Right shape

asters-469797_640Exodus 39:3: And they hammered out gold leaf, and he cut it into threads to work into the blue and purple and the scarlet yarns, and into the fine twined linen, in skilled design.

You need to be cut into the right shape, because life is about you fitting into the plans of God, and not about God fitting into yours.

The bible says that known to God are his works from eternity past (Acts 15:18). Since his knowledge is comprehensive and our knowledge is limited, we need to be submitted to the cutting process to be in the right shape and form to be used in the hands of God. We need him to get to the right place and the right time for our destiny and purpose. We do not get to pick our ways or make our choice, he makes our choices for us. The bible says: the Lord will choose our inheritance for us, the excellency of Jacob whom he loves (Psalm 47:4).

God send Jeremiah to the house of a potter to explain something about what he wants his relationship with the nation of Israel to be. He said he is the potter and determines the shape the clay should take (Jeremiah 18:1-6).

If the shape coming out of the pottery process was not good enough, the potter can remake it, breaking what he had made first. It is all at his discretion. The clay cannot have a mind of its own and still be clay, the only mind in the interaction between the potter and the clay is the potter’s.

Jesus said that his father is the husbandman and his is the vine, while we are the branches. He added that that the branch which bears fruit in him (John 15:1-8), is pruned so as to bear more fruit. The process of pruning is removing parts of the branch that are not contributing to the production just feeding on the vine. Therefore the branch is cut into a better shape for enhanced productivity.

When God called Gideon to be the deliverer in Israel, and the number of people who responded to the call to war by Gideon was about 30000 (Judges 7:1-9). God decided that he should cut the number into a smaller shape. He believed that with such large number, when the victory comes, the people will ascribe the glory to themselves, and not to God, which will make them puffed up and at the end of it, he will have to punished, for not ascribing glory to him. Jonathan said that it is nothing for God to save with many or with a small number (1Samuel 14:6).

Discipleship is about coming into the right shape. When some people believed in Jesus, they though that that was enough, but Jesus told them that was just the beginning. He said if they continue in his word, they will be his disciples indeed and they will know the truth which will manifest in their lives as freedom from sin (John 8:3-32). It was sin that needs to be cut from their lives so that they can be in the right holiness shape. There are excesses that needs to be cut from us.

The summary of John the Baptist as a forerunner, was that he was supposed to get the people of God to the right shape to receive Jesus (Isaiah 40:1-5).

He was the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah which goes thus: a voice crying in the wilderness make strength the way of the lord, every valley shall exalted and crooked path made smooth, every mountain shall come down, and the glory of the Lord, manifest in Jesus (as many years later was made plain) shall be released. All are about the path shaped appropriately for God’s glory to be made manifest, it is about making a people prepared for the Lord (Luke 1:14-17).

Being in the right shape is not just about what to be removed by also what to add. Before Jesus released his disciples to carry the message of his resurrection to their world, he said they needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

Peter gave a list of some things that should be added to the Christians so that we might be in the right shape (2Peter 1:5-11). He said certain things should added to faith, being the foundation. Jude wrote that we should contend for the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3). Because once the essence of faith is compromised there is nothing else, no other foundation that can be laid expect that which is laid which is Jesus, i.e. faith in Jesus. Without that foundation there is no shape the building will take.

Below are some of the things Peter said needed to be added to the saving faith.

Virtue

There is no running away from the need to be of excellence character. When Jesus said that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), it means manifesting virtues of godly character. Faith without works, James wrote, is dead (James 2:26).

Knowledge

There is nothing advantageous about being ignorant. Spiritual growth is partly measured in knowledge and grace (2Peter 3:18). And there must be an hunger and thirst for truth in you before you are filled, because Christ would not care to cast his knowledge pearls before swine, those who have no interest in or value for it (Matthew 7:6).

Jesus, aghast, asked Nicodemus during a discussion with him: are you the teacher of Israel and you do not know this things (John 3:10)? So knowledge must once again be elevated in the church. Truth is meant to empower. The bible says that those who know their God will be strong and do exploits (Daniel 11:32). But to learn we need to put on humility.

Self-control

This is about temperance, being able to curb the appetite, what goes into our mouth in the food we eat and what comes out of it in the words we speak. It also has to do with the emotion. The man that cannot control his emotion still has a long way to go.

Steadfastness

This has to do with being tenacious. The ability to exhibit faithfulness in the most difficult of circumstances. To be steadfast you need vision. Moses followed God because as the writer of the book of Hebrews says: he endured as seeing the invisible (Hebrews 11:27).

Godliness

This is about holiness. It is not about externals, but which goes on the inside the head, in the thought and intent of the heart (Hebrews 4:16). In the secrets in the heart, in the words spoken in privacy.

David prayed: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you oh God (Psalm 19:14). He does not just want to be seen as godly by those who are outside, but he wants to be holy in the privacy of his thoughts. Paul enjoins us to offer our bodies, our members to God as instruments of righteousness, glorifying God.

