In 2 Corinthians 9:6, Apostle Paul talks about the subject of giving. He says that if we are miserly in our giving, we will reap proportionately too. If you sow just a little bit of seed, you will get only a small harvest. If you sow plenty of seed then you will get a big harvest. Many money-loving preachers (especially television evangelists) have used this verse to urge believers to give them money. Such preachers are hucksters who are out to deceive simple believers.
What did Jesus tell the rich young ruler who came to Him? He told him to give all his money away to the poor and to come and follow Him without his money!! Jesus did not say (as most of today’s would), “Sell what you have and give me the money, because we have many needs in our ministry. I have to support 12 disciples and their families.” Jesus wanted the man and not His money. But where can we find servants of the Lord today, who will tell a rich person, “We are not one bit interested in your money. We only want to you to grow spiritually. So give your money to whomever you like and come and hear the Word of God in our church”? We however, say exactly that to the visitors who come to our church – constantly.
2 Corinthians 3:18 is the one verse that best describes the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the entire New Testament. When the Holy Spirit becomes Lord in our lives, He brings liberty. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (verse 17). He frees us primarily from the power of sin, but also from the love of money, from the traditions of our fathers and elders that are contrary to the Word, from the opinions of people, etc. This is a great freedom indeed. Then we become free to serve God and not man.
In 2 Cor. 3:18, we are told that the Holy Spirit shows us the glory of Jesus in the Scriptures (The mirror is the Word of God – James 1:23-25). Some people read the Bible only to get sermons and check doctrines. But the Holy Spirit primarily wants to shows us the glory of Jesus in the Bible. As we see that glory, the Holy Spirit also changes us into that likeness. That likeness includes likeness to Christ in the way He ministered as well. We will begin to minister like Him. The Spirit will show us how Jesus made sacrifices in order to serve His Father – and He will make us make sacrifices also to serve the Lord. Our life and our ministry will change radically if we allow the Holy Spirit to transform us.
“I came down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him Who sent Me” (John.6:38). Jesus tells us here in His own words what He came on earth to do. And in this one sentence we have a description of how Jesus lived every single day of His entire life on earth. The thirty years of Jesus’ life in Nazareth are referred to as hidden years. But here Jesus reveals what He did during every day of those 30 years: He denied His own will and He did His Father’s will. When Jesus was with the Father in heaven from eternity past, He never had to deny His own will, for His own will was the same as His Father’s. But when He came to earth in our flesh, that flesh had a self-will that was diametrically opposed to the Father’s will at every single point. The only way in which Jesus could do His Father’s will then was by denying His own self-will all the time. This was the cross that Jesus bore throughout His earthly life – the crucifixion of His own will – and which He now asks us to bear every day, if we are to follow Him. It was the consistent denial of His own will that made Jesus a spiritual Man. And it is the denial of our self-will that will make us spiritual too.
In Revelation 3 we read that the church in Philadelphia was a faithful church. The elder was faithful, and so the church was faithful. The Lord told them, I have put before you an open door which nobody can shut” (Rev. 3:8).
When the Lord opens a door for us nobody can shut it. He says, “I have the keys. I open and no man can shut” (Rev. 3:7). We don’t have to go banging away at any door. Our Lord opens the right ones for us, without our even touching them. They are like the automatic doors that we have seen in some airports that open as soon as you come near them. Are you looking for a door of ministry for yourself? Are you trying to open such a door for yourself or looking to some influential man to open that door for you? Are you coveting the ministry that someone else has? That is evil.
In Hebrews 4:12, we read. “The word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” God’s word penetrates like a sword into our hearts and reveals to us our thoughts and our intentions. In the new covenant (which Hebrews emphasises), it is “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” that are of utmost importance, whereas under the old covenant evil thoughts and intentions were not considered serious, because the Israelites did not have the Holy Spirit dwelling within them. The Law could not expose or punish man for having evil thoughts and intentions. As long as man did everything externally, the Law would commend him. But not so, in the new covenant. When man was under the Law, the word of God only tested him on the outside, like a doctor examining a patient superficially. But in the new covenant the word of God penetrates inside the heart, like a scan or an X-ray. God is now more interested in our thoughts, attitudes, motives and intentions. At times, when everything looks good on the outside, there could be great evil inside, just like a lot of people who look healthy on the outside can have serious diseases like cancer on the inside.
So if you read God’s word today and you are convicted only of external sins in your life; that would indicate that you did not hear all that God wanted to say to you. So always test yourself with this question: “Did God’s word reveal the thoughts and intentions of my heart to me?” Notice that the emphasis here is on the heart and not the head. In all anointed preaching of God’s word, the Word will go through your mind and enter your heart and reveal to you your innermost thoughts and intentions.
There are four things that I would like to mention concerning Spirit-filled service, from the words of the Apostle Paul.
