Celestial Glory and Terrestrial Glory – Part 2

God does not call us to the glory of this world (terrestrial glory). He calls us to a different glory. It is a glory that in the worldly sense is no glory at all. It is a glory that does not seek after anything of this world.

Verse 43 tells us that the resurrection of the dead “is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power”.

To put it out in screaming headlines: THERE IS NO WORLDLY GLORY OR HONOR ASSOCIATED WITH A SPIRITUAL MAN OR WOMAN. There is only disgrace, tough times, lack, scorn, sometimes insults and beatings, and such like things.

And this state of affairs is to be borne in a spirit of love and humility.

Notice the scripture also says, “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body” (v.44).

The term ‘spiritual body’ here is not referring to ghosts or the spectral beings that the world associates with the word ‘spirit’. Rather, it is referring to the character of God. In other words, when we crucify our carnal lusts at the cross with Jesus, we are raised up with the spiritual life or character of God in us. We become spiritual as opposed to carnal. We die to our natural man. Someone can slap me on the right cheek and I can turn the left one for him to slap, in perfect peace.

The bottom line is that the heavenly glory is tied up with suffering – and death – in the flesh. In Romans 8:16-17 we read: “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Shouldn’t we be rejoicing here? The Bible says right there that when we are suffering with Christ, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are being conformed to the nature of God – being made heirs of God’s promise in the Spirit.

I love the fact that the Holy Spirit can bear witness with my spirit that I am doing something right.

When I mention the word ‘promise’ I am not talking about those 365 promises that my charismatic friends have dug up in the Bible (“a promise for each day”, they say, which probably is not a bad thing).

But I am talking about God’s promise to make us spiritual men and women. That is our true inheritance. That is the spiritual promise. That is the celestial glory.

And who is sufficient for these things? Only the revelation of the cross in our hearts can bring this sufficiency. That is why the Apostle Paul would not preach the early churches any other gospel except Christ and Him crucified. And when the churches reneged on their first love, he went back and reminded them of this same gospel. He did not change his message. For he knew that if they would not suffer with Christ by taking up their cross and following Him, they would remain carnal, worldly – and defeated – churches.

We need to ask ourselves, and each other: what glory are we seeking after?

[Below: The sun setting over Singida]

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The Right Gospel Perfects Us

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.1 Corinthians 1:17

Some of the things that I remember with uncanny clarity, as if it were just yesterday, have to do with my courtship of my wife (which took less than a week), and the wedding preparations that followed a few months afterwards.

The most important item for the wedding, of course, was the wedding gown. I did not have the money to buy my wife one of her own. So I rented it from a shop in the city of Mwanza, some 200 kilometers away. (Expensive as it was to rent and transport, it was still a far cheaper bargain than buying one.)

That’s how important the wedding dress was to our wedding ceremony.

But the wedding gown, although so important, came a distant second to the person: the bride herself. In the days leading up to our wedding day, a multitude of women from all our churches descended on the house where my wife-to-be was cloistered and began working on her.

Up till today I have never asked her what they did to her. But when I finally came to see my wife on the wedding day, I almost did not recognize her. She was, simply, flawless. She was so beautiful, so pure. I remember thinking, instinctively, that I did not deserve her.

The Apostle Paul says that he was sent by Christ – and he was sent for a purpose. Christ did not send Paul to baptize, no. Baptism is important, of course, and even Paul did baptize a few brethren.

There are some churches which put such an emphasis on baptism at the expense of the gospel! To them, baptism is everything. No emphasis on spiritual growth, or a walk towards perfection.

The Apostle Paul says that Jesus sent him “to preach the gospel”. But what is equally important is that Jesus did not send Paul to preach any old gospel. Paul qualifies the gospel that he was sent to preach. He says, “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

The keyword here is “effect”. What is this “effect” that Paul is talking about? It is the effect of the gospel upon our lives: the effect to change us. It is the effect, or the power of the cross to deal with the flesh.

In verse 18 Paul says, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

That means a message that would change people. That is what is meant by the cross being the power of God.

Again it is not any old change the Bible is talking of here. The Bible talks of perfecting the church. Paul preached a gospel that would perfect the Bride of Christ; perfect her to appear before the Bridegroom without spot, wrinkle or blemish. Ephesians 5:25-27 says that “… Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

That is the message that Paul preached. It was a work. It was not an instantaneous miracle. But it would work its way to the perfect end.

