A Ministry Of The Spirit! – Part 1

2 Ye are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read of all men:

3 Forasmuch as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. 2 Cor. 3:2-3

Many years ago, when I was under the charismatic gospel, I used to go to church meetings, conferences, etc., armed with pen and paper. These were my most important tools after my Bible. I had to write down everything that was taught.

Another thing had to do with my Bible. In those years, my Bible looked like a tattooed body. Underlining, highlighting, notes and comments were written all over my Bible. If I gave someone my Bible, they could not have been able to know what was originally written in the Bible; they would need a microscope to decipher what was of God and what was mine.

Another thing: I owned many different versions of the Bible, and my favorite pastime was to go through and compare all these versions against each other daily. I also had Bible concordances, dictionaries, commentaries, study guides and every kind of reference book that had to do with the Bible. And books… I loved to read books written by men of God. I loved the Lord with all my heart, and I did everything possible to get to know Him more.

Today I still love the Lord as I did those years back. But everything else has changed. Today, I have only two Bibles. One is the King James version; and the second one is the standard Swahili translation, Swahili being the language that we use in our part of the world. I have heard people say that the King James is difficult to read and hard to understand. I also used to think that in those days. Not any more. In fact, I find the King James Bible not only the easiest book to understand, but the most joyous to read.

I no longer carry pen and notebook into any service. That is, unless I want to take some information from someone, like their address. Or if I have an announcement to make in church. When I go into a church service I go only with my Bible.

I no longer use concordances, commentaries or any reference books. And I no longer study the old Biblical lands.

About my new Bible… I have had it since 2013 and I have written nothing inside save my name and address. There are no notes, no highlights, no underlining, no nothing. My Bible is just as it was when it came from the printers. If you open it, you would think I have never used it.

That’s the Swahili Bible. For the English Bible I have only my old King James version, which I once had considered getting rid of. And this Bible has no references in it. It is not a Study Bible.

(I have to say it here: there are some Bible versions which read like James Hadley Chase.)

I no longer read books, especially Christian ones. They no longer excite me. What excites me is the daily revelation that I get from God’s Word in the Bible.

So what is all this about? What has happened to me? Have I ran mad?

No. What has happened is that I have received the revelation of the gospel of the cross, which is the ONLY gospel ministered to by the Spirit. The revelation of Christ crucified ministers to the heart, not the mind. If you want to know that you are not under the ministry of the Spirit, all the proof you need to have is how much you feel you have to take and compare notes, read books, rely on study guides, references and commentaries, etc. The litmus test – as a friend of mine would say – of the fact whether you are or you are not under the ministry of the Spirit is when your life is cluttered with these things. It is the mind that relies on ink and paper; and the Spirit does not minister to the mind. The Spirit ministers to our spirits. The Bible says,

“Deep calleth unto deep…” (Ps. 42:7)

Notice verse 3 of 2 Corinthians 3.

“…ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.”

The Holy Spirit does not write His message with ink. Nor does He write it on paper. He writes it with life – God’s life. And He writes it on our hearts. Not on paper. All you need when you go to church is to have a right and receptive heart. And to make sure you are receving the right message.

We cannot become epistles of Christ if we are to rely on ink and paper. To become an epistle of Christ means to carry the life, and the grace, of Christ. Ink and paper go to the mind, and no work of the mind can produce this life in any man. Ernest Hemingway committed suicide despite having one of the greatest minds in the world.

Pen and paper. Throw those into the dustbin. Same with the ipad. Get a right and humble heart, and Christ will minister to you.

All the variant gospels, ministries and churches that have sprouted all over churchdom are a result of a lack of the ministry of the Spirit in the church. That is why you hear warped things like the gospel of prosperity, and worse.

