Loving Jesus, Loving His Church – Part 3

Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. Acts 20:31

Have you ever seen a grown man weeping? It is an unforgettable experience. But a grown man can only shed tears out of deep, heartfelt bitterness. I remember a famous Congolese musician named Franco. In the early 70s this man lost a brother in a car accident. Franco composed a song to commemorate his brother’s death. He sang it in his local Lingala dialect. This song became one of the most touching songs in the 70s. Not because it was sang by Franco, but because of the depth of the feelings that were embodied in that song. The song bemoaned the fact of being left alone.

And it is said that ever since that time, the sound of mourning never left any of Franco’s songs.

That’s how powerful a grown man’s sorrow is.

And yet the Apostle Paul freely wept for the church. He wept for it out of sorrow; but it was sorrow in the Spirit. The love that Paul had for the church was a love that no earthly parent could never know for their child. Paul could not bear to imagine even one hair of the church being harmed.

That’s the kind of ministers that Christ left to look after the church. The 5-fold ministry is not about numbers; rather, it is about carrying the heart of God the eternal Father.

In order for a believer to go to heaven, he needs to be loved, to be prayed for, to be cared for and ministered to in many different ways. That’s called nurturing. Jesus left behind people who would do exactly that: hence, the 5-fold ministry.

We can thus begin to imagine the greatness of this man, Paul. Paul perfected ministry. And, in perfecting ministry, Paul defined the word “love”. He writes in Ephesians:

“25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; 26 That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, 27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. 29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: 30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. 32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Eph. 5:25-32

In these verses, Paul shows us the true meaning of love.

Let us look at something else that Paul writes in Galatians. In chapter 1 verses 6-8, he writes:

“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”

Now, pause and think about that. Scripture here states clearly that there is no other gospel that can be preached other than the gospel that Paul preached! In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul talks of the gospel that he preached.

“But we preach Christ crucified…”

And here, in Galatians, he says that anyone who preaches a different gospel is troubling the church and is stands accursed. I will leave it to your imagination to work out what “trouble” it is that Paul is talking of here. That should not be too hard for anyone to do. Today, in particular, “trouble” is written all over the church. Why? Because God’s people have put aside the gospel of the cross and they are preaching a different gospel.

But Paul says, “If anyone preaches a different gospel than the one we preached to you, let them be accursed!”

The church is greater than anyone. It was greater than Paul himself. Which brings us to the question, What does Paul mean by the “we” in verse 8?

He means that even he had to be careful. Yes, Paul, the great apostle, had to be careful lest he mishandle the church! He had to be careful what he preached. God is no respecter of persons and Paul himself stood the risk of being accursed if he preached any other gospel than “Jesus Christ and him crucified”! (1 Cor. 2:2)

If every minister of the gospel could crucify his lusts and his desires and serve the church, it would be a blessing both to the themselves and to the church. But today everything is upside down.

Notice, in our key scripture in Acts, that Paul’s tears were to warn the church. Paul did not shed because there was no bread on the table. Bread is important; but the gospel of Jesus Christ is not about bread. But Paul’s tears were to warn the church.

What was so important about the gospel that Paul preached?

Paul was careful about the gospel he preached because it is the singular gospel that prepares Christ’s Bride, the church. How would you feel if, on your wedding day, they brought you a bride who was filthy, unkempt and thoroughly un-mannered in the ways of housekeeping?

I believe you wouldn’t touch her unless you were a madman.

But Jesus is not a madman. He wants a perfect Bride.

The gospel of the cross perfects the Bride of Christ. The cross crucifies the flesh and leaves behind a Bride without spot, and without blemish.

Finally, let us look at yet another example of how Paul cared for the church. In Philippians 2:19-21 he writes:

“19 But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timotheus shortly unto you, that I also may be of good comfort, when I know your state. 20 For I have no man likeminded, who will naturally care for your state. 21 For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”

Paul wanted to send Timothy to the Philippians because he wanted to “be of good comfort”. And Paul would only be comforted if he knew their “state”.

