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Inspiration from the Tribulations of Paul

Recently, the Lord has been showing me something from the tribulations of Paul (not me, the Apostle). Paul was beaten by soldiers, thrown into prison and he suffered a shipwreck – that is enough to put most believers on a serious guilt-trip and pity party! But Paul shrugged it off and called it “light affliction” (2 Cor. 4:17).

Paul said in 2 Cor. 5:14 that he was compelled by the love of Christ in what he did. That same love today compels us today. There is no need for us to engage our over-active imaginations to conjure-up clever ways to serve God and do something wonderful for Him. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” God already has a plan for our lives and He has already figured out the good works that He will work in us to perform. All we are called to do in this capacity is to simply yield ourselves to the inner promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Even when Agabus the prophet told him in Acts 21:11 that he would be captured if he went to Jerusalem – Paul still went, obeying the unction of the Holy Spirit within, even when Agabus had shown him what would happen. I don’t read anywhere in my Bible that Paul immediately pleaded with God to change the situation; he didn’t call down fire from heaven to smite his enemies; Paul did not ask God to “make the crooked paths straight” (Isaiah 45:2); neither did Paul “speak to the mountain” as Word of Faith says we should do according to Mark 11:23. The reason why many Christians use faith formulas to control circumstances is that they are afraid of getting hurt. Paul had reached a place whereby he was not concerned about himself; his trust was so strong in God that he chose to simply follow peace and leave the little details and the comfort levels to God.

I used to use faith declarations to “wrap myself in cotton wool” figuratively speaking. But my efforts were simply useless in trying to control God and change his plans for my life so that it led me in a straight and smooth path. But I have come to see that the pain and struggle attributed to the circumstances of life is not so much the circumstances themselves – but the fear, confusion and sense of powerlessness which they evoked in me as I resisted them and attempted to understand them so that I could control them.

So much emphasis has been placed on the use of faith to control a believer’s standard of living and prosperity levels. But nowhere do we see Paul trying to establish his wealth through faith and confession of scripture. Paul said that we were to not pursue money in 1 Timothy 6:9-10. In 1 Timothy 6:11 we are told what we ought to pursue: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. It is then in the following verse 12 that we are told to “fight the good fight of faith” – this fight of faith has a lot to do with the pursuit of all of those godly virtues that we see written in verse 11. In Hebrews 13:5 Paul says that anything other than contentedness was covetousness. Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11 that he had learned to be content with what he had.

11 Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little.

12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of contentment in every situation, whether it be a full stomach or hunger, plenty or want;

13 for I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me the strength and power.

Philippians 4:11-13 TLB

Paul did not freak-out when he was in prison, he did not try to figure out what hidden sins had caused this tragic event; neither did Paul kick himself for not reading the right books, using the right formulas and applying the right principles in his life. No, Paul simply obeyed the compulsion of faith and love in his heart, without knowing exactly what was round the corner. Paul reached a place with God whereby he did not question God’s love for Him and his right-standing by faith in Christ. Paul just allowed himself to be led by the Holy Spirit and just flowed with the peace that was in his heart.

Nowhere in the Bible do we read that Paul used faith declarations or scriptural confession to control circumstances and to preserve his safety during his travels. We can only glean from the Epistles that Paul’s primary focus was on who he was in Christ and what He had accomplished for mankind through His death, burial and resurrection. Paul did not try to get God to promise him specific things and to promise that no harm would come to him during his ministry. If we hold onto the notion that the stronger our faith is then the safer our journey will be – we will inevitably conclude that we don’t have enough faith or that we are not praying enough and so on. Paul did not pray in advance of his journey to the various churches that God would manifest specific spiritual gifts and miracles – he just went with the flow as the Holy Spirit led him without quote knowing what He would do and when He would do it.

The Answer to Life Is – Stop Thinking! – Part 2

Bertie Brits teaches that great faith as spoken of in the Bible is not the result of believing God “for something”. Word of Faith has created the illusion of “great faith” as being a competition between Christians as to who can “believe God” for the biggest, most expensive and most extravagant things – as a means of proving their faith, holiness and devotion to God. I have come to see that Word of Faith, rather than being a means of “building God’s kingdom”, has become a means whereby neurotic Christians seek to safeguard their lives and build a sense of security through the pursuit of material wealth and position.  In his book, “Mastering Your Emotions”, Pastor Colin Dye asserts that people seek to appease their wants through the pursuit of people, power and possessions. Great faith, Bertie Brits teaches, is simply being convinced of the finished work of the cross. It is Jesus who makes our faith great – not material abundance and the like.

Christendom has become divided in that some Christians believe that God wants them to be rich, whilst some believe that God wants us to experience lack and hardship – each goes to extremes to refute the other. It is not so much a matter of figuring out how rich God wants us to be – but simply being reassured of the goodness of God, His love and acceptance of us, and His power to deliver and restore. So you see it is a matter of thinking. We are not to expend time and effort trying to “believe God” for things or to prove our worth to God. No, we are to simply be convinced of His love for us and that His grace is sufficient for us. This assurance is true faith and it brings a great deal of peace. It is in this state of peace, love and lack of fear that the Holy Sprit is best able to lead us and guide us. When we are experiencing union with God through faith as the Bible promises us – we are not required to figure things out for ourselves, make plans and decisions, we are simply required to obey without thinking.

God has given us a free will so that we can have our own opinions. For instance, some people like rock music whilst others prefer jazz; opinions and preferences such as this are what make us unique and give us character. These opinions are fine until they become interwoven in the fabric of our own carnal wants. Thinking can become a means of judging others as we put labels on them and dictate how they should be, what they should believe and how they should behave.

We are all born with an innate self-preservation instinct: it is this, I believe, which is what the Bible calls the “carnal nature” or “lower nature”. This lower nature functions via information gained from the senses, which it uses to protect itself from harm and loss. The lower nature operates through fear, which is logical reasoning, thinking based on limited human perception and reasoning. This thinking simply gets in the way of God. Without this thinking – we would be fully surrendered to God.

Thinking, decision making, apart from God was the very thing that created separation from God in the first place when the very first sin was committed in the Garden of Eden. Some see freewill thinking as a gift, a blessing – I am inclined to believe that is actually more of a curse. Holy Spirit would be able to move in me freely if it were not for the mass of thoughts, opinions and judgements that I have amassed over the years.

The Answer to Life Is – Stop Thinking! – Part 1

“The Answer to Life Is – Stop Thinking!”

This statement was made right at the end of The Free Believers podcast entitled Involuntary Spirituality 5th December 2009. To really understand the context of this quote you would ideally need to listen to the whole of the podcast.

This quote really struck a chord in me because I have come to the conclusion that it is our thinking that gets in the way of God. I have been an anxiety sufferer for most of my life and I can personally vouch for the fact that it is unnecessary thinking which causes probably most of the suffering in life.

After pursuing Word of Faith teaching for ten years, courtesy of Kenneth E. Hagin, I have come to the conclusion that we cannot use faith as a means of telling God what to do: how and when He should bless us. Neither can we use faith to avoid challenging circumstances and difficult people. I cannot use faith declarations to build “great faith” so that I can make life go just the way I want. I think it is absurd now to think that I actually believed I knew what was right for my life, more than God did. I felt that I had to use faith declarations and prayer to “remind” God of what I wanted and felt was most important and beneficial for my life.

