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!

Knowing God As Spirit

Knowing God as Spirit opens a vista that we hardly know anything about. It is a vista that encompasses all dimensions of space and time and beyond. For space and time have to do with the physical. The Spirit has to do with the eternal. I am reminded of a chorus from my childhood about the love of God, ‘Wide, wide as the ocean; High as the heavens above; Deep, deep as the deepest sea….’ To know God as Spirit is wider than all oceans, higher than all heavens and deeper than all the seas. It is like Ezekiel swimming in the waters that flowed from the House of God… first it was ankle deep, then it was waist deep, then it was neck deep, later he could barely keep his head above the waters. As your head is bobbing barely above the waters, you try to reach for support but it eludes your hands, you try to touch the floor with your toes but you almost drown in the process, the shores are totally invisible, overwhelmed you swallow the waters and yet you are not lost nor drowned. You know that you are safe and secure exploring, drowning yourself in, soaring high yet not lost. Knowing God as Spirit is like that!

Knowing God as Spirit is intimate yet not intrusive. It is invisible yet not intimidating. It is deep, reaching the depths of your being yet not violating. It is so beyond all knowledge and experience yet it is not overwhelming.

Very few of us in the history of humanity have touched the outskirts of God who is Spirit. Those who did just went beyond life without experiencing the pangs of death. Such men and women are hardly concerned with the things that concern others. They are not hindered nor bothered nor restrained by the physical and the temporal. They live above all these, in a realm where God and angels dwell.

In the last 100 years or so there were two major movements of the Spirit of God. One hoped that they would teach the church, the realm of the Spirit. But sadly they fell into the same trap as the rest of us, the trap of the physical, of modernity and the pursuit of security and identity. They became as worldly as the rest of us and as helpless as Samson shorn of his hair.

Just as love is the ontology of the Divine Being, so is the Spirit. Jesus said to the Samaritan woman, quite simply and unambiguously “God is Spirit”. To know God as Spirit is to know God as He is.

To know God as Spirit, though daunting yet it is not impossible for we were created in God’s image. Which means we were created as spirit beings, nevertheless with a body. This is the reason why, man holds a unique position in all of creation. He is the only one who has a body and spirit. He is both physical and spiritual. In the spirit, he communes with God. But in the body he connects with the physical world.

But tragedy struck, and man lost his contact with God. He became dead in the spirit. From then on he began to live a purely physical life. As the Preacher said, there is eternity in the heart but he doesn’t know how to reach it. He lost his spiritual abilities to soar into eternity and commune with His Maker.

Many many years later, there came a sociological process known as secularisation, an offshoot of modernism, which led to the constitution of life in such a way that the spiritual and the eternal do not matter. All that is there is this world of the five senses and we must strive to fend for ourselves in this physical world. Over a period of time as the process gained greater and greater tacit acceptance all around, even the people of God succumbed. To those who still had a hangover of the spiritual, the enemy of our souls offered alternatives or surrogates, if you like. The surrogate of religion for some and to others the surrogate of attending and participating in a church service, giving tithes and doing ministry but don’t you forget the body… pray and seek God’s blessing as you run after food, clothes, houses and more… Did he not say ‘All these things will be added unto you?’

Therefore, what does it mean to know God as Spirit? What are its implications for life?

First, to know God as Spirit is to know to live in the Spirit.

Knowing God as Spirit is crucial to knowing what it means to live in the Spirit. To live in the Spirit is to live above the physical, the material and the temporal. This is what we learn from the life of Christ and the apostles, especially Paul. And this is what it means to be citizens of God’s Kingdom. But unfortunately we began to divide life as sacred and secular or as those called to live such lives in the Spirit while others can be more secular.

This has also come about because of the narrower understanding of the word ‘flesh’ in the New Testament as ‘fallen sinful nature’. This we generally understand as referring to the baser aspects of the flesh and think that it does not apply to the legitimate pursuits of life – of food, clothes and houses or for sustenance, security and identity. We must remember that the ‘fallen sinful nature’ has made us to be purely physical and that the pursuit of the purely physical – pursuit of careers and material well-being is equally fallen and has little value in the Kingdom of God.

When we live purely for the physical at the expense of the spiritual, it invariably ends up being purely external and superficial. This is the hallmark of contemporary living. Education, employment, pay-cheques, wealth, religion, including much of what passes for Christianity – in-terms of regular church-attendance and doing ministry, philanthropy, social and language skills and host of others have deluded us into thinking like little Jack Horner, who ‘sat in a corner eating a Christmas pie. He put in his thumb, pulled out a plum and said what a good boy am I!’ Superficial spirituality and perpetual imbecility are some of the hallmark characteristics of contemporary living. Apostle Paul says it well, “…having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power…always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

Unfortunately for us today, our lives are constituted so that we think we cannot live without food, clothes, money and several other things which are now considered as necessities. We forget that the words, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone’ can also be extended to ‘Man shall not live by money alone’, ‘Man shall live not by employment alone’, ‘Man shall not live by marriage alone’ so on and so forth. But we live as if those are legitimate pursuits, that they can be pursued prayerfully and by even claiming promises from the word of God! How blind and how foolish we are!

