Our True Family

46 While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.

47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.

48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?

49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!

50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. Mat. 12:46-50

This is a tough one. It is a very, very tough one. In a sense, probably the toughest of all of Jesus’s lessons.

In a nutshell, there can be no emotional attachments in God’s Kingdom, only spiritual ones. There could be no greater emotional attachment than the familial one; and here Jesus discards it. We are to seek after spiritual relationships. The Bible says that God is Spirit. There can therefore be no other relationships acceptable to Him other than a spiritual one.

The church may not be perfect, but it is the Body of Jesus Christ! And where else, aside from this congregation of mostly imperfect men and women can we grow to know the will of our Father in heaven? No, there is nowhere else. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our true family.

Yes, Peter still had a sword hidden in his inner robe, and we can imagine his thoughts were not so peaceful nor holy. Equally fierce and furious were James and John, who also harbored Napoleonic thoughts of conquering the world.

But, incredibly, Jesus  elevated these people above his earthly brothers, sisters and mother. He called them His family!

There are people who will value their flesh and blood kin over members of the Body of Christ. There are others who approve of people for various other reasons other than purely spiritual ones. But that attests to their inability to see in the Spirit. For when we see in the Spirit, we realize how truly valuable brethren in Christ are and how high our relating to them towers above earthly relationships, however close; and however weak our brethren in Christ may be.

It is best – before it gets too late and we come to realize the vanity of it all – that we as God’s children align ourselves fully with the church and stop appeasing other relationships, however important they might appear. There is a price to pay there; but, again, the gospel is all about paying the price.

God will give us grace and it is not as if we will stop loving our kith and kin in the flesh. Jesus Himself no doubt thought constantly and prayed for His family, a fact that is born out in John 19:25-27:

“25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

But, right to the very end, as we see here, Jesus’s thoughts about his mother and siblings were spiritual, not otherwise. His love for them was not emotional, but spiritual. In the end, through Jesus’s pursuit of only the spiritual, they, too, came to an understanding of the treasure that is God’s Kingdom. In the end, He bequeathed to them the true riches, heavenly ones.

[Powerful clip. Please go to “Settings”, click “Subtitles” for the English subtitles to appear]

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Spiritual Relationships – Part 2

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. Jn. 19:25-27
As Jesus was preparing to leave this world, He handed over His most prized earthly possession, His mother, to “the disciple… whom he loved”. As we noted earlier, this was the disciple who pleased Jesus most, and he pleased Jesus by being close to Him. This means that he loved the Lord; and, in turn, the Lord loved him.
When Jesus was being crucified, Jesus’ mother and a few other ladies stood by, witnessing the whole scene. The disciple whom Jesus loved also stood close by.
It could very well be that not many – or not any – of Jesus’ other disciples was hanging about. The Bible does not even tell us that Jesus’ own brothers and sisters were about. They probably were too fearful to show up. But the Bible states that this particular disciple was standing by, close to Jesus’ mother.
God always works things for our good. The presence of this disciple provided the perfect setting for Jesus to do what was in His heart. This disciple stood close to Jesus up to the end, and in doing so he gave the Lord the opportunity to fulfill His heart’s desire. You can imagine the sorrow that would have filled Jesus’ heart if He had failed to find this disciple by His side when He needed him most.
And so it was that Jesus, fully satisfied in His heart with what He had accomplished through His sacrifice on the cross, that He was able do one final act that was on His heart. He called out to His mother,
“Woman, behold thy son!”
And to the disciple whom he loved:
“Behold thy mother!”
I love that! None of the human, emotional stuff: “Mommy! Oh, mommy! Oh! Oh!”
Or, “Johnny, please, I beg you, please, please, look after my mother after I am gone, will ya?”
There was none of that. There was simply clear, spiritual authority and direction.
Nor did Jesus hold a clan conference to see who amongst His brethren was best suited to take their mother with them. He had already stated earlier that His brethren and His family were those who would do the will of His heavenly Father (Mat. 12:50).
Without a doubt, this scripture is talking about spiritual relationships; but I felt it necessary to set a background for this subject, hence the long, convoluted route I have taken. Let us now finish.
A few weeks ago I was in one of our churches when a brother called the pastor to tell him he would not be attending Sunday service because a friend of his had asked him to officiate at a certain function on that same day. As the pastor received the call I saw his face, broken and downcast. Clearly, this brother was putting his friend’s interests above those of Christ, and his pastor was not happy about it.
Jesus would not have handed over his mother to such an one.
There are many people in church today who are putting worldly relationships above spiritual ones. In today’s ultra-modern society, this carnal, worldly spirit is very powerful within the church. Even within the church itself – between brother and brother – there are people who build relationships on worldly, not spiritual merits. Brothers and sisters bond in unhealthy relationships based on tribe, status, wealth, family-tree and such-like. But we cannot run the church like some country club. Any relationship built on any value other than a close spiritual relationship with Jesus is of the world, and of the devil; and we should shun it.
Why do you think Jesus delivered His mother to the disciple He loved? Was it because this man would provide food to Jesus’ mother? Was it because the man had status?
No, it was none of these things. But Jesus knew that this disciple would show His mother the Lord’s ways. This disciple, who had leaned on the breast of Jesus, knew all that was in the heart of Jesus and Jesus knew this man would bring a strong spiritual influence on His mother.
We should look to people whose hearts are close to Jesus, people who have a spiritual outlook. These are the people we should hinge our trust on. When we align our lives with such people, our lives and our relationships will be strong and healthy spiritually.
I thank God for the spiritual men and women whom He has put in my life, chief of whom are my pastor and my wife. These are people who would not entertain any spiritual nonsense from me. Whenever I am with them, I am assured of a straight spiritual course in my spiritual life. Sometimes this kind of relationship bears hard on my flesh; but, for me, so much the better.
If I was about to leave this world and the Lord allowed me to do what was in my heart, I know exactly the men and women I would leave my wife and kids with. I would not say to my wife, “Oh, wifey, I am going. There is this guy in church who has this big car which you know we have always desired to have. Wifey, do your best to get married to this man.”
I would not do that. If I had the chance to, I would call my pastor and tell him, “Pastor, behold your daughter!”
May we learn to put our trust in the people whom Jesus loves.
[The disciple whom Jesus loved did not love the world]

