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]

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The Temporal vs The Eternal

1 And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here!
2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. Mk. 13:1-2
Jesus was that fast. He could cut out the lights faster than they were lit. This was because Jesus always stayed in the Spirit. When you are in the Spirit, you don’t have the time for the kind of stuff this disciple had.
You would be surprised to learn the things that the church today is getting animated about. Today, it is almost about normal to find people in church getting excited about things in the natural than things in the Spirit. If someone in church, for example, buys a new car or if he builds a new house, or if they graduate with a degree, you will find that hotter news in church than the report of the brother who has stopped beating his wife. People will look up to the man with the brand new car as if he were God. They will walk up to him and congratulate him and tell him all kinds of ridiculous things; but few will hardly take notice of the guy who stood up in church to testify that he recently stopped beating his wife. Much less, certainly, the many brothers and sisters in whose hearts God is quietly working and who are slowly changing for the better.
Actually, there is every kind of non-spiritual nonsense going on in church today. It beats me personally how we can not only bring the spirit of the world into the church, but even go as far as to applaud it. People are “high-fiving” each other over natural merits and accomplishments. In the church today, modernism is taking root against spirituality.
I have lived on both sides of the spiritual divide and I recall there was a time when things were not the way they are today. There was a time, in my lifetime, when nearly all the saved people that I knew of were poor folks. No one even had a bicycle, let alone a car. In those days, saved people were revered strictly for their holiness. They had nothing in the natural to boast about. For that reason, no one made any connection between material prosperity and salvation.
With time, however, progress brought about education and, with education, material prosperity. In the same church that I was in a few decades back, today it is not just bicycles, but motorcycles and cars have filled the church compound. The same people who lived in indescribable hovels have now built respectable homes for themselves. The deep sense of poverty that once pervaded the church has been replaced with an acceptable level of prosperity.
There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But it is the devil’s job to throw a spanner in the works at every opportunity. The sad fact about all this is that the spiritual aspect of the church’s calling is getting buried under by the material viewpoint. Just the other day, someone came from Dar es Salaam and the first thing he told me was how prosperous a certain sister had become. He threw in as many details as he could about all the wealth this dear sister was amassing. There was not the slightest mention about this sister’s spiritual state.
In the same strain, some years back I passed by a brother’s house in a certain town. I arrived late in the evening and, upon realizing I would be leaving early the next morning, the brother hurriedly bundled me into his car and we shot off miles into the countryside just so he could show me a new piece of land he had just bought. It was about 9 p.m. at night and, even with the headlights blazing, I saw only sage brush. The experience left me stunned.
But that is not the worst part. The worst part, as I said, is people bending over backwards to talk of and praise these material achievements as if they were the Spirit. The church looks up to these people as if they had been filled by the Holy Spirit. Today, people – brethren – achieve status in their fellow brethren’s eyes according to the level of their material or other earthly achievements. But a brand new car or a new house is as far apart from the Spirit as night is from day. One is earthly, temporal; the other is heavenly, and eternal.
It is the easiest thing to go downhill rather than uphill. It is the easiest thing for the church to look up to materialism rather than the things of the Spirit. But God couldn’t care less about how well you are getting along materially. God’s business is strictly spiritual. And He is still calling. Jeremiah 6:16 says:
“Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.”
God is talking about asking, or seeking for, the ways of the Spirit. But notice what the next sentence says.
“But they said, We will not walk therein.”
We should not deceive ourselves that we are any different from these people.
[Below: “The good life” does not constitute the spiritual life]

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Our Mandate – Grace

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. Jn. 1:12-16

Before I go ahead and discuss today’s subject, I have an apology to make. I wouldn’t want to bury my head in the sand and pretend that this blog is running extremely well. My readers will certainly have noticed that, of late, I have been posting very irregularly, and that my posts are few and far between. I pray that no one will interpret this as a sign of slackness on my part, for I carry the running of this blog as a serious responsibility from God.

The reason for my long absence here has to do with other responsibilities which have recently cropped up and had to be dealt with. But they are only temporary, and I will soon be free to run this blog like clockwork.

My apologies, therefore, to all those who might have began thinking that I had given up on this blog! Not, by the longest shot.

Today I want us to meditate on our responsibility as children of God. As sons and daughters of God, we have a responsibility in this world. We are called to be men and women of grace – and truth. Let us combine verses 12 and 16 in this portion of scripture, which makes perfect sense:

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name… And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.”

The Bible here says that we who have believed in Christ have received the fulness of God’s grace. In other words, we potentially have as much grace as Jesus had when He was here on earth. For Jesus came and lived on earth in the body of flesh, without sin (v.14). Even in the flesh Jesus reflected the fulness of God’s grace and truth.

I can almost hear a pin drop as we contemplate the profundity of this fact. Knowing how weak we are, we wonder if that could even have been possible.

But as children of God, we are mandated to carry the same grace and truth that Jesus carried. Why? Because this was God’s mandate to Jesus, and Jesus accomplished it to the full. How could we do less?

But carrying the grace and truth of God is not easy, for it requires death to the flesh. The Apostle Paul was one of the people who fought valiantly against the flesh, and yet he had this to say:

“18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. 19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Rom. 7:18-19)

In other words, Paul by and of himself could not carry the grace of God and do that which pleased God.

Paul concludes cryptically:

“24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…” (vs. 24-25)

But in Galatians 6:14, he explains exactly what he means by these words.

“14 But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

Paul knew what he wanted. It was only through the cross that Paul could find the grace and truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. So Paul gladly welcomed the cross and the sufferings of Christ into his life.