To know God as Spirit is to know to live in the Spirit, which means that we now consider the physical, the material and the temporal as incidental to life and that the spiritual is essential and eternal. To live in the Spirit is not to allow the physical to dominate and control us. Hence the words of Paul in Romans 8: 1-16.

  • Those who are in Christ Jesus are not under condemnation

  • 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

  • Those who are born of the Spirit of God 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

What is most disturbing today is that many who claim to be born of the Spirit and are indwelt by the Spirit, living consistently and continuously in the flesh! According to Romans 8, this is impossible. Yet many seem to be comfortable living and pursuing the physical and the temporal. Friends, something is amiss here! How can people on the way to Canaan hanker and long for the life in Egypt? Those who did that among the people of Israel, perished in the wilderness. Lord swore and saw to it that none of them would enter the promised land!! It is this thought that has taken away my sleep for days… I grieved over it and then decided that I must write this series of four articles.

If we do not live according to the Spirit but live as if the physical, material and the temporal are very important and essential, I believe we set ourselves up for experiencing lifeless lives while claiming to be alive “You have a name that you are alive but you are dead”! And we set ourselves up to be hostile to God and His ways. Therefore, my fear is that many of us are in the danger of hearing from the Lord on the last day, “I do not know you, depart from me”. I fear that many of our lives are not even recorded in his radar, as it were. How distressful!

The truth is, while like the people of Israel we hankered and longed for the world, unlike them we prayed for, pursued, possessed, prospered and prided ourselves in our worldly achievements and attainments. We ran after and brought that on which God has pronounced His judgement and began to live comfortably with it. We do not realise how fateful it is, both spiritually and eternally. If that on which God’s judgement is, is with us we make ourselves liable to the same judgement. Therefore the plea,“Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins”

If you say that it is none of my business to write or say all these things, don’t worry! I have already decided that I will be silent, henceforth. Unless you wish to interact further.

The question that needs to be asked of everyone who claims to be the child of God is primarily this: Are you led by the Spirit of God? Do you live according to the Spirit or flesh? What do you set your minds on, on things of the Spirit or of flesh?

Second, to know God in the Spirit is to know that He is invisible. Hence the strict prohibition of making and worshipping idols in scripture. To say that God is invisible is to say that we cannot make visible forms of him nor can we make him visible in any systems or structures. He chose to make himself visible in human form once and now He chooses to make himself visible through the Body of Christ, the church.

It is true that there is an inherent quest in the heart of man to feel what we believe. This quest often leads man to make forms and symbols, in physical manifestations or in performing religious activities and rituals. But the quest to feel our faith was satisfied in the incarnation of the Son of God in history and He incarnates again by dwelling in and among His people the church. This is the reason why the church is called His body. So the quest in the heart of man to feel faith must be met in the Body of Christ, the church.

Therefore knowing God as Spirit is to know that God wishes to indwell us and make himself visible to the world in and through us. This is the reason why Christian calling is not about conducting programmes and church services nor building ‘church buildings’. It is not even about preaching the gospel by conducting crusades and campaigns nor is it about doing missions by opening schools and hospitals nor even in church planting. Christian calling is about Christian living. Christian living is about letting Christ indwell us and reproduce himself in us both individually and corporately. Only when we let the Son of God do this then we not only let God make himself visible through us but only then are we truly His body.

While many evangelicals detest being called as ritualistic, it must be said that the penchant for church attendance, tithing and participation in church activities fall into the same category, if concurrently we do not let Christ manifest himself living in and through us. The physical activity of attendance, participation, the traditional and the ritual often becomes the surrogate of the truly spiritual. This means that sadly, many seem to be content with the surrogate rather than the real.

We seem to think that Christian disciplines and practises – like daily Bible-reading, prayer, fasting, attendance at a church gathering, tithing and doing ministry – are an end in themselves. If we think that they are an expression of our spirituality or that God is pleased because we do them, then we are mistaken. Christian disciplines and practises are means to an end. They must lead to transformation to Christ-likeness and to Christ-like living. Christ-likeness is not about just having some social graces and being and doing good. It is about living the way Christ lived when he was on earth as man. Only then God is pleased not because we keep the disciplines regularly nor show some goodness. On the other hand we not only become complacent with the disciplines and practices but they make us proud and foster holier-than-thou attitude towards others. Thus becoming idols in our lives. This is how certain Christian and church practises have become entrenched and enslave us for generations.

We must seek the God who is Spirit, be inundated, overwhelmed and be saturated by Him in such a way that the physical and temporal recede into the back ground of our lives and we begin to live in the Spirit. Life in the Spirit is the life that confidently proclaims, I cannot be over come by anyone or anything, I will not be overwhelmed by the issues of life. I will not be drowned by the considerations of the flesh.

They confidently affirm along with Paul, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?…No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 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.” This is worship in spirit and in truth.

It is only about such people it will be written, ‘the world was not worthy of them’. Would you wish to be part of them, Then forsake all that the world and flesh have to offer and follow Him. Seek the Lord and His Kingdom alone! May the Lord help us.

Knowing God As Incarnate

To know God in His incarnation is to talk about knowing Him as God who came down as man and lived among us. John writes about the Word becoming flesh and adds, “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The question that needs to be asked is what is the glory they saw? A careful study of the New testament leads us to understand that ‘they saw His glory’ at three levels.