But praise be to God for the gospel of the revelation of the cross. When the Holy Spirit ministers, He ministers through a revelation in our hearts. And the Holy Spirit does not reveal many things. He reveals only one thing: Christ and Him crucified. This is the ONLY gospel that the Holy Spirit ministers. He does not minister any other gospel for the simple reason that it is in this gospel alone that He dwells, the gospel where the precious blood of Jesus Christ was shed. The Holy Spirit cannot dwell in any other gospel. Therefore, no other gospel can bring life to a man. No other gopel can transform a man to become an “epistle of Christ.”

How do I know this? It is because the Apostle Paul himself said,

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

If the Apostle Paul determined to know only one thing, then that’s the only thing worth knowing. It is the only thing any sincere believer should want to know.

Oh, to get a grip on the Pauline revelation! The gospel of the revelation of the cross of Jesus Christ is emphatically a ministry of the Holy Spirit, not of men’s minds.

Ultimately, this revelation is the only thing that a true believer can boast in, for it is what transforms him into the true image of God’s Son Jesus Christ, which is all that God is waiting for us to become.

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God’s Kingdom – In Us!

20 And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation:

21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Lk. 17:20-21

The inspiration for this post came from a conversation I had this morning with an elderly neighbour. I was out sweeping my front yard when my neighbour showed up and asked me, “Pastor, are you not going to church today?”

“No, madam, why?” I asked.

“Today is Good Friday!” she answered with surprise in her voice.

“Well”, I told her. “I know it is Good Friday all right but today I am not going to church.”

“Doesn’t your church hold a service on Good Friday”, she asked, clearly taken aback.

“No, we don’t”, I said simply.

“How come.”

This lady and I are very good friends, so I took the liberty to preach to her a proper Good Friday sermon. In as few words as I could, of course.

“Lady”, I said, “ever since Jesus came into this world, there is only one religious observance that we are called to and it is the purity of our hearts.”

Today, Good Friday, there will be so much activity going on in churches all over the world in honor of the crucifixion of Christ. I even know of people who will not be eating meat today as part of their religious observance. There is nothing wrong in all these things. The only thing we could fault them with is that the Kingdom of God is not found there.

The Apostle Paul preached one singular thing: the cross. Notice his words 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.”

But I probably am getting ahead of myself… There is still much to talk about this religious observances.

When Jesus said, “Lo here! or, lo there!” He was referring to the entire spectrum of religious observances that people carry on with in church. And when it comes to religious observances in church in general, they are too many to mention here.

I remember one time, many years back, Pastor Amas and I had gone to a certain village to preach the gospel. In those days, unlike today when even in the most impassable routes there are motorcycle taxis, in those days much travelling into the villages had to be done on foot. So, on this particular occasion, after we had dropped off the bus, we had to walk for a full hour and a half to reach our destination.

As we were walking along the road we saw afar off a man approaching us. From afar we noticed he was wearing a suit and tie. Deep in the village! Even before we had got anywhere near him, I said, “That’s a pastor.” And true enough, when we finally met him, he was carrying a Bible. He was probably going to preach in the city.

Yes, wearing suits was once – and it still is in some circles – considered a religious duty, just as wearing a gown and crucifix is considered a fulfilment of some religious role in some denominations. There are churches where one cannot preach without wearing a suit and tie.

The list of Christian religious duties and observances, as I just said, is too long to write down here. People are looking for God in every nook and cranny. There are some who are looking for Him in form. Many more are looking for Him in miracles and signs and wonders. But the Kingdom of God is not found in these things. Jesus told us exactly where the Kingdom of God is to be found:

“…behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

What did Jesus mean by these words?

He meant that the Kingdom of God is the life that we live. We as the church should be very careful that we do not get carried away by all the “star-spangled” (to borrow a phrase) shows and goings-on that men can put out in the natural. Nor even in signs and wonders. Instead, our sole duty is look deep into our hearts and to make sure there is a work going on there – the work of the cross! The Apostle Paul said,

“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.”

To which he added,

“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”

Are we crucified to the world and is the world crucified to us? Have we become new creatures, not in name, but in truth and fact? Do we live transformed lives?

