About This Book
1. Called By God
2. Knowing God
3. Fearing God
4. Listening To God
5. Balanced By The Body Of Christ
6. Broken Through Submission
7. Responsible For Others
8. Ministering From Life
9. Serving By God's Power
10. Exercising Spiritual Authority
11. Freed From All Fears
12. Freeing Others From Fear
13. Humbling Oneself
14. The Priesthood Of Melchizedek
15. An Example
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Spiritual leadership is the need of the hour in the churches
This book contains a series of messages that were given to a group of
Christian workers, Bible-college lecturers and pastors of churches.
The messages have been reproduced in their spoken form, for easy reading.
May the Lord speak to your heart through this book and challenge you to be a
role-model for today’s younger generation - as an exemplary servant of God and
a truly spiritual leader.
CALLED BY GOD
A spiritual leader will first and foremost, have a calling from
God. His work will not be his profession, but his calling.
No-one can appoint himself as a spiritual leader. "He has to be
called by God for this work" (Heb.5:4-Living). This is a
principle that cannot be changed. The next verse goes on to say that even Jesus
did not appoint Himself as our High Priest. The Father appointed Him. If that
be the case, how much more this should be true of us, in our calling.
The tragedy today is that the vast majority of "Christian
workers" in India are working to earn their living. It is a
profession for them. They have not been called by God.
There is a lot of difference between "a profession" and "a
calling". Let me explain what I mean. Suppose there’s a sick child in
a hospital and a nurse looks after it for 8 hours on her shift-duty. That nurse
then goes home and forgets all about that child. Her concern for that child was
only for 8 hours. Now she has other things to do, such as going to the movies
and watching television. She doesn’t have to think about that child again until
the next day when she goes back to work. But the mother of that child
doesn’t work 8-hour shifts! She can’t go to the movies when her child is sick.
That’s the difference between a profession and a calling.
If you apply that illustration to the way you care for the believers in your
church, you’ll discover whether you’re a nurse or a mother!
Paul said, in 1 Thessalonians 2:7, "We proved to be gentle among you
as a mother tenderly cares for her own children. Having thus a fond
affection for you, we were well pleased to impart you not only the gospel but
also our own lives because you’ve become very dear to us".
Paul not only imparted the gospel of God to those Christians but his life
as well. Any ministry that is not done in this way is not really Christian
ministry. Paul served God like that because he had a calling to the
ministry. He didn’t take it up as a profession.
It’s wonderful to serve the Lord. It is the greatest thing in the world.
Nothing on earth can be compared with it - but only if you’re called. It
cannot be reduced to a profession.
God called me to serve Him (full-time) on May 6, 1964 when I was an officer
in the Indian Navy. I handed in my resignation then to the naval authorities.
But it was like Moses asking Pharaoh to let the Israelites go! The Indian Navy
wouldn’t release me. It took two years and repeated applications before they
finally released me - miraculously - in God’s perfect time.
Being called of God has made all the difference in my life.
First of all, it doesn’t matter to me now, what people think about me
or my ministry, because Someone Else is my Master and I have to answer
only to Him.
Secondly, I can trust God to stand by me and give me grace whenever I
face any trial or opposition in my ministry - and that happens often.
Thirdly, it doesn’t matter to me whether I receive any money or not,
and whether I get any food to eat or not. If I receive food and money, well and
good. If I don’t get any food or money, that’s fine with me too. I cannot stop
serving the Lord, just because I didn’t get money or food - because God has called
I can’t get rid of my calling. I’m not a salaried employee who can stop
working when I’m not paid or fed! It’s like the case of the mother and her
child. A nurse will stop working if her salary is not paid one month. But a
mother can never stop. She doesn’t get a salary in any case! And she’ll look
after her baby even if she doesn’t get any food or money! That’s how the
apostles served the Lord.
What a glorious thing it is to be called of God!
You can never do the Lord’s work, the way God wants you to do it,
if you do it as a profession. It has to be a calling or nothing.
Every other job in the world can be done as a profession. But not a mother’s,
or a father’s, or that of a servant of the Lord! All these are the result of a
calling. Paul told the Corinthian Christians that even if they had 10,000
teachers, they still had only one father (1 Cor.4:15). Paul was both a
spiritual father and a mother to his flock. His was not a profession but a calling.
"Take this child and nurse him for me and I shall give you your
wages" is what the Lord has said to me (Exod.2:9). He said that
to me first of all concerning my own physical children. And then He said
that to me concerning my spiritual children too. When we take care of
God’s children He’s the One Who is responsible to give us our wages, not man.
If we serve men, then let us look to men to pay us. But if we serve the Lord,
then let us look to Him alone to provide us our needs, in whatever way He
sees fit. And let Him also decide how much we should receive each month.
There is a dignity about a true servant of the Lord.
But it is possible that you as an elder feel no such sense of
responsibility for the people in your church. You may content yourself with
teaching the Bible every Sunday. But you may get a surprise when Jesus comes
again and evaluates your ministry and you discover that your entire earthly
ministry was only wood, hay and straw, fit only for being burnt (1
Cor.3:12,13). Think of the tragedy that will be! If you take this warning
seriously now, it could reduce your regret at the judgment seat of Christ.
All of us are going to have some degree of regret when Christ comes again,
concerning the way we lived and served the Lord. But we can reduce that regret
by examining our ways and judging ourselves now. We must evaluate our ministry
and see how it will look in the light of that day.
"Take these children and nurse them for Me", says the Lord,
"Bring them up for me and I will give you your wages". Those
wages will not be in terms of money, primarily. I believe the Lord takes care
of our earthly needs, since He taught us to pray for our daily bread and He has
ordained that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel. So He will
take care of all our earthly needs. But there’ll be a far greater spiritual
reward, in addition.
Paul wrote to the Christians at Thessalonica that they were going to
be his crown and his joy when the Lord returned (1 Thess.2:19). He found
his delight in them, just as a father finds his delight in his children.
An elder (who is a spiritual father) will be delighted when he sees that
believers, who came as raw material to his church once, have now become men
of God. This is something akin to the delight a sculptor has when he has
fashioned a shapeless rock into a human form. He had to chip away at that block
for many months and years before the face and figure of the man came out of it!
That is the work that God has given us to do too. We must never be satisfied
with merely having instructed people correctly. If the image of Christ has not
come forth in their lives, we have accomplished nothing at all.
An earthly father is also delighted when his children can stand on their
own feet. He doesn’t want them to be perpetually dependent on him. A true
spiritual father will be like that too. He’ll make himself dispensable -
less and less needed by his spiritual children as they grow and mature.
Consider a home where there are 12 children. You may wonder how any mother
can manage twelve children, when your wife finds it difficult with even two!
But amazingly, in the long run, the mother of twelve has less work to do
than the mother of two! That’s because the mother of 12 trains her older
children to help her in the home. Ultimately the children do all the work and
the mother is totally free! This is what we must do as shepherds in our
churches too - delegate.
But what do we see in most churches? Overburdened pastors are becoming
nervous wrecks because they have to do everything themselves. (That mother of
12 would become a nervous wreck too, if she had to take care of all her
children herself.) Many churches are like orphanages where
hundreds of babies lie on the floor, kicking their legs, wailing and holding on
to their feeding-bottles. This is the result of a one-man ministry. The
believers never grow up, because they are never given any responsibility. In
the Body of Christ, each member has a task to fulfil.
Jesus discipled only twelve people and I don’t think any man can handle more
than that number effectively, at a time. So by that reckoning, a church of 120
people should have at least ten pastors taking care of the flock. By "pastors",
I do not mean full-time workers, but brothers working in a secular job, who
have been gifted with a shepherd’s heart to care for the sheep and
The harvest is plenteous today. But the true shepherds are few. If you serve
the Lord, let it be because God has called you to serve Him, and not
because you want to earn a living, or for the sake of man’s honour!
A spiritual leader will be able to lead others along God’s ways because He
knows God personally.
Daniel 11:32,33 speaks of two types of preachers who will be
found on earth in the last days. There will be many who speak smooth words and
turn people to ungodliness. On the other hand, there will be a few who know
God, who give people insight and do great exploits for God.
Today, both these types of preachers are found in Christendom. There are
many who speak smooth words to please their hearers. But those who know God
speak the truth, whether their hearers are pleased or offended, and whether men
shower them with praises or abuses!
Human beings are like sheep. They tend to follow the crowd and are afraid of
being different. But if the crowd is going in the wrong direction, everybody
goes astray. This is the situation today. So, God is looking for some, who will
stand true to Him and lead people along His way. But if we are to be bold
enough to be different from the crowd, we must know God and His mind - His
thoughts and His ways.
Most Christian "leaders" whom I’ve met in India during the
last 30 years, do not seem to know God personally, or His thoughts. They
simply repeat what they’ve read in some Western Christian magazine or book.
Some particular emphasis is popular in every decade among American Christian
leaders. In the 1980s it was one thing and today it is something else. And like
the echoes that one hears in mountainous regions, these emphases are faithfully
echoed by their sycophants in India and other Third-World countries –
especially when they present their "papers" at congresses on
evangelism! If the American "leaders" write about "church
growth", then the Indian Christian "leaders"
faithfully echo "church growth". If the Americans speak about "the
10/40 window", then the Indian preachers faithfully repeat "the
10/40 window". If Western Christians teach "the
pre-tribulation rapture of the church", then Indian Bible-teachers
will teach only that. They never dare to question Western Christians!
But doesn’t God ever speak to anybody in India directly? Does He speak only
to the white races?
The reason for all this imitation is the slave-mentality that is found among
almost all Third-World Christians. We Indians were ruled by the British for
more than 200 years. And it is difficult for us to be free from this "slave-mentality".
Almost all Indian Christians feel that the white man is superior to them
and more spiritual than them - because he is assertive and domineering and has
lots of money.
I met a black American brother once who told me that although the black
people in U.S.A. had been legally delivered from slavery more than a century
ago, the spirit of the slave was still found in most of them even now!
When they look at a white man, they feel inferior to him. I find exactly the
same attitude in almost every Indian Christian.
To tell you quite honestly, I’ve found most Western preachers who’ve
come to India (that I’ve met) to be quite shallow and worldly. They don’t know
God. But because they have plenty of money to throw around, they become
celebrities wherever they go. Look at the advertisements for Christian
conferences in India. In the vast majority of cases, the main speaker is always
a Western preacher. What a sad state our country’s Christianity has come
to? If this were true only among nominal Christians, one could understand it.
But it is just the same among those who claim to be "born again" and
We must break free from this slave-mentality. But if some white man is
paying your salary, then of course it will be difficult for you to break free
from him! Then you must decide to stop serving men and start serving the Lord.
Whose servant are you in any case? The Bible tells us not to be slaves of men,
because we have been bought with a price (1 Cor.7:23).
Let your passion be to know God personally. Then you won’t be an "echo"
of some Western "leader" - or of an Indian "leader"
for that matter! You won’t be anyone’s slave. You’ll be a man of God. Spiritual
authority can come only through a personal knowledge of God.
I urge you my brothers, be men who know God. That will make your
personal life glorious and your ministry authoritative. This is what our
country needs today more than anything else.
It is much easier to know the Bible than it is to know God -
because you don’t have to pay a price to know the Bible. All you have to do is
You can be immoral in your personal life and impure in your thought-life and
still know the Bible very well. You can be a well-known preacher and yet be a
great lover of money at the same time. But you can’t know God and be
immoral in your life. You can’t know God and be a lover of money. That’s
impossible. And that’s why most preachers take the easier path of knowing the Bible
rather than knowing God.
I want to ask you, brothers: Are you happy with just knowing the Bible or is
there a desperate hunger in your hearts to know the Lord? The apostle Paul said
in Philippians 3:8-10 that his greatest longing was to know the Lord
better. He considered everything else as rubbish compared to knowing the
Lord. Paul gave up all his pearls for this pearl of great price. The secret of
Paul’s ministry is to be found not in the years that he spent studying
the Bible at Gamaliel’s seminary, but in his personal knowledge of the Lord.
"Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ personally" (John
17:3). We have perhaps defined eternal life as living eternally in heaven.
But that was not how Jesus defined it. Eternal life has nothing to do
with going to heaven or escaping hell. It has to do with knowing the Lord.
To know God intimately and personally has been the passion of my life and the
burden of my heart. I know that my ministry can have Divine authority only as I
know God personally. And so, in all of our churches, I have sought to lead
people to a knowledge of God Himself.
There is more Bible knowledge today than ever before in history. For nearly
1500 years after the day of Pentecost, there were no printed Bibles available
anywhere. Only in the last two centuries, have Bibles been so freely available.
Today, we have so many versions and concordances and study-helps.
But do you think all this increased Bible knowledge has produced holier
Christians? No. If Bible-knowledge could produce holiness, we should be having
the godliest people in history living today. But we don’t. Satan himself would
have been holy if Bible-knowledge could produce holiness - for no-one knows the
Bible as well as he does.
We have so many seminaries today teaching the Bible to thousands of
students. But are the godliest people in the world today found in those
seminaries? No. Many seminary graduates today are worse than the heathen.
Some years ago, I met a seminary graduate from one of India’s top
evangelical seminaries, who had stood first in his graduating class. He
told me that after three years in that seminary, his spiritual condition was worse
than when he first joined it. What then did that seminary teach him? It had
taught him facts about the Bible and about Christianity. Satan
himself could have graduated as first in the class, from such a seminary.
What was the use that young man learning Hermeneutics, and what the "higher
critics" had said, and what the root-meanings of Greek words were, if
he hadn’t overcome anger, bitterness, lustful thoughts and the love of money?
With his newly-acquired certificate, he would soon become a pastor of a church.
But what would he teach the people in his church, whose biggest problems would
be moral and not theological? He wouldn’t be able to help them at all,
in any of those areas. This is how God’s work in India is being destroyed.
Only if you know God yourself, will you be able to lead your flock to know
Him. If you have victory over sin in your own life, you’ll be able to lead your
flock also to victory over sin. Then they too will be equipped to go out and
serve the Lord - with authority and power.
Do you think the devil is impressed by anyone’s Bible knowledge or
degree-certificates? Not at all. Satan fears only holy, humble men and women
who know God.
May God help us to lead our younger brothers and sisters to know God.
A spiritual leader will fear God greatly.
The more we get to know God the more we will fear Him. We won’t be afraid
of God, but we will reverence Him.
In Psalm 34:11, David says, "Come you children listen to me,
and I’ll teach you the fear of the Lord."
It’s not an easy task to teach people the fear of God. It’s far
easier to teach them how to analyse Romans and Ephesians!
If we are to teach others to fear God, we must fear Him ourselves first. The
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A man who fears God can
teach his flock far more than a man who merely knows the Bible. Those
who do not fear God can only communicate knowledge, not wisdom.
