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Saturday, 24 September 2016
“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life,’” (John 8:12) and in John 9:5 He said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Now that Jesus is not in the world anymore, He has passed the light on: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven,” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The passage in John 9:5 above is preceded by the following: “We must work the works of Him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work,” (John 9:4). It is clear that Jesus felt urgency about the work to be done and He certainly did not let grass grow under His feet. “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written,” (John 21:25).
Our light shines whether we call attention to it or not. We do not have a choice. Jesus said ‘you are the light of the world’. He did not say, ‘be the light if you feel like it’. The Lord has pre-planned the works He has in mind for us. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them,” (Ephesians 2:10).
The works Jesus did were undertaken in His stride. He went through life ‘minding His own business’, so to speak, and then the opportunities for miracles and teaching arose. He did not seek them out. However, He was prepared for them, since He started His day in unity with His Father and walked in the Spirit all the time, which is why His works happened to be great. He had great faith.
Our works should also be undertaken in our stride. They may not appear to be great to us, but to the Lord they are great. “And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward,” (Matthew 10:42). Let us therefore be light to the world. I always try to make people feel special at work - to add a little light and joy to their day. When children’s medicines are collected I say things that lift them up and always call for a high five. Their little faces blossom and when they come in next time I can see the expectation in their eyes. When we participate in street children outreaches in Cape Town, we always play with the children, causing joy that they would think back on, and then remember that Jesus played with them. We may have given them some of their only opportunities of joy and fun. I also try to make my adult customers and my staff feel special. Whenever the opportunity arises I make it known that they need Jesus and that Jesus is special to me, so they know that this joy comes from Jesus. How about you?
We do not necessarily need to preach the gospel. We could just talk about what happened to us and live the joy that is in us, and the light will shine.
Lord, please show me how to let my light shine.
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Monday, 22 August 2016
Monday, 30 May 2016
What is it that many Christians seek? You may disagree with me, but if you compare the lifestyle of western Christians with the early church as described in the Bible, you would see what I mean. From observing Christians it appears that many of us desire one or more of the following:
· Power, importance, influence and position.
· Money and comfort.
· Entertainment and self-gratification.
What was the consequence of being a witness in the early Church? Was it not persecution and hardship? But the fruit they bore were many souls delivered from evil. Even today the persecuted church does not have time for vanity. A couple from the persecuted church in China once lived with us for a few weeks during their Bible college break. They told us what persecution was like in China. When I suggested they pray for the government to become democratic, so they may have freedom, they were adamant that they do not want it, since persecution purifies the church and keeps her active and fruitful.
The Lord God knew the self-centred heart attitude of man when He spoke the following through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 9:23-24:
Thus says the Lord:
“Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom,
let not the mighty man glory in his might,
nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
but let him who glories glory in this,
that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness,
let not the mighty man glory in his might,
nor let the rich man glory in his riches;
but let him who glories glory in this,
that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the Lord, exercising loving-kindness,
judgement, and righteousness in the earth.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
For in these I delight,” says the Lord.
This passage gives a good indication of who God is and what He wants to accomplish. He does not only exercise His kindness as many preachers would like to portray so they may win more followers, but He also ensures people act according to His righteousness. Note also that His judgement is not preserved for judgement day, but is exercised on earth here and now. Think for example of what happened to Ananias and Sapphira in Acts chapter five. His judgement is exercised on Christians in the form of discipline as we see in Hebrews 12. He also expects the latter two to be preached and taught.
Why would God reveal Himself as such? He is our Father in heaven and we are created in His image. Apart from sin He is just like us? What does a good parent do to prepare a child for life? You love her – this is lovingkindness. You teach her right living and respect – this is righteousness. You apply discipline if she does not comply - this is exercising judgement. The end result is a mature, obedient and respectful person, able to make a change to her world. This makes it easier to identify with the exact same method the Lord uses with His children and the purpose He aims to accomplish.
The Lord’s aim for the earth is right living, rightness with Him, peace and joy. The enemy, however, aims to accomplish exactly the opposite. Therefore the only way the Lord can accomplish His dream is by preparing willing sons and daughters to be efficient soldiers for the Kingdom, just as a worthy parent would prepare his child to be a useful citizen of society.
In addition to obediently responding to the Holy Spirit's guidance, we need to pray this commitment of God into being, in other words for this will of His to be done. This is the way it is in heaven, and this we need to pray to life on earth (Matthew 6:9-13). He committed Himself to the saints' prayers and will only act in response to prayer.
