The Power Of A Good Name

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. Ecc. 7:1

The things that bring glory to God are not the things that we see in the natural. On the contrary, they are the things that are unseen, the things that are of the Spirit. But, unfortunately, the former is exactly the way many believers think. I remember one time we were at a conference and there walked up this pastor who had a big tummy and a body that appeared to be well fed and well taken care of. He was also wearing a sharp, shiny suit, shoes to match and a (fake) gold wristwatch. By all accounts he was a figure to envy.

A fellow pastor grabbed his hand and, pumping it up and down, exclaimed, “This is the kind of figure that brings glory to God!”

But that kind of thinking is carnal, and of the devil. God is not glorified in the flesh. Otherwise, Jesus would have been a Leonardo di Caprio.

I can tell you exactly what bring glory to God. It is a life that is lived in all Godliness and holiness. It is a life like the one I am about to describe below.

About three months ago, we lost a brother in one of our churches in a town called Mwanza. The brother, a young married man, worked as a construction labourer and on that day he was working on the second floor of a house he and his fellow workers were building. Suddenly, the girding he was standing on gave way and he plunged two floors down and his head ended up hitting the concrete below. His death was sudden and instantaneous.

The brother was a simple man. He was not a great person in any sense of the word. He was a simple construction hand and he had only recently moved into his humble half-finished house. He was the kind of guy who at his death would have had only a few neighbors show up at his funeral and, if anyone cried tears, it could only have been his wife or kids.

But with this brother, things were astonishingly different. The crowds that turned up at his burial attested to something superiorly unique. They were the kinds of crowds that you could only have expected to see at the burial of a very rich or famous person. The brother had died in the city, but he was to be buried in his village. Two funeral services were therefore held: one in the city; and another in the village where he was to be buried. In both services, I saw there multitudes which could not have been expected for a man of this brother’s calibre. In his home village, the entire community attended the burial; all businesses, including bars, closed and every last man, woman and child came to bury Musa.

But it was not just the crowds. The outpouring of emotion was overwhelming. Women cried uncontrollably, and the men could hardly contain themselves.

Musa was a deacon in the Mwanza church, and I had known him for a long time; but I did not know the extent to which he had touched people’s lives. On the day of his burial, even I was overcome with emotion as I witnessed the feedback from the crowds, and I too broke down in tears.

What could possibly have made this poor young man such a hero in the eyes of so many people, including unbelievers?

It was the kind of life that he lived. Musa gave his life to the people around him. He was a brilliant light in the true sense of the word for through his faith he brightened the lives of all he came across. He had brightened mine, too, for during the times when I visited the church in Mwanza, it was Musa who impressed himself on my mind the most. He had a simplicity and a humility that I envied.

It was not the first time that Musa had worked at the site where he died. After his funeral, the owner of that particular property called Musa’s pastor to his office. He said to him, “I cannot say this about everyone who has worked here, but Musa never stole from me. In fact, I could trust him with anything. For that reason, I will support Musa’s wife with exactly the same amount of money that Musa earned monthly.”

In addition, the owner of the school where Musa’s children were studying waived 90% of their school fees.

That was the power of a good name. Musa had lived an exemplary Christian life during his brief lifetime. A life humbly and godly lived; and a reputation that was more solid than a rock star’s. It was as the Bible says about the Prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 12:3-5:

“3 Behold, here I am: witness against me before the LORD, and before his anointed: whose ox have I taken? or whose ass have I taken? or whom have I defrauded? whom have I oppressed? or of whose hand have I received any bribe to blind mine eyes therewith? and I will restore it you. 4 And they said, Thou hast not defrauded us, nor oppressed us, neither hast thou taken ought of any man’s hand. 5 And he said unto them, The LORD is witness against you, and his anointed is witness this day, that ye have not found ought in my hand. And they answered, He is witness.”

At Musa’s burial service, the pastor was bold and confident as he proclaimed the message of salvation through Jesus Christ. He had a good reference point. When he made the altar call, nearly every hand was raised in acknowledgement and many people received the Lord Jesus into their lives. In life and in death, Musa reaped a great harvest of souls. Without a doubt, Musa proved the proverb true that says:

A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.”