Knowledge makes a man proud - as we read in 1 Corinthians 8:1. But
wisdom makes a man mature and teaches him how to apply his knowledge to
the problems of daily life. Only men with wisdom can build the church of
The fear of the Lord is the ABC of the Christian life. If you haven’t taught
your flock the fear of the Lord first, then however much you may have
taught them other subjects, you’ve failed in your primary task. You would then
be like a teacher who tries to teach his students geography and history before
they can even read! No teacher in the world makes that mistake.
To learn the fear of the Lord is like learning how to read. But most elders
in churches don’t teach their flock the fear of the Lord first. Here is
the proof that the children of this world are wiser in their generation
than the children of light.
Let me ask a question of those of you who have graduated from a seminary.
Did you learn the fear of the Lord there, or did you merely get a
Let me ask you a second question: Why did you join that seminary? Was
it to get a job or was it to learn the fear of God? Why did you choose
one seminary in preference to another? Was it because it was a more
prestigious one? And did you join it even though you knew it was not evangelical
in doctrine but liberal? Can you imagine Jesus sending His disciples
to such seminaries to prepare them for His service? How many of you can
honestly say that you chose a seminary to learn the fear of God? Probably none.
Isn’t that tragic?
I know that many people join a Bible school here in India only as a first
step to go to the United States, to make money. Some apply to Bible-schools in
America in order to settle down there. How can such people ever serve the
Can you acknowledge today that you joined a Bible-school with wrong motives?
If you’re willing to be honest, then there’s great hope for you - for God loves
honest people. Now, make sure you warn others not to repeat your
mistake. Teach them the fear of the Lord first. Our children don’t have
to repeat the mistakes we’ve made.
In Proverbs 24:3,4, we’re told that a house is built by wisdom
and that by knowledge its rooms are filled with many precious things.
Notice the contrast here between wisdom and knowledge. I’m not
devaluing Bible-knowledge. Not at all. I’ve spent more than 40 years studying
the Bible and I think I know it as well as anyone else.
But what I seek for most of all is wisdom. Divine love is the
greatest thing in the world. But Divine love is always guided by Divine
wisdom. Love without wisdom is dangerous.
Love can be likened to the petrol in the tank of a bus, and Wisdom
to the driver of the bus. You certainly need love to lead your flock
forward. But you need wisdom to decide which way you’re going to
Wisdom is fundamental. It is possible for you to get 100% in
Bible-knowledge and zero for wisdom! That would be like a student getting 100%
in Physical Training and zero in mathematics. It would be better if he got 100%
in maths and zero in Physical Training, because in the long run, maths is more
important than P.T. And in the long run, wisdom is more important than
We saw that knowledge fills the rooms. Knowledge is like the
furniture – chairs, tables and beds - that we put into our rooms. So if you
have knowledge without wisdom, you’d be like a man who puts out all his
expensive furniture on an empty plot of ground! Many expensive tables and sofas
are there. The only thing missing is the house! You can well imagine
that such a man will be the laughing stock of everyone around him. But that’s
exactly what we see among most leaders and preachers in
Christendom today. They have knowledge but no wisdom – because they do not
We hardly hear any preacher preaching these days about the fear of
the Lord. And that’s why most believers are not wise and have so
many other fears.
LISTENING TO GOD
A spiritual leader will take time to listen to God, every day.
A phrase that occurs frequently in the very first chapter of the Bible is
this: "Then God said".
God said something on every one of those first six days, when
He remade the chaotic earth. And each time God spoke, the earth became a better
So, right there on the very first page of the Bible we learn one very
important truth - that we must hear what God has to say every day. And
if we submit to what God tells us every day, we will be transformed into better
and more useful Christians.
There’s a lot of difference between hearing what God has to say to us
and just reading the Bible. Remember, it was people who studied their
Bibles daily who crucified the Lord. They studied their Bibles but they never heard
God speaking to their hearts (See Acts 13:27). That’s the danger we
face too. And then, we can be as blind as they were.
Genesis 1 also teaches us that God wants to speak to us every
But most Christian leaders don’t listen to God every day. They only read the
writings of men!
It’s a great tragedy if you preach only what you’ve heard other men speak,
because the word of man can never produce anything eternal. It’s only the Word
that God speaks that can produce eternal fruit - as we read in Isaiah
In Genesis 1, we read that whenever God spoke, supernatural things
happened. That’s how it can be in our ministry too, if we preach what God has
first spoken to our own hearts.
Paul told Timothy to take heed to his own life first before his
teaching, if he wanted to save himself and others (1Tim.4:16). The only
way to escape self-deception is by hearing what God has to say to us.
If you don’t listen to what God has to say, then you’ll preach in one
of the following three ways:
1. You’ll find out what the
so-called "great Christian preachers" in the world are saying at
this time - especially in America, where most of the money for Christian work
in India comes from! (I say "so-called great preachers", because
these preachers are not "great" in God’s eyes). You’ll read
their books and repeat what they say. Once you discover that a particular
subject is popular in Christendom currently, you’ll decide to speak much about
that. Your undiscerning flock will be impressed and will consider you well read
2. You’ll study Biblical themes academically and
teach them like a college lecturer studies and teaches Chemistry! And one can
get a doctorate in Biblical studies far more easily than a doctorate in
Chemistry! Many honorary "doctorates" are being given away
today by third rate Bible-colleges to "title-hungry" preachers
and pastors for a few hundred rupees each! You can get as many as you like! But
even if you get an earned doctorate in theology, that will still prove
only that you’re a clever man. You may still not know either God or
3. You’ll try and sense what is most acceptable
to your flock – because you want to be popular with them. You’ll
then be like businessmen who conduct market surveys to find out what most
people want. This is how most pastors preach today. And that was how all the
false prophets in the Old Testament preached too - and they flourished!
Every false prophet would try to sense what the nation of Israel wanted to
hear and they would preach just that. So they were popular with the people and
made a lot of money. There are many such false prophets in Christendom today.
But every true prophet in Israel was unpopular, because they told the
Jews what they NEEDED to hear, and not what they wanted to hear.
Jesus once rebuked Martha for being busy with so much work
instead of being like Mary who sat and listened to Him speak. Our Lord went on
to say that what Mary did was the ONLY necessary thing in life (Lk.10:42).
We must all have the attitude that Samuel had, who said, "Speak Lord,
your servant is listening".
What did we see in the very first page of the Bible? Whenever God spoke,
something was immediately accomplished: Light was produced, the earth came up
out of the waters, trees, fish and animals were created, etc.,
Isaiah 55:10,11 tells us that the Word which goes forth from God’s
mouth will never return empty without accomplishing what God desires and
without succeeding in the matter for which it was spoken.
Notice two words in these verses that are highly valued by all people in the
world - "accomplishment" and "success".
We all want to accomplish something in our lives and we all want to succeed.
But life is short and we don’t have the time to experiment with various methods
for success and accomplishment - certainly not in spiritual matters. We
shouldn’t try out some method of doing the Lord’s work and discover 20 years
later that that was not God’s way of doing things, and that we were on
the wrong track! We can be saved from all such wastage of time, if we listen
to the word that God speaks. That will always bring success and
I want to listen to a man who listens to God – because such a man can
teach me more in five minutes than theologians (with long ‘tails’ of degrees),
can teach me in hours. John the Baptist could teach people more about God than
Professor Gamaliel or any member of the Jewish Sanhedrin!
When you listen to God, you won’t preach what you’ve read in Christian books
and magazines or heard from Christian tapes. The man who hears God speaks from
revelation, not from academic knowledge or study. Such a man first experiences
what he reads - and then speaks forth from his life.
What you teach from your head will go only into other people’s heads.
But what you preach from your heart and from your life’s experience will
go straight into their hearts and change their lives. I’m not saying
that you shouldn’t prepare your messages or that you shouldn’t have written
notes when speaking. Whether you use notes or not depends on how good a memory
you have, not on how spiritual you are. What I’m saying is that
whatever you speak must be from your heart and from your life.
Today we have liberal theological colleges and evangelical theological
colleges. But what’s the difference between the two? In one, the information
transmitted from one brain to another is theologically incorrect whereas
in the other, the information transmitted is theologically correct! But
spiritually speaking, the evangelical seminary may be no better than the
liberal one. In both seminaries, the lecturers and the students may be
lovers of money and slaves to their lusts.
Jesus did not teach His disciples like that. He did not come to make us
better informed about theology. He came to make us like Him in character.
Jesus taught His disciples more about character than about theology. What
about you? Do you teach your flock how to overcome the lust of the flesh, the
lust of the eyes and the pride of life?
There are a lot of people in our churches who look up to us to hear what God
is saying to them. It’s a solemn responsibility to preach to them, Sunday after
Sunday. If I were you, I would fear, because we are accountable to God for what
we tell them. We have to give an account to God one day, for every message we
ever preached - for what we spoke, why we spoke it, and how we
spoke. If you take your responsibility in this matter seriously, your ministry
can change radically.
For over twenty years now, I’ve judged my own ministry in the Lord’s light.
After I preach God’s Word, I ask the Lord to tell me whether there was
something unnecessary in what I said, whether I wasted people’s time, whether I
sought my own honour, etc., Thus I’ve cleansed myself gradually from these
evils and from boring people and preaching "over their heads".
Do you listen to God, after you’ve preached a message? Do you ask Him
to show you whether you could have done it better? The fact that others
considered it to be a good sermon means nothing at all. What did God think of
it? That is the important question.
Many of you have so many people listening to you, in your churches, Sunday
after Sunday. Are you influencing their lives for eternity? Have you changed
their sense of values so that they are no longer worldly but heavenly? This is
what you must ask yourself frequently.
We must be especially careful to listen to God, when we have some important
decision to make.
God speaks to us through many ways.
He speaks to us primarily through His Word. If something is clearly
written in God’s Word, then we don’t need to pray to find God’s will, because
it has already been revealed.
God also speaks to us through our circumstances. Our Lord has the key
to every door (Rev.1:18) and when He opens a door no-one can shut it and
when He shuts a door, no-one can open it (Rev.3:8). So our circumstances
are very often an indication of whether God wants us to go along a particular
way or not. We don’t have to bang away at a door that God has not opened. We
must of course pray, when we see a door shut. But if after repeated prayer, a
door still remains shut, it may mean that God does not want us to
go through that door. We must ask God to show us if this is so, or whether He
wants us to continue in persistent prayer to open that door (Lk.11:5-9).
God also speaks to us through the advice of mature, godly brothers.
Such men have gone through many experiences and they can warn us of pitfalls
that we are unaware of, ourselves. We don’t have to blindly obey them, but
their godly counsel can help us.
God often speaks to us, while we are fellowshipping with other believers.
Thus He teaches us our dependence on other members of the Body of Christ, even
for revelation on His Word.
God always has something important to say to us, whenever we go through a trial
or when we are sick.
God also warns us through the failures of others. If, for example, we
hear of some servant of God who has fallen into sin, it is good to ask God what
lessons we can learn from that man’s failure (for we are all weak) and how we
can preserve ourselves.
God can also speak to us when we hear news of evils being done
somewhere or of accidents that have taken place. Jesus told the people of
His time to repent, when they heard of Pilate butchering some Jews and when
they heard of the accident in Siloam where a tower fell and killed some people
– because such things could happen to anyone (Lk.13:1-4).
Let me add a word of warning however, against trying to hear what God is
saying, by randomly opening the Bible and reading the first verse that
If you’re eager to marry a particular girl, you may open the Bible at random
to find some confirmatory verse. And if you don’t find it, the chances are that
you will keep opening the Bible until you find the verse that you want! That’s
how you can deceive yourself.
I heard a story of a man who was trying to find God’s will in this way, who
opened the Bible at random and read, "He went away and hanged
himself" (Matt.27:5)! He opened the Bible again and found, "Go
and do the same" (Lk.10:37)! He opened the Bible a third time and
read, "What you do, do quickly" (Jn.13:27)! That cured him
forever of trying to find the will of God in this way!
There may be times however, when we are under pressure, when the Lord may encourage
us through a verse that we get, by opening the Bible at random. So this
method is all right if you’re looking for encouragement but not if
you’re looking for guidance.
I want to encourage you, dear brothers, to develop the habit of listening to
God. This is the single most important habit that you can ever develop.
BALANCED BY THE BODY OF CHRIST
A spiritual leader will recognise that his ministry is imbalanced. So he
will find his balance in the ministry of other members in the Body of Christ.
The Body of Christ can be compared to a hospital. When a man is sick
and goes to a hospital, the hospital has various departments to help him.
Perhaps he needs an injection, or physiotherapy, or surgery. He may need to
visit the eye doctor or the ear doctor. So the hospital has various
departments. The eye doctor spends all his time just looking at people’s eyes
and nothing else. That’s not because he feels that other parts of the human
body are unimportant, but because his specialty is the eye.
In the Body of Christ too, each believer has a different gift and calling.
And each one is imbalanced by himself. The only perfectly balanced person Who
ever walked on this earth was the Lord Jesus Christ. All the rest of us – even
the best among us - are imbalanced. We can find our balance only as we work
together with other brothers and sisters – with the other departments in the
Lord’s hospital. So there’s no place for individualism in this hospital!
A good hospital will have many departments to cater to the various needs of
people. In the same way, the Body of Christ too has a variety of ministries and
many spiritual gifts to help people. No church or group has all the
gifts of the Spirit. But in the total body of Christ, they are all there.
We must know what our own specific calling in the Body is.
The world is full of spiritually sick people. And nobody’s case is hopeless.
Everyone can be fully healed by the Lord. This is the good news of the gospel
that we proclaim. The worst sinner and the most perverted person can find
healing in the Lord’s hospital. A good hospital will never turn away a
seriously sick person. Inferior hospitals do that because they are not equipped
to handle serious cases. In the same way, a good church will never tell even
the greatest sinner in the world that his case is hopeless! A good church will
be able to change the worst of sinners into the greatest of saints - if the
sinner is willing to take the treatment given.
We can compare the church to a human body too. In the human
body, each part has a function; and that part concentrates on fulfilling its
own function alone. But it appreciates, values and cooperates with the other
parts that have different functions. That’s how it must be when we work together
with other ministries in the Body of Christ too.
In 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit uses the example of eyes, ears,
hands and feet to picture the way the gifts of the Spirit are exercised in the
body of Christ.
When you hear me speak, you’ll find me emphasizing certain things from the
Bible over and over again. That’s because that is the burden the Lord
has given me. I’ve stuck to the ministry the Lord has called me to,
because I know that is the only ministry in which I can be useful to the Lord.
I’ll frustrate the Lord’s plan for me if I try to do something else. But I’m
not against other ministries. I value them highly. The stomach values the hand
highly, but it never tries to do what the hand does. For example, it never
tries to pick up food from a plate. It allows the hand to do that and then does
its own job of digesting the food that the hand picks up and sends down to it!
