Two Lessons – Part 1

1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

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:)

9 And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

10 Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do. Gal. 2:1-10

I have been away for a while but I thank the Lord that He has helped me through many difficult stutations; and I am glad to be back.

Today I would like to address two issues that are on my heart, both of which are to be found in the above portion of scripture.

The first issue I would like to address is found in verses 1 through 6. It is about the liberty that we have in Christ. It is clear here that, even if the gospel first sounded out from Jerusalem, yet there was a problem that simply had failed to go away in that church. That problem was legalism and its resultant bond-brother, hypocrisy. Hypocrisy always attends legalism (to those who accept to be bound by legalism).

The apostles in Jerusalem had failed to handle legalism, and it therefore had the upper hand within the church. But Paul had received a slightly different gospel: the gospel of the grace of Christ, in its fullness. He knew what true liberty was in the Spirit. Christ had revealed Himself to him in a way He had not done with the other apostles.

Paul’s words, therefore, in verse 6:

“But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me”

were a stinging rebuke of the hypocrisy that was going on in the church in Jerusalem. Titles were meaningless here. Apostle or no apostle, stand for the truth of the gospel!!

The problem in the church in Jerusalem was made clear when men from Jerusalem came and found Peter eating with the Gentile brethren. The account states that these men had come “from James” (v.12). Peter immediately withdrew from associating with the Gentiles, fearing a backlash from the Jerusalem party. The law was so powerful that every other Jew, including even Barnabas, a long-time associate of Paul’s, was taken up in the hypocrisy.

There are few men, even today, who can go against the formidable tide of the spirit of the world to defend the gospel of grace and freedom in Christ against law and hypocrisy. Pastors, apostles, prophets and leaders of every sort of the gospel will arrive at a place in their ministry where they will be tested in this regard – and, sadly, many will compromise. They will find it hard to defend the gospel against men.

Uncompromising men like Paul are rare. But the important fact to understand is that these can only be men and women who have died to self through a realization of the cross in their lives.

Notice what Paul says in verse 2:

“And I went up by revelation…”

What wonderful news! A man of God who can be led only by the revelation of God in his heart, and not by James or John or Peter!! Paul did not go to Jerusalem because any of the apostles had sent him summonses, no. Paul went by revelation, thank God – and that after a long time ministering under that same revelation.

The men and women who walk by revelation of Jesus Christ in their hearts are they who will bring the true gospel of the cross to triumph in a world that is clueless about the true meaning of the cross.

[Below: Paul went up to Jerusalem by revelation]

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A Message For Today’s Youth

One of the most revolting piece of news that of late has been making headlines in one Western country is the story of an off-duty policeman who was attacked by a group of teens, aged between 13 and 15, as he was arresting one of them for illegally crossing his lawn. The story is accompanied by a video, and in the video one of the teens can actually be seen attacking the policeman. The teen rushes the policeman WWE-style and when he falls down the group of teens surround him. This being the crime-riddled country it has become, it is anybody’s guess what could have followed with an incapacitated cop lying on the ground surrounded by devil-knows-who. But the cop was not willing to wait and find out; instead, he pulled out his gun and fired a warning shot.

When asked why he attacked the policeman, the 13-year boy said that the policeman had cursed his girlfriend!

Tell you what: I couldn’t care. I couldn’t care if the policeman had slapped both this spoiled brat and his so-called girlfriend. The policeman is an adult and he has a right to teach these damaged youths any lesson he deems fit to teach them. That’s what we were taught as children, and I wouldn’t exchange that lesson for any amount of dollars.

The second, even worse thing I read was that people – grown-up people – were protesting in the streets because the policeman fired his gun at those ‘children’. I think there are too many lazy bones in this country. Always on the streets, protesting.