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Spiritual Relationships – Part 1

25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. Jn. 19:25-27
Let us begin by setting the background to this story. What does the Bible mean by “the disciple… whom he loved”? Was Jesus a respecter of persons? Did He favor some in His team of apostles above others the way we favor men above others?
The answer is no. Otherwise, we would not bother believing the Bible.
When the Bible talks of the disciple whom Jesus loved, it means this was a disciple who, in one way or another, pleased the Lord Jesus Christ. A person who pleases the Lord is one who does the Lord’s will. Now, we all know that the disciples of Jesus were far from perfect men. So, how did this disciple come to endear himself to the Lord Jesus?
The Bible tells us exactly how:
“20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?… 24 This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true.” Jn. 21:20-24
The Bible tells us that this disciple was he who leaned on Jesus’ breast at supper. This indicates that this disciple stayed closer to Jesus than anyone else. He wanted to know what was in Jesus’ heart. He was so close to Jesus that, when Peter needed to know who Jesus was referring to when He said He would be betrayed by one of them, he knew he had to ask it through this disciple. In John 13:23-26, the Bible recounts this incident in this manner:
“23 Now there was leaning on Jesus’ bosom one of his disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 Simon Peter therefore beckoned to him, that he should ask who it should be of whom he spake. 25 He then lying on Jesus’ breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus answered, He it is, to whom I shall give a sop, when I have dipped it. And when he had dipped the sop, he gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon.”
This disciple pleased the Lord Jesus by being close to Him. He knew every heartbeat of Jesus. If Jesus had a secret He wanted to divulge, this disciple it was who would first know of it. He was Jesus’ right-hand man.
Is it not wonderful to be so close to the Lord? Is it not wonderful to be able to lean on Jesus’ breast? Jesus loves those who love Him and, clearly, this disciple loved the Lord. If the Bible can take the time to recount three times in one gospel that this was a disciple that Jesus loved, then this man also loved Jesus.
John 21:24 also tells us who this disciple was. It was John. The Apostle John it was who wrote the Gospel of John.
When you read the epistles of John, you realize how really close to the Lord’s heart John was. His epistles are filled with exhortations of love. And the Bible tells that God is love. Moreover, it also tells us that of all the Godly qualities that will endure – faith, hope and love – love is the greatest of them all.
[Below: The Apostle Paul said of his disciple, Timothy: “But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath served with me in the gospel.” (Phil. 2:22)]

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The Price for Spiritual Relationships – Part 2

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Jn. 19:26-27

Notice, “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.”

Jesus’ mother physically moved from wherever she was staying and went to live in that disciple’s home!

Do you seriously think that Jesus’ mother did not have a home of her own? She certainly did. But the Bible says that from that day she moved to that disciple’s home.

In some societies (and probably even in Jesus’ Jewish community) that is unacceptable. You cannot take a grown woman who has grown children of her own and move her into someone else’s home – especially on grounds of ‘religion’. There are a whole lot of problems associated with such a ‘move’, chief of which is a show of disrespect for the family from which you are taking that person.

But apparently Jesus was not thinking about such things. Or probably He was, but He knew his mother and the disciple would be ready to pay the price for such a ‘move’.

