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Righteousness as a Means to an End

I have discovered a pattern emerging in my life and the lives of others in response to the grace message.

I find that a lot of people, who come to the message of grace, still hold on to a whole lot of institutional mindsets. A common theme in Christianity seems to be preachers making a whole lot of extravagant promises, based on a whole lot of tall stories. Another common theme is that Christians are given the impression that they are growing and that they need to change and improve in some way or another. The most common buzz-word in relation to this pursuit is inner-transformation.

So there is the accepted notion amongst grace-believers that they are already right with God, saved regardless of their conduct, but that they must do something in order to attain the ultimate goal of inner-transformation. Such people will often quote Romans 12:2 as their main supporting verse for this concept: And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. But we don’t know exactly what this transformed state will look, feel or sound like.

For many Christians, their efforts seem to focus mainly on sin-management. Therefore, for many the transformed state as a result of a renewed mind, is a sinless, Christ-like state – which is not only unrealistic, but is simply a distraction to us, because it gets us focusing once again on our behaviour. As far as I’m concerned, this transformed state, more than anything, is found in Romans 14:17 - righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Christians are trained to not accept themselves the way that they are.

Modern mega-churches operate on the fuel of thousands of dissatisfied Christians amassing under one roof with the shared idea that God will bless them extravagantly – if they follow the rules, or “principles” and if they use certain “formulas”. These principles and formulas will undoubtedly have something to do with tithing to the church and buying the latest book or CD with some catchy title that promises power and wealth – all in the name of serving the Lord, of course. These churches have to ham-it-up with extravagant promises – it’s the only way they can survive; it’s the only way they can run a building that remains empty most of the week – a building in which the leaders tell other people what they should and should not do – oftentimes in the most patronising ways!

When Christians come into the message of grace, they still have this mindset that they need to change or that they are transforming in some way; they might have evolved beyond to the belief that they need to keep rules, yet there is still the drive towards changing their life in some way. It seems that these expectations become a source of hope for Christians who are feeling disappointed with life, and disappointed with themselves. However, these expectations become yet another way in which to not accept themselves the way that they are, and to heap burdens and guilt upon themselves. These expectations could be something biblical and plausible, such as healing. Even so, there is still a great deal of stress around the need to control something about their lives -- as if thinking about it will make a positive difference.

Surely, if we truly trusted in God -- we wouldn't even think about getting needs met, or try to work out how we will get this or that. Perhaps this is the key to healing and provision in the message of grace? The key being that we do not even think about those things that we need. After all, isn't that what Jesus told us to do, that we should not give a thought for our lives? It seems that as soon as we even touch upon a subject with our minds -- it is as if we are contaminating it with our unbelief and distrust in God.

The message of grace ought to be the acceptance of ourselves -- just the way that we are. Despite this, I still see a trend with some grace believers in that they are always talking about who they will become, what they will do and how God will bless or "use" them -- when they finally grow in grace and believe that they are right with God. With this kind of attitude – a Christian will never accept the fact that they finally believe they are right with God, and therefore, actually are right with God – until certain criteria are met.

So it seems in this way that the message of grace seems to be a means to an end for some Christians -- instead of being an end in itself.

I suppose what believers are doing is thinking about the promise of Jesus that says that "all these things" will be added to them if they seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. So, they go after righteousness, not to experience peace of mind, but to possess "all these things". They think to themselves, “If I believed that I was right with God, then I would stop doing _______,” or, “When I finally have faith in righteousness – then God will give me _______”. But these pre-conceived ideas simply become yet another hurdle in our pursuit of acceptance of self.

The irony of this situation is that what people really want and need is to be happy – to experience peace and joy as the norm rather than the exception. But if people were to experience peace and joy in their life – they would find that everything else in their life just lines-up and slots together just right. People only seek after extravagant wealth when they are dissatisfied with life in general. In this way, money becomes a supposed cure-all method for life’s upsets.

I would say our goal ought to be to simply be at peace with our lives as it is -- no matter what our financial position, health or relationship situation may look like. No matter where we are on the ladder of life, it seems that there is always someone below us and above us.

The greatest catalyst for change, it seems, is acceptance and contentment.

I like the way that grace preacher Bertie Brits teaches on the subject of prosperity: he will always, always emphasise peace of mind and contentment, rather than seeking after wealth and the awful misnomer of trying to “believe God” for something. But Bertie always maintains a good, healthy balance: he does not say that God won’t bless someone financially. No, Bertie will teach that we should simply rest our minds in God’s love for us, knowing that He will meet our needs. It should come as no surprise to people to know that Bertie Brits does not own a mega-church and is not affiliated to one. Bertie Brits simply travels around, mainly Africa, speaking at churches, perhaps at conferences, or holding crusades.

