Monthly Archives: November 2020

TRUE FUNCTIONALITY

TRUE FUNCTIONALITY

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Him who is the Head. From Him, the whole body joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love as each part does its work (Eph. 4: 14-16).

What a marvellous description of a harmonious and properly functioning body!

However, the real picture of the church, in many of its parts, is very different from the pattern Paul presents here a body of people whom the Holy Spirit has bound together into an organism that functions perfectly as one. Just imagine how dysfunctional one’s body would be if its systems and cells were constantly vying for position, competing for attention or being pulled apart by leaders who claimed authority over each other.

What would happen if one cell decided to be the boss? It demanded the right to cause a group of cells to pull away from the rest of the organ and set up its own organ in opposition to the one that has fulfilled its function in the body efficiently for many years. The result would be. . . cancer! Cancer kills and cancer in the body of Christ kills as effectively as the rogue cells in a human body which multiply uncontrollably and take over the entire body.

Paul describes God’s pattern for the efficient functioning of the body of Christ as it submits to its Head, through the power of the Spirit. It must, firstly, submit to the authority and follow the instructions of the Head. It is tragic that too many of God’s people are woefully ignorant of Jesus’ teachings. They rely, instead, on what they glean from the pulpit and swallow the teaching without checking the truth of what they hear. They claim to be disciples of Jesus without knowing what a disciple is or what a disciple’s life should be like.

To the Jews who had believed Him Jesus said: ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.’ (John 8: 31-32).

Ignorance of God’s Word is a recipe for error. We can only become truly one in Christ when we believe and hold to the truth. We cannot know the truth if we fail to read God’s Word diligently and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth. Paul called people “infants” who were ignorant of the Word and subsequently easy prey for imposters who pulled them away from Jesus by setting themselves up as the custodians of the truth. We must beware of so-called “leaders” who subtly draw people to themselves instead of to Jesus.

Like the spokes of a wheel that are joined to the hub and keep the wheel strong and functioning, the closer each individual draws to Jesus, the stronger the unity of the body will become. The hallmark of the body of Christ is always unity through love based on a commitment to Jesus as Lord and obedience to His teaching.

Unfortunately, there are church groups and denominations that demand adherence to their particular brand of doctrine. Membership of that group depends on the individual’s willingness to believe what that denomination teaches, regardless of whether it reflects Biblical truth or not. I have seen how people easily follow someone’s “good idea” or personal interpretation like sheep, without checking the Scriptures to verify the truth of what they are teaching or practising.

Take, for example, the worldwide movement called “spiritual warfare” or being “prayer warriors”. There are many individuals who claim to be specialists in their brand of spiritual warfare and lead ministries and hold seminars on something that has no foundation in God’s Word. This entire superstructure of teaching and practice is based on an erroneous interpretation of a few passages of Scripture.

Let me illustrate. When Jesus took His disciples to a region called Caesarea Philippi in northern Israel, which was the “red-light” district which no self-respecting Jew would ever visit, He had a specific purpose in mind. The town was the centre of Caesar worship. There was, in a nearby region, a huge rocky cliff in which niches were carved to house the images of false gods. There was a pagan temple at its base where devotees worshipped these gods, particularly Pan, the goat-god, by having sexual orgies with goats.

It was in full view of these goings-on that Jesus asked His disciples the question, “Who do you say that I am?” On the strength of Peter’s response, He gave them the authority to interpret His yoke (His interpretation and application of the Torah) and to loose people from their yokes of paganism and legalism. By teaching them the truth, His disciples would bind His yoke on people like the very ones who were engaging in the vile practices they were observing.

It is the power of Jesus, who is the Son of the living God, and what He taught – the Fatherhood of God who loves and is merciful to all who receive His forgiveness and submit to Jesus as Lord – that sets people free from the bondage of sin and all the sinful beliefs and practices the devil has ensnared them to engage in. The power of the gospel, not doing “prayer walks” and “pulling down imaginary strongholds”, transformed the city of Ephesus and broke the power of the goddess Diana.

This is the essence of spiritual warfare. In partnership with the Holy Spirit and by following Jesus and learning from Him, we are set free from the bondage of false belief systems to become true disciples of Jesus. It is only in fellowship with Him that we can be in fellowship with one another and begin to reflect the power of the gospel to overcome our differences and become the real body of Christ, bound together in love, and function as one.

This, then is the role of the “gifts” Jesus has given to the church – to instruct and guide the body, under the leadership of the Head, to become one by His supernatural power so that the world will have a visible witness to the nature of the one and only true God.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

FUNCTIONS – NOT TITLES

FUNCTIONS – NOT TITLES

But to each of us, grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. That is why it says:

‘When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men.’

