The Church Today…

1 I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom;

2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

5 But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.

6 For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand.

7 I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

8 Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 2 Tim. 4:1-8

This entire portion of scripture ties in together.  When Paul tells Timothy:

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day”

he is telling him to do exactly what he did in order to receive what he will receive from God at his death. In other words, there is no other way for a preacher to fight the good fight than to do what Paul tells Timothy to do here, i.e., to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (v.2); and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.” (v.5)

There is no short-cut to heaven.

More precisely, however, for our purposes today, let us zero in on verses 3 and 4; and, especially the phrase:

“For the time will come”.

In other words, the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy that it is not all times that people – God’s people – will turn their backs on sound doctrine in this manner. Even at the time when Paul was writing this there were false apostles, false prophets and all kinds of counterfeit preachers of the gospel. These people have been there throughout the entire history of the church, ever since Adam.

What Paul is talking of here is not a cranky preacher here and there; rather he is referring to something vastly monumental. He is referring to a time where the church as a whole (or at least most of it) will be overcome by the lusts of their flesh but, in order to keep a semblance of ‘church’, they will bring in preachers who will read from the Bible but who will preach/interpret scripture according to the lusts of the flesh. These preachers themselves will be men (and women) who have no heavenly agenda in them; their lives are centered on filling their bellies.

The Apostle here, by the power of the Holy Spirit, predicts a time in the future when God’s people will, wholesale and actively,

“not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” (vs. 3-4)

The “they” Paul is talking of here is the church. The Bible explicitly says that God’s people will not endure sound doctrine! That’s incredible, to say the least.

Now, about the “time” that Paul is alluding to here. I very much doubt whether that “time” is not now. When you turn on Christian TV today, what do you see? Can you sincerely claim to find amongst all the teachings there any amount of preaching that has a bearing on the true gospel of Jesus Christ? Can you find there anything remotely related to Paul’s declaration in 1 Corinthians 2:2:

“And I, brethren, when I came to you… determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”?

Sound doctrine is there, no doubt, but it is infinitesimal. Without a doubt, more than 90% of what you find on Christian TV are material, worldly teachings, much of it conveyed through so-called motivational teaching.

Even in third world countries like mine, all you hear on radio and television concerning the gospel is how to get rich or die trying; how to exorcise demons; tales of how people have been to hell (and heaven) and back; encounters with witches, etc. These are fables!

That means over 90% of the church is turning away from the truth and turning to fables.

I heard a preacher in the West say on TV, “Next is now!” She was preaching the false ‘new dimension/next level’ gospel.

I will take her phrase and use it here. The time Paul was talking of is now. At no other time have God’s people have had a sort of ‘herd mentality’ in running after materialistic teachings – “the good life”, etc.

That is why today – now – is the time to

“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” and to

“watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”

That is the way it has to be with us today.

The word “watch” here is filled with meaning. It means not just to watch in prayer, but it also refers to carefully living a Godly lifestyle.

These are the two things that will bring Christ back into a dying church, and a dying world.

[Below: The church today is not much different from these wrecked vehicles. But there is comfort in Jesus’ words: “I am the resurrection and the life”. Jesus can resurrect the church if we turn to Him and receive the revelation of the cross in our hearts]

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Paul – A Model of God’s Character

Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you. Phil. 4:9

How can this be? How can God allow such words by a man to be inscribed into His holy scriptures? The man is talking about himself here! Indeed, it would appear he is boasting.

But the Apostle Paul, who it is that is speaking here, was no mere man. And his boasting was no ordinary bragging. Everything that he wrote in the Bible was approved by the Holy Spirit before it was even written down.

At any rate, a person would have to be either grossly egoistic or painfully ignorant to even hint at downplaying the significance of a man whose writings God allowed to make up for more than half the entire New Testament. Not only so, but Paul was he who was chosen and commissioned by God to bring about the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace in its absolute entirety and clarity to the church. Were it not for Paul’s writings, we would not understand the gospel as we do today.

And yet, amazingly, neither of these two things comprises the most important fact about Paul. The most remarkable thing about the Apostle Paul is that he lived the words he wrote. In other words, he lived the very life he preached and, in so doing, Paul became a model of God’s character and God’s grace. This is the single most important thing that sets Paul apart.