Great gain can come from contentment. But as soon as we attach our own expectations to God’s plan and provision – we get off-course and the result is inevitably going to be disappointment.

For more information on this subject, check-out the Free Believer’s Network “Into the Wild” podcast entitled “The Ideal Self Struggle" dated 16th Jan 2010.

Should There Be Signs and Wonders in Today’s’ Church?

It's odd isn't it that a lot of churches don't get the grace/gifts balance right? But I have to admit that I was heavily into the charismatic signs and wonders scene. It was really exciting for me to attend a church that experienced such profound miracles. I believe that the early stages of my Christian life spent in Kensington Temple, renowned for it’s pursuit of revival and the regular expression of signs and wonders, really cemented in me, a passion for the church. However, we must bear in mind that while signs and wonders are found to be acceptable and exciting to many Christians – people from the outside world can see it as being rather bizarre, as this article about Kensington Temple recounts.

Signs and wonders, miracles of healing and the like, really encouraged me at the time and showed me that Christianity wasn't just a dull ritual. However, now that I look back on it all, I see that I was trying to overcome my absence of God's love and a sense of being right with Him, by aspiring to do signs and wonders myself. You could say that the signs and wonders in the church became a distraction for me that plunged me into a fantasy world that pulled me away from experiencing a more down-to-earth, but exciting life in Christ.

The church I go to now, Hillsong London, does not experience signs and wonders as such, but the grace teaching, servanthood and fellowship are utterly amazing. It makes me think of 1 Corinthians 13 when Paul is talking about love and the way in which it is so much more important than spiritual gifts, such as prophecy.  It makes me think, “Hey, maybe the Christian life is not all about miracles and the pursuit of power after all?”

If a church asserts that it does not believe in signs and wonders, I would say that there is something wrong with that. I would say that praying in tongues should not be a strict requirement, but certainly, something which is highly recommended. In summary, there really needs to be a balance. All Christians should be prepared to allow the Holy Spirit to move as He wills. If He wills words of knowledge, prophecy, tongues and supernatural healing - so be it, we should welcome that.

If a church is heavily into signs and wonders, but there is no positive vibe, fellowship is dull, there is no growth and the teaching is not focused on grace - there is something wrong. I think there has been too much emphasis on church growth – to the point of obsession a lot of the time. The very term “church growth” for me now echoes corporate America’s approach to the church. But I use this term “church growth” in relation to a church attracting people to it.

If a church is lively and vibrant and the teaching is grace-centred, I don't think it matters if there are no signs and wonders in the church. However, if that church does not believe in signs and wonders, in that it refutes and discourages them, then that is not right.

New Testament Giving According to Luke 6:38

Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

Luke 6:38 KJV

I think Luke 6:38 is about replenishment. This is associated, I believe, with the verse in Proverbs 11:25 that says, "He who waters will himself be watered." I believe it is a Word of comfort to those believers whom God prompts to give to His church or to the needy, but are perhaps worried that their needs will not be met as a result. Those who give offerings to the church for the right reasons, according to God’s will - will be replenished.

But what I take objection to is that Luke 6:38 and other verses on giving have been twisted to mean, or subtly imply at least, that believers will be cursed financially, that they won't have enough to pay their bills and look after their children – if they don’t give money to the church when they don’t feel comfortable about it. This message is so out of tune with the message of grace.

Luke 6:38 says nothing about God not blessing you if you don't give or God cursing you if you don't give. To me, it speaks of God replenishing what He asks you to give. Some pastor’s would have us believe that Luke 6:38 is some sort of get-rich-quick scheme in that the more you give, the more that God will “pour into your bosom. But it is absurd to think this way as God has one plan for our lives, I believe. Our giving to the church cannot influence that positively or negatively. The way Luke 6:38 has been preached, or alluded to, is completely out of kilter with the message of grace. This was the reason why I was giving to the church...but not any more!

Walker Shurz on People’s Wrong Perceptions of God

Walker Shurz, in Safe Harbour Conference 2008, spoke about the different personas that we typically attribute to God:

There’s Grandfather God – He’s nice but He’s old, tired and out of touch. When we pray to Him we have to really shout.

There’s Schoolteacher God – we really want to get good grades and make Him happy. You want Him to say, “Well done!”

There’s Judge God – everything about Him is right…and wrong and He’s watching and taking very good notes.

