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.

 

 

 

A gospel that brings immortality to light

who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2Tim,1:9,10

When the Lord appeared to Abraham, or Moses, or Gideon, or Mary, He spoke to each of them, called each of them, by a name they had never heard before. From the moment He did that, they could only walk into the supernatural calling of God for their lives, by accepting the name, the eternal identity, that God had always had for them (Father of many nations, deliverer of my people, mighty warrior, Mother of the Lord). You can only walk in that name, that destiny, with one response; “Be it done unto me according to your Word” (Luke.1:38). That’s why Mary is such a role model for the birthing and formation of the life of Christ in a believer.

Here we see the circumcision of the heart, by the living Word. When God speaks your eternal name, there is a putting off/cutting off of your old life, to enable you to walk in His new name, His eternal name. His new life, His eternal life. His Word is sharp enough to cut us free from living a soulish earthly life and rise into our heavenly name, His eternal name for us, granted to us in Christ Jesus before we were conceived (2Tim.1:9). It was from the day of His circumcision, that Mary’s child was called Jesus, the name given by an angel before He was conceived (Luke2:21)

His new name for you, allows you to transcend your old life; to rise up a new person! A name that God has for you which transcends your mortal life, could also be called your immortal name. Now read 2Tim.1:10 again. “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” Such names, eternal callings, are revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. We are used to thinking of immortality as going one way; on and on into the future. But in the plan and purposes of God, immortality goes back as well as forward. When it says that the appearance of Christ brought immortality to light, it doesn’t just mean that Christ revealed eternal life as a life that went on and on into the future, but He revealed that, to God, our lives were in His heart from before the world began (Eph.1:5, Rom.8:30).

“Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you? Before you were born I set you apart….” Who did the Lord say that to?  These words were spoken to the prophet Jeremiah (Jer.1:5). Believing He said that to Jeremiah won’t change your life. But believing He is saying it to you will! Can you believe He says that to you? This is how God has always spoken to His people.

Question: When God says Before I formed you in your mother’s womb, I knew you? Which you, is He talking about?

  • to Jeremiah, He was talking about the Jeremiah who would be a prophet to the nations.
  • To Abraham, He was talking about the patriarch of Israel.
  • To Gideon He was talking about the mighty warrior
  • To Mary He was talking about the one destined to carry and nurture the Christ child.

Didn’t he know that when He spoke to Abraham, Abraham had achieved nothing of his destiny in the flesh. That he was living in barreness? Yes, but he wasn’t speaking to Abraham according to his mortal record but his immortal calling. Didn’t he know that when He spoke to Gideon, that Gideon had achieved nothing of his destiny in the flesh, that he was living in fear? Yes, but he wasn’t speaking to Gideon according to his mortal record but according to his immortal calling. Didn’t He know when He spoke to Mary, that she had achieved nothing of her eternal destiny in the flesh, that there was nothing to recommend a girl living in the humblest of circumstances to be the mother of our Lord? Yes, but he wasn’t speaking to Mary according to her mortal record, but according to her immortal calling.

Now you may say, but Phelim, those were special people and God may have had an immortal, eternal name for them, but I don’t see many angels appearing to people these days to tell them their eternal name. That’s because God doesn’t need to use angels these days to tell people of their immortal calling, because since the appearing of Christ, immortality is now brought to light by another means. God has purposed another means through which men and women hear their true name in Christ. How are such callings, such names now revealed? Look again at v10. “…but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Saviour Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,

If the gospel you are sitting under doesn’t reveal your immortal calling to you, it is not the glorious eternal gospel that Paul preached (Rom.8:30, Eph.1:5, Eph.4:23,24, Col.2:20). If the gospel you are sitting under does not address you, reveal to you, God’s name for you ‘in Christ’, then you are not being equipped to live in that new life, because faith comes by hearing (Rom.10:17, Eph.4:15). It is in hearing God speak to you as ‘in Christ’, the eternal one, that you are graced (empowered) to live that in Christ, eternal life, because Words from God are spirit and they are life. Only His word to you lifts you into the eternal realm, lifts your thinking from the things that are passing away and sets your mind on things that will never pass away; Christ and all whose lives are hidden with Him in God (2Cor.4:18, Col.3:1-4)

That’s why on hearing Gideon’s astonishment and questions on how he could possibly do what was being asked of him, the Lord, in effect, simply kept repeating “You will do it, because I have spoken to you” (Judges 6:13-16). In other words, God believes His Words are eternal words, with the power to impart eternal destinies. How much faith does God have in His word? Enough to see you as whom He declares you to be, (not whom your earthly record declares you to be).

