The Case For Humility

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;

26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. 28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Rom. 3:19-28

The Apostle Paul said, “I am what I am by the grace of God” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Hmmm. Much food for thought there.

The truly remarkable thing about Paul is that from the moment he understood the righteousness of God, he walked in that righteousness to the end. He was able to completely cast off his own righteousness.

Many of us might not be aware of it, but walking in the righteousness of God is the steepest gradient we will ever confront in our spiritual “safari”. This is because the righteousness of God is the basis of our salvation; but the human nature within us wants to institute its own false righteousness. We like to think we are good. That is nothing but human pride.

Without a doubt, the greatest contradiction in God’s Kingdom is a proud Christian. This is someone who does not understand the basis of his salvation. We could also say he does not understand the basics of salvation. He does not understand the littlest rudiment of the gospel. As such, he is a babe in Christ.

Sadly, there are many preachers, pastors, prophets, apostles and other men of God who are proud, by which definition they are babes in Christ. (If you haven’t seen a proud “servant of God”, you must have just walked in from the moon. They are packed in the ministry! And while we are still at it, did you notice how the word “ministry” sometimes rhymes in with “nursery”? And that’s seriously speaking.)

A proud Christian is someone who does not understand the rot he is or was until Jesus came to wash him clean. The Bible says clearly, “All have sinned”. There is no way, even by the longest stretch of the imagination, that man could conceive of himself as sinless. But still God takes the trouble to show us that we are (Rom. 3:9-18).

That leaves God, and God alone, righteous. As impossible as it is to conceive of ourselves without sin, it is equally impossible to visualize God as having sin.

There are some things that our spirits understand which our human mind does not.

The basis of our salvation is therefore Christ. In Him is God’s righteousness revealed. Jesus came and died on the cross so that God’s righteousness may be imputed to us. The word “imputed” means “credited”. Therefore, God’s righteousness is credited to us when we believe on Jesus. By His death on the cross, Jesus offered up a sacrifice that sufficed fully for God to be able to impute His righteousness to us.

That is why the Apostle Paul concludes that a man is justified before God by faith without the works of the law.

Works are good and they are certainly demanded of us. But you cannot put the cart before the horse. Works not built on the foundation of the righteousness of God are like rags of cloth in God’s eyes.

In verse 27 the apostle asks, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (v. 27).

Faith decrees or acknowledges that we are what God’s Word says we are – rotten – and that there is none righteous, except God Himself. By His own love for us He decided to impute His own righteousness to us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus Christ, that we might become righteous, just as He is righteous.

Those are three incredibly important facts tied in together. And our position in that equation is not an enviable one.

Where is our boasting, then? Where is the place for human pride? None whatsoever. The minute we allow ourselves to think of anything of us outside the realm of God’s righteousness, we automatically go back to our old state – rotten.

God’s righteousness and our own righteousness. The presence of one throws out the other.

Dare we then think of ourselves as anything? Not unless, of course, we are bewitched. We could laugh at the word “bewitched” there were it not for the unsavoury truth that our bewitcher is the carnal nature which we carry within us. One careless moment and we get entangled in its snare.

This is the nature that needs to be crucified. And this is where the word “maturity” comes in.

That is why every Christian needs to grow, to mature. We need to go beyond a rudimentary understanding of the cross. We need to understand the cross’s ability to mature us in Christ. Our understanding of the basics of our salvation is tied in with our spiritual maturity. The more you grow spiritually, the more you understand God’s righteousness as opposed to ‘your’ righteousness.

That is why the truly mature Christian is also the truly humble Christian.

[Below: Are we daily crucifying the flesh and racing on towards maturity … and an understanding of the righteousness of God?]

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The 5-Fold Ministry: Benjamin, or Joseph’s Half-brothers?

And he took and sent messes unto them from before him: but Benjamin’s mess was five times so much as any of theirs. And they drank, and were merry with him. Gen 43:34

Notice that Benjamin was given five times as many portions of food as his other brothers were given by Joseph. That is truly spiritual language!