You see, there are many gospels in the church today. Christians, without realizing it, switch on their TVs and swallow anything and everything from every “God”-channel they come across. They jump and run all over their living room on hearing a “powerful” message.

But they do not change. These gospels do not change or perfect them. These gospels do not enable them to walk in victory over sin. You can see that from the many Christians who are walking in sin. Or, sadly,  the many thousands who are suffering from a myriad of ‘heart’ ailments, chief of which is depression.

But there is balm in Gilead! There is a remedy for everything, right there in the gospel. But it has to be the right gospel. It is the gospel that Paul preached. It is the gospel of the revelation of the cross, as we just saw in the scripture above. It is a revelation of what that cross can do in our lives.

In Colossians 1:28-29 Paul says, “28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: 29 Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.”

Paul labored to present “every man perfect in Christ Jesus”!

Perfect! That means free in our spirits, spiritually mature, and completely dead to sin.

That is the gospel that Christ sent Paul to preach. It is something so deep and life-transforming – because it is preparing the King of King’s Bride, the Church.

Let us desire to hear what God is saying and doing in our day. God is doing something new. There is no doubt about that, and I cannot fear saying that. I would fear sin more than fear hearing a gospel that promises me freedom from sin, which is the gospel that the Apostle Paul preached.

That is why this blog will continue speaking about the revelation of the cross in our hearts, which is the thing that will transform our lives, and perfect us.

[Below: Musoma Town, situated on the shores of Lake Victoria]

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The Glory And The Power

Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;

And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.

Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Matthew 4:8-10

Notice here that in all the temptations that Satan took Jesus through, the single temptation where he needed Jesus to fall down and worship him involved the power and glory of this world. He would give Jesus these if he would fall down and worship him.

You would be shocked at the thought of Jesus falling and worshipping Satan, but you need to remember that Jesus was as much blood and flesh as you and I. The devil is not stupid, as many people suppose. And the power of the glory of this world is not something to tamper with.

This was the last temptation that the devil would tempt Jesus with at that particular time, and that is noteworthy because we know that one always saves the best for last. In other words, this was the devil’s best temptation.

What many Christians do not realize is that Jesus refused, gave up, or surrendered what the devil was trying to give Him. Jesus, as a man, knew that it was truly in Satan’s power to do exactly what he had told Him he would do. When Jesus made that answer to old man Satan, He knew exactly what He would be missing.

That was why Jesus did not do His rounds in a Boeing 747 (which He very well could have afforded to do, being the Son of God – and you can imagine the crowds being awed by the sight of that big iron bird in the air and pointing to each other, “There goes the King’s Kid!” as He whizzed past). That was the reason also that He was persecuted instead of being revered. That was the reason Jesus would undergo many of the things He went through.

Jesus was aware of all that, but He would not bend His knee and worship Satan. That cannot be said of many Christians today. Many are seeking after the glory and riches of this world. And therein lies their spiritual downfall.

Someone said, “Those who say money does not bring happiness are those who have never owned money”. He was right in a way. Money, after all, is the god of this world. Money is power. The gospel of Jesus Christ has been compromised the world over almost entirely due to this single reason, the love of money. As an African I know that only too well. I am well aware that there are many African preachers and Christians who cannot serve God with any degree of spiritual freedom any time they come into contact with someone with money (or when they meet a white man, because a white man is considered ‘superior’ and moneyed).

In the same way, there are many white people who do not “see” God clearly when it comes to dealing with an African. They prefer to serve their ego.

This is a truly big problem with the church, and it needs to be faced and dealt with squarely because it is destroying the church of Jesus Christ.

The sad thing about all this is that if one is not serving God in freedom (as described in either of the above cases) he is not really serving God. He is serving something else.

But God wants us all to serve Him in freedom of spirit. And He wants us to serve Him and Him alone. Do not “fall down” to a white man, nor to your ego, nor to anything because if you do so, you will not be worshipping and serving the One True God.

Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”

Christians worship Satan unknowingly on so many fronts. It is time we faced this truth so that we may be set free to serve God and Him alone.

The problem today is that there is a glut of conformist gospels; gospels that conform to a worldly standard; and these gospels are being taught in church. This was the very thing the Apostle Paul feared for the Corinthian church, as he tells them in 2 Corinthians 11:3-4: “… I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him”.

