“Exercise… Unto Godliness” – Part 1

1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;

3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:

5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.

7 But refuse profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise thyself rather unto godliness.

8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. 1 Tim. 4:1-8

One of the most accomplished guitarists I have ever met, a man named Bryceson, once told me that there is a principle in guitar-paying that states that:

  1. If you skip practicing for one day, you will notice the difference
  2. If you do not practice for two days, your fellow artists will take notice.
  3. If you fail to practice for three days, the audience will notice.

I believe it is even so with the church. Anything and everything requires practice in order to be perfected. And the Bible here tells us that it is no different with the things of the Spirit.

“Exercise thyself rather unto godliness.”

On our way towards perfection, we are to exercise ourselves greatly in the things of the Spirit.

There are many ways that one can exercise themselves in Godliness. As a young believer, I found myself immersing myself in the Word and in prayer. These things built up a strong foundation in my Christian life.

Something else happened in my life. I left off my old company. Actually, I did so in style. I used to hang out with a gang of three friends in college. When I got saved, I told them, “Guys, let’s go for a walk.”

We went out and I sat them down on a piece of rock. Then I stood in front of them and declared to them that I was now saved.

I will not go into the details of what followed next, but I can assure you there is no better way of saying bye to your former companions-in-sin. After preaching to them the little of salvation that I knew, I left them there, stunned and speechless, and I went my way to seek for brethren to fellowship with.

Those three steps are very important in our initial walk with the Lord. You cannot skip them in your growth in salvation. But as you grow older in your salvation, however, you realize that there is something else bothering you. There is another enemy: the enemy within. Yes, you begin to get acquainted with the greatest enemy of our souls: self.

That is when adulthood kicks in and you realize the battle has not been won yet. You are saved, yes; filled with the Holy Spirit, yes; you know the Bible, you’ve become a prayer warrior; you are probably casting out demons right and left; all your former friends are gone from your life (or you have managed to convert some); AND THEN, at some point in your life, you become aware of your own personal shortcomings and inner battles. This is where, if you are on the right foundation, the revelation of the cross comes in. You realize that you need to crucify your flesh.

It is mandatory that every believer arrive at this stage – the Pauline revelation of “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2) – otherwise he/she will remain a spiritual babe all their lives. Unfortunately, many believers do not arrive here. They never come to the realization that they need to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Christ. They follow after other gospels that veer off the narrow road. But self is our mortal enemy. The Apostle Peter exhorts us:

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Pet. 2:11).

The mature Christian realizes that the enemy of his soul is within, not without. He wars, not so much with the devil as with his flesh, and with sin. And there is only one weapon he has been given whereby he can win this battle: the cross. In the revelation of Christ crucified alone can the believer learn to “abstain from fleshly lusts”.

And he crucifies his flesh every day. That is his spiritual exercise.

“But refuse profane and old wives’ fables” (v.7)

The word “fables” is mentioned four times in the Pauline epistles; and all four times it is directed to Paul’s young disciples, Timothy and Titus. It is therefore evident that it is in the process of growing up in the Spirit, and especially as a preacher, that one can easily encounter and come under the influence of men’s wisdom, or fables.

One of the dangers of growing up as a young believer is the danger of being derailed by worldly wisdom. There are many people, especially religious leaders, who use more brain than the Spirit to try and understand the things of the Lord, and to lead others in the same. The more educated, the more this danger grows. The more weaponry the brain gets to fight the spirit with. That is why in 1 Timothy 1:4, Paul says:

“Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.”

The church is not a debating club. Nor is it a university where doctorates are offered. The church is a place where the Spirit of God is given full and free reign to reveal Christ, Christ crucified. This is what brings Godly edifying to God’s people.

Very educated people who are devoid of the Spirit love debating the Word of God and building un-Biblical doctrines. The Apostle Paul told Titus:

Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.” (Tit. 1:14)

Much desire after education brings these things into one’s life; but Godly edification simply relies on a humble heart.