That’s a picture of how we complement each other in Christ’s Body.
Most believers haven’t seen this truth of the variety of ministries in the
Body. But if you don’t see this truth, you’ll never be able to fulfil all that
God wants to accomplish.
It’s good for all of us to be clear in our own minds as to what God has
called us to. The burden the Lord gives us in our hearts is usually an
indication of the ministry He has for us in His Body.
As far as I’m concerned, it has been crystal clear to me for many years now,
what MY ministry in the Body is and also what God wants me to emphasize
in my ministry. That clarity has produced great rest in my life and great
liberty as well. No-one can now move me away from my ministry - even if they
accuse me of being imbalanced!
No prophet in the Old Testament was ever balanced in his ministry. Only
diplomatic preachers seek to be "balanced". The prophets were
all imbalanced. They kept stressing the same thing over and over again -
because that was the need of Israel or Judah in their generation - and
that was what God laid on their hearts as a burden.
I’m not saying that all of us can know, as soon as we begin serving
the Lord, what our gift and calling is. It took me about 15 years after I was
born again, before I was clear as to what my ministry was. It may not take that
long for you. It may take much less. You’ll have to leave the timing with God.
But you must understand this clearly that you have a distinct and unique
ministry in Christ’s Body that no-one else can fulfil. And that ministry will never
be a balanced one. It will be imbalanced. You’ll have to find your
balance by working in fellowship with others who have different ministries in
the Body. That’s the way God keeps us humble – by making us dependent on
others. Praise the Lord!
All of us are strong in some areas of our life, but weak in other areas -
just like a student may be good in English and weak in Maths. But we must know
where we are weak and strengthen those areas. Your church may be strong in its
emphasis on evangelism but weak in its emphasis on holiness. If
so, then you know what type of ministry your church needs to expose itself to.
Never judge the success of your labours by your popularity. Jesus pronounced
a woe on all those who were "popular" with the people, because
that was the identifying mark of a false prophet (Luke 6:26). So
if you’re a very popular preacher you could be a false prophet! On the other
hand, Jesus told His disciples to rejoice when everyone spoke against them,
because that was one of the marks of a true prophet (Lk.6:22,23).
Do you really believe what Jesus said here?
Remember that every true prophet in Israel’s history and in
church history was a controversial figure, who was hounded and hated and
falsely accused by the religious leaders of his time.
There has not been a single exception to this rule - whether it be Elijah
and Jeremiah in Old Testament times, or John the Baptist and Paul in the first
century, or John Wesley and Watchman Nee in more modern times.
So we should never gauge the eternal success of our labours by how popular
We shouldn’t gauge the success of our labours by statistics either -
by how many people raised their hands in our meetings or how many people we
preached to etc.,
Going by statistics, we would have to say that Jesus’ ministry was a total
failure, because at the end of His ministry, He had only 11 men to present to
His Father (John 17). But the success of His ministry was seen in the
type of people those eleven disciples were! They were worth far more to
God, and could accomplish more for God, than eleven million of today’s
half-hearted, money-loving, compromising, worldly "believers".
I’ve felt that if I could produce eleven people of the calibre of those
first apostles, in my whole life, my ministry would be a glorious success. But
it’s not easy to produce even two or three such people. It is far easier
to gather a crowd of worldly compromisers who "believe in Jesus", but
who do not love Him with ALL their hearts.
In every movement that God started in Christendom during the last 20
centuries, decline set in by the time it entered the second generation and it
no longer remained the same vibrant, fiery movement that it was when started by
its founder. Why?
One reason was that the second generation began to be taken up with numbers.
They thought that their increasing in number was the proof that God was
But the fastest growing groups in the world in recent years have been the
cults and fundamentalist-groups of other religions. What does that prove? Just
this - that numerical growth is no proof of God’s blessing.
God calls us to concentrate on the ministry He has given us in
Christ’s Body and at the same time, to work in cooperation with others who have
different ministries. It is impossible to evaluate accurately the results of
our ministry, because we are part of a team - the Body of Christ.
All we need to ensure therefore is that we are faithful to the task
God has given us to fulfil.
BROKEN THROUGH SUBMISSION
A spiritual leader will be a broken man.
God breaks us in our early years by setting some authority over us, to whom
we have to submit. It is thus that He breaks us. Even Jesus had to submit to
the authority of Joseph and Mary for 30 years before God gave Him a ministry.
The law of submission is an important law in the Body of Christ. It
is similar to the way that law functions in the human body.
The right hand, for example, is part of the right arm’s
"team" and submits to the "leadership" of the right arm.
The left hand however, is not a part of this team. It submits to the left
arm. In the Body of Christ too, God connects some members (like those in
one local church or in one team of workers) more closely with each other than
God guides us in two ways –individually and corporately.
The head can tell the right hand to move by itself, without the right
arm moving at all. That is individual guidance from the head.
There are many matters concerning our personal life, marriage, job, where we
are going to live etc., in which we should get individual guidance from
Christ our Head. We can get advice from other members of the Body, but
we must get our guidance from the Lord directly.
But when the head tells the right arm to move up, the right hand moves
up, along with the arm, without getting any separate guidance from the head.
That is corporate guidance. The right hand cannot say at such a time
that it is not going to move because it did not get any individual guidance
from the head.
One doesn’t need individual guidance in corporate matters. If you’re
connected to a particular section of Christ’s Body, God will guide your leaders
in such matters, and you just have to follow them. I’m referring here only
to corporate matters that relate to that section of the Body that you are teamed
with, and not to personal matters. If you are certain that God has
joined you to a certain team, you must move along with your leaders in that
We see an example of this in Acts 16:9. Paul and his team (who had
been placed together by God) were in Troas, when a vision appeared to Paul in
which a man asked him to come to Macedonia and help them. In verse 10,
we read that although Paul alone saw the vision, all in his team were
convinced that God had called them to preach in Macedonia. How were they
convinced of that, when none of them had received any individual guidance from
God? Because they had confidence in Paul as the leader of their team. In
team-matters, God doesn’t have to give individual guidance to everyone in a
team. He guides only the leader.
If you don’t have confidence in your leader, then of course, you must leave
such a team (or such a church) at once. But you should never stay in a church
or a Christian organisation and become a cause of rebellion or strife there.
God will never bless you if you stay in a group and rebel against its
leadership - even if the leadership is wrong. Leave the group and join
another. That is the best thing to do.
We must distinguish however, between ecclesiastical authorities
appointed by men and spiritual authorities appointed by God. Today, many
Christians are in leadership positions, not by virtue of their having been
appointed by God and having fathered spiritual children and churches, like the
apostle Paul, but on the basis of elections and appointments by human
authorities. The diocesan bishop sends a priest to a particular parish and the
General Superintendent sends a pastor to a particular church. Such people are
not spiritual authorities but ecclesiastical authorities.
Spiritual authorities are appointed by God Himself. They do not impose
themselves on others, like ecclesiastical authorities do. They wait
for others to accept their authority voluntarily. Believers submit to
such authorities, because they recognise the anointing of God on them. A spiritual
leader is one who has earned the confidence of others.
Submission to a godly man will not only protect us from doing many foolish
things, but will also enable us to learn a great deal of wisdom from him. He
will be able to warn us about dangers that he himself has faced that we may be
unaware of. So to be under spiritual authority is as safe for us, as it is for
children to be under their parents.
In 1 Peter 5:5 we read that younger men should be subject to their
elders, because God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Here
is a great secret of obtaining spiritual authority from God. I’ve known many
fine brothers who were never given spiritual authority by God, for just one
reason: They never learned to be subject to anyone in their entire lives. And
so their strong will was never broken.
Authority is a very dangerous thing in the hands of an unbroken man.
If you’re not broken first and you try to exercise authority over people you’ll
ruin them and you’ll destroy yourself in the process too. God has to break the
strength of our pride first before He can commit spiritual authority to any of
Even to exercise authority in a home, in a godly way, as a husband or as a
father, one has to be a broken man. If you want your wife and children
to be subject to you, you’ve got to first learn to be subject to spiritual
authorities yourself. Only then will God back you up in what you do in your
Let me tell you of my own experience briefly. Between the ages of 20 and 30
in my life, God allowed me to be pushed down and publicly humiliated in more
than one church, by elders who were jealous of my ministry. In all those
instances, the Lord told me to keep my mouth shut and to submit to those elders
without questioning them. And I did. I kept a good relationship with them when
I was in their assemblies and even after leaving their assemblies.
In those years, I never knew what ministry God had in store for me in the
future. But God was preparing me to exercise spiritual authority by breaking me
over a period of many years. He broke me time and again and taught me in those
years that He was in total control of everything that others did to me. The
result was that many years later when God gave me spiritual authority over
people, I could never exercise it like a dictator, but with compassion.
God hasn’t finished with breaking me as yet. Over the past few years, God
has taken me through new and unique trials that I’ve never experienced before.
But His purpose in my life remains the same - to break me even more, so that
He can commit more of His life and His authority to me.
Another way in which God breaks our strength and pride is by correcting us
through our leaders. Almost all believers find it very difficult to receive
correction. It’s not easy for even a two-year-old child to receive correction -
especially if it’s given publicly.
When was the last time you joyfully accepted public correction? Have
you accepted it even once in your life? If not, then it’s not surprising that
you lack spiritual authority.
When someone, who is over you in the Lord, corrects you, it doesn’t matter
if he did it in a harsh way. You must still humble yourself under the
hand of God Who allowed your leader to correct you - even if you didn’t deserve
the correction and even if it wasn’t your fault.
Jesus was publicly humiliated and falsely accused by His enemies of many
things. But He never complained. And He has given us an example to follow.
Even if God allows an enemy to criticize you, just ask yourself
whether there’s any truth in his criticism. That’s all that matters.
He’s actually giving you a free check-up! Don’t bother about how he did
the "scanning" or what the motive behind the scanning
was! Such matters are unimportant. All you need to ask yourself is whether the "scan"
revealed some unChristlikeness in your life.
I get a lot of criticism from people in my ministry. I know that true
servants of the Lord have always been criticised and falsely accused. So I am
not disturbed by criticism. I only ask the Lord to show me if there’s any truth
in what is said.
Our enemies often tell us more truths about ourselves than our friends
do. So we should not write off all criticism as false.
If I’ve got a black stain on my face and an enemy points it out to me, I
should be thankful to him, because he has shown me something that I couldn’t
have seen myself. I can then go and wash off that stain! It doesn’t matter even
if he said it to me with an evil motive or to humiliate me. He still helped me
to cleanse myself!
This was one big difference between Peter and Judas Iscariot. When Peter
told the Lord foolishly to avoid going to the cross, the Lord rebuked him
sternly saying, "Get behind me, Satan". That was the strongest
rebuke that Jesus ever gave any man. Even the Pharisees were only called "vipers".
But Peter was called "Satan". Jesus’ strongest rebukes
were reserved for those who were closest to Him. He rebukes most those
whom He loves the most (Rev.3:19).
Soon after that, when many disciples were getting offended with the Lord’s
teaching and leaving Him, the Lord asked His disciples if they too wanted to go
away. It was Peter who then replied saying, "Lord to whom shall we go.
You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:60, 66-68). What were the
words of eternal life that Peter had heard? "Get behind me Satan"!
Do we see words of correction as words meant to lead us to eternal life?
That’s how Peter saw correction and that’s what made him the man he became.
There was yet another occasion when Peter accepted correction from the Lord.
Peter had told the Lord at the last supper that even if all the other disciples
denied the Lord, he wouldn’t. The Lord immediately replied that Peter would deny
Him thrice within the next 12 hours. But Peter didn’t get offended with that
reply. It was such a man that the Lord finally took up and made His chief
apostle and spokesman on the day of Pentecost.
Because Peter humbled himself under correction, God exalted him. Having
learnt from his own experience, Peter now exhorts all of us in 1 Peter.5:5,6
to humble ourselves always. We’ll never lose anything by humbling
ourselves. One day God will exalt us.
In contrast to Peter’s attitude to correction, look at Judas Iscariot’s
attitude to correction. When a woman anointed Jesus with an expensive perfume,
Judas said it was a waste to spend money like that, when it could have been
given to the poor (John 12:5; Matt.26:10-13). Jesus corrected Judas very
gently and asked him to leave the woman alone, because she had done a
good work. But Judas was offended.
In the very next verse (Matt.26:14), we read that Judas went immediately
to the chief priests and agreed to betray Jesus. The timing of this is very
significant. Judas was hurt, because Jesus had corrected him publicly.
All that Jesus had told Judas was that his assessment of the woman’s action
was not correct. But that was enough to upset him. When you’re not broken, one
small thing will be enough to offend you.
But look at the eternal consequences of Judas’ reaction. And look at the
eternal results of Peter’s reaction. Both of them were tested by correction –
one failed, while the other passed.
Today, we’re being tested in the same way.
If public correction offends us, it only proves that we’re seeking the
honour of men. If so, it’s good to know it now, so that we can cleanse
ourselves from such honour-seeking. God may have allowed such a situation to
show us how much we are slaves to man’s opinions. Now we can cleanse
ourselves and be free.
So, let’s have Peter’s attitude to correction at all times – whether the
Lord corrects us directly by His Spirit or through someone else. This is the
pathway of eternal life for all of us. If we humble ourselves, we’ll receive
grace from God and He will exalt us at the right time.
Unbroken people tend to be lonely people - lonely leaders and lonely
believers. They never submit to anyone. They go where they want to go
and do what they want to do. Such unbroken believers can work only with
those who obey them and accept everything they say. There are lots of believers
like that, who flit around from church to church and from organisation to
organisation, like butterflies going from flower to flower. They waste their
lives, accomplishing nothing. They become wanderers like Cain, because,
like Cain, they’re unwilling to accept the Lord’s correction (Gen.4:12).
God can never commit spiritual authority to such "loners",
because He’s building a Body and not a bunch of individualistic believers!
RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS
A spiritual leader will keep watch over the souls in his flock, since he has
to give an account to God one day for each of them (Heb.13:17).
I’ve told my co-workers in our churches in India that I’ll be responsible
for their souls, since they look up to me as their elder brother. And so I tell
them what’s good for them, even if it hurts them - just like I would to my own
children at home. Every pastor and elder is answerable to God for the people
under his charge.
God gives His children spiritual leaders just like He gives earthly fathers
to children in homes. I’m the father of four sons. During the years that my
boys were at home, I guided them and advised them concerning many matters. They
submitted to me and obeyed me. That protected them from many dangers. Even now,
after they are grown up, I still advise them now and then – because I’m their
father. In the same way we are to be spiritual fathers to those whom God lays
on our hearts.
