God’s Singular Focus

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.

5 While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only. Mat. 17:1-8

There are slightly differing versions of this account in the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke. But there is no mistaking what happens at the end of each account. In every account of this story, Elijah and Moses left the scene, and disciples were left beholding only two things: Jesus Himself, and the words that God had spoken from out of the cloud:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

In other words, God powerfully took Elijah and Moses out of the New Covenant scenario. Peter would have loved to retain both these Old Testament prophets with Jesus; but God firmly said no.

It is not possible to have both the old covenant and the new one working in our lives.

I remember in school we had something called a duster. The duster was used to clean off the blackboard. Here, in this account, God Himself came in a cloud and dusted Moses and Elijah off the map. But He did not dust off Jesus. The cross is undustable. The cross is inerasable.

Although the apostles were probably witnessing a heavenly scene (the Bible says that Jesus’ clothes and countenance changed and became heavenly white) yet, when God appeared on the scene in the cloud, He neither referenced Elijah nor Moses. Instead, He spoke only about Jesus:

“This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

This was a powerful demonstration to the disciples of the singular focus that God attaches to Jesus – and to the cross.

Today, people want to lump Jesus, Moses and Elijah together. They want to place the old and the new together. But that is simply unacceptable with God.

Today the majority of believers are either into law or into miracles and signs and wonders. But, at the same time, all these people proclaim, “Jesus!” But, although these things (law and miracles) may be good in themselves, neither one of them have the power that is needed to do in us the singular thing that pleases God, i.e. to transform us and to form in us the character of Jesus. The Apostle Paul makes this clear in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24:

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

You can be ‘baptized’ into the law up to your neck, but you cannot please God through the law. You can also be into miracles and signs and wonders; but you cannot please God through these things. Jesus said that many who are doing miracles right now will not go to heaven (Mat 7:22). The only thing you can please God with is by taking up your cross and following Jesus.

Few today are hearing the gospel of the cross preached. Even fewer still are willing to take up their cross and follow Christ. Many would rather listen to the comfortable gospel of prosperity and of solving one’s problems (financial prosperity, miracles, healing, promotion, etc.).

But God has wiped everything off His blackboard and left only one thing: Jesus Christ, and him crucified. God wants His new covenant class (the church) to focus on only one thing. This was the singular focus that the Apostle Paul also had (1 Cor. 2:2; Gal. 3:1). The cross is the SINGULAR way we can please God. Why the cross? The cross crucifies the flesh and this brings the grace of God into our lives. And it is through carrying God’s grace in our hearts alone that we can please God:

“Wherefore… let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear”. (Heb. 12:28)

That is how we can come to understand the reason for Paul’s singular focus on the cross of Christ. In all his teachings and in all his life, Paul purposed to know (and to live) nothing apart from Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. And the power that was in Paul’s life was and is profound and unambiguous even to this day; and it will be unto eternity.

Christ crucified is God’s revelation to the world.

[“And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.”]

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The Reluctant Slave

Many years ago I read a story about a man who was taken into slavery into a faraway land, and when he was taken into slavery, it so happened that he was taken straight to the king’s palace. He lived there for many years, working as a slave.

In those days, it was customary for a slave to be redeemed if his kinsfolk brought to his masters sufficient wherewithal to redeem him. During the time that he was enslaved, this man’s relatives worked and worked until they got enough means to redeem their flesh and blood.

After those many years, the relatives started on the long journey to the strange country to redeem their brother. On arrival, they were well received, as was the custom in those lands. They were washed, fed and treated very well throughout the night. In the morning, they brought their agenda to the king’s hearing and, upon hearing it and upon weighing up the wherewithal his relatives had brought, the king had only one answer: “The man is free to go.”

The man was asked to pack up and leave, but to the surprise of everyone, he refused to go. He told his relatives, “I have lived well here in this palace, far much better than I did back home. Furthermore, I know there will be – and there are – people back home who still dislike me, so I am not ready to go back to all those problems. I am comfortable here.”

