Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Are you offering false sacrifices?

"To obey is better than sacrifice." 1 Samuel 15:22

God gave King Saul specific instructions to be followed. However, Saul disobeyed God and tried to justify his disobedience by presenting a sacrifice to God. God describes Saul's disobedience as rebellion that is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry (see 1 Samuel 15).


The greatest obstacle to doing God's will, or the will of another, is one's own will. It is not difficult to do the will of another when it conforms to one's own will but when it requires denying one's own will for the sake of the will of another, we are faced with a massive internal conflict. We will avoid submitting our will to the will of another in various ways. Either we simply disobey and don't do the will of the other, or we say we will obey the will of the other but don't actually do it, or we do the will of the other in our own way as a cover-up for actually disobeying.

True sacrifice or false sacrifice?

True sacrifice means I lay down my own will (die to self) and do the will of another for their sake. True sacrifice is determined by the will of another. False sacrifice is different. It appears to be a genuine sacrifice but is actually self-determined and for one's own sake.

When my boys were little, I encountered "false sacrifices" many times. Rather than tidy their room, they would draw me a picture instead. In other words, rather than obeying a clear instruction, they presented me with something that could please me but was self-determined - a false sacrifice! Clearly the cute picture was precious but I would have preferred them to tidy their room as instructed! To obey is better than sacrifice.

The deception of false sacrifices

The more we justify disobedience with false sacrifices, the more insensitive we become to the will of God. For example, someone will justify not forgiving someone else by spending hours serving the poor. God requires us to forgive one another and to feed the poor. However, when we determine the sacrifice to cover up our disobedience, we deceive ourselves.

Grace and obedience

A fundamental question a Christian should ask himself or herself is: Does God require anything of me? You may think this an odd question to ask but I believe many Christians have the idea that grace replaces any requirement from God. Grace, however, has never replaced God's requirements of man. Just as Jesus came to do the Father's will, so every believer is called to the obedience that comes from faith (Rom 1:5). Jesus says, "If you love me, you will obey what I command" (John 14:15). Clearly God indeed requires something of us that we are called to obey if we truly love Him. Thankfully God gives us His grace to empower us to live according to His will.

"For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say 'No' to ungodliness and wordly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.." Titus 2:11-12

Finding out God's will

Unless we seek the will of God, we cannot know whether we are doing His will or not. Paul's prayer for the Church was that the believers would know God's will in order to live obedient lives that pleased Him (Rom 12:1-2; Eph 5:17; Php 1:9-11; Col 1:9-10). 

Who is Lord in your life?

Jesus is Lord of all. However, He is only the believer's Lord when s/he lives in submission to Him. The writer to the Hebrews writes,

"In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him." Heb 2:8

Only those who surrender their will to God's will are subject to Him. We deceive ourselves when we call Jesus, "My Lord" when our own will is still seated on the throne!

Who are the sons of God?

The Bible is clear. Those who are led by the Spirit of God, have their minds on what the Spirit desires and do His will are the sons of God (Rom 81-17). How can we call ourselves disciples of Jesus and not do what He commands?

"If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31

Find out God's will and obey it

I believe every believer should be seeking to know God's will in every area of their lives. Although the Bible doesn't always reveal God's specific will on various issues, it is as we grow in our knowledge of God that we will know what His will is according to His nature.

Sacrifice or obedience?

It is important that we identify God's will for our lives and that we do not ignore the conviction or the prompting of God's Spirit. If we know what God requires of us, we must obey. False sacrifices may cause us to feel better about ourselves but do not justify our disobedience. The more we ignore the Holy Spirit, the harder our hearts become even whilst seemingly doing what pleases God. Spend time with God and find out what His will is concerning prayer, reading the Bible, your relationships, your resources, your church, your gifts, your leaders, your occupation, your children, your parents, your colleagues, the poor, the lost, etc.. 

"We make it our goal to please him." 2 Cor 5:9

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Do you love the Church?

"Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all partake of the one loaf." 1 Corinthians 10:16,17

The purpose of Christ's death on the cross was to pay the price necessary to reconcile mankind to God and mankind to one another. The cross represents the redemptive power of Christ's sacrifice that purchased man for God (vertical fellowship - koinonia) and man for one another (horizontal fellowship - koinonia). In other words, it cost Jesus His life to make us one with God and one with one another!

