Zac Poonen: Knowing God's Ways
Copyright - Zac Poonen (1996)
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1. Knowing God's Ways
2. Some Important Truths That I Have Learnt
3. Principles Of Serving God
4. How A Spiritual Movement Declines
5. Three Marks Of A Spiritual Man
6. Five Sins That Jesus Hated The Most
7. Every Church Must Have A Doorkeeper
8. An Axe To The Root
9. New-Covenant Servants And New-Covenant Churches
10. Lessons From Cain and Abel
11. Owe No Man Anything
12. Do You Accuse Or Do You Intercede?
13. A Consuming Fire In The Midst of The Church
14. Valuing The Church
15. Seeing The Glory Of Christ And Partaking Of It
16. A Clean Heart And A Pure Life
17. The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
18. The True Grace Of God
19. The Truth About Speaking In Tongues
20. Shibboleths Among Believers
21. Understanding The Truth Accurately
KNOWING GOD'S WAYS
"God made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the sons of Israel"
"This is eternal life that they may know Thee the only true God and Jesus
Christ Whom Thou hast sent" (Jn.17:3).
There is a lot of difference between observing God's actions (even His
miracles) and understanding His ways.
Most Christians observe only God's actions. They are impressed by external
miracles. They eagerly seek for healing and for material blessings. Most
of their prayers too are related to such earthly matters, in which they
want to see God act on their behalf and bless them in the physical realm.
This is because they are in a state of spiritual babyhood.
The Bible says that eternal life is "to know God and Jesus Christ"
Eternal life does not refer to eternal existence. Eternal life is but
another phrase for God's life and nature.
Eternal existence will be experienced by all human beings - even by those
who go to hell. But very few enjoy eternal life. The more we know God and
the Lord Jesus the more we will have of eternal life.
In the days of Moses, only Moses could understand God's ways. Today, under
the new covenant, that privilege is offered to all of us.
Yet very, very few know God and His ways, because most believers are taken
up only with God's external actions. And when they experience an external
miracle like getting a job, or earning more money, or getting a new house,
or finding a wife or a husband, or experiencing healing, they are excited
and are quick to testify about these matters, because these are the
greatest things in life for them.
If these are the things that still excite us, then we have not seen the
glory of the new covenant.
One mark of those who are mature is that they are NOT taken up with God's
external acts as much as with knowing God and understanding His ways.
It is only when we understand God and His ways that we will be able, for
example, to understand what "worldliness" really is.
Many believers think of worldliness as something external, such as wearing
lipstick and ornaments and fancy clothes or having expensive electronic
gadgets in the home etc.,
But Romans 12:2 makes it clear that conformity to the world is found in a
person's mind. It is in a person's mind that he has to resist conformity
to the world and to be renewed so as to understand the perfect will of God.
A person may get rid of all the external marks of worldliness and have a
good testimony before men, and yet be thoroughly worldly in his way of
Most believers' definition of "worldliness" depends on their own standard
of living!! They feel that whatever they themselves possess of this
world's goods does not make them worldly. But if anyone possesses more
than them then such a person IS worldly! And when their own standard of
living goes up, their gauge of what is worldly is adjusted upwards
But no believer is the perfect standard. Jesus alone is our Standard. To
recognise worldliness, we must know Jesus Christ. Only in the light of His
life can we see what is worldly and what is not.
The Pharisees became self-righteous in their pursuit of righteousness
because they did not know God. They pursued righteousness without
hungering and thirsting after God Himself.
We cannot get rid of Phariseeism merely by avoiding the acts of the
Pharisees. We can, for example, hear of some of the marks of a Pharisee
and perhaps get rid of those marks from our lives. But that would be only
snipping off the fruit from a bad tree. The bad fruit will again appear on
A believer can spend his entire life merely snipping off various fruits of
Phariseeism from his life and end up as a greater Pharisee at the end than
he was at the beginning of his Christian life!
When we know God however, we will realise that the only way to be saved
from self-righteousness is by chopping the tree down from the roots itself.
Consider the matter of the "healing crusades" that are conducted
everywhere these days. Millions of rupees are collected for such crusades
from gullible believers. It is rare to find a believer who can discern
that there is nothing of the spirit of Christ in such commercialised
"Christianity". When you know Jesus Christ however, you will compare
everyone who claims to be a servant of God with Jesus Himself.
In the light of Jesus' life it will become evident that there is no
similarity at all between the Lord Jesus and these so-called "healers".
But if you don't know Jesus Christ, many things that are done in such
crusades can look very impressive to you, and you can be deceived.
The Holy Spirit has emphatically stated that in the last days there will
be a flood of deceitful spirits invading the world, who will lead many
astray (1 Tim.4:1). Jesus often warned His disciples to be careful that
they were not deceived. He mentioned deception as the first sign of the
end of the age (Matt.24:3,4). The only way to escape such deception is by
knowing the Lord. Then we will be able to discern between what glorifies
God and what does not.
Christian parents are often confused these days concerning what they
should permit their children to do and what they shouldn't, what school
programs are proper for their children to participate in and what are not,
what type of clothes they should permit their daughters to wear, etc., etc.
Are we to just imitate the standards adopted by other godly brothers? The
Bible seems to imply that imitating the actions of others can lead to our
being drowned (See Heb.11:29). We are to imitate the faith of others not
their actions (See Heb.13:7). We are to understand the principles by which
a brother arrived at a decision, and not just imitate his actions.
Let me illustrate this with an example. I was told of a brother who,
knowing that frugality was an essential part of godliness, used to put
tooth-paste across only half of his tooth-brush, so that his tooth-paste
tube would last twice as long. But you can imitate that practice every day
and yet never become godly!! It is the principle of frugality that that
brother lived by that we can imitate and not the measure of tooth-paste he
used on his tooth-brush!! If your teeth are bad, you may need to use a
full length of tooth-paste on your brush, even if you are a godly man!!
Our passion should be to know God better and better, because this is
eternal life. We are going to spend all eternity getting to know God more
and more. This is why eternity will not be boring for anyone whose passion
is to know God. Our earthly life too will then not be boring any more.
Let us learn something of God's life and of His ways from Genesis 2, in
the way He dealt with Adam. There we see that it was God Who saw Adam's
need for a wife and Who met that need and made a wife for him. There we
see what God's nature is like. God is always alert to the needs of people
and does all that He can to meet those needs.
When we partake of this Divine nature, we too will become like that -
always alert to the needs and problems of those around us and doing
everything we can in order to meet those needs!
This will involve a great deal of sacrifice on our part often. We need
therefore to ask ourselves whether we are willing to pay this price for
partaking of the Divine nature.
Our Adamic nature is the exact opposite of this Divine nature. The life of
Adam is thoroughly selfish and makes us alert only to our own needs and to
the needs of our own family members. In fact it is so full of selfishness
and jealousy that it does not want the needs of others to be met even by
another. On the contrary. it enjoys seeing people suffer.
When man sinned, God placed cherubs in front of the tree of life with a
sword that turned in every direction to guard the way to that tree. The
tree of life symbolises eternal life - knowing God.
Through this sword placed in front of the tree of life, God was
symbolically showing Adam that if anyone now wanted to partake of the tree
of life, he had to first experience the sword falling on his own selfish
We read in Genesis 3:21 that as soon as Adam and Eve sinned, God killed an
animal in Eden and clothed them with coats of the skin of that animal.
There too God was teaching them the same lesson - that the only way for
them to be clothed now was through the way of sacrifice and death. Adam
and Eve had tried to clothe themselves at first without any "death" - with
just fig leaves. But God threw those leaves away and showed them the right
way to be clothed.
So we see right from the beginning God emphasising sacrifice as the way
for man to fellowship with Him and to be clothed with His nature.
God told Cain that his fundamental problem was that he "did not intend
well" towards his brother Abel (Gen.4:7 margin).
Jude speaks of those who walk in "the way of Cain" (Jude 11). Who are
they? They are those who do not intend well towards their brothers.
It is good for all of us to have a spiritual check-up in this matter.
Can you honestly say that you desire the very best for all the brothers
and sisters in your local church and for their families? Can you also say
that you desire the very best for other believers whom you know in other
denominations? Then widen the circle still further and ask yourself if you
desire the very best for all the people whom you know, including your
relatives, your enemies and those who have harmed you in any way.
If you find a disturbance in your heart (instead of a rejoicing) when
something good happens to another person or to his children, or if you
sense a rejoicing in your heart (instead of a grief) when something evil
happens to him or his family, what do such attitudes indicate? Just this
that the life of Adam is alive and active in you.
If you are honest with yourself, you will soon discover whether you are
walking the way of Cain or not. You must be quick when you see that evil
Adamic life within you to put it to death, if you want the fire and the
anointing of God to rest upon you constantly.
It is when the grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies TOTALLY, that
there will be much fruit. One who dies totally to himself will never get
offended, no matter what others do or don't do. He will always intend well
towards all. He will never get angry in any matter that concerns himself
and he will never quarrel with anyone. He will never shed a single tear
for himself in self-pity - for, surely, dead people don't weep in their
Cain's face was sullen and dark when he did not intend well towards his
brother (Gen.4:6). We may not realise it, but the attitude we have in our
hearts is often reflected on our faces. If you intend well towards all,
your face will always beam with the joy of the Lord.
Many believers are walking in the way of Cain. Beneath their weak smiles
and the "Praise the Lord"s that come from their lips, are found wrong
attitudes towards their fellow-believers.
When people turn against you and do evil to you, God uses them to give you
a scan of your real heart condition. If you cannot love them, your heart-
scan will show that you have NOT partaken of God's nature, for God's
nature is one that loves even His enemies. Jesus intended well even
towards Judas Iscariot.
God desires the very best for all people. The gospel message is that we
too can partake of this nature. Those who haven't understood the gospel
thus haven't understood the gospel at all.
When Adam and Eve sinned, God did not curse them. He cursed the serpent.
But to Adam and Eve, He gave that wonderful promise of the coming of
Christ as "the seed of the woman" (Gen.3:15) to crush the serpent's head.
In the process, Christ's heel itself would be bruised. That would be the
price He paid in order to save Adam's race from their sins.
This is Divine love - a love that is willing to lay down its life in order
to save the one it loves.
When we see the depth of the love of God, we see how far short of it we
come ourselves. We can never produce this life of God ourselves, even if
we strive after it for a million years. It has to be given to us by God.
The Holy Spirit has come down to flood our hearts with this love (Rom.5:5).
Only one who is willing to live by this principle of sacrificial love can
be used by God to build His church on earth.
In 2 Chronicles 3:1, we read that "Solomon began to build the house of the
Lord on Mount Moriah". Mount Moriah was the place where Abraham had
offered his son Isaac to God (Gen22). There on that mountain Abraham
understood God's way as the way of sacrifice and submitted to it. God
sanctified that spot and determined that His house would be built on that
very spot 1000 years later. And this is where God builds His house (the
church) even today - wherever he finds those who have the spirit and the
faith of Abraham.
On Mount Moriah, Abraham was symbolically saying exactly the opposite of
what Adam and Eve had told God in Eden.
In Eden, Adam and Eve as it were, told God by their action of eating the
forbidden fruit that created things that brought them pleasure were more
precious to them than the Creator Himself. And that is exactly what
billions of human beings are saying to God even today. "They worship and
serve created things more than the Creator" (Rom.1:25).
But on Mount Moriah, Abraham said the opposite: that his God and his
Creator was more precious to him than his dearest possession on earth
(Isaac). And he was willing to sacrifice Isaac in order to prove it. God
will honour all who live by this principle of sacrifice. It is by those
who have been gripped by this way that the true house of God is going to
be built even today.
On Calvary's hill, it was not only true that Jesus died for the sins of
the world. There, Jesus demonstrated the principle of sacrifice by which
God does all His work. No-one can serve the Lord in any other way.
Those who seek for a comfortable life in this world and at the same time
want to build the church also, will only deceive themselves. Those who
seek the best of both worlds have been deceived by Satan thoroughly. Many
have attempted to serve God without sacrifice. Their labours however have
been crowned with failure after failure!!
"Christ loved the church and gave HIMSELF for her" (Eph.5:25).
To build the church, we have to love the church in the same way. It is not
enough to give our money or our time. We have to give OURSELVES - our Self-
When God wanted to describe His love to man, He could compare His love
with only one earthly example - the love of a mother for her newly-born
child (See Isaiah 49:15).
If you observe a mother, you will see that her love for her baby is full
of the spirit of sacrifice. From early morning to late at night and right
through the night, a mother sacrifices and sacrifices and sacrifices for
her baby. And she gets nothing in return. She endures pain and
inconvenience, year after year for her child, joyfully, expecting nothing
in return. That is how God loves us too. And that is the nature He wants
to impart to us.
But it is impossible to find a fellowship anywhere in the world about
which it can be honestly said that they all love one another like that.
Most believers know only how to love those who agree with them and who
join their group. Their love is human and is far removed from the
sacrificial love of mothers!!
Yet Divine love is the goal towards which we should be striving. So each
time we sing the above lines, we should not only honestly admit that our
love is not yet like that, but also confess our hope and longing that our
love will become like that one day.
A mother does not care whether others around her are sacrificing anything
for her child or not. She joyfully sacrifices everything herself. In the
same way, one who has seen the church as his own baby will not be bothered
whether others around him are sacrificing anything for the church or not.
He will sacrifice himself joyfully, and he will have NO complaint or
demand against anyone else.
Those who complain that others are not sacrificing for the sake of the
church are not mothers but hired nurses. Such nurses have fixed working
hours and will complain when the nurse for the next 8-hour shift does not
come on time.
But a mother does not work 8-hour shifts each day. She works a 24-hour
shift daily - year after year - and she does not even get paid for it.
Even when her child is 20 years old, the mother's work is not over!!
Only mothers can have milk for their babies every day. Nurses cannot
produce milk for the babies they care for. In the same way, those who are
like mothers in the church will always have a word for their spiritual
children - in every meeting. Many elders have no word for the church
because they are nurses, not mothers.
A mother does not expect any payment from her children. No child ever pays
its mother for her service. In fact, if you were to calculate the wages a
mother should be paid, at the rate of Rs.20 per hour (as paid to nurses),
you will find that every child owes its mother more than 3 million rupees,
by the time it is 20 years old!! Which child can ever repay such an amount
to its mother?
Now the question that comes to us is: Who is willing to work like that for
the Lord and for His church - without receiving any payment, but giving
oneself, day after day, year after year, until Jesus comes?
If God can find just one person with that spirit anywhere, He will use him
to build the church, much more than He can use 10,000 half-hearted
believers who try to serve Him without the spirit of sacrifice.
When Jesus returns to earth and you stand before Him, will you have any
regrets over the way you lived, or will you will be able to look back over
a life spent usefully for the kingdom of God?
Many are drifting along and wasting their lives on earth.
Wake up before it is too late, and ask God to show you that His way is the
way of sacrifice.
He who has ears to hear let him hear.
SOME IMPORTANT TRUTHS THAT I HAVE LEARNT
During the 40 years that I have been a born-again Christian, I
have learnt some important truths that have encouraged me and
given direction and purpose to my life. I share them here with
you with the hope that they will be an encouragement to you as
1. God loves us as He loved Jesus
"Thou didst love them, even as Thou didst love Me" (John 17:23).
This is the greatest truth that I have discovered in the Bible.
It changed me from an insecure, depressed believer to one who has
become totally secure in God and full of the joy of the Lord -
There are many verses in the Bible that tell us that God loves
us, but only this one that tells us the extent of that love - AS
MUCH AS HE LOVED JESUS.
Since there is no partiality with our heavenly Father in the way
He loves any of His sons, He will certainly be willing to do
everything for us, His sons, that He did for His firstborn Son,
Jesus. He will help us as He helped Jesus. He will care for us as
much as He cared for Jesus. He will be as interested in planning
the details of our daily life as He was in planning Jesus' life.
Nothing can ever happen to us that will take God by surprise. He
has already planned for every eventuality. So we need no longer
be insecure. We have been sent to earth with as definite a
purpose as Jesus was.
All this is true for you too - but only if you believe it.
Nothing works for the one who does not believe in the Word of
2. God delights in honest people
"If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another" (1 Jn.1:9).
To walk in the light means first of all that we hide nothing from
God. We tell Him everything, exactly as it is. I am convinced
that the first step towards God is honesty. God detests those who
are insincere. Jesus spoke against hypocrites more than He spoke
against anyone else.
God does not ask us to be holy or perfect first of all but to be
honest. This is the starting point of true holiness. And from
this spring flows everything else. And if there is one thing that
is really easy for anyone of us to do, it is to be honest. So,
confess sin immediately to God. Don't call sinful thoughts by
"decent" names. Don't say "I was only admiring the beauty of
God's creation" when actually you lusted adulterously with your
eyes. Don't call "anger" as "righteous indignation". You will
never get victory over sin if you are dishonest.
And don't ever call "sin", "a mistake", because Jesus' blood can
cleanse you from all your sins, but not from your mistakes!! He
does not cleanse dishonest people.
There is hope only for honest people. "He who covers his sin will
never prosper" (Prov.28:13).
Why did Jesus say that there was more hope for prostitutes and
for thieves to enter God's kingdom than for religious leaders
(Matt.21:31). Because prostitutes and thieves make no pretence of
Many young people are turned away from churches because
church-members give them the impression that they themselves have
no struggles. And so those young people think, "That holy bunch
of people will never understand our problems!!" If this true of
us, then we are unlike Christ Who drew sinners to Himself.
3. God delights in a cheerful giver
"God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Cor.9:7).
This is why God gives man total freedom - both before and after
conversion, and after being filled with the Spirit.
If we are like God, we also will not seek to control others or
pressurise them. We will give them freedom to be different from
us, to have different views from ours and to grow spiritually at
their own pace.
All compulsion of any sort is from the devil.
The Holy Spirit fills people, whereas demons possess people. The
difference is this: When the Holy Spirit fills anyone, He still
gives that person freedom to do whatever he wants. But when
demons possess people they rob them of their freedom and control
them. The fruit of being filled with the Spirit is self-control
(Gal.5:22,23). Demon-possession however, results in the loss of
We must remember that any work that we do for God that is NOT
done cheerfully, joyfully, freely and voluntarily is a dead work.
Any work done for God for a reward or for a salary is also a dead
work. Any money given to God under pressure from others has no
value at all, as far as God is concerned!!
God values a little done cheerfully for Him far more than a great
deal done under compulsion, or done merely to ease one's
4. Holiness comes by looking unto Jesus
"Let us run the race....looking unto Jesus" (Heb.12:1,2).
The secret of godliness is found in the Person of Christ Who came
in our flesh (as 1 Tim.3:16 makes very clear) - and not in the
doctrine that Christ came in our flesh. It is through His Person
and not through a doctrinal analysis of His flesh, that we become
Any amount of self-effort will never make a sinful heart holy.
God has to do a work within us, for that to happen.
Holiness (eternal life) is God's gift - and it can never be
attained by works (Rom.6:23). The Bible states that God alone can
sanctify us (make us holy) entirely (1 Thess.5:23 says that so
plainly that no-one can mistake it). Yet multitudes of believers
are struggling to deny themselves in order to be holy. They
become Pharisees instead.
"The holiness which is no illusion" (Eph.4:24-Philips) is
attained by faith in Jesus - in other words by "looking unto
If we keep looking only at a doctrine we will become Pharisees.
The purer our doctrine, the greater the Pharisees we will become.
The greatest Pharisees I have met on earth were among those who
preached the highest standards of holiness through self-effort!!
We have to be careful that we don't end up as one of them!
What it means to look unto Jesus is very clearly explained in
Hebrews 12:2. First of all we are to look at Him as One Who lived
on earth "enduring His cross" daily - "tempted in all points as
we are and yet without sin" (Heb.4:15). He is our Forerunner
(Heb.6:20), in Whose footsteps we are to run. Secondly, we are to
see Him as the One Who is now "at the right hand of the Father",
interceding for us and ready to help us in every trial and
5. We must be continually filled with the Holy Spirit
"Be (being) filled with the Spirit" (Eph.5:18 - Literal).
It is impossible to live the Christian life, as God wants us to,
if we are not continually filled with the Holy Spirit. It is
impossible to serve God as we should without being anointed with
the Spirit and receiving His supernatural gifts. Jesus Himself
needed to be anointed.
The Holy Spirit has come to make us like Jesus in our personal
lives as well as in our ministry (See 2 Cor.3:18). God fills us
with the Spirit in order to conform us to the likeness of Christ
in our character, and to equip us to serve as Jesus served. We do
not have the same ministry that Jesus had, and so we won't be
able to do what Jesus did in His ministry. But we can be as fully
equipped to serve God as Jesus Himself was - to fulfil OUR OWN
All that is required is an adequate thirst and faith, on our
part, for rivers of living water to flow out through us
We must earnestly long for the gifts of the Spirit if we are to
have them(1 Cor.14:1). Otherwise we will never have them.
A church without the gifts of the Holy Spirit is like a man who
may be living but who is deaf, blind, mute and lame - and
6. The way of the cross is the way of life
"If we died with Him, we shall also live with Him" (2 Tim.2:11)
There is no way for us to have the life of Jesus manifested in
our body other than by accepting death to our Self-life in all
the situations that God plans and arranges for us (2
We must "consider ourselves dead to sin" (Rom.6:11) in all
situations, if we are to overcome sin. We must "mortify the deeds
of the body through the Spirit" if we are to live (Rom.8:13). The
Holy Spirit will always lead us to the cross in our daily life.
We are sent by God into situations where we are "slaughtered the
whole day long" (Rom.8:36) and "delivered to death for Jesus
sake" (2 Cor.4:11). In such situations, we must accept "the dying
of Jesus" (2 Cor.4:10), so that the life of Jesus may be manifest
7. Man's opinions are fit only for the garbage bin
"Stop regarding man, whose breath is in his nostrils; for why
should he be esteemed? (Isa.2:22)
When a man's breath leaves his nostrils, he is no better than the
dust that we walk on. So why should we value man's opinion.
If we are not rooted and grounded in the fact that the opinions
of ALL human beings put together are only fit for the
garbage-bin, we will never be able to serve the Lord effectively.
If we seek to please even one man, we cannot be servants of
Every man's opinion is worthless compared to God's opinion. One
who is convinced of this will thereafter seek only God's approval
over His life and ministry. He will never seek to impress people
or to justify himself before them.
8. God detests all that this world considers great
"That which men esteem highly is detestable in God's sight" (Luke
The things that are considered great in the world, not only have
no value in God's eyes, but are actually an abomination to Him.
Since all worldly honour is an abomination to God, it must be an
abomination to us too.
Money is something that everyone on earth considers valuable. But
God says that those who love money and long to get rich will
suffer the following eight consequences sooner or later (1 Tim.
(a) they will fall into temptation,
(b) they will fall into a trap,
(c) they will fall into foolish desires,
(d) they will fall into harmful desires,
(e) they will plunge into ruin,
(f) they will plunge into destruction,
(g) they will wander away from the faith and
(h) they will pierce themselves with many a pang.
I have seen this happen again and again to believers everywhere.
One of the main reasons why a prophetic word from the Lord is
hardly ever heard these days in our land, is because most
preachers are lovers of money. Jesus said that the true riches
(the prophetic word being one of them) would not be given by God
to those who were unfaithful with money (Lk.16:11). This is why
we hear so many boring sermons and so many boring testimonies in
church-meetings and conferences.
9. Nobody can harm us except we ourselves
"Who can harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?"(1
God is so powerful that He makes ALL THINGS work together for the
good of those who love Him and who are called according to His
purpose - that is, for those who have no ambition on earth
outside of His will for their lives (Romans 8:28). One who has
selfish ambitions cannot claim this promise. But if we accept the
will of God totally, we can claim this promise every minute of
our life on earth. Nothing can harm us.
Everything that others do to us - good or evil, accidental or
deliberate - will go through the filter of Romans 8:28 and will
come through working for our very best - conforming us each time
a little more to the likeness of Christ (Rom.8:29) - which is the
good that God has planned for us. This filter works perfectly
every single time for those who fulfil the conditions listed in
Further, 1 Peter 3:13 tells us that no-one can harm us if we are
"zealous for what is good". Unfortunately this is not as well
known a verse as Romans 8:28 is. But we must popularise it now.
However, this promise too is applicable only to those who are
zealous to keep their hearts good towards all people. It will be
impossible for any demon or human being to harm such a believer.
So whenever any Christian complains that others have harmed him,
he is indirectly admitting that he does not love God, is not
called according to God's purpose and has not been zealous for
what is good. Otherwise, whatever those others did to him would
have only worked for his good, and then he would not have had any
complaints at all.
Actually, the only one who can harm you is you yourself - by your
unfaithfulness and your wrong attitudes to others.
I am nearly 60 years old now and I can honestly say that no-one
has ever succeeded in harming me in my entire life. Many have
tried to do so, but EVERYTHING they did only worked for my very
best and for the good of my ministry. So I can praise God for
those people too. Those who have opposed me have been mostly
so-called "believers" who have not understood God's ways. I am
giving you my testimony only to encourage you to believe that
this can be your testimony too - always.
10. God has a perfect plan for each of our lives
"We are created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God
prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Eph.2:10).
Long ago, when God chose us in Christ, He also planned what we
should do with our earthly lives. Our duty now is to find out
that plan - day by day - and to follow it. We can never make a
better plan than God's.
We must not imitate what others do, for God's plan for each of
His children is different. God's plan for Joseph, for example,
was for him to stay in the palace in Egypt and to live in great
comfort for the last 80 years of his life. On the other hand,
God's plan for Moses was for him to leave the palace in Egypt and
to live in great discomfort for the last 80 years of his life -
in the wilderness. If Moses had followed Joseph's example,
through the love of comfort and ease, he would have missed God's
will for his own life.
In exactly the same way today, God may want one brother to live
all his life in comfort in the U.S.A., and another brother to
toil all his life in the heat and dust of North India. Each must
be convinced about God's plan for his own life instead of
comparing his lot with that of the other brother and being
jealous of him and criticising him.
I know that God called me to serve Him in India. But I have never
demanded that anyone else should have my calling.
We will, however, never be able to find God's will, if we are
seeking our own honour or if we love money or comfort or the
approval of men.
11. Knowing God intimately is the secret of being strong
"The people who know their God will be strong" (Dan.11:32)
Today, God does not want us to know Him second-hand through
others. He invites even the youngest believer to know Him
personally (Heb.8:11). Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God
and Jesus Christ personally (John 17:3). This was the greatest
passion of Paul's life and must be our greatest passion too
One who desires to know God intimately, will have to listen to
Him always. Jesus said that the only way man could keep himself
spiritually alive was by listening to EVERY word that proceeded
from God's mouth (Matt.4:4 ). He also said that to sit at His
feet and listen to Him was the most important thing in the
Christian life (Lk.10:42).
We must develop the habit that Jesus had of listening to the
Father from early morning every day (Isa.50:4), right through the
day; and then to be in a listening attitude in the hours of night
when we are asleep too - so that if we ever wake up from our
sleep at night, we can say, "Speak, Lord, Your servant is
listening" (1 Sam.3:10).
Knowing God will make us overcomers in all situations - because
God has a solution for every problem that we face - and if we
listen to Him, He will tell us what that solution is.
12.The new covenant is far superior to the old covenant
"Jesus is the Mediator of a better covenant" (Heb.8:6).
Many Christians do not know that there is a fundamental
difference between the old and the new covenants(Heb.8:8-12). The
new covenant is as much superior to the old, as Jesus is to
Moses. (2 Cor.3 and Heb.3).
Whereas the old covenant could purify only a person's external
life through the fear of judgment and the promise of reward, the
new covenant changes us from within, not through threats and
promises, but through the Holy Spirit giving us the nature of
Christ - a nature that is totally pure and loving.
There is a vast difference between a pig being kept clean through
being restrained by chains (fear of punishment under the Law),
and a cat that keeps itself clean because that is its inner
nature. That example illustrates the difference between the two
13. We are called to be rejected and persecuted by men
"All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be
persecuted." (2 Tim.3:12)
Jesus told His disciples that in the world they would face
tribulation, (Jn.16:33); and He prayed to the Father NOT to take
His disciples out of the world (Jn.17:15). The apostles taught
believers that only through much tribulation they could enter the
kingdom of God (Acts 14:23).
Jesus said that if people had called the Head of the house
Beelzebul, the members of His household would be called by worse
names (Matt.10:25). It is thus that we know we are faithful
members of His household. Some of the names that I have been
called, by other "believers", have been: "Devil", "Son of the
Devil", "Evil spirit", "Antichrist", "Deceiver", "Terrorist",
"Murderer", and "Diotrephes". It has been a great honour to be
identified thereby as a part of Jesus' household. All who serve
the Lord faithfully will experience this.
Jesus also said that a true prophet would not be honoured by "his
own relatives" (Mk.6:4). Jesus Himself was not accepted by His
family members. Every true prophet of God will be rejected and
dishonoured by his own relatives, even today. In the same way, a
true apostle will also be "slandered and treated as the scum of
the world and the dregs of all things" (1 Cor.4:13). Suffering
and rejection have always been the appointed lot of God's
The teaching that the church will be raptured before the "great
tribulation" is a popular one with most believers because it
comforts their flesh to hear it. But Jesus made it very clear in
Matthew 24:29-31 that He will return to take His elect only AFTER
the great tribulation.THERE IS NOT A SINGLE VERSE IN THE ENTIRE
NEW TESTAMENT THAT TEACHES THAT THE CHURCH WILL ESCAPE THE GREAT
TRIBULATION BY BEING RAPTURED OUT OF IT. This doctrine was
invented by man in England in the mid-1800s.
We must now prepare the church in our country for persecution.
14. We must receive all whom God has received
"God has placed the members in the Body just as He desired...that
there should be no division in the Body" (1 Cor.12:18,25).
God has raised up men at different times in different lands to
restore a pure testimony for Him. But after those men of God
died, their followers have made their groups exclusive and
But the body of Christ is larger than any group. And we must
never forget that. The bride of Christ is found in many, many
So we must seek for fellowship with all whom the Lord has
accepted, even though we may not be able to work together with
many of them, because of differences in interpretation of the
Word of God.
15. We must treat every human being with dignity
"With our tongue, we curse men, who have been made in the
likeness of God. My brethren, these things ought not to be this
way" (James 3:9,10).
Any word or action that degrades a human being is never from God.
It is always from Satan who forever seeks to demean and degrade
We are commanded to speak "with gentleness and respect" (1
Pet.3:15) to all people - whether they be our wives, our
children, younger people, beggars or enemies. All men must be
treated with dignity. For example, when giving a gift to a poorer
brother, we must do so, without robbing him of his dignity as a
human being. We must be his brother and not his benefactor.
16. We must reveal our financial needs only to God
"God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory
in Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:19).
Full-time Christian workers must trust God for all their
financial needs and must reveal those needs only to Him. God will
then prompt His children to supply their needs . They must not
live "by faith in God and hints to other believers", as many live
"The Lord directed those who proclaim the gospel to get their
living from the gospel" (1 Cor.9:14). So those who serve the Lord
fulltime are permitted to receive gifts from other believers. But
they must never receive a salary . There is a vast difference
between gifts and a salary. Gifts cannot be demanded, whereas a
salary can be demanded. Here lies the cause for the backslidden
condition of most Christian churches and institutions today.
We must however, never receive any gifts for our personal or
family use from people who are poorer than us. If such people
give us gifts, we must either give the money away to someone
poorer than them or put the money into the offering-box for the
Here are "Ten Commandments" on money that all fulltime workers
will do well to take heed to:
1. Never make your financial needs known to anyone but God
2. Never accept money from unbelievers (3 John 7).
3. Never expect any gifts from anyone (Psa.62:5).
4. Never allow anyone to control you or influence your ministry
by giving you money.
5. Never accept money from those who don't receive your ministry.
6. Never accept money for your personal or family needs, from
anyone poorer than you.
7. Never be dependent on any man for your financial needs.
8. Never handle God's money in a way that would cause others to
suspect mishandling (2 Cor.8:20,21).
9. Never be excited when you receive money.
10. Never be depressed when you lose money.
I hope these truths will not only encourage you, but liberate you
as well. If you are serious about your walk with the Lord and
your ministry, you should take all these truths seriously in your
PRINCIPLES OF SERVING GOD
(A message given to evangelical Christian leaders at the
All-India conference on the church's mission and leadership
training - December 17, 1997).
I'd like to turn to the Word of God in Revelation Chapter 4.
After the Lord had given John a revelation of Himself in Chapter
1, He gave John an insight into the actual state of many of the
churches in that part of the world - in Chapters 2 and 3. As you
know, many of those churches were in a very backslidden state.
Then the Lord said to John in Chapter 4:1: "Come up here!". What
a lovely word that is!
When we see the state of things around us, and encounter problems
for which we do not have a solution, it is good to hear the Lord
saying to us, "Come up higher! Come and see things from My
standpoint - and not from the low earthly level from which you
have been looking at these things". I believe this is a word that
we need to hear constantly - "COME UP HIGHER!".
Paul said, "One thing I do - forgetting what lies behind, and
reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal
for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus". He had
heard the call to come up higher and he was never satisfied, no
matter how high he had reached.
The danger in Christian leadership is that we stand so much in
front of people. We are acclaimed. We even have media coverage
now. We have titles before our names and degrees after our
names!! What more do we need! I'll tell you what we need - WE
NEED TO GET CLOSER TO THE HEART OF GOD! WE NEED TO COME UP
God did not create Adam because He needed a servant. He did not
create Adam because He wanted a scholar. And He did not create
you and me because He needs servants or scholars. He already has
enough servants in the millions of angels. He created Adam first
of all that Adam might have fellowship with Him. That's why, for
Adam, the law was NOT: "Six days you shall work and the seventh
day you shall rest". No. That came through the Law of Moses
Adam was created on the sixth day. And so his very FIRST day -
the seventh day for God but the first for Adam - was a day of
rest and fellowship with his Creator. It was from that day of
fellowship with God that Adam was to go out into the garden and
serve God for the next six days.
And when we forget that order - when we forget that fellowship
with God must always take precedence over our going out into His
vineyard to serve Him - then we've missed the primary purpose of
our creation and of our redemption.
We can be so taken up with the need around us - and especially in
a country like India - that we have no time for fellowship with
God. We may feel that's a waste of time, when there is so much
need around us. But what is the result of need-based work?
Perhaps plenty of work - but the quality will be poor. Statistics
are deceptive. You've probably heard the statement that there are
three types of lies - black lies, white lies and statistics!!
