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I had heard of the book by London journalist Oliver James, Affluenza, for a little while now. I had seen this book in shop windows and advertised on websites such as The word is a mixture of the words “affluence” and “influenza” – denoting a desire for affluence that is both contagious and bad for ones health.

You can read more about this book on what appears to be the author’s official website here. You can read a product description, reviews and buy the book on Amazon here.

In researching the book, Oliver James spent nine months travelling the world in search of answers as to why people in developed countries tend to suffer from anxiety and depression more than previous generations. The author suspected that there was a connection between a growing dissatisfaction in people and the incessant need to keep up with ones peer group in relation to status, money and possessions. Some of the destinations that James travelled to include Sydney, Singapore, Moscow, Copenhagen, New York and Shanghai. Despite obvious cultural differences, James noticed that there were shocking similarities in the way that the people continually aspired for more of what they did not have. The more they aspired – the more adversely affected they were from a mental and emotional perspective.

This book seemed to get a mixed bag of reviews on the website. Some complained that it was not well written, others argued that the observations were just that – observations – and they could hardly be substantiated. Whilst others praised the authors work as being true-to-life and an engaging read. I could not help but feel that most of the negative comments were made by people who were already stricken by the “virus” (as the author puts it) and that they certainly had something to defend.

Personally, I found the book a compelling “read”. I’ve intentionally used inverted commas with the word “read” here, as I downloaded the audio version of the book from iTunes.

I’m certain that I have mentioned in a previous blog that I amassed a rather large number of books in the past, in my pursuit of principles and formulas that I believed would change my life for the better – I did this in the form of numerous self-help and “charismatic” Christian books.

On a side-note, I regret not having spent more time and money buying and reading the latest thrillers, like a John Grisham or Tom Clancy novel - but never mind. I recently got rid of most of my books, particularly the self-help and Christians ones, by either selling them or giving them away to a charity shop. From now on, it’s audio books for me. I only downloaded the book today and I’m already halfway through! Another great thing about audio books, besides the time it takes to “read” them, is that they take up far less space than their predecessors.

I enjoyed listening to Oliver James’ accounts of the different people that he met around the world, the way some of them were coping and adapting to rapid changes in the economy and attitudes towards money, possessions and careers. I felt that the book made a good attempt to highlight the disturbing trends towards global commercialism. It is a call for balance and an eye-opener in relation to what is going on around us and the way that it is adversely affecting people. James also backs-up his finding with some rather alarming statistics.

I find that the subject of financial prosperity in relation to self-help and Christianity is a rather difficult one. There tends to be an orientation in people’s attitudes that veer to either one extreme or the other. Personally, I have striven to establish a rather balanced viewpoint which is situation more-or-less in the middle of these opposing camps. If you are a regular visitor to my blog, you may indeed be acquainted with some of my viewpoints on this subject – I will certainly continue to express my beliefs about prosperity in future blogposts.

I recommend Oliver James’ Affluenza to anyone who is feeling dissatisfied with the rat-race and is seeking answers in this area. I feel that James does a good job in summarising what has been going on for some time now; I feel that it goes a long way towards reflecting my own personal beliefs when it comes to the disputed subject of global capitalism and consumerism and its cost on our overall quality of life.

Is There a Case for Universalism?

I don't really agree with the concept of universalism or ultimate reconciliation. I wish it was true because I don't want anyone to go to hell - especially my nearest-and-dearest who don't know the Lord.

It seems to me that as the message of grace steers us away from the long-held image of a scary, vengeful God, there is an inclination to also steer away from the concept of hell for some people. They say, "How could a God who loves us so much send people to hell?" They mean well, I suppose, but they are getting led astray by their own wishful thinking, I feel.

There are some rather scary verses in the Bible. Like when the ground swallowed-up a man and his family; then there is Ananias and Sapphira, who dropped dead instantly after Peter accused them of lying to the Holy Spirit; and how can we forget the story of Sodom and Gomorra who's entire inhabitants, except Lot and his wife, were destroyed? Well, Lot's wife nearly escaped and would have if she did not look back and get turned into a pillar of salt!

