The world cannot be in awe before the church is.

Acts 11 tells us that when Barnabas arrived in Antioch and saw ‘what the grace of God had done’ he encouraged them to abide in (remain in) that grace.[1] He was so convinced of the importance of them being deeply rooted in what Christ had done, that he left Antioch to go searching for Saul in Tarsus. On finding him, they both returned and taught the new believers “for an entire year”.[2] It is significant that the result of this is not recorded in scripture in terms of what they did, but rather who they were. Acts 11:26 simply records, “The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.”

How did Barnabas know to do this? Because in Jerusalem he had personally witnessed the remarkable fruit of believers remaining in, abiding in, what the grace of God had done there too. I have been struck by the profound importance of that little word “in”. Listen again to the account from Acts 2:42 of what the early church were doing during a season of great growth.

And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles……. And the Lord added [q]to the church daily those who were being saved.”[3]

All this, came from continuing steadfastly in. In light of this, consider the following question. How much of our modern church life, is more founded on continuing steadfastly to, rather than continuing steadfastly in?

If the diet we are feeding our congregations on, (the messages they are being reared under), consistently speak to them more of what could be, one day, rather than what is today, then inevitably their hope will slip, from what Christ has done for them, onto what they could do for Him. Now certainly one way to grow a church, is to communicate a great vision that excites and motivates the congregation and attracts people who desire to be part of something ‘big’. All of us desire to see something big happen in our cities and in our nation. That is commendable, but is ‘desire’ the foundation of the growth we see in the Church in Acts? I want to suggest to you a different foundation in believer’s lives, one that better withstands a storm; thanksgiving!

The pattern of Church life we see in Acts, isn’t that they were continuing steadfastly to a goal, so much as continuing steadfastly in a reality. Jesus didn’t say ‘Dream big and you will bear much fruit.’ He said, ‘Abide in me and you will bear much fruit’.[4] Thanksgiving is always more lifegiving, than desire. Yes, it’s exciting to dream, but to abide in Christ, is to abide in a dream fulfilled, for “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life.[5]. The Church is founded and grows, from what God has done for man; Christ and Him crucified; the tree of life.[6] Desire is never as life-giving as thanksgiving, which is why you can only keep people together for so long, by always pointing them to something big in their future, because hope deferred makes the heart sick. Only a dream fulfilled is a tree of life. It is not the hope of some thing big in our future, but the reality of some one big in our present, that sets the Church apart.[1] Neither the threats, nor the promises of this world should move us, for the Church of Jesus Christ is not hoping for a victory. We are a people coming from a victory! We don’t bring advice, we bring news![2]

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. In some parts of the Western Christian world, local churches have been fed for so long on a diet of what could be, rather than what is, that their sickened hearts are now full of resentment, anger and fear. Being spiritually blind to their life in Christ[3], they find themselves grasping for earthly power and being known for their complaints and lack of grace towards their ‘opponents’. It is hard to know which is more astonishing; how far they have fallen from the language of thanksgiving, the mark of all those filled with the Spirit[4], or the fact that they can’t see how far they have fallen!

Acts 2:11 says that on the day of Pentecost the gathered nations each heard the Church declare in their own language “the wonderful works of God”. The Gospel of God’s grace is not the proclamation of wonderful works that God might do, if we… It is the proclamation of the wonderful works He has done[5]. The effectual communication of faith is not found in the speaking of what could be. Philemon v6 declares that “the communication of our faith is made effectual by the acknowledgement of every good thing (already) in us, in Christ Jesus.”  We see the effectual communication of faith in the early Church, not because they continued steadfastly to something, but because they continued steadfastly in something; the grace given, the life given to them by His Spirit; the IN Christ life.

The ‘big’ thing, in fact the biggest thing, in our cities or nations, is not what the church will do. It is who the Church is! To the church in Corinth, grasping for worldly power, the apostle Paul had a question; “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”[6]. How can we complain that the world isn’t listening, when we aren’t seeing! It is only when we start to live as those seeing by the Spirit, that the world turns to listen.[7].

The storm of the last 15 months has served to test and reveal the foundations of lives and ministries. Those whose lives are founded on thanksgiving for what Christ has done; His eternal plan, have fared better than those who had built too much of their lives on their temporal plans. Paul and Silas in that jail in Philippi, weren’t singing and giving thanks in order that God would move on their behalf. Even if that building had not been shaken, they would have continued that night in thanksgiving, for they weren’t giving thanks for what could be, but for what was! They weren’t continuing steadfastly to some preferred better life. They were continuing steadfastly IN the grace, the life, they had been given, a life described by Paul as “hidden with Christ IN God.”[8].

The real proof of the enormity of what we already have in Christ; His overcoming life, becomes most evident to us and to the world, not in the day when all appears to earthly eyes to be going well, but rather in the day when nothing appears to be going well and yet we still find within us a spring of thanksgiving and joy, keeping us in His perfect peace.[1]. This is why it is seasons of trial that often better allow us to test and approve the foundations of our lives. It is the season of shaking that allows us to see again, what He never wanted us to take our eyes from; the unshakable work of His grace; His life in us. This is not an inward-looking life, but an upward looking life. For to see your life already hidden with Christ in God, is to set your eyes on things above, not on the earth below[2].

I believe the Holy Spirit wants the Church to begin to see our lives so clearly from a heavenly perspective, that we are filled with a great awe, a great awareness of the reality of God’s presence in us, what the Bible calls ‘the fear of God’. It is only when the Church awakens to the presence of God in their midst, that the world is stirred. Look once more to what Acts 2:43 describes happening, when the church continued steadfastly in the grace already given. “Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” (NASB) Notice the order. Awe came first. Why? Because the world cannot be in awe, before the Church is!

In this season, the church has been stripped of much of her earthly trappings. What better time than in a storm, to see the difference between temporal and eternal foundations and to see that the communication of our faith will not be made effective by a bigger building or more resources, but by how much we continue steadfastly in awe, of the wonderful work God has done in us. It’s great to have plans, but the source of our joy, or strength, our growth, must not be found in what we are continuing steadfastly to, but rather what we are continuing steadfastly in; the heavenly life in Christ we have been given, by the grace of God. If all that the last 15 months brings about, is a change in our doing but not in our believing, (our seeing in the Spirit), then from eternity’s perspective nothing really changed. Just because we move the chairs back again, doesn’t mean we are any less socially distanced from expressing the fullness of Christ in His body than we were before.

