The Cross, The Final Solution – Part 2

7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.

8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Phil. 3:7-11

In the Swahili Bible, the word used for “righteousness” is the same word used for “justice”. Therefore, we could re-write verse 9 thus:

“And be found in him, not having mine own justice, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

The Apostle Paul wanted, not his own justice, but Christ’s.

Now, that word, “own”, is crucial here. We all know that nothing good comes from the word “own” as far as it refers to man. So what is our “own justice”?

Our own justice is our rights. It is our worldly, human rights. According to the Bible, we should give them up. All of them. Including the right to life.

With the Bible, there are only two things: law and grace. If we are to be men and women of grace, we are to surrender our rights. If seek after justice for ourselves, we have become men and women of law, and Christ is become of no value to us. Christ is of value to whoever will lose their lives.

Notice verse 7:

“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.”

What were the things that were gain to Paul? Paul is talking about his worldly rights. He counted his rights loss for Christ. That means he gave them up, that he might gain true life, which can only be found in Christ.

Paul surrendered all. Not some, or half, but all of his worldly rights. He surrendered even his life (Acts 21:13).

But Paul was simply obeying what our Lord Jesus taught. Jesus taught:

“38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: 39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” (Mat. 5:38-41)

And,

“10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.” Mat. 5:10-12

Moreover, in Romans 8:35-36, the Apostle Paul himself writes:

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

And, finally, in 1 Peter 4:1 we read:

“Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin”.

All these scriptures go against what the world teaches; but, again, the Bible is not the world. The Bible is the Word of God. The world teaches an eye for an eye; the Bible teaches to surrender your life. If we would have true life in us, we must account ourselves as given to suffer and to die with Christ – literally.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is no soap opera. On the contrary, it is all about being man enough to face the cross of Jesus Christ.

Emboldened by the realization that nothing else could save this woman, my pastor friend asked the lady, “Would you be willing to take your own life because you cannot bear to lose? Ultimately, the real problem here is not your husband, but you, if you cannot bear to lose. In Jesus Christ there is abundance of everything you are lacking: peace, joy, and love. You need to love your husband just as he is, with all his weaknesses. But these things can come into our own lives only when we allow Jesus into our hearts, and we do that by losing.”

And with many other words he preached Christ to the lady.

The lady bowed her head and let the words sink into her heart. When she raised her head, she told the pastor, “I will come to church on Sunday.”

And, true to her word, the lady went to church on Sunday, and worshiped. She was filled with joy and a new hope in her life. The pastor had given her the secret to beating one of the most difficult situations she could ever face in life. It was to surrender her rights.

The cross is the final solution to absolutely any problem on earth.

[Women are the most oppressed members of society. In Christ Jesus, though, this state of affairs translates into a blessing, for these same women have the best head start in the Spirit if only they can take up their cross and follow Christ]

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Persecution and Grace – Part 1

32 But call to remembrance the former days, in which, after ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions;

33 Partly, whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions; and partly, whilst ye became companions of them that were so used.

34 For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. Heb. 10:32-34

The early church certainly did undergo persecution. There is no question about that. But there is also no question about the fact that, despite this persecution, or probably because of it the early church was also a church in which the grace of God flowed abundantly.

In Acts 21:8-11 we read: 8 And the next day we that were of Paul’s company departed, and came unto Caesarea: and we entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, which was one of the seven; and abode with him. 9 And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy. 10 And as we tarried there many days, there came down from Judaea a certain prophet, named Agabus. 11 And when he was come unto us, he took Paul’s girdle, and bound his own hands and feet, and said, Thus saith the Holy Ghost, So shall the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man that owneth this girdle, and shall deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles. Acts 21:11

This man, Philip, had four girls, all virgins, who prophesied! Without a doubt, this ought to be declared the first wonder of the modern world.

Here we have all four sisters in one family prophesying. Not one or two, but all four. And the Bible goes to pains to point out that all these girls were virgins, which I am sure points to the importance that God attaches to those who are willing to pay the price to become “vessels of honor” (2 Tim. 2:20-22).

But notice also that these four girls were not prophets; they simply prophesied. This is a ministry of exhortation or direction to the church through a direct Word from the Holy Spirit. It is a slightly lower ministry than the ministry of the prophet. (The functioning of the Holy Spirit within the church is infinitely unlimitable, and that is why we cannot have a tunnel vision of the Holy Spirit’s operation within the church.)

And, therefore, these girls stayed with Paul for “many days”, but it was not given them to tell Paul what would befall him in Jerusalem. It required a prophet of God, Agabus, to travel all the way from Judaea to come and confirm to Paul the weighty matter of his impending persecution in Jerusalem.

Notice also that the Bible refers to both Philip and Agabus by their spiritual offices, “evangelist” and “prophet”. The Bible does not call the girls prophets.

In other words, women may not hold office in the Spirit, which designates authority; but women can minister in the Spirit in many different roles.

