Who Dwells With God?

For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones. Is. 57:15

A friend of mine and I were walking in the street when we passed someone talking on the phone, and as we passed by we overheard him saying into the phone, “You know, forgiving someone is the most difficult thing to do in this world.”

When we had walked clear of the man, I said to my friend, “I think asking for forgiveness is even harder, because you are required to humble yourself in order to do so.”

As we walked we thought a lot about that. We came to the conclusion that in many of our dealings with people we are called upon to have a humble spirit, otherwise we cannot please God. And we will hurt people.

It is incredible what the Bible states in Isaiah. The Bible says that God inhabits eternity. Just think about that. Moreover, it says His Name is “Holy”. And who does scripture say God dwells with in His eternal and holy abode? The Bible does not say that God dwells with the holy; but rather it says He dwells with the humble and contrite in heart. In the simplest terms, it means that God is solidly on the side of the man who can humble himself.

Why, pray, not with the holy?

I am sure that, more than anything else, God would love to dwell with the holy man/woman. That means a man or woman who does not sin. But there actually is nothing like a man or woman who is sinless. The Bible declares that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). All!

There is only one Man whom the Bible testifies that He did not sin, and that is our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible says of Him,

“Who did no sin” (1 Pet. 2:22).

That is perfectly clear. Jesus did no sin. There is nowhere in the Bible you will find that written about anyone else. Every other man and woman has sinned. Even the men whom God boasts of in the Bible sinned. Abraham went in to a concubine. As for King David, the man whose heart singularly pleased the Lord, well… we don’t want him feeling bad up there, so let’s cut the talk.

Many believers are trying hard to live a sinless life. That is commendable. But many forget the crucial ingredient that God looks for in a man’s heart. God looks for humility. A humble man pleases God more than anything else, and he will go far, even in this world, because God is on his side.

A humble man is one who has a soft, malleable heart and who quickly falls down and repents. That was the case with King David. When the Prophet Nathan showed him his sin, David said simply,

“I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam. 12:13)

He did not add or deduct from those all-important words.

Many of us cannot curl our tongues around such words. Some of us would rather die even rather than utter such words. And yet, it came naturally with King David.

We read of other kings who, when they were confronted, had the man of God locked away. And many of us are like that. But not David.

A humble and contrite spirit is the first pre-requisite with God. Don’t press God about the fact that you are His child, etc. He is not interested in such self-righteousness. When Jesus began His ministry here on earth, the Bible tells us the first words that came out of His mouth.

“From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Mat. 4:17)

He was talking of a humble, repentant heart.

There is a safe passage in this unsafe world. The passage is in our hearts – our humble hearts. God will fight ferociously for the humble man. That is an indisputable fact, and it is borne out in many lives of men and women who have humbled themselves in this world.

There is a shortcut to where God is. We can easily jump over in one leap and be with God. It is simply by wearing a humble heart. God welcomes a heart that is clothed in humility. For this reason the Bible says,

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” (Jam. 4:6)

Yes. God gives grace to the humble. But He resists the proud.

Whatever you are engaged in, just calm down. Even if you are successful, do not allow success to get into you; lie low like an envelope. Wear humility like a garland around your neck. Own up and surrender whoever you are to God. Jesus said,

“If any man will come after me, let him deny himself…” (Mat. 16:24).

Surrender your will to God.

Whatever battles you are going through, humble yourself, and God will give you the victory.

That, beloved, is the gospel of the cross that the Apostle Paul preached. It is only through this gospel that we can say with Paul,

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerers through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

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Victory In The Cross

22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 

23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 

25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin. Rom. 7:22-25

Even I am surprised at myself. I am very, very surprised at what I see in me. It is as if I am trapped on every side by the flesh. So much so that, in other words, I could only describe myself as a carnal man. The lusts of the flesh are all too clear in my life and they batter at me on every side!

And yet, at the same time, I find myself cheering at the things of the Spirit. When my spirit hears something Godly, it comes alive. It cheers wildly!

