The Cross, The Final Solution – Part 2

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil. 3:7-11

In the Swahili Bible, the word used for “righteousness” is the same word used for “justice”. Therefore, we could re-write verse 9 thus:

“And be found in him, not having mine own justice, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The Apostle Paul wanted, not his own justice, but Christ’s.

Now, that word, “own”, is crucial here. We all know that nothing good comes from the word “own” as far as it refers to man. So what is our “own justice”?

Our own justice is our rights. It is our worldly, human rights. According to the Bible, we should give them up. All of them. Including the right to life.

With the Bible, there are only two things: law and grace. If we are to be men and women of grace, we are to surrender our rights. If seek after justice for ourselves, we have become men and women of law, and Christ is become of no value to us. Christ is of value to whoever will lose their lives.

Notice verse 7:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

What were the things that were gain to Paul? Paul is talking about his worldly rights. He counted his rights loss for Christ. That means he gave them up, that he might gain true life, which can only be found in Christ.

Paul surrendered all. Not some, or half, but all of his worldly rights. He surrendered even his life (Acts 21:13).

But Paul was simply obeying what our Lord Jesus taught. Jesus taught:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:38-41)

And,

“10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Mat. 5:10-12

Moreover, in Romans 8:35-36, the Apostle Paul himself writes:

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

And, finally, in 1 Peter 4:1 we read:

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin”.

All these scriptures go against what the world teaches; but, again, the Bible is not the world. The Bible is the Word of God. The world teaches an eye for an eye; the Bible teaches to surrender your life. If we would have true life in us, we must account ourselves as given to suffer and to die with Christ – literally.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is no soap opera. On the contrary, it is all about being man enough to face the cross of Jesus Christ.

Emboldened by the realization that nothing else could save this woman, my pastor friend asked the lady, “Would you be willing to take your own life because you cannot bear to lose? Ultimately, the real problem here is not your husband, but you, if you cannot bear to lose. In Jesus Christ there is abundance of everything you are lacking: peace, joy, and love. You need to love your husband just as he is, with all his weaknesses. But these things can come into our own lives only when we allow Jesus into our hearts, and we do that by losing.”

And with many other words he preached Christ to the lady.

The lady bowed her head and let the words sink into her heart. When she raised her head, she told the pastor, “I will come to church on Sunday.”

And, true to her word, the lady went to church on Sunday, and worshiped. She was filled with joy and a new hope in her life. The pastor had given her the secret to beating one of the most difficult situations she could ever face in life. It was to surrender her rights.

The cross is the final solution to absolutely any problem on earth.

[Women are the most oppressed members of society. In Christ Jesus, though, this state of affairs translates into a blessing, for these same women have the best head start in the Spirit if only they can take up their cross and follow Christ]

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Prayer, Faith, And Obedience – Part 3

There is one thing that was not so simple as the provision of bread, and this is what truly troubles God. Jesus told His disciples:

“Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.”

Now, in those words, there was a work to do! This, finally, is the time for the saint to wake up. A lack of bread is nothing to wake anyone up about. But here – where the leaven of the Pharisees and the Herodians is – here is the place to shake everyone awake. It is the place for the saint to keep his eyes peeled. No time for sleep here!!

Where hypocrisy and every work of the flesh is, that is where the saints are involved. That is what should concern us. Not Burger Kings! Or Kentucky Chicken. Or houses or lands or clothing or cars or private jets. Or even whether our kids go to the best school or not (Today, education for our children, especially here in Africa, is at a premium. It has shot so high in esteem for the children of the Kingdom it is threatening the very throne of God in importance.)

But, in a sense (and this is where Jesus needs us to be mature), God is not too worried about the things of this worldly life as we are. There are examples in the Bible to show that, with regard to this natural life, God is not too worried even whether we live or die! There are instances where God gave up His children to be slaughtered.

What has God truly worried is when we carry the leaven of the Pharisees in our hearts. And here God has set up a whole system – the way of the cross, the singular gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – to ensure that we do not continue carrying this leaven with us. That is the eternal gospel.

Let us have the simple faith to trust God for our needs… and let us move on to seek after the wellness of our hearts for this is what truly matters with God.

Grasping The Eternal – Part 1

5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.

6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.

8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?

9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?

11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?

12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees. Mat. 16:5-12

The disciples of Jesus (if they had any wits about them) must have thought that Jesus was about to start a cult – THE CULT OF UNLEAVENED BREAD, it would have been called. Yes, it appeared that was the direction Jesus was headed. Now, if it had turned out to be so – which, bless the Lord, it turned out not to be the case – that would have been an Old Testament cult. Unfortunately, today, in Christianity, there are so many such cults, cults that are embedded in the Old Testament. There are people today who will defend the old covenant to their death at the expense of the new covenant. Well-meaning men, but who have no idea of the work of grace that the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished at the cross. Such men, such churches, are steeped in law.

