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Giving To God

The Old Testament encourages certain practices and behaviour according to a set of rules - personal preference and love don't play a part in it whatsoever.

The New Testament fulfils the requirement to keep rules as a means of pleasing God and being redeemed from the curse of the law (the curse for breaking God's laws).

Now, how we conduct our lives and what we do, should be motivated out of love. This is not forcing ourselves to be "nice" to people, with this idea that we can tick the box that says, "Love you neighbour." Now we are to live naturally and freely, as the love of God guides and motivates us.

So, if I as a Christian do something in order to merit God's favour and blessing, something that I believe I am compelled by law to do - I am reverting back to rule-keeping and come under the Old Covenant.

At this point, we can easily go off on a tangent regarding does God punish people for keeping the law and so on. But basically, no-one can be justified by the law, so what might seem good and noble, ends-up in condemnation and religious burn-out, as well as the curse of the law, to some extent.

There has been a lot of preaching about having right motives - I think this is good and there is truth to it. But, we can end-up making a rule or a "should" out of it.

When it comes to giving of our finances: we are to give out of love, according to what we feel good and comfortable with. As soon as we make it into a requirement - we bring ourselves under the law again. What makes the tithe so wrong is that it is a fixed amount. Therefore, what if God prompts you to give 5 percent or 15 percent?

The scripture that covers giving in the New Testament the best is 2 Corinthians 9:7.

7 So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.

2 Corinthians 9:7 nkjv

This attitude of the heart, giving out of love, applies to everything we do for God and other people – it applies to the giving of our time and resources. If there is no peace or joy in it, or if we feel awkward about it, then love is not in it. 1 John 4:8 says that God is love – so if we do something without love, we are doing something without God.

The Bible tells us that we should do everything with motives of love.

14 Let all that you do be done from motives of love.

1 Corinthians 16:14 WNT

What I have an issue with is those who preach that the only way to receive provision from God, even answered prayers, is to sow by giving to the church. I believe this is a lie that causes believers to give grudgingly with the expectation of getting something in return.

If we give to God with wrong motives, it is from our own corrupt, human nature: the flesh. How can an action motivated from the flesh ever please God? The motives of an action performed from the flesh will always be selfish and they will always be wrong. Even if we give offerings to God or we offer our time by serving in the church, if we do it in order to merit God’s blessings, or if we do it because we think we’ll be cursed if we don’t, then it does not please God.

The Trap of Self-Justification

Something that the Lord has been revealing to me recently, has been the concept of self-justification. This is a really tricky thing I find.

The Charismatic Movement

When I was caught-up in the charismatic movement in the late nineties, I found that there was a great deal of emphasis on Christians proving their worth to God and each other. There was an emphasis on God "using" people, with the idea that you were not a proper Christian unless you prayed constantly for God to "use" you in all sorts of extravagant ways.

I think what made all of this worse was the Word of Faith movement with its spectacular testimonies, signs and wonders. I'm all for that but with the proper emphasis and motive.

The Desire to Prove Oneself

The carnal nature is inclined towards proving oneself. The concept of the law as in the Ten Commandments was something that was actually requested by man, as far as I understand. It is for this reason that the concept of establishing rules as a means of a person being qualified or disqualified for the blessing and favour of God - is such as natural inclination.

Unless we first accept ourselves just as we are, we will never attain the clarity, peace, joy and love that we need in order to walk in the fullness of what God has for us. But this is why the whole concept of keeping rules or proving yourself by asking God to "use" you - is such a massive distraction. This desire for God to "use" us to do marvellous things, appeals to the lower nature's compulsion to prove oneself to God and other people. There is this sense in the church of two types of Christians: active Christians and passive Christians. A person will make themselves do all sorts of things they don't want to do in the church, all for the sake of being acknowledged as an "active Christian" or a “devoted Christian”.

To be honest, I'm inclined to believe that the concept of bringing together a group of frustrated and confused people who are desperate to prove their worth - is a really bad idea. The pastor of a church can exploit this desperation in order to maintain his religious show. It's like a conveyor belt of frustrated Christians, hopping on and off, either burned out on religion or desperate to prove themselves.

