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Guidelines on Making Comments

Not many people seem to be making comments on my blog posts. I would prefer that people take the time to make relevant comments because I would prefer some two-way interaction rather than just me writing here.

But I also appreciate that some regular commenters have reported issues with posting comments. So I did a little test to check it out. I have changed the “Who Can Comment” setting so that people can comment anonymously. I appreciate that when commenting on blogs, you don’t always want to bother entering in your Yahoo or Google ID. In fact, not everyone has a Yahoo or Google ID, or whatever other ID options Blogger permits. So, you can now post anonymously if you wish to do so. However, you will have to enter a Word Verification. The Word Verification helps to keep out all of the spam postings for Viagra, weight loss pills and other such junk.

I noticed when I was testing comment posting that the Word Verification window did not seem to display correctly. There are some known issues regarding this on the internet, and a workaround, such as this.

I have decided to leave the Comment Placement setting as “Embedded below post”. If you comment anonymously, you can reveal the complete Word Verification window, by double-clicking on the black text “Word Verification”. This will then reveal the text box to enter in the word for verification and the Post Comment button. I appreciate that this is a glitch – but this workaround do seem to work okay on both Google Chrome and Internet Explorer.

I also noticed that some of the most recent comments were in Chinese. I just assumed that this was because people were posting comments in that language. I have checked the language settings of my blog and they are “English (United Kingdom)”. So if you have been experiencing issues with your comments unexpectedly appearing in a language other than English, please let me know.

I really appreciate comments so please feel free to comment on my posts. Whether you agree or disagree, I'd love to hear from you. Also, feel free to link back to your own blog in your comments.

The Difference Between Challenge and Struggle

The concepts of challenge and struggle seem to go hand-in-hand, in fact, to a great extent; they are treated as one and the same. But in actual fact, there is a world of difference between the two. Identifying this difference, I believe, is key to understanding why the institutional church system does not work and is also the key to understanding something about yourself.

Take on a Challenge!

I previously discussed the challenge type of preaching in Challenges Part 1 and Challenges Part 2. In these posts I discussed the way in which the church often attempts to overcome stagnation by motivating its members to “take on a challenge”. The thinking behind this is that if believers were to “take on a challenge”, their lives, and the church, would be better for it.

This type of thinking is derived from positive members of the church who find that when they take on a challenge, either intentionally through confidence, or unintentionally by life and other people – they feel better for it and something good comes from it. This is then turned into a formula by which it is believed that if a person “takes on a challenge” – they will become better people as a result.

Glorifying Suffering

I suppose this challenge mentality has been the key driver behind glorifying suffering: it is assumed that suffering is God’s way of testing us in order to make us better people, to teach us something and to make our lives better. I think this attitude does put a positive spin on things, but I question how valid it is. I don’t doubt that something good can com from suffering, and even that people can become better in some way through it, but I question the entire attitude towards suffering; more than anything, I challenge the entire “take on a challenge” mentality that is so prevalent in the church.

Taking Action

It would appear that the church is besotted with taking action. This is understandable as for centuries it seems that the church seemed to have very little relevance to society. People nowadays see Christianity as a ritual that has very little practicality when it comes to everyday life. There are some Christians who are desperate to change that mindset; so they attempt to do this by getting Christians to do things. But this path often leads to the typical, charitable efforts that we are so used to seeing amongst Christians – and nothing more.

The challenge type of pulpit message is designed to get Christians doing things, taking on more responsibility, getting outside of their comfort zone – all in an effort to make positive, lasting changes to the church, other people and themselves.

Challenges could be described as adverse circumstances; they are the difficulties that lie between where we are now and where we would like to be; they are the mountains that stand in our path, which Jesus Himself said we are to move by our faith.

But I cannot help but believe that problems occur when we see taking action as the cure-all formula for apathy and stagnation.

Action versus Thought

I believe that the key to understanding the difference between challenge and struggle is to be found in the difference between action and thought. There are often times when the difficulties in our path are caused by other people and those things, which are out of our control. That is were we are blameless when it comes to creating those difficulties.

I believe that for many Christians, the obstacles standing in their way are actually self-created. These obstacles are not challenges, as such; they are the consequences of a person’s own thought life. Struggle is a state of being caused by a person’s beliefs, attitudes and patterns of thinking. Such people cannot be helped by encouraging them to “take on a challenge”. In fact, taking on more responsibility for people in a state of struggle can cause more trouble for other people as well as themselves. Negative minded people do not take on challenges because of the awful stress that results when they are exposed to circumstances that oppose what they want or expect. Anxious people like things to be just the way they want them to be; the slightest thing that happens that is contrary to what they desire, can create a whole world of hurt for them.

This way of thinking gets us away from the focus on action and onto thought. Every action we take originates in a thought, those thoughts lead to desires which prompt the action. It is assumed that many Christians don’t do the things they should and shun responsibility because they are lazy and they need to be motivated from the pulpit. I find this is not the case and that they shun responsibility and challenges out of fear.

Anxiety and Confusion

When a person is struggling with anxiety, their sense of judgement goes haywire! It is very difficult to make decisions and to know what is right for you, when your mind is full of anxious thoughts. It is for this reason that a lot of Christians always seem to be confused and not know what is right for them. There is a lack of confidence present when confusion is rife: how can a person be confident in making life choices when they are confused? It is for this reason that Christians are often seeking the advice of other people, when they should really know what is right for them on the inside, in their heart.

Unfortunately, this confusion and indecisiveness potentially leads to abuse, as they are told by strong-willed people, inside and outside the church, what they should or should not do. If a person was not so anxious, they would have all the sense of wise discernment and confidence that they needed in order to do what they need to do. In fact, I find that the “three graces” of wisdom, confidence and favour that we all need to get ahead in life, come as a result of being positive and clear-minded. Anxiety is the root cause of most, if not all, of the dysfunction that we experience in life.

Merely “taking on a challenge” is not sufficient to bring a person out of this dysfunction. Such people require whatever knowledge and assurance they need in order to bring much needed peace of mind, assurance and a sense of security. The Gospel, the true Gospel of Christ, is so designed to bring this sense of security. However, the Gospel has been twisted and taken out of context to the point in which is has been wielded against people like a weapon – a weapon of fear and manipulation.

I am convinced that the Gospel, the Good News, is meant to bring assurance to people, to the point by which they cease from their own efforts to please God and to control their lives.

The Effects of Struggle

When a person is in a condition of struggle due to anxiety, they experience struggle in life. It is difficult to comprehend the extent to which anxiety affects a person. I believe that such effects are widespread, throughout every single area of a person’s life. Anxiety affects relationships, health, career – as well as the obvious affects on mental and emotional wellbeing. The result is often a fear of commitment, a sense of powerlessness; this leads to apathy and procrastination. People who are in a state of struggle will often argue with other people, and end-up getting nowhere. People who struggle will start a project and abandon it half way through.

