The Importance Of Keeping A Pure Heart

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Prov. 4:23

What does it mean to keep your heart?

It means to guard your heart. It means to not have issue in your heart – with God or with your fellow man or brother. We have a problem with God when we sin against Him and more so when we are unable to humble ourselves and repent. It is the same with people. We are not to harbor anything in our hearts against anyone even if they have wronged us. And if something arises between me and another person which thing threatens to pollute my heart, I am to quickly let that thing go the way I would drop a hot coal from my hands.

Personally, I have come to realize that whenever I have an issue with someone (or with God), mortal fear strikes my heart. I never realized the reason for this until I read and understood this scripture. Then it was that I knew that as long as my heart is not right with God or with my fellow man, death, and not life, reigns within me. The fear that I feel is God’s way of warning me; it is God’s warning bell. He is telling me, “Step back!”

At that particular moment that I am nursing that state of heart, I am a dead man. Dead in my spirit. Were I to die physically at that particular moment, I probably would go straight to hell. I say “probably” because the grace of God is beyond my understanding in this regard. Probably God just might ask the doorkeeper to let me into heaven. But… even if I were to make it to heaven in that state of heart, I would never have the courage to lift up my eyes and look my Lord Jesus Christ in the face. How could I, one who had failed to guard my heart, look at the One who fully paid the price.

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Heb. 12:3)

And that is forever.

No wonder the Apostle Paul writes:

“Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men” (2 Cor. 5:11)

How so grateful we ought to be to God! The Bible gives us an opportunity, right now while we are here on earth, to do all in our might to pay the price and follow Christ in denying ourselves and keeping that all-important pure heart)

“Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.” (Mat. 5:8)

Do you want to see God when you get to heaven? Guard your heart and keep it pure. If something arises between you and a brother/sister, anyone, deal with it instantly.

When it comes to it being between husband and wife – which is all too common – the Bible specifically speaks to men thus:

“Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.” (Col. 3:19)

Is that not all too common with we husbands? Is it not all too common for us to be bitter with our wives? But we are to quickly let go the minute we feel that bitterness beginning to creep up on us. We are to quickly cry to God and make sure – make sure – our hearts remain open, pure, forgiving and loving. That is the cost we have been called to pay. It is the cost for our high calling as children of God.

And to the wives:

“1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands… 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” (1 Pet. 3:1-6)

Wives are quick to learn the weak points in their husbands. If the wife is not a spiritual woman, she will regard her husband’s weaknesses and despise him in her heart instead of honoring him.

But the wife should take note that she has been called to obey and be in subjection to her husband. In fact, Ephesians tells the wives to be subject to their husbands

“in every thing” (Eph. 5:24).

Are these things just too hard for us? But it is the reason we have been given God’s Holy Spirit. He is our Helper.

And this condition of heart is commanded for every child of God in every situation. If we have any hopes of beholding the face of God in His eternal Kingdom, Rule No. 1 is to guard your heart.

[We are to pay the cost to keep our hearts pure at all times]


Spiritual vs Carnal Believers – Part 1

… Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him.
51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear.
52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? Mat. 26:50-54
In our country we have a tribe called the Maasai. The Maasai men always – always – carry with them three things: a sword strapped to their waist; a club carried in the same manner and, finally, a longish stick. Carrying these things with them is part of their culture.
Moreover, the Maasai are incredibly skilled in the use of these things.
Now, you will find tourists taking pictures of the Maasai in this cultural environment, and these pictures become famous world-wide. But there is something of deep significance in this entire setting which neither the tourists nor anybody else is aware of. What most people do not stop to think is that the sword, the club and the stick that the Maasai carry with them are weapons; and where weapons are there is war and violence. Despite their postcard beauty and popularity, the Maasai weapons do not announce peace. On the contrary, they declare the war in a Maasai’s heart. If you rub a Maasai the wrong way you will learn, to your woe, the reason he carries these things!
The Maasai are among the tribes that are referred to in Africa as “war-like” tribes. In the world, somehow, that is an admirable quality to have. In today’s highly competitive world especially, aggressiveness is a good quality to have. It makes sure you stay at the top of the pack and, in some situations, it guarantees your very survival.
But in this post we will learn that God does not need aggression to ‘survive’ or to be who He is. Above all, God does not condone the violence that we carry in our hearts.
God is a God of peace.
In this regard, let us begin by looking at the attitude that Jesus had towards Simon Peter. In the Gospel of John, chapter 18 verse 10 we learn that it was Simon Peter who carried the infamous sword and it was he who cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear.
The sword that Peter carried on him was not a bar of chocolate. That thing was cold steel and it was designed to do just one thing: to kill.
For Peter to carry such a thing, it meant there was violence in his heart and, when the opportunity arose for him to use it, Peter did not hesitate. Acting on the anger in his heart, he drew his sword and cut off the High Priest’s servant’s ear.
Peter was one very angry man.
But these are the issues – issues of the heart – that Jesus came to deal with. Did you know why the Bible says,
“Be ye angry, and sin not …” (Eph. 4:26)?
It is on account of the weakness of our flesh. There are many things that God allows us, not because they are beneficial to us or that they please Him, but He does so because our flesh is weak.
But God would want us to run the race with strength to the end.