In Christ, God declares you to be a saint. But until your mind is renewed to Christ, you can only think of yourself as a sinner. If you can hear God’s words to you, spoken from the eternal realm, of your destiny in Christ, then that life is birthed and forms in you, through the power imparted by such words, for what comes with His words, are spirit and life; Holy Spirit and eternal life (John 6:63).

When you were a child and your mum or dad asked you several times to do something and you kept asking “why”, eventually, in frustration they may have said “Because I say so. That’s why!” Listen carefully. The Holy Spirit, sees from the eternal realm, the end from the beginning. He is the Holy Spirit of Him who has sat down in rest because all that needs to be done has been done. He never ever speaks to you in frustration or anger, as if He was hoping that you would achieve something for Him and now you have disappointed Him. His love for you and His name for you, are not changed by your performance. Why? Because He was never depending on you! All that was required to be done, for you and Him to live as one, He is not looking for you to do, because the living Word; Christ, already did all that was necessary and proclaimed it before all of creation from the Cross; “It is finished (accomplished, paid in full)” (John.19:30)

That’s why to preach the gospel is not to preach you, but to preach Christ! If you keep coming to a New Covenant ministry, looking for some nice talks on how you can be a better Christian, then you will be sorely disappointed, because we don’t preach you, we preach Christ! Some people would say to me, “Phelim, why don’t you preach more about sin?” Because I have such confidence in the power of a gospel that points to Christ and what He has done and so little confidence in a gospel that points to me and what I have not done. I grew up for decades in a church culture that threatened me with hell and damnation if I didn’t repent, but never gave me a gospel that enabled me to repent, for as Paul declared to the Romans, the very power of the gospel is that the righteousness of God is revealed as the gift of God in Christ. Any ‘gospel’ that obscures the truth, that in effect keeps pointing to me and saying “so what are you going to do for God”, rather than pointing to Christ, is no gospel at all (Gal.1:6-9). I will never be ashamed of preaching the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24), of preaching Christ, not you. This is especially true as I see more and more the power of this gospel to transform my own life and others, who have given up attempting to establish our own righteousness and submitted to the righteousness, the name, that comes from God; the body of Christ, His precious bride (Rom.10:3,4).

‘In Christ’, your old ‘trying to please God’ life, your old ‘separated from God by your sins’ life was put to death and you were born again, fully pleasing to God, because according to 1Cor.1:30, Christ has become for us our righteousness, our holiness and our redemption. Yes, that is a totally different way of thinking from old time religion, from a Law mixed with Grace culture. A mixed gospel leads to a mixed experience, where you feel holy enough to be pleasing to Him one week, but unholy enough to be displeasing to Him the next, where you feel good enough to take communion one day, but not good enough to take it the next because you are living from your soul, not your spirit (who is in union with God’s Spirit) and “the mind governed by the flesh is death (separation), but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (oneness). (Rom.8:6, 1Cor.6:17)

So yes, to start to think of yourself from God’s perspective, to start to live from your Spirit, rather than your soul, (your feelings), requires of you and I a total change in the way we think, a metanoia, a repentance. That is why, as a minister of the New Covenant, I refuse to speak to you in the language of the Old Covenant, as if you are only flesh and blood, for all ministers of reconciliation, (as ministers of the Spirit that gives life and not the letter that kills through condemnation), have been instructed to regard no man after the flesh, but after the Spirit, for it is in speaking to you by the Spirit, that repentance, this metanoia, this totally new way of thinking and so living, is gifted to you. (2Cor.3:1-18, 2Cor.5:16-21)

Repentance is not a work of the flesh, but a gift of God’s Spirit that comes through His Word (Acts 11:18). It is the Word of God that is the power of God unto repentance, but how are men to repent if they are not given such words from the Spirit? (Rom.10:14). It is as you keep hearing your new name in Christ, that you can start to draw your eternal identity from who He declares you to be, rather than from your record in the flesh, (what you do or don’t do). Then you will begin to understand what scripture means when it says that you can lay aside that old self by “being renewed in the spirit of your mind so that you can put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Eph.4:23,24)

How much faith does God have in His word? Enough to see you, as whom He declares you to be! This is why the Holy Spirit can only speak to people, as God sees them to be from His eternal perspective. This is why Jesus did not address people as they appeared to be in this earthly realm; cut off from God, sick or dead, because when the eternal God speaks His words over you, words that are spirit and life, you cannot remain cut off from God, sick or dead! (John 11:43,44)

