God’s Will Found In Suffering

35 And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.

36 Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.

37 Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.

38 So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face. 1 Kings 20:35-38

The lesson here is that we will not accomplish God’s plan in our lives without sharing in the sufferings of Christ. Hebrews 12:6 tells us that God chastens those He loves and scourges every son He receives. Hence the cross, where the sufferings and death of Christ are revealed in our hearts and where through this revelation we willingly give our lives to them, so that we may share in His resurrection life also.

The “neighbour” in this account is very much like today’s Christians. He could not understand why someone had to suffer. Thus rationalizing, he refused to beat the prophet of God as the man of God had requested him to do.

But notice it was “the voice of the Lord” that commanded him to beat up the prophet (v.36). And, apparently, the first man missed it. That’s the danger of the lack of revelation within the church.

Soon afterwards this man was killed by a lion.

If we lack revelation we cannot understand how the sufferings of Christ relate to our lives. And when we do not want to suffer with Christ, we die spiritually.

But imagine the second man! Can you imagine him hitting away at the man of God; in fact, he beat him so badly that he injured him.

We cannot try to reason or rationalize with God. We need to pray for a spiritual understanding of His ways. After all, it is His plans and purposes that really matter.

Probably the first man questioned, “But why? Why should I hit you?”

But the Bible says we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. Only through identifying our lives with the sufferings of Christ on the cross will we find ourselves doing that good and perfect will of God as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

I am sure this revelation was what the second man had. He therefore beat the prophet. He injured him. He made him to suffer!

What does that prophet suffering remind you of? Jesus, of course! It is so interesting how when God opens our eyes we see Christ in every scripture!

The Bible says in Isaiah 53:10 that “it pleased the LORD to bruise him”. The man who beat up the prophet was walking in this revelation.

Today’s generation has faith all right – but only for the blessings. You listen to contemporary Christian songs and they are (nearly) all talking of the goodness and provision of God. Today’s Christians have no faith for the suffering. They ask, “Why should I suffer? Christ died that I may live a comfortable life!”

They have a skewed ‘revelation’ of the cross. If suffering comes along they consider it to be of the devil. The hand of God is not revealed in their sufferings.

When we use human reasoning we will never arrive at an understanding of the Cross. Many Christians today know the cross only as a place where Jesus died for their sins. But they do not know it as a place where they, too, are supposed to suffer, die and resurrect with Christ.

But God has news for us. Even as we rejoice at what Christ accomplished for us at the cross, we will need to carry faith for something equally important – spiritual maturity. We will need to carry faith not even just for suffering, but for dying with Christ. Only when we have accomplished these will we be able to carry God’s plan in our hearts and lives.

The Bible says in 1 Peter 5:10: “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”

After this unnamed prophet had thus suffered, the Bible says he “departed, and waited for the king by the way”. Through suffering, God had prepared him to carry out His purpose.

[Below: Dar es Salaam coastline]

 

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Take Up Your Cross And Follow Christ

9 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11 And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake:

12 And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.

13 And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 1 Kings 19:9-13

This scripture says that as the Lord passed by the prophet Elijah, three powerful forces attended the Lord’s passage – a powerful wind, an earthquake, and a fire. But the Lord was not in any one of these things!

These ‘powers’ were with God all right, but God was not in them. That’s what the Bible says right there. The wind “rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD” – but God was not in it. The earthquake and the fire must have brought on an even greater manifestation of the power of God but – wonders! – God was not in them.

It is clear that God did not reveal Himself in the fireworks, nor in the drama.

God was in the last one… “a still small voice”. No ‘power’ there.  No drama. Just “a still small voice” – and here God spoke.

Talking of voices, let us see what the New Testament has to say. In Hebrews 1:1-2 we read, “1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…”

And at the Transfiguration we read, “While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.” (Mat. 17:5)

“Hear ye Jesus!” And Jesus said clearly, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mat. 16:24). In other words, if we want to be like Jesus; if we want to carry the character of Christ in us, we must arrive at an understanding of what the cross needs to do in our lives.