These are the central questions that we need to ask ourselves, not whether we can do a little gardening on a Sunday afternoon or not.

[Water geese at the Musoma pier]

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The Power of Love – Part 2

In the first part of this blog, I talked about how the Lord miraculously changed my heart towards my daughter. The lesson I learned there is that no amount of anger on our part, no amount of sermonizing, no amount of scolding will ever bring out the best in our children. The change must first begin with us. We, the parents, must pay the price for our children to change by changing first. And that is as it should be, for the Bible says:

“… for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.” (2 Cor. 12:14)

As parents, we must carry the unconditional love of Christ in our hearts.

The brother that I was sharing my story with had joined our pastoral team here in Singida a few months earlier. But, already, I had come to love and respect him deeply. He was a man who was truly called of God, and he and I regularly spent a lot of time together. On this particular day, we were sharing the gospel casually as we normally do; the account of my daughter came up in the natural course of our conversation.

When I finished telling him my story, the brother looked down for a few minutes without saying anything. On my part, having finished narrating my story, I did not think much of what I had just said to him, and I was considering starting another topic. But the brother had other things on his mind.

After a few moments, he said, “I am touched by what you’ve just said because I, too, have a son.”

He told me that when his son finished his secondary school education, he took him to what we call here a “military school”. This is an ordinary high school, but run by the armed forces. There are therefore some military ‘extras’ in these schools.

A week after the boy had been enrolled at the school, he called his father.

“Dad, make arrangements to quickly get me out of this school. This school is completely useless. All we do here all day long are military drills. We are hardly doing any studying. Get me another school!”

The pastor told me, “I was livid. The reason I had taken this boy to this school in the first place was because he had failed his secondary school examinations. And the reason he had failed his exams was because of his bad behaviour. Instead of studying during his free time at home, he would spend the time walking around with his hands in his pockets, whistling nonchalantly and spewing every kind of garbage around the house. Whenever I told him to study, he would answer me in the most abrasive manner and continue his foolish ways.

“It had cost me a lot of money and much effort to find this school for him. When I heard him say, ‘Get me another school’, that was the end. I told him pointblank that if he ever left that school, I should never see his face in my home again. After which I hung up.”

He said, “I never called him again. But just this week he called me to tell me that the school is closing for the short holidays. He will be coming home tomorrow. Up till today, I did not know how I would receive him because I was still annoyed with him. But what you just shared with me has really touched me. I feel that, despite the boy’s rebelliousness, I also have not demonstrated any compassion or patience to him.”

The pastor left without making any promises. When we met a few days later, I had forgotten all about our conversation. But he brought up the subject almost immediately. He told me that when the boy arrived the next day, he went out to meet him. The boy, apparently fearing for his life, blurted out, “Dad, forgive me for troubling you. I have now gotten used to the school and I am enjoying it.”

To which the dad replied, “No. It is I who needs to ask you for forgiveness. Forgive me for being so hard on you. I ought not to have spoken so harshly to you.”

At which they both hugged and the father led his son inside the house.

“That boy has changed”, he told me. “Gone is the cockiness and defiance. It has been replaced by a seriousness I have never seen in him before.”

Every year’s end, during the December holidays, our organisation, CTMI (www.ctmi.org) holds regional youth camps in various countries around the globe. This year’s East African youth camp will be held in the town of Musoma, in Tanzania.

I am glad to say that, this year this young man will grace our regional youth camp for the first time. His father told me, “I just asked him whether he would go and he replied yes. I never expected that answer. It came out of the blue!”

“No, my friend”, I told him. “You paid a small price, and this is the reward for taking up your cross.”

The Bible says:

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (Jn. 3:16-17)

Let us live, not to condemn, but to love.

[Below: Buses at a weighbridge near Dodoma]

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The Cross For Our Maturity

12 As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.

13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.

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.