There are a whole lot of rather scary verses in the Bible which we cannot fathom in the light of grace: it all seems so plausible when we are sold-out to the notion of an angry God who demands perfection from His children. But it can become confusing when we realise that God is not as harsh as we used to think He was.

The way I see it is that there are things that God does that we struggle to understand - and I don't think we are meant to make sense of it. All we can do is to trust in God and know that He loves us. Perhaps the gravitation towards Universalism or Ultimate Reconciliation is an attempt at reconciling this seeming discrepancy when a person comes into the revelation of grace?

When it comes down to Biblical facts - I cannot see anything in scripture which refutes the hell doctrine. Personally, I wish the whole hell thing simply did not exist - but according to the Bible - it seems to exist. Hell is just another one of those scary doctrines in the Bible that simply does not make sense to the newly enlightened grace believer.

It seems to me that God is bound to certain obligations because of who He is and because He requires absolute perfection. We could never attain that level of perfection, and therefore, Christ died for us. Perhaps hell is another one of those things that exist due to who God is and the way in which mankind was created?

We could always broaden the main argument supporting Universalism (how could a God who loves us do such a thing) to Jesus dying on the cross: how could a God who loves people so much, allow Jesus to be tortured and to die a slow, agonising death? The Universalists don't ask that question - do they?

It seems that Jesus dying on the cross was one of those inevitable obligations that had to be fulfilled by God, in a way that seems to veer to the opposite extreme of His character, in a way that causes people to eventually doubt His love for us.

In conclusion, I would really, really love to embrace the doctrine of Universalism or Ultimate Reconciliation - but there does not seem to be compelling enough evidence in the Bible to support such a notion. Believers can, like they often do, take one or two verses in isolation and make them fit their own beliefs - they do this for prosperity and so forth - so why not Universalism? All of scripture needs to be read in the right context, knowing who it was written to and when, knowing that we are now redeemed in Christ - only if we believe.

Sin and Patience in Relation to Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael

The story of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael can help answer the question of, "Will God Bless You When You Sin?"

My answer is "no", and the story of Abraham demonstrates this. Abraham still received Isaac as promised by God, though he slipped-up and had a child with his servant Hagar. You will still receive the promised blessings of God, but your well being (emotional, body and/or material) may suffer unnecessarily.

God promised Abram his promised child when he was 75 years-old (Genesis 12). Abram ran out of patience when waiting for the promised seed when he was 85 and agreed to take Hagar, the Egyptian maid, to be his wife and she bore Ishmael when Abraham was 86 (Genesis 16). When Abram was 99 years-old, God changed his name to Abraham and his wife's name from Sarai to Sarah, and a year later Abraham finally had his promised son, Isaac, 25 years after God first made the promised.

What Can we Learn from This?

God is faithful, when He made a promised; it's not a question of whether it would happen but when. God is omniscient and loves you; He has been to your future and knows the best time for the promise to come to pass. He could have blessed Abraham the next moment after He made the promise - but that was not to be. We have to believe His un-surpassing goodness and love for us by faith.

Patience is important: Abraham ran out of patience 11 years after he received the promise, committed sin (or perhaps transgressed) and had Ishmael, which he "lost" when Sarah cast both Hagar and Ishmael out. Imagine the sense of loss that Abraham had to endure to his grave sending away his flesh and blood - Ishmael. Abraham's joy of having Isaac - the son promised by God, would have been full if not dented by the “loss” of Ishmael. Abraham must have had some wonderful memories of Ishmael.

The blessings that Christ died for you and me to receive will surely come, there is only one thing that we need to do - labour to enter into rest (Hebrews 4:11). We need to make an active and deliberate choice of choosing rest in His love for us over the roaring of the devil (1 Peter 5:8) and the disappointments of life. We can do this by meditating on the message of the Gospel and knowing who are in Christ. Many believers would also add praying unceasingly in the spirit (Ephesians 6:18).

