Judging Righteously

Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. Jn. 7:24

Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man. Jn. 8:15

These are the words of our Lord Jesus Christ to the Jews of His day.

The Bible tells us that Moses had an Ethiopian woman.

“And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman.” (Num. 12:1)

She must have been a black woman because Ethiopians are black. But, of course, scholars might have found evidence to the contrary. Scholars are wonderful people, they discover great things. I have not had the time to find out whether they have something to say about the skin color of this woman. For the sake of the possibility of someone out there having discovered something different, I will not press the point that she was black. Suffice it to say that she was not a Jew. She was different; and this fact came to the notice of Miriam and Aaron.

Do you know who Miriam and Aaron were? The Bible states that  Miriam was a prophetess (Ex. 15:20). Miriam also is she whose song is written in the Bible (Ex. 15:21). Do you know what it means for one’s words (let alone an entire song) to be written in the Bible?

As for Aaron, he was the greatest of God’s high priests who ever lived. The Bible is simply smitten with him and his ministry.

Miriam and Aaron are among the greatest people that ever graced the Bible. They were great people with God.

And yet… these two rose up against the servant of God, Moses, on account of his wife. I wonder how these two arrived at having a problem with this woman (you will find the answer below).

But, pray, how often do you think such things happen today? At my age I have met many people of different races, and I can attest to the fact that many light-skinned people (Caucasians, Chinese, Arabs, Indians) have a problem with black people. Some simply cannot accept black people. They consider a black man to be beneath them.

I had always wondered at the stories that I had heard about racism… until I visited a certain country which is not black. One day, as I was walking across a school courtyard in that country, I saw students pointing and exclaiming loudly, “Africain, Africain!” I could feel their gaze on me.

It was not that I was the only African in that country. But I was different. I had just arrived in from darkest Africa, and this fact was clearly noticeable.

This was my first – and only – experience of direct racism; and it was strangely surreal.

Indirectly, though, racism is as prevalent as the sun. You can feel it in many subtle – and not-so-subtle – forms.

But to be racist does not mean only looking down on people. Even looking up to people is racism. It means we are differentiating.  To the extent that we are capable of making differences among us, therefore, each one of us is racist.

Scientists, however, have proven that we cannot blame Miriam, Aaron, nor ourselves for this undesirable situation. They have discovered that deep within us there are certain genetic factors at play that we simply cannot control. In fact, these factors control us. The genetic pull within us is just too strong. This is what causes us to judge people as we do.

It is God who created these genes. But then sin came and distorted everything. But thank God He is greater than sin! Through His death on the cross, Jesus vanquished sin and all its works, including distorted genes. And now, God demands that, once we accept Jesus into our lives, we are to cast off these kinds of genetic attitudes, for we are no longer under genetic control, but we are under the rulership of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the ruler of all creation.

For this reason, therefore, we are not to judge

“according to the appearance”.


“after the flesh”.

But, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, we can judge differently. We can judge

“righteous judgment”.

What does it mean to judge righteous judgment?

It means you do not judge by what you see on the outside. On the contrary, you judge according to someone’s heart. You judge people by their hearts.

And what, moreover, does it mean to judge people by their hearts?

The heart of man is where sin lives. Here, therefore, Jesus was saying simply, “Judge a man by whether he has sinned or not.” Simple and clear. That ought to be the way we, as the Church, judge people. We are not to judge people in any other way.

When we were young children, I used to overhear the father of one of my friends say, “The white man is the child of God.”

That stuck with me. But I have come to discover that, in spite of all his conquests in the natural, when it comes to matters of the heart the white man is as culpable to sin as the next man.

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God…” (Rom. 3:23)

We judge people by so many things. But God judges us in only one regard: whether we have sinned or not. God’s enemy is sin, not a man’s skin color. Or his level of education.

The Apostle Paul asks,

“For who maketh thee to differ from another?” (1 Cor. 4:7)

As the Church of Jesus Christ, would we be willing to judge people according to the Word of God? Or are we going to look at people’s skin color, their education levels, their cars and houses and money…

But we are to live according to God’s Word. We are to tell people who sin, “Hey, God doesn’t like that.”

And we are to encourage those who are running the race well, regardless of how different they may be from us in the natural.

[Whom shall I fear?]

