Life, truth

The Conflict between Truth & Tradition

Before we launch into the matter at hand, we will need to provide some definitions. What is Truth? What is tradition?

In the economy of God, Truth is NOT primarily a concept or a belief system or a personal, social, national or global resolution. TRUTH in the kingdom of God is a Person. Among several scriptures that could confirm this, let’s check John 14:6 and 18:37-38 below.

What is Truth?

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” John 14:6

“…Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice. Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? And when he had said this, he went out again unto the Jews, and saith unto them, I find in him no fault at all.” John 18:37-38

While this is not meant to be an exhaustive discussion, we will like to note that the scriptures above sufficiently proofs that Jesus is the Truth. When Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?”, Jesus didn’t answer him a word, but we note that Pilate said, “I find in him no fault at all” That is, Truth is not about intellectual debates and theological polemics but about LIFE. (“For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” 1 Cor. 4:20).

Truth does not consist in concepts and differing views of established concepts in God’s Word (…not in word…); Truth consists of supremacy of LIFE over death and LIGHT over darkness (…but in power.). LIFE and LIGHT are expressions of power. Yes, the entire scriptures are an articulation of aspects of divine Truth, yet no singular scriptural truth or numbers of truth (but incomplete) can make up the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). It takes all to have Truth and they are complete in Christ (Colossians 2:10, 4:12).

This is the reason why we don’t begin with a particular truth, rather we begin with a particular person – CHRIST. This in itself is an insurance to preserve us from entering into errors of understanding and interpreting the Scriptures.

What about tradition?

“He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” Mark 7:6-9

We want to attempt to define tradition. In Mark 7, the Pharisees and certain scribes (experts in the Law) saw the disciples eating with unwashed hands and they accosted Jesus, demanding why the disciples were not following the traditions of elders. Now, first thing is, this doesn’t look like a bad tradition. To wash your hand before you eat is no longer a rule to enforce in most civilizations.

But, look at how Jesus responded to their query. ” And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” (verse 9). How clear can God’s Word be? Any attempt to keep a tradition, even a good one, can become an affront to God because there is an equal and opposite rejection of God’s instructions always involved. Please keep this statement always together to avoid misunderstanding.

Therefore, tradition represents man’s mind (at its best) and Truth (God’s Word) represents God’s unchanging mind. What then is tradition? It is anything that seeks to replace God’s mind with man’s accepted opinion. Hence, it is not the actual things done that are the real issue, it is the spirit or principle behind them. A good deed that is not from the mind of God is a thief of divine glory that seeks to usurp God’s place in man, in the church and the world as a whole.

This is the secret work of the adversary among many brothers and sisters in Christendom (regardless of their sincerity). Not knowing that we can’t primarily obey men and (be found to) obey God at the same time. (Please note that this is a spiritual principle and those who think the thrust is to disobey all man’s instructions have missed the point altogether).

But once we obey God, we may be found to obey men in areas where man benefits from such obedience. Remember that once Joseph obeyed God, concerning Portiphar’s wife, he was also obeying Portiphar in a sense (Genesis 39:9). Which means the order is to do things Godward first and that which is done will determine what can be done manward, and not the other way around. This is how Truth triumphs over traditions.

 

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How Truth deteriorates to traditions

Please note with me the first reaction of those learned men to Christ and His disciples. In that Mark 7 we read earlier, it says, “And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.” There are three things here:

1. A preoccupation with the differences of others in devotion, liturgy and doctrine.

2. A specialization in identifying the faults of others (persons, groups, denominations).

3. A predisposition ​to always look for fault (what others are doing wrong that you may  be doing right).
From verses 3-5, these bible scholars were busy pointing out their own goodness before the LORD and contrasting it with the disciples “error”. They even asked the LORD why these other people (the disciples) were not like them. This is the very thing the LORD loathes. To use what you are doing right as an instrument of persecution against others who, according to you, are wrong. That is self-righteousness. “…and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags…” Isaiah 64:6 (Luke 18:9-14)

The point is Truth is Christ and Christ is Truth. Whenever we apply the Word of God outwardly first, rather than inwardly, we are beginning to negotiate our exchange of Truth with tradition. Christ Jesus is the builder of His Church (Matthew 16:18). He is the One at work in all those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).

What preserves the Truth in its pristine, unadulterated state is its continuous relevance in my own life. The way it will work out in my life is not necessarily a pattern that others must follow.

When we begin to think that how we experience the Truth is the compulsory way others must experience it then we are declining into traditions. Therefore, traditions can be expressions of truth restricted to a particular person’s (or groups of persons) experience of that truth.

The problem with this is, “this cannot produce genuine disciples of Jesus Christ because the version of Truth they came to know is the particular way the LORD chose to work in another person’s life, not the way the LORD wanted to work in them. A genuine disciple of Christ is not a loyalist to another man neither is he under the spell of another man’s devotion and spirituality (2 Cor. 11:2-3). A genuine disciple of Christ is first and foremost loyal to the LORD, out of which he/she can choose to follow others who have gone farther in their following of the LORD (1 Cor. 11:1). You will see that this has no emphasis on any particular doctrine (which always divides God’s people), the only emphasis is the LORD Christ Himself.

