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”.

Orphan Arnie and the ministry of retribution!

“When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.”
Matthew 17:8

 It is recorded in Matthew 17, that on seeing Jesus, Moses and Elijah all together on Mount Tabor, Peter asked the Lord, “Let me make three tabernacles, one for You, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” The Father declared; “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.….When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only” (Matt.17:5,8). Jesus’ own disciples held prophets like Elijah and Elisha in the highest regard. When some Samaritans rejected Jesus one day, James and John saw nothing wrong with asking Him, “Shall we call down fire from heaven to consume them?” (Luke 9:54). After all, they knew that was exactly what Elijah had done (2Kings1:10), and if it is in the Word of God, then that must be what God wants. Right?

Wrong! Jesus turned around and rebuked them (Luke 9:55). The prophets of old, like Elijah and Elisha, did not have a full revelation of the Father because they did not have a full revelation of the Son (John 1:18). They did things in the name of God that God allowed by His grace, but often they acted as children who did not know their father, or as Jesus said to James and John “You do not know what Spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:55) Jesus was saying in effect, “You don’t know your Father” and that is precisely why He promised them that when the Holy Spirit came, they would no longer have to live that way; as orphans! (John 14:16-18).

How did Jesus handle rejection? Can you imagine Samaritans running to the well in their village, not to meet Jesus, but to fetch water to put out a fire that He had brought down on them? On being insulted by a group of boys, Elisha cursed them and two bears appeared and mauled them (2Kings 2:23-25). Can you imagine Jesus doing that from the Cross to the crowd who mocked Him? Instead, His response to their jeers was to offer love and forgiveness (Luke 23:34).

A Christian today, who sounds more like Elijah or Elisha when discussing those who reject Christ, is resisting the Holy Spirit’s revelation of the heart of the Father for reconciliation (Rom. 5:5, 2Cor.5:18-21). These ‘orphans’ cannot truly reflect their Father, for in not knowing the depth of His forgiveness, they cannot minister the heights of His love (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 15:30).  They live in a constant state of religious outrage with the world for rejecting Christ and their ‘gospel’ message centres not on reconciliation, but retribution. Like James and John on that day before the Samaritan village, it is not a loving Saviour they want for their ‘enemies’, but an avenger. This is the ‘orphan’ believer, but not so much orphan Annie as orphan Arnie (Schwarzenegger), with a ministry not of reconciliation, but of retribution! It will be his sort of patience you exhibit with those who refuse Christ, as long as you desire that some should perish. But that is not the patience of Him who desires that none should perish, but all come to repentance (2Peter.3:9).

It is great to be able to speak in tongues and prophesy and heal the sick, but none of those are the primary reason the Holy Spirit was given. He was given so that our witness of God to this world would be “Abba, Father” (Rom.8:15), for only those who are living in the Father’s love can manifest His true face to the world (John 1:18. 2Cor.3:18).

Unlike Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist is never recorded as doing a miracle and yet Jesus described Him as the greatest prophet (Matt.11:11). That was because the greatest prophet is the one who sees Jesus the clearest, for he who sees Him, sees the Father (John 1:18,14:9, Col.1:15, Heb.1:3). When John, full of the Spirit (Luke 1:15), got to look at Jesus face to face, he declared what all other Old Testament prophets (even those around today!) cannot declare; “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).

You may think as a parent that continually pointing out to your child their faults, will mature them into a responsible person, but all you will grow in your home is a legalist. They will grow up to see fault everywhere and for them, the glass will always be half-empty. They will do everything right, but in the wrong spirit (Rom.10:2-5). They will live a very correct but a very sad life (Titus 1:15).

Let our message and our ministry fix people’s eyes, not on what they should be doing for God, but on what God has done for them; Christ and Him crucified (1Cor.2:2). Point them to the Cross. Don’t ask people to die to their old way of life, to attempt what only Christ could do; put to death their old life! (Rom.6:6-11). Such teaching only stirs up the flesh and revives the religious spirit (Gal.3:1-3, 1Cor.15:56). Don’t point people to their obedience as their hope, but to Christ’s obedience (Rom.5:19). Don’t preach half a gospel. Don’t point people to how far short they have fallen of the glory of God, without pointing them higher still, to the Cross; the glory of God not falling short of them (John 17:22).

To a Church where many still want to make a place for the Law, right alongside a place for Jesus, the voice of the Father is being heard across the world, declaring, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!” Let us not try and raise ourselves above others. Let Christ lift us up and we will find, like Peter, that when we look again, we see Christ and Him only (Matt.17:8).

 

 

The restoration of heavenly vision: Seeing past their past!

And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. “                                                                                                Acts 11:15

Without the revelation of the Spirit, the Church in each generation conforms to the natural, individualistic, ‘man-centred’ culture of the world around it. Every time the culture of this world affects a generation of the church, the church starts to do what the world does; magnify men and the strength of men, the strength of man’s will. That ‘gospel’ of the world can be summed up in one message; “You can do it!”. That sounds very exciting and it really appeals to the flesh, to the pride of man; the idea that you can change yourself. But because men were made to only find rest in communion with God, then under such a ‘gospel’ there is no rest, no contentment and no satisfaction. This message is what ‘drives’ the consumer market, as people look to work or buy their way into contentment. Because the message ‘You can do it’ appeals well to the flesh, it can also be found in usage across the Church, wherever naturally minded believers see ‘driving’ the Church as necessary to get it to where it needs to go sooner. The Good Shepherd does not drive His sheep but leads them, by calling out their name. No amount of zealous exhortation of the saints will move them into fruitfulness, in the way a revelation of their identity in Christ, their name, will!

“You can do it” remains the favoured message in every place where the revelation of the completeness of Christ’s work and our identity in Him (what He has done for us), has long been eclipsed by a focus on natural strength and numbers (what we can do for Him). This magnifying of man’s role can be dressed up in all sorts of religious or scriptural language, but inevitably, everywhere men are trying to achieve something ‘for’ God, rather than being led and empowered ‘by’ God, the result is always Ishmael. Whatever project we birth in the strength of the flesh, will end up fighting for survival with all around it (Gen.16:12) because when we refuse our name in Christ; ‘Us’, we are left trying to promote our name in this world; ‘I’.

Because the effect of the message “You can do it” is to point us to ourselves as our hope, it always leaves Christians more hungry and more discontented in the end, because it drops our vision, our thinking, down from the heavenly realm and onto the natural realm. Down from seeing ourselves hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3), to seeing ourselves apart from God, still waiting for Him to ‘draw near’ and do something about our separation.

When the Church’s vision falls, from seeing by the Spirit, to seeing by the natural understanding, it falls from a realm that rejoices over the finished work, to one that cannot enter into such rest, because it cannot see past what looks unfinished (Luke 15:28-32).

Because Jesus throughout His earthly ministry, operated from the perspective of the finished work (John 8:58, 2Tim.1:9), He dealt with people on the basis of the sufficiency of His life, not theirs, the sufficiency of His work for them, not their work for Him (John 6:28,29). This heavenly perspective, endowed by the Holy Spirit, allowed Him to do what the religious could never do by natural sight; see past a person’s past and instead see the person whom God’s eternal calling and grace would form (John 5:19, Luke 19:5, Matt 9:24). This was the same Holy Spirit vision that opened Ananias’ eyes to see past Saul of Tarsus and glimpse ‘Brother Saul’, God’s chosen vessel to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 9:17).