Let us consider another scripture: “To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” 2 Cor. 5:19

Mark that, “God was in Christ”! God is involved in all (or at least much) of the drama we find in church, but God is in His Son. Simple and clear. In other words, God is in the character of His Son! Simply, a change – a transformation – is required in us. The drama might be needful for other purposes, but the heart, or the core of God’s purpose in us is for us to be transformed to become like His Son Jesus Christ.

But humankind has a problem. In 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 we read: “22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

You notice that there are 3 classes of people clearly delineated here: those who require signs and wonders, those who seek after wisdom, and lastly, “them which are called”, those who take up their cross and follow Christ.

As far as the Bible is concerned, there are only two natural groups of people in the world: Jews and Gentiles. This third group, therefore – “them which are called” – is not a part of either of the two natural groups; it is a spiritual group. That means that those who have been called into the New Covenant with Christ are not in the miracle- or wisdom-seeking groups. They seek after only one thing: to crucify the flesh and to be transformed so they may walk in the perfect will of God.

And this is the group, apparently, that God is interested in.

There are many things happening in church today, and God is not in any of them. They could be of God all right (some clearly are not), but even with those that are of God, still God is not in them. That might sound contradictory, but actually it is not, in the light of Elijah’s experience in i Kings 19. Now, signs and wonders are not a bad thing, nor is seeking after wisdom. But God is not in them. They are not sin, but they are of no value in combating sin.

In recent years, wave after wave of ‘the power of God’ has been manifested within the Body of Christ, but the spiritual condition of the church has only gotten worse. The levels of sin and confusion are mounting to the extent where certain sins, like divorce have been ‘legalized’ in a large portion of the church.

Recently, I heard of a church where believers were made to eat grass like goats! Now that is total confusion.

The Bible tells us where the real power and wisdom of God is: it is when we are denying self, and taking up our cross. If one is not taking up their cross and following Christ, they are very weak Christians, no matter that they may be working miracles!

The Apostle Paul walked in this revelation and that was why he said, “…for when I am weak, then am I strong” (1 Cor. 12:10). This was a man who worked miracles, but he was not talking about miracles here!

God was in Christ, Christ crucified. God is everywhere; but “seriously speaking” God is in the revelation of that cross alone! This was the reason Paul would preach no other gospel other than Christ Jesus and Him crucified. He understood the power of the cross in transforming people and bringing the character of Christ into their lives!

Today you hear much talk about many things in the church, but God is not interested in any of those things. God is interested in one thing. He is interested in a spiritual church.

[Below: The ultra-modern Sam Nujoma highway in Dar es Salaam]

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A Game of Chess

Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. 2 Cointhians 11:1-4

Have you ever played a game of chess? I do sometimes play it – with my computer. The most dangerous piece on that chessboard is called the queen. The queen strikes terror in any opponent’s heart. The minute I see my adversary’s queen begin to take position I always know I am in trouble. The real terror, of course, is that the queen always moves with purpose. She knows exactly where she is headed, and she is always headed for a kill.

Whenever I see the other player’s queen begin to move, I know I have made a wrong move somewhere, and that I have given the queen the chance to move in for the kill.

As a born-again Christian, I equate the queen with sin in a Christian’s life. The minute we get into another gospel, other than the right gospel, we have made ‘a wrong move’, and sin moves in and it kills us. There are many Christians today who, unawares, are dead although they still profess Christianity.

In the above scripture the Apostle Paul was warning the church of Corinth against accepting ‘another’ gospel other than that which he had preached to them – the gospel of the cross of Jesus Christ. The gospel that Paul had preached to these people was a gospel designed and given to him by God Himself to accomplish the task of presenting a ‘chaste virgin’ to Christ. ‘Chaste’ means ‘clean’, ‘untainted’. In gospel-speak that means holy, righteous, pure, completely sinless.

Sin dwells in a man’s heart, of course, and the gospel that Paul preached dealt with exactly that – Christians’ hearts.

In many scriptures Paul calls the gospel a ‘mystery’. It is the mystery of Christ, revealed to the Church through the ministry of the apostles and prophets.