Let us also consider Genesis 45:22: “To all of them he gave each man changes of raiment; but to Benjamin he gave three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.” Here again, Joseph gave gifts to his brothers (whom I deliberately call half-brothers), but the Bible takes the pain to tell us that Joseph gave to Benjamin “three hundred pieces of silver, and five changes of raiment.”

Benjamin was Joseph’s true brother, born of the same mother, Rachel. Joseph’s actions in both these scriptures demonstrated his love for Benjamin. Joseph loved his other brothers also, but he loved Benjamin infinitely more. He therefore favoured him far above his brethren, and gave him gifts of far greater worth than the rest of his brethren.

While Joseph is a type of Christ, Benjamin is a type of the church, and the number “five” in both these scriptures speaks of the five-fold ministry – the apostle, the prophet, the evangelist, the pastor and the teacher. Christ’s love for the church is revealed in that He gave these five ministries to the church. The riches and privileges that Christ has for the church that are to be found in the operation of all these ministries, working together as a team within the church. The incredibly rich treasures that Christ has given to His church through the operation of these ministries are, simply, indescribable. The five-fold ministry is packed!

If Jesus had not intended for all these ministries to operate within the church in their totality, He would have given one, or two, or three. But He gave five.

That can only mean that when we talk of these ministries we must talk of them as one ministry. Hence, the five-fold ministry. The reference is right and true.

There is no place for the lone wolf ministry within the Body of Christ.

In Ephesians 3:14-21, the Apostle Paul makes a prayer for the Ephesian church. But notice that the apostle’s prayer that the Ephesians “might be filled with all the fulness of God” (v. 19) is directly linked to the operation of the five-fold ministry in their midst (Ephesians 4).

God’s intended goal for the church is for it to walk in “the fulness of God”, no less. And, pray, what is “the fulness of God”? It is that God’s people may mature in the Spirit, unto perfect men and women in Christ. The church can only be perfected through circumcising of our hearts and putting to death all the works of the flesh in our lives. It is a deep work of the Spirit, which can only be brought about by the revelation of the cross in our hearts. That is“the fulness of God”!

This revelation is something that only the five-fold ministry can accomplish (Eph. 3:1-12).

The five-fold ministry talks of teamwork. These five ministries – undergirded by the foundational ministry of the apostle – form a team. For Christ’s goal for the church to be realized these ministries must work as a team.

Today, much of what we see of God’s church are disembodied ‘ministries’ and denominations scattered all over the spiritual landscape. People think this is God’s plan for the church, and they cheer these ministries on. But no, that is not the church and we should stop cheering. Just from reading this scripture, we can tell that the concept of “church” without the five-fold ministry –working as a team – is simply not there. That word, “church”, is out of order where the five-fold ministry is not operational.

Single ministries, however ‘powerful’ are simply not God’s plan for the church. God is gracious and merciful and He will bless us here and there, in small ways and in big ways. There are many ways in which God could and does bless us. According to His magnanimous nature, therefore, God allows these single ministries to be there and to do a thing or two. But whatever these lone ministries do will never come close to the fullness of what God has for the church.

Any one ministry is a blessing to the church. But when the church is operating under a single ministry – be it a prophet, a pastor, or even an apostle – and not within the totality of the five-fold ministry, it in effect becomes like one of Joseph’s half-brothers, receiving piece-meal portions. Did Joseph’s brothers rejoice at his gifts? They did, of course! The gifts were big! But what they received was nothing compared to what Benjamin received. He received five portions – “the fulness of God”!

It is sad – and a shame – that men start ministries or churches which they turn into their own property. They establish personal ‘church dynasties’, where they operate their ministries single-handedly and after they move on they hand their ministries to their sons and grandsons. It is a vicious cycle designed to keep out the vitality of the Holy Spirit to touch people’s lives through allowing the five-fold ministry to operate within the church.