The gospel of the culture we live in is; “You can do it” But the gospel of the Kingdom of God is; “Christ has done it”. That’s why the level of rejoicing in heaven hasn’t changed since the incarnation, for no-one in heaven is waiting for men to finish what God began! (Gal.3:3)

So, in every generation, when the Spirit has to move on a naturally minded Church, there is a significant change in the confession of the Church; their presentation of the Gospel. If we look at the moving of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts, the following pattern is seen.

  • Those filled by the Spirit, “magnified God’ in a way that appeared radical to observers (Acts 2:11, Acts 10:46).
  • On each occasion a door opened for the gospel into a people group previously closed to the Gospel. (Acts 2:6, Acts 8:25, Acts 10:45-48)
  • Those in authority were generally resistant to the theological implications of what the Holy Spirit had done. (Acts 4:1-3, Acts 11:1,2. Acts 13:50, Acts 15:1,2)

In effect, each move of the Holy Spirit broke the gospel out of a sub-culture and restored the cutting edge of the Church’s message, as the proclamation of what Christ has done for all men, the proclamation of ‘Good News’, (a radical departure from the mere good advice every other religious message amounted to). This news was that through Christ, God has now accomplished what the Law (and every religion of this world) could never do. (Acts 13:39, Rom.8:3, 2Cor.5:18-21).

To observe how the Church’s vision drops through the passing of time, from magnifying the grace of God, onto magnifying the response of men, we need only ask ourselves honestly, if what we as believers are ‘announcing’ to our generation, sounds to them more like good advice than good news. Does it sound to them what it sounded like to the inhabitants of Antioch in Pisidia (Acts 13:42-45), because to them it sounded like the announcement of the abolition of religion! The resultant opposition and riots instigated by the religious authorities again and again in such cities where this news was preached, appears to confirm that this was indeed the genuine sound of the Gospel.

As Pentecostals, we love to point to the outpourings of the Holy Spirit described in Acts and point to the timeless sound of the life of the Spirit in the Church, as the sound of men and women speaking in tongues and prophesying. But what drew the attention of those who witnessed these events, was not just the manner of how they spoke, but what they were saying. In every language the message was the same; “They spoke of the wonderful things God had done.” (Acts 2:11). Every move of the Holy Spirit brought the same confession; God was magnified! (Acts 10:46). When Peter spoke to a fearful leadership in Jerusalem, he described the Holy Spirit as falling on the Gentiles “just as He had on us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). How true it is, that for all of us also, ‘at the beginning’ we too had such a revelation, that our salvation was all of Him, that our testimony “magnified God”. But even the great apostle Peter struggled to walk on in that revelation of the Spirit, while living in a religious culture that was a mixture of Old and New Covenant, a mixture of self-righteousness and God’s righteousness (Gal.2:11).

In each generation, where the Church has started to be conformed to the man-centred, individualistic culture of the world, it cannot help but present the Gospel in a way that magnifies man’s response over Christ’s work. Those Jewish Christians who accompanied Peter to the house of Cornelius, almost certainly arrived ‘seeing’ the salvation of Gentiles in terms of what those Gentiles would need to ‘do’ in order to be clean enough for God to save them! Only the one among them who was carrying the ‘heavenly vision’ could greet Cornelius with the words “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean” (Acts 10:28). Perhaps even Peter himself had prepared a ‘helpful’ message on what the Gentiles would need to do for God to accept them, but we will never know. As far as God was concerned, the Gentiles only needed to believe one truth and on the proclamation of that truth, they immediately found within themselves the faith to receive the Spirit of God and their union with Christ, for it was while Peter was speaking “these words” that the Holy Spirit filled all who believed. What were ‘these words’? What was this truth that the Holy Spirit shouted ‘Amen’ to so loudly, that it shook the early Church to its foundations?

They are found in Acts 10:43. “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” It was the proclamation of what Christ had done, the proclamation of the sufficiency of Christ’s finished work of atonement, to bring whosoever who believes in Him into union with a holy God, that the Holy Spirit immediately confirmed.

Perhaps Peter did have some good advice in mind for the Gentiles that day, that he was prepared to mix in with his message, but the Holy Spirit firmly placed a full stop after the proclamation “Christ has done it.”

To be filled with the Spirit is to see from heavens perspective that any ‘helpful’ supplement to the Gospel (of what we need to keep doing to stay worthy) only detracts from the power and joy of the message (Gal.5:9). It was that power and joy that Peter recounted, when the Church in Jerusalem demanded an account of his actions that day; “And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning. “  (Acts 11:15). If it is the filling of the Spirit that restores to us the correct place for our full stops in our presentation of the Gospel, no wonder Paul told the Ephesians “Be thee continually filled with the Spirit” (Eph.5:18). For it was to Paul that fell, the sad but essential duty some years later, to confront this same Peter in Antioch, with the truth that spending too much time around Old Covenant minded believers, had once again moved Peter’s full stop! (Gal.2:11-13).

Every move of the Holy Spirit has brought the same effect; God is magnified and magnified in such a way that the Church is brought back into its right mind and remembers again, “This is the way we too magnified God at the beginning!” The result is always the same in each generation. The Gospel breaks out of the sub-culture that the Church has attempted to wrap it in, for the message of grace is a river that must flow out of the temple, not stagnate within it.

In this generation too, God is restoring to us His heavenly vision; the perspective of the finished work, for doors are about to open to the Gospel that only men and women who carry such a heavenly vision can walk through and the Holy Spirit is about to say ‘Amen!’ in ways that will shake the Church!

 

Resurrected Church, it’s time to leave the tomb!

“….so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” Eph 3:17-19

Years ago, in our home we had an Aloe Vera plant growing in a little pot. One day we noticed that it had stopped growing, so we thought, no problem, it just needs a little more feeding/watering/light. We fed it, we watered it, we moved it. For weeks it was fed and moved, fed and moved, fed and moved. No matter what we did, it never grew, in fact with all the stuff we were pouring onto it, it began to look worse. One day I went to throw it out, but I didn’t want to throw away the nice pot, so I pulled it out of the pot. In an instant I could see what the problem was. Underneath the superficial layer of soil the pot was totally filled, not with soil, but with the roots of the plant. The pot itself had limited the size of the roots. That plant could never have grown because it could not physically grow past, or grow through, the wall of the pot.

No matter what we would have fed that plant, even ‘miracle grow’, no plant can grow beyond the size of its roots. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.

 Oak trees can grow over 100 feet tall, but you are never going to grow a hundred-foot oak tree in a flower pot. Why not? Because a 100-foot high oak, requires 100 feet in width for its roots. So too in fruit trees, the roots have to go out a certain length and become established, before fruit appears. If the roots don’t get that freedom, that room, that liberty to be established, to go down deep and wide, then the fruit that could have appeared, never appears. To see great growth, those roots don’t need to be contained, they need to be established in liberty. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.

The same goes for a life. The roots of your life and mine are our beliefs (what the Bible calls the heart). When Proverbs 4:23 says “Above all else guard your heart for out of it flows the issues of life,” that Hebrew word ‘issues’ means borders. What you are believing borders your life. You can’t live beyond the borders of what you have believed. So, above all else, let nothing restrict, let nothing hinder, let nothing limit your believing, because what limits your believing, limits your life, how much you can grow in life. Nothing planted can grow beyond the size of its roots.

