Truth Transforms 4

Enoch Era

This is in continuation of our Lord’s words in Matthew 6, “Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow”.

To begin with there is a need to clear the debris of misconceptions surrounding Matt 6:33. First, ‘Seek, ye first’ is not about prioritising as is often understood. It is about a singular focus and not about first among many other objectives. This understanding follows the teaching of the greatest commandment (Matt22:37,38). It is the touchstone of Christian faith and living – What do you seek in life? What are you seeking in following Christ? If your answer is, “I seek Christ alone – to know Him, to love Him and to live for Him” or “I seek Him and His kingdom alone in my life” then you are on the right path. This is the gold standard of Christian faith and living. If your answer is any other, howsoever nuanced, you are on a wrong track.

Second, ‘Kingdom of God’ is not about ministry. It is about God’s rule and authority in our lives. It is because of this misconception many church and ministry leaders tend to superimpose their own ministry activities and programs with the kingdom of God. This is to confuse the earthly systems and structures with the kingdom of God which is spiritual, eternal and invisible. This leads to confusion as to what one’s focus ought to be. Often these leaders demand that we focus on their vision and work and demand loyalty. This in turn leads to stunted growth among many and produces sycophants or ‘chamchas’ (As we call them in India)! We have many such people in our ‘churches’ and ‘ministry organisations’ – enslaved to the leader or the name, system, or pattern.

The same deception also leads to thinking of God’s kingdom in physical terms. Therefore, their focus is on budgets, buildings, numbers, on church attendance and physical forms of worship. Some even strive for positions of power in church hierarchies or in political and financial power structures of the world.  Such people never grow in their spiritual life. We have hordes of such Christians worldwide – malformed, malnourished and stunted in growth! This is why you see many men and women in churches behaving like toddlers, running around with milk-bottles in their mouths and shamelessly flaunting their spiritual nakedness! 

A third deception regarding the kingdom of God is that there are some who seek it full-time, while others can work and prosper in the world so that they can contribute to ministry needs. Looking at it in perspective of several centuries, this is a lie straight from hell. There are no full-time or half-time followers of Christ. All of us either follow Him full time or don’t follow Him at all! Period. The reason I say it is a lie straight from hell, is that such thinking has given license to a majority of Christians into thinking that there was nothing wrong with pursuing the world and what it has to offer. And they have been trying to do the impossible – serve two masters! It is tragic and scary to note that for several centuries, churches and ministries have been based on this lie and were sponsored by money earned from such dual living.  Is it any wonder that we have produced carnal and worldly Christians who just do not know the spiritual realm of Christian living?

Going back to the words in Matt 6:33, the people of the Kingdom of God do not worry about their basic needs of sustenance – of food and clothes nor about their identity and security needs. These are already promised and they know that their heavenly Father will provide. Therefore, their focus is not on education, employment, marriage, houses and generally what we call as ‘settling down in life’ (in India). One who follows Christ can never ‘settle down’ in this life. ‘Settling down’ in life is the agenda of the world not of the Lord.

Here, a good example comes from the people of Israel after crossing the Red Sea. Everyone was worried about, what shall we eat, what shall we wear, where shall we live and where shall we be buried. Only Joshua and Caleb looked ahead to the land promised by God and to enter into the fullness of His rest. We know the final outcome of the story. Only Joshua and Caleb entered the fullness of Canaan while the rest perished in the wilderness.

Instead, the people of God focus solely or singularly on the kingdom of God and His righteousness, which is about seeking to grow in their relationship with God – knowing Him, loving Him and living for Him. It means to live in a world of spiritual reality, where they learn to think as God thinks, see as God sees, hear as God hears and respond to people and need around as God would respond.

To seek God’s kingdom is to learn to come under His rule and His authority. Such people do not walk according to the physical or the temporal, but according to the Spirit. They learn to be led by the Spirit and therefore, they set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To explore the spiritual world is to explore corporate living and the thrills of true fellowship with the Triune God and in the body of Christ, the Church. Very few of us have explored the riches of such life in our neighbourhoods.

Their prayer is, “Lord, let Thy kingdom come into my life and thy will be done in my life as it is in heaven” Every follower of Christ is called to live this way.

There will be an element of the supernatural in their daily living. Such that their life cannot be explained by the criteria of money, education nor of any of the physical or temporal categories. This is what makes them different and separate from others in the world. Such living ought to be the norm and not an exception for the people of the kingdom of God. This is what Pharaoh saw in Joseph and Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel – the supernatural element. 

Quite often most of us in the modern world address our life issues by the knowledge we have acquired and the money at our disposal. There is hardly any recourse to spiritual or supernatural means. Therefore, we seldom see God at work among us. And quite often people around us are able to explain away our lives by worldly categories. So, they find it hard to believe that God is at work in our lives.

Relationship with God is at the core of being a Christian. Relationships don’t happen by rote, repetition, routine, ritual, rules and regulations. Relationship with God is personal, spiritual, intimate, active, dynamic and spontaneous. There may be some rote, repetition or routine but these alone don’t form the crux of the relationship. This was the problem with Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 or of Moses in Numbers 20 and of Saul in 1 Samuel 15.

Nadab and Abihu watched other priests offer the incense and thought that it was a very simple act. Why make so much fuss as if it were so sacred? They treated it as purely a mechanical ritual and were struck dead. Moses’s striking the rock as if it were a matter of past experience and therefore a repetition cost him dearly. And King Saul thought that offering sacrifices appeases God as if He were blood-thirsty and did not care for obedience to His word. End never justifies the means in our dealings with God. The means we employ to walk with Him, worship Him and serve Him with, must of necessity come from a dynamic engagement with Him. – not from past experience nor from presumption nor of purely rote, repetition and routine. Even Lord Jesus took decisions and was led in His ministry in a dynamic relationship with the Father (John 5:19, 20). 

Since we are still in a body and in a world which is under Satan, it is a constant battle to live in the realm of the Spirit. The physical, the material and the temporal constantly demand our attention. We easily lapse into it because we were used to living that way before being ‘born again’. Even our Lord faced this battle in the temptations on the mountain. Each time the devil tried to force Him to think physical and this worldly. But the Lord overcame each time by stating that there was the reality of the spiritual. He constantly refused to act according to the physical and the temporal.

And, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3: 1,2)

May the Lord teach us and help us to truly live in the Spirit!

Enoch Era

(You may read more on living in the Spirit in my article on ‘Knowing God as Spirit’ at my blog below.)

Truth Transforms 3

Enoch Era

In my previous article I wrote, pursuing middle-class lifestyles “…is totally unacceptable for the followers of Christ, for it is the agenda of the world and not of the Lord. It just amounts to worldliness. The only valid and worthy pursuit of the children of God is God and His Kingdom.”

So, how should we now live? What does it mean to seek God and His Kingdom?

First, to be a Christian is to be in relationship with God. Second, since God is Spirit, the relationship is essentially a spiritual relationship. To seek God is to seek to grow in our relationship with Him. It also means to seek to grow in the spiritual dimensions of life.

As humans we were created as both physical and spiritual beings. At the fall we became dead in the spirit.  Thus, we lost contact with God and the spiritual dimension of life. We began to live purely as physical beings. Our focus in life became this worldly. We live as if there is nothing more to life than the physical, material and temporal. Even if we think spiritual, we think of false spirituality and religion or of the world of evil spirits.  

This is where humanity is at, at present. For many the only reality that exists is the reality of the physical and the temporal world. Therefore, what we should eat, wear and where to live have become immediate and urgent. The modern world of the last two centuries seems to have provided a perfect solution to these questions through science, technology and economics, promising to provide these through education and employment.

Lord Jesus teaches us very clearly in Matt 6, from verse 19 onwards, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, … but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, … No one can serve two masters; … You cannot serve God and mammon”

Lord is teaching us here what we should not do. To seek to build earthy assets of educational qualifications, earn good salaries, build houses, ‘settle down’ in life with a family is considered by many as successful and therefore desirable. Such model of life amounts to laying up treasure on earth. It is tragic that this is exactly where most Christians are, including many who claim to be ‘born again’. They have just adopted the life model of the world but with a little bit of faith, prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, tithing and ministry. By doing this they think, they are seeking God and his Kingdom. But what they do not see is that they are trying to make possible what the Lord said was impossible – serving two masters, pursuit of God and acquiring worldly assets. This kind of living is totally contradictory to the call to follow Christ and unworthy of Him!

When those who claim to be the people of God, live consistently and continuously for the physical and for worldly well-being and growth, then one has to wonder if they are truly born of the Spirit of God. No one who claims to be truly born again can live purely for the physical and the temporal.

I believe, this is what Apostle Paul was referring to in Phil 2:21, “All seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.”

Practically all of us have fallen blindly into this deception, including our teachers and preachers. And we don’t even know it. Whenever we seek to follow the Lord, either our needs become urgent or our work is increased as Pharoah did with the children of Israel. This is our Egyptian captivity – the trap of earning a living and achieving middle-class goals! There seems no way of escape for many of us because as prophet Jeremiah said, we are living as home born slaves with no hope of redemption from our slavery (Jer 2: 14). We are so deeply entrenched in this model of living that it is very difficult to visualize any other way of living, leave alone extricating ourselves from it.

Our engagement with the world is to be only to the extent of what we need – food and clothes. As Apostle Paul said, “… having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” (1 Tim 6: 8). “… and those who use this world as not misusing it. For the form of this world is passing away.” (Cor 7: 31). But our ‘needs’ have become so many that a simple life is almost impossible to live these days.

The call to follow Christ is a call to simplicity and contentment. To be content with food and clothes. Anything extra can be experienced but not to be expected nor demanded and definitely not to be idolised. Simplicity and contentment enable us not to be entangled or enslaved with the physical but help us to focus on the spiritual and to depend upon the Lord for our needs.

To be simple is to learn to remain small. Keeping ourselves small is the way of Bethlehem. This is the mystery of God-likeness. Unfortunately, many have adopted the way of Babel and have gone behind the world.

The only way is to forsake the way of the world and seek the way of Christ. To seek those things which are above, where Christ is. This is to learn to live in the realm of the Spirit. How can we do it? (Please look for the answer in my next article)

Truth Transforms 2

For all seek their own…”

Enoch Era

Apostle Paul bemoaned in the 1st Century, “For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:21).  This is probably more true today, than at any time in the history of the church. These days seeking personal and family growth and middle-class advancement have become the focus of everyone. Our prayer requests, the promises we claim from scripture, our testimonies and our thanksgiving meetings, all these indicate what we seek.

As a result of the fall, we lost our relationship with God which led to the loss of our identity and security. Since then, we began to seek these in the world rather than in God. Thus, we became self-centered and self-seeking. Apostle Paul writes about people in the end times, “People will be lovers of themselves… lovers of money… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”. (2Tim 3:2,4)”.

The world that has come to be since the beginning of industrialisation in 18th Century, is often called the ‘modern world’. This modern world has made life easier than before. It has given us benefits practically in all areas of living. It has made education, jobs, better salaries, better health and better conveniences not only possible but also attainable. The pursuit and the acquiring of these benefits is often referred to as ‘middle class’ living. Middle-class living promises to restore the identities and securities we lost as a result of the fall.