“For bodily exercise profiteth little…”

Christians use this scripture to justify physical exercise. But God is not bothered with whether you exercise or not. You can be the most un-athletic person in the world and still go to heaven. And scripture here is not talking about such bodily exercise, anyway. On the contrary, it is talking about all the worldly education that we are hearing today in church thinly veiled as the gospel. You hear someone say, for example, “I believe prospering for the believer means prospering in their spirit, prospering in the finances, prospering in their health, prospering in their marriage, prospering in their job…”

What a concoction! Here there is no Spirit. God’s people are simply being exercised in their minds. And if you exercise yourself in all those things mentioned there, you will end up with very little profit in the Spirit.

[I love the simplicity of village folks. Lacking in the education of this world, but mature in the Lord]

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Seeing Like God

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ… Eph. 1:3

This scripture is so powerful! It talks, not only of the power of the Kingdom of God, but also of God’s focus.

If I went to the U.S. and tried to purchase things with my third world currency, everyone would be laughing at me. And yet, surprisingly, if someone made purchases in my country using the American dollar, they would be much welcome! The dollar is so powerful that it is usable virtually anywhere in the world. When it comes to currency, the rich and powerful in this world deal in dollars.

This is the difference between the things of the Spirit and the things of this world. The former is so much more powerful. The latter is weak and ultimately insignificant.

In everything, therefore, in totality and in His entirety, God deals in the Spirit, through the Spirit, and in the things of the Spirit. I remember one time my wife and I had a big financial need. The need had to do with the church, we had bound ourselves to it; but when the time arrived, we did not have the money. On the exact date that we were supposed to deliver the money, an amount of money was deposited into our personal account. My wife called me and said, “Someone told me there is some money in the bank, go check.”

I went and checked, and there was more money there than we needed to clear our debt to the church.

The money came out of the bluest blue. We had neither informed anyone nor solicited anyone for it.

It is easy and desirable for us to claim miracles like these, but much of the time we do it for our own personal advantage. But God never looks for the advantage of the flesh. He always looks for the advantage of the Spirit. In our case, He supplied our need miraculously because He knew it would do a work for Him.

God is so much more magnanimous, of course, and He blesses us even when our sights are not on the things of the Spirit. He blesses us even when all we want are His material blessings.

But for us the central question should be, What pleases the Lord? We should be interested in what pleases the Lord rather than what pleases us or having our needs met. We should not find leisure in the blessings that God gives us without considering whether we are pleasing God therein or not.

In Africa we often joke that when an African sees a white man he sees, not a fellow human being, but dollars. In other words, according to the joke, a white man is a bundle of walking dollars.

Well, God certainly views everything in about the same manner, except all that God sees is Spirit, spiritual. When God sees money, He sees it in the Spirit, i.e. what it can accomplish for His Kingdom. And when we talk of God’s Kingdom, we are talking of bringing men to become more like His Son Jesus. In the same manner, when God sees a car or a Gulfstream jet, He does not label it ‘private’ so He can ride it alone with His Son Jesus. No. God considers what that plane can do to bring men, women and families to attain to the three things that constitute His Kingdom: righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost! (Rom. 14:17)

Thank you, Jesus, for enabling us to see in the Spirit and to not become bound by the weak material viewpoint of this world.

[Mysterious pre-colonial rock paintings near Singida Town]

To Be Spiritually Wise

18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

20 And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain.

21 Therefore let no man glory in men. For all things are yours;

22 Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours;

23 And ye are Christ’s; and Christ is God’s. (1 Cor. 3:18-23)

What does it mean to be “foolish”? It means to not be knowledgeable of, to know nothing of that particular situation. It means to be unwise to. We are called upon to be fools in this world, that we may be wise with God.

A few weeks ago our nation went through the heat of a national election and, as is normal with any election, there was a lot of passion going around. After the election, the temperature rose even higher, with claims of election rigging, etc.

