Copyright - Zac Poonen (1992)
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This Book And You
The new wine in new wineskins
God needs men
God needs women
Religiosity or spirituality?
The spirit of the new covenant
The new covenant - a partnership with Jesus
Jesus - tempted as we are
True spirituality - seeking God's interests
Sanctification and fellowship
Overcoming the spirit of the Antichrist
Victory through praise
Why Christians fall
God's blessing or God's approval?
Another 'Jesus' and his ministry
The marks of cultism
Signs that point to the return of Christ
Being ready for the coming of Christ
Evangelism and making disciples
Our distinctive calling as a church
Breaking of bread - a covenant
The church and tribulation
The truth that we believe
Christmas and Easter - Christian or pagan?
God's perfect plan for those who have failed
BOOK AND YOU
The Lord Jesus
Christ waged a constant battle against the religious leaders of His time who
had taught the Jewish people to respect the traditions of their elders more
than the word of God. Our Lord was finally killed, because He stood for God's
revealed word as being superior to the traditions of men.
believers have been led astray and are in bondage, because they have been fed
on the old wine - the traditions of men that have accumulated in Christendom
through twenty centuries, and that have been added to God's Word, or that have
replaced God's word. When the new wine is offered to them, they say, "The
old is good enough" (Lk. 5:39). Thus they remain in spiritual stagnation,
year after year.
One of the most
difficult things for many believers to do is to read God's Word with an open
and unprejudiced mind. Most Christians are unwilling to give up the traditions
of their elders, even when they see these to be clearly contrary to the
teaching of God's word.
We need to come
back to the faith that was revealed by God to His holy apostles and prophets,
as recorded in the New Testament Scriptures, if we are to fulfil God's purpose
in our day and age. To come back to that, we must be willing to do violence to
every tradition of man that is contrary to God's word (Matt. 11:12).
If you have the
courage to do that, read this book. It will change your life and your ministry,
because it will question many 'sacred' ideas that you have held that have no
foundation in God's word. That in turn will save you from regret and loss when
you stand before the judgment seat of Christ to give an account of your life to
He who has an
open mind and a bold heart, let him read on....
Bangalore Zac Poonen
THE NEW WINE IN NEW WINESKINS
Jesus spoke about new wine being put into
new wineskins (Lk. 5:37). The new wine is the life of Jesus and the new
wineskin is the church that Jesus builds.
At the marriage in Cana, where Jesus was
present, the old wine ran out. The old wine was made with human effort, over a
period of many years - but it could not meet the need. This is a parable of
life under the law - the old covenant. The old wine runs out; and the Lord has
to wait until it runs out before He can give us the new wine. "For the
Lord God says: Only in waiting for Me will you be saved. ... but you say, We
will get our help from Egypt (human strength)! So you will be chased by your
enemies. ... And the Lord is waiting for you (to come to an end of yourself)
and to come to Him, so that He can show you His love; He will conquer you to
bless you. ... Blessed are all those who wait for Him to help them'' (Isa.
30:15-18 Living Bible).
When we have tried and tried and tried to
live in victory and failed repeatedly, this is the lesson that God is trying to
teach us: "You cannot have victory in your own strength." As long as
you are under the law, you will be ruled by sin. The chief work that God seeks
to do in each of His children is to break down the strength of self totally.
Jesus waited for the old wine to run out, at Cana, before He did His miracle.
He is waiting now for our strength to come to an end. All our failures and
defeats are meant by God to bring us to the end, for He can manifest His power
perfectly only in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). We can see the strength of self
in the moments of temptation and provocation, when we react with bitter words,
angry expressions, self-justification, criticism and judgment of others,
unforgiving attitudes, a grabbing-love for material things, fighting for our
rights and our reputation, seeking vengeance etc. These and other similar
attitudes show how strong self still is in us - the old wine has not yet run
out; and Jesus waits on the sidelines doing nothing for us.
If only we allow God to break us, if only
we would humble ourselves and gladly accept death to our rights and reputation,
how quickly He could lead us into life under the new covenant! All the trying
circumstances, frustrations and disappointments, heartaches etc, that we go
through are meant by God to bring the strength of our self down to zero.
This was how God dealt with Job. Finally
Job reached that zero-point where lying on his face in the dust, he said,
"Lord, I am nothing. (I am zero.) ... I lay my hand upon my mouth in
silence. ... I had only heard about you (second-hand) before, but now I have
seen you and I loathe myself and repent in dust and ashes'' (Job 40:4;42:5,6).
This is what happens when God has finally
broken us and given us a revelation of Himself. The same Moses, who once
thought himself to be so capable (at the age of 40), when broken by the vision
of God (40 years later) says, "Lord, I can't speak. Send someone
else" (Ex. 4:10,13).
The same thing happened to the great
prophet Isaiah when he saw God's glory. He said, "My doom is sealed, for I
am a foul-mouthed sinner" (Isa. 6:5). Daniel says that when he saw the
vision the Lord gave Him, that his strength left him. He came to a zero-point
When the Spirit-filled apostle John, after
having walked with God for 65 years, saw Jesus on the isle of Patmos, he fell
at His feet as a dead man (Rev. 1:17).
Such has always been the experience of all
who have seen the glory of the Lord! Their face is in the dust and their mouth
When God can bring us to that place, it is
but a quick task for Him to give us the new wine, the life of Jesus, the divine
nature, the pre-eminent blessing of the new covenant sealed through the blood
Oh that we might all come there quickly
and live in that place - with our face in the dust before God - all our days!
For there is a development in this life from light to light (Prov. 4:18), from
glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).
John speaks of "Walking in the
light" (1 Jn. 1:7). There is no standing in the light, but rather a
walking - a progression closer and closer to Him in whom there is no darkness
at all. Thus the light shines brighter and brighter upon us and we become more
and more conscious of the hidden sins that lurk in our flesh, which we were not
aware of in earlier days; and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all those
Thus it is, that the closer we come to the
Lord, the more aware we become of sin in our own flesh, and less and less of
the sin in others around us. We no longer desire to throw stones at the woman
caught in adultery, for we are aware in Jesus' presence, of the sin in our own
flesh, and we cry out, "O wretched man that I am", rather than
"O wretched woman that she is" (Rom. 7:24). Adam pointed a finger at
his wife, even while standing before God (Gen. 3:12). But the Lord made him
aware of his own sin (3:17). This is what the Lord will do for us too. And this
is really the test of whether we have just a religion and some doctrines or
whether we are living before the face of God Himself.
Has the wine run out in our personal life,
our married life or our assembly life? Then it is about time that we sought the
Lord's face and acknowledged our need honestly. He alone can give us the new
wine! The new wine in Cana was not produced by human effort. It was the
supernatural work of God. So too can it be in our life. He will write His laws
in our heart and mind, making us to will and to do His perfect will (Heb. 8:10;
Phil. 2:13). He will circumcise our hearts to love Him and cause us to walk in
His commandments (Deut. 30:6; Ezek. 36:27). This will be as much His work as
the new wine produced in Cana was His work. This is the meaning of grace. We
cannot produce the life of Jesus - even if we try for a lifetime. But if we
bear in our body "the dying of Jesus" (the taking up of the cross
each day, the dying to our ego, our self-will and our rights and reputation),
God promises to produce the new wine of the life of Jesus in us (2 Cor. 4:10).
We are to run this race looking unto
Jesus, comparing ourselves with Him alone, all the time. Thus alone will there
be a constant cry from our hearts, "O wretched man that I am" - for
we shall be constantly aware of how unlike Jesus we are, even when we have come
to a life of victory over conscious sin. "Those who compare themselves
with other believers are spiritual idiots" (2 Cor. 10:12) for that is the
surest way to spiritual pride and a hundred-and-one other evils. We can never
be in danger of spiritual pride as long as our eyes are fixed on Jesus and we
compare ourselves with Him constantly. The Holy Spirit shows us the glory of
Jesus in the mirror of God's word and then only can He conform us to that
likeness (2 Cor. 3:18). Paul said that he had only one goal that he pressed on
towards - not the conversion of the lost, but "the upward call of God (to
become like) Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13,14). And then he said, "Let us
who are perfect (in our conscience, living in victory over conscious sin) have
this same attitude (of pressing on towards total perfection, total likeness to
Jesus)" (Phil. 3:15). This is the mark of the spiritually mature
Christian. Service for God, evangelism etc, - all take a secondary place to
this goal, in the life of the mature man of God.
John also tells us that it is through such
a walking in the light of God that we can have fellowship with one another (1
Jn. 1:7) - not only fellowship with God, but also fellowship with other
believers in perfect unity. The reason for this is very simple. The one who is
walking in the light of God, living before God's face, will always be aware of
his own shortcomings and will be living in a constant self-judgment, and will
not have anything to accuse other brothers of. Thus there can never be any
strife between any two brothers who are walking in this pathway. This is the
narrow way to life that, Jesus said, few find (Matt. 7:14). Judgment begins at
the house of God even for the righteous, because in God's house, God dwells in
unapproachable light (1 Pet. 4:17,18; 1 Tim. 6:6). "Who can live with the
consuming fire? ... He who walks righteously (facing up to the truth concerning
himself)" (Isa. 33:14,15).
This was the sin of the leader in the
church at Laodicea that he did not live in this constant self-judgment (and it
is easy to slip into that error when you become a leader) and thus did not know
that he was 'wretched' (Rev. 3:17).
May we so live before God's face all our
days, so that we live in constant brokenness and constant self-judgment crying
out "O wretched man that I am". Thus even when we reach the heights
of holiness that a saved sinner can reach on earth, we shall still say
(sincerely and honestly, without any false humility) "I am the very least
of all the believers. ... I am the chief of sinners" (Eph. 3:8; 1Tim.
1:15). Thus we shall have a fellowship with other believers who walk the same
way and gradually our mutual fellowship will become more and more like the
fellowship that the Father and the Son have with each other (Jn. 17:21). This
is the new wine Jesus desires to give us.
Many who would have rejoiced in the
message thus far, may not now be willing to pay the price to have the new
wineskin as well. But Jesus said, "New wine must be put into new
wineskins" (Lk. 5:38). And here is where our obedience is tested.
In acquiring the new wine, our battle is
against sin. But in acquiring the new wineskin, our battle is against religious
traditions that have annulled the word of God. And it is far more difficult
for many to break free from the traditions of men than it is for them to break
free from sin! But, men of violence alone will possess the kingdom of God
(Matt. 11:12). Religious traditions cannot be removed apart from violent
Jesus was crucified not because He
preached against sin, but because He preached against religious traditions that
had replaced God's word among the Jews (Mk. 7:1-13). He exposed the hypocrisy
of religious leaders, the emptiness of their religious traditions and turned
out of the temple those who made money in the name of religion. His zeal to
purify God's house was what infuriated the religious leaders to ask for His
It is unlikely that people will demand our
crucifixion, for preaching a message of `brokenness' and the new wine. But if
you are determined to go on and proclaim the whole counsel of God that the new
wine must now be put into new wineskins, you can expect the wrath of the
religious hierarchy in every single denomination that there is in Christendom.
Why did Jesus say that the new wine could
not be put into the old wineskin? Because the old wineskin could not stretch
any more, and so would burst. The old wineskin was once useful - to put the old
wine in - but it is of no use for the new wine.
The Jewish religious system - the old
wineskin - was once ordained by God through Moses to contain the old wine. But
once Jesus had come and established a new covenant, a new wineskin was needed.
The old had to go. Jesus said that the old could not even be modified with the
new patched on to it! That would tear the garment (Lk. 5:36).
We may think that, being Christians, we
have got rid of the old Jewish wineskin and that we have a new wineskin in the
Christian church. But if you look carefully at what you call your Christian
assembly, you may be surprised to find a number of old-covenant characteristics
Consider just three examples, although
there are many others.
First of all, the Jews had a special tribe
(the Levites) who were priests who did all the religious work. Not all Jews could
be priests. Under the new covenant however, all believers are priests (1Pet.
2:5; Rev. 1:6). Although this is a truth held theoretically by most believers,
it is actually practised by very few. Almost every group of Christians has
their 'priest' or 'pastor' or 'God's servant' or 'full-time worker' who are
exactly like the Levites of old, leading the worship of God's people. Only
these 'Levites' can baptise new converts and break bread. And these 'Levites'
are supported by the tithes of God's people. In the meetings, these 'Levites'
dominate the show, giving no opportunity for a 'body'-ministry. A one-speaker
show is part of the old wineskin. Under the new covenant, every believer can
drink of the new wine, be anointed with the Holy Spirit and have the gifts of
the Spirit. Two or three prophets are to begin the meeting, one or two may
speak in tongues (with an interpretation for each) and every believer is free
to prophesy in the meeting and build up the church. This is the new wineskin (1
Cor. 14:26-31). The new wine is described in 1 Cor. 13 - the life of love. The
new wineskin is described in 1 Cor. 12 and 14. But how many believers want
things done God's way? Alas, very few. Most are content with their old
wineskin, and their paid 'Levites'.
Secondly, the Jews had their prophets who
found God's will for them in various matters - since the prophets alone had the
Spirit. But under the new covenant, the prophets have quite a different
function - to build up the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11,12). Since all believers
can now receive the Holy Spirit, they do not have to go to some prophet to find
out God's will for them (Heb. 8:11; 1 Jn. 2:27). Yet many believers are still
living in the old wineskin of going to some man of God to find out what they
should do, whom they should marry, etc.
Thirdly, the Jews were a large community
of people scattered over a wide area but having a central headquarters in
Jerusalem and having an earthly High Priest as their leader. Under the new
covenant, Jesus alone is our High Priest and the only headquarters we have is
the throne of God. The Jews had a lampstand with seven branches branching out
of the central stem (Ex. 25:31,32). This was the old wineskin.
Under the new covenant, each local church
is a separate lampstand - with no branches. You see this clearly in Rev.
1:12,20, where the seven local churches in Asia Minor are represented by seven
separate lampstands - unlike the Jewish lampstand. Jesus, as the Head of the
churches, walks amidst those lampstands. There was no earthly pope, or general
superintendent or president of any denomination in those days. There was no
chief elder brother anywhere on earth either, who was the final voice in any
matter. Each local church was governed by local elders. These elders were
directly responsible to the Lord as their Head. But we see multitudes of
Christians around us today who are in a denominational system (the old
wineskin), whether with or without a name - for there are some groups who claim
not to be a denomination but who nevertheless have all the characteristics of a
denomination. All this is the old wineskin.
God has ordained the new wineskin of the
local church to prevent the spread of corruption. If the seven churches of Asia
Minor had all been branches of one another, then the corrupt doctrines of
Balaam and the Nicolaitans and the false prophecies of Jezebel (Rev.
2:14;15,20) would have spread to all the seven churches. But since they were
all separate lampstands, two churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia, could keep
themselves pure. Get rid then, of the old wineskin of denominationalism, if you
want to keep your assembly pure.
May the Lord raise up many in our land who
are willing to do violence to the traditions of men (Matt. 11:12) that have
held so many in bondage; and who will build the body of Christ in each
GOD NEEDS MEN
God needs men today -
*** men who will stand before His face and
hear His voice daily,
*** men who have no desire in their heart
for anyone or anything other than God Himself,
*** men who fear Him so greatly that they
hate sin in every form and love righteousness and truth in all their ways,
*** men who have overcome anger and
sexually sinful thoughts, and who would rather die than sin even in thought or
*** men whose daily lifestyle is one of
taking up the cross and pressing on to perfection, and who are constantly
working out their own salvation with fear and trembling,
*** men, full of the Holy Spirit, who are
so rooted and grounded in love that nothing can ever move them into an unloving
attitude towards another human being however great the provocation,
*** men who are so rooted and grounded in
humility that neither human praise nor spiritual growth, neither a divinely
endorsed ministry nor anything else will be able to make them lose the
awareness of their being less than the least of all the saints,
*** men who have an understanding of God's
nature and purpose through His word, and who tremble at that word so that they
will not disobey even the smallest commandment or neglect to teach it to
*** men who will proclaim the whole
counsel of God and expose religious harlotry and unscriptural human traditions,
*** men who have the revelation of the
Holy Spirit on the secret of godliness, on Christ having come in the flesh and
opened a new and living way through the flesh,
*** men who are diligent and hard-working,
but who also have a sense of humour, and know how to relax and play with
children and enjoy God's good gifts in nature,
*** men who are not ascetics, but who at
the same time live a disciplined life and who are not afraid of hardships,
*** men who have no interest in expensive
clothing or sight seeing and who will not waste their time in unprofitable
activities or their money in unnecessary purchases,
*** men who have mastered their desire for
fancy foods and who are not enslaved to music or sport or any other legitimate
*** men who have been disciplined
successfully by God in the fires of affliction, abuse, tribulations, false
accusation, physical sickness, financial hardships and opposition from
relatives and religious leaders,
*** men full of mercy, who can sympathise
with the worst of sinners and the worst of believers, and have hope for them,
because they consider themselves to be the chiefest among sinners,
*** men who are so deeply rooted in the
security of the love of their Heavenly Father that they are never anxious about
anything, or afraid of Satan or evil men or difficult situations or anything,
*** men who have entered into God's rest,
believing in the sovereign working of God in all matters for their best and who
therefore give thanks always for all men, for all things and in all
*** men who find their joy in God alone
and who are therefore full of the joy of the Lord, having overcome all bad
*** men of living faith, who have no
confidence in themselves or their natural abilities, but complete confidence in
God as their unfailing Helper in all situations,
*** men who live, not by the promptings of
their own reason, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit,
*** men who have been genuinely baptized
in the Holy Spirit and fire by Christ Himself (and not just thrilled by some
emotional counterfeit or convinced by some theological argument),
*** men who live constantly under the
anointing of the Spirit, endowed with the supernatural gifts that He has given
*** men who have revelation of the church
as the body of Christ (and not a congregation or a denomination), and who give
all their energies, their material wealth and spiritual gifts to build that
*** men who have learnt to bridle their
tongues through the help of the Holy Spirit and whose tongues are now aflame
with the divine Word,
*** men who have forsaken all, who are not
attracted any more to money or material things, and who desire no gifts from
*** men who can trust God for all their
earthly needs and who never hint about their material needs or boast about
their labours, either in their conversation or through letters and reports,
*** men who are not stubborn, but gentle,
and open to criticism and eager for correction from older and wiser brothers,
*** men who have no desire to dominate or
advise others (although ready to give advice, when asked for), and who have no
longing to be considered as 'elder' brothers, or leaders, but who only desire
to be ordinary brothers and servants of all,
*** men who are easy to get along with,
and who are willing to be inconvenienced and taken advantage of by others,
*** men who will make no distinction
between the millionaire and the beggar, the white-skinned and the dark-skinned,
the intellectual and the idiot, and the cultured and the barbarian, but who
will treat them all alike,
*** men who will never be influenced by
their wife, children, relatives, friends or other believers to cool off even
slightly in their devotion to Christ or their obedience to God's commandments,
*** men who can never be bribed to
compromise by any reward that Satan may offer (whether honour or money or
*** men who are fearless witnesses for
Christ, fearing neither religious heads nor secular heads,
*** men who desire to please no human
being on the face of the earth, and who are willing to offend all men, if
necessary, in order to please God alone,
*** men for whom God's glory, God's will
and God's kingdom always take priority over mere human need and their own
*** men who cannot be pressurised either
by others or by their own reason into doing 'dead works' for God, but who are
eager and content to do the revealed will of God for their lives alone,
*** men who have the discernment of the
Spirit to distinguish between the soulish and the spiritual in Christian work,
*** men who
look at things from a heavenly view point and not an earthly one,
*** men who will refuse all earthly
honours and titles offered them for their labours for God,
*** men who know how to pray without
ceasing, and also how to fast and pray when needed,
*** men who
have learned to give generously, cheerfully, secretly and with wisdom,
*** men who are willing to be all things
for all men, so that by all means they might save some,
*** men who have a longing to see others
not only saved but also made disciples of Christ, and brought to the knowledge
of the truth and to obedience to all of God's commandments,
*** men who
have a longing to see a pure testimony established for God in every place,
*** men who have a burning passion to see
Christ glorified in the church,
*** men who do not seek their own in any
*** men with spiritual authority and
*** men who will stand alone for God in
the world, if need be,
*** totally uncompromising men, like the
apostles and prophets of old,
God's work in the world suffers today,
because such men are few in number. Determine with all your heart that you will
be such a man for God, in the midst of a sinful and adulterous generation and a
compromising Christendom. Since there is no partiality with God, it is possible
for you too to be such a man, provided you yourself earnestly desire to be one.
Since God demands commitment and obedience only in the conscious area of one's
life, it is possible for you to be such a man, even though the conscious area of
your life may be limited. (That area will keep increasing as you walk in the
light and press on to perfection). There is no excuse then why you cannot be
such a man. Since nothing good dwells in the flesh, we have to seek for grace
from God to have the virtues listed above. Cry out to God daily then, that He
will give you grace to be such a man in these the closing days of the age.
GOD NEEDS WOMEN
God needs women today who will faithfully
portray through their lives, the glory that He originally intended to manifest
through a woman, when He created Eve.
Her Glory As
When God made Eve, it was in order that
she might be a helper suitable for man (Gen. 2:18). The glory of this ministry
is seen, when we notice that the title of 'Helper' is what Jesus used to refer
to the Holy Spirit as well (Jn. 14:16)!
As the Holy Spirit invisibly and silently,
yet powerfully helps the believer, even so the woman was created to help the
man. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is 'behind the scenes'. So is the woman's
The life of Jesus also is an example to
woman; for God's Word states that man is the woman's head in exactly the same
way as God (the Father) is the head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). Jesus always acted
in submission to His Father. A God-fearing sister will act likewise in relation
to her husband. Eve's mistake in the garden of Eden was that she failed to
consult her husband before she took a decision. Thus Satan deceived her (1 Tim.
2:14). Where Eve failed, God calls Christian wives today to manifest the glory
of submission to their husbands, exactly as Jesus was to the Father and as the
church is to Christ (Eph. 5:24).
Sin entered the universe through the
rebellion of Lucifer. Salvation came through the submission of Christ. The
spirit of humble submission to God's authority is the greatest power that there
is in the universe - for it is the Spirit of Christ. That Spirit conquered all
the spirits of rebellion on the cross. When a wife submits to her husband, she
is actually submitting to the authority of God's Word which commands her to do
so; and she is then being influenced by the greatest power in the universe.
Even unconverted husbands can be won over by that power (1 Pet. 3:1,2). If she
lives in that submissive spirit during her earthly life, she will be an
overcomer, and will qualify to reign with Jesus for eternal ages (Rev. 3:21).
Here is where Satan deceives the woman
again. As he led the angels astray, he leads the woman astray - through the
spirit of rebellion. A rebellious wife converts her home into a barren
wasteland, worse than any desert (that is the implication of Prov. 21:19). On
the other hand, a virtuous, submissive wife, crowns her husband as a king and
thus converts her home into a palace (Prov. 12:4). Your home can either be a
palace or a desert, spiritually speaking. It all depends on the type of wife
that you are. No wonder that what God values most highly is a meek (gentle) and
a quiet spirit (1 Pet. 3:4).
Prov. 31:10-31 describes some of the
characteristics of this virtuous wife. Her heart, hands and tongue are
described as excellent.
Nothing is mentioned about her physical
beauty or her feminine charms, for these are declared to be worthless and
deceptive (v. 30). It would be an excellent thing if all women and young girls,
and especially young men considering marriage, realised this fact.
The virtuous woman described here, has a
heart that fears God (v. 30). This is the foundation for her whole life. She
works with her hands, stitching clothes, cooking meals, planting trees and
helping the poor (v. 13-22). She uses her tongue at all times with kindness and
wisdom (v. 26). She is God-fearing, hard-working and kind - even if she is not
beautiful. The glory of God is manifested through her pure heart, rough hands
and soft tongue. (Worldly women, in contrast, have an impure heart, soft hands
and a rough tongue!). It is in these areas that God looks for women today to
manifest His glory.
As a wife, this virtuous woman is a true
helper to her husband. She does him good consistently till the end of her life
- not in fits and starts (v. 12). In other words, she never loses her first
love for him. She also adjusts herself to his profession and calling in life,
supplementing his income with her own quiet labours at home, being thrifty and
careful in expenditure, so that no money is wasted. She relieves her husband of
home responsibilities, so that he can have a ministry in the land for the Lord
(v. 23-27). No wonder her husband praises her saying that of all the women in
the world (including women prime ministers and women preachers), she is the
best of the lot (v. 29). Such a woman certainly deserves to be praised publicly
too (v. 31), for she has understood the glory of her calling as a woman.
The New Testament places great emphasis on
'serving the saints' in our homes. "Cheerfully share your home with those
who need a meal or a place to stay in the night. ... and get into the habit of
inviting guests home for dinner" (1 Pet. 4:9; Rom. 12:23 - LB).
Hospitality is primarily the responsibility of the wife in the home. She can
receive a prophet's reward, without ever being a prophet herself, merely by
welcoming a prophet into her home (Matt. 10:41). She will be rewarded for
hospitality shown to the least of Jesus' disciples as well (Matt. 10:41). To
receive an apostle into our homes is equivalent to receiving Jesus Himself
(Matt. 10:40). Likewise, to receive a child in Jesus' name is also equivalent
to receiving Jesus (Matt. 18:5). What fantastic possibilities are opened up for
sisters in the area of hospitality! The early Christians (to whom Paul and
Peter wrote concerning hospitality), were by and large, very poor. Simple food
and a place to sleep on the floor however, were all that they were asked to
offer the saints. It is when believers seek the honour of men that they feel
that they cannot be hospitable, until they are capable of offering rich food
and grand accommodation. 1 Tim. 5:10 indicates that even poor widows in the
first century, served the saints in their homes!
The glory of God is seen in a woman who
has seen her calling as a home-maker.
As A Mother
Adam called his wife 'Eve', because she
was a mother. In the pure light of God's presence, in Eden, he knew clearly
what his wife's ministry was. Eve knew it as well. Sin and human traditions
(influenced by Satan) have now, however, clouded women's understanding, so that
she no longer sees her glory as a mother. Children are now called by the
Satanic name of 'accidents', when God calls them 'gifts' (Psa. 127:3). They are
also considered to be a 'nuisance', when God considers them to be a 'blessing'
(Psa. 127:5; 128:4). This is but another indication of how far, even so-called
Christians have drifted away from God and become Satanic in their thinking!
Timothy's mother, Eunice, however, was
quite different. She had seen her calling clearly. Even though her husband was
an unbeliever (Acts 16:1), it did not dampen her faith. She was a woman with a
'sincere faith' (2 Tim. 1:5) who knew the word of God. She taught God's Word to
Timothy (2 Tim. 3:14,15); and more than that - she imparted her sincere faith
to him as well. Timothy's home was one where his mother enabled him to breathe
the pure air of 'faith' in the midst of a world full of the poisonous fumes of
unbelief. He probably saw his mother frequently in prayer, frequently praising
God, trusting God in difficult situations and never nagging or complaining -
for these are but some of the characteristics of a 'sincere faith'. It is not
surprising then that Timothy grew up to be an apostle and a close co-worker of
the apostle Paul. His mother's labours finally bore fruit.
That should be a challenge to all 21st
century mothers. Eunice, Timothy's mother, did more for the Lord and the
church, by being a first class mother at home for 16 to 20 years, than she
could ever have done if she had travelled the world as a preacher for 100
years! In more recent times, we have heard of Susannah Wesley, who was the
mother of 15 children. Poverty stalked her home and some of her children died
in childhood. But she brought up the others in the fear of God, personally
instructing each one of them. One of her sons, John Wesley, grew up to be a
mighty instrument in God's hands. Millions throughout the world have been
blessed during the last two centuries, through his labours and his writings.
Susannah Wesley could never have done even a small fraction of what her son
did, if she had neglected her home and gone to work to make more money, or even
travelled the world as a Bible teacher or evangelist.
In talking about the ministries of men and
women, Paul tells Timothy, that although women cannot have either the ministry
of teaching or eldership, they can have the ministry of motherhood (1 Tim.
2:12,15). In the context of the letter, it is obvious that Paul considers
motherhood to be a ministry in the church. This is the second ministry that God
calls women to - to be a God-fearing mother to her children. Timothy had seen
the glory of this in his own childhood home. He was now to teach that to others
Men excel women in all professions in
life. In one area alone do women stand out as unique - as 'mothers'. This, by
itself, indicates what God created woman to be. Mothers who have neglected
their children either to go to work to earn more money (to live in greater
luxury) or even to be preachers, have invariably had the sad experience, later
on in life, of seeing their children suffer in one way or another, due to their
being neglected in their early years. They can do nothing but regret now. This
should be a warning to the younger generation of mothers. If a mother goes to
work, for the sake of her family's financial survival, God will certainly give such
a family extra grace. But where the motive is luxury and a higher standard of
living, she can only expect to reap corruption, for God cannot be fooled (Gal.
May the eyes of all mothers be opened to
see the glory of their calling.
Her Glory As
A Witness For Christ
A woman's primary witness for Christ, as
we have seen, is by being a man's helper and a mother to her children. But God
also calls her to be a witness by her mouth. God has never called a woman in
the New Testament age, to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd or
teacher. There were prophetesses under the old covenant - the last being Anna.
But the only prophetess in the New Testament (after the day of Pentecost) is
Jezebel, the false prophetess (Rev. 2:20). Every woman who claims to be a
prophetess or preacher today, is therefore a follower of Jezebel. Let no one be
mistaken about that fact. All 'Elijahs' of God must resist and expose such
'Jezebels' (1 Ki. 21:20-23). In the New Testament, women could prophesy
occasionally as Philip's daughters did. (But it is clear that these sisters
were not prophetesses; for when God wanted to give a message to the apostle
Paul, while he was in Philip's house, He did not use any of Philip's four
daughters, but brought a prophet, Agabus, from 50 miles away (Acts 21:8-11)).
Jesus never called a woman to be one of His apostles, for He never intended a
woman to have authority over man (1 Tim. 2:12). But although none of these
ministries are open to women, yet they can be witnesses for the Lord in many
Mary Magdalene was the first witness of
the risen Christ. She was not an evangelist, but a faithful witness who
testified about what she had seen and experienced. Every woman should be
baptised in the Holy Spirit and fire (like Mary and the other women were, on
the day of Pentecost) in order to be such a witness for Christ (Acts 1:8,14).
The restrictions of Indian culture prevent many of the Indian women from ever
hearing the gospel through the mouths of men. Only Spirit filled women can reach
them. Every God-fearing sister in Christ, should therefore take this
responsibility of giving the gospel to those with whom she is in contact -
relatives, friends, neighbours, women-servants, etc.
The New Testament teaches that a woman can
pray and prophesy in the church too, provided she has her head covered (1 Cor.
11:5). Prayer is one of the primary ministries that all sisters can engage in,
for the building of the church. God is certainly looking today for women who
will engage in secret prayer for the fulfilment of His purposes. Women can
prophesy too. Acts 2:17,18 clearly states that when the Spirit is outpoured,
both men and women will prophesy. This is part of a woman's privilege under the
new covenant. She can share God's word in a spirit of submission in the
meetings of the church, provided she does not try to teach (1 Tim. 2:12). Older
women are however exhorted to teach the younger sisters practical matters
related to their conduct at home (Tit. 2:4,5). 'Helps' is one of the gifts that
God has appointed in the church (1 Cor. 12:28). All sisters - young and old -
should seek for this gift so that they can help in the church in various
practical ways. There were many such godly sisters in the early church
("Phoebe has been a helper of many" - Rom. 16:1,2. See also v.
3,6,12). God desires that there be many in the church today as well.
The covering of a woman's head (taught in
1 Cor. 11:1-16) is meant to symbolise:
(a) That the glory of man is to be covered
in the church (v. 7).
(b) That the glory of woman should also be
covered in the church (v. 15) - for a woman's long hair is her glory.
(c) That she is submissive to the
authority of the man (v. 10) - whether husband, father or elder.
A woman is also to be a faithful witness
for Christ through her clothing. The Holy Spirit urges women to dress modestly
and discreetly. "Christian women should be noticed for being kind and good, not
for the way they fix their hair or because of their jewels or fancy clothes"
(1 Tim.2:9,10; 1 Pet.3:3). Clothes are meant to cover a woman's body, not to expose it.
No God-fearing sister will ever permit a tailor to cut and 'shape' her clothes according
to the fashions of the women of the world. The low-worn sari and the low-cut blouse are
marks of worldly women, not of the disciples of Jesus Christ. (Read Isa.3:16-24 carefully,
to see how God denounces the dress fashions of the worldly daughters of Zion).
Satan is eager to destroy the God-appointed
distinction between the sexes. And he has got 21st-century women to act and behave
like men in many ways. Domineering wives and women preachers are all part of the
drift of Christendom's women further and further away from God and His Word.
In the midst of all this, God needs women
who will stay within the boundaries that He has laid down in His Word, and who
will manifest the true glory of womanhood throughout their lives. Determine
with all your heart then, that you will be a woman after God's own heart, in
these last days, in the midst of a sinful and adulterous generation and a
God will give you grace for this, if you
earnestly desire it yourself.
RELIGIOSITY OR SPIRITUALITY
One of the greatest dangers that faces the
Christian in his pursuit of a holy life is that of ending up being religious
and not spiritual. Religiosity is often mistaken by the undiscerning believer
for spirituality. But there is a world of difference between the two. The
former is human, the latter is divine. The law could make people religious, but
not spiritual. Religiosity is taken up with the external, visible things.
Spirituality is primarily a matter of the heart.
