God’s Will For Us

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love Eph. 1:3-4

Had the Apostle Paul written just this single sentence and closed the letter and sent it to the Ephesians, that letter would still have made perfect sense to them. The Letter to the Ephesians would have been the shortest Book in the Bible, but still the words written here would be read over and over by millions of believers worldwide and their lives would transformed.

Why is this scripture so important? It is because it reveals God’s will for us. This, beloved, is God’s will for us. The Bible says much more, of course, but in this singular sentence, we learn what God’s will is for us as His children. God’s will for us is that we be holy, blameless and that we should walk in love towards one another.

In 1 Thessalonians 4:3 the Bible says:

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification…”

Our sanctification is the will of God.

What a grace to know this! What a privilege and what a joy that God should reveal to us His will!

Beloved, this is what we should put all our effort into: living a sanctified life.

What exactly does it mean to live the kind of life that God wants us to live?

I cannot find any other answer in the Bible other than to put our lives at the altar; in other words, to take up our cross and follow Jesus. The Bible here tells us that God has blessed us with all spiritual blessings to the end that we should live the sanctified life. That means that God has given us His Holy Spirit for that very purpose. But God has given us something else. He has given us to suffer with Christ. Paul puts this best in Philippians 1:29-30:

“29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; 30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. We must deny ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The message of the crucifixion of the old man of the flesh was the singular message that was given to the Apostle Paul. Through this alone can we find ourselves doing the will of God.

That is why we must hear that message more and more, and none other. As we obey the message of the cross we will find ourselves well able to align our lives with the will of God.

[Below: The gospel is about sharing the love of God as well]

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Our Mandate – Grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul concludes cryptically:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Of Worldly Wealth And God’s Kingdom – Part 1

Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. Mat 19:21

We all know the sad ending to this story. The Bible says that the rich man went away sorrowful, “for he had great possessions.”

Actually, I think Jesus ought to have called that young man back. He ought to have called him back and worked out a bargain with him. That is what I think. I mean, you can’t be too tough on a man! The problem, I think, was that Jesus had never owned wealth, and He had no idea how difficult it was for people to make money. And for Him to casually ask one to go throw all his life’s savings into the lake was a bit insensitive, to say the least.

But, anyway, considering that Jesus did not call the young man back, let us see how we can handle His words. The words appear a bit difficult to carry out exactly as set out here, so let us look at the options. The good thing about scripture is that you can turn it any way you want, so let us turn it slightly sideways and see whether we cannot arrive at the conclusion that probably Jesus wanted this man to sell his property, keep the money, but to make sure no poor soul ever passed by his door without getting help from him? or any other conclusion except that Jesus wanted this young man to go SELL HIS PROPERTY, GIVE ALL THE PROCEEDINGS TO THE POOR AND REMAIN WITH ONLY THE CLOTHES ON HIS BACK – and then he could come follow Jesus.

There is nothing as frustrating as missing the nail’s head when you are hitting it. If you keep missing, the head becomes bent and from there on the hammer will keep slipping off the head.

Jesus never, ever made that mistake. He always made sure to hit the nail on the head.

I remember also one time in school we had an archery competition. I was in one of the teams and as the competition got underway, the situation gradually inched towards the point of near-certainty that none of us would be picking the prize because half the arrows landed everywhere on the target board except where they were needed. The other half missed the target board entirely. The spectators had to be pushed way back to a safe distance when it became clear the arrows could land anywhere!

And then, by a stroke of luck, one of my arrows hit the bulls-eye, dead in the center. The rest, as they say, is history. Had I won the presidency of the United States of America, I doubt I would have won the recognition that I did that day…

It is not easy to hit the bulls-eye. Nor is it easy to hit the spiritual mark, either. But Jesus always hit the mark. In this case He hit it big. In fact, He hit it so big that His disciples, on hearing His words, “were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” verse 19:25. In other words, they were astounded beyond belief.

But Jesus was not seeking to make ‘history’ by His statements. The fact is, He could scarcely have said anything different. He spoke those words only because there was nothing different for Him to say. Had there been, He would have said it. Had there been a ‘softer’ way for Jesus to show this rich, young man into the Kingdom of God, you can bet your last dollar He would have said it.

The lure of money is formidable and few people are willing to tamper with this powerful force! It is not easy to hear these words of Jesus spoken in any pulpit today. That doesn’t mean there are not men of God who can and who do stand up against the god of money. But it is an uphill task.

Jesus’ words are bad news to our flesh, just as it was bad news for the rich young ruler. In essence, Jesus was making the point (both to the young ruler and to His disciples) that worldly wealth has no place in the Kingdom of God. “Go ditch it and come follow me”. That was the unfortunate news He was ‘leaking’ out.

Jesus was showing this young man the way of the cross. But it proved just too hard for him.

And Job said, “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither… In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (Job 1:21-22).

The Apostle Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Rom. 8:35-36).