Now, many people read Ephesians 4:26 and they allow themselves to get angry because they think God allows them to. But, contrary to what we may have been taught, the fact is that God is never happy with our anger. God does not condone anger and, in many more places in the Bible, God actually condemns anger (Gal. 5:20; Eph. 4:31; Col. 3:8; Tit. 1:7).According to James 1:20 our anger is very different from God’s anger:
“For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”
Our anger is tainted with sin.
But God’s anger is pure and it does work His righteousness.

[Below: Mt Kilimanjaro as seen from neighboring Kenya]



Money And The Crucified Life

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Mat. 10:23-25
Most rich people won’t go to heaven. That’s a Biblical fact and there is no need to burst a pressure nerve over such a statement. Jesus Himself said it, so we better believe it.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God”, He said.
I have read many research papers on this scripture, people turning every tiny leaf to see what Heaven could possibly have meant by such an impossible declaration. Some people even take hundreds of hours studying the historical aspects of the camel!
Jesus’ words are so hard, and many times people find it extremely difficult to take them at face value!
But how about we just take that scripture just as it is written there? How about we don’t add or remove anything from those words?
In any case, what are we trying to accomplish by skirting around these words exactly as they are put forth? Persecution? Yes, there is definitely some form of suffering involved when you touch on people and their love for the things of this world. The flesh is bound up with the things of this world.
If Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God, let’s believe it, it is hard.
What does it mean to be rich, anyway? It means to possess things, the things of this world. Have you ever wondered why many rich people are rich, in the first place? It is because their hearts are bound up with the things that they possess! They love the things of this world. Were their hearts not set on those things, were their hearts set fully on God’s spiritual Kingdom, they would sell all they had and give the proceeds thereof to the poor. In other words, a man who has the wherewithal to make wealth in this world ought to be a recycling plant for God’s wealth, distributing the proceeds thereof to alleviate the suffering of the poor, both in and outside of the church.
That’s another hard-to-swallow fact, but it is there in the Bible. We can only deny it at our own peril. Alternatively, we can accept it and begin to align our lives with its requirements by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
But does Jesus’ words in Mark 10:23-25 mean we are not to be rich? Is He suggesting it is a sin to be rich? By no means!
If a rich man can handle the wealth of this world at arms’ length and allow it not to go into his heart, may the Name of the Lord be praised for such a man. The Bible says that Jesus Himself was a rich Man, but He became poor that we might be rich. Philippians 3 also tells that the Apostle Paul suffered the loss of all things. Apart from the things that he mentions, Paul probably was an heir to a rich earthly inheritance, who knows?
A rich man who can bear to let go is the only rich man who can live for God’s purpose. Such is the only rich man who will enter into the Kingdom of God.
The singular reason many rich people will therefore not enter into heaven is because they have a love for things; they love the world, and the things in it. As we earlier noted, that is why many are rich in the first place. They love to possess things.
The Apostle John said that if we love the world and the things that are in it, the love for the Father is not in us (1 Jn. 2:15).
Wealth is more likely to corrupt a man or woman of God than to make them more God-like. Remember, wealth is a god (Mat. 6:24). Worldly wealth (or mammon) is the god of this world. That means it has power. That is why every man in the world is born running after that all-important hard currency, and the things of this world. The men and women of the world are under the power of mammon right from birth.
That is why we need a revelation of the cross. At the cross we can crucify the flesh, and neither money, nor wealth, nor anything of this world will have any power over us. You could own a worldly conglomerate, and it would have no power over you. On the other hand, you could own nothing and yet in your heart you are richer than the richest man on earth.
If two such men met, they would meet on level ground; none would feel more or less important than the other. It would be a fellowship where the Spirit of God ruled supreme.
The bottom line is that when we are walking that thin line of wealth, we better make sure our flesh is firmly nailed on the cross.
It is the same with women. To a man, a woman is fire! It is safer for a man to distance himself from women than to be near them and to commit fornication. The Apostle Paul says: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor. 7:1) .
But, again, blessed is the man who has control over his carnal vessels and who can interact freely with members of the opposite sex and be of benefit to them in the Spirit. This speaks of someone who has crucified their flesh. This is far more desirable in the Spirit than running away from women.
Jesus lived freely with many women, some who even ministered to Him with their wealth (Luke 8:3). But Jesus did not “touch” any woman in the wrong sense. That does not mean that He did not touch them physically. He surely must have touched them as He ministered to them; He must have embraced them out of the Godly love that He had for them. I am sure there was a lot of physical interaction between Jesus and these women, especially considering the fact that Jesus was a Man who was free in His spirit. But it would not even have crossed His mind to think of them in a sensual manner.
Jesus was a man who had crucified His flesh long even before He bore the cross for us.
It was the same with the apostles. There was not a whiff of sexual irresponsibility with these men. They were men whose lives were crucified with Christ.
There are many religions in the world today and invariably the first thing you hear about them is how the top “guru” is taking all the women he desires from his flock for his wives. That is the spirit of the world.
Unfortunately, this worldly spirit has penetrated into the church of Christ. True, there are a few men of God who have crucified their flesh; but a large majority of preachers and church leaders are using their positions to do many bad things with the women in their churches. The spirit of the world – the old man of the flesh – has total control over these men.
If these men cannot rein in their lusts and crucify them, they will not enter into the Kingdom of God. And nor, sadly, will the women with whom they are sleeping around, saved or not. It is as simple as that.

