The Greatest Promise Of All

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… (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

What powerful words! What an incredible promise! And right here, as an aside, let me say that I have heard both powerful and unpowerful preachers enumerate the promises that God has for us in the Bible, and I have never heard them mention this one. You wonder, What are Christians being taught in churches today? Aren’t Christians being taken for a ride by the very preachers they have entrusted their souls to? And it is a ride straight to hell.

But let us embark on our lesson today by looking at another incredibly powerful scripture.

“Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.” Acts 2:24

That’s talking of our Lord Jesus Christ. Scripture here plainly states that it was not possible that death could hold Jesus.

If language is anything to go by, the words “not possible” mean something, don’t they? Another word for “not possible” is “impossible”; and other words for “impossible are, “impracticable”, “unachievable”, “out of the question”.

It is clear, therefore, that there are some things that death can achieve; and there are others that it cannot. That’s interesting, because even the Bible makes clear the power of death, for in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26, we read:

“25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

Death is an incredibly powerful enemy. No man is free from the grip of death. Even the great partriarch David was held by death, as the Bible says in Acts 13:36,

“For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption.”

But of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Bible states:

“But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.” (Acts 13:37)

Death had no power over Jesus simply because it was not possible for it to have power over Him!

“not possible”. What beautiful words! In the context they are in, they probably are the sweetest words in the Bible. But they are not just beautiful; they are also powerful. The power in those words is incomprehensible. And the stratospheric question here is, Why was it not possible that Jesus should be held by death?

The Bible says it is because God would not allow it.

“Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.” (Acts 13:35)

God would not suffer, or allow Jesus to be held by the power of death. Again, that is awe-inspiring. How could that be so? Why?

You see, God is the determiner of everything. He is the I AM. All things exist in Him. All things and everything therefore is easily under the control of God. So when God says or does or even so much as wishes something (for He always does so according to His irrefutable wisdom), there is NOTHING that can rebuff Him. In fact, it is much more than that. When God was creating the universe, He just wished it, and it was so.

In the same manner, God did not wish Jesus to see corruption – and it was so.

So how come that every man since Adam has seen corruption but not Jesus? What made Jesus so special? Why would God wish and therefore not allow Jesus to be held by death? Was it on a whim?

Certainly not. The reason why God would not allow Jesus to see corruption is, simply, because Jesus obeyed God! It is that simple; and yet, again, it is not that simple. The price that Jesus paid to obey God is uncomprehendable. The Bible says in Isaiah 53:12 that

“because he hath poured out his soul unto death”.

Jesus poured out his soul unto death. The Bible is full of the sufferings and ultimate ignoble death of Jesus. Jesus lived the kind of life that we find practically impossible to live here on earth.

It is in this context therefore that the Apostle Paul makes clear the importance of our identification with Christ. He tells us that in order for us to achieve anything of value in the Spirit, we MUST identify our lives with the sufferings and death of Christ.

“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…” (2 Tim. 2:11-12)

Notice the sequence of events here. If we die to self as Christ died to self, we shall have the life of Christ in us here on earth. As the Apostle Paul says,

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me…” (Gal. 2:20)

If we suffer with Christ here on earth, we shall reign with Him in heaven.

And pray, what, exactly, is suffering with Jesus?

The words of Jesus Himself explain this best.

“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 cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:39-41)

[God’s call to the church is to crucify self just as Christ did]

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A Given Life – Part 1

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19

Let us read that again.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham

“… offered up Isaac.”

In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,

“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)

in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,

“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.

But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.

“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 cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.

When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.

[Oh, those songs!!]

Building Spiritual Character – Part 2

Now today, in church, because people are not taught the proper gospel, because they are not taught to deny themselves and to take up their cross and follow Jesus, they are not being built up in character and they are unable to take up the responsibilities and challenges that come with marriage. Grown-ups act like spoilt kids. People easily tire of each other. But, even worse, they go a step further and “take the law into their own hands”, as it were, and divorce. They feel free to just walk away from marriage because they cannot stomach the bad things their partner is doing to them.