Unfortunately, that is the very thing that is happening with the church today.

But he tells Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Notice that word, “doctrine” there. Our safety is in the doctrine that we submit ourselves under. What we become ultimately depends on the doctrine we are hearing. The teaching that we hear moulds our spiritual desires and expectations. We should desire and seek after the true doctrine of Jesus Christ, which the apostles preached and on which the Early Church was built.

The Apostle Paul tells us what doctrine he preached: “… Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

There are some people who have made Paul’s words a populist saying. But it is not. On the contrary, it refers to the work of the cross that a knowledge of Christ will bring into our hearts, which work will crucify the lusts of the flesh and reveal the life and character of Christ in us. This alone will enable us to worship God and to serve Him only.

A vision of the cross was what enabled Jesus to not desire the world or its influence and power. In that way He was able to not fall down and worship the devil.

When we are not walking in the revelation of the cross, when we are not taking up our cross and following after Jesus in crucifying the flesh, we will be in church singing “Glory, Hallelujah!” but we are worshipping the devil. That sounds shocking, but it is the truth.

That truth is made all the more real by the unashamedly materialistic gospels being preached today. In lusting after money and all that it offers, we have compromised the gospel of Jesus Christ in an incredible manner.

Nowadays in Africa, there is much fear in church circles of what people call ‘Freemasons’. Many Christians fear that this shadowy clique are out to ‘buy out’ the church through the ungodly wealth that they possess.

We don’t need to look that far. We ourselves (today’s church) are the real ‘Freemasons’! We have jeopardized the gospel of Jesus Christ by paying heed to ‘fables’ in church. A preacher comes to church and says things that the flesh wants to hear and we clap and cheer. In reality, we are doing obeisance to the devil.

A true worship of God will require us to refuse the glory and power of this world just like Jesus did. And, pray, what kind of power can unbind the flesh from these things? Only one thing can: the cross. We need an understanding of the cross which goes far beyond the conventional knowledge that Jesus was crucified on it for our sins. We need an understanding that agrees with scripture that ” if one died for all, then were all dead” (2 Cor. 5:14).

And in the small way that God has granted me, that is what I am dedicated to doing in this blog.

Of Proclamations and Our Worship of God – Pt. 2

I haven’t read anywhere in the Bible where God is upbraiding His people for not praising Him loud enough. On the contrary, I have read many Scriptures where God tells His people, both in the Old and New Testaments, that He does not actually need their praises. In fact, in one scripture in the Old Testament, God has a particularly nasty reaction to the Israelites’ songs and their ‘empty’ worship of Him.

The reason God was so angry with them is because they were walking in sin but at the same time praising Him.

The Christian world today is outdoing itself in its efforts to praise and uplift God. Many beautiful new songs are being composed, old songs and hymns are redone and presented with ever greater passion; singers with the most beautiful voices are being discovered; piano chords and guitar strings are tweaked to the highest levels of creativity – the whole spectrum is a sight to behold indeed. There are churches which have been set up solely on the praise and worship theme. I think all this is good, but at the same time I believe things are not as rosy in the Spirit as they appear to be on the outside.

There are also what we would call new age ‘Christian’ artists and preachers and songs that I would rather die than listen to or watch. I once went to Youtube and they were singing a song about “crying holy” or whatever, and it was the most revolting thing I have ever seen. There are thousands of these artists, and regrettably Christians are going absolutely gaga over them. I have never understood why we need to identify with the world in order to preach the gospel of Christ. Most likely, we misinterpret scripture.

I have not seen a preacher wearing earrings yet (I mean the male preachers), and probably they are there, it’s only that I have not seen them. But our choirs today are awash with male singers touting Rastafarian hairstyles and all decked out in gold chains and earrings, etc. I do not know what to expect next, but it is clear Jesus has quite a band coming His way…

Christian proclamations and declarations from the pulpit all the way to the street present a picture where the Christian world is one of total victory over the devil and all his works.

By now you probably are thinking that if I am not the Anti-Christ himself then I am a major pessimist who has failed to find joy and fulfilment in his Christian life. Don’t even consider the thought. I am as happy as Jesus Himself. And don’t get me wrong. As I said earlier, I have no problem with Christian worship when it is done in the right spirit. What I am pointing out here is that God is more interested in the state of our lives than our vocal proclamations. There are far too many Christians today walking in sin, and yet their mouths are full of proclamations of the glory of God. And God’s real problem with us today, just as with the Israelites, is sin. God loves praise, but He hates sin and He would rather deal with the latter first.