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“Righteousness Exalteth A Nation

Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people. Prov. 14:34
Not too long ago, my two children were travelling alone to a neighboring country for a holiday. Now, that was something like a one-time experience for them, so they were very excited. When they arrived at our side of the border ready to cross over, they were calmly and immediately processed through. When they reached the other country’s border station, just a few feet away, they encountered a totally different experience. The immigration officer there demanded a mandatory inoculation certificate, which was supposed to have been given to them on our country’s side of the border.
My daughter told the officer that she and her brother had forgotten all about it and she asked him to let them go back and take the inoculation.
To which the officer replied that they could not go back because they had now crossed the border. They were now on a one-way ticket, he told them, and there was no turning back. In other words, they were now this immigration officer’s prisoners.
The only way he could help them, he told them, was for them to give him a certain amount of money.
My children love watching detective stories and by now they knew exactly where this was headed. They realised they were trapped. My daughter immediately took out the money and gave it to the officer, and they were let through.
When my daughter later told me this story, I was angry at first. But then the Lord opened my eyes to see the bigger picture and what I ended up with was deep sadness.
I know a thing or two about the country my children were visiting. One of the things that I know is that this country is deeply corrupt. Now, we all know that corruption is everywhere but, by every account, this country has taken corruption to “the next level”. That’s a fact.
The other thing that is open news is that this country is rife with deep internal problems, including racial divisions. Every few years internal wars flare up and people get killed, displaced, etc. Moreover, there are all kinds of problems both in government and within civil society itself. Crime – murders, robberies, etc. – is a byword in this country.
I had never connected the two – until I heard my children’s saga. That was when the Lord opened my eyes to see why a nation that thrives on corruption is going to have all the problems this country has.
In the Old Testament, the Book of Isaiah talks about righteousness probably more than any other book. One of the things we read there is:
“In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.” (Is. 54:14)
That’s basically saying the same thing as our key scripture in Proverbs 14:34. You can pray all you want, you can be the most “Christian” nation on the entire planet; but if you are not walking in righteousness, you will not be established. Just in case you are wondering what the Bible means by “established”, it simply means that the things the Bible talks of here will not be within your borders:
“thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee.”
Sometimes we wonder why there are wars and turmoils in certain countries and not in others. Unless it is a clear case of persecution for their Christian faith, the reason, in most cases, is clear: there is no righteousness in these countries. People are corrupt, or they are immoral, or they are anti-God in a variety of ways. That is what we are witnessing in the West also: a rejection of God and an increasingly brazen embracing of immorality. The outcome of these things for a nation is calamity, a broken and hurting society and terror on every side.
Jeremiah 4:2 also says:
“The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
Notice that both in Proverbs and in Jeremiah, the Bible speaks about a nation. It is not enough for a nation to call itself a Christian nation. We must work righteousness, and this, for a nation, applies firstly to its government. The first thing, therefore, that believers in every nation should do is to pray for that nation; not that there be no drought or famine or any other calamity; rather, chiefly, that the leaders and the people of that nation might exercise righteousness. That is exactly what the Bible says in 1 Timothy chapter 2 verses 1-4:
“1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”
Notice, “… first of all”.
Prayers and supplications are to be made for all men, but especially for kings and for all that are in authority (like that immigration officer) – for what purpose?
“… that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
Godliness and honesty within government are the pillars of an established nation.
Let us pray.
“Lord, You reign in righteousness. You love righteousness and you show yourself the protector and defender of all who are righteous. We pray for our nation, Lord, that its people may love righteousness, right from our leaders down to the man in the lowest dungeon so that we in this nation may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. We pray this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.”

[Below: A local community meeting in Singida]

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Pleasing God – And Man

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Lk. 2:52

I absolutely love this scripture. The Swahili version says that Jesus “… did that which was pleasing to God and man.”

But it is impossible to please God and man at the same time. This is because God’s ways are as far from man’s as east is from west. Was Jesus a man-pleaser? By no means. You cannot be a man-pleaser and please God at the same time. On the contrary, what this scripture tells us is that Jesus took responsibility over His life and did that which was:

  1. right in the eyes of God.
  2. right, fair, good and a blessing to men. No one could point a finger at Jesus and say, “Jesus did me evil” – in word, deed or thought.