Cain, A Man of Law

3 And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD…

5 But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. Gen. 4:3-5

The saga of God and Cain teaches us another important spiritual lesson: that God is not a God of law, but of grace.

By the way, have you ever wondered how it was that Cain knew that it was needful for him to give an offering to God?

You would be surprised to learn that long before God gave the law to Moses, law was operative. Clearly, Cain knew that a sacrifice was required of him by God. So he proceeded to fulfill the letter of the law.

Where there is sin, law comes in to try and turn man into many God-like things. Law tries to make man holy. Law tries to ‘cleanse’ man. Law even tries to perfect man. But it cannot.

It is in the same vein that we find Jesus severely rebuking the Pharisees. They gave tithes perfectly – or near as perfect as they could – but it was through law. Law does not touch the heart, so although they did outside rituals perfectly (perfect washing of hands, perfect offerings, etc.), yet none of this could deal with the sin in their hearts. Their hearts therefore remained full of sin, no matter they did so many things so well on the outside. That is why ultimately they came to murder Jesus, a man whom even the cruel Romans decided was innocent. These “law-abiding” Jews were murderers!

There are many murderers in church today, and a disproportionate number are pastors and church leaders. That is not a judgment. It is a fact.

Let us move on and see another instance. Do you remember the case where they brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus? The Bible says that Jesus told them, “Whoever has no sin, let him be the first to stone her”.

The Bible records that when they heard that, they all left and went away. And they made sure to leave while Jesus was still writing on the ground. Why, pray, do you think they left while Jesus was still looking down? I can tell you why: it was because they feared what would happen once Jesus looked up. They knew they would not be able to look into Jesus’ eyes. There are no eyes as dangerous to a sinner as the eyes of a righteous man, a man full of grace!

These men knew that the minute Jesus looked up into their faces, He would see straight into their hearts. And you don’t want to believe the first sin He would find there: it would be the sin of adultery! These men were adulterers, and in all likelihood, it was in their jealousy at what this woman had done that they were going to kill her. That’s the way it always goes: the shoe hurts he who wears it.

But praise God, these men met with the ultimate barrier, grace. They turned tail and fled.

The grace of God is the most powerful force in heaven; how much more so on earth? How can we be under something as weak as law? Look what law did to Cain; it failed to change him. He was forever an angry man, and full of hatred for his brother. He was not free in his spirit.

God will never accede to law. God’s judgment on law is final and it is found in His refusal to accept Cain’s offering. That is an unequivocal, unflinching declaration that God is not going to deal with us on the basis of law.

In Galatians 5:4 the Apostle Paul boldly writes: “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”

That is why you will not find any laws in the New Testament. People try to scrape together the little they can find in the Bible to uphold the law in their hearts; but it simply won’t work with God. That’s simply because there is no law under the new covenant. It is so simple and clear, and yet we are so hard-hearted.

In church today, it is probably in offerings that we find law at its worst. But we cannot become slaves to such weak things as 10%. You won’t find 10% discussed anywhere in the New Testament. (But, ironically, you will find it in many church records!)

But the grace of God which works way down deep in our hearts brings out results that are infinitely incomparable to any stingy laws!

A case in point is the early church at Jerusalem, which the Bible says that they went and sold all their property and brought the proceeds and placed them at the apostles’ feet. That’s incredibly powerful, is it not? That is grace at work. Grace produces FREEDOM!

Later on, the Macedonians would do the same (2 Cor. 8).

In the church at Jerusalem, poor Ananias and his wife Sapphira tried to bring in the law, but it was early days and God quickly put out the strange fire they were attempting to light! He wouldn’t allow any old thing to interfere with the wonderful work He was establishing. Today, probably, God is not as quick to execute judgment, but He has not changed in the least. If we keep on holding onto the letter of the law, we will die, one way or another.

God would not allow something as weak as law to dictate to Him.

Man admires the strong and powerful. In the same way, God admires the powerful; but with Him it is the powerful work of the cross in a man’s heart. Not just power to save, but power to break a man’s pride, to set him free from the powerful forces of his nature, from sin.

That is why Paul says that the cross is the power of God. That is what God admires.

In dealing with God, let us always bear in mind that God refused Cain’s offering. In fact, the Bible says that God refused to honor even the man himself! How much more do you think God refuses to honor us when we are serving Him under law, and not in freedom?