His relatives were shocked by his answer and they began crying and beseeching him to consider them, his own flesh and blood; but he would not. He remained adamant and they had no option but to leave without him. They went away crying loudly, sorrowful that their brother had chosen to remain in slavery rather than to go live in freedom together with his own kith and kin.

Not long after this saga, it was reported in that faraway land that the king was seriously ill and, soon afterwards, he died. It was also the custom in that country that when the king died he had to be buried together with his favorite servant, alive. And so, therefore, while burial arrangements were being made, a council was set up to determine who should be buried with the king. It didn’t take long for the council to conclude that the servant whose relatives had recently come to redeem had been the king’s favorite servant. It was therefore declared that this man, having been the king’s favorite servant, would have the honor of getting buried alive with the king.

When the news reached the servant, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was shell-shocked. Not, of course, on account of the news that he was the king’s favorite, of which he was well aware; but of the fact that, being the late king’s favorite servant, he would be buried alive alongside the king. The latter was a fact that he was not aware of although he had lived in that country for a long time.

He tried to plead for his life. He told his new masters, “My brethren, whom you saw here recently, will be coming again to take me home.” But it was to no avail; his name had already been officially proclaimed.

In a desperate bid to save his life, he tried to escape, but he was apprehended and locked up. Finally, the day of the king’s burial arrived and the king was finally laid to rest, together with his favorite servant. As was the burial custom, the servant was buried alive, standing up straight, in honor of the king.

This man had recanted his flesh and blood to remain with a foreign king, and the reason he gave for denying his brethren was because he was living a comfortable life and did not want to suffer any problems! In the end he died – alone, in a foreign country.

This story reminds me of what is happening within the church today. It reminded me of the dangers of those who would not allow themselves to suffer for Christ’s sake. In particular, it reminded me of those within the church who would push aside the gospel of the cross in favor of other gospels. The revelation of the cross is the believer’s flesh and blood. We do not preach another Christ, however comfortable he is:

But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

If you hold onto your life, you will be denying Jesus Christ, for He Himself said,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:25)

The comfortable gospel of prosperity and bodily welfare is probably the one true menace to the church today. The prosperity gospel “bodyslams” the gospel of the cross. It enslaves God’s people to this world. Philippians 3:18-19:

“18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

One day, this gospel will die, and those who are deriding the gospel of the cross will be buried together with it. And so will all other gospels that are not lined up with the gospel of the Apostle Paul:

“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

When Jesus comes back, He will not be coming back for those who cling to the welfare gospel. He will be coming to take with Him those who have walked the strait and narrow road, those who loved Him and denied themselves.

[And now, for your listening pleasure]

Loving God’s Son

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you… 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:53-66

The gospel of the cross can only be accepted and carried out by those who have a true love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I once watched an Irish movie called “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In that movie, a wealthy nobleman dies leaving a will wherein he gives instructions for his priceless collection of paintings to be auctioned off. But in the will is a hidden clause that states: Whoever buys the nobleman’s son’s portrait (which has been done by a local artist) will inherit all the nobleman’s wealth, including the massive collection of expensive paintings. His son is already deceased.

The whole world wants these paintings, and art collectors and the elite and moneyed gather from every corner of the world to view and buy the art collection. The first item to be auctioned off is the portrait of the nobleman’s son, a dull and unremarkable piece of art. No one wants to buy the painting; indeed, no one takes any notice of its submission and even as the auctioneer tries to get their attention on it, everyone is busy clamoring for the auction to “get underway”!

The painting is finally bought at a very cheap price by the rich man’s gardener. This was a man who was extremely loyal to his master and who had always admired the young boy. And that purchase brings the auction to an abrupt and unexpected end for, as the auctioneer reads from the will, the nobleman had stated that whoever would buy his son’s portrait would inherit all his wealth, including the paintings.

Benumbed and clueless as to what had taken place, the visitors shuffle away empty-handed.

That is a picture of the church today. Everyone wants all the goodies that God has to offer – the blessings, the healings, the dancing and celebrations, the amens and hallelujahs – but few are willing to love the Lord Jesus Christ to the extent of dying with Him. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no life in these things; the life is in the partaking of the death of the cross. Our calling, therefore, is clearly set forth in both these scriptures which we ought to meditate upon before “believing” anything else:

Philippians 1:29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

and 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”.

