A Given Life – Part 1

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, 18 Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: 19 Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. Heb. 11:17-19

Let us read that again.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

I don’t know whether Abraham knew that he was being tried. I don’t know whether he knew God would ask him to stay his hand at the critical moment. But, whether he knew these things or not, what is important is that Abraham realized he had to lose. And so when he knew this, when God told him to, in his heart he therefore offered up Isaac. It says that when he was tried, Abraham

“… offered up Isaac.”

In his heart he released Isaac from being his only-begotten son. He willingly let him go. He lost him. By the time the angel appeared and told him,

“Lay not your hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him…” (Gen. 22:12)

in his heart Abraham had already slaughtered Isaac. That is why the Bible says in verse 19,

“Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.”

Abraham therefore experienced the pain of losing his son. Just as God experienced the pain of losing His Son Jesus, Abraham, in a figure, lost Isaac.

But let me go back to the words that drew me to this scripture in the first place.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried…”

Do we realize that when God asks us to lose something, that we are being tried? Indeed, the entirety of our call is a trial; for we have been called, without reservation, to lose. We are to go way beyond losing even. Consider the incredulity of Jesus’s words in Matthew 5:38-45.

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. 42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Wow! What a heart! And, pray, who is capable of these things? But this is exactly the heart that God has. It is God’s character. And it is the heart we ought to have as children of God. But it can only be had through the revelation of the cross. It is the laying of our lives on the altar, in order that we might do the will of God, as opposed to doing the will of the flesh.

When we have laid our lives at the altar, and they are no longer ours, the Bible calls that faith. Just as we see with Abraham here.

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac”.

[Oh, those songs!!]

Faith-Patience-Perfection

2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. Jam. 1:2-4

The first thing I want to say is how attractive the two words “patience” and “perfect” appear to me. They fascinate me. From afar. They draw me to them with a great sense of wonderment.

Is it even possible to imagine that one could ever arrive at being “perfect and entire, wanting nothing” in the Spirit? The thought seems presumptuous. And yet the Apostle James coolly tells us here that it is possible; and he makes it appear so easy. In just a few steps, he makes it possible for us to arrive at Godly perfection.

But… You cannot just wake up one morning and say, “Abracadabra! I am perfect!” To arrive where the Apostle Paul arrived at – “I am crucified with Christ” (Gal. 2:20) – is an incredibly long and painful step process. But it is joyous and relieving in the Spirit.

Joy

Every believer loves dancing and rejoicing like David in the Bible. It is all good and acceptable before God to sing with joy when things are going in our favor. But have we ever stopped to think that the Bible specifically commands us to rejoice when things are going against us. Like when we are being opposed. Or when we are financially broke. Or, even, when we are sick.

The charismatic gospel teaches us that anything that comes contrary to our physical, material or financial welfare is of the devil, and that we should rebuke it. But such teachings could not be further from the truth. The true gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us that these contrary things try our faith. Our faith is so precious it has to be tried by fire. It will be tried and tried until it stands pure and unadulterated.

For this reason, therefore, we ought to rejoice with extreme joy, not just when things are going well in our lives; but even more so when they are not.

Have you ever suffered a little for the gospel’s sake and rejoiced for it? If you have, you are on the right track.

Patience

“2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

I have absolutely no doubt that patience is a virtue that most of us would give anything to have. From reading this scripture, it is clear that patience is a step away from Godly perfection. The man who can exhibit Godly restraint in the face of opposition is not far from being perfected in the Spirit (or they already are).

But did you ever stop to think about the cost of patience? The Bible gives it right there. The cost of patience, the Bible says, is joyfully accepting “divers temptations” in one’s life.

The call to salvation is no picnic. On the contrary, it is a call to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow Christ in His sufferings and death.

The ‘King’s Kids’ creed and the prosperity gospel that birthed it both belong to the garbage dump. Those are silly and childish beliefs and they will never work patience in anyone’s heart.

What does scripture mean by ” the trying of your faith worketh patience”?

Far from the popular belief that our faith is for claiming cars and private jets, scripture here makes it abundantly clear that our faith has been given to us in order that we may endure suffering. Our faith brings far more glorious blessings than the material blessings of this world. Yes, it is true that the trying of your faith could bring you a new car, money or any other material blessing. But that is a very small blessing.

The Bible tells us what the grand prize is when it comes to the trying of our faith. The Bible says it is… patience. Patience connotes suffering. But it is also a blessing of unspeakable magnitude. Why? Because it is eternal. As our faith is tried over and over in the fire of adversity, it grows stronger and stronger and it brings down bigger and bigger strongholds of the enemy. Like our pride. Or anger. Or fear.

Perfection

“But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Are we so soon there? Have we so soon arrived at perfection? Yes, we have. But… not just yet. Notice that we have to “let patience have her perfect work” in order for us to be perfected.

Becoming perfect is a result of a life that is ruled by patience. If you are the kind of believer who cannot be touched, you need to know that you are not letting patience have her perfect work in you. In other words, you are not allowing the cross in your life. But the cross is exactly what you need. You need to work at killing your ego or whatever it is that is preventing you from becoming patient.

And how, pray, do you go about working on that? It is by ‘letting’. We have to allow things into our lives; things that chafe at us. In other words, be happy when trials and temptations are chipping away at your anger, pride, etc.

When we have become perfectly patient, that is when perfection begins working in us. When we have been perfected in patience, then we are “perfect and entire, wanting nothing”.

Whew! what a work! But, again, what a goal!

