The Apostle And Unity In The Church – Part 2

And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea. Col. 4:16

That is the voice of the father – a spiritual father. There are many more instances in the apostolic epistles of a spiritual father addressing his children. And here we see the Apostle Paul addressing the same thing to two different churches simultaneously: “When you read this letter, cause it to be read by the Laodeceans; and you likewise read my letter to the Laodiceans.”

How could this be? Was Paul addressing his denomination, or his ministry? By no means. A denomination is a dead thing because it is man-made; but Paul was addressing the church of the Living God. Paul was addressing a living Body. And this Body was one. Whichever church Paul had a relationship with was similar to the other for the simple reason that they were being conformed to the image of Christ. They were not being conformed to the image of Paul, but of Christ, who died and rose again.

One of the gravest dangers in the church today is conformationism. The church is being conformed all right, but to whom is it being conformed? Even in churches that confess the revelation of the cross, the question must be asked, to whom are they being conformed? Yes, they are being conformed to their pastor, but is the pastor conformed after Christ?

You cannot have a church in Tanzania that carries its own peculiar image (read its pastor’s image) and one in Europe that carries a different image (its pastor’s). If it is so, then this speaks of churches that are not under the ministry of an apostle, for there cannot be two different images of Christ. There is only one image of Christ, which the apostle brings into the church. Where the apostle is ministering, throughout, you will find only one image amongst the people:

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

That is so simple and clear. And it ought to be very, very clear to the church. The church cannot be said to be like Christ because it worships in a certain way or prays in certain manner.

This is the reason for God bringing the apostle to the church. A true apostle is a man who has died, that Christ may live in him. In this way, he reveals the crucified Christ. Therefore, wherever and whatever he touches or ministers, it is no longer him, but Christ who will be seen and known. And there is no other Christ that can be revealed to the church apart from

“Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

The issue of Christ being formed in the church is no light thing. It is something that requires a total death to the body of the one chosen by God to carry this ministry. Recall what God told Ananias about Paul:

“15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: 16 For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.” Acts 9:15-16

Paul would suffer. He would suffer just as Christ suffered, until he put away his carnal body.

An apostle who has suffered in the body will reveal the cross; he will reveal the crucified Christ. Hence the Apostle Paul writes:

“From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17)

The Body of Christ. It must be one. The church cannot be like So-and-So. It must be like Christ. It must have the image of Christ, not the image of a man. Throughout the entire world. Through conforming to the image of the crucified Christ, who it is who rose again.

Then the church will be one, showing off the character and riches of Christ in the Spirit.

My final thought is that the church should be extremely wary of anyone who calls themselves an apostle. This is not someone you can invite lightly into your life or church. He must be someone whose life you have examined in the light of Christ and found to fulfill the criteria that the early apostles carried. And we can find them only if we have a heart for God in truth and in the Spirit.

[The great Mara River bridge]

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The Apostle And Unity In The Church – Part 1

Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God… Rom. 1:1

I often joke with my family. I tell them, “I am the most important person in this family. In fact, I am so important I don’t need to do anything else apart from just being about. My presence alone here is work enough!”

That might be me joking; but the position of fatherhood within the family is more important than we think. A household without a father is like a body without a head. It is uncontrollable. The father is the authority figure in the house. A household that has no father has very little authority – and, hence, little order or discipline – in it. This is by no means a love-less attack on single families, no. But we must uphold God’s truth despite the odds we encounter in this life, for God is in heaven.

The scenario I have just described above concerning the family is the same with the church. In the same way that the father is of paramount importance in the house, the ministry of the apostle is the most important ministry in the church. For this reason, the Apostle Paul writes:

“And God hath set some in the church, first apostles…” (1 Cor. 12:28)

Why is this ministry paramount in the church? It is because this ministry is it that establishes the fatherhood of God in the church. The church is a household; and as we just saw there is no household without a father. The Bible talks of

“14 … the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Eph. 3:14-15).

In this scripture, the Swahili Bible substitutes the word “family” with “fatherhood”.