Today, just as in Paul’s day, may false apostles and prophets have risen up to proclaim a gospel of their own. The main difference between their gospel and the gospel that Paul preached is that (just like in Paul’s time) this other gospel is a worldly gospel. It is not a gospel of the heart, meaning it does not deal with the heart. When the gospel deals with the heart the flesh dies. The flesh and all that clings to it, dies away.

On the contrary, this ‘strange’ gospel not only does not deal with the heart, but it feeds the flesh. (I once attended a service where a famous preacher told us to ‘claim that Mercedes Benz’!). God’s people are taught how to prosper materially, how to have their bodies healed, how to live healthy lives – all things which have to do with this “body of death”, that is, a body which will ultimately die.

In the final analysis, these kinds of gospels appease the flesh; and sin moves in for the kill. Sin closes in, because sin fears nothing except the cross of Jesus Christ. It was through the death of the cross alone that Christ was able to triumph over the powers and principalities of darkness, including the total defeat of sin. Where the cross of Christ is working in a man’s life, sin cannot show its ugly head.

We stand and we fall before God strictly in relation to the condition of our hearts. We need to cry to God so that we might find ourselves walking that narrow road where we are keeping a pure heart and walking holy lives before God. The Bible is clear that this can only be accomplished through the working of the cross in our hearts.

That is why the Apostle Paul would not preach any other gospel other than the gospel of “Jesus Christ, and him crucified” 1 Cor. 2:2. In other words, he determined to preach no other gospel other than the gospel of the cross of Christ. In many of his writings Paul calls this gospel a ‘mystery’.

Not that Paul had a choice. He reckoned himself a bond slave of Jesus Christ, which meant he could only preach that which God commanded him to preach.

The gospel he preached – the revelation of the cross – was the only gospel that could deliver man from the power of sin.

That is the gospel that will show you how rotten your heart is and that you need to have it cleaned up. Jesus said, “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God”. Seeking the Kingdom of God means being at peace with God in our hearts. And we cannot be at peace with God while our hearts are carrying every sort of filth.

The material and physical life (of which Christians are so concerned today) follows after. That is why Jesus used the word “seek first”.

Christians should not be walking about with dark hearts. Jesus died on the cross for the very purpose, and He has put apostles and prophets in the church to reveal His cross and the power therein to totally banish sin in Christians’ lives. When we are walking in that revelation we will walk in victory over sin and the world, and all the deceptiveness that goes with it.

God Is Worthy To Be Praised!

We think we have a major problem! You can see all that when we are praying to God. When we are praying, that is when you realize how much dependent we are on God for everything in our lives. The place of prayer is a wonderful place to be and, indeed, prayer is a gift from God to man. God gives us the faith for that.

But I am sure that although there is a time and place for prayer in our Christian lives, we should not believe that our needs, whatever they may be, are the most important thing in heaven and earth.

There is a need before which all others fade into insignificance. And the bearer of this need is none other than God Himself. Does that sound confusing? Not the least bit! Of course, it requires the Holy Spirit to reveal this to us, but rest assured that God has a bigger need than any one of us can comprehend.

And what is this all-important need that God has? It is the need to be praised. God desires so much to be praised! That would sound selfish were it not for the fact that God not just desires but He deserves to be praised. God deserves so much to be worshipped, extolled, thanked, lifted up, loved – much more than we can possibly comprehend in our human capacities.

More than that, God deserves everything we have. He deserves our very lives.

If I, Mwita, were to ask anyone to praise me, I would not be too sure that I deserved it.

But God has never been unsure of anything He is does or requires of us. He tells us in Deuteronomy 6:5: “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.”

He deserves everything we have.

If there is anything that can show the greatness of our God, it is the need that is there for Him to be praised and extolled above anything else.

King David is one of the greatest men that ever walked on earth. I believe David’s importance before the Lord owes much to the insight he had concerning the greatness of God and the need to praise Him. King David spent a considerable time of his life simply praising the Lord on various instruments. He also set up a choir, complete with all kinds of instruments and the most skilful musicians, Godly men, to perpetually stand before the Lord and just praise the Lord.