We superimpose our thoughts onto everything we experience in life. If something “bad” happens in our lives we tell the story of how God does not love us, or that we are being punished for our sins or whatever. When something “good” happens in our lives, we can tell the story of how it was our diligent praying, fasting and serving in the church which merited God’s favour and blessing. Without our thinking – “we” would be out of the picture; life’s circumstances would occur without us seeing the need to attribute a “good” or “bad” label to them; without the need to associate what happens in life to our behaviour and actions. There are consequences for our actions and no amount of "no condemnation in Christ" can negate that. If a person puts his hand in a fire they are going to get burned. But we cannot say that the sickness of a loved one was caused by our not praying enough.

The Bible says that we have already been “blessed with every spiritual blessing” (Eph. 1:3); been given “a spirit of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1.7); we have already been made partakers of the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4); and a myriad of other wonderful blessings that point towards a new nature and life in Christ.

The Apostle Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20). Verses such as this have been used as the very foundation of the teachings of people such as Norman Grubb who teach about our union with Christ: He lives His life through us. Surrender to Christ is vital for this exchange to take place. It is not so much our actions and behaviour that hinders this union – it is our own thinking.

Church and Charity

Words are powerful things. Just one word contains so much meaning for us. The meaning behind a word is often developed over a period of years. Words therefore convey different meaning to people. The word “Father” for some invokes thoughts of nurturing, kindness, protection, love, friendship, wisdom, etc. However, the word “father” for some people can invoke thoughts of anger, intimidation, cruelty, etc. In a similar manner, the word “church” holds different meanings for different people. For many people that word would conjure up thoughts such as repression, mediocrity, religion, ritual, routine, and charity.

Image is everything for some people, and for many organizations such as multi-national corporations, a good positive image is essential for their success. Why should the church therefore be any different? We often find that we are trying to attract people into the church with Bible tracts and acts of charity, but to be honest, most people aren’t really impressed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting down the charity aspect of the church. Charity has its place in Christianity - it’s scriptural.

But you see, as individual members of the Body of Christ we have all been chosen to reflect different aspects of the body. Charity does appeal to some people, for instance, a homeless person may be overwhelmed by the kindness of Christians who freely give of their time in order to provide them with cooked meals. This is the love of Christ made manifest in the body. But in this generation, it often takes more than acts of charity to reach the lost.

4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

Galatians 5:22-23

1 Corinthians 13:4 says that love is kind; kindness and goodness are also listed as fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22, so this explains the way in which love can express itself through charity. But as you can see, there is more to love than kindness and goodness.

If the church does not think that there is more to church than charity, roles and routines then they will never be able to fully embrace the supernatural and the transformed life. They will always be looking to see what they can do in respect to helping others, often in their own strength. If believers do not begin to exercise faith progressively in their lives, then their faith will remain stagnant. Church leaders will therefore regularly exhort their members to devote themselves to things that they can do in their own strength.

I think the biggest let down in my own church experience is the sheer lack of transformed lives; it seems to me that many believers simply interact with the church with the sense of security and goodness which they already had even before they committed their life to Christ. Without the capacity for restoration, healing, miracles and transformation – the church becomes a place whereby the more secure members see fit to prove their love for others and their devotion to God, in their own strength, through acts of benevolence affiliated to the church.  Then, pressure is applied in the form of guilt to the rest of the congregation who are still struggling with the issues of life and are simply too frustrated to join the others in their religious pursuits.

Questioning the Role of the Institutional Church – Part 2

The Church as a Christian Youth Club

The church that I go to at the moment reminds me of a Christian youth club; it makes me wonder how much they actually study the Word for themselves and how much they pray. But I hesitate in saying that this is wrong or bad because:

  • Firstly, it is just speculation on my part – perhaps they do fit in time to study the Word in their crammed social schedule?
  • Secondly, I am glad that they are saved and they are around other Christians – even if it does not look like what I think it should – it is, after all, a starting point.
  • Thirdly, who says that these people should study the Word as much as I do? I will admit that my anxiety, depression and frustration have driven me to go somewhat over-the-top in my Bible studies – learning all sorts of Greek words and pursuing all sorts of useless Christian fads.

What is the goal in our pursuit of Christ? Surely it is to be transformed into His image? In my church, the main goal is to get people to raise their hand at the altar call. This is a wonderful goal and I can’t argue with that. Secure Christians can certainly make that their goal as their focus shifts from their own pursuits and onto serving others. But personally, I don’t think I’m there yet as I still feel somewhat bogged down with my own issues. I have tried to serve on team but I was doing it for the wrong reasons, just to please God and other people, and therefore, it was a struggle and I have to give it up after several months.

I often think to myself, "When I'm less negative, then I'll..." I think to myself that when I'm happy and I've "got it all together" - then I'll serve in church and make great friendships in the church - but will I? Now that my focus has shifted away from the I.C. and more onto a personal relationship with Jesus - I'm more inclined to love those people in my immediate sphere of experience and just get on with everyday life, rather than seeing an a religious institution as the be-all-and-end-all of my Christian experience. Perhaps my earnest desire to "serve God" in the church is one of the various factors that still keeping me locked into negative thinking, guilt and frustration?

I suppose I feel somewhat envious of these people that they are happy, positive-minded and sociable, they are able to focus their attention on serving others; and they don’t seem to have the need to spend endless hours in prayer and Bible study in order to live a life of love of happiness.

A Case of Security versus Insecurity

I think it really comes down to how secure a person is when they give their life to Christ. If a person is insecure, they need to focus their efforts on establishing a foundation of security in Christ. This is the very area in which I feel I have been let down time and again. Rather than being given teaching that would bring me out of my anxiety and depression, I have found myself plied with motivational messages, demands for performance, guilt trips and unrealistic promises of success and prosperity. This preaching has been intended to make me a better Christian, but has completely failed to change me on the inside.

Already-Secure Christians

But what if a person is already secure from a mental perspective? I would say that they are more able to live from that established sense of security more than seeking to re-establish it. But this sense of security that positive minded people have is, more often than not, established by positive life experiences and the affirmation of other people. But where is a sense of security in Christ alone in this picture? This sense of security is established by what the Bible terms “the world” more than it is of faith: it is established by spoken words, experiences and achievements – those things which are gained through the physical senses.

You see, this is what I’m trying to explain here: many people who come to establish a sense of security in Christ, tend to suffer and struggle in life up to, and beyond, the point at which they give their life to Christ. It would seem that a sense of insecurity is a vital factor in drawing a person away from their own efforts and the affirmation of other people, towards seeking the Father’s love for them in Christ. Otherwise, what is there to distinguish an already secure, positive minded Christian from other people in the world? Where is the passion for the Word of God and its ability to transform, deliver and renew?

When I compare my beliefs with those of other Christians, I am astonished as to how secular they are a lot of the time in the way they think. It is for this reason that the typical Christian motivational message appeals to them so much: they honestly believe that they have perfect, conscious control over their actions; these people believe it when the preacher says, “It is all up to you. Will you go all out for God?” I have been brought to a place in which I am convinced that I can do nothing without Christ in me. For me, the importance lies with understanding that it is the Father who does the works, and therefore, it is my submission to the Holy Spirit that is more important than my trying to merit God’s favour though my own efforts. But I realise that my beliefs have been established in me through years and years of painful struggle, confusion, apathy, lethargy and frustration.

Perhaps then for these already-secure Christians it is a slow journey towards developing the realisation that this sense of security they have was founded on experiences, rather than revelation knowledge? Who knows?

As I said before, it all comes down to the sense of security that a person has been conditioned to believe they have, up to this moment in time. I am beginning to see the whole subject of conditioning and security as being fundamental factors in Christianity and life in general. For me, these concepts explain so much about what I am experiencing in my life and the hardships and struggles I have been though. It is for this reason that I intend to write a great deal more on these subjects.

