Only One Way to Abundant Life

31 And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

32 And he spake that saying openly. And Peter took him, and began to rebuke him.

33 But when he had turned about and looked on his disciples, he rebuked Peter, saying, Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men. Mk. 8:31-33

Let us take a closer look at verse 32: “And he spake that saying openly.” We need to be careful with Bible language. The keyword in this particular scripture is “openly”. If Jesus spoke this saying openly, then it means He wanted it known. He wanted whatever He was saying to be abundantly clear to each one of His disciples, clearer than anything He had ever said to them.

And, pray, what message was Jesus getting across? It was that He would need to suffer and die in order to bring life into the world. That was the single most important message that Jesus had and He wanted His disciples to hear it and completely understand it.

I can hardly suppose that Jesus wanted His disciples to know this fact but not us. If this message is not for us, we might as well go throw the Bible into the lake. But if Jesus wanted His disciples to get this message, I believe more so we. In fact, this is the single most important message that we as born-again believers will ever need to understand.

Sometimes, too, I believe such scriptures give us a glimpse into the character of Satan. Jesus mentioned Satan in His reference to “the things that be of men”. In this scripture Jesus lumped Satan, Peter and “men” together! If you want to get to know the devil, just look at men. And how are “men”? We are selfish, of course. Satan is one big, selfish personality.

This single fact – Christ’s suffering, rejection and death, and His subsequent resurrection – was the single most powerful occurrence that would happen in the history of the world. The power that this act would unleash was so powerful that it shook the foundations of the spirit world.

Through facing the cross, Jesus would bring abundant life into the world – and death to every work of the devil.

Jesus’ declaration was also the worst piece of news that old man Satan would ever hear. The minute he heard Jesus make that declaration, Satan engaged his armies and sought for a way to prevent Jesus from taking that road.

Y’know, most people read such a scripture and they think Satan was joking. Satan never, ever joked. He never plays games. He is dead serious about his business. And here he knew exactly what would happen if Jesus took that road of the cross. It would be disaster for him. He therefore used Peter to try to dissuade Jesus not to take that road.

But Jesus saw through Satan’s malevolence, and He rebuked Peter: “Get thee behind me, Satan: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.”

Notice that Peter was in league with Satan and with “men”. When we are not willing to take the road of suffering, rejection and death, no matter we are born-again, we are still carnal men, and subject to the devil. That might sound strange, but it is true. It is true because Jesus said so right there.

But this is also something that we can examine and find in our own lives. When we fail to take up our cross and follow Christ, we are playing into the devil’s character of self-preservation.

But when we take the road of self-denial, resurrection life will flow out of us. We will bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit. We will become pillars in the Kingdom of God. We will bring life into the church, and we will be dependable in the Spirit. We will support others in the Spirit. This was exactly what Jesus did. He took the road of the cross, and we see the end of it all was the resurrection life, the very life of which we have become partakers.

But when God charts that course for us, we better prepare ourselves because Satan, who is the god of this world, will throw his entire armies against us in his efforts to prevent us from carrying Christ’s death sentence in us. He will batter us in many different ways. Chief amongst his weapons are brethren who are not walking in the Spirit. Just look at the guys who would crucify Jesus: “the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes”. These were the people who represented and claimed to know God! You don’t see “Gentiles” there. That was what happened between Joseph and his brethren.

Satan will also use circumstances in his efforts to derail us from taking the road of self-denial. He wants us to complain, grumble, and do all those negative things, “the things that be of men”.

But because we have the mind that Jesus had (and not the one Peter had), we will stand and face that cross resolutely.

A Christian who loves this world can hardly complete this heavenly journey. That is why all other gospels should be silenced within the church and the church should be made to hear only one gospel: Christ and Him crucified. Wherever the Apostle Paul went (this is clear in the scriptures) he made sure to teach only one thing – only one: “Lose your life for Christ and for the gospel, so that the resurrection life might be found in you.” There can only be two roads in the spirit world: the spiritual road, and the carnal road. The spiritual road brings life, and it is the one that we need to choose.

[Below: A new development in the Kinondoni municipality of Dar es Salaam]Image2590

Memucan – Staying On The “KIng’s Highway” (Part 2)

19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:19-21

So what is it about this Biblical prince, Memucan, that is so admirable?