(One more thing we need to point out is that these girls were prophesying in the church. There are people who will say that women ought not to open their mouths in church; but I can assure you that these girls were not prophesying in their father’s living room. They were prophesying in the church. There are all kinds of misunderstandings of scripture simply because people will not rely on the Holy Spirit, but on their minds. But the Holy Spirit is faithful, and the minute we turn to Him, He opens up the Word to us. Actually, there are two ways of reading scripture: you can read and try to understand it by using your very fine mind; or you can decide to become a fool for Christ’s sake and pray and ask the Holy Spirit to guide and help you. One approach will bring you life; the other, law (“It is written!”) – and death.)

But what I want us to notice here is the incredible grace that was in the early church. This church, which was persecuted left, right and centre, was the same church that produced men like Philip, Agabus, and Paul – and these four extraordinary sisters.

Probably the modern church is not as persecuted as the early church was, and that is why it is difficult to find this pervasiveness of grace operating in today’s church as was the case with the early church. Maybe someone will point to the great move of the Holy Spirit during the charismatic era, and the many miracles and healings that took place then. That was the grace of God at work all right; but it is what I would call the “tip of the iceberg”. There is so much more grace at work when people are denying their flesh and partaking of the sufferings of Christ: there is so much more inner glory. There is victory over sin, joy, and peace. Even death has no power over such people.

No one desires persecution, nor does the Bible tell us to pray for persecution. But on the other hand, if you give the flesh too much rope, the Spirit is stifled. That is why, whether we are persecuted or not, we should always carry the mind that Christ had of denying the flesh. The flesh is our No.1 enemy. The Bible says about our Lord Jesus Christ, “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me… By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Heb. 10:5, 10).

Notice the word “offering” there. The believer’s body has been given him/her, not to be pampered, but to be sacrificed. And that is the mind that we need to carry.

[Below: Life for the early Christians was a life of great persecution and profound want]

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A Special Thank You!

In my last post I mentioned that I would begin a short series on the life and doctrine of the Apostle Paul. Before I tackle the thorny issue of the Apostle Paul, however, may my valued readership kindly allow me to side-track a bit and please permit me to take this opportunity to thank the many women who have been so supportive of this blog since it began many months ago. I deliberately say women because in the Bible we read that, during His ministry here on earth Jesus had women who encouraged and “ministered” to Him with their finances and other things. In other words, through what they did for Jesus, these women encouraged Him in His ministry. I believe that God has given that heart to women, and it is a joy to witness even today women of God serving Him in that way. It is a grace from God. Unfortunately, the word “support” has been much misused by many men of God today, and many women’s lives have been devastated financially and in other ways by unscrupulous preachers. In recognition of that I will just stick to the word “encourage”.

Likewise, I wish to thank the brethren of my own gender who have also upheld this blog and given me a reason to continue writing. With men I know it is not easy to continually show ‘support’ (that’s just the way we are), and when they do, they are men who in a way have decided to lose their lives and pay a price. Thank you, guys, and may the Lord reward your faithfulness.

In mentioning Jesus, I do not in any way intend to compare myself to our Lord – not by the longest shot and back. John the Baptist said of the  Lord Jesus, “Him I am not worthy to stoop and untie the thongs of His sandals.” For me, it is a matter of fact that even at this stage in my salvation, I know I am totally unworthy of doing anything remotely related to that which John talked about. But I thank my God who, because of His immeasurably great and tender mercies, and in ways I cannot understand, somehow has given me the privilege to not just come to Him, but even to call Him “Father”, with all rights of sonship granted. It is a grace I do not comprehend, but which I know I am not worthy of, nor could ever repay.

There are all kinds of gospels floating around trying to persuade Christians to “claim” their rights from God because they are now His sons and daughters. One preacher even used the word “wrench”. Sometimes I wonder at the irreverence of it all. That is the kind of thing spoilt kids do with their parents.

The only reason I mention Jesus in relation to myself is because in one way or another I seek after the truth of the gospel that He preached, and which the Apostles preached. Even in my weaknesses, I desire to understand and live that gospel more than anything else in my life. That need is made all the more urgent not only for me, but for the Body of Christ at large primarily because in the days we are living in there is so much obvious false hood coming from the pulpits.

I therefore take this opportunity to express my deep, heart-felt appreciation to the many women and men who have ‘Liked’ and commented on my posts and for those who are following my blog. There are many others who do not have the opportunity to comment in writing, but I am aware of the many ways in which they support me. You have all provided incalculable encouragement to me in the Spirit. From the bottom of my heart I say, “Thank you so much!”; and for that very reason I shall continue blogging, to the glory of God.

For those who might not be aware, I did not even begin this blog of my own accord. Some loving brethren encouraged me to begin writing it, and I did.

To them I say, “I am deeply grateful and indebted!”

May God bless you all mightily.

Tomorrow we look at the Apostle Paul.