Love

Love is the capstone of everything that should be added. Paul wrote that three things are eternal, love, hope and faith and the greatest is love (1Corinthians 13:13). Jesus expressed his love by his sacrifice. He said no greater love can one have than laying down his life for his brothers (John 15:13). And when love is added, every other thing can take the right shape because God is love (1John 4:8).

Between the internal and the external  

lowers-191777_640Exodus 32:16: The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved on the tablets.

At first, what God gave to Moses first as tablets of the Ten Commandments were purely the work of God. But the second one (after Moses broke the initial one when he saw the Israelites enmeshed in idolatry [Exodus 32-34]) was partly man and partly God. Moses cut the tablet himself and God wrote the words on it.

That corresponds to the two locations in the temple, which is the Holy of holies (the most holy place) (exclusively for God) and the holy place (thou sacred, regularly witness human activities), corresponding with man’s spirit and soul respectively.

In the soul of man, there is need for the active cooperation between man and God, but the spirit is all about God. It is born of God, but the soul needs constant renewal (Romans 12:2). The spirit is perfect while the soul needs to be worked on.

When John said that we have receive an unction from the Holy One (Jesus [Mark 1:24]), and we know all things, having no need for anyone to teach us, he was referring to our spirit (1John 2:20). Jesus said that he that is born of the flesh is flesh and he that is born of the spirit is spirit (John 3:1-8). The flesh there is the physical/soulish realm, while the spirit is the representation of heaven in us.

Also when Paul said that the kingdom of God is not in food and drink but it is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), he was contrasting our soul with spirit. While for the sustenance of the soul in interaction with the world around, we need food as fuel and energy. Remember that when Isaac wanted to bless his first son Esau he told him to prepare for him delicious food which he eats, so that his soul will bless him before he dies (Genesis 27:4).

Natural food have something to do with the soul, while the spirit does not need such things, it is about connection with God, and made in the form of God who is Spirit and does not need food.

That is why fasting is advocated. When we suspend feeding the soul for a while, it allows the spirit to establish dominion in the inner space of man, so that we can judge the will of God (who is Spirit) more accurately.

With fasting, the soul leaves its own desires/needs to latch on to the desires of the Spirit as we are led from the inside out not the outside in.

Jesus said that when he leaves the disciples they would fast (Luke 5:33-35).

Why?

So that they can have access to the presence of Jesus in a spiritual sense after he left them physically. Then they stopped experiencing him primarily in their souls, and in fasting to seek him with their spirit. Paul said he has stopped perceiving Jesus according to the flesh but according to the spirit. And he said he fasts often (2Corinthians 11:27).

While Jesus was in the flesh the disciples could perceive him with their physical senses, but now there is need to perceive him with their spiritual senses, therefore fasting is to enhance your spiritual senses to engage with Jesus, who is now a life-giving Spirit (1Corinthians 14:45). With fasting our awareness of God is heightened, since we put our body (which is associated with the soul) under, so that we can soar in the spirit.

We will now examine some words of Jesus, as he expresses the difference between the physical life and the spiritual life.

  1. Jesus said: man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (Luke 4:4).

This clearly shows the difference between the physical and the spiritual and in this life, not knowing the difference could get us into trouble. Paul recognised the difference, as mentioned earlier, saying: I put my body under control so that after preaching to others I will not be a castaway (1Corinthians 9:27).

He was not going to assume that whatever his body says is the correct thing, but will check it with the word. The word proceeds from the mouth of God, and is beyond what is spoken. God’s word is his life (John 1:1-5), his energy, coming into us, for us to live by it in a spiritual sense, as the seed contains life, and when planted it blossomed into new plant. The plant lives by the life given to it by the seed.

This is in line with that Peter wrote that we are born again of the incorruptible seed word of God (1Peter 1:23). That is the power word; and a seed has the potential to generate a forest.

  1. Jesus said: the kingdom is within you

The Holy of Holies is within us. And there is a difference between the outer man and the inner man. Paul again said that though the outward man perished, but the inward man is being renewed daily (2Corinthians 4:16).

Jesus said that we should pray to God: your kingdom come. That is equally about heaven coming to the earth as it is about what is within us in our calling and destiny to manifest for all to see. Paul said that the creation is waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God- you and me (Romans 8:19). There are things locked up in your spirit (1Corinthians 2:9-16), purposes we are meant to fulfil. That is the kingdom within.

  1. Jesus said: do not be afraid of those who are kill the body but fear the one who can destroy body and soul in hell.

Everyone, everything else may reach your soul, or your body but not your spirit. Jesus said he keeps anyone that God gives to him and no one can take them away. Importantly, life is not to be lived with an overemphasis on the external, what people have to say, and ignoring the internal, what God has to say. It is wrong to overemphasis the present disregarding the future. Esau did this and the bible says he is a fornicator, all about the body (Hebrews 12:16).