All this is normal with any election, of course. What is not normal is born-again believers becoming engaged in such furores. But, unfortunately, I saw a lot of such engagement in our country during the last elections. Brethren-in-Christ were so partisan! It was shocking to see believers so engaged in matters of this world. It appears that, particularly when it comes to politics, believers want to be involved right up front.

But the Bible says that our partisanship should only be in Christ and His heavenly Kingdom.

Politics is worldly business, not heavenly. And politics has a lot to do with our earthly rights, the very rights of which Jesus said we should deny ourselves. When we engage in political partisanship, it nearly always has to do with protecting our rights. And we can hardly call these rights spiritual.

It is the same with worldly activism of any sort. Be it political activism, environmental activism, or black lives “matter” activism – any kind of worldly activism is of the flesh. During His lifetime, our Lord’s nation, Israel, was in virtual slavery to the Romans. But we never read one word of any form of activism, ‘civil’ or otherwise, coming from the Lord. And we all know that the Romans did not handle the Israelites with kid’s gloves.

Jesus did not engage in the activism of this world simply because His Kingdom was not worldly, but spiritual. This is the same Kingdom that we have been born into as born-again believers. We therefore have absolutely no business with the ‘rights’ of this world. When it comes to our rights in this world, we have nothing. Try talking about rights to the Christians who are being beheaded for the gospel’s sake in the Middle East. They have been stripped of any right that they have, even the right to life. But they have Christ, and that is enough. Indeed, we consider them blessed. Christ is our final reward, not anything of this world. Not even our lives. There are certain gospels, chief of which is the prosperity gospel, that teach that our reward is this world and its things, including money. That is a monstrous lie.

Notice the Bible says that all things are ours, including death. There are a lot of bad things that are ours also, including suffering – suffering of many different kinds. The Bible says that all things are ours.

Indeed, were we to understand it, we would realize that this is an incredibly glorious scripture. For, apart from present things, whether good or bad, this scripture talks of other, more glorious things. For example, “…things to come; all are yours”.

Do you know “things to come”?

Let us attempt to interpret “all things are yours”. Firstly, it is that believers will undergo both the good and the bad in this world. We are free to enjoy the good; but we should also be equally free in our spirits to persevere in the bad (Job 2:10).

Secondly, it is that all the things of this world, including the things that we might undergo, are under our dominion. We have victory over them! This is because our spirits – which have been surrendered to Christ – have victory over all these things, for Christ has won us the victory in the Spirit.

But how about us? We are Christ’s! There is nothing that is above us, except Christ. And Christ is God’s. Is it not wonderful that nothing above us other than Christ? Is it not incredibly wonderful that we are Christ’s and, ultimately, God’s? It is an incredible thought indeed.

Having the mind of this world, and being knowledgeable in worldly affairs is not of God. It is of the flesh, and of the world. It comes from the deep, carnal lusts of the flesh.

This lust after worldly knowledge and worldly involvement comes about because people have not crucified their flesh, or carnal nature. They want to know the world because, although saved, they are still men and women of the flesh.

These lusts are what need to be crucified. Such a man or woman will have many other lusts, because they have not crucified the flesh.

Brethren, we have an astonishing inheritance awaiting us in the Spirit. Let us crucify the flesh, and accept to be foolish in the ways of this world, that we might be wise in spiritual matters. We are to know nothing in this world – except Christ.

True knowledge – true wisdom – is to know the will of God. And you cannot know God’s will while you are in the flesh. Knowing God’s will means walking in the Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit. That is why we need to crucify the flesh.

Personally, I thank God for our nation, Tanzania. There is so much peace and stability, in contrast to many other countries in the world. There is comparatively so little internal strife.