God will give you a prophetic word for your flock only if you’re willing to
be like a father to them. You have to carry your flock on your heart before
God, before He can give you an appropriate word for them. Paul had a word for
each church he wrote to, because he carried them on his heart (as he says in Philippians
1:7) and prayed for them regularly. If you don’t have such a care and a
burden for your flock, you’ll only be a professional pastor working for a
What does it mean to give "an account" for people’s souls?
The word "account" is a financial word. If you’re preparing a
balance sheet and the income on the left side totals 5,000 rupees and the
expenditure on the right side totals only 4,999 rupees, something is wrong. The
difference may be only one rupee, but it is still a faulty statement of
accounts. You have to account for that one rupee too, because accounting is a
very exact science. To render account to God therefore means that you must know
exactly how things are going spiritually with your flock. You have to take this
matter very seriously, because spiritual leadership is a more serious task than
conducting a complicated surgical operation in a hospital. Lives are at stake –
You are responsible for the believers in your church. You can’t make them
spiritual. But you must do everything to bring them into a living relationship
with the Lord. Your goal must be "to present every one of them perfect in
Christ" (Col.1:28). You can’t prevent them from backsliding,
but you should have warned them before they do backslide.
Once when a young brother in our church backslid, I was distressed. I asked
the Lord, why it happened and whether there had been some failure on my part
– perhaps some lack of sensitivity in me to what was happening in his life. Was
there a word of warning or encouragement that I should have given him? I judged
myself, because I was answerable to God for that young life.
We must judge ourselves every time someone under our charge falls away. We
don’t have to feel condemned about it. But we must ask the Lord if He
has something to tell us through it. We should not allow Satan to take us on a "guilt
trip". But we must learn lessons from our mistakes for the future.
God can show us things that our human reasoning can never show us. If we are
sensitive to God’s voice, He will prompt us in advance to help people who are
slipping up. He may one day, for no apparent reason, ask us to go and visit
someone. I’ve had some experiences like that. Usually I’ve no clue as to why I
have to visit the person, because God does not reveal the sins and problems of
others to me. (I’m thankful for that, because I don’t want to pollute my mind
with the knowledge of other people’s sins). The Lord prompts me then to share
something with that brother. What I tell him may help him, without my even
knowing what his problem was. And usually I won’t even know that I’ve helped
If we have the habit of listening to God, He will arrange our circumstances
such that we come in touch with people who are in need and with whom we can
share the very word that will meet their need.
That was how Jesus lived (as we read in Isaiah 50:4). The Father
spoke to Him every day and gave Him words to speak to the weary. That is the
type of leader we should all become.
When I was in the Navy, the shift system on the ships used to be called "watches".
These were four-hour shifts, during which one officer would "keep
watch" and be responsible for everything that happened on the ship. If
I was "on watch" at sea, from midnight to 4 in the morning, I
would have to stand on the "bridge" (the top part of the ship)
with two or three sailors. All the others on the ship would be asleep. I would
have to look out for other ships crossing our path and ensure that my ship was
going in the right direction. I had to make course-corrections due to the drift
caused by the wind and the waves. The safety of the ship and the direction the
ship was going in, were all my responsibility during those 4 hours. I could not
afford to sleep for even a minute during my "watch".
So when the Bible speaks about our "keeping watch" over
others, this is a very serious matter. It requires alertness on
the part of a spiritual leader to keep watch over people’s lives, to ensure
that they don’t go astray, or drift away, or get lost.
Every good hospital has what they call "Daily rounds", when
the doctors go around and check the condition of the patients. Those doctors
don’t just look out over all the wards in a general sort of way and decide that
all the patients look healthy. No. They examine each patient individually.
But what do many pastors do? They just look out at all their church-members
on Sunday mornings and decide that everyone appears to be doing fine
But there are a lot of people who look very healthy on the outside who are
actually very sick on the inside - both in hospitals and in churches! Some who
look very healthy may be having "cancer" eating away their
insides. It could be that some of those happy-looking people in your church who
clap and shout "Hallelujah" may be having serious problems in
As a doctor checks up each patient individually, a spiritual leader must
also "check up" ("keep watch over") each individual
The Bible exhorts all shepherds to "know well the condition of their
When the numbers in a church increase, the only way for a leader to continue
to "keep watch" over the souls under his charge, is by
delegating this responsibility to other faithful men who have been trained to
do the same thing.
It is impossible for any one man to take individual care of people beyond a
certain number. I personally think that number is only twelve, because
that was the number that Jesus discipled. No doctor can look after many, many
hospital-wards, no matter how good a doctor he is. We all have our physical
Those who have an apostolic ministry and who have responsibility for
many churches, should know the condition of the elders in all their churches.
Only if the elders are spiritual will their churches be spiritual.
Unfortunately most pastors and elders are like doctors who treat patients in
an "outpatient clinic", where they just write prescriptions
and send the patients away, never knowing (or caring) whether their patients
lived or died!
A spiritual leader however takes the responsibility of the souls under his
charge very seriously.
MINISTERING FROM LIFE
A spiritual leader ministers to others from his life and not from his
Under the old covenant, God used men even when their private lives
were immoral. Samson could deliver the Israelites even when he was living in
sin. The Spirit of God didn’t leave him even when he committed adultery. God’s
anointing left him only when he cut his hair and broke his covenant with God.
David had many wives. Yet the anointing of God remained upon him and he even
But ministry in the new covenant is totally different. 2
Corinthians 3 contrasts service under the old covenant with service under
the new. The difference is basically this: Under the old covenant, the priests
studied the Law carefully and taught the people what God had said in His
Word. But in the new covenant, we follow Jesus Who spoke God’s Word from
out of His inner life and walk with His Father. There’s a lot of
difference between preaching from our life and preaching from our knowledge.
If there is shallowness in the lives of most believers in India today, it is
because the lives of their leaders are shallow. The people’s lives are
carnal, because the leader’s life - his thought-life, his relationship
with his wife, and children and fellow-workers - is carnal. The ministry of
such leaders is only the dissemination of information. This is an old
Any preacher who communicates only information is an old covenant preacher.
All the information he gives out may be accurate. But if he is not
communicating life he is not a servant of the new covenant. The
old covenant was a covenant of the letter whereas the new covenant is a
covenant of life. The letter kills but the Spirit gives life.
In the old covenant, God gave Israel laws to keep. But in the new
covenant, God has given us an Example - in the Person of Jesus. His LIFE
is the light of men. The light today is not a doctrine or a teaching, but
Jesus’ own life manifested through us. Anything other than this is
darkness - even if it be evangelical doctrine.
In the Old Testament, God’s written Law was the light, as we read in Psalm
119:105. But then the Word became flesh and Jesus Himself became the
Light of the world (John 8:12) His life was the light of men (John
1:4). But Jesus told His disciples that He could be the Light of the world
only as long as He was here on earth (John 9:5). Now that He has gone to
heaven, He has left us in this world to be its light (Matt.5:14). So our
responsibility is very great to show forth that light - by our lives.
A church invariably becomes like its leader. In Revelation 2 and 3, we
see that in each of the seven cases, the Lord spoke the same message to the
church as He did to its messenger. Each message concluded with the statement
that the Spirit was saying the same thing to that church. Where five messengers
(elders) were carnal, their churches were carnal. And where two messengers were
spiritual, their churches were spiritual too. The messenger in Laodicea was lukewarm
and so was his church. The messenger in Philadelphia was faithful and
so was his church.
In Genesis 1, a phrase that occurs frequently is ‘after their
kind’. We read there of fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind,plants
yielding seed after their kind,the fish and the birds after their
kind, and beasts, creeping things and cattle after their kind (verses
11,12,21,25). In creation, everything produces after its own kind.
God created Adam "in the likeness of God" (Gen.5:1). But
Adam produced a son "according to his own image" (v.3). He
could not produce a son in the likeness of God. He could produce one
only after his own kind.
Spiritually too, we will all produce children according to our own
likeness and after our own kind. If we are the intellectual type, we will
produce intellectually-minded people through our ministry. If we are misers, we
will produce misers. And if we’re haughty and proud, we will produce haughty
people through our ministry. On the other hand, if we have the spirit of a
servant, our spiritual children will have a servant-spirit too
It is possible however, that a rare brother may break out of his
leader’s mould and seek God for himself and become spiritual, in spite of his
leader’s carnality. But such a case is rare. Generally speaking, most
believers are like sheep who blindly follow their leader, wherever he goes. Like
preacher, like people! And when both sheep and leader are blind, they both
fall into the ditch.
Remember that the believers in your church will go out and reproduce others
after their kind too. And then you’ll have grandchildren after your
kind! So you had better be careful right now, what type of children you’re
going to produce - because this process will continue, until Jesus returns.
It’s important right at the beginning therefore, to ensure that you make disciples
in your church and not just converts. To do that, you must be a
disciple yourself. You must have a life that you can pass on to others.
Converts will go out and make other converts, who in turn will go out
and make still more converts. Such converts may understand the message
of salvation, but they will have no desire to follow the Lord. They will have
knowledge but no life. But if you make disciples, they will go out and
make more disciples. So transmitting life to others is
The tabernacle in the Old Testament was a picture of the church. That
tabernacle, as you know, had three parts - an outer court, a holy
place and a most holy place (where God dwelt). The people in the outer
court symbolise believers who just have their sins forgiven. They don’t
take any responsibility in their local church. They come to the meetings,
listen to the messages, give their offerings, break bread and go home. The
people in the holy place are those who seek to serve in the
church in some way - like the Levites who lit the lampstand and put incense on
the altar. But those in the most holy place are the ones who enter the new
covenant, seek fellowship with God and are united with the other disciples
as one body. They minister from their life and constitute the real church, the
functioning church, the ones who battle Satan and keep the Body of Christ pure.
In many churches however, there is no such central core.
In every church - in the best and in the worst - those sitting in the
outer court will be of the same type - half-hearted, worldly, seeking
their own, lovers of money and lovers of ease and pleasure. But a good church
will have a strong inner core of leaders who are godly. This core determines
which way the church is going to go.
The central core will usually begin with two men who have become one
with each other. God will be with them and the core will begin to grow in size
and unity. A human body too begins with two dissimilar units becoming one in
a mother’s womb. As that little embryo begins to grow bigger, the cells all
remain united. But if at any time those cells break away from each other, that
will be the end of that baby!
It’s the same with the building of a local church as an expression of
Christ’s Body. If the core splits up, that will be the end of the real church,
even if the external structure continues to remain as an institution!
Hebrews is one book in the New Testament that contrasts the new
covenant with the old. Unfortunately, Hebrews is not a popular book with
many Christians. Romans, Ephesians and Philippians are popular
books, but not Hebrews! That’s because Hebrews is full of meat,
not milk - and most believers haven’t got their "teeth" as yet.
They’re still babes. The very first sentence in Hebrews says that in
past times God spoke through the prophets, but now He has spoken through His
Son. The old covenant was mostly a communication of commandments from
God, with their "Thou shalt"s and "Thou shalt not"s.
But the new covenant is a communication of LIFE from God through His
That was why the Father sent Jesus to earth as a baby. It would have been no
problem for God to send Jesus to earth as a full grown man. But He came as a
baby so that He could have the same experiences that we have, and face the same
temptations that we face, from childhood onwards.
But most Christians think of Jesus only in terms of His 3½ years of ministry
and His death on Calvary. I think it would be right to say that 99% of
believers never think of how Jesus lived during the 30 years He was in
Nazareth. They think of His birth. That is celebrated every year. They
think of his death and resurrection. That too is celebrated every year.
And they think of the miracles He did. That’s about all.
Hardly anyone thinks of the major part of Jesus’ life. His ministry
was only 10% of His earthly life – 3½ years out of 33½ years. And His birth and
His death were just one-day events. The major part of His life was the 30 years
He spent in Nazareth. His whole ministry was based on those 30 years. It took
Him 30 years to prepare the sermons He preached during His ministry. He didn’t
preach "the sermon on the mount" the way preachers prepare
their sermons these days - sitting down in their study and consulting books and
concordances and writing down their notes and preparing three neat little
points that all begin with the same letter of the alphabet!! No. That sermon
came out of His life. He took 30 years to prepare it. That’s why it was so
powerful and that’s why the people marvelled at the authority with which
He spoke (Matt.7:28,29).
In the old covenant, we read that God spoke to Jeremiah only on
certain days. Jeremiah dictated what God spoke, to his scribe Baruch who
wrote down exactly what Jeremiah dictated. In the same way, God spoke to
Ezekiel only at certain times and told him what to say to the people of
Judah. And Ezekiel went and told the people exactly that. That was good. Even
if we had preaching like that today, it would be great!
But new covenant ministry is even better! God didn’t speak to
Jesus only on certain days, as He had done to those Old Testament prophets.
God spoke to Jesus every day and Jesus spoke to people every day from
His life. His ministry flowed out of His life. That’s the meaning of "rivers
of living water flowing out from our innermost being" (John 7:38).
In the light of this, it is good to ask yourself whether you’re producing new
covenant disciples or old covenant converts in your church. The
answer to that depends on whether you’re a new covenant servant or an old
covenant one yourself!
The Old Testament prophet was only a messenger. To pass on a message,
all you need is a good memory. But in the new covenant, God doesn’t give us
messages to pass on to others but His life! Then what you need is not a
good memory, but a good life - the Divine life.
Let me illustrate the difference: If you collect some water from a tap (get
a message from God) and pour it out - that would be a picture of old
covenant ministry. Then you could go back and collect some more water from
the tap (get another message from God) and pour that out too.
But in the new covenant, we are given a spring of water (the life of
Jesus Himself) within us. And that flows out from within us constantly. So we
don’t have to keep going to God each time, to get a message. He makes
us the message. Our life itself is the message and we speak
Most people have a pouring ministry. Some have nothing to give
when they pour out, while others have something to give. But both are
still pouring. And then both of them run dry.
But Jesus told the woman in Samaria that he would put a spring of eternal
life within her that would flow out of her constantly. (Eternal life means
the life of God Himself.)
This life is what the Lord desires should flow out from within us too
- not just a message. This is new covenant ministry.
SERVING BY GOD’S POWER
A spiritual leader does all of his work in the will of God, by the power
of God, and for the glory of God. Therefore it will come through the
final fire of testing as gold, silver and precious stones (1Cor.3:12-15).
In 2 Corinthians 3:5,6, Paul says that we can never become servants
of the new covenant unless God equips us and makes us adequate. Since a
spiritual leader serves with the adequacy that God gives him, he cannot take
any credit for his labours.
If it’s really God’s life that is flowing through us and
blessing others, then we can’t take any credit for it ourselves - because we
can’t take the credit for what we never produced!