No matter how often we fed and moved that plant, even ‘miracle grow’, could not make it grow. Now here is a remarkable thing. Even in Pentecostal churches, where for years we have witnessed the miraculous and the gifts of the Spirit, where in meeting after meeting, with great messages and ministry, we have been fed and moved, fed and moved, fed and moved, even after all that ‘miracle grow’, many of us as believers never seemed to grow beyond a certain point! We never grew, as we should have grown…

  • out of the self-life into the Christ-life,
  • out of the slave mentality (If I do this for Him, I will get that from Him) and into sonship (All these things are already mine in Christ),
  • out of walking in the flesh (living focused on sin, self and satan) and into walking in the Spirit (living focused on heaven’s reality; that “the principle/law of the Spirit of life in Christ, has set us free from the law of sin and death.” (Rom.8:2), that in Christ, “we died and our lives are now hidden with Christ in God”. (Gal.3:3)

Just like, no amount of more fertiliser, or water, or sunshine could make that plant grow, so no amount of preaching or prayer can grow a believer, whose mind has never been renewed, (whose believing, whose roots, have never broken through) into the truth of what happened at the Cross; that there, Jesus Christ made one sacrifice for all sins, for all time and sat down (Heb 10:12), so that you, believer, are no longer a mere man or woman, separated from God by your sin, for that old creature was crucified with Christ and buried (Gal.2:20)

You wouldn’t attempt to grow a 100-foot oak tree, by leaving it in a flower pot. It is just as crazy to try and grow the life of Christ in believers, by trying to grow the seed of the Gospel; the proclamation of Christ as your life, within the confines of a religious/’obedience to Law’ mindset. Religion is too tiny a pot to grow much more than twigs. Oaks of righteousness can’t grow in religious pots. The only thing that grows in a pot called self, is self-righteousness! The new wine cannot be contained in the old wineskin (Mark 2:22). Our life in the Spirit, hidden with Christ in God, cannot be contained within the old wineskin of living as if our sins still separate us from God. Our new life of union with God, that revelation, of the enormity of His love for us, that belief, that mind; the mind of Christ about us, must be the limitless open ground that believers are rooted and established in, in order for the ‘fullness of God’ life to blossom in ours (Eph 3:19).

But to establish those roots, what restricts those roots must be taken away. Old Covenant, Law based thinking, cannot be allowed to remain our mindset, the pot we are planted in. That’s why Hebrews 10:9,10 declares, “He takes away the first in order to establish the second. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”. Just as no amount of more water, or more sunshine could make our Aloe Vera plant grow, so no amount of preaching or prayer can grow a believer into the fullness of God, whose mind has never been renewed, (whose believing/roots have never broken through) into the truth of what happened at the Cross (Hebrews 5:12,13).

Because as believers, our old self-life (you or I living apart from God, dead to God, in sin), what Paul called the I, the ‘ego’ (Gal.2:20), died with Christ and was buried with Christ, then all who are now in Christ, who have His Spirit, no longer have a self-life. When I married my wife, my old single life died and I died to the principles of how a single man should live (Rom.8:2). Believer, you are now married to Christ (Rom 7:4). If you don’t have a self-life, you are effectively dead to that which demands self-righteousness; the Law (Rom.7:1-6). If you can reckon your self dead, if you can believe the gospel and leave your self buried, where Christ buried him (Col 3:3), then your believing, your roots, will finally break out of that tomb, that pot called self and they will go deep into the rich soil of Calvary, deep and wide into the love of God and you will begin to “comprehend with all the ]saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

The Gospel has not changed since the time of Paul. There is no new gospel, just the same old religious objections, that surely the gospel you preach must be wrong because you seem to be saying that we have been released from the Law. I am not saying it, the Holy Spirit is saying it! it’s just that most of us in the Church struggle to see ourselves as released from the Law, because we struggle to see our ‘selves’ (our self-lives) as dead! This is too important to take my word for. Listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the apostle Paul in Romans 7:1-6.

“Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man. So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Christ, that you might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God.  For when we were in the realm of the flesh, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in us, so that we bore fruit for death.  But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.

What is it, to serve in the new way of the Spirit? The way of the Spirit is simply to live seeing what the Spirit sees. As believers, many of us may not have fully understood this when we were baptised, that our baptism declared the burial of a life that was dead (self-life) and the rising up of a totally new life, because to accept Christ, is to accept your death and burial, the death of self and so the death of your relationship to the Law. You as a believer can’t have a relationship with the Law and simultaneously, with Him whom you are now married to; Christ. (You can but heaven sees it as adultery. It quite sad that Christians who want to flirt around with the Law, think that God would be pleased with that.) Church, if we rose with Christ, it’s time we saw ourselves doing what He did, leaving behind the grave clothes of death (which for us is self-righteousness) and walking out of that tomb. We need to walk out of that mindset, that tomb, that small pot called self, because the extent to which we are still relating to the Law, is the extent to which we are still more believing in ourselves than in Christ, still more believing in a sinning less life, than in a sinless life. Let the preaching of the Gospel roll away the stone that entombed us, not strengthen it. It may sound so glorious to hear the ministry that brought death, which was engraved on stone, proclaimed over New Covenant believers, but it is the sound of the stone that was rolled away being rolled back! The ministry of the Spirit is the Gospel that rolls away what entombed us and it is always more glorious (2Cor.3:7,8). Resurrected Church, its time to leave the tomb!

We all have a great desire to bear fruit, to be those oaks of righteousness, blossoming in every season with the fruit of God’s Spirit, for our family to see the fullness of God in us, but for that to happen, our roots, our believing, have to be broken out of that small pot called self and the shallow soil of our love for God, so they can plunge into the depths of God’s love for us. Jesus said that the prodigal son came to him self, just before he got up and came home (Luke 15:17). He had a revelation that self and all the pride of self, had to die, or he would. For a man or woman to be saved, they have to see that self isn’t the answer, self is the problem.

So too, for a believer to continue to grow up, into this new life, into Christ, we have to continue to see that self isn’t the answer. There is no point in digging self up from where Christ buried him, so we can preach the Law at him, in the hope that the preaching of the Law will make a bad self into a better self, or even a bad Christian into a good Christian.

Ironically, that thinking totally underestimates both sin and Christ. Religion totally underestimates both the depths of man’s separation from God and the heights of the believer’s union with God.

  • Religion says that you are bad and you need to be good. So, you need the Law, for the Law makes bad men good.
  • The Gospel says, your problem is much worse than being bad.

Christ didn’t come to make bad men good. He came to make dead men alive! God’s Word never tells us to present ourselves to God as good from the bad, but as alive from the dead! (Rom 6:13).

 We were cut off from God and so cut off from life as God knows life. Christ entered into our death, our separation and brought us life, not by standing back from us like Moses and giving us the Law, but by entering into our lives, by giving us His very presence (John 1:17). It is Christ’s presence that is our righteousness, our sanctification, our very life (1Cor.1:30, Col 3:4). If He is our very life, then to put the Law on believers is to put the Law on Christ. No one knew this better than the apostle Paul, for was he not the very man who one day decided to travel to Damascus and put the Law on the Christians there? And who confronted Him on the road? No less a person than Jesus Himself, who declared in effect “What you are doing to them, you are doing to me” (Acts 9:4). Was Jesus in effect not saying,”Saul Saul, why are you persecuting me, why do you put the Law on me, why do you attempt to judge me?” To every misguided Christian preacher who is trying to use the Law to make bad Christians good, Christ can still say “Saul, Saul, why are you judging me?”

 You may be struggling to see it, but all of heaven and hell saw the Fathers judgement on His Church at the resurrection of Jesus, when every believer was raised with Christ (Eph.2:6), (unless you think that when He rose, you didn’t.) If you have any doubts on this, it may help you read the translation of Rom 4:25 from Youngs literal Greek translation, which in speaking of Christ says “who was delivered up because of our offences, and was raised up because of our being declared righteous.” (our justification).