A Sense of Security and Acceptance – Part 3

Approval of Others

I have noticed that the approval of others also seems to go hand in hand with a person’s sense of security. It would seem that we look to other people to give us confirmation that we are okay the way that we are. The want for approval is finally being taken on by Bible teachers. Joyce Meyer’s popular book Approval Addiction reached number 9 in the New York Times Bestseller list. Grace Preacher Bertie Brits also teaches on the want for approval in his series entitled What God Says About You.

In his book, Mastering Your Emotions, Pastor Colin Dye states that the basic human wants are those of security, significance and self-worth. This makes a lot of sense to me because the want for approval seems to be the fuel for people’s sense of significance and self-worth.

What Causes Sin?

Sin is the soul’s self-preservation mechanism which is only brought into play when the mind determines that its overall security is threatened. Sin comes down to the innate needs in the nature of man. I think that Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs does a wonderful job of summarising the various levels of human need and how we pursue the next category of needs when our most demanding needs are met.

Sin manifests itself in terms of typical wrong modes of behaviour. In Galatians 5:19-21 the apostle Paul lists some of the typical wrong modes of behaviour which he calls “works of the flesh”; Paul said the “works of the flesh” are evident. According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions the word evident or manifest here means plainly recognised or known.

When the identification and control of wrong behaviour is emphasised as a means of inducing good patterns of behaviour, it results in resistance and rebellion, because we don’t like to be told what to do. Paul said in Romans 7:9 that when the commandment came (Ten Commandments) he died (spiritually became devoid of power and self-control). The Message Bible in Romans 7:8 says that the flesh nature makes a piece of "forbidden fruit" out of the law. It is little wonder that Paul calls the Old Testament the ministry of condemnation in 2 Cor. 3:9. Paul also calls the Old Testament the ministry of death in 2 Cor. 3:7.

The Old Testament did not give the promise of life; it simply demanded righteousness from spiritual bankrupt men. The law threatened curses and destruction if its strict demands were not met. When a gun is pointed to a person’s head and they are forced to behave a certain way, they are likely to attempt to do so – but they are likely to be overcome with fear in anything that is demanded of them in that way. If people are forced to respond in fear – the sinful nature will be manifested.

Security and Insecurity

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 the dispositions of security with that of insecurity. I’ve posted-up this chart before and make no apologies for doing so again; because I really do think it is utterly brilliant is summing-up the contrast between a disposition of security and 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

In Summary

  • Will God bless us when we have unbelief? Not very much.
  • Will God bless us when we have a disposition of sin? Again, not very much because if we are living out of the old nature, we are in unbelief and vice-versa.
  • Will God bless us when we transgress? A resounding “Yes!”

A Sense of Security and Acceptance – Part 2

Something Good from Something Bad

I have heard grace preachers say that God does not allow bad things to happen in our lives to teach us something; they argue that this is not the nature of a God that truly loves us. I agree with this notion to an extent and I must say that we cannot fully comprehend the will of God and why bad things happen. I often think we read all sorts of nonsense things into circumstances.

But it seems that life’s tribulations seem to draw people to God. Perhaps it is because they are hammered by life to the point that they no longer have a sense of security vested in who they are and what they do. I can personally vouch for this notion because I can categorically affirm that if life would have gone well for me, if people would have approved of me like I always wished they would and if life would have gone more smoothly for me – I would have been a totally different person today; my sense of security, identity, purpose, approval and empowerment would have been rooted firmly in my ability and achievements.

I have only to look at some of the people in my life to see that their success in life, which I have always envied, has become their undoing to an extent in that it has driven them away from Christ. But who can blame them? I have wondered sometimes if it was really worth it. I have spent countless hours, days, weeks, months and even years in the pursuit of things, holding onto certain beliefs and expectations, only to eventually realise that what I had been told was true was actually baseless.