According to the Bible, few believers are willing to deny themselves (Mat. 7:14). Denying oneself means forgoing one’s (worldly) rights and being content and happy therein. Denying oneself means taking up our cross daily and following Christ.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to die; to die the death of the cross where the flesh with its worldly lusts, have been crucified.

It is to not love the glitz and glory of this world, which today has been comfortably allowed to settle in church. Rather, it is to have our sights set upon the unseen treasures of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to become lowly and humble:

Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16)

To Carry God’s Grace

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.
9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 1 Cor. 12:7-10
Being a team leader is not easy. People will try to bludgeon you to death if they can because people naturally hate the top dog.
My wife works for a certain organisation and she is the head of the particular area that she works in. One time, for a considerably long period of time, she would come home and she would tell me the most harrowing tales of how some of her fellow teammates were treating her. It appeared as if my wife’s organisation had deliberately selected the most bellicose of its workers and put them on her watch.
The most indigestible of these assaults were a couple of workers who would always talk her down like she just got out of the crib. Worse, they tried to discredit her and prove how incompetent she was. This hurt her to the core.
They tried to hurt her as much as they could. They would ask her things like, “Are you really a pastor’s wife?”
Somehow, I knew these things were happening because, apart from what my wife told me, I noticed that whenever the company car dropped her at our house, no one else would get out, even to say ‘Hi’ to me, although they knew me. Immediately she got out, they would roll up the windows and drive off with the tyres squealing.
Naturally, this state of affairs hurt us both terribly. It was a real trial! Many times I would toy with the idea of allowing my wife to retire from her job. But then we needed the money. So we barricaded ourselves in prayer and in the encouragement we got from God’s Word. I would encourage her to forgive them – even as I myself struggled with the need to forgive! It did not seem as if the ordeal would ever end. How could it ever end? My wife’s fellow workers had bound themselves to engage us in a permanent state of war.
One day, a senior official from their organisation came from Dar es Salaam to do an ‘audit’ of my wife’s team’s performance. He stayed with them for a week. During the course of his stay, whenever he asked my wife about anything, she always had it at her fingertips. So much so that in one particularly compulsory and sensitive procedure, the official told her he would not be needing to go through it with her.
“I trust you”, he told her.
He told my wife a few other things also. He told her that she was the only team head who had everything that he needed at hand and who understood perfectly well what she was meant to do.
At the end of his audit he called the team together. He told them, “I have been observing all of you. Your team leader is the most competent person I have met since I began assessing our organisation’s teams. I therefore direct you to consult her whenever you do not know how to go about your responsibilities.”
Just before he left, he assembled them together again and let each one of them know exactly how they had performed. Their evaluation was determined on a percentage scale, and my wife’s had broken all bounds! Moreover, none of her teammates had come anywhere near hailing distance of her.
It requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. On the day the official bid my wife’s team goodbye, I was home tending my chickens behind our house when the company car drove up to our house. The gate opened and I heard my wife excitedly inviting someone home. I straightened up to see the very guy who had been treating my wife like trash come walking in through the gate and towards the chicken coop. I had never seen the fellow get out of the car and he had never greeted me in his life. I thought something must be wrong for this guy to get into our compound. But he came straight up, greeted me warmly and allowed my wife to lead him on a tour of my chicken ‘farm’.
In the evening, after we had had our supper, I asked my wife what that was all about. She told me she did not know. She was as much surprised as I was, she told me. But, she said, immediately the assessor had given the team his report, she had noticed a very unexpected change in her colleagues’ attitudes. Instead of an increase in animosity, there was an air of acceptance and respect towards her.
I told her, “God has worked a miracle in their hearts.”
That state of affairs has continued to this day. One day, one of my wife’s tormentors left for a long furlough in a far-off region. We were surprised when she called my wife and asked us to check in on her children.
As I said, it requires a revelation from God to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither I nor my wife, not even in our wildest dreams, had ever thought things would end this way.
God said to the Apostle Paul,
“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
In other words, God was telling Paul: “You cannot have my grace without that thorn in your flesh. Unless you allow your flesh to be mocked and destroyed, you cannot have my grace; you will be of no effect in my Kingdom!”
Beloved, what would you rather have? Is it a comfortable, trouble-free life that you desire? If that is the case, you can forget about being of any use in God’s Kingdom. Flesh and the Spirit cannot work together.
1 Peter 2:21 says:
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps…”
Notice the Bible does not say that Christ did not suffer; on the contrary, the Bible says that the example that Christ left us is one of suffering – suffering in the flesh. It was the same thing that Paul suffered: thethorn in his flesh.
The best thing that can happen to anyone that aspires to the high calling of God to become a man or woman of the Spirit; the best thing that can happen to such a person is to have a thorn in their flesh. The thorn is one of the few things that we see this great man of God, the Apostle Paul, rejoicing in in the scriptures:
“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (1 Cor. 12:10)
Beloved, as a child of God, what is it that gives you pleasure? Meditate on this, and may God show you the road to true spiritual happiness, a thorn in your flesh.