God said about himself: I look at the heart not at the appearance (1Samuel 16:7). We should therefore make a lot of effort on our inside, i.e. set your eyes on things of heaven not on things on earth (Colossians 3:1-3).

They saw God

road-348544_640Exodus 24:11: And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.

To see God is what it means to be enlightenment. The only path of self-discovery is God discovery, because being in pursuit of God causes us to realise our full potential.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve not only related to God but saw him (Genesis 3). God spoke to Adam about his place, his role in the pristine Garden. They were to maintain an order in creation, and to the limit that they saw God, that order will be maintained. They were meant to be representatives of God, and to the limit that they are in alignment with him, they bear his image and get to rule on earth.

The disciples saw God and did not know it when Jesus walked the earth (John 14:8-11). At the end of that time, Philips told Jesus: show us the father, and that is enough for us.

Jesus was sad, and said: “you have been with me all these while and you still ask to see the father!? Do you not know that if you see me you have seen the father?”

Jesus walked on the earth as God in the flesh (John 1:14, 17). But that thought is too lofty for mere man to consider, because that (the incarnation) was a creative act without precedent on the earth.

Because of the uniqueness of his birth, Jesus qualified to be a high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Having no father or mother, no beginning of days or end of life, he stands as a priest forever, in an unending mandate (Hebrews 7). That is why he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him.

John did not mince words when introducing Jesus, declaring that he is God the word (John 1:1-5), who was in the beginning with God through whom everything was created.

But for the purpose of making salvation available or everyman, he took on the form of flesh, God the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, talking on our form so that in salvation we can take on his form; condescending to us so that we can ascend to him; manifesting as us so that we can manifest as him; changed into us so that we can change into him.

By the same spiritual portal through which he was delivered to the earth as Son of Man, we were delivered to heaven as Sons of God. He became poor so that we might become rich (2Corinthians 8:9), he became limited so that we can become unlimited, he came to the earth not only so that we can see God, but so that we can manifest his essence to others. Principalities and powers, angels get to see God in us, they gain a new perspective of God. It is written: the church displays to the principalities and powers the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). They get to see different lights of God through us. They get lectured about God through us.

He created man and put him in the Garden of Eden so that he can bear the image of God, manifest his essence. The ultimate expression of the work of salvation is for people to see Jesus in us, as we are changed into who he is (Ephesians 4).

Jesus lived his life seeing God. That was the key to his success because seeing God is linked to getting direction from him (John 5:19). When Moses saw God in the burning bush it was time for him to be the deliverer he was born to be (Exodus 3). When Jesus saw the Holy Spirit descending on him after he was baptised by immersion by John, it was the beginning of a new day for him (Luke 3:21-23).

Paul saw Jesus in a revelation (Acts 9), while he was on the way to Damascus. Before then he pursued a different vision for his life. He thought he was doing the right thing, but when he saw a bright light and heard the voice of Jesus, he submitted to the Lordship of Jesus, realising the errors of his ways. His direction changed.

Seeing God causes us to go in the right direction. We are told to summit ourselves under the mighty hand of God, and in due season he will lift us up (1Peter 5:6). Going up is the right direction. Submitting to him is about obedience. It is about being changed from glory to glory as we behold the Lord. It is about liberty in his presence, and it is about reflecting his light, conveying his power.

Habakkuk wanted to take time out and see God because he felt that the conclusion he came to about the situation around him needed to change. So he said: I will stand upon my watch to see what God will say to me (Habakkuk 2:1), and his life was changed after that. To see God therefore is to have a life-changing encounter with him.

When Job saw God he knew that his previous experiences of him was just by the hearing of the ears. We need to have such an evolving experience of God, in which we see him, more and more, drawing closer to him as he draws closer to us (James 4:8).

To see God is to experience him for who he is. And real change comes when we see God, being the ultimate aim of prayer. Prayer should not just be about getting things from him. When we see him, his image becomes more and more manifest in our lives.

To look at God means to have expectation of him. The bible says of some people, they looked unto him (God) and their face was enlightened and they were not put to shame (Psalm 34:5). Blind Bartimaeus though without physical eyes saw spiritually (Mark 10:46-52). He saw Jesus as the solution to his blindness and shouted at the top of his voice: Jesus son of David have mercy on me.

It was obvious that He saw Jesus with the eyes of faith because when he met Jesus and he asked him: what do you want, and he said to be able to see, Jesus said: let it be to you according to your faith.

The woman with the issue of blood also saw Jesus with the eyes of faith (Luke 8:43-48). She said in her heart long before he met Jesus that she will be healed when she touches the helm of his garment, and that was what happened. She touched Jesus, having seen him in her heart as healer and she was healed. Jesus equally told her: your faith has made you whole.

Baptisms

globe-140051_6401Peter 3:21: And also, corresponding to this, baptism now saves you, not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

The baptism which saves us, as explicitly declared in this verse, is not about immersion in physical water, but identification with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus in a spiritual sense.