Through faith in Christ the believer is joined to God:

"But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit." 1 Corinthians 6:17

And to one another:

"The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is in Christ. For we were all baptised by one Spirit into one body - whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free - and we were all given one Spirit to drink." 1 Corinthians 12:12,13

The mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets, is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:4-6).

The believer is not a saved individual but one who has been saved into the community of believers - the Church. Peter writes,

"Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God." 1 Peter 2:10

The believer has a new identity in Christ. The old identity that was independent, self-centred and separated from God and His people has been replaced with a new identity that is dependent on God, considerate (mindful of others) and joined to God and His people. 

Holy Communion, also called the Eucharist or the Lord's supper, is the act of remembering Christ's death and the significance of His sacrifice. Having seen that Christ died to reconcile man to God and to one another we can understand Paul's instructions to the Corinthian church about how they should take communion together. He writes,

"When you come together, it is not the Lord's Supper you eat, for as you eat, each of you goes ahead without waiting for anybody else. One remains hungry, another gets drunk. Don't you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God?" 1 Corinthians 11:20-22

When believers do not consider one another and love one another, they despise and dishonour the Church. Paul writes,

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognising the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number have fallen asleep." 1 Corinthians 11:27-30

"Recognising the body of the Lord" means honouring the Body of Christ, the Church. Paul is saying that before believers eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord, they must first consider one another. Taking communion together honours what Christ has purchased with His blood - union with God and union with one another. 

We cannot have fellowship with Christ and ignore our relationships with one another - that is to despise the Church. As those purchased with the blood of Jesus, we must "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit." (Ephesians 4:3,4)

We cannot produce the unity purchased by the blood of Jesus but we are responsible to keep it! 

I am convinced that when the people of God have revelation of their new identity in Christ, as the Church of God, and of what it cost Jesus to purchase men for God, that they will make a commitment to live in unity with one another. It is my prayer that the world would see the glory of the Church as we live in communion with God and one another. I praise God that on that great day when the times will have reached their fulfillment that we will hear "every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: 'To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honour and glory and power, for ever and ever!'" And why will we hear every creature singing? Because Christ was slain, and with His blood He purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. He has made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth" (see Revelation 5:9-14).

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20,21

Thursday, 3 October 2013

I live because I am loved

I live because I am loved.
The Father has lavished His love upon me.
I am unconditionally loved and accepted in Christ.
Nothing can separate me from the Father's love.
I rely on the Father's love for me.

Darkness cannot hide His love.
I cannot escape His love.
I don't have to earn His love.
I don't have to perform for Him.
My efforts cannot change His love toward me.

He loved me before.
He loves me now.
He will always love me.
He is love.
I am free to be who He loves.
I live because I am loved.

I can love without fear.
I can love without cost.
I can love without pain.
I can love fully because I am fully loved.
I live because I am loved.

Thank you Father for lavishing your love upon me and filling me to overflow with love divine.
Is there anything greater than being accepted?
Is there anything more precious than knowing I matter.
Is there anything greater than being intended.
I live because I am loved.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Who do you think you are?

The Father's testimony

"If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about me is valid. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved." John 5:31-34

"As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'" Matthew 3:16,17

Jesus lived from the Father's testimony about him. Even Jesus did not depend on his own testimony about himself, nor the testimony of godly men concerning him. The only testimony that he considered valid was the testimony of the Father concerning him. Jesus, therefore, lived by faith in the testimony of the Father. After his baptism, Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted. The devil challenged the testimony Jesus had from the Father saying, "If you are the Son of God..." (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus, however, trusted in the Father's testimony about him.

A new identity

The apostle Paul lived by faith in his new identity in Christ. He regarded his old identity that was based on his education, his heritage, his intellect, his zeal, and his self-righteousness as "rubbish" compared to knowing Christ and finding his identity in Him (Philippians 3:4-11). Paul lived from the reality of his new identity in Christ saying, "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).

Key motivation

Just as Paul lived from the spiritual reality of his new identity in Christ, so he appealed to the Church to live their lives according to the testimony from heaven and the spiritual truth of their new identity in Christ. Paul understood that the believers' key motivation to live godly lives was to believe and live according to their new identity in Christ.

In his letter to the saints in Colosse, Paul writes,

"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with hm in glory." Colossians 3:1-4

Paul appeals to the truth of what Christ has done, is doing and will do. He reminds the Church that they have been raised with Christ (past), that they live with Him in God (present) and that they will be found in Him when He returns (future). Consequently, Paul exhorts the Church to put off her old identity and behaviour and to live in her new identity as "God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved" (Colossians 3:12).