Statistics are deceptive. Everybody has statistics these days.
But Jesus never bothered about statistics.
There are times in my life when I have been through certain
crises. One was very early in my life when I sought to serve the
Lord and I found that although I knew the Word, I lacked power!
And so I sought God for the baptism in the Holy Spirit - to be
endued with power from on high. Now, I know there are different
views on this - and I am not trying to convert anybody. I am just
saying that I was born again and baptized in water, but "rivers
of living water" were not flowing out of my life. Yet I knew that
Jesus had promised that everyone who believed in Him would have
rivers of living water flowing out of their life - they'd never
be dry. But I found myself dry, many times. Even though I knew
the Word, and even though I was preaching, I was dry. Very often
my service for the Lord was like pumping a hand-pump. You know
what that means - you pump and pump and a few trickles of water
come out. It is certainly not like a river. Yet I saw the word of
Jesus clearly: "Everyone who believes in Me, out of his innermost
being will flow rivers of living water".
All I can say is that I sought God and He met with me. And that
changed the direction of my life. I didn't join the Pentecostal
church. I do not consider myself to be a Pentecostal or a
charismatic. But God met with me and filled me with His Holy
And then years later, I came to another crisis in my life. That
was a crisis that dealt with the issue of reality - whether what
I was preaching was actually true in my inner life, and whether
the burden that I appeared to have when I spoke to people was
something I really carried in my heart as well.
It was nearly 28 years ago that we had the first All-India
Congress on Evangelism at Deolali. I presented a paper there. I
was young then - just 30 years old. And you know how it is when
we are young. I wanted to impress everyone. And my paper was
impressive, because I had worked hard on it. My ministry
continued with travelling to speak at deeper life conferences in
Australia and Singapore etc., And everywhere, my aim was to
Then the Lord spoke to me and asked me, "Do you want to impress
people or do you want to help them?" I said, "Lord, I want to
help them". Then the Lord said, "Stop trying to impress them
then". I came to a place then in my life, where I had to say,
"Lord, my inner life does not correspond with what I am
preaching". Externally, I had a good testimony. But my
thought-life and my attitudes - my attitude to money - were not
Christlike. I was proclaiming Christ with my mouth but the Spirit
of Christ was not ruling my thoughts. And I was honest about it
I believe that the first step to God is to be honest.
By then I was fairly well-known. I was writing books that had a
wide circulation. I had a weekly radio programme. I was invited
here and there. One day the Lord spoke to my heart and said, "Are
you willing to stand up in front of that congregation that
respects you and tell them that you're not genuine, that you're
not real". I said, "Yes, Lord! I don't care what people think of
me. I want you to do something for me. I ask you only for one
thing: That my inner life will correspond with what I preach".
That's what I asked the Lord for 23 years ago. God met with me
again. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. And the
Lord said to me, "Come up higher".
Fellowship with God has now become the most precious thing for me
- during the last 22 years. It has changed my life and taken away
discouragement and depression from my life altogether.
I have found the secret of walking with God. And that's made my
service joyful! It is no longer dry!
All your service depends on your personal walk with God. You
remember when Jesus was in the house of Mary and Martha. He said
to Martha, "You are worried and bothered about so many things".
What was Martha worried about? There was a need there. And she
was serving the Lord, unselfishly and sacrificially, sweating
away in the kitchen - not cooking food for herself but for the
Lord and His disciples. What greater service could she do than
that? It was totally unselfish! And she didn't do it for money or
for a salary, as many Christian workers serve today. No. It was
totally unselfish! And yet the Lord told her, "You are bothered
about so many things". She had thought that Mary was selfish,
sitting there at the Lord's feet and not doing any work, but just
listening. And Jesus said, "That's the important thing. That's
the ONE THING needful".
There is a beautiful paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 4:2 in The
Living Bible that reads like this: "The most important thing
about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him
to." That has brought so much rest to my heart. What am I to do
when I see a needy world? Get all worked up with the need? There
are plenty of manipulators in Christendom who are ready to work
me up. But I say to the Lord, "I want to hear You". There are
plenty of Marthas who will criticise me, saying, "Tell him not to
waste his time listening, when there's a needy world perishing in
We must certainly look at the world's need. Jesus said, "Lift up
your eyes and look at the harvest". We must see the need and we
must point out the need to others too. Yes. But the call must
come from God - not from man. I have discovered that.
Jesus sat in heaven for 4000 years while the world lay dying in
need of a Saviour. Nobody could pressurise Him to leave heaven
before the Father's time. But "in the fulness of time", He came.
And when He came to earth, He sat making stools and benches for
30 years - while the world lay dying! He would not be moved by
the need alone. But when the right time came, the Father said,
"Go". And He went. And He did more in 3-1/2 years than others
could do in 3000 years. The most important thing about a servant
is NOT running around doing this, that and the other for God, but
listening to Him. It's difficult to listen.
I used to be in an assembly in my younger days where we studied
the Scriptures, and fasted and prayed regularly. Every morning we
were taught to have a "Quiet Time" - a good habit that I would
recommend to everyone. But in spite of all the hours apparently
spent in the presence of God, people were still sour, bitter,
hard-to-get-along-with, judgmental, critical and suspicious.....
Something was wrong somewhere. I have known times when I have
spent just 10 or 15 minutes with a godly man, and I have been
challenged and inspired. Can you imagine then what spending 10 or
15 minutes with God Himself can do? How is it then that all of us
were not being changed? The Lord showed me that I was not
spending time with HIM in my Quiet Time. I was spending time with
myself. I was just studying a book - whether the book in front of
me was the Bible or a chemistry book didn't make a difference. I
wasn't spending time with God - listening to Him. I was just
studying a book!
Jesus said concerning Mary, "One thing is needful....to listen".
From that flows everything else. And that's a very efficient way
of serving God because He can tell you what He wants you to do!
The Father told Jesus what to do. Once Jesus was prompted by the
Spirit to walk 50 miles from Galilee to Syrophoenicia, outside
the borders of Israel. I don't know how many hours it took Him to
get there - probably a whole day. There He met a Gentile woman,
whose daughter was demon-possessed. He cast out that demon and
pointed out to His disciples the great faith that woman had when
she asked for just the crumbs that fell from the children's
table. Then He walked back to Galilee. That was how Jesus lived.
He went all that way for just ONE soul. That wasn't impressive -
statistically!! But it was in the will of God.
Jesus served like that for 3-1/2 years. And at the end of that
period He said, "Father, I have finished the work which You gave
Me to do" (John 17:4). Had he met all the need there was in the
world - in India, in Africa? No. He hadn't. But He had finished
the work the Father gave Him to do. And He did not desire to live
on earth for a single day longer The apostle Paul too could say
at the end of his life, "I have finished my course".
You have a different calling and I have a different calling in
Christ's Body. But we must all understand what God wants us to
do. One of the main reasons for our becoming deaf to the voice of
God is the UNREALITY there is in our lives - the dishonesty and
The Pharisees could not hear what Jesus was saying because they
were living a life of pretence. They gave others the impression
that they were godly. They stood up there in front of the people
as the leaders and scholars of their time. If you had met Peter
or John, before they had met Jesus, and asked them, "Peter, John,
could you tell me the name of some godly man whom you know?",
they would have mentioned the name of some Pharisee who was an
elder in the local synagogue. Because that was their
understanding - that people who studied the Scriptures, fasted,
prayed, carried little boxes of Scripture-verses on their
foreheads and looked so holy and pious, were truly godly people.
Then you can imagine the shock they got when they heard Jesus
lambasting those elders in the synagogue as a bunch of hypocrites
who were candidates for hell.
When Jesus selected His disciples, he did not select even one
from any Bible-school. There was a Bible-school being run by
Gamaliel in those days in Jerusalem. But Jesus didn't go there to
select His disciples. He picked them up from the lakeside in
Galilee - uneducated men - and made them His apostles. And they
wrote books, which Bible-seminaries now give to people to study,
for a doctorate in theology!! Isn't that amazing?? I think Peter
himself would not have been capable of getting a degree from any
of our seminaries. Perhaps only one of the disciples would have
been able to get such a degree - Judas, the cleverest and
smartest of the lot.
Why did Jesus pick such people? They were simple-hearted and
willing to listen to Him. What a stir there was when these simple
men went to any synagogue and preached. They did not preach the
routine messages that the people there had always heard. They
were prophets. And people have never liked prophets. In the 1500
years of Israel's history, as Stephen said, "Which of the
prophets did they not persecute?"
Those apostles were not diplomatic speakers. They were prophets.
And I believe that our country could do with a few prophets at
this time, so that we could hear what God is saying. God doesn't
care for that which is big and great in the eyes of men.
I am not against meetings like this. But I stopped going to such
meetings more than 20 years back. I turn down such invitations
now. I know that such meetings can make you famous. You get media
exposure. But I have discovered as I have travelled in the
villages of our land - where most of my ministry is now - that
the people who do the real work are not at a conference like this
one. They are unknown and out there in those villages. They can't
speak English and they certainly don't know what it is to present
a paper. But they are filled with the Spirit, they love the Lord
and they go out and bring lost souls to Christ. Praise God for
such people. Others organise their missions and become known as
mission-leaders and get the honour. But many who are first now
will be last when Jesus comes back. So it is good for us to be
humble. It is good for us to have low thoughts about ourselves.
Perhaps we are not so great in God's eyes as other Christians
think we are, because of our degrees and our titles. These may
impress men, but not God. In fact they don't impress the devil
either. The devil fears a holy man, a man who is genuine, a man
who is the same inside as he is on the outside, and a man who
never preaches what he does not practise.
People ask me, "Brother Zac, why don't you urge people to go to
North India?" I reply, "Jesus taught only what He first did"
(Acts 1:1). I haven't lived in North India. So I cannot tell
others to do it. I'm not saying that it should not be done. I'm
only saying that I cannot preach what I haven't done.
But then I'm not the whole body of Christ. I'm only one part of
it. I am an imbalanced member of the body of Christ. I will
always be imbalanced. The only balanced man that ever walked on
earth was Jesus Christ. You are imbalanced and so am I. Let's not
think that any one of us is more than just one part. Every part
is needed - the evangelist, the teacher, the shepherd, the
prophet and the apostle - for people to be made members of the
body of Christ and for that Body to be built.
What is our calling? It is to make someone who is not a member of
the Body of Christ a member of that Body. Isn't that our calling
basically? I think we'll all agree on that.
Since the Holy Spirit uses the word, "Body", let me use an
illustration from the physical body. Let us say there is a plate
here, with a potato (representing an unbeliever), that has to
become a member of my body. How does that happen? It happens
first of all through evangelism - the hand reaching out and
taking that potato.
Evangelism is always the first ministry in this task. That is why
I never devalue evangelism. I value it very highly - and
especially those who are engaged in this ministry in the heat and
dust of North India. I am interested in reading their magazines -
I get a number of them in my home - to read about the ministry of
these dear brothers of mine who are labouring there. I have been
up there now and then to meet some of them too.
Here then is my hand taking the potato from the plate. That
potato will never become a part of my body if the "evangelist"
(my hand) does not go out and do "evangelism" (put the potato in
my mouth) .
But is that all there is to it? If I just keep that potato in my
mouth, will it become a part of my body? No, it won't. After a
while it will get rotten in my mouth and I will spit it out. That
is how some converts get rotten in some of our churches! They are
taken in and kept inside the mouth!
But something more has to happen to that potato. It has to be
chewed and crushed by my teeth. The potato can then imagine that
everything is over. But all is not over! The potato goes down to
my stomach, and there finds that acids are mercilessly poured on
it. That is a picture of prophetic ministry in the church. You
know it's not comfortable when acid is thrown on us. The gentle
ministry of being picked up from the plate was so nice. But when
acid is thrown on us, that is far from pleasant. The potato is
now broken down completely and it no longer looks like a potato.
But in a few weeks, lo and behold, it has become blood and flesh
and bones - a very part of my body!
Now, whose job was the most important in this task. What ministry
do any of us have that we did not receive? If we are humble, we
will confess that we are imbalanced. The hand is not more
important than the stomach. They complement each other.
Unfortunately in Christendom there is this perpetual competition
between the members - the hand building its own kingdom, the
stomach building its own kingdom, and the mouth building its
own!! What do we have then? Not a body, but an "Anatomy
Laboratory", with a mouth over here, a stomach over there, a hand
here and a leg there. That's not a body!
What do we need most of all? Yes, it is true we need instruction.
But we need humility more than anything else. We need to
recognise that we are all equally important - every member in
Christ's body. And the great mission leader is no more valuable
in this ministry than the poor brother who can't speak English
properly, but who goes out and brings souls to Christ. They are
all part of the same body.
"Come up higher", the Lord says, "and look at things from My
viewpoint." Things look very different when viewed from God's
viewpoint than from an earthly viewpoint.
Why is it that so many Christian workers have such a high opinion
Be honest. What are the thoughts you think about yourself, when
you are all by yourself? Are they thoughts of humility,
recognising that you yourself are nothing?
There are times when I sit outside and look at the stars. I know
there are millions of stars and that the whole earth is just a
tiny speck in this universe. And I say, "O God, how great You
are! How great this universe is! I am such a small little speck
of dust on this speck called Earth. And here I am claiming to
represent You and preaching such great matters. Please help me to
have a sober estimate about myself." I would recommend that all
of you say that to God.
God gives grace to the humble. Anybody can have knowledge. But
only the humble can receive grace. We need grace far more than we
I have thought of the young people who come to the Lord and who
are persecuted by their families for their faith. When such a
person comes to one of our churches, what does he see? Does he
see the spirit of Jesus Christ there? People around us have such
a wrong impression of Christianity.
I've long believed that the first principle of all effective
ministry - whether evangelism or whatever - is found in Hebrews
2:17, where it says that Jesus "was made like His brothers in all
things ". I want to meditate on that - He was made like His
brothers IN EVERYTHING.
How can I serve others? I have to be made like them in
everything. I have to descend to their level.
Why is it that I cannot communicate with a little ant crawling on
the floor? Because I am too big. If I go to that ant in human
form, it will be terrified. The only way I can communicate with
that ant is by my becoming like it first of all. The only way
that God could communicate with us was by His becoming like us.
We can all understand that. But let us remember that in our
ministry to others too - whether in a local church or in an
unreached area - the first principle is this - to be made like
them in all things, "to sit where they sit", as Ezekiel said
That means, for example, that we don't want to exalt ourselves
above others in any way. This was why Jesus told His disciples
never to take any titles like "Rabbi", "Father", or any other
title. Because a title will exalt you above the people whom you
serve. You will overawe them with your greatness, instead of
being one like them.
In spite of such a warning, we still have lots of people with
titles in Christendom today.
We think we can serve God better by adopting the methods of the
world. But that is just not true.
In the Old Testament, we read that the Philistines captured the
ark of God once. But they had a problem with it, and so they sent
it back on a bullock cart. Years later when David was about to
move the ark, he thought, "Hey, that's a good idea. The way that
the Law taught, of the Levites carrying the ark on their
shoulders, is all right for short distances. But for long
distances, the Philistine method is certainly better." And so he
too put the ark on a bullock cart. And you know what happened.
The oxen stumbled and Uzzah stretched forth his hand to steady
the ark. God was angry and smote Uzzah dead on the spot, because
he was not a Levite. God wouldn't change His methods. Then David
was greatly disturbed. But where did it all begin? It began with
David imitating the Philistines. And death came in.
Death always comes in when we imitate the ways of the world, when
Christian churches are run the way business enterprises are run,
and when money becomes the Number One factor in Christian work.
A good question we could ask ourselves is whether the church or
organisation that we are running will survive, if all money stops
coming in. Or will the whole thing come crumbling down then? A
true work of God may use money but will never be dependent on
money. It will be dependent only on the Holy Spirit.
The Bible says that the Spirit is jealous (Jas.4:5) - jealous
when something else or someone else takes His rightful place in
the church. It could be music. I'm not against music. I believe
we should have the best possible music in our churches, without
imitating the world. But we must not depend on music.
For example, at the end of a meeting, if we think that by getting
the organ to play softly, we can move people to make a decision,
what is that? It is psychological manipulation, not Holy-Spirit
If the Word of God is preached in the power of the Spirit, like
Jesus preached it and like Peter preached it, you won't need any
organ playing softly at the end. You can have it if you like, but
it's not going to help. But if you haven't got the power of the
Holy Spirit, then you will have to manipulate people
psychologically to make them take a decision. But you will
discover in the long run that such decisions are only emotional
The Holy Spirit is jealous for His rightful place in the church.
You can't replace Him with theology. You can't replace Him with
music. You can't replace Him with money. Thank God for all these
things. Use them all. Jesus used money. So how can we be against
it. It is written that Jesus sang a hymn. In Hebrews 2:12, we
read that Jesus Himself is the One Who leads the church in
praising the Father. So when we praise God, we are only following
our Leader. So how can we be against music. We are not against
any of these things. But it's a question of what we depend on.
Do we depend on great personalities or great preachers? No. The
Holy Spirit is jealous.
Jesus became a servant. Every Christian leader speaks about a
servant life-style and being a servant and many books are written
about it too. But what does it mean in practical terms? Let me
ask you: How do you treat your co-workers? How do you treat your
juniormost co-worker, who joined your group just yesterday? Is he
really a brother to you or does he live in awe of you? If so,
then even if you preach about servanthood until doomsday, I'd say
you haven't understood it. You haven't seen Jesus.
Jesus was so simple. He never overawed people. He said, "I am a
son of man" - and that means, "an ordinary man". He was the pure
and holy Son of God Who had lived from all eternity with the
Father. But He came and lived on earth as an ordinary man. He
became like His brothers in all things.
For us to become like our brothers in all things, something in us
has to die. It says about Jesus that "He humbled Himself to the
point of death". When we die to Self, we prove our humility.
The grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies is
guaranteed much fruit. That was one of the things that I
discovered when I had this crisis of reality with the Lord 22
years ago. I understood that the greatest work that I could do
for the Lord in India was to fall into the ground and die - die
to my will, to what people thought about me, to my ambitions, to
my goals, to my love of money, to everything - and especially to
my Self - so that thereafter Jesus alone would be everything to
me, so that I could look up to Him every day and honestly say
(like the psalmist), "Whom have I in heaven but Thee and there is
nothing and no-one I desire on earth beside Thee" (Psa.73:25).
There are times when I lie down on my bed and say to the Lord,
"Lord, my ministry is not my god. You alone are my God. Nobody
will ever take Your place. You are everything to me. You can take
away my voice, paralyse me or do whatever you like with me. I
will still love You with all my heart." Nobody can take away my
joy - because in God's presence there is fulness of joy. It is
from that fount alone that the rivers of living water can flow
One last thing: Many, many years ago, when I was a young
Christian, the Lord spoke to me from 2 Samuel 24:24, where David
said, "I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing".
What the Lord spoke to my heart that day was that when He came to
earth, He had offered that which cost Him everything. And if I
was going to serve Him, I would have to serve Him in that same
spirit. Every service of mine must cost me something.
How is it with your service for the Lord? Has it cost you
something? We have many people in Christian work in India today,
who are earning five to ten times what they would have been
earning if they had been in a secular job.
Is that sacrifice?
I made a decision when I quit my job in the Indian Navy, 31 years
ago, that I would never receive any money that would raise my
monthly income to more than what I would have earned in my
secular job. That decision has preserved me for 31 years.
We don't have to judge others. And I am not here to judge you. I
don't know many of you and so it is easy for me to say this: Ask
yourself what you would have been earning today if you had been
in a secular job.
John Wesley used to tell his co-workers, "Let it never be said
that you have become rich by preaching the gospel."
Do you know where Christian work suffers the most? Right here, in
this area. You cannot serve God and money. That's the issue that
we need to deal with first of all. We can spend our time here
talking about every other subject under the sun. But if we don't
deal with this problem of the love of money, all our service will
People relocate their residence from one place to another. There
is nothing wrong with that. Jesus also relocated His residence
from heaven to earth. But when He relocated, it was a step DOWN.
And it was because He had a genuine concern for people here on
Why have you relocated?
Again I'm not judging you. I'm only asking.
Did you relocate your residence, because you felt that from your
new location you could serve the Lord more effectively in India -
the land for which you SEEM to have such a great burden? Do you
have a genuine burden?
Can we live in the comfort of South India and have a burden for
the villages of North India? Maybe you can. But I don't see how I
can do that myself.
Can you live in the United States of America and have a burden
for India? Yes - but only on paper. On paper you can have a
burden for anything!
The devil is a great deceiver. He deceives us thoroughly. He
makes us feel that we have a great burden for something when in
actual fact we have nothing but hot air!!
I want you to be honest with yourself.
I'm not presenting a paper here. I'm sharing my heart.
And I hope it is God's heart too.
I'm not judging you, my brothers and sisters. God told me years
ago,"If you judge others you will destroy yourself."
I stand before God today and say that I'm not judging anyone. I
judge myself. And I repent. My life is one of daily repentance -
because I see unChristlikeness in many areas of my own life. I
repent and say, "Lord, I didn't speak kindly to that person. I
want to learn how to speak".
The man who cannot control his tongue - his Christianity is worth
zero, as James says (James 1:26).
And I want to keep that verse before me always.
Paul said something about his co-workers once. When he was
looking for someone to send to Philippi, he said he could find
only Timothy, because all the rest who were with him then, were
seeking their own!! (Phil.2:19-21). Note that Paul did not say
this about the heathen but about some of his coworkers. Getting
on to Paul's team itself was an honour, for Paul was the type of
person who would not permit even a John Mark to continue on his
team, because he felt John Mark was not radical enough. Yet Paul
felt that most of his coworkers were seeking their own.
Today, many are preaching the gospel and appear to be burdened
for souls, but they are really seeking their own gain and
comfort. They are promoting themselves.
They are promoting their children and their family members - to
take over their work when they retire!!
Saul also wanted to promote Jonathan. But God said, "It's not
Jonathan but David who has to take over as the next king." That
made Saul furious and he tried to get rid of David, in order to
promote his own son.
Do you think that such things are not happening in Christendom
today? They are.
When we serve the Lord and speak the truth, we are not going to
be popular. But if we seek to please men, we cannot be servants
I want to thank God for every brother and sister - and especially
for those who labour in difficult situations, who have made
sacrifices that we will not know about until Jesus comes again,
who are not known in Christian circles, whose names are not
heralded and who have no media coverage, but who are God-fearing,
humble people, sacrificially spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ
in our land. I want to salute them. I praise God with all my
heart for such people. I stand nowhere, when compared to any of
them. Many of them are working in our churches and our
organisations. Let us follow in their footsteps. Amen.
He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Amen.
HOW A SPIRITUAL MOVEMENT DECLINES
"Lord! Help! Godly men are fast disappearing. Where in all the
world can dependable men be found? Everyone deceives and flatters
and lies. There is no sincerity left" (Psalm 12:1 - Living).
The state of affairs described in the above verse is an apt
description of Christendom today. We find nowadays that even
believers who were once pursuing after godliness have started
indulging in deception, flattery and lies - to serve their own
Sincerity is what God seeks from all of us first of all. We may
have a thousand and one faults and make an equal number of
mistakes. But if we are sincere, God can do miracles with our
In Matthew 16:3, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees by asking them a
question: "Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky,
but cannot discern the signs of the times?"
If we do not read the signs of the times in which we are living
now, Jesus will have to rebuke us exactly as He did the
When people know the Bible but don't know God Himself, they can
easily be deceived - for every cult in the world uses the Bible
as its textbook and have their proof texts to promote their
peculiar doctrines. This is why so many cults have mushroomed
around the world in this century and become fashionable and
acceptable to many people. Even believers are being led astray
and are losing their salvation.
Under the new covenant, God wants every child of His to know Him
personally (Heb.8:11), unlike as in old covenant times, when only
the prophet (who rarely appeared) could know God personally. In
fact, the new-covenant child of God can know God better and in a
more personal way than the greatest prophet under the old
covenant. Jesus said so, very specifically (Matt.11:11).
There are very few believers who have a passion to know God
Himself. Most of them seem to be keen only on increasing in
Bible-knowledge and on having spectacular emotional experiences.
All this is an indication that we have come to the very last
minutes of the last hour of the last days in which Paul said it
would be "difficult to be a Christian" (2 Tim.3:1 - Living).
It will be difficult to be a Christian in the last days, not
because of persecution or opposition, but because many people
would "have a form of godliness without its inner power" (2
Tim.3:5). In other words they would major on correctness of New
Testament pattern and doctrine but would not be interested in
personal devotion to Christ or in practical godliness.
Most of us who left dead denominations in the past, left them
because we were searching for spiritual reality. We may have
begun our search in earnest. But Satan is very smart to sidetrack
believers into something cultistic, like the cult of the
Pharisees in Jesus' time.
The history of Israel has been given us at such length in the Old
Testament to teach us some important lessons. A wise man will
learn from that history the way men pleased God and the way many
In Jeremiah 3:14,15, the Lord promises saying, "I will take you
one from a city and two from a family and I will bring you to
Zion. Then I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will
feed you on knowledge and understanding."
"Zion" represents the true church of the living God. God brings
one from a city and two from a family into His "Zion". And when
we have come to this Zion - the church that the Lord is building
- He promises to give us there "shepherds after His own heart",
who will feed us on a knowledge of Himself (and not just a
knowledge of the Bible) and on understanding of His ways (and not
just an understanding of doctrine).
One primary identifying mark of the true church of God is this:
It has shepherds after God's own heart.
God is love - and the primary characteristic of love is that it
does not seek its own. So, shepherds after God's own heart are
those who do not seek their own. Such shepherds will not seek for
anyone's money or honour. They will seek neither to please men
nor to impress them. Instead they will seek to build up the
believers in order "to present them perfect in Christ"
(Col.1:28). Wherever God can find a man with such a longing - in
any town or village of the world - He will build His church.
On the other hand, we have seen many cases of believers who leave
the mainline denominations and who seek to follow "the New
Testament pattern", who have their doctrines all correct, but who
love money and seek their own, and who yet imagine that they are
building the Body of Christ. Confusion and chaos are always the
result of their labours and what is finally built through their
labours is always Babylon.
Only where God can find a man who does not seek his own, can the
Lord build His true church. One man like that, who shares the
concern of God's heart for people, is far more valuable to God
than a thousand believers who seek their own.
To be a shepherd after God's own heart will involve sacrifice,
inconvenience, and suffering. It will mean being willing to
suffer misunderstanding, opposition, ridicule and slander
joyfully. And if such a shepherd is blessed enough to have a wife
who also does not seek her own, so that their home is open for
the Lord to do whatever He wants, then there will be no limit to
what God can do through their lives.
I am not talking now about gathering many people. Numbers are not
a mark of God's blessing. Many of the well-known cults gather
more numbers of people than anyone else. That does not prove
I am talking now of quality - the building of the Body of Christ,
where every individual member comes into a personal knowledge of
Without such a development, any group will only be a place where
one blind man has led a whole lot of other blind people into the
ditch. All their prayer meetings will be in the ditch, their
Bible-studies will be in the ditch and their conferences will be
in the ditch too!!
In Jesus' time, He looked around and saw that people were like
sheep without a shepherd. It is the same today.
The great need everywhere is for shepherds after God's own heart.
I am not talking here about just being an elder in a church. No.
A large church needs many shepherds - those who have a heart that
cares for God's people. Such people may not be elders at all. But
they will feed and encourage the sheep - serving them gladly.
As I said earlier, the history of Israel is given us at such
length in the Bible to show us good examples in their history
that we can follow and the mistakes that men made there that we
There were two significant starting points in the history of
Israel as a nation:
Firstly, when they began as a nation in Canaan under the
leadership of Joshua.
Secondly, when they had a fresh beginning under King David, after
centuries of backsliding.
Let us consider these two cases.
Joshua was a godly man who gave excellent leadership to Israel.
He was determined to follow the Lord with his whole family, even
if the rest of Israel decided to forsake the Lord (Josh.24:15).
Only such a man, who is willing to stand alone if necessary, can
provide godly leadership to any church today. During Joshua's
lifetime, Israel went forward from one victory to another.
But then Joshua died.
And there we can see in what followed, what happens when a man
whom God has raised up at a particular time for a particular
purpose in a particular country finishes his earthly course and
Joshua's fellow-elders took over the leadership of Israel
(Josh.24:31). These elders belonged to the next generation after
Joshua. Joshua died when he was 110 years old and the new leaders
were in their 60's and their 70's - for Joshua's own generation
(except for Caleb) had all perished in the forty years of
wandering in the wilderness.
During this time - when the second generation was in leadership -
things were not as good as in Joshua's time. We read in Judges 1
that during this period, there were a few victories (v.1-21), but
many defeats as well (v.22-36). A slow decline had started.
The second generation had no steam in themselves, but were
surviving on the momentum that they had received from Joshua's
leadership in the previous generation.
Like a train-wagon that has been pushed by an engine, the second
generation moved very fast initially, but gradually slowed down
and finally came to a grinding halt!
By the time we come to Judges 2:11, things become really bad.
Israel now does open evil in the sight of the Lord.
Thus we see how what started in a good way in one generation,
gradually became evil by the time of the third generation.
The second watershed in Israel's history was when David became
king of Israel.
Saul was the first king of Israel. He had started in great
humility, but backslid so greatly that God removed the anointing
from him. Saul's life is a picture of those movements that
decline in the first generation itself - and there are many like
that in Christendom too!
God told Saul through Samuel that He was now going to give the
kingdom to "a man after God's own heart" (1 Sam.13:14). That was
David. This made Saul extremely jealous of David. Saul hated
David so much that he even wanted to kill him.
Those in Israel however, who recognised where God's anointing
lay, joined David. Thus a small group gathered around David. But
they were chased and persecuted and hunted by Saul all across the
land and had to run for their lives. But God was with that small
Saul however continued to sit on the throne of Israel for many
years - just like many Christian "leaders" rule their flock
today, even though they have lost the anointing of God from their
lives long, long ago.
But Saul still had a following of those who fawned on him - just
like many Christian "leaders" have in their own groups. Such a
following means nothing. Many dead denominations and even heathen
religious leaders have a large following. But God is not with any
The important question we need to ask ourselves always is this:
"Do the grace and anointing of God rest upon me now?"
Church history has proved again and again that God has always
done His greatest work in every generation through a small
minority of His people who stand wholeheartedly for Him. As in
Gideon's time, the victory in the battle with Satan is always won
by a small group of a few wholehearted disciples (Judges 7).
Such a group (as in the case of David's group) is hated,
misunderstood and persecuted by the established systems in
Christendom, who have no understanding of what God is doing in
But God took care of David and his little group. And the Bible
records that "David served the purpose of God in his own
generation and fell asleep" (Acts 13:36). Despite his faults,
David was a man after God's own heart and gave Israel godly
leadership during his lifetime. He was not perfect. But he was
quick to humble himself and repent when even an ordinary prophet
came to him and rebuked him for his sin (2 Sam.12).
But in spite of all of David's devotion to the Lord, and his
humility and the anointing of God upon his life, he could yet
serve God's purpose only in his own generation.
After his death, things began to decline very quickly. Solomon,
his son, started well (1 Kings 3:3,5,10-14). The book of Proverbs
shows us how wise Solomon was when he began. Proverbs is perhaps
the finest book in the entire Old Testament. It is like a
new-covenant book right in the middle of the Old Testament! And
Solomon wrote it!!
But Solomon backslid very quickly and very badly - and ended
disastrously. Initially, he had moved forward on the momentum he
had received from his godly father. But he did not have enough of
a passion after God, to continue for long in the same direction.
He was led astray by wealth and by women (1 Kings 10:23; 11:1-9)
- just like many Christian preachers in our time!
After Solomon died, his son Rehoboam (the third generation) took
over. Then things became really bad. The younger generation
joined hands with Rehoboam and took over the leadership of
Israel, and Rehoboam despised the advice of the wiser, older men
(1 Kings 12:6-15). This brought chaos into Israel and the kingdom
soon split into two. All that Rehoboam could boast of now was
that David was his grandfather. But he did not have any of
We find an exact duplication of this degenerative process in many
movements that were started by godly people in Christendom during
the last 20 centuries.
In the history of Christendom, we see that every godly reformer
sent by God to bring Christendom back to Him could serve God's
purpose only in his own generation. In almost every case, after
the reformer died, his followers in the next generation laid
greater emphasis on the doctrines their leader taught than on the
life that he had. The form of godliness became all-important and
the power of godliness was ignored. Thus decline and decay set
By the time such movements reached their third generation, the
corruption and the decay within the group became total. The group
thereafter bore no resemblance whatever to the godliness and the
spirituality that had been found in their leader. They proclaimed
the same doctrines he did and gloried in his name - but built
A group can start as a spiritual movement, but still end up as
soulish and carnal - and even demonic.
A movement started by a man of God can easily end as a cult.
The same story of decline that we saw in the history of David,
Solomon and Rehoboam has been repeated again and again in
Christendom. Just examine carefully any movement that started
with God and that is currently in its second or third generation
- and you will see before your eyes the truth of what I have just
Why does this happen? The answer is simple: Because believers are
more taken up with the letter of the Word than with the Person of
Jesus Christ. When any doctrine becomes more important than
personal devotion to Christ, then decay and self-righteousness
and Pharisaism are invariably the result. We have seen numerous
examples of how even the doctrine of "taking up the cross" has
been turned into mere words, without the life of Jesus being
manifest in those who preach it.
All of this should be a serious warning to us.
Consider the history of the church at Ephesus.
Paul stayed there for three years, preaching night and day (Acts
20:31). That means that the Ephesian Christians listened to many
hundreds of sermons from Paul's lips. They had seen extraordinary
miracles wrought by the Lord in their midst (Acts 19:11). From
their midst, the word of God had spread to all the surrounding
parts of Asia Minor during a short period of two years. They had
experienced revival (Acts 19:10, 19). They were the most
privileged of all the churches in apostolic times. They were also
undoubtedly the most spiritual church in Asia Minor at that time.
(We can see that from Paul's letter to the Ephesians, where he
had to correct no error in their midst, unlike the way he had to,
in the other churches to which he wrote.)
But when Paul was leaving Ephesus, he warned the elders there
that things would take a turn for the worse in the next
generation, under the new leadership of the church. He told them
that savage wolves would come into their midst and that from
among their own midst would arise men speaking perverse things,
drawing people after themselves, instead of drawing people to the
Lord (Acts 20:29,30).