This is God’s desire for every nation. It is the Biblical standard for every nation on earth. The purpose is for all people to hear the gospel and be saved. The Apostle Paul writes:

“1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; 4 who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim. 2:1-4)

When I look at my country, Tanzania, I find I have an environment wherein I can share the gospel freely and peaceably. I pray fervently that God may continually grant this nation this state of affairs.

[Below: To be a Christian is to be foolish in this world]

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There’s Balm In Gilead!

Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there? why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered? Jer. 8:22

I love the Apostle Paul with all my heart! The Apostle Paul is not someone you can love emotionally. He is not a rock star. You can only love the Apostle Paul in the Spirit, and I thank God for that.

Paul was he who paid the price to bring the life of Jesus Christ to the church. He suffered with Christ. And through his ministry, today there is healing balm in Gilead! There is healing balm in the church.

For that very reason, if any man cannot love the Apostle Paul, let him be accursed. Yes, let him be accursed.

The Israelite people in Jeremiah’s time underwent an extremely rough time. There came a time when there was no balm in Gilead! The spiritual health of an entire nation was appalling! And the Prophet Jeremiah lamented for the nation of Israel, God’s own people.

You may not believe it, but today the spiritual situation of God’s people is even worse. And yet, under the New Covenant, the answer to the question, “Is there no balm in Gilead; is there no physician there?”

is a resounding “Yes!” There is healing balm and there is a Physician in Gilead! Praise God for that!

But the enemy is also at work. I know of preachers who sell oil and claim it is the balm of Gilead. But God in Jeremiah is not talking about these conmen. He is talking about the things of the Spirit, and the things of men’s hearts. If someone can give or sell you oil that can deal with the things of your heart, then he will have nailed it for you. But I can assure right here that if you are ever going to meet up with such a preacher, he will not be selling you oil in a bottle. In any case, true preachers of God’s Word are not easy to come by. In fact, considering that today’s church has almost been totally over-ran by the enemy, the chances of finding such a man are getting exponentially more difficult to attain.

The church is filled with conmen masquerading as bearers of God’s healing balm…

But once in a while God comes across a good man, like He did with Paul. With God, of course, the good man is the man who is willing to be crucified with Christ. And God takes such a man and, through the cross of Christ, shapes him into His sharp instrument.

Isaiah saw that in the Spirit, for he says: “15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. 16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (Is. 41:15-16)

This new instrument that God creates has teeth! In other words, it is effective. It has power in the Spirit, and it performs God’s work fully, effectively.

I truly thank God for the Apostle Paul. Paul put himself under the workmanship of God under the cross, and the result is that he brought life to the church. Oh, that the entire church were as willing to face the cross as the Apostle Paul was! There would be a spiritual revolution the world over.

But that is not the case. Actually, in light of the New Covenant, Jeremiah was prophesying about the modern church, and he was lamenting its state. He asks, “… why then is not the health of the daughter of my people recovered?”

Which translates to, “Why is the church walking in sin? why are God’s people walking in spiritual defeat?”

That is the question we need to ask ourselves today. We are not to be bothered with, “Why do I have no food on my table?”, or, “Why have my children been sent home for lack of school fees?” for these are the things that seem to concern the modern church the most.

In truth, the real concern of the gospel is to change the inner character of those who would believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Our real task is in the Spirit, to walk in the revelation of the cross.

And so I wholeheartedly thank God for the Apostle Paul. This was the man whom God prepared in order that he might bring life to the church. Paul brought life to the church by allowing the cross to work in him. God invested in him the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God, the healing balm that would heal the wound of God’s people.

The wound of God’s people, the church, is sin. The gospel of the cross of Jesus carries the life of Christ, which is the balm that heals the wound of sin in the church. When God’s people are daily confronted by the cross, they learn to deal with the carnal nature of their lives, and thus defeat sin in their lives.

Today, the church is deceived, and they spend all their time casting out demons of every sort in their lives. They cast out demons of fear, demons of theft, demons of anger, demons of witchcraft, etc.