I have often wondered why the church seemed to only attract insecure people: those who had been battered into submission so that they no longer boasted in their own efforts and ability. If I would have been a stronger individual, I think I would have ran a mile from all of the confusing, patronising and often contradictory doctrines that were being spewed from the pulpit.

But one good thing that has come out of all the struggle and the pain is that I have been founded in the message of grace. Now, I read the Bible with a different perspective than many Christians: when I read the Bible I see the love, mercy and grace of God to us through Jesus Christ. I suppose I had to go through what I did in order to come to the humbling understanding that I did not have complete conscious control over my life and that I could not guarantee success in everything I did simply by “working hard” or “thinking positively” or whatever platitude performance-driven people use.

I have also come to understand the contrast between law and grace; as well as the misconceptions and the suffering that arises when people mix the old and new covenants. So when a fellow grace believer begins to share their struggles with duff Christian doctrines and performance based Christianity – I can relate to their experiences because I know what they’ve been going through. I suppose that puts me in a unique position that I would not have been in had life instilled a sense of confidence in me and I had not been desperate enough to listen to a rules-based or achievement-based monologue in church each and every Sunday, as well as the numerous Christian books I read which made all sorts of promises of being blessed extravagantly by God and pleasing Him through the pursuit of formulas and principles.

A Sense of Security and Acceptance – Part 1

Old Testament heroes like Abraham, David and Joseph had powerful, intimate relationships with God. God cut a special covenant with Abram and made powerful promises to him. Abraham was blessed abundantly by God and this, I believe, gave him a great sense of security and right-standing with God.

I personally believe that it is a sense of security, a lack of fear (unbelief), which subdues the sinful nature and allows God to move freely in a person’s life, resulting in divine blessing and favour.

This sense of security and acceptance can be produced by hearing the message of God’s unconditional love for us through Christ. We are to labour to enter into rest (Hebrews 4:11). This rest that the Bible speaks of is a sense of overwhelming peace that can only come about as the result of knowing that we are accepted and loved by God, just the way we are, not because of anything that we have done, but because of what Christ has already done for us. The only condition for righteousness is that we believe in the finished work of the cross and no longer look to our works and rule-keeping for our justification.

It is this sense of security that God wants each and every person to develop by hearing and meditating upon the message of the Gospel, which is His Word for us today who believe in Christ. If we do not have this sense of security – we will be anxiously driven to seek an elusive something that will satisfy us and make us feel a sense of security, significance and self-worth.

Life Induced Security

A sense of security can also be instilled in a person when life seems to go well for them. People can become conditioned to trust in life, their own ability and other people. This is not the kind of security that God wants His children to have. I have noticed that there are some Christians who have a love for others and may even serve in the church enthusiastically – but I get the feeling that their sense of security has been instilled in them through positive life experiences, including the encouragement and acceptance of others.

God wants His people to have a sense of security that comes about as the result of truly knowing in their heart, who they are in Christ. So when the disappointments of life do come – they are able to overcome them because of the overwhelming sense of God’s love for them and an indefatigable hope in Him.

Accumulated disappointments, dashed hopes and calamities can eventually wear-down a person’s resolve and leave them heart-broken and afraid. Proverbs 13:12 says: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. The Message translation renders it: Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around. Life can literally make a person desperate and afraid or it can fill them with peace of mind, confidence and hope – it all depends on how a person reacts to their environment.


One of the greatest things I have learned in life is the concept of conditioning.

Conditioning falls into two categories:

The conscious mind is just like a window into the vastly more powerful subconscious mind (subconscious means “below consciousness”). Everything that we experience from the five senses gets fed into the mind, where each thought is classified and filed into what could be described as a massive filing system. Then, when we have a thought which is in some way related to a previous thought we have had, that thought is then strengthened and diversified so that it has more control and influence over us through our emotions. Related thoughts become grouped together in clusters which are known as complexes. Complexes become larger and more diverse as clusters of thought become related to each other, often through the most trivial means.

This is a phenomenon which is exploited by people who use advanced memory techniques for the recall of information. One such example is remembering the French word for cabbage which is chou (pronounced “shoe”) – so you would imagine a cabbage growing out of a shoe.