(What does “He ascended” mean except that He descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe). It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4: 7-13).

Here we have another one of Paul’s monstrous mouthfuls of revelation truth! From where did Paul get these lofty ideas if not from the Holy Spirit?

According to Paul, first of all, every function a believer fulfils in the body of Christ is based on our unity in Him. There is not one person in the church who is superior in person or function to another. We all fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle or the tiles in a mosaic. If one is missing, the picture is incomplete. There is no such thing as priesthood and laity, for every believer is a priest since we are all to worship God by offering the appointed and appropriate sacrifices to God.

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and has made us to become a kingdom and priests to serve His God and Father – to Him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen (Rev. 1: 5b-6).

The consistent message of Scripture is that Jesus Christ is head of His church, which is His body. It is impossible for the church to be the body of Christ and yet for some fallible mortal to be the head. He alone has the right to lead and direct His body according to His will. Those whom He has chosen to have human responsibilities in the church must, first of all, be absolutely one with Him, walking in intimate fellowship with Him and submitting to Him as Lord in all.

Secondly, Jesus has the right to appoint people to functions within His church and to gift them with the ability to carry out those functions for Him and through Him. Spiritual gifts do not belong to the people who exercise them. They belong to Jesus and they are to be used to build up the members of His body, not to lord it over them with assumed superiority and authority. Gifts are given for service, not for aggrandisement. Every person to whom He has given a responsibility in His body is accountable to Him for its use and influence.

Thirdly, within the body, we are all subject to and accountable to one another. Mutual submission in humility is the hallmark of unity. Even those whom Jesus has appointed to leadership positions and positions of authority are not above correction. The armour of God makes no provision to protect our backs. Just as the soldiers in the Roman army marched in rank, their shields protecting their chests from flying arrows and their fellow soldiers protecting their backs, so we, as we do life together, are to cover one another’s backs.

The tragedy within the church is that we act more like the world than the body of Christ. The church is neither a business nor an organisation. It is a living organism, functioning like a human body in absolute unity because we are to be a reflection of God, the Three-in-One. When a system or a cell malfunctions in a human body, it becomes sick and will die if the condition is not cured. There is no competition in the body for prestige or position, yet local expressions of Christ’s body are often a hotbed of conflict. Power struggles, not unity and harmony, tear the people apart. Selfish ambition, not love and humility, drives its leaders. Men masquerade as apostles and prophets, claiming and loving the titles rather than serving the body in the humility of their function.

Isn’t it any wonder that the church has become irrelevant in the world and the butt of jokes rather than the evidence of Christ’s invasion of earth to bring the kingdom of God into sin-infested humanity! Jesus gave His disciples two sure-fire signs of the truth of His coming and evidence of the change He brought to the human heart.

A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another (John 13: 34-35).

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17: 20-21).

Love and unity – these are impossible requirements for people whom the Holy Spirit has never changed from within. These qualities in a group of people reveal a power at work far greater than human effort. Our selfish and independent hearts will never submit to any other outside of the power of God’s Spirit.

True followers of Jesus are to imitate Him. He is humble and gentle in heart, a servant leader. He requires that we exercise the gifts He has given in His spirit and disposition,, otherwise we are nothing but wolves in sheep’s clothing.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

WEAR THE YOKE OF JESUS

WEAR THE YOKE OF JESUS

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all who over all and through all and in all (Eph. 4: 1-6).

In this letter, in which he did not deal with false doctrine or practical problems in the church or in the individual’s lives, Paul followed his usual pattern of basing his practical appeal on doctrinal teaching, explaining the implications of what God had done for them in Christ through His death and resurrection and calling them to respond in faith and obedience.

Paul continued the Old Testament concept of life as a journey and faith in Jesus as a walk with Him. He appealed to his readers to follow Jesus in a manner worthy of their calling. To what were they called? They were called out of the darkness of ignorance and unbelief, out of disobedience to God and a life of sin – transgression of God’s laws and the self-destruction which was the inevitable result, to a life of faith in God and obedience to Jesus as Lord.

They no longer belonged to the world system with its greedy and selfish pursuits, but to the kingdom of God, under His authority and living in obedience to His standards because they had been made spiritually alive and able to hear and respond to His Spirit in them. This kingdom required a new attitude and outlook on life. No longer were they under the devil’s influence and held in bondage to sin. They were free to express the life of God in them by their love for God and for one another.