God's word warns us that there will be
many in the last days who have a form of godliness without its power - in other
words, they will be religious, but not spiritual (2 Tim. 3:5). They will go
religiously to meetings, pray and read the Bible daily and even attend
all-night fasting and prayer meetings, tithe their income, etc. But they will
still seek honour from men, live for themselves, love money and be interested
in gossiping, etc. Such people are religious, not spiritual. They have a form
of godliness without the power. Here are some examples.
If you are more interested in going to
meetings than in crucifying the flesh (Gal. 5:24), you are religious, not
spiritual. If you are more interested in reading your Bible every morning than
in controlling your tongue the whole day, you are religious, not spiritual. If
you are more interested in fasting and prayer than in being free from the love
of money, you are religious, not spiritual. If you are more interested in
evangelism than in personal sanctification, you are religious, not spiritual.
All the activities of religious people
mentioned in the above examples are good. But it is a question of priorities.
It is right priorities that makes a man spiritual.
Religious people are interested in the
written word alone (`the letter') and end up having the righteousness of the
law. Spiritual people however are interested in the Word being manifested in
flesh and blood, and thus end up having the righteousness of God, the divine
Religious people justify their actions by
quoting the words or actions of some man of God. Spiritual people however,
never seek to justify themselves before men.
Religious people are more interested in
men's opinions than in God's opinion. Spiritual people care only about God's
opinion. Religious people can meditate for years on the words of praise that
some elder brother spoke concerning them. Spiritual people, on the other hand,
like Jesus, refuse to receive testimony from men (Jn. 5:34). They know that
other men do not know the corruption that they see within themselves, and so
they realise that the praise of men is worth less than nothing.
Religious people are legalistic and are
under the law. They think in terms of the minimum necessary in order to please
God. This is why they calculate exactly how much 10% of their income comes to
and then offer it reluctantly to God. In the Old Testament, this attitude
finally ended up in the Israelites offering blind sheep and sick bulls as
sacrifices to the Lord (Mal. 1:8). It is possible to have an identical attitude
to the New Testament commandments. A sister can think in terms of the minimum
necessary in order to keep the letter of the word that commands her to be
subject to her husband; or the minimum necessary covering required for her head
in the meetings - without the beauty of her hair being totally hidden! Men and
women can think in terms of the minimum necessary in order to be 'spiritual'
without altogether giving up everything. "What is the minimum that I have
to give up of this world?" is a question that is always in the minds of
such people. Such can never be spiritual. They can only be religious.
Jesus' attitude was totally different. He
never sought to discover what the minimum requirement was to please His Father.
On the contrary, He sought to find out what the maximum was so that He could
offer everything to the Father. Therefore He sought to find out the spirit
behind each commandment. Thus He knew that it was not enough to merely avoid
adultery in the flesh (even though that was the minimum required by the law).
He understood that the spirit behind that commandment was that one should not
even lust (covet) in one's heart. Likewise, He saw that anger and murder were
similar. And so on. Thus He understood the spirit behind each commandment.
An earthly bride who is deeply in love
with her bridegroom never thinks of the minimum necessary to please her
partner. On the contrary, she thinks of what the maximum is that she can do.
This is the attitude of the bride of Christ too. It is here that we see the
distinction between the servant and the bride. Those under the law can only be
servants. The employee works for wages and is therefore very calculative in his
service. He measures his work by the clock. If he works overtime, he expects
extra wages. One who is a son (or a wife), on the other hand, will work for any
length of time - not for reward, but out of love. Herein lies the difference
between religiosity and spirituality.
The attitude of mind that thinks, "What
can I get out of the Lord?", leads to religiosity. On the other hand,
the attitude that thinks, "What can the Lord get out of the one earthly
life that I have?", will lead to true spirituality. It will then
become natural for us to go the second mile when the minimum requirement is to
go just one mile.
Adam made a covering for himself with fig
leaves. This is symbolic of religiosity - to make oneself presentable before
men, and even before God! Jesus cursed the fig tree covered with fig leaves
(Mk. 11:13, 14,21) - because there is a curse on all religiosity. God hates it.
God gave Adam another covering - of skins. And this is a symbol of true
spirituality - God's own nature that He gives us, not what man manufactures
himself. When Jesus came to the fig tree, it was not the season for fruit. We
can say that the old covenant was not the season for the fruit of the Spirit.
That legalistic system that led man to bondage has been abolished now. God
ordained it for a period to show man his need. The law was never given as a
means for sanctification. Heb. 8:7 says that it was a faulty system - just
because it could not make a man spiritual, but only religious. One has to enter
into the new covenant in order to become spiritual.
God gave the law to see if man would be
satisfied with an external righteousness that brought the honour of men, or
whether he would seek for more. Since most believers are satisfied with an
external righteousness, they remain content with the law and a covering of
leaves - human religiosity. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. It
curses and withers up the leaves and gives us the true sanctification that God
intended man to have.
But to receive this gospel, we must repent
radically first. The word 'radical' means 'proceeding from the root
upwards'. And this is exactly what is meant by a radical repentance. John
the Baptist who came as the forerunner of Jesus with a message of repentance,
said that Jesus would lay the axe to the root of the trees. Every sin comes
forth from a root. If we repent of the sin (fruit) alone, we have not been
radical. For example, backbiting comes from the root of a wrong attitude
towards a brother. Radical repentance will deal with the wrong attitude, and
not just with the backbiting. To deal with the external act would be equivalent
to snipping off the fruit with a pair of scissors. Jesus however has not come
with a pair of scissors, but with an axe (to deal with the root). He looks for
genuine fruit - not just leaves. Where He sees only leaves, He curses and
withers up the leaves even today (where people allow Him to do it), so that He
can make them fruitful. Many other sins too are the result of a wrong attitude
within us of seeking our own or of loving money, etc. The spiritual man is the
one who judges the root of sin within himself, in God's light and who is not
content with just snipping off the fruit to impress men.
Religious people are easily deceived. It
is possible for a husband to have a wrong attitude towards his wife for 6
months and yet to have such self control that he never says anything to hurt
her. But then one day he explodes in anger. If he then imagines that he had
victory for 6 months but fell into sin just for a moment (when he lost his
temper), he is deceiving himself. He had been accumulating sticks of dynamite
for 6 months. Then at the end of that time, when a small match was lit, the whole
stack exploded. He was living in sin all the time, but it was not manifest
externally for a long time. It was not the matchstick that caused the
explosion, but rather the dynamite that had been collected over the 6 month
If we don't fight the battle to keep
ourselves `in the love of God' in our attitude towards others (Jude 21), then
we sin, even if we continue to have a good testimony externally. Since most
believers do not have discernment, they may even consider us to be spiritual.
To be satisfied with their opinion is as foolish as asking someone who has no
idea whatsoever of music to evaluate our musical ability!
We must call sin 'sin' if we are to be
radical in our repentance and be freed from religiosity. Anger must be called
by its real name - that is 'murder' (Matt. 5:21,22). If you do not do that with
each sin, you are doomed to a 'religious' life all your days. You will never
become truly spiritual. A religious person can be very exact when it comes to
matters of external righteousness. The Pharisees even paid tithes of their
mint, dill and cummin. They would not move even 1 millimetre away from external
righteousness. Yet they went miles away from love, mercy and goodness. So can
it be with those pursuing righteousness today. It is possible to be 100% exact
in external righteousness and yet to miss the path of love altogether. The path
of new covenant righteousness is the path of love - and we must be alert to
ensure that we do not move even 1 millimetre away from this path. This
is the way of spirituality.
More people go to hell, through false
religion than through outward worldliness. This is why we must be careful to
distinguish between religiosity and spirituality. Our external
works, even though good, can yet be a form, if they are not motivated by a
fervent love for the Lord. Such works are dead works, for the power of love is
not behind them. We are commanded to repent of dead works - that is, religious
works that have not come from a heart of devotion to Christ (Heb. 6:1; 2 Cor.
God loves cheerful givers - not only of
money but of obedience as well. When obedience to God becomes a burden, it is
clear that we have strayed away from the path of spirituality and are now
treading the road of religiosity. Everything that we give to God under the new
covenant must be given out of love - joyfully and voluntarily. Otherwise we
become legalistic and are back under the old covenant - with the spirit and
attitude of a servant and not that of a son.
Jude speaks in his epistle of three people
who were religious, but not spiritual - Cain, Balaam and Korah (Jude 11). Let
us consider them, one by one.
Cain was not a godless man. He was a
deeply religious man who believed in offering sacrifices to God (Gen. 4:3).
Abel also offered sacrifices to God. But the difference between the two
sacrifices and between Cain and Abel was the difference between hell and
heaven, the difference between religiosity and spirituality. Cain and Abel
symbolise two ways in which people have trodden - the way of religiosity and
the way of spirituality. Cain is a type of those who offer external things to
God - money, services, time, etc. Abel, on the other hand, symbolically laid
himself on the altar, when he killed the lamb and laid it on the altar.
Religious people can give gifts, pray, and
do many good works - but they do not understand what it is to offer themselves.
They may pay their tithes exactly, But they will not put their self to death in
the moments of temptation. That is the difference between the old and the new
covenants. You could enter the old covenant without dying to self. But it is
impossible to enter the new covenant without dying to self. Jesus did not come
to offer tithes, but to give Himself as an offering acceptable and
well-pleasing to God. Cain and Abel symbolise the broad and narrow ways of
approaching God - the way of religiosity and the way of true spirituality. You
can be a servant without death to self. But you cannot be a son without it.
God answered Abel's sacrifice with fire
from heaven. But nothing fell on Cain's offering. When a man consistently dies
to self day after day, there will be a fire from heaven on his life and his
ministry. This is the genuine baptism of the Spirit and fire that John the
Baptist said that Jesus would give, to those whose roots He had first axed. On
the other hand, a brother who merely does the right things externally, may have
a good life, but the fire and the anointing of heaven will be missing from his
life. Satan's counterfeit 'baptism' which tickles the emotions (which is what
most are enjoying today) is worthless garbage compared with the genuine baptism
of the Spirit and fire that Jesus sends upon His disciples who choose the way
of the cross.
Balaam was another religious man. He was a
preacher who wanted to serve God, but who was also interested in making money
and meeting great men in the world (Num. 22). He sought honour and financial
gain for himself in the name of the Lord. There are many, many false prophets,
like Balaam today. Their doctrines are all fundamentally right, according to
the letter of the word. But undiscerning believers cannot recognise that they
are motivated by the spirit of Balaam (loving money and honour). These are the
ones about whom Paul writes in Phil 2:21, saying that they all seek after their
own interests. There were people in the church in Pergamum who lived by this
doctrine of Balaam (Rev. 2:14). There is no difference between seeking for
honour and seeking for money in the church. Both are but different variations of
the same spirit of Balaam.
Korah was another religious man. He was
from the priestly tribe of Levi (Num. 16). But he was dissatisfied with the
ministry allotted to him by the Lord. He desired to be more prominent, like
Moses was. This covetousness (cloaked with a religious garb), was what proved
to be his destruction finally. He and his co-rebels, Dathan and Abiram, and
their families, are the only ones recorded in Scripture who went alive into
hell (Num. 16:32,33). So seriously did the Lord take this sin of rebellion
against the authority that He Himself had appointed over His people.
Most elders, preachers and pastors today
are self-appointed. To rebel against them may not be serious. It may sometimes
even be necessary! But to rebel against one who has been appointed by God would
bring upon one the severest judgment of God. A spiritual man would never even
dream of doing such a thing. But religious people will. Such is the spiritual
foolishness that accompanies religiosity.
Korah symbolises those who are in an
unhealthy competition with others in the church. When you find it difficult to
praise and appreciate a God-fearing brother, it is an indication that you have
something of the spirit of Korah in you. When you criticise him, then you are
full of the spirit of Korah. If you can listen to others criticising him, then
you are like the 250 rebels, who joined Korah, and who were also judged by God.
We can never become spiritual if we do not
discern between religiosity and spirituality. It is the need of
the hour - for it is concerning the last days that it is written that many
would have the form of godliness, without the power (which is the word of the
cross). The Spirit has also specifically warned that many Christians would turn
away from the way that God has appointed for us to be godly, and turn to other
religious means - such as avoiding marriage and certain types of food, etc.
Man has invented many other counterfeits
too, such as the public confession of sin (to become 'humble') and not taking
medicines when sick (to increase 'faith'), etc, etc. All these are but
doctrines of demons, meant to lead Christians away from the true secret of
godliness (Read 1 Tim. 3:16 to 4:5).
The only way to true spirituality is by
offering oneself to death daily as Jesus did (Rom. 8:36; 2 Cor. 4:10-12). Every
other way is a counterfeit.
THE SPIRIT OF THE NEW COVENANT
In the Old Testament, just after the
giving of the ten commandments (Ex. 20), comes a beautiful ordinance that God
gave to the Israelites that aptly describes the difference between the old and
the new covenants. There, in Ex. 21:1-6, we read of the Hebrew slave who served
six years because he was a slave and was compelled to serve; and who then
served his master on a different basis - because he loved to do so (Ex.
21:5). This was God's postscript to the law, prophetically portraying the
spirit of the coming new covenant.
The 6 years of compulsory slavery
corresponds to serving God legally. The 7th year onwards corresponds to
the 'Sabbath rest' that God has ordained for His people (Heb. 4:9). Under the
law, the people could rest on the seventh day only after working for six days.
But when God created Adam, He gave him a day of rest first and then six days of
work (for God's seventh day was Adam's first day of existence). This was to
teach that all man's labour for the Lord was to come out of a relationship of
love and fellowship with Him. Otherwise it would be legalistic and worthless.
The fact that we live in the new covenant age
does not mean that we live by the new covenant spirit. It is
possible to have understood the message of 'victory over sin' and yet to live
by legalistic principles. In Rom. 7:1-6, we see that even the man who has come
through Rom. 6 (the chapter that presents the gospel of victory) can still be
in bondage to legalism. In practice too, we find this to be true. Many who have
come to an upright and good moral life are yet living by the principles of the
It is possible to live an externally
righteous life - from wrong motives. Under the old covenant, the Israelites had
to keep the law, but the motive with which they kept it could not be judged by
the law. Most people kept the law out of fear of judgment. Others kept it out
of hope of reward. Both these motives are however inconsistent with the spirit
of the new covenant. In the new covenant, the spirit matters more than
the letter (Rom. 7:6). It is possible to keep all the commandments and
for the Lord to rebuke us saying, "I have something against you. You are
no longer keeping My commandments out of love for Me, as you did at first.
Therefore repent" (Rev. 2:4 paraphrase). When love was not the motive, it
was not a crime under the law. But under the new covenant, this is so serious,
that the leader in Ephesus was in danger of losing his anointing, if he did not
repent. Do we realise that it is not enough to keep the commandments if our
motive in keeping them is not right?
When we cleanse ourselves from the
filthiness of the flesh, we get a good testimony before men. But it is only
when we cleanse ourselves from the filthiness of the spirit as well,
that God bears testimony about us. This is the way of perfecting holiness, as 2
Cor. 7:1 makes plain. There is 'iniquity in our holy things' (Ex. 28:38). What
is this iniquity but the wrongness of our motives in our pursuit of
Beneath this iniquity lies the far more
serious evil of seeking the honour of men. It is when we seek the honour of
others (particularly in the church) that we are careful to keep our external
life in order. This is the evil that we must be quick to detect behind our
legalism, or else it will destroy us.
In the parable of the ten virgins (Matt.
25:1-13), it is clear that none of them were 'harlots'. They were all virgins.
They had all cleansed themselves from the filthiness of the flesh. Therefore
they had a good testimony before men. Their lamps were burning and men saw
their good works and praised them (cf. Matt. 5:16). Little did men know that
some of these virgins had no inner life. Although all ten appeared spiritual in
the eyes of undiscerning unbelievers, yet God could see that only five of them
had truth (reality) in their innermost being (Psa. 51:6). The other five were
legalistic, keeping the letter of the law, content with their testimony before
men. Little did they realise that they would be left behind in the rapture. The
Bridegroom said to them, "I do not know you". He did not call them
'workers of iniquity', as He called another group (Matt. 7:23), for these five
were not workers of iniquity. Yet, they had not partaken of the spirit of
Christ in their inner life. The Lord told them (as it were), "I do not
have any fellowship with your spirit. Your spirit is the spirit of legalism,
even though your external life is upright. You are the Pharisees of the new
covenant". This is the implication behind the words, "I do not know
It is possible to keep the letter of
the New Testament commandments and yet not to radiate the spirit of Christ.
For example, when another has done us some evil, we can obey the word that says
that we are to repay evil with good. And we can go to that man, perhaps, even
with an expensive gift, to show our love to him, and to do him good, according
to the commandment. Yet our spirit, in our approach to him, may be saying these
unspoken words, "Here I am, the great saint, coming to do good to you, an
evil sinner". In such a situation, even though we may have spent much
money buying that gift, and gone to much pains to do that 'good' act, yet our
offering is not a fragrant aroma to God, for our 'self' has not been sacrificed
(See Eph. 5:2).
Consider another situation. A brother may
sit quietly, without opening his mouth, at a time when his wife is upset and
angry with him. It may appear to an undiscerning outsider there, that the
husband is the 'saint' and the wife the 'sinner'. Yet God who weighs the
spirits of men may have an altogether different opinion about both of them. For
the unspoken words of the husband's spirit, even while his mouth is shut, may
be, "Lord, I thank Thee that I have victory over anger, unlike my
wife". He may not realise, that his defeated wife may be more acceptable
to God than he, the self-righteous Pharisee. Truly, the harlots and thieves
will get into the kingdom before the Pharisees. Losing one's temper is
certainly unbecoming of a Christian. But so is Phariseeism. What we must do is
to cleanse our spirit from the filthiness of the Pharisee that it can be
polluted with, in such situations. This is the way of salvation.
In the parable of the prodigal son, we
have the attitudes of Christ and of the Pharisee, clearly portrayed in the
persons of the father and the elder son. The father was delighted to see his
younger son repent and come back, even though the lad may not have got victory
over his sins yet. The Pharisaical older son, however, could not welcome his
younger brother in the same way. If he had had his way, he would have put his
younger brother in the servants' quarters for at least a year to test whether
his repentance was genuine or not.
This Pharisaical spirit in our flesh is
most evident, in our attitude towards those who have harmed us in some way.
Even when they apologise for their error, we can still 'put them in the
servants' quarters' for a while, to test their repentance. Yet Jesus told us
that even if a person sinned against us every two hours in a 12 hour day, and
came back each time saying that he had repented, we were to forgive him,
without questioning the genuineness of his repentance (Lk.17:4). We were to
accept his words at their face value. He may not be genuine perhaps. But that
is for God to judge - not us. We can only see the outward appearance. God sees
In the day of judgment we shall discover
that why we did something was far more important than what we did
(1 Cor. 4:5). The elder brother had "never disobeyed a single
commandment" of his father's (Lk. 15:29). Yet we find him at the end of
the story outside the father's house (the church), because his spirit was the
spirit of legalism. He was a virgin, but he had no oil in his vessel. His
motivation was finally exposed. He had served for reward. He tells his father,
"Even though I obeyed all your commandments, yet you never rewarded me"!
Jesus warned His disciples against this
attitude, when Peter asked Him (after the rich young ruler had turned away from
Him), "What shall we get, who have forsaken everything (unlike the rich
young ruler)?" (Matt. 19:27). Jesus replied with the parable of the landowner,
hiring labourers. Five sets of labourers were hired by this landowner. Four of
them were hired on the basis of a specific contract. The last group alone came
without any contract (Matt. 20:1-16). This is the point of the parable. The
first group worked for the specific wage of one denarius (v. 2). The second,
third and the fourth groups also worked for reward, although the amount was not
specified (v. 3-5). These four groups of labourers are all symbolic of those
who keep the commandments or who serve God or make external sacrifices for Him
- but who are secretly hoping for some reward for it all - perhaps the carnal
joy of sitting on a throne in the millennium, or of wearing a 'crown' on their
heads; or perhaps, what looks like a 'spiritual' desire, of being in the bride
of Christ. All such Christians are working for a reward. And that is the spirit
of the old covenant.
The only reward that a truly spiritual man
desires is the reward of partaking more of God's holy and loving nature and of
a closer fellowship with Him. This is the 'crown' that he is looking forward
to; and this is the reward that Jesus is coming with (Rev. 22:12). And this
reward will be in exact proportion to the faithfulness with which a man has
worked out his salvation, cleansing himself, not only of the filthiness of the
flesh, but also of the filthiness of the spirit - particularly the filthiness
of the Phariseeism in his spirit. This is why the degree of our glory, when we
are resurrected, will be as different from each other's as the brightness of
the various stars (1 Cor. 15:41,42). For a righteous God will reward each
'virgin' righteously - according to what He saw, and not what men saw (2 Cor.
In the above parable, only the last group
of labourers came to work, without any contract and without any promise or hope
of reward (Matt. 20:7). They came in the spirit of the new covenant. Therefore
they were rewarded first - and received (proportionately speaking) far more
than all the others (See Matt. 20:16). The first group of labourers, on the
other hand, were exactly like the Pharisaical older brother of the prodigal son
- self-righteous and legalistic and expecting to be rewarded.
Jesus is our Example and Forerunner, in
this new covenant. And He certainly did not keep His Father's commandments in
order to gain some reward or some position or honour - either now or in
eternity. Much less did He keep the commandments, because He was afraid of
being punished by His Father. We read that He endured the cross, only because He
thought of the joy that was set before Him - that supreme joy of fellowship
with the Father. In the Father's presence alone is there fullness of joy (Psa.
16:11). Fellowship with His Father was what Jesus desired all the days of His
life. Therefore He cried with loud cries and tears that He might be saved from
'death' - that is, from a break of fellowship with His Father (Heb.5:7). For 33
years on earth, He had preserved Himself from 'death'. Finally, in Gethsemane,
when He saw that His fellowship with His Father would still be broken on the
cross for 3 hours (when He would have to suffer the pain of being forsaken by
God for our sins), He cried out again, seeking to find if there was some
other way. But there was no other. And in love for us, having counted the cost,
He went to the cross and paid the greatest price that He could ever pay.
It is only when we partake of this spirit
of Christ that eagerly desires fellowship with the Father, that we can be freed
from legalism. Freedom from legalism - from straining at gnats and swallowing
camels - can never be attained by any techniques or by any method. There is
only one way. That is the way described in 2 Cor. 3:18. There, Paul, after
contrasting the old and the new covenants in the whole chapter (v. 6-17), finally
states that the Holy Spirit has come to show us the glory of Jesus in the
mirror of God's word, and then to transform us into that same likeness.
The Holy Spirit desires, first of all, to
show us how Jesus lived on this earth. He was born under the law (Gal. 4:4).
Yet, when Jesus meditated on those commandments in the law, He saw more in
those commandments than any Israelite before Him had ever seen. As we
considered in the last chapter, Jesus saw that the command not to commit
adultery also meant that one should not lust after a woman in one's heart, and
the command not to commit murder also meant not to be angry in one's heart,
etc. There was a great desire in Jesus' soul, when He was on earth, to obey the
Father perfectly, and not just according to the letter of the law. Thus,
although He was born under the law (Gal.4:4), He inaugurated a new covenant.
This is the One whom the Holy Spirit shows us from the pages of Scripture.
To follow Jesus in this way means to
meditate on the Scriptures as He meditated on them. Then we shall find more in
God's commandments than others find in them.
The words that Jesus spoke were spirit and
life (Jn. 6:63). This is why many could not understand Him when He was on earth
and this is also why many cannot understand Him today. God gives light only to
those who love the truth. He allows all others to be deceived. This is the
plain meaning of 2 Thess. 2:1-12. When we meditate on God's word, with a
wholehearted love for the truth, we shall no longer congratulate ourselves for
keeping the letter of the law, but judge ourselves often, for not having kept
it in the right spirit.
In the ten commandments, it was possible
for man to keep nine of them, but impossible to keep the tenth - for the tenth
commandment dealt with covetousness, which was an inward matter. The law could
never discover whether a man coveted in his heart, and could not therefore
punish a man even if he did. This is why Paul, even though he said he was
blameless according to the righteousness of the law, yet acknowledged that he
could not keep the tenth commandment (Compare Phil. 3:6 with Rom. 7:7-10). He
was one of the few who were honest enough to acknowledge this. Thus God could
lead him further into the new covenant.
The tenth commandment was placed there by
God to test man's honesty. Those who were honest enough to acknowledge having
failed in this, would be led on. Only to such would the law become a 'school
master' to lead them to Christ and the new covenant (Gal. 3:24). The rest, who
concealed their inward sin, would remain under the old covenant. This is the
main reason why many Christians remain defeated today. They are not honest
enough to acknowledge their inward failures. They remain content with the
honour of men. They do not love the truth about themselves. Thus God allows
them to be deceived.
It was never God's intention that man
should live by rules and regulations. The law was not given to lead man to
life, but only to show man's impotence and to test his honesty (as we have just
seen). Therefore after Christ came, the Law was set aside and a new covenant
was ushered in (Heb. 8:7,8,13).
When God placed Adam in Eden, He told him
not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. In other words, man was not
to live by a rule book of 'good and evil', avoiding all that was evil, and
doing all that was good. This is where true Christianity differs from false
Christianity and also from all other religions.
God intended man to live by the tree of
life - by the leading of God's Holy Spirit who would tell him what was pleasing
to God and what was not (See 1 Cor. 6:12 and 10:13). To live by the knowledge
of good and evil is to live by the law. This can only bring us into bondage,
without understanding the spirit behind the Law.
We can come to a righteous life externally
('become virgins'), by keeping the commandments externally. But the only way
that we can get oil in our vessels is by cleansing ourselves of the filthiness
of the spirit, which no man can see.
Paul, when writing new-covenant truths to
the Christians in Ephesus, knew that his words could not give them revelation.
So he prayed that their eyes should be opened by the Holy Spirit (Eph.
This is what we need to pray for ourselves
THE NEW COVENANT - A PARTNERSHIP WITH JESUS
No one has seen God at any time, but Jesus
came to reveal Him as a Father (Jn. 1:18).Jesus revealed the Name of God as `Father' (Jn. 17:6). In that Name (and in all
that lay behind it) the disciples were to find their security (Jn. 17:11,12).
In Old Testament times, God dwelt behind a
thick veil (curtain) in the tabernacle. No one knew exactly what type of Person
He was. The Pharisees presented a picture of God to the people that made Him
look like a merciless and demanding tyrant. Then Jesus came and rent the veil
and showed us that it was a loving Father who dwelt inside. But Satan has been
active again portraying a false picture of God to believers and unbelievers
alike. It is the calling of the church now to do what Jesus did - present the
true picture of God as a loving Father. It is only as we know God as a Father
that we can enter into all the good of the new covenant. He is called the God
of all grace (1 Pet. 5:10), and since 'grace' means 'help in time of need'
(Heb. 4:16), this means that God will always be our Helper. He is always on
our side against the Devil. This is why Jesus called the Holy Spirit the
'Helper' (Jn. 14:16).
The law came by Moses and its purpose was
to reveal sin (Rom. 7:13) and also to reveal our helplessness against sin (Gal.
3:24). But the law provided no helper to help man to overcome. Therefore the
law could not lead man to purity within. God has always desired purity in the
inward parts (Psa. 51:6). But no man could attain this under the law. But now
Jesus has established a better covenant. It is better in this respect: The law
merely gave commandments, but under grace, God has provided us not only with
commandments, but also with an Example (Jesus in His earthly life) and a Helper
(the Holy Spirit), to enable us to keep the commandments. This is the
difference between the old and new covenants. Satan has robbed most of
Christendom of the encouragement that Jesus as our Example gives us, by hiding
from them that Jesus came in the flesh. Secondly, Satan has also robbed them of
the power of that Helper, the Holy Spirit, by either counterfeiting or denying
the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Multitudes today have received a counterfeit
'baptism in the Spirit', that has given them neither power to fight the lusts
in their flesh nor boldness to resist Satan. What a fantastic work of deception
Satan has done!
Under law, man tries to please God and
fails. Under grace, God works within us and enables us to please Him (Phil.
2:12,13). Those who are trying to please God and failing to do so, while
sincere perhaps, are still under the law. Most of them are weary and heavy
laden with their struggle to keep the commandments. Such weary and heavy laden
people are the ones whom Jesus invites to come to Him and to exchange their
heavy yoke for His light one (Matt. 11:28-30). The yoke is a symbol of
partnership - whether in a marriage or in business. Jesus invites us to enter
into a partnership with Him where He supplies the capital and we get the profits!
John calls the miracles of Jesus 'signs'
(Jn. 2:11). In other words, each miracle was a parable with a message in it.
Essentially, the one message that comes across in the miracles recorded in
John's gospel, is this, that Jesus wants to enter into a partnership with us.
At the marriage at Cana, Jesus could have
filled the water pots with wine - from nothing. But then there would have been
no partnership. It would have been a one-man show. The servants therefore were
invited to share in the miracle by doing their part - the easy part - of
filling the pots with water. Then Jesus did the difficult part - of turning it
into wine (Jn. 2:1-11).
Likewise, in the feeding of the five
thousand, Jesus could have produced food from nothing. But He did not do that.
He invited a little boy to give Him his lunch packet; and in partnership with
that little boy He fed the five thousand (Jn. 6:1-13). The little boy did what
he could; and Jesus did what He could!
The man born blind too was first asked to
do what he could (Jn. 9:1-7). He had to wash in the pool of Siloam. Then Jesus
did the difficult part of opening his eyes.
We see the same principle in the raising
of Lazarus. His friends did the easy part - removing the stone that covered the
grave. Jesus then did the difficult part - of raising Lazarus from the dead.
His friends were then once again given the opportunity to do what they could -
to unbind Lazarus and release him (Jn. 11:38-44).
After the resurrection, we see the
disciples going fishing one night. "And that night they caught
nothing" (Jn. 21:3). That is a picture of man striving under the law! Then
Jesus came. He could have filled their boats with fish without their casting
their nets into the sea. A God who commanded the fish to come near Peter's boat
on that lake, could just have easily commanded those very fish to jump into his
boat. But then there would have been no partnership. So man had to do his part.
They had to cast their nets into the sea. Thus in partnership with Jesus the
miracle was done. Man does the easy part and Jesus does the difficult part. But
they did have to cast their nets. That is the obedience of faith - that Paul
speaks of in Rom. 1:5.
This is the gospel of the new covenant
that the apostles proclaimed. Where this gospel is not understood, man tends to
swing either to one extreme of legalism (striving all night forever and
forever, with empty boats and no victory) or to the other extreme of a false
grace (where there is no striving at all and no victory either!).
Many sincere souls are weary and heavy
laden because they are groaning under the burdens of self-made commandments.
Like Pharaoh's taskmasters whipped the Israelites to produce more bricks, the
devil (disguised as a "preacher of righteousness" - 2 Cor. 11:14,15)
whips many sincere believers saying, "You are not reading the Bible
enough. You are not fasting and praying enough. You are not witnessing enough,
etc". Many a preacher too has unconsciously taken sides with Satan in
bringing God's people under condemnation through such preaching. All such
condemnation is the result of ignorance of the new covenant gospel.
Jesus is a Shepherd who leads His flock by
going ahead of them. He does not use a whip and chase them from behind, like a
hireling. All preachers who whip their flock are hirelings. True shepherds are
those who lead, by being an example themselves. Many have come into bondage
because they have listened to hirelings.
God did not send His Son into the world to
condemn the world but to save it (Jn. 3:17). Those who minister condemnation to
others are therefore not sent by God. God's servants always lead people to
In all our life, Jesus wants to be a
partner with us. When Peter came to Jesus to collect the temple tax, Jesus told
Peter to throw a hook into the sea and catch the first fish that came up. In
its mouth, Jesus said, would be a shekel, which would be sufficient to pay the
tax for both Jesus as well as Peter. "For you and Me", were
the words that Jesus told Peter (Matt. 17:27). Think of that phrase "For
you and Me". This is partnership. Jesus is interested even in helping
us to pay our taxes. From the mundane things that affect our everyday life here
on the earth, on to the things that will abide forever, Jesus calls us to live
by the principle of "You and Me".
Jesus said that when we took this yoke of
partnership with Him we could find rest in our souls (Matt. 11:28-30). This is
the rest that we are exhorted to enter into, by ceasing from our own works
It is not easy to cease from our own
works, for our self-life is so strong. That is why God has to arrange our
circumstances so that we are broken. He allows our plans to be frustrated and
our hopes to be shattered. Our scheming and planning come to ruin and we fall
again and again into sin. Thus He teaches us to cease from our own works, so
that we might do His.
The Old Testament sabbath was a picture of
this rest for God's people in the new covenant (Heb. 4:9,10). It is rest in God
that has to come first before we can do anything of eternal value.
When God made Adam on the sixth day, He
sanctified the very next day as a day of rest. Though it was chronologically
the seventh day, yet for Adam, it was his very first day. The law, which came
2500 years later, stated "Six days shalt thou work and the seventh day
thou shalt rest". But for Adam God instituted first a day of rest and
fellowship and then six days of work. That is grace. Under grace, the "day
of rest" comes first. We have to enter into rest before we can serve the
Lord. Then every day of our earthly life can be a sabbath. And that is God's
intention for us.
When the Pharisees asked Jesus why Moses
permitted divorce under the law, He replied that it was a temporary provision
made for man as long as his heart was hard (Matt. 19:8). But, Jesus said that
it was not God's perfect will from the beginning. Many things in the law
were part of God's permissive will - not His perfect will. But now that the new
covenant has been established, God desires that we live in His perfect will
- as He intended man to live "from the beginning" (Matt.