But the Bible says that these things dwell in our hearts. And we cannot “cast out” these things from our hearts with a word. On the contrary, we must face the knife and have them circumcised from our hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit.

The only thing, therefore, that can deal with the things of a man’s heart is the cross of Jesus Christ.

That is why Paul, writing to the Corinthians, reminded them that when he went to preach them the gospel at the first: “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2).

I root for that with all my heart. I can imagine the determination in Paul’s heart. In the face of every kind of opposition, “… I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified”!

How truly wonderful.

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Grace For Compassion

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. Lk. 10:30-37

Have you ever thought on forgiveness? Have you ever wondered why we need to forgive people, and especially those who have grievously hurt us?

There was a time when I thought that in the above story Jesus was referring to actual robbers. But one day the Lord opened my eyes to see that the story is beyond flesh and blood robbers. Instead, it is about people who have been robbed of something in the spirit realm.

In the spiritual world, the devil is the real robber and he robs men and women of the things of the heart. And when men have been robbed of the things of the heart, their hearts become empty and dark. They therefore become bitter, angry, hurting, and sinful.

But notice also that this scripture is talking about compassion, and mercy. When we are carrying selfish hearts we think about ourselves. As they say, we look out for No. 1 – our own interests, our own lives. When people therefore hurt us, we think of how much we have been hurt. But when we carry the heart of Christ, we think of the suffering and emptiness in those people’s souls. That is why we can forgive them. Compassion is the foundation upon which forgiveness rests.

God’s Kingdom is all about the heart. Therefore, in this parable, Jesus was talking about the heart, a compassionate heart.

Let us take the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. His was a very real and physical experience. After they had finished crucifying Jesus, His many tormentors did many other hurtful things to Him. But I believe it was the words that they spoke to Him that must have caused Him the greatest amount of pain. In the Gospel of Mark we read,

“29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, 30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross. 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.” Mk. 15:29-32

Now, remember that Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I. The words came at Him like barbed arrows, and they were intended to hurt Him. Do you know what it means for someone to wag their head at you? It means they utterly despise you. And – unless you are made of stone – it hurts. It hurts real bad.

But, y’know, the way we are, when we read these words, we think, “Oh, that’s easy. I could take that.”

But no; it is not easy, and no, you could not have taken it. The way we are today, few of us could have come to taking the hurt. Why? Because our lordship the flesh has not been crucified and therefore our personalities are bigger than the Lord Jesus Himself. The result? We trip at the tiniest slight upon our perceived rights and dignity!

But what did the Lord do? Did He get bitter? Did He feel degraded and vow  they would pay for it? No. On the contrary, he saw the misery in their hearts, and had compassion on them. And in His mercy He prayed for them:

“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” Lk. 23:34

Jesus did not pray for His tormentors because “it is written”. On the contrary, His prayer was born of compassion, and mercy. By doing this, He revealed true love.

I can vouch for the fact that were it not for the nails holding Him up there, Jesus would have come down and even in His pain He would have held them all in His arms and – if only they would open their hearts – fill them to the brim with His grace. Did He not say so Himself? (see Mat. 23:37; Lk. 13:34)

Let us consider briefly the Apostle Paul. Have you ever wondered why Paul would write:

“1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, 2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. 3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” Rom. 9:1-3?

Paul wrote this out of love. In his love for his fellow Jews, Paul would gladly have given up his place in Christ for them! Such a thought is unfathomable..

Lastly, let us take a look at Stephen. When the Jews stoned Stephen,

“… he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:60).

Did Stephen “copy” Jesus’s words at the cross? No. Stephen’s words came from the heart. Stephen had the heart of Jesus, a heart which had a limitless amount of love such that he could show mercy on his tormentors.

I once heard a preacher say, “Stephen asked God to forgive the Jews only this particular sin (of stoning him). They will answer for the rest!”

