Suffering For Our Faith

13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

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.

25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Mat. 16:13-25

In 1 Samuel chapter 22 verses 1 to 2 we read the following account of David:

1 David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2 And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

Four hundred men… what a small number! But the Kingdom of God is built upon weakness, not strength; in inadequacy, not competence; in insufficiency, not abundance. Four hundred men is a perfectly sufficient enough number for God to bring about a world-shaking phenomenon, for that was what the kingdom of Israel would soon become under King David.

As we noted in an earlier post, we must move on – move on to maturity. Leaving the basic doctrine of our Christian faith, we of necessity must grow, or move on, to perfection. But, in order to find ourselves on this road, we need spiritual perception.

The account about David is therefore an analogy: an analogy of Christ, the cross and us. Throughout scripture, the Bible talks of only one Christ – the Christ who was crucified. The cross signifies Godly suffering. Hence, in one scripture we see David suffering; and, in another, we see Christ suffering.

Interesting, isn’t it… that David escaped King Saul by hiding in a cave. The Bible, talking of the righteous men of old, says in Hebrews 11:38:

“… (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”

The saints of old suffered for their faith. Many of us know David for his role as king of Israel. Yet, the Bible counts David among the men of old who suffered for their faith.

Equally amazing, however, is the fact that we see people who, in spite of the suffering they witnessed in David, still went out and followed him. But who were these people who went out to David? The Bible does not say that the rich and the well-fed and those contented with life gathered themselves unto David. On the contrary, the people who went out to David were all desperate people. The Bible says they were people “in distress”, “in debt” and “discontented”.

“In distress” here simply means they were poor.

In other words, the people who went out were people who had nothing to lose. They had lost everything already. Today’s world would call them ‘losers’. The men and women who went out to David were losers.

In the same manner, we can only follow Christ when we have lost all and have nothing more to lose. As long as you have so much as a shoelace to your credit, you cannot follow Christ. The Biblical standard for becoming a disciple of Christ is losing all. And when the Bible says all, it means all. The Bible says of Jesus, that He “poured out his soul unto death” (Is. 53:12).

Jesus lost all, including His life. On the cross, He died.

“24 If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.”

If you have something precious, better lose it now. When you go to the Lord, you go as the song says: “Just as I am, without one plea!”

But why did these people go out to David in the first place? The man was living in a cave; were they mad? Or had they lost hope to the extent that they were willing to suffer for suffering’s sake?

Hardly. On the contrary, these people saw something in the Spirit. The flashback to the reason these people followed after David is found in the key scripture above in Matthew 16. Jesus told Peter that upon the revelation of who He was, He would build the church, against which the gates of hell would not prevail.

In spite of David’s apparent weak circumstances, God brought a revelation into these people’s hearts that David was the anointed one of Israel, that he it was who would deliver them from their oppression. In David’s sufferings, they saw the plan of God for the nation of Israel!

In the cross of Christ – which represents Christ’s sufferings – we see God’s plan for us. In weakness, we see strength. In defeat, we see victory!

Jesus said,

“Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (v.10)

Those who will receive the things of the Spirit are those who have received a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who are ready to deny themselves and to share in Christ’s sufferings, with the hope of the Spirit in them. The Bible says:

11 For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. 12 Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. 13 Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach. 14 For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.” (Heb. 13:11-14)

The Bible says: “Let us…” God here is beseeching us. But God’s “Let us…” can sometimes be a command. Just as these people went out to David, we must move out – move out from our comfort zones, and from self-preservation. We cannot be contented with the status quo. We must desire real change in us – the change to live a sacrificial life. Blessed, indeed, is he who hungers and thirsts in their spirit for the things of God. He will learn to deny himself, to take up his cross and follow Christ.

[Below: Tanzanians standing for their national anthem]

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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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“Feed my lambs” – Part 1

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.

16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.

17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Jn. 21:15-17

Jesus could have asked Peter if Peter loved Him and after Peter had answered in the affirmative, Jesus could simply have told him, “Wonderful! I am so happy to hear that. Continue loving Me.”

Such a conversation would have been perfectly all right since Jesus is worthy of our love. The only problem comes when we are called upon to put that love into action. For that reason we do not see Jesus thanking Peter for declaring his love for Him, nor do we see Him encouraging Peter to continue in that mode. On the contrary, Jesus wanted to make sure Peter understood what it meant to love Him.