1. They saw the glory of God as Man. We all understand this truth and celebrate it every year during the month of December. But we have sentimentalised His birth and death so much that the essential lesson of incarnation is lost. In fact the redemptive purpose of incarnation and the subsequent evangelism and missions have taken away our focus from the broader purpose of incarnation. And of course the commercialising of it as a festival is another aspect of it that saps it of its true significance. This is to our own loss.

J.I. Packer writes, “God became a man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed, and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think of it the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is as fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation”

But what is the truth of the incarnation? And what are its implications for us apart from redemption through the atoning death of Christ upon the cross? What is the glory of God as revealed in His incarnation?

They saw the glory of God as man, The divine as human. The Infinite God as finite man. The Great one as simple. God who is Spirit has now come in a body. The One who is immortal has now come into that which is mortal. The rich One has come as poor. The invincible One made himself vulnerable. The One who is Almighty has made himself weak.

Does it not sound incredulous? Can we wrap our minds around those staggering thoughts? Truly ‘nothing in fiction is as fantastic’. Even the angels long to look into what God is up to with becoming man.

Oh, I wish I could marshal the hosts of heaven to sing,“O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, You have set Your glory above the heavens!” Or let Apostle Paul use his pen to describe in his own cryptic way, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…”

The truth is that this is the essential message of incarnation. In a world where everyone one wants to go higher, grow bigger, get richer, become larger, incarnation teaches us that small is beautiful, to be weak is to be strong, and to be poor is to be rich. While the world chooses the upward trajectory of living, Christ in His incarnation preferred the downward trajectory. Frankly, the Bible does not promote smallness or weakness or poverty as virtues in themselves. But that the small, the weak and the poor find it easier to trust in God. And therefore they are greater, bigger, stronger and richer in the Kingdom of God.

Is it any wonder that God chooses the weak and the foolish and the last shall be first and the first last in His Kingdom?

Friends, the desire and the drive to get richer, bigger and greater is from Babel and Babylon, not from Bethlehem! This is the meaning of knowing God in his incarnation. And this is the only way we can counter modernity and the lifestyles it fosters.

You cannot adopt lifestyles whose roots are in capitalism and claim to be the child of God! The call, therefore is to be imitators of God as His children.

2. They saw the glory of man as Man, in Christ.

I do not tire to say that according to the Bible, no man ever lived as man was meant to live. Christ is the only one to ever live as man was meant to live. ‘All have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory’, says the Bible. Therefore the true glory of man can be seen in Christ alone. He was the only one who pleased God totally.

Jesus teaches us what it means to love God alone and to live by trusting and obeying Him always. He said that he can do nothing of himself, except what he sees the Father do. He affirmed that his food was to do the will of the Father. He claimed that he always pleased his Father and that the Father never left him alone. No man who ever graced this earth said such words. The Father was so pleased with Jesus that He opened the heavens and affirmed him. And Jesus lived in quietness and confidence in the shadow of the Father’s assurance and approval. He did not need any man or angel to affirm him. Nor did he seek anybody’s testimony of him. He did not seek the identities of the world nor did he do or work to find his security in anything of this world.

The scribes, Pharisees and the teachers of the law were left dumbfounded on several occasions by not only the depth of his understanding of the law, of life and righteousness but the ease with which he talked and lived suggested that it was his natural habitat. Many times both the people and the leaders marvelled at his sense of authority and confidence when he spoke and taught about God and the law. You do not find in Jesus any sense of insecurity either with regard to his physical needs or about life even when he stood before Pilate. He suffered no crisis of identity when he moved with the socially unacceptable nor when he bent down to wash the feet of his disciples. He had no throne, no crown no armies yet he ruled in life as a true king.

In the demonstration of His love, compassion and service there are few peers in the history of man. He was as involved with life as he was detached from its cares and pleasures. He was as engaged with the needs, the pains and sorrows of others as he was disengaged from their opinions and pursuits. Jesus was hardly concerned about His image or His looks. Isaiah in His prophecy probably gives us a glimpse into His physical appearance, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”(Isaiah 53:2).

He accepted and affirmed the human, but he was not humanistic. He accepted and affirmed the material but he was not materialistic. He accepted and affirmed the physical and the temporal yet he was not secular. He overcame the physical often with the spiritual. He did not let the physical constrain or control him.

He did not treat the people around him with condescending disdain. He did not use power language nor power demeanour to show his superiority. He did not try to dominate or control people by word or by actions. If ever there was a human who could do it, it was him. Yet he did not. We miss all this when we read the gospels because we romanticised his life and look only at the sentimental aspects of it.

At the end he gave himself to the Father for us, willingly, totally and unhesitatingly.

Friends this is how man was meant to live. This is how you and I are meant to live. This is the glory of man! Oh, I wish I had a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise! You know, actually I will, when I see Him in His glory.

In fact we do not need a thousand tongues to sing his praise nor a thousand lives but just one life to live as he lived.

If you wish to know what it means to live agape lifestyle, look at Jesus. He is the prototype of it. We can only be his imitators. Come let us follow him and live as he lived. This is the best way we honour or worship him. The call, therefore is to be imitators of God, as His dear children.