Not only have many of us for years tolerated a little Law with our gospel because we underestimated the depth of our separation, but also because we have totally underestimated the heights of our union. Again we have struggled to see what Paul declared to the Ephesians “even when we were dead in our transgressions, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus”. So now you, resurrected and ascended believer, don’t have to live as someone who needs the Law to get you a little closer to God, because you, resurrected and ascended believer, are now hidden with Christ in God (Col.3:3). If you can’t see that, then just keep setting your eyes on things above, not on the earth below (keep sitting under the heavenly Gospel of Grace, not the earthly mixed gospel (Gal.1:7) and you will see that “you died and your life is hidden with Christ in God and when Christ who is your life appears, you will appear with Him in glory. (Col.3:2-4)

All the Law will do on believers is treat them as if they are separate from God and so in their minds estrange them from Christ, estrange them from His presence, from the very life that is their righteousness. Believer, the Law won’t rob you of your salvation, but it will rob you of your sight, because it can only ever speak to you in one way; as if you are still not married to Christ. (Rom 7:4, Gal.5:4). Your vision in the Spirit, your ability by the Spirit to see what Christ has done and to walk in it, is so important, that Paul rose up like a Lion when he heard that someone was introducing a little leaven, adding a little Law to the Gospel he had left the Galatians. It often doesn’t seem much harm, adding a little Law to the Gospel, especially when you think it will help Christians behave better, but once you start to go blind to what Christ has done, you will start to live as if He is not with you and so of no value to you. Listen to the urgency of Paul’s words to the Church. They are a warning to every generation, of what happens when we do not stand fast in the liberty that our believing needs to be rooted and established in. “ Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.  Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.  You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.” Gal.5:2-4

 You might be quite a mild-mannered person, but when someone is trying to harm your children a righteous anger will rise up in you. Would you sit by and say nothing if you heard that your children’s school was adding an ingredient to their food that was affecting their eyesight and would eventually rob them of their vision completely? When you understand that Law preaching robs believers of their sight in the spirit realm, you will understand why the apostle of grace cursed those who were trying to help the Galatians become better Christians by asking them to try harder to be more righteous. He could see that such teaching was only divorcing believers in their minds from Christ and would ultimately blind them to the presence of God in their midst (Gal.3:5-9). Yes, God had mercy on the pleas of blind Bartimaeus, for His presence to draw near, but how exactly does it glorify the work of Christ, for His bride to take Bartimaeus’ place?

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,  from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name,  that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man,  so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love,  may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,  and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph.3:14-21)

 

‘His joy over you, is His fountain in you.’

“Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.”                          Col.2:6,7

 The first part of this verse speaks not about just walking with the Lord, but walking “in Him”. The phrase “in Christ”, is used throughout the New Testament and speaks of a deeper level of communion than even Jesus disciples knew when they walked with Him through Galilee. That is why Jesus told them that it was better for them if He went away, so that the Holy Spirit could come (John 16:7). The giving of the Holy Spirit brought a level of communion with Christ that His disciples had not known and so a level of confidence they had never known either. On that first Pentecost, when Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, stood before the crowd and challenged them, he finally knew what Jesus meant about it being better if He went away! Now Peter, began to know what it meant to be “in Christ” and to operate in Christ (Acts 3:6). The filling with the Holy Spirit was a revelation of the love of God, a love that cast out fear and brought a great boldness. Peter felt God’s heart of love for himself and others and he was carried along by that love (the nature of God) to live out of that love. As he did, people observed it was as if Peter and the Lord were moving ‘as one’ (Acts 5:15).

This love, this life, was the gift of God. In truth, this life was the life that Peter (and you and I) were created for. You could say that life in union with God, or as Peter himself described it, “a participation in the divine nature” (2Peter 1:4), is our real life, the life God always had in mind for us (2Tim.1:9,10). This is because to God, life has never been found in being alone, but in being together (Gen.1:26). When asked how He was living such a supernatural life, Jesus’ reply always revealed that He was not living as an “I alone”(John 7:16, John 12:49, John 14:10). In fact, He was living in such communion with His Father that when Philip asked to see the Father, Jesus replied “When you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

In fact, we could say that if being together, in one life (Father, Son and Spirit), is what life is to God, then to God being ‘alone’ is death! That is why God’s Word always links sin and death, for to God sin is separation, separation from the union (Father, Son and Spirit) that is life. Even though Adam ‘lived’ for over 900 years, to God he died on the day he sinned (Gen.2:17). Being cut off from God, ‘dead’ to God and so powerless to bring ourselves back to life (union with God), only God could bring us back into union with Himself. To do this, He had to enter into our ‘life’ so that He could enter into our ‘death’, our separation from union (life) and resurrect us up from death to life, from separation to union. When He entered into our death, His life overcame our death, the light shone out of the darkness (2Cor.4:6), union overcame separation, (It does everywhere, except in one place; the minds of many Christians! (Rom.6:11, Rom.12:2, Col.3:1-4))

How are we to live this Christian life? We are to present ourselves to God and men as people “alive from the dead” (Rom.6:13), people who have been translated from separation to union. Did we qualify ourselves? No. The Father qualified us (Col.1:12,13). We received life, not when we had reached some standard of holiness, but when we were dead, (apart from Him) (Eph.2:5, Col.2:13). Therefore, as you received Him, so (in this same way), walk in Him. Walk in the life of Christ by continually receiving His life as you did at first, as one dead apart from Him. Reckon your old, ‘apart from God’ life as dead. If you do, you can walk receiving your union (life) and overflowing with gratitude. If you don’t, your double-mindedness about your state before God will hinder you from receiving, for a double-minded man struggles to receive (Jam. 1:7).

This is why at River City, we refuse to speak to Christians as if their sins still separate them from God, as if Christ’s life (union) did not overcome our death (separation). Your old flesh never had the power to overcome sin (separation), so what is the point of digging him up from where Jesus buried him and asking him to have another go at being holy apart from God? God opposes such pride (self-righteousness), but to those humble enough to receive their death, the death of the ‘I’ (ego), grace flows (James 4:6), that they may live “in Christ” who has “become for us our holiness” (1Cor.1:30).

So, how are we walking in Him, Church? Are we walking in Him as we received Him, entirely by His grace (not His grace plus our behaviour)? The answer is found in the joy we are experiencing. If you think that by your behaviour you can get more out of God, then you are short-sighted and not seeing your life “in Christ” (how much He has already given and where He has already translated you to) (Col.1:13). Such a person cannot be overflowing with gratitude because their hope has been moved; off the rock of His sinless life and onto the shifting sands of their ‘sinning less’ life! It is the joy of the Lord that is our strength; our very ability to live overcoming separation (sin). Believers who walk ‘overflowing with gratitude’, bear the fruit of holiness, fruit which flows from their life being rooted and grounded in Christ’s. It is very difficult for a person overflowing with gratitude to ‘sin’. Can you imagine a mother holding her new-born in her arms, overflowing with gratitude, sinning against that child?

Now imagine the joy of the Lord over you on the day you received Christ. Do you know, that though your joy may have waned since that day, His has not! He rejoices over your salvation as much today as He did all those years ago and the power of His joy is within you, in your spirit (1Cor.6:17). It is this power, His joy over you, that led Christ to the Cross and raised Him from the dead (Heb.12:2). Now this same joy, His very view and opinion (‘doxa’/glory) is in you (John 17:22) and will flow from you like rivers of living water to a dry and sin-(separation)-conscious Church and from there to the world (John 7:38). Get alone with God and listen to what the Father still speaks into the hearts of disappointed and joyless children; “You are always with me and everything I have is yours. Now rejoice with me, for what was lost has been found (he who was separated from me has been restored into communion with me.) (Luke 15:31,32). Can you receive this truth, that you are hidden with Christ in God? Then walk in this truth and let the joy of the Father over you, become like a fountain in you, that many will come to and receive eternal life (the knowledge of the Father) (John 4:14, John 17:3).