It can be really confusing when you are in a state of struggle, because everything seems to be against you. This makes you wonder whether you are being tested by God, and as the church recommends, you should just persevere. The church often tries to encourage people going through a hard time, by using platitudes such as, “If you’re going through a hard time, it’s because the devil is attacking you because he knows that God has something wonderful planned for you.”

The whole subject of suffering is a complex one and there has been a lot of teaching, and opinion, on the subject. We can experience difficulties in life for seemingly no reason of our own making – perhaps it is just what we are meant to do. Then again, a lot of the challenges that we do face could very well be of our own making. Grace or no grace, I still believe in the law of sowing and reaping: if you are rude towards people, don’t be surprised if they are rude to you in return!

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

In my experience, like attracts like: negative minded people attract negative people and negative circumstances. Conversely, positive minded people attract positive people and positive circumstances. I have found it at times rather uncanny at the way in which I seem to have experienced so many things go wrong in my life – it all comes down to a person’s thinking.

One way of looking at it is that God’s way is peace; so as soon as you step outside of that peace, you are moving away from God’s best for your life. It does not really matter what you are facing in life, you can and should face it in peace: that’s what patience is all about.

I think what often gets in the way of peace is when we hold onto a concept in favour of letting it go and experiencing peace. When Christianity becomes more about principles to a person, than love peace, a person can become lost in pain and struggle as they go on a moral crusade. Take for instance the attitude many Christians have towards sex outside of marriage: Christians would rather intimidate and ostracise someone who fornicates, than to accept them and maintain peace.

Jesus Himself rebuked His disciples for losing their cool and getting anxious – even when it seriously looked as if they were about to drown in a boat caught in the midst of a storm. Yes, it does actually appear from scripture that God expects people to maintain a state of peace – even in life threatening situations.

Unsurprisingly, I believe Apostle Paul is the champion we are to look to in regards to this state of mind. No matter what Paul experienced, he still had peace of mind and trust in God. Paul experienced a shipwreck, he was beaten and he was thrown in prison – that is enough to annihilate any sense of trust towards God in the lives of many people.

If Paul would have associated the challenges he was going through to God’s acceptance of him – I think Paul would have been a very insecure person. But Paul was emphatic of the Father’s love for him. This faith did not prevent bad things from happening in the life of Paul. But I believe that Paul was strong in faith: he knew the Father’s love for Him and he was a secure, positive minded person who experienced peace of mind at most times.

Consider this for a moment: how on earth have we taken the challenges of Paul in the New Testament and made the same New Testament into a system of getting luxuries and special privileges from God? I know it is difficult; I’ve struggled with these things myself.

Insecure people lose their peace at the slightest, most trivial things: when it rains when they had a picnic planned or they miss the train on the way to work in the morning. Some people get angry and feel their world is falling apart if their football team loses on Saturday!

Simply telling a person in state of struggle that they should “take on a challenge”, is insufficient to bring a about a change in their life. No amount of shaming such as person is going to help.

I think one of the biggest issues with regards to this situation, is that the church attempts to cater for different people at different levels of spiritual maturity, confidence and mental stability. We see a one-size-fits-all approach in church in many things. This approach just makes things confusing as the pastor seeks to encourage people into taking decisive action and furthering the kingdom (and his own church).

The Solution

I don’t believe it is possible to overcome a condition of struggle by simply “taking on a challenge”. I’ve tried to make myself do interesting and exciting things in order to try to please other people, become happier and to look as if I’m serving God – but it really does not work if you are in a state of apathy and struggle.

As with anything, the best way to deal with a problem is to identify and tackle the root cause. The root cause of struggle, I believe, is anxiety. The root cause of anxiety is not trusting in God and trying to control your own life.

The Gospel message is described as The Gospel of Peace. The Gospel is meant to bring a person peace, to a point whereby they cease to worry about things and control their own lives according to their own plans. So we can appreciate the devastating effects of mixing Old Covenant law with New Testament grace: the result is an intoxicating mixture of declaring that you are right with God, but at the same time, making stringent efforts to keep rules and principles. The result of this is inevitably a sense of insecurity as you come to realise that your efforts to be right with God by your own works – is simply never, ever good enough.

As always, meditating on the message of grace is a sure-fire antidote to spiritual burn-out and the anxiety of trying to control your own life. The promises of the New Testament point towards a life in which God is in control, making the plans and guiding you along all the way. We are to sit back and relax as God motivates and inspires us to live our lives according to His perfect plan – His perfect, not ours.

I raised the issue of bearing in mind the detrimental effects of having wrong beliefs and attitudes, as well as a lack of discipline, in my recent blog post entitled The Fear Factor. I hope by now that you have gathered a gist for my utter resentment of Christians being manipulated by fear tactics and rule keeping in the church. However, I still ponder the effects of having wrong beliefs and attitudes. How we are to process this concept and consider it throughout this journey into God’s grace – I’m still working on that.

Best Christian Blog of the Week

I am pleasantly surprised to learn that I have won the Best Christian Blog of the Week award for May 16 2010.  This is actually the second time I have won this award now.  I find this very encouraging that my writing is getting “out there” and is being appreciated.  It is my passion to express the message of grace that God places on my heart.  This award helps to confirm to me that I am expressing myself in a way that other people can relate to and understand.


The “Harvest” Mentality – Part 2

So what is the key to escaping this “harvest” mentality of unrealistic expectations and the desire for control, which seems to be so alluring?


I believe the first step is the revelation of righteousness: when you know that you are right with God just the way you are, it changes your whole life and your view of God. No longer are you trying to please God according to your works. Now, you are able to see the Father’s love for you and rest in the assurance that He absolutely loves you no matter what you do and how you behave.

God is Good

The next step is to come to the point whereby you are certain that God has a good life for you. If you do not trust God with your life, you will always be trying to control yourself, circumstances and other people. There is something freeing in knowing that God is in control, He loves you and knows what’s best for you. When you think you have to control every little detail of your life, you do not have faith and you do not trust in God.

God Will Bless Us Unconditionally

Allied with the point above about control, is the fact that God will manifest blessing and provision in our lives without our intervention: there is no need to claim and attract things through affirmations and prayer. If you will be honest with yourself, you will come to the realisation that most or all of the time when you have tried to claim things from God – your efforts have been driven by a fear that God demands something from you and that nothing good will ever happen unless you do something about it.

Interfering With God

This leads us to the question of why nothing good happens in a certain person’s life and what they can do about it. I would say that the irony of the situation is that the more people try and control their life, through worry, prayer, affirmations and such like – the more they are interfering with God. It is our own fear and the efforts we make to control our lives, which prevent God from moving freely in us. The more we try to prevent certain things from happening in our lives – the more we find that our efforts actually attract those things to us.