3. John was also talking about seeing the continuing glory of God in the Church, His Body.

What is the Church? If our answer is, it is the body of Christ. Then the next question we must answer is, how should the church be? The simplest answer is, the church must be as Christ was when he was in the body. Period.

But down through centuries the answer to that question has taken so many forms and shapes that today church is a grotesque deformity. When I think of it my heart is filled with extreme grief and at the same time utmost anger at what we have done to and with the church. How sad, how blind, how deaf and how foolish we are?

We are the body of Christ when we live the way Christ lived, in the human body while on earth. Instead we tend to think that church is a system or a service or a programme or a meeting or a gathering. And then we began to call ourselves with different tags, often hilarious – Anglican, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic or Brethren. Or names taken from Old testament as Hebron, Zion, Carmel or from the New Testament as Grace Church, Hope Church, Agape church and some very ingenious ones from the Bible as Burning bush church or Pillar of Fire church, so on and so forth.

When places, or programmes or people who founded it take precedence over the Person of Christ then you can be sure my friend, that the Holy Spirit of God is no where near such groups. God has not given us a programme to conduct nor an order of service to follow. Neither Christ nor Paul taught any of it. If anyone thinks that their pattern is the right one then they know nothing about the body of Christ nor the New Testament. It doesn’t matter how great a man of God the founder was or how big or large the building or the gathering went on to become, if they have not taught or teach people how to live as Christ lived then I am afraid, they have failed.

But since we began to focus on gathering therefore, we began to focus on the programme or the service that is conducted when we gather. And since we need a place to gather we began to spend millions on buildings. Then we spend millions on maintaining them. We then spend millions more on court cases to guard them. Instead, if the same drive and effort were put into living and teaching people to live as Christ lived, today we would be a ‘city set upon a hill’.

If you do not wish to accept what I say and wish to wait until you hear ‘I do not know you. Depart from me’, I cannot help it, my friend! I will only cry unto God that He will open our eyes to see.

In fact, church does meet and gathers but let it be firmly fixed in our brains that we do not represent Christ as his body by gathering or meeting. We represent him as his body by living as he lived. In this, Christ is our pattern for living. There is no other. Only then we are his body and only then we shall have the glory and the fullness of God dwell among us. Only then does the gospel become the gospel to the world. Only then we shall be his true witnesses. And only then, ‘the manifold wisdom of God will 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’

But the irony is, none of us is worthy or able to live as Christ lived. It is he who wishes to live in us and reproduce himself in and through us by his Spirit who dwells in us. As we yield to his working in our lives to subdue all things in us to himself then we shall see God ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ in transforming us to live as Christ lived.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…” God wills to manifest himself in the flesh again through us. Hence Christ says, “…a body have you prepared for me”… a body in which he reveals his glory by living in and through them! When the church, which is the body of Christ lets him live through them, then the ‘earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’

Friends, they saw his glory, the continuing glory of God in the body of Christ, the church. Have you?

The call therefore, is to be imitators of God. Come, let us follow him. Let us let him work in us with his power to subdue us, to fill us and to reproduce himself in us. And then, “… to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”

Knowing God As Three

The teaching about the Trinity of God is not just an article in a creed. It is a mind-blowing, life-challenging, life-transforming, liberating and life-fulfilling truth. A persistent pursuit of God with a single-minded commitment and a single-hearted devotion leads to the understanding that the God of the Bible subsists as a communion of three persons.

Knowing God as Three, is crucial to understanding about the nature of being, the world, the human life, the individual, marriage, family, society, church, missions, tolerance, organisation, governance, economics, global peace, reconciliation and a host of other issues pertinent to life and existence.

While we confess that the God of the Bible is triune, there has been a general tendency to think of him as purely ‘monotheistic’ so strongly, that we often tend to be unitarian in our thinking and behaviour. This is the greatest anomaly in the Christian understanding of the God of the Bible. The present state of affairs in the church as individuals as well as, as a community is because of this lack.

If our commitment to the Lord was complete – to know, to love and to please Him alone; and not allow our insecurities and fears to distract us or be drawn away by the attractions and the allurements of the world or be side-tracked by the models of life in the world, we would have surely and certainly understood God and His tri-unity. This was true of the people of Israel and it is turning out to be true about the church too.

Therefore a simple and a straight forward charge is that we have not loved, served, followed nor worshipped God wholly. We were overwhelmed by our own insecurities and were enchanted by the ephemeral promise of prosperity and glory in the world. Therefore today we have practically become unrecognisable as God’s own people. Rather than living as ‘a people dwelling alone’ we have become as people who are counted among the nations!’

We went after the world to seek its models of life. Today we are so deeply entrenched in these that even to talk about them as worldly seems strange. We have been following world’s thinking, its ways of life in practically everything including the practise of our faith as Christians. The organisation models we follow to ‘run our churches’, the economics we practise in our transactions within the church and with others in the world, the ministry models we follow and even the way we do our church services, are drawn from the world and not from our understanding of God nor His word. Our teachers and leaders are in the same situation as us. Even our interpretation of scripture is discoloured and dominated by thinking borrowed from the world.

Unless there is sincere repentance and an honest and persistent pursuit of God, there will be no change. As I said in my previous article, we are in serious danger of hearing His words, “I do not know you. Depart from me”.