As long as Paul was there, no wolf had dared to enter the flock
at Ephesus. Paul was a faithful doorkeeper (See Mark 13:34), who
had spiritual authority from the Lord, because he was anointed,
because he feared God and because he sought the Lord's interests
and not his own. But he also had enough spiritual discernment to
know that the spiritual condition of the elders in Ephesus was
bad - and so he knew that things would deteriorate once they took
over the leadership of the church.
Paul did not give the elders a prophecy of what would definitely
happen at Ephesus. No. It was only a warning. It did not have to
happen like he predicted - if the elders would only judge
themselves and repent.
Jonah once prophesied destruction on Nineveh. But it did not
happen as he predicted, because the people of Nineveh repented.
The church at Ephesus also could have escaped the fate that Paul
But alas, the new generation of leaders in Ephesus never took
Paul's warning seriously and drifted away from the Lord.
By the end of the first century, the third generation had come
into power. And then things became really bad. Their doctrines
were still correct and they were zealous in Christian activity.
They probably still had their all-night prayer meetings and their
other special meetings. But their spiritual state was so bad that
the Lord was about to remove His recognition of them as a church.
What was their crime? They had lost their devotion to the Lord
What does the history of the church at Ephesus teach us? Just
this - that no doctrine is as important as a fervent devotion to
the Lord Himself. There is one- and only one mark of true
spirituality - that the life of Jesus is manifested increasingly
in our behaviour. and this in turn can come only by an increasing
personal devotion to the Lord Himself.
Paul was a godly man - a fervent and faithful apostle who was
devoted to the Lord Jesus until the very end of his life. And he
warned believers everywhere that Satan would try every means
possible to turn them away from "simple devotion to Christ" (2
Errors in doctrinal matters such as "baptism in water" and
"baptism in the Holy Spirit", are not at all as dangerous as
losing one's personal devotion to Christ. Yet many believers
never seem to realise this.
We see that even Paul could serve God's purpose only in his own
generation. Those who lived with him like Timothy, imbibed his
spirit and lived in selfless devotion to Christ (Phil.2:19-21).
But otherwise, Paul could not transmit his spirituality even to
the second generation of believers in the churches he had
We see a similar pattern being repeated in every movement that
God has raised up - in every generation, since the first century.
God has a passion to have a pure testimony for His Name in every
part of the world, in every generation. For this purpose, he
raises up a godly man in a country, in a particular generation,
to restore to the church in that country, the truth that the
apostles preached, and thus to lead people to a godly life. A
movement gradually starts around that man and a few wholehearted
believers who are fed up with the unreality and hypocrisy of the
Christendom of their generation gather around him. Very soon a
pure testimony is established for the Lord.
Such a group is always small in size at the beginning and
intensely hated and persecuted by the older churches. The founder
is hated most of all. And the hatred is usually most intense from
the group that God had raised up in the previous generation - for
the current leaders of that group, not realising that the Lord
has left them, are jealous of the new group!! Satan too joins in
the attack against this new group - and he does his work of
accusation mostly through other "believers" - especially those
from the older group.
All the persecution and the schemings of men and demons however,
do not hinder God from establishing a pure testimony for His Name
in the new generation through the man He raised up.
But what happens when this man dies?
Then the movement begins to decline. Personal devotion to Christ
disappears and is replaced by emphasis on the doctrines that the
founder preached. Those doctrines become more important to the
second generation than the Person of the Lord Himself. And a
cloud comes between them and God - as it did between the
disciples and the Lord on the mount of transfiguration
No doctrine, however important or good, can ever take the place
of devotion to Jesus Himself. The founder knows the Lord. The
second generation knows only the doctrine. Chaos results and by
the time the movement reaches the third generation, there is open
division and strife.
One of the commonest things that happens to every movement is
that by the time it reaches the second and third generation, it
becomes rich and wealthy, with the members owning plenty of
money, houses, lands and properties etc., And wealth has a way of
being accompanied invariably by pride, self-sufficiency and
complacency - for very few believers know how to handle wealth.
The first generation of a movement usually struggles in poverty
and is close to God. The second and third generations are usually
closer to the world, with all their wealth - and lose out
God then withdraws from that group, which has by then become a
part of Babylon - and He raises up another man and starts a
totally new work through him.
But alas, the same story is repeated all over again - for no-one
ever seems to learn from the mistakes of those who went before
Those who are wise will therefore look around them to see where
the anointing of God is resting currently - in their own
generation - and associate fully with such a church. They will
not care to see where the anointing had rested in previous
generations. They will look to see where God is moving NOW and
not where God moved a generation or two ago.
Scripture tells us very clearly that we must AVOID those who have
the mere form of godliness (2 Tim.3:5) and seek to fellowship
with "those who call on the Lord from a pure heart" (2 Tim.2:22).
Those who have a pure heart are those who love the Lord with ALL
their heart. Such believers have no place in their heart for
money, for property, for anything of this world, for themselves,
for their family members, or for their jobs. They love the Lord
supremely and thus love their family members in a deeper way than
they would have done otherwise. They are devoted to the Lord and
not to any doctrine. We are told to seek fellowship with such
believers at all times.
Thus God's work proceeds from generation to generation, without
ever failing - for all the machinations of men and Satan cannot
hinder any of God's purposes. Hallelujah!!
THREE MARKS OF A SPIRITUAL MAN
"I could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of
flesh" (1 Cor.3:1).
We read in 1 Cor.1:5,7 that the Corinthian Christians excelled in
three areas - knowledge of the Scriptures, preaching and the
gifts of the Spirit. Yet in spite of having all these, they were
It is rare indeed to find believers who have the discernment to
recognise that a gifted, eloquent preacher whose knowledge of the
Bible is extensive and who in addition, has miraculous gifts of
the Spirit as well, need not be a spiritual man at all. He could
be thoroughly carnal.
Unfortunately, we live in a day when most believers think that a
man is spiritual if he is a good `Master of Ceremonies' who can
conduct meetings in a lively way, put people at ease with his
many jokes and preach eloquently as well.
Preachers today are respected, unfortunately, for their gifts and
not for the fruit of Christlikeness in their lives - in spite of
the fact that Jesus clearly taught that false prophets would be
identified by the lack of Divine fruit in their character
Jesus also said that in the day of judgment many would come
before Him and say that they had prophesied and done miracles in
His Name. But He would reply that He never knew them (Matt
7:22,23). They called Jesus "Lord" and had supernatural powers.
But there was sin in their lives. This shows us clearly that much
"Christian" activity and even supernatural gifts do not make a
man spiritual. In fact, they are not even an indication that a
man is born again, for the Lord told these people that He NEVER
knew them at any time!!
To understand what makes a man spiritual, we could first of all
make a list of all the abilities that Satan possesses. That would
show us clearly the things that are NOT the marks of true
Consider activity, for example: Satan is a full-time worker who
is active day and night (Rev.12:9,10). He never takes a holiday.
He is always seeking for people whom he can accuse - and he has
many helpers too!! He also has plenty of Bible-knowledge, for he
quoted the Scriptures even to Jesus. He has supernatural gifts,
zeal, many co-workers, a great following and authority over many
people. But he is not spiritual!!
What makes a man truly spiritual could be summed up in three
statements: An upward look, an inward look and an outward look.
A spiritual man looks in these three directions constantly:
1. Upward - in worship and devotion to God and Christ.
2. Inward - in acknowledging and repenting of his
3. Outward - in seeking to help and bless other people.
A Spiritual Man Looks Upward
God has called us first of all to be His worshippers - to hunger
and thirst after Him. A spiritual man worships God. His one
desire is God. He does not desire anything or anyone other than
God in earth or in heaven (Psa.73:25). Money does not mean more
to him than God. As the deer pants after the waterbrooks, so the
spiritual man longs after God. He longs for God more than a
thirsty man longs for water.
A spiritual man longs for fellowship with God more than he does
for ease or comfort. He longs to hear God speak to him daily.
Those who worship money, ease and their own convenience, will
always find something or the other to complain about. But the
spiritual man never has any complaints, because he desires only
God and he always has Him. He is never disappointed with the
circumstances of his life, because he sees the mighty hand of God
in all those circumstances and he humbles himself underneath that
hand joyfully at all times.
Because a spiritual man is in touch with God he does not need any
laws or rules to regulate his life. He has found the tree of life
(God Himself) and so he has no interest in the tree of knowledge
of good and evil. Because he is taken up with simple and pure
devotion to Christ, he is not sidetracked by secondary issues.
Looking at Jesus, the spiritual man becomes increasingly like his
Lord year by year.
A spiritual man humbles himself constantly. And so God exalts him
constantly. He is exalted higher and higher - into a closer and
closer relationship with God. Such a man having seen the
realities of the heavenly life will always seek to do his good
deeds hidden from man's eyes.
A Spiritual Man Looks Inward
The upward look leads on to an inward look. As soon as Isaiah saw
the glory of the Lord, he immediately became aware of his own
sinfulness (Isa.6:1-5). It was the same with Job, Peter and John
(Job 42:5,6; Lk.5:8; Rev.1:17). When we live in God's presence,
we become aware of many areas of unChristlikeness in our lives.
The spiritual man is thus constantly getting light over the
hidden sins in his life.
We are commanded to worship the Lord "in holy array (dress)"
(Psa.29:2). Without the clothing of holiness, we are naked before
the Lord. So the spiritual man "does his best" at all times to
keep his conscience clear before God and before men (Acts 24:16).
Just as the businessman does his best to make more money, and the
research scientist does his best to make new discoveries, even so
the spiritual man does his best to keep his conscience clear at
A spiritual man judges himself constantly, because he discovers
many things in his life that need to be cleansed away - things
that other believers may not be disturbed by, in their own lives.
A spiritual man realises that he has to die inwardly every day,
to many things that hinder him from being effective for God. So
his lifestyle becomes one of taking up the cross and "always
bearing about in his body the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor.4:10).
The spiritual man has no problem in humbling himself before
anyone or in asking for forgiveness from anyone - whether that
person be older than him or younger than him. He realises that
his prayers and his service will never be accepted by God, if he
has hurt even one other person - whether wife, brother or
neighbour - in any way. And so, as soon as he realises that he
has hurt someone, he "leaves his gift at the altar and goes and
settles matters with that person first, and then returns to offer
his gifts to God" (Matt.5:23,24).
A Spiritual Man Looks Outward
The upward and inward look lead on to the outward look.
A spiritual man is one who realises that God has blessed him only
in order that he might be a blessing to others. Since God has
forgiven him so much, he gladly and readily forgives all who have
harmed him. Since God has been so good to him, he is good to
others too. He has received freely from God and he gives freely
A spiritual man is genuinely concerned for the welfare of others.
He is filled with compassion for lost and suffering humanity and
can never ignore a brother whom he sees in any need - like the
Levite and the priest did, in the parable of the good Samaritan
God is concerned for fallen man - to help him, to bless him, to
lift him up and deliver him from Satan's bondage. The spiritual
man's concern is the same. Like his Master, the spiritual man
seeks to serve others and not to be served. Jesus went around
doing good and delivering people who were bound by Satan (Acts
10-:38). The spiritual man does the same.
A spiritual man does not seek to gain anything from others
through his service for them - neither money nor honour. Like
God, he only seeks to bless others through his life and his
labours. He will NEVER expect any gifts from anyone - for he
trusts in God alone for his every need.
A little booklet that has come down to us from the second century
titled "The Teaching of The Twelve Apostles" tells us that the
early apostles taught all believers in their time to beware of
any preacher who asked them for money, for such a person was
always a false prophet. If only we understood this, we would be
saved from many false prophets today!!
A spiritual man looks upward, inward and outward. If he looked
only upward, he would be unrealistic - "so heavenly-minded as to
be of no earthly use". If he looked only inward, he would be
depressed and discouraged most of the time. If he looked only
outward, his work would be shallow.
But a spiritual man looks in all three directions constantly.
May God help us to be balanced - and spiritual.
FIVE SINS THAT JESUS HATED THE MOST
As we grow spiritually, we will discover that the righteousness
of God is not primarily external, and that sin too is not
When we talk about righteousness, most people think of the
standard mentioned in the ten commandments. But righteousness
under the new covenant is measured by the life of Jesus and not
by any written Law.
When we consider the sins that Jesus spoke against the most, we
will discover what He hated the most. As we consider five such
sins, we will see that none of them are listed in the ten
To be a hypocrite is to give others the impression that we are
holier than we actually are. It is the same as being false, or
telling a lie. Jesus pronounced a curse on hypocrites seven times
It is possible to tell a lie without even opening our mouths. Ananias
lied to the Holy Spirit without saying a word - when he pretended
to be a wholehearted disciple of Jesus (Acts 5:1-5).
Jesus told the Pharisees that their inner life was "full of self
indulgence" (Matt.23:25) - which meant that they lived only to
please themselves. Yet they gave others the impression that
because they knew the Scriptures well and fasted and prayed and
tithed their income, they were holy. They appeared very pious
externally. They prayed lengthy prayers in public, but they did
not pray at length in private - just like many today. It is
hypocrisy if we praise God only on Sunday mornings, but do not
have a spirit of praise in our hearts at all times.
God looks at our hearts. The wise virgins had a hidden reserve of
oil in their vessels while the foolish ones had only enough to
light their lamps externally and have a good testimony before men
When we hear of a Christian leader suddenly falling into
adultery, we must realize that that was no sudden fall but the
final result of a long period of unfaithfulness in his inner
life. He was a hypocrite for long!
2. Spiritual Pride
Spiritual pride is the most common sin to be found among those
who pursue after holiness. We all know the parable of the
self-righteous Pharisee who despised others even in his prayer
(Lk. 18:9-14)! It is more than likely that 90% of all prayers
offered in public by believers are primarily meant to impress
others who are listening and not prayed to God at all. The
Pharisee in the parable may not have been evil like other sinners
in his external life. But Jesus hated the pride with which he
thought of his spiritual activities and with which he despised
others. It is spiritual pride that makes believers constantly
judge other believers.
The tax collector however, who saw himself as THE sinner - worse
than all others - was accepted by God. All who have come face to
face with God will have seen themselves at some time, as the
chief of sinners.
Jesus taught that the greatest person in heaven would be the
humblest (Mt. 18:4). The greatest virtue found in heaven is
humility. We see in the book of Revelation that all those who
receive crowns in heaven are quick to cast them down before the
Lord acknowledging that He alone deserves every crown (Rev.
Jesus said that even if we managed to obey EVERY SINGLE
commandment of God, we would still be unprofitable servants who
have not done anything more than what was expected of us (Lk.
17:10). Then what shall we say about our condition when we fall
Impurity enters into our hearts mainly through our eyes and our
ears. This impurity then comes OUT from our hearts and expresses
itself through the various members of our bodies - primarily
through our tongues and our eyes. Anyone who seeks to be pure
must therefore be especially careful about what he sees and what
Jesus hated impurity so much that He told His disciples that they
should be willing to pluck out their right eye and cut off their
right hand rather than sin with those members (Mt. 5:27-29).
When do doctors recommend the amputation of the right hand or the
surgical removal of an eye? Only when things have become so bad
that without the removal of these organs, the whole body will
die. This is what we need to understand in relation to sin as
well. Sin is so serious that it can imperil our very life. Most
believers have not realized this and that is why they are
careless in the way they use their tongues and their eyes. We
must be as blind men and as dumb men when tempted to sin with our
eyes and our tongues. This is the implication of Jesus' words.
4. Indifference To Human Need
Jesus was angry when the leaders of the synagogue did not want
Him to heal a man, just because it was the Sabbath day "He was
deeply disturbed by their indifference to human need" (Mk. 3:5 -
We are commanded to do good to all men, especially to the
children of God (Gal. 6:10). Jesus taught that those who did
nothing to help their brothers who were in need of the basic
necessities of life, would be cast out of His presence in the
final day (Mt. 25:41-46). We may not have the gift of healing to
heal sick believers. But we can all certainly visit those who are
sick and encourage them. That's all the Lord asks of us
The rich man went to hell because he did not care for his brother
Lazarus, who was a fellow-Jew and a fellow-son of Abraham. The
priest and the Levite in the parable of the good Samaritan, were
exposed as hypocrites by Jesus because they did not show
compassion on their fellow-brother-Jew who was lying on the
The Bible says that those who see their brothers in need and who
are not moved to help them do not really have saving faith (Jas.
2:15-17). They are only deceiving themselves when they say that
they are born again. They are not. Those who do not help their
brothers in need cannot possibly have the love of God dwelling in
their hearts (1 Jn.3:17).
Jesus spoke out strongly on such matters because He hated the
attitude that many religious people had who were concerned only
with religious activities but not with helping their needy
The four sins that we have already mentioned can easily be
identified as sins by all believers. But when it comes to
unbelief, almost all believers think of it, not as a sin but as a
weakness. And therefore they don't learn to hate unbelief as they
hate other sins.
But the Bible speaks of an unbelieving heart as an EVIL heart
(Heb.3:12) Jesus rebuked His disciples seven times for unbelief.
(See Mt.6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:17-20; Mk.16:14; Lk.24:25).
It seems that He almost never rebuked His disciples for anything
Unbelief is an insult to God, because it implies that God does
not care or provide for His children even as much as evil fathers
on earth care and provide for their children.
There is also a counterfeit faith being preached these days, as a
means of getting things from God. But that is not the faith that
Jesus preached. He wanted us to have faith to live by, in our
Victory over depression, bad moods and discouragement can come
only as we have faith in a loving Father in heaven and in the
wonderful promises He has given us in His Word.
Twice we read of Jesus being amazed - once when he saw FAITH and
once when He saw UNBELIEF!! (Mt.8:10; Mk.6:6). Jesus was excited
whenever He saw faith in people. And He was disappointed when He
saw people unwilling to trust in a loving Father in heaven.
Now That We Know
Now that we have understood what Jesus hated the most, it should
be our aim to hate these five sins too. As we discover these sins
in our lives, we must crucify them ruthlessly.
Many preachers read our books regularly, only in order to get
points for their sermons. Let me warn all such: Satan will tempt
you to use this article just to get five points for a sermon! But
what you need to do, first of all, is to hate these sins
thoroughly in your own life. Then you will be able to proclaim
God's Word with authority. Otherwise you will only be a Pharisee
like many other preachers in the world.
EVERY CHURCH MUST HAVE A DOORKEEPER
"It is like a man, away on a journey, who upon leaving his house
and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task,
also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. (Mark
We see here that the Lord has put His servants in charge of His
house on earth (the church) and assigned a task to each servant.
The Lord has also appointed a doorkeeper in the house who is
specially commanded to stay on the alert. The doorkeeper is
obviously one of the elders of the local church. His task is to
open the door for the Lord to lead His flock, and to strictly
ensure that hirelings and wolves do not enter the church and
destroy the sheep or lead them astray (Jn.10:3).
He has also to keep an eye on the spiritual condition of all who
are a part of the church, to warn those who are backsliding. The
Bible commands all shepherds, "Know well the condition of your
flocks, and pay attention to your herds" (Prov.27:23).
The doorkeeper must also be alert at all times, because worldly
people may want to become a part of his local church who have
been sent by Satan to corrupt the church and to destroy its
Jude speaks of such people who had "crept in unnoticed" even into
the churches in the first century (Jude 4).
The doorkeeper's job can at times therefore be the unpleasant
task of putting such people out of the church.
Such a task is obviously not something that most elders would
like to do - especially if they love their reputation for
gentleness more than the honour of the Lord's Name and the
testimony of the church!
So we see that the primary qualification for being a doorkeeper
is a willingness to be strict for the glory of God's Name, and a
freedom from seeking one's own honour and reputation.
Why did Paul say that after he left Ephesus, the church there
would be overrun by "savage wolves who would not spare the flock"
(Acts 20:29)? Because he knew that among the elders in that
church, there was not even one who was willing to take up the
unpleasant task of being a doorkeeper. All sought their own
reputation for being "gentle brothers" and wanted to "get a
following of disciples who would admire them".
That was why the church in Ephesus was later overrun by wolves,
and Satan was able to corrupt it to such an extent that the Lord
was about to remove His presence and His anointing (the
lampstand) from their midst (Rev.2:5). This is also the very
reason why many churches have been overrun by savage wolves
David said that he "would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of
God than dwell in the tents of wickedness" (Psa.84:10).
That indicates that the doorkeeper's position was the least
desirable of all positions in the house of God. That is the task
for which the Lord desires brothers in responsibility to offer
Eli was the high priest in Israel who was responsible for
maintaining purity in God's tabernacle. But he permitted his own
sons to defile the house of God by their adulteries, and he never
drove them out. He just rebuked them mildly and they continued to
live in sin (1 Sam.2:22-25).
In Eli's time, "word from the Lord was rare" (1 Sam.3:1). It is
the same today too - even in many churches that proclaim the new
covenant. This is because many elders, like Eli, love their
children so much that they don't correct them. If an elder's
children are not believers, he has no right to continue as an
elder (See Tit.1:6). One who cannot be a doorkeeper in his own
house, to bring up his own children properly cannot possibly be a
doorkeeper in the church (See 1 Tim.3:4,5).
Such elders don't know how to listen to God, but only know how to
defend their own family-members. They have lost the anointing of
God, even though they may continue to sit on their thrones, like
Eli!! We should pray that God will make it clear to every
believer in the church that such elders have lost His anointing
upon their lives.
When an elder's ministry is boring, heavy, lifeless and a dull
repetition of what has often been said before, you can be certain
that that elder has become like Eli. God is no longer with him,
even if God was with him in the past. Perhaps he now loves money
more than he loves the Lord and His church. Believers must not
remain undiscerning, and imagine that such elders are men of God.
They are not.
Many elders in new-covenant churches today are elders only
because they have been in that church from the beginning. They
sit on their thrones on the basis of their seniority and not on
the basis of a continual anointing from God upon their lives.
Eli's children were "worthless men who did not know the Lord" (1
Sam.2:12). Yet they were given positions of responsibility in the
Lord's house. This is the tragic situation today too. Men who "do
not know the Lord" are in positions of responsibility in many
churches. Thus Satan accomplishes his purposes in such churches,
because there are no doorkeepers. The gates of Hell thereby
prevail against such a church.
How strict Paul was when he heard that a man had sinned sexually
in the church at Corinth? Even though he was not personally
present in Corinth but had only heard about the matter through
Brother Chloe (1 Cor.1:11), he said, "I, on my part, though
absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who
has so committed this, as though I were present. In the Name of
our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit,
with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such
a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, that his spirit
may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor.7:3-5).
It was Paul's strong stand that saved the church in Corinth from
being polluted, and that prevented the Name of the Lord from
being dishonoured there. His strong action also resulted finally
in the man's salvation (2 Cor.2:5-8).
Only doorkeepers like Paul can preserve a church in purity and
bring backsliders to an awareness of their true condition and
back to the Lord. Those, on the other hand, who seek their own
name and honour will never accomplish anything for the Lord.
It is possible for some elders who read this to be stirred up
with human zeal now, and to determine that they are going to
drive every sinner out of their churches in future. This will
only result in their churches becoming empty of everyone - for
"the zeal of man cannot accomplish the righteousness of God"
(James 1:20). One has to be led by the Spirit even in this.
Jesus saw the moneychangers and the sellers of doves in the
temple on many occasions. But He never drove them out every time
He saw them. He drove them out only when His Father told Him to -
once at the beginning of His ministry (John 2:15) and once at the
end (Mark 11:15). Jesus was a faithful doorkeeper in His Father's
If we act in human zeal however, we will be like Uzzah who tried
to steady the ark with his hands and was struck down by God "for
his irreverence" (2 Sam.6:7).
As doorkeepers of the Lord's house, we have to be on the alert,
not only against worldly believers who will corrupt the testimony
of the church, but also against zealous young brothers who act in
human zeal and lead other young people off in strange directions.
We have to be on the alert against emotionalism, and against new
"fads" and "gimmicks" that immature disciples are always seeking
We have to be on the alert to ensure that the church does not
begin to major in music or in social work or in anything other
than "making disciples and teaching them to obey ALL that the
Lord commanded" (Matt.28:19,20).
When Adam and Eve were turned out of the garden of Eden, God kept
cherubs near the tree of life with a flaming sword that turned
every way to prevent anyone from coming to the tree of life.
This is a picture of the type of ministry that doorkeepers must
have in every church today. But such a doorkeeper must be one who
has first allowed that sword to fall on his own flesh, slaying
all known sin in his own life, all his human zeal, all his
partiality towards his family members and friends, etc.,
Who then is willing to stand with the sword at the doors of the
churches in India today?
May the Lord raise up many doorkeepers in our land.
AN AXE TO THE ROOT
- The Real Meaning of Repentance -
Most believers don't believe that Satan can lead them astray
through God's Word. But Satan comes as "an angel of light" (2
Cor.11:14). So he won't come to you quoting from some heathen
religious book, but from the Bible. If Satan could try to tempt
even Jesus by quoting the Scriptures, we can be certain that he
will try that with us too.
Someone has said that truth is like a bird and has two wings -
"It is written" and "It is also written". If you have only one
wing, you will go around in circles perpetually and probably
astray. But when you have both wings you move forward.
Consider the answer to this question: Why did Christ die on the
cross? The common answer to that question is: It is written,
"Christ died for our sins." (1 Cor.15:3). But that is only half
the truth. To get the whole truth, we must look at another
Scripture. It is also written, "Christ died so that those who
live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died
and rose again on their behalf." (2 Cor.5:15). Only when we put
both these Scriptures together, do we get both wings of truth.
When we read that Christ died for our sins - we need to
understand what sin is. This can be understood aright only when
we look at the second Scripture. There we see that to sin is to
live for ourselves. But that is not the common understanding of
sin that most believers have. When you say that you don't want to
sin anymore, do you really mean that you don't want to live for
Sin according to our conscience may mean different things to
different believers. For example, a head-hunter's conscience may
not bother him even after he has chopped off somebody's head. To
others, telling lies is not sinful, but even necessary at times,
if we are to live on this earth. So conscience is not a very good
guide concerning sin.
As we get a better understanding of God and Scripture, we will
realise that sin is not just murder, adultery and theft etc., It
is living for oneself. If we live for ourselves, whatever bad
habits we may have put away, we are still living in sin.
"If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have
passed away" (2 Cor.5:17). This means that the old attitudes, the
old way of living has gone away. He is no longer living for
himself. He has not reached the goal of Christlikeness. But he
has turned around and is seeking to live for the glory of God.
This and this alone is true repentance.
You may have given up your gambling, smoking and drinking, and
yet not have repented of the root cause of all sin - living for
yourself. But there are many preachers today who will tickle your
ears and tell you that you are still saved!!. Such preachers are
happy so long as you go along to their meetings and put your
contribution into the offering-bag!!
One of the greatest deceptions that Satan has ever deceived
believers with is this - making them believe that a man can
continue to live for himself and still be saved and go to heaven
at the end of his life.
A man may have turned from a few bad habits that are ruining his
life. But that may only indicate that he is trying to preserve
his life on earth. There is a statutory warning placed on all
cigarette-packets that smoking is harmful for the health. So
people don't smoke. For the same reason, people may not drink or
gamble. They may not commit adultery, because they are afraid of
catching AIDS. But such people have not repented (turned from
sin) in the Biblical sense.
We have been created by God to live for His glory. If we don't do
that but live for our own comfort, ease and glory, we are not
saved. We have not repented. Jesus died to deliver us from that
sinful way of life.
A person who seeks to be somebody big in the church and who wants
others to respect him is clearly living for himself. He may have
painted himself with a bit of religions whitewash. But he hasn't
changed basically. He may now use a little Christian language -
words like "being born again" etc., But the inner man is still
It is evident why most preachers won't want to preach a message
like this, because it will reduce the size of their
congregations. They won't be popular and they won't be invited
back to the prestigious Christian conventions at which they speak
every year. We know of preachers who have read our books, only
for the purpose of getting points for their sermons, and for the
articles and books that they write. But they are careful to leave
out the hard-hitting parts of our message, lest they lose their
I can guarantee that if any preacher preaches the whole counsel
of God for six months to his congregation, and keeps on telling
them that to live for themselves is to live in sin, and that
those who love money cannot love God, he will either lose his job
or 75% of his congregation!!
God looks at our hearts. If the basic motivation of our lives has
not changed, we are not saved. The only difference we find in
many believers, after their conversion is this: At first, they
lived for themselves without any "religious whitewash". Now they
are living for themselves with a whole lot of "religious
whitewash". In actual fact their former condition was better -
for then at least they knew that they were sinners. Now they
imagine themselves to be saints, and are deceived.
Notice that when a woman caught in adultery was brought before
Jesus, He never condemned her. Jesus was an unusual type of
prophet. He allowed a woman caught in adultery to go scot-free
without even a word of rebuke!!. Why? Because He could see that
she had repented. And so He forgave her.
And then there was this murderer who was such a wretched criminal
that the Romans decided to crucify him. But when he acknowledged
his sin, Jesus not only forgave him but also took him to
paradise. That man hadn't probably done a single good thing in
his entire life. He had only done evil, murdering others and
robbing them. Yet when he died, he was welcomed into paradise by
Jesus Himself. That's amazing, isn't it?
But when it came to the religious people who carried their Bibles
and went to the synagogues every Saturday, Jesus called them "a
generation of vipers who would not escape the damnation of hell."
Jesus' preaching was so out of the ordinary!! Whereas most
preachers in his day told the murderers and the adulteresses that
they were destined for hell, Jesus said that to the most
religious, and outwardly upright people of His generation!!
Why? Because He knew that hypocrisy and spiritual snobbishness
(that makes one look down on other human beings) were a million
times worse in God's eyes than murder or adultery. Jesus saw the
hearts of people and He didn't care one bit for outward religious
whitewash. The Lord is not impressed by our religious language,
even when we talk about "victory over sin" and "pressing on to
perfection". If a man seeks his own and yet claims to be born
again, the Lord will call him "a whitewashed grave and a viper"
even today. He is not looking for people who make tall claims
about their spirituality, but for people who are broken with
sorrow for their sins, who consider themselves as the chief of
all the sinners on earth - as Paul did towards the end of his
earthly life, even after living in purity for so many years and
accomplishing so much for the Lord.
The Lord will always be rich in mercy and forgiveness towards
anyone who sincerely desires to turn from his selfish way of
living, who is honest about his failures, and who blames no-one
but himself for his sins. Think again of that woman caught in
adultery. What qualifications did she have? Did she have a good
testimony in the city? No. But she was honest. She did not
pretend that she was innocent and that others were accusing her
falsely. By the fact that she did not open her mouth, she
acknowledged her guilt. Therefore there was hope for her.
It is extremely difficult for those who are righteous in their
own eyes to find salvation. Those Pharisees were ready to stone
the woman caught in adultery but they saw nothing of the sin
there was in their own hearts at that very moment. When they put
large amounts of money into the offering box and wanted everyone
to see it, they were committing a sin that was worse than
adultery in God's eyes, because they were getting people to
worship (admire) them, instead of worshipping God.
Repentance means an "About Turn", so that we turn our backs
henceforth to living for ourselves and decide to live for God
alone. This does not mean becoming full time Christian workers.
No. God calls only 1 in a 1000 of believers to be full time
workers. He wants all His other children to work in secular jobs
- earning their own living, but not living for themselves but for
the glory of God.
Repentance is described in 1 Thessalonians 1:9, as "turning to
God from idols". Many so-called believers have not turned to God
from their idols. In India, many of the heathen people are happy
to accept Christ as their god - but only as one more god in
addition to the many idols that they already worship. We know
that this is impossible. One who accepts Christ must give up all
other gods and idols.
Remember that it is to believers that the Holy Spirit says,
"Little children, guard yourselves from idols" (1 Jn.5:21). There
is no difference between a heathen man who wants to accept Christ
in addition to his existing gods, and the so-called believer who
wants to accept Christ, but still wants to pursue after money
(his present god).
That would be like a woman who is already married who now wants
to marry a second husband. It is amazing how believers can fool
themselves into thinking that Jesus Christ will agree to that
type of a marriage with them. How many of us would be willing to
marry a girl who is already married to another man. Yet you
expect Christ to marry you, without your having forsaken your
love for the world and its honour, its pleasures and its wealth.
Idols made of wood and stone are not as deceptive as the
invisible ones (like money and honour), because one can see one's
idolatry clearly when bowing down to physical idols. If you saw a
man bowing down before a statue of some heathen idol in one room
and then going into the next room and praying to Jesus Christ,
you would not consider him to be a Christian. But what is the
difference between him and the man who spends his whole week
worshipping the idols of money, the honour of men and worldly
ambitions and then comes to the meetings on Sundays and tries to
worship Christ. I think there is more hope for the man who
worships Buddha than for such a "believer".
When such a "believer" comes to the meeting on a Sunday and
"Take my silver and my gold - Not a mite would I withhold",
- he is telling God a lie.
Christians tell more lies to God on Sundays than on any other day
of the week, because they sing songs of great consecration to the
Lord, claiming to surrender all to Him and to follow Him etc.,
God hears all this, but He is not deceived. He says, "With their
mouth they show much love, but their heart goes after their
Listening to the words of the songs that many believers sing, one
would think they are the greatest saints on earth. But in fact
most of them are the greatest of hypocrites. And God is not
To live for oneself is to live like an animal - for all animals
live only for themselves and their little ones. They all seek
their own, always thinking of what will benefit them the most.
This is how a lion thinks in the forest, "If that deer can be
killed for my food then I will kill it." And so among animals,
only the strongest can survive. But we are not animals. God did
not create us to live like the dogs and the pigs, who just eat
and sleep and produce little ones and die. Man was created to
live his entire life for the glory of God.
I sometimes get letters from people who have retired from some
job asking whether we can employ them because they want to spend
their retirement years in "the service of God". Imagine a scene
where a honoured guest comes to your house and you drink a cup of
tea in front of him and then offer him the dregs in your cup!!
That is what people do to God. Having lived their entire life for
making money in the world, they now want to give the dregs of
their lives to God. What an insult!
We must give our lives to God when we are young. All of our lives
must be for Him to order as He pleases. Have you turned like that
from a life of seeking your own? Many believers are going to have
a lot of regret when Jesus returns and they discover that all the
money that they earned on earth was no better than the play-money
that children play with in a MONOPOLY game - worth nothing!! And
all the property that they acquired on earth too was just like
the hotels and the houses on that MONOPOLY board - worth nothing.