What Makes a Person Truly Happy?

We need to have a new perspective on what it is that really makes a person happy and popular with other people. It is not what we do or what we have that determines our mental and emotional state or the attitude of others towards us. No, our life experiences and the way that we see them and feel about them, are determined to a great extent on whom we are on the inside. But when a person is wrapped in fear, it seems as if “normal life” is simply not appealing enough. This causes a person to feel disappointed with everything that happens in their life. This causes people to gravitate upwards mentality so that they are always looking to get bigger and better things and to achieve great things. This approach is encouraged by many people in the world and seen as something positive. But if what you do is driven and motivated out of fear and lust, rather than from love, it will eventually consume you and confine you to a life of frustration and misery.

When a person falls in love with someone, everything around them seems to change. The sky seems to be that bit bluer, the grass that bit greener and the birds singing in the trees seems that bit lovelier. It is easy to assume that this new found happiness is caused by the other person – as if they have magic powers or something. But in actual fact, it is simply a change of heart on the inside of a person. The other person was simply the catalyst for what already exists within you. When you fall in love, it seems as if everything changes, but in actual fact, it is your heart that has changed. I think it is about time that we fell in love with life and got to that place in which we are no longer living from fear and the wretched disappointment it brings, and instead, learn to live from a heart of love and experience the true splendour of peace, joy and contentment.

Effortless Cooperation

In my experience, I find that the best way to cooperate with God is to do nothing. The less we try to help God by figuring out what we can do for Him and how we can avoid certain things and speed the good things along – the better we are able to experience life to the fullest. We have no guarantees that we are all going to be millionaires or that we are going to have a successful worldwide ministry or whatever else our fantasies may revolve around. But we can get more of God in our lives as we assure ourselves of His love for us in Christ and the belief that He will build His church and that He will add to our lives whatever it is that we need, when we need it.

31 "Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33

The “Harvest” Mentality – Part 1

There seems to be a “harvest” mentality amongst many Christians, even grace Christians: this is based around various Bible verses that promise wealth, particularly Galatians 6:9.

7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. 9 And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.

Galatians 6:7-9

During the Word of Faith stage I went through for several years, I got caught-up in a “harvest” mentality: I became convinced that I would reap a harvest of wealth, power and miracles – if I developed a certain level of faith and adhered to certain principles and formulas. I was told that faith came by the Word of God, which is based on Romans 10:17. So I assumed that the Bible was the Word of God and I had to understand it and study it in order to have faith. I was told that faith and conviction was the same thing, so I needed to know what was right in scripture, I had to rightly divide the Word, so that I could have faith. After all, how could I be sure of something that I did not even know what right or wrong or did not even understand?

So I thought that I had to have answers for everything and that I needed to persuade other people to see things from my perspective. However, this caused me to be overbearing and highly opinionated at times and to desire after control and influence. If I could have this type of “faith”, I assumed, and then I would be able to reap a “harvest”. Can you see how the wrong concept of faith as portrayed by the institutional church, enmeshes with the neurotic temperament, and thus, compounds it? No wonder the world tends to look upon Christians as being unpleasant and opinionated people.

The church, of course, was also quick to seize upon the concept of tithing as a means of reaping a harvest. This “harvest” mentality stirs-up the fantasies that people have as they feel encouraged to think about all the things that they will reap from God for their obedience and faith. It sort of makes it all worth it because they are also upholding a vision of God that is angry, demanding and judgemental.

When You Fail to Reap…

All the while, when you do not reap your “harvest” you are told to persevere and to have faith and not to lose heart (as Galatians 6:9 seems to encourage). It is little wonder that a large component of the preaching we hear in church is what I call pep-talks. It really boggles my mind how Christians will allow preachers to intimidate and patronise them – all because they believe that the person on stage behind the pulpit is closer to God than they are; that the pastor knows more than them and that they hold all the answers to an abundant life. I used to love listening to Joyce Meyer, but now; I wince when I hear the way in which she patronises people. I think she means well and she does teach some true and amazing things – but in amongst all the good stuff is an awful lot of intimidation.

I think you can reach a point when you suddenly realise that you are not going to be the next Billie Graham or Benny Hinn, you’re not going to have your own intercontinental jet plane, performing miracles before a huge audience of adoring fans. I think you come to a place in which you get the feeling that it would really be good for your mental and emotional health if you were to climb down from your cloud and embrace real life. I think this reality-check can be too much to bear for some Christians. We would rather hold onto the fantasy rather than to come to terms with the fact that the institutional church has fed us unrealistic expectations, or even lies, all of this time.

The Lust of Sensationalism

Darin Hufford of the Free Believers Network discusses the subject of over-sensationalism in the church in the podcast episode entitled podcast The Lust of Sensationalism. This is a wonderful, long awaited podcast that I feel picks-up from Darin's blog on Spiritual Porn Addiction. This podcast has helped me to come to terms with the sheer wackiness that we simply accept without question in Pentecostal circles. It is sad but true that sensationalism is like a drug to the frustrated, insecure and gullible Christian who is seeking more in life.

The Fear Factor

I just recently wrote some entries in The Divine Nature which I feel provide a summary of my Christian journey so far:

This journey has led me into what has come to be known as “the grace message”. This is a focus on the true essence of the Gospel message, which means “the good news”, as express by the Apostle Paul in his letters to the church: the Epistles.

Rather than focusing on keeping a set of rules, the grace message focuses on God’s love for us and who we are in Christ. This sets us free from the burden of constantly having to analyse verses of scripture in order to extract principles and rituals to follow. It is a matter of learning not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and instead, embracing all that God has done for us through Jesus Christ.

It seems that many Christians who come to the revelation of this grace message, first go through a period of time, often years, of pursuing religious obligations that stifle a person’s life and adversely affect their personality and mental and emotional health. Yet it would seem that this season of development in the Christian life is somewhat necessary in that it prepares you for the real truth of who Christ really is and what he represents. It seems that the best way to know what the love of God is – is by experiencing for yourself what it is not. It does make a person wonder if someone can truly value the message of God’s unconditional love for us – without having first gone through the stifling religious system provided by the institutional church. This subject was discussed by the Free Believers Network in the Podcast No Pain No Gain Part 1 Jan 26, 2010 and No Pain No Gain Part 2 Jan 29, 2010.

I recently listened to a Podcast by the Free Believers Network entitled Chemo-Fear-Apy 1st May 2010, which discussed the way in which the institutional church has used fear tactics to control its followers, to create a reverence for God and to “win souls to Christ”. The hosts of this podcast related how many people in the church today were persuaded to become Christians through a message of “hell and damnation”. Some people have also been enticed into reciting the “Sinners Prayer” through the promise of power, wealth, miracles and healing. Ironically, all of these things just so happen to be the kind of things that entice people into following witchcraft!

