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.

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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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“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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