But those are vengeful words, and that is neither the heart of Christ, nor was it the heart that Stephen carried. Both Jesus and Stephen loved their persecutors, and they had mercy on them. If you love someone, you cannot ask God to forgive them only a specific sin and at the same time ask Him to make sure they pay for all their other sins!!

The story of the Good Samaritan is especially relevant in the case where a brother or sister has stumbled, or has wronged us. In both cases that we have reviewed above, God revealed His heart for the fallen Jews through the words that Jesus and Stephen spoke: “Forgive them”. His was a heart full of mercy.

In the same way, we ought to see deep into the heart of a brother who has stumbled and fallen. We ought to have a heart of mercy towards them. It is they who are actually suffering. They have been robbed of something; that is why they are doing what they are doing, even if they are doing it against us. We are called upon to lay down our lives for such brethren, if perchance they might arrive at a place of repentance.

It is in the same vein that we evangelize. We should not evangelize to fill up our churches. We should evangelize because we love people. The Apostle Paul says:

“For the love of Christ constraineth us” (2 Cor. 5:14).

Paul did not say, “The law constrains us”. Unfortunately, for many people it is all about the law. It is about fulfilling a certain program. But law and programs have no power to bring life. They have no heart. That is why the priest and the Levite – who were men of law – could not help the wounded man. They were more dead than he.

Love is sensitive in the Spirit and it keenly feels, not its own pain, but the pain of others. It knows, not what it has been robbed of, but what others have been robbed of. The heart of God is a heart of compassion, compassion beyond belief. He can see deep into the miseries that men suffer.

But the even better news is that God has the perfect remedy for our suffering souls. He has given His life for us. He has paid the sacrifice for our deliverance. If we will only humble ourselves and cry to Him, He will give us the grace we need to be rich again in our spirits.

[Below: “Go… go and do thou likewise”]