In the Chemo-Fear-Apy podcast, one of the host’s spoke of a well-known preacher whom he said had an “anointing from hell” – he literally turned strong Christians into quivering wrecks. The host of the podcast did not mention this man’s name, but it is rumoured that it is John Bevere.

I have read a few books written by John Bevere and heard his teaching on CD. The focus of this man’s message appears to be obedience and respect for authority. Bevere’s teaching is studded with testimonies from a full-time ministry perspective of the dangers of disobedience to God and not respecting authority. I feel that I have no reason to doubt this man’s experiences and even the convictions of his heart. I believe that obedience and respect of authority is indeed important. But it is the way this man goes about trying to convey the message and how people are meant to process what he says – that is what concerns me. Just by giving people a horror story of what happened when he made a wrong decision, is no viable means of instilling obedience and correct attitudes in people.

It seems that fear does work to some extent when it comes to influencing a person’s behaviour. If you hold a gun to a person’s head, for instance, I think you can pretty well get them to do almost anything. But on a more down-to-earth level – you can subtly influence people to do things they would not normally do, by threatening to withdraw approval or support from a person or to not do a certain thing for them. Religion uses this technique of manipulation and behaviour modification through fear; take for instance the preaching of the story of Jonah getting swallowed-up by a whale for failing to act upon the dictates of God.

It seems that many Christians dutifully turn up to church every Sunday to get a fresh infusion of fear. Fear is an effective motivator: if you are wandering through a jungle or the desert and you see a snake or a ferocious wild animal – you are likely to run for your life. But fear is no substitute for love when it comes to genuine heart transformation that really lasts.

So when a Christian comes into the grace message, the message of God’s unconditional love for them, there is a tendency to utterly reject everything they have been told and taught before in the church regarding obedience through the threat of fear.

Does this mean that the message of the likes of John Bevere and Joyce Meyer are untrue and not applicable anymore? Personally, I find myself in agreement with the likes of John Bevere in that obedience and a bad attitude does make trouble for a person. But I am more inclined to move away from the focus on disobedience in the form of action and to focus more on the root causes of disobedience: wrong beliefs and attitudes. After all, most of what we do, if not all of what we do, is motivated from a belief and attitude. An attitude is our belief system turned inside out and exposed to the world.

Trying to control behaviour through focusing on behaviour is one of the most futile and frustrating pursuits a person could ever engage in. It is for this reason, I believe, that the concept of positive thinking was established: it was realised that a person’s thinking was ultimately responsible for a person’s desires, which in turn influenced their actions. But even positive thinking is flawed in that thoughts arise from the subconscious mind with little or no warning; when they do it is often difficult, if not impossible, to control them with a conscious effort of the will.

Many adherents of the Christian grace message assert that as we focus on the message of God’s love for us, then we will experience His love and will then be more able to love ourselves, know what is right for us, and obey God and to love other people as we love ourselves. I agree with this concept to a great extent, but I have also found that just by studying this grace message, my deeply rooted beliefs and attitudes have not been transformed.

Coming into the revelation of God’s love for us is so freeing, so wonderful, that we tend to reject anything fear-based which seems to portray God in the negative light of the Old Testament. This creates sensitivity to the preaching of people like John Bevere that provokes a negative response which causes a person to reject such teaching. But I cannot help but feel that there is also something of a naivety amongst grace believing Christians in that they assume that they can have wrong beliefs and attitudes and everything will go well in life for them. I’m not trying to water down the grace message at all, but there is truth to this matter?

People will cite the story of Abraham when he went to Egypt, lied to Pharaoh, and was made very wealthy as a consequence of that. Christians will say that we can be blessed when we sin – but is there any truth to that statement? I expressed my own beliefs about this matter through a series of blog entries on The Divine Nature:

In Summary, I wrote that sin is not just wrong behaviour and action – it stems from wrong desires, thoughts, beliefs and attitudes – it is these things that we should focus on when it comes to changing our world and the world around us. I think one of the greatest revelations that I have gained during my years of spiritual study and practice has been the concept of developing a sense of security. This, I feel, is fundamental to the spiritual growth and maturity of an individual; as well as the mental and emotional health of a person. Without a sense of security – we are left to fend for ourselves through fear.

How are we supposed to process a message or teaching that seems to find its basis in fear, I wonder? I think perhaps it is simply something to bear in mind – not something that we should use to beat ourselves into submission with; neither should we reject it completely nor dismiss it as a lie. For me, I feel that this truth actually brings me a sense of comfort in that it reminds me of perhaps why life is not going so well for me, when I’m still behaving like an arrogant, overly opinionated jerk at times; or I am holding onto unrealistic expectations of myself and others.

Otherwise, I am left wondering why this grace message isn’t really working for me. I could be left wondering whether I need to buy more books on the grace message or listen to more podcasts that tell me about God’s love for me. But to be honest, I feel like I’m through with chasing after the latest spiritual fads and formulas.

The question then becomes: how do I change my beliefs and attitudes for the better? How do I develop a sense of security that releases me from the grip of fear?

Church Life at Hillsong London

It was during the year 2005 that I finally started attending Hillsong London church. Hillsong is a large, contemporary church that meets him a large theatre in central London. This church was like a breath of fresh air to me: the worship was professional and invigorating, the A.V. presentations were slick and professional, preaching was non-condemnatory, but above all people were friendly, positive minded, sociable and fun to hang out with. I had always thought that a lot of Christians were rather quirky and insecure, but this crowd seemed to really have it all together. Sure, these people had their issues just like anyone else, but there was a strength of character about them that I had only witness amongst those in full-time ministry or those who didn’t believe in Jesus.

It was in 2006 that Joseph Prince came to visit and taught on grace for a week. Joseph managed to pack a lot of teaching about grace into that week which sort of summed it all up in a way that people could understand. Ever since that time, the preaching and the overall ethos of Hillsong London changed for the better. Joseph Prince still comes to preach at Hillsong London occasionally. He has spoken at the Hillsong Europe conference for the past few years. He has also spoken on the Sunday service after the conference, for the past few years as well. You can read all about this in the wiki page on New Creation Church. I feel rather privalaged to have seen and heard Joseph Prince preach in person, as he does not seem to travel to other churches all that much.

At first, I still had a “carry-over” of Institution Church baggage in the form of duties that I thought I had to perform, misdirected aspirations and motives and such like – this rather hampered my first few years or so at this church. It was only when I began listening to The God Journey and The Free Believers Network: "Into the Wild" podcasts, that I began to find freedom from the rigours of religious performance enforced upon me from my previous years in the Institutional Church. I’ll discuss more about these podcasts later on.