The Goal of Truth
Please read 2 Timothy 3:15-17, Matthew 5:48, Genesis 17:1

The goal of every aspect of divine Truth is to lead to the increase of Christ in human experience. A truth on its own can always be hijacked by the flesh and used to serve the intentions and desires of the carnal nature. For example, Jesus (the sum of all truths=the TRUTH) healed a man of blindness on the Sabbath in John 9 and the scholars of the law will not have it. A glorious work done by the LORD did not bother them because they won’t let go of the “bypassing” of the Sabbath.

They would rather have the man return to his blind state to preserve their own limited human understanding of the law than to seek the LORD to close the gap of their ignorance. This is how traditions have grown so powerful among different groups of Christians in the world, both in history and our contemporary times. Every time we see a divine work that defies our theology, we are quick to criticize it, rather than humble ourselves to receive the light that the LORD would have given to update our usually limited understanding. Please note, it is not God’s Word that needs any updating; it is man (you and me) that always need to be updated as to the direction, dimension and implications of His Word in the human experience and the world situation.

Clearly, you will see that God’s Word is not for arguments, it is for experience. It is not for the head, even though it can’t bypass the head, it is for the heart. Timothy knew the scriptures from his youth yet the result we note with him is wisdom not mere intelligence. While intelligence speaks of mental capacity to retain the information, wisdom is the “movement” of information to transformation. As we see in Genesis 17:1 and Matthew 5:48, although there are specific truths we are exposed to per time, they are always a means of gaining further experiential intimacy with the LORD and progressively becoming like Him in all things.

truth-vs-tradition

How Truth is kept from deterioration
1 Corinthians 13:10, Luke 6:40

“For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10

Knowledge of the truth as well as the preaching (teaching, exposition) of the truth is not always in the full measure of Christ, it is a part. And we must be humble enough to admit that. We must never allow the different parts to constitute a problem to us, particularly when we see a different expressions of an aspect of truth we have known (but we are not quite familiar with). “But when that which is perfect is come…” So, what is perfect? It is Christ. “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master.” (Luke 6:40). If being like the Master is to be perfect, then Christ is the definition of perfection.

“…then that which is in part shall be done away.”

What is in part?

​1. A singular aspect of truth compared to the fullness of TRUTH

2. Traditions that have influenced the interpretation of God’s Word in the light of the full, unmixed revelation of Christ.

3. Shadows that temporarily expressed the TRUTH until the Substance came​.

4. Intellectual knowledge of truths dropped for the livingness of TRUTH in verifiable human experience (2 Cor. 3:6).

This is LIFE replacing death. This is SPIRIT taking over from the letter.
Therefore, we must recognize the privilege we have now compared to many saints of old. We have the whole 66 books of Scriptures now, and rather than starting from where Adam missed it in Genesis 3 and where Israel started in Exodus 19 & 20, walking our ways through the knowledge of good and evil that kills, the weakness of the law that restrains the general outbreak of evil in world, and the limitations of traditions before entering into the New Covenant in Acts 2; we could simply start with the end from our “beginnings”. And in fact, that is what we are offered in this dispensation. “Therefore if any man be in Christ…” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Right now, we could go straight to Christ, not needing again to fix the pieces of the puzzle of “the law and the prophets” and wait a whole life time to eventually realize that the picture it comes to is Christ. It is both my privilege and yours to gain Christ first and then through our devotion to and wholehearted following of Christ, we can come to know the different pieces of the puzzle – the different aspects of Truth – that leads to the increase of Christ and our enjoyment of Him in our everyday experience.

“O taste and see that the LORD is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.” Psalm 34:8

 

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

Disclaimer: Using a quote or picture that mostly or fully represents what we have in mind does not imply agreement with or approval of a person’s general philosophy of life.

Picture Credits: spreadshirt.com, ftmburas.org, truthrevolution.tv

 

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Life Mastery, Personal Growth

The Search for Meaning

The issue of what we are born to do has become one of the most puzzling challenges confronting mankind today, especially millennials. Many have turned to philosophy and psychology to make sense of life generally and to discover the meaning of their own lives personally. Although, this endeavour has elevated the thinking of many seekers, due to the discoveries and teachings of many great minds, most remain lost in the rhetoric of such profound ideas.
While meaning is advocated by deep thinking philosophers and well-behaved psychologist, the actual experience of meaning is spiritual; and you will find out that meaning that will pass the test of time does not come merely by good, credible and empirical information but through a process of heart transformation.
Why?
Information versus Transformation
“…the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6
Information, even good information, only usually engages the mind (the reasoning faculty) but the place for real change is the heart (the meaning faculty). The mind is the place of knowledge and we can know without using what we know. This precedence has already been set by Adam’s eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And since then, the default setting of the mind is to have information without necessarily applying it, especially when it has to do with deciding between right and wrong.
It takes much more than merely knowing what is right in a situation; it takes a regeneration to have the heart to actually choose the right cause even when it is not convenient.
Regeneration is a change of the life principle in the heart that Adam (being the head of the human race) instituted into the stream of human consciousness, so that there can be a restoration to God’s original intention. This is replaced with a new life principle from the Godman, Jesus Christ, who is the head of the redeemed race.
“Eschatologically and spiritually speaking, regeneration is a restoration of things to their original, pristine conditions.”
The Supremacy of Truth
The capacity to know truth is not lacking in human nature but the capacity to love and obey what is true is in short supply. If we must experience meaning/purpose, we must embrace TRUTH. Since meaning is a definite experience, Truth must never be compromised.
“This truth is the basis for real transformation from what you are now to what you ought to be or what you were designed/created/made to be.”
Therefore, truth is the first component of meaning. This may be a bitter pill to swallow for some. Truth is not relative. If truth, the very foundation of meaning, is relative; how then can we ever know for certain what we know?
In science, there are measurements that helps the scientist to establish reality or at least a version of reality. But the point is, reality was not arrived at arbitrarily; it was based on a standard of measurement. Also, meaning cannot be established arbitrarily.
The search for meaning must be based on what is fixed, absolute and immutable or else meaning will never be certain. Such a pseudo experience will keep changing with the fads and fashions/emphasis of the times. The first progress in your search for meaning is your appreciation for Truth (not as relative, but as absolute).
“Your word is forever, LORD; it is firmly established in heaven.” Psalm 119:89