How can we complain that the world isn’t listening, when we aren’t seeing? The world cannot be in awe before the Church is. This is why the great apostolic prayer for the Church, is that which prays for our eyes to open that we may see, that the riches of His glorious inheritance, ….is already in us![3]. If our hearts are sick of waiting for a glorious future, let the Holy Spirit open our eyes to a dream fulfilled; our life hidden with Christ in God[4]. Let the awe of that so consume us, that out of our hearts springs a sound that brings down every man-made wall in our lives and causes the world to listen; the sound of thanksgiving![5]


[1] James 1:2-4

[2] Colossians 3:1,2

[3] Ephesians 1:18

[4] Colossians 3:3

[5] Acts 16:25


[1] 2Cor.5:17

[2] Acts 13:38

[3] Ephesians 1:3

[4] 1Thess.5:16-18

[5] Acts 10:34-44

[6] 1Cor.3:16

[7] Acts 3:4-11,Acts 16:25

[8] Colossians 3:3


[1] Acts 11:23

[2] Acts 11:26

[3] Acts 2:42,43,47

[4] John 15:5

[5] Proverbs 13:12

[6] 1Cor.3:11

Schools out!

From students to sons, by the power of the Gospel.

“Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.”  (1Cor.4:15)

Strong’s definition of the Greek word translated ‘guardian’ or ‘instructor’ includes this phrase; “a servant whose office it was to take the children to school”.

If multitudes in the church are not growing up into the mind of Christ and are still not seeing themselves after the spirit (2Cor.5:16), could it be because we too can still look at the church today and say what Paul said, “You have ten thousand servants taking the children to school, but not many fathers.”

As long as believers remain without a revelation of their sonship in Christ (Rom.8:14), their acceptance in the beloved, they can only live as eternal students.

In all honesty, how many believers in our churches have spent years accumulating knowledge, but have never entered the rest and confidence that only a child who knows they are the apple of their father’s eye can enjoy? Many entered this ‘school system’ decades ago but still feel unqualified to do much more than invite others to join the school.  In the natural world, maturity is defined as attaining the capacity to reproduce. Is our dependence on a model of church that revolves around producing ‘events’ to attract unbelievers, simply an admission that many of our churches are not raising disciples but managing converts? Maturity has always come by the building up of the body “in love” (Eph 4:11-16). Children enter the school system to be built up in knowledge, but it is to another institution that society looks for them to be built up in love; the family.

Changing the model of school, does little to heal the heart of an orphan. There has been much discussion about the ‘how’ of ‘doing’ church in a pandemic, but the real question is not “how will we be doing Church?”, but “who will be being Church, sons or students”. In the Kingdom of God, exploits are done by those who know their Father, not just know about Him (Daniel 11:32).

Schools demand a focus on self and hold out the promise of making something of oneself. Families do not promise identity, they impart it. Families are not a means to a better end, they are God’s better end, our source and our destiny. Families speak to a child of who they are, not who they could be.

This difference, between speaking to people according to their works, their performance and speaking to them according to their true worth, is the difference between speaking as a manager and speaking as a Father. A manager can give you great advice, that can result in increased productivity in your life. But unfortunately, managerial language tends to speak to us of who we could be, one day, if we, rather than speak to us as who we aretoday, because He! The danger is that such language keeps our vision on ourselves and our hope on our performance. Better days are always promised, but never seem to arrive, sparking repeated waves of introspection. Earthly vision is always looking for more because it can’t see the enormity of what has been given (2Kings 6:17). It always speaks of a future goal; what we are going to achieve, but never a present reality; who we are today in Christ.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick. There is only so long that faith can survive in a measuring atmosphere. Our hearts were built to celebrate, not endlessly calculate. The Father’s house is, in truth, full of the sound of a finished work, the sound of music and dancing, but all work and no celebration indeed makes the church a very dull son.

The language of earthly vision is not the voice of a Father entreating us to enter into His joy, but that of a manager entreating us to try harder to do better. Such language creates in the church a culture of good advice, not good news. Where has that culture led us? It has left us with the local church blending right in on main street, alongside all the other charitable organisations who are also offering good advice …and serving better coffee than we are!

Keep watering down the Good News of what He has done, with a little good advice on what we still need to do, and the result is that too many of us as believers struggle to see ourselves as who we now are in Christ, who we are in the Father’s eyes, for we are being reared on the vision of who we are in our elder brother’s eyes! Such short-sightedness is the result of our vision being formed by the words of those who see us primarily as workers for His Kingdom, rather than sonsin His Kingdom, for to be short-sighted in the Spirit, is to be living as if what Christ achieved wasn’t enough to qualify us to live in communion with His Spirit (2Peter1:9). When the blind lead the blind, the only way is down and how the angels must wonder at the sight of sons of God living as mere men (1Cor.3:3).  

So how are the sons to be raised to maturity? How are we to see in the Church, the Gideons rise out of the hole they have stepped into and the Saul’s of Tarsus breathing out the Spirit rather than anger. We need the fathers to arise, those who will not measure the children of God according to their performance, for only those men and women who carry the heart of the Father, can see as He sees and so speak as He speaks (1Cor.2:13). Only the words of a father can impart what a manager cannot; a revelation of identity, that transcends earthly performance; the life of a son, not the life of an employee working his way to a promotion.

When believers come to see that they are a Christian, not because of their new behaviour but because of their new birth, (that they are saved by grace through faith and this NOT of themselves), a remarkable thing happens. They finally stop trying to be a Christian and start living as a child of God because they begin to see themselves as their Father sees them; hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3). To see yourself the way the Father sees you, is to be filled with joy inexpressible and full of glory and any believer full of thanksgiving, is holier by accident than the most sin-conscious, self-absorbed zealot (Rom 10:1-4).

So how is this vision of the father imparted to His children, to raise up sons to maturity? Is it through a new model of church, or a different system of training leaders, or perhaps a fresh wave of self-examination? How did Paul become a father to the Corinthians? The answer is right there in the verse we began with.

“Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” 

Only a gospel that reveals salvation as all of Christ and “not of ourselves, lest any man should boast” (measure), can unbind the Lazarus church from being so wrapped up in its own performance, as to remain blind and deaf to the reality that we died and this life is now an entirely new creation (2Cor.5:17).

Irrespective of whether He finds them returning from the world stinking of drink, or finds them working away in the church stinking of self-righteousness, the Father always greets His children in the same way; as the apple of His eye, a cause for rejoicing (Luke 15:20-24). Only a gospel that reveals such a loving father, can raise children who live so well loved, that they speak the language of heaven in all circumstances; thanksgiving, and by this the will of the Father is done on the earth (1Thess.5:16-18, Acts.16:25,16). Only a father can greet his children the way Paul greeted his churches. Irrespective of the moral failures or heresy at work in their lives, he greeted them as the saints in Corinth, not the sinners, because he understood that their fundamental lack was not will-power, but vision and the vision of the Father can never be imparted through a gospel that says, ‘Try harder’, but only one that with great rejoicing declares ‘See further, See Christ and Him crucified, was enough!’