This police officer is a very mature and intelligent man. He did not hurt any one of these youngsters, which he could if he had wanted to. But, talking of their age, I personally couldn’t care what age they were. Considering their lack of discipline and their lack of respect for an adult, I couldn’t care whether they were 10 year olds. In the Bible we read about the Prophet Elisha coming from escorting Elijah as Elijah was taken up into heaven. The Bible says that as Elisha was walking on his way, some rude kids accosted him and began taunting him on account of his baldness. The account reads:

23 And he went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head. 24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.” (2 Ki. 2:23-24)

Yes, I know that that is the Old Testament, and I know also that we are living in the New. But this scripture clearly shows us the heart of God (and God never changes). There are some things that God simply does not put up with. We love children, especially little children, don’t we? Well, God killed 42 of them. Yes, 42 “little children”.

I think this country is killing itself. It is killing itself with stupid laws and ungodly attitudes. There are attitudes – and laws – in some countries that are as stupid as stupid can get.

Not too long ago I read also of a pastor in this same country who was arraigned in court for disciplining his own daughter. The charge read that he had choked her. After which she called 911 and the cops came to pick up her father. Her father!!

The judge released the pastor on bond and ordered him not to so much as argue with his daughter!

Seriously, I don’t know what moronic country can create and uphold such laws.

But with this particular case in this country, it is the fact that adults are protesting in favour of spoiled, indisciplined – and violent – teenage brats that is so absolutely stunning. It portrays a total breakdown of societal norms. But, even more dangerously, it goes against the Word of God.

No one loves liberty more than God Himself. And yet God wouldn’t have defended those kids. God would have sided with the police officer. God does not fear or hesitate to use the law when He deems fit. The Bible says that God used the law to curb lawlessness in His people for centuries. Galatians 3:23 says:

But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.”

And notice, in 1 Timothy 1:8-11:

8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; 9 Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 10 For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; 11 According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.”

In other words, according to the glorious gospel that was committed to Paul, the law is good; and we can see exactly the kind of people it has been set aside for. God recommends the law for people like these ruined teens.

It is therefore against God to support the kind of behaviour that these kids showed to that adult man. This incident will come to haunt these kids – and their parents – in the distant future, if they make it that far. Whatever you sow, you will reap. But remember, you sow the wind, but you will reap the whirlwind.

But God always has a way for His people for He loves them. There is a way out of this cursedness. The Bible says in Ephesians 6:1-3:

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

No Law!!

19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

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.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Gal. 2:19-21

If a thug attacks you and you act to defend yourself, the most sensible thing to do – at least in any country that follows the laws of civilization – is to hold the goon in a chokehold until the police arrive. Now, that chokehold is not exactly legal, but it is excusable under the rules of engagement. Once the police arrive, you hand over the sorry thug and the justice system takes over from there. Your chokehold is no longer needed. Given that there are sensible laws in that country, the thug will effectively be consigned to ‘Neverland’. In Africa, he will be dealt with in a manner that will make him either incapable of, unable to or unwilling to ever, ever attack anyone again.

But that was exactly what God brought the law to do – to hold sin in a chokehold till Christ would come to make the ultimate sacrifice for sin and deal with sin. But now Christ has come and He has accomplished that which was needed to defeat sin once and for all. Praise Jesus, we have the victory over sin! For we who have believed on Christ, sin will never show its ugly face in our neighborhood again because its Conquerer, our Lord Jesus Christ, lives there!

Grace was what was revealed at the cross. Mercy and peace upon all men. But, more importantly, the power to defeat sin. The victory over sin is therefore of grace, not law.

The Apostle Paul puts it the best way possible in Galatians 2:19-21:

“19 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. 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. 21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

The bottom line in what Paul is saying here is that at the cross, when Christ died in the flesh, grace was revealed. Grace, not law. And under that grace, Paul found the power to defeat sin in his life.

The law is of the flesh, and incapable. Even Moses, the man who served God perfectly under the law, was himself unable to enter the Promised Land. But the grace that is found in the cross is more than sufficient to deal with sin in our lives.

The flesh loves the law. Men of the flesh love law. They love putting law on people. But the flesh, sin and the law are all in cahoots. They are all in a conspiracy against the Spirit.

