they are good for this world.

But even after we receive them we should hold onto them with our fingertips, because they are things that God will not allow into heaven. You cannot drive a Hummer into God’s heavenly Kingdom. And not even a healthy body will be allowed into that Kingdom. God will gladly welcome a healthy spirit into His Kingdom, but not a body, however healthy.

There are ‘ministries’ today which have turned healing into the de facto Kingdom message.

But the message of the Kingdom of God is the singular message of the cross of Jesus Christ.

I love the gospel of the cross. You can go to heaven and back, but you will not find any other gospel that zeroes in on what God wants to do in our lives.

I thank God for the revelation that He gave to the Apostle Paul: “Christ, and him crucified”!

[Below: I give you praise, Lord, for the revelation of the cross]

Acknowledging Christ

3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than all his children, because he was the son of his old age: and he made him a coat of many colours.

4 And when his brethren saw that their father loved him more than all his brethren, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him.

5 And Joseph dreamed a dream, and he told it his brethren: and they hated him yet the more.

6 And he said unto them, Hear, I pray you, this dream which I have dreamed:

7 For, behold, we were binding sheaves in the field, and, lo, my sheaf arose, and also stood upright; and, behold, your sheaves stood round about, and made obeisance to my sheaf.

8 And his brethren said to him, Shalt thou indeed reign over us? or shalt thou indeed have dominion over us? And they hated him yet the more for his dreams, and for his words.

9 And he dreamed yet another dream, and told it his brethren, and said, Behold, I have dreamed a dream more; and, behold, the sun and the moon and the eleven stars made obeisance to me.

10 And he told it to his father, and to his brethren: and his father rebuked him, and said unto him, What is this dream that thou hast dreamed? Shall I and thy mother and thy brethren indeed come to bow down ourselves to thee to the earth?

11 And his brethren envied him; but his father observed the saying. Genesis 37:3-11

This scripture refers to the church. We see here that Joseph saw a vision, or a dream. And this dream, though maligned by his brethren and over which Joseph would suffer much – this dream would become the ultimate reality. Everything would work out exactly according to the dream that Joseph had been given.

Likewise, we see that, just like Joseph received God’s plan or revelation of Christ, the apostles also received the gospel through revelation. The word ‘revelation’ is spiritual vocabulary. Even before the church proper had begun, Jesus set the foundation upon which the church would be built: it was upon the revelation of Him as the Christ, the Son of the Living God. The word “Christ” is not a name. It is a title, and it talks about Jesus the Son of God, who would come and suffer and die to take away the sins of people.

The revelation of Christ is the foundation of the church. Paul says in Galatians 1:11-12, “11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Just like Joseph, this revelation would not be an easy gospel for the apostles to carry; they would suffer much for it. The Lord told Paul as much through Ananias: “… For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Act 9:16

Just like Joseph, the apostles would suffer at the hands of their own brethren, the Jews, for something that was revealed to them by God!

But we also need to understand that what was revealed to the apostles was not just a teaching, but a way of life, a life that would go against the worldly current. The revelation that the apostles received concerned God’s Son, Jesus Christ, in whom is the totality of life: the suffering, the dying and the resurrection life.

I am of the firm opinion that ultimately the church will have to acknowledge God’s Son, Jesus Christ, just as Jacob’s sons did with Joseph. Now, I am not talking about the initial acknowledgement where we confess Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. I met a girl recently and as I was sharing the gospel with her she told me, “Pastor, I have received Jesus into my life already, but I am still living a life of sin.”

Clearly, something was missing in her life.

Acknowledging Christ here means living the crucified life. It is this life that the Apostle Paul speaks of in Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me”;

And, in Galatians 6:14: “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.”

The word “ultimately” means “eventually”, “finally”, “in the end” (thanks to my Thesaurus).

That means that initially, and in-between, the church will have all the freedom to run after every other doctrine they wish to run after – just like Joseph’s brothers did. When you read the above account in full, you will see that while Joseph was suffering in Egypt, Judah was gallivanting all over the land and doing the most abominable things. None of the other brothers’ lives are revealed, but I imagine that if Judah was (as the Bible indicates) the noblest of them all, then the other guys’ lives likely must have been open sewers! (Except, of course, Benjamin, who stayed steadfastly close to his father’s side).

You cannot walk in victory over sin if you are not walking in the revelation of the cross!

It is an undeniable fact that there are many options – many doctrines – that are open to the church today, and nearly all are designed to allow the Christian to walk freely on the broad and wide road (Mat. 7:14).

God’s people will run after miracles and signs and wonders. They will dance all the way to the bank under the influence of the gospel of prosperity. They will declare that as the “King’s Kids”, they have every “right” to this and that. They will hearken to many other things, things of the flesh.

But above all, they will reject the gospel of the cross. It will not be attractive to them. Some even, failing to catch the revelation, will claim it is a cult.

But God’s plan and purpose is right there, in the cross. The gospel that will finally take the Bride, the church to the Bridegroom, Jesus, will be the gospel of revelation of the cross, where men and women learn to deny self, crucify the flesh and live the resurrection life.

This is the gospel that I am convinced that the church will ultimately have to bow down and acknowledge – the gospel of the cross, because you cannot detach Jesus from the cross.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not an easy life. The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 1:13-16: “13 Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: 15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; 16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.”

We are called to live a holy life, and that holiness is found in the revelation of Jesus Christ. In Him – in denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ – we find the grace to live the kind of life that pleases God, a holy life wherein when the Bridegroom comes for us He will find us without blemish, spot or wrinkle. Hallelujah!

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!