Christ loves His people. But if they will not allow the five-fold ministry to minister to them, there is no way He can perfect them and therefore God’s people will forever remain babes in the spirit. They will never mature spiritually. They will rejoice at the solitary “portions” that are handed to them – material needs, healing, lone ministries operating here and there – but they will never know the deep riches that Christ has for His church, the working of the cross in their lives to mature them, to perfect them, and to unite them in the Spirit. This is something that God’s people need to seriously desire in their lives.

We could say that the church’s sole calling is to operate under the five-fold ministry (Col. 1:24-29).

On their part, God’s servants need to seek for a revelation of the cross in their own lives so that they can humble themselves and see their need to seek other true ministries with which they can unite together to build the Body of Christ.

[Below: Sunsets are incredibly beautiful. Here, the sun sets in Dar es Salaam]

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A Sobering Thought

In 1977 U.S. scientists launched a spacecraft, Voyager, into space to take images of our solar system, including the planets within. It was a one-way mission; the spacecraft would never return to earth.

In 1990, the scientists commanded Voyager to turn around and take snapshots, in a panoramic view, of everything that it had covered on its way so far. By that time, the spacecraft was over 3 and a half billion miles away from the earth!

We could hardly claim to have gone that far with 1 Corinthians 2, so we will turn back and take one last look at this scripture.

Let us look up close, in particular, verse 3:

“And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

These are words that we should take very seriously. Not unless, of course, we choose to underestimate Paul. (We haven’t even touched on God here yet!)

Y’know, in several places Paul asks the church to consider him a fool. But Paul is trapping us!

Paul was no fool. He had more physical, mental and spiritual clout than any man that we know of. Indeed, Paul is the father of the modern church.

It is therefore wise and safe for us to heed every word that Paul says.

Now here Paul says that he preached the gospel to the Corinthians “in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.”

Why would Paul do so? It was because he feared to bring in something different from that which he had been commissioned to bring. You see, Paul was a bond slave of Jesus Christ, and in his desire to please his Master, he feared lest he deviate from the message that he had been sent to deliver – the singular message of the cross.

This, of course, was tied in with the fact that Paul loved the church with the love of Christ and he knew that the only thing that would bring it to the perfection that Christ purposed for it to arrive at was the gospel of the cross.

He writes to the Colossians: “1 For I would that ye knew what great conflict I have for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; 3 In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:1-3).

That was Christ’s love at work in Paul’s heart.

I believe that if we are serious with God, we too should fear and tremble. We should fear and tremble lest we are carrying and working on and glorifying something other than the singular message that the Apostle Paul carried – the message of the cross.

Not that we are not going to pray for the sick or that we are not going to desire miracles and other manifestations of God’s power in our midst. We definitely will. But we must first be settled on the right foundation – the foundation of the cross.

Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11: “10 According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon. 11 For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

There can be no other foundation for the church apart from that which has been laid by the true apostles of Jesus Christ, which is none other than Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.

We cannot make the physical manifestations of God’s power to be the foundation upon which a mature and perfect church is going to be built. Jesus told the Canaanite woman that the manifestations of God’s power are “children’s bread”! (Matt. 15:26)

But the Apostle Paul talks of something else. He says that there is strong meat which “belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14)

Notice the words “full age” in this scripture. Paul is here talking about the gospel that he carried, the gospel of the cross, which alone had the ability to bring God’s children into maturity.

We should fear and tremble lest we build on a gospel that will never bring God’s people to spiritual maturity, which is any other gospel apart from that singular gospel that Paul carried, the gospel of the cross.

[Below: Passengers board the bus that is to take us from Mwanza to Musoma…

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A bus conductor checks tickets on the bus…

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And we are finally on our way]

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A Spiritual Relationship – Part 2

I know there was a time I did not care the least bit about my relationship with my wife. I would fight with her and seconds later I would kneel down and begin claiming God’s promises for my life! One Sunday morning, after our normal fight I hurriedly left home and headed straight for church, where I lay in wait for her at the pulpit. From my position at the pulpit I could see anyone coming in all the way from the gate. Half an hour after I had arrived I saw her turning in at the gate and I prepared to strike. The minute she entered the church door, I shot one well-aimed poison barb that I knew would cripple her right there and then. Of course, I was not so stupid as to mention anyone by name, but I could see I had hit the bull’s-eye because she faltered in her step. It was a miracle that she sat through that service!