May we humbly desire the work of the cross in our lives, so that we may offer to God freewill sacrifices of grace and love, which alone are acceptable to Him.

[3 Little Pigs!]


“Strive To Enter In”

26 Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled.

27 Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed. Jn. 6:26-27

In our culture, and I believe it is so in many other cultures as well, the bride cannot just be picked off the streets and straightaway handed over to the bridegroom. Once it has been established that she is the groom’s wife-to-be, great and meticulous care will be taken to prepare this young woman for her husband on the wedding day.

I have never heard of a bridegroom personally adorning or preparing his own bride. On the contrary, he engages the services of others, who mostly do it freely out of the love they have for him. The purpose is to present the bride to the bridegroom perfect and properly adorned. That is the joy of a wedding.

It would be a strange scenario indeed to find the bridegroom, all alone with his wife-to-be, cooped up in a room somewhere while he busily tries to scrub his bride for their upcoming wedding. It is not his job to make her ready for the wedding day. But there are friends of the bridegroom, people who are intent on bringing joy to the bridegroom. These are they who take it upon themselves to make sure the bride is well-prepared for the groom. And they don’t just pour buckets of water on her and put her out to dry in the sun. No, these people are professionals in the art of bride preparation. They will work on the bride until she is spotless and without wrinkle, perfect as perfect can be. Only then will she be ready to be presented to the groom on the wedding day.

Jesus engaged the services of His friends, the men who carry the five-fold ministry, to prepare His bride for Him (Ephesians chapters 3 & 4). Christ’s bride is the church.

There is no other gospel that can perfect the church except the apostolic gospel, the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. When I say the apostolic gospel I don’t mean, of course, that every person who calls themselves an apostle carries this gospel. A true apostle is someone who brings to light the gospel of a crucified life.

The gospel of the cross is the gospel that comes to deal the death blow to the flesh, that rot that is our carnal nature, so that we might be perfected in the spirit, and become men and women who comprise the church, Christ’s bride in the Spirit. Sin dwells in the flesh.

Jesus is neither going to marry a child bride, nor an imperfect bride. Every born-again believer will have to submit themselves to the exacting work of the cross in their lives in order to become a part of this Body.

The gospel of the cross was the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached, because it had been revealed to him that this was the only gospel that was guaranteed to bring the resultant perfecting of the saints.

The gospel of the cross is invested in the five-fold ministry. This is the ministry which Christ commissioned to reveal the crucified Christ in men’s hearts.

It is very interesting to note how many born-again believers today have embraced the charismatic gospel, which in reality is a spiritually hollow gospel based solely on miracles, healings and prosperity. Not that these things are bad in themselves, but when they come without a revelation of the cross, then they have no life in them. On the contrary, they feed the flesh. This is exactly what we see the charismatic gospel doing today. It has become a doctrine in itself, but this is not the doctrine of Chist.

Jesus did many miracles, but one day He turned on the very same crowds that were following Him. He realized exactly what they were doing. They were following Him for the loaves of bread. He had fed them the bread out of compassion, but they were now building a doctrine out of that.

And He turned on them and told them they would now have to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”. Upon hearing this, they scattered like flies.

Why should we think that the people filling up today’s mega-churches are after Jesus’ flesh and blood; in other words, that they are there specifically because they want to identify their lives with Christ in His sufferings and death? Why not, rather, should we not accept the obvious truth that many of these people are in church because they are seeking after the things of the flesh?

And it is equally true that many of these churches offer gospels that cater fully to the flesh. It is no secret that many of these churches’ leaders are after money themselves. I hear that there are pastors who are listed in Forbes magazine!

I can assure you that when the true gospel of the cross of Christ is preached, very few people will remain in the pews – or in the ministry. Many will not be able to bear it.

When the gospel comes and tells you to forgive and the revelation of the cross is not in your heart, it is like switching off the sun at midday. You cannot find your bearings. That was exactly what happened to the Jews. Everything that Jesus said after that they found hard to swallow.

Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?” (Jn. 6:60)

If the Jews said that, I can assure you that not many among the rest of us will be willing to hear it. The gospel of the cross – our identification with Christ in His sufferings and death – is a hard saying indeed. Not many people can hear it. If at Gethsemane Peter fled and left Jesus alone, I can assure you that once the true gospel has been preached not many of us will be left around.