19:8). And so for us, as for Adam, it is this rest that must come first. Life
must be a perpetual sabbath of rest in God.
Only when we enter into rest can we
joyfully testify that God's commandments are not burdensome (1 Jn. 5:3). Where
God's commandments are considered to be a burden, and the message of denying
oneself and obedience to all the commandments is considered to be bondage, it
is evident that such a person has not yet come under the yoke of Jesus. He is
still labouring under his own yoke, under the law.
In the Outer Court of the tabernacle and
even in the Holy Place, there is plenty of activity. But in the Most Holy
Place, inside the veil, there is no activity - only fellowship. Even service
for God flows out of that fellowship. That is the difference between Old
Testament service and New Testament ministry. This is clearly illustrated by
Martha and Mary, in the incident described in Lk. 10:38-42. Mary was (symbolically
speaking), in the Most Holy Place - at rest, fellowshipping with the Lord.
Martha was in unrestful service ("for the Lord") in the Outer Court.
Jesus said that what Mary had chosen was the one thing everyone needed.
The veil has now been rent by Jesus and we
can boldly enter and dwell in the Most Holy Place - of fellowship with the
Father and His Son Jesus Christ, all our days. If only we could see this: That
what God desires from man first of all, is not service, not Bible-reading, not
fasting and prayer, etc., but fellowship.
Adam was created by God in His image - not
because God wanted a gardener for Eden, but because He wanted someone with whom
He could have fellowship. God did not save us out of the pit of sin in order
that we might serve Him, but rather in order that we might have fellowship with
Him. It is due to a lack of understanding of this, that multitudes of believers
are weary and heavy laden today, just like Martha.
At the age of 95, having walked with God
for over 65 years, the apostle John decided to write a letter - inspired by the
Holy Spirit. The theme of his letter was `fellowship' (1 Jn. 1:3).
Having seen churches and leaders who had left their first love (Rev. 2:4) and
who now had a name that they were alive (with all their varied Christian
activities) but who were in fact dead in God's sight (Rev. 3:1), John certainly
saw that the great need was to lead Christians into the joy of fellowship with
the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, inside the rent veil.
There may be joy found in several fields
of activity. Some find it in sport, some in music, some in their profession,
and some even in Christian work. But the purest joy in the universe is to be
found only in fellowship with the Father (1 Jn. 1:4). The psalmist says, "In
Thy presence is fullness of joy" (Psa. 16:11). This was the "joy set
before Him" that made Jesus willing to endure the cross daily (Heb. 12:2).
The fellowship with the Father was Jesus' most prized possession. He did not
value anything else in the universe in comparison with that. This fellowship
was what Jesus knew would be broken on Calvary, when for three hours He would
have to endure the agonies of an eternal hell for lost humanity (Matt. 27:45).
Then the Father would have to forsake Him and the fellowship that He enjoyed
with the Father from all eternity would be broken for three hours. He dreaded
that break of fellowship so greatly that He sweated great drops of blood in
Gethsemane. The cup that He prayed to be removed from Him was just this: A
break of fellowship with His Father.
If only we could see this and be gripped
by it! How lightly we speak and sing about following Jesus! To follow Jesus
means to value fellowship with the Father like He did. Sin would then become
exceedingly sinful to us, for it breaks our fellowship with the Father. An
unloving attitude towards another human being would not even be tolerated, for
it would break our fellowship with the Father, etc.
May the Lord give us revelation so that we
see clearly that true Christianity is nothing less than a life of unbroken
fellowship with a loving Father in heaven.
JESUS - TEMPTED AS WE ARE
In His Person, Jesus was still God when He lived on earth in the flesh – for God can never cease to be God. The clearest proof of Jesus' Deity in the days
of His flesh, is seen in the fact that He received worship. Seven times in the gospels we are told that He accepted the worship that men offered Him
(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 did –
because He was God.
Jesus also forgave people’s sins on His own authority (Mark 2:10). That is yet another proof that He was God even during the days when He lived on
But at the same time, we are told that Jesus “emptied Himself” when he came to earth (Phil.2:5). What did He empty Himself of? Not of His
Deity (as we have just seen) but of the privileges he had as God. One of the privileges that He emptied Himself of was the privilege of not being tempted.
God cannot be tempted (Jas.1:13). But Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted (Mt.4:1-11).
He allowed Himself to be tempted in order to be an Example to us as to how to overcome when we are tempted. The secret of living a godly life lies in seeing Jesus as One Who was tempted in every way as we are and yet Who never sinned even once in thought, word, deed, attitude, motive, or in any other way (See 1 Tim. 3:16 and Heb. 4:15).
Since it is only those who have come to a godly life who can live
together without strife as one body in Christ, we could go one step further and
say that a local church can be the expression of Christ's body only where
believers have seen our Lord Jesus in this way. This is the truth of which the
church is to be the pillar and support (1 Tim. 3:15,16).
Temptation is not the same as sin. Jas. 1:14,15 makes that clear.
Our mind has to agree with the temptation before we sin. It is clear from
Matthew 4 that Jesus was tempted. But His mind never agreed with any temptation
even once. Thus He never sinned. He kept His heart pure.
Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. He did not have the 'old
man' that we were born with. We have sinful flesh, whereas Jesus did not
have sinful flesh. He came only “in the likeness of
sinful flesh” (Rom.8:3). But the Bible teaches that our Lord “was tempted in all points as we are” (Heb.4:15). We do not have to analyze this, even as
we do not analyze the mystery of God becoming Man. We only have to believe it.
At every point, in every temptation, Jesus obeyed His Father, unlike Adam.
God’s Word says about Jesus, “He learned obedience and
was made complete” (Heb. 5:7-9). The word “learned” is a word that relates to education. So what this verse is
saying is that Jesus received an education in obedience as a Man. In
each situation, He obeyed His Father and thus completed His education as
a Man. Thus He became a Forerunner for us, so that we too can follow in His
footsteps, overcoming temptation and obeying God (Heb. 6:20).
Our Lord can sympathise with us in our struggles against
temptation, because He too was tempted like us (Heb. 2:18; 4:15; 12:2-4).
The purity of Jesus as a Man was not something that
He received on a platter, but one that was acquired through battle. But
those battles were not endless ones. Every temptation was conquered -
one after another. Thus, over the period of His lifetime, He faced every single
temptation that we are tempted by - and overcame.
All of us have lived in sin for many years, and our sinful
flesh can be likened to a box full of poisonous snakes that have been
well-fed – by us!! The names of these snakes are impurity, anger,
malice, strife, bitterness, love of money, selfishness, pride, etc. This box
has an opening at the top from which these snakes put out their head whenever
we are tempted. We have fed these snakes in plenty during our unconverted days.
As a result, they are well-fed, healthy and strong. Some snakes have been fed
more than others, and so those lusts have a greater grip on us than others.
Now that we have died with Christ to sin, even though these snakes
are still hale and hearty, our attitude to these snakes has changed! We
have now been made partakers of the Divine nature and "those who belong
to Christ have crucified their flesh with its lusts" (Gal. 5:24). Unlike
in the old days, now, when a snake puts its head out of the opening of the box
(when we are tempted), we hit it on the head with a stick. It goes back into
the box. When we are tempted again, the snake puts its head out again, and we
hit it again. Gradually it gets weaker and weaker. If we are faithful in each
temptation to hit the snake instead of feeding it, then we will soon find the
pull of temptation weakening. The flesh cannot be 'shot' or 'hanged' in a
moment. It can only be crucified. Crucifixion is a slow death,
but it is a certain one. That is why we consider it all joy, when we are
tempted (Jas. 1:2) - because it gives us the opportunity to hit the snakes and
weaken them. This would not have been possible otherwise.
Consider the matter of dirty thoughts. If we are faithful in this
area, we will find that death enters in after a while. This may take some
years, if in our unconverted days, we have fed this snake for many years. But
death will surely come if we are faithful. One result will be that our dreams
will become purer too. Dirty dreams will become more and more of a rarity.
If however dirty dreams increase in their frequency, that would indicate that
we are becoming unfaithful in our thought-life once again. This is a good test
by which we can gauge our faithfulness in our thought-life. Dirty dreams are unconscious
sins, and so we need not feel guilty about them (Rom. 7:25; 8:1). 1
Jn. 1:7 tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us automatically from all
such sin, if we walk in the light.
Utter faithfulness will bring total victory. But utter
faithfulness in the sexual area, for example, involves our not even admiring a
good-looking face (in the opposite sex), even when no sexual thoughts are
connected with such admiration. This is the faithfulness that Prov. 6:25
("Do not desire her beauty") calls us to. It is because very few
are faithful in this area that very few come to purity in their dreams.
The subconscious part of us is affected a great deal by what we
consciously think about during our waking moments - not by temptations that are
flashed into our mind, but by our reactions to those temptations. If our
subconscious part gets the message that we hate sin even in our thoughts and
attitudes and that we are living before God's face, then it will 'fall in line'
with our desire for purity (See Psa. 51:6). The important question
therefore is not, "What do my fellow believers think of my purity?"
but rather "What message has the subconscious part of me got?" Your
dreams will usually give you the answer.
Those who are not seeking for total purity can never
understand what we are saying here. Those who take their dirty dreams lightly
do not realise that these are indicators of unfaithfulness in their conscious
thought-life. Such believers will consider what we are saying as extreme and unrealistic,
because spiritual matters are foolishness to the natural mind.
The good news however is that no matter how filthy your
thought-life may have been, it can become totally pure, if you are faithful in
seeking to walk the way Jesus walked. This in turn, will purify your dreams too
- although this will take time; the time taken will depend on how much you fed
the flesh in your unconverted days. But the strongest snake too can be put to
death, through radical faithfulness.
Jesus invited only those who were weary and heavy laden to
come to Him. It is only when you are sick and tired of your own defeated life
that you qualify to come to Him for victory. The world is full of those who are
sick and tired of others and the way that others behave towards them.
Some Christians are also sick and tired of compromise and worldliness that they
see in their denominations. But these are not the qualifications for
victory. Only those who are sick and tired of themselves are invited by
the Lord to come.
Only those who are thirsty for victory can come to Him (Matt.
11:28; Jn. 7:37). Those who weep each time they slip up in their
thought-life and who mourn for their secret sins, will understand God's truth
very quickly; while others will consider the doctrine to be heresy - for
spiritual truths are not understood by the natural understanding, but rather by
revelation that God gives to hearts that mourn over their secret sins. God
whispers His secrets (including the secret of a godly life) only to those who
fear Him (Psa. 25:14). The 'rest' that Jesus promised to those
who were sick and tired of their defeated life was the rest of total victory
In Heb. 4, this rest is equated with possession of the land
of Canaan. The giants were slain one by one, over a long period of time (See Ex.
33:29). Rest and peace thus came over each area possessed for the Lord. The
giants of Canaan are a type of the lusts in our flesh. The giants that were
seen typify conscious sin. The giants hidden in the caves of the land are a type
of unconscious sin.
Hebrews 4 also speaks of the `Sabbath rest' that God has prepared for
His people. After six days of labour they could enter into God's rest. So too,
God allows us to struggle in our own strength for 'six days' - and to fail and
fail and fail again. When we have come to an end of confidence in our own
abilities ('ceased from our own efforts' - Heb. 4:10), then we enter
into God's sabbath rest - into life in the power of the Holy Spirit. No amount
of self-effort (even “putting the flesh to death”) can make our sinful hearts
holy. Only the Holy Spirit can do that by making us partake of
the Divine nature. We can live in this sabbath rest all our days, if we are
faithful. If we are unfaithful, we go back to the “labouring” again.
It is not the will of God that we should be battling a particular
sin all our life. God desires that “every giant in Canaan” be slain. At each
stage of our growth - physically and spiritually - we are tempted in new ways.
A four-year-old child is tempted to be angry, but not with sexual desire. That
comes later, in his teenage years. However it is not the will of God that a man
should remain defeated in the sexual area year after year, merely confessing
his hope that one day he will be victorious. He can come to victory quickly, if
he is wholehearted. Death can enter in, even in this area; and divine nature
can take over.
Romans 6 speaks of the sequence of the life of victory. Knowing that we
have died with Christ (v. 6 - accepting this fact by faith, even if we cannot
understand it) we now consistently consider ourselves dead to sin (v. 11)
and present our members to God alone for obedience and righteousness (v.
13-18). The result of this is increasing sanctification (v. 22). The
final outcome is eternal life - which is just another expression for 'the
divine nature' (v. 22). So our ultimate goal is that we might partake
of the divine nature. But this begins only when we accept our
position as dead with Christ on the cross and consistently consider ourselves
thereafter as dead to sin.
How was it in Jesus' life? He was tempted in all points as we are.
But He was not forever battling with the same temptations. If Jesus was tempted
as we are, He must have been tempted as we are in the sexual area too. But He
must have finished with this area in His teenage years itself, through His
utter faithfulness. As a result, He was not even tempted in this area by
the time He entered His public ministry. Women could wipe His feet and He was
not even tempted. Those who are not themselves faithful in their battle against
temptation in this area cannot understand this truth.
When Satan tempted Jesus at the end of forty days of severe
temptations in the wilderness, Satan knew very well that it was futile to
try and tempt Jesus in the areas of sex and money, because Jesus had conquered
those areas so thoroughly, many years earlier. The last three temptations in
the wilderness were temptations of such a high order that we can understand
their subtle implications only as we ourselves are faithful in walking the way
that Jesus walked.
The school of temptation is just like any other school. We all
have to start in the kindergarten class. Our Lord too must have been tempted
with the most elementary temptations first. But He never spent more than the
minimum time necessary in each class. By the time He was 33 years old, when He
died on the cross, He could say, "It is finished". Every
single temptation had been overcome. Every single examination in the school had
been passed successfully. He had been made perfect. His education as a Man was
complete (Heb. 5:8,9).
For a person who is unfaithful in the kindergarten class of
temptation (e.g. sexually dirty thoughts, anger, lying, etc.) to try and
understand what temptations Jesus faced in the Ph.D. class is both ridiculous
and presumptuous. If you are faithful yourself, you will understand
(That is what Jesus said plainly in Jn. 7:17). If you are unfaithful in
the moments of temptation however, you will never understand, no matter how
many books you read or tapes you listen to. God's secrets are not heard through
tapes or from books but directly from the mouth of God Himself through His
There are some who teach that even though
Jesus did not sin, yet He came in our sinful flesh and had “sin in His flesh”. This is heresy. No-one can stand before God with any type
of sin – even sin in his flesh - for God is so pure that He cannot look at sin.
If Jesus had had sin in His flesh, He could never have had fellowship with
His Father even for a single day of His life on earth. This is the clearest
proof that Jesus did NOT have sinful flesh. The only reason why God can
have fellowship with us (who have sin
in our flesh) is because we are clothed with the righteousness of Christ Who
had no sin in Him.
There are others who teach that Jesus may have sinned unconsciously.
This too is heresy. Under the old covenant, a sacrifice had to be offered
even for unconscious sin when a man became aware of it (Lev. 4:2,13,27,
28). So even unconscious sin has to be atoned for. Under the new
covenant, the blood of Jesus immediately cleanses away unconscious sin
as soon as it is done (1 Jn. 1:7), if we walk in the light as far as conscious
sin is concerned. That is how our fellowship with the Father is maintained.
No blood was however available for Jesus for unconscious sin, had there been
even one unconscious sin in His life. This is the clearest proof that Jesus
did NOT sin even unconsciously.
Unconscious sin is the result of our having lived for many years
in selfishness and in pride. Jesus never lived like that even for a moment. He never had a
dirty dream because all His conscious thoughts were pure. No sin was found in
Him - in His conscious life or in His unconscious being.
We, on the other hand, have unconscious sin in us, because our
attitudes, habits and practices in our past life have given a selfish and
conceited bent to our soul. Now the Spirit has come to make our crooked soul
Those who have come to a life of victory over sin need to be
careful and honest here. There are unfortunately many who have a measure of
victory who excuse many un-Christlike things in their behaviour, speech, etc.,
by calling them only `mistakes' or `deeds of the body'. If only
they analysed the reason for those 'deeds of the body' they would
discover that the underlying cause was their conceit and selfishness. But Satan
deceives them (and God allows Satan to do so), because God sees that such
believers do not love the truth about themselves (2 Thess. 2:10,11) -
even though they may be very righteous in external matters and have a good
testimony in the church. The light is not getting brighter in their lives (Prov.
4:12) because they are forever excusing their actions! We should all walk
in brokenness and honesty, lest we end up like that ourselves.
God does not demand that we BE like Jesus now. He knows
that it is impossible, for being refers to our total personality. We can
be like Him only when He returns. Today God only demands that we WALK like
Jesus (Compare 1 Jn. 2:6 with 3:2). Walking is a conscious act and
refers only to our conscious life. In this area alone can we follow Jesus.
The good news of the gospel is that because Jesus became a man and
was tempted like us in all areas and overcame, we too can overcome as He overcame
(Rev. 3:21). There is no more need for us to keep on sinning in our conscious
Hallelujah, for such a glorious gospel!
TRUE SPIRITUALITY- SEEKING GOD'S INTERESTS
"I am afraid lest as the serpent
deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the
simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ ... for Satan disguises himself as
an angel of light, and his servants disguise themselves as servants of
righteousness" (2 Cor. 11:3,14,15).
"Israel, pursuing a law of
righteousness, did not arrive at that law" (Rom. 11:31).
The Pharisees in Israel pursued
righteousness, but they were led astray by Satan. This is a warning for all who
are pursuing righteousness today. It would be conceit on our part to imagine
that we are incapable of being deceived. Our protection from deception lies
only in walking in the light and loving the truth as it is found in God's word
and in the earthly life of Jesus (2 Thess. 2:10,11).
Sincerity alone cannot protect us from deception, if we do not make
God's word our guide. Peter was quite sincere, yet he became the mouthpiece of
Satan in suggesting a wrong course of action to Jesus (Matt. 16:21-23). When
Jesus first spoke about the cross to His disciples, they could not understand
this as God's way. They had been used to an Old Testament gospel that had
promised God's people prosperity, health, many children and other earthly
blessings. To suffer and to die was quite contrary to this Old Testament
The Old Testament was centred around
personal blessing and earthly things. The New Testament gospel is centred
around God's purposes and heavenly things. When John the Baptist came preparing
the way for this New Testament gospel, his message was "Repent (turn
around) ... for the kingdom of heaven (as opposed to an earthly kingdom and
earthly blessings) and the kingdom of God (as opposed to the kingdom of
personal blessing) have now come very near" (Matt. 3:2; Mk. 1:14,15).
Jesus said that after John the Baptist's time, the kingdom of heaven and of God
were being preached (Matt. 11:12; Lk. 16:16). But He also said that we had to
be men of violence in order to get into this kingdom. The love of self and of
earthly comfort, honour, convenience, wealth, etc, is so deeply rooted in our flesh,
that only those who are prepared to do violence to such loves can ever possess
When Peter suggested the way of ease and
comfort to Jesus, He rebuked Peter saying, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are
a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests
but man's" (Matt. 16:23). When we set our mind on our own interests, we
become a stumbling block to Jesus and to the kingdom of God. It is then, that
Satan succeeds in leading us astray.
The essence of salvation from sin is to be
saved from "seeking our own". Lucifer sought his own, and sin came
into the universe. Jesus never sought His own, and thus brought salvation. A
righteousness that still leaves a man seeking his own, is a counterfeit
righteousness. Yet this is the righteousness that one sees even in many groups
proclaiming holiness. Man is basically 'business minded' - and so he would like
to get heaven's best, with minimum inconvenience to himself. Thus he is forever
prone to invent a convenient theology that does not disturb his comfort or his
It is possible to have overcome anger,
sexual sins and bitterness and also have made restitution in all matters
(concerning one's past life) and yet to be seeking one's own - one's own
comfort and convenience or one's wife's convenience and comfort, (In 1 Cor.
7:33, such pleasing of one's wife is called being occupied with 'the things of
this world'!), or one's own honour (not perhaps in the world, but in the church
and particularly the honour and esteem of the elder brothers), or one's own
gain (in the pursuit of professional ambitions etc), etc.
It is possible to believe, to understand
and even to be able to explain the mystery of godliness, and yet not to
have understood the mystery of iniquity.
The secret source of all iniquity is the
desire to seek our own. This is one of the most deceptive desires in our flesh.
One can imagine himself to be spiritual, just because of having overcome a few
superficial sins, when `seeking one's own' may still be rampant in his
decisions and actions. Such is the deception of Satan when he comes as a
minister of 'righteousness'! Such is the mystery of iniquity!
We have no lack of biblical knowledge in
our day. In fact, it is quite likely that the clever ones among us are able to
explain the doctrines of the new covenant even better than Paul himself (who
had the first revelation on it) could! Yet it is more than likely that our life
is thousands of miles behind Paul's, in being freed from seeking our own!
The one thing that marks out a true man of
God is not that he holds a particular doctrine - but rather that he does not
seek his own. Paul says in Phil. 2:19-21 that most of his co-workers were still
seeking their own, and that therefore he could not send them to Philippi. Timothy
however was a glorious exception. Paul's co-workers had all their doctrines
perfectly right, no doubt. Yet they sought their own. They may even have
considered themselves righteous and spiritually superior to others around them.
Yet Paul could see through the shallowness of their 'righteousness'. The same
situation persists today.
The one thing that all truly great men of
God have had in common, through the centuries of Christian history, is this:
that they did not seek their own. It is not the finer points of doctrine that
made them men of God, but rather this one common factor - that they did not
seek their own. Some may not have had as accurate an understanding of the truth
as we have. But their spirituality lay in the fact that they selflessly sought
the kingdom of God, according to the light that they had, in their day and
If we today have more light on some truths
in Scripture than many godly men, then we must remember that to whom more is
given, from them more will be required. We are in great danger then, if we
think that righteousness consists merely in overcoming anger, sexual sins, etc.
There are devout men of other religions who have conquered these sins
(externally). One famous religious leader is reported to have stated that it
was impossible for others to provoke him to anger. But that is not the
righteousness of Christ. That is merely suppression! Many hermits also claim to
have no attachment to material things. They certainly put many 'believers' to
We can look at all these sins of the flesh
as the Philistines that stood with their captain Goliath against Israel.
Goliath himself, however, is the giant of 'seeking our own'. If David had
merely killed the Philistine soldiers one by one, there would have been no
victory - or at best, a long drawn out one that may have taken many years. But
we read that when David killed Goliath, all the other Philistines ran away (1
Sam. 17:51). This is the secret. We are to concentrate all our attack on the
giant, 'seeking our own', if we are to win a real victory. Then the other sins
will automatically be overcome.
Jesus came to lay the axe to the root of
the tree. The fruits of the tree are many - lying, stealing, coveting, anger,
bitterness, etc. The root of them all, however, is to seek one's own. Here is
where the axe must be laid. Otherwise we shall be deceived.
It is possible to imagine that we are
walking in holiness, just because we are never seen losing our temper and
because we speak a certain religious language. Yet our mind, energy and time
may often be spent in the acquisition of more and more material things for our
homes, pleasing our wives, making our children happy, and living a generally
comfortable middle class life. To live like this and to imagine that we are
holy is the height of self deception.
Paul was afraid that the Corinthians would
be led astray from simple devotion to Christ. There is a real danger of our
devotion to our wives becoming more than our devotion to Christ. The first
commandment is not to love our neighbour as ourselves, but to love God with all
our heart, soul, strength and mind. It is when we do that first, that we shall
be able to love our neighbour (including one's wife) aright.
Christians pursuing righteousness can be
like a pendulum that swings to one extreme, and then, on seeing their error,
swinging to the other extreme. There are cliffs on both sides of the narrow way
- and Satan does not really mind which of the two cliffs you fall over!
But we praise God for the ministry of the
Holy Spirit. "If you leave God's paths and go astray (to the right or to
the left), you will hear a Voice behind you say, 'No, this is the way; walk
here'" (Isa. 30:21 LB). This is the main purpose of prophetic ministry in
the church - to let that Voice speak to us, keeping us right in the centre of
the narrow way. The prophetic ministry in the church, and the written word of
God are the means God uses to keep us in the centre of the narrow path that
leads to life.
Having seen the unreality in much of
Christendom that has emphasised external activity, neglecting their family
life, we can now swing to the other extreme of thinking that Christianity
consists of only loving our wife, children and other Christians who speak our
'language' in our ghetto! We must certainly live in love with our family and
assembly members and also overcome sin in our personal life. But our devotion
to Christ must also be expressed in seeking to promote His kingdom, even at
personal cost and sacrifice. Inward purity and external sacrifice are not
mutually exclusive - for Jesus had both in His life.
The apostle Paul could have settled down
to a comfortable Christian life in Tarsus as a Christian businessman and lived
a holy life. But he did not do that. His devotion to Christ compelled him so
that he offered to the Lord that which cost him everything in this life.
Two hundred years ago, two of the Moravian
brothers heard of a slave colony on an island in the West Indies and decided to
sell themselves as slaves there for the rest of their lives, in order to preach
the gospel to those slaves. Two others heard of a leper colony in Africa, where
no one was allowed to enter and return, for fear that the disease might spread.
They volunteered to go into that leper colony for the rest of their lives in
order to present Christ to the inmates of that colony.
I do not know the minute details of
doctrine that these men believed. But they certainly did not seek their own and
they certainly offered to the Lord that which cost them everything.
Our petty self-denials today pale into
insignificance in the light of what men like these have given up for the Lord.
In eternity, we shall meet such men and we shall discover that the bride of
Christ comprises of men and women who have the same nature as Christ - that is,
"not seeking their own". Some of us are in danger of thinking that it
is a doctrinal understanding that qualifies us to be in the bride of Christ. It
is not. It is a life of seeking God's interests and not our own.
How shallow our lives and labours are,
compared with those of men like these. What monumental conceit it is for us to
think that we are following Jesus better than these men did, just because we
know more of the truth! How much has it cost us to serve God - in terms of loss
of money, comfort, convenience and health? Perhaps very little, or nothing.
That should humble us and make us think. Perhaps we have conveniently avoided a
life of sacrifice.
Every Christian who can read English
should read and be challenged by biographies of men like Hudson Taylor, C. T.
Studd, David Brainerd, William Carey, William Booth, Jim Elliot etc. The Holy
Spirit has used the examples of many men in Heb. 11 and of Paul in 2 Cor. 11,
to encourage our faith; and the examples of these modern day heroes also can
challenge us out of our self-centred, family-centred, comfort loving,
materialistic Christianity, into a life of devotion to Christ.
In Jesus' days there were those who sold
sheep and doves and exchanged money in the temple in the name of religion.
Jesus drove them out. Godliness had become a means of gain for them. Whenever
godliness becomes a means of gain for ourselves - gain of money, comfort, ease,
etc, we can be sure that we are on the wrong track even if we imagine ourselves
to be pursuing righteousness. For Jesus, godliness meant the giving up of
everything that this world holds dear. It will cost the same for us, if we are
really wholehearted. (Read Matt. 19:29 for example, and see if you have had to give
up the things that Jesus mentioned there).
Jesus said that the pearl of great price
could be obtained only if we gave up everything that we had (Matt. 13:46; Lk.
14:33). Paul had to give up everything 'to gain Christ' (Phil. 3:8). If we
today have succeeded in gaining Christ without giving up everything, then it
must be another 'Christ' that we have 'gained'. This is the fear that
Paul had for the Corinthian Christians - that they would end up following
'another Jesus' who did not demand the forsaking of everything (2 Cor. 11:4).
We can also deceive ourselves by theologically defining 'forsaking all' in such
a convenient way that in actual fact we have to forsake nothing at all. If we
do not face up to the truth in this matter, we shall end up being led astray by
a spirit of delusion. God Himself will let us be deceived.
The mere admiration of saintly men of God
will not make us spiritual. Many people admired Jesus when He was on earth; but
they did not become spiritual. There were also many who believed in Him, but He
did not commit Himself even to them (Jn. 2:24,25) - for He knew who were
wholehearted and who were not. He knows even today.
Let us then stop gloating over the little
Philistines that we have slain here and there, while Goliath still stands tall
and erect. The stone in our sling must be aimed at this giant: seeking our own.
This is the one whose head we must cut off, if true victory is to be ours. The
life of ours that Jesus told us to hate is this life that seeks its own (Jn.
If we walk in the light and seek to
discover the self-centredness that defiles most of our actions and decisions,
and judge ourselves ruthlessly in those areas, then little by little we shall
see this giant overcome and slain.
Jesus once told Peter that he was
expressing Satan's thoughts, soon after telling him about the building of the
church (Matt. 16:18-23). The church that the gates of Hades cannot overcome is
a church that is built on those who seek God's interests and not their own. It
is not built with those who have merely given intellectual acknowledgment to
evangelical doctrine and who have slain a few petty Philistines.
SANCTIFICATION AND FELLOWSHIP
The word 'fellowship' is a new
covenant word. The fellowship spoken of in the new covenant is patterned after
the fellowship that Jesus and the Father had with each other during Jesus'
earthly days. Jesus' prayer was that the fellowship among His disciples would
be of the same order.
Under the old covenant, although people
could rise to great heights of holiness, yet they could come into fellowship
with each other. There were godly men under the old covenant - Moses, Elijah,
Daniel and John the Baptist, to name but a few. These men had a holiness that
exceeded the holiness of most of today's believers. But that is because most of
today's believers have not entered into the new covenant.
The new covenant leads the disciples of
Jesus into an inward sanctification, that in turn leads to fellowship one with
another. When we read of the great men of faith in Heb. 11, we see that they
were all lonely individuals. This is how it was in Old Testament times. But as
soon as we turn to the New Testament, we find Jesus sending out His disciples
two by two. This was something new. Jesus came not only to lead us to an inward
sanctification but also to fellowship.
If a believer comes to a life of victory
over sin inwardly, and yet does not come into fellowship with others, there is
something drastically lacking in his sanctification. Sanctification without
fellowship is a deception. Many are travelling around the world today,
preaching holiness; but they themselves are lonely individuals like those in
Old Testament times. Such preachers are still under the old covenant.
Invariably it will be seen that they have not built any fellowship in the place
that they reside.
But it was not so with the apostles in the
first century. Soon after the day of Pentecost, we read of Peter and John going
out together. Peter told the lame man in the temple to look at both John and
himself (Acts 3:4). Peter and John worked as a team. On the day of Pentecost,
even though it was Peter who preached, yet we read that he stood up with the
eleven (Acts 2:14). Fellowship is the one thing that stands out when we read
Acts chapters 2 to 4.
Peter and John were not men of
similar temperament. They were vastly different as human beings. Peter was the
quick and active type - quick to boast that he would never deny the Lord, quick
to jump into the sea of Galilee, as soon as he saw the Lord by the shore (Jn.
21), etc., John, on the other hand, was the quiet meditative type who loved to
be alone and to see visions of heavenly things (as at Patmos). God always
brings together people who are dissimilar (humanly speaking), in the church -
so that He can demonstrate a unity in diversity that is far more glorious than
the unity of two similar people becoming one.
In Acts 13:2, we read of the leaders of
the church in Antioch fasting and worshipping the Lord, seeking His direction.
The Holy Spirit then spoke to them to separate Saul and Barnabas for His
service. Notice again, that unlike Old Testament times, the Spirit called two
people and not one. This was the new covenant age and there was no place now
for an individualistic ministry. There had to be an expression of Christ's body
- and for this, a minimum of two people were required.
Here again the Spirit called two people of
dissimilar temperaments to work together. Paul was a strict,
uncompromising man who would not tolerate any halfheartedness in anyone. In
Acts 15:36-39, when Paul and Barnabas had a discussion concerning asking Mark
to accompany them on their second journey. Paul would have none of it, because
Mark had left them half way through their first journey. Barnabas, (who was
given that name because he had such an outstanding ministry of encouragement -
Acts 4:36) on the other hand, wanted to give Mark one more chance. Paul and
Barnabas stuck so much to their own view points on this issue that they
separated from each other. Obviously, they were both still very strong-willed
and had not yet come (in their own spiritual development) to the place where
they had acquired the wisdom from above that is 'willing to yield' (Jas. 3:17).
The apostles were not ready-made saints.
They too had to develop like all of us - and get light on their flesh, little
by little. Later on Paul, Barnabas and Mark came into a glorious fellowship
with each other (as is evident from 2 Tim. 4:11).
Paul and Barnabas had dissimilar
temperaments. The Holy Spirit had called them together. Yet they did not know
how to get along with each other. This is the condition with many believers
even today. Such a condition is tolerable among the immature. But what shall we
say when we see such a condition existing even among those who have been
believers for over ten years. That is pathetic, to say the least.
Paul majored on 'truth'. Barnabas
majored on 'grace'. If each had seen and appreciated the need for the
other, the glory of God could have been seen in them, full of grace and truth
(Jn. 1:14). Together they could have produced something that neither of them
could have done individually. This is why the Holy Spirit called them
together. If a church had only the ministry of a man like the young Paul,
everyone would have been driven out, and only Paul would have been left! If, on
the other hand, it had only the ministry of a man like the young Barnabas, it
may have ended up as a jellyfish-like organisation without backbone, and full
of halfhearted compromisers. But together, Paul and Barnabas could have built
the true church. This is what Satan did not permit them to see in Acts 15.
Thank God that they saw it later.
When Barnabas left Paul, the Holy Spirit
prepared another co-worker for Paul. We read of this person immediately after
the Acts 15 incident, in Acts 16:1 - Timothy. The Spirit was not going to let
Paul minister alone. He prepared a co-worker for him, who again, was
temperamentally the exact opposite of Paul. Timothy was a shy, retiring, timid
type of person - an introvert, in contrast to Paul the extrovert. They were
both totally alike in their devotion to the Lord, in their wholeheartedness,
and in their freedom from 'seeking their own' (Phil. 2:19-21). But they were
poles apart temperamentally. Yet Paul grew to appreciate Timothy more than any
of his other co-workers. They had glorious fellowship together, despite their
different temperaments. At last the Holy Spirit was able to accomplish what He
wanted to, in Paul.