I find this juxtaposition hard to comprehend. Is it me who is cheering at the things of the Spirit and at the same time desiring so much the things of the flesh? How can the two things be alive in me? And so, so much like the Apostle Paul here, I find myself thoroughly flabbergasted and distressed by this state of affairs.

But I find also that Paul had an answer to this problem. In verse 25 he says,

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord…”

Therein – in Christ Jesus our Lord – lies the answer to this most complex of problems for the believer. In the following verses, Paul shows us that it is through crucifying the flesh. In Romans 12:1-2 he writes:

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

That means to crucify the flesh.

There is only one way to defeat the problem of the flesh in our lives: it is to crucify the flesh.

I never truly understood what Paul meant when he described Jesus as God’s “unspeakable gift” to us (2 Cor. 9:15).

But I have come to know its meaning. It is, simply, that the cross (“Jesus Christ crucified”) helps us to live the will of God!

When “Christ crucified” is firmly enthroned in our lives and we are living the crucified life, we will not obey the lusts of our flesh. In fact, we will live in a completely different dimension; a dimension where the lusts of the flesh are alien to us.

I recall there was a time when believers lived this kind of lifestyle. My elderly pastor often regales us with the story of the day when he proposed to his then wife-to-be. She burst out crying, “Oh my God! What have you likened me to? A harlot?”

In her mind, the thought of being with a man was alien. It had never crossed her mind!

Yes, in those early days when salvation was untainted, the flesh never had a chance. The cross was alive in God’s people’s lives. People’s consciences were alive! If someone needed to forgive, the hurriedly did so. They would not accept to live even one minute with unforgiveness because every minute they were beholding the face of God, and how could you possibly behold God’s face with unforgiveness in your heart?

Today, Christianity is largely lived on another dimension altogether. In the city of Dar es Salaam, I know of a preacher who has left his wife and married a younger girl. He is an “apostle and prophet” and he told his congregation that God had led him to do that. He sent his wife and children back home to her parents. And his church is still packed to capacity. I challenge you to believe it or not; but it is true.

In the early days of Christianity, when the revelation of the cross was in the church, such a thing would not only have been untolerable. It would have been unthinkable.

“Christ crucified” is the SINGULAR cure for the contradiction of the flesh and the Spirit in our lives. Because we have been born again, our spirits are alive to God and they desire the things of God. But the flesh, un-crucified, is right there beside us, doing exactly what Ishmael did to Isaac.

28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise. 29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. (Gal. 4:28-29)

Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. (Gal. 4:30)

We are Abraham’s seed. If Abraham had to throw out Hagar and her son, then we also have to throw out the law and sin in our lives.

And so, I have discovered the solution to my dilemma. I must crucify the flesh. There is no short-cut. And there is no middle way.

Have a victorious Monday, everyone!

More Than Conquerers!

[This post is an adaptation of a similar post that I wrote a while back. I found it in my drafts this morning and I felt in my spirit that I should re-post it]

 

8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;

10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. 2 Cor. 4:8-10

One time, not too long ago, I was in a jam – financially, spiritually and virtually in every area of my life. Spiritually, I was hanging on by a thread, literally. I couldn’t pray and I couldn’t read my Bible. I would spend all of my devotion time looking into space. The worst time was when it came to ministering in church. I preached while looking at the clock, willing the time to pass quickly.

As my condition worsened, I soon found myself blaming myself for each one of the problems I was facing. As far as I knew I hadn’t done any express sin that warranted this downward spiral in my life. But I couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason nothing seemed to be working in my life. Since I could not find no one to blame for my predicament, I blamed myself.

It was then that the Lord, out of mercy for me, came to my rescue in the most unexpected manner.

Early one morning, a brother 600 miles away called me at 6 o’clock in the morning. For the last three hours, I had been lying on my back worrying about all the problems I was going through. At the exact moment that the brother called me, I was just beginning to doze off in fatigue. You can therefore imagine that I was none too happy as I answered his call.