As Judge and Advocate (1 John 2:1, 2 Timothy 4:8) He wants to see righteousness exercised in government, in business, to the poor and the weak, as well as to His children. But He waits for the prayers of the saints. Therefore you should report unrighteous leaders, unrighteous business people and unrighteous activity to Him, the Judge and Advocate, and be prepared to do your part as the salt of the earth. This may result in you not being so popular and comfortable, since persecution is bound to come. But your crown is awaiting you in heaven.
Lord, please exercise kindness, righteousness and judgement on those who need it. I am thinking of... (Put in names).
Monday, 23 May 2016
How do you pray? A preacher once said he sees nowhere in the Bible where Paul, the apostle, prayed for his own needs. His focus in prayer was the Kingdom of God and people's involvement in it.
But where is our focus? Where is yours? Do we not usually have a shopping list before God?
What is the Lord's aim for His children? Is His dream not that we should know Him?
Generally man tends to focus on self. I do not even refer to non-believers here. Just listen to many of the messages you hear from the pulpit, on radio and television, as well as the lyrics of worship songs. What is the focus in them? I hear much of how God loves us and desires to bless us and how good He is to us and therefore we do not need to worry.
The focus appears to be mostly on I, me, and myself and very little on discovering who the Lord God is and what changes we need to make in order to become like Jesus, so that God may be glorified. Then I cannot help thinking of the passage in 2 Timothy 4:3: “For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”
When we witness, do we not usually focus on telling what the Lord has done for us and how He has blessed us and provided for us? You may ask what is wrong with it. Is that not what the Lord has promised He will do? Yes, He certainly had our wellbeing in mind when He made those promises, but not so much for the sake of our own comfort, but rather that we may be fit and cared for whilst we work in the harvest field of His Kingdom and at maintaining a righteous relationship with Him (Matthew 6:33, Matthew 9:37). In this context He promised His care and provision whilst we busy ourselves with His interests. How about therefore getting involved with the needs of others and then witness what the Lord has done for them?
What are we seeking when seeking the Kingdom of God? In Romans 14:17 we read that the Kingdom of God is righteousness (rightness with God), peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. So what are you actively pursuing through prayer and action? You firstly seek right standing with God for yourself. This you do by moving into Christ's righteousness through faith (John 3:3-5). You make the rightness with God, which Jesus bought for you on the cross, your own. You cannot earn rightness with God. It's a gift you have to accept for yourself.
But you may already be born again and therefore have taken the previous step. Next you have to bring your soul in line with this righteousness by working with the Holy Spirit to get your behaviour and desires right before God (Philippians 2:12-13). Resulting from this is peace and joy because you are progressing towards living in faith and obedience.
Following this you need to work towards getting those around you to have this same Kingdom. This involves witnessing, evangelism, serving, preaching, teaching, encouragement, exhortation, prophesying and so on.
With regard to seeking right standing or righteousness with the Lord, have a read of 2 Corinthians 6:16-18. Have you checked yourself whether you are free from idols and of use to God? This passage continues in chapter 7:1: “Therefore, since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Sunday, 8 May 2016
If there lived on this earth one expert in the art of surrendering to temptation and justifying yourself for yielding, it was the old me.
When I felt in a bad mood and felt like being rude, I simply acted rudely. If my flesh wanted the pleasure it craves from carnal desires, I found justification to surrender to the desire. In such a situation the Holy Spirit would call on me for a pep talk, after which I repented and let it go. But to be honest, I did it reluctantly.
Then the blame game started. I have often thrown 1 Corinthians 10:13 before the Lord, which reads: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
“Why do I struggle so much with sin if this promise of yours is true?” I wanted to know. “You don't seem to care to help me to overcome.”
Hands up. Who has been there?
Then one morning I had this wonderful revelation on this passage.
Let us consider it carefully. The first part basically informs you that temptation is not from God. It is from the nature of man and it is to this nature that Satan directs his suggestions or temptations.
It is the second part I would like to discuss here though: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
We have the promise that we will not be tempted above what we can bear. Other translations mention that we will not be tempted above our strength. So when we succumb to the temptation and then sin, who failed; God or us? As mentioned I have often blamed God. And you, who did you blame?
The promise in this passage is that the Lord has given us strength to resist, as well as a way out of any temptation. So if we yield we actually wilfully ignore the solution the Lord gave us, do we not? We choose to sin. We already have the strength to resist as well as the way out, yet we still do it.