The Rising Church

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”              Isaiah.40:31

For years, many of us as Christians have sought to go higher with God by studying many topics in the Bible; everything from the lives of the prophets and Kings of Old, to church history and theologies of the end times. All these topics are studied in an attempt to get closer to God, to rise in faith. Yet for so many, their experience has been that they have never quite returned to the heights of joy they knew at the time of their first introduction to the grace of God. In those first days, life had suddenly become all about what God had done for them and they didn’t need a course of study in evangelism or prayer, because the joy in their hearts caused them to pray and share without even thinking about it. They were flying high, they were living life from a heavenly perspective, because they were seeing everything from the perspective of His love for them.

What had given them that power to rise and live and walk at a higher level, to suddenly be able to walk above hurt and walk above abuse and walk above betrayal? What was the teaching they had heard that caused them to rise? Of all the stories and lessons and teachings and messages in the Bible, which one had the power to cause them to rise? I will let the apostle Paul give you the answer from his opening remarks to the Romans.
“..for I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes.” (Rom.1:16)”
The power to rise is in the Gospel, in the message about what Christ has done. Here is the power that allows your life to rise; ……The burden of your sin, all your sin, was laid on Christ at the Cross and the righteousness of God was given to you, as a gift! (2Cor.5:17-21).

You rose that day, the day you first believed the Gospel. You rose in your heart, in your thinking, because you left your burden of sin down, at the Cross, because on that day you believed the Gospel, you believed that your sin was no longer being counted against you. If since that day you feel you have somehow lost the joy of your salvation, that you have somehow fallen/sank to a lower level of faith and hope, may I suggest to you that if you rose the day you believed your sin was no longer being counted against you, you sank the day you stopped believing that. You sank the day some well-meaning Christian pointed to something in your life and gave you the distinct impression that God was regretting His decision to forgive you.

No matter what topic you study as a disciple of Christ, you will never find a more powerful, nor a more profound teaching than the simple message of the Cross. Religion, everywhere, is a message about what you need to do for God. The Gospel is a message about what God has done for you. That’s why the most radical message in the world is called the Good News, not the Good Advice. No matter what you feel like today, if you are a Christian, then you have risen with Christ and are seated with Him in a heavenly place (Eph.2:4-6). The work of the Spirit, is to lead us to rise in our thinking, to live from that place of union with Christ and the Gospel is His method (Rom.10:17)

The more time you spend with Christians who cannot see by the Spirit where they have been placed, the more you will be bombarded with good advice, instead of Good News. The best good advice can do is comfort you in the dark. Good News turns the light on. Eagles weren’t made to walk. Get alone with God and listen for His voice. It will be the one that says “Rise”.

 

The Gospel…from heaven’s perspective!

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.”   1Cor.2:12,13

To know “the things freely given”, is talking about knowing the gospel. The Gospel is the good news of what has been freely given; the grace of God. But we are told in v13, that to speak about this gospel, we are not to use words which are the product of human/earthly wisdom, but those taught by the Spirit. Can you see the importance being attached here, not just to declaring the gospel…. but to HOW it is to be declared! It is not to be declared out of earthly wisdom, but out of minds thinking the high thoughts of God, thoughts as far from earthly wisdom as the heavens are from the earth. (Isaiah 55:9)

What Paul is saying here, in effect, is that earthly minded believers cannot proclaim the gospel as it should be proclaimed, with authority, because as a man thinks so he is. So how can such an earthly minded man, who is not thinking from God’s high perspective (his union with God, the mind of Christ), a believer who still thinks that his sin separates him from God, how can he proclaim with authority, heavens perspective? Because heaven’s perspective is that, far from his sin separating him from God, God has in reality, separated him from his sin and he is now dead to sin and alive to God (Rom.6:11).

Imagine you live on top of a hill and out of your window one day you watch a man walk all the way up that hill to get to your front door. When you open the door, he claims that he has discovered how to fly. Are you not entitled to ask him, “Why then did you walk to my front door?”

It’s hard to share a gospel that says we can fly, when we are seen to walk everywhere! It’s hard to proclaim the gospel from the heights of your union with Christ, when your thoughts don’t live there. This is what v13 is saying. We cannot proclaim the gospel from heaven’s perspective, the mind of Christ, in words taught by human wisdom. The gospel is to be proclaimed only in words taught by the Spirit, “combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words”. The more earthly-minded we are, the more we can’t help but speak the gospel from an earthly perspective and the man who lives from an earthly perspective, always speaks in terms of what man must do, for ‘the spirit of the world’ has faith in man’s strength to clean himself up. But ‘The Spirit that comes from God’ has no faith at all in man’s ability to lift Himself up. He does not come to give man advice on how he can lift himself up, (how he can clean himself up to be more like God). He does not come to speak (as every earthly institution does) of the price that man must pay to clean himself up. The Spirit comes to speak of the things that have been freely given to us by God (v12).

Our true testimony and the message of the gospel, from heavens perspective, is not that we lifted ourselves and need to continue to lift ourselves up, to live at a level pleasing to God. The Gospel from heavens perspective, is that we were no more capable of lifting ourselves up into the life of God than a dead man, for we were dead in our sins when God raised us up to life.” (Col.2:13, Eph.2:1). From heaven’s perspective, the only way to present the Gospel, is as people “alive from the dead!” (Rom.6:13)

QUESTION: Why is this so important, that the gospel is preached from our New Covenant position, from the heights of our union with Christ, in the Spirit?

ANSWER: Because if the gospel is to be proclaimed in authority, in the power of the Spirit, it must be proclaimed as more than a message. It must be proclaimed as the very life, the very reality, we are living from today!

Now at first glance, all this talk about living from a heavenly perspective, would seem to be a recipe for disconnection from the realities of life. We have all heard it said that someone can be so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good. In practice however, this ‘heavenly mindedness’ the Spirit brings, is the very effectiveness of the Church. This is because the Gospel of heaven is so infinitely better news than the religion of earth that when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of believers to see the magnitude of the news of what God has done for men, then a great strength rises in the Church and that strength causes the Church to stand out as different from every earthly institution.

What is this strength that the Holy Spirit brings upon the Church, the strength to preach the gospel in, the strength that sets the Church’s message apart from every earthly institution? It is the pure, unadulterated joy of living in the Spirit, of living from our union, our marriage to Christ, living free from the condemnation of earthly minded religion.  It is that joy that marks the Church out as not of this earth, for Good news always brings a joy that no amount of good advice ever can.

In every generation where the Church loses her heavenly perspective and allows the good news to be diluted down to good advice, then she always ends up looking to the world like just another earthly institution, offering men one more option on how to lift yourself into a better life. Such earthly institutions are not marked by joy.

The word Gospel itself was originally, by definition, a proclamation of something great that had already happened; the good news of a great victory. What we have been saying is that for that news to go out in power and authority, it must be carried by people who themselves are coming from, living from that victory, living from the resurrected and ascended life of Christ, FROM THERE. When the Gospel is preached in the power of the risen life, in the power of the Spirit, in the reality of our union with Christ, then it becomes more than Good News, it’s proclamation becomes the very manifestation of the presence and power of God breaking into this realm.