I heard one ‘apostle’ from Philadelphia, in the U.S., claim he bars men in his church from sitting together with women in the pews for the sake of discipline. Yep, those were his very words. He doesn’t want the men in his church, he said, looking down strange women’s exposed cleavages, or have them dropping their pens every now and then in a desperate attempt to look at their female counterparts’ beautifully-formed ankles and leg calves!

The Old Testament law, under which many churches today are entrenched, is not the gospel of Jesus Christ. With the gospel of Jesus Christ, law works; but it works the exact opposite of Godliness. The Bible says in Hebrews 10:3:

“But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year.”

All law does is to remind one of sin. Or, to put it more clearly, it makes you aware of sin. That is what it says also, very clearly, in Romans 7:7-11:

“7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. 8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. 9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.”

It couldn’t be stated clearer than that.

I love this preacher from Philly, he is a well-meaning man, but he has got it all wrong. He does not have the revelation of the gospel of grace. By doing what he is doing, he is putting law on God’s people. And you cannot lead people into God’s righteousness by harnessing them under Old Testament law. By his own admission, all the men seated in his church are unrepentant sinners who need the law to keep them from committing sin! His ‘church’ therefore ceases to be the church, but a cult.

On the other hand, the gospel of “Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23) – which the Apostle Paul preached, glory to God! – is solid gold. It is the power of God. God’s grace, that comes through the working of the cross, breaks the power of sin in our lives. If, say, a short-skirted woman were to sit next to me, a man, who is being ministered to under the new covenant (the true gospel of Jesus Christ, whereby I am crucifying my flesh daily) that short-skirted lady would not make the slightest difference to me in the natural. If she had the most visible cleavage, still it wouldn’t make any difference. The likely scenario is that I would yearn for her in a Godly manner. On the other hand, when you are under the ministry of law, in such a situation you would not be free. You would be under pressure. Your un-crucified flesh would give you problems. The very thought of looking at that woman would have you beginning to fret. That is the difference between law and grace. Grace sets people free; law binds them. Preachers are stunting and ultimately killing God’s people spiritually by preaching law instead of grace to them. The law cannot set anyone free from sin.

Anyways, back to Jesus and His disciples…

[To know Christ is to understand grace]

Grace Only In The Cross

This post is based on Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Imagine Jesus was speaking these words to people who did not know anything but law! What hope did He have that His words would change them? Could the law they were under change them even by hearing such beautiful words?

But Jesus was speaking of a time that would come, after His crucifixion, when there would be a revelation of the cross in the hearts of God’s people through the power of the Holy Spirit. Remember, before the Holy Spirit was shed forth on the day of Pentecost, the risen Jesus spent forty days with His disciples talking to them the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God. But after the Holy Spirit had come, Jesus left the scene.

The gospel can never be about law. Just because you tell someone not to do something does not give them the ability not to do the thing you told them not to. Just tell a man not to look at a woman lustfully and all you end up doing is to make him aware that there is a woman around. And once he becomes aware of the woman’s presence, his carnal nature kicks in. Without the revelation of the cross in our hearts, we can only fulfill the letter of the law. But the law is powerless to defeat sin.

On the contrary, the gospel of Jesus Christ is a revelation; the Holy Spirit revealing to our born-again spirits the incredible power in the cross of Jesus Christ – power over sin and death. That is the grace of God.

That is why, when we are people of law, we easily get angry at people who are not changing. We short-charge and quickly get impatient with them. Which, of course, is an indication that we ourselves have not changed one iota!

Grace, on the other hand, can wait it out. It can give all the rope to a man.

Jesus would not have expected the people in His time to change instantly because back then, grace was given only in a measure. In other words, during the era of law, grace was scarce! That is difficult to comprehend today with all that we know about the abundance of God’s grace. But before Jesus died on the cross, it was all law; but God, because He is merciful, still gave measures of grace to His people.

After Jesus had come, though, grace was given without measure. The Bible declares that even before Jesus was crucified, He Himself was given grace without measure (John 3:34)!

In our present time, therefore, we do not need law to teach us how to worship God in true holiness. In the first place, as we have said, law cannot perfect us. On the contrary, today, what we need is a revelation of the cross in our hearts. This was the revelation that was given to the Apostle Paul as an Apostle of Jesus Christ (1Cor. 2:2 and elsewhere).

This revelation makes available to us the abundance of God’s grace in our lives. We can therefore live a life that is pleasing to God, and to men because our spirits have grasped the power in living a crucified life. The Apostle Paul said,

“I am crucified with Christ…”

Let us also read about the life of Jesus who, during His life here on earth, had grace without measure:

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

As a result of the grace of God upon His life, Jesus gained in wisdom and in favour with both God and man. That is our calling as children of God.