It has to be spiritual because you were not even personally there when Jesus died, and the people to whom Peter wrote the words were not even there physically when he died. (They were there spiritually because of the eternal consequence of his death.) They were not even aware of it when it happened but through the preaching of the gospel, that was made explicit to them.

It is spiritual because God’s problem was not that man was unclean on the outside and needed to physical water to become clean, rather it is spiritual, heart uncleanliness because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. As we read: God looks at the heart, not the outward appearance (1Samuel 16:7).

The spiritual baptism we go through in Jesus is for us to become spiritually alive having been spiritually dead. So perish the thought that through some immersion in water you will be saved.

Remember that Peter, who wrote the focus verse, was in the audience, when Jesus said that if anyone believed and is baptised shall be saved (Mark 16:16) and he that is born of water and (even) the Spirit shall see the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Therefore, for Peter, based on the focus verse, the issue of water baptism needs to be seen as both a spiritual and physical event, and that should be the template through which we should view baptism.

That is not to remove from the importance of water baptism, immersion in a physical body of water, but it is a severely limited view to assume that baptism is all about what is physical. The physical one is merely a depiction of the spiritual.

Without a grasp of the spiritual baptism, the physical one is without meaning. It cannot stand alone and it does not mean anything on its own. It is physical and at best it can only make you cleaner on the outside. It is therefore nothing more than wetness of the body without a new heart/life already within when it happens. I.e. the baptism is in the name of the father, Son and the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19) is invoked on the individual in recognition of what has happened on the inside.

A strong example is the experience of the house of Cornelius, who were baptised in the Holy Spirit as they heard the words of Peter (Acts 10).

Peter was aghast.

There he was still thinking that the gentiles might not be worthy of salvation, and he just heard them speaking in tongues. That must have shocked him out of his socks. And his reaction was that these people needed to be baptised in immersion.

It is clear that these people are already saved, as the manifestation of the Holy Spirit in their lives showed. Before the immersion in water they were already saved, and the water baptism is the public affirmation, incorporation into the church which showed that they truly were.

So though he prioritised water baptism as a practice in the church, the focus verse showed that Peter did not think that guaranteed people as saved, and that event in the house of Cornelius might have been a paradigm shift for him on the ways of God. It was similar to when Jesus said it is not what goes into the mouth that defile but what comes out of the heart in corrupted life.

Those who will be baptised in immersion should have already been saved i.e. experience the spiritual baptism of the identification with Jesus in his death burial and resurrection. This obviously exempts infants.

The writer of the book of Hebrews spoke of the doctrine of baptisms (Hebrews 6:1-2). What is stated above is one kind of baptism, that the spiritual baptism into the body of Christ should precede the physical. The former is the main priority, though the latter is also commanded and teaches great spiritual lessons about our identification with Christ as espoused in the first verses of Romans chapter six.

The third is called baptism in the Holy Spirit, also called “receiving the Holy Spirit.”

In the first baptism talked about by Peter in the focus verse, which is baptism into Christ, the Holy Spirit receives us into Christ as members of his body, as the water of regeneration. In the second baptism (which was third for the house of Cornelius and I also), it is immersion in water.

In the third, we receive the Holy Spirit, allowing him to control us and the control starts with new supernaturally-given tongues, since the ultimate control is the control of the tongue (James 3:1-13).

In the first he (Holy Spirit) receives us and we are born again, in the second the church receives us and we are water baptised, in the third we receive the Holy Spirit, yielding control to him, and he established his command and control centre for his work on the earth in us, through the facilitation and expression of his supernatural gifts in us.

In the bible Jesus associated the Holy Spirit with water (John 7:37-29). And Jesus said we shall be endowed with power after the Holy Spirit comes upon us (Acts 1:8). When he comes upon us (as we receive him) we are immersed in him.

When Jesus was baptised by water another kind of baptism took place, which is the Holy Spirit coming upon him (Luke 3:21-22). Though he was conceived by the Spirit just as we were at the point of salvation, he needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit to express the fullness of that on the earth. We also need to take the same path.

We are born of the Spirit at salvation, at which time we have the Spirit of Christ, for a new spiritual identity are new creatures (2Corinthians 5:17), but we need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit for our spiritual functioning, for us to flow out into the world with redemption power just as the people in the New Testament church. To reject the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues, is to reject your spiritual functioning.

Jesus said that out of our bellies shall flow rivers of living water (John 7:38-39). That is the Holy Spirit flowing out of the belly of the believers. But it is not those who believe in Jesus only but they which also believe in the Holy Spirit, whom he spoke about.

If really you believe in Jesus you will believe in the Holy Spirit whom he spoke about, you will believe everything he says about him, believing in the possibility of the operation of the his power through you.

He does not just come so that we might have goose pimples, but to transform use us as God battle axe and mighty weapon of war (Jeremiah 51:20), to break the hold of the devil on many people.