Our lives are literally the product of all the thoughts that we have ever thought. It seems that overriding all of our negative thoughts is the hardest thing in the world to do.

What is Transgression?

According to Thayer’s Greek Definitions a transgression is: metaphorically a disregarding, violating of the Mosaic law or the breach of a definite, promulgated, ratified law.

The disciples committed a transgression when they ate grain on the Sabbath in Matthew chapter 12:

1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. And His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.

2 And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Look, Your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath!"

3 But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him:

4 how he entered the house of God and ate the showbread which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests?

5 Or have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath, and are blameless?

Matthew 12:1-5 nkjv

Although the disciples transgressed, they broke the Jewish law of their time; I do not believe that they sinned: their own flesh nature was not vying for control and operating independently of God’s Spirit or God’s love.

I also believe that a transgression is also a slip-up, a wrong action that is out of character with our nature. Perhaps someone tricked us into doing something wrong or we just got unusually overwhelmed and succumbed to temptation. I suppose this particular line of thought is debatable in that it could be construed as sin. But if it is sin, it is more inclined towards sin in the verb sense and not the noun sense: it does not reflect upon the inward nature of a person.

When Abraham lied and said that Sarah was his sister in Genesis 12, I believe he transgressed (a one-off wrong action), rather than sinned (a natural expression of a nature in enmity with God). This, I believe, is why he got blessed in the end. I actually believe that God allows transgressions: to reveal that His kindness towards us is not impeded by our actions; and to show us, and other people, that we are not perfect and that we don’t have to be. Again, this supposition is debatable and could be looked upon as sin in the strictest sense. What I want to do here is emphasise sin as a predicable propensity to behave independently of the divine nature. As opposed to simply making a mistake that is not in keeping with the typical nature of a person.

As I mentioned in the previous blog entry, What is Sin – Part 2, Christians can get carried away with trying to identify whether or not something is sin. In a similar sense, we can get absorbed in trying to identify the difference between sin and transgression in our lives: did that thing you did ten minutes ago arise out of your flesh nature and are you likely to do it again? Or was it just a one-off error – perhaps a temporary lack of judgement? It is best to not get consumed by such worries and simply rest your mind in the knowledge that you are right with God, He accepts you as you are and that your sins have been remitted by our Lord Jesus Christ.

What is Sin? – Part 2

Sin could be seen as the nature of man without relationship with God. Did you know that there is no such thing as the presence of cold? Cold is the inevitable outcome of an absence of heat. So it is with sin and holiness: sin is the absence of holiness. In a sense, sin is not such as bad thing when we consider that it is man’s self-survival mechanism, and therefore, its intentions are good. But in the interests of self-preservation, man’s flesh nature is willing to do the most appalling things at times. More than anything, what makes sin so bad is that it is the absence of God – something we were never created to experience.

This leads me to consider Paul’s words in Galatians 5:17 when Paul says that 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. Paraphrased versions of the Bible help us to understand this text by relating to it in a slightly different way:

17 For we naturally love to do evil things that are just the opposite from the things that the Holy Spirit tells us to do; and the good things we want to do when the Spirit has his way with us are just the opposite of our natural desires. These two forces within us are constantly fighting each other to win control over us, and our wishes are never free from their pressures.

Galatians 5:17 TLB

17 For there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness. These two ways of life are antithetical, so that you cannot live at times one way and at times another way according to how you feel on any given day.

Galatians 5:17 msg

Anything that is not done out of faith – is sin (James 4:17). If our disposition and lifestyle is the result of our thinking – then our emphasis should not be on sin, but on our beliefs (faith) and the eradication of unbelief.

Biblical belief is trust in God through Christ. In fact, you can look-up the original Greek word in a Greek lexicon and find discover this fact for yourself. That same Greek word is interpreted as believe and trust in different places in the New Testament. Biblical faith is to be persuaded of something. When we become persuaded of the good news of the Gospel, we develop faith, and therefore, we trust God. That is why belief in righteousness is so fundamental.