Law blocks spiritual growth. But grace gives men and women the opportunity to grow and mature in the Spirit.

We are therefore not to be men and women of law. We should not love law in our lives, nor should we love to put law on people. The reason we put law on people is because we have not crucified our lives with Christ. Paul said that he did not “frustrate” the grace of God. How could he possibly accomplish this? There could only be one way: it was by crucifying his life on the cross.

There is only one way to becoming a man or woman of grace: it is to crucify your life on the cross. If you do not crucify your life on the cross, you will forever remain a person of law. You will forever be putting law on yourself and on people.

Even more serious is the fact that law will never remove sin in your life. Law will simply cement sin in your life and in the lives of all who are unfortunate enough to come under your ministry.

Choose today: what would you love: to live as a man or woman of law, or to live under grace? The latter has a price tag to it; the former does not. Under law, you live for yourself, defending the flesh. But under grace, you live for Christ, daily giving your life as He did.

Notice what Paul says in verse 21: “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”

If we choose to live by law, we “frustrate” or deny the grace of God! How can we then expect to face Jesus upon His return to earth?? We have no way out of this other than to face the death of the cross.

The million-dollar question we need to ask ourselves is: did Christ die in vain? Or did He not?

The answer, of course, is that Christ did not die in vain. But the only way we can prove that is by sharing in His sufferings and death.

Unfortunately, today, there is so much law in church. God’s people are suffocating under law. This is a clear sign that those in charge are not willing to lay down their lives. This is the case with many preachers of the gospel today. And the grace of God is being frustrated, and Christ’s death on the cross is being made of no effect.

But, be that as may be, still God’s standard for His church remains:

No law!

No law!

No law!!

[Below: A girl in rural Singida]

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Paul, A Bond Slave Of Christ

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. Gal. 5:24

A paraphrase of that scripture would be, “They that are true Christians have crucified the flesh with its affections and lusts”.

Notice the Bible does not say that those that are Christ’s are those who have gone to the mountains to pray, or those who have fasted forty days. Nor does it say that it is they who have casted out devils. Nor does the Bible say that those who are Christ’s are they who have been “serving God” for 20 or 40 years. No. You could do all those things and still not have fulfilled the one condition that will make you Christ’s.

And probably most importantly for today’s charismatic church, being Christ’s is not about shouting “Power!” You could shout your way right into hell, because the devil is not bothered by such declarations. If you want to really engage the devil, you will need to become Christ’s. The Bible says clearly,

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

And what, pray, does it mean to become “Christ’s”?

In the Old Testament, we read of God’s instructions to Moses about the man who would willingly wish to remain a bond slave of his master even after he had been set free, because he loved his master’s house “because he is well with thee” (Deut. 15:16-17). That man, the Bible says, would have his ear drilled with an awl at the door frame, and from that time onwards that person would be a bond slave to his master – forever (or, until death would do them part, of course).

Becoming “Christ’s” means becoming a bond slave of Christ, because you love Him. Paul was one man who managed to become a bond slave of Jesus Christ. Paul did not become a bond slave by following some rules or laws. He became a bond slave of Christ by willingly giving up the inner things of his nature, by crucifying his flesh. That is the equivalent of the man who had his ear togged at the doorpost.

Today, most born-again believers are Christ’s “bond slaves” by force of law. That is why there is so much law in church today because it is needed to keep God’s people there. Many believers have not reached the place where they are willing to die to the lusts and passions of their flesh, for Christ’s sake. Many would rather walk in law. Law is far much easier on the flesh.

But you cannot take supplementary things like prayer or quoting scripture or good works, or so-called spiritual warfare and try to substitute them for the work of the cross in your life. The Bible commands us to crucify the flesh and its lusts! (Remember, “command” here is all of grace, not law, because in the first place the one being commanded has willingly and lovingly become Christ’s – Christ’s slave!)