Where can we find true joy? It is when our flesh is crucified on the cross. This is where we can find true spiritual victory. This is what we find with Paul, the apostles and the early church.

Unfortunately, the flesh does not love to be crucified. The enemy of our souls, the devil, knowing this, has set in the path of God’s people heretical gospels, gospels that cater to the flesh. And men, as long as they have “religion” in their system, are contented. When God’s people are following only religion, but are not allowing the crucifixion of their flesh, there is no spiritual growth in their lives; and it is this growth that makes us men and women of grace and truth.

If the Church today is serious about fulfilling God’s mandate to carry His grace and truth as our Lord Jesus did, then there can be only one way to achieving this: it is by walking in the revelation of the cross, denying self, taking up our cross and following Christ.

Only through the power of resurrection can we truly walk in God’s grace and truth.

Finally, let us consider what it means to walk in God’s grace and truth.

It means being a good person. But it is more than that. It is to be spiritual, something which is infinitely far beyond being just good. Being a spiritual person is knowing the will of God. And in most cases the will of God has nothing to do with being good in the natural.

[Below: A young boy in Mwanza City breezes along in his wooden ‘car’]

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Israel, not Jacob!

But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not:  for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name;  thou art mine.” Isaiah 43:1

In the scripture above we see that God is addressing two different kinds of people: Jacob whom He created, and Israel whom He formed. Without going into long drawn-out discussions about the meanings of the words “created” and “formed” here, we at least know that God is more interested with Israel than Jacob because when the angel of the Lord met Jacob on his way back to his fathers’ land, Jacob demanded a blessing from Him, and the Lord told him, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel:  for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.” Genesis 32:28.

Henceforth Jacob would be known as Israel. That is of profound significance.

In all His dealings with man God allows the natural to precede the spiritual, and if we are not careful we miss out on the real blessing that God intended for us to have. That is why we who are called by God under the New Testament cannot simply rejoice in the material and physical blessings that God gives us. They come so easily and naturally we are tempted to think they are an end in themselves. On the day I got saved God healed me of a terrible physical illness. It was such a big miracle, and it could still be the highlight of my life with Jesus.

But we must discover the hidden meaning of God’s true calling in our lives. The Apostle Paul talks about a hidden mystery. When we read the Apostles’ epistles we see they did not talk very much about miracles and material blessings, even though they experienced all these. Rather, they spoke about something infinitely more spiritual – the changing of our carnal selves into spiritual, which is a process!

Nor can we rest in the mere act of salvation itself. We cannot underestimate its importance in our lives (eternal life with Jesus), yet the Bible is filled with proof that this is not the end of the matter. For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:15 we read that If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss:  but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”

Elsewhere in Jude 1:23 we read: “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire;  hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.”

Paul also talks about “a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:  and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

There are many Christians today who are so worldly-minded that it cannot be said of them that they would love the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ!

Which means that people will be saved all right, but there will be a distinction: while some will enter in triumphantly, yet for others it is as if they will have barely made it.

The conclusion of the whole matter is that God does not want us to remain ‘Jacobs’. Here I mean carnal, or immature Christians. He wants to form us into the image of His spiritual people, “the Israel of God”  -Galatians 6:16. When we speak of “form” we get the impression of people in whose lives God’s hand has worked to bring out something out of something. He works on what He has created to form something new. It is this which He desires to do in our lives. There is a big difference between the simple calling of God and his formative work in our lives.

Hence the revelation of the Cross. It is of utmost importance to us to understand that the apostolic gospel that has come down to us is a revelation. The Apostle Paul (whose mental faculties we cannot fault) says he received the gospel by revelation. Moreover, in Ephesians 3 he implies that all true apostles and prophets in every generation would be men who would have caught the gospel by revelation, a revelation of the Cross. They would understand what it means to be a Christian: it is to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, that our minds may be renewed (i.e. put far from sin) and that we may conform to the image of Christ. And this will be accomplished by the work of the Cross in our lives.

When you receive the Cross as a ‘Jacob’ (i.e. without revelation) you will understand that Jesus came to die for your sins so you do not go to hell, which is true. But you cannot go beyond that, and soon you will turn to the weak, worldly materialistic gospel which does not have the power to deal with sin. But when you get the revelation of the Cross, which is only found under the true apostolic ministry, you will understand that the Cross came to work in your life also so that your body of sin may suffer and die with Christ, and to rise to the resurrection from the dead in newness of life; and to become a mature son and daughter of God, worthy and capable to inherit that spiritual Kingdom, as we read in Galatians 4:1-7: “Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son;  and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

Note the angel’s words to Jacob: “as a prince hast thou power…”! He had fought the good fight and he was worthy!

In other words you become a man or woman who has died to sin. Many people today are praying for the hand of God upon their lives. Behold, the hand of the Lord is the Cross! If we think the hand of the Lord are the worldly blessings He gives us, the healings and all that, we are doomed to spiritual immaturity and carnality. While in Mauritius, I witnessed the death of a man whom the church had prayed for a long time to get healed. I visited him one week before he died, and he was sitting there, weak in body, but strong in faith, in righteousness and holiness. He died triumphantly, and we rejoiced on the day of his burial.

We need to join ourselves with the true gospel of Jesus Christ, Christ crucified. Then we will know, as Paul says in Romans 12, “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” How can we say we are in the will of God while we are walking in sin? It is simply impossible. We are called to a walk of holiness and purity – of body, soul and spirit: “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;  and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Anything beneath that, however flamboyant it might appear, and under whatever name it is called, is carnality!