After Queen Vashti developed ‘progressive’ ideas and refused to obey the king’s command to go show her sweet face to his guests, the king’s anger was kindled and he sought from his princes and advisers what he should do about the situation. It was so embarrassing for him as king to have his wife refuse to obey his command!

Memucan it was who provided the king with an answer that was deemed appropriate not only by all the other princes, but by King Ahasuerus himself.

Let us take time to read the entire account.

“10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king’s manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. 18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 For he sent letters into all the king’s provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.” Est. 1:10-22

Some biblical scholars have declared the king’s decree “silly” and Vashti has been exalted as a “bold” woman.

But King Ahasuerus is a type of the authority of God. We cannot bring in irreverent ideas like, “Oh, y’know, this man was drunk, and he had no right to dishonor an honorable woman!” I don’t even know whether he was drunk. The fact that he was the king, however, supersedes all else. (My dad used to be a drunk, and he never ceased to be my dad because of that!)

With man it might appear as if the king was dishonoring his queen, but with God, it was the king exercising his authority – and honoring his wife’s beauty.

I don’t see any indication in the least that King Ahasuerus lost anything after the saga had ultimately played out. Not his honor, nor his power, nor anything. If anything, the king gained – vastly – by marrying Esther. And throughout the Book of Esther, King Ahasuerus stands tall to the end, a shining example of God’s authority and the defender of God’s people.

Actually it was Queen Vashti who lost out. She lost her position as queen and became a commoner.

God is still on His throne. He is still the King of kings and Lord of lords. Human wisdom will never remove him from that position. On the contrary, human wisdom will only lead man to sin against God, as we see it happened with Adam and Eve – and Vashti.

And when we sin, as we just saw, we lose. But Memucan helped the nation to stay on the King’s highway!

Memucan – Staying On The “King’s Highway” (Part 1)

“19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.
20 Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?
21 
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” 1 Corinthians 1:19-21

It is difficult for the church to stay on the King’s highway, especially in our day. But we must.

Who was Memucan, and what is his significance in the Bible? In King Ahasuerus’s kingdom, Memucan was one of the princes “which saw the king’s face, and which sat the first in the kingdom” (Est. 1:14). It is so important to note that.

Memucan is one of the men I love in the Bible. He advised the king and enabled him to make a critical decision when his authority was being tested by the person closest to him – his wife.

Memucan brought on Godly wisdom that allowed a nation to stay on the ‘King’s highway’ at a time when the queen’s disobedience was about to derail the entire nation.

It is so sad how human wisdom has penetrated into the church today and we are not even aware of it.

I have read sermons by modernist preachers in which King Ahasuerus was censured for his “debauchery” and where Queen Vashti was praised for refusing to obey King Ahasuerus’s command to go show off her beauty in front of the king’s “drunken” guests.

Someone high-pitchedly said that Vashti did the right thing in refusing because they too wouldn’t want to be “paraded out there to be displayed like a prize horse!”

Another highly intellectual account talks about Vashti being “forced to surrender her womanly honor” by her “unworthy” husband!

These are simply human ideas about what the Biblical account is about. And you will find countless other similar statements within the church.

But the Bible says right there in the scripture above that we cannot know God through our human wisdom. God has rejected that avenue! It is an avenue all right, but God has rejected it. Only a revelation of God in a humble heart can enable us to know God and to know and walk in His holiness.

When you are not walking in this revelation, you are walking in the flesh, and your brain becomes alive, and God’s ways die in you.

I am glad the Book of Esther is in the Bible. It has been put there on purpose by God Himself to confound the wise men and women of this world – rebellious people, for human wisdom is rebelliousness against God.

There are people who would prefer for the Book of Esther to not be in the Bible. It grates against their intelligence and their sense of decency. This is because they are using their brains instead of their hearts to understand God.

But, you see, God is not about your intelligence or your preferences or your idea of decency. God is not even about what is sensible, rational, logical or judicious. And God is certainly not about women’s lib. I should probably say God is against women’s lib. If you wouldn’t want to be paraded out there like a prize horse, that’s all right with God. But the King plans on parading His bride out there, and that is the important thing.

And I deeply doubt that God is thinking of parading a horse out there, anyway! That is just someone’s human intelligence torturing them.

God is God. Actually, Jesus said that God is Spirit (John 4:24). That means that God is not something that human intelligence can make out.