The brother had never called me that early in the morning, so I thought he had something important to tell me. But, as it turned out, he had absolutely nothing of any importance to tell me. After greeting me (which was the only thing he had called to do), he told me that he was rushing off to his job. He works as a casual construction laborer. Work was hard to find lately, he intimated to me, and life had become extremely hard.

“But”, he concluded brightly, “we are troubled on every side, yet not distressed!” Then he hung up.

It took me a split second to realize that the words this brother had waved me off with were direct scripture. Suddenly, I knew I had just spoken with God; or, rather, God had just spoken to me.

I shot out of bed like a bullet and hit all the lights in the house as I began making a frantic search for my Bible, which since the last Sunday service I had thrown into no-man’s land. When I finally located it, I almost tore out the pages as I feverishly scrambled to find the scripture. Deep in my heart, I knew it was exactly as I had heard it on the phone, but I just had to make double sure!

When I finally found the scripture, I sighed with relief – and unbounded joy! The scripture lay there before me, exactly as the brother had spoken it. I was literally trembling as I read the words.

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed” (2 Cor. 4:8).

I knew, without a doubt, that the Lord was speaking to me. I read the phrase over and over again:

“… troubled on every side”.

“… on every side”.

The joy that Lazarus felt after resurrecting from the dead wouldn’t have lighted a candle to the exhilaration I felt as those words rolled over and over in my heart. On that particular morning, the biggest cloud ever lifted from my shoulders. I felt indescribably free and relieved! I realized the devil had been trying to show me that it was my fault that I was undergoing all these negative situations in my life. But the Lord came to my rescue by showing me through His Word that what I was going through was the perfectly normal Christian life! Trouble on every side!

“… troubled on every side”.

That talks of the many enemies that we have in the spirit world.

As I read on further, I realized this suffering was for a purpose.

“9 Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed; 10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

It is for a purpose that we undergo these low times in our lives. God wants to deal with our flesh, to the end that the spiritual life of Christ might be manifested in us.

But, as you might imagine, the flesh is totally against this state of affairs occurring in our lives. Much of the time, it is like we want to have a ‘hedge fund’ in our spiritual lives. It is like we want to have the rights to lots and lots of breathing space. Somehow, it has been psyched into our minds that the Christian life ought to be a trouble-free life and that, at the very worst, God allows us to encounter only a few teeny weeny problems which we can easily brush aside while sucking on our chocolate bars.

But the Bible doesn’t say that. On the contrary, it says that we shall be “troubled on every side”!

Jesus Himself said,

“In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (Jn. 16:33)

That is the greatest promise that we can hinge our hope on. He has overcome the world; and He lives in us. What a combination! No wonder the Apostle Paul, after listing many of the enemies that we shall encounter, concludes:

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.” (Rom. 8:37).

Yes, in the face of much spiritual opposition, we are more than conquerers. What an incredible realization!

[Memories…]

“Whatsoever He Saith Unto You, Do It.”

1 And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there:

2 And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage.

3 And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.

4 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

5 His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

6 And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece.

7 Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim.

8 And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.

9 When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom,

10 And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.

11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. Jn. 2:1-11

This scripture is without a doubt the best-loved  scripture in the entire world – but it is for all the wrong reasons. Many people imagine it is an advert for Heineken and other beers and wines, and the world loves this interpretation. But this scripture is not talking about beer or wine. This is God speaking, and God does not get drunk on beer or wine, for He is Spirit and holy. The Bible tells us:

“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).

We are not to get drunk with wine because God does not get drunk with wine.

Everything that Jesus did while He was here on earth were metaphors – spiritual metaphors. We are to interpret everything that Jesus did in the Spirit and apply it to our hearts. If anything we read in scripture does not translate into something that has to do with our hearts, then we should realize we have neither grasped its meaning nor its significance.