Un-anointed Works

When I look back on everything that I've done so far in church, I can see that hardly any of it was really blessed by God. There have been so many start-and-stop activities were I have been convinced that I've been called to do something, only to find that I've made all sorts of commitments to something that does not really work for me and something that I'm beginning to struggle with. Then, when things don't work out, we make the glib excuse of, "Well, God changed His mind." Yeah, right, as if!

Seek Righteousness First

Jesus says to seek righteousness first: knowing that we are acceptable to Him - just as we are. But then we get caught-up in the practice of feeling as if there is something wrong with us if we don't get excited about going on mission trips abroad or joining the weekly prayer meeting. There is this sense that if God does not "use" us, then we are harbouring hidden sin, or we need to read more Christian books in order to find the right principles and formulas to keep. This is like entering into a vast maze, because the power from God that we are seeking in order to fulfil some kind of requirement that we think we ought to fulfil, for our own peace of mind, simply is not being afforded to us by God.

Even though we are told that we are righteous, there is that sense that we are still required to keep rules, albeit, through the power of God. Living according to the law is not just seeking to keep rules through self-effort, it is also seeking to keep rules through confessing "power from on High" according to the Word of God.

Bertie Brits teaches that we should avoid seeking the power of God so that we can fulfil the law - Jesus fulfilled the law on our behalf. Our job now is to rest in His finished work and to live freely and naturally as we allow Hs love to become our own nature and desires. As soon as we look to rules, principles, obligations and formulas - we end-up restricting the love of God working in us, through our own logical reasoning.

The Old Covenant could not produce life, the presence of God, in the heart of a person (See Romans 7:10). We need the life-giving presence of God in order to live a godly life. But God is not going to give us His power so that we can fulfil our own sense of self-justification. The pastor might tell the congregation that everyone in the church should join the next mission trip abroad – but is he right? What are his motives? Perhaps God wants you to go on that mission trip, but then again, perhaps He does not.

The Threat of Being Called “Lazy”

I think what often happens is that we dread being called “lazy” by other Christians. The word “lazy” is used far to often by well-meaning preachers who try to “motivate” Christians into serving God. What they end-up doing is patronising people and bringing a sense of condemnation to believers who are already struggling to believe that God loves them, just as they are.

If you are not called to do such things, it can cause your anxious mind to race, “Why aren’t I called to go on this mission trip? Is it because I haven’t prayed enough? Do I need to read the Bible more? Perhaps there is a book that will give me the correct principles and formulas to follow? What’s going to happen to me if I don’t go on that mission trip? What will other people think of me? What am I going to tell them? What excuse can I make?”

Self-Justification Amongst the Pharisees

During the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was always at odds with the religious elite of the day: the Pharisees and Sadducees. These Jewish sects sought to prove themselves to be better than everyone else, and more deserving of the favour of man and God, according to their efforts and achievements.

Everything that the Pharisees did appeared noble, but it was their motive, the honour of others, that made it so wrong. Even prayer and fasting became a platform for these people to prove their worth to themselves, God and others. (See Matthew 6:5-6, 6:16). I like the rendition in The Message translation:

5 "And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? 6 "Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. 7 "The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8 Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.

Matthew 6:5-8 msg

God Resists the Proud

The Bible tells us that God resists the proud (see James 4:6). Who are the proud? Obviously, “the proud” are people who boast about their status, achievements and ability.

But perhaps “the proud” could also include those well-meaning Christians who have a strong desire to prove their sense of worth to themselves, God and other people – according to what they have and what they do. If this is the case, what is the likely result of such a person’s pursuits? Well, if God resists a person, I see that as there being no plan or purpose of God in that thing. If there is no plan or purpose of God in an endeavour, there will be no cohesion between people in order to bring about the accomplishment of it. In order to achieve even the simplest of tasks, we need the love of God and everything that 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says that love is.

Even the simplest service to God, such as welcoming people on the church door, can become incredibly tedious without love. Without the wisdom of God, a person will easily become confused, even in the most basic tasks. If a person does not experience the life and love of God to do something, they will struggle with it and eventually, they will be burned out on religion.

28 "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:28-30 msg

If God resists a person because of their pride, because of their natural inclination to prove themselves and to seek the approval of others – what is likely to happen in the life of that person in regards to their ability to live a godly life and avoid sin? I would say that without the wisdom, life and love of God operating freely in their life, as they seek to fulfil their own need for self-justification – they are likely to succumb to all manner of temptations.