The passage continues to inform us that the Lord will provide with the temptation a way out. “But some temptations come so quickly,” I hear you say, “there is no time to wait for a way out.” This is where the miracle comes in. The word used in this passage is ‘with’. At the moment the temptation comes, the way out of it is already there. It comes with the temptation. The choice whether you will take it is still yours though.
The day following this revelation was an interesting one for me. During my quiet time that morning I declared this passage over my life and was ready to look for the way out. I was very tired and felt particularly down. Therefore my flesh had set itself up to snap at difficult patients and to enjoy the opportunity to be rude.
I did not feel like smiling or being friendly, yet every time I faced a patient, my mouth somehow turned into a smile and friendly words in a kind tone came from my mouth. Remember, my carnal nature was ready to be rude, but because I declared my surrender to the Lord and His Word, they miraculously determined my actions. This was God's strength overruling my weakness and His way out that came with the temptation.
God's truth protected me in another way during that time as well. The previous day a pretty woman, who worked with me, really flirted with me and I had difficulty to resist her. The following day, the day of the revelation, I was kind of scared to go back there, but thanks to the power of the declared Word of God these temptations also lost their power. I easily avoided her attentions and she quickly got the message.
The Lord's Word is true and always has the power to accomplish what it was sent for (Isaiah 55:10-11). The only times its power does not work for you is when you choose not to believe and apply it.
Remember the Lord God is always ready to back the promises of His Word for you with His power. You simply need to believe it, declare it, and put action to your faith - in other words apply it consciously and deliberately.
Lord, please teach me how to apply your Word by faith.
Sunday, 1 May 2016
This is a true story about a Christian who acted in obedience to the Holy Spirit within the Romans 12:6-8 gifting he has received from God. I will call him Friend.
Friend had a job to be done for which he needed a few labourers. He knew he would find willing hands on a street corner to help him, and hired four men. About three hours into the day he realized he would need at least one more man otherwise they would not finish in time.
Since the town, where he found the workers, was quite far away from the site where they worked, he was not really keen to drive all the way there, and resolved that they would try and make it with the hands he had.
The Lord God, however, had other plans. Friend's job that he assigned to himself was to load the trailer and drive the foliage to the dump. Soon after he had realized that he actually needed another worker, it became time to dump another load. As soon as he had turned onto the main road that leads to the town where he had found the men, and also to the nearby dump, a man waved him down.
He was dressed like a painter, which in fact he was. Friend told him he was only going to the dump a kilometre down the road and not to the town where Painter was headed. When Painter offered to help him unload the trailer at the dump, Friend realized that this was a divine appointment and hired him. Little did he know what the Lord God had in mind. Painter identified himself as a Christian.
Painter's job became loading and unloading the trailer together with Friend. During their trips to the dump they became friends and impacted one another's lives under guidance of the Holy Spirit.
As they drove through the village where they did the job, Painter pointed out two houses he had painted and also offered Friend his business card. Friend liked what he saw when he observed the paint jobs on the houses and felt led to design a one page website to promote Painter, which he did for free and hosted as a sub domain to his own domain. In the next couple of weeks he took pictures of some of Painter's work as well as of Painter on the job.
A week after Friend had launched the website Painter had three houses to paint, all as a result of the website. The two of them kept contact and six weeks after he had launched the website, Friend came to the area again and Painter asked to see him. He overflowed with joy and could not stop hugging Friend. He told Friend that he now had a staff of five painters and had purchased himself a small car.
When the Lord arranged the divine appointment between the two of them, Painter was poor and struggling to get work. He was faithful in that he marketed himself by handing out a simple business card he had printed, but had little work and hungry children. God had heard his prayers and knew about the hobby His servant, Friend, has - website design.
And the outcome - provision for a poor man who was prepared to use what he had. Painter stays faithful in marketing himself, but now has a web address on his card. Clients are able to see his work before they contact him and therefore contracts are flooding in.
Painter also heeded Friend's exhortation to deliver excellent work, something he previously neglected due to a poor man's attitude. The website makes him feel professional and so does having staff he is responsible for, as well as the fact that he has wheels. Therefore he delivers professional work.
The Lord gifted all people with the intention that we should serve one another with what we have. He does not necessarily want everything to be formalized, but only wants His children to be there for one another with what we have to offer.
“By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). What is it you have available that someone else may need. If you listen for guidance from the Holy Spirit, He will lead you in the right direction and your joy will be full.