For example, if I brought a cake here that someone else had baked,
and I pass it around, and all of you appreciate it and say, "Brother Zac,
that was a fantastic cake"- I won’t even be tempted to be proud,
because I didn’t bake it! I was only distributing what someone else had
baked. But if I had baked it myself, then I could become proud, thinking
I’d done a good job. But how can I take credit for what someone else made?
This is one way by which we can know whether what we are passing on to
others was what God produced within us, or what we produced
ourselves. Are we proud of our ministry (the cake)? Then we must have
produced that ministry (the cake) ourselves! God had nothing to do with it. If
God had produced it, we could not possibly be proud of it.
Do you think Jesus’ disciples could have taken any credit for the loaves and
the fishes that they passed out to the multitude. No. Not even the boy who gave
his lunch-packet to Jesus could have taken the credit for that. The disciples
only distributed what Jesus produced.
Praise God that we are only in the distribution business and not in
the production business. That’s why we can be at perfect rest at all
times. The strain comes only when we have to produce - not when we have
to distribute! It’s true that we may get tired in the
distribution business. But there is no strain. Our adequacy is from God.
We know we can’t produce anything worthwhile ourselves. So we don’t even try.
Remember that everything that you accomplish without the help of the Holy
Spirit is human and has no eternal value. You can preach and accomplish
a lot, without prayer, without seeking God’s help and without the power of the
Holy Spirit. You may have great human abilities and with them you can do a
great deal. But one day you’ll discover that it was all wood, hay and straw in
You may think you’re a great communicator because you can stir people up
emotionally. But look at how rock-music stars stir people up. They can stir up
people better than any preacher can! But it’s all empty emotion.
Or you may be a great intellectual who can tickle people’s brains and hold
them gripped for hours when you speak. That’s human soul-power too. There may
be no communication of divine life there.
Whatever you accomplish in your ministry without the help of the Holy
Spirit, will perish with this world. You can be absolutely sure of that. I
don’t know if you believe me. But if you do, you won’t waste your time any
more, adopting human methods.
I don’t want to waste my time building something that is going to perish in
eternity. I want to serve with the power that God gives. Our adequacy is from
The Pharisees were the great Bible-scholars of Jesus’ time. They were fundamental
in their doctrine unlike the liberal Sadducees. We know that,
because Jesus Himself endorsed the correctness of their doctrines by telling
His disciples to do all that the Pharisees taught (Matt.23:3).Those
Pharisees were the leading professors in the Bible-seminaries of those days.
Gamaliel was the principal of the Bible seminary that Saul of Tarsus attended
in Jerusalem. Many of those Pharisees were great mission-leaders too. Jesus
spoke of them as men who crossed land and sea to make proselytes (Matt.23:15).
That would have involved sacrifice and dedication.
Yet we see that a major part of Jesus’ ministry was spent confronting those
fundamentalist seminary professors and mission leaders! We must find out why.
Because if we don’t, we can be like them too. And then the Lord will be
confronting us continually!
Those leaders were always questioning Jesus as to why He and His disciples did
this or did not do that! They were always quoting their traditions
to Jesus and pointing out where He and His disciples had violated them.
I’ve seen so much of this attitude in the "believers" who
criticise me too. They question me about some little expression I used here or
some word I used there. They love to "have disputes about words"
(1 Tim.6:4) – the very thing Paul told Timothy to avoid. But they don’t seem
to be bothered about their own lack of divine life! They remind me of people
counting the fingers on a dead man’s hand to see that all the fingers are
there! And if even one fingernail is missing, they create a big uproar!
I’d rather have a living man with five fingers missing than a dead man who
has all his fingers and fingernails intact! A lot of theologians may be dead
right in their doctrines, but they are both dead and right! I’d
rather work with a brother whose doctrine on baptism is wrong but who is filled
with the Holy Spirit than with someone who has been baptized the right way, but
who is as dead as a doornail!
Now, don’t get me wrong here! I’ve always been very strong on doctrine all
my Christian life. I’ve left a lot of Christian groups, because they didn’t
preach the whole counsel of God. So I’m not devaluing doctrine. But what
I’m trying to say is that life and spirituality are far more important.
One day after Jesus had rebuked and corrected the Pharisees, His disciples
came to Him and told Him, "Do you know that the Pharisees were offended
by what You said". Jesus told them not to bother about those
Pharisees, because they were blind leaders of the blind and "every
plant that God has not planted will be rooted out one day" (Matt.15:12,13).
I want you to think of that last statement for a moment. Whenever you
preach, you’re planting a seed. If what you’re planting is not from God,
it will be pulled out one day.
Our work will remain for eternity if we do it with the adequacy supplied by the
Holy Spirit. But if we do our work for God without prayer, without leaning
on God in helpless dependence on Him and without His Spirit’s help, then
it will certainly be rooted out one day.
There are many aspects of Christian work for which we don’t need the
power of the Holy Spirit, but only plenty of money and a good administrator.
For example, if you’re arranging a Christian conference, a lot of work is
involved. A hall has to be hired, invitations have to be sent out,
accommodation has to be arranged, food-arrangements have to be made etc., etc.,
But all of this can be done by any good administrator who is not even a
Christian. In fact, many worldly conferences are organized in a far better way
than most Christian conferences. But the part of a Christian conference that is
going to remain for all eternity is the ministry of the Word - and that part
must be done under the Spirit’s anointing!
I’m not devaluing the necessity of making good arrangements. They’re needed
for the success of any conference. But remember that what’s eternal will only
be that which was done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s apply this to our own ministry. Let’s ask ourselves what part
of our ministry can be explained away as being merely the result of having
human training and human resources. We may be surprised to discover the answer
- if we are honest with ourselves.
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His conflict even
today is with Bible-seminary professors and mission leaders who have knowledge
without life and who transmit information without the anointing of the Holy
Spirit. The apostles had a conflict with such people in their day and we
will also be in conflict with such people in our day, if we walk in Jesus’
I’d rather walk with the Lord and be in conflict with such people than
please them and displease the Lord. In fact I’m prepared to be in conflict with
the whole world if necessary, if that is the price I have to pay to
please God. If we seek to please men we can never be servants of Christ
Let us walk then in helpless dependence on God for our ministry, always
longing for the anointing of the Spirit to be upon us.
EXERCISING SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY
A spiritual leader will minister with spiritual authority.
The multitudes were amazed at Jesus’ preaching, because they saw a
difference between the way He taught and the way the Pharisees had taught them
for so many years. The Pharisees had a lot of knowledge. Jesus had even more
knowledge than they had. But it was His authority that impressed His
hearers, not His knowledge (Matt.7:29).
If we have knowledge but no spiritual authority in our ministry, we
will be like the Pharisees. God backed up the words that Jesus spoke. This is
what it means to speak with spiritual authority.
Jesus told His disciples in John 15:26, 27 that the Holy Spirit would
bear witness along with them. This meant that whenever they preached, the Holy
Spirit would back up what they said. That’s certainly how I want my ministry
to be at all times. As I bear witness to Jesus, the Holy Spirit must also bear
witness to what I say. He must speak to the hearts of my listeners saying, "Listen
to that. That’s from God". Then I’ll be speaking with Divine
authority. But if I merely give a very accurate testimony about Jesus, and the
Holy Spirit doesn’t back up what I say, I won’t be called a heretic, because
my doctrines are all evangelical. But I will still be ministering death, and
There are many ways in which we can exercise authority over people. There
are human ways, religious ways and spiritual ways. And
there’s a lot of difference between these three. Jesus authority was not human
or religious. He never spoke or acted like an earthly king or like the
religious leaders of Israel. His authority was Divine and spiritual.
A good example of human authority would be the authority that film stars
and rock musicians exercise. Look at the way people worship them and go crazy
over them. People stand for hours in the rain and the sun to get a glimpse of
them. They have great authority over people. They use their human abilities to
rule over people’s minds and emotions - and then get the people to pay them
money too! This type of authority is found among many preachers in Christendom
too. It is the power of the human soul and not of the Holy Spirit.
Another way to exercise human authority would be through money. The
world is controlled today not by those who have weapons but by those who
have money. Money is a very important factor in wars and in elections
too. The business community in every country has to please the political
leaders in order to thrive. And the political leaders in turn, have to please
the business community in order to get money to get to power. So money has
tremendous power. And this power is being used extensively in Christendom too.
Money can certainly do a lot of good. But because money is powerful, it does a
lot of damage too.
If Christian work anywhere is controlled by financial power, it can never
be a spiritual work. Jesus placed money in direct opposition to God. He
said that God and Mammon (material wealth) were the only two masters in the
world competing for the attention of men (Lk.16:13).
The authority that a Christian leader has, through giving money to others is
not spiritual authority. Both in the world and in Christendom, it is the one
who has the money who pulls the strings. People will bow down to anyone who has
money. They will agree to anything you say and do everything you tell them to,
if only you pay them! This is true in secular companies and in Christian
organisations as well.
Almost every pastor is controlled by the board members of his church,
because the board determines his salary. Such a pastor dare not say anything
that will offend those board-members! Churches usually have their richest men
on their boards. And these rich men are usually the ones who need to be rebuked
the most. But how can a pastor rebuke them if his mouth is full of the
money they have stuffed into it? He can’t. So he has to tickle those rich
men’s ears and say exactly what they want to hear. If he displeases them, they
won’t give him his annual increment and that’ll be enough to make him change.
He’ll think of his poor family that will have to struggle. He’ll have to vacate
his convenient pastoral house and he’ll have to take his children out of that
good school. Such thoughts will make him quickly submit to the board and toe
the official line quietly! This is the main reason why we have hardly any
prophets in India today. Almost every preacher has fallen a prey to the lure of
money. How can such preachers ever exercise spiritual authority?
I want to say to those of you brothers who are in authority over others,
that if you control anyone through money, what you are exercising will not be spiritual
Jesus never controlled anyone through money. Not one of His disciples followed
Him for money, for He had no wealth to give them. He offered them no retirement
benefits in this world, but only tribulation and suffering. He taught them to
seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness first and told them that the
material things they needed (the bare minimum of food and clothing) would be
added to them by their Heavenly Father.
Jesus sent out His apostles to evangelize the world, without any money so
that those apostles would never be able to draw anyone (or control anyone)
through money. Yet they did a much better job of evangelizing the then-known
world than we have done with all our money and our gadgets and our many
conferences on evangelism!
Financial power is something that we have to be very careful about in
God’s work, for it can rob us of spiritual authority.
Music power is another power that we have to beware of. Rock music
can sway people to the point where they even commit suicide. There are many
forms of power like that in the world today. We have to be careful that we
don’t mistake these for spiritual power. If we are unable to distinguish
between spiritual power and soul-power, it will be easy to deceive ourselves
about the success of our ministry.
With some of us, the power we’re using may not be money-power or music-power
but intellectual power. That too is the power of the soul - and that is
very different from having spiritual authority. We can try and impress people
with our qualifications in order to get them to listen to us! Maybe you’re so
theologically qualified that you can explain the root meanings of the Greek
words that Peter used in his epistles - meanings that Peter himself did not
But a spiritual man will teach the Bible in an entirely different way - and
the results will be different too. The Bible can be taught by the power of the
human intellect or by the power of the Holy Spirit. And there is a vast
difference between these two ways of teaching - and their results.
One of the greatest needs in the church today is for a demonstration of spiritual
authority in the ministry of its leaders. Spiritual authority is
very different from religious authority. What we commonly see in
Christendom today is religious authority, where strong leaders dominate
A local church was never meant by God to be run as a democracy where
everybody is given a vote to choose its leader. Neither did God intend it to be
run as a dictatorship by a strong leader who rules the poor believers
and makes them bow down and obey him.
It’s easy, when we preach God’s word to have power over people. People
appreciate our ministry because it helps them. Then it becomes easy for us to
become like little gods to our admirers. We must always live in fear of
that. We must never take advantage of the authority we have over
others through our gift. We must never try to run other people’s lives. If we
find them clinging to us, we must gently cast them on the Lord – for their own
good and their spiritual growth. Our calling is to build the Body of Christ and
not our own little empires. This is the way of spiritual
Paul had such spiritual authority given him by God that he could even
deliver a person in the church at Corinth to Satan for the destruction of his
flesh so that the man could be saved (1 Cor.5:5). The man was saved
later and came back to the church in repentance. Paul was the founding father
of that church and such fathers have a spiritual authority that no-one else can
exercise. Those apostles had Divine authority given them by the Lord to build
people up. This is the type of loving authority that we need too. We see
many manifestations of such spiritual authority in the life of the apostle
Paul, that are a tremendous challenge to us.
When the disciples observed Jesus for 3½ years, they saw that He was totally
different from the leaders and preachers they had seen in their synagogues.
They had never met anyone who lived like Him or who spoke like Him. He had authority
in His life and in His ministry. Until they met Jesus, they had thought
that spiritual ministry was what they had seen in their priests and their
bishops in the synagogues. And if they had never met Jesus, they would have
made those priests and bishops their role-models. But now they had a new role
Model they could follow.
What our young people need are better role-models to follow. It is our
responsibility to be those role-models, as men with spiritual authority.
FREED FROM ALL FEARS
A spiritual leader will not take decisions based on the fear of men or of
I have a large verse hanging in the front room of my house that reads, "If
you fear God, you need fear nothing else". That’s the Living Bible
paraphrase of Isaiah 8:12 and 13. That verse has been of tremendous help
to me in the last 25 years.
Let me share with you some of the truths that I’ve learnt from the Lord on
this matter of fear.
First of all, I’ve learnt that fear is one of the main weapons in
Secondly, I’ve learnt that I don’t need to feel condemned if feelings
of fear come to me at times - because I’m still in the flesh. We must be
realistic and honest about this. The apostle Paul was quite honest and admitted
that he had "fears within" him, at certain times (2
The third thing I’ve learnt (and this is the most important)
is that even if I do have fears, I must never take a decision based on fear.
My decisions must always be based on faith in God – the very opposite of
fear. And that’s how I’ve sought to live for many years now. And God has helped
me and encouraged me tremendously.
I now understand why Jesus so frequently said "Fear not, fear not,
fear not". This is as important as the other emphasis in the New
Testament : "Sin not, sin not, sin not.".
Jesus was always against sin and He was always against fear.
He told us to fear only God and no-one else (Matt.10:28). This is a very
important lesson for us to learn, because a spiritual leader must never take
any decision based on fear.
Another verse that I’ve had hanging in my sitting room for many years is Galatians
1:10: "If I seek to please men I cannot be the servant of Christ".
If you seek to please men you can never be a servant of the Lord. And I’ll
tell you it’s not easy to break free from seeking to please men.
Many reports of Christian work sent from India to the West are basically
meant to impress people there, so that they will support a work here
financially. You have to be very careful about your motives when you write a
report about your work.