Such good news creates a sound in the realm of the spirit, the sound of music and dancing, the sound of the Father calling His children in from the field, a sound powerful enough to cause a metanoia in the Church, a repentance unto life, a looking up from self to Christ. It is the sound of this outbreak of joy in the church, that will cause the world also to look up and ask, “What does this mean?”, for up to now, all they have heard is the sound of servants bringing the children to school. How different is the sound of sons, entering into the joy of their Father, for it is the proclamation so many have longed to hear; “Schools out!”

Let such great commotions once more break out in cities across our land, the sound of the joy of the poor and the consternation of the religious, a sound that can only be caused by the proclamation of a gospel foolish enough to set men free from themselves (1Cor.1:23).

(This article was written for ascensionforum.uk)

A Pandemic of camel swallowing.

You may think your greatest need right now, with so many strong opinions flying around this world, is to know who is right and who is wrong, that you may choose the right side of an argument. But we all have a greater need, than to know the right thing to do. We need to know the heart of Him, who went to the Cross, not so that He would be right, but so that we, who were his enemies, could be right (Rom.5:10). In the coming days and for the rest of your life, no matter what the issue is, from politics to vaccines to artificial intelligence, information without love cannot bring you to Christlikeness and any decision founded on fear, will never bear the fruit of a decision founded on thanksgiving. You may be convinced that the only issue that matters, is whether it is right or wrong to do a particular thing, but there is something greater at stake, the state of our heart.

  • What’s the point of making the right decision, of being right on an issue, when your attitude to those who oppose your position, shows your heart to be full of fear, not love.
  • What’s the point of being right, when the Holy Spirit would rather you be wrong, because your idea of ‘being right’ is hindering people from coming to Christ? Listen to what the apostle Paul, full of the Holy Spirit said to the Corinthians, who were so set on being proved right, that they were taking each other to court in front of the world. He said to them; “Would you not rather be wronged? Would you not rather be cheated, than behave like this before the world? (1Cor.6)
  • What’s the point of being right, of holding all the right positions on all the right moral issues of the day, only to end up, as far from the heart of God, as the elder brother lecturing his own father on the rights and wrongs of welcoming home the prodigal (Luke 15:29,30)
  • What’s the point of being right, when the heart of God, felt by Paul for his Jewish brothers, was to rather be wrong and cursed and cut off from Christ, than for them to perish (Rom.9:3)
  • What’s the point of being right, when the very God we claim to serve, is one who chose to be wrong, to be cursed, to be sin, in order that we might become right, in God (John 3:16, 2Cor.5:21)

To be filled with the nature, the Spirit, of Him who is Love, is not to ask, “What should I do, in order to be right?”, but rather it is to ask, “What should I do, in order that my brother be right?” That’s why the church has never matured in Christlikeness by information, but always by the revelation of the love of God (Eph 4:11-16). God’s answer was never to educate our old self, but to put him to death because a self-centred life can never be right in the eyes of God (2Cor.5:17).

Throughout the New Testament, you can find accounts of issues that were as controversial for the believers in Paul’s day, as some of our medical questions today. Some believers in the city of Corinth wrote to Paul to ask about one of these issues; his opinion on the question of whether it was right for a Christian to eat food, (meat in this case), that had been used in pagan temples, to sacrifice to false gods. Like many people today, they probably believed that the answer was a simple Yes or No, because they thought of the act of eating such meat as either right or wrong. All Paul had to do, they thought, was to give them a simple Yes or No. But he didn’t. Instead, we read these words at the beginning of Chapter 8 of his first letter to the Corinthians; “Now about food sacrificed to idols:” and then, instead of a yes or no, we get three chapters explaining why his answer can be yes, or no, because for Paul the fundamental question was not, whether his action made him right or wrong, but rather, what effect would his action have on others?

Do you know the reason, why so many in the Church are so desperate to be right, that they have no problem cursing those whom they see to be the enemies of all that is right? Because they have no revelation of their own righteousness in Christ (Hebrews 5:13), and without that, you will always be trying so hard to be right, that all of your decisions are more about you being right, than others (Rom 10:1-4). But a self-centred life can never be right in the eyes of God. No matter how many issues you are right on, at the end of the day, the self-life can only ever produce a self-ish life (John 3:6).

Don’t be taken in by how passionate and zealous many Christians sound on the great moral issues of the day. No matter how right they sound, if you really want to know if they are being led by the Spirit, listen to the way they speak about their opponents. Do they speak in the language of the One who laid down His life for his? Do they speak the language of thanksgiving? Some of the most zealous Christians on the subjects of morality, have little or no revelation of the things of the Spirit because as long as you are trying to establish your own righteousness, you cannot submit to the righteousness that comes from God; the love that would rather be found wrong, that others would be found right. Where is the love that would rather lose the argument, lose the reputation, or lose the election, than hinder a soul from coming to Christ? Christian, you don’t take the moral high ground by winning. Our Saviour already took that hill by dying. As long as multitudes in the body of Christ remain short-sighted to the point of blindness to His Kingdom (2Peter1:9), they will continue to fight over the Kingdoms of men. Their communities need them to swallow their pride, but they are too busy swallowing camels (Matt.23:24). At the current rate, camels will soon be extinct!

The body of Christ, the Church, has always grown up in Christlikeness, not through the impartation of knowledge, but through the impartation of love. To be filled with the Spirit, is to be filled with the love of God and a thanksgiving that lifts your eyes off yourself. That’s why my answer throughout this year, to all the questions before us, is simply to keep preaching the Gospel, the news that fills men with thanksgiving because the only immunity to the pandemic of unbelief in this world, is thanksgiving!

There is a lot of good advice out there, both on how not to catch the virus and how to get immune to it. There is nothing wrong with taking good advice. Good advice will help you not to catch Covid. But good advice is not enough to stop you catching unbelief because the only immunity to the unbelief in this world, is a level of thanksgiving in your life, that only the Good news of the Gospel can produce,

  • a Gospel that reveals you to be right, not because you did the right thing, but because He did,
  • a gospel that reveals you to be now right, because you are now right where He wanted you to be; hidden with Christ in God (Col3:3)

Nothing you or I will ever do, will make us as right as that! Only when we start to see that, start to see by the Spirit, can we leave our self-centred life where He left it, in the grave and rise instead every day, to live that others would be right, for that is what it is to live, as the body of Christ.

The Great Renewal

You may have heard the story of the two shoe salesmen who were both sent by rival companies to a foreign country at the turn of the twentieth century. After several days there, both sent a telegram back to their respective head offices. The first man wrote “Research complete. Unmitigated disaster. No-one here wears shoes”. The second salesman wrote “Research complete. Glorious opportunity. No-one here wears shoes.”