There are therefore fathers, and we cannot all be fathers. We thank God that we have a Father, God Himself. But God, through His manifold wisdom, has in Jesus Christ placed in the church men to represent Him in the office of fatherhood. These men are called apostles. Notice it is men, not women. There are no women in the 5-fold ministry. Women can work in other offices in the church, but not in the 5-fold ministry. Jesus set the precedent to this during His earthly ministry. There were no women among the 12 apostles that He chose.

The reason for this separation is because the 5 ministries encapsulated in the 5-fold ministry are ministries of authority; they represent the authority of God. Now, the Bible forbids a woman from exercising authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). God could not therefore break his own rule by allowing women into the positions of authority that the 5 ministries of the apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher carry.

This representation of God’s authority by men working on behalf of God, is evident in Ephesians 4:11-13, where Paul writes:

“11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ”.

When these ministries are in the church, the church can therefore become a true spiritual household. There is no longer any carnal independence because the church is now a family and each person is subject to one another in the fear of God. And the authority of God can be felt by God’s people because the father – the apostle – is there. This authority disciplines us to become true spiritual children, walking in the righteousness of God. This, in turn, creates the bond of unity that makes the church to become a body, the Body of Christ.

Today, the church is there all right; but it is a different church than the one God intended. There is little discipline in the church, and it is deeply fragmented because there is no authority. Today, any man can arise and do whatever seems right in their own eyes, all in the name of the Lord. There is no one to point the way; or to put a “STOP” sign where one is needed.

So, who is the apostle? Is it any man who declares himself to be one?

By no means, no. The apostle does not just declare himself to be an apostle. On the contrary, he is declared to be an apostle both by the ministry he carries of revealing the cross of Jesus Christ. This means he reveals the crucified Christ. And, pray, how does he do that? He does so by allowing the cross to work in his own life. This fact is of primary importance. The apostle is a man whose life has been crucified with Christ; he no longer has a life of his own. Rather, he is a bond-slave of Christ in the Spirit.

Secondly, he preaches no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross.

That was how Paul and the other apostles were declared to be apostles. Firstly, Paul states in 1 Cor. 1:22-23,

“22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified…”

Today, the most important preacher is the miracle-worker. Not so in Paul’s day, as is so clear in his words above.

Secondly, Paul show us something else that is of even greater importance. In 1 Cor 2:2 he declares:

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

When he says “I determined not to know” he is talking, not just about his preaching, but his lifestyle also. Paul lived a crucified life among the Corinthians and through his life that was crucified with Christ he revealed the power of the cross to the church. He revealed the power of the cross in his life first!

There are many apostles today; but there were many apostles also during the Apostle Paul’s ministry. But there was a basic difference between Paul and these other men. In 2 Cor. 11:13 he writes:

“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.”

Many of today’s apostles are exactly as Paul describes those of his time. They are false apostles. Why? Because they do not live the crucified life. They cannot reveal Christ because they have no revelation of Christ in them. Rather, they have a ‘revelation’ of the flesh. They live for and serve the flesh. Chief among these are the prosperity preachers.

But Paul had a revelation of Christ in his life. His life is a testimony to that. Let us take time to read Paul’s defense of his apostleship.

“23 Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. 24 Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25 Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. 28 Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? 30 If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” (2 Cor. 11:23-30)

That is the testimony of a man who has seen the crucified Christ in his spirit. Any other ‘revelation’ will produce something else.

For a lack of a father, therefore, the church today is fragmented. There is little discipline, order, love or unity within the church. In fact, we have gone to the extent that we glory in the non-existence of these things. We rejoice in our divisions, feeling proud of our denominations or groupings somehow thinking we had a monopoly with God.

So what’s the answer to this problem?