It is not easy to love. That is something I have come to discover. The words “I love you” fill the air but much of the time we do not realize that true love can only come out of a mature Christian. It can only come out of a heart that has been tested and tried by God Himself. And we can be assured that when God tries a man’s heart, it is no lullaby. He grabs you by the neck and gives you a bear-shake. The Bible puts it this way: “… but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, Yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that are made, that those things which cannot be shaken may remain” (Heb 12:26,27).

I have a responsibility to “publish” the Good News first in my family – to my wife and children – before I can step out that door. It is neither an easy undertaking, nor is it one that I can take lightly. But I must. I need to depend on the grace of God daily to accomplish this.

This is the reason I am obsessed with my wife. God is working in both of us to bring us to a place where we can relate to one another spiritually. A place where “iron sharpens iron”. A place where God’s truth reigns supreme between us. A place where one can tell the other, “No, don’t take that road!” A place where we are willing to lay down our lives (read rights) for one another.

God is not interested in a conventional husband/wife relationship. He expects something more, something infinitely much deeper, something spiritual.

Can anyone deny that Ananias and Sapphira, of whom we read in Acts chapter 5, ‘loved’ each other. Oh, yes, they did – to the extent that they could gang up to do evil together! Theirs was not a spiritual relationship. But God wants us in the Church to have a spiritual relationship. If the revelation of the Cross of Christ is there in a relationship, that is the right, spiritual relationship. If that revelation is not there in a couple’s lives and they are not carrying the death of Christ, theirs cannot be considered a spiritual relationship. It will be a relationship all right, but it is not spiritual.

Lastly, I can confess that allowing my flesh to be dealt with is the most difficult thing in my life. But, on the other hand, it is also the sweetest of victories when I find myself winning even a tiny bit of the many battles that the Spirit wages against the flesh in me. My greatest consolation is that I can see the narrow road ahead. I cannot say I see the end of it now, but I am sure if I keep walking it one day I shall lay hold of the crown of Life that awaits me at the end of this road. What a relief – and a joy – that will be!

A Mature Church Is Needed – Pt.2

There was a time when I did not want to hear such words. I wanted to remain in my comfort zone, safe in my ‘understanding’ that I had already passed from death into life. I hardly knew the depths of my rottenness and how much I needed that Cross to work in me!

I am made to understand that in some ‘developed’ countries there are laws against parents disciplining their children, either by beating them or otherwise. I thank God such a law has never applied in my life. When I was a kid growing up, there were no such laws either in my country, in my home, or anywhere close to me. I was beaten by my parents, my teachers and by any grown-up who felt I needed a beating. In that way, sense was beaten into me.

I have raised my kids in the same way. That modern ‘love’ stuff has never worked with my family. I love my kids, but not in that way, no sir! I prefer to be in the same league with God than with any baby, child, teen or whatever-rights-group. The Bible says about God and us: “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth” (Heb 12:6). Which basically means that if you do not do that sort of things with your kids you are in league with the devil. Believe it or not.

Now that my children are getting into their late teens I tell them, “If you never learned anything in this house, you will never learn it anywhere else!”

People want a light gospel; and they are getting tonnes of it today. Preachers are having a field day dealing out the easy charismatic gospel that has invaded the Church in recent times. This is a gospel that has nothing in it to confront the flesh. In fact, you tell Christians today that the flesh is a problem in the Church and that it needs to be crucified and they will tell you they are going to heaven by faith, not by works! Don’t judge, they say. If you become insistent you become their enemy. That was what happened to the Apostle Paul when he confronted the Galatian church (Gal. 4:16). They had turned back to their carnal, worldly ways and they did not want to hear anything that would confront them in that area.