Today our ambitions and aspirations in life are for these middle-class acquirements and achievements. These have become the focus of practically everyone without any exception, including those who claim to be in Christian ministry. In fact, the general thinking is, that middle-class benefits are the blessings given by God if we are faithful to Him. Many think that this is what it means when Jesus said, ‘…all these things shall be added unto you’ in Matthew 6:33.

These middle-class pursuits are now treated as normal and valid pursuits of every human being. Practically nobody raises the question if these can be valid pursuits of the followers of Christ. We have treated these as normal so we not only pray for them and have thanksgiving services when we attain them but talk about them as God’s blessings. Even our interpretation and understanding of scripture is discolored with middle class thinking.

It must be noted here that practically all the ‘promises and words of blessing’ which Christians claim from the Old Testament were originally given not for personal middle-class growth or development but for the corporate well-being of God’s people, as they love God and live for Him. Even those words of promise given individually to Abraham, Moses, David and other men of God are given in the context of the corporate vision that God has for His people.

So, to interpret and claim these words of promise either from the Old or the New Testaments for personal middle-class growth and development is not only out of context but repulsive to proper understanding of scripture. Therefore, to live such lives is totally unacceptable for the followers of Christ, for it is the agenda of the world and not of the Lord. It just amounts to worldliness.

The only valid and worthy pursuit of the children of God is God and His Kingdom (Matt 22:37,38). His kingdom is about His rule and His authority in our lives. To know Him, to love Him and to seek Him is the only thing worthy, lawful and moral. Every other pursuit is unworthy of our creation, unlawful, immoral and idolatrous.

But to love the Lord and to seek Him is also to seek His interests. His interest is His people, the church, which is the body of Christ bought with His own blood. People of God who are called to be members of the body of Christ cannot follow self-centered and self-seeking lifestyles. “For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.”

When Apostle Paul said, ‘all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus’, he was referring to the fact that others were self-seeking and self-centered unlike Timothy, who cared for the welfare of the church at Philippi. To seek the welfare of the people of God is to seek their growth to be like Christ. That they learn to live in life-sharing fellowship with other people of God such that there is a sense of belonging to One Body and as One people.

The greatest hindrance to this is to seek one’s own material and temporal growth. Or to confuse it with building structures, conducting meetings and programs.  Structures, meetings and programs we have in plenty but the people of God are not growing to be One Body and One People.

May the Lord deliver us from such muddled thinking and enable us to seek the Lord alone!  

Truth Transforms 1

God is faithful, by whom you were called

Enoch Era

“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Cor 1:9.  God is faithful to whom or to what?

God is faithful to who He is, to his own nature, character or being. God is relational. He is in constant and unceasing and eternal communion or fellowship with His Son and the Holy Spirit. So, in faithfulness to His own nature, God is now calling us into fellowship with Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

God, being faithful or true to himself, He created us to live in fellowship with Him and with one another such that there is oneness and corporateness through love among us as humans. And since we lost it because of the fall, He now calls us into fellowship with Himself through His Son. This is God’s faithfulness to His own being. Oh, how marvelous and wonderful are the ways of God!

Now, if we as God’s children claim that we are born of Him then we must demonstrate the nature of our heavenly Father – of love, of fellowship, of oneness and of corporateness even as He is ONE yet THREE.

Fellowship therefore, is not a formal meeting nor a program nor a church service nor is it just a gathering or having a meal together. It is about sharing of the life of God in us because of love, such that there is fullness among God’s people. This is what we see in the church in Acts 2 and 4. There was sharing and there was oneness that everybody’s need was met and there was no one who had any lack among them. This was a natural consequence of their new birth and the presence of the Spirit of God among them.

Church, as the body of Christ must learn this way of living. This is possible when people of God in their own neighbourhoods live in sharing of the life of God in them with one another in such a way that there is fulness, oneness and corporateness among them. This was our Lord’s burden of prayer in John 17:20, 21.  Lord prays that such oneness is a great witness to Him. The world would believe that Jesus was sent by God.

We don’t need churches with labels and banners. Labels and banners divide. We certainly don’t need structures and systems. Systems and structures promise identity and security but they bring corruption and politics. We don’t need services, programs and patterns either. Services, programs and patterns become repetitive, tedious, dull, mechanical and monotonous after a while. These present-day church patterns have failed miserably globally. These have ceased to be the witness that the Lord prayed for in John 17. We need worshipping communities but not in the form of labels, structures and systems nor services and programs or patterns.

God is looking for dynamic, life-flowing, life-sharing communities of God’s people in our neighbourhoods. Such people live as one people of God, sharing their gifts and resources with one another that they experience the fullness of God among them. We must deny our individualism and independent natures and seek fellowship and oneness with the people of God living around us. Only then can we say that there is a viable witness in our neighbourhoods. This is the Lord’s burden. This is the Lord’s vision for His body, the church. May the Lord raise many who would give themselves over to be faithful to who God is, and what He wants of us.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?… For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.”

Flee from the wrath to come

(Article written on 11 Jan 2020, but actually completed in the first week of June 2020)

Enoch Era

Introductory note

(God’s message to man is an eternal message, which has come to us finally, in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. Christ is God’s final word to man. There is no other message apart from or in addition to Christ. Since this message is in a person, it is a highly daunting task to understand Him, since we almost always seem to cast him in the mould of fallen humanity. It is also a solemn and a daunting task to fulfill the calling to be God’s messengers at a time when there are so many voices claiming to be speaking for God. But it must be done, not because one has any confidence in one’s self but because the One who calls is faithful to uphold. “And who is sufficient for these things? … Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God”

Although I wrote this in January 2020, I felt that we were not ready for it yet. But since the onset of the coronavirus and the devastation it is leaving behind across the globe, I felt the time was right to release it. But the things I have written in this message are very serious. I have thought over these, prayed, wept, talked with myself and with God for several years. In fact, I do not feel up to the task at all. Even if neither I nor anyone else that I know has followed wholly what I have written here, this message needs to be spoken/written for no other reason than that it must be spoken/written. Yes, very few have lived or practiced what I have written here. To my knowledge only two men in history lived and challenged others to follow them – the Lord himself and his apostle, Paul. I am sure there are others. Some thoughts needed repetition under different sections, so please bear with me if you find the article repetitive. It is also because I want to be clear, coherent and emphatic.  I am writing not because I obeyed the Lord completely but because I am compelled to write, if it is only to set the bar for myself and for anyone who cares to read. My hope and prayer is, that someone somewhere who reads it will take up the challenge and live it. One thing I can claim and that is, I have been given the grace to write what I have. May the Lord speak to you as you read and listen)

“Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father’… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”  These were the words of John the Baptiser to those who came to him to be baptized at River Jordan.  

A lot can be said about these words of John but two questions that arise immediately…

  • What is the wrath that John is talking about?
  • What does ‘to come’ mean here?

‘Wrath to come’

Other contextually similar references to wrath in the New Testament are, (the rest of the page 1 contains scriptural references. You could skip these for now and come back to them later).

John 3:36, “…but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Romans 1:18, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”

Romans 2:5, “… you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed.”

Romans 2:8, “…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

Romans 5:9, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”

Romans 9:22, “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction”

Ephesians 2: 3, “… and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Ephesians 5:6, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.”

Colossians 3: 6, “On account of these the wrath of God is coming.”

1 Thess 1: 10, “…Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

1 Thess 5: 9, “God has not destined us for wrath…”

Revelation 6: 16, 17, “…calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

Revelation 11: 18, “…We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, who is and who was, for you have taken your great power and begun to reign. The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.”

Revelation 16:17-21, “The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple, from the throne, saying, “It is done!” And there were flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder, and a great earthquake such as there had never been since man was on the earth, so great was that earthquake. The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell, and God remembered Babylon the great, to make her drain the cup of the wine of the fury of his wrath. And every island fled away, and no mountains were to be found. And great hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, fell from heaven on people; and they cursed God for the plague of the hail, because the plague was so severe.”

Revelation 19: 15, “From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty.”

Two major observations can be made from the above references to ‘wrath’ from the New Testament.

  • The wrath of God is already upon the world and upon all that man has done and does outside of His relationship with God. The phrase ‘wrath to come’ – to come is in present active participle in Greek, which means it is already coming upon us.
  • There is a future unleashing of God’s wrath upon all of humanity, which will be after the final judgement

To begin with, a brief explanation of Romans 1:18 is in order, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…” The words ‘is revealed’ suggests that it is happening already. The words ‘ungodliness and unrighteousness’ must be understood as anything that is outside of a relationship with God. Not to believe in God nor to acknowledge Him and to live independent of Him is ungodliness and unrighteousness.

God’s wrath is God’s displeasure to man’s choices. It means God lets man reap the consequences of his rebellion by letting him have what he has chosen.   And the more man proceeds in his actions apart from God, the more God lets him proceed in the direction of his choices. This leads to more and more degenerate behaviour (Romans 1:18-31). This is how God’s wrath is revealed against all that humans have done, independent of God since the fall. Therefore, all that man has done apart from God since his fall is under the wrath of God.

What is generally known as ‘common grace’ operates in the realm of the natural or the physical world so that everything that ought to happen in nature happens in general, regularly. And whatever ‘goodness’ you see humans demonstrating is because of the image of God in man. But even such goodness, since it does not flow from a relationship with God, is not good in the sight of God. Once man disobeyed and went away from God, any goodness he shows is still not considered good as far as God is concerned. Since any good he does now, he does from motives of self-interest – to find his meaning, value or worth apart from God.

Hence, it is most shocking and very scary to note that all human effort, all human endeavor and all human enterprise, howsoever wise and noble by human standards, howsoever grand and beautiful to human perceptions, and howsoever beneficial to human need – everything is already under the wrath of God; since it is outside of man’s relationship with God and therefore in disobedience to God’s will. This is a fact that is often lost on even those who call themselves as God’s own people.

All the knowledge that man has acquired and amassed during his existence on earth; all the scientific knowledge and technological expertise that he has discovered and explored; all the economic systems, all the political ideologies he has espoused and experimented with, all the religious philosophies and ideologies, all the sociological structures, practices and traditions, all his architectural marvels and all his philanthropic and humanitarian activities – everything that humans have done since his fall from God, everything is under the wrath of God. This is the stand of the Bible, even if its own proponents have often missed it.

Often this is missed because many so-called ‘children of God’ were involved in several areas of these human enterprises and many have participated, prospered and promoted these. Some of us even claimed that we were led by God! I wonder if that is possible! How can God lead us into that which is under His wrath, especially if it is to find our value in it?! The case of Joseph and Daniel and his friends is different. They were either sold as slaves or taken captive. They did not go seeking their careers in those nations. God might lead us to be there as his witnesses but not for pursuing careers nor to find our identities and securities. Christians, beware what you are doing there, in and with the world! This I would say my friends, is a deception of millennial proportions.