[Below: A lone Nyaturu homestead sits in the bush in Central Tanzania. Here hyenas roam freely at night and even during the daytime]


Defeating the Devil

26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:

27 Neither give place to the devil. Eph. 4:26-27

This scripture is talking about anger and wrath. In the Swahili Bible, the word “wrath” is translated as “bitterness”.

Notice the scripture here warns us against “letting the sun go down upon your wrath”. That is not something we should take lightly. This is because the devil is mentioned right there. In fact, it says to not give place to the devil. That means the devil is pressing in against us. And the devil is not someone to tangle with. If we are weak, he will break into our lives – and destroy us!

If we “let the sun go down upon our wrath” we will lose the battle with the devil.

Anger and bitterness do not come out of the blue. They occur in our hearts when we have been offended, when we have been wronged in one way or another. But Jesus said, It is impossible but that offences will come…” (Lk. 17:1)

Notice Jesus’ use of language: It is impossible…” In other words, if offences do not come to challenge us, then we are outside of Jesus’ realm of operation! Of necessity, things will come to test our faith.

Now, if you tell me that you do not ever get angry, it will definitely be interesting to know who you are because even the Apostle Paul got angry (Acts 23:1-5)! We all come against situations that will make us angry, and sometimes bitter. The biggest challenge that we have as Christians is keeping our hearts pure when these offences come.

Let us take the example of the Christian who does not watch pornography, does not listen to worldly music, does not curse – indeed, someone who has kept themselves pure from the world. That is truly good and commendable in God’s sight.

But remember the devil is always looking for somewhere to latch a foothold in our lives. He will keep circling around us, looking for that “place”, or space.

My wife works as a nurse in a certain organisation in Dar es Salaam. I, on the other hand, live and work for our church in the town of Singida, 700 kilometers from my family. (Hopefully, by next year my family will have moved to join me in Singida, we are working on that.) That being the case, my wife and I get to see each other once in a blue moon.