A lot of sermons likewise, are prepared with the motive of impressing men
and pleasing them. But those who preach with such motives can never be servants
of Christ. It’s easy to fool an undiscerning group of immature believers in
your church that you’re a great man of God. But you can’t fool God and you
can’t fool the devil. Both God and the devil know exactly what type of person
If you’ve a fear in your heart that someone will harm you in some way if you
displease him, then you’ll always try to please him. Then you can never be a
servant of God. If ever you act on the basis of fear, you can be sure that it
is the devil who is guiding you, and not God.
If we look back over our lives, we’ll find that we’ve taken many decisions
in the past on the basis of fear. In all those decisions, we were not led by
God. The consequences of some of those decisions may not have been serious. But
we missed God’s best. We should act differently in future.
It’s natural for us to feel fear - because we’re human. For example, if you
suddenly saw a cobra in front of you where you’re sitting right now, you’d
naturally get a shock and jump up - and adrenalin would rush into your blood
stream. That’s natural. But you don’t live in fear of finding a cobra
under every chair – everywhere you go!
We must not live in fear of anyone either.
We must never take a decision based on the fear of men or Satan.
Every decision we take must be based on the fear of God and in total faith in
our heavenly Father. Only then can we be sure that we’re being led by the Holy
Hebrews 13:6 is a very important verse for all of us who serve the
Lord. It says there: "We boldly say that the Lord is our Helper and we
will not be afraid. What can any man do to us?"
We must distinguish however, between being cautious and being afraid.
We must be wise - as wise as serpents - in this world. But we don’t have
to fear any man or woman or demon or even Satan himself.
Jesus was cautious. When He heard that people were wanting to kill
Him in Judea, He didn’t go there (John 7:1). That was sensible. That was
wise. But Jesus was never afraid of anyone.
If you were to go into a forest at night, you’d take a torchlight with you. That’s
caution - not fear. If people are trying to kill you somewhere, you
shouldn’t go there - unless God Himself tells you to go. Jesus did finally go
to Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit led Him to – and He was killed. But that was
in God’s will and in God’s time.
We’re not afraid of any man. What harm can any man do to us if we’re doing
the will of God and living "in the shadow of the Almighty" (Psa.91:1).
The Bible asks, "Who can harm you?" (1 Pet.3:13). God is
able to make all that people do to us, work together for our good
(Rom.8:28). Since that is true, why should we ever fear?
If we believe this, it will bring such tremendous authority into our lives.
A lot of our spiritual authority is taken away from us by Satan, because we
fear men, or seek to please them or impress them, or justify ourselves before
them. We must get rid of these attitudes totally.
But this is not easy. It’s a constant battle. Once you’ve decided to stop
trying to please A, B and C in one group, you may imagine that you’ve finished
with seeking to please men. But very soon you’ll find that you’re trying to
please D, E and F in some other group! And this is endless! We’ve got to
fight this battle faithfully until the very end, if we want to break free from ALL
men. We must be constantly on the alert against this sin and battle it. We
must never seek for the approval of any man.
There are some believers who haughtily say that they don’t care for
anybody’s opinion. But such people are not spiritual. They’re just arrogant.
The opinion of a godly elder brother can be very valuable. He will be able to
tell us things that he sees in us that we can’t see ourselves. To respect and
honour such a man and to be submissive to his authority can actually help us a
lot. The important thing is to learn how to submit to a godly man, without
becoming his slave.
If we want our church-members to fear only God and to be free from the fear
of men and demons, then we must be like that ourselves, first.
It is because God is in control of everything on this earth that we don’t
fear anyone or anything.
Once, when I was planing to go to a certain country (where preaching the
gospel is forbidden), the Lord reminded me of Matthew 28:18-19. I saw
then, that it was because the Lord has all authority in heaven and
on earth, that He has commanded us to go to every nation and make
disciples. If we don’t go forth on that basis, we’ll face problems
wherever we go.
The word "therefore" is the most important word in the
great commission in Matthew 28. Most preachers emphasise the word "Go".
That’s good. But on what basis are we to go? On the basis of our Lord
having total authority over all people on this earth and over all demons as
well. If you don’t really believe that, then it’s better that you don’t
This verse in Matthew 28 came to me as a new revelation at that time.
Then I realised that I could go to that country without any hesitation. There
were fears within me - naturally - when I entered that country. But I didn’t
take my decision on the basis of those fears.
If you think there’s some nation in this world where the Lord Jesus
does NOT have total authority, then I’d advice you not to go there! I
would not go there myself. I’d be scared. But thank God there’s no such
place anywhere on this earth! Every corner of this earth is under the
authority of our Lord.
In the same way, if you think there’s some man somewhere (however
powerful he may be), over whom our Lord doesn’t have authority, then you’ll
have to live in fear of him always. But thank God there’s no such person
anywhere. Our Lord has authority over every single human being. Even King
Nebuchadnezzar understood that - as we read in Daniel 4:35.
If there’s some demon somewhere who was not conquered by our Lord on
Calvary, but who somehow escaped defeat, then we must live in fear of that
demon always. But there’s no demon like that who was not defeated on the
cross. Satan himself was defeated there - permanently. That’s what delivers us
from all fear of Satan and his demons, and gives us great boldness in our
So we go wherever God calls us to go. There may be risks in some
places. But to the best of our knowledge, if we feel the Lord is leading us
there, then we need not fear to go. The question is not whether there is
persecution of Christians in a particular place or not. The only question is
whether the Lord has asked us to go there or not. If He has, then His authority
will back us up totally. We need have no fear whatsoever. But if God has not
called us to go somewhere, then we should not go, no matter how much
men may try and persuade us to go, or how much the spirit of adventure within
us makes us want to go!
We must ask ourselves why we’re going to a particular place. If we’re
going because we want to make disciples, and have no other ambition,
then we can be certain that the Lord will be with us always – "even
unto the end of the age", as He promised. But we may have other
motives. The Lord "examines our heart’s attitude" (Jer.12:3)
and tests our motives.
The Lord won’t commit Himself to everyone who calls himself a believer. We
read that in John 2:24. But if you can honestly say to the Lord: "Lord,
I’m going to this place only because I feel You’ve called me to go there. And
I’m going there only to make disciples, to baptize them in the name of the
Father, Son and the Holy Spirit and to teach them to do everything that You
have commanded. I’m not going there to make money or to get a name for myself or
for any other personal reason" – if you can say that honestly, then
you’ll certainly have the Lord’s authority backing you always.
And then you won’t have to live in fear, wondering what will happen to your
wife and children or how your financial needs will be met. The only question
that is important is "Has God called you or not?" Is God
sending you there or is some man sending you there? Or is it the spirit of
adventure that’s driving you?
If you’ve got some program other than God’s program, then I can’t offer you
a single promise from Scripture to comfort you. But if Your program is the same
as God’s program - to make disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father,
Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to do everything Jesus commanded – then
I can assure you, you don’t have to fear men or demons.
Every servant of God must know how to deliver those who are possessed by
demons – by exercising the authority there is in the Name of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Demons aren’t afraid of you or me. They’re only afraid of the Lord, Who
defeated them on the cross. That’s why it’s important to know clearly that
Jesus Christ took away all of Satan’s power on the cross (Col. 2:14,15). This
is the good news of the gospel that we must experience first of all and then proclaim
to all men. If we believe it, we can deliver others from Satan’s power.
We should not be afraid of what demons may try and do to us – because they
cannot touch a hair on our heads without God’s permission. But many believers
in India are afraid that someone may do some witchcraft on them some day. Why
do they have such fears? Because they do not know that Satan was defeated on
I remember meeting a pastor once who had been sick for a long time, who
blamed his sickness on witchcraft that his enemies had done on him. How could
that be? Is the Lord less powerful than the power of black magic and
witchcraft? No. It was that pastor’s unbelief that made him feel that way. No
demonic power can stand against the authority and power of our Lord – either on
earth or in the heavenlies where the demons operate from (Eph.6:12). If
you don’t believe that, I’d suggest that you stop serving the Lord and go and
do something else. Stop being a preacher because you’ll transmit your fear and
unbelief to others. Fear is Satan’s weapon. Don’t let him ever use it on you.
Demons may at times be permitted to harass a believer under the permissive
will of God - as in the case of Job. God permitted a messenger of Satan to
trouble even the apostle Paul (2 Cor.12:7). That was as irritating to
Paul as a thorn in his body. It may have been a sickness or a person who
troubled Paul continuously, wherever he went. If we have a thorn in our flesh
and we can’t pull it out ourselves, we should ask God to remove it. But God may
at times say "No", as He said to Paul, if He sees that that
thorn is accomplishing the greater purpose of keeping us humble. Satan was even
permitted to hinder Paul from travelling to Thessalonica once. But Timothy
could go instead and God’s purposes were still fulfilled there (1
Let me emphasise this however, that a born-again Christian can never be
possessed by a demon. Unfortunately, many preachers these days, are
preaching the unScriptural doctrine that believers can be "demonized -
and thus bringing many believers under fear and condemnation.
Such preachers cannot quote a single Scripture to justify their teaching.
But they say that they’ve come across such cases in their experience. Thus they
exalt their experience above the Word of God. This itself proves that
they are wrong.
Christ and a demon can never dwell together in the same heart. Light and
darkness cannot co-exist in one place. It is true that some of the Jews in the
synagogues where Jesus preached, were demon-possessed. But we don’t read of a single
case of a born-again believer (after Acts 2), being demon-possessed.
A Christian may be harassed from outside by demons, as Paul and Job were -
but that too, only with God’s permission. And if God permits such harassment,
you can be absolutely sure, as in the cases of Job and Paul, that it will work
for your spiritual benefit.
If ever you’re in doubt as to whether someone is demon-possessed or not,
just ask him to make these three confessions with his whole heart:
1. Jesus Christ is my Lord.
2. Jesus Christ came in the
flesh and overcame sin.
3. Satan, you
were defeated by the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. I don’t belong to you any
Demon-possessed people will not be able to make these three
confessions with their spirit.
Every time we’re sick, we should pray to be healed. But we can tell the Lord
that if He plans to bring some spiritual profit to us through the sickness and
thus glorify His Name, then we will accept it joyfully.
Under the old covenant, God promised a long healthy life to all those who
honoured their parents. What did that involve? It meant that God would watch
over such children as they grew up, ensuring that no fatal accident or sickness
came upon them. Did God keep a special watch over those children who honoured
their parents? Yes. It was a real and meaningful promise that God kept. God
controlled circumstances so that a child who honoured his parents lived long on
In the same way, God can control the circumstances of our lives too, so that
we don’t die before we have finished doing God’s will - whether that be at the
age of 33 or at the age of 90.
Under the new covenant, we know that long life is not the greatest
thing, but a life spent in doing the will of God, whether it be short or
long. Jesus Himself lived only up to the age of 33, but He finished the task
His Father gave Him.
David Brainerd lived to the age of 29 and Watchman Nee to the age of 70. The
important thing however was that (as far as we know) each of them completed the
task God had assigned them, before they left this earth. And God sovereignly
controlled all the circumstances of their lives until then, so that no sickness
or accident shortened their lives until their task on earth was done.
There are many germs and bacteria on this earth that invade our bodies. Some
of them even have the potential to kill us! But God is powerful enough to
control those germs so that they don’t kill us.
God is powerful enough to control the drunken drivers on the roads so that
they don’t run us down and kill us either.
He watches over us every moment and never slumbers or sleeps. If we believe
that, we’ll be free from the fear of circumstances, fear of sicknesses, fear of
accidents and from every other type of fear.
If you fear God, you really need fear nothing else.
FREEING OTHERS FROM FEAR
A spiritual leader will never use fear as a means to get people to
submit to him. On the contrary, he will seek to deliver people from fear.
Fear is a weapon found only in Satan’s armoury. Jesus came to deliver man
from fear. Every spiritual leader has the same task.
It says in Hebrews 2:14 that Jesus "took flesh and blood so
that He might deliver those who through the fear of death were subject
to bondage and slavery all their life".
Romans 8:15 tells us that "we have not received a spirit of slavery
leading to fear again, but the spirit of adoption as sons".
Here Paul contrasts the Holy Spirit Who makes us sons of God with the spirit
of slavery that makes us fear. Fear always brings slavery. People all over the
world live in fear. Unfortunately, believers also live in fear .
If a man can frighten you sufficiently, you will be his slave. This is the
principle on which all cults operate. People with strong soul-power use
the weapon of fear on people, threatening them that if ever they leave
their group, something terrible will happen to them or to their families. This
is sheer nonsense. But when people hear such threats again and again over a
period of time, they begin to believe it and are scared to leave the cult.
Even if they find everything wrong in their group, they will still stay on
through fear. The leader may even be living in adultery. But cult-members will
not dare to speak against him, out of fear. Such fear brings them into slavery.
Whenever a Christian leader uses the weapon of fear to frighten believers
into submission to his authority, or to pay their tithes, or to do anything, he
is using Satan’s weapon.
We must never use the weapon of "fear" to make people do
what we want them to do. If anyone uses this weapon, then any group he builds will
only be a cult.
In the true church of God, every brother and sister must be left totally
free to make his own choices. We certainly need to discipline people in the
church if they live in sin. But they must not be threatened with curses and
There are pastors who tell their congregations that if they don’t pay their
tithes to the church, they’ll end up spending that money on doctors and
hospital bills. This is sheer nonsense. We are called to deliver people
from such fears. People must give their money joyfully and cheerfully - not
under threat of punishment or judgment. God doesn’t want any money from anyone
that is extracted like that. And pastors who force money out of people will
come under the judgment of God sooner or later.
Under the old covenant, people served God out of fear. In Deuteronomy
28, the Israelites were warned that if they didn’t obey God’s commandments,
they’d be punished with poverty, sickness, madness and other evils. So they
obeyed God – out of fear. Malachi told the Israelites that they would be cursed
if they didn’t pay their tithes (Mal.3:10). But that was under
Jesus came to deliver us from such legalistic obedience. Zachariah,
the father of John the Baptist prophesied of the new covenant age and said that
we could now "serve God without fear" (Lk.1:74), in true
Is there anything in your life that you do out of fear? Do you read the
Bible each morning because you fear that some calamity may strike you if you
don’t read it? That is plain and simple superstition. And God certainly
does not want you to read the Bible in that superstitious way! He
wants you to know His intense love for you and to be free from all fear. The
reason why God has cleansed us in the blood of Jesus - and justified us too -
is so that we might never feel condemned by Satan at any time.
Any ministry that brings God’s people under condemnation can never be
from God. The Lord has come to set people free – not to bring them into
Most believers are already suffering so much with their many problems. We
don’t have to give them more problems with condemnation when they come to the
church meetings. They come to be delivered and helped – not scolded and
condemned and sent home depressed.