That is why we are called to walk in the revelation that the Holy Spirit gives us (Eph. 3:3). If we do not walk in revelation, we shall interpret scripture just as the world interprets it – in its lusts.

And so here we see Jesus’ mother telling them to do “whatsoever he says to you”.

So what is the allegorical meaning of this scripture? It is that we are to do whatsoever Jesus tells us to do. The problem with us is that we do not do what the Lord Jesus tells us. If we did whatsoever Jesus told us to do, we would have the best lives ever. That does not mean we would have a problem-free life, no. It simply means we would have good lives spiritually – lives full of victory over sin, the devil and the world.

“Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

In these words, we realize that Mary knew what the Lord was capable of. And, sure enough, when the servants did what Jesus told them to do, the water was turned into the best wine ever! In fact, the wine was so sweet and rich that the ruler of the feast actually called over the bridegroom to ask him why he had saved such good wine for last!

If we did what Jesus told us to in any situation, we would get, not only the only meaningful results in our lives, but we would get the best ever! This is in our marriages, in our personal lives, in our relationships, in everything.

Where there is no peace, Jesus brings peace. Where there is no joy, Jesus brings unbounded joy.

As believers, we can know exactly what the Lord is telling us in each and every situation. Jesus is the master of detail and He gives us instructions to the smallest detail. The problem with us is that, unlike these servants in Cana, we do not do “whatsoever” He tells us. Much of the time we rely on our good sense of reasoning, like all the great philosophers have done. Nietzsche it was who declared, “God is dead”. Nietzsche was a famous philosopher and many people believed him. But in the Spirit, Nietzsche is unknown, and his philosophies count for nothing. The only thing that his philosophies accomplished was to make people to disobey Jesus, to their woe!

If we heed Jesus’ instructions, we will live. But we will not only live; we will live a rich life of peace, joy and satisfaction. The Psalmist said:

8 I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved. 9 Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoiceth: my flesh also shall rest in hope. 10 For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. 11 Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” (Ps. 16:8-11)

Notice verses 8 and 11:

“I have set the LORD always before me: because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved… Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.”

This is our key to living a victorious life in the Spirit… setting the Lord before us, and heeding His every word. Our spiritual victory lies in our obedience to Christ.

[Below: A flock of long-tailed birds adorn a tree in Arusha]

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Building Christ’s Victorious Church – Part 1

And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Mat. 16:18

Notice in the above scripture that Jesus said He would build His church. That is extremely important for the church to understand. The reason for this is because Jesus knew men would try to build His church, and He knew that if men built His church, it would not stand. Unless Christ builds His church, it shall not be victorious against the gates of hell. The gates of hell refer to evil in its every form. If Christ does not build His church, evil will prevail against it. The church will not be holy as God wants it to be.

Why will evil prevail against the church? Evil will prevail against the church because the church will be weak. A weak church cannot stand, much less defend itself. A weak church is a baby church. In his first letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul tells us what a baby church or Christian is:

“1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. 2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 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

Thank God we begin as babies in Christ. That is as it should be. But after we have been born again in the Spirit, we ought to grow in that same Spirit. If we do not grow in the Spirit, we will forever remain babies in Christ, and we shall be overcome by evil.

Now, when many believers hear or read of the gates of hell or evil, they immediately think of the devil and his works. That is true, of course, but many do not realize that the only way that the devil works his works with any impact to the church is when believers have not crucified their flesh.

The knee-jerk reaction of a Christian who does not see in the Spirit is to think of the devil every time the word “evil” is mentioned. But for the believer who sees in the Spirit, he or she will understand that the gates of hell, or evil, refer nearly all the time to the works of the flesh in the believer. The devil may attack our bodies, but he cannot attack our spirit if the flesh is not alive in us.

The devil is not when my neighbor is persecuting me. In fact, in all likelihood, that is God at work. On the contrary, the devil works when I allow my old, carnal nature of the flesh to rule in me.

