How Many Cups Of Water?

[The original title to this post was: “A Heavenly Reward”]

And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward. Mat. 10:42

Today I have four stories to narrate and they are all related. They all point to the same moral.

The first story involves the biggest mansion (actually, the only one-storied mansion) in my town.

It belongs to the bishop of the largest Pentecostal denomination in our region.

End of story.

The second story is about another bishop of that same denomination who resides in a neighboring district. His mansion, which happens to be the biggest personally-owned building in his town, is currently under construction. But this story stretches out a bit. The bishop also owns two vehicles, both 6-cylinder SUVs. Actually, one is a Range Rover.

This minister’s church, however, is heavily tasked to contribute to the construction of his big mansion. The church also takes care of the running of the bishop’s two cars. Every parishioner has been allocated a large portion of money to contribute, and the deacons have been instructed to enforce it.

A friend of mine who used to worship in this minister’s church once asked him why he needed to build such a big house. The man replied, “Our God is a big God. We should be able to enjoy the big life because all things belong to God.”

When he asked him why he had to task God’s people to pay for his house instead of receiving directly from God, the minister replied, “God has put them there to serve me. That is how they will receive their reward, while I receive mine by preaching to them.”

At about the same time, a friend of mine from the U.S. sent me a video clip of a church that had rioted against the pastor during a church service because they were asked to tithe 1,000 U.S. dollars each. (The tithe goes directly to the pastor.)

Those who could not afford the 1,000 dollars were coolly asked to give not less than 300 dollars.

And yet this pastor drives a Rolls Royce, he owns a number of mansions, and he has satellite churches from which he “reaps” tons of cash every Sunday. But the community that he “serves” is dirt poor and there are families who cannot afford a decent meal.

Finally, the “sheep” had woken up to the fact that they were being pimped and they decided to do something about it.

The Bible does not say we pay back evil for evil, nor that we should riot in church. But these people did not know any better, so they rioted.

The last story is about our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus talked about a reward. He did not say that we would receive a reward by building a mansion for ourselves or by driving the most expensive cars in His name. Jesus, however, said that we would be rewarded by giving a cup of cold water to one of God’s servants (children).

Imagine that. Not even warmed water, but cold. A cup of cold water is worth nothing. And yet, the littlest thing we could do for God’s Kingdom and for His children will get us an eternal reward in heaven.

“And whosoever shall give to drink unto one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward.”

We can serve God’s people with the littlest thing we have and expect a reward; or we can serve ourselves by pampering our flesh, for which the Lord made no promise.

I am trying to calculate how many cups of water this American preacher could get from selling his Rolls Royce. According to our Lord Jesus Christ, each cup of water that this man would give to a saint has a reward in heaven. Now do your maths and tell me what kind of reward this preacher would have in heaven. But he is wasting it away on self.

Jesus said,

“19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Mat. 6:19-20)

Self (the love for this world) is the saint’s biggest enemy. That is why God gives us the revelation of the cross, to the end that we might crucify the flesh and move on and serve God in the Spirit, where there is a reward. The revelation of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” gives us a spiritual vision and we lose sight of the pleasures and glories of this world.

[“But we preach Christ crucified… Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor. 1:23-24]

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The Reluctant Slave

Many years ago I read a story about a man who was taken into slavery into a faraway land, and when he was taken into slavery, it so happened that he was taken straight to the king’s palace. He lived there for many years, working as a slave.

In those days, it was customary for a slave to be redeemed if his kinsfolk brought to his masters sufficient wherewithal to redeem him. During the time that he was enslaved, this man’s relatives worked and worked until they got enough means to redeem their flesh and blood.

After those many years, the relatives started on the long journey to the strange country to redeem their brother. On arrival, they were well received, as was the custom in those lands. They were washed, fed and treated very well throughout the night. In the morning, they brought their agenda to the king’s hearing and, upon hearing it and upon weighing up the wherewithal his relatives had brought, the king had only one answer: “The man is free to go.”

The man was asked to pack up and leave, but to the surprise of everyone, he refused to go. He told his relatives, “I have lived well here in this palace, far much better than I did back home. Furthermore, I know there will be – and there are – people back home who still dislike me, so I am not ready to go back to all those problems. I am comfortable here.”