ISV

“…the word of the Lord lasts forever.” 1 Peter 1:25 ISV
The discovery of meaning is not a philosophical journey; it is, for all intents and purposes, a spiritual journey.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all scripture quotations are from the King James Version.

Picture Credit: Ms O Reilly education

Life Mastery, Personal Growth, Spirituality

Comprehensive Victory

In the last post we discovered that God does not intend for us to be fighting the small, small soldiers of anger, malice and every work of the flesh you can think of, without first dealing with the strong man, the Goliath that they all depend on to afflict us. Goliath is a picture of the man of sin, the carnal nature, flesh, old man, sinful desires that became the life of man after the fall. The choice to disobey God by Adam and Eve brought a decisive “death” upon mankind: a loss of the divine life of God and an instant replacement with the very nature of satan, which is the life of sin. That is why it is automatic for everyone that is born of a woman to be born in sin: we all received an instant installation of that life of sin at physical birth (Psalm 51:5, Job 14:4, 15:14, Ephesians 2:3).
The Necessity of the Second Birth
This is the reason why the second birth cannot be negotiated if you are to be saved from the grip of the strong man called “Mr. Sin” and brought into the Kingdom where righteousness (of life), peace and joy in the Holy Ghost is the common life style (Romans 14:17). With the first birth, we all became sinners because Adam sinned (Romans 5:12). And you are already here! So, it is not a question of whether you are a sinner according to the definition of society, which is a pitiably low definition anyway, and which has a way of making many people think they are good enough, not needing to be saved.
Sin versus sins
Whether your level of sin is so smart that society has not yet developed ways to catch you as an offender or not, “…the scripture hath concluded all under sin…” (Galatians 3:22) already. Which means it is the same man of sin that works in a con artist, fraudster, prostitute that works in a “nice”, “easygoing” and smart CEO, social worker or legislator. The measure of its operation in people is what is different. Sin, as a master, is selective; and it chooses to work in some in the vilest and most unthinkable way, while in others, it is a master of sophistication, full of deceits and dubiousness, although very well disguised with a lot of niceness and persuasiveness that comes from psychology.
This is the reason a Christian must be very careful not to try to perfect in the flesh what God began in the Spirit. The honest verdict of the Holy Spirit over such is foolishness (Please read Galatians 3). Intelligence, education, exposure etcetera which are all not bad, has a way of making you behave in a certain way that may look good, but every once in a while, when you are all by yourself and you are now free to be yourself, you will toss over that jewel of sophistication off of your neck and descend to the level of sin that is common to all men.

Therefore, your “public behaviour index” is not a yardstick at all to determine the kind of person you are. Who you are is what you are when you are not under any corporate, social and/or religious obligations whatsoever to behave well.

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24
Putting off the former conversation (lifestyle)
First of all, you have no liberty to put off until you have experienced the second birth. What will you put off? Who will allow you to put off? The strong man is not so idle that you will put him off without having a warrant/license to justify your actions. Any attempt to put off by the unsaved person will only increase the sophistication of sin and the capacity to sin smartly without getting caught.
So, who is to put off the old man? Let’s check the previous verse. It is the person who has heard Him and has been taught by Him (Ephesians 4:21). To hear Him points to the person who hears and believes Jesus (faith cometh by hearing) and to be taught by Him speaks of the person who has not only believed but has moved on to follow Jesus. When you refuse to follow Jesus, you will become barren, you will not be able to see afar off and you will forget that you were purged from your old sins. (2 Peter 1:8-9). That is, you will forget the essence of your salvation and begin to live like you did when you were not saved. To live like that is to fall away altogether from salvation (2 Peter 1:11)
Knowledge is the key to victory
When we believe Jesus and we are saved, Sin that has ruled our lives since we were born into world loses the right to continue in our lives. That loss of right is death. It is no longer alive in us. But if you don’t know that that was the magnitude of what happened to you when you came to Jesus, Sin will play along and continue in your life, business as usual, because it knows that you don’t know that you have been set free indeed. This is what makes many believers to treat their struggles with sins as something they need a separate deliverance from after salvation. To an extent, the ministry of deliverance to believers is a remedial for a believer’s lack of knowledge. When you don’t know ALL that now accrues to you in the New Life, you will be a candidate for deliverance for every manifestation of sin that shows up in your life.
Meanwhile, treating every sin individually is like killing a soldier in the battle between Israel and Philistine. Even if you succeed in killing one or two, there are still thousands of soldiers running around waiting for an opportunity to be selected by Goliath to afflict you. It is not the sins you commit that you must deal with first; it is the Sin, which is the nature you were born with, called the Old Man. David stood before Goliath and defeated him with one stone. That was the same way JESUS DIDN’T DIE TWICE to put an end to the dominion of Sin; He died ONCE AND FOR ALL, and He arose victoriously to deliver that victory to you. You cannot afford to trifle (or joke) with this kind of comprehensive victory.
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” Romans 6:6
God has done all the work. You are only to know it, to investigate from the Word of God the extent to which you have been saved, and you will no longer be subservient to Sin. I think we need to settle down to know this…to become fully persuaded of the comprehensive victory we have been given in Christ Jesus… you know, to realize that deliverance is a remedial for those who refuse to know this. God in His mercy made this remedial for unbelievers* but unfortunately many believers have swelled up the queue to the extent that a confusion has come upon us in the body of Christ. What confusion? The idea that believers and unbelievers struggle with the same things. That is an indictment to the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. And my question to you is this: “are you a part of that indictment or not?”