Over and over again in his letters to the Church, Paul reminds the believers about their new identity in Christ in order to move them to live godly lives. He reminds the believers that they are not their own anymore and that they are the temple of the Holy Spirit as the key motivation to avoid sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 8:12-16; 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1). He explains how believers belong to one another as the Body of Christ as the key motivation to serve one another (Romans 12:4,5). Paul reminds the believers that they are no longer darkness but light in the Lord and so should live as children of light because that is their new identity in Christ (Ephesians 5:8-14).

Life of faith

We see, therefore, that the life of faith is about living in the truth of what God says about us - the Father's testimony about us - because of what Christ has done, is doing and will do. Those who live in the truth of their new identity in Christ will put off the old and put on the new. They will live as God's people who belong to Him and to one another because they know that they are sons of God and that they are the Body of Christ. 

Living according to identity

What attitude or behaviour needs to change in your life if you truly believe the following testimony about your new identity in Christ?
  • You are a new creation in Christ, created in Him to do good works. 2 Cor 5:17; Eph 2:10
  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. 1 Cor 6:19,20
  • You are a member of the Body of Christ. 1 Cor 12:27
  • You are holy. Col 3:12
  • You are light. Eph 5:8-12
  • You are a citizen of heaven. Phil 3:20
These are just a few of the wonderful truths that apply to the believer. Faith in the truth of who we are in Christ should motivate us to live according to our new lives in Christ.  

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 1 John 3:1

Friday, 16 August 2013

Where are the spiritual fathers?

"I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending to you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church." 1 Corinthians 4:14-17

Made in God's image

Man was originally made in the image of God, thus revealing the nature and character of God. Through the Fall, the revelation of the image of God in man became distorted. Christ therefore came as the revelation of the Father to restore man to his original purpose of revealing the nature and character of God. Those who are in Christ have the power to reveal the very nature of God (see Ephesians 4:24; 5:1; 2 Peter 1:3,4; 1 John 2:6).

God's image distorted

Satan's purpose is to distort the image of God. Over the ages, the enemy has sought to destroy the image of God: as Creator with the theory of evolution; as loving and just King with corrupted and perverted authoritarian leaders and as Father of all by destroying families as men abandon their responsibility as fathers.

Spiritual fathers

In Christ, Paul became a father through the gospel. In reconciling people to the Father through the gospel of righteousness in Christ, Paul not only helped new converts to be properly birthed into the Kingdom but he also took  responsibility as a spiritual father for the maturation of these "dear children" in Christ. Those who give birth to spiritual children must also continue the responsibility of being a spiritual parent in raising their children properly.


In Ephesians 3:14, Paul prays, "For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth derives its name." 

Fatherhood derives its name (its nature and character) from God the Father. Abba Father is Father of all and He is our example of true fatherhood. God is restoring His image as Father in man as believers understand their purpose and responsibility of being God's instruments in birthing and raising spiritual children.

True fatherhood

Paul was a spiritual father who revealed the nature and character of true fatherhood.
  • Paul loved those who were converted through the gospel he preached. They were his dear children.
  • Paul spoke the truth in love to warn them and help them. He was not afraid to correct his children.
  • Paul identified himself as the church's spiritual father - he understood his responsibility toward his children.
  • Paul lived by example. He urged the church to imitate him as he imitated the Lord (1 Cor 11:1).
  • Paul raised fathers like him. He sent Timothy as his representative to remind the church of Paul's way of life and teaching that they were to imitate and obey.

Spiritual orphans

I believe every believer is called to share the gospel with the lost in order to reconcile them to the Father. However, our responsibility does not end once we have led someone to the Lord. Through the gospel we become spiritual parents whose responsibility is to help new born believers to maturity. We may not be able raise them personally but it is every believer's responsibility as a spiritual parent to ensure that the new born child of God has a spiritual parent.  It is irresponsible to abandon the new born child of God and leave him/her to fend for him/herself! They become spiritual orphans, abandoned by their spiritual parents.

Be a spiritual parent

As believers, our goal must be to reveal the Father and to reconcile people to the Father as we take up our responsibility as spiritual parents to those we lead to the Lord through the gospel. True fatherhood must be restored in the Church if we are to reveal the Father and raise believers to maturity. 

Thursday, 8 August 2013

What is the fruit of your gospel?

