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Where I Am Today, Spiritually Speaking – Part 2

I used to be heavily focused on the grace message from a Biblical perspective. During much of that time, I attended a popular mega-church in London called Hillsong. Joseph Prince has preached at Hillsong London several times. In fact, the leadership at that church often say that his initial visit to the church changed the direction of the church towards that of grace.

I would often get annoyed with Hillsong Christians, because I didn’t get the sense that they were as excited as me about the grace message. They always seemed to be much more interested in church building, getting people saved (first time commitment to Christ) and fellowship. These people were typically very sociable people, so they took to the demand to fellowship, like fish to water! Now, when I look back on those times, I can see that their attitude and approach to the Christian life was more like what I’m like now. In fact, I’d rather be around laid-back down-to-earth Christians who in-tune with reality and excited about relationships – than someone who’s more interested in the Bible and spiritual concepts!

There are some Christians who are intent on relating over-the-top stories of Biblical heroes and other believers. But I’m much more interested in what you believe, how you relate to this spiritual journey and how the Gospel message applies itself to your life – right now. The Bible was based on the accounts of real people, in real situations during those times. Although we can learn something from those accounts – there is a real need to experience God, and life, in our own lives and in our own way.

There seems to be too much fantasy in the lives of Christians. There is too much focus, I believe, on the supernatural – instead of focusing on normal, everyday life; there is too much of a focus on heaven than on planet earth; there is too much focus on the afterlife and end-times than on the here-and-now. In fact, the more a person dwells on anything other than on reality – the more weird and dysfunctional they become. This is something that was discussed in the Freebelievers Network podcast entitled Glossy Eyed Spirituality, dated 23rd November 2011.

I tend to enjoy listening solely to The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey podcasts. I love the format of these podcasts: a discussion between two or more believers who seem to be at a similar stage as me in this spiritual journey. I absolutely love the honesty of these people and the way in which their sense of humour helps me to relax and enjoy the discussion. I prefer this format a lot more than someone who purports to have all the answers, which he or she needs to teach me.

In the absence of any real, tangible fellowship with other Christians who are on the same wavelength as me – I almost feel as if I’m in the same room as these podcast hosts, listening to their discussion and being amazed at how their beliefs and experiences are similar to my own. I believe that there’s not much new understanding I can glean from these podcasts now, as I feel as if I get the message. But often when I’m bored and on my own, I like to listen in to enjoy the humour, honesty and experiences of these people.

The Gospel message was never meant to be what it seem to have become today – an obligation, an institution and set of staff that we are somehow dependant on. I don’t even believe that the Gospel is a message that we need to hear over and over again, in order to get on with our lives and be happy and effective in life. As we mature in the freedom that the grace message brings us, there should be an unfolding independence that develops in us, as our reliance on religious leaders and institutions gives way to our own understanding and dependence on Christ. We should expect a veering away from the teaching of others and focus on Bible verses, towards our own heart-felt knowledge, confidence, wisdom and intuition which enable us to get on with our own lives.

Where I Am Today, Spiritually Speaking – Part 1

Nowadays, I tend not to focus so much on the Biblical aspects of the grace message. It is not that I don’t disagree with the Bible or that I don’t see its relevance. I just feel as if I have established a solid foundation of the Gospel message, from a Biblical standpoint. I would also say Bible verses are often used to manipulate people by distorting the truth and focusing on things that, in the grand scheme of things, aren’t really that important.

I am by no means perfect and I still make mistakes. Dare I say it – I still sin. The consensus amongst grace preachers seems to be that if a person sins, it is because they don’t know they are already righteous through Christ. I agree with this concept, in part – it is true that a person will typically be prone to sin if they are trying to be right with God through their own efforts. But this concept can lead to people continuously listening to Joseph Prince sermons, with the belief that doing so will dramatically change their behaviour for the better. There also seems to be a popular idea that focusing on righteousness in Christ will bring all sorts of blessing and favour, such as wealth. Again, I’m not sure I entirely agree with this approach.

If I’ll be honest, I’ll admit that I’m much more interested in what I, and others, believe in their heart – rather than just mindlessly following words written in a book – even if it is the inspired Word of God. Many Christians seem content to simply quote Bible verses, with some sort of implied meaning in mind. When believers are unable to live from the heart, they revert to head-thinking, following the Bible like a rulebook. In this way, Christians can become like religious robots, devoid of the wisdom, confidence and intuition required to live life happily and effectively.