Security and Insecurity Comparison Chart

I made a note of a chart that was displayed during a sermon at Hillsong London, which compared attributes of security with that of insecurity. I feel that this comparison perfectly sums-up the contrast between a disposition of security with that of insecurity.



At rest & at peace

Driven & anxious

Accepting of self, confident of one's value to God

Striving to get acclaim, to prove one's value

Content with one's lot in life

Constantly comparing, envying, coveting

Able to bless, affirm and serve others

Jealous, controlling, manipulative & demanding of others

Questioning the Role of the Institutional Church – Part 1

I've encountered a lot of believers who are into the grace message, who are seeking a grace-based church. I've read and posted to discussion boards about this hot topic of several occasions. The notion seemed to be that they needed to be part of a grace fellowship and that they were missing so many things about the church. I know some of the people who read this blog are also in that position and have perhaps been out of the I.C. (Institutional Church) for a year or more.

I don't know about you, but spending time with grace believers on Facebook and other social networking sites, as well as soaking in pure grace teaching, has really changed me over the course of this year. I had so many hopes and expectations about my current church, which I considered to be the church of my dreams. I thought that when I would find a Superchurch like the one I attend now - my whole life would be miraculously transformed - but it hasn't.

My whole outlook on the I.C. has changed for me now that I know that church is not an obligation. I still go to church but I don't look to the church as being the centre around which my whole Christian experience revolves. I can be a Christian with, or without, church. I suppose you could say I have died to the I.C. I think I'm glad it happened this way because if I had not encountered what I considered to be the "church of my dreams" I would still be seeking that experience and blaming my frustration on the lack of it.

Going to Church is like…Falling in Love with a Beautiful Woman

I suppose people’s dependency on the I.C. could be likened to falling in love with a beautiful woman: you convince yourself that if you just had a relationship with the woman of your dreams, everything would be just wonderful. You meet her and find that she is everything that you expected her to be, at first. But then over time, you realise that she has her faults and that she cannot be made responsible for your sense of security and self-esteem; you cannot always look to her to make decisions for you and to agree with everything you say and believe in.

This experience brings you to the realisation that you have to look within yourself for the strength, happiness and wisdom you seek. It's not that the woman is bad or wrong - it's just that she is being the person she was created to be - nothing more and nothing less. But she could be considered to be a bad person if a person comes along and expects her to be something that she was not intended to be. Now, if you were to not meet the woman of your dreams in this way, you could still be holding onto that thought that says, "I'll be happy when..."

I think it is a very common expectation that many people, believers and unbelievers alike, have in this world: they think they’ll be happy when they meet the perfect woman. It all goes so very well at first, but after time, that person does not pay you the attention that she used to, she is no longer inclined to agree with you all of the time and she sticks up for herself and her own opinions. At that moment, that woman suddenly becomes the object of anger, scorn and ridicule just because a needy and insecure person tried to make that person an extension of himself and a means of attaining a sense of security and approval.

Obviously, what is needed in this situation is for the man to realise his own sense of righteousness without needing the approval and agreement of another person all of the time. This is where the Gospel message comes into play – providing a much needed sense of righteousness, without having the need to control others; allowing others to have their own beliefs, desires, motives, attitudes and opinions without feeling offended, unloved and powerless.

Today, there are far too many Christians who see the I.C. as being like a woman (or a man if you are yourself a woman) who is like their partner: someone who is there to constantly support them, validate them, agree with them and make decisions for them. I will put my hand up at this stage and admit that I’ve been a very insecure person for most of my life; I saw the church as the reflection or portal through which I experience Jesus, serve Him and determine His love for me – it is little wonder I have felt so frustrated and confused for so long.

The Need for Intimacy with Jesus Christ

What people need is a relationship with Christ, the head of the church, more than the relationship they are trying to have with the body. Don’t get me wrong: I believe that fellowship is important, but there is something seriously wrong when the I.C. becomes a substitute for a proper, intimate and fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ. The quality of a believer’s relationship with other people, saved or unsaved, is determined, I believe, from their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Someone once said, “Our relationship with the horizontal is determined by our relationship with the vertical.” So if our relationship with Christ is so important – why does the I.C. so often stress the importance of fellowship with other church members more than that with Christ?

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 6

It is not About Works…It’s About Restoration

Just because we are Christians it does not mean that we are obliged to say “yes” to each and every request that is made on us to do works. We must understand that God has a plan for every church and every believer. This means that it is perfectly possible that a pastor could be creating his own plans in order to substantiate his position in ministry. I believe a lot of time and effort is wasted by pastors and church members by just “playing church” rather than getting serious with God.

The kind of righteousness that God is seeking to bring to the awareness of His people is that of complete restoration. If the church had this type of righteousness to offer through its teachings, then believers would have complete confidence in their ability to be able to welcome broken, needy and sinful people to church, knowing that it was just a matter of time before they would be made whole again, right in the sight of God and free of the sin-miserable life that used to control them.

This means that a person’s Christian lifestyle would not be dictated by, and predicted by, their pre-Christian existence. It would mean that even people who had committed the most heinous crimes could come to the church, be taught the Gospel, and be gloriously set free to live a life of service unto God.

So far, the church-world lacks this kind of confidence when it comes to faith-for-righteousness. Instead of accepting righteousness as a free gift, they still try to earn it or prove it according to what they do or don’t do. Even if a person acts in a kind manner and performs a charitable act, it does not necessarily mean that are righteous. Just because someone acts friendly it does not mean that it is an expression of the goodness of their heart, they could be acting like that according with an ulterior motive or just to gain God’s approval.

If righteousness is according to our works and our conduct, then it becomes an exclusive kind of righteousness that will only be attainable, and maintainable, by a certain niche of society. Obviously, this niche of society will be those who have been fortunate enough to be raised by kind, caring and well-to-do parents.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to reconcile the world to Himself. The only requirement that Jesus places on mankind is that they accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. Nowhere in the Bible does God demand that a person is required to clean-up their life before they accept Christ.

Jesus accepted the thief on the cross into paradise, without the thief having to change his lifestyle and prove himself to God in any way - which was fortunate for the thief because he was hardly in a position to be bale to undo the wrong he had done through doing good unto others. The thief just asked Jesus to remember Him when He entered His kingdom. In other words, the thief acknowledged who Jesus was at that moment and accepted His righteousness as his own.

God never changes and His requirements of us, as believers in His Son, still have not changed. Jesus Christ accepts us as we are. God does not demand that we fix-up our bad habits and modify our behaviour as a requirement of righteousness. It is God who fixes-us-up and presents us spotless in His sight through Christ. Proper teaching on the subject of righteousness is vital in these last days if souls are going to be won in this great End Time harvest.

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 5

Be Led By the Spirit

I think the major problem in the area of righteousness is a startling lack of sensitivity to the direction of the Holy Spirit. This is a believer’s true nakedness and hence the Adam-and-Eve-like tendency to want to hide from God and cover himself with something that he does rather than what God does. This lack of sensitivity leads to believers anxiously asking God what He wants them to do. This attitude assumes that the only thing a believer needs in order to please God, is a list of easy-to-understand instructions. Man needs a new nature to be able to do the will of God. Israel’s failure to obey the Law was evidence of that.

Being led by the Spirit necessitates a heart that is submitted to the will of God with nothing held back. It is only by receiving the love of God that we can be truly be led by the Spirit of God in order to do His will. God could tell a person to do something, but if he has fear, pride or a hidden agenda in his heart that opposes it - he is likely to shy away from such a request.