His relatives were shocked by his answer and they began crying and beseeching him to consider them, his own flesh and blood; but he would not. He remained adamant and they had no option but to leave without him. They went away crying loudly, sorrowful that their brother had chosen to remain in slavery rather than to go live in freedom together with his own kith and kin.

Not long after this saga, it was reported in that faraway land that the king was seriously ill and, soon afterwards, he died. It was also the custom in that country that when the king died he had to be buried together with his favorite servant, alive. And so, therefore, while burial arrangements were being made, a council was set up to determine who should be buried with the king. It didn’t take long for the council to conclude that the servant whose relatives had recently come to redeem had been the king’s favorite servant. It was therefore declared that this man, having been the king’s favorite servant, would have the honor of getting buried alive with the king.

When the news reached the servant, he couldn’t believe his ears. He was shell-shocked. Not, of course, on account of the news that he was the king’s favorite, of which he was well aware; but of the fact that, being the late king’s favorite servant, he would be buried alive alongside the king. The latter was a fact that he was not aware of although he had lived in that country for a long time.

He tried to plead for his life. He told his new masters, “My brethren, whom you saw here recently, will be coming again to take me home.” But it was to no avail; his name had already been officially proclaimed.

In a desperate bid to save his life, he tried to escape, but he was apprehended and locked up. Finally, the day of the king’s burial arrived and the king was finally laid to rest, together with his favorite servant. As was the burial custom, the servant was buried alive, standing up straight, in honor of the king.

This man had recanted his flesh and blood to remain with a foreign king, and the reason he gave for denying his brethren was because he was living a comfortable life and did not want to suffer any problems! In the end he died – alone, in a foreign country.

This story reminds me of what is happening within the church today. It reminded me of the dangers of those who would not allow themselves to suffer for Christ’s sake. In particular, it reminded me of those within the church who would push aside the gospel of the cross in favor of other gospels. The revelation of the cross is the believer’s flesh and blood. We do not preach another Christ, however comfortable he is:

But we preach Christ crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23)!

If you hold onto your life, you will be denying Jesus Christ, for He Himself said,

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” (Mat. 16:25)

The comfortable gospel of prosperity and bodily welfare is probably the one true menace to the church today. The prosperity gospel “bodyslams” the gospel of the cross. It enslaves God’s people to this world. Philippians 3:18-19:

“18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)”

One day, this gospel will die, and those who are deriding the gospel of the cross will be buried together with it. And so will all other gospels that are not lined up with the gospel of the Apostle Paul:

“20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.” (Phil. 3:20-21)

When Jesus comes back, He will not be coming back for those who cling to the welfare gospel. He will be coming to take with Him those who have walked the strait and narrow road, those who loved Him and denied themselves.

[And now, for your listening pleasure]

Loving God’s Son

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you… 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Jn. 6:53-66

The gospel of the cross can only be accepted and carried out by those who have a true love for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I once watched an Irish movie called “Touch of the Master’s Hand”. In that movie, a wealthy nobleman dies leaving a will wherein he gives instructions for his priceless collection of paintings to be auctioned off. But in the will is a hidden clause that states: Whoever buys the nobleman’s son’s portrait (which has been done by a local artist) will inherit all the nobleman’s wealth, including the massive collection of expensive paintings. His son is already deceased.

The whole world wants these paintings, and art collectors and the elite and moneyed gather from every corner of the world to view and buy the art collection. The first item to be auctioned off is the portrait of the nobleman’s son, a dull and unremarkable piece of art. No one wants to buy the painting; indeed, no one takes any notice of its submission and even as the auctioneer tries to get their attention on it, everyone is busy clamoring for the auction to “get underway”!

The painting is finally bought at a very cheap price by the rich man’s gardener. This was a man who was extremely loyal to his master and who had always admired the young boy. And that purchase brings the auction to an abrupt and unexpected end for, as the auctioneer reads from the will, the nobleman had stated that whoever would buy his son’s portrait would inherit all his wealth, including the paintings.

Benumbed and clueless as to what had taken place, the visitors shuffle away empty-handed.