To think that, that which is good, beautiful and necessary in the transient, temporal and the physical world (of fallen humanity’s making), is acceptable to God and that one can pursue, participate and enjoy these with prayers, thanksgiving and piety is a deception of global and millennial proportions. Actually, such Christianity is no different from any of the other religions of the world. This is nothing but blindness caused by the god of this age, so that we do not see the glory of God in the face of His Son, Jesus Christ. This being the case we have totally missed the point of the incarnation of the Son of God and the life he lived on earth. We just cast him in the mould of fallen humanity and interpret and understand his life as one without sin which in our understanding is, not to have any moral imperfections. (More on this later in the article)  

We simply presumed that it was alright to pursue and participate in the activities of fallen humanity, thinking that it was necessary for living. Such thinking was also supported by world-affirming and world-accepting sermons from our teachers and preachers. By world, I do not mean the physical or the natural world but what fallen humanity has done by his study and exploration of the natural and the physical world independent of the Creator. Whatever we think as ‘good, beautiful and safe’ around us is only ‘good, beautiful and safe’ because of what is termed as ‘common grace of God’ in nature and the image of God in man. But for this, our situation on earth would have been unimaginably unbearable.

We have been so enamoured and enthralled by the physical and what is seen on the outside as ‘good, beautiful and safe’ that we have lost God’s way of seeing. We have lost the spiritual and eternal perspective with which we as God’s people are supposed to see, hear, feel and understand. We have actually lost our spiritual senses because we became more tuned to the physical and the material world. Some of us have never developed our spiritual senses. Therefore, our behaviours are infantile – seeking and satisfying purely the transient, the temporal and the physical. (There is more on this later in the article)

That the world is already under the wrath of God is the consistent view of scripture, of Lord Jesus Christ and of his apostles. There is no ambiguity, no commiseration, nor any glossing over of this fact. Nor does any of them make an apology for it. Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil.” (Jn 7: 7). Why evil? Because they are alienated from God. “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works” (Col 1:21).

A lack of this understanding about the world, is the real cause for worldliness among Christians today. This is the reason why it is shocking to see those who claim to be the people of God, courting, cavorting and cohabiting with the world without any compunction. The story of Achan from Joshua 7 is very instructive here. When the redeemed people of God indulge with that which is under God’s judgement, they too become liable to the same judgement (Joshua 7: 11-12). And it is precisely because of this reason I wonder, if much of what passes for Christianity among us will stand God’s judgement on the last day. And it is because of the same reason I wonder if God’s judgement is not already on much of what passes for Christianity among us today!

Some might ask ‘Then how do you explain so much good that is going on in and through the church and the thousands of ministries worldwide?’ I wouldn’t say everything, but much of what is going on in and through the churches and ministries and much of the ‘goodness’ among Christians is because of the ‘common grace’ and the ‘image of God’ in us. The life and the power of the kingdom of God, which was brought through Jesus Christ and his redemptive work of grace is hardly in evidence among us. Although this is true of the earlier centuries, it is more true of the latter half of the 20th Century and the early decades of the 21st than ever before. And I feel devastated saying it!

I firmly believe that everything we are doing as Christians today – the way our lives are constituted and lived, our churches and our ministries along with all their systems, structures, patterns and strategies, from the least to the greatest reek of the world. And this has been going on for several centuries now. Our condition as Christians is more pitiable than of the world. Because in the glare of the light of the gospel, we cozied up to and lived comfortably with the world and its ways. Can there be anything more horrifying than that!?  

Some might think that I am painting a bleak picture of our present condition and the future. The truth is, it is a very bleak one, and I am only being truthful. Examine the scripture and seek the face of the Lord, do not be carried away by what people think as good or that which is purely physical, external and temporal good. This is not the time for gentility nor for platitudes. In fact, the Lord said If we seek praise from men, it is hard to live the life of faith (Jn 5:44; 12:43). This is not about spiritual perfectionism either. I am talking about what our consistent and continuous course of living ought to be. We cannot be living continuously and consistently in the ways and patterns of the world and not expect God’s displeasure!

How to live then?

But the real question is, how then should we live? There are at least three ways this question can be answered.

First, if it is about escaping the wrath of God which is already upon this world then the simple and straight forward answer is ‘to be in Christ’. For, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1). Those who are in Christ do not habitually and continuously live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The word flesh here should not be interpreted only as ‘fallen sinful nature’ as has been done often. It must be understood as not living purely for the physical but to learn to live in the realm of the spiritual as those who are now born of the Spirit of God and are therefore essentially spiritual beings living in a body. For the physical is temporal but to live in the Spirit is eternal (2 Cor 4:18). This means we no longer live under the control of our bodies but under the control of the Spirit of God.

Hence the words of Paul in Romans 8: 1-16,

  • Those who are in Christ Jesus are no more under the wrath of God
  • They do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit
  • They set their minds on the things of the Spirit and not on things of the flesh
  • They are indwelt by the Spirit of God
  • They are led by the Spirit and are the sons of God
  • To live in the flesh is death but to live in the Spirit is life and peace
  • Those who live according to the flesh cannot please God, and are hostile to God. 

Paul’s words in Romans 8: 1-8 suggest that it is possible for those who are born of the Spirit to set their minds on the things of the flesh and to walk according to the flesh. Having been regenerated in the Spirit, they must learn to walk in the Spirit and set their minds on the things of the Spirit. But the pressures of living in the world are so great that often we let our minds to think of the purely physical to the detriment of our spiritual life and growth. So, we begin to focus on food, clothes, house, education, employment, marriage and so on. This was the first temptation of Jesus, to think about his physical need of hunger. But Jesus knew what the issue was. So, his reply, “Man shall not live by bread alone’. The genius of Jesus knew when to say ‘no’ and where to draw the line between what is necessary and what is not. This is where most Christians and their leaders have faltered.

All focus in Christian living and ministry ought to be to lead people to a closer walk with the Lord – to learn to be led by His Spirit and to live in the Spirit. All physical activities of Bible-reading, church gathering, evangelism and so on must be geared towards the same goal. None of these activities have any value in themselves, unless they are done as a result of the leading of the Spirit of God and for the sake of knowing God. If not, they degenerate into purely physical activities leading to spiritual pride and to the puffing up of the flesh. So ironically in the name of teaching people to ‘walk in the spirit’ we maybe actually leading them to ‘walk in the flesh’. This is what we see happening mostly among Christians today. Thus, not only meriting God’s displeasure but actually becoming hostile to God. Alas, my friends!

It must be stressed here that once you choose to live purely for the physical, the external and the temporal and go against God’s leading, you begin to go on a path which is hostile to God and end up displeasing Him. This further leads to God letting you have what you want, because that is what you have chosen. His nudging and promptings continue but when you do not heed, He lets you have what you want, thus experiencing His judgement. But rather than seeing this as judgement, many think that God is actually prospering them in their efforts for bigger, greater and larger reach in life and ministry. This is true of many in ministry too. My dear brother and sister, beware when God lets you have what you want!! This means he is letting you go on the path of your own choices and self-interests as He did with fallen humanity. This also means He is letting you go on a path of self-destruction. This was the story of the Israelites who perished in the wilderness and of those who entered Canaan but never experienced the promised rest. This is also the story of Samson and of king Saul in the Old Testament and the story of hordes of Christians worldwide and also of many who are in the ministry.

I must add here that many who have begun in the Spirit have lapsed into purely physical, temporal and external patterns of living and ministry. Many begin in faith but are now overtaken by concerns for the future and to conserve what they think is the vision given by the Lord. They begin to do things from motives of insecurity or to seek identity in who they are and what they do rather than in the Lord. This happens when the free will lapses into self-willed decisions, and we do not heed the promptings of the Spirit of God, because what we have chosen by our self-will is not bad in itself and might be even for ministry causes. God does speak but since we do not heed Him, He gives up on us to our own devices. His giving up on us is His judgement of our ways. The blind admirers and sycophants who surround us and whose identity is contingent upon our success affirm us and encourage us in our ways. The downward slide begins to get easier for the sheer force of gravity drags us down leading to the deception that God is actually working on our behalf since it is getting easier to do what we have chosen to do!

A classic example of this is seen in the lives of King Saul and King David. One did not pay attention to God but another did. King Saul wanted to offer sacrifices to God with the goats and sheep he spared but in blatant disobedience to the word of God. In the bargain he lost the throne. David, on the other hand wanted to build the sanctuary for God. Even Prophet Nathan thought it was a good idea and encouraged him. But God’s word came to Nathan saying that it was not David who would build a sanctuary. David heeded God’s word and retained his throne and for eternity, in the Son of David!

Since the second half of the 20th Century, we have seen a proliferation of Christian ministries which are mostly run on the private entrepreneurship and the globalisation model of the business world. Since the cause is ‘good’ according to our thinking, no one asks the question if these are of the Lord. I wonder how many of them were successful because the Lord had given them up to the devices of their own self-will! When you have adopted the model of the business world for doing the work of God, is it not abject blindness if not willful presumption, to think that your success and greatness was of the Lord?  Isn’t this the reason the Lord says, ‘I do not know you, you workers of lawlessness’ Lawless because they did not seek the Lord but sought their own success and glory! Hence, I do not hesitate to say that all such works are under the wrath of God because they left the shelter of His grace by following the ways of the world which is under His wrath!

There has been a distortion of the way the gospel has been understood and presented in the last 100 years or so. This happened by focusing on ‘forgiveness of sin, escaping hell and going to heaven’ in the preaching of the gospel.  Gospel is about the kingdom of God (Mark 1:15), which is about God’s rule in our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ. We certainly must repent and confess our sin to be saved. But the sin that we repent and confess is not only the moral infractions and violations of the law but we must also repent of the original sin of man, of rejecting God and not living in the dynamic of a relationship with Him. Having rejected God, man chose to live independently – by acquiring knowledge of the world to decide what is good and what is not, for himself. This has led him to explore the world and to create by his own knowledge, systems and structures that would make life easy for him. To repent of original sin is to turn our back on all that man has done after breaking faith with His creator and to enter into relationship with God and live by that dynamic. This is the meaning of entering into the kingdom of God – to live by a totally different dynamic – the dynamic of the resurrection of Christ. To live with this dynamic is to live a life that is totally different from anything in this world. It requires a total break with the world and the way life is understood and lived by humanity now – of acquiring education, securing a job, earning money and so on. To preach anything less than this is not only to mislead people into a faith which is not of Christ and of his apostles but it would be a gross distortion of the gospel and would cease to be the gospel. Such deficient preaching is an anathema to Biblical faith and would certainly merit God’s displeasure. 

If people come to Christ for ‘forgiveness of sin, escape hell and go to heaven’ and have never been born of the Spirit, how do they grow spiritually or what do they grow into? To grow spiritually is to grow in greater intimacy with God. It is also about growing out of fleshly or worldly mindedness and increasing in ‘setting our mind on the things of the Spirit’. Spiritual growth is also about learning to be increasingly led by the Spirit and not by the criteria of the world – the physical, temporal and transient. If people have not turned their back on the world or the life of fallen humanity, they will never see any kind of spiritual growth. Such people would grow only in the physical, temporal, transient aspects of life but never spiritually. Our ‘churches’ are full of such people. It is heart-breaking that this is the state of affairs of most who call themselves as Christians! How alarming and how sad!  

