The Eminence Of The Cross – Part 3

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong. 2 Cor. 12:12-13

One day I had a dream. In the dream, we were at a sort of pier, and people were queuing up to pay for their tickets. Upon looking behind me, I saw Jesus standing right behind me. He had a sort of string purse, and He was trying to dig inside, looking for some money. But there was nothing inside.

In the dream, I turned around and, with tears in my eyes, I said to Him, “Jesus, I could never have thought that you would not be having money!”

At which I gladly took out my own money and paid for His ticket.

I woke up from my dream my heart pounding with excitement. This was one of the clearest dreams I had ever had, and in it I had unmistakably served the Lord in the clearest way possible! I stayed there in my bed for a while, awed by the wonder of it that dream.

The Lord, however, was not about to let me have a picnic with that. He quickly brought me down to earth by bringing a few scriptures to my mind.

“But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” (1 Jn. 3:17); and,

“14 What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, 16 And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? 17 Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (Jam. 2:14-17).

And, finally,

“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” (1 Jn. 4:20)

The Lord showed me that loving and serving Him was all about loving and serving my brothers and sisters whom I dwell with down here on earth. Doing so pleases the Lord just as much as if I had served Him in person.

I have not written this story to show how cozy I am with Jesus. Only God truly knows about that (1 Cor. 4:5). Rather, I have written it to illustrate that when He was here on earth, the Lord walked in need, in spite of the fact that He had many women ministering to Him (Mk. 15:40-41). It was the kind of lifestyle He had chosen.

But, back to Paul. Let us have another look at that scripture.

“12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. 13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to the other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.” (2 Cor. 12:12-13)

This is the only place in the scriptures where Paul refers to the mighty works that were done through him by the Lord. Is that not so different from many modern preachers, some of whom have raised up ministries based solely on the mighty works they perform? Many years ago, when I was living in our neighboring country of Kenya, I saw a poster that said, “A man of miracles comes to Nairobi.”

The Apostle Paul would not have written such a poster. A man once asked me, “Who are you in your church?”

He wanted to know what position I held in church.

I told him, “I don’t know.”

He thought I was being arrogant. But he was trying to back me into the very corner that I was scrambling to get out of.

Today, many men of God want to be something. But neither Jesus nor the Apostles had that goal.

Anyway, to end. The Apostle Paul talked extensively about himself in all his epistles. But all the talk about himself was only about his weaknesses, or his “infirmities”, as the Bible refers to them. He talked only about the things he suffered for the gospel’s sake. That was his singular boast. He would gladly have boasted in his many accomplishments; but the Lord told him, “No.”

And now, in these scriptures, he reveals a mind-blowing fact about his life. That he gloried in his LACK. Paul worked in the church at Corinth in great want. So much so that the church in Macedonia had to come to his aid (2 Cor. 11:9)

Whilst great miracles and mighty deeds were done through him by the Lord to confirm Paul’s calling as an apostle; yet Paul would not glory in these. On the contrary, he was looking to and rejoicing at his material and financial lack in the midst of the Corinthians. In other words, what concerned him most was the cross working in him!

I don’t know about you. But my heart rejoices when I see the beauty of the cross. The cross was the singular revelation that drove Paul’s life. And today, you cannot afford to preach the gospel without mentioning Paul, so influential is his life.

Living The Resurrection Life – Part 1

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Phil. 1:21

This is by far one of the most profound scriptures in the Bible. Indeed, I am assured that I am not worthy to address this scripture. For in it is a spiritual man, talking inscrutable spiritual language.

Howbeit, having put my hand to the plough, I shall attempt, by God’s Spirit in me, to look into the mystery of Christ and Paul.

I shall divide this post into two parts. Part one reads:

Part 1

“For to me to live is Christ…”

How much would one need to know Christ to say such words? How much would one need to have understood “Jesus Christ and him crucified” to speak thus? How much would one need to have crucified himself to this worldly life, and the lusts thereof?

In this first part we shall look briefly at two things:

  1. What it means to live “Christ”; and
  2. The Christ-like life is born out of love, not law.

The Apostle John says,

“15 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. 16 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. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

“The world” is not cars and houses. “The world” is far beyond these things. “The world” is our deep-seated carnal nature, the things that Jesus talked of in Mk. 7:21-22:

“21 … evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness”.

I am glad to see that pride is included here. These things are “the world” that scripture is talking about. The gospel is all about uprooting this system from our hearts.

When therefore Paul says “For me to live is Christ…” he was not talking about his preaching ministry. On the contrary, he was talking about something far beyond that. He was talking about character, the Christ-like character. He was saying he lived the Christ-like life or character.

And what, pray, is the Christ-like character?

Galatians 5:22-23 puts it forth clearly:

“22 … love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance”.