A love-slave: First of all, Spirit-filled service is the service of a love-slave. In Acts 27:23, Paul says, “…the God whose I am and whom I serve”. He was a love-slave of his God. He retained no right to his own life. He had given everything to his Master. And so, when a person gives his entire life to God, he is not doing God a great favour. No! He is only returning to God what he had stolen from Him. If I were to steal a man’s money and later, convicted of my sin, were to return it to him, I would certainly not be doing that man a favour. I would go to him as a repentant thief. And that is the only proper attitude in which we can approach God when we come to give our lives to Him. God has purchased us. When we recognize that, we arrive at the only proper basis for consecration. Paul was a love-slave of the Lord. Like the Hebrew slave, who could go free in the seventh year of his service, but chose to continue in that service because he loved his master (Exod. 21:1-6), Paul served his Lord. He was not a hired servant who worked for wages, but one who served without any rights of his own. God is looking for those who are so yielded to Him, that they will look to Him always to see what He wants them to do – and not busy doing what they feel they should do for God. A slave does not go around doing whatever he feels like. No. The slave asks his master, “Master, what do you want me to do?” And he does what he is told. The Bible says, “The most important thing about a servant is that he does just what his master tells him to” (1 Cor. 4:2-LB).
The First Test : When Abraham was 75 years old, God had called him to leave his hometown and his relatives in Ur of the Chaldeans and to step out in faith in God, into the unknown. That was the first test that he passed. It is not easy to make a break with father, mother, brothers and sisters etc., but until that umbilical cord that ties us to them is broken we can never be disciples of Jesus! Jesus said, ” 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. ” (Luke14:26). Abraham obeyed God at once. I have wondered what would have happened if Abraham had turned down God’s call. God would certainly not have forced him. God would have found someone else; and we would never have heard of Abraham again. That someone else who responded to God would have become the father of faith and the ancestor of the Messiah! How much Abraham would have missed if he had failed in that first test! Little did he realise when he stepped out of Ur, turning his back on the pleadings of his relatives, what a glorious future God had planned for him. God still calls people, as He called Abraham. Little do those who are being called realise what great issues hang in the balance when they have heard the call of God. Church history, throughout these 20 centuries, is filled with the amazing stories of men and women who responded to God’s call immediately, joyfully and wholeheartedly like Abraham and who fulfilled God’s purposes.
In Exodus 25:8, we see for the first time, God revealing His will that He wants to dwell with man. God says there “Let them construct a sanctuary that I may dwell among them.” That was referring to the tabernacle upon which the fire of God rested – the glory of God that marked those Israelites out as different from all the other people in the world. The most important thing about that sanctuary was the glory of God that rested upon it – and this indicated His presence among His people. The most important thing we must do is to make our home a sanctuary for God – not a place where we seek to please each other, although we should seek to please each other; not even a place to bless the other people, although our home should bless other people; but primarily a place where God can manifest His presence and where Jesus feels at home. God says “Let them make a place for Me to live”. A Christian home must be a place where Jesus feels completely at home. That means that He is happy about everything He sees there. He is happy about the books we read, the magazines we get, the conversations between husband and wife, the things we talk about, the programs we watch on TV and everything else. The most wonderful life we can ever live is one where Jesus is the centre of our life, and where everything in our home is determined by whether it makes Jesus happy or not – the way we spend our time, the way we spend our money, and the way we do everything else. If we live like that, then when we come to the end of our life, or if Christ returns before that, and we stand before Him, He will say, “Well done”. Whether our home is a palace or a hut – the outward appearance is secondary. It’s our heart that God sees. So make sure that our heart is a sanctuary – a holy place – for God to dwell in.
“I searched for ONE MAN among them who should build up the wall and stand before Me….. but I did not find even one man” (Ezek. 22:30). In the history of the world, of Israel and of the church, we see a number of examples of how God has very often been dependent on just ONE man in a particular situation to accomplish His purposes. But one man with God is always a majority.
Noah: When the whole world was filled with wickedness and rebellion against God, in Noah’s time, although there were eight God-fearing people on the earth, yet the fulfillment of God’s purposes depended entirely on the faithfulness of just one man, Noah. Noah was the only man who found favour in God’s eyes at that time (Gen.6:8). If that one man had been unfaithful to God, the entire human race would have been wiped out, and none of us would have been alive today!! We can certainly thank God that Noah remained faithful. Jesus said that the last days would be like the days of Noah. The sexual perversion and violence of the days of Noah would characterise the last days too. This is the time that we are living in today. And so, uncompromising men like Noah are what God needs even today.
The word of God speaks of “salvation” in three tenses – past (Eph. 2:8), present (Phil. 2:12) and future (Rom. 13:11) – or in other words, of justification, sanctification and glorification. Salvation has a foundation and a superstructure. The foundation is forgiveness of sins and justification.
Justification is more than the forgiveness of our sins. It also means that we have been declared righteous in God’s eyes, on the basis of Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension. This is not on the basis of our works (Eph. 2:8,9), for even our righteous deeds are like filthy rags in God’s sight (Isa. 64:6). We are clothed with the righteousness of Christ (Gal. 3:27). Repentance and faith are the conditions for being forgiven and justified (Acts 20:21).