In even weightier terms, it means that Jesus became an example, an example of true Godliness. In like manner, the early apostles sought to become examples of righteousness and holiness (Phil. 3:17).

That was what the Lord Jesus did. Jesus did only that which was right and righteous. He did not wrong anyone. Nor did He wrong God. Jesus did the will of God.

That hardly translates into the fact that everyone was pleased with Jesus. It is evident from the Bible that not everyone in Nazareth was charmed by Jesus. In fact, we read that it was in a Nazareth synagogue that the worshippers were so incensed at Jesus’ claims to scripture that they all, in one accord, rose up, and carried Him to the brow of a hill to throw Him down and kill Him (Lk. 4).

They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Lk. 4:22

They knew Him well. They ought to have been hometown fans of Jesus. And here, in the synagogue, He had done nothing but speak words of grace to them. But instead of praise and thanksgiving, they became offended at Jesus and they wanted to kill Him.

Matthew records:

“54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? 55 Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? 56 And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? 57 And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. 58 And he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Mat. 13:54-58

All that Jesus did was to speak words of grace and do miracles in their midst. And yet they were so offended at Him to the extent that they wanted to kill Him!

It is evident, therefore, that even in His own town of Nazareth, not everyone was pleased with Jesus. But Jesus did nothing to offend anyone. But the hatred and resentment in their hearts was stirred and they could do nothing but persecute Him.

Jesus became an example! I love that. How about you? How about we also become examples; not examples of unrighteousness, but of righteousness, and of the love of God? Incidentally, that is exactly what we have been called to become as children of God. We are to live our lives in such a way that we become a blessing.

Whether people accept us is a different matter altogether. But we should be prepared to be accepted by very few people in this world because the world is totally against anything that is inclined towards Godliness or righteousness. It is the few who have the Spirit of God in them who can accept us unconditionally.

The call of God upon our lives is a tall order indeed. But it is the most perfect place to be. We should be ready to become accountable in our spiritual lives to the extent that we shall be found to be doing God’s will in this world.

[Below: Muslim ladies in Singida shopping for the Islamic holiday of Ramadhan]

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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]

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Immense Grace For Our Perfection

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.

2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. Rom. 12:1-2

Perfection is on my mind tonight, but I will probably present the subject in a different manner than you would expect. Still, I welcome you to join me as we make the long journey towards perfection, for we must.

Perfection has been on my mind for sometime now, and I came to understand that God wants me to go on towards perfection. To be perfect, the Lord showed me, is to be like Christ, and especially in the grace that He had. In connection with this, recently the Lord reminded me about our Lord Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot. God showed me in a clearer way Jesus’ attitude to Judas whom He knew was stealing from the ministry coffers (Jn. 12:6). Even though the Lord knew about Judas’ sin, yet:

  1. Jesus allowed Judas to continue keeping watch over the church funds!
  2. At no one time do we read of the Lord rebuking or even mentioning to Judas that He knew what the man was doing.

This talks of grace, immense grace. The Lord Jesus Christ had so much grace! He had the grace to be patient with Judas even under such extreme circumstances.

I haven’t yet heard of a church where the accountant or cashier stole money from the church account and it didn’t bother anybody. What I know of most churches is that if such an occurrence were brought to light there would be a small tremor in that church. Human nature (of which most of us have tons of) is such that we react with extreme hostility to the likelihood of such a situation. If a brother or sister is caught stealing, he will be made to feel the heat.

But, on the other hand, God has tons and tons of grace. I love the unflappability that Jesus had with regard to Judas. We all know that there were men amongst the disciples of Jesus – the likes of James, John and Peter – who did not have the patience that Jesus had. Had they caught onto what Judas was doing, the fellow would have been chased right into the Sea of Galilee!

The grace of our Lord Jesus is revealed even further in His ability to live with someone (this same Judas) whom He knew would one day betray Him. If I knew that somebody was intent on doing me harm, all my defences would come up. But not our Lord Jesus! Jesus calmly lived with Judas for three years while He waited for the day when Judas would betray Him.

