First Things First!

One of the most poignant stories in the gospels is the account of the ten virgins as Jesus told it in Matthew 25. It is a story of great triumph and joy on the one hand, and yet one of tragedy and deep sorrow on the other.

The fact that Jesus talked of virgins here straightaway indicates that He was referring to the church. The bridegroom, of course, is our Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

The truly alarming aspect of this narrative is that even the five foolish virgins knew they could not enter the wedding banquet without light in their lamps!

The scriptures say: “The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!” Mat. 6:22-23

Actually, the Kingdom of God is first and foremost all about the light of God in our hearts. If our hearts are dark – if they are impure – we cannot hope to enter that Kingdom.

We learn from the Bible that the first thing that God brought to be when He created the earth was light. You see, there are first things with God, just as it is with us. Light was the very first thing that God brought into being. It follows, therefore, that light is the most important ingredient in the Kingdom of God. Without light there is nothing else that is allowed to be.

We (as human beings) are professionals at working things downside up. Had we been in God’s place, we would have created the cows and the trees first, and then we would  probably have thought about the light. That is why there are many people in church today who are more concerned about doing many things “for the Kingdom” except carrying a heart of grace, a pure heart!

The oil talks about God’s grace. It is a matter of paramount importance that we make sure we are constantly carrying the grace of God in our hearts. Grace is the power of God. It is what keeps the light – our good Christian deeds – burning in our lives.

The Bible says that each born-again believer has been given grace “according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” (Eph. 4:7) This means that, just like the ten virgins, we all start out with a measure of “oil” in our hearts. But that oil needs replenishing. That is why Jesus talked about ‘watching’.

Have you noticed how some of us begin well our Christian walk, but after some time, we seem to lose that magic touch? We become stunted in doctrine and our hearts grow cold and hard. The bowels of mercy dry up in us and we become judgmental and unforgiving. Sin in its many forms soon begins to press hard against us from every side. That is because we are not watching and making sure we are carrying oil – God’s grace – in our lives.

The only way to serve Jesus is by having grace in our hearts.

Paul admonishes the Philippians: “Do all things without murmurings and disputings: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” (Phil. 2:14-15)

We can clearly see that the word light here is associated with the life of grace that we live in this world.

There is only one way to carry the grace of God in our lives. It is by losing our lives. Why do you think the Apostle Paul has been maligned from the day of his conversion to the present? It is because at the moment of his conversion, Paul caught a revelation of the only thing that can crucify the flesh, and Satan has understandably been mad at him ever since!

The cross is the only place where we can crucify the flesh and its lusts and be able to carry that all-important grace in our lives.

The Apostle Paul was able to live the crucified life, and we are all witnesses to the kind of life that he lived and the great work that he accomplished for the gospel’s sake. Indeed, the true church can only be a product of the gospel of grace that Paul preached.

Paul had a revelation of what the cross was meant to accomplish in his life. We, too, must arrive at that place, the place where we will not just lay our burdens at the cross, but where we will also be willing to lose our lives there.

When Jesus comes, He wants to find us carrying grace. He will want to hear all about the many miracles we performed and the beautiful worship songs we composed, of course, but He wants to find us carrying a heart of grace. He wants to find forgiveness, mercy, tenderness, righteousness and holiness in our hearts. Those are the first things He will be looking for.

It is sad but one day, even though God is love, He will tell some of His children, “Verily I say unto you, I know you not.”

‘Verily’ means truly. Making sure we have grace in our hearts – always – is no joking matter.

The Light of The Spiritual Man

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! Mat 6:22-23

What this scripture is saying here is simply that the light in our hearts, the purity of our hearts, is the light of the spiritual man. You can have religion up to your neck, but if you are not maintaining a pure heart, your whole spiritual body is full of darkness.

When we had our second baby, my wife and I decided that two kids were enough and that we should get on with the business of serving the Lord. So we went to have a tubal ligation. This is a simple surgical procedure whereby they make a small hole below the woman’s navel, cut the fallopian tubes, tie them up and after 5 minutes of rest the patient can go home. The purpose of it is so that she should never be able to conceive again.

I was sitting outside the operating room as the doctor and his nurse performed the procedure on my wife. When he was done, the doctor called me inside and he said to me, “Your wife has the clearest birth tubes I have ever seen. They are so clear you can see to the other side!”

We all laughed with relief – and I with pompous pride. But I never forgot the doctor’s words. Somehow they stuck to my mind and the Lord has used them many times to remind me about the condition of my heart.

Later on my wife was employed by that same organisation and during the course of her work cutting and binding women’s fallopian tubes she would tell me things that made me to appreciate the significance of what the doctor who operated on her had told us. My wife would tell me about the women they operated on, how the tubes of many of them were clogged with ‘dirt’; some to the extent that they had to go back home and use medication first before they would be operated on.

Through these lessons I came to appreciate the importance of the heart as far as our relationship with God is concerned.

The condition of our hearts is so important I wonder what preachers are preaching today! In the final analysis, there can be only one of two things in our hearts: light or darkness, and these things in our hearts are all that God is really concerned about. The Bible says two things about the nature of God. By nature I mean composition; in other words, what God is composed of (just as we are composed of dust, etc). The Bible states that God is:

  1. Light
  2. Love

The light the Bible is talking of here is not sunlight, of course. The Bible is talking about light in the spirit realm. It involves things like holiness, and righteousness. In the same way, God being love is not the worldly love we know of. It is something much more profound. It involves things like forgiveness, and compassion.

Out of this composition we get all the characteristics of God that we read of in the Bible. Just as God is light our hearts should also be full of light. We may not know many things, and we may not have many things, but we are called upon to please God by carrying a pure heart.

Some people simply have religion, and not the gospel of Jesus Christ. I wonder that we know so many things, so much scripture; and yet we keep impure hearts! The Apostle John speaks to us on the importance of keeping a pure heart. He says: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7)

Notice the scripture there acknowledges that we will sin, even in our born-again state. But the important thing with God is that we keep our hearts open and pure, so that the blood of Jesus can continually cleanse us from our sins, which we commit daily.

Let us desire to be simple folk. Religion produces some of the most complicated and difficult people on this earth. But the grace of God in our hearts produces humble men and women in whom the love of God can truly reside. In the final analysis we ought to be men and women whom God can “see through to the other side”!