Someone once asked Jesus whether those who would be saved would be few. Jesus did not tell him whether they would be few or many. Instead, Jesus told him to strive to enter in at the strait gate.

Let us end this post by looking at this passage of scripture.

“23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. 25 When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: 26 Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. 27 But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. 28 There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out. 29 And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. 30 And, behold, there are last which shall be first, and there are first which shall be last.” Lk. 13:23-30

“The strait gate”. This scripture is talking about the work of the cross in our lives. We can clearly see what will happen to those who will sidestep that work. They will be unable to cast off sin in their lives, and Jesus will disown them. They could not possibly become a part of His bride. The bride of Christ will comprise believers who have been worked on – worked on by the purifying work of the cross.

[Below: The bride, ready and prepared awaits, and is finally presented to the bridegroom]

Image3459 Image3512 Image3613

A Singular Gospel – Part 1

(This post is based on a message that I delivered at Pastor Eli’s church in Shinyanga on Sunday)

When we read the Pauline gospels, we find that two churches clearly backslid: the Corinthian church and the Galatian church. Apparently, the Jews also – to whom the Book of Hebrews is addressed (probably the Jerusalem church) – had also begun to lose steam.

To the first two churches, Paul bluntly pointed out the singular gospel that he had preached to them. To the Corinthians he said: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

To the Galatians he wrote: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal.1:1).

Notice the singular message that had been preached to these churches.

And to the Hebrews he wrote: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:32-34).

When the Hebrews first heard the gospel they had joyfully borne their cross and followed after Christ. But apparently, they needed to be reminded once again to crucify their lives.

In my earlier posts I have made it abundantly clear that the revelation of the crucified Christ that Paul and the other apostles received was more than the basic understanding that Christ died for our sins on the cross. It was an understanding of how we, too, have been crucified with Him on that cross.

I find myself captivated by the singularity of the gospel that Paul preached. He did not preach ‘around the world’. He focused on one thing: the cross.

Let us pause here and ask ourselves: How can we preach any other gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached? Can we truly?

Maybe we think it is important to show God’s power in the miracles He works in our midst. Paul was a man who performed many miracles in the course of his ministry. But you can hardly find him mentioning any of that in his epistles. Through his ministry many people were healed. But he desists from harping on that, too. He barely – barely – mentions these things in Galatians chapter 3.

In fact, on reading through Paul’s epistles, you would think the power of God was lacking in his life. His closest associates were getting ill and almost dying!

On his part the Apostle Peter even raised the dead. But you will not find that mentioned in his letters.

Today, there are ministries built around miracles and healings. God is at work in all this, of course, but we should want to know what it was that so concerned the early apostles that they desisted from basking in these things but instead chose to talk about one thing: the work of the cross in a man’s heart.

The apostles, however, were following in the footsteps of Jesus. In John 6:14 and 15 we read, “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”

In other words, those men wanted to make Jesus king solely on account of the miracle they had seen Him perform. But Jesus withdrew himself from them.

The next day Jesus confronted them and told 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” (Joh 6:53).

And the Bible records that “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

How sad! Jesus wanted to inform them about the gospel that had the Life in it. But they did not want that. They wanted the miracles! (In a way miracles minister to the flesh; Jesus told them to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” – Jn. 6:27).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about healings and miracles all right; but it is certainly more than that. That “more” is what the church has always needed to understand – and more so today when dark spiritual forces are pressing ever so hard against the gates of God’s Kingdom.

When Lazarus was raised from the dead, I am sure he did not walk about like a hero or something of the sort. Somehow, Jesus must have made him to understand that he needed to take up his cross and follow Him just like everybody else, raised from the dead or not.

The Power of The Cross

1 For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles,
2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:
3 How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
4 Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)
5 Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit;
6 That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel:
7 Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Ephesians 3:1-7

The superiority (if we may put it that way) of the gospel that the Apostle Paul carried over the gospel that the other apostles carried was its ability to accommodate everybody. It is clear that even the believing Jews in Jesus’ day struggled to accept Gentiles into an inheritance which they deemed their own.

But the power of the gospel of the cross was revealed in the ability of one of their own, Paul, reaching out to the very people whom the Jews simply could not tolerate. One of the greatest things that the cross, as a revelation, does in our lives is to break down barriers. That was the power of the cross that was revealed to the Apostle Paul.