What grace!

And how about Paul and the man whom he found sleeping with his father’s wife? In most cases when someone commits sin in the church, and especially sin of a sexual nature, he is dealt with harshly (fair enough); but it is what happens afterwards that saddens God’s heart. Much of the time, such a brother or sister is turned into a pariah and no one wants to associate with them again – ever. He or she is left to slowly die alone.

That is incredibly tragic, but it is not the heart of God towards His people. In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians, we see the immense grace that he had. Apparently, all along he had been thinking about the same brother whom he had ordered the church to punish! In this second letter, all of Paul’s attention is once again on this brother; but now it is to plead with the Corinthian church to reinstate him into their midst. The fact that it necessitated Paul to do this indicates that no one in that church ever considered that brother worthy of salvation again. But Paul was a man who had much grace and the revelation of God’s heart, and he could allow for a repentant man to come back into the fold and even to make him feel welcome.

Lastly, let us consider the freedom that God, out of His richness, has given to us, His children. Most believers are not aware of the immense freedom that God has given the church.

I have two children, and one of the benefits that I have received as a result of living with them is that I have learned to appreciate the heart of God for His children. Sometimes my children will do something that hurts or pains me. Still, I always find that my desire is for them to do the right thing in freedom rather than through law. When my kids were young, I did not have that expectation. If they crossed me I would simply cane or spank them. Now they are much older, and I no longer even have the desire to punish them. On the contrary, I expect them to be able to understand the responsibility they have.

That realization really hit me when it first came upon me. I came to realize that that is exactly God’s heart for us. God desires us to obey and serve Him in freedom. Unlike we human parents, God will never put law on us. He is extremely rich in grace. The fullness of God’s grace is so we may arrive at the perfection, or full realization of God’s will in our lives.

In ending, I would like us to make the connection between the cross and grace. The Lord Jesus Christ had all that much grace because He carried His cross. The Bible says that He “… became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:8).

The Apostle Paul also had immense grace because he followed in the footsteps of Jesus. He took up his cross daily and followed Christ. He says,

“30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? 31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:30-31).

Grace is not a feel-good sensation. Grace is a work of the cross in our hearts. Grace is a surrender and denial of self.

We need grace.

Grace for peace.

Grace for joy.

Grace for righteousness.

We can only arrive at the fullness, or perfection of these things through the cross.

[Below: My desire is to have my children obey me in freedom, not through law. This also is God’s desire for us.]