God Gives More Grace to the Humble

You might be wondering why God does not give Christians the power to keep the law, and thereby, justify themselves. I am not saying that we should deliberately seek to break the Ten Commandments, as if we have a point to prove. Neither am I saying it is a bad thing if we find ourselves, for instance, not committing adultery. I am just saying that we ought to be consciously aware of our motives for doing many of the things that we have been conditioned to believe that Christians ought to do.

Remember, God gives more grace to the humble (see James 4:6). Humble people do not have a point to prove. Just consider what religious, proud people are like, they way they treat other people and look down on them as if they are a lower class of human being. Then, consider how you might be inclined to treat other people if you were empowered to fulfil all of those religious obligations that the church has imposed on you. You might feel weak, sinful and helpless as you are now – but what would happen to you subconsciously if God, all of a sudden, enabled you to fulfil all of those religious obligations. The truth of the matter is, that anyone who seek to justify themselves according to what they have or what they do, be it in their own power or the power of God, has the potential to become proud and self-justified.

9 Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: 10 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' 13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Luke 18:9-14 nkjv

The False Pursuit of Happiness – Part 3

There are all sorts of ways that people seek happiness through the pursuit of something outside of themselves. People have been conditioned mentally to seek happiness through false avenues of hope – to the point of actually denying themselves what they actually need.

Biblical Analogies

It is like the woman with the issue of blood saying to herself, “If I can just touch the hem of His garment, I will meet a dashingly handsome man who will make everything wonderful in my life.”

It could also be like the blind man who cried out amongst the crowd, “Son of David, have mercy on me.” Then Jesus comes to him and he says, “Lord, can you give me a thousand denarii?” Could you imagine the look on Jesus face had that happened?

These people in the Bible did not even have to ask Jesus for what they needed. Both Jesus and the person in need of healing knew what they wanted the most. They did not even have to ask Him for what they needed – He just knew. It is strange the way that the anxious mind can rearrange the order of priority when it comes to your basic needs.

The Man at the Pool of Bethesda

Let us consider in a little more depth the paralytic who was healed at the pool of Bethesda.

1 After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3 In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4 For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5 Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, "Do you want to be made well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Jesus said to him, "Rise, take up your bed and walk." 9 And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked. And that day was the Sabbath.

John 5:1-9 NKJV

Could you just imagine the dialogue that could have ensued had the paralytic allowed his anxious mind to mix-up his priorities? Perhaps it would have gone like this…

Jesus: "Do you want to be made well?"

Paralytic: “Lord, what I’m actually after is a donkey.”

Jesus: "Why do you want a donkey?”

Paralytic: “Well you see Lord, I’m paralysed and it would be so much better if I had a donkey. My friends could just lift me on and I could get about much better.”

Jesus: “But I can heal you of your condition. Then you would be able to go anywhere you wanted – without a donkey.”

Paralytic: ”Oh, I see, does that mean that you can’t give me a donkey or you don’t want to give me a donkey – is that it?”

Jesus: “I didn’t say I wouldn’t give you a donkey.”

Paralytic: “Oh, so you will give me a donkey then?”

Jesus: “I didn’t say that either. I asked you before if you wanted to be made well.”

Paralytic: “Yes I want to be made well. But I’ve been paralysed for so long and to be honest – I don’t really believe in all that divine healing stuff. Sure, I’ve heard it happening in other people’s lives – but I don’t believe it will work for me. I could believe that I receive a donkey much easier than believing that I can be healed. Then I would have something good and worthwhile in my life.”

Jesus: “All you have to do is to believe that I can make you well.”

Paralytic: “But if you gave me a donkey, I would be in a much better position to be able to believe that I can be well. Then, while I’m developing faith for my healing, I could be getting around on my donkey.”

Jesus: “Will you shut up about that donkey!”

Paralytic: “I knew that you didn’t want to give me a donkey.”

Jesus: “You need to get your priorities straightened out. What I tell my disciples is that they should seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things would be added to them.”

Paralytic: “All these things…does that include donkeys?”

Jesus: “Yes, if you really need a donkey then that means that you can have a donkey. But for goodness sake – seek the most important things first!”

The False Pursuit of Happiness – Part 2

I do believe that God has a plan for everyone – but they might not be as fanciful as some people hope. Not every Christian is called to full-time ministry. We often get carried away with the “celebrity” side of Christianity. The likelihood is that most Christians are probably called to live an abundant, and yet, down-to-earth family life. We often forget just how blessed we are in prosperous countries such as the U.K. or the U.S.