I still go to this church today, but not every week. It is very much different now; London, as anyone will know, is something of a “hub” in Europe. Hillsong is a great place to meet fun and lively Christians from all over the world, especially Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Plus, hanging out in London is such a cool experience – so much to see and do. So for me, I no longer attend church because I feel I have to – I go to church because I want to.

Having cooled-off from the insecurity-motivated Christian oddities and attitudes – I feel under no obligation to turn up each week, serve on team, go to conferences or even to pay my tithe. I go to this church now to hang out with Christian friends. I used to spend time with Christians at church because they were part of the group that I had been allocated to. But now, I have followed my heart in forming natural, spontaneous relationships – you could call them “organic relationships”.

There is an emphasis on organic relationships now when it comes to how we do church. I think Frank Viola’s book, Reimagining Church, has helped people understand the difference between contrived and organic relationships amongst believers when it comes to “church”. I love what Hillsong does in that it creates a wonderful environment where believers can meet and hang out together without the usual dull, boring religious trappings of the church. But when I listen to The God Journey and The Free Believers Network podcasts, it makes me wonder if indeed natural relationships can occur in the intuitional church. It is true that it is possible to form typical false friendships at Hillsong, just as in any other church. But I see the many people who really do form good, genuine friendships as well. It does not really come down to the environment or venue when it comes to Christian friendships – I think it really does come down to the individuals, their personalities and the expectations placed upon them by themselves and other people.

There really are no rules as to how you should live your Christian life anymore, some attend a church building, and others don’t. But I am so glad that I am free from the compulsions to go to church and perform from the pressure of fear. I am beginning to embrace my own vision of church now, rather than having a corporate vision foisted upon me by a ministerial team.

I tend to prefer the preaching of Gary Clark, the Senior Pastor. I value Gary’s experience as a pastor and his seasoned and realistic perspective on life. Gary has a dry sense of humour to boot, which I would compare his humour and demeanour in some ways to Jack Dee.  Hillsong attracts many visiting speakers from around the world. I suppose I should feel privileged about that, but I often find the visiting speakers to use what I call challenges (and here), platitudes and pep-talks.

I still find that Hillsong, although grace-oriented, still succumbs too many of the typical trappings of the Institutional Church: they encourage tithing and they often put the onus on the believer in a way that could be construed as religious performance. I think whenever you have a formal, organised church gathering, there are always going to be such things. Some would argue that we no longer need organised church; others would say we cannot be Christians without it. You just have to go with what is right for you at the time.

A New Found Freedom

I have experienced a profound sense of freedom from a lot of the religious baggage I carried with me and had brought with me into Hillsong London Church – even after I had been brought into this message of grace.

When I started listening to The God Journey and the Free Believers Network: Into the Wild podcasts, I felt as if I had had something like a vitamin deficiency in my spirit. I developed a craving for this totally honest, down-to-earth, relevant, balanced and humorous style of conveying the grace message. I feel that I had been missing this vital element of my Christian “diet” for a long time. For too long I had been pretending to be spiritual, devoted, kind and all of that stuff – all in the hope that God would eventually bless me how I want and when I wanted. I have felt encouraged to simply be myself now.

Christianity does not have to be weird, wacky, difficult, awkward and oppressive. Christianity is meant to be natural and spontaneous. When we make Christianity all about avoiding hell and not sinning, rather than on the love of God for us, it goes off on a totally different and unhealthy tangent.

When I first started hearing these podcasts, I soon downloaded all of them and listened to them exclusively of any other Christian teaching. Now that I have listened to most of the past teaching, I anticipate the God Journey and the Free Believers Network podcasts each week with great delight. I tend to listen to each of them now at least twice, perhaps even three times or more. The God Journey has been going now for about five years, so there are still some messages I haven’t yet downloaded.

I think I would have gone crazy if it was not for these podcasts because all the unrealistic expectations needed to be dealt with. I had reached a point in which I realised that it was highly unlikely that I would ever get into full-time ministry, write my own books or experience miracles on a regular basis. But now I have the freedom to enjoy everyday life, instead of gravitating towards some unrealistic fantasy world that leads to disappointment, frustration and guilt. I can see in retrospect that the institutional church and Word of Faith teaching had encouraged me to accept a foul, demanding God by giving me over-the-top promises that were loosely based on the Bible. Now I have learned to truly appreciate the simple, normal and everyday things of life; seeing them as no less profound, beautiful, valuable and enjoyable than the miraculous things.

I have cooled-off from scouring scriptures with a means of finding formulas and nuggets of truth that will give me the key to being blessed by God. I will admit that I would not have got so heavily into studying scripture if I had simply known the love of God and lived from that place.

My biggest criticism of the Christians at Hillsong London was that they did not seem as excited about the grace message as I was. Instead of spending time engrossed in Bible study – these Christians were more interested in social events and get-togethers. But perhaps they were just living from that place of God’s love, regardless of their ability to associate it with Bible verses? But I am adamant that a means must be saught by which insecure, gullible Christians can reach that place of inner transformation in which they find peace and balance, just like a lot of the people that I see at Hillsong London. I tend to find that this inner transformation that I have been searching for looks much more like a sense of security more than anything else – nothing weird and over-the-top.

Perhaps my insecurity had caused me to go overboard with the Bible and the antics of the intuitional church. When most, secure minded Christians, would have learned to take a more balanced approach to it all? I have been single for a long time now and I feel that this is what has enabled me to devote such as lot of time to Bible study, writing and reading Christian books. Most balanced, secure-minded Christians don’t have the time to engage in such activities all that much – perhaps that’s the way it is meant to be?

I think the main reason I have cooled-off from blogging and Facebook activity recently is this very shift I have been talking about. I just wonder where I will go from here.

I think I had become many of the characters in Phil Baker’s hilarious, but relevant and honest book, Weird Christians I Have Met. I had become a Theological Theo, Frank Faith amongst other personas detailed in the book. It still amazes me that this book was written in 1996 – at the peak of the charismatic movement.

Grace Elements… Free Believers / Anti-I.C.

Institutional Baggage

I will admit that I still clung onto some of the sensational and unrealistic promises that were made to me by the institutional church. I still could not see past some of the religious traditions that had been instilled in me over the years. I still tried to “believe God” for things, as taught by Kenneth E. Hagin, rather than trusting in God enough to allow life to unfold naturally and without recourse to worry.