It is folly to imitate the ministry of
another - for then one's own ministry in the body is hindered. This is the
folly of many young people. They admire the ministry of some men of God and try
to imitate it, without having the same calling themselves. As a result, they
drown in a sea of carnality and soulishness. In Heb. 11:29 we are told that
while the Israelites could cross the Red Sea without any difficulty, because
God had called them to do so, the Egyptians drowned in it, because they tried
to imitate the Israelites. This is a warning to all who try to imitate
the ministry of others.
Consider a few examples: Very few are
called to a ministry like Jeremiah's, of plucking up, breaking down, destroying
and overthrowing (Jer. 1:10). One without that calling, who tries to imitate
that, can destroy not only his own unique God-given ministry in the body, but
his soul as well. In the same way, we are also warned not to become teachers
(Jas. 3:1). Those who are specifically called by God to be teachers in the
church (1 Cor. 12:29; Eph. 4:11) will have the grace to fulfil their ministry
triumphantly. Others who imitate them will not only be drowned themselves but
may also succeed in drowning others in a sea of confusion and wrong teaching.
The new covenant is meant to lead people
into the body of Christ. There was no `body' in the old covenant. This
was because the Holy Spirit did not indwell men then. Therefore it was
impossible for any two people to come into fellowship with each other.
Under the old covenant, they were `human' in their behaviour; and
therefore, it was impossible to have fellowship. Under the new covenant, we are
to be `divine' in our behaviour, because we can now partake of the
divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4). Thus fellowship becomes gloriously possible, and
the body can be built.
When people living in this day and age,
still cannot come into fellowship with each other, it is obvious that they are
still carnal, babes and 'human'. Paul reproved the Christians at Corinth for
this, saying, "You are still fleshly ... Are you not walking like mere
men?" (1 Cor. 3:3). When people are 'human' they seek to join together
with people who are similar to them. The Malayalees will join together to form
a church of their own, the Anglo-Indians will form another and the Tamilians
yet another. These are clubs, and not the church of Jesus Christ!
The way God has planned the body, however,
He has placed people of different backgrounds, communities, nationalities,
temperaments, intellectual abilities, social and financial levels all together,
so that through fellowship one with another, each one's rough edges can be
rubbed off. Thus there is a simultaneous development of both sanctification and
In Heb. 12:4 we are told to pursue after
fellowship ('peace with all men') and sanctification. These two cannot be
separated in the new covenant. They are like our two feet. If we put our left
foot forward when walking, then we have to put our right foot forward for the
next step. It must be thus with sanctification and fellowship. Very often, we find
believers who are gripped by the message of sanctification who are not at all
gripped by the necessity of fellowship. They are like people who have one lame
leg and who are trying to hop forward with just one leg - sanctification. They
are interested in cleansing themselves of impurity in thought, word and deed
and perhaps even in attitude and motive. But they do not seem to value or
cultivate fellowship with others in the body. We can then say that their
pursuit of sanctification is a selfish pursuit that will finally lead them to
the wrong destination - for holiness without fellowship is a counterfeit. We
must never forget this.
There may be also some cases which are the
opposite, where people seek for fellowship, but do not pursue after
sanctification in their private lives. Such fellowship, without sanctification,
is also a counterfeit.
Both our legs must be strong if we are to
walk forward properly. In the previous verse (Heb. 12:12,13), we are
told to strengthen that particular limb that is lame (whichever it is), so that
it is healed. Here is where all of us can profitably ask for God's light so
that we can examine ourselves and judge ourselves rightly.
The oneness that we are to have is to be
like the oneness that Jesus had with the Father during His earthly life. It was
a oneness in spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, all exercise different
ministries in our redemption. The Father sent the Son. The Son took a body and
died for our sins. The Holy Spirit now works within us to make us like the Son.
There is no confusion in these ministries. Yet all three are perfectly one. It
must be thus in the church too.
God, in His sovereignty, has given a
particular ministry to each and every member in the body of Christ (1 Cor.
12:7,8). We could say that God has drawn a circle around each person. In some
cases the circle is very large and in some cases it is very small (Matt.
25:15). Within your own circle, you can find God (Acts 17:26,27). Outside your
circle, you can only destroy yourself, by being a busybody in other people's
matters. Peter says that instead of suffering as a busybody in other people's
matters, we should judge ourselves and suffer in our own flesh (1 Pet.
For example: How another brother brings up
his children or spends his money, is really none of our business. That is
outside our circle. God has given us no authority in another's circle.
Therefore we should take heed only to ourselves (1 Tim. 4:16).
When we were in the world, we could say
that we had made a very large circle for ourselves that involved having
opinions about many people and many matters. But now we must be careful to stay
within the circle that God has drawn around us as individuals. In most cases,
that is a circle that contains only one person - yourself! If you are a parent,
the circle will take in your family as well. If you are an elder in a church,
the circle will take in those in your church. But in almost all other cases,
each person has to judge only himself.
It is when we transgress and go beyond the
boundaries of our own circle that fellowship with others is destroyed; and our
own sanctification is hindered as well.
We are commanded to "be subject to
one another in the fear of Christ" (Eph. 5:21). This means that the fear
of Christ should make us afraid to tread into another's circle. We will
restrain ourselves in our fellowship with each other, so as not to be a
busybody in matters that do not concern us.
Curiosity is a deadly but undetected sin
in the lives of many believers. This is one of the earliest manifestations of
being a busybody in other people's matters. Children are usually curious to
eavesdrop and listen in on the conversations of others. Paul said, "When I
became a man, I put away childish things" (1 Cor. 13:11). But most
believers do not put away this evil habit even after growing up. Such curiosity
finally leads them to the still more evil habit of gossiping. Those who
practise this habit, that is characteristic of old women, will find that they
are unable to discipline themselves to lead a godly life (See 1 Tim. 4:7).
Pornography also is but Satan's way of satisfying the evil curiosity in the
flesh to see the naked bodies of others.
Jesus was tempted like us to be curious
too. But He steadfastly refused to go outside the circle that His Father had
drawn around Him. Thus He never sinned even once in this area in His 33½ years
on earth. When we see how weak we are in this area of curiosity, we can
understand what a mighty accomplishment Jesus' victory was in this area alone.
To be curious to know who is getting married to whom, and who is going to have
a baby next, etc, is the pastime of ungodly people. No wholehearted brother or
sister will ever engage in such a pastime.
Going beyond the boundaries of one's
circle can also be seen in the way some elders, husbands and parents lord it
over those who are to be subject to them. We must never terrify our children or
put a pressure on our wife or on the other brothers in the church, in any way.
The words of Elihu are very fitting here, "No fear of me should terrify
you, nor should my pressure weigh heavily on you" (Job 33:7).
Each of us should be careful to ensure
that those who are under our authority in any way (children, wife, servants,
believers, etc.) never feel terrified or pressurised or threatened. It is very
easy to go beyond our boundaries when we have power over others. Then
fellowship is destroyed.
A husband can so dominate his wife, as to
crush her personality. This is foolish. God has made a husband and wife
different from each other, so that each can be a help to the other. In viewing
any issue, you as a husband may view it from one angle, and your wife from
another. That would be like your taking a photograph of a building from the
north side and your wife taking a picture of the same building from the south
side. When the two pictures are laid side by side, they may look completely
different. But only thus do you get a complete view of the building. You would
be a foolish husband then, if you demolished your wife's individuality, so as
to make her take every photograph from your viewpoint alone! The loss will then
be yours. If you had allowed her to be herself, you could have obtained another
view of the matter that would have enlarged your own understanding of it, and
made you wiser. Here is where many a husband has to cleanse himself of his
Sanctification and fellowship belong
One step forward with the left leg of
sanctification should be followed by the right leg of fellowship - in every
relationship, whether of husband and wife, brother and brother, or sister and
Those who walk in the light of God (1 Jn.
1:7) will use both feet to walk. Thus they will get increasing light on the
evil that dwells in their own flesh; and in judging and cleansing themselves
there, they will find that their fellowship with others who are walking the
same way also becomes more and more glorious. Thus the church will radiate the
glory of Christ to the world around.
OVERCOMING THE SPIRIT OF THE ANTICHRIST
We are living in the days immediately
preceding the emergence of the Antichrist on the world scene. But before he
becomes manifest as Satan's chief representative on earth, there will be a
gradual build-up of the world situation to pave the way for him - somewhat like
the slope that leads to the summit of the mountain. The building up of this
slope had commenced even in the first century - as John tells us in 1 Jn. 2:18
- "It is the last hour; and just as you have heard that Antichrist is
coming, even now many antichrists have arisen". The Holy Spirit states
there that it was already 11 p.m. at the time when that was written - around
We are in the closing seconds of the age
now. Things have come to the stage where the summit has almost been reached. We
are to live as those who have understanding of the times in which we live
The kingdom of the Antichrist will be
political, economic and religious. We want to consider just the religious
aspect of it. The devil has accomplished his purposes far more through false
religions than through atheistic governments; and also far more through
counterfeit Christianity than through false religions. This is why John speaks
about the antichrists as having sat in the Christian churches of the first
century. They were however driven out through the strong preaching of the
apostles. "They went out from our midst", he says (1 Jn. 2:19).
This spirit of the antichrist is now found
in abundance in Christendom today. We need to identify it clearly for what it
is, for only then can we drive it out of our own flesh and then out of our
The characteristics of the Antichrist are
described briefly in 2 Thess. 2:3-12:
1) He is called the man of sin (v. 3).
2) He is one who exalts himself, wanting
to be like God (v. 4).
3) He is one who lies and deceives (v.
These give us an indication as to what we
can expect to find in the antichrists who sit in Christian assemblies today, as
they did in the days of John.
The Antichrist is called the man of sin.
His spirit will be manifested in Christendom by a casual attitude towards sin.
Preaching against sin will become unpopular in this last generation before
Christ returns. There may be plenty of preaching on social equality, on caring
for the poor and the illiterate, on providing relief for flood victims, etc, -
all of which are good. But there will be hardly any emphasis on sins such as
the love of money and material things, sexually sinful thoughts, unforgiving
attitudes, outbursts of anger, seeking the honour of men, backbiting,
gossiping, etc, (the things that Jesus mentioned in Matt. 5-7). 'The mystery of
iniquity' (2 Thess. 2:7) will be seen as a false grace that assures people that
they are eternally secure just because they once 'accepted Christ', despite the
fact that they continue to live in sin. Such preaching tickles the ears and
therefore many believers will readily listen to it (2 Tim. 4:3,4).
In Rev. 13, where the reign of the
Antichrist is described, we are told that he gives his followers the option of
following him either publicly or secretly. They can receive his
mark on their forehead (if they desire to serve him publicly) or on the palm of
their right hand (if they desire to retain their reputation as believers in a
Christian assembly, and yet want the privileges that can be theirs through
receiving the mark of 'the beast') (Rev. 13:16,17). The followers of Jesus, who
are described in the next verse, however have no such option. Their mark must
be on their foreheads (Rev. 14:1).
In the reign of the Antichrist, it will
not be possible to buy even essential foodstuffs without 'the mark of the
beast'. We have not reached that summit yet, but we are fairly close to it. It
is difficult to get employment and admission in many educational institutions
in India today, without defiling your right hand with a bribe (one mark of the
beast). Factory workers who do not contribute towards the 'Ayudha Puja'
festival, each year, are punished by being given difficult tasks in some
factories. Many so-called believers compromise in such situations, and yet come
to the meetings on Sundays to worship the Lord as `spiritual' believers. How is
this possible? Because no one else in the assembly knows of the unrighteousness
and sin that they have practised during the week. The mark of the beast is
invisible on their right palm. They may even justify their actions by saying
that one has to give in a little if one wants to survive. These are the
ones who feel that bowing down to Satan is justifiable, if it is done in
secret, in such a way that one does not lose one's testimony! Today, there are
even elders of New-Testament-pattern assemblies who have received the mark of
the beast on their right hands in secret. Thus the spirit of the Antichrist
rules in such assemblies. Here lies the reason for so much strife and
quarrelling and death in many churches.
Only those who have a radical attitude
against sin in every form, and who seek to hate sin as Jesus hated it (Heb.
1:9), can have the power to expose and drive out sin from the assemblies of
Lucifer became Satan by wanting to exalt
himself to become like God, so that he could receive the worship of his fellow
angels. The desire for worship is found everywhere today - in political
circles, business circles and religious circles as well. In false religions,
there are so-called god-men who are actually worshipped too.
In Christendom too, we find men who desire
to exalt themselves over others by titles such as 'Reverend Father',
'Reverend Doctor', 'Pastor' - just like the Jewish 'Rabbis', whom
Jesus condemned. At the root of all such titles lies the same Satanic desire
for the worship of others. This is the same spirit that the Antichrist will
have who will "exalt himself ... displaying himself as God" (2 Thess.
This desire for the worship of others is
also manifested in more subtle ways such as in the sending out of reports of
one's work replete with statistics and photographs (usually with plenty of
photographs of the leader preaching or praying, etc).
The desire to exalt oneself over one's
fellow believers can also be seen in scheming to be an elder in an assembly,
wanting to travel the world as a well known preacher, giving advice to others
on various matters (even when they do not ask for advice!), criticising and
passing judgment on the work of others as 'self-appointed censors' (Jas. 3:1
Amplified Bible), preaching beautifully arranged sermons for the honour of
men, trying to prove oneself as a better preacher than another, imitating the
gifts and ministries of others, justifying oneself when one has fallen in sin (Lk.
16:15), and in other ways in which one seeks to get a name for himself.
We need to see clearly that all these
desires and many more ugly ones lie dormant in our flesh, needing to be
severely judged, if we are to be free from them. Only then can we have the
authority and power to drive out this spirit of the Antichrist from the
The Antichrist will deceive the world
through "lying signs and wonders and the deception of wickedness" (2
Satan is the father of all lies (Jn.
8:44). The child of God who tells a lie through his tongue is actually offering
his tongue as a womb for Satan to conceive a lie. Lying is the one sin that all
of us are experts at. We "go astray from birth, telling lies" (Psa.
58:3). There are various forms of lying such as telling half-truths, presenting
only one side of the picture (when we want to justify ourselves), exaggerating
the reports about our work or in the fantastic relating of incidents (such as
is found in many Christian biographies these days, which simple believers often
swallow without any discernment), feigning pain and sickness to get pity and
sympathy for oneself, pretending to be generous or inwardly pure (when one is
not), or relating incidents connected with prayer, fasting or casting out
demons in order to give an impression that one is an expert in these matters.
There are hundreds of possibilities of lying.
If you are defeated by sin but are honest
about it and are mourning over the matter, there is great hope for you. But if
you claim to have victory over sin or give others that impression through your
preaching, and yet are defeated by it inwardly or privately, then be assured
that the words of Jesus apply to you, "You hypocrites, how can you escape
the damnation of hell?" (Matt. 23:33) - even if you claim to be a Spirit
Lying cannot be rooted out of our lives,
unless we take a radical attitude against it every time we detect it in our
lives. There are many who talk the language of holiness who have not taken a
radical attitude against lying in their lives. The spirit of the
Antichrist still has power over them, for they seek to justify themselves before
men, but do not fear God who will bring every secret thing to judgment one day.
Our assemblies must be places where liars of every sort must be ruthlessly
exposed through the preaching of the word. It was thus that the antichrists
were driven out in John's day and only thus will the antichrists be driven out
in our day as well.
We saw that the Antichrist will deceive
people through lying signs and wonders. Supernatural miracles have a great
capacity to deceive people. In India, we have seen many instances of heathen
religious leaders who have built up a following for themselves through doing
miracles by Satanic power.
Supernatural miracles and healings
however, are also a part of the equipment that God has given to His church, to
fulfil its task on earth. Jesus, Peter and Paul did miracles of such magnitude,
such as are not even heard of today. This was because of their faith. The
accounts in the 'Acts of the Apostles' are a standing rebuke to the smallness
of our own faith today. A church without the gifts of the Spirit is like a man,
who though alive, is yet blind, dumb, deaf and paralysed, according to 1 Cor.
12 (where the gifts are compared to the eyes, ear, hand, etc). We do not want
to be like those unbelieving believers who say that the age of miracles has
passed. That age has certainly passed for them, because of their unbelief! -
but not for those who believe.
However, this does not mean that everyone
who does miracles in the name of Jesus can be followed blindly. There are many
who do such miracles, who will finally be rejected and cast out by the Lord
Himself! (Matt. 7:22,23). Why then does God allow such people to do miracles in
Jesus' name? The answer is given us clearly in Deut. 13:1-5. God allows it in
order to test us to see whether we will be led astray by signs and wonders, or
whether we will follow the plain commands of Scripture. It is important
therefore to make sure that your spiritual leader is not one who will himself
be cast out by the Lord in the final day. (Read Rev. 13:13,14 carefully at this
point to see how the false prophet - who looks like a lamb (Rev. 13:11), a
disciple of Jesus - deceives people through signs and wonders!).
How then shall we keep ourselves from
being deceived? The answer lies in checking the Christian miracle worker by the
three characteristics of the Antichrist mentioned above. Ask yourself the
following questions and you will get the answer:
1. Is his life and ministry leading people
to be free from sin's power, or only to the forgiveness of sins? Does he
emphasise purity of heart and life?
2. Is he a humble, self-effacing man, like
Jesus and the apostles were? Or is he interested in projecting himself, making
you dependent on him, his advice and his prophecies, so that you cannot be
connected to Christ as your Head? Does he have the spirit of a servant or of a
boss who gives orders to others around him?
3. Have you found an honesty and a
sincerity in his life - an uprightness and straightforwardness - particularly
in money matters? (Beware of those who are always interested in your tithes and
Jesus, Peter and Paul would pass the test,
but not many preachers and so-called "healers" today.
Through the spirit of the Antichrist,
Satan has polluted Christendom. May God raise up many in our land with the
power of the apostles to drive out this spirit from the churches of India.
VICTORY THROUGH PRAISE
Our calling as disciples of Jesus is to
live by faith. The chief mark of faith is praise and thanksgiving. "They
believed His words ... they sang His praise" (Psa. 106:12). The Israelites
referred to there could however, praise God only after they saw the Egyptians
drowned in the Red Sea. Then they believed God and praised Him. They walked by
But we walk by faith. We can believe God's
word even before we see our enemies drowned in the sea, and we can
praise God even while our enemies are still before us. We believe that God will
deal with them in His own way and in His own time. This is why we who are under
the new covenant can praise God in all circumstances and at all times.
In Heb. 2:12,13 we read that Jesus Himself
leads us in the midst of the church in praise to God our Father, because we
"put out trust in Him". Trust and praise are two sides of one coin.
Faith, without praise and thanksgiving, is a counterfeit faith - a dead faith.
As 'younger brothers' of Jesus (which is what He calls us in Heb. 2:11,12), we
are called to follow the example of our Elder Brother in praising the Father -
privately, as well as "in the midst of the church".
God is a great King, but the throne He
sits on is not made of silver or gold. Such a throne would be too cheap for Him. "Thou art enthroned upon the praises of Thy
people", says the psalmist (Psa. 22:3). Praise forms the throne on which
God sits as a King. This is why heaven is a place of perpetual praise. The
angels are constantly praising God. This is the throne on which God sits in
heaven. When the Holy Spirit comes into our hearts, He brings heaven down into
our hearts and we too can prepare a throne of praise for our God to be
enthroned upon - in our hearts, in our homes and in the church.
This is why it is so important to work out
our salvation from all grumbling and complaining, with fear and trembling, for
God (the Holy Spirit) is working in our hearts to prepare a throne for the
Father (See Phil. 2:12-14 together). God is also working outside of us in all
our circumstances to make them work together for our good. So there is really
nothing to grumble or complain about - if we have faith in Rom. 8:28.
It is not possible to praise God
effectively in the church, if we are grumbling and complaining at other times
at home or in the office. True praise can only come from a crucified life. It
is significant that the only verse in the Bible that tells us that God sits on
the throne of the praises of His people is found in the midst of a psalm that
vividly portrays the crucifixion (Psa. 22:3). The psalm begins with the cry of
Jesus on the cross and it refers to His hands and feet being pierced (v. 16);
and then in the midst of this very psalm, Jesus refers to us as His younger
brothers and invites us to join Him in preparing a throne of praise for the
Father (see v. 22,23). We too are crucified with Him on the same cross - and
there, while crucified with Him to the world, and to our lusts, we sing the
praise of the Father. Herein lies the hollowness of a lot of praise and worship
that is found in many churches, where the word of the cross does not have the
central place. Some who have seen this hollowness have reacted against praise
and worship altogether and decided that it has no place in the new covenant
worship. But this is to fall over the cliff on the opposite side!
On the cross, crucified with Christ, we
prepare a throne of praise for the Father. Psa. 118 is another psalm of the
cross and of Christ (see v. 11-14, 22). We lay ourselves on the altar and bind
ourselves with cords to the cross (v. 27), and lying there we "give thanks
to the Lord" (v. 28,29) and say, "This is the day that the Lord has
made; let us rejoice and be glad in it" (v. 24).
Jesus has been anointed as our Head to
give us "the oil of gladness and the garment of praise" (Isa.
61:1-3), instead of the spirit of heaviness and depression. If you are living
under the spirit of depression, you can be sure that it is the work of Satan.
Jesus has come to cast out that spirit from your life permanently, and to
clothe and cover you with the garment of praise. It is never God's will for us
to be depressed or discouraged or in a bad mood - for Jesus was never
depressed, discouraged or in a bad mood at any time; and we are called to walk
even as He walked (1 Jn. 2:6). But this is only possible if we take up the
cross each day, as Jesus did.
In Psa. 8:2 we read that from the mouths
of infants and nursing babes, God establishes strength to defeat the enemies.
Jesus quoted this verse at the time when the chief priests criticised the
children for shouting and praising God (Matt. 21:15,16). The chief priests,
like many today, felt that in the house of God no one should shout or raise
their voice in praise and worship. They thought that people should be
long-faced and quiet in God's presence. But Jesus was thrilled to hear the
noise of praise, for it reminded Him of His heavenly home where the angels
praise God in voices that sound like loud thunders! This is one reason why
Satan and his hosts cannot dwell in heaven - for they cannot stand the shouts
of sincere praise to God. Neither can they stand it when such praise is found
in any church here on earth. And so they will try one of two methods - either
to rob the sincerity out of the praise or to stop the shouts of praise
altogether. As one looks around at the various Christian denominations, one
finds that Satan has succeeded almost everywhere with one of these two methods.
Why does Satan hate sincere praise to God?
Jesus quoted Psa. 8:2 and said the 'strength' spoken of in that psalm was
actually 'praise' (Matt. 21:16). Praise is the strength by which the enemy is
driven out (Psa. 8:2).
Empty shouts of praise that do not come
from a holy life, however, do not have any power. In Ex. 32, we read that the
Israelites made a golden calf and even called it 'Jehovah' (v. 5) and danced
and shouted to their 'Jehovah' with such a loud voice that Moses and Joshua
heard it miles away (v. 17-19). But Satan was right in the midst of all that
charismatic praise! There was immorality in their midst just as there is in the
midst of many today who shout and dance in the name of 'Jesus'.
As we said earlier, our praise becomes
powerful only when it comes from a crucified, holy life.
In Lk. 19:37,38, when all the disciples of
Jesus began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice, the Pharisees were
disturbed and asked Jesus to tell His disciples to keep quiet. But Jesus
replied that if those disciples kept quiet, the stones would begin to cry out
in praise to God (v. 40). Thus we see Jesus' opinion of loud praise and the
opinion of the Pharisees. How is it in your church? Do you follow the Pharisees
or Jesus? It is because we seek the honour of men so much (of Christian leaders
particularly) that we are afraid to shout and praise God in the assembly.
Religious tradition followed in a particular group may have frowned upon loud
praise, and so everybody in that group blindly follows such a tradition. But we
have to do violence to such traditions if we are to be followers of Jesus and
possess the kingdom (Matt. 11:12).
Jesus had spent millions of years in the
presence of His Father where the atmosphere was one of praise and worship. When
He came to earth and lived among glum, sour-faced gloomy, religious people, it
was quite a change from the atmosphere of heaven. It thrilled Him therefore
whenever He saw a few who had something of the praising atmosphere of heaven in
In the book of Revelation, where many
'sevens' are found, we also have seven glimpses of praise in heaven. If you
have the patience to look through those passages, it would revolutionise your
idea of heaven altogether. The passages are: Rev. 4:8-11; 5:8-14: 7:9-12;
11:15-18; 14:1-4; 15:1-4 and 19:1-6. Every glimpse we have there of our future
home is one of joyful praise that sounds like mighty peals of thunder (19:6). They
praise God there for His sovereignty, His holiness, His judgments, etc. Not one
word of complaint is heard there; and there is not one long-faced, gloomy
angel! If we do not get acclimatised to this atmosphere now, we will get a
culture shock when we get into the Lord's presence and hear people repeatedly
saying "Hallelujah" and "Amen". Notice, however, that the
hallelujahs and amens of heaven are not meaningless. They say "Hallelujah
because ..." (see Rev. 19:1,2,6). It is meaningful worship and praise in
the beauty of holiness. This is what the Holy Spirit has come to reproduce in
our lives and in our churches.
We are told that the 144,000 learned this
new song while on earth (Rev. 14:1-4). The old song that everyone on earth
sings is the song of grumbling and complaining against people and
circumstances. But a few who follow the Lamb wherever He goes (v. 4) - that is
those who take up the cross daily - have learnt to hate themselves (Lk. 14:26)
and thus have eliminated grumbling and complaining from their lives totally -
and having faith in the sovereignty of God (Rom. 8:28), they have learnt to
give thanks in everything (1 Thess. 5:18), for everything (Eph. 5:20) and for
all men (1 Tim. 2:1). In all the trying situations that they faced on earth, they
bore the dying of Jesus in their bodies and learnt the new song of praise and
worship, in all circumstances and for all people. Thus they stand with the Lamb
on Mount Zion in the final day.
It is not enough that we praise God in our
hearts. We are to offer to God the sacrifices of praise (that is praise that
comes from a crucified life) through our lips; and this is one of the few
things in the New Testament that we are told to do continually (Heb. 13:15).
What fills the heart overflows through the mouth, Jesus said (Matt. 12:34). So
if praise does not flow from our lips, it is a clear indication that praise has
not filled our heart. "With the mouth we confess, resulting in deliverance
(salvation)" (Rom. 10:10).
In Psa. 50:23, we read, "He who
offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honours Me and makes a way for Me to show
him My deliverance (salvation)" (literal translation).
God is able to deliver us out of many
situations, only when we begin to praise Him - for praise alone is the mark of
faith. Prayer alone cannot deliver us out of many situations. We must keep
praying until we reach the point where we have the assurance of the Spirit in
our heart that our prayer has been heard. Faith is then born and we
"believe that we have received", even though we do not see the answer
yet. Then, and then only, did Jesus say that we could receive what we pray for
(Mk. 11:24). But what is the evidence that such faith is born in our heart? We
stop praying and start praising God. That, and that alone, is the
clearest evidence of faith. Thus we make a way for God to show us His
In 2 Chronicles 20, we see an example of
this. There we see Jehoshapat surrounded by a great multitude of enemies (v.
2). Jehoshapat did the wisest thing that anyone can do when surrounded by
problems like that. He fasted and prayed and sought the face of the Lord. His
prayer is described for us in v. 6-12, and we notice seven things there.
1) He praised God for His sovereignty (v.
2) He reminded himself of what God had
done in past days (v. 7).
3) He reminded God of His promise in the
word (v. 9).
4) He reminded God that they were God's
own inheritance (v. 11).
5) He told God that they had no power at
all to deal with the situation (v. 12).
6) He told God that they had no wisdom
either (v. 12).
7) He told God that they were relying on
Him (v. 12).
This is a good pattern for our praying
too. God answered at once and said that He would deal with the situation.
Jehoshapat believed God and sent forth in front of the army, a choir of people
who praised God with songs in a loud voice. Through that sacrifice of praise in
the face of the enemies, Jehoshapat made a way for God to show His deliverance.
And God did just that. He routed the enemies thoroughly (v. 22).
In the book of Jonah we see another
example of this. Jonah was in the stomach of the fish for three days and three
nights, and he had not even prayed during that time (1:17). "Then",
it says in 2:1 (that is after the three days and nights), Jonah began to pray.
Maybe for the first three days Jonah was trying to crawl up to the fish's mouth
- just like we try every possible method to get out of our problems. When all
human help fails, then only do most people seek God. And then only did Jonah
seek God - after his own best efforts had failed.
And God waits till we come to the end of
ourselves. Jonah then prayed and prayed. But still nothing happened, until he
began to offer "the sacrifice of thanksgiving" saying that
deliverance comes only from the Lord (2:9). When Jonah began to praise God
while still in the midst of his unsolved problem, he made a way thereby for God
to show him His deliverance. Immediately (we read in 2:10), the Lord commanded
the fish to vomit Jonah out on the dry land.
How much longer are we going to stay in
the stomach of the fish (our particular problem) before we offer the sacrifice
of thanksgiving? God cannot deliver us because we do not honour Him by praising
Him for all things; and so we do not make a way for Him to deliver us (Psa.
One final example - from Acts 16. There we
read of Paul and Silas being jailed for preaching the gospel. At midnight,
instead of sleeping (and far less complaining or grumbling), they began to pray
and praise God in song. They had no complaints. They believed perfectly in
God's sovereignty, and praised God. Immediately God opened the prison doors for
them. That was possible because Paul and Silas made a way for God to work for
them through the sacrifice of praise that came from their lips.
The key to every fish's mouth and every
prison door is in the hands of our wonderful Lord (Rev. 3:7), and when He opens
a door, no one can shut it. And until He opens it, all human help will only
fail. It is easy to praise God when everything is going according to our
desires and plans. But when things go contrary to our expectations, then is the
time that we have the opportunity to offer the sacrifice of praise - for it
costs us something to praise God in such situations. Thus we can make a way for
God to show us His deliverance.
Psalm 149:9 invites us to have the high
praise of God in our mouth when lying on our bed (which is the place where we
usually lie down and worry!) and says that with such praises we can bind the
powers of darkness and execute on them the judgment that is written in God's
word for them (Rom. 16:20). This is a privilege reserved for all of God's
children )Psa. 149:9).
Let us then learn the new song of praise
and thanksgiving in all circumstances, for all circumstances and for all people,
during the rest of the days that are left us on earth - that we may honour God
thereby and experience His deliverances all the days of our life. Amen.
WHY CHRISTIANS FALL
Why do Christians fall into sin?
Before we consider the reasons for this,
we must distinguish clearly between being tempted and sinning. Jas. 1:14,15
clearly states that everyone is tempted when he is lured by his own fleshly
desires. Then when his mind consents to the temptation, a conception takes
place and sin is born in his heart.
When we 'see' the glorious truth that our
old man (this mind of ours that wanted to sin) has been crucified with Christ
(Rom. 6:6), then we can put off the old man by faith. Then we will stop committing
sin deliberately. We are born again (1 Jn. 3:9). We will still be tempted,
but our mind (the new man) no longer agrees with our flesh.
But though we may stop committing sin, we
may nevertheless fall into sin (or be 'caught in a trespass' - Gal. 6:1). There
is a difference between committing sin and falling.
Even though our old man has been crucified
(Rom.6:6), our flesh is still alive to entice us. We however are
determined to be faithful to Christ our Bridegroom; and we have no intention of
giving ourselves to the desires of the flesh. We do not commit adultery with
the flesh, or else we would be adulteresses (Jas. 4:4) and thus become a part
of the harlot (Rev. 17:5) and not a part of Christ's bride. But a woman may
conceive through being forced, even when she does not voluntarily give herself
to a man. In such a case, however, the woman herself is nobler than if she had
given herself voluntarily. This symbolises the difference between falling into
sin (where we are overcome by the desires in our flesh) and committing sin
(where we knowingly choose what we know to be wrong, and give ourselves
to the flesh).
But though falling into sin is not as bad
as committing sin, it nevertheless produces the same result - a conception
giving birth to sin. The New Testament promise is that Jesus can keep us even
from falling (Jude 24). This is the life of victory - where we are kept from
falling into sin as well.
If you have stopped committing sin, but
still find yourself falling into sin, then these may be the reasons why you
1. A Lack Of
The Fear Of God
The fear of God is the beginning
(alphabet) of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). This is the first lesson in the school of
wisdom. If we do not learn the alphabet, we cannot proceed further. "To
fear the Lord is to hate evil", because God Himself hates evil (Prov.
8:13). When we have heard the call of God to be holy because He is holy, and
are gripped by that call, we shall hate sin.
Many believers find it quite easy to
overcome some sins (anger, sexual sins, etc) when in the presence of other
believers, for they are afraid of losing their reputation. But they sin in the
same areas quite easily, when alone. Therefore it is not because they are not
able to overcome these sins that they fall, but because they love their
reputation more than they fear God. They value man's opinion more than God's.
Such Christians need to mourn and repent for "worshipping the creature
(man) more than the Creator" (Rom. 1:25), and need to cry out to God with
all their hearts that God will teach them His fear. The promise is that if you
cry out and lift up your voice and seek the fear of the Lord as you would
hidden treasures, then God will teach you His fear (Prov. 2:3-5; Matt. 5:6). He
will be found only by those who seek Him with all their hearts (Jer. 29:13).