Whenever you hear of “Christ”, this is first and foremost what it means. The church cannot talk of any other Christ apart from the Christ who first died and was then resurrected from the dead. In the same manner, we too need to die to self and to be resurrected with Christ. To be called “Christians”, we must live the resurrection life.

Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul states:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

Here again the Apostle Paul reveals an even more incredible aspect of his adherence to Christ: that it was born of love! In other words, Paul understood Christ’s love for him! In return, he surrendered his life to Christ as a reciprocation of Christ’s love for him. He did not do anything for Christ out of law, or because he had to. He did it out of love, and in total freedom.

It is a sad statement on today’s church condition that many people serve God out of law. These people do not know Christ as Paul knew him. What a challenge for us today to know Christ’s love for us!

A Different Spirit

51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,

52 And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.

53 And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.

54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?

55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.

56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to savethem. And they went to another village. Lk. 9:51-56

It doesn’t take much to find yourself at odds with Jesus through carrying a different spirit than the one He carries. All you need to be is your dear old, loving self! Which, unfortunately, all of us are, to some degree. This scripture proves just that. These guys, James and John, were not the devil with horns. They were actually true, bona fide apostles of Jesus! But titles are meaningless where mean old self is in control. Without that all-important work of the cross in our hearts, even though we remain saved, yet we are as human as the meanest human being on the planet.

Let us recap what had been happening here. Apparently, Jesus had been passing through a number of villages on His way to Jerusalem. The residents of these villages probably had never seen Jesus, but they had heard of the great works that He had been doing further down the road. When He finally came to their villages, the villagers came out in force crying, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Glory, hallelujah!”

Women swooned on simply seeing Jesus. Men worshiped at His feet. Many cried tears of emotion upon seeing this glorious Man. It was a moment of joy and high emotion for everyone.

The apostles of Jesus lapped at the glory that was being poured upon Jesus – and them. They huffed and puffed with pride. There were smiles all around. This, at last, was what it meant to be an apostle of Jesus! So much attention, so much glory! Wow!! They were finally beginning to reap the fruits of their apostleship. It is clear this was what they were thinking.

They were on a high, they were on a roll. So it was, that when a certain village of the Samaritans appeared to put a halt to their roll, they did not take kindly to it.

Jesus had always sent people ahead to prepare a place for Him. I believe the reason was not selfishness on the part of Jesus. On the contrary, because Jesus traveled with such a large team (His 12 apostles and probably many more) He definitely needed preparations for these guys to eat and sleep. He did not send men ahead to prepare the townspeople to receive Him. At no time did Jesus ever think about Himself.

But every village that Jesus had passed through had received Him with chants of “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” Everyone knew who He was and His arrival was highly anticipated. But it was not to be so in one particular village.

When the messengers whom Jesus had sent to this Samaritan village entered it, no one appeared to take any notice of them. So they grabbed a megaphone and announced that they had been sent by the mighty Jesus. But people went on with their business as if they were deaf. In a desperate attempt to fire things up, the apostles started the “Glory, glory, Hallelujah” jingle. No one joined them. Not a leaf rustled. These Samaritans were not going to receive anyone whose final destination was Jerusalem, whoever he was!

The messengers came back to Jesus and the apostles with the grim news that this particular village had actually refused to receive Him. Upon hearing the news, the apostles were furious. They had just had a taste of worldly glory, and they wanted more of it. Certainly, they could not now cope with anyone who showed Jesus – and them – any form of disrespect.

That piece of news was especially galling for James and John, who had a peculiar penchant for glory. These were the two guys who would later on go to Jesus with their mother asking to have one sit at His right hand and the other at His left in His glory. Finally, unable to control themselves, James and John asked Jesus to have fire sent down from heaven to burn up these worthless Samaritans who would not bow to Him.

In other words, the lives of the Samaritans were of less value to these apostles than their own pride! And Jesus was extremely displeased. He was displeased, not at the Samaritans, but at His apostles! The Bible says that He turned and rebuked them. He told them, “You are carrying a strange spirit in you!”

We do not have to be the devil to carry a different spirit than Jesus’. All we need is to allow that nature of our old man to have the upper hand, and we have fallen. When we allow pride, arrogance and the lusts of the flesh to reign in our lives, we have fallen. We have allowed a different spirit than Christ’s to reign over us. For the Spirit of Jesus, who is the Holy Spirit Himself, is selfless, humble and loving. He does not carry the selfishness and glory-seeking that the worldly spirit does. It is the flesh which loves worldly glory. The flesh has no love in it. It will go to any extreme to fulfill its selfish desires. It will even kill.

(I have seen men of God who are so used to being called “Bishop so-and-so” that if you call them “Brother”, they consider it an insult.)

Jesus was deeply displeased with His apostles for carrying a different spirit than the one He had. He came down hard on them.He came with grace and love. They carried a spirit of carnality, and this spirit is full of murder. Jesus rebuked them sharply.