Anyways, recently an opening occurred in the organisation where my wife works whereby some nurses were required to come to the very town that I am  in, to work for several weeks. My wife did not know about the mission – until the selection was done and the nurses were just about to leave!

Someone came to her desk and told her, “You were shortlisted for this project, but the manager vetoed against you going because she said she needed you here.” But this manager also knew (indeed, everyone within the organisation knew) that I was in Singida, and she knew  that this would have been as good an opportunity as any for my wife to be close to her husband!

And the lady who brought my wife the bad news added, “All of us who were involved in the selection process were very bitter when the manager crossed out your name. We all wanted you to go.”

My wife told me, “I knew it was a test of my heart, but God gave me grace. I stood steadfast. I told this lady it was okay and I went and bade my fellow workers goodbye with a good heart as they left. And I have not felt a tinge of bitterness in my heart.”

In other words, the devil wanted her to feel hurt, and to react.

I told my wife, “Flo, by keeping a pure heart in that situation, you have won a bigger victory in the Spirit than if you had come here. I am so happy you did not come.”

I felt a deep victory in my heart at the ‘loss’. I, too, did not feel any anger or bitterness at the manager. I am sure the Lord had prepared us long before against this attack of the enemy.

Much of the time, losing in the natural is the only way to gain in the Spirit. Sometimes, though, we are not so grace-full, and we are not ready to lose in the natural. Sometimes we lash out in anger or we harbor bitterness in our hearts, and when this happens we get robbed of the victory in the Spirit.

In such cases, we can chose to repent immediately, and regain our victory; or we can chose to “let the sun go down on our wrath” – and lose the battle. And when we lose the battle, the fruits are there. We begin ‘spreading the word’, an evil word. We want to tell people about our situation. We want to explain things. In extreme cases, we can even curse people, backbite – or even fight physically!

And when we arrive at such a place we suffer miserably at the hands of the enemy. Things like depression set in easily into our lives.

I am glad that God’s Word gives us the chance to not go through such a horrible experience.  We can easily walk in victory against the devil, 24/7, simply by guarding the purity of our hearts. This can only come about as we deliberately crucify the flesh and its lusts in our lives.

[Below: “My sister, guard your heart. And then the joy of the Lord shall fill you up!”]

Image1471 Image1470 

True Love – Part 2

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned 1 Timothy 1:5

The context of this scripture is walking in the “practicals” of the law of God as opposed to simply being filled with the “knowledge” of it and loving to preach it, which things are ineffectual. We shall be dealing with the broader aspects of this teaching in a later post.

In this post, however, I want to zero in on that part, “charity out of a pure heart”.

I wonder why Paul did not simply write “charity”; why would he need to add “out of a pure heart”? Why would he need to qualify the kind of love we need to have?

I am a slow learner and I am assured that the Lord has graciously allowed me to live these many years on this earth so I can learn a few more things. One of the things I have come to learn surprisingly is that much of our love does not come from a pure heart.

Have you ever read James 1:5 about how God gives wisdom to those who ask Him, “and upbraideth not”? That last part means He does not scold us. My computer’s Thesaurus, which is a tool of invaluable help to me, gives some additional “fire” for this phrase: “haul over the coals”, or “give a talking-to”. Those are pretty mean expressions, and the Bible is saying that God does not do any of those things to us.

But, alas! it is not so with us, or at least, most of us. I am of the firm belief that even with the best of us, loving with a pure heart is an uphill task. Now, don’t get me wrong; there are many instances where we find ourselves being quite capable of loving fully and unconditionally, but I am talking about those moments when our hearts are being tested. There will always come a time when our hearts are tested in this area.

I once lived with a man – a brother – who squeezed all the love out of me. The man had come to the city as a casual laborer and, as a brother, I took him in. But he had very many unsavory characteristics. He threw things about, and was generally quite disorderly. Personal hygiene was also a big challenge to him and, even though I made the importance of that aspect of life abundantly clear to him, there were times he would insist on going to bed without even taking a bath!

He also had a problem with money – which was unforgivable (at least, to me)! One needed a crowbar to just pull a shilling out of him. But, being the ‘kindly brother’ that I am, I took it all in my stride. I tried to right many of his wrongs without confronting him directly.  Even when he slept without bathing I would sit by his bedside and I would chide him lightly, “How can you get any sleep without bathing?” He would cheerily laugh himself to sleep and, sure enough, it would be me who would be awake in the middle of the night, listening to his snoring!