So, what do we see as we look at this present situation? That may depend on whether we are looking by natural understanding or by the Spirit. Surrounded and hemmed in by the enemy, the prophet’s servant could only see problems everywhere. But filled with the Spirit, Elisha prayed “Lord open his eyes” and when the servant looked again, by the Spirit he saw the hills were filled with an angelic army (2 Kings 6:15-17). Do you really think that this present pandemic came as a surprise to God? It is for such a time as this that we have been prepared, to be a people so rooted in our identity as children of God, that we live knowing we have in Christ all we need, to thrive in all seasons (Philippians 4:12,13).

None of us likes anything that appears to restrict our liberty to worship, but it was the capacity of the early church to worship under much more severe restrictions than these, that spoke powerfully to their society. We respect and pray for the governing authorities placed over us, but we do not look to them to provide us with the right conditions for worship. The authorities in Philippi provided Paul and Silas with a dungeon and chains and from that confinement came worship that shook the earth! No external restriction can hinder our worship, only what we believe in our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). By God’s grace, external pressures only serve to reveal in us what cannot be crushed (2 Corinthians 4:7-12). Whatever restrictions are put on our ability to gather together to worship, they still pale before the restrictions confronting the church for the first 300 years after Christ’s ascension. Yet from kitchen tables in humble homes they radically transformed their society.

For years we have prayed for ‘revival’ to come, without much idea of the great change and upheaval that would come to our lives at such a time. In our natural understanding, we have got so used to tying our hopes to carefully laid plans, that to enter a season where such plans count for little, has challenged us to think profoundly about the expression of our faith in this generation. To all the plans of each Church generation, Jesus gives the same reply; “Follow me!”. As Elisha discovered, there cannot be a following without a leaving! (1 Kings 19:21). With the call of God comes the grace, the capacity, to leave behind what needs to be left behind.

This may look like a time of great restriction on the Church, but it is in fact a time of great renewal. We are being pushed out of the nest and must leave behind much of the tradition and form of ‘doing’ church, in order to grow in the revelation of ‘being’ Church. We will be surprised at the effectiveness of believers thrown into living one day at a time, but the early church would not have been. They saw the Kingdom of God impact society to a measure we have not, while living day to day under oppressive conditions.

The Ekklesia of God is not a building or a denomination, but the people of God living one life, in one mind, by one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4-6). It is the expression of the life of Christ, through a multitude of diverse lives rooted and established in their identity in Him, bringing the Kingdom of Heaven to the world of business, education and culture. Buildings and denominations are simply servants of this Kingdom, not the Kingdom itself.

Paul shed no tears over the wreck of the ship that brought him to Malta. He simply used the pieces left to press on into the new day before him, for he knew that God was with him, not the ship! I recommend we don’t waste time trying to rebuild the ship. Let us also use what we can salvage and set out boldly into this generation with the message, “The Kingdom of God has drawn near you, for look, it cannot be contained nor defined by a building!”

The harvest the Church has been praying for is now knocking on our door. It looks as alien to us as Saul did to Ananias, but the Spirit is here to open our eyes and ears to the truth; ‘those who are with us, are greater than those who are with them’ (2 Kings 6:16). Welcome to the great renewal!

Reformation and Renewal.

If you have not already done so, I am sure that one day you will look back over your life and recognise, that the greatest blessings of life were not pre-planned by you. They came as gifts from above and many were not always recognisable as blessings to begin with. We all love to be in control, as we find change to be discomforting. It gets in the way of all our carefully laid plans. We all just want things to get back to ‘normal’. But what if our ‘normal’ is so far below God’s best for us, that He is not at all disturbed by the changes!
This week I read again David’s account, of how He had killed a lion and a bear that had attacked his flock. I was struck by how he recounted chasing down the predator and killing it and yet he described those victories as “the Lord rescued me” (1Samuel 17:37). The appearance of the Lion and the Bear, to kill, steal and destroy, initially looked like events that would lead to loss, discouragement and despair, but they became in fact the foundation for David’s life; “God is with me!”
Notice that believing God was with him, didn’t leave David on his knees praying about the Bear and the Lion! Rather it caused him to run after them and take back what had been stolen. The grace of God, His presence in us, is not given that we would live our lives as spectators, as if we had no more control over what is happening to us, than we would have over a drama we are watching on TV. Leaving the safety of his camp to run into the dark, didn’t feel to David like he was leaving the presence of God behind, but rather that he was running deeper into the life of Emmanuel (God with us).
I believe that one day many of us will look back at our lives and recognise that at times when things appeared to be taken from us, these were opportunities to grow in the revelation that “God is with me”.
Church, now is not a time to try and figure out how we can get back to our plans for safety, but to rise up in the knowledge that wherever we go, He is with us. There are victories to be experienced that cannot be known in the camp, but out in the field. In Christ, we have all we need for the season we are in and that includes each other. One of the most powerful manifestations of God with us, is sharing the life of the saints around us, carrying each other’s burdens and letting others carry us and inspire us, for none of us can reach our calling alone.
Yes, God wants our prayers to be answered, but what we want Him to do FOR us, He has always desired to do WITH us. We have His Spirit, not so as we can tell Him what He knows already, but so that we can speak with His voice into this world and into each other. Prophecy isn’t so much foretelling as forthtelling, speaking forth the things that cannot be seen; eternal things, such as the grace and purpose given to us in Christ from before the foundation of this world (2Tim.1:9,10) It is through the speaking forth of these truths into our own lives and those of others, that the Spirit brings order out of chaos and light out of darkness!
I want to encourage you to look up. We are living at a time in history that folk will look back on one day, as a time of reformation and renewal of the Church. Jesus told His disciples that they were to carry very little with them, as they set out into this world proclaiming the Kingdom. (Luke 9:1-6). It was as if He was saying; “To proclaim the Kingdom as enough, in power, then you must live as if the Kingdom IS enough! You must live fully in the day you are in, experiencing my grace as sufficient for that day”. (Matt.6:11)
As we live through the discomfort of not having solid plans and dates for the coming weeks or months, don’t miss the gift that is being presented to us; the opportunity to grow in the power of the Kingdom; the life of living fully in the day you are in! If there are days when despair, or frustration, or fear from lack of knowing the future threatens to overwhelm you, then on that day pick up the phone and start to minister to someone and I promise you that as you set off into the dark, you will become aware of His presence ministering to you and through you, for your call and His grace in your life, was always for you to run toward giants, not away from them.
Remember that in this season, multitudes in our communities are now intimidated by the giant of anxiety and despair. You only have to live in confidence and rest before them, to stand out as David did, among 40,000 others who stood before Goliath. This does not mean that we have to prove our faith by refusing what the world offers. David said that He struck the Lion. He didn’t say that he put his head in its mouth! As one friend said to me, “I take precautions, but I do it in faith, not fear.”
Be encouraged Church. You were made for such a time as this. The world is running out of resources to tackle the challenges of this season, but the Church has barely scratched the surface of her resources in Christ. We are living in the best days of our lives and they only get better in Christ!