I still had a desire to see miracles manifested in my life. I just reasoned that if I had the power of God in me – I could do anything. So I naturally became rather competitive as I mapped the outlandish and exciting promises of the church, onto my everyday life. I thought that as Christianity had developed such a bad name in the past - it was now up to me to impress people by becoming better than them in every way. But this approach just led to me getting disappointed and depressed as I put all sort of unrealistic expectations on myself. Furthermore, I just became trapped in that awful performance oriented aspect of Christianity in which I felt useless to God and other people, unless I was achieving something fabulous. With these goals set for me by myself and other, well-meaning I Christians, my self-esteem became rather low.

When you leave the I.C. or you “get into the wild” as Darin Hufford would say, you are left wondering how to do those things you did in the church: prayer, fellowship, tithes and offerings. In “the wild” these things are often totally different or they don’t even exist anymore.

The God Journey

Ever since I began listening to the God Journey podcasts and particularly The Free Believers Network: Into the Wild podcasts at the very start of 2010, my perspective on Christianity has changed, particularly in relation to mega-church sensationalism. The hosts of these podcasts are mainly ex-pastors of churches so they have seen it all before and know what it is like from the perspective of behind the pulpit.

There is a lot of sensationalism in the mega-church – it thrives on it; I think people need that in order to feel entertained, as if they would be bored otherwise. Whether this approach is right or wrong, I don’t know. But I do know that you can easily get swept away with it and become misled by making unrealistic expectations based on Bible verses that have been blown out of all proportion.

When I listened to my first ever God Journey podcast, I could not believe what I was hearing! These guys were just talking about fishing! I nearly turn it off there and then, but I’m glad I didn’t. After about five minutes or so the conversation shifted towards the subject at hand and what transpired was a truly amazing discussion on the performance trappings of the institutional church. I absolutely love the way that Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings, the hosts of the God Journey, just sum things up in such a succinct and beautiful way. Wayne and Brad’s casual conversation leads a person to see that it is all about living in the love of the Father.

They expose the way in which the church often manipulates people into a lifeless performance of rituals and formulas. When you know that you are loved by God, you do not need all that other stuff: the principles and formulas. Instead of anxiously praying to try to get God to make life happen the way you want it to, you understand that you are on a journey in a relationship with Him, learning to trust in His methods and timings, knowing that life will tend to go well for you – if you do not worry.

Wayne and Brad’s style is not particularly mocking, although they do sometimes look at things in a humorous and critical way. I find the God Journey totally refreshing; it is not a teaching, as such; there are hardly any Bible verses quoted and certainly there is no mention of original Greek and Hebrew words! It is more about learning to live from the heart in a relationship with the Father, in a way that is different from the way in which you were taught to “do church” and “be Christian” in the past.

The Free Believers Network

I began listening to the Free Believers Network because it had been recommended to me along with The God Journey. Nothing could have prepared me for this injection of Christian common-sense. Outside of the box of the institutional church, the hosts of this podcast were free to be genuine, without pretence and to be totally down-to-earth about their beliefs and experiences.

These podcasts had the same kind of style as the God Journey: a casual conversation between two or three people, which usually began with an unrelated conversation that would form an important part of the show as it would get you “in the mood”.

I will admit that I had avoided The Free Believers network in the past because I assumed they were bitter and were out to denounce the institutional church because they had been hurt. Some of the hosts have been hurt by the I.C. There is an element of anti-I.C. about their message: they do take a critical, honest and humorous look at the way we have tended to “do church” in the past.

You will probably find that many of the people who listen to Into the Wild podcasts are rather disillusioned with the church; for them, it is all about bashing the church. As soon as someone sticks-up for church practices, tithing or quotes a Bible verse on a related comments section on the internet – they will have people swooping down on them with a vengeance! I do find it rather curious that there are some Christians who came into the grace message via this route; for these believers, they don’t know much about Joseph Prince and the like; the focus for them is not on proving they’re right with God through scripture – it is more about taking a critical look at the institutional church and learning to live from the heart.

But what these hosts tell you and what you pick-up from the essence of their message is that their focus is on knowing the love of God and living freely from the heart. The focus of the Free Believers Network is very much the same as that of The God Journey.

Darin Hufford, the founder of the Free Believers Network who appears in all of the podcasts, has been a guest with Wayne and Brad on the God Journey. Wayne and Brad own Windblown Media which has published, amongst other books, The Shack by W.M. Paul Young, which is a number 1 best seller. Wayne and Brad were responsible for publishing Darin’s popular book, The Misunderstood God, through Windblown Media.

I think the Free Believers Network podcasts are somewhat “grittier” than the God Journey. The hosts do swear a little from time to time and they can tend to be critical – even political at times. Some people get all offended by the attitude and statements made by The Free Believers, especially those who are still steeped in religious performance and the trappings of the I.C. But I love this complete honesty and freedom to be you.

I used to wonder why Darin Hufford would not balance his “teaching” with Bible verses. But Darin revealed that there are people in the church who are used to a certain language being spoken in the church in which they relate to. Darin argues that we have substituted God with the Bible – as well as our heart with our mind. He therefore speaks in a way so as to confound those he calls “goats” so that the “sheep” will understand this language of the heart. For more information on this notion, check-out the following blogs and podcasts:

Grace Elements… Unionist Teaching

Unionist teaching as some people call it, is the focus on what the Bible says in relation to our being one with God through faith in Christ. Major proponents of this type of teaching are Norman Grubb and Major Ian W. Thomas. I gained a revelation of this type of teaching even before I had ever heard of such people. The teaching of these people confirmed what the Lord had already been showing me. I suppose it is a natural progression for some people as they move away from a focus on works.

Grace on Facebook

It’s a rather funny thing that some of my grace friends on Facebook have shifted from the focus on righteousness and no-condemnation, as taught by Joseph Prince, and onto the unionist message, as taught by Norman Grubb and Major Ian W. Thomas. Whereas, with me it was somewhat different in that I began with a focus on the unionist message and then move towards the focus on righteousness and no-condemnation.

Most of my notes which I wrote since studying the grace message in 2005 are in relation to the unionist message. To a somewhat lesser degree, perhaps twenty percent or so, my studies and notes are on the subject of focusing on what is wrong in the institutional church – which is a topic we will examine a little later on.

If you have an account with Facebook, you may be interested to know there is a growing network of grace believers on there. Furthermore, there are some Christians on Facebook who are strong in the unionist message, such as Fred Pruitt, Nancy Gilmore and Dee Dee Winter. Fred Pruitt has his own website called The Single Eye.

Word of Faith

In 2005 when I was attending a small, charismatic but legalistic church – I found myself gaining a revelation of what the Bible said I was by faith in Christ. Kenneth E. Hagin had portrayed a type of faith that appealed to the masses through claiming miracles, healing and finances.