You see, the church is a Body. If this Body is to be one with Christ, how much more should we as members be one? If Christ died so you and I could be one with Him, how much more should we die to self that we may be one with each other?

We cannot claim to carry the true gospel of Jesus Christ while there are barriers in our hearts. Even the tiniest barrier is a grave sin in this regard. (And don’t even think about how big a minister you are! These are the kind of thoughts that will unexpectedly send many people to hell.)

All our barriers must come down if we are to carry the true gospel of Jesus Christ!

That is the central message of the cross. Indeed, Paul spent a large part of his letters talking about unity and love. He put the Body above everything else. We are to do all for the benefit of the Body of Christ, he said.

In 1 Cor. 14:5 Paul says: “…greater is he that prophesieth than he that speaketh with tongues, except he interpret, that the church may receive edifying.” Greater is the man who regards the Body than he who regards himself, however ‘spiritual’ he may be, Paul says.

In scriptures galore the Apostle Paul talks of this unity of the Body of Christ, but 1 Corinthians is very important in this regard.
Philippians chapter 2 also has much to say about humility and unity.

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18

[Below: The gospel is all about the Body: on our way to Zanzibar with our Canadian brothers!]


Human Prejudice vs God’s Will

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against 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 shall be loosed in heaven.
Mat. 16:13-19

We wonder at the prejudice that the Jews had in Jesus’ day, little realizing that we probably are more prejudiced than they, though in very subtle ways.

I don’t know what God saw in Peter, but it is clear from the scriptures that God chose to reveal something to Peter over the other apostles. In fact, what God revealed to Peter was the greatest revelation that will ever be revealed to mankind: that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Notice it was God who gave that revelation to Peter. It was not Jesus who did it. But Jesus keenly observed what the Father did, and bent His will to do the Father’s will.

Peter was not Jesus’ favorite disciple; John was (John 21:20). And yet, when Jesus saw the favor that God had placed on Peter by revealing to him who He was, He obeyed God and He chose Peter to lead the church Jesus was leaving behind in Jerusalem (v.19).

God’s choice of Peter as the leader of the church in Jerusalem is also confirmed by the Apostle Paul. In Galatians 2:7-8 he says, “7 But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter; 8 (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)”

But Peter was a man who had many weaknesses. In fact, right after receiving that momentous commendation from Jesus, he found himself being castigated by Jesus Himself for something foolish he had said! (John 16:22,23). And we know also that Peter carried a sword with him up till the day Jesus was arrested, and he used it to cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear! (John 18:26)

He was a fire-breathing apostle, this Peter!

Can we discern what God has put in a man’s heart and respect him for it – in other words, respect the deposit that God has put in that man’s heart – rather than focusing on his weaknesses, however big they may be?

Jesus did exactly that with respect to Peter. He saw what God had deposited in Peter’s heart and since Jesus lived to do God’s will alone He chose to respect Peter for it, and He announced it as so in front of everybody. I am sure that Jesus deliberately chose to obey God in placing Peter as the leader of the church.

Jesus was no respecter of persons. I believe that Jesus made this decision solely based on what He had seen the Father do in revealing to Peter who Jesus was rather than to any other apostle. Jesus respected what His Father respected. Probably Jesus would have liked to choose John as the leader. But He perceived God’s choice, and Jesus lived only to do God’s will.

Much of the time God comes at us from center-left. He works in ways that are completely contrary to our human preferences. I am of the opinion that even the best among us has some prejudices against some type of persons. But God is God and He will remain God. And He always has a way of dealing with human arrogance.

The question here is: Do we have the grace to put aside our preferences, and our prejudices and respect God through respecting a man for what God has put in his heart? And sometimes, as we just saw, that person may not be our favorite person, or he may not be one who is worthy of our respect.

I believe that if we are seeing in the Spirit we will have no problem accepting it. But if we do not see in the Spirit, we will hold on to our prejudices, likes, and preferences.

In Acts chapter 10 we see that the Apostle Peter was also tempted in like manner. But God told him, “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common” (v.15).

In Galatians 2:12 also we find, alas, that the apostles at Jerusalem, led by James, were also unable to overcome their prejudices! They could not stomach eating with Gentile believers – their fellow brethren!

We might be tempted to think that all this is history and that in our more enlightened times we are faring far much better. But I happen to know it is not true. Prejudice is still a big stumbling block to us obeying God.