That is a picture of the church today. Everyone wants all the goodies that God has to offer – the blessings, the healings, the dancing and celebrations, the amens and hallelujahs – but few are willing to love the Lord Jesus Christ to the extent of dying with Him. But, contrary to popular belief, there is no life in these things; the life is in the partaking of the death of the cross. Our calling, therefore, is clearly set forth in both these scriptures which we ought to meditate upon before “believing” anything else:

Philippians 1:29: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

and 2 Timothy 2:11-12: 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him: 12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us”.

According to the Bible, few believers are willing to deny themselves (Mat. 7:14). Denying oneself means forgoing one’s (worldly) rights and being content and happy therein. Denying oneself means taking up our cross daily and following Christ.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to die; to die the death of the cross where the flesh with its worldly lusts, have been crucified.

It is to not love the glitz and glory of this world, which today has been comfortably allowed to settle in church. Rather, it is to have our sights set upon the unseen treasures of God’s heavenly Kingdom.

To love the Lord Jesus Christ is to become lowly and humble:

Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits” (Rom. 12:16)

Bigger Seed, Bigger Fruit!

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 2 Cor. 9:6

It is hard not to contextualize this scripture. In the charismatic gospel that I grew up in during my early years of salvation, this scripture was automatically interpreted in shillings or dollars – or material things. Give more and you shall receive more. 2 Corinthians 9:6 fits the money lovers’ agenda like a glove. It is a prized favorite with them.

But the Apostle Paul, who is the writer of this scripture, was not a money lover. Paul was a man of the Spirit. He could hardly have been smitten with the dollar sign. So, why would he write such words?

As I said in a recent post, I raise chickens for a living and, through this enterprise, I have learned many valuable lessons. Simple lessons in the natural, but profound in the Spirit. I have learned, for example, that an egg will hatch a chick that is equivalent to itself in size. The bigger the egg, the bigger the chick that will be hatched from it and, once fully grown, the bigger the chicken that chick will eventually become. Likewise, the smaller the egg, the smaller the chicken it will produce.

In other words, the bigger the seed, the bigger the fruit!

In like manner, Paul is saying here that we shall reap a harvest equal to the seed we have sown. But Paul is talking in the Spirit, not in the flesh. He is saying, therefore, that in the same measure that we sow in the Spirit, we shall reap in like measure in the Spirit.

How do we sow in the Spirit? We sow in the Spirit by dying to the flesh; by denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ. You can argue your way to the farthest galaxy and back but that principle remains unmovable. It will only be done away with when Jesus comes back to end this present world.

What does it mean to deny ourselves? Denying ourselves in the Spirit means finding joy in the things of the Spirit rather than in the things of the flesh. It means casting away the things that would profit our flesh – the “me” attitude – and looking beyond self to the will of God. God’s will includes looking outward to the interests of others rather than inward, to our own interests. And this attitude must of necessity come with joy and a free will. That is why, in the following verse Paul states:

“Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” (v. 7)

The word “cheerful” here talks of joy in the Spirit; and this joy can only come about when we have denied the flesh.

The more we sow our lives by denying ourselves, the more we will become profitable to God and to others in the Spirit – and the more we will add to our spiritual and heavenly account. As we give of our lives more and more, we create a tornado-like effect of profit – for God, for the brethren, for unbelievers even, and for ourselves. This is exactly what Paul says in the subsequent verses:

“8 And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: 9 (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. 10 Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) 11 Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. 12 For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; 13 Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; 14 And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. 15 Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (vs. 8-15)

Let us now consider the reaping part. Notice, in verse 10, that it is “the fruits of your righteousness” that God is looking to. What is that talking of? It is referring to the fruit of the Spirit. The more we give of ourselves in the Spirit, the more the fruit of the Spirit will increase in our lives. Peace, joy, thanksgiving and such-like things will be found in greater measure in our lives as we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Christ.

Wherever the idea came from that this scripture refers to us prospering in the natural? God is not looking to us to prosper in the natural. Whether we prosper in the natural or not is nothing with Him. Increasing “the fruits of your righteousness” is what truly concerns God, and whatever it takes to arrive at that goal should be our concern also.