It is vital, though, that you give your best and walk the extra mile. “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,” (Colossians 3:23). Friend told me he made the website appear professional and appealing; exactly the way he would have done it for himself. He took trouble to go out and take pictures, searched for relevant links on the Internet that customers would appreciate, and so on.
Jesus went all the way in serving total strangers with what He had, in obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, according to the will of the Father. If all Christians have the attitude that the Lord Jesus had, the world would see Jesus in us and desire change.
Romans 15:1-9: “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.
Father, please guide me as I obey you in displaying the attitude Jesus had.
Wednesday, 27 April 2016
I will return later to this series we are busy with. The Lord gave me a few Golden Nuggets I would like to place first.
I would like to share an interesting revelation with you.
Gideon was threshing out some wheat in the winepress. He was dead scared of the Midianites when Jesus, called the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament, visited him. You can read his history in Judges 6-8.
Throughout this passage it is clear that Gideon found it equally easy to panic and believe. When he had an encounter with the Lord, faith came easily, but when his bad self image and lack of confidence got the better of him, despair stepped in just as easily.
When Jesus appeared to him He greeted Gideon with the words: "The LORD is with you O mighty man of valour," (Judges 6:12). The Lord should have known Gideon's personality, which was characterized by fear, insecurity and lack of self-confidence. Why would He have greeted him this way?
A few verses later He ordered Gideon in verse 14: "Go in this might (or strength) of yours and save Israel from the hands of Midian; do I not send you?"
Many scholars take it that Jesus spoke faith over Gideon when He uttered the latter, in other words proclaiming Gideon's potential and what he was like at the time.
Usually it is a good idea to motivate people this way, especially those with lots of confidence. You tend to get results. But those suffering with a lack of confidence are not so easily fooled. They find it difficult to get past the barrier which was erected by a lack of faith in themselves. They need sufficient evidence that they are actually able to do it. If you have experienced this before, you will understand it. Therefore, even though the Lord believed in him, Gideon still had himself to encounter. You will find much evidence of it in this passage.
We said earlier that Gideon easily panicked and got into despair, but equally easily acted in faith after an encounter with the Lord.
I have mentioned two significant phrases the Lord had said to Gideon, which actually became quite famous throughout the ages and have been used in many messages. I believe they relate respectively to each of these two characteristics that Gideon displayed.
Firstly, when the Lord told Gideon to "go in this might of yours" He meant the strength and courage Gideon had at the time, which was not much. It is not easy for anybody to, in your own strength, be more than you are.
Gideon also proved this fact by immediately acting within character. He said in verse fifteen: “So he said to Him, ‘O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.’” This is exactly the position the Lord wanted him in, for then the glory would be His and not Gideon's, which is why He comforted Gideon with the words: "The LORD is with you" (verse 12), "do I not send you" (verse 14) and "I will be with you" (verse 16).
It is of no use you try to pump up your self-confidence in order to become something you are not. It is better to step out saying: "I cannot do it, but God can do it through me." Then we go in the strength we have and the Lord does the part we cannot do.
Secondly, why did Jesus call Gideon a mighty man of valour? He did know Gideon's fearful personality, did He not?
If you display faith in the Lord God and through that please Him (make Him happy), He releases to you a lot of strength and power. "The joy of the Lord (in other words Him being happy) is my strength," (Nehemiah 8:10), and "without faith it is impossible to please God," (Hebrews 11:6).
The Lord knew Gideon's ability to easily trust Him, believe Him, and rely on Him. These virtues made Gideon mighty and powerful, not because of him, but because the Lord was to be with him. God's joy, as a result of Gideon's faith and obedience, released His might and power to Gideon.
How about you? In what manner is the Lord pleased by your faith and obedience? Paul mentioned in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” Gideon went out in the little strength he had, trusting the Lord, and had the privilege to see the Lord's power on display.
Which weakness currently stands in your way to step out in service to the King of kings?
Simply go out in the little strength you have available, and God's almighty power will be made perfect in it.
Jesus said that if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you will do mighty things; “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matthew 17:20). That is all you need. The reason why many Christians accomplish very little is because they do not even have that amount of faith.
All you need is to start doing what you know God expects of you, even if it is with a throbbing heart, shaky legs, and breath that gets stuck in your throat when you try to speak. Believe me, that is probably how Gideon felt. As you start seeing the Lord's faithfulness and power in action, your boldness and faith will grow, until it is as big in comparison to your initial faith as a mustard tree is in comparison to the seed it came from.