Do I see the word “death” there? I am convinced that God has a few more things He wants us to give up in order to gain His Kingdom. Maybe even our very lives! We just aren’t aware.

Alas! I, too, am all too human. There are times when I find myself dreaming of ‘all that money’ and I have to kick myself awake. Money can easily blind one to the things of the Kingdom of God.

It is a great day indeed when I can find myself going through any slight hardship or discomfort for the Kingdom and to rejoice therein. There is no greater indicator for me that I am in the perfect will of God.

If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.

We Bring Life By Suffering – Part 2

If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. 2 Cor. 11:30

At the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus held a conversation with God that went like this: “God, I know you can do anything. Nothing is impossible with you. Please, Father, if there is another way that you can use to accomplish this without me going to the cross, please do it.”

You see, Jesus was as much flesh and blood as you and I, and the thought of hanging on that cross till He died was physically too much for Him. He knew the pain would be unbearable. The Bible says that He underwent such physical and emotional trauma that angels had to come and minister to Him.

But God’s answer to Him was typical: “My Son, it is true there is nothing that I cannot do. But this is the way that I have chosen. You have to suffer and die for the sins of my people. That is the only way acceptable to me.”

Now, the way we are, we want to know the ‘whys’ of things: ‘Why should this be this way?’, ‘Why shouldn’t it be this way?’ ‘Why, why?’ etc. Sometimes God provides us with answers, sometimes He does not. But that is not the important thing. The important thing is that if God has required something of us, we ought to obey because He knows what is best for us. That is faith.

When Jesus came to earth “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me”.  Heb 10:5.

A body. That is what God has prepared for us also. God has given to us a body to sacrifice. We are to give out bodies as a living sacrifice. It is a painful thing, but it is what we are called to. That is why we should desire the grace that God gave to the Early Church, which enabled them to endure that kind of sacrifice, because it is the only sacrifice acceptable to God.

We see that in the suffering of these men, the life of the Spirit came upon the Church. The Church shook the world. One of the most telling statements about how the Church affected the world then is found in Acts 17:6: “These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also”!

We, too, will affect the world spiritually one way or another when we accept the sufferings of Christ in our lives. That is the grace we should desire and pray for.

I know what I am talking about because there was a time I used to spend hours praying for material blessings. I did not know God’s plan and purpose then. Now that by the grace of God I see (albeit dimly), I know what is God’s most important requirement for me. It is to desire His grace in my life.

Paul reached a place where he lived, not because of anything of this world he had, but by the grace of God alone. He says, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. 1 Cor. 15:10

This was the result of someone who had accepted to suffer in the flesh. May the Lord help us also in this generation. The materialistic gospel being preached today is destroying all this, but the Lord will touch and raise the few who will accept to suffer and bring true life to the Church.

The Wisdom and Love of God

Rom 8:26-28  Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Sometimes it is the hardest thing to believe in this scripture. This is particularly in respect to when you find yourself failing and in a state of defeat: when you find it hard to forgive someone, or to say “I am sorry”; or when there is a certain condition in your heart that you know is not right but which you just can’t seem to get over.

In such circumstances, you wonder how anything can be working for your good! Right then, you feel that far from ‘working’ anything for your good, God is looking for a way to do away with you!

It has taken me a long time, but I now realize how faithful God is to His Word. I believe the above scripture means that it is not so much how we feel about our condition (which much of the time sees us off straight to the gallows) but God is saying here that the Holy Spirit Himself knows our hearts and the anguish we are going through, and He sees how much we want to be set free. Once He has established the fact of our desire, He will use the situation to break us and bring repentance in our hearts, and sooner rather than later we find ourselves miraculously set free from that condition of unforgiveness or hard-heartedness. This is something that I have experienced many times. I would wake up one day and find myself set completely free from a situation! But for lack of revelation, I did not always understand what had happened.

I realize now, more than ever, that God is in control of every situation and more so the conditions of our hearts. There are many Christians who take this scripture and apply it to the circumstances of this life – a lack here and there, a misfortune, an illness, etc., which is all right. But we need to go beyond there and realize that the real application of this scripture is in the spiritual conditions of our hearts. God’s real interest is in changing the nature of our hearts!

Even when we feel we have missed it, let us not fear. On the contrary, let us rest in the knowledge that He will use our failure to hammer out a more spiritual man or woman out of us. I am not implying that Christians should be walking around with rotten hearts waiting for a miracle to happen. We should be guarding our hearts at all times. But I know that sometimes the enemy catches us unawares and floors us. We are in a war, after all! But God uses that very situation to make us even better than we were – just to show the enemy who is really in control! The scriptures say that Jesus went to hell after His crucifixion, “And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” Col 2:15

God is not going to allow the enemy to have victory over His children in the things that really matter, in matters of the heart. For we Christians in our earthly state, there could possibly be no more exciting scripture than Romans 8:28! We are firmly in the will of God!