Os Guinness writes, “Hardly any Christians are world-denying these days…On every side we see Christians pursuing the rage for relevance, whether seeking the respect of the “cultured despisers’ of the gospel, reaching out to the contemporary “unchurched” with a “user friendly” gospel, or just enjoying the comforts of the age. For many believers the Christian life is now a good life: it simply “goes better with Jesus” even if there is no God and no Resurrection. The result is a series of adaptations of the Christian faith to modern man that are a capitulation with few rivals in two thousand years.” (The Call, Os Guinness, 2003)

Thomas Linacre (1460–1524), founder of the Royal College of Physicians and a distinguished Oxford humanist, was so troubled after reading the four gospels for the first time said, “Either these are not the gospels or we are not Christians.” I believe what he said is as true today almost six centuries later as it was during the reigns of Henry VII and Henry VIII in 15th century England. The gospel that is being preached today and the lives that many Christians profess to live is totally repugnant and anyone who thinks that this is what it means to be Christian, does not know Christ nor understand the meaning of the cross. Such preaching and such lives are totally of the flesh and of the world and are patently hostile to God.

Our inordinate focus with life in the world, worrying about food, clothes, education, jobs, careers, houses and the preoccupation with the ‘physical aspects of worship’ namely attendance at a physical place, building of such places thinking that these are mandatory for worship and fellowship. All these indicate that our focus is on the physical. Even our prayers mostly focus on these. To set our minds on the things of the flesh is to be enslaved to the physical. But it also sets us up against God. What a sad state of affairs? In order to escape the wrath of God, we come into Christ and lapse into living in and for the flesh and end up displeasing God! Millions of Christians are totally oblivious to the danger they are in, because they think they are safe! Do you still wonder why the Lord asked, “When the Son of man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?”

The second answer to the question how then should we live is, to live as Christ lived. In fact, Jesus is the only one who models for us ‘life in the Spirit’. All the statements from Romans 8:1-16, can be applied to his life on earth and they fit Him perfectly. But there is another way to look at his life. We can look at his life as portrayed for us in the gospels and learn how we should live. His was a life which was not under the wrath of God or a life that turns its back on everything which is under the wrath of God. In fact, it was only about Him, God declared that He was totally pleased. Therefore, to live outside of the wrath of God is to live as Christ lived.

To think of Christ as morally perfect, in the sense of one without sin needs explanation. The word for sin in the Bible is, ‘missing the mark’. The question that needs to be asked is, what is the mark that has been missed? The mark is the mark which God has set for man to follow in order to make his life meaningful, coherent and complete. According to the Old Testament and Jesus Christ, God’s mark for man is “The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:4.5; Matt 22:37,38) To seek God, to love Him and to obey Him is the mark of God for man. Jesus is the only one who met that mark perfectly. To love God and to live for Him is the only thing moral. Everything else is immoral. It is the only thing lawful. Everything else is unlawful. It is the only legitimate way of living. Living for anything else or anyone else is illegitimate. To love and live for anything else is evil, sinful and to be under the wrath of God.  

The life of Jesus was marked by total devotedness and dependence upon the Father for everything. He loved God with a single-hearted devotion and single-minded commitment. He denied himself of his own will and yielded to the Father’s will. He did not seek his own pleasure nor his own safety nor even his own glory. He did not waver in this even if it meant incarnation and atoning death upon the cross. Everything he said or did was drawn from his relationship with the Father. Neither he nor any of his immediate followers sought their strength nor sustenance for living from anything of fallen humanity.

Jesus depended on God even for his knowledge and teaching. Jesus very clearly stated that even his teaching was given to him by the Father and he did not acquire it by learning. His knowledge was not by acquiring information but was learnt intuitively by dependence upon the Father through the Spirit. “And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.” (John 7: 15, 16). “Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You. For I have given to them the words which You have given Me”. (John 17: 7, 8). The deep love and intimacy that existed between Jesus Christ and God is unparalleled in the history of humanity. No man ever loved God, as Jesus the Man had. No man ever served God, as Jesus the Man served. No man ever depended on God, as Jesus the Man did. Jesus depended on God not only for sustenance, security and identity needs but also for His guidance in making decisions about where to go and what to do, including who to heal and who to teach and who to save (John 5:19,20). His decisions were not based on the availability of funds nor the numbers who would benefit and not according to human time-line.

If his knowledge was by learning or acquiring learning, he would have sought the religious teachers of the day. Hence the religious leaders were surprised again and again by his teaching, as to where he got it from. This was also evident when he was twelve years of age, “And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” As Jesus says, those who speak with knowledge gained from the world, speak for their own glory, “He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory” (John 7:18) but the one who speaks from God seeks God’s glory. It is because of the same reason Paul, the apostle writes, “But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” (Phil 3:7, 8) And I believe it is for this reason, Christ chose simple fisher men, who had nothing to boast of, to be his disciples and all the others who followed him were men who repudiated what they acquired in the world. That was the basic condition in the call to follow him – to deny oneself and to forsake the world.

Such is the only life that passes muster before God and such life is the only life that escapes the wrath of God. Every other way which depends upon the world for its sustenance, significance and satisfaction is not of the Father but is of the world and is under the wrath of God.

Do you still wonder that some will hear the words, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”? In fact, I feel there will be many in that category. Many who think they are living for God and many who think they are serving God are actually living for themselves and serving themselves – to build their futures, their careers, their securities and their identities. As mentioned above, not to love God and not to live by the life drawn from our relationship with Him is lawlessness and therefore merits God’s displeasure. This is not an opinion or a perspective. Examine it and see if it is not the truth of the word of God. Ignore it my friend if you will, at your own eternal peril.

The third way to understand and to answer the question, how then should we live, is to put it in terms of the two alternatives that were given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The way of the ‘tree of life’ and the way of the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’. The first option leads to life and the second leads to death. Adam and Eve chose the second and thus brought the wrath of God upon all humanity, which is already upon us and the full brunt of it will be upon us after the final judgement.

This is the reason scripture repeatedly warns us that this world is passing away or that all humanity is under God’s wrath. Since everything is under the wrath of God, therefore everything is in the process of dissipation, of decay and death. To be born of the Spirit of God and to live by the Spirit of God is the only way to escape the dissolution in this world and the one to come.

Hence the words of John the Baptiser, “… flee from the wrath to come” – to repent of everything that one has learnt or acquired from the world and to enter into the Kingdom of God. It means to turn our back on all that the world has to offer. Its knowledge and wisdom – including all the knowledge that man has amassed through science and technology; its power and glory – including all the structures of power and position it offers whether political or economic; its religious beliefs and institutions (including much of what passes for Christianity) – for they are all creations of fallen humanity to provide eternal solutions for himself; its promise of life – which is purely for the temporal and physical but nothing of eternal significance. We must repent and turn our backs from all these and follow Christ. To follow Christ is to learn to live as he lived in devotion and dependence upon the Father. This is actually the way of the tree of life.

The way of the tree of life is totally different from anything this world has ever known. It is totally contrary to everything that this world does. Except Lord Jesus Christ and a few of his followers down through centuries, very few understood it or explored it. It is a life lived in relationship with God and everything else that flows from that dynamic. This way of living is so rare that it is very difficult to visualize or to even write about it. It requires a very close and careful observation of the life of Christ in the gospels. An observation and study which must make sure not to cast his life in the mould of the life which humanity has chosen, namely, the path of tree of knowledge of good and evil. But the Christ we seem to be following is of our own image and our own likeness! Tragically and to our own loss, this is what happened down through centuries and therefore we hardly know Christ as he ought to be known. Hence Paul’s words in Eph 4: 20 (though in a slightly different context), “But you have not so learned Christ, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus”.

In this path, what do we do for our living in the world? The words of the Lord in Matt 6:25 are clear, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” So, the whole approach to living is by way of trusting God and not one’s own efforts to provide for oneself. We pursue God’s rule or kingdom in our life and trust God to take care of our needs. He does it by guiding us to provide for ourselves or by providing it to us in inexplicable ways. Very few explored this way of living so very few of us know about it. And when the few who know it, talk about it we explain it away as coincidental or that it was because of the generosity of others.

But it is the people who are in the way of the tree of knowledge of good and evil who worry about ‘what to eat, what to wear and so on’. They worry and strive with their own knowledge and effort for their sustenance, security and identities. “For after all these things the Gentiles seek.” All of humanity’s efforts for education, economics, commerce and trade, politics and everything else, arise from the quest for sustenance, security and identity. Over the years these efforts have taken the shape of careers and middle-class pursuits. Such that even ‘ministry’ has become a career to pursue for one’s own growth and development and the church has become an enterprise which promises sustenance, security and identity. And God? Well, He is there to take care of me as I live my life and pursue my career, isn’t He?!

Many who follow Christ begin on a right note but as life goes on, they succumb to the cares of life and the pressure that builds up to make a good living. This is true even of many pastors, teachers, preachers and the men who we consider as ‘great men of God’. This pressure has increased manifold with industrialisation, consumerism and globalisation. What is unfortunate is, that we have begun to interpret scripture to suit this adaptation to the world as wise management of life or as good stewardship. This is the trap in which millions of followers of Christ are mired in and do not even know that they are far from what the calling to follow Christ entails!

As Lot, who saw the green pastures of Sodom and Gomorrah, we too seek better prospects that are on offer in the world and stray from the life of faith as that of Abraham. But for the intercession of Abraham, Lot would have perished with Sodom.

The truth is, practically all of us with very few exceptions have just followed the ways of the ‘tree of knowledge of good and evil’ –  in our lifestyles, in our worship patterns, the way we ‘do church’ and ministry, In our understanding of knowledge and how we acquire it including biblical knowledge as imparted and acquired whether in the church or in the seminaries and in the way our church administrations and organizations are structured and so on. There is practically no area where we have learnt to live by the ways of the ‘tree of life’. In fact, we can safely say that the way of the ‘tree of life’ is totally alien to us! And we don’t even know the difference. Nor have we ever cared to think about it!

Do you now understand why I said earlier that much of what is going on among us today is because of the ‘common grace’ and the ‘image of God’ in us? We hardly know nor have we seen the power of the kingdom of God or the way of the tree of life in our times. If we cared to study the life of Christ without the blinkers of fallen humanity, we would see that it was totally different from anything that we know or have seen in the world. We were busy capitulating and adjusting with the world and its ways. The pressures of living dictated it. In all our ways of knowledge and scholarship we have been actually ‘trimming our ways’ (Jer 2:33) to make it easy to accommodate with the world with its patterns of living and weave it into our theologies and into our hermeneutics. Our theologies and hermeneutics were more focused on missions and evangelism; on the great commission rather than on the greatest commandment. Consequently, our interpretation of scripture and preaching became focused on the pragmatic way of living; on the here and now. Rather than engaging in exegesis, we began to indulge in eisegesis, such that we now understand scripture from the perspective of the needs and values of modern living. Hence, we have Christians whose lives are so well adjusted to the world, they do not even know that they are actually plundered and enslaved to it!