When we realise, that as people of the Spirit, children of God, that our words too can impart spirit, can determine how we think and so how we live, then we will start to be much more careful of how we speak to others and how we speak to ourselves. Each of us as children, were formed by the words spoken over us by our parents because the words of a parent aren’t just spoken over us, but into us. Those words form the picture of ourselves by which we live, the image we live from. Christ’s words to His Church, are Christ’s words into His Church. His Words are His spirit and His life. (Eph.5:25-33) True words from God’s Spirit conform men to His eternal image of man and God in union; Christ. His life was birthed in us and is being formed and growing in us, through the power in His Words spoken over us and into us (Luke 1:38, Gal.4:19)

Everything earthly parents teach their children, is guided by this truth, that there is a mature person whom their words are forming their child into. It is amazing to look back at photographs of us as children and to gaze on all that immaturity and naivety and to see ourselves today. We wonder at our far we have come and how much we have changed. We look at that picture of us as young children and think to ourselves, “Wow. Who knew? Who would have thought it, that this child would become the person I am today?” Well actually, someone did think of it. Your parents thought like that!

They cared for you and educated you and clothed you and fed you and looked after your every need because although there was a time when you were crawling around on all fours and would be quite happy to eat off the floor and do your business on the floor, your parents never saw you as a dog, never saw you as a cute little pet to keep. They always saw you, as growing into a person like them, because they knew something you didn’t. They knew that despite what you were behaving like, you were not a dog. They knew that you had their DNA in you and over time, with the right nourishment and environment, you would grow to be just like them.

Words that are genuinely of the Holy Spirit, always bring believers into maturity, into a growing recognition of the fullness of Christ in them. His words always grow believers up into Christ (Eph.4:11-16). Ephesians 4 declares that to be exactly the purpose of the ascension ministry gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher, for the growing up of believers into Christ, not into good living church goers, but into Christ. So if you, believer, have been raised with Christ, then set your minds on things higher than going to church. Set you mind on things above, (in the eternal realm), not on the earth below, for you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory. (Col.3:1-4)

If you are a believer, then in the same way as a child is not a dog, you are not a mere man. You don’t have to live like an unbeliever, who lives “in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart.” (Eph 4:17,18)

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? (John 17:21). 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? (John 14:23, 1Cor.3:16, 1Cor.3:3). 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 habitation of God, will always be seeking a visitation from God. (2Kings 6:17, Acts 3:6)

When you cannot see what God has done, you will spend your life waiting for something better, waiting for immortality (Prov.13:12). Believer, hear the gospel that brings immortality to light, the gospel that calls you by the name given you, before you were conceived. Hear the gospel that declares that in Christ there has been a circumcision, for in Him you have been cut off from death and raised up to eternal life.

On the first Christmas, God used angels to declare His eternal words, but now all those who proclaim this good news, this gospel that brings great joy to all people, are His heavenly messengers and much more, for to all who receive His Word, comes the power to be children of God (John 1:12). By the power of this glorious eternal gospel, the Church is now the heavenly host, rising up as shining messengers of God, declaring “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” 

Rise and see.

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”  Is.40:31

The root meaning of the Hebrew word translated as ‘wait’, means “to bind together, perhaps by twisting” (Strong’s definition H6960). Our common understanding of the word wait, (especially when it comes to God) is that we are required to spend a lot of our lives ‘waiting’ for God to get around to answering our prayers. This makes sense from a natural earthly perspective, for to our earthly eyes there appears to be so much wrong with this world that urgently needs God to intervene to put right. But what if there was another way to see this world?

What if it were possible to rise up from a mere earthly perspective and begin to see our lives and our world from God’s perspective? How different is His view from ours? According to His Word, God’s thoughts on us and our world are as far apart from an earthly perspective as it is possible to get (Is.55:9). Stop and think for a moment, about all the things you have been crying out to God and praying about for years, all the things you have been ‘waiting’ on God for. What would be the most radically different way of looking at those ‘problems’ that is possible?

What if I told you that God sees as accomplished, what you are ‘waiting’ for? (Jn.19:28-30). What if that is precisely what He means, when He says that His ways are as far apart from ours as it is possible to get! What if God’s idea of ‘waiting’, is Him waiting for us, to see what He sees? What if the way He enables us to see, is to rise our vision up into the heavenly realm, much as an eagle soars higher than any earthbound creature? What if the way He does that, is to impart to us His mind (1Cor.2:16), so that we begin to think His thoughts and what if those thoughts are not thoughts of being separated from us by time or space, but thoughts that come from one who sees Himself as having been bound up together with us and the end and the beginning also bound as one? (Is.46:10, Rev.22:13, John 17:22,23).