Carrying The Heavenly Vision

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

[Below: The brother I love and myself]

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The Lesson of Absalom

25 But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.

26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight. 2 Sam. 14:25-26

I probably ought to have labeled this post “The Danger of Celebrity Christianity”.

In my country, there is a man, a preacher of the gospel. He is tall, full-bodied and extremely handsome. He cuts his hair in a ‘Table Mountain’ style, which gives him an added macho look. He wears casual clothing. No suits, and no ties.

He has an appealing raspy drawl and, when he is on stage, his body motions and movements command the attention of everyone. The man is irresistible.

Many years ago, this man came to our town to preach in an open-air meeting, and all the women of the town, both saved and unsaved, flocked to see him. As he began preaching, his very posture had the women screaming and ululating wildly. The man loved it and we, too, in our simplicity, did. In our hearts, the man was an idol.

He went on to entertain us immensely. At the end of the 4 or 5-day meeting, the big open-air field could afford standing space only.

Sad to say, many of us came to learn later that this man was also one of the most notorious adulterers in the land. On this particular occasion, when he finally left our town, he left with one of the women he had ‘converted’ during his crusade.

The story of Absalom in the Old Testament is an analogy of our modern-day charismatic preachers. Absalom was a man of incredible handsomeness, and he used his deep charisma and beauty to his advantage in his attempt to dethrone King David, his father. The Bible says he “stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Sam. 15:6).

In the same vein, today’s preachers use their charisma and material or physical attributes to dethrone God the Father from the hearts of men. They do so by drawing to themselves the attention of men.

The Bible further says that when Absalom set out on his diabolical mission, he conscripted to himself simple men who knew nothing of his intentions.

And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.” (2 Sam. 15:11)

In the same manner, men of spiritual simplicity hearken to the call of our modern-age celebrity preachers. They applaud and celebrate them. They call them “mighty men of God”.

Today, you hear all over the place, “Man of God! Man of God!”

You hear also men being referred to as “The man of the hour”; or, “The one and only So-and-so”.

All these inferences actually come from the world. It is the devil who brings them into the church.

And the men of God to whom this attention is directed keep silent because they love men’s approval.

When He was here on earth, our Lord Jesus Christ reacted strongly to such approbations when they were directed at Him. Jesus would not impute or allow any glory to be imputed to Him.

One time, someone called Jesus “good”, but Jesus would have none of it.

“16 And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? 17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God…” (Mat. 19:16-17)

Jesus could quietly have let it pass. But Jesus would only ascribe glory to God. He did not want any attention drawn to Himself.

On another occasion, Jesus responded in the same manner to a woman who tried to draw attention to the glories of His worldly birth.

“27 And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. 28 But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Lk. 11:27-28)

Jesus used every opportunity to draw attention to and give glory to God the Father and to His will.

That is why the church needs to have the mindset of Christ again, as with the early church. In Philippians 2:5-8, God through the Apostle Paul appeals to us:

“5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”

What was this mind?