Paul did not presume to move into the next level of God of God for him without the release of the Holy Spirit in Acts 13, together with Barnabas, and their movement was marked with signs and wonders. As they moved they led the converts in the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

It is clear that after anyone believed in Jesus in their ministry the next thing they did was lay hands of them for the experience of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Paul’s first question for 12 disciples he met in Ephesus was: “did you receive the Holy Spirit when you belied, revealing that the two (believing and receiving the Holy Spirit) should be twin events, separate, and one coming after the other in quick succession (Acts 19:1-8).

Understand that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are the gifts of the love of God to us. In John 3:16 we read that God loved the world and to express that love, he gave us his begotten son as sacrifice. So everything in the word is offered the son for salvation, but only those who have received the son now have the right to receive the Holy Spirit, which can be asked for. Jesus said we can ask our heavenly father for the Holy Spirit and he will give us (Luke 11:13).

Walking in the light

lanterns-111003_640John 8:12: Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, I am the Light of the world. The one following Me will in no way walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.

To recognise Jesus as light is our get out-of-jail-free card from darkness. The bible says that the world lies in the power of evil (1John 5:9), meaning it is under the power of darkness. But among the bound, you can be free, as Jesus gives you freedom (John 8:36).

When God introduced himself in the bible, it is as the giver of light (Genesis 1:1-3). The first words we heard from him was: Let there be light.

So if there is one thing that God revealed that he is associated with, it is to light, therefore the enemy has been associated with darkness.

God dwells in light unapproachable (1Timothy 6:16), and in the world to come, there will be no need for the light of the sun because the Lord himself will be light (Revelation 22:5).

Light vanquishes darkness. What should that do to your self-concept, to your confidence in Christ, as you view the enemy? It impresses it on you that the enemy is nothing, just as darkness is nothing before light. There is no other conclusion you can come to. Jesus said: I saw Satan fall like lightning (Luke 10:18). Jesus definitely did not paint the picture of an all powerful devil to the disciples, but one who was nothing. If Satan falls like lightning and you have been raised up to seat with Jesus, then you gain an elevated view of yourself.

When David confronted Goliath. What did he come with? Yes, he came with some stones, but what he came with really is the light to vanquish the darkness that Goliath stood for (1Samuel 17). At the end of the encounter, you found out that there was actually no encounter. There was no contest, there was no battle.

In the end of time, the bible says that the enemy, Satan will come and deceive the nation and they will mount a battle against the Lord, and he will anguish them in a moment (Revelation 20:7-10). There will be no context. They will only be overwhelmed.

Did you notice that Goliath had a big mouth? He was raging against Israel for 40 days and no one could have imagined that he will fall down so easily, after his show of self-confidence, after many days of acting like God.  But it took a teenager to shut him up permanently.

Goliath is the symbol of your fear. When all is said as done, your fears, that thing that looms large in your heart, is no more than darkness before the light, no more than Goliath before David, but you need to realise that you are David, that you are light (Matthew 5:14).

The bible says that the enemy roars like a lion looking for whom to devour, but we are to resist him steadfast in our faith (1Peter 5:8-9). When we approach Goliath we should do that as light, with an assured faith.

If we have not learnt to live in faith, then when faced with fearful things, we would only act as the army of Israel before Goliath. None of then turned on their faith gas to release fire to burn out the enemy, they were emptied of it.

But David had practiced turning his faith on. Slaughtering the bear and the lion in the hidden places, he came overdosed on faith and cannot tolerate the devil in Goliath, when he heard him taunting Israel.

Goliath was not directly threatening to David, and he was not being asked to do anything about the Goliath-threat. But when light shows up, it does not need permission to vanquish darkness, but does so by his mere presence.

Realise that you have been given power to overcome all the powers of the enemy (Luke 10:19). You do not just bear light, you are light. Our very presence and manifestation is as light, as deliverers. The bible says that deliverers will come forth from Zion and you are one of them (Obadiah 1:21).

But walking in the light is beyond just being a deliverer, it is also about walking in the deliverance that you have got through Jesus. It is walking, living in the light of the word of God. If the word says it then you can step into it, you walk in the reality of the presence of Jesus. You are not afraid of the enemy, you are actively expressing Christ in your life, walking in his holiness.

Walking in the light is also about following divine direction. The psalmist says to God: your word is lamp to my feet and light to my path (Psalm 119:105). A man living with full complement of divine guidance in every area of his life is walking in the light.

It is not just enough to obey the moral outlines of the written word of God, you need to also live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. That is the way to success, amazing success. You have to have incline your ears, so that you can hear him say to you: this is the way walk in it (Isaiah 2:5), the way of prosperity (Psalm 35:27).

God told Joshua: this book of the law shall not depart from your mouth but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you can make your way prosperous and have good success (Joshua 1:8).