The greater our giving through dying to self, the greater the joy and thanksgiving to God we create in the Spirit. And these are the activities that please God.

The sowing/reaping principle is all-encompassing. It involves our ministry also. We will become effective in ministry to the extent that we die to self. The Apostle Paul says:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” (1 Cor. 15:10)

Is God a respecter of persons? Hardly. God’s grace is there for all of us to acquire. But there was an increase of grace in Paul’s life for him to become more effective in God’s labor fields to the extent that he received that grace “not in vain”. How did Paul receive God’s grace “not in vain”? Paul received God’s grace not in vain by sowing his life. He shut his eyes and presented his flesh as a living sacrifice to God. In that regard, the grace of God worked more in him.

That is why we need to not look to the flesh if we are to bear much fruit in the Spirit; fruit that will abound far beyond our personal frontiers even to God, and to others, both saved and unsaved.

[Below: “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work”]

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Looking to Others’ Gain

Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. Phil. 4:17
If you gave me a gift or came to my help in any way, I would feel extremely thankful to you. The reason for me being grateful is because you would have gotten me out of a jam. In other words, I would be thankful for me.
But, clearly, it was not so with the Apostle Paul. When the Philippians came to Paul’s financial and material need, he thanked them. But he thanked them, not for his sake, but for their sake. He had already stated:
“11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (vs. 11-13)
The Apostle Paul was a true servant of God. He looked not to his own profit, but to the profit of others. He looked to the profit of those whom God had placed him over. And, even more importantly, he looked to their spiritual profit, rather than their material profit.
“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
The “account” Paul is talking of here is the heavenly account, not an earthly one.
Most high-profile preachers today are looking to their own profit – material and financial. I have heard of preachers whose congregations have “rewarded” them with Rolls Royces, multi-million dollar mansions and even private jets. The reason these preachers grab at these “gifts” is because possessing them justifies the gospel that they preach – the prosperity gospel. They have, of necessity, to provide the prime example of the gospel that they preach through their lavish lifestyles.
How so noble of them!
In like manner, Paul also became the paramount model for the gospel he preached. But, praise God, Paul’s gospel was not the prosperity gospel. On the contrary, it was the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. His was a gospel that required total denial of self.
Total denial of self… This reality tops the list, of all time, of things that are easier said than done, by any man anywhere on earth. The fact that Paul could deny himself to the extent of not wanting to receive things from his flock for his own gain speaks volumes about his spiritual character. That is not what a natural man would do.
But, even more astounding is the fact that he saw and desired for the Philippians far into the Spirit, that their fruit might abound in the Spirit on account of what they did in the natural.
“Not because I desire a gift…”
How so telling of the character of a true man of God! But, even more significantly so,
“… but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.”
Where are such men of God? Even amongst we who have shunned the false gospels of worldly men, where are the men and women who can run such a distance in the Spirit? Whom among us can deny themselves to such an extent? Where is such love to be found?
Paul’s words are rare indeed in this present world, and they present us with a challenge – a challenge to know and to walk in the true revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ.
Then, the church will have a reason to praise and thank God for the rare gift that such men and women are to the church.

Who Is Important In God’s Kingdom?

Mat. 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mk. 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Lk. 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Notice that this scripture is repeated in all three gospels in almost exactly the same manner. I would suppose the Bible has a very good reason for repeating these words in all three gospels. In this post let us key in on the words “any man” and “whosoever”. Both words mean the same thing.

In the world there is the Who’s Who. The world is compartmentalized into the known and the unknown. The great majority of people are the unknown. But there are people who it appears as if they are they who make the world to turn on its axis. These are the really important people of this world. They are the people whom the world knows of and acknowledges. Some are extremely rich, others are incredibly famous. Everyone knows who they are.

In church also, we compartmentalize people. We have, for example, ministers (very important) and non-ministers; we have the pastor (also important), and his members. We have men and women; we have the elderly and the young, etc. etc. We sometimes even differentiate between the rich and the poor, the learned and the unlearned.

There are even people who have specialized in ministering to these individual groups. We hear of men’s seminars, etc.

But notice Jesus did not say any of those things. He did not acknowledge any of those groupings. He said simply,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

In other words, the person whom Jesus will recognize and acknowledge is anyone – anyone – man, woman, young, old, rich, poor, learned or unlearned – anyone who…?