It’s as if some Christians can only speak in snippets of Bible quotations, like some kind of messed-up sacrosanct version of Bumblebee from Transformers (the yellow car dude that can only communicate by flipping between radio stations).

Even grace believers often revert to speaking in Bible verses. The grace message is a rather short message. In times gone by we used to get a broad spectrum of ideals, taboos and spiritual concepts from the pulpit. This smattering of ideas and ideals used to rely heavily on a huge variety of Bible verses. But now, grace believers, quite rightly so, only focus on a small sub-section of New Testament verses – those which reveal our freedom in Christ. So, with this need to provide scripture to back-up any spiritual concept they wish to convey – we often hear the same Bible verses quoted, again and again. Furthermore, these Bible verses are used to create popular grace quotes, such as, “It’s not about law its about grace – you can’t be justified by works of the law.” I’m more interested in people – their own lives, beliefs and experiences – instead of hearing some well-used quote from a popular preacher.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 3

Freebelievers / Letting Go / The Journey

Yes, the Free believer path is in a category of its own. This is named after the website and podcast, The Freebelievers Network. This is the focus on living free, exposing religious abuse, reconnecting with the heart and restoring balance.

This message can be construed by some as being an anti-church message, but is actually more to do with love and freedom. Darin Hufford, the founder of the Freebelievers Network, asserts that people tend to leave church when they are free to choose to no longer go; he insists that as people discover love, they no longer feel the need to adhere to the religious duties that they once held onto – such as going to church.

I have found that this liberating message has a lot to do with letting go – of past hurts, guilt, shame, fear and strongly held beliefs that did not serve us and only brought misery. Even though I immersed myself in the grace message (righteousness and oneness with God), I still held tightly to typical, religious approaches that were instilled in me by the church. I call these religious mindsets of a grace believer, an Institutional Carry-over.

The church has attempted to create a central point of administration for all Christians; a central point where Christians must gather for fellowship and to hear the Word being preached. But I believe that this has taken away the freedom for Christians to enjoy their life-in-Christ in the context of their own individual lives, with their own unique relationships and life-plans.

As believers begin to accept the grace message, they often seek a grace equivalent to all those things that the church insisted that every believer should have and do. There becomes a need for grace fellowship, in a grace church, with grace worship, with grace believers. I can see why people seek other grace believers, but it only seems to be The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey which dares to challenge this age-old concept that Christians must have fellowship by gathering together, on a regular basis, in dedicated buildings with other Christians.

I recall the final years of my church attendance, how I felt compelled to serve God by serving in the church. I can honestly say that ever since I became a Christian, I have never served in church out of anything other than a sense of obligation. By listening to The Freebelievers Network and The God Journey podcasts, I was able to experience a freedom that Joseph Prince’s righteousness message alone could not bring me. I needed a rawness and honesty that could enable me to let go of the last vestiges of religion. It’s as if listening to these podcasts literally sandblasted the religion off me.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 2

I see certain main categories of the grace message emerging, as follows:


The focus on the belief that God lives His life in-and-through us; we can do nothing apart from Him. We have the illusion that we are in control of our lives, when we are not. This approach is thoroughly Biblical and focuses on the divine nature and the Holy Spirit. The emphasis shifts away from what we can do for God, onto what He has already done for us through Christ; as well as the continued work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Unionist message is freeing because it does not put standards and obligations upon people. This is the main focus of Bible teachers such as Major Ian W. Thomas and Norman Grubb.

I will admit that my transition into grace was through my own revelation of this Unionist message – even before I’d even heard of grace preachers and their message. The unionist message has brought me a lot of relief from religious demands, but I wonder what its benefits are and whether there is a downside to it all. I, like many others, got off on a tangent of believing God for things - I have Word of Faith to thank for that. So I believe that placing expectations on God can meddle with the purpose of the unionist message. This message is meant to bring freedom and peace, rather than become a means for insecure Christians to become obsessive about performance and achievement; believing that they can have, be or do something that they don’t already experience in their life.


This is the focus of grace teachers such as Joseph Prince, Bertie Brits, Steve McVey, Paul White, et al. This takes us away from the focus on our own efforts to be right with God and, in accordance with scripture, emphasises the redemptive work of the cross. Just like with the Unionist message, the righteousness message veers away from imposing standards, obligations, rules and principles on the believer and looks to the cross and the right-standing we have through Christ, once and for all. This is a very liberating message and brings an enormous sense of relief to the guilt-ridden, anxious believer.