That is why this generation needs a revelation of the cross in our hearts. We will know a brother for who he is in the Spirit and respect him for that alone.

The Apostle Paul, the man who would know nothing else apart from the cross, was led by the Holy Spirit to put it this way: “Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more” (2 Cor. 5:16).

How so beautiful!

[Below: Dare we respect a man for who he is in the Spirit?]


Memucan – Staying On The “KIng’s Highway” (Part 2)

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:19-21

So what is it about this Biblical prince, Memucan, that is so admirable?

After Queen Vashti developed ‘progressive’ ideas and refused to obey the king’s command to go show her sweet face to his guests, the king’s anger was kindled and he sought from his princes and advisers what he should do about the situation. It was so embarrassing for him as king to have his wife refuse to obey his command!

Memucan it was who provided the king with an answer that was deemed appropriate not only by all the other princes, but by King Ahasuerus himself.

Let us take time to read the entire account.

“10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.” Est. 1:10-22

Some biblical scholars have declared the king’s decree “silly” and Vashti has been exalted as a “bold” woman.

But King Ahasuerus is a type of the authority of God. We cannot bring in irreverent ideas like, “Oh, y’know, this man was drunk, and he had no right to dishonor an honorable woman!” I don’t even know whether he was drunk. The fact that he was the king, however, supersedes all else. (My dad used to be a drunk, and he never ceased to be my dad because of that!)

With man it might appear as if the king was dishonoring his queen, but with God, it was the king exercising his authority – and honoring his wife’s beauty.

I don’t see any indication in the least that King Ahasuerus lost anything after the saga had ultimately played out. Not his honor, nor his power, nor anything. If anything, the king gained – vastly – by marrying Esther. And throughout the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus stands tall to the end, a shining example of God’s authority and the defender of God’s people.

Actually it was Queen Vashti who lost out. She lost her position as queen and became a commoner.

God is still on His throne. He is still the King of kings and Lord of lords. Human wisdom will never remove him from that position. On the contrary, human wisdom will only lead man to sin against God, as we see it happened with Adam and Eve – and Vashti.

And when we sin, as we just saw, we lose. But Memucan helped the nation to stay on the King’s highway!

Take Up Your Cross And Follow Christ

9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 1 Kings 19:9-13

This scripture says that as the Lord passed by the prophet Elijah, three powerful forces attended the Lord’s passage – a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But the Lord was not in any one of these things!

These ‘powers’ were with God all right, but God was not in them. That’s what the Bible says right there. The wind “rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD” – but God was not in it. The earthquake and the fire must have brought on an even greater manifestation of the power of God but – wonders! – God was not in them.

It is clear that God did not reveal Himself in the fireworks, nor in the drama.

God was in the last one… “a still small voice”. No ‘power’ there.  No drama. Just “a still small voice” – and here God spoke.

Talking of voices, let us see what the New Testament has to say. In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read, “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…”

And at the Transfiguration we read, “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.” (Mat. 17:5)

“Hear ye Jesus!” And Jesus said clearly, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mat. 16:24). In other words, if we want to be like Jesus; if we want to carry the character of Christ in us, we must arrive at an understanding of what the cross needs to do in our lives.

Let us consider another scripture: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:19

Mark that, “God was in Christ”! God is involved in all (or at least much) of the drama we find in church, but God is in His Son. Simple and clear. In other words, God is in the character of His Son! Simply, a change – a transformation – is required in us. The drama might be needful for other purposes, but the heart, or the core of God’s purpose in us is for us to be transformed to become like His Son Jesus Christ.

But humankind has a problem. In 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 we read: “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 notice that there are 3 classes of people clearly delineated here: those who require signs and wonders, those who seek after wisdom, and lastly, “them which are called”, those who take up their cross and follow Christ.

As far as the Bible is concerned, there are only two natural groups of people in the world: Jews and Gentiles. This third group, therefore – “them which are called” – is not a part of either of the two natural groups; it is a spiritual group. That means that those who have been called into the New Covenant with Christ are not in the miracle- or wisdom-seeking groups. They seek after only one thing: to crucify the flesh and to be transformed so they may walk in the perfect will of God.

And this is the group, apparently, that God is interested in.