“If you love Me”, Jesus said, “feed my sheep”.

Notice that in the first instance Jesus refers to His church as “lambs”. This speaks of the tenderness with which Jesus regards the church.

“Feed my lambs”.

“Feed my sheep”.

Peter could only prove that He loved the Lord by feeding His sheep.

Do you know that Jesus loves the church more than He does His own life? Even now, as He sits at the right hand of the Father, He is making intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). Jesus never does anything for Himself. He does everything for His sheep, the church. Jesus loves His sheep so much! He is truly the Good Shepherd.

That’s not exactly like us. Much of the time, after I have preached or done some ministry, all I want to do is to have a long, cold drink and stretch out on some sofa. Having done the Lord’s work I feel a great sense of accomplishment, and I always come away feeling that I deserve something at the very least.

And, along that same vein, I can imagine exactly what would happen if it was us in Jesus’ place in heaven. With the attitudes that we often carry, it would be a completely different story. Aside from demanding our right to rest and to be ministered to in various other ways, we would also get very, very angry if news began filtering in that the people we just died for on earth had begun messing up their lives. It wouldn’t be long before we told God, “Father, I give up. Just nuke them with the rest!”

That’s us, when we have not the love of God in us. But Jesus would not do that, for He is love. That is why, immediately He accomplished our redemption here on earth and was taken up to heaven, He sat at the right hand of the Father and began making intercession for us. The Bible says He is making intercession for us even right now (Heb. 7:25). And that is a lot of intercession He is making. Just think of how much you sin every day!

And Jesus does all this out of love. He does not do it out of law (He would have died long ago of fatigue!) Jesus loves His church. That is why He makes intercession for us.

He takes care of the church in many other ways. Jesus does feed His sheep!

I am just imagining that if all the people who say “I love you, Jesus” every day were to fulfill the second part of the instructions that Jesus gave to Peter, to feed His sheep, what a strong entity the church would be today! What a loving, blessed, caring atmosphere there would be in the church today!

[A church wedding in Singida Town]

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Grace, Grace For The Church – Part 1

Grace, Grace For The Church

 

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mk. 10:28-31

As usual, with the Bible no amount of writing can exhaust the riches to be found within even a tiny portion of scripture. All our blogs and all our posts just tap at the tip of these riches.

Having said that, let me begin by summarizing what I want to discuss with regard to the scripture above:

  1. Peter’s “carnal mind” (Rom. 8:7).
  2. The manner in which Jesus answered Peter’s question.
  3. The essence of the answer that Jesus gave to Peter. This one is guaranteed to blow away your mind.
  1. Peter’s carnal mind.

Someone showed me a clip of one of the world’s top prosperity preachers ranting: “If I want to believe God for a 65 million dollar plane you cannot stop me!”

Apparently, someone had told the man not to buy the plane, and he was not happy about it. As I watched the clip, I saw a man under siege; and I was reminded of how Peter also one time felt under siege; so much so that he began to hound Jesus after Jesus made it clear that the Kingdom that He had come to establish had nothing to do with worldly riches.

Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.”

That might appear to be a very innocent phrase, but it is not. When it says “Peter began to say”, it means there were other things he wanted to say. What the Bible is actually talking of here is a declaration of war: Peter was declaring war on Jesus!

In Matthew’s account it says: “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore?” (Mat. 19:27)

It is important to notice that Peter brought up this issue immediately after Jesus had finished telling His disciples how difficult it would be for those who love worldly riches to enter heaven. He had told them:

“24… Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mk. 10:24-25).

And the Bible says: And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved?” (v. 26)

Clearly, they hadn’t been expecting this. It is clear that Peter and his fellow apostles had all along been tagging behind Jesus expecting to receiving these very riches that Jesus was now declaring were not a part of the Kingdom He had come to establish. The news did not settle well with Peter and, being the edgy man that he was, he couldn’t hold in his impatience any longer: he wanted to know right away if, as it appeared, riches were out of the equation, then what was he and his friends who had “forsaken all, and followed thee” to profit in?

“C’mon, man, answer me!!” That was what he must have wanted to shout out aloud and he probably wanted to get his hands on Jesus and shake Him up. The Lord had just executed the biggest upset in the history of his life!

In engaging Jesus thus, Peter unwittingly exposed the lust in his heart. Peter is therefore the first self-declared prosperity gospel disciple that we find amongst the followers of Jesus.