From the foundation of moral light (2Timothy 2:19), there should the construction of all other aspects of your life with the light of the word of God, following his direction, following where the Holy Spirit leads (Romans 8:14), and making course correction as at when do.

Walking in the light is following Jesus.  That is what discipleship is all about, a life under the transforming influence of the word of Christ as we move from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:14-18).

We not only receive help from Christ but we become the help for others; we receive guidance and we give the same; we receive comfort and we give the same.

Paul said that the God of all comfort has comforted him in all things and with the comfort he had received, he comfort others (2Corinthians 1:3-7). With the light we have received we helped others to see the way, make the right choices, be the right persons, so the light spreads, and with your fire you light other people’s fire.

While light has to do with the faith, hope and love (1Corinthians 13:13), darkness has to do with fear, worry and corruption. And we are called to walk away from darkness and into light, experiencing it and leading others in the same direction.

Worry is counterfeit hope, fear is counterfeit faith while corruption is counterfeit love, generated not from the love of the father but from the love of the world. Fear is “faith” in what the devil can do, but when we have faith in God, we can please him, walk with him, walking in the light. Worry is counterfeit hope, but putting your hope in God, letting his words colour your expectation is all that matters.

Will of God: knowing, preparing for, and doing it

glasses-272401_640Luke 12:47: And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.

What you know determined how you live, but we do not always live by what we know, we might be pushed by peer pressure, by innate personality error, be subjected to the push of self will or the move of pride.

Adam is the example in knowing the will of God but walking away from it because of the pressure from her wife (Genesis 3). Saul walked away from the will of God because of pressure from his men (1Samuel 15).

A man writing in the book of proverbs said that he did not want God to give him too much or too little money so that he will not have to displease God by denying his name or steal respectively. As far as he was concerned, his financial status or lack of it would out pressure on him to do wrong, will push him away from walking in the will and word of God (Proverbs 30:7-9).

The servant in the focus verse only exists to do the will of his lord and so are we, anything to the contrary in us is definitely a thought against Christ and that is the reason for spiritual warfare.

Paul said that the weapon of our warfare is not carnal but empowered, mighty through God to the pulling down strong and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, taking captive every thought to the obedience of Christ (2Corinthians 10:1-6). Anything that expresses opposition to the absolute supremacy of God, even at the thought level is meant to be brought down. Such a high thing was established in the mind of Eve, against the word the command of God for herself and her husband. It was not taken captive, so they were taken captive. They paid an heavy price.

The devil told her: don’t bother about the commandment of God, you can be like God creating any commandment for yourself create a commandment for yourself, and expressing independence from God is real wisdom.

But God says that the wisdom of men is start foolishness to God (1Corinthians 3:19). When man left the way of God and followed his own ways, the end was destruction. The bible says that there is a way that seems to man but the end is destruction (Proverbs 14:12).

But there are certain issues raised on the focus verse that will now be examined. We need to know what the will of God is; but beyond that we need to prepare to do it and also (wait for it!) do it. The problem sometimes is not lack of knowledge but lack of preparation and action as the focus verse highlighted.

Preparation

The will of God is so serious, it needs to be prepared for.

  1. Submission preparation

Jesus prepared himself to do the will of God, and part of what he did was go to John the Baptist for the baptism that will launch him to his ministry (Matthew 3:1-6, 13-17, 4:1-11, Mark 1:1-15, Luke 3:21-22).

John was a known prophet while Jesus was totally unknown, but John’s purpose was to prepare the way for Jesus. Jesus needed the preparatory work of John climaxed in his own baptism by him. When John wanted to oppose Jesus when he came to be baptised, Jesus said he needed to fulfil all righteousness. He needed to go through every preparatory necessities.

  1. Holy Spirit preparation

The heaven opened and the Holy Spirit came upon him as part of the preparation. Just as experiencing the ministry of John the Baptist, was preparation for Jesus, experiencing the ministry of the one who have gone before him. He also needed to be prepared by being empowered by the Holy Spirit.

  1. Identity preparation

A voice came from heaven identifying him as the Son of God, so also we need a reaffirming of our peculiar spiritual identity under God, as part of our own preparation. Our identity comes before our activity. It gives meaning to it, and helps us to be faithful in service, because it means we are being only true to ourselves, not just carrying out some tasks, and getting frustrated along the way. And just as Jesus submitted to the ministry of those who have gone before us so must we, ditto being baptised in the Holy Spirit, and the strengthening of our spiritual identity.

We see this repeated in the life of Paul. When Christ met him on the way to Damascus (Acts 9:1-31, 26:11-18), and he called Jesus Lord, God sent Ananias (an older, known Christian) to lay hands on him in Damascus, just as John laid hands on Jesus (one cannot be baptised without hands laid on him).

Paul had to submit to the ministry of Ananias, and at the same time he was baptised in the Holy Spirit, empowered before he was released to ministry in any form (Acts 1:8). And through Ananias God told Paul what his mission was, confirming what Christ had told him earlier, just as John confirmed to Jesus what he already knew about himself.