The Gospel preached from the heavenly realm, is nothing short of the Kingdom of God at hand. Jesus never intended preaching to be divorced from the reality of living in the Kingdom of God now. That’s why, even in Matt 10, long before the disciples had a revelation of these things, Jesus sent out the 12 with this instruction “as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.”

Signs of the reality of heaven begin to manifest, when the shout of victory of the gospel comes from heaven. Under the Old Covenant, God was with His people and when they gave a mighty shout, the walls of Jericho came down. There are walls, strong walls of unbelief, built up in the hearts and minds of this generation. Those walls have taken years to build, but those walls can come down in one moment, when the Gospel is proclaimed as a shout of victory from the heavenly realm.

The Holy Spirit is saying to the Church….“You have been proclaiming the gospel from an earthly perspective, in words of human wisdom, thinking of yourselves as mere men. Church you have been examining yourself for sin. How has that been working for you? But I have given you my Spirit that you may examine yourselves for Christ! I want you now, to proclaim the Gospel from the heavenly reality of your union with Christ, not as people separated from me, but as people living in me. See how that works for you!”

The apostle Paul, when confronted with so much immoral behaviour in the Corinthian church, didn’t say to them, “Why are you behaving like immoral men?” He said, “Why are you behaving like mere men?” (1Cor.3:3) To the Colossians he declared “Why are you living as if in this world?” (Col.2:20). Throughout his letters he challenged believers as to why they were living as if separate from God (1Cor.6:19). Were they not born from above, that they may live from above? (Gal.3:3, Col.2:6). Did their old separated from God life not end at the Cross? (Col.3:1-4).

Any gospel that does not show you how God now sees you, has no power, for as a man thinks so he is. If your gospel lets you think of yourself as a mere man, then that is how you will continue to live. When the gospel is preached in words of human wisdom, it becomes a man-centred message offering good advice, rather than a Christ-centred message proclaiming good news. It is our communities that suffer, for they don’t need to see more mere men giving good advice. They are groaning to see the Sons of God, men and women who are the living demonstration of the good news they are proclaiming, their very language and lives ushering in the Kingdom of God on the earth today, for when the Gospel is proclaimed from heaven’s perspective……walls of unbelief fall!

Let the light dawn: From believing to knowing.

“Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.”                                                Romans 7:4

The people who crucified Jesus believed in God, but they did not know Him (Luke23:34). Many of us in this nation have believed in God from a young age, but we have not known Him. Let the light dawn.
• To believe God is more interested in my behaviour than in me, is not to know Him. (Luke 15:2)
• To believe the reason I was born, was to do something for God, is not to know Him. (John 17:20-26).
• To believe that I need to do something for Him, before He will do something for me, is not to know Him. (John 3:16).
• To believe I need to try harder to please Him, is not to know Him. (Rom.10:2-4, 1John 4:10)
• To believe the Bible is a book about what God requires of us, is not to know Him. (Prov.4:20-23, Matt.4:4, John 6:63).
• To believe that because I don’t go to ‘church’ God loves me less, is not to know Him. (Luke 18:9-14, Luke 19:1-10)
• To believe the gospel is a message about you cleaning up your life, is not to know Him. (Gal.3:1-14)
• To believe religion (self-effort) is God’s idea, is not to know Him. (Rom3:20-24).

But you already know this. Deep down you always knew this from a child, for the Holy Spirit always told you such things (Jer.1:5, 2Tim.1:9,10). Such truths feel like water in a dry place (John 4:14). That’s because it was religion (self-effort) that dried up your heart, so cracked your confidence in God, that you felt you could not believe in a God anymore who never seemed to answer your prayers (Prov.13:12). It was religion who gave you a God who would one day answer your prayers, if……. (Rom.10:2-4).

But the truth is, He is a God who already gave you every answer to every need, in the gift of His Son (1Cor.3:21-23, Eph.1:3). The answer was given and the need was met, before you asked or needed, because He never wanted your love for Him to be conditional on His performance for you. What father would? (Rom.8:32, 1John 4:10). He never wanted you to love Him merely because you felt you ought to (Eze.36:26). So, He did the only thing that would set you free from the self-conscious, self-effort life of religious anxiety; He gave you everything He had to give, before you were capable of doing anything for Him! (1 Cor.1:28-30, Rom5:8. Col.2:13, Heb.10:8-14). Let the light dawn. God is not in the process of making up His mind about you. Jesus Christ is God’s mind made up about you (John 3:16,17). The only person whose mind now needs to be made up…..is you (Rom.10:12-14, 2Cor.5:18-20).

Some news is so good, it does not need to demand a response. The news itself is powerful enough to cause the response. The Gospel is such news! (Rom.1:16). When you hear the truth about who God is, you will need no man to confirm it, for God’s Spirit will cause a thanksgiving and a peace to well up within you (Luke 24:32, John 4:14, Rom.8:15). You will find within you a gift from Him called faith; the ability to know Him (Rom.10:17). Jesus had a beautiful description for knowing God as He really is, knowing Him as your Father. He simply called this knowing; “eternal life” (John 17:3).

It is in knowing Him, knowing His life, that we discover that His way of life is never an ‘I alone’ life (John 5:19). That explains why you could never ‘be’ the good person you wanted to be, by yourself (John 15:5). To be good as God is good, is only possible by receiving His good life, not by achieving it (Eph.2:8,9). His good life is not an ‘I’ life but an ‘Us’ life (Gen.1:26, John 17:22). Religion may have asked ‘you alone’ to do things for God, but God has never expected you to do one thing for Him, apart from Him! (John 15:4,5) He only asks you to do everything with Him (Matt.11:28).
It is because Jesus came, that any person in this world, from whatever religious background or none, who wants to live with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, now can (John 3:16). This gift of faith, a gift of His grace, comes to you through hearing the truth about Him, and carries you into a new life, His life, a life in union with God (Col.1:12,13, Col.3:3). The Gospel describes this union like a marriage and in being married to Jesus, in finally knowing God, you will now bear the fruit of such intimacy, of such a marriage; a life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Rom.7:4, Gal.5:22,23). The life religion insists you live FOR Him, is in fact the life that comes from living WITH Him. His life grows in you from the seed of the truth He has given to you; Christ, the truth about God (Col.1:6).

So, let that seed grow in your heart. Come out of the shadows of half-light. Come out of the half-truths of religion; faith in yourself, where you have been perishing (Matt.4:16). Come into the full light of the glorious gospel; the message that God so loved this world that He gave everything He had to give, His Son, that whosoever, by the gift of His grace, should hear and believe this truth, will no longer perish but have eternal life, because this is eternal life….knowing Him!

Now look and watch what happens. As the knowledge of the Son rises in your heart, the shadows of religion (faith in yourself), will recede, as the half-light does before the dawn. So awakens God’s new creation across the world; the rising Church, the light of the world, the bride of Christ.

The power to change: Christ and Him crucified, (Part 3)

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.

What our natural senses cannot reveal, God’s Spirit reveals. If God’s Spirit reveals to us, what our natural senses cannot reveal, then can you see that what the Spirit wants to reveal to us, is not who we are in the natural. God wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, and we can only do that as His Spirit reveals to us how He sees us.