But Peter was representative of all the rest of Jesus’ disciples… and he is representative of many of us today. There is no denying the fact that many believers today love the world and the things in it more than they do God or His spiritual Kingdom.

But – praise God! – Peter eventually parted ways with that “mind” of the flesh. After the cross, Peter repented and mended his ways. For, when the Jerusalem church was born, Peter and the apostles probably set the Guinness World Record for becoming the richest men within the shortest period of time. The Bible states that on the very first day that the church was born, 3,000 souls were added to the church! Subsequently, “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:47).

That was surely a large number of people in that church. We have no idea of the total number of believers the church at Jerusalem eventually arrived at before it was finally scattered abroad by persecution.

Now, the Bible records that within this church, “34 … as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, 35 And laid them down at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:34-35).

Notice the word “prices”. That is talking of hard cash; and with all those numbers, that must have been a lot of money in that church. And all this money, the Bible says, found its way to the apostles’ feet. But, somehow, it did not find its way into their pockets!

The apostles did not use it to fulfill their own lusts in the name of “ministry”. They did not use even a dime of it for themselves. On the contrary, we see Peter and John walking to church without a cent in their pockets on the day they healed the lame man.

All the money that the apostles received they appointed Godly men to distribute to the needy. They did not even handle it themselves.

It is in this light that I believe God is waiting for all the prosperity preachers and their followers within the church today to face the cross and embrace the true gospel of Jesus Christ, of Christ and Him crucified.

[Below: Under the shadow of the Uluguru Mountains lies the main bus stand in Morogoro]

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Ministry and the Crucified Life

15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?

16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.

21 From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.

22 Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.

23 But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men. Mat. 16:15-23 

But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. Gal. 6:14

Another word for “world” as used in this scripture is “flesh”.

I know of a man – actually a friend of mine – who was elected to the office of top diocesan bishop of his denomination. He celebrated that achievement by slaughtering a number of goats and ordering crates upon crates of pop soda for the many guests he had invited. There was music and dancing and the drinks flowed like the River Nile.

Lastly, many speeches were made by distinguished guests, praising and thanking the Lord for this great “favor” that He had bestowed upon His “humble servant”.

“Humble”, they might have said, but in their eyes our friend was now a big man.

But I doubt that the office that this man was elected to could compare in importance to the office that Peter was shouldered with on that day by Jesus. We see in this scripture that Christ conferred upon Peter the ministry of “chief apostle”. (You may call it whatever you like, but Jesus did confer some office or authority to Peter here).

Just as my friend did, Peter probably also thought of celebrating this great occasion. (He could have sent for old man Zebedee to bring in a boatful of fish…)

The problem in Peter’s case, however, was that Jesus happened to be on the scene. Jesus was around. And where Jesus is, there are very few worldly celebrations. And I am pretty sure that Jesus was not thinking about any celebrations at that particular time. He mostly likely was thinking about the responsibility He had just handed to Peter.

We might not know what was going on in both these men’s minds, but the fact is, no celebrations were forthcoming for Peter. Instead, moments after Jesus had conferred upon him that big title, Jesus turned around and rebuked Peter in the most scathing terms for – of all things – being an “agent” of the devil!

(I love the way Jesus did things. He could so quickly separate the wheat from the chaff!)

In other words, Jesus was telling Peter that even though He had just “upgraded” him to the status of archbishop, this hadn’t changed him one little bit on the inside.

It is clear from these scriptures that you can be in the ministry but still be a carnal Christian. That means we have three clear types of ministers within the Body of Christ:

  1. The fake ones. These are incredibly many.
  2. The genuine, but carnal ones. Another large lot. This is the group we have been discussing so far.
  3. The genuine and truly spiritual ministers. This is a very small group since, as Jesus said, Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mat. 7:14). Notice the word few.

That is why I love the way the Apostle Paul preached. Y’know, Paul came and revealed these great ministries within the Body of Christ, and he also revealed many other things. He revealed about the power of the cross, about grace, about even the state of the dead, and of the return of Christ. Paul had such incredible revelation of the Kingdom of God!

Indeed, even the other apostles noticed and acknowledged that Paul had a special ministry and they gave him the right hand of fellowship. Peter eventually wrote about Paul and, under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, he talked about the special revelation that Paul had been given by God (2 Pet. 3:15).

This man, Paul, was no mean minister of the gospel.