  1. Fasting preparation

Jesus submitted himself to that process of preparation. Thereafter he was led into the wilderness for forty final days of preparation. He did not eat forty days. It is interesting also that Paul did not eat or drink for three days before Ananias came to meet him.

  1.  Prayer preparation

Fasting in some form or the other is definitely part of preparing ourselves to do the will of God. And also prayer. Jesus was praying as he was coming from coming up from the water at Jordan when he was baptised. Also Paul, Jesus told Ananias, was in prayer after his supernatural encounter with Christ and before Ananias came by.

  1. Trial preparation

Jesus gained victory of Satan in the wilderness (he was tempted for forty day), where he was driven after the baptism of John. That shows that trials and test are part of the preparation for ministry. You see Paul going blind for three days even after meeting Christ. He had to be guided by hand to Damascus, contrary to what his go-getter self would have wanted.

  1. Victory preparation

Jesus gained victory over the devil in the wilderness, and he reaped the fruit of it by casting out devils right left and centre afterwards, in an expression of unquestioning dominion. His private victory over demonic operation, became part of his preparation for public ministry.

Paul also had to overcome his own spiritual blindness to qualify to give sight to others. Later he would affirm that it was the devil who blinds people so that the light of the gospel will not shine in our hearts (2Corinthians 4:4), himself inclusive.

The number seven preparation for ministry is victory over trial. The greater the trial, the greater the victory, which prepares for great effect in the field of doing the will of God.

If Jesus had not dealt with Satan, binding the strong man, he would not be able to pillage his goods, being his explanation when the Pharisee said he cast out devil but the prince of demons (Matthew 12:24-29).

Preparation is person specific

Preparation is beyond lip service, it is beyond observing someone else and trying to copy her. In many ways preparation is person specific. The preparation of Paul was different from the preparation of Peter, who had different tasks. The preparation of Jesus is different from that of John the Baptist because of their peculiar purposes.

John was in the wilderness for many years for his own spiritual development (Luke 1:80). While Jesus spent many years in the shop as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).

You may wonder: what purpose did that serve? Do you not know that Jesus had to spend some years walking to many villages and he needed to be physically prepared for such a gruelling itinerant regime?

After a time of ministry in a place, and he departed to a solitary place to pray, Peter came to inform him that many people were waiting for him, for another round of ministry (Mark 1).

But he said his mission was to go from place to place. John mission was to mostly in one area, for people to come to him, Jesus went to the people as a deliberate ministry policy. John subsisted on locust and honey living an austere life. Jesus did not live an austere life, his was the opposite, so much so that he was accused of being a glutton and a winebibber. He must have loved eating and he attended many social events and that gave him another reputation, howbeit negative one. He was called a friend of sinners (Matthew 11:16-19).

He came breaking the religious notions that the Pharisees entrenched in Israel. Jesus’s disciples did not even fast. There was a time some people asked, the disciples of John fast but your disciples do not fast. He said they do not need to, I am with them (Mark 2:18-19). They looked like a pretty laid back bunch, Jesus and his disciples. You cannot say that about John and his disciples.

The Pharisees fasted twice a week (Luke 18:11-12), and Jesus’ role on the earth was to break down their model of spirituality, and establish a new one which is about personally relationship, heart relationship, with God and not ritualistic observances.

Action

After preparation, there is action. Not only should the servant prepare but also do the will of the master, actually execute the task. Paul told Timothy: stir up the gift of God in you, put them to work, because God has not given you the spirit of fear (which hinders action), but the spirit of love, power and sound mind (which aid action) (2Timothy 1:6-8).

We cannot give the excuse of preparation for not making advancement for the kingdom.  We have to continually push forward, move forward. Paul called it redeeming the time because the days are evil, i.e. maximising opportunity for the greatest impact for the kingdom (Ephesians 5:16).

Paul said: woe me if I preach not the gospel (1Corinthians 9:16). Why such a fatal statement? It can only come from a man with an overarching sense of identification with Christ and his passion for the lost. Even while in prison, he used the opportunity of making a defence for himself, to push the gospel of Jesus, either covertly or overtly on others, so much so that one king in his audience at one time said: you almost made be a Christian (Acts 26:28). This was a man prepared, and all full of action in the direction of the will of God.

Make me

potters-wheel-58557_640Luke 15:19: I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.”’

You can be born a son, but you have to be made a servant. You are born again becoming a child of God in an instant but you need to be trained to be a servant.

In your spirit you are born again, but in your soul which is descriptive of your ongoing development as a human being, Paul says it needs to be renewed, it needs to go through changes, it needs to be remade (Romans 12:1-2). We need help to become better, over time, but we became born again in a moment.

Even Paul said that he still strived to be more for God than before (Romans 15:20). In spiritual service there is always something to stretch to.