We all know that it is sin that blocks the love of God, but it is not so much what we do or don’t do which conflicts with God. Galatians 5:17 says, For the flesh lusts against the Spirit. The Greek word used for “lust” here means to desire and to long for. It is our desires more than our actions that conflict against the leading of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, Galatians 5:17 might read, For the flesh acts against the Spirit. Desires arise out of a person’s beliefs, which in turn, are established through their thoughts. It is the way we think and believe that gets in God’s way; this is what sin truly is. The wrong actions that a person commits to are the expressions of his wrong beliefs, thoughts and desires.

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 4

Adam and Eve’s Nakedness

The trouble is we often see righteousness as something that we work towards rather than something that we have now. We assume that we have righteousness now, but we believe it is something that we receive in instalments, rather than all at once. With this approach, we never become righteous enough for God. Then, with only a partial confidence towards God and our right-standing with Him, we then seek to cover our sinfulness with something that we do.

This is what Adam did when he fell from grace and came to the realisation that his righteousness was in God and not in his own ability. Adam and Eve gained the knowledge of what was good and what was evil. This led to them coming to the realisation that they were naked. They then sought to cover their nakedness with fig leaves.

6 When the Woman saw that the tree looked like good eating and realized what she would get out of it - she'd know everything! - she took and ate the fruit and then gave some to her husband, and he ate.

7 Immediately the two of them did "see what's really going on" - saw themselves naked! They sewed fig leaves together as makeshift clothes for themselves.

8 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God.

9 God called to the Man: "Where are you?"

10 He said, "I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked. And I hid."

11 God said, "Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?"

Genesis 3:6-11 msg

Adam and Eve’s nakedness was not so much due to their lack of clothing - it was due to the fact that they had forfeited their true covering which was holiness and purity. Without this covering, people still seek to cover their sinfulness from the sight of God.

The wonderful thing about righteousness by faith is that a person no longer feels naked and unacceptable in the sight of God. This means that they no longer have to find something else to cover their sinfulness, because they no longer live according to that old nature. When a person lacks the assurance that they have right standing with God, they do what Adam and Eve did and try to cover their nakedness with fig leaves by trying to cover their inadequacies with their own works.

The Galatian church also had the same idea when they sought to substantiate their right-standing with God through reverting back to following the law. This is an approach that we still see in the church today. Paul’s letter to the Galatians stands as a warning to believers today so that they do not fall into the same trap.

If believers have real confidence towards God through the knowledge and assurance of righteousness in His sight, they would not need to revert back to following a set of rules as a means of pleasing God and meriting His favour. This means that if God does not prompt a believer to commit to a certain obligation in the church by His love, then they will not feel pressured into doing something that they are not sure about.

It is difficult when the church makes an appeal for volunteers to do some charitable act. Such appeals play on the conscience and are often hard to resist without feeling guilty. Right standing with God gives a believer the power to say “no” to good things. We should say “yes” to God and the plans He has for us.

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 3

Righteousness is a Gift

Righteousness is a gift; gifts ought to be accepted. If a gift has to be worked towards and merited according to good conduct, then it is not a gift, but it is a wage.

1 So how do we fit what we know of Abraham, our first father in the faith, into this new way of looking at things?

2 If Abraham, by what he did for God, got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we're given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story.

3 What we read in Scripture is, "Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own."

4 If you're a hard worker and do a good job, you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift.

5 But if you see that the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it - you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked - well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God. Sheer gift.

6 David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:

7 Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off, whose sins are wiped clean from the slate.

8 Fortunate the person against whom the Lord does not keep score.

Romans 4:1-8 MSG

The strange thing about faith is that it loses its power once a timeframe has been placed on it. As soon as we deliberate a time-limit or delivery date on faith, we nullify its effects because we never believe that we have it now. Faith is always now; if faith is attributed to a future date then it no longer remains faith, it becomes hope.

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 2

Right Living is the Result of Right Believing

Right living comes as a result of right believing. When we accept righteousness as a gift by faith, we no longer need to impose rules on ourselves; we no longer have to try to be good according to what we do or don’t do. The brand of righteousness that most people live out of is the righteousness that they had before they came to faith in Christ. They then make an effort of the will to fix-up a few bad habits that they can give the heave-ho without too much effort. They then expect other people to follow suit, in the belief that there are no sins that cannot be averted purely through an effort of the will. With this attitude towards righteousness, the method of instilling righteousness in other people seems to always be the intimidating practice of trying to shame people into not sinning by establishing taboos. Then, when people do go ahead and sin after being told not to, it is taken to be an act of ignorance and disobedience against the pastor. This approach simply does not work.

If church leaders had a proper understanding concerning righteousness, they would see that people cannot stop themselves from sinning without a proper understanding on the subject. Instead of accepting what the Bible says about righteousness by faith, they simply continue as if they are still living according to the Old Testament. The New Testament is a new and better covenant, but it will only work according to your belief. Most people seem to believe that the New Testament just provides a means by which a believers past sins have been forgiven. This is indeed a wonderful promise, but it is still not enough to set people free from their sin.

Thankfully, there is so much more to the Blood of Jesus Christ to him who knows and believes. If church leaders only preach on the subject of forgiveness of past sins, then continue to badger people to conduct their lives in a certain way, the implied meaning is that it is up to believers to impose control over their own lives – what they do and what they don’t do. Again, this continues the idealistic misconception of man possessing a super-willpower that is capable of living a holy life of its own accord.

The Security of a Christian Leader

I believe what is required to empower the church to live victorious lives free from sin and the affliction it brings, is for leaders to emerge from the wreckage of sin-dominated lives. You can tell if a pastor has lived a squeaky-clean pre-Christian life according to his teaching and the demands he places on the congregation.

I have found that many ministers are people who have received a decent upbringing in a Christian family, without any major hiccups. Undoubtedly, such people will have probably done things in their youth that they would feel ashamed of doing now, but on the whole, they are able to live good decent adult lives. It is this experiential righteousness that will give a person the confidence to become a minister.

There seems to be a stigma attached to church leaders having done shameful things in the past. The reason seems to be that the trust people place on a minister is all down to his conduct and lifestyle, both pre and post Christ. It would seem inconceivable to many Christians for an ex-convict to become a pastor of a church (although, it does actually happen).

If a pastor knew the struggles that a person has with addictive sins, he would seek a better means of preaching on the subject of righteousness. As it stands, many pastors remain closed on the subject.

Without proper knowledge on the subject, sin-ruled believers remain ashamed of their past, not because they don’t believe they have been forgiven for past transgressions, but because they fear that they will just keep on making the same mistakes again and again. This leads to a Christian life of endlessly sinning and repenting, never quite having the confident assurance they should have towards God. This way of life can lead to a believer even doubting his own salvation. Clearly, something more is required.

The kind of righteousness by faith that we ought to be seeking to establish is the kind of righteousness that the New Testament so clearly promises. If the Bible says that a believer is made righteous through confession of Christ and acceptance of His righteousness, then we should believe and accept it.

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 1

There are all sorts of problems that we face in the church due to the confusion over righteousness. One of the problems is that we tend to judge people according to their pre-Christian lifestyle. If we really knew what it was to be taken out of darkness and into the light by faith in Jesus Christ, then we would see the potential of righteousness in other people, no matter how they conduct their lives. The church has been robbed of the amazing power of righteousness by faith in Christ to restore, heal and renew a person’s life and character. Instead, we often only see the kind of righteousness that we saw in the Old Testament, which demands righteousness from the bankrupt, fallen nature of man.

Right-living will never come to people as the result of fiery provocation and intimidation, together with a re-iteration of what constitutes right and wrong behaviour. People need to be taught more about the life-transforming power of the Blood of Christ to completely change a person’s life: the way they think, feel and behave.