His actions would sometimes have some members of my family literally walking up the wall, but I would calm them with the call to love. Yes, I do remember I was very loving to this brother!

EXCEPT, I would constantly dig at him with the phrase, “You know, you village guys…” Now, there was nothing wrong with that “village” phrase, but there was everything wrong with my heart. Those words were laced with a hostility which I was trying to make light of. They were my way of hitting back at the brother for his primitive habits. They were, in effect, my defense against my inability to love him with a pure heart. In other words, I was telling him, sotto voce, that he had problems, and that these problems had to do with his uncultured roots.

Soon this “village” language became an established part of my verbal interactions with the brother. If he did anything that I did not like I would tell him it was because of his “village” upbringing. But the brother would only laugh when I talked to him in that way.

One day, the Lord confronted me about that phrase. I think the Lord gives us only so much rope… and then He suddenly pulls us up short. When that moment approaches, you know play time is up.

That was what happened with me. I knew it immediately the Lord confronted me. And I knew I had to repent and leave off carrying that attitude.

I don’t recall that I ever asked the brother to forgive me for pummelling him with the filth from my impure heart. But I do know I stopped using the “village” phrase right away.

And that set me free. It set me free to be able to serve my brother without any negative “heart” conditions. In fact, I went to the extent that I would clean his room and even wash his (really dirty) clothes while he was away. When he came back home in the evening, I would welcome him with an open heart. I was just there basically making sure all those “heart” lines in me were open.

It was the best experience I have ever had. My heart was filled with joy and a sense of great victory.

One day, the brother said to me, “Thank you, my brother, for all you are doing for me.”

He had never said that to me before and I knew exactly what he meant. He was not thanking me for anything that I had physically done for him. But he had seen the “room” I had made for him in my heart and he was thanking me for that.

But he hardly needed to thank me. It was I who had actually gained from the experience.

“No”, I told him. “Thank you!

The love that God calls us to does not have a choice in it. We cannot love the way we want. If we do that, we will come short because of our human failings. We must first lay down our lives, then take up our cross and follow Christ. We must first crucify the flesh. That way, we will love as God loves, which is out of a pure heart – a heart that “upbraideth not”.

[Below: This is as good an opportunity as any to introduce to my readers my elders, whom I mentioned in Part 1 of this post. Here are 3 of them – Eliya, Lazaro and Eli. These are the men under whom I serve. To the right is Lazaro’s wife, Leah. ]


Jesus’ Goal – The Cross

“It is finished.” Jn. 19:30

A dear sister gave me the inspiration for this post when she commented on my recent post “Jesus – A Man Of Compassion” saying, “I always love it how Jesus did most of these miracles ‘on his way’ to do something else…” Those words of hers set me to thinking about what Jesus’ goal on earth was…

A goal speaks of an objective, or an end.

It was at the cross that Jesus said the words, “It is finished”; and immediately He uttered them, He bowed His head and died. Clearly, by uttering these words, and dying, Jesus was making a powerful statement – that He had arrived at His goal. He was indicating that His mission on earth had been accomplished.

Throughout His meanderings in Judea and Samaria, Jesus always had a goal in mind. His goal was to arrive at the cross.

In having His body crucified and by His death on the cross, Jesus could say, finally, “It is finished”. Those are very powerful words.

Just as it was with Jesus, so it is with us. Every born-again believer has the same objective and end to their lives as Jesus had. Our goal is to say with Jesus, “It is finished’, and we will not be able to say those words until we arrive at the cross.

That does not mean that we carve wooden crosses and have ourselves nailed on them. The cross the Bible talks about is not something physical; rather, it is spiritual. It talks of crucifying the old man of the flesh. It means death to the mind of the flesh in us. There is a mind of the flesh (the body of sin) and there is a mind of the Spirit. The flesh and the Spirit of God are the two protagonists in the great warfare that we are involved in.

To crucify the flesh and all its worldly lusts should be every believer’s goal in life. We may do many things, but if our aim is not to deny ourselves, to take up our cross and follow Christ, then we will not have arrived at the goal of our heavenly calling.