Make no mistake: preaching the gospel is extremely important. But whatever we do for the gospel’s sake we do it to the end that men and women may change and live the gospel. Living the gospel is the single most important thing that God is looking for in our lives.

Now, living the gospel might sound easy – until God pries the scales from off your eyes and you discover there are not too many people who can quote Philippians 4:9 for themselves with any sense of conviction. I am sure you would need to search far and wide indeed to find a single person who can perfectly fit the words that Paul writes about himself here. This is not a judgment on anyone. But the Bible makes it abundantly clear that not many people are willing to accept the crucified life. If, on the other hand you can find a man or woman who lives such a life, you’ve hit gold. You will have found someone you can follow, for such a person will lead you to Christ. And Paul was such a man.

Actually, when it comes to talking about his life, Paul does so extensively in his epistles. But his is no ordinary talk. Every word that Paul wrote he wrote under the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Today, we will consider just one scripture among many, where Paul talks about himself. This scripture is a goldmine.

“16 Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 17 For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church. (1 Cor. 4:16-17)

Notice Paul talks of his “ways which be in Christ”.

“Ways”. What a strange word! I believe this speaks of his entire manner of life. His ways, he says were conducted “in Christ”!

I cannot comprehend the boldness that Paul had. For here he is telling the Corinthians that he will be sending Timothy to remind them of how he lived and walked among them according to the gospel of Jesus Christ that he preached to them. I wonder what Paul wanted them to remember about him?

Personally, there are many things that I as a preacher would wish people not to remember about me. Many times my ways were not “in Christ”, despite my belief to the contrary. May the Lord be merciful to me. But Paul’s ways were all in Christ and he had nothing to fear. What a price he must have paid to arrive at such boldness!

And it was not just to the Corinthians that Paul took his ways which were in Christ. It is recorded in the Bible that he took these same ways to all the churches that he set his foot in – “every where in every church”.

What an incredible feat this was in the Spirit! It is through such insights that we can begin to appreciate the greatness of this man, Paul, in the Spirit.

Unfortunately, people ‘export’ all kinds of things to God’s churches. A couple of decades ago, someone brought the ‘Toronto Blessing’ to Africa, and people were laughing in churches like crazy. Today, I do not hear of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ any more. Where did the ‘life’ of the ‘Toronto Blessing’ go? Why did the laughter, and the barking, and the drunkenness not endure? It is because these things were not “in Christ”; they were not of Christ. Whatever is not of Christ cannot endure the test of time.

But Paul’s life, which was in Christ, and which he lived thousands of years earlier, is still with us. And it gets sweeter and more powerful the more we get to know it.

Paul did not go ‘slaying people in the Spirit’ in the churches. Rather, he took to them his ways which were in Christ, and these endured. And they will endure to the end.

Unfortunately, false doctrines like the ‘Toronto Blessing’ and other deviant doctrines are all that most preachers can bring to God’s people. The result is that, at the very least, believers are not taught the cross, they have no example to look up to, and they end up living a grace-less life. At the end of all the hype, they find themselves fighting a losing battle against depression, anger, pride, envy, lust, division and every work of the flesh because in essence these believers are products of preachers who have no “ways” of Christ in them.

Even worse, however, is that these doctrines damage people spiritually in other, more sinister ways.

Much too many preachers today have nothing of Christ in their lives to show to God’s people.

Today, God is looking for preachers who will bring their “ways which be in Christ” to the churches.

To be fair, the ‘Toronto Blessing’ caught God’s people when there was no spiritual father in the church. But that has been the problem of the church throughout history: the lack of a spiritual father within the church. In such an atmosphere, anything goes.

The church’s spiritual father is the apostle, and the apostle reveals the crucified Christ to the church. He does this through showing them his ways which are in Christ!

The challenge to us, the church, is that exactly what Paul says here – a life lived “in Christ” – should be what every preacher and every believer have to say of themselves. This is the core of our salvation: the life we live, the words we speak, the spiritual deposit we impart to others; and the way we relate to people, especially believers. This can only be a life founded upon the revelation of the cross in a person’s life. When we are crucified with Christ, Christ lives and proves His works in us, as He did in Paul’s life. Paul makes this clear 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.”