To his credit, this approach to faith was radical during its time and Hagin faced strong opposition to the concept that Biblical faith could be applied practically to ones life and challenged the notion that Christianity was nothing more than a lifeless ritual and tradition. But in establishing this new approach, Hagin also established a foundation of unrealistic expectations from the Christian life, with people seeking the miraculous more than seeking a relationship with God.

Hagin would occasionally mention that the same faith that you can use to believe God for finances or healing, could be applied to any other promise found in the Bible. I believed it would be better to have faith in inner transformation, rather than faith in miracles, achievements and material possessions. When Hagin did make this rare announcement, he would typically use the example of baptism in believing God for the Holy Spirit.

Inner Transformation

By “inner transformation” I mean living a life from a position of genuine love rather than having to fake it all the time. I just considered the notion of moving away from rules, principles and guidelines into a life of wisdom and a natural, strong desire to do those things that are right for you at the time. I considered this new approach to be dynamic rather than static, spontaneous and natural rather than coaxed. You would not need to live according to a set of rules, what someone else says is a right way to live – if you knew what was right for you in your heart and had a desire to act upon those instincts.

One of the key aspects of my whole life (something I have always found very annoying) was the way in which I would desire to do something in my mind, but just be at a loss as to find the peace, desire and wisdom to be able to act upon it in my heart. I also deeply resented being patronised by other Christians, especially pastors, into performing what I saw as being perfunctory church-related routines and duties, which my heart simply did not agree with. I have struggled with apathy and lethargy all of my life and see it as a side-effect of depression and anxiety. My focus was on finding what was truly right for me at each moment in time and having the power to act upon it through the divine nature.

The verse of scripture that caught my attention more than any other was 2 Peter 1:2-4.

2 Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3 as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4 by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the Divine Nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.

2 Peter 1:2-4

I vowed that if I ever launched my own ministry, I would call it The Divine Nature – because this was my primary focus when it came to the Christian life and the promises of the Bible.

Grace Elements…Righteousness and No-condemnation

I have noticed that there are different aspects or elements to the grace message. There is the focus on righteousness and no-condemnation, as taught by Joseph Prince, Bertie Brits, Andrew Wommack and Paul White. Joseph Prince also augments his teaching with quite a lot of Old Testament symbolism which points towards grace.

Joseph Prince – The Mega Church Grace Preacher

I’ve noticed that Joseph Prince still has something of mega-church flair to him: this is understandable as he is senior pastor of New Creation Church in Singapore. There is a tendency for Joseph Prince to make the usual sensational promises that other mega-church pastors do.

Who is to say whether or not this approach is right or wrong? Joseph is popular and gets the grace message out to the world, so I’m okay with that. I think it comes down to how secure a person is: if a person is insecure they are much more likely to get obsessive about promises of wealth and miracles; whereas, a secure person may be encouraged by such promises, but will still value the everyday things in life and will have a balanced perspective. But I wonder to myself if such preachers should balance their teaching by informing believers that there is no guarantee that they will be made substantially wealthy and that they cannot dictate what they want and how they should be blessed from God.

Bertie Brits – The Travelling Grace Preacher

Bertie Brits tends to be more down to earth with his straightforward, no-frills teaching on grace. Bertie lacks the charismatic showmanship of Joseph Prince - perhaps this is the right way to go about teaching grace when you don’t pastor a mega-church like Joseph Prince does? Bertie does not refute prosperity in Christ, but he does emphasise contentment and speaks against seeking wealth and miracles through faith. Bertie teaches that we should have faith in Christ, rather than faith in things, knowing that everything else that we need in life flows from there.

Righteousness…A Cliché?

I will admit that although this branch of the grace message seems to be the most popular, and for many, it is the only grace message – I did not begin my journey into grace from there. I think what killed off the whole meaning of righteousness for me was the way in which the religious church just bandied the term about as if it was some sort of meaningless cliché. I mean, Christians would tell me that I am right with God, but then proceed to give me a whole set of rules to follow so that I would be right with Him – talk about being confused!

I thought that righteousness was living your life right. Then I came to see it as being a combination of right-standing and right-living. Nowadays, I see it as simply right-standing with God. The church tends to veer away from the concept of right-standing apart from works, because it seeks to manipulate and frighten people into committing to what is considered to be right living. Hence the term “license to sin” in relation to the grace message.

Righteousness is all about our right-standing with God through faith in Christ; it has nothing to do with our behaviour and performance. As soon as we focus on behaviour, our works, we immediately expose ourselves to guilt as we realise that we don’t have what it takes to please God and merit His approval and blessings. All of our wrong behaviour, our sin, is caused by us not knowing that we are right with Him, just as we are. If we believe that we need to keep rules to be right with God, our flesh nature becomes alive in us.

Am I The Only One Getting This?

When God started to reveal grace to me in 2005, I did not even think to call it “grace” and I had not even heard of Joseph Prince and other grace preachers like him. I thought it was just me receiving this message. This had two effects in that I felt excited at the thought of bringing something seemingly new life changing to the world; secondly, I thought that I was possibly going mad and was being misled. I did think to myself that if the devil was misleading me then it was a very elaborate rouse indeed because it was profoundly scriptural. Thankfully, I came across Joseph Prince’s teaching in 2006 and that confirmed that I was not going mad, after all!

Grace Origins…How It All Started


I was reflecting on my Christian journey recently and how I came about the message of grace and where I was at now. You could say I was contemplating my grace origins. This contemplation led me to the realisation that there are different aspects or “flavours” of the grace message; different Christians go through these different phases in a different order to others; whilst some tend to spend more time in other phases than others. Anyway, I’ll relate here what I went through and you may resonate with it, or you may not. Hopefully, we can all learn a little something from these experiences.

A Touch from the Hand of God

Firstly, let me begin with a brief history of my Christian journey. I have been a Christian now for about 15 years. I only really got serious about Christianity in 1997 when I first started going to Kensington Temple in London. Things really changed for me when I was dramatically baptised in the Holy Spirit in October 1998. Up until that moment I had been struggling with depression and anxiety all of my life. But in that moment in October 1998 God came into my life in an incredible way.

For a couple of months after that dramatic experience I experienced a profound sense of peace and joy that I never before knew existed. But it was not long before those dark clouds of depression and anxiety started rolling back in. I think that my negativity was never quite as bad from that moment on -- but was still bad enough for me to continue my spiritual quest for peace, success and fulfilment. I had been given a taste of what it must be like to have God in your life.

Word of Faith

It was around about the time when I was baptised in the Holy Spirit that I began studying the faith teaching of Kenneth E. Hagin. Hagin is considered by many to be the father of faith. I was amazed by the wonderful testimonies; the signs and miracles that Hagin would write about his books. Hagin's teaching also seem to focus more on the power of God working in man more than any other preacher that I knew of at the time. For instance, Hagin would teach that we are not to follow the Ten Commandments and that in the New Testament we are to simply follow love: love fulfils the law. I loved Hagin’s teaching because it seemed to offer so much; Hagin blasted away the cobwebs of religion and presented something fresh, new, powerful and relevant. Christianity was not a dull, lifeless adherence to religion – it was a practical way of life.