15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. Gal. 6:12-15

When people hear the world “persecution” they immediately conjure up images of beheadings and other forms of cruel mistreatment for the Christian believer by the world. Indeed, it is a stirring statement on the phenomenal times that we are living in, that we are witnessing these things happening right before our eyes and, moreover, that we, too, could become subjected to such suffering.

However, that fact notwithstanding, the word “persecution” as used by scripture here talks of something more: it denotes the entire process of the uprooting of the “world” from the believer’s life. The “world” is the carnal, sinful nature that resides in man.

Uprooting this system in us is what the gospel is all about, at least in our earthly context. If we are to be effective for God, then we must get serious with God. Otherwise, we will end up entertaining people, thinking we are serving God. We will unwittingly end up as one big entertainment industry.

Notice, in verse 12 above: “… lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.”

The cross of Christ is revealed in our lives for only one purpose: in order that we might suffer for the gospel’s sake. In other words, the cross brings suffering. There was a time the cross was taught as a final restingplace for all our earthly troubles, but that’s not true. Here the Bible says “…suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.” “Suffering” should be a word that is central to a believer’s life.

The Bible states categorically in 2 Tim. 3:12: “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.”

In Philippians 1:29 also we read: “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake…”

And Jesus did say: “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Lk. 12:49)

According to the liberal gospels making the rounds today, it is like Jesus brought a fire engine to put out the fires that Satan had started upon the earth: the fire of disease, the fire of poverty, the fire of this and that. But the Bible has news for us. Jesus came to light the actual fire, and we better be prepared to burn!!

Disease, poverty and all the things that these other gospels talk about are all things that have to do with the outer man. But the true gospel of Jesus Christ deals with the deep things of our hearts.

The true believer, who walks on the narrow road of the cross, will tell you how much of a conflict they find themselves facing for the gospel’s sake, and that much of it comes from deep within themselves. The cross does not come to coddle us. And neither, for anyone’s sake, will the cross ever be ‘politically correct’ with the world. The world is Christ’s sworn enemy, and if the world is alive in us, Christ is ready to march in and engage it if we will only allow Him to.

The Bible says,

“15 Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 Jn. 2:15-16)

This scripture is central in our fight for the gospel’s sake. Think about “the pride of life”, for example. How much does the cross need to work in our hearts to uproot “the pride of life” in us?

I am sure a lot of “persecution” is needed for this to happen.

And how about “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes”? Have you, through experience, not found that these things demand that our lives be immediately ordered into the “strait and narrow” way that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:13-14?

We cannot deceive God, nor should we deceive ourselves. We need to change! Indeed, we ought to be grateful for the cross of Christ. Where would we be without it?… and I am not just referring to the initial act of salvation but, even more importantly, for this that Paul is talking of here – the transforming and maturing of our characters – that we might be worthy to be called sons and daughters of God.

Now, notice in Galatians 6, that many in Paul’s day who claimed to be followers of Christ were actually people who would not allow the cross into their lives. They made loud proclamations and did many outward acts (like circumcision) to prove their adherence to the gospel, but in their hearts they had put a “STOP” sign to the work of the cross in their lives.

Loving the world comes in hundreds of different ways.

When one is walking on the wide and broad way of the flesh, they will never allow the cross to touch them. But when a believer decides to follow Christ on the strait and narrow road, the cross will confront them. This confrontation brings a transformatiton in their lives.

What I love about the Apostle Paul was that he welcomed the cross into his life. Indeed, this is the real difference between a spiritual Christian and a carnal one: one can allow the cross to work in him, and the other will not, no matter they are saved.

But the Apostle Paul would only glory in the cross. For what purpose?

“… by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”

We could paraphrase Paul’s words here thus: “… by whom sin is crucified to me, and I to sin”.

Wow! I love that with all my heart. I root for that. Don’t tell me about a “great man of God”; instead, show me a man or woman who has crucified their lives for the gospel’s sake! That I will consider. That is the singular man who can keep God’s law. The gospel came that we might keep God’s law.

Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Mat. 5:17)

This is what the gospel is all about – fulfilling God’s law. The only way any man can keep God’s law is to have the “world” uprooted from him. And it was revealed to the Apostle Paul and the other apostles that the only thing that could do that uprooting was the cross of Christ. (Eph. 3:1-5).

We cannot claim to be serious with God if we are not keeping His law. By extension, this means  that we cannot claim to be serious with God if we are not walking fully in the revelation of the cross of Christ. The two go together; there is not one without the other.

Should we fail to submit ourselves under the pruning work of the cross of Christ, we shall turn the church into a circus. Today, the church has become a laughingstock for the world in many ways, because of its lack of seriousness in portraying the life of Christ to the world. Indeed, it cannot do so, for it has rejected the cross of Christ. It is slowly turning into the greatest circus the world has ever seen.

But that need not be so. We can turn things around, for there is balm in Gilead! By crucifying our flesh, our lives shall impact the world in a big way, as Jesus affected the world through His death on the cross. We see Paul and the other apostles doing the same by crucifying their lives with Christ’s. Their lives are legendary.

But, even more importantly, when we thus crucify our lives on the cross, we shall be ready to meet our Lord when we finally face Him in heaven!

The Holy Spirit For Our Sanctification

The Holy Spirit affects us in three major ways:

  • The Holy Spirit with us
  • The Holy Spirit upon us
  • The Holy Spirit in us

This diversity shows how rich God is. And, just for discussion’s sake, which, amongst these three aspects, would you prefer to find the Holy Spirit ministering to you in if you were asked to choose only one?

Well, none is less needful, but we shall soon see why having the Holy Spirit in us is of the uttermost importance to the born-again believer.

The Holy Spirit with us. When the Holy Spirit comes to be with us He convicts us of many things, as we read in John 16:8-11. The Holy Spirit with us affects even the un-Godly as we see in verses 8-9:

“8 And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 Of sin, because they believe not on me…”

The ministry of the Holy Spirit with us is therefore broad and all-encompassing.

The Holy Spirit on us. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, the first sign that He is upon us is that we speak in tongues. Speaking in tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it has many benefits. In the first place, God, being Spirit, desires that we communicate with Him in spiritual language, and that is why He has given us the gift of tongues. It is far more edifying spiritually to speak to God in tongues than in any earthly language. That is what the Bible says in 1 Cor. 14:1-4.

Secondly, tongues are used to bring prophecy to the church. God uses the ministry of speaking in tongues to bring a direct message from His heart to the church. God then uses other ministries within the church to interpret those tongues. God is so rich!

One of the best examples of this in the Bible is the case of Balaam’s donkey. The donkey wasn’t human, but he spoke in human language when the Holy Spirit came upon him. Now, no donkey will inherit God’s heavenly Kingdom; but the Holy Spirit came upon the donkey and the donkey spoke in tongues and saved Balaam’s life!

As I said, Balaam’s donkey is not going to heaven. That means a donkey cannot be spiritual. Speaking in tongues, therefore, or prophesying in tongues does not mean you are spiritual. Sometimes someone – a preacher, or a believer – can have a rotten spiritual lifestyle, and he knows it. But yet he preaches and miracles happen in his services and, unfortunately, he believes that this makes him spiritual or acceptable to God. But no; that is just the Holy Spirit upon him operating on behalf of God. Again, God is so rich in grace He can allow these kinds of things to happen.

What makes a man acceptable to God, though, is something entirely different, and it is what we will look at next.

The Holy Spirit in us. The Holy Spirit in us is what pleases God most. Why? It is because the heart of man is the place where God has chosen to make His dwelling place. That is an incredible fact, but it is true. God has chosen to live in men’s hearts! When we say God has made the heart His dwelling place, it is talking about man’s spirit.

I am sure none of us would love to live in a dirty house. God therefore works very hard to clean His house. The Bible says,

“Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Heb. 12:14).

A clean heart is a holy heart! People love talking about grace, but here and elsewhere, scripture makes it clear that grace comes with a responsibility. We are commanded to be holy if we ever hope to “see the Lord”! The permissive grace that many people love talking of is certainly not of God.