Seeing beyond the storm.

But before very long there rushed down from the land a violent wind, called Euraquilo; and when the ship was caught in it and could not face the wind, we gave way to it and let ourselves be driven along.” Acts 27:14,15.

Just because the Spirit came as a mighty rushing wind, does not mean that the Lord is behind every ‘storm’ that comes upon us. But for all the great storms of this life we have greater promises; “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28) and “in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37).

The unexpected ways in which God turns to our good, even that which comes to kill, steal and destroy us, is something that every believer sooner or later, comes to stand amazed at. But He gives us His Spirit, not so that we stand around as amazed spectators, but so that we step out into our new environments as amazed participants.

When he first washed up on Malta, Paul had to literally shake off the lie that God was against him (Acts 28:3-6) and as he did, not for the first time, unbelievers stared at how the life in this man overcame the world around him (Acts 16:25). By the time Paul finally departed Malta, that storm of destruction had been so ‘turned to the good’ that the only wind generations on that island would remember from that time, was the wind of the Spirit that blew across that island, bringing healing and salvation.

We too have been given the same Spirit that carried along those early disciples through every storm, by opening their eyes to who was with them; the One who causes all things to work together for good. Now if He is with us, then whenever a storm drives us to an unfamiliar place, all that has happened is that the presence of God can now manifest through His body in an unreached place.

We are not promised that this ‘turning to the good’ is a pain free process. When Jesus spoke to His disciples about entering the harvest field, He described the Lord of the harvest as ‘ejecting’ or ‘casting out’ workers into His harvest (Matt.9:38). If being cast out from behind our ‘structures’ into the harvest field is a good description of a move of the Holy Spirit, then let us take hold of the grace now available. Now is not the hour to stand on the shore of this new land, wondering how we can put the ship back together. Let us take what we can use from the old structure and head inland full of confidence, believing that generations to come will remember the new life we brought, long after they have forgotten the manner of our arrival.

The answer that he has given

You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”                2Chron.20:17.

And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Eph.2:6.

From our position ‘in Christ’ we can “see the deliverance the Lord has given us”. We have been delivered out of death (separation) and into life (union) with God (Eph.2:1-6). We are all growing up into this life and even now, our minds are being renewed daily to the benefits of this life, including authority and power over every disease (Matt.10:8, Luke 10:19).

None of us despise earthly wisdom. We all use seat belts, avoid sour milk and check the brakes in our car! And so we should. It is with gratitude that we accept the wisdom of those in authority, who would seek to protect us from danger. If a natural disaster such as a flood or a fire was affecting our communities, we would all look to play our part in resisting that threat together and the threat of contagion is no different. But our hope is not in avoiding disaster or disease. It is in knowing that, right in the midst of such enemies we sit at a heavenly feast and our cup runs over. (Psalm 23). Such peace is not given, so that we may chastise the world for being in fear, but that we may be still enough to hear the Fathers heart, beating for every soul in distress.

What is the Father doing about this pandemic crisis? He has planted the Spirit-filled body of Christ in every nation, a river of healing and wholeness. We are salt and light. We know what Spirit we are of. We are of Him who came to save men’s lives, not destroy them (Luke 9:53-56). We have good news for a dying world. God loves you and His love is not like this world’s. His love is not conditional on your behaviour, for He set His heart on you, before you had done anything good or bad (2Tim.1:9). He knows the only love powerful enough to change your heart, is a love your heart doesn’t know, a love that keeps no record of wrongs, a love that nailed that record to a Cross (Col.2:14).

When this world looks to us at this time for answers, as to Gods view on all this, let us point them to the answer that He has given, His eternal view and opinion on each person’s worth to Him; Christ and Him crucified. We have not been left as orphans. We have the Spirit who leads us through the valley of the shadow of death and opens our eyes to see that that the Father’s table of blessing, communion with Him, is not a place removed from trouble, but a table in the midst of our enemies (Ps.23:5). All the darkness can do, is better reveal the light. When all that this world trusts in is being shaken, it only reveals more clearly the things that cannot be shaken; eternal things (Heb.12:27).

In Christ, we have the same Spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, living in us (Rom.8:11). We are not passing away in this eternal world. We are living eternal life in a passing away world. We are of another Kingdom, an eternal Kingdom, into which we were transferred by He who qualified us for this Kingdom, our Father (Col.1:12,13). To have His Spirit is to have His heart, His vision and His voice, that each of us at this time, may carry the testimony of Jesus, (the spirit of prophecy), that we make say to this generation too; “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”  (Luke 4:18,19)

What is the Father doing about this?

“You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you.”                                   2Chron.20:17.
“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.”                                                                             Eph.2:6.

From our position ‘in Christ’ we can “see the deliverance the Lord has given us”. We have been delivered out of death (separation) and into life (union) with God (Eph.2:1-6). We are all growing up into this life and even now, our minds are being renewed daily to the benefits of this life, including authority and power over every disease (Matt.10:8, Luke 10:19).

None of us despise earthly wisdom. We all use seat belts, avoid sour milk and check the brakes in our car. And so we should. But our hope is not in avoiding disaster or disease. It is in knowing that, right in the midst of such enemies, we sit at a heavenly feast and our cup runs over. (Psalm 23). Such peace is not given so that we may chastise the world for being in fear, but that we may be still enough to hear the Fathers heart, beating for every soul in distress.

What is the Father doing about this crisis? He has planted the Spirit-filled body of Christ in every nation, a river of healing and wholeness. We are salt and light. We know what Spirit we are of. We are of Him who came to save mens lives, not destroy them (Luke 9:53-56). We have good news for a dying world. God loves you and His love is not like this worlds. His love is not conditional on your behaviour, for He set His heart on you, before you had done anything good or bad (2Tim.1:9). He knows the only love powerful enough to change your heart, is a love your heart doesn’t know, a love that keeps no record of wrongs, a love that nailed that record to a Cross (Col.2:14).

When this world looks to us in the coming weeks, for answers as to Gods view on all this, let us point them to the answer that He has given, His eternal view and opinion on each persons worth to Him; Christ and Him crucified.

You can only receive, what you know has been given.

“Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”            Mark 10:15, Luke 18:17, Matt 18:3.