Hagin's teaching is something that I could liken to a combination of the Christian teaching of E.W. Kenyon and the positive thinking and affirmations branch of self-help: such as Dr Joseph Murphy, The Secret and The Law of Attraction. I pursued Hagin's faith teaching, known by some as Word of Faith, for about seven years till the year 2005. By this time I had well and truly burned myself out on trying to control my life and make things happen by following principles and formulas: through confessing Scriptures as a means of controlling my life and making God bless me, how I want when I want.

Religious Legalism

I think it was about the year 2003 when I stopped going to Kensington Temple and started going to a small, local charismatic church. I was delighted with this church at first: I liked the people, pastor and the worship. It’s funny when I think about it now: I used to get goose-bumps when I heard the worship leader playing the electric piano. They would hand out little weekly news bulletins as you entered the door. I had a little place reserved for them in a draw and I kept hold of each one.

This smaller church venue provided me with the opportunity to really get to know the people there. Most of them were rather quirky and dull, but some of the people I really liked and got along with well; most of the people were pleasant enough though. The church believed in signs and wonders and they would pray in tongues and lot. Sometimes people would stand-up and give a Word of Knowledge. They often had altar calls when they would pray for people and they would fall over under the power of the Holy Spirit. I became one of the people who would catch the people as they fell. My sphere of influence grew in the church as I became one of the ushers.

I tried to get noticed by the pastor with a means of serving in the church and somehow moving into full-time ministry. Like many other Christians, I saw full-time ministry as the ultimate achievement for a Christian.

After about a year and a half of attending this church I started to become rather disillusioned. I just felt guilty all the time because the pastor would be constantly preaching about behaviour modification; it was all about performance and I just felt that I just never seem to have the ability to measure-up. There seemed to be such a strong emphasis on committing to acts of charity in the church that just didn’t seem to be quite right; I thought that there was perhaps something wrong with me for not being keener on performing these religious duties.

It was in 2005 when I began to get an incredible urge to write. I started to gain a revelation of the Bible that had been there all the time, of course, but no-one else seemed to see it. I had a passion for studying the scriptures which I began to see in a light that was no longer performance based and guilt driven.

My foundation of faith teaching via Kenneth E. Hagin had taught me to see the Bible as the irrefutable Word of God and that anything written therein should be taken literally, by faith, even if you don’t see it manifested yet. I started focusing on the verses of scripture that said that God lived in me, His love had been poured into my heart and I had been given the divine nature. If these promises were true, I reasoned, why was the church being patronised and intimidated into maintaining correct behaviour? Surely, the focus should be more on faith, not so much claiming finances, but knowing that God lives in you.

I began to stay at home a lot, missing the mid-week church activates and even the occasional Sunday. I found that this new revelation was much better than what I was hearing in church. This was my introduction to what I later found would be called the grace message. I finally left that church after a year and a half because I just couldn't stand it any more.

The Four Gospels

It might surprise some people to learn that the Four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are not actually the Gospel at all! These books chronicle the earthly ministry of Jesus, but the actual revelation of the Good News of redemption only came after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ! It is for this reason that the most important books in the Bible are the Pauline Epistles: letters written to the churches by the Apostle Paul.

The four Gospels provide accounts of Jesus’ parables, miracles and his encounters with the Pharisees, who were the religious elite of the day. The members of this Jewish sect would often try to trick Jesus because they felt that their religious empire, and pompous way of life, was under threat. There is a definite parallel here between religious pride during Jesus’ earthly ministry and some religious people today. It would seem that as soon as rule-keeping factors in the equation – pride and judgementalism is the result. I felt that being a Christian entitled me to be blessed more than unbelievers, as if God hates anyone who is not a Christian – but that is not true.

There are many Christians who read the Four Gospels as if they are some kind of rulebook. In fact, some Christians use the cliché of the word “Bible” being an acronym for “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth”. But as soon as the Bible becomes a book of rules, the onus of effort shifts from Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, to what we can do for other people and for God.

Jesus actually raised the Old Testament law to another level in the Gospels. In Matthew 5:20, Jesus said that our righteousness should exceed that of the Pharisees. This seemed impossible because no one was as religious as the Pharisees, who diligently kept all the Jewish laws and customs. Jesus actually opposed these laws by healing on the Sabbath in Mark 3:1-6. If the Pharisees were more interested in loving other people, rather than adhering to rules for selfish purposes, they would have been delighted that someone was healed; but no, we read in Mark 3:6 that the Pharisees plotted with the Herodians to kill Jesus!

Christianity seems to be so steeped in rule keeping that you would think that Jesus was more zealous of keeping rules and rituals than the Pharisees, but no, it was actually the other way around. In Matthew 12:1-2 we read about how Jesus’ disciples plucked corn to eat, but they came under criticism from the Pharisees because it was the Sabbath. You would have thought that Jesus would have agreed with them, if He was more interested in rules than in love. But no, we read in Matthew 12:3-4 of how Jesus answered the Pharisees by relating the story of King David and how he ate the showbread in the temple because he was hungry (which was considered unlawful in a religious sense).

If Jesus was more interested in rules than showing mercy on others then surely He would have been the first in line to stone to death the woman caught in the act of adultery in John chapter 8. In John 8:5 the Pharisees quoted the Law of Moses in that it stated that anyone found guilty of adultery should be stoned to death. Jesus replied to them in such a way that they felt convinced of a guilty conscience and left one by one. The Pharisees were adhering to the Old Testament law as set-out in Leviticus 20:10. Jesus being a Rabbi (Jewish Teacher) should have agreed with them – but He didn’t. The reason why Jesus did not agree with the Pharisees is because He was living according to love, not according to the Old Testament law of do’s and don’ts.

So if even Jesus did not keep the rules – how was it that He lived a life without sin? It was because He lived according to the Father’s love. Jesus fulfilled the law, even though He allowed His disciples to pick corn on the Sabbath; He Himself healed on the Sabbath; and He allowed the woman caught in the act of adultery to go free, rather than agreeing that she be stoned to death.

It is only in the Epistles, the letters to the churches that we read of Christ setting us free from the law so that we could be free to enjoy a relationship with God the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit.

So it seems that the whole purpose of the Four Gospels was to bring man to the end of himself. In other words, Jesus sought to show mankind that they could not stand blameless before God in their own effort; a Saviour was required who would save man from His sins. After all, who needs a Saviour when you think you’re good enough to live without one?

The Divine Nature | TNB