***Next time, we will look at putting on the New Man***

* A careful look at the ministry of the LORD Jesus Christ shows that deliverance occurred when He was ministering widely to unbelievers; and my definition of “unbelievers” is those who have not yet become His disciples, even if they were already faithful in Judaism or were among those flocking to listen to Him regularly. The New birth is sufficient to deal with every single need for deliverance in a person. He only needs to know the truth and the truth will set free. However, once you don’t know the truth or you know it but don’t believe it; by all means, please join the queue for deliverance! Matthew 4:23-25, 9:35, Acts 10:38 etcetera!
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version.

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Leadership, Spirituality

A New Cruse…

Sometimes I wonder why we don’t take the words of Jesus seriously, even though we will like to (make ourselves) think we do. We have creeds and statements of faith that evangelically lists our “biblical” beliefs but I am beginning to think that they are mere formalities that end up as an official document or a decoration gorgeously decked on the wall of the senior man of God’s office.

Now, look at something Jesus said, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the skins burst and the wine is spilled out and the skins are destroyed. Instead they put new wine into new wineskins and both are preserved.” Matthew 9:17 (New English Translation). It is clear that the LORD is stating a principle that MUST guide His works. Every time God is seeking to continue His work, He will (and “can”) only work with those who will break the old wineskins of human traditions that has become a veil unto them, that does not allow them to see the LORD clearly

“And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations.” Isaiah 25:7 

Practically, this sometimes will mean a raising of a new generation of men and women who will seek the LORD wholeheartedly without being trapped by the unholy traditions of “fathers”. Many times this has led to the rising of new movements that became severely persecuted by the established groups and “churches”. However, what is of utmost importance is this: the fresh, unadulterated flow of pure doctrine and the work of the Spirit to glorify Jesus, as it was handed down to the first apostles, must be preserved.

Whenever a group has settled into inertia and has allowed their human wisdom to take over from the Holy Spirit, they have unwittingly collected a number of traditions that rendered void the Word of God. And wherever the Word of God is mixed with human ideas/traditions, the continuity of God’s work is hindered and perhaps delayed until God can find fresh hearts who are either of the old order but have purged themselves of the oldness of the letter or entirely new brothers who do not have any history with the establishment.  

“Nobody pours new wine into an old wineskin. If he does, then the new wine will tear the old wineskin. The wine will run out and he will lose it. And he will destroy the wineskin. Instead of this, you must put new wine into a new wineskin. Then there will be nothing to destroy the wine or the wineskin.” Matthew 9:17 (EasyEnglish)

Why signs and wonders are not a proof of divine approval

Many are tempted to think that since God is saving souls, healing the sick, setting the captives free, it is a sign that “God is with us and approves of what we are doing”. First of all, let us clear this misconception by letting you know that the order of principle we are dealing with here is higher and we can call it “dispensational”.

That is, we are talking about what God is focusing on today based on the consensus of Scriptures and the witness of the Spirit. However, there is a lower order of principle that God cannot also deny a portion of His virtue, which is, wherever there is a genuine need and the hearts of men are focused on Him, virtue will be released towards that need, regardless of their disobedience to the higher order issues. So a healing here, a raising of the dead there was just a compassionate work, purely on account of God’s mercy and not necessarily His justice.

This is why Jesus said, “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? [23] And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:22-23

A higher order of things

Please note that Jesus did not deny the fact that they prophesied in His name and that they did “many wonderful works”, the issue He had with them is that they worked iniquity. Apart from the personal and moral issues of a life that falls short of God’s grace, to work iniquity speaks of a higher order of things that are generational and dispensational.

God considers it a work of iniquity, if you dishonor God’s Word on account of human traditions (Mark 7:7-9). “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. [8] For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men…” (Mark 7:7-8) Can you see His verdict here? They will be worshipping Him but because you are more emotional than spiritual, you will FEEL that God is there and approves all that is done. But He said it is a worship in vanity; it amounts to nothing. 