I remember when I got saved, many years back. I was in my final year at the university. Whenever we entered the auditorium the singers invariably began with a praise song. The minute the lead singer lifted the microphone to her lips, I would feel the power of God descending on me and immediately the tears would begin rolling down my eyes. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit was palpable. I cannot remember that we had to sing two or even three songs in order for the Holy Spirit to manifest.

These worship leaders were not artists, nor entertainers. They were true worshippers.

I was recently in Mauritius and I was deeply touched by the heart of worship that I saw in the worship team at Eglise Chretienne (Christian Church), whose services I regularly attended. Led by King and Audrey, the choir has a formidable capacity to lead people to worship God in the Spirit.

Brother King is a sight to behold when he leads worship. He lays his entire life – heart, soul and strength – into whatever he is doing; but you can feel he is doing something in the presence of God, not men. May the Lord bless Brother King!

It is not pleasing to say so, but to a large extent the business of praising God today has been turned into just that – a business – with a keen eye on the money, the fame, and the power it has to entertain the flesh.

Indeed, when it comes to praising God in church, many people are in either of two extremes: one extreme is where the flesh is given free flow and you find people simply entertaining themselves and looking for other profits instead of praising the Lord in Spirit and truth. With the abundance of modern music instruments and skilled players and singers today, it is the easiest thing to find people entertaining themselves in church instead of worshipping God. People jump, dance, and do many other things in the name of worshipping God, but you can feel it is the flesh.

At the other end are those whom you find clapping to God with their finger-tips – probably fearing that if they clap too hard their fine hands will hurt; or that if they sing too loudly, they might tear their delicate vocal cords! May God help us!

When it comes to praising the Lord there is only one way to do it – “with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” Hallelujah!

One day, King David danced so hard before the Lord that his royal robe somehow got loosened, and maybe a piece of royal skin showed. His wife, Michal, despised him for that. In her view, he had lowered his personality. But unknown to her, he had just upgraded it!

But there is a need for God’s people to praise Him. Our God is so great, holy, merciful, loving that there are no words – or actions – truly sufficient to praise Him for Who He is. If it were possible we could spend all our time, 24/7, just praising God. The Bible in the Book of Revelation says that there are some wonderful creatures in Heaven doing just that!

And one day, all of creation will kneel down and proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It is all right to pray and ask God for our needs. But it is far much more wonderful to find ourselves praising, extolling and thanking God just for who He is, and for what He has done (not just for us in the selfish, carnal sense; but more so because of everything He has done, including all of creation, because He made everything for us).

Our needs pale in the revelation of the need to praise and extol our God. Oh, that our hearts would forever be caught up in a spirit of praise to our God, for He so much deserves it!

Of Law, Grace and Love

John 1:17  For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul had two characteristics which I envy him for. It is true that what Paul received was no ordinary classroom or head knowledge. Rather, it was a revelation. It was a revelation of the Cross of Christ and the power it had to deal with sin, the Devil and anything else that would try to come against the authority of God. Paul talks about the power of the gospel that he preached in this manner: “By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name”. Rom 1:5 Note the word ‘obedience’ there. ‘Nations’ refers to humankind.

And in Ephesians Eph 3:9-11, And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Here, ‘principalities and powers in heavenly places’. This includes all non-human spiritual beings.

Paul is talking about the ability of the gospel that he received to bring every spiritual being into subjection to God, the Creator of all things.

The Bible makes it clear that we all are called to receive that same illumination in our hearts, so that we may walk in the victory that God has intended for the Church to walk in.

The first thing that I envy Paul about was that once he knew the truth he never wavered. He was willing to pay any price in order to defend the truth that was revealed to him. For that reason he was beaten, scorned and eventually history documents that he was killed for that same gospel. He became a true guardian of the Truth. He knew that the gospel alone could save mankind and bring us into the realization of the blessed Hope which had been promised mankind before the foundation of the world.

I have a habit of getting bogged down in detail, but what I want to say here is that Paul could stand up for the truth. You couldn’t budge Paul from the truth with a 10-ton truck!

The second thing that I envy the Apostle Paul for was that he had grace. It is the easiest thing to become men and women of law when we think we are carrying the truth. We are tempted to trample over everything and everyone in defense of that truth. We become stern, unyielding – and unloving.

