Receiving The Inheritance – Part 1

5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ;

6 Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

7 With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men:

8 Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.

9 And, ye masters, do the same things unto them, forbearing threatening: knowing that your Master also is in heaven; neither is there respect of persons with him. Eph. 6:5-9

For almost two years ago now, one of the brothers in our church has been working as a bus conductor in a certain bus company. The people who own this company, who are Muslims, really mistreat the brother. When he is not on the road they get him to do the most menial jobs at the office: sweeping the office floor, and sometimes the entire compound; cleaning and dusting the tables, windows, doors and even the toilets. His employer treats him like trash simply because he is saved. It is not his job to do these menial tasks, but his employer makes him do them out of spite. He regularly says to him, “I will break you until you agree to become a Muslim.”

His employer’s special “punishment” initially was to make sure the brother would not attend Sunday church service. Even when he was not on the road, he had to ask for permission to attend church by messaging; and if his message was not acknowledged – none of his messages ever were – he had to report at the office.

One day, I told him, “Brother, whenever you are not on the road on Sunday, come to church. God will take care of everything.”

The man began coming to church, and his employer has never asked him a question since.

Initially, the mistreatment he received at the hands of his employer placed a heavy toll on our brother’s patience. He had thought of leaving the job; but jobs are hard to come by nowadays. So he persisted. But the gospel teaches that we are to serve our masters from the heart; how could one serve such masters from the heart?

The secret, as the Bible teaches, is to do things “as unto Christ”, and not to men. Colossians 3:23-24 says:

“23 And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; 24 Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.

Our “inheritance”, or reward, is not with men. It is with God, and therefore, it is God that we should serve, and not men. But that’s pretty tough when God commands us to serve Him by serving men!

But let us go back to our key scripture above, Ephesians 6:5-9.

Let us first begin by asking: what does the scripture mean by “neither is there respect of persons with him”?

Remember God is talking to the church here. This scripture therefore simply means that we are all equal in the sight of God. Due to our fallen nature, men have a tendency of categorising men in the natural. Having categorised them, we then handle them according to the categories that we have assigned them. When we encounter a rich or important person, for example, our demeanour changes all of a sudden. We bring out the best in us. Sometimes we can do things that can even surprise us.

Another example is when a person from the Third World meets a person from the West. I know this is tough to admit, but it is true. Under normal circumstances, such an encounter is quite a study in human psychology! But this state of affairs is of God because God said:

“25 … Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. 26 And he said, Blessed be the LORD God of Shem; and Canaan shall be his servant.” Gen. 9:25-26

Some people have a problem with this scripture, but why should you have a problem with something that God said in the natural?

But in the Spirit, praise God, we are all equal in God’s house!

That is why the Bible is quick to remind the church that with God there is no respect of persons, lest any believer consider their natural score as anything with God. God only distinguishes in the Spirit, and this is why we need to strive to serve God in the Spirit, i.e. with the fruit of the Spirit. For we who are called to be spiritual, everything is to be done from the heart, the heart of Christ. The Bible tells us that God is love. We are to do everything out of love. When in a position of servanthood (or slavehood), therefore, we will serve out of love – love for the person we are serving and love for Christ.

Love engages our hearts. With love, it does not matter whether men see our service or not. We will not work very hard when the master is around and throw our tools down the minute his car drives out of the gate. We will not smile at him but harbor a grudge against him.

No, we will smile at our master and serve him with all our strength because we love him. Love is something far more superior than the cheap menpleasing stuff we carry on with. We could say that love is the true servant. If we do not have love in us, our service is hollow, and futile.

Today, of course, this scripture applies mostly to contractual, paid servants. But in Roman times, when Paul penned these words, most “servants” were actually slaves. And we all know who a slave is. A slave has no freedom of his own and he is to do his master’s bidding by compulsion, if necessary. And yet these slaves were the very people that Paul was addressing here, telling them to work for their masters

“with good will doing service, as to the Lord”!

I believe in our time and generation we are privileged. We have many privileges and one of them is that we are privileged to be free. Let us not abuse this freedom. Let us rather benefit from it by using our freedom to serve both God and men from the heart, with an open heart, joyfully and with all our strength.

Sharing In Abraham’s Reward Through Suffering

19 There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:

20 And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,

21 And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.

22 And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;

23 And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. Lk. 16:19-23

Notice that when Lazarus died he was carried by angels straight into Abraham’s bosom. That little piece of news has deep spiritual implications. It means, first, that Lazarus had the same faith that Abraham had. Secondly, it translates to the fact that, ultimately, Lazarus shared in Abraham’s spiritual promise.