The game of life is over then and they never accomplished
anything other than accumulating worthless things that have no
eternal value. They have lived a useless life. There will be
tremendous regret too if all they sought for was honour and they
discover that their honour has evaporated in the light of
But those who have lived to do the will of God and for the glory
of God will find that they have tremendous joy in that day.
Material things are only for our use on this earth. That is all.
As long as we use them, that is all right. But they should never
master us. It is one thing to use money. It is another thing to
be mastered by it. Money is an excellent servant but a terrible
master. Consider a woman who is married to an excellent man, but
who loves the car-driver (chauffeur) more than her husband and
spends most of her time with the chauffeur. What would you think
of such a woman? That is an exact description of the believer who
is always thinking of making more and more money (beyond his
legitimate needs) than on how he can be more effective for the
When God created Adam, He told him to have dominion over the
whole earth. But Adam became a slave. Christ has now come to make
us kings once again. God has given us many things to enjoy in
this world. But when any of those things master us, then we
become slaves. Then we are no longer the kings that God intended
us to be.
God told the serpent in Eden that dust would be its food. Do you
know what gold is? It too is part of the dust that God created on
this earth - a little harder and a little rarer perhaps than
ordinary dust, but dust nevertheless. And here we see the sad
spectacle of man pursuing after the devil's food. Man is enslaved
to gold-dust everywhere.
When the devil sees that he can't enslave a man through a bad
habit, he will enslave him through something neutral - just so
that the man has no time for God, or for reading the Bible, or
for fellowship. It could be a good, clean television program that
enslaves a man. The devil is looking for believers who will seek
their own - their own entertainment, their own profit, etc., The
devil has 101 means to keep a man away from God. That is why we
need to see sin not just as drinking and gambling and adultery
and murder. We must see sin as "living for ourselves". To sin is
to do what pleases ourselves, to do our own will. From that root,
many fruits of sin come forth. Jesus died to save us from all
John the Baptist said that when Jesus came, He would lay the axe
to the root of the tree. This is the root that Jesus has come to
lay the axe to - living for ourselves and wanting to do our own
We can cut off little bad fruits from the tree every now and
then. But that does not solve the problem. Our life may look so
nice when the bad fruit that others could see have all been
snipped off. But the tree hasn't changed. Jesus said that a good
tree will never bear good fruit unless you change the tree
itself. To change the tree, you have to first put the axe to the
roots of the old tree.
Why are most homes war zones today? Because both husbands and
wives want to live for themselves. And so we see this amazing
thing happening in the world today: So called "born again
Christians" are divorcing their partners and marrying again!!
This is unique to the 20th century. Even pastors and preachers
are divorcing their wives and marrying other women. Some
preachers don't divorce their wives, but just live in secret
adultery. Worldly couples have divorced each other in all
centuries. But when Christians start doing that, we can be
certain that the great apostasy ("falling away from the faith")
is upon us and that we are in the last days.
The reason for all this is that believers have not seen that sin
is living for oneself. They have not seen it because they have
not been taught it. The fault is with their leaders and their
blood is on the hands of their leaders who are accountable to
Jesus said that "very few will find the way of life". Why?
Because the gate is so narrow.
From a worldly standpoint, the rich young ruler who came to Jesus
had four excellent qualifications for church-membership - he was
young, rich, influential (a ruler) and morally upright. All
churches would love to have such a man as a member. He would have
qualified even to be a board-member in most evangelical churches
today. But Jesus did not consider him fit to be even His disciple
- leave alone a leader. Isn't that amazing?
Jesus was not impressed by his wealth or his worldly influence.
If the man still loved money, he was unfit to be Jesus' disciple.
He had to give up his love for money before he could enter
through the narrow gate. The man went away sad, and Jesus let him
go. Jesus did not go after him and suggest that he give up his
money in stages - 10% now and another 10% a month later etc., No.
There is no bargaining when it comes to discipleship. It is
either all or nothing. He could not love money and God at the
same time. He had to make a choice. He had to turn from his idol
(money) and be united to Christ alone.
If you want to live for yourself, you can go ahead and do so. And
as in the case of this rich man, the Lord will leave you alone.
And if you find a convenient church where you are told that you
are still on your way to heaven, God won't disturb you there
either. He will allow you to deceive yourself all your life. You
will wake up finally to discover yourself in hell. The reason why
God allows people to be deceived is because they don't love to
know the truth about themselves. And when some prophet tells them
the truth about themselves, they get angry with the prophet.
Jeremiah prophesied during the reign of King Jehoiakim. When the
people of Judah read the words that Jeremiah had written on a
scroll, they were afraid, for Jeremiah was one of the hardest
prophets in the Old Testament, never preaching a soft message. It
was judgment, judgment and more judgement (Jer.20:8 - Living).
When the king read Jeremiah's scroll however, he got so angry
that he cut it up and threw it into the fire (Jer.36). But God
told Jeremiah to write the scroll again. That is how we got the
book of Jeremiah. But the first time it was written, it was torn
up by an angry king who did not want to hear the truth about
himself. There have always been people like that.
But there have also been A FEW in every age who have loved the
truth. It is a great grace that God has given us an ear to hear
the truth. God loved us before we were born and wanted the best
for us. He did not want us to waste our lives and to wake up in
eternity to find ourselves paupers. He wants us to be wise and to
live for the things that are eternal.
All that is created (including money, houses and lands) will be
shaken and removed one day. Only that which is not created will
remain. So we must be wise to spend our time and energies for
that which will remain eternally. And let me say again that that
does not mean that you should all become full time Christian
workers. But it does mean that in whatever work you do, you no
longer live for yourself, but only for the glory of God. You can
certainly work and earn the best salary possible - to support
yourself and the Lord's work. But your goal in life must be the
glory of God. Your ambition in life must be to please Him.
I am not saying that we can't go for a picnic or have any form of
recreation. Of course we can. As human beings, we need that -
whether playing games or listening to music or whatever. All that
is perfectly all right, if it is clean and healthy entertainment.
It is when any of these things master us and begin to be a
dominant interest in our lives, that we cross over the red line
into dangerous ground. It is very easy for a job or a sport or
some harmless entertainment to become so much a part of a
person's life that it becomes the main thing in his life. And
then even his wife and children get neglected. And God of course
gets neglected first of all. When that happens, then you know
that that thing (whatever it is) has become the man's master.
We have to turn from living for ourselves, if the Lord is to
build His church through us - the type of church that He has
planned from eternal ages. He can build it only through people
who are not seeking their own, but who are willing to lay
everything on the altar for Him.
The Old Testament temple was built on Mount Moriah - where
Abraham offered up his son Isaac to God (2 Chron.3:1). Abraham
had only one son left, at that time - Isaac, the darling of his
God tested Abraham's devotion that day to check whether Isaac had
become an idol in his life. God told him, as it were, that he had
to turn from all idolatry if he was to serve the Lord. And so he
had to place his son on the altar and give him up. God did not
take Isaac away, because God was only detaching Abraham from his
unnatural attachment to Isaac that would have hindered his walk
with God. God has to do the same with us. We have to give him
that which is most precious to us.
In the rich young ruler's case it was his money. Just like God
asked Abraham to give up Isaac, God asked the rich young ruler to
give up his money. For all you know, if that rich man had only
said "Yes, Lord, here it is all", God may have told him that he
could keep his money, just like he told Abraham to keep Isaac.
But he had to give it up first.
May we then all have the grace to say, "Lord whatever Isaacs
there are in my life, I lay them all on the altar and give them
all up to You. I don't want any more idols in my life that come
between You and me. I don't want to live for myself. I really
want to live for You alone. I want to live for the glory of God.
I don't want to waste my life."
This is the best news in the world: We don't have to be slaves to
our own ambitions and desires any more and thus waste our earthly
lives, but can be free to live for the glory of God and thus live
useful lives. To live for ourselves is to live in bondage and in
chains. To live for the glory of God is to be like the eagles who
fly in the sky. The good news of the gospel is that Jesus can
break every chain and set you free - TODAY!!
If you have wasted much time in profitless pursuits in the past,
you can't do anything about that now. But you can press on to do
the best TODAY.
Since there is still time ahead of us, what we should all say to
the Lord is: "Lord I can't do anything about the years of my life
that are past. But I want to live the rest of life for You alone.
Search my life and see if there is any idol anywhere that I am
worshipping. I want to turn from every idol in my life to worship
and serve You alone. Lord Jesus I repent especially of this
unconscious idolatry of living for myself."
May the Lord help us all.
NEW-COVENANT SERVANTS AND NEW COVENANT-CHURCHES
There are three passages of Scripture that tell us who a true
servant of God is under the NEW covenant. When we read those
three passages without any preconceived opinions, we will
discover that all of us can be servants of God, in this day and
age, if we want to be.
Under the old covenant, only the Levites could be servants of
God. They were not supposed to do any earthly work and were to be
supported by the tithes of the other tribes of Israel. Babylonian
Christianity today teaches that under the new covenant too, only
those who give up their secular jobs can be servants of God - and
that they must be supported by the tithes of other Christians.
But this is the teaching of man's tradition and not that of
(1) Free From Sin
"Being made free from sin and become servants to God" (Rom.6:22).
This is the first requirement - to be free from sin. It is
obviously easier to be free of one's earthly job than to be free
from sin. Jesus worked in a secular job. Yet He was a servant of
God even then.
A man who gets angry and loses his temper cannot be a servant of
God. He may be a preacher or even a chief-pastor, but he cannot
be a servant of God. Many pastors shout praises to God in "other
tongues" on Sunday morning and then shout angrily at their wives
in their "mother-tongue" the same afternoon. Is the Holy Spirit
able to control us only when we speak in other tongues, but not
when we speak in our mother-tongue? That is a deception. I thank
God that I have spoken in tongues for 22 years. It has edified me
and delivered me totally from depression, gloom and
discouragement all these years. But I thank God that the Holy
Spirit also controls my language when I speak in my mother-tongue
- to my wife, to my brothers, to strangers and to beggars.
A man who lusts after women with his eyes cannot be a preacher of
the gospel or a servant of God. Only one who is radical enough to
be willing even to pull out his eye to avoid sin can be a servant
of God. When was the last time you wept on your pillow at night,
because you slipped up with your eyes? If you are casual about
this matter, you will backslide inwardly little by little until
one day you fall publicly.
A man who tells a lie in order to make a little more money or in
order to gain some honour for himself is actually a servant of
the devil - for the devil is the father of all lies. He cannot be
a servant of God.
One who cannot love ALL his enemies, or do good to ALL who harm
him, is totally unfit to preach the gospel. If you have the
slightest bit of bitterness or unforgiveness in your heart
against anyone, then the best thing for you to do is to keep your
mouth shut, go home and repent and cleanse your heart of those
evils. You cannot be a servant of God.
(2) Free from Mammon
"You cannot be a servant of God and a servant of Mammon. You must
hate one and love the other. You must hold on to one and despise
the other" (Luke 16:13).
This is the second requirement - to be free from mammon (money
and all material things). Again, it is easier to be free from
one's secular job than it is to be free from mammon.
You have to make a choice as to which you are going to serve -
either God or Mammon. Many "full time workers" are seeking to
serve God AND Mammon. They earn more as so-called "servants of
God" today, than they would ever have earned if they had been in
a secular profession. Anyone who has not had to sacrifice earthly
comforts, money and material things in serving God is NOT really
serving God at all.
Any believer can be a servant of God - but he must be free from
loving mammon. In fact, if you read the above verse carefully,
you will find that Jesus said that we had to hate mammon and
despise mammon in order to be servants of God.
If you can say before God that that is your attitude towards
mammon or at least that that is the attitude that you want to
have towards mammon, then you qualify to be a servant of God -
not otherwise. How many full-time workers qualify by the standard
that Jesus has set here? Very, very few!
The test as to who we serve is discovered by whose orders we obey
- God's or Mammon's. Whose claims have priority in our lives -
God's or Mammon's? No-one can serve two masters. When money calls
you, if you respond immediately, you are a servant of mammon.
Why is it that most preachers travel only to preach in
comfortable places where there are rich believers. How many are
interested in regularly visiting the poor believers in the
villages of India and establishing them in the faith. Those are
the true servants of God in India.
Many Indian full-time workers now live in America and claim to
have a burden for India. This is sheer hypocrisy. Yet multitudes
of believers are fooled by them. If they really had a burden for
India they would have lived in India itself. There is nothing
wrong in a believer re-locating his residence to another country.
But the motive in his re-location is what matters. Jesus also
relocated His residence from heaven to earth. But what was His
motive? Was it comfort and ease and money? Or was it that God
might be glorified and needy people helped. You too must decide
why you decided to relocate from one place to another. That will
indicate to you whether you are a servant of God or of Mammon.
The devil knows that a man who serves Mammon is useless to God.
And so he leaves such preachers alone. The greatest insult that
the devil can give you is to leave you alone and to allow you to
get honour from worldly people and from the worldly leaders of
A servant of God thinks constantly about how to win souls and
build the church. That is what he dreams about at night too. A
servant of Mammon however thinks and dreams day and night about
how to make more money. We cannot fool our "subconscious" -
because it knows, more than anyone else, exactly what we desire.
If we love Mammon, let us be honest and tell God that - and ask
Him to deliver us from it. There is great hope for honest
believers - but NO hope for dishonest hypocrites.
We hear these days of many "miracle crusades". But I am still
waiting to see one crusade where the miracle of "not asking
people to give money" is seen!! Jesus and His apostles never took
an offering from people in any of their meetings. Yet blind,
foolish believers today admire preachers who unashamedly ask for
money and even imagine that these are great servants of God. The
clearer light of the judgment-seat of Christ will reveal that
such preachers were only serving themselves and not God.
Believers draw a dividing line to separate those who are
evangelical in doctrine from those who are liberal. But in such a
case, the devil and all his demons will also be on the
"evangelical" side, because they are all evangelical in doctrine
(Jas.2:19)!! But God draws a line to separate those who love
Mammon from those who love God. Then we find that the devil and
his demons are found among the lovers of Mammon.
If we seek God's kingdom first, God will give us all that we need
for our life on earth, without our pursuing after them. I have
found this to be true in all the 40 years of my Christian
experience. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God's Word will
not pass away. We must all be living demonstrations of the fact
that God supplies ALL the needs of those who seek His kingdom
first. Although none of us may be able to say that we have
consistently sought God's kingdom first at all times throughout
our Christian life, we should certainly be able to testify that
we have not run after money. If we are preachers, we should also
have this testimony that we do not go anywhere to preach just
because we know we can get money there, that we do not seek to
please the rich, that we do not ignore the poor, that we are not
interested in taking up offerings, that we do not make our
financial needs known to people and that we do not expect people
to give us money. Paul could testify to having lived such a life.
He said that he lived like that in order to expose all the
money-loving preachers in his time who claimed that they too were
serving God like he did (2 Cor.11:10-13 -Living Bible).
In our day also, there is a great need in India for living
witnesses like Paul, who will expose the money-loving preachers
that are found in abundance in Christendom in India. We know very
well why the devil hates us and our ministry so much, that he
makes believers (who have never come to our meetings or heard us
speak) call us heretics, antichrists, terrorists, false prophets
etc., It is because we are troubling Satan's kingdom so much by
exposing the fact that full-time workers who love money and
preach the gospel of Christ are actually servants of Satan (See
2Cor.11:15 in the context of verses 10-13).
Jesus said that if we were not faithful in the use of Mammon, God
would not commit the true riches of His kingdom to us (Lk.16:11).
When we see the blind imitation of Western Christians by Indian
Christians, the terrible lack of revelation on God's Word, and
the boring preaching of today's preachers, we can understand
clearly that the reason for all this is that these preachers have
NOT been faithful with money.
(3) Free From Seeking To Please Men
"If I seek to please men, I cannot be a servant of Christ" (Gal.
This is the third requirement - to be free from seeking to please
Once again, it is easier to be free of a secular job than to be
free from seeking to please men.
If we preach God's Word to please men, we are servants of men and
not of God. When a preacher wants to be invited back once again
to a prestigious convention where he can get more money and
honour next year, he can be tempted to modify his message so that
nobody is offended by what he says. Thus he becomes a servant of
When you pray in such a way in public as to impress men, you are
worshipping men's opinions and not the living God. God does not
hear such prayers, because they are offered to men and not to
In the same way, we could examine ourselves concerning the way we
dress, the way we talk to people, and even the way we walk. If
any of these things are done to impress men with our "holiness"
or perhaps our "humility", we are servants of men and not
servants of God.
Even if you seek to please your wife/husband, you cannot please
The more you please God the more you will be called evil names by
men who do not know God - even by religious leaders in
Christendom. Jesus was called "the prince of devils". How much
more His disciples will be called by such names - because they do
not seek to please any pope or archbishop or chief-pastor or any
human being on the earth.
Nowadays many believers are fed up with their own denominations,
and are leaving them in search of a new-covenant church. There
are also many groups that claim to be "New-covenant churches".
But how are we to identify a new-covenant church? Certainly not
by the pattern of its meetings. It is possible to imitate many
things in the pattern that we see in a powerful church, and yet
never become a powerful church ourselves.
It would have been possible for the Philistines to build a
tabernacle exactly like the one that Moses built, because the
details were all clearly given in the book of Exodus. But there
was one thing about that tabernacle that no-one would have been
able to imitate - and that was the fire of the glory of God that
rested upon the tabernacle. That was the one distinctive mark by
which the true dwelling place of God was identified in the
wilderness. Without that, the tabernacle was an empty shell. When
the tabernacle was later replaced by the temple in Solomon's
time, the glory of God filled it. But later, when Israel
backslid, that glory slowly moved out (Ezek.10:4,18,19). That
temple then became an empty shell. It is the same with many
The one identifying mark of a new-covenant church is the presence
of God in its midst. When the spirit of prophecy is powerfully
present in a church-meeting, those coming to that meeting will
fall on their faces and "acknowledge that God is there" (1
Cor.14:24,25). When Jesus speaks prophetically in the church, our
hearts will burn, just like the hearts of the two disciples
burned on the way to Emmaus, when Jesus spoke to them (Lk.24:32).
God is a consuming fire. When God came down into the bush through
which He spoke to Moses, and the bush burned, no worm could
survive in that bush. In exactly the same way, no sin can remain
hidden or unexposed where the powerful, burning presence of God
is found today. Such a church alone is a new-covenant church. The
eyes of Jesus are like a flame of fire (Rev.1:14) and He is
constantly searching and exposing sin and human traditions and
Phariseeism in all the churches which he is building.
The master key to the kingdom of heaven is poverty of spirit (Mt.
5:3). Without this, we will not be able to build a new-covenant
church. To be poor in spirit is to be broken before God
constantly with a sense of our own need, because we have a great
and intense longing to be perfect even as our heavenly Father is
perfect. "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted" (Psa.34:18). And
when He is near, His presence brings the fire of heaven into our
hearts and through us to others wherever we go.
Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) made a serious mistake when they
joined the powerful new-covenant church at Jerusalem where the
presence of God burned like a fire. If they had been in the
church at Corinth (in later years) they would have lived long
lives. Ananias might even have become an elder there - because
the church at Corinth was a carnal, dead church. But in the fiery
new-covenant church at Jerusalem, this couple just could not
survive. God will expose and remove those who live in hypocrisy
in any new-covenant church.
If there is anything that dishonours God in our life at home or
work place, we are in great danger if we remain as members of a
truly new-covenant church. If your basic aim in life is not to
seek the glory of God, but something for yourself or your family,
it is far better that you leave a new-covenant church where God
is powerfully present and His Word powerfully proclaimed. It
would be better for you to join a dead church. At least you may
then live long - unlike Ananias and Sapphira!
There are many churches today that call themselves "new-covenant
churches". But they are as dead as the dodo bird!! The name means
nothing. The question is whether Pharisees and hypocrites can
live comfortably there or whether they are exposed and get
offended and leave. In a new-covenant church, many will get
offended with the preaching of the Word and leave the church. It
is written of the church at Jerusalem, that "many people didn't
dare join them" (Acts 5:13)
If our desire as elders is to increase our numbers rather than to
make disciples for Jesus, we will gather Pharisees and hypocrites
in our churches. We will never build a new-covenant church. When
the presence of Jesus is powerfully present in a church, the
disciples therein will be taken up with seeing His glory. The
proof that we have indeed seen the glory of the risen Lord will
be that the things of earth (like comfort and honour and wealth)
will have become dim in our eyes, and will no longer have the
attraction that they once had for us.
In a new-covenant church, there won't be just powerful preaching
of the Word but powerful, living examples of the Word too. It is
not new doctrines that make an impact on others for God, but holy
lives. New-covenant servants don't just preach to others, they
invite others to follow their example too (1 Cor. 11:1).
We should weep when our example is not a worthy one. We should
hang our heads in shame when we bore people with dry, un-anointed
messages. It is impossible to become cold or Pharisaical if we
follow Jesus. We are far away from Jesus if we have only dreams
and visions to talk about, but no word from the Lord to feed the
people with. It is impossible to bore people, when we ourselves
are on fire for the Lord.
Jesus was raised from the dead so that He might have the first
place in everything (Col. 1:18). God fully backs all those who
have this as their ambition. What this means is that we give up
our own plans and rights and let Jesus tell us what we are to do,
how we are to spend our money and time etc., If this is your only
ambition in life, you can be certain that God will use you to
build a new-covenant church in your locality.
Many claim that Jesus is in their midst just because they quote
His Name (Mt. 18:20). But they are deceiving themselves. If He is
really present in their midst, then why are the meetings so
boring? Why is it that lives are not being transformed? Even a
short time spent in the company of a truly godly man makes a deep
impact upon us such that, it even changes the course of our
lives. How much more of an impact there should be upon our lives
if we have spent even a short time with Jesus Himself. So if
lives are not being transformed through the church-meetings, then
we have to admit that the Lord's presence is not there in our
meetings. Then we are NOT a new-covenant church.
We will never be able to build a perfect church here on this
earth. Even in the first church that Jesus built - His twelve
disciples - there was one traitor. So we cannot expect anything
better. But where Jesus builds His church today, there will be a
core at the centre of that church of people who have seen His
glory and who have been gripped by it. Their hearts will be
aflame with a fire that the Devil cannot quench. Through them the
Lord will build a new covenant church for the glory of God.
LESSONS FROM CAIN AND ABEL
Reading: Genesis 4:1-12.
This is the first incident recorded in the Bible after Adam and
Eve were turned out of the garden of Eden.
Here were two children brought up in the same home, under
absolutely identical circumstances, with the same background the
same teaching concerning the true God etc., And yet their lives
turned out so differently. Jesus sold that when He comes for His
Bride, two can be in one bed, and yet one may be taken and the
other left behind. Two can be fellowshipping in the same church,
one will taken and the other left behind.
That was how it was with Abel and Cain, one was accepted and the
other rejected. Both were religious. Both brought offerings to
God, but their heart attitudes were different and that made all
the difference. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God
looks at the heart.
The difference between Abel and Cain was NOT, as we have commonly
heard, that one brought a lamb (and shed its blood) and the other
brought an offering of the produce of the ground. They were not
presenting a sacrifice for their sins but an offering to the
Lord. And it was quite permissible (even under the law of Moses)
to present to the Lord an offering of "the produce of the ground"
(Deut.26:2,10). The exhortation in Proverbs 3:9 is to honour the
Lord with the first of all your produce. In Abel's case this
happened to be the firstlings of his flock, because he was a
keeper of flocks. in Cain's case this was the fruit of the ground
because he was a tiller of the ground (Gen. 4:2). Each of them
brought the firstfruits of their respective occupations. in this
matter, there was nothing to find fault with in Cain.
But the sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart, that
is aware of its own nothingness and helplessness (Psa.51:17).
That is what Abel had, and what Cain did not have. And that is
why it is written, "The Lord had regard for Abel, and (therefore)
for his offering ...... But the Lord had no regard for Cain and
(therefore) not for his offering either (Gen.4:4,6).
Faith is the helpless dependence of the soul upon God and it was
"by faith that Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain"
(Heb.11:4). Therefore Abel's gifts were acceptable to God.
There is a great deception in the teaching that what made the
difference between Abel and Cain was that Abel offered blood and
Cain did not. The application of such teaching is that what makes
a man acceptable to God is his presenting the blood of Jesus
before God. is is almost as though the way the man lives and the
condition of his heart (whether broken or not, whether with faith
or not) makes no difference. All he does is plead the blood of
Jesus as though it were some type of magic charm, and he gains
acceptance with God. This is a lie and many are being deceived by
The blood of Jesus cannot be claimed by anyone and everyone. is
does NOT say in the Scriptures that the blood of Jesus can
cleanse anyone and everyone from their sins. No. That is a subtle
perversion of Scripture. What the Scripture does say is that the
blood of Jesus will cleanse all those "WHO WALK IN THE LIGHT AS
GOD IS IN THE LIGHT" (1 Jn.1;7). To walk in the light of God, one
must have a broken and a contrite heart, as Abel had. Only then
can one's offering be acceptable to God.
If a man says that he trusts in the blood of Jesus, but has a
proud and arrogant spirit, God will resist him and oppose him (1
Pet.5:6), just like He did Cain. It is only the humble who
receive grace from God (Jas.4:6).
Our offerings of worship, prayer and service are acceptable to
God ONLY if they come from a broken and contrite heart of faith
(humble dependence an God). It is not the fluency of our speech
or the efficiency of our service that God looks at, but rather
the attitude of our hearts. This is the first lesson that we can
learn from this incident in Genesis 4.
From the days of Cain and Abel and on until the and of time, the
sacrifices of God have always been a broken and contrite spirit.
He does not change. His laws remain the some.
God would not have accepted Cain even if Cain had brought a lamb
and shed its blood, for his heart was proud and lifted up.
Humility of heart is the first step to salvation Then we can come
into the light and ask for the blood of Jesus to cleanse us from
It is only the humble of heart who can shout Paul's shout of
triumph, "If God be for us, who can be against us " (Rom.8:31),
because God is only on the side of the humble. The proud cannot
say that, for God is against them. Anyone who has high thoughts
concerning himself, as Cain had, will end up like Cain too, even
if he keeps claiming the blood of Jesus. "Do not be deceived. God
is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap"
(Gal.6:7). And that law applies universally without respect of
Jealousy and Anger
There is a further lesson that we can learn from this incident.
Cain was jealous and angry with Abel, because is had gone so well
with Abel (for God had accepted him).
How do you feel when you find it going very well with someone
whom you are closely associated with? When you find a
fellow-brother who is preaching victory over sin and you find
that his life is consistent with his preaching - that there is no
evidence of anxiety or anger or impatience in him, but on the
contrary, a perpetual spirit of triumph and joy and peace; and in
contrast your own life is miserable and gloomy and defeated
(because you do not believe that a life of victory is possible) -
Do you then find a root of envy creeping in and a desire to see
him fall somewhere so that you can gloat over his failure and
drag him down in the eyes of others? That was the same spirit
that drove Cain.
Do you feel happy when some trouble befalls that brother? Does
his perpetual victory irritate you and make you angry? That
attitude of yours, is the spirit of Cain, not the Spirit of
Christ; and the sooner you recognise it for the foul, slimy thing
that it is, the better.
Sin was crouching at the door of Cain's heart when God sought to
warn him. Sin wasn't a hundred miles away but at the door of his
heart pressing for entrance.
Cain was NOT thinking about doing something good. He had not yet
thought to do something evil, for in that case, sin would have
been inside the door already. He had just kept his heart empty,
swept and unoccupied with anything good. That opened the way, as
Jesus said for eight wicked spirits to occupy it (Matt.12:43-45).
There was no joy in Cain's life, for such a man cannot truly
rejoice. His face was fallen, and gloom and depression and anger
were written across it. He could not bear to see it going so well
with someone else.
Cain was angry with God and with Abel. An extra reason for his
anger was that it was going well with someone younger than him.
It would perhaps have been tolerable to see it going well with
someone older, but it was unbearable to see it happening to
Before you throw a stone at Cain, consider: Can you truly rejoice
when you see brothers who are much younger than you, going ahead
of you spiritually? Do you seek their good so zealously that you
are eager to see them go ahead of you. If so, then you have the
mind of Christ Who could rejoice that His disciples would do
greater works then He Himself did (Jn.14:12).
But "where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder
and every evil thing" (Jas 3:16). Yes, where the spirit of Cain
is found, every imaginable evil will also be found, sooner or
And yet the amazing thing is that God does not leave even such a
man without giving him a warning. Look at the father of the
prodigal son who was willing to go outside and invite his elder
son to come in. So God came to Cain. As Jesus would later love
even Judas Iscariot right up to the very end, so God loved Cain
and did not desire his destruction.
"Why are you angry?" God asked him, "if you do well, surely you
too will be accepted" (Gen.4:7 marg.) If Cain came with a broken
and a contrite heart, he too would be accepted. There is no
partiality with God.
God has no favourites. His laws are unchanging and those who
humble themselves will be exalted and those who exalt themselves
will be humbled. Even Jesus, His own Son, was not treated in any
special way by the Father. It is clearly written that Jesus was
exalted to the right hand of God, because He HUMBLED HIMSELF
(Phil.2:8,9). Not because He was God's Son, but because He
humbled Himself as a man. He lived as a man under the same laws
of God that we live under, as human beings. God treated His own
Son just as He would treat any other man. Therefore we dare to
believe that what God did for Jesus He will do for us too. If we
humble ourselves, we too will be exalted - but not otherwise. If
we do well, our face too will be lifted up and become radiant
"But," God warned Cain, "if you do not do well, then sin is
crouching at the door." Like a lion waiting to devour him, sin
was close to Cain's heart. He himself did not probably realise
it, but God warned him. Cain was already jealous and angry, but
something worse was waiting outside the door. The spirit of
murder was waiting to possess Cain. But God told Cain that he
must master sin This has always been God's desire for man and it
is mentioned right at beginning of human history - THAT MAN MUST
But that warning of God went unheeded - just many do not heed
God's warnings in Scripture today. Cain did not respond to God's
call. Instead of humbling himself under the mighty hand of God,
he exalted himself and gave in to the desires in his flesh. Thus
God became His enemy.
God orders our circumstances so that we begin to see the
corruption in our flesh. If Cain had been an only son of his
parents, he would never have seen the jealousy that there was in
his flesh. But the presence of Abel and the fact of God's
acceptance of Abel brought out the evil in Cain's flesh - for
Cain to see clearly, if he wanted to. Cain should have judged
himself instead of being angry with his brother. Then he would
have been saved.
We ought to be thankful that God brings us into situations with
other people, that bring out what resides in our flesh, for us to
see clearly. If we heed those warnings from God and humble
ourselves and judge ourselves, acknowledging the truth about
ourselves that God has brought forth into the light, then it can
go well with us. Otherwise sin waits outside our door too to
We should be thankful too that we can be part of an assembly
where the light of God shines brightly, so that all that is
fleshly and soulish is brought to the surface for us to see. It
would be terrible to belong to an assembly where we can sit for
years and never discover the evil that dwells hidden in our
flesh. Those who do not seek for fellowship never have any light
on their self-life, and thus remain in blissful ignorance of
their condition and never make any progress. When God shows us
something concerning ourselves we should be thankful for the
When God gives us a warning through the exhortations of the
brothers and sisters in the church, we should take it seriously,
or we too can end up like Cain who ignored God's warning.
Freedom from suspicion
In Abel, we see a contrast to the wicked attitude of Cain.
When Cain invited Abel for a walk in the fields (Gen.4:8), he
went along with him unsuspectingly. Abel did not suspect that
Cain was jealous of him - or else he would not have gone out with
him. How simple in heart Abel was. He had a broken and contrite
heart and did not judge his brother Cain. What an example for us
How often even those with whom it is going well in other ways,
are suspicious that others are jealous of them or that they are
thinking bad thoughts about them or trying to push them down
etc., We may have nothing against others, but may yet suspect
that others are having things against us. Thus we also are
Abel did not even suspect one who was out to murder him. What a
good heart he had! That is the type of heart we need. There are
two cliffs on either side of the narrow way. One is the cliff of
jealousy and the other is the cliff of suspicion - and we can
fall over either cliff and reach the bottom. Abel was neither
jealous of Cain nor suspicious of him. This is the path we are to
walk in relation to our fellow-believers. It is better to die
like Abel with an unsuspecting heart than to live with a heart
contaminated with suspicion.
The one who suspects and judges others of being jealous or angry,
is a busybody in the matters of others, and thereby proves that
he himself does not have a broken and contrite heart any more
then the one who is jealous and angry.
If we have lowly thoughts about ourselves, like Abel had, then we
will not even think that others could be jealous of us. We would
then be so insignificant in our own estimation that we would not
imagine that anyone could possibly be jealous of us.
Abel rejoiced in God's acceptance of him. But that did not lift
his heart up in pride against Cain. No. Ho would not compare
himself with Cain neither would he be a busybody in Cain's life.
The end of Cain
Cain was too proud to accept God's warning and so the sin that
lay crouching at his door came inside his heart, mastered him and
destroyed him. Finally, it was Cain who was destroyed, not Abel -
for Abel went straight into God's presence, whereas Cain went out
from the presence of the Lord for eternity (Gen.4:16).
When God warns us through an exhortation in a meeting or through
a word that comes to us through an article, if we think, "Oh, I
don't need that exhortation," then we have begun to walk "the way
of Cain " (Jude 11). "The pride of our heart has then deceived
us" (Obadiah 3).
And when the exhortation has come from a brother who is much
younger to us in the Lord, then the temptation is even greater to
treat it lightly. It is then that God shows us, if we have ears
to hear, that we love ourselves more than we love the truth. And
if we continue along that path, God will one day send a delusion
into our lives so that we are deceived concerning the truth (2
Thess.2:10,11). It is dangerous to ignore exhortation. That is
the surest way to be end up being hardened by the deceitfulness
of sin and to depart from the living God, like Cain did
We may not kill someone with a stone, as Cain did, but we may do
so with our tongues. The Bible warns us that the tongue has the
power to kill people (Prov.18:21). We can murder a man's
reputation, his character and many other things besides - without
even touching his body. And, alas many who call themselves
believers do just that, week after week. And at the end of the
week, they go so innocently to the Sunday meeting, to worship
God, as though they had done nothing wrong at all during the past
week. But God says to them, "The voice of your brother's
character (which you have slain) is crying to me". But they don't
hear that voice, because their conscience has become hardened.
Like Cain, they end up as tramps and wanderers spiritually, never
making any progress into the likeness of Christ, and never being
built into the Body of Christ (Gen.4:10,12).
Truly, sin crouches so very closely at the door of our hearts.
