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Inspiration from the Tribulations of Paul

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Philippians 4:11-13 TLB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The Answer to Life Is – Stop Thinking!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Church and Charity

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

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

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

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

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

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

Galatians 5:22-23

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

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

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

Questioning the Role of the Institutional Church – Part 2

The Church as a Christian Youth Club

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

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

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

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

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

A Case of Security versus Insecurity

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

Already-Secure Christians

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

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

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

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

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

Security and Insecurity Comparison Chart

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



At rest & at peace

Driven & anxious

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

Striving to get acclaim, to prove one's value

Content with one's lot in life

Constantly comparing, envying, coveting

Able to bless, affirm and serve others

Jealous, controlling, manipulative & demanding of others

Questioning the Role of the Institutional Church – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Need for Intimacy with Jesus Christ

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

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 6

It is not About Works…It’s About Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 5

Be Led By the Spirit

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

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

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 4

Adam and Eve’s Nakedness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 3:6-11 msg

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 3

Righteousness is a Gift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Romans 4:1-8 MSG

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 2

Right Living is the Result of Right Believing

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

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

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

The Security of a Christian Leader

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pre-Christian Judgementalism – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

A Contrast of Two States

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

Committing Sin vs. Working out Salvation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Divine Nature | TNB