Actually in many contexts we have not been pursuing God, we have been pursuing ourselves and our welfare. Even in our prayer and ‘godly living’, we were not seeking Him but our self and our welfare. Even when we claim to do ministry we were seeking our own interests and our own future. Long ago Apostle Paul saw this and said ‘All seek their own and none the things of Christ Jesus’. Oh, the horror of it! Alas, friends it is heart-rending – the grossness of our waywardness!

One of the major aspects of our fallenness is about losing our identity as people made in the image of God and the resulting insecurity. Since then whatever man does he does it in order to find his identity and security. So our language, our relationships, our understanding of self and others, our organisations and governing patterns and our economics, all of these heavily reek of our insecurity and identity-crisis.

Only when we come into a right understanding of the Triune God and the incarnation of the Son of God we begin to learn that in the relationships in the Godhead and in His incarnation there is no indication nor any trace of insecurity nor identity-crisis. And unless we seek Him and are touched by Him, we will not experience true healing and liberation. With all our talk of redemption, if we do not demonstrate that we are secure in our identity as God’s own people but run to the world for it or seek it in our church or ministry structures then, I wonder if our redemption is real.

I cannot go into all the aspects of the implications of knowing God as Three, here. I am sorry for having to say this, but most of you who are reading or listening to these articles have no time for a serious and sustained thinking nor to engage in a discussion of it. In fact much against my own convictions, in these articles I am pandering to the modern quirk of shorter spans of attention and busy schedules! Others who have the time and wish to read can access the lengthier ones at my blog.

1. The nature of being. First we must understand the ontology of being or the nature of being as revealed in the Godhead. Paul writes about it in Ephesians 5:1& 2, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

To be imitators of God, Paul indicates, is to do what Christ has done. ‘Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’. Such ‘giving of oneself for others’ is a ‘fragrant offering and sacrifice to God’. But it is the Son of God, who is in ‘very nature God’, He is the One who has given of himself for us. In fact, first God gave away His own Son for us. Then Christ gave himself up for us. This tells us that it is the very nature of the diving being, to give of Himself to and for others! It is the basic ontology of God and by corollary the ontology of being. Apostle John simply states it as, “God is love”.

The nature of God is to give himself to the other… the Father gives to the Son and the Son gives back to the Father through the Holy Spirit. The constant giving and receiving between the Three makes them what they are – Complete, individually and together. The giving and the receiving is constant, eternal and infinite sharing of life without hesitation or holding back. This is the nature of being, of the divine being. And this is what we were created to be or live as.

Therefore, Apostle Paul’s exhortation is that if we claim to be born of God and are the children of God then we must demonstrate the nature of God – the nature of God as demonstrated by His own Son in the giving of Himself for us unto God.

It is the agape or the dynamic of love which must define and determine everything in life. It is God’s nature and He wishes to indwell us and reproduce it in us. Our lifestyles, our relationships, our communication, our organising and governing systems and our economics must be based on agape. It is about these areas I shall mention briefly below.

2. Our lifestyles. We must remember that as humans who have fallen into sin we have developed our own lifestyles since the fall. One can read about it the first 11 chapters of Genesis. Those are lifestyles born from guilt, shame, fear, insecurity and loss of identity. The climax of it is seen in the building of the tower of Babel. Such lifestyles were and are generally self-seeking, self-preserving and individualistic. The aim is to cover the guilt and shame and seek security and identity in the world rather than in the Maker. To this fallen enterprise of man the modern world has come as a great boon.

Since the beginning of industrialisation, and in the name of development the western world has given to the rest of the world a way of thinking and of living which is called ‘modernity’. It is beyond the purview of this message and my own access to resources to go into all the aspects of modernity or modernism. But modernity is a classic build-up of man to Babel proportions. In the final analysis all that it has done is to make humans self-reliant, self-confident bordering on arrogance, through education, employment and material affluence. It has made us more independent, individualistic and self-centred. Grabbing for and holding onto what we have has become part of us.

So today we have all adopted a life model which springs from modernity and not from Christ nor His apostles. To a large extent our lifestyles today are private, individualistic, self-centred and self-seeking. We derive our confidence from our family pedigree, education, professions and money rather than in Christ.

Apostle Paul captures it well in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5,7, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power… always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

The saddest irony is that the people of God participated, possessed, took pride in, promoted, and often prayed not just for this lifestyle but the whole project of the fallen man to find his security and identity in the world and what it has to offer and not in their Creator!

Agape lifestyles are not self-promoting nor self-preserving. They are self-effacing and self-giving to the point of self-sacrificing. Hence Paul’s words to the church, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”.

3. Our relationships. The implications of believing in the Triune God is to live in relationships. To live together in relationships in such a way as to be One is the ontology of the divine being. There is no room here for private, individualistic, and self-centred lives. The dynamic by which we live in relationships is the dynamic of love not power. This means there is no exercise of power to dominate or to control in order to bring oneness. Domination and control are the lot of fallen humanity but alien to the divine being and to the people of God.

There is voluntary giving of oneself to the other because of love. Love does not seek its own. Love seeks the welfare of the other. The Son pleases the Father and the Spirit glorifies the Son and the Father. The Father gives all authority to the Son. There is no fear of being taken advantage of in the Trinity. Because there is no fear in love(1John 4: 18).

