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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.

Will You Take the Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.

I’ve been giving the subject of community and church a lot of consideration recently. I’ve basically been considering the whole concept of community in relation to Christians. I intend to publish some blog entries about this soon. For now, I’d like to share an analogy which I thought of today. This analogy is based on the film The Matrix (1999) – so it won’t make much sense unless you’ve seen the film.

The Blue Pill

The typical church-going Christian is like a person who has taken the blue pill. He drifts along in an illusory world, feeling as if he’s going somewhere and that things will all work out well…someday. But in actual fact, he is just being duped by the system, which actually has him brainwashed to believe that the world in which he lives is real – when it is not.

In church, the blue-pill Christian claps his hands in delight in response to being told to go-all-out-for-God and other such challenges. Little does he realise that Christianity is not about being “challenged” or being told to keep rules – Christianity is all about being persuaded of God’s love for the believer in Christ.

Blue-pill Christian gets all excited when the pastor preaches that he will reap a harvest if he sows his finances in the right soil (which is his church); he laughs at all the pastor’s jokes – even though he’s heard them time and time again; he pretends that he really likes the people who meets and greets in church – oblivious the fact that, to be honest, he really can’t stand them; he is willing to commit to roles and duties in church that he simply cannot stand – anything to simply fit in with the crowd and to not draw attention to himself, in the wrong way.

Taking the blue pill causes a Christian to get all excited when a Televangelist announces his or her latest book or CD offer; he simply must buy the latest Joyce Meyer or John Bevere book which gives a mixture of grace and law, which simply leads to frustration, guilt and wasted time and effort.

Mr. Blue Pill just assumes that all is well in his world and that his efforts are actually making a difference to the unreal world in which he finds himself. Little does he know that his efforts are getting him nowhere and he is just drifting along with a belief system which is actually poisoning his life.

The Red Pill

When a believer takes the red pill – he is suddenly shaken free from his comfort zone and thrust into an unknown and somewhat scary new existence. He does not know what will happen next - but it is exciting, fresh, invigorating, new and full of potential. He decides that he would rather forfeit his right to exist in a comfort zone and drift along with the status quo – than to be denied the truth.

Truth becomes more important to him than a cosy exist of conformity to the accepted norms; even if it means disrupting the world that he has known all his life; even if it means questioning all the concepts that he has been told are true most of his life; even if it means losing the friendship and support of those people who he has known for years and considered to be close to; even if it means falling out with his own family.

If you take the red pill of truth you don’t always know what will happen. The message of grace seems to be the latest chapter in the great Book of Life – in which we all play a part. Taking the red pill can cause you to draw unwanted attention and criticism to yourself from believers you once had an accord with.

The red pill will not necessarily give you a super-duper anointing which will bring peace showering down from heaven so that everyone around you likes you – neither will it draw to you instantaneous riches and fame.

When you take the red pill your eyes might hurt – because you’ve never used them before. When you live in an illusory Christian world – you give away your power to other people, and therefore, your own powers of discernment diminish.

Taking the red pill will not guarantee and easy life – but it will invite the truth and it will allow you to live in the real world and to live in integrity.

There is a Sin that Leads to Death

16 If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. 17 All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death.

1 John 5:16-17 nkjv

I will admit that even during my transition into the message of grace – I still thought that there were some sins that would create a disconnection from God and there were others that would not. I assumed that, for instance, swearing was sinful – but it would not affect your relationship with God all that much. Whereas, something like committing adultery would have major implications with regards to your relationship with God. It’s only been during this year that I’ve finally come into the truth on this subject.

I was listening to a Podcast* by Paul White last week on the subject of sin that leads to death. Paul White said that there was only one sin that leads to death and that is rejecting Jesus Christ as Saviour. That makes a great deal of sense to me now because as far as the Bible is concerned, all of our sins were already put upon Jesus on the cross (see 1 Peter 2:24, Romans 6:6). I like the way in which The Living Bible renders Romans 6:6.