Good news

The greek word euaggelion is translated in english translations of the Bible as the gospel or the good news. The word is used to describe the good news: of the kingdom (Mt 24:24), about Jesus Christ (Mk 1:1), of God's grace (Acts 20:24), of God (Ro 15:16), of the glory of Christ (2 Cor 4:4), of your salvation (Eph 1:13), of peace (Acts 10:36), about the Lord (Acts 11:20), etc.

The Kingdom of God

"Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'" Mk 1:14,15

Jesus' primary message was of the good news of the kingdom of God. For 40 days, before He ascended to heaven, Jesus taught on the kingdom (see Acts 1:3). Most of Jesus' parables were about the reality of the kingdom of God. His purpose in sharing the good news of the kingdom was that people would believe in the reality of God's kingdom and enter into it (see Jn 3:1-8).

Christ crucified

The apostle Paul's primary message was the good news of Christ's death and resurrection. He writes, "I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). The purpose of Paul's message was to bring people into right standing with God through continuing dependence on Christ's righteousness (1 Cor 1:30).

Eternal life

The apostle John's primary message was of the good news of eternal life in Christ. He writes, "And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 Jn 5:11,12).

The purpose of the gospel

Clearly, the message or the gospel has different forms but its purpose is always the same. This is very important. Unless we understand the purpose of the gospel, we will seek to lead people to believ
e a message rather than help them enter the Kingdom of God! 

Preaching the gospel is not the goal. 
Leading people to complete and ongoing dependence upon Christ and devotion to Him is. 

Aquaintance or disciple?

We are called to make disciples (Mt 28:18). A disciple is not an aquaintance of Christ. A disciple is married to Christ. Do sinners understand that we are leading them to be married to Christ when they say "I do" to Christ?

Whatever happened to unconditional commitment?

The sad truth is that the principle of unconditional commitment is leaving the gospel and consequently the church. Many preach a gospel that says, "Come to Jesus and receive everything you need. All you have to do is pray the sinner's prayer and you're in." There is a huge difference between receiving Jesus and surrendering one's life to Jesus. The first does not require any commitment, the second costs you your life. Unless people are led to commit their lives to Christ and to enter a covenant relationship with Him, they will also treat His Body, the Church, like an aquaintance rather than the Bride of Christ.

The fruit of the gospel

When I look at the book of Acts, I see a people who were cut to the heart by the Holy Spirit, who repented of their sinful, independent lives, who were baptised because they truly believed, who depended on Christ to be right with God and who devoted their lives to Christ and His bride (see Acts 2:42-47). That is and should always be the fruit of the gospel.Anything less and we're preaching an incomplete or at worst a different gospel!

The bride of Christ

Saying "I do" to Jesus is entering into a relationship with Him that ever depends on Him and is ever devoted to Him and His people. We leave our single status and enter into a covenant relationship with Him and His people. We live our lives as those who belong to Christ and belong to His Body. Paul says, we are not our own any longer. We belong to God and one another. Christian, does your life reflect that you belong to Jesus and His bride?

Jesus will return for His Bride - not an aquaintance. He will present those who depend on Him and who are devoted to Him to Himself, "as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless" (Eph 5:27). Hallelujah!


Let us be sure to preach the true gospel in the Spirit's power to lead people to make a proper and considered decision for Christ. Let us not be hasty in getting people to pray a quick prayer (for our sake). Let us help others make a genuine, unconditional commitment to Christ that will lead them to live a life dependent on and devoted to Christ and to His people.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Where is the promised land?

"For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles." Galatians 2:8

Peter was a messenger of Christ to Israel, the chosen people of God. His ministry was focused on reaching the Jewish people with the gospel. He so identified with his people that Paul even had to correct him for returning to Jewish customs whilst in Antioch (see Gal. 2:11-14). Reading Peter's letters, therefore, gives us a glimpse of his heart for the Jewish people and God's purposes for Israel and the Church.

God's message to His people 

The Good News that "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18) was Peter's message to the Jewish people. He was greatly concerned about the outcome for "those who do not obey the Gospel" (1 Peter 4:17). In Peter's mind, "the end of all things" was near (1 Peter 4:7) and so his letters carry a sense of urgency about Christ's return and the Church's readiness to meet her Master.