This is the way families and churches need to be constituted – with self-giving love. It is because of love we share and it is because of love we make room for others to be and do. This not by the exercise of power. So the basis for our relationships is the self-giving love which enables us to voluntarily submit to one another.

Such living is counter-cultural, antithetical to anything and everything that we know in the world. There is no greed nor insecurity nor domination and control in this way of living. But love, health, mutuality and divine fullness.

Knowing God as triune reminds us that while we are individuals, we are also corporate beings. To live as corporate beings is to live with the knowledge that we have an inherent spiritual union with other children of God, a union that lasts into eternity, and that we are responsible and accountable to one another under God, especially those with whom God has brought us into a relationship. This is what Jesus prayed for in His High Priestly prayer in John 17 and that this is crucial for the world to know Him.

Instead because of our insecurities we continue to divide on the basis of colour, language, gender, doctrine and denominational affiliations. We are so foolish and shameless that we even justify these and continue to affirm these identities and wallow in our insecurities. Unless such proponents and promoters repent, they cannot think of a place in the Kingdom of God.

The best way we demonstrate our corporateness is by living in fellowship or communion with one another as the body of Christ. We have forgotten that true fellowship is about sharing the life of God in us with others in such a way that we experience God’s fullness among us corporately. But today we are so busy that we have reduced fellowship in the church to a meeting or a programme and that too once in a week. So rather than sharing of life, we attend the meeting and go away with a false sense of satisfaction that we have ‘fellowshipped’! How sad! We miss what God has for us in one another through Him.

4. Our organisations, governing systems and leadership models. Practically all our organisational and governing models today, whether Christian or otherwise are what I call, structures of identity-crisis and insecurity. Whatever their origins these are all political structures deriving their power from world’s knowledge, money, position or from the personal charisma and confidence of the leader(s). Besides most of the newer churches and para church ministries have just adopted an organisational style which is purely capitalist and entrepreneurial. The organisational structures they follow are political, generally autocratic, monolithic, hierarchical, bureaucratic and nowhere near to anything that you learn from either the Triune God or in the incarnation in His Son, Jesus Christ.

All these are political structures and are a result of our fallenness. Most of them are run on power derived from either money or position or knowledge gained form the world. Such structures promise to provide security and identity but in the process become enslaving. They do not last more than a generation. Even those which seem to have lasted longer are mere shells coasting along on momentum generated by the founders and not by the power of God.

But since the people of God are not self-seeking but self-giving they do not form political structures but as the household of God they constitute themselves based on the dynamic of love and voluntary submission to one another. They organise themselves not by power derived from knowledge, money or position but through love. Such organising and governing is essentially small, simple, direct, family-like and family-sized.

This is the way the God who is Three subsists and this is what His Son lived and showed while on earth. If we claim to be His children then we must show the nature of our Father. Otherwise we shall have to hear Him say, “I do not know you”.

5. Our economics. What can one say about our economics today? Everyone of us with few exceptions have adopted lifestyles arising from capitalism. Even our churches and ministries are being run on the same model. Practically everything we do – the way we live and the way we do ministry – everything has become an entrepreneurship. When you see even churches and ministries run on this model, one wonders if these so-called ‘servants of God’ are talking about the God of the Bible and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!

The different models of economics in the world are not derived from Trinitarian understanding of God but from human fallenness. Therefore all such models in the final analysis lead to extortion and exploitation. The church cannot have anything to do with such systems.

You see even our economics as people of God, must come from the nature of God. The nature of God is of self-giving love. This must dictate all our dealings with one another. Therefore we give ourselves in the service of others as Christ gave himself for us. There is no room here for greed or even the motive of profit-making. One does not serve with the aim of gaining by serving. One serves because one has the ability or the resources that the other is in need of. True love serves freely seeking the welfare of the object of love. Just as God gave away his Son for us and as Christ offered himself up for us. In this is the model for economics. An economics based on the self-giving love of Christ which is different from anything that one can think of in the world.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.” And “…the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Those statements of Apostle Paul point the way.

It can be said of such people, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Psalm 133)

So the call to the people of God today is, “Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “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.” Oh, that we would hear His voice. Amen.

Knowing God As One

Knowing God as One has been expressed primarily in a negative way by the three monotheistic faiths of the world. The argument goes like this. If God is one then there can be no other God or no one can make any claim to know any other God. Therefore any such claims must be extinguished and all such proponents must be exterminated. I call this as rabid intolerance. But what is the positive way.

The Shema prayer which every devout Jew recites several times every day, teaches that the positive implications of Knowing God as One is to love Him only and no one else and nothing else. This means anyone who believes in One God begins to realise that one cannot live for anything else and anyone else except for Him. He made us and He is the sole owner of everything in the universe. Everything and everyone exist for His pleasure.

Such an understanding takes away all our rights to live for ourselves. We have no right to live even for our welfare, our careers, our pleasure. One’s career is not in pursuing university degrees nor about high profile jobs nor respectability nor even economic security. One cannot seek these even in so-called ministry. Not even in church systems and structures and hierarchies. 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. Our pleasure and welfare, dignity and security are to be found in Him alone. Every other pursuit is tantamount to an idolatry or adultery or prostitution of our self. So any activity we engage in, including pursuing education and jobs or even ministry, must be with the clear leading of the Lord and not for the sake of gaining social respectability nor economic stability nor any other temporal gain.