The Holy Spirit is given that we would see what God sees. What God sees is so extraordinary, so beyond our natural understanding, that the Holy Spirit has to, over time, lead us into the truth of what God sees. “Lead into” is a phrase Jesus used of the Holy Spirit in John 16:13: “When He, the Spirit of Truth comes, He will lead you into all truth” (guide, show the way). Jesus at times would say to His disciples, “I have much to say to you, but you are not yet able to bear it. (John 16:12)

We see also in the ministry of Paul, that he too at times could not speak certain truths to some, as they were not yet at the point of being able to receive what he had to say. One notable example of a group unable to receive truth because of spiritual immaturity is found in the letter to the Hebrews. Many of the New Testament letters are written to Gentile believers, but here the writer pinpoints a truth that the Hebrews are, (to use Jesus’ phrase), “not yet able to bear”. He writes…”For though ]by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.” Hebrews 5:12,13

It is interesting to read v13 in the New Life Version: “Anyone who lives on milk cannot understand the teaching about being right with God. He is a baby.” If you don’t understand the teaching on righteousness, the teaching on how you are already as a believer, right with God, righteous in God’s sight, then you will live merely natural religious lives; continually trying to please God and therefore continually thinking about whether you are pleasing Him or not. You will thus find yourself living continually self-conscious and sin-conscious, rather than living from the heavenly realm, living seeing by the Spirit what God sees. it is impossible to live a generous life while living self-consciously because the self-conscious life is by definition a self-ish life!

So, what is it that the Spirit shows us that God sees? What is it that is beyond any natural hearing or natural sight or natural religious understanding, that we need the Holy Spirit to see? 1Cor.2:10 declares it to be..“the things God has prepared for those who love him—these are things that God has revealed to us by His Spirit.”

In other words, the Holy Spirit wants us to see what God sees and what does God see? He sees what He has prepared; Christ and Him crucified and He is content with what He sees, for He sees that Christ and Him crucified is enough.

  • The more clearly we see what He sees, the more we enter that contentment, that rest of a God who has ceased from His works and wants us to cease from ours (Heb.4:10).
  • The less clearly, we see what He sees; that Christ and Him crucified is enough, the less our lives manifest the joy and rest of God over His finished work.

Churches that continually minister to their congregations’ messages about what God requires of them, gradually bring the vision of believers down. Down from the joy of the spiritual realm, where they can see that what Christ did was enough to present them holy and blameless before God (Col.1:22) and down into the natural realm, where they see themselves as far from holy and blameless. But that is not the realm to see by, for those who were risen in Christ. “Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [a]Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” Col.3.1-4.

The Holy Spirit seeks to lift the eyes of those risen, to see now from heaven’s perspective, to see from Christ’s finished work. To see from Christ is to see clearly how complete and finished is the work He has done. Keeping our eyes fixed on how He sees us, empowers us to grow up into how He sees us, to grow up into who we now are in Him (Heb.12:2, 2Cor.3:18). The work of ascension ministries in the Church is precisely to keep pointing the Church to Christ (and not themselves), so that they grow up into who they already are in Him, for He is their very life TODAY, not some day soon (1Cor.6:17, Eph.4:11-24, Col.3:4). Ascension ministries are about raising believers to live in ascension life, to live from the life they have been placed in. Only by the Holy Spirit can we see this life and live from where we have been raised to; seated and hidden with Christ in God (Col.3.3)

To the believer who started off seeing by the Spirit and has now been “brought back to earth”, legalistic Christianity (try harder to be holier and God will bless you) appears to offer him a way to draw nearer to “holy and blameless”. It appears to offer him wings. But in effect it has clipped his wings, for having been blinded to the finished nature of Christ’s work, he is being led back down to the self-righteousness “earthly” religious life that naturally minded believers “see’ as the best they can “do” for God. Paul made clear to the Galatians what he thought of trying to finish in the flesh a life that was birthed from the Spirit and what he thought of any “gospel” that encouraged such striving. (Gal.3:1-5).

Only by the Spirit can believers see themselves as God sees them (according to what Christ has done). God sees that what Christ did, (which God had prepared from before time began, “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world”) is enough; enough for us to be who He says we are. So, to preach the Gospel by the power of the Holy Spirit, is to declare to all men what God sees; ‘Christ and Him crucified and that enough’; enough for whosoever who believes in Him, to live as God sees them to be; reconciled to God (2Cor.5:19-21).

What I now want to show you, is that when the Gospel is not watered down, but preached in all its glory as a message entirely about what God has done, it is in itself the power for men and women to “be” whom God has made them to be, in Christ.

Some news is so good, that you don’t have to demand a response to it. The news itself is good enough to produce a response. In 1945 for several days throughout the UK, people were waiting for news which they had yearned to hear for 6 long years; the official announcement that the war was over. When that announcement finally come over the airwaves on 8th May 1945, the government did not have to instruct the people on how to respond. No-one could stop them responding! The whole country began to dance and laugh and party and cry and eat and drink and party again. They had not lived like that all throughout the war years. They had not lived like a people who had attained victory, a people who had attained peace, they had lived as a people who were waiting for victory, waiting for peace. But now they lived as a people in victory and in peace. What give them the power to live that way? The good news itself, that the war was over.

Paul wrote to the Romans; “I am not ashamed of this gospel for it is, in itself, the power of God to save people (Rom.1:16). Paul knew the message itself was powerful enough to bring people into a new life because unlike religion, it is not a message about what people have to do for God, but of what God has done for all people; won victory and peace! The war is over. God is not against you, He is for you! He is so for you, that He came down and took your life, your humanity, into Himself, so that you may now live in His life, His Spirit, simply by believing this good news of what He has done. Even better, you now can believe, because His faith, His life, His very Spirit, is carried and imparted in the message, the Gospel, the word of Christ. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Rom.10:17 (NASB)

Through the Word of Christ, the Gospel, the Holy Spirit gives you the ability to hear what no ear has heard and to see what no eye has seen and to believe what no mind has ever imagined!

  • When the Gospel is continually proclaimed as the news of what God has done for us, it is the power for people to live in victory, in peace, in Christ.
  • But when the Gospel is continually proclaimed as news of what God wants us to do for Him, then we end up with a people waiting; waiting to live in victory, waiting to live in peace, waiting to live in Christ; a people living a life apart from the truth, apart from the reality that God sees.

It is the proclamation of the Gospel as good news that produces the life of victory and peace, the life of God, in people. If Churchill had come on the radio on 8th May and announced to the U.K that the war wasn’t over yet but required one more push from everyone, one more big effort and we will get there,… would there have been singing and dancing? No! because….

The life of victory and peace, is only imparted by the news of victory and peace.

Water down the Gospel and you get a watered-down life. What changes men and women, is seeing what God sees and what God sees, is that what Christ did was enough to bring us into union with God. This is what the Holy Spirit leads men into seeing; the sufficiency of Christ and Him crucified, in opening the way for us to share in the life of God, the shared life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How? By believing its true.

Now to this you might respond; “Aha! I knew it. Despite all your talk of “good news” and no ‘work’, I knew that there was still something ‘I’ had to DO. You are telling me that there is ‘work’ I have to do. I have to believe!”

In response, I would say two things.

  • The ‘work’ God requires of you is to believe. These are the exact words of Jesus recorded in John 6:29, on being asked what were ‘the works’ God requires of men; “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
  • But this is where the good news gets even better. God doesn’t expect anyone to believe by themselves! God is not a god who expects or demands that blind men see. He is the God who opens the eyes of the blind. (Luke 4:18)

The power to see what God sees and so live from the reality God sees; live as someone ‘hidden with Christ in God’ (Col.3:3), comes in the message itself.