When we build spiritual relationships, we will be willing to pay the price to attach our lives to the men and women that God has brought us together with in the Spirit. We may not physically move to someone’s home as Jesus’ mother did; but in the Spirit, we will move. That is the important thing.

In the Spirit we will move.

When we first heard the gospel of the cross in Musoma, my wife and I would take our two small children and our food, and we would move to a brother or sister’s house and stay there for two or three days. We valued the brother or sister for who they were in the Spirit and we were willing to pay a price to identify with them.

In the same manner, brothers and sisters would come and stay in our home. We were building spiritual relationships.

Now, we were not taught this ‘doctrine’. No one told us or taught us to do that. We had not even read John 19:26-27. What we did was simply a result of the working of the gospel in our lives.

Today, the churches that we work with under the banner of the gospel of the cross are one strong church. Storms have come and gone, but this church has only grown stronger. There are men and women in these churches for whom I would not hesitate to lay down my life, and likewise there are brethren who would be more than willing to lay down their lives for me. And I can walk into any one of these churches and feel as much at home just as if I were in my own house.

But all this has come at a price. I believe that in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a disciple whom Jesus loves is one who is walking the narrow road. Not that Jesus does not love everyone else. We know God so loves the whole world (Jn. 3:16); but we are talking in the Spirit here. Jesus has a special love for those who are walking the narrow road (Philippians 3).

Just as Jesus’ mother moved into that disciple’s home we, too, ought to pay the price to actively identify our lives with those whom “Jesus loves” – those who are walking the narrow road. When we are built on the right foundation, which can only be the foundation of the cross (1 Cor. 3:10,11), we will desire and we will pay the price to build only spiritual relationships. We will identify and build relationships with those who are walking the narrow road, the road of the cross.

This is particularly important with regard to leadership. We should not submit our lives to just any ‘pastor’. Today, God’s people all over are submitting their lives to “wolves in sheep’s skins”, and their lives are being laid to waste. But we should pray for a spirit of revelation, that we may know a true shepherd, a man who is walking in the revelation of the cross of Christ.

On the other hand, there are many Christians who are in churches for any number of reasons except the single, important reason – that they be taught to deny their lives, to take up their cross and follow Christ.

Notice I am not saying that we should not build relationships with a weak brother or sister. A brother or sister could be weak, but they have the desire to identify their lives with Christ. You can feel the desire in their hearts; you can see the great struggle they are in to lay down their lives at the altar.

You can identify your life with such a brother or sister.

The disciple whom Jesus loved I presume was John (Jn. 21:20-25), and in the Bible we know that John and his brother James were the most devious and cunning fellows amongst Jesus’ disciples. Added to this was the fact that they had quite a temper (Mk. 3:17, Lk. 9:54)!

John was clearly a weak man. But Jesus loved him. No doubt, it was for a spiritual reason.

[Below: Downtown Mwanza City]

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The Price for Spiritual Relationships – Part 1

26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Jn. 19:26-27

I will divide this post into two parts, and in each part I will discuss a particular aspect of the above scripture.

I would not think that Jesus was an emotional person. Jesus would not do things just because it gave Him goose bumps. I am sure He did everything perfectly, maturely in the Spirit.

And so, as Jesus was about to depart from this world, He committed His mother to the disciple He loved. From that time forth, that disciple was to be Jesus’ mother’s son. And she was to be his mother.

In other words, Jesus set the who is who in this relationship, in the Spirit. He defined, clearly, His mother and that disciple’s relationship in the Spirit. It was to be a son/mother relationship, in the Spirit.

In 1 Timothy 5:1-2 Paul writes, “1 Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a father; and the younger men as brethren; 2 The elder women as mothers; the younger as sisters, with all purity.”

This is the relationship that Jesus was setting between his mother and this disciple. Jesus’ mother now had a spiritual pastor! Oh, for the church to arrive there!

Do you think that Jesus loved His mother? I believe He did – incredibly so. And He gave her the only gift He knew was worthy of such love: He sought for her a spiritual relationship.

Jesus did not call over the richest man in church and tell him, “Make sure my mom moves around in the best-chauffeured Rolls-Royce!”

Jesus also had other brothers and sisters in the flesh and He could have committed His mother to any one of them. But He did not. On the contrary, He committed His mother to the disciple whom He loved. And you can be sure that when the Bible says “whom he loved” it is talking in the Spirit, not in a carnal, emotional sense.

I am sure that Jesus did not have an emotional relationship with the disciple He loved. If the Bible says Jesus loved this man, it is because He knew him in the Spirit and He knew what he carried in his heart.

The disciple “whom (Jesus) loved” was a man that Jesus could identify with and acknowledge in the Spirit.