Let me tell you right here that realizing that you need to die to your flesh is a revelation from God. It cannot be otherwise. That is why there are millions of born-again believers today who have absolutely no idea that they need to crucify their flesh. They do not have that revelation. And so they cuddle that little jealousy, those flashes of anger, the hardheartedness – it becomes the norm in their lives, and they move along.

If there is one thing the church should be praying for today, it is for the revelation of the cross in the lives of God’s people.

Let us consider another scripture in this regard.

“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” (Rom. 8:14)

What does the word “led” imply here? Just imagine a bullock whose owner has drilled a hole in its nose and passed a rope through and he uses this rope to lead the bullock. In such a case, the bullock is fully surrendered to its master. It is at the mercy and leadership and direction of its owner. That is what it means to be led by the Spirit of God: it means to become a bond servant of the Spirit.

If you ask most born-again believers who their number one enemy is, they will look at you as if you are trying to pull their leg, and they will answer you testily: “The devil, of course!”

But they are wrong. The devil cannot touch us if we have crucified the flesh. When the devil was preparing his epic “rush” at Jesus, our Lord declared to His disciples, “Hereafter I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me.” (Jn. 14:30)

Yes, Satan was coming to deliver his coup de grace on Jesus, but Jesus had the one weapon Satan’s arsenal could not penetrate: Jesus was dead to the flesh with its passions. People do strange and pointless things like dragging a corpse through town, but to what purpose? A dead man is simply that – dead.

Jesus was dead to the flesh and its passions. Jesus would be verbally insulted, but He would not reply. He would be tortured and crucified – but He did not threaten. Finally, He asked God the Father to forgive His tormentors.

The devil tried everything on Jesus, but each time he lost, for the singular reason that Jesus was dead to the flesh. In His spirit, Jesus carried about His cross.

No wonder the Apostle Paul rejoiced at the revelation of the cross in his life. He says:

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

When Paul talks about the world he is not talking about New York City. He is talking about the carnal lusts of his flesh. It is these that he says he died to. The cross working in his life made sure of that.

Beloved, let us desire this revelation that the Apostle Paul had. This was the man who had the true revelation of Christ in his life, and who willingly became a bond slave of Christ. And that is why Jesus used Paul so well. When you carefully read the New Testament you begin to realize that were it not for Paul, the gospel of the revelation of the cross might never have reached us.

[Below: Paul became a bond slave of Jesus Christ by losing all]

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Grace For Compassion

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Lk. 10:30-37

Have you ever thought on forgiveness? Have you ever wondered why we need to forgive people, and especially those who have grievously hurt us?

There was a time when I thought that in the above story Jesus was referring to actual robbers. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to see that the story is beyond flesh and blood robbers. Instead, it is about people who have been robbed of something in the spirit realm.

In the spiritual world, the devil is the real robber and he robs men and women of the things of the heart. And when men have been robbed of the things of the heart, their hearts become empty and dark. They therefore become bitter, angry, hurting, and sinful.

But notice also that this scripture is talking about compassion, and mercy. When we are carrying selfish hearts we think about ourselves. As they say, we look out for No. 1 – our own interests, our own lives. When people therefore hurt us, we think of how much we have been hurt. But when we carry the heart of Christ, we think of the suffering and emptiness in those people’s souls. That is why we can forgive them. Compassion is the foundation upon which forgiveness rests.

God’s Kingdom is all about the heart. Therefore, in this parable, Jesus was talking about the heart, a compassionate heart.

Let us take the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. His was a very real and physical experience. After they had finished crucifying Jesus, His many tormentors did many other hurtful things to Him. But I believe it was the words that they spoke to Him that must have caused Him the greatest amount of pain. In the Gospel of Mark we read,

“29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” Mk. 15:29-32

Now, remember that Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I. The words came at Him like barbed arrows, and they were intended to hurt Him. Do you know what it means for someone to wag their head at you? It means they utterly despise you. And – unless you are made of stone – it hurts. It hurts real bad.

But, y’know, the way we are, when we read these words, we think, “Oh, that’s easy. I could take that.”