It is this trust in God, knowing that we are accepted by Him, that He loves us and will meet our needs, knowing that Christ has paid the price for sin, taken away the curse and even eradicated sin – that subdues the flesh nature. Whenever we doubt God’s love for us and our right-standing with Him – it sends us into overdrive as we anxiously seek to please Him. I think this is something that is often exploited by those in full-time ministry, either consciously or subconsciously. It seems that there is a conspiracy in the church to get Christians focused on their inadequacies all the time. Didn’t Jesus say something about this in Matthew 7:1-2?

1 "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults - unless, of course, you want the same treatment.

2 That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging.

Matthew 7:1-2 msg

I think we can get distracted, frustrated and guilty when our focus of attention is on “sin-management”. This can lead a person to wonder if they are really saved, if they are believing right, perhaps they should read a certain Christian book and so on. As soon as the relationship, the love aspect is taken away from the Christian life, it all becomes about what the believer can do for God, and it never seems to be enough.

It would seem that most Christians hold onto all sorts of expectations; they think to themselves that when they have faith, God will bless them a certain way, when they believe they are right with Him, they will have full control over a certain behavioural pattern. These expectations can line us up for disappointment and make us feel as if we are never good enough for God. For this reason, it is best to get your mind off sin and onto Christ’s righteousness – because He is your righteousness!

2 Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ - that's where the action is. See things from his perspective.

Colossians 3:2 msg

What is Sin? – Part 1

Sin is often seen as being wrong action. However, sin is much more a disposition, a nature, which gives rise to the wrong desires that influence and control our actions. In Romans 6:6, Paul says that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. The Wuest translation says …in order that the physical body dominated by the sinful nature might be rendered inoperative. The Living Bible says …that part of you that loves to sin was crushed and fatally wounded. This “old man” or “body of sin” is also referred to as “original sin” by some scholars.

Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible attempts to describe “the body of sin” in Romans 6:6 in the following manner:

That the body of sin - This expression doubtless means the same as that which he had just used, “our old man,” But why the term “body” is used, has been a subject in which interpreters have not been agreed. Some say that it is a Hebraism, denoting mere intensity or emphasis. Some that it means the same as flesh, that is, denoting our sinful propensities and lusts. Grotius thinks that the term “body” is elegantly attributed to sin, because the body of man is made up of many members joined together compactly, and sin also consists of numerous vices and evil propensities joined compactly, as it were, in one body. But the expression is evidently merely another form of conveying the idea contained in the phrase “our old man” - a personification of sin as if it had a living form, and as if it had been put to death on a cross. It refers to the moral destruction of the power of sin in the heart by the gospel, and not to any physical change in the nature or faculties of the soul; compare Col. 2:11.

The book of Romans is considered by many Christians as being the master-work of Paul. It is in the book of Romans that Paul takes on the subject of sin – to the extent that the word “sin” appears in Romans more than any other book of the New Testament. In the book of Romans the verb form of the Greek word for sin, hamartanō (G264), appears only seven times. Whilst the noun form, hamartia (G266), appears forty eight times. A verb is a word that denotes an action, whilst a noun is a person, place or thing. Clearly, Paul is emphasising sin in the book of Romans as a state of being rather than something we do or don’t do.

The theologian Andrew Murray wrote an analogy in his classic book, Absolute Surrender, about the soul of man being like a pen that God holds and writes with: if we still have hold of the pen then God cannot write with the pen properly. In other words, God can’t move in our lives the way He would like to. Therefore, how can God bless or guide us when we have a disposition, or nature, of sin?

What is Unbelief?