The answer is simple. The church must recognize and allow the true ministry of the apostle within its ranks. It must relinquish the position of the father to the true church fathers – men who have a revelation of the crucified Christ in their hearts and who manifest this revelation through living a life that is crucified with Christ, just as we have seen the Apostle Paul had. These men may be few, and few indeed they must be. But they are there even now, lurking somewhere in the background, just as John the Baptist told the Jews:

“26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; 27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” (Jn. 1:26-27)

They are unknown, yes. Yet, when our spiritual eyes are open and we see what we as the church need (and what we do not need), we will turn and we will see them. And when these ministries have been given their rightful place in the church, then true spiritual healing and growth will come into the church, and the church will be a true abode of God, bringing joy to His heart as He beholds her order and righteousness.

[The Great Rift Valley]

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We Are One

26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.
27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal. 3:26-28
An argument was brewing up in church. Somebody had come to church with their sick child and another child had gone to play with him. The mother of the second child rushed up and hustled her child away from the sick one with the words, “Watch out! He is going to infect you!”
The mother of the sick child overheard the words, and she did not take it well. She came to the defense of her child – and her dignity.
Thus began a very ugly spat right inside the church grounds. The cross of Jesus had been thrown overboard.
Inside one of the cars going home after the service sat the mother who had snatched away her child from the company of the sick one. She was a well-educated and well-groomed lady.
The car had four other passengers, all equally well-educated. Still smarting from the unpleasant exchange she had had with her sister-in-Christ, the sister remarked: “Couldn’t she have had the sense to leave her child at home? How can one bring such a sick child to play with other kids?”
To which one of the company replied, “The problem is that that lady is not educated.”
From that point onwards, the conversation inside the car revolved around the merits of being educated and the disadvantages of being uneducated. Not one person who spoke made any reference to taking up their cross and following Christ. Instead, they all came to the support of the sister who was with them in the car.
This is not a story that I have made up. It is an actual incident that occurred in a certain church.
The first words in the Bible are:
“In the beginning…” (Gen. 1:1)
In everything we must start in the beginning. Where were you before you got educated? Where were you before you became rich? What were you before you became the self-made man or woman you have become? Where were you before you became white or black?
The cold fact is that you were nothing. You have no idea of your origins because it was God who ordained you to come into this world. And even after you were born, there was a time you did not know your left hand from your right hand.
Education, riches, status, cultural background, etc. – all these are things that we stumbled upon in this world. These things are of this world; they are not of God’s heavenly Kingdom. As spiritual people, therefore, we cannot boast in them. Nor can we allow them to divide us as children of God.
Rather, we are to desire to take up our cross and humble ourselves and realize that we are what we are simply because we are in Christ. Without Christ, we are nothing.
The Jew, the Greek; the bond, the free; the male and the female: all these are qualities that are of this world. They set the boundaries for us in the flesh. But in the Spirit, we are one. There is none of these things that divide us.
To be honest, I have a problem with being a man. There are certain inborn traits and expectations that come with this attribute which, in the Spirit, are more of a hindrance to me than the positive qualities that the world makes them out to be.
That is why I need the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ in my life will deal with the mind of the flesh that is inherent in these qualities. The cross of Christ will mould in me the mind of Christ, whereby I can have the grace to consider my wife a fellow heir with me of the grace of life (1 Pet. 3:7), rather than as just a woman.
The grace of God in me will make me to lift men of low estate and cause them to become my equals in the Spirit instead of looking down on them.
The grace of God in me will cause me to give the respect due to my superiors in life, not out of fear, but because I love them; they are my brothers and sisters.
The grace of God, that we receive as a result of the cross working in our lives, will make us truly one, the true Body of Jesus Christ.
God’s grace in us will make us to effectively do the will of God, which is “good, and acceptable, and perfect” (Rom. 12:2).

Unity – The Ultimate Goal

For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 1 Cor. 12:13

Every process in life seeks to work out something, which is called the end product. The end product could also be referred to as the goal.

Just as it is in the natural, so it is with the gospel. And what, pray, is the end product of our calling as believers? Many would answer, “To be holy”. That is true, all right. But still that is not the real heart of God’s goal in calling us. You would be surprised to learn that the ultimate goal is… unity. God’s ultimate aim in calling us is to have a holy, spiritual, unified Body.