When the carnal nature is at work in me, I will exhibit the works of the flesh as laid out in Galatians 5:19-21:

“19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”

Notice the fine script in verse 21: “and such like”. That means that the things listed here by no means comprise the exhaustive inventory of the works of the flesh. Just because you have a trait of the flesh that is not mentioned here does not mean you are not a carnal Christian.

The church cannot take even one effective step in its heaven-bound journey without understanding and acknowledging two things:

  1. Firstly, the flesh is the church’s number one enemy. When the devil was coming at Him with all his fury, Jesus said he “hath nothing in me.” (Jn. 14:30) Jesus’s flesh was not alive in Him.
  2. Secondly, it is Christ Himself who has to build the church.

So how does Christ build His church? More appropriately, however, let us begin by looking at how men try to build God’s church.

When men can quote scripture, when men know the Bible from one end to the other; when men have been to Bible school and have graduated with degrees; when men know all the Biblical doctrines about “repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment” (Heb. 6:1-2); when men know all these things BUT ARE NOT CHANGING; when men know all these things BUT REMAIN WITH THEIR CARNAL NATURES AND ATTRIBUTES yet continue going to church and continue ministering to God as if there is something fruitful going on in the Spirit, this is how men try to build Christ’s church.

When we think that our singing pleases God, and we go to extremes to make our worship experiences as beautiful and powerful as possible, BUT ARE NOT CHANGING INTO THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST, this is how men build God’s church.

When men boast in their power to pray and we even hear of “prayer warriors” in church, BUT MEN ARE NOT CHANGING, this is how men try to build Christ’s church.

When preaching becomes the focus of our calling; when miracles and “mighty works” of the Spirit become our focus; when we hear of ministries that go by men’s names, this is how men will try to build Christ’s church.

When we boast in mega-structures and mega-numbers in our churches; when we plaster our churches with such exotic names like “Helicopter Church”; this is how men build Christ’s church.

The result of all these things and many others like these; the result, as we see today, is a weak, defeated church. We can clearly tell from scripture that the early church was a strong, victorious church. Sin was dealt with firmly and effectively. But the church today is overcome by every kind of sin. To begin with, the true doctrine of the cross (“Jesus Christ, and him crucified” – 1 Cor. 2:1) has been removed from the church, and it has been supplanted by false doctrines.

The natural outcome of this is that the flesh has thrived in the church. It is noteworthy that preachers today exhibit every work of the flesh in their lives. The prosperity preachers top this list, of course. And they have a massive following, which means that a large proportion of the church is following after the flesh.

Man has tried to build Christ’s church and the result is that the church has not taken one productive step in its quest for the life of Christ both on earth and in heaven.

Christ, therefore, has to build His church for it to be strong and victorious against the gates of hell. Finally, we arrive at the critical question: how does Christ build His church?

We shall see the answer in the second part of this post.

[Below: Today’s church is largely a cosmetic affair]

image11664

True Spiritual Armour

38 And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail.

39 And David girded his sword upon his armour, and he assayed to go; for he had not proved it. And David said unto Saul, I cannot go with these; for I have not proved them. And David put them off him. 1 Sam. 17:38-39

The story of King David in the Bible has brought much excitement and delight to countless generations of God’s people. But not all of us realize that David’s life is a serious reflection of the life that we need to live in the Spirit. We probably are not aware that there is nothing “cool” about the life that David lived. On the contrary, it was a life where the flesh was constantly nailed to the cross in order that David could do God’s will.

The Bible testifies of David, that,

“… David did that which was right in the eyes of the LORD, and turned not aside from any thing that he commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite” (1 Ki. 15:5).

From this scripture we can surmise that, except for his backsliding in the matter of Uriah’s wife, David paid a tremendous price to be able to please God to the extent that he did. In the Spirit, therefore, David was one of the greatest men who ever walked this earth. David had a humble and obedient heart. Were all God’s children to carry such a heart, there would be more joy in heaven than than there is now.