“6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus humbled Himself, that He might become obedient to, and hence glorify God the Father.

We, too – preachers and laymen alike – need to humble ourselves in like manner to the end that God might be exalted. This requires the cross to work in our lives. The cross will break our pride and we shall become like Paul who, although he carried the greatest of all ministries, yet he could declare concerning himself, “… I be nothing” (2 Cor. 12:11).

[Let our lives be for nothing else but the exaltation of God]

Seeing Men Through God’s Eyes

Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Rom. 12:16

At my age I know a thing or two about the world we live in, and one of those things is that this particular scripture is one of the hardest things to achieve in this world. And here I do not need to go very far; all I have to do is to look at myself and I see how difficult it is to condescend to men of lower estate than I. It is one of the most testing tasks.

It is all right for the world to have such high-level attitudes as are described in this scripture because the world is not the paradise most people think it is; on the contrary, the Bible calls it “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). The world is an evil place and here men take it as a matter of course to condescend to men of high estate, but not to men of low estate.

Again, notice that man has nothing good but his “own conceits”. That talks of the pride in our hearts. Pride makes us to think we are better than others. It also makes us to differentiate between men.

But that state of affairs ought not to occur in church. The Bible in 1 Tim. 3:15 calls the church “the pillar and ground of the truth.”

And what, pray, is the truth?

The truth of God’s Word is stated in Luke 3:5-6:

“5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; 6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The church is level. The Bible exhorts us to be “… of the same mind one toward another.” Here there are no ‘touchables’ and ‘untouchables’. There are no learned and unlearned. There are no rich and poor, no privileged and unprivileged. There are no white and black, yellow or brown men. The church is one single unit and each believer a member in that unit. The Bible actually puts it this way:

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Rom. 12:5

What exactly does it mean by “every one members one of another”?

That is a cryptic scripture. But all it means is that we are meant to serve one another. God has put us in church to serve the other members of His Body – not ourselves. The highest person in the Kingdom of God is the one who of his own will and with all his heart becomes a servant to others.

The classic example of how Jesus treated men is that of blind Bartimaeus. Mark narrates the account in this manner.

“46 And they came to Jericho: and as he went out of Jericho with his disciples and a great number of people, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the highway side begging. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 48 And many charged him that he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou Son of David, have mercy on me. 49 And Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they call the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; he calleth thee. 50 And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee? The blind man said unto him, Lord, that I might receive my sight. 52 And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole. And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.” Mk. 10:46-52

Now, notice that Bartimaeus was not only blind, he was also a beggar. This is highly intolerable with men. In any society, beggars are the lowest of the low in terms of humanity, and they are tolerated only for tolerance’s sake. At best, they are ignored.

It is no wonder, therefore, what happened with Bartimaeus. Men in their bloated minds had placed Jesus on a worldly pedestal. To them, He was ‘Jesus the Great’. So they commanded the blind beggar to shut up and mind his place. How dare he, a nothing, disturb the greatest man that the world had ever seen? What nerve this fellow had! What…!!

But Jesus had a different spirit. He had not come down to seek the greatness of this world. He came down to the world to be nothing. (And that was exactly the reason why, as Philippians 2:9 says, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name”.)

Jesus heard Bartimaeus and, to the surprise of everyone, He stopped in His tracks and called for Bartimaeus to be brought to Him. In an instant, the castoff became the star. In their eyes, Bartimaeus was now an exalted man. And after he was healed, these same men rushed to take selfies with him. Men love worldly acclaim!

But God looks upon the heart. He considers the humble heart. The man who has died to self can do what Jesus did with ease, and please God.

This is the reason why, every time I look at scripture, I understand more and more why Paul wrote the Corinthians:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:1-2)

The cross is the ONLY solution to the flesh. Therein lies the power of God’s grace. Jesus had this power in Him and therefore He loved and esteemed men – from top to bottom. What a grace!

[Below: Downtown Singida: Through the simple things that they do in their daily lives each man sets out to be in a class of his own]

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