In all it does, the gospel of Jesus Christ aims at one ultimate goal, which is the unity of all believers in one Body, the Body of Jesus Christ. There is no greater goal with God than the unity in the Spirit of the individual members that comprise the Body of Christ.

In the same breathe, therefore, the greatest person in the Kingdom of God is the person who through the Spirit works towards the singular goal of UNITING himself/herself with the Body of Christ in the Spirit.

The singular work that the gospel has is to put to death the things that prevent us from becoming ONE, UNITED as a body.

Once we understand that, I believe we can now all see the incredible price that each one of us is called upon to pay individually in order to arrive at that goal. This is because we are all selfish by nature, and that selfishness simply has to go. Through the love of Christ that has been shed in our hearts, we are called upon to live for others.

In the natural, they say birds of a feather flock together. In other words, people with the same interests easily accommodate each other. But it is not so in the Spirit. In the Spirit, we ALL are to accommodate each other. The gospel does not put a difference between particular kinds of people.

There is no difference, therefore, between a white man and a black man, a rich man and a poor man, nor the cultured and the uncultured.

The white man has to die to his whiteness. The black man has to die to his blackness as well. I am not an expert in sociology, but as a black man, I know there are many inbuilt complexities that make me African. These attitudes also control my relationships with men of different color, especially the white man. I was raised up to believe that if I see a white man I am to snap to attention. And probably the white man was born with an inbuilt mechanism that allows him to only look down upon the African.

Unfortunately, these differences are inescapable in the world. But that is because the world does not have the ability to defeat that condition. But the gospel is the POWER of God. The gospel has the power to put to death my African-ness and for the white man to put aside his white-ness. In the process, the gospel ultimately brings a right relationship between me and my white brother. The right relationship is UNITY, where there is absolutely no difference between the two apparently different people.

Nor, with the gospel, is there a difference between the rich and the poor. Unfortunately, today we see everyone in church striving to become rich. The gospels that propagate this kind of lifestyle are simply promoting selfishness and these are the very attitudes that snuff out the power of the gospel in bringing unity to the Body of Christ.

These attitudes should die within the church. And praise God, there is power to bring down all our un-Godly attitudes. That power is the power of the cross.

What exactly do we mean by the power of the cross? It is the ability, through the Spirit, to deny ourselves and to take up our cross and follow Christ. The cross brings death to the flesh. That is the meaning of the power of the cross. The Apostle Paul writes:

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

The cross… is the power of God. When we deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Christ, we prove the power of God. In every situation that arises, as we deny ourselves and take up our cross, we are transformed more and more into the image of Christ. The character of Christ is humility in love and as each one takes up this character in them we end up morphing into the desired end product that God is looking and working for – UNITY of the Body of Christ in the Spirit.

The Unity Of The Godhead

I and my Father are one. Joh 10:30

God the Father, God the Son Jesus Christ, God the Holy Spirit – these three form the Godhead, God. The Godhead is not something easy to explain. God is pre-existent. He existed before anything ever was. He is also the Creator of everything, matter and non-matter. Everything that is originated with God. Some things He simply spoke into being. Others He created. The Bible says in John 1:3:

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

That is how powerful and all-encompassing God is. God’s power is actually indescribable. Howbeit, there are many ways to physically gauge the power of God. One of the best (for me) is to look up into the sky on a star-lit night. You will see there things that will surely have you thinking hard. You might also need to read a few articles or, even much better, watch a few documentaries about space. Scientists tell us there are billions upon billions of stars out there. You might want to learn about inter-planetary or even interstellar travel, where distances are measured in something called “light years”. You will be astounded beyond belief at what scientists are uncovering  about the power that was involved in the activity and creation of the universe.

But even with all these discoveries, astronomers are still stuck in the vast abstractness of what they call the ‘known universe’! In other words, there is something beyond this ‘known universe’, and they have barely began to scratch at the proverbial tip of the iceberg! But already they have been rendered breathless by the awesome power and wonder in the humble discoveries that they have made.