What Jesus declared in Luke 12:32, clearly show His Kingdom as something given. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom”. Here is a fundamental difference between an Old Covenant and New Covenant mindset. The Old speaks of what we must “do to become” (Deut.28:1,2). In other words, before the Cross, the life of a believer was a “doing to become” life. Yet until Jesus, not one person had ever managed to do enough. All fell short of the glory of God. (Rom.3:23). Even today, many Christians struggle to recognise that the Law was not given to empower men to be holier, but rather to reveal to them that apart from His life, they have no power in themselves to be as He is. They must give up the lie that they can make a life for themselves and humble themselves to receive the life already made for them.

This is why Jesus presented life under the New Covenant as like that of a little child. An infant simply receives the life they find themselves already born into. Life to them can only be received, as the only life they know is the one already prepared for them. They take no thought to ‘How am I going to save myself’ because each day they find that they have been already saved. Everything they need for life, from morning to night, is presented to them already prepared. They carry no anxious thought of ‘How will I clothe myself, how will I wash myself, how will I feed myself.’ They know no dependency on “I” for the only life they see before them, is one in which someone else clothes them, washes them and feeds them. No one is looking to them to do one thing, except receive what has been given. They don’t lie awake at night worrying about the future, because in the life (the Kingdom) they are receiving, everything they need pertaining to life, has already been given. The only life they know as infants, is a life where they don’t have to save themselves because their parents have never placed that expectation on them. Children who have been rooted and established in such love, bear the fruit of peace into adulthood, but tragically, those who have been robbed too early of such a childhood, bear the scars of fear.

For believers too, healthy maturity comes from being rooted and established in the love of the King, who is the life of the Kingdom, a Kingdom where there is no “doing to become” (Eph.3:17-19). Unfortunately, many believers have never been rooted and established in this love long enough for gratitude and joy to overflow from their lives, thereby manifesting the Kingdom of heaven on the earth (Rom.14:17). Their spiritual childhoods have been darkened by an atmosphere of expectation. They have never learnt how to receive because they have not been presented with a life they only had to receive! Instead they were raised under a mixed gospel that presented such a life as conditional on their doing. A little Law mixed in with the gospel, stole their sight. Instead of seeing their heavenly union and life in Christ as a present reality and walking in that Kingdom today, overflowing with joy (Col.2:6,7), they have been left not seeing further than the weakness of their flesh and everyone else’s! This is why life under a gospel leavened by a little law, is an atmosphere of comparison and condemnation, that inevitably leads to believers biting and devouring one another (Gal.5:15). I believe this mixing of the gospel of grace with a little law, is at the root of why the body of Christ has been plagued by division after division. Earthly minded believers have been blinded by the Law to the truth that the Christian life can only ever be One life; Christ’s. If you will not live believing your self-life died on the Cross, then you can only live trying to save your’self’. Christian, as long as you live like this, then although Christ is your life, this generation will not see His life through you, for how can you manifest what you have not even acknowledged yourself, how can you reveal what you are not seeing, how can you enter into, walk in, what you are not receiving? You can only receive what you know has been given!

In both Mark and Luke’s gospel, Jesus’ words on infants are immediately followed by the account of the rich young ruler. Here was a man whose trust in his own strength was only trapping him longer in the ‘doing to become’ life. He was so blinded by the Law, that He couldn’t see that the life He was looking for, was staring Him in the face; Christ, the life already prepared for him, the life already given to Him.

Eternal life, God’s life, has already been given through Christ. But how given is given? Despite what we claim to believe in our creeds, recite in our prayers, or sing in our songs, what always betrays what we are really believing, is our joy. You can only receive what you know has been given! To preach Christ and Him crucified, as the life of God already given, with no conditions attached, is to preach the Gospel of God’s grace unleavened by the Law. It is the presentation to men and women of the life of God, eternal life, as already given, a life where you don’t have to save yourself. We are not ashamed of this gospel for it is the power of God for men to see, to see something that enables them to receive as a little child does and so enter into and walk in, the very life of God, so bringing the Kingdom of God onto the earth. So what is it that men can see, in the light of this gospel? They see, staring them in the face of Christ, a life before them in which someone else clothes them, washes them and feeds them; for in Christ, we are clothed with His righteousness, washed by His blood and fed by the beautiful words coming from His mouth.

As long as the Gospel you are hearing, is not opening your eyes to see just how much has been given, then you cannot receive as a little child and so enter into the fullness of the Kingdom already given, for you can only receive what you know has been given! No eye had seen, no ear had heard and no heart had conceived of the life God had prepared for us to receive, until the Holy Spirit came (1Cor.2:9,10). He is the one who opens our eyes to see and our hearts to receive as little children, the life already prepared; Christ.

 

From ascension gifts to ascension life

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.”                                                                 Colossians 3:1

Introduction.

The purpose of this paper is to share some personal reflections on church culture, vision and mission, that may be helpful as we consider how best to align ourselves as church leaders with what the Holy Spirit is doing in our midst in this hour. As ever, this must be our starting point, for unless it is the Holy Spirit who is leading us, then our labour is in vain. In fact, this truth must be established and remain foundational to everything we claim to be or do. It cannot simply be relegated to a ‘tenet’ or ‘statement of faith’, but rather must be allowed to continually present us with this basic challenge; are we prepared to go where we have not been before? If we are not, then we are not prepared to be led by the Spirit, for the things He desires to reveal to us, will take us beyond our human experience to date (1Cor.2:9,10).

Another way of stating this, would be to say that the vision and purpose of God’s Spirit for us, will always be beyond our natural resources and capacity to achieve. This is because He refuses to speak to us as if we are mere men, involved in building some monument to God’s glory. Unlike the Pharaohs and Kings of this world, God’s building is His people and classic apostolic revelation sees the Church at the centre of God’s plan, not merely a means He uses to achieve some greater goal. Ministry is not something we do for God, but is of Him and in Him, for our lives are no longer apart from God, but are of Him and in Him. This revelation, that Christ is the living head of His Church and that His Spirit manifests His life in us and through us, is the DNA of true apostolic ministry (1Cor.3:10-16). The person and work of Christ is the foundation of the apostles and prophets (Eph.2:18-22), from which all ministry flows and so the primary calling of ascension ministries is the proclamation of Christ and Him crucified (1Cor.2:2). It is this proclamation that brings revelation of the mystery that natural religious thinking cannot comprehend apart from the Spirit; Christ in you, the hope of glory (Col.1:27).

It is only this growing up ‘into Christ’ that matures believers from converts into disciples. Ascension ministries are not for the production of good church goers, but for the growing up of believers into Christ. Maturity in the natural world is defined as reaching the stage of being able to reproduce, through the capacity to impart or carry life. It is through ascension ministries that believers are matured and so ‘equipped’ with such capacity to multiply. If our churches are not ‘sending out’ such disciples, then ‘ministry’ will remain a description of what the ‘leaders’ do, while the majority of our congregations merely ‘attend’. Growth will remain limited to the addition of more converts, rather than the multiplication of disciples.