Paul, however, carried the truth with grace. He tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23: For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. “

Note he says, “that I might be partaker thereof with you.” He comes up close, merges his life with the Corinthians’. What a heart! What true love! This was a strong man. The power of the gospel was evident in him.

Paul’s heart is the heart that we ought to carry. It was a heart that would not compromise the truth, but one that had the capacity and willingness to take the place of other, weaker people. Paul effectively took over from where Jesus left off. It was a tall order but he fulfilled it.

In the final analysis, it is not so much what I have preached or how much truth I have proclaimed; it is the people whom I laid down my life for who will count.

I envy Paul because I have not arrived at that place of true sacrifice that he did. It is unfortunate, but when I look at myself, I cannot describe myself as a man of grace. On the contrary, I see myself as a man who thinks he knows the truth but who on the other hand is hard and difficult. Oh, poor man that I am! Lord Jesus, come and save me! Amen.

Suffering and comfort for God’s people.

As God’s people, let us agree on the fact that we will suffer. This is a fundamental part of our calling: For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29). We are living in difficult times. God’s people are suffering, people are hurting. Empty words will avail them nothing. People need a tangible touch of God upon their lives.

But first the question begs, Why must we suffer?

The Apostle Paul, who himself suffered much, has probably the best answer to this. It is lengthy, but clear enough. He says: “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation.

And our hope of you is stedfast, knowing, that as ye are partakers of the sufferings, so shall ye be also of the consolation. For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” 2 Cor. 1:3-11

I believe God wants to declare His sovereignty in our lives. We must keep in mind that God is spirit and He operates in the spiritual realm. He allows us to reach the end of our physical  lives then, through the faith that is Christ Jesus, He enables us to turn to Him and look to His supernatural salvation, redemption, deliverance and provision. That is the comfort He desires to give us.

The flesh is there, of course, and it wants to follow its own, rebellious, ‘alternative’ way. If we listen to the reasoning of the flesh we will be confused, for God clearly says that His ways are not our ways.

If we are going through an incredibly impossible situation, let us look to Jesus. He alone can give true spiritual comfort. And, as we see from Paul’s words above, there are men and women of God who have gone through the pain we are going through, and who have experienced God’s comforting hand upon their lives. These are men and women who persevered because they experienced a revelation of the Cross in their hearts; and they can impart to us the comfort we need. The Cross is the wisdom and power of God, and it is men who carry this revelation who can bring life to the Church.

It was for this reason that Paul became of incalculable spiritual benefit to the suffering Church of the first century.

When we are walking the narrow road of the Cross we can be assured that whatever “tribulation” we go through we will be comforted with a comfort that comes from above.

To Paul, that comfort was of greater value than the fickle ‘comfort’ that the world affords. He says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.” 2 Cor. 12:10

What do we say when we are tested above measure?

Men and Women of Faith

One day we will get to heaven and we will meet the many grand and beautiful saints whom we read about in the Bible. These are men and women whose stories of faith leave us in awe. We can hardly picture ourselves hugging the likes of Abraham, Daniel, Rahab (wow!), or Paul, among countless others.

(We will also reunite with all the other saints who have gone on ahead. I personally know of a lovely lady who died a few years ago, whom I can hardly wait to meet in heaven!)

But, although these Biblical saints awe us with their exploits, the truly remarkable thing is that they lived and walked on this earth as ordinary people like you and me. There was nothing extraordinary about their earthly lives, certainly not in the sense we are tempted to imagine when we read their incredible accounts.

On the day I got saved, as they were praying over me the strange thought came to my mind that I would hear the roar of thunder and see intense flashes of lightning, and that every kind of earth-shaking event was about to take place. In other words, I had this deep conviction that something extraordinary would happen right then. I have no idea where that impression came from but it was there, clear as day. Well, when I finally opened my eyes nothing out of the ordinary had taken place. Everything was as it had been before I closed my eyes. Only, the guys who surrounded me seemed extremely happy!

But I did come to learn later that all this ‘seismic activity’ that I had seen in my mind did actually take place in the spirit realm at the very instant they prayed, and that at that very moment I was changed.