Jesus did many wonderful and adorable things during His ministry here on earth. Over and above that He lived a sinless, blameless life; so much so that God on more than one occasion was moved to declare audibly from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mat. 3:17; 17:5)

The crowds also were  moved by all that He did. They said of Him, “He hath done all things well: he maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak.” (Mk. 7:37)

Everyone (except the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees, of course) spoke well of Jesus. Indeed, the Bible also states that when He was growing up, Jesus “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” (Luk. 2:52)

We may have all the favor with God and men; but still there is a goal line awaiting us. There are some Christians who are very well-favored by men, even within the church. This is all very good and desirable. But it is not the goal.

There are others, on the other hand, who receive persecution and rejection on account of the gospel. Still, for these it is not the end of the road. God can allow persecution in your life, and still you be unable to take up your cross and follow Christ. You could, for example,  harbor bitterness or unforgiveness towards your persecutors.

The crowds may cheer us or they may boo us. God might speak on our behalf or He may choose to remain silent. None of these means we have arrived at our Christian goal.

The end of the matter is when we are sure in our hearts that we are carrying that humble and broken heart in which God can exercise His good will in us. It is not us, really, who are working out that goodness in us, but God Himself. The goal is to make sure, from the bottom of our hearts, that we are daily crucifying the flesh, and dying to self.

That means it is all about you. For the spiritual person, it is a very small matter whether people speak well or ill of you; whether they take notice of, or ignore you. Daily you are looking at yourself and making sure that death is at work in you, and that you are carrying a pure heart. It does not matter that no one seems aware of all the sacrifice you are making. The important thing is that you are carrying your cross and following Christ. Then, and only then, can you have reason to boast before God.

The Apostle Paul set us a precedent in Galatians 6:14 when he wrote, “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.” Many of us think Paul was a great man. True, Paul was a great man, but not in the way we would want to imagine. He was a great man in the way the Lord Jesus was a great man.

The Bible says about Jesus, that “being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.” Phlp. 2:8-9

Both these men were great in the sense that they walked in the revelation and power of the cross.

In the final analysis, the practical aspects of this death will be worked out in the big things as well as in the small issues in life. But once we have purposed in ourselves to walk that road, then the grace of God will be there to help us take up our cross and crucify the flesh.

The Wickedness of Man’s Heart – Part 2

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jer 17:9

Through the new birth, Christ has given us a new nature, and a new heart. We have been born of the Spirit of God and our hearts have been cleansed by the blood of Christ.

But we know that this newness of life is a work in progress. The flesh – our humanness, that old human heart – is there still, an indefatigable enemy of our souls. The Apostle Paul cried out in Romans 7:24, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

This cry of anguish was a result of the wickedness that he saw in his heart.

I sometimes smile ruefully when I ponder the many times that I seek after men’s approval. I want people to think of me as a good person. But it is not true. I am not good, and I know it.

I appreciate the fact that it is by staying hard by the side of Jesus that I can expect to get and maintain a different heart. There is no other way. Any other way is a big lie or a denial.

The Apostle Paul summarizes it very well when he says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…” (1 Cor. 15:10). Paul realized how rotten he was. He placed all his hope to be anything different on the grace of God alone.

When we are not walking in the revelation of the cross, we could even be saved and active in church, but our hearts are filled with every kind of evil. The Apostle Paul told the Corinthian church, “I cannot address you as spiritual people. For you have in your hearts envyings, strife, war, and every kind of evil.” These guys had even someone in their midst who was sleeping with his father’s wife!

If you find people in a church bound by a certain sin, do not be deceived. You will find every other sin running deep beneath the floor boards of that church. If we are not watching over our hearts, we will carry every kind of wickedness in us.

The Apostle Paul would not find any other way to keep his heart pure apart from a true, spiritual knowledge of and relationship with our Lord Jesus. In Romans Rom 7:24, as we have seen, he writes, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

In the very next verse he provides us with the answer: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

In effect he is saying, “Only Jesus can deliver me from the rot that I am!” Paul’s heart was desperately wicked, and he knew it. The greatest challenge that he had was in maintaining a pure and holy heart. More than 50 years after his conversion he writes the Philippians, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended…” (Phil. 3:13-14)

He is not referring to his ministry here. He is talking about his personal walk of faith with the Lord, his life as a Christian. He struggled daily to keep a strong faith and to maintain a pure heart.