Strangers in the world

It is interesting to note how James and Peter address their letters to "the twelve tribes scattered among the nations" and "God's elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia" (James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1). It seems that both writers primarily have their Jewish brothers in mind who have come to faith in Christ through the Gospel. Rather than calling their Jewish brothers to return to Jerusalem or "the promised land," the believers are encouraged "as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul" and to "live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us" (1 Peter 2:11,12). God's purpose for His people is that they live as members and citizens of His Kingdom in this world wherever they are. He is not gathering His people to one place but has scattered His people among the nations to be salt and light for His glory (see Matthew 5:13-16)!

Where is the "promised land"?

God's people are not to live for the seen but for the unseen real. Abraham lived by faith in the unseen reality of God's land, promised to him and his ancestors. 

"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country - a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16).

Even Moses "regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king's anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible" (Heb.11:26,27).

The message of the writer to the Hebrews, the Jewish people, is that Christ is the fulfillment of all that was forshadowed in the old covenant. "The copies of the heavenly things" (Heb. 9:23) all pointed to the reality of the invisible Kingdom that is found in Christ. God's people are not supposed to be returning to a physical land but are to be waiting in great expectation for the new heavens and the new earth, "to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God" (Heb. 12:22). Jew and Gentile believers eagerly await a "better country" and the city God has prepared for them!

Let us live godly lives as aliens and strangers in this world as we eagerly await the glorious appearing of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ and the revelation of our heavenly home!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Realizing the Unseen Real

"You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain – if it really was in vain?  So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?" Galatians 3:1-5

True Salvation
  • Man is separated from God "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Romans 3:23
  • The glory of God - His goodness, His perfection, His purity, His holiness, etc can never be attained by human effort because man is imperfect by nature. Rom.5:14
  • In order to gain access to the glory of God, man needs to be "like God in true righteousness and holiness." Eph.4.24
  • Christ came as the Mediator between God and man. 1 Tim. 2:5
  • Through Christ's perfect life, His death and His resurrection, God gave man a means to be reconciled to Him. 2 Cor. 5:18,19
  • By depending on Christ's righteousness, man is reconciled to the Father and has access to His presence and His Kingdom. It is by depending on Christ's right standing with the Father that the believer has access to the favour and glory of God. Rom. 5:1,2
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained acces by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1,2

The Realm of Grace

It is therefore not man's efforts that give him access to the Kingdom but dependence upon Christ. This is how the believer begins "by means of the Spirit" (Gal. 3:3). The believer is born of the Spirit as he depends on Christ's righteousness and gains access to the Spirit's realm, the Kingdom of God or the Unseen Real. In other words, through faith in Jesus Christ, the believer has access to "him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). Entrance into the realm of immeasurably more, the Kingdom of God, the realm of grace is made possible through dependence upon Christ (John 3:5).

Faith realizes

The apostle Paul rebukes the Galatians for reverting to a life of works and human effort rather than continuing to depend on Christ for their righteousness. Paul not only addresses the issue of righteousness through faith in Christ but also the issue of miracles and the demonstration of God's Kingdom through faith among the believers. Paul asks, "Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?" (Gal. 3:5) What Paul is essentially getting at is that the realm of the Spirit (the Kingdom of God) is seen, received and realized by faith in Christ and His Realm and cannot be produced or earned by human effort (John 3:1-12). 

The Kingdom of God is not realized by the believer trying to twist God's arm by human effort but by praying God's will on earth as he sees it in heaven. Jesus taught His disciples to pray this way when He told them to pray, "Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:10). Jesus only spoke what He heard the Father say and only did what He saw the Father doing (John 5:19,30).  

Jesus revealed the Father's will on earth as it is in heaven - 
He  realized the Unseen Real!

Pray in the Spirit

To pray in the Spirit is to pray as the Holy Spirit prays.

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God's will." Romans 8:26,27 (emphasis mine)

The Spirit prays in accordance with the will of God (John 16:13). When God's will is revealed on earth as it is in heaven, the Kingdom of God is realized. Realizing the Unseen Real is the essence of praying in the Spirit. The believer realizes Christ's righteousness in his own life by faith and learns to realize the reality of Heaven on earth by faith. The believer therefore stops trying to change the natural realm by using human effort and depends on the reality of the Kingdom and calls that which is not in the natural as though it were (Romans 4:17). The believer is called to live for the Unseen Real and to live from the Unseen Real (2 Cor. 4:18; Col. 3:1,2; Heb. 11:24-27; 12:22-28). 