Please read what the Lord said about His people Israel in Isa 42, “17 They are turned back and utterly put to shame, who trust in carved idols, who say to metal images, “You are our gods.” 18 Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see! 19 Who is blind but my servant, or deaf as my messenger whom I send? Who is blind as my dedicated one, or blind as the servant of the Lord? 20 He sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear. 21 The Lord was pleased, for his righteousness’ sake, to magnify his law and make it glorious. 22 But this is a people plundered and looted; they are all of them trapped in holes and hidden in prisons; they have become plunder with none to rescue, spoil with none to say, “Restore!” 23 Who among you will give ear to this, will attend and listen for the time to come? 24 Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey? 25 So he poured on him the heat of his anger and the might of battle; it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand; it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.”

Therefore, I repeat in view of what is written above, it is not only the world and the people of the world who are in dire danger but even Christians and churches are in that danger. For practically none of us seem to have understood the call to follow Christ nor the life Christ lived while he was on earth. While claiming to be born again and following Christ we have been actually following the world and the way of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. What makes us think that we are safe when even God’s own chosen people were not spared? Yes, we are complacent that we are under grace. But do not be fooled! If we do not live consistent with our calling, as those who are in Christ then we expose ourselves to the wrath of God which is already upon the world. In fact, many of us already do experience the wrath of God but we have become so thick skinned that we do not think of it as His wrath. We have been plundered and looted of our calling and our witness and we do not even know it. As Isaiah says, we are ‘trapped in holes and hidden in prisons’ of our own making – of the ways of the world and of fallen humanity. Alas, my friends!   

Axe is laid to the root of the trees

Three further points to note about the warning of John the Baptiser. The context indicates that, ‘the axe is laid to the root of the trees’ here, refers to the coming of Christ, by whose measure God will judge everyone and everything (Acts 17:31). The axe of God’s judgement will begin its work at the roots, namely with the foundations of human thinking, knowledge, power and everything else which began since the fall of man. This is true even about churches, ministries and lives of individual Christians.

Second, appeals to lineage or pedigree or history will be of no avail when God wields His axe. That is, the name of the great man of God whom you emulated or followed, nor the traditions you kept howsoever ancient they were; even if you were to trace your roots to apostles Paul, Peter or Thomas or even the patriarchs like David, Moses or Abraham, nor how beneficial they were to humanity historically – nothing will stand the axe of God’s judgement. Whatever you are and do must conform to ‘the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone’ (Eph 2:20). A cornerstone in the foundation is the stone according to which every other stone is set. Since Christ is the cornerstone, even the prophets and the apostles must conform to him.

Third, in the words of John ‘bear good fruit’ the word ‘good’ must be understood not as what seems good in human understanding but what is good in the sight of God for all human goodness and righteousness is like filthy rags in the sight of God (Isa 64:6). The problem with most of us is that we have not tuned our minds to what is ‘good’ in the sight of God. We look at human, physical and temporal good and think that it is good in God’s sight as well. What the people of the world call as good, beautiful or necessary is not what God calls as good, beautiful and necessary. This must sink deep into our minds and learn to orient our minds to God’s way of thinking. And because many of us are not tuned to God’s way of thinking, we run after what the world calls ‘good, beautiful and necessary’!

You need to know that none of the adjectives or superlatives we use to describe people or things in the world – educated, uneducated, learned, unlearned, sophisticated, unsophisticated, cultured, uncultured, great, simple, famous, unknown, successful, failure, good, bad, beautiful, ugly, safe, unsafe, essential or not and so on – none of those carry any weight or value in the kingdom of God! (Read Luke 16:15; 12:15; Jer 9: 23,24; 1 Sam 16: 7; Is 55: 8,9; 1 Cor 2: 1-16). The early you learn this the better you are suited for the kingdom of God otherwise you would be in for a great shock when the Lord wields his axe!

So, my friends the Lord’s word to you today, is to flee from all that the world calls ‘good, beautiful, safe and necessary or any of the other categories’, lest the axe of God’s judgement fall on you.

The final question then is, what will stand the scrutiny of God’s judgement? As mentioned above, the answer in Scripture, without any ambiguity nor any apology, clearly and categorically is, CHRIST. For he was the only one of whom the Father declared, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” and of NO ONE ELSE in the history of humanity.

“As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving. Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power… So, let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God… but Christ is all and in all.” (Col 2: 6-10, 16-19; 3:11).

Hence, God’s word today to the one who claims to believe in Him and to those who do not, ‘flee from the wrath of God, which is already upon this world and the wrath which is to come in the future’. Hear… hear…!

Reclaiming our witness and authority as God’s people among the peoples of the world

Reclaiming our witness and authority as God’s people among the peoples of the world

Enoch Era

 

The global economic and social lockdown because of the Covid-19 pandemic, has forced even Christians from attending church services on Sundays. And sadly, many are not happy about it. Many pastors and leaders see this as a spiritual attack on the church and on Christian faith. So, they have come up with ingenious ways to conduct ‘church services’ over the internet. This is sad, blind and totally misleading as far as true worship is concerned and to what we are called to be as the church.

How unwise and unthinking we are? Do we not know that true worship does not happen through services and programmes, real or virtual? Nor that it is not just about exuberant and extempore expression of praise? And that true church is not a place or a structure or a meeting?   Do we not know that church is not about ‘going to a place’ nor is it an attendance at a meeting? But that it is a matter of life – to worship God in truth and spirit is to love God and live in the dynamic of that relationship. To be the church is to demonstrate that dynamic corporately in our own neighbourhoods.

The lockdown, when Christians have been forced to stay at home, is a good time to restore the church to her true calling and to foster true worship. This is how we can recover our witness and reclaim our authority among the nations. But the problem is, we are so blinded by our programmes and activities, our structures and projects that we do not even know that our witness has been lost and our authority as God’s chosen people has been weakened[1].

The question is how has our witness and authority been weakened and why do we need to reclaim it? But in order to understand this, we must ask, what is witness? What is authority? And how have we lost these?

Most Christians generally understand witness as a forensic or legal defence, which is basically to verbally defend one’s stand or position when called into question. Witness in the Bible is more than a verbal or legal defence. It is to let our understanding of God to influence our lives in such a way that the way we live becomes our witness. So, our witness is not just verbal but it is about how we live as God’s chosen people.

Our understanding of God leads to the worship of God. The same can be expressed in terms of the first and the greatest commandment, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.” When our lives are modelled on the understanding that the only valid way of living is to love God, to serve Him and to live for Him, then our lives become true worship unto Him. Our worship of God as demonstrated in our lives, is our message and our witness.

Such worship cannot be offered once a week, at a particular location or place called as ‘place of worship’. Nor can such worship be represented in a programme, service or a liturgy. It cannot be offered by a person appointed on the behalf of others. To think that worship must be offered at a particular place, led by a particular person in a particular format or service is to reduce Christian worship to a mere technique and a ritual. There is nothing that makes Christianity a mere religion like any other religion of the world than to confine it to formats, rituals, places and ‘specially ordained people’.  There is nothing which is more subverting to our faith and worship than this repetitive programming of worship or church services. This is how our witness has been lost and our authority weakened.

Worship is a very personal and intimate knowledge of God, leading to lives of love, trust and obedience unto Him. Such worship is a moment by moment offering of ourselves unto God to love Him and to live for Him. Such an understanding takes away all our rights to live for ourselves, even to seek our own welfare, our careers or our pleasures. Our only career is to pursue God. Every other career and concern must be subsumed to this one pursuit in life – the pursuit of God. In this we find our sustenance for daily living, our security and identity. This is the only legitimate way of living. Every other way of living is illegitimate and immoral[2].

How can such lives be reduced to a few hours of service on a Sunday or any other day? To do so is to completely miss the point of Christian calling. We are called into an intimate and dynamic relationship with the God of heaven and earth. And to live in that dynamic is true worship and true witness unto Him.

Apostle John declared about Christ, “In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God”. God’s word or God’s message merge in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s message to humanity has come in the person of Christ. The words and the life Christ lived while on earth, not only reveal God to us but also demonstrates how He expects man to live. Christ is the only true and final witness for God and the ultimate measure for humanity both in his word and life. Hence his authoritative call for us to follow him, an invitation to live as he lived. Therefore, he is the measure by which all of humanity will be judged or measured with, at the final judgement (Act 17:31; Eph 4:13).

Christ lived in the dynamic of his relationship with his Father. His life could not be defined by any of the categories of the world. Those who tried to understand him and knew who his earthly parents and siblings were, were baffled by the depth of his wisdom and authority to speak and to do what he did.

Similarly, since their lives are patterned according to the life of Christ, the way Christians live becomes God’s message to the world. So, the message they proclaim is not only vocal or verbal but it is the message of the life of Christ imbued into them. As their master, they live by a totally different dynamic, a dynamic that comes from an intimate relationship with God, the dynamic of the power of resurrection. Therefore, the way they live becomes worship unto God. This is true worship. Such lives have the character and confidence to challenge the world and all its systems and structures of knowledge and power, because their lives are outside of those systems and structures. Herein lies the authority of the people of God. The authority to speak for God both by word and living and thus challenge the world to repentance and redemption.

Our authority is not in the size of our congregations, budgets, or buildings. It is not in our educational or ministerial achievements, clerical vestments and designations nor on the size of our projects or political connections. To seek such external trappings of power is to betray the bankruptcy of our soul and the shallowness of our understanding of the God of the Bible. About them it can be said in the words of Paul the apostle, “Brethren, … many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” (Phil 3: 17-19) These are men and women, who have deceived the flock of God for generations and have represented Christ and the gospel in totally carnal and worldly ways! Do you now see why the church has lost her voice and her authority?

True authority is the authority of lives which conform to the life of Christ. Since Christ is the ultimate measure, he is the ultimate authority. The extent to which our lives conform to his life to that extent is our authority and glory. It must be emphasised here that this authority is corporate and given to the church and not to any individual. An individual might exercise it, but only in oneness with the people of God who have given themselves over to live as Christ lived.

Today, if we are true to ourselves and honest before God, we must confess that we have lost such a witness and such authority among the nations of the world. It is this dynamic and this witness and this authority that needs reclaiming. And there is no better time than this time of social and economic lockdown, when Christians can be taught to seek to live in total trust and dependence on God. When the whole world is in a medical and economic quandary, the people of God need to be taught that their strength comes from knowing God and loving Him. That they are more than conquerors and that nothing can sperate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:35-39).

Where are the people of God, who live by a dynamic that cannot be explained by any of the categories of knowledge and power of the world? Where are the people of God whose lives cannot be defined in terms of their education, money, social status or the power structures of this world?