Unbeknown to man, though, all these jaw-dropping ‘discoveries’ are just a stroll in the garden for God. He it is He who created them all. And He is so familiar with the territory that He knows the number of stars in the universe and He calls each star by its name! (Ps. 147:4). (Which suggests the universe might be finite, after all, although with God ‘finiteness’ might be a trillion trillion trillion light years beyond the curve of the unknown universe!)

There are simply no human words to describe God, or His power. He is indescribably powerful, glorious and majestic. And here we are looking at just the physical dimension of God’s power. We have not even come close to touching on the spiritual aspect of the Godhead, which is the heart of who God is. The Bible states that God is Spirit. In this regard, the physical aspect of God is a distraction, at best.

In the Spirit, God is THE GREAT GOD. Even God’s great nation, the Jews, lacked the strength to mouth God’s name, so they wrote it in un-pronouncable format: YWHW. When men gathered enough courage to pronounce that Name, they pronounced it ‘YAHWEH’.

But we do not have space in this post to attempt to look at God’s spiritual attributes. We will save that for another day. But let us move on…

There is something else concerning the Godhead which is also not easy to understand. This is the fact that each one of the Godhead is individually existent. In fact, they have separate Names. God the Father is called YAHWEH; God the Son is called Jesus Christ; and there is God the Holy Spirit.

By being individually existent, it means that each one of the Godhead is capable of or has a will of His own. Which further means that each one is capable of thinking on His own accord and making decisions of His own.

And yet – they are one. Jesus told the Jews: “I and my Father are one.”

Why would Jesus feel the need to say these words? It was because it was obvious that He and God the Father were two individual entities, but Jesus looked and did everything exactly like God the Father. If one saw Jesus, he had in effect seen God the Father – in poise, in character, in operation – in everything!

And this point right here is the heart of this post. Right here is where we get the most astounding revelation concerning the Godhead, which is the fact that each one of these powerful individuals that form the Godhead was able to put aside His will and humble themselves to become ONE. They merged their wills. Indeed, the most incredible thing about the Godhead is God’s humility. Considering their exalted position, it would have been very difficult for God the Father or God the Son or God the Holy Spirit to humble themselves. Each one of them could have said, “I am God”.

But the Godhead did that which is simply impossible with man. They humbled themselves and became one.

This is a most astounding fact. It is especially so with God the Father, considering who He truly is. How He could lower Himself to become one with His Son Jesus Christ and with the Holy Spirit, is unbelievable.

But, of course, God went on from there and humbled Himself to unimaginable levels for our sake. Which is a different story all together.

Human nature is as far from God’s nature as the earth is from the heavens. Man only seeks to be elevated. It is impossible to find a man who can put aside their will for the sake of uniting himself fully with another. It is only until a man understands the cross of Jesus Christ and submits his life to it that he can do this.

But this kind of Godly humility and unity is exactly the very challenge that scripture calls us to. In Philippians 2:3-4 the Apostle Paul writes:

“3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

The contrast between the Godhead and human nature is so amazing. One – God – is indescribably elevated in glory, power and majesty, and yet so humble. The other, man, is lowly nothingness, and yet he is so full of human pride. “I” becomes god to him.

It amazes me that the church as we know it is full of people of every category and position: apostles, prophets, bishops, popes, and every kind of exalted position… Add to this our fine denominations, churches, ministries and fellowships which we love to pride ourselves in. But to find a truly humble man, that is a different matter all together. Man has become bigger than God Himself! Surely, we have a big problem in our hearts! And we all know that pride was the very problem that Satan had: he wanted to put himself above God (Is. 14:13-14). We are therefore the children of our father, the devil, when we fail to attain to God’s level of humility. And do not be deceived by the liberal theologies of how once we have been born again, we will go to heaven no matter what. You can be saved and still go to hell. Especially if you have pride in your heart.