This clearly reveals the fact that God’s people are lacking seriously in the grace of God. To a large extent, Christ’s sacrifice is being proven powerless in Christians’ lives. They forget that there are many factors that are involved in marriage: that probably God is teaching them patience, He is “raising them up”. And because God needs you to grow up spiritually, He will use any ‘instrument’ He wishes to ‘straighten’ you. In most cases God’s chief instrument of correction is someone’s own spouse.

It may be also that God is giving you the rare opportunity to give your life like Jesus did in order that a very rude, un-Godly person (your spouse) may receive salvation in their lives.

Many factors are involved; but the bottom line is that there is a big price to pay with marriage. That is why when one is carrying their cross and following Jesus, the thought of divorce is, to use an understatement, unthinkable.

It is appalling to behold the unbridled freedom that God’s people today give to their flesh in many other areas of their lives. Many Christians live as if now, since we are under grace and not under law, there are no rules to follow.

The problem, of course, is the kind of teaching that people are being taught in our generation: a cheap gospel that lumps together the spirit and the flesh and leaves people to literally  find their own footing on a very shaky spiritual foundation!

The Bible says in Galatians 5:13 that we “have been called unto liberty”; but right there it also says, “only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh…”

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul says that he became “… to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ)” 1 Cor. 9:21. Notice that Paul says he was under the law of Christ. It follows naturally that if there is a law of Christ, there is also a law of the flesh. When we allow ourselves and feel free to live certain lifestyles where it is clear we are pleasing the flesh and not God, we should ask ourselves under which law we are.

The Apostle Paul had a law, a law that had no place for a worldly lifestyle. He loved the Lord with all his heart, his soul and his strength.

The Apostle John put it this way: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” 1 Jn. 2:15

Loving the world consists of many things, but it is dependent on the condition of our hearts. And what John is talking here is not law. That is simply loving the Lord. That is true grace.

Many Christians today feel free to do nearly everything they want to do especially when it comes to answering to the desires of the flesh. And, because of a lack of revelation of the Word of God in their hearts, they use those same scriptures to justify whatever they are doing! It is like some Roman Catholic friends of mine who challenge me to show them where it is specifically written: “Thou shall not drink beer”. They have many scriptures, both from the Old Testament and the New, which ‘prove’ that God allows Christians to drink beer!

Once you begin listening to the flesh, you cannot draw the line between right and wrong.

Tribulation – trials and testing – brings character and maturity into our lives. Nothing else will bring these valuable standards into a Christian’s life apart from that hard and difficult narrow road which Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount. This is a road where you will be tested and tried in every way. You will be despised, rejected, reviled, hated, beaten; a road where you will know hunger, and where you will lack many things in this life. Not that going through these hardships in itself is Christianity; but as you go through all this and you know your position with God, you will know these things are preparing you for the glory ahead.

The Bible says no weak thing shall enter into that Kingdom, only the strong. Here God is not talking about the toughies of this world (because people are always mis-interpreting scripture). He is talking about a different kind of toughie – one who has allowed their flesh to be dealt with by the cross of Jesus and who are living a life not their own, but another’s, Christ’s.

The Revelation Of The Cross

There is something that we all as believers can safely agree on: that God wants us to grow spiritually; that He does not want us to remain babies forever. And in order for us to grow spiritually, we will need to feed on a proper diet. That means we will need to hear the right doctrine or teaching.

There are some congregations which are based on praise and worship, which is not a bad idea, except that the prescription for spiritual growth is in a teaching – a teaching of the right doctrine. Jesus spent much of His time in ministry teaching proper doctrine; so did the early apostles. The Apostle Paul says that “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Cor. 1:21). When you read verse 25, you realize that the ‘foolishness’ he is talking of here is actually God’s wisdom. Foolishness to the carnal man, but wisdom and power to the spiritual.

And what, pray, is this right teaching that the Church needs to hear? When you look carefully at the teachings of Jesus, you notice that they are not so soft, after all. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provides the Church with a blueprint for the kind of lifestyle it ought to live. It is a tough calling. When you realize what is expected of the Church, you also acknowledge that it can only be achieved through the power of the Holy Spirit.