But the truly captivating thing is that Paul, this “great minister” of the Word, would boast in none of those things. He would boast in nothing, absolutely – except only one: the cross of Jesus Christ.

He would only boast in a crucified life. He would boast only of what that cross had done to his flesh, and how in crucifying his flesh thereon he had been set free to do God’s will.

That is a lesson that every minister first, and then every believer, should learn above anything else. It is something that cannot be over-emphasized.

The way we know human nature, it is truly incredible that a man of Paul’s natural and spiritual capabilities could find nothing in all his experiences to boast about except what the cross had achieved in his life!

Today there are many things that people are boasting of in church. People are looking for things to boast in. The big titles, especially, are at a premium. Minister So-and-so. Apostle So-and-so. Prophet So-and-so.

Prosperity and the good life is also a big issue with these kinds of people. A high-profile preacher once took me to the multi-storied mansion he was building. He told me that even the local government was aware of his house. The house was so expensive I was thinking in terms of the CIA being aware!

But you wouldn’t have found the early apostles in any of these groupings or settings. They had nothing of this world – literally. No possessions, no fame, nothing. Jesus called Himself “The Son of Man”. He wouldn’t even call Himself the Son of God. And He had nowhere to lay His head.

But Jesus did achieve one thing. He carried His cross. The apostles also took up their cross and followed Christ. For them, all that mattered was taking up their cross and following Christ’s example.

[Sandwiched between State House and the Indian Ocean is a place where one can cool off from the hot mid-day Dar es Salaam sun]

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A Singular Gospel – Part 1

(This post is based on a message that I delivered at Pastor Eli’s church in Shinyanga on Sunday)

When we read the Pauline gospels, we find that two churches clearly backslid: the Corinthian church and the Galatian church. Apparently, the Jews also – to whom the Book of Hebrews is addressed (probably the Jerusalem church) – had also begun to lose steam.

To the first two churches, Paul bluntly pointed out the singular gospel that he had preached to them. To the Corinthians he said: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

To the Galatians he wrote: “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?” (Gal.1:1).

Notice the singular message that had been preached to these churches.

And to the Hebrews he wrote: “But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions; 33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used. 34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance” (Hebrews 10:32-34).

When the Hebrews first heard the gospel they had joyfully borne their cross and followed after Christ. But apparently, they needed to be reminded once again to crucify their lives.

In my earlier posts I have made it abundantly clear that the revelation of the crucified Christ that Paul and the other apostles received was more than the basic understanding that Christ died for our sins on the cross. It was an understanding of how we, too, have been crucified with Him on that cross.

I find myself captivated by the singularity of the gospel that Paul preached. He did not preach ‘around the world’. He focused on one thing: the cross.

Let us pause here and ask ourselves: How can we preach any other gospel other than that which Paul and the other apostles preached? Can we truly?

Maybe we think it is important to show God’s power in the miracles He works in our midst. Paul was a man who performed many miracles in the course of his ministry. But you can hardly find him mentioning any of that in his epistles. Through his ministry many people were healed. But he desists from harping on that, too. He barely – barely – mentions these things in Galatians chapter 3.

In fact, on reading through Paul’s epistles, you would think the power of God was lacking in his life. His closest associates were getting ill and almost dying!

On his part the Apostle Peter even raised the dead. But you will not find that mentioned in his letters.

Today, there are ministries built around miracles and healings. God is at work in all this, of course, but we should want to know what it was that so concerned the early apostles that they desisted from basking in these things but instead chose to talk about one thing: the work of the cross in a man’s heart.

The apostles, however, were following in the footsteps of Jesus. In John 6:14 and 15 we read, “Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.”

In other words, those men wanted to make Jesus king solely on account of the miracle they had seen Him perform. But Jesus withdrew himself from them.

The next day Jesus confronted them and told 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” (Joh 6:53).

And the Bible records that “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:66).

How sad! Jesus wanted to inform them about the gospel that had the Life in it. But they did not want that. They wanted the miracles! (In a way miracles minister to the flesh; Jesus told them to “Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you” – Jn. 6:27).

The gospel of Jesus Christ is about healings and miracles all right; but it is certainly more than that. That “more” is what the church has always needed to understand – and more so today when dark spiritual forces are pressing ever so hard against the gates of God’s Kingdom.