“State”. What a word!

I work with a team of four other pastors in my town. We meet every Thursday. Our motto is: “The only problem between us is the state of our hearts!”

Paul wanted to make sure the Colossians were well in their hearts. This was the only thing that could comfort him. So he sent them Timothy, the only man he could trust to truly care for their spiritual welfare.

Paul had other guys with him but he feared that if he sent them, they would go and become burdensome to God’s people. They would tell the church, “Your pastor needs a new car”, or something of that nature.

Timothy was the only person who would not say such a thing.

If faithful ministers were so rare even in Paul’s day, we can imagine how the situation is today. There are faithful ministers; but they are few. Many today look at the offering basket more than they look after the condition of people’s hearts. Many do not have the ability to deal with the problems affecting God’s people because they do not have the revelation of the cross in their hearts.

But Paul, and the few faithful men he had with him, had crucified their flesh and were thereby able to fully focus on the spiritual well-being of God’s people.

[Paul cared deeply for the spiritual well-being of God’s people]

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Peddlers of the Gospel, Enemies of the Cross – Part 3

For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ. 2 Cor. 2:17

There are thousands upon thousands of songs, and an even greater number of sermons, all dealing with the subject of God’s provision for us, material provision in this world. God is involved with that, all right, but that is hardly God’s priority. It is hardly the cause for which Jesus died for. Long before Jesus died on the cross, God was still providing for mankind, the good as well as the evil.

Another scripture upon which doctrine has been built is 1 Peter 2:24: “by whose stripes ye were healed.” This scripture provides one of the most deeply-entrenched doctrines in the Church today. But, while it is true that God promises to heal our physical bodies, why should a doctrine be built out of this?  If there was anything for the Church to build a doctrine on it ought to be 1 Peter 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.”

We never seem to realize the gravity of spiritual matters. The healing that God is really concerned with is the healing of our souls. You see, the earthy man has many diseases to contend with: malaria, cancer, flu, diabetes… the list is endless. Some of these sicknesses are ordinary, and others life-threatening. But they are all physical. Not one of these diseases attacks a man’s soul. But with God there is only one disease – sin. This is the only disease that attacks the soul. And sin is such a great disease that all physical ailments combined fade into insignificance when we compare them with this one. That is what all those scriptures about leprosy in the Old Testament were about. There are scriptures upon scriptures in the Old Testament dealing with leprosy, because it was a forerunner of how God would deal with sin.

Jesus was beaten so that we would be healed – healed from sin. What needs healing is your heart. You need a total heart transplant; and I am not talking about that thing that pumps blood around your body. I am talking about the place where your desires and aspirations stay. That is the thing that needs healing and it is what God is busy trying to heal, if you will let him. That is where you have a problem.

As for physical healing, God promises to meet our material and physical needs, including healing for our bodies, and that is enough. We should simply believe that and get on with the business of seeking first the Kingdom of God.

You can become sick and you can even die of an illness. This happens all the time. But when this happens, this other gospel will tell you that you have failed to ‘claim’ your healing. In other words, it brings judgment upon you; and therefore millions of Christians live under condemnation because they are unable to attain to a certain level of faith.

The ‘earthy’ gospel that is being preached today spawns all kinds of sins because it does not deal with the inner man, wherein sin dwells. People prosper financially and materially, but they do not become holy and righteous which is the real requirement that God has for us.

God cannot be angry with you because you do not own a car, or because you have failed to recover from a sickness. But God is displeased with us when we fail to attain to the stature of Christ in the area that really matters with Him – our character. God is displeased when we fail to carry a pure heart, when we fail to forgive.

If I have faith to pray for someone to get healed but cannot forgive my wife or a brother, that ‘faith’ of mine is meaningless with God. It is a useless faith. Many men of God are known as ‘great men of faith’. Unfortunately, God knows them otherwise.