Let us now take a closer look at our subject matter.

Notice what happened here: “Saul armed David with his armour”.

Here a disaster of cataclysmic proportions was headed David’s way. David was about to be armed with Saul’s armour! But Saul was a man of the flesh, so much so that he had even been rejected by God as king over Israel (1 Sam. 15:26). And here he was, trying to fit David with his armour! That was a real disaster in the making. Had David gone to fight Goliath in that armour, Goliath would not have much of a fight on his hands. He probably would have fed David to the birds without even having to kill him first.

Unfortunately, David had no way of knowing that Saul was a man of the flesh, nor that God had rejected him from being king; so he tried on the king’s armour. But it simply wouldn’t fit, and the minute David put it on he knew it would be a hindrance rather than a help. In any case, David told the king, I have never used such armour.

David therefore put off Saul’s armour. Thank God for that! I am not sure whether the king was happy about that; but the Kingdom of God is not about pleasing men. David put off Saul’s armour because it was, in effect, the armour of the flesh.  But David was used to another kind of arlour, the armour of the Spirit. He had seen God deliver him from the lion and from the bear. In both instances, David had used the armour of the Spirit.

There is an armour in the flesh, and there is armour of the Spirit. When you fight with the armour of the flesh, you are bound to lose in the Spirit. But when you put on the armour of the Spirit, you will win.

The Apostle Paul gives us greater insight into this in Ephesians 6:

“10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13 Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15 And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18 Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” Eph. 6:10-18

There are a whole lot of spiritual forces that are at war with us as believers. There is much wickedness in the spirit world. Much of the time we are not aware of these things and we fight back against situations in the flesh. But these wicked powers are very much alive and they are spiritual. And they exploit the only thing in us that they can hinge their powers on – the old man of the flesh, or, the mind of the flesh. That is why, in Ephesians, Paul tells us to put on the whole armour of God. What is the armour of God? According to this scripture, it is the righteous life that we are called to live on this earth by the power of the Holy Spirit. When through the Spirit’s power we put to death the carnal nature in us we are able to walk in victory against all the spiritual forces that wage war against our souls.

When we are not saved, we are at home with these desires. But when we get saved, it is war!! They want to drag us back again into bondage.

Of course, war is a two-way affair. The lusts of the flesh wage war against us, and we wage war against them. But how, pray, do we wage war against the lusts of the flesh? It is by crucifying them. That is why the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks of denying self. The gospel is all about crucifying the flesh and its desires. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul put this fact in a most insightful manner. He says:

“20 But ye have not so learned Christ; 21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: 22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; 24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph. 4:20-24)

In other words, there are many ways of learning Christ. You can learn Christ and still walk in sin. But Paul tells the Ephesians that they learned of Christ in such a way that they would be able to walk “in righteousness and true holiness.”

These people learned Christ as a revelation, a revelation of the cross.

We should thank God that today we can walk in this revelation. The cross is the true power of Christ. By walking in the revelation of the cross, David put off the works of the flesh and defeated the enemy. In the same manner, when we put off the works of the flesh in our own lives, we can expect to walk in the same spiritual victory over sin and every work of Satan.

Let me end by saying that many believers are not willing to lose their lives. They will fight tooth and nail to protect their perceived rights and privileges. Some even talk of “basic rights”. One prominent preacher here recently said in an open-air meeting: “The Bible says that it is more blessed to give than to receive” – and threw a punch signifying that Christians ought not to just lie low when their rights are taken away from them.

That was a preacher twisting scripture to fit in with his inability to crucify his flesh.

And that was what King Saul did. And he lost in the Spirit.

[Below: A Hindu temple in Musoma Town]

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God’s Work In Us!

“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” 1 Cor.1:25

This scripture here simply means that the littlest thing that God can do in a man is infinitely greater than anything that can be witnessed or accomplished in the natural, however big or powerful it might be. The word “men” in this scripture stands for supernatural manifestations, even if they originate with God. But the most important thing this scripture is saying is that the tiniest touch, the slightest change that can be effected in our lives through God’s hand working upon our hearts is infinitely more valuable than these manifestations.