Money And The Crucified Life

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25It 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. Mat. 10:23-25
Most rich people won’t go to heaven. That’s a Biblical fact and there is no need to burst a pressure nerve over such a statement. Jesus Himself said it, so we better believe it.
“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”, He said.
I have read many research papers on this scripture, people turning every tiny leaf to see what Heaven could possibly have meant by such an impossible declaration. Some people even take hundreds of hours studying the historical aspects of the camel!
Jesus’ words are so hard, and many times people find it extremely difficult to take them at face value!
But how about we just take that scripture just as it is written there? How about we don’t add or remove anything from those words?
In any case, what are we trying to accomplish by skirting around these words exactly as they are put forth? Persecution? Yes, there is definitely some form of suffering involved when you touch on people and their love for the things of this world. The flesh is bound up with the things of this world.
If Jesus said it is hard for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God, let’s believe it, it is hard.
What does it mean to be rich, anyway? It means to possess things, the things of this world. Have you ever wondered why many rich people are rich, in the first place? It is because their hearts are bound up with the things that they possess! They love the things of this world. Were their hearts not set on those things, were their hearts set fully on God’s spiritual Kingdom, they would sell all they had and give the proceeds thereof to the poor. In other words, a man who has the wherewithal to make wealth in this world ought to be a recycling plant for God’s wealth, distributing the proceeds thereof to alleviate the suffering of the poor, both in and outside of the church.
That’s another hard-to-swallow fact, but it is there in the Bible. We can only deny it at our own peril. Alternatively, we can accept it and begin to align our lives with its requirements by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
But does Jesus’ words in Mark 10:23-25 mean we are not to be rich? Is He suggesting it is a sin to be rich? By no means!
If a rich man can handle the wealth of this world at arms’ length and allow it not to go into his heart, may the Name of the Lord be praised for such a man. The Bible says that Jesus Himself was a rich Man, but He became poor that we might be rich. Philippians 3 also tells that the Apostle Paul suffered the loss of all things. Apart from the things that he mentions, Paul probably was an heir to a rich earthly inheritance, who knows?
A rich man who can bear to let go is the only rich man who can live for God’s purpose. Such is the only rich man who will enter into the Kingdom of God.
The singular reason many rich people will therefore not enter into heaven is because they have a love for things; they love the world, and the things in it. As we earlier noted, that is why many are rich in the first place. They love to possess things.
The Apostle John said that if we love the world and the things that are in it, the love for the Father is not in us (1 Jn. 2:15).
Wealth is more likely to corrupt a man or woman of God than to make them more God-like. Remember, wealth is a god (Mat. 6:24). Worldly wealth (or mammon) is the god of this world. That means it has power. That is why every man in the world is born running after that all-important hard currency, and the things of this world. The men and women of the world are under the power of mammon right from birth.
That is why we need a revelation of the cross. At the cross we can crucify the flesh, and neither money, nor wealth, nor anything of this world will have any power over us. You could own a worldly conglomerate, and it would have no power over you. On the other hand, you could own nothing and yet in your heart you are richer than the richest man on earth.
If two such men met, they would meet on level ground; none would feel more or less important than the other. It would be a fellowship where the Spirit of God ruled supreme.
The bottom line is that when we are walking that thin line of wealth, we better make sure our flesh is firmly nailed on the cross.
It is the same with women. To a man, a woman is fire! It is safer for a man to distance himself from women than to be near them and to commit fornication. The Apostle Paul says: “It is good for a man not to touch a woman” (1 Cor. 7:1) .
But, again, blessed is the man who has control over his carnal vessels and who can interact freely with members of the opposite sex and be of benefit to them in the Spirit. This speaks of someone who has crucified their flesh. This is far more desirable in the Spirit than running away from women.
Jesus lived freely with many women, some who even ministered to Him with their wealth (Luke 8:3). But Jesus did not “touch” any woman in the wrong sense. That does not mean that He did not touch them physically. He surely must have touched them as He ministered to them; He must have embraced them out of the Godly love that He had for them. I am sure there was a lot of physical interaction between Jesus and these women, especially considering the fact that Jesus was a Man who was free in His spirit. But it would not even have crossed His mind to think of them in a sensual manner.
Jesus was a man who had crucified His flesh long even before He bore the cross for us.
It was the same with the apostles. There was not a whiff of sexual irresponsibility with these men. They were men whose lives were crucified with Christ.
There are many religions in the world today and invariably the first thing you hear about them is how the top “guru” is taking all the women he desires from his flock for his wives. That is the spirit of the world.
Unfortunately, this worldly spirit has penetrated into the church of Christ. True, there are a few men of God who have crucified their flesh; but a large majority of preachers and church leaders are using their positions to do many bad things with the women in their churches. The spirit of the world – the old man of the flesh – has total control over these men.
If these men cannot rein in their lusts and crucify them, they will not enter into the Kingdom of God. And nor, sadly, will the women with whom they are sleeping around, saved or not. It is as simple as that.

[Below: A lone Nyaturu homestead sits in the bush in Central Tanzania. Here hyenas roam freely at night and even during the daytime]

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Free!

1 And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.

2 And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?

3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.

4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.

5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

6 When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay,

7 And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing. Jn. 9:1-7

In the above scripture, the progression of events is of greater significance than anything else. Notice Jesus said something, then He did something. Jesus told His disciples: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents”! Then, He healed the man.

So what happened here? Jesus healed the man, sure. But first He set him free in his spirit.

People don’t read the Bible enough, especially the New Testament. Actually, many more Christians today read the Old Testament more than the New, and it just leaves them feeling old on the inside!

Much of the Old Testament is about law. There is very little there about God’s grace. And if you build your spiritual life upon the precepts of the Old Testament, you will never come to an understanding of God’s grace. You will never understand freedom. You will become a person of law. You will become hard as a doorknail. That is why there is so much law in the church today. People love putting law on other people, and they love putting it on themselves also – and this is destroying the church. This is especially so when it comes to teachings on healing and material blessings.