But no; it is not easy, and no, you could not have taken it. The way we are today, few of us could have come to taking the hurt. Why? Because our lordship the flesh has not been crucified and therefore our personalities are bigger than the Lord Jesus Himself. The result? We trip at the tiniest slight upon our perceived rights and dignity!

But what did the Lord do? Did He get bitter? Did He feel degraded and vow  they would pay for it? No. On the contrary, he saw the misery in their hearts, and had compassion on them. And in His mercy He prayed for them:

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Lk. 23:34

Jesus did not pray for His tormentors because “it is written”. On the contrary, His prayer was born of compassion, and mercy. By doing this, He revealed true love.

I can vouch for the fact that were it not for the nails holding Him up there, Jesus would have come down and even in His pain He would have held them all in His arms and – if only they would open their hearts – fill them to the brim with His grace. Did He not say so Himself? (see Mat. 23:37; Lk. 13:34)

Let us consider briefly the Apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered why Paul would write:

“1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:1-3?

Paul wrote this out of love. In his love for his fellow Jews, Paul would gladly have given up his place in Christ for them! Such a thought is unfathomable..

Lastly, let us take a look at Stephen. When the Jews stoned Stephen,

“… he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).

Did Stephen “copy” Jesus’s words at the cross? No. Stephen’s words came from the heart. Stephen had the heart of Jesus, a heart which had a limitless amount of love such that he could show mercy on his tormentors.

I once heard a preacher say, “Stephen asked God to forgive the Jews only this particular sin (of stoning him). They will answer for the rest!”

But those are vengeful words, and that is neither the heart of Christ, nor was it the heart that Stephen carried. Both Jesus and Stephen loved their persecutors, and they had mercy on them. If you love someone, you cannot ask God to forgive them only a specific sin and at the same time ask Him to make sure they pay for all their other sins!!

The story of the Good Samaritan is especially relevant in the case where a brother or sister has stumbled, or has wronged us. In both cases that we have reviewed above, God revealed His heart for the fallen Jews through the words that Jesus and Stephen spoke: “Forgive them”. His was a heart full of mercy.

In the same way, we ought to see deep into the heart of a brother who has stumbled and fallen. We ought to have a heart of mercy towards them. It is they who are actually suffering. They have been robbed of something; that is why they are doing what they are doing, even if they are doing it against us. We are called upon to lay down our lives for such brethren, if perchance they might arrive at a place of repentance.

It is in the same vein that we evangelize. We should not evangelize to fill up our churches. We should evangelize because we love people. The Apostle Paul says:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14).

Paul did not say, “The law constrains us”. Unfortunately, for many people it is all about the law. It is about fulfilling a certain program. But law and programs have no power to bring life. They have no heart. That is why the priest and the Levite – who were men of law – could not help the wounded man. They were more dead than he.

Love is sensitive in the Spirit and it keenly feels, not its own pain, but the pain of others. It knows, not what it has been robbed of, but what others have been robbed of. The heart of God is a heart of compassion, compassion beyond belief. He can see deep into the miseries that men suffer.

But the even better news is that God has the perfect remedy for our suffering souls. He has given His life for us. He has paid the sacrifice for our deliverance. If we will only humble ourselves and cry to Him, He will give us the grace we need to be rich again in our spirits.

[Below: “Go… go and do thou likewise”]

Free To Live!

11 And he said, A certain man had two sons:

12 And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living.

13 And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living.

14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want.

15 And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine.

16 And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him.

17 And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger!

18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee,

19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants.

20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.

21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son.

22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet:

23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry:

24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.

25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard musick and dancing.

26 And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant.

27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound.

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

31 And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine.

32 It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Lk. 15:11-32

One of the most horrible nightmares that plague my life is the fact that I find I am still a man of law. It’s a nightmare, and it’s real. To be fair, God has helped me in many ways, and I know I have changed in many areas. But to find myself entirely free from the spirit of law in my heart is a challenge that I have yet to fully surmount.