The result - God's Kingdom and your heavenly treasure will prosper.
Lord, give me the courage to go out in the little strength I have and make you happy by acting in faith.
Friday, 15 April 2016
As you would recall, we are busy discussing the prostitutes that render the modern-day Christian inefficient. Today I address church leaders, any Christian in a leadership capacity, and those who adore church leaders.
Girl two - the lust for power.
One major task the Holy Spirit has is to keep us humble. We do enjoy being important, do we not? Because of our lust after power we often allow people to put us on thrones and give us titles. In some instances church has become a sort of kingdom of its own – leaders acting as the king with all his followers. The leader’s word and Bible interpretation are often the alpha and omega and should not be questioned. How often have you disagreed with the behaviour or teaching of a leader, but the system or the leader himself did not allow you the opportunity to sort it out with him. I have had many instances where I had to point out to church leaders the error in their teaching. Some have accepted it graciously and corrected their error, but others did not respond very favourably.
Maybe this does not apply to you or maybe it hits right on the spot, but I want to ask why we accept this glorification? Why do we enjoy it when people worship us? Why do we strive for positions of importance? Does the Word not teach us the contrary? “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all,” (Mark 9:35). This is mentioned five times in the New Testament. Have a look at Luke 14:7-11. It concludes with the words: “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
"Beware of the teachers of the law (maybe certain church leaders?). They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues (churches?) and the places of honor at banquets,” (Luke 20:46). This is mentioned five times in New Testament.
“He called a little child and had Him stand among them. And He said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven,” (Matthew 18:2-4).
What does it mean to become like a little child? Have you ever seen a proud and blown up four year old who ignores those not beneficial to him and who loves and smiles at only those whom he considers worthy? Have you ever seen one with hidden motives and false pretenses, or one who decides which skin colour, physical appearance, or social standing is acceptable to him whilst the others he considers inferior or not important. No, a child spontaneously loves and accepts anybody. He gives and gives abundantly, has none of the adult pride mentioned above and forgives automatically. He never accuses or keeps grievances, like many adults do.
“Jesus called them together and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, And whoever wants to be first must be your slave-- Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many," (Matthew 20:25-28).
Do I hear you protest: “But it is not me who lifts myself up, it is the people.” It may be so, but why do we accept it, why do we accept the title and in the end introduce ourselves as such? Why do we accept the important places and positions? Is it not for enhancing in ourselves a feeling of importance, or maybe for using the position of authority to our own benefit and for the presentation of our own ideas? Come; let us look deeper than the obvious!
Should we not set an example of humility and service? The senior leader of a mega church once admitted in a sermon he had marital struggles and next thing all the leaders in the church with marital problems came out for counsel. In another church the leader was very humble with regard to his struggles and weaknesses and the anointing of God was powerfully on that church.
Do you know the acronym WWJD (what would Jesus do)? Have you ever taken the trouble to study Jesus’ lifestyle and personality; “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners,’" (Matthew 9:10-13).
“Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head,’” (Matthew 8:19-20).
How do you compare with Jesus in the context of above scriptures? How would you picture Jesus if He would live today? Maybe He would live in a luxurious home. On Sundays He would polish himself into a tailor-cut suit and drive to His church building of architectural beauty in His luxury car to treat the folks down there with a smooth sermon from His pedestal. Would He?
Or would He maybe be on the dusty streets of the ghetto in His casuals loving, feeding and healing people? At night He would be invited to sleep in a shack or a small flat with those who cannot afford and extra mouth to feed, but would leave them with a blessing from the Almighty God the next day.
How do you compare with Jesus in the context of the above scripture examples?
Lord, help me to become like Jesus.
(To be continued)
Monday, 4 April 2016
Have you ever taken a look at the Christian world today in comparison with Christianity in the book of Acts and the Epistles? Paul stated to Timothy the following: “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2 Timothy 3:12). I see no ‘maybe’ or ‘possibly’, but only a definite ‘will’. The apostles and other godly men of the Bible ... “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground,” (Hebrews 11:33-38).
This is the guaranteed consequence of living a godly life – an obedient life by faith. Of how many of today’s Christians can this be said? Do most of us not keep ourselves busy with comfortable living, entertainment, business, sports and fitness – in essence self gratification? How much of what we do are aimed at building the Kingdom of God? What percentage of our time and money are devoted to the command in Matthew 28:18-20: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,’” and to Mark 16:15-18: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’”
How many pastors and church leaders prepare their entire flock to reach out and make a change to the world? Are most Christians and their leaders not basking in the sun of comfort and self-indulgence whilst a handful of faithful ones desperately try and bring the world to Jesus?