The only way of escape is by keeping our minds occupied with good
things and praiseworthy things concerning our fellow-believers,
and not with their faults and weaknesses (Phil. 4:8).
Abel and Cain are the forerunners of the two systems described in
the closing pages of the Bible - Jerusalem and Babylon, the Bride
and the Harlot. One system is spiritual and the other religious
(like Cain). One follows Jesus and the other follows the
He who has the hope of Christ's coming and of being taken up when
He comes will certainly purify himself day by day, and seek to go
down and humble himself more and more (1 Jn.3:3). The remainder
will go on "deceiving and being deceived" (2 Tim.3:13).
He who has ears to hear let him hear what the Spirit is saying.
OWE NO MAN ANYTHING
God is never in debt to any person. Under the new covenant, we
are called to partake of God's nature. So we too are commanded to
"owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8). Having to borrow from others
was part of the curse of the law - a curse that God said would
come on Israel when they disobeyed the law. (Read Deut 28:43-48).
Israel would suffer from "the lack of all things"(v.48), when
they did not keep God's commandments.
One of the blessings that God promised the Israelites when they
obeyed God's commandments, was "You shall lend to many, but you
shall not borrow" (Deut.28:12; also see Deut 15:6). To have
enough with which to bless others was one way in which God would
bless his people.
So if you are in constant financial need, you must have a
spiritual check-up to see what is wrong. Occasional financial
need may be permitted by God to test our faith. But constant
financial need such that a person has to get into debt is not the
will of God for any of His children.
The Bible says that "the borrower is the slave of the lender"
(Prov.22:7). The Hebrew word for "borrowing" has the implication
of being bound to the person who has lent you the money. You are
tied with a chain to your creditor and he has power over you.
It is never the will of God for any of His children, that others
should have such power over them. Since we have been bought with
Christ's blood, we are commanded not to become the slaves of
Jesus has come to deliver us from every curse of the law, having
become a curse for us (Gal.3:13). He has also come to set every
bound captive free (Luke 4:18). So if you are bound by the curse
of debt, here are a few areas in which you could examine yourself
and have a spiritual check-up:
1. Wrong Priorities
Jesus said that those who sought the kingdom of God and His
righteousness first, would find all the material things necessary
for their life added to them (Matt.6:33). This is a promise that
is valid in all countries and at all times. God never fails to
keep His part of the promise. So, if there is a financial lack,
the failure must be on man's part.
David said that he had never seen a righteous man forsaken or his
children begging for bread (and borrowing is a form of begging).
On the other hand, the righteous person lends to others and is a
blessing to all (Psalm 37:25,26).
Have we sought God's kingdom and His righteousness first in every
area of our lives? Are God's work and His interests, our
If not, then we have got our priorities wrong and this may be one
of the causes of our financial problems.
Righteousness in money matters entails returning what has been
taken wrongfully from others. Many believers have not settled
such matters and therefore they miss God's blessing on their
Zaccheus decided, as soon as Jesus came into his house, that he
would set all his past financial irregularities
right(Lk.19:1-10). Therefore, even though he was a rich man, he
went through the needle's eye. He returned what he had taken
wrongfully (with interest). To ensure that the interest would not
be less, he gave back four times what he had taken. There were
also many whom he had cheated, who had either died or gone away
elsewhere, so that Zaccheus did not know their whereabouts. What
was Zaccheus to do with such money? Could he conveniently forget
about it? No. He had no right to keep such money with him. So he
decided to give away that money to the poor. That itself amounted
to half his savings. He was a radical man in this area and so
Jesus said that salvation (from the love of money) came to his
house that day (Lk 19:9). Can Jesus make a similar statement
We also need to ask ourselves whether we are earning our money in
totally honest ways. Wealth earned dishonestly can never be
blessed by God. On the contrary, "dishonest money brings grief to
all the family" (Prov.15:27 - Living). The Lord can feed more
than five thousand people with five loaves and two fishes,
provided they are honestly-earned loaves and fishes (Prov.13:11).
We must not have a single paisa with us or in our bank account
that does not belong to us or that has not been honestly
obtained. Money that we have acquired through cheating the
government of taxes or through deceit is dishonest, dirty money,
and will only bring a curse on us and our children.
2. Receiving Without Giving
When we receive from God and hold on to what we have received
selfishly, we die spiritually. The clenched fist is an
appropriate symbol of the race of Adam - grabbing whatever it can
get and holding on tightly to what it has. Jesus had an open palm
on Calvary's cross and so must we. The Israelites were told "The
purpose of tithing is to teach you always to put God first in
your lives" (Deut.14:23 LB).
Under the new covenant, there is no command to tithe, for Jesus
said that one had to forsake 100% (and not just 10%) to be His
disciple (Lk. 14:33). No part of our money is now our own. It is
all God's. This does not mean that we have to give all our money
for God's work. But we must recognise that everything belongs to
God. Whatever we spend on ourselves also must be done for the
glory of God.(1 Cor. 10:31). But we must still give to God and
His work. How much should we give? As much as we can give
cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7). The quality of our giving is what is
emphasised under the new covenant unlike the quantity as under
the old covenant.
But we are also told in the same passage that we will reap
according to what we sow (2 Cor.9:6). What we give to the Lord is
like seed sown. If we sow little, we will reap little. This could
be one reason why many believers are in perpetual financial
difficulties: They have not been `rich' towards God (Lk. 12:21).
It is impossible for a man to be rich toward God, and for God to
be in debt to him in his time of need.
Jesus said "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts
20:35). Do we love to receive gifts from others? Then we are like
all the children of Adam. One characteristic of the truly godly
is that they prefer to give rather than to receive. "The godly
love to give" (Prov.21:26 - LB).
The Bible says "He who hates gifts will live" (Prov.15:27). Our
mind must be renewed to hate receiving gifts and to love giving
Another reason for financial difficulties could be our
unwillingness to give to our fellow-believers in their need. "He
who shuts his ears to the cries of the poor will be ignored in
his own time of need"(Prov 21:13). On the other hand, "when you
help the poor, you are actually lending to the Lord - and He pays
wonderful interest on your loan" (Prov.19:17 LB). Of course, one
must do this wisely. If you do not have the wisdom for this, then
it is best to give the money to the elders (in whom you have
confidence) and to ask them to distribute it wisely. This was the
practice followed in the early church(Acts 4:34,35).
"Give and it will be given to you... for whatever measure you
deal out to others, it will be dealt to you in return" (Lk.6:38)
is a law of God that will determine whether we will have an
abundance or a shortage. If we are generous towards others, God
will be generous towards us. If we are stingy towards others, God
will be stingy towards us.
The love of money is a factor that causes many Christians to be
in need. All people love money. When we are born-again, that love
of money does not disappear. But if we are faithful to judge
ourselves and cleanse ourselves from it, then it can gradually
disappear from our lives totally.
To be righteous in money matters is but the first step towards
the goal. We must then learn to be faithful. Many are in debt
because they spend their money in wasteful ways. They have not
learnt to discipline their expenditure to fit within their
monthly income. They have not learnt from the ant to save a
little bit each month (Prov.6:6-11) so that in a time of
emergency they won't have to beg or borrow (Prov 21:20 LB).
How much should a person save each month? That depends entirely
on the measure of faith that God has allotted to him(Rom.12:3).
Some (like George Mueller of Bristol in the last century) may
have such faith in God that they can give away everything extra
for the Lord's work and for His people and have NIL savings for
themselves. In their hour of need, God will not let them down but
will provide for them in miraculous ways. But if we do not have
such a measure of faith (and the vast majority of us do not),
then we should humbly acknowledge that. Then it is best to have
some savings so that in a time of need, we don't have to live
expecting other brothers and sisters to help us out.
Even when Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in such
abundance, he commanded the disciples to pick up the extra
fragments - so that nothing was wasted (Jn 6:12). The Lord hates
wastage. Many are extravagant in their homes. Those who have a
problem here should maintain an account of their income and
expenditure each month in order to identify where the wastage
occurs every month. If we don't take this matter seriously, we
will remain in debt forever.
A lot of unnecessary expenditure indulged in by believers is
often done to obtain the honour of men. This is especially so at
weddings. Many get into debt in order to have a grand wedding.
This is foolishness. In the same way, many get grand things for
their home and invite others for grand meals, just for the sake
of honour. All this is folly. We must die to the honour of men,
if we are to live freely before God's face alone. Thus we can be
free from debt too.
If we are not faithful with money, Jesus said that God would
never commit the true riches of His kingdom to us (Lk 16:11).
When one listens to the dry sermons that are being preached these
days by most preachers, it is clear that they do not have the
true riches of the revelation of God's Word. This is because they
have not been faithful with money. If God is not giving us
revelation from His Word we need to check up whether we have been
faithful with money. We may not have been unrighteous with money,
but we may have been wasteful.
4. Judging Others
We reap what we sow. If we have been critical and judgmental of
others, then it should not surprise us if we are in financial
Have we criticised or judged any of God's anointed servants? This
is the most dangerous thing that anyone can do. God has said in
His Word, "Do not touch my anointed ones and do my prophets no
harm"(Psa. 105:15). God deals severely with those who criticise
or judge His servants. If we have spoken against them in times
past (perhaps it may have been a long time ago) or judged them
for their actions (setting ourselves up as assessors of their
actions) then our present financial difficulties may be due to
the fact that we have not repented of those actions and confessed
our sins. Let every man examine himself here.
Many sicknesses among God's people are due to this cause. God
uses sickness and financial difficulties to speak to us about our
careless words. The words we carelessly spoke at home against
God's anointed men were like arrows that have now come back to
injure us. There can be no solution to this problem, without a
severe judging of ourselves, a real humbling of ourselves and an
apologizing to the people concerned.
Perhaps our criticism has been directed against other believers
who we feel are being wasteful in their expenditure. Thus we have
become busybodies in the affairs of others. Now God may have
judged us with financial difficulties to teach us to stop being
overseers in the affairs of others. It is possible to be so
carnal that one can even speak in the meetings words that are
meant to hit others concerning some matter in which we have
judged them. God takes note of such words and we may find that
many years later, we reap corruption as a result of sowing to the
flesh in this way.
A final reason for debt could be unbelief.
When an atheist has a financial difficulty, he runs to other men
for help, because he does not believe in the existence of God.
How is it with us? When we are in need, what do we do? God can
test us through financial need. The apostles were often in need
financially (See 1 Cor 4:11). But they never had to beg or
borrow. They trusted God to provide their need and God did so.
God will never forsake his faithful children, feeding them
through ravens if necessary, as he did Elijah. Have we taken our
financial needs to God in prayer - in faith? Or have we acted
like the atheists? (Read Isaiah 30:7-21 and Psalm 121) in this
We must be content with what God has been pleased to give us, and
not foolishly compare ourselves with other believers who have
more than us. God has promised never to leave us or to forsake
It is important that everyone who is at present in debt, judge
himself in all these areas and set his affairs right. If you are
a Christian leader or elder and are in debt, then you need to
judge yourself ten times more. No one who is in debt has the
right to be an elder of God's people.
We must be radical. We must see clearly that to be in debt is to
disobey God's Word in Romans 13:8. To live in debt is to live in
sin. To be radical is to cut off the right hand and to pluck out
the right eye if necessary in order to avoid sin. This means that
we must take steps immediately to clear our debt.
First of all, we must empty our bank account (keeping just what
is enough for our bare monthly needs) and begin to pay back our
debt. Then we should sell whatever gold or silver we have in our
home and pay back our debt. We must also cut down our monthly
expenditure so that we can clear our debts quickly. We must never
wait till we have the whole amount, before clearing our debt. We
must pay back our debts every month, with as much as we can. God
will help us if He sees that we are radical in this matter. Many
are so casual about clearing their debts, that God Himself does
not help them. God helps only those who are wholehearted about
obeying him (Jer 29:11-13).
If we are unwilling to take these steps to clear our debts then
it becomes clear that we are not radical Christians and that we
are not disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. God will then leave
us to remain as carnal Christians all our lives, and to suffer
God honours all those who honour Him.
This has not been written to condemn anyone for failure in the
past. God does not speak to us about the past except in relation
to the future. There is forgiveness with God for the past. But
God forgives us so that we might fear him in the future - as
Psalm 130:4 makes plain.
DO YOU ACCUSE OR DO YOU INTERCEDE?
Are you a co-worker with Satan or with the Lord Jesus?
We read in Revelation 12:10 that Satan is the `Accuser of the
brothers', and that he accuses them before God day and night.
This is a full time ministry that Satan is engaged in. And in
this ministry he has many co-workers - both among his evil
spirits as well as among men. The sad fact is that there are many
believers too who are co-workers with Satan in this ministry of
Satan transmitted his nature to Adam as soon as Adam sinned in
the garden of Eden. We see proof of this in the fact that when
God came to Adam and asked him whether he had eaten the forbidden
fruit, the very first thing that Adam did was point his finger at
Eve and say, "She was the one who gave me the fruit to eat" (Gen.
That pose of Adam's - with his forefinger pointed at a fellow
human-being - is a familiar one, found among all his children as
well. From early childhood, we have all developed the habit of
blaming and accusing others. As we have grown older, this
blaming, accusing spirit has become cleverer, more subtle and
more evil in its manifestations. The sad thing is that it has not
been eliminated from most believers, even many years after they
are born again!
The Bible says, "If any man be in Christ, there is a new
creation; old things are passed away. Behold all things are
become new" (2 Cor. 5:17). Our attitude towards other people must
now be new - the same attitude that Jesus has towards them. But
such a change of attitude can never take place in us, without our
cooperating with God. Without doubt, it is God Who works these
new attitudes in our hearts. But He does not treat us as machines
or robots. WE need to cooperate with him in "working out our own
salvation" from our wrong attitudes (Phil. 2:12,13). Only then
will we change.
It is because believers have not taken this command seriously,
"to work out their own salvation", that they continue to behave
like the children of Adam until the end of their lives. And the
Lord gets a bad name through the behaviour of His children. A
false teaching has led most believers to imagine that they have
to do nothing in order to be sanctified, but "simply believe" the
facts of the gospel intellectually. If that were true the devil
himself would have been sanctified, because he believes all the
facts of the gospel too! But he still remains the accuser of the
brothers - and so do many so-called "believers".
Consider the Pharisees of Jesus' time. They were fundamental in
their doctrine and deeply religious. They fought against the
"liberal" Sadducees in their generation for the truths of God's
Word - just like evangelical Christians do today. Yet Jesus
condemned them more than He did the Sadducees.
We see the attitude of those Pharisees clearly in the incident
where they accused a poor woman who was caught in adultery. They
had no interest in saving her from a life of sin. All they
desired was to show off their own "righteousness". There they
stood, pointing their forefingers (like their forefather Adam) at
that hapless woman. By that action, they revealed whose children
they really were. Jesus however, had come to save such women from
their sins. And He told those Pharisees that their father was not
just Adam, but the Accuser, Satan himself (See John 8:1-11 and
Jesus' entire public ministry was one of confrontation with the
Pharisees, because He had come to earth to fight against the
Accuser and his agents - even if those agents wore religious
robes. When we follow the Lord, we will find that our conflict
too is with "Christian fundamentalists" who major on doctrine
more than on sanctification, and who would rather accuse others
than lift a finger to save them! Many who seem to be burdened to
save the lost heathen, at the same time accuse their
fellow-believers, with no interest in saving them!
God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world but
to save the world (Jn. 3:17). And the reason our Lord is able to
save us completely is because He always lives to make
intercession for us (Heb. 7:25).
The ministry of accusation and condemnation is the ministry of
Satan and we should have no part in this. Our Lord, on the other
hand has a full-time ministry of intercession and salvation. This
is the ministry that we should have.
God has given us to Jesus as His Bride and His `helpmeet' for
this ministry. So we are to be co-workers with our Lord in this
ministry of intercession. As the Father sent Jesus into the world
- not to condemn (judge, accuse) the world, but to save it - even
so, He has sent us too, into the world, not to condemn, judge, or
accuse others, but to save them. (Jn.20:21). Therefore, we can be
effective instruments in God's hands in His work in the world
today, only if we get rid of "the spirit of accusation" (the
spirit of Satan) totally from our lives and replace it with "the
spirit of intercession" (the Spirit of Christ).
In Zechariah 3:1-5, we have a beautiful illustration of these two
ministries. There we see Joshua (symbolising a believer) standing
before the Lord's throne. He was clothed with filthy garments -
which indicates that there will always be sin (conscious or
unconscious or both) even in the best of us until the end of our
earthly lives - for remember that Joshua was the high-priest, the
leader of the Jews (1 Jn.1:8). We then see Satan standing next to
Joshua to accuse him. On the other side, we see the Lord taking
the side of Joshua and rebuking the Accuser. The Lord took away
Joshua's filthy clothes and replaced them with glorious clothes.
Zechariah, who was watching all this, was so thrilled to see the
Lord "justifying" Joshua, that he too joined the Lord in "making
his brother glorious" and said, "Let them also put a clean turban
on his head." The Lord answered Zechariah's prayer and gave
Joshua a clean turban too. This is what it means to be a
co-worker with God.
The Bible says that "if anyone sees his brother committing a sin
not leading to death, he shall ask and God will give life to
those who commit sin" (1 Jn. 5:16). This is an amazing promise of
God. Have we ever considered using it, when we see a brother sin
or fall? Or have we joined Satan's hosts instead and accused the
Before the throne of the Lord, these two ministries - accusation
and intercession - are constantly going on. It is upto us to
decide now which of these two ministries we will participate in.
We need to see clearly first of all, that it is Satan and his
evil spirits who constantly urge us to accuse our
fellow-believers - and Satan will always give us a "good and
righteous" reason for doing so!! But the more we do this, the
more we will expose ourselves to the influence of evil spirits in
our lives. This one evil habit of accusing others alone is the
main reason why many believers today are afflicted in their
bodies and their minds with incurable sicknesses.
We must be radical in getting rid of the spirit of accusation
entirely from our lives - just like the "radical surgery" a
surgeon does on a person having incurable cancer. The question
however is whether we have seen that "the spirit of accusation"
is far worse than any cancer.
All of us have had this evil habit of blaming others from birth.
We have spent our lives pointing our fingers at others and
accusing them of one thing or the other and backbiting against
them. Like the Pharisees, we have forgotten about our own sins
and not realised that our own sins disqualify us from being fit
to throw stones at others!!
We need to mourn that this evil spirit of accusation has found so
much place in our lives in past years. Unknowingly, we have been
co-workers with Satan in his ministry of accusation, instead of
being co-workers with our Lord in His redemptive ministry of
intercession. We need to repent of this at least now.
Casting out the evil spirit of accusation from our lives is only
the first step to a full salvation. If we don't fill that empty
space in our hearts with the spirit of intercession, the spirit
of accusation will come back into our hearts with seven worse
spirits and torment and corrupt us all over again - as Jesus
warned (Lk. 11:24-26). It is essential therefore that we are
filled with the Holy Spirit - who is called "the Spirit of
intercession" (See Zech.12:10 and Rom.8:26,27). The only way to
drive out the spirit of accusation permanently from our lives is
by being filled with the spirit of intercession.
It is impossible to speak evil of, or to accuse a person whom you
are regularly praying for. Check it out and see if it is not
true: You never pray for those whom you accuse. Right?? That is
why this "cancerous spirit of accusation" never seems to leave
you, but on the other hand gets worse and worse every year - just
like any other cancer!
Satan has a field-day in Christendom today, with the easy access
that his spirits of accusation have into the lives and hearts of
so many believers.
But the Lord has given us authority over all evil spirits,
including the spirits of accusation (Lk.10:19). We must exercise
this power over these spirits by interceding for those whom we
are tempted to accuse. If we don't do that, we will remain the
third-rate, useless Christians that we have always been, until
the end of our lives. We cannot be co-workers with our Lord.
The ministry of intercession is one that every one of us must
take seriously. There is no other way to overcome Satan in the
church. Our Lord has told us not only to forgive those who
persecute us, but also to pray for them (Mt.5:44). If we only
forgive them but do not pray for them, then the spirit of
accusation can re-enter our lives. Let us begin to thank God then
for one another, for this is where all true intercession begins.
"You were called in one body - be thankful (for one another)"
In Paul's letters, we see how he had this habit: He invariably
began his letters by thanking God for the Christians - at Rome,
Corinth, Ephesus, Phillipi, Colossae and Thessalonica and also
for Timothy and Philemon (Rom.1:8; 1 Cor.1:4; . Eph.1:15, 16:
Phil. 1:3; Col.1:3: 1 Thess 1:2; 2Thess.1:3; 2 Tim. 1 :3;
Philemon 4). No doubt, there were many faults in all those
Christians, that a godly man like Paul could easily see. But he
refused to join hands with the Accuser in accusing them. God had
sent him to help them and save them, not accuse them and condemn
Even when writing to the Corinthians, who had such serious
problems in their midst, Paul began by thanking God for the good
that he could see even in them. It was only after saying that,
that he corrected them. Perhaps this was why the Corinthian
Christians accepted Paul's correction readily (2 Cor.7.8,9).
Perhaps this is also why others do not accept our corrections and
exhortations - because we have never appreciated the good that we
have seen in them!
You who are parents, consider this: Haven't you been quicker at
pointing out the failures and mistakes you see in your children
than in appreciating the good that you have seen in them? Have
you ever spoken words of encouragement and appreciation to your
children? Have you ever knelt down with them and thanked God for
them? If you have criticised but not appreciated, then it is not
surprising that your children haven't got any better!! Why not
try another - more Divine - approach? When you change your
attitude, you will find that your children change too. Try it out
and see if it doesn't work.
We who are believers could also ask ourselves this question: Is
it really true what Satan keeps telling us that there is nothing
good at all in those other believers whom we have been accusing
for so many years??
God grant that, as much as the spirit of accusation and
complaining and backbiting against others has found its place in
our thoughts and in our hearts in the past, we will now be
equally filled - and even more - with the spirit of thanksgiving
and intercession for one another. Thus the enemy will no longer
find a place in our lives. The Accuser and his spirits will be
overcome and driven out by the the spirit of intercession. Will
you be radical now and forsake this habit of accusing others -
once and for all - and replace it with the spirit of
intercession? May the Lord help us all to do so.
"Let the one who wants to be holy keep himself holy. But let the
one who wants to be filthy remain filthy" (Rev.22:11).
A CONSUMING FIRE IN THE MIDST OF THE CHURCH
"Our God is a consuming fire...." (Heb.12:29).
We have often seen the words "God is love" hanging on the wall in
many homes. But have you ever seen the words "God is a consuming
fire" hanging anywhere? Both these verses are in the New
Testament. But we don't like to think of God as a consuming fire.
And therefore our concept of God is imbalanced. And when our
concept of God is imbalanced, our Christian life will be
imbalanced too - and carnal!
In Isaiah's prophecy we read the following words:
"Sinners in Zion are terrified; trembling has seized the godless
(hypocrites - KJV). Who among us can live with the consuming
fire? Who among us can live with continual burning? He who walks
righteously, and speaks with sincerity, he who rejects unjust
gain, and shakes his hands so that they hold no bribe; he who
stops his ears from hearing about bloodshed, and shuts his eyes
from looking upon evil" (Isa.33:14,15).
Here we read that there are both sinners and hypocrites in Zion
(the church)!!! And then it goes on to ask who can live with the
consuming fire? If the Lord is really present in a church, there
will be a a consuming fire and a continual burning there at all
Many churches today claim to be "New Testament churches", because
of certain distinctive features like "believer's baptism",
"speaking in tongues", "praise and worship", "weekly breaking of
bread" etc., But none of these are the identification mark of a
truly New Testament church. The mark of a true New Testament
Church is this that God is in its midst as a consuming fire - a
fire that terrifies sinners and makes hypocrites tremble.
I am not surprised when carnal people leave our church, or fall
away - because this is proof that the consuming fire is still
burning in our midst. When hypocrites and carnal people leave a
church, that is a good sign. It is a sign that God is working in
power in such a church. It is when spiritually-minded,
God-fearing people leave a church, that the church should sit up
and take stock of its position. That would be akin to the best
students leaving a school and joining another in the same
locality. Then the first school should ask itself, "Why did they
If the fire is not burning in our midst, then many people will
continue to remain with us. It is still possible that there are
haughty, insincere hypocrites in our churches even today. I don't
know, because I am not God! But I am absolutely certain of one
thing: As long as God is present in our midst as a consuming
fire, one day or the other, all such hypocrites will be exposed,
if they do not repent and set matters right. There is no
partiality with God - He will even expose hypocritical elders, as
we see in Revelation 2 and 3.
God is longsuffering, but His patience will come to an end one
day. The one who defiles the church of God will himself be
destroyed by God - that is certain (1 Cor.3:17). God does not
remove those who are imperfect, or those defeated by sin. But He
removes the insincere.
The first qualification to dwell with this consuming fire
mentioned here is: "He who walks righteously and speaks with
SINCERITY" (Isa.33:15)". That refers to those who walk according
to the light they have, in sincerity in their private lives. They
may not be perfect, but they are SINCERE. They are not
If there is one thing that we must fear more than anything else
in the church , it is giving people an impression about our
spirituality that is not true. Do you give others the impression
that you pray a lot, when you don't pray at all? Do you give them
the impression that you fast much when you don't actually fast
that much? Do you want others to consider you as wholehearted
when you are not? Then you are in danger of falling away - not
because you are imperfect, but because you are insincere. God
desires truth in our inward part. The hypocrites in Zion tremble,
because they are afraid of being exposed.
The second qualification to live with the consuming fire is
"rejecting unjust gain" (Isa.33:15) - in other words, being
righteous and faithful in money matters. We may have thought that
the alternative master to God is Satan. But Jesus Himself stated
in Luke 16:13 that that alternative master to God was Mammon
(money and material riches)! No believer imagines that he can
love God and Satan at the same time. But there are multitudes of
believers who imagine that they can love money and God
simultaneously. No believer will ever fall down and worship
Satan. But there are millions of believers today who worship
Mammon and who imagine that they can worship God too. But they
cannot worship God, if they are not faithful with money. They
don't realise that Mammon draws a person away from the true and
The third qualification to live with the consuming fire is
shutting our ears from hearing about bloodshed (Isa.33:15). This
is more than avoiding gossipping. This refers to not wanting to
HEAR even someone else gossipping. A Godfearing man will shut his
ears not only to the main Accuser of the brethren (Rev.12:10),
but to the Accuser's agents as well!!
If we could look at this earth from heaven's standpoint, we would
see millions of people all over the world, tearing others to
pieces with their tongue from early morning to late at night,
every day. But if you want to live with God, the consuming fire,
you must discipline yourself not to listen to such accusations.
Even if you have to listen to them in situations where it is
impossible for you to get up and walk out of the room, you should
switch off your mind inwardly from listening. Let people around
you be corrupt but why should you lose God's grace in your life?
If you are serious about living with the consuming fire, then
stop listening to all accusations. God has given us the ability
to switch off our mind from inside. Do that. Stop your ears from
A fourth qualification that is mentioned here, to live with the
consuming fire, is shutting our eyes from looking upon evil.
These two bodily senses - hearing and seeing - are the main
channels through which good and evil enter our minds. We must
decide what we allow to enter in. One who lives with the
consuming fire does not look upon what will defile his spirit.
Only when you allow God to consume all that is worldly and that
can be consumed in your life, will you be able to live with Him
Who is a consuming fire. Whatever is left in you then will be
incombustible!! God is going to populate heaven with such people
- who have nothing combustible left in them.
God is preparing us for heaven. When we sing the song, "Heaven
came down and glory filled my soul", what are we talking about?
We are talking about that consuming fire coming into our soul,
that burns up everything that can be burnt up. Can we willingly
say to the Lord, "Lord, I only want those things left in my life,
that cannot be burned, so that You and I can live in fellowship
with each other forever."
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 tells us that in the final day the Lord
will test everything by His fire. Everything that is combustible
- wood, hay and straw will be burnt up. Only those things that
cannot burn - gold, silver and precious stones - will remain.
Since this going to be so, what a wonderful privilege it is to
receive the fire of the Holy Spirit now itself, so that all that
is combustible in us can be burnt up before that day.
Jesus has come to baptize us with the fire of the Holy Spirit
(John 1:29), so that the Spirit can enter every part of our lives
with His burning fire and burn up everything in us that is
worldly - all the wood, hay and straw.
God's Word is a fire that can burn up and eliminate many things
in our lives (Jer.23:29). But there are many things that God's
Word doesn't speak about, that still need to be burnt up in us.
These are the things that the Holy Spirit will point out to us
and ask our permission to burn up. God's Word tells us nothing
about many matters that we face in the modern world, because they
did not exist in the first century. But the Spirit will tell us
whether we can practise them in fellowship with Christ or not.
Therefore we must be careful to be sensitive every day to all
that the Holy Spirit tells us. The only one who can live with God
the consuming fire is the one who is always listens to the Holy
Spirit and acts in the fear of God.
When such a man sees other believers slipping up and falling, he
fears for himself. He does not judge those others but says "Lord,
I have the same flesh as them. The same thing can happen to me. I
want to live in fear. Help me to be sincere. I want to be
faithful with money according to my light. I don't want to listen
to `accusations' against others. Lord, preserve me from all
`bloodshed'. I don't want to look at anything evil either, Lord.
I don't want to imagine that just because I have accepted You, I
am safe forever, irrespective of how I live. I want to live in
fear." That is how a God-fearing man who is serious about living
with the consuming fire will pray.
It says in 2 Thess.2:11 that God will send a deceiving influence
on those who don't love the truth (about themselves) so as to be
saved. That verse teaches us that God will also allow evil
spirits to deceive all those who DO NOT LOVE THE TRUTH and permit
them to believe the Lie -(NASB margin).
What is `The Lie'? There are many types of lies, but there is one
lie, that is called `The Lie' in Scripture. `THE LIE' is the
first LIE that a human being ever heard! It was Satan's word to
Eve saying, "YOU WILL NOT DIE" (Gen.3:4). Eve believed the lie
that because she was made in God's image, she would not die
spiritually, even if she disobeyed God and sinned. And the Devil
is still telling people today that they will not die, because
they accepted the Lord, or because they were baptized in water or
because they speak in tongues, or because they attend meetings
regularly, etc., etc.,
God will allow all those who don't love the truth about
themselves to believe this `Lie'. And there are millions of
so-called "believers" believing this lie today. They believe that
they will never die spiritually, even if they live in sin. And
so, they are careless with sin. They don't fear God. They don't
hate sin. They don't throw into the consuming fire, all that
needs to be burned up in their lives. They are not sincere or
upright, but hypocritical. They play the fool with sin. They
accuse others and listen to accusations. They look at evil things
with their eyes. And yet they imagine that they will live forever
in heaven with "the consuming fire". How did they come to believe
such a lie? Through the master-plan of Satan who has made them
believe that if their doctrines are right, it does not matter how
God says in His Word, "I gave them time to repent". How good God
is! He does not judge at once. He gives us time to repent. But if
we don't love the truth about ourselves so as to be saved from
sin, then God Himself will not be able to help us. So, brothers
and sisters, let me plead with you to love the truth about
yourself and seek to be saved from everything un-Christlike in
Today there are so many groups, denominations and cults, all
proclaiming that they have the truth. How can we know which is
the truth? How can we prevent ourselves from being deceived?
Here is the answer: If you love the truth about yourself at all
times and eagerly desire to be saved from all sin, the Lord will
never allow you to be deceived till the end of your life.
Otherwise, you may preach to others and not only go to hell
yourself but lead others there as well.
If we love the truth so as to be saved ourselves, we can never be
deceived, by any preacher, or so-called godly man, or cultist or
Pharisee or legalist. No-one will be able to deceive us or lead
When God speaks to us - directly by His Word, or by the Holy
Spirit, or through another brother, or perhaps even through an
enemy - and we hear the truth about ourselves, what do we do? Do
we justify ourselves or do we judge ourselves?
I have received many letters of accusation in my life. (That is
the appointed lot of all who serve the Lord). I usually throw
them all into the garbage bin. But before doing so, I read them
and ask the Lord, "Lord, is there some truth in what my enemy is
saying? Perhaps there is. Please show me." Our enemies often tell
us more truths about ourselves than our friends do.
But I never allow any letter to make me feel condemned, because I
know there is NO condemnation for me, because I am in Christ. But
I do allow the Lord to speak to me at such times. It is like
getting a free "scan" of our bodies. A Magnetic Resonance Imaging
scan of our body can cost thousands of rupees in medical
diagnostic laboratories these days. Isn't it wonderful then that
someone scans our heart freely for us!! And if it is our enemy
who is offering us such a scan, let us praise the Lord and
subject ourselves to such a scan. If there is no sickness in our
hearts, we can lose nothing by "scanning" ourselves even with a
letter written by an enemy.
Remember that it was an ungodly, heathen man (Abimelech) who once
rebuked Abraham for lying (Gen.20:9). Abraham was a prophet
chosen by God. But he had to be rebuked for his sin by a godless
man! Today, Abraham is in heaven and Abimelech may be in hell.
But it was Abimelech who helped Abraham that day, to see his sin.
Humble yourself then. Maybe some heathen man can help you too to
see something in your life that may help you to cleanse out some
evil habit from your life.
In the final analysis, we will discover that there are only TWO
categories of people before God - not those who do right and
those who do wrong, but those who are HUMBLE and those who are
PROUD, or in other words, those who followed Jesus in His
humility and those who followed Satan in his pride.
It is the pride in our hearts that God is constantly seeking to
burn up with His consuming fire, first of all. It is the proud,
haughty ones whom He seeks to remove from Zion. The Lord says, "I
will remove from your midst your proud, exulting ones, and you
will never again be haughty on my holy mountain" (Zeph.3:11). And
then the church will be left with "a humble and lowly people"
(Zeph.3:12). This is the church that will triumph over Satan.
In the final day, we will find many people who did right being
rejected by God because they were proud. And amazingly, we will
also discover then that some people who made serious mistakes in
their lives are still accepted by God, because they were humble
Consider how God rejected some who committed what we would call
"a small sin" and how He accepted and blessed some who committed
what we would call "a great sin".
Take first the case of King Saul. He committed what we would call
"a small sin": Instead of killing ALL the sheep of Amalek, as God
had told him to, he killed only the bad sheep and kept the good
sheep to offer to God as a sacrifice. Would you have condemned
Saul for such a mistake? Perhaps not. But God did punish him -
and that severely! He took away the kingdom from Saul.