Likewise, we read about the battles of faith that the saints of old fought, and we wonder with amazement whether these happenigs really did occur. Some are just too fantastic! The answer is, yes, all the events we read about in the Bible were real. Everything we read of did happen. But the point is: it all happened in the spirit. Whether the results manifested physically or not is immaterial. All the victories we read of in the Bible were won in the spirit, by the power of the Holy Spirit. No Biblical event should ever be interpreted as a purely human experience.

Otherwise, we could never explain the incredible exploits of these men and women as recorded in the Bible. They were spiritual exploits. (Absolutely no man could slay eight hundred men with a spear all by himself, as one of David’s mighty men did  – unless he was enabled by the Holy Spirit 2 Sam. 23:8.)

The saints of old knew God’s ways. They aligned their lives with His will and achieved great victories.

There is much extraordinary activity taking place in the spirit today, probably more than anything that happened in Biblical days. It is inconceivable that in a generation as evil as ours God is not looking for men and women who will do mighty exploits in the spirit. May the Lord help us to know His ways.

There is, however, a wrong perception today among born-again believers about the Church’s true calling, and it is preventing the Church from walking in true spiritual victory. For example, born-again believers have been led to believe that God does not wish them to experience the slightest bit of trouble in this world. Moreover, believers are taught that God’s promises are for our material, financial and physical well-being.

It is a lie to teach God’s people that it is through such experiences that we get know God. Believers are being led to look out for the flesh!

Little wonder, then that the lines are blurred between what is holy and what is not, a sure sign of defeat within the Body of Christ. Today, for example, there is greater incidence of divorce (and re-marriage) within the Church than in any other generation, and such issues are being viewed with an increasingly tolerant eye. The Bible is being interpreted according to our emotions and fleshly whims!

The Biblical saints were considerate of God’s will in the spirit but gave out the flesh to be tormented, the classic example being Jesus Christ Himself (Heb. 10:5). Let their faith be our example to follow. We, too, like them, are called to achieve extraordinary deeds in the spirit. And, just as they awe us with their faith, they too are looking to us, in our daily ordinary lives, to awe them with our faith.

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self. For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified: but he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God. 1 Cor. 4:3-5.

That’s the Apostle Paul speaking.

Sometimes I wish I will die before Jesus’ return. For I know that when I die, many good things will be said of me. Even those who have had it really against me will find their hearts suddenly warmed towards me (although, alas, not to the point of shedding tears). My family members and friends will quickly find out how much I meant to them.

At my burial, you can expect that just before they throw the dust over me (enough people have heard me express my distaste for concrete tombs, so I am sure the word will have gotten around, and they will bury me in an ordinary grave) – well, just before they do that, they will have someone read my life history. My good friend Ndiritu Njora will no doubt write the script; a script on which dozens of people will have been consulted. I can imagine the most flower-ful things will be said about me then. Truth be said, the reading of my obituary is something I would ask the Lord to let me listen in on – I am sure it will be music to my ears.

Well… I would love to think that all the glory and accolades that will attend my earthly demise will also be shown me in heaven. But the scriptures tell me that on the day I die there will be business of a different nature going on up there. In fact, even before they shed the first tear for me at my bedside (assuming that’s where I die), I will be looking at my innermost earthly thoughts, purposes, deliberations, judgments, meditations, desires, aspirations, yearnings, and cravings as they filter their way across a heavenly weighing scale,

In Hebrews 9:27 we are told that what follows death is judgment. And the Bible clearly says that when we die God will “bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts”.

The heavenly scenario will not be dependent on what people think of me. It will depend on the condition of my heart at death. And God knows even the hidden things lurking in the most unfathomable parts of my heart. I hate to admit it, but there are some things in my heart that I wouldn’t want that Day to find me still harboring. And there are dark things in there that even I am not aware of. But thank God, He knows about them. David told God, “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.“ (Ps. 139:23-24). There were things David knew lurked in his heart which only God could discern.