The Lord rejoices over His people with shouts of joy - and that’s what we
must proclaim to God’s people.
The whole purpose of praising the Lord in the meetings of the church is to
celebrate His love for us and to rejoice in the fact that He delights in us and
is happy with us. God forgave us, not because we were good, but because He
loved us. He chose us in Christ, when there was nothing good in us. How much
more He will love us now that we have repented?
Yet Satan has succeeded in producing more condemnation among God’s children
than among his own children. Actually it is Satan’s children who should feel
condemned, not us. But they live in a world of deception and live happily. But
most of God’s children - who should be among the happiest people in the world,
live under feelings of condemnation and unworthiness. This is not humility but unbelief!
Many believers claim to be filled with the Holy Spirit but they are still
slaves to fear. How can a person be filled with the Holy Spirit and still be a
slave to fear? Some false prophet comes along and tells them that some calamity
will come upon them – and they are immediately filled with fear. Then the false
prophet collects money from them to pray for "God’s protection over
them" - and then moves on to visit some other family, to deceive them. We
must beware of such false prophets. There are many false prophets roaming
around the world today producing fear in people’s minds.
Ten thousand false prophets may prophesy evil against us. But no evil can
touch us. It will only rebound on them. We must teach our congregations this
truth and make them bold. We can never have confidence before God or boldness
before Satan if we have any type of fear! If we fear God, we need never fear
Fear is the devil’s weapon. Anyone who uses "fear" in
his ministry is in fellowship with Satan.
Jesus warned people about hell, but he never frightened them with
scary stories and gruesome details of the place! And He didn’t threaten His
disciples who left him, with dire consequences.
The Bible commands masters never to threaten their servants (Eph.6:9).
If fear is a weapon of the devil, how can we as servants of God ever use it.
Yet there are multitudes of Christian leaders who use fear to control their
Even if people call us by bad names, we must not pronounce judgment on them
or threaten them with God’s wrath. The Pharisees called Jesus the prince of
devils. But in reply, Jesus did not threaten them but forgave them (Matt.12:32).
Let us follow His example.
When we speak to people, we give forth a spirit with our words too.
We may not be not aware of it, but it is there. If bad breath comes forth from
our mouths, others can detect it each time we open our mouths, but we may not
be aware of it ourselves! It is exactly the same with the odour that comes
forth from our spirits!
We may preach on holiness but the spirit coming forth from us may not be
We may speak on humility, but the spirit coming forth from us may not be
humble! Two brothers may preach the same sermon on humility. One may have a
humble spirit and communicate that spirit to his hearers. The other may have an
arrogant spirit and he will communicate that - even though both sermons are the
same! There’s a lot of difference between these two preachers - and we must
In the same way, we can transmit a spirit of fear to others, if we
have fear within ourselves. We can also bring believers under condemnation by
the way we preach God’s Word to them. We may be sincere, but the spirit coming
forth from us may be a spirit that brings people into bondage.
The effectiveness of our message depends on the spirit that comes
forth from our hearts, and not just the knowledge that comes forth from
our understanding. We are communicating a life to others and not just a
If you’re a slave to any type of fear, that spirit of fear will come
forth from you and defile others to whom you speak, and they will also be bound
by that spirit of fear. That’s just like it is in the human body: If you’re a
carrier of a sickness in your blood stream, you will transmit that sickness to
That’s why it is important that we eliminate every fear from our life - fear
of men, fear of Satan, fear of sickness, fear of death, fear of evil
circumstances, fear of road-accidents, fear of poverty (in a poor country like
ours that can be a very real fear), fear that our children may not get a good
education or good jobs, and many other fears like that.
The only thing that can drive out such fears from us, is the fear of God and
faith in Him. If we fear God, we will not fear anything or anyone else.
If we trust in God, we know that He is a rewarder of those who diligently
seek Him and that He honours all who honour Him. When faith dwells in our
hearts, fear cannot dwell there, even though we may have occasional moments
The important question is what dominates our thinking: Is it fear
We must also ask ourselves if we ever try to dominate others, using the weapon of fear.
A spiritual leader will always be ready to humble himself.
God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. If we humble ourselves
under the mighty hand of God,He will exalt us at the proper time (1Pet.5:5,6).
To be exalted does not mean that we become great men in this world or
in Christendom and get the honour of men. It refers to spiritual exaltation,
where we are given spiritual authority to fulfil all the will of God in our
life and ministry. But such exaltation depends on our humbling ourselves.
We all know that the world is full of people who want to become bigger
and bigger in the eyes of others. Every politician and every businessman
wants to become bigger. Unfortunately those who call themselves servants of
Christ also want to become bigger and bigger. They aspire to have grand titles
like "Reverend Doctor" and to hold positions like "Chairman"
of their organisations. Sadly, today’s Christendom is no different from any
corporation in the world!
Young believers today see their leaders standing in the spotlight like film
stars, on large platforms in public meetings, living in expensive hotels and
houses, and driving expensive cars. Not knowing much about God’s ways they
admire such leaders and look forward to the day when they too will reach those
heights! They feel that such preachers must have been faithful for many years
for God to reward them in this way! And they imagine that by being faithful,
they too will one day stand on such platforms with the spotlight on them!
When young men see preachers making lots of money with the gifts they
receive from America and the Gulf countries, they look forward to the day when
they too can be rich like them. The role model for these young men is not Jesus
Christ but these wealthy, film-star-type preachers. This is the tragedy in
We need to demonstrate to our young people by our lives and teach them by
our words that if we follow the Lord, we will not become wealthy or famous, but
godly. At the same time, we’ll be misunderstood, rejected and persecuted!
But we’ll be able to love those who hate us, and bless those who curse us. This
is what we need to demonstrate to the next generation. If we don’t do that,
they will follow "another Jesus" – the one they see in today’s
To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to accept joyfully
all the circumstances that God sends into our lives. We allow those
circumstances to humble us, so that we become smaller and God becomes
greater. When we become smaller in people’s eyes, then they won’t live in
dependence on us, but on the Lord.
As a servant of the Lord, I’m more afraid of those who respect me highly
than of those who criticise me. I find that some people respect me so
much that they expect me to find God’s will for them. I always answer, "No".
I tell them, that it was only under the old covenant that people went to the
prophets to find the will of God for them. Under the new covenant, every child
of God (including the youngest) can go to God directly and know His will
personally. In Hebrews 8:11, this is specifically mentioned as one of
the privileges that we have under the new covenant. Now we can all receive the
Holy Spirit and He is our Guide. So I tell my brothers that I can advise them,
but I will never find the will of God for them. I’ve emphasized this
from the very beginning of my ministry. The result is that today people in our
churches know the Lord themselves, and do not lean on me. They are connected
directly to Christ their Head. Thus the Body of Christ has been built in our
midst through many years.
This is the first principle of building Christ’s Body: We must
connect people to the Head and make them independent of us, as soon as
We need to humble ourselves and repent deeply of our failure in this area,
in the past. We must long that Christ will increase in us and that we
will decrease. God leads us through many circumstances in our life to reduce
us, so that Christ might increase in us. If we humble ourselves under those
circumstances, then God’s purpose will be fulfilled in us.
Humbling ourselves involves apologizing to all whom we’ve wronged. As
servants of the Lord, we are to be servants of all people and must be willing
to go under all of them to bless them. When we make mistakes, we
must be quick to acknowledge them and to apologize where necessary. The only
one who never makes a mistake is God.
I have told the Lord that I am willing to apologize to anyone under the sun
– children, servants, beggars or anyone – and that I would never stand on my
dignity or prestige in this matter. And I’ve done that - and God has blessed
Don’t ever stand on a false sense of prestige and dignity before your flock.
If you’ve done something wrong, apologize to them and say that you were wrong
and that you’re sorry for what you did. Their esteem and respect for you will
only grow thereby and not become any less. Why should you pretend that you
never make any mistakes?
I heard of a college student once who asked his professor a very difficult
question. The professor said he could answer that in three words: "I
don’t know"! The student’s esteem for the professor shot up that day,
not only because he saw the professor’s humility, but also because he
saw his integrity, in not teaching anything that he did not know.
I’ve said it publicly to the people in my church that I’ll be making
mistakes until the end of my life because of one simple reason: I’m not God.
As long as I live on this earth, I’m going to make mistakes. Hopefully, those
mistakes won’t be as foolish as the ones I made ten or twenty years ago, because
I’ve learnt some lessons from those earlier mistakes. I’ve acquired some wisdom
from my blunders. But I’m still not perfect.
Many of you here are married. You know how easy it is for you to hurt your
wives accidentally, even when you don’t intend to. You may say something with a
good intention. But your wife may misunderstand what you meant. It could be the
other way around too – where you misunderstand something your wife said. What
must you do in such cases? Let me just say this: Peace can be restored much
quicker in your home through an apology than through a laboured
explanation of your motives, or through an analysis of whose fault it was!
Suppose you find yourself in a situation where your colleagues misunderstand
you. It may be no use explaining matters to them, because they may not be
willing to listen. What should you do in such a case, especially when you’re
perfectly innocent? Should you feel sorry for yourself? Not at all. Just make
sure your conscience is clear before God and men and leave the matter with Him.
That’s all you’ve got to do. That is the policy I’ve followed for many years
now and I’ve been really blessed. I would recommend it to you too.
Anyone who serves the Lord is going to be the target of Satan’s attacks. The
more useful we are to God, the more we will be attacked by the enemy. We won’t
be able to avoid that. Satan will attack us through slander, false accusations
and fabricated stories. And he will attack our wives and our children too.
Just think of the evil things that people said about Jesus in His lifetime,
and that they say about Him even today. They called Him a glutton and a
drunkard (Lk.7:34), a madman (Mark 3:21), demon-possessed (John
8:48) and the ruler of demons (Matt.12:24) and many such wicked
names. They said he was a heretic preaching doctrines contrary to what the
Bible and Moses taught (John 9:29). That’s how they drove people away
from listening to the Lord. But He never bothered to reply to such people. He
never answered a single personal accusation. We shouldn’t either.
Jesus answered only doctrinal questions. Today, people say even immoral
things about our Lord. But God does not come down in judgment on them.
They called Paul a deceiver and a false prophet who belonged to a sect that
was evil spoken of, everywhere (Acts 24:14; 28:22). Thus they kept
people away from listening to Paul too.
It has been the same story throughout church history with every great man of
God - with John Wesley, Charles Finney, William Booth, Watchman Nee and with
every other true prophet of God.
Henry Suso was a man of God who lived in Germany, a few hundred years ago.
He was a saintly man and a bachelor. He prayed often that the Lord would make
him broken and humble like Jesus Himself was. This was how God answered his
prayer. One day Suso heard a knock at his door. When he opened the door, he saw
a strange woman standing there with a baby in her arms. He had never seen her
before. She was an evil woman who was wanting to get rid of her newborn baby
and decided that the best man to dump it on was Henry Suso. So she told him, in
a voice loud enough for everyone in the street to hear, "Here is the fruit
of your sin", and left the baby in Suso’s arms and walked off. Suso was
stunned. His reputation in the town had been shattered in a moment. He took the
baby inside, knelt down and told the Lord, "Lord, you know I’m innocent.
What must I do now?" The Lord replied, "Do what I did. Suffer for
the sins of others". Suso accepted the word of the Lord and never
justified himself before anyone. He brought up that child as his own. He was
content that God knew the truth and he was willing for everyone else to
misunderstand him. Many years later, the woman was convicted of her sin and
came back to Suso’s house and proclaimed to all the neighbours that Suso was
innocent and that she had told a lie. But what had happened in the intervening
years? Henry Suso’s prayer had been answered. He had become broken and humble
like his Master. God had been able to accomplish a work of sanctification in
Suso’s life, freeing him from man’s opinion’s so that God’s opinion alone
mattered to him thereafter.
Are we willing to pay such a price in order to become like Jesus? Or do we
still seek the honour of men?
God breaks us by allowing us to be misunderstood, misjudged, falsely accused
and publicly humiliated. In all such circumstances, we must refuse to see the
men who are harassing us. They may be our brothers or our enemies. It doesn’t
matter. Behind the hand of every Judas Iscariot, is our heavenly Father giving
us a cup to drink. If we see the Father’s hand in such situations, we’ll drink
the cup joyfully, however bitter and painful it may be. But if we see only
Judas, then we’ll take out our sword (as Peter did) and cut off people’s ears (or
their reputations) or whatever.
When we are attacked or falsely accused, God wants us to humble ourselves
under His mighty hand. It’s easy to do that once we see that it is God’s hand
there, and not man’s.
During the past years, I’ve heard "believers" say all sorts of
evil things about me and my teachings. They have also made false accusations
against me and my family members and written articles and books against me. But
the Lord has always told me never to reply to them. So I’ve kept quiet.
As a result the Lord has done a great work of sanctification both in me
and in my family-members! God makes evil to work for our good.
In the Lord’s own time I know He will clear away the clouds and make the sun
to shine. But He is the One Who determines that time, not I (as we read
in Acts 1:7). Until then, my task is to humble myself under His mighty
hand. It is not my task to justify myself before anyone. Once I start
doing that, I won’t have time to do anything else.
As Paul said about Alexander the coppersmith, the Lord Himself will repay
our enemies one day according to their deeds (2 Tim.4:14). So we can
safely leave such matters of vengeance in His hands (Rom.12:19).
It is best to leave all matters with God. He knows what He is doing
and He’s got everything under His control. He’s chiseling away at the rock to
sculpture the likeness of Jesus in us. Some parts of the rock are very hard and
He has to use false accusations and persecution to chisel out those parts. If
we submit to His chiselling, we’ll come forth in the end as Christlike men with
When Judas betrayed Jesus, Jesus could call him, "Friend", because
He saw His Father’s hand clearly. If we see the sovereignty of God in all our
circumstances, it’ll be easy to humble ourselves. And it’ll be easy for God to
exalt us at the proper time. God knows the right time to lift a
pressure from our shoulders and to give us His authority. So let’s wait for
Him. No-one who waits for Him will ever be disappointed or put to shame (Isaiah
To be exalted, as I said earlier, doesn’t mean that God will promote us in
this world. He won’t make us head up big Christian organizations
either. Personally, I’m not interested in being the head of any
organization, leave alone a big one. I just want to be a servant of the Lord
and of people - doing exactly what the Lord tells me to do and taking
responsibility for those whom He commits to me - whether that be ten people or
ten thousand. God decides that number - not I. And I’m certainly not interested
in having a title or a position in Christendom. I’m also not interested in
exercising control over people or money or property. I want to stick to
proclaiming the Word and serving others in this needy world.
