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.
13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:
14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.
15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,
16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood:
17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus…
21 Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia;
22 And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:
23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.
24 And they glorified God in me. Gal. 1:11-24
The people amongst whom I live eat tortoises. Or at least they used to eat in former times, for the story I am about to narrate is of long bygone days. Tortoises, though, were eaten as a last resort, when there was no other meat available. The story goes that one day, a man was walking in the bush when he came across a large tortoise. He immediately caught it and put it on his head and headed home. As he walked along he met two men going in the opposite direction. The men asked him, “What is that you are carrying?”
“It’s a tortoise”, replied the man.
“Throw that away”, the men told him. “We just received news that a giraffe has been killed in the valley and you can go take as much as you need.”
The man quickly threw away the tortoise and headed to the valley with his two friends. There they found the dead giraffe and all the vllagers were taking away as much meat as they could.
In a related development… Two years ago, myself together with a team of five other pastors were travelling to a neighboring country to attend a conference. These were pastors who had recently ‘converted’ to the gospel of the cross, and they were eager to hear more about the cross.
A few hours into our journey, one of the men received a call. After the initial greetings, the conversation proceeded as follows:
The caller: “Where are you?”
The pastor: “I am on a bus.”
“I am travelling to Nairobi.”
“What?! What are you going to do in Nairobi?”
“I am attending a conference.”
“What conference? You mean you will no longer be attending our classes?”
“Er, not exactly, but for the next few days I won’t.”
“If that’s the case, then we need you to hand back our books, how do we get them?”
“Unfortunately, you will have to wait until I come back”, said our man.
We were all seated on adjacent seats, so we all could hear our man’s side of the conversation. In any case, there are people (myself included) who, when on the phone, have an undefiable inclination to talk in a loud voice. The reason for this propensity to talk loudly on the phone is another story altogether which I shall reserve for later. And our man was talking as if he was in a shouting match.
After he had hung up, the pastor seated next to him asked him, “What was that about a class and books?”
“Oh, it’s a class on discipleship that I have been attending.”
“Well, y’know, becoming a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
“Do you have those books with you here?”
“I have one”, replied the pastor.
“Let me see it.”
At which the pastor pulled out from his bag a medium-sized Christian manual.
Without even opening it, his fellow told him, “Throw that tortoise out the bus window. How can you still be carrying a tortoise when we are going to eat giraffe meat?”
Ever since that day, our team has fashioned many anecdotes based on the story of the tortoise and the giraffe.
But, on a more serious note, such a conversation can tell you immediately the man whose eyes have seen in the Spirit and one who has not; the man who has caught the revelation of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the gospel of the cross, and one who has not. The one who has caught this revelation talks like the Apostle Paul:
“But we preach Christ crucified…” (1 Cor. 1:23); and
“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
The first thing that happens when a man or woman receives the revelation of the cross is that they think and talk differently, not just from the world, but from the charismatic gospel. The cross is always on their lips. They talk a language you cannot hear in the charismatic gospel.
In his epistles the Apostle Paul talks about the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This revelation was the basis of what Paul preached. He preached “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23); an assertion which, as we just saw, he repeats in 1 Corinthians 2:2.
But this revelation was not a burst of light nor some form of inspiration. On the contrary, it was a work of the Spirit in the inner man, as he tells us in Galatians 1 above:
“23 But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed. 24 And they glorified God in me.”
As we see here with Paul, we live the gospel that we preach. Our lives transform and we change. In other words, we live the crucified life, where the old man in us is daily crucified to this world and the new, who is formed in the image of Jesus Christ, is daily formed in us, unto perfection. As the Bible says in Galatians 5:24:
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
These people heard about the transformation that had taken place in Paul’s life!
[Children playing in a village in central Tanzania]