That is what God does with us when we are not carrying our cross and following Jesus’ example. God is not happy with us at all. God can only be happy with the man or woman who is daily dying to self. God is happy with the person who does not look for excuses to put away the cross of Jesus. On the contrary, God is pleased with the person who lovingly embraces the cross.

Below: We must use our freedom only to serve God and one another. 20120309-074819

Receiving the Right Thing

20 Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21 And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.

23 And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. Mat. 20:20-23

Notice that these sons of Zebedee and their mother came “worshipping” Jesus; but also desiring a certain thing of him.” So, these folks first worshipped Jesus, then presented their request to Him.

In other words, these folks worshipped Jesus because they wanted something from Him!

That is a dangerous combination, if ever there was one. If there is anything dangerous in church but which, alas! is going full steam ahead in many churches today, it is people going to church to “worship” the Lord because they want something of this world from Him. Many people are not aware of it, but this state of affairs is going on in their lives all the time!

Today, the 21st of December, 2014 is Sunday and this morning many folks are going to church ostensibly to worship the Lord. But God knows our hearts and He knows how many of us are truly going there to worship Him in truth and in the Spirit. He knows how many are going to church because all we want is the establishment of God’s Kingdom in our hearts. He knows how many of us are going there because we truly need an overhaul of the state of our spiritual lives.

He knows how many are going to church because we want to lose our lives more and to serve others more.

He also knows those who are going to worship Him simply for who He is.

But many, alas! are going to worship, but “desiring a certain thing” of Jesus – something of this world. They want the good things of this life. That is why they are going to church.

And today in many charismatic churches many preachers will end their sermons with an altar call where God’s children will be told to “Receive!” Many of God’s people will “receive” many things in church today.

Receiving is not a bad thing. We see Jesus also telling James and John to “Receive!” But what He told them to receive is vastly different from what many today will be “receiving” from their preachers.

Jesus told these gentlemen to prepare to receive only one thing: the cup and the baptism (Mk. 10). He did not promise to give them anything of this world. But we know they wanted something of this world. They wanted a place of honor in what they thought was Jesus’ impending worldly kingdom.

Today many people are going to church to receive the good things of this life. Personally I have no problem with a child of God receiving the good things of this life. I believe God also has no problem with that. But in reality, the things of this life are small change with God. That is why whether we receive the good things of this life or not is not a big deal with God; and it should not be with us. The Apostle Paul says in Philippians that he knew “both how to be abased, and… 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.” (Phil. 4:12)

When it comes to receiving, there is something of far greater importance which we as the church ought to pay attention to. We should not miss this one. We may miss the good life, but we should not miss the one thing that Jesus wants us to receive.

What is this thing? It is what Jesus gave to James and John. It is what He told them to “Receive!” It is the cup and the baptism.

This is what we should all be going to church to receive this Sunday morning.

Unfortunately, many will be going to be entertained by the good music, or by the charismatic preacher. Many more will be going to seek and answer to their prayers – prayers for the things of this life.

But ours is a heavenly agenda. May God open our eyes to see the heavenly agenda. We will then worship Christ for who He is, not for what we want from Him.

Have a blessed Sunday service!


The Eternal Glory

There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. 1 Corinthians 15:41

I very much doubt that the Apostle Paul was into astronomy. Nowhere in the Bible does it indicate that he dabbled in that fine art, not before, nor even after he met Christ. When he therefore talks about the sun, the moon and the stars Paul is not talking about these great creations of God as we know them in the natural.

We recall Joseph and his dreams. In one of them Joseph was shown the sun, the moon and eleven stars bowing down to him. We all know that the forms he saw referred to his father and his brethren. In other words, they referred to people!

So it is with Paul here. He is talking about people. I will leave someone else to explain what the sun and the moon refer to in this scripture. I will only talk about the stars. The stars here refer to you and me. This particular scripture gives us one of the most powerful glimpses into the Kingdom of Heaven as it will be in eternity. Paul here is saying that at the resurrection of the dead, some of us will have more glory than others.

That’s a sobering thought, if ever there was one. This is pretty serious stuff Paul is talking of here. When you read Romans chapter 8 verses 29 and 30, as well as other scriptures (verse 17, etc.) you notice that the end of our calling is glorification with Jesus Christ. But it is clear that we will not all be at the same level of glory with one another – or even with Jesus! The latter thought ought to sober us up even more.

And you don’t need a degree in theology to understand the implications of that. All it means is that the life we have now, in this world, is an opportunity to serve God and His Church, as well as all of mankind with all our hearts, all our minds and all our strength as we look forward to the eternal reward.

Let us not waste this precious opportunity by serving self. Let us rather desire to crucify self at the cross and take up the life of Christ – as we look to the glory to come.

I love what the Apostle Paul says in Galatians 5:13: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.”