Two perspectives

Either one lives from the natural realm toward the spiritual realm or one lives from the spiritual realm toward the natural realm. The first requires human effort; the latter requires faith. The first is evolutionary; the latter is creationist. The first is earthly, the latter is heavenly. The first tries to attain heaven; the latter lives from heaven. The first tries to become holy; the latter lives as a holy one. The first tries to be righteous; the latter produces the fruit of righteousness. The first works for his salvation; the latter works out his salvation. The first is seated on earth; the latter is seated in heaven.

Kingdom Ambassadors

God is calling His people to live as new creations in Christ and to pray heaven on earth so that His Kingdom is realized in the natural realm. Having begun by receiving the Spirit by faith, let us continue to realize the Unseen Real by faith and see God's Kingdom come!

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How do I discover my gifts?

There is no unemployment in the Kingdom of God. God has given each member of the Church "gifts according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:6). That means that God has graced each one of us to serve each another in different ways. The question is, "What gifts have I received and what am I supposed to do with them?"

The purpose of the gifts

"Freely you have received, freely give!" Matthew 10:8

Firstly we must understand that God's gifts are freely given to us. We cannot earn them. 

Secondly we must understand that the gifts God gives us are not meant to be self-serving but are given to serve others. In view of what God has done for us (His mercy), God calls us to no longer live for ourselves but for God and others. This change of attitude comes about as we change the way we think about our lives and consider what God desires. The pattern of the world is self-centredness and self-gratification but the way of the Kingdom is other-consciousness and living for the benefit of others. As the believer lives a life of dying to self and living for God, s/he lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1-3). 

Thirdly we must understand that God gives us gifts to be used in our lives and not only in the context of the Church organisation or meeting! Too often Christians live as unemployed people because they apparently haven't found their ministry in the Church. That is a very limited view of why God gives His children gifts! Jesus empowered His disciples to demonstrate the Kingdom of God in the world by their freely giving what they had received (see Matthew 10:8; Acts 3:1-10; 6:1-8).

Paul writes,

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere." Romans 12:6-9

We must learn to use our gifts as the Church and not just in the Church. As God's people, God has gifted us to demonstrate God's love by prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, being generous, leading, showing mercy and simply loving others. All these gifts should be used in the context of the Church meeting/organisation/organism as well as in the world.

How do I discover my gifts?

Look at what you already enjoy doing.

There are all sorts of complicated questionnaires one can answer to discover one's gifts. However, it really isn't that complicated. Here are a few easy questions to ask yourself to realise what you already have received.

How do you like to serve others most?

Do you like doing them a favour? (serve)
Do you like to encourage them verbally? (prophesy)
Do you like helping people to know something? (teach)
Do you like to give people gifts? (be generous)
Do you like to influence people positively? (lead)
Do you like giving to the needy? (show mercy)
Do you like to be a shoulder to cry on? (be compassionate)
Do you like being creative to bless others? (cook, create, paint, play music etc)
Do you like to keep things in order? (administrate)
Do you like to bring people and facts together? (manage)

And so on...

Look at what you do that produces positive results (good fruit).

Have a look at what you do that blesses others and even ask others what they think you are good at!
If something costs you a lot of effort and stress to produce, it probably isn't one of your gifts.

What book of the Bible do you find yourself in mostly?

I have found that we are drawn to the gifting we carry. Our worship leaders hang around the Psalms, our prophets hang around the prophets and I tend to hang around the apostle Paul. Whose life in the Bible do you admire most? Ok, apart from Jesus?

Eagerly desire the gifts

God wants us to desire more gifts so that we can demonstrate His love in more ways. The primary motivation to desire the gifts of God must be love and the desire to use the gifts for the benefit of others. 

Use what you have

As you use the little you think you have, God will give you more to steward. It's a Kingdom principle (Matthew 25:14-30; 2 Cor. 9:6).

I encourage you to realise the gifts you have received and to use them diligently to bless others within the Church and in the world. Realise God's greater purpose for giving you His gifts and freely give what you have freely received.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Israel and the Church

"His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Ephesians 2:17,18

The Glory of the Church

God's desire is for both Jew and Gentile to be reconciled to Him. His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in Christ, was to enable Jew and Gentile through faith in Christ, to be gathered to Him when Jesus comes again  (Eph. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:1). The Church, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers is the revelation of God's wisdom and the demonstration of the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7; 3:10). The Bible is clear that when Christ returns, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of the our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed" (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Christ is the hope of glory and it is He who indwells the community of believers, His Body the Church. Apart from Christ there is no hope of glory. This applies to both Jew and Gentile. 

Has God rejected Israel?