Notice, “the life which I now live in the flesh…”

We ought, first and foremost, to ask ourselves the question: What kind of life do I live?

We can only live a life of grace and true holiness when we have crucified our flesh on the cross. Any other way is mere religion and it will not produce spiritual fruit in our lives.

The Test For Our Faith

1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. 1 Cor. 13:1-3

It is incredible, don’t you think, that someone can speak with the tongues of men and angels and yet be of no consequence before God. Or that they can have the gift of prophecy and an understanding of all the heavenly mysteries and be considered nothing.

These are almost unbelievable things to hear. Verse 3 is even more astonishing:

“And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”

How can one bestow all his goods to feed the poor, or give their body to be burned and still profit nothing from it?

How can such things be possible?

They call it the litmus test. Webster’s Dictionary gives the definition of the litmus test as “something (such as an opinion about a political or moral issue) that is used to make a judgment about whether someone or something is acceptable.”

They further describe it as “a test in which a single factor (as an attitude, event, or fact) is decisive.”

The litmus test of our faith therefore is our life. It is the life we live. Our faith and the grace of God that goes with it are measured by the life – and love – of Christ in us. This talks of the Christ-like nature. What matters with God is the nature of Christ in us.

But this requires us to surrender our old, carnal nature.

Did you know that the Galatian church was so rich in faith that they had miracles occurring in their midst (Gal. 3:5)? Great faith was at work in that church.

And yet Paul told them they were “bewitched”! (v.1)

Now, that sounds like a contradiction. God’s people bewitched?

Oh, yes. These people were bewitched because they had the Holy Spirit working overtime in their midst to the extent of doing miracles – and yet they would not change! Those miracles and the presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst did not profit them in the least.

With the gospel, if we are not changing into the character of Christ, whatever we are doing is of no profit to us. No change, no deal.

It is good to have the Holy Spirit upon us; but it is infinitely better to allow Him to work in us. This is where He deals with the old man of the flesh. This is where He works to bring a mortification, or death to our earthly, carnal nature:

“5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:5-8).

The Galatians had faith to perform miracles but not faith to change!

This is where God has a problem with us. We cheer the great faith and the miracles, but at the same time deny the Holy Spirit a foothold to work in us, to break us. But that is exactly the price we need to pay.

Whatever does not lead us to take the strait and narrow road should be viewed with great suspicion. Whatever gospel does not require you to take up your cross and follow Christ cannot be of God. That is the simplicity of the gospel.

It is in following Christ through taking up our cross that we are transformed. When we allow the Holy Spirit to work in us He teaches us to deny self and to take up our cross and follow Christ.

When we are living this kind of life, we can show forth the love and life of Christ.At the end of the day, the test of our faith is our readiness to deny ourself, take up our cross and follow Christ.

[Below: The grace that is needed within the church can only come about as a result of the crucifixion of the flesh]

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Suffering – Gateway To Life

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

30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. Phil. 1:29-30

I am a vain man. I tend, for example, to believe that my wife is the greatest woman in the entire universe. For once though, despite my overblown vanity, I could be right on this one. From reading the Word of God and from experience I am absolutely certain that my wife is one of the most excellent women in the world. To me she is Ruth, she is Esther, she is Abigail – all wrapped in one. I couldn’t provide a better description of her than Proverbs 31. She fits it like a glove. Her price is, undoubtedly, far above rubies.

I feel extremely blessed and somehow even over-favored by God to have Flo as my wife. She has enriched my life in many different ways. Above all, she has enabled us to have a stable and fulfilling marriage. I realize that having her for a wife is one way of God telling me, “I love you”. He is so caring, loving and faithful!

There are many men, though, even fellow brethren, who are not as blessed as I am in their marriages. They have suffered in many different ways through their marriages. One of my brothers, a fellow minister, has had the most difficult marriage imaginable for close to 30 years! The bad news is that the problem has only grown worse with time. The man is no angel, of course, but I know his heart. His wife, on the other hand, is an intractable, unyielding and unforgiving woman.