Foundations

We are not a people working our way towards God, but the expression of His life on this earth (Col.3:1-4). Without this revelation of Christ and what He has accomplished being established as the foundation in the lives of believers, they will appear to this world as just another religion, offering advice and instruction on how to ‘reach’ God (Col.2:6-10). From such lips the gospel has always sounded like good advice on how to reach a Kingdom called heaven, rather than the good news that the Kingdom of God is here (Luke17:21). The proof of this good news, is nothing less than the life of the King Himself, manifesting in and through the lives of believers, living from the revelation of their union with Him (Matt.10:7,8). This is not some ‘ideal’ version of the Christian life, which we will only reach in some future dispensation. This is basic Christianity, the life of the Spirit, a life so many of us across the Church have not matured into (Eph.4:22-24). It is from such maturity that the works of the Spirit, the works prepared by God, flow (Eph.2:10). They flow through the mouths of believers, who speak not of natural things that men can see, but see and speak by the Spirit, things of eternal consequence; the destinies and callings of men and women in Christ (2Cor.5:16,17, 2Tim.1:9-11).

It is the work of the ascension gifts of Christ, the ministries identified in Ephesians 4, to call the body up into the maturity that works of the Spirit are birthed from (Eph.4:11-16). As has been said, if maturity is defined as the ability to reproduce, to give life, then although we may add to the numbers in our churches, if those believers are not growing up into Christ, into the maturity of the new creation, then addition will never become multiplication.

This is why the apostle Paul recognised that laying a sound doctrinal foundation for his churches was his primary apostolic calling. By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1Cor.3:10,11). The person and work of Christ brought such a paradigm shift in the relationship between God and man, that Jesus was able to declare that the least in the Kingdom of God is greater than the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (Luke 7:28). Not only do we have by the Holy Spirit a greater revelation of Christ and thereby the Father, but we have become the very temple of God’s Spirit, the place He has chosen to live (John 14:23, 1Cor.6:17). It is the very vitality of our union with Him, the appearance of His life in ours (1Cor.14:24,25, Gal.5:22,23) that is the public confirmation of the truth of the gospel.

How are a people, who have lived all their lives in darkness, to understand what darkness is? Which is a more effective way to persuade them, to preach about the dangers of darkness, or to show them light? The most effective way to awaken a nation to the reality of the darkness of lives separated from God, is to present them with the shining reality of lives lived in communion with God (Matt.5:14-16).

This is the fundamental difference between an Old and New Covenant mindset; the revelation of the passing away, through Christ, of our old ‘self’ life, a separated from God life and the gift of the new life IN Christ, an entirely new creation, holy and righteous in God’s sight (1Cor.6:11, 2Cor.5:17, Eph.4:24, Col.3:12, Rom.5:17, Col.2:10).

The Challenge.

This foundation, of how believers now appear in God’s sight; hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3), appears to be missing in the lives of many across the Church and this remains a serious hindrance to maturity (Heb.5:11-13). A recent National Women’s report for the Apostolic Church U.K noted the following, “We have noticed since we started, that many women do not know who they are in Christ and the authority they have been given through Jesus.” Without this revelation of who we now are and what we now have in Christ, believers are left striving to become who they already are and to ‘deserve’ what has already been gifted to them in Christ. Many are not able to distinguish New Testament ministry from Old Testament ministry.

A New Testament ministry points to Christ and leaves the faith of the believer rooted and grounded in the person and work of Christ. Its emphasis is on being, not doing, being ‘in Christ’ and learning to live and walk from that new creation reality. An Old Testament ministry points to the believer; (if you will….then God will….but if you don’t….then God won’t….) and so leaves the believers faith in himself and his performance. This ministry of the letter, a ministry of condemnation and death (2Cor.3:4-11), effectively alienates the believer in his mind from God and so fear replaces love and earthly vision replaces heavenly vision (Eph.4:17-24).
In constantly being spoken to, as if they are little different to those under the Old Covenant, believers remain short-sighted to the point of blindness. This is how the apostle Peter described believers who appeared to be living as if their sins had not been atoned for (2Peter 1:8,9). His introduction to this statement, sums up magnificently how high believers have been lifted in Christ. This is the fundamental test of ascension ministries; are they ascending the thinking and so living of believers, into the life of Christ? “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and [e]excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2Peter1:1-4).

Note that grace and peace is multiplied to believers, not in the knowledge of what is expected of them, but in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

To see ourselves by the Spirit, to see ourselves in Christ, as God now sees us, is transformational (2Cor.3:18). The way He thinks of us, is as far from natural religious thinking as the heavens are from the earth, and that is the reason why any discussion about our vision for working together as churches must begin and grow from the Spirit’s vision of the Church, not our natural experience to date, a very mixed experience! God already has prepared a heavenly vision for us and it is nothing less than His heavenly vision of us. It is as His heavenly vision is declared over His people, that they start to rise up to live from that vision, for faith comes by hearing.

Is it possible for believers, to harden their hearts against the gospel and never grow up into the maturity of sonship, into thinking of themselves and God as one life? Is it possible for believers, those who have been raised with Christ, to live a mere natural earthly religious life, thinking of themselves as mere men separated from God by their sin, rather than temples of the Holy Spirit, the very habitation of God? Anyone who has been around the church for any length of time, knows that its more than possible. Such immaturity has become the widespread normal state of the body of Christ, for a church that has not grown to see that they are the very habitation of God, will always be seeking a visitation from God. When you cannot see what God has done, you will spend your life waiting for something better. Here is the Gospel. There is nothing better than, Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Strategy

 I believe the Holy Spirit’s strategy to strengthen the Church is timeless and transcultural, because it was never based on natural human wisdom, but on raising the vision, the thinking of believers, out of the natural realm and into the heavenly realm. The apostle Paul described this strategy in Ephesians 4 as, growing up believers into the head, the mind of Christ (Eph.4:11-15.)

Bridges have a purpose; to enable people to get to the other side of a natural obstacle. Bridges are not built so that a country can claim to have bridges. Apostolic teaching is not about believing in apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These ascension ministries are called to ascend (raise up) believers to transcend a natural obstacle; their natural earthly thinking and rise up into a new way of thinking and a new way of living, called life ‘in Christ’. True ascension ministry produces a manifestation of ascension life (Col.3:1-4). “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived” — the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are things that God has revealed to us by His Spirit.” (1Cor.2:9,10)

Notice what the Spirit comes to reveal; not what needs to be done, but what has already been prepared. The greatest blessing is revelation and it is the blessing by which Christ builds His Church. This is why we need to pray for revelation across our churches. “Blessed are you Simon bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matt.16:17) Jesus declared, “This is the rock I will build my Church on”. He was speaking of revelation from the Father, of the person and work of Christ, which is precisely what the apostle Paul would later define his gospel message as; “Christ and Him crucified”.

