Acknowledging Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clearly, something was missing in her life.

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

And, in Galatians 6:14: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Vision of the Church!

God is a God of vision. Indeed, that is what faith is all about. The Bible says in Hebrews 11:1  “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Then it continues in verse 2: “For by it the elders obtained a good report.”

All the people that we read of in the Bible who were involved in God’s plan, men and women, were always individuals of vision. Have you ever wondered why Jesus was descended in the flesh from the tribe of Judah and not of Reuben or Simeon, or any of Jacob’s other sons? The answer is clear enough. When the brothers stood before Joseph and besought him for Benjamin’s life (Genesis 44), it was Judah who laid his life on the line for the lad’s freedom. Judah was willing to take Benjamin’s place.

Now, we must understand that Benjamin is a figure of the Church. In the Book of Genesis, Benjamin represents the Church. We will look into that in a later post. But the point I am making here is that when Judah saw in the Spirit – or, rather, when God granted Judah to see in the Spirit – he saw, not Benjamin, but the Church. And, immediately he saw the Church – its significance, importance, glory; and the place it has in God’s heart – he let go everything, even his own life. (Some years earlier, when he and his brothers were selling Joseph to the Ishmaelites, Judah had not the same vision. He and his brethren were blinded by jealousy).

But now we see that something caused a change in him. It was a change of such magnitude that he was willing to lose his life. This echoes Paul’s words in Colossians 1:24  “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church”.

Thus Judah carried the mantle of leadership amongst Jacob’s 12 sons.

And it was not only Judah. Everyone you find involved in the physical lineage of Jesus were people who walked in a revelation of the Church. That revelation made them willing to share in the sufferings of Christ, albeit in a figure. And that, dear brethren, is what our calling is all about – identifying with Christ in His sufferings and death! We are called to lose our lives.

This is not a matter that we can take lightly. Today’s Church is a very light Church, because it has no revelation of the cross has only an intellectual knowledge of it. Lacking in that revelation, it cannot nor does it have the willingness to share in Christ’s sufferings.

What am I saying here? God is looking to us to get a revelation of the Church, a revelation which will enable us to lose our lives.

Consider we are talking about Jesus’ lineage in the flesh. If that is the case, how much more we, who are the spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16) – how much more are we called upon to walk in that same revelation of the Church and, even more importantly, how much more are we called upon to give our lives for the Church? We, being the true spiritual Church must walk in greater revelation – and lose our lives in greater measure.

This was always God’s plan and purpose for us since the laying of the foundations of the world; and all the people who form Jesus’ bloodline in the flesh were people who walked in some kind of the revelation of the Church in their lives.

Let me give you an illustration of what suffering with Christ means. There was a time when I encountered some opposition in the church. Poor man that I was, not realizing that God was giving me an opportunity to identify my life with Christ’s by walking in an attitude of love and forgiveness; on the contrary, I developed a hard heart towards these men. I moved into defense mode.

But we are not called to defend ourselves. Many years later, when I came to understand the gospel better, I realized the deadly mistake I made. Today, occasionally, such a situation will arise, but I am quick to seek to lay down my life, take up my cross and follow Jesus. That is the only way I can be sure that I am walking in fellowship with God. It is not an easy thing to do, but along that road there is grace. That is the advantage of walking on the road of the revelation of the Cross.

The true gospel is a revelation – a revelation of Christ, and Him crucified.

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.