Another one of my friends hadn’t yet tasted what marriage was about before his wife began wearing a complete “full suite” to bed. She would even wear hard-core shorts, complete with a lockable Rambo-style belt – to bed!!

I used to feel sorry these and other people who were suffering in their marriages. I would think in my heart: ‘Poor folks! I am so blessed to have such a wonderful wife.’

And then, one day, the Lord showed me something that changed my whole outlook of the situation. He showed me that it is not having a spiritual wife that constitutes a blessing. The true blessing, He revealed to me, is when I am taking my cross and following Jesus.

God showed me that even though He may have blessed me with the sweetest wife on the planet, it did not mean that He was going to let me off the hook when it came to suffering for Christ. My faith may be working well in my marriage, but there were other areas where it would be tested. God would use other areas in my life to try out whether I was fully obedient to him. It is so easy to exercise our faith only in the small, painless areas of our lives. But we cannot serve God half-heartedly. God wants our entire lives to be submitted to His will. And in this regard, God is not short of areas to work in in our lives!

Whatever the case is, God will make sure that I arrive at a place where I will be confronted by the cross of Christ. Christianity is not there just for me to enjoy myself. Sure, God will allow me to enjoy myself in many areas. But in my relationship with God, my becoming a spiritual person is of far greater importance than my earthly enjoyment of His favors. Above everything else, God wants me to be spiritual and to live a spiritual lifestyle. But this spiritual lifestyle can only be attained when I am constantly crucifying my flesh and its desires. For this reason, God will make sure to bring obstacles in my life to club spiritual sense into my life. In other words, God will confront my carnal nature.

God may not use my wife, but He could use my children, or my neighbor, or a situation at my workplace. God could also use a financial situation. He could make me rich or He could make me poor, to test me. God could even use my pastor! Or He could use persecution. God can use anything. Many times we do not know what He intends to use. The one thing that is sure is that if I am called of God, He will put a stumbling block in my life just to block out all the carnality in my life.

That is why, much as I have no complaints in my marriage, still I must carry the mind of Christ and be ready to suffer in many other areas of my life. This suffering, as we just noted, comes in the form of confrontation. God uses situations or people to confront us in our different carnal ways. How we react is the most important thing with God. Do we humble ourselves or do we hold onto our rights? The one reaction holds life, and the other means death. We must choose wisely.

I can tell you from experience that it is not easy to choose to humble ourselves. It is not easy to choose life! But I am learning – sometimes step by step, like a baby – to walk the strait and narrow road.

God calls me to arm myself with the mind of Christ. For this reason I must watch my attitude, not just towards my wife but towards other situations also. That is why I must have the mind of Christ. The mind of Christ is a mind of humility. With a mind of humility, I can give God the glory by humbling myself in every situation and allowing Him to break the things that come from my human folly and pride.

That was the struggle that Paul had. Paul had no wife, good or bad, to deal with. Yet Paul suffered in many other areas of his life. Flesh is flesh. God had many areas to deal with in Paul’s life.

The joy of having a loving wife is that, after I have come from a day out working the “conflict” that Christ has set out before me, I can go back home to warm, welcoming arms, a beautiful smile, and a deeply loving and caring heart. That’s Flo.

[Below: Vain me with my Flo]

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“… Up Where We Belong”

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Eph. 1:3

Notice in the above portion of scripture how God’s Word looks only upwards! That’s so powerful. The writer of this epistle could have chosen to look downwards. He could have chosen to talk about all the earthly blessings that we have in Christ. But he chose to look up. He chose to consider the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ. In his discourse he chose to ignore the physical and material blessings of this world.

God, our father, desires to take us up. That is where we belong as His children. He wants us to partake of His spiritual blessings and His spiritual Kingdom. That is our inheritance as His children. And yet, too many believers today have their sights set on the physical and material blessings of this world. Even when the Lord has begun “a good work” in us (Phil. 1:6) it is the most difficult thing for believers to appreciate the spiritual nature of our calling.