The Mission.

Paul described his apostolic calling to the Romans as one “set apart for the Gospel of God’ (Rom.1:1). This gospel, He claimed to be the power of God unto salvation and in his epistles he continually returned to this foundation of his ministry, for he increasingly understood that earthly religion points men to themselves as their hope, but the Gospel of God’s grace points to Christ alone (Acts 20:24, Gal.1:6,7, Gal.5:1-9).

In this generation too, our understanding of what the gospel is and what it is not, is no less fundamental. The Church is not built on good advice, but good news!

“As you received Him, so walk in Him”…..(Col.2:6). You and I received Him by a revelation of His Spirit and so that is how we are to walk through the days ahead; by settling not for flesh and blood, but for nothing less than revelation from above. We too should not look to persuade men through any other means, but the proclamation of the glorious gospel of what God has done through Christ; reconciled the world to Himself and is now no longer counting their sins against them (2Cor.5:19). We preach this gospel not just to the world, but to the Church, that the community of saints in any location may mature into one body, with a deepening love for each other that points the world to Christ, the head of this one body (John.13:35). This is the fruit of a gospel that communicates the grace of God in truth; it continues to bear fruit in the hearers from the very first day they hear it (Col.1:6). They continue to grow up into Christ and are equipped, not just to live for Him, but to live from Him, not just to speak about the Kingdom of God as one day in heaven, but to be the very presence of the King on the earth (Matt.10:7), the very revelation of what union with God looks like (John 14:23).

Such a gospel, that does not lift up men and emphasis their role in their own salvation, has always been misunderstood and challenged by the religious mindset (Rom.3:8). Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones summed up this mark of the true gospel in his writings on Romans 6. This is what he said.

“The true preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone always leads to the possibility of this charge being brought against it. There is no better test as to whether a man is really preaching the New Testament gospel of salvation than this, that some people might misunderstand it and misinterpret it to mean that it really amounts to this, that because you are saved by grace alone it does not matter at all what you do; you can go on sinning as much as you like because it will redound all the more to the glory of grace. This is a very good test of gospel preaching. If my preaching and presentation of the gospel of salvation does not expose it to that misunderstanding, then it is not the gospel.”

To ears trained up to relate to God under the Old Covenant, New Covenant ministry has always sounded almost blasphemous (Acts 19:8,9). Paul knew that mixing Old with the New, remained the greatest hindrance to the gospel bearing fruit in the churches he had planted. Contrast the language he uses in writing to the religious Galatians, with that to the licentious Corinthians (Gal.5:12). He knew that for the Galatians to take the gospel of God’s grace and add to it, even the smallest mixture of religious performance, would be to ‘leaven the whole lump’ and result in something that may sound like the gospel, but is in fact a different gospel, that is no gospel at all (Gal.1:6,7, Gal.5:9). Despite the vulnerability to accusations of antinomianism that a gospel centred on Christ leaves ministers open to, Paul declared himself to be unashamed to preach it for one very good reason; it works! (Rom.1:16). Under such a gospel, comes the power for men and women to walk in the Spirit and walking in the Spirit is a far more effective way to deal with the lusts of the flesh than will-power! (Gal.5:16, Col.2:23).

A gospel leavened with a little law, always sounds more appealing to the flesh, for it revives the pride of the soul (you can do it!). But it always leads to condemnation, division and stagnation, for such a gospel is not revealing the new creation, the sons of God, but mere men and as a man thinks, so will he be. If the gospel we have been raised under has left us still thinking of ourselves (and so living) as mere men (1Cor.3:3, Col.2:20), then we may have been raised under it, but we have not been raised by it! The gospel that the apostle Paul preached, lifted men’s thinking and so their living, into the heavenly realm, for it is only in living from there, can the Church reveal the heavenly man, the new creation; Christ in His body (Col.3:1-4).

Conclusion.

In seeking to move forward as a group of churches, into a greater dynamic and demonstration of the union of Christ with His body, we can only give what we have received (Matt.10:8). In our rush to achieve for Him, so often we have neglected to appreciate just what a great and glorious salvation we have received, how all that we already have in Christ is far beyond what our earthly imagination or experience has yet revealed (1Cor.2:9,10). This revelation of the unbounded generosity of the Father, to have blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing (Eph.1:3), leads our souls into such a profound rest, that our heart motives in life and ministry are formed and informed not by a fear of failure, but by pure thanksgiving. This is the life He always purposed for us (1Thess.5:16-18). Surely also, this is the most powerful spiritual warfare that the Church can engage in; to participate in the victory celebrations of heaven, by trumpeting the finished work of Christ as sufficient to bring life and immortality to all who will receive Him (Eph.2:8,9). What brings this “to light” in the darkness of this world, is the proclamation of the gospel of Christ and Him crucified (2Tim.1:10). Only the undiluted message of a victory won and eternal life freely gifted and waiting to be received and enjoyed, can match the description the angels gave at Christ’s birth; “good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Only such a gospel can be worthy of the magnitude of the invitation of the Father, who beseechs a nation estranged from Him by religion to, “rejoice with me because what was dead is alive again and what was lost is found.” (Luke 15:32).

To receive the gospel in truth, is to allow ourselves to be led into a house of music and dancing; the heart of the Father over His children (Luke15:25). The gospel we preach must carry the sound of this celebration, the sound of confidence in Christ’s work, a sound that a generation of souls have searched for in vain among the cacophony of self-help and self-effort gospels of this world and the churches ‘of’ this world (Col.2:20). At this hour in history, the world is again setting its hope on what man can do to save our planet. So what better hour for us to return again, to the only truth that reveals the gospel as a message not of this earth; the declaration that what Christ has done is sufficient, for all the needs of all men (2Cor.5:19), the message that still sounds like foolishness to the world; all that needs to be done, has been done! (John 19:30)

Let the sound of this gospel produce in our churches, such a liberty from fear and anxiety, that the world turns again to marvel, at lives once marked by naked despair and death, now sitting fully clothed and in their right minds, in Christ! (Luke 8:35). Let the rising light of such a gospel, begin to dispel the smog of legalism that has obscured the beauty and glory of Christ in His Church. By that light, let the fields of this nation blossom once again with a harvest of saints and scholars, that Europe may be blessed again by an Ireland in the Son!  Let ascension ministry bear no less fruit than a generation manifesting ascension life, life in Christ. Let us not attempt to do something to become something. Let us allow the Holy Spirit to convince us, that the great work that will be seen in this nation, is not what we will do for Him, but who we already are in Him. We are the maturing sons of God, churches growing up into Christ and all by grace!

“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4.