Because of a lack of the revelation of the gospel of the cross of Christ, many preachers today are fornicators, covetous, liars, bribe-takers, lovers of self, lovers of status, and every other sin. When an earthy gospel is being preached, it stokes all kinds of carnal fires within Christians. But its worst qualification is that it does not deal with sin. And sin is exactly what Christ came to die for. This is the purpose for which God revealed a peculiar gospel to the Apostle Paul – the gospel of the cross. It is through an understanding of this gospel alone that a man or woman of God can crucify their carnal natures and bear fruit in their lives of the holy, loving nature of God. It is the revelation of this gospel that the Church today needs.

The Apostle Paul says, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.” (Philippians 3:10-11)

May the Lord help us to know that!

True Prosperity

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 1:2

In today’s fast-track and materialistic-minded world, it is an uphill task for even the Church to know what is what.

The scripture above is one of the most used by Christians today and yet, when you listen to its application in most of the cases, you will find it has been grossly misrepresented. Without going into any deep theological arguments, did you notice that the Apostle John takes it as a given that Gaius’s soul is already prospering. John’s letter would not have been so upbeat and positive if Gaius’s soul had not been prospering. After being assured of Gaius’s soul’s prosperity, John felt so happy and energized that he could now pray for any secondary needs that the man of God might have had, including his material prosperity and his good health.

In other words, this scripture above all shows us that with God the first and most important thing is the prospering of our soul. Material prosperity and good health come a long way after.

It is interesting when in a prayer meeting you mention that someone is sick and they need our prayers, you find people very concerned. But if a brother or sister is not well spiritually, it does not appear to be too much of a deal. In fact, much of the time, it is like people are not sure how to deal with the matter – such issues appear far removed from them.

‘Oh,’ we think, ‘the pastor will deal with that.’

In even some cases, such a need provides material for people to talk behind a fellow brother’s back.

But mention sickness or any need that touches directly on the body (finances, or even someone travelling – people will bind every small demon that may be camping along the road that brother or sister is going to use); here people know exactly how to deal with the enemy. Many of the most profound prayers I have heard have been crafted around praying for such needs.

But we as born-again believers need to realize that the thing we need to make sure about is the welfare of our soul. We need to make sure and doubly sure that our soul is well and prospering. We will pray God for our health and material needs because we need them here on earth; but they are not that important. (I hope I am not rocking somebody’s boat here!)

Many years ago, when I was working in the secular world, my life was controlled by how much money I had in my pocket. If I found my reserve shrinking below a certain level, I would feel the fear begin to rise within me. I would try to suppress it but it was more powerful than my faith.

‘What will I do now?’ I would ask myself.

Accordingly, my spiritual gauge would plummet and I would find myself worrying and agitating.

I wonder how many times we wake up and we feel the need that today I want to look after the welfare of my soul. How we need to make sure we are constantly doing something that profits our souls, like feeding ourselves on the right gospel, praying, fasting, even sharing the gospel with someone.

My pastor, Amas, always tells me, “Mwita, if I spend a day without sharing the gospel with someone, that day I sleep a poor man!”

Maybe that is why some Christians are having bad dreams at night! My advice to such brethren: try sharing the gospel with someone and see whether you will not sleep like a baby!

Many Christians wake up in the morning and they know exactly what they need – for the body, that is. Two eggs, scrambled; a cup of coffee, toasted bread, etc. That is for the Westernized world, mostly.

In Africa, a big bowl of hot porridge, two or three boiled sweet potatoes; and for those who can afford it, beef or goat soup! Then we are ready to begin the day.

Nothing wrong in all that, except that if after we have thus filled our bodies we find we have no idea about what to do for our souls, then there is a problem. May God help us!

Let us take time, energy and everything else that we have to make sure our souls are prospering.

Yes, we can even use our money and material wealth to prosper our souls by giving to the poor. There are some rich Christians who call the poor lazy. This is a big insult to God because the Bible says that if you lend to the poor you lend to the Lord; which means that God recognizes and respects the poor as they are and He puts Himself on their side.

Human pride, Bwana!