If I am playing with my children and I see a snake, I will kill the snake first then continue playing with my children.

We Christian believers should not therefore put a smokescreen of praise before God. God can see the sin that is ravaging the Church today. It is open secret that Christianity in our generation has a major problem with sin. Sin is rampant among lay Christians and preachers alike. Even big-time preachers who have been known to raise the dust on TV and some who served God faithfully in years past have been hit by scandals…

Something is wrong, and we should stop praising and listen.

It is time to go back to the basics. Let us go back to the Cross, where Christ was crucified. Therein is the power to defeat sin in our lives, the gospel of the revelation of the Cross of Christ. Paul preached this very gospel, and even if his ministry was not inundated with miracles as today’s gospels appear to be, it had the power to set men and women from the power of sin, and we see from his epistles that this was Paul’s chief concern: to set God’s people free from sin.

That gospel, though unproclaimed in similar terms, has always been there in earlier generations, and the men and women who walked in it lived a victorious life over sin.

I remember that in the 1970s and the early 80s, at least in the small world that I lived in, a saved person was a threat to sinners, who evaded them like the plague. My elder brother was the first to get saved in our big family. Whenever he would begin praying an overpowering Presence would fill our home and we would all run away – dad would walk staidly towards the village beer hall but clearly a man on the run! We would come back only when we were sure John had finished praying. Then, my mom, who had been a beer brewer, gave her heart to Jesus. Then followed two of my brothers, then my dad, who was the village champion drunkard. Many years later, I too accepted the Lord. I am assured we are all the fruit of not only the prayers of my brother, but also the victorious lifestyle that he led. In those years Christians lived a victorious life over sin, and we saw it, and it affected us.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same thing even for many of those same Christians today. Something has gone awfully wrong somewhere. We talk a lot, but there is a power that is simply not there. There is song, yes, but not the power.

Nowadays a preacher divorces their husband or wife then they come on TV and, to the accompaniment of a ‘powerful’ praise session, they begin talking and justifying themselves. Where is the power of the gospel in that? And there, in the auditorium, are thousands of Christians cheering him/her on. If you multiply that number with that of the faithful who are watching at home on TV and assenting to this preacher’s doctrine, you realize this truly is a big church, but then you begin wondering “What kind of ‘church’ is this going to turn out to be?” The answer is: a defeated, sinning church. I once saw a homosexual ‘church’ on TV in South Africa, complete with a homosexual pastor, and they were praising Jesus! But we ‘straight’ sinners cannot disassociate ourselves from this abomination if we are divorcing and remarrying in church and continuing with our praise and cheering sessions.

In all this chaos, it is not that people are not praying as before, or that they are not reading their Bibles. Rather, it is simply that wrong doctrines have been allowed into the Church, and have taken the place of the pure doctrine of Jesus Christ. Wrong doctrines which simply have not the power to deal with sin.

Jesus came to earth to deal with sin and all its works once and for all. And He did that by crucifying the body of the flesh. If there is no crucifixion of the flesh, if the Christian is not having a daily revelation of that work of the Cross, there is no way he is going to live a victorious spiritual life. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:31: “…by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily”. In order for Paul to rejoice in his labors for Christ, he had to crucify his flesh daily. It means he partook of the sufferings and death of Christ. Now, if you cheer when all this is going on, God has no problem with that because after this there will be victory. Unfortunately, many Christians today are cheering while there is so much defeat in their lives!

The gospel bequeathed to us from Jesus Christ through the Apostles states that just as we were sold into sin, we have now been sold to righteousness. How? By dying to the body of the flesh. After which, by the working of the same Holy Spirit who resurrected Jesus from the dead we too are resurrected into the glorious life of victory in the spirit, victory over sin.

This is the gospel that needs to come back to the Church today, and which the Church needs to accept. I believe it is coming back, through true Apostles and ministers of God whom God is reinstating in our day. But is the Church willing to accept it? Or we will continue dancing while sin ravages the Church?

The Bible warns of a falling away of many believers just before the return of Christ. At no other time do we need to heed Christ’s and the Apostles’ warnings than in the days we are living in.