Anyone who will deny themselves, takes up their cross and follow Christ. It is not the minister, the apostle, the prophet, the pastor or the worship leader. These may have important jobs in the Spirit, but that is not what Christ is looking for. The truly important person in the eyes of Jesus is the person, man or woman, who is daily dying to self (1 Cor. 15:31).

We do many things to befriend Jesus. But we probably are not doing the single important thing that the Lord requires of us which, if only we would do it, everything else that we did would fall into proper perspective.

Our walk in the Spirit has everything to do with putting off the old man of the flesh and putting on the new man who has been created in the image of Christ. You cannot talk of the gospel of Jesus Christ in any other context. Unfortunately, this is also the singular thing that many believers try to skirt around. They cannot take the offence of the cross.

But the narrow road of the cross is the singular thing that we will have to open our hearts to if we want to be acknowledged by the Lord Jesus. It is the biggest responsibility that He has given to us. We cannot run and do anything else instead.

Many people see a preacher, prophet or pastor and they think, “Wow!” But a minister’s position is tenable in the Spirit to the extent that he is willing to die to self, take up his cross and follow Christ. As a preacher, you could preach the entire world into heaven and go to hell yourself. Why? Because you embraced your carnal nature, and not the cross of Christ.

Again, need we wonder why the Apostle Paul, after receiving the revelation of the cross would preach no other gospel “save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2)?

I write this post with a prayer, that the reader’s eyes might be opened to see into the Spirit, to see the way of the cross.

[Below: May this song bless you today]

Living For Others

1 We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.

2 Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.

3 For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.

4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Rom. 15:1-4

Recently my wife and I were in a special time of prayer. We did not set out to pray for anything specific; we simply felt a desire to spend some time in the Lord’s presence.

As we prepared to begin, the scripture that naturally came to mind was Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

We thought we knew what this scripture meant – had read and heard it taught hundreds of times. That is, until we decided to study it a little bit more; and then we were surprised to find the context in which it was written. As we read through Romans 14 through 15 we found out that this scripture was written in the context of not only not becoming a stumbling block to a brother (14:13); but, more importantly, to bear with the weaknesses of others. To not despise, and to not judge others. And, finally, to welcome everyone into our hearts, regardless of their weaknesses.

It slowly dawned on us that this required a lot more grace than we had. The admonition to judge not, and to “receive ye one another” (15:7) were quite a tall order for us. (It is the most natural thing to “receive” people selectively. And there are some things that man is a professional at, right from birth: things like judging or despising those who do not attain to his particular ‘standards’.)

But in these scriptures we also see the heart of God. The heart of God is the heart of a father. God’s heart is wide enough to accommodate everyone. No wonder God “… maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” – Mat. 5:45.

More importantly, though, we see that the Apostle Paul also carried this heart, the heart of a father. That is why he could write these things. It was a life that he lived.

No one man knows what the future holds for them. But one thing I desire of God is that He may give me the grace to carry the men and women that He brings into my life with His heart, a heart of grace.

Is it any coincidence that it is to the very people that he wrote these words – the Roman brethren – that Paul sent his most personal greetings? He proved how much of a father he was: he not only knew each one of them by name but even more surprising, he knew their lives almost inside out!

Among the many salutations that touch my heart greatly is this one: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellowprisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.”

Paul felt it important to acknowledge that these brethren had met Christ before him! He even says these men are “of note” among the apostles. He found something POSITIVE to say about each person!

We could write much here, but let us not stray from true need of our hearts: to carry God’s grace in our lives for others.

There are so many people out there that need ENCOURAGEMENT instead of discouragement. There are so many people who need to feel a heart of SUPPORT instead of a judgmental stare.

A fatherly heart of COMPASSION is the keyword here.

Needless to say, we can arrive at this level of spiritual maturity and grace in dealing with people only when we are daily walking in the revelation of the cross – denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ. Our boasting in this regard – and it is the only boasting we have in the gospel – is when we are dying daily.

[Below: The Apostle Paul knew intimately the lives of the men and women that he worked with. Scripture challenges us to do the same]

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