Human wisdom is actually human pride. Progress, civilization, enlightenment, advancement, development – all these and kindred terms are positive terms as far as human beings are concerned, but it is not even remotely so with God. On the contrary, these very terms are enmity with God.

In our country today, education is at a premium. Parents go to incredible lengths to ensure that their children receive the best education possible. In fact, education has been placed on such a high pedestal that it has become a god. People, including born-again believers, are openly playing idolatry at the altar of education.

And yet this education is the very tool that the devil uses so effectively in his warfare against God. Remember Satan used the most intelligent animal in the Garden of Eden – the serpent – to deceive Eve!

I read in the news today that yesterday (Sunday) a transgender priest preached at the Washington National Cathedral in the U.S. That’s a Christian church! During his sermon he compared the sufferings that transgender people are undergoing worldwide to the sufferings of Christ!

The service was officiated over by a gay priest.

These are highly ‘progressive’ men (and no doubt ministering to highly progressive Christians). I can’t begin to imagine what such people would have to say in a house of God. But whatever they believe in has led them into sin since transgenderism and homosexuality are sin. When ‘progressive’ thoughts are injected into the church the result is sin.

Can you imagine a gay priest preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ? The thought is simply beyond comprehension.

Father Is In The House!

Many times in church we hear the phrase: “Jesus is in the house tonight!” I am sure many of us would be surprised to hear a pastor say: “Father is in the house!” We most likely would think, ‘That is cult language!’

And yet it is truly the spirit of fatherhood that we need in Church. The Apostle Paul, talking about God’s family, puts it this way: “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named…” Eph 3:14-15. The Bible says clearly that Jesus came to earth to reveal the Father to us. It is the voice of the father that we need to hear in Church. It is the presence of the father that we need. Fatherhood is the most important institution on earth and in heaven!

One of the biggest curses that today’s generation is burdened with is the fatherless family unit. Many factors lead to this – fathers who abdicate their responsibilities, early pregnancies, divorce. Sometimes, the father dies early; but here the Bible gives the option for the widow to get married (1 Tim. 5:14).

Another contributing factor is that today’s generation is simply a rebellious generation and for some, single motherhood is actually a fashion statement! It is their way of saying ‘No’ to God’s order for humankind.

And yet it is a fact that a family without a father is simply a broken family. The father is the voice of authority in the family. The father brings stability, direction and security in the family. My wife is a strong woman by any standards, but once in a while, when I have been away from home for a long time she will call me and say: “Please talk to your daughter, she’s become too much for me to handle!” And I will speak a few words into the phone – probably of warning, or beseeching – and there will be order in that house until I return home.

There is no meaning to the word ‘family’ without a father. That is the way God made things to be. We cannot substitute God’s ways with our vain human wisdoms.

During the just-ended CTMI Leaders’ Conference in Nairobi we heard the voice of the father. Personally, I was challenged, warned, rebuked and given direction. Brother Miki talked to us about the importance of relationship within the Body of Christ. He clearly showed us that there cannot be true relationships when we are not each taking our proper place in the Body of Christ, something which can only happen through a revelation of the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.

Most important of all, however, was that Brother Miki confronted us in the many areas that we had begun slipping back since we received the gospel of the Cross, some 10 or 20 years ago. He reminded us how our lives had been when the gospel first found us – we had many things on the outside, but little life on the inside. The revelation of the Cross and what it came to do brought light and life into our hearts and lives. Initially, when we heard the message of the Cross, we surrendered our lives and allowed that work in our hearts. But, Miki said, many of us had drawn back from that surrendered life and had begun walking as if we were our own masters, without a father. Our lives had reverted back to being our own.

Paul’s rebuke to the Corinthians was clearly ours today: “Now ye are full, now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us: and I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you”! (1Co 4:8)

The result? Our former manner of life, the old man of the flesh, had crept back into our lives. Slowly but surely, there were now murmurings, dissensions and warrings amongst us. Not far down along the road, every kind of sin will soon find its way into our midst.

Brother Miki reminded us that we have to go back to the Cross, where Jesus will reveal the spirit of the Father to us.

The conference message was a bittersweet experience for me – tough on the flesh, but music to my spirit. I needed to hear that!