Unbelief is believing something contrary to God’s Word – which is the highest truth. We don’t have to try to hard to do this because the world conditions us with unbelief from an early age. C.H. Spurgeon said that right believing produces right living. This is a saying that Joseph Prince, amongst others, have continued to uphold. Right living is a fruit – not a root – of God’s blessing and favour upon our lives. The New Testament does not demand right living from us, but says that we ought to walk in love. The Bible says it is impossible to please God without faith. I think most modern Bible Teachers, especially those who are inclined towards Word of Faith or the grace message, will tell you that our thinking is very important and it is what ultimately determines how we feel and what we experience in our life.

I can't help but feel that the whole concept of unbelief goes beyond simply believing that Jesus died to set us free. The Greek verb translated "to believe" means "to trust". We fail to trust God in so many ways. I believe this is because of the years of conditioning that our minds go through when we experience negative circumstances and life does not go the way we want it to.

When we become Christians, we often have accumulated mental and emotional garbage that simply gets in the way of God. Galatians 5:17 says that the flesh lusts against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. The Holy Spirit has to contend with all sorts of subconscious, self-protection mechanisms we have built-up over the years; tendencies that we are often not even consciously aware of: people-pleasing, self-pity, guilt, blaming and judging other people and so on. This is the unbelief, the inability to trust in God, that we have to deal with as Christians.

In her books on the unredeemed nature, the Bible teacher and author, Liberty Savard, talks about layers that the soul creates in order to protect itself. This is the soul’s bottom line defence system and includes self-control, self-reliance, self-protection, self-centredness, self-defence. When we view the negative behaviour of the soul in connection with the term layers of protection then we can begin to understand the “whys” of our wrong thinking and wrong behaviour. It is obvious that it is this accumulation of wrong beliefs, or unbelief that gives rise to a sinful disposition. Sin is the inevitable response to unbelief: sin being the nature of man without intimate relationship with God. This intimate relationship demands unconditional surrender to God.

Andrew Wommack has a teaching available on the subject of unbelief. Andrew taught that unbelief and faith can actually co-exist. He used the example of the disciples when they couldn’t cast the demon out of a boy who was possessed in Matthew 17:14-21. Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 17:20 that they could not cast it out because of their unbelief. But in same verse, verse 20, Jesus also tells the disciples that they could achieve the impossible if they just had faith like a mustard seed (a mustard seed is tiny). So a lack of faith was not the issue – it was their unbelief. The faith that they did have was corrupted by the unbelief.

Andrew Wommack also provided the analogy of a horse that was tied to a wagon pulling it in one direction, but at the same time, another horse was tied to the other side of the wagon, and therefore, the wagon could not move. If you have both faith and unbelief at the same time - nothing can happen for you because your unbelief cancels out the faith.

If you read the Bible, you'll see that the people who received miracles just accepted that God was able to bless them and they received their blessing. All that was required was that they believe. These people didn't read a whole bookcase of books on faith; they didn't travail in prayer for hours every day - with fasting, they didn’t attend mega-churches, watch Christian T.V. and they didn't give large offerings to the church. They just believed and received.

Will God Bless You When You Sin?

The traditional Christian belief is that God will not bless you when you sin. However, grace teaching generally asserts that God will bless you even when you sin. After all, it is not about our works or our righteousness, but our faith in the righteousness of another, Jesus Christ.

I intend to study this subject in more depth in the following blog entries. It is possible that I’m over-complicating things here, but this is what I believe on the subject. I believe we are better able to understand this situation when we make a distinction between unbelief, sin and transgression. As we shall see, I believe that it ultimately comes down to a sense of security.

Dealing with Loneliness


I went to my church on Sunday, Hillsong London. Pastor Tim “Segs” Segedin, preached on the subject of loneliness *

This is a subject which is relevant to me because I have struggled with loneliness for quite some time now.

Pastor Tim gave a convincing presentation on loneliness, providing striking statistics, particularly in relation to London. London, it seems, is particularly akin to this modern day malady: simply going by the amount of single occupant dwellings is compelling evidence in itself that London can be a very lonely place to live. Apparently, researchers have found that about twenty five percent of people in London experience loneliness to a degree that significantly affects their life.