There’s Mystical God – He’s strange and a little bit weird and makes us do weird things in church. You never know what Mystical God is going to do next, because no-one can understand Him.

There’s Distant God – He made the world but He’s very far away. He’s interested when you get baptised, and certainly at your funeral. But He’s too far away to be involved in your everyday life. He’s running a world of over six billion people – so how can He be interested in you?

Safe Harbour Conference 2008 is for me, one of the most honest and informative teaching series I’ve ever heard. It is freely downloadable from Bertie Brits’ website Dynamic Love Ministries.

Famous Prayer Quotes

prayer is the language


"True prayer is the breathing of the life of God in the soul of man"

– Octavius Winslow (1808-1848).

“Don’t try to reach God with your understanding; that is impossible. Reach Him in love; that is possible.”

– Carlo Carretto.

“The first purpose of prayer is to know God.”

– Charles L. Allen.

“By prayer, the ability is secured to feel the law of love, to speak according to the law of love, and to do everything in harmony with the law of love.”

– E.M. Bounds

“The whole meaning of prayer is that we may know God.”

– Oswald Chambers.

“Prayer honours God, acknowledges His being, exalts His power, adores His providence, secures His aid.”

– E.M. Bounds.

“Prayer crowns God with the honour and glory due to His name, and God crowns prayer with assurance and comfort. The most praying souls are the most assured souls.”

– Thomas B. Brooks.

“The right way to pray, then, is any way that allows us to communicate with God.”

– Colleen Townsend Evans.

“Prayer is the force as real as terrestrial gravity. As a physician, I have seen men, after all other therapy had failed, lifted out of disease and melancholy by the serene effort of prayer. Only in prayer do we achieve that complete and harmonious assembly of body, mind and spirit which gives the frail human reed its unshakable strength.”

– Dr. Alexis Carrel.

“Prayer is not merely an occasional impulse to which we respond when we are in trouble: prayer is a life attitude.

– Walter A. Mueller.

“Do not pray by heart, but with the heart.”

– Anon.

“Prayers not felt by us are seldom heard by God.”

– Phillip Henry.

“Many pray with their lips for that for which their hearts have no desire.”

– Jonathan Edwards.

“In prayer the lips ne’er act the winning part, without the sweet concurrence of the heart.”

– Robert Herrick.

“When you pray, rather let your heart be without words than your words without heart.”

– John Bunyan.

“I pray on the principle that wine knocks the cork out of a bottle. There is an inward fermentation, and there must be a vent.”

– Henry Ward Beecher.

“Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.”

– Søren Kierkegaard.


Photo Prayer is the Language courtesy of lel4nd

Prayer in the Light of Grace

prayer 2 I've long asked myself and others about the role of prayer in the light of grace. We have tended to see prayer as a means of changing the way God sees us and the circumstances that we face in life.

Word of Faith preaching has falsely given believers the understanding that they can dictate to God what He should do in their lives – how and when He should bless them according to what they believe is best for them. Insecure Christians believe that they can circumvent their insecurities and their warped perceptions of God - if they pray long and hard enough - what nonsense. I fell for that misconception and struggled with it for over ten years.

The truth of the matter is that God is already inclined to accept us, bless us and to guide us through the good and the bad times.

Prayer, I believe, is simply the natural expression of the heart of a person who is in covenant relationship with God. This kind of prayer cannot be learned from a book – it is something that must be allowed to develop and be expressed by an individual as he learns more about God in his own personal way and develops an intimacy with Him. Too many times we try to use prayer as a formula to “move the hand of God”. Yet we fail to comprehend the fact that God already has a plan for our lives, that He accepts and loves us as we are that He will meet our needs without our coaxing and striving through prayer and works.

God’s plan for our lives will unfold naturally – if we allow it. Our well intended means of trying to “help” God only makes matters worse. The test, I believe, is in how natural, and enjoyable, the expression of our words are before Him. Empty words recited verbatim from the latest Christian book will do little to change the heart of God and to improve our lives in some way.

And another thing: why do Christians try to ask God to give them those things that the Bible says we already have in Christ? Surely, we have made prayer into a ritual, an obligation that we ought to fulfil? Prayer has become, to a great extent, the expression of the wants of insecure Christians.

The Bible tells us that we have already been blessed with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Furthermore, Jesus Himself told us that every material need we have would be added to us – when we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). So why is it that we ask God in prayer so often for those things the Bible says we already have?

16 For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift.

John 1:16 AMP

Photo Prayer 2 courtesy of khrawlings

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