On the other hand, consider what King David did. He committed
adultery with a man's wife when the man was out of town (fighting
in David's own army). And then to cover up his sin, David had the
man killed on the battlefield and then married the woman. What
would you do with such a man as David? You would perhaps send
David to hell immediately. But God didn't do that. His ways are
not our ways. God's ways cannot be understood by our human
reason. We divide people according to whether they do right or
wrong. But God divides them according to whether they are proud
(and insincere) or humble (and sincere). And so God accepted
David, after punishing him for his sin.
God even refers to David as a man after His own heart, who served
his generation in the will of God (Acts 13:22,36). David's end
was not like Saul's, just because he was humble.
In observing Christians and Christian leaders who have fallen, I
have noticed a difference. God allows some to get exposed but not
others. Some whose crimes are very small (in man's eyes) are
exposed and humiliated before everyone. While others (who I
happen to know confidentially have committed far greater sins),
do NOT get exposed at all! And not only does God cover up their
failures, He even blesses them and uses them greatly!
All this appears unfair to us. But it is not. Why does God do
things like that? Because He is NOT Pharisaical, like most
religious people are! He divides people into "Humble" and "Proud"
categories and not into "Those who did right" and "Those who did
This what gives great hope and encouragement to all of us. If God
had divided people up as men divide them, then we would have to
live in constant fear lest we accidentally end up in the wrong
group - for all of us make mistakes and do wrong things - at
least accidentally, if not deliberately.
Men usually come down hard on us, when we do even one wrong
thing. But thank God, we don't have to deal with unmerciful men.
We have to deal only with God our merciful Creator (Heb.4:13).
If we live in humility and brokenness before God always, never
esteeming ourselves as better than anyone else, but always
recognising ourselves as the chief of sinners; if we never seek
to lord it over others and never seek to grab anything on earth
(not even a ministry); if we are willing to walk "the second
mile"; and if we are ready to forgive those who have done us the
greatest wrong, then God will cover up our failures and continue
to bless us, no matter what men think about us or do to us.
1 Peter 2:18,19 tells servants to be submissive even to
unreasonable masters. As long as we live in this world, we will
all encounter people who are unreasonable. If we can live only
with reasonable people, then we are unfit to be the disciples of
Jesus. It is through unreasonable people that God consumes away
our pride. And when we deal with unreasonable people, and we
suffer at their hands, God will be happy with us, if we humble
ourselves and endure our suffering patiently, because that is how
Jesus suffered too.
You get no credit for being patient, when you suffer for having
done something wrong. You get ZERO for that! Why should you get
any marks from God in any case for that? But if you do what is
right and suffer for it - whether in the office or in the church
or anywhere - and bear that patiently, God is well-pleased with
you (1 Pet.2:20). "Well-pleased" is such a wonderful word! That
was the word that God used when He spoke about Jesus, saying,
"This is My beloved Son in Whom I am well-pleased".
Humility has tremendous value before God. It says in 1 Peter 3:4
that a meek and gentle spirit is extremely precious to God -
whether found in a woman or in a man. Jesus Himself had a humble
and gentle heart and told us to learn these virtues from Him
A gentle and a quiet spirit is one that is not agitated or in
unrest. Some washing machines have what is called an "agitator".
It turns one way and then the other way - perpetually. It is
never at rest, it is always "agitating"! In the hearts of all who
are born of Adam too, there is an "agitator". If anyone rubs them
the wrong way, the agitator starts "agitating". But those who are
humble and gentle in spirit have got rid of this agitator. They
are not offended or hurt, when anyone says or does something to
them , or when they don't say or do something that was expected
of them. They have put their "agitator" on the cross.
Peter says that the beauty of a gentle and a quiet spirit is
"imperishable"! This is the secret of eternal beauty. The world
is full of women nowadays who are wanting to look younger. But
what is the beauty that is really imperishable? It is a gentle
and a quiet spirit.
And this is for men too! This is what will make you really
precious to God - if you have a gentle, quiet spirit that is not
agitated or offended, that doesn't get into bad moods, that is
not grumpy or angry. You need never lose control of yourself at
any time either, for the fruit of the Spirit is self-control.
Let the world be full of people who have "agitators" but that's
not for us any longer. Praise the Lord, we can get rid of our
When Jesus told His disciples that their righteousness must
exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, what did He mean?
He meant what I have just been talking about. The righteousness
of the Pharisees was a matter of "right" and "wrong". But Jesus
wanted the righteousness of His disciples to comprise of more
than that. It was to include humility, brokenness, gentleness and
quietness of spirit as well. He told them that otherwise they
would NEVER enter the kingdom of God. I don't know how many of us
really believe what Jesus said.
In Hebrews 4:1, we are asked to fear lest we do not enter into
this "rest" that Jesus offers - this freedom from "agitating".
And in verse 11, we are told to be diligent to ensure that we
enter into that rest. Have you entered into that rest yourself?
Have you forgiven all those who have cheated you, and those who
have wronged you? Have you cleansed your heart of all bitterness,
hatred, anxiety and greed? This is what will enable us to enter
into that rest of God.
There is no person or situation in the world, that can ever
prevent Romans 8:28 ("All things work together for good for those
who love God....") and 1 Corinthians 10:13 ("God will not allow
you to be tempted beyond your ability....") from being fulfilled
in your life, if you are a disciple of Jesus. We can never be
tempted beyond our ability. That is impossible - because God is
faithful to His promises. And everything - yes, everything - will
work for our good.
A humble person can never fall, because he is already at
ground-level! How then can he fall down!! When God's Word says,
"He is able to keep you from falling" (Jude 24), it is thus that
the Lord keeps us - by keeping our faces in the dust before Him.
Then it becomes impossible to fall.
The way of escape promised in 1 Corinthians 10:13 is the way of
humbling ourselves. We humble ourselves, because we believe that
God will give us grace and lift us up. Just as in water-baptism,
we submit readily to someone who immerses us in the water,
because we believe that he will lift us up again. In the same
way, we also believe that the God who allows some situation to
crush us will lift us up and bring a resurrection in our lives
God is a consuming fire who is determined to consume every bit of
pride from every corner of our hearts - if we will let Him. He
will arrange people and circumstances in such a way that every
particle of pride is totally consumed. Let us cooperate then with
Him and allow the Spirit to do a perfect work within us.
He who has ears to hear let him heaR.
VALUING THE CHURCH
"Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her" (Eph.5:25).
We will not give up our lives for anyone and everyone. But for
certain people we will give up even our very lives.
For example, if your child is dying and needs your kidney, you
would certainly donate your kidney, even if that involves a risk
to your own life. You would gladly give up your life to save your
child's. You would not however do that for a stranger - not even
for your next-door neighbour. What we do for someone depends on
the measure in which we value him.
In the above verse, we read that Christ loved the church - that
is you and me - and gave up His life for us. He felt that we were
so valuable that He was willing to give up not just His kidneys,
but His whole life for us.
We all say that we want to follow Jesus. But how shall we follow
Him? Shall we think only of going to heaven, to dwell with Him
for eternal ages. Or shall we begin by following Him on earth in
this area first of all - loving everyone in His church so much
that we are willing to give up our very lives for them?
It is easy to love the brothers and sisters far away - in South
America, and in Russia - because we never see them, and none of
them ever try our patience!! But we cannot give up our lives for
them, because we cannot see them.
Jesus did not sit in heaven and send us a message that He loved
us all immensely. He came down to earth and showed us His love,
by laying down His life for us. We too can show our love for the
church not by words but by giving up our lives for those whom He
has placed us with.
Are we willing to give up our honour, prestige, rights and
expectations - everything - for the sake of the brothers and
sisters with whom God has placed us in our local church? The Lord
Jesus will be able to find fellowship and oneness of spirit with
us, only if we are like that.
I read of a young man who was converted, but who was not
wholehearted for the Lord. One day he had a dream in which he saw
himself dying and entering heaven. There he saw the word
"FORGIVEN" written across the record of his life. He rejoiced
that he was forgiven and in heaven.
But in heaven he saw some believers with a special aura of glory
about them. They were the martyrs, who had laid down their lives
for the Lord on earth. They had given up everything for the Lord
and for His church. They had sacrificed money, position, honour,
and everything that the world valued.
This man saw their great glory in heaven and envied them. Then
Jesus came to this man in his dream and told him that he would
find himself totally out of tune with these glorious people he
had just seen, because unlike them, he had lived only for himself
on earth. He was broken hearted when he heard that and realized
that he would have to live with the memory of his selfish way of
life throughout eternity. He pleaded with the Lord to give him a
second chance. But the Lord told him that there was no second
chance after death.
Then he woke up - and he was thankful that he was alive and that
all that he had seen had only been a dream. He determined
thereafter to live the rest of his life wholly for the Lord and
became a great man of God.
We cannot be transformed suddenly into wholehearted disciples of
Jesus when we die, because God does not change anyone against his
will. He will change us only if we are willing to cooperate with
the workings of His Spirit in our hearts now. The Holy Spirit has
come to make us partake of the divine nature more and more.
We must remember that what is valued greatly on earth has no
value in heaven. If you lose something that the earth values, it
won't really matter much in eternity. Equally, if you gain
something that the earth values very highly, that won't give you
any benefit in heaven either.
Let me say to all of you young people especially that your
popularity with your friends will have no value at all in heaven.
It is good for you to study hard for your examinations. But your
good marks will not add to your glory in eternity. If you are
wholehearted and want to live for God, He will open the right
door of employment for you, whatever your marks may have been and
whatever your other disqualifications may be.
It is impossible to miss God's will, just because you were not
good in Maths! But if you can forgive others, be good to those
who are evil to you, and bless those who curse you, you can
follow Jesus and build His church. And you will find that all the
material things necessary for your earthly life are added to you.
If you have valued the spiritual food that that you have received
in the church through the years, then you will appreciate the
church very highly. Consider how grateful you are to those who
invite you for a single meal. How much more grateful you should
be for the spiritual food that you have received constantly, year
after year, in the church.
Or consider this matter in another way. Supposing there was
someone who looked after you children, protected them from
danger, cared for them when they were sick, encouraged them when
they were discouraged, and helped them with their studies so that
they got good marks. And suppose this person did all this not
just for a day or two but for a number of years. Wouldn't you be
grateful to him?
Are you at least equally grateful to the church for protecting
your children. One reason why many believers have not grown
spiritually is because they have not been grateful for what they
have received in the church. The ones who have fallen away from
the church are those who have been thoroughly ungrateful for all
that they have received so freely for so many years in the
In Luke 17:15, we read of ten lepers who were healed. But only
one of them returned to the Lord to thank Him and to glorify God.
When they were in need, they had all raised their voices asking
for mercy. But after they were healed, nine were thoroughly
ungrateful for the benefit they received. Only one raised his
voice in thanksgiving.
There must have been thousands of others too who were healed in
Palestine who never bothered to thank the Lord.
But this Samaritan man returned and thanked the Lord. He might
have told the Lord something like this, "Lord what a different
life my life is going to be in future, now that You have touched
me. I can go inside the city. I can go back to my family. You
have brought joy into my life. I don't want to take any of these
blessings for granted. I owe everything to You and I am deeply
thankful for all of Your blessings on my life".
Jesus appreciated the man for this spirit of gratitude that he
Then Jesus gave him something more. He told him that his faith
had saved him. That cleansed leper got something more than just
healing from the Lord. He had already received healing. But
because he was grateful, he got salvation as well. I am certain
that I will meet this Samaritan in heaven. But I am not sure
whether I will meet any of the other nine there. When you come
back to thank the Lord you get something more than what the
The Lord is in the midst of His church, which is His body on
earth. We show our appreciation for the Lord now by valuing His
If you don't appreciate and value the church, it is you who will
be the loser, not the church. God has mightily blessed those who
have valued the church and who have been thankful for what they
have received from the church.
Think of how much we need to be thankful for the church having
preserved our children from the world. I can testify to this
personally. From the time my oldest son was 6 years old, all my
four sons have grown up in the midst of the young brothers in the
church. I don't have words to express my thankfulness to God for
that privilege. Those young brothers were not perfect. They had
many weaknesses. But in spite of all that, my sons were all
helped by them, because those brothers were sincere. Parents
alone cannot do the job. We need the brothers and sisters in the
church to help us in bringing up our children.
Unfortunately, many people value their home church only when they
leave it. David once longed for a drink of water from the well in
his hometown of Bethlehem. That had a special taste unlike the
water in any other place (2 Sam.23:15). In the same way, many
long for the meetings of the church only when they have been
transferred away or have to go far away to some distant land. But
you don't have to wait until you go away from home before you
learn to value and appreciate your brothers and sisters. You can
do that right now.
Why is it that you find it difficult to value the brothers and
sisters in your local church? Maybe you say that you see many
faults in them.
When people have a problem with their eyes, sometimes they see
spots in front of their eyes all the time. It can be the same
spiritually too. In the eyes of some people, every brother's and
sister's face is spotted. If that is so with you, the problem may
not be with those other brothers and sisters. The problem may be
with your own eyes. You see spots in others, because those spots
are in your own eyes. Your vision will never become clear until
Jesus heals your eyes.
Jesus valued the loyalty of His disciples very highly. Once He
told His disciples that even though all of them were going to
forsake Him, yet He would not be alone, because His Father was
going to be with Him (Jn.16:32). He did not need those disciples.
Yet He told them in Luke 22:28 that He was thankful that they had
stood by Him. He was the Lord of glory. He did not need anybody
to stand by Him. But even though He did not need their support,
He appreciated their loyalty. He was saying to them, as it were,
"You have come out of this old Jewish system and given up the old
wineskin. You have seen the difference between the spirit of the
Bride and the spirit of the harlot and you have come out and
stood by Me, willing to pay any price."
I hope the Lord will be able to say to us too in the final day
that we stood by Him and were not ashamed of Him, that we loved
the church He placed us in, and gave ourselves for it, and were
not critical of the church like many others.
Brothers and sisters, let us appreciate the tremendous protection
that we and our children have had in the church.
You young people will never realise how much the church has
protected you from accident, danger and sin. Only when you stand
before the Lord will you realise how the strict standards in the
church kept you from going astray into the world and destroying
In that day, you will see how something you heard in the church
many years earlier protected you from danger much later. The Lord
will also show you in that day how many dangers your children
were saved and protected from, because of what they heard in the
Yet, in spite of these and many other blessings, how little all
of us have appreciated and valued the church.
Do you want to progress to the point where you become a blessing
to others? Then first of all, learn to be thankful to the Lord
for what He has done for you and for the church He has given you.
Don't take the church for granted.
Many of us are like children who realise the real worth of their
parents only after their parents are dead. May the Lord teach us
to be thankful for one another in the church now, before it is
SEEING THE GLORY OF CHRIST AND PARTAKING OF IT
"Beholding the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the
same image from glory to glory by the Lord, the Spirit.
Therefore, since we have received this ministry we do not lose
heart. (2 Cor.3:18; 4:1)
When most believers think of a ministry they think only of some
external service for the Lord. But here Paul speaks of the
ministry of being changed into the likeness of Christ from one
degree of glory to another. Because he had such a ministry, he
was never discouraged.
The one who serves the Lord will have "the fruit of
sanctification" (Rom.6:22) in his life. The more he serves the
Lord, the more he will be transformed into the likeness of
In other words, the more he serves the Lord, the more he will do
everything for the glory of God, the more he will seek to hide
himself, the more humble he will become in his attitude to
others, the more he will hate money, the more he will become pure
in his thought-life, the more he will love even his enemies,
etc., etc., One who does not have such fruits of sanctification
in his inner life and attitudes is not really serving the Lord at
all, even if he is engaged in a multitude of religious Christian
activities, and even if he is a world-famous preacher or healer
There are many upright, righteous people among Christians who are
not spiritual, but only religious. Do you know that there is a
world of difference between being upright and being Christlike?
Because we preach righteousness, many religious, upright
Christians are drawn to us. But they may not be interested in
being Christlike!! People who are taken up with the letter of the
Scriptures are only interested in being upright. But those who
are taken up with the spirit of the new covenant will seek to be
Christlike.They alone become truly spiritual.
We read in 2 Cor.11:3 that we face a constant danger of being led
astray from simple devotion to Christ into mere religious works -
just as the serpent deceived Eve. The devil did not frighten Eve
into committing sin. No. He deceived her with his cleverness.
Therefore it is not surprising that Satan's servants today too
come preaching "righteousness" (2 Cor.11:15).
The servants of Satan may preach "righteousness", but they will
not preach Christlikeness. They will emphasise matters like long
hair for women and short hair for men, covering of the head for
women, removal of ornaments, obedience to the pastor/elder,
payment of tithes, breaking bread every week, following the
new-testament pattern in the church-meeting etc., etc., With such
preaching on external matters they will deceive many believers
into thinking that they are servants of God.
But these servants of Satan can easily be recognised by what they
do NOT emphasise. They will leave out the most important matters
in the Christian life, like humility, purity of heart, fervent
love for one another, taking up the cross daily, being filled
with the Spirit, following Jesus in daily life etc.,
An elder who commits adultery or one who steals church funds can
never lead other believers astray, because even unbelievers will
be able to see that such a man is not a godly man. But a
religious brother can easily lead many believers astray, because
most believers (not being able to differentiate between
religiosity and spirituality) will be impressed by his external
righteousness of life, his religious fervour and his religious
activities. If you think that "serving the Lord" (as Martha did),
is more important than "listening to His voice" (as Mary did),
you can be certain that you are religious and not spiritual
There are many preachers visiting India nowadays from Western
lands. No-one knows how such preachers live with their wives at
home, how they have brought up their children or what sort of
brotherhood they have built up in their home-towns. People are
taken up merely with their eloquence, and (very often) their
money!! But to evaluate a man's ministry aright, you need to know
how he lives at home! Don't consider any man to be a spiritual
man until you have seen how he has brought up his children. If
his children are worldly, that would usually indicate that the
man himself is a hypocrite - because a man cannot fool his own
children about his spirituality. If his local church is only a
congregation of his admirers and not a brotherhood of equal
brothers and sisters, then it is obvious that he knows nothing
about building the body of Christ.
The Christian world is full of many righteous people who very
often cannot get along with each other!! The more "righteous"
they are, the more difficult it is often for people to have any
fellowship with them!! Those who pursue Christlikeness however
are easy to get along with and will always have glorious
fellowship with each other.
Satan came to Eve and told her that she could be like God. Jesus
also came to earth with the message that we could be like God.
Both messages appear to be the same. But there is a world of
difference between what is meant in the two statements - a
difference as vast as the difference between heaven and hell.
Satan tempted Eve to be like God in knowledge, power and
authority. Jesus however came to make us like God in character -
in humility, purity, love and goodness.
Because of lack of discernment, most Christian churches today are
crowded with Pharisees who are proud of their numbers, their
"righteousness", their "new-testament pattern" and their
activities. They sit in their churches with a testimony of being
very righteous. But in their private lives, they behave worse
than the heathen. They were probably not like that when they
started their Christian lives. They may have become Pharisees
gradually. They may have started in genuine righteousness. Today
they are first-class hypocrites. God allowed such a development
to take place in their lives, because He saw that they were
But God has His remnant in many places - humble brothers and
sisters who are seeking for inward purity and who are broken and
contrite in spirit, people who are not seek anything for
themselves, but who are concerned about the glory of God's Name
and who are taken up with Jesus Himself, and not with doctrine or
teaching or any external thing primarily.
How can we prevent ourselves from being deceived? The answer is
given us in 2 Cor.11:3 - By a simple and pure devotion to Christ.
Anything that leads us away from devotion to the person of Jesus
Himself - whether it be a doctrine or an emphasis or a ministry
or whatever - is part of Satan's scheme to lead us astray and
A.B.Simpson was a great man of God who lived in the 19th century
- one who founded the largest missionary movement of his time. At
first, he was a sickly preacher. But then he was baptized in the
Holy Spirit. One day, he heard someone singing these words: "My
Jesus - no man can work like Him". Those words gripped his heart
and he realized that his problem was that he was working in his
own strength and getting exhausted. He then saw Jesus, not just
as a Healer, but as the very Source of his physical health and
life. Then he wrote a hymn that described his experience:
"Once it was the blessing, now it is the Lord,
Once it was the feeling, now it is His Word.
Once His gifts I wanted, now the Giver own
Once I sought for healing, now Himself alone.
Once it was my working, His it hence shall be
Once I tried to use Him, now He uses me
Once the power I wanted, now the Mighty One!
Once for self I laboured, now for Him alone."
This has been the secret of every great man of God in the history
of the church - THEY WERE TAKEN UP WITH THE PERSON OF CHRIST
HIMSELF, AND NOT WITH HIS BLESSINGS OR HIS GIFTS. Thus they
entered into a life of rest in the midst of a world full of
turmoil and strife.
"There is a place of quiet rest near to the heart of God -
A place where sin cannot molest - near to the heart of God."
This is the place into which the Holy Spirit desires to lead us
every day. We will not thereby become hermits living in solitude
by ourselves. No. We will be active in serving and helping
others. But our personal life, our married life and our ministry
will all be transformed.
In the next verse (2 Cor.4:2), we read Paul saying, "We have
renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in
craftiness or adulterating the word of God."
We can never come into this rest of God, if there is anything of
dishonesty or craftiness in our lives. In the past, there were
one or two brothers who joined us (they have fallen away now),
who were very gifted and very intelligent. But they were very
crafty too. God can use gifted and intelligent people if they are
straightforward and honest and humble. But God will trap crafty
people in their own craftiness (1Cor.3:19). And that is what He
did to those brothers. Like Haman, they finally hung on the very
gallows that they had prepared for others.
Crafty brothers and sisters may survive for a long time in the
church, because God being longsuffering and merciful, gives them
plenty of time to change. But if they don't cleanse themselves,
they will not survive in a spiritual church. "Sinners cannot
stand forever in the assembly of the righteous" (Psa.1:5).
If you want to be a useful member in the body of Christ, then
begin here: Renounce all craftiness and dishonesty, renounce the
hidden things of shame, and stop adulterating the word of God to
suit your convenience.
There are two ways in which people can adulterate the Word of
One way is by compromising the standards of God's Word, when it
comes to their own life or when dealing with someone who is a
close friend or a loyal supporter. Jesus would rebuke even
someone as close to Him as Peter saying, "Get behind Me,Satan",
if Peter suggested a course of action that was contrary to God's
will. We must not adulterate the standards of God's Word to
cover-up the failures of our wives or to please some rich person
or close friend. We must never have any friends who are closer to
us than the Word of God itself - for such a friendship can never
be a spiritual fellowship.
A second way in which people can adulterate the Word of God is by
twisting the interpretation of a verse to suit their
pre-conceived theology or ideas. Consider just one example: The
doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This truth is
emphasised very plainly and clearly at the very beginning of each
of the first 5 books of the New Testament (See Mt.3:11; Mk. 1:8;
Lk.3:16; Jn.1:33; and Acts 1:5) Yet it is almost impossible to
get believers from Brethren and Baptist groups to believe that
Jesus can baptize them in the Holy Spirit today - because they
have been brainwashed from childhood into believing that "they
got everything as soon as they were converted". If they are
honest, they will have to admit that rivers of living water are
not flowing out of their lives, as Jesus said it would out of the
lives of those who are filled with the Holy Spirit. But they will
not face up to reality. When they read the Scriptures relating to
being baptized in the Holy Spirit, they will make it fit the
shape of their denomination's theology. This is intellectual
dishonesty and adulterating the Word of God.
A honest believer however would say, when he comes to a difficult
verse, that it doesn't seem to fit with the doctrine that he has
always believed, and that perhaps he needs to get more light from
God on it. There is great hope for such honest believers.
Honesty and humility are like twins. They always go together in a
person. They are like the two sides of a coin. You can't have one
side without having the other. If you are really humble, you will
be honest too. To acknowledge your craftiness is to humble
yourself. When you renounce dishonesty you are actually
renouncing a part of your pride.
Paul goes on to say in this passage that the gospel that he
preached was hidden from the eyes of many. Which gospel was he
speaking of there? Not just the gospel of the forgiveness of our
sins, but "the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of
God" (2 Cor.4:4). The glory of Christ is certainly not found in
the forgiveness of sins - for Christ had no sins to be forgiven!!
What is "the gospel of the glory of Christ"? The answer is found
in the same verse. It refers to Christ as being the image of God.
The gospel message is that after our sins are forgiven, we can be
transformed into the image of God.
In the beginning of creation, God said, Let there be light (2
Cor.4:6). That was the first word spoken by God. That is the
first word that God speaks into our hearts too. There is darkness
within us, because we have the nature of Adam in our flesh - not
only Adam's lust and anger, but Adam's shrewdness and craftiness
as well. All of that darkness has to be driven out. It is not
only the bad sheep of Amalek that God commanded to be killed, but
the good sheep too (1 Sam.15).
What is the light? John 1:4 states very clearly that it is the
life of Christ which is the light. That is the light with which
God wants to light up our dark hearts. The glory of God "full of
grace and truth" was seen in the earthly life of Jesus. One who
is taken up with this light will be more interested in being
Christlike than in just being righteous.
External righteousness brings us the honour of men. But God wants
to make us like His Son inwardly.
About 350 years ago there lived in France a woman named Madam
Guyon. She had so much light on the ways of God, even at a time
when there were no Christian books available. The reason was that
she sought God Himself in the midst of her suffering. Many
believers suffer but they don't get to know God through their
sufferings, because they don't seek Him for what He is Himself.
They only seek for relief from their sufferings. Madam Guyon
however sought after God Himself, and as a result, came to know
God in a way that few very people have. It is when we joyfully
accept all the suffering that God sends our way that we get to
know God - not only when we submit to it, but when we joyfully
accept it as well.
Madam Guyon, in one of her writings, says that there is a way of
lights, gifts and graces - a holy life - which brings us the
admiration of those who do not have the purest light. But if we
go beyond such a life, to a life of total obedience to the Lord
in all areas, we will find ourselves despised and rejected by
those very same people who formerly admired us. Then we shall
find fellowship with Jesus in His sufferings - because this was
exactly what Jesus experienced too.
You can rejoice in the opinion that others have of you that you
are a godly man. Many are satisfied with just that. But if you
really follow Jesus you will go further. Why did the people who
saw Jesus' life in Nazareth - even his own relatives who saw it
more closely than anyone else - reject Him instead of admiring
Him? Don't people in your office and your neighbourhood generally
admire an upright man? But people did not admire Jesus. Why?
Because the spirit of this world is so opposed to the Spirit of
God that anyone who is a faithful witness to the true God will be
rejected. Jesus was such a faithful witness to the true God.
How is it then that people admire you so much?
Perhaps, even people in dead denominations admire you!! And
perhaps you even glory in their testimony about you!!
We read nowadays of "Christians" even getting the Nobel peace
prize. But the world would never have given that prize to Jesus,
the Prince of Peace. The world gave Him a cross, not a prize or a
medal. And remember that the spirit of this world has not
changed. It has in fact become worse. Jesus said that those who
were admired by all men were false prophets. He said, "Woe unto
you when all men speak well of you" (Lk.6:26).
When you really see the glory of Christ, the honour of men will
mean nothing to you any more.
When we walk in the pure light of the gospel of the glory of
Christ, we will be misunderstood and rejected and called all
sorts of evil names by others - especially by religious
Christians. Jesus was called by such names as "a mad man", "a
friend of sinners", "the prince of demons" etc., You too will be
called by such names if you follow Jesus all the way. If however
you seek to please man and to be diplomatic in your speech, then
you will avoid that reproach of Christ. But that would also
indicate that Satan has blinded your eyes from seeing the glory
In 2 Cor.3:15, it says that if you read the Word of God according
to the letter, you will find a veil over your eyes - a veil that
hinders you from seeing the real meaning of Scripture and the
glory of Christ. And then even if you seek to obey the
new-covenant commandments such as, "Love your enemies, bless
those who curse you, do good to those who harm you" etc., you
will obey them only according to the letter. It is possible to
obey all these commandments with a self-righteous, Pharisaical
spirit - because of a veil over your eyes. But when you turn to
the Lord, that veil will be removed, and you will see the glory
of Christ (v.16).
It is possible for you to go to a meeting just to hear a message,
and not to meet with the Lord. But no message can solve your
problems. Only Jesus can do that. Many believers, for example,
who have heard so much about what a truly Christian marriage is,
still do not have Christlike attitudes towards their
marriage-partners. Why? Because they are occupied with the letter
of Scripture. What you need then is not to hear more messages,
but to see the glory of Christ.
When you are taken up with Jesus Himself, and not with religious
activity, or with healing, or with emotional experiences (such as
falling down and laughing and dancing etc.,) you will begin to be
It is not even righteousness that we need, but Jesus Himself.
In 1 Cor.1:30 we are told that "Christ Himself has become to us
wisdom, righteousness, sanctification". It is not that He gives
us wisdom. He Himself is our wisdom. He is our sanctification,
our redemption, our healing, our ministry, our everything. When
we leave Christ and are taken up instead with some doctrine, then
we have been led astray.
What is the secret of godliness (1 Tim.3:16). Is it the doctrine
that Christ came in our flesh? No, it isn't. The secret of
godliness is Jesus Himself Who came in our flesh. Those who are
taken up with this doctrine, I have found, are the greatest
Pharisees in Christendom. But those who are taken up with Jesus
Himself never become Pharisees.
There is a big dividing line in Christendom today: It is drawn
between those who are taken up with the letter of Scripture and
those who are taken up with its spirit - or in other words,
between those who are occupied with doctrines of holiness and
those who are occupied with the person of Jesus Himself.
The more believers look at the letter, the more there will be a
veil over their eyes, that they do not see the Lord. God wants us
to see the light of His glory in the face of our Lord Jesus
Consider the glory of His humility. In Phil.2:8-11, we read that
God has exalted the Name of Jesus over every other name, so that
at that Name, everyone everywhere should bow down. Every demon
has to bow down before that Name today. Why? Not because He was
the Son of God or because He lived a holy life. But because He
If you are not willing to humble yourself, and yet seek to use
the Name of Jesus, you will be trying to use it as some sort of
magic word. And it won't work. But one who humbles himself and
dies to himself and uses the Name of Jesus, will find power in
the use of it.
When you preach the Word of God in the Name of Jesus, if you have
not understood why God has exalted the Name of Jesus above every
other name, you won't have the power of the Spirit backing your
preaching. You can preach the same message that another person
preaches or that you read in a book. But there won't be the same
anointing over your preaching. A man can preach in order to get
honour for himself. But the Holy Spirit won't back up that
message - and any apparent fruit from his ministry will not last
Have you seen the glory of Jesus' humility?
Whatever we do, we are commanded to do in the Name of Jesus. Then
we must do everything in the same spirit as Jesus, Who humbled
Himself and became a servant and died. All through His earthly
life, He refused to be anything other than a servant. This is our
calling too. We are to be not only brothers, but servants of one
May we be gripped by the glory of His humility. Then there will
be no veil over our faces, but only a powerful, continual
We read in 2 Cor.3:13 that Moses put a veil over his face, so
that the people would not see that the glory was fading away. You
can put a veil over your life too - to hide the glory that you've
lost. You may want others to think that the glory in your inner
life and in your married life is still the same as it was some
years back - even though it is not so today.
But Paul says "We have renounced all these hidden, shameful
things. With an open, unveiled face we now see the glory of the
We read in Numbers 6:23-25 that God asked Aaron to bless the
children of Israel thus: "The Lord make His face shine on you."
This was the greatest blessing that they could receive from the
Lord - His shining upon them with His glory. This is the greatest
blessing that we can receive today under the new covenant too.
When the sun shines on the moon, it reflects the sun's light. But
as the earth comes in between the sun and the moon, the moon
gradually becomes invisible. This is how it is with many
believers too. The things of earth come between them and the
Lord. And soon what started out as a full moon becomes a half
moon and finally no moon at all!!
The only way we can avoid this fading away of the glory is by
being totally honest and removing every veil. To be honest does
not mean that we have to publicly confess our sins. No. But it
does mean that we must renounce all dishonesty and pretence.
When people hear someone preaching fantastic truths that are not
backed up by a humble, holy life, they are turned away from this
glorious gospel. If you wear a badge that says, "JESUS SAVES" and
then lose your temper, you must change the badge to read "JESUS
SAVES US FROM HELL BUT NOT FROM ANGER". Either that, or remove
your badge. At least then the Name of the Lord will not be
Let us be gripped by the glory of Jesus' humility. Nobody could
stop Him from being a servant to one and all. People wanted Him
to be a king, but he would not oblige them. He never wanted to
have a reputation as a great man, a knowledgeable man or any such
thing. He came to show us by His life what God was like. Now that
is our calling too - to be servants, to die to our Self-life, and
to show others what God is like.
We must allow the Holy Spirit first of all to show us the glory
Then the Spirit will make us partake of that glory -
A CLEAN HEART AND A PURE LIFE
Manifesting The Life Of God
Our Lord said that while He was in the world He was the light of
the world (Jn.9:5). After Jesus left the world, he has ordained
us to be the light of the world (Matt.5:16).
The light that Jesus brought was not some doctrine or teaching.
It was not even the truth of the new covenant. It was His life
that was the light - a life that manifested the divine nature.
We often use the expression "We got light on .....". We can glory
in the fact that we have got light on the baptism in the Holy
Spirit, victory over sin, etc., But the light that we need to
manifest is the life of Jesus.
It is written twice in the New Testament that "no man has seen
God at any time". First Jesus came and explained God to us
(Jn.1:18). When Jesus put his arms around a leper, He was
manifesting what God was like. When He chased the money changers
out of the temple, again He manifested what God was like. He told
His disciples that those who had seen Him had seen the Father.
But Jesus has now gone to heaven.
Now if we love one another, God dwells in us and people will be
able to see God in the church, as they saw Him in Jesus (1
Those who observe us in the church should be able to know what
Christ is like. If we have failed to reflect this light - the
life of Jesus - through our lives, then we must acknowledge that
we have failed in our primary calling.
None of us can reflect the light (life) of God in all its aspects
and in all its fulness individually. But together as a church we
can show forth to others the manifold wisdom of God. It is only
as we bear the dying of Jesus in our bodies that we can manifest
the life of Jesus too. In a home, if both husband or wife are
willing to die to their Adamic life, what peace will reign in
that home! No matter how heavily we are distressed, afflicted,
persecuted or tempted, we should be able to say, "Death works in
us, and life in you". That is our calling.