The church’s inability to deliver a comprehensive and life-changing message on righteousness has turned Christianity into nothing more than a moral code. This moral code demands a sanctified life from believers without properly empowering them. Such preaching will always seek to control and make demands that a person believes he could or should be able to make. This leaves believers living in a kind of dream-world whereby they try to convince themselves that they have what it takes to please God.

Christians become brainwashed into thinking that Christianity is simply an ideal standard that can never be attained or maintained and yet it is accepted because everyone agrees that its demands ought to be met as much as possible. This means that believers will never be completely righteous, as the Bible says we are, but that we can be as righteous as we possibly can. Even if we are as righteous as we can be in our own effort, it is still never enough to meet God’s requirements.

There are many people, including politically correct politicians, who seek to unify all religions based on common moral values. This approach is seen as being good, noble and unifying – but it will never work because no other religion than Christianity looks to faith in the Blood of Jesus as being the only way to God.

A Contrast of Two States

Have you noticed that there are usually only two antithetical states of being contrasted in the Bible? The Bible contrasts God and devil, light and dark, righteousness and sin, good and evil. The Bible does not even attempt to deal with subtle shades of light and dark. The Bible does not attempt to subdivide states of being into grades – that is just something that mankind tries to do because it cannot attain complete righteousness through its efforts. This approach has become so acceptable, that we do not even give it a second thought, even though it is not in accordance with the Bible. We are not meant to attain complete righteousness by our own effort, which is why Jesus Christ died for us, so that we could accept His righteousness. Righteousness is a state of being just like sin is a state of being.

Committing Sin vs. Working out Salvation

The Bible uses both a verb form for sin and a noun form for sin. By far the greatest occurrence in the New Testament is the noun form: the verb form hardly every appears. We sometimes see the use of the noun form used together with a verb form, such as “commit sin” in James 2:9.

The word “commit” here is Greek word ergazomai (G2038) which appears a total of 36 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated as work 11 times, worketh 7 times, wrought 7 times, working 4 times, do 2 times, commit 1 time, labour 1 time, minister 1 time, trade 1 time and traded 1 time.

This interested me because I wondered to myself if there was a connection between these Greek words for “commit” and “work out” as in “work out your own salvation” in Philippians 2:12.

The Greek word katergazomai (G2716) appears a total of 23 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated as worketh 7 times, wrought 6 times, do 3 times, done 2 times, working 2 times, causeth 1 time, perform 1 time and work 1 time.

There is indeed a connection according to Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionary:

From G2596 and G2038; to work fully, that is, accomplish; by implication to finish, fashion: - cause, do (deed), perform, work (out).

So this Greek word which means “to work fully” is derived from ergazomai (G2038) which means “to work” and kata (G2596) which is a very commonly used preposition in the Bible which means, according to Thayer’s Greek Definitions: down from, through out, according to, toward, along. I would say that the most apt fitting for this word in relation to Phillipians 2:12 is work toward salvation.

The Greek words used for salvation as in Philippians 2:12 and sin in James 2:9 – are both nouns. According to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary a noun is:

a word (other than a pronoun) used to identify any of a class of people, places, or things (common noun), or to name a particular one of these (proper noun).

We can therefore conclude that sin and salvation are both states of being (noun) rather than something that one does (verb). The Bible often uses a verb together with a noun as in “commit sin”. When a person “commits sin” they are working sin; they are giving expression to the sin nature. This is different to just simply perform an action. When a person works out their own salvation they are giving expression to the new nature that abides in them.

In the Greek, the verb form of salvation, “to save”, is sozo (G4982). According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions this word does not just mean to rescue from danger or destruction: it also means to save a suffering one (from perishing), i.e. one suffering from disease, to make well, heal, restore to health.

The Greek word sozo (G4982) is used in the Bible in relation to healing: for instance, in Luke 17:19 when Jesus healed the lepers, He said, "Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well." The New King James Version uses the word “well”, whereas in the King James Version the word “whole” is used.

In Mark 5:23 a man begs Jesus, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.” The Greek word sozo (G4982) is translated “healed” in this verse.

Salvation is all about protection, restoration and completeness. So when a person works out, or works fully, their salvation – they are giving expression to, and working towards the completion of, their protection, restoration and wholeness.

The Paradox of our Times

This essay has been published on numerous websites.  For some time the name of the original author was unknown or disputed.  The following was apparently written by Dr. Bob Moorehead, former pastor of Seattle’s Overlake Christian church.  The essay appeared in under the title of “The Paradox of Our Age” in Words Aptly Spoken, which is a collection his prayers and sermons.

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings,
but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less; we buy more, but enjoy it less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences,
but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge,
but less judgment; more experts, but more problems; more medicine,
but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too
little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late,
get up too tired, read too seldom, watch TV too much, and pray too
seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years
to life, not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and
back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor.
We've conquered outer space, but not inner space.
We've done larger things, but not better things. We've cleaned up
the air, but polluted the soul. We've split the atom, but not our
prejudice. We write more, but learn less.
We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not
to wait. We build more computers to hold more information to produce
more copies than ever, but have less communication.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men, and
short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships.
These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but
less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.
These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses,
but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers,
throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills
that do everything from cheer to quiet, to kill.
It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in
the stockroom; Indeed, these are the times!

Word of Faith and the Concept of Effort and Reward

One of the biggest problems we face in the church is that the leaders don't take into consideration the mindset of those people who come to the church. Many people come to the church as a last resort, because the pressures of life have made them neurotic. As such, they are inclined to seek to do things to gain the approval of others. For most of people's lives, God is just the subject of after dinner conversation. But when a person gives their life to the Lord, and perhaps has an "experience", God suddenly becomes a reality to them. Therefore, their efforts will be inclined towards seeking God's approval.

The Concept of Effort and Reward

The Gospel is the good news about how we don't need to perform in order to gain the approval of God and others. From an early age we are conditioned with the concept of effort-and-reward. We often find ourselves subconsciously compelled to do certain things, without knowing precisely why. The reason for this is that we believe that doing those things will gain us approval. Look at the state the church is in because the church still continues to imply that Christians must do something in order to please God. Does it help, or does it cause struggle, pain and wasted time and effort?

Not every Christian is a chronic people-pleaser - but many are. There are believers who are not compelled to tithe and commit to acts of charity in the church, when they hear the pastor preach - but many are.

It still bothers me that Word of Faith teaching did very little to mitigate the consequences of highly covetous people getting hold of the teaching and trying to use it as a get-rich-quick scheme; to read dozens of books with the idea of extracting principles and formulas that would enable them to gain control over God and get blessed how they want and when they want.

Is There any Benefit in Following Word of Faith?

In retrospect, I suppose we needed to go through that in order to learn those mistakes. Kenneth E. Hagin was just excited about sharing his revelations and breakthroughs with the world and to refute long-held Christian traditions that didn't work. I actually have a lot of respect for Hagin: he faced an enormous amount of resistance from fellow believers who refused to accept that God still performs miracles today and that He wants to bless His people.

There is certainly a need for balance when it comes to Biblical prosperity. I don’t adhere to the notion that God wants all of His people to be poor and to struggle financially with the belief that one trial after another is doing a good work in us. Neither do I hold to the unrealistic assumption that God wants all of His people to be extravagantly wealthy by Western standards. I do believe that God wants His people to do well in life, to get their needs met and to prosper. But problems arise when we attempt to fill emotional voids in our lives by the pursuit of wealth. This is what the Apostle Paul was addressing in his letter to Timothy.

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.

9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.