A pure heart is needed within the Body of Christ. It is what will keep us holy. It is what will keep us in sincere fellowship. It is what will build us up as a Body.

God Requires A Pure Heart

20130629_164703[1] (2)Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Proverbs 4:23

Another word for “keep” in the above scripture would be “guard”. In fact, the Swahili version says, “Guard your heart above all the things that you guard; for out of it flow the issues of life.”

If we were asked to list the things that people guard or protect in this world, we simply could not. The list stretches all the way to infinity and back. Top on that list, of course, are our bank accounts – that is what we guard above all.

But the Bible does not talk about the earthly things that we so love to guard or protect. The Bible talks about guarding only one thing: our hearts. God is not bothered with our bank accounts as much as he is with the condition of our hearts. Our bank accounts and everything else of this world are temporal; but our hearts are eternal.

Men in this world do great and mighty feats, but they are easily defeated when it comes to guarding the heart. Personally, I believe that guarding one’s heart is the greatest achievement that a Christian can accomplish in this world. Why? Because the Bible says so: “Guard your heart above all things that you guard”!

What does it mean to guard your heart? It means making sure that sin does not stick to your heart the way dirt sticks to a surface when that surface has been left for a long time without being cleaned. I was once speaking with a lady and when I asked her how long she had been saved she told me, “Very many years.”

I told her, “You long types are the most dangerous Christians!” That shook her, of course, but I had been observing her and she was no different from the worst type of unbeliever. She may have been a pastor’s wife, a deaconess, or whatever; but it made no difference. She had a hard, unforgiving heart. I could see it in the way she handled people.

Guarding our hearts means being quick to let go of those things of this world that love to latch themselves onto our hearts. That requires humility and simplicity of heart. If you are the complicated type you will have a hard time in your walk with the Lord.

A few years ago, during a conference he held in Nairobi, Brother Miki Hardy said, “I have purposed never to hold anything against my wife, no matter what she does to me.”

I never forgot those words. I don’t know why he talked specifically about his wife, but with the current levels of divorce in church, I support him fully. In our day, it is clear that Satan has targeted marriage and the family in his war against God and the Church.

An old adage says that charity begins at home. It is the same Biblically. I cannot serve God effectively if my relationship with my wife is not one of true love.

My point has to do with purity of heart. In the Bible, we see that Abraham was quick to obey God. We established in an earlier post that Abraham’s obedience had to do with the attitude of his heart (See “Abraham’s Instant Obedience”). That being the case, I believe that we, as sons and daughters of Abraham, are called upon to be very quick in letting go of situations that try to hold onto our hearts. We should be quick to forgive, quick to repent, quick to let go that lustful desire; and quick to do anything and everything that we know will please the Lord.

Above all, we should take this world very lightly. There are some born-again believers who want to be a part of every detail of what is going in the world. They want to wallow in the world the way a pig wallows in the sludge. I know of some of my friends who, if they miss the evening news, to them it is like they have missed an appointment with Heaven!

This matter of the heart is all that should bother us, really. Jesus told the Jews, “The Kingdom of God is in you”. It is all in the heart. Unfortunately, I know of men of God, even in our country, whom God has enabled to have great ministries; but they carry things in their hearts. They carry anger, bitterness, unforgiveness; some even have cases in civil courts of law against fellow brethren.

Others speak and do things according to their own freedom. They are proud.

As Christians we are called to a very high standard of accountability to God. The measure for that standard is in our hearts. It is in the condition of our hearts. That is why the Bible says that God looks upon the heart. (When we get to heaven we will be surprised to find how far our standards of measurement were from God’s!)

But we do not need to wait till we get to heaven. Right here, under this new dispensation that we are living in, God has given us the means to live a life that pleases Him. It is by guarding our hearts.

I, too, like Brother Miki, have discovered the secret of living a joyous, victorious Christian life. It begins with my wife. Sometimes my wife does things that go against my pride, and I am tempted to “take action”! Much of the time, my pride tells me to make sure she is made painfully aware of how much she has hurt me; after which she has to be made to pay in full!