But Lazarus must have paid a heavy price for his faith, and this is the essence of this post. His physical condition must have been the butt of his neighbors’ jokes. I actually give this rich man credit for allowing Lazarus to be laid at his gate. But, obviously, he would not allow himself to interact further with such a lowly species.

But, as he sat at his neighbor’s beautifully-emblazoned gate waiting for the crumbs, Lazarus must have shared his message of salvation to anyone who cared to listen. He preached! The rich man’s words in verse 27 indicate he was aware that Lazarus could deliver a message. He must have heard him share often of the hope that he had in him.

But I can imagine people shaking their heads as they passed by and saying to Lazarus, “If you have a God, where is He? How can you be in such a condition and claim to have this all-powerful God?”

They would have told him, “Look, man; you have a wonderful message, but we don’t see much of this great God you talk about!”

And Lazarus probably would have tried to explain to them that God is not found in outward conditions but in the things that have to do with our hearts. But people look on the outside. Few would have paid any attention to him. As far as they were concerned, he was not representative of an all-powerful God.

People of the world cannot see into God’s spiritual Kingdom. They cannot discern the deep inner work of the Holy Spirit in a man’s heart, a work accomplished through suffering. Unfortunately, this worldly spirit has also crept into the church. God’s people no longer see in the Spirit. They look on the outside. They see God only in blessings. You will hear people say, “So-and-So is so blessed! He just bought a new car.”

Well, we thank God for cars for they can take you from point A to B much quicker than walking on foot or riding on a bicycle. But cars are hardly the blessing that God promised Abraham. When you die, the fact that you owned a car will not usher you into Abraham’s bosom.

In most churches today, if someone is poor, or if they are suffering in one way or another, it is automatically translated that they do not have faith. And yet, it is in this very crucible of suffering that God works on us to perfect us! Sometimes God will even allow a sickness to stick with us just so He can work in us through it.

And so, in the midst of his very difficult situation, Lazarus kept his faith. As people jeered and wondered aloud where his God was, Lazarus allowed God to perfect His work in him. He kept his faith.

When he died he was received in Abraham’s bosom. He shared in Abraham’s reward.

As children of God, we cannot allow outside circumstances to dictate to us. We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who also suffered in the flesh. Jesus suffered in His flesh, but He kept His faith. He is our example. We must be ready to identify our lives with His, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

[Below: On some routes in Tanzania, “bora ufike” (just as long as you arrive) is the key word. In this photo, to the left, in a space reserved for only one passenger, four more are crammed in. The lady on the near right side is seated directly on my lap]

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We Are Spiritual… (Part 2)

Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Countless times the Bible makes it clear that there are things of the flesh and things of the spirit; and that God wants us to be spiritual people.

There are joys of the flesh, for example, and joys of the spirit. The two are as disparate as night and day. There is absolutely no relation between what the flesh considers joy and what the spirit considers joy. Some preachers would want us to believe contrariwise, but no, there is no Biblical basis for that.

You cannot compare the joy of a Christian who is walking in spiritual victory, totally free from the vagaries of the flesh, the world and the Devil with one who is rejoicing in the hollow delight of owning material, or physical things. Those are two types of joys that are as different as night is from day. Last Sunday I was preaching in church about walking in freedom and I made the statement: “There is not a greater joy for a young man than to be able to walk down the street and be free of the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes!” I had recently posted an article about this subject on my blog and it was still fresh in my mind.

After the service a young man who had recently joined our church came up to me and Pastor Joshua as we were chatting and said, “Can I see you aside, dear pastors?”

We obliged and he proceeded to tell us with tears about how he was living a life of fornication with a girl he was secretly “engaged” to. He had been saved for a long time but apparently he had never met with the power of God. Today he felt that God had spoken to him and he wanted to repent.

I looked at the young man and marveled at the grace of God. This young man lived a good life and from what we knew about him he was self-sufficient in every respect. He was capable of living an independent life if he wanted to. There were many young men like him running in the streets, free from any moral obligation. But this young man’s spirit had a hunger for something spiritual. At that time he did not need a new car or a green card to the U.S. All he wanted was the spiritual inheritance that God promised Abraham and his seed. He wanted to be set free in his spirit! He wanted to walk in spiritual victory.

The kind of joy found in the spiritual world is something that neither the flesh nor a worldly mindset can understand. Unfortunately, many Christians today have a worldly mindset.

But we need to wake up in the Spirit and stop mixing the two. If God blesses us with worldly stuff, we should go ahead and thankfully enjoy it (without forgetting the poor, of course); but we should not for one moment think that that is our spiritual inheritance! Our spirits crave after, and actually need something else, something not of this world. We crave after spiritual things.

Consider the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:14-15, which he wrote under the anointing of the Holy Spirit: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.”

What is born of flesh is flesh, and what is born of Spirit is spirit. We are born of the Spirit of God.