What will be the condition of our hearts at death? That is a question that should keep us on our spiritual toes. And this leaves us with no other option than to make sure the Cross is placed centrally in our lives. There is no safer place to be with God. The revelation of the Cross of Jesus Christ will light up and reveal those hidden areas in our lives where we need to repent and make sure our hearts stay clean. If we are not bound to the Cross, we might be tempted to think that the longer we stay in salvation, or the more we ‘labor’, the holier we become; while all the while there are rotten things we have permanently fossilised in our spiritual lives, things which the Lord will ‘bring to life’ at the last day.

St. John said, “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” At the Cross, our hearts are cleansed from the hidden lusts of the flesh and the secret desires for the things of this world.

Proverbs 4:23 urges us to guard our hearts above all everything else “for out of it are the issues of life”. What really makes our lives count before God (for we can so easily manipulate and appear something else before men), is what is at the bottom of our hearts – the anger, malice, wrong desires, and anything else that is against the will of God – which only God knows, and wants to cleanse from us. Woe to us if we are hard-hearted for one day, after we die, God will bring these to light.

Let us desire to keep our hearts clean and pure by the power of the Holy Spirit whom we have been given. Let us desire to die to our selfish, carnal mindset, and let the mind of Christ be created in us, a mind which is pure, untainted by the impurities of this world, and the flesh.

The Apostle Paul said, “I die daily”. That is what Jesus should find us doing.

Are we dying daily? Let us ask the Lord to reveal to us the Cross of Jesus, which alone can bring us to the kind of death that will please our Father.

Christ’s Life in Us.

“No man shall take the nether or upper millstone to pledge: for he taketh a man’s life to pledge.” Deuteronomy 24:6

The Bible clearly states here that under the Old Covenant, God considered a millstone to be a man’s very life. Without it he would perish. How could that be? In olden times, millstones were used to grind wheat into flour. This flour was then used to make bread. And bread represented life!

This millstone in the Old Testament symbolises the tribulation, suffering, hardship, and persecution that we, under the New Covenant, must go through for the life of God to be produced in us. Jesus declared, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” He became that ‘bread’ by laying down His life, by losing it.

The Jews were furious when Jesus told them they would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood. But He was telling them about the necessity of losing their lives. He was pointing to what would be required of them after His death on the Cross: they, too, would be called upon to identify their lives with His in denying self, taking up their Cross daily and following Him; in order that the resurrection life might be found in them.

When they refused, He told them, “You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do”! In essence He was telling them, ‘You cannot be set free from the power of sin if you do not come after me, and take that hard, narrow way of losing your life just as I lose mine’. They would remain carnal men, bound by sin. They even tried to convince Him that they were Abraham’s children. But Jesus answered them, “Oh, no! You guys do not even know Abraham, just as you do not know me, or my Father. Abraham was a spiritual person, but you are carnal.’

Many Christians have this wishy-washy view of Christianity that we are coming to the Lord to be blessed and to be pampered by Him. But when you read the lives of the apostles of Jesus, and indeed that of the Early Church, you get an entirely different picture. They lost their property. They were beaten, hounded and persecuted, and even killed. Nothing like the soap-opera gospels one sees on TV today. And yet they endured all this with abounding joy because they knew that they had “in heaven a better and an enduring substance” Heb. 10:34.

The Bible talks of the men who were to inherit God’s promises in this manner: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them from afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth” Heb. 11:13. Sadly, many of today’s ‘pilgrims’ live for this worldly life.

We cannot expect to become spiritual men and women if we continue holding on to our lives. But if we are living for the true gospel of Jesus Christ, we rejoice when trials, difficulties, lack, and reproaches come our way because they grind down our pride and selfdom, and produce the Godly, humble, selfless life in us.

If God made it an ordinance in the Old Testament that a millstone was to be a man’s very life, we can be assured that, under the New Covenant, the various forms of difficulties and hardships we pass through are our very life. These things produce the nature and character of Christ in us. This is our reward then: Christ living His life in us.

I am always delighted when I hear Pastor Miki Hardy refer to Philippians 1:29: “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him…” Across the churches that relate to CTMI, that have heard the gospel of the Cross of Jesus Christ, there is a growing understanding of the ‘grinding down’ work that the Cross must effect in us, before we can become useful instruments in God’s hands, carrying the life of Christ in us.