Why Believers Are Afflicted

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. Ps. 34:19

How can righteous suffer; indeed, why must he be afflicted at all? That should not be since the righteous is supposed to be in God’s favor. But this scripture says otherwise. Indeed, the Bible says that the afflictions of the righteous are many. Why this state of affairs?

In Africa, during harvest time, the farmers thresh their produce, to remove the grain and store it, and to burn the chaff. God afflicts us because He wants to bring out the spiritual treasure that is in us. If you want wine, you have to press the grapes, right? In the same manner, God wants to show off the treasure in us, and there is no other way that He can do this apart from scrubbing us and whittling away at us, that the ‘gold’ in us may shine forth.

We have such treasure in us! But we are hardly aware of it. But we have gold in us.

When we have the fruit of the Spirit in us –

“love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Eph. 5:22) –

… that is the treasure that God wants to show off to the world.

I have heard worldly preachers say that God wants to reveal riches like Bentleys, Rolls Royces and million-dollar mansions. But no. Those things do not comprise the heavenly riches. Actually, they are the height of spiritual poverty for when these things grasp your heart, that is the end of you spiritually.

God’s riches, the riches that He wants to show forth to the world in and through us, are the fruit of the Spirit. Those are the spiritual riches.

And so, therefore, God allows afflictions into our lives that they may press us and through this pressing the true heavenly riches in us will show forth.

The perfect example is Jesus. The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:22-24:

“22 Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”

And, in Isaiah 53:7, it says of Jesus:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”

It is clear that Jesus was afflicted! He was reviled; and He suffered. But He wouldn’t utter a word. Jesus opened not His mouth!

Now, not opening our mouths when we are reviled is not easy. Actually, it is very difficult. The minute we hear something against us, our mouths begin moving even before the reviler has finished saying whatever they want to say about us!

But we have such riches in Christ Jesus. Imagine Jesus, He

“reviled not again”.

Imagine,

“when he suffered, he threatened not”.

That is not easy. Sometimes we may do nothing, but in our hearts we end up doing so much!

But we have such riches in us! That is why God allows us to be afflicted. When we are afflicted, these riches show forth. The fruit in us gives forth its aroma.

And if the fruit has not formed yet, afflictions will serve to show us our need for repentance and drive us to desire a greater work of the cross in our lives. There is so much work that afflictions accomplish in a believer’s life. In a word, suffering produces grace. There is no grace without suffering. That is why the Apostle Paul preached the cross before he would talk of grace.

Finally,

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Cor. 10:13)

The word “temptation” here is the same word “affliction” that David used in Psalm 34.We will be tempted. We will be tried. We will be afflicted if we are true children of God. But God’s hand will be upon us and He will not allow any trial or affliction to overcome us. He will make a way, a way of grace for us to walk in victory through every affliction.

Of Baptisms…

Mat_20:23:  And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with.

I hate being bogged down in theology, and the subject of baptism is one sure quicksand in that respect. But, despite the clear risks, I want to attempt to address something about this subject here.

Did you ever notice that during His earthly ministry Jesus never baptized anyone in water? The Bible does say in John 3:22 that “After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized”; but in the very following chapter we read: “When therefore the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John, (Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples,)” John 4:1-2.

The reason Jesus personally did not baptize with water was because He had not come to baptize people with that baptism. He had another baptism with which He would baptize His followers. In Mat_3:11  we see John the Baptist contrasting his (water) baptism with the baptism that Jesus would administer: “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:”

The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:17: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”

Both Paul and John the Baptist caught the revelation of what Jesus would be coming to accomplish in men and women’s hearts. The difference, though, was that John, being of the older order, saw this revelation from afar, as it were – like the prophets of old. When he was in prison, he would begin doubting what he has seen of Jesus, for he had seen Him more in the natural than in the spirit. Paul, on the other hand, not only received a clearer and fuller spiritual revelation of who Jesus was and the work He was to accomplish, but he fully lived and experienced that revelation in the spirit. It consumed his entire being. The outcome of it is that today we are partakers of the fruits of Paul’s experiences through the gospel he received and lived. His gospel and life have enriched all believers’ lives. This was the same gospel that the Early Apostles and the Early Church lived.

Long before John the Baptist would talk of the Holy Spirit and fire, God had spoken these same words through Isaiah. Isaiah 43:2 says “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.”

We see that even under the Old Testament God had never promised His people that they would live a life free of trouble. He promised to baptize them.

John and James were two of Jesus’ closest disciples, yet He could tell them these same words. I doubt that we can expect anything less.

What is the fire the Bible is talking about? The reality of the gospel that Paul preached to the Corinthians is brought to our lives through the many trials and tests that we are made to go through daily. Through these we experience first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives as He moulds us into the image of Christ and enables us to live a holy and righteous life in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). When we live the revelation that Jesus brought and that Paul elucidates in his epistles, that is our true baptism.

We will be tempted and tried in many ways. Many of us, unaware of the need for this baptism, constantly cry out to God to set us free from these trials and temptations. But that is exactly the baptism that God desires to have us pass through: the baptism of the Holy Spirit and of fire. We cannot expect, for example, to learn how to forgive if we are not hurt or wounded on the inside. We fear having our feelings hurt and yet that is the very area where God wants to touch our lives so that He may set us free from our selfish nature.

If there is an area in our lives where we are struggling in the flesh, we should stop everything and cry out to God to set us free. He will give us His Holy Spirit who will enable us to stand our ground as we are being put through the fire. That fire will purify us as we by faith anticipate the outcome, which is becoming worthy (golden) vessels to carry the Life of God, like the Apostles did.