God considers it a work of iniquity, if you preach any other thing “…save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified…” (1 Corinthians 2:2). We are not talking about the perfunctory mentioning of the name of Jesus or singing, “oh how I love Jesus”, after which we begin to teach the doctrines of men that we are already used to. It is the doctrines of men that has divided the church so sharply in the last 500 years, as we see in church history

What is a doctrine of men? A perspective that a Bible teacher had at a particular time in history around which he raised loyalists, such that his/her sincere followers limited their reading of Scriptures to the “established thought” of their human teacher.

Bring me a new cruse

“And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. [20] And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. [21] And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the Lord , I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land . [22] So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.”

2 Kings 2:19-22 

At this point, I am trusting that it is clear to you that your personal sincerity is not enough in the matter of pleasing God. In the lower order (of) things, God in mercy, will always respond to every genuine need because He is a compassionate God. However, in the higher order of things, which has to do with His eternal counsel (purpose), His glory, the establishment of His kingdom, all of which will culminate into the new heaven and new earth of Revelation 21, He can only work according to the good pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:9,11). 

In essence it means, we may receive things from God simply because of His generosity, which is not an approval of our lives, but a credit to His kindness. This does not mean we are in His will, and as we saw in Matthew 7:21, that does not prove that we are His true people. (cf: Matthew 12:50, 25:11-12, James 1:22, 2:20-26, Ephesians 6:6). 

It is the higher order of things that deal with God’s glory, that really determines those who belong to Him. When we choose to follow Jesus, that is what we sign up for: death to self and living fully for the glory of God (Luke 9:23, 14:26-33)

“…the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth…”

On God’s side of things, the city of God, the body of Christ is pleasant. Nothing is amiss on God’s part. However, the faithfulness of God’s side of things cannot be claimed by us unless we proceed to respond in obedience to Him, which makes our “faith” a living faith, for faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

“…but the water is naught, and the ground barren.”

How is this possible? Water represents “life”. The life is bad. It is not the same with the LIFE we actually received at newbirth. We wonder what happened to the divine exchange at newbirth. Refusing to follow Jesus and what He says will make the “water” bad, not good for anyone to drink. This is why the world cannot drink from us Christians. Mohandas Ghandi said about the Christian of his days, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” It is even worse now. 

The ground is barren. Some versions translate “barren” as “miscarries”. Even when we think we have won souls unto the LORD, how many of them have turned into lifetime followers of Jesus Christ? So much numbers are reported of souls saved, it is yet to produce a positive spiritual effect on society. This is a miscarriage. God did not plan to save a soul that will not continue to follow Jesus through out his life. It is our omission that has made God to look like a liar, and has given calvinists and non-calvinists more reasons to dispute about God’s sovereignty in evangelism. 

A new cruse is needed

The old cruse or container can no more suffice. It has brought us to a point of ridicule among the unsaved. They have written treatises and books about our faith, and dismissed it as a waste of time, or like one of them said, it is the opium of the masses. It is a great disgrace that has befallen us. Meanwhile, the faith of the (correct) fathers could not have been so easily dismissed and despised.

“And of the rest durst no man join himself to them: but the people magnified them.” Acts 5:13

“The others, in fear, kept back from joining them: but the people made much of them” BBE

It was not like today where it is fashionable to be a Christian, an error that has been traced to Constantine, the emperor of Rome, who made Christianity a state religion, and by that singular act emptied it of its power. The unsaved people saw God at work among the Christians and even though they had to think twice or more to join them (and many never joined them), they held them in high regard. 

Now, Elisha told the men to get a new cruse or container, which is like the wineskin we have been speaking about. They were to put salt in it. Any salt they put into the “old cruse” will be compromised. The new cruse (new wineskin) is like a new heart that has been delivered from the power of human and religious traditions.

Every existing religious tradition in Christianity has consistently ignored certain clear aspects of God’s Word, just because that was how they have “known” it. These cannot hold the “salt” of transformation that can affect men today. If you put the salt, it will only decay, and rather than the salt destroy any element of the flesh at work, it will magnify it. The wineskin will burst. Which means it cannot hold the Word of God again. It cannot allow the Spirit again.

So even if God were to pour out His Spirit on a “church” that has not done away with the old wineskin, it will only bring trouble. The result of such an outpouring will not be preserved. So, even if men are saved, they will be stuck; they will not be able to go on to perfection. They will settle for the existing status quo since the flow of the Spirit and the unadulterated Word of God has leaked away.

The living water

The water cannot be healed unless we have a new cruse, which is a new heart of utmost surrender to Him. In the words of Oswald Chambers, “my utmost for His Highest”. The extensive waters of poor Christian life that is a global issue today cannot be resolved, as we await the return of the Bridegroom, until we give up all allegiances to traditions and systems that compromise God’s Word

As simple as this is, it is also quite complex. For even when we are faithfully following the LORD Jesus in our own lives and families, that in itself will make us to run into conflict with those whose commitment are lower, and it can make men to perceive us as “rebels”. I beg you in the name of Jesus, don’t allow anyone in the name of their “spiritual office” to cajole you into not following through with whatever the LORD is doing in and with you. A true disciple of Jesus does not look for trouble but if He follows Jesus all the way and lives like Jesus did, trouble will definitely look for him.