It is amazing how we make a fuss over what mobile phone we should have, and yet, there are millions of people on this planet who have not even heard a dial tone in their life.

We spend time choosing what designer labels to wear, when there are millions of people who wear rags and would be more than happy to wear our cast-offs – the clothes that are probably still in good condition – but just not in fashion anymore.

When we lose sight of just how awesome divine peace and joy really is – we try to replace it with material things or things external to ourselves.

In his book, Mastering Your Emotions, Pastor Colin Dye says that the basic human wants are security, significance and self-worth; we try to satisfy these wants through the pursuit of people, power and possessions.

“God has only to give you what you want to make you feel the emptiness of it!...You will generally notice that when the Believer gets near to God, tastes the unseen joys and eats the bread that was made in Heaven, all the feasts of earth, all its amusements and all its glories seem very flat, stale and unprofitable!”

Charles H. Spurgeon —1891, Sermon #2225

The False Pursuit of Happiness – Part 1

The anxious mind can be very cunning and deceitful. It brought to mind the words of Jeremiah the prophet in Jeremiah 17:9.

During the countless amounts of times in the past when I had become depressed and anxious, I had prayed a prayer in panic to the Lord for Him to set me free. Nothing would seem to happen, so I felt rejected, defeated – powerless to stop the torrent of negative thoughts and emotions that seemed to overwhelm me. My mind had become so conditioned by this, that it became utterly convinced that there was no escape and that peace and joy was something that I could never attain.

I had assumed that I had to try to battle my negative thoughts and emotions myself. A lot of this stemmed from the world’s belief that Jesus doesn’t really do miracles anymore and that you control the way that you think – not God. This wrong belief was also perpetuated within the church.

Even charismatic Christianity seemed to endorse self-effort to please God. It was assumed that God would provide the spiritual fireworks in the form of signs and wonders, if you begged Him enough, but when it came down to your thoughts, emotions and behaviour – it as all over to you. After all, they would argue, we have all been made righteous. So if you have been made righteous – then you should not be sinning – so just don’t sin! Arrrggghhh!

My highly imaginative mind assumed that the only way that I could have this peace and joy I so desperately wanted, was to obtain it through some kind of alternative means, through some kind of “framework”. I had become so accustomed to experiencing a hint of life and peace through some means or another, that I become conditioned to believe that such things were actually the source of the joy itself.

After years of erratic and undulating emotions, the mind just becomes convinced that it can only be happy and satisfied if it has that job, that girlfriend, that house, that car, etc. I would desire to be with certain people whose company I had enjoyed in the past – with the idea that they would somehow give me life and peace. I would seek also to do those activities that I thought would automatically bring me joy. I learned that this is the way that the mind becomes “programmed”. I could see the credibility behind the Psychological models of conditioning created by the likes of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlov.

It is rather astonishing how this conditioning regarding what makes us happy, causes a person to become highly covetous. By the time such a person becomes a Christian, he will have a big list of wants that he brings before the Lord in prayer. Prosperity teaching and Word of Faith teaching will encourage believers to “dream big dreams” and the like.

I will never forget the words of Tommy Barnett when he came to my church: Tommy preached a motivating and encouraging message and he said, “Your dreams aren’t big enough”. I know he meant well – but it does not help those who are looking to the wrong things for satisfaction.

Word of Faith and the Fairground Analogy

Faith formulas and principles remind me of those little cranes that you see at the fairground. You put your money in the slot and move the crane with a joystick. The idea is to pick up one of the little bundles of goodies that are held behind the glass cabinet. These goodies will usually be something like wrist watches with a twenty pound note wrapped around them, or something similar.

Christians get the impression that they are in control of their life and their actions; they believe that they can keep these principles and formulas. Christians are often able to grab the prize of being able to do something for God in order to merit His favour and blessing.

But due to the weakness of the flesh, just like the weakness of the little crane at the fairground, they just can’t keep hold of the prize in order to make the prize a permanent catch. The result is that just as you think you’ve got what it takes to be blessed by God by your efforts – the prize slips from your grasp and you are forced to start all over again. The only reason why you keep on trying is because you feel you are so close to winning that prize and that if you keep at it, then you will finally succeed.