There are many things happening in church today, and God is not in any of them. They could be of God all right (some clearly are not), but even with those that are of God, still God is not in them. That might sound contradictory, but actually it is not, in the light of Elijah’s experience in i Kings 19. Now, signs and wonders are not a bad thing, nor is seeking after wisdom. But God is not in them. They are not sin, but they are of no value in combating sin.

In recent years, wave after wave of ‘the power of God’ has been manifested within the Body of Christ, but the spiritual condition of the church has only gotten worse. The levels of sin and confusion are mounting to the extent where certain sins, like divorce have been ‘legalized’ in a large portion of the church.

Recently, I heard of a church where believers were made to eat grass like goats! Now that is total confusion.

The Bible tells us where the real power and wisdom of God is: it is when we are denying self, and taking up our cross. If one is not taking up their cross and following Christ, they are very weak Christians, no matter that they may be working miracles!

The Apostle Paul walked in this revelation and that was why he said, “…for when I am weak, then am I strong” (1 Cor. 12:10). This was a man who worked miracles, but he was not talking about miracles here!

God was in Christ, Christ crucified. God is everywhere; but “seriously speaking” God is in the revelation of that cross alone! This was the reason Paul would preach no other gospel other than Christ Jesus and Him crucified. He understood the power of the cross in transforming people and bringing the character of Christ into their lives!

Today you hear much talk about many things in the church, but God is not interested in any of those things. God is interested in one thing. He is interested in a spiritual church.

[Below: The ultra-modern Sam Nujoma highway in Dar es Salaam]

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Free to Love.

The Jews trace their lineage back, not to Nahor or Terah or any of the early patriarchs, but to Abraham. Abraham was he to whom God gave the specific promise that he would become the father of many nations and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through him. God Himself set Abraham apart and, after taking him through a battery of tests designed to gauge his faithfulness, God set His seal on him that he and his offspring would eternally be a special people, unique in His sight.

Without going into too many details here, suffice it to say that the Bible makes it clear that the Hebrew nation that came from Abraham’s loins were considered by God to be His chosen people.

It comes as a surprise, therefore, to learn that many of the greatest of God’s heroes had a mixed lineage, that is, they did not come from a purely Abrahamic blood line. There is, for example, in the Bible a book named after an ordinary Moabitess girl, Ruth. This same Ruth became King David’s great-grandmother! The great King David had Moabite blood running in him! In Jesus’ day, this fact would have been unacceptable to some Jews, so prejudiced were they. I am surprised they did not raise a riot, but probably it did not register. At the very least, they would have been greatly humbled to learn this.

“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Mat. 1:1) is filled with names of strange people, and even stranger relationships:

– There is the incestuous affair of Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar;

– There’s Ruth;

– A great Israelite King, Solomon, was born of an adulterous affair, and worse. (The story of David and Uriah’s wife is one that puts God Himself right in the middle of a controversy. But the good news is that God is not afraid of controversy. He loves being controversial! Anyone is welcome to challenge Him.)

What I am driving at is that God is such a God of grace that He does things that are simply ‘unacceptable’ to us. He forgives those we would not forgive; He elevates those we would not even think to look upon; and He accepts those that we would not accept.

I read a story about a man whose cousin was lynched by white American racists many years ago, but after finding Christ he found the strength to forgive the murderers and the community that endorsed the deed. There are many such stories of God’s grace working in people’s lives and we thank God for them. But there are also countless other people struggling with unforgiveness and kindred attitudes, and they are dying a slow death.

Others struggle with accepting people who are different from them in one way or another – probably color, status or whatever.

We cannot hide behind anything. There are so many things we carry that are not a product of the grace of God and oh! how we need to repent of them. How we need to pray for that grace which we see God Himself having! That is exactly what the Apostle James says in 4:6-10, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble… Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.”

In carrying that grace, we shall show forth the true character of God, who is love. There are many things we will have to ‘swallow’ in order to walk in the reality of that grace.

We all need to be set truly free.  The Bible makes it clear that this freedom comes about through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ. If people continually hear the right gospel of Jesus Christ and Him crucified, they will learn to stay in that place of true humility and repentance and eventually they will be set totally free. Free to love.

I do not write these words because I myself am totally free in my relationship with other people. On the contrary, these words are a prayer from the depths of my heart. I more than anyone else need the grace of God. I need and I want to arrive at the goal of true liberty which God has set for me. I can only thank Him for any victory that I find in my daily walk with Him.