Only those who mourn over their failures will be comforted (strengthened and
helped - Matt. 5:4) by the Comforter.
We need to develop the habit of living
before the face of God alone.
The reason why God has given each of us a
private area - our thought life - is so that He can test us to see whether we
fear Him or not. If we are concerned only about our external reputation before
other men, then we shall be careless about sin in our thought life. Thus God
makes a separation between those who are desirous of total victory and those
who desire only an external victory over sin. If we mourn over sin in our
thought life as over external sin, we shall enter into victory very quickly.
2. A Lack Of
All progress in the Christian life is by
faith. The righteous live by faith (Rom. 1:17) and then their path becomes like
the light that shines brighter and brighter (Prov. 4:18).
We can have faith for the forgiveness of
sins and even for putting off the old man, and thus stop committing sin; and
yet we may not have faith that Jesus can also keep us from falling into sin.
Like the Israelites at Kadesh Barnea, we can be so full of unbelief, looking at
the giants in the land (our flesh), that we do not enter the promised land of
One of the most important laws in the
kingdom of God is that we receive according to our faith (Matt. 9:29) - no more
and no less. There is no partiality with God; but He rewards those who
diligently seek Him in faith (Heb. 11:6). Thus, some enter into a life of
victory (like Joshua and Caleb who entered the land of Canaan), while many
others remain defeated. The way to life is narrow and few find it because few
really fear God and few have faith. Jesus could not do many 'works of power' in
His own hometown because of their unbelief. He Himself was eagerly desirous to
heal them. But their unbelief limited Him (Matt. 13:58). Thus it is even today.
He desires to do great things for us, but is limited by our lack of faith.
Faith is more than intellectual belief. It
is one thing to believe that Jesus has the power to keep people from falling
and quite another thing to have faith that Jesus will keep you from falling.
The former is a mental quality that even Satan has. The latter is a spiritual
quality of the heart, that brings victory.
God's promise is, "Sin shall not be
master over you" (Rom. 6:14). Believe that, and when you fall, remember
that the word of promise does not change. That remains steadfast. Get up and
confess your hope in God's word and press on again, until hope becomes faith
one day and victory is yours.
Knowing The Weakness Of The Flesh
The flesh we have is totally impotent to
do the will of God. Jesus taught this very clearly (Matt. 26:41). Paul realised
this and said that nothing good dwells in his flesh (Rom. 7:18). The one who
realises this thoroughly will do at least two things: He will flee from
temptation and he will pray earnestly for help from God. When a man does
not do both of these, it is obvious that he is not yet convinced about the
weakness of his flesh.
Jesus taught us to pray, "Lead us not
into temptation" (Matt. 6:73). We pray that prayer wholeheartedly, because
we are convinced that our flesh is weak. Even an outstanding man of God like
Timothy was exhorted to flee from youthful lusts and from the love of money (2
Tim. 2:22; 1 Tim. 6:10,11). One would have thought that having advanced so far
in the Christian life, Timothy could not possibly be tempted in these areas.
But Paul knew he could. And so he exhorted Timothy to run away from temptation.
The one who realises that his flesh is weak will obey this exhortation readily.
Further, the one who realises his weakness
will also cry out to God for grace to help him overcome his weakness. All of us
are weak, but not all are equally conscious of their weakness. The weak man
will flee from danger when he sees it, but the strong man does not, because he
has high thoughts about himself. He does not call out for help. Therefore he
True humility is to recognise the weakness
of our flesh and therefore flee from the temptation and to cry for help. Such
alone receive God's grace, for God gives His grace only to the humble (1 Pet.
Having A Mind To Suffer
There is pleasure in sin - but it is
deceptive and short-lived (Heb. 3:13; 11:25). The opposite of pleasure is
suffering. To suffer is to deny our flesh the pleasure of sin. We are told that
if we arm ourselves with this attitude, we can cease from sin and do the will
of God all our life (1 Pet. 4:1,2). To suffer in the flesh does not mean physical,
bodily suffering, for no one ever stopped sinning that way. It refers to the
pain caused to the flesh by the denial of its desires. We refuse to please
ourselves, even as Jesus never pleased Himself (Rom. 15:13). Thus we share the
fellowship of His sufferings.
A determined attitude to suffer in the
flesh, Peter says, is our armour in the day of battle. But we must have the
armour before the battle begins. To look for the armour after the
onslaught of temptation has begun, is useless, for one will not usually find it
then. No. One must be armed before the conflict begins. When one does not have
this armour ('the determined mind to suffer in self denial rather than get the
least pleasure out of even a sinful thought'), then one draws back in the moment
of temptation and gives in (Heb. 10:38).
But if we are determined to die, rather
than sin - that is, to be 'obedient even unto death' as Jesus was (Phil. 2:8),
then this armour will be our strength and our protection in the day of battle.
If we love material things, for example,
then we shall easily lose our peace and fall into sin when we face material
loss or when someone else damages or loses some valuable possession of ours.
But if we have chosen the way of 'suffering in the flesh', believing that God
orders all things for our good (Rom. 8:28), then we shall take even the loss of
our goods joyfully (Heb. 10:34).
Peter says that if we keep pressing on in
our Christian life ('adding ... adding ... adding') we will never fall (2 Pet.
1:5-10). Many Christians fall into sin because they become content with their
spiritual progress, instead of pressing on further towards perfection. Paul
spent his life doing one thing - pressing on towards the goal of becoming like
Jesus (Phil. 3:13,14). This kept him from stagnation and also from sin. He
exhorted Timothy not only to flee from temptation, but also to pursue after
godliness, love, gentleness, etc, (1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22).
Many have stopped committing sin
and are satisfied, even though they keep falling. Thus they never stop
We are to judge ourselves in the light of
God continually, in every situation, if we are to make any headway in
discovering the latent evil that resides in our flesh. As we walk in thelight,
we can partake increasingly of the divine nature.
Thus we can keep adding to our faith
virtue, brotherly kindness, love, etc. If we thus fill our mind with good
thoughts at all times (Phil. 4:8), sin will not be able to enter our mind
easily. It is the empty mind that falls an easy prey to temptation.
Dethroning The Soul-life
In all children of Adam, the human
soul-life is lord. They live according to their reason and their emotions. When
we are converted, and put away the sinful works of the flesh, we do not usually
realise that our soul-life (our human way of thinking, reasoning and feeling)
needs to be dethroned too. We consider these things quite innocent and
harmless. Yet it is the enthroned soul-life that causes many a Christian to
fall into sin.
The frenzied whipping up of the emotions
in a Christian gathering, for example, leads to many abnormal excesses and
also to sin. Living in the emotions is not the same as living in the Spirit.
These two are as different as earth and heaven. An emotionally tense meeting is
not necessarily a spiritual meeting, for many people have gone away thrilled
from such an atmosphere only to commit sin immediately thereafter. Our emotions
Likewise, our intellect is
deceptive too. Most Christians have enthroned their intellect and therefore
seek to understand the things of God with their human reasoning and logic. The
result is that they are soon puffed up with dead Bible knowledge and fall (1
Cor. 8:1). Their fall may not be apparent, for pride does not look as ugly as
adultery, but it is, in reality, a greater fall. And it leads to many other
Humble yourself then, and dethrone your
intellect and feelings, and become as a little child living in simple,
unquestioning obedience to God's Word. Hate your soul-life and all that
originates from it, and live in the Spirit, in helpless dependence on God's
wisdom and strength. Thus you will preserve your soul and you will be kept from
There is just no such thing as individualistic
Christianity in the New Testament. The Old Testament prophets (like Elijah and
John the Baptist) may have lived alone, but that was in the days when there was
only a shadow and no body (Col. 2:17). But now we have the body of Christ, and
it is as we find our place in it, that the Head (Christ) keeps us from falling.
Paul clearly states that protection from error and Christian growth can come
only as we hold fast the Head and also keep the lines of supply open to the
other members of the body (Col. 2:19).
It is against the church that Jesus
said the gates of hell would not prevail (Matt. 16:18). Satan will certainly
prevail against a lone Christian who tries to live on his own. It is not
enough, however, to go to meetings twice a week. We must value fellowship with
the other members and be integrated into the Body. It is only as we find our
place as functioning members of the body of Christ that we can share in the
triumph of the Head. Then our fellow members in the Body become a strength for
us in the hour when the pressure becomes too great for us by ourselves (Eccl.
4:9-12). Mutual exhortation in the body is God's means of keeping us from being
deceived and from falling into sin (Heb. 3:13). Value such fellowship, and you
will be spared many heartaches and failures.
We see therefore that there is no
once-for-all experience that guarantees that we will never again fall. But if
we obey these laws of the Spirit, they will set us free from sin's power and we
will be kept from falling (Rom. 8:2). Then we shall be able to echo the cry of
the apostle, "Thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in
Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14).
The New Testament speaks of the works
of the flesh (Gal. 5:19) as well as of dead works (Heb. 6:1).
Those who indulge in the works of the
flesh such as immorality, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, etc, will
certainly not inherit the kingdom of God. These works are so obviously sinful
that it would be difficult for a believer to practise any of them without being
convicted in his conscience.
Dead works, however, are more deceitful.
They are externally good works, but they spring from a corrupt source (for
nothing good dwells in our flesh) and are therefore like a filthy garment in
God's eyes (Rom. 7:18; Isa. 54:6).
We are therefore commanded to repent not
only from sin but from dead works too. It is only after we have laid such a
foundation, that we can press on to perfection (Heb. 6:1).
It is well known among believers that the
blood of Jesus can cleanse us from all sin. What is not so well known is the
fact that the blood of Christ must cleanse our conscience from dead works too
before we can serve the living God aright (Heb. 9:14).
It is essential therefore that we have a
clear understanding of what dead works really are.
Done Without Joy
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Cor. 9:7).
He also loves a cheerful doer of His will. He meets those who rejoice in doing
righteousness (Isa. 64:5). When the Israelites did not serve the Lord with joy,
they were punished by being made to serve their enemies (Deut. 28:47,48). The
kingdom of God consists of righteousness accompanied by the joy of the Holy
Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Only those who delight to do His will can bring joy to the
heart of God.
Consider the matter of tithing, for
example. This was a law under the old covenant. But it is never commanded by
Jesus or the apostles to those under the new covenant. Yet multitudes of
covetous pastors compel their congregations to tithe compulsorily either through
promises of divine reward or through threats of divine judgment. The people pay
up, but without joy. It is not spontaneous giving, but grudging, reluctant
giving. The pastors are happy when the offering boxes are full, but God is not.
Pastors love large givers, but God loves only cheerful givers!
The new covenant principle is NOT,
"Give as much as you can give", but , "Give as much as you
can give cheerfully". God does not want any more than that. Of
course you will receive in the same proportion as you give (2 Cor. 9:7; Lk.
6:38) - but that is another matter. God does not, however, desire any labour or
gifts that are unwillingly given. What we do without joy is a dead work.
2. Works Done Without Love
To love God and man are the two pegs on
which every other commandment hangs (Matt. 22:40). Remove these pegs and
everything falls to the ground. This was why the leader of the Ephesian church
was rebuked. His works were no longer motivated by love for God and man (Rev.
2:2,4). If we obey the commandments of God without keeping their spirit, our
works become dead works. If we are to be appointed by the Lord as shepherds of
His flock, He will first test us (as He did Peter) to see whether we love Him
supremely (Jn. 21:15-17). Otherwise our service would be worthless. Likewise,
it is not enough just to bless those who curse us. We are to love them from our
hearts too. Otherwise we keep the letter of the Word but not its spirit.
Similarly, if we serve the brothers and sisters in the church, because we are
taught to do so, but still criticise them (perhaps for not being thankful to
us), then our service becomes a pile of dead works. All our sacrifice for the
Lord's work are worthless dead works if they do not spring out of love for Him.
Done Without Zeal
"I know your works ... you are
lukewarm, neither cold nor hot ... be zealous therefore" (Rev. 3:15-19).
Half-hearted works are dead works. We are to love the Lord our God with all our
heart, all our soul, all our mind and all our strength (Mk. 12:30). Our worship
and praise must be wholehearted, not lifeless and dead. Our praying must be
with burden and our prophesying with zeal. We are to be "aglow with the
Spirit" at all times (Rom. 12:11). The fire must burn on the altar
perpetually (Lev. 6:13). We are to constantly fan to a flame the gifts of the
Spirit that God has endued us with - not despise them or scorn them just
because many have abused them (2 Tim. 1:7). Most Christian assemblies are today
in a lifeless condition lacking the burning fire of the Holy Spirit. They are
ready for being rejected by the Lord (Rev. 3:16) for their lack of zeal. We
need to repent of such dead works in our own life.
Done Without Faith
As faith without works is dead (Jas.
2:26), even so works without faith are dead works. Many prayer meetings are
dead because of the lack of faith. Five minutes of faith filled prayer is more
living and powerful for the accomplishment of God's purposes than an all night
prayer meeting that has been gone through as a feat of endurance. Jesus prayed
all night and so must we, when there is a need for this - but certainly not as
a dead work. Faith also means personal conviction (Rom. 14:22). What we do
without personal conviction, is a dead work. Merely because some great man of
God believes and teaches some particular doctrine, it does not mean that we are
to imitate him. Yet Christendom is full of believers who blindly follow other
men, without any personal conviction. Imitation always brings death. The
Israelites crossed the Red Sea by faith. The Egyptians imitated them and were
drowned (Heb. 11:29). This has been written for our warning. Do not imitate the
actions or the ministries of others. We are not to imitate the emphasis that
another man has in his ministry either. That too would be a dead work. We are
to prophesy according to the proportion of our own faith (Rom. 12:6). God wants
each of us to be ourselves, for He has a unique contribution to make through
our own distinct personality to the body of Christ.
Done For Personal Gain And Honour
"I know your works that you have a
name that you are alive, but you are dead" (Rev. 3:1).
Here was a man who was spiritually dead,
but who was still satisfied because he had a name that he was alive. He
sought the praise of man more than the praise of God (Jn. 5:44; 12:43); and as
a result all his works were dead works. Anything we do to impress man is a dead
work. Anything that we do, which we want others to know about, is also a dead
work (Matt. 6:1-18). Living works are done in secret before God's face alone,
with every possible attempt made to conceal it from the eyes of men. Whenever
we glory in our accomplishments for God, we have begun to "worship the
works of our hands" (Acts 7:41), and our works immediately become dead
works. This is how Babylon is built, as Dan. 4:30 makes plain.
As soon as we are tempted to think about
the opinion of others concerning ourselves or our work, we must throw those
thoughts into the sewage system, where they belong. Even the opinions that
great men of God have about us must be thrown out of our minds and sent into
the sewage pipes. "Our righteousness in human eyes is an abomination (fit
only for the sewage) in the sight of God" (Lk. 16:15).
Only one who is radical like this can hope
to escape dead works. In the same way, work done for the Lord, for a salary, is
a dead work. Work done for a salary is not Christian work. It is secular work -
even if it takes the name 'Christian'. It is impossible to serve God and money.
Done Merely To Ease One's Conscience
The heathen are prompted to certain works
such as fasting, praying and giving alms because of the accusations of their
conscience (Rom. 2:15).
It is possible for Christians also to do
such works merely to ease their conscience. Many read the Bible and pray daily,
simply to relieve the accusations of their conscience. For the same reason,
they go to meetings, pay their tithe, give alms to beggars, etc. All such works
are dead works. There are preachers who capitalise on this weakness in
believers and urge them to do something for the perishing millions 'without
Christ'. "Either give or go", people are told. As a result, some give
money, and others leave their jobs and go for Christian work. But both groups
having acted without the leading of the Lord, but only on the emotion of the
moment to relieve a guilty conscience, wind up in an endless round of dead
Done Out Of Fear Of Divine Judgment
To avoid sin because we fear the judgment
of God is good, but that is certainly not the motive with which Jesus avoided
sin. Jesus avoided sin because He wanted to please the Father. This is to be
our motive too. Supposing there were to be no punishment for lusting after
women, or for telling lies, or retaining a bitterness against another, would we
indulge in those sins? Or would we still avoid them because our basic desire
was to please God? Let each person answer that question for himself, and work
out his own salvation from dead works with fear and trembling. To forgive
others merely because we do not want to get some sickness as a judgment from
God, or because we want God to forgive us, is a dead work - for it is motivated
by a selfish fear of judgment. What shall we say then about those who read the
Bible and pray in the mornings merely to avoid having any accidents during the
day! That falls into the same class as the worst heathen superstition!
Done For The Sake Of Obtaining A Reward
While it is true that Jesus will reward
the faithful ones (Rev. 22:12) and while it is also true that the ultimate
desire of our life should be to please the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9) so that we can
hear the words, "Well done, good and faithful servant" from Him one
day, yet Jesus Himself warned us against the self-centred desire for even a
heavenly reward, motivating us in our sacrifices and our service for Him.
When Peter compared himself favourably
with the rich young ruler (who had just turned away from Jesus) and asked the
question, "What shall we get for all that we have given up for you?"
(Matt. 19:27), Jesus replied with the parable of the labourers (Matt. 20:1-16).
There we find that those who worked for pay (reward) ended up last, while those
who worked without any thought of reward ended up first (even though they had
done only a small percentage of the work that the former had done).
Quantity versus quality - there we see the
difference between dead works and living works. Works done with the hope of our
ultimately being promoted above other believers and finding a place in the
bride of Christ, will be exposed as dead works in the final day.
If you purify your thought-life, do good
to others, and love your wife or submit to your husband, all with the thought
of being exalted in some future day, then `Self' is still at the centre of your
life, and all your self-centred `good' works are dead works!
Those who do get crowns in glory are quick
to cast them down at the feet of the Lord, saying, "Thou alone art
worthy" (Rev. 4:10). It is only when we have purged ourselves from motives
other than the desire to glorify God, that we can be freed from dead works. If
we keep a record in our memory of all the good works that we have done, those
good works become dead works.
Jesus gave us two pictures of the final
judgment day - one where people listed before the Lord all the good things that
they had done in their earthly lives, "Lord, we prophesied in Your name,
we healed the sick in Your name, etc" (Matt. 7:22,23). These people were rejected
by the Lord. In the other picture we find the righteous surprised when they are
reminded by the Lord of the good that they had done in their earthly lives.
"Lord, when did we do that?", is their surprised cry (Matt.
25:34-40). They had forgotten about the good that they had done - for they had
not done those works for reward. There we see a clear contrast between dead
works and living works. Which category do we fit into?
Done Without Bearing The Dying Of Jesus
Living works are only those which flow from
the life of Jesus within us. It is impossible to have this life of Jesus
without first bearing the dying of Jesus - the daily cross (2 Cor. 4:10). If we
merely control our tongues from speaking angrily or our faces from scowling,
but are still boiling with anger and irritation inside, that is not victory –
it is suppression. That is the teaching of yoga and not of Jesus Christ. Jesus
told us to take up our cross daily. That means to put the flesh to death daily
(Gal. 5:24). Death by crucifixion is a long process - unlike shooting or
hanging. The flesh cannot be shot or hung in a moment; it can only be
crucified. But if we are faithful to keep this criminal on the cross, death
will set in, in due course - and we shall one day cease from sin - even inwardly
(1 Pet. 4:1). Then the living works of the Spirit will flow as rivers of living
water from our innermost being (Jn. 7:38). Our inner attitudes will then
correspond with our external appearance and works. There will then be no more
need for artificial smiles or for any other form of external piety.
That Originate From Our Own Human Reason
Martha's unselfish and sacrificial work
for the Lord and His people, is a good example of good works that are dead
works (Lk. 10:38-42). She did that work merely because she felt that it was a
good work to do. But "the most important thing about a servant is that he
does what his master tells him to do" - not what he feels like doing
himself (1 Cor 4:2 LB). Thus, Mary was wiser, in that she first sat at Jesus'
feet to hear what He wanted her to do. Heb. 4:10,12 says that God's word
divides between the soulish and the spiritual; and just as we are to cease from
sin, we are to cease from doing our own works too. Soulish works are dead
works. Jesus never did anything on His own initiative (Jn. 5:30). Even today
God is looking not for those who have bright ideas about how to do His work
(for such can only produce 'Ishmaels'), but for those who are humble enough to
acknowledge their lack of wisdom and strength, and who will make themselves
available for God to use, as it pleases Him. God looks, not for ability but
Having heard about dead works now, the
great danger for some of us may be that of backing away from the cliff of 'dead
works', and falling over the cliff on the other side of the narrow way - the
cliff of 'doing nothing'. That would be worse. The living works of the Spirit
can be produced through us only as we cooperate with the Spirit in living a
disciplined life - not law, but discipline.
Let us then cleanse ourselves not only
from all defilement of the flesh, but also from that of the spirit (2 Cor.
7:1), so that our righteous deeds may become our wedding dress on the day of
the marriage of the Lamb (Rev. 19:8).
GOD'S BLESSING OR GOD'S APPROVAL
There are two types of believers - those
who seek only God's blessing and those who seek God's approval; and
there is a world of difference between the two. In Rev. 7:9-14, we read of a
great multitude of believers - so vast that they cannot even be numbered. Their
testimony is that they owe their salvation to their God (v. 10) and that their
robes are washed white in the blood of Christ (v. 14); or in other words, that
God has blessed them. This is good, no doubt. But it is a vastly different
testimony from that of the group of believers mentioned in Rev. 14:1-5.
There we read of a small group that can be
numbered. In fact they are only 144,000 - a small number, when you consider
that they have been selected out of the billions of people who have lived on
earth. Their testimony is that they followed Christ totally on earth, no guile
was found in their mouth, and they kept themselves from being defiled by
'women' (that is, the women mentioned in Revelation 17 - Babylon and her
daughters). Or in other words, they pleased God.
Notice the contrast. The first group
received God's blessings. The second received God's approval. We
get what we seek. If we are satisfied with God's blessing, then that is all we
will get. And if we are satisfied with God's material blessings alone, then we
will not even advance to getting His spiritual blessings.
Most believers are satisfied with being
blessed by God - and that too mostly in the material realm alone. That is why
Christian book stores are flooded with books on how one can be healed of one's
sicknesses and become wealthy by tithing, etc. The emphasis is on physical and
material well-being - health and prosperity. This is the clearest symptom of a
self-centred life. And yet, we read in God's word, that Jesus died in order
that we should no longer live for ourselves but only for Him (2 Cor. 5:15); or
in other words, not to please ourselves but only Him. Or to put it in yet
another way, Jesus died in order to deliver us from a self-centred life, and to
bring us into a God-centred life.
One of the things that can puzzle us these
days is the way God blesses a lot of Christian work that is so thoroughly
compromising in its character. Does this mean that God is not disturbed by the
compromises and the deviations from His word? No, it certainly does not mean
that. God blesses many ministries that He cannot totally approve of.
Even when Moses disobeyed God's word and
struck the rock (when God had told him to speak to it), God still 'blessed'
that disobedient ministry. In fact, two million people were blessed through it.
Yet God dealt with His disobedient servant severely afterwards (Num. 20:8-13).
God blessed that ministry because He loved those two million needy people, and
not because He approved of what His servant did. It is even so today.
Many ministries are blessed because God
loves the needy people who need salvation, healing, etc. But He certainly does
not approve of much that goes on in the name of Jesus today. He will certainly
punish the compromising preachers in due time.
The only condition to be fulfilled in
order to get God's material blessings is that one must be either good or
evil! For Jesus said that God sends sunshine and rain on both the righteous
and the unrighteous (Matt. 5:45). Material blessing is therefore no sign of
God's approval on one's life. Two million Israelites disobeyed God for forty
years in the wilderness - so greatly that God was angry with them (Heb. 3:17).
Yet God gave them food and healing throughout all those years - and that too
miraculously (Deut. 8:2). Even miraculous answers to prayer in the physical
realm are therefore no indication that God is happy with a person's life.
God's approval, on the other hand, rested
on Jesus when He was thirty years old, only because of one reason: Jesus had
faithfully overcome temptation during all those years. He had lived a life
centred in His Father and not in Himself. He never did what pleased Himself
(Rom. 15:3). At His baptism, the Father testified, "This is My beloved
Son, in whom I am well pleased" and not "This is My well-beloved Son
whom I have blessed". The latter testimony would have meant nothing. It
was the former, indicating God's approval, that meant everything for Jesus. To follow
Jesus is to seek for the same testimony ourselves.
As children of Adam, we are all born
self-centred. We grow up expecting everything to revolve around us and to serve
us. When we get converted, we expect God also to serve us and bless us in
various ways. We come to Him initially to be blessed with His forgiveness, and
then go on to seek the blessing of healing, answer to prayer, material
prosperity, employment, housing, marriage partner, etc. But it is possible for
our lives to be self-centred still, even when we are deeply 'religious' in our
own and other people's eyes. God becomes just one more person in our 'orbit',
and we seek to get what we can out of Him. The prodigal son came back in order
to get food from his father; but the father still received him. God receives us
even when our motives are utterly selfish. He loves us so much that He longs to
receive us even when we come to Him with an obviously self-centred motive. His
hope however is that we will mature quickly to realise that true spirituality
is to partake of His own nature, which is to give rather than to receive. With
the vast majority of His children, however, God is never able to realise that
purpose. They live and die in their self-centredness thinking only of 'I', 'Me'
and 'Mine' and of material and physical blessings.
To be mature is to have our mind renewed
so that it is no longer centred on what we can get out of God, but rather on
what God can get out of us in our one earthly life. This renewing of our mind
is what brings transformation (Rom. 12:2). This is what qualified the 144000
(in Rev. 14) to stand with the Lamb on Mount Zion.
True spirituality is not just getting
victory over anger, irritability, dirty sexual thoughts, love of money, etc. It
is to cease living for oneself. It is to cease seeking our own - our own gain,
our own comfort, our own convenience, our own will, our own rights, our own
honour and even our own `spirituality'.
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach
them to pray, He taught them a prayer that does not contain the words 'I', 'Me'
or 'Mine' in it even once (Lk. 11:1-4). He taught us there to be concerned
first about the Father's name, kingdom and will, and then to be concerned as
much about our fellow believers (their material and spiritual welfare) as about
ourselves ('us', 'us, 'us' and not 'me', 'me', 'me'). It is easy to learn that
prayer 'by heart' and to repeat it like a parrot. But to learn that lesson in
our heart requires that we truly forsake all and put God in the centre of our
heart. The law that we will find most frequently in our members (Rom. 7:22), if
we are honest in judging ourselves, will be the law of selfishness, hat seeks
our own convenience and rights all through life.
Jesus taught us to seek the kingdom of God
first - that is to dethrone 'Self' and to put God and His interests in the
centre of our life. Jesus gave up the comfort of heaven in order to do His
Father's will on earth. Paul gave up the comfort of being a Christian
businessman living luxuriously in Tarsus, in order to be an apostle facing
hardships for the Lord. Every one of the apostles lived that sacrificial
God-centred life. They gave their all for the promotion of God's kingdom on
earth, unlike many of today's 'tourist preachers'.
A holiness that still leaves us seeking
our own comfort and convenience is a false holiness - even if we have overcome
anger and dirty thoughts. This is what many have not realised; and hence Satan
has been able to deceive them. Many Christians travel or migrate to different
countries seeking conveniences and comfort and wealth. They can still have
God's blessings upon their lives, but not God's approval - for no one can serve
both God and mammon (that is, wealth, pleasure, comfort, etc.). If we think
that God's blessing on our lives and on our children is an indication that He
is also happy with us, then Satan has truly deceived us. God's blessing and
God's approval are two totally different things. At the end of our earthly
lives, the testimony that we have should be the testimony that Enoch had before
he left the earth: "He pleased God" (Heb. 11:5). Only three words -
but no one can have a more powerful testimony to his earthly life. This is the
testimony that Jesus and Paul had. To merely have a testimony that `He was
blessed by God' is worth nothing, for millions of unbelievers too can have that
God looks for those who will seek His
approval, and not just His blessing.
ANOTHER "JESUS" AND HIS MINISTRY
Imagine that you were in Palestine over
1960 years ago and that you heard of the ministry of someone called "Jesus
of Nazareth" who was healing the sick. Not having seen Him yourself, you
are delighted when you come across a large crowd attending a healing meeting in
Jerusalem, with someone called `Jesus' as the speaker.
As you draw near, you find that up on the
platform, along with `Jesus' (the speaker), Pilate and Herod, and Annas
and Caiaphas are also seated. `Jesus' then comes forward and addresses
the crowd saying how honoured they all should feel that day because the two
greatest secular rulers of Palestine, "the most honourable Herod and
Pilate had graciously come to honour the meeting with their presence". And
not only that, but "two great men of God, the Right Reverend Annas and
Caiaphas were also there to bless the gathering".
Having spoken these words of introduction,
`Jesus' then invites Herod and Pilate to inaugurate the meeting and to
speak a few words. Herod and Pilate both praise `Jesus' by saying what a
lot of good he is doing to the community by his ministry and that he deserves
the support of all people. "The Right Reverend Annas and Caiaphas"
are then invited by `Jesus' to say a few words and to "open in
prayer". They also praise `Jesus' highly and invite all the people
in their denomination to support `Jesus''s ministry wholeheartedly.
Then `Jesus' invites Judas Iscariot
to say a few words about the financial needs of the ministry. Judas speaks
about the tens of thousands of denarii needed to meet all the needs of the
ministry. He states that 'forms' are available with the ushers for those who
contribute more than 1000 denarii saying that `Jesus' has promised to
pray special prayers for such people (it does not matter whether they are
believers or unbelievers - all the rich are welcome and the richer the
better!). Herod then gets up and offers to give a tax deduction to all those
who contribute to this ministry. The collection is then taken. Then `Jesus'
gives a brief message, demonstrates a few of his miraculous powers that astound
the simple people, and heals a few sick people. And then before anyone can meet
him, he rushes off with Herod, Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas and Judas Iscariot (and
the bags of money) in the royal Roman chariot to the archbishop's palace in
central Jerusalem to feast with them.
Somehow, at the end of all this, even
though you are only a new convert, with little discernment and experience, you
still feel a bit uneasy. All that you saw does not seem to fit in with the
accounts that you had heard about Jesus from some of His apostles like Matthew,
Peter and John.
Satan, however, is nearby to whisper in
your ears, "It is written, 'Do not judge'" (Matt. 7:1). But you tell
him, "It is also written, 'Do not believe every spirit, but test the
spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone
out into the world'" (1 Jn. 4:1).
Finally, you come to a definite
conclusion: "This is not the Jesus that I heard about. This is certainly "another
Jesus" (2 Cor. 11:4).
And you are right. It was another `Jesus'.
How did you come to that conclusion?
Because the anointing within you told you the following facts (1 Jn.
1. The real Jesus would not seek any
sponsorship from secular rulers or any recommendations from unconverted
religious heads for His ministry. Neither would He flatter any of them. When a
bishop once came to Jesus, He told him that he needed to be born again (Jn.
3:1-10). Jesus called King Herod 'a fox' (Lk. 13:31,32) and even refused to
talk to him when He met him (Lk. 23:8,9).
2. The real Jesus would never ask for
money from anyone - not even for His ministry. He made His needs known only to
His Father. The Father would then move the people or even a fish (in one
instance) to supply Jesus' need (Lk. 8:1-3; Matt. 17:27).
3. The real Jesus would never 'sell' His
prayers for any price. Simon the Samaritan magician once offered money for
Peter's prayers and Peter rebuked him for such wickedness as to imagine that a
divine gift could be bought with money (Acts 8:18-23). Simon repented immediately.
But his unrepentant followers have been many through the centuries. The Roman
Catholic Popes (claiming to be the successors of the Peter who rebuked Simon)
have always sold their prayers for money. Martin Luther stood against all this
wickedness in his day, like Peter. But some of the successors of Luther
(today's Protestants) have again gone back to selling their 'prayers' and their
'prophecies' for cash; and alas, many like Simon are willing to pay for them!
Jesus specifically warned us that in the
last days, deception would be so subtle that even the elect would almost be
deceived - particularly through signs and wonders (Matt. 24:24). If there is
any ministry that the elect are to beware of and examine most carefully today,
it is the 'sign and wonder' ministry. Jesus told us not to believe it when
people say that He came to their room to talk to them (See Matt. 24:26). The
resurrected body of Jesus has never left the right hand of the Father in all
these (more than 1900) years since His ascension. Paul and Stephen saw Him only
there (Acts 7:53; 9:3). Even John did not see Jesus' physical body on Patmos
but only symbols representing Jesus (Rev. 1:13-16). When Jesus does leave
heaven, it will be for His second coming to earth.
Therefore when they say today that He came
to their rooms, do not believe them.
Living in the midst of gullible believers,
we must not remain without discernment. The Word of God gives a clear light for
all who desire it in these last days. If we follow that light alone, we will
never be deceived.
THE MARKS OF CULTISM
"Let no one defraud you of
salvation's victory prize, no one who indulges in assumed (false) humility and
the cult of messenger-worship ... instead of keeping hold on the Head from
which the whole body grows with God's increase" (Col.2:18,19 - Berkeley
"A people who walk in the way which
is not good, following their own thoughts, who say, `Keep to yourself, do not
come near to me, for I am holier than you'" (Isa. 65:2,5).
"From among your own selves men will
arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Therefore be on the alert" (Acts 20:30,31).
To be cultistic is to be devoted to a
person or to a doctrine in addition to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is to make
tabernacles for 'Elijah' and 'Moses' along with one for the Lord as well. This
always brings a cloud that hides the presence of God. The will of God is that
our lives be centred in Jesus only (Matt.17:1-8).