Something – a change – definitely needs to happen in our hearts. The Holy Spirit in us is where God operates upon our hearts to bring about this change. Here God reveals to us the reality of the spiritual life. He shows us, just as He did with the Apostle Paul, how much we must suffer for the gospel’s sake.

What does it mean to suffer for the gospel’s sake? It is the cleansing process. It is the uprooting of the old man of our carnal nature. True Christian life is a transformation. God wants our hearts to be transformed to become like His – pure and holy.

God knows, for example, that if I have envy in my heart I will not inherit His eternal life. But He knows exactly what is needed to transform me. God therefore gets to work to deal with my envy. He raises up a huge stumbling block in my life to deal with that envy. As long as I am willing, God will use that stumbling block to chip away at my envy down to its roots. God’s working in my life becomes my “thorn in the flesh”, but it produces the sweet fruit of a sanctified life.

It was for this reason that the early apostles welcomed suffering in their lives. They knew what it would do in them. It would transform them!

May we allow the Holy Spirit to have His way in us. He is there to sanctify us. Suffering – giving up our earthly rights – may last for a night, but the morning is coming. The reward for this sanctification is unfathomable.

[Below: The old Indian Quarter in Musoma Town]

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Worshiping God In Revelation

1 Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest?

2 For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

3 He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. Is. 66:1-3

If someone asked me who the greatest singer of all time is, straight off I would answer: Whitney Houston. There is no question about that, as far as I am concerned. Whitney had the sweetest voice I ever heard.

Now, let’s assume, for argument’s sake, that Whitney sang for the Lord. The sad fact associated with this is that, in all probability God might not have been aware either of her sweet voice or her touching lyrics. This is because it is not our sweet voices nor the beauty of our lyrics that move God. What moves God is the heart – a humble and repentant heart. A repentant heart is a heart that can turn around from its sinful ways and begin obeying God. I do not know if Whitney had a humble and repentant heart. The only thing I am sure of  is that her sweet voice wouldn’t move God an inch unless she had that kind of heart. In order to please God, we need to walk in the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What is the revelation of the gospel? Revelation is having God’s viewpoint. Revelation is knowing what pleases God. There are many things that believers do believing that in doing them they are pleasing God. But there is only one thing that we can do to truly please God: it is to see things as God sees them and by the grace of God align our lives with that vision.

When we have God’s viewpoint, we see things differently. Let us take the example of a pastor who has 10,000 members in his church. That’s a good thing – taking so many people to heaven! But if that pastor’s sights are set on the numbers, then he does not see things as God sees. He has no revelation.

On the other hand, if that same pastor can see the transformation that is needed in his church members’ lives through the working of the cross, and desire that transformation to be effected in even one person amongst these 10,000, then that pastor is walking in the revelation of the gospel. He has realized that God is interested in a transformation, not numbers.

Unfortunately, many pastors rejoice in the numbers.

But the New Testament is full of exhortations to believers to desire to be transformed and to grow in grace. God is not pleased when we remain babes all our lives, even babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

God desires all men to be saved, but the Kingdom of God is not about numbers. On the contrary, it is about transformed lives, no matter they may be few (Mat. 7:13). That is why, when it comes to praising and worshiping God, we cannot attempt to persuade God with our sweet voices and wonderful lyrics. God listens to our singing with a spiritual ear, an ear set on the condition of our hearts.

God is looking for transformed people!

In any case, there is nothing we can ‘surprise’ God with. God says in verse 2: “For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD”.

God is the creator of all things.

But – surprise! – there is one thing that is outside the realm of God. There is something that God did not create. That thing is sin. Incredibly, this sin nature lives in us! But sin separates man from God.

The only thing, therefore, that we can do to truly surprise God is when we allow His revelation to come into our hearts and there bring about a transformation. God, who knows our rebellious human nature, is moved by a heart that can humble itself and repent.