Integrity Of Heart
In Genesis 20, we read that King Abimelech took Abraham's wife
Sarah to be part of his harem. However, in an unusual way that
heathen king went off to sleep that night, without even touching
her. Then God spoke to him in a dream and told him that he was a
dead man because he had taken another man's wife. Abimelech told
God boldly that it was "in the integrity of his heart" that he
had taken her, for Abraham himself had said that she was his
sister. God acknowledged that there was "integrity in Abimelech's
heart", and told him that that was why He had kept him from
sinning that night. When God can put a heathen king to sleep and
thus keep him from sinning just because He saw integrity in his
heart, how much more He will be able to keep us under the new
covenant. But what He looks for is integrity of heart. If a
heathen king can have integrity of heart to such an extent that
even God could acknowledge it to be so, it shouldn't be difficult
for us to have the same.
Let us pursue integrity of heart then. It is because God does not
see this in many believers that He does not keep them from
God tested Abraham again and again and he was found faithful each
time. After many trials in which Abraham was faithful, God tested
him again, fifty years after first calling him in Ur, and asked
him to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice. Again he obeyed God
wholeheartedly, just as he had done 50 years earlier.
God does not stop testing us just because we've been faithful for
many years. Only one who endures to the end in love who will be
God may test us through our being rejected by our
fellow-believers. It is written about Jesus that "He came to His
own and those who were His own did not receive Him" (Jn.1:11). If
we are to receive the same education that Jesus received on
earth, then we have to experience the rejection that He
experienced, and we must respond in love as He did.
One young man who was gifted with the Word, found that one of the
elders in his local assembly (who was 20 years older than him)
was jealous of his ministry and would not permit him to preach,
and made him sit quietly in the meeting. This was the test of
rejection. The young man submitted to the elder's authority
without any rebellion, and maintained a good relationship with
him. Thirty years later, when he was a much older man, God tested
him again in the same area. God arranged a situation, where again
he was not allowed to speak in an assembly. Again he sat quietly
in the meeting, submitting to the elders without any rebellion,
and maintaining a good relationship with them - even though this
time the elders were 20 years younger than him!
God will test all of us in many ways until the end of our lives.
Listening To The Voice Of The Spirit
There are many times in our lives when we have to take decisions
but are not sure exactly what we should do. There are many
matters on which the Scriptures are silent. At the same time, we
cannot always find a godly brother whom we can go to, for advice.
Whenever we have to justify our actions by saying that some godly
brother had done things like that or that he had said that it was
all right for us to do something, that by itself would prove that
what we are doing is being done with a bad conscience.
God has given us the Holy Spirit to guide each of us personally.
For example, a sister may hear an exhortation in the meeting not
to love the world. That is a very general exhortation, that does
not deal with anything specific. The New Testament gives us only
such general exhortations. What should she do then if she has to
decide whether or not to wear a gaudy, expensive saree to a
wedding-reception. Her mind may give her many reasons why she
should wear that saree. But the Holy Spirit will examine her
motive and may tell her that she is dressing like that only to
seek honour from her worldly friends and relatives. The Spirit
will be faithful to tell her the truth. But He will not force her
to obey. The final decision will be hers.
The anointing of the Spirit will teach us about many things that
no brother or sister in the church can ever teach us about. But
we must be careful to listen to the Spirit. If we keep on
rejecting that voice, He may stop speaking to us after a while.
Then we will backslide and become worldly and carnal.
Submitting To Spiritual Authority
The church is not built by knowledge (doctrine) but by wisdom
Wisdom will make a brother submit to all the authorities whom God
has placed over him - whether at home, in the church or in
Jesus submitted to imperfect foster-parents (Joseph and Mary)
throughout the years He was in Nazareth - just because that was
what His heavenly Father wanted Him to do. The question there was
not whether Joseph and Mary were perfect, but rather what the
Father had appointed for Jesus. Joseph and Mary were no doubt
God-fearing people. But we must not forget that they were under
the old covenant and so were not under grace and therefore could
not possibly have had victory over sin. They must have had fights
with each other in their home and also had tensions between them
- just like all couples have even today who have not entered into
the new covenant. Yet the perfect Son of God submitted to those
two imperfect people. His first steps were steps of submission to
Now if we are to walk along the same way, we too must be willing
to submit to any authority whom God places over us - however
imperfect they may be. That is why we teach children to submit to
their parents. That is the first commandment for children; and
God's promise to all who obey it is that "it will go well with
them". God places so much importance on submission to authority.
So if we want it to go well with our children in life, we must
teach them obedience.
In the same way, if we want it to go well with us, we too must
submit to the imperfect spiritual authorities whom God places
over us in the church. The elders who are over us in the Lord are
certainly not perfect. But if we are certain that we are in the
right local church, then we must submit to the elders appointed
by God there. If however you are not sure that the local church
you are in at present, is the right one, then you must seek God
about leaving it.
But God will never approve of rebellion against authority.
We must not forget that the elders in our churches are battling
to maintain a pure testimony for the Lord. That is certainly NOT
an easy task. It is an easy task however for brothers and sisters
in the church to see faults in their elders and to criticize them
and rebel against them.
It is easy for those who have no children to find fault with the
way others bring up their children! Those who are wise however
will keep quiet, knowing how difficult it is to bring up children
in godly ways.
It is also good for you to consider this first of all: Has God
ever selected you to lead a church anywhere?
If God Himself has never considered you fit enough to exercise
spiritual authority anywhere, why do you judge others to whom God
has entrusted such spiritual responsibility? You are rebelling
against God's appointment. Those elders may be imperfect in many
ways. Yet God found them to be better than you! That is why He
made them elders. They were the ones whom God selected first in
that locality, long before you arrived on the scene. You may be
just an immature rebel, full of bright ideas that have never been
put into practice. If God has not given you grace to build even
one local church for Him, then the wisest thing for you to do is
to humble yourself under your elders and to be quiet.
There could however be serious problems with the elders in a
church. In that case, you should speak about it with a mature
older brother elsewhere who can help the situation, and not go
around backbiting to others in the church. God can never bless
those who sow discord or create confusion in a church. We must
learn to remain under submission to the authorities appointed by
Exercising Spiritual Authority
Just as it is important to submit to spiritual authority in a
godly way, in the same way it is equally important to exercise
spiritual authority in a godly way. Many elders unfortunately
exercise religious authority over their flock, not spiritual
In the parable of the two sons (in Luke 15:11-32), we see this
contrast in a clear way in the attitudes of the father and of the
elder brother toward the prodigal son.
When the younger son repented of his wayward life and returned
home, the father ran out to welcome him. This is a picture of the
heart of God and of godly elder brothers, toward repentant
When the elder son saw the way in which his father welcomed his
younger brother, he was so angry (an anger that grew out of
jealousy) that he would not even go inside the house. His
self-righteousness became evident in his actions and in his
words. He would not even refer to his younger brother as his own
brother. He told his father, "This son of yours". He despised his
brother and imagined the worst about him saying that he had lived
with harlots (without verifying whether he had actually done so).
That elder brother may have kept all his father's commandments
and stayed faithfully in the father's house ("the church"). But
his heart was so hard and ungodly. He was religious, not
spiritual. He was so self-righteous and Pharisaical. And one
proof of this was that he could not share the joy of his father.
Pharisees have a gloomy, stern righteousness - without any of the
joy of the Holy Spirit. The Bible clearly says that the
righteousness of God's kingdom is "a righteousness with peace and
joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom.14:17).
But we see that the father went out to plead with his Pharisaical
elder son too. Godly elders (like the father in this story) are
good towards both repentant sinners and Pharisees. All elders
need to have a large heart like that. Only then can they exercise
Just as it takes a long time to build a skyscraper, it takes much
time, labour, sweat and tears to build a local church as the Body
of Christ. And just as that skyscraper can be destroyed by a bomb
in a few moments, it is easy to criticise the work that others
have done, especially if we ourselves have not invested any sweat
or tears to build that work.
Hidden Attitudes Will Be Exposed
If we do not do a thorough work of cleansing ourselves of all sin
in our inner beings - especially of wrong attitudes towards those
whom we have something against - such attitudes will one day
destroy us like an inward cancer.
In the Old Testament, we read of a man called Shimei who was a
relative of King Saul. When Saul died and David became king of
Israel, this man kept a grudge against David deep down in his
heart. He was not happy that David was ruling God's people, even
though God Himself had anointed David as king. Shimei's envy and
discontentment remained hidden in his heart for a long time,
until the day that Absalom rebelled against his father, and David
had to flee from Jerusalem (2 Sam.16:5-14). Then what was hidden
in Shimei's heart came out. When David was fleeing for his life,
Shimei came to David and not only accused him but also cursed
him, called him a man of bloodshed who was now being judged by
God and threw stones at him. It is only when others are in
distress, that all that is hidden in our hearts comes out.
But David was gracious and overlooked Shimei's cursing. Later on
when Absalom was killed and David returned as king, Shimei was
afraid and ran to ask David for forgiveness. Again David was
gracious and forgave him and promised that he would not kill him.
But it is obvious that David had not cleansed himself of his
inner bitterness against Shimei. For just before he died, he told
his son Solomon, "I forgave Shimei and promised not to kill him.
But that promise doesn't bind you. You are a wise man and you can
surely find some clever way of ensuring that Shimei is killed."
As far as we know those were David's last words, just before he
breathed his last (See 1 Kings 2:8-10). Thus he took vengeance on
Shimei and died. What a sad way to die, after having been a man
of God for so many years.
We cannot judge David by our standards, for he lived under the
old covenant. Our calling is higher in the new covenant. Now we
are exhorted not to repay evil for evil, for vengeance belongs to
It is important therefore that we search our hearts before God to
see if there is the slightest desire for vengeance against anyone
in our hearts.
THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM
The great contrast that we see in the closing pages of the Bible
is between Babylon the Harlot (Rev.17,18) and Jerusalem the Bride
of Christ (Rev. 21 & 22).
The Bible says that those who are "friends of the world are
adulteresses (harlots)" (Jas.4:4). In contrast, the bride
consists of those who have separated themselves from the world,
keeping themselves chaste and pure for their Heavenly Bridegroom.
(Read 2 Cor.11:1-3).
In Proverbs 8:1,27, the Bridegroom is called `Wisdom'. And then
in the next chapter the Bride is also called `Wisdom' (Proverbs
9:1), because she is one with her Bridegroom in every way and has
His Name (`Wisdom') written on her forehead - being an overcomer
like her Bridegroom was (See Rev.3:12,21 and 14:1).
In Proverbs chapter 9, we see the Bride and the Harlot clearly
contrasted. In the first 12 verses of that chapter, the Bride
invites all the foolish to turn from their foolish ways and to
quit their sinful company (v.6) and to learn the fear of the
Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom (v.10). In the last 6
verses of that chapter, we read of the call of the Harlot. Many
respond to the harlot's call and end up in spiritual death
The Bride (Wisdom), we read there, builds her house on SEVEN
PILLARS. These seven pillars are listed for us in James 3:17, and
the true church is built on these pillars. By these
characteristics, we can identify the Bride of Christ anywhere:
The first and most important pillar in the true church is purity.
This is not a hollow pillar of a merely external purity. No. It
is solid through and through. It is purity of the heart, and it
grows from the seed of the fear of God deep within the heart. It
is not by clever brains but by pure hearts that the true church
of Christ is built. We cannot build the church if we don't have
spiritual revelation on God and His ways - and only the pure in
heart will be allowed to see God in their hearts (Matt.5:8).
Righteousness and peace always go together. They are twins. The
kingdom of God is righteousness and peace (Rom.14:17). True
wisdom is never argumentative or quarrelsome. It does not strive.
It maintains harmonious relationships with everyone, as far as
possible. It is impossible to quarrel with a man who is filled
with Divine wisdom, for such a man is a peaceable man. He may be
firm and he may be hated by compromisers. But he is always
peaceable. Jesus told His disciples that when they travel to
preach the gospel, they should stay only in the house of "men of
peace" (Luke 10:5-7). We must be men of peace, if we are to build
The Bride of Christ is always fair to others, gentle, patient,
forbearing and courteous. She is never harsh or rough but always
considerate of the feelings of others. When the church is
supported by this pillar, it becomes easy to bear with one
another - even if some are slow of understanding or crude in
their manners. The problem, we begin to realise, is not the
crudeness of our brother or sister, but the impatience that
dwells within us. And so we fight the right enemy - our Self-life
- and not our brothers and sisters.
4. Willingness to yield
One who cannot receive admonishment and exhortation, or who feels
that he has gone beyond that stage, is truly foolish, even if he
is an elder or an older man (See Eccl.4:13). In India especially,
many people have the heathen idea that "older people are wiser".
This may be true in earthly matters but certainly not in
spiritual matters. Jesus did not choose any of the older people
in the synagogues to be his apostles. he chose young men. Older
people in the church often find it difficult to receive
exhortation from a younger brother who may be the elder in the
church and also far more godly. But that is because of their
pride. Those who are willing to receive correction become wise
(Prov.13:1O). And so where the brothers and sisters in a church
are eager to receive exhortation and correction, a truly glorious
church will be built. The wise man loves those who exhort him
faithfully and will eagerly seek out their company. `Submit to
one another' (Eph.5:21) are the words written on this pillar.
5. Fulness of mercy and its good fruits
The Bride of Christ is full of mercy - not just occasionally
merciful. She has no problem forgiving anyone, freely and
cheerfully from the heart. She does not judge or condemn others,
but rather exercises compassion towards them like her Bridegroom.
This mercy is not just a mental attitude but finds expression in
good fruits that are brought forth in her actions. She does good
in all the ways she can to all the people she can at all the
times she can.
A brother who has Divine wisdom will be free from all
crookedness. He will be wholehearted and straightforward, with a
single eye, free from doubts and hesitation. He will not be
double-minded, but strong in faith in God, and he won't be
looking at his own weaknesses, but at the promises of God. Such a
brother knows that victory over all conscious sin is possible
here and now. He is a dependable person - who can be trusted at
all times to keep his word. He is steadfast and unmovable. You
cannot make him bend his convictions or to compromise in any
matter. He is straight and upright as a rod.
7. Freedom from hypocrisy
The Bride has more spiritual content inwardly than others can see
in her externally. Her hidden life is better than the opinion
that others have of her external life. This is the exact opposite
of the `spiritual adulteress' or the `Harlot,' whose so-called
spirituality is only meant for receiving the honour of men. What
she has is actually `religiosity' and not true spirituality. The
bride watches her inner thoughts, motives and attitudes far more
than her external words and actions. She longs for God's approval
over her inner life and cares nothing at all for man's approval
of her external life. By this test, each of us can know whether
we are part of the Bride or of the Harlot.
Seek God for Wisdom
The Bride of Christ has the seed of wisdom implanted in her heart
and so she will have these seven characteristics growing in her
year by year. Although she is still far from perfect, she is
pressing on and growing towards perfection. But where these
characteristics are not found at all, it is presumptuous for any
person or so-called 'church' to consider himself/itself a part of
the Bride of Christ. Where there are contentions and jealousies
and impurity and unbelief and pride, there you certainly have the
'Harlot,' not the Bride.
The Bible says that Divine wisdom can be obtained only if we seek
for it as we would for hidden wealth (Prov. 2:4). Jesus said that
the kingdom of heaven was like a treasure hidden in a field that
a man, when he discovered it, sold everything he had, in order to
obtain it (Mt. 13:44). It is only those who forsake all, who give
up everything to God, who count everything else on earth as
rubbish compared to Divine wisdom, (as Paul did - Phil.3: 8), who
will obtain this wisdom and be able to build these seven pillars.
And only through such people will the true church of Jesus Christ
It is easy to accumulate knowledge or to be an eloquent speaker.
But this will only make you a scribe. Jesus said that every
scribe must become a disciple (Mt.13:52). And for this, the
scribe has to forsake everything - including his own Adamic life
and his right to choose his own way (Lk.14:26,33). Only thus will
he receive the wealth (the Divine life and wisdom) that God
gives. Then he will be able to give forth from his wealth to
others, from his heart and not from his head . He will be able to
share with others both what is new (fresh wisdom and revelations
from the Word) as well as what is old (old truths, but that are
yet fresh, like the manna that was kept for forty years in the
ark, and that never stank) (Mt.13:52).
When we see this high calling and the standard God expects of us,
we can feel overwhelmed. And so the Holy Spirit also gives us an
encouraging word in James 1:5. If we lack this WISDOM (and who
among us can say that we do not need any more wisdom?), we are
commanded to ask God. It is the Lord Who gives WISDOM (Prov.2:6).
But we are to ask in faith. If we ask in faith, we shall
certainly receive these seven pillars in our life and God's House
will be built in us and through us.
He who has ears to hear let him hear.
THE TRUE GRACE OF GOD
"This is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it" (1 Pet.5:12).
Here at the end of Peter's first letter, he says that what he has
written in his letter is all about the true grace of God. In
these days when false grace is being preached so much, it is good
to go back to 1 Peter to see what the TRUE grace of God really
is, and to stand firm in it.
The fact that Peter uses the expression "the TRUE grace of God"
in the first century itself indicates that even in those days a
counterfeit grace was being proclaimed by the agents of Satan,
who had "turned the grace of God into licentiousness (licence to
sin) (Jude 4).
Right at the outset, Peter tells us that all believers are
"chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the
sanctifying work of the Spirit, that they may obey Jesus Christ
and be sprinkled with His blood" and for such believers, he prays
that God's "grace and peace may be theirs in fullest measure" (1
God chose us in order to sanctify us (make us holy) and to lead
us to obey the Lord Jesus Christ. This is what the true grace of
God is meant to lead us into; and so Peter prays that those who
desire this in their lives may experience God's grace in fullest
Peter then says that "as to this salvation, the prophets who
prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful
search and inquiry" (1 Pet.1:10). The grace that we experience
under the new covenant was not experienced by anyone in old
covenant times. Even the prophets could only prophesy about this
grace as something that would come in the future. They could not
experience it themselves.
Peter then urges all believers to "fix their hope completely on
the grace that is to be brought to them at the revelation of
Jesus Christ." (1 Pet.1:13).
When Christ returns in glory, we will experience a special grace
that will transform us totally into His likeness. From the
beginning of our Christian life to the very end, God's work in us
is entirely one of grace.
Peter also speaks of receiving grace for a happy married life:
"You husbands likewise, live with your wives in an understanding
way, as with a weaker vessel, since she is a woman; and grant her
honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers
may not be hindered." (1 Pet.3:7).
God wants Christian married couples to live together in peace and
harmony. Their home must be an island of peace in a strife-torn
world. And for this, abundant grace is required.
Peter then goes on to speak of spiritual gifts: "As each one has
received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as
good stewards of the manifold grace of God." (1 Pet.4:10)
Every spiritual gift is to be used only to SERVE others, as a
means of dispensing the true grace of God to them. The grace of
God is many-sided. Therefore God has chosen people from different
backgrounds and with different personalities and temperaments and
placed them all together in Christ's Body so that each of them
can display some unique aspect of God's grace through his/her
life and ministry.
The Humble Receive Grace And Revelation
"You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of
you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God
is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1
Here Peter speaks about the importance of learning submission to
spiritual authority in our younger days itself.
If a young man is saved by the age of 20, it is usually God's
purpose that he should have an effective ministry by the time he
is 35 years old. But for this to be fulfilled, that man should
learn the all-important lessons of brokenness and humility by the
time he is 35. And those lessons can be learnt only as he submits
to spiritual authority. Only thus can He receive grace to
exercise spiritual authority later in his home and in the church.
Young people who do not submit to spiritual authority invariably
end up losing the ministry God had in mind for them.
This does not mean that we don't have to humble ourselves once we
are older!! Subjection to elders must be learnt when we are
young. But following Jesus along the way of humility is something
that we have to keep on doing until our dying day. That is the
only way to keep on receiving grace until the very end of our
Bible-knowledge cannot give us grace. It is an amazing fact that
our Lord was crucified by Bible-believing Jewish zealots, and not
by the heathen Romans or Greeks who had no knowledge of the true
The leaders of the only true religion on earth in Jesus' day
(Judaism) and the scholars of the only true Scriptures (Genesis
to Malachi), were the ones who called Jesus a deceiver, a heretic
and the prince of devils. Those scribes and Pharisees were
intelligent, Bible-believing, well-educated and ardent for the
truth of the Scriptures. Yet they were totally blind spiritually.
They did not get grace. Why?
The answer to that question is important, because history has
repeated itself again and again in the Christendom.
Ardent Bible scholars even today, are totally blind to the true
Jesus of the Scriptures and to the true grace of God. Like the
Pharisees of old, they too are unable to receive the hidden
wisdom of God (1 Cor.2:7-10). The reason in both cases is just
the some: They are proud and seek the honour of men.
Jesus said to the Pharisees, "How can you have faith who receive
honour from one another and do not seek the honour that comes
from God" (Jn. 5:44).
Those who live before the face of men, seeking their own honour
can never receive revelation on the true meaning of the
Scriptures, for God blinds them to the truth (Mt.11:25).
God has written the Scriptures in such a way that the wise and
intelligent will not be able to understand it, if they do not
humble themselves. That cannot be said about any earthly book.
There is no book in the world that requires humility as an
essential qualification in order to understand it, except the
The natural mind (no matter how clever) will consider the
revelation of the Spirit that comes forth from a humble brother
as foolishness (1 Cor.2:14). One requires grace to understand
Proud theologians today proclaim many different interpretations
of the Scriptures. But they are totally unaware of their
We have to humble ourselves before the face of God, and finish
with seeking the honour and approval of men. Then God will REVEAL
to us what He hides from others.
God resists the proud, but He gives grace to the humble.
If we are proud, then even if all our doctrines are right, we
shall end up like the Pharisees, deceived and blind concerning
spiritual realities. Then we shall not be able to recognise the
true prophets of God in our day, any more then the Pharisees
could recognise Jesus, the True Prophet of the Lord in their day.
All sin has its origin in PRIDE and SELFISHNESS. In the same way,
all the virtues of Christ have their origin in HUMILITY and
SELFLESSNESS. The more we humble ourselves, the more we will
receive grace from God. Then we shall live in victory and
manifest Christ's character more and more in our lives. If anyone
does not have victory over sin, that would indicate clearly that
he has not humbled himself - because all who humble themselves
will certainly receive grace (1 Pet.5:6), and all who come under
God's grace will certainly get victory (Rom.6:14).
There are many false ideas of humility in Christendom.
But this is the test by which we can evaluate ourselves
unfailingly: Have we got victory over sin and is the character of
Christ being manifested increasingly in us?
Perfection Through Suffering
"After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all
grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will
Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you." (1
Here God is called the God of ALL GRACE. He leads His people
through suffering in order that He might impart His grace to them
and "perfect and establish them". Paul experienced God's
all-sufficient grace through receiving a thorn in his flesh (2
Peter's first letter too has much to say about suffering as the
means by which God dispenses His grace to us.
We read that, "Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example
for you to FOLLOW IN HIS STEPS WHO COMMITTED NO SIN .........
Since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with
the same purpose, because he who has suffered In the flesh HAS
CEASED FROM SIN" (1 Pet.2:21,22, 4:1).
Here we are clearly told to follow the example of Christ Who
suffered, so that we might not sin at any time. Grace is meant to
make us holy,"as He Who called us is Holy" (1 Pet.1:16).
Peter reminds us that "if we suffer in the flesh, we shall cease
from sin and live the rest of our life, doing the will of God" (1
To "suffer in the flesh" does not mean becoming sick in the body,
for no-one has ever stopped sinning thereby. It does not mean
being beaten and bruised for Christ's sake either, for no-one has
stopped sinning that way either. It refers rather to denying the
desires of Self, which are in opposition to the will of God. Sin
brings a certain pleasure. To suffer is the opposite of enjoying
that pleasure. If we are willing to suffer in each and every
situation, then we can cease from sin. God will help us if we are
willing. In fact, He even works to make us willing
(Phil.2:12,13). But so often we resist His workings. That is why
we remain defeated.
Christ suffered in the flesh, and we are to arm ourselves with
the same mind. Jesus walked this way of self-denial all His life.
He came to earth in the flesh and never did His own will but
always the will of His Father, no matter how much suffering that
may have involved (Jn.6:38). Thus He never sinned. Now we also
have the opportunity to "follow In His steps Who committed no
sin" (1 Pet. 2:21,22).
This is the gospel (good news) of the grace of God.
In his second letter, Peter reminds us that the good news is that
God by His divine power has granted us "EVERYTHING necessary for
a godly life" here on this earth (2 Pet.1:3,4). And if we have
received a faith "of the same value" (2 Pet.1:1 margin) as
Peter's, we shall receive the same grace that he received and
partake of God's nature as he did.
Then the character of Christ - "moral excellence, knowledge,
self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness and
love will be ours in increasing measure" (2 Pet.1:5-11), making
us fruitful and freeing us from all blindness and
Everyone who abides in Jesus will bear MUCH FRUIT (Jn.15:5). And
so if these virtues of Christ are not being manifested
increasingly in us, it would indicate that we are not abiding in
Jesus and that we are not living under the true grace of God.
Grace Makes Us One
Those who humble themselves not only receive grace for victory,
but also grace to become one with each other. Just as we saw
earlier that husband and wife can receive grace together as
"joint-heirs of the grace of life", even so believers too can
receive that grace that makes them joint-heirs along with other
believers in Christ's Body.
Jesus prayed on the last night of His earthly life that we might
be ONE AS HE AND THE FATHER ARE ONE (Jn.17:22). And He prayed
that we experience this oneness here in this world (Jn.17:21,23).
This is not a unity of understanding but a unity of spirit .
Because of the sinfulness of our nature and the limitations of
our minds that have been warped by sin, we may not see "eye to
eye" in every matter with each other here on earth. But that has
nothing to do with our spiritual unity. In our hearts, we can
still be one.
All lack of unity is because we want to do our own will and not
the will of the Head. This has nothing to do with our
understanding of doctrine. It has only to do with whether we are
willing to deny our own will and do the Father's will alone.
Jesus always obeyed what He heard from His Father. His food was
obedience to His Father's will (Jn.4:34).
Jesus was one with the Father. It is into this oneness that we
too are called through the true grace of God.
Jesus always overcame evil with good. Evil had no power over Him,
because He was always rooted in doing good. So shall it be with
us, if we too obey the word to "overcome evil with good"
(Rom.12:21). When others hate us and scandalise us, we can
conquer their evil by doing them good. This is possible when we
receive the true grace of God.
Then we shall be kept, as Jesus prayed, from the evil that is in
the world (Jn.17:16), and we shall become one with all others who
walk the same way.
The church that Jesus is building is one that has received grace
- the true grace of God - to be built together in unity, under
Christ the Head. Only such a church will triumph over the gates
of Hell (Matt.16:18).
THE TRUTH ABOUT SPEAKING IN TONGUES
"Every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of
lights, with whom there is no variation (change)" (James. 1:17).
God never makes a mistake, He never changes and He gives only
perfect gifts. Therefore when He gave the gift of "speaking in
unknown languages" ("tongues") to the church on the day of
Pentecost, He knew exactly what He was doing. The gift of
"tongues" was a perfect gift. God has not changed His mind about
the gift, for He never changes.
God knew the controversies that would surround this gift in the
20th century. Yet He felt the church needed this gift to fulfil
Even major truths such as the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the
Humanity of Christ and the Person of the Holy Spirit have been
opposed and have faced controversy in the history of Christendom.
So it should not surprise us if the gift of "tongues" has been
It is always best to stick exactly to what Scripture says on all
doctrinal matters. Let us look then, with an unprejudiced mind,
at every single verse in the Bible on the subject of "speaking in
Truth No. 1:
Mark 16:17: [Jesus said,] "These signs will accompany those who
have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will
speak with new tongues... they will lay hands on the sick, and
they will recover."
Jesus said that some of the signs accompanying the company of
"those who have believed" would be speaking in tongues, casting
out demons and healing the sick. He did not say that ALL these
signs would accompany EVERY believer. But He said that these
signs would be found among the company of "those who have
So every believer need not have all these gifts. Neither need
every church have all these gifts. But they will be found in the
whole church worldwide. The Holy Spirit sovereignly decides whom
to give the gifts to.
Truth No. 2:
Acts 2:4,7,11: "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and
began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them
utterance....... And the Jews from every nation marvelled
saying....`We hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty
deeds of God.'"
The first time that believers were filled with the Holy Spirit,
they ALL spoke in tongues. The "tongues" were languages that
others understood immediately. So there was no need for the gift
Notice also in verse 4 that it was the persons themselves who
began to speak in tongues and not the Holy Spirit. The Spirit did
not move their tongues. The Spirit only gave them utterance. They
In no gift, does the Holy Spirit take away freedom of choice from
us. In fact, the fruit of the Spirit is "self-control"
(Gal.5:23). Only demon-possessed people lose control of
themselves. One who is filled with the Spirit will have more
control over himself than anyone else. "The spirit of the
prophets is subject to the control of the prophets" (1
Truth No. 3:
Acts 10:46: "They were hearing them speaking with tongues and
Here, in the house of Cornelius, all who were in his house were
baptized in the Holy Spirit, at the same moment as they were
converted to Christ. They spoke in "tongues" exalting God
(praising Him) - not speaking to people, as was the case on the
day of Pentecost.
Truth No. 4:
Acts 19:6: "When Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy
Spirit came on them, and they began speaking with tongues and
The Holy Spirit came upon the believers in Ephesus, when Paul
laid hands on them. The "tongues" here seems to have been
[Note the following facts from the above instances in "Acts":
(a) In Acts 2 they received the Spirit, AFTER water baptism. In
Acts 10, they received the Spirit BEFORE water baptism.
(b) In Acts 2 and 10, they received the Spirit WITHOUT anyone
laying hands on them. In Acts 19, they received the Spirit AFTER
Paul laid hands on them.
(This proves that there is no standard pattern for receiving the
Spirit. It could be either before or after water-baptism, and
also with or without the laying on of hands).
(c) In Acts 8:14-18, when the disciples in Samaria received the
Holy Spirit, there is no mention that they spoke in tongues. But
Simon the magician did see some evidence (we are not told what it
was) which made him want the same ability that Peter had.]
Truth No. 5:
1 Cor. 12:7,8,10: "But to each one is given the manifestation of
the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given the word of
wisdom through the Spirit.... to another various kinds of
tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues."
The gift of tongues is for "the common good" - the good of the
church. This was written 25 years after the day of Pentecost. And
the gift of tongues was still being given then by the Spirit "for
the common good".
Truth No. 6:
1 Cor.12:11: "But one and the same Spirit works all these things,
distributing to each one individually just as He wills".
This is perhaps the clearest Scripture that teaches that the Holy
Spirit sovereignly decides to whom to give each gift (including
the gift of tongues). We cannot dictate to Him whom He should
give any gift to.
Truth No. 7:
1 Cor. 12:28: "God has appointed in the church, first apostles,
second prophets, third teachers, then... various kinds of tongues."
It is God Who appointed the gift of tongues in the church - for
some purpose. So we should never oppose this gift, lest we be
found opposing God. Remember that He has more wisdom than we
Truth No. 8:
1 Cor. 12:30: "All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do
not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?"
All believers DO NOT speak in tongues, just like all believers do
not have the gifts of healing.
So obviously, God does NOT feel that "tongues" is an essential
gift for all believers - either for being holy or for being
effective in His service. If it were, He would have given this
gift to everyone.
Truth No. 9:
1 Cor. 13:1: "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging
Speaking in tongues without love is useless. All pride in those
who speak in tongues, and all "looking down" on others who don't
speak in tongues is because of a lack of love. Such unloving
believers who speak in tongues are as repulsive to God as a noisy
gong is to us.
Truth No. 10:
1 Cor. 13:8: "Love never fails; but if there are gifts of
prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will
cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away. For we know
in part, and we prophesy in part; but when the perfect comes, the
partial will be done away."
When perfection comes at Christ's return, there will be no more
need for speaking in tongues.
In heaven, there will be no need for "tongues" - just like there
will be no more need for Bible-knowledge or prophecy.
So "tongues" is a temporary gift needed only under the imperfect
conditions prevalent on earth.
This explains why Jesus never needed the gift of tongues. It was
because His mind was perfectly pure and because He lived in
perfect communion with His Father at all times,
Truth No. 11:
1 Cor. 14:2: "One who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men,
but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks
The gift of tongues mentioned here is obviously different from
the one manifested on the day of Pentecost - for this gift is NOT
to "speak to men but to God" and no-one can understand what the
speaker is saying.
Truth No. 12:
1 Cor. 14:4: "One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself
The gift of tongues enables a believer to build himself up
Truth No. 13:
1 Cor. 14:5: "I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more
that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than
one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the
church may receive edifying. But now, brethren, if I come to you
speaking in tongues, what shall I profit you, unless I speak to
you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or
Paul wished that ALL spoke in tongues. This is yet another verse
that clearly indicates that all believers do NOT speak in
Paul's wish here is similar to his wish that ALL should be single
like he himself was (as he states earlier in the same letter - 1
Cor.7:7). Paul saw some benefits in being single. He also saw
some benefits in speaking in tongues. But Paul recognised that
just as God was sovereign in giving the "gift of being single"
only to some believers, He was equally sovereign in giving the
"gift of tongues" also only to some believers.
Therefore it is as foolish to expect all believers to speak in
tongues as it is to expect all believers to be single!!
In the church-meeting, it is far better to prophesy (that is, to
speak God's Word "to encourage, edify and console" others - 1
Cor. 14:3). If however a `tongue' is interpreted, then it is
equal to prophecy.
Truth No. 14:
1 Cor. 14:9,13: "Unless you utter by the tongue speech that is
clear (understandable), how will it be known what is
spoken?..........Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray
that he may interpret."
"Tongues" must be interpreted when used in a church meeting.
Truth No. 15:
1 Cor. 14:14: "If I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my
mind is unfruitful. What is the outcome then? I shall pray with
the spirit and I shall pray with the mind.I shall sing with the
spirit and I shall sing with the mind."
When praying in tongues, a person cannot understand what he is
praying. But Paul still felt that he should pray and sing "with
the spirit" (in tongues), as much as he did with his mind (in a
Truth No. 16:
1 Cor. 14:18: "I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you
Paul was thankful to God for this gift. So it must have helped
Truth No. 17:
1 Cor. 14:19: "However, in the church I desire to speak five
words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than
ten thousand words in a tongue."
In the church, speaking in a known language is always the best.
Truth No. 18:
1 Cor. 14:22: "Tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe,
but to unbelievers"
Tongues are for a sign to unbelievers - as on the day of
Truth No. 19:
1 Cor. 14:23: "If therefore the whole church should assemble
together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or
unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad?"