And yet… I believe the worst person in the world is a person of law. The person who carries law in their heart, I believe, is the person who displeases God more than anybody else.

On the other hand, I am convinced that the person who carries grace in their heart pleases God the most. Grace is an attitude of heart. It is not something that we can crank up through our own effort. In fact, to put it in even better terms, grace comes about only through a work of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart. Only the revelation of the cross can bring grace into a man’s heart. Grace is not something natural; it is spiritual.

Law is also an attitude of heart. Law resides in the heart of a man who has not encountered the work of the cross in their heart. When we find ourselves exercising law in our lives, either towards others or towards ourselves, that is a sure sign that we are not carrying our cross and following Christ.

Neither law nor grace can be measured by what we do in the natural. I could invite you into my house and have you sit on my best sofa, and serve you from my best china – and I would still be a man of law.

On the other hand, I could rebuke you and still be a man of grace. Jesus often rebuked His disciples severely, and yet He embodied grace. The law in our hearts shows up in our attitudes, not in what we do or not do. That, as we shall see, is what happened with the elder son in the above story.

But before we get to the elder son, let us a take a glimpse of the father. The father in the above scripture epitomizes grace. This man was rich in grace. He had so much grace he was ready to lose!

When he “divided unto them his living” and allowed the younger son to go his way, the father was losing not only his son, but his property, and his pride. Pride is who we are, and when a man loses his pride he has lost his very self. But the father allowed the son to despise and to trample upon all that he represented to him.

He was willing to give his son all the freedom he needed. Maybe, this gracious father reasoned, maybe my son will one day come to his senses and return home.

And we see that was exactly what happened. The boy went into the world and, after he had suffered terribly, he finally came to his senses; the Bible says he “came to himself”.

What does it mean to “come to himself”? Surely, something must have touched his heart. The soft voice of the Holy Spirit spoke to his heart – and he heeded. He repented and went back to his father. He was now a changed man. He knew what it was like to be far from the safety and comfort of his father’s arms.

I wonder what would have happened if the father had prevented him from leaving home. The boy would probably have stayed on, but his heart would still have yearned for the world. He would have lived and died at home, but his heart would long have wandered elsewhere.

But by giving him all the freedom he wanted, the father allowed God to work on the young man, and when God confronted him, he came back to his father on his own accord.

The father’s attitude is what we need to have as people of God if we really desire to bring the life of God into the church. In retrospect, we see that this particular father carried his cross and in doing so he gave life to his son.

When we are men of law, we stifle people by trying to hold them back by our own strength. Because there is no work of the Spirit involved, and because there is no grace, the day they break free they will never come back.

Back at home, the father still lived with his elder son. This son apparently did all that his father commanded. At no one time did he fail to obey his father. More importantly, he never left home.

And yet… this son was a man of law. He had never come into contact with the revelation of the cross and he had never opened his heart to the working of the Holy Spirit. He was still the old man of self.

So it was that when the younger brother returned, and he was received in such glorious fashion by his father – instead of being punished, as the law demands – this action was the catalyst needed to unleash all the pent-up frustrations of the elder son. He had stoically held in his anger and condemnation; but now his heart was finally exposed. He had no revelation of the cross, and his heart was full of every kind of spiritual debris.

There are many such Christians in church today. They are always in church, good people, obediently doing all that the pastor asks of them. But if they have no revelation of the cross, they are still their old selves. They will never become people of grace, and they will never change.

All they do is obey the letter. When push comes to shove, they crack!

Being good is good, but God demands we be spiritual. True power is in taking up our cross and following Christ.

The person who carries grace may miss it here and there, but you will always feel the freedom in their hearts, which very freedom is the single ingredient that is necessary for the Holy Spirit to continue working in them. These are the kind of people that God is happy with.

I love the father in this story. At no one time did he exhibit a lack of grace: neither with his rebellious younger son; nor with his grace-less elder son. In every situation, this man was perfectly full of the grace of God. He must have lived a life full of inner joy and peace.

[Below: Are you free?]

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!]

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