The last days will see an increase of
cults in Christendom. Many will fall a prey to these, because they will worship
the Lord's messengers instead of having a close personal relationship with
Christ the Head.
In order to be saved from this danger, it
is good to know some of the marks of cultism, so that we can be on guard
against it at all times.
There is a difference between being part
of a cult and being cultistic.
It is possible for you to be in a church
where the doctrines are all basically Scriptural, and the leaders are all godly
men, and yet to be cultistic in your attitudes towards your leader, your group
and towards other believers in other churches. Cultism is seen, not only in a
wrong doctrine, but also in wrong attitudes.
Those who are right in their doctrines and
upright in their lives are often unaware of the cultism that there can be in
Plus Another Man
The primary mark of cultism is that it has
a leader (usually the founder of the group) who is so highly respected that his
life is considered to be perfect, and his teachings equal to God's word.
The Holy Spirit called the Jews at Berea
"noble minded", because "they examined the Scriptures
daily" to check whether Paul's teaching was Scriptural. Paul was a great
apostle. But even his teachings needed to be checked with the Scriptures, to
see if they tallied (Acts 17:11).
The Bible says that even when prophets
speak in a meeting, "the others must judge" (1 Cor. 14:29). What must
the others judge? Just what the Bereans judged - whether what the prophets are
saying is founded on God's word or not. This is the greatest safeguard against
Cultistic believers however, respect their
leader so much that they accept everything he teaches without checking to see
whether it has a sound Scriptural foundation. They are not noble minded like
In a cultistic group, after the founder's
death, a successor normally takes over the leadership and he is then recognized
as the head of the group. All members of the group are expected to acknowledge
their current leader as being the greatest of all living men of God. The result
of such an attitude leads to unquestioning submission to the authority and
teaching of such a leader. His authority over all members of the group is as
absolute as the Pope's and his word is law.
In many cultistic groups, if the leader
has a son, he is gradually trained to take over some of the leadership
responsibilities within the group. All members of the group then gradually
begin to respect the son just as they respected the father.
2. The Bible
Plus Another Book
The second mark of cultism is that it has
one book in addition to the Bible (usually written by the leader of the group),
which is considered for all practical purposes, to be as infallible as the
Many cultistic groups may deny that they
give such a place to the writings of their founder. But their attitude towards
that one book indicates that they do place it on equality with the Bible. Their
actions speak louder than their words.
In the early stages of the formation of a
cultistic group, there may have been much sincerity and real devotedness to the
Lord. In some cases, the founder himself may have been a godly man. But it is
usually at some later point in time, that the followers of the founder codify
his writings and teachings into an organized system of doctrine that is given
the same authority as the Bible itself.
The founder's personal opinions thus
become God's Word for his followers. Where the founder is a godly man, he will
never permit such a thing to take place during his lifetime. If however the
founder is not a man of God, then he will claim divine authority for his
sayings during his lifetime itself.
Members of a cultistic group will read and
re-read and re-read the one book written by the founder. Many of them will
carry that book with them wherever they travel, and quote from it even in their
meetings, with the same authority with which they quote from the Bible. If that
book interprets any verse, or explains any doctrine in a particular way, then
that is the only possible understanding that the members of the group are
expected to have of that verse and of that doctrine.
Constant reading of such a book
brainwashes the cultistic believer's mind, so that he gradually begins to
interpret God's Word only in the way it is interpreted in the book. Thus, due
to the conditioning of his mind, he becomes incapable of receiving any fresh
light from the Spirit on many portions of Scripture - because each time he
reads such portions, he has already made up his mind as to what they mean. Thus
his mind is programmed forever, beyond the reach of the Spirit.
This is similar to the way Roman Catholic
priests teach their followers that the Bible should be interpreted only in the
way that the Roman Catholic theologians have interpreted it.
Any questioning of the doctrines of the
group or of the teachings of the leaders is totally discouraged.
Exclusiveness In Fellowship
A third mark of cultism is exclusiveness
Cultistically-minded believers feel that
fellowship with other born-again believers outside of their own group has
little or no spiritual value. A cultistic group will therefore discourage you
from having any contacts with other believers unless it is to make converts for
their group. Such a group usually considers itself to be the only true church
and believes that all those who belong to Christ's bride will ultimately find
their way to them. Their conceit is truly unimaginable!
Such exclusiveness in fellowship,
invariably turns many cultistic believers into religious snobs and legalistic
Pharisees. The "superior insights" into God's word that they claim to
have, develops in them a conceited "We" and "They" attitude
towards all other believers. Such cultistic believers are usually totally
unaware of their Phariseeism, and would consider themselves as truly devoted
and humble followers of Jesus! Such is the power of the human mind to deceive
itself! Others outside their group however see their Phariseeism plainly.
True holiness is the product of the grace
of God (as Rom. 6:14 makes very plain). And God gives his grace only to the
humble (1 Pet. 5:5). Therefore the primary characteristic of genuine holiness
has to be humility. Where humility is lacking, the 'holiness' that cultists may
appear to have will only be a righteousness of the law (produced by human
effort). This is the reason why most cultists tend to boast of their 'holy
lives' and their 'holy homes'. If their 'holiness' had been the product of God's
grace, they could not possibly be proud of it.
Cultistic believers usually read only
those books that are written by the leaders of their own group. Their magazines
will have articles written only by their own group members. Most cultistic
groups will warn you strongly against reading literature written by other
believers - for in their reckoning, Christianity has not seen any other godly
men since the days of the apostles, other than the leaders of their own group!
Such is the power of cultism to deceive people!
Cultistic believers will sing only those
songs that are written by members of their own group. Their song-books will
contain only such songs. Other hymns will be considered as having a wrong
spirit and therefore dangerous!
Thus cultistic groups preserve their
members within their man-made cocoons, keeping them all completely ignorant of
what God has done through other godly men in other centuries, or even through
other godly men in other Christian churches in their own day.
When one lives in isolation from other
God-fearing believers, it is easy to lose contact with reality and to begin to
live in a world of self-deception and conceit.
If we cut off even one child of
God, whom our Heavenly Father has accepted, from the circle of our fellowship,
for any reason, it is we who will stand to lose - for God has ordained that it
is only "along with ALL the saints that we can understand the love
of Christ" and attain to "the fulness of God" (Eph. 3:18,19).
This is not to encourage ecumenism or
compromise. We may not be able to work together with many believers who
are in Babylonian systems. We must have nothing to do with such systems, and
must always encourage believers to come out of such groups (Rev. 18:4). But our
hearts must always be open to fellowship with all God fearing disciples of
Jesus. If our Lord Himself has accepted someone, what right have we to reject
him, even if he does not agree with us (Lk. 9:49,50)?
Paul and Barnabas are a good example of
how it is possible to fellowship together as individuals, without necessarily
working together in the same team (Acts 15:36-41). They disagreed strongly on
an issue and saw no way of working together any longer. But they did not break
fellowship with each other or hate each other or call each other names. If they
had done any of these, then they would have become cultists. But they loved one
another and worked separately, and no doubt prayed for one another. Cultists
find such an arrangement impossible. They can fellowship only with those who
are totally subservient to them.
4. No Burden
A fourth mark of cultism is that it has no
burden to take the gospel to the unconverted heathen in the world.
While there may be some cultistic groups that
engage in evangelism on a limited scale among the heathen, generally speaking,
most cultistic believers work only among other Christians. They do not have any
desire to preach the gospel to every creature, as Jesus commanded (Mark 16:15).
Instead, they major only on making disciples to their own group from among
Because cultistic groups are usually very
close-knit fellowships, many believers find a security within their fold. Those
in cultistic groups care for one another, help one another and are very good to
one another in many, many ways. Insecure Christians, who are disappointed with
the loveless Christianity that they have encountered, and who are now looking
for security and acceptance, not in God, but in a community of believers, are
often drawn to these groups to find love and fellowship therein. But they are
usually unaware of the dangers they will face later on in their Christian life,
by being so exclusive.
Cultistic believers will give a lot of
attention and affection to a new 'contact', so as to get him to be an integral
part of their group. They know that once he has joined them, the new recruit
will gradually accept all of their teachings, including the "divine
authority" of their leader.
After some years in such a group, most
believers will not even consider leaving the group, for fear of being left
alone and isolated. This fear coupled with the thought that they may be
"falling away from the true church" ensure that weak-minded,
cultistic believers are trapped for life.
Cultistic believers will not normally make
the sacrifices that God-fearing missionaries have made throughout the
centuries, to live in primitive conditions amidst the heathen for many years,
in order to bring them to Christ. Cultists usually speak lightly of such
missionary work - quite naturally so, for such missionary work is difficult to
Cultistic preachers, if at all they go to
heathen lands, will usually do so only as visiting preachers. They prefer the
easy way of appointing local representatives in the heathen lands that they
visit, in order to further the work of their group in that region and to
arrange meetings for them during their annual visits. In return, such local
representatives will be rewarded with gifts, or bribed with an expense-paid
trip to the headquarters of the group, once in a while.
The apostles of Christ could not offer
such bribes to anyone, because they were poor. Therefore they did a genuine
work for God in heathen lands.
Devaluation Of Justification By Faith
A fifth mark of cultism is that it
devalues justification by faith and teaches works as the means of
Scripture does speak of works as
the proof of our faith (Jas. 2:24). But Scripture also teaches that "to
the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his
faith is reckoned as righteousness" (Rom. 4:5).
The danger here is not just one of
imbalance, but of heresy - for when one biblical truth is carried to an
extreme, to the exclusion of other biblical truths, it can become a heresy. And
further, if we hold a biblical doctrine, but never teach it in our churches, it
will become equivalent to our not believing in it at all. For unspoken truth,
like an unused muscle, loses its function gradually and is finally lost altogether
to the church.
"The truth does not lie in one
extreme or the other. Much less does it lie in the middle. The truth lies in
both extremes held together."
We must be careful that our teaching is
not a reaction to the extremes that others have gone to. Many preachers have
indeed turned the teaching of justification by faith into licence for sin. But
that should not make us throw away this Scriptural truth, and go to the
opposite extreme of teaching justification by works.
Cultistic believers, generally speaking,
preach justification by good works alone. All non-Christian religions do that
too. If at all a cultistic believer speaks on Romans 4, it will be in such a
way as to prove that Rom. 4 also teaches justification by works! Cultistic
believers usually play down the truth of "Christ becoming our
righteousness" (1 Cor. 1:30), and major on "the righteousness of the
law being fulfilled in us" (Rom. 8:4), without realising that the former
is the foundation for the latter.
Cultistic believers also devalue the blood
of Christ and never speak much about it, except in a mystical, super-spiritual
The songs that are sung in any church are
usually a good indication of the main beliefs of that church. If you look at
the song books of cultistic groups, you will find that there are hardly any
songs in them about the forgiveness of sins, or about justification by faith,
or about the cleansing of sin by the blood of Jesus.
The blood shed on the cross of Calvary,
which Jesus and His apostles spoke about (Lk. 22:20; Eph. 2:13), and which we
shall sing about for eternal ages in heaven (Rev. 5:9), finds little or no
place in the song-books of cultistic groups.
While it is true that many cultistic
believers live very good lives externally, it is also true that many in their
midst are weighed down with the heavy burdens that are placed on them by the
teachings of their leaders. Many in their midst are perpetually unsure of
whether God is happy with them or not, and as a result live under a permanent
sense of guilt, and the perpetual condemnation of Satan, the accuser of the
brethren. But most of these people would be very reluctant to admit these
problems, lest they be dubbed as unbelieving and faithless.
It is through perpetuating such feelings
of guilt that cultistic leaders retain their control over most believers in
their group. Hence a lot of preaching in cultistic groups tends to be directed
towards making people feel guilty. And in many cases this sense of guilt
is a vague thing, without any specific sin being identified.
While there are many strong-minded
believers in such groups, who are able to overcome these feelings, the weaker
ones are taken captive by Satan. This is a direct result of the neglect of
teaching on justification by faith.
A sixth mark of cultism is secrecy about
Cultistic believers are usually evasive in
their answers, when questioned by other believers outside their group, about
those beliefs of theirs that have no clear Scriptural foundation.
When they cannot prove any of their
doctrines from the Scriptures, their standard reply to any questioning believer
invariably is, "You need the revelation of the Holy Spirit!" Thus
they claim to have some special revelation from God that is not taught in Scripture
and that other believers do not have.
Cultistic believers delight in speaking
about 'mysteries' that they claim have been 'revealed to them by the Spirit',
and which they say are revealed only to the 'wholehearted' - by which term of
course they mean those who have accepted their leader and joined their group!
They do not believe that there are any
wholehearted believers outside their own group. Thus they entice curious
believers to join this "elite inner core" of those who have
"light on the truth".
There is a great lust in man’s flesh to
imagine that he is a special favourite of God - one of His inner circle - to
whom God reveals secret 'mysteries' that other believers know nothing about.
Cultism caters to this lust that is found
in everybody's flesh.
But what is the truth?
The truth is that every mystery of God has
been plainly revealed in the Scriptures.
Ephesians 3:4-6 makes it clear that the
mystery of Christ was a mystery only in Old Testament times - not now. Col.
1:26,27 states that God has now manifested this mystery to all the
saints. There is nothing secretive about any mystery now - for the New
Testament has made everything plain. Cultistic believers however will have you
believe that there are still some hidden mysteries.
The two great mysteries mentioned
in the New Testament are concerning godliness and the church (1 Tim. 3:16; Eph.
Both of these mysteries are plainly
written and taught in the Scriptures. If people have not seen them, it is
either because they have not read the Scriptures carefully, or because they are
too proud and prejudiced to change their views. But there is certainly no
mystery that God has revealed secretly to anyone that is not plainly revealed
in the Scriptures.
Beware then of the 'mysteries' that
cultists constantly speak of.
A seventh mark of cultism is that it
demands uniformity from its adherents.
Cultistic believers feel that unity can
exist only where there is uniformity as well. They will misquote 1 Cor. 1:10 -
"that you all agree" ("that ye all speak the same thing" -
KJV) - to prove their point. Even a minor variation from the accepted norm is
therefore frowned upon. They fail to realise that that verse is speaking of an
agreement in spirit, and not of an agreement in every little detail.
Cultistic believers do not know how to
"give a warm welcome to any brother who has different ideas from yours
about what is right and wrong" (Rom. 14:1 -LB). Their warm welcome is
reserved only for those who agree 100% with them. In fact, there is no place
for the teaching of Rom. 14 in cultistic groups at all, for there is no place
for diversity in their midst.
Everything in a cultistic group -
including the pattern of the meetings - has to be exactly according to the
mould that is found in the headquarters of the group. Many cultistic believers
imitate even the cultural mannerisms of their leaders!
There is a sub-conscious pressure exerted
constantly on members of a cultistic group to conform in all matters to the
pattern laid down by its headquarters, and practised there.
All believers who are willing to be poured
into such a mould like dumb zombies (mindless people) or robots, without asking
any questions, are considered to be humble and wholehearted and a part of 'the
All others are considered as being proud
and 'without light'!!
Allegiance to the group is obtained by
veiled warnings of the consequences of rebellion against the leaders.
Frightening tales are told to group-members of "how badly it has
gone" with those who dared to disagree with the leaders of the group.
Thus, weak-minded believers are put under pressure to conform. Thus they
gradually lose their discerning faculties and become enslaved to the group.
Jesus came to set people free. But cultism
imprisons people. Many believers need to be freed from the prisons that
cultistic preachers have locked them up in.
The Jews in Jesus' day were slaves not
only to sin, but also to the traditions and opinions of their religious
leaders. Jesus had to set them free from both these slaveries. Many who
accepted Jesus' message of freedom from sin, were still afraid of their
religious leaders, and so did not break away from "the traditions of the
elders", even where they saw these to be unScriptural, lest they be
excommunicated from their group (Jn.12:42,43).
We see how strong such a slavery to the
opinions of religious leaders can be, from the fact that even after twenty
years of living a Spirit-filled life, Peter was afraid of publicly breaking
away from Jewish traditions, for fear of offending some Jewish Christian
leaders. Paul, who was only a junior apostle at that time, was the only one who
had the boldness to confront Peter publicly on that occasion, and to expose
Peter's following of "the traditions of the elders". Even the senior
apostle, Barnabas, did not have the boldness to do that (Gal.2:11-21).
God does not desire that anyone should
conform to an external form or pattern, under pressure, without personal
conviction. The only obedience that God ever asks for, is one that is given
cheerfully and freely - for "God loves a cheerful giver" - of
obedience as well as of money (2 Cor.9:7). He hates compulsion.
God never interferes with our free will.
He always gives us freedom of choice -to obey Him or to disobey Him - the same
freedom that He gave Adam and Eve in Eden. For God knows that it is only in
such an atmosphere of perfect freedom that true holiness can develop and
The holiness that is genuine is one that
is perfected in the fear of God and not in the fear of men (2 Cor.7:1).
The obedience that God desires is one that
is prompted by love and gratitude to Him, and not by fear of judgment or hope
All obedience that arises from the
pressure to conform to a pattern, or that is done in order to gain acceptance
in a group is a dead work. It has no value before God. It will only get you the
honour of others in your group.
And this is where God will test all of us
to see what we desire - His approval or the approval of our fellow-believers.
"It was for freedom that Christ set
us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of
bondage." (Gal. 5:1).
The greatest battle in the Christian life
is not the battle against anger or against dirty thoughts. It is the battle
against the desire to obtain the approval of men. This is where we must
determine to live before God's face alone, if we want to stay free.
You may live a good life, even if you have
a cultistic attitude. But you will never be able to fulfil all of God's purpose
for your life on earth with such an attitude. The kingdom of God can be
possessed only by those who do violence to the prison-bars that have been
erected around them by cultistic preachers.
We must break free from all slavery to the
opinions of men, at any cost, if we are to enter into the glorious liberty of
the sons of God.
SIGNS THAT POINT TO THE RETURN OF CHRIST
The world has never been the same since
1939. Something happened at that time that started a chain reaction in many
areas that will end only with the second coming of Christ.
Jesus said that no one but the Father knew
the exact day and hour when He would return. But He also said that it would be
possible for us, if we were observant of the signs that He predicted, to know
when His coming was near (Matt. 24:33,36).
It is essential therefore that we should
take note of these signs.
(Matt. 24:7). Jesus said that the last
days would be like the days of Noah (Matt. 24:37). Violence was one of the
pre-eminent characteristics of Noah's day. "The earth was filled with
violence" (Gen. 6:11,13). That sounds almost like a description of the
days in which we live. Terrorism, hijacks, riots, murders, arson and wars between
nations are now an every day occurrence. There are many reasons for this. The
abolition of the death penalty for murder (which God instituted in Gen. 9) in
many countries has increased the murder rate. Violence openly and unashamedly
depicted and glamourised on the cinema screen has educated people from
childhood onwards to be violent. The advent of television in the '50s and of
the video tape in the '70s has helped spread the cult of violence far and wide.
The popularity of `karate' and other forms of martial arts (all of which
expose people to demon possession) has also spread the message of violence. All
of this has come like a flood since 1939 - when Satan unleashed World War II on
this earth. The hatred and bitterness that was let loose at that time opened the
door for a flood of evil spirits to invade humanity. Wars have been a constant
feature of world history ever since 1939. The atom bomb exploded in 1945
ushered in the nuclear age with all its consequences.
The world has never in man's history, seen
such violence or such a spate of wars as we have seen, since the Second World
(Matt. 24:7). There have always been
famines throughout man's history. But with the increasing world population,
famines have, since World War II, slain millions - more than ever in world
history. Drought and crop failures have become common since 1950, in many
lands. These will be more common as we approach the end.
(Matt. 24:7). Earthquakes, floods,
hurricanes and erupting volcanoes are also some of the natural calamities that
we can expect to see increasing as we approach the end. These also have
increased greatly since World War II. And it will be more so in the days to
(Dan. 12:4). Daniel prophesied that knowledge
would increase at the time of the end. All the scientific knowledge that man
accumulated since the time of Adam and up to 1939, (that is, in over 5900
years) has increased by twenty times since 1939. A graph of man's increase in
knowledge would show a very flat gradient for 99% of his history and then a
sudden sharp rise upwards to twenty times the height in the last period of his
history. Here is another clear pointer to the coming of Christ.
(Dan. 12:4). For 5800 years, man travelled
at almost the same pace - mostly on animal-back. Even in 1900, the fastest
speed at which man could travel was just 50 miles per hour. But today man has
travelled in space at 24,000 miles per hour. Worldwide tourism and travel have
become popular only after World War II. Daniel predicted this as one of the
signs of the end - "many will travel to and fro".
6. Love Of
(2 Tim. 3:4). Paul specifically stated
here that men would be lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God in the last
days. Along with violence, sex was the other major preoccupation of people in
Noah's day (Gen. 6:2). This is what we see in the world today too. There has
always been sexual immorality among men since the earliest times. But never in
human history has it been practised so openly and unashamedly as today. Here
again there has been a progressive deterioration in moral standards worldwide
since World War II. A flood of unclean demons have invaded the earth.
Television, the cinema and video tapes have all served Satan's purposes in
promoting the cult of pleasure seeking.
Paul said that one of the doctrines of
demons in the last days would be the forbidding of marriage (1 Tim. 4:1-3).
This is seen today in two extremes. One is the extreme asceticism of some
groups that teach that one must remain unmarried to be holy. At the other end
of the spectrum are those who no longer believe in getting married but in just
living together. Since man would be "without natural affection" in
the last days, it is not surprising that he feels that abortion also is
perfectly right (2 Tim. 3:3). The hands of most doctors today are more bloodied
with the blood of murdered babies, through abortions, than Herod's in Bethlehem
Jesus said that the last days would be
like the days of Lot (in Sodom). Homosexual relationships are now accepted as
normal. "They declare their sin as Sodom. They do not hide it" (Isa.
3:9). And so God has given them up. The terrible disease of AIDS is a part of
God's judgment on this sin (Rom. 1:26-28).
The ruining of millions of young people
through drugs is another evidence that this pleasure-loving generation is
rushing headlong to the pit of destruction.
Spirit Of Rebellion
(2 Tim. 3:2). The world has never seen
rebellion on such a scale, by children against their parents, students against
their teachers and servants against their masters (in offices, factories, etc),
as it has since World War II. Higher education has made today's young people
arrogant and discourteous to their parents and to older people in general. This
spirit of rebellion has penetrated Christendom too. Hence we see the spectacle
all over the world, of pastors and elders at the mercy of young people in their
congregations, having to please them in everything.
Women have started going to work outside
the home - more than ever in human history, since World War II. They have
started earning on their own, and this has made the average woman today
arrogant and independent and unwilling to accept her God-appointed place under
man's headship. This spirit has penetrated into Christendom too. All this but
goes to show how widespread and deep-rooted the spirit of rebellion against
Women today, no longer desire to be
mothers primarily. Just as women have become prime ministers around the world,
since World War II (a thing that was almost unheard of prior to that time),
even so, women have also started becoming elders and priests and teachers in
Christendom. This is the spirit of Jezebel (Rev. 2:20) and must be opposed in
the church by the spirit and power of Elijah, as in the Old Testament times (1
Away From The Faith
(1 Tim. 4:1). This is a very significant
verse, particularly when read in its context. The Spirit emphatically states
that some will depart from the faith in the latter times. The previous verse
refers to the secret of godliness (1 Tim. 3:16). It is godliness that
Christendom has fallen away from first of all. This has led to Christendom
falling away from obedience to the commandments of Jesus (particularly the ones
listed in Matt. 5-7). This in turn has led to the preaching of false grace. All
this was present even in the first century. But it has increased tremendously
since World War II.
The ecumenical movement, false cults,
counterfeit gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc, have all multiplied greatly in the
last forty years.
Jesus spoke thrice of deception in
relation to the last days (Matt. 24:5,11,24). He spoke there of how false
prophets would try to deceive even the elect with signs and wonders. There has
been a spate of signs and wonders by various so-called `healing-ministries' in
Christendom since 1945 - much of which has been a part of this counterfeit
working that Jesus specifically warned us about. We see today that even many
believers are deceived by these signs and wonders - because they are done in
the name of Jesus. They do not bother to verify if the man doing them is
God-fearing and leading others to obedience to all of Jesus' commandments like
the apostles did. This is why they are deceived (Read Deut. 13:1-4).
(Lk. 21:29-32). Jesus spoke here about all
the trees putting forth leaves (nations becoming independent). This has never
happened in the history of the world on the scale that it has happened since
1945. India became independent in 1947. Many other nations also gained their
independence after 1945. But above all, Jesus told us to watch the fig tree,
Israel (Lk. 21:29). Jesus came to Israel, looking for fruit on that fig tree.
All that He saw however, were the leaves of empty religious rituals; and He
cursed the fig tree and it withered up (Matt. 21:19). Forty years after the
crucifixion of Jesus, God allowed the Roman army led by General Titus, to enter
Jerusalem and destroy the Jewish temple. The Jews were then scattered to the
uttermost parts of the earth. For nearly 1900 years, this fig tree remained
But Jesus said that we were to watch for
the time that the same withered fig tree would put forth leaves again. The
slaughter of millions of Jews in World War II set aflame world sympathy for the
Jews, that ended with their coming back to their homeland in May 1948. In June
1967, they recaptured Jerusalem as well. The fig tree had begun to put forth
its leaves. Jesus had stated that Jerusalem would be ruled by Gentile
(non-Jewish) nations until the "times of the Gentiles" were fulfilled
(Lk. 21:24). We are now living in that time of which Jesus spoke.
God gave man six days to labour and
ordained the seventh day to be a day of rest. One day is with the Lord as a
thousand years (2 Pet. 3:8). This gives man 6000 years to labour. The seventh
millennium (1000 year period) will be the millennium of rest, when Jesus rules
on earth as King. From Adam to Christ's coming was about 4000 years. Now we are
nearing the end of the 2000 years since Christ came, that completes man's 'six
The Israelites were given two days in the
wilderness to sanctify themselves and then on the third day the Lord
came down into their midst (Ex. 19:10,11,16).The church also has been given
2000 years (2 days) to sanctify and prepare herself for the coming of the Lord.
"On the third day, He will raise us up" (Hos. 6:2).
To be ready for Christ's return, you must
first of all turn from all the sin that you know of, and acknowledge to God
that you are a guilty sinner. Then believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died to
take punishment for all your sins, and that He rose again from the dead and is
living in heaven today. Ask Him to come into your life as your Saviour and
Lord, to forgive your sins and to make you a child of God.
"Everyone who has the hope of
Christ's return will purify himself just as He is pure" (1 Jn. 3:3).
According to this verse, the only evidence that we have the hope of Christ's
return is that we purify ourselves. And we do not stop purifying ourselves
until we attain our Master's standard of purity. This is why the Holy Spirit
was given on the day of Pentecost - that He may show us the glory of Christ in
the mirror of God's Word and progressively transform us into that likeness from
one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18).
Calls Of The Holy Spirit
The Bible closes (in its final book) with
two calls of the Spirit:
1. To the world of unbelievers:
"Come" (Rev. 22:17), repent and believe in Christ.
2. To believers: "Overcome"
(Rev. 2:7 to 3:21), and be a part of Christ's bride.
BEING READY FOR THE COMING OF THE LORD
When we think of the return of Christ to
this earth, the important thing is not to know the exact date, but to be
spiritually ready for His return. Many who are familiar with the prophecies
concerning His coming, are not purifying themselves daily to His standard of
purity. Thereby they prove that the hope of Christ's coming is a dead hope in
them and not a living hope (1 Jn. 3:3). On the other hand, even though we may
not understand all the details of Biblical prophecies or the interpretation of
the symbols in the book of Revelation, yet it is possible for us to be 100%
prepared and ready for His coming, if we concentrate on what Jesus told us to
When Jesus told His disciples about His
return in Matt. 24, He emphasised more than once that they should be on the
alert (Matt. 24:42,44; 25:13). To be spiritually alert and ready at all times
is then the all important thing - not the knowledge of prophetic facts.
In Matt. 25 (which follows on from the
prophecies of Matt. 24), Jesus deals with three areas where we are called to be
alert and faithful in order to be ready for His coming.
In The Hidden Life
(Matt. 25:1-13). In this parable, Jesus
spoke of ten virgins. Notice that none of them were harlots (See Jas. 4:4 for a
definition of spiritual harlotry). They were all virgins. In other words, they
had a good testimony before men. Their lights were all burning (Matt. 5:16).
Their good works were seen by others. Yet among all these virgins, only five
were wise. But this was not obvious to everyone at the beginning. Only five had
taken oil with them in their flasks (v. 4).
That oil in the flask was not visible in
the night, like the light was, and speaks of our hidden life before God that
men cannot see in the darkness of this world. All of us have a flask. The
question is whether we have any oil in it or not.
Oil is used throughout the Scriptures as a
symbol of the Holy Spirit and refers here to that life of God that the Holy
Spirit communicates to our spirit. The outward manifestation of that life is
the light (Jn. 1:4). The inner content is the oil. Many are taken up with their
outward testimony alone. This is their folly. It is in times of trial and
testing that we find that the outward light alone is insufficient. One needs an
inner content of the divine life to carry us through triumphantly.
"If you are weak in a crisis, you are
weak in reality" (Prov. 24:16). The crises of life show us how strong or
weak we are. In this parable, the crisis was that the bridegroom delayed his
coming. It is time that proves the reality of our spirituality.
He who has faith endures until the end and
is saved. It is time also that proves who has an inner content in his life and
who does not. Many are like the seed that sprouted up immediately, but have no
inner life. There is no depth of soil in their hearts (Mk. 4:5).
This is why it is difficult to assess new
believers concerning their spirituality, or their wholeheartedness. Time will
reveal everything, if we have the patience to wait. The way to be ready for
Christ's coming, then, is to have an inner life of purity and faithfulness
before God's face - in our thoughts, attitudes and motives, that people around
us cannot see. If we do not have this, we are deceiving ourselves if we think
we are ready for Christ's coming.
In Our Ministry
(Matt. 25:14-30). In the second parable,
the emphasis is on the faithful use of the talents that God has given us. These
talents represent material possessions, money, natural abilities, opportunities
in life, spiritual gifts, etc.
Not all are equal in this area - for we
see in the parable that one got five, another two and another only one. But all
had equal time to be faithful with what they had received. To whom more is
given, from him more is required. Therefore the one who multiplied his two into
four got the same reward as the one who multiplied his five into ten.
Judgment however fell on the one who
buried his talent 'in the ground' (v. 18) - that is the one who used his
God-given talents for this world and not for God.
No one can say that he has received
nothing - for all have received some talent or other from God. The question is
what we use these talents for. What we use for ourselves is equivalent to the
talent buried in the ground. What we use for the glory of God alone is what
will be counted as eternal riches. By this standard we can see the poverty of
the vast majority of believers.
Our motto should be "All for God and
nothing for self". Then we will be ready for Christ's return. We cannot be
Jesus' disciples if we have not forsaken all that we have.
One who is not using all his God-given
possessions and gifts for the Lord is only deceiving himself if he claims to be
ready for Christ's return.
In Serving Our Fellow Believers
(Matt. 25:31-46). In the last section, it
is our attitude towards our fellow believers in need that Jesus deals with.
That need may be spiritual or physical.
Here we see that some inherit the kingdom
because they served their fellow believers as unto the Lord. Their service was
so much in secret that their left hand did not know what their right hand was
doing (Matt. 6:3). So much so, that when the Lord reminds them of the good that
they did, they do not even remember it! (Matt. 25:38).
Jesus also taught here that any service
that we do to the least of His brothers is considered as service done to Him
(Matt. 25:40). It is significant that He speaks of the least here, for our
tendency is to serve the most important believers and to ignore the poor and
the despised! Those who are occupied with eating and drinking, buying and
selling, and building and planting for themselves alone, will certainly be left
behind when Jesus returns (Lk. 17:28,34).
Only those whose service for the Lord
involved a loving concern to serve their fellow believers, will be taken up. In
another passage, Jesus spoke of another group of people - who are a contrast to
this group. These are the ones who remember all the good things that they have
done in the name of the Lord. They are also at the judgment seat, and they
remind the Lord that they have expelled demons, preached, healed the sick in
Jesus' name, etc. But they are rejected by the Lord, even though they did all
these things, because they lacked the very first requirement, of a hidden life
of holiness before God. They were taken up with the greatness of their gifts.
It is interesting to see the contrast.
Those who healed the sick are cast out
(Matt. 7:22,23). But those who merely visited the sick inherit the kingdom!
(Matt. 25:34,36). God does not ask us to heal the sick if we have not been
given the 'talent' of the gift of healing. But we can visit the sick and
encourage them and bless them in the name of the Lord. We shall then find that
we are ready for Christ's return, while many who healed the sick are left
behind! To serve others in this way, we have to be willing to be
Those who never want their daily plans to
be disturbed by interruption from needy people, will certainly be left behind
when Jesus comes. We have to sacrifice time, money, and above all, our own
plans and our will, if we are to serve others in the name of the Lord.
Selfishness is so rooted in our flesh that
even when we have cleansed ourselves of the sins of lusting with our eyes,
anger and covetousness, it is still possible to live just for ourselves. There
can be a holiness, like the holiness of the Pharisees, which is occupied only
with ourselves, and which does not deliver us from self-centredness. This is a
counterfeit of the true holiness; yet it is easy to be deceived by it.
Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us ...
Forgive us ... Deliver us ..." (Matt. 6:11-13). A sanctification that does
not give us a concern for others who are still in their sins and need, is a
worthless counterfeit that is fit for only being thrown into the garbage bin.