Word of Faith, Principles and Formulas

Word of Faith teaching entices people with flashy looking prizes and appears to give people the means by which they can attain them. This is appealing to the flesh which not only wants to be blessed, but actually wants to do something in order to merit it. In this manner, Bible based teaching that was meant to encourage faith in believers, actually has the effect of stirring-up the flesh.

Through Word of Faith - Christians seemingly don’t have to keep rules they cannot keep; neither do they have to serve in church in a role they don’t want to perform. That’s why name-it-and-claim it is so popular: just confess that something is yours because of what the Bible says – and you will have it. But this approach can make a work, a rule, something the believer “must do” – in order to experience the manifest presence of God.

It seems that the “prize” of reading Word of Faith books, is that you believe they can yield you principles and formulas that will give you a sense of control over your life, and dare I say it, control over God.

I like what The Message Bible says about “formulas”:

13 "Don't look for shortcuts to God. The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don't fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do.

Matthew 7:13 msg

5 "And when you come before God, don't turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? 6 "Here's what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. 7 "The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They're full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. 8 Don't fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.

Matthew 6:5-8 msg

In Matthew 6:6 in The Message Bible, we see a vital clue as to how to how we should pray in order to experience the grace of God: The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about?

Why Believers Fail to Experience All That God Has For Them

Being Told What to Do By Pastors

I believe that part of the problem as to why believers fail to experience all that God has for them, is is that many believers are told what they should do by a pastor. I cannot help but feel that due to spiritual stagnation, a pastor could try to implement his own plans and programmes in the church. Then, he will announce these things to the congregation, telling them that it is the will of God and that they should volunteer themselves to do them. But how do you know that these things are indeed the will of God – or simply the efforts of a frustrated pastor?

One of the reasons why the Lord does not stir up believers to do the things that the pastor says they should, is because they are simply not ready to serve Him. Many people come to church in a broken condition and in need of restoration. The common belief is that if, as a believer, you just turn up to church sing some songs and then listen to a sermon, then you should be restored after a period of time – as long as you make an effort of the will to do what the pastor tells you to do.

Renewal of the Mind

Restoration takes time, not because Jesus wants us to wait – it is because it takes time for us to renew our minds with what the Bible says we are in Christ (Romans 12:2). The renewal of the mind is typically the only time-factor when it comes to experiencing the fullness of God for your life.

Without a change of nature, you will find it difficult indeed to do those things the Bible says you should do. Just by listening to religious, rules-based sermons, you are not going to be transformed. You can only be transformed by renewing your mind with the Word of God (Romans 12:2 and Colossians 3:9-10).

It is only through the development of faith - faith of the heart - that will bring about an inner transformation. It is for this reason that you have to be really careful and selective as to the teaching that you expose yourself to. This faith is not something that we must do, like a rule we ought to keep, faith is something that happens to you when you listen to the Gospel being preached (Romans 10:17).

The Lure of Religious Pride

Some believers love the thought that they can purchase this grace through self-effort by means of works and rule-keeping. There are a lot of Christians who have suffered through life as a result of not being afforded this grace. It is not that God denies them that grace – they bring themselves into the same situation as the Galatian church who, once accepting grace, reverted back to keeping rules. (See Galatians 3:1-3).

The concept that they no longer need to struggle in life, seems incomprehensible to legalistic Christians. Yet this concept of grace as a free gift, which is asserted by many believers, is a concept which is backed-up by scripture.

Some people love to believe that they have earned their right to something; they love to believe that the reason they have received something good is because of what they have done. When it comes to grace, it is all about what Christ has done for us. To believe that righteousness comes as a result of self-effort is a boast on man and is a denial of the sacrifice of Christ. There is no room for boasting in the Gospel (Romans 3:27).

26 And now in these days also he can receive sinners in this same way because Jesus took away their sins. But isn't this unfair for God to let criminals go free, and say that they are innocent? No, for he does it on the basis of their trust in Jesus who took away their sins. 27 Then what can we boast about doing to earn our salvation? Nothing at all. Why? Because our acquittal is not based on our good deeds; it is based on what Christ has done and our faith in him. 28 So it is that we are saved by faith in Christ and not by the good things we do.