This church’s solution to this dilemma is to simply make an effort to get more involved in the life of the church. I have attended about five different churches during my 15 years or so as a Christian. But no church I have ever been to has ever compared to Hillsong London in terms of its slick, professional image and the servanthood of the people who make a lot of effort to make the church what it is. Most of all, the people who go to this church are not the typical geeks you would expect. No, the people who go to this church are just normal people who are cool to hang out with. The sheer size of the church and its popular location, make it a place where you can meet a lot of like-minded people and get involved in a myriad of different activities. This is why the vision of this church to become a thriving community of people who interact with one another in a meaningful way, seems to be such a tangible goal. During the service, a young guy stepped up onto the stage and gave his testimony of how he became involved with the church and has developed some really great friendships by meeting in home groups. I have to say that I was very impressed with it all.

But what I struggle with, and have always struggled with when it comes to church, is the way that a sermon is presented in such a way as to put the onus on the hearer to do something. The church has always attempted to make spirituality, a relationship with God and a successful life into a series of steps, formulas and principles that a person can follow. But I have found that this tendency with religion and self-help is a rather misleading path: principles can become a subtle manifestation of the Old Testament law of following rules and regulations.

The New Testament is a completely different system of simply resting in Christ’s finished work. It is tempting to try to take control over your life by making a list of actions that you can take in order to make your life right. When it comes to living the Christian life – it is all about knowing that you are loved by God and living your life from that love. Anything else is self-effort and is a deception. Despite this, it is difficult to say that this pastor’s message on loneliness is untrue or that it is irreverent. This message does challenge a person to come out of their comfort zone – but it also puts pressure on them to do something. But I don’t think it is a matter of being encourage to “do something” that is the issue here. I have tried to do something about my loneliness several times, but it has simply led to me trying to socialise with people when my heart was not really in it – which is very frustrating.

From around the start of this year I have been listening to The Free Believers Network podcast Into the Wild. The main host of this podcast is a man by the name of Darin Hufford who used to be a pastor of a big mega-church in Los Angeles called The Dream Center. This podcast is radical and seeks to challenge the way in which we approach church and Christianity. Darin Hufford asserts that everything to do with the institutional church, including the relationships, is a false environment and does not work.

I’m inclined go along with what Darin is saying, according to my own experience. But I have to say that when I look around me at Hillsong London, I see some people enjoying some really great friendships. But what the church tries to do is to create a one-size-fits-all solution that everyone can apply to their life – but I don’t think it works like that. What we Christians often seem to neglect is the need to interact with people in our day-to-day life, outside of church, the majority of whom are not Christians! This is a topic which Into the Wild often brings up.

Just like any other important need in a person’s life, I strongly believe that the contrast between having great relationships and struggling with loneliness – all boils down to how secure a person is on the inside. It is all about the nature, the heart of a person – this is what affects every area of a person’s life. The more secure a person is, the less they focus on themselves and the more they focus on others, and vice-versa. But I don’t think we can simply make this into a principle by simply telling people that they ought to focus their attention less on themselves and more on others.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life.” The New Living Translation says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” Galatians 5:14 says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Christians believe that there are all sorts of rules that you must keep. But there is only one – that we love others as we love ourselves. But what often makes it difficult to love others is that we do not love ourselves.

Loneliness is the by-product of selfishness. Unfortunately, selfishness is often used as an accusation which is levelled at someone who struggles with relationships. But in actual fact, selfishness is simply an obsession with self: it is focusing anxiously on ones own life with a means of controlling what a person does and how they feel. Selfishness ultimately comes from the heart of a person who is insecure – no matter how strong and independent their character might appear to the outside world. I believe that the subject of loneliness, or any other human dysfunction for that matter, could be better dealt with by keeping this focus in mind – rather than trying to whittle it down to a series of steps or a set of principles and formulas – no matter how reasonable or “doable” they might seem.

* Hillsong London, Tim Segedin, Sunday 28th February 2010 - 3.30pm - Relationships are vital

Photo One Man in Trafalgar Square by Ferminius

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