10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness.

12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

1 Timothy 6:6-12 nkjv

In verse 11 we read what we ought to pursue as believers: righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. These are, of course, spiritual things. Once we secure these spiritual treasures – we will have all of our material needs met as well.

31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'

32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33 nkjv

In 1 Timothy 6:12 Paul states that our fight is that of maintaining faith. This faith is with the purpose of keeping hold of the manifest presence of God (eternal life) within us, which brings us fullness of joy like nothing in the material world ever can.

I have to admit that ten years or so of reading most of Hagin’s books, actually did very little to help me. I was, and still am to an extent, a very insecure person; the promise of extravagant blessings and miracles in return for strictly obeying principles and formulas – was not exactly what I needed the most during that time – and never will be. What I really needed was the assurance that God loved me – just the way that I was; without any threats of curses, punishments and ex-communication from God if I failed to meet those strict standards and if I failed to confess the Word in the correct manner.

Seek to Enter into Rest

When we become Christians the first thing, the very first thing that we need to work towards is entering into rest: getting away from the concept of effort-and-reward, keeping rules, fulfilling standards, and meeting certain conditions and so on. That said - we ought to veer away from even a hint of anything in the way of rules, laws and principles. Otherwise, the effect can be devastating on many people.

It is difficult to not feel stirred-up by a motivating message that seems to promise wonderful rewards for the believer who is willing to “go all out for God”. But to an insecure Christian a message that is meant to motivate and challenge can become an oppressing obligation and an indication that they are not valued by God just the way that they are. As far as I am concerned – I have had enough of these motivational speeches in church – I just want to hear the good news of the Gospel being preached; I just want to know what the Lord Jesus Christ has already done for me and how that affects my life now.

Grace Can be a Stumbling Block for Others

Did you know that grace can be a stumbling block for others? If you go around telling other people what the grace of God motivates you to do in such a way that you make a rule or standard out of it - it re-introduces the law. It is good to encourage other people by giving them your testimonies. But if believers are not secure in the assurance that they are loved apart from their works – they are likely to feel jealous and to figure out what they can do to merit the same kind of favour, blessing and ability from God.

Let's get away from post-righteousness works that are really none of our business and focus on what Jesus told the Body of Christ to take responsibility for and seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

The Biblical Concept of Happiness

The word “happy” only appears in six verses in the King James Version of the New Testament.

The Greek adjective makarios (G3107) appears a total of 49 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated as blessed 43 times, happy 5 times and happier 1 time.

The Greek verb makarizō (G3106), which is derived from makarios (G3107), appears a total of 4 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated as blessed 1 time, call 1 time, count 1 time and happy 1 time.

The noun form of this word is makarismos (G3108) which is derived from verb makarizō (G3106), appears a total of 3 times in the King James Version of the Bible. It is translated as blessedness in all 3 instances.

These three related Greek works relate to being blessed. The Bible uses a different word when referring to the emotion of happiness on the inside – that word is “joy”. In modern day society we tend to not use the word “joy” – favouring the word “happiness” instead.

The point I’m trying to make here is that the concept of happiness and joy are totally different in the Bible and in everyday life as well. In today’s society I would say that the word “happy” and concept of happiness relates to the attainment of goals or material goods as a means of appeasing certain core human needs, such as security and approval. Once these needs are appeased – we say that we are “happy”. Such happiness is temporal as those core human needs are never satiated for very long.

The Bible plainly sets out the concept that joy is from the Lord (Neh. 8:10, Psalm 21:1, 1 Thess. 1:6, Rom. 14:17).

I like what Jesus says in Luke 12:15 says in that is refutes the misguided notion that life, zoe (G2222) in the Greek, the feeling of being alive on the inside as I put it, is derived from the abundance of what one possess.

I love what the Bible promises in Romans 14:17.

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Romans 14:17 nkjv

Righteousness in this verse is not just “experiential righteousness” which is the good conduct of a person and their obedience to God; it has a lot more to do with the assurance that a believer is right with God and accepted by Him – just the way he is. This assurance of righteousness is what brings a person peace and joy in the Holy Spirit as he ceases from his efforts to please God through rule-keeping and works.

If the emotion of joy comes from an intimate relationship with God according to the faith of a believers right-standing with God in Christ – why on earth do we continue, even as believers in Christ, to put so much of an emphasis on performance, moral conduct and achievement?

The Pursuit of Unrealistic Goals

If we are not careful – we can end-up spending a lot of time and effort pursuing unrealistic goals and trying to please God and other people – instead of simply resting in the knowledge that we are accepted and treasured by God – not because of what we do for Him – but because of what He has already done for us by sending Jesus to die for us. My insecurities caused me to run off with a great deal of enthusiasm seeking those things that I was convinced the Word of God promised me – instead of simply enjoying the blessings and favour that surrounded me at that moment. I was convinced that I simply could not be happy unless I had this or had that.

We often look to what we do or what we have for our happiness. It has a lot to do with wanting the approval of other people: if we believe that the approval of others is merited according to what we achieve or what we own – we will be motivated to do or attain those things that we feel will bring us the most approval from other people.

Even if you do get people’s attention and congratulations from something you achieve – they often end-up expecting more and more from you each time. This process can go on and on for years until, finally one day, you just collapse under the pressure of performance.

Wouldn’t it be so much better to have the approval of other people – even when you do nothing to merit it? God’s favour can secure you the favour and respect of other people – even when you don’t deserve it. Fortunately, all of the gifts and blessings of God are free in Christ. But we simply need to seek the assurance of our righteousness in Him in order for these blessings to overtake us.

Satan’s Plan

A friend on Facebook sent me a link to this video.  I think it is rather powerful and relevant to what seems to be happening around us today.  I thought it would be a good idea to share that video here.

Something on Works

Works are an attempt to be someone that you are not. If works are not the result of an expression of your true nature, then they are an expression of falsehood, perhaps even desperation or deceit. If such attempts hardly ever please people – why do we believe that they will please God? Sometimes we tend to think that God is completely out of touch with reality. Perhaps we get this idea from the ancient setting that the Bible was written in and from the archaic language of the King James Version.

We can assume that God has rather odd preferences because of what we read in the Bible. There is something seemingly rather strange about the way that God delights in animal sacrifices. It becomes hard to work out why God would get anything out of a man killing an animal and sprinkling its blood all over the place. But we read the significance of such sacrifices in the Bible. Nevertheless, it still seems difficult for us to comprehend with the natural mind.

Knowing that we cannot fathom God with our natural minds, we tend to just assume that God is delighted with nativity plays, handing out Bible tracts and other such religious ceremonies. Who is to judge whether or not God requires such things?

What we know and comprehend as being “normal” and acceptable and delightful, are an experience granted to us by the love of God. God lets us know through our spirit as to what we ought to consider being acceptable to ourselves. It is having God’s love in our spirit that gives a person the greatest sense of what is true, delightful and acceptable. So why do we think that God is somehow out of touch with reality? God is the closest thing we could ever experience to being right, true, delightful and acceptable.

The Effect of Eternal Life on the Heart of the Believer

Everyone wants to do well in life; there is nothing wrong with that. But it all depends on where the motives and desires to achieve are coming from. The soul just wants to be reunited with the Spirit of God. When the soul receives eternal life, it gets its needs met because it finally gets what it has been looking for. When the soul does not have eternal life, it seeks to achieve things with the motive of being happy, fulfilled and approved by others.  Receiving eternal life takes away these motives and desires from the soul because eternal life gives the soul what it has been longing for.