The Foundation of our Faith – the Pauline Doctrine (Pt. 4)

We are now in chapter 4 and any intrepid reader who is still following my ramblings must be wondering whether I am lost…. Well, I am not, and in fact I will be finishing in the next post. I just want to fill in the gaps, a job I am not sure I am doing too well. Nonetheless, I am trusting the Lord every step of the way. And let me thank each one of you individually for your love and patience, and for your encouragement.

In this chapter we will look at how Paul’s gospel was ‘different’ from the other Apostles’ gospel and what the implications of this are for us today.

Trouble for the gospel began early enough, in fact right after the birth of the Early Church in Jerusalem. The Bible says: “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.” Act 6:1 Lines were drawn within the Church of Christ ! But the Apostles handled it swiftly and wisely, choosing spiritually mature men to oversee the “serving of tables”.

But another disturbing scenario crops up not long afterwards. In Acts 11:19 we are told that after Saul’s persecution of the Church began at Jerusalem, the believers who fled to the diaspora preached the gospel all right but “unto the Jews only.” Demarcation lines were drawn once again, by believers. Clearly, the Jerusalem Church had a problem understanding the universal nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soon it was time for the Apostles themselves to be tested. Although Peter knew and understood what the Scriptures said about salvation for the Gentiles (Acts 10:43), yet when God wanted to send him to take the gospel to Cornelius – and, by extension, to the Gentiles – we see in Acts chapter 10 that the Lord Himself had to appear to him in a vision in order to persuade him to accept the truth that salvation was for the Gentiles also!

(After he had preached to them the gospel, God promptly confirmed His acceptance of them by pouring upon them His Holy Spirit.)

When news of the fact that Peter had entered a Gentile home reached the Apostles at Jerusalem, they summoned him before them to explain why he had “crossed the boundary”. After Peter explained to them that it was God and not him, the Bible says “When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life.” (Act 11:18)

After reading the above Scripture, and hearing Peter’s proclamati0ns you would think that the Apostles were in full agreement with God about accepting the Gentiles as equal heirs with them of the Kingdom of God. But you will be surprised at what happened later, as we read in Galatians 2:12-13:  “For before that certain came from James, (Peter) did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.”

The Bible here is saying that Peter feared a delegation that was coming from James, the leader of the Jerusalem church. Why? Because they would do him in for consorting with uncircumcised Gentiles.  In other words, in spite of what they knew from Scripture and from Peter’s experience with Cornelius these Jews were not ready to accept any stranger in their midst merely on the supposition of grace. For them keeping the Law of Moses was paramount!

In short, it was like this: the Apostles had received the gospel all right, but at heart they were still Torah hardliners!

I want us to look at one last scene before we get done with this chapter. When Paul went to Jerusalem on his final journey, his host, the Apostle James  together with the other elders met him and told him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law:” (Act 21:20) In other words, even though the gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ had been preached in Jerusalem for a long time and many Jews had accepted Jesus into their hearts the fact of salvation by grace without works was proving to be a thorn in the flesh for many of them.

But if the Apostles themselves had a problem with this truth, as we have seen, they most likely would have been preaching a gospel tainted with law and it is no wonder, therefore, that Jerusalem was crawling with samurai-wielding believers!

And it was not only in Jerusalem. The Jews were creating havoc wherever the Word of salvation reached out to people, even amongst the Gentiles.

And here you have the basic difference between Paul and the Apostles at Jerusalem. You see, right from the beginning Paul never had any problem accepting what the Lord had revealed to him about salvation being for every man who believed on the Lord Jesus, Jew or Greek, and that it was by grace and grace alone.

Paul understood grace perfectly well. The Apostles at Jerusalem were limited in their understanding of it.

Many years later, after more light had entered Peter’s heart, he would affirm to the Church that the Apostle Paul received far greater “wisdom” than what he and his compatriots received from the Lord (2 Peter 3:15). Peter here was not talking about intellectual or human wisdom. The Bible never refers to human intellect because God is spirit. I am sure Peter was talking about the grace that Paul received from the Lord, and the power that came with that grace to not only bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles, men and women, high and low, but to also set them free from the power of the flesh and to perfect them in the image of Christ.

We conclude in the next post!