I would want to tell you, though, that sin dwells in our flesh. There is no denying that fact. If you are the kind of Christian who has trouble with such statements, just stop right now and reflect on the fact that even your denial is a work of the flesh. It is true that Jesus died on the Cross to save us from our sins and to give us eternal life. But the Bible also says, …we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2Co 5:14-15). Jesus died so that we, too, would die. That’s what the Word is saying there. The gospel of Jesus Christ is all about dealing with sin through crucifying our carnal nature.

So much for the ‘bless-me’ gospels, which are actually enslaving Christians in perpetual babyhood. In fact, in this scripture, we are being told we need to move on from there. In other words, we need to hear something more solid than the ‘God-bless-me’ gospels. These kind of gospels will never deal with our carnal natures.

Anyone trying to belittle the power of sin in the flesh is effectively digging his/her own grave. The Apostle Paul never denied the fact that his flesh was a constant problem to him. He makes it abundantly clear that his real problem was the flesh. As a result, he did not simply preach the gospel; he crucified his body of sin. He constantly put it down and strove to completely do away with it. That is far removed from the goodie-goodie gospels we are hearing today of how God loves us and how He will see us all safely home. Yes, He will indeed see us safely home; but what responsibility have we? There are many things we do not know about that heavenly home. We could get there all right – and be unpleasantly surprised. The Bible says, “…And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1Jn 3:3).

It’s not like we are going to breeze into heaven by a faith that denies the working of the Cross in our lives. I believe we have an obligation to take to heart the many conditions that God attaches to His heavenly calling upon our lives.

A Mature Church Is Needed – Pt.1

“Would you say these words after me… say to the Lord, say, ‘You are my shield, you are my strength; my portion, my deliverer, my shelter; my strong tower; my very present help in time of need!’ Do you agree with that tonight? I know you do! Hallelujah!”

Does that sound familiar? You hear that kind of ‘faith talk’ all the time from preachers, singers and anyone who has the chance to lead God’s people in any kind of church service.

There is nothing wrong with these wonderful assurances, of course, but after being fed on this spiritual milk all our lives, it is highly unlikely we would want to hear anything different, especially any teaching that tried to put certain ‘conditions’ on us. A different message  would grate against the beliefs we have been indoctrinated into and we could even begin to believe that the Devil was involved.

One of the most difficult parenting tasks is trying to wean a baby off mother’s milk!

But the Bible makes it clear that the Church needs a different message from the one it is hearing today. The Church needs to hear something tougher. We cannot live on milk all our lives because that way we will never become spiritual. We need the tough gospel of the Cross in our lives in order to become mature people in the spirit. Only a mature person can be considered a true son or daughter; otherwise he or she will just be baby all their lives. The Bible makes it clear that a baby has no inheritance in the Kingdom of God, though all that God has is his!

That is a contradictory statement, if ever there was one; and yet, again, if God did not make the kind of statements that leave our brains vegetating He really would not be God, would He?

I very much doubt that a simplistic faith teaching like the one people are hearing in churches today can produce a truly spiritual person. Who is a spiritual person, anyway? Is it one who believes God for millions of shillings (and gets them)? Or is it someone who never falls ill due to their strong faith? Or one who lives a trouble-free physical, financial or material lifestyle – all by faith? We can never really measure faith by the amount of material or physical blessings that we have. That is not Biblical faith, just as much as casting out demons is not the Biblical standard of victory. Unless I am much mistaken, the Apostle Paul underwent many things which, according to 21st Christian understanding, a Christian and preacher of his calibre should never have experienced! He suffered hunger; he fell sick; he lacked adequate clothing; he was hated and despised by the very Christians he ministered to. He was even prevented from accomplishing certain missions by the Devil! And yet Paul accepted all these situations with a heart of grace and joy. You don’t find many preachers who would willingly go through such a life. (Some preachers would sooner die than admit that Satan blocked them from a mission they were bent on doing!)