Paul said at the end of his life that he has finished his course, he had served God fully (2Timothy 4:7). He was not serving God to seek approval (we have been approved in Jesus, with his righteousness) but to seek his agenda, to seek to do his will, being one with him.

He said woe is me if I preach not the gospel, adding that he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16). He commonly refers to himself as the servant of Jesus, i.e. a bond slave (Philippians 1:1). A slave which does not have a choice by choice.

In the overarching emphasis on grace in the church there seems to be no place for being a bond slave. The speakers seek to paint all other perspectives of truth as the wrong one and that theirs is the only right one.

The message of grace is good, but to be a servanthood you need some grit, and we need a grace that gives grit. We know it is God who works in us both to will and to do of his good pleasure but we still need to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).

Paul said that he had been given the abundant of grace through Jesus, but he added that he laboured more than others (1Corinthians 15:10), but was quick to say that it was not him but the grace of God which was with him.

Whatever you think, there is some work involved in grace. What you take all the work out of grace, then it is empty, and servanthood is about work, putting your body under to deliver on divine objectives (1Corinthians 9:27). The grace preachers act as if your will is important, only the right confession, but the right confession without the right action (steps) is dead, just as the faith without works is dead.

What then will be the basis of reward in heaven, if not what we have done in the flesh? We do not get rewarded for being born again, we are born again based on the blood of Jesus, but we get rewarded for being good and faithful servants (Matthew 25:21), and that has to do with some work. Paul said that he puts his body under so that after he has done the will of God he will not be a castaway, and no one preached grace more than him.

You are still responsible for the decision you make, hence the need to yield to the Holy Spirit. It is written: as many as are led by the Holy Spirit they are the Son of God (Romans 8:14). The more you are led or that you yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the more you are manifesting as son of God.

There are three levels of divine sonship that we can exhibit as depicted in the story of Jesus. Jesus was born Son of God.

When the Angel Gabriel came to Mary saying to him that the child she will bear will be called the son of the highest (Luke 1:32). Even at the age of twelve (to avoid any confusion after for those who will want to claim that it was when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus at the time he was baptised in water by John that he became the son of God) he told his parents that I must go about my father’s business, meaning God (Luke 2:49).

That level of sonship is sonship as identity. It is the level of sonship in which you still needed to explain to people that you are a son just as Jesus explained to his parents that he was a son of God.

But later Jesus will say to the people that the very works of miracles he performed testify about who he is. He does not need too long explanation. When John the Baptist sent people to him, asking: are you the one or shall we look for another? He said, the miracles I do, says it all.

This second level of sonship is the servant sonship, which for example was exhibited when he was at the pool of Bethesda and healed only one man (John 5:1-12). He was acting on instruction, he said: what I do is what my father wants me to do (John 8:28, 12:49-50, 6:38). This is servanthood at his peak the sonship of obedience, sonship being about allowing yourself to be led, guided by the Holy Spirit and doing supernatural works.

The third level is manifested/declared sonship. The bible says that Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.

The first level of sonship is “who we are,” the second level: “what we do as servants of God,” while the third is what we are made into with a resurrected body in the order of the resurrected Christ at his second coming.

John wrote that we do not yet know what we would be like, but when Jesus appears in his second coming, we will become as he is (1John 3:1-2).

The first level of sonship corresponds to receiving Jesus, while the second has to do with receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit in power, just as it was with Jesus. We await our third level of sonship.

In the focus verse the young rebellious son was asking to be made a servant. Gone was his obnoxiousness, pride, his demands of his rights, he desire for freedom, now he wants to be under the roof of the father, under his influence, he wants to be under control.

He has tasted the fruit of his self-will, in sharing the meal of pigs and now he wants the will of the father (Luke 15:11-32). He knows that what he missed about the father was the love, provision, unconditional acceptance and favourable attention, contrary to his experience in the foreign land where the attention he got was because of his money.

Jesus walked on the earth as a servant of God as it was prophesied about him (Isaiah 53:11). He was bound to the will of the father. He said: I must do the work of him who sends me while it is day, the night comes when no man can work (John 9:1-5).

The servant has a work mentality, and a key part of the work is waiting upon the Lord. If he is the Lord then we are the servants. We do his bidding. But the true servant do not come up with their own assignments, they wait on the Lord and move as he bids them.

The children of Israel were in error for not doing the desire of God. When God wanted them to move to the Promised Land, they decided that was not a good idea and God said that they will die as wanderers there. But they changed their minds regretting their act of complaint and set out for the land, but they were slaughtered before the enemy and ran back (Numbers 14:26-45).

So it is not about if something is a good idea, but is it a God idea? It is not if it is a fantastic idea, is it a divine idea? It is not about what God has said, but what is He saying?

Jesus said that man shall not live by food alone by every word that proceeds for the mouth of God (Luke 4:1-4). What is the word proceeding from the mouth of God for you sustenance, your fulfilment, success, satisfaction this year, this month, this week, and today? We live based on the word of God, and we serve based on that.