6 Your old evil desires were nailed to the cross with him; that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded, so that your sin-loving body is no longer under sin's control, no longer needs to be a slave to sin; 7 for when you are deadened to sin you are freed from all its allure and its power over you. 8 And since your old sin-loving nature "died" with Christ, we know that you will share his new life.

Romans 6:6-8 TLB

I thought I’d do a search on Google to see what it came up with in response to the phrase “sin that leads to death”. Surprisingly, I came across this explanation from which is in keeping with what Paul White talked about.

The Unpardonable Sin

There is also much debate surrounding what has become known as “The Unpardonable Sin”. Most believers think that the unpardonable sin that Jesus spoke of in Matthew 12:31-32, has something to do with getting angry at God in reaction to certain unpleasant circumstances.

The Unpardonable Sin is related to “the sin that leads to death” mentioned in 1 John 5:16-17 – it is not believing in Jesus. This is the only sin that cannot be forgiven and the only sin that will lead to damnation.

You can read what says about the subject here.

You can read what says about the subject here.

You can read what says about the subject here. I particularly like the following statement made in this article:

“If you are afraid that you have committed the unpardonable sin that is sure proof that you have not! Those who committed the unpardonable sin had no godly regrets. They had no interest in the forgiveness of God.”

Conviction of Sin

7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

John 16:7-11 nkjv

I think just about every Christian would agree that the Holy Spirit convicts people of sin. But most Christians seem to believe that it is the job of the Holy Spirit to continually point-out believer’s mistakes in order to “correct them”. We have been given the impression that when a believer feels guilty about committing a sin, it is because the Holy Spirit is convicting them. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Word of Faith Bible teacher, Kenneth E. Hagin, wrote that the Holy Spirit does not need to convict us when we do something wrong, because we already know when we do something wrong in our spirit. It is the job of the Holy Spirit to convict believers that they are right with God just the way they are. It is also the job of the Holy Spirit to convict unbelievers of their need for a Saviour. Romans 8:14 tells us that the Holy Spirit leads us, because we are children of God. There is a big difference between being led by the Holy Spirit and being convicted and condemned by Him when we do something wrong.

Is a Believer Saved if he Sins?

The Bible often gives the impression that if a believer sins, it is because he is not saved or he is being punished by God (see 1 John 3:6, 1 John 3:15 and 1 John 3:9). But we need to take these verses into the context of the message of grace. Let’s take 1 John 3:9 for instance. What this verse saying is that if someone has been born again, they do not have a tendency to sin. If a believer does sin, it is likely to be caused by their not being convinced that they are right with God just the way they are.

What the church has done is to “reverse-engineer” such verses as a means of condemning the congregation and controlling them through fear of hell-fire and damnation. 1 John 3:9 could be taken to mean that if a believer sins, it is because they are not born of God, and therefore, accepted by Him. Therefore, in order to be accepted by God and born of Him, we must first stop sinning.

It is impossible to become born of God by first relinquishing sin and living a moral lifestyle. Jesus came to save the ungodly – not the self-righteous. Romans 5:8 says that Jesus died for us when we were still sinners. Romans 5:10 says that we were reconciled to God through the death of Christ – when we were still enemies of God. God does not save those who keep all the rules – God saves those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit (Psalms 34:18). The word contrite in Psalms 34:18 means crushed (literally dust or powder). It all comes down to seeing our need for a Saviour rather than looking to our own works to save us.

Will God Bless You When You Sin?

There does seem to be a lot of debate and controversy over the subject of whether or not a believer can sin and still have the life of God in him and be blessed and highly favoured. I intend to write a blog entry about this subject soon, but I would say that the key to answering this conundrum is to be found in the notion that sin is a fruit – not a root: sin is the fruit of not being assured of your right-standing with God through Christ - this sense of insecurity is the root cause of sinful lifestyle.

* Paul White Ministries – What is the Sin Unto Death? – 5th October 2009

The Divine Nature | TNB