The testimony of Jesus is what the Holy Spirit is recovering today. And He is preparing the bride (body of Christ) for her eternal joining with her LORD (Ephesians 5:27, Revelation 21:2). If you are also standing on the shoulders of the apostles and prophets, you will see that this is what to live for and if need be to die for. This is what should bind us together as one in the communion of the Spirit. This is the weightier matter that should preoccupy us and not the lesser issues of which offering is correct or which one is wrong (or who is more New Testament-like in approach than others).

May you also receive the testimony that you “…follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth…” (Revelation 14:4).

Note: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotation is from the King James Version.

Picture Credit: Valley Baptist Church, thenewcruse.pentecostalpioneers.org

Grace, Leadership

Doctrine, Deception and Discernment

“But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?”  Acts 5:3

What we are about to touch here is not what you may expect. This is not particularly about Ananias and Sapphira. This is about a warning we sense the LORD is giving to us in this critical moment. Ananias agreed to keep back a part of the proceeds of the land they sold and lied to the apostle that it was the entire amount.

In the same way, there are men among us who have connived together to keep back a part of God’s Word from the people, while declaring that that is all there is to know. It is clear that they know the whole truth, but their lives have been secretly hijacked by the devil to disclose only half truths. This half truth is what makes it difficult for people to discern the hidden errors in such messages. They speak certain things in God’s Word that are clearly true, but they have quietly withdrawn the other half of it, so that the people can be decieved, while their heads swell with Bible knowledge that has no application for their hearts. 

What is the first critical thing we are noting here? It is that a part of the money is kept away and they (Ananias and Sapphira) deceitfully exclaimed that it was all. Watch out brethren! A good number of those who are doing this fall into it without knowing. When you begin to hold certain theological interpretations of God’s Word that poisons your heart to other parts of Scriptures, you are basically schooling yourself to be another Ananias. And you can only be queuing up for the same gravity of judgment that fell upon him and his accomplice.

The second thing I want you to note is that such intelligent theological/Bible teachings may sound profound, but it is only plausible (something believable, but not true). What makes for this false credibility? They have accomplices. They are not necessarily lone rangers. They hide their tracks properly in the way they intellectually hide some aspects of God’s Word to elevate their own prejudices, so as to overthrow the faith of others. The only reason why they are not exposed is that our generation has lost that prophetic edge that accompanies a faithful and fruitful ministry. When Ananias fell dead before Peter, it was clear that it was not an abuse of the anointing, it was rather the Holy Spirit Himself working as a freeman among the apostles and in the Church, to arrest any element of corruption.

Example:

God elects and predestinates

Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied” (1 Peter 1:2)

Man responds and experiences the certainty that accompanies God’s salvation

“Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for IF ye do these things, ye shall never fall:” (2 Peter 1:10).

Indeed, salvation is not something to be lost like a candy in pocket, yet the promised certainty is conditional. It requires diligence to make election sure and to be able to persevere. God promises a perfect salvation; we believe and act accordingly. That settles it. If you like, ignore obedience and keep arguing eternal security; that is not the whole counsel of God. And it only guarantees one thing: perdition. (2 John 9-11, 1 John 3:3, Galatians 5:21)

“Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life.” Acts 5:20

It is high time we stopped entertaining half truths. Most theological disputes arises because a group emphasizes one aspect of God’s Word over another. We are not called to teach our pet doctrines; we are called to teach all the words of this life, as proven by our lives. 

The Prophetic Edge is Missing Today

It is the lack of a prophetic edge in our ministries that condones the works of those who have”…crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 1:4). Men have grown in certain “godly” systems who could have been discerned and discovered beforehand as “Ananias”, who have now occupied strategic positions in those ministries or even started their own work that appeals to a younger generation. A younger generation that is easily pleased with an intelligent presentation of the Scriptures that leaves their heads spinning, but their hearts still running away from the arms of the Saviour and the operation of His Grace. 

If the LORD permits, we may, at another time, speak more about the need for every expression of ministry today to have a sharp prophetic edge, that cuts deep into the hearts of men, so as not to be left shallow with head knowledge of God’s Word. This already, I can tell, offends some who think we can no longer operate in prophecy. Yet, the Word of God says to,  “Follow after charity, and desire spiritual gifts, but rather that ye may prophesy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1). “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”  (14:31) “Wherefore, brethren, covet to prophesy…” (14:39) “Despise not prophesyings.” (1 Thessalonians 5:20). 

It is because we have given up the capacity to prophesy to those who occupy ministry offices, that’s why we have received all kinds of preachers and teachers today who are making a name off of the ignorance and spiritual insensitivity of Believers. 

The Purpose of the Mixt Multitude

“And a mixed multitude went up also with them; and flocks, and herds, even very much cattle.” Exodus 12:38

“And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” Numbers 11:4

“Now it came to pass, when they had heard the law, that they separated from Israel all the mixed multitude.” Nehemiah 13:3

“But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. [27] So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? [28] He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? [29] But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. [30] Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”    

Matthew 13:25,27-30

As Israel began their journey out of Egypt, they were joined by a people the Word of God described as “mixt multitude”. What will that mean? They were Egyptians. So, we can pick a principle from here. That anytime God’s people are on the move or wherever God’s people congregate, there may be people there who may appear to be like them but are not in reality. It means that the enemy has a budget of men to sponsor into any gathering of God’s people, that if care is not taken they will be so mixed with the people, that we will not know. And it takes the operation of the prophetic, as we saw in the case of Ananias been discerned by Peter, to discern such elements as they strive to express their feigned obedience to the faith, and thereby establish their heresy. 