We need to re-orient our way of thinking
('renew our mind' Rom. 12:2) so that we put ourselves 'in the shoes of others'
and try and understand what they are going through. This is Christ-like
thoughtfulness that prepares us to inherit the coming kingdom. One who thinks
only of his own and his family's need, however 'holy' he may be, is only
deceiving himself if he thinks that he is ready for Christ's coming.
EVANGELISM AND MAKING DISCIPLES
It is a common mistake among Christians to
be taken up with one Scripture on a subject, to the exclusion of other
Scriptures on the same subject.
Satan's first attempt (as we see in the
temptation that came to Jesus in the wilderness) is to get us to act on the
basis of our need ("You are hungry, so turn the stones to bread") or
by ourselves apart from the will of God. Jesus rejected that temptation by
saying that He would act only according to what God told Him (Matt. 4:4). This
is what we must do too.
But when Satan sees that we, like Jesus,
take our stand on the word of God ("It is written ..."), his next
wile is to quote the word of God itself to us. He came to Jesus in the second
temptation with the words "It is written ..." (Matt. 4:6). If Jesus
had not known the whole counsel of God, He would have been deceived by Satan's
quotation of Scripture just as many believers are deceived today. But Jesus
effectively rejected that temptation too, by saying, "It is also written
..." (Matt. 4:7).
So it is essential that we know the whole
purpose of God. The whole truth is found in "It is written ..." and
"It is also written ...". It is written, "Go into all the world
and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mk. 16:15). It is also written,
"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations" (Matt. 28:19 NASB).
In a careful consideration and obedience to both the above commissions, we can
find the way to fulfil the will of God for us in this day and age.
The first step obviously is to go into all
the world, as Jesus has commanded in Mk. 16:15. This command is not a command
to the individual believer, but to the whole body of Christ. It is humanly
impossible for any single individual for any local church all by itself, to preach
to every human being in the world. Each of us can, at best, have but a small
part in this task.
But that part, however small it be, we
must fulfil. Here is where Acts 1:8 comes into the picture. Each believer must
have the Holy Spirit coming upon him and enduing him with power, if he is to be
an effective witness for Christ. Note that all are not called to be evangelists
(for Christ has given only some as evangelists to His body, the church - Eph.
4:11), but all are called to be witnesses.
An evangelist has a wider field of work
than a witness. A witness has to proclaim Christ in the circle in which he
moves and works - to relatives, neighbours, fellow workers in his office and to
the others he comes across daily, to whom he may happen to be led to while
travelling, etc. Here is where we can all be witnesses, whatever our earthly
occupations may be.
But Christ has also given to the church
evangelists, not however for `winning souls' or for `bringing people
to Christ' as is commonly heard, but for `building up the body of
Christ' (as Eph. 4:11,12 makes plain). Here is where the biggest failure of
much evangelism lies. Today's evangelism, unfortunately, is generally speaking
not related to building up the body of Christ, but only to the saving of individual
souls. These souls are then usually sent back to their dead, denominational
'churches' where they soon get lost all over again, or at best, become
lukewarm, fit for being spat out of the mouth of the Lord (Rev. 3:16). Either
way, they are not built into the body of Christ; and thus only Satan's purposes
are accomplished, for the person has then become twofold a child of hell (Matt.
23:15) - first because he was lost to start with, and secondly because now he
has been deluded by some evangelist into thinking that he is saved! The only
thing that is built up through such evangelism is the evangelist's private
empire; and the only reason for such evangelism usually is the seeking of the
honour of men.
Jesus called evangelists 'fishers of men'.
But evangelism that is done in cooperation with unconverted bishops and pastors
is like fishing with a net full of holes. One cannot imagine Jesus or Peter
inviting Annas or Caiaphas to sit on the platform and inaugurate their
evangelistic meetings! Yet today's evangelists do just that - and not just
that, they even praise these unconverted bishops. Such evangelists are
compromisers of the first order.
Further, the fish that are caught in the
net are allowed to go back into the sea (dead denominations), to be caught all
over again at the next evangelistic crusade, only to be let back into the sea
again. This process is repeated again and again by the many evangelists
conducting interdenominational crusades these days, with each evangelist
counting hands, decision cards, etc. This type of evangelism brings joy, not to
the angels of heaven but only to the hosts of Satan! For, after all, how can
angels rejoice over those who are made twofold the children of hell?
Signs and wonders may accompany the
proclamation of the message that Jesus forgives sins and heals diseases. But
the question that remains is how many have been built into the body of Christ
as a result of such evangelism.
The apostles (in the first century) never
engaged in this type of evangelism. With them, the converts were placed in
local churches to be made into disciples and built up. Unfortunately, the 20th
century has seen the emergence of the ministry of the healing-evangelist as the
pre-eminent ministry in Christendom. This is but another indication of how far
Christendom has drifted from the teaching of God's word.
The five ministries mentioned in Eph. 4:11
(apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) are listed in their
order of priority in 1 Cor. 12:28. There we are told, "God has
appointed in the church: First, apostles: Second, prophets: Third, teachers:
then miracles, then gifts of healing (that is, evangelists, for all evangelists
in the New Testament had the gift of healing); and (in the same category,
again) helps (helpers of the weak), administrations (literally, 'the ones who
steer the ships') (that is, shepherds or pastors)." This makes it
clear that in God's eyes, the ministries of the apostles, prophets and teachers
are more important to the building up of the body of Christ than that of the
evangelists. The evangelist can find his proper place in his ministry only as
he takes his appointed place beneath the ministries of the apostle, prophet and
teacher. Then and only then can his ministry serve to the building up of the
body of Christ. Here is where twentieth century evangelism has gone astray from
the word of God.
The purpose of evangelism (as commanded in
Mk. 16:15) can be understood only as seen in the light of the commission to
make disciples in every nation of the world (Matt. 29:18). This is the whole
plan of God for the unconverted.
The convert must be made into a disciple.
Unfortunately today even the so-called convert is not often a true
convert, for in many cases he has not repented properly. In the evangelistic
meeting he was told only to believe, without even a word being mentioned
about repentance. Most of today's converts are therefore like premature babies,
pulled out by impatient midwives ('evangelists') in their lust for statistics,
when the babies were not yet ready to be born. These premature babies then
either die, or live as problem cases for the rest of their lives. The angels
rejoice over sinners who repent, not over sinners who merely believe (Lk.
But even where there has been a thorough
repentance, and a person has been truly converted, he must then be led on to
discipleship, to fulfil God's will for him.
Evangelism that does not lead on to
discipleship is an incomplete job. Often, it is the evangelist's desire to
build his own kingdom that prevents him from working together with those who
can make his 'converts' into disciples.
We do not have to judge such preachers,
for we are told not to judge. But they will certainly have to answer to the
Lord for hindering their converts from becoming disciples.
Let us look at the commission in Mk. 16:15
along with the one in Matt. 28:19,20 and try and understand the whole purpose
The first step of leading people to
repentance and faith must culminate in water baptism (as Jesus made plain in
Mk. 16:16). Those evangelists who do not preach water baptism for fear of
offending unconverted bishops etc, are not preaching the way Peter preached it
on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38).
Further, in Matthew 28:19, the Lord
commands us to make disciples. This involves leading these converts to be
detached from an inordinate love for their relatives that hinders them from
following the Lord (Lk. 14:26), to be detached from material possessions (Lk.
14:33) and leading them to take up the cross daily for the rest of their lives
(Lk. 14:27). These are the three minimum requirements for becoming a disciple.
Matt. 28:19 then repeats the necessity of
water baptism. Although baptism is repeated in both commissions, it is rare
indeed to find an evangelist today who has the courage to preach it. They fear
men more than they fear God; preferring to be interdenominational and thus
great in the eyes of men, rather than preach the whole counsel of God and be
great in His eyes.
Matt. 28:20 goes on to say that this
disciple must then be taught every single thing that Jesus commanded - and not
only that, but be taught to obey and practise every single command of Jesus.
One has to only look through Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7 to see some of the
things that Jesus commanded - which most believers do not even bother to obey.
So we see what a tremendous task it is to
fulfil both commissions together.
The need now in our land is for those who
have been gripped by the necessity of proclaiming the whole counsel of God, and
who are wholeheartedly obedient themselves (as far as they have light) to all
that Jesus commanded, and who passionately desire to build the body of Christ.
Jesus said that His disciples would be
identified by one mark - their love for one another.
Mark that! It is not by large numbers that
the disciples are identified, or by their wealth, but by their fervent mutual
love. The evangelistic healing meeting that draw thousands to hear the message
must lead on to the establishment of a local church in that locality, where the
disciples love one another.
Yet the sad thing is that in the places
where repeated evangelistic, healing crusades are held year after year, it is
difficult to find even one church about which it can be said that the members
therein do not fight with one another or backbite against one another, etc,
leave alone love one another. One can understand if the new converts are still
unable to live a victorious life. But what shall we say if strife and
immaturity characterise even the elders of the churches in our land?
This is the clearest indication that the
great commission of Matt. 28:19,20 - discipleship and total obedience to the
commandments of Jesus - has been totally ignored. The commission of Mk. 16:15
(faith and water baptism) alone is obeyed, and that too in many cases only
partially (water baptism being left out).
In Mk. 16:15-20, the emphasis is on
evangelism, the message being confirmed by signs and wonders done by the Lord.
In Matt. 28:19,20, the emphasis is on discipleship, the disciple's life being
manifested by total obedience to Jesus' commandments. Multitudes of Christians
are taken up with the former; very, very few with the latter. Yet the former
without the latter is as incomplete and worthless as half a human body. But who
has eyes to see this?
In Jesus' ministry, we read that great
multitudes followed Him, because of His evangelistic, healing ministry. He
immediately turned around and taught them about discipleship (Lk. 14:25,26).
Would that today's evangelists would do the same, either themselves or along
with apostles, prophets, teachers and shepherds who can complete the work they
When Jesus preached discipleship to the
multitudes, it soon dwindled down to a handful of eleven disciples (Compare Jn.
6:2 with 70). The remaining folk found the message too hard, and left (Jn.
6:60,66). But it was with those eleven disciples that God accomplished His
purposes in the world and carried on the work that Jesus began.
Today we are to carry on the same ministry
as His Body on earth. After the evangelist has gathered the multitude, we are
to lead the converts to discipleship and obedience. Thus and thus alone will
the body of Christ be built.
OUR DISTINCTIVE CALLING AS A CHURCH
What is our distinctive calling as a
church in the different localities in our country where God has placed us?
There are at least seven areas
where our emphasis is to be different from what is currently the norm in much
of Christendom, if we are to be uncompromisingly true to God's Word.
Greatness But Holiness
Babylon (the false church) is called 'the
great' eleven times in the Book of Revelation. Jerusalem (the bride of Christ)
on the other hand is called 'the holy city' (see Rev. 12-21).
If we seek to be great in the eyes of the
world as a 'church', then we drift towards Babylon. Jesus said that what men
esteemed highly was an abomination in God's sight (Lk. 16:15). We have
therefore to check up constantly whether there is anything in our church (even
if it be music or the preaching) that is said or done to impress men. Numbers
are always impressive in men's eyes. If we are keen on presenting the
statistics of the growth of our church to others, that is one sure mark of
Babylon. This does not mean that God is not interested in adding to our
numbers. He certainly is - if He finds that we are a flock that He can
recommend to others of His sheep (who are wholehearted). But growth in numbers
is not necessarily an indication of God's blessing - for the heretical cults
are also growing in numbers and so are heathen religions. And very often their
statistics are more impressive than those of many Christian groups!
Holiness is the characteristic of the true
church (Jerusalem). So growth in Jerusalem is measured by growth in holiness -
which includes love for one another. Jesus said that the way to life was narrow
and that few would find it. Those who proclaim the narrow gate as narrow as
Jesus made it will find that very few join their church (Matt. 7:13,14). If, on
the other hand, we make the gate broader than Jesus made it, we shall increase
in numbers easily. This is where much of today's Christendom has gone astray.
Jesus spoke about the narrow gate and the narrow way in the context of the
'sermon on the mount' (Matt. ch. 5-7). The content of those chapters is
therefore what constitutes the narrow gate and the narrow way.
1 Cor. 3:13 makes it clear that it is the
quality of our work that will be assessed by the Lord in the final day - and
not the quantity. A ministry of quality can come only out of one who lives in
constant self-judgment - "who lives with the consuming fire and the
everlasting burning" (Isa. 13:14).
Here, the church is to be different from
all the denominations around us. Once this distinction is lost, we will end up
as another dead denomination.
2. Not The External Life First But The
In the old covenant, the emphasis was
always on the external - "because of the hardness of men's hearts" (Matt.
19:8). The law emphasised cleanliness in the external. The new covenant, in
contrast, emphasised cleanliness "inside the cup" first (Matt.
23:25,26). Jesus said in that verse (v. 26) that once the inside was cleansed,
the outside would automatically become clean, so that there would be no need to
clean the outside at all. One can see this clearly from Matt. 5:21-30. If one
has cleansed his heart from anger, there would be no danger of his committing
murder externally. Likewise, if he has cleansed his heart from sexually dirty
thoughts, there would be no danger of his committing adultery externally. Clean
the inside of the cup and the outside will automatically become clean.
Where the emphasis in a church is
primarily on the externals - avoiding cinema going, smoking, drinking, gambling
and wearing ornaments etc., - such a church will only become an old covenant
church! The way to get rid of external evils is not by concentrating on
them first, but rather on the internal worldly attitude of mind which produces
those external evils.
There can be no inward cleansing without
self-judgment. It is impossible to build the church unless this inward
cleansing is constantly preached. The Bible tells us to exhort one another
daily in the church to avoid being hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (Heb.
3:13; 10:25). Most Christian 'churches' have no interest in such preaching,
except perhaps occasionally. Certainly not daily!. Hence they breed Pharisees
with cups clean on the outside only. Here the bride of Christ must be
Restless Activity But Obedience
The emphasis in denominational
Christianity is always on 'activity' - street preaching, house to house
visitation, missionary work, etc. All this is good. But unfortunately it has
taken the place of total obedience to God's word in the minds of most
Jesus said that we were to teach all
Christians to obey all that He had taught (Matt. 28:20). God requires obedience
more than sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:22). It is a heathen concept that God requires
us to go through various forms of physical suffering in order to prove our love
for Him. This is very prevalent in the heathen culture in India and has
unfortunately pervaded Christianity in our country as well. Spirituality is
therefore seen as giving up one's job and going out to some difficult place,
undergoing various hardships, etc. All this may involve much sacrifice, but it
can never be a substitute for obedience to God's Word.
Our love for Jesus is not proved by
sacrifice but by obedience to His commandments - as Jesus Himself said in Jn.
14:15. To obey everything that Jesus has taught us in Matt. 5-7 is a far
greater proof of our love for Him than even giving Him 50% of our salary or
giving up our job and becoming a missionary.
Denominational Christianity is clearly
pictured in the restless activity of Martha (Lk. 10:39-42). She was sincere,
sacrificial, unselfish and zealous in her service for the Lord in the kitchen.
Yet the Lord rebuked her. Her spirit was sour and critical of her sister Mary
who apparently was not doing anything sacrificial for the Lord. Mary was
sitting quietly at the Lord's feet waiting to hear His word before doing
anything for Him.
This is to be our attitude - not restless
activity but hearing what the Lord has to say to us and then obeying that - not
doing what our own reason suggests but doing the will of God.
Evangelism Without Disciple-Making
Some believers consider God's Word as
having almost only one command - to go into all the world and preach the gospel
to every creature (Mk. 16:15). This command must certainly be obeyed by the
total body of Christ worldwide - particularly by those who are given by Christ
as evangelists to the body (Eph. 4:11). But the work will still be unfinished,
if this command of Christ is not balanced by His other command to go and make
disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19).
We thank God for all those who, at much
personal cost, have gone out into all the world and preached the gospel to
those who have never heard the name of Jesus. But it is a sad fact of twentieth
century evangelism that the threefold command of Matt. 28:19,20 - to make
disciples, to immerse them in water in the name of the Father, Son and Holy
Spirit, and to teach them obedience to all of Jesus' commands - is almost
When multitudes of believers are
emphasising evangelism without making disciples, it becomes our task to restore
the lost emphasis - to make disciples - and to complete the unfinished task.
Many think only of the unfinished task of
various areas of the world yet to be reached with the gospel. God gives that
burden to those who have that evangelistic calling. But to others God gives the
equally important task - the more difficult task - of making these converts
This can be illustrated by a carpentry
shop engaged in making tables where multitudes of carpenters are busy making
just the four legs and very few are employed in making the table tops to
complete the tables. The result is that the shop is piled high with unfinished
tables and the carpenters are still busy producing more half-finished jobs. We
can be sure that Jesus, in the carpentry shop at Nazareth, always finished a
table before moving on to the next one. He always believed in finishing a task
begun (even as He cried, "It is finished", on the cross) and He is
the same today. We are co-workers with Him and must also believe in a finished
job. All converts must be made into disciples.
Old-Testament Giving But New Testament Giving
Most believers are totally ignorant of the
difference between the old covenant and the new covenant. This has led to
preachers taking advantage of them by imposing on them the Old Testament
'tithe' as a command.
When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees, who
were still under the old covenant, He told them to tithe - for Moses had
commanded this (Matt. 23:23). But when speaking to His disciples and
introducing them to the new covenant, He never spoke a word about the percentage
of their gifts but only about their motive (Matt. 6:1-4). The quality
of our giving is what is emphasised in the new covenant and not the quantity
(See 2 Cor. 9:7 also). The only question that now remains is whether we want to
be Pharisees or Jesus' disciples!
Christian magazines these days are full of
exhortations to believers to tithe and to support various ministries and
preachers. Almost all Christian magazines have become polluted by this
commercial spirit of Babylon - begging for money for various projects in the
Name of Christ.
The apostles never once engaged in this
type of begging for money for their own ministries. Jesus never did it either.
What we see today is in direct contrast to the examples of Jesus and the
apostles. Yet most believers are totally ignorant of this fact, and continue to
blindly support this type of begging, thus polluting themselves as well.
The New Testament speaks much more about
giving our bodies to the Lord than our money (Rom. 12:1). And this is what we
must always emphasise in the church. Our financial needs will be taken care of
by the Lord if we seek His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33).
6. Not The
Power Of Man But The Power Of God
Human soul-power has become a deceptive
counterfeit of Holy Spirit power in Christendom today. Much of charismatic
Christianity today is riddled with soul-power masquerading as the power of the
Holy Spirit. To discern between soul and spirit is the great need of the hour
if we are to escape deception; and this is where we have to focus the light of
God's Word strongly in these days in the church.
God works through human weakness. He has
chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). God's
truths are hidden from the wise and the intelligent and revealed to babes
(Matt. 11:25). Where theologians preach with human cleverness, there you
certainly have Babylon - even if those theologians are evangelical in their
doctrines. Babylonian Christianity has discarded God's method of using foolish
people to do God's work.
The exaltation of human intellect is the
surest way to build Babylon. This danger is ever prevalent in the church too,
if intellectually-minded people, who have not understood the necessity of
pouring out their soul to death, depend on their clever minds to do God's work.
In the church, the one who depends on his cleverness is actually a hindrance.
God does not do His work through proud scholars, but through humble, God
Eldership in the church must therefore
always be on the basis of a person's life and never on any other basis. The
power of God is always manifested through the Holy Spirit and the word of the
cross (See 1 Cor. 1:18 and 2:4) - not through domineering human personalities.
Where a church fails to emphasise the
power of God's Spirit and the way of the cross, the door is invariably left
open for human soul-power to manifest itself. Human cleverness and ability,
instead of the revelation and power of the Spirit, then take the stage and
Babylon is built - even if they preach holiness!
Gathering A Congregation But Building The Body Of Christ
In the Old Testament, it was impossible
for God's people, the Jews, to become one body. That became possible only after
Jesus ascended up to heaven and poured out the Holy Spirit to indwell man. Now,
two can become one. In the Old Testament, Israel was a congregation. The nation
grew in size, but it was still a congregation. In the New Testament, however,
the church is to be a body, not a congregation.
If two do not become one, then all that
you have there is a congregation. The important thing in Christ's body is not size
but unity. And by this standard it becomes difficult to find a
'church' that is not a congregation. Everywhere one finds congregations that
are increasing in size - but not in unity. Strife and jealousy and competition
are found even at the leadership level.
God desires to have an expression of
Christ's body in different places all over the world. Babylonian Christianity
cannot accomplish this. But God's work still goes on through a remnant who
realise that the mark of Jesus' disciples is fervent love for one another and
not largeness of number.
In the body of Christ, each person is
valued, even if he is not gifted. He is valued because he is a member of the
body. In fact, it says that God gives greater honour to the member who lacks
gift so that there may be unity in the body (1 Cor. 12:24,25). In the church,
we have to follow God's example and honour even those who have no gift at all,
if they are God fearing and humble. In Babylon, the gifted preacher, the gifted
singer and the converted astronaut are honoured. But in the church (God's
tent), we honour those who fear the Lord (see Psa. 15:1,4).
There is a world of difference between
Babylon and Jerusalem.
Today God calls us to come out of Babylon
and build Jerusalem (Rev. 18:4).
BREAKING OF BREAD - A COVENANT
When Jesus instituted the 'breaking of
bread', He used a word that He never used before - the word `covenant'. A
proper understanding of this word is essential if we are to partake in the
Lord's table meaningfully.
Relationship With God
The first mention of the word 'covenant'
is found in Gen. 6:18, where God promises to establish a covenant with Noah
(Gen. 9:9,11). God had judged the whole world because of man's sin and now He
made a covenant with Noah that He would never again judge the world with a
flood as He had just done. God gave a sign to mark the covenant that He then
made. It was what we now call the 'rainbow'. God, however, called it 'My bow in
the cloud' (Gen. 9:13). The word used for 'bow' there is exactly the same word
as is translated elsewhere in the Bible for the weapon, the bow. A bow is
always aimed in the direction of the one who is to be shot with the arrow. The
significance of the bow in the cloud pointing upwards (instead of downwards) is
that God who dwells in the heavens was Himself going to receive the arrow
released by that bow and take the judgment for man's sin. The bow would not be
aimed at man but God Himself. The world has never since been judged by a flood.
Psalm 69:1,2 states that the floods of God's judgment went over Jesus on the
cross. This was the fulfilment of the sign of the bow in the cloud.
The next person in the Scriptures with
whom God made a covenant was Abram. This is first mentioned in Gen. 15:18.
Notice there, how God entered into the covenant with Abram. Abram was told to
bring three animals and two birds, to slay them and spread them out on the
ground (15:9,10). The animals were to be cut into two and laid each half
opposite the other. At night, God came down and as a smoking fire-pot and a
flaming fire passed between those halves of the dead animals. Thus it was that
the Lord made a covenant with Abram. The significance was again clear - that
God Himself would lay down His life (as those dead animals) for Abram. As in
the case of the sign of the covenant with Noah, death was the way that the
covenant was established - a death in which God Himself took the initiative.
This method of establishing and confirming
a covenant later became a practice in Israel (as is seen from Jer. 34:18,19).
Whenever two people entered into a covenant, they would slay a calf, divide it
into two and walk between the two halves, thus symbolically stating that each
was prepared to lay down his life for the other in being true to the covenant.
It was a serious offence to make such a symbolic vow and not to keep it. Hence
God told the people of Judah through Jeremiah that He would judge them severely
for making such a covenant and then breaking it.
In Genesis 17, we find God re-confirming
the covenant with Abraham. Again God gave a sign to mark the covenant - this
time, circumcision. Circumcision is a cutting off of the flesh and symbolises
(as Phil. 3:3 and Col. 2:11 make plain) death to the flesh. We notice that the
symbol of the covenant is again something that speaks of death. This time, it
was Abraham and his seed who had to signify their willingness to be faithful to
the covenant unto death. The external circumcision was but a sign of God's
desire to circumcise the hearts of the Israelites to love Him wholeheartedly
(See Deut. 30:6; Rom. 2:28,29). This teaches us that there can be no
wholehearted love for God apart from death to the flesh.
The next time we read of a covenant is
when God made a covenant with the nation of Israel through Moses - what we call
the 'old covenant' or the 'Old Testament'. We read this is Ex. 24:4-7. Moses
wrote God's words in a book (the book of the covenant), slew young bulls as a
sacrifice to the Lord and sprinkled the blood of the bulls on the people
saying, "Behold the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with
you" (Ex. 24:8). The covenant was sealed by the blood of the slain
This is the first time in the Bible that
the phrase `the blood of the covenant' occurs. This is the same phrase
that Jesus used when passing the cup around, at the last supper, to His
disciples (Matt. 26:28). Under the old covenant, the blood was only sprinkled
on the people. Under the new covenant, Jesus invites us to drink of
the cup. This symbolises the fact that under the old covenant, the law could
only cleanse a person's external life whereas under the new covenant, we can be
Again, the covenant is entered through death.
In Heb. 9:13-22, this contrast between the blood of bulls and the blood of
Christ is brought out; and we are told there that "where a covenant is,
there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. ... it is never in
force while the one who made it lives" (v. 16,17). This is why every
symbol of every covenant that God made with any man symbolised death.
The only way that Jesus could establish
the new covenant with us was through His own death; and the only way that we
can enter into that covenant and its privileges is through death to ourselves.
This is the meaning of eating the bread and drinking the wine at the 'breaking
In Heb. 13:20, we are told that God
brought up Jesus from the dead through the blood of the eternal covenant. What
does this mean? The blood shed by Jesus on Calvary's cross was shed as a result
of resisting sin unto death (Heb. 12:4). Jesus was determined to obey the
Father and never to sin. His attitude to His Father was, "Father, I would
rather die than disobey You in one small point" (See Phil. 2:8 -
"obedient unto death"). This was Jesus' covenant with His Father.
Now Jesus invites us at His table to drink
of the cup which is the blood of this new covenant. Are we willing? Can we
drink of the cup which He drank of? Do we long, like the apostle Paul, to know
"the fellowship of His sufferings being conformed to His death in order
that (we too) may attain to the resurrection from the dead" (Phil.
Most believers come to the Lord's table so
lightly, without any understanding of what it implies and what the covenant is
all about. Only one who is determined to strive against sin even unto blood can
take part of the Lord's table worthily.
The word `covenant' could be
likened to a solemn agreement signed in a court. No one would sign an agreement
in a court, without carefully reading and understanding the terms of the
agreement. But how lightly believers take part of the bread and wine at the
Lord's table! No wonder, as in Corinth, even today many believers are weak
(physically and spiritually), sick (physically and spiritually) and a number of
them die before God's appointed time (1 Cor. 11:30) - all because they come to
the Lord's table lightly.
In Lev. 26:14-20, God had warned the
Israelites that if they made a covenant with Him and then broke it, they would
become sick and diseased and defeated and there would be no profit in their
labours or in their businesses.
It is a serious thing to break a covenant.
"Do not be hasty in word in the presence of God. When you make a vow to
God, do not be late in paying it. ... It is better that you should not vow than
that you should vow and not pay it" (Eccl. 5:2-5).
Anyone who is repeatedly plagued by
sickness and weakness should carefully consider whether he has carelessly
broken his covenant with God. This is why James tells us to confess our sins in
order to be healed (Jas. 5:16).
The bread that we break symbolises the
body of Christ. First of all it symbolises that physical body that Jesus took
when He came to earth, in which He never did His own will but His Father's (see
Heb. 10:5-7). Thus His body was a broken, yielded body all through His earthly
life. His body was like bread - easily broken when touched even slightly. Such
was His yieldedness to His Father's will at all points. When we break the bread
and partake of it, we are testifying thereby, very solemnly, that we too desire
to go the same way of yieldedness and brokenness. It is a serious thing
therefore to say that to the Lord at the Lord's table, and then live as though
we never made a covenant with God. We may not be perfect, but the Lord expects
even the newest believer to have a willingness to go the way of death to self,
no longer to live for oneself, but for Him alone (2 Cor. 5:15). Otherwise we partake
of the bread unworthily, not discerning the Lord's body rightly.
Relationship In The Brotherhood
The bread that we break symbolises not
only the physical body of Christ but also the church, the body of Christ (1
Cor. 10:16,17), for there is but one loaf, and we who are many are one body.
Those who "eat the sacrifices are sharers in the altar" (1 Cor.
10:18). If we eat at the Lord's table, we are to share His death on the cross
(the altar) - death to our self - not only in our relationship with God, but
also in our relationship with others in the body of Christ.
"We ought to lay down our lives for
the brothers" (1 Jn. 3:16). This is another aspect of our testimony at the
Lord's table. It is not only with the Lord that we enter into a covenant, but
also with our fellow believers. And here too the covenant is entered through
death to self.
As the two parties entering into a
covenant in Israel passed between the two halves of the slain ('broken') calf,
even so today we enter into a covenant with one another through the broken
bread. This is just as serious a matter as the first aspect that we considered
earlier, of making a covenant with God.
In 1 Sam. 18:1-8, we read of Jonathan
entering into a covenant with David. This is a beautiful picture of what the
covenant relationship should be like in the body of Christ. It says there that
Jonathan's soul was knit to the soul of David. The 'knit' used here is the same
word used in Neh. 4:6 where it refers to the wall being built in such a way
that there was no gap at all in it. So too was Jonathan's heart was knit with
David's - there was no gap between their hearts for the enemy to come through.
It says further that Jonathan loved David as himself. This is our calling in
the body of Christ too - to be joined together as ONE, such that there
is no gap between us (no gap of misunderstanding, jealousy, suspicion, etc)
whereby the enemy can come through and bring a division.
Jonathan should have been the one person
in Israel who should have been most jealous of David, for he was a threat to
Jonathan succeeding Saul as the next king of Israel. Yet he overcame jealousy
and loved David as his own self. How Jonathan puts New Testament believers to
Jonathan then made a covenant with David;
and as a symbol of the covenant, he took off his royal robe and put it on
David. This was symbolic of Jonathan's desire to die to himself as the next
king of Israel and to make David king. We are commanded in the body of Christ
to "outdo one another in showing honour" (Rom. 12:10 margin). We are
to so die to ourselves that we sincerely and earnestly long that our brothers
will be greater and higher and more regarded than ourselves. And we take our
robe, if necessary, to cover a brother's nakedness wherever it is seen. Thus we
can make our brother glorious in the eyes of others. This is what it means to
enter into a covenant relationship with the brothers in the body of Christ.
It is impossible to enter into such a
covenant without dying to self persistently. All the problems that riddle
almost every assembly of believers arise because the believers therein have not
entered into such a covenant relationship with one another. Everyone seeks his
own. The net result of this is that Satan triumphs. But such assemblies are not
the church that Jesus is building, for Jesus said that the gates of hell would
not be able to prevail against the church that He builds (Matt. 16:18).
Jesus is building His church in this world
today. If we are to be a part of that church and to have a part in building
that church, then we need to take to heart covenant relationships and should
seek to learn with all our hearts what it means to make our brother glorious.
Then we read that Jonathan also took his
armour, his sword, his bow and his belt and gave them to David. Entering into a
covenant with our brothers, we surrender every possible weapon with which we
can harm them in any way. This is the meaning of Jonathan's action.
The weapon with which the maximum damage
has been done in Christendom is the tongue. Are we willing to lay down this
weapon in a covenant relationship with our brothers in such a way that we will
never again speak evil or backbite or gossip against another, even once.
This surrender of our weapons also implies
a trust in our brother such that we can afford to be defenceless before him,
because we know that he will never harm us. It is through such trust and
confidence that the brotherhood is built.
In 1 Sam. 19,20, we see Jonathan's
steadfast loyalty to David even at the cost of having to stand against his own
father. Jonathan stood by his brother David in the presence of carnal
relatives. Truly he is a worthy example for all of us to follow. We are to love
the brotherhood more than our blood relatives.
In Amos 1:9,10, we see how seriously God
viewed a breaking of the covenant of brotherhood. Tyre had made a covenant with
Israel in the days of Hiram. Yet in the moment of Israel's need, they betrayed
Israel and delivered them over to their enemies and thus broke the covenant
that they had made. God told Amos that He was going to judge Tyre severely for
In 2 Sam. 21:1,2, we read another example
of this. For three years there had been a famine in Israel. When David sought
the Lord for the cause of this, the Lord told him that it was because Israel
had broken the covenant that they had made with the Gibeonites in the days of
Joshua. King Saul had killed the Gibeonites, disregarding that solemn covenant.
Years later, long after Saul had died, judgment caught up with Israel. God may
delay His judgments, but where He does not see repentance, those judgments will
surely come. One may ask why God delayed so much in sending the famine. No
doubt it was because He gave Israel time to repent. When they did not repent, judgment
fell on them.
Paul told the Corinthians that if they
judged themselves, God would not judge them. But since they had not judged
themselves, therefore many of them were sick and weak and many died before
their time (1 Cor. 11:30,31). All believers who are perpetually weak and sick
should seek God to see if the reason for it is perhaps a broken covenant of
brotherhood - taking part in the table of the Lord and then betraying their
brothers and sisters, behind their backs, by slander, gossip, etc. This was the
chief crime of Judas Iscariot - that he had partaken of the covenant meal with
Jesus and then gone out and betrayed Him. As the psalmist prophesied,
"Even my close friend, whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his
heel against me" (Psa. 41:9).
May the Lord enable each one of us to
examine ourselves and partake of the Lord's table meaningfully in future. Let
us repent wholeheartedly of the sin of breaking covenant with the Lord and with
our brothers and sisters; and let us take heed to the voice of the Spirit that
has come to us.