But our calling is spiritual. That is why the Bible says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”

It does not say, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual and material blessings in Christ”. That would be true, of course, since God is the God of all blessings, both physical and spiritual. But the Bible in every place makes a distinction between the physical and the spiritual; between the temporal and the eternal. Whatever is temporal will one day pass away. You could not, for example, take your car with you to heaven, even if it was a blessing that was hand-delivered to you by God Himself. When you go to heaven, your beautiful car will be left to rust here on earth. But in heaven you will find love, a spiritual blessing. That is the stark contrast.

The church should therefore focus on God’s “spiritual blessings”. If the Bible can take the time and the effort and the space in its hallowed pages to include the word “spiritual”, I believe we should pay heed to what it is trying to tell us. It could even be a warning. Today you rarely hear the term “spiritual blessings” used in church. You just hear of “blessings”. Everything, the physical and the spiritual, is lumped together.

But if you read the entire Book of Ephesians and, indeed, every other book of the New Testament, you will not find much talk about physical or material blessings. The Bible, especially the New Testament, talks of many things, and nearly all of them have to do with the inner man of the spirit and the work of the cross that is needed to bring about a transformation in his character.

We must once again learn to hear from the Holy Spirit. For the world, riches comprise of material wealth. For the spiritual person, the Bible tells us what comprises true riches:

“To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).

For the church the true riches are “Christ in you”!

Jesus comes to live in us when we accept Him by faith; and when through that same faith we become partakers of the death of Christ through an understanding of the cross, we become partakers of His resurrection life. The life of Christ in us means we can exhibit, right here on earth, the character of Christ. And this is the whole purpose of the gospel.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).

These characteristics form the true spiritual blessings that the Bible talks about. Their formation in us is the top priority with God. It is the character that Christ had when He was here on earth, and it is the same character that we will find Him with in heaven. In other words, these are the things that last, for God never changes.

Many believers will be deceived by worldly-minded preachers and worldly-minded gospels. They will be led to prioritize the blessings of this world over the things that would mature their spirits and make them partakers of true “spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ”.

But God wants us to move on to perfection in the Spirit (1 Col. 1:28).

Loving As Christ Has Loved Us

After spending a very difficult month attending to my father who was ill (thank God he is healed now), I am finally back where I belong. I am extremely grateful to WordPress for faithfully preserving this blog while I was away, and to my fellow bloggers and friends who must have been thinking about me. I thank you all for your patience and love.

And talking about love… I know there are people who love cats, dogs and every kind of animal. Now, this is good and commendable, and even God is happy when we love and have mercy on animals. In fact, it is not just that the Bible commands us to love our animals, but even were we to search our hearts, there is no way a man can claim to be Godly and yet have no bowels of mercy for animals, for that is the heart of God. In any case, animals are extremely loyal and lovable. They demand nothing, but they have much to give to anyone who takes time to be with them.

Seen in this light, it would appear that living and loving an animal is far much easier than living with fellow humans. Humans are difficult beings to live with. They have many things that are un-likable. Furthermore, I believe one of the weighty reasons why we find it so difficult to love one another is that when we look at fellow human beings, we see many of the weaknesses that we hate to see in our own lives. But the bottom line is that it is extremely difficult in our imperfect world to find a person whom we can look up to and perfectly desire the example of life that they have.

But it is to these imperfect humans that God has directed His peculiar form of love, and He calls us to follow suit. God calls upon us as His children to love our fellow human beings.

I believe there is something in man that is extremely endearing to God. The Bible says that God created man in His own image and, furthermore, that He has put His Spirit in man. Man is therefore God’s child, and God has poured all His love on him.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16).

God so loved man that He was willing to send His Son to die to save man. Whoever believes in Christ’s sacrifice inherits eternal life.

In the same way that Christ sacrificed Himself and gave away His life, God calls on us to die to self in order that others might live. We cannot claim to walk in love unless we are dying to self. Dying in this regard means giving up our rights to pave way for someone to pass along. It is like you are standing in a queue and someone comes up and you give them your place.

Our Lord Jesus Christ said, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26).

The world cannot know true love, simply because love has to do with the cross working in our lives.