Now, what is the goal of the mixed multitude? Their goal is to make God’s people to lust, to be overtaken by desire for something that may even be legitimate, to the extent of grieving God. So, desire for things is put before desire for God and His ways. Is that not where we are today? We have made the Word of God man-centred in our drive to make it applicable to all life situations. This has gradually weakened the spirit of prophecy in our midst, since we are all trying to be politically correct and current with people who are mostly unsaved, but mixed with the elect saints. This has brought leanness to the soul of genuine saints as the unsaved continues to find the church comfortable, regardless of their disobedience. 

The Separation of the Mixed Multitude from the Saints

Division or Discernment?

In Nehemiah 13 above, we see that the people made a separation between the “tares” and the “wheat” after they heard the Word of God. You know by now that the tares are the mixed multitude, while the wheats are the elect saints. However, in the parable the LORD gave in Matthew 13, we see the LORD clearly saying to not separate the tares from the wheat yet, because it is not the harvest time (Matthew 25:32). The possibility of getting into the flesh and turning all those who disagree with us to tares that must be rooted out, is not little. So, the LORD says, leave them, let them grow together. 

But, what must we do with them if we shouldn’t separate them. In Malachi 3:18, it says, “Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.” The word is to discern. Know the difference between the genuine saints and those who are putting on a camouflage. The Spirit will always want to make such a difference in our hearts, because He knows those who belongs to Him and those who do not. However, if we have already predetermined that we cannot have such a spiritual operation among us, how can He make such discovery to us? 

You will see that the brothers were fully open to the move of the Spirit among them, so it was difficult for them to lay hands suddenly on any man (1 Timothy 5:22). That is, they hardly consecrated anyone into the ministry that was a false brother or sister. The one they did by lot was probably because the Spirit had not yet come to settle into them. Once the Pentecost occurred we didn’t hear about Matthias again (Acts 1:21-26).

The proof that the LORD is working among us is the freedom the Holy Spirit has to operate in His diverse ways, so that Christ can be glorified (John 16:13-14). He is to glorify Jesus and if we don’t allow the Spirit, we are denying the LORD His due glory. False brethren will keep growing among us to mislead God’s people, and if possible, overthrow their faith (2 Timothy 2:18). But it is our duty as God’s watchmen to discern (not to SUSPECT) one another, to know the Spirit’s impression about those among us, so that we can block the adversary from installing them into the hierarchy that will promote them into further influence. “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches…” (Revelation 2:6)

“For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? [18] And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”                       

1 Peter 4:17-18

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version

Photo credits: Random, berean research, Messengers International

faith, Grace, Leadership

Scriptural Precursors to Unity of Faith

What must happen before we can have unity of faith

We see what God has done for us by His Sovereign Grace in Ephesians chapters 1 to 3. And if you have not yet seen it, you might as well take your time right now to go through it. It is a revelation of that which God began to do in eternity past, before the beginning of creation, which He continues to unfold today, according to the counsel of His Will. This is God’s Sovereign Grace towards all whom He has saved, whether they have understood it or not. Hence, it is this truth that should sober the hearts of brothers who are well learned in these things towards their fellow saints who are not yet taught or brought (up) into this realities.

Precursor: “something that comes before something else and that often leads to or influences its development, one that precedes and indicates the approach of another, predecessor, forerunner.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary

This soberness should bend our hearts in prayer towards our fellow believers, regardless of their denominational affiliations or current biblical understanding. So, we should long for God to unite His body in our day, “…that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:22). Thus, we see that what Bible teaching will not do, a genuine prayer towards all who have been saved will achieve our LORD’s prayer in John 17. In fact, correct Bible teaching requires an altar of prayer to enforce it upon the souls of men.

#1. Humility before the LORD and towards the brethren

Ephesians 4:1-2 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, [2] With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;”

We are to walk worthy of the vocation (the acting out of all that God has achieved for us by His Sovereign Grace) we have been called into. How? Not in pride of knowledge and criticism of our fellows. But primarily, with lowliness and meekness. And “.. with longsuffering…” That is, preferring to suffer a mislabel as long as it will take to win over your brother into a fuller experience of the knowledge of Christ. We are able to suffer long like this on account of our brothers, because of the forbearing love that the LORD Himself is willing to demonstrate through us, as He has already demonstrated towards us. 

#2. Taking responsibility against division

Ephesians 4:3-6 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [4] There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; [5] One Lord, one faith, one baptism, [6] One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

There is already a unity of the Spirit that has been objectively breathed into the body by the Holy Spirit, and we are to keep (preserve) it. How? In the bond of peace. Regardless of differences that results from tradition and personal opinions on God’s Word, we must know that the “…God and Father of all, who is above all…” is the One that works “…through all, and in you all…”, when we allow Him. Please allow Him. If you cooperate with Him, He will unite you with others of different groups and denominations through your forbearance and longsuffering, simply because they belong to Him also.