When Lazarus was raised from the dead, I am sure he did not walk about like a hero or something of the sort. Somehow, Jesus must have made him to understand that he needed to take up his cross and follow Him just like everybody else, raised from the dead or not.

Peter, A Humble Apostle (Part 1)

(This post is about the Apostle Peter, but you won’t read about him until Part 2)

30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. Joshua 8:30-31

Do you know there is clockwise and there is anti-clockwise? You would be surprised to learn that most of the time we are working in an anti-clockwise manner in our Christian walk with God. While God is trying to perfect and glorify us ‘clockwise’, we are busy trying to seek for that same perfection in an anti-clockwise way!

That’s how funny we are.

I will explain that in a minute, but let me begin by saying that the reason we work against God is because we fear. We fear to expose our failings and our weaknesses. But we should not fear to be who we are, nor should we fear to be seen by people for what we truly are. That is the essence of the gospel as far we are concerned. We are not called to ‘protect our identities’, nor are we called to be ‘politically correct’ either in word or in deed.

Many born-again believers, especially after they have grown in years and find they are still struggling in some areas of their lives, decide to hide their failings. In trying to do this they build up a beautiful façade, putting up an image of how they would like to be viewed.  What they don’t realize is that in doing this they are ‘setting themselves in stone’ and that God will not be able to work in their lives. However difficult or hard or shameful it may be (to us) we are not to avoid confronting the truth and exposing ourselves at whatever cost. That is what humility is all about, and God is concerned with humility in our hearts above anything else.

God told the children of Israel that they should not try to chisel the stones upon which they would offer sacrifices to Him. He Himself would sanctify the stones by His presence.

You remember also that when the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah, Samson’s father, in Judges 13, Manoah offered a sacrifice unto the Lord upon a bare rock (v.9). The Bible does not say that he chiseled at the rock first, no; he offered the sacrifice on the rock just as it was… and the rock instantly became the altar. These were men who understood the ways of the Lord.

And the Bible says that “19 …and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on.

20 For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground” (Jdg. 13:19-20).

What this means for us is that we should go to the Lord just as we are and allow Him to perfect us. We are not to lay even a finger upon our character to try and change it. If we do this it becomes highly displeasing to God and we deny the Holy Spirit the opportunity to work in our lives.

But, alas! many of us try to suppress things. ‘Suppression’, however, has never been a good word, and certainly not for born-again believers. You suppress bombs and those kinds of things, not your spirit. We need to be what we are.

God loves your roughness. Let us say you easily get angry, for example. What a wonderful place to be! Don’t bother hiding it. Simply acknowledge it and allow God Himself to work in you to perfect you and use you for His glory. When we get busy trying to act right we lose flavor with God. God loves us most when we are exactly what we are. He loves to be able to perfect us.

Following Jesus.

In John 13:36-38 we read: “Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for your sake.’ Jesus answered him, ‘Will you lay down your life for my sake? Most assuredly I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied me three times.’” NKJV

 When I first got saved, I was on fire for the Lord. I immediately said goodbye to my old, sinful lifestyle and former friends, and within a few weeks I was filled with the Holy Spirit. I clearly remember wondering what was taking the Lord so long in coming back to pick us up: I was in such a hurry to get to Heaven.

As far as I was concerned there were three simple steps to getting to Heaven: get saved, be filled with the Holy Spirit; and await the Last Trumpet. I had completed the first two requirements, and was just waiting on the Lord to fulfill the last one. I did not feel that anything else needed to happen in my life.

It is clear, however, from the above scripture in John 13 that Jesus was telling Peter and His other disciples that they were not yet ready to go to Heaven. In other words, even though they had been with Him for three years, there was still a work that needed to be done in their lives before they could be considered worthy to inhabit that holy abode.

For me, this reality hit me hard when I married my wife four years into my salvation. Prior to that, as a young, unmarried man, I was considered the humblest person in the church and even in our neighborhood. But when I got married, my innocent demeanor suddenly collapsed. Hailing from one of the fiercest tribes in Tanzania my desire to control my wife was absolute. I wanted her to “lie low like an envelope”. Unfortunately, she comes from the most stubborn tribe and she proved to be too independent-minded. She wouldn’t budge an inch under any of my threats. This enraged me and I became bitter and envious, even violent. Within weeks after our honeymoon, we were knocking at our pastor’s door, and for all the wrong reasons.