In other words, God wants to draw a very strict line between the deep work of the Spirit and miracles (signs and wonders). This is because this work brings a transformation in a person, and it is this transformation that God is interested in. This is His real business with us.

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

By now, we know that the only way that God works upon a man’s heart is through the revelation of the cross, that spiritual circumcision, the stripping away of “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19).

People are easily moved by miracles and other manifestations of God’s power. There is nothing wrong with that, of course. But God’s working upon a man’s heart to transform them is more powerful than the greatest miracle; it is more important than the healing of our bodies; more needful than food on the table; and more exciting than any kind of prosperity agenda.

Ultimately, the things listed above only end up ministering to us in the natural realm. Their initial impact might be big, but it gradually peters out. If you received healing, for example, ten years down the road you might have forgotten about the healing, but you will still be required to take up your cross daily and follow Christ.

In our last post we discussed Elijah and we saw the extent to which this man knew God in that he waited until he heard God’s “still small voice”, and that was when he went out, for he knew then that he would meet God. He wasn’t moved in the least by the outer manifestations of God’s power – the wind, the earthquake, nor the fire.

Had it been us, we most probably would have rushed out at the first powerful sign of God’s presence. We wouldn’t have known to wait for anything else. We wouldn’t have waited and witnessed the true power of God in His “still small voice”, which is the quiet working of the Holy Spirit upon the inner man of the spirit.

This assertion is confirmed today by the huge number of believers who are rushing after the outer manifestations of God’s power. Today, God’s people are running all over the planet looking for miracles. They are paying millions of dollars to cross vast tracts of sea and land, seeking for healing miracles in some far-flung “schools of healing” and assorted “ministries”.

And there are people who, if God does not heal them physically, or if God does not meet them at their point of need on some issue, they lose their hope and trust in God. They lose their joy. But that should not be so.

Let me tell you where the real miracle should be taking place: it is in your heart, if you will allow God’s hand to work in you. You don’t even need to leave your living room! You don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars to attend a “healing school”. The greatest miracle can happen right there, in your living room. This is because the real miracle is not a physical one, but a spiritual one; and the answer to you owning this immeasurable miracle lies, simply, in your heart!

People are sadly unaware that God wants to do a spiritual miracle in them. God doesn’t want to work on the body, He wants to work on the heart!

In 1 Cor. 14:22 the Apostle Paul tells the Corinthians: Wherefore tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not: but prophesying serveth not for them that believe not, but for them which believe.”

Every outer manifestation of God’s power is for the unbelievers, that they might see and believe. But with us, these things are hardly meant to grab our true attention. On the contrary, the things that truly minister to us are things that deal with the issues of our hearts – as here Paul tells us in disclosing the importance of the gift of prophecy in church.

In other words, although miracles, healings, prophesyings, etc. are good and desirable, yet God expects us to see and to desire something incalculably more precious – the transforming work of the Holy Spirit upon our hearts and lives. The two are not mutually exclusive; and yet the one is decidedly greater than the other.

So, once again, where is God? Is He in the miracles? Is He in the healings and other powerful manifestations of the Holy Spirit?

The bold answer is, Hardly. God is not there. God is in men’s hearts, working to transform them.

People dance with joy when they receive miracles from God. But that God can actually do a work in our hearts – that is what should throw us into throes of ecstasy.

But sometimes we are hard of heart, and we put our hands to our ears, not wanting to hear anything other than what we want to hear; having no desire to possess anything other than what we want to possess.
But it is in possessing a humble heart that we will receive the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Cor. 2:9), the victory over sin

[Below: They might appear out of place on the sleek tarmac, but for the many otherwise inaccessible parts of the Tanzanian hinterland the Toyota Dyna is a much-valued and indispensable workhorse]

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