#3. Your growth is the measurement of your grace 

Ephesians 4:7 “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

We have seen some precursors already that leads to unity of faith. First, we live out that which the Grace of God has achieved in us and then we continually moderate our passions to accommodate others of God’s people, all according to the breath of the Holy Spirit within us, which is the grace of God.

Now, this grace is given and experienced according to the measure of the gift of Christ. That is, the measure of Christ we know and experience devotionally is the same measure of Grace we will have operationally. So, what measure of Christ has been formed in you? How much of the LORD can be seen in your life? Yes, we know that He is in you but that which is inside has a way of showing forth on the outside. The amount of progress you have made, areas where you have allowed the LORD to have His way, is the measure of Christ, and it is that measure that determines the Grace you can literally experience in service towards the rest of the body of Christ. 

#4. Ministerial offices are given for growth and unity of the church

Ephesians 4:11-13 “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; [12] For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: [13] Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:”

So, based on the measure of growth we have experientially proven in Christ, we are given a measure of operation in the body of Christ. Hence, He gave some apostles… prophets, …evangelist, …pastors and teachers. You can look at these assignments in two ways.

1. A Gifting

2. A Calling

Even if you have any of these as a gifting, until the LORD Himself calls it forth, it does not become an assignment for you. And what will make Him to call it forth? The measure of the gift of Christ. Christ in you, being the hope of glory, is what determines your capacity to bear the office of a ministry or service gift. 

In verses 12 & 13, the LORD introduces us to two words, “For” and “Till”. Both are opening words for each verse, and they represent purpose and measurement respectively. All the ministries are given “for” a purpose, and it is to perfect the saints, to do the work of service (ministry) and to edify (build up) the body of Christ. If you look at these very well, you will see that a calling into the 5 fold ministry is not a calling to a denomination or sect, it is a calling to the body of Christ, according to the scope of ministry the LORD will give in your lifetime. 

How do you know that the saints are being perfected? How do you know that the work of ministry is being done? How do you verify that the body of Christ is being built up? The word “Till” points to how to measure the effectiveness of each ministry assignment among the saints. These ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) must bring us together in the unity of faith.

Now, when you see people allegedly bearing such ministries not achieving that, you are free to discard their claim to such an assignment. No calling in the body of Christ is given to separate brethren and divide further those who are equally born again but don’t yet see eye to eye on a number of things, even in the Word of God. If one among us grows properly and God now calls him into a service of pastoring for instance, one thing that should mark it is the healing of breaches and binding together of brethren in love, rather than breaking of groups further along the lines of doctrinal differences. 

We are beginning to see a semblance of these in some places. Any life that can cut across denominations and international church groups without compromising the Word of God is a life that is serving this “Ephesians 4:13” purpose, regardless of their simplicity. Even if they are title-less, they are the real apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. It is those who achieve the purpose for these offices that are actually the real office holder, by the Grace of God.

#5. The maturity that produces unity

Ephesians 4:14-16 “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; [15] But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: [16] From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”

God is very clear about how He will achieve His eternal purposes. Concerning the Church, God’s plan is to make everyone of us “…grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ”. This will happen as we speak the truth in love. Obviously there will be those who will presume that they will participate in (the fellowship of) Christ regardless of their hatred for the truth. A capital NO please! Love does not compromise truth; it only fasten it upon the hearer in a more forceful way. This is a way of living by example and giving room for the hearer to grow up into that truth already in your experience. 

To be against God’s Word that is clearly revealed to us is to be eventually cut off from the body of Christ (John 15:2, 6).

The maturity of speaking the truth in love will build up a generation of saints whose primary affection is to Christ and His Word, such that their understanding of doctrine and their experience of spiritual realities are shaped by the same. They will not be gullible to false teachings. They will not be tossed here and there by any wave of a new teaching since the Word of God is not going through any form of updating. Please note that the primary reason why these saints won’t be deceived is not their Bible knowledge; it is their growth in knowing Christ personally and experientially, which is actually the goal of Scriptures (John 5:39).

It is as everyone is joined to Christ in private devotion that they find that spiritual appetite for public fellowship with the saints, as well as, clarify the spiritual priority of unity in our experience. The body makes increase as every part grows in its own measure of Christ and shares that portion in his own experience with the rest. This constant, continuous supplies from every saint is what binds and compacts the body of Christ together. 

The privilege of knowing God and sharing Him

As we respond to God’s order, let us note that unity of the body of Christ equally emphasize the individual saint and the community of saints. One is not more important than the other. It is only a matter of priority. Personally spending time with God is the one thing that many of us lack, just as Jesus told Martha. Yet, we must also proceed to partake of the administration of life that God has approved for public fellowship; after which we withdraw again. In fact, we eventually gain strength to enjoy this private fellowship with LORD everywhere, even in the busyness of the public space, because of the Grace to maintain this priority of spending time with alone Him. 

We give of that Christ-life in us and then we receive of that Christ-life in others. And love is what makes all these possible.

“For the love of Christ constraineth us…” 2 Corinthians 5:14

“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

NOTE: Unless otherwise stated, all Scripture quotations are from the King James Version

Picture credit: end times prophecy report