When our message remains purely vocal or verbal, it becomes mere noise and a matter of semantics and possibly electronics. When it becomes a matter of planning, programming, budgeting then it becomes a matter of management skills, economic acumen and politics.

But when our proclamation is backed by lives patterned according to the life of Christ, then we shall be his true worshippers and true witnesses. To think that such worship or such witness can be replicated in programmes and services is to miss the gospel completely. This cannot happen either by real or virtual worship services. To perpetuate such services real or virtual is not only to mislead people of God but also to mislead the world regarding the gospel.

Therefore, my plea to pastors, teachers and leaders is to foster true worship and true witness. Teach, by all means the word of God to the people of God, if necessary, virtually as well. But rather than conducting virtual church services, encourage your people to meet with other Christians in their own neighbourhoods wherever possible and fellowship with them by sharing their lives together. This is a far better way to bring not only oneness among God’s people despite their denominational backgrounds but this raises a witness of worshipping people in one’s own neighbourhood.

To be honest there is nothing called a church service. Such a word is alien to the New Testament. By conducting virtual church service, you would be actually perpetuating a farce! You will probably build your own reputation or keep your congregation from defecting or even keep their offerings secure. But you will be the cause for enslavement of the people of God and a hindrance to raising a witness for God. Rather than learning to worship God through trust and dependence upon Him and communing with other fellow believers, they will continue to worship man-made systems, services and places of worship. This is totally odious to the teaching of scripture and to the vision of the New Testament Church.

According to Hebrews 12: 18-29, God is shaking up everything that can be shaken but that we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken. This is the kingdom of God which Jesus Christ brought down to man when he came to the earth. Every other man-made system will be shaken including the so-called Christian systems of worship, witness and ministry. Any teaching, any theology, any church, any ministry that does not conform to the message and the life of Christ will be shaken as God shakes up everything. I believe that this is exactly what is going on right now with the social and economic lockdown, which has also closed down the cathedrals, chapels, sanctuaries and prayer houses along with their services and all related activities.

We would do well to pay attention to what God is doing and reorient ourselves to the ways and patterns of life as demonstrated in Christ[3] (John 6:27; Heb 1: 1-4).

May the Lord help us to see as He sees and do as He wants us to do. Amen.

[1] Read ‘Whatever happened to worship’ at this blog

[2] Read ‘Knowing God as One’ at this blog.

[3] Read ‘Sir, we wish to see Jesus’ at this blog.

If my people…

 

 

If my people…

Enoch Era

“If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

It must be said at the outset that these words were given to the people of Israel and it refers to their land. In that sense, it doesn’t apply in its totality to all other nations and all other peoples. But if God’s called out people in other nations fulfil the conditions of these words, they would see some measure of its fulfilment in their contexts as well.

The words here seem to suggest that the health of a nation depends upon the health of God’s people in that nation. Is it any wonder then that many nations still languish in darkness and corruption today, because God’s people do not know who they are and how they should live? For God to heal the land, the people of God in that land must,

  • Know their calling/identity as God’s chosen people
  • Humble themselves in prayer and repentance
  • Seek the face of the Lord

The crucial word, I believe, is ‘my people’ – the people of God knowing who they are and what they should be doing, as God’s people.

When God’s own people become like the rest of the world in their pursuits of sustenance, security and identities, they would not even know that they should repent or what to repent of. This is the sad state of affairs of the people of God globally, today.

We have become so much like the rest of the world in our pursuits, in our pleasures and in our prayers that there is hardly anything different about us. And the gospel has ceased to be the gospel except as a means to convert, colonise and control peoples.

We seem to have forgotten that we, ‘…are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.’  1 Peter 2:9.

When the people of God live as ‘home-born’ slaves (Jeremiah 2:14) and live as people who are plundered of their dignity and calling, there is not much hope left for the nations, among whom they live! If God’s redeemed people who are meant to be mediators of God’s blessings, they live in spiritual bankruptcy and slavery to evil and corruption, to self and the world and it patterns of living, what can the peoples do?

The question is, do the people of God actually know who they are? And what their calling is? Our calling is primarily to be God’s own people. Our calling gives us our identity and provides for our sustenance and security. This means, as God’s people the first thing to do is we know who we are and are secure about it. It also means we do not run after the identities and securities promised by the world nor adopt its patterns of living – especially, to provide for ourselves sustenance, security and identity.

So, first of all we must repent of the identities of the world which we sought and cherished – identities of colour, class, caste, creed, language, gender, education, professions, doctrinal and denominational affiliations, personality cults, social statuses, and a host of other ways which have lead to differences and divisions among us as God’s people. We must repent of all these and shun these as a plague… affirm our identity in Christ and learn to accept and affirm all others who are God’s people and to learn to live in oneness with them. We must know that now in Christ, we are one and that all other identities are now obsolete and have no value whatsoever.

Galatians 3: … “26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Colossians 3: … “10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, 11 where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.”

If we have put on Christ, then why do we still see all these differences among us? Why don’t we see Christ in each other? Let us not crave for, nor chase the different identities, the world promises and the securities that are on offer in the world – job securities, financial securities, house or structure securities or of any other kind. Let is jettison the pernicious practise of creating and affirming ministry hierarchies and status symbols in the church. While we might have different roles to play in the context of the church, they do not warrant owning a status of superiority over others in the body of Christ. All of us are members of the same Body and no one is superior or inferior even those who seem insignificant or smaller members of the Body (1 Corinthians 12).  Let us repent of all such false identities and securities which have led to differences among us. Only then our prayers for healing would have any bearing. Otherwise, the peoples of the world will continue to languish.

But what is our calling and responsibility vis-à-vis the nations of the world?

The creation mandate gave man the vice regency over the earth. By his disobedience Adam forfeited his authority. But through the obedience of the Last Adam, Jesus Christ, the authority we lost has been regained. In Christ, as His redeemed people we are called to exercise this authority in dependence and obedience to Him. (Psalm 2:8-9; Eph 1:19-23; Rom 5:17). The fulfilment of both the Adamic and Abrahamic covenants in Christ and our inheritance in Him makes us mediators of God’s blessings to the nations.

In his first public sermon, the Lord preached, “The time has come,” He said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” The question that needs to be asked is, for what has ‘the time come’ for? According to our Lord, the time has come for God’s kingdom.

By implication it also means that the time has come for Satan’s rule upon earth to end, for man to be delivered, for the sway of sin and evil over men to end, for the kingdom of darkness to go, for the kingdom of light and life to come. And by His pronouncement ‘It is finished’, upon the cross, the Lord had completed the work that was needed for his kingdom to come.

Therefore, after his resurrection, he announced and commissioned his disciples, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations…” Matt 28:18-19. Our calling is to be mediators of his blessing to the nations and our responsibility is to proclaim the good news of His blessing, available in Christ. People and nations of the world need not be enslaved by sin and evil if we as His people fulfil our calling.

One way in which we become mediators of God’s blessing to the nations is through intercession. To intercede for the nations is to exercise our spiritual authority regained in Christ. When God’s people fail to understand their calling and fail to rise to the occasion in prayer and confession, not only the nations suffer, but God is appalled (Isaiah 59:16)!

Scriptures teach us that sin causes a breach between God and men. In intercession we stand in the gap and plead for God’s mercy and blessing.  It is a great responsibility to know our calling and take our place as His people among the nations. It calls for holy living. It involves interceding for the nation as Abraham did for Lot and his family.  It also calls for identifying ourselves with our own people and confessing our sins as a nation. Are there any takers? If the church has forgotten her calling, what can the nations do?

We, both as His church and nations, have sinned against Him. Our forefathers rejected the truth of God and took to idolatry. They suppressed the truth and turned to lies.  For centuries our lands were subjected to lies, illogic, corruption, idolatry, murder, violence, injustice and wickedness of every kind in the name of God and religion. There is a great need to cry out to God in prayer and confession on the behalf of our peoples. May the Lord raise a host of such men and women, who would intercede for the nations. We need it now more than ever before.

May the Lord give unto us a spirit of heaviness and humility to acknowledge our condition and seek his face, for the welfare of the church and the nations. May there be a great outpouring of the spirit of prayer and supplication. May there be a great visitation of His love and holiness. Amen.

A kingdom that cannot be shaken

A kingdom that cannot be shaken

(Understanding our times)

Enoch Era

Hebrews 12:… 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more”, indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

In the last 2 months or so, we have witnessed the shaking up of everything in the world – the economic systems, the financial institutions, the medical systems, the transportation and hospitality industry, the whole corporate world of business. This is likely to bring down several nations to economic bankruptcy… affecting the lives of people globally as never before. As some world leaders have recognised already, this is a crisis bigger than even World War II.

How should we understand the times? 1 Chronicles 12:32 “Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do”. How can we be like them? Or let us not be like the Jews in Jesus’ time about them He said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times”. To understand our times and know what to do is crucial as people of God.

God has been shaking up the works and the ways of man all through history. The first time was with a massive flood during the days of Noah and the next one was at the tower of Babel. In Daniel 2, God gives us a glimpse into what He was going to do in history in the dream Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had.

According to Hebrews 12: 26-28, God is shaking up everything that can be shaken so that, that which cannot be shaken may remain. The one which remains and cannot be shaken is the eternal Kingdom of God which the Lord Jesus Christ preached about and came down to establish in the hearts and lives of His followers.

But let us backtrack a little and talk about what God is shaking up.

Ever since humans disobeyed God and chose to live in the way of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, their relationship with God was broken. They set out to make a life based on their own exploration, discovery and study of the world. They made for themselves huge systems and structures to make life on earth liveable, but outside of a relationship with God.

Of course, in order to assuage a nagging conscience, humans have made religions of various shapes and shades. So even their attempts at reaching God through religion is according to their own knowledge and understanding and not what God had given. Hence, they make gods after their own image and likeness.

All science, all technology, all the philosophies, all political and economic theories, systems and structures and all religions (including Christianity as a religion) are based upon knowledge gained by humans in their attempt to make a life for themselves outside of a relationship with God. So, all cultures and civilisations down through centuries and everything else that is based on such knowledge and efforts of man, are all outside of a relationship with God, the Creator.

Everything that is outside of a relationship with God is temporal, transient and perishable. As God commanded in Genesis 2, the way of knowledge of good and evil leads to death. Hence from time to time God reminds humanity by shaking up all their efforts at living. Howsoever commendable and beneficial from human perspective these might be, they are of no eternal significance and therefore, are not acceptable to God. In fact, everything that humans have done after their disobedience to God is under God’s displeasure and judgement. And therefore, the frequent shaking up.

Is God being vindictive for disobeying Him? No. God has given fair warning to humanity that their choices would lead to certain consequences. And since He has given them the freedom to choose, He does not violate the freedom by preventing the consequences of their choices either. Some of our suffering and pain is simply a consequence of our choices. But there might be some cases where God might bring a specific situation into our lives in order to speak to us specifically and teach a lesson. As C. S. Lewis wrote, “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

Babel-like shaking up and Nebuchadnezzar-like humbling happens again and again both in the history of nations and the lives of individuals. But alas, often humans do not seem to discern the hand of God when it happens in their own lives nor in the history of nations.