The very faith of God; the belief that God believes, comes by hearing and “hearing by the Word of Christ” (Rom.10:17). Faith doesn’t come by hearing the news about Moses or Abraham or David. Yes, “God, at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, but He has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” Hebrews 1:1. It is in the message of what Christ has done, comes the power of God, the Spirit of God, to enable even the least believer to live at a level of intimacy with God greater than the greatest of the old Testament prophets; John the Baptist (Matt.11:11)

So we have been saying that it is the truth of the good news of what Christ has done, that carries the power of God, the Spirit of God, the grace of God, that enables us to see what God sees and so live in light of what God sees.

God the Father wants us to see ourselves in a new light, in light of what He has done for us. In this light (which the Holy Spirit gives through the Gospel), we can see clearly that we are saved and called to a holy life NOT BECAUSE OF ANYTHING WE HAVE DONE. This truth is beautifully and powerfully declared by the apostle Paul, in his second letter to Timothy. He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, 10 but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2Tim.1:9,10. NIV.

Our salvation and our calling are “not because of anything we have done”. Those seven words effectively confirm that the gospel abolishes religion! (Heb.10:9). Every religion in the world, (including legalistic Christianity), proclaims that God relates to men according to what they have done and so points men to themselves as their hope and leaves them wondering whether they have “repented” enough, “believed” enough or “confessed” enough, to satisfy God. This despite the fact that the New Testament declares that no man can repent, or believe, or confess Christ as Lord, apart from the grace of God, apart from the enabling presence of God’s Spirit (John 6:44, Acts.11:18, 1Cor.12:3). The apostle John declared this in John 1:13 when he described how Christians are born; “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Ephesians 2:8,9 confirms that if salvation was in any sense our doing, then we would have something to boast in, but in fact it is entirely a work of God’s grace so that “no man should boast”. If you want to boast, you will have to go back to religion, for it is a product of the natural mind and so to the natural man, the idea that God will bless his efforts seems eminently reasonable and fair, as his hope has always been in himself. To the natural man (apart from the revelation of the Spirit), to the ‘religious’ mind, a gospel that declares salvation to be “not because of anything you have done”, sounds both foolish and offensive (1Cor.1:23), not to mention dangerous (Rom.3:8, Rom.6:15).

To all this you might say, “But I thought I became born again because I did something. After all, I made a decision for Christ, didn’t I?” How can the Holy Spirit declare that I was saved and called “not because of anything I had done”? Good question!

Have you ever noticed how often, when asked a question, Jesus replied with a question of His own? When I asked Him about the decision I had made for Him, here is the answer I got…..a question! That decision you made for Christ, the one you say, “I made”. Which ‘I’ made that decision? The old ‘I’ or the new ‘I’?

Remember in Gal. 2:20, Paul spoke of two ‘I’s; the old ‘I’ and the new ‘I’. He wrote, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” He is declaring in effect, “The life I live now is I; yet not I, but Christ living in me.” Can you see that the old ‘I’, the ‘I’ that was crucified with Christ, was the ‘I alone’, the new I that rose up, was the ‘I in Christ’. One ‘I’ was of the first Adam and one ‘I’ was of the last Adam. (1Cor.15:45)

On that day when you stood and said ‘the sinners prayer’, or ‘asked Jesus into your life’ or said whatever you felt you had to say, which “I“ made that confession of faith? The I alone, or the I in God? (the I indwelt by the faith of the Son of God). It could not have been the old I, the ‘I alone’, the I of the first Adam because that I was dead to God, dead in his sin and incapable of confessing Christ as his Saviour. “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” Col.2:13. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Eph.2:4,5.

Every person who is born- again is born “of the Spirit” (John 3:6). The power of the Spirit to bring people out of the Kingdom of darkness and into the Kingdom of the Son, (out of living dead in our sins and separated from God and into living in union with God), is imparted by the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ and Him crucified; the Gospel of His finished work, not the Gospel of your unfinished work!.

No wonder Paul was so excited about preaching the gospel, for He knew it to be in itself the power of God to save (Rom.1:16). No wonder He felt the love of God compel him to share such good news with as many as he could. No wonder he asked “How can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” Rom.10:14,15.

God’s Spirit, through the preaching of the Gospel, brings light for men to see themselves as God sees them. By this light (revelation) we can begin to see ourselves..

  • not in light of all the things that we have done, or have been done to us, but
  • in the light of what God has done for us, in light of Christ and Him crucified.

 That’s why Paul, at the beginning of his letter to the Corinthians, told them that while he was with them, he determined to know nothing but Christ and Him crucified, to see them in that light, not in light of their behaviour, but in the light of God’s purpose and grace, given to them in Christ since before the beginning of time (1Tim.2:9). Men and women who see by the revelation of the Spirit, who by the Spirit know the heart of the Father, know that God does not save and call people according to what they have done.

  • He is the God who called a coward hiding in a hole in the ground, “Mighty warrior”. He saw Gideon according to His purpose and grace and not according to what he had done.
  • He is the God who called an escaped murderer “The deliverer of my people”. Because He saw Moses according to His purpose and grace and not according to what he had done.
  • He is the God who called an adulterer and a murderer “a man after my own heart” because He saw David according to His purpose and grace and not according to what He had done.
  • He is the God who called a man who broke his promise and betrayed Him in His hour of need “a shepherd of my sheep”, because He saw Peter according to His purpose and grace and not according to what He had done.

God is not hesitating to invite people to share His life, until He first inspects what they have done, because He doesn’t see people according to what they have done but according to His own purpose and grace already given to them in Christ Jesus.

He sees them according to what He has done.

Why do we need the Holy Spirit to see? Because we see people according to what they have done. God sees them according to what He has done.

Paul resolved to see “all men” after the Spirit, not after the flesh and to speak to them words of the Spirit of God, not mere human wisdom. He resolved to see no man after the flesh (2Cor.5:16). That’s why despite the appalling immoral behaviour of that church, Paul did not open address his letter to the sinners in Corinth, but to the saints in Corinth.

  • Human wisdom (religion), always speaks to you about what you need to do.
  • The Gospel of the Spirit of God, speaks of what Christ has done.

Listen to our opening verse again; “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.” The things God has prepared; these are the things God reveals to us by His Spirit.

  • Religion points to you and says DO.
  • The Gospel points to Christ and says DONE.

I believe the apostle Paul’s strategy to strengthen the Church is timeless and transcultural, (Ireland or India or Iceland) because it was never based on natural human wisdom, but in fact on raising the vision, the thinking of men and women, out of the natural realm (of what they have done and are doing ) and into the heavenly realm of God’s eternal purpose and grace towards them in Christ, or as he described it in Ephesians 4; to grow up believers into the head, the mind of Christ.

Ephesians 4 is famous for its description of the five-fold ascension ministry gifts in the church of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor and teacher and often we get so focused on those ministries that we forget their purpose.

  • Bridges have a purpose; to enable people to get to the other side of a natural obstacle. Bridges are not built simply so that a country can claim to have bridges.
  • Ascension ministries are not about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These ministries are all about getting believers over a natural obstacle; their natural earthly thinking and into a new way of thinking and a new way of living, called Ascension life; life in Christ.

 If we want to see more Christ-like Christians, it is not enough just teach them how to avoid the dirt, we must give them the wings to ascend out of it and the gospel gives us wings. That little rhyme that John Bunyan wrote 400 years ago, still goes to the heart of why some Christians live their whole lives trying, while others live trusting.

Run, John, run, the law commands, 

But gives us neither feet nor hands, 

Far better news the gospel brings:

It bids us fly and gives us wings.

Let the finished work of Christ be preached in all its dangerous foolishness, for its time the church that came down to earth with a bump, rises up again with a shout that will bring down the walls of religion “Christ and Him crucified and that enough!’