Christ came first for Israel and then for the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). God says of Israel, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom. 10:21). However, God has not rejected His people but has made provision for them through Christ to come back to Him. The apostle Paul testifies to God's patience with Israel when he declares that even though he was an Israelite himself, God rescued him through faith in His Son (Romans 11:1)!

Is God gathering Israel?

Many people believe that God is gathering the Jewish people to the land promised to Abraham so that at some point in the future God will pour out His Spirit upon Israel and all Israel will be saved. However, this is a view that completely disregards the purpose for which Christ came. It assumes that God will rescue His chosen people apart from faith in Christ. God apparently has a special plan for Israel that is different to His plan for the Church. So while the Church is to go out from Jerusalem and be dispersed among the nations to make disciples of all people (Matt.28:18-20; Acts 1:8), God is gathering the Jews to Israel for His special plan for them. 

The truth is that God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, explained that this outpouring was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:16-21). The Jewish people in Jerusalem were urged to believe in Jesus, to repent and be baptised. This was God's way to restore His chosen people to Himself and to create in Christ one new man, the Church. Instead of building a temple of stone, God chose to build a dwelling of living stones, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church of Christ. The Church is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth when Christ comes forth from Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:18-29)

The Church's responsibility toward Israel

It is because of Israel that salvation has come to the Gentiles (John 4:22; Rom. 11:11-24). Although there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, we owe our "spiritual blessings" to the Jewish people and therefore we should be praying for their salvation as we would for a family member. The Church's responsibility toward Israel is to share with them the Good News of reconciliation to God through Christ. That is what we are called to do as ambassadors of Christ (Rom. 15:27; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). We should not comfort them in their disobedience and obstinacy but urge them to believe, repent and be baptised into Christ. Let us pray fervently for the veil to be removed from their hearts, "because only in Christ is it taken away" (2 Cor. 3:14,15).

Prayer for Israel

Pray for opportunities to witness to Jewish people
Pray for the veil to be removed in the hearts of the Jewish people
Pray for the Church to have a burden for Jew and Gentile alike to be saved
Pray for workers to be sent to share the Good News in Israel and the nations
Pray for the truth to be revealed in the Church concerning God's heart for Israel
Pray for the Prince of Peace to be revealed in Jerusalem and in Israel   

For more reading on this subject I recommend the following article by Adrian Birks: http://thinktheology.co.uk/papers/article/israel-the-church

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit?

What kind of question is that? Surely I cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. Is the fruit of the Spirit not His fruit? Is it not the Spirit's work to produce the nature of God in my life?

In my dealings with Christians I have discovered that there are essentially two schools of thought that believers live by. Some believe that the Christian's life is about becoming like Christ whilst others believe the Christian life is about being like Christ. 

Progressive sanctification?

Those who believe that God's children are in a process of becoming like Christ, believe that God is at work in their lives to transform them to become increasingly Christ-like. This process is described as God's sanctifying work that He is doing in the believer's life. Consequently when these believers face challenges, sickness, hardship etc, they attribute their "suffering" to God's disciplining work in their lives to produce Christ-likeness. It is described as God's refining work to produce Christ-likeness. The bottom line however is that God is held responsible for making the believer increasingly Christ-like.

Those who believe that God's children are to be Christ-like, believe that God has sanctified the believer and it is the Christian's responsibility to be like Christ. Challenges, hardship and sickness are attributed to the consequence of living in the world and the work of the Devil. Suffering is understood to be the consequence of obedience to God in this world and punishment is understood as the consequence of disobedience to God. Having received fullness in Christ and the power to be Christ-like (Col. 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3), it is the responsibility of the believer to be like Christ.

The believer's understanding of sanctification will influence and determine the way he or she lives his or her life! Those who believe in progressive sanctification wait for God to do the work while those who believe they have been sanctified do the work according to God's will. For example, the first wait for God to produce His love in them in order to love like Him while the latter have faith in the love they have received and live accordingly in obedience.

The conflict within

Every believer has two desires operating in his or her life. The apostle Paul puts it like this,

"The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other." Gal. 5:17

There is battle going on in the believer's life and it is up to the believer to choose which desire to fulfill! The child of God must choose to follow the desires of the Spirit in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Following the desires of the flesh or self-centredness will produce the fruit of the sinful desires. Who produces the fruit?

That is why Paul says the following,

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it." Romans 8:12

The apostle Paul says the believer has an obligation or a debt (Greek: opheilo) to love. 