What if I told you that all that already happened through Christ; that He who is the Alpha and the Omega, He who holds all things together, has bound Himself up with man and shared with us all that He is and has? (Luke 15:12, John 17:22, Rom.8:32, Col.3:3,4). What if His intention was never that we wait for Him, but that we wait with Him and so His Spirit is renewing our minds to His way of thinking, convincing us more and more that we are one with Him, by weaving our thoughts together with His, line by line, much like an act of embroidery? What if on rising from such a place of ‘waiting’, believers began to so see themselves as one with Him, that they found themselves no longer ‘waiting’ for God to do something, but rather becoming themselves the very answer to the prayers of the earthbound (Matt.9:38, Matt.10:7,8). What if the view from heaven, the view of the eagle, is that God has already answered the prayers of every earthbound soul by giving Christ and it is He who now waits for His body to rise up to see as He sees, that they may be as He is, in this world (1Cor.6:17,1Jn.4:17). What if such a vision was always God’s way for us to run without growing tired and to walk without growing weary?

Your soul longs for such rest. It rises on wings at this news. So eat and drink this gospel again, or your life’s journey will weary you (1Kings 19:5-8). Rise and see!

 

Will the real ‘You’ please stand up!

“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,  ….. which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”         Col.1:25,27

Here we have the apostle Paul’s definition of what it is to “fully carry out the preaching of the word of God.” It is to declare nothing less than the union of the believer with Christ. Here the Spirit expresses this glorious mystery as “Christ in you”. By chapter 3, He declares us to be “hidden with Christ in God” (Col.3:3) and there we find what every believer needs to see before they can accept this truth; “for you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Here is the great ‘crossing over’ that every believer must make in their thinking, if they are not to remain vulnerable to every religious teaching that fills the church with new ideas on how to reduce the ‘sin’ in your life. The gospel is not God’s instructions on how to prune back sin in your life to some acceptable level. It is the religiously unacceptable message that God took an axe to the root of your sins; your separation from His life (Ezek.36:26,27, Col.3:3). He took that old ‘try harder to get closer to God through reducing your sins’ life and nailed it to the Cross and buried it.

He is not asking you to ‘try harder’ to seek out hidden sin and by confessing it, to improve your life. Newsflash! What you call ‘your life’ died and was buried (Gal.2:20, Col.3:3). That old ‘separated from God by your sins’ life was incapable of reform. The purpose of the Law was not to help you overcome sin, but to reveal to you that you are totally incapable of doing so (Rom.8:3). That is because ‘sins’ are merely the branches off a root called ‘separation’ (Prov.4:23). As a man thinks, so he is (Prov.23:7). As long as a believer does not grow to accept the death of their old life of separation from God and their new life of union with Christ (the renewal of their thinking), then their thinking remains double-minded and so they struggle to receive the new life of God (James 1:8). They are like a tree that refuses to keep its roots in the stream that gives it life. Jesus spoke of ‘remaining’ in the place of union with Him and that ‘apart from Him’ we can do nothing (John 15:5). Yet so often in churches believers are spoken to as if the biggest issue in their life is sin (separation from God). It is common to find the belief that the Gospel must be ‘balanced’ by the Law, yet to talk to a child as if they are both a son and an orphan can only ever produce self-conscious unstable children (James 1:8). When believers cannot handle the teaching on righteousness, they remain as spiritual infants (Heb.5:12,13), clinging to the schoolmaster of the Law for comfort (Gal.3:24,25).

We are not “against the Law”, it is just that we have absolute confidence in ‘Christ in you’ to produce in you the life that all your law-keeping could never produce. We refuse to direct your hope to ‘self’’ (the only person the Law speaks to), when the Gospel declares you to be no longer a ‘self’ but a partaker of the divine nature (2Peter 1:4). As a believer you are married to Christ that you may bear His fruit (Rom.7:4). Why should we tempt you to adultery by speaking to you as someone who can bear fruit apart from Him (Rom.7:1-3). Keep thinking of your life as a ‘self’ and you will keep living a ‘self’-ish life.

The real ‘you’ is now married to Christ, dead to sin (separation) and alive to God (union) (Rom.6:11). The restoration of the preaching of the gospel unleavened by the Law, is nothing less than the Holy Spirit proclaiming over the Church; “Will the real ‘you’ please stand up!’

I will leave the last word to the great preacher Dr Martin Lloyd Jones. “If the gospel you are preaching doesn’t cause you to be misunderstood and slanderously reported as being against the Law, then you don’t believe the Gospel truly and you don’t preach it truly”.