My wife and I both loved the Lord with all our hearts. But there were areas in our lives where we just could not seem to attain victory. So, although the pastor tried to mend things here and there, ultimately we simply accepted the fact of our defeat and went on with our silent inner conflicts. It was not until a few years later, when the Lord allowed the revelation of His Son into our lives through the preaching of the Gospel of the Cross by Brother Miki, that we began to realize what a tremendous work God needed to do in our hearts. We both saw that even though we had been saved for many years, and had left off the old life, somehow the old man was still very much alive in us. The fruits of that were all too clear.

We may appear polite, meek and humble and even holy before men, but it is God who really knows our hearts, and that is what counts. We may not do these things on the outside, but in our hearts we could be proud men and women, adulterers, judgmental, slanderers, spiteful, unforgiving, envious, haters. God knows all about these things. There is a world inside our hearts that far outspans the universe we live in, a world which God knows all too well, and which He desires to put in order. That is why Jesus could tell Peter: ‘No, you cannot join me now. Even though you have been with me these three years you are not Heavenly material yet. You will need to wait until a more perfect work is accomplished in you by the Holy Spirit whom I shall send to you.’

With God, the only humble man or woman  is the person who allows the work of the Cross in their hearts. The Apostle Paul was one such person. He says: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). A clear, positive acceptance. No excuses, justifications, explanations, defenses or arguments.

It took me many years to realize and accept that although I was saved and filled with the Holy Spirit, there was a deep work that I needed to yield myself to if I were to become a truly spiritual person. There was a time I was not willing to confront that reality. But today, even I myself realize that were it not for the grace of God working in me, I am just an ordinary sinner. Without the Cross, and the grace that goes with it, I am nothing in the sight of God.

The Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians that even though they had all the gifts of the Spirit operating amongst them, yet they were still spiritual babes, because they still carried the carnal nature with them. But thank God Paul had the solution to their problem. He tells them he purposed in his heart that he would not preach to them any other gospel “except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified” -1 Cor. 2:2. The Cross was the solution.

This was a man who truly loved God’s people. He wanted to bring them to true spiritual maturity. Unfortunately for us today, many preachers are not like Paul. They do not preach to us that challenging gospel that Paul preached his churches. Instead, they preach this mushy, cuddly gospel which only results in entrenching us deeper into spiritual babyhood.

Dare we think that we can just breeze into Heaven with our carnal natures simply because we are saved? Dare we believe that just because we are saved we are perfect yet? The carnal nature is a force we cannot dismiss lightly in our lives. But God has given us a way to deal with this enemy of God. The Cross brings death to the flesh and its desires.

Jesus said He was the way, the truth and the life. Those are three stages in a Christian’s life. If we are not walking in the revelation of the Cross and dying to self, our journey ends right at the door. But God wants us to press on, until we reach the place of perfection, the place of true holiness.

This is a serious matter, and we ought to pay great heed to the Cross in our lives, otherwise we might not arrive at the “life”. And what are the implications of that? An analogy of this is found in 1 Samuel 14:32, where we read about Agag, king of the Amalekites, who, when he was called upon by the Prophet Samuel, came forward “cheerfully” (NASB), clearly ignorant of the seriousness of the issue at hand. (Some versions say he came “fat and trembling”; another version (NLT), “full of hope”). There was just too much flippancy about him! Unbeknown to him, the matter was very serious in God’s eyes, and it bore very serious consequences. God’s wrath had been kindled by Agag’s ungodly manner of life and He was about to exact vengeance on him. The prophet Samuel cut him in pieces before the Lord.

We too could die in many ways if we are not careful to allow the Cross to deal with our carnal natures. God is not in the joking business.

When you allow yourself to be humble enough, God will bring you to that place of realization and will show you how to defeat that carnal nature in you. In other words He will reveal the Cross to you. This is what happened to the Apostle Paul. When God met him on the road to Damascus, Saul, as he was known then, did not engage God in a discussion. Rather, he asked the Lord, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

To which Jesus replied, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” We all know the instructions that God gave Ananias concerning Saul: “…For I will show him how many things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:16).

In Galatians 1:13-14, Paul has this to say of himself, “But when it pleased God… to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood.”

Little wonder, then, that this man, Paul, became the spiritual father of the modern Church. We are called upon to follow his example. We, too, need to desire the work of the Cross in our lives, so that our lives may count for something in the Church and in God’s sight.

If we hold onto our lives we will lose everything.