Well, there was a time I used to do that. In fact, I had perfected the art. My heart towards her was hard as a stone.

But the Lord showed me that this kind of attitude hurt me more than anybody else. The first consequence was that I would remain a spiritual babe all the time that I continued carrying this kind of attitude in my heart. Secondly, of course, was the fact that I had a weak, joyless Christian life. And lastly – shame! – I did not enjoy the great gift that my wife is.

Today, I have learned to quickly put my pride down whenever such a situation occurs. It is not easy, but the grace of God is there and sufficient enough for me to do just that. It all boils down to taking my cross and following Jesus. There are times indeed when I find it difficult to put down my pride. But these are rare indeed, and even then I know exactly what is required of me and how much I need to depend on the Holy Spirit to enable me to clear that situation.

Praise God for His ways! They are tough on the flesh – but refreshing to the soul!

The Power of Love

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8)

I am the self-appointed ‘apostle’ of love – whenever I open my mouth or write I invariably talk about love – and, probably for this very reason, I find myself constantly tested and confronted in that area. But again, I believe it is God’s will that, above everything else, we all ought to grow in love. Growing up spiritually means growing up in love. In 1 Corinthians 13:11, right in the middle of his dissertation on love, the Apostle Paul makes the most profound statement in the Bible about spiritual growth:

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

In other words, the apostle relates spiritual maturity to walking in love. Our walk with Christ is a walk in love.

But I was talking about my being sorely tested in the area of love…. During the annual CTMI leaders’ conference that was held in Nairobi last year, Brother Miki was talking to church leaders on relationships and I heard him say: “I have purposed in my heart to never hold anything against my wife, no matter what she does against me.”

Well, that sunk in. I remember thinking, ‘I wish I was that man. I wish I could do that.’ Not that I was in a war with my wife, but there were some brethren I was holding things against in my heart. Inconsequential things, my flesh would always argue, and thus soothe my conscience. But that morning, on hearing Miki say that, I realized the enormity of what was happening to me, and I instantly knew I had to get free from that condition.

I just don’t know how it happened. I have heard many preachers giving guidelines and principles on how to succeed in this and that area spiritually, but in my experience – and in all humility – I must say that that is simply an expression of human vanity. I don’t believe in those theories any more, nor would I listen to them. All I know is that somehow the grace of God ALONE is involved in setting us free from the works of darkness and from our flesh.

But I keep digressing…. In my particular case, let me say that I had that deep yearning in me to be set free from that situation; and in my desperation I threw out a prayer to God from the depths of my heart. I cannot even boast about having any amount of faith when I made that prayer (I was feeling thoroughly rotten) but one thing I do remember was that I was desperate enough, and I knew I had to have that miracle in my heart.

Well, lo and behold, I can’t remember exactly when it occurred, but one day I woke up, and everything had changed. The minute I opened my eyes, I knew something had changed in me. I felt new, washed. I had become a new creation. It was so real I could feel it almost physically. All the old feelings of animosity were gone. I lay there in bed wondering how I could ever have carried any ill feelings against my brothers…how a mature, seasoned Christian like me could have allowed such a condition into my heart.

I realized then that God had answered my prayer.

The first thing I did was to pick up my phone and call each one of the two brothers. I shared my heart with them, and spoke to them words of peace. I did not care then whether they would understand me, but in my heart the matter was already settled. Since then, I have made it a regular habit to call and talk to them on the phone. I do not do it out of a sense of duty, but it is out of the deep love that God has put in my heart. My brothers have felt my love and lo and behold, they reciprocated. We are now in the deepest love affair known to man. Just when I thought they did not need my love, I came to realize how deeply they were yearning for it. How marvellous and powerful the love of God can be once we allow it into our hearts!

But it is all a work of grace. It is of God, and God alone. The Apostle Paul repeats the phrase over and over in Ephesians chapter 1: “to the praise of the glory of His grace”. It is by God’s grace alone that we can walk a victorious Christian life. When we allow that grace into our hearts, nothing can stand in our way.

I realize with utter joy that it is not only possible to walk in spiritual victory (read love) in every circumstance; but also that this is our true calling in Christ Jesus.

Truly, blessed are the pure in heart. They are a happy lot indeed.