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Instructed In God’s Ways

5 And Jehoshaphat said unto the king of Israel, Enquire, I pray thee, at the word of the LORD to day.
6 Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said unto them, Shall I go against Ramothgilead to battle, or shall I forbear? And they said, Go up; for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king.
7 And Jehoshaphat said, Is there not here a prophet of the LORD besides, that we might enquire of him?
8 And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, There is yet one man, Micaiah the son of Imlah, by whom we may enquire of the LORD: but I hate him; for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. And Jehoshaphat said, Let not the king say so… 1 Ki. 22:5-8
The surest sign that your life is not laid on the altar, that you are not taking up your cross and following Christ, is when all you want to hear is the good news. You don’t want to hear any bad news. You don’t want, for example, to hear someone scolding, rebuking, or correcting you. I personally have a problem when someone tries to do any one of those things to me. Something rises up in me … It took me a long time to realize that that “something” is the old man, who is still alive in me.
That’s not a good confession, but it is the truth about me. And man, am I glad to hear there is a first, second and third heaven! I am glad to know that at least in one sense God is so far from me. That makes me know that I still have a long road ahead of me; and yet, somehow, I love that challenge! I am learning to take up my cross and follow Christ.
There are many “challenges” in this world. But how about we hear about the challenge of the cross for a change?
Many people think the old man is fairy tales. But he is as real as you and me. And he lives in us, when our lives are not fully crucified with Christ on the cross.
When you are not taking up your cross and following Christ there are many things that you don’t want to hear. You don’t want to hear that your business is not going well, or to find yourself broke, penniless. You don’t want to be in lack… But the Apostle Paul says that he was “instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Phil. 4:12).
Instructed. It took a long time, but a time did arrive when Paul was ready for any situation, good or bad, that God would allow in his life. He accepted any situation with joy. Many of the situations that people of God will tell you are from the devil, Paul knew were from God! That is the difference between a man whose life is laid on the altar, and one whose life is not.
In the scripture above, it says that as King Ahab happily downed goblet after goblet of the finest wine in the land, about 400 prophets stood before him and prophesied in the loftiest terms about the victory that would be his once he went to war against the king of Syria.
In contrast, King Jehoshaphat was a righteous man. This means that this man’s life was laid on the altar. That does not mean he was perfect; but he was a man who was daily taking up his cross and following Christ. This man therefore knew the ways of the Lord. He was instructed in God’s ways. And when he saw such a large number of prophets and heard them prophesying the same thing “with one mouth” (v.13) – and good news, at that – he immediately got suspicious.
But King Ahab was an evil man, and he did not know the ways of the Lord. He was particularly indisposed to hearing any bad news, which invariably came from only one man, the prophet Micaiah. King Ahab wanted only to hear good news.
Do you know that many people of God today are crisscrossing the face of the planet seeking for a favorable prophecy about a situation they are facing? And, personally, when I read this kind of scripture, I can begin to understand the reason for the rise of the mega-church: it is because the message preached in such churches is one generally of a positive, upbeat approach. Here it is “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil”. All is good news – the gospel according to the flesh. Any bad news is out. Such news is not from God!
But if you read to the end of the saga in the above scripture, you will find that every prophecy that Micaiah made on that day (and it was all bad) came to be fulfilled. That means his was the Word of the Lord, bad news as it was.
When in the Spirit we identify our lives with Christ’s in His suffering and death, we will understand that God works both in the good and the bad. In both these situations we can learn to see God’s hand and allow Him to accomplish whatever He wants to accomplish.

[Below: A storm hits the Musoma pier]

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The Apostolic Message (Part 3)

Under the Old Covenant, the highest spiritual ministry that God gave to his people was the ministry of the prophet. In other words, if God wanted to communicate something really important to His people He sent the prophets. The Bible tells us so in Hebrews 1:1:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets…”

But in the New Covenant, we see the arrival of a new ministry, the apostle. This ministry is greater than that of the prophet, for in 1 Corinthians 12:28 the Apostle Paul writes: And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers …”

So what does the apostle do? Actually, he does not do much. All he carries is a message. But it is a message full of the power of God. The apostle’s message has the power to transform a man from being carnal to being spiritual. In other words, from a person of sin to a person of righteousness. In even better words, from a person who does not please God to one who pleases God.

The message that the apostle carries is the message of the cross. The Apostle Paul puts it this way: “17 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. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:17-18).

The message of the cross of Jesus is greater than baptism or any outside markings. There are some Christian denominations that put all their emphasis on baptism. To them, getting baptized is synonymous with being born again. But one could come out of the water and be no different from someone who has just taken a bath.

The second birth, however, is a miracle of God that occurs in a man’s heart, and this miracle is what transforms a man. That is why the Apostle Paul says, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature” (Gal. 6:17).

In Hebrews 6:1 the Apostle Paul also writes:

“Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection…”

And in Colossians 1:28: “Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”

Even as God wills that we all be saved, yet it is our perfection that God is most concerned. Hence the revelation of the cross through the apostolic gospel.

In the Old Testament, the cross had been revealed since God’s dealings with Adam. But it was never revealed clearly, for God waited until the fullness of time would come, when Christ, the perfect Lamb, would be sacrificed on the cross. All the Old Testament prophets therefore saw the cross, but they did not see it clearly. Nonetheless, everyone who pleased God in the Old Testament had to have carried the cross, one way or another. But it is clear from the Bible that these were only a handful of people.

When Jesus went up to heaven, He sent us His Holy Spirit. Jesus said of the Holy Spirit, “And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…” (Jn. 16:8)

That statement by Jesus immediately sets alarm bells ringing in us that these things – sin, righteousness and judgment – were not dealt with sufficiently under the law of the Old Covenant.

Or they were not dealt with at all.