Like many other believers, my appreciation of righteousness had become diluted through the traditional approach of the church, which asserted that we are all righteous in Christ – but it is up to us to ensure that we no longer sin and we strive to serve and obey Him. After my encounter with the Unionist message, I began to re-discover this incredible righteousness message which I could not apprehend and appreciate before.

Phases and Stages of the Gospel – Part 1

It seems that it is no longer sufficient to meet someone who calls them self a Christian and to be confident that you’ll be able to adequately relate to them with regards to their spirituality. There are the traditionalists who seem to bear the label “Christian”, without knowing the basics of our redemption in Him. There are the staunch moralists who see the Bible as a rule book to be followed by our own willpower.

Then there are those who interpret scripture correctly and lay aside all of their own efforts, as they look to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross. The Bible uses the term “grace” to describe this unmerited favour and liberty that we have in Christ. It is therefore no surprise that this re-focusing on our freedom in Christ, rather than keeping rules, is called the Grace Message.

When I look back on my spiritual journey so far, I can see how I passed through what could be described as phases and stages. Each one of these phases and stages seemed to have its place in bringing me to where I am today. Now, I can see that the oppression that I encountered in the charismatic church, with its emphasis on rules, was necessary in drawing me to appreciating my right-standing in Christ.

Nowadays, it seems that this revolution of the grace message is spreading, bringing a new-found freedom to people and places that once saw Christianity as a set of rules, and God as an oppressive task-master who demanded perfection.

It seems to be important to make this distinction between the mixture of old and new covenants, which kept people bound; and the message of freedom in the pure new covenant. It is for this reason that we use the terms grace message, grace Christian, grace preacher and so forth.

Many people believe that there is just one grace message and that there is nothing beyond that. It is certainly not my intention to suggest that grace is not enough or that there is something “extra” required. But if I will be honest, I will admit that I have progressed through different phases and stages of understanding and focus, after my initial encounter with grace. In my own life I can identify different phases and stages of the grace message. As with each phase and stage that brought me to grace, I can see the importance of each phase and stage of the grace message, which I have experienced.

Third-Hand Revelation

If you think about it for a moment, most Christian’s appreciation of scripture is what could be called Third-Hand Revelation. By this I mean that, to begin with, we read in the Bible about the thoughts and experiences of someone from ancient times in the Middle East, especially that of the Judaic tradition – this is the first-hand revelation.

Then, a charismatic preacher comes along; his entire focus is on running a religious institution, much like a business. This preacher will present the Bible in a way that stirs-up the crowd emotionally; making all sorts of unrealistic promises; presenting God and the Bible as a spiritual vending-machine. The preacher will tell you some over-the-top story of some sort of victory and achievement (typically oriented towards the institutional church). Then, he will tell you how that experience somehow ties-in with one or more scriptural texts. He will then present that text to the congregation as a one-size-fits-all principle or formula that will yield similar results. This is second-hand revelation.

The third-hand revelation is when a believer takes that testimony or sermon of the preacher, the second-hand revelation, and uses it as the basis for his or her own expectations, beliefs and fantasies – this is third-hand revelation. In this way, scripture becomes loaded with all sorts of meaning, implicit and explicit, which often seems to have very little basis. In this way, the thoughts and experiences of someone in an ancient, middle eastern context, becomes the basis for tying God down to a set way of doing things; trying to manipulate God into getting what you want in your life now. This leads to insecure, desperate Christians trying to believe God for things, such as miracles and wealth – citing verses of scripture as the basis on which God is meant to perform and deliver in a certain way.

I remember when I first got into the charismatic movement – I found this third-hand revelation rather strange at first. I remember a well-known evangelist during the late nineties who visited my church in London. He related some story of a financial need that he had, a new building or airplane or something. He was asked, “Do you have a letter from the bank?” To which he replied, “No, but I have a letter to the Philippians.” By this he was referring to Philippians 4:19.

19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

This verse was a message of the apostle Paul written to the Philippian church, at a certain time, for their own particular situation. What makes us think we can take that verse and “use” it as a formula to get our own perceived “needs” met? I thought this approach was rather strange at first. However, I got enticed into adopting this approach, because I thought that it gave me a formula for getting what I wanted – when I wanted it.

It’s for these reasons that I tend not to read the Bible as much as I once did. I believe that the Bible has served its purpose in my life: it helped reveal Christ to me, the Gospel and how it affects me personally. With this foundation, I would rather experience God in a way that is specific to my own life plan.

The Divine Nature | TNB