No Righteousness Of Our Own!

9 And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:

10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.

11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

A brother said to me, “I have been saved 20 years, but this morning I woke up with the strangest feeling in my heart. I had this strange desire to say only one thing to God: ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ So I got out from my bed and knelt down and spoke to God those very words. The thought so pressed upon my heart that I was unable to say anything else. I kept saying, ‘Lord, here I stand before you, a sinner.’ And then… the most amazing thing happened. I felt this deep peace and joy within me like I have never felt before in my life!”

I said to the brother, “Actually, what you did was Biblical. Jesus praised the man who said those same words.”

I thought, ‘At 20 years old in our salvation, most of us cannot mouth the words, “I am a sinner.” Nor, “Forgive me”’.

Most of us hold arrogantly to our ‘righteousness’, and we end up self-justifying ourselves and despising others, like this Pharisee. This is especially so if we allow our thoughts to lead us to think we are of value to God in some way. If, for example, we have been saved for a long time, we tend to justify ourselves. We think that with the passage of time, we have become more righteous. But time does not justify us before God. What justifies us is our continued dependence on the righteousness of Christ Himself. That means that at no single moment are we allowed to lose sight of Jesus.

Just to pull the scope further on our attitudes, it is the same when we find ourselves taking up responsibility in church duties (I wouldn’t call them spiritual duties, for our spiritual duty is one: to die to the flesh).

When we become ‘something’ in the church, we think that justifies us before God. Today, some of the most brazenly arrogant people in church are church leaders, including preachers. On another level, people even boast in their hearts because they can pray more hours than others! They are even called ‘prayer warriors’. This same attitude goes for singers, etc.

But these are exactly the kind of attitudes that we ought not to have in our relationship with God. They are all of the flesh, and God hates the flesh. In ourselves, we are not righteous and we are not good. We are lousy and despicable when we are held up to God’s righteousness. It is not a matter of how long we have been saved, nor how good we have tried to be. On the contrary, it is a matter of humbling ourselves and realizing that we are, after all, nothing but sinners who need God’s forgiveness and mercy upon our lives, daily. We come away justified before God when we constantly walk before Him with this kind of attitude.

It is the heart! You can be anything; but watch your heart. Do not ever, ever allow it to rise up. Always make sure your heart keeps a low profile, for your justifier, Jesus Christ, is already standing tall for you.

None Is Good

1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?

2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.

3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

5 But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)

6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?

7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?

8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.

9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

29 Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:

30 Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

31 Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law. Rom. 3:1-31

I once asked my pastor, the man I respect with everything I have within me, whether it is not possible that anyone will go to heaven without faith in Jesus. His answer was simple and pointed.

“No”, he said matter-of-factly. “The Name of Jesus is simply too eminent for anyone to supersede, whatever their qualifications.”

As he spoke, my heart throbbed with the truth of it all.

In my lifetime, I have seen many good people. I have met men and women of whom I could say with all of my heart that they were good. I have met, heard and read of people who did such extraordinarily good deeds that you could not but be moved by the goodness of what they had done. It had therefore become difficult for me, in my human state, to wrap my mind around the fact that, save for him who puts their faith in Jesus Christ, there is absolutely no good person in this world. But a time came when I had to decide whether to believe what I saw and discerned with my flesh-and-blood eyes or what the Bible says about man. And so it was that I decided to ask my pastor that question, just to make sure.

But the Bible even goes further and states:

“But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Is. 64:6

There are people who believe in the innate goodness of man. The Bible destroys all that and everything else related to such beliefs.

God is perfect and righteous. All of Him is light. In our human state, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags before the Lord. The best of the best in us is, in fact, gross sin in God’s sight. Moreover, He is so high and lifted up that it would be the height of presumption to even think of ourselves as anywhere near possessing any quality that God possesses.

So, do we throw up our hands and lose hope in our ability to please God?

Not at all. There is hope, infinite hope. But that hope is in Jesus Christ, God’s Son, alone. When we humble ourselves and align our minds and hearts with the truth of God’s Word – that we are evil through and through – and confess Christ as Lord and Saviour, we become acceptable to God.

That breaks us, doesn’t it? It breaks our pride. If it does not, than we have not grasped the gist of the sacrifice that Christ offered on the cross. Unfortunately, there are too many of God’s children, particularly in this age and generation, who are simply too prideful to give up their self-importance even as they declare Jesus as Lord of their lives.

But this scripture should make us to realize just how insignificant we truly are in God’s sight if we do not give way to His Son, Jesus Christ. He, and He alone is our everything. May we gladly acknowledge that it is He alone who has brought us to be in right standing with God and it is He who shall lead us to God’s eternal Kingdom.

Let us never ever forget: there is none good; no, not one. All our goodness is attributable to Christ, and Him alone.

[Below: A bedroom with central heating in central Tanzania]

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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