That is why I love the gospel that the Apostle Paul preached, “… Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” (1 Cor. 2:2)

Why? Again the Apostle answers for us:

“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor.1:18)

Notice, “the preaching of the cross… is the power of God.”

What a powerful revelation! For us to have the character of Christ in us, we must go through the baptism of the cross.

It was for this very reason that Paul loved the cross of Christ with all his heart (2 Cor. 12:10-11). He knew what it could accomplish in him. It made him to die to self and to give his life for others.

I may not have attained to it but I, too, like Paul, love the cross of Jesus Christ with all my heart. I want to humble myself and be able to unite my heart with true men and women of God, the church of Jesus Christ.

[The world is all about self, “I”, but you can hardly notice it with all the apparent calm around us]

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Unity In The Body Of Christ

So he sent his brethren away, and they departed: and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way. Gen. 45:24

What does the phrase “to fall out” mean? It means to separate, to be in disunity. The Swahili version puts this scripture this way, “And do not quarrel among yourselves along the way.”

You may wonder why Joseph would need to tell his brothers, grown men, not to quarrel among themselves. Such a statement seems even out of place in the Bible!

But I can assure you that nothing that is written in the Bible can ever be considered “out of place”. The seemingly trivial and irrelevant statement that Joseph made here has very powerful implications in the Spirit.

At last, now, Joseph was in a position where he could speak to his brothers and they would listen to him. There was a time when they would not listen to him and they had even sold him into slavery.

But with God persecution is momentary. Soon Joseph was in a position of such authority that his brothers better take heed to every word that came out of his mouth if they wished to live!

It is so with our Lord Jesus and His church today. We cannot take Jesus’ words lightly today. He has passed through death and He is Lord over all, throughout eternity. Jesus’ words carry life. If we pay heed to them we will live. If we do not heed Jesus’ words we will die spiritually.

You see, Joseph was a type of Jesus and what is happening here with Joseph’s words is that Jesus is admonishing the church – us – to grow to the level of maturity where we as members of the Body of Christ no longer quarrel and fight amongst ourselves.

It is no doubt a matter of shame, and we do much to cover up the fact, but the truth is that we as believers squabble and quarrel among ourselves more than we show love and tolerance to one another. Even worse is the fact that we are not aware of the gravity of the negative attitudes that we carry. But they are not a small thing with God. Divisiveness and wrangling within the Body of Christ tears at the core of the Kingdom of God that Christ came to establish in men’s hearts.

Notice the flow of the scripture in this particular verse:

“So he sent his brethren away, and they departed…”

We, too, have been sent by Christ. We have departed; we are on a mission to save the world and establish the church. We are busy! But the mission that Christ has sent us on requires, not just “busy-ness”, but transformed hearts, transformed attitudes, and transformed lives.

And so,

“… and he said unto them, See that ye fall not out by the way.”

These words were Joseph’s final admonition to His brethren. As much as he loved them, yet he warned them because he wanted them to forge a true brotherhood.

Christ’s chief desire for His church is for it to grow and become mature and united. The Apostle Paul spent a lot of time and energy evangelizing; but his chiefest concern was for the church to be perfected – perfected in unity. That fact is reflected in his writings.

In one of his epic writings on the subject, Paul writes the Corinthians:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ… 3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3)

The Body of Christ is about unity in the Spirit. The church, therefore must grow in the Spirit. We must desire to walk in the revelation of the cross, where we are daily submitting to Christ. Remember, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart…” (Mat. 11:28)

Jesus had a meek and humble spirit! How about us?

If we choose any other way that way will simply be “another Jesus”,  “another spirit”, and “another gospel” – things we have not received from Christ Himself (2 Cor. 11:4). Such a ‘gospel’ might appear attractive and fulfilling, but its appeal is only to the flesh. It has absolutely no power in the Spirit to transform the inner man. If we hearken to it we forever remain carnal believers – men and women of the flesh.