Such devotedness to God was not only taught but demanded by Jesus Christ in His call to discipleship. The call to love God only, comes to us in the form of the call to discipleship given by Christ, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Apostle Paul stated the same truth as, ‘You are not your own. You were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your bodies’. And, ‘he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised’.

I believe such an understanding leads to 3 basic things in the life of a follower of Christ:

1. It gives us the focus or the objective for living. To love God and to live for Him alone, His glory and His pleasure. Period. We have no right to live for anything else and anyone else. This also means that we as the people of God seek our basic needs in God alone and not from the world. Our basic needs of sustenance, security and identity are to be found in loving and trusting our God.

But unfortunately like the people of Israel we seem to seek these from the world. The people of Israel often left God and sought foreign help and foreign gods. They went to Egypt for food. They went to the Philistines for weapons of war. They sought the help of Syrians and Assyrians often to rescue them from their enemies. But God actually said that He would provide for them and protect them and own them as His people if they trusted Him and sought Him. The persistent dirge of the prophets in the Old Testament was to call the people back to love, serve and trust God alone.

Similarly, the most unambiguous indictment that can be brought against God’s people today, is that they have sought the dignities and identities promised by the world and have found security in its ways of life and in its systems. They have not only sought it, but they flaunt it and take pride in it. They even offer thanksgiving for attaining to and acquiring what the world has to offer. How blind we can be!

Hence God’s word says, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars.” (NASB)

You see friends, our trials, problems, difficulties and sufferings are not because we follow Christ completely but because we do not follow Him completely! In many contexts God is not on our side!

2. Second, with objective and focus comes discipline of life. The people who love and pursue God alone are those who are disciplined. They know where they are going and what they need to be doing. Anything that is unimportant or not essential to loving God and following Him is spurned and rejected. Anyone who claims to know the God of the Bible cannot be casual and perfunctory with life. In fact I would think that it is totally anachronistic to claim to know God and not be conscious, single-minded and serious. (I do not elaborate much on this here because that is not the basic purpose in this series of articles. I guess I have said enough here for you to explore on your own.)

3. Third, such a person or people maintain a life that is separate and distinct from the rest of the world. They just cannot live the way the people of the world live. They cannot pursue the same things that the people of the world pursue. They do not pray for the same things that the people of the world pray for. They are not discouraged by the same things that the people of the world are discouraged with.

Even a cursory glance at the condition of Christians worldwide suggests that this is not true of them. We have become just like everyone else in the world – self-seeking, individualistic, money-driven, career-driven. Pursuing personal growth has become the chief aim in life for many. This is true of even those who claim to be in so-called full-time ministry. In fact they are worse. Because they take advantage of the insecurities of the people and build their own identity and security. Worldly achievements and attainments have become primary objectives in life for practically everyone, all over the world. We only give the tag that it is God’s blessing and take false comfort in it. Even our preachers, pastors and Christian leaders have proved to be false teachers by egging the people of God to pursue the identities and securities offered by the world. Is it any wonder that we have ceased to be ‘testimonies for Christ’?

We have become so hardened and have lost all sense of propriety as Gods people that we think that learning and displaying proper cultural etiquette and social graces and niceties is enough to be Christian and our godliness is demonstrated in terms of some basic honesty, attendance at church services, regular tithing and contributing to ministry.

True and essential Christianity is not just about these but it is about a life that is totally antithetical to the way the rest of the world lives. And whose dynamic is not in money nor education nor influence gained through connections with the world but of a dynamic that is totally unexplainable by any of the categories of the world. It is lived by the dynamic of the power of resurrection of Christ.

Had the people of Israel loved and pursued the One God with a single-minded commitment and a single-hearted devotion they would have begun to discover that He lives in relationships and that He is Triune. And that therein lies the solution to communication, relationships, organisation and economics and a host of other issues pertaining to life on earth. We do not have to learn our behaviour from the world nor how to manage our life and work nor about how we organise ourselves or transact our relationships. We learn these from the Triune God.

But tragically both Israel and the Christians in the last 2 millennia have gone to the world to learn from it, how to organise and govern themselves and how to conduct economic transactions between themselves and with the world. The result is of a people who are totally undistinguishable from the rest of the world. We were supposed to be ‘a people dwelling alone, and not counting itself among the nations!’ Or as the Lord said through prophet Jeremiah, “I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine?

Friends as you can see, we have been hurtling down the wrong track for several centuries now and are in the danger of being ‘spewed out’ by the Lord or hear his fateful words, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ May the Lord help us.

Biblical Plumb-line For Life

Choose This Day Whom You Will Serve

(Biblical Plumb-line For Life)

Enoch Era

Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:14-15.

You cannot serve God and Mammon.” Matthew 6:24.

As we come to the denouement of the ages and are on the brink of entering the promised heavenly Canaan, the call before us is to choose who we serve.

I think the Lord is not looking for large numbers. He is looking for a remnant. Those who followed him wholeheartedly. Those who have not defiled themselves with the world. “It is these who have not defiled themselves…. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless.”