Eternal life brings unconditional happiness and peace of mind; eternal life is the evidence of God's approval and the restoration of His manifest presence. Then, when a believer receives eternal life, he is then ready for the Holy Spirit to lead him and guide him. At that moment, love is able to work in your life as the desires and motives of your unredeemed nature are not in conflict with the will of God for your life. Therefore, establishing eternal life by faith should be one of the first steps that a believer takes. If this step is not taken, the believer will become confused because a lot of what happens in his life will be geared towards causing him to come to the realisation of how futile his own desires and motives are.

Whatever you do in life, make sure that your motives are driven by love - God's love. Whatever you purpose to do in life, make sure that you do it because you want to do it, not because you feel that you must do it or that it is expected of you or just because you seek some sort of reward if you do it. Just assume that whatever you do will not be recognised or rewarded by anyone. Just do what you do because you want to do it. Let what you do be a natural expression of who you are inside. Allow your new nature of love to express itself naturally.

The great impressionist painters did not pain to please other people, they did it because it was a labour of love for them; it was an expression of themselves. Painters such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh were given little in the way of recognition during their lifetime. But now, their masterpieces are worth millions of pounds. If these painters were waiting for someone else’s approval before they would paint, then the world would not have seen their great work. Thankfully, these painters were not moved by what other people thought about them and what they did; they were moved by what their heart sought to express.

When you have motives of love in your heart, no-one needs to tell you what to do or to encourage you to act on what you know to do. It is like being told by a marriage counsellor to give gifts and flowers occasionally to your wife, tell her that you love her from time to time and take her out to a restaurant occasionally. But if you really loved your wife with all your heart, then you would be naturally prompted by that love to do those kinds of things.

Faith works by love because it is an expression of the desires and motives of God in your heart. When you become born-again, you adopt the very nature of God Himself. This means that when you allow your re-created spirit to dominate your soul, love becomes a natural expression. When we try to walk in love and live by faith just out of our heads, we are simply play-acting and it will not work. If the soul is not brought into subjection to the re-created spirit, we can end-up just operating out of the soul in response to what other people tell us is right or wrong. It can be difficult sometimes to know whether you are taking action from the mind or the spirit, the head or the heart. If the Word of God is confessed from the mind only, it will not work because it has got to come from the heart.

The Illusion of Self-Control – Part 2

I staunchly adhere to the concept that God, although sovereign, cannot operate fully in our lives unless our beliefs permit Him to do so. It is not the devil that we ought to be weary of, but it is our understanding and persuasion of what the Word says we are in Christ. For me, a key verse of scripture which sets the tone regarding God’s ability to bless a believer is found in Galatians 5:17.

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.

Galatians 5:17

Surely, Galatians 5:17 answers so many of the burning questions that most believers have? Such as “will God bless you when you sin?” We can see that it is not an issue of behaviour or actions as such; we read in Genesis that Abraham was blessed abundantly by God when he sinned by lying to Pharaoh about his wife; it has more to do with how surrendered we are to God. It is like a set of scales, I believe: the more we are yielded and submitted to God, the more He is able to move in us freely.

I used to liken our fears and selfish ambition to strongholds, just like a castle (see 2 Cor. 10:4). But perhaps it is more like a loving Father playing along with his little boy who is playing a game of war, with little plastic soldiers lined-up in a row, “barring” the way for others to cross the threshold. The all-powerful God sees the boundaries that we establish, forbidding anyone, including Him, to cross. Playing along with our little “game”, God honours the boundaries we establish in our minds and agrees not to cross the threshold.

This way of thinking, I believe, eradicates guilt, as the person sees that it is their belief system, not their actions or behaviour as such, which determines, to a large extent, what happens in their lives. This does not mean that we can simply dictate to God what He ought to do in our lives. This mistaken notion has been adopted by advocates of the Word of Faith movement, which has sought to give believers a sense of self-control and self-empowerment through the use of elaborate testimonies and the use of confessing relevant verses of scripture.

Even the classic “mixture message” that we hear in many charismatic services on a Sunday, asserts that God has a plan for our lives – a wonderful plan that is the best for us. Our ability to live a blessed life is not found in our ability to control our behaviour by a conscious effort of the will, but moreover, it is found in our ability to become assured of the Father’s love for us; that He knows what is best for us; He has good works planned for us to accomplish by His strength; He loves us and wants us to prosper and be in health. Above all, it is being assured that it is by the works of Jesus, by His law-keeping, by His sacrifices, by His holiness, that we are accepted by God. Our works have very little to do with God’s love for us and our right-standing with Him. It is only when we are not persuaded of these truths that the flesh nature (which is the self-preservation instinct) is provoked into action.

It is not up to us to conjure-up “clever” ideas and elaborate noble plans to benefit the lives of others and further the cause of Christ. No, God said that He would build His church. God already has it all figured out, from the start to the end; He is the Alpha and Omega – the beginning and the end. That’s what the book of Revelation is all about: it is like God saying, “I know how this all works out – I know how it is going to end.”

I believe that the mistaken belief that we control our lives with our willpower or conscious mind will be one of the last bastions of the religious church, to fall. This belief is up there with all the other wrong beliefs concerning self-empowerment and self-control: tithing/sowing/reaping and good deeds meriting reward.

Without this wrong mindset of self-control, there would be no challenges, platitudes and pep-talks – there would be just the Gospel, the good news, being preached. We need not fear a sense of powerlessness. The knowledge that we do not control our lives should bring us into a state of rest which allows the Holy Spirit free-access to our lives.

And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

2 Corinthians 12:9

The Illusion of Self-Control – Part 1

There’s been a great deal of teaching about how it is up to us to “make an effort” and to “just do something”. It all sounds very encouraging and “challenging” – but it is a misnomer. I remember Kenneth E. Hagin saying that we should not wait for a “special feeling”; if it is written in the Word, then we should act upon it. Perhaps this is simply a lack of confidence or the wrong belief that in order for a person to do something – X, Y or Z must first take place?

But I have found in my own life that there have been innumerable times when I’ve wanted to do something, or tried to do something that was expected of me – but was completely unable to do it. It could be the simplest thing like go to the local store or put the washing machine on.

But then there were times when all of a sudden, I would just get up and do something. It could have been a demanding task or just something simple. The conclusion that I’ve come to is that our conscious mind, or willpower, does not control us. If anything, the conscious mind, or willpower, is simply the window into what we are experiencing at that moment. It is through the subconscious mind, via the senses, that our subconscious mind is conditioned or programmed. It is the subconscious mind which controls our actions. That is why it says in scripture to “Guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT.

I realise that I have been conditioned to believe what I do because of my personal experiences. This has come at a great cost to me as it has brought a lot of pain, struggle, fear, disappointment and embarrassment. Most people experience a thought in their mind followed by unction to do something. They might struggle mentally with that unction for a moment, but it then wins over and they just simply experience themselves doing something. They then tell the story that it was them that performed the action. They had the conscious awareness of what they did, but I would say that it was their subconscious mind which caused them to act – either for good (divine nature) or for bad (flesh nature). I would say that their mental coercions on a conscious level, did very little to influence the outcome of what they did.

When I try to tell people what I believe – they think I’m barking mad. Thankfully, people like Norman Grubb and Major Ian Thomas, and a growing number of Christians, agree with me.

The idea that we control our lives gives us a sense of empowerment. It is a frightening thing indeed to come to the conclusion that you are not in complete conscious control of your actions. But I think for Christians and non-Christians alike, the fear is likely to be rooted more in a lifelong distrust in God, more than anything else. After all, we are told that God is good, but He allows, or some would say that He is powerless to prevent, all sorts of atrocities that gone on around the world.