When we read what the Apostle John says in 1 John 3:8, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” and relate it to Jesus’ words here, it is clear that God is not involved in putting misfortunes on people; the devil is. It is impossible that “the works of the devil” can also be “the works of God”! And Jesus was about the Father’s works, which is defeating Satan’s works of darkness, be it sin or disease. Nowhere in the New Testament is it recorded that someone’s illness or disease or whatever hard luck came upon them came about because they had sinned. It is true that Jesus told someone, after He had healed him, to sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee” (Jn. 5:14); but that does not mean it would be God who would be putting that “worse thing” upon that person. In fact, in John 9, where Jesus’ disciples sought to associate the man’s blindness with himself or his ancestors, Jesus did the exact opposite: He dis-associated the man from the affliction!

This brings us to the subject of “generational curses”, which is a topic that is taught in African (and probably Western) churches as naturally as breathing air. They teach that God punishes us for our sins up to the fourth generation. I never saw that in the New Testament. I think I saw it somewhere in the Old Testament. They also teach that you need to be ‘delivered’ from these curses. I also have never seen that in the New Testament. But these things are being taught in church today, and they are killing God’s people.

But from Jesus words in John 9, such a teaching is unscriptural. Does it mean this blind man, of whom Jesus said, “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents” had never actually sinned? Never an unseemly word left his mouth, nor an evil thought his mind? Absolutely not! This man and his parents were as much sinners as anybody else was.

But Jesus came to reveal God for who He truly was, a God of grace (Jn. 1:17). Jesus never revealed God as a God of law. Law talks of anger and retribution. There was a lot of that under the Old Covenant. But under the new, there was to be only grace.

Wonders…! Under the new dispensation, the dispensation of grace, Jesus exonerated the man and his parents from any wrongdoing in relation to his affliction! What freedom!

When we who live under the New Covenant in any way make it look like God is making or allowing people to suffer because they have sinned against Him, we are implying that God is still living in the Old Testament; that God is a still a God of law. In the same way, when we walk around putting law on people and trying to make them feel guilty or sorry for themselves because they have not gotten healed or because they have not been ‘blessed’ in a certain manner, by telling them they have no faith, then we are walking under the Old Covenant. We are men and women of law and we want to put people under law, in bondage!

Well, we could remain under the Old Covenant and under law, but God is no longer there. Through the shedding of the blood of His Son Jesus, God has inaugurated a New Covenant for all who will believe on Him. And this New Covenant talks of freedom above anything else. Total, perfect freedom, not half, or bits and pieces of freedom. Happy is the man who, under any circumstances, be they good or bad, be they fortunes or misfortunes, does not feel judged, but rather feels free and loved by God. That means that the man who receives healing from God can rejoice in his healing in total freedom and thanksgiving to God. In the same manner, the man who walks away from an open-air meeting without having received his healing can go home still thankful to God because he is free in his spirit. This is faith.

It is true we must cast out the works of the enemy. Jesus said, I must work the works of him that sent me” – to destroy the works of the devil. But we must do it in a spirit of freedom, in the knowledge that God is on our side, not against us. What, then, if we do not have enough faith to effectively resist the devil? Are we ‘guilty’ of anything in God’s sight because of this? Hardly. We are still free. God is still our Father, and we are still as beloved in His sight as if we had all the faith in the world.

Why? Simply because we now live under grace, not law!

And what if we do sin? There is still no condemnation. Why? Because we live under grace, not law!

Not that God is happy when we sin; but still He will not allow Himself to relate to us in the spirit of law. He will continue loving us till we repent. More importantly, God’s grace is more than sufficient to set us free from our sin.

We cannot limit God’s grace!

[Below: In Christ Jesus, the well and the unwell, the sinner as well as the sinless, the rich and the poor – whatever state we are in – we are all free, in Him!]

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