Let us follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Let people say whatever evil they want
to, about us. If we honour God, He will one day honour us. If we’re serious
about following the Lord, we will find that God takes us through many painful
experiences. But His purpose in all of them will be to free us from the
opinions of men and from the chains that tie us down to earth - so that we can "mount
up with wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31).
God will order our circumstances to so humble us before men, that we finally
come to the place where we care only for His opinion. Then our spiritual
authority will be really powerful. May it be so for all of us.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF MELCHIZEDEK
A spiritual leader will be a priest according the order of Melchizedek, as
his Master was, before him (Heb.6:20-7:7).
The priesthood of Melchizedek is very different from the priesthood of Levi
(See Hebrews 7). The Levitical priesthood consisted of many rituals and
external matters. The sons of Aaron were even told what type of underclothes to
wear when they ministered before God (Lev.6:10; 16:4)! But the
priesthood of Melchizedek has nothing to do with clothes or rituals!
Melchizedek appears in only three verses in the entire Bible and yet
our Lord is called a High Priest after his name (Genesis 14:18-20)! What
did Melchizedek do that was so wonderful?
Abraham was returning from a battle where he had just defeated 14 kings and
their armies and rescued his nephew Lot and his family, whom those kings had
captured. Abraham was undoubtedly exhausted and certainly proud of his victory
- because he had won the battle with just his 318 servants, none of whom were
soldiers! He had also acquired a large amount of booty, which it was customary
in those days for the victors in battle to share among themselves. No doubt,
his 318 servants were looking forward to becoming rich thereby!
So Abraham stood there that day, physically exhausted and facing the
twin dangers of pride and covetousness. But he didn’t have anyone
to warn him about these dangers. He had only his 318 servants. Abraham was no
doubt a great man of God but he was a lonely man too. He was as lonely as a lot
of Christian leaders are today, who sit on top of organisational pyramids, with
only "Yes-men" under them, and no-one to correct them or
challenge them! Such men are easy targets for Satan, who picks them off one by
But God cared for Abraham and spoke to another servant of His, to help him.
Melchizedek met all three of Abraham’s needs, without knowing anything about
those needs, because He did what God told him to do.
First of all, he took some food for Abraham. Melchizedek was a
sensible man! He wasn’t one of those super-spiritual types who feel that
spiritual people must be ascetics! He didn’t tell Abraham to fast and pray but
gave him a good meal!
Many years later, God did the same thing for Elijah, when he was exhausted
and depressed. God sent an angel to him, not with "an
exhortation", but with some nourishing food (1 Kings 19:5-8)!
That’s a good example for us to follow – to take a meal for some tired,
exhausted brother or sister. When a believer is depressed or discouraged, what
he needs may be just some good food and not an exhortation – for he is
not only spirit and soul, but body too. We mustn’t forget that!
After giving him the food, Melchizedek helped Abraham spiritually too
- not by preaching to him, but by praising God for Abraham’s victory – in two
He said, "Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and
earth. And blessed be God Most High Who has delivered your enemies into your
Melchizedek probably spent two hours feeding Abraham and his servants and
then spent 15 seconds praising God. But in Melchizedek’s brief expression of
praise, Abraham realised two things.
First of all, Abraham realised that he belonged to a God Who owned
the heavens and the earth. That delivered him from coveting the goods of
the king of Sodom that he had just recovered. Even though Sodom’s riches must
have been considerable, since Sodom was a very wealthy place, Abraham now saw
that all that booty was like worthless garbage compared to the heaven and earth
that his God owned. Melchizedek helped Abraham to see clearly Whom he belonged
Notice Melchizedek’s wisdom here. He didn’t preach to Abraham saying,
"The Lord has told me that you’re getting covetous and I’ve come with a
word from Him to warn you"! No. Beware of self-appointed "prophets"
who always claim to have "a word from the Lord" for you! Such
"prophets" are false prophets. Melchizedek just turned
Abraham’s attention away from the booty to God. And "the things of
earth grew strangely dim" in Abraham’s eyes. That is the way to
help people. We can learn a lot from Melchizedek’s gracious, indirect approach
that delivered Abraham from a serious spiritual danger that he was facing.
Secondly, Abraham saw clearly that it was not he and his 318 servants
who had defeated those kings, but God! That was another revelation - and that
saved Abraham from pride. Again Melchizedek succeeded in turning
Abraham’s attention away from his victory to God!
The best preacher is the one who can turn our attention away from ourselves
and our accomplishments to the Lord Himself.
Melchizedek stands in stark contrast to Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar – the
three self-righteous preachers who preached to Job! Those three were the "ancestors"
of the Pharisees! Today, we have many "descendants" of the
Pharisees in Christendom. What we need however are more Melchizedeks.
And now we come to the best part of this story. Melchizedek disappeared after
blessing Abraham. We never read of him again in the Bible. His name appears
only as a type of Christ.
Melchizedek must have been praying in his tent that morning, when God spoke
to him and told him what to do. He didn’t know Abraham, but he knew God. And
that was enough. God told him what to do and made him a blessing to many.
What a ministry we priests of Melchizedek’s order are called to! We are to
bless people, physically and spiritually - and then disappear before we are
Do you want people to think you are a great man of God or do
you want them to know that you have a great God. Therein lies the
difference between a religious ministry and a spiritual one.
Therein lies the difference between the priesthood of Aaron and the priesthood
of Melchizedek. Aaron constantly appeared before people and got honour from
them. Melchizedek served people and disappeared!
This is how Jesus Himself ministered during His earthly days. He went around
meeting the spiritual and physical needs of people who were beaten in life’s
battles. And He never wanted anyone to advertise His healings. He never wanted
to be known as a Healer. He never wanted to be a king. He came to serve others
and to lay down His life for them. He didn’t want to be famous. He didn’t even
want to prove to Herod, or Pilate, or Annas, or Caiaphas, that He was the Son
of God, by appearing to any of them after His resurrection. He never
appeared to a single one of the Pharisees or Sadducees after His resurrection,
because He didn’t want to justify Himself before men. He knew that the opinions
of men were fit only for the garbage bin!
Alas, where shall we find such preachers and leaders in Christendom today?
Just think what would happen if we began to live like Melchizedek, listening
to God and seeking to know from Him what we should do, each day. It would be
the most useful way any of us could live on this earth.
The psalmist says, "Goodness and mercy will follow me all the days
of my life" (Psa.23:6).That is the way to live. Wherever we go, we
must leave behind us some act or word of forgiveness and goodness.
When Peter described the life and ministry of Jesus to Cornelius, he summed
it up in one sentence in Acts 10:38 : "Jesus was anointed with
the Holy Spirit and He went about doing good and delivering those who were
oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him". This is the result of
being genuinely anointed with the Holy Spirit : God will be with us and we
will go around blessing people and setting them free.
You couldn’t come in contact with Jesus in His earthly days, without some
good emanating from Him to you that would bless you – both spiritually and
physically. The woman who had a haemorrhage for 12 years discovered that, when
she touched the hem of His garment.
Aren’t we too called to live such a life where those who come in touch with
us are blessed - physically and spiritually?
We are all called to be priests according to the order of Melchizedek.
A spiritual leader will be such an example to others, that he will be able
to say to them, "Follow me as I follow Christ". He will seek
to lead others to be connected to Christ alone as their Head.
Many Christian leaders, however, seek to attach believers to themselves. And
they’re happy when those believers are more attached to them than to other
leaders. Such leaders then become like little "gods" to their
flock. They misuse the Scriptural teaching on submission to elders for their
The Bible says that the Antichrist will one day sit in the temple of God and
present himself to people as God (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The church is
the temple of God and the apostle John said that there were people with the
spirit of the antichrist in the churches, even in his days (1 John 2:18,19)!
There are many more like that today.
Sin came into this universe when a created being wanted to go up and become
bigger and more visible in the eyes of others and become like God.
That’s how Lucifer became Satan. We should never forget that. If ever we see
that spirit within ourselves, we should recognise it for what it is – the
spirit of Satan.
Salvation, on the other hand, came when the Son of God humbled Himself and
became as invisible as possible. We shouldn’t forget that either.
Sin came through the pride of Lucifer and salvation came through the
humility of Jesus.
When people see the way today’s Christian leaders advertise themselves on
public platforms and in their magazines, do you think they get a true picture
of the self-effacing, humble Jesus? Not at all.
The examples that today’s younger believers need to see are humble,
self-effacing men who seek to hide themselves and to be unknown, who don’t want
to be highly spoken of, and who do their work quietly and disappear. This is
the ministry we should all covet.
Supposing you did a piece of work for the Lord and no-one knew that you had
done it. That should excite you! On top of that, if someone else got the
credit for what you did, that should excite you even more! If you’re
like that, you’re truly a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
I remember as a young Christian, looking around at the Christian leaders and
elders in the churches that I moved about in, in those days. I’m sorry to say
that I didn’t see this spirit of Jesus in any of them. I’m not judging them,
because I’m not their judge. I’m only saying that I couldn’t respect them as
godly examples for me to follow.
We don’t have to judge anyone. But we must be able to discern people.
Immediately after Jesus spoke about not judging others, He told His disciples
to be careful to discern the pigs, the dogs and the false prophets from others
(Compare Matt.7:1 with verses 6 and 15). If we don’t have
discernment, we’ll certainly be led astray by the dogs and the false prophets (See
So I didn’t judge my elders, but I didn’t see them as worthy examples to
follow, because they didn’t have the spirit of a servant, like Jesus had. They
were not people who wanted to wash the feet of the saints. It was then
that I decided that I would look at Jesus alone, until I saw a Christian leader
whose example also I could follow.
We have a very great responsibility to demonstrate to the next generation
what Christlikeness really means. People who look at us – the way we live,
preach and serve - should be able to see in us what it means to be a true
servant of the Lord, in the style of the apostles and prophets of old, and
not in the style of 20th-century film-star-like evangelists.
Whether we realise it or not, we’re leaving behind us an image, wherever we
go – an image that’s going to remain in people’s minds long after we’ve gone
away and long after they have forgotten the messages that we preached to them.
When Paul called the elders of the church in Ephesus to bid farewell to
them, notice what he told them in Acts 20:17-35. He reminded them
that he had been with them for three years (verse 31) and that he had
preached to them night and day. Three years is more than 1000 days. And so if
Paul actually preached twice every day, as it seems to imply here, he must have
preached over 2000 sermons there.
Ephesus was the place where they had once had a great revival and where
Christians had burnt their old books of magic and witchcraft costing nearly
half a million rupees. It was also the place where handkerchiefs that had
touched Paul’s body were used to heal the sick and deliver the demon-possessed.
God did some amazing miracles through Paul in Ephesus on a scale that hadn’t
been seen anywhere else (See Acts 19:11,12,19).
At the end of all this, what does Paul remind the elders of? Does he remind
them of his sermons or the miracles? No. He tells them to remember the
humble way he had lived among them, from the first day they had seen him (v.19).
Even if they forgot his sermons, they could never forget how he lived among
them. His life had made a permanent impact on them. They could never forget his
compassion and his simplicity. They’d remember that he had worked hard with his
own hands as a tentmaker to support himself and his coworkers – so that he
would not be a burden to them and also to be an example to other Christian
workers (v.34,35). They would never forget that during all those three
years, Paul never desired money, or gifts, or even a new set of clothes, from
any of them (verse 33)!
Paul also reminded them how he had proclaimed the WHOLE counsel of
God to them uncompromisingly (Acts 20:27). He hadn’t been a man-pleaser,
seeking popularity for himself. He had preached repentance and every other unpopular
subject, if it was profitable for his hearers, even if some got
offended thereby (Acts 20:20, 21).
These are the things Paul pointed out to them
If you pastor a church for three years like Paul did at Ephesus, and then
leave, what will your flock remember you for? Will they remember you as an
impressive preacher or as a humble man of God who showed them by your
life, what Jesus was like. Will they think of you as one who drew them closer
to God and challenged them to be more Christlike or as one who taught them how
to distribute tracts?
Whatever our gift or calling may be, it must flow from the inner spring of a
One who has the gift of healing must exercise it the way Jesus
exercised it. Jesus was a humble Man Who lived simply, mingled freely with
all people, had great compassion for the sick, and didn’t take any money from
anyone, either before or after healing them. He healed people freely.
But I have never met even one "healer" like that in my
entire life. If you come across someone like that, please let me know,
because I’d love to meet him. But I haven’t met such a man yet.
Instead, I’ve met a lot of money-loving preachers who pretend to have the
gift of healing and who deceive people with psychological tricks!
The sad thing in all this is that undiscerning, young men follow these
deceivers and begin to seek for such a ministry themselves! And thus the next
generation is led astray too. This is what saddens me.
If we’re called to an apostolic ministry, or a prophetic ministry,
or an evangelistic ministry, or a shepherding ministry, or a teaching
ministry, whatever ministry it be, we must exercise it in a Christ-like
way. The Spirit of Christ must motivate us in every calling.
If you feel you’re called of God to pastor a church, then do it the way
Jesus would do it. And may the lasting impression you form on your flock be of
a man who was radiant with the glory of Jesus.
Let me finally share a word about our past failures.
We cannot change our past. That part of our lives is over. We have all
failed and we can only repent of our failures, confess them and
ask the Lord to cleanse away our sins in His precious blood.
I have made many mistakes in my life. But I’ve also learnt many lessons from
my mistakes. So all those failures of mine were not useless to me. I’ve also
learnt many valuable lessons by studying the mistakes of others. Thus I can
avoid committing those mistakes myself.
We may be ashamed of many things that we did in the past. But once we have
repented and made restitution (where necessary), we can learn lessons from our
past failures and put our past behind us forever.
We must never allow Satan to take us on a "guilt trip" or a
"condemnation trip" because of our past failures. There is no
condemnation for anyone who is in Christ.
When God justifies us through Christ’s blood (Rom.5:9), He
looks at us thereafter, as if we had never sinned in our entire lives! We
too must then see ourselves, as God sees us.
So don’t let Satan or anyone else tell you that you’re useless just because
you failed in the past. You are a valuable vessel in God’s hand, because
you have repented. You can live the rest of your life for the glory of God.
It is a tremendous privilege that we elders have to disciple young people,
because they have their whole lives ahead of them. Think of the tremendous
potential there is in each of the young people in our churches. Remember that
Satan is out to get them. Before he gets them, we must get them for God and His
In the hearts of those young people, a struggle is going on. If the devil
can’t prevent them from being saved, he will want them at least to compromise.
But God has placed you over them as a shepherd, to ensure that they become
radical disciples of the Lord and not compromisers. So let me urge you to take
your calling seriously.
May the Lord help us all to fall on our faces in repentance and ask for His
forgiveness for the dishonour we have brought on His Name in the past, by being
such poor examples to the next generation of believers.
May He help us to become humble, godly leaders of His people in the days to
He who has ears to hear, let him hear.