THE CHURCH AND THE TRIBULATION
We are told in Eph. 3:10 that in the new
covenant, God desires to manifest His wisdom through the church to the rulers
and authorities in the heavenly places. From Eph. 6:12, we know that these
rulers and authorities in the heavenly places are Satan and his hosts of
wickedness who dwell in the second heaven (where they dwell ever since
being cast down out of the third heaven, where God dwells - 2 Cor.
We know that we are to be Christ's
witnesses unto all men. But here we are told that we have to have a testimony
to the evil spirits too. What testimony is this? It is a testimony to the
wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10). It is the joyful confession of our spirits that God
has ordered everything in our lives according to His perfect wisdom. It is the
testimony of lives that have partaken of the wisdom that is from above.
In the book of Job, we read of the witness
that Job was to Satan, by his life. When Satan came into the presence of God,
after touring the earth, God asked him if he had observed the uprightness of
Job's life (Job 1:8). Satan's reply was that Job feared God because of the
three hedges that God had put around Job. Satan knew that there was a hedge
around Job's person, another hedge around his family and a third hedge around
Job's possessions (v. 10). Many believers do not know about this threefold
hedge that God has put around the disciples of Jesus. Those who fulfil the
threefold condition of discipleship mentioned in Lk. 14:26-33 will find that
God puts a hedge around each area surrendered to the Lord - possessions, loved
ones and one's own life.
But then we read that God opened up these
hedges around Job, one by one, so that Satan could go through them and attack
Job's possessions, his loved ones and his body. This was in order that Job's
character could be demonstrated by God to Satan.
From this we learn that Satan cannot touch
a disciple of Jesus or anything that he has, without first getting God's
permission. This is a very important truth for us to be established in - and we
shall see the need for this even more in the days to come. The true church of
Jesus Christ will be called to suffer in the coming days, as in the early
centuries. Before that time comes upon us, we must be established in this truth
first of all - that there is a threefold hedge around the wholehearted
disciples of Jesus that no one can come through, unless God Himself opens up
that hedge and permits Satan to do so.
The other lesson that we can learn from
Job is that our own loved ones and religious Christians will criticise and
condemn us. In Job's case, his wife and three religious leaders (Eliphaz,
Bildad and Zophar) misunderstood and criticised him. That too was permitted by
God. Our loved ones will become our foes and religious people will
misunderstand and criticise us - because God has opened the hedges and allowed
them to do so.
Job humbled himself and said - "Naked
I came from my mother's womb and naked I shall return. The Lord gave and the
Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord" (Job 1:21). He was a
true disciple - for he possessed nothing. He recognised that everything he had
belonged to the Lord rightfully and that the Lord had as much right to give
them as to take them away. Those who are not disciples think of blessing only
in terms of God giving them things. Those who are disciples recognise
that it is just as much blessing - perhaps even more - when God takes them
away. Thus we can know whether we are disciples or not.
The sad thing was that Job could not
endure in this bold confession until the end. After a while, he wilted and
weakened under the continued pressure of trial, and began to complain against
God. From chapter 3 to chapter 31, we see the sad spectacle of Job going up and
down - sometimes rising to great heights in his confession of faith and at
other times sinking down to the depths of despair, grumbling and self
justification. This is the experience of old covenant people.
But now God has promised us something
better in the new covenant - as we read in Heb. 11:40. That is described in the
succeeding verses of Hebrews 12:1-13) that we can follow Jesus who endured
until the very end triumphantly.
Today we are followers, not of Job, but of
Jesus - and whatever the trial, we can be overcomers until the very end,
through the power of God's grace and be a witness to Satan. We cannot criticise
Job, for he lived in a time when grace had not come and the Holy Spirit had not
been given, The new covenant had not been established, etc. Considering the
limitations of the time he lived in, he did extremely well - so well that God
commends him three times (Job. 1:8;2:3;42:7).
We however can follow Jesus - the Author
and Finisher of our faith.
Jesus passed through the university of
suffering and there obtained the certificate of perfect obedience. And now He
has become a Professor in the same university to teach obedience to all who are
willing to enroll (Heb. 5:8,9). There is no compulsion here, as there was under
the old covenant, with its 'Thou shalt's. No. But the Spirit and the bride say,
"Come, join this university". No one can be a disciple who does not
join this university - for this is the only place where disciples are trained.
Jesus told His disciples very clearly that
in the world they would face tribulation. But they were not to fear this, for
He had overcome the world and its ruler; and therefore they could be overcomers
too (Jn. 16:33).
Jesus has many admirers today but
few followers. He never called people to admire Him but only to follow
Him. And if we follow Him, then we shall no longer belong to this world. And
then the world will surely hate us.
Jesus said that the world would love only
those who belonged to it (Jn. 15:19).
One clear and unmistakable mark of our
being the disciples of Jesus is that the world hates us. "If they have
persecuted Me", Jesus said, "then they will persecute you as well"
The second clear mark of the disciples of
Jesus is that they love those who hate and persecute them (Matt. 5:44-48). By
these two marks all those who have ears to hear God's truth can examine their
own position, and know the truth concerning themselves.
If you are popular with worldly people or
with religious Christians (who are not wholehearted disciples), you can be
absolutely certain that you are a compromiser. It could even be that you are
Why did the world hate Jesus? Not because
He paid His taxes and washed people's feet; not even because He lived a holy
life. The world hated Him because He exposed its hypocrisy. He also exposed
unScriptural traditions among God's people. So those who wanted to preserve
"the traditions of the elders" hated Him too. That will be our fate
as well, if we speak as He spoke. If we seek the honour of men and of religious
elders, we shall keep quiet and remain popular. We can each choose the way we
would like to go.
In Rev. 12, we read of Satan being enraged
with certain people. There we read of him first trying to devour the Man-child
(Jesus Christ) that the woman (Israel) had brought forth into the world. Satan
could not succeed there, and the Man-child grew up, completed His ministry and
ascended up to the throne of God (Rev. 12:4,5). Satan's fury is now directed
against the younger brothers of this Man-child. These are described as those
"who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus"
(Rev. 12:17 b). These are the disciples of Jesus whose life is characterised by
total obedience to the commandments of God and who boldly hold fast to the
testimony of Jesus. They open their mouths, speaking about everything that
Jesus Himself testified to - for this is "the testimony of Jesus".
There are very few like these on earth today, for there are very few churches
in the world now preaching total obedience to God's commandments.
Rev. 12 is referring to the last days of
this present age, when Satan will be cast down from the second heaven to earth
for the last three and a half years just before Jesus comes again (v. 9). At
that time there will be on earth those who keep God's commandments and hold
boldly to the testimony of Jesus and who overcame Satan (v. 11). These are
God's 'commandos' - the elite troops of His army on earth.
It will be a tremendous privilege and
honour to be among them - most of whom will have to lay down their physical
lives for Jesus' sake. Rev. 13:7 makes it clear that the Antichrist will be
permitted by God to kill the disciples of Jesus. But remember that it is God
who opens the hedges. Otherwise no one could touch us. This is why we do not
Job could say, "God knows every
detail concerning me" (Job 23:10). Under the new covenant, we can go even
further and say, "God plans every detail concerning me" - for this is
the plain meaning of Romans 8:28. It is also true that even at such a time, God
being faithful will never allow us to be tested beyond our ability. With every
trial, He will make a way for us to overcome and escape from sinning and
denying Him (1 Cor. 10:13). His grace will prove to be sufficient even then (2
Co. 12:9); otherwise none of us could stand. It is not the naturally courageous
who will stand in that day - but the naturally fearful, who trust in the Lord
to strengthen them.
Those will be the days of great
tribulation, when the Antichrist is ruling. But Jesus said that God has limited
the duration of that period "for the sake of His elect" (Matt.
24:21,22). God's elect (the church) will therefore obviously be here on earth
at that time, witnessing for the Lord. "Immediately after the
tribulation", Jesus said, "the Son of Man will appear in the sky and
He will send His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His
elect" (Matt. 24:29-31). The trumpet that Jesus referred to here is the
one mentioned in 1 Thess. 4:16,17; at which the dead in Christ will rise, and
together with the living disciples of Jesus will be raptured to meet the Lord
in the air.
Jesus made it clear that the church (the
elect) would experience this rapture only after the great tribulation. Then we
shall welcome the Lord in the air at His second coming and return with Him to
earth to reign with Him for one thousand years. God's Word is clear as to who
will reign with Christ for 1000 years.Those "who had not worshipped the
beast or his image, and who had not received the mark upon their forehead and
upon their hand" (Rev. 20:4). This clearly shows that the overcomers (the
bride of Christ) will be on earth, standing true to the Lord, during the reign
of the Antichrist.
Tribulation is something that comes from
men who are instigated by Satan against the church. This must be distinguished
from God's wrath which is reserved for the ungodly. We shall not face the wrath
of God, but we shall certainly face great tribulation from men. The blessing
for God's people under the old covenant was prosperity and ease. Under the new
covenant, it is adversity - suffering and tribulation.
When Jesus faced death He did not say,
"Father, save Me from this hour", but, "Father, glorify Thy
name" (Jn. 12:27,28). The song of the harlot is, "Father, save me
from tribulation". The song of the bride is, "Father, glorify Thy
name". "We exult in tribulations". "Through much
tribulation we enter the kingdom of God" (Rom. 5:3; Acts 14:22).
Jesus specifically prayed to the Father
that we should not be taken out of the world, but that we should be kept from
sin (Jn. 17:15). Jesus never desired that His bride should be raptured away to
About 150 years ago, a new doctrine arose
in Christendom (which was not heard of in the days of the apostles) that Christ
would come secretly and take away all believers so that they would not have to
face the great tribulation. This doctrine made it look as though persecution
from men was a punishment from God! Not surprisingly, this doctrine arose, not
in countries where Christians were being persecuted, but in a Western country
that had not seen any persecution of Christians for centuries. Scripture was
then twisted by many to fit this doctrine. Thus Satan succeeded in lulling
Christians into a false comfort, so that they would be unprepared for the
tribulation when it does come upon them.
Since the prayers of most Christians are
basically of this order, "Lord, make my life more comfortable on
earth", it is not at all surprising that multitudes of Christians around
the world happily accepted this teaching about escaping tribulation. Those who
have absorbed the teaching of Jesus however understand clearly that there is no
virtue in escaping persecution or tribulation. On the contrary, Jesus
constantly told His disciples that they would face tribulation and persecution
in the world.
There are some who teach that Christ will
take away the wholehearted, leaving the halfhearted to face the Antichrist.
This seems to imply that escaping persecution is a reward that God gives to the
faithful! No sensible General would send his second class troops to the battle
front and keep his first class troops at home! It is unimaginable that God
would take away His best soldiers from earth at a time when He needs their
witness the most.
It is clear from Scripture that those who
oppose the Antichrist are those "who keep the commandments of God and hold
to the testimony of Jesus" (Rev. 12:17). These are certainly not the
halfhearted. On the contrary, they are the overcomers, whose names are in the
book of life (Rev. 13:8;2:5). Satan is not enraged at halfhearted Christians,
but at the wholehearted. Today, Satan is furious with those who preach total
obedience to the commandments of God. His prime targets are those who obey all
of God's commandments and who preach and teach such obedience to others. This
is why Paul earnestly requested all believers to pray for him - for he knew
that he was one of Satan's prime targets. We too must pray today for those who
preach total obedience to God, that they may be protected.
In the first three centuries, when fierce
persecution raged against the Christians, God did not take them out of their
tribulations. They were eaten by lions and burnt at the stake. There was no
secret rapture in those Roman arenas when the disciples of Jesus were slain.
The God who shut the lions' mouths and took away the power of the fiery furnace
in Daniel's day did not do such miracles for the wholehearted disciples of
Jesus in the first three centuries - for these were new covenant Christians who
were to glorify God in the fire. It will be the same for the disciples of Jesus
in the last century, before Jesus comes. God's first class troops stood true to
Him in the first century - until the very end. They did not ask for, or expect,
twelve legions of angels to come and snatch them away. God watched the bride of
His Son being torn to pieces by lions and being burnt at the stake, and He was
glorified in their testimony - for they had followed the Lamb wherever He went,
even unto a violent physical death. The only word that Jesus spoke to them was,
"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life".
This is what He speaks to us now too. But
in order to be faithful in that future day of the Antichrist, we have to learn
to be faithful in the little temptations and trials that come our way today.
This is why it is essential that we learn faithfulness in the hidden life -
when we are tempted in the secret places of our life, in our thoughts,
attitudes, motives, in money matters, etc. These are little matters; but only
if we are faithful in the little, will we be faithful in the great things, one
day. If we are unfaithful in the little things, we will be unfaithful to the
Lord in the day of tribulation as well. If we cannot run with men now, how will
we run with horses then? If we are not faithful in a time of ease, how will we
be faithful in a time of trouble? (Jer. 12:5). God seeks to train us today to
be His commando troops in that soon coming future day.
THE TRUTH THAT WE BELIEVE
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).
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'.
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.
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.
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.
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!
the same time, we must use our minds too, for we are commanded to be
"mature in our understanding" (1 Cor.14:20).
is only a mind that is totally submissive to the Holy Spirit that can understand
God's Word aright.
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 carelessly.
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).
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 God's Word.
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).
fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and God reveals His secrets only
to those who fear Him (Psa. 25:14).
Truth Concerning God
Bible teaches that God is One and also that there are three Persons in this One
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
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.
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).
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 a Man.
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).
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).
Truth Concerning Christ
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).
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"
these verses indicate that Jesus had "emptied Himself" of many of the
powers of God, when He came to earth.
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.
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).
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').
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).
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 (Jn.6:38).
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'.
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.
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 that extent.
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 sins.
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.
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).
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).
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
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.
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
our Forerunner, He now calls us to follow His example in taking up the cross -
in putting our self-will to death (Lk. 9:23).
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.
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).
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).
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 Tim.2:5).
Truth Concerning Salvation
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.
has a foundation and a superstructure. The foundation is forgiveness of sins
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 (Acts 20:21).
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.
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
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; Lk. 11:13).
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 (Acts 19:2).
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. 7:1).
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.
in times of temptation that our wholeheartedness in desiring sanctification is
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 Matt. 5:17-48.
law's requirements were summed up by Jesus as loving God wholeheartedly and
loving our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:36-40).
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. 14:15).
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.
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).
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).
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 Cor. 4:4).
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.
Truth Concerning The Church
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.
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
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).
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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 empty ritual.
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').
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).
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).
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.
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. 17:21).
this, in a nutshell, is the truth that we must be firmly founded on.
We know that this is the
truth, for it has liberated all those who have accepted it wholeheartedly
CHRISTMAS AND EASTER - CHRISTIAN OR PAGAN?
Men are likened to sheep. And sheep have a
tendency to follow the crowd without questioning. Jesus however came and taught
us to examine everything by God's word. The Pharisees exalted human traditions.
Jesus exalted God's word. Man was to live by every word that proceeded from
God's mouth (Matt. 4:4).
The battle that Jesus was constantly
engaged in with the Pharisees was the age-long battle of God's Word versus the
traditions of men. In the church, we are engaged in the same battle today.
God's word is the only light that we have on earth. And when God created light
initially, He immediately separated it from the darkness. The darkness is both
sin as well as human traditions. We also are called to separate both these from
the pure word of God so that there is no mixture in the church.
Consider Christmas, which is celebrated by
many as the birthday of Jesus Christ. Shopkeepers of all religions look forward
to Christmas, for it is a time when they can make much profit. It is a
commercial festival, not a spiritual one. Millions of rupees are spent on
Christmas cards and gifts. Sales of alcoholic drinks go up at this time. And
the traffic police around the world are kept on their toes, for there are never
so many accidents on the roads as during the Christmas season. More people go
to hell through road accidents at this time, than any other time of the year.
Is this really then the birthday of the
Son of God, or of another 'Jesus'?
Let us look at God's Word first of all.
The Bible tells us that there were shepherds with their sheep out in the fields
of Judea, on the night that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The shepherds in
Palestine did not keep their flocks out in the open fields at night after
October and until February - the weather being both rainy and cold. So the real
Jesus must have been born sometime between March and September. December 25
then must be the birthday of another 'Jesus' that has been foisted on an
unsuspecting Christendom by Satan!
Further, even if we did know the
exact date of Jesus' birth, the question would still be whether God intended
His church to celebrate it. Mary, the mother of Jesus, would certainly have
known the exact date of birth of Jesus. And she was with the apostles for many
years after the day of Pentecost. Yet there is no mention anywhere of Jesus'
date of birth. What does this show? Just this - that God deliberately hid the date
of Jesus' birth, because He did not want the church to celebrate it.
In the Bible we read of earthly kings
celebrating their birthdays publicly - Pharaoh (Gen. 40:20) and Herod (Mk.
6:21). God never intended Jesus to be in that category.
An understanding of the difference between
the old and the new covenants will also enable us to understand why God does
not want His children to celebrate any special holy days now. Under the old
covenant, Israel had been commanded to celebrate certain days as specially holy
days. But that was only a shadow. Now that we have Christ, the will of God is
that every day of our lives be equally holy. Even the weekly sabbath has been
done away with under the new covenant. This is why no holy days are mentioned
anywhere in the New Testament (Col.2:16,17).
How then did Christmas and Easter make
their entry into Christendom? The answer is: in the same way that infant
baptism, priestcraft and a host of other human traditions have made their entry
- by the subtle working of Satan.
When the emperor Constantine made
Christianity the state religion of Rome in the 4th century, multitudes became
Christian 'in name', without any change of heart. But they did not want to give
up their two great annual festivals - both connected with their worship of the
sun. One was the birthday of the sun-god on December 25, when the sun
which had gone down to the southern hemisphere began its return journey (the
winter solstice). The other was the spring festival in March/April, when
they celebrated the death of the winter and the birth of the warm summer that
their sun-god had brought. They renamed their sun-god 'Jesus' and continued to
celebrate their two great festivals, now as Christian festivals and called them
Christmas and Easter.
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica (an
authority in secular history) has the following to state about the origin of
"December 25 was the Mithraic feast
of the unconquered sun of Philocalus. Christmas customs are an evolution from
times that long antedated the Christian period - a descent from seasonal,
pagan, religious and national practices, hedged about with legend and
tradition. The exact date and year of Christ's birth have never been
satisfactorily settled, but when the fathers of the church in A.D. 440 decided upon a date to celebrate the event, they wisely (?)
chose the day of the winter solstice which was firmly fixed in the minds of the
people and which was their most important festival. As Christianity spread
among the people of pagan lands, many of the practices of the winter solstice
were blended with those of Christianity" - (1953 edition, Vol. 5, Pages
These pagan customs originated with the
Babylonian religion begun by Nimrod (Gen. 10:8-10). After he died, his wife
Semiramis had an illegitimate child, which she claimed was Nimrod come back to
life again. Thus began the worship of the mother and child, which the Roman
Catholics took over centuries later and transferred to 'Mary and Jesus'.
The birthday of this child-god was
celebrated by the ancient Babylonians on December 25. Semiramis was the queen
of heaven (Jer. 44:19), worshipped centuries later in Ephesus as Diana or
Artemis (Acts 19:28).
Semiramis claimed that a full grown
evergreen tree grew overnight from a dead tree stump. This symbolised Nimrod's
coming back to life, and bringing heaven's gifts to mankind. Thus began the
practice of cutting down a fir tree and hanging gifts on it. That is the
origin of today's Christmas tree!
Thus says the Lord, "Do not learn the
way of the heathen. The customs of the people are futile. One cuts a tree from
the forest with the axe. They decorate it with silver and gold; they fasten it
with nails so that it will not topple!" (Jer. 10:2-4).
The word 'Easter' comes from one of the
titles of the queen of heaven, 'Ishtar' or `Astarte' (see 1 Kin. 11:5) - one of
the idols that Solomon worshipped. There were slightly different forms of that
name in different countries.
The Encyclopaedia Brittanica states,
"The English word 'Easter'
corresponding to the German 'Oster' reveals Christianity's indebtedness (!) to
the Teutonic tribes of central Europe. Christianity, when it reached the
Teutons, incorporated in its celebration of this great Christian feast day,
many of the heathen rites and customs that accompanied their observance of the
'Spring' festival. That the 'festival' of the resurrection occurred in the
spring that it celebrated the triumph of life over death, made it easy for the
church to identify with this occasion, the most joyous festival of the Teutons,
held in honour of the death of winter, the birth of a new year and the return
of the sun. Eostre (or Ostera), the goddess of the spring, gave its name to the
Christian holy day. The conception of the egg as a symbol of fertility and of
renewed life goes back to the ancient Egyptians and Persians who had also the
custom of colouring and eating eggs during the spring festival. This ancient
idea, of the significance of egg as the symbol of life, readily became the idea
of the egg as a symbol of resurrection. According to old superstition, the sun
rising on Easter morning dances in the heavens; this belief has been traced to
the old heathen festival of spring, when the spectators danced in honour of the
sun ... The Protestant churches also followed the custom of holding sunrise
services on Easter morning" -
(1959 edition, Vol. 7, pages 859, 860).
The Babylonians believed that a great egg
fell from heaven into the River Euphrates and that Astarte came out of it. Thus
began the distribution of eggs in connection with the worship of the sun in the
spring festival. The 4th century Christians took this over, and even today
Easter is celebrated with eggs, supposedly symbolising Christ's coming out of
the grave as the chick comes out of the egg!!
Sacred bread cakes called `bouns' were
offered to the queen of heaven by the heathen, many centuries before Christ
(see Jer. 7:18). These became the 'hot cross buns' of Good Friday, when
Christians took over these pagan customs!
The death and resurrection of Christ are
the central message of the gospel. The only way that Jesus intended us to
commemorate this was through the 'breaking of bread' which we are to take part in together as a
church. This was certainly not to be just once a year at Good Friday/Easter
time, and certainly not with eggs and buns!
When we break bread, we testify not only
of Christ's death, but also our death with Him. The emotionalism of Good Friday
and sentimentality of Easter turns the attention of men away from the necessity
of following Jesus, to empty ritualism.
Or Man's Tradition?
Behind the celebration of Christmas and
Easter lies the far more deadly principle of following the traditions of men
even when they have no foundation in God's Word. So strong is this power of
tradition that many believers who follow the Scriptures in other areas still
find it difficult to give up celebrating Christmas and Easter.
It is amazing that many believers are not
willing to accept what even secular writers (like the authors of Encyclopaedia
Brittanica) have understood clearly - that Christmas and Easter are
basically pagan festivals. You can call an ass a lion, but it is still an ass.
Changing the names has not made these festivals Christian! There is no
difference between Christmas and Easter and Ganesh Puja and Dussera.
It becomes clear from what we have seen
that what Christians are celebrating on Christmas day is the birthday of
another 'Jesus' - Nimrod of Babylon. And at Easter time they are actually
celebrating the resurrection of another 'Jesus' too - the sun-god that has
brought summer to the northern hemisphere! Behind Nimrod and the sun-god stand
Satan who actually receives that worship. The Israelites called their golden
calf 'Jehovah', but it was Satan who received that worship (Ex. 32:4,5). Let
all those who celebrate Christmas and Easter remember that and beware!
As we said at the beginning, Jesus was
engaged in a constant battle with the Pharisees over this very issue - man's
traditions versus God's Word. He faced more opposition for opposing the
empty traditions of 'the fathers' than for preaching against sin. We shall find
our experience to be the same, if we are just as faithful as He was.
It is the calling of the church today to
expose these empty Babylonian celebrations that Satan has promoted in
Christendom and to refuse everything (however innocent looking) that has no
foundation in God's Word.
Some may quote Rom. 14:5,6 about those who
keep a day as unto the Lord. This is referring to the sabbath-day, which some
converted Jews still did not have light on to give up. Paul exhorted those who
had the light of the new covenant to bear with these weaker Jewish brethren.
But this certainly cannot be applied to the celebration of Ganesh Puja or
Christmas or Diwali or Easter by Christians today!
God's Word alone is our guide and not the
example of even godly men in those areas where they do not follow the Word of
God. "Let God be found true even though every man be found a liar"
(Rom. 3:4). "Check (their) words against the Word of God, says the Lord.
If their messages (teachings) are different from Mine, it is because they have
no light" (Isa. 8:20 LB). The Bereans searched the Scriptures to check up
even on Paul's teaching, and the Holy Spirit commends them for it (Acts 17:11).
That is a good example for all of us to follow.
David was a man after God's own heart.
Yet, for forty years, he permitted the Israelites to worship Moses' bronze
serpent without realising that this was an abomination to God. He did not have
light even on such obvious idolatry. It was a much lesser king, Hezekiah, who
was given light to expose and destroy this idolatrous practice (2 Kin. 18:1-4).
We can follow godly men in the saintliness of their lives and not in their lack
of light on human traditions. Our safety lies in simply following the teaching
of God's Word and not in adding to or subtracting from it.
True spirituality is to follow Jesus in
all aspects of life. This involves primarily a taking up of the cross and
obeying God's word in the power of the Holy Spirit in daily life. It also
involves a forsaking of all human traditions that are not found in the New
Testament. God desires a pure testimony in every place - a church that is not
only free from all sin, but also free from Babylonian traditions.
GOD'S PERFECT PLAN FOR THOSE WHO HAVE FAILED
There are many brothers and sisters who
feel that because they have sinned and failed God at some time in their past
lives, therefore they cannot fulfil God's perfect plan for their lives now.
Let us look at what the Scriptures have to
say on this matter, and not lean on our own understanding or our sense of
Notice first of all how the Bible begins.
In the beginning God created the heavens
and the earth (Gen. 1:1). And the heavens and the earth must have been perfect
when God created them, for nothing imperfect or incomplete can ever come forth
from His hand.
But some of the angels whom He had created
fell away, and this is described for us in Isa. 14:11-15 and Ezek. 28:13-18. It
was then that the earth came into the condition described in Gen. 1:2,
"formless, empty and dark".
The rest of Gen. 1 describes how God
worked on that shapeless, empty, dark mass and made something so beautiful out
of it that He Himself declared it to be "very good" (Gen. 1:31). We
read in Gen. 1:2,3 that the Spirit of God moved over the earth, and God spoke
His Word - and this was what made the difference.
What is the message in that for us today?
Just this that no matter how much we may
have failed or how much we may have made a mess of things, God can still make
something glorious out of our lives.
God had a perfect plan for the heavens and
the earth when he created them. But this plan had to be set aside because of
Lucifer's failure. But God remade the heavens and the earth and still produced
something very good out of it.
Now consider what happened next.
God made Adam and Eve and started all over
again. God must have had a perfect plan for them too, which obviously did not
include their eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But they
did eat of the forbidden tree and frustrated God's original plan for them -
whatever the plan may have been.
Logic would now tell us that they could
not fulfil God's perfect plan any longer. Yet we see that when God came to meet
them in the garden, He does not tell them that they would now have to live only
on His second best for the rest of their lives. No. He promises them in Gen.
3:15 that the seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent. That was
a promise of Christ's dying for the sins of the world and overcoming Satan on
Now consider this fact and see if you can
reason it out.
We know that Christ's death was part of
God's perfect plan from all eternity. "The Lamb was slain from the
foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). Yet we also know that Christ died
only because Adam and Eve sinned and failed God. So logically, we could say
that God's perfect plan to send Christ to die for the sins of the world was
fulfilled, not despite Adam's failure, but because of Adam's failure! We would
not have known God's love shown on Calvary's cross, were it not for Adam's sin.
That baffles logic and that is why the
Scriptures say that we should "not lean on our own understanding"
If God worked according to mathematical
logic, then we would have to say that Christ coming to the earth was God's
second best plan. But it would be blasphemous to say so. It was part of God's
perfect plan for man. God makes no mistakes. But since God is almighty as well
as sovereign, and since He also knows the end from the beginning, and since He
is always silently planning for us in love, human reasoning fails when we try
to explain His dealings with us.
God's ways are not our ways and His
thoughts not our thoughts. The difference between them is as great as the
distance between heaven and earth (Isa. 55:8,9). So it is good for us to set
our clever reasonings and logic aside when trying to understand God's ways.
What then is the message that God is
trying to get through to us right from the opening pages of the Bible? Just
this that He can take a man who has failed and make something glorious out of
him and still make him fulfil God's perfect plan for his life.
That is God's message to man, in the Bible
and we must never forget it.
God can take a man who has failed
repeatedly, and still make him fulfil His perfect plan - not God's second best,
but God's best plan.
This is because even the failure may have
been part of God's perfect plan to teach him a few unforgettable lessons. This
is impossible for human logic to grasp, because we know God so very little.
It is only broken men and women whom God
can use. And one way He breaks us is through repeated failures.
Part of the apostle Peter's training for
leadership was failure. The Lord used Peter's failure to break him.
One of the biggest problems that God has
with us is to bless us in such a way that the blessing does not puff us up
with pride. To get victory over anger and then to be proud of it, is to
fall into a far deeper pit than the one we were in! God has to keep us humble
Genuine victory over sin is always
accompanied by the deepest humility. This is where repeated failures have a
part to play in destroying our self-confidence so that we are convinced that
victory over sin is not possible apart from God's enabling grace. Then, when we
do get victory, we can never boast about it.
Further, when we have failed repeatedly
ourselves, we can never despise another who fails. We can sympathise with those
who fall, because we have come to know the weakness of our own flesh, through
our own innumerable falls. We can "deal gently with the ignorant and
misguided, since we ourselves are beset with weakness" (Heb. 5:3).
Hearing such a message, the logically
minded man, can then say, "Then let us sin all the more so that good may
Rom. 3:7,8 (LB) answers such a man with
these words: "You say, 'My dishonesty brought God glory by pointing up His
honesty'. If you follow through with that idea you come to this: The worse we
are, the better God likes it! But the damnation of those who say such things is
No, we do not preach that we should sin so
that good may come. Neither do we say that we can take advantage of God's grace
and disobey God deliberately, and still avoid reaping what we have sown. No.
But we do say that human logic cannot
grasp the grace of God to fallen men. Nothing is impossible for God - not even
to bring us into His perfect will, after we have failed miserably and
repeatedly. Only our unbelief can hinder Him.
If you say, "But I have messed up
things so many times. It is impossible for God now to bring me into His perfect
plan", then it will be impossible for God, because YOU cannot
believe in what He can do for you. But Jesus said that nothing is
impossible for God to do for us - if only we believe.
"Be it done to you according to your
faith", is God's law in all matters (Matt. 9:29). We will get what we have
faith for. If we believe that something is impossible for God to do for us,
then it will never be fulfilled in our lives.
On the other hand you will discover at the
judgment seat of Christ that another believer who had made a greater mess
of his life than you, nevertheless fulfilled God's perfect plan for his life - just
because he believed that God could pick up the broken pieces of his life
and make something very good out of it.
What regret there will be in your life in
that day, when you discover that it was not your failures (however many
they may have been) that frustrated God's plan in your life, but your
The story of the prodigal son, who wasted
so many years, shows that God gives His best even to failures. The father said,
"Quickly bring out the best robe", for one who had let him down so
badly. This is the message of the gospel - redemption and a new beginning, not
just once, but again and again - for God never gives up on anyone.
The parable of the estate-owner who went
out hiring labourers (Matt. 20:1-16) also teaches the same thing. People who
were hired at the eleventh hour were the ones to be rewarded first. In other
words, those who had wasted 90% (11/12th) of their lives, doing nothing of
eternal value, could still do something glorious for God with the remaining 10%
of their lives. This is a tremendous encouragement to all who have failed.
"The reason the Son of God was
manifested was to undo (dissolve) the works the devil has done (1 Jn. 3:8
That means that Jesus came to untie all
the knots that there are in our lives. Picture it like this: All of us started
at babyhood with a nice ball of string. But by now that string has been knotted
up with ten thousand knots, and we do not have any hope that we can ever untie
those knots. We are discouraged and depressed as we look at our lives. The good
news of the gospel is that Jesus has come to untie every one of those knots.
You say, "That is impossible!".
Well then, it will be done to you according to your faith. It will be
impossible in your case.
But I hear someone else whose life is
worse than yours, saying, "Yes, I believe that God will do that in
me". To him too it will be according to his faith. In his life,
God's perfect plan will be fulfilled.
In Jer. 18:1-6, God spoke His word to
Jeremiah through a practical illustration. Jeremiah was asked to go to a
potter's house, and there he saw the potter trying to make a vessel. But the
vessel "was spoiled in the hand of the potter". So what did the
potter do? "He remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to
Then came the application: "Can I
not, O ............... deal with you as this potter does?", was the Lord's
question (v. 6). (Fill in your name in those dotted lines, and that would be
God's question to you).
If there is a godly sorrow in your life
for all your failures, then even if your sins are like scarlet or red like
crimson, not only will they be as white as snow - as promised under the old
covenant (Isa. 1:18), but God promises under the new covenant, "not to
remember your sins any more" (Heb. 8:12).
Whatever your blunders or failures, you
can make a new beginning with God. And even if you have made a thousand new
beginnings in the past and have come to failure, you can still make the 1001st
new beginning today. God can still make something glorious out of your life.
While there is life, there is hope.
So, never fail to trust God. He cannot do
many mighty works for many of His children, not because they have failed
Him in the past, but because they will not trust Him now.
Let us then "give glory to God by
being strong in faith" (Rom. 4:20), trusting Him in the days to come for
the things that we considered impossible up until now.
All people - young and old - can have
hope, no matter how much they may have failed in the past, if only they will
acknowledge their failures, be humble and trust God.
Thus we can all learn from our failures
and go on to fulfil God's perfect plan for our lives.
And in the ages to come, He can show us
forth to others as examples of what He could do with those whose lives were
In that day He will show what He could do
in us, through the "surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us
in Christ Jesus" (Eph. 2:7).
He who has ears to hear the message of this book, let him hear.
Copyright - Zac Poonen (1992)
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