The choice is simple but clear. The first commandment and the call to follow Christ both make it very plain that we cannot serve anyone else or anything else.

But today Mammon or money seems to rule everywhere. If we say ‘Jesus is Lord’, Mammon seems to counter it and say ‘Even to serve Jesus, you need me’.

The whole world has gone behind Mammon. The terrorist, the fundamentalist, the liberal, the moralist, the immoral, the far right and the far left, the good, the bad everyone seems to be enslaved to money. The only thing that seems to unite us is money. In history religion, language, race, class, creed, colour, caste have always divided. We are all divided by many things but united in the need, the use and the control of money over us worldwide. We do not recognise it. We do not claim unity on the basis of money yet it is true we are one as long as money is concerned. There is no economic north or south. There is no first world or third world when it comes to the dominance of money. There is no poor, there is no rich as far as its control is concerned.

Christians and the church world wide are no different. They have simply capitulated to the power of money. Practically nothing happens in our lives and churches without money. Every one pays obeisance to it in the seeking, using, saving and cherishing of it. We are happy when we have it. We are sad, disappointed or fearful when we run out of it. Practically everyone of us, including our churches, ministries and leaders take decisions on the basis of availability of funds or the confidence of raising it. We have almost come to the stage where we think that the kingdom of God and missions cannot happen without money.

We say ‘Jesus is Lord’ and that living for Him is our priority. Yet we spend 10-12 hours a day in seeking, earning, spending and saving money. Any time that is left is divided between our time for sleep, recreation, shopping, eating, ministry and worship. We fight over it. We go to courts over it. The question is, ‘Who then is our Lord?’

Oh, the pernicious habit of boasting about our wealth, achievements and attainments, overtly many times but covertly often. Many derive their pride and glory in these. Of course with a parenthetical suffix that it is all ‘by the grace of God’. I am talking about even those who boast about their achievements in ministry. This includes many in the church hierarchies and Christian mission.

We express in very subtle ways, our confidence not only in money but in several things acquired from the pursuit of the world. When you look at many Christians you wonder how much of their confidence in life comes from Christ and how much from their money, education, designation, church affiliation, caste, class, creed, colour and other things. If you are pursuing goals of providing for yourself and your family – financial security. If your value and dignity comes from your pay-packet, bank balance, the house you live in, the car you drive, the degrees beside your name and the position you hold in your job and at the same time you claim to follow Christ, then the call is to you.

So the question is, ‘Who do you serve, my friend?’ Lord Jesus made it very clear that, “You cannot serve God and Mammon.”

If those who have rejected God’s general revelation and have never heard the gospel, are ‘without excuse’ according to Apostle Paul, how much more those of us who have read and learnt about the Word incarnate and have God’s written Word in our hands, shall we be held responsible? ‘To whomsoever much is given of him shall be much required’ the Lord said.

Judge for yourselves my friends, if what I am saying makes sense or not. Unfortunately we have learnt wrong habits in reading the Bible, especially the Old Testament. First it must be read as God’s word to a people and not to individuals. Even where individuals are addressed it is in the context of the corporate. Second, much of Old Testament must be read in the context of the Ten Commandments and especially in the context of understanding God as One. Seek the face of the Lord and search the scriptures regarding what I am saying and judge for yourselves, if I am crying wolf!

In closing, I must add what the word of God teaches regarding violation of the first commandment and by implication the terms of discipleship to Christ. Moses clearly taught the people of Israel, that any violation or disobedience to His commands brings down upon them the curses spoken in Deuteronomy 29. Read especially the verses from 9-28. And in Deuteronomy 13, Moses taught what must be done to anyone who misleads God’s people from following the Lord whole heartedly. When I look at the condition of the church today worldwide, I wonder if what’s spoken in Deuteronomy 29 has come true among us. In Hebrews 3, Paul picks up on the thought and tells us that many Israelites did not enter the promised land because of unbelief and disobedience.

I believe, we have mislead many God’s people by teaching them to pursue worldly careers and middle-class lifestyles. We have not only egged people on to do it, we prayed for them and gave them promises from scripture to encourage them to do it. It needs to be mentioned here that all the promises in the Old Testament which most Christians quote and claim for their lives were given to the people of Israel corporately and not for individuals to pursue their own dreams and desires in life. These promises are certainly not meant for our present career-driven, materialistic and middle-class lifestyles. The promises can be certainly claimed if we align our lives with the corporate goals and purposes of God for the Church. Even promises given individually to people in Old Testament were in the context of corporate life and for the fulfilling of corporate objectives. Those promises were never given to encourage people to pursue lifestyles which are totally against what is taught and demonstrated by Christ and His apostles. This guilt of misleading people, lies at the doors of parents and elders in families, pastors, teachers and leaders. Deuteronomy 13 applies to all such, if they do not repent. And Deuteronomy 29: 9-28 applies to all who have pursued the world and at the same time tried to follow Christ.

The first commandment, “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me.” and the call to follow Christ are categorical and unequivocal. These two are the plumb-lines that any Christian can use at any time to see if their lives are aligned with God’s word.

Therefore, the call to you today, “Choose you this day whom you will serve”. Will you serve the gods of the surrounding people around you or the LORD JESUS CHRIST?

And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord. “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” Joshua 24: 26, 27.