I went back home refreshed, chastised and humbled. I had seen, once again, God’s plan for my life and I had been given reason again to lay down my life and allow Christ to reign fully in me.

Obeying God Pt.2

The arrival of Eve must have been a rude awakening for Adam. Through her he came to know the sin in his heart. Adam must have been shocked to learn what was in his heart. No wonder he ran off and hid himself from the presence of God!

Still, he did not know half the story…. The extent of the rot in his heart is conveyed in the “defense” he brought up before God: “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree…” (3:12). It is called passing the buck. Evil trying to cover up evil!

Within minutes, the first man had “openly” sinned twice. It was quite an experience!

I am sure God gave Adam an opportunity to “carry the Cross”, as it were – to humble himself and repent. But he, being “earthy”, could not. We, on the other hand, have been born of the second Adam who is “from heaven”, and should find absolutely no problem confessing and repenting of our sins and our bad heart attitudes.

Like Adam, we too would probably never have known the extent of the “sin” in our hearts had we not met the specific people or situations that God allows into our lives. God uses them to reveal the condition of our hearts, after which He gives us the choice to do away with that sin. Unlike Adam, however, we have the power to do exactly as God requires us to. The Bible says: There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body. And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:44-47). The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the “power of God” which enables us to obey God!

When I married my wife and things began going wrong in our marriage I could have decided that I could not live with that kind of woman, that “she was not God’s choice for me”. I could have divorced her and married another. I was free to choose any road I wanted to take. But, somehow by the grace of God, I saw the pride in my heart and decided to humble myself and accept that my heart needed healing.

If you think you are a “good” person, it is probably because you are spiritually naïve. After serving God and “carrying the cross” for many years in his life, the Apostle Paul probably thought he was standing at the gates of perfection – until someone slapped him physically in the mouth –Acts 23:1. ( Someone once slapped me in the face and I know the potency of such an experience, although I forgave him a long time ago).

It is interesting how much we throw scripture about without stopping to think the power those words ought to have in our own lives. But Paul never once put down the Cross, and its power in his life is revealed in the fact that when confronted he was able to humble himself and ask for forgiveness. Such a man could tell the Corinthians, rightly, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”

God wants us to realize how much we need Him. We desperately need Jesus, and Him crucified – and resurrected – in our lives! We must be truly patterned after the second Adam, Jesus Christ, by walking in the revelation of the Cross. Only then can we know true obedience. Only then can we please God.

Obeying God Pt.1

(I have made this post into a two-part series for ease of reading.)

Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” (Heb. 5:7-9).

The keyword here is “obedience”. It is truly humbling that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, would be taught to obey God! But Jesus came to earth specifically to do that: to obey God as an ordinary human being so that we, too, might obey Him.

When God created Adam He created him “humanly” perfect, but Adam was not a spiritually perfect being. (Had been spiritually perfect he would not have sinned in the first place). The Bible says he was “of the earth, earthy” (1 Cor. 15:47), so that makes it clear that Adam was not spiritual.

In fact, Adam had a very serious spiritual problem, and God wanted to fix it.

The other day I was watching a movie where one of the characters was warned not to mix in a certain chemical during an experiment, and guess what – the minute he found himself all alone, the guy wanted to try out the chemical that he had been specifically told not to use! Needless to say, the results were catastrophic.

This man desired to do something which he knew was wrong. That is mankind’s basic problem. That was what God wanted to reveal to Adam: that he was a rebel by nature. And God wanted to deal with that.

We should never wonder what kind of human being Adam was. He was just like you and me. Only, the opportunity had not presented itself for him to know the real nature of his heart. Then along came Eve – only one additional person – and everything began to go horribly wrong. What followed after, as more and more ‘Adams’ and ‘Eves’ came up, was an endless cycle of one evil generation tumbling after another evil generation, and today we are probably the worst generation of them all.

Naturally, we are tempted to wonder why God would not make Adam spiritually perfect right from the start. No way! The Bible clearly states that God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:23). God wanted Adam to be like Him in free will, which is the highest privilege God could have given him. In other words, God must have told Adam, “Man, I want you to be free as we are. You are free to choose the kind of life you want to live.”

He gave him a choice in becoming perfectly righteous as God Himself is. It had to be a choice. God always gives us the freedom to choose. That is the nature of God. (No one, therefore, will have any excuse on that Day).