This must have been a “mind-blowing” experience for people who knew nothing but idolatry and the perverse behaviour idolatry produced. Out of this depraved lifestyle flowed the fear, guilt and shame with which their consciences responded and which they could not silence. Peace with God through Jesus brought freedom from fear and inward rest which was both new and indescribably wonderful to them.

Paul appealed to his readers to maintain this peace by wearing the yoke of Jesus characterised by humility and gentleness. Remember Jesus’ words?

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30).

Jesus was speaking to those who were burdened by a religious system that demanded endless rule-keeping in order to gain the acceptance of a God whom they believed to be demanding and relentless in his requirements for holiness. Jesus offered a way of life that freed them from this legalistic bondage.  He called them to imitate Him and they would be free to live in peace and harmony with God and with one another.

“Gentle and humble”? Is it possible to tame our selfish and unruly hearts so that we are content to be who we are and to enjoy what we have without being in constant conflict and competition with others? Yes, it is! Through Jesus, God has removed our sin and the reason for the fear, guilt and shame that underlies our aggression towards our fellow human beings.

He has sent His Spirit to live in our hearts as His representative, to give us the power to overcome the ravages of our old, sinful nature. We are no longer bound to be selfish and antagonistic towards others. God has poured His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit in us. We are free to follow Jesus and to apply His yoke of patience, gentleness and humility in our attitude towards others.

Have you ever been in situations where the old nature rises up and demands to be allowed to react? I have! How does one deal with oneself on these occasions? Time and again I have had to remind myself that, as a disciple of Jesus, I am called to follow Him and to imitate Him. To my surprise, I find that the decision to let my anger and irritation go brings the power to do it. I allow my thoughts to return to the truth that I am a daughter of the Father. He is in me by His Spirit and His Spirit causes me to think and act in patience, gentleness and humility as one who bears the image of His Son.

These are the practical ways in which I am able to express the life of God in me. It is a journey, not an easy one because I have my old, sinful nature to contend with, to subdue and the new nature of love to nurture. But, as I practise and learn, I progress, however slowly and falteringly, towards the goal of becoming like Jesus in His gentleness and humility.

Being a Christian is not about going to church, carrying out religious rituals and keeping rules. It’s about following Jesus, learning to be submissive and obedient children of God, doing and being what He wants and responding to Him in unwavering trust whatever comes our way in life. The Holy Spirit in us is our personal companion and guide. He will lead us unerringly to the Father as we learn to hear His voice and respond to Him.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

IMMEASURABLY MORE!

IMMEASURABLY MORE!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more that all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work in us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for even and ever! Amen (Eph. 3: 20-21).

How typical of Paul to break out into an exclamation of praise! Packed into this outburst is a wealth of truth which will enrich our understanding of our heavenly Father if we mine the gold of its meaning.

Paul passionately longed that his readers would experience God’s love in its fullness which, in the end, is as measureless as God Himself. No matter how vast the dimensions of God’s love, like the universe around and above us, we will never exhaust that love or reach the limits of what God has for us, supplied by this love. As the old hymn states:

Thou art coming to a King,

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such,

None can ever ask too much.

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/you-can-never-ask-too-much – retrieved January 2016.

How tragic that most of us are satisfied to paddle in the shallows of God’s love when we can explore and embrace His love in its inexhaustible magnitude if we but leave our selfish selves and delve into God, our Father!

How can we know a love like this which is beyond knowing? This is the paradox. The more we know, the more we realise that we do not know and that there is so much more to know. I will dare to suggest a few ways in which we can move out of our comfortable personal environment into new and yet unexplored ways of knowing God?

  1. The first way to get to know God is to pray David’s simple prayer in Psa. 86:11.

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.

The Father loves to answer a sincere cry to know Him. He will open the door to the treasure stores of understanding His ways to anyone who diligently and sincerely seeks Him.

  1. God is knowable when we open our hearts in generosity and mercy to those who are or have less than ourselves. God rebuked King Shallum for greed and commended his father, King Josiah for showing compassion to the poor.

‘Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?’ declares the Lord (Je. 22: 15-16).

  1. Knowing God is about gazing at His glory. How do we do that? We are transformed as we contemplate Jesus, who is the image of the Father. Spend time in the gospels, following, watching, and listening to Him. You will be thrilled with the revelation of Jesus that the Holy Spirit will give you as you contemplate Him.

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect (contemplate) the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3: 18).

  1. Seek His face. We are so opportunistic that we continually seek God for what we want and not for who He is. How often I hear the phrase from the lips of a child of God, “I am believing God for. . . “ as though our relationship with Him is nothing more than beggars wanting handouts! God is our Father; we are His sons and daughters. Knowing God is so much more than treating Him as a celestial vending machine.