But the revelation of the cross – where we have the mind of Christ, and are daily denying ourselves, taking up our cross and following Christ – this gospel has power to bring us to true spiritual maturity, into the character of Christ, and hence unity in the Spirit.

Like Joseph did with his brothers, Christ therefore warns us. He warns us to take up our cross and follow Him. Christ’s warning is not a trivial warning, and we cannot take it lightly. It is something that we should heed with alacrity, for it is very life.

[Below: A meek and humble spirit brings true unity among brethren]

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Grace, Grace For The Church – Part 2

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first. Mk. 10:28-31

2. The second significant thing that we find in the above scripture is the manner in which Jesus answered Peter. Jesus was always – always – in the Spirit. Everything He did was spiritual; and if you asked Him a question in the flesh, like Peter did here, He would answer it in the Spirit. Jesus never answered anyone in the flesh, no matter the spiritual mode in which the question was made. He never missed the mark. This is because in His heart Jesus never lost focus of the Kingdom of God.

Peter’s question was in the prosperity-gospel mode, which is a carnal approach; but Jesus answered him in the Spirit. He hit the bullseye: He told him it was all about the church.

I believe that in answering Peter, Jesus found the best opportunity to talk about the glories of the church. This must have been one of His finest moments. He must have enjoyed this moment tremendously.

But judging from the way Peter presented his question, it was a tense moment. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to believe that Peter was even contemplating leaving. At that particular moment, after Jesus had made the no-riches declaration, the atmospehere within the camp was verging on the mutinous.

The wonderful news is that Jesus remained cool as a cucumber. He gave it to them exactly as it was, and stayed put. He did not compromise God’s standards to please anyone. I am not saying that Jesus would have loved to see His disciples leave; but He would not have been fazed in the least had they left.

“…he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me” (Mat. 10:38).

The bottom line is that God is not a respecter of men. He respects those who humble themselves and take the road of the cross.

But Peter had a humble heart, and he stayed, despite the disappointment. So did the other apostles.

3. Finally, let us consider the essence of Jesus’ answer to Peter.

Notice carefully Jesus’ answer: “29… Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions…”

That is Jesus’ promise to the church concerning what it would receive in this world.

When Jesus said, “But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands”; do you really think Jesus was talking about worldly material things here? No, sir!

On the contrary, Jesus was talking about the abundance of God’s grace that would be found within the church. The Kingdom of God is not about things. It is about God’s grace, the grace of God that is revealed in God’s people’s lives as they give their lives sacrificially one to another.

The Kingdom of God never has been, and never will be about the things or riches of this world.

The Kingdom of God is all about the grace of God in believers’ lives.

The Bible says of the early believers:

“And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common” (Acts 4:32).

They had all things common.

In our contemporary self-driven, self-made and self-possessed setting, it probably is rather hard to imagine such a state of affairs where people have all things in common. But that is simply because we have allowed the flesh into the church.

But personally, I have tasted of this joy of the church. I have spiritual brothers and sisters and mothers galore all over the world. And when it comes to the things of this world, I have everything I need on account of the church. I have houses, I have cars, I have lands. None of them is in my name, of course, but they are mine all the same simply because they belong to brethren who literally love me as their own soul.

Finally, notice the phrasing of Jesus words, “with persecutions…”

“With” speaks of “going together”. In other words, grace for the church and persecution go together. Jesus was making it clear that there is no grace without the crucified life. Grace goes with persecution. Where an abundance of grace is there is also an abundance of persecution. We can see that with the Early Church, and with the life of the Apostle Paul.

Persecution comes in many forms, but the crucified life is a state of heart. You have either seen the light or you have not. You are either ready to surrender your life or you are not.

This grace that would be found in the church would come from people whose lives have been crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20).

If we are not carrying the crucified life, we will end up like the Corinthians. There was no grace, and there was not much of a “church” there at the time of Paul’s writing. Only divisions and selfishness.

But where there is the revelation of the cross there is much grace, grace for the church.

And the final reward?

“…and in the world to come eternal life.”

[Below: The fire of persecution brings much grace to the church]

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