It is madness for all to speak in tongues in a church-meeting -
for no-one will understand what anyone is saying. (This must
obviously be referring to people speaking in tongues individually
and not when all are praying together - for in the latter case,
we do not listen to the prayers of even those who pray in a known
Truth No. 20:
1 Cor. 14:26, 27: "What is the outcome then, brethren? When you
assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation,
has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for
edification. If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or
at the most three, and each in turn, and let one interpret;"
Not more than two or three should speak in tongues in a meeting
of the church, but each "tongue" must be interpreted.
"Interpretation" is NOT the same as "translation". Translation is
"word for word". Interpretation is "expressing the thought in
one's own words".
Truth No. 21:
1 Cor. 14:39: "Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to
prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues."
This then is the conclusion. Don't forbid the exercise of the
gift of tongues. But if you are desiring a gift, seek for the
gift of prophecy more than for the gift of tongues.
The True And The Counterfeit
There is a certain amount of mystery about the gift of tongues,
as all those who have received the gift will acknowledge - if
they are honest. We do not know everything about it. We know only
in part (1 Cor.13:12).
As one who has spoken in tongues for the past 24 years, let me
add a few words concerning what I presently understand about the
gift, from my own experience.
When a person speaks in tongues, his spirit (heart) speaks forth
syllables (directly from his heart to his mouth, bypassing his
mind) and thus he pours out whatever is in his heart to God -
whether that be an overflow of joy or a burden caused by sorrow
or discouragement. Thus the pressure on his heart is relieved.
That is how he is `edified'.
As we saw earlier in Acts 2:4, when anyone speaks in tongues, it
is the person himself who speaks, and not the Holy Spirit. The
believer forms the syllables himself, just as he does when
speaking in a known language. The only difference is that now, he
does NOT use a known language to pray, but concentrating on the
Lord, speaks forth syllables with his mouth, straight from his
heart, bypassing his mind - knowing that God understands the
longings and pressures in his heart, even if he cannot understand
himself what he is saying.
Unburdening himself like that in moments of pressure helps a
believer, especially if his mind is too tired to pray in a known
language. We may not be able to explain how this works, but it
Let us now look at the gift of interpretation: As we have already
seen, interpretation of a tongue is equivalent to prophesying. So
this gift will usually be given by the Spirit to one who has the
gift of prophecy as well.
In a church-meeting, if someone speaks in a tongue, one of those
having the gift of prophecy (usually one of the elders), if he is
walking in the light of God, will find a thought being impressed
on his mind, if the "tongue" is genuinely from God. He speaks
forth that thought in his own words - for it is NOT a
translation, but an interpretation.
If another elder (who also has the gift of interpretation) had
interpreted the "tongue", the interpretation would have been the
same (although couched in that elder's own words). This would be
the case if both elders were in perfect touch with the Lord.
Since no revelation from God can contradict what is written in
the Bible, the interpretation will be in accordance with
Scripture - just like all true prophecy will also be in line with
Some who are sceptical of spiritual gifts have asked this
question: If a "tongue" that was interpreted in a meeting, is
copied on to a tape and someone else (with the gift of
interpretation) in another place is asked to interpret it, will
the interpretation be the same as the first one? The answer is:
It should be, if both interpreters had a perfect understanding of
the mind of the Lord. If the interpretation is different in
content, (and not just in words), that would only indicate that
one or both interpreters are not in such perfect touch with the
Lord as to understand His mind perfectly. That is not abnormal,
because no believer in the world is in such perfect touch with
the Lord as to know His mind perfectly.
The following example will prove this fact beyond any doubt:
Suppose you have to speak in a meeting and you have a particular
message on your heart which you feel is the burden of the Lord
for that meeting. Then, if you are unable to be at that meeting
and someone else speaks in your stead, strictly speaking, he
should give the same message as you had on your heart (even if it
be in his own words). If that brother doesn't give the same
message as you had on your heart, it would indicate that one of
you did not have a perfect understanding of the Lord's mind for
that meeting. So we see that believers could fail such a test
even when giving a message in a known language.
That's why the Bible tells us to judge even a prophet's message
(1 Cor.14:29). Similarly, we should judge, all messages in
"tongues" and their "interpretations". What should we judge in
such cases? Just this: Whether our spirit witnesses that the
utterance (prophecy, tongues or interpretation) was Scriptural
(and from the Lord) or not.
We are warned (in 1 John 4:1) not to believe every spirit but to
"test the spirits whether they are of God". So every time, we
hear "tongues" or interpretation in public, we must test it in
our spirits. Many of the "supernatural utterances" we hear may
not be from God. We must always reject a prophecy (or any part of
it), a "tongue", or an interpretation, if we feel uneasy about it
in our spirits, for any reason.
It is the unquestioning acceptance of everything supernatural and
abnormal that has brought tremendous confusion into Christendom
in this century - and tremendous dishonor to the Lord's Name as
Notice these facts in all instances of speaking in tongues in
(a) In every case, the speaking in tongues was spontaneous;
(b) In every case, ALL spoke in tongues - there were no
(c) In every case, there was no coaching or urging or instruction
given on how to speak in tongues;
Today however, in most places, NONE of the above characteristics
are found. Only where the gift of tongues is spontaneously
received without any coaching, can we conclude that it COULD BE
Of all the "speaking in tongues" that I have heard, my spirit has
borne witness to only a small percentage of it as genuine. Most
of the rest I have felt was an attempt to imitate the gift -
either to be accepted by others in a group or to impress them. A
small percentage could even be of demonic origin. My observations
are based on the fruit and the results that I have seen in the
lives of many people in many lands. Speaking and singing in
tongues often appears to be a form of "exhibitionism" in many
churches - and exhibitionism is characteristic of little
It is also a well-established fact that, at this present time,
the maximum exploitation of believers for financial gain is
practised by those preachers and pastors who claim to "speak in
tongues". Most of the cults in the 20th century have also
developed from tongue-speaking groups.
My advice to all believers therefore is: "Avoid churches that
major on the gifts of tongues and healing - because many of them
go to dangerous extremes and usually don't have
spiritually-minded leaders. Seek instead for fellowship with a
church that emphasises holiness and disciple-making primarily,
that accepts the genuine gift of tongues and that does not covet
your money or seek to control your life.
Let me also emphasise that we need to use our mind (renewed by
the Holy Spirit) if we are to understand God's will and His Word
aright (Rom.12:2). Many believers tend to despise their minds.
Our mind is to be like a wife. She should not be the head of the
home. But she should not be killed either!! Jesus is our husband
and head. Our mind should be submissive to Him through our heart.
In a nutshell then, here is a bit of sane advice on "tongues":
"If God gives you the gift of tongues, receive it and exercise
it. Speak forth the syllables from your heart to God when you are
alone with Him - anywhere - and especially when your heart is
under pressure (through discouragement) or overflowing with joy.
If you don't have the gift, don't worry about it. But be open to
the Lord to receive it, at all times. Don't be against it and
don't get into a frenzy to receive it. God will give it to you,
if He wants you to have it, without any frenzy on your part. At
the same time, don't believe that everything you see and hear in
Christendom is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Test everything. Use
your God-given faculties of discernment. If you don't have the
gift of tongues, don't consider yourself inferior to those who
have it. And if you do have the gift, don't imagine that it makes
you spiritual or superior to those who don't have it. (Paul and
the Corinthian Christians both spoke in tongues. But Paul was a
spiritual giant, while the Corinthians were carnal!!).
What Is Absolutely Essential
What is absolutely essential for all of us is to be ENDUED WITH
THE HOLY SPIRIT'S POWER. It is POWER, and not speaking in tongues
that is the evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts
The Holy Spirit is to be received BY FAITH (Jn.7:37-39), just as
we received the forgiveness of our sins - on the basis of
Christ's merit alone, and not on our own merit. We do not receive
the GIFT of the Spirit by fasting or praying or by any other
work. He is a GIFT (Acts 2:38).
We ask and receive - immediately by faith - and go forth
believing in God's promise that He gives the Holy Spirit more
readily to those who ask Him than any earthly father would give
food to a hungry son (Lk.11:13). If we are unsure about having
received the Spirit, we can ask God to give us an assurance. He
will not deny us such an assurance.
But we need to be filled with the Spirit continually (because we
are leaky vessels - Eph.5:18), just like we need to be forgiven
continually (because we sin - often without knowing it -
The devotion of our heart to Christ is FAR MORE important than
our speaking in tongues. "Do you love Me more than everything
else?", was our Lord's question to Peter, before commissioning
him for His service. Arguments about "speaking in tongues" are
therefore a diversion arranged by Satan to sidetrack believers
from total devotion to Christ.
The greatest Christians in the world have been those who loved
the Lord Jesus supremely - whether they spoke in tongues or not.
Some like Peter, James, John and Paul spoke in tongues. Others
like John Wesley, Charles Finney, D.L.Moody, A.B.Simpson, William
Booth, C.T.Studd and Watchman Nee never spoke in tongues (as far
as we know). But they ALL received the baptism in the Holy
Spirit, they ALL loved the Lord with all their hearts and they
ALL walked the way of the cross. These truths were central in
their lives. Other things were secondary.
Let us follow their example and we won't go wrong..
He who has ears to hear let him hear.
SHIBBOLETHS AMONG BELIEVERS
In the days of the judges in Israel, the Gileadites devised an
unique method of testing who belonged to their camp and who
didn't. They asked everyone to say the word "Shibboleth". Their
enemies, the Ephraimites, would pronounce this as "Sibboleth",
and that was sufficient to seal their doom. 42,000 Israelites
were killed by their brothers because they did not pronounce one
syllable correctly (Judges 12:6)!!!
During the last 20 centuries, various Christian groups have
devised their own "Shibboleths" to identify those who belong to
their group and those who don't. All those who cannot "pronounce"
the Shibboleths (the acceptable theological terminology of the
group) correctly are slain - with the sword (in the Middle ages),
and with the tongue (in these more civilized days).
Good believers have been destroyed psychologically and by
blackmail in these times, just because they could not pronounce
the acceptable Shibboleth of a group, and because they were too
weak to stand up to the strong soul-power of the group's leaders.
It is certainly not by the use or non-use of a particular phrase
that we identify whether people have the correct doctrine or not.
Consider the phrase "the dying of Jesus" (2 Cor.4:10). That is
not necessarily the only way of expressing the truth that that
phrase represents. Jesus spoke of it as "taking up the cross
We are all in danger of becoming slaves to a particular
terminology, rather than becoming bondslaves of Christ.
What would you think of an apostle who never once spoke of
"taking up the cross daily" in any of his writings? Would you
accuse him of ignoring the centrality of the cross? If so, you
would have to accuse Peter, John, James and Jude of such a
deviation, because they never once use this phrase in any of
Paul himself talks of "the dying of Jesus" only once in all the
letters that he wrote. Was that because Paul did not emphasise
the centrality of the cross in his ministry? It would be
blasphemy to think so - for it was the Holy Spirit Who inspired
all of Paul's letters in Scripture!
John certainly bore the cross every day. But when he speaks of
the Christian life in his first epistle, he speaks of it in a
positive way - as partaking of, and manifesting eternal life -
the life of Jesus. "We proclaim to you the eternal life," he
says, "which was with the Father and was manifested to us" (1
Eternal life - the life of Jesus - is the one theme of all the
epistles, and in fact of the entire New Testament. And this is
what we should be proclaiming in every meeting of the church.
We must not use human logic when we come to the Scriptures. Such
logic is all right in mathematics, but not with God's Word.
When we come to God's Word, it is best to put aside the clever
arguments of human reason and to accept Scripture exactly as it
is written. God has given us His perfect revelation in His Word.
And if the New Testament Scriptures speak of "eternal life", we
must speak of that.
Remember that Jesus "for the joy set before Him, endured the
cross" (Heb.12:2). He did not enjoy the cross. He endured it. And
He endured it because of the joy set before Him - the joy of
fellowship with the Father in whose presence is life and fulness
of joy (Psa.16:11).
The Father dwelt in the Most Holy Place (of the Old testament
temple), and the only way into that place was through the rent
veil (symbolising the crucified flesh).
Jesus died to His own will daily and thus fellowshipped with the
Father. But Jesus did not concentrate on crucifying His will. His
goal was fellowship with His Father. His goal was life, not
Our goal too must be LIFE - the same as Jesus'. We do not
follow the way of the cross. That would be following a technique!
We follow Jesus - Who walked along the way of the cross. We run
the race, not looking at a doctrine, or even at the way, but at a
Person - JESUS HIMSELF (Heb. 12:2).
People who always think and speak of "Death to Self" tend to
become negative in many ways, and end up being negative to other
human-beings too. We have seen numerous examples of this.
Does this mean that we should not preach about taking up the
cross? No. But the truth about taking up the cross does not have
to be proclaimed, by using this very phrase each time. The letter
kills. It is the spirit that gives life.
A brother's message may contain the spirit of the cross, (as the
entire New Testament does), even if he does not use that phrase
(the letter) even once in his message. If we are spiritually
minded, we will listen to his spirit - and not just to his words.
It would be totally wrong to imagine that a brother has not
understood the centrality of the cross, just because he does not
use your particular "Shibboleth".
The apostles did not follow a rule-book (`the tree of knowledge
of good and evil') to decide what phrases to use and what not to
use, when writing Scripture. They spoke out of the abundance of
their hearts and from their lives, and expressed spiritual truths
with the words that came to them naturally. The Holy Spirit did
not pour them all into one mould and make them all use the same
expressions and phrases.
"The wind blows freely where it wishes......so is everyone born
of the Spirit (every child of God)" (Jn.3:8).
Bondage comes through following human rules and regulations. The
apostles were free to express even Divine truth in their own
language. Only cultists compel their adherents to use the same
phrases used by their leaders. This results in cultists becoming
like programmed robots who do not have any individual contact
with God and no boldness to use language that comes naturally to
them. They blindly and dumbly imitate their leaders.
We must certainly avoid the many un-Scriptural expressions that
are common in Christendom. We must also be careful not to use
Biblical expressions carelessly.
Some believers speak about "rending the veil" today, not
realising that Christ has already rent the veil once for all. It
does not have to be rent again!!
Others speak about "condemning sin in their flesh", not realising
that God has already condemned sin in the flesh once for all
Such careless use of Scripture is often due to a desire to use
the same "Shibboleth" that the leaders in a group are using.
Elders must never insist that others should use only the phrases
that they themselves use. Everyone must be free to express the
life of Christ in him in Scriptural words that he himself feels
most free to use.
We must not slavishly imitate the favourite phrases found within
our group, just in order to be acceptable to the others. It is
the power of godliness that we are to pursue, not the form.
Let us also beware of going to the fanatic extreme of imagining
that a brother belongs to the Bride of Christ only if he joins
our group and uses our Shibboleths!!! Men's opinions are fit only
for the garbage bin! Let us allow Christ to choose His own Bride,
without our being busybodies in His matters, and trying to select
a Bride for Him!!
We are warned in Scripture never to be engaged in "a dispute
about words" (1 Tim.6:4). So we have to be careful that we don't
use our favourite Shibboleths to evaluate others or to judge or
"Let God (and His Word) be true, and every man (however godly he
may be) a liar" (Rom.3:4).
"If people do not speak according to God's Word, it is because
they have no light" (Isa.8:20).
UNDERSTANDING THE TRUTH ACCURATELY
We are commanded in the Scriptures to pay close attention to
ourselves and to our teaching, for only thus can we ensure
salvation for ourselves and for those we preach to (1 Tim.4:16).
Our life and our doctrine are like two legs that give stability
to our Christian life. Both legs should be equally long, as in
normal human beings. Generally speaking in Christendom, we find
most believers over-emphasise one or other of these two `legs'.
When it comes to doctrine, we are commanded to "handle the Word
of truth accurately" (2 Tim.2:15). Many are careless in their
study of the Scriptures and so are imbalanced in their
understanding of doctrine.
The truth of God is like the human body. It is perfect only when
every part is found in its correct size. Not all truths in
Scripture are equally important. To give but one example: To
speak in tongues is not as important as loving other believers.
If any one doctrine is overemphasised at the cost of another,
then the truth that we proclaim will be as ugly as a body with an
oversized eye or ear!! Besides, such overemphasis will also lead
us to become heretical in our beliefs. It is important therefore
that we handle God's truth accurately.
It would have been simple if we could have just said that we
believe the truth as it is found in God's Word (in the 66 books
that comprise the Bible). That is the truth. But since the truth
of God's Word has been twisted and corrupted by the cunning of
Satan and men, it becomes necessary to amplify and explain what
exactly the Bible teaches.
God's Word, unlike mathematics and science, cannot be understood
by mere intellectual study, apart from the revelation of the Holy
Spirit. This revelation, Jesus said, is given only to babes (the
humble) and not to proud intellectuals (Matt. 11:25). This was
why the Bible scholars of Jesus' day could not understand His
teaching. Most of today's Bible scholars are also in the same
boat - and for the same reason!
At the same time, we must use our minds too, for we are commanded
to be "mature in our understanding" (1 Cor.14:20).
So it is only a mind that is totally submissive to the Holy
Spirit that can understand God's Word aright.
God wants all His children to be totally free in every way. But
many believers are in bondage to so many sinful habits and human
traditions. One reason for this is that they read God's Word so
The more diligent we are to understand God's Word, the more the
truth will set us free in every area of our lives (See Jn. 8:32).
Most believers are very careful when it comes to investing their
money. But they are very careless when it comes to studying the
Scriptures. This shows that they value money more than God. Such
believers will obviously go astray in their understanding of
We are told clearly that all Scripture has been given in order to
make us `perfect' (2 Tim. 3:16,17 KJV). So, we could say that
those who are not interested in Christian perfection will also
not be able to understand God's word aright (see Jn. 7:17 also).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and God reveals
His secrets only to those who fear Him (Psa. 25:14).
The Truth Concerning God
The Bible teaches that God is One and also that there are three
Persons in this One God.
Since numbers belong to the material world, and since God is
Spirit, our finite mind cannot grasp this truth fully, even as a
small cup cannot contain the water in an ocean.
A dog cannot understand multiplication - how three ones when
multiplied can still be one: 1x1x1=1. Neither can we understand
how God can be Three Persons and yet One God. A dog can
understand only another dog. He cannot understand a man fully. In
the same way, a god that could be explained and understood by our
human reason would only be another man just like ourselves. The
very fact that the God of the Bible transcends our reason is the
clearest evidence that this is indeed the truth.
The truth of the Trinity is clear from the first verse of the
Bible, where the word for `God' is plural in the Hebrew -
`Elohim'. We also see it in the use of the words `Us' and `Our'
in Gen. 1:26. The light is focused more clearly at the baptism of
Jesus, where the Father (voice from heaven), the Son (Jesus
Christ) and the Holy Spirit (in the form of a dove) are all
present (Matt. 3:16,17).
Those who say that Jesus Himself is Father, Son and Holy Spirit
cannot explain how He could then have done His Father's will on
earth, while denying His own will (Jn.6:38). Unitarians who
believe that God is just One Person, and who therefore baptise in
the Name of "Jesus only" are actually denying that Jesus came as
The Bible says that the one who has the right teaching has both
the Father and the Son, and that those who deny either the Father
or the Son have the spirit of the Antichrist (2 Jn.9; 1 Jn.2:22).
In Christian baptism, Jesus commanded us specifically that we
were to baptize in the threefold name of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit (Matt. 28:19), the Son being identified as the Lord Jesus
Christ (Acts 2:38).
The Truth Concerning Christ
The Scriptures teach that Jesus Christ existed as God and was
equal with God from all eternity (Jn.1:1) and that when He came
to earth as a Man, He voluntarily chose NOT to exercise some of
those powers that He had as God. This is what is meant by the
expression, "He emptied Himself" (Phil. 2:6,7).
Consider a few examples that prove this: God cannot be tempted by
evil (Jas. 1:13). But Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted (Matt.
4:1-10). God knows everything. But Jesus said when He was on
earth that He did not know the date of His own second coming (Mt.
24:36). He also had to go near a fig tree in order to see if it
had any fruit (Mt.21:19). If He had used His power as God He
would have known that the tree had no fruit from afar! God's
wisdom is unchanging and eternal. Yet, it is recorded twice about
our Lord Jesus that "He grew in wisdom" (Lk.2:40,52).
All these verses indicate that Jesus had "emptied Himself" of
many of the powers of God, when He came to earth.
But even though Jesus emptied Himself of these powers when He
came to earth, yet in His Person He was still God. Obviously it
is impossible for God to ever cease being God, even if He wanted
to do so. A king can go and live in a slum giving up his rights
as a king. But he would still be the king. So with Jesus.
The clearest proof of Jesus' Deity when He was on earth, is seen
in the 7 recorded instances where He accepted worship from others
(Matt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; Mk.5:6; Jn.9:38). Angels
and God-fearing men do not accept worship (Acts 10:25,26; Rev.
22:8,9). But Jesus accepted it - because He was the Son of God.
The Father revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Son of God even
while on earth (Matt. 16:16,17).
Concerning Jesus' humanity, Hebrews 2:17 is very exact when it
states that Jesus "was made like His brethren in all things". He
was NOT made like the children of Adam, for then He would have
had an `old man' like the rest of humanity. (`Old man' is the
Scriptural phrase for which many unfortunately use the
unScriptural expression `sinful nature').
Jesus did NOT have a sinful nature, for He did not have a human
father. Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit, and was holy from
conception (Lk. 1:35).
Jesus' spiritual brothers are those who do the will of God (Matt.
12:49,50) - who are born of the Spirit (Jn. 3:5) and who have put
off the old man and put on the new (Eph. 4:22,24). But we, the
brothers of Jesus, do have a will of our and Jesus was made like
us "in all things". He had a will of His own too, which He denied
When we were born, as Adam's children, we were all born with an
old man. The old man can be likened to an unfaithful servant who
opens the door of our heart to the desires of the flesh (that can
be likened to a gang of robbers) that seek to enter it. When we
are born again, this old man is killed by God (Rom. 6:6). But we
still have the flesh through which we are tempted (Jas. 1:14,15).
The old man is now replaced by a new man who resists the desires
of the flesh and seeks to keep the door of the heart shut against
this `gang of robbers'.
Jesus was tempted in all points as we are, and overcame (Heb.
4:15). However He did not come in "sinful flesh" but only "in the
likeness of sinful flesh" (Rom. 8:3). We have lived for many
years in sin. The sinful habits that we have acquired through
many years of sinning cause us to sin unconsciously even after we
are born again.
For example, those who have used many swear words in the past may
find such words coming out of their mouths unconsciously when
they are under pressure; whereas those who never used swear-words
in their unconverted days do not find themselves using such words
even unconsciously. Similarly, those who have read much
pornography find that they have a greater problem with dirty
thoughts and dreams than others who did not indulge themselves to
Jesus never sinned and He did not have any unconscious sin in His
Life either. If He had sinned even once unconsciously, He would
have had to offer a sacrifice for that sin (as we read in Lev.
4:27,28). Then He could not have been a perfect sacrifice for our
The doctrine of the Person of Jesus has been the point of
controversy throughout church history and many a heresy has been
proclaimed concerning it. Some have overemphasised His Deity, to
the point where they cannot see Him as a Man who was tempted
exactly like us. Others have overemphasised His humanity, to the
point where they have cancelled out His Deity.
Our only safeguard to avoid either of these heresies is to stand
with the whole revelation of God in the Scriptures and to stop
where it stops, lest we "go too far" (2 Jn.7,9).
Jesus coming to earth as a Man is a mystery. It is foolish for us
to try and analyze this truth, beyond what we are told in the
Bible. To do so would be as foolish and irreverent an action as
the Israelites curiously peeping inside the ark of God (a type of
Christ) - an action for which God smote them down (1 Sam. 6:19).
Jesus said that He had come to earth in order to deny His own
will and do His Father's will (Jn.6:38). This shows that Jesus
had a human will that was opposed to His Father's, (Matt.26:39).
Otherwise He would not have had to deny that will.
Jesus too was tempted in all points exactly like us (Heb. 4:15).
But because He never consented in His mind to any of those
temptations, He never sinned (Jas. 1:15). Every temptation that
we can ever face was faced and overcome by our Lord Jesus during
His earthly life.
We all know how difficult it is to live without sinning for even a
single day! So we could say that the greatest miracle Jesus ever
did was to live without sinning for more than 33 years - even
though He was tempted exactly like us at every point, daily. He
resisted sin unto death, and He received grace from the Father
because He sought for it with loud crying and tears (Heb. 5:7 and
As our Forerunner, He now calls us to follow His example in
taking up the cross - in putting our self-will to death (Lk.
We fall into sin because we do not resist sin seriously enough,
and because we do not ask the Father for grace to overcome.
Today, we are not asked to follow Jesus in the external aspects
of His life - being a carpenter or a bachelor - nor in His
ministry - of walking on the water or raising the dead - but
rather in being faithful as he was in overcoming sin.
The Holy Spirit inspires us to make two confessions concerning
Jesus Christ - one, that He is Lord, and the other, that He came
in the flesh (1 Cor. 12:3; 1 Jn. 4:2,3). Both confessions are
equally important, but the latter even more so, because we are
told that the identifying mark of the spirit of the Antichrist is
that he does not confess that Jesus came in the flesh (2 Jn. 7).
Today, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5) is the "first born among
many brothers" (our Elder Brother), and His Father is our Father
too (Rom. 8:29; Jn. 20:17; Eph. 1:3; Heb. 2:11).
Jesus did not cease to be God when He came to earth (Jn.10:33).
He did not cease to be Man when He went back to heaven (1
The Truth Concerning Salvation
The word of God speaks of "salvation" in three tenses - past
(Eph. 2:8), present (Phil. 2:12) and future (Rom. 13:11) - or in
other words, of justification, sanctification and glorification.
Salvation has a foundation and a superstructure. The foundation
is forgiveness of sins and justification.
Justification is more than the forgiveness of our sins. It also
means that we have been declared righteous in God's eyes, on the
basis of Christ's death, resurrection and ascension. This is not
on the basis of our works (Eph. 2:8,9), for even our righteous
deeds are like filthy rags in God's sight (Isa. 64:6). We are
clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:27). Repentance
and faith are the conditions for being forgiven and justified
True repentance must produce in us the fruit of restitution -
returning money and things and taxes due, that are wrongfully in
our possession (that belong to others), and apologising to those
we have wronged, as far as possible (Lk. 19:8,9). When God
forgives us, He also requires that we forgive others in the same
way. If we fail to do this, God withdraws His forgiveness (Matt.
Repentance and faith must be followed by baptism by immersion in
water, whereby we publicly testify to God, to men and to demons
that our old man is indeed buried (Rom. 6:4,6).
We can then receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, whereby we
are endued with power to be witnesses for Christ by our life and
our lips (Acts 1:8). The baptism in the Holy Spirit is a promise
to be received by faith, by all of God's children (Matt. 3:11;
It is the privilege of every disciple to have the witness of the
Spirit that he is indeed a child of God (Rom. 8:16) and also to
know for certain that he has indeed received the Holy Spirit
Sanctification is the superstructure of the building.
Sanctification (meaning `being set apart' from sin and the world)
is a process that begins with the new birth (1 Cor. 1:2) and that
should continue throughout our earthly life (1 Thess. 5:23,24).
This is a work that God initiates in us through the Holy Spirit,
writing His laws upon our hearts and minds; but we have to do our
part, working out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil.
2:12,13). It is we who are to put to death the deeds of the body
through the power that the Spirit offers us (Rom. 8:13). It is we
who have to cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh
and the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God (2 Cor.
Where a disciple is radical and wholehearted in cooperating with the
Holy Spirit in this work, the work of sanctification will
progress rapidly in his life. The work will obviously be slow or
stagnant in the life of one whose response to the Spirit's
leadings is sluggish.
It is in times of temptation that our wholeheartedness in
desiring sanctification is truly tested.
To be sanctified is to have the righteousness of the law
fulfilled inside our hearts - and not just externally as under
the old covenant (Rom. 8:4). This was what Jesus emphasised in
The law's requirements were summed up by Jesus as loving God
wholeheartedly and loving our neighbour as ourselves (Matt.
It is this law of love that God now seeks to write in our hearts,
for that is His own nature (Heb. 8:10; 2 Pet. 1:4). The outward
manifestation of this will be a life of victory over all
conscious sin and of obedience to all of Jesus' commandments (Jn.
It is impossible to enter into this life without first fulfilling
the conditions of discipleship that Jesus laid down (Lk.
14:26-33). These are basically to give the Lord the first place
above all our relatives and our Self-life and to be detached from
all of one's material wealth and possessions.
This is the narrow gate that we have to go through first. Then
comes the narrow way of sanctification. Those who do not pursue
after sanctification will never see the Lord (Heb. 12:14).
While it is possible to be perfect in our conscience here and now
(Heb. 7:19;9:9,14), it is not possible to be sinlessly perfect
until we have a glorified body at Jesus' return (1 Jn. 3:2). We
can be LIKE Him only then. But we must seek to WALK as He walked
even now (1 Jn. 2:6).
As long as we have this corruptible body, unconscious sin will be
found in it, however much we may be sanctified (1 Jn.1:8). But we
can be perfect in our conscience (Acts 24:16) and be free from
conscious sin (1 Jn.2:1a), even now, if we are wholehearted (1
Thus we wait for the second coming of Christ and for our
glorification - the final part of our salvation, when we will
become sinlessly perfect (Rom. 8:23; Phil. 3:21).
The Truth Concerning The Church
The church is the body of Christ. It has only one Head - Christ;
and it has only one headquarters - the third heaven. In the body
of Christ, every member has a function (Eph. 4:16). While some
members may have a more important or visible ministry than
others, every member has something valuable to contribute.
Christ has given to His church apostles, prophets, evangelists,
shepherds and teachers to build His body (Eph. 4:11). These are
ministries and not titles. Apostles are those called and sent by
God to plant local churches. They have the first place in the
church (1 Cor. 12:28) and are thus elders to the elders of the
churches within their sphere (2 Cor.10:13). Prophets are those
who uncover and minister to the hidden needs of God's people.
Evangelists are those who are gifted to bring the heathen to
Christ. They must then bring these converts into the local
church, which is Christ's body. (Here is where a lot of modern
evangelism fails). Shepherds are those who care for and guide the
young lambs and sheep. Teachers are those who can explain the
Scriptures and its doctrines. These five gifts are for the church
worldwide; and from among them, shepherds are the mainstay of
every local church. The other gifts can be itinerant (from other
The leadership of the local church should be in the hands of
elders. The New Testament clearly teaches this (Tit. 1:5; Acts
14:23). `Elders', being plural, implies that there must be at
least two in every church. A plurality of elders is necessary for
a balance in the leadership of the local church and also for
binding the activities of Satan through the power of the Lord's
presence (as we read in Mt. 18:18-20).
One-man leadership of a church is contrary to the teaching of the
New Testament. One among the elders may however be the `messenger
of the church' (Rev.2:1), if he is gifted with the Word.
Jesus forbade His disciples from having titles (Matt. 23:7-12).
It is against the word of God therefore to be called Rabbi,
Father, Pastor, Reverend, or Leader. The title of `Reverend', in
fact, is used only for God in the Bible (Psa. 111:9 KJV); and one
who uses it can be guilty like Lucifer, of wanting to be like God
(Isa. 14:14). Everyone in the church, great or small, is to be
just a brother and a servant.
The meetings of the local church must be open for all disciples
to prophesy in (1 Cor. 14:26-40), unless it be a meeting for
teaching (Acts 20:9,11) or prayer (Acts 12:5,12), or evangelism
(Acts 2:14-40). The gift of prophesy must be desired by all who
want to exercise it in the meetings (1 Cor. 14:1,39). The gift of
tongues, although primarily meant for personal edification (1
Cor. 14:4,18,19), can also be exercised in the meetings of the
church, but should always be followed by an interpretation (1
Cor. 14:27). The interpretation of a tongue can be a revelation,
a word of knowledge, a prophecy, a teaching, or a prayer to God
(1 Cor.14:2-6). All the gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:8-10,28 and
Rom. 12:6-8 are needed for the building up of the body of Christ.
A church that despises or ignores the gifts of the Holy Spirit
will never have them.
Women are permitted to pray and prophesy with their heads covered
in the meetings, but they are not permitted to exercise authority
or teach men (1Cor.11:5; 1Tim.2:12).
The church also has a responsibility to preach the good news by
all means possible, to all whom it can reach, with the aim of
making disciples of Christ in all nations (Mk. 16:15 with Matt.
28:19). Evangelism without disciple-making, however, is a
hindrance to the testimony of Christ on earth.
Every local church must also proclaim the Lord's death through
the `breaking of bread' (1 Cor. 11:22-34). The frequency of this
testimony is a matter on which the Word of God gives freedom to
each church. But it must never be allowed to degenerate into an
Regarding offerings, God's Word is clear that it is wrong to
receive money from unbelievers for God's work (3 Jn.7). Offerings
must therefore not be taken in meetings where unbelievers are
present. All giving by believers must also be voluntary and
secret (2 Cor.9:7). It is wrong to send reports of the work to
others, with the intention of obtaining money from them (even if
such reports are called `prayer letters').
The church can be unshakable only as it leads the disciples to
the obedience of faith - to obedience to all of Jesus'
commandments, particularly the ones listed in Matt. 5-7. The
smallest commandments in the New Testament must also be obeyed
and proclaimed with zeal. This is what makes a person great in
God's eyes (Matt. 5:19).
There are many matters on which the New Testament is silent. In
such matters we are not to be dogmatic but must give freedom to
other disciples to hold their own convictions, while holding our
own convictions firmly ourselves (Rom. 14:5).
It is easy to love those who see eye-to-eye with us in all
matters. Our love is however tested by our attitude to those who
disagree with us. God has not intended that all His children hold
the same view on every minor point. Neither has He intended that
every local church have the same external form in non-Scriptural
matters. The glory of God is meant to be seen in a unity in the
midst of diversity. Uniformity is man-made and brings spiritual
death. God does not desire uniformity but unity.
Finally we must remember that the clearest mark of the disciples
of Jesus is their love for one another (Jn. 13:35). Thus the
church must seek to be one as the Father and the Son are one (Jn.
All this, in a nutshell, is the truth that we must be firmly
We know that this is the truth, for it has liberated all those
who have accepted it wholeheartedly (Jn. 8:32).
Copyright - Zac Poonen (1996)
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