It is for this very reason that God in Isaiah draws a disturbing distinction between our activities for and on behalf of Him and how He views those activities if they are not carried out on the platform of a crucified life:

“He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations.”

When we do anything for God, but are careless about the condition of our hearts, God abhors that which we do. Actually, at no one time, for example, did God ever feel that He needed our praise so much that He could overlook the purity of our hearts. Never.

The Apostle Paul brings this into closer perspective when he admonishes us under the New Covenant: “I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.” (1 Tim. 2:8)

When we go to church we should not just love to raise our hands and voices in prayer to God. We are to do it

“… without wrath and doubting”.

That cannot be without a crucifixion of our carnal nature since there will always be situations in our lives that will tempt us to get angry or to doubt God. And we cannot take these things lightly.

When God’s revelation comes into our hearts, we realize the things that please God have to do with the condition of our hearts. And, most important of all, we realize how we must first crucify our carnal nature before we attempt to do anything for God or to ‘please’ Him.

[Below: A praise session. Whatever we do for God, He looks at our hearts first]

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“Leavin’ On My Mind”

17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:

19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. Phil. 3:17-21

The most important thing that I want us to consider in portion of scripture is Paul’s attitude towards the gospel of Jesus Christ contrasted with preachers in his day whom we would equate with today’s prosperity-gospel preachers. The latter were men whose motive in the gospel was material fulfillment. Even in our modern times, the truth is that what is called ‘church’ under the prosperity gospel – and it increasingly consists of a large portion of the Body of Christ – is not Christ’s church at all, but it is simply that some hungry, wrongly-motivated individuals have taken it upon themselves to trouble and mislead God’s people (Gal. 1:7).

These kinds of preachers preach a gospel that has absolutely no relation with the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and in real life there are many tragic stories in people’s lives that are directly connected with the activities of these preachers.

Any gospel that minds “earthly things” is a low-life, spiritually abhorrent gospel. It is a ‘gospel’ that has been brought in by men who simply want to fill their bellies!

The Apostle Paul was so grieved in his spirit by the bearers of this materialistic gospel that he wept.

Paul knew these people were dangerous, because they purposely avoided the cross of Jesus Christ, and they taught God’s people to do so. These people were enemies of the cross of Christ!

But Paul had been taught by Christ that the cross is the only gospel that can perfect men in the Spirit (2 Cor. 12;9).

But God is extremely patient and it appears as if He gives these false preachers all the rope they need. But the Apostle Paul warns that, one day, the Lord will deal severely with them. Their “end is destruction” (v.19).

Paul, on the other hand, did not preach a worldly gospel, nor did he live a material life. When it came to the material life, Paul rolled with the times. Sometimes he was full, other times he had nothing. And if he was in really dire straits, he could always rely on his friends, the brethren from Philippi (Phil. 4:15-18).

Paul states the gospel that he preached in verses 20-21:

20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”

Paul’s gospel focused on God’s heavenly Kingdom. Paul himself lived a life that was fully in preparation to living the eternal life with Jesus Christ. It was a life of self-denial, of the denial of the world and its ways and attractions.

And so the apostle wept. He wept for the church because he saw people who took advantage of God’s patience to preach a gospel that drew God’s people away from the heavenly vision to an earthly one. Paul, the man who was given the mandate to perfect Christ’s bride through the cross of Christ found himself at war with people who were bound enemies of this very cross!

Now, surprisingly, and pleasantly so, Paul says there were people in the Philippian church who obeyed exactly the same example of life that he lived and preached. There were people in the church at Philippi who followed the example of Paul!

And Paul tells the church: “Mark these people”.

In other words, “Set your goal to be as them; follow after them”.

These were men and women who took up their cross daily and followed Christ, with their sights set, not on the fleetings material things of this world, but on heaven.

This is God’s cry for the modern church: that we may catch a revelation of heaven through the gospel of the cross.

[Is leavin’ on our minds? Jessy Dixon]