Our Father has promised us that He will take care of all our physical and material needs as we focus on doing His will and seeking His kingdom first (Matt. 6:33).

Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always (Psa. 105: 4).

God is love. To seek Him and to know Him is to become aware of the immensity of the love that He pours into our lives, even in the seeming disasters and adversities that come our way. What if, instead of whining and moaning, and questioning His love when trials and tragedy hit, we seek His face and find, to our surprise and joy, that He is able to do immeasurably more than our finite minds can imagine when we trust His love and allow Him to be God at all times, even when life makes no sense.

After all, He is writing a much bigger story than our short chapter; He is painting on a much bigger canvas than our little corner. When God is free to be God in our lives without the restrictions of fear and mistrust, He will do immeasurably more than we can ever ask or imagine, according to the power at work in us. He is at work to reproduce the image of Jesus in us.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

A SUPERLATIVE PRAYER

A SUPERLATIVE PRAYER

For this reason, I kneel before the Father, from whom His whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (Eph. 3: 14-19).

Once again, we must read Paul’s prayer against the background of the Ephesian church. Some of the believers were Gentiles who had, not long before, come out of paganism, superstition and witchcraft. They had been despised by the Jews, but now they were part of a new race and a new culture – the race of God’s people, Jew and Gentile together making up an entirely new people group with a new culture based on the standards and principles of God’s kingdom, with Jesus at the head. He was their new authority and they were under His Lordship which took precedence over everything they had believed and practised in the past.

Paul had not only spent three years preaching in Ephesus and teaching the new believers the fundamentals of their faith, he also prayed earnestly for them and longed for them to have the inner assurance of the new status and standing they had with the Father.

Everything they had come to believe in was based on God’s mercy in reinstating them to sonship in His family. Until Jesus came, God’s name, Father, was not known. Jesus both revealed the Father by His life and removed the barrier of sin by His death so that all of God’s wayward children might hear the invitation to come home. Like the prodigal in Jesus’ story, God’s sons are either slaves to sin by their rebellion or slaves to religion by their pathetic attempt to be righteous by their adherence to rules.

Both have missed the mark but they have never ceased to be sons. God is not interested or impressed by our efforts to gain His favour. He has already done what was necessary to remove our sin and to reconcile us to Himself. He only asks that we accept His free pardon, return to His family and submit to His authority.

God’s love for us is immeasurable – Paul tried to describe how boundary-less that love is – and freely given to us through Jesus. How can we ever begin to experience the love of God in our lives? The first step is to create an environment in our hearts where Jesus feels at home. He cannot feel comfortable where there are attitudes and emotions that contradict His nature. When our hearts are still filled with prejudice, unforgiveness, bitterness, jealousy, anger and fear, He cannot rest.

He has provided the solution to our old ways of thinking and reacting – He has shown us mercy and forgiven all our bad attitudes and actions towards others. He has given us the power of the Holy Spirit who is resident in us to let go of our hurts and grievances, real or perceived – to show mercy to others as He has shown mercy to us. When our hearts are no longer cluttered with the garbage of sin, He will settle in as a permanent resident and to fill us with the attitudes and emotions that make Him feel comfortable.

Love, joy and peace are the “furnishings” of His home. The more we dwell on the magnitude of His love and recognise His presence in the circumstances of our lives, good or bad, the more we will recognise and experience His love in spite of the ungodly environment in which we live. Really experiencing the love of God comes, not by stoically bearing whatever comes our way but by consciously dwelling on and trusting in His love in spite of everything. Jesus always lived in the Father’s love, and He came out trumps.

There is no fear in love.  But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4: 18).

Fear, not hatred, is the opposite of love. Fear (the fear of punishment because we think God is still mad with us), will nullify our awareness and experience of the love of God. Our confidence in the Father is founded on our standing as His sons and daughters. Everything we are and everything God has for us is rooted in the truth that we are God’s beloved children. Those who have returned to the Father through faith in His Son, have been forgiven, reconciled and restored to the family and reinstated as His sons and daughters.

God will never punish us for any failure or sin because Jesus has already paid the price in full. Any hardships we experience in life are evidence that we are God’s children. As a Father, He has the right to discipline us so that we can be true reflections of our elder brother, Jesus.

Take heart, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter how tough life is for you; not matter how uncertain your circumstances, if you have complete confidence in the greatness of the Father’s love for you, you will never be shaken, and God will surprise you with His goodness in every possible way. Armed with the reality of such great love, you will be free to be generous with your love and mercy towards others as God has been towards you.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3, eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.