So, who is a spiritual person and what kind of gospel produces such a person? Paul tells us: “… for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1Co 3:3).

Again, in Gal 5:19-24: Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”

There is a certain kind of gospel that we need to hear that only can suffice to remove carnality from our lives. Again, that is something Christians need to accept – that without the working of the Cross in our lives we remain the same old, carnal Christians (and the older we get the more carnal we become!) Only by hearing the right gospel will the Church mature and reflect the true character of Christ to the world. We will need to hear a gospel that confronts our flesh.

The Cross Our Strength.

My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. 2 Cor. 12:9

The earth’s magnetic north is described as “the direction a compass needle always points”. Man has his magnetic north, which is the flesh. That is a fact, lest we boast. Man’s desires, aspirations and actions all gravitate towards self, the flesh. That is why when Eve “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat” (Genesis 3:6).Those are our original parents, and that’s quite a statement the Bible is making there!

Many aspects of our ‘self’ nature are so well-hidden we are not aware of them. We see only the surface of things. We see the good deeds we do. Sometimes we do such remarkable deeds that we are tempted to believe in the ‘goodness’ of man.

But nothing we do can fool God. God knows what is in the heart of man, and the fact is, we are rotten to the core. The Bible in Romans 3 provides us with our ‘charge sheet’, as it were, and in verse19 it concludes that the entire world is “guilty before God”!

We dare not boast. On the contrary, we can thank God for His grace in giving us a Savior, Jesus Christ His Son. He alone was the sacrifice considered worthy enough by God to take away our sins.

The flesh does not go away just because we are saved. The ‘magnetic north’ instinct hounds us to our deathbed, and woe to the man who thinks he is so spiritual as to ignore that fact. We are not called to ignore it but to defeat it. True, God does a lot for us at salvation; but, just as a father would help a child to cross a street then let go his hand, God also calls us to responsibility in the Kingdom. And by allowing us to carry the Cross God gives us the privilege of being a part of the winning team, of which He is the Captain! What an honor!

Losing our lives is the challenge. The call of God in our lives is to partake of Christ’s victory by participating in His death. That is the heart of the message of the Cross. That is what the Apostles talked about in their epistles. God and the Apostles knew that if we are victorious over the flesh, no other enemy can defeat us. The Apostle Peter says: “And who is he that will harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good?” 1 Pet. 3:13. He is talking about spiritual victory.

The charismatic gospel that is prevalent in the Church today will never deal with the flesh. Actually it is a gospel of ‘me’. Recently I saw an advertisement that said simply, ‘You. First.’ How apt!

 Miracles and healings, though a work of the Spirit, can never bring a man to spiritual maturity. God intended something else to bring the Church to maturity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, “For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

Spiritual maturity is what God wants the Church to arrive at. He is looking for sons and daughters, not spiritual babes. That certainly makes sense, doesn’t it?

You might notice that the Corinthian church had all the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in their midst, but the Apostle Paul still referred to them as spiritual babes.

The Apostle Peter raised Tabitha from the dead, but still Paul chided him for his immature behavior.

It is the revelation of the Cross of Christ only that can deal with the carnal nature of man. That was why Paul would preach no other gospel other than “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). And when he says he would boast in nothing else apart from that Cross “by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14) there is nothing of false humility with Paul there. Rather, he is testifying to a real work in his heart. Paul knew where the power of the gospel lay:  it was in the Cross working in his life! What Paul means by ‘weaknesses’ in 2 Cor. 12:9 are the sufferings of Christ through which he would partake of the power of God.

That is why the Church today needs a spiritual understanding, or a revelation of the Cross of Christ.  And that is why in our day we can thank God for men like Miki Hardy, in whom the Lord has invested such a revelation.

Anyone who has the chance to hear the preaching of the gospel that addresses their flesh should be grateful to God for that grace and privilege. In the midst of the many gospels being preached today, and where the flesh is either not dealt with or is even celebrated, it is truly a grace from God to hear the one gospel that confronts head-on this most indefatigable of God’s enemies.