It is therefore the believer's responsibility to follow the Spirit's desire and to obey Him and thus reveal the nature of God. The believer doesn't become increasingly loving through progressive sanctification! The believer must choose to live from the Christ within because he or she is sanctified (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Choose to follow Christ within you and produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit." Gal. 5:22,23


Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Are you bringing heaven on earth?

"Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Matthew 6:9,10

The kingdom of God is a present reality

The prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray is embedded in His teaching on how to live life on earth according to the kingdom of God (see Matthew 5:1-7:29). Jesus came as an ambassador of the kingdom to teach mankind about the reality of the kingdom of God as well as to reveal the kingdom of God as it is in heaven. Jesus manifested the reality of God's rule and reign in heaven on earth. In Matthew 12:28, Jesus says, "And if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

The kingdom of God is a mystery revealed to those who believe

Jesus told His disciples that, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them" Matthew 13:11. Through faith in Jesus the believer is born from above or born of the Spirit, enabling him or her to see the kingdom and to enter the kingdom of God (see John 3:1-8). Once the believer has received the Holy Spirit, s/he is able to discern the things of the kingdom. Paul writes in 1 Cor. 2:14, "The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned."

The born again believer is a son of the kingdom

In Jesus' parable of the weeds in the field in Matthew 13:36-43, He explains that, "The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil." Those who are born again and have received the Holy Spirit belong to the kingdom of God for they have been rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son he loves (Col. 1:13). 

As sons of the kingdom we are to produce the fruit of the kingdom of God, the manifestation of heaven on earth!

The fruit of the kingdom is produced by those who hear the word of God and understand it. They produce a crop yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown (see Matthew 13:23). Those who believe God's word and apply it to their lives will produce an abundant harvest - the fruit of the kingdom.

How does one produce the fruit of the kingdom?

In order to realise the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven we are to live kingdom lives just as Jesus did. Those who belong to Christ's kingdom will walk as Jesus did and be like Him as He is in heaven (see 1 John 2:6; 4:17). When asked to show them the Father, Jesus simply replied, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father....Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" (John 14:9-11). Jesus manifested the Father's nature, spoke the Father's words, did the works of the Father and lived in the authority and power of the Father. In other words, Jesus represented the King of heaven and by being His ambassador, Jesus released the King's dominion on earth as it is in heaven.

By revealing the nature of the Father, Jesus manifested the culture of the kingdom of heaven. For example, Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). We see the realisation of the kingdom of heaven on earth when Jesus forgave the woman caught in the act of adultery (grace) but warned her to leave her life of sin (truth) John 8:1-11. Jesus revealed the King's compassion and holiness, bringing heaven on earth. Likewise, the believer is to imitate God and be holy as He is holy (see Eph 5:1; 1 Peter 1:15,16).

By speaking the words of the Father, Jesus manifested the wisdom of the kingdom of heaven. Everyone was amazed at the wisdom with which Jesus spoke (see Mark 6:2). When we speak God's Word we release heaven on earth. James puts it like this, "The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness" (James 3:17,18). In other words, when we apply kingdom culture to our lives by revealing God's nature and speaking His words, we bring heaven on earth!

By doing the will of the Father, Jesus manifested the culture of heaven on earth (see John 4:34). Without His complete obedience to the Father, Jesus would not have realised God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Likewise, the believer must find out what the Lord's will is and obey it if s/he is to bring heaven on earth! Obedience releases God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven!

By doing the works of the Father, Jesus manifested His dominion on earth as it is in heaven. The healing of the sick and the driving out of demons was always done in the context of preaching the good news of the kingdom (see Luke 9:1,2; Matthew 4:23).

By walking under and in the authority of the Father and in the power of His name, Jesus overcame the kingdom of darkness to establish God's kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. The same authority and power is given to the believer. Jesus, after explaining that He is the Father's representative, tells His disciples that "anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it" (John 14:12-14). To ask the Father in the name of Jesus is to act as His representative on earth as He is in heaven. The believer is called to continue Christ's work of bringing heaven on earth as a kingdom ambassador "for our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms" (Eph. 6:12).

Are you bringing heaven on earth?

I believe as sons of the kingdom of God, we are to produce the fruit of God's kingdom by manifesting heaven on earth as we live the kingdom life that Jesus lived. We are not of this world. We are of God. Let us live as kingdom ambassadors revealing the nature, the words, the will, the works, the authority and power of our King on earth as it is in heaven!