What is happening at present with the Coronavirus outbreak was bound to happen sooner or later. Humans have reached Babel-like proportions of ‘development’. We have reached the stage where we could say like the Babelites, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves”. Or Nebuchadnezzar-like in power and glory, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for a royal dwelling by my mighty power and for the honour of my majesty?”

Today, humans seem to have achieved dizzying heights in the fields of science and technology. Yuval Noah Harari, (an Israeli historian and a professor in the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) wrote in 2016 that humans can no more be just Homo Sapiens but they have attained the status of Homo Deus (Man god) as suggested by the titles of his two books.

We would do well to heed the words of king Nebuchadnezzar when his own life was shaken up. Hear him speak in Daniel 4:… 34 “At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honoured him who lives for ever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”… 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right, and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.”

Is this the last of the shake downs of humanity? I think not. If we go by the Book of Revelation, there is much more to come in the days ahead. What is it exactly going to be, is a matter for discerning hearts and minds to heed. But may we have the grace and the brokenness of Nebuchadnezzar to humble ourselves and acknowledge the God of heaven and earth.

A kingdom that cannot be shaken

Hebrews 12: 28 talks of a kingdom which cannot be shaken. What is this kingdom about?

When Jesus Christ came into the world, his first sermon was about the kingdom of God. He said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” This is the kingdom that will not be shaken.

This kingdom is about God’s rule in our lives through His Son, Jesus Christ and by the work of His Holy Spirit. He does it by implanting His word in us and thus ruling in our lives through His word. And all those whose lives are built on His word, their lives will not be shaken.

Such lives are based and built upon a personal, intimate and dynamic relationship with God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Personal, intimate and dynamic means there is nothing mechanical about it. And this is the reason why, such a relationship cannot be sustained by rote, repetition, routine, ritual, rules and regulations nor on any formula nor procedures. I say this, because many Christians have reduced what must be a dynamic living to a mechanical way of life. When you reduce your life in Christ to a mere technique or a formula or a procedure or a pattern, you reduce it to a system that is based on the pattern of the religions of the world. And all such lives even if they claim to be followers of Christ will be shaken, when God shakes up everything.

When our worship of God is reduced to a physical gathering of people at a physical location and by the conducting of a physical and repetitive service then we are adopting the religious patterns of the world. All such churches will be shaken when God shakes up everything. Our worship of God is basically of a life of trust and obedience unto Him which is expressed in a life of dependence upon Him and not in services, sacrifices, forms, patterns nor even liturgies.

Church is about being the body of Christ and living as He lived when He was in the body on earth. Anything else is a farce and a deception which draws away our devotion from Christ to structures, systems and patterns. Hence all those Christians and churches whose lives are based upon the physical structures, church hierarchies, organisational patterns, administrative systems and ministry strategies will all be shaken. And all those so-called leaders who promised and promoted such structures of identity and security will themselves be shaken on the day of Judgement.

God’s kingdom is not political, nor does it have physical boundaries. There are no physical thrones nor material crowns on offer in this kingdom. This is an invisible, spiritual and an eternal kingdom. Since it is invisible, we walk by faith and not by sight. This kingdom cannot be shaken by anything that happens in the physical and the temporal world of the humans. The authority we exercise is not of parliaments or senates or of governments. Our authority is in the heavenly realms over all the spiritual forces of the heavenly places that influence life on earth. Therefore, our warfare is not directed against any earthly power or government. Our warfare is against forces of darkness which operate over the nations to enslave, kill and destroy people. The people of the kingdom of God are not shaken by any change of governments or government policies nor are they moved by who occupies positions of power. They know, as Nebuchadnezzar learnt, that “…the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.”

God’s kingdom is the kingdom of light and truth. Where, the light is His word and what He speaks is truth. God gives us in His word the truth about Himself, the truth about the world around us and the truth about us as humans. Therefore, our lives are based on the truth given to us in His word and not on the opinions, perspectives, perceptions, interpretations of the so-called experts of the world nor upon the sound-bytes of the newscasters and of the social media. Even our knowledge for living does not come from the world in the form of information and data. Whatever knowledge we need at any given moment of time is given to us intuitively in our dynamic relationship with Him. This is the reason why we are called to be led by the Spirit and not by the flesh (physical) nor by world’s patterns. So, those whose lives are based on the knowledge systems of the world will be shaken when these systems are tried and found wanting. But those who are led by the Spirit of God know, “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

For those in the way of the tree of knowledge, exploring, acquiring, storing and disseminating knowledge has become not only a way of life but to make a living from it and a means to earn capital. When people of the kingdom of God adopt the same patterns for teaching and preaching truth to earn a living and raise capital from it, they set themselves up for a thorough shake down along with the rest of the world. In the kingdom of God, knowledge is not about information dissemination, creating information overload. But this is exactly what we seem to be doing in our seminaries, seminars, conferences and even in our regular Sunday preaching/teaching and the weekly Bible studies. In the name of equipping the saints, we are engaging in information dumping and information overload. Such that we have Christians with big heads and too often very lean lives. Let us remember apostle Paul’s words in 1 Cor 8:2, “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.” We build people with love and not by imparting knowledge through information overload. In most cases today the knowledge that is being imparted seems to be leading to more wold-oriented living, while knowledge of truth ought to be leading to Godlikeness (Titus 1:2). It is not about how much you know the Bible but how well you know the Lord and walk by the leading of His Spirit moment by moment.

If our lives are based upon the economic patterns of the world – of education, employment, salaries, investments, buying and selling, of the consumer markets and so on, our lives too will be shaken when God shakes up all these human systems as it is happening now.

If your life, church and ministry are based upon the organisation patterns of the world, and are dependent on the management techniques and strategies of the world, your finances generated by worlds systems and you draw your strength and are sustained by the wisdom of the world, then when all these are shaken, your life , your church and your ministry will be shaken up too. If your life, church and ministry are modelled after Babelite thinking then when ‘Babel’ is shaken you will be shaken too!

If you pray for, pursue, prosper, take pleasure and pride in, in your educational achievements, climb up the ladder in your professional life and achieve material goals and feel satisfied in these, then my dear friend, you do not know anything about the kingdom of God. And when these are all shaken up your life will be shaken up as well.

The most tragic thing today is that many Christians, including many leading preachers and teachers, have pursued and promoted these as blessings from God. Many seem to have forgotten that the call to follow Christ is a call to reject sin, deny self and forsake the world.  When and how has the world and its systems become worthy of the pursuit of the people of the kingdom of God?!

When God shakes up the philosophies, religions, economics, politics, medical systems and technologies, and the military establishments of the world – all those whose lives are based on any of these or all those who find their identity and security in any of these, and those who derive their confidence from any of these, even if they claim to be people of God, their lives will be shaken too. But if you are someone whose God is the LORD and if your strength and satisfaction comes from Him alone and nothing else, then you are safe. Nothing in this world can shake you.

Romans 8: … “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? … 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

To live such lives of confidence in the Lord is the acceptable worship we can offer to God and of such is the kingdom of God, which cannot be shaken.

And all those ‘people of God’ who cannot worship God with such trust and dependence upon Him and have gone after the world and have adopted the ways and patterns of the world the word is Revelation 18, “4 And I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues. 5 For her sins have reached to heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities… 8 Therefore her plagues will come in one day—death and mourning and famine. And she will be utterly burned with fire, for strong is the Lord God who judges her.”

If the ‘people of God’ do not ‘come out of her’ but insist on indulging with the world and are comfortable with its ways and patterns then they will have to join with the people of the world when they cry to the mountains, “…Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” Rev 6.

May we heed His word and discern His working among us. Amen.

Missing The Point About Missing The Mark!

Yes, the church in particular and the Christian world in general have missed the point about missing the mark! There is no question about it. The tragic irony is that we do not even know that we have missed the point about missing the mark, while all the time we talk about ‘missing the mark’!

Anyone who is familiar with the teaching of the Bible knows, that the word for SIN both in the Old and the New Testaments is translated as failing to ‘hit a target’ or ‘reach a standard’, or ‘missing the mark’.

But the question is, what is the mark we have missed? And what is the point we are missing about ‘missing the mark’?

We have missed the mark of the objective or the purpose of God in creating us as humans in his own image. The purpose of God for us is made clear in the summary of the ten commandments as the greatest of the commandments – to love God with all the powers of our being. To love God, to seek him and to live for him and no one else and nothing else. This is the only thing lawful. Everything else is unlawful. This is the only thing moral. Every other pursuit which does not spring from the pursuit of God and from a life of fellowship with him is illegal, immoral and totally evil. And neither such people nor such lives have any place in the Kingdom of God.

J. I. Packer explains, “Sin is going contrary to God, retreating from God, turning one’s back on God, ignoring God… What, in positive terms, is the essence of sin?… Living not for Him, but for yourself; loving and serving and pleasing yourself without reference to the Creator; trying to be as far as possible independent of him, taking yourself out of his hands, holding him at arms length, keeping the reins of your life in your own hands; acting as if you and your pleasure, were the end to which all things else, God included, must be made to function as a means – that is the attitude in which sin essentially consists.”

He further writes, “Paul tells us that sin began when men who ‘knew God… did not honour him as God, or give thanks to him’(Rom 1:21), and he gives us the most exact analysis of the spirit of sin that the Bible contains when he declares that ‘the mind of the flesh (the mind and heart of unregenerate sinner) is enmity against God’ (Rom 8: 7), disaffection to his rule, resentment of his claims, and hostility to his word, all expressed in a fixed and unalterable determination to pursue one’s own independence in defiance of the Creator.” (God’s Word’s, J. I. Packer, 1981)

Everything man has done since his fall into sin is with this disaffection with God and his word, thus disassociating with him and the life through him. We know that right there in the book of Genesis, apart from a few who lived by faith and in fellowship with God, humans went on a totally different course outside of a relationship with God. And in his attempt to make a living for himself, man had embarked upon a course of total independence of God. Man’s God-defying, his identity and security-seeking attitude outside of a relationship with God is epitomised in the words of the Babelites, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.”

Of course in carving out a life independent of God, man has gone on to create and develop several systems and structures in every area of life. He has developed ‘quite fine and sophisticated’ religious, philosophical, political, economic, judicial, military, and socio-cultural systems and structures. He has built so-called centres of ‘higher learning’ of schools and universities for the sake of imbibing this knowledge which is independent of the Creator.

As the Preacher in OT cryptically states, “…God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.” Therefore he says, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” (Eccl 7:29; 1;2) Everything is vain because they not only lack anything of eternal or spiritual value but they are all under God’s judgement. Neither baptising nor christening them nor any amount of prayer is going to make them acceptable to God. The Bible simply and categorically declares that the world and everything in it is passing away. For everything man has made independent of the Creator is under God’s condemnation.