I thank God that I do not only write this blog or preach, but that I am a partaker of the most important aspect of our calling, which is to carry my Cross and follow after Christ!

True Spiritual Victory -Pt 2

“… I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Php 3:14)

The Apostle Paul’s eyes were on the finishing line. He could see the mark! What an incredible grace that was! What a glorious revelation! And I can tell you now what it was that Paul saw. He saw suffering and death. He knew he had to die; and the ‘pressing towards the mark’ he is talking about is his determination to put away the old self with its worldly aspirations, desires, and lusts, that he might gain the life of Christ.

The Apostle Paul came to understand in an incredible way that he had to pass through death to enter into life. He tells the Corinthians: “Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die.” 1Co 15:36

There was a time in my Christian life when I could not claim Paul’s victorious words for myself; and even now I still cannot do so with any amount of confidence. The difference between then and now, however, is that now I understand what the mark that Paul was pressing towards was. Back then I did not understand it. I did not have that revelation. I floated along in my Christian life and ministry, blissfully unaware of that aspect of suffering and dying with Christ. I would hold wrong attitudes and desires in my heart and not think a thing about it. As long as on the outside I appeared and acted and felt all right that was okay with me. And let me tell you that I have the capacity to appear more than perfect on the outside; in fact, so much so that even I myself am often deceived. (In the 1990s I was in a church where if you spoke anything against me the entire congregation would have stoned you because I was considered the perfect Christian. But, unknown to them, there were dragons safely locked away in my heart, real dragons breathing real fire; and ultimately it was the wife I married who would come to set them loose).

What I am saying is that there was a time in my Christian life when I ran the race blindly. But one day God, in His great mercy and grace, granted me to hear and understand the gospel of the Cross that was preached to me by Brother Miki Hardy – the same gospel that the Apostle Paul preached – and from that time I understood that the man I was had to die. No halfway marks. The finishing line for my race was revealed: it was the total death to who I was.

The scales fell from my eyes, as it were – and death stared me in the face. Death to my human pride. Death to the world and its lusts. Death to the sinful nature. Death to Zakaria Mwita. I needed a new name! And when I realized that I fell to my knees and cried to God for His grace. Grace to die to self.

For me today the challenge is more about walking daily in that revelation, and dying daily to myself. That means guarding my heart as perfectly as I can. Of course, I cannot do that. I need the Holy Spirit to help me to do that.

If there is one thing I can say with all the strength that I have in me it is that the Church today needs revelation. A revelation of the Cross of Christ. The Apostle Paul makes it abundantly clear in Ephesians 3:1-12 and in Galatians 1:11-17 that the gospel he received and preached and lived – the gospel of Christ and Him crucified – he says he received this gospel by revelation. Only through that gospel was he able to die to self. Only the revealed gospel of the Cross of Christ has the power to crucify the flesh in a man or woman.

The relevant question we need to ask ourselves today is: is Paul’s gospel the same gospel the Church today should be carrying, or should we expect a different one? If the gospel that the Church should be carrying is the same that the Apostle Paul carried, then we should fall on our knees and pray for the same revelation that Paul had.

Mind you, we can reject the Pauline doctrine of revelation and continue preaching (there is so much stuff to preach about!) but we will never arrive at the mark, the finishing line. As long as we do not put that body of the flesh to death, we shall remain spiritual babes, subject to worldly elements and wanting in spiritual maturity – and the life of Christ.

Today’s Church preaches the ‘abundant life’. The Apostle Paul preached Christ, and Him crucified. The latter requires a revelation to understand it; the other does not.

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.

Taking Up Our Cross.

In 1 Cor 1:23 the Apostle Paul says, “… we preach Christ, and him crucified”. Paul repeats this assertion in 1 Cor. 2:2.