I don’t have all the answers to these questions, but what I do know, is that the best means of protection and assurance of a good quality of life, is to be found in trusting God in the finished work of the cross – with the aim of surrendering all control to Him. Even mature Christians, I believe, are fearful of surrendering all control to Him, unconvinced that He truly loves us and has no favourites. It is this clinging-on to personal power which is to their detriment.

I wonder what the law courts would do if they began to adopt this way of thinking? “My subconscious mind made me do it!” This is a refreshing change from the cliché, “The devil made me do it!” It is not an excuse to avoid being accused of being lazy, if we see things in this light. No, it is no longer a notion of being right or wrong, good or bad, passive or active or whatever – it has much more to do with being in right-standing with God through faith in Christ, which comprises beliefs such as:

  • The Father who dwells in me does the works (John 14:10).
  • My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in me, whom I have from God, and I am not my own (1 Cor. 6:19).
  • I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20).

The notion of self-empowerment gives religious leaders the power of control over a person: they will say that if a person fails to be blessed or bad things happen – it is because they failed to take action. Christian “motivational” speakers will say that if a Christian fails to succeed in life then it is because they failed to apply their seven “keys” or six “steps”. I would rather believe that it was because they were not fully persuaded of the message of the Gospel, the Father’s love for them, and therefore, failed to enter into that rest which allows God to take control.

Is Faith a Ticket to Health and Wealth?

Speaking from experience, you'll find that many people have come into grace only as the result of religious self-effort. This also incorporates Word of Faith and all the other extremes that came out of the charismatic movement. Joseph Prince cites Kenneth E. Hagin (Word of Faith) as being one of his main Bible teachers.

I have found that many people come to Christianity as a last resort and because they have unmet needs. I see it as gears: you start off with rules, and then move onto works and then move onto pursuing faith principles and formulas as a means of making God bless them how they want and when they want.

Sure, God wants us to be well and to meet our needs, but life can condition the subconscious mind to believe that something external to Christ and the love of God - can make you happy. This typically shows itself in the pursuit of people, power and possessions. The Word of Faith teaching can be seen as being the key to getting everything that a person needs.

Many believers have found after years of frustration and trying to repeat Bible verses - which WOF simply does not work. If declaring verses of scripture accompanies blessings, then it is the expression of a heart that knows the love of God and is secure in Christ. Affirmations are not a formula to get what you want from God.

Some believers, feeling cheated by misleading and extreme teaching, have gone to extremes in the other direction: they have completely rejected any teaching that asserts the believers right to healing and financial prosperity.

I tend to "pitch my tent" as it were, somewhere in the middle of these extremes: I believe that God still heals today and that He will meet our needs - but I don't believe that Christians can demand what they want from God; neither can they expect extravagant blessings and miracles. I have also noticed that the concept of wealth to someone living in a wealthy country, such as a member of the G7* group of countries, is completely different to the concept of wealth on a worldwide scale. The Bible speaks of vats overflowing with wine and bumper harvests of crops - not driving expensive sports cars, living in mansions and aspiring to be a member of the board of directors in your place of work.

Perhaps God does want to bless you extravagantly – He did with Solomon. But it is not our place to demand such things. Another factor to consider is that it often takes time to manifest certain things: it takes time and effort to build a career, business, relationship or ministry.

Jesus Himself said to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things would be added unto you (Matt. 6:33). He did not say to seek righteousness first, and then seek material provision. No, He said to seek after righteousness. Why is this so? I believe it is because knowing that we are right with God, loved by Him just the way that we are, and brings a sense of security that:

  • Subdues the selfish flesh nature, bringing peace and mental clarity.
  • Eliminates the desire for those things we once thought we need in order to be happy.
  • Brings a sense of complete trust in God, that He will meet your needs, regardless of circumstances past and present.

There are many Christians who attempt to "believe God" for things, when they have no foundation of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Nowhere in scripture does it say to believe God for "things" - only to believe in a person - Jesus Christ.

Bertie Brits' teaching is centred strongly on this concept of believing (trusting) in Jesus, not things. I find Bertie’s preaching refreshing after ten years or so of frustration with Word of Faith teaching. It really is so much simpler and less time consuming to believe (trust) in Jesus, rather than trying to claim promises, sow seed and all of the things associated with “believing God” for things. Everything from healing to financial provision comes to us based on our being persuaded of God's love for us - that is why we are told to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

* The G7 countries are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and United States.

Parable of the Sower – A Contrast of Two Natures

3 "Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 "And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 "Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 "But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 "And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 "But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred."

Mark 4:3-8

I used to think that this parable was contrasting four different characters or natures. But it is actually contrasting two different natures: resilience to the Word through carnality or unbelief and the ability to accept the divine nature. Verses 4 to 7 convey the threefold action of the carnal nature in resisting the preached Word. Verse 8 conveys the ability to be able to receive the Word.

The birds of the air came and devoured it (v. 4). The birds of the air are evil spirits who put contradictory thoughts in the person’s mind. These thoughts are accepted because they are often very close to the beliefs and fears of the world which we have come to accept so readily.

When a person’s nature has been developed through the erection of self-protective mechanisms which oppose the truth, he falls outside of the protection afforded him by God. Therefore, he becomes an easy target for the devil and his minions to flood their mind with lies. These lies are readily accepted because they usually coincide with, and support, the lies established by the lower nature, through fear and pride, as a means of protecting itself from further harm and loss.

There is a lesson to be learned here: the more you allow the flesh nature to operate through lies and deceit according to pride, fear and lust – the more you welcome the lies and deception of the devil through evil spirits. Those evil spirits often work through the minds of other people around you: Christians with issues and selfish non-believers.

If you walk in love, you will be protected from other people’s selfishness. If you don’t walk in love and allow God to have His way in your life, you might find yourself bearing the full brunt of other people’s selfishness which might otherwise be lying dormant in them. This is not a call to works as some people would suppose it. Moreover, it is a call to establish oneself in the righteousness which can only come by firm assurance of ones value to God and right-standing with Him, apart from our works. Love only manifests itself as a person ceases from their own efforts to serve God and to gain the approval of others.

Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth (v. 5). The stony ground relates to the character of the hearer and the hardness of his heart. If a person lacks depth of character and a sense of security, he could respond to the Word out of self-preservation and a desire to get his needs met; he could even become convinced of the existence of hell, and therefore, seek salvation out of fear. But because he has not developed a character of patient endurance and a sense of security by looking unto Jesus and Him alone - he gives up quickly on his new found faith when it looks as if he won’t get his needs met after all, or when his sense of security and the approval of others is under threat. This is contrasting self-centeredness, self-effort and fear with the nature of love.

And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop (v. 7). This is relating to distractions and cares of this world and the anxious thoughts that arise in response to them. Anxiety can have the effect of choking out all sense of stability, security and wisdom. When the disciples feared for their life in the midst of a storm at sea – they failed to appreciate that the fullness of the Godhead bodily was with them, pretending to be asleep in the boat. These thorns of anxious thought become commonplace when a person tries to meet their own needs in their own strength, instead of making sincere efforts to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: a sense of peace, joy, security and acceptance through Christ Jesus.

When the believer is able to relax because he believes and is fully persuaded of the fact that he is right with God by no effort of his own other than believing and trusting in Jesus, then he will get his needs met by God. When we fail to trust God to meet our needs, we tend to get distracted when issues arise. We then fail to spend time in the Word as we ought, not realising that if we just knew that we were right with God and were to develop a firm foundation in the Word, then there would be an ease and flow to our lives that would do away with the need to spend so much time worrying and scurrying around trying to make things happen.

The Divine Nature | TNB