So, next time, as a child of God, make sure to give up your rights and/or privileges so that another might profit.

Living The Resurrection Life – Part 2

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

 

Part 2

“…and to die is gain.”

I haven’t heard anyone speak that kind of language lately. It appears that, today, the world has so much to offer!

But, again, the early apostles were men who saw in the Spirit. They were men who were ready for another world. They had leavin’ (this world) on their minds. In the Spirit, they saw and desired another world, God’s spiritual Kingdom. The Apostle Paul says,

“For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better” (v. 23)

For Paul and the other apostles, being with Christ was “far better”!

But then, apparently, today, many believers cannot see as much into the Spirit. The reason for this is that other gospels have come in and blinded them to the heavenly vision. The churches with the biggest numbers today are those that preach on materialism. But the gospel of materialism is not taking anyone anywhere near heaven. On the contrary, it will most likely take many to hell.

Most people think that if they can throw in an “In the name of Jesus” to anything they say or do, then that thing becomes spiritual. But that’s not true. Jesus Himself said many would even do miracles in His Name and still not enter heaven (Mat. 7:22).

How can someone say, “to die is gain”?

It all depends on the gospel that one is hearing. There is only one gospel that has the power to make someone say such words. It is the gospel of the revelation of the cross of Christ. Today there are many gospels that abound, but they do not bring a revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified”. And yet…  “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” is the only true message for the church today.

THE CHURCH NEEDS TO HEAR THE TRUE GOSPEL, THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST AND HIM CRUCIFIED! THE REVELATION OF THE CROSS IN A MAN’S HEART IS THE POWER OF GOD THAT BRINGS THE TRANSFORMATION NEEDED TO MAKE A MAN WORTHY OF HEAVEN.

Upon reading the epistles, we find that many in the early church were men and women who did not count their lives dear to themselves (Acts 20:24), on account of the gospel that they heard. Through this gospel, they had a true heavenly vision. That means they saw the glories of heaven. They saw into the Spirit, and what they saw made them willing to trade in their worldly lives for the heavenly one. That is why they were willing to die. For them, death for the sake of the gospel was the Golden Gate to heaven.

But, pray, how can one be so willing to leave this world? And how can one be so unafraid of death?

It is because they had met with the resurrected Christ.

The classic example of this are the apostles. Many died for their faith. They were killed. We recall the Apostle James, who died at the hands of King Herod. But before the revelation of the cross in his heart, this man had so much of the world in him that Jesus nicknamed him and his brother John “the sons of thunder” (Mk. 3:17).

These were the men who were so chagrined that a particular village would not line up and obediently clap for Jesus as He passed through, so much so that they asked Jesus whether they could not be allowed to call down fire upon that little village as Elijah did.

James and John were they also who wanted each to be sat on either side of Jesus in His kingdom, thinking His was an earthly kingdom.

In every instance, Jesus rebuked them vehemently. It is safe to say that with the kind of outlook that they had in life, these were earthly, carnal men. They could hardly expect to go and live with Christ in His heavenly Kingdom.

But after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, we find a new attitude in James. It is clear now that in the Spirit, he had seen something different. He had seen “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – and he had been transformed. He was willing to trade in his life for Christ.

In Acts 12:1-2 we read,

“1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. 2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.”

I am sure that, now, James welcomed death. In his spirit he must have been saying, “Hurry! Take me to my Lord!”

I can imagine if they had tried to kill James before the revelation of the crucified Christ had come into his heart. He would have died cursing and kicking. Not a spot of heavenly light in his life. Just seeing the dark world he was leaving behind, nothing else.

That is why the church needs the revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) today more than ever. This is the only gospel that can make us to consider dying as gain. The words of the Apostle Paul need to be heard more and more in church today:

“… to die is gain”

In another place, the Apostle John says,

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 Jn. 2:28).

We must leave the spirit of the world behind if we are to have confidence at Christ’s coming. We must be found abiding “in him” – in His sufferings, and in His death. Having this mind in us, we shall not fear physical death; on the contrary, we will welcome it, for it alone will usher us triumphantly into Christ’s presence.

[Below: The approach to Iguguno, a small town just outside Singida]

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