Romans 3:26-28 TLB

If what we do for God is according to our own efforts, then any reward that comes to us as a result of that will be a wage – not a free gift (Romans 4:4). Let’s read this verse in the context of surrounding verses, in The Living Bible.

1 Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What were his experiences concerning this question of being saved by faith? Was it because of his good deeds that God accepted him? 2 If so, then he would have something to boast about. But from God's point of view Abraham had no basis at all for pride. 3 For the Scriptures tell us Abraham believed God, and that is why God canceled his sins and declared him "not guilty." 4 But didn't he earn his right to heaven by all the good things he did? No, for being saved is a gift; if a person could earn it by being good, then it wouldn't be free--but it is! 5 It is given to those who do not work for it. For God declares sinners to be good in his sight if they have faith in Christ to save them from God's wrath.

Romans 4:1-5 TLB

Apostle Paul was honest and he humbled himself enough to admit that he was not a good person. Paul knew that in terms of being righteous, it was only by the grace of God.

18 I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned. No matter which way I turn I can't make myself do right. I want to but I can't.

Romans 7:18 TLB

The Bible is pretty clear about those people who choose to earn righteousness through their own efforts:

20 Now do you see it? No one can ever be made right in God's sight by doing what the law commands. For the more we know of God's laws, the clearer it becomes that we aren't obeying them; his laws serve only to make us see that we are sinners.

Romans 3:20 TLB

If the grace of God is something given to man freely, then why does man not experience the effects of this? Surely there should be some difference made to the nature of man? The nature of man being propensity or motivation to action. If this new nature that the Bible promises in the New Birth has been imputed to all who believe in Christ, why do so many believers struggle to do good and to resist the lure of the wretched flesh-nature?

It amazes me how so many people, myself included, have found it so difficult to do those things that the Bible says believers should do. Surely, if the nature of Jesus Christ was abiding in every believer of the Christian faith, then it should be the easiest thing in the world to do those things that the Bible says we ought to do?

Learn the Unforced Rhythms of Grace

"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. 29 Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. 30 Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

Matthew 11:28-30 MSG

If you say to someone in church, "I want to live freely and lightly; I want to learn the unforced rhythms of grace." I think many believers would look at you strangely. Yet this is what The Message Bible has to say about the grace of God that Jesus so graciously purchased for us with His own precious blood.

The soul still struggles with the concept of receiving grace so freely. The soul becomes convinced that there must be a price to pay for something so precious. Yet Jesus Christ Himself tells us in the Bible that the water of life is a free gift, to whoever desires and whoever thirsts: Revelation 22:17.

17 The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come.' Let each one who hears them say the same, 'Come.' Let the thirsty one come--anyone who wants to; let him come and drink the Water of Life without charge.

Revelation 22:17 TLB

I think that this struggle to accept the gift of the water of life, is because we have been brought up in a culture that asserts that there is no such thing as something for nothing in this life. We are so used to working hard so that we can receive the basic necessities of life.

It is alright to work hard as the grace of God drives you, empowers you and compels you. But there are no rewards in life for people to try to get things done through an effort of their own. Jesus Christ offers us the free gift of the grace of God.

Salvation Through Works

Fairground Cranes

It can seem so tantalizingly simple, so easily attainable, to do good works in the church and to keep going with it. It reminds me of one of those little cranes that you see at the fairground. You put your money in the slot and use a little joystick to manoeuvre a little crane in order to grab a watch or something. Just as you think you’ve grabbed the prize and you are about to drop it down the chute – the little crane goes and drops it!

Money Falls

On a similar theme, it can also be like the money-falls, where you put coins into a machine that pushes the coins. If you can put a coin into the slot at the right time, you can cause the machine to push some coins into the chute and you win some money. Sometimes it looks as if you are so close, so you put more money in. Then, as you get close, but not close enough, you put some more money in. So it continues until you have inserted all your spare change into the machine – either without winning anything, or winning a fraction of what you put in.

The Struggle for Justification by Works

It seems like a desperate plight for many believers as they struggle like mad to substantiate their salvation through works. It can seem to be so easy to just commit to some simple duty in the church, such as shaking people by the hand and welcoming them as they walk through the church doors. However, God will often rain on your parade by finding some way to frustrate you in your efforts to please other people.