But now, through the ministry of the apostle, the Holy Spirit would effectively deal with these things. If it is sin it would be defeated. If it is righteousness it would be established. And men will be made to know that a time is coming when all will be judged by a righteous Judge.

Everything is bound up within the cross of Jesus Christ. It is through the cross that these things will be accomplished. If these things were not made clear under the Old Covenant, now, under the New, they will become clear as day, for Christ has accomplished all.

The apostle, therefore, is like a professional, sent by God. If you are taught something by an amateur, it is not always clear or perfect. When the professional arrives, however, everything flows smoothly. He brings things out more clearly and perfects everything.

That is what the apostle does through revealing the power and grace that is found in the cross. Any child of God who submits himself under the ministry of the apostle can understand all that the cross is meant to do in their lives, not bits and pieces about salvation. When the message of the cross is delivered to the church under the anointing of the apostolic ministry, God’s people can understand that, even as they rejoice at the fact of their salvation, yet, more importantly, they realize they are called upon to suffer for the sake of the gospel.

In this way, both the flesh and sin are confronted in church.

In the Old Testament, very few people pleased God. Not many did His will. God had a difficult time dealing with His people. But God bore with them, sometimes punishing them according to the law, although He never punished them according to the extent of their evil ways because He is a merciful God.

But in the New Testament, God expects all His children to walk in the fullness of His will, and to please Him fully. Not by law, but by grace.

Still, for the believer who does not walk in this revelation, the gospel of the cross is as difficult as trying to commit a Ph.D dissertation to a kid in kindergarten. He will say, “Too hard!” – and seek for an option that eases the suffering on his flesh. That is why, for many Christians who are not under the apostolic ministry, all they know about the cross is that Christ died there for their sins (the initial salvation). They do not know the role of the cross in enabling them to live a victorious life over their flesh and over sin.

The apostolic message is one of self-denial, of taking up our cross daily and following Christ:

“…For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” – Rom. 8:36.

“As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” – Gal. 6:12

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” – Gal. 6:14.

That is why all the other ministries, including that of the prophet, must come under the ministry of the apostle, for grace’s sake. The grace of Jesus Christ diffuses from this one ministry – this ministry that clearly sees the cross – to the other ministries. Any ministry purporting to work outside the authority of the apostolic ministry is simply lighting strange fires.

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians, “You may have ten thousand teachers, but it is I who bore you in the gospel!”

There are many churches today where you find the pastor is the alpha and omega. In others it is the bishop, or the archbishop. In others it is make-believe ‘apostles’, ‘prophets’, etc. There are all kinds and all levels of spiritual leaders, but the true father of the church is the apostle. He has the authority and power in the Spirit to bring and men and women into the true image of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Where the apostolic ministry is not, there is no grace, there is only law. That is why pastors introduce long strings of rules, laws and regulations (do’s and don’ts) in church.

The Apostle does not do that. Did you ever read how Paul dealt with the Corinthians even after they had reneged on their contributions for the church in Jerusalem for a whole year? He did not threaten them. Nor did he set a law on them. Nor did he tell them, “Ok, let’s try the ten percent.”

On the contrary, he used the example of the Macedonians to encourage the Corinthians to give. He dealt with them the way a father would deal with his children.

Instead of giving them rules and principles, Paul talked to them about the grace of God. Indeed, he was in effect telling them: If it is not of grace, it is not worth it. All that God accepts is what has been accomplished in our hearts as a result of the working of the Holy Spirit.

Now, today, you have very many teachings in church about giving. All are geared to make God’s people to give. I went to one church where I found five different categories of envelopes, each one for a different offering!

All this is due to a lack of a connection with the apostolic gospel. Without the apostolic message, law reigns supreme. It might be more so in some churches than in others; but still it is law.

The gospel is about setting people free and only the apostolic gospel of grace and truth can do that.

Have you seen the light? Which by interpretation means, have you met up with the true ministry of the apostle,the one who can show you the strait and narrow way?

Is the cross close enough to you that you are able to take it up daily and follow Christ? (Lk 9:23)

[“Have you seen the light?” One of the most beautiful songs, here beautifully sang]