The words of our Lord Jesus in John 10:10 are very eloquent too, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus was not only implying that there was no life in the world unless he gave it but there is a radical indictment of all other options and solutions offered by the world that they not only rob but kill and destroy! Jesus also pits himself against all other options and solutions on offer.

The very fact that Jesus chose to be born in a cattle shed in a small shanty town outside of Jerusalem, and the kind of life he chose to live tells us about the value he placed on what man has made of the world and its systems and structures. He was born and lived totally out of the world’s systems and the models it offers. If this is not understood then we do not understand anything about Christ and the gospel of the kingdom he preached.

The point missed

The point that is being missed both by the church and the Christian world is that everything that man has made for himself in his brief history on earth is apart from God and in defiance of God and out side of fellowship with God. Therefore everything he has done during his existence on earth howsoever grand, howsoever sophisticated, howsoever beneficial from human perspective, is under the condemnation of God. It is, as Paul writes, under God’s wrath (Rom 1:18) and therefore ‘evil’(Eph 5:16). This is the reason why Bible neither recognises nor acknowledges the wisdom nor the achievements of man in the world, howsoever grand or beneficial to life on earth. These have no eternal nor spiritual value.

Apostle John and Paul are very categorical, “And the world is passing away along with its desires…” and “For the present form of this world is passing away.” (1 Jn 2:17, 1 Cor 7:30).

In the last 2000 years, the church in general and Christians in particular, have lost this understanding regarding the world and its systems and structures. Therefore they have not only cozied up to its ways of life but cavorted and have begun to cohabit with the world. Practically every aspect of our lives both as Christians and the church today is imbued with the world and its ways.

We have tacitly adopted world’s thinking and world’s systems and models – from the way we think about and do worship to our missions and evangelism including the way we teach the Bible both in our churches and seminaries. Our very understanding of church is discoloured with world’s thinking. The organisational models and the lifestyles we have adopted as individuals are all of the world. They are neither of Christ nor of his Apostles in the New Testament.

We have not only pursued but promoted and prospered and have taken pleasure and pride in what the people of the world have carved out for themselves in defiance and independence of God; that which is under God’s judgement and therefore under his wrath. In general many Christians have been in thrall of the knowledge, power and positions that the world offers. We seem to be enchanted by the things that Christ resisted and rejected when tempted. Why is it we are so much enthralled by one’s progress and growth in the world and are least focused on one’s spiritual development and growth? Even our understanding of spiritual growth is understood more in terms of acquiring of social and communication skills and participation in ministry related activities. We seem to have forgotten that spiritual growth is about a life of spiritual intimacy with God such that he or she lives in and by the spirit while living in the body and the world (Rom 8:4-9)

Our very understanding of the ‘will of God’ is so self-centred and world-focused that we do not even think of the will of God as his purpose in creating humankind! And that it is to this purpose Jesus was referring to in Matthew 12:50 and John in 1 John 2:17.

We spend enormous amounts of our time and resources to gaining that which is under God’s wrath – its knowledge systems, its life models and its economic and governing systems. We even encourage our children to pursue the same with panache.

This is totally unacceptable and alien to God and his kingdom. It is not just detestable but abhorring to him. Churches and Christians cannot have anything to do with the world and its ways. It is oxymoronic to call oneself a Christian and to pursue and cherish what the God-defying world has to offer, howsoever grand and useful it might appear to be.

Flee from the wrath to come!

In the Old Testament, the Lord said to his people, Israel not to follow any of the systems and methods of the people around them. They were to be different from the nations among whom they lived. They were to be different as he was different. Right from the building of the ark by Noah to the building of the temple and in all aspects of the people of Israel as a nation they were to follow his statutes and instructions as commanded in his law. They were not to follow the ways of the peoples around them. The church was called out and constituted precisely in the same way. They were called out of the world to be ‘imitators of God’ and not to follow the world and its ways.

Since when have the knowledge and wisdom of the world become acceptable and necessary for the building of the Kingdom of God? When has God said that it was alright to use the power structures and systems of the world to promote his kingdom? Since when has gaining philosophical acumen, political and economic clout become necessary for spreading of the gospel? Who said that gaining positions of power and knowledge in the world were essential to be his witnesses and that these were blessings to be sought after and cherished?

The grotesque irony is that we not only pray for and seek but even conduct thanksgiving services for ‘gaining the world’ which is under God’s wrath, not realising that we might perish with it!! We pray for, seek and gloat over that which Apostle Paul called as ‘dung’. How can any one pursue and gain that which is under God’s judgement and claim that it was a blessing received from God! How can any one claim that they prayed and sought God’s will in seeking the world and what it has to offer! Isn’t it like King Saul claiming that it was God’s will for him to spare the goats and the sheep in order to worship God?! Isn’t it like Achan having a thanksgiving meeting for the things he stole from Jericho?! Oh, the horror of it!

Is it any wonder then that when Christ called people into his kingdom, the conditions he laid were so stringent – deny yourself, leave everything of self, world, and sin in order to be his disciples? And the first requirement was REPENTANCE – to ‘turn one’s back’ upon every thing of sin, self and the world in order to be born of life from above and thus be part of his kingdom. And is it any wonder that when he returns he will say to many even to those who claim that they have done a lot in his name, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matt 7: 23)? This is because all that they did was not with the life that comes from God but with the knowledge and power that springs from self and the world. If you claim to be a child of God and yet if your life and work is by and for the flesh and the world, then your claim to new birth is suspect, my friend!

Everything that man does whether as ministry or in any other area of life if not done with the knowledge and power that springs from a fellowship with God has no eternal value and does not pass muster before God at the final reckoning. How tragic would it be for anyone who relied upon the knowledge, money and strength gained in the world in order to live the life of a Christian or to ‘do ministry’ and have presumed that he or she was serving God!

Our engagement with the world ought to be as little as possible, to the extent necessary as Paul says, “What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away.” (1 Cor 7: 29 – 31)

Our calling to be God’s own people is to ‘go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come’(Heb 13: 13, 14). We are to live as strangers and pilgrims in this world and not to pursue, participate, promote nor take pride in its wealth nor in its glory.

The writer to the Hebrews comments about the life of those who live by faith, “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.”(Heb 11: 13-16). It is extremely alarming that for the last century or so, Christians both individually and corporately have all but forgotten this teaching. They are recklessly heading like Achan of old, into the abyss of worldly gain and glory not knowing that Achan’s fate could be their lot too!

Or as the Preacher says, “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed in to judgement, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl 12: 13,14)

The teaching is simple and straightforward. As God said to Joshua in the context of Achan, “…they have taken some of the devoted things (things on which there was God’s judgement and which were devoted to be destroyed); … Therefore the people of Israel cannot stand before their enemies. They turn their backs before their enemies, because they have become devoted for destruction. I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you…”(Josh 7: 11,12. Italics are mine)

The world and everything in it – with all its systems of religions, philosophies, education, economics, politics, along with all the knowledge, power and positions it can offer with all its development and life models including its philanthropic and humanitarian efforts are under God’s judgement and God’s wrath. Anyone who pursues, promotes, takes pleasure and pride in it will merit the same judgement and wrath of God which is upon the world. And until Christians repudiate and reject all that is of the world they will not only be enslaved to it but would falter and fumble from one defeat to another and will be disowned by God and face the same fate that awaits the world and its systems.

Woe, unto anyone who teaches and preaches anything other than this! Woe unto anyone who has promoted such self-affirming and world-pursuing lifestyles and passed it off as the teaching of our Lord and Savour Jesus Christ! How dare they call themselves as preachers of the gospel! How so ever great, well known and successful a preacher, teacher or leader may have been, if he or she has not taught self-denying, world-forsaking and sin-rejecting life – they have not only miserably failed but have been ‘blind guides of the blind’! By whose measure are they considered great and successful? If their greatness and success is measured by the size of the structures, budgets and numbers they have garnered, they are probably closer to Babel than to Bethlehem! Since when has the truthfulness of the gospel of Christ come to depend upon the greatness or the successfulness of the preacher! I care not if this is an indictment of some of the so-called great leaders…they shall perish with their greatness if they have not taught and fostered lifestyles based on agape and in the footsteps of our Lord and Master!

The call then is for a clear and total separation from the world and all that it has to offer.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 John 2:16)

“Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” (Rev 18: 4,5)

“Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Cor 6: 17, 18)

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight… “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’… Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Luke 3:4, 7-9)

The good fruit is the fruit of a life lived in and by the Spirit and not in and for and by the world or the flesh. May the Lord give unto us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in understanding this. May the Lord help us to flee from the wrath which is already upon this world and to flee from the wrath to come. Amen.

Able To Do Exceedingly Abundantly

One of the most frequently quoted words especially in the context of prayer and often misquoted words are, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…”

One wonders why the rest of the verse is often omitted – “… according to the power that works in us.”?

Almost nobody seems to care to look into the context of what Paul meant in writing those words?

Many Pastors, Bible teachers and many Christian Leaders are guilty of this! Such misquoting is not only unwise but totally misleading regarding the original context and intent of those words.

First of all let us look at the context of these words of Apostle Paul in Eph 3:20:

In the first part of the chapter he writes about the Mystery of Christ. He also calls it as the unsearchable riches of Christ: 

  • The mystery is, that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel – v. 6

  •  The mystery is, that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord – v. 10,11

It is for this reason he prays for the believers v. 14-19,

  • That He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 

  • That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height —  to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge;

  • That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Having said that, Paul now lapses into a doxology,

  • Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

In the light of the above the question is, are these words of Paul in Eph 3:20, a blank cheque that God will work beyond our asking or thinking in any context and for any reason? The answer has to be a resounding NO!

  • The words are not meant as a promise at all, it is a doxology or praise unto God

  • The words are not meant as a promise for prayer or intercession. God does often work beyond what we ask or think in response to prayer but this verse is not about it

  • The words do not refer at all to God working to prosper us in our career-driven, materialistic, temporal and middle-class pursuits!

  • The words do not refer to organisational goals in evangelism and missions either.

  • God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think NOT because of our asking or thinking but when we yield to Him to work in us by His power

  • The words refer to God’s working in and for corporate objectives of the Body of Christ, the Church – for individual and corporate TRANSFORMATION.

The operative words in Paul’s statement are, “… according to the power that works in us”

  • This means that as we let God work in us by His power or yield to His working in us, both individually and corporately, He will transform us to be the Body of Christ filled with ALL THE FULLNESS OF GOD. (Please also read Phil 3:21)

  • And as He does this, His manifold wisdom is made known to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. This Paul says is something that should be happening right NOW. 

  • And that we will be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge. 

  • And that His work of transformation in us will be beyond anything that we can ask or think.

So friends, let us not reduce the importance of these words by claiming them as promise for personal, temporal or even for our own organisational goals…. The words are meant for a far higher purpose of God working in us to transform us to be the Body of Christ filled with all the fullness of the Godhead (Col 2:9,10). And this comes about when we let Him work in us by His power to subdue all things in us unto Himself (Phil 3:21).

Oh the wonder of God’s riches in Christ towards us! How unsearchable is His wisdom and His ways beyond tracing out!