I once heard a preacher read from this Scripture; but he ended with “… we preach Christ crucified, risen, and who lives forever.” He went on to talk about the good things that we can now receive from God as a result of Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. That is true, and many preachers love talking about what Christ accomplished for us at the Cross. But here, writing to the Corinthians, Paul talked about Christ, and Him crucified, period. He certainly had a good reason for not adding the rest of the facts. Paul knew full well what he was talking about. As Christians there are things we must confront in our lives.

The basis of Paul’s preaching was the revelation of the Cross of Christ. (It had to be a revelation; this knowledge had to come from above. Otherwise, human nature would take the opportunity and create all kinds of human philosophies in the name of God. Many, many men rose up and did just that. But theirs was a gospel that would not bring them one step closer to God, simply because it had no power to deal with the flesh!)

The Apostle Paul had a difficult time defending the gospel he preached. The Pauline gospel, the gospel of the Cross was, and still is, the only gospel that can deal with the flesh. Everyone is always excited when they get saved. But not every saved person is excited when God begins to deal with their fleshly desires and attitudes. And that is what God really is concerned about with His Church. There is a gospel that is not hard to preach. We don’t need to encourage people to cheer and rejoice when we are preaching to them about their rights in Christ, and the physical and material blessings that God wants to give them. But it is a different story when we begin talking to people about how God wants to break with their pride and deal with their selfishness. The carnal nature in them reacts. The flesh does not like being confronted, because in itself it is enmity against God and it can never do God’s will.

The Apostle Paul had a hard time preaching this gospel because many men who were still in the flesh within the Church did not want to be confronted. People who had a carnal mindset opposed him. They did not want to be challenged. In other words, they did not want to stop doing the things they were doing which were contrary to God’s will.

But we must realize and accept that, as spiritual people, we still have very many negative things in us. That might not sound very spiritual, but it is the truth. We still have many bad desires and attitudes in us. In fact, it is by grace alone that we are standing up till this time. If God’s grace was to be taken away from us for even one second, we would do the most frightful sins. We must be humble enough to admit that, and to realize how dependent we are on God’s grace alone to see us through in our daily spiritual walk.

God wants to deal with these bad things that are still in our lives. That is what the Cross does in our lives. The Apostle Paul talks of “the cross, by which I have been crucified to the world, and the world has been crucified to me” (Gal. 6:14). That is the revelation that was given to Paul. Paul talks about how he received the gospel he preached through revelation. The Apostles received it through revelation, and it was powerful. It dealt effectively with the carnality in them. Read carefully Hebrews 10:32-34. Paul is reminding them about the time when they did not think or live according to the dictates of their carnal nature or of this world.

Dare we think that there are no imperfections in our lives? Dare we think that we do not hold things in our lives that are not pleasing to God? No. But we must allow the work of the Cross in our lives to remove these things, so that we may grow spiritually.

We cannot talk about sitting with Jesus in heavenly places before we face the fact of the Cross. And when we talk about taking up our Cross and following Jesus, that is no idle talk. It is not a sermon. It is not head knowledge. It is not just something that we can learn and speak about. In fact, the less spoken the better. Rather, the Cross points to a life – a given life. Jesus gave His life for our sins. The apostles gave their lives. The early Church gave its life.

Christians must reach a place where the gospel has gotten hold of their lives to the extent that they can rejoice in suffering, and in death. I am not talking about suffering in the natural or dying a natural death. I am talking about reaching a place where the innermost desires of the flesh – selfishness, pride, the carnal nature – have been totally vanquished in us, and the new man, who is created in the image of Jesus Christ, reigns in us. A place where we have died, and where Christ reigns supreme in us by His Holy Spirit. Only then can we be truly spiritual people.

God in His wisdom allows tests, trials and suffering to mold us. The Cross is hidden within these experiences. There are people who carry about crosses of all kinds chained around their necks or waists, but these are meaningless. Let us allow that revelation into our hearts, and we shall rejoice as we suffer with Him: “For if we die with Him, we shall reign with Him” – 2 Tim. 2:11.