The next time you look up into the night sky and see a star twinkling, think about you – and the life God has called you to live.

[Below: With wonderful brethren in the North of Mauritius.]

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God Is Simple!

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 2 Corinthians_11:3

Christianity consists of reading the fine print. Did you notice that word, ‘simplicity’, there? Have you ever wondered why they had to hire Judas to betray Jesus? After all, Jesus only walked about with 12 apostles and a handful of disciples. It should have been easy to pick Him out.

And yet, it probably was not so easy to pick Jesus out from the motley crowd. Perhaps Jesus was as much a part of the crowd as anyone else!

Every painting I have seen of The Last Supper shows Jesus seated at the head of the table; but It probably was not so at the real scene. My contention is that most likely Jesus sat at the foot of the table and allowed someone else to sit at the head. In fact, I am sure He did. You see, we have such a strong worldly instinct in us that it will require a truly herculean effort by the Holy Spirit to completely root from us the corruption that has been sown into our hearts by the devil in this area; as in many other areas as well.

Did we say we understood God? Well, maybe we don’t! Jesus’ view of lordship and authority was so radical it would have staggered the most ‘balanced’ among us. He spoke to His disciples thus in Mark 10:42-45: “Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

I am sure you would have found Jesus doing the most basic chores that any of His disciples would do. And it should come as no surprise to us that Jesus would choose the lowest positions even at table and that He did not appear the obvious leader among His disciples.

What about the Apostles of the Early Church? In  2 Corinthians_1:12  the Apostle Paul says, “For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.”

There is that word, ‘simplicity’, again. I wonder whether it’s not possible to take Paul’s words at face value. True, he tells the Galatians that they did welcome him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus Himself  (Gal. 4:14). But that does not mean Paul allowed himself to be placed on a pedestal. There are many instances in the Bible where we could prove that Paul lived as common a life as any of his followers.

The Christian faith is one of genuine simplicity – and we have no reason to try and twist that word, ‘simplicity’. We could only amplify it and the result will be ‘humility’, ‘meekness’, ‘unassuming’ or, to coin Jesus’ favorite phrase, a servant. Simplicity is simply being simple in the simplest form of the word.

In the Church today we find there are many complicated people, people with twisted personalities; and these people want to use the scriptures to defend and promote their cause. These are worldly people and their agenda is a carnal one. For example, a church ‘minister’ would want to be equated to a government minister! How so very wrong! I have seen churches where the pastor is held in such high regard and reverence that he is like a god in the midst of his people. In some churches you can feel even physical fear, sometimes intense, towards the leader. Many leaders promote these attitudes, for a lack of a revelation of God’s ways. And the poor sheep have to keep doing obeisance to a mere man in the conviction that they are worshipping and serving God.

On another front, I have heard preachers claim that Jesus’ gown was so expensive and that was the reason the Roman soldiers cast lots for it! What utter blindness. I assure you that had it been so expensive, Caesar would have claimed it!

Let us not try to serve the Lord in the spirit of this world. Christians and especially Christian leaders should learn to be simple folk, people who can sink to the lowest levels of other people’s lives, identify with them and experience first-hand the life that ordinary people are living. They should not be men and women who want to be recognized for their positions, but rather they should be men and women who have considered their ‘leadership’ position as nothing in the way of the understanding of this world. That is the real life that Jesus and the Apostles lived.

The Bible has a lot to say about Jesus in this regard. We read in Philippians 2:8 that although Jesus was God yet He sank in level and was “found in fashion as a man”. That means that Jesus put aside His position as God and became a man, an ordinary man. But it also says that He went beyond that and that He “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” We have not arrived there yet.

Man, instead of desiring to go down, desires only to go up! There is so much nonsense being tossed around about Christians being “King’s Kids”, and when this is played out in real life, the results are tragic and horrendous. Christians surround themselves with a worldly spirit, they become complicated and they remain bound in the flesh. At the other end of the see-saw, the lowest of God’s people are trampled underfoot because they are made to feel that there is a caste system within the Church.

Here in Africa, I have seen church leaders being fed chicken while their flock ate vegetables. Not that it is a sin to feed your church leader chicken… but you can get the drift of things even in such an ‘ordinary’ activity. But we see that Jesus and the Apostles lived a life of true simplicity, and there are cases of them refusing to even be recognized for who they were!

How could this be? How could these mighty men of God allow themselves to sink to such lowly depths in human terms? No doubt, this was not through human effort! The motivation and power to do this had to come from elsewhere.

By reading Jesus’ words and Apostle Paul’s letters carefully, we realize that this was only possible because Jesus and the Apostles had a revelation of what the Cross needed to do in their lives; and they submitted themselves to its working in their lives.

Today, more than ever, the Church needs a revelation of the Cross of Christ – not simply that He came to die for our sins, but that we, too, are required to crucify our carnal natures on that Cross.