What do you think? Could this be considered a sign of self-centredness, of satisfying the flesh - prostitutes keeping the soldiers’ minds occupied with carnal desires so they are not able to see the true plans the Holy Spirit has for their lives? Meanwhile the Holy Spirit keeps calling over the two-way radio... (See earlier messages)
Have you ever imagined the power of God’s Kingdom here on earth if all of His children minimized on personal and carnal needs and maximized on the development and application of their Holy Spirit given (1 Corinthians 12) and motivational (Romans 12:6-8) gifts? Have you noticed that none of these gifts is meant for personal satisfaction or enrichment?
Maybe we should sit still for a moment and picture a force of thousands of imitators of Jesus, Peter, John, Paul, Timothy, and so on - no-one owning much materially, but all accomplishing the same as is recorded in the Bible? (To be continued)
Sunday, 13 March 2016
The desire to satisfy the flesh. How much time and energy go into this purpose. Jesus said: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well," (Matthew 6:31-33).
An unfortunate thing that happened to Christians, especially those in Western countries, is that we got merged strongly with materialism, entertainment, and sport. In the above reference Jesus distinguished between pagans and Christians. This distinction is something that only a few Christians through the ages were able to make, and because of it many were rendered powerless.
Jesus said to the rich young ruler, after he declared that he does live a good life and obeys all the rules: "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me," (Matthew 19:21"), and also to his disciples when he sent them out: "Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; Take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep," (Matthew 10:9-10).
We learned in the previous message that Jesus was completely content with the presence of the Holy Spirit in Him. This is the distinction between the Christian and the pagan. Both need something to bring contentment. Jesus said: "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head," (Matthew 8:20).
I’m sure Jesus could have had a wife and a home if he wanted to. He could have had cattle and other belongings too. It was within His power to decide. But He had the Holy Spirit as his companion and much too much to do in order for carnal satisfaction to get in the way.
The pagans do not have a Holy Spirit to fulfill their needs. So, as Jesus said, they must find something to bring fulfillment and therefore run after material things. In Matthew 6:32-33 Jesus’ words can be rephrased as follows and one can almost sense contempt: “Listen, if you want to ‘lower’ yourselves to the level of the pagans by seeking carnal satisfaction in order to get fulfillment, suit yourselves. But you, being kings, have a Father who will fulfill your every need as long as you just busy yourselves with making known His kingdom and building a relationship with Him.”
Our problem, however, is that our standards concerning carnal needs are much higher than those of God. We think we need much more than God thinks we need because we are influenced by the pagans. And, like the rich young man, we have difficulty to let go of our carnal contentment in exchange for Holy Spirit contentment. “Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.' When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth," (Matthew 19:21, 22).
I have focused on materialism in the above discussion, but satisfying the flesh includes any excess interest in entertainment of any form at the cost of obedience to the Lord and serving Him actively with your gifting. How much precious time is wasted on self indulgence in any form? Having and doing too much of anything that is not of God puts us in the shoes of the rich young man.
"When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." Lets put your name in this sentence: When YOUR NAME heard this, he went away sad, because he had to sacrifice watching television, OR When YOUR NAME heard this, he went away sad, because he had to let go of a certain sport addiction, OR When YOUR NAME heard this, he went away sad, because he had to sacrifice a social lifestyle. As you can see there are many things that satisfy your flesh, standing in the way of an adventurous relationship with the Holy Spirit in obeying His continuous instruction.
There is, however, a much subtler deception when it comes to satisfying the flesh and entertainment. We have mentioned in the previous message that Christianity outside a personal relationship with God is boring. Some churches therefore make their services fun to attend. How entertaining can mass worship, led by a dynamic music band and worship leader be? How entertaining can a charismatic preacher be? You feel so good when you leave the church service. You feel better about yourself.
But what difference has it made to your relationship with the Lord? Are you serving and obeying Him, according to His plan for your life, during the week as a result of attending such a church? Do you use your gift to make a difference in the lives of those the Lord loves so much? Or do you live for the kick you're going to receive next Sunday. The same applies to Christian television and radio.
Can you see the danger? Is your life really about the Lord and His desires? Is your two-way radio switched on, or is church just one of the prostitutes to satisfy you? (To be continued)
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