If you are relying on some simplistic church routine to substantiate your righteousness, apart from knowing and understanding the Word of God, then God is likely to throw a spanner in the works of your religious machine. You can praise God if He does! It might to frustrating, annoying and even a little bit scary – but at least God is steering you towards knowing Him! Rather that than just trundling merrily down a road of religion that gets you nowhere!

There Is Only One Way To Salvation

There is only one way to be saved, and fortunately, it is effortless: Romans 10:13.

God wants an intimate relationship with all of His children. God does not just want His children to give sacrifices on an altar – He wants us to really know Him. We know God through the Word of God – not through routines and duties.

If you have to force yourself to perform church routines and duties, then it is likely that you do not know God well enough. The Bible says that if we have accepted Christ as our Lord and Saviour, then our nature has been changed (see 2 Corinthians 5:17). It is possible for a believer to receive a new nature in their spirit – but not be able to walk in the experience of it because of unbelief.

If you are in unbelief – you need to repent of some wrong mindsets. When I say “repent”, I mean have a change of mindset, a revelation – not repentance as if grovelling to God for forgiveness! Above all – you have to simply be honest with God.

Matthew 23:23 as a Basis for Tithing

23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.

Matthew 23:23 nkjv

It would appear from Matt. 23:23 that Jesus is saying that Christians should pay their tithes. But if we're not careful we can make a law out of tithing based on this verse. One point that we should consider is that Jesus knew who He was dealing with: Jesus was not dealing with someone like Simon-Peter the unstable, sinful fisherman who was willing to believe in Jesus and could not keep the Ten Commandments.

No, Jesus was dealing with the religious elite of the day who prided themselves on keeping rules. Jesus was, in effect, saying, “Good on you, you legalistic, religious people – you should do everything that the Law tells you to do.” The Pharisees could relate to keeping rules – but they absolutely could not tolerate Jesus when He told them that He was the Son of God.

Let's look at some other verses were Jesus told people to keep the law:

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, "Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" 17 So He said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." 18 He said to Him, "Which ones?" Jesus said, "'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not bear false witness,' 19 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' " 20 The young man said to Him, "All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?" 21 Jesus said to him, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Matthew 19:16-22 nkjv

So, if we are going to make Matt. 23:23 into a rule, something that we must do - we should also make Matt. 19:17-19 into rules that we should keep. After all, Jesus did say in verse 17, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments".

While we're on the subject, let's not forget what James said in James 2:10.

Oh look - we're back to the Ten Commandments again! The moral of the story is that even if the New Testament tells us that we should keep rules, it doesn't mean we, as Christians should keep them. Sounds confusing doesn't it?

Thankfully, Joseph Prince teaches on Matthew 19:16-22 and brings it into a grace perspective. Jesus gave this man the law because he was looking for something that he "should do" in order to inherit eternal life. Jesus could have told him the truth, to believe in Him, but the man was looking for rules and probably was not open to the Gospel.

There is only one commandment in the Bible:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

John 13:34 nkjv

Thankfully, God even gives us the means of keeping this one commandment:

5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:5 nkjv

Grace Reigns Through Righteousness

21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:21 nkjv

When we look unto Jesus and the free gift of righteousness that He wrought for us – it brings life to our mind, emotions and body – as we become reconciled to God. But when we put conditions on our righteousness that don’t really exist, such as when we look to our behaviour and actions, we get into unbelief (belief contrary to the Word). When we get into unbelief, we succumb to guilt, which is self-condemnation; this in turn prevents us from experiencing the fullness of what God has for us. As 2 Corinthians 3:6 says, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

When it comes to the subject of faith, our ultimate aim should be to lay hold on eternal life – that is the only battle that the Christian is called to fight. (See 1 Timothy 6:12).

So often we try to “believe” God for healing or prosperity or whatever. But we fail to understand that our fight of faith is for the purpose of laying hold of eternal life: the manifest presence of God living in us.

According to Ephesians 1:3, we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing. When we have eternal life, Christ in us, there is no need to believe God for this or that: we already have that which we have been seeking after – we have everything we will ever need.

If you have the Holy Spirit living in you – the accomplishment or attainment of a thing is only a matter of time. Why believe God for that which only eternal life can bring? When you have eternal life dwelling in you – you have truly been blessed with every spiritual blessing. When it comes to faith, believe God for whatever it is that will bring you eternal life.

Grace reigns through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).

The Divine Nature | TNB