I love the fact that Jesus committed His mother to the disciple “whom he loved”. There is no place for emotional, carnal relationships in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There can only be spiritual relationships. The church needs to grow and become mature in the Spirit. That way, we will build spiritual instead of emotional relationships. We will know who is who in the Spirit.

Spiritual relationships are not ‘feel-good’ relationships. They are relationships whereby we consciously know the road we and those we are united with are walking on.

A Spiritual Relationship – Part 1

And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel. Mark 5:18-20

I write so many posts in which I mention my wife and I know this gives my avowed detractors no small amount of  pleasure. At last they have something to pound me with: “Oh, he is obsessed with his wife!”

“Yeah, seems the fellow cannot do without her!”

And there are the dyed-in-the-wool tribal hardliners who must be holding council after council to determine whether my wife is not controlling me, which to them is an unforgivable sin.

May I assure my tribesmen, right here in this blog, that I am still king in my house and that there is therefore no need for them to raise their hackles. But for those who are gloating in their cubicles about me being obsessed with my wife I say, “Sure, I am obsessed with my wife.” As a matter of fact, I am madly so. That is the truth. My avowed aim in life is to please God and it is inconceivable that I could claim to be making any headway there without first making sure that things are in order in my house.

Not that it is that simple. It is a spiritual thing…

The Decapolians must have been pleasantly surprised to see the change in the man whom they all knew had been possessed with demons. These people’s joy resulted largely from the fact that this man had been set free from demonic possession. That was as it should be because Jesus was still operating under the old covenant.

For we people of the New Testament, though, it is not so much such a change as might have occurred in this man – the miracle of being set free from demonic powers – that is desirable; rather, it is the inner change of character. This is what matters in a person who professes to be a born-again Christian. Miracles and the supernatural works of Christ are important, of course, but for a born-again child of God they cannot compare to that inner working of the Spirit in a person’s heart.

And nowhere is this change more desirable or effective than with those whom we live with or those who have always known us. With me, it is my wife first, my children second; thirdly, the Church; and lastly, the world. I can firmly admit that the working needed to bring about this change is probably the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with. Here I am required to die to the flesh, to crucify the flesh on a consistent basis, every day. It is not an easy thing to do.

If I were to draw a pie-chart of my life to illustrate the seriousness of this situation, my wife would take about 75% of the pie! That single person – my wife – is so important in my relationship with God. It is like God gave me a wife as an ‘assignment’, saying, “Work on that!” I therefore have to have a right, spiritual relationship with my wife at any cost.

Our Relationship is Spiritual

Tomorrow I will be boarding a plane to go to the exotic Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to attend the annual CTMI conference (www.ctmi.mu). This trip will be a first for me in many aspects. I will be visiting a new country, meeting new brethren and building new relationships.

And yet, even as I board that aeroplane tomorrow. deep in my heart I know God has allowed me to go to that conference for a spiritual purpose. And I know He has called me to relate to whoever I come across in the spirit, not in the flesh. In hindsight, this is for my own good because if I were to view the people of God in the flesh, no doubt I would be tempted to play favorites.

That would be a spiritual disaster.

As Jesus was hanging on the Cross he looked down at his mother Mary and told her, “Woman, behold thy son”, as He indicated to John, the son of Zebedee. Then He turned to John and told him, “Behold thy mother!”

The Bible says, “And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home”. Jn. 19

This might indicate that Joseph was already dead because it is highly unlikely that Jesus would command John to take care of His mother while her husband was still alive! The Bible, however, does clearly state that Jesus had other brothers and sisters, any of whom He could have directed to watch over their mother, if He felt the need to give that directive.

Jesus did indeed feel the need to instruct over His mother’s welfare. But it was her spiritual welfare He was thinking about. And who better to commit that responsibility to than the disciple “whom He loved” (Jn. 19:26), the one who leaned on Jesus’ bosom, the one who knew and felt Jesus’ heart more than any of the other disciples. It was John that Peter had asked to inquire from the Lord who it was that would betray Him, for, apparently, only John could elicit that secret from Him.

It is little wonder that the Apostle John is today known as “the Apostle of Love”, for he wrote much on love; and love, as we know, is the very essence of God.

Jesus could trust his mother with such a man, a man who knew His heart, and His purposes.

Likewise, the Apostle Paul would tell Timothy, the son whom he begot in the faith, “But thou hast known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith…” 2 Tim. 3:10.

We are not called into salvation to answer to or to gratify fleshly and emotional ties. We are called to seek after spiritual relationships alone.

We spend a lot of energy and time building on relationships that are not spiritual. Jesus did not do that. He redeemed the time. He knew whom to trust with His mother, and He did not waste the opportunity.

As I travel to the conference tomorrow, let nothing take precedence over the known will and purpose of God in my life: to link up with the men and women of God in the spirit.

So help me God.