And in Matthew 10:34-39 He says, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”

Jesus called Peter “Satan”. He called another lady a dog! You try that kind of ‘teaching’ with any of today’s rights-conscious Christians and you will end up in jail. Literally.

It is obvious that the charismatic gospel that the Church has been fed on for the last 2 decades or so cannot provide us with spiritual growth. It simply does not have the ingredients for bringing the Church to spiritual maturity. On the contrary, today God’s people are being taught to look out for No.1 (self); others are taught to live in self-pity.

The gospel that Jesus and the apostles preached is not a gospel you are likely to hear in our age, and for that reason the Church remains immature: it is fighting, envious and engaged in every kind of stuff that does not please God.

We need to hear the right gospel that will make us to rise and fight the good fight with joy and assurance of victory in our hearts.

In two instances in the Bible (1 Corinthians chapter 3 and Hebrews 5) we see Paul rebuking the churches for failing to grow spiritually. On both occasions, he says the reason for this lack of growth in their spiritual lives is because they have not been able to eat ‘strong meat’, instead loving to partake of only milk.

Mother’s milk is wholesome; but it will never bring baby to mature. Baby needs to reach a place where he can eat tough food!

The ‘strong meat’ that Paul is speaking of here is the gospel of the Cross. That is the revelation that he received from Jesus Christ; and that is why in all his teachings Paul echoes the words that Jesus spoke in the Gospels. Inherent in all of Paul’s teachings is a thread that never breaks: the importance of the Cross in a believer’s life in crucifying their flesh.

But it is equally true that the Church needs a revelation in the spirit to understand Paul’s doctrine concerning the Cross.

This is the gospel that Jesus had kept hidden throughout the ages, the gospel that He purposed would be preached to every creature to “present every man perfect in Christ Jesus” (Col.1:28). The preaching of this ‘tough’ gospel does not make us to question whether God loves us or not. A child who questions their parents’ love for them must have psychological problems on the side! We have no doubt that God loves us. But here, it is about growing up, becoming mature in our spirits. Which means we should not doubt God’s ways.

I am well aware that when you begin mentioning names in such a forum as this people are likely to think you are advancing cultic teachings. However, personally I am grateful for Brother Miki Hardy and the many elders of CTMI for the revelation that God has placed in their hearts for the restoration of the Church.

I would encourage anyone who reads this blog to check out CTMI’s website (www.ctmiworld.com) to see for themselves whether there is not something new and challenging for the Church.

I wish you all a lovely weekend.

Our God is a God of compassion

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city, behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow: and much people of the city was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother Lk 7:12-15.

We cannot begin to imagine the commotion that followed the execution of this high-end miracle. In fact, the Bible takes note of three things that took place as a result of this sensational deed:

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people” (v.16).

And this rumour of him went forth throughout all Judaea, and throughout all the region round about” (v.17).

“And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things” (v.18).

Likewise, we today are easily taken in by the “activity”. But don’t get distracted by the hyper-action. Whatever else that was accomplished through this miracle, and whatever importance that was attached to it – and there certainly was much – the Bible nonetheless makes clear the one thing that drove Jesus to resurrect that young man: He was driven by compassion.

Today there is much emphasis on the practical aspect of Christianity, but the “practical” we want to deal on is the works per se, as it were. We want to show off the miracles, the healings, the so-called deliverances, etc.

Yet, with Jesus, the practical was always about the heart. He invariably did all the great works He did out of the deep compassion that filled His heart. This is as it should be for the Bible says the reason that God sent Jesus to earth in the first place was to “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant” Lk. 1:72. Moreover, “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” vs 77-79.

We see the same pattern of conduct with the early Apostles, as can be seen from what is written in the Book of Acts and the Epistles. The Apostles were not men who overly emphasized the works. They had something else to talk about, something much more profound. They talked about the revelation of the cross, and the power it has to change a man’s heart and make it tender and compassionate like Jesus’ heart was.

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount? The only reference there to workers of miracles is one that should make us sit and consider more the condition of our hearts rather than the miracles themselves.